We've been intending a trip to Japan for some years now, but never got arounjd to committing to it. But after Christmas, we'll be jetting to Tokyo for a two month holiday in The Land of the Rising Sun, travelling north and south from this massive city. We'll spend a couple of weeks on the northern island of Hokkaido, where we'll get around in a four-wheel-drive. But on Honshu, we'll use trains and buses, and hopefully be able to follow our itinerary! The pink area on the map shows roughly where we will go.
We won't get to Shikoku, where Mike has spent a good amount of working time, and not to Kyushu either. We'll save these less frequented islands for another trip, if we only live long enough! Actually, Japan comprises 6,582 islands, but the four big ones are 97% of the total area.
It's easy to think of Japan as a small country. Well, it is (at just under 378,000sq.km it's #61 in size in the world), but it is skinny and deceptively long. Not counting the outer islands, which extend a long way, the four homeislands stretch for about 1900km, and of that, we will be traversing 1500km. There's some long shinkansen journeys in our plan! But we like trains, and look forward to them.
Current troubles with North Korea and the vision of nuclear armed warheads flying over Hokkaido did come into our thinking. But we took the fatalistic approach and decided that if we waited until those particular problems had been resolved, we would be too old to travel. The Australian Government website is not advising against travel to Japan. So, we're off!
Our plan is to see castles, temples and shrines, bamboo forests and wilderness areas, ice sculptures and lots of snow, onsens and ryokans, and to immerse ourselves in a culture which is most alien to us. The food will be fascinating, as will the wonders of big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. We look forward to this trip greatly, especially as we are going in mid-winter and there won't be too many tourists, except around ski resorts.