A week in Japan from Tokyo, to Mount Fuji and Kyoto

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
7
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
9
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
8
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
4
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
10
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Japan
Length of time
Around a week
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 800
Time of year visited
July
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
52nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

Japan is my favourite country to travel through.  A big call I know.  Whilst it may get pipped by some of the bigger countries when it comes to natural vistas and cultural pursuits, there are three things that cement it as number one:

  1. The people and surrounding culture is one of respect, politeness and calm – just travelling through Japan you find your blood pressure dropping, being more considerate and the pleasures that come with this
  2. Stuff works in Japan – it’s not just the trains being on time to within the second, it’s everything!  I know there is something wonderfully memorable about travelling with a few hiccups as part of the adventure., but there is also something rather pleasant about having a country like Japan to explore knowing it’ll be super easy (and safe)
  3. The food!  I know the French think they are the best in the world.  They are not
There’s a lot to see, but if you have a week, I’d recommend this itinerary which lets you see 3 highlights of Japan and with a bit of adventure thrown in

highlights

#1 The magical sunrise views from the summit of Mount Fuji - either over clouds or over Tokyo in the distance. Either way, wonderful

#2 The world famous people crossings of Tokyo

#3 Wandering through the ornate gardens of Ancient Imperial Kyoto

#4 Sampling the world-class whiskies and learning about how they're made with Japanese precision in the superbly-set Suntory Whiskey Distillery just outside of Kyoto

#5 Weird but fun nights out in the world's biggest city of Tokyo

#6 Walking through the super dense and impossibly green Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto

#7 The challenging hike up to the top of Mount Fuji – passing cool shrines and oddities along the way as you give yourself 3-4 hours

#8 Staying in one of the capsule hotels – the shared services, like the onsens, are usually superb, and its just a fun very Japan-style experience

#9 The beautiful gardens that seem to be just about everywhere in Japan

#10 Cycling around the temples and downtown Kyoto for a different way of seeing the place

#11 The view of Tokyo from the Tokyo Sky Tree

#12 The Toilets! Fancy some music with your number 2?

The route

Rough itinerary

Day 1 & 2 – give yourself 2 days in Tokyo to try and appreciate the hustle of the world’s biggest city.  There is of course famous spots like the Shibuya Crossing and views from the Skytree which are classic tourist things to do, but also see if you can just get yourself lost in the immensity of the place.  Make sure as well to give yourself one night out Japan style – no a bad idea to start at the uber random Robot Restaurant and then drinks in Golden Gai. More details in Nights out in Tokyo
Day 3 – leave Tokyo for the 2.5 hour bus ride to start Climbing Mount Fuji in Summer (only July – September unfortunately) and stay overnight in one of the mountain huts on the mountain
Day 4 – wake up super early to see the sun rise from the summit and make your way back down to catch the 2.5 hour bullet train to Kyoto
Day 5 and 6Cycling around Kyoto and sampling whiskies in the Suntory Distillery.  Rent a bike to cycle around to see the Imperial Capital on Day 5 and as many temples as you can manage, relaxing after the long day in one of the Onsens.  For Day 6  take a visit to the nearby Suntory Whiskey Distillery to see how some of the best whiskeys in the world are made, and then bullet train back to Tokyo
Day 7 – fly out

Travel Tips

A few broader tips on Japan:

 

  • English is not widely spoken, but don’t let that stop you trying to chat with the locals. Its Japan, so electronics can and will come to the rescue in the form of google translate.  Add in some alcohol, and you’ll be grand

 

  • The food in Japan really is something else.  From even the most basic of places, up to the finest in the world (Japan has 30 Michelin 3 star restaurants – roughly a quarter of all those in the world), so don’t waste the opportunity.  You’ll have most likely tried types of restaurants dotted all over the world (sushi, sashimi, teppinyaki, ramen dishes), but make sure you also head to an Izakaya (more like a Japanese bar with small, but delicious, snacks)

 

  • Three things to try and experience on your first time in Japan: 1. Bathing in a Onsen (a large, communal bath area which always comes with nearby washing and grooming facilities); 2. Staying in a Ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn, which will include food served in your room);  3. Staying in a pod / capsule hotel – there are heaps of them in Tokyo and surprisingly nice

 

  • Getting around and things like ATMs are super easy, but it may be worth getting a pocket wifi thingy.  Although bulkier than a SIM card for your phone, they are way less faff and you can pick them up easily at the major airports

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone