Destination: The unforgettable Winter trip to Japan (Yufuin, Hakone, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Jigokudani and more)

My first trip to Japan was in 2013, we did the traditional Golden route (Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto), recommended for first timers. Usually we would go on tours, but the tours I found for Japan at the time that were in my price-range was self-guided. So I ended up doing my itinerary, visiting the places I found interesting. I did not expect much from the trip, pictures here and there, see the obligatory tourist sites, taste the local cuisine, basically throwing money at people to be squeezed in a queue and to be herded like cows. Moooove.

Boy, was I surprised. Not enough praise and respect for the experiences provided by those individuals who made our first visit to the rising sun, special. From our first Michelin star experience (Keiseki and accommodation) to the kind owner of a small Okonomiyaki shop who informed us of the local sites. Eating my all-time favourite Inari-sushi at the place it was invented, watching our first sumo wrestling match, and I can go on forever. So here are some pictures instead.

So naturally, we had to return, this time in Winter and with our daughter. Japan receives 31 million tourists each year, how they do it? I don’t know. To give you an idea Australia’s entire population is 25 million and Australia’s land size is 20 times more than Japan. Yet they had condensed 454km (Tokyo to Kyoto) travel time to 5hr 46minutes.

Wintertime in Japan is everything like a snow globe, except you’re in it. We travelled throughout Japan for 14 days:

  • 10 days for touring
  • 2 days commuting/travel
  • 2 days resting/shopping/getting lost.

We again also visited places we found interesting, mostly for our daughter. So this trip was kid-friendly, though we think we exhausted her usual coffee-like energy to slow-drip coffee.

We landed in Osaka, spent a few days in Kyoto, made a mistake in staying in Yufuin for only a day, revisited Hakone, braved our way to Takayama, made it to Tokyo, then ended in Jigokudani before returning to Osaka for our flight back home.

Below is a list of our Itinerary, click the link for the whole post.

* * *

The unforgettable Winter trip to Japan

Day 1 – Osaka
Day 1.1 Universal Studios

Day 2 – Kyoto
Day 2.1  Uji

Day 3 – Kyoto
Day 3.1 Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Day 3.2 Gion

Day 4 – Kyoto
Day 4.1 Nishiki Markets
Day 4.2 Kinkaku-ji temple

Day 5 – Kyoto to Nara
Day 5.1 Nara
Day 5.2 Arashiyama

Day 6 – Kyoto to Yufuin
Day 6.1 Yufuin

Day 7 – Yufuin to Hakone
Day 7.1 The Little prince museum
Day 7.2 Venetian glass museum
Day 7.3 Yuryo Onsen

Day 8 – Hakone to Takayama
Day 8.1 Shirakawa-go
Day 8.2 Old town Takayama

Day 9 – Takayama to Tokyo
Day 9.1 Harajuku

Day 10 – Tokyo to Jigokudani
Day 10.1 Jigokudani Monkey Park

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