How to plan a trip to Japan
Dreaming of taking your family to Japan but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place! We have visited Japan multiple times with our kids and each time has been a blast. Let’s talk about how to plan a trip to Japan.
We’ll cover everything from flights to Japan, knowing how much to budget, how to get around in Japan, and a few basic key phrases to help you out.
Did you know that Japan is only a few hours on a plane from Seattle? You can get to Tokyo in the same amount of time it takes to get to Europe from the United States. From Europe to Tokyo it’s about an 11-hour flight and Australia to Tokyo is 10 hours.
This may sound far, but if you book a red-eye flight, you can spend the night on the plane and wake up the next day in Japan. Doesn’t sound too bad, as long as you can sleep through that flight 🙂
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Is Japan Safe?
Japan is safe in many regards. When it comes to violent crime it is ranked #196 out of 221 countries. Making it one of the safest countries in the world. Not just in violent crimes but also in petty crime, like pickpocketing as well. This is something that tourists will (and should) worry about.
Japan only had 356 recorded cases of pickpocketing in 2017. That is lower than the United States with 1,773 reported cases. England and Wales had 2,208 reported cases. This doesn’t mean you need to be cautious but Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world. If you are looking for a safe place to take your family then look no further.
Can I drink the water in Japan?
You can drink tap water in Japan. Japan is one of the few countries in Asia that you are able to drink directly out of the tap. Additionally, health care in Japan is extremely high.
Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the world. If something were to happen on your family holiday in Japan, you can rest at ease that you will have great care.
Do I need shots to go to Japan?
The short answer is no, you do not need any additional shots to go to Japan. You do need to be up to date on all your regular shots though. (This is recommended when traveling anywhere in the world.)
The risk of contracting a strange disease in Japan is also extremely low.
What about Japanese encephalitis? Japanese encephalitis was first discovered in Japan, hence it’s named, after Japan.
But contrary to its name, it is rare to contract Japanese encephalitis in Japan. You are more likely to contract this disease in Southeast Asia (such as Bangladesh, Guam, Cambodia, etc.) than in Japan.
Cost to travel to Japan
Let’s talk about the budget because as parents it’s always on our minds. Japan is not the cheapest vacation you will take, but it is not impossible to stick to a budget while visiting Japan. So, how much does a trip to Japan cost?
How much are flights to Japan?
First, we need to chat about flights because this will most likely be your biggest expense. We have a great post on how to save money on flights with some general tips, take a look to learn a few tips before you start looking for flights. We cover what day of the week is best to book international flights and different partner airlines that might be better than what you normally take.
Let’s look specifically at how to save money on your flights to Japan. Japan’s largest airport is Tokyo Narita (airport code NRT). If you are flying from the US you will most likely need to fly into this airport first.
Don’t always book the cheapest fare
One new way airlines are offering lower fares is by offering different types of tickets. For example, Singapore Airlines is offering a cheap ticket from LAX to Tokyo but you only get half the frequent flier miles and there are no cancellations or adjustments allowed.
Many other airlines have started offering basic economy for a cheaper option. But beware, they do not let you pick your seats with these tickets. This is not an option for you if you are traveling with kids because I’m assuming you will want to sit with your kids on the flight.
In my opinion, these cheaper fare options are not the best ideas for families. You need to be able to pick your seats and it’s better for you to earn extra frequent flier miles with a family. And let’s not forget the checked luggage. Depending on the airline they might charge you for a checked bag. Make sure you check everything that is included in your ticket to make sure it is the best deal.
Instead, save money by traveling off-season
So the best way to get cheaper flights to Japan is to fly off-season. You will save so much by flying off-season. Let’s look at a few prices.
Once you put all the prices in one place, it’s clear to see that traveling off-season will save you a ton of money on flights.
For example, if you have a family of 5 and are flying out of LAX. If you choose to go in March vs. July. You will save $500 per ticket, that’s a total savings of over $2,500!
So the best time to fly to Japan is clearly in the spring or fall. An added bonus of traveling off-season is the flights will be less busy. So you may even score an empty seat next to you which will help you to sleep on the long flight.
Hotel costs in Japan
There is a lot more than just flights to consider when thinking about how much would a trip to Japan cost. Your second-biggest expense will be the cost of your hotel or Air BnB.
Let’s take a look at the same time frames as above for different cities. This first graph is for a medium level American brand hotel. I prefer to travel to Marriot or Hilton when possible so I can use or earn hotel points to be able to use for future travel or discounts on my hotels.
For the graph below, I used prices from the Courtyard Marriot Tokyo Station. Keep in mind, this is right in the center of town. So prices will be higher than if you stay out a little bit.
In Osaka, I used prices from the Courtyard at Osaka station. From Osaka, you can quickly get to Kyoto which is also one of the top places to visit in Japan.
You can stay at much cheaper hotels in Tokyo as well. I would plan around $100 per night for a less expensive hotel option in Tokyo. Please note the less expensive hotels may sleep only 1 or 2 people so make sure to check.
Air Bnb Costs
I personally would recommend staying in an Air bnb in Japan. You will save a ton of money as you can see below.
For some great tips on how to book the perfect Air bnb for your Japan trip, take a look at Global Game Plan’s post on 8 Essential Tips for Booking an Air bnb: Advice from a Superhost.
These prices are based on 1 bedroom homes that sleep 5 people in the same areas as the hotels above. You can do a simple search on Air bnb for any city in Japan and you will find lots of different options!
As you can see, you can save a lot of money by staying in an Air bnb home. Especially if you are traveling with a family or even a group of friends. We stayed in an Air bnb apartment the last time we visited Tokyo and it was perfect.
By staying in an Air bnb you should have a kitchen. You can stop at a local convenient store and pick up a few things to have meals at the house or apartment. Normally we pick up breakfast items but eat lunch and dinner out as we are usually busy touring and sightseeing.
Food Costs in Japan
If you are trying to save money on this trip, breakfast is the best place to cut costs. When you are staying in a hotel, sign up for their loyalty program and a lot of times they will give you breakfast included with your room.
Sometimes hotels don’t offer breakfast, but you’d still like to save some money on this meal, make sure to check out the local convenience stores. Japanese convenience stores have great pastries and yogurt options for breakfast.
Costs between $5 to $10 per person for each day.
There are lots of great options for lunch as well. If you are traveling with picky eaters or kids, you can easily find a Mcdonald’s everywhere in Japan.
If not, I’d suggest grabbing lunch at a local cafe or restaurant and try some noodle dishes or sushi. Lunch is not terribly expensive.
Lunch prices are typically under $10 per person each day, kid’s meals are even less, usually under $5.
Tokyo is a huge city and if you’re looking for a nice dinner out, they certainly have a lot of options. You can spend a lot on dinner but if you’re traveling with your kids, I’m guessing you won’t be looking for a fancy restaurant.
So we’ll look at mid-range local restaurants. Again, if you are traveling with picky eaters, there are Western restaurant options scattered throughout the country.
As far as your budget goes, we will plan for a mid-range restaurant again.
The dinner budget should be around $15 per adult and $7 per child for each day.
How much will sight-seeing cost?
There are so many places to see for free in Tokyo in fact, you could spend days in the city without spending money on entertainment.
Some examples of the top free things to see are Asakusa, Meji Shrine, Ryogoku Kokugikan Museum, or you can simply wander the streets and take in the culture.
There are a few top sites that do charge an entrance fee. Such as the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo tree. You can also visit the Ueno Zoo for a small entrance fee.
You will want to budget around $50 for each person each day of your trip.
This will allow you to visit multiple sites that do have an entrance fee in a day. If you are planning to visit Disneyland, you will want to build their entrance fee into your budget.
The total budget for a trip to Japan
You can use the table below for some average costs that will help you budget your trip.
|Hotel||$200 per night|
|Food||$25 per person for each day|
|Activities||$50 per person for each day|
Best time to travel to Japan
This all depends on what you are want to experience during your stay. I will give you the benefits of each season and my recommendations so you decide how to plan your trip to Japan.
But keep in mind, Japan has a diverse climate from the northern part that can get cold and snowy in the winter, to the southern part that gets hot and humid in summer.
The cherry blossoms in the spring and the vibrant Japanese maples in the fall. Japan has it all!
Winter in Japan
For those that know skiing, know that Japan is actually a top ski destination. The north island of Hokkaido, the mountains are well known for their abundance of snowfall.
Many of Japan’s resorts will rival that of the Alps in Europe, that of Vail, Park City, and Tahoe in the United States. Many of Japan’s ski resorts will get upwards to 600 inches of snow per year. And it has extreme powder, similar to what you will find at infamous Utah’s ski resorts.
In fact, Japan is one of the closest ski resorts for people living in South East Asia and Australia. Some of our European friends that live in Kuala Lumpur, take a ski trip every year to Japan. They say it rivals the alps, but they get to mix their love of skiing with the culture and food of Japan.
I’ve heard there isn’t anything like hitting the slopes during the day and then having dinner with some of the freshest sushi in the world.
What if I am not a skier? I’m not actually a skier and I loved Japan when I visited in December. Japan has autumn later than the US and short winters. So when I was there in early December, fall was still in full color!
Fall in Japan
The average temperatures during December in Tokyo and Osaka are around 54 degrees Fahrenheit. My favorite temperature! I hate touring places when it is extremely hot.
I know I might be alone here, but it drives me crazy when my kids constantly complain that they are hot. And I myself do not like sweating while I’m touring around a city. The heat makes me grumpy! So for me, this was an ideal time to visit Japan.
January and February the temperatures drop to around 50 to 51 degrees Fahrenheit, but then in March, they start to climb back up. We did experience a little rain on our trip but nothing too extreme that kept us from visiting places.
In my opinion, the fall and winter months would be the best time to visit Tokyo. If you visit during the fall or winter, you can take advantage of all the off-season benefits, lower prices, and fewer crowds.
The Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan starts in June and lasts through mid-September. If you come to Japan during this time you will want to make sure you pack accordingly. It will be hot so you won’t need that coat or jacket, get ready to bust out your summer style.
During the peak hours of the day, when the sun is at its hottest. Japan will feel more like you are in the tropics. If you like heat, this is your time of year to visit Japan.
The downside of visiting Japan in the summer will be the prices. Since this is the on-season, Japan will be expensive. So plan your budget accordingly.
In my opinion, I would avoid going to Japan during the summer months. I’m a huge fan of traveling anywhere off-season but especially when you are traveling to Asia. Tokyo is a very busy city anytime you visit, but it will be extremely busy during the summer.
Spring in Japan
Spring is known as the best time to go to Japan. This is the time of year when you will see the infamous cherry blossoms. The best time to see the cherry blossoms in central Japan will be the beginning of April.
This would be a magical time to visit Japan. The whole country lights up with cherry trees scattered through the parks. The other perk of visiting in April will be the weather!
The temperature will be in the mid-60s (Fahrenheit) and lows in the 50s. It doesn’t get much better than that! If you visit in early April the crowds will also not be too high.
I think the beginning of April or November would be the best time to visit Japan. But if you choose April, you will get to enjoy the magic of the cherry trees. Or if you go in November, you can enjoy the beauty of fall leaves that pair well with the reds and yellows of many of the traditional temples.
Is it manageable to travel to Japan with a toddler?
You and your toddler will love Japan for many reasons, and not just the food and culture, but the Japanese are very accommodating to children. I remember on multiple occasions walking into a public bathroom and seeing a tiny or small toilet for kids right next to the larger toilet. I know that sounds silly, but as a parent, these little accommodations can make traveling easier and more enjoyable for us.
Restaurants are well equipt with baby highchairs, plates, and utensils for toddlers. These little things can help to make your holiday better in Japan. The Japanese are extremely polite with children and it goes a long way as a parent.
Eating at Japanese restaurants with toddlers
For example; if my toddler happens to accidentally knock a glass off the table at dinner, breaking it and spilling water everywhere. This will for sure make her cry, then my husband is usually upset over the whole situation, and it all goes downhill from there.
But in Japan, they give the kids a children’s set for your meal. This includes cups and plates that won’t shatter when they hit the ground. So you don’t have to worry about the typical deadly dinner cycle.
Even Tokyo is safe and easy with kids
Even in busy Tokyo, the sidewalks are wide and children are able to ride bikes and walk. Then down some of the side streets, there are no sidewalks, and kids walk safely down the streets are cars are very cautious. I remember going for a jog one morning in Tokyo. School kids were on their way to school. I saw kids as young as six-years-old walking to school alone.
What about older kids, will they like Japan?
Is Japan for kids? I would say yes! We have visited Japan multiple times with our 3 kids and each time the Japanese were so great. They love talking to our kids and everyone is very patient with them.
My older kids loved the animal cafes that are everywhere in Tokyo! They also loved the Japanese pastries and noodles. On one of our trips, we did go to Tokyo Disneyland. This quickly put Tokyo at the top of their lists for favorite cities.
Beware, people will want to take pictures of your children. I’m not sure why they like to do this but they love to take pictures of our kids. If you are not comfortable with this, it is ok to say no to them.
Best cities to visit in Japan
So now that you have the time of year picked out and you are watching flight prices, which cities should you visit while in Japan? Let’s talk about some of the best things to see in Japan!
You can’t miss this mega city! It will most likely be the city that you fly into and you don’t want to miss this amazing place. I have traveled all over Asia and Tokyo is so unique.
The Japanese are so efficient and orderly. They will not cut in line in front of you and always patiently wait for us when we are wrestling our kids in and out of restaurants and stores.
Tokyo is filled with beauty everywhere you look. They have lots of great parks that you and your kids will enjoy. I enjoyed getting up early and going for a run through the well-manicured parks. My kids loved all the playgrounds 🙂
How to get around in Tokyo
You’ve arrived! You must be excited to start exploring, but where do you begin and how do you get there? Below you can read about getting from the airport to downtown Tokyo. In Tokyo, you have 3 options to get around. Taxi, Trains, or Walking.
Taxies are expensive but might be necessary from time to time. Walking in Tokyo is actually really nice and pretty easy to get around, but you don’t want to use all your energy walking.
So that leads us to the Trains/Subway/Metro system. The best way to get around in Tokyo is by using trains. They are very efficient and easy to use. Tokyo has one of, if not, the most efficient and on-time public transportation system in the world.
Tokyo has one of the largest and complex metro systems in the world, yet it is still one of the most efficient and easiest to use.
Download the Tokyo Subway map to your phone or print it out before you arrive. www.tokyometro.jp has maps in many languages available.
1st thing you need to know about Tokyo’s train systems
There are 2 train systems in Tokyo. The first is commonly known as the Tokyo Metro. The second is known as the JR Line.
What’s the difference? They are two completely different systems. The two train companies run independently but at some stations, you can transfer from the JR Line to the Tokyo Metro.
JR (Japan Rail) and Tokyo Subway are actually 2 different companies, just like Boeing and Airbus. Another distinct characteristic is the JR Lines run above ground, whereas the Tokyo Metro is below ground.
Another difference that we found is that the JR Lines typically run further out of the city center into the suburbs and outskirts of Tokyo. While the metro stays close to the center of town.
Can I use the same ticket on the JR Line and the Metro Line?
Not with a single-use ticket, but there are options available where you can buy a ticket that works for both.
Buying Train tickets for the JR Line and Tokyo Metro
Prepaid IC Card: If you plan on staying in Tokyo for 10+ days you will want to consider buying a Prepaid IC Card. The IC card is a prepaid card that works as your ticket as you ride the Tokyo Metro or JR Line.
The downside is that there is no discount offered on tickets, but the convenience of not buying a ticket every time you switch from one system to the other will outweigh the cost and time.
If you are staying in central Tokyo or close to a metro line station you might not need to buy a JR Line pass.
The only time we used the JR Line on our stay in Tokyo was to go to Disneyland Tokyo.
Tokyo Subway/Metro Passes: Also known as the Toei and Tokyo Metro. If you are in Tokyo for a week or less you will want to consider buying a Tokyo Subway 72-hour Ticket.
They also have 48-hour and 24-hour tickets available at discounted prices. These passes are limited to the metro lines and cannot be used on the JR Lines. These are for unlimited use on the metro lines.
Prices for the Toei and Tokyo Metro pass:
- A Tokyo Subway 24-hour Ticket – Adult: 800 yen, Child: 400 yen
- The Tokyo Subway 48-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,200 yen, Child: 600 yen
- Tokyo Subway 72-hour Ticket – Adult: 1,500 yen, Child: 750 yen
Save Money and use just the Tokyo Metro/subway lines
As mentioned above we only used the metro/subway lines and were able to get around Tokyo very easy and we used the 72-hour Ticket for 2 adults and 2 kids.
These passes are not sold at all metro stations so check here for the English version of locations on the Tokyo Metro. Here are a few of the common locations where you can get them.
- Haneda Airport (International Terminal Visitor Information Center)
- Narita Airport – Terminal 1 & 2 Bus ticket counter
- Tokyo Station, ShinJuku, Ueno Station, Ginza, & Omete-ando Station. All at the Tourist Information centers.
The Japanese are helpful
We flew into Narita International Airport and took the Narita Express train to Ueno Station. At the Ueno station, we found the tourist information center and one of the agents walked us through all of the options available for train tickets.
They were very helpful, we showed them where we were staying and some of the places we wanted to visit.
She quickly recommended to just stick with the Metro pass as 99% of the things we would be doing and seeing where accessible by just the metro line.
Tips to make using the Tokyo Metro Line and train system easy
Google Maps: We use Google maps in most cities that we visit. If you have international data or if you can buy a sim card at the airport, plan on using Google maps. It will end up saving you time and lots of hassle trying to navigate the train systems.
How to use Google maps to take the train with this step by step guide:
Enter your destination into Google maps on your phone. Pick the closest train station. If you are traveling with kids, you may want to pick the route with fewer transfers.
Head to the closest Metro stop. Google Maps shows the line letter, color, & name of the Line. In this case, it is the Brown Line, the letter “F,” & Fukutoshin Line.
Make sure to check the number of stops and the name of your final stop or transfer. You will also notice that line “F” now has a 15 with it. The 15 is the stop number. This is important to know.
At the station, on the platform, you will see the line letter & station stop. Then you will need to see the direction of the next station you are heading to. Is it ascending or descending? See the photo for an example of how to check the direction on the Tokyo subway.
Check to see if there are any transfers. Google will let you know the transfer and how to get there.
How to get from the Airport to Downtown Tokyo?
Tokyo has two international airports. The closest one to Tokyo Central is Haneda but it serves mostly domestic flights in & out of Japan.
Narita International Airport is the other airport that is located further away from the city center. Narita serves mostly international flights to and from Japan. If you are coming from outside Japan to Tokyo there is a good chance you will be flying into Narita.
How to get from Narita International Airport to Downtown Tokyo?
As mentioned, Narita is located about 66 kilometers from the city. If you were to rent a car or take a taxi it will take you about over an hour to reach Tokyo depending on traffic. The taxi fare will cost you upwards of close to or over $100USD.
The fastest and easiest way to get from Narita to Tokyo is the KEISEI Skyliner Speed Train.
The Skyliner is the easiest way to get into Tokyo quickly from Narita. You can easily get the Skyliner train from Terminal 1, Terminals 2 & 3 at Narita.
At terminal 1 you will want to head to Level 1 F. This is the same level as the arrival hall. Look for the Keisei Electric Railway Ticket sales counter.
From Narita Terminal 2 & 3 the Skyliner is also located on the same level as the arrival hall. Look for the sign that leads to the Trains and Skyliner.
You can buy tickets at the counter or kiosk when you arrive. Or you prepurchase your tickets here online and use the e-ticket. We opted to wait until we arrived to purchase our tickets. Just in case our flight was delayed.
You will want to take the Skyliner High-Speed Train it is one of Japan’s fastest high-speed trains at 160km per hour.
You will have a reserved seat, which means you won’t have to stand or fight for a seat. There is a place to leave your luggage in the same car as your seat.
How to get from Haneda Airport to Tokyo
You will most likely fly into the Haneda Airport if you are coming to Tokyo from another city in Japan. Or continuing your Japanese adventure from Tokyo you will be flying out of here. Getting to and from Haneda Airport is easy.
From Haneda Airport you will grab the Tokyo Monorail. On average there is a Monorail every 4 minutes from Haneda. So don’t worry if you miss one, by the time you look up another will be approaching.
The Tokyo Monorail takes 13 minutes from Haneda to Hamamatsucho station. From Hamamatsucho station you can get a number of JR Lines to Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Ueno, Akihabara, and Shibuya stations.
To get the Tokyo Monorail like in Haneda. Walk through the arrival hall lobby and look for the trains platform. This is for both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 in Haneda.
Places to visit in Tokyo
Now that you are able to successfully get out of the airports. You may be wondering what to do in Tokyo? This giant city has so much offer it is difficult to figure out where to start.
Some of my favorite things to do in Tokyo can’t be put into words, I just love the Japanese people and walking the streets of Tokyo.
But there are a few sites you don’t want to miss!
This is first on my list because it offers the classic design and architecture that you think of when you think about Japan. It is an old Buddhist temple that is stunning.
This is the oldest temple in Tokyo and one of the most iconic. The first temple was founded in 645 AD. During World War II the original temple was destroyed during a bombing raid. The current temple was rebuilt on the same site as a symbol of rebirth.
There is a lot of history and symbolism in this breathtaking site. Take your time here and learn more about Japanese history. You can pay to find your fortune on the wall.
It is fun to do with kids, although one of our kids received the “black fortune” which was pretty depressing and more descriptive than our 7-year-old could handle. So beware there are good and bad fortunes on the wall.
On the streets leading up to the Senso-Ji temple, you will find tons of souvenir shops! We gave our kids a budget and they shopped till they ran out of money. Make sure to have some Japanese Yen when you visit because most vendors prefer cash.
Senso-Ji is one of the best places to visit in Tokyo and one of my personal favorites.
How to get there: From the Ginza Line Asakusa Station, take Exit 1 and walk straight, keeping Tokyo Skytree behind you. After one minute, you will see the Kaminarimon Gate to your right; this marks the entrance to Nakamise shopping street. Follow the line of shops until you reach Sensoji Temple.
Opening Hours: The main hall is open from 6:00 to 17:00 daily. The grounds are always open. The shops surrounding the grounds close at sunset.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
This shrine is located in Shibuya and it is in the middle of a beautiful park. I’d suggest spending a few hours in this one of a kind park. You can even rent traditional Japanese dresses to wear around the park for some really fun pictures.
The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. The forest that surrounds the park is huge, it is 170 acres huge to be exact. The Emperor and Empress visited the site of the shrine many times and wanted the forest to be a place of rest and relaxation.
I enjoyed walking through the forest and our kids enjoyed running and playing freely through the wooden paths. It was so nice to be right in the center of Tokyo but able to enjoy nature. I would say this park and shrine are one of the best things to see in Japan.
How to get there: Take the JR Yamanote line to the Harajuku station. The entrance to Meiji Shrine south gate is a 3-minute walk from the station. When you exit Harajuku Station, turn right. Follow the path for about one minute, until you reach a large concrete bridge that crosses the tracks of the Yamanote Line. Cross the bridge and then you will see the park entrance.
Opening Hours: 5:00 am to 6:00 pm every day
After you visit the park and the shrine, head back towards the Harajuku station and over to Takeshita street. This is also a don’t miss while in Tokyo. It’s vibrant, eccentric, a little crazy and fun!
This street has lots of great souvenirs shopping, boutique shops and stores, and street food. Our kids loved the crepes and the rainbow cotton candy. This area is lively and filled with lots of fun things to see. When we visited, there were lots of people dress up in their cosplay outfits. It made for a fun atmosphere.
How to get there: Take the JR Yamanote line to the Harajuku station. When you exit the station, turn left and walk down the street. As you get down the hill, you will see the iconic Takeshita Street sign.
Opening Hours: Most shops and restaurants are open from 10:30 am to 8:00 pm.
Osaka is Japan’s 2nd largest metropolitan area. The easiest way to get here is on the bullet train from Tokyo. It is about a 2.5-hour train ride. You can buy a ticket in advance on the Japan Rail Pass website: here.
Once you arrive in Osaka, you can take their trains to get around town as well.
The main attraction in Osaka is the medieval Osaka castle. We visited this castle in the late fall and it was beautiful. The park surrounding the castle was also beautiful and it was one of the best things to see in Osaka.
We enjoyed Osaka so much, I wrote it’s own post about it. You can see the best time of year to go to Osaka, fun things to do in Osaka and lots more great info! Osaka is a great city to add to your agenda for your holiday in Japan.
You can take the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Between Tokyo and Osaka. The best way to travel between Tokyo and Osaka is the shinkansen (bullet train). The fastest type of shinkansen, which is called the Nozomi, takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
If trains are not your thing or it’s a little out of budget. Check for a cheap flight out of Henada (HND) airport.
There are so many great places to visit in Japan and Kobe is definitely worth adding to your itinerary. Kobe would be an easy day trip from Osaka or even from Tokyo.
One of the main reasons to Kobe is so well known is for the Kobe beef. But interestingly Kobe beef is not from the town of Kobe. However, you can get extremely good Kobe beef while visiting the town.
Kobe has so much more to offer. There are lots of fun things to do, especially with kids. Make sure to visit the beautiful shrine and temple. In addition to the short info here, I have a full post on Kobe.
Other places to visit in Japan
There are so many great cities to visit in Japan, it’s hard to narrow down what to see and how much time to spend in each city. Let’s look at a few other cities so you can decide how to plan your trip to Japan. A few other cities that are worth a look at visiting are Kyoto and Hiroshima.
Kyoto is a city you don’t want to miss! This city is rich in Japanese culture everywhere you look. Kyoto has a beautiful golden temple that looks breathtaking.
In addition to Kyoto, you can also visit Nara easily from here. This is where there is a large park that has thousands of deer wandering free. I’ve heard the deer are so tame, you can hand feed them.
I haven’t been there yet but when I return to Japan it is on the top of my list. The Pinay Solo Backpacker wrote an excellent post on everything you need to know about Kyoto.
The next city you may want to visit in Japan is Hiroshima. This city offers so much history. You can even visit the exact site where 2 atomic bombs were dropped during World War II. You could day trip to Hiroshima from Kyoto or Osaka by train.
Although I have not been to Hiroshima yet, however, the Earth Trekkers have a great post with all the details on how to get there and what to see.
What to pack for a trip to Japan
One of the biggest things you’ll need to learn when planning your trip to Japan is what to pack. Here is a quick packing list of things you don’t want to forget on your trip to Japan. Above all else, try to pack as light as possible so that you have room for souvenirs. Below is a list that is in addition to all your essentials.
- A good pair of headphones for the flight.
- An umbrella that is easy to carry and pack. I like this mini one on amazon: This way you have it before it starts to rain or if the sun gets too hot!
- A lightweight jacket (unless you are traveling in the summer)
- Converter for your electronics, Japan uses the same electrical outlets as the US so you won’t need one if coming from the States.
- Sim card with WIFI or add international service to your cell phone plan
- Melatonin for kids and adults. This will help on the flight and with jet lag. I like this brand from Amazon: It seems to work quickly on the kids and last longer than others we’ve used. This makes it easy to get back on your feet the next day and have energy.
- Shoes that are easy to slip on and off
- Hand sanitizer
Do I need to speak Japanese?
If you are planning to stay in big cities, you will find most people speak English. However, it’s always a good idea to learn a little of the local language. I would recommend at least learning a few phrases in Japanese.
That being said, I have been to Japan multiple times and I do not speak Japanese. Although I have learned simple phrases to be respectful, the Japanese are very respectful people.
Wrap up on How to plan a trip to Japan
In conclusion, it is a beautiful country with so much to offer. No matter where you decide to go in Japan, you will have fun. Above all, remember to relax and enjoy your time.
Of course, visiting Japan will be a once in a lifetime experience. Take your kids with you if possible so they too can learn more about this great culture. Take the subways, try local foods, visit temples, immerse yourself in their culture and you will have an unforgettable time.
Loved reading about the prepping tips! I actually really want to go to Japan, so this will definitely come in handy 🙂.
Thank you! Japan is a beautiful country, it surpassed all my expectations. You will love it!
Goodness, what an epic post!
I have lived in Japan for several years and I agree with looooads of this (I’d definitely include Nara for travelling with kids, as seeing all the deer is sooo fun for little’uns.)
I totally agree about visiting in the fall too-the momiji leaves are beautiful and it’s sooo nice not to be hot. Summer can be pretty good in Japan too – it’s just you need to head up into the mountains where it is cooler. 😉
I agree, Japan is beautiful any time of year 🙂 Thank you for your comments and advice!
It’s great that you share your experience. I am a novice traveler, and for me your blog is an aid in planning my trip. Thanks!
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