One Week in Tokyo

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Tokyo is one of our favorite cities in the world and a must-see while you are in Japan.  Tokyo offers the perfect combination of culture with the benefits of a large cosmopolitan city – great restaurants, shopping, outstanding public transportation, and nightlife.  Tokyo will not leave you disappointed and you will leave the city wanting to come back for more.

In order to be able to experience Tokyo at its fullest, you will need to spend at least one week in Tokyo.  Below is great one week itinerary of top places to visit while you are in Tokyo.  Please note you will also need some time at the beginning of your trip to get adjusted to the time difference depending on where you are coming from.

Day 1

Shibuya

Shibuya is known for its famous pedestrian scramble, which you will experience upon exiting the Shibuya Station.  This district is also known as one of Tokyo’s most popular fashion districts for the shopping places around Shibuya Station, as well as the nightclubs and restaurants in the area.

Meiji Shrine

A visit to Tokyo would not be complete without seeing the Meiji Shrine and the gardens surrounding it.  Meiji Shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and is located beside the Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line.

Omotesando

Omotesando, which is often referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees, is a scenic tree lined avenue known for its stores, restaurants, and cafés. Be sure to walk around the small alleys for some amazing restaurants and cafés.

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Kyoto, Japan

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Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in Japan because of its rich history and for being one of the oldest metropolises in Japan.  Kyoto is all about its beautiful temples and shrines; of which most are located in scenic mountainous locations.  You will need at least 3 days in Kyoto to explore everything the city has to offer.

Must-sees

Kiyomizudera temple

Kiyomizu-dera temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  This temple has one of the most picturesque scenes you will experience while in Kyoto.  Kiyomizu-dera sits on top of a mountain and provides magnificent views of the city.  These views and the rich history of the temple make it one of the most visited temples in Kyoto.  On the way down from Kiyomizu-dera, you will find cobble-stone streets with vendors and tea shops for all your souvenir shopping.

Kinkaku-ji (“Temple of the Golden Pavilion“)

Kinkaku-ji is a picture perfect image of Kyoto.  The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf, which is what makes this temple so impressive and worth seeing.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites and served as the residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns.  The castle itself is beautiful, as well as the very expansive gardens that surround the castle.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha is known for its thousand lacquered gates that travel from the base of a mountain to about 4 kilometers hillside.  This is the head shrine of Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity.  Walking the mountain trails can take up to 3 hours but make sure you reach the lake that is nestled into the mountain side.  The lake and the mountains provide spectacular views.

Sanjusangen-do

Sanjusangen-do is a must-see while in Kyoto.  It is 120 meters in length making it Japan’s longest wooden structure.  Also, Sanjusangen-do is most famous for holding 1,000 statues of Kannon (the goddess of mercy) and 28 statues of guardian deities. In addition, Sanjusangen-do also houses a large wooden statue of a 1,000-armed Kannon.

Worth Noting

The above recommendations are for a 3 day in stay in Kyoto. For additional sites and places to visit, Fodor’s Japan guide is amazing and full of great recommendations. Japanguide.com is also a great resource.

Walking tours are very popular in Kyoto and are a great way to get to know the city.  WaRaiDo Guide Networks Co., Ltd. offers a phenomenal 5 hour walking tour in English.  This tour will take you to the non touristy spots while you learn more about the history and culture of Japan.

Side Trip

You can take a side trip to Nara, a Unesco World Heritage site, which is only 45 minutes by train from Kyoto.  For more on Nara, visit our one day recommendations on this beautiful city.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

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Photo of the Day: Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi_Inari_Taisha Fushimi Inari Taisha is an important Shinto shrine in Kyoto dedicated to Inari, the god of rice.  Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for the thousands of red torii gates leading up to the mountain, making it a must-see destination in Kyoto.

Photo of the Day: Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo, Japan

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Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

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The Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, making it a major tourist destination for visitors around the world.  Inside the market you will get a close look at the hundreds of varieties of seafood being sold to professional buyers, while experiencing an unforgettable sight and smell.  The inner market is only open until 9am.  If you will like to experience the tuna auction be sure to get to the market by 5am.  Please note only a certain number of people are admitted to the tuna auction and there are certain seasons when visitors are completely forbidden from watching the auction.

The Tsukiji Market also has an outer area, where you will be able to find anything from food to Japanese kitchen tools, including handmade knifes and serving utensils.  There are also a number of sushi restaurants in the outer market where you will get to eat the freshest sushi in the world.

You can access the market by taking the Toei Oedo subway line to Tsukiji Shijo Station, or the Hibiya subway line to Tsukiji Station.

Lastly, be sure to dress appropriately if you are visiting the inner market because the floors are filled with dirty water, as the fishermen try to clean their selling stations.

For more information on the Tsukiji Market, please visit japan-guide.com.

One Day in Nara, Japan

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If you are looking for a side trip destination from Kyoto, Nara is the perfect place to go.  Nara Prefecture is a Unesco World Heritage site known for its sacred deer and breathtaking scenery.  Nara is a short train ride from Kyoto, about a 46 minutes on the JR rapid express service.  Most visitors go for a day trip from either Kyoto or Osaka to Nara.

Nara has many beautiful gardens, galleries and landmark temples and shrines to visit due to once being Japan’s capital.  Upon arriving at Nara, make sure to visit the tourist office located at the train terminal to obtain a map of the city and directions on how to get to the tourist destinations.  Most sites are within easily accessible distance by the city loop bus, which you can catch from the JR Nara Station.  [Read more…]