Below you can find our tailor-made travel plan to Japan. This plan was fully prepared by me. By purpose, it was done to meet our interests, needs and expectations. It is arranged in a way, that during our journey there is time for intensive sightseeing, rest, relaxation and entertainment. That’s how we imagine spending time in Japan:
Day 1 – the beginning of our journey
Departure from Warsaw – on the way to Tokyo. The estimated travel time (including transfer in Brussels) will take about 16 hours.
Day 2 – Arrival in Tokyo
Arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport. We must activate our vouchers for the JR Pass just after arrival. Travel by train Narita Express to the city centre (Tokyo station), where our first hotel is located. That day we plan to rest after a long journey, stay in the hotel and try to adapt to the different time zone (7h difference vs home).
Day 3 – visiting Tokyo
In the morning, we need to buy and recharge Suica cards, so we can get around with public transport without having to buy individual tickets. That day we plan: to visit Fish Market (I hope to see big tuna there), Sensoji Temple (the oldest temple in town) and Meiji Temple.
In the afternoon, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices, where there are two observation towers. The observation decks are located at 202 meters’ level, from where (when there is good weather) we will be able to see Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree or even Mount Fuji. Free entrance!
In the evening, we will go to visit the Shinjuku district.
Day 4 – Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano and the highest peak in Japan (3776 m above sea level). In 2013, Mount Fuji has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site – a sacred place and a source of artistic inspiration.
Departure in the morning from Shinjuku Station by long-distance bus: Shinjuku Highway Bus (we made a reservation for this bus before our trip, 4 weeks in advance). We will get out by Kawaguchiko Lake. All day we will spend by the lake, take a ropeway to Mt. Tenjo, from where we hope to see a beautiful panorama of Mount Fuji. Return in the evening to Tokyo.
- UNESCO Site: Mount Fuji
Day 5 – Kamakura and Yokohama
Kamakura former capital of Japan from 1192 to 1333 when it was the seat of the shogunate Kamakura. City rights were granted in 1939. Kamakura is best known for its temples. We are going there by train from Tokyo Station. Travel time is about 55 min. We are going to visit the following temples: Kenchoji, Engakuchi and Hachimangu (the most important Shinto temple). We also want to see the great Buddha statue made of bronze (over 13 m high), probably dating from 1252.
In the afternoon, we will return to Tokyo through Yokohama. In Yokohama, we are going to visit Chinatown and walk along the waterfront, with panoramic night city views.
Return in the evening to the hotel.
- Official website of the city: Kamakura
Day 6 – Nikko
The Japanese proverb says, “The one who did not see Nikko does not know what true beauty is.”
There are many monuments and tourist attractions. The most valuable one is the complex of Nikko Tōshō-gū, which was erected as a mausoleum in honour of the first shogun – Tokugawa Ieyasu. The shrines and temples of Nikko, together with their natural surroundings, for centuries, have been a sacred site known for its architectural and decorative masterpieces.
In 1999 they have been inscribed on Unesco Heritage Site.
Travel by train to Utsunomiya Station (Shinkansen train) and then transfer to JR Nikko train, to Nikko station. On the spot, we are going to spend a full day and besides temples, we want to see the Kanmangafuchi Abbys (row of 70 stone statues of Jizo, a Bodhisattva who take care of the deceased).
We also would like to visit the Futurasan Shrine (dedicated to the deities of Nikko’s three most sacred mountains) and the Shinyo Bridge (one, out of the tree the most beautiful bridges in Japan).
In the evening, return to Tokyo.
Day 7 – Nagano
On this day, we are going to leave Tokyo and after breakfast – take the train (Shinkansen) to Nagano. Our journey will take about 80 minutes. After check-in in the hotel, in the afternoon we are going for a walk to the Zenkō-ji Temple. It is the second-largest temple in the country and the biggest wooden building in eastern Japan. It was formed before Buddhism split, so there are two sects (schools) that pray one after the other.
There is also a big Bell of Zenkoji who rang to announce the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in 1998, wishing peace for the world.
In the morning train (Shinkansen) to Kanazawa, travel time approx. 66 min. In the city, we want to visit the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden and the remaining Kanazawa Castle (built in 1583), which until today survived only in the form of towers and ramparts. After, we would like to visit Oyama Jinja Temple, where we would like to see the interesting architecture of the gate and a small garden.
In the afternoon, we are going to visit a district famous for its Chaya House (Tea Houses). On Saturdays (that day, when we are there), the city organizes geisha shows, so many of them can be found in the area.
In the evening return to Nagano.
- Official website of the city: Kanazawa
Day 9 – Matsumoto
This day we are going to rest and relax. In the morning, we will take the train to
Matsumoto, travelling time for about 90 min. In Matsumoto, we will visit Matsumoto Castle, one of the five originally preserved Japanese castles. This castle is also named the Castle of Ravens, due to its black colour on the outer walls. At the train station, it is possible to rent a bicycle for free, so if there is nice weather we may visit the nearest area by bike!
- Official website of the city: Matsumoto, Nagano
Day 10 – Kyoto
On this day, we will mainly travel from Nagano to Kyoto. We will take the train (Shinkansen) to Tokyo and then change to another train to Kyoto. The trip will take about 4.5 hours. After check-in in the hotel, we will go to visit the Main Train station building, which is one of the most outstanding works of modern railway architecture in the world. On the 11th floor, there is an observation deck and a little garden, and on the 10th floor, it is possible to walk thru a special tunnel, which is hanging above the main hall.
In the afternoon we will go to the Gion, which is a famous Geisha district. We are going to see a performance in the Gion Corner Theatre. There are seven Japanese traditional performing arts that can be experienced there, including most notably kyo-mai dance performed by maiko dancers.
Day 11 – Himeji Castle
Travel by train (Shinkansen) to Himeji, journey time is about 1 hour. On the spot, we are going to visit Himeji Castle, which is today one of the oldest buildings in Japan, and the finest surviving example of early 17th century Japanese castle architecture. It is a masterpiece of construction made of wood. It has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with the castles: Matsumoto, Inuyama and Hikone they all have the status of the National Treasury of Japan. Himeji Castle is also known as the Castle of the White Heron, due to its exterior finish of the white plastered earthen walls.
In the afternoon, we will relax in the Kokoen Garden, and stop for a cup of green tea. In Himeji, there is also a bamboo garden, flower garden and pine garden worth seeing.
Finally, there is also the Mount Shosha and Engyoji Temple worth seeing. There are few beautiful buildings, with an over 1000-year-old history behind. Due to the beautiful scenery, Mount Sosha and Engyoji Temple are frequently used as filming location for historical movies. There was also a Hollywood movie partially shot in that place – “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise. We must see it.
In the evening, we will return to Kyoto.
Day 12 – Nara
Travel to Nara by train (about 70 min). We will spend the whole day there. There are many relics registered on the World Cultural and Natural Heritage UNESCO list. This city, in the past, named Heijō-kyō, was the first capital of Japan and the seat of the imperial court between 710-740 and 745-784. After moving the capital to Heian-kyō, the city became an important monastic centre. At the same time, the city lost its political significance. On the spot, we are going to visit the majestic Todaji Temple, which is one of the most famous and significant temples in Japan. We will also visit the Kofukuji Temple.
The last temple to visit that day will be Kasuga Taisha Shrine – which is surrounded by a thousand stone, votive lanterns. Inside the shrine, there are also several hundred hanging lanterns, made of bronze. The shrine looks impressive, so worth seeing it.
At the end of the day, we are going to have some rest in Nara Park. On our way back to the train station, we are going to have a stroll thru Isuien Garden, where deer live in the wilderness, considered in the Shinto tradition as messengers of the gods.
Return to Kyoto late in the afternoon.
Day 13 – Golden Pavilion and Fushimi Inari
After breakfast, we are going to have a walk to the Toji Temple (located 15 minutes walking distance from our hotel). There are a beautiful garden, old Shrines and the highest in Japan, five-storey pagoda (57 m high), built-in 826.
After that, we will take the Kyoto City Bus to Kinkakuji-michi, where we will visit the Golden Pavilion. It is a Zen Temple, whose top two floors are completely covered in golden leaves. It is one out of seventeen components, (situated in Kyoto, Uji Cities and Otsu City), that are recognised as Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and they all have been inscribed on the UNESCO Site.
Just after the Golden Pavilion, we will take a bus to visit Ginkakuji Temple, where we can find the Silver Pavilion there and a small but beautiful garden.
In the afternoon, we will go to visit Fushimi Inari, a temple dedicated to the goddess Inari (patron of rice, which is the basic Japanese grain). Along a 4-kilometre road curving up the hillside and leading to the temple – 30,000 orange torii gates were set up. We will stay there until sunset.
In the evening return to Kyoto.
Day 14 – return to Tokyo
The train ride from Kyoto (Shinkansen) to Tokyo takes about 2.5 hours. Our hotel is located nearby the Shinagawa Station. After check-in, we will take the train to the Akihabara (known for manga, anime and electronics).
In the evening, we go to Shibuya station, to see the city skyline after dark, illuminated by multi-colourful neon signs.
Day 14 – Showa Day
That day, the Japanese celebrate Showa Day (Emperor Showa’s birthday). Most of them will spend it on the bosom of nature, so we plan to rest and relax, the same way as the Japanese do. We are going to a picnic at Ueno Park. There are three museums: the National Museum of Tokyo, the National Museum of Science and the National Museum of Western Art. There are also few temples and the Zoo, which is famous for the giant pandas.
Day 16 – Tokyo Bay and Odaiba
This is going to be our last day in Japan.
In the morning we will have a short walk to visit Sengakuji Temple, which is famous for the graves of the 47 Ronins. There is a little museum as well, where it is possible to hear the story of the Lord of Aco and his loyal Samurais. They took revenge for the death of their Lord, which was punished and they were sentenced to commit seppuku.
After a visit to Sengakuji Temple, we are going to have some fun on the Odaiba, which is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. To get there we will take the Yurikamome train. We will see the famous Rainbow Bridge (the iconic symbol of the Bay), which connects Odaiba with the rest of Tokyo. There are many shopping centres (maybe we can buy some souvenirs as well), Toyota Mega Web (giant Toyota’s showroom), Ferris Wheel (115 meters tall ferries wheel is one of the world’s largest and offers beautiful views of the Bay), Fuji TV (with observation deck located on the 35th floor), Leisureland (great entertainment centre) and many restaurants. We are going to spend the rest of the day there.
- Odaiba – official website of the district
Day 17 – coming back home
Tokyo Haneda Airport – we will get there by private train Keikyu Airport Express (410 yen). From the Shinagawa station, the journey will take us only 20 minutes. Return flight via Frankfurt will take us about 15 hours. At home, we will be the same day but late at night.
Notes: after return from Japan, I will update this page with my pictures.
So far, my other posts about Japan:
- Himeji – White Egret Castle
- Kamakura – the seat of the first Shogun
- Kanazawa – Kenrokuen Garden and Castle
- Kyoto and Kansai region
- Matsumoto – city overshadowed by the castle
- Mount Fuji – the most popular icon in Japan
- Nagano Prefecture – the roof of Japan
- Nara -first Japan’s permanent capital
- Nikko – the light of the sun
- Tokyo – western capital