Where to go in south Japan?
December 3, 2011 1:23 AM   Subscribe

I am in Naoshima, Japan. Getting here was a lovely surprise as this particular destination was not planned. Tomorrow we are supposed to leave for Kyoto, but we could gladly change our plans for some other less touristy or more intereting areas. Do you have any recommendations to do in South Japan?
posted by edmz to Travel & Transportation around Japan (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Kyoto is Magical! you. can. not. miss it. weekend nights in the ginza district...many geisha. the graveyard nearby is the one from the legend of zelda.
after the weekend, go about an hour south (by train) to Nara. there are deer everywhere and the worlds largest wooden building (a temple with a 50ft high buddha in it)...very peaceful...but yeah, go get wild in kyoto first. ;)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:31 AM on December 3, 2011

Yes, Kyoto is unmissable, and if you have a limited amount of time in Japan and you've come a long way to get there you should not consider going home without going. It is worth the crowds.
posted by calico at 2:08 AM on December 3, 2011

Naoshima is fantastic. The boat trip in at sunset was a favourite moment for me.

Don't miss Osaka. It's not just a smaller Tokyo, it has its own charms and it's inhabitants a distinctive, friendly character. Glorious street food and more miles of shopping than you could EVER want. We walked all day and night, eating and drinking as we went. Great fun.

Kyoto has a superb little street, I forget the name, just one over from the river towards the centre, chock full of amazing restaurants. Track down some suki yaki or oden for a winter treat. Kyoto is also a great city to cycle around in the day. There are loads of hire places around the river.

If you fancy going south, we drove through Shikokku a few years back. The mountains and rivers that slither through it are quite stunning, as is the local delicacy: Udon noodles.

The mountains above Tokyo are worth a visit too. Get a distant view of Mt. Fuji from the volcanic peaks.

Have fun. I wish I was there
posted by 0bvious at 2:37 AM on December 3, 2011

Naoshima! One of my favourite places... I hope you've had time to see all the fantastic art installations.

Other people are telling you about Kyoto and Nara, so I shan't, except to say that they're right (you should go), and also to point out that Kyoto's temples and gardens are dotted about in a modern Japanese city - don't be disheartened when you leave the station and see the standard Japanese streetscape.

If you have time for a bit more exploration in the area, here are my suggestions.

You might like Onomichi, on the shores of the Seto Inland Sea. I don't recommend it in the rain, but on a nice day, it must be very pleasant to explore. It's famous for its shrines and temples; it has a castle too, and some wooded hillsides that might be looking quite spectacular at the moment, and it's also got ferries to Shikoku and some of the small islands.

I don't know Osaka well at all, but two things I'm very pleased to have seen there: there's an excellent aquarium, and there's an area under the main station where the corridor walls have been painted with trompe-l'oeil "trick art" images. (Google [Osaka station "trick art"] and you should find some photos.)

I'm not sure how big an area you're considering reachable. If you're interested in pushing on as far as Hiroshima, I rather liked Iwakuni, with its famous arched bridge and its hilltop castle, and Miyajima, with its sacred deer and "floating" torii gate.

If you go to Iwakuni, don't make the mistake I made - you want the regular JR station, Iwakuni, not the shinkansen station, Shin-Iwakuni. (The latter is not that far from the town, but it's separated from it by roads you can't walk on, and the two stations aren't connected by rail; there are buses, though.)

Both Iwakuni and Miyajima are touristy, but it's mostly Japanese tourism... Iwakuni especially doesn't seem to be on most foreign tourists' radar.

I have some stronger recommendations for places in the far west of Honshu and on Kyushu, but I think that would be stretching the scope of your question a bit too far! Please ask if you're interested, though.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:16 AM on December 3, 2011

Don't throw away the best choice only because it was your first option.

That is, I recommend not missing Kyoto, especially this time of year.
posted by rokusan at 3:26 AM on December 3, 2011

Yes, Kyoto is a must-go.
But make sure that you have accommodation lined up before you go there.
It's the season of the falling leaves, and there are lot's of tourists (especially from Japan) in town. On the weekend it's impossible to find accommodation there and many people stay in Osaka.
posted by sour cream at 7:18 AM on December 3, 2011

Kyoto has a superb little street, I forget the name, just one over from the river towards the centre, chock full of amazing restaurants. Track down some suki yaki or oden for a winter treat.
I believe 0bvious is talking about either Kiyamachi-dori or Teramachi. Either way, I would definitely take a detour and see Kyoto.

Right now, Kyoto should be doing what they call "light up" (ライトアップ). Basically they take lights and illuminate different places within the templates. It's really awesome; walking through Kiyomizudera during one was beautiful.
posted by gchucky at 7:20 AM on December 3, 2011

If you've settled on Kyoto, you might as well explore the area around it.

Nara is a good choice for a short (or long) day trip. The other weekend we visited the Osaka train museum in Bentencho with the kids, and took a JR train directly to Nara (we stayed overnight at a cheap and awesome inn that used to be an old farmhouse, just steps from Oji Station). We ended up visiting a hot spring in Oji, and then continuing by JR to Nara.

Nara is great because it is walkable, and there is a ton of stuff to do near JR Nara station and especially Kintetsu Nara station.

If you're traveling to Nara from Kyoto, take Kintetsu. If you're traveling to Nara from Osaka, take JR.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:38 PM on December 4, 2011

Another interesting day trip from Kyoto would be traveling to Lake Biwa, which is just on the other side of the mountains to the east. Obvious destinations would include the city of Otsu, one of the most pleasant and livable cities in Japan, with Nishiyama-dera temple being the objective.

You could also take Keihan from near Kyoto Station to Sakamoto (on the lake) and then a cable car up to the top of Hiei-zan and Enryaku-ji temple.

On the east side of the lake, you could check out the canals and old Edo-era farmhouses of Omi-Hachiman. If you have about an hour for travel, you could travel up the east side of the lake to Hikone, which has one of the largest castle complexes in Japan. Hikone is, once again, an extremely pleasant place to stroll around.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:42 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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