Japan 2023: Solo Itinerary

My anticipated (and eventually realized) Nippon adventures in late winter/early spring.

In a previous post, I gave a high-level itinerary for when I'm in Japan late March to early April with my partner for two weeks. Here I'll summarize what I have planned out for my ~33 days solo before he arrives, mid-February to late March.

Table of Contents

Specific-ish days

  • Tokyo, 1 night, mid-Feb
    • arrive at night, get pocket wifi, stay at airport hotel, get bullet train ticket to Kyoto.
  • Kyoto (~28 nights)
    • settle into private room in hostel. This will be my primary base from which I'll make day trips.
  • Osaka, 1 day[1] (maybe)
    • Universal Studios Japan, primarily for Super Nintendo World
  • Kyoto, Feb 23
  • Kyoto, Feb. 25
    • 梅花祭, Baikasai plum blossom festival at Kitano Tenmangu shrine
  • West Kansai, early March
  • Osaka, mid-March:[1:2] sumo tournament for opening ceremony! There is a lot religious importance to the rituals, so I'm interested to see these.
  • Tokyo, mid-March, ~4 days
    • visit friend, Ghibli museum
    • Tokyo Disneysea
  • Kyoto: chill a few more nights
  • Yokohama, mid-March, 1 night
  • Hakone, late March, 3 days
    • The "Loop": ropways across lakes, see Mt. Fuji, hike the old Tokaido Path, ride a touristy pirate ship
    • Open Air Museum with Picasso exhibit
    • Hot springs
  • Head to Tokyo to see my partner


  • 琵琶湖、Lake Biwa, ~2 days[1:3]
    • bike around the lake, visit shrines
    • visit 沖島、Okishima or Oki island, one of several cat islands in Japan
  • Osaka, 1 day[1:4]: visit friend, explore
  • Arashiyama, 1 day[1:5]
    • Unagi Hirokawa eel restaurant
  • Kobe, 1 day[1:6]
    • Beef?
  • Uji, 1 day[1:7]
    • Murasaki Shikibu statue
    • Byodo-in temple
  • Himeji, 1 day[1:8]
  • Kurama and Kibune, 1 day[1:9]
    • Hiking and/or cable car up 鞍馬山, Kurama-yama or Mt. Kurama
    • 鞍馬寺, Kurama-dera or Kurama temple
  • Hikone, 1 day[1:10]
    • Hikone Castle

  1. Day trip(s) from central Kyoto ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

What's specified above accounts for 22 out of the ~33 days I'll be solo, and most of those plans are pretty loose/optional. I hope this flexibility gives me plenty of room to rest and wander in between, especially since I'll be busy during most weeknights on my computer.

My night-time duties are what hold me back from overextending myself and relocating in cities farther apart. Additionally, it'll be cheaper and easier to stay in one place most of the time.

A few of the above are revisits for me, but many are completely new visits.

Kyoto miscellaneous

Since I'll be based in Kyoto, there are lots of smaller things I want to do here in between the bigger travel days:

Edit: What I've accomplished so far

Last updated: 03/25/2023

  • Reuninted with my partner at Narita airport in Tokyo (Day 34)
  • Lost the battle against a 550円 | $4 USD Taiwanese fried chicken four times my handsize when enjoying street food in Yokohama Chinatown (Day 34)
  • Paid my respects to a life-size RX-78F00 at the Yokohama Gundam Factory (Day 33)
  • Napped well on another long, relaxing shinkansen from Morioka to Tokyo, then survived a night at a capsule hotel in Yokohama (Day 33)
  • Had coffee at a famous cafe and wandered through the castle ruins of Morioka (Day 32)
  • In awe at the caldera lake of Tazawa in Akita prefecture, and chowed down on Morioka's famous reimen and jajamen (Day 31)
  • Crawled under the Daibutsu and walked through another bamboo forest in Kamakura, then rode a long and relaxing shinkansen to Morioka (Day 30)
  • Had a farewell cafe date with my friend and survived many train delays to Kamakura (Day 29)
  • Caught a sleeping Gengar friend from a Pokemon Center and enjoyed sukiyaki with my friend at Lalaport Tokyo Bay (Day 28)
  • Blown away by the beauty, quality, and escapism of Disneysea (Day 27)
  • Cried at the exquisite mechanical and handmade animations and art pieces at the Ghibli Museum (Day 26)
  • Checked out of my month-long Kyoto home and reunited with my best friend from college in Chiba (Day 25)
  • Survived the crowds, failed at a Detective Conan escape room, acquired my own wizarding wand, and experienced 7 other attractions at Universal Studios Japan (Day 24)
  • Watched the opening day of the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament (Day 23)
  • Met life-size Kamen Riders and Eva Unit 01 at Toei Kyoto Theme Park, and ate the sumo favorite chanko-nabe. (Day 22)
  • Wielded a real sword, donned real samurai armor, and met a Youtube star and an iaido dojo master (Day 21)
  • Visited Kurashiki (Days 19, 20)
    • Biked the Kibiji trail (Day 19)
  • Saw a traditional Kabuki performance at Minamiza Theatre ((Day 18)
  • Donned a premium kimono (ooh) around Gion and Maruyama Park for a professional photo shoot (Day 17)
    • Spoke mostly in Japanese to the kimono, hair, and makeup artists for an hour!
    • Spoke in English and Japanese to my Brazilian-Japanese photoshoot hosts for a couple of hours!
  • Had my nails done (at a Japanese salon) for the first time in 9 years, since I got married (Day 16)
    • spoke in Japanese for a whole hour!
  • Trekked to Kinosaki Onsen for the weekend (Days 14, 15, 16)
    • enjoyed the scenic train ride to/from
    • accidentally summitted Mt. Daigo and descended via the Kinosaki Ropeway
    • feasted on Tajima beef, matsunaba crab, and less tasty food...
    • biked about 30 miles around the area to Genbudo Park, Kinosaki Marine World, Toshima and Tajima Wetlands, various shrines and temples
  • Felt a Zen-like peace in the gardens of Ginakakuji (Day 13)
    • and fell in love with motsunabe, paid a premium for a Matsusaka beef burger
  • Hiked up Inariyama at Fushimi Inari Taisha (Day 12)
    • and had Neapolitan pizza from an Italian-speaking Japanese chef
  • Saw the golden phoenix at Kinkakuji (Day 11)
  • Attended a kendo class (Day 10)
  • Biked around Biwako Lake Biwa (Day 9)
  • Checked out the Baikasai plum blossom festival at Kitano Tenmangu shrine (Day 8)
  • Visited the Kyoto International Manga Museum (Day 7)
  • Saw a Buddhist fire ritual and some super strong women lift heavy mochi at the Daigo-ji Godai Rikison Ninnoe and Mochi-age event (Day 6)
  • Walked through Nishiki Market (Day 5)
  • Visited Arashiyama and had lunch at the Rilakkuma cafe (Day 4)
  • Hiked the Kurama-Kifune trail, bought my goshuincho, and bought my Midori Traveler's Notebook  (Day 3)
  • Visited the Tokyo Tobacco and Salt Museum (Day 2)
  • Tried and finished my first and last natto (Day 2)
  • Arrived and smoothly passed customs and immigration (Day 1)

See also: Kyoto Eats