10 Days in Japan – Budget Travel Itinerary for Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo & Hakone
April 22, 2020
10 days is a good amount of time to visit the most famous cities in Japan. In this article, I have complied a concise guide for you to plan your next visit to the land of the rising sun!
Table of Contents
Transportation in Japan | Travelling in Japan WITHOUT a JR Pass
For every visitor, you can consider getting the JR pass to gain access to unlimited use of their public transportation for the whole of Japan. The JR pass is a cost effective rail pass for long distance travel in Japan. A 7-day ticket will cost you 29,650 yen (SGD 393), 14-day ticket at 47,250 yen (SGD 627) and a 21-day ticket at 60,450 yen (SGD 802).
However, we did not purchase a JR pass for our trip. This is because we figured that since we would only be taking long distance train travel twice (from Osaka to Kyoto and from Kyoto to Tokyo), there would be cheaper alternatives as to getting the pass. I will explain further as we go along.
Where to Stay in Japan on a Budget – Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto?
Where to Stay in Osaka?
We stayed at Hotel Keihan Kyobashi Grandewhich was located right outside of Kyobashi Station. You’d want to find an accommodation near a train station to ease travelling in Japan as this will be your main mode of transport! Taxis are relatively pricey and I would not recommend taking them unless absolutely necessary. An approximate price range for your reference would be that a 30min journey will cost you about SGD80.
Where to Stay in Kyoto?
We stayed at Glanz Kei Karasuma Ebisugawa which was located close to Marutamachi Station. A cozy hotel to stay at which included a kitchen and washing machine for us to use! Alternatively, you can also stay at Hotel M’s Plus Shijo Omiya which is located walking distance from Omiya Station.
Where to stay in Tokyo?
The accommodation in Tokyo is pricer than the first two cities we visited. The affordable places tend to fill up really fast as well. Always book early in order to get the best prices for your hotels when you travel. You can try your luck for availability at either Hotel Keihan Asakusa (Outside Asakusa Station) or Under Railway Hotel Akihabara (Outside Akihabara)
OUR JAPAN TRAVEL ITINERARY
Summary of Trip:
Osaka: Day 1 to Day 3
Arrive at 9am at Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Leave for Kyoto on Day 3 at 12pm.
Kyoto: Day 3 to Day 5
Leave for Tokyo on Day 5 at 11am.
Tokyo: Day 5 to Day 6
Leave for Hakone on Day 6 at 7am.
Hakone: Day 6 to Day 7
Leave for Tokyo on Day 7 in the evening.
Tokyo: Day 7 to Day 10
THINGS TO DO IN OSAKA (DAY 1 – DAY 3)
I’ll be listing the main activities you can do around Osaka. Feel free to switch them around according to what you want to prioritise. However, do set aside Day 2 for your visit to Universal Studios Japan as you’d need a full day there!
Day 1 – Arrival in Osaka, Japan
The first thing we did when we landed was to collect our Shinkansen Tickets (for train travel from Kyoto to Tokyo) at Osaka Kansai International Airport Terminal 1. More details on this can be found on Day 6.
We were really excited to land in Japan finally after such a long time and we did A LOT of eating. As you would see below, our whole Day 1 itinerary consisted of food and more food.
1. Eat & Shop at Dotonbori
Dotonbori is an extremely busy street filled with a variety of restaurants and bars. You can access the street by walking about 4 minutes from Namba Subway station. We also stopped by one of their Shiba-Inu Cafes to take a look at the cute puppies! However, do take note that these puppies are used to seeing large groups of people come in everyday, so they may not show you the attention that you’re expecting to get when you walk in.
Be sure to try their Tako balls here as well as they were the best we had during our trip. The one we had was at a small stall called Big Cut “Tako”.
2. Eat & Shop at Shinsekai
Shinsekai is another street filled with restaurants, food stalls and drinking establishments. Here, we stopped by some shops to get more tako balls and kushikatsu!
Day 2 – Universal Studios Japan
1. Universal Studios Japan
We arrived at USJ at 8.45am as we heard that it would be really crowded and we wanted to explore the Harry Potter world with less people around. We booked our tickets online through KLOOK so that we did not want to take the risk of having to queue at the ticket office on the day itself. You can purchase your tickets here.
They also have the option for you to purchase an express pass if you do not want to spend time queuing for the rides which can take up to an hour.
2. Eat at Okonomikayi Mizuno (Near Dotonbori)
After a full day of fun at USJ, we decided to head back to Dotonbori for some yummy Okonomiyaki dinner! The food here is amazing and there is always a queue to go in for this restaurant. However, the food was definitely worth the wait. Location: 1 Chrome-4 15 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan Opening hours: 11am to 10pm, Daily
Day 3 – Osaka-Jo & Travel to Kyoto
1. Osaka-Jo (Osaka Castle)
We woke up early to visit Osaka Castle before we had to board our train to Kyoto. The closest JR station to Osaka Castle is Osakajokoen Station on the JR Loop Line, a 10 minute ride from JR Osaka Station. Purchase your tickets in advance here to skip the queue and get access to the castle’s 8 floors with panoramic views of Osaka City from the top. Location: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan
2. Travel from Osaka to Kyoto
You can travel from Shin-Osaka Station on the JR Kyoto Line’s Special Rapid Service. This train ticket can be bought at machine kiosks located at Shin-Osaka Station. The journey to Kyoto Station will take you less than 30 minutes for just 560 yen (SGD 7.50).
THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO (DAY 3 – DAY 5)
Day 4 – Reach Kyoto & Nishiki Market
1. Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market is another street filled with food stalls and a wide variety of things to try! You’d be able to spend some time here trying the different delicacies, however, do take note that the stalls here close as early as 6pm.
Day 5 – Fushimi Inari Shrine & Bamboo Forest
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine
The Shrine is located just outside of JR Inari Station. There are large crowds of people who visit these famous tori gates everyday. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes if you are plan on climbing all the way up as it will take you about 2-3 hours. You can also rent a Kimono for one day for photo-taking walking up the Fushimi Inari Shrine!
2. Togetsukyo Bridge
This is a 155m bridge built across Katsura River. It is located near Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and you will have to cross this bridge in order to get there.
3. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
When we reached the Bamboo Forest at about 3pm, it was still very crowded and nearly impossible for us to get a picture without other people inside. So here is a picture of the top of the forest instead 🙂
Day 6 – Travel to Tokyo
1. Nishiki Market
We visited Nishiki Market again this morning as there was still more types of food we wanted to try before we had to board our train to Tokyo.
Also, if you’re looking to have some Souffle Pancakes in Japan, you can try the outlet called ‘A Happy Pancake‘ which is just a 3 min walk away from Nishiki Market.
2. Travel from Kyoto to Tokyo
You will have to take the Shinkansen Bullet TrainTickets to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo, it will cost you ¥ 5,824 if you pre-book your tickets online with KLOOK.
You will have to follow the redemption ticket instructions carefully. What we did was to redeem our tickets on Day 1 when we landed at Osaka Kansai International Airport Terminal 1 so that we did not have to scramble to find a JR ticket office afterwards.
THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO (DAY 5 – DAY 6 & DAY 7 – DAY 10)
Here is a list of activities you can consider while in Tokyo. Generally, Tokyo is a big city filled with lots of food, shopping and entertainment. You can also add in a Mt Fuji Classic Route Day Tour from Tokyo during your time here. Just make sure you check the weather forecast beforehand and go when skies are predicted to be clear.
1. Shibuya 109
The famous diagonal shopping crossing street in Tokyo.
2. Shinjuku & Golden Gai
These areas are known mainly for bars, restaurants and shopping. Golden Gai opens after 9 or 10pm and it is a short walk from the east exit of Shinjuku Station. The whole street is filled with a long selection of bars, each with a uniquely crafted menu. Do take note that most of the bars have a cover charge to help with the bar-hopping issue in this area but these are clearly marked before you enter.
One of the main sightseeing spots in Tokyo, here you can find traditional craft shops and street-food stalls along Nakamise Street.
Consists of colourful street art and fashion scene.
5. Piss Alley (Omoide Yokocho)
Collection of small bars, yakitori grills and food stalls.
I have no recollection of exactly where these photos in Tokyo were taken. In general, we did a lot of shopping and eating (especially bbq because it is so so good in Japan).
THINGS TO DO IN HAKONE (DAY 6 – DAY 7)
After staying a night in Tokyo, we packed our luggage and headed for our trip to Hakone. We kept our luggage at one of the train station lockers as we did not want to carry them around while exploring the area.
If you’re not keen to stay in Hakone for a night, you can also book a Mt Fuji & Hakone Day Tour: Lake Ashi & Ropeway Day Trip from Tokyo. The tour will bring you to unique viewpoints to see Mount Fuji and you get to experience the cruise on Lake Ashi as well. It’s going to be a lot more convenient than tackling Japan’s extensive transport system.
Accommodation | Where to Stay in Hakone
We booked a Ryokan Airbnb for our stay in Hakone (Gora area) as we wanted to experience staying in a traditional tatami-matted room. Our Airbnb had a public and private hot spring, but you’ll have to pay about SGD10 for access to the private hot spring.
Transportation in Hakone | Hakone Free Pass
They have a list of passes for you to purchase for your travel to Hakone. For our case, we decided to go with the Hakone Free Pass. The Hakone Free Pass provides you with two days of unlimited use of all transportation (trains, buses, cablecar) in Hakone area. It also includes a round trip between Tokyo and Hakone.
In addition, just approach one of the station counters to get a map of Hakone. You can also ask any of the train staff on which route to take in Hakone and they’ll guide on how to best explore the area!
1. Lake Ashinoko
Lake Ashinoko is the heart of Hakone and the best way to cross this is via a sightseeing cruise that leaves Moto-Hakone Boat Pier. Your Hakone Free Pass entitles you to board the cruise ship.
2. Ancient Cedar Avenue
After alighting the cruise ship, walk towards your left along the road for about 15 minutes and you’ll reach the Ancient Cedar Avenue. This is a 500m path lined with tall cedar trees.
3. Hakone Shrine
Take a bus opposite of the road from Ancient Cedar Avenue to continue straight up and alight at Hakone Shrine. The shrine has a history of more than 1000 years. It is known as a spiritual place that enshrines spirits that guard the Kanto area.
Do take note that there will be a queue to take pictures at this famous Shrine. Try your best to reach as early as possible, if not the sun will set before it reaches your turn to take a photo.
4. Dinner at Odawara Chirashi
Lastly, from Hakone Shrine we board a bus that took us all the way to Odawara. Here, you have to try their Michelin Star Chirashi Don.
After 1 night in Hakone, we took a train back to Tokyo to further enjoy the shopping and eating before heading home on Day 10.
Weather | When is the best time to visit Japan?
If you aren’t traveling for winter spots, Spring Season (March to May) and Autumn Season (September to November) are generally considered the best times to visit the country. It is usually the most crowded in Japan during April, which is their cherry blossom season. Thousands, if not millions, of visitors flock in to see the beautiful full-bloom pink flowers which line the streets during this period. If you don’t mind skipping seeing some flowers, then try to avoid this month as well.