Planning third trip to Japan

Old Jun 11th, 2017, 08:13 AM
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Planning third trip to Japan

Excited to be planning our third trip to Japan over a 5 year period. I have FF seats reserved for early May 2018 (just after Golden Week) and I’m looking for suggestions to fill in some blanks. This trip will focus on Kyushu (tentatively 10 days on the ground and I will be back with itinerary questions on this portion, I’m sure) then moving in an easterly direction and ending in Kyoto for 2-3 nights. I’d like to fit in Mt Koya before Kyoto for one night. So I probably have 5-7 nights between leaving Kyushu and arriving in Mt Koya. I originally thought that we’d stop in Hiroshima and Miyajima en route but we’ll likely spend 2-3 nights in Nagasaki so I’m not sure that I want to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the same trip. I’m not especially interested in any big cities, we enjoy strolling through towns and beautiful landscapes, smaller museums with good English support, gardens, seaside, nice walks (but not hikes) and at most one castle. And oh yes, good food. I’d love some suggestions from the wonderful Japan experts out there. Last two trips were in Tokyo, Hakone, Kawaguchiko, Matsumoto, Noto Peninsula, Kanazawa and Kyoto so this time nothing east of Kyoto. We enjoy our creature comforts when we travel (which is pretty slow paced) so any wonderful ryokan ideas are most welcome, too.
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Old Jun 11th, 2017, 10:09 AM
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Where are your flights to/from? Why leave Kyushu? You definitely want 3, not 2, nights in Nagasaki. Unzen and Saga are still on my wishlist.
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Old Jun 11th, 2017, 10:30 AM
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MrW, right now I only have the transpacific portion reserved but plan to fly into Fukuoka. Won't get the return flight for 3 weeks yet but plan to leave from Osaka, as I really want to spend a night at a Mt Koya temple and a few things we missed in Kyoto (so at least 2 nights there). I will have the time to spend 2 weeks in Kyushu if I get a sense that I can easily fill all that time.
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Old Jun 11th, 2017, 11:21 AM
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One Kyushu trip I flew to Kagoshima and went down to Ibusuki to try the sand baths. Extremely hot! I stayed in a tourist hotel (which can be an experience in itself) with a nice onsen bath. Then Kumamoto for the castle, the garden was closed. The train from Kumamoto to Beppu was very scenic. Kyushu is green. Visited the hells in Beppu and had a nice soak and then on to Fukuoka.

Another trip, I flew to Kagoshima and took a bus to Kirishima. Stayed at another tourist hotel with a nice onsen. Visited the shrine as part of a bus tour. Went to Miyazaki which was not that interesting but did a fun day trip to the ruins of Obi-jo and a stop at a scenic little island. Had a fun experience with locals in Obi and with a cute travel agent at Miyazaki station. Stayed at the Sheraton.

Went from Miyazaki to Takachiho which is very scenic. I loved, loved, the kagura performance at the shrine (even though it required sitting on a hard wood floor). From there, I took a bus to a small town where I had a couple of fun experiences with locals. Very scenic little train ride south of Aso-san to the JR line to Aso. Stayed at a ryokan hotel with onsen in Aso which had horsu sushi, but did not go up Aso.
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Old Jun 11th, 2017, 05:34 PM
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Lucky you!

From what I can tell, one’s experience of Koya-san varies greatly with one’s choice of temple. I was very pleased with my stay at Shojoshin-in, which still gets very good reviews:
Consider leaving enough time for your stay on Koya-san to enjoy some of its treasures. Again, I think that makes a difference to one’s impressions. Okuno-in is a “must,” but there are so many other options!

Sounds like Kyoto is in your plans? I had an astoundingly delicious French kaiseki meal at Misoguidgawa, which also still gets great rviews. Reservations recommended (if not essential).
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Old Jun 12th, 2017, 04:12 PM
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I have been to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and both of their peace museums. I found the two museums to be a bit repetitive, so you don't need to see both. The cities themselves are very different--Nagasaki has some history in its Southern half, whereas Hiroshima is all new. I liked Nagasaki very much, and I wish I had spent more time there.

I assume you are travelling on a One World Award on JAL into Fukuoka. That is exactly what I did--but the flight into Fukuoka lands in the evening, so you would want to spend at least one night there. I actually spent three nights in Fukuoka, and went on two day trips from there. Then I sent my luggage ahead, and took the train to Nagasaki, while stopping en route in Saga to see the castle.

Although the scenery is gorgeous around Mt. Aso, you cannot get close to the volcano. With limited time in Kyushu, you may want to skip it.
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Old Jun 12th, 2017, 05:57 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. I do have lots of time to plan but it will nag at me until I get a better sense of how many days in Kyushu and how many elsewhere. CL-yes, exactly, hoping to tack on the Tokyo-Fukuoka flight as soon as JAL opens them up. Thanks for the "reinforcement" about Nagasaki-Hiroshima, I'm leaning now towards omitting Hiroshima. And unless I get some folks to chime in on great things to do between Kyushu and Kyoto, I may allocate more time to Kyushu.

I will eventually post a query for a Kyushu itinerary, right now I'm lucky to have the thread by PagesofTravel to help.
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Old Jun 13th, 2017, 07:00 PM
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Both Kyushu and the Chugoku Region have some excellent sights that should not be missed - and mostly are by the tourist crowds, so they are even more enjoyable.
If you are going around Kyushu, you might look at getting the 5 day Kyushu Rail Pass which can get you around quickly especially on the bullet train (only 90 minutes from Hakata (Fukuoka City) to Kagoshima-Chuo Stn.

Fukuoka itself is often ignored by those who say there's not much besides the food and just don't know better. There are a number of excellent places, especially the Nanzoin Temple, the Nokonoshima Island Park, and numerous historical temples and shrines - particularly the Tochoji Great Buddha (largest wood carved Buddha in the country, about 11m tall and weighs 30 tons).

Nagasaki is really the most varied and interesting city on the island though. You can see most of the best in a full day. Maybe 1½ days if you include Genkanjima, which is truly surreal - like walking through Chernobyl without getting your gonads fried. What really makes the city special though is eating the chanpon and saraudon - absolutely killer.

Kagoshima offers the sakurajima volcano, not to mention the beautiful Senganen Garden.

There are many more, but some of the best require a bus or renting a car. For a hot spring, one of the very best places is Kurokawa near Aso. There is also the Kuju Flower Garden, Kunisaki, the Daikanbo Lookout, and Takachiho.
Beppu, Yufuin, Unzen, Takeo, and Futsukaichi are some other good places for hot springs. 

And if you are in Japan during Golden Week or right after, seeing the wisteria at the Kawachi Fujien is one of the 2 best places in Japan to see it. It can get crowded though, more and more every year.

Chugoku is great too - Hagi, Akiyoshido, Iwakuni, Miyajima, Okunoshima (Bunny Island), Okayama, and many more good sights.

A JR Sanyo Sanin Area Pass and Koyasan World Heritage Ticket can help you too.
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Old Jun 18th, 2017, 08:17 AM
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I love some of the suggestions you have above. I would add that we had a very relaxing time at Kurokawa Onsen. We stayed at Ryokan Sanga, where I think a lot of Fodorites have stayed. We had a personal onsen in our room, which was fabulous.

Another thing we loved was our visit to Arita and Ohkawachiyama, the pottery area. We stopped their on our way from Nagasaki to Fukuoka. We had two delightful Goodwill Guides pick us up in Arita and drive us (a first!) around the area. It's so beautiful there and it was a magical day.

In addition to the Sanyo San'in Pass mentioned above, we also used the North Kyushu Pass for part of our journey.

I'm not sure you can switch your flight to fly into Kagoshima and work your way north. That's what we ultimately did, based on some advice from this forum. It ended up working out well because we didn't have to backtrack at all (except between Kumamoto and Kurokawa, with our rental car).

We did go to Nagasaki and Hiroshima on the same trip, but in Nagasaki we did not go to anything atomic bomb related. Visiting the WWII sites in Hiroshima was quite powerful though.

I am in DC, too, and can help answer any of your other questions or share my itinerary.
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Old Jun 18th, 2017, 10:52 AM
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Appreciate all the suggestions, I have a feeling we will spend most of our time around Kyushu. We have our ourbound flight, will arrive in Fukuoka, the probably work our way south. From there I think we can fly to Osaka, but still lots of time for the exact itinerary. I don't think we can reserve hotels for a few months anyway. INternetwiz, would love to see your itinerary, of course! If you send me a PM on tripadvisor, I will get in touch. I'm AMFromDC on that forum, thanks.
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