My Ultimate 10-day Itinerary for Your Solo trip to Japan

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It’s no secret that Japan is a breathtakingly beautiful country and one that must be on your travel list. A country that appeals to all of your senses and leaves a lasting impression on your mind. From the dazzling lights to beautiful and serene Zen temples and shrines, Japan has a lot to offer on its plate.

But when a country has so many beautiful experiences, there arises a problem—the problem of plenty. As a solo female traveller, none of us has the luxury to spend forever in the beautiful island country. So how do we plan the trip within a stipulated time so that we can include all the experiences? Isn’t that a million-dollar question? So here I am, trying to plan a 10-day solo itinerary to Japan for you.

To be honest, I have taken on an extremely difficult job. Ten days is almost impossible to explore Japan. In fact, ten days is not nearly enough to explore a single city. But alas, we do not have the luxury to spend forever here. So, let me tell you how to plan your perfect 10-day solo travel itinerary to Japan. 

Day 1: Reaching Tokyo

Tokyo absolutely should be the first place on your Japan itinerary. It is not only because Tokyo happens to be the capital city of the country but also because it is the perfect melting pot of the old and the new. 

You will definitely be jet-lagged on your first day after a long trip. Pop in a jet lag pill if things get really bad for you. But even otherwise, I would recommend that you take it lightly on the first day. If you are landing at midday, check into your capsule hotel (I can’t recommend this enough) and then freshen up and leave to explore Shibuya. 

My favourite part of Tokyo – Shibuya

Walk leisurely along the world-famous Shibuya crossing and spend some time just taking in the essence of modern Japan. With its bright lights, huge electronic posters, and a throng of people around, Shibuya is often compared to New York’s Time Square. Also, if you love the movie Lost in Translation, you will immediately love it. The best thing to do is to see people literally pouring in from all directions!

But that is not all there is to Shibuya. Before you get to the crossing, stop to see the statue of the most-faithful dog that ever was: Hachiko. If you are visiting Tokyo at the beginning of March, you can also see people honouring Hachiko on March 8. Plenty of dog owners come with their adorable dogs to pay their respect. It gives you the perfect opportunity to see and pet some dogs. Have food at some of the best ramen places in Shibuya for dinner. Opt for the Tonkatsu broth, and it will soothe you and prepare you for the arduous journey ahead in our Japan itinerary. Or you can queue up at Genki Sushi, where sushi comes to you on a conveyor belt. 

The options for delicious food are too many in Tokyo. So why don’t you go through the list of 15 must-visit restaurants in Tokyo and learn more?

Day 2

Start the morning bright and early at the Meiji-Jingu shrine in Shibuya for that peace and quiet. The Shinto shrine is dedicated to deified Emporer Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. Also, walk around the adjoining Yogogi park and prepare yourself for the roller coaster day ahead!

Next, let’s head to Harajuku, Tokyo’s most fun district. If you are a fan of anime, do visit this place on a Sunday when you find girls dressed in anime costumes on the streets. If not, don’t be disappointed. Harajuku still has plenty to offer. Walk along the famous shopping street of Takeshita Dori. Though everything you see will catch your attention, restrain yourself. You still have a long way to go in the country, and there’s no need for extra luggage at the beginning of the trip. But even if you are not shopping, be sure to try out the famous street food crepe. Next on our Japan itinerary, we have Shinjuku. It’s the trio that completes the trip. 

Shinjuku is again lively, bright, loud, and crazy. Take in all the essence of modern Japan here. You can either visit the Robot restaurant or, even better, try out the experience at Omoide Yokocho, commonly known as Piss Alley. It is a lot like Spanish tapas bars where you get good alcohol and small portions of food. 

After you have eaten, end the day with a grand view of the beautiful city from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan government building. 

Day 3

Walk up, and let’s begin. You have walked a lot the day before. Your legs are a little tired. You might also have a little too much sake to drink at the Piss Alley. So, let’s start with a good breakfast of eggs. Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market to try out tamagoyaki at Yamachou and Marutake. The piping hot, sweet, and savoury dish melts in your mouth and provides the perfect beginning to your day.

After this, take a train and get off at Aomi station and exit from the north end, and be prepared for a visual treat that is beyond your wildest imagination. A magical mix of colour, light, and sound teamLab Borderless is the world’s first digital museum where art is confined to a room but is rather seamless. It uses 500 computers and 470 projectors to create an indescribable experience. Also, this the coolest place to click all your pictures to upload on Instagram. 

After the experience here, spend some time with yourself at Ueno park in Tokyo. I would always recommend travelling to Japan during the cherry blossom season. The country turns a shade more beautiful during the season of sakura. If you do travel, then Ueno Park should be on your Japan itinerary as this is ultimately the best spot in Tokyo for hanami. End the day with a trip to Tokyo SkyTree, which is the tallest tower not only in Japan but the entire world.

Day 4

Seeing the beautiful Mount Fuji should definitely be on your Japan itinerary. The majestic view of the mountain is second to none and is bound to make you feel humble. So, after we have seen the hustles and bustles of the capital, let’s take a day trip to Hakone. But I have a tip here. You might travel all the way to Mount Fuji only to see it behind a mesh of clouds and be disappointed. So, check the weather forecast before travelling and even if you see that the morning is a bit cloudy, scrap plans for Hakone and instead include a day trip to Nikko or Kamakura to your Japan itinerary. 

Day 5: Kyoto is the next stop

It’s time to bid Tokyo goodbye for now because it’s time to see the rest of the beautiful country. But before you board your first bullet train in Japan, do remember to get your Japan Rail Pass. It will make travelling so much easier and reasonable in a foreign country. And now time to travel to Kyoto where we will spend the next couple of days. 

Try and take an early morning bullet train from Tokyo so that you can reach Kyoto by 10.30 am and enjoy the full day in the beautiful city. Check into your place of stay (a ryokan is definitely recommended here), freshen up, and prepare for the day. While Tokyo is lights, glitz, glamour, Kyoto is where you get to experience the essence of old Japan the difference in scenery is soothing.

Explore the bamboo forest

Take a bus to the Saga-Arashiyama station, where your first stop is the Tenryu-Ji Shrine and the beautiful Zen garden accompanying the shrine. A beautiful collection of flora awaits you here, most of which you will not find outside Japan. Once you leave the garden, you will come across the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, and walking through the forest is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It takes around 15 minutes to walk around the entire grove, so walk at a slow pace and take it all in. Also, the pictures come out really well here. 

After you roam around the bamboo groves, it’s time to meet some cute little monkeys at the monkey park. It is a 20-minute climb to the top, and I often wondered if it was worth it. But trust me, even if the journey seems arduous at first, it is beautiful when you reach there. The park houses about 100 snow monkeys, and the view from this place is spectacular. You can also feed the monkeys here for a very small amount, and they will pose for you!

After monkeys, it’s time to witness the golden hour at Kinkakuji or the golden pavilion. With two of three storeys made of gold, Kinkakuji, looks radiant and the best part is the reflection on the moat that the shrine stands on. The best time to visit Kinkakuji is definitely sunset when the slating sun rays fall on the pavilion, making it look like it’s on fire. Then drag your weary self to the ryokan to enjoy some of the best Japanese hospitality. 

Day 6

Get up early in the morning because the first thing today on the Japan itinerary is the Fushi Inari shrine. It is best to go early so that you can get the best click at the vermilion coloured gates that is so well known. Interestingly, each torii gate at the shrine is a donation. The trek up the hills is beautiful early morning.

Now that you have worked up an appetite let’s get acquainted with some of the most delicious food Kyoto has to offer. Stroll along with Nishiki Ichiba Market, known as Kyoto’s kitchen, and for very good reasons. This is the best place to get out of your comfort zone and try out new food. I assure you won’t be disappointed. You should definitely have the tako tamago, a specialty of Kyoto, which is a candied octopus with a quail egg stuffed in its head. Yum…

The next part on your Japan itinerary is something that I know you have been waiting for in Kyoto. Yes, I know. Spotting a geisha. The best chance of spotting one is on a walk in the Gion district, though the chances aren’t too high. But in case you spot one, remember to be courteous. Don’t follow them or stuff your camera into their faces. If you want to feel like a geisha, you can dress up in silky kimonos and paint your face, and have your picture taken.

After this, visit the Higashiyama district, Kyoto’s best-preserved heritage area. With numerous temples, shrines, gardens, and tea houses, this takes you back in time. End your Kyoto trip with a walk along Philosopher’s path, which if you are visiting during sakura season takes the beauty to another level.

Day 7

Bidding adieu to the beautiful city of Kyoto, next on our Japan itinerary is a day trip to Nara. Just an hour from Kyoto, Nara is known for its deer park, where over 1000 deer roam freely. During the sakura season, this place is a must-visit as pink and white petals of the cherry blossoms wafting through the air and land on the ground turning the park into a shade of light pink.

After spending time with the adorable creatures, do visit the Todai-Ji temple, which dates back to 752 AD. This is a UNESCO site and is known for its 15metres tall bronze Buddha statue. A visit to Nara is incomplete without trying the city’s famous snack- mochi, which is a warm sticky cake with red bean paste inside.

A trip to Osaka

After exploring Nara, it’s time to head over to Osaka. Try and squeeze in a visit to the Osaka castle if you are here during the sakura season. 

The best way to take in the essence of the beautiful castle that was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi is by taking the Gozabune. It is a luxury boat that takes you along the inner moat surrounding the castle, and you can enjoy the castle while relaxing on the boat. After visiting a piece of Japanese history, it’s time to jazz up your night.

Next on your Japanese itinerary is a trip to Shinkensai. This is a place where the past meets the present. The nostalgic post-war atmosphere hangs heavy in this area. It has a very vintage Paris or New York feel to it, and that’s what makes this so special. The best part? The Tsutenkaku Tower here resembles Paris’ Eiffel Tower and the view of the city from it. End your day with some delectable kushikatsu, which is skewered and battered, deep-fried food that can range from chicken to vegetables and even desserts!

Day 8

According to your Japan itinerary, today is ‘fall in love with Osaka’ kinda day. Start the day with a visit to Universal Studios. It is always crowded so be sure to book tickets way before your visit.

Wake up the inner child in you and allow it to go crazy. From Jurrasic Park to Spiderman to Jaws to Harry Potter, this is one place where you can experience it all. You will definitely be exhausted after this, so let us reserve the rest of our trip strolling around Dotonbori and experiencing the best that Osaka has to offer: food.

Dotonbori is known for the huge neon advertisements, glitz, the giant crab with movable limbs, and the famous Glico sign. Dotonbori is a shopping paradise, and I am sure many a thing with catch your eye here. But the best thing about Osaka, if you ask me, is the food. Osaka is the food capital of Japan, and rightly so. From the okonomiyakis to the udons and the takoyaki it will leave a lasting impression on your palette. If you want to explore Osaka more, there are plenty of other things you can do.

Day 9

This day is a little jam-packed on your Japan itinerary. But I promise you it will be well worth it. Today we will cover not one but two places in a day. Miyajima and Hiroshima. Travelling will take a little time but fret not because it is all covered by your JR Pass. 

I would recommend visiting Miyajima first. Once you reach the station, head straight to the torii gate but not before meeting some extremely friendly deer. During the high tide, the torii gate looks like it is floating and is a beautiful sight to behold. After you have seen this, head out to explore the city a little more, but this time on a ropeway before taking a trip to Hiroshima on a ferry.

We all know how War War II ravaged Japan. And Hiroshima is the symbol of what war and strife can destroy in the world. But today, the city is an ambassador of peace while it still remembers its gory past. The peace museum houses remnants of the nuclear bomb blast like pieces of clothing from people who died that day. It is sure to bring a tear to your eye.

But Hiroshima is so much more than just a bomb site. Do visit the Hiroshima castle, where you can catch Samurai performances outside the castle walls. It is now time to head back to Osaka or Kyoto, whatever works out better for you. Tomorrow on the last day of the trip, you will travel back to Tokyo again.

Day 10

Back to Tokyo again. Feels strange right? With the trip almost over, it feels like the last day during a vacation before the school reopened. But such is life. So, let’s not waste time and see that our last day in this beautiful country is enjoyed to the fullest. And for that, we will spend a leisurely day at the Akihabara district. This area is famous for its manga and anime stores, so if you are a fan, you are in luck. Check out huge electronic stores, spend hours at a gaming arcade and eat at a themed cafe in the area. This is indeed the perfect day before boarding the flight the next day.

I can tell you that the itinerary of your Japan trip that I have chalked out for you is quite hectic and involves a lot of walking. But what can you do if there are so many sights to behold in the beautiful country? So even though it might have been hectic, I am sure you will at no point feel exhausted. Instead, you’d be excited for more. And when the time comes after ten days to say sayonara to Japan, I assure you, your heart will be heavy.

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Swagachi

An introverted solo female traveller on an adventure around the world.

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