I received a number of requests asking for my Japan itinerary after I posted “Japan – My Journey Through Photos”, so here you have it! I hope it’s helpful 🙂
Note: My entire journey was by car, so the distances and all information provided are from that perspective unless otherwise stated. I’ve also provided really brief “to-dos” (incl. some “to-eats”) for each location, however be sure to check the opening hours, days, (and costs) prior to heading there.
I’ve included a map to make it all a bit easier to visualise and follow along. Feel free to click into “more options” on the map for a detailed break down of the locations. This feature also allows you to make your own adjustments to my itinerary and personalise it for yourself!
Day 1: Tokyo
- I stayed near Nippori Station which is right where the Skyliner (Narita Airport Express Train) passes through. This location provided me with easy access to and from the airport, in addition to all JR lines which are inter-city trains that run across the country. The bus station also happens to be right in front of Nippori Station which is rather convenient. The only drawback was that Subway station, Nishi-Nippori (metro) is about 1km walk from Nippori Station, and is quite a few stations away from central Tokyo. But if you’re looking to save costs and don’t mind a bit of walking and a few added minutes on commute, then I would recommend it!
- Things to do: Skytree Tower, Shibuya, Nakamise Market, Sensoji Temple, Ginza Walking Street, Harajuku, Fish Market, Shinjuku, Gyoza, Japanese Beer Gardens and Beer Halls
Day 2: Kawaguchiko
- 110 km from Tokyo, 2 hours by car
- I stayed at a hotel on a cliff overlooking the Kawaguchiko Lake. I can definitely recommend staying near the lake, and especially on the side of the lake with a hotel room where you can get a full view of Mount Fuji, the lake, and the entire town area. However, if you do not have a car, it is a few Kilometers away from the main train station, so you might have to take the bus to bring you to your hotel or a taxi. Other than that, getting around the area is pretty simple, especially if you rent a bicycle! Note: Some hotels will offer you free bicycle rentals, which is what I had, so be sure to check for this option as well when making a booking.
- Things to do: Bicycle around the lake, traditional japanese BBQ, sake brewery, take the bus up to Mount Fuji
Day 3 & 4: Kyoto
- 400 km from Kawaguchiko, 5 hours by car
- I stayed really close to the Kyoto train station and main bus terminal. It was rather convenient since I set up my base there for 3 nights and took the bus and subway through Kyoto.
- Things to do: Fushimi Inari, Gion, Pontocho, Golden Pavillion, Philosopher’s Path, Arashiyama district
Day 5: Osaka
- I decided to take the JR line from Kyoto to Osaka for the day and back, instead of going through the hassle of driving my car to the city centre and spending the night there. The JR line takes approx. 25 minutes, and you’ll arrive at your destination in 3 stations! The last train back is at 12.25am, just FYI 😉 (because I almost missed it!)
- I would recommend staying in the Ame Mura area as its a great central location in Osaka, and is close to the night life, restaurants, shopping, and food market. You really can’t complain about having everything at your finger tips. However, I’m not too certain on the price points of hotels in this location, but I noticed they had some inns, bed and breakfasts, and hostels too, so I’m sure you could find a place suitable for your budget.
- Things to do: Umeda Floating Garden, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Ame Mura (Little America), Dotonburi, Arcade Games, Karaoke, Takoyaki
Day 6: Shirakawa-go & Takayama & Yamanouchi
- 500km drive in total from Osaka to Yamanouchi (including stops along the way), 6 hours by car. Some highway roads only have 1 lane, and there are no trains that actually go to some of these locations as far as I know, so be sure to check in advance what is accessible by train and what isn’t if you do not have a car.
- For me, this was a full day road trip. I spent about 2 hours in Shirakawa Village and another 3 hours in Takayama before arriving at my final stop, a Ryokan in Yamanouchi
- Although I ended up at Yamanouchi, I actually would recommend staying in Kamikochi Valley, especially during summer time. However, in the winter, Yamanouchi is a popular destination as it is right beside the Snow Monkey Park, where monkeys hang out in the natural hot springs (Onsens). This attracts a large number of tourists.
Day 7: Nikko
- 170km from Yamanouchi, 2.5 hours by car
- I recommend staying near Lake Chuzenji as the location is quite central and close to majority of the to-dos. This town doesn’t stay open till very late so it’s worthwhile to stay get the Ryokan experience here which includes a traditional Japanese dinner.
- Things to do: Kegon Waterfall, Irohazawa Winding Road, Yumoto Town, Shinkyu Scared Bridge
Another related blogpost that might help you plan your trip is 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Japan. So be sure to check that out as well!