Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Project Shinkansen 2015 - Japan Rail Pass Itinerary Seto Inland Sea

In November 2015, I traveled to Japan using the Japan Rail Pass. I traveled solo. It was my second trip using the JR pass since the The Journey 5 years prior. I bought a 14-day JR pass and used it for 10 days in Japan due to lack of vacation time from my job. Even though it was only a 10-day trip, I was able to maximize my time in Japan and the value of the JR pass for a trip of a life time. Briefly, I traveled through Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto, Shikoku, Fukuoka, Ise, Tokyo and Nagano. Here are the highlights of my itinerary:
- To read about my recommendations of affordable, Reasonable, Convenient hotels in Tokyo, visit: Affordable Cheap Reasonable Hotels in Tokyo
- To read about my recommendations of affordable and reasonable hotels in OSAKA, visit: Osaka Reasonable Affordable Hotels
- To read about my recommendations of reasonable, affordable, and convenient hotels in KYOTO, visit: Kyoto reasonable, affordable, and convenient Hotels
- To read about how to plan your trip to Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, visit: Planning your trip to Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe in Japan
- To read about the most famous ramen franchise in the world, visit: The origin of Ippudo Ramen: Quest for world's first Hakata Ippudo restaurant
- To read about Kobe beef in Kobe, visit: Kobe Beef in Kobe: My Kobe Beef experiences

Tips, suggestions and what I learned from this Japan Rail Pass trip
Japan Rail Pass is simply amazing

1. Plan ahead
Due to the surge in international tourism in Japan, (doubled in the past 2-3 years) I had difficulty booking reasonable hotels even when I started planning 2 months prior to my trip.

2. Be flexible
I revised my itinerary a few times and changed my itinerary due to lack of vacancy for reasonable hotel in Osaka during the weekend of my arrival.

3. Book your hotel way ahead of time
My preference will always be convenient business hotel near JR stations; however, I had to stay at a hostel-like hotel (First Cabin Hakata) due to lack of reasonable hotel. My very first hostel experience turned out to be very pleasant.

4. Expect a long wait in line for every popular restaurant
Also expect usual quiet Kyoto streets to be filled with loads of both Japanese and international tourists during high season, especially during autumn color and cherry blossom seasons. There were long queues outside of my favorite restaurants in Kyoto Pontocho and Osaka Doutonbori areas.

5. Many of the more authentic restaurants do not accept solo customers
Minimum of two guests required for many of the Matsusaka beef sukiyaki restaurants. As a solo traveler, I was not able to enjoy dinner at some yakitori and sukiyaki restaurants.

Project Shinkansen 2015 Itinerary (Project Setonaikai Loop 2015)
Since my vacation days were limited, I did not have the luxury of having a "day zero" 
Japan Rail Pass was activated at Kansai International Airport right after arrival.

Day 1: Project Shinkansen 2015 begins!
Crab cuisine specialty restaurant is calling you at Osaka Doutonbori

Blue Fin Fatty Tuna Toro Nigiri Sushi at Daiki Resolving Sushi Bar
Route: Los Angeles - Kansai International Airport - Shin-Osaka area - Doutobori - Shin-Osaka area
Visit: Shin-Osaka area and Doutonbori food paradise
Food: Daiki Revolving Sushi Bar in Doutonbori
Hotel: Hotel Shin-Osaka Conference Center (great location and great breakfast)

Day 2: Mission Spirited Away
Spirited Away Dogo Onsen Hot Spring Bath House Entrance

Spirited Away Dogo Onsen Hot Spring Bath House Window
Route: Osaka - Takamatsu - Matsuyama

Day 3: Mission Tokyo Love Story
Tokyo Love Story Drama Ozu Shrine, Shikoku

Tokyo Love Story Drama Baishinji Station
Route: Matsuyama - Baishinji station - Iyo-Ozu - Matsuyama
Food: Hotel breakfast buffet; Ozu local cuisine (grilled beef over rice with special sauce set); Matsuyama Tai Meshi with Somen meal set. Dogo onsen hot spring bath soak.

Day 4: Mission Seto Inland Sea
Yawatahama to Beppu Ferry. About 3000 yen for a 3-hour ride

Blood Pond Hell Beppu Jigoku Hot Spring (not for bath)
Route: Matsuyama - Yawatahama - Beppu - Fukuoka
Visit: Yawatahama to Beppu Ferry; 8 Jigoku hot springs in BeppuBeppu Myoban Yu no Sato Onsen bath soak; Fukuoka/Hakata Nakasu Yatai cuisine area.
Food: Hotel breakfast buffet; Jigoku Croquette ; Jigoku original mushi flan; Fukuoka Yatai Oden; Ichiran headquarter ramen
Hotel: First Cabin Hakata

Day 5: Origin of Ippudo Ramen

Ippudo original ramen at original restaurant in Fukuoka/Hakata

Kyoto Pontocho restaurant/bar area
Route: Fukuoka - Shin-Osaka - Kyoto - Kobe - Osaka
Visit: Fukuoka Nakasu areaKyoto Yasaka Jinja Shrine; Gion; Hanamikoji road; PontochoKobe.
Food: Mister DonutIppudo Original restaurant: original white maru; limited edition ramenYoshinoya beef bowl; Kannonya original cheesecake and matcha cakeKobe beef nigiri sushi in Kobe
Hotel: Hotel in Osaka

Day 6: Travel in Time in Kyoto
Kyoto Autumn Colors

Kyoto authentic Tofu meal set
Route: Osaka - Kyoto - Oumi area - Osaka
Visit: Kyoto ArayashiyamaBamboo forestTenryujiGinkakujiTetsugaku no michiNanzenjiNight time autumn color viewing
Food: Convenient store sandwich; Sagano gourmet tofu feast; Kushikatsu near Tsutengaku
Hotel: Hotel in Osaka

Day 7: Ise Jingu Shinto Shrine

Sacred trees at Ise Jingu Shinto Shrine
Meoto Iwa (Married Couple Rocks) in Futaminoura, near Ise, Mie
Route: Osaka - Futaminoura - Ise - Matsusaka - Osaka
Visit: Futami Okitama Shrine; Meoto Iwa (Married Couple Rocks); Ise Jingu Shrine: Geku (Outer Shrine); Naiku (Inner Shrine); Okage YokochoMatsusaka area
Food: Convenient store sandwich and onigiri; Ise udon in Ise; Matsusaka Beef in MatsusakaOsaka Gyoza no Osho original store Gyoza and Tenshinhan
Hotel: Hotel in Osaka

Day 8: Sakura Ebi shrimp in Shizuoka

Sakura ebi shrimp meal set in Yui Shizuoka

Traditional Oden restaurant at Aoba Yokocho, Shizuoka
Route: Osaka - Shizuoka - Yui - Shimizu - Tokyo
Visit: Shizuoka local tourYui areaShimizu Sushi YokochoAoba Yokocho; Tokyo Ginza Corridor
Food: Sakura Shrimp cuisine in Yui ShizuokaShimizu Sushi Yokocho sushi; Aoba yokocho oden and fish cakeHinaiya original restaurant chicken cuisineBAR de ESPANA Pero Vamos
Hotel: Hotel Princess Garden

Day 9: Quest for Snow Monkey in Nagano Jigokudani Monkey Park
Snow Monkey baby in Nagano Jigokudani Monkey Park

Cheers to beautiful Tokyo Tower
Route: Tokyo - Nagano - Jigokudani Monkey Park - Tokyo
Visit: Snow Monkey Park; Prince Hotel Park Tower BarRoppongi Nightlife
Food: Convenient store sandwich; Jigokudani Enza Cafe chicken broth ramenPomme no ki omlet rice; Prince Hotel Park Tower bar beverages; Matsuya beef bowl
Hotel: Hotel Princess Garden

Day 10: Day trip to Monaco of Japan: Atami

Atami beach and coastline, reminded me of Monao coastline

Tokyo Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Route: Tokyo - Atami - Shibuya - Haneda Airport - LAX
Visit: Atami station foot bath; Atami Onsen KKR with ocean viewTokyo Shibuya Scramble CrossingShibuya Spanish-zaka
Food: MOS Burger; Shirasu two-color bowl set with vanilla ice cream; Shibuya Watami izakaya cuisine; Shibuya Gutso Burger and Pancake
Hotel: Japan Airline Economy Class

2010 Japan Rail Pass Journey
2010 Japan Rail Pass Route. The Journey

Which Japan Rail Pass trip do you think is better?
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