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10 Day Japan Itinerary: The Ultimate First Timer’s Guide

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I’m visiting Japan for the first time in November for 3 weeks. After extensive research to make the most of my limited time, I’ve come up with an efficient itinerary to see Japan’s top destinations and experiences for the perfect 10 day japan itinerary.

This comprehensive guide takes you through my suggested 10 day itinerary covering Tokyo, Nikko day trip, Hiroshima/Miyajima day trip, Osaka, Kyoto and more by high speed train. I’ve included helpful planning tips for getting around, budgeting, packing, and itinerary modifications based on season.

10 Day Japan Itinerary: The Ultimate First Timer’s Guide

How To Get Around Japan in 10 days: Getting Around: Japan Rail Pass, Metro, Buses

  • The Japan Rail Pass covers most train transport options including bullet (Shinkansen) trains. Purchase in advance online before arriving to Japan.
  • The JR Pass is best for this 10 day itinerary with frequent long-distance train trips. The Green Pass includes a seat reservation for bullet trains.
  • Subways, local buses, and street cars are cheap (¥100-300), easy to use, require buying individual tickets. Need cash for these.
  • Taxis are a comfortable but more expensive option–better suited for shorter, direct trips.
  • Buses are best for getting around Kyoto as the train network is limited there.
  • An IC card like Suica or Pasmo is useful for metro/local transport and small purchases. Just tap to use.

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Japan Travel Budget

  • Mid-range budget: ¥12,000-15,000/day ($100-125 USD)
  • Daily costs vary widely. Sightseeing and food are pricey, hotels and transit less so.
  • Try saving money by getting hotels with breakfast/kitchens to cook your own food sometimes. Near metro is best.
  • Avoid pricey attractions not essential for your interests. For example, some ¥5000 robot shows.
  • Use day trips from Tokyo/Osaka instead of switching hotels frequently.
Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi in Japan Momiji Japan Autumn leaves

When to Visit Japan

  • November offers crisp, sunny autumn weather and fewer tourists than other months
  • Late November, some fall foliage remains but less vivid. Low of 48°F/9°C in Tokyo
  • Bring light jacket and accessories for cooler temps. Layers help.
  • Consider indoor/cultural activities for potential rain versus hikes
  • This itinerary works year round, but spring (Mar-May) is much busier with Cherry Blossom crowds

Japan Packing Essentials

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Clothing and Accessories

  • Light jacket–temperature around 50°F/10°C in Tokyo and slightly cooler elsewhere
  • Waterproof Windbreaker for possible rainy days
  • Umbrella (compact or reusable)
  • Light Scarf, Hat, Gloves for cool mornings/evenings
  • Comfortable shoes–expect a lot of walking! And shoes off at some sites.
  • Socks for removing shoes at temple entrances (tabi toe socks traditional)

Tech and Adapters

  • Cell Phone: Use a portable WiFi router for mobile data access without roaming charges
  • Adapter with 2 flat prongs (Type A) for electronics
  • Multi-port USB charger
  • Rechargable battery pack for phones
  • Japan Rail Pass voucher if purchased online beforehand

Other Gear

  • Small daypack for essentials
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Cash (~¥6000) for upfront needs before ATMs
  • Copy of Passport and hotel info kept separately from original passport
  • Luggage locks and hotel lockers for storing bags across cities

10 day japan travel itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Welcome to Japan! If arriving at Narita Airport at a reasonable hour, take the efficient Narita Express train or Airport Limousine Bus to your Tokyo hotel. Both take just over an hour.

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Get settled in for a relaxing first day in the megacity, grab some street food or ramen, and resting up for tomorrow’s full day of sightseeing.

If arriving late, you might just go straight to your hotel and start fresh in the morning.

Transportation from Airport Options:

  • Narita Express train: ¥3,000+ one way to central stations
  • Airport Limousine Bus: ¥3,000-4,000 to major hotels
  • Taxi: ¥20,000+ but fastest direct route

Tokyo Neighborhood Stay Options:

  • Asakusa: Old town with temples, shops, easy airport access
  • Shinjuku: Lively business and nightlife district
  • Shibuya: Youth culture hub with shopping

Days 2-3 out of 10 days Japan: See Tokyo

With only 2 full days in Tokyo, be strategic by combining a guided walking tour by Tokyo Localized Tours to efficiently see top sights with expert context in one shot. Their various free tours in different areas work well together.

Then spend any remaining time exploring other interests like anime culture, robot shows, or more temples. Here are top things to do:

Tour Key Areas of Tokyo

  • Asakusa Old Town and Senso-ji Temple
  • Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park
  • Harajuku and Takeshita Street fashion culture
  • Shibuya’s iconic Scramble Crossing
  • Shinjuku nightlife district

Other Interests

  • Anime shops and experiences in Akihabara “Electric Town”
  • Sushi making class or tasting tour
  • Imperial Palace grounds
  • More temple hopping like Zojo-ji Temple and garden

In the evenings, dine at food halls like Tokyo Station Ramen Street or Dotonbori alleyways filled with neon sign eateries.

Day 4 out of 10 days Japan:  Day Trip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji and Hakone Onsen Town

Today, escape the city to get in touch with Japan’s natural beauty and hot springs at Hakone. Known for its mountain scenery and onsen villages with traditional ryokan inns and open air baths. A relaxing change of pace.

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Just an hour or so from Tokyo, it’s an easy day trip to see iconic Mount Fuji. With additional nights you could also do hiking. But with limited time, we’ll take in the epic views, ride a pirate ship on Lake Ashi, visit historic shrines, do the scenic ropeway overlooking Mt Fuji in the Owakudani Valley, and finish by soaking in soothing mineral filled onsens. Bliss!

Consider staying overnight if you have the time as there’s even more to see and do. Like continue hiking or visit the Open Air Museum. But this works as a robust day trip too to get a nice taste of the region before returning to Tokyo for the night.

Day 5 out of 10 days Japan : Day Trip from Tokyo to Nikko

Packed with UNESCO sites amidst forested hills and waterfalls, Nikko makes for another rewarding day trip from Tokyo on the JR Pass. Explore by train or join a guided tour for stress-free transport and to maximize your limited time.

A path with orange tori gates and writing on it

Don’t miss:

  • Sacred Shrines and Temples
  • Picturesque red bridge and revered Toshogu Shrine
  • Grand Rinnoji Temple with golden Buddha dating to 1636
  • Quieter lake and mountainside Taiyuin Temple

Scenic Natural Sights

Kanmangafuchi Abyss’ 70 stone Buddhas lining a river

  • Pass Kegon Waterfall (one of Japan’s largest)
  • Chuzenji Lakeside’s panoramas and nature trails

Wander Peaceful Neighborhoods

Smaller temples like Shinkyo Shrine by the water

  • Observe craftsmen honing traditional skills
  • Quirky YoMegi Festival floats if visiting summer

Day 6: Travel to Kyoto

Continue to Kyoto, Japan’s historic capital filled with over 2,000 templesand shrines. With limited time, we can enjoy just a taste of the city’s Zen temples and gardens, geisha districts, and UNESCO sites.

But first to arrive…Travel by Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto Station which takes just over 2 hours from Tokyo Station with a transfer in Shinagawa. Get a seat reservation and use your JR Rail Pass if you have one.

Upon arrival, drop bags at your hotel ideally located near transit options or in your key sightseeing area like Higashiyama. Then set off exploring the neighborhoods packed with photogenic temples like Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion and Fushimi Inari red tori gates!

Where to Stay in Kyoto

  • 1-2 blocks from a subway station for easy transport: Karasuma Line best
  • Central areas like Downtown, Gion District, Higashiyama
  • Book hotels with breakfast included given limited time

Day 7: See Kyoto’s Highlights

With only 2 days, focus your visit to the city’s most impressive temples, Shinto shrines, gardens and landmarks with insight from a knowledgeable local guide if possible. Key areas of Kyoto not to miss include:

Northwest Kyoto

  • Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji Temple) – Top attraction gleaming gold over a pond
  • Ryoan-ji Temple – Zen rock garden masterpiece
  • Ninna-ji Temple pagoda peeking over trees
  • Higashiyama District*
  • Kiyomizu-dera – Iconic temple perched on a mountainside with views over the city
  • Yasaka Shrine – Important shrine with stage for festivals
  • Traditional Hanamikoji street leading to geisha district
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove*
  • Dense forest of towering green stalks (crowded but Instagrammable)
  • Tenryū-ji riverside temple gardens
  • Togetsukyō Bridge framing forested hillside
Silhouette of Kyoto Japanese Pagoda At Sunset

In the evenings, explore atmospheric narrow streets like Nishiki Market and Pontocho Alley packed with tiny food stalls. Try street food like takoyaki or regional specialities here!

Day 8: Day Trips from Kyoto to Nara Park and Osaka

Just an hour away, spend the morning wandering through Nara Park to photograph over 1,200 wild sika deer up close at spots like Tōdai-ji Temple and Isuien Garden. People buy special crackers just for feeding them!

Later, stop in vibrant Osaka which balances modern city sights with historic shrines and a famously outgoing local food scene. Highlights include:

Nara Morning:

  • Tame sika deer roaming park grounds
  • Tōdai-ji’s Great Buddha Hall–world’s largest wooden building
  • Beautiful Isuien Garden’s meticulously arranged landscape

Osaka Afternoon/Evening:

  • Vibrant Dōtombori and Shinsekai areas with iconic neon signage above eateries
  • Famed Osaka Aquarium or delectable street food tour
  • Impressive 16th century Osaka Castle

Day 9: See Hiroshima and Its Peace Memorials

An important history lesson, visit Hiroshima’s Moving Memorial PeacePark and Museum marking the 1945 atomic bombing in WWII. Afterwards, take a short ferry ride toMiyajima Island to see the iconic “floating” vermillion Torii Gate and wandering deer.

While a sombre subject, experiencing Hiroshima first hand and understanding the hopeful messages of peace help us prevent such devastating weapons from ever being used again.

Key Places to Visit in Hiroshima

  • Atomic Bomb Dome ruin left as grim memorial
  • Peace Memorial Museum documenting the destruction
  • Sadako StoryStatue symbolizing innocent children lost
  • Restored Hiroshima Castle originally from 1590s

Miyajima Island

  • Torii Gate seemingly floating when tide comes in
  • Itsukushima Shrine like a pier stretching into the sea
  • Daishō-in Temple nestled in the hillside forest
  • Top off with Hiroshima style okonomiyaki savory pancake

Day 10: Osaka to Home or Other Destinations

If flying home from Kansai Airport (1-2 hours away), your last bit of time can be spent taking in city views from the Umeda Sky Building’s Floating Garden Observatory or sampling foodie finds at the lively Kuromon Ichiba Market before traveling to the airport.

Consider booking a night near the airport or starting earlier if you have an afternoon flight to allow time for traffic delays.

Or alternatively if continuing your travels in Asia, base yourself in Osaka for convenient transport connections by air or rail. For example, under 3 hours by train to travel onward to places like:

Ultimate japan travel planning Guide

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Summary and Highlights

In this action-packed tour of Japan’s must see spots, we:

  • Explored Tokyo’s unique culture from anime to zen gardens
  • Escaped to the iconic Mt Fuji and scenic Lake Ashi
  • Visited UNESCO sites and sacred shrines in Nikko
  • Discovered Kyoto’s enchanting temples, zen rock gardens, and bamboo forest trails
  • Photographed ancient capitals like Tōdai-ji and iconic landscapes includingMiyajima’s “floating” Torii Gate
  • Paid respects to history in Hiroshima and celebrated cherry blossoms in full bloom
  • Savored humble ramen shops to decadent multi-course kaiseki dinners
  • Relaxed in therapeutic hot spring baths (onsen)

With efficient train transport, you can see a lot even with only 10 days in Japan! This November itinerary balances Japan’s essential historical sights with enchanting natural beauty and cultural immersion.

Have any other questions or need help further customizing your own perfect trip itinerary? Just ask in the comments!

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