Japan Recommendations

Spouse and I are planning a vacation to Japan this coming spring, likely early May.

I was given a few recommendations in an unrelated thread but as we’re getting serious, I would love your favorite areas.

We likely want to spend most of our time in major cities (so probably Tokyo/Kyoto) with trips to the country being out-and-back. We want to eat all the best food we couldn’t find in America. We’re going to Ghibli Park and will likely fail to get limited tickets to the Ghibli Museum.

We also want to hit more cultural/religious/historical sites, but our knowledge on this area is especially lacking.

Please help me out so I can start a list for research!

Beginning list - I will likely sort this later and call out some things I plan to do, right now just assembling info:

  • Japan visitor hotline for assistance
  • Philosopher’s Path (Kyoto) - temples
  • Osaka aquarium
  • Fokuoka - pork ramen, nearby on-sens, could overnight at
  • Sapporo - specialty soup curry, cable-car to top of nearby mountain
  • Hiroshima or Nagasaki - very likely museum/etc. related to bombing
  • Buy rail pass ahead of time for cheaper
  • Hike Mt. Fuji
  • (Per my friend who lived in Japan - Osaka best for food, Kansai is her favorite region, Kyoto has the most culture/shrines, Hiroshima is worth it. Nara is “a must-have day trip”. Tickets for the Pokemon Cafe (probably not too interested) or Universal Japan (maybe interested) are difficult to get, make sure you know the specific date you want and get them early.)
  • Visit the original Nintendo building (Kyoto, no tour, just the building)
  • Samurai Museum (Kyoto)
  • Skytree Tower (Tokyo)
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo)
  • Disney Tokyo (likely just 1 day) - Tickets available 2 PM exactly 2 months prior to the date
  • Ghibli Museum - Tickets drop 10 AM JT on the 10th of the month, for the following month, 9 PM ET on the 9th


Be curious to hear about the trip. Visiting Japan has been high on my bucket list of places to visit.

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I’d be happy to report back next year. This trip is about 95% certain, we wanted to take the past couple years but various things prevented it.

I have never been to Japan. Subscribed.

Back in 2020, I landed a killer deal for some nonstop tickets to Tokyo. The airline allowed me to change my tickets twice once COVID hit, but on the third change they wanted to either give me my money back or have me pay the difference. I took a refund. I will book another trip there when I see a good deal.

Like you, we planned to use Tokyo and Kyoto as bases for travel

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The 2026 International Congress of Actuaries will be in Tokyo around the time of a significant birthday for my wife. She’s been a Nipponophile since high school and neither of us have been, so…

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Lots of great places to eat in Tokyo, with over 400 Michelin rated restaurants (you can look up the Michelin guide for those). Even some hole-in-the-wall place will be amazing. I did have some bad sushi once (from a non-recommended place), so maybe go where the locals eat. In Tokyo you can take trains/monorails anywhere and there’s often employees to help tourists work the train system if you’re a bit nervous. There’s also a Japan Visitor Hotline, which you can ring for tourist information/help.

The Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto is worth it for all the amazing temples. On websites like TripAdvisor, you can see the top places to go in Kyoto, of which there are many. The aquarium at nearby Osaka (12 minutes by high-speed train) is impressive.

Fukuoka in the west, has a great pork ramen soup. Nearby are some on-sen areas. If you overnight in an on-sen (hot springs), it’s great for a couple to stay.

Sapporo in the north has a specialty dish - soup curry - which has more European ingredients because the climate is more European-like. You can take the cable-car to the top of the nearby mountain, which gives you good views.

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Beginning a compilation in the thread parent!

I would suggest visiting Nagasaki or Hiroshima. I’m sure there’ll be some places that document the impact of the nuclear bombs and their impact on the people.

IMO, it’d be a shame as an American citizen to NOT go and see that event from their perspective.

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We had visiting Hiroshima on our trip possibilities list. The bullet train from Kyoto makes that possible in a day trip

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I’d love to fit in Nagasaki or Hiroshima, not as sure about my spouse. If it can be done without taking a full day I’ll likely convince them to.

Hell, knowing them they will be hella jet lagged and I will be mostly fine. I might take the first day and do it alone while they adjust like they do for every vacation.

It was years ago, but it used to be a lot cheaper to buy a Japan rail pass before you got to Japan. It was like half cost if you bought it from overseas.

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My dad always wanted to hike Mt. Fuji but Japan wasn’t something I was interested in.
Seems like it can be done on a tour in two days, but one site was only selling opportunity starting in June…

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Mmm, my partner isn’t big on things like hikes. Smaller ones for a tour, sure, but not hiking for the sake of it.

I’ll force them if it’s not too arduous and the reward seems worth it but it’s not a go-to activity for me. (thanks though!)

Added a few ideas from a friend who lived there for a few months.

The May grand sumo tournament will be in Tokyo Kokugikan, May 12, 2024 – May 26, 2024

Just in case you’re interested


One of my favorite types of restaurant was shabu-shabu (Japanese hot-pot) where you cook thin slices of meat in boiling stock at the table yourself, dip it in sauce and eat each piece with rice while it’s still hot.

My wife and I have a favorite unagi (eel) restaurant that we’ve been to several times in Ueno, Tokyo. They have a several course meal, which also includes miso soup, sashimi and sushi.

Keep an eye out for robata restaurants. It’s a type of barbecue restaurant originally from the north but is becoming very popular in Tokyo.

I prefer udon noodles but like to mix up the noodle experience every so often by trying soba noodles.

Japan has lots of fun non-alcoholic beverages that you can buy in vending machines on the street every couple hundred feet. They have small cans of coffee, bottles of tea and white sports drink such as Calpis or Pocari Sweat. The vending machines store them both hot (the red buttons) or cold (the blue buttons). It’s fun trying them out and as the portions are small you can try quite a few of them in one day.

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visit the Nintendo Original Building - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos) (tripadvisor.com)

2023 Samurai & Ninja Museum Ticket (tripadvisor.com) also looks rather interesting as well. (It’s in Kyoto.)

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The Nintendo building seems mostly like a thing to look at and go, “Huh, neat.” But if I’m staying in Kyoto, especially if I plan to be nearby, might take the trip!

The Samurai Museum is a good contender! Looks like a nice way to spend half a day.

For $110, you can actually become a “samurai” for a couple of hours and learn to use some of their “tools”.

It’s a strong possibility. If we don’t go, is just because other things looked better. But currently planning on it!

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If you’re planning to hike Mt Fuji, note that it has a very limited season, July and August if recall correctly, so I think you are out of luck if you plan to go in May.

I haven’t seen much of Japan but had a bit of serendipitous luck when I needed to be in Nagano. I couldn’t get any accommodation there at all and ended up in small town north east of Nagana called Yudanaka, about 50mins away by local train. It turned out to be full of hot springs and it seemed that a lot of the places had reciprocal arrangements so you could visit different hotels’ springs without paying any extra. The train ride was lovely and the town charming. And as a bonus it turns out that’s where Snow Monkey National Park is! Highly recommended if you happen to be in the area and would like a laid back day or two.