A while ago I wrote the best-of list of our trips in Japan. And while people are already joking that we’ve been everywhere in Japan, the list of places we’ve not been to is even longer. The picture on the left – our souvenir Gotochi Kitty collection on a map of Japan – shows this well. While the Kanto region is overcrowded with Kitties, the west coast and the North of the country are sadly kittyless. Today, I’ll be sharing with you the list of places I definitely want to visit. These are places I am lead to believe after careful research (yes, I’m constantly organizing an upcoming trip) to be very worth visiting, places I already had a concrete plan to visit. For a variety of reasons, these trips just didn’t happen. But they’re on the to-do list and maybe can give others some ideas where to go. As the map shows, there are many more places I haven’t even gotten around to researching…
- Ise Shrine and the Ise Peninsula, Mikimoto Pearl Island.
The Ise Shrine is the single most important shrine in Japan. Also the Ise Peninsula is said to be very scenic, plus you can visit the pearl island of Mikimoto, the guy who invented the cultured pearl. This trip was already planned and booked, but was prevented last minute by a cold I caught.
- The cherry bloom in Yoshino. From pictures I’ve seen, the thousands of trees in bloom must be an amazing sight. Yoshino is near Nara. When we were in Kyoto for hanami this year, we seriously considered going, but the cherry bloom in Yoshino was several days behind the one in Kyoto, so it just didn’t work out.
- The Camellia Festival on Izu Oshima. We have visited Oshima and had planned to come back in early spring for its famous Camellia Festival. We had booked the jet-boat and the hotel for March 12. But we hadn’t taken into account giant earthquakes…
- The Plum Blossom Festival in Mito. Mito, located in Ibaraki Prefecture was home to a branch of the powerful Tokugawa-clan. The kairakuen of the Tokugawa is home to over 3000 plum trees and its plum blossom festival (ume matsuri) is famous. We had meant to go this spring, but with the constant aftershocks and the radioactive contamination, moving up north just didn’t seem a very compelling idea anymore…
must be an amazing tropical paradise. We always meant to go, but were thwarted by bad timing and expensive packages.
- Southern Kyushu
While we had traveled some of the Northern part of the island, we never made it South. A new Shinkansen line is under construction, making the access easier. My plan consisted of visiting Kagoshima, the active volcano of Sakurajima, hiking in Kirishima-yaku National Park, taking the jetfoil to the island of Yakushima which has a UNESCO World Heritage forest, and bathing in the hot volcanic sands of Ibusuki. This would have been a week-long trip, and we just didn’t find the time.
- More of Shikoku
Also our visit to Shikoku was much too short. We never made it to Kochi or any of the temples of the 88 temple pilgrimage. There’s definitely room for improvement.
I had a great plan for our Tohoku-trip. It included hiking on the Hachimantai Plateau, seeing Lake Towada, walking along the very scenic Oirase Stream and visiting the city of Morioka, home of the cast iron tea kettle. We had meant to go last autumn, but then the autumn leaf season in the North was already over when we finally had the time…
- Snow Monsters
I also wanted to visit the mountains up in Tohoku in late winter, to see the famous snow monsters. They are trees covered with very thick layers of snow which form when the moist air of the sea of Japan hits the mountains. Covered with snow and sculpted by the wind, the trees look like ghosts.
- More of Hokkaido
Our Hokkaido trip was constrained to the Western corner, but there is so much more. We’ve not even visited Sapporo, let alone the other National Parks. Hokkaido in Winter must also be very impressive.
I guess part of the reason why many of these trips didn’t happen is because these regions are away from the main Shinkansen arteries and travel times become very long, which was hard to reconcile with our limited time. But I still hope to do these trips in the future!