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9 day trip to Japan

Hello! If anyoke is able to offer advice on my husband and my itinerary for the end of March, it would be appreciated! We both traveled to Europe a couple years ago and changed locations every 1-2 days so we are doing the same here but I'm still not sure if we are overextendijg ourselves.

Day 1 half day in Tokyo. Staying right near Senso-ji and the sky tree if we're not too tired we'll see those

Day 2 full day in Tokyo seeing Meiji shrine, Shibuya crossing, and ending up near Shinjuku and the metro govt building if weather is clear. We're not big city people so not staying here long.

Day 3 Hakone
Day 4 Hakone
Just relaxing and hoping for one clear day. I have a list of places to go to here but the schedule is fluid for relaxing as well.

Day 5 Kyoto half day by the time we arrive, want to see kinkakuji and the bamboo forest.

Day 6 Kyoto Higashiyama District (two temples I want to see for sure but nothing else planned) then end at kiyomizu dera

Day 7 Fushimi inari in the a.m. if we didn't have time before. Head to Koyasan and stay the night. Might be time to do some walking around in the afternoon or at dusk.

Day 8 Sight see in Koyasan for the first half of the day then leave to Osaka basically to have dinner and sleep.

Day 9 travel day back to Tokyo.

I guess my main thought would be if we took out Koyasan and just stayed in Kyoto for the remainder of the trip. I would hate to miss it though and would love to keep it if this itinerary is doable.

Posted by
7175 posts

I've been thinking of a possible future Japan trip also. If I only had 9 nights though...
1. Arrive Tokyo (3N)
2. Tokyo
3. Day to Nikko
4. To Hakone - Fuji (1N)
5. To Kyoto (3N)
6. Kyoto
7. Day to Nara
8. To Hiroshima (1N)
9. To Osaka (1N)
10. Depart Osaka

Posted by
380 posts

Hi, LauraM

My first impression on reading your itinerary is that it is a bit over-ambitious and some over-lap experiences.

The following are just my personal opinions:

Tokyo: Sky Tree and Metro Government Building. Chose just one. Both are tall lookouts. If you go to Sky Tree, then go to Kappabashi, the kitchenware street across the river on the west.
Meiji Shrine skip if you are going to Kyoto. Go to Heian Shrine there instead. In my opinion, prettier and has a beautiful stroll garden. There are no buildings to enter at shrines. They are basically a big courtyard with stalls around the periphery selling charms. If you go to Heian Shrine, then go across the street to the Handicraft Museum.
In Tokyo, go to Tokyo National Museum and/or Edo-Tokyo Museum. Take an architecture walking tour with Context Tours. Actually, this tour starts at Meiji Shrine. The guide will explain the blending of styles in the shrine. Tour Tsukiji Fish Market.

Or, if you're not big city people, skip Tokyo entirely. I'm the same. I had no desire to go to Shibuya crossing. I only went to Tokyo because my tour started there.

Kyoto: pare down the temples. You can stay overnight at Ninnaji. They have an English reservation website. Go to Kinkakuji before or after your stay, if it's on your must see list. Optional is to go to Ryoanji for the famous zen garden.

You can travel on to Arashiyama the next day for the bamboo forest, which will take only about 10 mins to see. The other option is to see Tenryuji, another zen garden here and skip Royanji. Or go to Daikokuji which has a beautiful garden with the oldest pond in Japan. This temple is not touristy and not crowded. Arashiyama is at least a half-day trip.

There is a website that tells you what temples are in reconstruction. I think Kiyomizudera is having major reconstruction. You might be able to read about current conditions on TripAdvisor. If you go to Kiyomizudera, continue southwest, and visit Kawai Kanjiro's House (a famous potter).

Other suggested activities besides visiting temples: Nishiki Market, take Taiko Drum lesson - really fun, Netsuke Museum, Nijo Castle with example of warrior garden. Take a day trip to Uji, known for their green tea. Byodoin Temple here is an example of a paradise garden. You can experience the tea ceremony here, but you can also do tea ceremony in Kyoto too. If you arrive on the right days, there are flea markets (with food stalls too) at some temples. There is a website for that.

I chose not to go to the more popular tourist-crowded temples, such as Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera. It's not enjoyable for me.
I had a better time at Daitokuji. I chose a couple of the more famous small temples in the complex and got to enjoy the zen gardens pretty much to myself. It was really peaceful to walk the grounds.

There is a live webcam for views of Mt. Fuji. Most of the time it's cloudy. If you are going to Hakone, just in the hope of seeing Mt. Fuji, it may not be worth it. March may not be the best weather. But you could research that further. You could eliminate Hakone and go straight to Koyasan instead, then go to Kyoto. Check the weather in Koyasan. It's March. It may be pretty cold.

I feel there is a lot to see in Kyoto. One could easily spend 5-6 days there.

The people are very nice. Very friendly and polite. And no tipping anywhere! Clean public toilets at train stations, restaurants, etc.
At each of your hotel, pick up their business card in Japanese, show it to your taxi driver to get back.

Have fun.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you, this is incredibly helpful and I feel like we are similar in terms of interest. I'll get to work on some revisions to the itinerary!

Posted by
380 posts

Hi, LauraM

If you decide to eliminate Hakone and/or Koyasan, Kurama might be a nice alternative.

See this link:

It is only an hour out of Kyoto, so save you some travel time. Give you the relaxation time you wanted in Hakone. Staying at a ryokan with an onsen would definitely be a great and unique experience.

There is a two hour evening walk of Gion in Kyoto. I forget the name, but it got positive reviews on TripAdvisor. It's on M, W, and F at 6:00 pm. No reservations needed, just show up at the meeting point. About $15-20/person in cash. This might be nicer than Higashiyama.

How I decided on some of the places to go was to look at them on YouTube first. Were they jammed packed with tourists? Did it look pretty much like another temple I've already had on my itinerary? Which temple is prettier, more interesting?

Now this may sound crazy, but go to the basement of any of the major department stores either in Tokyo or Kyoto. The display of food is amazing. The clerks will bow to you. You can get free samples. There is pickled vegetables, French bakeries, prepared foods, $100 melons, beautiful gorgeous fruits. Think of it as another site to see. It is amazing.

If you are in Tokyo, for another amazing, unique department store experience is to go to Mitsukoshi on the Ginza when it opens at 10:30. Double-check the time. It could be 10:00. When you walk in, the clerks will bow to you as if you were royalty. This only takes 5 mins. Then, you could go look at the food, which could take over an hour.

On YouTube, there is NHK Trail to Tsukiji which are TV shows on food products. It will explain how they grow those melons that cost $100. How nori seaweed sheets for sushi is made. For a little more about Japanese culture, see the Begin Japanology series.

You will be spoiled after traveling in Japan. It is so less stressful, not having to worry about scam artists, pickpockets, how much to tip, rude clerks etc.