Where should I go from Tokyo?
August 30, 2018 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a trip to visit friends in Tokyo later this year, and I have a few extra days off work at the end for extra travel fun planned. If you were a 30 something solo female traveler and this was your first time in Asia, where would you go for five days after Tokyo that's cheap to get to but interesting to be in?

I'm interested in basically everything, from rural village life to big metropolitan areas, and I'm an experienced traveler although I've never been to Asia before (and I realize how insane it is to refer to "Asia" as if it's all one place.) I'm not afraid of roughing it a bit-- no need for four-star accommodations since I can't afford them, think generous grad student budget-- and I'm perfectly willing to go other interesting places in Japan, or outside the country. Where have you been that you loved and is accessible from Tokyo? Tell me all about it!
posted by WidgetAlley to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a 30-something female graduate student and I've been all over China. It's a great and pretty safe place to visit, and super affordable. One of my favorite cities of all time is Shanghai, which serves as an interesting megacity to compare to Tokyo. The architecture, the parks, the food - all amazing.

For something a little different (and wouldn't have you dealing with Great Firewall issues), Taiwan is a delight. It's got a great mixture of Chinese/Japanese/SE Asian cultures, the food is unreal, and people are super friendly. The vibe is pretty relaxed, good coffee, fun night markets. Also less of a language barrier there compared to China (though Shanghai is pretty English-friendly).
posted by thebots at 10:42 AM on August 30, 2018

Kyoto and Nara are a breath of fresh air after the hellish bustle that is Tokyo, especially if you're interested in traditional Japanese culture / temples / shrines / history. If "later this year" is red leaf season (late October to early December), they're absolutely spectacular in Kyoto (from Kiyomizudera and in Arashiyama) and in Koyasan (trees go red earlier there). I also spent some lovely fall days in Takayama.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:49 AM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was just coming here to post about Kyoto - Arashiyama is lovely and the Fushimi Inari Shrine is a must-see. Here's a 5-day itinerary for Kyoto and Nara.
posted by mogget at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nikko is a very nice day trip from Tokyo.

You can also make a day trip out to Kamakura, stopping in Yokohama (nifty little Chinatown there) on the way back.

Kyoto and Nara are great, too, but not really a day trip. You could go out to one, stay overnight, hit the other, and go back to Tokyo as a nice little side exploration, though.
posted by doomsey at 11:06 AM on August 30, 2018

30-something lady here. Highly recommend Singapore if you’re new to this part of the planet and you can only go one place. It’s a shoulder-to-shoulder cultural collage of SE Asia. Lots of English speakers, and Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay, Tamil, etcetc. I love hearing Singlish everywhere and the four official languages make signs/public transit stops fun. Their train/bus system is known for being amazing and efficient, it’s island-wide and cheap, you can use it to get literally anywhere. There’s a Little India, a Chinatown, amazing night markets and hawker stalls with some of the best food on the planet. Lots of waterfront areas with islands you walk to or hop a ferry. I spent a week or two there with my fiancé and we had a blast getting lost and then eating our way home every day.
posted by Snacks at 11:36 AM on August 30, 2018

Kyoto is amazing! I was in Japan several years ago with my family and we loved Kyoto so much we extended our time there. If you want to add more time in Japan, Kyoto would be worth it, you could do a few lovely days there easily. Nara was neat too. Honestly, you might just want to keep your 5 days as seeing other places in Japan, you'd end up spending at least a day traveling to another place and would reduce your sightseeing time more than you would by staying in Japan.
posted by john_snow at 12:36 PM on August 30, 2018

Kyoto is a hellish bustle of tourists, though. It's really awful (I live close to Kyoto when in Japan).

I'd suggest taking the bullet train to Sendai, and then driving to Hiraizumi and Chusonji. You could stay the night in a hot spring there (night 1) and then drive over Mount Kurikoma (it's an easy drive) and check out Sakata, in Yamagata. Spend the night there (night 2), or in neighboring Tsuruoka. Climb Haguro in Tsuruoka (an interesting, easy hike). If you can, drive back towards Sendai and Miyagi on Rte 47 -- it follows the Mogami River and is a cool drive. Spend the night at Naruko Onsen (night 3). Return the car the next day in Sendai and train back to Tokyo. This leaves you an extra night to play with, to explore Sendai.
posted by JamesBay at 2:15 PM on August 30, 2018

With only five days I don’t think I would leave Japan.

I would visit Ōkunoshima (remember to buy fresh rabbit friendly veggies before you get on the ferry), Nara, and Hiroshima for starters.

You most likely will want to get a 7-day Japan Rail pass which will let you shoot around to your heart’s content. Riding the Shinkansen can be an unexpected cultural experience in itself.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:41 PM on August 30, 2018

Yeah with only 5 days, I wouldn't plan to see Asia.

If you live in US, you are probably used to flying for several hours in order to experience a different culture or place. In most other parts of the world, most cities and towns are different enough that you really do not have to travel very far.

Take the shinkansen (bullet train) to other parts of Japan. The public transport is amazing and I have never been on anything quite so efficient or clean (I live in Europe!). Even destinations that are hundreds of kilometers away were fine for day trips because the trains were clean, very fast and ran on time, and were densely packed.

I would head south to Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima. All accessible via shinkansen/ Japan Rail.

Buy the Japan Rail pass for unlimited train travel.

If you were tight for budget, I would check out Okayama. This is a working city, with not much for tourists. However, the good news is that accommodation here is a lot cheaper! A trip to Hiroshima, which is 100 miles away, is only 40 minutes by shinkansen. (In comparison, New York to Philadelphia is the same distance and takes 1 hour 30 minutes by Amtrak). You can do day trips from Okayama to most of the major cities in the south, easily.
posted by moiraine at 1:27 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to clarify: I am not in any capacity expecting to see Asia in five days, that would be insane. But I am willing to go anywhere in Asia that is cheap to get to and would be interesting to be in for five days!
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:34 AM on August 31, 2018

Staying in Japan and seeing other places is fine, but since you've never been to this part of the planet and have five days, I vote you visit another country while you're here. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Hanoi, and Seoul are all great places to visit, relatively safe for a solo woman traveler, pretty close from Haneda/Narita and you'd get a completely different Asian experience from Japan. I want to say Singapore and Bangkok too but they're a bit further away.
posted by misozaki at 10:52 PM on August 31, 2018

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