Planning a road trip around Japan

I am ashamed of myself. 
Why? Because I travelled all around Australia and New Zealand but I haven’t travelled around my own home. For shame!
Whenever I said I am from Japan people asked me what places I would recommend when they travel there, and I had nothing for them. Nothing. I just gave a vague reply like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are great, however I couldn’t think of anything specific. 
This year I am turning 30 years old (crying) and as a celebration I decided to plan a road trip in Japan.
These are some of the locations I have in mind.

Gunma Prefecture


1.    Tomohiro art museum
Open from 9am – 5pm. Entrance 500 yen.
Only guide dogs are allowed. 
The museum of art is dedicated to Tomihiro Hoshino, a local poet and painter who writes and draws with his mouth! After a gymnastics accident in which he broke his neck he became paralyzed from the neck down. My mom admires him and wanted to visit this museum and I can see why, he is truly inspirational. 

2.    Haruna Shrine
Usually open. Entrance is free.
Dogs may be accepted according to blogs I have read.
A Shinto shrine built about 1400 years ago. It is dedicated to the Gods of water, fire and agriculture and also gives blessings on business and marriage. I chose it because it looks beautiful! 

3.    Shima onsen (Sekizen-kan)
There are 4 hot spring towns in Gunma Prefecture, Kusatsu, Minakami, Ikaho and Shima. This time I chose to go to Shima because it is where the onsen called “Sekizen-kan” is located. I wanted to see this specific onsen because it was one of the places that inspired the Japanese anime movie “Spirited Away” and I want to see it in its night time glory.
But that’s not all this town has, with more than 40 hot spring sources it has many more other onsen and ryokans available, and the name “shima” itself has a meaning. It is said that the hot springs in this town have healing powers to cure 40,000 ailments. Shima = 40,000.
Open: 10am – 4pm. Entrance 1200 yen
It is one of the oldest ryokan in Shima Onsen, open for over 300 years. 


Nagano Prefecture


4.    Jigokudani Snow monkey park
Open: 9am – 4 pm. Entrance is 800 yen.
Have you ever seen those iconic pictures of monkeys bathing in hot springs in the snow? Well it happens here in this park. Onsen is only for the monkeys not humans and unfortunately when I plan to go in April there probably won’t be snow but hopefully I will get to see some monkeys bathing anyways.

5.    Matsumoto Castle
Open: 8:30am – 4:30pm. Entrance is 610 yen.
Also known as “crow castle” because of its black exterior, it is Japan’s oldest wooden castle and a national treasure built around 1595. More than 400 years ago! (and I’m complaining about being old…). 


Toyama Prefecture


6.    Gokayama
Open: 24hrs? (they prefer you avoid early mornings and late nights)
Entrance: free (but there are museums around town that charge from 200-300yen)
Pets are allowed in town streets.
This is a UNESCO designated area and its known because it’s a town made of traditional gassho-zukuri houses. The whole town looks really old-style fashion with those huge triangular shaped roof houses. I read somewhere that it is one of the greatest towns in the world for architecture geeks. Well I know nothing of architecture but the place looks so cool just by looking at the pictures. 
Many of the houses are said to be more than 300 years old!


Shiga Prefecture


7.    Lake Biwa
Open: it’s a lake. Entrance, it’s a lake.
It’s the largest fresh water lake in Japan, the area covering around 670 square kilometres and provides fresh drinking water for about 15 million people. There are a lot of activities around and on the lake depending on what you like to do. 


Mie Prefecture


8.    Meoto Iwa
Open: 24 hours. Entrance is free.
Pets are allowed according to reviews on travel sites.
In English they are called the “Married couple rocks” and they are two rocks one big (the male) and one small (the female) in the sea. Both rocks are joined by a heavy rope made of rice straw.
According to Shinto beliefs the rocks are a symbol of the marriage of 2 gods, Izanagi and Izanami. 
I really would like to see this rocks during sunrise or sunset times because that would make for some awesome photographs. 

9.    Ise grand shrine
Open: 5am – 7 pm (Hours vary by season)  Entrance: Free?
It is a big Shinto shrine complex said to be one of the most sacred in Japan and its surrounded by a forest and a river. The main shrines are Naiku and Geku but there are 125 shinto shrines in total.

Wakayama Prefecture


10.    Nachi falls
Open: 7am – 4:30pm. Entrance is 300 yen. 
With its 133-meter high fall, this is the tallest waterfall in Japan and its also the last stop in the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. 

11.    Mount Koya
Open: ? Entrance: Fees may vary by temples.
Another UNESCO world heritage site, this is the spiritual home of Shingon Buddism with the sect’s headquarters and head temple at the mountain top. In this place you can see a typical monk’s lifestyle if you stay overnight in one of the temples.


Nara Prefecture

12.    Horyuji
Open: 8am – 5pm. Entrance is 1500 yen.
The oldest wooden building in the world!! It was built around 600 AD and rebuilt after a fire in 700 AD. It has history more than 1400 years old. Wow. In 1993 it was made into a UNESCO world heritage site. 

13.    Todaiji Temple
Open: 7:30am – 5:30pm. Entrance is 600 yen.
It is the world’s largest wooden building and it has the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha. And also, do you know that famous place in Japan where the deer roam around free? Well, it’s here.


Hyogo Prefecture

14.    Hiyoriyama Kaigan
It’s a bunch of torii on top of rocks in the ocean. I really want to take some sunset pictures of this if possible. 


Tottori Prefecture

15.    Tottori sand dunes
Open: 24 hours. Entrance is free.
Dogs are allowed.
The only large sand dunes in Japan over 16km long and 2km wide. Looking and walking on the sand dunes is free but there are a lot of activities you can do which cost a little bit of money. There is sand surfing, camel riding, paragliding and a sand art museum.
I personally would like to ride a camel which is 1300 yen per person. 

16.    Mount Daisen
1709-meter-high volcanic mountains which are considered sacred. There are also some activities to be done in here, this site lists them in English. Things to do in Mt. Daisen. 


Shimane Prefecture

17.    Adachi museum of art
Open: 9am – 5:30pm. Entrance is 2300 yen
It is said to have one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan and that’s why I want to go and check it out.

18.    Iwami ginzan silver mine
Open: 8:30am - 5:30pm. Entrance is 300 yen.
Yet another UNESCO world heritage site, it is the largest silver mine in Japanese history. Opened for almost 400 years, from 1526 to 1923. 


Hiroshima Prefecture

19.    Itsukushima shrine
Open: 6:30am – 6:30pm. Entrance is 300 yen
The super iconic Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima. I want to see both times when the torii is covered by water and when it is dry. 


Yamaguchi Prefecture

20.    Motonosumi Inari shrine
Open: sunrise to sunset (prohibited at night)  Entrance fee I will check when I get there. 
123 torii gates stretched out in the mountain overlooking the ocean. 

21.    Akiyoshido Cave
Open: 8:30am – 4:30pm. Entrance is 1200 yen.
Japan’s largest and longest limestone cave. It is about 9km long and only 1km is open to the public. I found out about this from a girl I met through this blog.


Fukuoka Prefecture

22.    Kawachi Fujien
Open: 9am – 6pm. Entrance fee is 1500 yen during peak season.
I want to go here to see the famous wisteria flower tunnel. The best time to see it is apparently late April to early May.

23.    Daiza Tenmangu
Open: 6:30am – 7:30pm. Entrance fee I will find out when I get there
Pets are allowed as long as they don’t disturb other people.
A popular Shinto shrine dedicated to the god of learning. Hey, we are always learning right? There is a museum and beautiful plum tree gardens.


Nagasaki Prefecture

24.    Nagasaki Atomic bomb museum
Open: 8:30am – 5:30pm. Entrance is 200 yen 

25.    Kujuku Islands
In English is “ninety-nine” islands, although in reality there are more than 200 islands stretched out over a 25km long coast line. Most islands are inhabited and untouched. I just want to see the amazing views that google promises. 


Kumamoto Prefecture

26.    Shakain buddhist temple
I thought it looked good in the photos but now that I read that there are 3333 stone steps to go up to the temple, I am sincerely considering scratching this one off the list.


Oita prefecture

27.    Usa shrine
Open: 5:30am – 9pm. Entrance free
Built in the 8th century (the period from 701 to 800) and it is the most important shrine dedicated to Hachiman the god of archery and war.
Its big, its beautiful and its old. I am curious to see it.

28.    The hells of Beppu
Open 8am – 5pm. Entrance 2000 yen
It was designated a place of scenic beauty by the Japanese government. The place is formed by 8 pools of hot water, too hot to go in and take a bath, therefore it is only for viewing and not bathing.
But omg it looks beautiful.


Aichi Prefecture

29.    Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
Open: 9:30am – 5:30pm. Entrance is 500 yen.
This museum is all about the history and development of one of the big car industries in Japan. 

Yamanashi Prefecture

30.    Nishiyama onsen keiunkan
Open: I will find out when I get there.  Entrance is 1700 yen (for the onsen)
Founded in 705 AD, this hotel is over 1300 years old, making it the oldest hotel in Japan and as of 2011 it was also recognized with a world guiness record as the oldest ryokan in the world. 52 generations of the same family have worked in here! Impressive.

31.    Chureito pagoda
Open hours and entrance fee I will find out when I get there.
A 5-story pagoda that overlooks Mt. Fuji. I saw a picture of it and decided I wanted to take one myself. 

These are loose plans of places I hope to see, I have rented the camping car for 20 days so if you have any recommendations I am happy to hear them. Also, has anyone ever travel camping car style with a dog? is it good? bad? should I do it or no?

See you next Thursday!


Multilingual acupuncturist travelling the world