A friend, some time ago, asked me for recommendations on her first trip to Japan. We decided to meet up for a coffee so that I could share Japan through my rose-tinted love shaped glasses. Coffee turned out to dinner, which also turned out to drinks. Why? Because I couldn’t stop blabbering about how awesome Japan is. At the end of the night, I told her “I will write it for you!” I did and here is the saner version of that Japan itinerary:
Japan Itinerary Day 1 – Konichiwa Japan, Capsule Hotel and Sushi & Sake
You arrive, YAY!! I am officially super envious of you. Narita seems quite ordinary compared to everything that you have heard about Japan, don’t you agree? The first thing to do after they officially let you into Japan is to collect your JR Pass*. Now let’s take JR to the city so you can keep your luggage and start exploring.
Btw, where are you staying? There are many places to choose, depends on what interest you. The first time we were in Tokyo, we stayed in Asakusa because it’s said to be the oldies part of the city and I am all for vintage. Whichever area you decided, choose to stay either in an AirBnB apartment (so you can experience living like a local), or a Ryokan (like we did) or bookstore hotel (because it’s cool!). Get in, enjoy the quirkiness of your accommodation and get rest because we are going out later.
Since at least half of your day has gone by, let’s keep today simple. Your first meal in Japan? Sushi my friends!
There many great sushi joints in Tokyo, depends on your neighborhood. My best bet is to ask the concierge or your host for a personal recommendation, ask for a walking distance one so you can polish it down with sake (sake on a chilly night? amazeball) and walk drunk back to your room, like a salaryman. Let’s adapt the tradition, especially the ones that involve being tipsy.
Japan Itinerary Day 2 – Tokyo Disneyland, Mickey Mouse and Ramen
All right, today’s itinerary is Disneyland. Why? Because it’s Disneyland! You might have been to the other ones, but this is Japan. They have the best Disneyland in Asia. You must go, have fun, be a kid and send me those Minnie mouse ears headband.
After a whole day of happiness in the happiest place in the world (too cheesy?), you must be hungry. I suggest a visit to the neighborhood stall for a bowl of ramen, the staple food here. You know, I have never eaten ramen before Japan (yes, I have been living under a rock) and I have been in love with it ever since. It’s perfect because it involves a vending machine to place your order, modifiable to your liking (the gravy, the add-ons, etc.) and it has a minimalist atmosphere for eating a delicious meal in a restaurant.
You have to experience it to understand what I mean.
Let’s rest early today, because you will need to wake up at 2 AM tomorrow to smell the fish.
Japan Itinerary Day 3 – Tsukiji Fish Market, Meet Hachiko and Explore Tokyo Neighborhoods
Up up up! Brush your teeth and drag your friends. You are going to experience the best market in the world. Tsukiji fish market, the world largest fish market. Bring your camera and participate in tuna auction. It is awesome. You are a part of the culture today and it’s not even sunrise yet. Speaking of which, are you hungry? Queue up at Sushi Dai for the most delicious sushi meal, served as breakfast.
Let’s go back to freshen up and or sleep a little more before heading to the town of your choice. If you are into fashion, your first stop should be Harajuku and be immerse. The first time we were there, Vi went crazy. If you are into fashion, my tip would be to bring one extra luggage and loads of extra Yen.
Head down to Akihabara if you are a geek, souvenir hunt at Asakusa if you like kawaii stuff (Maneki Neko for a friend who is a cat lady?) or, at night, visit Roppongi if you are into the high life.
Whatever your tea is, Japan has a cup of it.
Or maybe you want to do what we did? We roamed around the whole day to the main neighborhoods in Tokyo without much planning. Just walking and stopping for a snack (temple shaped cookies and dragon shaped waffles) every now and then. We ended up meeting Hachiko, the loyal dog statue and witnessed a traditional Japanese wedding at Meiji shrine. It was fun.
For today’s meal suggestion, try a local franchise, either Yoshinoya or MOS burger.
Japan Itinerary Day 4 – Mt Fuji, Hakone, Black Egg and Shinkansen
Surprise! I am taking you to Mount Fuji today. Well, actually not me, but the tour guide, which you book by yourself after reading this. You guys, Mount Fuji is a must. (Disclosure: everything I mentioned here is a must according to me, but if I really, really have to pick one I would go to Mount Fuji because it’s magnificent).
Enjoy your day here, take some iconic pictures, visit the shrine, buy the air as a souvenir and don’t sleep off on the bus because you will be passing the golden field of Hakone which will take your breath away as the sighting of Mount Fuji. Also, don’t forget to multiply your lives seven times by eating the longevity egg here.
All right, it’s time go back to the city by Shinkansen, the bullet train. Which I casually mention here, but really BULLET TRAIN, you guys. It is awesome. I can imagine you are having a fantastic time! Enjoy the train ride back to Tokyo and I will catch you next time on the other half of your Japan trip. If you have a dinner plan, try the curry rice or if you are too beaten off by all the marvelousness of Japan, stop by at a Lawson and grab the cup noodle and unusual snacks. Eat it in your bed while watching some questionable Japanese games shows on TV.
*JR Pass or Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass is a train pass that you can pre-order online (highly recommend it). On the day you arrive, collect it at Narita. JR Pass allows you to take unlimited JR train rides everywhere, even between cities. Trust me, it’s worth to buy, especially if you are planning to visit other cities in Japan, which is covered in the next itinerary, where, we will no longer be in Tokyo. If you have more plans to do in Tokyo, do it today or extend your days as pleased, otherwise check out the next leg of the Japan itinerary.
Ps. I forgot to mention about another great thing about living in japan, Yukata, the cotton robe which you can wear everywhere. Comfort on a different level, man!