To me, a trip to Japan can never be too long because there are so many great places to visit apart from its capital Tokyo. They range from breath-taking forests and mountains, to places steeped in history and local culture. The food varies from place to place too. If you’re planning a two week itinerary in Japan, I’ll recommend that you get a 7-day Japan Rail Pass that allows you to make unlimited trips from one destination to another with a fixed fee (it’s less than SGD400). Just remember to bring the physical copy of the voucher for the JR Rail pass with you to Japan, after purchasing it from your home country. It’s a big hassle if you forget to bring it – the e-copy is not allowed and there is no room for negotiation.
Day 1: Tokyo (Ginza)
Day 2 – 3: Lake Kawaguchiko
If you’re looking to stay at a hot spring resort near Tokyo, Lake Kawaguchiko is highly recommended. It took us less than two hours to get there by bus. Do take a walk around the lake during sunset. On a clear day, Mount Fuji towers visibly and majestically in the background. We stayed at Hotel Konanso, a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn). It was a tad expensive, but very worth the experience – the hot spring was a real treat.
- Taking the Mount Fuji Panorama Ropeway at Kawaguchiko (Part 1)
- Our 10 minute hike to the summit of Mount Tenjo to view Mount Fuji (Part 2)
- Photo story: The Walking Trail around Lake Kawaguchiko (Part 1)
- Photo story: Crossing the Lake Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge (Part 2)
Staying in a Ryokan
- Review: Our Ryokan in Hotel Konanso in Kawaguchiko with a Lake View
- Review: Onsen at Hotel Konanso in Kawaguchiko
- Review: A kaiseki dinner at Hotel Konanso in Kawaguchiko
- Review: Breakfast at Hotel Konanso in Kawaguchiko and the lounge
Food & Drink
- Review: Eating Hoto-men at Restaurant Lakeside in Kawaguchiko
- Review: Coffee at Lake Side Cafe Ku in Kawaguchiko
- An experience – Eating soba noodles at Mishima Station in Japan
I wished we had more time to explore the Fuji Five Lakes. That would have been a trip on its own. From Lake Kwaguchiko, we took a bus to Mishima, and then a Shinkansen from Mishima Station to Kyoto. It was a very relaxing and comfortable bus ride. Needless to say, the ride on the Shinkansen was very smooth too.
Day 4 – 6: Kyoto
I thought that Kyoto was very crowded and touristy, but it was worth a visit, at least once in a lifetime. It probably isn’t the sort of place I would return to, but it is home to some shrines that are worth checking out. I also thought Fushimi Inari and Arashiyama were touristy but very much worth a visit. The recommendations in bold are must-visits!
Food & Drink
- Review: Having Tendon Makino Kyoto Teramachi in Kyoto
- For good beer, check out Spring Valley Brewery in Kyoto
- Review: For a good izakaya in Kyoto visit Beppinya
- Hanbunan jazz bar in Kyoto – quirky bar or creepy otaku’s lair? You decide.
- Review: Having Japanese sweets at Yojiya Cafe in Gion Kyoto
- Review: Having coffee at % Arabica in Kyoto Higashiyam
- Review: A Kaiseki lunch at Gion Suetomo in Kyoto
- Review: Visit Saryo Suisen for the best green tea parfait in Kyoto
- For the world’s most charred ramen, check out Gogyo Ramen in Kyoto
- Review: The food at Koimariya in Kyoto (こいまりや) is decent but the chef is not
Sights in and around Kyoto
- 10 places to visit in and around Kyoto
- Five things to buy at the Nishiki Market in Kyoto
- Visit to the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto
- Maruyama Park in Higashiyama Kyoto – a case of Shrine overload
- Photo story: A walk around old and new Kyoto
- Five things to know about the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
- Five things to know about the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto (Part 1)
- Recommended walking route around the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (Part 2)
Day 6-8: Osaka
I definitely preferred Osaka over Kyoto. While Osaka was pretty crowded, Kyoto was filled with camera-touting-yukata-cladded young people taking pictures with shrines. In comparison, Osaka had a bit of a cool heck-care atmosphere which resonated with me. In fact, in the most crowded of all places, Dotonbori, we found an excellent bar. Bar Masuda opened our eyes to the world of Japanese cocktails. Okonomiyaki is also a must-have food while in Osaka.
Food & Drink
- 6 simple steps to make Okonomiyaki at home
- For good grilled meats visit Shichirin Yakiniku Wakabaya in Namba Osaka
- Review: For a good bar in Dotonbori visit Bar Masuda
- 4 places to eat and drink at Dotonbori in Osaka
- Review: Having Ichiran Tonkatsu Ramen in Dotonbori Osaka
- Review: Visit to Yukari in Osaka for Okonomiyaki
Around Osaka: Himeji and Kobe
Apart from Osaka, we visited Himeji to see the famous Himeji Castle, which is possibly the most beautiful castle in all of Japan. I found Kobe to be a nice local city which was less busy than Osaka and the people spoke almost no English. But it was also where we had the best curry rice and sake in Japan. Architecturally, I thought the construction of their highways were pretty cool too.
- Getting from Osaka to Himeji Castle and more
- Four reasons why Himeji Castle is important to Japan
- Review: Visit to Yamayoshi Anago in Himeji for eel rice
- Is the Kobe Port Earthquake Memorial Park worth visiting?
- Visit to Savoy in Kobe for good Japanese curry rice
- Visit Nagatahonshou in Kobe Sannomiya for good Yakisoba
- Review: A visit to Sake Bar Sasa Seiran in Kobe
- Is Kobe worth visiting? Five reasons to make a day trip
I enjoy my teas and the visit to Uji was an eye-opener. I was exposed to all sorts of Japanese teas – sencha, gyukoro, hojicha and genmaicha and it certainly sparked joy, especially after buying several packets home. I also encourage you to visit Nakmura Tokichi in Uji Japan to try the green tea soba noodles – I thought they were the best I ever had.
- Is Uji worth visiting? For tea lovers, a day trip is a must
- The four hour wait – Is it worth eating at Nakamura Tokichi in Uji Japan?
- Five tea houses to visit in Uji
- Buying wabi-sabi cups from a handmade pottery shop in Uji
Day 9: Kamakura
We had one more day left to travel on the Shinkansen with our Japan Rail Pass. S heard that Kamukura was a great town for a day trip, and we decided to head there. We were rewarded with a nice sea view and Kamakura Shirts – a store which sells good quality formal shirts for both men and women. Do check out the post below for more information on Kamakura.
Day 10 – 13: Tokyo
We had covered the places to visit in Tokyo earlier in the post below. Do check it out for more information.
Anime which you can watch to learn more about Japan!
My interest in Japan continued after I returned. Thanks to the recommendation of Friend C, I managed to watch three really good anime series. Do check them out if you can!
Unfortunately, my main anime source is now gone and I will have to look for alternatives, or put this hobby on hold. | ” ☯ ︿ ☯ ” |
- Three reasons to watch anime Samurai Champloo
- Review: Three reasons to watch Japanese anime series Natsume Yuujinchou
- Three reasons to watch anime Mushishi after your trip to Japan
The Travelling Squid’s Take
I’ve finally come to the end of all my posts on Japan and to be honest, I’m super glad that it’s over. I’ve been writing about Japan for about a year. It took me so long because of a hectic schedule late last year and perhaps, the lack of discipline to blog. Some part of me wanted to just end it off and write about something else instead. But it’s important that I continue and wrap this up because Japan is a lovely country. There are some many good places to visit apart from the usual sights and cities. I hope you will enjoy Japan as much as I do.
Last but not least, I have also included some reviews of the anime I have watched after coming from Japan, because I thought they were very good (and addictive). In their simple ways, I learnt about Japanese culture in a rather endearing manner, and I hope you can experience the same too.