Are you planning a 2 week holiday to Japan with your loved one and have no idea how to organize your itinerary? I had the exact same problem!
With its rich history and culture, hi-tech innovations, its attention to detail and clockwork efficiency, there’s definitely a lot to see.
In this article, we’ll look at my personal experiences in Japan and guide you through the best cities to visit and attractions to see.
In our romantic trip to Japan, we are going to be visiting the 3 great cities:
All of these places have something extremely unique to offer our itinerary. Here’s a snapshot of how I arranged my schedule:
|Day 0||6 pm||Flight to Kyoto||plane|
|8 pm||Check-in at Hana Touro Hotel Gion||JR Haruka and transit to local train|
|Day 1||8 am||Kinkaku-ji||Bus|
|2:30 pm||Shimogamo Shrine||Bus/walk|
|4 pm||Kamigamo Shrine||Bus/walk|
|Day 2||10 am||Imperial Palace||Bus/walk|
|1 pm||Nijo Castle||Bus/walk|
|3 pm||Nishi Hongan-ji||Bus/walk|
|Day 3||9 am||Nanzen-ji||walk|
|11 am||Honen Temple||walk|
|1 pm||Philosopher’s Path||walk|
|Day 4||10 am||Kyoto International Manga Museum||Bus/walk|
|12 pm||National Museum of Modern Art||Bus/walk|
|2 pm||Toei Studios||Bus/walk/subway|
|Day 5||10 am||Fushimi-inari Taisha||Subway|
||8 am||Train to Osaka||Train|
|10 am||Check-in at Capsule Hotel Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi||Subway|
|2 pm||Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura||Subway/walk|
||10 am||Osaka Castle||Subway|
|1 pm||Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum||Subway|
|4 pm||Shinsekai, Tsutenkaku and Abeno Harukas||Subway|
|7 pm||Osaka Bay||Subway|
||10 am||Universal Studios||Subway|
||9 am||Train to Himeji||Train|
|11 am||Himeji Castle||Walk|
|4 pm||Sumiyoshi Taisha||Train|
||7:30 am||Shinkansen to Tokyo||Shinkansen|
|11 am||Check-in at Hotel Gracery Shinjuku||Subway|
|12 pm||Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park||Subway|
|5 pm||Asakusa and Senso-ji||Walk|
|7 pm||Tokyo Skytree||Subway|
||10 am||Imperial Palace||Subway|
|3 pm||Tokyo Dome City||Subway|
|6 pm||Roppongi and Karaoke||Subway|
||7 am||Tsukiji Fish Market||Subway|
|1 pm||Tokyo Station||Subway|
|3 pm||Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building||Subway|
|6 pm||Last Dinner and Departure||Train|
Day 1-5 : Exploring Kyoto Culture & History
Kyoto is vintage, classical Japan. Capital of the country for over a thousand years, history and culture is the very essence of the city. While not as flashy and modern as Osaka or Tokyo (in fact, Kyoto is very much on the quaint side), Kyoto is where the emperors used to reign, the samurai used to rule, the geisha used to serve and the very religious, political and historical identity of Japan came to be. Absolutely teeming with palaces and temples, Kyoto is a city where you can just lose yourself even if you have a cursory interest in history. As Kyoto is packed with amazing things to see, we’ll be spending 5 days here first to get an understanding of what makes Japan so special.
|5 Day Itinerary in Kyoto
As Kyoto is packed with amazing things to see, we’ll be spending 5 days here first to get an understanding of what makes Japan so special.
I’ll show you a path to see all the most popular temples, museums and tourist areas in a timely manner!
Day 6-9 : Fun at Osaka Attractions
Now Osaka is not AS famous as the massive Tokyo or the charming Kyoto, but that’s not for a lack of things to see and do. In fact, Osaka was my personal favourite city to travel in Japan thanks to its incredibly modern and streamlined infrastructure, its laid back and positively happy-go-lucky attitude and the incredible selection of original food that is entirely unique to the city. In fact, according to Japanese stereotypes of themselves, Osaka is THE commercial and fun city to be in. People are generally considered to be a lot more informal, fun loving and relaxed compared to Tokyo and it’s easy to see why. We will be spending 4 days in this fantastic city.
|4 Day Itinerary in Osaka
We’ll be checking out the most beautiful castles in Osaka and enjoy a day of fun at Universal Studios.
Day 10-14 : Japan’s Most Popular City – Tokyo
The global metropolis that lies at the heart of Japan. Everything that you can find in Tokyo is both over the top and cutting edge. This is, by far, the largest city in the world right now and you can feel it all the time. Whether you’re looking out over its endless concrete, steel and glass landscape from the top of Tokyo Skytree or enjoying the very best of what Japanese cuisine has to offer in its back alleys, Tokyo is the image of Japan that comes to your mind when you think of the country. In that regard, we are going to be leaving this most special of delectable treats for the last leg of our journey and will spend a glorious 5 days there.
|5 Day Itinerary in Tokyo
I’ll show you how to arrange your schedule so that you can see all the popular tourist areas in Tokyo, including modern wonders like Tokyo Skytree and historic landmarks like the Imperial Palace.
How to Travel Around Japan
Quite possibly the most convenient way to travel around the Japan would be to use the JR pass. This pass is made and distributed by the Japan Railway Group (JR), a collection of companies that offer transportation services. This pass will allow you to have unlimited access to the trains and shinkansen that connect the different cities of Japan and even allow usage of certain buses and subway lines. For our trip, I recommend you to take the 14 day JR pass as it will not only allow you to save some money but also to have a more convenient trip. If you can’t speak much Japanese, this will be ideal as you won’t have to lineup and explain the passes you want every time you want to go somewhere!
|14 Day JR Pass
What to Bring
- Appropriate clothes. Japan is surprisingly chilly, windy and rainy in autumn and winter. In summer, it is ridiculously hot and humid.
- Shoes that you can take on and off easily. Basically whenever you enter a temple, castle, palace, hostel or someone’s home, you will take off your shoes. And God save you if you have to tie and untie your shoelaces every time.
- Want to climb Mount Fuji? Bring your hiking gear. Also take note that you’ll need 2 days to make the full climb. You can finish it in just one day but there’s a reason that achievement is sometimes referred to as “superhuman”.
- Gifts! If you make a friend in Japan, they’ll be very grateful.
- Adapters for Type A outlets.
Tips and Tricks
- Google Maps is your friend. Google Translate is your savior. The average Japanese person is not proficient at speaking in English. But given that they’re also on average very polite and thoughtful, they will patiently wait for your fumbling attempts to mangle the Japanese language via Google Translate and do their best to help you out.
- Get multiple day bus (for Kyoto) and subway tickets (for Osaka and Tokyo). Multiple day passes for Tokyo are unfortunately only available in the airports but if you just go to the subway station, you can buy a Suica card that you can put money in.
- 7-11s, Lawsons and Family Marts are amazing if you want food on the go, buy or reserve tickets for buses or sights (it’s all in Japanese) or you just want to go to the bathroom. It’s totally fine to just go in and use the bathroom and leave.