Where to go

Deciding where to go in Japan

Once you have worked out When to go to Japan, how long to go for and which rail pass to have you will need to start planning where you want to go.

With such a vast network of rail services, one of the hardest tasks in planning your trip to Japan is working out how much you can fit in. One week is really too short to attempt anything more than a quick shuttle between Kyoto and Tokyo, with perhaps a day trip to Nara or Hiroshima. To get anything like a sense of what the country is really about, and to give yourself time to get over jet lag and/or culture shock, plan for at least two but preferably three weeks.

The itineraries suggested on pp41-6 of Japan by Rail are neither prescriptive nor are they intended to be the last word on rail travel in Japan. Their purpose is to give a flavour of what can be accomplished and we hope they are a useful starting point. However, it is often useful to know what other people have done so we will put details of any Itineraries we are sent on this website.

Since we assume that everyone who has bought a copy of Japan by Rail will be travelling around by train we recommend you look at the Scenic journeys page for details of our favourite journeys.

Look at the Highlights page for an idea of the things we have most enjoyed about being in Japan.

Most people who go to Japan want to experience a hot spring so look at the Hot springs page for details of a few we recommend. We will add more so keep looking.

Visiting at least some of Japan’s many World Heritage Sites is also an essential part of most people’s trips.

            Since planning a trip anywhere isn’t just about going to places but is also about different activities and experiences in the 5th edition we have added some suggestions:

  • Animal cafés are popular in Japan but in many the welfare is questionable; a recommended one is a cat café in Shibuya, Tokyo (p111). For a different ‘cat’ experience visit the cat station masters (p247 & p248).
  • Charlie Chaplin was a great fan of cormorant fishing and this seasonal event can still be seen in Gifu (pp195-6) but also in other places in Japan.
  • Horse-racing happens in various places in Japan but a unique type is Ban’ei, in Obihiro (p384), where the horses are draft horses.
  • For a nerve-racking experience go to Mishima Skywalk (p173), the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Japan. However, you may feel safer, despite being under the sea, walking in the Kanmon tunnel (pp409-10) between the islands of Honshu and Kyushu.
  • Japan has an interesting geology and some amazing formations are found in Akiyoshi Cave, the largest limestone cavein Japan (see p283). Few would expect to see desert-like sand dunes in Japan but you can in Tottori (p317) and you can also ride on a camel.
  • If intrigued by Japan’s toilets (see box p82) visit Toto Museum (p408).
  • Manhole covers would rarely be thought of as a tourist attraction but they are worth looking down for in Japan (see p87 & p282).

For more ideas see pp46-8 in Japan by Rail.