Although I just went to Japan last year, it felt like I had only scratched the surface of what this amazing country had to offer. I have heard that Japan looks different in every season, and until I have seen it myself, I won’t be satisfied. So I’m really happy to be able to go back so soon, and in Winter, this time. I’m hoping for a little snow too. =D
I didn’t write about my 2014 Spring trip to Japan, so I’ll give a rough outline before I talk about my planning for this year’s Winter trip.
*** Skip this portion if you’re only interested in my planning for Osaka/Kyoto!***
Last year, this was my rough itinerary (29 March to 13 April 16D15N) and you can check out some facebook photos here or you can take a look at my Flickr album here :
Tokyo – Hakone – Tokyo – Shin Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo.
For the first sector – Tokyo Hakone Tokyo, we kept a room at Hotel Mystays Kamata open from 29 March to 4th April and took a 2D1N trip to Hakone (Hotel Daihakone) and Odawara (2-3 April), leaving most of our luggage there. I highly recommend Mystays Kamata. The location is good, the rooms are beautiful and sound proof and the bed is so comfortable.
Hotel Daihakone was, in my opinion, a little too pricey. It was roughly 210USD (2pax) for 1 night, including dinner and breakfast. The room was huge though, and faced a golf course. It wasn’t very sound proof, and our neighbours were up at 6am watching TV, which wasn’t too pleasant for me because I’m a very light sleeper. The onsen was quite enjoyable though, partly because I fortunately went when there was no one else using it. I might have felt a little too self conscious if there were other people using it too.
If you have time, there are many attractions to check out around Hakone too, including the Little Prince Museum, and the ropeway (cable car).
We took the Hakone Tozan Railway line up, and it was quite an experience.
On our way back to Tokyo, we stopped off at Odawara to have lunch and check out the castle. Do check it out and take a walk around the town, it’s worth spending a couple of hours there.
Next, the Shin-Osaka/Kyoto part of the trip.
On the 4th, we checked out and took the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Hotel Washington which I wouldn’t highly recommend – the bed wasn’t very comfortable and the walls were really thin and not sound proof. It was very affordable though, and if you’re not too picky, it serves it’s purpose.
Staying at Shin-Osaka was a recommendation made by a friend because hotels there are cheaper than in Osaka and Kyoto, and both are accessible by Shinkansen or train which are about 15minutes away. If price of accommodation is a big factor for you, you can do this too. We had the JR pass which we used to travel to Kyoto daily.
The first day, after travelling there and checking in there wasn’t much time left, so we decided to explore Osaka. We had dinner in Namba, and walked around window shopping, and shopping. On the 5th and 6th, we spent most of our time in Kyoto.
We are pretty relaxed travellers, so we don’t rush around to see one attraction after another. We prefer to savour the sights, sounds and flavours and walk around getting lost in the culture. So in Kyoto, we only went to Kiyomizudera, Ginkaku-ji, The Philosopher’s Walk, the Imperial Palace, Yasaka Shrine and Gion (in particular, Hanamikoji Dori).
On the 7th, we checked out and went back to Tokyo where we rented an apartment from Airbnb from the 8-12 April. Our host was extremely helpful and even gave us a pocket wifi to use while we were there. Here’s the listing if you’re interested! The apartment is located in Sangenjaya in a quiet, pleasant estate with lots of hipster cafes and restaurants. It’s not very near to the nearest train station, so expect to drag your suitcase for a distance! Also, there is no lift, and if I’m not wrong, the apartment is on the 3rd floor. It was a very pleasant apartment though, and I would definitely stay there again if I had the chance to.
My most memorable Tokyo attractions that we visited are – Ghibli Museum, Kabukicho, Tsukiji Fish Market, Ueno Park and Odaiba. Other areas I explored – Meji Jinggu, Shibuya, Omotesando, Harajuku, Roppongi…
(I might do a more indepth post about my Spring 2014 trip in future. If I do, I’ll link it here.)
Winter 2015 Itinerary
So, well, as you can see, I spent a lot of time in Tokyo on my previous trip, and I realised that I really wished I had had more time in Kyoto/Osaka. As vibrant and interesting as Tokyo is, my most memorable meal was in Osaka, and I simply loved everything about Kyoto.
So, this time round, we will be going to explore Osaka and Kyoto a little more.
The first thing you should do when visiting Japan, is to check out the dates of festivals or special occassions. I discovered that 24 Jan is the date when they set the Nara hillsides on fire, and if the weather is bad, they’ll shift it to the 31st. 2-4th Feb is Setsubun, which is the welcoming of Spring festival where they chase misfortune away.
With these dates in mind, it was easy to plan the trip.
27th – fly into KIX (Kansai Airport, Osaka) 12.15pm, Owl Cafe, Abeno Harukas
28th – Day trip to Kobe/Himeji
29th & 30th – Premium Outlet, Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Aquarium
31st – Nara
1st – Check out, last visits in Osaka, move to Kyoto.
2nd to 4th – Experience Setsubun at the different temples in Kyoto (using this as a guide) – Yasaka Shrine [MUST GO! Will have performing Maiko], Rozanji Temple, Yoshida Shrine, Suga Shrine, Heian Shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha
5th – Kyoto Hirogawara (skiing)
6th – return to Singapore (710pm flight from KIX)
Other places in Kyoto to visit :
Arashiyama, Kurama & Kibune, Kyoto Tower, Kinkaku-ji
Eigamura, Kabuki Show, Nishiki Market