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beyond tokyo - chow towns in dec?

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i'll be going to japan, landing in tokyo for around a week over xmas. i'm going with my parents and their friends and we're all major food people and i've been given the fun, but onerous, task of planning the itins.

we've been to tokyo quite a few times already so i've got that part sorted, but we want to make a short trip out where we can have great food, e.g. kanazawa (but that might be a bit far for us?). trying also to tie in scenery, e.g. nikko.

the parents are also keen on onsen. we'd be happy to do a food/onsen trail and hop on/off trains. considering driving too, but with snow and all in winter it might not be such a great idea in some parts of the country...

any help at all would be appreciated!

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  1. I just "met" you in Beijing and now again in Tokyo!!!

    For onsen, if price is not an issue, you may want to consider Gorakadan at Hakone. I will highly recommend Hakone as a short trip away from Tokyo; I have never stayed at Gorakadan but many rave about this place.

    http://www.gorakadan.com/

    1. It's somewhat off the foreign-tourist trail, but I like visiting Kofu in Yamanashi. Just 90 minutes from Shinjuku station, it's a whole different world from Tokyo. You have lots of onsen, great regional cuisine, some beautiful gorges for hiking, and lots of history. The only thing is, it's not quite as English-language-ready as tourist spots like Nikko or Kamakura or Hakone.

      On the other hand, Kanazawa is only a 60-minute plane ride to Komatsu Airport (then about 40 minutes by airport limousine).

      4 Replies
      1. re: Robb S

        Wow, that's definitely out of left field, but interesting. I've been to Kofu a couple of times myself. There are some wineries nearby as well.

        By train, the short list would probably be Hakone or Atami for fairly close to Tokyo onsen trips. Further down the Izu Peninsula could give you some train-hopping abilities as you make your way to Shimoda, through Ito.

        A Nagoya-Takayama excursion wouldn't be bad either from a culinary perspective since Nagoya and Hida districts have distinct culinary characteristics and specialties.

        Going north, Kitakata and Sendai/ Matsushima area might be interesting.

        Myself, I'm taking the train to Kanazawa and may detour north to Niigata.

        1. re: Robb S

          BTW, Robb, what is the regional cuisine for Kofu, Yamanashi? I was really young when I went.

          1. re: Silverjay

            There's a great, hearty udon dish called houtou, which for some reason just doesn't taste the same outside of Yamanashi (and I've had it several places in Tokyo). Also really good sansai in season - not just the usual three or four varieties you see most places in Tokyo. I've had a lot of good horsemeat there. And various mushrooms and fungi.

            Mmm, now I want to go there for lunch!

        2. Nagano! It'd be cold but I promise it'd worth all the trouble. I have never eaten better in my life than during my brief stay here:

          http://www.ooshika.com

          1. I spent a week in the Tohoku area (Aomori, Miyagi), including a couple of nights around Lake Towada, and I quite enjoyed my stay. I had never been to the Tohoku area before (except Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima), and it's very beautiful. The food was good, too, from what i remember (it was a work thing, so we ate standard meals for very large groups). Not enough tourists make it up to that area, and I think they miss out on a very special part of Japan. (Around Lake Towada, I did see a lot of tourists, particularly from Taiwan or Mainland China and, for some reason, a lot from Europe. Not so many North Americans, though.)