We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time.
Our longest journey on land was our trip between Hiroshima and Kagoshima.
The trip took us a little under 4 hours to complete via the Shinkansen. Why would we take such a long train ride when we could have simply flown to Yakushima, which was our intended destination? Flying from Osaka we could be in Yakushima in a little over 1 hour.
Our thinking was mostly settled on the fact that we already had purchased the Japan Rail pass, as we explained in our Tokyo Final post
Before we go any further, if you are planning to visit Japan you should go here and purchase the Japan Rail Pass.
The Japan Rail Pass is NOT sold in Japan and only available to tourist. There is some research that should be done on your part, and it might be more expensive than buying all the tickets you need individually, but for convenience... it is amazing. We upgraded to the "Green car" reserved seating pass, and we never had any issues while we were in Japan. It was worth every penny. It also serves as an easy bathroom finder, since bathrooms are difficult to find in Japan, all rail stations have them but sometimes locked on the other side of the ticket counter. The Rail pass gets you in and out without paying anything extra!
The Japan Rail pass is really nice form of travel as well. It is very clean, quiet, and not at all crowded like the subway/Metro system is. It is super fast and the trains are almost always on time. Train and Shinkansen travel in Japan is a great way to the see the country, and below is a collection of some of our pictures while on the Shinkansen during various times during our month long adventure in Japan.
Mount Fuji - our best view of Mount Fuji was on the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Osaka Station when we were heading to Kyoto.
They have kiosk at almost all of the popular stations so you can buy foods and drinks, make sure you get them before you leave as the Shinkansens rarely stop.
Urban city sprawl.
Seaports and industry.
There are a few trains that are cutely designed with artistic touches to their exterior. We heard there was a pokemon train somewhere but were unable to track it down for pictures.
The trains are a great way to relax and see the country without having to use your feet. The chairs are comfy and some of them even have reclining foot rests. This is why we choose to ride to Kagoshima by Shinkansen rather than plane. We don't have any good pictures of our trip from Hiroshima to Kagoshima as we spent most of the time enjoying the super comfortable chairs that were on the train and not at our Hiroshima apartment. :p Kagoshima is a small fishing city located at the southern most tip of Japan, not including the various islands further south of course. We weren't planning to stay long, just one night to catch our breath and then take the boat to Yakushima.
We stayed at this small house. The above picture is courtesy of Google Street maps as we arrived late and forgot to take exterior pictures since we were walking from the station to the home.
We had access to the upstairs of the building as the bottom floor was occupied by a restaurant. It was a bigger space than we expected, one of the largest private homes we stayed at in Japan with two bedrooms, a large kitchen, a large shower and toilet room and living/family room with chairs!
The local town of Kagoshima is like a normal small town. We were in the more densely populated area, walking distance from small town franchise restaurants and grocery stores. It was a little boring to be honest with not much to see or do, but that was fine as we wanted to be fresh for our boat trip the next day.
We decided to take advantage of our full kitchen and went shopping for local foods for our dinner.
The next day we were scheduled to take a boat trip from Kagoshima to Yakushima via the "toppy". We used YES! Yakushima for almost everything we booked in Yakushima. The boat tickets, the rental car and all information for getting around. The staff there were very friendly and helpful via email. We paid 17,700 yen at the time for two one way tickets, which at the time of this post is $161 US dollars.
The boat ride took a little under 2 hours and there wasn't much of anything to see once outside the port.
YES! Yakushima also helped us book our rental car in Yakushima and they had the rental car staff waiting for us upon our arrival on the island.
A few things about driving in Japan, you need an international drivers license in order to drive in Japan. They are super easy to get. The easiest way is to go down to your local AAA club and request one. They will take a picture of you, check your current drivers license (you must have a valid current license), and then fill out a bit of paperwork for your trip! Your license is only valid for a certain amount of time so make sure you have your trip dates as accurate as possible.
Renting a car is pretty easy, just like in America. They will ask you for your international drivers license and credit card for deposit. For Yakushima we rented our car for 4 days which cost us 20,000 yen, about $183 US or about $45 per day. The driver seat is on the right side of the vehicle and you drive on the left side of the road. Signs are super easy to follow. Almost everything is in English as well as Japanese and the symbols when there are no words are easy enough to figure out. If you are thinking about driving in Japan, don't over think it. It's as easy as driving in America!
Finally we start our journey and the favorite part of our whole trip to Japan - YAKUSHIMA!