There is so much to see and do in Japan, I can understand it is difficult to know where to start.
From the sometimes overwhelming city of Tokyo, to the more rural mountains and temples. From the mind-blowing food, to the often confusing culture. It is definitely a country you will never forget.
So, to help you get started, the following 10 day itinerary will cover most of the “must sees” and experiences you absolutely have to have while in Japan.
The following itinerary should work for most people as it includes enough time in Tokyo with some exploration to the most iconic sites in Japan.
Day 1-4: Explore Tokyo
Day 4-5: Head To Hakone and Mt Fuji
Day 5-7: Kyoto
Day 7-8: Nara & Kōya-san
Day 9: Hiroshima
Day 9 -10: Back to Tokyo
Getting Around Japan: If you want to visit every city mapped out in this itinerary (and maybe even more of them), then the best thing you can do is get the Japan railway pass. It is great value for money if you’re travelling to all of these places, and it also makes it free to get around individual cities. Most of the country is connected with the railway network, and the railway pass is going to save hundreds of Euros. It’s also the fastest way to get around the country, thanks to their insanely fast bullet trains that reach speeds over 300 km/h.
Transportation In Cities: If you get the railway pass, you will be able to ride busses and ferries that belong to Japan National Railways free of charge. And there of course the trains, which are the fastest and most convenient ways of getting around the cities. Trams, subways and other modes of transportation also exist in cities throughout the country, but they are not included in the JR pass.
Car Rental & Uber: I don’t recommend renting a car in Japan. The traffic is heavy, and you’re going to spend more time behind the wheel than exploring the amazing country, which is not ideal for this trip. Also, the Shinkansen trains are about twice as fast as cars, and cheaper when you look at the price you’re paying for renting it out and gas. But if you really want to rent one, you should know that the legal driving age in Japan is 18, and you need to apply for an International Driving Permit at your home country. That is the only type of permit with which foreigners are allowed to drive in Japan.
Timetables: Railways in Japan are very organized, and you can easily find the departure times of their trains here. They are also very punctual, so try not to be late.
Currency: The official currency of Japan is the Japanese yen (¥). At the moment (July, 2019), 1€ equals some ¥122, $1 equals around ¥108, and 1£ equals around ¥136. Be sure to check the exchange rates at the time of your trip, as they do fluctuate.
Timezone: The time zone in the entire country is Japan Standard Time (JST). This is 9 hours ahead of GMT, 7 hours ahead of CEST, 13 hours ahead of EST/EDT and 17 hours ahead of PST.
Credit Card Acceptance: Japan is still largely a cash-based society, so it is best to bring along lots of cash. You will be able to use credit cards in shops and some restaurants in larger cities, but not so much in the countryside. For places like Buddhist temples, castles and shrines, you will need to have cash on hand.
ATMs: Here’s the thing – a large amount of ATMs in Japan do not accept credit/debit cards that are issued outside of the country. If you want to withdraw money, you will need to find a postal ATM or a 7-bank ATM. These two are most widely available in the country, and they will accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Maestro and some other cards, as well as have an English user menu.
Visas: To enter Japan, you need a passport and, depending on where you are from, you might need a Visa. Certain countries are Visa-exempt, and will get Temporary Visitor status upon entering the country. You can find a full list of Visa-exempt countries here – if your country is not listed there, you will need to apply for a Visa at the Japan consulate in your country.
Electricity: Standard Voltage in Japan is 110V, which is actually different from both Central Europe (230V, and North America (120V). If your adapters say 110-220V, you will be able to use them in Japan. The power plugs and outlets are either type A or B (2 or 3 prongs), and they are similar but not identical to those in North America. To be on the safe side, you should get a plug adapter.
Languages: The official language of the country is Japanese, with the Tokyo dialect being considered the Standard Japanese language. A variety of dialects is spoken throughout the country, as well as Ryukyuan language in certain parts of Kagoshima in the Ryukyu Islands and Okinawa. Staff at hotels and fancy restaurants can usually help you in English, but that’s not true of the majority of general population.
In fact, according to recent studies, 72% of people aged 20-49 stated that they either cannot speak English or can only string together some words. Because of that, you definitely need to learn some basic Japanese phrases before you get to the country.
Can you speak English? – eigo o hanasemasu ka?
I don’t understand Japanese. – nihongo ga wakarimasen
Where can I use the internet? – doko de intaanetto o tsukaemasu ka?
Where is _____ ? – ______ wa doko desu ka?
police station – kouban
convenience store -konbini
hotel – hoteru
bathroom / toilet – toire
How much is it? – ikura desu ka?
Thank you – arigatou gozaimasu
Please – onegaishimasu
Excuse me – sumimasen
Yes – hai
No – iie
I’m sorry – gomen nasai
When you land in Tokyo, the first thing you should do is go and have your JR pass activated. You can do that at Tokyo International Airport, and you can choose the date when the pass is activated. I recommend that you choose either day three or four of this itinerary, because you want your JR pass to be active when you are travelling back to Tokyo from Hiroshima. Otherwise, the journey back to Tokyo is going to be extremely expensive.
Plus, you don’t really need it that much for the first two days. The trains in the city are not too expensive, and neither are the busses and trams.
Anyway, I’m assuming that you’re really tired and jet-lagged, so feel free to settle in your hotel and get some rest. But, if you want to power through the fatigue, then go straight out on the city streets. In this case, I recommend you check out Shibuya and the alleyways and food in this area. And don’t worry – you will have plenty of time tomorrow to continue exploring this stunning district.
It makes sense to begin this journey in the most iconic spot of the district – Shibuya Crossing. This is the busiest crossing in the world, so expect huge crowds of people. If you’re not in the mood to be pushed and shoved, I recommend you go into the Starbucks and just watch people from there. After all, I’m sure a coffee after an exhausting flight sounds good.
When you’re ready to get a move on, go to Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho. This area is very interesting to tourists – it is pretty much a maze of narrow alleyways with izakaya pubs and restaurants. In fact, this area is also called the drinking district, and it is one of the best places where you can try out some signature Japanese drinks and grab something to eat.
Head south from there to see your first Shinto Shrine – one of many amazing shrines that you will see on this journey. The Konno Hachimangu Shrine is in a very serene area, and it is not as crowded as the rest of the neighbourhood. It’s an amazing spot to get some rest, and admire the unique place of worship.
If you have the time, I would recommend going to your first Don Quijote. This is a chain department store, and you will find tonnes of them throughout the city. They are the best for shopping Japanese souvenirs, because you can get pretty much anything you think of here, from takeout to a new washing machine. With clothes, toys and accessories in between.
After that, I would stop by the NHK Studio Park. Here, you can learn a bit about how broadcasting works, and see some famous people in the recording rooms. You can also try being a news reporter – good practice if you’re considering the career. Plus, there are lots of sculptures of various Japanese cartoon characters, so it’s a really great place for children.
Then you can head back to your hotel and get some rest. The next day we are heading to Shibuya City again, but also some other prominent areas of Tokyo.
Explore some more of the older parts of Tokyo today, taking in some of the sights and sounds of the older parts of the city like Shibuya.
Even though it’s an older part of the city, it is actually really popular with the younger crowd. This is where you will find some amazing clothing stores, art stores, bars, restaurants and fast food joints.
Start at the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station. Then, make your way to Shibuya Center Gai Street – the busiest street in the town. On your way there, you should pass by Hachikō Memorial Statue – a statue dedicated to the loyal akita dog that waited for his owner in the same spot for 9 years. You’re probably already familiar with this story, so expect to get a little bit emotional near the statue.
This is where you will find most bars, shops and restaurants, so it’s a great spot to do some (window) shopping and begin exploring Japanese culture. Actually, it’s one of the best ways to properly introduce yourself to Japanese fashion, especially one that’s popular with the younger crowds.
You will also see some popular brands here like H&M, Zara, Adidas, McDonald’s and some others.
From there on, head to the Yoyogi Park – the vast expanse of land in the middle of this busy city. The park is full of lakes, trees, flowers and fountains, and it is truly an amazing sight. It’s where you can escape all the city noise, and truly relax for a while.
In the heart of this park you will find Meiji Jingu – a Shinto shrine with a breathtaking iris garden, dedicated to Emperor and Empress Meiji. It is well worth a visit; you can truly experience Shinto architecture and admire all of its beauty.
From the park it’s just a short walk to Harajuku area and train station, which is where we’re heading next.
Harajuku area is still park of Shibuya city, and it’s very popular for amazing flea markets and antiques markets. If you want to get some souvenirs to take back home, the markets are great places for getting some unique objects at a bargain.
But I reckon you need a bit of break after walking around Shibuya and the Yoyogi park, so head over to the Cat Cafe across the street from the Harajuku station. I’m sorry, it’s not optional – dozens of furry, cuddly kitties and great coffee sound like heaven on earth to me. So, spend the rest of your trip in Japan there and head home! Just kidding of course; when you get out of the cafe head north, until you get to Takeshita Street.
This pedestrian street is full of unique shops, cafes, and snack bars. It’s a great place to pick up some really unique items, ranging from authentic Kimonos to Anime keychains. It’s also very popular for cosplay shops and vintage clothing stores.
If you continue walking down the street until you start to see trees at the sides, you will find your way to the Togo Shrine – another lovely shrine with a stunning garden and a lovely pond. It’s much smaller than the one in Yoyogi Park, but it’s still worth a visit. You can also check out the museum and bookshop here, and perhaps grab a souvenir to take home.
If you head east from the shrine and make your way to the narrower streets, you will find the Renkozan Myoenji Temple and the Watarium Art Museum. The former is a beautiful buddhist temple with stunning statues outside, while the latter is an incredibly popular museum that houses contemporary art. It’s a fairly small museum in a very modern and chic building where you will always find some sort of contemporary art exhibition.
From there, it’s about a 15 minute walk to the Sendagaya train station, which is right next to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. And that’s where we’re heading next.
Shinjuku City is a very large part of Tokyo, and it is the commercial and administrative centre of the city. This is the area where government buildings are, in addition to numerous skyscrapers full of offices. And with a population density of more than 18,500 per square kilometer, you can expect huge crowds.
But that should by no means discourage you from exploring this part of Tokyo. It is of huge importance to the city, and it is swarming with spots that one must go to, should they ever be lucky enough to visit Tokyo.
The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a national park in the midst of this urban city centre. It is an enormous park, with stunning cherry trees, vast expanses of grass, ponds and a greenhouse. The greenhouse is worth visiting, because you have the opportunity to see a huge variety of plants. But I would not necessarily recommend this to people who have a sensitive sense of small – although the scents inside the greenhouse are delightful, they can be overpowering.
From the park, you can go east if you’re interested in checking out some museums. There are two that are very popular; the Fire Museum, which is kid-friendly and full of fire gear and equipment, including helicopters and trucks. And then there is also the Tokyo Toy Museum, where you fill find all sorts of games from all over the world. I’m talking from table foosball and a huge ball pit to all sorts of Babushka dolls. These two spots are really great if you’re travelling with kids, and I would recommend them.
Or you can go west from the park, until you reach an enormous skyscraper that is going to leave you in awe.
The Metropolitan Government building is the second tallest skyscraper in the city, and it has an observation deck at the top. Not only is it majestic from the outside, due to the sheer size of the building, but it also offers breathtaking views from the top. The panorama of Tokyo stretches as far as the eye can see, and it’s undoubtedly a view that you don’t want to miss out on. As long as you’re not afraid of heights, I promise you that you will enjoy it.
From there, you’re just minutes away from the Shinjuku Chuo Park and the Shinjukujunisha Kumano Shrine. If you’re in the mood for some more trees, waterfalls, playgrounds and a bit of Shinto architecture, I recommend you go there.
But if you want to see something that’s even more authentically Japanese, then I know just the spot for you. Head down Ome-Kaido Ave until you reach the Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho – it is a historic alley full of unique street performers, amazing Japanese restaurants and loads of bars where you can try some authentic (alcoholic) Japanese drinks. I recommend you pop in one of the restaurants and grab some dinner, since we’re almost done with day two of exploring Tokyo.
From there, head down Central Road, towards the humongous Godzilla head that is very hard to miss in the Tokyo skyline. It’s a very interesting sight, and it’s on the way towards the Samurai museum, which features exhibitions dedicated to Japanese Samurais. Visitors can try on costumes and sign up for sword battles. If that sounds exciting, feel free the spend the rest of the evening here and then head back to your hotel. Get a good night’s sleep because day three is going to be even more tiring than day two!
Get a taste for the old and new by visiting Asakusa, the Sensoji Template and then popping over to see the more modern Skytree, the tower that dominates the Tokyo skyline.
Start off day three by exploring Asakusa, the neighbourhood that still has the vibe of an older Tokyo. Compared to all those extravagant shops on Takeshita Street, this area of the city is going to feel like you went back in time.
You will want to take a train to the Asakusa station, since that’s the perfect start to this journey. When you get off the train, head down Kaminarimon Street for a little while, then turn right when you see the Kaminarimon Gate Senso-ji Buddhist temple. Then continue until you reach Nakamise Shopping Street, which is swarming with street food vendors, souvenir shops and people. It’s a great place to pick up some Japanese souvenirs, but expect to be pushed and shoved in a sea of people.
Pop in any shops you like, and grab some breakfast if you haven’t eaten anything; just make sure that you’re going north. The next stop is Sensō-ji – the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo with a five-storey pagoda. It was built in 645 with the purpose of honouring Kannon, the goddess of mercy. This is a stunning temple, and it is quite large so you can’t really miss it. And it is probably at the very top of the list of all temples you must see in Tokyo, so definitely don’t miss out on this opportunity.
Close by you will also find Hanayashiki Amusement Park – an awesome amusement park with all kinds of rides, including a huge rollercoaster. If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush, then go inside and have as much fun as you want. If not, head east on Kototori-doi Avenue. You will eventually get to the riverside Sumida Park, which offers a majestic view of the Tokyo Skytree.
Next to the park there’s also a huge baseball field, and you can often watch other people play.
Across the street from the baseball field, you will see another stunning Buddhist temple, Matsuchiyama Shōten. Check it out if you want to; otherwise cross the bridge to the part of Sumida park that’s on the other side, and start making your way towards Tokyo Skytree. You can get there by train or you can walk – the latter is the best way to see as much of Tokyo as you can, and it’s just a 15 minute walk. And that’s pretty much the star of day three – Tokyo Skytree is the tallest broadcasting tower in the entire world, with a height of 634 meters.
If you’re afraid of heights, you’re probably better off just exploring the rest of Asakusa – there’s a lot more of Asakusa north of the amusement park, but you’re going to wander into the mostly residential area of Asakusa. You will find a few shrines here and there, but nothing too impressive. In that part of the neighbourhood you are mostly going to see school, children’s parks, shops and restaurants.
But if you want to be on top of the world, get up on that observation deck for the best view in the country. The deck is at the 350 meter mark, and the view from it is amazing. You can also download an app that will display all the major tourist spots in the direction you’re facing. Pretty cool, right?
If you have any time left, use it however you like. Go grab coffee or a bite to eat, but I suggest you start packing because the next day you’re leaving Tokyo. But don’t worry – we’ll come back here at the end of this itinerary, so you will get more opportunities for exploring!
What could be more Japanese than a little electronics shopping! The Akihabara part of the city is flooded with shops and all things electronics, and even if you don’t enjoy such things, it’s a sight to behold!
Akihabara is a small part of Tokyo, so it’s not going to take too long to explore. In fact, if you’re not actually interested in the electronics or anime toys, and don’t want to go inside the stores, you can probably see the entire area in less than an hour.
But, since we all know just how much the Japanese are popular for their technological giants, it’s wrong not to at least browse some of these shops. And all of the malls and buildings here are giant, colorful skyscrapers – just walking around the area is enough to leave you amazed, and make you want to go inside at least one of them.
If there’s any kind of gadget that you need in your life, this is where you can find it. I’m talking everything, from water bottles that light up to remind you to take a drink to robot vacuum cleaners. And since there are so many stores here, they’re always competing who has the lowest prices.
Yodobashi Camera is perhaps the best mall for buying electronics. With nine floors of gadgets, it’s like a heaven on earth for tech-savvy people. You can buy pretty much anything that you can imagine here, from a brand new camera lens, to your own R2D2.
Radio Kaikan is another huge mall – 10 storeys, with loads of smaller shops inside. It’s the perfect spot for anime lovers, because here you can buy loads of unique souvenirs, all kinds of anime goods, and any toy that exists on this planet. If you have kids and you actually take them here, they’re going to have the time of their life. And hopefully, they won’t make you empty out your wallet.
I’m sure you’re familiar with those Japanese vending machines, which are full of small toys, keychains, tiny figures and similar memorabilia? Well, that machine is called Gacha-pon, and you will find hundreds of those machines throughout Akihabara. You will also find the largest shop that’s full of these machines in this part of Tokyo, and it is called the Gachapon Kaikan.
And if you’d like to just shop for some souvenirs, preferably somewhere where you can find everything you need in one place, head to Don Quijote. This is a chain store, and the one in Akihabara is just one of many in Tokyo. It’s a favorite among tourists because the store has such a variety of items that you can find anything there, from small souvenirs to food and clothing. Plus, this particular Don Quijote also offers a wide variety of cosplay outfits, and it has a game arcade in the building!
In the afternoon take a train to Hakone, and settle in your hotel. If you have a railway pass, keep in mind that you can only get as far as Odawara with it. From there, you will need to get on another train (and buy a ticket) or a bus, in order to reach Hakone.
Here’s the easiest route: go to Tokyo station, and get on a bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line to Odawara station. This is included in the JR pass, so no extra fees. From there, you can take the Hakone Tozan train to your final station. Depending on where you’ve booked your stay in Hakone, this journey can take anywhere from 10 to 55 minutes, and cost between ¥130 to ¥670.
How could you come to Japan and not see, or at least try to see through the clouds, the iconic Mount Fuji. The best place to do this is Hakone and maybe even get a reflection of the mountain in the lake!
I hope you love hiking, because that’s what day five is all about! So, you will want to make your way to the national park. If you’re staying near the Chokokunomori or Gora stations, you can just take the Hakone ropeway – an iconic gondola that’s going to take you from the populated area all the way up into the mountains. If you’re further away, you’ll need to get on the Hakone Tozan train again, and get out at the last stop.
But, there are some cool things to check out in the area near the train stations, so don’t get in that gondola first thing in the morning. I would recommend going to Chisuji Falls and seeing the lovely waterfall with string-like lines of water. The Okada Museum of Art is also worth visiting; it is set in a woodland area full of streams and hot springs, and it features exhibitions of Japanese, Korean and Chinese art.
There’s also the Hakone Open Air Museum, which is really close to the Chokokunomori station. It’s the first museum of its kind in the country, and it features collections of world renowned artists like Picasso, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto and many others. It’s definitely worth it to stop by if you’re a fan of art.
After you’ve explored this area properly, get inside that gondola and make your way to the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
Hakone Ropeway can take you all the way to Lake Ashinoko, which is really great. The lake is an amazing sight, and you can also go for a ferry ride across it if you like. That’s going to be an awesome experience, since the ferry is designed and decorated like a pirate ship. If you get the first class ticket, you can go on the tallest deck, and enjoy a Titanic moment (minus the iceberg), overlooking the nature around you.
On the lower shore of the lake you will find the Hakone shrine. It is another lovely Shinto shrine, with a museum inside it. And if you’ve had your fair share of shrines in Tokyo, you can go to the Narukawa Art Museum, which features Nihonga-style paintings, lovely views of the city and a cozy cafe.
I would also stop by the Hakone no Mori Park or the Onshi-Hakone Park; both offer amazing, untouched nature and great walking paths. The latter also has an observation platform, with amazing panoramic views of the lake and Mount Fuji. I almost forgot about that – Hakone is one of the few places in the country where you can enjoy the best views of Mount Fuji.
When you want to go back to your hotel, you should take the Hakone Ropeway again, unless you feel like hiking for a couple hours. You can enjoy views of the hot springs below you, but I doubt you’ll enjoy the scent as much as the area smells like sulphur. You can grab dinner in one of the restaurants in town, and you can either go back to your hotel and turn in for the night, or get on a train and go to Kyoto.
The easiest way to reach Kyoto is to go back to Odawara train station, and then get on a bullet train to Kyoto there. This is going to be included in your JR pass, so not only is it pretty simple but it’s also free, apart from the ticket from Hakone to Odawara. The journey from Odawara to Kyoto lasts about 2 and a half hours, and it’s up to you whether you want to go in the evening of day five or early in the morning of day six.
Kyoto is where you go to see the Japan of old. From temples to Geishas, there is enough things to do and see here to keep you busy for a few days!
So, we’re not going for anything as extravagant as Akihabara was. Instead, your stay in Kyoto is going to be all about exploring ancient and authentic Japanese culture, from some of the most stunning temples and shrines, to castles with lovely gardens.
I’m a sucker for a panoramic view, so I’d start off the day with a trip to the Kyoto Tower. The observation deck is some 100 meters above the ground, and the view from it is amazing. On clear days, you can actually see as far as Osaka – how cool would that be? Plus, this will allow you to see where some of the other attractions I have in mind are, so you’ll have an idea which direction you should go.
After the tower, get on a bus (or walk for some 30 minutes) and head to Pontocho Alley. This Kyoto district is known for geiko and maiko (geishas) houses, as well as traditional tea houses. I encourage you stop by one of these houses and see for yourself what the geishas are all about. After all, how can you leave Japan without having met at least one face to face?
Here you will also find the Nishiki Market, where you can find some of the most famous Kyoto goodies. I’m talking about snacks, sweets, spices, drinks and even clothes. If you missed out on souvenir shopping in Tokyo, now’s the time to make up for it!
If you head north from the market, it will take you some 15 minutes to reach the International Manga Museum – if you’re a fan, I imagine you’re going to want to stop by and spend some time there. And if you don’t care for manga too much, that’s fine – you can either continue north and go to Kyoto Imperial palace (10 minute walk), or head west towards the Nijō Castle (15-20 minute walk).
I’d visit both – first the smaller Nijō Castle, which features two palaces, moats, bridges and amazing gardens. And then you can go to Kyoto Imperial Palace – I’d recommend getting a cab, since it’s only a 5 minute drive, but a 25 minute walk. And the palace is definitely worth seeing – the grounds are enormous, there are actually several palaces there, ponds, gardens, cherry trees, shrines and many other historical landmarks.
I reckon it’s going to take a couple hours to explore this area properly, so take your time. There’s a restaurant on the grounds if you feel like resting for a little while, and when you’re ready catch a bus at the Karasumaimadegawa Bus Stop, and head towards Higashiyama Jisho-ji. The 15th century buddhist temple is stunning, and you can actually see a mound of sand shaped just like Mt. Fuji here! There are loads of other shrines and temples, so make sure to take lots of great photos!
When you feel like going back, I suggest you take The Philosopher’s Path to the nearest bus stop. This riverfront walk path is adorned with cherry trees on either side, and it’s lined with shops and cafes.
And then you can go back to your hotel, and get a good night’s sleep. You should also pack your bags – the next day we’re leaving Kyoto in the afternoon, and heading to Nara.
While you’re still in Kyoto, I suggest you go to Arashiyama – it’s on the outskirts of the city, and it takes a while to get there. You can get on a train at Kyoto Station (San-In Line), which will take you as far as Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there, it’s best to either get a can or walk (some 15-20 minutes) to Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama.
You can walk among wild monkeys and observe them in their natural habitat. I would spend most of my time here, since I really enjoy being out in the nature and observing wildlife. There is also an observation deck, which offers scenic views of the city below – the walk up to it is a bit tiring, but the views make it totally worth it. You will also find the Hōrinji (Buddhist) Temple close by, as well as another Shinto shrine right next to it.
When you’ve had enough of the monkeys and shrines, head back to Kyoto station – this is the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to reach your next destination. Nara is quite close to Kyoto and easily reachable within an hour. It is a city for temple indulgence to stay here and you will be overloaded by the time you leave.
To get to Nara, you will want to take the Miyakoji Rapid Train. This one is included in the JR pass, and the ride will last less than an hour. Another option is the Kintetsu train, which is more frequent, but it is not included in the JR pass.
When you get off the train, you’re just a few minutes away from Higashimuki Shopping Street. Walk around and see if you like anything – you can get all kinds of goodies here, and you can also find some really good restaurants. I recommend Genkishin (Nara) f you’re in the mood for Ramen noodles, or Mellow Café if you’d like to try a Japanese take on Italian cuisine. And there’s also a McDonalds nearby, if you’d like a Big Mac.
From there, the closest attraction is going to be Kōfuku-ji – a stunning complex of Buddhist temples and pagodas. There’s also an on-site museum here, so stop by if you’re in the mood to learn about Japanese nationals treasures.
Then you can easily walk to Yoshiki-en garden, and unwind a little. If the trees, flowers and pond aren’t enough to put in you in a state of relaxation, then stop by the tea house in the garden. That should definitely do it.
From there, you can either go to Tōdai-ji – a Buddhist temple built in the 700s, with Japan’s largest Buddha statue. It’s an amazing sight, and it is definitely worth a visit if you can find the time. The other place I would recommend would be the Nara public park – perhaps you could go there first, and then head towards the huge temple.
The public park features several ancient temples, the Nara National Museum of Art, and most importantly, tame deer! It’s a 5-minute walk from the park to Tōdai-ji, so I think it’s going to be easy enough to visit both.
After that, head back to your hotel and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s another day in Nara, and you will have plenty of time explore everything you missed today.
So, if you would rather go to Koyasan than Nara, that’s perfectly fine. Just keep in mind that you’re not going to have time to explore it on day seven, and we’ll do most of exploring day eight. And the journey there is going to be tedious, but it’s much easier to reach Koyasan from Kyoto than from Nara.
The fastest and cheapest journey lasts a little under three hours, and it begins at Kyoto Station. First you’re heading to Osaka on Tokaido-Sanyo Line, and then you want to get on Osaka Loop Line to Shin-Imamiya Station. That allows you to board a train (Nankai-Limited Express) to Gokurakubashi Station, which is the closest you can get to Koyasan via train. From there you should get on the cable car to the bus station, and then you can take the bus into town.
And here’s a fun fact about Koyasan – most of the temples in the town were converted into hotels. This is an opportunity to have a really unique experience, and spend a night in an authentic temple. I recommend you look into lodgings there, and book a room with scenic views of the mountains.
So, depending on where you decided to go after Kyoto, you’re spending most of this day in either Nara or Koyasan. And you’re heading to Hiroshima in late afternoon/evening, so be sure to have your bags ready!
Since we spent most of yesterday in the eastern part of the city, today it is time to explore central and western Nara more. I suggest you head to Heijō Palace Remains first thing in the morning. This reconstruction of the 8th century palace is very interesting, and you get the opportunity to learn something about the original palace that stood there.
There should be some snacks and refreshments on site, which will come in handy if you didn’t have breakfast yet.
It’s a really short walk from the palace to the Kokuei Heijokyuato Historical Park. You will pass by the Suzaku Gate on the way, so take a moment to admire that landmark and snap photos. The historical park is another spot worth visiting, especially because of that enormous boat you can board and explore. There are several other landmarks in the park, as well as an Open air museum that is free to enter for foreigners.
Head west from the park to Saidai-ji Temple. This is actually the main temple for the Shingon Risshu sect of Buddhism, and it was originally built in 765 CE. This place is actually really quiet, and it is often overlooked by tourists – a great chance to go and explore something away from the crowds.
From there, head south towards Tōshōdai-ji. This Buddhist temple complex is one of the oldest and best-known in Nara. It is especially famous for its 8th century Golden Hall, which was actually acknowledged as a national treasure.
A little ways from there you can also find the Yakushi-ji Temple. This Buddhist temple was once known as one of the Seven Great Temples in Nara, and it has quite a rich history. It was originally built in 680, and today it is considered a UNESCO World Heritage. There are several other smaller temple surrounding the Yakushi-ji Temple, and together they all form a truly stunning sight.
In the late afternoon, you will want to board a train to Osaka. The fastest and cheapest way to reach Hiroshima from Nara is to get on the Sakura Shinkansen at Shin-Osaka station. This journey lasts about 90 minutes, and it is covered by the JR pass.
I recommend you get up really early in the morning, so that you can make the most of your day in Koyasan. The journey to Hiroshima is going to take 4-5 hours, so you should leave at 5PM at the latest.
Koyasan is a small haven up in the mountains, and it is a religious town. Its history begins in in 816 AD, when a monk named Kukai (posthumously named Kobo Daishi) created a monastery complex in the area that is today’s Koyasan. He was the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and the main temple of that branch still remains in the town. In fact, the entire town of Koyasan is considered a UNESCO World Heritage, due to its rich history and religious importance.
Therefore, today is the day to visit as many different temples as you can in a day, starting with Kongobuji. This is perhaps one of the most famous temples in the town, and it is very popular for the unique rock garden. The temple itself is stunning, and inside you can see lots of unique, Japanese paintings.
Just three minutes away from Kongobuji is Fukuchiin – a 13th century Buddhist temple known for its hot springs. This one is actually a hotel, so you can pop in for a quick bite if you like – it’s worth it if you get a chance to go out into the gardens.
Very close by you will find two places of worship – Nyonindo and Tokugawa Clan Mausoleum. The latter is quite small and obscure, so it’s worth it to stop by, but don’t expect to spend too much time there.
Instead, head to Koyasan Reihokan Museum to learn about Buddhism and see some stunning pieces of art. Definitely check out the old wing, as it is the oldest wooden museum structure in the country. Also see the statue wing, which is full of unique creations.
I would also stop by Konpon Daito. It is one of the few Buddhist temples in the town where you can’t spend the night, so it is pretty unique for Koyasan. This is actually the tallest building in the town, and it has a two-storey pagoda with a circular body. In 1843 this temple was destroyed in a fire, and it was reconstructed in 1937. Today, Konpon Daito looks exactly as it did when its original construction was completed in 876, and it remains one of the most important symbols of Koyasan.
One of the last spots to check out is Daimon Gate. This landmark marks the traditional entrance into town, and it is truly a majestic site. The gate is huge and it dominates the area around it, and it is such a great way to end your day in this charming little town.
In the afternoon, you need to get your bags and start heading to Osaka. So, grab a bus to the main bus station where you can get on the cable car to the Gokurakubashi Station. From there you need to head to Osaka, where you can get on the Sakura Shinkansen to Hiroshima. The Sakura train is included in the JR pass.
Who has not heard of Hiroshima and the devastation that was wrought on this city at the end of World War II. Today is a vast difference to the Hiroshima of that time, but is definitely worth a visit.
One of the reasons why I suggested you go to Hiroshima on day eight is so you could have enough time to visit Itsukushima. It is one of the most iconic sights in this city, and it is undoubtedly worth your time. However, it takes about 90 minutes to get there from Hiroshima station, so feel free to skip this part if you opted to travel to Hiroshima in the morning of day nine.
Otherwise, head there first thing in the morning. This small island in Hiroshima Bay is widely known for the Great Torii Gate, which is partially submerged underwater. The gate marks the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine – a 16th century Shinto Shrine.
Other notable sights on this island include the Miyajima Public Aquarium with sea lions and penguins, Omoto Park with cherry blossoms and deer, and Daishoin – a Buddhist temple complex built in 806 CE. I recommend you spend a couple hours on the island, depending on how early you got here, and head back to Hiroshima around 1PM.
Now, whether you’re coming back from the island or just starting to explore the city, our first stop is the Hiroshima Castle. It is a 10-minute bus ride from Hiroshimaeki Bus Stop, or a 20-minute walk from the Hiroshima station. The castle is amazing – the modern reconstruction of the 16th century castle is surrounded by a moat. There is a history museum inside the building, and also a Shinto Shrine on the castle grounds.
There is an observation deck at the top of the castle, so feel free to climb there for panoramic city views.
From there, head to the Atomic Bomb Dome. Most of the other attractions are also in this area, so it shouldn’t take too long to visit them all. Atomic Bomb Dome are actually remains of the Industrial Promotion Hall, which was devastated during WWII. It stands as a reminder of the travesty this city went through decades ago, but also as proof of how far they’ve come since.
Close by you will also find the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower, which is a great lookout point. Go to the top for the best view of this city, and some amazing photos.
Then head to Peace Memorial Park. You can see several monuments dedicated to victims of the Hiroshima bombing, including the iconic Memorial Cenotaph, the Peace Memorial Statue and the Monument of Prayer.
Then, I suggest you start making your way back to Hiroshima station. If you have an hour to spare, stop by Shukkeien – a stunning city garden that dates back to the 16th century. There is a koi-pond here, as well as a tea house where you can stop and enjoy some tea in this serene environment. Then head to Hiroshima station – you should board a train to Shin-Osaka no later than 6PM.
It will take you about 5 hours to get back to Tokyo, and the journey will be covered by the JR pass. You need to take the Sakura train to Shin-Osaka station, and from there get on the Hikari train to Tokyo. Just keep in mind that you need to get on a train to Tokyo before 9 PM, if you want to make it there before dawn.
If you don’t have a JR pass, it will be faster to just get on the Nozomi Shinkansen. It will take you directly to Tokyo (no transfers) but it’s going to cost you a lot of money (around ¥18,000-20,000).
It’s time to make your way back to Tokyo, but it’s not over yet. You can either explore some of the places you loved, did not see enough of or even do another day trip from here before you leave!
Now is the time to see as much of Tokyo as you possibly can until you have to be at the airport. Or to go on another day trip – Fukushima and Nagoya are both just two hours outside Tokyo, and truly stunning cities. If your flight doesn’t leave until evening or late afternoon, then you will have plenty of time explore either one of these cities.
If you want to stay in Tokyo and avoid the stress of last-minute travelling, let’s head to Koto – an area that we didn’t cover at the beginning of this journey, but that has a lot to offer nonetheless.
I would go straight to the Giant Sky Wheel – go on a ride of this enormous ferris wheel, and admire stunning views of Mount Fuji from the top. Be sure to take lots of pictures, so can always remember these exhilarating moments.
And if you’re in the mood for some more adrenaline, head to Tokyo Joypolis – an amusement park with all kinds or arcade games and rides, which were based on Sega intellectual properties. And that means everything Sonic!
You should also go to Yumenoshima Park, where you will feel like you’ve stepped in a rainforest, until you’re remember you’re still in the middle of Tokyo. The Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse is definitely something worth exploring, especially if you love flowers and plants. This botanical garden is full of unique species of flora, waterfalls and ponds.
Close by you can also see the life-size statue of Unicorn Gundam, an anime and sci-fi novel character. Even you’re not familiar with him, it’s still an amazing sight, because of all the little details that went into making it.
Oh, and really close to the statue you can find the Toyota Showcase. I’m sure car-lovers will find this really interesting – you can see all kinds of Toyota vehicles, including concepts. And you can also ride in simulators, or even go for test rides. The best part is that admission is free, so it literally won’t cost you anything to experience this.
If your flight doesn’t leave until late in the evening, then you might just get a chance to see the Rainbow bridge. The suspension bridge connects Shibaura Pier with Odaiba, and it comes to life at night when all the lights get turned on.
Head to Tōyōchō-eki-mae bus stop when you feel like it’s time to start heading home. You can get on a bus that will take you directly to the airport there, and ride lasts only about 30 minutes.
If you have it in you to do another day trip, Fukushima is a place worth seeing. Part of the city is literally built around a mountain (Mount Shinobu), and that’s certainly a sight you won’t get to see in any other country.
You have a few options for your day in Fukushima – you could head to the city area, and straight to Mount Shinobu. There is a park here and several observation decks, which offer panoramic views of the city below.
There are several sights worth seeing in the city – the Fukushima Inari Shrine is a gorgeous Shinto Shrine in this part of Japan, with a stunning gate and gorgeous statues. And I think you should definitely head to Hanamiyama Park, even though it’s a bit outside the town. This is going to be one of the most beautiful places in the entire country you’ve visited – there are cherry blossoms everywhere, and the contrast between them and the exquisitely green grass is simply stunning.
I would recommend getting some takeout or sandwiches, and settling here for lunch. Spending some time in the nature, surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers is an epic way to conclude your journey.
Now, if you don’t feel like spending your time in the city, you can go to one of the mountains that’s just outside the urban area of Fukushima. Mount Adatara is a stratovolcano, and the nature here is so beautiful that words cannot do it justice. This is especially going to be rewarding for those of you enjoy hiking or mountain climbing, because there are loads of trails and paths you can follow. And the views from Mount Adatara are simply mesmerising.
Another option you have is to go to Mount Azuma-kofuji. Well, not exactly on the mountain since it is an active stratovolcano, but in the general area. It is shaped sort of like Mount Fuji, which is kind of obvious from its name.
Oh, and here you can also go to Takayu Onsen – a hot spring resort where you can really relax and unwind. And considering that you have to get on a crowded airplane later, this sounds like a really good idea.
And if you are not at all in the mood for mountains, then go to Akimoto Lake. It is a stunning lake, surrounded by untouched nature that is perfect for long hikes. Or for just sitting on the shore and enjoying the views in front of you.
Anyway, make sure you really make the most of your time in Fukushima, and spend it however you please. It will take you some three, three and a half hours to get to Haneda Airport, so be sure to leave on time. You can get as far as Tokyo Station from here, and then you will need to get on a different train to take you to the airport.
Nagoya is a pretty large city, so unfortunately you won’t have time to explore everything thoroughly. But you will have time to see some of the most famous parts of the city, starting with Nagoya Port.
Nagoya Port is one of the largest ports in Japan, so it’s definitely worth visiting. It is also the largest exporter of cars – if you drive a Toyota, this is probably where it came from. But it’s not just about cars and boats; there is also an aquarium here, where you can see a killer whale and dolphin shows. The shows are pretty entertaining, especially if you are with kids.
Head into city centre from the harbour, but first stop by Shirotori Garden. It’s on the way, and it is worth it to take a detour. The traditional Japanese garden is beautiful, and features a pathway among streams and ponds. There’s also a teahouse here, so feel free to stop for a cup of tea if you like.
And then head into the central area of the city, Naka Ward, because that’s where most of the other attractions are. You can pop into an orchid garden, Ran no Yakata, which not only looks like something from a postcard, but also smells heavenly. With more than 250 different species of orchids, this place feels like heaven in the middle of the busy city.
This is also where the most famous landmark of the city is located – the Nagoya Castle. It is such a beautiful place, and it’s definitely something you need to see in person. If you have time, get a guided tour of the premises; you can see all kinds of statues, sculptures and paintings inside the actual castle.
Another really popular part of the city is Osu shopping district. So, if you need to do some last minute shopping, this is going to be perfect for you. You will find anything your heart desires here, from modern fashion retailers to authentic Japanese shops that have been around for centuries.
From there, head to Shirakawa Park. The city park is known for extravagant sculptures, and it is also home to several museums. If you have enough time, tour the Nagoya City Science Museum. It houses the largest planetarium in the world, and it’s definitely a sight you won’t soon forget.
Then, go to Nagoya TV Tower, for a quick panoramic view of the city from one of its observation decks. That’s an amazing way to end your journey through Japan, and a great memory to take back home with you.
To get back to Tokyo Station, you will want to board the Hikari Shinkansen at Nagoya Station. This one is included in the JR pass – in case you don’t have the pass or it expired, you can also board the Nozomi Shinkansen. That one is going to be faster, but also more expensive.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!