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Japan Itinerary Advice: How to Make the Most Of Your Rising Suns

Visiting Japan for the first time? This Japan Travel Guide & Itinerary will guide you for 7 days, 10 days or 14 days. Covers Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima & more.

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Classic Japan Itinerary

Cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Mt. Koya, Nara

I’m only just getting around to posting about my Japan vacation but the funny thing is that my trip to Japan was what inspired this blog in the first place. I had just finished my first year of working full time and celebrated by planning my ‘dream’ vacation – a tour around Japan to see cities I had heard so much about and a culture that deeply fascinated me.

First timer’s will want to see Tokyo and Kyoto. With more time, consider visiting Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara and my personal favorite, Mt. Koya. I’ve listed japan itinerary options for 7 days, 10 days and 14 days below!


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Some photos from my Instagram account, @shershegoes

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Japanese Itineraries | Travel Guide

How to Make the Most of Your Japan Vacation

 

Before You Go

I’m a big believer in trip planning in order to have the best trip experience. I read every guidebook I could get my hands on and countless online blogs to plan my ideal ‘first timer’s visit to Japan’. My friend and I also watched a number of films and shows to get in the mood for our trip! Most helpful were the Lonely Planet books (note: the japan, kyoto and tokyo LP books are free if you have kindle unlimited – you can try out a 30 day trial free here). I’ve listed my top cultural and guide references below!

 

Recommended Books, Shows & Films About Japan & Japanese Culture:

 Read more:  What to Pack for Japan (coming soon)

 

Japan Itinerary

Depending on the length of your trip, and taking the Japan Rail Pass into account, here are my recommended priorities:

DaysCitiesFor:
7 DaysTokyo and KyotoCity + Culture
10 DaysAdd: Hiroshima + Day Trip to MiyajimaMemorial + Scenic Beauty
14 DaysAdd: Mt. Koya + NaraTemples, Nature + Deer Park

 

Japan Itinerary 7 Days

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Duration: 7 days, 6 nights

Cities: Tokyo and Kyoto

Accommodations: Park Hyatt Tokyo & Hyatt Regency Kyoto

Before You Go: Essential packing checklist (coming soon)

 

Click the toggles to expand each city. For any questions, please feel free to ask it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!

DAYS 1-3: Tokyo
DAY 4: Day Trip to Mt. Fuji
DAYS 5-7: Kyoto

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The Japan Rail Pass

The JR Pass is a multi-use discounted ticket for Japan’s high speed rail system (the famous bullet trains). It’s only available for purchase by foreign visitors so you must buy it before you land in Japan, which means you should take some time to plan out a rough itinerary and decide if the pass is worth it for your trip.

 Read more:  Is the Japan Rail Pass Worth It?

 

is the japan rail pass worth buying

 

The Japan Rail Pass can be bought in a 7, 14 or 21 day option and offers significant savings depending on your itinerary. A general rule of thumb is that if you plan to visit more than Tokyo & Kyoto the pass provides significant savings. If you are short on time and visiting for 5 days or less, it might not be worth the purchase.

You can read more about the pass, who should purchase it, why not to purchase it and more in my post here. For the longer itineraries below, I definitely recommend purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, as it’s a) more convenient to have transportation booked before you arrive and b) results in significant savings.

 

Japan Itinerary 10 Days

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Duration: 10 days, 9 nights

Cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Hiroshima and Miyajima

Accommodations: Park Hyatt TokyoHyatt Regency KyotoSheraton Grand Hotel Hiroshima, Iwaso Ryokan Miyajima

Before You Go: Essential packing check list (coming soon), purchase Japan Rail Pass

 

Start with the 1 week Japan itinerary above that covers Tokyo and Kyoto, then read below.

DAYS 8-9: Hiroshima
DAY 10: Miyajima

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Japan Itinerary 14 Days

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Duration: 14 days, 13 nights

Cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Mt. Koya & Nara

Accommodations: Park Hyatt TokyoHyatt Regency KyotoSheraton Grand Hotel Hiroshima, Koya, Nara

Before You Go: Essential packing check list (coming soon), purchase Japan Rail Pass

 

Start with the 10 day Japan itinerary above, then read below.

DAYS 11-12: Mt. Koya
DAY 13-14: Nara

 

Japan Vacation Checklist

 

 

What to Eat: Must Try Japanese Foods

 

If I had to list the top foods you need to eat in Japan, they would be: rich, soupy ramen; crunchy fried tempura; fatty and delicious pork katsu; fresh, inventive sushi; elaborate and intricate japanese gourmet kaiseki; and hearty japanese curry.

My cousin lived as an expat in Tokyo for many years and compiled his list of top recommended Tokyo restaurants which I’ve included in this post.
For a true taste of local nightlife, go to a bustling izakaya or Japanese pub/bar and try various izakaya meats and small plates.

 

Unique Japan Food Tours & Experiences

 

 Read more:  12 Must Eat Spots in Tokyo for Ramen, Katsu, Yakitori & More!

 Read more:  Is Japan Vegetarian Friendly? Here’s What You Can Expect & Eat More Greens

 Read more:  Delicious Bakery Treats Mont Thabor & The Park Hyatt

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Where to Stay in Japan by City

I included my hotel reviews in the daily itinerary portions above, but here’s a summary of some recommended hotels & accommodation for Japan.

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Unforgettable Things to Do in Japan


Getting to Japan: Flights

  • Our flight | We flew American Airlines direct from New York to Tokyo on first class. Obviously a treat but one that I highly recommend since East Coast USA > Asia flights tend to be at least 14 hours or more and a fully recline-down seat is heaven sent. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are an added bonus!
  • With points: you can typically fly business round trip for about 70 – 100k and economy for around 30 – 50k on American Airlines
  • Flight deals: I’ve seen great round-trip fares for $500 – 700 USD. I use Skyscanner to check for flight deals and set up alerts for low fare notifications
 Read more:  How to Book Free Flights on Points & Miles

 

Getting Around Japan

  • Cars: for the most part, I would avoid renting cars in Japan as it’s unneccessary
  • Taxis: in Tokyo, be prepared to fork over and arm and a leg. A one-way taxi ride from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to our hotel at the Conrad cost $200 USD. Yes, one way. We also took taxis from our hotel to Tsukiji fish market in order to arrive in the early AM for the tuna auction. In Kyoto, some of the more famous temples are spread out throughout the city, so a taxi is quite helpful.
  • On Foot: for the most part, Japan’s cities are very walk-able and all subway, train and tourist signs are in English, making it very easy for foreign visitors
 Read more:  Everything You Need to Know About Japan’s Shinkansen Bullet Trains & the Japan Rail Pass

 

Planning a trip to Japan?

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JoyceMarch 30, 2017 - 8:39 am

I was only in Japan for a few days but this has got me itching to go back!

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