It’s almost September and cooler temperatures are sneaking up on us (finally!). And while I’m definitely looking forward to pairing lots of delicious savory foods with sweet and hot drinks, I’m also looking forward to completing the rest of my 18 professional and personal goals for 2018. One goal in particular is my passion — travel.
Here are my top 10 Japan travel destinations to visit with my girl. I might not be able to do it all by the end of the year. But, at least I can get a head start on next year’s resolutions!
1. Kanazawa City – Kanazawa Prefecture
You might recall my Kanazawa, Japan’s El Dorado post detailing all the gold leaf ice cream and local gourmet of Ishikawa Prefecture. But, what really makes Kanazawa so special for me is the memory of seeing my little monster strut her stuff down the historic tea house district, Higashi Chayagai. If we aren’t able to visit in the autumn, then a spring stroll in Kenrokuen Park would be fantastic!
2. Shirakawa Go – Gifu Prefecture
I originally booked a package tour through my local ward office to visit Shirakawa Go, but the trip was canceled due to low interest. Apparently Shirakawa Go is more popular in the winter. But I think the greens and the brown thatched roofs in the summer make for a wonderful scene that is just as beautiful as the thatched houses covered in snow.
3. Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture
Years before little Kaiju was born, my husband and I always visited Maison De Brun in the autumn. It’s a dog-friendly onsen/pension in Nasu. I miss their French dinner and western style breakfast. We didn’t visit last year, so I’d love to go this year. The owners are such a sweet couple, and I think they’d be so surprised to see that we now have a little one of our own.
4. Izu Oshima, Tokyo Prefecture
Another destination that I want to revisit with my girl is Oshima. This time around, I would love to travel on an overnight passenger ferry, hike Mt. Mihara, then soak in a hot bath at Oshima Onsen Hotel.
5. Hiroshima City and Miyajima/Itsukushima – Hiroshima Prefecture
After visiting Pearl Harbor on my honeymoon (a very educational trip and extremely moving experience), I made mental plans to head to Hiroshima city and see the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and see the iconic floating torii of Itsukushima Shrine.
Our July trip was cancelled due to the terrible flooding and rain this summer, but I still want to visit Hiroshima. I also want to do some volunteer work like English story time or a craft workshop at a children’s home, daycare, or kindergarten.
6. Kurashiki – Okayama Prefecture
Another trip that was cancelled due to the unfortunate July flooding, Kurashiki caught my attention after I saw a newspaper article about all the denim blue foods there. From blue ice cream to blue ramen and even blue burgers, there’s a lot of blue foods that pays homage to the city’s reputation as Japan’s demin capital. It’s the perfect place for my next foodie adventure!
7. Wakayama Adventure World – Wakayama Prefecture
Little Kaiju loves pandas so I want to take her to Wakayama Adventure World, a zoo with a giant panda family. We have yet to visit Xiang Xiang at Ueno Zoo, but I think our odds of having meaningful face time with a panda will be greater at Wakayama Adventure World.
To get there, we’ll even board the panda train. The specially designed panda express will run until November 2019, so I better start planning our Wakayama trip soon!
8. Hokkaido Prefecture
Hokkaido Japan’s northern frontier, is a large island, so I know it’s impossible to see all of Hokkaido in one trip. Still, Hokkaido has long been on my to return list since my 2012 trip. In 3 days we packed in Otaru, Sapporo, Furano, Biei and Asashikawa. I still remember the taste of Le Tao cheesecake and Genghis Khan, a local specialty that uses lamb’s meat.
Tina, the Youtube mama behind the Lovely Kid in Japan account, always amazing share videos of her family camping adventures in Hokkaido’s great outdoors.
WATCH: HAKODATE TOWN TOUR
9. Karuizawa – Nagano Prefecture
Karuizawa is a resort town tucked away in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. It’s a popular tourist destination only an hour away from Tokyo by Shinkansen. It would have been a great place to visit to escape the intense heat this summer, but since it’s surrounded by nature, it will be a great place to visit once the leaves start to change colors.
10. Nagasaki City – Nagasaki Prefecture
I studied at two of Tokyo’s Christian universities, International Christian University (study abroad) and Sophia University (grad school). To me, the history of Christianity and Christian in Japan is so fascinating. Japan avoided the threat of western colonization and the spread of Christianity by banning the religion and shutting down its borders to everyone.
Nagasaki’s hidden Christians managed to avoid detection by turning statues of the Buddhist goddess Kannon into Mary figurines. Many of the churches used by hidden Christians became UNESCO heritage sites this summer, so I’d love to tour them all.
Honorable Mention: Ogasawara Islands -Tokyo Prefecture
The destinations on my list are affordable (under 35,000 yen/300 USD) weekend destinations that can easily fit into my kindergarten work schedule. But, Ogasawara, an island chain and UNESCO World Heritage site that’s a part of Tokyo Prefecture, is only doable if you take a 23 hour ferry ride.
On top of that, the ferry departs only on certain days, so once we arrive on Chichijima island, we’d have to stay until it’s time for the next ship to sail out (that’s nearly a week stay).
Live in Japan or plan to visit with your little ones in tow? Which places are on your wanderlust list?
Don’t forget to check out the amazing resource guide, How To Travel In Japan Without Speaking Japanese, to help you plan your next Japan trip!