Top 10 Trips around Japan in 2014

I can’t believe it’s already the final day of 2014! It has been an incredible year, full of adventures, making new friends, and just enjoying life as much as possible! It was my second year living in Tokyo and I’m feeling more and more like a “Tokyoite”. Living on the west side of the city means I’ve gotten to know Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku pretty well. Seeing the famous Shibuya Scramble no longer gives me that rush of excitement – it’s now kind of amusing seeing tourists running out to take their pictures of the masses crossing the intersection! These days, I like to think I’ve got Shinjuku Station down pat. And by that I mean I only sometimes get lost there – in my defence there are more than 200 exits, okay?! And in Harajuku, I’ve discovered some pretty cool little cafes.

2014 was also a year of many many ‘firsts’. I visited the United States for the first time, I finally got my Japanese Drivers Licence and drove for the first time in Japan, I watched a Japanese musical (The Little Mermaid), attended a sports match, and joined in on the Japanese custom of sending nengajo (New Year postcards)!

I also squeezed in a lot of travel within Japan – on holidays, weekends, and days off – so much so that this post is going to be based on these trips. I had a lot on my travel to-do list this year, and it’s an awesome feeling to say that I’ve ticked off most of them. It’s all about determination and organisation!

Without further ado, I give you my Top 10 most memorable trips around Japan this year (in chronological order).

Tokamachi Snow Festival (February)

Tokamachi is serious snow country in winter. It lies in the middle of Niigata prefecture, about a 2-hour train ride north of Tokyo. I went to the Snow Festival there with my mum who was visiting back in February. Of all weekends, it just happened to be on one that saw a major blizzard sweep across the country. We were forced to stay longer than we had planned, and all of the snow sculptures were unfortunately covered with fresh snow, but it was still one of the coolest things I’ve seen! I’d definitely go back again next year.

Visiting Hokkaido for the first time (April)

I was super pumped to fly to Hokkaido for the first time. It had been on my bucket list since moving to Japan. This northernmost island of Japan is most famous for its powder snow, so a friend and I went up for a few days of snowboarding. I met some extremely kind people who made the trip all the more special, visited a chocolate factory and a beer factory, ate a lot of fresh seafood and discovered the wonderful Otaru Canal – a beautifully preserved waterway that used to link the warehouses with ships in the bay.

Snow Corridor and Japan Alps (May)

After visiting snowy Hokkaido, I was inspired to see the famous Snow Corridor in Toyama prefecture. This road is along the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, and is closed for the duration of winter. A snow wall, up to 20 metres high, is created when they clear the road in spring, and is visible from April to June. Beyond the snow wall is Mt Tateyama, a part of the Northern Alps. This pure white landscape was truly spectacular!

Rainy season at Meigetsu-in (June)

A bit closer to home, Kamakura is a city just an hour or so south of Tokyo. I went to a temple called Meigetsu-in for the first time, after hearing about their beautiful hydrangea stairway. I loved seeing the unusual shapes and colours of the flowers, some which are only found in Kamakura.

Fuji Rock Music Festival (July)

I’d wanted to go to the Fuji Rock Music Festival for ages, and finally made it happen this year. A friend and I went for the final of the 3 days and camped overnight there. It is a massive festival, with 7 main stages plus many smaller ones as well as other attractions. The festival is located at a ski resort in the middle of nowhere in Niigata prefecture. It really is like a rave in the mountains!

Climbing Mt Fuji (August)

By far one of my best memories of 2014 was witnessing an epic sunrise from the summit of Mt Fuji. It was a tough hike. We started at 2,300m at 7pm, getting to the top, 3776m, around 2am. We eventually made it back down around 9am. Luckily we had amazing weather the entire time. I was left with some foot related injuries, but I still think it was one of the best experiences of my life!

Matsumoto Castle (September)

One of 4 castles that are national treasures, Matsumoto Castle is the only black one. It’s nicknamed the Crow because of its colour, and was never actually attacked by enemies which has left it in a remarkable condition. Matsumoto Castle is in Nagano prefecture, about 2.5 hour bus trip from Tokyo. The day I went, there happened to be an event celebrating Matsumoto’s sister city relationship with a town in Switzerland. I got to watch an amazing taiko (drum) performance, as well as hear some genuine yodelling!

Discovering Karuizawa (October-November)

One of my new favourite places in Japan is the town of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture. It’s known as a summer resort with lots of sporting, shopping and outdoor activities for young and old. I visited the town for the first time in October and fell in love with the natural beauty of the area! I was back a few weeks later to enjoy the mesmerising autumn colours. It’s an easy 2 hour trip from Tokyo, so I will definitely be going back many times in 2015!

Road trip to Ibaraki (October-November)

After finally getting my act together to get my Japanese Drivers Licence, some friends and I went on 2 road trips to Ibaraki prefecture, a few hours north-east of Tokyo. I was very excited to be back behind the wheel! On our first trip, we went to the Hitachi Hillside Park to see the bright red kochia shrubs. The second time was an overnight trip, visiting a few autumn leaves spots like Fukurodo Falls. Ibaraki is beautiful in autumn!

Autumn colours in Toyama (November)

The BEST autumn leaves spot of 2014, in my opinion! After talking with a sweet elderly lady who we met on our way to the Snow Corridor back in May, my friend and I decided we would return to Toyama to visit the Torokko Train. I’m so glad we listened to her advice. The scenic train winds through the Kurobe Gorge, parallel to the emerald-coloured Kurobe River. We timed our trip perfectly and were able to see the colours at their peak. It was an unforgettable experience and I’ll always treasure the memory of being there.

As you can see, most of my trips were to Nagano, Niigata, and Toyama prefectures which are all in the Chubu region of Japan, and no more than 3-4 hours from Tokyo. If you’re planning a trip to Japan in 2015, please consider these places for a day or overnight trip!

As for me, there’s still so much more to discover in Japan. Some places at the top of my 2015 list are Shikoku, Yakushima, Okinawa, Niseko, as well as return to northern Tohoku. Can’t wait!!

Happy New Year to you all! Party safely!

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35 thoughts on “Top 10 Trips around Japan in 2014

  1. I must say you have put it so beautifully and with so much detail that it feels like I am literally going the journey, though I have never visited Japan, but I was excited and immersed with your narrations…lovely pictures, indeed these are spectacular, snow to sun, castles to bridges, food to festivals you have covered it all…so many first in the year, and I am sure 2015 will be bigger and much better for you.

    Wishing you a wonderful year ahead and with lots of joy and pleasant surprises…
    Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved writing this post as it meant going back through all of my photos and reminiscing about all the good times I’ve had!

      Thank you for your wonderful support in 2014, Nihar! I hope that you will one day be able to experience some of these places with your own eyes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Celia,
    You’ve had a year to remember and you presented it beautifully. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2015 holds for you. I’m going to post a review as well, albeit of a much simpler nature – hope you don’t think I’m copying. By the way, I didn’t know Shinjuku Station had 200 exits. That makes me feel much better :). Have a great New Year with family and friends.
    Cheers,
    John

    Like

    • A million thanks for supporting my blog in 2014, John! I’m interested to see where 2015 will take me, too! I can only hope it’ll be as exciting as 2014 was.

      I hope it’ll be an awesome year for you, too. Looking forward to continuing our exchanges here!
      Cheers!

      Like

  3. 日本各地(かくち)で 四季の移(うつ)り変(か)わりを 鑑賞(かんしょう)できること、すばらしいです。
    来年は 西へむかって 四国、 南下(なんか)して 屋久島と沖縄へも 足を伸(の)ばすのが 夢ですか。
    その夢が かなえられると、よいですね。新年は 南半球の夏を楽しんだ後、 また 北上(ほくじょう)して 
    冬の東京で 仕事はじめですね。帰ったら まもなく、入学試験、卒業式、そして入学式と 正式な行事で 
    忙しくなりますが、がんばってください。来年も セリアさんの ブログをよむのを たのしみにしています。

     

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    • あけましておめでとうございます^o^ 2014年にいただいたサポートをありがとうございました。今年もよろしくお願いします。

      そうですね。東京へ帰ったらすぐに忙しくなりますが、2015年にもっと面白くて楽しい事について伝いたいですので頑張ります(^-^)/

      Like

  4. Has it been a year already?! I remember reading your posts and admiring the photos for each one of these trips, enjoying vicariously the sights of Japan. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! By the way, if you could only do one of these, which one would you pick?

    Like

    • It’s crazy isn’t it. Time flies! I’m very impressed that you can remember all of these trips from throughout the year! You have a great memory!!

      Thanks for the question…
      If I had to pick just one to do again, I would choose the Torokko train in the Kurobe Gorge during autumn. The scenery really took my breath away!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bruno! Thank you so much for following my journey throughout 2014 :D

      I hope your 2015 will exceed all of your expectations! I look forward to seeing more of your amazing photography this year, too!

      Like

  5. what post!! whew – excellent! and what a year you have had – Japan seems like such a great place – and I am glad our blog paths have crossed – happy new year! :)

    Like

  6. Pingback: A Year of Colours: 2015 Review | Celia in Tokyo

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