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.