This blog is about my trip to Japan in 2017 and @schmmuck 's trip in 2018. He also travels frequently while managing his full time job. On his trip he had covered some really awesome food joints across Japan. You're sure to drool over the pics.
Documenting his and mine itineraries, food hauls, trips and tricks so you travelers can get the best out your Japan trip
Before we jump into itinerary I suggest please go through my blog about planning your Japan trip https://www.outofofficedaku.com/post/planningjapan This will give you a lot more insight and help you understand Japan. You will not only enjoy this blog more but also will help you planning your trip.
Against each attraction I have tried to mention
(Mode of transportation to reach it/Station name) (Entry fee)
The details of the next destination will have info on how to reach from first destination
Confused...Read on you will figure out...
Get to Japan and as you make yourself comfortable in your hostel/hotel check around for supermarkets. You would love to try out all the unique items to eat and carry on the go.
Supermarkets to look for
Tip: Living in a hostel with residential complex. Just look out for kids going to school or office goers early morning. They tend to pick up snacks on the way to the station. The best places to have a good breakfast and start your day.
Kaminarimon Temple - (Metro/Asakusa Station)
- The Kaminarimon was first built in 941 AD by Taira no Kinmasa, a military commander
Sensoji Temple (Walking)
- Tokyo's oldest temple
Nakamise Shopping Street (Walking)
- Nakamise Street which connects the main gate of Sensoji Temple, Kaminarimon Gate, and the main hall
Ueno Street (Metro/Ueno Station)
- Ueno street is also know as Ameyoko is a busy market street along the Yamanote Line tracks between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations
- Open air market
Tokyo National Museum (Walking)
- Established in 1872, is the oldest Japanese national museum, the largest art museum in Japan and one of the largest art museums in the world
Akihabara (Metro/Suehirocho or Okachimachi Station)
- Famed for its electronics retailers, ranging from tiny stalls to vast department stores
When at Akihabara check the below things to visit:
Maid Cafes - Cosplay themed restaurants
Laox - Tax free souvenir items
Don Quijote - Discount store
Radio Kaikan - Animation goods
Super Potato - All types of video games and consoles
Gamers - Video games, CDs, software related to games
Mandarake - Collectibles
Tip: If you have plans to shop from here suggest keep this visit to the end of your trip
Tsukiji Outer Market (Metro/Tsukijishijo Station/Free)
- Also known as Toyosu Market. If you're here at 5 am you can see fish auctions marketplace. You can visit it any time of the day for some delicious food
Tamagoyaki - Japanese style omelette on a stick
Tip: Please don't come in way of the workers in the market. Early morning is a peak time. Also stay within the marked safety yellow lines if checking out the area which has trucks unloading
This reminds me of how efficiently Japan operates. So I was sitting and watching the sea food trucks come in for loading. The lady supervisor explained me how they do it.
Normal trucks open from the back and need two or more persons to unload and load goods.
This is how their truck opens up. All goods are unloaded and kept behind the yellow line. A single forklift operator unloads the whole truck in <10 mins. And takes another 15 mins to reload it.
During this 30 mins break the driver of the vehicle finishes his morning breakfast and is ready for the trip. Normal trucks which open from back take more then 2+ hours for the same task. Also long boxes are a pain to load in them. Efficient...
Back to the daywise itinerary
Hamarikyu Gardens (Walking 500 meters/300¥)
- Public park in middle of the city
Shibuya Crossing (Metro/Shibuya Station)
- World's busiest pedestrian crossing
Tip: Get to the Starbucks outlet and go on the first floor for some epic views of the crossing. Also good location for your time lapses
Uobei or Genki Sushi - Delivers your sushi at top speeds directly to your table by miniature bullet train
Hachiko Memorial Statue (Metro/Shinjuku Station)
- Bronze statue honoring Hachiko, the famously loyal Akita dog.
Tip: Want to know more watch the movie "Hachiko - A dog's tale. Make sure you have a tissue box handy
Harajuku (Metro/Harajuku Station)
- Center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. Should not be missed
Meiji Jingu Gardens
- Public garden adjacent to Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Metro/Tochomae Station/Free)
- Observatory tower. It's is possible to see Meiji Jingu, Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji
Omote-sando (Metro/Omote-sando Station)
- Designer boutiques and shops of international brands
- Six narrow alleys make up this place which are connected via more narrow passages or as Schmmuck says " This is where people come to get sloshed"
Eat at Yakitori Alley or the memory lane. Its walking distance from Shinjuku Station
Harajuku Gyoza - Tasty dumplings
Day trips or one night stay trips from Tokyo
Nikko - It's a Unesco World Heritage Site. Small town tucked away in the mountains. It also has many Shinto shrines and temples. On a clear day you can view Mt. Fuji from here.
Hakone - Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It's on way to Mt. Fuji. Can be stopped here for a night and then headed over to Mt. Fuji
Matsumoto - Mountain town which has the black and white Crow Castle. Stroll along the Nakamachi-dori street.
Some of the biggest Chinatowns. 30 mins from Tokyo
- Uobei - Conveyor belt sushi
Tip: If visiting Yokohama and love cars don't forget to visit Nissan Headquarters and check out the cars. It even has the Nissan GTR. The staff are super cool and helpful.
Spending a week in Tokyo also would be less. Choose your things and make your personalized itinerary. Here's few more in case you would be interested
Yanaka - If your want to experience old Tokyo
Sugamo (Old Ladies' Harajuku) - Series of shops catering to elders. Most shops are wheelchair friendly
Ryogoku - If sumo wrestling interests you this is the place to go
Tokyo water bus - Sightseeing via boats
Ghibli museum - If animation fascinates you
Tokyo Disney Sea
Tip: Don't forget to take the 8 am metro from Shinjuku. Dress well :)
The above itinerary can be done in 2 days or 3/4 days. Depends on your pace and time.
Let's head to Mt. Fuji. This can be a day trip from Tokyo or you can make your hub at Kyoto or even stayover near Mt. Fuji. Or start from Tokyo, do a day trip at Mt. Fuji and headover to Kyoto. Again depends on the time you have.
Mt. Fuji (Train/Otsuki and then transfer to Fujikyu Railway for Kawaguchiko)
- Mount Fuji or Fujisan) is Japan's highest mountain. Don't think I need to give description for this attraction
Tip: Check weather and plan your trip. A clear day would be suggested
When reaching the railway station you can buy a pass which has a cable car + bus trip + a boat trip. It's worth it
- Lovely views of Mt. Fuji and the city
Lake Kawaguchi (Cycle/Bus/Walking)
- One of the five lakes of Fuji five lakes. Second largest
Tip: Rent a cycle and go around this place for some lovely views
- For the best views of Mt. Fuji
Maglev Exhibition Center
- If bullet trains fascinate you this is a must visit. Museum about bullet trains and also a testing facility. You can also ride in trains doing test runs. (Do check booking etc as they need to be done months in advance)
Hoto noodles - Famous local dish
Tip: Do try the hot springs when in this area. Some have lovely views of Mt. Fuji
Convenience and efficiency in supermarkets
Pic one: The fridge has a refill door from the back. So while its been refilled it does not cause inconvenience to the customer and also superb way to get the cold ones in the front and the new ones behind for it to cool
Pic two: The shelf shifts out for the worker to arrange and stand comfortably while arranging the food items
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Train/JR Inari Station/Free)
- Important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto
Tip: Carry mosquito repellent when visit this place post 4 pm. Climb up the mountains for some insane views of the sunset and the city. Visiting it in the late hours also makes up for good photos while the sunlight passes through vermilion torii gates.
- Traditional entertainment district lying north and south of Shijo Street
- Shinto shrine in the Gion District
Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf
- Renowned market place to Kyoto's renowned food joints
Tenryuji temple (Train/Keifuku Arashiyama Station/500¥)
- Built in 1339, it's registered as a world heritage site
Hogonin Temple (600¥)
- Known for its seasonal gardens and statues
- Bridge connecting islands. Nice views
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (1000¥)
- Torii tunnels of Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple. You need to visit it to experience it. Also one of the most photographed site in the city.
Tip: There are hand driven rickshaw drivers that will take you around. They are not cheap. Please don't negotiate with them. It takes a lot of effort to carry passengers and they deserve to be paid good.
Kodaiji Temple (600¥)
- One of Japan's greatest historical figures, by Hideyoshi's wife Nene who is also enshrined at the temple
Tip: When visiting shrines/temples do check the rock/stones patterns on the ground which are done each morning. You will be mesmerized
- Famous shrine in Kyoto
- Gyoza Hohei
- Opp to Togetsu-kyo Bridge there multiple shops selling rice crackers. Try the different flavours. Good souvenirs to take back home.
Yoshinoya Kyoto Rakuhoku - Good breakfast options
Sushi no Musashi - Sushi
- Established in 1880 it is one of the oldest parks in Japan. Also the hub for many other attractions
Tip: Do buy Shika senbe and feed the deers
Todai-ji Temple (300¥)
- Large temple with a big Buddha statue
Yoshikien Garden (Walking)
- Three distinct gardens with river flowing beside
- Family temple of Fujiwara. Consists of 150 buildings
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery (1000¥)
- Tour of their factory and whiskey tasting sessions. Booking can be done at https://www.suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/
Sukiya - Good breakfast options
Himeji castle (One hour in train from Kyoto/1000¥)
- Japan's most beautiful surviving feudal castle
Kyoto Castle (Metro/Nijojo-mae Station/600¥)
- Also known as Nijo castle
Kyoto Imperial Palace (Walking/Free)
- The residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868, after which the capital and the emperor moved to Tokyo
Kyoto Gyoen National Garden
- Park that surrounds the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Sento Gosho
Yasaka Shrine (Free)
- The shrine where the Gion festival is hostel
While in Kyoto there few other attractions and food places which you can check and add in your itinerary
Kyoto Railway Museum
Kyoto National Museum
Sagano Railway - 25 min ride for 7 kms on a old fashion train. Lovely views
Gion Matsuri - Procession of floats. Event happens on 17th July each year
Tip: There are more than 30+ temples/shrines in Kyoto. Drill down to the ones you want to visit and make your plans
Pontocho - Narrow lanes offering inexpensive Kyoto cuisine
Nishiki Market - Fresh food market
Fushimi Sake District - District with sake breweries
Osaka Castle (600¥)
- Large castle with gardens which was reconstructed
- Part of the Osaka Castle park
Abeno Harukas 300 (1000¥)
- Observation deck on 60th floor. Nice views of Osaka
Naruto Taiyaki Hompo - Famous for Japanese sweet of fish‐shaped pancake
Dotonbori - Most famous restaurants in this area.
Schmmuck quotes this moment as
" What could be more iconic than tripping on Takoyaki at its birthplace, Dotonbori in Osaka"
Kuromon Market - Popular market street for seafood
Asahi Suita Brewery - Offers free beer tours
Official tourist website for Osaka: https://osaka-info.jp/en/
The next destination we going is Hiroshima. You can spend a night there or do a one day trip from Kyoto. Bullet trains make the trip possible. Start at 6 am and you're back by 10 pm back to Kyoto.
Hope you will be buying the JP Pass which gives unlimited access to bullet trains. Don't know what I am talking. Read planning your trip to Japan here first: https://www.outofofficedaku.com/post/planningjapan
ALternative plan: If you're a foodie make your night stay at Fukuoka instead of Hiroshima. Why? Check out the food trail that Schmmuck went on when he stayed here.
Ichiran - Japanese ramen food-service business specializing in tonkotsu ramen. Birthplace of Tonkotsu Ramen in Hakata. A ten storey building now
Yatai Okamoto Nakasu
Yatai Mamichan - Ideal for your first Yatai experience (Street food)
Aji No Masafuku - Local cuisine
You can start off early the next day and head to Hiroshima
Peace Memorial Park
- Once a commercial hub now a memorial
Hiroshima peace memorial museum (200¥)
- History of Hiroshima before and after the bombing. (Must visit)
Atomic Bomb Dome
- Symbol of the "peace city", Hiroshima
Note: A free postcard is given with the entry fee to the museum. There's also a post box once you finish the tour. Stamps available at the souvenir shop
Miyajima ferry terminal
- To go on the island
Note: Ferry is free with JP Pass
Itsukushima Shrine (Ferry/300¥)
- Giant torii gate
Alert: Renovation work is currently going on. The gate is covered in scaffolding. No end date to its completion.
At Miyajima island
Grilled oysters (Left pic)
Maple leaf shaped buns stuffed with choice of fillings (Middle pic)
Okonomi-mura - Six stories of food theme park (Right pic)
Each day I came across how efficiently Japan has designed things around them. So this is in the public washroom. The hook is on top of the door for hanging your bag, purse etc. This is done so it's at your eye length and you don't forget your things hanging in the washroom. As you walk over to open the door you will surely spot your item.
Tip: Heading back from Hiroshima to Tokyo book yourself on the sunrise train. Overnight journey from Hiroshima to Tokyo. It's a lovely ride back on normal train after all the bullets trains you have rode in. Make sure you book the tickets as soon as you land in Japan. They go off very quickly.
(Free with JP Pass)
I am a vegetarian, so what food did I have in Japan. Don't worry there are many options. Check out what to eat. Supermarkets have many ready to eat options and the staff are really helpful reading out the contents and finding vegetarian options for you
Name of some restaurants
T’s TanTan - ramen
Falafel Brothers - Middle eastern food
Name of food items
Okonomiyaki - Cabbage based noodles
Zaru soba - Noodles
Japanese curry (AKA kare raisu) - Ask for veg option
Kushiage - Ask for vegetables
Also do check out the Survival guide for vegetarian / vegan food by Shivya https://the-shooting-star.com/2019/07/13/japan-vegan-vegetarian-survival-guide/
Still in doubt. Print the below and take with you :)
Translation: To whom it may concern: I am a strict vegetarian. Therefore I do not eat any meat, fish or fish products. Please make sure that my food does not include any of these items.
Watashi wa bejitarian desu. (I am a vegetarian.)
Niku ga haitte imasu ka? (Does this contain meat?)
Tamago to cheezu ga taberaremasu. (I can eat eggs & cheese.)
Niku to sakana wa taberaremasen. (I can’t eat meat or fish.)
Dashi to katsuobushi wa taberaremasen. (I can’t eat dashi or bonito fish flakes.)
Few other things on my mind...
There are a lot of owl, cat and dog cafes in Tokyo. Do check them out. I visited the owl cafe and it was lovely
Make sure you try out all the functions on the super tech toilets
Do visit the gaming parlours and try out some games. It's crazy in there
Try out a new coffee/tea/beer while you are there. I am sure you will not have to repeat the same brand
If you have two days spare you can add a trek to Mt. Fuji. All equipment can be rented. DO check the climbing season details
You can send postcards in different shapes to India from Japan
Try and get a nice semi transparent cover for your passport and JP pass. You will need to show it very frequently at railway stations
Make sure you carry a coin purse if you would be using cash
More of such tips on my other blog about planning trip to Japan / https://www.outofofficedaku.com/post/planningjapan
Ending this blog with a word which originated from Japan and we Indians are well versed with it...
Check out Schmmuck's Instagram for his wonderful travel photos : https://www.instagram.com/schmmuck/