In April of 2015 we had a chance to spend 10 days in Japan. This was the first time for both of us, we had both been dying to visit this country. The trip was right before Julia, in fact it was during this trip to Japan that I told Amado that I was pregnant. So this was one of our last trips without kids – that’s not to say that Japan is not a place to go to with children, quite the opposite actually. What we saw and experienced in Japan is something I’d love to share with my kids and I am sure that a Japan vacation with kids would be amazing.
We moved around the country on trains and went to places that I wouldn’t hesitate to take my little girl with me. In fact during this trip we made a promise to each other to continue to travel even when we became parents – that we would be one of those families that travel with kids (so far we’ve kept our promise)
If you, like us only have 10 days in Japan and want to see as much as you can, while still enjoying your time there (we hate when schedules are too packed) then take this itinerary as a starting point and adjust to your needs and style. In this post I describe a how we spent 10 days in Japan and saw 7 cities without feeling over-scheduled!
Consider these two passes as a way to save money and get everywhere.
Buy a JR Pass
A JR Pass gives you unlimited Japan travel by rail, they sell 7 day passes and 14 day passes that you can use to travel around the country. We bought them online, the process was fairly simple and the site is in English 🙂 – Keep in mind that there are some cases in which you may not be eligible for buying the JR Pass – as a rule of thumb if you enter the country as a visitor on a foreign passport you’re on the safe side.
We started moving around Japan by train on Day 4 of our trip for the day trip to Nikko – that meant we would be using trains for around 6 days. The 7 day pass was perfect for us.
Hakone Free Pass
We stayed for one night in Hakone. For this we had to take a train from Tokyo to Odawara and then we changed trains to get further into Hakone. We bought is directly when we arrived in Odawara and what was nice about it is that it also included the boat tour in Ashi lake (in the pirate boat) and the cable car up to 5th Station for killer views of Mt. Fuji. You could also buy the pass to cover a round trip from Shinjuku station (but we didn’t need that) You can read more about it online. Now on to our 10 days in Japan itinerary
Arrive in Tokyo Haneda airport and make your way to the city. We stayed in an Airbnb close to Shinjuku station which was perfect for us from both a budget and location perspective. We found that staying in Tokyo was a bit on the expensive side but Airbnb had lots of options. If you also travel during cherry blossom season plan in advance! All hotels were sold out right before the trip so don’t leave everything to the last minute.
Day 2 & 3
We spent two whole days in Tokyo. Tokyo is huge – in fact the largest city in the world so there is plenty to see and do. There is modern Tokyo and traditional Tokyo and you can’t miss either of them. Tokyo could be an itinerary in itself we found this two day itinerary online and we do recommend that you have a look at it if you are short in time while you’re in Tokyo
On our fourth day in Tokyo we took a train to Nikko a much more calm place to visit (compared to hectic Tokyo) but full of magic and charm. There are four trains daily from Shinjuku and most require a transfer in Shimo-Imaichi station to continue onwards to Nikko, and the journey took around 2 hours. We left in the early morning and came back in the afternoon. It was a perfect amount of time to be able to wander around and see the most important things to see in Nikko.
We visited Hakone as a stopover in our journey from Tokyo to Kyoto, Hakone is very well known for its hot springs and we wanted to have an authentic local experience so we booked one night in a Ryokan. The one we booked had its own Onsen which are the natural hot springs that you find around the area. In our Ryokan they had a private Onsen which you could book and one that could be used by males and another by females. An interesting fact (although maybe hard to understand why) is that tattoos are normally not welcome in an Onsen – ouch! so if you have a tatto and want to go to an Onsen make sure that it is a tatto friendly Onsen. There are a few 🙂
Before making our way to Kyoto we did a half day trip to Lake Ashi to try to get a sight of Mount Fuji. We were warned that it was not always likely that you are able to see anything at all but we thought that we would give it a try. We took a bus to Odawara which was covered by our Hakone Free Pass, we did a boat tour of the lake and we got lovely views of Mt. Fuji! We were really lucky. (How to get from Hakone to Lake Ashi) In the early afternoon we took a train to Kyoto where we would spend the next couple of days.
Kyoto met us with terrible weather, it was raining the entire time we were there, but that didn’t stop us from making our way out and seeing the city. The city has lots to offer and my favorite part was the Geisha district and the Philospher’s path where we got lots of cherry blossoms along the way
Nara is around a 90 minute train ride away from Kyoto. Lucky enough this day the weather was nice to us. It used to be the capital of Japan and is now considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. We obviously couldn’t miss the iconic Nara park where we were met by tons of deer that liked to be fed and be around people, a few of them got to friendly with me grabbing on to my clothes demanding more food. Todai-ji is the main attraction and is home to a gigantic Buddha statue, the largest Buddha statue made of bronze.
Again a rainy day, and this day we made our way into Hiroshima. I wish I could say it was nice to go there. And don’t get me wrong the city is beautiful and we had great food while there but being in the Peace Memorial Park and walking through the museums was a terrible experience. It was very emotional and very tough to see. It is amazing how brutal and cruel humankind can be – hopefully the terrible things we’ve done in the past won’t be repeated and hopefully having these types of memorial sites will help teach future generations of just how bad it can get, so that it never gets worse.
This was the last of our 10 days in Japan, it was pretty quiet and rainy again. We slept in and made our way back to Tokyo where we would be spending our last night before heading home on the next day. Tokyo is such a huge city that you just can’t get bored.
Day 11: Fly back home
And that was that! We got to see quite a bit in just 10 days in Japan: 7 cities all in all. Of course this was before we were a “travel with kids” family but it wasn’t hectic and it could very easily be done with kids as well. Japan is a real gem with so much that we can learn from it and from its culture – one of the main reasons why we will come back one day but with our kids 🙂
Until next time!