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:
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 Crossing, Hachiko 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 Wheel, Fuji Terebi (Fuji TV), Rainbow Bridge, Gundam @ 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 Street, Harajuku Bridge, Meiji 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.
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 River, Togetsu-kyo Bridge, Nakashima 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 Castle, Ninomaru Palace, Honmaru 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 Temple, Heian Shrine, Shoren-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.
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 Pagoda, Ryozen 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.
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!
- Tokyo: Apartment Hotel Shinjuku – SGD 93.57 per room per night
- Kawaguchiko: Kawaguchiko Station Inn – SGD 113.80 per room per night
- Hakone: Hotel Hakone Powell – SGD 155.86 per room per night
- Kyoto: Kyoto Daiichi Hotel – SGD 160.81 per room per night
- Osaka: Toyoko Inn Osaka – SGD 80.40 per room per night
Key activities I recommend while you’re in Japan:
Simply click on the links for quick bookings. =)
- Tokyo Cherry Blossoms Tour
- Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Tokyo
- Tsukiji Fish Market and Sushi Workshop
- Mount Fuji and Hakone Day Trip
- Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea 1 Day Pass, or their 2 Day Pass
- Tokyo Skytree & Asakusa Tour
- Tokyo Dinner Cruise
- Tokyo One Piece Tower
- Gundam Front Tokyo
- Robot Restaurant
- Kyoto Day Tour
- Kyoto Geisha Districts Tour
- Arashiyama Rickshaw Tour
- Gion Night Tour
- Sake Brewery Visit & Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Sagano Romantic Train
- One Day Kimono Rental
- Osaka One-Day Walking Tour
- Kyoto Afternoon Tour from Osaka
- Nara Afternoon Tour from Osaka
- Hiroshima & Miyajima Group Day Trip
- Arima Onsen Taikounoyu Spa
- Samurai & Ninja Experience
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:
- Tokyo: Sky Hop-on and Hop-off Bus Pass
- Tokyo: Metro Ticket (24, 48 or 72 Hours)
- Kyoto & Arashiyama: Randen + Subway 1 Day Pass
- Kyoto, Osaka & Kobe: Hankyu 1 Day / 2 Day Tourist Pass
- Osaka: Wonder Loop Bus + Cruise (2 Day Pass)
What are your favorite places in Japan?