Day 7: Thursday 9 am X/X/2017
Head out on an early Shinkansen to Hiroshima. You will have to transfer trains at Shin-Osaka Station. Hopefully you will arrive around noon and store your luggage in one of the storage lockers. Start your afternoon with a journey to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. A bus ride should get you very close. Definitely visit the Atomic Bomb Dome before or after visiting the museum. There are a few other sites around the Peace Memorial Park if you have time to explore. Try to see either the Hiroshima Castle or the Hiroshima Botanical Garden as well. Depending on your arrival time to Hiroshima, you could potentially do all three in a day. When you have finished sightseeing, make your way back to the luggage store and then onward to your lodging destination. Depending on the time of the year, you may want to get tickets for a local professional baseball game in the afternoon or evening. Check the Toyo Carp website for game dates and times. You can buy tickets at Lawson, Seven-Eleven, or Family Marts across Japan. Ask an employee to assist you.
Day 8: Friday 8 am X/X/2017
Today you will head to Miyajima Island for the day. It is famous for wild deer, a popular shrine, and one of the most beautiful views in Japan. There is a ton to see and do for a day trip. You will take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station and then walk to the port and catch a ferry. If you have an active JR Pass, the JR ferry is free of charge each way. Be mindful the times that the ferry runs later in the day and evening. When you reach the island, heading east along the strip of hotels, restaurants, and shops will take you to Itsukushima Shrine. Visiting the shrine at high tide is ideal to see the floating torii gate. The Daisho-in Temple is worth a stop while exploring the area. There is a public aquarium nearby as well. If you enjoy hiking or nature, Mt. Misen on Miyajima Island offers a couple options. You can go on one of the many walking trails along the base of the mountain. A popular attraction is to take the gondola ride up the mountain and hike the remaining way to the summit. Be aware that the stone steps are narrow and steep. There is a rest area along with a few temples and shrines on the mountain. Plan for at least three to four hours to visit the summit and back down to the main village area. If you enjoy seafood, be sure to try some of the large local oysters and other food offerings. Catch the ferry back to Hiroshima and watch the sunset over the water. Enjoy your final night in Hiroshima as you will make a return trip to Tokyo in the morning.
Day 4: Monday 9 am X/X/2017
The morning starts with a Shinkansen ride out of Tokyo Station to Kyoto, Japan. Be sure to ask for a window seat of Mt. Fuji. You will arrive around lunch time at Kyoto Station. Based on where you are staying and the activities on your agenda, you have two options for the day. You can either take your bags to the hotel/ryokan and then venture from there or put your bags in a temporary locker/luggage storage at Kyoto Station. This guide will assume you have put bags in a locker/luggage storage at the station to maximize time and want to see Fushimi Inari Shrine. Take the JR Nara line five minutes south to Inari Station. You will get off and make your way toward Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of the best sights to visit in Kyoto. Bring your walking shoes because it is a steep climb up the steps of the mountain. Try to make it as high as you can comfortably go. The last large rest area before the summit has a great view of Kyoto and a nice cafe/souvenir shop. After the hike, head back to Kyoto Station to grab your luggage and begin the trip to your lodging accommodations. Ask for recommendations around the area for dinner or have the hotel/ryokan call and make you a reservation. It is a very good idea to make reservations for any restaurant you want to try in Kyoto. Many fine dining restaurants will not let you walk in to eat even if tables are empty. There are always exceptions, but you should play it safe with reservations in this city. Enjoy your first evening in Kyoto and get some rest for another busy day.
Day 5: Tuesday X/X/2017
Most of the sightseeing attractions in Kyoto are open 9 am to 5 pm daily with some exceptions opening earlier or allowing visitors until 5:30 pm. You will need to account for travel time and stop for lunch or breaks along the way. For this day, you will head to the Philosopher's Walk in the northern part of Higashiyama. You can take a local bus to either Nanzenji Temple at the south end of the walk or Ginkaku-ji Temple (also known as the Silver Pavilion) on the north end. Either starting location is great and you should plan to be in the area for most of the day. Beside the two main sightseeing spots on either end of the walk, other recommended stops include Eikan-do Temple, Honen-in Temple, and a number of shops along the way. There are other temples and shrines along the walk that may be of interest. Depending on when and how much time you spend along the Philosopher's Walk, you may have time for a stop at Kiyomizu-dera Temple or Nijo Castle. This evening would be a great opportunity to visit Pontocho Street for drinks or dinner and then take a walk through the Gion district.
Day 6: Wednesday X/X/2017
The last full day in Kyoto is an opportunity to head west to the Arashiyama district. You can visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Monkey Park Iwatayama, Tenryuji Temple, and Togetsukyo Bridge. This area is very beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color. Bicycle rentals are available by the train station exit. They are helpful in traveling around the vast area much faster. Other ideas for Kyoto include those previously mentioned along with Sanjusangen-do, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), and Nishiki Market. If you are interested in visiting the historic city of Nara, it is about an hour train ride away. Nara is home to wild deer, Todai-ji Temple, and a number of other attractions. It is a great place to visit for a day trip. Enjoy your last evening in Kyoto at one of the fine dining restaurants along the Kamogawa River.
For the 7th day of the trip, you will head out early to Hiroshima, Japan.
Taking a flight to Japan can be quite an ordeal and time consuming. It takes a long time to fly from most countries outside Asia and then additional time to move from city to city. Most travelers will want to do a ten day trip to maximize their time due to travel constraints. This multi-part guide will assist those interested in planning a trip for themselves or a group of individuals; especially, as a first trip to Japan. Keep in mind this is a general road map and your interests may vary in locations or seasonality.
Before You Fly to Japan:
Take a few minutes and read over the Navigating Japan section of this website for information on travel tips, purchasing a Japan Rail Pass, and renting a wireless device. These are essential steps to ensure a smooth and satisfying experience in Japan.
Day 1: Friday X/X/2017
On the first day of your trip, plan to fly out early from the nearest airport. Many airports will have to connect at a larger airport such as Chicago or Atlanta to fly directly to Tokyo. The majority of international travelers will fly into Narita Airport. Make a note of which terminal you are arriving at in Japan. Narita has two international terminals. This matters if you are picking up a wireless device or phone at an airport Post Office. There is another airport called Haneda that is geared more toward domestic flights. There is a shuttle between Haneda and Narita in case you need to transfer airports for another flight. Prices can vary between the two airports and Haneda flights are less common from international airports. This travel guide will assume you are flying into one of the Narita Airport terminals.
Day 2: Saturday 3:30 pm X/X/2017
After landing and going through customs, you may want to go ahead and exchange any cash you brought for Japanese currency. The airport is a convenient place for exchanging Yen and a much better exchange rate than in the United States. Most travelers will need to purchase a NSX Express pass to get from the airport to Tokyo. If you are planning on activating a Japan Rail Pass now, your NSX Express ticket will be included. Otherwise, you can go ahead and just do the exchange for a Japan Rail Pass, but redeem it another day. Some people will redeem the Japan Rail Pass later if they are intending to stay in Tokyo a few days upon arrival. Once you get on the NSX, find your assigned seat and enjoy the 45 to 60 minute ride into Tokyo. Make a note of which station you need to stop along the way. You will need to transfer to a Shinkansen line if you are leaving Tokyo. Otherwise, it can take quite a while to get to your hotel (this guide is staying in Tokyo first) if you have to transfer to other local train lines. Grab a bite to eat and try to get to bed early. Tomorrow is a good opportunity for the Tsukiji Fish Market.
Day 3: Sunday 3 am - 6 am X/X/2017
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a unique opportunity for many travelers in Tokyo. If you want to get a ticket for the live auction around 5 am, you will need to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market around 3 am. You will probably have to catch a taxi to the fish market that early in the morning. If you intend to skip the auction, expect people to line up outside some of the famous restaurants along the fish market around 5 to 6 am. Additionally, expect long lines after 7 a.m. for most restaurants. The fish market has shops for souvenirs, food items, and other products. The actual fish stalls that you can walk around open about 9 a.m. After eating a great sushi/seafood breakfast, it is a good opportunity to walk the stalls before heading out.
Your next destination should be one of Tokyo's lively neighborhoods. For this guide, you should head to the nearby Asakusa neighborhood. There are plenty of souvenir shops along Nakamise Shopping Street as you make your way to Sensoji Temple. After visiting Sensoji Temple, you can enjoy a nice stroll through the nearby Sumida Park along the Sumida River. If time allows, check out one of the many large department stores. You can wrap up with the day with an enjoyable dinner and unwind in some of the nightlife around your hotel or neighborhood.
In Part 2, you will re-pack the suitcase and take a morning Shinkansen to Kyoto.