I recently spent two weeks in Japan during the infamous cherry blossom season. To ensure I gave myself the best chance of spotting the blooms I started my holiday in the south and made my way north through the country. Here’s the itinerary David and I put together, tried and tested.
*Scroll to the end to see my photo gallery
Day 1 – Fly Sydney > Osaka
We flew Jetstar whose route includes a stop in Cairns before transferring on to Osaka, Japan’s food capital. Arrive in Osaka at 7:30pm local time.
Day 2 – Osaka Castle
On our first full day in Osaka we caught the train to Sakuranomiya Station and walked through Kema Sakuranomiya Park. Luckily for us the cherry blossom gods heard our prayers and the trees reached full bloom upon our arrival. Plenty of Osaka locals were enjoying a picnic under the cherry blossom trees in a practice known as hanami. We walked along the river below a canopy of trees where locals sat, enjoyed food and played music. We walked to Osaka Castle where there were markets of food stalls including the infamous matcha and sesame soft ice cream. After lunch we walked over to the Osaka Museum of History.
Day 3 – Day trip to Nara Park and shopping in Shinsaibashi/ Dotonbori
We started the morning with a trip to Nara Park where deer aplenty roam the grass freely. For $500 yen you can buy biscuits to feed them. Be careful though, these deer can get quite personal. Nara Park is surrounded by a couple of streets lined with shops and restaurants. After a delicious ramen lunch we headed back to Osaka where we did some more shopping in Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori.
Day 4 – Osaka city
Today we stayed in Osaka where we visited Shitennoji Temple and ventured to the top of Kuchu Teien Observatory.
Day 5 – Day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima
Today we caught an early bullet train to Hiroshima. From Hiroshima we caught a train on the Sanyō Main Line to JR Miyajimaguchi Station. From here we boarded the JR ferry across to Itsukushima, an island home to the floating tori gate and world heritage listed Itsukushima Shrine. From here we caught the ferry and train back to Hiroshima where we walked through the city and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Peace Memorial Museum and Hiroshima Castle.
Tip: I recommend getting a Japan Rail Pass for the duration of your stay which covers all trains on the JR line and all Shinkansen bullet trains across Japan. Visit any JR ticket station to reserve seats on bullet trains to guarantee you get a spot, especially during peak travel seasons.
Day 6 – Osaka > Kyoto
Today we caught the bullet train to Kyoto. At 4pm we went to a traditional tea ceremony.
Day 7 – Kyoto’s Gion corner
Today we walked through the city’s Gion Corner, the best place to spot Geishas. Keep in mind these women are going about their business and don’t always appreciate being photographed. We also visited Maruyama Park where we walked beneath more cherry blossom trees.
Day 8 – Kyoto Cultural Walking Tour
Today we joined a walking tour through some of Kyoto’s most cultural sites including the increasingly popular Fushimi Inari Shrine. Here’s the exact tour we did. After the tour we visited Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Day 9 – Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Today we caught the train to Arashiyama where we walked through the Bamboo forest. This place gets quite busy with tourists so try and get there before the crowds and arrive early! From here we walked to Iwatayama Monkey Park.
Day 10- Kyoto > Tokyo
Today we caught a bullet train to Tokyo. In the afternoon we visited Ueno Park to see the last remaining cherry blossoms. We enjoyed dinner in the Ninja Akasaka restaurant which I couldn’t recommend highly enough.
Day 11 – Harajuku and Sanrio Puroland
Today we did some shopping in Harajuku and wandered through Yoyogi Park. After lunch we caught the train to Tama-Centre and visited Sanrio Puroland, also known as Hello Kitty World.
Day 12 – Mt Fuji and Hakone day trip
Today we joined a day trip tour of Mt Fuju and the town of Hakone. Here’s the tour we did.
Day 13- Shibuya
Today we crossed the infamous scramble crossing in Shibuya and did some shopping afterwards.
Day 14 – Senso-ji and Sinjuku robot show
Today we visited Senso-Ji and walked among the market stalls surrounding the temple. For dinner we went to Shinjuku and ended the night at the Robot Restaurant show.
Day 15 – Tokyo Disneyland
We spent our last full day in Tokyo at Disneyland which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Lines were manageable and on average we waited between 20 and 70 minutes to go on a ride.
Day 16 – Tokyo > Sydney
This morning we made a quick stop at the Imperial Palace where we walked among the final standing cherry blossoms for one last time before heading to Narita Airport for our flight home. The Jetstar route from Tokyo includes a stop in either Cairns or the Gold Coast and transfer to domestic.
Day 17 – Arrive in Sydney
Planning a trip to Japan? Let me know in the comments below!