Adding a few extra days to a business trip to Japan--where to go?
February 9, 2019 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I have a week-long business trip to Japan (near Osaka) scheduled at the end of May, if I were to tack on a few days where would I go?

So my university has a faculty exchange program with Mukogawa Women's University in Nishinomiya, Japan (map link), and this May I get to be the visiting faculty person. It is short-term program, I will be there from May 26 to June 1st to give a few lectures and classroom visits.

I have never been to Japan before, and I have the opportunity to stretch the trip for a few days on either side if I like. Where should I go? I love history, the outdoors, hiking, exploring new cultures. I could add as much as a week to the trip, though I'd be missing work at home and that could be pushing it.

posted by LarryC to Travel & Transportation around Japan (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would definitely go to Kyoto, since you won't be that far away. Potentially also other places, but Kyoto is worth including.
posted by pinochiette at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

You can go almost anywhere from Nishinomiya (Kobe) on the bullet train line with a JR Pass. There's also a Flight Pass for foreign tourists that give you access to really good flight deals, and you can fly out of Itami airport, which is close by, or the Kobe airport out in the bay.

It depends what you want to do. As the previous commenter said, Kyoto is close by. You can buy a cheap direct ticket on the Hanshin line that will take you from Nishinomiya (where I spent my first night in Japan 25 years ago) right to the heart of Kyoto in Karasuma.

If you love history, Nara might be a better option than Kyoto. There are numerous places all over central Nara Prefecture that have links to the Silk Road and Hellenic culture.

Another cool experience would be to take the train (local or bullet) over to Okayama and take the ferry across to Kotohira in Shikoku. The train also goes there.

Or take the ferry over to Shodogashima and walk around the island with its olive gardens.

Another idea is to hike up the eastern slope of Mount Hiei from Sakamoto. Sakamoto is about 20 minutes east by train from Kyoto on the Keihan line. The wooded hike takes you up to Enrakuji.
posted by JamesBay at 12:28 PM on February 9, 2019

There's definitely enough in the Kansai area to keep you busy. Get a Kansai Thru Pass and go see Kyoto, Nara (don't miss Hasedera, it's a bit out of the way), Koyasan, Uji, Himeji and whatever else catches your interest. These are all close enough to be daytrips out of Kyoto or Osaka, no more than 2 hours one way.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:05 PM on February 9, 2019

Seconding the above advice. Just to quibble a little bit, you can't go straight from Nishinomiya to Kyoto/Karasuma; you would need to go into Osaka and change trains on the Hankyu Line :) , not the Hanshin. However, in either case it is an easy trip (an hour or so tops) and definitely worth doing. There are more historical temples, museums, etc. in Kyoto than you could see in a month of Sundays; I am fond of Myoshinji myself, which is near the more famous Ryoanji with its rock garden. There's Nijo Castle and, if you buy a ticket in advance, the Imperial Villa in Katsura which has gorgeous gardens.
Hasedera Temple in Nara is indeed lovely, if practically straight-up vertical on the side of a mountain (as most any hiking-related location in West Japan will be...). You could also take the Eidan train up to Kibune and Kurama in northern Kyoto City.
I have a friend, who speaks some English, at Mukogawa Joshidai and am near Nishinomiya weekly for hobby stuff; MeMail me if something comes up.
posted by huimangm at 1:30 PM on February 9, 2019

If, on the off chance, you like beer, Osaka is pretty fantastic for craft beer. Minoh Beer (located in the city of Minoh, just north of Osaka) makes some of the best beer in Japan (I am a bit biased, naturally) and has a solid presence in bars and some restaurants. Their taproom/warehouse is up in Minoh, and a stop or two north of that is home to a short hike up to the Minoh waterfalls, which occasionally are home to monkeys the area is famous for.

In town, Minoh has two affiliated bars called Beer Belly, and there is an incredibly handy Craft Beer Map of Osaka put together by Craft Beer Base, an Osaka beer shop. Bars I’d suggest are Yellow Ape, Garage 39, and the newly opened Osaka branch of Craft Beer Market.

For outdoorsy things, Kyoto has a good number of hiking trails in the mountains surrounding the city, a good number of them laid out in the lonely planet book Hiking in Japan.

In general, I’ve found Osaka is a good base for visiting the Kansai area (Nara, Kyoto, Kobe). There’s not overly a ton of things to do and see in the day time (you can pretty much see all the landmarks in a couple days), but it’s a great place at nice for eating and drinking, which can be kind of the opposite in the other cities. Feel free to memail if you have any questions.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:23 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

For a few days or up to a week you've got more than enough above to do in the Kansai area that can be mostly day trips. If you want to branch out, Hiroshima isn't far and besides the history has some awesome food. A little bit further afield, you could head over to the Japan Sea coast and visit Matsue which is a lovely historic city with a magnificent castle and lots of history. From there, Iwami Ginzan is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is really cool. History more on a smaller scale and not shrine/temple-centric if you've hit enough of that in Kyoto and Nara. Consider taking a train out of the city and renting a car.
posted by Gotanda at 4:59 PM on February 9, 2019

My most memorable excursions from when I went to Japan about 15 years ago:

1) Kyoto imperial palace. I vaguely remember needing to pre-book our visit.

2) Miyajima island. Tiny deer. I think a temple. Cookies?

3) Niko castle. It has assassin proof floors that squeak on purpose.

I'm on a phone so other than #1 I can't recall geographically where each of these were. We moved around a lot.
posted by axiom at 12:01 AM on February 10, 2019

If you don't mind spending a bit extra for train fare, then I'd strongly recommend visiting Tokyo for a few days. It's only three hours from Nishinomiya to Tokyo Station, and it's a very comfortable ride. And there's so much to see and do in Tokyo compared to Kansai, there's just no comparison. (Especially if you've already spent a week in Kansai.)
posted by Umami Dearest at 2:20 AM on February 10, 2019

If you're looking for something different than the tourist hotspots of Himeji, Kyoto and Nara, Amanohashidate sandbar is about 2.5 hours away and is one of Japan's top 3 scenic views.

Some general tips - for planning train trips + costs, use Hyperdia. Depending on where you want to go, there are different train passes that may be worthwhile. If you're doing a return to Tokyo, the 7-day all-Japan JR Pass is worth it. Otherwise there are multiple JR West passes that could apply. Like if you're going to Hiroshima, the 5-day Kansai-Hiroshima pass is cheaper than a return ticket to Hiroshima.
posted by Gortuk at 7:30 AM on February 10, 2019

« Older The name of a novel in which a woman treats her...   |   Pneumonia and colds Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.