First Time in Japan – Travel Itinerary

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Ginza, Tokyo, Japan

There is a lot to do in Japan and planning your very first trip could seem daunting. For our own maiden trip to Japan, our initial thoughts were to cover Tokyo and nearby cities and then fly to Hokkaido and spend a few days there. Later though, we decided that for a 11 days trip it will be a lot of running around so we changed our plans and decided to soak in the places at a slower, more relaxed pace. Here is what we covered overall.

  • Tokyo (Day 1-4) – Explore this sprawling metropolis
  • Hakuba (Day 5-6) – Relax and enjoy some peace, quiet and natural beauty at this little ski village. We took our very first ski lessons ever ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Hakone (Day 7-8) – Enjoy the slow pace in this small town and take a day tour to enjoy beautiful landscapes
  • Kyoto (Day 9-11) – Soak in the historic side of Japan in this former capital

Here is some useful information, before you start planning your own trips.

Getting to Japan – Wherever you are in the world, chances are that you will land in Tokyo most likely. There are two airports you can fly into – Narita and Haneda. Haneda is closer to the city and to get to the city you can take buses. Narita is further away and best option is to take the Narita Express that runs every 30 mins

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A boat cruise on Lake Ashi, Hakone, Japan

Getting around in Japan – Public transport is great and very efficient so just get subway passes in places like Tokyo and Kyoto. For intercity travel on the Shinkansen (bullet trains) invest in the Japan Rail Pass. Do note that the JR pass also works on certain lines in the city subways, so check before you plan your day. Make sure to collect your JR passes at the airport. We purchased the passes online and collected the passes at Narita.

To get to Hakuba, we boarded the Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Nagano. And from Nagano took a one hour bus ride to Hakuba. From Nagano to Hakone, we took the Shinkansen again first to Tokyo and from there to Hakone. From Hakone to Kyoto was another Shinkansen ride. And then to fly out, Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo and then from Tokyo station to Narita by Narita Express. It may seem like a lot but the journeys are quite seamless and convenient in Japan

Understanding the Shinkansen? Read this very helpful guide, link here.

When to visit – We visited in late winter as it’s the non-peak season. It was a welcome change for us and we enjoyed the winter days. Cherry Blossom is obviously the peak tourist season but that also means loads of crowds, high prices and advance bookings for everything. The other popular season to visit is autumn. With the changing hues, the landscapes look beautiful

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Beautiful day in Hakuba, Japan

Where to stay – We stayed in Airbnbsย in Tokyo and Kyoto which were cozy, clean and pocket friendly. In Hakuba and Hakone, we stayed in hostels. K’s House in Hakone was a great hostel stay where we slept on tatamis. And almost everywhere, you get the heated toilet seats which were so awesome in the winters! ๐Ÿ˜€

Get SGD $45 off (approx. USD $35) on your very first Airbnb stay using this link, click here.

Other things to note – As taxis are quite pricey you will be hauling your luggage quite a bit. So try to travel light. Other thing would be to download a translation app as english doesn’t take you too far. Labels in supermarkets and shops are often in Japanese

For things to do in each of these places, jump to our travel vlogs. Subscribe to Travel Keede on YouTube if you enjoyed them ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Things to do in Tokyovlog link
  2. Winter Wonderland in Hakubavlog link
  3. One day in Hakonevlog link
  4. Things to do in Kyotovlog link
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Fushimi Inari Shirine, Kyoto, Japan

Japan first impressions

Blossoms in Tokyo, Japan

There is the rest of the world and then there is Japan. More than the man-made structures and nature’s beauty, we were struck by the culture in this unique nation.

People are considerate and polite even during the mad rush. The entire country (not just one city) is squeaky clean even though there are hardly any dustbins in public spaces. There are designated areas for smoking and people actually go there for a smoke instead of indiscriminately lighting up anywhere in a public zone. It’s so safe, children are encouraged to commute to school all by themselves. The houses are neat despite the space crunch.

Ginza, Tokyo, Japan

Their Shinkansen (bullet trains) never run late, ever. They play bird chirping sounds at train stations, just before the escalators to forewarn those who cannot see. You hear ‘Arigatou gozaimashita’ (thank you so much) about 1000 times a day.ย And the best part, their toilet seats warm up which was great because in Feb when we visited it was still winters ๐Ÿ˜€

Shinkansen, Tokyo station, Japan

Only if they could maintain better work-life balance, people will not die of over-work!

Other than that, their architecture and buildings suggest a minimalistic way of life. The architecture did not ‘wow’ us but then isn’t minimalism better than over the top, jewel studded structures which costed a fortune. Only to be plundered and looted by power hungry men? I guess there is a reason why you can equate optimisation and efficiency to this country.

More on our Japan trip soon. To keep you busy till then, watch our Japan Vlogs at the YouTube link below:

Travel Keede’s Japan Travel Vlogs