Winter Adventure in Japan: An 18-Day Itinerary Through Tokyo, Kyoto, and Beyond

Winter Adventure in Japan: An 18-Day Itinerary Through Tokyo, Kyoto, and Beyond

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Embarking on a winter journey to Japan is a magical experience, especially when December wraps the landscapes of Christmas decorations everywhere. Although most Japanese have no religious significance to Christmas, the Japanese are happy to welcome the holiday. Whoever walks the streets of the big cities in December, will see the houses and shops decorated with multi-colored lighting, Christmas trees, and Christmas decorations. In many stores, there are special offers and discounts, and the holiday atmosphere is felt everywhere.

There are advantages to a winter trip to Japan. One of the most important advantages is the cheaper flights and accommodation. Also, in the winter months places are less crowded. The weather in winter in Japan can be very cold, depending on which region you’re visiting. However, the Japanese maintain a routine even during the winter time, so you can enjoy your vacation, as long as you are equipped with warm clothes and a good coat. The weather in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima is cold but usually relatively dry. During our entire trip, there was no rain at all! We hope this Japan Winter Itinerary will be helpful for you and you family.

Buy a Welcome Suica card –  you can buy this card only at the airport.  This is a prepaid card that can be used to pay for public transportation in Japan and even in many stores. With this card there is no need to buy a ticket at the ticket machine; the card must be attached at the entrance gate to the train. The gate will open and the amount will be automatically deducted from the card. The card can be used on JR trains, buses and subways. In addition, the card serves as an electronic wallet resource and can be used to purchase snacks and drinks at vending machines throughout Japan and at many convenience stores.

Change some money – many places in Japan do not accept credit card, so be prepared with some cash on you to begin your journey.

Day 1- Tokyo: Harajuku, Omotesando Hills and Shibuya

In the heart of Tokyo, start your journey at the vibrant Ameyoko Shopping District, a bustling market offering everything from local delicacies to unique souvenirs. 

Take the metro to Harajuku Station. Wander through the eclectic streets of Harajuku which is considered one of the fashion capitals of the world thanks to its unique street fashion. Don’t forget to try the colorful food they have to offer there.

From there, walk to Omotesando Hills.This place is the cutting-edge fashion and design.

Continue to walk until you arrive to the famous Shibuya. There you can find the iconic Shibuya Crossing and many shops and restaurants.

Harajuku Tokyo
Harajuku Tokyo
Harajuku Tokyo
Harajuku Tokyo

Day 2 - Disneysea Tokyo

Take the metro to Tokyo DisneySea, a unique Disney park with a nautical theme. Experience the magic of Disney against the backdrop of Tokyo Bay. Tokyo DisneySea is a beatiful theme park located in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan.  The park is divided into seven themed areas. It is recommended to buy the tickets in advance. 

Disneysea
Disneysea

Day 3 - Gotemba Premium Outlets and Fujikawaguchiko

Rent a car and drive to Fujikawaguchiko. Make a stop at Gotemba Premium Outlets for some premium shopping and panoramic views of Mt. Fuji. The outlet is huge and you can easily spend a half day there.

Gotemba Premium
Gotemba_Premium

Day 4 - Mt. Fuji sightseeing and Fuji-Q highland

This day is all about embracing the outdoors. Park at Arakurafujisengen Shrine Parking Lot and hike to Chureito Pagoda for an iconic view of Mt. Fuji. From there, drive to Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway for more beautiful views of Mt. Fuji. Parking: Lake Kawaguchi Free Parking

Mt. Fuji
Fuji_Japan

In the afternoon, enjoy thrilling rides at Fuji Q Highland. You can enter for free to the park if you don’t want to ride the attractions, and just enjoy the lovely atmosphere and food. You can find more information about our Mt. Fuji sightseeing here

FujiQ
FujiQ1

Day 5 - Drive to Kyoto and visit Maruyama Park and Gion

A picturesque drive brings you to Kyoto. After arriving to Kyoto, park your car near Maruyama Park and explore the beautiful park. You can visit the Yasaka-jinja Shrine located in the park. From there, walk to the historic Gion area located in the heart of Kyoto. Gion is a historic district known for its preserved traditional architecture and being the epicenter of the city’s geisha culture. Its atmospheric streets, lined with wooden houses and teahouses offer a glimpse into Japan’s past.

Gion
Gion

Day 6- Kiyomizu-dera, Sanneenzaka and Ninenzaka.

Today, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu-dera. This is a stunning wooden temple known for its panoramic views of the city with the iconic wooden terrace, sticking out over a hillside. You can park your car here: Kyoto 2 Nenzaka Parking Lot

Now walk to the charming lanes of Sanneenzaka and Ninenzaka. Sanneizaka and Ninenzaka are beautiful cobblestone streets in Kyoto, winding through the historic Higashiyama district. You can find many unique shops and restaurants there and we had a great half day there. 

Gion_Kyoto
Kiyomizu-Dera

Day 7 - Fushimi Inari and downtown Kyoto

Today, explore the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine. You can park your car for free just near the entrance: Parking: Fushimi inari Shrine Parking Lot. Be prepared for a long hike, so come with suitable walking shoes. Hiking Fushimi Inari takes you on a beautiful journey through the iconic red torii gates that lead to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. As you ascend, you can see the breathtaking views of Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari

After finishing your visit to Fushimi inari, drive to downtown Kyoto and park there. Visit Nishiki Market, a bustling culinary haven known for its vibrant stalls offering a diverse array of fresh produce, local delicacies, and traditional Japanese snacks. Don’t forget to look for a Japanese knife there, it is the best. From there you can continue to stroll in downtown Kyoto.

Nishiki_Market
Knife_kyoto

Day 8- Kinkaku-ji, Bamboo Forest, and Iwatayama Monkey Park

Discover the beauty of Kinkaku-ji, known as the Golden Pavilion. This pagoda is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, decorated with shimmering gold leaf that reflects in the surrounding pond and nestled in a beautiful Japanese garden.

From there, drive to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and then, hike to meet the monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park. We loved the monkey park, and it shouldn’t be missed. 

Kinkak_Ji
monkey_park_kyoto

Day 9- Osaka Castle and Namba

Drive to Osaka, and visit the historic Osaka Castle. Osaka This fortress is surrounded by parkland and is an iconic symbol of Japan’s rich history. The visit provides visitors with a glimpse into the country’s feudal past and the architecture of its samurai heritage. You can park here:  D – parking Morinomiya Parking Lot

Osaka_Castle
Osaka_Castle

After finishing your visit in the castle, park your car at the hotel and take a metro to Namba. The vibrant energy of Dotonbori is amazing, with all the neon lights and the bustling canal-side district. Don’t forget to see the iconic landmarks like the Glico Running Man sign and the Kani Doraku crab beckon. Explore the intricate streets of Namba’s entertainment district, uncovering eclectic shops, street food stalls, and the lively atmosphere of this dynamic area

Namba_osaka
Namba_osaka
namba_crab
namba_signs

Day 10- Universal Studious

Experience the magic of Universal Studios Osaka, a theme park entertaining for all ages. Universal Studios Osaka is a thrilling park for entertainment enthusiasts, featuring iconic attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, thrilling rides like Jurassic Park: The Ride, and engaging shows. The park’s immersive experiences, blending movie magic with cutting-edge technology, make it a must-visit destination for families, adventure-seekers, and fans of popular culture alike. Buy your tickets in advance. 

If you want to grab dinner after you finish your visit to Universal Studious, just outside and 5 minutes walk you can find City Walk with lots of restaurants and stalls. 

Parking: USJ parking 

Universal_Studious
Universal_Studious1
Universal_Studious2
Universal_Studious3

Day 11- Nara and Shinsekai

Half a day is dedicated to the charming city of Nara, home to friendly deer and historic temples. In Nara, park near Nara Park (there are many options), where friendly free-roaming deer, considered messengers of the gods, interact with visitors. You can buy cookies and feed them and they will bow. Visit the historic temples like Todai-ji and stroll through Higashimuki Shopping Street.

Nara
Nara_deer

After finishing your visit in Nara, drive back to Osaka and park your car in the hotel. Take the metro to explore the vibrant districts of Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku.

Shinsekai
Shinsekai1

Day 12- Drive to Hiroshima and shop in the outlet

Drive to Hiroshima and make some stops on the stops station along the highway. When arriving in Hiroshima you can go shopping at THE OUTLETS HIROSHIMA which is huge and has great deals. You can also explore downtown Hiroshima, which is really nice. 

Day 13- Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima Island

This first part of the day is dedicated to the exploration of Hiroshima’s history. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a sad testament to the city’s tragic history as the site of the first atomic bombing in 1945. The museum chronicles the devastating impact of nuclear weapons, housing artifacts, personal belongings, and powerful exhibits that convey the human toll of the bombing. Adjacent to the museum, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park features the iconic A-Bomb Dome, a preserved building from the blast, and various memorials, promoting reflection and remembrance in the pursuit of a nuclear-free world. Be sure to arrive as early as possible at the museum so you’ll have enough time to visit  Miyajima Island later on.

Hiroshima_dome
Hiroshima_museum

After finishing your visit to the park, take a ferry ride to the picturesque Miyajima Island. The ferry station is located just near the dome. On the island, you can see the iconic “floating” torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine, surrounded by serene waters during high tide. If you have time you can also ascent to Mount Misen, offering panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea. We decided to go back and explore downtown Hiroshima in the evening.

Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island1

Day 14- Back to Tokyo with the Bullet train

Return your car and take the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. It will take around 4 hours. If this is the holiday season, make sure to buy your shinkansen tickets in advance. After arriving to Tokyo, and settling in your hotel, pick an area where you like to have dinner.

shinkansen
bullet_train

Day 15 - Akihabara and Shinjuku

Dive into the anime and electronics neighborhood of Akihabara. There you can find all the electrical products and gadgets you can think of. Except for electronics, you will come across unique Japanese phenomena there, since Akihabara is also a place of pilgrimage for gamers, and fans of anime, manga, and computer games.

From there, take the metro to Shinjuku. There, explore Omoide Yokocho, Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, the Kabukicho area, the famous Godzilla Statue, and more.

akihabara
Shinjuku

Day 16- TeamLab Planets, Odaiba, and Ginza

Immerse yourself in the futuristic world of Odaiba and TeamLab Planets. Odaiba is a large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. You can find there the shopping center “DiverCity Tokyo Plaza” with the giant robot “Gundam” at the entrance. The most popular attraction in the area is Teamlab Planets. This is an immersive digital art museum where visitors step into interactive, otherworldly installations that respond to their movements, creating a mesmerizing experience. From walking through a sea of digital fish to ascending in a waterfall of water and lights, the exhibit offers a sensory journey that blurs the lines between art and the observer.

Team_lab_planets
Team_lab_planets

Take a metro and travel to Ginza. Ginza Known as a prestigious area of the city and famous for its concentration of department stores, fashion stores, restaurants and cafes.It is recognized as one of the most prestigious shopping areas in the world.

Day 17 - Shibuya

Shibuya is a bustling neighborhood located in the heart of Tokyo. It is considered one of the busiest and most popular areas in the city, known for its shopping, nightlife and entertainment. Shibuya is especially popular with young people and is often referred to as the center of Tokyo’s youth culture.In Shibuya, experience the iconic Shibuya Crossing that is located right outside Shibuya station and is one of the busiest pedestrian areas in the world. At its peak you can see hundreds of people crossing the street in all directions and creating a spectacular atmosphere. Shibuya is also known for its excellent shopping, where you can find department stores, fashion boutiques, well-known brands and other specialty stores. Many stores appeal to young people and offer unique and fashionable items that cannot be found anywhere else. Shibuya is also home to department stores such as Shibuya 109. Apart from shopping, Shibuya is also a popular place for entertainment and nightlife.It is also a popular culinary area, with many restaurants offering a wide variety of fusion and international cuisine.

Shibuya
Shibuya2

Day 18- Asakusa and final shoppings

Asakusa is the “old city” of Tokyo, with a different atmosphere, from the days of the Edo period. The main attraction of Asakusa is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. Access to the temple is through Nakamise Street, a traditional and ancient shopping street, where visitors to the temple are sold a wide variety of traditional local snacks and souvenirs for tourists. You can also wander the Shin-Nakamise shopping street running perpendicular to the Nakamise shopping street. It’s an indoor shopping arcade, with a variety of different shops and restaurants.

Senso_jii
asakusa

This 18-day itinerary is a symphony of cultural immersion, scenic beauty, and modern entertainment, offering experiences that define the diverse and enchanting sides of Japan in the winter. From the tranquil beauty of Kyoto to the dynamic energy of Tokyo, each day unfolds a new chapter in this captivating Japan winter adventure.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I love your itinerary. Were from NZ and were a family of 3 (our son is turning 8) and we plan to go to Japan on December.

    What dates did you go and do you mind what budget you have for this trip.It looks awesome.

    Thanks
    Arianne

    1. Hi Arianne,
      I’m glad you liked the itinerary. It was indeed an awesome vacation 🙂
      We arrived on the evening of the 16th of December and left on the 4th of January.
      Regarding the budget, I didn’t calculate it to the penny, but it was around $10,000 (not including the flight tickets).
      If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

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