I’ve been thinking more and more about my potential return trip to Japan and South Korea and recently I brainstormed what I call the Dream Route. This itinerary is a best-case scenario that assumes I can take a full 2-3 months off to journey across both nations. My actual trip, if it happens, will probably not be as grand as this one but I’m setting the Dream Route as a serious goal to try to achieve. Below is map of Japan and Korea with arrows showing the journey as I’ve envisioned it.
As you can see, this is a pretty ambitious route. It starts with the red arrows that arrive in Tokyo and then head north up to Hokkaido. After that it transitions to the blue arrows that go to Seoul, then move south through Korea, and then down to Okinawa. From there it goes to the green arrows that go to Kyushu and work their way through western Japan, ending on the island of Shikoku. At the end are the brown arrows that return to Japan’s main island Honshu and make their way back to Tokyo and then fly back across the ocean towards America.
In addition to this broad overview map I’ve also created seven smaller maps that detail individual sections of the Dream Route. For many parts of the journey I only have general ideas about where I’d be going but I think these maps will end up being fairly close to how the trip plays out (assuming it does play out). What follows in the rest of today’s post are those maps with some notes with my current thoughts about each section of the journey. The links in the names of cities/places will take you to related posts where you can read up about what I did in them back in 2017.
The first phase of the trip would obviously be my arrival in Tokyo. While it is possible that I could start this journey in Seoul or maybe Sapporo it seems to be a bit easier and more convenient to fly into Tokyo from America. I’d probably spend around four or five nights in Tokyo during that first visit and maybe on one of the days I’d pay a visit down to Kamakura or Yokohama. If I arrive at the right time in September I could also attend the national sumo tournament that is going on that month in Tokyo. From there I’d head north to pay another visit to the mountain town of Nikko. Back in 2017 I promised myself that if I ever returned to Nikko I’d spend more time at Lake Chuzenji and that’s a promise I intend to keep if I’m able to get back there. After Nikko I’d be moving north and I’d like to spend at least a day or two at some place in northern Honshu before going up to Hokkaido. Perhaps Sendai or Fukushima? In 2017 I completely skipped over this region and I’ve not done much research on it but I felt kind of bad for not checking it out.
After finishing up on Honshu I’d continue north to Hokkaido, stopping first at Hakodate. While there I’ll catch another squid like I did in 2017 and try not to make the same rookie mistakes that caused me to only be able to spend a brief bit of time at Onuma Park. From there I’d take the train to Sapporo where I’d spend one or two nights. Sapporo is fairly interesting but the main reason I’d be going there is to use it as a launch pad for exploring more of Hokkaido. What I’d like to do is rent a car in Sapporo and then spend a week or so just driving around the island. I have to give a special thanks to The Flying Tofu’s blog for inspiring me to want to see more of Hokkaido. Right now I’ve not done a ton of research into where I’d be going but I’m thinking I’d drive up to the northern tip of the island and then do a long loop around Hokkaido before returning to Sapporo. From there I’d board a flight to Seoul (blue arrow on the map).
Flying into Seoul would start the Korea portion of the journey and I’d probably spend four or five days in the city. The biggest thing I need to do while there is attend an e-sports competition since I missed out on that in 2017. Whether or not I’d do another trip to the DMZ is uncertain right now. It was cool when I did it the first time but I’m not sure if I feel the need to do it again. If Comrade Kim accepts my challenge to a dance battle to officially end the Korean War then I suppose I’ll need to go. Once I’m done in Seoul I’ll move south through Korea, stopping at least two or three times along the way. In 2017 I went straight from Seoul to Busan and this time I really want to experience more of Korea. Regardless of how many places I visit, the trip across Korea will very likely end in Busan, from where I’ll board a flight going south to Okinawa.
While the thought crossed my mind of perhaps revisiting Jeju Island, and maybe I’ll end up doing that, right now I’m more interested in visiting new places and Okinawa seems like a good spot to scratch that itch. A friend of mine who used to live there told me it’s a great place to visit so I’d probably spend four or five days exploring the island. Another idea I’ve also been mulling is perhaps trying to catch a plane or boat on Okinawa and go ever further out into the Japanese archipelago. On the map this is represented by the blue arrows but this is currently a very uncertain proposition, hence the question marks next to the arrows. Whatever the case, when my time out on Okinawa is over I’d get on a plane heading back to the main part of Japan.
I’d likely land in Kagoshima, on Japan’s western island of Kyushu. After spending a day or two in the city I’d leave to explore more of Kyushu but I’m not yet sure of the route. On the map you can see I’ve got two ideas. Route 1, with the blue arrows, assumes that I don’t have a lot of time and is a straightforward path heading north, stopping at probably only one town along the way. Route 2, with the green arrows, assumes I have time to visit several places in Kyushu and follows a wider path. Both routes converge in Fukuoka, where I’d spend one or two nights before moving on. The thought of doing another visit to Itoshima or some other out of the way spot in Kyushu has crossed my mind but right now it’s not a concrete idea.
After leaving Fukuoka I’d be moving east across Honshu. Originally I was thinking that I’d go back to Miyajima but I’ve read online that the floating torii there is going to be undergoing extensive renovation work starting in June of this year so it’s probably not worth it. I’m not sure of all of the places I’d stop at while I made my way to Osaka but I’d definitely pay another visit to Himeji and I’m thinking the city of Kobe might also be good for at least a single night. Once I got to Osaka I’d spend a day or two there but I’d then cross the inland sea to the island of Shikoku. In 2017 I completely skipped this island and I’m due to pay it a visit, if only for the reason that I could then say I’ve visited all four main islands of Japan. How long I’d stay there is currently uncertain, and it might be best to rent a car while I’m there. Ideally I’d so some sort of loop around the island and then return to Osaka before going to Kyoto (blue arrows).
Kyoto is worth at least four or five nights and while I’m there I’ll probably visit Nara again if I’m able. Afterwards I would have two main options. The first option, which is Route 1 on the map with the blue arrows, would be to move along the southern part of Honshu, passing through Nagoya and other towns along that path. These cities could also be good base camps for day trips to nearby places. The second option, which is Route 2 with the green arrows, would take me back to Kanazawa and from there I’d cut through the mountains in central Honshu. This route would probably have me stopping in places like Nagano and Matsumoto. At the moment I’m more inclined towards Route 1, but maybe I’ll come up with a different route altogether. However this final phase of the journey plays out, it will end in Tokyo where I’ll spend a final three or four nights before flying back to America.
Pretty ambitious, wouldn’t you agree? Like I said earlier, this is a best-case scenario and the real trip probably will be different, if it happens at all. Still, it’s my Dream Route and I’ll do as much as I can to make it a reality.