I wrote my first post on this blog about 6 years ago, and ever since then it has been a dream and future goal of mine to travel to Japan. Well, next March I am finally making it a reality! I’ve been so excited to start blogging about my researching process and plans, but I decided to wait until everything was officially booked. With the way prices for everything were looking for the dates I chose, I decided to book way in advance for my own peace of mind.
The plan so far is a 9 day trip that will begin with 2 days in Tokyo, a night in Hakone at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), 5 days in Kyoto with a day trip to Hiroshima and 1 night in Osaka to experience the nightlife in Dotonbori. Yes, it’s a bit packed, but I wanted to make sure I could fit in a wide variety of experiences because I don’t know when I’ll be back! I’ve done about 5 months of research and was planning on taking on all the booking duties myself, but in the end I decided to go with a travel agency to handle booking accommodations and domestic travel during my stay due to all of the anxiety it was giving me. The service also provides foolproof instructions for every step of the way and a free hotline to call in case anything happens, so it was personally worth it for me, but booking your own stuff is very doable.
There are TONS of resources on the Internet on just about every aspect of your trip. My first problem was the sheer volume of information actually! Of course, quality is not the same across the board, so I will share some of the most invaluable resources during my researching stage in case you are looking into booking your own first trip in the future.
Japan Guide – If you’re only going to check out one of my suggestions, this is the one. This site has everything you need to plan a trip and get acquainted with Japanese culture. It is comprehensive, easy to navigate and has detailed explanations that are easily understood by anyone from newbies to seasoned travelers. If you’re new to all things Japan travel, as I was, I would suggest starting here for the basics before working your way over to the destinations pages to search for places to go. I showed their food and drink page to a curious friend with no knowledge of Japanese food and she said the pictures and descriptions were very helpful. When you ARE ready to check out their suggested itineraries and top-rated spots, it is a great place to start basing your research around which prefectures you want to visit.
r/JapanTravel – This sub-reddit is pretty overwhelming as a newbie, but it ended up being a great help when refining my itinerary before taking it to the travel agency. I would suggest not visiting before having a very basic idea of where you want to go as it is an information overload and the community is very much staunch against hand holding. It is Reddit, which means people can be very militant about their opinions, but as long as you take information with a grain of salt, there can be lots of helpful tips. If you plan on posting an itinerary, be sure to do so once your trip is mostly put together and they will give feedback. For other questions, do a search to make sure it hasn’t been asked before or be ready to be downvoted into oblivion.
YouTube – This one seems obvious, but I seriously underestimated how many travel vlogs there are. When deciding whether my mom would be able to sit through a geisha performance at Kyoto’s Gion Corner, I found a full-length video of the entire performance. When wondering if it was worth attending a show at the infamous Robot Restaurant in Tokyo, I found another video featuring a full-length performance. It’s amazing how specific it can get. Sometimes it’s nice to just be surprised upon arrival, but if you’re like me and have trouble narrowing down your choices, a visual can help. (Of course, if you’re like me, these visual aids then lead to more choices rather than helping you narrow anything down…)
And that’s all I have for now! If there’s any final tip I have for the planning stage that I’ve learned along the way is that you can’t really go wrong in terms of choosing where to visit. I’ve learned about so many areas of Japan, not just Kansai, and it seems like anywhere you go has something unique and worth visiting. I’m limiting myself to the most touristy areas, but you don’t have to! I could have also done an entire trip in any one of the prefectures listed above and had plenty to do and see. Keep your options open 🙂
My trip is still so far away, but I’m happy to answer any questions that I can! I might be posting more as the date nears and of course will be back with tons after the trip. If you’ve been to Japan, let me know if you have any tips for me in the comments.