here are a lot of great regions to visit in Japan and one week is obviously not enough. Since it was our first visit to the country, we decided to focus on the two main cities, Osaka and Tokyo, with side trips to Nara, Kyoto and Tachikawa.
Here’s a laidback day-to-day itinerary of our time in Japan. It’s a total of nine (9) days, one full week with two weekends.
DAY 1: OSAKA
The two main areas to stay in Osaka are Umeda on the North side and Namba on the South. Both are great and close to many shops and eating places. If you’re planning to take a lot of trips outside Osaka like Kobe, Kyoto or Hiroshima, then Umeda offers better access to the Shinkansen stations. But if your intention is to explore the sights in Osaka, then Namba is a sounder choice.
We stayed in Namba and were satisfied with the decision. It has a direct train access from Kansai Airport (KIX), close to a lot of shopping streets, only a mere walking distance to Dotonbouri (best place to eat in Osaka), very well connected to a lot of subway lines, and has that lively ‘Osaka vibe’ that I like.
In any case, Umeda and Namba are only less than 10 minutes apart by train.
Things To Do
- Take a food trip in Dotonbouri
- Visit Osaka Castle
- Stroll along Kema Sakuranomiya Park
DAY 2: NARA
Located less than an hour from Osaka is Japan’s first permanent capital, Nara. It’s filled with temples, shrines and very famous for its “locals”. Be sure to bring tasty cookies to make some friends.
Read more about our experience here.
DAY 3: KYOTO
There are a lot of temples, cultural experiences and interesting things to do in Kyoto. It is known as the “City of Ten Thousand Shrines” for a reason and in my opinion, you need at least three days to fully enjoy it. If you have more time, you can make Kyoto your base then do side trips to Nara and Osaka.
In our case, we’re quite relieved that we didn’t stay in Kyoto at the time. As expected, the number of tourists and locals were intense. The buses easily filled up; the queues got longer and there’s a huge crowd in every attraction. It significantly affected our day since we spent more time waiting for the buses and the crowds to clear.
If you’re visiting during peak season, plan for an extra day or two. Here’s how we went about our day in Kyoto.
Things To Do
- Visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Okochi Sanso Garden
- Stroll along the Philosopher’s Path
- Drop by Yasaka Shrine
DAY 4: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN
Of course, we didn’t miss Universal Studios! Once in a while, we frolic like kids and enjoy a good ole’ thrill. This time, it was primarily because of The Harry Potter World attraction. We don’t have it here in Universal Studios Singapore and I wanted butter beer!
It was a whole day of fun and running around but I ended up having mixed feelings about the park.
DAY 5: SHINKANSEN TRAVEL TO TOKYO
We left Osaka in the morning and arrived in Tokyo in just about 2.5 hours. The bullet train in Japan really does deserve all the hype and good words. The train leaves and arrives on time, it’s squeaky clean and the legroom is huge, way better than any other expensive flights I’ve taken.
When in Tokyo, I recommend staying along The Yamanote Line. It’s a circular line that connects major city centers and sights like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Yoyogi, Ueno and Tokyo Station. We stayed in an Airbnb studio apartment near Nishi-Nippori Station and we’re able to get to anywhere conveniently.
In the afternoon, we headed to Chidori-ga-fuchi Park and boated along the moat near the Imperial Palace.
DAY 6: HARAJUKU, SHIBUYA, YOYOGI PARK & THE MEIJI SHRINE (WEST SIDE)
Trains in Tokyo are very convenient and well thought out. The attractions are easily accessible from just about any point in the city and the train stations are named after them as well so it’s so easy to figure out directions.
For instance, if you’re going to Shibuya then there’s Shibuya Station. If you’re going to Harajuku, then alight at Harajuku Station. The Meiji Shrine is located inside Yoyogi Park so you can access both from Yoyogi Station.
Smart right? There’s no chance you’re going to get lost in Tokyo. :)
Things To Do
- Enjoy a quiet walk at Yoyogi Park and Meiji-Jingu Shrine
- Stroll down Harajuku Street
- Visit Hachiko in Shibuya and marvel at the world’s busiest neo-crossing
DAY 7: UENO, ASAKUSA & SHINJUKU (EAST SIDE)
The next day, we explored Ueno Park and Asakusa for a traditional side of Tokyo. Then, headed to Shinjuku to eat and walk some more.
If planned well, walking is just as convenient as taking the trains in Tokyo. The distance between stations is still within walking distance. It’s not too close but definitely attainable. And with all the interesting things going on around the city, you’ll hardly even notice the length. It’s also practical since transport is quite expensive.
DAY 8: DAYTRIP TO SHOWA KINEN PARK
Showa Kinen Park is just less than an hour outside of central Tokyo and is a perfect day trip especially in spring when most of the flowers are starting to bloom.
If you like quiet strolls or picnics in pretty parks, then this is it. Here are more photos to convince you.
DAY 9: LAST DAY!
We didn’t have any more plans on our last day. Our flight is in the afternoon so we just filled our tummies with more Japanese treats and headed to the airport right after.
That’s quite a lovely week! Every day in Japan has been an epic adventure. I didn’t expect to love this country as much as I do now and I can’t wait to go back!
Pin this itinerary for later! :)