On the surface, Japan seems to be very modern country, yet scratch a little deeper and you’ll find that travelling around the country offers countless opportunities to engage with the nation’s rich cultural heritage. You can sleep on futons and tatami mats in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and make your way to an onsen; you can experience meditation with monks or make a foam of bitter matcha (powdered green tea;) you can even delve into the lives of the ancient samurai and ninjas. Japan has the potential to fascinate even the most seasoned traveller, with the splendour of a Kyoto Geisha performance to the simple beauty of a Zen rock garden, and our Local Designers have designed a 10-day Japan tour for the perfect introduction to this vivid, diverse country!
This 10-day Japan tour itinerary offers up the top tips to make the most out of this extraordinary country. Ten days is more than enough for a first-time visitor, but if you have a few more days, you could easily stretch this schedule to two weeks in Japan or skip one or two destinations if you just have a week in Japan.
- Before You Visit Japan: Top Tips
- Japan’s Top Destinations
- How to Travel in Japan: It’s All About Rail
- Introducing The Ultimate 10-Day Japan Tour Itinerary
- Plan Your 10-Day Japan Tour!
Before You Visit Japan: Top Tips
Japan is a remarkable country with a perfect combination of cutting-edge technology ahead of the rest of the world and centuries-old customs and shrines, all surrounded by stunning scenery and a world-class cuisine. This mash-up of traditions and beliefs has its own set of dos and don’ts. Even though Japan is well-known for its structure, it has its own set of standards and norms, just like any other society.
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Norms in Japan;
- Tipping is not expected, and rarely practiced. And if you tip too much, the waiter may give the money back, believing that you have made a mistake.
- Japanese people are typically respectful, and they frequently control the level of their voices; in public places, you will typically only hear whispers or utter quiet, and public transport tends to be very quiet!
- The same goes for pointing, which is frowned upon in Japan, and photographing individuals without their permission. The general accepted tradition is to take off your shoes when you enter someone’s house.
- Many establishments in Japan do not provide English translations of things (even though many Japanese people speak very good English).
- Unlike other parts of the world, cash is king; few places allow credit cards, so be sure you have sufficient cash.
If you would like to learn more about the Japanese traditions whilst travelling the country, check our fully-customisable 16-Day Shogun and Samurai Roads Tour.
Japan’s Top Destinations
There are many beautiful sites and fascinating things to see and do in Japan during your 10-day Japan tour. From traditional villages to historical pagodas, active volcanos and national parks, it is impossible to visit them all in ten days, but they are certainly worth it if you revisit Japan or have an additional day.
Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the “big three” cities to visit in Japan. If you have time or an additional day in one of the main three cities and can take a day excursion out of town, Mt Fuji, Nara, Hiroshima, Nagasaki are all worth visiting.
If you don’t have ten days but still want to make the most out of your time in Japan with unique experiences, you should consider these trips:
- If you are into art, this 7-Day Art-Focused Tour in Shikoku might be perfect for you.
- Getting married soon? Customise this 6-Day Japan Honeymoon trip!
- Love the great outdoors? Have a look at this 6-Day Nature Lovers Tour of Shikoku
- Fascinated by Japan’s recent history? You will enjoy this 4-Day Samurai Craft tour
How to Travel in Japan: It’s All About Rail
Travelling by rail between cities in Japan is the most convenient option. The most cost-effective way to get train tickets is to buy a Japan Rail Pass, which permits you to travel on any JR train for a certain number of days (7, 14, or 21 days), including the high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains.
You must purchase this pass before you arrive in Japan, and it will be sent to you to carry with you. The purchase of this rail pass is an initial expenditure, but if you use it for two trips between cities, you will have saved money. The rail pass makes travelling throughout the country worry-free and straightforward, as it eliminates the need to book tickets for each train or transit between cities. But don’t worry, our local designers can organise the rail pass as part of designing your perfect itinerary.
Introducing The Ultimate 10-Day Japan Tour Itinerary
Days 1-3: Tokyo
The first destination on any 10-day Japan tour will most likely be Tokyo. Tokyo offers it all: temples and shrines, beautiful parks and amazing food, and rich history and culture. The city’s contrasts will surely strike you, from the bustle of Shibuya Crossing and beauty of iconic Tokyo Tower to the quiet and zen of Yoyogi Park. The easiest way to explore the city is on foot with a local guide.
Visit Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market was formerly one of the world’s largest fish marketplaces in Tokyo, Japan, and even globally. The market was so vast and spanned so much room both indoors and out that it was relocated to a much larger location in October 2018. The outside sector of Tsukiji is still worth the trip for the atmosphere and feel of a part of the market operating since 1935.
Toyosu Fish Market is the new market’s name, which comprises over 600 businesses that relocated from the former location, stores, restaurants, and a tuna bidding. This market has surpassed Tsukiji Fish Market’s previous record as the largest fish market globally.
The best way to visit the market is by going with a local guide, who will help you choose the freshest ingredients, like on this 2-Day Tokyo Private Tour.
Buddhist Temple Senso-ji
The Senso-ji Buddhist Temple, one of the city’s most colourful, oldest, and most visited temples, is your second destination on day one of the schedule. The temple was finished in 645AD for Kannon’s goddess. When you arrive at the Shrine, you will enter by the Kaminarimon gate, the temple’s outer entrance.
Through the gate lies a 200-metre commercial lane named Nakamise, a historical monument where locals sell traditional goods such as sweets, souvenirs, and folding fans. The main hall and the five floors of the pagoda are placed outside the Hozomon Gate in the next section of the temple.
Tokyo is ideal for a culinary tour, as the city is brimming with excellent cuisine. Harajuku is a terrific destination for a food tour with regional snacks, inventive pastries, one-of-a-kind sweets, and wild meals.
After a morning spent exploring Harajuku, it’s time to unwind at Yoyogi Park and stroll among the ponds, as well as picnic areas. The Cat Cafe Mocha is an excellent place to stop for lunch, where you may eat or drink while cuddling the cats.
The Tokyo National Museum, which houses over 110,000 distinct artworks and ancient relics, is an excellent destination to visit in the afternoon. The museum is housed in six buildings and has a wide range of exhibits and galleries in a picturesque location.
Robot Restaurant & Show
The Robot Restaurant and Show, located in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district, is unlike anything else in the world, with rainbow lamps and music blaring everywhere. Even the building’s outside is distinctive, with robots and neon lights in the windows. You venture down a lengthy neon hallway into the bar when you enter the building while waiting to enter the main door.
The event is unlike anything else with drummers, clowns, glow sticks, and robots. The event lasts an hour and a half, and spectators will be entertained throughout in ways they have never experienced before.
Nikko, located north of Tokyo, is mainly comprised of a national park and is best known for its magnificent temple of Toshogu and the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu. For centuries, the national park has been known as a Buddhist and Shinto worship centre. It features lakes, waterfalls, walks, hot springs, hikes, and animals.
Nikko is a terrific destination to explore, go out into nature, and learn about Japan outside Tokyo. If you would like to spend more days in nature, this 4-Day Nikko National Park Exploration Tour From Tokyo might be the perfect fit for you.
Karaoke is a typical night-time activity in Japan. In Japanese culture, people entertain their guests with singing, and karaoke seems to be the perfect choice for their passion for entertainment and creativity.
Tokyo features a plethora of karaoke establishments ranging from single-person booths to karaoke nightclubs with live music and private karaoke low-key gatherings.
You can’t visit Japan without trying the country’s most famous cuisine, Japanese sushi. Sushi is available in every part of Tokyo, with a wide range of options ranging from classic to sushi rolls rolled in algae and deep-fried dumplings.
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Day 4: Mount Fuji
Taking a Mount Fuji day trip from Tokyo may be the ideal option for you if you don’t want to deal with all of the planning and transportation yourself or if you don’t want to worry about missing your ride back to Tokyo.
Mount Fuji is less than two hours’ drive from Tokyo so makes it the perfect addition to your 10-day Japan tour. There are numerous attractive spots to visit to draw cultural and environmental enthusiasts. A visit to this region is also an excellent way to break your stay in Tokyo and get away from the city’s hustle and bustle for a day.
The Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is where Mount Fuji is located, and it’s only around 100 kilometres from Tokyo. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2013 and has long been a popular day excursion from Tokyo. Most day tours to Mount Fuji from Tokyo will also take you to Lake Kawaguchiko or Hakone since they are the most accessible from Tokyo.
Days 5-7: Kyoto
Kyoto is a unique city, and you will undoubtedly love your visit here. You may visit Kyoto in a single day, but we suggest you spend at least three beautiful days in Kyoto during your 10-day Japan tour.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Begin your day early to see Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. This Instagrammable bamboo grove is a famous tourist destination. The best time to visit Bamboo Forest is to snap those beautiful photos as soon as possible in the day, before the main crowds arrive. You may also spend a little time in this region travelling off the usual route to see some stunning views.
Taking the JR Rail from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station is the quickest and easiest method to get to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Trains begin running at 7.08 am and run every 30 minutes. It takes roughly 20 minutes to get there. The Bamboo Forest is a ten-minute walk from the railway station and is very well sign-posted.
Arashiyama also has a lot to offer in terms of activities. The temples in the vicinity are gorgeous, and the Kameyama Koen Park is a must-see sanctuary. In the winter, you can even find snow monkeys. Some paths lead you around the region and offer beautiful views.
Tenryu-Ji Temple is a popular tourist destination in Arashiyama. We would also recommend Nison-In Temple, well-known for its maple trees.
You can also visit the Otago Nenbutsu-ji Temple and its 1200 sculptures. This temple is rarely frequented, yet it is a one-of-a-kind destination.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Temple is situated atop Mt Inari, a 233-metre peak that takes around three hours to reach. This well-known temple is accessible through the Fushimi Inari Station. The path from the station to the Shrine is well sign-posted. The Shrine is one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions, and as a result, will be popular. Our advice is to avoid trying to capture pictures immediately when you arrive, where the main crowds are. You will be able to photograph the tori gates as they loop around the shrine if you walk a little distance from the entrance.
There are approximately 10,000 gates, so you’ll be able to find a location away from the crowds. Another alternative is to arrive later in the evening when the main crowds tend to dissipate .
Kinkaku-ji is a two-story gold-covered Buddhist temple. That’s two whole storeys plated in gold — a Kyoto Temple which you need to see to believe. If you want an iconic shot with the temple, you’ll need to arrive early to avoid the crowds, similar to the other tourist attractions in Kyoto.
Day 8: Nara
Nara is one of the best day trips from Kyoto. The two cities are only 35 kilometres apart, and thanks to Japan’s perfect public transport system, you can ride a high-speed train between them in 35 to 45 minutes, according to which train line you take.
Nara was previously known as Heijo when it was created in 710 as Japan’s oldest permanent capital, instead of the usual practice of moving the capital with each monarch. As a result, Nara is home to some of Japan’s oldest temples and ancient artefacts meaning it is well worth the detour.
Days 9-10: Osaka
With Universal Studios, the Kaiyukan Aquarium, and the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, a trip to Osaka Bay is a terrific way to start your time in this beautiful city. After all that exploring, it’s time for some food, and an excellent spot to stop is the Tempozan Marketplace (near the Ferris wheel), which has food vendors and food stalls with both Western and Asian cuisine.
A fun traditional thing to do in the city is a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theatre founded in Osaka. This art form is a fascinating spectacle to watch, with giant puppets telling stories from history and mythology; with performances typically running for two hours.
A go-karting trip around Osaka is a thrilling and unique way to view the city. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity allows you to visit the city’s key attractions, gorgeous surroundings and even dress up in Mario costumes.
The Namba Yasaka Shrine has a lion-shaped face that you can approach; it is claimed to ward off evil spirits and bring only good fortune. After touring the temple, why not sample Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake, comparable to pizza that can be topped with cabbage, pork, and other delicious ingredients.
Osaka Castle was completed in 1931 and traces back to 1583; it is a spectacular sight to visit on day two in Osaka. Visitors can take the lift to the top of the tower to see the stunning views of the city. Some of the highlights of Osaka are found in this 7-Days Essentials of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto Tour.
Plan Your 10-Day Japan Tour!
Mount Fuji, soaking in a traditional onsen, seeing one of the country’s oldest temples, and learning the traditions of traditional tea ceremonies are just a few of the highlights you can experience during your trip to Japan!
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