26 May First time Japan itinerary 12 days
Planning our first time Japan itinerary
Our flights were booked to arrive in Kansai and depart from Tokyo. For our first time Japan trip itinerary, we decided on 12 days. We split the time into Kyoto 4 nights, Tokyo 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.
We researched and made a list of everything that interested us, then separated it into must-see places 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 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 travelling with children it’s important to plan ahead, but also be flexible and willing to just go with the flow.
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Our final first time Japan itinerary for 12 days looked like this:
Day 1: Kyoto
Day 2: Kyoto and Nara
Day 3: Kyoto
A full day of walking in Kyoto. From the Citadines we walked to Kiyomizudera and then along the Philosophers Path to Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion).
Day 4: Kyoto
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. Read full day 4 post here.
Day 5: Rental car pick up & driving to Takayama
Day 6: Driving to Shirakawa-go and a scenic road trip.
Day 7: Takayama and onto Tokyo
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.
Day 8: Tokyo
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. Read full day 8 post here.
Day 9: Tokyo
It was Culture day in Japan. We went to the Odaiba area and had a bad lunchtime experience. A ride on the Ferris wheel lifted our mood and by the time we left Odaiba, it was getting dark.
Day 10: Tokyo
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. Read full day 10 post here.
Day 11: Tokyo
We had pre-booked tickets and spent the day at Tokyo Disneyland.
Day 12: Tokyo and onto Narita
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 before our morning flight out.
Want to know everything we booked for our first family trip to Japan?
A list of all the things we booked for this first time Japan trip. Accommodation, Train cards, Disney Tickets, Rental Car and WiFi. Read it here.