26 May 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.
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:
Arrival at Kansai International Airport and Haruka express train to Kyoto Station. After checking in, we walked to Nishiki Market. Kyoto night 1.
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.
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 here.
From Takayama we drove to Shirakawa-go and along the Hakusan Super Rindo road. Takayama night 2.
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 here.
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 here.
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.
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 here.
We spent this day at Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo night 5.
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.
Want to know what we booked for our first family trip to Japan? Read it here.