Flying around off-the-beaten-track Japan this summer: where to go?
November 8, 2017 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I am taking three weeks to explore Japan by air from July 13 to August 4 on Japan Airlines (JAL). I am doing this instead of a train pass because all my domestic flights will be totally free. I can fly anywhere on this map. Help me plan some amazing trips!

Where I think I'd like to go

I have already decided to spend some time in Tokyo and Nikko. Sapporo also looks great.

I'd like to see parts of Tohoku and Hokkaido, and I'd also like to get some ideas for further south. I'm happy to rent a car for a few days to get the most out of a place. I've been to Tokyo, Kamakura, Kanazawa, Takayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima and Miyajima before.

In particular, I'm intrigued by these rather isolated parts of Japan I can fly to on JAL. I'd love to know what you think about visiting...

- Shiretoko/Akan National Parks (via Memanbetsu/Kushiro?)
- Tazawa Lake and Nyuto Onsen (via Akita/Hanamaki?)
- Yamadera and Zao Onsen (via Yamagata)
- the Kii Peninsula (via Nanki Shirahama)
- Shikoku in general, especially the south coast (via Kochi?)
- the Oki Islands
- Nagasaki
- Amami-Oshima
- ...?

About me

I live in Hong Kong. I'm looking for a mixture of the familiar (convenience, cities, some English) and the unfamiliar (seeing stars at night, rural drives, clean air). I don't speak Japanese at all aside from pleasantries. I'll be travelling alone on a moderate budget - assume I'll be in private hostel rooms or cheaper business hotels most nights, but can splurge on an onsen/ryokan a few times somewhere great; I don't really rough it. I'll have a working smartphone.

posted by mdonley to Travel & Transportation around Japan (3 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How about Yakushima? If I had unlimited airplane travel in Japan and had already been to the major cities I would probably use it for places that weren't easily accessible by Shinkansen. So Okinawa and surrounding islands, Shikoku, Hokkaido, the San-in coast and yeah Kii hanto.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:27 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Gotanda and any portmanteau in a storm! Yakushima is a bit too much for a solo holiday - I'd be worried about enjoying the ten-hour pre-dawn-start hike to Jomonsugi in the summer heat! I might try next Christmas though. :)

After some serious Googling and much free redeeming of British Airways miles on JAL using this fabulous guide on the Head for Points site for help, my itinerary is this:


This means:

- Starting in Tokyo and then doing an overnight trip to Nikko

- Flying to Sapporo, seeing the city, and then eating all the sushi and drinking all the whiskey in Otaru

- Flying to Memanbetsu, then driving in a loop of sorts for five days from Abashiri through Shiretoko National Park and Akan National Park back to Memanbetsu

- Flying down to Akita via Sapporo, then driving up to Lake Tazawa and (hopefully!) spending two nights at Tsurunoyu Onsen (including a Monday, when daytrippers aren't allowed) and then back to Akita via Kakunodate

-Flying down to Kochi in Shikoku and driving along the coasts of Kochi and Ehime Prefectures to Matsuyama, following some of Gotanda's tips above - this is still in the planning stages but Ozu and Ashizuri National Park look lovely; I'll have a day in Matsuyama at the end

- Flying from Matsuyama to Fukuoka, then taking the train to the Yoshinogari Historical Park and Nagasaki; perhaps we'll fit in a trip to Gunkanjima?

- Flying back to Tokyo and seeing Yokohama, where I've never been!

So excited! Gotanda's comment pushed me to add more Shikoku and Nagasaki time. 🇯🇵
posted by mdonley at 10:59 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wonderful tips! Thanks gotanda!
posted by mdonley at 2:15 AM on November 28, 2017

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