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Where should I visit outside of Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo?

Heading to Japan in December. Will be solo traveling 4 days before my friends arrive. With my friends, I will see Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. Can you offer recommendations on what I should do for the 4 days beforehand (which excludes those cities)? Looking to explore 1 - 2 cities and will have the high-speed train pass.

6 Answers

answered by
Micky from Portland

Naoshima and the inland Sea Naoshima Island

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Naoshima Island (island)
2 thanks

answered by
Claudia from New York City

Hi Zach, 

I recommend Hakone, a city about 60 miles from Tokyo. Famous for its onsen (hot springs) and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), Hakone is worth a 2 or 3-day trip. Stay in a ryokan that includes a private onsen with a half board option. You'll get to experience the Japanese bathing culture and traditional Japanese food in a home setting. It's definitely a place to relax before visiting fast-paced cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

When in Hakone, take a cruise on Lake Ashinoko. You may get to see Mt Fuji on a clear day from the lake. For further information on Lake Ashinoko, check out Japan Guide's website.

I think the Japan Rail Pass can be used on the JR trains from Tokyo Station to Odawara Station. You'll have to transfer to another train from Odawara Station to Hakone. I find it quite confusing. I was able to get on the train with the help of a tour guide. Check out this blog about transferring from Odawara Station to Hakone:

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hakone (city)
  2. Tokyo (city)
2 thanks

answered first by
Christell from Quebec City

Look for Hiroshima or Nara for day trips

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hiroshima (city)
  2. Nara (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Angus from Tokyo

If you are staying in Tokyo, why not try Mashiko or Nasu, Nikko, Minakami, Kusatsu (Gunma), or you could go further North to Fukushima Prefecture & Miyagi prefectures!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mashiko (city)
  2. Nasu (city)
  3. Nikko (city)
  4. Minakami (city)
  5. Kusatsu (Gunma) (city)
  6. Fukushima Prefecture (state)
  7. Miyagi (city)
1 thanks

answered by

It depends a little on where you are starting from and your interests.  With the rail pass, the country shrinks, so you can get to cities on the shinkansen network easily and quickly.  Off that main route, some places, like Naoshima (which is good) take a while to get there and back, and other popular/famous places (like Hakone) can be great, they can also be crowded, touristy, over-rated.  I know loads of people like these spots, but Japan has a lot more, just most people never to to see or experience it.  (I take people around the country as my job - I've been to a lot of places, and I get a lot of feedback from my customers about what they like and don't like.)

One of the usual recommendations is to include Hiroshima, a pretty city and easy to get to.  Including the Peace Museum and Park it covers an important piece of history.  However, it is also the gateway to Miyajima, one of the "three most scenic spots in Japan"  (an old list, I would disagree).  You might really enjoy hiking the trails to the top of Mt Misen, or sampling the food in the small shopping streets.  Tends to be a bit crowded, but it is worth visiting.  (Slightly further south is Iwakuniand the Kintai bridge area - an interesting extension, but harder without language or knowing how the transport works.

An alternative is to get some mountains in, head to Matsumoto for their castle and then across to Nagano - there are some great onsen towns around in the prefecture (and decent ones a lot less than Hakone), plus you could insert a trip to see the snow monkeys at Jigokudani. 

Also from Nagano, slip in a day at Kanazawa.  The gardens, castle grounds and sushi at Omi-cho market are good.  A few other interesting sights and sites around the city.

Just checking one of the normal schedules I do run, if you can insert a daytrip to Nikko from Tokyo, that can be a worthwhile day as well.  The 2000 yen bus pass gets you to the World Heritage sites, and also up to Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Falls.  With the rail pass, it is easily accessible.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hiroshima (city)
  2. Iwakuni (city)
  3. Matsumoto (city)
  4. Nagano (state)
  5. Kanazawa (city)
  6. Nikko (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Polly from Washington, DC

Where will you and your friends be meeting? If you're starting in Tokyo, Nikko and Hakone are great. If you're starting in Kyoto, it would make sense to visit Hiroshima and Miyajimacho, or Koyasan and Nara.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Nikko (attraction)
  2. Hakone (city)
  3. Hiroshima (hotel)
  4. Miyajimacho (attraction)
  5. Koyasan (attraction)
  6. Nara (city)

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