Japan Winter Self Drive Trip with Kids (December 2015) – Itinerary Outline

15 Days Japan Road Trip - Bumble Bee Mum

I realise I never did a trip summary of our Japan road trip back in December 2015.  Since it’s time of the year to plan for year end trips again, maybe it’s a good time to revisit this particular trip!

When planning for a trip in mainland Japan at the end of the year, I had specific events that I wanted to visit, including:

  • Tokyo German Village Winter Illumination
  • Toki no Sumika Winter Illumination
  • Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination
  • Ashikaga Flower Park Illumination
  • Kiyomizudera Autumn Special Night Visit
  • Jingu Gaien Gingko Festival
  • Snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park

As you may have noticed, many of the events involved illuminations.  Illumination is a BIG THING in Japan, particularly in December.  So whenever I visit Japan at the end of the year, I would try to fit in as many illumination events as possible.

Read more: Our 7-Days Illumination Trip by Rail in December 2007

Read more: Japan’s Largets and Most Popular Illumination Events

It was a rather adventurous trip, I would say.  We drove more than 2000km, visited a Hello Kitty onsen, drove on a beach, stayed in a traditional Japanese farmhouse, discovered Japan’s only boathouses, came face-to-face with a Capybara and within arms length of a lion.

So here you go, our itinerary for our 15-Days self-drive trip around Japan in December:

Day 1: Narita – Chiba

Tokyo German Village

Day 2: Chiba – Tokyo

Mother Farm

> Read our review of Mother Farm


Day 3: Tokyo

Tokyo Fire Museum

> Read our review of Tokyo Fire Museum

Shinjuku Gyoen

Jingu Gaien

Thomas Town Shinmisato

> Read our review of Thomas Town Shinmisato

Day 4: Tokyo – Yokohama – Gotemba


> Read our review of Zoorasia

Ashinoko Skyline

> Read our review of Ashinoko Skyline

Toki No Sumika

> Read our review of Toki No Sumika’s Slow House Villa

Day 5:  Gotemba – Kyoto

Hamamatsu Fruits Park

Nabana no Sato

Day 6: Kyoto



Yasaka Shrine


Kiyomizudera in Autumn - Special Night Visit - Kyoto Japan - Blog Review 14

Day 7: Kyoto – Osaka – Kyoto

Universal Studios Japan

Day 8: Kyoto

Nishiki Market

Arashiyama Monkey Park

Arashiyama bamboo grove

Day 9: Kyoto



Maizuru Tore Tore Seafood Market

Kyoto Illumiere

Day 10: Kyoto – Kanazawa

Kayabuki no Sato

Wakasa Fisherman Wharf

Kanazawa Higashichaya District

Day 11: Kanazawa – Noto Peninsular

Omicho Market

Chirihama Beach Drive

Day 12: Noto Peninsular – Toyama – Nagano

Himi Banya

Toyama Kitto Kitto Market

Kaiwomaru Park

Day 13: Nagano – Gunma

Ryuoo Ski Park

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Hello Kitty Onsen

> Read our review of Hello Kitty Onsen

Day 14: Gunma – Ashikaga

Cafe Floresta

> Read our review of Cafe Floresta

Gunma Safari Park

> Read our review of Gunma Safari Park

Ashikaga Flower Park

Day 15: Ashikaga – Tokyo – Narita



Below are links of official websites and telephone number / map codes (for GPS) of destinations in this post:

More posts from the same trip:

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15 Days Japan Road Trip - Bumble Bee Mum


Get more Japan travel guides & sample itineraries on our Japan travel blog!


This post is part of the following link-ups:

25 Comments on Japan Winter Self Drive Trip with Kids (December 2015) – Itinerary Outline

  1. Van @ Snow in Tromso
    September 29, 2016 at 12:20 am (3 weeks ago)

    I didn’t know there was a German village in Japan! That sounds so interesting!

  2. Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld
    September 29, 2016 at 7:11 am (3 weeks ago)

    Wow, what an incredible trip! I love how much travelling you do with your children, it’s very inspiring :) And that first photo of those gorgeous leaves took my breath away, stunning!
    Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld recently posted…Lima Street Art TourMy Profile

  3. val
    September 29, 2016 at 11:03 am (3 weeks ago)

    Hi there!
    your itinerary really inspires!
    i m hoping to travel to Japan this december as well..and i m worried about whether it would be too cold for an 18 month old. How was the weather like when you were there? :)

    • bumblebeemum
      September 29, 2016 at 12:15 pm (3 weeks ago)

      The temperature in mainland Japan, unless you go up to the mountains, is pretty mild. In the cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, I would say about 10 degrees celsius during the daytime on average. If you hit the rural regions, it may dip to 0 degrees. But it’s not the sub-zero freezing kind like in Hokkaido for sure. With proper winter wear, I think it is manageable for a first-time winter vacation with kids. :)

  4. Ruth
    September 29, 2016 at 11:14 am (3 weeks ago)

    What an epic roadtrip! I know you have posted individual articles but putting everything together make you look at the trip from a different perspective. December looks like a great time to visit Japan.
    Ruth recently posted…Walking Vienna’s Old TownMy Profile

    • bumblebeemum
      September 29, 2016 at 12:20 pm (3 weeks ago)

      I know right.. Every time I put together a summary of my trips, I’m like wow.. I went to so many places! Hahaha.. But when I’m there, I don’t really feel like we went to a lot of places, because we only visit like one or two places a day?

  5. Lauren Bonheim
    September 30, 2016 at 9:47 am (3 weeks ago)

    Looks like quite the action packed trip! You all must have been exhausted after all of that fun! Your kids seems to be loving the travel and you give me hope that one day I can continue my travels with a family! Thanks for sharing and linking up for #wanderfulwednesday 😀
    Lauren Bonheim recently posted…Support Local Shopping in BarcelonaMy Profile

    • bumblebeemum
      October 5, 2016 at 10:11 am (3 weeks ago)

      Haha.. I’m sure you would still continue to travel with a family! Just that your style of travelling may change. :p

    • bumblebeemum
      October 5, 2016 at 10:27 am (3 weeks ago)

      Yeah, the Japanese are really good at this illumination thing. Hope you get to stay in one of those mushroom houses one day! :)

    • bumblebeemum
      October 7, 2016 at 11:06 am (2 weeks ago)

      Hope you get to go – Japan is such a beautiful country!

    • bumblebeemum
      October 7, 2016 at 11:07 am (2 weeks ago)

      We don’t have seasons here in Singapore, so seeing Acer Trees is like a page out of a fairytale for me!

  6. Sarah Christie
    October 4, 2016 at 4:11 am (3 weeks ago)

    Wow what an amazing trip and such incredible photos, I have pinned this so much fabulous information in one, thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes
    Sarah Christie recently posted…Monday EscapesMy Profile

    • bumblebeemum
      October 7, 2016 at 11:07 am (2 weeks ago)

      It was a really memorable trip. Thank you for hosting #MondayEscapes! :)

  7. Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
    October 4, 2016 at 6:18 am (3 weeks ago)

    I would love to explore more of Japan! What a fantastic trip and pleased to see you managed to get around by road ok. After we finally managed to hire a car (language issues) we got totally confused by the whole toll things and it was all a bit of a disaster! #mondayescapes
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) recently posted…Temple Of The Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka My Profile

    • bumblebeemum
      October 7, 2016 at 11:09 am (2 weeks ago)

      Haha.. I thought the toll system in Japan, even with language barrier and all, was a lot easier to figure out then the toll system in Australia. Ah well, hope it was not THAT disastrous to mar your trip. :p

  8. Upeksha
    October 5, 2016 at 4:58 am (3 weeks ago)

    I’m thinking of a trip to Japan next year, so really glad to have come across your blog! It all looks amazing – I hardly know where to start! Any tips for a first time visitor? Thanks for sharing. #mondayescapes
    Upeksha recently posted…Descending to Hell’s GateMy Profile

    • bumblebeemum
      October 7, 2016 at 11:35 am (2 weeks ago)

      Most first timers go to Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka, that’s it. If you are taking return flight to Tokyo, you should look into using the Japan Rail Pass which is great value for money! :)

      Japan-Guide.com is a great website for first-timers:
      They have these red dots next to each attraction? For first-timers, go for those with two or three red dots. :)

  9. Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    October 6, 2016 at 12:18 am (2 weeks ago)

    Japan really seems to be a hot destination at the moment. This post is brilliant – a comprehensive round-up of all your others – so helpful for readers and future planners!
    Trish @ Mum’s Gone To recently posted…Douglas comes home to Threave CastleMy Profile

    • bumblebeemum
      October 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm (2 weeks ago)

      For a few years after the 2011 earthquake, people avoided Japan like a plague. But yes, the tourists are slowly returning now. It’s a really gorgeous country with a very intriguing culture. Most people who have been there want to go back again.

  10. Cindy
    October 15, 2016 at 6:05 am (1 week ago)

    Oh wow, we’re hoping to make it to Japan next year so I’ve pinned this for inspiration, loads of great ideas and places I’d love to visit here. Thanks for sharing! #MondayEscapes

  11. Serene toh
    October 16, 2016 at 11:31 am (7 days ago)

    I am thinking of doing a self drive in December with my 2 boys ( 6 years and 2 years) from 15 dec 2016 – 4 Jan 2017.
    Am planning to use your road trip as a guide , skipping Kyoto and adding in Disneyland , Gifu region visiting the famous shirakawa village instead.
    Do you think it’s realistic ?
    Are there any tips / safety precautions advice for self drive ?
    Which car rental company would you recommend?
    Thanks to hear from you any useful advice.


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