Great things in Japan to fit around other plans
May 18, 2022 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I'll be going to Japan in August and all the main points have already been nailed down, what else can I fit in around them? For example I'll be going to the Ghibli museum, maybe there's a great restaurant or shop nearby I should check out?

If you were to tell me you would be visiting Kyoto circa 2005 I'd tell you to get the melon pan that's sold from a truck/stall in the Nijo shopping arcade. Nothing I'd recommend making a specific trip for, although I have made that trip many times, but if you're nearby then something you should check out. I'm looking for similar type recommendations.

I'll be based out of my in-laws home on the border of Osaka and Kyoto but will be doing a fair bit of travelling to visit friends and family and also to cross things off my bucket list. I haven't visited since 2015 so I expect that lots of things have changed. Where I will be going for sure from west to east:

Fukuoka and Karatsu (Saga) 3 days
We'll be visiting family here and pretty much letting them lead the way. Stuff near Hakata station would be good because we'll be there at least twice.

Hiroshima 1 day+night
This is more touristy stuff, taking our kids to the Peace Park and going to Miyajima. Also I want to eat Hiroshima tsukemen and will likely visit Okonomi-mura as well.

Naoshima 1 day+night
This is just to visit the art museums and see the installations. If we weren't already going to Hiroshima we probably wouldn't make the trip here.

Kansai 10+ days
Mostly spending time with friends and family. This is the area I know best but again all of my information is now out of date. If I'm going in to one of the main cities it'll probably be Kyoto because that has the most memories but I'll probably go to Osaka at least once to show my kids the giant lion head shrine in Namba and the water clock in Osaka Station City.

Wakayama (Kumano Kodo) 3 days
I was supposed to go there for my birthday in 2003 and it never happened! Finally get the chance to go, but will just be on the Nakahechi for a couple of days with my brother-in-law most likely (in my dreams I'd hike the entire route up to Yoshino but that'll have to wait for another time when the schedule isn't so busy).

Nagoya 1/2 day
We'll be visiting a friend here.

Tokyo 3 days
Visiting lots of different friends. Probably going to the Ghibli museum with one of them. I feel like I have to go to the Sky Tree as well.

Everyone's middle-aged and has young kids so there aren't going to be many late nights, or at least not ones spent in clubs or bars.

Also, as you can see from above we'll be spending lots of time on trains so any ekiben, train station shops or convenience store snack recommendations would be appreciated as well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
not sure if this is too far out of the way (It definitely is a couple hours of travel but it is worth it) but the james terrell house is light is pretty incredible and has reservations available in that time period. BUCKET LIST.

while on the subject, it would be a whole schlep, but Naoshima the art island is absolutely a bucket list place. stay in the yurts, don't forget to reserve some onsen time. check and make sure that both chichu and bennesse house will be open while you're there. maybe check on trip advisor what folks say about whether it's good for kids, but i do recall seeing some. It's an absolutely mindblowing space for adults i think.

in tokyo, i love the thermae 24 hour bathhouse. the TEAMLAB exhibitions would be good for kids. wherever you are, check and see if they have CAINZ store. They took over tokyu hands.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:25 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]

and memailed you for a much longer list from ~2019 of quite specific food stuff :)
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:32 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

[Much of my info is also pre-pandemic, so check/verify:]

The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka has a cute restaurant. We had lunch there and just made a quiet, pleasant afternoon of the visit. (If you're into Ghibli, they're also constructing an amusement park in Aichi but I don't think it'll be open until after your trip...)

This really depends on your interests but how 'bout some historical sites like Osaka Castle, Byōdō-in, the gardens in Kyoto...seasonal things like riverside dining, fireworks shows, Bon-Odori or other local summer festivals (and all the matsuri street food!)...tea/desserts in Uji...the outdoor onsen...

Summertime is also a season for kids activities during school break, so a lot of places will likely have extra edutainment-type events going on. Good childhood memories from science museums, aquariums, planetariums (bonus: escape the heat!).

Also, wildcard: Japan's just this month reopening to international tourists on a limited basis, so who knows how much touristy stuff will be in swing by August.

IME there are way fewer "misses" in Japan when trying random restaurants or shops. It might be fun to leave a couple days unplanned and just explore with your family. Go where the mood takes you. You can be the one to chart the landscape in 2022!

[will DM additional info]
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 7:39 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

If you're at the Ghibli museum in Kichijoji, you really need to visit Shiraichi for udon. It's a bit of a walk or an easy taxi ride from the park where Ghibli is, but it's really worth the trek.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:32 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

If you or your family are interested in samurai, there's Kyoto Samurai Experience.
Daigokuden for umeshu shaved ice or other shaved ice and/or wagashi.

teamLAB★ is doing a thing in the botanical garden in Nagai Park this summer.
Cerezo Osaka play at the stadium in Nagai Park and there are some home games that you could pair with a visit to the exhibition in the garden.
Hozenji and Hozenji Yokocho is just off of Doutonbori in Namba, and has a calmer atmosphere compared to the rest of the area. Hozenji, the surrounding area, and Kuromon Ichiba are the setting for Oda Sakunosuke's Meoto Zenzai, and the restaurant the story is named for still exists today and is right next to Hozenji. (Check your library for Stories of Osaka Life if you want to read it before your trip.)
Also near Hozenji is the Kamigata Ukiyo-e Museum. Osaka had its own style of ukiyo-e and this museum specializes in it. Also for a small fee you can do a ukiyo-e workshop.
If you time your visit to Namba Yasaka Jinja for July 13-14 they'll be having their matsuri, and you can see neighborhood kids dancing on the stage inside the lion head's mouth. It's more a neighborhood festival, but it's one of my favorites (disclaimer: I live nearby).

If you walk down the shoutengai just outside Kintetsu Nara station, away from the busy main road that leads to Nara Park, you'll end up in Naramachi, the former merchant district. There are some traditional residences and warehouses open to the public, and the Harushika Sake Brewery is there as well, and has sake tastings (and you get to keep your ochoko!). Naramachi and the area around Kintetsu Nara station has become known for gourmet shaved ice as well.
posted by emmling at 1:28 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

In Hiroshima, consider Lopez Okonomiyaki unless your heart is set on Okonomi-mura. We went in 2019 and it was delicious, Lopez was friendly and fun to watch, and we had fun conversations with the other guests. Definitely read the linked article. My husband still talks about that experience.
posted by dywypi at 4:00 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are good, my wife said that we need to book our accommodations for Hiroshima and Naoshima so it's good to find out about the yurts.

I'd never heard about teamLab before but that installation at Nagai park looks great. Not sure about the JLeague game though, the kids don't have the patience or interest to sit through a whole soccer game.

Tokyu Hands is no more? That was a shop I always visited. Loft still seems to be around. Let's hope it lasts until the summer.

My heart isn't set on Okonomi-mura as I've been there before, so Lopez Okonomiyaki looks good. Plus I think we'll be there long enough to have okonomiyaki twice and tsukemen once.

I'm not so worried about getting into the country, my wife is a Japanese citizen so even if they don't open up the borders to tourists I can still apply for a visa to visit. She's spoken with the consulate already and they say not to bother applying until June because there may be announcements opening things up and if there aren't then they'll be able to process it then.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:17 PM on May 19

Tokyu Hands is no more? That was a shop I always visited. Loft still seems to be around. Let's hope it lasts until the summer.

Tokyu Hands is still around, Cainz is just the parent organization.
posted by emmling at 6:04 PM on May 19

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