Just before the COVID lockdown, I was lucky to travel to Japan to celebrate my 30th birthday. The last time I was there, it was during Sakura (cherry blossom) season, this time, I decided to hunt down red leaves during the autumn foliage season.
Initially, during the three-week stay, I planned to go to all the places I didn’t manage to last time. But, unexpected addition in the form of my new boyfriend, who also happened to be a fan of Japan, changed my solo trip into a couple’s trip and altered my plans a little; hence I have included a few locations I have previously been to.
There were four themes to my trip: the aforementioned red leaves, which Japan is famous for. It is not as popular as cherry blossom season, though it’s nonetheless a magnificent and breathtaking time where the alleys and temples are covered with a bright red maple tree and yellow ginko tree leaves. The second theme was amusement parks. I am a huge fan of theme parks and having learned that I can visit Disneyland and Universal Studios, I couldn’t pass by the opportunity. The third one was onsens – hot springs, another thing I am crazy about. And the fourth one was costumes and photo sessions – I love wearing different outfits.
After deciding on priorities, I started convincing my new boyfriend how much fun they would be, and luckily he didn’t run away and agreed to join me on my crazy journey through Japan.
The main priority was taking pictures of red leaves and autumn foliage. I had to plan according to the seasons, which is quite challenging when you order tickets half a year in advance! Similarly to cherry blossoms, you can find the autumn foilage forecasts online that can help you more or less predict when the phenomena will happen. Of course, the later you check, the more probable the estimates. But as a general rule of thumb, the colors start already changing in the mountain regions between the end of September and the end of October. Then during November, it spreads through Japan in the Kyoto/Osaka area. Lastly, the Tokyo area’s leaves change colors in late November, beginning of December.
Having general direction, I ended up with this plan:
We started in Tokyo, walking around the neighborhood during the first day. Both of us were in Tokyo before, so we skipped the famous sights and focused on what we didn’t see yet: teamLab Borderless and Vampire Cafe. The following two days, we enjoyed ourselves at Disneyland and Disney SeaWorld. Afterward, we took the train to Edo Wonderland in the Kinugawa Onsen area, where we explored an old village dressed as samurais. The next stop was Nagano, where you can see snow monkeys chilling in hot springs. Right before we started our Alpine route, we relaxed in hot springs in a ryokan in Omachi.
After a short stop in Toyama, we moved to Osaka to spend two days in Universal Studios. From there, we hopped onto the train again and went to Kyoto. Even though it was not my first time there, we were super busy walking around all the temples and marveling astounding colors of Koyo! I also managed to convince my boyfriend to do a photoshoot with me 😀
While in Kyoto, we made a small day trip to Nara. I missed my Bambis so much <3!
The next stop was Himeji and then Hiroshima for a night before we continued to Beppu Onsen, far from all the popular cities. There we spent a fantastic time in yet another ryokan, soaking our butts in onsens, getting buried in the geothermal sand, and visiting the famous Hells of Beppu. Because it was hard to reach Mount Aso with public transportation, the mountain itself was partially closed down, and we did not have enough time; we changed plans and went to check out Fukuoka.
On our way back to Tokyo, we stopped in another ryokan located next to Kawaguchi lake. From the lake, we could marvel phenomenal view of Mount Fuji surrounded by autumn leaves. After an evening there, we headed back to Tokyo to catch our plane back to Copenhagen 🙂
And here is the plan with time division:
Day 1 – Tokyo
Day 4 – Nikko – Edo Wonderland
Day 5 – Nagano – Snow Monkey Park
Day 6 – Alpine Road and Toyama
Day 7 – Osaka
Day 8-9 – Universal Studio
Day 10-12 – Kyoto
Day 13 – Nara
Day 15 – 16 – Beppu
Day 17 – Fukuoka
Day 18-19 – Lake Kawaguchi
Day 20 – Tokyo
Overall all it was great three weeks full of adventures and marvelous sights! I ended up coming back to Copenhagen with more than 10k pictures! Gosh, it took me forever to go through all of that! But now I am all ready to share all of that with you here <3 So stay tuned and give me some time to write all about our experiences in Japan.