Need help with a Japan itinerary for this July
April 24, 2019 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Heading to Japan for a few weeks in July (yes, I know it's hot then). I'm spending more than a week in Tokyo and then am heading out to Kyushu/Busan. I need some advice on how to handle the return leg back into Tokyo.

The plan now is this:

Tokyo-->Busan (spend 2 days)
Busan-->Tsushima-->Nagasaki (2 days)
**Nagasaki-->?-->Tokyo (2 days max.)

So on that last leg:

1. If we opt to go back to Tokyo directly to give us more time there, what's the best way to get back? I know the flights are expensive and ~2.5 hours, while the train is >10 hours. (I am totally OK with heading back to Tokyo for an extra day or two if making interstitial stops will be a hassle.)

2. Should we take the direct train to Hakata and spend time there, then take a flight from Fukuoka airport?

3. Is there another place that's absolutely worth the time and effort as a stop on the return from Nagasaki? (Factoring in the difficulties of getting there, time in transit, etc.)

A few details for context: I'm a food writer, although I won't be on assignment in Japan. I am traveling with my husband. We don't want to stop at the Kansai cities, having visited already. We're both also very active and enjoy history, modern art, video games, and languages.
posted by yellowcandy to Travel & Transportation around Japan (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've checked Hyperdia, and you should be able to get from Hakata to Tokyo in 5 hours on the shinkansen.

I've only been to Japan once, but going to Naoshima (upon recommendation of MeFi) was an absolutely worthwhile experience: . It would be a 5 hour trip from Nagasaki to Naoshima (an island in the Seto sea), but it's a beautiful place and the art museums were incredible, I walked to 2 in a day and visited multiple art house installations. I'd recommend going to Inujima or Teshima while you're there as well.
posted by elsmith at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just as there is a JR pass for tourists, different vendors offer a "flight pass" for air travel. LLCs also offer some great deals within Japan if you know how to look for them.

I've done the train trip from Nagasaki to Tokyo. It takes about 6 hours. So if you can find a flight from Nagasaki to Tokyo, it's probably worth it.

I'm not entirely sure how much time you're planning to spend in Nagasaki, but if you're a food writer there is lots to experience. Besides Chanpon, there's also a great variety of shochu to write about, as well as sake. You could also spend a night in Obama Onsen, which is nearby, where a ryokan would be able to offer some great local cuisine. Unzen Spa is another idea, although it's a little time-consuming to get to, unless you rent a car (which I recommend).

An obvious place to stop for a night on the way to Tokyo is Fukuoka, which has a great ramen culture.

Another idea is to get up to Hagi, on Yamaguchi's Japan Sea coastline. It's doable, and is a very romantic place I think. In July there won't be much in the way of local seasonal fish beyond sea bass and horse mackerel.

Another interesting place to stop on the way between Kyushu and Tokyo is Shiga Prefecture. Hikone (Hakone is the place at the base of Mount Fuji) is a very beautiful lakeside castle town. The main feature of the local cuisine there would be beef.

I've lived off-and-on in Tsuruga, Fukui for the past twenty-five years. It's about an hour by car to the north of Hikone, and Shiga is an interesting place that's left out of most tourist guidebooks aimed at inbound tourists.

Our family regularly vacations in Kyushu as well. Nagasaki is one of my favourite cities in Japan, and I never get tired of going back. My wife and kids do, however, so this summer we'll be checking out Oita, Kumamoto and Saga. I will then leave them to visit a friend in Nagasaki. After that I'll take the train up to Tokyo to visit another friend.

The long trip doesn't bother me because I'll be able to get a lot of work done during the trip while drinking beer.

I don't do MeMail, but if you would like to connect with me about your trip I can be reached on Twitter (link in my profile).
posted by JamesBay at 11:51 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Domestic flights in Japan aren't expensive at all - for Kyushu > Tokyo, flying is cheaper and faster than the corresponding train trip. There are special fares for foreign tourists on ANA and JAL:, or if you're booking several months in advance you can usually get a regular fare around the same price from one of the many domestic airlines, around $100-$125 USD.

Fukuoka and Nagasaki are both good destinations for your interests - Nagasaki as one of the first cities open to foreign trade has historical sites like Dejima and Glover Garden, and Fukuoka has an incredible food culture with the yatai food stalls and tonkotsu ramen. The Fukuoka airport is also one of the most easily accessible in the world, only a 5 minute subway ride from downtown.

Another option would be staying a night or two in Hiroshima and Miyajima - Hiroshima has some obvious history, and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is worth making a trip for.
posted by Gortuk at 12:29 PM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Fly back to Tokyo and use the extra time in Kyushu. Rent a car in Nagasaki and drive to Fukuoka Airport stopping off in Saga along the way--Karatsu is one nice stop--or just explore the Nagasaki countryside and coastline a bit. Roadside oyster shacks! Tokyo will always be there and easier to stop in again. Kyushu will take more effort to return to.
posted by Gotanda at 4:06 PM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saga Drive Map [PDF]
posted by Gotanda at 4:08 PM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi all.

After much Sturm und Drang and a second AskMe post, we figured out our plans.

We're taking Gotanda's advice and heading from Nagasaki into Fukuoka via Saga, which we are both very much looking forward to doing.

Thanks for all your advice and suggestions.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:39 PM on June 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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