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Thoughts on 2 week itinerary for a 1st timer to Japan

Thoughts on 2 week itinerary for a 1st timer to Japan

Old May 18, 2024, 10:01 am
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GodAtum As you are due to head off tomorrow, enjoy your trip to Japan and don't stress it if you don't get to see or do everything you were planning to - that's what future visits are for.
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Old May 24, 2024, 2:03 am
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Congratulations to GodAtum Would have been hot as heck and extremely tiring but Friday, 24th was a perfect day with regards to clarity for glorious Fuji San views at Kawaguchiko. I hope the Saturday rest day mends some of the exhaustion.
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Old Jun 7, 2024, 4:31 am
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Japan trip diary - 19th May to 6th June

Sunday 19th May

  • Flew on BA5 from Heathrow to Haneda. It started with a chauffeur pickup from my house and departure courtesy of Heathrow VIP in the Windsor Suite. I was there for about 90 minutes enjoying a light brunch. Then was swiftly lead through the private security room to my awaiting BMW which drove me across the upfront to gate C66.
  • The purser met me on the jetbridge and escorted me to my seat 2K. Unfortunately due to a loose engine cowling we taxied halfway towards 09R and had to turn back for the engineers to check on stand. We were delayed for about 2 hours, but made up most of the time in-flight!
  • The cabin crew this flight were phenomenal. Even though I have no status, my order was taken 1st (the cabin was full). The food was delicious although the fish could have done with a small jug of that sweet sauce!
  • On landing the captain invited me up to the flightdeck for a few photos.
  • Haneda had no lines (which I was very worried about) and was through immigration, baggage claim and customs in a few minutes.
  • When I arrived at my hotel, I discovered I left my headphones on my seat. Luckily a quick email later and lost property found it and posted it to my hotel

Monday 20th May

  • After arriving at Haneda, it only took about 10 minutes to get through immigration, baggage claim and customs.
  • After dropping off my suitcase at Yamato luggage service, I headed to Haneda Airport Garden to get some lunch. My 1st meal in Japan was a delicious bowl of unagi (eel) at Unagi Yondaime Kikukawa.
  • I then took the metro, which was very easy, to my hotel. I had already setup a Suica card on ht phone beforehand and topped it up using my Revolut Visa.
  • Upon arriving at the Palace Hotel Tokyo, I was escorted up to the Club Lounge to complete check-in procedures. I was offered a welcome drink of fruit tea and a small sweet and hot towel. I was then shown to my room ( a Club King with Balcony).
  • I rested in my room until dinner which I had at the hotel restaurant Wadakura. I opted for Japanese-style rolled omelet, Grilled sablefish with sweet miso and Matcha ice cream.

Tuesday 21st May

  • After an early start and breakfast at the hotel Grand Kitchen, I had a private whole day walking tour.
  • Managed to bash out a few big ticket items ... fire ceremony at Fukagawa Buddist temple, Nazu Shrine, Senso-ji Temple and Menji Jingu Shriine. Senso-Ji Temple was crowded but bearable, no more then a busy shopping mall in London. Yukiko, the guide, was excellent and knowledgeable.
  • Lunch: Sobagokoro
  • Returned back to hotel to rest. My luggage had arrived and was delivered to my room.
  • Dinner: Sapporo Uogashi 57 Sushi Tokyo Station

Wednesday 22nd May

  • Breakfast at the Club Lounge (on a sunny day I recommend taking it out on the terrace).
  • Morning at Imperial Palace Gardens with audio tour.
  • Then came back to my room for a rest and bought a few pastries from the hotel's bakery.
  • Lunch at Yakiniku Like Jimbocho. Fun experience cooking your own meat but it ended up being a bit chewy.
  • Came back to my room to freshen up.
  • Shibuya Sky in the afteroon - definitely worth a visit but make sure you book well in advance. Took a little bit of time to find the entrance from Shibuya Station. Amazing views!
  • Ramen Tour. Had the best ramen of my life and learnt a lot. Plus great to go into small ramen shops were I would be too scared too normally. Just myself and one other solo traveller.

Thursday 23rd May

  • As I had to get up at 5am I had breakfast of some of the pastries I bought in my room.
  • Morning fish market & sushi class. Amazing experience at both Toyosu and Tsukiji fish markets normally off-limits to the public. Then went to the chef's restaurant where I learned to prepare the fish we just bought and turn it into sushi. The chef was very kind and knowledgeable. But even though this was meant to be a group tour, I was the only one who booked.
  • Returned to my room for a rest.
  • In the afternoon was the police museum tour and met some friends for dinner.
  • Got back to my hotel and forwarded luggage to Osaka.

Friday 24th May

  • Up early at 4am. Checked Mt Fuji weather and it looked very promising. Breakfast of bakery snacks in my room.
  • 04:59 Tokyo station (Marunouchi North Exit) - 06:10 Takao station (JR Chuo Rapid)
  • 06:30 Takao station - 07:06 Otsuki station (JR Chuo Main)
  • 07:24 Otsuki station - 08:05 Shimoyoshida Station (Fujikyuko Line)
  • Brilliant hike through Arakura Sengen Park up to Arakurayama Summit. Even though I was there very early, there were still a bunch of loud tourists. Not sure where they cam from as they didn't take the train.
  • Lunch at a small mom and pop place.
  • Afternoon tea at A Happy Pancake Ginza.
  • Returned to hotel for rest and was lazy so dinner was room service (wagu burger).

Saturday 25th May

  • Breakfast in Club Lounge.
  • National Tokyo Museum.
  • Ate delicious pork tonkotsu in museum cafe.
  • Walked up to Tennōji Temple then tried soy dango at Habutae Dango Main Shop. Wasn't a huge fan and pefer the sweeter colored dango (white, pink, green ones).
  • Akahabara: Super Potato and Bic Camera (spent way too long in there!). It was hard to tell between girls wearing school uniform and actual schoolgirls!
  • Dinner at Aman Hotel (amazing beef curry).

Sunday 26th May

  • Breakfast in Club Lounge.
  • Travel to Osaka. First time on bullet train. Comfortable, quiet and spacious.
  • Visited Osaka Castle. But had to wait about 30 mins at the metro station for a locker to become free. Quick visit to Osaka castle and skipped ticket queue by purchasing ticket online. Nice view from top but very very crowded with lots of pushing and shoving.
  • Checked into the Conrad Osaka (King Exec Corner Room). Very impressive views. Luggage had already arrived.
  • Foot treatment in hotel spa (amazing views of the city).
  • Dinner in the hotel in C Grill.

Monday 27th May

  • Breakfast in hotel. Good choice in buffet plus a la carte dishes.
  • Nara half day walking tour. Unable to book special train so had to take local one. Was with another Italian couple. Excellent half day walking tour of the must-see sights plus a delicious lunch. As I didn't have much time, this is a great way to see the temples and deer (Kofuku-ji Temple 5 Stories Pagoda, Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga Grand Shrine).
  • Traditional Nara lunch at Kotoya.
  • Dinner with friends.

Tuesday 28th May

  • Breakfast in hotel.
  • Universal Japan. Unfortunately most rides closed because of heavy rain. Entrance queue was about 20 mins. Made straight for Jaws, no queue. Mario Strawberry shortcake was delicious. Super Nintendo World - 15 mins queue. Mario Kart - 30 mins queue even with express pass. Yoshi - about 10 mins queue. Cafe - 40 mins queue. Food, especially dessert was decent for a theme park.
  • Waterworld show cancelled all day.
  • Hippogriff closed. Forbidden Journey was fun but got motion sick (20 mins queue). Tried butter beer and macaroni cheese after queuing at Three Broomsticks for 30 mins. Beer was very maple syrupy. Problem with restaurant there was no seats. So had to wait while my food was getting cold to get a seat. Got a wand.
  • No dinner.

Wednesday 29th May

  • Breakfast snack in room from 7-11. Forwarded luggage to Kyoto.
  • I went to Ghibli Park today from Osaka. I was very worried about the travel there but it all went smoothly, apart from the Higashiyama Line being so crowded there was a long queue into the station. I got to the Park about 09:45 and headed straight for Valley of the Witches. There was a queue and I got in about 10:10.
  • This part took around 1 hour to get around. The highlight was going inside the castle. Tip: skip the bakery line by going straight to the cart to the side where there’s no queue.
  • At 11:00 I headed straight for the Warehouse, another queue and I got in about 11:15. I went straight to the cinema to see an exclusive shirt which was cute. Skipping the huge line to no face, I went straight into the exhibition. But as a solo traveller I didn’t feel confident taking photos. Then went to eat just after midday. There was about a 10 min queue and I ordered the miso cutlet pizza and passion fruit soda float. I had to wait another 10 mins for a seat while my food got cold. I complained to the staff but there was nothing they could do. I tried eating while standing up but was told off. After lunch, I walked about the rest of the Warehouse, the adult cat bus was cute and the exhibition room which some of the sets had very realistic plastic food, shame no photos.
  • Around 13:00 I hiked to the Forest. Only spent about 10 mins there viewing the house. As this is my favorite film I was disappointed with there being little to do. I wish there was a forest maze or something.
  • Had a brief pit stop at the tea house which was relaxing and peaceful.
  • Then saw the rest of the areas, they are quite small so only spent about 10-15 mins in each.
  • I headed to the station about 15:30 making some purchases at the shop on the way. FYI the outside shop has a small Totoro with leaf, while the Warehouse shop doesn’t. The Witches shop has a soft small Jiji cat.
  • The most time was spent walking between areas and there’s precious little shade so I needed plenty of short rest stops.
  • Rest at hotel.
  • Dinner at Icharan Dontonbori (queued for about 10 mins). Walked around and saw temple kitties at Hozen-ji Temple.

Thursday 30th May

  • Checked out of hotel.
  • Breakfast on the bullet train to Hiroshima. Upon arriving, luckily found a large room full of lockers to leave my bag. Took sightseeing bus to the Peace Museum.
  • Visited the Peace Museum this morning. Arrived at 09:30 and got straight in. Hired the audio guide which I highly recommend. Unfortunately the museum itself was chock full of school groups making it like Disneyworld. The museum is meant to be quite a profoundly moving and challenging viewing but any introspection or trying to take my time to appreciate the exhibits fully was impossible as it was too cramped and crowded. I was just swept along with the sea of people. People (both foreigners and locals) need to learn how to conduct themselves in a museum as it was a bit frustrating and took away from the overall experience.
  • Went up to the viewing deck of Hiroshima Orizuru Tower. A bit pricey but fantastic views of the dome.
  • Lunch at Ootoya Hiroshima Hondori Branch. The mackerel lunch set was exactly what I was looking for and the staff was super helpful. The matcha soy cheesecake was pretty good and the prices were great.
  • Walked to Hiroshima Castle and wet to the top viewing area. Very busy with schoolchildren.
  • Then took a bus back to the station.
  • After collecting my bag, took the bullet train to Kyoto. Went straight to the Hotel The Mitsui to check-in. Luggage had arrived.
  • Dinner room service: burger

Friday 31st May

  • Had a lie in this morning.
  • Lunch: room service pizza
  • Sake Brewery & Tasting Tour. Great tour of the museum and had a fantastic tasting of about 20 different sakes! But even though this was meant to be a group tour, I was the only one who booked.
  • Returned to hotel to rest.
  • Dinner at Coco Curry and bought few snacks next door at Daily Qanat Izumiya.

Saturday 1st June

  • Breakfast of snacks bought last night. Early train to Kibuneguchi Station (not too many people so got a seat) then a short bus ride (luckily was 1st one on as bus became very packed) to Kifune.
  • A short walk up to Hirobun. 09:30 joined short queue (about 10 people in front). 10:15 paid at booking desk. I was no 8. 10:30 sat down in waiting area. 10:45 moved to eating area, had 15 mins to eat. Noodles came very quick and I'm a slow eater so had noodles all over the table.
  • Afterwards, I hiked over the mountain to Kurama Station (as it was the 1st station I got a seat but the train became very packed later down the line).
  • Returned to hotel for a fantastic 2 hour spa treatment which really helped my aching legs.
  • Had a Mos Burger takeaway for dinner.

Sunday 2nd June

  • Breakfast of snacks in room.
  • I got up very early to get to Fushimi-Inari for 5am. But shrine was busy with people even up to the top, so hard to take photos.
  • I hiked about 11 miles from Fushimi-Inari to Keage Station, stopping off at Kiyomizu-dera (which was extremely busy). In between tourist hotspots, I was the only one on the path.
  • Matcha tea set at 茶寮 器楽 near Kiyomizu-dera.
  • Lunch of ham and cheese sandwich at Keage Coffee Shop.
  • Returned to hotel for rest.
  • Ramen tour in the evening. This was excellent and the guide was very interesting to talk to as he was a British expat.

Monday 3rd June

  • Breakfast Experience in private onsen at hotel. Amazing onsen bath and delicious Japanese style breakfast.
  • Forwarded luggage to Tokyo.
  • Walking tour of Kyoto (Nijo Castle, Nishi Hogan-ji Temple, Golden Pavilion).
  • Dinner at Forni, in the hotel. Delicious food but portions a bit small.

Tuesday 4th June

  • Breakfast at hotel.
  • Zazen Meditation & tea ceremony experience at Daitoku-ji Temple. A once in a lifetime experience being introduced to zazen meditation by a proper monk and being served light matcha in a tea ceremony in an original wooden tea house. Very thoughtful, intimate & warming environment. Both the monk and our interpreter were very welcoming & friendly. Would recommend to others 10/10 & book again with Wabunka.
  • Lunch at Kikukawa (eel) at Kyoto Station.
  • Bullet train and check in Palace Hotel. Luggage had been placed in my room.
  • Dinner at Zauo Shibuya. Fun to catch the fish and deliciously cooked.

Wednesday 5th June

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Quick visit to Dotokuji Temple than Yushukan Museum. Interesting museum but found myself googling bits as a walked around to get better context, as the museum presents information from an interesting perspective.
  • Lunch at Yasukuni Yachiyo Shokudo (egg and rice shop specialty).
  • Ippodo Marunuchi for a wonderful tea experience.
  • Back to hotel for a rest.
  • Dinner at Teppaynaki Go in the hotel. Had the best bef I've had in my life (Matsusaka beef filet 100g).
  • A quick cheese and cocktail at the hotel bar.

Thursday 6th June

  • BA6 from Haneda to Heathrow. One couple in front of me at First class checkin. The First & Business class line was very awkward as I was the only one in it and it merged with everyone else so had to push my way into the queue. Security took only a few minutes but I had to take my shoes off for some reason, even though no-one else did. It was good that I didn't need to take electronics out my bag though.
  • JAL First lounge was practically empty even though the First cabin was full. Not sure where all the other passengers went! Highly recommend trying the JAL curry.
  • Boarding was somewhat well organised with separate queues for Group 1 and 2. Flight was 2 hours delayed due to a technical fault.
  • Had a pleasant crew and delicious food (smocked sea bass, grilled saikyo red snapper, belgian chocolate mouse cake). 2nd meal service after a short nap was grilled chicken ballotine and green tea tiramisu.
  • Upon arrival at Heathrow, I was met on the jetbridge by a representative and escorted down to the car on the tarmac. After a short drive to the Windsor Suite, immigration was done in seconds as I handed my passport over to the friendly officer in a window. Then escorted to the suite, had a quick dinner (delicious sea bass) and a BWM i7 chauffeur to home.
Thank you all for your valuable advice. Your advice and support have made a fantastic trip!
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Last edited by GodAtum; Jun 7, 2024 at 7:28 am
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Old Jun 7, 2024, 4:58 am
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Congratulations, you finally figured out how to spend time and “be” in your very own interpretation of Japan.
I have appreciated the review and can see how it made an enjoyable holiday destination.
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Old Jun 7, 2024, 6:33 am
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Excellent trip report (and trip, it seems). Clearly very busy, but seems you were flexible and went with the flow (figuratively, and sometimes literally, as in the Hiroshima Peace Museum), and ended up with plenty of room service, down time, and unplanned diversions, as it should be.
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