Last Updated: Aug 2, 2023
Again & Again
As I write this, I am on a limited express train heading down from Nagoya to Toba for my 4th meal with the ama divers of Mie Prefecture. Due to escorting some family around (who were unable to visit for several years as a result of Japan’s stringent border policies during the pandemic), I’ve recently been revisiting a lot of my favorite haunts. While making the rounds, I’ve been thinking a lot about how just a single outing to sites like Nikko just won’t suffice.
Since I started creating content many years ago, I’ve been keeping a list of all of the places that I want to visit in Japan. As of today’s tally, the count now tops 5,000 locales. Try as I might, I simply cannot hack off the proverbial heads of the hydra fast enough to keep up with the pace that I discover new allures in Japan. As I’ve written before, I would need an endless number of lifetimes to be able to actually exhaust my bucket list once and for all.
Of course, as anyone who has visited Japan in spring for the cherry blossoms can likely attest, the country has a varied beauty that changes with the seasons. Thus, a mere single visit to a place like Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture will not suffice. To truly cross it off of the bucket list, one would need to at least visit during both springtime and autumn. Alas, there are a myriad of places like this in Japan meaning that any completionists are going to need to multiply the number of lifetimes required by at least four.
I am often asked by fans why I don’t ever want to branch out and feature other parts of the world. The truth is that I simply don’t have the time. Remember, I already don’t have enough years for even half of the places that I want to go in Japan. There is simply no way that I could even begin to think of going overseas when I have so many places that I want to visit — I mean just look at my spring adventures this year. I hit up a number of very niche places like the Senbonzakura of Torayama just for the cherry blossoms.
This brings us to the conundrum of today’s article. When visiting Japan, you’re often going to have to choose between going some place new and revisiting somewhere old for a seasonal happening. For example, the towns of Furano and Biei up in Hokkaido are magical during both the wintertime as well as in the summer. During the warmer months of the year, you’ll be treated to endless fields of lavender. Once the snow begins to fall, Furano and Biei become a magical winter wonderland.
When deciding whether or not to visit somewhere you haven’t been, it can oftentimes be difficult to make a call. Do you opt to chase the peak bloom of the cherry blossoms north into the extremes of Tohoku or do you explore the likes of Kyushu and Shikoku to which you’ve never been. Speaking honestly, I really don’t have any good heuristics when it comes to this and instead leave it up to the whims of fate. I’ve long since accepted the fact that I’ll need to be reincarnated again and again to finish my list.
Rather than fret over whether or not you’ll return again to somewhere that you’ve seen during autumn for the cherry blossoms, I suggest you too just leave it up to whatever powers that be. In the final analysis, everywhere in Japan has the makings for an awesome outing, even if that place just so happens to be one that you’ve explored before. Thus, you’re bound to have an awesome time no matter what decision you ultimately make.
Still, this wouldn’t be an article worth reading if I didn’t leave you with a few tidbits of knowledge for when planning your next Japan itinerary…
- When returning somewhere that you’ve been to before, try to view it in a new light. Since I’ll oftentimes need to return to places that I’ve been to before for government press tours (case-in-point, I went to Aizu-Wakamatsu half a dozen times in a year), I’ve try to learn more about the location by leveraging whatever experiences I’ve had since. In this way, you can eke out a lot of additional satisfaction from even mainstream attractions like Asakusa’s Senso-ji.
- In most cases, you’ll want to plan around routes rather than places. For example, rather than say you want to just go to Matsumae Castle for the late blooming cherry blossoms, consider doing so only in conjunction with somewhere close that you may have been to before like Hakodate. This way, you have the chance to again explore an old haunt while also seeing something new.
- If you’re going to return somewhere, there needs to be a stellar reason to do so. For example, autumn in Aomori is an extremely compelling cause for making a second visit to the prefecture. On the flip side, a single temple out of a dozen that you missed isn’t going to leave you feeling satiated. Instead, seek somewhere fresh that will create a new memory rather than update an old one.
- Some of Japan’s seasonal stuff is truly worth revisiting places for. Almost every year, I find myself at famed spots like Hirosaki Park for the cherry blossoms or Nikko for the autumn foliage. Even if you’ve been before, you certainly won’t regret slipping these spectacles of Mother Nature into your next trip. What’s more, they often combine well with other places that are peaking at that time of the year.
- Since you’ll almost always be flying in and out of Tokyo or Osaka, these mega cities make for great “known territory” when first arriving. Though I am a lifelong resident, I imagine based on how I travel domestically that it would help to have somewhere familiar when you next return to Japan.
- Friends can make all the difference. There is just something about making another trip to a spot you’ve been to before with a close partner in crime. For example, I’ve now been to places like Kawagoe and Kashima Jingu many, many times due to taking other creators and it’s always a fresh experience thanks to being able to live vicariously through them.
Anyway, I hope these tips help. As I mentioned, Japan is a magnificent place and you’re bound to have the trip of your life, even if you revisit a few spots while on the road. As always, if you have any questions regarding whether or not it is worth going somewhere in Japan again for the cherry blossoms, the autumn foliage, etc., just shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can’t sort you out.
Until next time travelers…