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Dave
Los Angeles

Japan, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo

10 days in Japan in December

I'll be traveling with a group of 7 friends throughout Japan from December 3-13 and we will be spending the first 3 days Tokyo (any MUST dos?)

Afterwards, we were thinking ~3 days in Kyoto and ~3 in Osaka but are open to recommendations. Since time is limited and there is a lot to do in almost any city, what are the 5 things you HAVE to do when you are visiting either of these places? It can be anything from eating at a specific restaurant, to seeing a show, to an adventure that is unique to the area. 

Also are there any must dos in areas I did not mention? We are open to traveling! 


4 Answers

top answer by
Stefanie from London, United Kingdom

I've just come back from a 10 day trip in a group of 7 friends in Japan :)  It's my second trip so here are some of the memorable things from both experiences.

Kyoto - bamboo groves in Arashiyama are surreal; dawn at Fushimi Inari Taisha to avoid the crowds and have the place to yourself; Kyoto is famous for tofu; No shortage of temples but Kinkaku-ji the golden pavillion is beautiful; Take a day trip out to Nara to see Todai-ji and the deer - you can rent bicycles to get around town; Nishiki Market for a food tasting experience and the local produce.

Osaka - Great place for a night out - Dotonbori. They are also famous for eating takoyaki and okonomayaki. Take an overnight day trip out to Koyasan for beautiful mountain scenery, visit Okunoin and stay at an onsen ryokan.

Tokyo - Sushi breakfast at 7am at the Tsukiji Fish Market - if you want to catch the famous early morning tuna auction I recommend starting to queue at 3am at the latest as they only let 2 batches of 30 people in; Go people watching at Harajuku; Visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa and then explore the markets nearby which also have great food and crowds.

If you wanted to consider some alternative routes, Kiso Valley is beautiful and I would say one of the best parts of my trip.  You can do a day hike between Magome and Tsumago Azuma but you'll need at least 2 days for the round trip.  I followed this up with visiting Shirakawa-go Historic Village and Takayama.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Arashiyama (attraction)
  2. Fushimi Inari Taisha (attraction)
  3. Kinkaku-ji (attraction)
  4. Nara (city)
  5. Todai-ji (attraction)
  6. Nishiki Market (attraction)
  7. Dotonbori (attraction)
  8. Koyasan (attraction)
  9. Okunoin (attraction)
  10. Tsukiji Fish Market (neighborhood)
  11. Harajuku (attraction)
  12. Sensoji Temple (attraction)
  13. Asakusa (region)
  14. Kiso (city)
  15. Magome (attraction)
  16. Tsumago Azuma (attraction)
  17. Shirakawa-go Historic Village (city)
  18. Takayama (city)
3 thanks


answered by
kim from Beijing

I spent 12 days in Japan in October. My friends and I spent 4 days in Tokyo [too much, 3 days is fine] Just be aware that certain attractions are closed on specific days. We missed out on the Imperial Palace grounds because they were closed on the day we were meant to go. We stayed in Asakusa, which is a bit further from the city center, but has a lot of great history and interesting things to see. Be aware that most things closed early though. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildingwas well worth it, and its FREE! The views are great and a wonderful volunteer walked around the top with us, giving us lots of interesting tidbits about the city. It beats the price of the SkyTree for sure! We were wondering around the side streets in Shibuya and found a wonderful noodle bar where you order through a machine outside and then it is brought to you inside. Eat as many noodles as possible! Take a day tour to Mt. FujiEven if you can't clearly see the mountain, the views of the area are absolutely beautiful. 

Kyoto was well and good, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Make a trip to see the Fushimi Inari Taisha, it was so cool. The trip up and around the mountain is pretty long, but we thought it was worth the hike. Kinkaku-jiwas NOT worth the time. It was so crowded with school children and other tourists we felt like we were in a cattle shoot. It was really disappointing. Luckily, we ended up at the Arashiyama that same day, which made up for it. 

Recommendations: Make it out to Hiroshima and the Itsukushimatorii gate out there. That was my favorite part of the trip! Eat a bento box! We had two or three different ones, they were an adventure it themselves! Enjoy your trip. I loved my time in Japan, its been my favorite trip this year. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Asakusa (region)
  2. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (attraction)
  3. Shibuya (metro area)
  4. Mt. Fuji (attraction)
  5. Fushimi Inari Taisha (attraction)
  6. Kinkaku-ji (attraction)
  7. Arashiyama (attraction)
  8. Hiroshima (city)
  9. Itsukushima (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)


answered first by
Stew from Toronto

Hey Dave,

Like you said...there is a lot to do, especially in those places you've mentioned. In my opinion, TokyoTokyo is a crazy fun place so if you enjoy eating, drinking and just being adventurous, TokyoTokyo is your place. For example, I've found that Japanese people do a lot of drinking so do have a couple meals at an izakaya. Also very fun to watch tons of salarymen catching the late trains drunk. Subway closes around midnight but no worries if you miss the late train as most clubs and bars open until 4am or later. Always plenty of 24/7 restaurants if anything too. 

While you're in Kyoto and OsakaOsaka, why not make a visit to Nara? You can easily make a day trip there or even half day trip if anything. 

Kyoto is very old school, so plenty of shrines, temples and just old Japan vibe if you're interested in that. Keep in mind, a lot of temples close at 16:30 so do try to plan your day wisely.

I only spent a few odd days in Osaka but I found the vibe similar to Tokyo but I found Tokyo to be much more lively. Around Namba station, you'll find the famous running man screen and plenty of restaurants and snack stalls. 

You guys should look into a JR pass. Might be a worthwhile investment, especially if traveling to the west side. Also a mobile wifi could be worthwhile investment.

If you or any of your friends are whisky people, do try Japanese whisky, especially the Hibiki 17 years. Silk Smooth :)

Also, learning a few basic Japanese phrases will take you a long way.

Too much to say in an answer...have a great time!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tokyo (city)
  2. Kyoto (city)
  3. Osaka (city)
  4. Nara (city)
  5. Namba station (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Patricia from Petaling Jaya

If you are overnighting in Kyoto, I highly recommend dropping by Men Baka Ichidai . They are open for dinner and are known for the Flaming Ramen dish. Note that you are paying for the experience; the noodles themselves are good, but not out of this world. 

I would also recommend visiting Fushimi Inari TaishaKiyomizu-Dera and Nishiki Market. Fushimi is home to the infamous Torii Gates, while Kiyomizudera offers stunning views of Kyoto and is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Japan. Allocate at least half a day in these locations. Nishiki Market is a great place to do eat and do some souvenir shopping. It's also close to Gion if you intend to visit the area. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Men Baka Ichidai (restaurant)
  2. Fushimi Inari Taisha (attraction)
  3. Kiyomizu-Dera (attraction)
  4. Nishiki Market (attraction)
  5. Gion (neighborhood)




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