10-day itinerary in Japan for those visiting the country for the first time

Hello fellow travelers! 🙂

Those who follow me on Instagram know that I have been to Tokyo and Kyoto before, so this is my second time in Japan. My plans are to return there at least two more times in the coming months, so this article will be revised and updated with more details! In this article I give you a brief day-by-day description of my itinerary, and for more in-depth discussion of each city individually, I refer you to the two articles:

Tokyo: what to visit in 6 days (coming soon)

Kyoto: 3-day itinerary (coming soon)

Ready for this adventure? Let’s go! 🙂

Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo

We arrived at Narita Airport, which unfortunately is the furthest away from Haneda. To go to downtown Tokyo you take the Shinkansen, the famous bullet train. Have you purchased the JR Pass? You can use it for this train! If you have not already done so, go and activate it at the dedicated tourist points at the airport and then board the train to the center. If you do not have the JR Pass, you will just need to buy the single ticket. It will take you about 50 minutes. Let’s talk about hotels! My favorite areas are Asakusa and Shinjuku, the former quieter and the latter livelier, perfect for those who also enjoy nightlife. I give you a couple of good hotels I found for both neighborhoods. I anticipate that I always look for the best solution in terms of cost-location, so I chose only 3-star hotels for an average solution: Shinjuku:
  • APA Hotel Higashi Shinjuku Kabukicho Tower: Conveniently located in Tokyo, APA Hotel Higashi Shinjuku Kabukicho Tower offers buffet breakfast and free WiFi. It can be found here.
  • E Hotel Higashi Shinjuku: Located right next to the Higashi-Shinjuku subway station (exit A1). The property offers free WiFi, a 24-hour convenience store and self-service laundry. It is a 10-minute walk from the bustling area of Kabukicho. It can be found here.
Asakusa: The first day usually struggles with the time difference, so you will most likely be wandering around the hotel grounds. Be sure to stay awake! Don’t make the mistake of taking a nap, try to adapt to the new local schedule right away by eating according to the new schedule as well.

Day 2: Shibuya, Harajuku and Golden Gai

We start at the world’s busiest intersection, Shibuya. Explore the neighborhood and get lost among the various strange stores. Some points of interest in Shibuya include:
  • Shibuya Crossing: The world’s most famous intersection, perfect for photos and videos.
  • Hachiko Statue: The famous Hachiko dog statue, a symbol of loyalty.
  • Shibuya 109: An iconic shopping mall with many Japanese fashion boutiques.
Then we head to Harajuku, perfect for those who have already fallen in love with Japanese fashion. As soon as you set foot in Tokyo, believe me, you will be enchanted by the way the girls dress-they look like something out of a cartoon! Here you will also find the Meiji Temple, an oasis of peace in the heart of the city. For the evening, push on to Golden Gai, an area of Shinjuku famous for its small bars and clubs. Golden Gai is a maze of narrow streets with tiny bars that often accommodate only a few customers at a time. It is a great place to experience Tokyo’s nightlife. Beware, they often require only cash!

Day 3: Discovering Shinjuku

The third day is dedicated to discovering my favorite neighborhood – Shinjuku! A vibrant and lively neighborhood, famous for its skyscrapers, shopping malls and nightlife. Some points of interest in Shinjuku include:
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Offers free panoramic views of the city.
  • Kabukicho: Tokyo’s red-light district, full of restaurants, bars and entertainment.
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: A beautiful park where you can relax and enjoy nature.
Also be sure to stop by Don Quijote, the famous mall with endless floors of must-have merchandise. In the afternoon, you can stroll through the beautiful Ueno Park, famous for its museums and zoo. Near the park, you will find the Ameya-Yokocho Market, an open-air market where you can eat something delicious.

Day 4: Akihabara

Akihabara will surprise you with its malls for fans of technology, manga, anime and so on. Be sure to make a stop at a maid café, a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Day 5: Sensoji and Roppongi

Leave early to go to Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo, surrounded by traditional small stores. Explore the Asakusa district and then take the subway to Roppongi. Here you can visit the Tokyo Tower or climb to the top for a free panoramic view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Maid Cafe in Akihabara

Day 6: Arrival in Kyoto

We resume our Shinkansen which will take us to Kyoto! Once you arrive at the station, you can decide whether to take a cab or bus to your hotel. Here are some excellent solutions for value for money and location:

  • 京都河原町ホテル Waka Kyoto Kawaramachi Hotel: Kiyomizu-dera Temple is 2 km from the aparthotel, while TKP Garden City Kyoto is 2.4 km from the property. It can be found here.
  • Urbain Kyoto Kiyomizugojo: Offers air-conditioned rooms with flat-screen TV in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward. It can be found here.
  • 初音(はつね): Located in Kyoto’s Shimogyo Ward, 1.5 km from Kyoto Station and 1.4 km from Gion Shijo Station. It can be found here.
  • THE L.A. MART HOTEL KYOTO: It is 3.1 km from Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Heian Shrine. It can be found here.

    From Tokyo to Kyoto the trip takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, so let’s assume we arrive at lunchtime. After dropping your bags off at the hotel, begin your exploration of Kyoto by visiting the Kiyomizu-dera. In the evening, soak in the serene atmosphere of Kyoto’s streets, falling in love with every corner.

    Day 7: The charm of Kyoto and Nara

    Start the morning by visiting Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), one of Kyoto’s most iconic temples. After this visit, head to Nishiki Market for a delicious lunch, where you can sample various local specialties.

    In the afternoon, take the train to Nara, a city famous for its friendly fawns that roam freely in the parks. Don’t miss Todai-ji Temple and Nara Park.

Day 8: Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari

Get up early to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Early morning is the best time to avoid the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of this magical place. Also explore the picturesque village of Arashiyama.

In the afternoon, go to Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its countless red torii that form enchanting paths through the forest. It is one of the most photographed places in Japan, and for good reason!

Day 9: Osaka or Hiroshima

Today you have two options:

  1. Osaka: Located a short distance from Kyoto, Osaka is famous for its delicious food and lively atmosphere. Visit Osaka Castle, theUmeda Sky Building, and stroll through the Dotonbori district with its neon lights and restaurants.
  2. Hiroshima: If you prefer a more historical visit, take the train to Hiroshima, a journey of about 3 hours. Visit Hiroshima Peace Park and the Peace Museum, as well as Hiroshima Castle. For an unforgettable excursion, you can also visit Miyajima Island, famous for its floating torii.

In the evening, you can return to Tokyo by shinkansen.

Day 10: Last purchases and goodbye to Tokyo

The last day in Tokyo is perfect for doing the last shopping and visiting the places you enjoyed the most or didn’t have time to see such as Odaiba Island with the famous Gundam almost 20 meters high! Other options might include a visit to Ginza for shopping, a walk through Ueno Park, or a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

Other useful tips:

  • Passport: You only need your passport to go to Japan; you do not need to get a visa in advance.
  • Payment: Cards are accepted in all stores and malls, but to visit temples, buy gifts and souvenirs at markets or smaller restaurants you will need cash. Remember to have some with you at all times. You can exchange it in advance at your bank or withdraw it locally. I usually withdrew in the Seven Eleven, which you will find every 100 meters, and had no commissions. To pay in general I have always used Revolut and you can find the article where I talk about it HERE.
  • Adapters: Remember to equip yourself with adapters because the sockets are different. I recommend the one I use practically all over the world: link here.
  • JR Pass: To purchase the JR Pass and reserve seats online, you can use the official website. There are also other authorized sites, such as www.japan-rail-pass.com. Is it worth buying the pass? To answer this question you need to do a little calculating beforehand: compare the cost of the individual tickets you will take during your tour with the cost of the JR Pass (at the moment, May 2023, the cost is 307€ for 7 days).
  • Health insurance: Japan is far away and medical expenses can be very high. I highly recommend, in fact, I would say it is mandatory, to take health insurance. I use Heymondo, one of the most reputable and widely used insurance companies, thanks to recommendations from people who follow me on Instagram. You can use my discount code: Heymondo.

    I hope you find this itinerary helpful in planning your trip to Japan. Also continue to follow me on instagram: @angelaisai for more adventures and travel tips! Have a safe journey and enjoy every moment of this incredible experience! 🙂

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