If you read our recent blog post, ‘When Should I Visit Japan And Why?’ and it left you wanting more, you’re in luck - this post is packed with more useful info! If you’re yet to start planning your Japan trip but you’re trying to pick the right time of year and you want to book your flights, or even if you’ve already got your dates finalised, hopefully this article will help you in some way.
Firstly, is there a ‘better’ time to book your flights and accommodation? Our Itineraries section might give you an idea of just how pedantic and thorough I am when it comes to planning, but everyone has their own way of doing this. Here at JapanCarCulture we try to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of planning your trip around at least one big automotive event taking place in Japan.
The way I’ve gone about booking Japan trips in the past is that I’ve found out about a bunch of events all taking place in a short time frame, then booked flights about six weeks in advance. I’ve even waited until the last minute to book accommodation to make sure I’m not missing out on things happening in other cities. This method is risky – you might end up ‘missing’ cheaper flights or miss out on the accommodation you wanted – but luckily in the past I’ve found that it has paid off. But not everyone can, or wants to book things last minute.
Here’s the thing with planning overseas trips: Very few people have the freedom to pack up and go somewhere whenever they want. There are job schedules and other commitments you need to work around. Maybe you need to travel between certain dates, especially if you’ve found a special deal on flights, or maybe you can only afford a quick holiday.
Another BIG tip: When choosing your dates, try to fit in as many weekends as possible. The most common day for events is Sunday, so even if you can fit two Sundays in, this is better than one. This is why a lot of the ideas I come up with for our Itineraries are for ’11 day’ or ’12 day’ trips – it’s so that you can fit two weekends into your stay. More weekends generally means more events!
If you’ve already made flight bookings but there aren’t any events scheduled yet during the dates you’re in Japan, don’t fret. There are a couple of things you can do; firstly, hold off booking accommodation. If you’re traveling to Japan during a peak season you might not be so keen to leave this to the last minute, which is totally understandable. You could also consider staying in one place in Japan instead of moving around and visiting five different cities every two days. This way you have more of a chance of being around when events are announced. Look at it this way: you could plan to visit Tokyo for 3 nights, Osaka for 2 nights and Nagoya for 3 nights without planning around any events, only to later to find out that a huge event is on in Nagoya when you’re in Tokyo, and a big car meet is taking place in Osaka when you’re in Nagoya! You just have less of a chance at being in the right place at the right time.
The idea of staying in one place might not be for everyone, but there’s definitely something to be said for spending a bit of extra time getting to know a city. Instead of doing a hurried dash around all the main tourist attractions in just a few day’s time, you’ll likely get the chance to have some more meaningful experiences. Go off the beaten path. I did one whole Japan trip once where I stayed a bit further out from the very centre of Tokyo, living in a local neighbourhood, and each day I picked a nearby spot on the map and went to see what was there. I found amazing bakeries, cool second-hand shops, beautiful parks and temples, curry houses with huge manga collections, turtles, many cool cars randomly parked up and so many good restaurants.
Tokyo is a good base for many nearby race circuits – even if they aren’t exactly close, Tsukuba, Nikko, Mobara, Sodegaura, Honjo and Fuji are all less than a two-hour drive away. Sportsland Yamanashi (2.5 hours), Twin Ring Motegi (2.5 hours) and Ebisu Circuit (4 hours) aren’t unreachable either. I once stayed in Tokyo for a week then found out about an event and ended up driving to Shiga (near Kyoto) and back in a day for it, and it was so worth it.
In summary, when planning to book your dates in Japan:
- Plan around as many automotive events as possible!
- If in doubt, wait a little longer to confirm your flights (if you can)
- If you’ve booked flights but aren’t sure about what events will be taking place, try to wait a little longer to confirm your exact schedule (if you can)
- Fit in as many weekends as possible!
- If seeing car culture is definitely a priority, consider staying in one place instead of spending minimal time in many areas, as you’ll have more of a chance to be able to attend events that pop up!
The good news is that there’s generally always something happening every month of the year in Japan.