First time Japan itinerary 12 days

First time Japan itinerary 12 days

First time Japan itinerary 12 days

 Planning our first Japan trip 12 day itinerary

Our flights were booked to arrive in Kansai and depart from Tokyo. For our first Japan trip itinerary, we decided on 12 days. We split the time into Kyoto for 4 nights, Tokyo for 5 nights and our last night at an airport hotel. We left 2 nights to explore somewhere in between the two cities. Eventually, we decided to rent a car in Nagoya and drive into the mountainous region, spending the 2 nights in Takayama.

I had thought about first driving to Matsumoto, to explore the area and view the beautiful Matsumoto castle, one of Japan’s originals, still existing today. Thinking our time would be too rushed, we dropped Matsumoto. Choosing to stay 2 nights in Takayama, we would also visit Shirakawa-go. I thought this would be a great chance to stay in a Ryokan and experience a more traditional Japanese style of accommodation.  Tim thought that since we would have a car we should do a specific scenic drive. He found the Hakusan Super Rindo, a tolled winding mountain road not far from Shirakawa-go.

12 day Japan itinerary

We researched and made a list of everything that interested us, then separated it into must see’s and ‘if there’s time’. This way we got to see the places that were most important to us. There was only one planned sight we didn’t get to and it was due to me putting it on our arrival day, we were dis-orientated and tired from traveling. We did a lot of walking which allowed us to see lots of things along the way. Often we would be in the car or walking with the stroller and Fletcher would be sleeping, meaning we would just have to keep going in order for him to get the rest he needed. I think when traveling with children it’s important to plan ahead, but also be flexible and willing to just go with the flow. 

Our final 12 day Japan itinerary looked like this:

Each link will take you to that days trip report. View our 10 day itinerary from our 2014 trip here and our 2016 trip here.

Day 1

Arrival at Kansai International Airport and Haruka express train to Kyoto Station. After checking in, we walked to Nishiki Market. Kyoto night 1. First time Japan itierary

Day 2:

In the morning we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine and did the full loop up the mountain. The rest of the day was spent in Nara. Kyoto night 2. First time Japan itinerary

Day 3:

A full day of walking in Kyoto. From the Citadines we walked to Kiyomizudera and then along the Philosophers Path to Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). Kyoto night 3. First time Japan itinerary Kyoto

Day 4:

We got a bus to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and then took a tram to the Arashiyama area. In Arashiyama we visited Iwatayama Monkey Park, Tenruji Temple and the Bamboo Groves. Kyoto night 4. Read full day 4 post hereFirst time Japan itinerary

Day 5:

From Kyoto we got a shinkansen to Nagoya Station and picked up our rental car. We drove from Nagoya to Inuyama Castle and then onto our ryokan in Takayama. Takayama night 1. Japan itinerary Kyoto

Day 6:

From Takayama we drove to Shirakawa-go and along the Hakusan Super Rindo road.  Takayama night 2. Japan itinerary shirakawago

Day 7:

After breakfast at the ryokan, we strolled around Takayama and went to the morning markets. We returned the rental car in Nagoya then rode a shinkansen to Tokyo Station. From there we made our way to our hotel in Shinjuku. Tokyo night 1. Read full day 7 post hereJapan itinerary Takayama

Day 8:

We visited Tsukiji fish market at about 9 O’clock in the morning. From the market we walked through Ginza and entered the showroom at the Sony building. We then visited areas Akihabara, Shibuya and Harajuku. Tokyo night 2. Read full day 8 post hereJapan itinerary Tokyo

Day 9:

It was Culture day in Japan. We went to the Odaiba area and had a bad lunchtime experience. A ride on the ferris whell lifted our mood and by the time we left Odaiba it was getting dark. Tokyo night 3. Japan itinerary Tokyo

Day 10:

This day was a National holiday in observance for Culture Day. We visited Meiji shrine in the morning and then rested a little at the hotel as I wasn’t feeling well. In the afternoon we went to Sensoji temple and the National Science Museum in Ueno Park. Tokyo night 4. Read full day 10 post hereFirst time Japan itinerary

Day 11:

We spent this day at Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo night 5. Japan itinerary disneyland

Day 12:

Our Last day in Tokyo was mostly spent in Akihabara and then rushing to get the Narita Express to stay in an airport hotel for the night. Japan itinerary Tokyo

Day 13:

Flight back home.

Want to know what we booked for our first family trip to Japan? Read it here.

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