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.
- Japan winter travel itinerary quick & important information
- Tokyo- Day 1-8 ( 8 days)
- Kanazawa – Day 8-11 ( 3 days)
- Kyoto – Day 11-15 (4 days)
- Kobe – Day 15-18 (3 days)
- Osaka – Day 18-23 (5 days)
- Travel to Japan in a nutshell
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.
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
Drink at Hard rock cafe, Roponggi
Experienced a nightlife
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
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
Bowling or rattling cages
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
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
Mesmerised by the Kenrokuen Garden
Visit D.T. Suzuki and 21st Century Museum
Try different street foods at Omicho Market
Ninjadera ( Ninja Temple)
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
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
Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
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
Yamazaki Whiskey Distillery
Eastern Tokyo is where you’ll find all the fascinating temples
If you go north, you’ll explore
Takao, Enkoji, Manshin, Daitokuji and Kamo Temples
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
Kitano – Cho
Motomachi Shopping Street
Ampanman Museum & mall- if you have kids, this is a fun place to visit
Kobe beef grill and burger
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
Hike to the top Mount Rokko
Visit Sake Breweries
Ride the Shin-Kobe Ropeway
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
Grand Front Osaka
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
Asahi Sueta Brewery
Walk around Den Den town
Watch a Sumo Match
Visit an Owl Cafe
Visit Noodle Cup Museum
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.