Back in April, my family finally fulfilled one of our dreams of visiting Japan. Unfortunately we were a little late for the sakura, but we were still determined to make the best of it.
We flew into Fukuoka, where there is no Marriott presence. We arrived too late in the evening to go very far so we took the train to Kokura where I'd booked a room in a typical Japanese business hotel. It was quite compact and efficient as expected, but not bad at all for the money.
Since we flew into Fukuoka I searched for any sites near there and found out about the Kawachi Fujien wisteria garden. It was featured on CNN as one of the 31 most beautiful places and there were all kinds of beautiful photos of it online such as:
That is actually a large printed board they had there for photo ops which was good because when we were there it actually looked like this:
It seems that while we were a few weeks late for sakura we were a little early for wisteria. Oh well, c'est la vie! We headed back to Kokura and and explored a little and saw Kokura Castle before boarding the shinkansen to Osaka.
Our trip was a total of 11 nights: 1 night in Fukuoka, 5 nights in Osaka, and 5 nights in Tokyo. This way I could maximize our Bonvoy points value by getting the 5th night free for the second and third stay.
In Osaka, we stayed at the Courtyard Shin-Osaka Station since it is right by the train line and we planned on doing lots of day trips. It was extremely convenient to the station and had a nice lounge and a really good breakfast buffet. This worked out great and I highly recommend it if you are staying in Osaka as a jumping off point to nearby cities. Unfortunately, I cannot find any photos of the hotel or room now, but it was quite nice and much larger than the Japanese hotel. Also, Courtyards in Asia are much nicer than those in the US so don't hesitate to try them.
Of course, as my wife is a lover of street food the first item on our agenda was to visit dotonburi and get some takoyaki.
Our first day trip took us to Nara to see the deer.
We then back-tracked a little and headed south over the next few days to Himeji, Miyajima, Hiroshima, and Kobe. We specifically timed one of these trips to allow us to ride the Hello Kitty Shinkansen.
Miyajima Island and the floating Torii gate:
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome:
And, before catching the train back to Osaka, we tried the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.
We did one final day trip to Kyoto to see the Fushimi Inari Shrine and then headed off to Tokyo.
In Tokyo, we decided to splurge with our points and stayed at The Ritz. Normally, I wouldn't choose that because of the lack of a lounge and free breakfast. But, since a big part of our trip was wanting to eat out and try local foods, in this specific instance we didn't plan to eat at the hotel anyway so it didn't bother us.
We arrived in our room (which was huge by comparison) to find a nice welcome gift.
But, the highlight of the room, though we only had a clear enough view to see it on one day, was the view of Mt. Fuji.
One of the main things I wanted to do in Tokyo was to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum. They don't allow photos inside, so pretty much the only thing you ever see photos of is the robot on the roof.
I thought it was pretty cool, but between the hassle of trying to buy tickets in advance and getting out there and the crowds... I don't really think it is worthwhile unless you are just a huge fan.
What ended up being one of the highlights of our trip was something was something I had never heard of until I started planning the trip and then almost didn't do because it was a little far out of Tokyo and basically took a whole day. But, I definitely think it was worth it. It was Hitachi Seaside Park and this time we timed it perfectly as the nemophilia were in full bloom.
They also had lots of tulips and other flowers on display.
They rotate their gardens with different plants featured as the seasons change, so be sure to check their website while planning your trip. I will warn you that it was quite crowded as we went there on the weekend beginning golden week. We were unable to get reserved seats on the train there and had to stand most of the way and then when we left the park after it closed we had to wait almost an hour to get the bus back to train station. I still think it was worthwhile though as it was probably my favorite part of the trip.