The Essential Guide to 10 Days in Japan for First Time Visitors

The Essential Guide to 10 Days in Japan for First Time Visitors

As a first time visitor to Japan it can be difficult to put together a 10 day itinerary which will work for you.  There are so many choices and options!  To help you to develop your own itinerary I have put together three sample itineraries for first timers which can then be easily tailored to suit your particular trip.

My only other comment is don’t be afraid to go off any of these routes!  Every person has different interests, and sometimes it is good to go off route as usually those destinations will be much less crowded.

If you would prefer to have someone else take care of the bookings there are also quite a few options to book a good quality and affordable package tours.  Click here to check out more information about package tour options for Japan.

Check out my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Understanding Japan Distances and Travel Times

When you think about visiting Japan it is a good idea to get your head around the size of Japan and the typical places people visit, and how long it will take you to get around.  The majority of first time visitors to Japan will typically visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka with many also visiting Hiroshima.  The four cities can be visualised as a straight west to east line as you can catch a single train line which stops in all 4 cities.  The distances are travel times are as follows:

  • Tokyo to Kyoto is a 457km / 284 mi distance which takes approximately 2:30 hours on the Shinkansen bullet train. Kyoto does not have an airport, so flights arrive in Osaka
  • Kyoto to Osaka is a 55km / 34 mi distance which takes approximately 30 minutes on the train. The train from Tokyo to Osaka takes approximately 2:50 hours.  Flights from Tokyo to Osaka take approximately 1 hour.
  • Osaka to Hiroshima is a 326km/203km distance which takes approximately 1:45 hours on the Shinkansen bullet train.


To catch the fastest Shinkansen bullet train (the Nozumi, which is not covered by the JR Pass) from Tokyo to Hiroshima you can travel the 816km / 507 mi distance in 4 hours at a cost of 17000-24000 Yen ($US 150-215 / $A190-270) per one way ticket.  By comparison you can also fly from Tokyo to Hiroshima directly which is a 1:20 hr flight at a cost from $US100 / $A127 upwards.

When you plan your Japan itinerary you should therefore consider transportation options to minimise back tracking which will then save you time and money on your trip.  Also, if you are considering Japan Rail train pass options you should also build your itinerary to maximise the value of your pass!  Check out my article on how to purchase the cheapest Japan Rail Pass for latest prices.

Flights to Japan

Skyscanner is a great option to find the best value flights for your trip to Japan.  Click on the below airfare finder box to find the flights which will best suit your planned trip to Japan.

Two 10 Day Itineraries for First Time Visitors to Japan

The two proposed 10 day itineraries for first time visitors to Japan are summarised below, with further details to follow:

  • The ‘Classic’ Golden Route First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka
  • The ‘Extended’ First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Mt Fuji/Hakone Region, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima

When you are planning your trip you may also be interested in checking out my article – Best Time to Visit Japan Including Tokyo, Kyoto and Sapporo.

The ‘Classic’ Golden Route First Time Japan Trip – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka 10 Day Itinerary

For first time visitors to Japan the main sights most people want to see are Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima.  The great thing is that each of these cities is well connected by the shinkansen or bullet train system and you can travel quickly between cities.

My sample 10 day itinerary for Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima is as detailed below.  Obviously the specific activities for each day also need to be further considered based upon your particular interests and the events available during your visit.  An advantage of this itinerary is that you have a bit more time in each location to explore, rather than moving around every couple of days.

  • Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo
  • Day 2 – Explore Tokyo – Tour
  • Day 3 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 4 – Disneysea/Disneyland or day tour to Mt Fuji
  • Day 5 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 6 –  Catch train to Kyoto (2:30 hrs), Gion evening tour
  • Day 7 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 8 – Universal Studios Day Tour
  • Day 9 – Nara or Hiroshima Day Tour
  • Day 10 – Depart Osaka

If you prefer to travel independently it is easy to book your own accommodation and transport.

For this itinerary a 7 day Japan Rail Pass would be best used starting from Day 4 and finishing on Day 10.

Inside the tunnel of Japanese Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha , Kyoto Japan
Inside the tunnel of Japanese Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha , Kyoto Japan

The ‘Extended’ First Time Japan Trip 10 Day Itinerary – Tokyo, Mt Fuji/Hakone Region, Kyoto and Osaka

The ‘Extended’ itinerary for Japan enables you to explore the Mt Fuji/Hakone area, however you will not have as much time in each location.

  • Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo
  • Day 2 – Explore Tokyo – Tour
  • Day 3 – Disneysea/Disneyland
  • Day 4 – Catch Shinkansen to Mt Fuji (Odawara Station – 0:35 hrs). Stay in onsen
  • Day 5 – Explore Mt Fuji / Hakone region
  • Day 6 – Catch train to Kyoto (2:15 hrs). Explore Kyoto, Gion evening tour
  • Day 7 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 8 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 9 – Universal Studios, day trip to Nara or day trip to Hiroshima
  • Day 10 – Depart from Osaka

If you prefer to travel independently it is easy to book your own accommodation and transport.

For this itinerary a 7 day Japan Rail Pass would be best used starting from Day 4 and finishing on Day 10.

Mt. Fuji viewed from Chureito Pagoda in Japan
Mt. Fuji viewed from Chureito Pagoda in Japan

Hopefully you now have a much better perspective on some of the itinerary options which are available for a 10 day stay in Japan for first timers.

The Essential Guide to 10 Days in Japan for First Time Visitors

Check out my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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6 Comments

  • Hi we are travelling to Japan in March have been to Japan before where we visited Osaka and Koyto and only had two days in Tokyo, I have booked accommodation for the 2 week period in Tokyo, we would like to do day trips around the area and like recommendations for travel. we are in our 50’s like to see the gardens and like market shopping and to look at older parts of the city. What area would you recommend? I would like to go to Mt Fuji for a day tour.

  • Budget Trip to Japan for 8 Adults from 4th March for 8 Nights

    Can I use 7 Days JR pass to cover all these places or I need extension as well. We will start the pass from Day 3 onwards.

    Day 1 – Arrival at Tokyo. Day free to relax. Overnight at Tokyo

    Day 2 – Today we will go for Private City Tour of Tokyo in Mini Van (8hrs). Evening free for shopping.

    Day 3 – We will leave for Hakone Early in the morning, a Hot Spring Onsen city of Japan. Keep Luggage at Hotel and leave for Hakone Sightseen & to see Cherry Blossom in early days. We will take Cable Car, Sightseen Cruise, Visit Odawara Castle, Tozan Railway, Gotemba Outlet Mall, Chureito Paoga to cover entire area. Overnight at Hakone

    Day 4 – Today we will cover remaining places of Hakone using 2 Days Hakone Pass and then leave for Kyoto. Evening free. Overnight at Kyoto.

    Day 5 – Today we will go for Private City tour of Kyoto in Mini Van ( 8hrs). Evening free for shopping.

    Day 6 – Today we will do day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island using Bullet Train, boat etc.

    Day 7 – Today morning we will do bamboo tree and later leave for Oaska City Walking Tour. Free time at Osaka. Back to Kyoto. Overnight at Kyoto

    Day 8 – Train to Tokyo. Evening Robot Restaurant & later night street walking tour with guide. Overnight at Tokyo.

  • Hi Anne, great blog….keep it going!

    We are 4 adults (50’s-60’s, fit & healthy) who have 2 weeks in Japan in late Sept – early Oct for our first time. We love walking & seeing the old and “hip” (our kids have travelled there several times and have come back with some fabulous stories and purchases) side of this fascinating place and people. Gardens are a must as is the food and getting away from the hustle of the big cities, but in saying that seeing the sights will be important. Thinking of doing a Walk Japan tour (lots of good reviews from friends), but interested in your thoughts

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