Trip Plan Details
recommended HakoneJust a short train ride from Tokyo takes you to this area known for its onsen, hot springs. Many people visit on a day trip but staying at one of the ryokans is the best to really enjoy the onsen and ... read moretraditional inn experience.Recommended for:Local Culture.Comment.about 1 month ago. ReportLaurel W
Try to stay in Hakone for at least one night.
recommended NikkoTruly magical if you can get there! Located only a couple hours north of Tokyo up in the mountains this little town has a lot to offer. The main town is located at the base of a mountain with several ... read morevery sacred temples and shrines. If you take a ride up the mountain you'll be treated to several waterfalls, big beautiful glass like lakes and incredible scenery. And after a day of trekking enjoy one of the many onsen, natural hot spring baths, back in town..Comment.about 1 month ago. ReportYogic Traveler
I love Nikko too!
- Tokyo Tower4-2-8 Shiba-Koen, Tokyo, 13 105-0011 Japanrecommended Tokyo TowerGreat place to get some good pictures of Tokyo from up high. I went twice once in daytime and once at night. There is a second tier that you pay extra to go up. It's a much longer wait but well worth ... read moreit especially at night. If you have the time I highly recommend it.Recommended for:
- Fushimi Inari Shrine日本, 京都府京都市伏見区深草藪之内町６８recommended Fushimi Inari ShrineMy favorite thing in all of Kyoto! The paths through the shrine are lined with varying sized orange gates all the way through. There is a two hour trail in the temple through the gates up into the ... read morerocky hills of this area. I walked the entire thing, there was almost no one out there (even in tourist season). It was so peaceful and beautiful and magical to be all alone in the woods when you are technically still in the middle of a city!recommended Fushimi Inari ShrineFushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates that look like a tunnel going through the forest up the hill. The torii gates are donated by individuals and companies (the donor's name ... read moreand the date of the donation are inscribed on the back of each gate). The cost starts around 400,000 yen for a small sized gate and increases to over one million yen for a large gate. The shrine is dedicated to Inari – the god of rice. There are lots of statues of foxes (Inari’s messengers) on the grounds. Walking through the tunnel up and down the mountain is the most exciting part of the visit. If you go all the way to the end, it could take you up to 3 hours. But you can walk only a part of the trail and then turn back (walk back is mostly downhill). It’s best to visit late if the afternoon on a sunny day – the glowing gates are spectacular! This is one of my favorite sites in Kyoto. Anyone who has seen The Gates installation in Central Park in New York by Christo and Jeanne-Claude can easily guess where they got the idea.recommended Fushimi Inari ShrineThis may be the most iconic of all of Kyoto's many sights -- thousands of orange wooden torii gates climbing through a forest of hardwoods and bamboo like a tunnel, with the endless smaller shrines ... read moreand their kitsune figures and offerings piled in niches all along the way. It's gorgeous and atmospheric, and the perfect place to spend a morning in summer, in the shade, away from the city's terrible heat.Matthew Crompton
Gorgeous, and quintessentially Kyoto.
- Tsukiji Fish MarketTsukiji, Chuo, Tokyo, Japanrecommended Tsukiji Fish MarketVery impressive. Had the best sashmi of my life there at one of the little restaurants in the market area. I went with my friend Kanako, she is Japanese and went to college in Tokyo but she had never ... read morebeen. We both loved it! Definitely worth seeing if you are in Tokyo!recommended Tsukiji Fish MarketTsukiji Fish Market is the largest fish market in Asia, or maybe even the world. While its main function is to supply most of the seafood consumed in Tokyo (and that’s a lot!) through wholesale shops, ... read moreit’s an amazing place to visit for anyone interested in exploring markets while traveling. The main attraction, in my opinion, is the tuna auction. It’s quite a spectacle, especially the bidding process which is pure entertainment. The only drawback is that if you want to see the auction, you have to get there early in the morning, like around 4 am. You need to get a pass (free) to attend the auction – it’s on first come, first serve basis. They allow 2 groups of people, about 120 total. We got to the fish market at 3:55 am and around 4:07 am the first group was filled. The passes for the second group were gone by 4:35 am. Good thing we didn’t follow the book’s suggestion to be there around 5:30am. It varies from day to day though (the market is closed on Sundays, by the way) - our friends visited the auction about a week before us, they said that all passes were gone by 4:15 am. After you get your pass, you wait in a small room until it’s time to see the auction. Then they take you to a warehouse where lots and lots of frozen tuna bodies are laying on the floor and byers walk around and inspect them. At certain points the bidding starts – get your video camera ready! After you see the auction, you are free to wonder around the market (but watch out for fast moving carts and try not to interfere with people working there). It is typical (though very unusual to westerners) to get sushi/sashimi breakfast at one of the hole-in-the-wall places there. There are lots of stalls and little shops where you can get all kinds of souvenirs. Overall, the fish market is fun to visit and it’s worth getting up early.
recommended KyotoLoved Kyoto! There is so much to do there and with such variety. I would have to say I liked it even better than Tokyo and I was glad I chose to spend an entire week there. There is so much to see ... read moreeverything from traditional Japan to modern. I recommend people base there trips out of Kyoto and focus as more of their time here. Kyoto has a sampling of pretty much everything Japanese all in one location.Yogic Traveler
Spend as much time in Kyoto as possible. This city has the best of everything Japan has to offer all in one place.recommended KyotoA beautiful, timeless city whose temples and other national treasures were spared from Allied bombing during WWII. This is the city in Japan that I return to time and again, and for anyone interested ... read morein Japan's traditional culture, it's a must-see. Rent a bicycle and pedal (or walk) between temples that encircle the city, stopping to meditate in Zen rock gardens and take tea. If you're visiting during the spring cherry-blossom season, try to get tickets to see the maiko (apprentice geisha) dance recitals in the old 'floating world' entertainment district.
- Yama No Chaya171 Tounosawa, Hakonemachi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa 250-0315recommended Yama No ChayaTo have a ryokan experience and relax in hot springs in the middle of our 2-week trip to Japan, we stayed for one night at Yama No Chaya (in room called Tsukimidai B) and loved it. We had a private ... read moretub on a covered balcony (with an opening into a garden), plus ryokan has 3 more shared pools (men and women take turns using those pools). Our little tub was enough for us - we used it a few times before and after dinner and in the morning. The water is hot but just the right temperature. It feels really good. Another part of staying at a ryokan is to have a multi-course dinner served in your room - the dinner takes about 2 hours. We were somewhat concerned about what kind of food we'll get (we intentionally didn't mention any food restrictions when we made our reservation). But everything worked out just fine and we enjoyed our dinner. It was a visual pleasure as well, as the dishes are served in nice interesting plates and containers. We were sitting at a sunken table in our kimonos (or to be precise, in our yakatas, which are casual kimonos), and our assistant Sava would bring a course at a time and leave the room while we ate. (She would explain the dishes to us. She speaks some English - studied it at a university in Japan and spent a semester in Michigan and Australia). There is a small fridge in the room with beer and other drinks. You can also order drinks with your dinner. The room is a traditional Japanese room, with bare walls, tatami mats covering the floor (our room had 10 tatami mats - that's how they identify the size of the room). There was a little alcove on one side and it had a nice wall covering and a little table with pretty ikebana. We also had a separate (small) sitting area, plus a little balcony where you can sit also. The room overlooks a garden and a steep mountain further up. After dinner we plunged into a tub again, while they converted our room into sleeping quarters (the sunken table was gone, and the middle of the room had futon matrasses on the floor, with pillows filled with grain on one side, and fluffy comforters. We slept like babies and felt much rested. In the morning we spent some time in the tub and then had breakfast served in the room (breakfast was short, it only took 45 minutes). Again, a beautifully arranged set of dishes was brought up, but all at once. There were rice and steamed vegetables, raw fish, chicken and lots of other things that you don’t normally have for breakfast. It was pretty good again and definitely fun. The checkout is at 10am. Getting there: you will likely come there by train. Don’t attempt to walk there and look for it yourself – it would be pretty impossible (unless you know Japanese – maybe then it’s OK). Ask at the station about a bus going there, then ask the bus driver where you should get off. Or take a taxi.
- Kiyomizudera日本, 京都府京都市東山区清水１丁目−２９４recommended KiyomizuderaKiyomizudera Temple has the most beautiful grounds and views. It is located on the top of the hill and has huge wooded balcony hanging over the hillside, offering picturesque views of the city and the ... read moregardens. It is especially wonderful to visit when the cherry trees are blooming. Behind the main building, there is a shrine dedicated to love and matchmaking. There is also a waterfall with 3 separate steams; water from each stream has different benefit (love, success, longevity); drinking from more than one stream is considered greedy. The street leading up to the temple (uphill walk) is very interesting too – lined with nice souvenir shops and restaurants.
recommended Open Air MuseumWhat a gem! An amazing collection of sculptures by international artists placed in magnificent outdoor setting and surrounded by mountain views! It is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are ... read morein Hakone/Mt. Fuji area. This was opened in 1969 as the first open-air museum in Japan. Besides outdoor sculptures, there are also indoor exhibition halls – one of them, Picasso Pavilion, has a collection of works by Picasso (pottery, paintings, sculptures). There are interesting places for children to play, as well as stained glass tower to climb. You can easily spend a few hours here – walk around, take pictures, eat lunch at a restaurant, and end your visit with a hot spring foot bath.
recommended JapanJapan is a big country and it’s hard to decide what to see and do on your first visit. I’ll share our itinerary – hopefully, it will help others plan their trip. We were happy with our trip. We wanted ... read moreto visit Japan when cherry trees were blooming, so it took some research to figure out when we should book the trip so we can hit the blooming time. There are websites that show blooming dates in the past and predicted dates for the upcoming season (for example, http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/city.php?CI=10). This was our itinerary (11 nights total): • Arrived in Tokyo at 5 am; took a train to Kyoto; checked in at our hotel near the Kyoto Station around 9 am and went exploring the city • Stayed for 5 nights in Kyoto • Day trip to Nara from Kyoto • We had 1 night booked at a ryokan in Hakone (between Kyoto and Tokyo); we shipped most of our luggage to Tokyo (arranged through our hotel) and with an overnight bag took a train to Hakone. • 1 night relaxing at a ryokan with hot springs; then exploring the Hakone area • Took a train to Tokyo, arriving late at night (our luggage was at the hotel already) • Stayed for 5 nights in Tokyo; planned to do a day-trip to Nikko but it didn’t work out (unfortunately). Some practical tips: • It’s hard to find an ATM machine that take international cards; so don’t count on refilling your wallet with cash frequently, like you would do in Europe; look for 7-11 stores; there is a machine at the post office near Kyoto station • No worries about carrying lots of cash with you – there is no petty crime in Japan • Great public transportation – busses, subway, trains; figure out how to use it and you will do just fine getting anywhere you want o For example, busses in Kyoto: 220 yen ticket price within city line, if you have exact change – put it in the machine near the driver; you can get a day pass for 500 yen; o Get in line at the bus stop, even if there are only a couple of people waiting o Get in line at the designated spaces marked on the pavement at the train station o It is easy to arrange to have your luggage shipped from one city to another ($15 a bag); It will arrive on the second day - works well if you take a side trip to a smaller town for a day or two.
- Kurokawa Onsen Kirara6994 Manganji, Minamioguni-machi, Aso-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture 869-2402 , Japanrecommended Kurokawa Onsen KiraraKurokawa Onsen village is everything a traditional Japanese hot spring village should be - tranquil, pretty, relaxing, and charming without being hackneyed. An hour's drive from the rail junction at ... read moreAso, the village manages to find a balance between the neon and concrete sprawl of larger onsen towns, and the ultra-expensive exclusivity that makes others inaccessible to all but the well-heeled. The two dozen traditional ryokan inns in town have banded together to allow day visitors to visit on the 'onsen passport' system, a 1200Y pass that grants access to any three of the onsen in the village. Personal favorite? -- Yamamizuki ryokan's stunning riverside bath, a short walk from the town center.Matthew Crompton
And though this spot is quite out of the way unless you have a JR Pass (an excellent invest, btw, if you plan to move around), DO visit an onsen village while you're in Japan. =)
recommended Hiei-ZanThe trip to the top of this modest mountain in the northern suburbs of Kyoto is half the fun, taking the small electric train thru beautiful green country, followed by a cable-car, and then a ropeway ... read moreto the summit (please note that these are all separate tickets and they do add up). For an interesting day-trip, travel to the top of the mountain and then spend the rest of the day walking back down, exploring the many temples and shrines along the way.Recommended for:Outdoor EnthusiastsMatthew Crompton
A gorgeous day trip away from central Kyoto.
recommended Giro GiroGiro Giro is one of the best restaurants I have ever visited. Full stop. There is no menu here, only 'The Menu', a 9-course feast of haute kaiseki Kyoto cuisine selected by the chef for that evening, ... read moreand featuring small plates like foie gras sushi with fresh mango. Each new course is a delight and a discovery, innovative combinations that blend novel flavors, textures and colors into some of the most subtle cuisine available anywhere. A full meal with drinks runs around $60+ USD per person, and if you (like most visitors to Japan) find yourself in Kyoto, you owe it to yourself to visit this restaurant. Phone/fax: 075-343-7070. Reservations recommended.Matthew Crompton
One of my absolute favourite restaurants in the world, located in Kyoto.
recommended Nagano and the Japanese AlpsThe Japanese Alps in central Honshu are one of the highlights of a trip to Japan, and one that most visitors miss in their classic Tokyo-to-Kyoto circuit. Jaw-dropping scenery, gnarly trekking, and ... read moreamazing resorts for skiing and snowboarding are all to be found here, just a five-hour ride away from the neon lights of Tokyo. Personal favorite? The 3-day circuit in the North Japanese Alps topping Yarigatake and Oku-Hotaka-dake, Japan's 5th- and 3rd-highest mountains, and crossing the thrilling knife-edge ridge of the Daikiretto. Bring a tent and a stove and rough it, or tote nothing more than a daypack and stay in the fully-furnished mountain lodges.Matthew Crompton
If you've got the time (and a bit of a spirit of adventure) hiking in the Japanese Alps is an absolute highlight of Japan, and one that 95% of visitors miss. Mountaintop huts are available, so no need to carry camping gear.
recommended Yurakucho Yakitori AlleyThe alley lining the elevated tracks near Yurakucho Station in central Tokyo is famous for yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). Having a few skewers and an Asashi with salarymen fresh out of their ... read moreoffices in the financial district is an awesome experience, and quintessentially Tokyo.Matthew Crompton
A classically no-frills Japanese eating experience near the tracks in Tokyo.
- Nijo Castle541 Nijojo-cho, Nijo-dori,, Kyoto-Shi, 26 604-8235 Japan
- Shibuya, TokyoShibuya, Tokyo, Japan
- Shibuya CrossingIn front of the Shibuya Station Hachikō exit
- Ryoanji13 Goryonoshita-cho Ryoanji, Kyoto-Shi, 26 616-8001 Japan
- Gion, Kyoto PrefectureGion, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
- HarajukuArea around Harajuku Station, Tokyo, 13 150-0001 Japan