9 days Japan itinerary
Japan is one of the dream destinations in the world. Being the cultural capital and with spectacular landscapes, Japan must be on every traveler’s bucket list. I backpacked and traveled in Japan and in this post, I will provide the 9 days Japan itinerary and the lessons I learned while traveling.
Read - 10 Instagram worthy places to visit in Japan.
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Inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period (30000 B.C.), Japan is an island country in the East Asia. Comprising of more than 6800 islands, Japan has five main islands, namely, Hokkaido, Honshu, Sihkoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan.
Best time to visit Japan
Spring – Unarguably, the best time to visit Japan is during the cherry blossoms. In Spring season (between the months of March and May), Japan is painted with pink and white flowers.
Autumn – Japan is also very pretty during the autumn season (between the months of September and November) where the trees are decorated with fall colours.
Things you need to know as a first time traveler
- One of the biggest lessons I learned was the importance of Japan Rail (JR) pass. I highly recommend buying a JR pass, even though it seems expensive. This pass can save you so much money while you are traveling in Japan.
- You can buy SIM cards at airports and convenient stores. Mobal and SoftBank are the most used providers. For certain provides, especially at airport, buying a SIM card requires you to provide a hefty deposit which is refundable when you return the SIM card. But be prepared to lock that amount for your time in Japan. This was a huge shock to me.
- The toilets in Japan are high tech and has everything, including the heated seats, deodorizer, flashy lights and many other things.
- Download Google Translator as language is a huge barrier. Most people in Japan do not speak English.
- People are very courteous and kind in Japan. Be polite and respect the culture.
- The trains are on time, even to a millisecond so plan your arrival time and be at your platforms before the train arrives.
- There is no tipping culture in Japan. It is considered as an insult sometimes if you give extra money.
- Leave your shoes before entering a religious place. Even some of the restaurants require you to leave your footwear outside.
How to get to Japan?
Japan has many airports spread across the country. And there are around 19 International airports that is well connected to the rest of the world. The most famous airports are in Tokyo and Osaka cities.
- Budgeted airline Jetstar has direct connections from Australia (Melbourne) and Tokyo.
- Major airlines like Air India, Vistara, Indigo and GoAir operate between India and Japan. Some have direct flights from certain cities like New Delhi and Bangalore.
How to get to Tokyo?
Tokyo has two airports, Narita and Haneda International airports. Haneda International airport is the closest airport to Tokyo city and is connected by Shinagawa station.
Trains and transportation in Japan
Japan Rail (JR) is the best and fastest way to travel between places in Japan. The trains are accurate by millisecond and are super fast. They are clean and one of the best in the entire world.
9 days Japan itinerary
Days 1 to 3 – Osaka, Kyoto
Famous for its street food, Osaka is the third most populous city and is the capital of Osaka Prefecture. Home to Osaka Exchange, Osaka city is a major financial centre of Japan.
Osaka means large hill or large slope and the oldest written evidence for the name goes back to the 15th century.
Things to see in Osaka
In Osaka, you can see:
- Osaka castle – Built in 1583, Osaka castle played a major role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century. The castle is known for its well-built stone wall.
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 5 PM everyday. Last access is at 4:30 PM.
- Entrance fee: 600 Yen for adults. Additional 200 Yen for Nishinomaru Garden.
- Universal Studios – Opened in 2001, Universal Studios Japan is one of the six Universal Studios theme park in the world. It was the first to open outside of United States of America.
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 9 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: Starts from 8900 Yen for one day pass.
Read: Universal Studios Hollywood United States of America | Universal Studios Singapore
- Shitennoji – Founded in 593 AD by Prince Shotoku, Shitennoji is first ever temple to be built by the state.
- Timings: Open between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM everyday from April to September, and between 8:30 AM and 4 PM everyday from October to March.
- Entrance fee: 300 Yen for adults. Additional charges of 300Yen garden and 500 Yen for treasure house.
Day tours from Osaka
Day tour 1 – Kyoto and Nara day tour
Take a one day trip to see the lovely sights of Kyoto and Nara. The travel starts and ends at Osaka.
In Kyoto, you can see:
- Nijo castle – Built in 1679, Nijo castle is a flat land castle in Kyoto. In 1994, the castle gained its UNESCO world heritage site designation.
- Timings: Open between 8:45 AM and 4 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: 800 Yen for adult. The ticket can be purchased at the gate.
- Kinkaku-ji or Golden Pavilion – Officially known as Rokuon-ji, the Golden Pavilion is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Dating back to 1397, the Golden Pavilion is a three-storeyed building where the two stories are covered with pure gold leaf.
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 5 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: 400 Yen for adults and 300 Yen for children.
- Kyoto Imperial Palace – Being the former palace of the Emperor of Japan, the recent structure of Kyoto Imperial Palace was completed in 1855.
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 6 PM everyday, even though the last entry is at 5:30 PM.
- Entrance fee: Free.
In Nara, you can see:
- Kasuga Taisha Shrine – Established in 768 CE, the Kasuga Taisha Shrine is a Shinto shrine belonging to the Fujiwara family.
- Timings: Open between 6 AM and 6 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: 500 Yen for adults and 250 Yen for children.
- Todai-ji Temple – The recent Todai-ji Temple was completed in 1709 and is a Buddhist temple that was once one of the powerful Seven Great temples.
- Timings: Open between 7:30 AM and 5:30 PM from April to October, and between 8 AM and 4:30 PM from November to March.
- Entrance fee: 500 Yen for adults.
- Also, enjoy a typical Japanese lunch.
Day tour 2 – Arashiyama
Popular for bamboo grove and pretty landscapes, Arashiyama is one of the most visited cities in Japan. Arashiyama means Storm Mountain and is a district outside of Kyoto.
In Arashiyama, you can see:
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – Consisting of moso bamboo, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a natural bamboo forest. Covering an area of 16 square kilometres, the Ministry of Environment considers the forest a part of soundscape of Japan.
- Timings: Open 24 hours.
- Entrance fee: Free.
- Moon crossing bridge – Crossing the River Katsura, the Moon crossing bridge is a famous landmark. It is also known as Togetsu Kyo bridge.
- Tenryu-ji – Constructed in 1345, Tenryu-ji is a head temple of the Tenryu-ji branch. In 1994, the temple was registered as a UNESCO world heritage site as part of Historic monuments of Ancient Kyoto.
- Timings: Open between 8:30 AM and 5 PM everyday. The last entry is at 4:30 PM.
- Entrance fee: 500 Yen for temple premises and garden. Additional 300 Yen for entering the main building.
Days 4 to 6 – Hiroshima
Founded in 1589 as a castle town, Hiroshima was the first military target of a nuclear weapon in human history. United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) had dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” in August 1945.
From the time I had studied about Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the history books, I had dreamt of visiting these cities. During my travel, I did visit Hiroshima, especially to the atomic bombing area and Hiroshima Peace Memorial, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Things to see in Hiroshima
In Hiroshima, you can see:
- Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – Designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996, the Atomic Bomb Dome is the only standing structure in the area since the atomic bomb explosion. The ruin of the hall serves as a memorial.
- Timings: Atomic Bomb Dome – Open 24 hours. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – Open between 8:30 AM and 6 PM everyday. Till 7 PM in August. And till 5 PM from December to February.
- Entrance fee: 1700 Yen for adults and 700 Yen for children.
- Hiroshima castle – Originally constructed in 1592, Hiroshima castle was the residence of daimyo of Hiroshima Domain.
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 6 PM everyday. And till 5 PM from December to February.
- Entrance fee: 370 Yen for adults and 180 Yen for children.
- Itsukushima Jinja – Listed as UNESCO world heritage site, Itsukushima Jinja is a Shinto shrine on the island of Miyajima. The shrine is known for its floating torri gate.
- Timings: Open between 6:30 AM and 6 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: 500 Yen for adults and 300 Yen for children.
Days 7 to 9 – Tokyo, Mount Fuji
Previously known as Edo, Tokyo is the capital and most populous city of Japan. Popular for its skyscrapers and historical monuments, Tokyo is an interesting city to visit. The city offers many things to the tourists and travelers.
Things to see in Tokyo
As I mentioned, Tokyo is one of the interesting cities I have visited. Ranging from flashy neon-lit skyscrapers to the cultural and historical monuments, the city provides everything.
- Senso-ji – Opened in 645 AD, Senso-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple and Tokyo’s oldest temple.
- Timings: Open between 6 AM and 5 PM everyday from April to September, and between 6:30 AM and 5 PM everyday from October to March.
- Entrance fee: Free.
- Tokyo Skytree – Being the tallest tower in Japan, Tokyo Skytree is a broadcasting and observation tower.
- Timings: Open between 10 AM and 9 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: 1550 to 1650 Yen for adults.
- Imperial Palace
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 11:15 PM, and between 1:30 PM and 2:45 PM Tuesday to Saturday.
- Entrance fee: Free.
- Tokyo tower – Officially called Japan Radio Tower, Tokyo tower is a communication and observation tower. It was built in 1958 and is the second largest tower in Japan.
- Timings: Open between 9 AM and 10:30 PM everyday.
- Entrance fee: 1200 Yen for adults and 500 to 1000 Yen for children.
- If you are a dog lover, you must not miss the statue of Hachiko at Shibuya station.
- Also, watch the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world at Shibuya crossing.
Day tours from Tokyo
Day tour 1 – Mount Fuji day trip including Lake Ashi
Do not miss the day tour to Mount Fuji! Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest mountain and one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. The mountain is 3776 metres and is an active volcano. Located 100 kilometres from Tokyo, it is Japan’s sacred and pilgrimage site.
One interesting fun fact – Did you know that Mount Fuji is a girl? It is because she is always hiding behind the clouds.
Formed by a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago, Lake Ashi is a crater lake located in caldera of Mount Hakone. Taking a cruise on the lake is one of the highlights of the day trip. The boat ride provides stunning views of Mount Fuji.
Day tour 2 – Nikko national park
Established in 1934, Nikko national park is a national park on the main island of Honshu. The national park is around 180 kilometres and makes a perfect one day trip from Tokyo. Known for its waterfalls, hikes and landscapes, Nikko national park is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Budgeted hostels to stay in Japan
As Japan is an expensive country to travel, I preferred to stay at hostels and dorms. Even though they were hostels, the beds had their own cabins which had doors.
Osaka: Guest House Chikyugo – The Earth Ship
With basic dorms and private rooms, Guest House Chikyugo – The Earth Ship is located conveniently near the station in Osaka. The guesthouse provides free Wi-Fi, TV lounge, and bicycles.
Hiroshima: Tsuruya Guesthouse
Located in front of Ohta River, Tsuruya Guesthouse in Hiroshima is a picturesque guesthouse. The property is located very close to Honkawa-cha station and city centre.
Tokyo: Ace Inn Shinjuku
Situated near Akebonobashi subway station, Ace Inn Shinjuku in Tokyo is a hostel with capsule beds. The bathrooms and toilets were high tech and I really enjoyed staying at this hostel.
Safety for solo female travelers
Japan is one of the safest countries I have visited. The people are extremely nice and friendly. They take an extra step to help you out even though there is a language barrier. I had a lovely time in Japan and did not have any issues whatsoever.
Japan surely is an awesome destination to travel. Everything is beautiful about Japan, including the landscapes, people, culture and food. I highly recommend visiting this spectacular country at least once. And hope this Japan itinerary has helped you in planning your wonderful trip to Japan.
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