Japan is home to dense cities, mountainous countryside, and thousands of temples and shrines. The country itself is actually an archipelago, or strings of islands, with four main islands – Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku – making up 97% of Japan’s land area. There are over 127 million people living in Japan, making it the world’s 10th largest, with over 9 million people living in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. With copious amounts of delicious food, stunning temples and shrines, luscious mountainsides, and a respectful culture, Japan has easily become one of our favorite countries to visit.
This itinerary is good for:
- Parks & Gardens
- Nature & Outdoors
**A note on accommodations: Both of the Airbnbs we stayed while in Tokyo and Kyoto are no longer listed. However, we recommend staying in the Shinjuku neighborhood in Tokyo and Central Kyoto in Kyoto as they were centrally located.**
|1. Witness the fish auction at Tsukiji Fish Market|
|2. Float under cherry blossoms at Chidorigafuchi|
|3. See the Imperial Palace|
|4. Admire the Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden|
|5. Explore Ginza|
1. WITNESS THE FISH AUCTION AT TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
2. FLOAT UNDER CHERRY BLOSSOMS AT CHIDORIGAFUCHI
3. SEE THE IMPERIAL PALACE
Well, now that you’ve cruised down one of the moats that surround the Imperial Palace, it’s now to see the Imperial Palace up close and personal! The Imperial Palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle. The palace is surrounded by twelve moats and massive stone walls and is residence to Japan’s imperial family. Though there is no public access to the inner grounds, you can do a guided tour of the outer grounds. Adjacent to the inner grounds, the East Gardens is open to the public. The Imperial Palace is a 10-minute walk from Tokyo station.
4. ADMIRE THE KOISHIKAWA KŌRAKUEN GARDEN
5. EXPLORE GINZA
- Shop through 12 floors of Uniqlo
- Visit the Ginza Six, the district’s largest shopping complex
- Enjoy Hamarikyu Gardens
- Unwine the day at a bar
- Fine dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant:
|1. Experience the craziness at Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing|
|2. Treat yourself to cremia ice cream at Silkream|
|3. Walk down Takeshita Dori in Harajuku|
|4. Eat ramen in Shinjuku|
|5. Meander through Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden|
|6. Stroll through Yoyogi Park and visit Meiji Jingsu|
|7. Check out the Ghibli Museum|
|8. Bite into a totoro cream puff at Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory|
1. EXPERIENCE THE CRAZINESS AT SHIBUYA PEDESTRIAN CROSSING
2. TREAT YOURSELF TO CREMIA ICE CREAM AT SILKREAM
3. WALK DOWN TAKESHITA DORI IN HARAJUKU
Harajuku is reowned for its vibrant streets, art, and fashion scene. One of the most popular streets in Tokyo is Takeshita Dori, a shopping street lined with extremely teenage cultures and fashion boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
4. EAT RAMEN IN SHINJUKU
5. MEANDER THROUGH SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN
6. STROLL THROUGH YOYOGI PARK AND VISIT MEIJI JINGU
Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s largest city parks, spanning over 133 acres of green space, and features wide lawns, ponds, and forested areas. Located right in Yoyogi Park is the Meiji Jingsu, a famous shrine in Tokyo dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. Admission to the shrine and park are free.
7. CHECK OUT THE GHIBLI MUSEUM
8. BITE INTO A TOTORO CREAM PUFF AT SHIRO-HIGE’S CREAM PUFF FACTORY
|1. Eat at Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodles|
|2. Relax at Rikugien Gardens|
|3. Visit Tokyo's oldest temple, Sensō-ji|
|4. Gaze at the Tokyo Skytree|
|5. Explore Ueno Park|
|6. Dine with robots at Robot Restaurant|
1. EAT AT TSUTA, THE WORLD’S FIRST MICHELIN-STARRED RAMEN SHOP
2. RELAX AT RIKUGIEN GARDENS
3. VISIT TOKYO’S OLDEST TEMPLE, SENSŌ-JI
4. GAZE AT THE TOKYO SKYTREE
5. EXPLORE UENO PARKThe popular Ueno Park s a well known location to enjoy the cherry blossom season. Ueno Park also includes Ueno Zoo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the Tokyo National Museum and the National Science Museum.
6. DINE WITH ROBOTS AT ROBOT RESTAURANT
|1. Eat hoto noodles at Kosaku Hoto Kosaku|
|2. Tour Lake Kawaguchiko|
|3. Wine down at a ("onsen") with Mt. Fuji as a backdrop|
|4. Hike to Chureito Pagdoa at sunset|
1. EAT HOTO NOODLES AT KOSAKU HOTO KOSAKU
2. TOUR LAKE KAWAGUCHIKO
Lake Kawaguchiko is the most accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes. It is the second largest of the five lakes and is located at the lowest elevation. Its altitude of 800 meters allows for relatively cool summers and frequently ice winters. The best views of Mount Fuji can be enjoyed from the northern side of Lake Kawaguchiko.
3. WIND DOWN AT A JAPANESE BATHHOUSE (“ONSEN”) WITH MT. FUJI AS A BACKDROP
Spend the afternoon relaxing at one of the onset baths at Lake Kawaguchihko with spectacular backdrops of Mount Fuji. Here is a great list of 5 onsens around Lake Kawaguchi.
4. HIKE CHUREITO PAGODA AT SUNSET
Head back to Kawaguchiko Station and take the Fujikyu bus to Mishima station (see departure times). This bus ride will take about 1.5 hours. From Mishima station, take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line to Kyoto station. This train ride will take about 2.5 hours. Total travel time from Mt. Fuji to Kyoto will take 4-5 hours.
|1. Hike the Fushimi Inari Shrine|
|2. Eat to your heart's content at Nishiki Market|
|3. Gaze at the golden temple, Kinkkakuji|
|4. See the Ninna-ji Temple|
|5. See Nijo Castle|
1. HIKE THE FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE
2. EAT TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT AT NISHIKI MARKET
Kyoto’s 400-year old Nishiki Market – known to locals as “Kyoto’s pantry” – is one of the most iconic markets in Japan. The market is a narrow, five blog long shopping street filled with all types of food, ranging from fresh seafood to cookware to seasonal foods.
3. GAZE AT THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, KINKAKUJI
4. SEE THE NINNA-JI TEMPLE
Ninna-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple in northeast Kyoto that is deeply related with the Imperial Family of Japan. The temple is one of the seventeen locations that make the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To see admission costs, visit http://www.ninnaji.jp/en/.
5. SEE NIJO CASTLE
Built in 1603, Nijo Castle is home to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period. After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site, one of the seventeen locations that make the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|1. Walk into the famous Arashiyama Bamoo Grove|
|2. Monkey around at the Monkey Park Iwatayama|
|3. Eat delicious kobe beef at Otsuka|
|4. See the Tenryu-ji Temple|
|5. Visit the Kimono Forest behind Arashiyama Station|
|6. Admire the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji|
1. WALK INTO THE FAMOUS ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE
2. MONKEY AROUND AT MONKEY PARK IWATAYAMA
Otsuka is a highly recommended and popular Waygu beef restaurant located in a small alley of a residential district in Kyoto. Otsuka serves some of the best and genuine kobe beef we’ve had and at a fraction of what you can find here in the States! Lunch time can get really crowded, so we suggest making a reservation online or coming at least 30 minutes before opening to stand in line.
4. SEE THE TENRYU-JI TEMPLE
Founded in 1334, Tenryu-ji Temple is one of Kyoto’s five great zen temples. In fact, it was ranked #1 among the five great zen templates and is now registered as a world heritage site. At this grand temple, you will see one of the finest gardens in Kytoto and stunning mountain views.
5. VISIT THE KIMONO FOREST BEHIND ARASHIYAMA STATION
6. ADMIRE THE OTAGI NENBUTSUJI TEMPLE
- Your starting point will depend on the location of your hotel accommodation. The nearest station for us was Saiin Station.
- From Saiin Station take the Hankyu-Kyoto Line. This line will take you straight to your first stop in Osaka.
- Get off at Umeda Station and walk 10 minutes to the Umeda City Sky Building.
|1. Feel like royalty at Osaka Castle|
|2. Explore Dotonbori|
|3. Eat Okonomiyaki, a classic Osaka dish|
|4. Scale the Umeda Sky Building|
|5. Visit the Cup Noodles Museum|
1. FEEL LIKE ROYALTY AT OSAKA CASTLE
Osaka Castle is one of Japan’s most famous and notable landmarks. The castle played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Visiting and roaming around the grounds of Osaka Castle Park is free of charge. However, if you wish to go inside the castle museum, the admission fee for adults 16 years and older is 600 yen.
2. EXPLORE DOTONBORI
3. EAT OKONOMIYAKI, A CLASSIC OSAKA DISH
- Mizuno (in Dotonbori)
- Kiji Sku (near Umeda Sky Building)
- Fukutaro (in Dotonbori)
- Houzenji Sanpei (in Dotonbori)
4. SCALE THE UMEDA SKY BUILDING
5. VISIT THE CUP NOODLES MUSEUM (INSTANT RAMEN)
I love ramen – restaurant-grade or instant. I grew up on instant ramen and will forever have a soft spot for it in my heart, no matter how unhealthy it is. When we heard about the instant ramen museum – named Cup Noodles Museum – we just had to go even though it is located on the outskirts of Osaka. The Cup Noodles Museum opened in 1999 and is dedicated instant noodles and Cup Noodles, as well as its creator and founder, Momofuku Ando. For the most up to date information on hours and admission fees, visit https://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/en.