Suggested Itinerary for 11 Days in Japan

It’s been almost 10 months since I first wrote about my then-upcoming Japan trip, but I haven’t written much about the country—and half a dozen other countries which are still in the queue list, for that matter!

But since I already received a few requests to share my complete Japan itinerary, I suppose I can’t keep you all waiting forever! Please note that this is a TIGHT itinerary with lots of walking. You may need to drop a few places if you prefer a more laid back approach to your holiday. But in any case, I hope this little summary helps:

Tokyo Tower as seen from Zojoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
Are you planning to visit Japan during the beautiful springtime? Then check out The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Cherry Blossom: When & Where.

Day 1 (Tokyo)

We arrived late afternoon at Tokyo‘s Narita Airport.

From there, we went to Shinjuku where our hotel is at. We then headed straight to Shibuya to catch “Symphony of the Universe” at Cosmo Planetarium Shibuya (the show is 100% Japanese, no English).

Of course, we didn’t leave without visiting Shibuya CrossingHachiko Statue and Spain Slope. We also visited a nice trendy shopping mall called Parco, where you can find shops upon shops loaded with pop culture references—we sadly missed the Pokémon Cafe just by a month!

At night, we dined at Gundam Cafe before exploring the electronics town of Akihabara. Finally, we ended the night with a visit to Tokyo Dome. And oh, the famous Giants were playing that night!

For a more detailed story on my Day 1 in Japan, also read Japan Day 1: Shibuya, Akihabara & Street Scenes.

Day 2 (Tokyo)

What better way to start the day than world-class sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market? We walked pass upmarket shopping district of Ginza before taking a train to Tokyo Skytree, which is the city’s tallest structure.

On afternoon, we visited Sensoji Temple at Asakusa to appreciate religion and, wait for it, street foods! We continued with a few hours walk through the incredibly beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden before heading for a photostop at Tokyo Imperial Palace.

We spent the rest of the afternoon watching sunset over Tokyo Tower backdrop from Zojoji Temple. At night, we went to Odaiba to do all the usual touristy stuff: Ferris WheelFuji Terebi (Fuji TV)Rainbow BridgeGundam @ DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.

For a more detailed story on my Day 2 in Japan, also read Japan Day 2: Sashimi, Skytree & Sakura.

Day 3 (Tokyo-Kawaguchiko)

We had a culture vulture morning at Takeshita StreetHarajuku BridgeMeiji Jingu Shrine and Yogogi Park. And then it’s a long bus ride to Kawaguchiko.

We passed by Fuji-Q Highland and Fujiyoshida along the way, but our favorite part of the night is going all traditional Japanese, relaxing by our ryokan’s onsen before changing to yukata.

Mount Fuji as seen from Chureito Pagoda, Shimoyoshida, Japan

Day 4 (Kawaguchiko-Oshino Hakkai-Hakone)

In the morning, we took a bus to Ubuyagasaki to see the iconic sight of Mount Fuji reflected by Lake Kawaguchi. We rushed to Shimoyoshida and climbed over a hundred steps to see Mount Fuji from Chureito Pagoda (that’s my motivational office wallpaper for a few months).

After a quick stopover at Fujisan station, we rode a bus to a little village called Oshino Hakkai, which offers some of the world’s most gorgeous ponds! A few more places we passed by: Yamanakako lake and Gotemba City shopping outlet.

Upon reaching Hakone, we walked to the Hakone Shrine at Lake Ashi. Then we started the iconic five-transportation round course, beginning with the Hakone Pirate Ship. Nighttime is another ryokan + onsen + yukata awesomeness!

Day 5 (Hakone-Kyoto)

From morning to noon, we completed the entire round course with Hakone Ropeway (stopover at Owakudani valley), Hakone Tozan Cable Car and Hakone Tozan Train—all offering great views. And then we took the world-famous shinkansen to Kyoto.

Kyoto couldn’t start any better than with the photogenic Tenryuji Temple and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. But the entire Arashiyama district is a gem, if you ask me: Katsura RiverTogetsu-kyo BridgeNakashima Park.

We visited Nishiki Market but sadly it’s closed at night! So we went with Plan B: a dinner and a walk by the memory lane at Pontocho by the Kamo River!

IMO, Kyoto is one of the world’s best destinations. Find out why here: Kyoto – Destination of the Month (Mar ’17)

Day 6 (Kyoto)

Lots and lots of castles for the day: Nijo CastleNinomaru PalaceHonmaru Palace. A quick stopover at the super-cute Bear Cafe before more palace madness: Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) which surprisingly turned up to be a highlight!

Afternoon is awesome with Philosopher’s Walk, which beauty is clearly divine enough to bring out your inner poet. We made a few temple stops because there are lots of them in Kyoto: Honen-in TempleHeian ShrineShoren-in Temple.

We stopped by Samurai Kembu to watch traditional samurai performance before heading to Gion to catch a glimpse of geisha (we failed the geisha quest, but we saw two maikos!)

And then we headed to Yasaka Shrine, which is a charming night market at night. Plus, it had a super-awesome haunted house carnival that night! We walked around Maruyama Park to admire night sakura before heading back to our hotel, with a beautiful night view of Kyoto Tower before we sleep.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan

Day 7 (Kyoto)

Glad with a bright morning, we wasted no time to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha with their thousands of torii gates. Then we went to Sanjusangendo (with their hundreds statues), Chishaku-in (best landscape garden ever), Kiyomizu-dera (lots of interesting trivia into traditional Japanese customs), Kodaiji (pretty villa-like house).

And then, surprise, surprise, we saw not one… but probably 3-4 geishas at Higashioji Street! Other places visited that afternoon: Yasaka PagodaRyozen Kannon, Nishiki Market (open this time!).

At night, we experienced the traditional Tea Ceremony En before heading to Shoren-in Temple (again, this time for a night light show).

Day 8 (Kyoto)

Kyoto Imperial Palace is not usually open for the public, but we knew it would be open that day so we got to admire the gorgeousness inside! More temple awesomeness: Kinkaku-ji (with its Golden Pavilion), Ryoanji (zen stone garden), Ninna-ji.

At late afternoon, we went to Toei Kyoto Studio Park where lots of your favorite childhood cartoons were made on. Attractions visited include Ninja Mystery House, Haunted House, Deity of Good Fortune, Amazing Maze, Nakamuraza Theater, Nihonbashi Bridge, Toei Anime Museum, The Travels of Mito Komon Hall, Ukiyo-e Woodcut Print Gallery, Hero Land.

Day 9 (Kyoto-Nara-Osaka)

A quick morning visit to Toji Temple before catching our train to Nara, Japan’s original capital city.

Nara’s beauty is not as obvious as Kyoto, but it has a quiet, understated charm oozing from places like Kofukuji Temple, Yoshiki-en, Todaiji Temple, Nigatsudo Hall, Sangatsudo Hall, Tamukeyama Hachimangu Shrine, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kasugayama Primeval Forest, Wakamiya Jinja, Naramachi, Naramachi Shiryokan, Naramachi Koshi-no-ie Lattice House, Goryo Shrine, Gangoji Temple.

We catch an afternoon train to Osaka, with our first stop being the amazing Pokémon Center, followed shortly by typical touristy stuff like Umeda Sky Building and Hep Five.

Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan

Day 10 (Osaka)

A morning walk through NHK Osaka Broadcasing Center led us to the spectacular Osaka Castle (which is really a museum). And then a quick transit at Abeno got us to the beautiful Sumiyoshi Taisha with its gorgeous red Sorihasi Bridge.

And then we visited Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku Tower, which is probably my favorite place in all of Osaka. It’s a bit “wilder” in contrast to the stereotypical over-polished image of Japan. We then continued to Shinsaibashi-Suji (upscale shopping district), Amerikamura (obviously US-influenced), Dotonbori (great food), Den Den Town (basically Osaka’s Akihabara), Otaku-Dori (well, for those manga freaks).

Day 11 (Osaka)

Bye-bye through Kansai Airport (though we did pass by Kishiwada Castle and Rinku Town on the way).

Where I Stayed

These are really decent, cheap, yet strategically located accommodations where I stayed and I absolutely recommend. Good to note that these are proper rooms and not backpacker hostels, so at the price we paid, we were really quite happy. If you come in 2 pax, then you only need to pay half the room price!

Key activities I recommend while you’re in Japan:

Simply click on the links for quick bookings. =)

Tokyo

Kyoto

Osaka

Also, traveling without internet can be a pain sometimes. So make sure you arrange to have 4G WiFi picked up as soon as you arrive in Japan airport!

Getting Around Japan

One of the best way to get between cities in Japan is to make use of their super-fast train known as JR. There are a few good discounted JR passes which could suit you need, such as:

Within the city center, there are also options such as:

What are your favorite places in Japan?

I’ll be posting more about Japan in the next few weeks! So if you like what you read, like my Facebook page to receive future updates.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Kaydence says:

    Hi! Just to ask what pass do you use in kyoyo? Did you do mostly walking?

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    1. Hello Kaydence, I used a combination of buses & walking. Buses still needed ’cause some of the attractions are quite far apart. Didn’t use any pass while in Kyoto though, but getting in between cities can be worthwhile if you get one of those JR passes like:

      3 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass
      5 Day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass
      7 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass.

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      1. kaydence says:

        Thanks for your reply!

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  2. Shane says:

    Hi! Thanks for this informative post.
    But may I ask you some more details of your Japan trip? Did you get the Japan Rail Pass? How much the buses cost ranges within Osaka? within Kyoto? And within Tokyo? Your response will help us big time in our upcoming trip there this April. Thank you so much.

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    1. Hello Shane, the main key attractions in Osaka & Tokyo are generally located within city centre, costing approx. 170-230 yen per ride. In Kyoto, places are farther apart and a trip could easily cost 210-280 yen per way. We didn’t get any pass at the time, but of course, this depends on how much you’re planning to take bus/metro vs. walk. Japanese cities are generally huge and some bus/metro rides are inevitable. If you’re planning to move a lot, then I suppose the pass could be worth the value. There are a few discounted JR passes which I found that I think could be quite worth it, such as the following 3 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass, 5 Day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass and 7 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass.

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  3. Sgrg says:

    Hi, Great Tips! I do have some questions, organising my trip, but first, it’s about the luggages. How to handle it from one place to another?

    I will be carrying one hand carry and one big luggage (my clothes, items and of course shopping), so, let’s say,

    Tokyo – 2 days (things will be in the hotel whilst I will be roaming around the city, so it won’t be a problem until I visit another place)

    Kyoto – 3 days (Now, Where should I put my big luggage?, Should I carry from Tokyo to Kyoto? The Hotel check-In is always after 13:00 pm, so on the day I leave Tokyo in the early morning until 13:00 pm, I will be wasting my time just carrying big luggage and hand carry, I wouldn’t be able to visit the places I want)

    Hokkaido – 2 days (Then again from Kyoto to Hokkaido, I will have to carry the bags instead of visiting the places)

    This problem happened when i had 10 days trip in Hong Kong (when in such a tiny country like HK, it shouldn’t have had any problems if I had thought about it or if I were experienced traveller, I could have just booked One hotel for whole 10 days there and wouldn’t have problem about the luggages, Instead I booked 3-4 hotels in different locations, so that I could visit all places, but then it got such problem)

    Now in country like Japan, obviously, I do have to book 4-5 hotels in different location so that I could visit the places (and also, saves time and money) (but then it creates the problem, the luggages!),

    Also, I do want to take pictures in different dresses on every single day on different visits, With those clothes, camera gears, water bottle, other items like slippers, towels, and also shopping, on both hand carry and luggage, how can I travel more efficiently from one place to another?

    Like

    1. Hi, the major train stations have paid lockers. Tokyo and Kyoto definitely. Not sure about Hokkaido though.

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