Japan in 10 days? This curated itinerary will do just that
From futuristic cityscapes to ancient shrines, Japan offers a fascinating mix of modern and ancient traditions. If you’re wondering how to plan the best experience for your upcoming vacation, this 10-day itinerary covers must-see destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and more. It provides the perfect introduction to Japan’s culture and natural beauty. Thanks to the fast rail system connecting major cities, you can pack a lot of experiences into this action-packed journey.
Although there are traditional landmarks all over Japan for travelers to explore, there are also newly built attractions that embody Japan’s boldness for travelers to visit like the new Super Nintendo World in Osaka. The country has a unique architecture and town planning that is not common anywhere else in the world. For example, visit one of the newly designed transparent baths in Tokyo. At first, this may seem crazy, but it’s actually very clever. Atlas Obscura reports that these new bathrooms in Tokyo feature transparent walls when they are not occupied but become opaque when they are. The designer of these baths, Shigeru Ban, explained that the purpose is to allow those searching for the bath to ensure that it is vacant and clean before entering.
This is just a quick look at the quirks that make these major cities in Japan so unique and desirable for travel. With all the options of sights to see, it can be very difficult to try to organize a trip that saves time as much as possible. Fortunately, this list can help create the perfect 10-day trip to Japan.
When do you visit Japan?
The best time to visit Japan is in the spring from March to May, when the country’s colors are in full bloom with the cherry blossom season. Spring features nice weather and fewer crowds among Japanese holidays. Autumn from September to November is another ideal season, with views of fall foliage. The other two seasons are less attractive for traveling to Japan as the summer heat and humidity can be draining, while the cold of winter makes sightseeing less comfortable.
Touring around Japan
Japan’s comprehensive train network, including the famous Shinkansen high-speed trains, provides the most convenient transportation between cities. The trains are clean, comfortable and punctual, making it easy to follow and efficient itinerary. Buy your Japan Rail Pass in advance to save money on longer trips. Within cities, public buses and subways provide affordable and accessible transportation. The systems here are simplified and efficient because it is a widely used means of transportation.
Where to stay in Japan
Base yourself in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka to easily visit the major tourist sites. Business hotels provide affordable accommodation and basic amenities for budget travelers. The Green Palace of Tokyo is an affordable option for those visiting Tokyo who do not want to compromise on their living arrangements. Or try Glamping Tokyo Asakusa for a unique hostel experience with beautiful decor and located within walking distance of the city. RIHGA Royal Hotel Osaka offers a great four-star hotel deal if traveling to Osaka.
For a traditional experience, stay at family-run inns featuring tatami mats, onsen baths, kimonos and Japanese meals. Kaneyoshi Ryokan is the perfect place to experience this traditional way of life when visiting Osaka. Yamazaki in Kyoto is also gorgeous and brings a secluded landscape with it. Capsule hotels are also available in Japan and offer small, unique rooms for solo adventurers. There are dedicated capsule hotels for men and women to enjoy a safer and more secure stay. A good option is MAJA HOTEL in Kyoto and Nine Hours Akasaka in Tokyo where travelers can experience the famous Japanese bedrooms.
Day 1 – Travel to Tokyo
Land in Japan’s sprawling capital, where skyscrapers and neon lights blend with historic temples and parks. Spend your first day in Shinjuku Electric District. Here you can spend your day tasting sushi and exploring parks such as Shinjuku Gyoen. Also take the time to obtain a Japan Rail Pass, as this will be your gateway to efficient travel.
Day 2 – See the sites of Tokyo
On day two, visit Tokyo’s top attractions such as the Tokyo Tower observation deck, the serene Meiji Jingu Shrine nestled in the forest, and the pop culture paradise of Harajuku. Treat yourself to world-class shopping in Ginza before watching a lively show at the historic Kabukiza Theater in the evening.
Day 3 – Day trip to Mount Fuji
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take a day trip west to see the famous Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan. Once there, you can take the Fuji Excursion Train to stations near Fuji, where hiking and scenic trails offer stunning views (weather permitting). Once you feel tired, head back to Tokyo for the night.
Day 4 – Bullet train to Kyoto
Take the high-speed Shinkansen train to head west to Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. After checking into your accommodation, head to Nishiki Market for delicious snacks and eclectic shopping. Then trek along the stone paths lined with orange torii gates at serene Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Day 5 – Kyoto highlights
On your first full day in Kyoto, visit famous sites like the shining golden Kinkakuji Temple and the idyllic Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple. In the afternoon, explore the geisha district of Gion and sip matcha tea overlooking the river at Kodaiji Temple.
Day 6 – Day trip to Nara
For your second day in Kyoto, take a short train ride east to the picturesque city of Nara. Feed the kneeling deer that roam Nara Park before visiting Todaiji Temple, home to the towering Great Buddha. Relax and admire the traditional architecture at the well-preserved Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
Day 7 – Bullet train to Osaka
After three days of enjoying Kyoto’s historic attractions and Zen gardens, head west to vibrant Osaka on the Shinkansen line. Drop your bags at the hotel and then start exploring the city’s dynamic food scene, from bustling Kuromon Ichiba Market to the casual tapas bars of Dotonbori.
Day 8 – The most important sights in Osaka
On your full day in Osaka, visit the towering Umeda Sky Building and the 16th-century Osaka Castle. Take a cruise along the Yodogawa River before wandering through the colorful Amerikamura district and eating fried street food in the local Namba area. Finally, end your day in the neon-lit Dotonbori area.
Day 9 – Day trip to Himeji
A day trip west of Osaka will bring you to Himeji, home to the massive Himeji Castle, considered the finest feudal fortress still standing in Japan. After touring the elegant White Castle, take a stroll through the Coquin Park complex across the street. Later return to Osaka for your final night.
Day 10 – Travel from Osaka
On your final morning, pick up some last-minute souvenirs from a local shop before boarding the train to Osaka Kansai Airport for your return flight, making a Sayonara show to Japan.
With its mix of cosmopolitan cities and peaceful temples, this itinerary provides an unforgettable introduction to captivating Japan. You’ll leave dreaming of your next visit to experience more of what Japan has to offer.
(tags for translation) Travel Noir