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Taking it Slow – Osaka to Tokyo by Local Trains

I love traveling almost as much as I love writing. So, I suppose its to be expected that some of my most enjoyable projects have been those where I get the chance to combine both elements and write about my travels. Today is one of those days, as I get the chance to share another great traveling experience with you.

I should add, the best time to do this would be perhaps during the upcoming Golden Week at the end of next month.

Photo by bryan... on Flickr.

On several occasions here, and on my other blogs, I have spoken affectionately about my experiences traveling on the legendary Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train. More recently I have also spoken of great convenience and bargain prices to be found in using one of Japan’s ever-growing number of budget airlines to shuttle one’s self between Tokyo and Osaka.

However, what about those with a little more free time, those of us who travel not simply to get somewhere, but for the joy of travel itself? After all, to quote one of the lead characters in one of the best TV shows from my teenage years, Star Trek: Voyager, “Maybe it’s not the destination that’s important, maybe it’s the journey?”

Thankfully, getting from Osaka to Tokyo by local trains won’t take the 7 or so years the Voyager crew took to get home from the other side of the galaxy, but you should mark off about 2 or 3 days on your calendar to get the most out of it. 

So, without further ado, here’s my suggested local route for traveling from Osaka to Tokyo, with some suggested pit stops along the way.

Osaka to Nagoya

Start things off around lunchtime on day 1 by heading to Tsuruhashi in eastern Osaka. Tsuruhashi is easily reached either by The JR Osaka Loop Line or via the Osaka Subway. Before you take the train, why not have some lunch at one of the many excellent Korean barbecue eateries in the area?

With yourself well fed, hopefully you’ll be ready for a little sleep during the train ride? For now, you are in for a trek of around 2.5 hours, on the Kintetsu Limited Express from Osaka up to Nagoya. Assuming you got the train around 1 PM, you’ll get to central Nagoya around 4 PM. Just in time for a bit of souvenir shopping and sightseeing. Don’t do too much though, because you have tomorrow morning to see around Nagoya too. 

After you’ve arrived and had a chance to look around, it’s time to find a room for the night. Like most of Japan’s larger cities, Nagoya offers a variety of options, and provided you’re not traveling on a holiday weekend or during one of the peak holiday times, you should have no trouble finding a room. Where exactly you stay depends entirely on your budget of course. A high class hotel room will set you back around 20,000 yen per person, with a capsule hotel perhaps coming in at only 5,000 yen or so for a night.

Photo by J. Miers - User: (WT-shared) Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage on Wikimedia Commons.

The next day, if you’re in the mood for some culture, why not head over to Nagoya Castle? One of the most impressive of all the feudal era castles dotted around Japan, the castle has proved a big hit with visitors from all over the world, down the years.

Once you’ve seen the castle, head back into central Nagoya and grab some lunch before you move onto JR Nagoya Station to get the train for the next leg of your own personal Odyssey. 

From JR Nagoya take the Limited Express Shinano train to Shiojiri. It takes about two hours to get there. Located in Nagano prefecture, and with a beautiful mountain backdrop, sometimes affectionately known as the Alps of Japan, Shiojiri is the perfect, more sedate tonic to the hustle and bustle of a busy hub like Nagoya, and the proverbial “calm before the storm” that is the whirling dervish of a day in Tokyo!

Photo by kcomiida on Wikimedia Commons.

Among the local souvenir shops, be on particular lookout for Kiso Shiki. Kiso Shiki is a famous form of Japanese lacquered goods. So, whether it’s an elegant jewellery box for your better half, or a new soup bowl to enjoy your early morning miso in solitude, in Shiojiri there’s something for everyone.

Photo by 663highland on Wikimedia Commons.

I’m not really the skiing type, but if you don’t mind the bus journey, from Shiojiri you’re only about 90 minutes away from some of Japan’s finest slopes.

Again, it’s up to you if you want to spend the night in Shiojiri, I would recommend doing so though. In particular, if you haven’t been to Tokyo before, the sheer size of the place and the volume of people there can be pretty overwhelming at first sight. You’re going to need every bit of energy to take it all in that first time. So, a good night’s sleep in Shiojiri is highly recommended. If you don’t mind pushing the boat out a bit in terms of budget, go for a hotel room on a higher floor so you can fully take in the amazing view of the mountains. 

From Shiojiri, it’s time to begin the final leg of our journey. From here, take the Limited Express Super Azusa to Shinjuku. The train takes about two and half hours, meaning that if you leave Shiojiri around 10am, you’ll comfortably get to Tokyo in time for lunch.

Photo by Okajun on Wikimedia Commons.

Shinjuku is Tokyo’s most densely populated area and has a huge variety of shops and restaurants catering to your every whim. It’s also one of the main hubs on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line, the main loop line taking in all of Tokyo’s major train stations.

Where you go next, is a decision I leave up to you.

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