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$4000 - 8-10 days in Japan?

Hey I was thinking about my various travels coming up in the next couple years (covid willing) and Japan kept coming to my mind. I know it’s a no-go-zone right now but in the next year or two maybe…could I spend 8-10 days in Japan for $4000 (probably 2 after purchasing the plane ticket)?

My idea for the itinerary/budget (for 8 nights):

Tokyo: 3 days, 4 nights
Kyoto: 3 days, 4 nights

Plane - $2000 (I’m flying from Charlotte NC, USA)
Hotels - $1200 ($150/night)
Spending Money - $800 ($100/day)

Whatever can be saved in the plane or hotel budgets can be added back to the spending budget. I also have to put about $100 or so to the side for the bullet train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto. I also should probably buy an open jaws ticket to Tokyo and then from Kyoto.

This trip can basically be any time of the year given how brief it is, I haven’t figured this part out yet.

The biggest draw for me is definitely Kyoto but I wanted to give Tokyo a fair shake, 3 days seems fair for a first encounter. Unfortunately given the time and budget constraints, that only leaves me 3 full days in Kyoto (it sort of seems like you have to do this city in parts, hence why 3 days, 4 nights seem brief). Is it possible stretching this budget to 10 nights? Or is it already thin with 8?

Posted by
2279 posts

Your hotel budget is tight, especially in peak seasons (unless you go for hostels) and transportation from Tokyo to Kyoto by train costs about $150 if memory serves well. Food is cheap, however, so $100/day is a very generous spending budget, unless you buy tons of gifts and treats (which is very tempting).
Therefore, all in all, it seems doable to me, even for 10 days (definitely worth extending given how expensive airfare is for you!).

Posted by
2207 posts

Agreed, you should extend to 10 nights! I actually followed a very similar route back in March of 2018 for 10 nights:

Tokyo (3 nights)
Shinkansen train to
Kyoto (4 nights)
Shinkansen train to
Osaka (3 nights)

You really want to go in March-June as July and August are dreadfully hot and humid in Japan. You will find that food and general expenses in Japan are not so expensive as them may seem, especially if you get out of Tokyo, Lawson convenience stores were a life saver in every city I visited, their famous egg salad sandwiches were the best I've ever had!

Tokyo was my least favourite city, the main draw for me was Kyoto and that truly lived up to the hype, the main surprise for me was how much I enjoyed Osaka, it's the culinary capital of Japan in my opinion, the ambiance there is spectacular especially in the Dōtonbori district.

I had a special interest in the Sengoku Jidai (Waring States period). I took only two group day tours for the "highlights of Kyoto" and "Himeji castle", mainly for the transportation. The rest of the sights I was able to do on my own with little difficulty, I'm pretty adventurous though and like cultural challenges lol!

I found Japan to be easier to navigate then I originally expected, even If I did not know much of the language (just basics). It was a breeze to get around using the bullet train to travel between cities. Once you get out of Tokyo things are generally much less expensive. My favorite city was Kyoto followed by Osaka, last place was Tokyo which for me was ok.

In the end, It was a great trip, everything went smoothly and the Japanese people were warm and friendly. Definitely brush up on some basic Japanese polite words and cultural norms/customs, you'll be bowing a lot 😉.

In Tokyo I liked:
Sensō-ji Buddhist temple
Kabuki performance at Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo's Ginza district
Samurai sword exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum
Egg salad sandwiches at Lawson Markets
Ekiben bento lunch on the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto

In Kyoto (my favorite of the three citites) I liked:
Tōfuku-ji Temple, great for Autumn leaves/colours
Rengeoin Sanjusangendo, home to 1001 Buddha statues
Nishiki Market
Kyoto Marui Market, incredible luxury food market at the bottom floor
Nara, the old capital of Japan before Kyoto
Kyoto International Manga Museum

In Osaka:
Osaka Castle
Dōtonbori
Himeji Castle
Conveyor Belt Sushi at Osaka Station
Toro Tuna Tasting

Hope this helps! :)

Posted by
562 posts

Lodging in Japan is not that expensive, if you look harder. It also highly depends on the district in a city that you stay at. For example, Shibuya hotels in Tokyo are far more expensive than in most other parts of town. Also, I could find decent hotels in Kyoto for less than USD 100. Take "Tokyu Stay Kyoto Ryogaemachi-dori" as an example. This is an studio style hotel that offers washers in the room, free wifi, and tons of amenities for free.

Having said this, however, if you go during cherry blossom or foliage season, then prices shoot up and you have to book early. On the other hand, I don't think your air fare costs USD2k. If you set up searches in Google Flights for your dates, then you may find far better bargains.

I have been trying to plan a trip to Japan for 1.5 years. I even bought my ticket, but the flights were canceled due to Covid.

Posted by
203 posts

I visited Kyoto in early October about 6 years ago and had beautiful weather…trees just starting to turn. One day was very humid. In Kyoto we stayed at a small traditional style hotel a couple of blocks from Kyoto train and bus stations cost was about $100 per night for two of us but we could not get entry during the day - not a problem as we found lots to see. We enjoyed the Golden Pagoda and gardens, the Bamboo Forest and some of the temples close to our hotel. Of course Kyoto in the spring is famous for its 🌸 cherry blossoms 🌸. We stopped in Osaka to visit the gardens near the castle before heading on to our ultimate destination. The carp ponds at the gardens contained the most aggressive carp I’ve ever come across! The bullet trains are incredible…clean, comfortable, on time, and of course fast! The same can be said for the regional trains, just not as fast!

Posted by
4866 posts

We loved Japan. It is expensive, but not as much as we thought it would be.

We did 8 days in Japan prior to a cruise out of Tokyo harbor that also stopped in four Japanese ports on its way to Hong Kong.
We stayed at the Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi, which was great, it is located near Tokyo Station, so we didn't need a taxi to go to our hotel since we took the train from the airport. During the 8 days pre-cruise we stayed in Tokyo and did tours (detailed in my review below) then had a tour that included Kyoto and Nara. We took the high speed train to Kyoto. We had three days in the area and one full day of tours then another day on our own. The day on our own, we did the Philosopher's Walk, which was great.
One of the ports that we stopped was Kobe, which is close to Osaka (we went to the Osaka castle). We also visited the largest castle in Japan that was the same one in a James Bond film.

Not sure that I would spend 3 nights in Osaka. We saw some great stuff in Tokyo (or on excursions outside) like Kamakura and Nikko in the north with all the four hundred year old cedar trees.

Japan and a little bit of China
https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=518503&et_cid=2531924&et_rid=17221689&et_referrer=Boards

Posted by
1780 posts

Since Rick doesn't do Japan, you should hit up the F books (Fodors & Frommers). It's an easy country to navigate, almost all signage is in English as well as Japanese, plentiful and excellent mass transit. And there are plenty of tourists going to the usual places, so no worries. Plenty of online videos about what it's like to be a tourist, as well as an expat. The common wisdom is that if you're taking the Shinkansen you probably want the rail pass. One thing about trains, there is a combination of public and private train companies in the country. They usually run side by side, but sometimes use separate stations. Which means you have to be careful with a pass that you're using JR and not one of the private companies.

Also, does Kyoto have direct flights to the US? I would think if you don't want to double back to Tokyo you would need to go to Osaka. Beware the weather, it can get downright steamy and tropical in the summer (and possibly snow in winter!). You'll also get conflicting advice about how long to spend in Tokyo and Kyoto, really depends on what you're looking for. Kyoto was not bombed during the war so historically it's more interesting, Tokyo is newer because of the earthquake 100 years ago and WW2.

Posted by
4866 posts

I think $4000 for your trip is on the low side. Our visit was in 2015 and our hotel was about $170 per night (very nice hotel). We did have some inexpensive meals at Tokyo Station. Recommend planning an additional $1000 or $1500 just in case.

Posted by
9791 posts

Japan is one of my favorite places. My last trip, at the end of last year, of course was cancelled. I'm hoping they open sometime next year.

To save money, try to go during the off season. No summers as they are hot. No cherry blossom time. And no national festivals.

There is no airport in Kyoto. The closest international airport is Osaka.

Since you are spending so much for airfare, extend it to 10 days. It can be done. The transportation system in both Tokyo and Kyoto are excellent so you don't need to stay in the center of town where lodging is more expensive. Get a Suica or Pasmo card. You fill them with money (cash only) and use them to pay for local trams, buses and subways. They can also be used in the convenience stores as payment. You might also look into a JR Pass for the long distance trains.

If you stick to the three ciites, you will need trains from Tokyo-Kyoto, Kyoto-Osaka, Osaka to Osaka airport.

Food does not have to be expensive. Ramen shops are everywhere. The convenience stores--7/11, Lawson, Food Mart--are very few blocks and amazing. They have fresh food--unlike their U.S. counterparts--that they will even heat for you. Many also have seating areas so you can sit and eat.

Learn Japanese etiquette. It's very important:

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e622.html

Posted by
104 posts

Oh wow so even with 2 extra days, it would probably be for Osaka if I wanted to see it before leaving. It would only be 2 nights with a travel day…but I think Osaka is pretty close to Kyoto. One full day and a travel day.

Does Hiroshima have an international airport? I could spend my last 2 days there?

I really only want to see the bombsight/museum there, but I really only want to see the Osaka Castle in Osaka. I know it’s a center for food but I plan to be super adventurous with me eating throughout the entire trip anyways.

Provided that Hiroshima has a good airport to get home, should I go to Hiroshima or Osaka.

It’s super sad I don’t get to see Nara but I can’t add any time to Kyoto and I certainly can’t take time off of it to see Nara. Oh well. It’s only 8-10 days after all.

Posted by
12197 posts

The japan-guide.com website offered by Frank II is very useful for trip planning as well as etiquette—-things like finding lower-priced accommodations, information on trains, etc. I also found the the Japan forum on GTripadvisor to be extremely helpful with details, such as the Suica and other cards mentioned by Frank II, and the ins and outs of Shinkansen tickets.

I have been to Japan twice, one around Christmas time and more recently (November 2019) in fall color season. I highly recommend the latter—-temple grounds and gardens are so beautiful at that time, and we did not find prices to be higher (as they are during cherry blossom time).

Posted by
3136 posts

If you go to Hiroshima, and I highly recommend that you do, be sure to include a visit to the island of Miyajima. As I recall, the walk from the peace park to the ferry dock is short; and the ferry ride, itself, is about 5 minutes. The island has a beautiful Shinto shrine and a museum of history and culture. The latter showcases handmade furnishings from the house of a 19th c. merchant. It was no problem at all for us to combine visiting the two attractions in one day.

Posted by
2279 posts

There is no international airport in Hiroshima, and travelling there will add to transportation costs (perhaps $150-200 round trip from Osaka). Also, the Peace museum there is a harrowing experience. I visited alone, and I was not able to complete the visit - the one and only time something like this happened to me...
I would spend all the extra time in Kyoto; Osaka can be visited as a day trip from there (about 50 minutes on cheap local trains).
And I would try to fly back from Kansai International Airport, which is easily reached from Kyoto by train or bus.

Posted by
338 posts

I have been to Tokyo twice and love it. There is plenty to do for 3-4 days. Keep in mind that hotel rooms are very small. Five years ago the b Akasaka was less than $150 for a double room. Also look at the Toyoko Inn chain. Affordable chain geared to business travelers. No frills but clean and safe.

Frommer’s Tokyo has some great walking tours—I’ve done them all. My favorite sites were Meiji shrine, Shinjuku Gyoen (amazing gardens) and the Tokyo National museum and surrounding Ueno park. While I hate shopping it’s great fun to go in a big department store there. The basement food halls are especially fun. The Japanese don’t tolerate poorly prepared food and even 7-11 there can be a source of an inexpensive meal.

I haven’t been to Kyoto but it’s high on my list. As others have said, avoid cherry blossom or fall colors season to control expenses.

Navigating the metro was generally easy and people will stop to help you if you look confused.

Edited to add that, as noted by another poster, there are some good day trips from Tokyo. We were taken to Nikko by our hosts.

Posted by
9791 posts

There are three airports in Japan that have direct flights to the USA......Tokyo (Haneda and Narita) and Osaka.

On my last visit, on my day of departure, I took a train from Hiroshima to Osaka where I transferred to the train to Osaka Airport. I agree that Miyajima is a must and prepare to spend at least a half a day there.

If you want to go from Kyoto to Osaka you are looking at a major journey. The bullet train is about $15 and it will take 15-30 minutes depending on which station you want to get to in Osaka. (The new main station, Shin, is where you get the train to the airport. It's a 15 minute trip from Kyoto.)

The train from Osaka to Hiroshima is about 1:45. If you have to pick one, and I suggest one, pick Hiroshima.

The bullet train is the way to go anywhere due to its speed and efficiency. On one trip, the train was one minute late and they kept apologizing for the delay. All announcements in the stations and on the trains are in Japanese and English. So are all signs.

Posted by
104 posts

Great information from everyone. I haven’t read the link yet so I apologize in advance if some of my questions are already answered within it. I’ll read it right after this post. I guess since Hiroshima doesn’t have the benefit of an international airport, I’ll go with Osaka for convenience sake. I’ll probably add one day to Kyoto and spend my last day going and staying in Osaka for the night.

I can arrive early, take some beautiful photos of the Osaka Castle, and go rest or explore further before flying back home the next morning. Plus being in Osaka makes getting to the airport the next day more convenient. It’s brief but it’s meant to be more strategic, with the added benefit of a beautiful Japanese castle. Any recommendations for a brief day in Osaka are more than welcome.

Unfortunately I can’t go above $4000, so a trip for 10 days will go…

Flights: $2000; Whatever is saved from the actual plane ticket price will probably go to train pass, SIM card, and transportation to and from the airports. Does anyone know if there’s one pass for literally all travel? Or are city passes different from city-city passes?

Hotels: $1000; NOW $100/night due to 2 nights being added. This essentially limits me to hostels and budget hotels BUT I would LOVE to stay in capsule hotels. I’m definitely up to be a backpacker and capsule hotels seem so unique. Are capsule hotels located in convenient locations around the cities?

Spending Money: $1000; $100/day like before. I probably will eat ramen at least once a day haha. I heard it can be pretty good and cheap at the same time so I definitely need to research locations in Tokyo and Kyoto. I might buy a small souvenir or two, something that can fit on a book shelf in a study I want to build. Other than that, yeah I have $100 to last me each day in Japan, plus anything left over from budgeting the hotel fund.

If it makes it simpler, I essentially gave myself $200 a day for Japan after plane and transportation costs.

In terms of planning activities, I definitely have a solid game plan for Kyoto (I can include that if anyone wants to comment or add advice) but I have no clue what to do with my 3 days in Tokyo. It’s such a wild city. Maybe I should stay somewhere near Tokyo Station (and Kyoto Station for Kyoto)? Maybe a capsule hotel or budget business hotel? One thing I definitely want to make time for is the Sensō-Ji Temple. I also want to see some crazy neon lights at night in true Tokyo fashion. I’ll also probably be spending the first day or two shaking off jet-lag.

Osaka is super brief and I probably don’t want to stack on stuff for that day. I should probably limit myself to arriving, photographing the beautiful castle, and then staying close to my hotel for dinner before turning in early for the night. That sounds so boring but I should probably pace myself, especially RIGHT before flying home in the morning.

EDIT: I just saw that there’s the Limited Express Haruku that goes between Kyoto Station and Kansai airport, making two stops along the way. The trip supposedly takes 75 minutes and leaves as early as 5:46am arriving at Kansai airport by 7:11. That is SUPER convenient. I could theoretically spend all the extra days in Kyoto or even add one day to each city, knowing this convenient train takes me to the airport from Kyoto.

Posted by
2279 posts

The direct train from Kyoto to the airport is indeed very convenient, and as said above Osaka is close enough to Kyoto for a day trip. It is definitely not a 'major' journey, and the bullet train is an unnecessary expense if you are on a budget - the Keihan line from Kyoto takes you to Kyobashi station in Osaka, which as basically at the castle. Therefore, I would stay in Kyoto. Also, be aware that Osaka castle is beautiful on the outside, but very heavily refurbished in the inside. It was a disappointment. I wish I could have gone to Himeji instead (but renovations were underway).

As for Capsule hotels: most of them kick you out of the premises during the day and are really geared towards one-night stays (but some will keep your stuff). Is the experience worth the hassle? Perhaps. I certainly liked staying in one (and I can't remember if it was one or two nights), but I also know that I will never do so again. Now that I think about it, I am not even sure that I will ever go to Japan again - I loved it, but memories are still vivid and the friends I used to have there have all left.

Posted by
237 posts

We stayed at a hostel several blocks from Senso-Ji temple in Tokyo. The neighborhood was busy but okay 10 years ago. Enjoyed walking the temple grounds in the evening when shops lining the walkway were closed for and crowds gone. I also walked to a traditional bath about 10 minutes away. That was a memorable experience with the ladies helping me with the bathing routine. No tattoos allowed at that time, so that was a restriction. Can’t be shy as everyone is nude. We stayed in hostels and small B n B’s. No breakfast included so take out from 7-11s was convenient. They are all over. Tokyo surprisingly was our favorite city. The subway was easy to use. There are lots of small places to eat all kinds of food at a reasonable price. Stay away from fancy businessman’s restaurants. Travel simply and your budget should be enough for 10 days. Japan was an excellent trip full of memories.

Posted by
338 posts

Staying near Tokyo Station might be convenient but if you are near any major metro stop you should be fine. Frommer’s Tokyo or similar guidebook will help you plan your days.

Posted by
104 posts

Yeah I think my plan is to stay somewhere close to Tokyo Station since it’s the arrival point from the airport and the departure point for Kyoto. I’ll then plan to stay near Kyoto station for the same reasons. It’s also the station that takes me to Kensai Airport at the end of the trip. ONCE I’m in the cities and situated with my hotels, THEN I can play with and make mistakes on the metros and public transportation. Trying my best to limit the room for error.

If I just got off a looooooong flight from the USA, the last thing I want to do is make 3-4 connections to get to my hotel and 3-4 connections to get back to the original train station when it’s time to go on to the next city.

Posted by
2279 posts

Tokyo station is not the main arrival point from the airports in Tokyo; that would be Ueno station from Narita. It makes more sense to stay in the area that feels most appealing to you.

As for Kyoto, the station area is fine and has good transportation - best to be on the north side, to be within walking distance of some sights.

Posted by
104 posts

Ohhh ok thank you for the correction :) So I want to get to Ueno from the airport and transfer to Tokyo Station. My plan to stay close to Tokyo station is just for strategic purposes. I’ll be out and about all day anyways so my hotel/neighborhood doesn’t matter too much to me. Japan is generally pretty safe and clean anyways.

I’m honestly trying to figure out what to do for 3 days. I know I have Senso-Ji temple to see and apparently if I want to see “quirky, bright lights” Tokyo, I should go to Shenjuku or Akihabara. That’s about it on what I know to do. It’s a world city so I would feel super bad if I didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

I’ve read a lot of good suggestions though so thanks you guys :) Loads more research needs to be done hahaha

Posted by
202 posts

I stayed in the "Asakusa" neighborhood when I went to Tokyo almost 18 years ago. The reason I picked that area of Tokyo is because it has a lot of the "old Tokyo" vibe. I was there for only three nights, but liked the area quite a bit and it was close to the Senso-ji Temple and the fun Nakamise shopping area. We took a boat on the Sumida River to Hama-rikyu Gardens and thought that the garden was very lovely and peaceful.

I would second an earlier poster's recommendation to go on a day trip from Tokyo to Kamakura. It only takes about an hour from Tokyo and was well worth the time. This is where the "Great Buddha" is located as well as many shrines and temples.

Posted by
51 posts

If you are on Facebook, there is a very helpful group called Japan Travel Planning that you can request to join. I used them for a lot of things before we went in 2019. We had a different type of itinerary than you have planned, as our daughter likes theme parks so we ended up going to Universal Studios in Osaka and Tokyo DisneySea and DisneyLand in Chiba. No regrets! Their Disney parks were better than ours here in the States! Also, we went Go-Karting in Asakusa (in costumes) and attended a show at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo (Shinjuku area). Those two things were highlights of the trip. We saw a lot of temples too (and fed the Nala deer, and saw the monkeys outside of Kyoto, went to a cat cafe and an owl cafe), but the quirky forms of entertainment were the best. We are definitely going back, because we left a lot of fun stuff in Tokyo undone!

Posted by
104 posts

I think for my first time in Tokyo, I’m gonna stick to the city, but I’ll probably do a day trip or two the next time I’m in Japan. Upon further research, I’ve decided to do one district a day for Tokyo. My thoughts are Shinjuku, Akihabara, and maybe Shibuya? With Senso-ji Temple fit somewhere between the 3?

Is there a difference between a pasmo and a suica card? My base will be Tokyo Station. I hope that’s a convenient enough location for visiting the other districts.

Posted by
338 posts

Shinjuku would make a great day with the Meiji shrine and/or the Shinjuku gardens or Harajuku.

I don't think Akihibara is the best district for a full day unless you are really interested in electronics and anime. I stayed in a hotel near Akihibara station for three days during a business trip, and it was great for getting to other places and getting food, but not for touring. You could easily spend a few hours there and then a few hours in Asakusa to see the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Dori.

I think it would be unfortunate to miss Ueno Park and the Tokyo National museum unless you don't care for museums. It's large, but you can just pick a few areas to explore. You can combine that area with a stroll in the Ueno market or the Yanaka area.

I don't know much about attractions in Shibuya other than the crossing--we spend a few minutes there on our way to Shinjuku.

You will be fine staying at Toyko Station. You can get everywhere quickly on the metro, even if you have to change lines several times.

Posted by
9791 posts

A few ideas:

From Tokyo Station (actually nearby depending on which line to take) take the train to Senso-Ji. (Asakusa Station) (you will actually pass Akihabra.) Visit the temple and its grounds in the morning. In the afternoon, take the train back towards Tokyo Station but get off at the closest stop to Akihabra.

Shibuya is basically the crossing. Are you going to cross it all day?

Here is information on the three travel cards:

https://www.japantravel-centre.com/transportation/suica_pasmo/

By the way, make sure you have cash with you. Numerous places still like cash. The transportation cards can only be topped up with cash.

By the way, an easy way to remember the difference between shrines and temples: Shrines are Shinto, Temples are Buddhist.

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks Frank || :) you have been super helpful with the information.

I think I have finally come up with a logical itinerary. I decided to make the trip 9 days, so I added one day instead of 2, which is fine because it helps with budgeting purposes and I get the extra time in Kyoto that I wanted. The break down will be 3 days, 4 nights in Tokyo & 4 days, 5 nights in Kyoto.

The itinerary and daily game plans:

Day 1: Arrive at my hotel near Tokyo Station
Day 2: get over jet lag, explore and get acquainted. No real pressure this day
Day 3: arrive early and explore Seno-Ji temple & then explore Akihabara and take in the weird and unique anime/tech scene (no hate, I find it iconic)
Day 4: Exolore Shinjuku; gonna just take my time and walk around the restaurants & bars, shops, essentially just waiting for night time so I can explore Kabukicho for the bright neon lights that Tokyo is super known for.
Day 5: Take bullet train from Tokyo station to Kyoto station and check into my hotel nearby
Day 6: Explore Higashiyama (Gion District: Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka streets, Yasaka Pagoda, Kiyomizu-Dera temple, Nanzen-ji Temple); does this seem reasonable? Or too packed?
Day 7: Arashiyama (Bamboo Forest, Iwatayama Monkey Park, Tenryu-Ji Temple, Togetsukyo Bridge)
Day 8: Kinkaku Ji Temple; I really didn’t know what else to add for this day, I could theoretically see this the same day as Arashiyama and give myself a completely new empty day to fill in
Day 9: Fushimi Inari Shrine & Torii Gates; will in all likelihood rest most of my last day

I’ll then take a train from Kyoto Station to Kensai airport the next morning to go home.

How does this game plan look? Does it seem realistic for a solo first timer?

Posted by
9791 posts

A few things to keep in mind......

If you change planes and fly to Tokyo from Los Angeles, most of those flights arrive in the late afternoon. The next day. Example....your flight leaves the U.S. on Monday. You will arrive on Tuesday. You cross the international date line. On the return, you will actually arrive before you left. (Keep this in mind when you make hotel reservations..)

Because those flights arrive in the late afternoon, by the time you get to your room and get something to eat, it will be time for bed and a good night sleep. This may help alleviate jet lag.

If you want a leisurely first day, and you do stay near the Tokyo Station, I suggest you wander around the Ginza district which is within walking distance. This is the upscale shopping area. However, there are a few large department stores with amazing food halls. Some have an entire floor of just confectionary. I enjoyed wandering around and seeing the different foods.

In Akihabra there are a few department stores dedicated to electronics. I'm talking big multi-story department stores. The choices of products is unbelievable. As an example, electric shavers are popular in Japan. At one store I visited, there were about 100 different shavers on display. I don't now how they choose.

If you run across Daiso, step in and browse. They are all over the place and are Japan's version of a dollar store. (100 yen store.) Only it puts our dollar stores to shame.

In Kyoto, I stayed at the hotel inside the actual train station. The Granvia. Very nice but not cheap.

https://www.kyotostation.com/kyoto-station-hotels/

The Granvia had an amazing, huge dinner buffet with both Japanese and Western foods. I don't remember the cost.

The train station itself is a place to visit. There are two shopping malls with over 100 stores and at least 50 places to eat. There is also a huge department store with a set of stairs--and escalators--that go from the bottom to the top. All outdoors. At the top is an observation deck with great views of Kyoto. Also on the top floors are restaurants. I remember one area had five different ramen shops all specializing in a different type of ramen.

The store is called Isetan:

https://www.kyotostation.com/isetan-department-store-at-kyoto-station/

I don't see Sanjusangen-do on your itinerary. It's something you should see. http://sanjusangendo.jp/

If you do find you have extra time, which I doubt, you could take the train up to Nara. (45 minutes by train from Kyoto.)

Lastly, the bullet train is called the Shinkansen. Trying to buy a ticket from the US is a royal pain. Unless you are there on a holiday, you shouldn't have trouble getting tickets once in Japan.

Another lastly, Japan is very safe and serious crime is rare. There is also no tipping.

Posted by
1780 posts

When in doubt about where to eat, look for a department store or at train station. They will have food courts. Otherwise when it's eating time, just stop wherever you are and do a 360. You'll find yourself surrounded by small restaurants with a window full of plastic food. Pretty simple. If desperate, you'll see American brands but try not to give in (except if you need a salad, go to Starbucks).

If looking for a daytrip from Tokyo I recommend Nikko (it's the "wrong" direction to Kyoto but you can use your rail pass on a Shinkansen). Standard daytrip from Kyoto is Nara, with the attack deer.

Posted by
12197 posts

We found the Fushimi Inari shrine pleasantly uncrowded by going early in the morning, arriving there around 8 or 8:30. When we arrived back at the entry area around 10:30 after walking to the top and back down, it was so crowded we gave up on trying to buy something to eat from the food stands there, and rode the train back to Kyoto station to explore and find lunch at Katsukura.

Posted by
1780 posts

Just to wake this thread for a moment ... I stumbled onto this vlogger who discusses whether a JR Pass makes sense, and then if you continue down the rabbit hole he has some travel videos about his time there. He's a bit of a contrarian but you might pick up some tidbits.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCHfAt7L1zI&t=28s

Posted by
30 posts

Keep in mind: prices for accommodations jump significantly in peak seasons: (a) autumn during leaf-changing season in Oct-Nov; and (b) Cherry Blossom season, especially the Golden Week when both Japanese & foreign tourists travel. Prices in nice hotels (such as Hyatt) are easily $300-$500/night in both cities. Food can be v. inexpensive: a meal of take-out sushi can run $6-$10 in Kyoto. Also budget for taxis in Kyoto: costly, but might be the only way to easily reach some destinations, esp. if you are temple-hopping. Local trains are a great alternative, but the lines don't get you everywhere you want to go. Since your time in Kyoto is limited, I'd recommend carefully planning sightseeing. For example, the Arashiyama bamboo grove & the Fushimi Inari shrine & the Pure Water Temple are all in different corners of the outskirts of the city.

Posted by
1780 posts

re hotels, I believe the standard advice is to stay in a businessman's type hotel. My room in Tokyo was about the size of a phone booth on its side, but then again, I wasn't there to lounge around my room.