Japan Itinerary 10 Days – The amazing country of Japan is not for the faint-hearted. The culture shock (in the best possible way) is so real the moment you land at the airport, and your visit will be a whirlwind of stunning historical expeditions, food adventures, skyrise buildings lit with neon signs, and miscommunication. It’s a country that you can visit more than a handful of times and still find reason to return, to experiment and explore more and more of what it has to offer.
If you’re visiting for the first time (or even the fifth time), and need help putting together an itinerary, we can help you here. In just 10 days, you can drop in and visit the most popular (for a reason) hotspots in Japan and really get a taste of the unique country. We can’t guarantee you’ll be satiated though – you’ll probably be planning your next trip back before you’ve even at the end!
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – 3 Days in Tokyo
Tokyo is an absolute must, for first-timers and hundredth-timers – it really is a city that never gets old. There are a million and more things to do this in bustling city, which caters to all different types of travellers, but below we’ve listed our top picks for activities if you had to cram them into three days:
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 1: Harajuku and Shibuya, Golden Gai at night
Harajuku is probably the area that gets the most tourist hearts pumping. The main part of Harajuku, Takeshita Street, is characterised by adorable dessert stores, Lolita, sweet and punk-style fashion, the colour pink, cute accessory stores, make-up and skincare brands, and enormous crowds – but that doesn’t stop anyone from visiting every day of the week. You’ll find wandering the streets incredibly fascinating even if you don’t buy anything. However, if you cross to the other side, serious street-wear brands litter the alleys, and hypebeasts all around the world flock here for the latest and greatest in vintage fashion. Don’t forget to explore cat street nearby for a more toned-down shopping experience, and of course, pop into Number Sugar for a caramel!
Head to Shibuya after for lunch – if you’re keen for experiential eating, pop into Genki Oubei Sushi for sushi that gets delivered straight to your seat via a conveyor belt, pretty cool! Of course, no one can forget the Shibuya crossing – follow in the footsteps of hundreds of others as the man turns green and run into the middle of the crossing for an epic selfie (but don’t dawdle!). If you want another perspective, head up to the Starbucks café that overlooks the crossing, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to grab a seat by the window to admire the frantic yet mesmerising crowds below. Shibuya is also full of shopping centres, but our favourite has to be the Don Quijote Megastore there – be prepared to literally spend hours wandering around buying souvenirs for your friend’s cousin’s pet – they’ve got everything here.
If you’re not tired, head back to Shinjuku (literally only a few minutes away), and head to the Golden Gai district for some dark alleyway drinking – you’ll encounter some foreigners, but more likely run into local salarymen hiked up on bar stools at their regular bar.
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 2: Akihabara and Asakusa
To fans of technology and anime and those who have never heard of it before, Akihabara is a must visit. It’s a neon-sign jungle at night, and during the day, the globally renowned electronics town is simply fascinating. Here, you’ll find massive shopping centres dedicated to the latest in digital technology as well as vintage technology stores run by generations of family. People travel to Japan just to buy limited edition games, consoles, cheaper camera equipment, portable technology, and even computer devices. There are multi-level story buildings devoted to selling anime items, ranging from the manga magazines, soft plush toys, figurines and even food. There is no other city quite like it in the world, and if you come on a Sunday, the main street, Chuo Dori, is closed off for pedestrians. If you’re after a unique experience, pop into one of the maid cafes (you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about when you see it), and completely immerse yourself.
Once you’re done and overloaded with visions of cute cartoon characters, head to Asakusa (only minutes away by train), and prepare for a different kind of Japanese experience. Asakusa is known as Tokyo’s resident temple area. In a city full of skyscrapers, billboard advertising and loudspeakers, visiting the famous Sensoji Temple is a welcoming respite. The stunning temple draws crowds of visitors every day but that doesn’t take away from its allure. Leading up to the temple is a 200m long shopping strip that houses stalls selling little trinkets, souvenirs, and local foods. When you’re done, we recommend heading to the Tokyo Skytree tower observation deck for some stunning views of the nightlife in Tokyo.
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 3: Visit the Mori Digital Art Museum, Shop at Odaiba, and Mario Kart At Night
If you’re an Instagram fiend, chances are you’ve come across someone from somewhere capturing the beauty of the teamLAb Borderless Digital Art Museum located permanently in Odaiba. Be warned – you will need to book tickets in advance because this exhibition is THAT popular. It displays art in a digital form that allows you to actually interact with it – it’s beyond explanation. It’s something that you absolutely must do in Tokyo. Be prepared to spend hours here (sometimes you get so lost in admiration of something, an hour might pass before you realise!).
After this, head to any of the surrounding shopping centres for some winding down (AQUA CiTY ODAIBA, VenusFort, DiverCity, there is literally no shortage when it comes to malls in Odaiba) and food before heading off to do zip around Tokyo in a Mario Kart! This activity literally allows you to dress up as a Mario Kart character, hop into a kart and drive around the streets of Tokyo. It’s one of THE most memorable experiences you can have. We recommend booking a night session!
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 4 in Kawaguchiko
Kawaguchiko is home to the worldwide famous Mt. Fuji. Can anyone really say they haven’t had this mountain as their desktop background at least once in their life? Fuji is even more impressive in real life – this is something you need to see with your own eyes.
To get to Kawaguchiko, you can simply catch a train from Shinjuku and change at Otsuki. It will take approximately two hours. You can also catch a bus from Shinjuku which is significantly cheaper. Book your ticket for the bus here.
There are plenty of activities to do in Kawaguchiko throughout the year, but if you’re only spending one day there, we highly recommend leisurely exploring Lake Kawaguchi, where, on a clear day, you’ll have the mountain as your backdrop. The best way to do this is to hire bikes and ride around the entire area. There are plenty of places to stop to take photos, restaurants to rest at for a meal, and shops to get some adorable souvenirs from. Of course, for those who are not keen for the bike ride (especially in winter when the weather is often below 10 degrees!), then you can purchase a bus ticket at the station which will take you to all areas around the lake.
Whilst your exploring the lakes, don’t forget to stop by and dine on some houtou noodles, which is Mount Fuji’s traditional regional cuisine of thick noodles in a miso soup with vegetables, served on a food warmer to keep it hot throughout the entire meal. It’s completely vegetarian friendly, but you can also add meat.
Also, stop into the Kawaguchiko Music Forest to explore this European-inspired garden that’s gorgeously maintained with an antique music-box museum as well. A great activity for little kids!
Lastly, if you’re there during anytime from late April until Late October, head to Oishi Park for the ultimate floral experience with Mount Fuji in the background – it’s an absolute dream.
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 5 in Hakone
If we told you that you could travel just 90-minutes away from Tokyo to a gorgeous mountainous forest region that’s littered with hot springs, hikes, beautiful traditional food, and ryokans with spas, then really, what would stop you? Hakone is one of the most popular day trips for foreigners visiting Tokyo who want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, but we recommend staying at least one night to really appreciate the the beauty of the area.
For those who decide to stay overnight, we highly, highly recommend booking one of the gorgeous ryokans. Many come with a private onsen, kaiseki cuisine, and massage services (to name a few!), which is a fantastic way to unwind for a day. Check out our selection of Ryokan in Hakone here: Best Ryokan in Hakone.
During the day (or if you’re just visiting as a day trip), there are many activities to do around Hakone. If you’re a bit artsy, check out the Hakone Open Air Museum, which is an outdoor museum featuring many artworks set amongst nature. Walk along a winding outdoor path and take plenty of Instagram-worthy pictures.
You can also visit one of the many hot springs in the region, even as a day-visitor (most ryokans also allow you to visit as a day-visitor, you will just have to pay a fee).
Lastly, if you can fit in a trip to Lake Ashinoko (or Lake Ashi), then please do. It’s a stunning lake all throughout the year (in springtime, when it’s littered with Sakura blossoms, in winter when you’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains, in autumn when the foliage frames the lake), and you can visit the surrounding temples and shrines, as well as take a ride on the few sightseeing cruises that will take you around the lake.
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 6 and 7 in Osaka
Osaka, the western capital of Japan, the home of Japanese ‘eeeats’, the famous Dontonburi Running Man and Osaka Aquarium, the stunning Osaka Castle, and so much more, deserves a visit during your first, second, and even fifth trip there. It’s a vibrant city that’s full of life during the day and especially during the night, and we recommend spending a minimum of two days here if you’re pressed for time.
If this is not your only domestic trip whilst you’re staying in Japan, we highly recommend you purchase a JR pass. This is a discount rail ticket that will allow you unlimited rides on all JR lines around Japan for either 7, 14, or 21 days (depending on what you purchase). Depending on your destinations around Japan, it should work out to be cheaper than purchasing single ride tickets whilst you’re there. The Hikari bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka is approximately 3 hours.
You can also purchase flights for as little as 4,500 yen with Peach and Jetstar airlines if you book during their sale periods. Read more about the JR Pass here. Lastly, you can also ride a highway bus from Tokyo to Osaka. This is the longest method (6-8 hours) but will cost as little as 2,000 yen depending on the time and bus line. WillerExpress are a reputable company with great prices and times.
Even with a full two days in Osaka, your itinerary will be spilling over the edges.
Day 6 – Nara Deer Park, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Osaka Castle, Kurumon Ichiba Market
Wake up bright and early on your first day in Osaka (we’re talking 7am!) and head straight to the Nara Park for some adorable deer interactions. These deer are now synonymous with trips to Osaka amongst foreigners around the world. Take the Kintetsu Nara Line from Osaka-Namba Station towards Kintetsu Nara Station which will take you 39-minutes for 560 yen. The walk to the park is only a few minutes from the station. You can then purchase a few cheap crackers from the vendors around the park and feed them to the deer. They’re extremely friendly (but be warned, if they’ve got they’re eye on your cracker, prepare for some gentle head-butting!), and make for some adorable photos. During the cherry blossom season, the park will be littered with sakura blossoms, and many people bring out the picnic mats and sake to celebrate here.
If you haven’t had breakfast yet, make sure you stop by at the stalls and shops near the station to try some of the famous regional dishes, such as miwa somen (thin hand-stretched noodles served chilled with a concentrated dashi dipping sauce), manju (steamed bun with sweet bean paste), narazuke (traditional pickled gourd, young watermelon, daikon radish, and cucumber), kakinoha-zushi (native Nara sushi), kuzu mocha (dessert made from starch of Kuzu), asuka nabe (hot pot dish of chicken, tofu and vegetables cooked in milk and chicken broth), and chagayu (traditional Nara breakfast made from boiling rice with roasted green tea and salt).
Head back towards Osaka and stop into the Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of Japan’s most spectacular aquariums, known for its vibrant collection of up to 30,000 sea creatures spanning 620 different species. This is a great place for families, friends, and couples to enjoy a few hours of exploration. There are still exhibitions, interactive exhibitions, and also feeding times throughout the day that visitors can witness. Finish off with a leisurely lunch at the Tempozan Harbor Village, where you can grab food at the Marketplace and Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho, which serve a variety of dishes such as sushi, steak, curry, takoyaki, kushikatsu, and more.
Once you’re finished with Aquarium, take the train from the Osakako Station to Morinomiya Station and walk towards Osaka castle for some stunning afternoon photos. Be warned though, it does close at 5pm, so we recommend leaving the aquarium at 3pm to ensure you have enough time to check it out and take some nice pictures. The afternoon glow of the sun is the perfect time to capture an image of the visually stunning castle.
You’re probably going to be tired by now with all the walking you’ve done, so we recommend you head back to Nippombashi Station, alight and go for a stroll through Kuromon Ichiba Market for some delectably fresh seafood. You can get sashimi, oysters, tataki, pickled vegetables, dried fish, grilled seafood, confectionary, and much more here. We recommend trying the grilled scallops in butter and the pork onigiri balls here! Head home and rest afterwards, because tomorrow is another big day.
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 7: Universal Studios and Dotonburi
Inside every adult is a little kid, we know it, and what else brings back childhood memories more than theme parks? Universal Studios is one of the biggest and most popular theme parks in all of Japan, and even though two days is an extremely short amount of time to spend in Osaka, we still recommend spending your second day here. It’s full of fun and exciting rides, unexpectedly amazing food and drinks, adorable dressed-up characters, and the atmosphere is always lively and upbeat. We recommend getting there the moment the doors open and heading right – most people start off on the left (insider tip!). You can bring in your own food to save money but we reckon trying all the food that you can fit in whilst wandering around inside is a much more memorable experience!
This will certainly take up most of your day, and we guarantee you that your legs will be sore afterwards.
However, once you’re done, head back to Dontonburi for a late night stroll around the busy nightlife of Osaka and eat to your heart’s content before you go home. Osaka is a mecca for foodies because of its diverse and appealing regional dishes, and there are a few things we recommend you try:
- Takoyaki – everyone’s heard of takoyaki, but Osaka does it exceptionally well. A light snack made with batter and octopus, it’s suitable for people of all ages.
- Okonomiyaki – a savoury pancake made from eggs, flower, yam and shredded cabbage (and whatever additional topping you add), it’s one of the most popular dishes in Osaka, and you’ll find stalls for it everywhere you look along Dontonburi.
- Fugu – This blowfish dish is a delicacy that is eaten raw. The attractor factor comes from the fact that you could be poisoned if it’s not prepared properly, but all chefs now must train for 3 years to attain a license before preparing fugu, so rest assured.
- Kushikatsu – ahh, deep-fried skewers of pretty much everything you can imagine. What’s there not to like? The crispy golden finish of the batter will convert even those on a strict diet. It also comes with various dipping sauces.
You will be probably rolling home to bed after this!
Japan Itinerary 10 Days – Day 8, 9 and 10 in Kyoto
Kyoto and Osaka are also synonymous with each other now. Most people who visit Japan for the first time lump their time in Osaka and Kyoto together, and for good reason – the train ride that separates them is less than an hour, and yet each place is so vastly different from each other and together, they offer almost a black hole of activities to explore.
From Osaka, if you have the JR pass, you can catch the JR Tokaido Shinkansen which will get you to Kyoto in 15-minutes. Otherwise, you can use the Hankyu Kyoto line from Umeda Station to Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto, this will take 40-minutes and cost 400 yen.
Day 8 – Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kinkakuji Soft ‘Gold Leaf Ice Cream’, Tenryu-Ji Temple Kinkaku-Ji Temple, Kichi Kichi Omurice for Dinner
The famed bamboo forest of Arashiyama is one that no one can ignore, even if they tried. Thus, we recommend spending your first day exploring the forest as well as the temple nearby. Wake up nice and early (this is especially important if you want pictures where there aren’t too many tourists lingering around in the background), and head to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The serenity of the place is quite unlike any other place, and the bamboos make a stunning, unique backdrop for photos. You can even dress up as a geisha if you’d like (easily organised at one of the stores outside the forest), and walk around to take pictures – this is a popular activity amongst tourists.
Once you’ve had your fair share of bamboo, walk over to the Tenryu-ji Temple to learn more about one of the city’s great Zen temples, and which is also now a world heritage site. One of the main attraction points here is its stunning landscape garden.
From there, take a taxi or walk towards Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavillion), but first, make a stop at Kinkaku Soft, the now famous ice cream shop nearby which sells ice cream cones topped with a pure gold leaf – how extra, right?! On a hot day, this cone just melts in your mouth in the best way, and the mochi balls give it great texture.
Grab your ice cream and walk towards the Golden Pavillion, which is less than 10-minutes away. Although this is located outside of the main Kyoto City, it’s still one of Kyoto’s greatest attractions, and you’ll be able to see why when you come across the beauty of Kinkaku-ji sitting amongst the still water. It’s especially majestic in spring with the sakura blossoms, and winter with the snow.
By now, you’re probably tired from wandering around, so we recommend you head back to Kyoto city for a fun, entertaining dinner at Kichi Kichi. Be warned, this place starts taking reservations 6 weeks in advance because yes, they do get that busy, so we recommend you make a reservation because there’s a high chance you might not be able to get a seat if you just rock up. Chef Motokichi will keep you entertained the entire time you’re there with his wonderful smile, cheeky antics, and incredible cooking skills. The omurice is the start of the restaurant, although we can vouch for majority of the dishes on their menu being simply delectable.
Hours: 5:00pm – 9:00pm
Day 9 – Kiyomizudera and Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
This stunning temple is based on the hills east of Tokyo, so you can imagine that the views from there will be quite beautiful. It’s one of the most celebrated temples in Kyoto, and during the sakura season, crowds flock to this temple to admire the the blossoming of the flowers from the wooden viewing platform. The Otowa Waterfall is located near the main hall, and it is said that visitors can drink from any of the three streams of water to receive its benefit.
Head to Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine afterwards (head to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station and catch the Keihan Main Line – Semi-express Nakanoshima train towards Fushimi-Inari Station). The iconic red torii gates of the Shinto shrine (which are a main attraction) are a sight to behold the first time you see them. Hundreds of visitors come to visit this shrine and walk through the torii gates every day, so we recommend getting a bit creative with your pictures! The torii gate hiking trail takes around 2-3 hours return, but of course you can stop and turn around whenever you want. Most people end their hike at the Yotsutsuji intersection which is roughly 45-minutes from the entrance, which is an open air viewing area. There are also restaurants along the way that offer themed dishes that you might want to try.
Once you’ve had your fair share of torii gates and shrines, head back to Kyoto and dine at Pontocho, an atmospheric dining area easily accessible in the city. Walking through the main alley way is an experience in itself, as it’s visually stunning, and a great representative of cultural Japan.
You can find restaurants selling everything from affordable yakitori to expensive foreign cuisine here, so it’s best to just rock up, do a bit of exploring, and decide on something for dinner. What’s great is that from May until September, many of the restaurants which overlook Kamogawa River build platforms over the flowing water for patrons to dine out in the open air – this is known as ‘kawayuka’ (reservations are recommended).
Day 10 – Nishiki Market, Manga Museum, Nijo Castle, Pontocho
We’re at the end of the trip now, and you’re probably exhausted from all the exploring you’ve done. We recommend keeping the day fairly easy and exploring within Kyoto itself. Start off the day at Nishiki Market, filling up on fresh sashimi and fried seafood, pickles and all sorts of skewers, takoyaki, and sweets, and making any last minute souvenir purchases you may have forgotten about.
Once you’ve filled up your belly, take a short walk over to the Kyoto International Manga Museum to learn about the history of how it developed internationally, as well as experience the vast collection of manga on display. Often there are exhibits on display, and there is a small section of books dedicated to foreign languages as well.
Hours: 10:00am – 6:00pm (closed Wednesdays)
Stroll on over to Nijo Castle (it’s roughly 20-minutes on foot away), for a lesson on a historical monument build in 1603. This place tailors for foreigners, as you can be guided with the audio guides that can be rented for 500 yen. Aesthetically speaking, this is one of the most stunning temples around, and you will definitely be able to snap some nice photos of exterior of the historical building and the Ninomaru Garden. During the sakura season, this place absolutely lights up, with nearly 400 cherry blossom trees blooming its way throughout March until April.
We recommend you head home after this, have a rest, pack your bags, and have an early one – you deserve it.
Well, that’s it folks! We know it seems like A LOT to do in 10 days, but when that’s all you have, and you want to make your trip worth it, then we highly, highly recommend gulping down a few cans of BOSS coffee, keeping yourself energised with 7/11 tuna mayo onigiris, and smashing through this itinerary – you’ll have the time of your life.
PS: You may know it already but they are many rules that it’s better to follow when you travel to Japan. Check them out here: Japanese Etiquette.