The Perfect 10 Day Itinerary for your First Trip to Japan

I can’t believe it’s been a month since the Japanarang gang and I got back to the UK – it was one of the best trips of my life and I can’t wait to share some of the highlights with you. I thought I’d start off with a little itinerary post just in case you were planning a trip of your own. Which obviously I 100% endorse!

If you were following our trip closely you’ll see that the itinerary I suggest you take is basically the opposite of what we did and there’s a couple of reasons for that. One, if you want to visit Mount Fuji it seems like getting there from Tokyo is the simpler route, two you will start at my least favourite place we visited and end in the best and three I think this would help maximise the use you could get out of the 7 day Japan Rail Pass should you decide to go down this route like we did. I definitely recommend it as it makes cross-country travel SO much easier than buying tickets everywhere and it can save you a bunch of money too.

*Disclaimer: This post written in collaboration with Japan Experience. My 7 day JR Pass was complimentary in exchange for writing this post. The below opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

Day 1 – Arrive in Tokyo

You can get direct flights to Tokyo from London Heathrow but it’s such a long flight that you’ll probably want to get ones that involve a stop this will likely halve your flight cost but of course increase your travel time meaning that you’ll be pretty tired when you arrive. Tokyo is a perfect introduction to Japan – find your hotel, have a nap then get out and explore your local area and get your first taste of Japanese food.

Days 2/3 – Explore Tokyo

Depending on where you’re staying you’ll want to get further afield and check out some of the areas that make Tokyo such a special city; Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara are all worth venturing to. For those so inclined Tokyo is also home to Disneyland and Universal Studios theme parks or for a more authentic experience Sanrio Puroland and the Studio Ghibli Museum.

Day 4 – Mount Fuji

Activate your Japan Rail Pass and leave the city behind for beautiful countryside views. There are many great places to see the magnificent Mount Fuji from – we stayed in the Lake Kawaguchiko area which was amazing and I thoroughly recommend if you have a couple of days to spare – but if not try Hakone or Kamakura which are located south of the mountain and make for an easier journey West for the rest of your trip.

Days 5/6 – Kyoto

Kyoto will be a complete change from both buzzing Tokyo and the peaceful countryside of Mount Fuji. Full of those classic Japanese landmarks you’ve seen gracing Instagram like the Golden Pavilion, the bamboo forest and those bright orange torii gates at the Fushima Inari shrine all of which are accessible on JR lines. If you take a stroll through Gion you might even catch a glimpse of a geisha or meiko!

Day 7 – Nara

Once you’ve had your fill of Kyoto I suggest that you pay a visit to nearby Nara famous for its deer park, Todaiji temple with its giant Buddha and beautiful Japanese gardens. There’s so much to do you’ll probably want to make it a day trip but if not it’s easy to see the main sites in just half a day.

Day 8 – Osaka

Osaka was my favourite place we visited in Japan so I’d absolutely recommend spending more time than just a day here if you can. It’s the perfect mix of traditional and modern and a brilliant base for many day trips – if you wanted to you could totally base yourself here rather than Kyoto from day 5 onwards and just do day trips to there and Nara from here.

Day 9 – Hiroshima/Miyajima

One day trip you absolutely cannot miss out on when visiting the country for the first time though is a visit to Hiroshima. It’s not going to be the most pleasant part of your trip but I can guarantee you’ll be grateful that you went. Knowing a country’s history, good or bad, gives you a much deeper understanding of its culture. You can also hop on the ferry over to Miyajima to see the famous floating shrine at high tide which will end your trip on a nicer note.

Day 10 – Osaka to Tokyo via bullet train

Sadly it’s time to head back to Tokyo for your flight home but even though it’s not valid on the fastest bullet trains your JR Pass will still get you back at speeds of up to 300km/h which is an experience in and of itself.

Got more time to explore? 

I’d suggest spending an entire week in Osaka giving you time to visit not only the day trips I’ve suggested above but also Himeji for the original emoji castle, Kobe for beef, the sacred Mount Koya or Naoshima island all of which are on my to do list on future visits!

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