Oh, Japan! It was not easy for us to decide how to spend our three weeks honeymoon in Japan, even though this would be our second trip. Although Japan is a relatively small country from a geographic point of view, its large cities, especially Tokyo, magnificent cultural treasures and temples to visit, would make it a fascinating destination to spend any period of time.
Before our planning, we knew we would like to visit Japan during Cherry Blossom season. It has been on our bucket list for years, and we even postponed our honeymoon to be there coinciding with the full bloom of the sakura. We also knew we would like to have “enough time” to explore Tokyo, six days to be more exact, stay in a Ryokan, have a Michelin Star experience, relax in an onsen, and visit one of Japan’s top gardens.
Japan has, undoubtedly, the best rail system in the world and you should take advantage of it on your next trip, so make sure you buy a Japan Rail Pass, a hassle-free and discounted pass for foreign visitors. Note that you should buy it in your own country, as the pass is not available in Japan.
Cherry Blossom in Japan
Sakura (cherry blossom) holds a very special place in Japanese culture and heart. Seeing how Japanese celebrate hanami (cherry blossom viewing), and experiencing this festive atmosphere with them was one of the highlights of our trip. Not to mention that cherry blossoms trees make the Japanese architecture and landscapes even more beautiful.
The cons of visiting Japan during Sakura is that landmarks and parks get incredibly busy and hotel prices are higher compared to the rest of the year. But trust us, it’s a priceless experience.
Staying in a Ryokan
A ryokan is Japanese style inns found throughout Japan, and staying in a Ryokan is an indispensable part of the trip. More than just an accommodation, in a ryokan you can experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality. Ryokans include elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine. They are popular with both Japanese and foreign tourists, so make sure you book your Ryokan in advance.
3-week itinerary for Japan
There are so many spectacular places to visit Japan that three weeks seems too short. That’s how we spent three weeks in Japan, from 1st April.
Day 1 – 5: Tokyo
Tokyo is immense and goes without saying that offer plenty of things to do. We realised that we enjoyed more the walk from one landmark to another than the monuments itself. Of course, they are stunning, but scrolling around the city, taking a break here and there for sake and gyoza was truly special.
Not to miss:
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, for the best (and free) views of the city.
- The National Art Center, a stunning building hosting great expositions.
- Shimokitazawa district, Tokyo’s bohemian hub. Eat the best dumplings and coriander salad at The Juicy Dumpling Shimokitazawa Manufactory, just next to the metro station.
- Have fun and eat fresh and very affordable sushi at Uobei Genki Sushi, very close to Shibuya crossing.
Day 5 – 7: Fujiyoshida
The enter city for Mt. Fuji and a lovely place to relax after exploring busy Tokyo. Don’t miss a hike to Chureito Pagoda, which offers the best views to Mt. Fuji.
Affordable and modern stay at Kagelow Mt.Fuji Hostel Kawaguchiko.
Day 7 – 8: Nagoya – Including a day trip to Tsumago
Nagoya felt like a mini Tokyo, but with almost no tourists. It was perfect for some shopping, and good eating. From Nagoya, we took a train to Nagiso; there you have the option to catch a bus to Magome and Tsumago. We decided to hike to Tsumago instead, about an hour.
Affordable and central stay at Unizo INN Nagoya Sakae.
Day 8 – 14: Kyoto – Including day trips to Nara, Hiroshima and Osaka (2x)
This was our second time in Kyoto – in 2015 we spent five days there, and we visited the main highlights. So this time, we opted to take it easier and spent most of our time on cherry blossom viewing (Maruyama Park was our favourite!) and walking around – mostly off the beaten track.
We did visit Gion, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kiyomizu-dera and surroundings again because everything looks different in Cherry Blossom season compared to when we visited in fall. We visited Sanjūsangen-dō for the first time, an impressive Buddhist temple, very recommendable.
In Kyoto, we had our Michelin experience at the one star Michelin Restaurant Sakuragawa, and it simply blew our minds! It’s not a cheap experience (around 250 euros p.p.), but it’s definitely worth it. You must make a reservation. Note that according to Japanese etiquette, it’s very impolite and disrespectful to cancel on the same day, as they put a lot of work in advance preparing for its customers.
Kyoto was our base for day trips, including Nara, Hiroshima and Osaka.
We ended up going to Osaka twice, just because it’s one of our favourite Japanese cities. Although spent five days in Osaka in 2015, only one day was not enough to explore this shoppers and foodies’ paradise!
Tip: Have an amazing dinner at the robata restaurant Chance Ginpei in Shinsaibashi.
Day 14 – 16: Kanazawa
We discovered Kanazawa through one of our favourite Japanese TV shows – Japanese Style Originator, in an episode dedicated to Japanese Gardens.
Kanazawa, often called “little Kyoto” and overlooked by foreign tourists, exceeded our expectations! The Kenrouken Garden, reason for our visit, it’s stunning and contains all Japanese garden elements. We also found very interesting the Higashi Chaya District, with teahouses where geisha perform, cafes and beautiful shops.
Day 16 -18: Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku
Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku, which is also a ryokan, is probably the most beautiful and best onsen in Japan and a place for ultimate relaxation. Read more about it here.
Day 18 – 20: Nikko
Nikko is famous for Toshogu, Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrine and scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes and waterfalls.
Dine at Komekichi Kozushi, and be ready to taste one of the best sushi in your life.
Affordable and central stay at Nikko Station Hotel Ⅱ.
Day 20 – 22: Tokyo
Back to Tokyo for our last two days, we stayed at Shinjuku Granbell Hotel. We chose the Luxury Designer Double room because a bath with views of Tokyo sounded like a great idea. 😉
We spent those days doing the final shopping, visiting Akihabara by night and singing in a karaoke.
Japan is a magical country and proved one more time to be worth visiting. We can’t wait to go back!