A friend recommended I email you about my upcoming honeymoon in Japan. Neither of us have been, but we’ve both traveled other parts of the world. We’re flying in and out of Tokyo in mid June and will be there for 9 days. I was thinking Tokyo for 4-5 days, Kyoto for 2-3 days and someplace else? Our musts based on research so far are at least a couple nights at a ryokan with onsen, walking Tokyo, seeing temples, eat at a really good spot.
Based on that little info, would you be willing to offer some advice? If so, we would be very thankful.
You guys will love Japan!
Definitely purchase the Japan Rail Pass. You have to buy it outside Japan and it’s a huge discount on train travel throughout the country.
Here are my thoughts based on your timeline:
Tokyo is very walkable. I recommend staying in Ginza, Roppongi, Shibuya, or Shinjuku because they are the most central neighborhoods. But as long as your hotel is inside the Yamanote Line (the train line that encircles the center of Tokyo) then you’ll be good. I just wrote this blog post about what to do for 2 days in Tokyo.
Sensoji Temple and Nakamise-dori (In Asakusa)
This is Tokyo’s largest Buddhist temple and there are lots of fun traditional shops all around this area
Near the Asakusa train station is a boat touring agency where you can take a 50 minute boat ride to Odaiba. Odaiba has great views of Tokyo, Tokyo Bay, Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo Tower. Other than views it’s mostly shopping and a few museums
Tokyo Skytree is close to Asakusa as well. This is the tallest structure in Japan (one of the tallest in the world). It’s only 2 years old, so it’s still very popular. You can go up to the observation deck for great views of Tokyo.
Ueno Park (not far from Asakusa)
Tokyo’s oldest park, it has lots of museums including the Tokyo National Museum (one of the top museums in the country, tons of Japanese art), it also has Ueno Zoo, Shinobazu pond where you can paddleboat and several small temples and shrines
Akihabara (not far from Ueno)
The center of anime and electronics, it’s fun to see all the anime billboards and giant arcades. This is also the spot to find maid cafes (where girls in maid outfits will serve you tea and cake)
This is the largest pedestrian crosswalk in the world. Definitely check it out at night when it’s all lit up, it feels a bit like Times Square. There are lots of restaurants, shops, and karaoke joints in this area as well.
Great Walking Tours
Harajuku is a neighborhood of narrow streets, boutiques, and cafes and is a popular hangout for Tokyo’s fashion forward youth
Omotesando Blvd has high end designer shopping and many of the stores were designed by famous architects like Tods by Toyo Ito.
Meiji Jingu Shrine is one of the three great shrines of Japan. It’s located next to Harajuku, right behind Harajuku Station.
Yoyogi Koen (koen = park) is located right next to Meiji Jingu. There are often events at Yoyogi on weekends during the warm months and there’s always good people watching.
Kabukicho is Tokyo’s red light district. In general, Tokyo is very safe and this place is only mildly sketchy, it’s an interesting sight to see.
Golden Gai, located behind the Shinjuku Best Western, is a very small group of hundreds of tiny bars. Each bar seats about 8-15 people, they can be pricey, but they are very cool and the area in general is fascinating.
A beautiful park with English gardens, French gardens, and Japanese Gardens and views of Shinjuku’s skyscrapers.
Roppongi Hills Mori Tower Observation Deck
Go to the Mori Tower observation deck at sunset (and pay the extra $5 to go up to the skydeck, which is the helicopter pad on the roof with unobstructed 360 views of Tokyo)
You can grab a bistro table and enjoy drinks and apps on the observation deck
A ticket to the observation deck includes entrance to the Mori Art Museum, which has fantastic modern art exhibits.
Tokyo Station and Imperial Palace
Tokyo Station was recently refurbished to its original European Renaissance style architecture and is well worth seeing. From the station it’s about a ten minute walk to the Imperial Palace. In June, the imperial palace gardens should be in bloom.
Luxury shopping district, similar to NYC 5th avenue, the giant flagship stores are an impressive sight and it’s a beautiful area.
Tokyo Restaurant Recommendations
Les Creations de Narisawa – Michelin star rated with French cuisine
Ishikawa – Michelin star rated with Japanese cuisine
Ramen – Ippudo in Roppingi
Sushi – Have you seen the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi? Jiro is the top sushi chef in the world, and his restaurant is very expensive, but if you’re interested you can make reservations a few months in advance.
June in Tokyo
It can be rainy in Tokyo in June, but the temperature should be mild and it most likely won’t be too hot and humid. Wherever you stay will have umbrellas, but you should probably pack rain boots and coats.
Hakone is a scenic mountainous region about an hour outside Tokyo. It’s a great spot to stay at a ryokan (Japanese traditional inn) and enjoy onsen (hot springs). If it’s good weather you’ll have fabulous views of Mount Fuji. Definitely check out the Hakone Open Air Museum, it’s an outdoor museum with impressive art, rolling hills, and great views. And ride an old world cruise ship across Lake Ashi with views of Fuji and Hakone Shrine.
Takayama is a region of rural traditional Japanese villages. This is another great spot for ryokan and onsen as well as sake breweries. It has a beautiful old town and markets and is a good place to get a feel of more traditional Japan.
*It’s located between Tokyo and Kyoto so you can stop on your way to Kyoto
The Golden Pavilion, it’s always crowded, but I think it’s worth seeing, I also recommend sitting and enjoying the tea area you’ll see after you pass through the woods behind Kinkaku-ji (the path will lead you there)
Fushimi Inari is the shrine of a thousand red gates. You can walk beneath the red gates for hours as they climb 2.5 miles up Inari Mountain.
A temple on a hill overlooking Kyoto and the surrounding mountains. Walk up Chawanzaka (Teapot Lane) and peruse souvenir shops for Japanese pottery, tapestries, and sweets on your way up to Kiyomizu-dera.
Gion is Kyoto’s busiest night life district and one of the city’s major geisha districts. Gion’s Pontocho Alley is packed with traditional shops and restaurants.
Kitasaga Bamboo grove
Located in the Arashiyama region
The Philosopher’s Path
A picturesque path that crosses near many temples, shrines, and tea houses including, Ginkaku-ji, the silver pavilion, and Nanzen-ji Temple.
Kyoto’s best onsen
A castle in central Kyoto with ornate woodwork and gold interiors
An old actor’s villa in the Arashiyama region, it has tea houses, shrines, and gardens with views of the city, the 1000 yen admission includes tea and sweet
With the Shinkansen (bullet train) JR Pass, Hiroshima is about an hour from Kyoto
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is supposed to be amazing.
I think most people spend their entire time in Hiroshima at the memorial park because it can easily take a day to see it all. We haven’t been, but it has been highly recommended.
I also help curate the Tokyo Guide on AFAR.com. Check it out for more Tokyo info.