Unexpected Japan holiday!
November 26, 2022 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Due to various operational and logistical happenings out of my control, I’ve been very lucky to be left with an unexpected week’s holiday in Japan – but not much time or ability to plan for it beforehand! I will be disembarking from a research ship on the 5th of December in Shimizu, Japan, and leaving for home (UK) early on the morning of the 13th from Haneda airport.

While on the ship, I have very poor internet connectivity, and am busy working on 12 hour+ shifts, so I really don’t have a chance to do much research or book things until we actually get off. I’ve been reading through past questions but am a little overwhelmed, and can’t use my usual methods to figure out what to do while on holiday – internet is too slow for much except text based sites (thanks metafilter!). I’ll also have been on an industrial and noisy ship for almost a month, and am desperate for some peace and quiet and green spaces. I’d really like to be able to do a bit of hiking, but nothing too serious – I have a waterproof jacket, hat, gloves, and boots, but no serious hiking gear. So far, it has been warmer than expected (around 15-20 degrees Celsius) but it should get cooler?

I would be very grateful for suggested itineraries or ideas. Currently, I have a vague plan to head from Shimizu to Kyoto for a few days, and to spend at least one day in Tokyo (probably the day before I fly). I don’t want to do loads of travelling in between – hopefully I will be back to Japan again, so I’m not so keen on flying internally – perhaps easiest to limit travel to central/southern Japan?

My budget isn’t gigantic either – I would prefer less than £100 (~Y17000, $120) a night for hotels, and I’m not bothered about fancy hotel stuff like concierge etc. At home in the UK, I have remained very covid cautious – not eating out in restaurants or pubs etc., but I feel that the lower case numbers and extensive mask wearing in Japan mean I will be more likely to eat out. But I’m also keen on accommodation where I have some facilities to make coffee/noodles/microwave things as I don’t tend to like eating all my meals out. I think I’d like to spend a few days at least in and around Kyoto to start with rather than moving every day. Overall, despite the temptation, I want to avoid trying to feel like I have to do ALL THE THINGS, especially after an intense period of work with no days off/not much outside time. I’ll be taking public transport but that seems to be excellent and navigable via google maps. I’ll also plan to leave some luggage in Kyoto or somewhere else convenient, as I have laptops/equipment to lug home. But I’m told by our captain that luggage storage at railway stations etc. is very easy and secure.

Things I like are nature, forests, art galleries, seafood, and just generally walking around enjoying being in a different place (I’ve not traveled much at all since covid). I don’t drink, but I’d like to try lots of yummy food and I eat everything. I think I would like to try going to a Japanese bath house or traditional guest house but they seem to vary wildly in price – keen to hear about that experience!

I do hope it’s ok to ask this question – I can see there are lots of previous travel in Japan questions, but circumstances mean I’m kind of narrowing it down, which I hope helps.
posted by sedimentary_deer to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: art galleries

I loved taking the ferry to Naoshima. The island itself is beautiful, and the galleries are amazing.

We stayed at HYM hostel which was very affordable, and enjoyably…spooky? While I was there I heard the distant sound of children’s laughter echoing down the bare, dimly lit corridors, and while it was, in fact, just perfectly normal non-ghostly children, it nicely accentuated the off kilter atmosphere of the place.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:12 PM on November 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 2nding the above- Naoshima is the way!!!

here's a link to the yurts at the bottom
of the island
if the hostel is full.

the main crucial thing is timing so that you’re not there on a day stuff is closed. here's the schedule.

The Chichu art museum in Naoshima is one of the most incredible indoor experiences I have ever had in life. we stayed 2 nights, which was great. would have been cool to go to the smaller islands if i had more time.

In tokyo i live the thermae-yu spa in shinjuku- a 24 hour insen is a great way to kill time before your flight or beat jet lag.
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:24 PM on November 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: also if you need a good way to look at train + ferry etc schedules for route planning in english i have found rome2rio to be very good in japan and around the world.
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2022

Best answer: Tokyu Stay hotels are basic business hotels that always used to be good value for money when I did this. The Tokyo ones used to be hopeless for availability, but if you're in a less busy city they should work out, perhaps even for on-the-day bookings. They're clean and well run, but the rooms are small.

Membership is not expensive, and can be cost effective beyond a few stays, but don't worry too much if you can't figure out how to sign up.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:34 AM on November 27, 2022

Best answer: For your luggage, you can use a takkyubin service to forward luggage to anywhere else in Japan (including the airport) and even hold it for a week, at a very reasonable cost. Any hotel should be able to help arrange this.

You can get good, cheap food at convenience stores - for hot food they will even offer to heat it up for you. My breakfast in Japan is usually some onigiri and pastries from 7-11.

Your hotel budget shouldn't be a problem - right now on Booking.com I see plenty of very nice-looking hotels well under $100 USD/night in Kyoto for the week of December 5. I'd recommend staying on the north side of the city (near Nishiki Market and Pontocho) rather than close to the station.
posted by Gortuk at 9:04 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you like nature and galleries, then you may enjoy visiting Ueno Park while you are in Tokyo. The park has a number of museums (including art museums), temples, shrines, and a lovely lily pond.
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 9:49 AM on November 27, 2022

Best answer: Another suggestion for Tokyo would be to go to Harajuku station so you can visit both the Meiji Shrine and have easy access to the busyness of Harajuku itself:

- The Meiji shrine is within a huge manmade forest, and it's easy to feel the calmness of the place even though you are very much in the center of the city.
- Harajuku is a busy shopping area, with lots of interesting places like Takeshita-dori, with little shops and interesting people watching.
- If you wanted to go for a short-medium walk, you can easily walk over to Yoyogi Park, which is a large green area (though more clearly a city park).
posted by past unusual at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2022

Best answer: Oops, apologies for the brain fart. Tokyu Stay is actually a fairly upmarket place with a limited footprint. I meant Toyoko Inn, which is the more basic end of the spectrum and can be found everywhere. I'm seeing rooms for 6250 yen on a cursory search, and that in a relatively desirable area.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:46 PM on November 27, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks all - I hadn't even considered going to Naoshima but that looks perfect after Kyoto. And then Ueno Parl and around Harajuku in Tokyo!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 1:25 PM on November 27, 2022

Best answer: Between Shizuoka and Kyoto, if you follow the coast, is the Kumano Kodo in Mie and Wakayama. You can walk all or part of it. This is a very beautiful area and quite peaceful. Might be just the thing after industrial and noisy.


Plenty of cheap hostels along the way under the accommodation tab in the above link.
posted by Gotanda at 2:46 PM on November 27, 2022

Best answer: I'm late to this, but another vote for Naoshima. Chichu Art Museum is a real experience, uniquely atmospheric; it's my favourite art museum anywhere. And the Go'o Shrine is one of the calmest places I've ever been. (Go inside. Wait a moment for your vision to adjust. Appreciate the stillness and quiet, and the views ahead of you and back along the tunnel you've just walked.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:13 AM on November 30, 2022

Philosopher's Path
Kyoto Takao hike
Fushimi Inari Shrine (steps, trees, tori gates, shrines, vistas, visitors, cats, more steps)
Lonely Planet's best hikes Kyoto: Kibune to Kurama walk
Maruzen Bookstore, specifically the art books section
Mount Takao (高尾山, Takaosan)
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum : an eclectic bunch of exhibition halls, and can include calligraphy exhibitions, children's paintings, university art student shows, ornamental stone collectors meet-ups, and more famous touring exhibitions, e.g. Klimpt, Vermeer, Munch, or, right now Egon Schile. Next to Ueno Park, as is the Shitamachi museum.

posted by sebastienbailard at 3:33 AM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

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