One of my favorite Japanese concepts is Ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese concept representing the intersection of one’s passion, mission, vocation, and profession. It embodies the idea of finding purpose and fulfillment by doing what one loves, is skilled at, can be paid for, and what the world needs.
On a recent trip to Japan, I felt like I was walking in my life’s purpose and meaning as a storyteller. Having visited Japan in 2018, I was excited to return and unearth new cities and hidden gems. Japan is a land where ancient traditions intertwine with modern marvels. During my travels, I compiled a unique itinerary that led me through three awe-inspiring cities: Kinosaki Onsen, Kyoto, and Shizuoka. During my trip, I delighted in the charm of small towns, the history of ancient cities, and the picturesque beauty of waterfalls and natural landscapes.
If you’re looking for a unique experience in East Asia, then consider this multi-city itinerary for an authentic and unforgettable adventure across Japan.
Kinosaki Onsen: An Oasis
Getting to Kinosaki Onsen is a straightforward journey that allows you to soak in the beauty of Japan’s landscape along the way. Take a JR Limited Express train bound for Kinosaki Onsen Station from major cities like Osaka and Kyoto. The journey is a treat, as you’ll glide past scenic coastal views and lush mountains.
If arriving from Tokyo, take a shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto or Shin-Osaka and then transfer to the Limited Express train. Once you reach Kinosaki Onsen Station, you can easily explore the town on foot. The charm of Kinosaki Onsen lies in its seven public bathhouses, each with its unique ambiance and mineral-rich hot springs. The streets are lined with willow trees and traditional tea houses. Kinosaki Onsen promises tranquility and classic charm. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Kinosaki Onsen.
Kyoto: The Ancient City
Travelers can easily transition from the tranquil ambiance of Kinosaki Onsen to the cultural richness of Kyoto. The most convenient way is by taking the limited express train from Kinosaki Onsen Station to Kyoto Station. The train ride typically takes around two to three hours.
Once in Kyoto, the city’s extensive public transportation network, including buses and subways, makes it simple to explore the numerous temples, shrines, and attractions that Kyoto has to offer. While in Kyoto, I stayed at the The Gate Hotel. The hotel’s design seamlessly blends elegance with functionality, creating a serene atmosphere amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.
Kyoto is a gastronomic delight. Begin with an unforgettable experience at Fire Ramen, where your ramen is dramatically set ablaze. Nestled in the heart of Kyoto, Grill 54th offers a unique dining experience. This restaurant seamlessly highlights Japanese culinary traditions. The ambiance is equally impressive, with contemporary décor that complements the city’s historical backdrop.
I visited Nanzenji-Junsei in Kyoto for a journey into traditional Japanese dining. This historic establishment, nestled near the iconic Nanzen-ji Temple, is renowned for its delectable dishes. Diners are treated to meticulously crafted multi-course meals featuring seasonal ingredients. The elegant tatami-mat dining rooms and tranquil garden views create a serene atmosphere.
What to Explore in Kyoto
In Kyoto, a journey through rich history and culture begins at Kiyomizudera Temple, a timeless marvel. Its iconic wooden terrace provides an awe-inspiring vantage point, granting breathtaking views of the city, whether blanketed in cherry blossoms or the vibrant hues of autumn. After an eye-opening visit to the temple, I discovered the traditional art of Japanese ceramic making at TOKINOHA Ceramic Studio.
Meandering along the historic streets of Higashiyama, you’ll find yourself immersed in the charm of traditional Japanese architecture, with its quaint shops and teahouses. To ensure a hassle-free exploration of Kyoto’s major landmarks, consider hopping on the SkyHop Bus, a convenient and efficient sightseeing option that allows you to delve deep into the city’s cultural treasures without missing a beat.
Shizuoka: Natural Beauty
The most convenient and efficient way to travel from Kyoto to Shizuoka is by taking the bullet train. Departing from Kyoto Station and arriving at Shizuoka Station, this high-speed train offers a seamless journey, taking around 1.5 to 2 hours. This option is ideal for those looking to maximize their time exploring both cities while enjoying a hassle-free and time-efficient commute.
Consider Hotel Associa Shizuoka for its unbeatable blend of comfort, convenience, and stunning vistas. Located near Shizuoka Station, this modern hotel offers panoramic views of the majestic Mount Fuji. Its contemporary rooms provide a perfect blend of relaxation and functionality, ensuring a comfortable stay. With proximity to public transportation, guests can easily explore the Fujinomiya area and its cultural attractions.
Dining at Le Monde Fujigaya in Shizuoka is an exquisite culinary experience that combines innovation and tradition. This renowned restaurant offers a unique dinner and tea pairing, allowing guests to savor the perfect harmony of flavors. The menu boasts meticulously crafted dishes using locally sourced ingredients, expertly paired with various teas that enhance each course. From delicate appetizers to sumptuous mains and mouthwatering desserts, at Le Monde Fujigaya artistry transcends expectations.
What to Explore in Shizuoka
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture while learning about traditional dyeing techniques with Hamamatsu Chusen tour. During this experience, under the guidance of skilled artisans, you can create your hand-dyed textile while learning about this intricate art form. Afterward, end your trip by exploring the hidden treasures of the Fujinomiya area, including serene shrines and awe-inspiring vistas. Take the chance to witness the breathtaking view of Mount Fuji from the Sengen Taisha Shrine, a sight that will forever remain etched in your memory. Shizuoka is also widely visited for its enchanting green tea fields.
In this multi-city journey, you’ll uncover the essence of Japan through the soothing hot springs of Kinosaki Onsen, the cultural richness of Kyoto, and the artistic traditions of Shizuoka.