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.

Thanks!
posted by mdonley to Travel & Transportation around Japan (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
All of those places on your list look awesome, and I would love to go to all of them. (Someday!)

Shikoku is truly a wonderful place to visit. I just spent a few days driving around Kochi in the summer. Mountains, tiny villages like Umajimura (go there!) up river valleys, swim in the cold mountain streams, hot springs, and the ocean. Good, cheap seafood. The Shimanto River is beautiful. Other parts of Shikoku such as Ehime are also worth your time.

If you go to Nagasaki, and you should, rent a car to explore nearby Saga Prefecture also. I can add some details later re specific places to stay etc.
posted by Gotanda at 2:36 PM on November 8, 2017


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]


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:

HND-CTS-MMB-CTS-AXT-HND-KCZ // MYJ-FUK // NGS-HND


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 [2 favorites]


Kochi places. The Japanese just makes it easier to get the precise spot on maps.

Kuroshio Honjin hot springs with outdoor baths looking out over the ocean. Get katsuo tataki served with a beautiful view too.

黒潮本陣
〒789-1301高知県高岡郡中土佐町久礼8009-11
TEL:0889-52-3500


There are these things called "Michi no Eki" along the roadsides in Japan. Some are basic rest stops. Most have locally grown produce. Some are fancy. In the countryside, always stop at the Michi no Eki. This one was fantatstic. Stop for coffee and cake by the river.

道の駅 とおわ  ランチ
〒786-0535 高知県高岡郡四万十町
十和川口62-9
電話 0880-28-5421

From Kochi to Ehime you can go all along the coast, but there is also an older local road along the Niyodogawa River that will take you there through the mountains. Swimming spots along the way. Maybe some kayaking?
posted by Gotanda at 3:26 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


And, in Kochi city I can recommend Sushi Bar Umasushi if you want an especially nice meal.

すしバル うますし
スシバルウマスシ
〒780-0842 高知県高知市追手筋1-9-8
088-823-7660
posted by Gotanda at 3:30 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


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


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