It finally happened, we made it to Japan. Ben and I have wanted to go since we got married but with the amount of time off it requires and COVID quarantine restrictions starting in 2020, it took us over 7 years to make this dream trip happen. That said, we had PLENTY of time to plan it all out. We spent two weeks in this magical country but honestly could’ve spent more time further north or south. We happened to catch the cherry blossoms which wasn’t intentional but extremely fortuitous. Below is our itinerary and all the lovely scenery in between!
Four Days in Tokyo
Day 1: Tokyo
Because of Ben’s friends and family discounts through work, we ended up staying at Hiltons pretty much every city during the trip (the one exception being Mt. Fuji). We arrived and had an afternoon acclimating to the time change. The train from the airport is extremely easy. All signs are numbered and colored and have English for the most part. Staff is also extremely helpful and friendly! Ben took a direct flight from IAD and landed to a bunch of 7-11 snacks! The 7-11’s there are actually incredible; the one caveat being you can’t walk and eat in Japan because it is rude and leads to littering. We settled in for our first full day.
Day 2: Tokyo
The first thing we did was explore Shinjuku. We went into an arcade and played a few games! The top floor of these multilevel game stores is usually dedicated to photo booths so we obviously took some photos! We then wandered to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and wandered around enjoying cherry blossoms! We got lovely Ramen inside the park. Later, we caught a train to Harijuku St. for shopping and sushi! We stopped by the Fish Market for our best sushi meal yet. Next time, I would love a food tour!
Day 3: Tokyo
After breakfast which is mostly noodles, we got up to explore the Senso-Ji Temple area. We picked our fortunes, ate street food and explored the surrounding temples. After, we hit Takeshita-dori for some lunch and shopping! We didn’t quite have the energy for Meji Jingu Shrine & Gardens / Yoyogi park but if you have the time, I would venture here!
At night, we explored Kabukicho and Golden Gai. We ate at Omoide Yokocho and there were hundreds of tiny restaurants. The bar version right behind is Golden Gai: this is an area of tiny streets and even smaller bars. Almost all cash and each bar has a theme and maybe 6-8 seats!
Day 4: Tokyo
Our first outing was to Ueno Park. We visited the Toshogu Shrine and saw boating under the blossoms. We ate at the little street markets there and grabbed MelonPan which was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s essentially cookie bread stuffed with cream. We were too tired to hit Chiyoda for the Imperial Palace and didn’t make it to the Meguro River but did catch Shibuya crossing just before dark. We of course stopped in the Nintendo/Pokemon store and then took in a Kabuki show at night! Lots of sushi and photos along the way!
Three Days in Osaka
Day 5: Osaka
We took an early train to Osaka and and stayed at the Conrad. Best hotel ever. We visited Osaka Castle before wandering into a curry place for dinner. One minor note is that Japan has incredible crepes. They seriously rival Paris. If you can grab one, don’t hesitate!
Day 6: Osaka
This might have been our favorite day, we traveled to Nara by train. Deer near the Todaiji temple are sacred and are treated like royalty! They come right up to you and vendors sell rice cakes for them (bring cash!) We also got yummy green tea yogurt before ending the night at Super Nintendo World. Ben’s Unbridaled joy was the highlight for me. We passed on Hozenji temple but it’s on our list for next time!
Day 7: Osaka
We opted for one extra day in Osaka to take in a Sumo match and explore Dontonbori. We ate all the street food and only caught prelims of the all day sumo festival. We took a train to Kyoto that afternoon!
3 Days in Kyoto
Day 8: Kyoto
Our first day in Kyoto was magical. We took a train to Arashima to explore the Monkey park and bamboo forrest. That area is magical. Cherry blossoms galore and incredible lake views. The hike up to the monkey park was a 20 minute uphill but worth it! Bring cash for entrance and to feed from inside the human cage. We visited Ōkōchi Sansō villa & Tenryū-ji Temple for tea. That night, I was able to see a past bride of mine for drinks! What a world.
Day 9: Kyoto
It rained this day in Kyoto so we opted for rainy activities. We wandered Nishiki Market. We ate amazing fried fish and tasted sake. We also visited the 2D cafe which was a trip! It was a quick walk to Gion Corner where we tried to spot geishas (with no luck… it’s a bit like bird watching). Pro tip: there’s amazing vintage luxury shopping in Japan so I bought some lovely second hand bags during our rainy shopping day. We grabbed soup to warm up and tucked in early for our sunrise morning.
Day 10: Kyoto
We explored Fushiimi Inari-Taisha this last day in Kyoto. This was incredible to do in the morning. There are cat shrines all over the temple and walking in the red gates is quintessential Japan. We caught some trains and a bus to Mt. Fuji. Sadly, this isn’t on the bullet train loop so it was a bit tough to get to. If we had more time in Kyoto, we wanted to do The Golden Pavilion and these 4 temples: Daigo-ji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera, Ninnaji Temple, and Kinkaku-ji Temple.
Day 11: Mt Fuji
We wanted to stay at a traditional Ryokan to have an authentic Onsen experience. We love Spirited Away so this was high on the list. We booked La Vista Fujikawaguchiko which has both private and public baths. Culturally, I am not allowed in public baths due to my tattoos but they are split by gender so Ben and I would have to experience it alone regardless. There was a bath on our balcony overlooking Fuji. Books early and make sure to add a dinner option!
Day 12: Mt Fuji
We had a beautiful last day in Mt Fuji bathing and walking and eating a traditional Japanese meal at Kappo Nanakusa which serves horse sushi and has been on multiple TV programs! We took a train back to Tokyo before our flight out!
Day 13: Tokyo
Flying out of HND or NRT is easy so either is a good look! We had one last meal of conveyor belt sushi before our direct flight home! That’s it folks. I hope you enjoyed!