Our trip started in Osaka, we then headed West towards the island of Kyushu including a number of places along the way, with Fukuoka as our final destination.
It’s our second trip to Japan, and we have had such an overwhelming response asking for a full itinerary, where to go, what to eat, where to stay and things to do in Japan!
We knew for our second time in Japan, we longed to experience some of the more regional areas and enjoy a side of the Country that was popular with local tourists too. We were beyond excited to travel alongside JNTO Tourism board and Singapore airlines to make this trip possible and bring a fresh perspective to travelling through Japan.
We flew with Singapore Airlines from London to Osaka, and our return leg was a direct flight from Fukuoka to Sydney. It was really handy being able to transit back to Australia directly from Fukuoka, rather than having to fly back to Tokyo first.
Our stop over in Singapore was fantastic as we had access to the Business class lounge, in our opinion Singapore Changi airport is one of the best airports in the world for transit.
JR Pass – This is a very cost effective way of traveling long distance in Japan. The pass can only be used by foreign tourists and can be used on bullet trains.
ICOCA card - a rechargeable contactless smart card used on JR West rail network in Japan
This is a full 10 day itinerary through Japan exploring some more regional areas starting in Osaka, heading west including a trip to Kyoto, and ending in Fukuoka with a number of stops along the way.
Day 1-2 Osaka
Landing into the Osaka International airport, we used our JR passes to travel from Kansai airport into Tennoji station (30 minutes)
To make the most of the nightlife check out Dotonbori Canal area, a 10 min walk from where we were staying.
Finding the main food street in Dotonbori is easy, it pretty much starts as soon as you can see the big giant hanging crab, running parallel to the canal. Our top pick to try is the gyoza at Ohsho, you can find this restaurant by the big gyozas hanging outside! Gyoza is crispy meat dumplings, 250 yen for 6 pieces.
Takoyaki is another popular try which are the balls made up of flour and butter filled with octopus, ginger and green onion.
Enjoy the next day at Universal Studios! We had so much fun wandering around the theme park. The park is made up of movie themed areas for some of the best blockbuster hollywood hits. Each area has endless fun, rides, eats and fun souvenir stalls.
The other attractions included Spiderman, Harry Potter world, Jurassic park and other movie themed areas, each having their own rides. The best ride in our opinion, which also surprised us was was attack on Titan XR where you’re immersed into virtual reality, wearing goggles, whilst on a crazy rollercoaster – Insane but AMAZING! For safety (obvious) reasons we were not allowed cameras on the rides, and so you will just need to experience these for yourselves!
Entry fee: 7,091 JPY (adult)
HOT TIP: We would highly recommend getting the express pass which allows bypassing all queues, we saved a ton of time using this!
Accommodation: Hotel The Grandee Shinsaibashi Click here for accommodation info
Day 3 Kyoto
Make your way from Osaka by using your JR pass to take the Limited express super Hakuto to Kyoto. (30 mins)
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Take a wander through the path where the bamboo tower high above, a truly magical place.
Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine
Soak up the beautiful red torii gates, the two dense rows of torii gates of Senbon Torii.
Highlight: Stop for lunch at Mendaka for fire ramen, the best ramen we had in all of Japan (and EVER)!
Arguably, the most famous shrine in the Gion area with a 1,350 year history!
Kyoto's most famous geisha district. Tourists visit here hoping to catch a rare sighting of a geiko or a maiko. Tourists can dress up in the traditional clothing of a geisha and samurai and take a walk around the Gion streets, we did this 4 years ago and it was a lot of fun to be transformed and get some fun pictures in a beautiful setting. It's wonderful to take a walk through the charming streets that are filled with teahouses and traditional wooden buildings, it really feels the true heart of Imperial Kyoto.
The famous photo spot in the Higashiyama District
Accommodation: Sakura Terrace– the Gallery Click here for accommodation info
Day 4 Himeji
Use the JR pass to take the Shinkansen Hikari from Kyoto to Himeji station. (1 hour).
We loved Himeji, wide pavements and many cafes and restaurants around the station area.
Himeji castle is in sight as soon as you leave Himeji train station, it is around a 20-25 min walk to the castle grounds, there are also buses and taxis available.
Entry fee: It's free to access the grounds. 1,000 JPY per person to enter the castle or 1,050 JPY per person including entry to Kokoen Garden
For next time: We were sad to miss out on visiting the Engyoji Temple (entry 500 yen, 8:30am-6pm) which was unfortunately closed during our visit. This is temple that has been made famous in the film ‘The Last Samurai’ which was partly shot here.
We had dinner at Rikimaru, a fun and very fresh sushi train restaurant that is very affordable.
3,949 JPY for two people. Order by ipad, and watch it get delivered from kitchen to table via the sushi train! It was some of the best sushi we enjoyed across the 10 days!
Accommodation: Hotel Nikko (next to Himeji station) Click here for accommodation info
Day 5 Okunoshima Island (Bunny Island)
We recommend staying in Onomichi for day 5 & day 6, which means you will need to drop off your bags first at your hotel, prior to heading to bunny island. Take the bullet train using the JR pass from Himeji to Mihara station, change there for Onomichi station. (Separate detailed blog post coming soon on this journey) After dropping off bags at your hotel in Onomochi, jump back on the bullet train and head to Tadanoumi station. From here it’s a short walk to catch a ferry to Okunoshima island – a 15 min scenic ferry ride (310 JPY pp one way)
The island is FULL of very cute and fluffy bunnys, and they are very friendly! They are happy enough to eat out of your hands, be sure to pick up the food available at the shop at Tadanoumi pier before getting the ferry across, or take some fresh veggies along with you. Do not feed them any human food.
The island itself is relatively small, we took a long walk round most of it and took 45 minutes, there is a café which sells some lunch options and snacks 10 mins walk from the jetty.
Dinner at Tranquillo came recommended, an Italian restaurant where the head chef was local but spent 3 months in Napoli perfecting his pizza making skills!
Accommodation: Hotel Cycle Onomichi Click here for accommodation info
Day 6 Onomichi
Explore the Shimanami Kaido by bike! Hotel Cycle is full of bicycles for rent, there are also many bicycle hire stations along the route. Hire cost is from 5,400 JPY pp for the day at Hotel Cycle.
The Shimanami Kaido is a spectacular 60KM road-and-bridge network connecting Japan's main island of Honshu with Shikoku (the nation's fourth largest island)
We cycled for 4 hours and managed to cover 2 of the islands stopping for lunch at a great service station linked here. Cheap and great food!
We are (definitely!) amateur cyclists which may help give an indication as you what you could achieve if you cycle more often.
There are bike and pedestrian lanes for the entire length, and the beautiful Seto inland sea is an incredible sight as it runs alongside much of the cycle journey. There are plenty of rest stations along the way for breaks and refreshments and extra special views to grab some great photos.
Accommodation: Hotel Cycle Onomichi Click here for accommodation info
Day 7 Miyajima Island
Jump on the train at Onomichi station to Fukuyama (use JR pass), change here for the bullet train to Hiroshima. (Total journey time is around 2.5 hours)
Miyajima island is magical, like stepping back in time to old world Japan. Beautiful nature, wild deer roaming the streets and gorgeous laneways lined with cafes and restaurants serving delicious local dishes.
For next time: One of the main attractions here is the great torii gate that can be found floating in the ocean, unfortunately it was under construction during our visit (Mar 2020) there are plenty of other attractions and sights to visit including the Itsukushima Shrine.
Stop to try okonomiyaki, a Japanese cabbage-based pancake. There are two styles, Osaka style and Hiroshima style. In Miyajima you can try Hiroshima style which is plain pancake grilled, topped with chose ingredients such as pork strips, or shrimp and octopus, noodles and sauce, there are vegetarian options too. This was one of our favourite lunches of the whole trip..
A must experience is a stay at a Ryokan, a hotel built in Japanese tradition. Iwaso Ryokan was founded in 1893 located in the serene Momijidani Park, the original owner of also built a tea shop and planted maple trees, a stunning sight during the autumn months.
The stay usually includes a kaiseki dinner (a multi-course dinner) and traditional breakfast. There is an Onsen pool (traditional Japanese hot baths) The tatami floored room is transformed from a banquet dining space in to a bedroom, we had a very comfortable nights sleep and enjoyed a traditional breakfast the following morning that included rice, pickles, miso soup, fish, tofu, seaweed.
Iwaso Ryokan was by far our favourite accommodation of the entire trip. A unique and once in a lifetime experience.
Accommodation: Iwaso Ryokan Click here for accommodation info
Day 8 – 10 Fukuoka
Catch the ferry back to Miyajimaguchi station and get the train to Hiroshima Station (30 mins). Then take the bullet train 'Sakura' from Hiroshima to Hakata station (use JR pass). This trip will take around 3 hours total.
Tenjin is a great shopping and dining district, there are many shopping centres to explore including Canal city, head to Raumen Stadium (Spelt raumen not ramen) for your pick of tonkotsu broth which is made by boiling pork bone and originated in Fukuoka.
Try eating at one of the Yatai food stalls for a truly unique food experience, locals will come here and queue for hours to taste these dishes! Yes... we queued for an hour to try the food here, and it was deliciou!!. (Detailed blog to come on Yatai food stalls)
Accommodation: Hotel Monte Hermana Fukuoka Click here for accommodation info
Yanagawa day trip
Jump on the train at Nishitetsufukuoka Station to Nishitetsuyanagawa (50 mins, 860 yen, use ICOCA card)
Enjoy a river cruise down the canals of Yanagawa. Our boatman used a pole to guide the gondola like boat down the Yanagawa River as we watched the beautiful riverside scenery pass-by. We even got serenaded by our lovely guide as we passed through bridges!
Most European Countries, United Kingdom, United States and Australia do not need to get a Japan Tourist Visa since they are considered visa-exempt Countries for tourism purposes and can stay for a max of 90 days visa-free.
When to visit Japan
Peak season in Japan is when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (end of March – mid April) driest months are Dec-Feb, Winter is perfect for skiing and snowboarding and autumn have beautiful colours and lovely temperature. There isn’t a bad time to visit Japan, it just depends your preference!
Disclosure: As with all our blogs, all opinions are our own! We were invited to explore Japan as part of a trip with JNTO Tourism and Singapore Airlines.
Some links in this blog may be affiliated where we earn a very small commission if you use our link from our recommendation, we as always we are very appreciative of your wonderful support! Love Alex & James
All photography is copyrighted ©TwosomeTravellers
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