12 Days Japan Itinerary

Friday, March 23, 2018

Last year was eventful with me having to fly to Japan on three occasions and I can't be more grateful to be able to witness the transition from Summer to Autumn. Now that I've finally settled down and have some time, it's time to catch up on my adventures from last year.

I went on a 12 days Japan trip and while I went to some of the same places as I did a few years ago, I skipped out on Mt Fuji. If you're interested to know more about my trip to Mt Fuji, check out my previous post. I'll do up another post on the food gems I've found in Japan but meantime, here's my Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa, and Takayama itinerary.

Day 1 - 3: Tokyo


Another must visit place in Tokyo is Asakusa. Asakusa is swamped with tourists and for a very good reason. It is home to the famous Senso-ji Temple. Take time off to immerse yourself in the old Tokyo.

Asakusa is also home to plenty delicious food. I had the best Tendon and Unagi at Asakua, mainly Tendake and Kawamatsu. I'll write more about it in my other post.

Another food most tourists go for is the melonpan. Kagetsudo sits just outside Senso-ji Temple and many flock to the place to have a taste of their famous melonpan. While the name suggests melon, the bread has no melon in it. Top your melonpan with ice-cream on a hot sunny Summer afternoon to make it even better.

And of course there are many other places in Tokyo worth visiting, such as Tokyo Skytree, Odaiba, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo Dome, Ueno Park, Imperial Palace, Yoyogi Park, and many more. I can go on and on about the many places in Tokyo.

Another experience in Tokyo was staying in a capsule hotel. There were two different capsule hotels that I've visited but one left a really deep impression. Nine Hours Shinjuku-North has a futuristic theme and a really clean layout. The ladies have a separate elevator leading up to the sleeping quarters and showers.

Day 4: DisneySea

Headed to DisneySea on one of our days in Tokyo. There are many ways to get to DisneySea. As we were staying in Shinjuku, we decided to hop on the bus to DisneySea via the bus at Shinjuku Bus Station.

The trick to get on all the rides in DisneySea is to get the fastpass tickets. The best part is that they're free! Each ride has a limited number of fastpasses to give out so you have to quickly grab the fastpasses for the popular rides before they run out.

What we did was basically grab a fastpass for one of the rides and while we are waiting for the time to take our ride, we would queue for another ride.

Toy Story Mania, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea were some of our favourite rides. Personally, I really liked Toy Story Mania and the fast passes were out in the early afternoon. Definitely one of the first few rides you should go for!

There is a lot of fuss over the little green aliens ice-cream mochi on the internet. I can see how adorable they are and they tasted good too. They come in chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice-cream.

We happened to be in DisneySea during the Halloween period so people were encouraged to dress up in DisneySea. There were a lot of Ariel walking around, as well as many other Disney characters. One person even dressed up as an eggplant!

And the amazing thing about Japan is how seriously they are with their costumes. Both these photos (above and below) were basically random guests of the park. Though we did meet the real Jack Sparrow later in the day.

Day 5: Kamakura

We did a day trip to Kamakura for some hiking and sightseeing outside of Tokyo. Just south of Tokyo, Kamakura is easily accessible by train from Tokyo.

We started our day at Kita-Kamakura station with the Engakuji Temple. It's a Zen temple located in the forested hills.

Next to Engakuji Temple lies Meigetsuin Temple, which is famous for its hydrangeas (my favourite flowers). By the time we arrived, the hydrangea blooming season was over and there were only traces of them left.

Within Meigetsuin Temple, you can find a small little area of bamboo forest. Perfect place to take your bamboo forest photo with the crowd in Kyoto.

We hiked our way down from Kita-Kamakura station to the Great Buddha, the main attraction of Kamakura. Having enjoyed the serenity and peace at the previous two temples and during the hike, we found ourselves surrounded by crowds of tourists all of a sudden.

There are a couple of nice food in Kamakura and what left a really deep impression was the pressed  crispy octopus cracker. The octopus is pressed with a high pressure and temperature machine to create really crispy octopus crackers!

Also, Kamakura is located right by the sea so you can pay a quick visit to the beach, though I did not find it fanciful.

Day 6: Osaka 

We had a day in Osaka, gorging ourselves with the kansai delicacies, only because we wanted to use it as a base for our Universal Studios Japan visit. Also, Osaka was a really good place to shop (probably the only place we could shop since the rest of the places we were visiting were not major big cities).

Day 7: USJ

From Osaka, you can take a direct train to Universal Studios Japan. It's very easily accessible and quick to get there.

While USJ has plenty of rides, the highlight of USJ for us was definitely the Wizarding World. Having done our research beforehand, we were told (by everyone and every website) to get the numbered ticket for entry to the Wizarding World.

We actually spent the first 10 minutes of our time in the park searching to get the numbered ticket only to realise there wasn't one. We did not need to get the numbered ticket for entry to the Wizarding World and we could walk in and out of it as many times as we want, anytime we want.

Stepping into the Wizarding World was so magical. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan so imagine the excitement walking into Hogsmeade with the theme song playing in the background.

Look how happy these two fangirls looked. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride was my favourite ride. It felt really real and maybe it was kind of weird listening to them speak in Japanese. Also, do go for the castle tour because while the queue for the Forbidden Journey winds into the castle, the castle tour does bring you to places the queue doesn't.

We even went to put on our house robes. Yes, I'm a Gryffindor (even though I secretly wanted to be a Slytherin).

To see the beauty of the Hogwarts castle. Go to the Three Broomsticks to get the best view of the castle. You can grab a glass of Butterbeer while you're at the Three Broomsticks. I actually bought the cup as well so I can bring it back as a souvenir.

So tempted to buy everything I saw there. All the food that you've read about in the book, the jelly beans, the chocolate frogs, etc.

The Wizarding World is so magical and really a heaven for the potterheads.

The Minion Park in USJ was also newly opened when we were there. To be honest, I'm not exactly a huge fan of the minions.

Me posing with the Wall of Fame of my favourite Japanese artiste.

While we were just strolling around the park after nightfall, we heard screams and saw a lot of people crowding in an area. Turned out there was a halloween special event happening because we were there in October. Unlike USS, USJ halloween event is included in your normal admission ticket.

There were plenty of haunted houses for you to venture into. Similar to the USS halloween haunted houses, you get to enter and explore the place. We really enjoyed the Chucky Adventure haunted house. Scream factor 8/10.

There are scare zones too, with zombies walking around, chasing you down the street. Yes, we screamed whenever a zombie chased after us.

If you're heading to Osaka in October, do pay USJ for a visit because hey, you're getting Halloween Horror Night along with your day admission ticket too.

Day 8: Kyoto

Decided to head to Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. A serene walk through the forest, we found ourselves at Tenryuji Temple. While many just visit the bamboo forest and move on to other attractions in Kyoto, I highly recommend Tenryuji Temple.

Tenryuji Temple has one of the most amazing gardens I've seen in Japan so far. A beautiful landscape garden right in the middle of Arashiyama. It'll definitely look even prettier when the leaves start turning red.

We spent a lot of time in the drawing room, sitting by the door, admiring the view.

I really loved Tenryuji Temple that I think I spent almost 2 hours in there.

Another landmark we visited was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The sky was getting dark by the time we arrived so we were on a tight schedule. Yet again, I did not manage to finish climbing up those steps.

As much as I love Kyoto, I really dislike crowds. Finding it really hard to fall in love with Kyoto. Nevertheless, Kyoto still has her charm, especially at dawn when the humans are all asleep in their hotels, or at dusk when they leave in buses.

Day 9: Kanazawa

While most opt to dress in kimono in Kyoto, I decided to do it somewhere else with lesser crowd. 

I rented my kimono in Kanazawa, which also boasts many historical attractions, such as the castle town, the beautiful landscape garden, the samurai district, and the chaya entertainment district.

The first stop was Kenrokuen, known as one of Japan's famous landscape gardens. You can't say you've been to Kanazawa without having step foot into Kenrokuen.

May look pretty in the kimono but it's so hard to put on. Do you know that if I have to use the washroom, I'll need to lift up 6 pieces of cloth before I can actually use the washroom? Yes, I'm wearing a lot of layers underneath.

Just opposite the garden, you can find the Kanazawa Castle. The attractions in Kanazawa are all pretty close to each other so that saves us a lot of time having to travel around to capture the sights.

And of course, Kanazawa is not as popular as Kyoto so you pretty much have quite the whole place to yourself, not having to squeeze around with tourists.

The Higashi Chaya District is a popular spot which most people visit. Lined with teahouses where geishas perform in, this is a really traditional side of the town.

It was really fun walking around Kanazawa in kimono and if you want to experience wearing a kimono, why not wear it somewhere less crowded and conventional?

We were actually photographed by a lot of people when we were walking around. Once, a tour guide, who was leading her tour group, took out her camera to take a photo of us and everyone else in the group started doing the same. Kind of felt like a celebrity!

 Day 11: Shirakawago

Shirakawago is just a bus trip away from Kanazawa. While famous for its snow capped roofs, we decided to visit this UNESCO world heritage site during the autumn, which also gave us some really nice views.

You can only reach Shirakawago by bus. The best place to reach Shirakawago is through Kanazawa, since Kanazawa is accessible by the bullet train. The bus frequency is high but you'll have to remember to reserve your seat on the bus online.

You can even enter some of the houses there. They do charge a minimal admission fee. A great way to hide away from the cold. We kind of regretted not staying a night here though so if I could plan the trip again, I would definitely arrange for a night here.

They also have some really good Hida beef here. And lots of soba restaurants which you can recharge and fill your tummy with.

Take a hike up to the viewpoint to see Shirakawago from afar. Or if you're feeling lazy, you can hop on the bus up for a small fee.

Day 12 - 13: Takayama

Takayama, a city in the mountains, is a good stopover after visiting Shirakawago. Reachable by bus, Takayama is a small little town and easily explorable in a day. It also makes a good resting place if you're planning to go into the mountains.

Takayama Old Street is where you can find all the sake brewery and restaurants.

Something you have to try while in Takayama is Hida beef. Less well-known than the Kobe beef, the Hida beef is a delicious beef that rivals the Kobe beef. They do have different ranks and grades too, similar to the Kobe beef.

I've tasted high quality Wagyu beef in Tokyo and I thought that was beyond amazing. That was till I tried the Hida beef in Takayama.

It's the most amazing beef I've ever tasted in my life and I'm not even exaggerating. The beef melted like butter in my mouth. It was a little costly but it was really divine that I don't mind giving them all my money I have left.

Takayama has the most amazing beef nigiri. Using A5 grade Hida beef, the nigiri beef is the most amazing thing you'll probably eat in Takayama. You can spot the store from afar due to the long queue.

The nigiri sushi are placed on a biscuit so you don't have to carry any waste around after finishing the nigiri. They were so delicious that I cried tears of joy from eating it (I was actually having an eye infection so my eyes were tearing the entire day haha!). But honestly, the beef nigiri were so good that I almost felt that it cured my eye infection.

We even took a trip to Hirayu Hot Spring for some onsen experience. It's a short trip from Takayama and i really wished we have longer days up in the mountains.

We left Japan missing the Hida beef the most, even though we had really good seafood in Tokyo and Kanazawa. Honestly, the Hida beef was the highlight of the trip, with USJ coming close behind.

Will be updating another post on the food you should eat while in Tokyo since I've spent almost an entire month in Tokyo last year.

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