Japan is an island country of the Asian continent. It consists of over 6,500 islands. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and is the most populated city in the world. The local currency is the Yen and 100 Yen converts to just below $1 USD. An easy way to do quick conversions in your head is to think of 1 Yen as 1 cent. This 10 day Japan itinerary is based on a holiday that I took with my husband and 3 teenage children.
This is the second time I have visited Japan. The first time was a few years prior, with my eldest daughter and our itinerary was very different! This itinerary for Japan will be slightly geared towards the family traveller. With a few tweaks, there’s no reason why all travellers couldn’t enjoy this fun itinerary too.
I hope you are able to find some items here that you are able to add to your own 10-day itinerary of Japan.
Planning a 10-day itinerary for Japan
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10 days is not enough time to explore Japan, but it does give you a little taste of how amazing the country is! There are so many things to do in Japan, you are spoilt for choice when you start putting your plan together. Here are a few tips when travelling to Japan.
When is the best time to travel to Japan?
Every time of the year is a good time to go to Japan! But, the best time will depend on what you want to do while you are there. If you want to see the cherry blossoms, then you’ll need to visit in Spring. This is the busiest and most expensive time of the year to visit Japan.
Winter is a great time of the year to visit if you want to ski. But if you want to be a general tourist, then the shoulder times will be better. This is because you will be able to get cheaper flights and accommodation. Both times I have visited have been during Autumn and it’s a time of the year I recommend.
Where are you planning to visit in Japan?
Before I start putting my itinerary together, I would have already booked my flights to Japan. I know how many days I have in the country. I then start looking about where to go in Japan. As in, what regions do I think I can comfortably get to in the time frame that I have. This should be a good guide for working out the general area in which I want to travel to.
I then start looking at major locations and popular tourist sites. If these locations are far from the arrival city, I start looking at my transport options. I prefer to use public transport so I look for good connectivity.
The next thing I look for is UNESCO World Heritage sites. While I know I’ll never visit all of them, I like to visit as many as I can. Sadly, we did not visit any on this trip to Japan.
After this, I start looking at activities and adventures that look like fun. Although we all have a different idea on what fun actually looks like! But I do like to look at unique things that can only be experienced in Japan.
Getting around – the Japan Rail Pass
If you are planning on staying in the city you are flying in and out of, you can pick up a local prepaid travel card. It’s a good idea if you are catching public transport. Personally, I’ve never done this. I buy an individual train ticket when I need one unless I have an activated JR Pass.
The JR Pass is perfect if you are planning on travelling between cities. It’s also great if you are doing day trips from your base city. A return trip from Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto pays for the pass itself. Not only is it good value, but it’s also convenient. You can book trains ahead of time so you are guaranteed the trains you want to travel on. Perfect for those who plan ahead. Although, a trip to Japan just to travel on the Shinkansen is a good enough excuse to buy a pass too!
If you do by a JR Pass, note that you have to buy the pass prior to arriving in Japan. Also, you can’t use it on every network. In Tokyo for instance, it cannot be used on the subway. It can only be used on the JR lines.
If you are planning on using rail in Japan, you need to download the Hyperdia app. It’s too difficult to navigate the Japanese rail system without it. Even someone who works in rail and timetables trains as a job (me!) struggles with the complex network. The Hyperdia app and site will make travelling by rail so much easier.
Choosing accommodation in Japan
One of the most important considerations when choosing accommodation in Japan is access. If you are planning on using public transport, you want to stay close to train stations or bus stops.
Cost is also a major factor in picking somewhere to stay. I usually book a mixture of Airbnb and hotels. Mostly it’s dependent on how long I’m staying for and what I’m looking for in each location.
How much does a trip to Japan cost?
This particular trip cost around $10,000 AUD. This amount includes flights from Australia ($2,500), accommodation ($3,000), JR Pass ($2,000), and entry fees for all 5 of us. As the kids are 18, 15 and 12, most entry fees were as adults. Japan is not as cheap as other Asian countries are. Although, you could certainly do this trip cheaper.
My Japan Itinerary
The two main cities on most people’s itineraries will be Tokyo and Osaka. This itinerary explores both these locations. The easiest and cheapest way to travel between the two is to catch the Shinkansen.
Day 1 – Arrival in Tokyo
The first day is mostly taken up with the flight from Sydney to Tokyo via the Gold Coast. The flight lands in Terminal 3 at Narita International airport. As it will take at least an hour to get into Tokyo city, we eat in the food court at the airport. Also at the airport, we organise our SIM Cards. These are a must so we can access the internet and especially the Hyperdia app and Google maps!
The train station at Narita International airport is in terminal 2. From terminal 3 is it about a 15-minute walk. With luggage, it is not the easiest walk. There are shuttle buses, but they seem just as hard to catch.
It takes 90 minutes to get to our Airbnb accommodation. It is a short walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station. The host has left a selection of Japanese snacks for us.
Day 2 – Tokyo Disneyland
The first place to visit is Tokyo Disneyland. The reason for this is because it is Monday and the patronage is lower, which should mean shorter lines. Remember when I said that Tokyo is the most populated city in the world? Yeah. The lines aren’t what you could consider short. Additionally, the trains are absolutely packed with commuters as it is a workday. Take that into account if you are travelling with children and prams. We bought a 3-day pass for both Disneyland and DisneySea.
Tokyo Disneyland has a free Fastpass system. When you arrive for the day, make sure you go to the most popular ride that you want to go on and obtain your first pass. You will have to wait another 2 hours before being able to get another Fastpass. My recommendation is to go to either Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain first. These two rides are very popular and have long wait times.
Food and drink prices are reasonable considering you are in a theme park. Unfortunately, there are few places to sit down and eat lunch or dinner, so you may need to wait for a table.
After spending 7 hours in the park, we managed to go on 6 rides. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride had a short line, so we went on that a few times. The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain and Monsters Inc all had lines in excess of 60 minutes. It’s a Small World had a short line, only 10 minutes long. And we were fortunate enough to get Fastpass tickets to Splash Mountain. That was all we had time for!
Day 3 – Tokyo DisneySea
If you only have one day in your 10-day Japan itinerary for a theme park, I would recommend DisneySea. This is because there are more rides and so the lines are generally shorter. To get to DisneySea, you need to catch the monorail as it is too far to walk from Maihama Station.
We ended up going on 15 different rides in the almost 12 hours we were here. Some of the rides we went on more than once because the lines were short. DisneySea is much bigger than Disneyland. The good thing about this is that there are more places to sit and eat lunch and dinner.
Some of the rides also have single rider lanes. This means that you may be able to get on a ride quicker than if you want to get on with your friends. The target market for DisneySea is different from Disneyland. The rides are geared towards teens and adults, as opposed to smaller children.
Day 4 – DisneySea, Harajuku and the Kawaii Monster Restaurant
With a 3-day Disney pass, you can choose which park you would prefer to go back to. Of course, we picked DisneySea. By the third day of standing in lines, our feet were sore and we were a little over waiting. We only lasted 5 hours here before we all decided that we had had enough! My recommendation is unless you love Disney, you don’t need to go for three days in a row. I’m saying that and I’m an adrenaline junkie and love rollercoasters.
Harajuku is the next place on the itinerary. You need to check out the mirrored entrance to Tokyu Plaza. It’s a great place for photos both day and night. You can take a stroll down Cat Street. It is a street with a cool vibe to it. We found the best shop that made handmade lollies.
Kawaii Monster Restaurant
We have a booking at the Kawaii Monster Restaurant for the Pop Culture Night in Harajuku. The booking is for dinner, all you can drink, and the Pop Culture show. The Kawaii Monster Restaurant is very different! The decor is wild and bright! The food is kooky and the show is really entertaining.
For this itinerary, it was a choice between here and the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku. Each has its own strengths. The food and surroundings are crazier at the Kawaii Monster Restaurant. But the show is better at the Robot Restaurant. If you have time in your itinerary, you could do both.
Day 5 – Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku
What Japan itinerary would be complete without a visit to Shibuya? Shibuya is home to the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. It’s so amazing to cross the street when it’s really busy. And one of the things I love about Japan is how respectful people are of your private space, except on a packed train! You can cross at the main crossing here and not have one person bump into you!
Shibuya is also the main shopping district. If you’re in the mood for shopping, head here to visit some of the major chain stores. My favourite store is Tokyu Hands and there is a big one here. So many floors of crafty and home goodness.
After Shibuya, you can continue through to Harajuku. When we went last night to the Kawaii Monster Restaurant, most things were already closed. But today everything is open in the famous Takeshita Street. This street is a tourist street with some fun stores that Japan is known for. The Totti Candy Factory has giant rainbow fairy floss and Long! Longer! Longest! has the world’s tallest soft serve ice cream and potato on a stick!
Once it starts to get dark, head over to Shinjuku. Here you will see the neon lights that are associated with Tokyo. Shinjuku is the entertainment and red-light district of Tokyo. There are a few popular things to see in Shinjuku. The first is Tokyo’s, Piss Alley. Piss Alley is also known as Memory Lane. It is a narrow alley that consists of tiny yakitori restaurants. The name Piss Alley is from patrons relieving themselves near the train tracks. This was due to lack of facilities in the early years of the alley. It has an amazing atmosphere if you walk through here in the evening.
Shinjuku is also home to the Robot Restaurant and the giant Godzilla. Godzilla sits on top of the Shinjuku Toho Building and it roars and lights up on the hour. There are many restaurants in Shinjuku. If you haven’t had dinner by now, you will find a great restaurant in this area.
Day 6 – Skytree, Sumida Aquarium, Ninja Samurai Dojo and Sensoji
Sumida Aquarium at Tokyo Skytree
The Skytree in Tokyo is the world’s tallest tower. It is so impressive closeup and definitely deserves a visit. We did not venture up to the top of the Skytree although it was a perfect day for it. Instead, the Sumida Aquarium is where we head. The aquarium is only small, but it looks really good. The fish and animals are displayed well in their tanks and enclosures. Penguins are so engaging and I could watch them all day. Unfortunately, the jellyfish display is closed. It looks like it would be incredible and mesmerising.
After the Sumida Aquarium, we go in search of the Pokemon Centre Skytree Town. This was on the kids wish list, so unless you like Pokemon, you can easily skip this. It is a store where you can buy Pokemon branded goods. It is very popular and the line snakes around the store.
Ninja Samurai Dojo
This experience was one of the highlights in our 10-day itinerary of Japan. The Ninja Samurai Dojo experience is a lesson on the basic skills of ninjas and samurai. You will also get to dress up in traditional ninja garb. As part of the lesson, you will learn zen meditation techniques. You will also learn how to throw ninja stars (shuriken) and use a sword. You will also learn how to throw metal darts and then blow darts. Everyone had such a fun time during this 45-minute lesson.
The Ninja Samurai Dojo training centre is close to Sensoji in Asakusa. You can’t miss the Kaminarimon Gate that stands proudly on the main street. After walking through this gate, you will be on the Nakamise Shopping Street. The street houses lots of small vendors selling souvenirs and food. When you’ve walked through the shopping area, you will find the Buddhist temple of Sensoji. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo.
There is an owl cafe that’s close by and we decide to have a look. It is a very small cafe but it has many animals. There are owls, flamingos, meerkats, a monkey and a capybara. You can pay extra to cuddle a meerkat. Animal cafes are quite widespread in Japan.
Recommended tours or tickets :
Day 7 – Tokyo to Osaka, Osaka Castle, Kaiyukan Aquarium and Dotonbori
Travel between Tokyo and Osaka is on the Shinkansen. The JR Pass needs to be activated and that can only be done at a small number of outlets. It is relatively quick and easy to do though. Then once you have your pass you can book your seats on the Shinkansen.
If you are lucky with the weather, you will be able to see Mt Fuji from the train. The guard will be able to tell you what time you can see Mt Fuji. It is truly magical to see My Fuji in all its glory.
A trip to Osaka wouldn’t be complete without visiting Osaka Castle. Osaka Castle is a museum and the entry fee is very reasonable. You can either climb the stairs to the top of the castle or catch a lift. At the top of the castle, you can walk right around the outside of the building. There’s also a small souvenir shop on the top level. It gets quite busy at the top, but if you wait patiently, you will be able to take some beautiful photos of Osaka. The castle is a decent walk from the closest two train stations, Ōsakajōkōen Station or Morinomiya Station.
Kaiyukan Aquarium was on top of my kid’s list for our 10-day itinerary of Japan. It is open quite late, so you can leave this attraction until the afternoon or evening. It is near a couple of other Osaka tourist attractions, such as the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel.
The Kaiyukan Aquarium is pretty amazing. There is a circular tank that is in the middle of the building. It contains the massive whale sharks, which are the star attractions here. It is a fantastic Osaka attraction and shouldn’t be missed.
The bright lights Dotonbori are amazing and should be on your Osaka itinerary. You will find the most famous of these neon light along the canal. The biggest tourist attraction in Dotonbori is the Glico Running Man neon sign.
Along the main street you will find many places to eat. Dotonbori is famous for Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. The restaurants also have the most amazing signs that adorn their building. Some of the signs even move, like the giant crab.
Dotonbori does get absolutely packed though! It is one of the main tourist attractions in Osaka. But the atmosphere is really joyful. You definitely need to go there!
Recommended tours or tickets:
Day 8 – Universal Studios
The other main reason we travelled to Osaka was to visit Universal Studios. Universal Studios Japan has Harry Potter World as the star attraction. We arrived at the opening time and bought the tickets. As we were in the park early, the initial lines are not very long. Some of the rides we were able to just walk on. The park starts to get busier after lunch and the wait for rides becomes longer. We spend over 9 hours here and we go on seven rides. Although we go on the Jurrasic Park ride about 4 times in a row. There are many food options at Universal Studios. But it is more expensive than Disneyland, so keep that in mind. You are not able to take any food or drink at all into the park. Even plain bottled water.
Day 9 – Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha and the Kyoto Aquarium
Today ended up being a free day in our 10-day itinerary of Japan. We were meant to spend a second day at Universal Studios but no one wanted to. By this stage, we were sick of standing in queues for hours. I decided to find some things to do in Kyoto to fill in the gap!
Fushimi Inari Taisha
So, what is the most quintessential Japanese tourist attraction? The torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha! It was very busy here and the main section of the torii gates was shoulder to shoulder. You just kind of get pushed along with the crowd. On the way back, the tunnel of gates is less crowded so it is much prettier and you will get that perfect Instagram shot.
There are food stalls on the way out of the grounds. It’s the perfect spot to have a snack. You could walk back to Kyoto station if you felt energetic, otherwise, the train is the best option.
After arriving back at Kyoto station, the aquarium is about a 15-minute walk. The aquarium is surprisingly big and there are many things to see. The main attractions include the giant salamanders. There is also a penguin section and seal tanks. The Penguins are building nests and it is so easy to watch them for ages. A dolphin show is also an attraction at the aquarium.
Shinkansen Osaka to Tokyo
I prefer to travel in the evening. It feels like a waste of exploration time to travel during the day. Also, most places are happy to hold your luggage after you have checked out. This leaves you free so you can continue to explore the city you are in. The train ride is excellent, as usual, and we arrive at our hotel in Hamamatsucho.
Day 10 – Odaiba and fly home
When looking for things to do in Tokyo for our last day, we found there was a life-sized Unicorn Gundam Statue. We added it to our itinerary. In Odaiba, you will also see a replica of the Statue of Liberty. It is much smaller than its American counterpart. You will also see Rainbow Bridge. There are large malls in Odaiba, but they seemed quite empty of people. It was a weird feeling to be in such a populous city, but this one area was very quiet.
In one of the malls was Unko Museum Tokyo. As we didn’t see it until we were on our way out, we didn’t venture in. But yes, there is a museum about poo in Japan. If I ever get back to Tokyo, I’m definitely going to see it!
Narita Express Train
Odaiba was the last item on our 10-day Japan itinerary. After this, we collect our luggage and make our way to Tokyo station to catch the Narita Express train. This is an express train that goes directly to Narita Airport. As our JR passes were still current, we can catch this train for free. What I didn’t know is that you need to book your seats like the Shinkansen. Head to the ticketing office and you will be able to book your seat easily for this train. It is a comfortable way to get to the airport.
This brings me to the end of my amazing trip to Japan. It wasn’t the historic cultural trip that you may be wanting. But it was the fun and pop culture experience that Japan is renowned for.
There are many different types of accommodation to choose from in Japan. You can stay in a house through Airbnb, a hotel, or maybe you would like to stay in a traditional ryokan. A ryokan will typically consist of a tatami floor with a foldaway futon mattress. Some Airbnb rooms will have this style of bedding. Accommodation in Japan is on the smaller side, especially the bathrooms. But you will have everything you need for a great stay.
Accommodation in Tokyo
Accommodation in Tokyo is not the cheap experience you might be thinking it is. We chose to stay in an Airbnb for the first part of our trip. The reason is so everyone can have a bit of their own space. If it was just myself or with one other person, I would have stayed in a hotel. But a family of five needs a little bit of space after being together all day. Our final night in Tokyo was in a hotel.
Hotel recommendations based on this itinerary:
You will want to stay close to a station if you are using public transport to get around. The following hotels are in good locations to access the Disneyland area and also the Harajuku/Shinjuku area.
Accommodation in Osaka
Accommodation in Osaka is more reasonably priced than in Tokyo. Again, it is a great idea to stay near a train station for easy access. Staying on the Osaka Loop Line is also convenient for getting around. These hotels are in a good location to access the main Osaka tourist attractions on this itinerary.
I hope this article has been helpful in planning your 10-day itinerary to Japan. There are so many things to see in Japan, you really are spoilt for choice. This has been a very pop-culture centred trip to Japan. Normally I would visit the traditional historic and UNESCO sites. But you know, I had fun seeing these different attractions in Japan. And it was a nice change from all the seriousness of my day-to-day!