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A Return to Japan, Again: Planning for April 2025

A Return to Japan, Again: Planning for April 2025

Old Mar 27th, 2024, 11:45 AM
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A Return to Japan, Again: Planning for April 2025

Konnichiwa. It’s sakura season here in Washington, DC. The beautiful blossoms both delight us and remind us of our wonderful experiences on our prior trips to its homeland. After a largely successful visit to Japan last November, we’re considering yet another three-week visit in April 2025. Hoping to catch some sakura while there, but also avoided the more visited parts over peak bloom.

Beyond sakura, Tohoku and Hokkaido call to us. We understand that April may be too early for Hokkaido if we’re not looking for snow, and we aren’t. Even Aomori Prefecture may be too early, although I would be interested in your thoughts. After looking at potential points of interest, Matsuo Basho, the famous 17th-century Japanese poet, came to mind. We’re thinking…it may be fun to play modern-day Basho and follow a similar route as he did in Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The thought is to fly into Tokyo in early April and out of Osaka towards the end of the month.

From Tokyo, we would go north to Tohoku. right now we’re looking at Sendai, Matsushima, Yamadera, Hiraizumi, and Tono. Would mid-April be too early to consider Kakunodate, Lake Tazawa, and Dewa Sanzan?

From the west coast, we intend to make our way south, Basho-style, to Niigata towards Kyoto and Osaka. Having visited Kanazawa in November, we intend to skip it this time. Perhaps Toyama or Fukui Prefectures? Would Kurobe Gorge or Tateyama be a better bet for mid-April? For Maruoka Castle, Eihei-ji, and Tojinbo, what would you suggest as a base? Is Fukui more convenient or one of the onsen towns in Ishikawa Prefecture?

Right now, we’re timing Kyoto for the last week of the month, after sakura has peaked and before Golden Week. Is this a relatively quiet time in Kyoto (relatively for Kyoto, at least)? We’re also looking at possibly a day or two in Osaka for the World Expo.

As always, arigato gozaimasu.
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 11:18 AM
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I'm also interested in any interesting festivals taking place in some of these parts in April. Thanks.
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 11:29 AM
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Hi, tp! I want you to know I’m really mad at you - I started to look into Tohoku and nearly changed my entire itinerary! And I’m already wishing I could go back to Japan, and I haven’t even gone on our second trip yet! But I think my latest plan will work for us - still, your trip is so tempting.

Anyway, I found this site and thought it was fun to explore:
https://www.tourism-alljapanandtokyo...oku-en?lang=en

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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 01:39 PM
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Progol, LOL, I understand what you mean. Some of the places at which you're looking interest me too, but we've been drawn to Tohoku for a while now that it seems logical to go there next. Shikoku and Kyushu are on our minds for yet another visit, perhaps with South Korea. Too many places to go and so limited time. Thank you for the link; I'll check it out.
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 01:40 PM
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There are several books by people walking in Basho's footsteps. I've read Lesley Downer's, which isn't bad. I got it very cheaply on Kindle but that isn't available now. However, you can get paperback copies from bookfinder.com.

There are also organized tours that may suggest itineraries. Just google them.

Basho's home in Iga Ueno is interesting and so is the town: home of the ninja, and a really pretty train journey (I went from Nara),

The sights you mentioned around Fukui are very attractive (though Tojinbo is marginal). I stayed in Fukui but I use Toyoko Inns, which might not be your scene.

The Toyoma-Kurobe Alpine route is a good excursion. I went from Toyoma to Murodo and back to see the snow canyon on the day it opened: https://www.adumbrate.org/pics/walks/45.html

If Kyoto is crowded, consider Nara, which I find at least as interesting, but you have to get beyond the deer park. I sketched a few things here:: Japan: 2 nights in Nara, Hakone, or somewhere else?

The worst travel experience of my life was the day I spent at the World Expo in Nagoya 2005.
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 01:47 PM
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Someotherguy, thank you for these tips. If we do go to Kyoto, we don't have to visit the most popular sites, as we've now gone to it twice, which may help with crowds. What made you say the 2005 Expo was the worst? Was it crowds? The exhibits not interesting? We could also skip Kyoto and Osaka, and go from Fukui to Lake Biwa and Ise to conclude our trip.
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 02:22 PM
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World expo: "Security" and bureaucracy, lines, lines, more lines. Exhibits of marginal interest. Tickets for popular ones (e.g., Toyota mobile robots) almost unobtainable (I had one but it was of negligible interest).

Once you drop below the top sights of Kyoto, those of Nara are more interesting. Check out the relevant chapters (9-12) of Alex Kerr "Lost Japan" (bookfinder again).

Last edited by someotherguy; Apr 7th, 2024 at 02:28 PM. Reason: Added chapter numbers
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 03:09 PM
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Someotherguy, thank you for the first-hand Expo account. We enjoyed our visit to Nara during our first trip, not just the sites at the core where all the tourists go but also Horyuji, which we had to ourselves as we went in the late afternoon.
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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 07:29 AM
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>> Would mid-April be too early to consider Kakunodate, Lake Tazawa,
No, not too early. Estimated opening of cherry blossoms in Kakunodate this year is April 18, so would be spring pretty with buds before that. No sweat in missing the cherry blossoms, it is a nice town to visit. Special. I recommend staying at the Folkloro Hotel (I stayed there 20 years ago and would love to do so again). It is next to the station, comfortable, nice price.


Tazawako would be a good visit. In addition, or better yet, would be Nyuto Onsen. I visited Tsurunoyu last fall and it was busy. There are several other ryokan in the area. Note that japan-guide rates Nyuto Onsen as among the best in Japan: Nyuto Onsen - Hachimantai Travel (japan-guide.com)

hawaiiantraveler visited Kakunodate and I think did a TR, but long time ago.

Estimated opening in Hirosaki ia Apr 15

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Apr 8th, 2024 at 07:38 AM.
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Old Apr 8th, 2024, 12:08 PM
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mrwunrfl, thank you so much. Fortunately, we have a lot of time to plan this out, as we're aiming to build an itinerary and make refundable hotel reservations over the summer. I get that some of the smaller accommodations may not be taking reservations until later in the year though.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 10:48 AM
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Yes, you could start looking to book in summer, 6 months out, revisit in January or even later. Mid-April would be a fine time for Kurobe Gorge and Unazuki Onsen.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 01:46 PM
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mrwunrfl, thank you.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 01:48 PM
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Thank you for your feedback so far. We’re starting to sketch out an initial itinerary and are interested in your thoughts as well as help working through a few questions that we have. I’ve identified possible side trip from different locations

Fly into Tokyo, 2 nights
Aizu Wakamatsu, 3 nights (with Bandai-Asahi NP)
Sendai, 3 nights (with Matsushima and Yamadera)
Hiraizumi, 2 nights (looking at Geibekei Gorge or Tono as possible side trips; we probably wouldn’t have time for both nor want to squeeze in that much)
Kakunodate, 3 nights (with Lake Tazawa)
Dewa Sanzan, 2 nights – Would you recommend that we stay in Sakata or Tsuruoka?
?? – Where would you recommend us stop to break our journey between Sakata / Tsuruoka and Echizen?
Echizen, 1-2 nights (for Maruoka Castle and Eihei-ji)
Lake Biwa, 1-2 nights – Is there a base you would recommend? Other than time on the like, we’re interested in Hikone Castle and if not a stretch the Miho Museum
Ise, 1-2 nights – Should we stay near the shrine or closer to Ago Bay? We will be relying on trains, buses, and taxis if it makes a difference.

We’ve tried to include the Sanriku Coast and Hirosaki, but didn’t feel we would have the time given the number of nights we’re working with. If you think, we should swap something out, please do share.
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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 08:30 AM
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Sendai - I stopped for a night on the way from Kakunodate to Tokyo. I didn't have any plan for the city and found it to be a typical Japanese city. Matsushima was nice. It is unique which might be why it is on the list of three best beauty spots in Japan. My visit was before the Japan-travel boom.

Hikone castle is a gem. Nice garden and there was a tourist bus that I took from the station that made one or two brief stops that were more interesting than I expected. Steep hill up to the castle. Easy walk back to the station and I saw a double rainbow. It was a worthy day trip from Kyoto. IDK if there are boats on Biwako. Am not interested in Miho Museum. Hikone might be a good base.

Found this when I searched for biwako at japan-guide::
Solo Female Travel Japan - Travel along Lake Biwa, Shiga (japan-guide.com)

I visited Ise Jingu (very cool) on a day trip from Nagoya. I remember thinking the area was beautiful and worth visiting for a couple days if I had a chance to come back. Inuyama is another place in the region I can recommend but am not sure if you have the time. It is a great day trip from Nagoya (north, while Ise is south).

Two days in Ise-Shima National Park (japan-guide.com)
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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 10:11 AM
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mrwunrfl, thank you. This is very helpful, especially as there seems to be less first-hand accounts of some of these places than elsewhere in Japan.
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