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Adventures of Maya & Will

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  • Maya Leeds

Japan on a budget: 2 week itinerary


We spent a total of 15 days in Japan and had a truly incredible trip. We were worried about visiting Japan on a relatively tight budget, but found that with some conscious spending and decisions it is possible to have an amazing time, not constantly feeling like you are missing out on the best activities.


A few notes on traveling to Japan on a budget and the itinerary that follows:

  • One great way to save money is to get breakfast at a convenience (Family Mart, 7/11) or grocery store. They all have good options and made our money go much further!

  • If possible use credit card or travel points for accommodation. We were lucky to have a number of travel points available, so this helped keep accommodation costs low. That said, quality & cleanliness is top notch in Japan, so I would trust most hostels there if that is the route you go (of course always check reviews!)

  • We traveled exclusively by train, bus & by foot in Japan - we didn’t set foot in a taxi once! The train system is really great, and even in cities like Kyoto where there are fewer train lines, public transportation is really easy.

Although this is Japan on a budget, as you’ll see we did choose to spend money for some particular events & activities. It’s important to consider what is most important to you when deciding which to skip.


Below is our itinerary followed by highlights from each city (favorite activities, food & where we stayed for each)


2 Week Japan Itinerary

  • Tokyo - 5 nights

  • Kyoto - 4 nights (1 at a Ryokan)

  • Hiroshima - 2 nights

  • Naoshima - 1 night

  • Osaka - 3 nights


Detailed Itinerary with highlights


Tokyo - 5 nights

We arrived in Tokyo around 10pm on our first night, so we really had 4 full days in Tokyo.


Eat

  • Kagari Ramen - AMAZING Chicken Ramen. Michelin Star Ramen that is affordable!

  • Daiwa Sushi - this is a splurge, but if you are only going to do so for one meal, this is a good one (Sushi from Toyosu Market). No need to wake up in the middle of the night. We arrived just before 10am and waited about 20 minutes.

  • Ichiran Ramen

Do

  • Robot Restaurant - Incredible way to start a trip. Find discount tickets online.

  • TeamLabs Museum - If you are going to go to one museum, go to a TeamLabs one. They are interactive, beautiful and fun!

  • Kabuki Theater - Buy a ticket to one act only, it’s only about an hour and quite an experience to see this style of Japanese theater

  • Toyosu Market - Get morning sushi (we arrived around 10am), didn’t seem to be a need to get there at 3am which some people suggest. Go up to the roof deck and take in city views

  • Senso-Ji Temple

  • Meiji-Jingu Shrine & Yayao Park

  • Edo-Tokyo Museum - Free guides if you are interested in getting more out of the experience

  • Explore neighborhoods: Cat Street, Shibuya station crossing, Harajuku street, Golden Gai

Stay

  • Nui Hostel - GREAT hostel located in Asakusa. Very simple rooms but the space is beautiful, clean & comfortable.

  • &And Hostel - Good for price and comfortable, moderns rooms. Area is just OK but there is good train access.

Kyoto - 4 nights (1 at a Ryokan)


Eat

  • Ippudo Ramen

  • Gion Tonto - Okonomiyaki set in a traditional Japanese space (hidden behind sliding doors, tatami mats, shoes off)

  • Kyoshikian - Wagyu Beef spot in Pontocho Alley. Order the fixed menu, sit at the counter and talk to the chef

Do

There are a number of shrines & temples to see in and around Kyoto. These are just some of our favorites

  • Kiyomizu - Dera Temple - Go late in the day when crowds thin out, sample all of the local foods on the walk up.

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Forest & Tenryu-ji Temple

  • Ryoan-ji (Zen Rock Garden)

  • Kinkaku-ji (the golden temple)

  • Fushimi Inari - If possible to late in the afternoon (around sunset). As you climb higher the crowds disappear.

  • Nijo Castle - Beautiful, but more expensive than the other shrines. Unless you are going for the cherry blossoms, this might be a good one to skip.

  • Nishiki Market

  • Pontocho Alley

  • Day trip to Nara

Stay

  • Noku Kyoto - Great hotel but a little far from old city

  • Seikoro Ryokan - Lovely Ryokan experience. We stayed for one night and got to experience the Japanese breakfast.

Hiroshima - 2 nights


Eat

  • Sushi Tei

  • Teppei Okonomiyaki (in Okonomi-mura)

  • Momiji Manju - These are sweets that look like a maple leaf with different types of filling. Indulge yourself when in in Miyajima.

Do

  • Peace Memorial Museum

  • Peace Memorial Park

  • Day trip to Miyajima - Plan to hike to Mt. Misen if that is something that interests you

Stay

  • Crowne Plaza ANA Hiroshima

Naoshima - 1 night

If you are tight on budget and time, I would suggest skipping Naoshima. While we found an affordable accommodation, the museums themselves have fees. If you are not going for the Art, there isn’t much else on the island.


Eat

  • Naka Oku

  • Cafe Ippo

Do

  • Chichu Art Museum - buy ticket ahead of time online

  • Benesse House Art Museum & Outdoor Art

  • Art House Project

Stay

  • Guest house Roji to Akari

Osaka - 3 nights


Eat

  • Ramen Zundoya Shinsaibashi - Great Ramen. If there is a wait, it’s worth sticking out

  • Daikisuisan dontonbori - Go for the experience of conveyor belt sushi, the sushi itself is just ok

  • Ichibazushi - Good sushi that you’ll be eating with locals

Do

  • Sumo - If you are in town for a tournament, this is worth a splurge. Buy tickets in advance. The tournament starts at 8am, but you can get there around 2pm which is when the big matches begin.

  • Dotonbori

  • Osaka Castle - no fee to just walk around the castle!

Stay

  • Moxy Osaka Hanmachi

Booking at any of these properties? Use my reference link and we’ll both get $25 back!


Also, thanks to @explorewithamelia for all of the great travel tips!


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