Hello, fellow travelers! Are you gearing up for a 10-day adventure in Japan, the land where ancient traditions seamlessly blend with futuristic innovation? As someone who has traversed the length and breadth of this fascinating country, I’m here to guide you through a 10 day Japan itinerary, perfect for experiencing its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and vibrant cities.
Navigating Japan: Your Travel Companion – The Japan Rail Pass
For those embarking on this 10-day Japan itinerary, embracing the country’s efficient rail network is the way to go. My top tip? Invest in the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). Tailor-made for travelers, the JR Pass simplifies your journey, offering unlimited travel on most JR trains and is available for 7, 14, or 21 days – perfect for the duration of this itinerary.
Pre-Trip Planning: The key to making the most of the JR Pass is to purchase it before you leave for Japan. It’s a straightforward process: order your pass online and a voucher will be mailed to you. Remember to allow sufficient time for delivery before your trip.
Activating Your Pass in Japan: Upon arrival in Japan, the next step is to exchange your voucher for the actual rail pass. This can be done at most major train stations and airports. Make sure to have your passport handy for this process.
Why the JR Pass?: The JR Pass not only offers convenience and flexibility but also can be a cost-effective solution for extensive travel across the country, aligning perfectly with the diverse destinations in this itinerary. It’s your gateway to exploring Japan from the buzzing streets of Tokyo to the historic alleys of Kyoto and beyond.
For more detailed information and to purchase the JR Pass, visit the official Japan Rail Pass website. It’s an invaluable resource for planning your train travels in Japan, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey across this beautiful land.
Day 1 in Tokyo: Dive Deep into the Electric Metropolis
Morning – Arrival and Settling In: Touch down in Tokyo and feel the buzz of energy that defines this city. Depending on your arrival time, take it slow and check into your accommodation. Familiarize yourself with the local area, perhaps trying out a nearby café for a quick bite.
Exploring Shibuya: Head to Shibuya, a district that epitomizes Tokyo’s fast-paced energy. Start at the Shibuya Crossing, famously known as the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. Watch the organized chaos from above at one of the nearby cafes or join the hustle and feel the adrenaline.
Afternoon – Discovering Harajuku and Omotesando: Wander to the nearby Harajuku, the epicenter of Tokyo’s quirky youth culture and fashion. Explore Takeshita Street, a narrow pedestrian-only street lined with trendy shops, eclectic boutiques, and crepe stands. Then, stroll down Omotesando, often referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées, with its upscale boutiques and architecturally interesting buildings.
Evening – Shinjuku’s Neon Lights: As evening approaches, make your way to Shinjuku. This area, especially around Kabukicho, comes alive at night with its dazzling neon lights. Explore the skyscraper district, home to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the city, often including Mount Fuji on clear days.
Dinner in Shinjuku: For dinner, indulge in some authentic Japanese cuisine. Shinjuku is renowned for its array of dining options, from yakitori alleys like Omoide Yokocho to upscale restaurants. Try some izakaya (Japanese pub) hopping to sample different dishes and maybe strike up a conversation with locals.
Night in Tokyo: If you still have energy, experience Tokyo’s nightlife. Whether it’s visiting a themed café or bar, singing your heart out at a karaoke place, or just walking around and absorbing the city’s night ambiance, Shinjuku offers an unforgettable experience.
Day 2 in Tokyo: A Dive into History, Culture, and Urban Wonders
As dawn breaks on your second day in Tokyo, prepare for a journey through the city’s rich history, iconic landmarks, and a different facet of its dynamic culture.
Morning – Historical Tokyo: Start your day in Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most traditional districts. The highlight here is Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, characterized by its magnificent Kaminarimon Gate and bustling Nakamise shopping street, lined with vendors selling traditional snacks and souvenirs.
Exploring Asakusa: After visiting Senso-ji, take a leisurely walk around the Asakusa area. Explore the smaller backstreets with charming shops and historical ambiance. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some traditional Japanese sweets or grab a bite at a local eatery.
Afternoon – Ueno Park and Museums: In the afternoon, head to Ueno Park, a spacious public park that is also home to several of Tokyo’s top museums. Depending on your interest, visit the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, or the Ueno Zoo. The park itself, with its beautiful lotus ponds and cherry trees, offers a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle.
Evening in Akihabara: As evening falls, make your way to Akihabara, the epicenter of Japan’s otaku (geek) culture. Known for its electronic shops, manga and anime-related stores, and maid cafes, Akihabara offers a unique glimpse into modern Japanese subcultures. Explore the multi-story electronic shops, browse through manga collections, or experience an iconic maid café.
Dinner in Akihabara: For dinner, Akihabara offers various options from casual ramen shops to themed cafes. This area is also great for trying out some of Tokyo’s unique vending machine dining experiences.
Nighttime Stroll and Return: End your day with a nighttime stroll along the Sumida River for a fantastic view of the Tokyo Skytree illuminated against the night sky. Alternatively, if you’re staying in a different part of Tokyo, enjoy the vibrant night scenes as you make your way back to your accommodation.
Day 3 in Tokyo: Uncovering More of the City’s Gems
As you wake up to your third day in Tokyo, part of your 10-day Japan itinerary, get ready to explore more unique aspects of this fascinating city. Today’s journey will take you through some of Tokyo’s iconic spots that showcase both its traditional beauty and its modern flair.
Morning – Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park: Start your day with a visit to the Meiji Shrine, a serene Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The shrine is surrounded by Yoyogi Park, a vast forested area offering a peaceful escape from the city’s bustle. Take a leisurely walk through the tranquil forest paths and soak in the spiritual atmosphere.
Harajuku – Japan’s Youth Fashion Hub: After visiting Meiji Shrine, step into the adjacent Harajuku, Tokyo’s hub for youth fashion and pop culture. Stroll down Takeshita Street, famous for its trendy shops, fashion boutiques, and unique snack options. Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of Harajuku’s famous crepes or the colorful cotton candy.
Afternoon – Omotesando and Shibuya: From Harajuku, head to Omotesando, often referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées. This tree-lined avenue features a range of upscale shops and architectural wonders. Continue towards Shibuya, a district known for its youthful vibrancy. Revisit the Shibuya Crossing in daylight and explore the surrounding shopping and entertainment areas.
Evening in Odaiba: In the evening, make your way to Odaiba, a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Here, you can visit Palette Town, explore the futuristic teamLab Borderless digital art museum, or relax at Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari, a hot spring theme park.
Dinner with a View: For dinner, choose one of Odaiba’s many restaurants offering scenic views of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo’s skyline. Enjoy the delightful culinary experience with the backdrop of the illuminated city.
Nighttime Ferris Wheel Ride: Cap off your day with a ride on the Ferris wheel in Palette Town, offering a panoramic view of the bay area. It’s a perfect way to reflect on your Tokyo adventures so far.
Day 4 in Tokyo: A Day of Eclectic Experiences
As you begin day four of your 10-day Japan itinerary in Tokyo, prepare for a day filled with eclectic experiences that showcase the city’s diverse character. From historical sites to modern marvels, today offers a mix that Tokyo does so well.
Morning – Exploring Tsukiji and Ginza: Start your day with a visit to the Tsukiji Outer Market, where the famous Tsukiji fish market used to be. While the inner wholesale market has moved to Toyosu, Tsukiji Outer Market still offers a fascinating glimpse into Tokyo’s culinary scene. Enjoy fresh sushi for breakfast and explore the various stalls selling seafood, vegetables, and Japanese kitchenware.
After Tsukiji, head over to Ginza, Tokyo’s premier shopping district. Wander through its upscale shops and department stores, and don’t forget to check out the iconic Kabuki-za Theatre, where you can catch a traditional Kabuki performance if time permits.
Afternoon – Akihabara Electric Town: In the afternoon, make your way to Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. This district is famous for its electronic stores, anime and manga shops, and unique themed cafes. It’s a paradise for tech enthusiasts and fans of Japanese pop culture.
Evening – Relaxing in Roppongi: As the evening sets in, head to Roppongi, known for its art scene and nightlife. Visit the Mori Art Museum for contemporary art exhibitions, and enjoy the view of Tokyo from the Roppongi Hills observation deck.
Dinner in Roppongi: For dinner, Roppongi offers a wide array of dining options, from upscale restaurants to casual eateries. Enjoy a meal here and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of this lively district.
Night in Roppongi: If you’re up for it, explore Roppongi’s nightlife. The area is home to many bars, clubs, and lounges, perfect for experiencing Tokyo’s night scene.
Day 5 in Tokyo: Delving into Tradition and Nature
Your fifth day in Tokyo, as part of your 10-day Japan itinerary, is a day to explore some of Tokyo’s more serene and natural settings, providing a beautiful contrast to the city’s bustling urban areas.
Morning – Visiting the Imperial Palace: Begin your day with a visit to the Imperial Palace, the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. While the palace itself is not open to the public, you can explore the beautiful East Gardens. The gardens are a part of the inner palace area and are open to the public throughout the year. They offer a peaceful retreat with their meticulously maintained Japanese gardens, teahouses, and historic remnants of Edo Castle.
Stroll through Marunouchi: After visiting the Imperial Palace, take a stroll through the Marunouchi area, a sleek business district with a variety of shops and restaurants. It’s a great area to grab lunch and experience the modern, sophisticated side of Tokyo.
Afternoon – Exploring Yanaka: In the afternoon, head to the Yanaka district, one of the few areas in Tokyo that was spared from the bombings of World War II. This area retains a sense of old Tokyo, with its traditional wooden houses, small temples, and quaint shops. Strolling through Yanaka Cemetery gives you a unique perspective on the city and a touch of tranquility.
Evening – Sumida River Cruise: As the evening approaches, consider taking a river cruise along the Sumida River. It’s a wonderful way to see Tokyo from a different perspective, with views of the Skytree, Asakusa, and other landmarks along the way.
Dinner in Asakusa: Conclude your day with dinner in Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most historic districts. This area, known for the Senso-ji Temple mentioned on Day 2, also has a variety of traditional restaurants where you can enjoy classic Japanese dishes.
Reflecting on Your Tokyo Experience: As this day ends, take some time to reflect on your Tokyo experience so far. The city’s mix of ultra-modern and traditional elements, its serene gardens and lively neighborhoods, all contribute to its unique charm.
Day 6: Tokyo to Nikko – A Journey into Japan’s Natural and Cultural Splendor
As you embark on day six of your 10-day Japan itinerary, you’re about to experience the natural and historical richness of Nikko, a beautiful town nestled in the mountains north of Tokyo.
Morning – Travel to Nikko: Start your day early by traveling to Nikko. You can take a train from Tokyo, which offers a scenic journey through Japan’s picturesque countryside. Upon arrival, you’ll immediately notice the contrast between Nikko’s tranquil atmosphere and Tokyo’s bustling vibe.
Exploring Nikko’s Shrines and Temples: Nikko is home to some of Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines and temples, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Begin with the Toshogu Shrine, the most famous in Nikko, known for its elaborate architecture and the famous carving of the “Three Wise Monkeys.”
Next, visit the tranquil Rinnoji Temple and the serene setting of the Tamozawa Imperial Villa, which combines traditional Edo and early modern Meiji Period architecture.
Afternoon – Natural Beauty of Nikko: After exploring the historical sites, immerse yourself in the natural beauty surrounding Nikko. The area is renowned for its scenic landscapes, including Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Falls, one of Japan’s highest and most beautiful waterfalls.
Evening – Relax in a Ryokan: For your overnight stay, consider booking a traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) in Nikko. Many ryokans offer onsen (hot spring baths), providing a perfect way to relax after a day of exploration. Enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner at your ryokan, often featuring local ingredients and delicacies.
Nighttime – Stargazing: If the weather permits, end your day with some stargazing. The natural surroundings and minimal light pollution in Nikko make it an ideal spot to admire the stars.
Day 7: Nikko to Hakone – Embracing Serenity and Tradition
Welcome to day seven of your 10-day Japan itinerary, where you transition from the historic wonders of Nikko to the serene beauty of Hakone, known for its hot springs and breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.
Morning – Last Moments in Nikko: Spend your morning in Nikko, perhaps visiting any sites you may have missed the previous day or simply taking a leisurely walk through the town. The peaceful surroundings of Nikko offer a perfect backdrop for reflection and relaxation.
Travel to Hakone: In the afternoon, begin your journey to Hakone. You can travel via train, which is an experience in itself, offering scenic views of the Japanese countryside. As you approach Hakone, keep an eye out for glimpses of Mount Fuji, weather permitting.
Arriving in Hakone: Once you arrive in Hakone, check into your accommodation. Many visitors choose to stay in a ryokan here to experience traditional Japanese hospitality, complete with tatami floors, futon beds, and onsen baths.
Exploring Hakone: Depending on your arrival time, you might want to start exploring the area. A popular option is the Hakone Open Air Museum, which offers a unique combination of art and nature. Alternatively, take a leisurely stroll around Lake Ashi, known for its stunning views and the iconic floating torii gate of the Hakone Shrine.
Evening Onsen Experience: After a day of travel and exploration, relax in an onsen (hot spring bath). It’s a quintessential Japanese experience, promoting relaxation and rejuvenation. Enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner at your ryokan – a multi-course meal that is both a culinary and artistic experience.
Nighttime Reflection: End your day with some quiet time, perhaps sitting by a window or outside, reflecting on the experiences of the past week. The tranquility of Hakone, with its natural beauty, provides a perfect setting for contemplation.
Day 8: Exploring the Natural Wonders of Hakone
On day eight of your 10-day Japan itinerary, you have a full day to immerse yourself in the natural and cultural beauty of Hakone. This area is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Morning – Hakone Ropeway and Owakudani: Start your day with a ride on the Hakone Ropeway, which offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area, including Mount Fuji on clear days. Stop at Owakudani, a volcanic valley with active sulfur vents and hot springs. Here, you can try the local specialty of kuro-tamago, eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs, which are said to extend your life by seven years!
Lake Ashi Cruise: After exploring Owakudani, head down to Lake Ashi for a scenic cruise. The lake, formed in a volcanic crater, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and is a perfect spot for photography. The sight of the iconic Hakone Shrine torii gate from the water is particularly memorable.
Afternoon – Hakone Shrine and Amazake Chaya Tea House: Visit the Hakone Shrine, a serene Shinto shrine located at the edge of Lake Ashi, known for its peaceful atmosphere and stunning setting. Then, take a short hike or a leisurely walk to the historic Amazake Chaya Tea House. Here, you can experience traditional Japanese hospitality while enjoying amazake (a sweet, non-alcoholic rice beverage) and other local treats.
Evening Relaxation at Your Ryokan: Return to your ryokan for another relaxing evening. Take advantage of the onsen facilities, perhaps trying out a different bath for a new experience. Enjoy another kaiseki dinner, savoring the seasonal and regional specialties prepared by skilled chefs.
Stargazing in Hakone: If the weather is clear, Hakone offers a wonderful opportunity for stargazing. The lack of light pollution in the area allows for a clear view of the stars, providing a tranquil way to end your day.
Day 9: Hakone to Kyoto – Entering the Ancient Capital
As you approach day nine of your 10-day Japan itinerary, you transition from the serene landscapes of Hakone to the historical and cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto. Known for its classical Buddhist temples, traditional tea houses, and centuries-old craftsmanship, Kyoto promises a journey back in time.
Morning – Departure from Hakone: After a refreshing start to your day, perhaps with one last dip in an onsen or a stroll around your ryokan’s gardens, prepare to depart Hakone. Take a moment to absorb the natural beauty and tranquility of the area before you embark on your next adventure.
Travel to Kyoto: Board the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Odawara Station to Kyoto. The journey itself is an enjoyable experience, showcasing Japan’s efficiency and technological advancement. As you speed towards Kyoto, observe the changing landscapes from your window.
Arriving in Kyoto: Upon arrival in Kyoto, check into your accommodation and get ready to explore this ancient city. Kyoto’s atmosphere is a stark contrast to the metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka, with its well-preserved districts and a sense of stepping back in time.
Afternoon – Fushimi Inari Shrine: Spend your afternoon visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that trail into the wooded forest of Mount Inari. It’s not only a sacred site but also offers one of the most iconic visuals in all of Japan.
Evening in Gion: As evening sets in, head to the Gion district. This area is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district and offers a chance to glimpse into the traditional side of Japan. Wander through the historic alleys, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a Geiko (Kyoto dialect for Geisha) or Maiko (apprentice Geisha) in their exquisite traditional attire.
Dinner in Pontocho: For dinner, explore Pontocho, a narrow alleyway lined with restaurants and teahouses, many offering traditional Kyoto cuisine. It’s a charming place to dine and soak in the ambiance of old Kyoto.
Night Walk Along the Kamo River: Conclude your day with a relaxing walk along the Kamo River, a popular spot for both locals and tourists to unwind. The riverbanks come alive in the evenings, with people enjoying the cool breeze and the calming sound of flowing water.
Day 10 in Kyoto: A Farewell to Japan’s Cultural Treasure
Your final day of the 10-day Japan itinerary has arrived, bringing you deeper into the heart of Kyoto’s cultural and historical wonders. This day is all about savoring each moment and making lasting memories in one of Japan’s most beautiful cities.
Morning – Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Begin your day with a visit to the Arashiyama district, located on the western outskirts of Kyoto. The star attraction here is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a pathway surrounded by towering bamboo, providing a surreal and serene walking experience. Early morning is the best time to visit to avoid the crowds.
Tenryu-ji Temple and Togetsukyo Bridge: While in Arashiyama, don’t miss the Tenryu-ji Temple, known for its beautiful Zen gardens. After exploring the temple, take a walk to the Togetsukyo Bridge, an iconic wooden bridge offering picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and river.
Afternoon – Nishiki Market and Kiyomizu-dera: Head back to central Kyoto and explore the Nishiki Market, a bustling marketplace known as Kyoto’s kitchen. Here, you can sample a variety of local foods and pick up some unique souvenirs. Later, make your way to Kiyomizu-dera, a historic temple famous for its wooden stage that offers panoramic views of the city.
Evening – Stroll Through Higashiyama: As the sun begins to set, take a leisurely stroll through the Higashiyama district. This area is particularly beautiful in the late afternoon light, with its narrow lanes and traditional wooden buildings. It’s the perfect place for reflective walking and photography.
Dinner in a Traditional Setting: For your final dinner in Japan, choose a traditional Kyoto cuisine restaurant. Kyoto is known for kaiseki, a multi-course meal that emphasizes seasonality and presentation. It’s not just dinner; it’s a cultural experience.
Final Night in Kyoto: Spend your last night soaking in the ambiance of Kyoto. You might choose to visit a local bar or tea house, or simply take a final walk through the city’s peaceful streets, reflecting on your journey.
Travel Tips To Remember During Your 10 Day Japan Itinerary
Traveling to Japan is an unforgettable experience, rich in cultural nuances and unique customs. To make the most of your trip, here are five essential travel tips:
- Cash is King: While Japan is technologically advanced, many places still prefer cash over credit cards, especially in smaller towns or traditional establishments. Always carry enough yen with you, and remember that international ATMs are widely available at convenience stores like 7-Eleven and post offices.
- Respect Local Etiquette: Japanese culture places a high value on manners and etiquette. Be mindful of local customs such as taking off your shoes when entering someone’s home or certain traditional inns (ryokans), being quiet on trains, and not tipping at restaurants, as it’s not customary in Japan.
- Utilize the Japan Rail Pass: If you plan to travel between multiple cities, consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass before your trip. It offers unlimited travel on most JR trains nationwide and can be a cost-effective and convenient way to explore the country.
- Stay Connected: Renting a pocket Wi-Fi device or purchasing a local SIM card can be incredibly helpful for navigation, translation apps, and staying connected during your travels. Wi-Fi is widely available, but having your own connection can save you in areas with limited public Wi-Fi access.
- Try the Local Cuisine: Japanese cuisine is diverse and extends far beyond sushi and ramen. Each region has its specialties, and part of the travel experience is trying local dishes. Don’t be afraid to explore small, local eateries or street food vendors – they often house some of the most authentic and delicious food experiences.
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Japan?
Traveling in Japan can vary significantly in cost depending on your travel style, preferences, and choices. Generally, Japan is perceived as an expensive destination, but with smart planning, costs can be managed effectively.
For accommodation, prices range widely. Budget travelers can find hostels or capsule hotels for as low as $20-$50 per night, while mid-range hotels typically cost between $60-$150. Luxury accommodations and traditional ryokans can be much higher. Eating out in Japan can be surprisingly affordable; you can enjoy a filling meal from a conveyor belt sushi restaurant or a local ramen shop for about $10-$20. Upscale dining and kaiseki (traditional multi-course meal) experiences will cost significantly more.
Transportation is another major expense. The Japan Rail Pass can be a cost-saver for long-distance travel, priced around $260 for a 7-day pass. City transportation, like subways and buses, is relatively affordable, with single-journey fares typically ranging from $1-$3. Attractions like temples, museums, and gardens often have entrance fees ranging from $5-$20.
Adding in additional costs like souvenirs, local SIM cards or pocket Wi-Fi rental, and miscellaneous expenses, a budget traveler might spend around $75-$100 per day, while a mid-range traveler might expect to spend around $150-$250 per day. For a more luxurious experience, the cost can exceed $300 per day.
Final Thoughts: Reflecting on Your 10 Day Japan Itinerary
As your 10-day journey through Japan comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the incredible experiences you’ve had and the memories you’ve created. From the fast-paced streets of Tokyo to the serene landscapes of Hakone, the cultural richness of Kyoto, and the urban energy of Osaka, each day has brought new discoveries and insights into this fascinating country.
Embracing the Diversity of Japan: Your itinerary has allowed you to see different facets of Japan, from its cutting-edge technology and modern urban life to its deep-rooted traditions and natural beauty. This journey has likely shown you that Japan is a country of contrasts, where ancient temples stand alongside towering skyscrapers, and tranquil gardens are just a train ride away from bustling marketplaces.
Culinary Adventures: One of the highlights of any trip to Japan is undoubtedly the food. Whether you indulged in street food in Tokyo, enjoyed a traditional kaiseki meal in Kyoto, or savored the flavors of Osaka’s famous cuisine, these culinary experiences are sure to be among the most memorable aspects of your trip.
Cultural Immersion and Learning: Throughout your travels in Japan, you’ve not only seen beautiful places but also engaged with the culture and history that make Japan unique. Perhaps you’ve picked up a few words in Japanese, learned about the country’s rich history, or gained a deeper appreciation for its arts and customs.
Planning for the Next Adventure: As you bid farewell to Japan, you might already be thinking about your next visit. There’s so much to explore in this country that multiple trips can offer entirely different experiences. Maybe next time you’ll venture to the northern island of Hokkaido, explore the historic city of Hiroshima, or experience the beaches of Okinawa.
A Parting Note: As you depart, carry with you the sense of wonder and the spirit of discovery that Japan has instilled in you. Travel is about more than just places; it’s about the experiences, the people you meet, the food you taste, and the memories you create.
Thank you for reading our 10 day Japan itinerary. May your travels be safe, your experiences rich, and your memories lasting. If you ever need more travel tips or inspiration for your next adventure, feel free to reach out. Sayonara, and may the beauty of Japan stay with you long after you’ve returned home.
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