๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต 10 Epic Days in Japan: A Unique & Active Itinerary

A Japanese street with traditional buildings.

Japan is one of the most popular destinations in Asia, and a 10 to 14-day trip is ideal to start familiarizing yourself with the country. A first-time visitor typically travels through the iconic cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, as well as some other smaller cities and towns.

This Japan itinerary includes the three major cities combined with epic adventures that are off-the-beaten-path. It’s the perfect itinerary for those who want to experience some of the country’s top attractions while being active and adventurous. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 10-day unique itinerary
  • ๐Ÿ’ก Practical, firsthand tips
  • โญ๏ธ Top attractions in 7 destinations
  • ๐Ÿ“ Map with key places pinned
  • ๐Ÿ’Ž Hidden gems along the way
  • ๐Ÿ  Where to stay

Planning a trip to Japan? This Japan travel guide shares practical things to know before arriving, including how to find authentic Japanese food, cultural differences, tipping etiquette, and more.

Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

Japan Map

This map includes all the key places mentioned in this Japan travel itinerary.

About This Japan Itinerary

This itinerary takes you to some of Japan’s best places as well as local and authentic sides of the country during two epic adventures.

It’s an ideal itinerary for travelers who want to see some of Japan’s main attractions while also staying active and enjoying the country’s outdoors.

6 Essential Tips for Visiting Japan

Here are six practical things to keep in mind when traveling to Japan, especially when you’re doing a Japan itinerary like this one.

๐ŸŽŸ๏ธ Tip #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 of time. The passes are not cheap, but are usually worth it when you’re traveling long distances and want to save significant time by taking a high-speed bullet train.

For this Japan itinerary, I recommend getting the 7-day JR pass like I did. Having the pass made traveling more convenient and helped me save some money in the end.

A ticket that says Japan Rail Pass.
My Japan Rail Pass.

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

Japan’s convenience stores, like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson, are clean, affordable, and provide a lot of great fast food options (they will heat up the refrigerated meals for you). They can also be found everywhere, from big tourist locations to more 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 are 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 included in this itinerary.

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

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

Japan has two peak seasons:

  • During the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom from late March to early April
  • During the fall when the autumn foliage covers Japan in shades of red and orange

Japan is simply stunning during these two seasons. However, if you want to experience fewer crowds or hike Mount Fuji, the best time to travel is between July and September.

Mt. Fuji’s hiking season is only two months every year, between early July to early September. This traveling to Japan in September guide highlights other things to do during that month.

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

๐Ÿ’ฐ Tip #4: Carry yen bills and coins.

Japan’s official currency is the yen. Many places accept credit cards, but many places in Japan are also cash-only.

In some cases, you’ll need to carry coins. For example, coin-operated luggage storage (which is safe and convenient), bathrooms on Mt. Fuji, and vending machines may be coin-only.

I had to use cash more than 30 times and this Japan cost breakdown shares all the places I needed cash.

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

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

Make sure to 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 be doing a medium-hard hike and two days of cycling at your own pace.

โœˆ๏ธ Tip #6: Fly into Tokyo.

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

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

  • The Haneda Airport (HND) is in Tokyo and it’s about a 30-minute train ride or 45-minute bus ride into central Tokyo. It’s the airport I flew in and out of.
  • The Narita Airport (NRT) is another popular international airport near Tokyo, but it’s a two-hour train ride from the city’s center, so it’s a bit further out.

For other tips on planning a trip, this Japan travel guide covers things like budgeting, tipping etiquette, cultural differences, and more.

Overview of 10-Day Itinerary for Japan

This Japan itinerary is the improved version of my active and epic trip, incorporating top attractions as well as off-the-beaten-path adventures. It features famous temples, an epic sunrise, tranquil attractions, breathtaking hikes, and more.

I’ve included some of my actual timestamps below, so you can plan and efficiently sequence activities.

The Japan trip planner below has this itinerary prefilled.

Tokyo (2 Days)
Day 1๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Walk the Shibuya Crossing (9:30โ€“10 am)
โ›ฉ๏ธ Visit the Meiji Shrine & explore Harajuku (10:30โ€“2 pm)
๐ŸŒธ Walk through Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (3โ€“4 pm)
โ˜€๏ธ Sunset at the Tokyo Government Building (5:30โ€“6:30 pm)
๐ŸŽค Dinner in Roppongi or go on a night food tour (evening)
Day 2๐Ÿต Eat and walk through Asakusa (10 amโ€“12 pm)
โœจ Visit Tokyo Skytree or Ueno Park (12:30โ€“2 pm)
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Shop in Ginza (2:30โ€“5 pm)
๐Ÿ•น๏ธ Explore Akihabara (7โ€“9 pm)
Hike Mt. Fuji (2 Days)
Day 3๐Ÿš† Train to a Mt. Fuji train station (7โ€“9:30 am)
๐ŸŽ’ Get ready to hike Mt. Fuji (9:30โ€“10:30 am)
๐ŸšŒ Take a bus to Mt. Fuji’s hiking station (10:30โ€“11:30 am)
๐ŸŒ‹ Ascend Mt. Fuji (12โ€“4 pm)
๐Ÿ›– Stay in a Mt. Fuji hut (4 pmโ€“evening)
Day 4โ˜€๏ธ Mt. Fuji sunrise summit (2:30โ€“5:30 am)
๐Ÿฅพ Descend Mt. Fuji (6:30โ€“10 am)
๐Ÿš† Train to Kyoto (11 amโ€“3 pm)
โ™จ๏ธ Relax at a Kyoto ryokan (4 pmโ€“evening)
Kyoto (2 Days)
Day 5๐ŸŽ Explore Arashiyama (7:30 amโ€“12 pm)
๐Ÿฑ Lunch at Nishiki Market (12:30โ€“2 pm)
โ›ฉ๏ธ Visit Kiyomizu-dera or Kinkaku-ji (3โ€“5 pm)
๐Ÿฅฉ Dinner in Gion district (6โ€“9 pm)
Day 6โ›ฉ๏ธ Explore Fushimi Inari Shrine (8:30โ€“10:30 am)
๐ŸŒณ Visit Nanzenji-Temple or Kyoto Imperial Palace (11:30 amโ€“2:30 pm)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Walk the Philosopher’s Path (3โ€“4:30 pm)
๐Ÿง–โ€โ™€๏ธ Relax at an onsen or get a massage (evening)
Cycle Shimanami Kaido (2 Days)
Day 7 ๐Ÿš† Train to Onomichi Station (7โ€“9 am)
๐Ÿšฒ Start cycling the Shimanami Kaido (10 amโ€“2:30 pm)
โ›ฉ๏ธ Explore attractions in Setoda area (2:30 pmโ€“evening)
Day 8๐Ÿšฒ Finish cycling the Shimanami Kaido (10 amโ€“5 pm)
๐Ÿš† Train to next destination (evening)
Osaka, Nara or Hakone (1 Day)
Day 9๐ŸฆŒ Day trip to a place of your choice (all day)
Tokyo (1 Day)
Day 10โœˆ๏ธ Depart from Haneda Airport (evening)
10-day Japan itinerary.

With More Time: 14-Day Itinerary for Japan

If you have extra days in Japan, it’s easy to extend your time and modify the itinerary above. 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

It’s easy to extend your time in any of the major cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Each city 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

The rest of this post will focus on how to do the 10-day Japan itinerary outlined above.

Tokyo (Days 1-2)

Fly into Tokyo and start your Japan trip here. This is also where you will end on the last day, so you can fly in and out of the same airport.

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 an endless amount of attractions and activities, it’s a great city that acts as a good 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 with a leisurely pace after an international flight.

๐Ÿš‡ Getting to Tokyo

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

  • Shibuya Station. 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. 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. Take the Keikyu Airport Line or the Tokyo Monorail, then transfer to one of the many lines that take you to the station.

โญ๏ธ Tokyo Itinerary and Top Attractions

Tokyo has enough attractions that you can spend more than a week exploring them and you would 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. It’s almost always busy, but it’s busiest on weekdays between 3 and 6 pm.

Admission: Free
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.

Admission: Free
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. Google and Tripadvisor reviews are often written by tourists. To find truly amazing and authentic restaurants, use a free Japanese crowdsourcing website called Tabelog.

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.

Admission: 500 yen (or a little over $3 USD)
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: Tokyo Government Building

The Tokyo Government Building features free observation decks on its 45th floor, where you can catch the sunset and take in the city’s skyline.

Admission: Free
Opening Hours: 8:30 amโ€“ 5 pm, closed on weekends

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 more 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.

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.

Admission: Free
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 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 if you want to move on, visit Tokyo Skytree, the tallest building in Tokyo.

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

Tokyo Skytree Admission: Starts at 1,800 yen (or around $12 USD)
Ueno Park Admission: 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. If you prefer to explore Tokyo by bike, you can also take a half-day biking tour that takes you through some hidden gems. This is one of the tours I wished I had taken while I was in Tokyo.

Stop #3: Ginza

Ginza is one of Tokyo’s most famous and upscale shopping districts. Even if you’re not a shopping enthusiast, know that UNIQLO’s and MUJI’s flagship stores are located in Ginza. Both buildings have over six floors worth of goods from two of Japan’s most internationally-recognized brands.

Opening Hours: Varies by store, but most open at 10 am

For more affordable clothing, also 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 not familiar 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. Many guides and tourists recommend going there for a meal. I personally recommend 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.

๐Ÿ  Where To Stay in Tokyo

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

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

My hotel rooms were tiny, which 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€ My Overall Tips for Tokyo

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

  • Tokyo can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to visit many of the top attractions in a short period of time. The itinerary above is admittedly packed with not much downtime. Don’t feel like you need to do everything and skip things to better fit your travel pace and interests.
  • Although Osaka is known as a culinary powerhouse of Japan, Tokyo’s abundance of amazing food is also unparalleled. But it’s also crowded with overpriced, touristy restaurants. Invest some time learning how to use the free Japanese crowdsourcing website called Tabelog to find authentic food.
A stack of fluffy pancakes below whipped cream and berries.
Fluffy pancakes I found through Tabelog.

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, even if it means having a slower travel day.

Hike Mount Fuji (Days 3-4)

On your third day in Japan, head east to Mount Fuji from Tokyo for an epic sunrise hike.

๐ŸŒ‹ Why Visit Mt. Fuji?

Mt. Fuji is one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks that has had cultural significance 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 every year, meaning that less than 1% of the 30 million annual 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 as well as a feeling of personal achievement.

Mt. Fuji is open for hiking for only two months every year, from early July to early September. If you’re not able to make 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 hike up to the top. The four trails start in different areas of Mt. Fuji, so how you get to it differs 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. Near the station, I caught a direct bus that took me to the trailhead.

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

๐Ÿฅพ Mt. Fuji Itinerary

This Mt. Fuji hiking guide details how to hike the most scenic route, which is the one I did.

It covers everything you need to know about planning your Mt. Fuji hike, including the difficulty, the pros and cons of each trail, and what to expect when staying in a mountain hut.

๐Ÿ€ My Overall Tip 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’s able to do it.

For some people, this hike will require some physical and mental preparation. It’s not an easy hike and you should not make the mistake of underestimating it, as several hikers do every year.

Kyoto (Days 5-6)

After descending Mt. Fuji on the fourth day, take the train to Kyoto to settle down at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, to relax.

Ryokans are usually attached to onsens, which are 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 been able to preserve its historic architecture and traditional atmosphere while also developing as 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 that connects different train, subway, and bullet train lines.

โญ๏ธ Kyoto Itinerary and Top Attractions

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 many of the 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 if you want to avoid some of the crowd). Togetsu-kyo Bridge, Tenryu-Ji temple, and the Arashiyama Monkey Park are also all popular.

Admission: 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, which is an octopus stuffed with quail egg, is a popular snack.

Admission: Free for entering the market
Opening Hours: Varies by stall, but typically 9 amโ€“6 pm

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.

Skewered seafood displayed at a food vendor stall.
Seafood at 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 completely built without a single nail). Alternatively, travel further out to see Kinkaku-ji, the “Golden Pavilion”. The building’s beauty will be immediately apparent.

Admissions: Less than 500 yen (or less than $4 USD)
Kiyomizu-dera Opening Hours: 6 amโ€“6 pm
Kinkaku-ji 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, which is known for its geisha culture, teahouses, and traditional art. Many of its streets are decorated with lights, making it a pretty area to stroll through at night.

It can be hard to find a great place to eat on a weekend in popular Gion, so make sure to have a reservation or have several ideas on where to eat. I was lucky enough to get a spot at Arakawa, a cozy restaurant that serves delicious yakiniku, which is grilled meat.

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

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 the most famous Shinto shrine in Kyoto and has 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.

Admission: Free
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 with its stunning garden and surroundings. It’s also a walking distance from the next attraction. Alternatively, visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace if you want to learn more about Japan’s history or are tired of temples.

Admissions: Parts of Nanzen-ji have a small entrance fee. Imperial Palace has free admission.

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 also just walk on the path the entire time and simply enjoy the atmosphere.

Admission: Free
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 certainly 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 USD.

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 was 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€ My Overall 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 two overall tips for visiting Kyoto:

  • Given how crowded Kyoto’s top attractions are, it’s a good idea to select top attractions that 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.
  • I visited many of Kyoto’s major attractions and I recommend spending some time wandering around local streets and enjoying the quiet atmosphere to avoid getting overwhelmed by all the temples and shrines.

Cycle the Shimanami Kaido (Days 7-8)

After Kyoto, get ready to cycle through six islands on the Shimanami Kaido.

๐Ÿšฒ Why 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 woman posing in front of a modern bridge and blue sky.
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.

๐Ÿšฒ Shimanami Kaido Itinerary and Attractions

This comprehensive Shimanami Kaido guide shares how to rent bikes, where to stop, where to stay, and other practical information to plan your biking adventure.

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

๐Ÿ€ My Overall Tip on the Shimanami Kaido

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

I saw casual riders as well as avid cyclists along the path. The Shimanami Kaido is self-guided, so you can go at your own pace. The path also features harder and more advanced routes if you’re an experienced cyclist.

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 want to 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 that’s often included in many first-time visitors’ Japan trips. Called the “Kitchen of Japan,” Osaka is most well-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 if want to spend two days in Osaka instead of returning to Tokyo.

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

  • Osaka Castle, a historically significant icon
  • Dotonbori, an entertainment district known for its neon lights
  • Osaka Aquarium, one of Japan’s most impressive aquariums
  • Kuromon Ichiba Market, 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€ My Experience: I spent a full day in Osaka and was only able to prioritize three out of the four attractions above, so be prepared to not be able to do everything in a day.

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

Hakone (Option 2)

๐Ÿค” Why Visit: Hakone is a picturesque town surrounded by beautiful nature and it’s 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 if you want to be closer to Tokyo towards the end of your trip.

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

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

๐Ÿ€ My Experience: I went to Hakone for the onsens. I stayed at a beautiful ryokan with a private onsen, which is very ideal towards the end of an active, busy trip.

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

Nara (Option 3)

๐Ÿค” Why Visit: Nara has gone viral on social media because it’s known for having free-roaming deer that bow to visitors. Other than 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, the city’s most famous temple that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Nara Park, the home of all the free-roaming deer
  • Kasuga Taisha Shrine, a famous Shinto shrine

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

๐Ÿ€ My 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.

Tokyo (Day 10)

After your one-day trip in Osaka, Hakone, or Nara, take a train to Tokyo for your last day in Japan.

During your last Japan day, I recommend prioritizing some delicious meals using the Tabelog website and shopping at stores like Don Quixote, a megastore in Japan, 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.

Wonder how much a Japan trip will set you back? I share all my travel expenses in this Japan budget breakdown doing an itinerary similar to this one.

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 as well as an itinerary, packing list, and map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which is what 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 the Japan trip planning template (built on Notion).
A Notion template screenshots is shown giving more details to the itinerary.
Preview of the Japan trip planning template (built on Notion).

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

๐Ÿง‹ This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours researching each destination to ensure its accuracy. If you find my tips helpful, say thanks by buying me bubble tea!

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