Things you should know before the actual itinerary
When should you buy tickets?:
My siblings (TheSibLims) and I went to purchase Japan tickets during Thanksgiving week. The best time to buy is usually on a Tuesday. That's when they have the best deals in my opinion. Sometimes you can get lucky though.
JR Pass for Japan:
TheSibLims and I went to purchase our JR Pass voucher for Japan on Japan Rail Pass website. The JR Pass has to be purchased prior to your visit to Japan. There are some stores that do sell the JR Pass in Japan, but I assume it's only a few, which is why they suggest to purchase prior. JR Pass is basically a ticket to Japan’s railway system that helps you get around certain areas in Japan. There is an option to reserve seats, but can only reserve when you get to the station to activate it. When you purchase at home; just don't forget it!
What should you wear?:
The month we went was kind of hot/cold (spring weather). I know, not a great way to tell you what you should pack. My suggestion is to pack loose clothes and if you're a girl don't pack shorts. I would recommend packing a skirt than shorts. I realized that there were not a lot of women who wore shorts when I was in Japan. It was either skirts that were a little higher than the knee or much lower than the knee and pants. I also packed pretty "light" but ended up having a small carry-on suitcase and a backpack...
Wifi? Do I need it?:
I mean it depends on your carrier and depends if that's something you can live or can't live without. Generally most places in Japan have free wifi, but when you're walking around it is kind of hard to navigate without the inter-webs. I know traveling with TheSibLims, wifi was a must-have, but we didn't get a plan. Our AirBnB came with a pocket wifi, but even then it wasn't enough to sustain 12 days with. I would definitely check out this reddit post from /r/JapanTravel for more information on Pocket Wifi or SIM cards.
Traveling with Tattoos and you want to go to an Onsen:
To be honest, I wish I had prepped for this earlier because I have tattoos. I would suggest purchasing tattoo covers. Why? If you plan on going to an Onsen that is more traditional then they won't allow tattoos because in Japanese culture tattoos were always associated with the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia). There are some Onsens that are more modern and allow tattoos. You'd just have to search for them. Yelp is your friend!
I'm a girl and I love the idea of having access to shoes. If you're a girl you understand. Well, I've done a lot of traveling and came to realize that less is more (yes that saying is true). I recommend bringing one pair of sneakers and maybe a small heeled boot just to dress it up a little. But I think one pair of shoes is good enough and make sure you don't bring shoes that you just bought. Break into them or bring shoes you know are gonna be comfortable. Expect a lot of walking!
Google Maps or Apple Maps is your friend!
TheSibLims did not get to visit the Ghibli museum because when we found out about it was too late. JTB USA sold individual tickets to the Ghibli Museum, but they discontinued it. Now they only sell these tickets as a combo/deal with the JR Pass. Make sure you plan out your dates! You should purchase these tickets prior to your arrival in Japan. The museum does not sell tickets. The tickets are available for advanced purchase on the tenth day of the month for the following month. You can buy here.
I am Los Angeles based, so I travelled with TheSibLims from LAX. It took about 16 hours; we departed LAX to Tokyo, Narita at 11:45AM and arrived in Tokyo at 3:25PM. We went straight ahead and exchanged our JR pass and purchased a Narita Express round-trip ticket ($36 approx – reserve seats; 1.5 hr train ride to Shibuya) to Shibuya Station and we also purchased our SUICA transit card.
//Note// SUICA Transit Card
The SUICA card can be purchased using a credit card or Yen (¥) (Japanese Money) at a kiosk at the stations. If you own an Apple iPhone you can add the SUICA card to your Apple Wallet and it will automatically deduct from the card using your phone. Adding the card to your phone will show you the balance on your card as well. I found out about this too late, but it was a cool and interesting process to add to your phone. Wish we had that in California...
We stayed at an AirBnB in Shibuya. It was very close to Shibuya Station, but very confusing to find the little place. The owners gave us images as directions and some text, but they decided to use RED text on black images, so it was a little difficult to read. We eventually made it to our Air BnB.
I got to hand it to Japan for the way they make all of their appliance/furniture work in tiny spaces. Our toilet had a hand washer on top of it so it recycles the water you use to wash your hand so it goes into the toilet. Talk about genius!
I mean at first glance it does look kind of weird….
Things (TheSibLims) to do (did) at Shibuya, Japan
- Go see Shibuya Crossing
It’s the most iconic spot that a lot of people take photos of. It’s when’s you see all sides of the streets pedestrian walk way cross each other.
- Go visit Hachiko Statue
If you don’t know about Hachiko there is a Japanese film and American film based on this statue. Watch it.
- Shop at Tokyu Hands
They have the best and I mean the best stationary and pens galore! If you’re a big fan of Stationary and Pens. Check this place out!
- Visit the Meiji Shrine
When visiting Shrines you may see people around a water well/fountain and they take a little scoop of water and wash their hands and mouth. If you plan on visiting inside the Shrine it is best to wash your hands and mouth with the water outside the Shrine. (Correct me if I'm wrong). Just don't do what I did when I was about to put that scooper on my lip! (I swear I thought I saw people drinking from it... I guess it makes sense not to do that... possible herpes who knows.) DONT PUT THE SCOOPER ON YOUR LIP! Pour the water in your mouth and sip from your hands and then wash your hands.
Things to do at Harajuku, Japan
To get here you can take the Yamamote Line to Harajuku Station or walk from Meiji Shrine
- Takeshita Dori Street
They have lots of shops and things to see/buy here
- Harry’s Hedgehog Cafe
Super cuteee! If you love Hedgehogs you’ll love this place! They let you pet it–with gloves of course–but a totally fun experience.
Things to do at Shinjuku, Japan
- Shinjuku Gyoen
Large Park and if you go during February-April you may see some Cherry Blossoms
- Free Observation deck on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Pretty fun to view the an aerial of Shinjuku
- Robot Restaurant Show
TheSibLims didn’t go to this show, but I heard positive things about it from my friends
Exporing the West Side of Tokyo, Japan
- Daiwa Sushi near Toyosu Market Area
Popular Omakase Sushi Restaurant
- TeamLab Planets ($27)
Body Immersive Exhibit
- Aqua City Mall
We went to eat at their ramen plaza where you can choose from 6 different restaurants using Japanese Ramen Vending Machine
Things to do at Asasuka, Japan
- Sansoji Temple
- Shopping at Nakamise Dori Street
- Sumida Park
- Tokyo Skytree
Tallest tower in the world
Things to do at Ueno, Japan
- Ueno Park/Garden
- Tokyo National Museum ($7)
Things to do at Akihabara District
Known for anime/manga culture and electronics/gaming
- Electric Town
- Game centers
- Maid/Gundam Cafe
There are a ton of maids that will hand out ads for their maid cafe
- Ippudo Tea House in Tokyo Marunouchi
- Ichiran Ramen Restaurant
Things to do at Kyoto, Japan
In Kyoto, we stayed at Hotel Hokke Club Kyoto
- Ramen Street at Kyoto Train Station
- Nishiki Market
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
- Fushimi inure taisha
- Gion aka Geisha District
If you’re interested in Kimonos they have rentals here
- Visit Arashiyama Area
- Visit Higashiyama District
- Sannenzaka and Ninensaka
Shops and eateries!
- Kyomizu-dera Temple
- Sannenzaka and Ninensaka
Things to do at Nara, Japan
Take JR Nara line to Nara (approx 1 hr)
- Nara Deer Park
Be careful! The Deers bite, but if you’re lucky before feeding them you can bow and they bow back
Super tall Buddha
- Kasaguga Taisha Shrine
Most important shrine in Nara
Things to do at Osaka, Japan
- Osaka Castle
- Dontonbori Street
TheSibLims ate at Mizuno for Okonomiyaki. They were awarded a 2016 Michelin Star
Things to do at Miyajima and Hiroshima, Japan
Visit Rabbit Island (3 hour train ride)
– Kyoto to Fukuyama (Shinkansen Hikari, 95mins)
– Fukuyama to Mimara (Shinkansen Kodama, 23 mins)
– Mihara to Tadanoumi (JR Kure line, 20 mins)
– Tadanoumi to Okunoshima (Ferry, 12 mins, 300¥
Things to do at Miyajima, Japan
Shinkasen to Hiroshima then JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station then JR ferry to Miyajima
- Tori Gate/Floating Shrine
- Miyajima Ropeway ($17; 15 mins)
Things to do at Hiroshima, Japan
Take train from Miyajimaguchi Station to JR Hiroshima Station
- Atomic Bomb Dome
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Peace Memorial Park
Things to do at Hakone, Japan
Go to Kyoto Station, take the Tokaido (Hikari) Shinkansen to Odawara Station. From Odawara Station, take Hakone Tozan Railway for Hakone-Yumoto to Gora Station
Stayed at Gora Kansuiro. Hakone is known for their hot springs and there are a lot of traditional hot springs here! Our room had a private Onsen, so I was able to be there in comfort. We had a Kaseiki Dinner at the Hotel we stayed at.
//Note// Hakone, Japan
Not very much to do around here other than to hot spring it up.
Things to do at Ginza, Japan
We stayed at Ginza Capital Hotel Moegi
- Cafe de L’Ambre
Known for there aged coffee beans. Really good if you’re a coffee lover!
- Barracude Jige Restaurant
Yummmmmmm!!! Yakitori place
- Tsuki Fish Market
- Turret Coffee
What I noticed about this place is that they had stickers from cities by Patagonia. It was pretty awesome to look at.
If you have any other recommendations that you think is a must have to visit. Comment below!