See the Best of Tokyo, Kyoto, & Osaka


Are you able to embark on a bucket listing journey by means of the Land of the Rising Sun? This final 14-day Japan itinerary has been particularly designed for first-time guests to make it simpler to deal with planning such an epic journey, and in addition put together you for the sensory overload you’ll expertise upon arrival.

I do know planning a visit to Japan can really feel very overwhelming, however don’t let that dissuade you from visiting. There is a purpose why Japan is commonly one of many first nations in Asia that Westerners select to go to. It is culturally completely different sufficient to move you to a world of historical traditions, whereas its ultramodern cities nonetheless really feel acquainted sufficient to make anybody snug navigating a big metropolis really feel at residence. With most indicators and practice bulletins supplied in Japanese and English, getting round is pretty simple and any communication gaps might be bridged by means of the marvels of Google Translate.

This two-week Japan itinerary covers a few of this island nation’s hottest locations together with Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, with day journeys to Nara, Hiroshima, and Miyajima, making it an ideal introduction for first-time guests.

This Japan itinerary provides you a full style of Japan — from the traditional and culturally vibrant shrines and temples of Kyoto to the pulsing metropolis of Tokyo, with its futuristic sights, neon lights, and towering skyscrapers, and the vivacity of the Osaka avenue meals scene. You will depart Japan enchanted, with a full sense of its attract and an understanding of why overseas guests are flocking to Japan in droves.

Torii gate in Miyajima

2-Week Japan Itinerary

This article is written in partnership with Allianz Travel Insurance. We extremely suggest buying journey insurance coverage for each journey, particularly when touring internationally, which is why I’ve been a loyal buyer of Allianz Travel Insurance for a few years now.

Note: This publish could comprise affiliate hyperlinks. If you click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I’ll obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.

How lengthy you spend in Japan usually depends upon how a lot trip time you’ve and your finances (see my article about how a lot a journey to Japan prices.) But in case you are visiting from the United States (or any vacation spot of far), you’ll most likely need to profit from your time within the nation to make that lengthy flight price it (see my tips about what to pack for an extended haul flight.)

This is why I extremely suggest spending no less than two weeks in Japan in your first go to. I’d counsel spending 5 days in Tokyo, 5 days in Kyoto, and three to 4 days in Osaka. This provides you with a few additional days for day journeys or extra sights inside a metropolis (for instance, in case you wished to go to Tokyo Disney or Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.)

Family in front of Shrine in Tokyo

What to do once you arrive in Japan

Before you arrive in Japan, full the kinds required for customs and immigration on the Visit Japan Web website. After completion, you’ll obtain a QR code to indicate upon arrival and also you gained’t must fill out any extra paperwork on the aircraft or within the immigration space. This makes your arrival fairly painless.

If you fly into Tokyo, you’ll arrive at both at Narita Airport (NRT) or Haneda Airport (HND) in Tokyo. Narita is over one hour from the town heart, whereas Haneda is quite a bit nearer. In both occasion, taxis from the airport will likely be fairly costly and it pays to look into different transportation choices.

Since we flew on Delta, we arrived at Haneda Airport, which is related to Tokyo by way of a monorail or practice choices. We didn’t need to cope with transferring trains and metros with our giant baggage after a full day of journey, so I booked the Airport Limousine Bus, which supplied door-to-door transfers from Haneda airport to our resort (the Hilton Tokyo) at a really reasonably priced fee.

Before you permit the airport, there are just a few necessary issues it’s essential to do first!

  • Go to an ATM and withdraw about 50,000 Yen to start out. Remember you need to withdraw as a lot as you suppose you would possibly want in a single chunk versus a number of smaller withdrawals to keep away from additional charges. While Japan has moved to be extra contactless post-Covid, there are nonetheless many smaller eating places, retailers, and meals stalls that solely take money. And even the high-tech machines you utilize to get your IC Cards solely take money (weird, I do know!)
  • Purchase an IC Card. An IC Card is a chargeable, pay as you go journey card that’s used to entry public transportation together with metros, busses, and a few ferries all through Japan. Many merchandising machines additionally settle for IC playing cards as cost and it’s also possible to use them to hire lockers in practice stations. There are completely different flavors of IC playing cards such because the Pasmo or Suica card. Some require a 500 Yen deposit. However, on the airport, you should use a touch-screen machine (with an English choice) to buy a Welcome Suica card, which doesn’t require a deposit. You should pay money to load cash onto your IC card. I’d suggest placing about 3,000-5,000 Yen on every card to start out for a 14-day journey.
  • Keep in thoughts that every particular person in your social gathering wants their very own card. You can not use the identical card to swipe a number of individuals by means of a turnstile. When you go to make use of the cardboard, you faucet it on the reader on the turnstile after which faucet once more to exit the station. On a bus, you usually solely faucet it to exit.
  • Pick up a cell hotspot or worldwide SIM. Unless you’re utilizing an eSim, you could need to reserve a cell hotspot or buy a global SIM card in your two weeks in Japan. These work out to be cheaper than paying for many worldwide calling plans. For instance, Verizon expenses me $10/day for information and throttles the velocity after a sure threshold is met. But, we rented a cell hotspot from Ninja WiFi for $98 for limitless information for 14 days. This allowed all three of our gadgets to remain related for a lot lower than we’d pay for one telephone’s worldwide plan. There are many retailers to hire a hotspot or buy a SIM card on the airport and also you simply drop it off earlier than your flight residence.
  • Exchange your JR Pass vouchers. If you intend on utilizing a Japan Rail Pass, it’s essential to buy it on-line earlier than you permit residence. You will likely be despatched a voucher that you simply change upon arrival in Japan at sure JR ticket workplaces. The ticket workplaces within the airports will change your voucher for a move, however you could want to go to a JR ticket workplace at one of many main practice stations to make seat reservations (relying on which stage move you buy.)
  • Given that the price of the JR Pass goes up considerably within the fall of 2023, you actually need to do some math to see if getting the move continues to be worthwhile versus shopping for particular person tickets. We used our JR Pass for the bullet trains between cities, in addition to native trains in Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima (and the ferry to Miyajima). In Tokyo, we solely used our IC playing cards however it’s also possible to use JR trains in case you are taking day journeys or relying on the place you’re going inside the metropolis. Also take into account that in case you are touring with checked baggage dimension baggage, you have to a baggage reservation on the bullet trains (and these are restricted), or you possibly can organize to ship your baggage forward.

Japan Itinerary: Tokyo

Ok, now let’s dig into the precise Japan itinerary, beginning off with Tokyo. Tokyo is actually in regards to the ultramodern, so hit just a few historic spots however save a variety of that for Kyoto, so that you don’t get shrine fatigue, and benefit from the uniqueness of recent Japanese tradition.

I’ve included the highlights right here, however for all the small print, restaurant suggestions, and suggestions, make sure you additionally learn my 5 Day Tokyo itinerary.

Asakusa gate

Where to Stay in Tokyo

We had been very proud of our keep on the Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku. It was a 10-15 minute stroll to Shinjuku station (one of many busiest on the planet) however in a quiet, enterprise space away from the brilliant lights and grittier areas near the station. We might entry two completely different metro traces by means of an underground passage immediately from the resort. The resort additionally provides a free shuttle bus to Shinjuku station each 20 minutes throughout hours of operation, in case you don’t need to stroll.

Find different locations to remain in Tokyo:

Tokyo Day 1

Father and daughter on the streets of Shinjuku at night

Since you may be drained, after arriving from the airport, take a stroll to discover the neighborhood and recover from jetlag. You can take within the sights round Shinjuku station or take within the views from the free observatory on the South Tower of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (positioned very near the Hilton Tokyo.) This was the tallest constructing in Tokyo till 2007, and it nonetheless provides gorgeous views.

For dinner, I’d suggest lining up at about 4:45 pm (you’ll most likely be hungry and need an early night time anyway) at Fuunji. This no-frills ramen and dipping noodle store is widespread for a purpose. There are solely a couple of dozen seats and also you order from a merchandising machine (money required), then hand your ticket to the particular person behind the counter and line up behind clients on the counter and anticipate an open spot.

Another close by choice is Udon Shin, however that is additionally highly regarded (you’ll quickly study that Japanese individuals like to line as much as eat far more than drained vacationers!). You will need to run over there and get a ticket as quickly as you arrive at your resort with a return time (usually 5 hours later.)

Tokyo Day 2

Start off day two with an introduction to Japanese tradition — each historical and fashionable. Start off with an introduction to Buddhist and Shinto traditions on the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Tokyo itinerary - Meiji Shrine

Located within the lush and quiet oasis of Meiji Jingu Gaien Park, the Meiji Jingu Shrine was established in 1920 to honor Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, who performed essential roles in modernizing Japan throughout the Meiji Restoration. After passing by means of a towering torii gate, you’ll wind your method by means of the park to the shrine.


Colorful fruit and tea drinks with red straws

Your subsequent cease to get an introduction to fashionable youth tradition in Japan is the Harajuku neighborhood. This space has develop into synonymous with avant-garde trend, avenue model, and distinctive subcultures. The primary thoroughfare is Takeshita Street, which is lined with colourful retailers, quirky Kawaii boutiques, and stylish cafes, attracting each locals and vacationers alike. It can also be the place you will discover a number of the Instagram-worthy snacks akin to rainbow cotton sweet at Totti Candy Factory and rainbow crepes at Santa Monica crepes.

If you need to decide up some trend gadgets that don’t appear to be every little thing you see within the U.S., make sure you cease into the retailers at CuteCube and SoLaDo. You will discover extra upscale, acquainted manufacturers alongside Omotesando Street, which runs perpendicular to Takeshita. The LaForet Harajuku shopping center on Omotesando additionally provides flooring upon flooring of reasonably priced teen trend and Kawaii clothes. Kiddyland is a good spot to choose up toys and character items, and Graniph has cute and enjoyable t-shirts and baggage for teenagers.

I’d suggest lunch at A Happy Pancake. These meringue pancakes are gentle, fluffy, and scrumptious, topped with every little thing from fruit to ice cream.

Another widespread factor to do in Harajuku is cease at one of many many animal-themed cafes. We stopped into the Harry Harajuku hedgehog cafe and I used to be happy to see how the animals had been handled on this store by giving relaxation time, requiring company to put on gloves, shut supervision of how the animals had been handled, and the flexibility to undertake the animals.

Memory Lane / Omoide Yokocho 

couple in Omoide yokocho

Finish up your day with a stroll by means of the slender alley of Omoide Yokocho, often known as Memory Lane. This space invokes emotions of previous Japan, with tiny little eating places and izakayas (little bars) lining the alley, and cooks cooking yakitori over small charcoal grills. Afterward, the adults could need to head to a number of the bars within the Golden Gai space, however it didn’t really feel notably family-friendly.

Godzilla followers should take a stroll over to the Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku to get a view of the enormous Godzilla on high of the resort. Technically, solely resort company or these consuming on the Cafe at Hotel Gracery are allowed up on the terrace to get near the Godzilla, however nobody stopped us (and the cafe was closed), so my husband was in his model of Godzilla-fanboy heaven.

Tokyo Day 3

On day three, it’s time to enterprise a bit of additional and discover the areas round Tsukiji, Shiba, Odaiba, and Ginza. It is a busy day so put on your favourite strolling footwear!

Tsukiji Fish Market

Fish market seller with bins of bonito flakes

One of essentially the most well-known vacationer locations in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market. This world-renowned market consists of two primary sections: the internal market and the outer market. The internal market, as soon as well-known for its bustling tuna auctions and wholesale gross sales, has been relocated to Toyosu, whereas the outer market continues to thrive within the unique Tsukiji space and is accessible to guests.

The outer market is a energetic and bustling space full of quite a few stalls, retailers, and eating places providing a wide selection of contemporary seafood, produce, kitchenware, and culinary delights. There can also be an inside space the place locals decide up fish for every day meals.

If you actually need to discover the very best locations to eat and get to pattern specialties as a substitute of simply strolling round, I’d suggest taking both the Fish Market Tour from Magical Trip or the basic Tsukiji meals tour with Arigato Travel.

Sushi Making Experience

Sushi plate

One of my favourite experiences on our Japan journey was the sushi-making workshop we took with True Japan (and I don’t even like sushi!) The girls working this system had been completely beautiful and so variety and enjoyable.

We discovered all about what it takes to make good sushi (mainly good rice, contemporary elements, and the proper course of), from the appropriate approach to stir the sushi rice to the six-step technique of forming a bit of nigiri sushi. In the tip, we every produced 5 items of sushi and two rolls. Then it was time to brighten our plates and eat!

With the sushi making, we additionally added on a tea and sake pairing expertise, permitting us to attempt varied teas and varieties of sake with our meal. Sushi is essentially the most integral to Japanese delicacies and it was nice to get perception into learn how to produce this quintessential meals.

Tokyo Tower

view from the Tokyo Tower

There are many statement decks to get nice views of Tokyo together with the Tokyo Skytree, Shibuya Sky, and the Tokyo Tower. My husband Glenn is just not an enormous fan of heights (simply the alternative), so we weren’t going to make this into a giant a part of our journey however since our sushi-making expertise was proper throughout the road from the Tokyo Tower, we determined to present it a attempt.

Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tokyo Tower provides two primary statement decks for guests to take pleasure in panoramic views of the town. The primary deck is positioned at 150 meters (492 toes) whereas the highest deck, which requires its personal ticket, is positioned at 250 meters (820 toes) and provides an excellent broader perspective, permitting guests to see Tokyo’s city expanse from the next elevation.

TeamLab Planets

Family in crystal reflection room at Team lab Planets Tokyo

TeamLab Planets was one other spotlight and much-anticipated attraction for our Japan journey. This immersive digital artwork museum takes you on a journey by means of a sequence of interactive and sensorial installations that’s not like something I’ve ever skilled.

TeamLab transcends conventional boundaries by merging know-how, artwork, and nature to create a mesmerizing expertise. Timed-entry tickets are required and you need to look to buy them no less than a few months upfront of your journey. Just take into account that this can be a multi-sensory expertise involving water (you have to to take away your footwear for the length and stroll by means of water as much as your knees at factors), darkness, and flashing lights, so it is probably not applicable for some with mobility or sensory points.

Tokyo Day 4

Day 4 brings us to a different of Tokyo’s hottest vacationer areas and most well-known sporting occasions.


street with lanterns in Asakusa

Asakusa is a historic neighborhood nestled within the coronary heart of Tokyo. Asakusa’s historical past dates again centuries, and it was as soon as a bustling leisure district throughout the Edo interval. Today, it retains its nostalgic appeal, with preserved previous buildings, slender streets, and a vibrant ambiance, in addition to theaters and leisure facilities.

One of essentially the most well-known landmarks in Asakusa is the Senso-ji Temple. This historical Buddhist temple, believed to have been based within the seventh century, is Tokyo’s oldest and most revered temple. Visitors enter by means of the enduring Kaminarimon Gate, adorned with a large lantern and guarded by two fierce statues. The strategy to the primary corridor, Nakamise Street, is lined with retailers and stalls promoting conventional souvenirs, snacks, and native avenue meals.

Another notable attraction in Asakusa is the well-known “Kappabashi Street,” often known as “Kitchen Town.” Here, guests can witness rows of retailers promoting all kinds of kitchenware, together with the enduring plastic meals replicas that adorn the storefronts of many Japanese eating places. I’d counsel doing the Cultural and Street Food Walking Tour with Magical Trip.

Sumo Wrestling

sumo wrestling charge

If you’re lucky sufficient to go to throughout the Sumo Wrestling Tournaments in January, May, and September, it’s an occasion price seeing for its dramatic theater and sport. You must e book tickets as quickly as they open up on the market and every ticket is nice for the entire day, however until you’re a diehard fan, I’d counsel arriving round 2:00 – 3:00 pm and staying till the matches end at 6:00 pm.

You can buy tickets for field seats on the ground, which is actually a small boxed space on the ground with 4 cushions, supposed to suit 4 small individuals sitting cross-legged. However, they extra comfortably match two individuals with legs prolonged. You can even buy common stadium chair seats within the higher tiers of the stadium.

Once the match begins, the wrestlers display their energy, approach, and agility as they interact in intense bodily confrontations. The goal is to pressure their opponent out of the ring or make any a part of their opponent’s physique apart from the soles of their toes contact the bottom. The bouts are fast-paced and might be over in a matter of seconds or lengthen to a grueling showdown between two formidable opponents.

If you aren’t in Tokyo throughout the event, you possibly can nonetheless go to the Sumo Museum or be a part of a tour of the morning Sumo apply or a Sumo expertise that features lunch.

Tokyo Day 5

Your final day in Tokyo is your alternative to pursue the issues that curiosity you essentially the most — anime, historical past, theme parks, and so forth.


Polka dot flower at Kusama museum

I’m a fan of the polka dot paintings of legendary artist Yayoi Kusama, so we visited the Yayoi Kusama Museum. (Tickets should be bought on-line a couple of month upfront.) The museum is pretty small and takes not more than 45 minutes to go to.

If this isn’t your cup of tea, there are such a lot of different nice museums and sights to go to in Tokyo together with:

  1. Tokyo National Museum: The largest and oldest museum in Japan, housing an in depth assortment of Japanese artwork and artifacts.
  2. Mori Art Museum: Located within the Roppongi Hills advanced, this up to date artwork museum provides gorgeous views of Tokyo and showcases progressive and thought-provoking exhibitions.
  3. Edo-Tokyo Museum: Dedicated to the historical past and tradition of Tokyo, this museum supplies a complete look into the town’s previous, from the Edo interval to fashionable occasions.
  4. Ghibli Museum: A must-visit for followers of Studio Ghibli movies, this enchanting museum in Mitaka showcases the work of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki and provides a glimpse into the magical world of Ghibli animations.
  5. National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan): A science museum that explores cutting-edge applied sciences, robotics, area exploration, and the way forward for science.
  6. Odaiba Gundam Base: An interactive museum devoted to the favored Gundam franchise, that includes life-size fashions, reveals, and a store full of merchandise.
  7. Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo: A haven for Pokémon followers, this retailer in Ikebukuro provides a variety of merchandise, interactive experiences, and limited-edition gadgets.
  8. One Piece Tower: A theme park and museum primarily based on the favored manga and anime sequence One Piece, that includes sights, exhibits, and character-themed areas.
  9. Tokyo Anime Center: Located in Akihabara, this heart hosts exhibitions and occasions devoted to anime and manga, showcasing the colourful anime tradition of Japan.

Imperial Palace East Gardens

After visiting a museum, it’s good to get some contemporary air and luxuriate in a standard Japanese Garden with a Walk by means of Imperial Palace East Gardens. These gardens encompass the Imperial Palace and are free and open to the general public. It is a soothing oasis with the bustle of such a big metropolis.

Tokyo Character Street

character street mural

From the Gardens, it’s a quick stroll over to Tokyo Station, which, along with being a serious transportation hub, can also be residence to many eating places and the primary purpose we visited — the Tokyo Character Street. This space of the practice station is full of particular person retailers that includes Japan’s cutest characters and worldwide favorites like Pokemon, Dragonballz, and different anime figures. Families will love doing a little memento purchasing right here!


Shibuya crossing

You can’t depart Tokyo with out exploring the bustling neighborhood of Shibuya, together with the well-known Shibuya Crossing, recognized for being the busiest intersection on the planet. In addition to creating the crossing, it’s also possible to get a superb view from above from the second stage of the Tokyo Department Store on the west exit of the railway station. Also, get a view of Shibuya Crossing from above on the busy Starbucks or the quieter (however extra distant) eleventh flooring of the Hikari Building. Mag’s Park and the rooftop terrace additionally supply good views.

If you need to courageous the out of doors escalators of the Shibuya Sky Building after which the glass stairs to the forty sixth flooring, you possibly can attain the 360-degree observatory over Tokyo and even the “Sky Edge” glass balcony that extends past the constructing over the town.

I want we had extra time to discover Shibuya as a result of I’d have favored to take the Best of Shibuya Food Tour with Arigato Travel.

There is a lot to do in Tokyo that you’ll find yourself wishing for extra time. A couple of different actions we thought-about are:

5 Days in Kyoto

After 5 days in Tokyo, it’s time to transfer on to Kyoto. For full particulars together with meals suggestions, see my 5 days in Kyoto itinerary, however I’ve included the highlights right here.

To get to Kyoto, the simplest method is by taking the Shinkansen bullet practice from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station. Remember, you have to to make a reservation in your seat and baggage you probably have giant baggage, or you should use certainly one of many delivery providers to ship your baggage forward. Try to get seats on the appropriate facet of the practice to get nice views of Mt. Fuji on a transparent day throughout your journey to Kyoto.

Golden Pavilion across the pond

Where to Stay in Kyoto

When selecting the place to remain in Kyoto, I wished a resort that was inside strolling distance of some main sights and with easy accessibility to public transportation. I selected the Hyatt Regency Kyoto as a result of it was proper subsequent to a bus cease that went to the primary practice station for the JR practice and it was additionally inside a less-than-10-minute stroll to the Kintetsu practice station. The resort additionally supplies a complimentary one-way taxi trip utilizing MK Taxis from the practice station to the resort.

The service on the Hyatt Regency was distinctive and we actually loved the rooms. The beds had been snug, housekeeping was good, and we liked the situation.

Find different locations to remain in Kyoto:

Kyoto Day 1: Day Trip to Nara

As you permit Tokyo, it’s simple so as to add a day journey to Nara earlier than you agree into your lodging in Kyoto. Take the Shinkansen (bullet practice) from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station. Here, you have to to change to the JR Nara line (or the sooner Kintetsu line, which can also be nearer to the Nara sights — however isn’t included within the JR Pass.

When you arrive in Kyoto, merely retailer your baggage in one of many lockers (lockers price about 400-600 yen and you’ll pay utilizing your IC card) to retrieve them once you return, after which soar on one of many native trains. You can then take a bus from the JR practice station or stroll from the Kintetsu line to the primary sights in Nara.


Great Buddha temple in Nara

The primary sights in Nara are the Todaiji Great Buddha Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage website, and the Kasuga Shinto Shrine. You get to each by strolling by means of the Nara Deer Park. The deer might be fairly aggressive and if you buy crackers for the deer, you may be stalked. They nipped at us, pulled on our shirts, and even chased us.

Built in 752 by Emperor Shomu, the Todai-ji Temple is an extremely spectacular construction and is reputed to be the biggest picket constructing on the planet. It additionally homes one of many world’s largest bronze statues of Buddha, standing round 15 meters (49 toes) tall.

If you’ve greater than two hours in Nara, it’s also possible to discover the Isuien Garden or cease on the small museum close to the temple. With a complete day in Nara, you’ll have time to hike up Mount Wakakusa for a panoramic view of Nara metropolis and its surrounding panorama.

Gion District

Yasaka pagoda

Plan to reach again in Kyoto in time to examine in to the resort round 4:00 pm. To get a way of the town’s hottest vacationer district, I booked a Gion Night Walk tour with Kyoto Fun. The tour begins off in an space the place you possibly can usually see Maiko (apprentice geisha) and Geiko (what they name geishas in Kyoto) heading off to their night appointments.

We then strolled previous the Kenninji Temple (Japan’s oldest Zen Temple), by means of different smaller shrines, previous the Yasaka Pagoda simply because the solar was setting, after which by means of the Ninenzaka path and different small streets earlier than ending on the Yasaka Shrine. We actually liked this tour and attending to discover this space at night time with a information that defined a lot in regards to the tradition and historical past.

Kyoto Day 2

On our second day in Kyoto, we determined to discover the Fushimi district, which is a bit south of the town and residential to the Instagram-famous Fushimi Inari shrine, which has a pathway by means of 10,000 vermillion torii gates. This is without doubt one of the most necessary Shinto shrines within the metropolis and in addition one of the crucial widespread vacationer sights.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Torii

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is devoted to Inari, the Shinto deity of rice, agriculture, and prosperity. Inari is commonly represented by foxes, and you will discover quite a few fox statues all through the shrine grounds. It is right in case you can go to throughout a weekday (though nonetheless anticipate crowds) and arrive early earlier than the tour busses begin to roll in.

If you select to climb all the way in which to the highest, your complete go to will take about two hours, maybe longer relying on how briskly you climb and what number of shrines you cease at alongside the way in which. Keep in thoughts that there any many flights of steep steps (my Apple Health app tracked it as 59 flooring) so gown comfortably and put on good strolling footwear.

At the highest, you will discover one other shrine, which is a bit nondescript albeit for the small signal that claims “top”, which is a reduction to see after all of the climbing. Here you possibly can supply prayers or make a donation to see your fortune.

If you’re quick on time, I’d suggest simply climbing to the scenic overlook. By then the group ought to have thinned out sufficiently to get just a few good photographs and you should have gotten the texture for the expertise with out having to make the complete climb.

Fushimi Sake District

Sake sampler

After all that climbing, it would be best to reward your self with a drink and a few good meals. You can discover each within the Fushimi Sake District. Located only a quick practice trip from the Fushimi Inari Shrine, this space is off of the primary vacationer path and residential to over 30 sake breweries.

One of the highlights of the world is the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, which supplies perception into the sake-making course of and the historical past of sake brewing within the area. In addition to the museum, Fushimi provides loads of alternatives to discover the native breweries and pattern various kinds of sake. There are a lot of sake-tasting excursions which you could take on this space, however it’s important to be 20 (Japan’s consuming age.)

If the excursions don’t be just right for you (like us with our 19-year-old), you possibly can nonetheless pattern sake from lots of the native breweries on the Fushimi Sake Village. Within the Fushimi Sake Village there are a number of eating places and a number of tasting bars, however you may get a desk within the heart and order a Sake sampler of as much as 18 completely different sakes, together with meals from a number of eating places.

Aside from the sake-related actions, the Fushimi sake district can also be a picturesque space to discover, with charming streets, conventional machiya (picket townhouses), and scenic canals. To benefit from the canals, you possibly can take a trip on a standard Jikkokubune boat, which is very stunning throughout Cherry Blossom season or fall foliage.

Private Kaiseki Dinner with a Maiko

Maiko with fan

If you’re prepared to splurge for a very distinctive and memorable cultural expertise, I’d suggest reserving a personal kaiseki dinner with a maiko and/or geiko. It is just not simple to make a direct reserving with a teahouse, so you could need to attain out to your resort concierge. I used to be capable of organize this by means of a third-party reserving service and tour firm.

Throughout our multi-course conventional kaiseki meal, we had been capable of chat with the women by means of our interpreter and study a lot about this custom and tradition, together with the coaching, the apparel, the talents, and the variations in look between a maiko and a geiko.

After dinner, each ladies gave a brief dance efficiency after which we performed some rhythm video games collectively. It was so attention-grabbing to see how this tradition is preserved, but additionally the trendy influences, akin to varied geiko or maiko homes having an Instagram account.

Kyoto Day 3

For our third day in Kyoto, we wished to discover extra of the jap facet of the town and the Higashiyama ward, together with a number of the well-known temples, shrines, and purchasing areas. Since we had been staying proper subsequent door on the Hyatt Regency, we began the day on the Sanjusangendo Temple. While you possibly can’t take footage inside, this temple homes 1001 virtually life-sized carved and gold-plated pictures of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It solely takes a couple of minutes to go to, however it’s fairly a sight to see.

Kiyomizudera temple

From there, it’s a 20-minute stroll to Chawan-zaka or ‘teapot lane’, which is an efficient spot to buy pottery with stunning handcrafted designs. Follow this highway up the hill to Kiyomizudera Temple.

Built within the eighth century, this UNESCO World Heritage website sits on a hillside, providing panoramic views of the town under. The temple’s most iconic function is its picket terrace, which juts out from the primary corridor and supplies a vista of the encircling panorama. Another widespread spot to go to inside the temple grounds is the Otawa Waterfall, which is believed to have sacred waters with therapeutic properties.

After visiting the temple, stroll by means of the Gion district and discover the numerous retailers and stalls providing sweets and avenue meals. The hottest purchasing streets are Sannenzaka, simply down the hill from the temple, and Ninenzaka Street, the place you’ll even discover a Starbucks.

Next, you possibly can go to the Kodai-ji Temple and the Yasaka Shrine, which you might have already seen throughout the night Gion strolling tour. By this time, you could be getting temple fatigue, however there may be yet one more that you simply shouldn’t miss — Ginkaku-ji Temple. However, you probably have the vitality, you possibly can first go to the Nanzen-ji Shrine after which stroll alongside the Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-Michi), which is a stone path following a canal working by means of the Higashiyama district. The Philosopher’s Path connects the Ginkaku-ji Temple and the Nanzen-ji Temple. 

Silver pavilion

The Ginkaku-ji Temple is often known as the Silver Pavilion as a result of it was initially supposed to be coated in silver leaf (in distinction to the Golden Pavilion, which is roofed in gold leaf.) This famend Zen Buddhist temple was constructed within the late fifteenth century and is an instance of Japanese aesthetics and Zen philosophy, providing a peaceable ambiance in case you can handle to flee the crowds.

The temple grounds function completely landscaped gardens, together with the enduring sand backyard often called the Sea of Silver Sand. Designed to imitate the ripples of a relaxed sea, the Zen backyard supplies a tranquil area. Other sights inside the temple advanced embody moss-covered pathways, a stone backyard, and a picturesque pond adorned with stone bridges.

Kyoto Day 4

On day 4 in Kyoto, it’s time to discover the Western facet of the town.

the Golden Pavilion & The RYOAN-JI TEMPLE

Golden Pavilion across the pond

The Kinkaku-ji Temple, often known as the Golden Pavilion, is without doubt one of the most iconic and widespread vacationer sights in Japan. The temple’s shimmering golden exterior has captivated guests for hundreds of years and you’ll usually discover footage of it on guidebooks and different tourism supplies.

Built within the 14th century, the temple was initially a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. However, upon his dying, the villa was transformed right into a Zen Buddhist temple, as per his will. What units Kinkaku-ji aside is its outstanding exterior coated in gold leaf, which represents the Buddhist idea of the Pure Land, a realm of enlightenment, and is a nod to the opulence and aesthetic preferences of the time.

From the Kinkaku-ji Temple, it’s a quick bus trip to the Ryoan-ji Temple. The Ryoan-ji Temple is most well-known for its zen rock backyard, which is claimed to be created on the finish of the Muromachi Period round 1500 by a extremely revered Zen monk, Tokyo Zenketsu. The backyard measures solely 25 meters from east to west and 10 meters from south to north and options 15 rocks unfold out all through the world on a mattress of white gravel.

We couldn’t decide any rhyme or purpose for the structure or the importance of the variety of rocks, however it does have a peaceable high quality in case you can seize a spot on the sting of the platform to take a seat and ponder for a couple of minutes.

For lunch, take a stroll by means of the Nishiki Market, often called Kyoto’s Kitchen, which makes a speciality of all issues meals associated and is a good place to seek out seasonal meals and Kyoto specialties, akin to Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood, and sushi. In addition to those staples, there are lots of stalls providing ready meals specialties which you could eat on the spot.

From the Nishiki Market, it is just a 15-minute stroll to the Japanese tea ceremony on the Jotokuji Temple. Through the expertise, you may be taught the advantageous artwork of consuming matcha tea and study in regards to the significance of the ceremony. If that tea ceremony expertise doesn’t work together with your schedule, there are others to select from, together with this one positioned very near the Golden Pavilion.

Pontocho Alley

Pontocho Alley

For dinner, it would be best to discover Kyoto’s well-known Pontocho Alley. This slender and atmospheric pedestrian avenue runs parallel to the Kamogawa River and is famend for its conventional teahouses, eating places, and bars with an extended historical past courting again to the sixteenth century.

We ate in Pontocho Alley twice, attempting completely different cuisines, and would suggest each Yamafuku for a shabu shabu scorching pot expertise and Ukiya Pontocho for soba noodles and tempura.

Kyoto Day 5

I’ve saved the very best for final, which is the Arashiyama ward, positioned on the northern outskirts of Kyoto. This space is most well-known for its stunning bamboo forest, which will get completely swarmed with vacationers. While the standard knowledge is to get there early (earlier than 8:00 am), however we went within the mid-afternoon and didn’t should combat any giant crowds and there was loads of area to get some photographs with out one million different individuals round.

Arashiyama Monkey Park

Monkey on rooftop with a peanut

Walk by means of city and throughout the Togetsukyo Bridge to the Arashiyama Monkey Park to see the Japanese Macaques, often known as snow monkeys. Be ready for a steep, 20 to 30-minute climb up Mt. Arashiyama, the place you possibly can then observe and work together with the monkeys of their pure habitat. You will pay to feed the monkeys from inside a constructing (with the monkeys reaching by means of bars from the skin), or simply spend a while observing them and taking within the view.

Tenryū-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji temple

From the Monkey Park, you possibly can stroll again throughout the river and discover the lovable retailers and meals stalls alongside the primary avenue. These had been surprisingly good for such a touristy space, and there are such a lot of scrumptious sweets to attempt together with mochi, taiyaki, comfortable ice cream, and every little thing matcha.

Before you get to the turn-off for the Bamboo Grove, you’ll arrive on the Tenryū-ji Temple. I like to recommend stopping right here first, partially as a result of it helps you keep away from the primary crush of individuals strolling from the practice station straight to the Bamboo Grove.

As a UNESCO World Heritage website, Tenryuji Temple is famend for its gorgeous structure, serene gardens, and connection to Japan’s Zen Buddhist custom. However, I believe the very best a part of the Tenryū-ji Temple is just not in the primary corridor, however within the Hatto Hall, which is residence to the Tenryū-ji Cloud Dragon portray by Kayama Matazo. Completed in 1997, the Cloud Dragon is painted on a lacquer and clay base masking the ceiling and it’s rendered within the happo-nirami model, during which it seems to look immediately at you, regardless of which course you view it from. This phantasm is actually fascinating!

If you buy a mix ticket for the temple and the Sogenchi Garden, you possibly can then exit the backyard at first of the primary bamboo grove.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Bamboo grove path

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove covers an space of roughly 500 meters with towering bamboo stalks and pathways by means of this magical forest. Due to its photogenic nature, the bamboo grove is a highly regarded attraction, particularly throughout the mid-day. If you make a day (or a half-day) of exploring this entire space, a go to to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is certainly price it.

3 Days in Osaka

After 5 days in Kyoto, it’s time to transfer on to Osaka, Japan’s kitchen. For all the small print and meals suggestions, see my Osaka itinerary, however I’ll share the highlights under.

Osaka is barely quarter-hour from Kyoto by way of the Shinkansen bullet trains that arrive at Shin-Osaka station, which is a couple of five-minute native practice trip from the primary Osaka Station. However, it’s also possible to take a neighborhood practice from Kyoto to Osaka Station in half-hour.

Where to Stay in Osaka

girl in window looking at osaka view

The Umeda space round Osaka Station supplies easy accessibility to public transportation, eating places, and purchasing and we couldn’t have been happier with our keep on the Intercontinental Osaka.

Since I booked by means of the American Express Fine Hotels program utilizing my AmEx Platinum, we got an early check-in at 12 pm, together with a $100 meals and beverage credit score and every day breakfast for 2. Instead of reserving two rooms as we had in different cities, I made a decision to spend only a tiny bit extra to order one of many two-bedroom residences. It was a worthy funding as all of us loved spending time collectively in the lounge, consuming room service one night time at our eating desk, and using the kitchen facilities, together with the washer/dryer combo.

I’d extremely suggest the Intercontinental Osaka whether it is inside your finances, in any other case, there are lots of different decisions:

Osaka Day 1

If you’re staying within the Umeda space close to Osaka Station, head over to the Umeda Sky Building for a stroll across the rooftop out of doors observatory.

Umeda Sky Building

Umeda sky tower

One function that makes this statement deck completely different from others is the glass-enclosed escalators that you simply take between the 2 towers from the thirty ninth flooring the place the ticket workplace is positioned to the fortieth flooring and the doorway to the statement deck. These escalators give the looks of being suspended in air, which may both be a thrill or a fright, relying on how effectively you do with heights. Once on the high, the 360-degree statement deck enables you to take within the metropolis from all angles.


Boutique in Namba Parks

It is difficult to go away Japan with out doing a bit of purchasing and profiting from discovering distinctive fashions that you simply gained’t discover within the shops at residence. For high-end purchasing, the Grand Front Osaka has some acquainted names and Hankyu Sanban Gai is an alternative choice. However, teenagers will love the reasonably priced youthful fashions on the HEP Five purchasing heart. You will discover flooring after flooring of stylish kinds and even discover a large Ferris wheel (one thing you see often in Osaka.)

While these are each adjoining to the Osaka Train Station and inside a couple of minutes stroll of the Umeda Sky Building, an alternative choice is to take the metro to the Namba Parks shopping center, which incorporates a multi-floor rooftop backyard with cafe, eating places, and plush inexperienced areas.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

Finish your sightseeing with a go to to the Osaka Castle and surrounding gardens, one of the crucial iconic websites in Osaka. Built within the late sixteenth century, the fortress serves as a logo of energy and status, reminiscent of the tumultuous feudal period. The spectacular five-story exterior is an ideal photograph backdrop to memorialize your keep in Osaka.

ORIX Buffaloes Baseball Game

baseball game at Kyocera Dome

If you’re a baseball fan and visiting throughout the baseball season, I’d counsel getting tickets to see a recreation on the Kyocera Dome. Buying tickets can get a bit of sophisticated, as it’s essential to first register and arrange an account. However, there are additionally third-party providers that can buy your tickets for you and ship them to your resort.

When we had been on the town, we had been lucky to get to see the Osaka ORIX Buffaloes play the Hiroshima Carp, which is sort of a rivalry. The entire recreation had the energetic really feel of a school recreation, as each groups had bands and enormous cheering sections that introduced the noise for the complete recreation. We had a blast cheering for the house crew and attending to see how the Japanese have adopted such a love for baseball.

Osaka Day 2

Plan to dedicate a complete day in Osaka to exploring the town’s wealthy avenue meals tradition. We took a meals tour of the Shinsekai district with Arigato Food Tours that we liked! Arigato additionally provides meals excursions of the Dotonbori space, however I felt like that was simple sufficient to discover on our personal.


family in Shinsekai

This vibrant neighborhood was developed to imitate the cities of Paris and New York, Coney Island particularly. It is thought for its retro appeal and distinctive ambiance. The main landmark of Shinsekai is the Tsutenkaku Tower. Originally inbuilt 1912 and standing at a top of 103 meters, the Tsutenkaku Tower bears a resemblance to the Eiffel Tower. Today, you possibly can go to the highest of the statement deck and even take a slide down the facet of the tower.

You is not going to depart an Arigato Food Tour hungry! In addition to filling up on scrumptious meals like kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers) and takoyaki (octopus balls), we discovered a lot about this space and the native tradition (plus discovered a wonderful store to buy Japanese knives!) that we simply wouldn’t have found on our personal.


Dotonbori canal

Dotonbori is without doubt one of the hottest districts in Osaka, famend for its vibrant nightlife, colourful neon indicators, and scrumptious avenue meals. Located alongside the Dotonbori Canal, the world is a hub of leisure, purchasing, and eating, with iconic landmarks just like the well-known Glico Running Man and the Ebisu Tower Ferris Wheel.

Start off by taking a stroll alongside the canal and immersing your self within the vibrant ambiance or take a canal boat cruise to view the websites from the water.

When it involves meals, Dotonbori is a meals lover’s paradise. The streets are lined with numerous eateries, meals stalls, and eating places. Takoyaki, the ever present octopus balls, is a must-try snack in case you didn’t get your fill in Shinsekai. Another native favourite is okonomiyaki, a savory pancake layered with elements like cabbage, meat, and seafood. You can even discover sushi, ramen, kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), together with many, many sweets.

Personally, I fell in love with the melon pan bread ice cream sandwich, however it’s also possible to attempt the towering “long” comfortable ice cream cones, the 100 Yen pastries full of cheese or different elements, and taiyaki or mochi with crimson bean paste.

A couple of different locations to see within the space embody:

  • Hozenji Yokocho, which is a slender, atmospheric alley with well-preserved conventional structure, stone-paved paths, and conventional lanterns that illuminate the world throughout the night, making a magical ambiance. The spotlight of Hozenji Yokocho is the Hozenji Temple, a small Buddhist temple that dates again over 1,400 years. The temple is legendary for its moss-covered Fudo-Myo statue, which is believed to grant needs. Visitors to the temple usually partake within the ritual of splashing water onto the statue for good luck and cleaning functions.
  • Round1 Stadium, which options quite a lot of indoor sports activities and leisure amenities, together with bowling alleys, arcade video games, batting cages, billiards, darts, karaoke rooms, and far more. It has an in depth collection of arcade video games from basic retro video games to the most recent digital actuality experiences.
  • Amerikura, often known as “America-mura” or “Amemura,” is a vibrant neighborhood positioned within the Shinsaibashi district not removed from Dotonbori. The identify “Amerikura” stems from its affiliation with American tradition, as the world was initially influenced by American tendencies and trend within the Seventies. Now it’s recognized for its distinctive and different trend scene, with quite a few impartial boutiques, classic shops, and stylish clothes retailers lining its streets.The space additionally has colourful and attention-grabbing avenue artwork, graffiti, and murals, including to the inventive and edgy ambiance. Aside from trend, Amerikura provides a vibrant nightlife scene with an array of bars, golf equipment, and dwell music venues that come alive at night time.

Osaka Day 3: Day Trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima

Osaka is beneath two hours from Hiroshima by Shinkansen and a go to to Hiroshima or Hiroshima and the neighboring island of Miyajima make for an awesome day journey and a great way to finish your journey to Japan. You can positively discover these websites by yourself, however I made a decision to e book a full-day non-public tour with JGA (Japan Guide Agency) by means of Get Your Guide, and we liked our information Eiji.


A bomb dome in Hiroshima

We began our go to with a fast bus trip to the hypocenter of the nuclear blast that killed roughly 140,000 native residents at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945.

From there, we walked over to the A-Bomb Dome, often known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It is the remnants of the Industrial Promotion Hall, which is without doubt one of the few buildings left standing close to the epicenter of the atomic bomb explosion. It has been preserved in its ruined state, with its skeletal framework and crumbling partitions, to honor the reminiscence of the lives misplaced and to convey the horrors of the atomic bombing.

In the Peace Memorial Park, we additionally visited the Children’s Peace Monument. This monument is devoted to the youngsters who misplaced their lives as a result of bombing and the long-lasting results of radiation. It incorporates a statue of Sadako Sasaki, a younger lady who grew to become a logo of peace by means of her story of folding 1,000 origami cranes.

In addition, we walked previous the Peace Memorial Cenotaph, which holds the names of all of the recognized victims of the atomic bomb, and the everlasting flame, which they vow to maintain lit till nuclear weapons are eradicated.

Our remaining cease in Hiroshima was a go to to the Peace Memorial Museum, which supplies a complete account of the atomic bomb assault and its devastating penalties. It reveals artifacts, images, and private tales, permitting you to achieve a deeper understanding of the human impression of the bombing. It dealt not simply with the assault that day, however the long-term impacts on the individuals and the town.

It was heavy and quite a bit to absorb, however an necessary a part of historical past is to respect these killed and remind ourselves to not let this occur once more. After a darkish morning, it was a really nice change to spend the afternoon on Miyajima.


Lantern and torii gate in Miyajima

Miyajima is a picturesque island positioned in Hiroshima Bay in Japan. It is legendary for its iconic floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine. The city streets, stunning seashore, mysterious mountains, and basic Japanese structure make Miyajima really feel fairly magical.

To get to the island, you possibly can both take a brief ferry to the island from a ferry terminal, which is about half-hour from the practice station by native practice, or take a ship tour from the Peace Memorial Park on to Miyajima, which takes about 45 minutes.

The primary attraction is the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The shrine’s iconic crimson torii gate seems to be floating on the water throughout excessive tide, making a mesmerizing sight. During low tide, you possibly can exit on the seashore and stroll by means of the gate. The gate was put within the water as a result of guests from Hiroshima would go to the shrine by boat, and enter by means of the gate.

Miyajima street and mountain

Another widespread attraction is Momijidani Park, which is a scenic spot recognized for its stunning maple timber, that are particularly beautiful throughout the autumn season. Throughout the island, additionally, you will encounter wild deer. Unlike in Nara, you aren’t allowed to feed them, however the deer can nonetheless be aggressive you probably have paper or meals in your palms. One truly adopted me into the customer heart and grabbed a brochure off of the counter and began consuming it. The employees needed to chase it exterior and wrestle the paper away from the cussed deer.

You will need to depart time to stroll alongside Omotesando Street, the place you will discover avenue meals stalls and retailers promoting conventional crafts, souvenirs, and Miyajima’s well-known picket rice scoops often called “mokugyo” (we purchased one to convey residence.) Here you possibly can attempt Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and Hiroshima contemporary oysters, straight from the oyster farms that you simply move by on the ferry. These are pretty giant oysters, that are grilled and served up both plain or Rockefeller model. If you’re an oyster lover, don’t depart the island with out giving them a attempt.

I actually fell in love with Miyajima and it made me need to go to extra of the smaller cities within the Japanese countryside on a future go to. If I returned to Miyajima, I’d additionally e book an evening within the conventional Ryokan and benefit from the island after the day trippers depart.

Final Day: Travel Home

Yasaka shrine gate at night

If you’ve an additional day in Japan, you could need to add in a go to to Universal Studios Japan or the TeamLab Botanical Garden. However, for a lot of who’ve simply two weeks in Japan, it’s time to begin the lengthy journey residence.

It is commonly cheaper and simpler to e book a round-trip ticket to and from Tokyo, versus flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka. However, you could need to take into account including an additional night time in Tokyo earlier than you fly out. Since our flight wasn’t till 6:25 pm, our plan was to take a bullet practice to Tokyo with loads of time for our flight.

Unfortunately, heavy rains shut down the trains from Osaka to Tokyo that day and all of the flights from Osaka to Tokyo that would get us there in time for our flight had been booked, so we had been pressured to vary our flight and spend an additional night time in Osaka.

This brings me to my subsequent subject…journey insurance coverage!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

There are many causes to buy journey insurance coverage for any worldwide journey, particularly one as advanced and, frankly costly, as Japan. Depending in your coverage, journey insurance coverage can cowl you within the occasion of journey interruption (like what occurred to us), journey cancellation, medical bills, medical transportation, misplaced or stolen baggage, and give you a 24 x 7 concierge contact in case of any difficulties.

Most of all, journey insurance coverage provides you peace of thoughts. It is tense sufficient when one thing occurs on a visit, you need to know that if or when you’ve a difficulty, you’re coated financially. I’ve carried an annual journey insurance coverage plan with Allianz Travel Insurance for years and so they have been there for us throughout diseases and different journey mishaps.

Visiting Japan? Read extra…

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Planning a trip to Japan? This Japan itinerary gives a day-by-day guide for two weeks in Japan including visits to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka with day trips to Nara, Hiroshima, and Miyajima. Perfect for your Japan vacation!

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