Japan Jam-packed: Roundabout of Land of the Rising Sun

Japan Jam-packed: Roundabout of Land of the Rising Sun

Ever since I visited Japan two years ago, it keeps drawing me back.  It’s become my favorite travel spot.  There’s just so much to see and do in Japan that I’ll never get tired of it.  I don’t even know where to begin so I’ll just share some of my favorite things from my trips to Japan.  

A good way to get a taste of Japan is starting from Tokyo and then move down to Kyoto and Osaka or vice versa and making a few day trips along the way.

I always make sure to stop by Tokyo for the endless food and shopping options.  I come from New York so I feel right at home in this fast paced city life.  I recommend checking out Tsukiji Market for an affordable and high quality sushi meal and shopping at Shibuya and Harajuku for trendy fashion.

A lot of tourists visit the Tokyo Tower or Skytree for a view of the city.  If you are looking for a cheaper alternative (500 yen discounted rate with online coupon) or looking to get a nice view of these landmarks instead, I would recommend the World Trade Center Building Seaside Top observatory.  I loved watching the sunset from here and you can also check out the Roppongi area afterwards since it has a good nightlife.

If you like hot springs, you should spend a night or two in Hakone or Lake Kawaguchiko on the way to Kyoto. Both locations are very scenic and fun to spend the afternoon exploring. During my last trip to Japan I stayed at a ryokan called Konansou at Lake Kawaguchiko. I woke up to a clear view of Mt. Fuji in the distance. This was definitely my most memorable hotel experience. The staff also goes above and beyond to make sure your stay is comfortable. You can also enjoy traditional Japanese meals included in your stay and reserve a private hot spring session with a view of Mt. Fuji while you soak.

Kyoto is rich in culture and history.  My favorite memory from our visit was renting a kimono and walking through the streets of Gion district during cherry blossom season.  The Kiyomizu-dera Temple and other nearby temples are great for photo ops.

A visit to Kyoto isn’t complete without walking through the famous Inari Shrine tori gates.  I enjoyed going early in the morning to beat the crowd.  It’s a very peaceful uphill hike.

There are also many day trips you can take from Kyoto.  A lesser known one is Uji, a small city situated between Kyoto and Nara.  Uji is famous for its green tea, so you can see why it’s become my favorite day trip spot.  There’s a popular restaurant there called Nakamura Tokichi Honten that serves matcha/green tea meals and sweets.  Their tea jelly with matcha ice cream and sweet red bean dessert is to die for!

As you move along on your trip, you’ll reach Osaka.  A great way to discover this metropolitan area is buying the Osaka Amazing Pass.  It includes free admission to a lot of popular facilities in Osaka such the Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building Observatory, river cruises and more.  It also includes free transportation within the city.  The pass also comes with a booklet and coupons to get additional discounts at other facilities and restaurants.  I bought the day pass and visited multiple locations which saved me a lot of money.

You may also like to read : 12 must try japanese vegetarian vegan platters

Lastly, my favorite thing about Osaka is the Namba area.  You can easily access so many street foods, restaurants, and shopping malls by foot.  It’s just a very lively and colorful area to stroll through at night around Dotonbori Street.

There’s still so many things about Japan that I can list.  I’m already thinking about my next trip to Japan and explore new areas such as Hokkaido.

Want to share your tips and advice? Got questions? Visit the community forum to ask questions, get answers, meet people, and share your tips!


Irene Han

I'm Irene. My husband and I just need to get away from real life sometimes (or all time), so we keep on traveling! Our favorite locations to visit are in Asia. Follow our adventures on instagram @mycutebow!


  1. I so want to visit Japan, thanks for the great advice.

  2. Great tips for both, culture and food! You definitely gave us some interesting ideas, especially for those less known towns! We won’t miss those hot spring for sure! 🙂

  3. Nice brief tour through Tokyo. Seems like you have been there enough to know the hotspots. Thanks for the tips.

  4. I agree with all of your suggestions! Japan is so magnetic! I love Kyoto, lake Kawaguchiko and Hakone (the craziest spa ever) 🙂 Keep on exploring!

  5. You have some great insights on Japan. Thanks for these insider trips from all your visits. I’m especially interested in the lesser sights you mentioned that few other know of. Very cool post.

  6. I have to agree with you that there is so much to see and do in Japan. Kyoto is very beautiful. And so are many other places in Japan as well. When I visit here, I will refer back to your post

  7. Great post! I visited Tokyo and Nikko (up north from Tokyo) last year, and can’t wait to go back! As a landscape architect, I would love to go to Kyoto to check out some of their gardens, so thank you for the Kyoto input – Japan is definitely a great country to visit!

    • Oo I have not been to Nikko. Hoping to travel north one day. You would love Kyoto! So many historical sites and buildings. Himeji Castle is a great day trip from there too!

  8. I love Japan so much! I’ve only been to Tokyo (three times) and you summarized it pretty well! I can’t wait to get the opportunity to see the rest of the country…! My only disappointment is that I can never go to a onsen because I have several tattoos…

    • “Only” 3 times! haha but I totally get why we keep going back and exploring new areas. I’ve read that some onsens accept tattoos! I’m sure if you do some research you will find some 😉 Also if you book a private session like I did, then it’s absolutely ok because you won’t be in the public bath.

  9. I would love to visit Japan and was gutted to have missed out this year. I wouldn’t really know where to start so it’s really good to read your post for some starter tips. The pictures look beautiful – I especially like the idea of a private hot spring whilst looking at Mt. Fuji! Thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome! Hope these tips come in handy when you plan your trip. I recommend buying the JR Pass before you go if you plan to travel all around/round trip Japan. It’ll make traveling on the trains and subways much easier for a foreigner.

  10. Japan is such a long time bucket list country to me that I can’t wait to go there. You post has really good tips for any one thinking about a visit and the photos are really inspiring.

  11. People often say Japan is expensive. How did you find it compared to other countries?

    • I find Asia in general to be very affordable. The big cities like Tokyo might be a little more expensive (like New York). I recently went to Iceland and found it to be the most expensive place I’ve visited.
      Generally food, shopping, lodging is not expensive in Japan. Street food, street shops, airbnb are cheaper options too. Transportation is also inexpensive by subway and buses but it can add up. If you budget well, you can have a great experience.

  12. Hey thnx for sharing your experience with us, now i should really plan to visit Japan. 🙂

  13. Nice tips for Japan. I have never been to Japan but I always feel that except for Tokyo all other places are reasonably less congested. I loved the view of Fujiyama from the privacy of your dip-pool. 🙂 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Yes Tokyo can get very overwhelming so its great to mix in the countryside in your trip and onsens to relax at. Having a view of Fuji at an onsen is a really amazing experience 🙂

  14. Can only imagine what sushi is like in Tsukiji Market! Envious! 😀 And I didn’t know you can rent a kimono in Gion? How did it feel to wear it? That sounds interesting. 🙂

    • It is sushi heaven! So cheap too. There are lots of kimono rental places in Japan now because tourists like to get the experience of wearing one and it’s fun to take photos in. I reserved mine online before I went, at Okamoto Kimono. They help you put it on and do your hair. In total cost about $50-60 and you can wear it the whole day.

  15. I went to Japan just last year and it was amazing! It has easily become my most favorite country. I just love everything about it including their super toilet hahaha… And I haven’t explored a lot because the trip was very short. I really want to go back and visit Tokyo (I went to Kyoto and Osaka). And I also want to see Mt. Fuji. You have given some good tips here so I’m definitely taking note of these for when I finally go back.

  16. I really want to visit the land of the rising sun soon.. Tokyo is so busy yet full of life and color. For Kyoto! Gosh the nature is so inviting.

  17. I have loved every inch of Japan since I read the book, Memoirs of a Geisha. The culture of Japan, it’s food and of course the cherry blossoms are fascinating. The beautiful geishas dressed in vibrant clothes are lovely.

  18. Your blog gives deep information on Japan. Japan has diversified culture. It is on the top of my list to visit in international trips. Japan has maintained its culture and yet comes as most advanced country

  19. Japan is high on my list! Your tips are very helpful and I too want to wear a Kimono. I have heard that they are very expensive, so better to hire for a pic at least. 😛 🙂

  20. Wow! With all your great tips about Japan, I don’t think a few days is enough to see the country. 😀 I will surely get back to this when I do my trip in Japan. Cheers!

  21. Thanks for giving a lay off to plan our trip now. So basically now we know from where to start and where to end. I would definitely love to hike the famous Inari Shrine tori gates.

  22. I would definitely visit Kyoto. That view of the mountain from the hot spring. is totally wonderful!

  23. Yay! Japan is my next destination, I heard so much about Kyoto from my Japanese students and I’m definitely visiting this one of the best cities in the world! And a green tea is a must taste right? 🙂

  24. I so want to visit Japan. It is on my list. I will surely keep on these things on my mind. Thanks for the relevant information.

  25. We really want to add Japan to our trip but we are worried it is too expensive! After reading this i think it would be worth the cost though! Your pictures are lovely and make me want to pack my bags right now!

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