How to Plan a Trip to Japan

Japan seems to be on everyone’s bucket list and this past year has seen tourists returning to Japan with a vengeance! It seems like the whole world wants to travel to the land of the rising sun and if you are among those but don’t know where to start, this is for you. This post is designed for those embarking on their first trip to Japan and need help planning. All the sushi, funky fashion, futuristic cities, and peaceful traditional shrines can be yours. After a 15-day trip, I am hardly an expert on Japan, but one thing I do know how to do is plan a trip. Therefore this post will focus on how to plan a trip to Japan.

Japan Basics


Japanese is of course the primary language and I encourage you to learn a few basic words.

  • Hello – Konnichiwa (kohn-nee-chee-wah)
  • Good Morning – Ohayou Gozaimasu (Oh-ha-yo goh-zah-ee-mahs)
  • Thank you – Arigato Gozaimasu
  • Excuse me/ I’m sorry – Sumimasen
  • Yes – Hai
  • No – Īe
  • Compliments to the Chef – Gochisousama
  • Goodbye – Sayōnara

English is typically spoken at hotels and places like train station ticket offices but I found people in restaurants and stores to have only rudimentary English. Be prepared to communicate via Google Translate. I recommend you download the Japanese language when you have Wi-Fi before leaving your hotel. You may not have service elsewhere although wifi is widely available, even on streets. I also made good use of the lens tool on the translate app. This allows you to take a photo of Japanese writing and translate it. I used this every day. Many menu items and other things are not in English. The train and subway stations will have screens that switch from Japanese to English so that is one less thing to stress about.


Japanese Yen. 1 USD is 146 yen. $100 USD is around 15,000 yen. You generally will use 1000 Yen notes (around $6 USD), 5000 Yen notes ($35) or 10000 Yen ($68) notes so remember those conversions.

ATMs are easy to find but be sure to have the right bank card to get money in a foreign country without fees. For more about this read my post about Accessing and Spending Money Overseas. You WILL need cash pretty much all the time. Despite being so modern and futuristic in many ways, they are still a cash society in many ways. For example, when buying the ICOCA card for train and subway use, the machine to buy the card doesn’t take credit cards, only cash. Many restaurants are cash-only. This surprised me but I have a rule that I always carry local currency so I was fine. I’m not one of these “oh I never need cash ” people.

When to Go to Japan

Japan is an all-season destination with ski resorts, hiking, scuba diving, and activities for any time of year. Your time off may dictate when you can go but cherry blossom (sakura) season in the spring is the most popular (and therefore most crowded time). I went in the fall and it was also busy but not to sakura levels. People go mad for those cherry blossoms. With climate change, it’s increasingly challenging to predict any type of consistent weather pattern. I went in late Oct/November and expected cooler fall weather but many days were hot. As expected, summer can be very hot. Winter is probably the least crowded time but is cold depending on what parts of the country you visit. I think my next visit will be in winter, to be honest.

How to Choose a Flight to Japan

Tokyo has two major airports, Narita (NRT) and Haneda (HND). HND is closer to the city center so it is preferable if you have a choice. You need to do a quick Google flight search from your departure city to see which airport is your option. Both are well connected by train. Osaka also has an international airport called Kansai (KIX). Many people opt to start their trip in Tokyo and finish in Kyoto or Osaka and fly from Kansai. If doing a roundtrip to Tokyo is the best flight option for you, it’s easy to do a loop. I ended my trip in Kyoto, then took the Shinkansen bullet train from Kyoto to Shinagawa followed by a specific airport train directly to Haneda. The entire journey took 2.5 hours. Easy.

Travel Hacker sidebar: I flew HND to JFK on my return flight on Japan Airlines (JAL) first class with 80,000 American Airlines Advantage points. There are many ways to fly to either NRT or HND with points on either ANA or JAL airlines. This is beyond the scope of this post but just Google and one of many points hacking experts will have a post on this subject! Here is my handy dandy Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking, in case you are interested.

How to Get Around Japan

Getting around Japan is very easy. Few countries have such great public transport. I won’t say it’s always simple to navigate because Tokyo is massive and some of the stations get over 3 million visitors a DAY and are the size of small cities so it can be overwhelming.

One of the great things about the train is that every station has lockers. If you are stopping in one place on the way to another, this is handy. For example, I visited Himeji Castle while traveling between Hiroshima and Osaka/Kyoto.

Shinkansen Bullet Train in Japan


This is the famed bullet train, traveling at speeds up to 300 km/hr (miles/hr) It’s not cheap but well worth it IMO. One way from Kyoto to Tokyo is a 2-hour journey and costs around USD 145. However, you can save some money with the JR pass which I explain below.

There is more than one type of train, serving the Shinkansen railway. There are 6 of them and all have different speeds and make different stops along the way. The Nozomi line is the most famous, the fastest, and makes the fewest stops.

So pay attention to which line you need when booking. This will also help you to locate the correct platform when traveling.

JR Trains

The JR pass works on all Shinkansen trains, the Narita Express (Not the Haneda Express), as well as all trains that are operated by JR (it is very clearly marked). You can order this pass online, hold on to the voucher, and go to any JR exchange office in Japan to get the actual pass. Unfortunately, it is a card that you must not lose! I was surprised that they didn’t have an electronic version. In the First class (the green car) there will be food service for purchase and you can reserve a seat. The seats are also a little nicer and bigger.

The JR pass is expensive, but for my trip, it was well worth it. You can be strategic with this. Let’s say your trip is 2 weeks in total but you will spend 4 days in Tokyo at the beginning and 3 in Kyoto at the end. You can pay for a 1 one-week pass for everything in between rather than a 2 week pass. Look at where you are going and do the math of individual tickets vs the pass.

IC Card

Similar to those subway cards used in transportation systems around the world, the Japanese IC Cards are rechargeable prepaid travel cards that can be loaded with funds and used for public transportation at train stations, metro stations, bus depots, on ferries, and cable cars. Different types service different regions so it depends on where you are going.

So as you see, it’s not exactly “simple” but once you have the cards you need, it will be just a matter of swiping the card and getting on the train. As of late 2023, certain subway lines are starting to have tap-and-go contactless systems, both with credit cards and smartphones but this is not yet widespread. You CAN use the iPhone Apple Pay wallet and have some of the cards mentioned above stored in them. Then you can just tap with your card to enter. I have an Android so this didn’t work for me.

Resources for searching and booking transit in Japan

You can look at train schedules and prices on the Rail Ninja website. You can also use Klook to book tours as well as train tickets and train passes. Klook will send you a QR code with very detailed instructions on how to pick up your ticket at a train station kiosk. It was easy and took me just a few minutes. I suggest giving yourself a good 15 minutes extra in case you have issues and need help.

Here is the Japanese Railpass website with a guide to all the IC cards. I was initially bewildered because when you enter a station in Tokyo that looks like a subway station, it is a mind-boggling combination of subway lines and various rail lines. A basic subway card won’t work on the rail lines. And not all the rail lines are JR lines. I wanted access to all the lines because if you limit yourself to only using the subway lines, you have fewer options for transit around Tokyo, which is a MASSIVE city. I promise this will make sense once you are there.


The IC card will also work on the bus. There are also specific bus passes you can get. I did not use the bus in Tokyo or Osaka. I did in Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa, and Hiroshima. In some of these places, they have a specific tourist loop bus which is different from the regular city bus. There are detailed signs at the bus stops. Sometimes this was confusing so if in doubt, simply ask the driver: “Does this bus go to x?” Your hotel should also be able to give you bus information for wherever you want to go.

First-Time Itinerary for Japan

I don’t recommend less than 2 weeks. There is SO much to see and Japan is a diverse country. A mix of cities and nature is ideal. I will recommend an itinerary slightly different than what I actually did (you live and learn). Keep in mind that this is the “Golden Route” most tourists do. Many of these places are overtouristed. However, they are the places everyone wants to see, especially on the first trip.

Here is the whole itinerary and then I’ll break it down in more detail later

  • Day 0 Arrival in Tokyo
  • Day 1/2/3/4 Tokyo
  • Day 5 Mt Fuji/Hakone overnight night or day trip
  • Day 6 Tsumago
  • Day 7/8/9 Kyoto
  • Day 10 Hiroshima (stop to visit Himeji Castle on the way)
  • Day 11 Hiroshima (Miyajima Island Day Trip)
  • Day 12/13 Osaka
  • Day 14 Osaka (Day trip to Nara)
  • Day 15 Leave Japan

There are many ways to change this itinerary. For example, you can go to Hiroshima 1st and then Kyoto and Osaka in any order. It doesn’t matter. Hiroshima is in the south and Kyoto and Osaka are very close to each other. I simply chose this order because going from Tsumago to Kyoto is a shorter distance than Tsumago to Hiroshima and it’s good to be in Osaka at the end just in case you want to fly from Kansai airport. You can easily take the train from either Osaka OR Kyoto back to NRT or HND Tokyo airports.

Also, you can choose to do a day trip to Nara from Kyoto OR Osaka. It is a very similar distance by train (under an hour) from either city. I chose Osaka because overall, there are more things to do in Kyoto vs Osaka and Osaka is slightly less expensive. If you wish to do the day trip to Nara from Kyoto, I recommend 4 nights there and 2 in Osaka.


Tokyo is a MEGACITY. It’s enormous and formidable with an intriguing blend of extremely modern and fiercely traditional elements. I will direct you to better blogs about what to do in Tokyo but here is a quick overview of how you may want to organize your time here. Having a daily plan made this city less daunting.

Day 1: Harajuku, Meji Shrine, Yoyogi Park and Roppongi Hills, Whiskey Library

Start the morning with a walk in Yoyogi Park and visit Meji Shrine. If you go early enough you may beat the crowds. Stop for lunch in Harajuku or have a street crepe as lunch like I did. Enjoy a walk and some shopping around this trendy fashionable neighborhood where everything is kawaii (cute). After a walk down the infamous Takeshita Street, continue to walk south through less insane neighborhoods like Omotesando and Aoyama. Check out the Tokyu Plaza building for cool architecture. Visit the Whiskey Libray for a taste of world-famous Japanese Whiskey. Consider a visit to Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills for some incredible panoramic views of Tokyo. If you go at sunset you can stay and see the city lights at night.

Day 2: Shibuya and Shinjuku

These are best split into two days but if your time is limited you can see both in one day although you may not be able to wander around as much.

These are the two busiest neighborhoods in Japan and just one subway stop away from each other on the JY Yamanote Green Line or the Fukutoshin Brown Line. Shibuya is famous for the Shibuya Scramble or crossing where at one intersection, a variety of crosswalks will be filled with people at the same time when the light changes. It is fun to try to view it from above at a nearby bookstore called Tsutaya. I also enjoyed seeing the Hachiko statue right outside the subway station (follow signs to the aptly named Hachiko exit). (Also see the movie Hachiko so you know why this dog is so famous).

If you have a whole day in this area or enough time in your half-day, leave the hustle and bustle for the nearby neighborhood of Daikanyamacho which is known as the Brooklyn of Tokyo. It has affluent residents with dogs, bougie boutiques, nice architecture, and a relaxed vibe which is in stark contrast to the world’s busiest intersection in Shibuya. Check out the Log Road where you can go the Garden House Crafts, a Norther Cali-inspired Cafe. The Spring Valley Brewery is also very cool and serves food.

Shinjuku is simply wild. It has the busiest subway station in the world with over 3 million people passing through it everyday. Many iconic things are here including the “Godzilla building”, the massive 3D cat, much photographed Japanese streets that you’ve probably seen on Instagram. The Kabuchiko district of Shinjuku, pictured above, is a famous entertainment district known for adult-oriented nightlife. There are love hotels, host and hostess clubs, pubs and late-night snack bars. The Golden Gai is a few narrow lantern-lit alleys packed with small clubs, many mostly designed for locals.

My favorite part of Shinjuku was Omoide Yokocho (aka Piss Alley). This is near the west exit of the Shinjuku station and is a maze of alleys with traditional izakaya (taverns) where you can have a drink and eat yakitori (Grilled skewers of meat). This area is in stark contrast to the futuristic skyscrapers around it. You will find tourists here as well as local businessmen having a beer after work. I adored the vibes here and ate here twice during my stay.

Day 3: Asakusa and Museum

Asakusa is as traditional as Shinjuku is modern. This is the spiritual heart of the city with architecture from the Edo period. Start early and see the Senso-Ji temple. Go through the ritual to obtain your fortune while here. There is a shopping street right in from that gets PACKED but has some great eats and cute shops. I loved the pastry filled with sweet potato, warm from the oven. You can also find a fabulous matcha shop near the temple. Matcha in Japan is so much better than I’ve had at home. It’s smooth, perfectly frothed and no bitterness.

You can easily spend the entire morning in Asakusa. I had lunch with some friends at a Shabu-Shabu place which was delicious and fun. Shabu-Shabu is Japanese hot pot. It’s a thing.

The Tokyo National Museum is not too far away or you could check out the Akihabara neighborhood. This is full of manga themed cafes so if that’s your thing, you will probably love it.

Day 4: Tsukiji Fish Market and Ginza

If you decide to visit the Fish Market go EARLY. It gets claustrophobically crowded here and the lines to taste things are oppressive. I had the misfortune of going on a public holiday. I would like a do-over someday because it is really cool.

Ginza is a posh neighborhood full of designer boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants. It is one of the least charming neighborhoods but if you have the time, you can add it to the list but I wouldn’t prioritize it. Photo below is not Ginza FYI, it’s Shinjuku.

Mt Fuji/Hakone

Mount Fuji is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, located less than 100 kilometers away from Tokyo. I didn’t have the chance to visit and I regret not making time. But you don’t have to have my regrets! you can go as a day trip or spend the night.

Apparently, in summer, you can see Mount Fuji from a Shinkansen train leaving Tokyo towards Nagoya – Osaka – Kyoto. I heard that the window view is impressive so reserve your D or E seat (C or D in Green Cars), which is the right side from Tokyo, left side from Kyoto.

image courtesy of TheAwkwardTraveller

Next time I would like to stay the night at one of these places. Ryokans are traditional Japanese-style hotels and onsens are traditional thermal baths. (Ok it’s a fancy word for Japanese jacuzzi but way cooler)

Onsen Ryokans with View of Mt. Fuji

You can also do Mt. Fuji as a day trip from Tokyo but from everyone I’ve talked to, this is a very long day and many would have preferred it to have more time.

Getting To Mt Fuji

Kawaguchiko Station is one of the highest in the world at an altitude of 2,812 feet or 857 meters. It was named for Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the most accessible and interesting of the Fuji Five Lakes. Kawaguchiko is not a JR station. Therefore, the Japan Rail Pass will not be accepted for passage between Otsuki and Kawaguchiko. IC cards such as Pasmo and Suica ARE accepted. Kawaguchiko Station can only be reached by train using the Fujikyu Railway Line. From Shinjuku Station (Tokyo), you may take the JR Chuo Line to Otsuki Station. There, transfer to the Fujikyu Line to Kawaguchiko Station. This trip takes about two and a half hours.

You can also take a bus to Mt. Fuji. Fujikyuko Express Bus operates a bus from Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit to Mt. Fuji Sta. every 4 hours. Tickets cost ¥1600 – ¥3500 and the journey takes 1h 57m.

Using your JR Pass

The Fuji Excursion is a regular limited express service that runs directly between Shinjuku on the Chuo Line and Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi) on the Fujikyuko Line. There are two round trips a day which stop at the following stations:

  • Shinjuku
  • Tachikawa
  • Hachiōji
  • Ōtsuki
  • Tsuru-bunkadaigaku-mae
  • Mount Fuji
  • Fujikyu Highland
  • Kawaguchiko

The last three stations (Mount Fuji, Fujikyu-Highland and Kawaguchiko) serve as gateway stations for Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes.


I’ve included this small village on this itinerary because it’s not a place everyone goes (although I would hardly call it unpopular because it was busy). I enjoyed the delightful town and the beautiful nature surrounding it.

Getting to Tsamago

From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya, then transfer to the JR Shinano Limited Express line for Nagiso Station From Nagiso Station, Tsumago is a 10-minute bus ride.

From Mt Fuji you would need to get to the Shin-Fuji train station to get the Shinkansen to Nagoya then follow the same steps as above from Nagoya. This takes 1 hr 30 min. Alternatively, from Kawaguchiko Staton take Express Mishima Kawaguchiko Liner to Mishima Station then the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen to Nagoya. This whole journey is just under 3 hours.


The fabled city of Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years (from 794 to 1868). Kyoto is the center of Buddhism and traditional Japanese culture. I read that all Japanese people try to go here at least once and have a special fondness for the heritage of Kyoto. Several temples and gardens here are UNESCO heritage sites.

Getting to Kyoto

From the Nagoya Station to Kyoto is 35 minutes on the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen. Here is a suggestion for how to organize your time in Kyoto.

Day 1 Kyoto

This is your arrival day so hopefully you get here early enough to walk around and take it in. Go to the Gion district and walk along the river. Check out the shops, consider booking a geisha tea ceremony with a kimono or rent a kimono and walk around. Please take care to be respectful of the city’s residential areas. Many alleys are forbidden for tourists and give any geishas you see walking some polite distance. There have been several terrible incidents lately and the city authorities are cracking down on misbehaving tourists.

For dinner check out the Nishiki Market. Here you can sample seafood, wagyu, kobe, sushi and other things. There is also a fabulous Gyoza restaurant you should go to for some of the best gyoza in town called Tiger Gyoza. I suggest making a reservation.

Day 2 Kyoto

Start very early in the day and see the Fushimi Inari Shrine. I got here at 7 am and walked to the top. I spent 2 hours here. It was so beautiful and peaceful once you walked past the crowd in the early parts.

Afterward, you can relax in Kyoto or consider a visit to the Golden Palace. It’s especially beautiful right before sunset.

I also suggest booking a Samurai/Kembo class. This was one of my favorite activities. You get to choose a Samurai outfit, they dress you and teach you some sword moves and then you watch a performance and take photos. It sounds cheesy but it’s not. Honestly so much fun. Just look at this photo. I wanted to wear this the rest of the day and keep the sword. I’m ready to defend my village.

The Zen temple is also cool. You get to do a meditation and be part of a green tea ceremony and then get a tour of the amazing zen gardens.

Day 3 Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

I didn’t have the chance to visit but you absolutely should. I need to come back and see this beautiful place. In my research, I came across this post about alternative bamboo forests to visit. I hate overtouristed places and I’m all about less visited treasures like the ones in this list.


Getting to Hiroshima

From Kyoto on the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen is 1 hr 36 min

Make sure to arrive and leave yourself enough time for a half day spent perusing Peace Park, the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Children’s Memorial, and the Peace Memorial Museum. I only had one hour in the museum and could easily have spent 2. It is both sobering and heartbreaking but fascinating to learn the history of this world-changing event.

Atomic Bomb Domb
Children’s Peace Memorial

Miyajima Island

This was one of my favorite days of the entire trip. Also called Itsukushima, Miyajima Island is a tranquil and delightful wooded place that is sparsely populated and home to native deer and monkeys. The Itsukushima Shrine and its Torii Gate are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Unlike Nara, here you cannot feed or touch the deer.

Getting to Miyajima Island

From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyamaguchi Station, which takes around 20 minutes one way and is included in your JR Pass. Alternatively, from central Hiroshima, you can take a tram to the Miyajimaguchi ferry port. The ferry pier is only a short walk from the station. This JR ferry takes 10 minutes and is free with your pass./ Boats NOT covered by the JR pass are also available, departing from the Hiroshima Peace Park and taking 30 minutes.

One of the main attractions here is the Floating Torii Gate. It is an iconic symbol of Japan that you’ve probably seen in a brochure. It is the cover photo for this post. You will see the gate from the ferry so try to stand on the right side of the upper deck for a nice view. Once on the island, you can walk to the Itsukushima shrine. This ancient Shinto shrine was constructed around 1168 C.E. You can also see the floating Torii Gates from here. If you time your visit right and the tide is high, the temple will appear to be floating as will the Tori gate in the ocean.

Another fun thing to do on the island is either hike or take the cable car to the top of Mt. Misen. Be warned there are very long lines to go both up and down but the views are fantastic.

In the town you can gorge on delicious local oysters and there are many cute shops. Be sure to try the special local pastry called Momiji manjū. It is a pastry that can be either baked or deep fried (I tried both and they are both super yummy) shaped like a Japanese maple leaf and stuffed with various fillings like custard or red bean paste.

Himeji Castle

The castle is frequently known as Hakuro-jō or Shirasagi-jō (“White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle”) because of its white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight. The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 rooms with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. It is the largest and most visited castle in Japan and considered one of the most beautiful.

Getting to Himeji Castle

Hiroshima to Himeji is 1 hr 20 min on Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen. You can do this as a half day trip or on the way between other cities such as Hiroshima and Osaka or Hiroshima and Kyoto. Give yourself at least 2-3 hours to enjoy the castle and grounds.


Getting to Osaka

Himeji to Osaka is 1 hr on the same line, the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen

Japan’s “2nd city” is very cool and is the foodie capital of Japan. I’ve heard it described as industrial and while it doesn’t have tons of green space, I truly adored Osaka and liked it more than Tokyo. It’s gritty, fun, and charming with its own culture. Like any big city, there is nightlife, shopping, museums, and a music scene. The people here are a bit more friendly and open compared to Tokyo (I hate making broad generalizations like this after 2 days somewhere but that was my observation). I also found the subway here extremely easy to navigate compared to Tokyo.

I would suggest staying in the Namba district which is the center of all the fun. There is no shortage of great food and cocktails here. I loved walking around and looking at the completely unhinged decor.

Things to do in Osaka

  • Walk around Namba Dotombori
  • Hang out in the wild Shinsekai neighborhood. Shinsekai means “New World”. This area was developed before WW2 but then sort of neglected. The northern half was modeled after Paris and the southern portion was built to imitate Coney Island in New York. Here you can see Tsutenkaku Tower and eat kushikatsu, one of Osaka’s best-known dishes. It is various skewered, battered and deep-fried foods. Many of the restaurants are open 24 hours but truly come alive at night.
  • Places to Eat/Drink: Bar Nayuta (speakeasy), Wad Teahouse, Ramen at Ikareta Noodle Fishtons, Okonomiyaki at Tsuruhashi Fugetsu Dotombori Ebisubashi
  • Osaka Castle: This beautiful 16th century keep is easily reached by subway. I did not go inside and instead enjoyed the beautiful grounds and view of the city


Originally known as Yamato, Nara was Japan’s first capital and the seat of the Emperor. Nara is oozing with history and culture with 1,300 years of art and architecture. Nara Park has 8 UNESCO registered temples and shrines set amongst a beautiful forest. It is also famous for the charming mostly tame “bowing” deer. The temples and shrines of Nara are even older than the ones in Kyoto which have been rebuilt many times.

Getting to Nara

As I mentioned earlier you can do a trip to Nara very easily from Osaka or Kyoto. You can take the 35-minute limited rapid express from Osaka-Namba to Kintetsu Nara Station. Kintetsu Nara can also be reached from Kyoto Station in just over 30 minutes

One of the most important sites here in Nara is the Great Buddha Hall at Todaiji. This is the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world, and weighs an estimated 300 tons. Inside what was once the largest wooden building in the world.

The other place I was enthralled with was the Kasuga Taisha Shrine which has hundreds of lanterns along a wooded path leading to the shrine. The entire shrine had various types of lanterns.

The Famous Nara Deer

The Nara deer are everywhere and are mostly friendly but are still wild animals. The deity enshrined in at Kasuga Taisha, Takemi Kajichi no Mikoto, is said to have ridden to Nara upon a sacred deer from Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture. Because of this legend, deer were thought of as sacred animals–the helpers of gods–and have been protected for many years and today considered “natural monuments.

You are allowed to feed them the special “deer” cracker called shika senbei that can be purchased in the park. Be aware that they can bite and become aggressive.

I wished that I had an entire day at Nara to see more temples and shrines and the Nara Museum which is supposedly fantastic.

If you are short on time, you can visit the Fushimi Inara Shrine in the am and Nara in the afternoon on the same day. (Note that this would entail visiting Nara from Kyoto, not from Osaka as I suggested here). I didn’t love this plan, but it is doable. I felt rushed and exhausted at the end of the day.

Returning to Either Narita or Haneda for your flight out of Japan

The time from Osaka to NRT is 4 hours. From Osaka to HND is around 3 hours

You will use the Nozomi Line Osaka to Shinagawa for 2 hours 50 min then take the Keikyu Train to Haneda takes 12 minutes. Note this is NOT a JR line and has its own ticket booth.

You could also fly from Osaka’s Kansai airport back to either NRT or HND. Transportation around Japan is so incredibly efficient with so many options.

Planning Resources

I wanted this post to give you a starting point from which to plan a Japan trip since I know many find trip planning intimidating. I consulted many other bloggers with far more expertise than myself about Japan. Here are some of the resources I used to plan a trip to Japan.

Where to Stay in Tokyo. Choosing the neighborhood is important in huge cities like this and once you choose a neighborhood, you can narrow down your hotel search. Read the blog post I linked for more details. I stayed in Shinkuku at the Hotel Gracery and loved it. It was where Godzilla lived.

What to Eat in Shinjuku
The post I linked is great. My personal favorites were:

  • Tempura Shinjuku Tsunahachi Souhonten I never knew tempura could be this good. Go as soon as it opens for lunch at 1100 because there will pretty much always be a line here.
  • Sushi Zanmai
  • Curry Udon Tatsuyoshi Kabukicho
  • Fuunji Ramen Another place that always has a line and you have to order from a vending machine and get a ticket that you hand to the chef behind the counter. Then you wait until there is a seat available. Have your Google Translate Lens ready because it’s all in Japanese.

5 Day Itinerary in Tokyo

This post helped me organize my time so much and she had so many great suggestions

I hope this will help get you started so you can plan your own perfect Japan trip. Please leave any questions or suggestions in the comments!

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About The Author

Cherene Saradar

Cherene is a travel expert with 30 years of experience in over 100 countries and 7 continents. She has traveled solo to over 50 countries. She is also a nurse anesthesiologist with over 20 years of healthcare experience. Her passions include wildlife travel and visiting wine regions of the world.

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