Japan Itinerary

There’s no easy way to describe Japan. This is a country of contrasts and contradictions. It’s one of the most developed nations in the world, yet its society is still ruled by old cultural norms.  The Japanese may appear shy, but their willingness to wear outlandish cosplay costumes can shock and titillate you. Even in modern cities like Tokyo, you’re never far from the past through temples, shrines or historic gardens.

Below is my two week Japan Itinerary that’ll hopefully help you make the most of your time in this amazing country.

 

5 days in Tokyo

 photo credit: Shibuya Crossing at night. via photopin (license)
photo credit: Shibuya Crossing at night. via photopin (license)

Tokyo is Japan’s capital and largest city. Five days will only give you an introduction to this incredible town. You could easily spend many weeks here and still feel like you haven’t done it justice. Whatever your desire, Tokyo has it.

  • Want shopping? Head to Ginza for best selection of luxury stores, Akihabara for the latest and greatest in electronics or to one of the many malls this city hosts.
  • Want history? There’s plenty of temples and shrines to choose from. My personal favorites are Sensoji Temple and Meji Shrine. Read my guide to Tokyo’s Temples
  • Want Zen Gardens? You’re in luck, Tokyo boasts some of the best gardens in Japan. Read my guide to Tokyo’s Zen Gardens.
  • Want to experience the quirky side of this city? Then visit one of its many arcades, animal cafes or karaoke bars.

Day Trip Options From Tokyo

  1. Kamakura is a small town one hour south of Tokyo. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments.
  2. Nikko is another beautiful town that has a plethora of shrines, some which have been marked as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Nikko also has a National Park that has amazing mountainous landscapes, lakes and hiking trails where you can spot monkeys.

 

2 days in Takayama

photo credit: Takayama via photopin (license)
photo credit: Takayama via photopin (license)

Takayama is a beautiful city that sits at the foot of Japan’s Alps; it’s known for its traditional Edo period architecture. This pretty town will give you a glimpse into Japan’s rural life, it also has great morning markets, a number of sake breweries where you can do sake tasting and of course lots of hiking trails in town and in the surrounding areas.




3 days in Kyoto

photo credit: Kyoto via photopin (license)
photo credit: Kyoto via photopin (license)

Historically, Kyoto was Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868. Today it’s famous for its many stunning temples and shrines.  Given the large number of shrines in Kyoto, it’s best to pre-select which you plan to visit, just make sure that  Fushimi Inari is on the list.

Day Trip Option From Kyoto:

  1. Nara is located less than hour from Kyoto and it was Japan’s first permanent capital. It has some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples, the most impressive is easily Todaji temple. This is one of the world’s largest wooden buildings and it has a massive bronze Buddha inside of it. All the sites of interest are located in one location, Nara Park, making this an easy day trip to enjoy.

Checkout my article on top Kyoto attractions

 

3 days in Osaka

Osaka at Night

Osaka’s an interesting city that’s referred to as the “nation’s kitchen”.  So well known is the Osakan’s love food that there’s famous quote that says:

“Kyoto-ites are financially ruined by overspending on clothing, Osakans are ruined by spending on food.”. 

While in Osaka make sure to try okonomiyaki, the city’s most famous dish. It’s like an omelette / pancake that you can customize with meat, seafood or noodles.  There’s also the udon ( thick noodle soup with fried noodles ), Takoyaki ( ball shaped octopus fritter ) and if you like taking risks then try tessa sashimi (also called Fugu) which is made from poisonous puffer fish. Certified chefs make sure that they leave just enough poison in the fish to numb lips but not stop the heart.

Read my guide on Osaka’s food culture.




Related Videos

Below are some videos from my travels through Japan. The first video is from Fushimi Inari, easily my favorite shrine in Japan.

 

Hands down, one of the best meals I had in Japan was okonomiyaki.

 

One of the quirkiest things I tried was going to a owl cafe and getting to handle some of the birds. Pretty unique experience.