8 day Japan itinerary wandering the cities and enjoying the culture of Tokyo and Kyoto.
AsiaJapan8 days / August 2019
Highs & Lows
Fresh sushi is never far!
Extreme heat made some activities pretty unbearable.
We landed in Tokyo in the middle of August, in the middle of a big heat wave. We spent 4 days exploring the city, enjoying delicious fresh food, and visiting temples. Not nearly enough time to explore everything but we hit the main highlights! We then took a high-speed train to Kyoto - train travel in Japan is so easy - and spent another 4 days enjoying the unique vibe of Kyoto. In addition to all of the ramen we ate, we took a ramen-making class as well to learn how to make it back home. Since the heat was so extreme while we were there, we ended up doing several typical daytime activities after sunset when it was slightly cooler, which gave our trip a unique experience! My flight was back out of Tokyo, so we took the train all the way back to Tokyo to fly back home. Be sure to check out the views of Mount Fuji from the train!
Tokyo was the first place I ever visited in Asia, and it was an amazing welcome. The city is huge and incredibly busy, we went to Shibuya Crossing - one of the busiest intersections in the world - and just marveled at the number of people. One of my favorite things about the city how modern it is with huge skyscrapers everywhere and technology everywhere you look, but then in the middle of all of that you will find an ancient sacred temple. The juxtaposition is beautiful and makes the city very special.
Something we really enjoyed was all of the different vending machines scattered around the city. Not just typical snack and drink vending machines, but vending machines that make meals, have toys, books, pretty much anything you can imagine. In fact, many ramen restaurants use vending machines rather than waiters to take your order. You walk in, choose the meal you want on the vending machine, then give the resulting ticket to the person behind the counter. There are endless experiences like that which make Tokyo such a unique place to visit.
Just an easy train ride away from Tokyo is Kyoto, which is just as worth visiting as Tokyo. It is a much smaller city and has a vibe much more focused on tradition and culture. There are beautiful sacred temples all over the city, each worth visiting for its own unique architecture and history. One of the most popular things to do in Kyoto is visit the Fushimi Inari-taisha temple and then take the 8km hike through the arches to the top of Mount Inari. We attempted to start the hike one day while we were there, but since it was so extremely hot (110 degrees Fahrenheit, 43 degrees celsius) we didn't think we could handle the hike in the sun. So, we ended up going back that night after sunset and doing the hike in the dark. It was still very hot (86 degrees F, 30 degrees C) but much more manageable. Since Japan is so safe we felt totally comfortable hiking at night even though there was nobody else around, the only thing we had to keep an eye out for was wild boars!
Our favorite local spot was a coffee shop / Thai restaurant (fun combo!) called Hibi Coffee. We went there for coffee every morning and ate Thai food there for dinner one night. Hibi himself was always working behind the counter, and we really enjoyed being regulars for the few days we were there!
Q & A
What would you have changed?We would have stayed at least a week in each city if we had more time! We felt a bit rushed.
Anything go wrong during the trip?We were there right in the middle of a heat wave. Just walking around the cities was exhausting and we were constantly looking for places with air conditioner to get some relief. We would definitely go back a different time of year next time!
Tips you would give a friend?if you can go for minimun 2 weeks
Transportation Tips?If you plan on taking multiple trains, consider buying a rail pass! They're not cheap, but it will save you money in the long run.
Any surprises?Sushi from 7/11 is surprisingly good! Actually, all food from 7/11 was good - it's a very different cuisine experience than the 7/11's we're used to back home.