If you’ve never been to Japan before, it can be quite overwhelming! The country is such a foreign culture to most of us and there are so many beautiful places to see. In addition to this, communication may be a problem, especially if you’re using public modes of transportation. If you’re wondering how to plan a trip to Japan for 12 days, you’re in the right place!
How to plan a trip to Japan
Getting to Japan
If you’re flying in from Dubai, I highly recommend you look into booking flights more than 3 months ahead of time. The reason is, tickets are eyewateringly expensive. If you can, fly into India or any other Asian country and then buy a ticket from there. Air Asia has amazing flight deals.
Getting around Japan
The best way to get around in Japan in an efficient manner is by train or metro. The shinkansen trains are great for intercity travel, and while transportation is quite expensive, there’s a lot to gain by procuring a Japan Rail pass which allows you for unlimited rides. It can also be used on some metro lines in Tokyo and Osaka. You can also purchase a tourist metro pass in Tokyo from major stations in Shinjuku & Shibuya, but make sure you have your passport on you as they need to verify you are a tourist.
Japan Rail Pass
Your Japan trip will truly be easier with a Japan Rail Pass. You don’t need to reserve a seat in advance, which is truly helpful, especially if you don’t particularly want to plan out your itinerary. If you’re there for a longer time than the duration of the pass, I highly recommend you activate the pass before going on the first city you are shifting to. We were there for 16 days in total and only activated it on the day we were leaving from Tokyo to Kyoto. Please note that you will need to buy your Japan Rail Pass in advance and have it delivered to wherever you are. You can purchase one in the country, but it is more expensive. Once you get to Japan, remember to activate your pass for the date of anticipated travel. You will need to flash this pass every time you move from gate to gate. You can purchase a pass here.
Hands-free luggage service & luggage storage
This was a huge boon for us when it came to travelling within Japan from city to city. All major stations and most hotels have the ability to send your baggage to your next hotel, which means you don’t have to be lugging your bags the whole way. In most cases, you are able to store your luggage, but since we are not light packers, it saved us a lot of time not dragging our bags everywhere as well as jumping straight to sightseeing from one place to another. In a lot of cases of day trips, you have the ability to use the storage lockers across several stations with coin-operated lockers.
If you purchase anything retail above 5,000 yen, you’re eligible for a tax rebate on production of your passport and visa. So shop away!
If you’re looking for a good place to buy souvenirs, I’d pick Don Quijote any day. It has everything you’d like to bring for family and friends back home, from Japanese snacks to video games. I’d exercise some caution buying souvenirs from local markets as they can be overpriced.
Japan 12-day itinerary
Day 1 to Day 5 – Tokyo & Kamakura day trip
Usually, on the first day, most people end up in Tokyo. Check out my Tokyo guide for more, on covering the best spots in Tokyo for sightseeing, shopping and more. I’ve also collated a Tokyo food guide because quite simply, there’s so much to explore in terms of gastronomy in the city. I’ve also added a short day trip guide to Kamakura, so check that out as well.
Day 6 to Day 8 – Kyoto & Nara day trip
I recommend then taking the shinkansen to Kyoto, which is nothing short of charming. Here’s my Kyoto itinerary and Nara day trip itinerary. Nara can be accessed from either Kyoto or Osaka quite easily.
Day 9 to Day 10 – Osaka
Osaka would be incomplete without a visit to Universal Studios, but I have a few tips on my Osaka itinerary here of alternatives if you’re not too keen on visiting.
Day 11 to Day 12 – Hakone, Mt. Fuji & surrounding areas
To round up your trip before heading back to Tokyo to take your flight out of there (sob), take some time for some R&R at Hakone, complete with onsen and kaiseki style meals.
I hope you enjoyed my tips on how to plan a trip to Japan! Let me know if you have any doubts on the comment section below.