Cruising the Land of the Rising Sun. . .Northbound or Southbound - that is the question ??

Hi Fellow travelers,
I am interested in booking a trip to Japan. Any suggestion as to which direction to start the journey? Just hoping to catch the Cherry. Blossoms of course. Start and go South in end of April or go Northbound starting in first week of May 2023. Mahalo Nut loa.
Off to South Africa in 10 days!!


  • We took this wonderful trip almost 4 years ago, April 4 - April 20, 2018 from Osaka to Tokyo. That was our preference and we were lucky to see the cherry blossoms and walk among the trees to take pictures. It does, of course, all depend on the weather. I think I would do it the same way again. We stayed on a couple of days after the tour in Tokyo for more sightseeing and shopping. I am still wearing the two Japanese yucatas (robes) I purchased in a department store in Tokyo. The hotels were wonderfully luxurious. I recommend this trip. The week we returned home, I immediately purchased a Toto toilet with all the bells and whistles. You'll see. If I can suggest, bring gloves because some of the mornings were quite chilly.

  • Yes, cherry blossom season is a wonderful time to visit Japan. We had a rare treat (though it happened again in 2020) of seeing the blossoms with a lovely dusting of snow, and meeting locals who had never witnessed such a concurrence. Btw autumn color in Japan is equally spectacular.

  • Any recommendations for the before and after hotels. Are some in better locations than others? I just booked for April 2024, northbound and have time to change the hotels. Would like to walk places from the hotel, maybe shop or dine.

  • On my trip in 2018, we started in Osaka and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. The location was fabulous (for us) because we arrived 3 days early to travel independently - we had arranged for private guide in Osaka, Kyoto and Nada. the train was just behind the hotel thru a series of underground walkways/malls. It was very traveled and safe. We took the train to Kyoto twice - and to Nara. it was a fascinating experience - thankfully we found people to help us get train tickets and offer directions etc. we met the loveliest people!

  • I did this tour in 2017. We also stayed at the Ritz. You can’t go wrong. You will a wonderful time. Watch the movie or read the book, Shogun. I loved the Japanese toilets so much that the day after we came home, I ordered one! You’ll see. I didn’t buy a kimono, but I did buy a few Japanese cotton robes called Yucatas from a department store (not from the market stalls) that I still have. They make lovely gifts. We really enjoyed this trip.

  • edited October 2022

    One thing to try in Japan is to stay one night at a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese hotel. Many will have a traditional Japanese public bath - separate for men and women. But, when I was there, years ago, the Japanese considered westeners to be "dirty" and did not appreciate you joining them in the public bath.

    However, the rest of the experience is fine. The room will be one room with a tatami floor and a bath. There will be a low table in the middle of the room for you to use for any room service food. At night, the staff will come in, put the table away and lay out your futons.

    If you can, make arrangements for a tea ceremony teacher to come to your room in the evening to teach you the tea ceremony and to perform a tea ceremony with you. You should be wearing a yukata for the ceremony.

    [There are a couple of temples in the Tokyo area that I would recommend, also.]

  • edited October 2022

    Kathleen, I think you are talking about the small ship trip, not the land one. The first thing I would recommend is doing the Land tour instead. Japan is so interesting and extremely safe, so it would be a shame not to have the chance to do more exploring in free time and also go out at night.
    It looks as if we are all finally going to be able to visit Japan. I am hoping the required PCR test to enter will go too.. We are going in September, on a more intimate trip which involves a lot of train travel. I stayed in a temple years ago, sleeping in a tatami mat room on the floor with others from an international women’s group based in Japan.
    Japan is fantastic for good quality souvenirs, especially their exquisite ceramics both for eating off or decorative objects. We also have an antique Japanese wedding kimono and a couple of antique ceramic bento boxes and a head rest. Yes, more junk for the kids to get rid of😀
    Fell in love with those Japanese toilets over 30 years ago, finally caved and bought two when we arrived back in the US after lockdown had begun and tp was impossible to find. Tip, do your research before you buy them, there are many types and features to choose from. They require and outlet by the toilet…be prepared for a shock when you find out how much it costs ot get an outlet by the loo. Otherwise they are very easy to fit yourself, no plumber. needed. 😂😂

  • I agree with British re land vs boat trip. I took the boat trip and although it was lovely and interesting, there were limitations in what you see and where you go with limited free time to wander. To compensate, we added 3 days in Osaka and went in day trips by train. We didn’t add time at the end in Tokyo because our last day was the beginning’s of Golden Week - a celebration of that draws millions to Tokyo. Our last day in Tokyo was very crowded — the streets and temples were mobbed. It was a good decision to leave!

  • edited October 2022

    When Japanese toilets were mentioned, I thought the referral was to the Japanese squat toilets :) Maybe they're all gone by now. Used to be a surprise when you went to the restroom in some places. Very clean, but unusual to a westener.
    I'm pretty sure now what was referred to in the forum was the Toto units that are added to a western toilet.

  • Mike, I thought the same thing. I was stationed there for 2 years in the 80s and your picture shows a pretty posh one. The one in the house I lived in had no flush - was just the porcelain part and a big hole down to the holding tank. Rest area bathrooms were the same. God help you if you dropped something valuable down it which happened to one of our sailors.

  • I spent most of my time in Japan in urban areas so I ran into those toilets in places like restaurants and they were fairly nice. I can imagine what they were like in the boonies.

  • Yes, I’ve come across those too, but it’s not what I was talking about 😂😂
    They had very very fancy Toto toilets in Raffles hotel in Singapore and they were in most of the hotels in China.

  • Yes, the famous Toto toilets. Now different manufacturers make toilets with the same features. The ceramics are beautiful as well as the stationary. Japan is very safe, very clean, very civilized. We saw very young children walking to school alone and taking the trains on their own.

  • Loved our cruise Southbound in 2018.Ponant ship was great!We chose cruise over land because we were able to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki without taking a side trip on our own.Missed cherry blossoms by about a couple of weeks;went in the last week of AprilThe new emperor was sworn in the week we were there!

  • Doesn’t the new land tour include Hiroshima?

  • In 2018,the land tour did not include Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

  • When I took the Japan land tour in 2015 it included Hiroshima.

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file