3 Useful Japan travel itineraries

If you’re thinking of visiting Japan but need some ideas to plan your trip, you’re in perfect place. In this post, I am sharing 3 different Japan itineraries- each 1 week long. You can study these itineraries, use them as is or modify for your needs and preferences.


Below is quick summary of itineraries detailed in this blog post
Itinerary 1: Tokyo and nearby attractions, no JR Pass, at leisure
Itinerary 2: Enter at Osaka, exit at Tokyo, JR Pass recommended, hectic schedule for maximum coverage
Itinerary 3: Enter and exit at Osaka, JR Pass recommended, hectic schedule for maximum coverage

A hectic schedule attempts to make use of early morning and late evening hours and aims to explore maximum possible places in limited time. A leisure schedule covers less attractions, but with more time to spare. I’ve considered Tokyo and Osaka as entry and exit airports. There’re few more  airports in Japan- like Sapporo but most international tourists arrive and leave via Tokyo or Osaka.

Itinerary 1: Ex Tokyo, No need for JR Pass, Leisure plan. 
This plan is useful if you’d like to stay at Tokyo for all nights and visit various places of interest around Tokyo with day trips
Day
Plan
Remarks
01
Arrive in Tokyo, plan rest of your day depending on how much time you have and if you’d like to relax/explore.

If you have half a day to explore, visit
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo Skytree and/or any of the gardens in the city closer to your hotel (Yoyogi Koen or Shinjuku Gyoen recommended) 
Be sure to stay close to a train station. Try Capsule hotels at least for few nights.
02
Day trip to Nikko
Nikko is couple of hours by train from Tokyo, can spend a day at leisure here, visiting Shrines, Museums, landscape

Trains to Nikko start from 4 AM onwards- possible to cover in half day if you can leave really early. If you wish leave at leisure by say 8 AM, then factor full day.
Nikko is about 2.5-3 hours by train from Tokyo. 
03
Full day at Disney Land

Or refer Day 06 options for alternate things to do

If your day 03 happens to be a weekend, swap Disneyland visit plan with other days- try to visit on weekday
04
Mount Fuji day trip
Dozens of companies operate day trips to Mount Fuji- join one of them or manage on your own with train & bus
Only close view of the mountain, no hiking to top except in July-Sep timeline [Details]
05
Tokyo Local:
Morning: Asakusa and Sensoji temple, Tokyo Skytree
Optional: Edo-Tokyo Museum

Afternoon:  Imperial Palace (3 hours), Yoyogi, Ueno  or any other gardens[List here]

Evening: Shibuya Cross, shopping or try any of the options from below
Optional: National art centre (closes 6 PM)

Use this map link
Imperial Palace closed on Monday, Friday n few other occasions.
06
Depending on season & interest
Option 1: Explore various gardens for Cherry Blossom
Option 2: Visit a ski resort/mountain [Details here]
Option 3: Visit a Sumo Wrestling (if an event is scheduled- refer here)
Option 4: Rent a gokart and explore Tokyo city
Option 5: Day trip to other cities (Osaka/Hiroshima/Kyoto) in a bullet train

07
Return flight.
If you have half a day to spare, try any of the option listed above or visit any of the museums based on your interest

The second itinerary below is designed to cover attractions between Osaka and Tokyo, south eastern Japan
Itinerary 2: Enter at Osaka, Exit from Tokyo, JR Pass needed, hectic plan
Day
Plan
Remarks
01
Arrive in Osaka Kansai, get your JR Pass
Train to Osaka city, assuming you’ve some spare time, visit Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building 
Walk around Shinsekai area
Stay @Osaka
02
Option 1:
Train to Hiroshima, visit war memorial, museum and castle [Details]
Train to Himeji, Visit Himeji Castle
Train to Kyoto-night stay at Kyoto

Option 2: Full day at Universal studios, stay either in Osaka (leave early morning next day to Kyoto) or reach Kyoto by night.

Option 3: Half day visit to Wakayama station (has a cat as station master, 2 hours from Osaka + Half day in Osaka city- Castle, Umeda Sky building, Tenma etc
Stay @Kyoto
03
Kyoto on its own needs 7 days to explore fully. With only 2 nights, you can target the below, or chose any other attractions from this list

Bamboo Forest (no timing, can visit as early as 6 AM)

Kinaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) [Details]

Fushimi Inari Shrine [Details]

These 3 will take most of your day. If time permits visit  Saiho-Ji temple or any park/shrine closer to your hotel. Nijo castle I would say avoid. Alternatively you can cut a night at Tokyo n explore Kyoto bit more
Stay @Kyoto
04
Check out
Half day visit to Nara, back to Kyoto

Go to top of Kyoto Tower if interested

Kyoto to Tokyo by train
Be alert to get a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the way

Reach Tokyo by late evening, time and interest permitting, visit Shibuya Crossing/Tokyo sky tree, else rest
Stay @Tokyo
05
Half Day trip to Nikko (catch first train of the day at 4AM)
Back in Tokyo by 3PM, Tokyo, visit imperial Gardens (entry closes by 5 PM), Shibuya crossing & Yoyogi gardens (if not already visited)
Rest at Tokyo
Stay @Tokyo
06
Depending on season & interest
Option 1: Explore various gardens for Cherry Blossom
Option 2: Visit a ski resort/mountain [Details here]
Option 3: Visit a Sumo Wrestling (if an event is scheduled- refer here)
Option 4: Rent a gokart and explore Tokyo city
Stay @Tokyo
07
Return flight.
If you have half a day to spare, try any of the option listed above or visit any of the museums based on your interest



Above: Bamboo forest, Kyoto
Below: Shibuya Cross, Tokyo

Below itinerary focuses extensively on Osaka, Kyoto and nearby areas. If you’ve planned two separate trips to Japan (let us say because you can’t get a long leave) you can use ex-Tokyo itinerary for one trip and below listed ex-Osaka itinerary for the second trip. Or, if you’ve 10-14 days to spare, you can merge these two itinerary to create your grand 2 week Japan trip itineray.
Itinerary 3: Entry & Exit from Osaka, JR Pass recommended, cover western Japan
Day
Plan
Remarks
01
Arrive in Osaka Kansai, get your JR Pass
Train to Osaka city, assuming you’ve some spare time, visit Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building 
Walk around Shinsekai area
Stay @Osaka
02
Train to Himeji
Proceed to Hiroshima
Hiroshima, visit war memorial, museum and Castle
Night stay at Hiroshima
Stay @Hiroshima
03
Option 1: Miyajima island day visit
Option 2: Day visit to Nagasaki (3 hours by train one way) and back to Hiroshima
Optional-Try to reach Kyoto same day n stay at Kyoto, you will get more time next day to explore Kyoto
Stay @Hiroshima 
04
Kyoto on its own needs 7 days to explore fully. With only 2 nights, you can target the below, or chose any other attractions from this list

Bamboo Forest (no timing, can visit as early as 6 AM)

Kinaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) [Details]

Fushimi Inari Shrine [Details]

These 3 will take most of your day. If time permits visit  Saiho-Ji temple or any park/shrine closer to your hotel. Nijo castle I would say avoid. Alternatively you can cut a night at other cities n explore Kyoto bit more
Stay @Kyoto
05
Daigoji Shrine/Any other attractions in Kyoto

Half day visit to Nara Park

Visit parks for Cherry blossom (if season)
Reach Osaka by night, stay at Osaka (or spend an extra night at Osaka
Stay @Kyoto/Osaka
06
Train to Osaka
Option 1: Full day at Universal Studios, Osaka

Option 2: Visit Wayagama cat station (if you love cats)- closer to airport will be a half day program + visit any of the mountains in the region- Mt. Manaitaishi, Takagiyama hill  or Mt Koyasan etc

Option 3: Attend a Sumo Wrestling event (if scheduled during your visit) or visit various museums in Osaka

Stay closer to airport in case of early flight
Stay @Osaka
07
Plan your day based on departure flight time. If you’ve few hours/half a day, try below
Rinku Park near airport- giant wheel, shops and attractions for kids

Kishiwada Castle or any option from Day 06

My personal itinerary was as below
Day 01- 2.40 PM- arrive in Osaka Kansai, collect JR pass, reach Osaka, check-in, explore few gardens and Umeda Sky Building
Day 02: Train to Kyoto- Bamboo forest, a shrine nearby, Nijo Castle, Philosopher's Path and a shrine nearby
Day 03- Maruyama park, Kyoto tower, train to Tokyo, Tokyo Sky tree, Shibuya cross
Day 04- Nikko half day visit, Tokyo local-Imperial Palace, Yoyogi gardens
Day 05- Train to Nara, visit Nara park, proceed to Hiroshima, night stay at Hiroshima
Day 06- Himeji castle, back to Osaka, visit Osaka castle (got some rains)
Day 07- Rinku park and early morning flight out.

Hope this helps. Read my other Japan posts here 
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