โ›ฉ๏ธ 10 Epic Days in Japan: A Unique & Active Itinerary

A Japanese street with traditional buildings.

Japan, one of Asia’s most popular destinations, is home to shrines, cherry blossoms, hot springs, and the iconic Mt. Fuji.

Ten days is enough time to visit several of the country’s best travel spots and experience their top attractions.

This Japan itinerary visits the three major cities and covers two epic, off-the-beaten-path adventures. It’s ideal for those who want to visit the highlights while being active and adventurous. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 10-day unique itinerary
  • โญ๏ธ Top attractions in 7 destinations
  • ๐Ÿ“ Japan map with key places
  • ๐Ÿ’Ž Hidden gems & firsthand tips
  • ๐Ÿ  Where to stay
  • โœ๏ธ Japan trip planner

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Japan.

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Japan Itinerary Route

This itinerary takes you to some of Japan’s best places:

  • Tokyo โ€“ the most popular destination.
  • Kyoto โ€“ the city of a thousand temples.
  • Osaka โ€“ the city known as the kitchen of Japan.
  • Mt. Fuji โ€“ one of the country’s most iconic landmarks.
  • Shimanami Kaido โ€“ a unique and tranquil biking route.

About This Japan Itinerary

This Japan itinerary efficiently sequences attractions and activities the island country is famous for. It gives you the opportunity to:

  • Hike to the summit of the iconic Mt. Fuji
  • Visit famous shrines and relax in onsens
  • Bike through six Japanese islands
  • Eat your way through several diverse markets
  • Marvel at modern landscapes mixed with nature
A view of a peaceful, Japanese garden with a private bath.
A private onsen in Kyoto. (Photo by my sister, Kat.)

6 Essential Tips for Visiting Japan

Before getting into the itinerary, here are practical tips to know when traveling to Japan.

๐ŸŽŸ๏ธ 1. Consider getting the Japan Rail Pass.

Public transport is the best way to get around Japan. Trains in Japan are efficient, well-maintained, and widespread.

The Japan Rail Pass gives you unlimited rides on JR trains, including bullet trains (called Shinkansen), for a set period. Although it’s not cheap, the pass is usually worth it if you want to save significant time when traveling long distances on a high-speed bullet train.

I recommend getting the 7-day JR pass for this Japan itinerary like I did. The pass made traveling more convenient and helped me save money.

A sleek, modern train with a long nose.
A Shinkansen in Japan. (Photo by my sister, Kat.)

๐Ÿ™ 2. Shop at Japan’s convenience stores.

Japan’s convenience stores, like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson, are clean, affordable, and provide great fast food options. They will even heat refrigerated meals for you.

Convenience stores can be found everywhere in Japan, including prominent tourist locations and rural areas.

Many visitors traveling to Japan experience jet lag, so they tend to wake up early to see the top attractions when it’s least crowded. These convenience stores not only provide quick breakfast options early in the morning, but they’re also great places to stop for snacks.

I visited a convenience store almost every morning, including right before I hiked to the top of Mount Fuji, an experience featured in this itinerary.

A store aisle selling sandwiches and snacks wrapped in seaweed.
Meals at 7-Eleven in Japan.

โ˜€๏ธ 3. Travel to Japan during the summer or fall.

Japan has two peak seasons when the country is stunning:

  • Spring (March to early April) โ€“ when the cherry blossoms bloom
  • Fall (September to November) โ€“ when the autumn foliage covers Japan in shades of red and orange

However, the best time to travel is between July and September if you want to experience fewer crowds or hike Mount Fuji

Mt. Fuji’s hiking season lasts only two months every year, between early July to early September.

Learn what Japan is like in September or December.

A hiker standing on top of a mountain over the clouds.
Sunrise on Mt. Fuji in September.

๐Ÿ’ฐ 4. Carry yen bills and coins.

Japan’s official currency is the yen. Major businesses accept credit cards, but many places are still cash-only.

In some cases, you’ll even need to carry coins. For example, coins are needed for coin-operated luggage storage, bathrooms on Mt. Fuji, and vending machines.

This Japan cost breakdown shares all the places where I needed cash.

A woman standing in front of a set of vending machines selling bottled drinks.
Vending machines in Japan.

๐Ÿฅพ 5. Pack like you’re going to exercise.

Pack a few pieces of athletic clothing, as Japan can be hot and humid, and you’ll likely be walking a lot.

Many tourists, including myself, wear hiking shoes that double as rain boots during the rainy or typhoon season.

In this Japan itinerary, you’ll also do a medium-hard hike and two days of cycling at your own pace.

โœˆ๏ธ 6. Fly into Tokyo.

Japan has five international airports in Tokyo, Osaka, Chiba, and Aichi.

If this is your first time visiting Japan, you’ll likely want to fly into Tokyo. It’s convenient and a great place to start and end your trip.

  • Haneda Airport (HND) โ€“ This is the better airport to fly into as it’s located in Tokyo. Haneda Airport is about a 30-minute train ride or 45-minute bus ride into the city’s central area. I flew in and out of this airport.
  • Narita Airport (NRT) โ€“ Narita Airport is another popular international airport near Tokyo, but it’s a two-hour train ride from the city’s center, so it’s much further out.

Learn other practical tips when traveling to Japan.

Japan Map

This map has all the recommended places in the Japan travel itinerary below.

10-Day Itinerary for Japan

Below is a great way to spend ten days in Japan. To help you plan efficiently, Iโ€™ve included suggested times for each activity based on my firsthand experience.

The Japan trip planner below has this itinerary prefilled.

Day 1 โ€“ Tokyo (2 days)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ See the Shibuya Crossing9:30โ€“10 am
โ›ฉ๏ธExplore Meiji Shrine & Harajuku10:30โ€“2 pm
๐ŸŒธVisit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden3โ€“4 pm
โ˜€๏ธSunset at Shibuya Sky or Tokyo Government Building5:30โ€“6:30 pm
๐ŸŽคDinner in Roppongi or do a night food tourEvening
Day 2 โ€“ Tokyo (2 days)
๐ŸตVisit Asakusa10 amโ€“12 pm
๐ŸŒณVisit Tokyo Skytree or Ueno Park 12:30โ€“2 pm
๐Ÿ›๏ธShop in Ginza2:30โ€“5 pm
๐Ÿ•น๏ธExplore Akihabara7โ€“9 pm
Day 3 โ€“ Hike Mt. Fuji (2 Days)
๐Ÿš†Train to a Mt. Fuji train station7โ€“9:30 am
๐ŸŽ’Get ready to hike Mt. Fuji9:30โ€“10:30 am
๐ŸšŒTake a bus to Mt. Fuji’s hiking station10:30โ€“11:30 am
๐ŸŒ‹Ascend Mt. Fuji12โ€“4 pm
๐Ÿ›–Stay in a Mt. Fuji hutEvening
Day 4 โ€“ Hike Mt. Fuji (2 Days)
โ˜€๏ธCatch the Mt. Fuji sunrise2:30โ€“5:30 am
๐ŸฅพDescend Mt. Fuji6:30โ€“10 am
๐Ÿš†Train to Kyoto11 amโ€“3 pm
โ™จ๏ธRelax at a Kyoto ryokan4 pmโ€“evening
Day 5 โ€“ Kyoto (2 Days)
๐ŸŽ Explore Arashiyama7:30 amโ€“12 pm
๐Ÿฑ Lunch at Nishiki Market12:30โ€“2 pm
โ›ฉ๏ธVisit Kiyomizu-dera or Kinkaku-ji3โ€“5 pm
๐ŸฅฉExplore attractions in the Setoda area6โ€“9 pm
Day 6 โ€“ Kyoto (2 Days)
โ›ฉ๏ธ Explore Fushimi Inari Shrine8:30โ€“10:30 am
๐ŸŒณVisit Nanzenji-Temple or Kyoto Imperial Palace11:30 amโ€“2:30 pm
๐Ÿ‘ŸWalk the Philosopher’s Path3โ€“4:30 pm
๐Ÿง–โ€โ™€๏ธRelax at an onsen or get a massageEvening
Day 7 โ€“ Cycle Shimanami Kaido (2 Days)
๐Ÿš†Train to Onomichi Station7โ€“9 am
๐ŸšฒStart cycling the Shimanami Kaido10 amโ€“2:30 pm
โ›ฉ๏ธExplore attractions in Setoda area2:30 pmโ€“evening
Day 8 โ€“ Cycle Shimanami Kaido (2 Days)
๐Ÿšฒ Finish cycling the Shimanami Kaido10 amโ€“5 pm
๐Ÿš†Train to next destinationEvening
Day 9 โ€“ Osaka, Nara or Hakone (1 Day)
๐ŸฆŒ Day trip to a place of your choice All day
Day 10 โ€“ Tokyo or Osaka (1 Day)
โœˆ๏ธExplore attractions in the Setoda areaEvening

All prices mentioned here are in USD ๐Ÿ’ต .

Tokyo (Days 1-2)

Fly into Tokyo and start your Japan trip there.

๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Why Visit Tokyo?

Tokyo is Japan’s most visited city. It’s a metropolis with a plethora of authentic food, outdoor spaces, modern architecture, and distinct districts with unique atmospheres.

With endless attractions and activities, it’s a great city that acts as an excellent introduction to Japan for travelers with varying knowledge of Japanese culture.

Tokyo also has many green spaces and local parks, like Yoyogi Park and Hibiya Park, if you want to start leisurely after an international flight.

๐Ÿš‡ Getting to Tokyo

From Haneda Airport, public transport is the best way to get to central Tokyo. From the airport, most visitors travel to one of the city’s major train stations:

  • Shibuya Station โ€“ Take the Keikyu Airport Line or the Tokyo Monorail, then transfer to the Yamanote Line to Shibuya. You can check out the famous Shibuya Crossing here as your first stop.
  • Shinjuku Station โ€“ The most direct and easiest way to get to Shinjuku is to take the Haneda-Airport Limousine Bus. This is how I got to Tokyo because my accommodation was nearby and it only cost $9.
  • Tokyo Station โ€“ You can take the Keikyu Airport Line or the Tokyo Monorail to the station, then transfer to one of the many other lines.

โญ๏ธ Top Attractions in Tokyo

Tokyo has enough attractions that you could spend more than a week exploring them and still not exhaust all of them.

With two days in Tokyo, the best way to explore it is by splitting the city into West and East Tokyo. You can start on either side.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Day 1 in West Tokyo

Here are West Tokyo’s biggest attractions, sequenced in the most efficient order:

Stop #1: Shibuya Scramble Crossing

The Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest intersections in the world and one of Japan’s most iconic symbols. You can come here as your first stop or at any time you want.

Shibuya Crossing is almost always busy, but it’s busiest on weekdays between 3 and 6 pm.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 24/7

A large intersection with many pedestrians walking on it.
The Shibuya Crossing during a non-crowded time.

If you want some coffee to start your day, Tokyo has a lot of cafes. You can also try coffee with more unique combinations. For example, Komeda’s Coffee is a Japanese chain that serves sweet red beans with coffee, which I found delicious.

Stop #2: Meiji Shrine and Harajuku

Meiji Jingu is one of Japan’s most revered Shinto shrines and is surrounded by a beautiful park. The park is next to Harajuku, a bustling area famous for its eccentric youth street fashion.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: Meiji Shrine is open from sunrise to sunset

A wooden shrine at the entrance of a park with trees.
A park entrance to Meiji Jingu.

As you consider your lunch options, know that Tokyo has an abundance of delicious local restaurants, but they’re not always easy to find. To find excellent, authentic restaurants, use Tabelog, a free Japanese crowdsourcing website.

Stop #3: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

After the chaotic streets of Harajuku, go on a leisurely walk through Shinjuku’s national garden. The garden features three beautiful gardens and is particularly stunning in the fall.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: 500 yen (approximately $3), advanced tickets not necessary
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 9 amโ€“4 pm

A lush garden with a small pond and Chinese-style building.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo.
Stop #4: Shibuya Sky or Tokyo Government Building

Visit Shibuya Sky for a breathtaking view of Tokyo around sunset. You’ll also see the iconic Shibuya Scramble from above during a busy time.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Starts at 2,200 yen (approximately $15)
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 10 amโ€“10:30 pm

If you don’t want to avoid paying Shibuya Sky’s admission fee, the Tokyo Government Building features free observation decks on its 45th floor, which also has a stunning view of Tokyo’s skyline.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 8:30 amโ€“ 5 pm, closed on weekends

A view of a modern city with skyscrapers during sunset.
Shibuya Sky during sunset. (Photo by my sister, Kat.)
Stop #5: Roppongi or Night Food Tour

At night, head over to Roppongi, Tokyo’s biggest nightlife district.

Alternatively, if you’re a foodie or want to learn about Japanese cuisine, go on a highly-rated food and bar night walking tour.

Raw cuts of beef with Japanese labels on them.
Kobe beef in Tokyo.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Day 2 in East Tokyo

Here are East Tokyo’s top attractions sequenced efficiently:

Stop #1: Asakusa

Asakusa is a historic area featuring temples in a traditional atmosphere. Senso-Ji Temple is the most well-known temple in the area.

The area is packed with street food stalls serving everything from dango (mochi on a stick) to crispy curry bread, meaning you can spend over an hour doing a food crawl here.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: Varies by store, but typically 10 amโ€“7 pm

Two cups of tea with a dessert with green-colored cream on it.
Matcha desserts at Suzukien Asakusa in Asakusa.

Asakusa is next to the Sumida River, which is lined with landmarks and attractions. You can take a boat ride if you have extra time, or you can do the ride on your last day.

Stop #2: Tokyo Skytree or Ueno Park

You can stay in Asakusa longer, but visit Tokyo Skytree, the city’s tallest building, if you want to move on.

Alternatively, take a short train ride to Ueno Park, Tokyo’s biggest public area.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Tokyo Skytree Admission Fee: Starts at 1,800 yen (approximately $12)
๐Ÿ’ฐ Ueno Park Admission Fee: Free, but some facilities have a small fee

A thin, pointy building against an empty blue sky.
Tokyo Skytree from the Sumida River. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

Japan is generally very cycling-friendly. You can take a half-day Tokyo biking tour through some hidden gems. This is one of the tours I wish I had taken in Tokyo.

Stop #3: Ginza

Ginza is one of Tokyo’s most famous and upscale shopping districts. UNIQLO’s and MUJI’s flagship stores are located in Ginza. Both buildings have over six floors of goods from two of Japan’s most internationally-recognized brands.

โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: Varies by store, but most open at 10 am

For more affordable clothing, check out UNIQLO’s sister store, GU. Japanese clothing styles tend to be oversized, and the clothing proportions are excellent for short and medium-height people.

Stop #4: Akihabara

Akihabara is a famous district known for anime, video games, manga, electronics, and maid cafes.

If you’re unfamiliar with anime, you can still spend an hour or two playing arcade games, watching pros win at claw machine games, or exploring electronics stores.

A set of lit-up buildings with anime girls on it.
Akihabara at night.

Akihabara is near the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. I recommend skipping it and using Tabelog to find alternative places to eat. While the food at the market is decent, it primarily caters to tourists and is overpriced.

Raw shrimp, octopus and scallops on display at a food vendor.
Tsukiji Fish Market.

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๐Ÿ  Where To Stay in Tokyo

You’ll be relying on trains when exploring Tokyo, so staying near a major and central train station like Shinjuku, Tokyo, or Shibuya Station is a good idea.

I stayed in two hotels in the Shinjuku and Nihombashi areas (the latter is near the Tokyo Station):

Like many hotel rooms in Japan, my rooms were tiny. I didn’t mind because I spent very little time in them, and I wanted to prioritize affordable hotels that were centrally located.

A small room with a bed, small table and narrow walkway.
Small hotel room in central Tokyo.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Tips for Tokyo

Having been to Tokyo twice, here are my general tips for visiting this city:

  • Skip things if it’s too much โ€“ Tokyo can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to visit many of the top attractions in a few days. The itinerary above is packed. Don’t feel you need to do everything, so skip things to fit your travel pace and interests better.
  • Learn to use Tabelog โ€“ Tokyo’s abundance of amazing food is unparalleled. But it’s also crowded with overpriced, touristy restaurants. Learn how to use the free Japanese crowdsourcing website Tabelog to find authentic food.
A stack of fluffy pancakes below whipped cream and berries.
Fluffy pancakes I found through Tabelog.
  • Have a slower day if you’re hiking Mt. Fuji next โ€“ I hiked Mt. Fuji on my third day in Japan, and if you’re planning to do the same as this itinerary suggests, make sure to rest well the day before.

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Hike Mount Fuji (Days 3-4)

On your third day in Japan, travel east for an epic sunrise hike.

๐ŸŒ‹ Why Visit Mt. Fuji?

Mt. Fuji is an iconic landmark that has been culturally significant for centuries. It is Japan’s highest mountain, one of its most enduring symbols, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A set of houses next to a river with a mountain peak in the background.
Mt. Fuji’s peak from a surrounding town.

While many visitors visit Mt. Fuji from afar, hiking to the top is a unique, off-the-beaten-path experience. About 300,000 locals and visitors hike Mt. Fuji annually, meaning less than 1% of the 30 million visitors do it.

Hiking to the summit is challenging (it’s not an easy hike), but you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking sunrise above the clouds and a feeling of personal achievement.

Mt. Fuji is open for hiking only two months yearly, from early July to early September. If you can’t make it during the hiking season, you can take a five-star Mt. Fuji day trip to admire its beauty from afar and then spend an extra day in Kyoto.

A woman next to a Shinto shrine above the clouds.
Hiking Mt. Fuji.

๐Ÿš‡ Getting to Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji has four distinct trails that you can take to the top. The trails start in different areas, so how you get to the trailheads varies by trail.

In general, you will need to take a train and bus to get to one of its trailheads from Tokyo.

I did the Subashiri Trail, the most scenic route on Mt. Fuji, which starts near Gotemba City. I took a local train from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Gotemba Station. I caught a direct bus near the station to the trailhead.

A hiker going up a set of wooden stairs in a forest.
The start of the Subashiri Trail.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Tips on Climbing Mt. Fuji

Reaching the summit of Mt. Fuji was one of the best things I did in Japan. The experience was remarkable, and I recommend it to anyone who can do it.

For some people, this hike will require some physical and mental preparation. It’s not an easy hike, and you should take it seriously (several hikers mistakenly don’t every year).

This Mt. Fuji hiking guide details everything you need to know.

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Kyoto (Days 5-6)

On the fourth day, descend Mt. Fuji and take the train to Kyoto. Relax at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.

Ryokans are usually attached to onsens (hot springs) and provide a set dinner, making them the perfect place to relax after hiking. I stayed at a ryokan on the outskirts of Kyoto.

A woman holding chopsticks with little plates of foot in front of her.
A meal at my Kyoto ryokan.

โ›ฉ๏ธ Why Visit Kyoto?

Kyoto is one of Japan’s most beloved big cities. It has preserved its historic architecture and traditional atmosphere while developing into a modern city.

Kyoto is nicknamed the “City of a Thousand Temples” for a good reason. The city is home to thousands of famous temples and shrines that attract visitors from around the world.

It’s also well known for its Japanese gardens, natural beauty, and geisha culture.

A Japanese street with traditional buildings.
A quiet alley in Kyoto. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

๐Ÿš‡ Getting to Kyoto

From one of Mt. Fuji’s towns (e.g., Gotemba City), you can take a train to Kyoto Train Station.

Kyoto Station is the city’s largest railway station, connecting trains, subways, and bullet train lines.

โญ๏ธ Top Attractions in Kyoto

When planning your Kyoto trip, it’s a good idea to space out your temple visits and give yourself enough time to appreciate them. This itinerary does just that and balances top attractions with different activities.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Day 5 in Kyoto

Here’s how to efficiently see some of Kyoto’s top attractions on the first day there:

Stop #1: Arashiyama

Arashiyama is a historic and scenic district where visitors can spend half a day to a full day exploring its many attractions.

Its most famous attraction is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (get there before 9 am to avoid some of the crowd). Togetsu-kyo Bridge, Tenryu-Ji temple, and the Arashiyama Monkey Park are also popular.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Varies by attractions. Most are free, while others, like the Monkey Park, have small admission fees.

A woman standing on a bridge with a lush mountain background.
Togetsu-kyo Bridge in Arashiyama.

While I enjoyed many of Arashiyama’s main attractions, I also highly recommend walking further north to explore all the smaller, less crowded temples that cost about $3 each. One of my favorite ones is the small, mossy Gioji Temple.

A moss-covered area with trees.
Gioji Temple in Arashiyama.
Stop #2: Nishiki Market

Head over to the famous Nishiki Market for lunch. Nicknamed “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” this market is filled with food stalls selling skewered meats, matcha-flavored desserts, seafood, pickled vegetables, and more.

Tako tamago, octopus stuffed with quail egg, is one of Nishiki Market’s most popular snacks.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free for entering the market
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: Varies by stall, but typically 9 amโ€“6 pm

Skewered seafood displayed at a food vendor stall.
Seafood at Nishiki Market.

If you want to sample and learn about the history of the food from a local guide, go on this highly-rated food and cultural walking tour of the Nishiki Market.

Stop #3: Kiyomizu-dera Temple or Kinkaku-ji

After lunch, visit Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto’s most iconic Buddhist temples, which offers scenic views and is an architectural marvel (its main hall was built entirely without a single nail).

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Less than 500 yen (less than $4)
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 6 amโ€“6 pm

Alternatively, travel further to see Kinkaku-ji, the “Golden Pavilion.” The building’s beauty will be immediately apparent.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Starts at 400 yen (less than $3)
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 9 amโ€“5 pm

A large temple surrounded by lush trees.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)
Stop #4: Gion

At night, walk around the Gion district, known for its geisha culture, teahouses, and traditional art. Its streets are decorated with lights, making it a pretty area to stroll through at night.

Finding a great place to eat on the weekend in popular Gion can be challenging, so make a reservation or have several ideas on where to eat. I was lucky to get a spot at Arakawa, a cozy yakiniku restaurant serving delicious grilled meat.

A circular grill with marbled meat next to an open kitchen.
Arakawa in Kyoto.

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๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Day 6 in Kyoto

Here’s an optimized itinerary for the second day in Kyoto:

Stop #1: Fushimi Inari Taisha

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is Kyoto’s most famous Shinto shrine, with around 10,000 red Torii Gates.

While many tourists only visit the beginning of the gates, you can spend over an hour “hiking” through them. The earlier and higher you go, the fewer crowds you’ll experience.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 24/7

A woman standing in front of many red-colored Shinto shrines stacked near each other.
Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.
A stone carving of a fox with a Japanese building behind it.
Fox deity in Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Stop #2: Nanzen-ji Temple or Imperial Palace

If you’re up for another temple, visit Nanzen-ji Temple, which has a stunning garden and surroundings. It’s also walking distance from the next attraction.

Alternatively, visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace to learn more about Japan’s history or are tired of temples.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Nanzen-ji Admission Fee: Parts of Nanzen-ji have a small entrance fee (less than 500 yen)
๐Ÿ’ฐ Imperial Palace Admission Fee: Free

Stop #3: Philosopher’s Path

After visiting two big attractions, enjoy a more tranquil stroll through a scenic walkway called the Philosopher’s Path.

The path has smaller, hidden temples that you can check out, but you can simply walk on the path the entire time and enjoy the atmosphere.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Admission Fee: Free
โ˜€๏ธ Opening Hours: 24/7

A tranquil and modest walking path near a canal.
The start of the Philosopher’s Path.

As mentioned before, Japan is very cyclist-friendly. If you’d rather pass through the Philosopher’s Path and other smaller gems while on a bike, you can do that with rental bikes and a local guide.

Stop #4: Onsen or Massage

End your day in Kyoto by booking a relaxing massage or taking a dip in an onsen in Kyoto.

I walked into a random massage place and got an amazing massage for less than $30.

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๐Ÿ  Where To Stay in Kyoto

When in Kyoto, it’s a good idea to stay near a major, central station like Kyoto Station.

I stayed at JP Inn, which is a convenient ten-minute walk from Kyoto Station. The accommodation is on a tranquil street with a traditional atmosphere. The rooms are modern and very spacious for Japan, with an in-unit washer and dryer.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Tips for Kyoto

Like many other visitors, Kyoto was my favorite city out of Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. The combination of traditional architecture in a city landscape is incredibly unique.

Here are my general tips for visiting Kyoto:

  • Prioritize visiting famous attractions early in the morning โ€“ Given how crowded Kyoto’s top attractions are, it’s a good idea to select the top attractions you want to visit early in the morning to minimize crowds. For the itinerary above, I suggest visiting Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari Shrine on different days for this reason.
  • Spend some time wandering local streets โ€“ You can enjoy the quiet atmosphere and explore the more authentic side of the city this way.
  • Aim to visit two to four temples at most per day โ€“ Kyoto has over 1,000 temples, and it’s tempting to see as many as possible. Pace yourself and give yourself the time to enjoy each temple or shrine.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Cycle the Shimanami Kaido (Days 7-8)

After Kyoto, get ready to cycle through six Japanese islands.

๐Ÿšฒ Why Cycle the Shimanami Kaido?

The Shimanami Kaido is a 37-mile cycling route passing through six Japanese islands in the Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures. A large portion of the path is next to the ocean, so you’ll be surrounded by beautiful views in a largely tranquil area.

A view of the ocean with mountains in the background.
A view on the Shimanami Kaido.

While the Shimanami Kaido is considered a “famous” cycling route, it’s not a crowded, sought-after activity among many tourists, so it’s a unique experience.

The route also has several attractions, restaurants, souvenir shops, and views that you can stop at. One of my favorite stops was a roadside vendor that sells divine salted ice cream.

A view of an empty temple surrounded by trees.
A stop on the Shimanami Kaido.

๐Ÿš‡ Getting to the Shimanami Kaido

You can start the Shimanami Kaido from either end of the route: in Onomichi City or Imabari City.

I took the train from Kyoto to the Onomichi Station to start my ride there.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Tips for the Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido, along with hiking Mt. Fuji, was a highlight of my Japan trip. I should add that while I’m not a cyclist, I am comfortable on a bike.

Here’s everything you need to know about cycling the Shimanami Kaido.

A woman posing in front of a modern bridge and blue sky.
On the Shimanami Kaido.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Day Trip: Osaka, Hakone or Nara (Day 9)

After finishing the Shimanami Kaido on the eighth day, you can take a train from the Imabari Station (where the cycling path ends) to the next major destination of your choice.

At this point of your Japan trip, you will have seen many attractions, hiked Japan’s tallest mountain, and cycled through several islands. How you spend your last two days in Japan depends on what else you want to see and experience.

Below are three great destinations that are ideal for a day trip and are located between Imabari City and Tokyo.

Osaka (Option 1)

๐Ÿค” Why Visit: Osaka is one of the three major cities in Japan often included in first-time visitors’ trips. Called the “Kitchen of Japan,” it is best known for its food culture and culinary prowess.

A busy, commercial street next to a canal.
Dotonbori in Osaka.

๐Ÿ“ Location: Osaka is three hours east of Shimanami Kaido and two-and-a-half hours west of Tokyo by train, making it an ideal midpoint for this itinerary.

Osaka has one of Japan’s major international airports, Kansai International Airport (KIX). You can fly out of here to spend two days in Osaka instead of returning to Tokyo.

โญ๏ธ Top Attractions: Osaka’s top attractions are:

  • Osaka Castle โ€“ a historically significant icon.
  • Dotonbori โ€“ an entertainment district known for its neon lights.
  • Osaka Aquarium โ€“ one of Japan’s most impressive aquariums.
  • Kuromon Ichiba Market โ€“ one of the city’s most bustling markets filled with diverse food.

This award-winning food tour in Osaka takes you through the backstreets of the city to sample traditional food.

A food vendor selling orange, crispy chips in cups.
Delicious sweet potato chips at Kuromon Ichiban Market.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: I spent a full day in Osaka and could only prioritize three out of the four attractions above, so be prepared to be unable to do everything in a day.

Having visited Kyoto and seen many of its impressive temples, I would skip Osaka Castle if you have limited time. However, I found the Osaka Aquarium more unique and well-designed than expected.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Hakone (Option 2)

๐Ÿค” Why Visit: Hakone is a picturesque town surrounded by beautiful nature and renowned for its onsens (natural hot springs). It’s also one of the few towns where you can see Mount Fuji on a clear day.

A woman standing on a bridge overlooking a river with trees changing color in the background.
Visiting Hakone.

๐Ÿ“ Location: Hakone is six hours east of the Shimanami Kaido and two hours west of Tokyo, making it a good spot to be closer to Tokyo towards the end of your trip.

โญ๏ธ Top Attractions: Hakone’s top attractions are:

  • Hakone Open-Air Museum โ€“ a unique museum featuring art that interacts with the outdoor environment.
  • Lake Ashi โ€“ one of Hakone’s most iconic natural attractions.
  • Owakudani โ€“ a volcanic valley and a natural wonder.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: I went to Hakone for the onsens. I stayed at a beautiful ryokan with a private onsen, which was ideal after an active, busy trip.

I got to experience Hakone during the fall season, and even the train ride to this town was stunning.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Nara (Option 3)

๐Ÿค” Why Visit: Nara has gone viral on social media because it has free-roaming deer that bow to visitors. Besides its virality, Nara is a city known for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful nature.

Two deers approaching a man at a park.
Nara deer. (Photo by my friend, Shannon Tsai.)

๐Ÿ“ Location: Nara is four hours east of the Shimanami Kaido and three hours west of Tokyo, making it another great midpoint for this itinerary.

โญ๏ธ Top Attractions: Nara’s top attractions are:

  • Todai-ji Temple โ€“ the city’s most famous temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Nara Park โ€“ home of all the free-roaming deer.
  • Kasuga Taisha Shrine โ€“ a famous Shinto shrine.

If you’re not tired of being on a bike at this point, you can see the top attractions on a Nara half-day biking tour.

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Experience: I ended up skipping Nara, but from what I’ve heard, it seems like a great place to visit if you like interacting with deer. Many visitors find it delightful to run into a free-roaming deer while wandering the streets of Nara.

Return to itinerary โ†‘

Depart From Tokyo or Osaka (Day 10)

If you go to Osaka on day 9, you can fly out of Osaka’s international airport. If you go to Hakone or Nara, take a train to Tokyo for your last day in Japan.

During your last day in Tokyo, I recommend prioritizing delicious meals using the Tabelog website and shopping at stores like Don Quixote, a Japanese megastore, for souvenirs and unique snacks to bring home.

If you want to do something more relaxing, consider taking a two-hour river cruise down the Sumida River, which is a great way to end your Japan trip.

How much will a trip set you back? I share my travel expenses in this Japan budget breakdown.

With More Time: 2-Week Itinerary for Japan

If you have extra days in Japan, extending your time and modifying the itinerary above is easy. Below are two options for what an optimized Japan itinerary can look like for two weeks.

Two weeks is how long I traveled during my second Japan trip. My actual trip resembled the first option more, but I wished I had visited more areas like the second option below.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 14-Day Japan Itinerary (Option 1: More Depth)

You can easily extend your stay in any major city: Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka. Each has enough to do for at least three to five days.

If you want to minimize moving around different places, an optimized two-week itinerary for Japan can look like this:

  • Tokyo โ€“ 3 days
  • Mt. Fuji โ€“ 2 days
  • Kyoto โ€“ 3 days
  • Shimanami Kaido โ€“ 2 days
  • Osaka โ€“ 2 days
  • Tokyo โ€“ 2 days

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 14-Day Japan Itinerary (Option 2: More Breadth)

Alternatively, if you want more breadth, you can see many places during your first trip to Japan. You can visit up to nine different cities and towns in two weeks, but this can get tiring for some travelers.

If you want to visit more places, an optimized two-week itinerary for Japan can look like this (you should feel comfortable skipping one or two places if it’s too much):

  • Tokyo โ€“ 2 days
  • Hakone โ€“ 1 day
  • Mt. Fuji โ€“ 2 days
  • Kyoto โ€“ 2 days
  • Shimanami Kaido โ€“ 2 days
  • Hiroshima โ€“ 1 day
  • Osaka โ€“ 1 day
  • Kobe โ€“ 1 day
  • Nara โ€“ 1 day
  • Tokyo โ€“ 1 days

Japan Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Japan trip planner.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

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If you find my travel tips helpful, say thanks with a bubble tea๐Ÿง‹!

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