Japan Travel diaries

My husband and I recently went on a trip of a lifetime to Japan and I really wanted to share our itinerary and tips and tricks for the trip for anyone who would be interested in going.  I have always wanted to go to Japan to experience the culture and see the beautiful surroundings, so it really was such a dream.  We spent a lot of time planning the trip to maximise our time and get the full benefits of the trip, which also would have saved us money.  It is not a cheap trip, but you can make it as affordable as possible.  We chose to go end of October to beginning of November and we got to see the beautiful Autumn scenery.  The weather was a perfect 22 to 25 degrees, which meant we weren't too hot but it still felt like a Summer holiday.  We had 12 full days and 3-4 days of travelling as it is a 20 hour flights from the UK if you pass through Dubai.  We chose to do 6 days staying in Tokyo with day trips via the bullet train from there to Mount Fuji, Nikko and Kamakura.  We then moved hotels to Kyoto for 6 days and did day trips to Nara, Hiroshima and Kyoto. I put the itinerary together by researching which ones were possible day trips from the two hotel location and then did individual day itinerary's.   I researched exactly how to get to every place and activity we wanted to go to and I wrote down how to get there, whether it was just walking 32 mins or getting several trains.  It took out the work on the actual trip, we didn't need to do much brain work and figuring out, we just consulted our itinerary as we had already worked it all out.  I didn't want to waste time every day figuring out how to get to places.

Some important things to note are:

1) Buy the JR bullet train for your days trips a month in advance, this will make travelling so much easier for you and save you money.  You collect the JR Pass using the voucher you will have received in the post at the airport.  Leave plenty of time for this as the queue can take a few hours.  You can then get the Narita express (NEX) to Tokyo for free, once they have booked your seat.  You have to have a seat booked to catch this train.

2) Download the Suica card onto your apple wallet when you are in the airport using the WIFI and put some money on it.  This is your money travel card for the metro and all your public transport.  As long as you have that and you Suica card, you shouldn't need anything else.

3) Get an E-sim before you arrive  - This will save your bacon constantly.  You can use google maps and it will be a lifesaver for navigating around and also using public transport.

4) Buy a portable phone charger, you will need it.  If you are taking lots of pictures and using google maps, you will need to charge your phone throughout the day!  Especially for the day trips! You don't want to get stuck without charge on your phone and not be able to get back to your hotel.

5) Buy an adapter, which is the American one so don't forget some of those.  You will find your appliances work but struggle as the power isn't enough for UK appliances.  You can make do with everything but a hair dryer, but thankfully most hotels provide one, probably for this reason.

6) Book tickets for anything that you want to do on your itinerary before you leave to avoid disappointment.

We left the UK on 22nd October and arrived on the 23rd.  Our hotel was called Mystays premier Akasaka in Tokyo, which was such a nice hotel.  It had a gym, which we really enjoyed and a Spa.  You could wash your clothes, which was a lifesaver and it has a 7/11 attached to the hotel.  You just travelled to the bottom floor in the lift and you were there.  It was perfect for those jet lag evenings.  We arrived late at night so just went straight to bed so we could be up and fresh for our first full day in Tokyo.

Here is a full itinerary for our stay:

Day 1 - Tokyo day 1
  • We headed straight on the metro to Asakusa where they had the best street food and markets and the Senso-Ji temple which was truly breath-taking

  • We then walked to Ameyeko for further street food and markets and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

  • We walked on then to Akihabara which is where all the anime is and it's called the electric town.  There was so much gaming and people playing real life mario cart in the streets.  We went to the Dawn Robot cafe to finish off the day which was the best experience ever.  Being served by a robot was such an experience.

Day 2 - Tokyo day 2
  • We got up reasonably early to head to the famous Shibuyu scramble crossing and spent ages getting the perfect shot.

  • Shibuyu is full of preloved designer fashion and we headed to two that I had researched well.  They were called Casanova vintage and Amore vintage, where I ended up purchasing my Chanel bag.
  • We walked to Harajuku where there was even more shopping.  We enjoying a coffee in a cat cafe and we had the le Shiner rainbow cheese toastie which was delicious and so colourful!!  There were so many different animal cafe's here.

  • Our last stop was Ginzo which was a department store with all the high end designer shops, the equivalent of Harrods.

Day 3 - Tokyo day 3

The only thing we booked for the day was tickets to the Team labs art gallery at 12pm and this was the most amazing immersive experience ever.  You walked through water, lights, balloons and floating orchids.  This is a must if you visit Tokyo!!  We went to Shinjuku for the evening as we just had to see the 3D cat billboard and the city at night.

Day 4 - Tokyo day 4 - Mount Fuji trip

We decided to book our Mount Fuji trip through get your guide, which took the work out of doing an itinerary and figuring out how to get there because truthfully it's difficult to get to.  This was such a good idea as we got to do lots that we wouldn't have done and we learnt so much from our tour guide. This was the days itinerary:

  • We got to visit Japanese gardens and go for lunch, visit the smoking volcano mountains where they make black eggs.  We got to eat some which are meant to extend your life, they just tasted like soy sauce coated to be honest!.  

  • We got to travel on a pirate ship across lake Ashi and see the Hakone-Jinja shrine which is floating in the water.  

  • Finally we travelled up to see Mount Fuji, unfortunately it wasn't very clear as it was pretty cloudy, but we got to enjoy the famous Fuji bread shaped like the mountain and have a matcha while enjoying the views.

Day 5 - This was our first day trip and we were going to Nikko by the bullet train.  This was a long journey as it was 2 hours there and then you walk 20 mins to get a bus which takes you all the way up to the Kegon waterfall and lake Chujenzi.  We picked a super busy day and it took hours!!! We only ended up staying an hour or so and then headed back down as we didn't want to miss any trains returning home, so maybe leave earlier than we did when going to Nikko and wrap up warm as it is cold up there.  We didn't have enough time to go to Yudaki falls which was another short bus ride over.

Day 6 - This was our second day trip where we caught the bullet train to Kamakura.   We first went to see the Great Buddha, which was so spectacular and then we spent the rest of the day travelling round the temple and shrines.  We had a list of 6 of them to get round!  We then finished the day by the train station where they had tonnes of food places and stalls where we tried lots of yummy snacks.

Day 7 - We checked out of our hotel and headed to our hotel in Kyoto for the next part of our trip.  We stayed in Asai Shijo hotel which was another amazing stay.  We still had half the day so we decided to do dome things:
  • We walked to Nishiki fish market where we got to eat so many yummy snacks including a black sesame ice cream and Mochi.

  • We walked to Pontocho alley which was the most adorable little alley that we later went back to for dinner.

  • Finally we travelled up to Fushimi inari taisha which is a tunnel full of shrines that we walked through and got to experience.  This was so pretty in the light of the sunset.

Day 8 - Kyoto day 2 - This was a reasonably chilled day today as I hadn't jam packed the day.  We visited the Gion neighbourhood and the Kiyomizudera temple in the morning and enjoyed a nice Matcha.  We then got to go for a nice lunch and a run and a then went to Hokanji temple at night to see it in the sunset.  I was determined to get a beautiful picture.

Day 9 - Kyoto day 3 
  • We got up early and got the metro to Arashiyama where we walked through the spectacular bamboo forest.  This was so crowded and I wished we had got there earlier.

  • We walked to the Arashi monkey park which was so much fun as they were so cheeky and you got to feed them.

  • Our last bit for the day was to catch the train to see the Kinkakuji golden temple which was the most spectacular temple I have ever seen.

Day 10 - This was our first day trip from Kyoto and we caught the bullet train to Nara.
  • We walked straight to the Toda-ji temple and saw the great Buddha which was amazing.

  • We enjoyed the wild deers in Nara park and spent lots of time feeding them, although they did scare me as they head butted you and looked like they might bite if you didn't keep feeding them.

  • Our last stop before we headed home was to see the Kofuku-Ji temple.

Day 11 - Day trip to Hiroshima
  • We took the bullet train to Hiroshima and headed straight to go and see the Atomic bomb dome, which was devastating to see.

  • We then headed to the museum, passing the peace memorial park on the way.  I would recommend everyone to go to the museum as it was so interesting, but also very heavy.
  • Finally we headed to the Hiroshima castle

Day 12 - Day trip to Osaka 

We made the decision to go to Universal studios and we absolutely loved it!!!  We finished the trip with a bang! I am a huge Harry Potter fan and they have the most amazing Harry Potter world there, where I got to enjoy a butterbeer and go into Olivanders and all sorts. You are never too old to be a big kid!  We finished the incredible day off by having fun and singing some karaoke, which is everywhere in Japan.


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