10 Days in Japan: A First-Timer’s Complete Japan Itinerary

travel itinerary japan 9 days

Looking for the best way to spend 10 days in Japan? You’re in the right place! Continue reading for tons of first-hand tips, recommendations, and a complete 10 day Japan itinerary, which can easily be turned into two weeks in Japan if you’ve got a few more days. I absolutely LOVED my time in the country, and with some proper planning, I can guarantee you will too. Japan is over-stimulating and over-whelming in the best way possible. An absolute thrill to the senses.

From the shiny bright lights of Tokyo’s Akihabara District to the serene temples and zen gardens in Kyoto, Japan is a country where the past and the future collide more than you initially realize. I can promise you that every bite of food will be better than the last, and you’ll be saying oishi (“delicious” in Japanese) during every meal. If you can visit during cherry blossom season, you’re in for a real treat – the streets will be lined with the most beautiful bunches of white and pale pink flowers you’ve ever imagined, which in turn makes the country smell absolutely phenomenal. Japan is quite literally the most fascinating country I’ve explored to date. (And I just hit my goal of 30 countries by my 30th birthday a few months ago!) #killingit

I’d love to spend more time in Japan, and am highly encouraging everyone I know to discover this little piece of Asia sooner than later. So today, I am sharing with you my 10-day Japan itinerary, all heavily researched (for hours!) before my trip and followed pretty much to a T.

Overview of this 10 Day Japan Itinerary

When I initially started planning my trip, I was worried that 10 days in Japan wouldn’t be enough. Thankfully, I proved myself wrong and was able to see and do oh so much, as well as stuff myself silly with all those Japanese snacks I had heard so much about. [Spoiler alert: bring stretchy pants.]

The country is filled with so many fascinating areas, but 10 days in Japan will give you enough time to see the highlights. To be completely honest, this Japan itinerary is rather jam-packed, yet highly efficient (I promise!), although I suggest slightly modifying it if you’d like a more relaxed trip or are traveling with kids.

While we’re at it, check out all my travel planning tips right over here!

This Japan itinerary starts in Tokyo, makes a day trip to either Kamakura, Nikko, or Hakone, then ventures south to Kyoto, with day trips to Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Miyajima Island. Distances really depend on the mode of transport you use, with bullet trains being the fastest.

  • Days 1-3: Tokyo
  • Day 4: day trip from Tokyo
  • Days 5-6: Kyoto
  • Day 7: Nara and Osaka
  • Day 8: Miyajima and Hiroshima
  • Day 9: morning in Kyoto → Tokyo
  • Day 10: Tokyo in morning/afternoon → airport

Japan is a decently large-sized island country located in Eastern Asia, being slightly smaller than California. Rest assured, the entire country is connected via trains. In my experience, Japan may have the most efficient and well-connected public transportation system in the world (and that’s coming from someone who spent their childhood riding the extensive New York City subway).

Despite holding the title for the 10th most populated country in the world (aka: it’s crowded), you can still find some peace and solitude in the many gardens and temples located just about everywhere.

Pre-Travel Guide to Japan

Where to get the best flight deals to Japan:

I swear by Skyscanner and Google Flights, and always always always use these two sites when looking for airfare. The option to watch prices and get email notifications are top-notch and one of my favorite features of the two. Always check budget airlines that may not be listed, especially if you are coming from other areas in Asia with shorter flight times. A great list of budget airlines can be found here.

For reference, we flew premium economy on China Airlines with a short layover in Taipei for about $1200 round trip from San Francisco – during Easter and cherry blossom season – but I saw deals for under $800 in coach. [I’m not complaining about the upgrade that my husband insisted on buying, but know that cheaper flights are out there.] If you’re coming from the East Coast USA, flights will be a bit more expensive but shouldn’t be more than $500 more or so.

Where to stay:

In an effort to keep things simple (and avoid changing accommodation every night or two – what a pain!), this itinerary will have you staying in 2 main areas (Tokyo and Kyoto).

I highly advise booking accommodations near centrally located train stations in each as it’ll be easiest for the day trips mentioned in the 10-day Japan Itinerary below. I opted to stay near Shibuya Station in Tokyo, as it’s centrally located and easy to reach other districts. In Kyoto we stayed near Kyoto Station as we were taking a bunch of day trips and wanted to be able to walk to our accommodation easily after a long, busy day on the road bullet train.

  • Recommended hotels in Tokyo near Shibuya Train Station:
    • Luxury: Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
    • Mid-Range: Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyo

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