Japan in March is the best 😀 You’ll definitely see lots of cherry blossom. I lived in Yokohama and spent lots of time in Tokyo.
If I were planning a trip around this time with these cities here’s some of what I would plan:
Animated Masters Day:
Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka in the morning (at least a few hours)
Break for Lunch
Starlight pass for Tokyo Disney Sea (starlight pass is an evening-only pass, which is discounted)
Mitaka and Disney also share some of the same train lines for ease of transport. :3
Pop Culture vs. Traditional Day:
Meiji Shrine in the morning
Yoyogi Park for lunch/cherry blossom viewing
These places are all in the same area/share a train station. Meiji Shrine is basically in/next to yoyogi park, and you can access all three places from Harajuku station.
Other Places in Tokyo:
Tsukiji Fish Market
Asakusa (historical anbd traditional handicrafts central)
Odaiba (new tech central)
Akihabara (electronics/comics/anime central)
I’ve always wanted to go on one of the river cruises; they are super cool!
There’s lots of crazy/cool themed restaurants: final fantasy, gundam, hospital, butlers, maids, ninjas. If you’re into kitschy experiences, Japan is the jam for that.
I’d also recommend checking out Shimokitazawa. They have a killer okonomiyaki place (it’s kind of like a crepe or pancake with meat, cabbage, noodles, etc) and lots of eclectic and interesting shops. There are also some cat cafes there. It’s kind of a hipster-y place, and often has street performers.
Tokyo is enormous, and I could give better advice if I knew what your interests are! LOL I am an anime/manga/video game nerd and so is my husband, so our tastes lean toward that and less toward historical.
I would recommend staying at the Century Southern Tower in Shinjuku. The staff is amazing, speaks perfect English, and they can help you with pretty much anything. Including changing money and sending postcards or letters. We sent all of our wedding thank you postcards from our hotel. 🙂 Super easy
You can find cheaper accomodation, of course. A lot of people like to try a love hotel (they have weird/crazy themes) and they are very inexpensive compared to a regular hotel. You walk into a lobby area that’s computerized and choose which room you want from a selection screen. You don’t even see the staff, which is odd eh?
If you’re going to be in Tokyo, Yokohama is right next door – at least visit! Haha. I recommend Mianto Mirai – it’s like a little theme park and it’s right next to a big huge shopping mall and the station underneath it. I got my Mom a card and a cool picture from from the Snoopy Store nearby. Also, took my husband to the Pokemon Store. It was great fun!
I highly recommend the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum. We enjoyed the Cup Noodle Museum (also in yokohama) where you can make your own cup noodle, but the Raumen Museum is way cooler. It’s set up like a 1940’s street with all these little raumen joints around it. The raumen joints are places from all over japan so you can try all kinds of different raumen. Get the mini bowls though, or you’ll fill up fast. You have to pay for entry and for each dish you want to try. But, the entrance fee isn’t so bad.
Get a hakone free pass; gives you access to all the different transportation modes that Hakone is famous for. Ride all the cool transport modes – ropeway, little trains, pirate ship, etc. Get some black eggs (they are supposed to add 7 years to your life/make you lucky/etc). there are a few museums – I like the glass museum Hakone Glass no Mori (glass forest).
There’s also Yunnessun which is a hot spring theme park. It’s a little crazy, and you have to wear bathing suits (which is good cause it’s a theme park LOL). They have wine, coffee, traditional cedar hot springs, and a large swimming pool too. My favorite ones was the dead sea salt hot spring, you could really float in it.
Some of my friends were also interested in the Evangelion tour – the anime evangelion took a lot of inspiration from the Hakone area, so much so that they offer tours. I was never a big fan of that particular anime, so I didn’t go on the tour, but it sounded good.
Unfortunately my trip to osaka got cancelled due to the earthquake/nuclear disaster. I was supposed to leave on a weekend trip to Osaka that night but of course it was cancelled. 🙁 The only thing I can recommend here is the things I was thinking about doing. Namely, the Universal Studios in Osaka. They have a Resident Evil experience which sounded so cool! haha.
I love Kyoto. This is the historical heart of the country. If you’re going in march I really recommend checking out one of the maiko odori dances – the geisha apprentices do dance performances in the spring. I’ve seen both a spring and fall performance, they were both really good! Plus, if you’re looking for Geisha this is probably the least expensive way to see them – geisha parties are super expensive.
Last time I was in Kyoto my husband and I stayed at Gion Hatanaka Ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional guest house; they served us breakfast and dinner, as well as tea upon our arrival. The staff does speak english, and the food is absolutely incredible. I can’t recommend them enough. They have in-house geisha parties too, if you want to go to one. They can also help make reservations for the geisha dances if you need help.
The ryokan is centrally located – walking distance to the amazing kiyomizu-dera temple and right next door to a smaller shrine. If you only see one temple in kyoto, make it Kiyomizu-dera. It’s perched on a cliff, and has several water sources which are supposed to grant you special boons but you are only supposed to drink from one if I remember correctly. Choose wisely!
My second favorite temple is Kinkakuji which is a gold temple on the other side of the city. It’s got several floors that each depict a different era of japanese architecture. Also, beautiful gardens surrounding it.
There’s also a manga museum, a castle, and lots and lots of traditional handicrafts and shopping. I recommend Teramachi street for shopping. It’s a covered shopping arcade.Lots of touristy shops; if you want to get a yukata (summer kimono) set this would be the place for it. If you want more traditional kimono (they are so, so expensive) you might want to consider checking out one of the handicraft markets for a pre-owned kimono. You can get really good deals!
You might also be interested in the Kyoto Handicraft Center. It’s like a one stop shop for souvenirs and traditional goods; plus they cater heavily to tourists. You can pay in your native currency, change money there, and they will make sure you get your tax-back discount thingies.
Transportation through kyoto isn’t the best; the bus is not bad, but it’s a bus. There’s a small train system that I think does not tie into the japan rail pass which is lame.
If you’re going to take taxis anywhere, this would be the place to take taxis. If you get a good centrally located hotel, you shouldn’t need them very often. Just be prepared for a lot of walking!
I’m a collector of tsumami kanzashi – folded silk flower hair ornaments that you see a lot of geisha wearing. I can give lots of info on the best places to get these, lol. And furoshiki! They are beautiful cloths that are traditionally used for carrying or wrapping things. 🙂 I have several and often give them as gifts.
I’ve also always wanted to go to Toei Uzumasa Eigamura – which is a movie set (period movies) and theme park all in one. I think when I go back next time, I’ll try to convince my husband to dress up in period costume while we go around the theme park. I doubt he’ll do it, but maybe he will get caught up in the excitement LOL.
Kyoto has lots of food options, but they are famous for tea sweets and kaiseki. Kaiseki is kind of a fancy multicourse dinner. There’s lots in Kyoto but only a few have english menus/cater to foreigners. My uncle and I ate at one called Gion Karyo. It was great!
Anyway, this is a really long post XD If you have any other questions or need help planning please let me know.
I also highly recommend Inside Japan tours. Since I don’t live there now, I used them to help set up my honeymoon last year. They are also, basically, an emergency line to help you if you find yourself in trouble for some reason. They have staff on the ground in Japan, as well as in the US and UK.