From Hokkaido To Kyushu Autumn Itinerary

Japan

A 40+ day budget backpacking cross-country itinerary 🍁 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗝𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗺𝗻? 🍁 Save this list and you'll always know where to enjoy the best autumn foliage no matter what city you are visiting! (You can find detailed itineraries for each prefecture/big city in their own separate lists) 👍 The best viewing time starts end of October through November 💟 𝘌𝘟𝘛𝘙𝘈 𝘍𝘖𝘙 𝘍𝘖𝘓𝘓𝘖𝘞𝘌𝘙𝘚 𝘖𝘕𝘓𝘠 💟 𝘍𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰𝘴, 𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘱𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺, 𝘦𝘢𝘵, 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦. (𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘢 💟 𝘪𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦'𝘴 𝘢 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘢𝘷𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦!) 📌 Sapporo, Hokkaido 💟 📌 Hakodate, Hokkaido 💟 📌 Towadako, Aomori 💟🔜 📌 Morioka, Iwate 💟🔜 📌 Hiraizumi, Iwate 📌 Yamadera, Yamagata 📌 Yamagata, Yamagata 📌 Sendai, Miyagi 💟🔜 📌 Naruko Gorge, Miyagi 📌 Matsushima, Miyagi 📌 Nikko, Tochigi 📌 Kanazawa, Ishikawa 📌 Takaoka, Toyama 📌 Shirakawa, Gifu 📌 Takayama, Gifu 📌 Toyama, Toyama 📌 Gero Onsen, Gifu 📌 Inuyama, Aichi 📌 Nagoya, Aichi 💟🔜 📌 Meiji Mura, Aichi 📌 Hikone, Shiga 📌 Kyoto, Kyoto 📌 Nara, Nara 📌 Arashiyama, Kyoto 💟🔜 📌 Namba, Osaka 📌 Kobe, Hyogo 📌 Fukuoka, Fukuoka 📌 Nagasaki, Nagasaki 📌 Kumamoto, Kumamoto 📌 Beppu, Oita 𝗟𝗲𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗱: 🍁 Recommended autumn foliage viewing spot ✅ Recommendation of something I enjoyed 🍙 Food recommendation 📸 Notable photo spot 📌 Other notable sightseeing spots nearby ⛩️ Shrine or Temple ♨️ Hot Spring 👍 Pro tip 💸 Budget tip

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Updated a year ago

Sapporo

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Sapporo, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁 Stroll through 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝘂𝘆𝗮𝗺𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸's virgin forest (it's a national treasure!). Even if you are not much of a nature person, this is the one place you don't want to miss. The reflection of autumn colors in the ponds is simply breathtaking. 🎑 Hike or ride the ropeway up 𝗠𝘁. 𝗠𝗼𝗶𝘄𝗮. Hakodate people will never admit it, but Sapporo's night view has stolen their spot in Japan's most stunning night views ranking. (I saw both, and honestly I preferred Sapporo. Disclaimer: the lack of huge masses of tourists wrestling for a photo did play a part in my preference) 👍 Get there early to enjoy the sunset too. It gets dark very fast, and you'll avoid the big crowds coming in later. ✅ The ride down in the ropeway was magical and an experience I definitely recommend. 💸 The shuttle bus going up and down the mountain is FREE. 🍁 Walk down 𝗚𝗶𝗻𝗸𝗴𝗼 𝗔𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘂𝗲 and immerse in the magical golden atmosphere. 🍁 Admire autumn colors around 𝗡𝗮𝗸𝗮𝗷𝗶𝗺𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸. The park is huge, and I didn't have time to explore the full of it. I did prefer Maruyama's atmosphere. 🍁 Take a day trip to 𝗝𝗼𝘇𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗲𝗶 𝗢𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗻. (I did not have time to take this trip, but the photos look amazing and it ranks high in the list of best autumn spots!) 📌 Odori Park. Home of 📸 Sapporo TV Tower 📌 Clocktower. Symbol of Sapporo 📌 Historical Village of Hokkaido 📌 Hokkaido Museum 📌 Former Hokkaido Government Office 🍙 Breakfast Seafood Rice Bowl 🍙 Sapporo Miso Ramen 💟 𝘈𝘷𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 {𝗦𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝟮+ 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗿𝘆} 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰𝘴, 𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘴, 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘱𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘢𝘵, 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘵𝘴, 𝘦𝘵𝘤. 𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 😉 𝘴𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘱 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘶𝘵𝘵𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘧𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘪𝘵 💟 https://lemi.travel/wabisavi/sapporo-of-crows-and-drizzles

  • Hokkaido, Japan

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Hakodate

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Hakodate, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁 Island hop around 𝗢𝗻𝘂𝗺𝗮 𝗤𝘂𝗮𝘀𝗶 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸. Why is this place "quasi" anyway? It's so dreamy you might want to stay there the whole day and more (I surely did). 🍁 Stroll around star-shaped 𝗚𝗼𝗿𝘆𝗼𝗸𝗮𝗸𝘂 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝘁. Ok, I know it may not deserve those 5 stars, but I'm biased ok? As a die-hard Hijikata fan I was moved to tears stepping into the Magistrate Office. I was not the only one. To actually get a feel of the fort's shape, head up to Goryokaku Tower observatory. 🎑 Hike, ride a bus or the ropeway up 𝗠𝘁. 𝗛𝗮𝗸𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗲 to be dazzled by its 1 million dollar night view (or was it 1 billion?). 📌 Yunokawa Onsen 📌 Motomachi District 📌 Hakodate Museum of Northern People 🍙 Breakfast Seafood Rice Bowl 🍙 Hakodate Salt Ramen 💟 𝘈𝘷𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 {𝗛𝗮𝗸𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗱 𝟮+ 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗿𝘆} 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰𝘴, 𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘴, 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘱𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘢𝘵, 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘵𝘴, 𝘦𝘵𝘤. 𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 😉 𝘴𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘱 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘶𝘵𝘵𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘧𝘪𝘭𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘪𝘵 💟 https://lemi.travel/wabisavi/hakodate-billions-of-dollars-in-views

  • Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan

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Lake Towada

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Hirosaki, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁 𝗟𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗧𝗼𝘄𝗮𝗱𝗮'𝘀 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸 is one of the most popular places to admire beautiful autumn colours, as the shores around the caldera turn into blazing shades of red and gold. Hike your way down on a day trip from Aomori or stay the night in one of the shore-front lodgings... That is what I'd like to say (and what I did), but the eternal timing dilemma remained unresolved. 🔜 {The most beautifully disastrous hike of my life and other things you should consider before setting out to Towadako} 🍙 Apple anything 🍙 Kiritanbo: grilled rice skewers dipped in sweet & savoury miso sauce

  • Lake Towada, Japan

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Morioka

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Morioka, Japan • Recommendation • 

I must be honest, I never planned to go to 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗼𝗸𝗮 in the first place, except for changing trains as I travelled out of Towada to Hiraizumi. Unfortunately, Hiraizumi was booked out, so I fell back onto the nearest town that offered budget accommodations. Actually, I enjoyed my stay in Morioka much more than I expected (disclaimer: the fact that I had a room all to myself with a bathtub to soak in, did play a part). The lively night district was a pleasure to walk through, even by day. Food was cheap and delicious. And because my stay coincided with the Incoronation Holiday, museums were free and there were festivals being held all over town. 🍁 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗼𝗸𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝘂𝗶𝗻𝘀 aka Iwate Park is on the list of 100 Famous Japanese Castles. I'm a castle geek (is there even such a thing?), so I have to admit I chose to visit Morioka for the sake of my stamp rally. Of the actual castle, there is almost nothing left, to the point it is hard to perceive you are in a castle at all. The park offers some nice scenery here and there, but it's more famous for its cherry blossoms and summer firefly trail than for its autumn colours. 📌 The 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗼𝗸𝗮 𝗛𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗖𝘂𝗹𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗠𝘂𝘀𝗲𝘂𝗺 is located right next to the castle (and is the place to get your Castle Stamp). It's rather small, and almost the entirety of the exhibits are lacking English explanations, so be warned. I loved the design though. There were various video materials to be watched, and my tired feet were very grateful for it. 📌 Iwate Bank Red Brick Building 📌 Takoboku Newlyweds House 📌 Morioka Hachimangu 🍙 Morioka Jajamen (udon noodles seasoned with miso paste) and Chitantan (egg soup). Don't be discouraged by the unpronounceable names, these dishes are delicious! 🍙 Wanko soba. A noodle eating challenge. It's fun, so don't be daunted and try it out.

  • Morioka, Iwate, Japan

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Hiraizumi

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Ishinomaki, Japan • Recommendation • 

𝗛𝗶𝗿𝗮𝗶𝘇𝘂𝗺𝗶 - a little town in the middle of n̶o̶w̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ I mean, Iwate Prefecture - is THE place to be come autumn. It's 2 gorgeous gorges offer views people can't stop raving about. A boat ride is also available to best enjoy the scenery. To not miss out on anything, I planned on visiting both the sites, but due to the strike of a sudden typhoon I ended up seeing neither 😭. Eventually I was only able to spend about 2 hours in Hiraizumi, so I did the only possible sensible thing. I hiked to Yoshitsune's Shrine. 🍁 Geibikei Gorge 🍁 Genbikei Gorge ⛩️ Chusonji Temple ⛩️ Motsuji Temple ⛩️ Behind the unpronounceable name of 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝗱𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗴𝗶𝗸𝗲𝗶𝗱𝗼 lies a shrine dedicated to Yoshitsune Minamoto (one of the most famous warriors in Japanese history, for those of you wondering). Honestly, I don't know how to rate this place. It was sadly small and there was nothing of note apart from the tiny shrine at the top. But I'm a huge Yoshitsune fan, so being able to pray at his shrine made the trip worth for me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamoto_no_Yoshitsune

  • Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai District, Iwate, Japan

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Yamadera

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Yamagata, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁⛩️ A short train ride away from either Sendai or Yamagata City, stands 𝗛𝗼𝗷𝘂𝘇𝗮𝗻 𝗥𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗸𝘂 𝗧𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲, also commonly known as Yamadera. Exactly as the name (lit. "mountain temple") suggests, this temple is built into the side of a mountain. As I braved the gazillion steps to the top, I was humbled by the dozens of elderly climbing along with me. To my defense, after 1 week into my trip, I feel I should point out that my feet are wrapped in plasters from all the blisters I got from walking. The view from the top was breathtaking and well worth the climb (which is in fact not as difficult as I make it sound, and a round trip can be completed in around 1h). 🍙 𝗦𝗮𝗻𝘇𝗮𝗶 𝗶𝗺𝗼𝗱𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗼. After the climb, head to 𝗘𝗻𝗱𝗼 to try their shop's specialty soup. Leeks and mushrooms (sanzai), together with potato dumplings (imodango) are simmered in a delicious savoury soup that make for a perfect seasonal restoring snack. 🎫 Admission Fee: 300¥ https://www.yamadera.co.jp/osyokuji.html

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Yamagata

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Yamagata, Japan • Memory • 

😎 The best part of having a JR Pass? Heading off for side trips on the spur of the moment, and never feeling guilty for stopping in a town just for a couple of hours. 𝗬𝗮𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗮 𝗖𝗶𝘁𝘆 was not on my itinerary, but my visit to Yamadera was shorter than I had expected, it was only a 30 min train ride away, and that Castle Stamp was quite attractive (I mentioned before there is a stamp rally for Japan's 100 famous castles). Well, I usually post about the best of my travels, but if I had paid 2'000¥ for that round train trip from Sendai, I would be feeling quite bitter right now 😣. I had if not high, at least mediocre expectations about 𝗬𝗮𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲, since it's on the Castle List. But of the actual castle nothing remains except for the moats and a couple of gates. I walked until my feet hurt exploring every corner of the compound to see if there was anything to see, but inside the Honmaru all there was was an overgrown, fenced off grassy hill. At least I got my stamp (the castle has no visitor office, so you have to visit some of the nearby museums to ask for the stamp). 🍙 Pear and cherry anything

  • Yamagata, Japan

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Sendai

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Sendai, Japan • Recommendation • 

𝗦𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗶 was my home base as I toured around Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. It was easy to take day trips to more rural locations, and return to a shopping and eating scene that remains vibrant long after sundown. (Actually, I got so caught up in all the beautiful places to see in the region, I almost forgot to schedule time to visit Sendai City proper 🙈😂) ⛩️ Sendai is all about the Date clan, the founder 𝗗𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝗮𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗲 having become the symbol (and cutest mascotte) of the region. If you're in Sendai, it's almost a sin not to visit the Zuihoden Mausoleum. 🏯🎑📸 Nothing remains of 𝗔𝗼𝗯𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲, but a fun VR app will try to show you its full glory (I say try, since it has much room for improvement). The iconic statue of Date Masamune on a horse is located here, and is lighted up in bright pink after sun down. Since the castle is built up on a hill, you can also enjoy a good view of Sendai, both day or night. 📌 Aoba-dori 📌 Date Masamune Tomb 📌 Rinnoji Temple 🍙 𝗚𝘆𝘂𝘁𝗮𝗻. Beef tongue, grilled or boiled or raw sashimi style. I like the bouncy texture of the grilled one, seasoned with just salt or miso sauce 🍙 𝗭𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗮 𝗺𝗼𝗰𝗵𝗶. Mochi topped with a sweet paste made from edamame beans. There is a Haagen Dazs regional edition of this too 😍 (basically, you can find almost anything topped with zunda in Sendai) 🔜 {Sendai detailed city tour}

  • Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

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Matsushima

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Ishinomaki, Japan • Recommendation • 

In case you hadn't had an overdose of the Date already in Sendai, you can hop over to 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝘀𝘂𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗺𝗮 to get the full package. Actually, there is another very important reason for Matsushima's fame and why it should be on your must-see list if you are in Sendai. But I'm a Masamune fangirl, so priorities first (I could probably make a whole {𝗠𝗮𝘀𝗮𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗻 𝗽𝗶𝗹𝗴𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲} list if I put myself to it 🙈). Only 3 places have earned the yearned for crown of "best scenic spot in Japan", and 𝗠𝗮𝘁𝘀𝘂𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗺𝗮 𝗕𝗮𝘆, with it's self-contained arcipelago, is one of them. I narrowly avoided getting swept away by a typhoon by visiting at sunrise and escaping by lunch time, so the overcast sky and gale-like wind dampened my experience a bit. If possible, do try to visit during a sunny day! 📌Fukuurajima Island 📌 Oshima Island 📌 Godaido Temple 📌 Entsuin Temple 📌 Zuiganji Temple 📌 Matsushima Castle 📌 Date Masamune Historical Museum 📌 Kanrantei Tea House 🍙 The oysters in Matsushima are praised as being better than the ones in Miyajima (in my opinion they are not). Many shops offer all-you-can-eat grilled oyster courses. 🍙 If you're feeling particularly adventurous, how about trying the local soft serve cone? It comes with a topping of oysters. 😦 I don't really know how I feel about it. Access: Take JR Senseki Line to Matsushimagaikan St.

  • Matsushima, Miyagi District, Miyagi, Japan

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Naruko

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Sendai, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁 You'll know you have reached 𝗡𝗮𝗿𝘂𝗸𝗼 when the train doors open and an overpowering smell of rotten eggs wafts through all the cars. Now, if your foremost reason for visiting Naruko is to dip into the hot baths, Naruko Onsen St. is the stop you should be alighting at. 📸 If your main reasons for going is wowing at the mindboggling beauty of the gorge painted in an autumn rainbow of reds and golds, stay on board one more stop and get off at Nakayamadaira Onsen St. and be treated to a secret photo-op 😉 From this station it's a 30 min walk to the gorge itself, and you can choose to go the forest route or along the main road. I have to say again, I'm a very poor photographer that takes all her shots from a phone. I will never be able to capture just how beautiful this place is. So this time, I decided to give you the unfiltered and unedited photo. It was a drizzling day and the autumn leaves were not at their peak, yet it was still out of the world. Imagine just what it would be on a clear day!

  • Naruko, Washinosu Narukoonsen, Ōsaki, Miyagi 989-6811, Japan

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Nikko

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Utsunomiya, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁⛩️ The first thing that shocked me in setting foot in 𝗡𝗶𝗸𝗸𝗼 (apart from the 10 degree temperature rise) was the sheer amount of tourists crowding every corner. And if there is one thing that spoils me a good temple crawl, are crowded noisy grounds. With a combination of early alarm and wise time management, I eventually managed to visit all the main shrines and temples I had on my plan. None of which left a deep impression on me. Don't get me wrong, there is reason why Nikko is a UNESCO Heritage site. The temples housing the tombs of the 1st shoguns are the most extravagantly decorated in Japan (and probably the biggest this side of Kyoto). But that is not all that makes up the charm of a temple. I do believe one of the reasons why Nikko is so popular is its proximity to Tokyo, making it a good day trip for people who aren't going to Kyoto. If you are visiting Kyoto, you can totally skip Nikko in my opinion. Unless you are a die-hard 𝗜𝗲𝘆𝗮𝘀𝘂 fan (like me, then you will make this trip no matter what). 👍 If I were to return here, I would take more time to explore the beautiful nature that surrounds the temple town. 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝘇𝗲𝗻𝗷𝗶 𝗟𝗮𝗸𝗲 offers not only hot springs, but waterfalls and hikes aplenty. (I was planning on going there, but significant train delays exponentially increased my commuting time to Kanazawa). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokugawa_Ieyasu

  • Nikko, Tochigi, Japan

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Kanazawa

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Kanazawa, Japan • Recommendation • 

Even though I left Nikko in the morning, it was past 4pm by the time I reached 𝗞𝗮𝗻𝗮𝘇𝗮𝘄𝗮. And maybe it was better that way, because a national marathon was just in its ending phase. 🍁🏯 Having little under an hour before checking into my capsule, I decided to go take a look at 𝗞𝗮𝗻𝗮𝘇𝗮𝘄𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲. After visiting a number of famous castles which were nothing more than a moat and some rubble, I was as excited as a 6 year old in a playground to actually find real castle buildings this time. The park is quite big, so factor in some 2 hours for a thorough visit. 🍁 𝗞𝗲𝗻𝗿𝗼𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗻 is one of only 3 parks that fully represent the style of Japanese garden. It's a must visit while in Kanazawa. On the other hand, 𝗦𝗲𝗶𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗸𝗮𝗸𝘂 𝗩𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗮 (located in one corner of the park) is quite expensive for what it offers, so feel free to skip it (you can see more or less the same old Japanese house in many other locations at a fraction of the price, and there is very little English to guide you along). 📌 The 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝘆𝗮 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗰𝘁𝘀 (neighbourhoods were the Geisha houses are located) reminded me nostalgically of Kyoto. Wooden machiya (merchant houses) line the winding streets, selling souvenirs and other traditional foods and wares. Feel free to choose any of them to visit, or go to all! Just note that in the evening they are a dark ghost town, a far cry from the romantic lights of Gion. 📌 Kanazawa is all about the seafood, so snack or feast at 𝗢𝗺𝗶𝗰𝗵𝗼 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗲𝘁 (open from 9am). 📌 Take a trip back in time (?) strolling through the preserved samurai district of 𝗡𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗺𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶. 📌 Visit 𝗠𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘆𝘂𝗷𝗶 to experience a real ninja temple (by reservation only). 🍙 Sushi and kaisendon aplenty 🍙 Soft-serve cone coated in gold leaf. Actually, you can probably get anything + gold leaf.

  • Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan

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Takaoka

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Takaoka, Japan • Memory • 

This is where my itinerary went a little astray, but on a long trip such things are bound to happen. Being flexible and a bit spontaneous are also fun parts of the journey (if I keep telling myself that, maybe I'll eventually start believing it 🙈). While my original plan saw me head out to Shirakawa, I was unable to secure a bus ticket, so I boarded the train bound for Takayama. It so happened that this train passed through 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝗼𝗸𝗮, which so happens to have a castle listed in the 100 famous Japanese castles. I wasn't expecting much (not after Yamagata), but oh well, it was 8am and I thought, why not. Takaoka was a total ghost town. Apart from a crew of adorable kindergarten students touring the castle and a couple of grandpas, I never met anyone along the way. 🍁🏯 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝗼𝗸𝗮 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲 was bigger than I thought, though of course, nothing remains except the moats and a forlorn well. Artwork dots the grounds within a forest of hundreds of maple trees (once the colors peak, the view must be stunning). I wouldn't expressly travel to Takaoka to see this, though. But I give it an extra star because the carps in the pond were the biggest I've ever seen and I couldn't stop looking at them. Falling into the pond = instant death. In one of the corners of the castle there is a little museum (free admission). No English, but apart from the history of the town they have an exhibit of everyday items from the olden days. Including a rotary phone. Which I imagine may be an oddity for kids these days, but made someone like me who used it well into her teen years feel incredibly old 🤣. ⛩️ Takaoka is also home to one of 𝗝𝗮𝗽𝗮𝗻'𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝗶𝗯𝘂𝘁𝘀𝘂 (tr. giant Buddha statues). Honestly, after the humongous Kannon floating in the sky over Sendai, this hardly qualifies as "giant". Beneath the Buddha a circular room holds various religious images and writings. Walk into the alcove at the back to be startled by a giant Buddha head. You can pray by ringing bells corresponding to your Chinese zodiac animal. 𝗙𝘂𝗻 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁. Takaoka's mascotte is 𝗧𝗼𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗴𝗮-𝗸𝘂𝗻, who wears the local traditional helmet - a humongous catfish inspired, over 1m long, 4kg heavy piece of equipment. Because apparently the knights of old faced off in displays of prowess by not succumbing to crippling neck pains. 𝗙𝘂𝗻 𝗙𝗮𝗰𝘁. As a tourist in Japan, you can tell when you have finally achieved off-the-beaten-path status when you reach a station where the staff have clearly never seen a JR Pass before (as I learned the hard way in Takaoka).

  • Takaoka, Toyama, Japan

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Shirakawa

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Komatsu, Japan • Recommendation • 

🍁 𝗦𝗵𝗶𝗿𝗮𝗸𝗮𝘄𝗮-𝗴𝗼, located between Kanazawa and Takayama, is perfect to sandwich in as you travel between the two cities. An optimal plan, if not for the fact that the bus fill up very quick, as I soon discovered. 👍 Be sure to book your seat in advance, either at the station or online at the 𝗡𝗼𝘂𝗵𝗶 𝗕𝘂𝘀 website (❗don't forget to reserve your way home too, or you might end up stuck there for the night!). Most tours only stop for 2 hours in the town, I spent 5 hours and it was way more than enough. 🍁 Though most of the town is already gassho-zukuri styled, the open-air 𝗚𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗵𝗼-𝘇𝘂𝗸𝘂𝗿𝗶 𝗛𝗲𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗠𝘂𝘀𝗲𝘂𝗺 houses 25 buildings laid out in a photogenic rural setting. Most people who take a 2h tour do not make it this far, so you can enjoy at your leisure away from the crazy crowds. Explore the interiors, try climbing into the thatched roof (and get a mini-heart attack when one of the boards flips underfoot), and sip on free tea on the verandah of the rest house. After that, if you still have time, you can sit through a 40min video explaining the whole construction process. 🎫 Admission Fee: 600¥ 📌 If you don't feel like going all-out with the museum, you can get a feel of what the gassho-zukuri are all about at 𝗪𝗮𝗱𝗮 𝗛𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲. 📌 Climb up to the 𝗢𝗴𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗢𝗯𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗸 for a sweeping view of the valley. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minka https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/

  • Shirakawa, Ono District, Gifu, Japan

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Takayama

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Toyama, Japan • Recommendation • 

I arrived in 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗺𝗮 sleepy and tired. I didn't expect much from this town, but ended up liking it so much I booked an extra night just to explore more of the town. Most of my time in Takayama was spent in 𝗦𝗮𝗻𝗺𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶 𝗗𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗰𝘁, a criss-cross of small streets lined with old wooden houses now turned into shops and restaurants. You'll end up crossing this area at some point on your way to other tourist spots, and if you're anything like me you will immediately get lost browsing the souvenirs and snacks. Take a tour around 𝗧𝗮𝗸𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗺𝗮 𝗝𝗶𝗻𝘆𝗮, a restored government building and relax looking out into the Japanese garden. It's pretty nice, but I would have enjoyed it more had the rooms been less empty. Admission: 440¥ The spring and autumn matsuri (tr. local festival) is the pride of the people of Takayama. In case you can't make it to see the real thing, 4 floats are exhibited in the 𝗬𝗮𝘁𝗮𝗶 𝗞𝗮𝗶𝗸𝗮𝗻 (float exhibition hall). The free English audio guide was a nice touch, but to be honest it's way too expensive to be worth the visit. If you have no other chance to see Japanese festival floats, by all means take a look. One of the biggest attractions of this place the attached museum where you can walk through a miniature reconstruction of the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. Admission: 900¥ 📌 Miyagawa Morning Market 📌 Fujii Folk Museum 📌 Hida Folk Village (feel free to skip this if you are going to Shirakawa) 🍙 Hida beef nigiri sushi 🍙 Mitarashi dango

  • Takayama, Gifu, Japan

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Toyama

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Toyama, Japan • Memory • 

I only spent one night in 𝗧𝗼𝘆𝗮𝗺𝗮, arriving after dark and leaving in the early morning. In other words, if you are following my itinerary, feel free to skip this stop and head right over to Tokyo or Gero Onsen. Toyama is a nice town with a couple of interesting sightseeing spots and a reknown raw fish tradition, but for someone pressed on time, it doesn't quite make the cut. I wasn't expecting anything, but on my way back from dinner I was drawn, like a moth to a flame, to a flamboyant illumination in the distance. And that is how I discovered 𝗞𝗮𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗶 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸, which now ranks high in my list of favourite night views.

  • Toyama, Toyama Prefecture, Japan

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Gero

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Gifu-shi, Japan • Recommendation • 

At this point of my trip I decided to take a detour from my itinerary, skip Tokyo altogether and head to 𝗚𝗲𝗿𝗼 𝗢𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗻 instead. I know many of you will think I'm insane for choosing a little town out in the middle of Gifu over the capital of Japan. But, I was quite tired and the idea of jostling for space with crowds of tourists did not seem that appealing (to be honest, it does not appeal to me even when I'm bursting with vitality). I've spent a week in Tokyo before, and I still feel no urge to return. Gero, Kusastu and Arima form the holy trinity of Japanese most notorious 𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘯 (hot springs). According to legend, a god transformed into an egret (or was it a white heron?) in order to inform the Japanese people of the existence of Gero onsen. Let's all take a moment to pause and consider that. 👍 Taking a footbath tour is a popular activity while sightseeing around Gero (footbaths are small pools of hot spring water set up at the side of streets and in front of stores, and are free to use). Dress accordingly to take full advantage and bring a small towel with you. ♨️ The free outdoor bath located along the river in Gero is a rather famous tourist attraction. I was interested in it, but ended up not trying it out. The whole afternoon it was busy with a male only crowd of raucous and apparently drunk people. Even going near felt uncomfortable. If you are a guy, you might enjoy this location. ♨️ 𝗖𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗚𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗻 𝗢𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗻, a rare outdoor bath only hot spring. The lady's side is quite small, but I was extremely lucky to have the whole place to myself for almost an hour. And that meant being able to shed the quiet and polite demeanour one is expected to maintain while visiting an onsen, and play around as much as I wanted, splashing here and there and attempting to swim (which I discovered is not actually possible in hot spring water). 💸 Pick up a discount ticket at the information booth in front of the station. ⛩️🍁 𝗢𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗷𝗶 is Gero's most important shrine. A nightly illumination of their hundred maple trees takes place in November. You'll have to climb a gazillion steps to get there, though. ⛩️ Sarubobo Shrine, dedicated to the colorful local mascottes. Pray for wealth, health, etc. 🍜 Hida beef udon 🥩 Hobamisoyaki. Hida beef slathered in miso sauce and grilled over a magnolia leaf

  • Gero, Gifu, Japan

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Inuyama Castle

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Gifu-shi, Japan • Memory • 

Built back in 1537, 𝗜𝗻𝘂𝘆𝗮𝗺𝗮 is the oldest standing castle in Japan and one of only 12 castles to still retain their original central keep (though over the years it has seen extensive reconstruction work) and 5 to be listed as National Treasures. Being the castle otaku I am, I had to find a way to squeeze in a visit even if it meant trading a comfy bullet train seat with a rickety one-car commuter train. To my disappointment, both the castle park and the tower were tiny. The tower was under construction, so that might have taken away some of its charm, but basically its just a pile of the steepest stairs I've climbed so far in Japan. A few pieces of armor and utensils were on display, but that was about it. Being a hilltop castle type, the view from the roof terrace was quite nice since it was a beautiful sunny day. All in all, it wasn't to the levels of Yamagata Castle that I regret going there, but considering how notorious it is, I was expecting much more.

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Meiji Mura

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Nagoya, Japan • Recommendation • 

Since my time in Nagoya was exclusively spent meeting friends, I'll leave the city itinerary for next time and talk about the Meiji Mura outdoor museum. You can reach it with a highway bus from Nagoya Station (but only 4 such bus run during weekdays, 2 going and 2 returning). Alternatively ride the local bus to Inuyama Station and take the train from there. 𝗠𝗲𝗶𝗷𝗶 𝗠𝘂𝗿𝗮 is basically a huge village made up on an ensemble of preserved buildings collected from all over Japan, with the common theme of being representative of the architecture of the Meiji period. 💸 Restaurants and cafés are everywhere, but of course the prices are inflated. I highly recommend bringing your own lunch box and enjoying it at one of the many gazebos or rest areas that dot the village.

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Hikone

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Hikone, Japan • Recommendation • 

𝗛𝗶𝗸𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲, also known as Golden Turtle Castle, shares much in common with Inuyama Castle. Both rank among the most famous castles in Japan, and are part of the only 12 castles retaining their original keep and 5 to be listed as National Treasures. Their proximity also makes it easy to combine them into a day trip. The inner palace was rebuilt in the 80's, but most the other structures date back to the 17th century. The Emperor himself requested that Hikone be spared from the castle-dismantling-policy of the Meiji era. The 4 gate structure it employs was said to be the strongest layout among feudal castles, and you will see the grid replicated on shopfronts and posters around town. The again, for a happy coincidence, the name of the local feudal lord contains 井, which also resembles a grid, so. I thought the castle was beautiful, teardrop shaped, perched upon its hill surrounded by moats and connected to a beautiful Japanese garden. Together with Himeji, Okayama and Goryokaku, it ranks among my favourite Japanese castles.

  • Hikone, Shiga, Japan

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Nara

4 saves

Nara-shi, Japan • Recommendation • 

After 3 weeks of travelling, I was finally back in Kyoto, and it did feel like returning home. There is so much to see and do in Kyoto (especially during the autumn season), a dedicated list would not be enough. I'll briefly cover some iconic spots I visited during this trip, and leave the rest for another list. 𝗡𝗮𝗿𝗮, City of Deers, is one of the most famous spots in Kyoto to enjoy maple leaves. Truth is, unless you are a huge deer fan, the park itself is not the only highlight of this location. Temples abound, and ancient buildings from the time when Nara was Capital of Japan. Everything is spread out, so visiting everything in one day is impossible. Next time, I will take more time to explore the beautiful surroundings. Expect massive crowds starting 10am. I felt a bit bad for the deers, wondering if this environment is actually healthy for them.

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Arashiyama Station

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Kyoto, Japan • Recommendation • 

I will be honest with you, the 𝗯𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗼𝗼 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁 is much overrated. It`s actually very short, and the crowds jamming the path as early as 8am with their tripods and their sorry attempts at taking selfies did not help with the atmosphere (watching some people try so hard was entertaining, though). Going any earlier would probably be pointless, since even at that hour the forest is deep in shadow. I`m not saying you shouldn`t visit this iconic spot, just be warned that 200% of the photos you have seen of it have been heavily photoshopped. (The photo in this post is taken in Arashiyama but at a different location; while a little different, you can take your time snapping beautiful photos in this secluded place 💟🔜 I'll talk about this place in a Arashiyama dedicated list available to followers only, so check back soon!) 📌 𝗧𝗲𝗻𝗿𝘆𝘂𝗷𝗶. At 8:30am a crowd had gathered in front of the temple waiting for the gates to open. I decided to skip right past, and I`m glad I did. The other temples I visited were all quiet and surreal. ♨️ At noon, I was done sightseeing and headed to 𝗙𝘂 𝗙𝘂 𝗡𝗼 𝗬𝘂 hot springs. The bridge was jammed pack with people, but I only had to share the onsen with 2 other ladies. It was fun to slowly enjoy the facilities, jumping from bath to bath. Though I heard the men's side is smaller, the woman's side has 2 indoor baths (normal and milk) and 2 outdoor baths (normal and cold), a sauna, a steam room and free salt scrub. 💸 I got a discount coupon from my hostel, but I'm sure they are available at other locations such as the information booth. 📌 Togetsukyo Bridge 📌 Arashiyama Monkey Forest 📌 Kimono Forest 📌 Kameyama Park 📌 Hogon-in Temple 📌 Suzumushi Temple 📌 Jojakkoji Temple 📌 Nisonin Temple 📌 Giouji Temple 📌 Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street 📌 Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple 📌 Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple

  • Arashiyama Higashiichikawacho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0002, Japan

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Nanba

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Osaka, Japan • Recommendation • 

As with Kyoto, the sprawling city of Osaka is brimming with sightseeing locations and activities, so would require a whole list of its own. I hopped onto the Hankyu line and an hour later I was in 𝗡𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗮, home to a vibrant nightlife district. While my main reason for heading to Osaka was meeting up with a friend, we managed to combine our reunion with a kushikatsu feast and a stroll through the lit-up city. 🍙 𝗞𝘂𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗸𝗮𝘁𝘀𝘂 are humble skewers hailing from the bars of downtown Osaka, where ingredients are battered in crunchy panko crumbs and deep-fried, pairing divinely with cold beers and lively chats. 📸 Though Christmas was still more than a month and a half down the road, the festive illuminations were dazzling, wrapping the streets and the newly opened 𝗡𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗸𝘀 mall in a shimmering fantasy landscape. 📌 Namba Shopping Street 📌 Dotonbori 📌 Ebisu Bridge

  • Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan

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Kobe

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Kobe, Japan • Recommendation • 

I spent the entirety of one evening in 𝗞𝗼𝗯𝗲, aimlessly wandering the streets as I waited for my midnight bus to spirit me off to Kyushu. Not that anybody saw me complaining. The port area lives up to its title of 📸 one of the most beautiful nightscapes in Japan. If you have a couple of days to spend in Kobe: 📌 Arima Onsen 📌 Mt. Rokko

  • Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

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Fukuoka

2 saves

Fukuoka, Japan • Recommendation • 

𝗙𝘂𝗸𝘂𝗼𝗸𝗮 is a lovely place to take in the city sights at a leisurely pace (or maybe, after one full month of trekking across Japan I was starting to get a little tired). While not jam-packed with history and activities, the great food, beautiful parks and lots of shopping options created the perfect environment for my farewell to Japan. 🍙 Ramen lovers rejoice at the many options Fukuoka has to offer. Tonkotsu ramen, in its original Hakata version, is a must-try. 🍙 Motsu-nabe 📌 Ohori Park 📌 Fukuoka Castle 📌 Uminonakamichi Park 📌 Canal City 📌 Momochi Seaside Park

  • Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan

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Nagasaki

2 saves

Nagasaki, Japan • Recommendation • 

𝗡𝗮𝗴𝗮𝘀𝗮𝗸𝗶 is often included on tourists' itineraries because of the atomic bomb that hit it during World War II, but this city was a melting-pot port town long before then, and has rebuilt itself into a charming and lively city. I wish I had more days to spend there. My intention was to hit some of the iconic spots like Glover Garden, but while I was snapping photos of the famous spectacle shaped bridge along the river, I wandered off into the wooded hills between Teramachi and Takahiramachi and ended up taking the full temple tour. Can't say I regret it. 📸 The nightscape from Inasayama lives up to its reputation. 📌 Peace Park 📌 Dejima 📌 Chinatown 📌 Meganebashi 📌 Glover Garden 📌 Mt. Inasayama

  • Japan

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Kumamoto

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Kumamoto, Japan • Recommendation • 

While touring around Kyushu, 𝗞𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗺𝗼𝘁𝗼 is an easy place to stop-by. The castle, which had been badly damaged by an earthquake, has recently been re-opened after many years. I was lucky enough to partake in the re-opening festivities which appeared to have engulfed the town, and the 𝗝𝗼𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗲𝗻 𝗖𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗧𝗼𝘄𝗻 (a shopping district / feudal reconstruction) was bubbling with tourists, mascottes and handsome samurai striking poses for the fangirls.

  • Kumamoto, Japan

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Kitakyushu

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Kitakyushu, Japan • Memory • 

After hearing about Kitakysushu's nightscape being compared to Hakodate and Nagasaki's, I grew quite curious about it, so decided to swing by on my Kyushu tour. I might want to blame it on me having had an overdose of glittering cities at this point, but to be honest it wasn't all that memorable. There are a couple of seasonal attractions and a retro-styled port area which are worth visiting, if you happen to be in the area and have time to spare.

  • Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan

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Beppu

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Beppu, Japan • Recommendation • 

𝗕𝗲𝗽𝗽𝘂 is truly one of its kind, the whole existence of this small coastal town evolving around the touristy gimmick of touring its "7 Hells". These "Hells" being hot springs, each possessing curious characteristics (or a pool full of alligators, when everything else fails). While not all of them were that impressive, it was a pretty fun and unique way to pass the day. I highly recommend.

  • Beppu, Oita, Japan

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About Japan

Opposites attract in Japan—ancient traditions fuse with advanced technology while minimalism meets kitsch

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