CARST ON THE ROAD
Travel & Photography

A roadtrip through Japan

In early August 2019 I went on a 12-day roadtrip through Japan. And it was one of the best holiday roadtrips I have taken so far. My love for Japan had led me to the country about eight or nine times before, but except for the Mount Fuji and Hakone area, I never made it out the big cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, Sapporo and Osaka.

And while all these cities are amazing, I was absolutely eager to explore the countryside of Japan and see some of the other cities, too. So I came up with the the idea of a roadtrip through the whole country. I had 11 full days to spend in Japan on this trip and tried to come up with a schedule that maximised my sightseeing-opportunities.

So let’s start right into it. I flew into Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido the day before my trip officially started for me…

Because I had the city of Sapporo itself covered very well on one of my previous trips, I decided to rent a car for one day and drive into the central countryside of Hokkaido. A two hour drive led me to the small cities of Furano and Kamifurano, which are very well known for their large flower fields in the summer season. The best season seems to be June and July and I was a little bit late for the most colourful time of the year. Nevertheless, the fields still looked awesome…

On the second day I took the early morning flight from Sapporo’s inner city airport Okadama to Japan’s main island Honshu. I flew into a small city in the North of Honshu called Misawa. The airport is actually a military base, which is operated as a dual-use-airport for civilian air-traffic as well. So here is some avgeeky-video of that experience…

So for the next 10 days, I drove down all of Honshu up to the city of Fukuoka on Japan’s southern island Kyushu. So a true roadtrip through Japan from North to South. The flight to Misawa was necessary, because Hokkaido and Honshu are not connected by a tunnel or bridge. Well, acutally there is a train tunnel for the Shinkansen high-speed trains, but no road tunnel.

So I continued day 2 driving down to Sendai, stopping inbetween at the Sanriku Fukko National Park, which is an amazing landscape of steep cliffs along the North Pacific Coast.

Day 3 I drove around Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures (prefectures are the Japanese highest administrative regions)…

Day 4 I mostly spend on the road, having to drive my longest leg on this trip from Sendai to Gotemba, a city directly located in view of Mount Fuji (a.k.a. Fujiyama). But I had time stop at Nikko National Park for a few hours, which has amazing waterfalls and landscape. Interestingly, around Lake Chuzenji one finds quite a lot of former embassy buildings, which now have mostly turned into museums. The reason for this is, that in times before air conditions were available, the embassadors to Japan found Tokyo too hot in the summer, so they moved into the mountains to their “summer homes” at the lake. Not too bad, isn’t it?

Day 5 I drove around the Shizuoka Prefecture and Mount Fuji. This day had it all, from nice summerly Pacific Ocean views to lakes and mountains…

Day 6 I had to drive from Gotemba to Kyoto. But the longest part of the day I spent taking the Oigawa Railway from Shin-Kanaya to Senzu and back. The Oigawa Railway is the only remaining steam train still operating with a daily scheduled service. Year round! And it is operating as an Express Train, only doing two or three stops on the route, while overtaking the diesel-electric train on this route at a half-way stop, because this newer train is operating as a local train, stopping at all stations. Enough talking, watch the video…

Day 7 I spent in Kyoto, enjoying the historic old town center, the emperor’s palace, temples and much more. Obviously one day is not enough for an old city like Kyoto, so I have to come back one day…

Day 8 I drove from Kyoto to Hiroshima and made stops at Himeji Castle and Senkoji Park & Temple. Fun fact about the majestic Himeji Castle: It is the last of the old Japanese castles still standing in its original form. All others were destroyed at one time or burned down and had to get rebuilt…

Day 9 was spent in Hiroshima. Quite a fascinating city, mainly of course because of it’s history as the the first city in the world that got mostly wiped out from a nuclear bomb near the end of World War 2. The large peace park in the center of the city and all the surrounding sights and buildings will make your visit quite special…

Day 10 I drove from Hiroshima to Fukuoka, enjoying rice and tea fields, mountains, Japan’s western coast along the Sea of Japan and some temples. I discovered that scuba diving was big in these coastal waters and definitely want to return to go diving there myself. Might combine that with a trip to Okinawa and other scuba-destinations in the area…

Day 11 I dorve around Fukuoka Prefecture. Due to the gimbal of my DJI Mavic Pro drone giving up on the evening of day 10, which is sadly a well known error with these DJI drones, I could not record a video of that day. And I had to get the gimbal repaired back at home.

But I want to share two amazing food styles in Japan with you, Yakiniku (over which I had written a separate post a while ago) and Yakitori. Have a look yourself and get hungry…

That was it it… the next day I flew home via Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. But that is a story for another day…

If you should have been inspired by that report, that’s great, but don’t do the “same” trip, because it was clearly too much driving. I love roadtrips, but on this one I had planned some of my legs too long. All this is fine for a few days, but on day 6, 7 … 10, at some point you get annoyed by driving real long distances every day and not having enough time for sightseeing every time. It’s rare that I make such rookie errors in planning my trips, but I guess here I was too eager to drive Japan from North to South. The overall idea still sounds cool to me, but it’s more something for a four week trip and not for 11 days. But we all learn from our errors and get smarter over time…

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