Planning a trip to Japan summer 2024

Hello all! Did you go to Japan? We visited in 2010 and had a great time. It was our last international trip before we had a baby. Traveling was much easier and carefree at that time. We visited Tokyo, Izu Peninsula, Kyoto, Miyajima Shrine, Himeji Castle, Takayama and Hakone in 11 days. This trip was very short, but it was the best international trip we have taken as a couple. We loved Japan and always wanted to come back to explore more.

*Photo here from Narita. We had an 8 hour layover in 2019 and took advantage of the free Narita Airport Transit & Stay program.

Anyway, the RB40 turns 50 this year. I asked her where she wanted to go and she said Japan. Good! 2024 is a great time to visit Japan because the yen has depreciated a lot against the US dollar. In 2010, the exchange rate was about 80 yen to 1 US dollar. This year, you’ll get 150 yen per dollar! Wow, that’s a sweet deal. It’s the perfect time to visit Japan again. We are also in a much better position than we were in 2010. We can brag a little this time.

Japan can be intimidating because it’s so different from the US, however, our last trip was very easy. We don’t know any Japanese and we made it work. Everyone was so nice. This time, I’m learning a little Japanese with Duolingo. It should help us communicate better. Also, our last trip was a whirlwind. We moved a lot. It was stressful, but we managed to handle it because we were young. These days, Ms. RB40 doesn’t like moving to a new hotel every night. She prefers to travel at a more relaxed pace. Ideally, we’ll spend a month in the city before moving on. However, the RB40 still works full time. It can only take 3 weeks for this trip.

Comfortable travel

Most of us have limited vacation time. That’s why we try to cram as much as possible into vacation. On our last trip to Japan, we changed hotels almost every night. We crammed in as many sights as we could. By the end of the trip, we were exhausted. The only relaxing day we had was in Hakone. It was windy and we relaxed in our precious hotel. It was great.

This time, we will try to relax more and travel at a slower pace. We don’t feel like we need to see everything anymore. Our main priority is to decompress, eat great food, rejuvenate in the hot springs, and enjoy the unique Japanese culture. Of course, we’ll visit some sights and pick up some souvenirs along the way.

I planned this trip. Ms. RB40 loves to travel, but refuses to do any planning. She absolutely hates planning travel. I think she’ll have to find a travel agent when I’m gone. Ha ha ha…


I have already purchased our flight tickets. We’ll be heading to Japan at the end of June, right after the RB40Jr gets out of school. When he was younger, we didn’t mind taking him out of school to travel. However, he needs to continue school now. Previously, I preferred traveling during the shoulder seasons because everything is cheaper and less crowded. From what I’ve read, summer is not the best time to visit Japan because it can be hot and humid. But what can you do?

Here’s a basic outline of our trip to Japan.

We will fly to Osaka and spend 9 days there. This will be the relaxing half of our trip. After that, we will head north to Hokkaido and arrive in Tokyo by train. This half will be very busy. We will be going from city to city and changing hotels almost every night.

This is where I need your help. Our flight was already booked, but the rest of the program is very flexible. I haven’t bought a JR ticket or train tickets yet. Hotel reservations can also be canceled before June. If you know Japan well, I would love some feedback on my itinerary.

Osaka – 9 nights

We will start our trip in Osaka. I booked a room for us at Dormy Inn Namba near Dontonbori. This mid-range business hotel has an onsen (hot spring bath) and offers free ramen, ice cream, and yogurt drinks. Mmm…I’m looking forward to it already.

This part of the trip will be very comfortable. We’ll need a few days to get over the jet lag anyway. Here are some of the things on my activity list. All of these are flexible so we can change or take a day off as appropriate.

  • 2 days Osaka Amazing pass. This card provides public transportation and travel tickets to many popular sites around Osaka. We will visit Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building, Ferris wheel, river cruise, Kamigata Okiyoi Museum, and Tsutenkaku Tower. I’ll have to check the menu and see what else is good.
  • A day trip to Kyoto. Kyoto was amazing the last time we visited. Unfortunately, I heard it’s packed with tourists these days. We actually saw most of the main tourist sites last time, but we missed Kiyomizu-dera and Ginkakuji. I would like to visit these two temples and walk along the Philosopher’s Path.
  • A day trip to Fire. I know about the deer park, but that’s about it. I’m sure there is a lot to do in Nara in a day trip.
  • Check the Aizen Matsuri (festival) in Osaka and explore the area around Aizen-do Shrine.
  • Maybe another day trip to Kyoto Browse the flea market at Kitano Tenmagu Shrine. Samurai Ninja Museum is located nearby. It should be a lot of fun.
  • We can visit the Osaka Aquarium and/or Universal Studios.
  • The Cup Noodle Museum sounds fun, but it’s out of the way. It will take about an hour to get there from our hotel. Probably not worth the trip.
  • In the old days, travelers would hitchhike between Tokyo and Kyoto on the Gokaido (Five Routes). I would like to find a nice walk on the old walkway. If you know of a good trip near Osaka or Kyoto, let us know. Read about a trip from Takao to Arashiyama. I don’t think this is part of the old, old ways. BTW, we visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove on our last trip. We got there at dusk and there was no one there. Mrs RB40 thought it was scary and we didn’t stay long. I heard it’s full of tourists today.

Hokkaido to Tokyo – 10 nights

We will take a flight from Osaka Airport to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. This 2Second abbreviation Half the flight will be very hectic.

Noboribetsu – One Night

We will take the train to Noboribetsu, one of the most famous hot spring resorts in Japan. It should take a little over an hour. She booked us a night at a beautiful hotel. A kaiseki dinner and a soak in the hot spring water will have us ready for the next part of this trip. It will be a nice relaxing break.

Sapporo – 2 nights

After having a traditional breakfast at the hotel, we will head to Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido. Sapporo is famous for its ramen, beer, and annual Snow Festival. Unfortunately, there won’t be any snow in July. We’ll have to make do with ramen and Sapporo beer.

In Sapporo, I booked a room at Ibis Style, a mid-range business hotel. We’ll check out Mount Moiwa Ropeway, Odori Park, and the Sapporo Clock Tower. I also want to try Hokkaido specialties like curry soup, miso ramen, Genghis Khan (Mongolian grill), zanji (fried chicken), yubari watermelon, Hokkaido crab, and ice cream. Mmm…

Hakodate – one night

My plan is to buy the JR East South Hokkaido ticket online. This card is valid for 6 consecutive days. It will enable us to take many trains, including the high-speed Shinkansen. We will use the pass to make our way to Tokyo. I’ll activate it the day we leave Sapporo. The bullet train from Sapporo to Hakodate will take about 4 hours.

Hakodate City is surrounded by the ocean and is a haven for delicious fresh seafood. We will visit Goryokaku and Mount Hakodate. Apparently, fresh raw squid is the local specialty. I’ll try it and let you know how it goes…

The next morning, we will take the Shinkansen to Aomori. This will take a few hours.

Aomori – One night

Aomori is famous for its apples and nikkidon (seafood rice bowl). I booked a room for us at the JAL Hotel near Aomori Station. We’ll visit A-Factory to check out their cider and explore the area around Aomori Bay. The Nebuta Museum also looks interesting.

The next morning, we’ll head to Furukawa Market to try Nikki Don. You can purchase 12 tickets for 2,000 yen and exchange them for food. A bowl of rice costs one ticket. Next, stroll through the market and exchange your tickets for fresh seafood toppings. I’ve never tried raw fish for breakfast, but I enjoy it.

Akita – one night

We will take Shirakami Resort Train from Aomori to Akita. I heard that this is one of the most beautiful train rides in Japan. The route follows along the scenic coastline of northern Tohoku. There is a bar and a small art gallery in the middle of the train. You can try sake and browse local souvenirs. There is also a 15-minute stop at Senjojiki Rock Plateau Station. Tourists can get down and stretch their legs a little on the beach. This comfortable trip will take about 5 hours. It’s not a bullet train.

If time permits, we can get off at Juniko Station to check out the blue Oike Lake. Then return to the station to catch the next train to Akita.

I have no plan for Akita. We probably won’t have time to do anything there. She booked us a room at the Dormy Inn Akita. We can soak in the hot springs and chill out that evening.

Sendai – one night

After that, we will take the morning shinkansen train to Sendai. The journey will take just over two hours. Once we arrive in Sendai, we will leave our luggage at the hotel and head to Matsushima Bay. I read that Matsushima Bay is one of the best tourist destinations in Japan. They have great oysters there. We will spend the day in Matsushima Bay and return to Sendai in the evening.

I booked a room for us at the Metropolitan Hotel Sendai. It’s next to Sendai station. We will head to Nikko early the next morning. This trip will take about 3 hours.

Nico – One night

Nikko is a popular day trip destination from Tokyo. Nikko’s shrines and temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I booked a room for us at a ryokan next to Lake Chuzenji. It’s about 30 minutes from Nikko Main Station. We’ll explore the famous temples, hike a bit, and then enjoy the hot springs at the hotel.

I plan to spend time in Nikko before heading to Tokyo in the afternoon.

Tokyo – two nights

I booked an Airbnb room for us near Ueno Station. This is the most convenient location for transportation to Narita Airport. The small Airbnb apartment feels more spacious than a hotel in this price range. We’ll probably be tired of traveling at this point. I don’t have many plans for Tokyo. We’ll probably be spending time near Ueno and Asakusa. I want to shop for a good kitchen knife and two pots of matcha tea.

Whew! Just write this 2Second abbreviation Half way out is exhausting. I may need to cut some of these stops. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Japan is a great tourist destination. There are so many things to see and do. I would love to live there for a few years.

Did you go to Japan? Do you have any recommendations for a great restaurant we can’t miss? May I know.

Image credit: Natasha Jenny, Siya Maeda

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Joe started Retire by 40 In 2010 to learn how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38 years old.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects all over the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital to DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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