I’m so excited to share my recent trip to Japan with all of you! My husband and I went together on our anniversary trip (YAY!) and had so much fun exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, and Lake Hakone. In this post, I will be covering mostly Kyoto as we were there the longest. However, I will be throwing in suggestions of places we went to and LOVED as well as a few places I wish I had visited along the way. I also have outlined a few travel tips while traveling in Japan that you may find useful especially as a first-time traveler. Travel guides are one of my favorite posts to write and hope you also check out my other guides such as my honeymoon posts from last year – Saint Jean Cap Ferrat Travel Guide, Provence Travel Guide, 7 Things To Do While Visiting Villa Ephrusi de Rothschild.
- This restaurant was a fun experience especially on our first night in Japan! Definitely suggest to sit at the counter and you can watch the chefs make sushi and sashimi while you eat!
Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho
- Small ally with lively tiny restaurants. Easy and authentic yakitori dinner in Japan. You should be able to get in most restaurants without a reservation or some places may just turn you away if they are full.
- The CUTEST cafe with delicious desserts, bubble tea, omelets, and a few other brunch items. Just fun to go to for the scenery! It was located in Harajuku on Takeshita street – very fun to say!
- We ate here in Kyoto, but the locations in Tokyo look amazing and just as cool as they did in Kyoto!
Do & See
- This was one thing on our list we didn’t have enough time for but are dying to go back to try! I would try to book your reservation in advance as space is limited.
- Beautiful shrine near Shibuya. You could spend several hours here or just walk around for 30 minutes. There is also a really pretty garden on the grounds to explore!
Harajuku/ Takeshita Street
- Touristy, but fun to see! A lot of high-end shops are in this area and very close to Shibuya. You will find cat cafes, anime, and crazy sweets and cotton candy here!
- A really fun area near Meji Jingu. A little touristy but fun to see especially if it is your first time in Japan.
- Recommend a reservation and MUST do the build your own sushi! It was so much fun!
- Beautiful hotel and an amazing place to have dinner outside. They have a fun champagne bar and also sake tasting. Definitely, a fun spot if you want to try sake!
- A delicious spot in the Gion District. We stopped here for lunch and could not have had a better meal! Go to Pass the Baton for dessert!
- Probably one of my favorite stops the whole trip! They are known for their massive shaved ice. Be prepared to wait about an hour to be seated but be sure to peek in their beautiful shop before. The boutique/ restaurant is filled with gorgeous ceramics and vintage designer pieces.
- This matcha spot was so delicious! They are known for their matcha tiramisu but I only had iced matcha each time I went. Definitely a great stop if you love matcha as much as I do!
Do & See
- Absolutely gorgeous and in the middle of town. This was one of my favorite temples to explore the inside of but unfortunately could not take any pictures.
- Iconic and a must see! I would try to go first thing in the morning to visit as it gets very crowded in the afternoon.
- A short cab ride away from the Golden Pavillion. Very beautiful and a fun hike! Incredibly green and the bamboo creates an amazing forest.
- Right next door to The Path of Bamboo. Beautiful gardens and grounds! Most of the Temple is open to the public to walk inside.
- One of my favorite parts of Kyoto. There were so many cute shops, matcha spots, and a very unique Japanese Starbucks that is definitely worth a trip!
- Another beautiful shrine you can’t miss! We toured this one at night and in the morning and the lights were beautiful! Definitely, recommend seeing it at both times if you are able.
- This market was about a 5-minute walk from our hotel. It was such a fun cultural experience as there are rows of all kinds of different Japanese food to try! A lot of vendors give free samples so it is definitely a fun place to try new things.
- An iconic spot! This is definitely something you have to add to your travel list. The Torii Gates go on for several miles and is a beautiful spot for pictures. This one one of our favorite walks to do in the morning and recommend going early as it can be very crowded as it is so popular!
- A really unique area with a lot of pretty antique shops and great restaurants. This was where we found Pass The Baton and Chidoritei. This is also the Geisha district which makes it an even more fun cultural experience!
- This was one of my favorite stops on the trip! This is about an hour train ride from Kyoto. Nara is known for their Nara deer and beautiful temple (Todaiji Temple). The Yakushiji temple is another beautiful temple just down the street from the Todaiji Temple. It was being renovated so we, unfortunately, could not tour it but it looked beautiful. The deer are EVERYWHERE and love to be given treats! They have treats for sale right as you enter the park. They know to “bow” for treats and can turn into a fun game to see which ones bow back at you!
- Another beautiful city in Japan. We were only here for a baseball game one evening and was also about an hour train ride from Kyoto. My husband loves baseball and we both really enjoyed this cultural experience! They have cute chants for each player and sushi in the concession stands. I highly recommend going to a sporting event or something like this while in Japan!
- We loved this hotel and was in a great location! We were about 5 minutes walking distance from Nishiki Market and about 10 minutes from the Gion District.
- A delicious ramen spot about a 5-minute drive from the Open Air Museum. Very authentic and casual.
Do & See
- Beautiful Torii Gate with an amazing view of Mt. Fuji. Really pretty grounds to walk around – recommend getting to this spot earlier for good photos.
- About a 10-minute drive from Hotel Mizno. This is another great spot to get an amazing view of Mt. Fuji and some amazing pictures. There are so many unique flowers that are local to Japan in this garden and you have to try their lavender ice cream!
- An amazing museum is known for its incredible sculptures and Picasso exhibit. This was our last stop before heading back home and I am SO glad we went. They also had a really fun and unique playground – a good thing to keep in mind if you are traveling with children!
- Really relaxing and beautiful spot! We loved this hotel especially for their terrace dinner that overlooked Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji! This was also about a 10-minute car ride from the Hakone Botanical Garden.
- Really beautiful and off the beaten path. This is definitely a hotel you stay to relax in. I was not ready to leave! The service was amazing and each guest had their own private dining room for dinner which was included. The dinner was by far the most amazing meal, top-notch! They had lovely private hot springs and also a spa. The hot springs were fun to enjoy since this isn’t something we really have in Texas!
A few cultural differences & tips for traveling
- Your shoes may be asked to be removed upon entering temples and restaurants. One of our hotels even required this but offered slippers. Be sure to bring an extra pair of socks to be on the safe side in your purse if you aren’t already wearing some.
- The streets are SO clean – there aren’t many trashcans anywhere so just FYI if you are walking around with a coffee you may want to dispose of. You may have it for a while!
- We loved that there were vending machines on almost every street corner. This was so nice to grab quick water or tea on the go.
- Get a Suika card for the subway system. You can use this for subways and vending machines and reload it with how much you are wanting to spend. Google Transit was especially helpful for navigating the subway system.
- There are taxis readily available in case you don’t want to take the subway or walk – always have cash with you!
- If you are going to spend over a week or so, I would recommend getting the JR rail pass so you can travel from city to city.
- If you don’t know any Japanse, bowing and “Arigato” ( Thank you) will at least get you somewhere!
I hope this was helpful especially if you are planning a trip or are hoping to travel to Japan someday! Please leave a comment below of any questions!