Travels to Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto

One week from today I will be headed to Japan to celebrate my two-year anniversary with my partner and we will be exploring Tokyo and Kyoto over a ten-day trip.  I have pulled together some beautiful photos as inspiration for our trip that can be viewed on my Japan Pinterest Board.

I was in Tokyo 12 years ago for a very short business trip and I took a quick side trip to Lake Ashi and Mt. Fuji which was beautiful.  For some reason I can only locate about 4 photos from my trip and here is a shot that I took atop the cable car at Lake Ashi.

Lake Ashi Cable Car, Lake Ashi, Japan

After reading several books, chatting on travel forums and taking advice from fellow bloggers I have come up with a basic itinerary for our trip.  I like to research travel destinations to map out a path that optimizes our time and gives us room to enjoy your vacation while being able to take in the things we love: top sites, contemporary art, local culture, fashion, food, natural surroundings and architecture.  We certainly are flexible with what the day brings and if we love something that we are experiencing we may not worry about the rest of our plans for that particular day.  But, I like to have a plan of action in place as a starting point for our journey.

I want to give a particular call out to Yukari Sakamoto who is a chef, blogger and author of a book called, Food Sake Tokyo which has been an excellent resource for planning our culinary experiences.   I have more work to do on restaurant selections and reservations but in Japan I think that with all of the options we might play that by ear to some degree.  If you have a culinary suggestion, I would love to hear from you.

Have you been to Tokyo or Kyoto?  Take a look at the below itinerary and let me know your suggestions.  Are we missing something?  Would you tackle this differently?

Either way, please be on the lookout for upcoming check-ins, tweets and postsfrom this adventure.  Anzen’na Tabi or Bon Voyage!

9/3 – Travel
Our 2nd Anniversary, travel from LAX to NRT
9/4 – Travel
Arrive NRT late afternoon, Narita Express to Shinjuku Station
Hotel:  Hilton Tokyo, Shinjuku
9/5 – Tokyo
Shinjuku Gyoen
Isetan Department Store – explore food court and rooftop beer garden
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
Shibuya Crossing – see the lights at night
 Dinner:  In Shibuya (TBD)
9/6 – Travel & Kyoto
Early morning Nozomi Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto Station
Hotel:  Hyatt Kyoto
Southern Higashiyama (on bicycle)
Kiyomizu-dera – buddhist temple with beautiful views
Chion-in – buddhist temple
Sanjusangen-do – buddhist temple
Shopping and exploring maiko district (geisha)
Pontocho Street in the evening
Dinner:  Giro Giro – traditional kaiseki dinner
9/7 – Kyoto
Downtown Kyoto
Nishiki Market
Northwest Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji – Golden Pavilion
Ryoan-ji – stone garden
Bamboo Forest
Dinner:  Tempura Yoshikawa
9/8 – Kyoto & Travel
Southern Kyoto
Fushimi-Inari-Taisha – Shinto Shrine Gates and hike to peak
Late afternoon Nozomi Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo
Hotel:  Hilton Tokyo, Shinjuku
Shunjuku Ni-Chome – Gay Village
Dinner:  Dinner in Shinjuku (TBD)
9/9 – Tokyo
Meiji Shrine
Takeshita Street – youth fashion alley
Yoyogi Park – Jingu Bridge for Cos-Play & Sunday flea market
Shopping & Architecture on Omote Sando – Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto
Dinner:  In Aoyama (TBD)
9/10 – Tokyo
Tokyo National Museum
Uneo Park
Sensoji Temple
Museum of Contemporary Art
Dinner:  TBD
9/11 – Tokyo
Imperial Palace 
Imperial Palace – guided tour at 10am
Higashi-Gyoen (East Garden)
Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan (National Museum of Modern Art)
Takashimaya Specialty Store
Tokyo International Forum
Dinner:  TBD
9/12 – Tokyo & Travel
Free morning
Depart for LAX in late afternoon

9 thoughts on “Travels to Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto

  1. I missed a great opportunity to visit Japan when friends lived there. I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip and seeing how you capture the beautiful sites with your great pictures.

  2. Two years already! I can hardly believe that! Congratulations. I have some recommendations for you:

    In Tokyo:
    – See the Koishakawa Korakuen garden near the Tokyo Dome (large traditional Japanese garden). It is unbelievably beautiful and off most tourist lists (can walk from the subway) – take your camera!
    – See the Nezu Museum – beautiful collection of art and spectacular Japanese garden (not far from shopping in Aoyama)
    – Go eat lunch in one of the fun crazy booths at the Tsukiji Fish Market – fun experience. Get advice from your hotel on which booth is best. There is one that is highly-recommended that we ate in – it always has a very long line unlike many of the others – but worth the wait.

    – I personally thought Senso-ji was underwhelming and uninteresting after Kyoto. I was also underwhelmed by Ueno Park, it is pretty messy and full of homeless (sadly) – do not choose this over Koishakawa or Nezu…

    In Kyoto:
    – Visit Nara! It was the original capital for 70 years before Kyoto and is full of beautiful sites. It is only a 20-minute train ride from Kyoto Station and do-able on a day trip. You can walk most of the town from the train station (but wear comfy shoes). The one small surprise-and-delight little shrine I visited I will never forget was Shin-Yakushi-ji. It is this crazy little single hall in a residential neighborhood – but it is old and very impressive with a Buddha and 12 astrological warrior sculptures protecting the Buddha. I don’t know why – but it struck me deeply in its beauty and simplicity. If you go to Todai-ji (and you should) – walk up above the site into the neighborhood for views and some beautiful small intimate sites.
    – Do the entire Philosopher’s walk in Kyoto – it is worth the afternoon. Very beautiful…

  3. Hi David, If it is not too late to plan:
    Food=experience/motif/ambiance must see:
    –Tofuya restaurant (old Tokyo Tower area, best for lunch Japanese-rate!-$$)
    –Gonpachi restaurant (Minato area, Japanese-rate!-$$ w/o alcohol)
    Historical charm — Kawagoe district near Tokyo
    If going to Hiroshima, a boat ride to Itsukushima Shrine, World Heritage Site (picturesque beautiful & you’ll see deer too) My next post!
    If going back to Tokyo from Kyoto, a quick train stop at Kurashiki, a picturesque quaint town.
    If going to Osaka area, Nara (per above) Kyoto/Osaka area is a must see.
    These are marvels/gems average tourists don’t experience.
    Google “photos of xxxxx” (places mentioned above) and see if it is your cup of tea.
    Anzen’na Tabi’o

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