Travelling to Japan

Our Travels in Japan

As mentioned in our 'About Us' section, for us visiting Japan all started due to our passion for koi and our love for Japanese gardens. So if you are seriously into Koi, interested in bonsai or love Japanese themed gardens (like us!) then visiting Japan is a must...

Many koi hobbyists have been privileged to have journeyed to Japan to visit the famous koi breeders’ farms and facilities whether to Niigata or Southern Japan, but how many have had the opportunity to see what else Japan has to offer.

Osaka City Autumn colours

Visiting breeder’s koi facilities purchasing that special koi can be a once in a lifetime memory or like us you get the Japan bug and want to go more and more.

Anthony and I have been visiting Japan since 2006, on our first few visits we were oblivious to Japan and what it had to offer outside of the breeder’s facilities and only seeing Japan from inside a bullet train or a car window.  Like most hobbyists you go with your preferred dealer and are guided from farm to farm without really having the opportunity to see what Japan has to offer.

Many hobbyists are apprehensive to venture further afield from their dealer and koi hunting trip, let’s face it most who have been to Japan will know how daunting even the train stations can be! But for us, we enjoy the adventure of traveling around without guidance and the challenges it brings.

Over the next few months, we will be writing a series of articles about the places we have visited and seen.  We’ve been to Niigata many times in the spring and the autumn but for the last four years we’ve travelled around Southern Japan in the autumn, and this is where we will concentrate our articles on…which we hope you will like and enjoy.


British Airways Dreamliner
Osaka - Kansai Airport

With flights being booked, we can then start planning our itinerary and locations where we plan to visit.  From this we can subsequently research and book our hotels.  We have found it is more convenient to book hotels when possible as close to the train station based on the amenities such as the main bus terminals, etc… The hotels directly near the stations tend to be the most expensive, but with a little research we can find reasonably priced hotels nearby, which can be three to four star ratings.  The hotels we can book here in the UK via a hotel booking website, with not having to pay until check in, also the option is there for free cancelation, which comes in handy if there is a change of itinerary.   Depending on the Yen rate we aim for an average price of around 10,000 Yen per night for a 3/4 star hotel which equates to around £68. 

Kyoto - The Higashiyama District - Kiyomizudera Temple
Kyoto - The Higashiyama District Street

Japan is famous for its well organised train stations this is the main mode of transport we use to travel.  The major train stations are like mini cities and absolutely heaving with people. These main train stations are the Shinkansen lines i.e. bullet trains, which allow you travel all over Japan.  

The train system is the best in the world and extremely punctual, meaning you having to be on your toes at times…an example of this from one of our previous trips, is when we were travelling back up on the Nozomi Shinkansen from Shin-Tamana on Kyushu Island (which is the southwestern most part of Japans main islands) to Shin-Osaka, and had to change train at Hakata Station…looking at our ticket’s it stated we only had 14mins between the trains! So, we knew we were going to have to act fast! As soon as the train arrived at the platform, we were off down the stairs looking for our next platform which we found straight away, and happened to be on the other side of the tracks we had just arrived at, so quickly back up the stairs and on to the correct platform the Shinkansen was just arriving, we jumped on and before we could secure our cases the train was on the move again! So basically, if we had not understood the Japanese stations and just hesitated for a second, we would have most likely missed this connection…something this punctual is just unheard of over here in the UK! 

Shin-Osaka Train Station
Kyoto Autumn Colours -Arashiyama

As many of us know visiting Japan for koi mainly happens in the spring or autumn.  As well as viewing and selecting Tosai in the spring the opportunity is there to go and visit the many famous spectacular Cherry Blossom Sakura areas and view Cherry Blossom called Hanami.  Visiting Japan for the autumn harvests gives you the opportunity to see the spectacular vivid autumn foliage colours called Koyo and autumn leaves called Momijigari. There are so many iconic areas to see Koyo, you don’t have to venture too far away from the main koi farms in the north or south. 

Japan is steeped in ancient culture which is very prominent as you travel through this wonderful, magnificent country.  It has many outstanding world heritage, cultural and natural sites ranging from castles, temples, shrines, gardens and of course Nishikigoi.  But also, Japan has its ‘modern’ side and infrastructure which is fascinating especially when walking around in the big cities and train stations. 


So, traveling to Japan…

The planning of our next trip virtually starts the day after we have landed back home from our last trip!! Seriously though, as we visit Japan around the same time each year, end of October into November, we are always watching the prices of flights waiting for the best deals. Keep an eye out for these best deals, as well as looking direct at the airlines websites also visit the comparison websites for potentially good deals.  Be flexible on your outbound and inbound flights if you can as one day either side of your trip can make a considerable saving

As we live in the North East of England this incurs two flights either from Newcastle via Schiphol Amsterdam flying with KLM or as we did last year (2019) Newcastle via Heathrow flying with BA, both then direct to Kansai airport in Osaka, which is approximately a 12 hour flight.  (this is the airport on the sea!) We’ve actually already booked our flights for this year, booked in December 2019 and cost only £550 each, including return.  These are flights from Newcastle to Heathrow then the Dreamliner to Kansai airport plus return…fingers crossed traveling to Japan resumes by October.  Our trip usually starts to Japan with an early flight from Newcastle around 6:00am arriving in Kansai airport approximately 9:00am the following day as Japan is 9 hours ahead at this time of year.  

Osaka - Hotel

From this we then decide in more detail our itinerary for each location such as, heritage sites and gardens we would like to visit.  Researching how to navigate from A to B i.e. stations to hotels and hotels to the places we are intending to visit including lunch stops (may be just sandwiches from a convenient store) and evening restaurants, whether this is via walking, buses, or trains.  We actually do enjoy walking when we can.  Last year having been awake for 24 hours on our first day of arrival we walked approximately 13 miles during that day.  We were awake in total 36 hours to beat the jet lag, bearing in mind we don’t have any ‘naps’ this first day as we have found this helps us for the rest of our trip regarding the dreaded jet lag!  This first day last year we visited the Higashiyama district in Kyoto, there was just loads to see and the sights just kept on coming and coming until it started to get dark so we had to call it a day to make sure we could get back to our hotel. Just the shear enjoyment of seeing the sights and being lovely sunny warm weather (even though it was the end of October) we lost all track of time!! This is what can happen when you are enjoying yourself. 

Shinkansen's (Bullet Trains)
Station platform display board

When travelling on the trains in Japan depending on our circumstances and how far we plan to travel we either purchase individual train tickets or have a 7 or 14 day JR rail pass, which allows us to use the shinkansen lines and local express trains.  The JR rail pass can be very convenient and cost effective depending on your travel circumstances and can be purchased here in England, costs depends on the current Yen rate. 

Because we are always on the move we travel ‘light’ with a small case.  When traveling on the move it’s much easier to travel light especially when using the trains.  Fortunately, the weather at this time of year in the autumn is normally warm and sunny.  So, we spend most of the time in tee shirts and shorts!  We do get some funny looks not for the shorts but for wearing short sleeves as the Japanese are all dressed up for winter!

Please see our next series of articles in the 'Locations' section of the website, were we focus in more detail on the locations, heritage sites and gardens we have visited, which we hope you enjoy and to give you some insight of what Japan has to offer!!