Itinerary: two weeks in Japan
Japan is an amazing country to visit with kids. Our main focus was seeing the blossom (we went in early April), getting out in the great outdoors and delving into the Japanese culture, although we did pacify the children with a day trip to Disneyland.
Here’s the itinerary we put together for a two-week trip to Japan. Our children are aged five and eight, and fairly active. I’ve included information about where we stayed. Hotel rooms are generally small, but with some searching around we were able to share and book family rooms.
As for transport, we used the local trains, the bullet train (Shinkansen) and buses. If you want a tourist train pass you have to apply before arriving in Japan. You might want to do the maths though: it can’t be used on all trains and journeys and we found it was slightly cheaper to book as we went. Language can be an issue, but we generally managed with English. We flew in to Tokyo and out of Osaka.
Day 1-3 Tokyo
We stayed at: Andaz Toranomon Hills. Pricey but great location and superb views of the city. Great roof bar.
What to do:
· Blossom viewing in Ueno-koen park, Meniji-jingu and Meguro-gawa.
· Tsukiji Fisk Market is worth a visit, but go early, and then find a little restaurant for the freshest sushi.
· People-watch at the famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing (known as The Scramble) or the pop-culture bazaar of Takeshita-dori.
· Stroll through the gardens at the Imperial Palace.
· If you’re interested in history the Yushu-Kan military museum in the grounds of Yasukuni-jinja will give you a local, although not entirely balanced, perspective of everything from samurai traditions to 20th century kamikaze pilots.
Day 4-5 Disneyland Tokyo
We stayed at: Hilton Tokyo. Fun for the children. Who doesn’t like a magic mirror in their bedroom and a tree growing up the wall?
What do to: Get the shuttle train to Disneyland. It gets extremely busy with long queues so plan your day as much as possible. Don’t forget your money, patience and your sense of humour!
Day 6-7 Mount Fuji
We stayed at: Fuji Lake Hotel, Lake Kawaguchiko. A tired, but clean, hotel. It has great views of the lake, although it is not facing Mount Fuji. In the basement is a traditional onsen (baths), separate for men and women – Make sure you go into the right one as bathing costumes are not an option. Also read the bath etiquette guide beforehand. The hotel offers yukata (casual kimono) to wear around the hotel, and the evening meal is great eye opener if you’re interested in local cuisine.
What do to: Apparently Mount Fuji is the highest peak in Japan. We wouldn’t know – it was covered in cloud the entire time. Here is what we did see. We like walking so in an attempt to get a glimpse of the famous mountain, we took the cable car to the top of Mount Tenjo and walked along the ridge, descending to Mitsutoge, was trek of about 16km. We then caught the train back to Lake Kawaguchiko.
Day 8-9 Takayama, north of Nagoya
We stayed at: Hida no Mori pension. This is a super little, family run, place. The hosts are very friendly, and the food is amazing.
What do to: Takayama old town is well preserved, and has lovely little shops and tea houses to explore, if a little touristy. If you like architecture, Yoshijima Heritage house gives you a good insight into traditional living. To the north of the river there are hundreds of shrines and temples, as well as meandering paths through pretty woods. The Hida no Sato folk village, to the south of the river, is an interesting collection of traditional rural dwellings.
Day 10-12 Kyoto
We stayed at: Citedines, Kyoto Karasuma Gojo. Functional, good location.
What do to: There is so much to see, you may leave wishing you’d stayed longer.
· Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Tenryu-ji temple and Sagano district.
· Geisha dancing and cultural performances at Gion Corner.
· Southern Hagahiyama district (Kiyomizu-dera, Maruyama-koen, Chion-in, Shoren-in);
· Fushimi Inari-taisha – thousands of vermillion tori (Shinto Shrine gates).
Day 13-15 Osaka
We stayed at: Carpe Diem hotel. Lovely, traditional family-run ryoken. They also host tea ceremonies.
What do to: After the cultural richness of Kyoto, Osaka will feel a little flat. The Dotombori Arcade has restaurants, markets and a mix of interesting shops. We took a day trip to Hiroshima, which has thought-provoking skeleton buildings left as reminders of the atomic bomb. Outside the Atomic Bomb Dome you’ll find families of survivors telling their stories. The Peace Memorial museum is balanced and also worth a visit.
We really enjoyed this trip, and there is so much more to see. If you want an insight, here are our photos. Or read our story about the good, the bad and the strange.
For more insight into Japan read our story about the good, the bad and the strange.