Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

Japan – The trip of a lifetime – Plans

If you asked my family to each name the one place they would love to visit my daughter would say Italy and my husband would declare Japan. It’s been on our joint bucket list (and my personal one which you can see here) for as long as I can remember.

I have always been fascinated by the unique culture and beauty of Japan. And I’m pretty sure that Scott harbours dreams of training as a Samurai, and of creating his own comic book. However, it’s somewhere that has always seemed a bit out of reach – both for our budget and because of the distance.

Recently though our friend Claire from Claire Imaginarium and her husband took an incredible trip to Japan. Her photos have left us both feeling even more inspired to visit the land of dragons, geishas and cherry blossoms. Up until now all of our trips as a family have been within Europe – mainly as I’m a little nervous about flying long-haul. However, our love of Japan shows no signs of abating and really needs to be addressed. And so – here we are – busy planning a trip there.

Image via Claire Imaginarium

Part One – Research

I ordered a travel guide and we have started doing our research on the incredible experiences Japan has to offer. I also got contacted by the Japan Experience Travel Website who have been incredibly helpful in providing me with more information and inspiration. I’ve never taken a tour or used a travel company before, but actually, when it comes to a HUGE once-in-a-lifetime trip like this I feel a lot safer using one. I like the fact that they know the country inside and out and so can offer us in-depth guidance. Especially as we would be travelling with our daughter!

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

Part Two – Budgeting

Using the knowledge that we’ve gained from our research we have started to piece together a budget. I’ve set alerts on Skyscanner to gauge variations in price flights. And we’ve each spent some time writing a list of where we would like to go. We’ve used those lists to create a ‘master plan’. It’s quite a long list so we’re well aware we probably won’t get to see everything on it but it’s a good starting point for planning a route!

Part Three- Saving

Our latest step (and the hardest hands down for me!) is saving up! We’ve got a rough cost in mind that we could afford to spend and a rough timeline of how long it will take us to save up that amount. It’s looking like our trip to Japan will be in 2019 or 2020 – maybe even 2021 depending on what other trips we take between now and then!

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

The Things I am most looking forward to:

The Food and Drink

Japanese food is one of my favourite cuisines (aside from Miso soup – eurgh!). I could eat sushi all day every day and often wonder if it’s possible to live off of ramen alone! Lily loves donburi and Scott is obsessed with gyoza. Our favourite restaurant in London is Yama Moma (seriously you need to go try their scallops!) So as you can imagine the food is a massive draw for us when it comes to visiting Japan.

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

So as you can imagine the food is a massive draw for us when it comes to visiting Japan. One thing I must admit is that I am useless with chopsticks so it’s lucky that I have plenty of time to practice!

We are also big tea fans in this house and I would love to visit a traditional Japanese tea house for a tea ceremony.

If you’ve been around on the blog before you’ll know I’m a lover of craft beer (you can read some of my reviews here). Since the 1990s craft beer has grown in popularity in Japan. It’s now home to several breweries who produce beers using Japanese ingredients and distinct methods. I would love to try out a few of them – particularly from the Swan Lake Brewery in Niigata and the Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki.

Scott, on the other hand, loves rum and has his eye on a few Japanese varieties he would like to try! Of course, we’d be travelling in Japan with our child so we’d have to have just the odd nightcap!

The Culture and History of Japan

Japan will be the first chance our daughter has to explore a culture that is vastly different to our own. Of course, Lily has visited other countries however she has never flown long-haul and has never experienced ‘the East’.

I’ve always been fascinated by Japan’s tumultuous history, particularly during the feudal era. In case you don’t know – the feudal era was when Japan was ruled by daimyo (wealthy families), the shogun (warlords) and their Samurai warriors.

My love for the history of the country has me wanting to see so much more than the major cities and get off the beaten track. One place I would love to visit is Shimabara – a beautifully preserved castle town in the Unzendake region. It was a really important town during the Edo period and the buildings, shrines and temples are still there now.

The same applies to Kanazawa – this town is not far from Tokyo but many tourists don’t make the trip there. It’s actually a Unesco World Heritage site filled with original Samurai mansions.

I know Scott has Sengaku-Ji on his list too – this Buddhist temple is home to the graves of the Japanese legends, the 47 Ronin. And he would love to visit a master swordsmith and see a katana being made.

You can’t, of course, mention Japanese culture and not talk about Geishas. I would love to learn more about these beautiful women; the patrons of art and culture in Japan. You can read more about them here.

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

The Manga, Anime and Kitsch

Scott is a huge fan of Manga and Anime and over the years has introduced me and Lily to it. For our family, a trip to Japan would not be complete without a visit to the Ghibli Museum. We’d love to spend some time in Tokyo exploring the areas of Akihabara “electric town” and seeing the cosplayers in Harajuku. Oh and picking up cute kitsch souvenirs too!

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

The Great Outdoors

Scott would love the opportunity to climb Mount Fuji. For me exploring Japanese gardens and the Sagano bamboo forest at Arashiyama, Kyoto are a must. I would also love to take a dip in a traditional Onsen hot spring. I’m pretty sure that Lily would love the mystical fairy-tale atmosphere of Nametoko Gorge and Karuizawa Picture Book Forest Museum.

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

And there you have it – the beginning of our plans to visit Japan! Have you been to Japan? Is there anywhere you would recommend we add to our list?



This post was in Collaboration with Japan Experience.

Japan - Planning our once in a lifetime trip to Japan.

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  • Reply Claire September 29, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Japan is such a wonderful place! May hate coming ash your trip! 😉

  • Reply Nadia September 29, 2017 at 9:44 am

    It looks so beautiful and intriguing. I’ve never been. Hope you have a wonderful time. x

  • Reply Ger ( It's Me & Ethan) September 29, 2017 at 10:28 am

    They are some organisation skills you’ve got lady ! I guess you’d need such skills going all the way to Japan. It’s a dream of my husbands but one I’d happily tag along on.
    The pictures are so colourful and inviting ! It looks to me like you have it all ready and now it’s time to enjoy ! Do enjoy it ,it’s definitely looks like a dream trip for you both x

  • Reply Kate Rebel September 29, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Awww – I really want to go to Japan! When something is on your bucket list for such a long time you really want to prepare so that you are sure to not miss out on anything. Can imagine though that Japan is so interesting, that you would have an amazing time no matter what.
    I hope you guys can make it soon and I am looking forward to an amazing post about your trip! 🙂

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 29, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks Kate! Really hope it doesn’t take us too long to save too!

  • Reply Beth @ BethinaBox.com September 29, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    Japan has never really appealed to me… I’m not sure why… perhaps the idea of Sushi puts me off! I don’t like fish, especially raw fish.

    Fabulous tips on how to plan though… and I’m sure the list will work for almost anywhere! 🙂

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      Thanks Beth 🙂

  • Reply Mudpie Fridays September 30, 2017 at 7:02 am

    My sister in law is from Japan, although she now lives in Canada with my brother. Yet when they were dating my brother use to visit and I loved all the pictures he showed us. We would like to travel there one day too, but it would be a once in a lifetime event so I would want to have a through plan like yours. Hope you manage to sae the money you need quickly.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Thank you! Yes it would definitely be a once in a lifetime trip! xx

  • Reply Talya September 30, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Amazing! We have alsway wanted to visit Japan too – I’ve always been fascinated by the culture too. I can’t wait to follow this!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks Talya – it would be an incredible trip! x

  • Reply Emma Lofthouse-Burch September 30, 2017 at 9:00 am

    I would love to go to Japan, it looks like such a amazing place to visit. I hope you get to go soon!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks Emma – it would be incredible!

  • Reply Sarah Shumate September 30, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Japan is one of our dream destinations, too! We’re waiting to visit until we can take 2 weeks off and spend it all exploring the country. I know it would take more time than that to see it all, but we’d at least get to hit our top spots! Enjoy your trip! 🙂

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Yes it’s hard to get enough time to explore somewhere in real depth! 🙂

  • Reply Aneesha September 30, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Japan is super cool! Thinking of going there on my honeymoon!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      That would be an incredible honeymoon! 🙂

  • Reply Sarah (theparentingtrials.com September 30, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Major travel envy, would love to visit Japan one day it looks really beautiful. I also would be excited for the food and drink too.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      The food and drink are definitely one of the things i’m most excited about!

  • Reply Louise Allonby September 30, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    This sounds like it is going to be an incredible trip. When I started out travelling Japan was never on my hitlist but the more articles I read the more I’m warming up to the idea of visiting. I guess I just need to keep getting inspired. Thanks for doing just that.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks Louise glad I’ve inspired you to visit 🙂

  • Reply krista September 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    what a detailed post! that is so exciting, I have never been to Japan but I have always wanted to go and try the food and see the architecture! love how much research you do ahead of time!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Krista! I am a serious planner – I love to know exactly what I want to do in advance!

  • Reply Laura September 30, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Japan is high high high on our list as well! I am sure Lily will love the experience! Japan has a bit of everything great food, culture and it’s beautiful! Good luck can’t wait to hear about it when you back!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Laura! I think it’d be an incredible experience for our daughter 🙂

  • Reply Ameeta September 30, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Looks like we have this in common, Japan is on my bucket list too! 🙂 I would absolutely love to visit Japan for its food, culture, history, sakura season (well, I could go on and on)! I hope you have a great time in Japan xx

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      Soooo many reasons to visit! Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Megan Hemmings September 30, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    I love this kind of post, it’s so refreshing and different. I hope you get to Japan soon!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks Megan 🙂 I sure hope so! xx

  • Reply Nerissa September 30, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I attended a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto and it was one of the best things I did. They’re all pretty much the same, doesn’t matter where you do it but definitely do one! How exciting, I can’t wait to go back one day.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      Aw I bet it was incredible! Will definitely keep it on our list 🙂 thanks!

  • Reply Carrie September 30, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    wow, you are so organized in your planning — already with a list of places you’d like to go and alerts on Skyskanner! I don’t usually even start brainstorming places I’d like to go until two weeks before I leave :). I hope when you finally get to go, it’s every bit as amazing as it looks.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome September 30, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      Thanks Carrie! I need to be organised so that I know how much to budget 🙂

  • Reply BeeTravelista September 30, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Planning a trip next year. This is great.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 7:08 am

      Thanks 🙂 I’m sure you will havean incredible time!

  • Reply Elizabeth October 1, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Oh wow, I hope you have the most wonderful of times! Sounds like you’ve got a rather grand itinerary planned !:)

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 7:08 am

      Thanks Elizabeth! We do – it’ll be an intense trip but so exciting 🙂

  • Reply Ana Ro October 1, 2017 at 7:05 am

    I think that preparation for the journey is actually half of the whole pleasure – so it’s great you’re planning it in advance and savouring it! I would really love to see Japan once, but haven’t even started my planning. 🙂

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 7:09 am

      Thanks Ana – I totally agree! I love the planning, looking at maps and guidebooks and reading blog posts!

  • Reply Berin October 1, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    You should try okonomiyaki, that’s one of my favorite japanese foods! Ughh they are so good!!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Ooh thanks for the tip – will give them a try for sure!

  • Reply Jenn | By Land and Sea October 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, especially in the height of cherry blossom season. It looks absolutely beautiful!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Yes cherry blossom season would be a beautiful time to visit!

  • Reply Taylor October 1, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    I’m so impressed by all of your prepping and organization! I’m definitely guilty of simply jumping into a new adventure a lot of the time. I loved my time in Japan (and could definitely live off of ramen). Enjoy your adventure!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks Taylor! Before having kids I was forever jumping head first but now we have our daughter we have to make sure that we plan things better!

  • Reply Katherine October 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    One of my good friends is going to Japan and she’s been looking for some guides. This is absolutely perfect for her 😀

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Glad it can help Katherine 🙂

  • Reply Mel October 1, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I don’t read enough pre planning blog posts as this was had really inspired me. It’s a great break down and also makes the planning become part of the trip. I’ve only spent a week in japan when I was much younger and it was a fascinating place. Can’t wait to read all about it once you get there.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks Mel 🙂 I love pre-planning – it’s all part of the fun for me!

  • Reply Meghan October 2, 2017 at 1:00 am

    I would love to visit Japan! I like how thoughtful and intentional you are being with the planning of this trip. Especially when it comes to your daughter! I feel like it is easy to get away from the true reasons we travel. Excited to see how your trip turns out!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 2, 2017 at 6:21 am

      Thanks Meghan. I think planning is essential with a trip this size – we will probably only get to go once so it’s important that we make the most of it!

  • Reply Ha October 2, 2017 at 7:04 am

    It is such a nice read! I am living in Japan now and I think your preparation is totally great! The food and drink part is my favorite <3

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 2, 2017 at 7:13 am

      Wow I would love to live somewhere as cool as Japan! My dream is to live in Sweden or Scotland (cool in their own ways!)

  • Reply Mae-Gene October 2, 2017 at 7:10 am

    I’m so excited about your Japan trip! Japan is one of my favorite countries by far – I first visited as a child with my parents and just keep on going back. I recently spent 3 months living in Tokyo – it’s definitely a colorful and exciting place to explore! I can’t wait to read about your adventures 🙂

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 2, 2017 at 7:12 am

      Oh wow how fantastic to live there! Will check out your posts 🙂

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 2, 2017 at 7:13 am

      Ah wow what an amazing place to live in! I’ll have to pop over and read some of your posts x

  • Reply Emily October 2, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I really want to go to Japan and this post makes me want to go even more! We are expecting a baby and I agree with what you said about it being the perfect place for little ones to explore a completely different culture.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 2, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      Oh congratulations on the baby! I think it’d be a fab place to explore with a little one – so different from home!

  • Reply Ania October 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    It was really interesting and helpful to read how you’re going about planning your trip! I would also love to go to do Japan. I’m pretty sure I would eat sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 2, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      Oh I could eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner too – for sure!

  • Reply Emma October 4, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Japan is on our bucket list too! We considered going as part of our trip to Asia next year, but have decided not to include it and to do it as a separate trip. The travel blog One Tiny Leap has a really great post on a hike through the mountains that may be worth taking a look at. Have a wonderful trip!

    • Reply bettertogetherhome October 4, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks Emma – will check it out! Wow whereabouts in Asia are you going? x

  • Reply Mario October 8, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Nice post. Just one week ago I met an old friend who went to Japan this spring with his new gf (they are still together btw 😉 ) – showed me a bunch of pictures & sparked my interest 🙂 Till now, Japan wasn’t really on my bucket list (mainly because it is way more expensice to go there compared to the other countries I usually travel to). But reading your detailled post I might consider setting up some plans in the future… I’d really love to climb Mt. Fuji and watch the sunrise from there…

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