The base of Takamatsu Castle, one of the three Waterfront Castles of Japan.

[Case Study] How to plan a 22-day trip? Part 1/N

The base of Takamatsu Castle, one of the three Waterfront Castles of Japan. (taken by me, February 2018)

Earlier this year, I received a mail from Jannie, a French lady planning to have a 22-day Japan trip. And she wrote to ask for ideas on travel spots that are worth visiting. Since her start day is May first this year, apparently it didn’t happen, because COVID-19.

Even though that trip is toast, we can still examine it for ideas. What we will do here is to examine this idea in the next few posts. We will come up with two plans: one will follow Jannie’s idea as it was. The other will be my take. The main difference would be how car rentals will be used, and how to streamline the trip.

Let’s dive in.

The original idea

She wrote, and I quote (translated from French):

(She swapped Matsue for Tottori in a later mail.)

You can see the first part of the trip is quite a by-the-numbers Kyushu experience. Start from Fukuoka, visit Nagasaki for the atomic bomb memorial, Kumamoto for the castle and Kumamon, Beppu for onsen. Renting a car there would make a lot of sense, as these cities are not exactly close by. Driving would save a lot of hauling luggage around.

But the latter part seems kind of… all over the place. If you look at a map of Japan, you would see how these places spread out:

Marugame is in Shikoku. Hiroshima is right across the Seto Inland Sea from Matsuyama. Yet Tottori is all the way to the other side of Honshu, the biggest island in Japan. It’s a 3.5-hour train ride from Hiroshima to Tottori and another three-hour train ride from Tottori to Osaka. (source: Google Maps)

Not easy, right?

Let’s take a look at how Jannie spread her days in-country.
“Fukuoka from May 1 to 4
Nagasaki from May 4 to 7
Kumamoto from May 7 to 11 with car rental from May 8 to 10
Beppu from May 11 to 13
Marugame from May 13 to 17 with car rental from May 14 to 16
Hiroshima May 17-19
Tottori from May 19 to 21
And Osaka for the return. (presumably on the 22nd)”

Now, what would you do in those cities?

  • Fukuoka: Dazaifu Tenmangu is one of the main Shinto shrines in Japan dedicated to the deity Tenjin, and a must go. Kyushu National Museum had a great collection of Japanese art, related to their contact with China and Korea. Moji, a nearby port, is great for history buffs, as it was the major gateway to Honshu before the introduction of bridges and tunnels. The historical town of Shimonoseki in Honshu is a tunnel walk away from Moji. Also, a visit to Yatai food stalls would give you a taste of good times with street food and drinks.
  • Nagasaki: Gunkanjima is an industrial island town that contributed much to the industrialization of Japan. Sazebo for those interested in warships. Peace Park and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum for apparent reasons. The night view of Nagasaki is also very famous, being one of the best views in Japan today. UNESCO “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region” would also be an interesting visit and a peek into the history of Christianity in Japan.
  • Kumamoto: Kumamoto Castle. Although it was badly damaged during the 2016 earthquake, repairs are partially completed. The castle has reopened and is now available for public visit.
  • Beppu and the surrounding area: Onsen (hot springs) and very spicy ramen! Also, in Oita prefecture nearby stands Nakatsu Castle, one of the three Waterfront Castle Trio in Japan.
  • Marugame and the surrounding area: Marugame Castle is one of the twelve wooden castles with its original structure intact. The Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art is also worth a visit. Have a bowl of udon while you are there! Nearby Matsuyama had one of the oldest hot springs in Japan (Dōgo Onsen). Takamatsu had the second of the Waterfront Castle Trio, and Imabari had the third as well.
  • Hiroshima: Relics of atomic bombs such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. At Miyajima, the world-famous Itsukushima Shrine. The shrine is under major repair and restoration work, with no end date yet. The famous Tori gate and the shrine itself are partially closed, better keep it for a later trip.
  • Tottori: The Sand Dunes of Tottori is a must-see sight. There are several castles in the area, such as the Ruins of Tottori Castle, Kawahara Castle, and Shikano Castle.

It’s a lot of places to go to. Depending on what you would like to see, the trip plan combinations are countless.

In my next post, we will look into the plan base on the original idea from Jannie. There will be a surprise on transportation , so stay tuned!