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Ask the Experts: How to make the most of Japan?

This week our panel of experts walked into a real corker! They’ve been tested by a great question about one of the world’s most enigmatic destinations.

Remember, if you want to pose a question to our experts, drop them an email and you might see your question answered by the panellists in the coming months!

First up, let’s roll out this week’s question from blog reader, Grant Smith…

Hey Experts! I’d like to head out to Japan in the next couple of years, when’s the best time to visit? I would be looking at a three week stay, with a two week tour to start me off. I want to see traditional and new Japan, on a relatively low budget, plus I’d like to include a ryokan stay! What are my options? Grant Smith.

Easy-peasy Japaneasy? Let’s see what the experts have to say!

Kim at STA Travel Dundee decided on…

Discover Japan, Grant, literally! From gadgets to geisha’s, this 14-day itinerary could have been written for you.

It starts and finishes in Tokyo, so really easy for flights; you’ll visit Mt Fuji (climb included if season permits), Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kanazawa and Takayama and you’ll travel by Bullet train and catch some Z’s in a traditional Ryokan.

Senior geisha rarely apply white face paint! It's reserved for junior or performance geisha, or apprentice geisha known as maiko.

Best time of year? Without a doubt, the spring (March to May) when you can experience Hanami, or the Cherry Blossom Festivals. However if you are wanting to climb Mount Fuji, the season is a very short two months: between July and August, when the snow has melted. Arigatō Grant!

Mark at STA Travel Belfast highlights…

Kim got straight in there, nice! There are great reasons to visit at any time of year, Grant, depending on what it is you’d like to see or do. Personally, I’d recommend October, as it’s neither too humid nor too chilly.

In terms of traditional and new Japan, Kyoto would definitely be classed as one of the country’s most traditional cities. It still has many of the pre-war buildings. and has quite a few Machiyas, which are the traditional town houses you see so often. Also in Kyoto, you have the Gion region, which has geisha apprentices and plenty of old style traditional architecture — definitely a must see.


Machiya communities can be compared to the hutongs of Beijing | Photo by mrhayata

The key to the ryokans is to have an open mind, and simply enjoy. The bedding may not be 5-star standard, but it’s about the experience more than anything, and learning about new cultures. Consider grabbing yourself a Japan Rail Pass and taking the JR Hokkaido line between Tokyo and Sapporro to spend a week. It’s a beautiful place, and the beer is to die for! The journey itself is spectacular.

Heather at STA Travel Nottingham concluded…

Great answers, guys! I’m going to look at this a little differently. Have you thought about visiting China as well? This would give you the opportunity to see the contrast between the two countries. A great trip is the Ancient Empires from Beijing to Tokyo.

It gives you the chance to explore two ancient nations, see the great Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, and then onto the Great Wall of China, the modern city of Shanghai, and then venturing over to Japan where you have the opportunity to sleep in a Buddhist temple. You’ll also explore the ancient city of Kyoto, including the Nijo Castle and gardens. You can get your ryokan fix in Hakone, and experience a traditional Japanese feast before finishing your adventure in the bustling city of Tokyo! This offers you the opportunity to see so many of the amazing sights that both Japan and China have to offer, in a relatively short space of time.

You’ve got to give it to those experts, they sure know how to take an ordinary question and eke out some incredibly inspiring suggestions. I’ve learned a lot about the way to approach a trip to Japan.

Do you have any more ideas, that could help Grant make the most of his time in Japan?

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