07 Jul Planning our second Japan trip
We had said on the plane ride home that we thought we hadn’t seen enough of Japan and would love to go back. We now had a CARES harness for the plane, a practical stroller, passports for all of us and more knowledge of how to get around Japan. When Jetstar had a 2 for 1 Japan deal, we jumped on it. This time we booked return flights in and out of Narita airport, it was cheaper than open-jaw and we were yet to even plan our trip. We would be going at the same time of year, almost exactly 12 months after returning from our first Japan holiday. We decided ten nights would be enough time. When booking the flights we had no plan to visit anywhere other than Tokyo and due to our rushed decision we didn’t have a lot of money saved for another holiday.
Booking the flights was a much more simple task then the last time. Fletcher was 18 months old when we booked our first flights and by default was booked as a lap infant, to get him his own seat involved several frustrating calls to Malaysia Airlines. Due to Fletcher now being over 2, he was required to have a seat so we were able to book 2 adults and 1 child via Jetstar’s official website. We added 20kg of checked baggage for both Tim and I, meals and entertainment. Tim didn’t read the entertainment section properly and assumed it would be in-seat screens. I later discovered this wouldn’t be the case and we would instead receive iPads on board.
The biggest push in our decision making was that these flights were direct. Had the flights involved a stop over, we may have hesitated a bit more. Not having to get a sleeping child off a plane, fill in time, go through security and board another flight sounded like a much easier way to get to our destination. We would get on the plane in Melbourne and just over 10 hours later we would arrive in Tokyo.
Choosing where to go
Tim really wanted more time in Tokyo and this was the only place we had in mind when booking our flights. It soon blew out to include a lot more places. As much as I enjoyed Kyoto the first time, I thought we had seen a lot of the main places we had wanted to, so wanted to focus on different areas. We thought this would definitely be our last trip to Japan since we would most likely become a family of four in the near future, making travel harder and we thought two trips to Japan would be enough to pay it justice. (We no longer think this and would quite happily return to Japan as a family of four).We decided this should be a “no regrets” Japan trip where we see our top choices for the country.
The first thing to make our list was seeing Mt. Fuji. This started out as a short trip in between our Tokyo stay and included a visit to the theme park Fuji Q Highland. We didn’t want to visit the theme park over the weekend but we could get deals at Tokyo hotels for an extended stay. The transport to Kawaguchiko from Tokyo was either train that would require a transfer along the way or a highway bus. The more we read about viewing Mt. Fuji, the more we realised the low chance of actually doing so. We weren’t sure of what to do.
While researching our Japan holiday, I discovered that Himeji Castle renovations were coming to an end and the scaffolding was due to be removed by the time of our visit. It still wouldn’t be open to enter but the newly restored castle would be completely visible after being covered for quite some time. Himeji Castle to me had always been an iconic image of Japan and I really wanted to see it in person, but it would mean making a significant change to our plans. Himeji Castle is located in the Kansai region, close to Kyoto, where we had been on our previous Japan holiday. As we were calling it our “no regrets” Japan trip, we set out planning to include a visit to the Castle.
Since we would be in the area and getting a JR pass, we decided to make the most of it and add Hiroshima to the list of places. It holds a strong part of history and we thought we should pay a visit to the site that was hit by an atomic bomb. I remembered learning about a young girl, Sadako, that had fallen ill due to the radiation from the bomb and the story of her goal to fold one thousand origami cranes. It is believed that when one folds a thousand cranes, the gods will grant them a wish. Sadako’s wish was to get better, unfortunately she passed away aged 12. Paper cranes became the symbol of peace and innocence, with many people from all around the world placing them at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima. A statue of Sadako holding an origami crane stands in the centre of the monument that remembers her and all the other children affected by the atomic bomb. Although I thought the place might be sad and depressing, it was something we both wanted to see in person. A short ferry ride from Hiroshima is the island Itsukushima, or as it’s more commonly known Miyajima, Japanese for Shrine Island. This name comes from the islands main attraction, Itsukushima Shrine, which features an iconic large orange Torii gate that is situated out in the sea. The whole shrine is built over the water and during high tide it appears to be floating. We decided we would spend a night in Hiroshima and add a visit to Miyajima during our time there.
We chose to head straight to Osaka and use it as a base to get to other places. We spent the first night there in a hotel near the shinkansen station, left our suitcase with them for the second night, taking an overnight bag to Hiroshima and then returned to the Osaka hotel for another night before taking a bullet train the next morning. We had thought about heading straight to Hiroshima but thought it might be that little bit too much travel after a long flight.
Tim thought we should visit a train museum to view the different trains Japan had seen over time and we thought it would be something Fletcher would enjoy. We decided to visit the SCMaglev and Railway Park in Nagoya if we could fit it in to our itinerary.
We loved our time in a rental car on our last trip so decided to include a drive into our trip again. We eventually decided we would travel to and stay in Shizuoka, renting a car and then doing a driving journey to explore the Fuji Five Lakes area. We would drive around one side of Mt. Fuji, stay the night in Kawaguchiko, then drive around the other side and return the car back to Shizuoka, where we could get a short bullet train ride to Tokyo.
We had certainly packed our itinerary a lot more than our first Japan trip. We hoped we wouldn’t be too rushed to enjoy our time and that moving around wouldn’t make Fletcher unsettled.