What is a good time of year, other than cherry-blossom season?
I know some people in Japan, but mostly air force, or businesspeople.
I want to visit Osaka and Tokyo for sure, and I'd probably like to try "extreme rural japan", way up in the north of something, just for contrast. And I must see Ainu!
I am thinking I would enjoy a trip to Japan/China/Korea more than a trip to the US, at least for now, as I have artificially high expectations of the US. e.g. Hong Kong I had basically no expectations, and it was amazing, and continues to be amazing, and I've been there 4-5 times now.
Actually, August during Obon is an excellent time! It's hot and humid, but Obon is probably the biggest national festival time of the year. You'd absolutely need to see the Daimonji fires in Kyoto and possibly the Festival of Light at the Todai-ji temple in Nara.
It's a really festive time of year, transportation is totally packed, and everything is wacky. :) Everyone is off work except for the service industries.
Taking the longish trip and seeing Ritsurin-koen would be high on the list at any time of year except for the rainy season. God that park is beautiful. Japan's food is all regional, so the area of Takamatsu where Ritsurin-koen is located has the best Udon noodles in all of Japan. They are really different :)
So much to see and do!