What should we see in Japan in Nov/Dec?
July 25, 2018 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Spouse and I will be in Tokyo while I attend a workshop November 26-30. We're planning to add a second week to our trip and do some sightseeing! Where should we plan to go? And should our extra week be the 3rd week of November or the 1st week of December?

This will be our third visit to Japan. We've previously been to Kyoto (~2 weeks) with day trips to Nara and Himeji, as well as Tokyo (twice, ~1 week each time). When we've stayed in Tokyo on previous trips, we stayed at a semi-traditional ryokan (futons on a tatami floor, but en-suite shower) in the Yanaka neighbourhood. We really liked the low-key vibe of Yanaka. Other things we've enjoyed have been art/archaeological museums, the Shitamachi museum in Ueno Park, just walking around the Ueno area, an art-deco era house/museum somewhere near Shibuya, a sculptor's house/museum in Yanaka, walking our feet off in sight of greenery, and learning about Japanese history, culture, and crafts.

We're already planning to take a day in Tokyo to walk up Mt. Takao, and want to look into visiting a shrine where we can learn a little about what goes on "inside". We thought about spending the second week in Osaka, but on top of Tokyo, that might be too much big-city for us. We heard that the fall colour *may* still be going on in some regions during the 3rd week of November, which interested us. We'll probably want to sleep in at most two different places this trip, with additional day trips possible. So, where should we go and what should we see?
posted by heatherlogan to Travel & Transportation around Japan (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What about the Hakone region for some hot springs action? It's a 1.5 hour train trip from Japan and buses go to all the villages in the region.

This onsen was AMAZING with outdoor pools set up against rocks and under bamboo and maple trees.

There's a lot too see in the region - a beautiful shrine, Mt. Fuji, amazing museum. It's really easy to get around, I walked part of the old Hokkaido road (very bumpy with old cobblestones). Things do close early in the fall. You could easily fill 2-3 days.
posted by brookeb at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yamadera could be a day-trip from Tokyo or an easy overnight in Sendai. It's a gorgeous mountain walk up to a temple, with traces of Basho about, and the fall colors would be spectacular there if the timing is right.

Sounds like you might enjoy the open-air historical/architectural Meiji-mura (official) near Nagoya, also day-trippable from Tokyo (though better with an overnight in Nagoya so you're not rushed -- it's big).
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:26 PM on July 25, 2018

How about Kanazawa for some of the Kyoto vibes without as much crazy tourism? Fall colors would be good in November and you can use it as a base for Shirakawa and Takayama too.

You can take the shinkansen from Tokyo in 2.5 hours, and as an alternative to the JR Pass there's the Hokuriku Arch Pass which is a little cheaper.
posted by Gortuk at 1:21 PM on July 25, 2018

Were I to be in Tokyo with time to spare... I'd go visit mefi's own woodblock100 in Asakusa for (the) Best activity in Tokyo - make your own woodblock print!

(mostly because I've watched him carve and print on the twitch stream and youtube and be the talking tourist for some NHK travel/culture shows.)
posted by zengargoyle at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. Nice walking. More green around it. Architecture. History. Bring a nice picnic from a department store basement.
posted by Gotanda at 4:31 PM on July 25, 2018

I am in Japan right now on vacation for the sixth? time and I think you’d enjoy Kanazawa - there’s enough low-key but beautiful stuff to see over a couple days and you can easily get to Tokyo or Kyoto in just a few hours, or head up toward Takayama. Nikko would also be easy and rewarding.

Those options shared, do consider flying somewhere. Domestic flights in Japan are cheaper for overseas tourists and you’d save time heading anywhere other than big-city Honshu. Using JAL and ANA if you fly from Tokyo Haneda are probably the best bet instead of Vanilla/Jetstar from Narita unless you are already out there - the monorail/trains make it very close to/cheap to reach from Hamamatsucho/Shinagawa (under 20 minutes) and security/check-in take seconds.

These places in particular might be your speed and are far from Tokyo in terms of overland travel times but much closer by air, each with several flights a day to choose from:

- Kagoshima to reach Yakushima by ferry/very short flight
- Nanki Shirahima for Kumano
- Asahikawa for Daisetsuzan National Park, a two-hour drive/bus ride away
- Amami Oshima or Miyakojima
- Shimane Prefecture is actually quite cut off right now by rail given the torrential summer rain - fly to Izumo
posted by mdonley at 6:59 AM on July 26, 2018

If Google doesn't lie, this year the Tori no Ichi festival in Asakusa will be held three times, and San no Tori ( the third Day of the Rooster in November) will be on November 25th.

Things do close early in the fall.

I did the Hakone circuit in November 2016 and you could see the light fading around 16-17h. I liked the small museum at the Sekisho (Edo era Tokaido road checkpoint) a lot.

I suppose that the fall colors will arrive later in the year to the southwestern part of the country. If you haven't gone to Miyajima, it's supposed to be really pretty in the fall (I visited too early for that). You can do it as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka.
posted by sukeban at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2018

Take a one-hour train ride and spend a day at Kamakura.
posted by mbarryf at 6:06 AM on July 28, 2018

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