Japan: Nature & Culture

Cover image of Japan: Nature & Culture plan
12 days to enjoy beaches of Okinawa and historical sites of Kyoto and night life in Osaka.
Sefa-Utaki & Mibaru Beach
Okinawa - south
Image Sefa-Utaki & Mibaru Beach
After arrival at Naha airport, find some accommodation in the southern part of Okinawa island. From there you can easily reach to interesting sights for one day trips. I've stayed at Kaiza Okinawa - a small guesthouse, which was more about traditional japanese stay providing delicious breakfast. In one day you can combine visit in Seifa-Utaki and Mibaru Beach. Seifa-Utaki is a historical sacred place right in the jungle. There is a solid pavement and a visit takes max. 1 hour. Wear shoes with sole preventing slipping, as some wet stones might be slippery. Entrance fee: 300 JPY/adult Mibaru Beach is great photo spot and good place to swim and is just 13 min. by car from Sefa Utaki. Visit the beach during high tide as the water level is better for swimming. There is only parking fee to be paid in the box.
Valley of the Gangala & Shuri castle
Okinawa - south
Image Valley of the Gangala & Shuri castle
Valley of the Gangala is a natural preserve where you can see the ancient caves or a giant banyan tree estimated to be 150 years old. Entrance fee: 2200 JPY/adult for a guided tour which takes approx. 1,5hr. Move to visit of remains of Shuri castle which is 0,5hr from Valley of the Gangala. The Shuri Castle was almost completely destroyed in 1945 and then renovated again. In 2019 it was destroyed by a fire and now you can see how the renovation works of the main building look like. Entrance fee: 400 JPY/ adult
Ikei island / Ikei beach & Manza beach
Okinawa - mid
Image Ikei island / Ikei beach & Manza beach
On the road towards north, you can spend a part of the day as a road trip stopping on the beaches. Explore the Ikei Island which is connected with Okinawa island with the bridge. Ikei beach is a small beach used mainly by the locals. If you prefer larger beaches, the top pick is Manza beach which is close to luxury hotels on Okinawa island. Find some apartment in the northern part of the island to stay closer to sights you would be visiting.
Hedo-Misaki - Hijio Falls - Teenu Beach
Okinawa - north
Image Hedo-Misaki - Hijio Falls - Teenu Beach
For a day trip in northern part of Okinawa island it is good to combine quick photo spots with hike and finish the day on the beach. Hedo-Misaki is the northernmost point on Okinawa island with a monument commemorating the end of US Occupation. Stop by to take some pictures and continue south to visit Hijio Falls. The hike to Hijio falls is around 1,5km long and leads in through the jungle. The humid climate might be exhausting, so don't forget to take a bottle of water with you. Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult + you can buy a small towel (highly recommended) After hike, finish your day at Teenu beach to have some rest. Teenu beach is a great photo spot, but for swimming the beach near by is better.
Okinawa Churaumi aquarium
Okinawa - south
Image Okinawa Churaumi aquarium
On the road to the airport you can have 0,5 day to visit the one of the largest aquariums in the world. Explore many species of fish and sharks that live in coral reefs surrounding Okinawa islands. You can see a whale shark here, as well. Entrance fee: 2180 JPY/adult (recommended to purchase online) In the afternoon take a flight to Kobe or Osaka to transfer to Kyoto. From the airport there is a fast way via train to get to Kyoto. Find a hotel to stay the following 4 nights and have some rest.
Image Fushimi-Inari
Early morning, take the train from Kyoto railway station to JR Inari Station (JR Nara Line). Fushimi Inari Shrine is located just outside JR Inari Station. Visiting Fushimi-Inari takes 1 day to hike up the hill and enjoying its thousands of vermilion torii gates. There is no entrance fee.
Arashiyama bamboo grove - Tenryu-ji temple - Kinkaku-Ji temple
Image Arashiyama bamboo grove - Tenryu-ji temple - Kinkaku-Ji temple
To travel around Kyoto I have used public transportation - buses/subway through 1 day pass for 1100 JPY/adult. Early in the morning visit Arashiyama bamboo grove avoiding crowds of people. There is no entrance fee. Visit Ōkōchi Sansō, the home and garden of the Japanese jidaigeki (period film) actor Denjirō Ōkōchi that is famous for its gardens and views on Kyoto area. Entrance fee: 1000 JPY/adult Stop by in Tenryu-ji temple with a beautiful japanese garden. Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult Visit also Matsunoo Taisha shrine which is approx. 1,3km southern from Arashyiama district. Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult, entrance fee is required just for the gardens. Transfer to Kinkaku-ji temple - a Zen buddhist temple which became one of the most famous buildings in Kyoto. Taking pictures of large groups of people is prohibited here. Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult
Higashiyama district in Kyoto
Kyoto - Preserved historic district around Kiyomizudera
Image Higashiyama district in Kyoto
You can spend whole day or two in this area exploring the historical atmosphere of this place. Early morning before there are crowds of people, take a stop at Yasaka Pagoda, which is one of the most visible and recognizable landmarks in the Higashiyama District. Take a walk through the streets of district to explore little shops, cafés or attend a tea ceremony. Visit Kiyomizudera temple offering nice view over the city from its famous wooden terrace. Entrance fee: 400 JPY/adult Visit Kenniji temple- a zen buddhist temple with its famous twin dragons painting on the ceiling. Taking photos of people or posing is prohibited here. Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult
Kyoto Imperial Palace & Kyoto Gyoen National Garden / Shūsui-tei / Heian Jingu Shrine Shinen Garden
Image Kyoto Imperial Palace & Kyoto Gyoen National Garden / Shūsui-tei / Heian Jingu Shrine Shinen Garden
Wanna see spectacular Japanese gardens? Then visiting Kyoto Gyoen National garden might be the right place for you. It is a part of the Kyoto Imperial palace complex. Admission is free. After visiting Kyoto Imperial palace, walking through the park you easily come across Shūsui-tei which is a traditional Japanese teahouse. It is only a museum, which is worth seeing. Entrance fee: 300 JPY/adult Heian Jingu Shrine Shinen Garden is a great place to have some rest and have a stroll in a beautiful japanese nature. You can have a cup of tea and read a book at the lake. Entrance fee: 600 JPY/adult On this occasion you can visit Heian Shrine. Admission is free.
Osaka castle & shopping experience
Image Osaka castle & shopping experience
For travelling in Osaka use the subway. The 1 day/ 2 day pass is the most convenient. Price for 1 day pass is 820 JPY/adult (or 620 JPY/adult on weekends and holidays). You can't skip Osaka castle as the one of Japan's most famous landmarks. Entrance fee: 600 JPY/adult The outside area is for free. I would recommend skipping Castle garden which is charged, as there is not much to see. The rest of the day you can spend shopping. Umeda shopping centre as the other shopping centres are located at the subway station. Don't get lost in the underground tunnel complex.
Osaka - Shinsekai & Namba
Image Osaka - Shinsekai & Namba
During the day, you can visit the area of Shinsekai which is famous for its lively atmosphere with best Osaka food and small shops among flashy signboards. The 103-meter tall observation tower Tsutenkaku is a symbol of Osaka which is right there. The most famous area for a night life in Osaka is undoubtedly Dotonbori / Namba. There you can find lots of street food - a typical takoyaki, karaoke bars or just take a stroll along the river. Be ready for a lot of walking as it is a bit far from the subway.
Flying to Kume island (Kumejima)
Osaka - Naha - Kumejima
Image Flying to Kume island (Kumejima)
Departing in the morning from Osaka airport, you can get to Kume island in the afternoon. Catch the morning flight to Naha airport which takes around 2 hours and change to Kumejima. The flight from Naha takes just 30min. and there are just several flights per day. Right at the airport on Kume island, catch the bus which drops you right to the hotel. There are only two bus lines on the island. One is connecting the airport with the hotels and the other one goes round the island. You'll need cash to pay for the ticket. Book EN Resort Kumejima EEF Beach Hotel for your stay as it has the best beach on the island. You can enjoy onsen spa - hot japanese bath in the evening after your arrival.
Tatami ishi
Image Tatami ishi
Visit Tatami ishi which right next to the Sea Turtle museum. You can catch a bus to easily get there. Tatami ishi is a geological feature exposed at low tide. It comprises some one thousand pentagonal and hexagonal rocks. As Kume island is a very quiet place, you may struggle to find any good place to eat. However, just around the hotel there are several places that serve great tempura or fish. Recommended: visit Yajiyagama cave which is close to the airport
Image Hate-no-hama
Take a 1/2 day boat trip to Hate-no-hama. It is a narrow 7-kilometer long beach along the east side of Kume Island. The beach is surrounded by pure-white sand and an emerald green ocean. You can have a nice snorkelling experience here and if you take a boat with a glass bottom, you can see the the sea life whole way there. They'll pick you right at the hotel and drive to the harbour. The rest of the day you can spend on EEF beach when there is a high tide.
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