So Japan is my number 1 destination and I'm starting to plan a trip there, hopefully in the next 12-20 months. I would love suggestions on what is the best time to visit. Affordable lodging suggestions in popular areas would be great. Obviously Tokyo will be the major focus but I'd also like to check out some other areas (Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima).
Also if anyone knows any Akira Kurosawa related sights to see, I'd love suggestions. I was a film major in college and he was easily my favorite director.
I agree that cherry blossom time is a time to see Japan at its best-if in Tokyo then, Ueno Park , Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Yasukuni Shrine, and round the moats from the old Edo castle near Imperial Palace, give a great show of blossoms. Try not to be there at O-Bon time in August as everything shuts down for a few days- exasperating if you're a tourist on a tight schedule.
See Kyoto definitely. Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Heiwakinen Park a must see. If you have time, Nagasaki and Beppu with its thermal "hells" in the south. Definitely Himeji Castle -especially for the Kurosawa connection but worth seeing irrespective of that connection. Nara worth seeing. Osaka is fun-if you like a bit of nature-sick of concrete and gravel go to Mino outer part of osaka-walking trails, waterfall, monkeys-beautiful in autumn with the leaves red and gold. Try the maple leaves dipped in batter and deep fried.
North of Tokyo- Nikko -wonderful shrine and temple.
Miyajima Island near Hiroshima is a great experience.
Accommodation in Tokyo-try short stay apartments-much cheaper than hotels. You can eat very cheaply in Japan.
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It seems people already answered for your question about Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima, and I'd like to write about a few favorite places I had visited before.
I like Kanazawa, it's in back side of the main island. It was an old castle town. The town has rich history, beautiful landscapes and tasty foods. You can visit popular Japanese garden, nice art museum, old castle town - it's different with Kyoto because it's in Ura-nihon, it means traffic was bad. But it's good because the town has still old castle town because of it (like in Kurosawa's films) - and there are hot springs as well.
I said the traffic was bad, I mean, it's good now since the bullet train started to go since this March. I'm gonna miss old castle town in near future.
You can taste Kobako-gani (crab) if you could go at middle of winter. I think it's worth it but maybe still a bit too cold season if you come from abroad. Maybe spring is better.
I also like Fukuoka and Saga. They are in southwesterly island of Japan, Kyusyu. More south side of Japan. People has warm and kind heart, so friendly in Kyusyu (than Tokyo, at leaset. Believe me, I'm from Tokyo.). Foods are good, rich and far cheaper in Kyusyu (you can live far budget-friendly in Kyushu). I recommend to rent a car if you visit Kyushu because there is no convenient subways in here but it's so fun to drive in Kyushu. Less cars, huge landscapes. Seafoods are so delicious (if you decide to go to Kyushu, I can pick some nice restaurants for you!). There is of course many hot springs. I think early summer is best season for Kyushu because you can get nice sun shine every day.
Okinawa is great place to visit but it's pricey. If you are into scuba diving or something like that, worth it, but it's still expensive. And it's not Hiroshima, but you can also see and feel the real scars of WWII in Okinawa. People's pray for peace.
Ah, and I have to say this. I don't recommend to visit Japan at Summer (July to September. Well, in June, it's rainy season and it's literally raining every day...so you can avoid June to September). About past 10 years, summer time of my country is almost rain-forest climate. At mid summer, the temperature can't be under 30 (Celsius) even at mid-night. It's really exhausting to go through...even to sleep.
If given a choice I would consider visiting Japan either during cherry blossom viewing season in spring (they start blooming first in the south and move north) or fall when the weather is the most stable,dry and pleasant. Your interests will help you determine where to visit and for how long. If you're into nature I would consider Mt. Fuji, Matsushima, and Lake Towada. Of course for city life it's hard to beat Tokyo. To me Tokyo is one of the most dynamic and fascinating cities on earth. Osaka is also a lot of fun. Osaka is quite different from Tokyo in manner and style - kind of a New York vs. LA thing. Of all the places to visit the one not to miss is Kyoto. The temples in Kyoto are outstanding. Not sure about the Kurosawa thing. Good luck!
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Everyone loves Cherry blossom in Japan but that is the exact time it becomes the most expensive. There is tourist crowd everywhere and you don't get to enjoy local experience as clearly as you want. Ofcourse you get to enjoy the famous cherry blossom.
Alternate time you can travel where you get to enjoy Japanese culture in deeper sense is end of autumn and starting of December. The entire nation lits up for Christmas and Japanese christmas is very different. So you have beautiful roads with colorful leaves everywhere and ofcourse you can't miss super neon illumination.
You have to understand Tokyo is the most expensive place in entire Japan and its over crowded if that is your thing. I would personally start from Osaka, head to Kyoto move down to Hiroshima and famous Miyajimacho.
After that I would head north to Nagoya, Hakone and related Mt. Fuji sightseeing and then at last head to Tokyo where I would do all my purchasing so that I don't have to carry things around. Although you can get everything you get in Tokyo in Osaka too. Please do not miss harbor area around Minatomirai
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