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  • Shelley Dark

3. itinerary

This post expands a little on the itinerary I outlined in my first post.... I've booked the flights, one ryokan, tours and guides, and accommodation for our week in Tokyo. Inside Japan has booked trains and the other accommodation.

photo courtesy Qantas

FLIGHTS: We've chosen to fly Qantas as there's a mid-morning direct flight Brisbane/Tokyo which only takes nine and a quarter hours, just a little more than Singapore. And it's nice to be flying the national carrier - it's quite a while since we've done that. We arrive at 7pm so we probably won't be booked into our hotel until around 10pm. I find a night arrival more difficult that the morning, don't you, having to go straight to bed in a new place without seeing it in the daytime? But after such a short flight in nearly the same time zone, it shouldn't interfere with our sleep.

I think I told you that our time in Japan is between high-season cherry blossom time, and the Japanese annual public holiday period called Golden Week. It was a case of fitting in what we could between those dates, in the hotels left available, without rushing too much.

photo courtesy Tokyo Station Hotel


TOKYO STATION HOTEL: The Tokyo Station Hotel is a great option in Tokyo as it's right on the railway station in the middle of Tokyo, the hub for the shinkansen trains. We'll appreciate that as we are leaving at lunchtime the day after arrival for Takayama. It's the grand old dame of Tokyo hotels, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World chain, housed in a Victorian building in the central business district of Marunouchi near the Imperial Palace gardens.

TRAVEL WITHIN JAPAN: Now that we have our luggage under control, we're looking forward to the bullet trains, looking like something out of Star Wars.

TAKAYAMA: The Green Hotel hotel in Takayama is popular with the Japanese themselves so we'll have an opportunity to do a little people watching. It's a multi-storey hotel near the train station. Takayama is a small picturesque town in the mountains, easily negotiated on foot. There's a morning market and as cattle producers, we are looking forward to trying Hida beef, a type of Wagyu famous in the area. And of course a tipple at one of the sake breweries. The Japanese character of many of the Takayama buildings has been preserved, including in some old merchant houses which I'm looking forward to seeing.

photo via wikimedia commons by

KYOTO: I'm excited to be visiting Kyoto which they say has retained much of its old world charm and history because it avoided bombings in World War II. We're staying at the Brighton Hotel near the Imperial Palace. For both days we're in Kyoto, I booked a private guide through Chris Rowthorn, author of the Lonely Planet Guide Japan. Chris' tours avoid the really well known tourist paths, but still visit the major attractions. Also separately, we've booked a private maiko experience just for the two of us. There are several must-do's that we simply don't have enough time to do (Arashyama, Himeji Castle, Golden Pavilion), but I know we'll enjoy what we do see. People who love Japan seem to return again and again to Kyoto. Maybe we will too.

KAGA ONSEN: I've booked a lovely ryokan called Beniya Mukayu for a couple of days with time to slow down. It's part of the Relais & Châteaux group away from the hustle and bustle of cities in a quiet hot spring (onsen) town. It's modern minimalist and its zen space and garden is committed to contemplative peace, harmony and fine food. It won the best R & C hotel spa worldwide in 2015. I've booked a specialty of the house treatment and we're taking a cooking class here, also a boat ride on a local river.

photo via wikimedia commons by

KANAZAWA: Kenrokuen Garden is said to be one of the finest gardens in Japan. We'll hop off the train at Kanazawa to see it on our way back to Tokyo.

TOKYO: John flies home that night to resume his surfing which he will have been missing, and our daughter Ange arrives. I'm so grateful to her husband Philippe for holding the fort with their two children! And very grateful to the children for doing without their mother for a week.

APARTMENT: I looked at hotels and apartments closest to the things we want to do and see. The top hotels are mostly in the central area, but our to-do list is mostly around Omotesando south-west of the CBD. I actually booked and paid for an apartment close by with Airbnb months ago, only to discover on the website a month later a warning that construction work was planned for next door at the same time as our visit.

I cancelled and then booked a very nice upmarket hotel nearby, corner room, two queen beds, but it didn't make my heart sing. In the meantime I kept searching for a 2 bedroom apartment. Only this morning, I found a wonderful solution which DOES make my heart sing! An apartment owned by an fashion magazine editor and his partner. Clean, light, minimalist, in exactly the right location! Bingo. Only problem is that we'll have to share the one bed and I do snore a little bit. 🤐 Poor Ange. But she far prefers it to the hotel as well.

I'm sure that their apartment manual will contain lots of wonderful extra information we may not have yet seen. I'll keep you posted.

The plan for our girls' week in Tokyo has been informed by our mutual love of design, architecture, fashion, gardens, beauty and fun! I've used many resources including Luxe Guides e-guide to Tokyo. They are always so reliably excellent, written by like-minded girls on our wavelength. We've decided not to do the fish market (I know it would be different from Mumbai or Calcutta, but I've seen enough fish), or sumo wresting (not a hard decision).

Another of our Instagram friends recommended a Tokyo guide written by two of her friends. Thank you Lou! That's it above. It's called the Broad Place Tokyo guide and we found extras in it as well. Vogue Living did a feature on Tokyo not long ago as well. And I was given a local's guide to the area with our original Airbnb booking.

Context Travel is a world-wide company which advertises itself as 'for the intellectually curious'. They have an architecturally focussed tour called 'Aesthetics, Stylising Modern Japan' which we are doing on the first morning - we did a similar tour in Barcelona with Context and found the docent so passionate that he went over time by half an hour! Web searches for antique shops, flea markets, calligraphy classes, and other tours filled in more of the gaps. There is more to see than we could do in a year. So I'm still sifting.

Click on the photo above to to to my google map of Japan - I make one for each trip we go on as it helps me get my bearings in a new country before we leave Australia. I've marked most of the highlights I considered in planning. I will add to it in the coming two weeks, and it will stay there if you ever want to go back to look at it. The ones marked with a tick have high-priority. It zooms in and out and covers Takayama and Kyoto as well.

After the trip, I'll be able to give you a properly updated report. I like to have a full itinerary, but having done that, am perfectly happy to change plans at the drop of a hat if we see a better opportunity on the day.

For an itemised itinerary (Tokyo week is still changing), click the grey bar above.

I love the research which goes into planning a trip, and once it's done, it's great to just relax and enjoy the ride, don't you think? Things will always unfold differently from the best-laid plan, and it's nice to be flexible.

I hope you feel ready for lift-off. I've just realised it's only 2 weeks today!

I'm not sure what my next post, before we leave, will be. Japanese aesthetics? Social do's and don'ts for Japan?

Until then travelling buddies, I wish you a happy Sunday and send my warmest regards....

shelley dark, writer 

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