So you have decided your next vacation trip is for Japan, and now wondering how you should make a whole schedule?
I have helped many friends of mine when they visited Japan, and they all have the same question. Now you can count on me for this.
Let’s assume you are taking off on Friday and leaving Japan on the next Sunday. That will leave you about 8 full days to do all sorts of fun stuff.
Today I will suggest on how many days you should spend in each city in Japan.
Ultimate Model Plan in Japan
My rule of thumb is to spend 3 days in Tokyo, 3 days in Osaka/Kyoto and 2 days back in Tokyo staying at Japanese greatest culture, onsen ryokan (traditional-style hotel with hot spring).
Especially on your first visit to Japan, these spots are the must-go. Unless you can take a few more extra days off, I don’t recommend you to try visiting too many places, although Japan does have other great cities you should see like Kanazawa, Hokkaido and Okinawa, to name a few.
For now I will stick with the plan to visit Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and onsen under the 8 full-day assumption.
Day 1 ~ 3: Tokyo
Needless to say, Tokyo has LOTS to offer. I would say you need at least 3 days in Tokyo to see distinctive parts of this big city.
First of all, you should see the core of Tokyo, starting from Empire Palace and beautiful Tokyo station. I recommend ending your day in Akihabara experiencing Japanese otaku (Japanese anime and manga lovers) culture and interesting social situations that you won’t find elsewhere. Recommended areas to see are:
- Marunouchi – you must see Tokyo station and Empire Palace
- Ginza & Nihonbashi – well-known shopping area covering all major international/domestic brands – more like high-end
- Akihabara – anime and otaku stuff, maid cafe
Below listed areas are known for Japanese pop culture. Filled with fashion and other latest trends. You should do most of your shopping in these spots.
- Shibuya – start from Center Gai and you should walk around for shopping
- Omotesando – check out Cat Street for boutique clothing stores
- Daikanyama – cool shopping area with all the in-style boutiques, you should stop by at Tsutaya there, super beautiful
- Yoyogi park – good place to chill, has fun events on weekends
- Harajuku – super Japanesy kawaii shops and girls everywhere
- Shinjuku – Shinjuku Gyoen is a beautiful park, also Golden Gai is cool at night – many traditional Japanese bars!
- Roppongi – clubbing/party town, maybe many foreigners, robot restaurant etc.
You should definitely use 1 whole day waking up early to visit Tsukiji market and enjoy walking in good old Asakusa.
- Tsukiji Market – fresh fish market and good sushi. Best of all fish.
- Ueno – you can shop like local Japanese at American Street
- Asakusa – you should walk around Kaminarimon, then Sky Tree – new landmark tower in Tokyo
(Also a bit far from the center but locals really like these areas. Not too busy, a lot of cute shops and cafe.)
Day 4 ~ 6: Osaka/Kyoto
Kyoto is my favorite city, but a lot of my friends loved Osaka, too. They are both close to each other (30 min by regular train) and definitely worth taking a short trip from Tokyo by a bullet train!
You can visit either one first, but in Osaka, you should check out the core such as Dotonbori and Tsutenkaku, and try awesome Osaka local food like Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki.
You will love this vibrant and energetic city and how people in Osaka are super open-minded.
In Kyoto, there are a lot of historical spots that you must see like Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama and Kiyomizu temple. Just walking in Japan’s old-style streets will be amazing experience.
I would say you definitely need at least a day and a half in each of Osaka and Kyoto to visit bits of must-see spots.
Day 7 ~ 8 Tokyo (Onsen Trip)
After days of lots of walking, you should definitely find your favorite onsen ryokan and spend a night to relax.
Japanese onsen is a popular weekend activity for local Japanese. You will also enjoy nice Japanese-style hotel room, food and great Japanese hospitality.
For the sake of scheduling, you should find an onsen ryokan nearby Tokyo if you are flying out of there. There are a great number of beautiful onsen ryokan in Hakone, Atami, Kawaguchi Lake which are all close enough from Tokyo (~2 hours by train).
If you decide to go to Kawaguchi Lake, you can also enjoy hiking at Mount Fuji, which will be beautiful and refreshing outdoor activity to finish up your Japan trip 🙂
I suggest planning 2 days for this to fully enjoy Japanese traditional onsen life and have enough time to come back to Tokyo.