There is definitely more to Japan than just Tokyo. And if you have more than a few days in country, I recommend at least a week to travel down to Southern Honshu.
The famous Shinkansen (bullet train) is the quickest and easiest way to travel to Kyoto and Osaka. However, it is not the cheapest, especially if traveling in a group. We were a group of 5 so we rented a van, but all of the stops mentioned in this blog are doable by train.
Day 1 & 2: Kyoto
Day 3: Osaka
Day 4: Hiroshima
Day 5: Nara
Here is my “best of” from the trip:
*Kyoto was unanimously everyone’s favorite stop. Our vote for #2 was split between Hiroshima and Nara.
* Our group was split between Nijo Castle in Kyoto and Himeji Castle as our favorite. Nobody voted for Osaka.
*Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto was our favorite temple & shrine of the week. But we also all enjoyed Saihō-ji moss gardens in Kyoto, Miyajima in Hiroshima, and Hōryū-ji in Nara.
*The Hiroshima Peace Park was also another favorite, although somber, stop of the week.
*The small food stand Mezopotamia Kebab was our favorite food of the trip (we went 3 times). Nino’s in Nara was also a fun experience.
Some overall thoughts and recommendations:
*Kyoto really was as amazing as I had heard. We had two full days there but I could have easily spent at least one more (maybe even two).
*If you don’t want to bounce around, base out of either Kyoto or Osaka .
*If you have kids or are big into nightlife then base out of Osaka. Otherwise, make Kyoto your base.
*If you have kids, then you probably need a second or third day in Osaka. I didn’t go, but Osaka has a world famous aquarium, Legoland, and Universal Studios.
*I didn’t have enough time in Nara but I got a good vibe and it looked like there was some great hiking. I may try to make it back to both Nara and Kyoto.
Check out later blogs what to see and do in each location!