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I'll be in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo for about a week at the start of November and would love to see some stars on a starry night. Unfortunately, I don't have a driver's license and I don't know anyone in those areas. I believe my best bet is to take a train out of the city for the opportunity. Since I already book my hotel in those areas, I don't want to stay overnight so I would like to come back after I take in the view. Is it possible to star gaze in this situation?

Edit: I really appreciate the comments and suggestions for alternatives, but I'm focused on just those areas in Japan.

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    Why do you think you would need a licence? – Richard Beasley Sep 25 '18 at 20:36
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    @RichardBeasley I realized that it was ambiguous of what license I was referring to, which is a driving license. I'll clarify that. Thanks – LampPost Sep 25 '18 at 20:47
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    To really get in some good stargazing, you'll need to get quite a distance from the big cities. You really would want to make it an overnight trip. I live in a city of 225k that's isolated on the Canadian prairies, and it takes about an hour of driving to get to truly dark skies here. Around a large city, it will take much longer distances, and the truly dark places are going to be very difficult to locate because of the population density. You might do better near your own home, depending where you live. – Jim MacKenzie Sep 25 '18 at 21:06
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    There is a good planetarium at Tokyo Skytree. When I went last month, they had a live orchestra playing in sync with a montage of stellar imagery. – Brian R Sep 25 '18 at 21:07
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    @LampPost If you want to stargaze, head to the Adirondack Mountains during a clear weekend and focus on other types of sightseeing in Japan. I've found my camping experience in the Adirondacks to be the darkest camping experience I've ever had (although that was also due to dense foliage, thick clouds, and heavy rain). – gerrit Sep 26 '18 at 14:53
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I haven't lived in Osaka or Kyoto, but in Tokyo you could try Okutama Lake (a dam lake) in Okutama Town, which is in the most western part of Tokyo and away from the Metropolis. According to this site (2016) it's one of the best places for stargazing in Tokyo. Note that you also need to take a bus in addition to traveling most of the way by train.

This link provides more information including access. I added below map in case you don't read Japanese. You should take the bus at bus stop no.2. A larger map (Japanese) can be found here.

enter image description here

There is a timetable in this link and this link. I added below diagram to show you the available trips to the lake.

enter image description here

From the above timetable, there are only 3 trips on Weekdays and 2 trips each on Sat/Sun/Holidays, the latest leaving at 15:32 from Okutama Station. But you don't have to worry about having to leave early as there are trips back to Okutama Station at night as shown below:

enter image description here

So from the lake to Okutama Station, on Weekends you can take the 19:18 or 20:18 bus, and on Sat/Sun/Holidays you can take the 19:37 or 20:17 bus.

Hope that the weather will be fine if you decide to go. Enjoy but careful not to miss your ride!

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    Thank you for this wonderful information! I will definitely look into this – LampPost Sep 27 '18 at 14:58
  • Awesome!! This really was a thorough answer, and unlikely that anyone would have been confused. But now, it's perfect. :-) – Kent Nov 21 '18 at 0:27
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Is it possible to star gaze in this situation?

No.

Japan is a very highly densely populated country, and very highly developed. Therefore, it has a very large amount of light pollution. The cities you are visiting are some of the largest cities in the world. You might get some reasonably good night skies in remote corners of Japan such as on Hokkaido, but you can't reach any of those for an evening trip, in particular not with a destination reachable by public transportation, which are always populated places (in some areas, buses may be able to drop off passengers along the road away from official stops, I've seen this in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, but I don't know if this works in Japan; for trains, such a service is extremely rare / essentially non-existent). See this darksitefinder map that Michael Seifert linked in his comment.

You mentioned that you live in New York. For stargazing reasonably close to your home, I recommend the Adirondack Mountains when skies are clear.

  • Haha, i was expecting an answer about how public transport stops at midnight and then BAM... This answer appeared, which is so obviously true, that i didn't even think about it =) – Daan van Hoek Sep 26 '18 at 12:09
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    Light pollution map of Japan. For stargazing, you want to be in a green zone or darker. You might be able to get some reasonable stargazing near Shimoda or Shingu, but these would probably need to be overnight trips from Tokyo or Osaka respectively. – Michael Seifert Sep 26 '18 at 13:15
  • @MichaelSeifert I saw that site too and found it insightful but it is a bit dated. – LampPost Sep 26 '18 at 19:35
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    @LampPost Although the info on the site may be dated (the data is from 2006), it's unlikely that many areas will be darker now than they were in 2006, especially near urban areas. – Mike Harris Sep 26 '18 at 20:07
  • @LampPost: You can also look at the 2015 data available here. (The data from more recent years is the brightness of the surface as seen from space, which is an indicator of light pollution but isn't a perfect predictor of it.) – Michael Seifert Sep 26 '18 at 20:38
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It depends on your expectations, the weather and the time the sun sets.

Although I never saw anything near the clarity of the night sky in comparison to places like rural Quebec, I was able to see many stars once outside of Japanese cities.

Indeed the cities you've mentioned are quite large and have accordingly large light pollution. It seems unlikely that you'd get a satisfactory view on a metro line. Trains are quite good in Japan so if may still be possible to have the experience using a regional train. The main caveat is that public transportation stops running rather early in Japan so you'll need to plan carefully to make sure you have time, especially during summer when the sun sets later. Of course you'll also need to consider cloud cover, since it's not uncommon for the sky to be overcast in Japan.

One place I was able to see a decent amount of stars was near Yamanashishi, despite some local light pollution. Yamanashi is about two hours outside of Tokyo by train. Specifically, there is a great view from the pools of the Hottarakashi Onsen which is about an hour hike up the mountain from Yamanashishi Station. The last train back to Tokyo leaves around 10p, so this may only be doable as a day trip in winter when it gets dark early.

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