Autumn Japan Trip | 11 Days in Japan | Day 0 Trip Planning
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
If I have to choose my favourite country to travel to, it will always be Japan. I used to travel to this amazing country at least once a year back then while I still lived in Asia. However since I've moved to England, it has became a lot more difficult for me to visit Japan as frequently as I used to.
This is why I have made use of my long holiday to travel to my beloved Japan for 11 days, and it was seriously so much fun! I feel like I have to share the amazing experience and memory with you guys. It doesn't matter if you're looking for some travel inspiration for your next holiday or if you're just looking to share my joy, I hope you would like this travel blog post.
Throughout the 11 days I spent there, I have visited a number of cities. Therefore, I am going to split my whole journey into 4 parts, each of which focuses on one city I've stayed, to make it easier for you guys to read. Feel free to click on the following links to skip or fast forward to the one that interests you.
Day 0 Trip Planning (this post)
The reason why I and my partner have chosen to visit Japan at this time of the year where there really isn't any public or bank holiday that we could make use of, is because it is currently the autumn foliage season (or Momiji season as the Japanese calls it) in Japan right now. It has been years since I've enjoyed this seasonal landscape in Japan, I figured it would be a nice way to spend my long holiday before I start my intensive PhD training in the coming spring. Especially because my partner has never been to Japan before, I believed this is going to be an amazing trip for both of us.
The first thing I do whenever I plan a trip, is always to book the flight, as this is the one factor where there is least flexibility. As my partner too is a full time student, we have decided we're going to travel together from Saturday thru Saturday (which is one full week), and then I will stay behind for couple more days and visit my bestie who's currently living Yokohama, while he flies back home and get ready for work the following week.
After getting the most difficult part of the trip sorted, we started marking out cities that we wanted to visit to. Since bae has never been to Japan before, nor has he experienced the Japanese hot spring, we first had our eyes set on Hakone, a place famous for their Onsen hot spring. We also wanted to visit the Kawaguchi Lake, which is one of the best places to see the world famous Mount Fuji. Finally, we decided we are going to spend some time in Tokyo and explore the most exciting city in Japan. You may have already realised that I've been visiting Yokohama for several days, but frankly speaking I didn't plan anything for this particular part of my holiday. It is because I visited Yokohama after my partner has flew home, and I was in fact staying with my bestie Carrie. I believe she would be the best tour guide and I left it all to her while I just tag along. It turns out my faith in her was correct, and we had so much fun. But lets talk about it later when we get there... For now, let's get back to the holiday planning.
After deciding the places we wanted to go, we had to decide how many days we want to spend in each city. Although neither Kawaguchi-Ko or Hakone are big cities, the two cities are not exactly close to each other and they are both quite far away from Tokyo. Therefore we thought it'd better if we spent 2 days in each of them so we would have plenty of time to explore the towns and do not have no rush between cities and provinces.
We then have to decide what would be our route of travelling. Now let us unfold the Japan map...
When I plan my holidays, I believe it's best to first mark out all the spots I'm going to visit, before designing the route of travel. This allow me to plan my trip in the most efficient way possible. As you can see from the map, I have marked out the 3 cities I will be visiting this time. The smallest circle on the furthest left is Kawaguchi Lake, a small town right next to Mount Fuji; underneath that is Hakone, a medium sized city built upon the hills; and Tokyo, the busiest and most exciting city (in my opinion) in Japan. Let us then also spot out the airport where we will be flying to and from. The Narita International Airport is not located in Tokyo, but in the Chiba prefecture instead. Considering the fact that both Kawaguchi-ko and Hakone are sightseeing cities, and that we will do most of our shopping in Tokyo; also the fact that Tokyo is located closest to the airport, we have decided to put Tokyo as the last stop of our trip. This means we don't have to drag heavy suitcases along with us during the rest of the trip, and we don't have to rush our way to the airport on our last day in Japan.
After deciding Tokyo will be our last stop, next I had to decide whether we will start with Kawaguchi-ko or Hakone. I started looking into transportation between the three cities and the airport, and at last we've decided to first visit Kawaguchi-ko, spend 2 days there, then we will go to Hakone and spend another 2 days, before heading back to Tokyo. I didn't find any direct transportation method that could bring us to Hakone form the Narita International Airport, but there is a highway bus that could bring us to Kawaguchi-ko at a very reasonable price (4000JYP per person).
Another thing is that Kawaguchi-ko is in fact furthest away form both Tokyo and the airport. Therefore we figured we might as well spend the most time on transportation on the first day, where we're going to be super tired after a late-night flight, and that we could get to bed early at night. The fact that there is direct transportation between Hakone and Tokyo, it made things a lot easier for us. At this point, we have looked into the transportation between cities and have booked some of the tickets. This is crucial for travelers who are going to use high-speed or highway buses, the reason being these buses runs very sparsely and the capacity is limited. If we missed any of these buses, we might have to wait for another 6 hours or another day before the next one comes. Also, bus companies often offer early bird discounts for those who purchased their tickets online in advanced. Taking our trip as an example, the bus ticket that takes us to Kawaguchi-ko from the Narita International Airport usually costs 4800JPY per person one way. However because I have booked our tickets well in advance, we've only paid 4000JPY for each tickets. That's 800 JPY saved for each of us, which is the price of an affordable meal.
After sorting out all the major, cross-town transportation, we finally started looking into hotels. For Kawaguchi-ko, we have chosen to stay at the Toyoko Inn Fuji Kawaguchiko Ohashi Hotel ( 東横INN富士河口湖大橋 ). The location of this hotel is great, and they do offer shuttle bus service between the hotel and the main Kawaguchi-ko transportation hub. The hotel is 5 mins walk away from the lake, and is 10-15 mins walk form the train/ bus station. What's even better is that there is a Lawson convenient store just 2 mins away from the hotel, so it's the perfect hotel for all my fellow late night snackers. At £70 per night per couple, with complimentary buffet style breakfast, I think this hotel really is a steal. A more comprehensive review of the hotel will be available on my next blog post if you are interested.
For the two nights we spent in Hakone, one of the most famous onsen hot spring spot in Japan, of course we went for one of those classic onsen hotels. The one we've chosen this time is Mizunoto (水の音), an onsen hotel under the Hotespa Resort (共立リゾート) group. About 2 years ago, I've stayed in another onsen hotel in Kyoto that's also under the Hotespa group, called Kadensho (花伝抄) and I had a really good time there back then, so I had really high hopes for my stay in Hakone. We found a very good deal for this hotel on Jalan.net. This website is one of the best site for onsen hotel bookings in my opinion. They have the most hotels for travelers to choose from and they always have really good deals. The deal we've got this time is a twin room with a in-room semi-outdoor onsen bathtub next to our private balcony. At 19,690 JYP (roughly £120) per person per night, we will enjoy complimentary breakfasts, Kaiseki style banquet dinners, lots and lots of snacks and light meals, 3 private outdoor onsen baths, 2 public baths, and a lot of complimentary services available upon request, all free of additional charge. I have to say I was most excited about my two nights of stay in this hotel when I was planning the trip.
For tokyo, we were most concern of the location of the hotel. It has to be in a convenient area where we can easily access all the places we wanted to visit. After some discussion, we have decided to stay at the B Asakusa Hotel. This is a chain hotel and their Asakusa branch opened at 2018, so it'a very new hotel. Located in the downtown area, the hotel is surrounded by a lot of shops and restaurants and the underground system is just minutes away. The Narita International Airport is just an hour away using the underground system so the location really is implacable. This is not the cheapest hotel I've ever stayed in Tokyo, but at £100 per night per couple, it is not bad at all for a modern, newly furbished hotel located in the heart of Tokyo.
Now that the flight and all the major bus tickets have been booked, the hotels are reserved and a rough travel plan has been written, all we have to do is to pack our bags and hop on the flight. In my next blog post, I will share with you guys my first 2 days in Japan, in Kawaguchi-ko where we were stunned by the beautiful Mount Fuji and autumn foliage.