Planning a spring trip to Japan
August 28, 2019 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Just booked tickets for a family trip to Japan, flying in and out of Tokyo. Looking for recommendations on where to go (this will be our third trip there).

Me, spouse, and our teenage kid are going to Japan over spring break next April. This will be our third trip and I'm looking for ideas of places to go. So far, we've spent time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Sendai, and Hokkaido (including Hakodate, Lake Toya and Sapporo).

We like nature, archaeology, anime, food, and history. Spouse and I can speak and read some Japanese and are willing to go off the beaten path for interesting things (on our most recent trip we did an anime pilgrimage in Miyagi prefecture and also went to a Jomon archeological site in Aomori prefecture).
posted by mogget to Travel & Transportation around Japan (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You want to go down south to Shimane and Tottori. This site looks like a good basic rundown in English of what to find there; you can tick off nature, anime, and history for sure.
posted by huimangm at 6:49 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Missing from your list is Osaka, really enjoyed my day there on my last trip. The otaku area in Osaka is much smaller than Tokyo's but far better organized so I was able to get a lot out of it. We also did a day trip to Nara on the way over, which is great if you want to feed roaming deer. Have you done a proper spa/onsen stay yet? I enjoyed the Hakone railway/ropeway plus staying overnight (I picked a nice cheap family onsen, my friends did the expensive one). I also enjoyed doing Nikko National Park which is next to Kinugawa which has a lot of reasonably priced onsens.

If you haven't been in a few years, the AirBnb laws changed recently so it's much harder to get them so you'll want to book them as soon as possible if you want to go that route.
posted by JZig at 7:06 PM on August 28, 2019

A day trip to Hakone is worthwhile. Grab a Hakone Free Pass, take the Romancecar from Shinjuku; ride up the mountain in a quaint little train; jump on the cable car, stop at Owakudani for black eggs, volcanic action and if you're lucky, a view of Fuji; take the cable car down to the lake, cruise around Lake Ashi on a fake sailing ship (pay extra for first class, it's like Y700 extra I think and totally worth it); walk along the Tokaido around the edge of the lake; then catch the bus or cable car back again. If you like food and history it could be worth an overnight stay in a ryokan and extra time exploring nearby shrines and museums.

Check out teamLab Borderless at Odaiba. I won't try to describe it, because 'interactive lights on walls' doesn't begin to cover it.

Not sure if you're interested in travelling too far out of Tokyo but you can visit Satsuki and Mei's house from My Neighbor Totoro at the Aichi Expo Park at Nagakute, near Nagoya. It's three hours there and back so prob best as an overnight trip but if you wanted to get a shinkansen ride in there it might be an option. As JZig mentioned, a trip to Osaka is totally worth it; maybe you could make this a stopover on the way there or back.

If you haven't been to Mandarake in Shibuya it's a good way to scratch that anime itch for an hour or so.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 7:09 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hiroshima is worth a visit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:26 PM on August 28, 2019

If you decide to go to Hiroshima, I would definitely recommend taking the ferry to Miyajima and staying for the sunset! It’s absolutely breathtaking, and they have roaming deer you can feed (if that’s your thing). They also have hiking. One of my favorite memories of Japan is catching the sunset on Miyajima with my mom and sharing a beer and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki feeling completely exhilarated and satisfied.

If you happen to be exploring around Osaka/Hiroshima, I would also recommend going to Naoshima, the island of surreal art. It’s gorgeous and very unique to Japan.

And if you’re in the western part of Japan anyway... I’d check out Kawachi Fuji Garden. I haven’t been there myself, but it’s on my bucket list. Wisterias galore. I’m typing on my phone and can’t quite manage to pull links for you, but it’s worth googling some pictures.
posted by saltypup at 8:30 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Naoshima and Hiroshima! Naoshima was incredible. The park and memorial in Hiroshima was...hard, as you might expect, but I got a lot out of it, especially doing that first and a wander round the city and a trip to the Okonomiyaki mall afterwards. I found chatting to the locals over a meal just about restored my hope in humanity.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:03 PM on August 28, 2019

We liked Hakone and stayed at a ryokan in Odawara, somehow we were at the castle during a kammoboko festival and it was the best.
posted by furtive at 10:35 PM on August 28, 2019

If you've got a car or don't mind long train trip, Shimane was really nice, Matsue castle and the Adachi art museum (which is better known for its incredible gardens) are great and if you're into religion, it's the area that a couple of the major gods' (Susanoo and Okuninushi) stories are from.

Also, if you haven't gone to Nikko, check out out. It can be done as a day trip from Tokyo, but it's better to spend at least one night. There are a huge number of ryokan and plenty of cheaper options- it's absolutely beautiful and it's where Tokugawa Ieasu's shrine is, which is gorgeous and opulent.

A had some friends here who really enjoyed going up to Matsumoto in Nagano. I don't remember the details, but it probably involved hiking and visiting the castle there.

Another vote for Osaka also.
posted by Hactar at 2:32 AM on August 29, 2019

Also near Hiroshima is Ōkunoshima which is worth an adorable visit. Remember to bring fresh produce with you, they don’t sell it on the island. Along with copious amounts of bunnies there is also a poison gas museum so, you know, a little something for everyone.

If you’re in Osaka then Nara makes a good day trip, particularly if you’ve never been panhandled by a deer. It also has Tōdai-ji, which I found very impressive.

Just outside of Osaka is a nature park with the Minoh Waterfalls, which we found worth the trip. Also in Minoh is the first Mr. Donut franchise in Japan, which holds more historical significance than you might think.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:40 AM on August 29, 2019

Another vote for Hiroshima....and Miyajima afterwards is just what you need. I think a highlight of Japan for me was two nights in temple lodgings at Koya-San which was really magic. We attended their dawn fire ceremony which we felt very welcomed to, and the abbot gave a little talk to all the visitors afterwards.
Also just checking since you didn't mention it, the Ghibli museum which you may have visited already.
posted by tardigrade at 7:10 AM on August 29, 2019

If you haven't before maybe stop by MeFi's own woodblock100's woodblock shop in Asakusa: That might hit a bit of the art/history and manga/anime/ukiyoe bits. Maybe even make your own print.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:30 PM on August 30, 2019

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