Home

Me in Shinjuku Japan
Japan,  Travel

Japan winter travel itinerary – your 23-day guide

In December 2023, Chris and I had a wonderful vacation in Japan for 23 days. Initially, it was 25 days, but the severe storm in Munich delayed us for two (2) days. You can read the full story here. Japan is a fantastic country with incredible culture, fascinating people, and unique places to explore. I am excited to share our trip with you. Still, I must say, as I am not excellent at making a comprehensive guide, I am only including places we’ve been, I knew but haven’t visited ( due to limited time) and might be interested in, so you might have an idea if you’re planning to travel to Japan in winter. Here’s my guide for Japan winter travel itinerary, regardless of days, actually.

Disclaimer: I am a Klook and Booking affiliate. I may earn a small amount without any cost to you. Please read the Escapes and Diaries privacy policy for more information. 

Japan winter travel itinerary quick & important information

Japan currency: Japanese yen

Weather and temperature in December: Up to 20 degrees. It was also surprising for us. Understandably, it can change.

Visa: If you’re coming from a country requiring a visa, you must apply. Check if your passport doesn’t need one. Otherwise, here’s a guide for a Japan tourist visa application from Munich, Germany.

Local sim card: Yes. You can buy at the airport. We bought it for 14,000JPY/€43.78/PHP 2,675.03 for both.

Public transportation: Convenient and the most efficient yet so complicated. Once you get there, you will know what I mean.

Tipping – Big fat NO!

Safety: Big fat YES!

Tokyo- Day 1-8 ( 8 days)

Tokyo Japan winter travel itinerary

According to the World Population Review, Tokyo is Japan’s capital and most populous metropolis at 37,115,035. Offering seemingly timeless fashion, excellent museums, world-class and movie-like izakayas, historic gardens, and temples, among many other exciting things a city has to offer, Tokyo is truly mind-blowing. Tokyo was our first destination ( and my best city). We spent eight amazing days here and couldn’t get enough of it! Below are some of the loads of fun and unique things to do in Tokyo city.

Where we stayed: Tokyo Ginza Okura Hotel /€ 142 per night for 2 people with no breakfast included via Booking.com

See the amazing illumination at TeamLab Planets, Tokyo

Be a kid again at Tokyo Disneyland

Go on a day trip to Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji full day tour via Klook – read it here

Sing at Karaoke – Karaoke rooms are everywhere in Tokyo. They are hard to miss!

Buy your plug or charger at BIC camera

Watch the 360-degree view at Tokyo Tower

See the Asahi building

Take a picture with the Hachiko statue

Cross the Shibuya crossing

Visit Sensoji Temple

Shop knife at Kappabashi Dougu Street

Get your nails done at Beauty Salon Miyami

Shop at Takeshita Street

See the colorful street art and youth fashion at Harajuku

Shop at Shiseido products at Ginza

Amazed by the animes at Shinjuku

Played Darts

Drink at Hard rock cafe, Roponggi

Experienced a nightlife

Ramen

Nigiri sushi

Tempura

Soba

Chankonabe

Monjayaki

Tsukudani

Tokyo sweets

Grab a drink at Izakaya

Don’t miss grilled sticks or Yakitori

Dine in or eat street foods at Tsukiji Outer Market

Have a drink at the Tokyo Peninsula rooftop bar

Highball

Enjoy small bites at Tokikizoku

Other suggested things to do, see and explore in Tokyo city

Visit the cats of Gotokokuji Temple

See the memory lane

Rainbow bridge

Bowling or rattling cages

Gibhli Museum

Go to Shiba park at night

Magnet by Shibuya 109

Stroll around Yoyogi Park

Watch a Sumo Match

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Pokemon Mega Store

Gundam Base

Play Pachinko

If you need more than these activities, try booking some tours and day trips from Tokyo, such as a day tour to Mount Fuji (like we did!), a Warner Brothers studio tour, or taking a Limousine bus from Narita to Tokyo Disneyland. The options are endless via Klook!

Klook.com

Kanazawa – Day 8-11 ( 3 days)

Like my Japanese friend Shiori said, Kanazawa has the best and freshest seafood! Her family also lives here. Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. Its remarkable and most promising attraction, the Kenrokuen Garden, remains one of the best landscapes and must-sees in Kanazawa City. Below are a few suggestions on what to do in Kanazawa City.

Kanazawa Japan winter travel itinerary

Travel time from Tokyo to Kobe via Shinkansen : 3 hours & 15min

Where we stayed at: The Hotel Sankaru Kanazawa / € 152 per night for 2 people, no breakfast included via Booking.com

Mesmerised by the Kenrokuen Garden

Kanazawa Castle

Visit D.T. Suzuki and 21st Century Museum

Try different street foods at Omicho Market

Ninjadera ( Ninja Temple)

Oyama Shrine

Take pictures, drink tea or stop by at a cafe at Higashi Chaya district and Nishi Chaya District

Eat a gold leaf ice cream or anything gold in it

Try the freshest and best quality sushi and sashimi and varieties of seafood

Other suggested things to do, see and explore in Kanazawa city

Seisonkaku Villa

Soak in the most relaxing Japanese style Onsen in the nearby town at Yamashiro Onsen

Kyoto – Day 11-15 (4 days)

Countless shrines and temples have survived World War II’s destruction- and remained beautiful, rich, and historic, that is the city of Kyoto. With so many incredible things to do and see in this city, a few days may not be enough. But if you’d like to do the highlights, that would also be great! Exploring Kyoto for us was memorable. It’s like being in between the modern and ancient city at once. Here are a few places to wander, things to explore, and experiences in Kyoto city.

Kyoto Japan winter travel itinerary

Travel time from Kanazawa to Kyoto: 2 hours and 19 min by Tokaido Sanyo line

Where we stayed: Hotel Vista Premio Kyoto Nagomi tei / € 74 per night for 2 people, no breakfast included via Booking.com

Bamboo Forest

Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine

Gion District

Nishiki Market

Ginkakuji Temple

Other suggested things to do, see and explore in Kyoto city

Ride the Sagano Scenic Railway

Rent a bike

Rent a Kimono

Stroll around Pontocho Valley

Honganji Temple

Kyoto Aquarium

Kyoto Tower

Nijo Jinya

Sento Palace

Kiyomizudera

Philosopher’s Path

Hatsura Villa

Toei Eigamura

Yamazaki Whiskey Distillery

Eastern Tokyo is where you’ll find all the fascinating temples

Kenninji Temple

Higashiyama

Kodaiji Temple

Chionin Temple

Eikando Temple

Heian Temple

Shogunzuka Mound

Yasaka Shrine

If you go north, you’ll explore

Kibune

Kurama

Ryoanji Temple

Takao, Enkoji, Manshin, Daitokuji and Kamo Temples

Kaiseki Ryori

Obansai Ryori

Okonomiyaki

Kawayuka/Kawadoko

Eat or drink any foods with Matcha

Kobe – Day 15-18 (3 days)

Kobe beef is one of the main reasons we included Kobe City in this Japan winter trip. Having to spend only three (3) nights in Kobe, I think we needed more. Kobe is one of Japan’s largest and most attractive cities. It didn’t disappoint. The city was calm and peaceful, yet there were so many things to discover. Here are a few fun activities we did in Kobe City.

Kobe Japan winter travel itinerary

Travel time from Kyoto to Kobe: 1 hour & 8min by Tokaido Sanyo Line

Where we stayed: Hotel Okura Kobe

Sorakuen Garden

Chinatown

Meriken Park

Kobe Tower

Kitano – Cho

Kobe Harborland

Motomachi Shopping Street

Ampanman Museum & mall- if you have kids, this is a fun place to visit

Kobe beef grill and burger

Anpanman bakes

Grab a drink at one of the standing local bars – you will know what I mean when you see it. They discreetly stand out, and one of my favorites in this Japan winter travel itinerary.

Other suggested things to do, see and explore in Kobe city

Hyogo Museum of Art

Arima Onsen

Hike to the top Mount Rokko

Rokko Island

Visit Sake Breweries

Oji Zoo

Ride the Shin-Kobe Ropeway

Nunobiki Falls

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Shop at Mitsui Outlet Park Marine Pia Kobe

Osaka – Day 18-23 (5 days)

Osaka was our last destination in Japan. Spending five (5) days here, we realized it was too much- as it was just another massive hustling city like Tokyo, but different. We also didn’t do much as we’ve seen enough during the past weeks. But we spent Christmas here, so it was okay. Osaka is the second-largest city after Tokyo. The vibe was incredibly hype. Here are some recommendations on what to do, see, eat, and drink in Osaka.

Osaka Japan winter travel itinerary

Travel time from Kyoto to Osaka: 40min by Tokaido- Sanyo line

Where we stayed: Wellstay Shinsekai Wakyo

Dotonbori- a trip to Osaka won’t be complete without going to Dotonbori

Universal Studios

Shinsekai

Bunraku Theater

Bay Area

Grand Front Osaka

Tennoji

Tenma

Kurumon Market – popular market for seafoods and more

Umeda Sky Building -if you have fancy heights and amazing views, this must be for you

Other suggested things to see and explore in Osaka city

Sumiyoshi Taisha

Minami (Namba)

Minoo Park

Asahi Sueta Brewery

Walk around Den Den town

Watch a Sumo Match

Visit an Owl Cafe

Visit Noodle Cup Museum

American Village

Ikeda Castle

Osaka Aquarium

Science Museum

Takoyaki

Tepanyaki

Kitsune Odon

Kushikatsu

Drink Sake



Friendly tips

Don’t forget to and know that;

  • Buy cosmetic products at Matsumoto Kiyoshi. 
  • Around 8 pm, supermarket and convenience store-cooked foods drop to a 30% discount.
  • Try a tea ceremony. 
  • Take away a bento box when riding a Shinkansen – like locals do! 
  • Buy a SIM card at the airport.
  • If you’re arriving past 23:30 at Haneda airport, trains and buses stop at this time. 
  • Taxis at the airport are costly, so if you’re coming late, you should sleep at a hotel at the airport.
  • Secure your train tickets anywhere in Japan. 
  • Get a hot tea at a convenience store in winter if you fancy it! 
  • Make a reservation at the famous Izakayas. 
  • Just withdraw cash from the atm- it is more convenient than exchanging currency. 
  • Pack light- there are very few elevators. 
  • Buy souvenirs at local shops
  • Don’t eat while walking. In many streets in Japan, locals dislike when tourists are eating while walking.

Travel to Japan in a nutshell

Our trip to Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever had. Choosing Japan as our country of destination for our winter holiday was great, and we loved it very much. Every single time on this trip was fun-packed action. We needed more than our time in Japan to see and experience many things! Of course, we missed a lot! And I just realized that even if we had stayed longer in one place, we would have needed more to experience Japan. We were blown away. Ultimately, we will be back again.


Born, raised, and forever loyal to the Philippines. Catherine is a teacher and a BA in Mass Communication graduate who loves anything child-friendly. She loves writing in her diary every day and is in love with beaches, books, Safari, and Tokyo. Her ultimate dream destinations are Madagascar, Mongolia, and Hawaii. Check out her van camping adventures in Europe at vancampingguide.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *