6 day itinerary in Japan

We never had Japan on our list, purely due to cost as all you ever here is how expensive it is. But it’s somewhere that has always intrigued me and Keith and I have always wanted to visit! Annnnddd we were in the region, so surely we couldn’t miss it!! After some pleading and research and proving we could keep things cheap(ish) we added in 6 day itinerary in Japan! Woo hoo!

I was so chuffed, but my work was cut out for me! I’d accepted that it wouldn’t appear on our world adventure, so had no prior research. After a bit of toing and froing it became clear that we needed to restrict our visit to just 3 places. Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. I would have loved to have seen more, but the budget and time wouldn’t allow it.

6 day itinerary in Japan

So 6 days really isn’t a long time to spend in Japan. In fact you are barely going to scratch the surface. But it may be a once in a lifetime, so what the hey!! Start your engines…

We researched to death and determined that we needed to stick to the big cities.

I would’ve liked to see the countryside, but it is what it is!

This was our 6 nights in Japan:

Osaka – 1 night (I thought we had 2 nights here but forgot our flight was overnight!)
Kyoto – 3 nights
Tokyo – 2 nights

(Hands up if you knew Kyoto was an acronym of Tokyo 😜 – I didn’t!!)

With 1 extra day I would have included Hiroshima and Miriyama island too. But alas, this got culled.

Things to know about travelling in Japan

  • It is frowned upon to eat while walking around or on subways (people were eating on the bullet trains though). But it’s ok to sit somewhere discreetly on the streets if you need. Most often people stand outside a 7 eleven or family mart and eat what they bought.

  • You need a degree to use a toilet. Thankfully most of the hostels had enough translations to show what all the buttons were. But it sometimes took a few minutes to work out where the flush button was in public toilets!! But the warm seats were a bit nice – ha ha!!

  • Do not tip – even if it’s a few pennies. Supposedly they will chase you down the street to ensure you get your money back!
  • There are no bins!! Be prepared to take your rubbish with you. There are literally no bins anywhere. Usually a 7 when or family mart will have a bin so make use of them when you see them!
  • Don’t speak too loudly, especially on trains! It’s eerily quiet!! A complete contrast to China and something Ethan and I struggled with!!!
  • No shoes in houses or temples or sacred areas. Expect to be taking your shoes off on a regular basis.
  • English is everywhere. Although not widely spoken, English signs and directions are everywhere. This made getting around very easy! And most often if you look confused a lovely local, who speaks English, will help you out!
  • It’s safe! Soooo safe. People would go into cafes, put their bags and purses down and then go and look at the counter. There is not even a hint of crime or issue with safety in Japan.
  • Comfortable shoes – the travel system is amazing throughout Japan, but you will still do lots of walking. Even when using subways there can be long distances between transfers! Make sure you have the most comfortable shoes here!

Travelling around Japan

If you start researching Japan Travel your mind will be blown. There are so many travel cards, so many trains, so many choices!! I’ll write a separate blog post about the travel system in Japan to try and explain what we learnt!

But as a snapshot this is what we did:

JR pass

Everyone talks about the JR pass being the best choice. But actually this didn’t work for us (if we had included Hiroshima then it would have been cheaper!) There’s a JR pass calculator you can use to see if it works for you. https://m.jrpass.com/farecalculator

JR means Japan railways. But actually there are several private companies and sometimes the destinations aren’t covered by Japan railways, meaning you still have to buy a ticket (in addition to the JR pass!). This goes for the long distance trains as well as subway trains! Honestly, it’s so confusing. Google maps was our friend here and gave different train options when looking at destinations. I’ll explain more in my Japan travel blog when I get chance!

We also bought an Icoca travel card (Yen 2,000) for use in Osaka/Kyoto and a suica (Yen 2,000) travel card for use in Tokyo. The cards cost yen 500 (which you can get back if you return the card) or you can keep it as a souvenir (icoca cards have a couple of designs).

You can also use the icoca card in Tokyo as well as osaka/Kyoto but you can’t return the card there (a loss of yen 500 – just under £4 each) You must return it in Western Japan region (Tokyo is in eastern Japan region!). Bit complicated I know.

Also, child travel cards are slightly different. You need to fill out a form and their names are put on the card. When returning them you need to fill out another form. Bit of a pain!

Places to visit in Japan

With such a tight timeframe, we couldn’t do everything we planned, but we’ve had a good go! Here are a list of places we had planned…

Things to do in Osaka

  • Shitennoji – Famed Buddhist temple built in 593 A.D. & featuring a 5-story pagoda, statues & ponds with turtles.
  • Hozenji Temple – Intimate Buddhist temple along a quaint alley, with a moss-covered statue of the deity Fudomyoo.
  • Osaka castle – Beautiful gardens. Plenty of walks and you can go right up to Osaka castle without paying to go in.

  • Umeda Sky Building – Striking conjoined skyscrapers with a garden rooftop observation area, restaurant & cocktail lounge.
  • Dotonbori – in the minami area is best visited at night to see the city with its neon lights. Lots of shopping in the area and very busy! Great views from Ebisu bridge and where you can see ‘the running Man’. But it was so busy!!!

  • Naniwa ward – this was one of my favourite areas and felt more local. There were lots of restaurants and people drinking beer – at all times of the day!

Ideas for Kyoto

  • Kiyomizu-dera (under construction – scaffolding.  It’s also supposed to be very touristy & busy so you might want to miss it?!)
  • Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka) & Nineizaka (Ninenzaka) sloped touristy pedestrian shopping streets. It’s best in the afternoon/night for sunset. Lots of people dressed up in traditional clothing here.

  • Yasaka shrine – free and most famous shrine in Kyoto.
  • Maruyama Park – free park with streams and ponds. Not overly big, but can be quite busy. Better known for its fabulous cherry blossoms when in season (April).

  • Chion-in temple – complex grounds are free but has a 2 quaint Japanese gardens that you have to pay for yen 500.

  • Shōren-in Monzeki – a Japanese Buddhist temple complex costing Yen 500pp.
  • Fushimi Inari Taisha – make sure you are there before 7.30am to escape the crowds. Earlier the better! Stunning walkways lined with torii gates.

  • Kyoto city centre –  Kyoto tower & wandering around some of the huge electronic stores & malls.

  • Higashi-Honganji temple – only a brief stop to enjoy the temple ground and escape the seering midday heat.
  • Nikishi markets – which were just crazy busy for a mooch & late lunch stop. You tend to get carried with the crowd though.

  • Gion – traditional area where we saw lots of traditional Japanese dress.

Ideas for Tokyo

  • Shibuya crossing – a large junction which is great for a photo. It’s just funny to see everyone criss cross their way across the street. The area itself wasn’t overly impressive

  • Takeshita shopping area – as we’re not here to do this was just a high Street like any other, so we just passed through in our way to Shinjuku.
  • Cat Street – we didn’t go but there were lots of side streets with very posh & designer shops.
  • Odaiba – catch the subway across rainbow bridge. There’s so much to see and do in this area. The replica statue of liberty, museums, play areas, parks, Toyota city showcase, Teamlab borderless and so much more!

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – fantastic views and free! But do check opening times before you go. There’s a North and South view, it’s closed some days and some days open until 5pm & some days 11pm.

  • Shinjuku – Walk through crazy neon city lights at night.
  • Godzilla – free at hotel gracery 8th floor.

  • Water bus – we’d done so much walking it was nice to see Tokyo from a different (calmer) view.

  • Hamarikyu garden – the water bus stops at these Beautiful gardens with stunning city views as a backdrop.

Conclusion

Well it was hard but I’m so glad we got a chance to see this wonderful country. It was busy in places, but we could find areas of quiet and escape the hordes when we needed to. The cities were very orderly and you didn’t feel like you were being jostled around, but they were busy!

Overall we found Japan to be a very safe, fairly easy to explore and a spotlessly clean place to visit. We didn’t have any issues when we visited – everything went very smoothly. We even found that if we ate from 7-elevens or family marts and cooked dinners in our hostel, this kept costs low. The highest costs were definitely travel related.

It was a lovely addition to our world adventure. I’m just sorry we didn’t get chance to enjoy more areas – maybe next time!

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