Japan Travel Guide – How to travel Japan

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Japan is probably within every traveler’s top 10 travel destinations. What is it with Japan that is so fascinating to us weary travelers. Is it its amazing century-old history and traditions, which are still being upheld today? How about the amazing food? Maybe the varied nature and stunning landscapes? Or maybe it’s the incredible level of hospitality shown by its people? Personally, I think it’s all of it and that’s what keeps people coming back.

One trip will never be enough to discover the totality of what Japan has to offer. But for the purpose of this guide, it’s all about creating the best travel itinerary for a first-time visitor.  I was such a visitor not too long ago and with the added experience from being there myself, I thought it would be a good idea to share it with anyone needing a little help. Trust me, I know the pain of spending countless hours planning a whole trip.

If you haven’t already, consider checking out my video guide below for more info.

Before we start here’s a few things you need to know:

  • The travel guide will be based on my own Japan trip back in the summer of 2018. Here I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. As such, this travel guide will follow my travels chronologically as an outline.
  • The duration of the trip was a little over two weeks and If you plan to visit the same amount of cities as I did, then I recommend having at least two weeks or more. Two weeks will allow you to explore Japan at your own pace without the need to rush things. Yes, you can probably do it under two weeks if you’re following a tight schedule and know exactly the things you want to experience, but be warned, travels can be bumpy rides and unexpected things can happen. So make sure you have an adequate amount of time for all your activities.
  • This guide is mostly targeted for budget travelers, therefore, many of the activities are either free or relatively affordable. I will, however, suggest a few different price classes in terms of accommodations for you to choose from. My budget for the trip was around 1000 USD for activities + food and an additional 1000 USD for accommodations, so Japan can definitely be affordable.
  • Lastly, the guide is for first-time travelers and will include a list of the basic information you need to know, as well as a list of activities that are a must for first-timers. As with anything, you do not need to follow the guide to the letter. Take what you can use and discard the rest, this is your Japan trip.

tokyo - Japan travel guide

Tokyo

Tokyo is truly a mega-city, it’s the most populated metropolis in the world with over 37million people living within the area of Greater Tokyo. There’s is almost an endless amount of activities and places to see just within the Tokyo Metropolitan area, which is quite astonishing come to think of it.

It’s also THE place to eat, as the city has the most number of Michelin stars in the world. But even if you aren’t a Michelin snob, there are so many other tasty places that you can spend weeks or months simply just eating through the city. Trust me, the food here is on a whole other level.

And if you think it’ll be hard to get around the city then fret not. Tokyo probably has the most developed transportation network on the planet. You can get to anywhere and any place via public transportation. This also includes other major cities such as Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Hiroshima and many more.

So how long should you be staying in Tokyo? To be honest, there isn’t really a right answer because it all depends on what you’re looking to experience. As such, I can only base my answer on my own trip and what I wanted to do during my time here. I recommend staying in Tokyo for at least 4-5 days to a whole week. It should allow you to visit all the major landmarks such as the Tokyo tower, Shibuya crossing and all the rest. You can easily add an additional week if you want to, and you still won’t run out of things to do, such is the vastness of what’s on offer in Tokyo.

Where to stay in Tokyo

It doesn’t have to be expensive to stay in Tokyo. I think there’s a common misconception that everything is expensive here. While you can say that for many developed cities, Tokyo isn’t more expensive compared to cities such as London or New York. In fact, Tokyo can be quite affordable depending on the type of traveler you are and the type of experiences you are seeking that includes accommodations. I’ve rounded up three accommodation options for you to consider. Ranging from the affordable to the little more extravagant.

As for particular areas to stay in, I would recommend either Shinjuku or Harajuku, both are super central but different in atmosphere. Shinjuku is known for its drinking and entertainment scene including famous places such as Golden Gai and Kabukicho. While Harajuku is more relaxed and known for its quirky fashion styles and picturesque streets. To be honest, you won’t go wrong with any area as long as you remain central and close to metro station.


The Cheap Options: APA-Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho

You won’t get more central then right in the middle of the Kabukicho entertainment district. The APA Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho is an affordable and centrally located hotel, which offers clean but small rooms. The key attraction here is the location and being right next to Shinjuku Station which serves as one of the main transportation hubs in the city. The hotel is clearly aimed at business visitors and you can quickly see that in its design and offerings. But if you’re planning to spend most of your time outdoors and want to keep your cost low, then the hotel offers all the basic necessities you need for a comfortable stay in Tokyo.

The Middle Option: Wired Hotel

For a step up then check out the Wired Hotel located in Asakusa near the famous Senso-Ji temple. The hotel is a hip, modern and sleek place to stay. It has a handcrafted feel to its design and the crowd you’ll find here are mostly of the young and trendy kin. You can either stay in a dorm-type room but I highly recommend getting a private room with your own balcony for a nice view. The hotel also offers a free tour around the neighborhood, where you’ll get some recommendations on things to do in and around of Asakusa. Oh, and the place has some very strong Wifi if that matters to you at all.

The Expensive Option: The Trunk Hotel

Honestly, you can probably always stay at high-class hotels such as your Four Seasons, Ritz or Grand Hyatts. But I’m personally more into unique hotels that are a little different to the norm. If I had to pick one place then it would be The Trunk Hotel. The hotel has a minimalist design to its rooms and interior which I really like and it has several different types of rooms suitable for either couples or a large family. The hotel is also located in Shibuya which is as central as you can get, and the place comes with its own bar for anyone feeling a bit thirsty during the evening hours. But the real attraction here is its design and just how the whole place looks. Plus, it helps that it’s relatively affordable when compared to other top-tier hotels in Tokyo.

The Different Option: 9 Hours Capsule Hotel + First Cabin

Well, you’ve probably heard about these capsule-like dorm hotels and why wouldn’t you. Capsule hotels have exploded in popularity in recent years, as it offers clean and basic accommodation options at very affordable prices. There are several great capsule hotel chains in Tokyo, but if I had to pick one which I find is synonymous to the capsule hotel movement, then it has to be the 9 Hours Capsule Hotel. You can find several 9 hours capsule hotels in Tokyo and they all come with their distinct minimalistic design with the space-like sleeping pods as the main attraction.  Alternatively, if you need a little more room then you might consider First Cabin. For someone who’s stayed at 9 hours, the offerings at First Cabin almost seems luxurious. Here you can get your own single bed or even something similar to a private room if needed. While the walls don’t offer much in acoustic privacy it still is a heck of a lot better than your standard sleeping pod.

Things to do in Tokyo

There are way too many things to do in Tokyo so I won’t even try to cover it all. I refer to my Japan travel guide video for additional suggestions, but in this article, I’m just going to brush through the essentials.

      • Tokyo Tower: Every first-time traveler needs to visit the iconic Tokyo Tower. Pay no attention to the well-traveled snobs or anyone who says otherwise – I mean of course it is a tourist magnet – but if it’s your first time in Tokyo then it’s kind of like a rite of passage. It’s like going to Paris without visiting the Eiffel tower. It’s weird not to.
      • Tsujiki Market: While they have moved the inner markets to the new manmade island near Toyosu. Tsujiki still has its outer market which has plenty on offer.

      • Shibuya Crossing: One of the great sights of the city and something that shouldn’t be missed. If you want to compare it to something then it would have to be Time Square in New York, but that would be an understatement. Because nothing is really comparable to a massive chaotic sea of people conjoining into each other in a seamlessly orderly fashion.
      • Explore Harajuku: When I say explore Harajuku you might think I only mean the famous Takeshita street. Sure, it’s perhaps the most well-known area for anyone looking to witness the wonderful and weird. But Harajuku has a lot of cool side streets and areas worthy of exploration including the “Now is forever” mural.

      • teamLaB borderless + teamLaB Planets: teamLab is behind some of the most jaw-dropping digital art museums I’ve ever visited. By far one of my most memorable experiences and I wish I could experience something similar back home.

      • Explore Akihabara: Yes, venture into the land of Anime and Manga. Even if you aren’t a big nerd it really is still a place worth visiting. I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t find it amusing to explore the famous Don Quijote shop in the middle of Akihabara. I also recommend goofing around in the arcades and who knows, you might actually win a prize.
      • Visit Senso-Ji Temple and the Meiji Shrine: There’s a couple of temples and shrines in Tokyo but the two must-visit is surely the ancient Senso-ji Temple and the Meiji Shrine found in Yoyogi Park. These are the two places you absolutely should not miss when in Tokyo.

Places to Eat in Tokyo

Japan is literally food heaven. I’ve never been to a place where almost every local dish looks absolutely mouthwatering. It’s no surprise that Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin starred restaurants on the planet. However, this guide won’t focus on just Michelin restaurants (okay maybe one) as there’s plenty of guides out there that does exactly that. Instead, I’m just going to list a few of the places that I enjoyed during my time in the city:

      • Ichiran Ramen: The world famous Ichiran Ramen Chain should be on every foodie’s must-eat list. The chain has become so popular that it has even opened its first US store in New York.  Immensely popular amongst locals and tourists alike, they serve tonkatsu ramen with different combinations depending on your taste buds. Although it may not be as cheap as some smaller ramen stores, it’s still very affordable for what you get.

      • Nakiryu: One of the two ramen shops which have received the prestigious Michelin Star for its ramen. You can often find a long queue in front of the store when visiting Nakiryu. And since there’s no table booking at the store, there is no other way then to show up bright and early if you want a seat. I would recommend going for their famous Tantanmen as shown in the picture above. Although they also make a nice Shoyu Ramen. I didn’t find it to be particularly better than other places.
      • Yoroniku: I must admit, I never tried Yoroniku when I was here in Tokyo. But I figured I had to add a Yakinku place on the list, and if I had to try one place, then I would’ve picked Yoroniku. If you’ve tried Korean BBQ before then you wouldn’t feel out of place here. It’s practically the same thing. Order the 9000 yen set menu and feast the evening away.
      • Fuunji: Another ramen store? You might be thinking I’m some ramen freak. But in reality, Fuunji isn’t any other ramen store and in actuality serves something called tsukemen rather than ramen. The difference you may ask? Tsukemen is a dish which comes with a heavy broth in a sauce-like consistency, while the noodles are served in an accompanying bowl. You eat the dish by taking the noodles and dipping them into the sauce. You can thank me later.

      • Manten Sushi: I was deciding between the ever popular Uobei Sushi and Manten Sushi for this spot. I decided Manten, as you’ll probably visit Uobei regardless of what I say. As such, I thought I might as well give Manten some deserved spotlight. Manten is a step up in sushi compared to the conveyor belt sushi spots you’ll find in Tokyo. I guess you could categorize it as a mid-to-high tier sushi place. The prices are around the affordable range when compared to sushi of equal quality found back home in the west. So if you want some darn good sushi without feeling you sold an arm for it. Then find Manten sushi, the shop is located near Tokyo’s main Station and next to the Imperial Palace.
      • Kyubey Sushi Restaurant: There are so many good sushi restaurants in Tokyo, and if you’re a sushi aficionado, you probably already know where to go. Kyubey may not be a Michelin starred restaurants such as the likes of Jiro and Saito. But it’s the place which has trained many of the city’s most famous sushi chefs. As such, the level of sushi here is very high and yet not too expensive compared to its Michelin compatriots. So if you want a very good sushi experience without booking months ahead then consider Kyubey.
      • Tokyo Saryo: Alright, so this place is mostly a beverage spot rather than a food venue. But I wanted to add this place on the list, as I really enjoyed the unique experience at Tokyo Saryo. Tokyo Saryo serves selected green teas along with a few snacks. But it’s really the experience of seeing your tea getting brewed right in front of you, as well as interacting with the knowledgeable server. The store is minimalistic in design. Everything about the store seems to be planned with the utmost attention to detail. The lady who served me was super attentive and friendly. It’s one place I’ll be sure to visit again.

Kyoto

After Tokyo, we hopped on the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto, the ancient capital. For me, Kyoto is the real Japan. What I mean by that is that everyone has an image in their head on how Japan would be like. Some individuals like the image of tall skyscrapers and neon lights. While I picture traditional buildings, old wooden houses, temples, and shrines. There isn’t a right or wrong imagery as Japan offers both such settings. But for me, Kyoto was my favorite place in Japan despite the sheer amount of tourists there.

A one-way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkansen will run you about 13.000 yen. If you plan to use the shinkansen multiple times during your own trip, you might consider getting the Japan Rail Pass, which includes unlimited rides on the Shinkansen within a given timeframe of 1-3 weeks.

For more information about the Japan Rail Pass check out the official website at http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/

As for the duration, I spent around 4 days in Kyoto. It was a good amount of time for one to casually explore the city at a slow pace.

Where to Stay in Kyoto

I recommend staying anywhere near the old Gion district, which will be the main area you’ll spend most of your time in. But as always, Japanese cities have great public transportation and that includes Kyoto. So you won’t be too far from anything, as long you’re near a metro or bus station. Ideally, you’ll want to be at a walking distance to Gion to save transportation costs, while you can take a bus or train to reach more remote areas such as the Fushimi-Inari shrine or Arashiyama.

The Cheap Option: Grand Japaning Hotel Kuromonsanjo

If you’re looking for an affordable hotel, then you won’t go wrong with choosing one of the many Grand Japaning Hotels spread around Kyoto. I opted for the Grand Japaning Hotel Kuromonsanjo as it’s located centrally and it’s only a short 10min walk to the old Gion district. The hotel itself has no staff and it’s a completely self-check-in experience, while all communication to and from the hotel is centralized to their small office in downtown Kyoto. You’ll be able to reach them via a telephone found at the reception desk. It’s definitely slightly odd with the “no-staff-concept” but it works. The rooms are adequate in size and stocked with the basics necessities. They do have a particular policy with only changing the bed sheets every 3-4 days. So do have that in mind before booking.

The Middle Option: Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Hongan-G

If you want an upgrade and really get the essential Kyoto experience, then you’ll need to stay at a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese Inn. Usually, Ryokans provide rooms in the traditional Japanese style with tatami mats and futon beds. They also more often than not come at a premium price. But there are still some value-for-money options in Kyoto such as the Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Hongan-G. Now there are certainly more impressive Ryokans in Kyoto, and I will be mentioning one later on, but for the price, I don’t think you can complain about Sakura Hongan-G. Make sure to pick the room with the garden view if you decide to book a room here!

The Expensive Option: Rangetsu

For a place with a bit more “oomph”, then Rangetsu should be on your shortlist. It’s one of several ryokans in the Arashiyama area, but this one comes with its own source of natural hot spring. Which means you can book rooms with your own private onsen aka. private open-air baths. What’s more amazing with Rangetsu is the accompanying view which comes with the deluxe rooms. This is quite unique, as most ryokans with private onsens in Kyoto are closed-off with no view at all. So if you’re fine with splashing some cash then consider Rangetsu.

Things to do in Kyoto

          • Explore Gion: One of the main attractions in the city, you can spend days walking through the ancient streets of Gion. From the atmospheric Pontocho alley to the beautiful Hanami-koji with it’s wandering geishas. Do yourself a favor and simply wander around these ancient streets, you’ll never know what you might find.

      • Temple-hopping: There are over 1600 temples alone in Kyoto, so it’s sure to say you’ll probably won’t be able to visit them all during one trip. But that’s perfectly fine as some temples are more impressive than others. Since this is a first-timer guide, I would highly suggest visiting the main temples including Nanzen-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Tenryu-ji and the Yasaka shrine. There are plenty more, but I feel these are the essential ones in Kyoto.
      • Try out the local foods at Nishiki Market: There is usually a market at every major Japanese city and Kyoto is no different. The food area of Nishiki Market consists of a long and narrow pathway filled with hundreds of local food vendors. Come here to explore the great local cuisine and feast on anything that looks remotely delicious will be my advice.

      • Visit Arashiyama: Another area worth exploring other than Gion is Arashiyama. Located in the northwestern region of the city, you’ll find the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove as well as the Tenryu-Ji temple. There is also the tourist favorite Iwatayama Monkey Park, which features the famous monkeys you’ve probably seen in a dozen photos. It’s a nice change of scenery compared to downtown Kyoto.

      • Fushimi-Inari Shrine: This is perhaps the most famous and well-known location in all of Kyoto. With its thousands of red torii-gates, Fushimi-Inari is a tourist magnet and I recommend getting here as early as possible to avoid the crowd. Still, even if you’re unable to do so, it’s still a must visit when you’re in Kyoto. If you plan to climb to the top, just know it’ll take you about 3 hours at a moderate pace.

Places to Eat in Kyoto

Although not comparable to the sheer amount of options you can find in places such as Tokyo. Kyoto still has its own host of great food locations to try out. Here are just a few of them:

      • Kichi Kichi: From Buzzfeed famedom, Kichi Kichi is known for their spin on the classic Japanese dish Omurice. The restaurant is extremely popular and a booking has to be made 3-6months prior to the date of visiting, to ensure a spot at the charming chef’s establishment. I was unfortunately not aware of this so learn from my mistake.

      • Kagizen Yoshifusa Honten: When in Kyoto you cannot pass up on Japanese Traditional Sweets. One store that serves some of the best around is Kagizen Yoshifusa, which located in Gion on the main Shijo-Dori. Order their famous Kuzukiri noodles and let me know what you think.

      • Yakiniku Hiro: Is a good Yakiniku place with an affordable price. Located in the Pontocho area, the restaurant serves a wide selection of Wagyu beef and set menus for your choosing.

      • Ramen Muraji: For ramen lovers, then try out Ramen Muraji.  The store is known for its lemon-flavored ramen which is worthy for any Instagram food snap.

      • Sushi Tetsu: Kyoto isn’t famous for sushi since the city itself is nowhere near the sea. But if you need to satisfy your sushi needs without paying too much for it. Then I can recommend Sushi Tetsu as a viable option. There is also the more famous Musashi Sushi which offers a conveyor belt option.

      • Hachidaime Gihey: A trip to Kyoto would not be complete with a Kaiseki-style dinner. Although you can find some pretty exuberant ones at places such as Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama. A more value-for-money option is the meals offered by Hachidaime Gihey located near the Yasaka shrine.

Osaka

Just southwest of Kyoto, you’ll find another of the great Japanese cities, Osaka.

What Osaka brings to the table is a city with a never-ending hunger for parties, drinks, food and more food. This isn’t a coincidence as many of Japan’s most famous dishes originates from Osaka. You might even call Osaka the kitchen of Japan. Therefore, it’s a fantastic place for anyone interested in great Japanese food as there’s literally a good place around every street corner.

Where to Stay in Osaka

As for where to stay in Osaka, I recommend anywhere near the Minami area, also known as Namba. This is where you’ll find the most action in the city while being near famous locations such as the Dotonbori. For a more quieter area, then anywhere around the Osaka castle would be my choice. But as mentioned earlier, all major cities in Japan are well connected so you won’t be too far from anywhere as long you’re near some public transportation.

The Cheap Option: Osaka Ebisu Hotel 

The Osaka Ebisu Hotel is a no bells and whistles hotel. It simply offers a basic clean and adequate hotel stay. Located near the Ebisucho station the hotel is only a short train ride away from Namba and Dotonbori which is where all the action happens. So if you’re on a budget and you want to stay relatively close to Dotonbori then consider this hotel.

The Middle Option: Hotel & Resort Bali Tower Tennoji

The Hotel & Resort Bali Tower is a hotel that is interestingly enough decorated in a resort type of feel hence the name. The interior comes in an Indonesian style akin to my time in Bali. But overall the rooms are fairly large and nice, while the hotel itself is located within a short walk to the Tennoji Station and Tennoji Zoo.  The hotel has several room types which makes it ideal for larger groups of travelers as well as just couples.

The Expensive Option: Swissotel Nankai Osaka

If you have the money to burn then have a look at the Swissotel Nankai Osaka. This is quite honestly a very beautiful hotel and the hotel itself is situated right on top of the Nankai Railway at Namba Station.  It features a 36-floor plan which offers a wonderful view over the city. As with any 5-star hotel, it comes with several dining options within the hotel itself such as Chinese Dim Sum, Japanese Kaiseki Dinners and even Mediterranean food. You can also find the regular spa and fitness area to keep yourself in shape while eating away in Osaka. All in all, you can’t really go wrong with this place if you’re willing to pay the price.

Things to do in Osaka

      • Explore Dotonbori: This is probably the one thing you should not miss out on. It’s here you can find the iconic Glico Man sign as well as taste some of the finest food in town. It’s usually a very busy and packed area so expect tons of tourists and chaos around you.
      • Amerikamura: Young, Wild, and Hip, Osaka’s equivalent to Tokyo’s Harajuku. If you’re into fashion and perhaps like to score a deal while thrift shopping then you’ll need to spend some time in Amerikamura. It’s basically the fashion hotspot of Osaka and it’s where you’ll usually spot the latest fashion trends in the city. Young, wild and hip.
      • Visit the Kuromon Market: As always I’m a big proponent of visiting a city’s main market. It’s a great way to get a sense of the city and fortunately enough Osaka has one of the finest markets in the country.
      • Eat, Eat, Drink, and Eat Some More: If you don’t know already, I’m a big foodie. So you can imagine the amount of time I spent stuffing my face in all the delicious food in Osaka. This is one of the main attractions of coming to Osaka, Japan’s so-called “kitchen”.
      • Visit Osaka Castle: The main castle of the city and a quite impressive one. If you aren’t tired of historical buildings already then you might as well visit the Osaka castle.
      • Umeda Sky Building: The alternative to the Osaka Castle would be the more modern Umeda Sky building, which provides a pretty unbeatable view over the entire city.  It’s also iconic for its escalators which gives you an almost 360 degrees view while riding up.
      • Enjoy Shinsekai by Night: Shinsekai is located in the southern part of Namba and the name is loosely translated to “The New World”. I recommend visiting here around night time as you’ll get to see this area at its finest with the store lights filling the streets.
      • Be amazed by the Osaka Aquarium: Definitely one of the highlights during my trip. Also, don’t forget to take a ride on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel which is located right next door to the Aquarium.

Places to Eat in Osaka

      • Okaru – for some of the best Okonomiyaki in town
      • Tayutayu Nanba Sennichimae – For some pork-focused Yakitori

      • Kukuru – It’s almost a customary thing to get some takoyaki while in Osaka and Kukuru is one of the places to try them out. Just look for the giant octopus sign!

      • Pablo – The famous Pablo cheesecakes are a must-try for anyone visiting Osaka. While it may not be the very best cheesecake in your life, it’s still pretty darn good.

      • Yakiniku M – It wouldn’t be a proper list without some Yakiniku and while this place might not be anything special. It offers you the chance to taste some Matsusakagyu which is ranked at the same level as Kobe beef.

      • Mugitomensuke- While you’ll still be able to find your Ichirans and Ippudos in Osaka. I recommend trying something local and one of the best ramen places is Mugitomensuke.

Nara

Nara is a small town located south of Kyoto. Nara is most famous for its park where you’ll find the hundreds of free-roaming deer that you’ve probably seen in many photos. Besides the deer, Nara park also offers several temples and shrines such as the Todai-ji Temple as well as museums such as the Nara National Museum.

Now, most people would settle for a day trip to Nara either from Kyoto or Osaka, which is perfectly fine if you just want to spend a few hours in the park. However, there are much more to Nara than just the park and a simple day tour would simply not give you enough time to explore. Instead, I suggest staying a night or two in Nara, as that’ll give you plenty of time to not only explore the park but also in-and-around the town itself.

Where to Stay in Nara

Nara Visitor Inn Center

If you’re ever going to Nara then I can only recommend one place and that’s the Nara Visitor Center & Inn. Sure, you can probably find some nice hotels or ryokan but for me. the Nara Visitor Center has it all. It’s centrally located, it has Japanese traditional rooms, the staff is superb, you have a lot of travel resources to aid you (due to it being a visitor center) and it’s right next to Nara Park. Best of all, it’s super affordable!


Things to do in Nara

      • Nara Park: The main attraction of Nara and possibly where you’ll find most of your activities. The park itself is quite large so take your time and explore the many attractions within the park.
      • Todai-ji Temple: There are several temples in Nara and the majority of them lies within Nara Park.  The main temple is Todai-ji temple and it’s perhaps the most impressive with its
      • Meet the deer: Other than the park, most people probably visit Nara for the free-roaming deer. You can buy small crackers at vendors which are specifically made for the deer. Just be warned though, once you break out those crackers, you’ll be the most popular gal around the block.
      • Hike Mount Wakakusa: Is actually more a hill than a mountain but it provides for a great opportunity for a nice little hike or the very least some exercise. In addition, it provides a decent view over the city.

      • Isui-en garden: If you’re just as fascinated with Japanese gardens as I am then you’ll love Isui-en. There’s also a free museum right next door for some added value.
      • Higashimuki Shotengai Shopping Arcade: Every Japanese city or town will have shopping arcade and Nara is no different. You’ll find anything from local foods or small unique gifts. I mostly spent time here trying out all the delicious food. But if you’re looking for a souvenir gift then you’ll probably be able to find one here.

Places to Eat in Nara

While the offerings are not as overwhelming as in the other cities in this guide. Nara still has some great local places to try out:

      • Okonomiyaki Parco – If you haven’t had enough of this already then Parco is the place
      • Sakura Burger – A little piece of America found in Nara.
      • Tonkatsu Ganko – If you’re up for some tonkatsu then Tonkatsu Ganko makes a pretty decent one.
      •  
      • Sakura Japanese Sweets – Charming old couple serves tasty traditional sweets in an old Japanese house what can be better than that
      • Lamp Bar – So I know this isn’t a restaurant but you honestly shouldn’t miss out on Lamp Bar. Regarded as one the best bars in the world it’s the perfect place to wind down after a busy day.

Closing Words

Alright, I hope this Japan Travel Guide gave you some inspiration for your upcoming Japan trip. I didn’t want to make the guide overly complicated and I didn’t want to provide a strict itinerary, as I want to encourage you to simply explore freely and take your time while in Japan. It’s never easy to boil down everything into a simple travel guide, so if you do have further questions then ask me in the comments below or on my YouTube video, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Anyways remember you’re heading to Japan, one the most amazing countries around, so enjoy your travels and make the most of it!

2 Comments

  1. Hello! Your guide was beautifully shot and narrated! I had a couple of questions about your personal itinerary. How many days did you spend in each city? I’m trying to figure out the appropriate amount of time to spend in each city to get a good feel of it, and I want to know if it would be better to purchase the 14-day or 7 day pass. Would 7 days be too short to explore the Kansai region? I would be traveling from Tokyo and my total stay in Japan would be around 15 days. Also, were there any other experiences you would want to check out/do the next time you fly back out to Japan?

  2. Wow Al – this must take a long time to do all of this =) – something i’ve been meaning to do as well. As always well written, would easily recommend anyone who prefers to read to this Great guide!

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