It has been almost three years since we first visited Japan. We visited Japan for the first time in April 2016 and we fell in love with the country. We only stayed in Tokyo for 6 days and did not explore other cities and prefectures. For our second trip, we spent one week in Japan and we decided to explore the Kansai Region this time.
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Is One Week in Japan enough?
Realistically speaking, one week in Japan is not enough to explore everything but it is enough time to see many famous attractions and their hidden gems. We also took a lot of day trips to other cities. Many travelers spend a month or even more in Japan. There are just endless things to do in Japan. If you have a month in Japan, you might also want to spend one to two weeks in Kyushu.
If you don’t want to DIY your trip to Japan, you can also join a tour group. There are several Discover Japan tours available
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Day 1 – Arrive in Osaka
We arrived at Kansai International Airport at around 8 P.M. The first thing we did after immigration is to claim the 4G Wifi and Kansai Wide Area Pass. If you are traveling to outside Kansai, I suggest booking the 7 Days JR Pass to maximize your one week in Japan.
Having a wifi connection is really important since it’s very convenient especially when it comes to navigation. The Kansai Wide Area Pass allows us to have unlimited rides on JR lines and unreserved seats at shinkansen as well as the Haruka Express train. If you are only traveling in Osaka and not visit other cities covered by the pass, I suggest you buy the IC card instead. Do note that the Kansai Wide Area Pass is only for JR lines and it does not include the subway lines in Osaka. You need to buy the IC card for the subway lines. The price of the pass is really worth it especially if you have one week in Japan.
Money-Saving Tips: I activate my Rakuten cashback when booking hotels so that I can save more money when I travel.
We stayed at Infinity Hotel Dome-Mae Osaka. It is very unique since they do not have staff at the hotel. They have a self-check-in and self check-out system. It is very easy and not complicated, they will just email you the code in order for you to access the key to your room. It is also a Japanese style apartment which is really great. The place feels like a home away from home. Since our hotel was only two train stations stop from Dotonbori, we decided to have our dinner there.
There are so many options to choose from. We decided to eat at Ichiran, one of our favorite ramen places in Japan. Ichiran was also our first meal in Tokyo when we first visited Japan.
I also ordered some sides such as extra pork, boiled egg, and matcha pudding. Once I am done eating my ramen, I just need to put the green tray at the sensor on the table if I want the servers to serve me my pudding. After dinner, we just walk around Dotonbori before heading back to our hotel.
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Day 2 – Arashiyama, Kyoto Station & Harukas 360
On our first morning, we took the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka station to Kyoto. We arrived at Arashiyama just before 8 A.M and went to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. We wanted to visit earlier in order to avoid the crowds.
We also explored the Tenryu-Ji temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage. It is also located just beside the bamboo forest so you can visit this temple once you are done exploring the bamboo forest.
There are a lot of shops and restaurants on the street leading to the Togetsukyo Bridge. You can buy some souvenirs or eat some Japanese snacks. If you are looking for a unique souvenir to bring home for yourselves or as presents to your family and friends, I recommend checking out the Orgel Music Box Museum.
Don’t forget to stop by Kimono Forest on your way back to the train station. Kimono Forest is just a few blocks away from the touristy Bamboo Forest yet most tourists just pass by it. It is such an underrated place in Kyoto. The kimonos are inside a cylindrical pillar and they light also light up during night time which makes it even more beautiful.
Lunch: Kyoto Station
Once we were done exploring Arashiyama, we head back to Kyoto station for lunch. Kyoto station is big and there are a lot of shops and restaurants. We had Omurice, an omelet with fried rice at Molette Omelet Restaurant. This restaurant is very famous for its Omurice.
I ordered the hamburger set. It is an Omurice paired with the hamburger. It is also served with some salad and soup. Once we finished lunch, we walked around Kyoto station for a while before heading back to Osaka.
Since we purchased the VIP special entry pass for Universal Studios Japan, we need to claim it at Harukas 300. It is the tallest building not only in Osaka but in Japan. Once you reached the top, you can see a beautiful view of Osaka.
Once we were done with Harukas 300, we went back to Dotonbori. We tried out Luke Lobsters and there was a small line but it moved quickly.
Aside from street food and restaurants, there are also shops in Dotonbori. There’s a big Don Quijote shop with a yellow Ferris wheel.
The Glico Man is the most photographed in Dotonbori. Some tourists also follow the signature pose of Glico Man for their photos.
Day 3 – Universal Studios Japan
We spent a whole day at the most popular theme park in Japan, Universal Studios Japan. Since it is very touristy, you have to plan your trip so you can make the most of your day at Universal Studios Japan. If you have one week in Japan, you will surely have time to spend one day at a theme park.
I have visited Universal Studios Singapore but that park did not have a Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My favorite attraction in Universal Studios Japan is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It feels like you have been transported to Hogwarts. I am actually not a fan of Harry Potter but I still enjoy all the attractions. Everyone will enjoy this attraction even to those who are not a fan of Harry Potter.
Day 4: Day Trip to Kyoto: Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizu Temple, and Gion
Fushimi Inari Shrine
We went back to Kyoto on the fourth day in Japan. Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan and there are so many temples and shrines to explore. Even if you spend a lifetime in Kyoto, you will still not have time to explore everything.
The first place we visited is the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, where you’ll see thousands of vermilion torii gates. You can see a lot of fox statues in this shrine since they are considered as the messenger of Inari, the god of rice.
We took a cab to our next stop which is Kiyomizu-Dera. You need to climb the slope to reach the Kiyomizu Temple. There are shops selling Kyoto souvenirs and while shopping your way to the temple, you are actually doing a thousand-year-old tradition.
Sannenzka and Ninenzaka Slopes
The temple was under construction in preparation for the 2020 Olympics when we visited. Once we were done exploring the temple, we went to Sannenzaka and Ninnenzaka slopes. Sannenzaka slope is one of the most photographed places in Kyoto, especially during the spring season. It is one of the top places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto.
If you are a big fan of Studio Ghibli, check out the Studio Ghibli shop in Ninnenzaka. There’s also a traditional Starbucks shop with tatami mats. It is a unique experience when in Kyoto.
Kaiseki Lunch at Gion
We wanted to experience a Kaiseki meal which is an authentic Kyoto cuisine. The best place to try the Kaiseki meal in Kyoto is in Gion. We went to Gion Hanasaki and even if we did not have a reservation, we were still able to get a seat in five minutes since we went at 2 P.M. It is such a unique dining experience when in Kyoto. The lunch menu set is much affordable than dinner. We ordered the eight-course Kaiseki meal and it is definitely one of the most memorable meals we had.
We just walked around Gion after lunch and ate Matcha Desserts which is also a must when in Kyoto. We took the shinkansen back to Osaka after exploring Gion.
Day 5: Day Trip to Himeji and Kobe
We went on a day trip to Himeji and Kobe on our fourth day in Japan. What I like about spending a week in Japan is that you can take a lot of day trips. You have time to explore more cities in Japan. You will surely make the most of your trip if you have one week in Japan.
Himeji Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. It is best known for its white appearance. What I liked most about this castle is compared to other castles in Japan, Himeji Castle was never destroyed by war, earthquake, fire, and others. It has just been renovated over the years. Himeji Castle is the most beautiful castle I’ve seen in Japan. It is also really beautiful during the spring season.
Lunch at Kobe Steakland
The main reason why we went to Kobe is to experience eating Kobe beef. What better place to try Kobe beef for the first time than Kobe. Kobe Steakland is where you can find affordable Kobe beef but still good quality. The Kobe beef here is not exactly the best, but it was still a delicious and a great experience. The chef will cook the beef in front of you so this is definitely a unique experience. If you are on a budget, I recommend going for lunch since the lunch set is more affordable than the dinner set.
Nunobiki Herb Garden
Kobe is part of the Kansai Region and it is a must-visit if you have more time in Japan. You can experience eating the famous Kobe beef. I love how you don’t see a lot of tourists when visiting Kobe. Most tourists who visit the Kansai Region only visit famous places such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. They often overlooked Kobe. If you are visiting Kobe, I recommend checking out Nunobiki Herb Garden. It is such a unique place, you can experience riding a cable car to the entrance of the garden and you can see a beautiful view of Kobe.
Day 6: Nagoya Day Trip
Since we had one week in Japan, we can have more than one day-trips and this time, we went to Nagoya. This is the highlight of our trip for me. It is such a quiet and peaceful city, we barely saw anyone else while walking around. We only saw tourists at popular attractions like Nagoya Castle.
The first place we visited is the Yamazaki River, we went there at around 8:30 A.M. If you want to enjoy the cherry blossoms in Japan, I highly recommend Yamazaki River. We were the only tourists there, we only saw some locals going for their morning run. Yamazaki River is also one of the top cherry blossom spots in Japan
Nagoya Castle is a must-visit when in Nagoya. You can easily recognize Nagoya Castle when you see the two goldfish at the roof. You would feel like you were transported back in time since you will see a lot of samurais and ninjas walking around the castle. It is also one of the largest castles in Japan.
You can also enjoy the cherry blossom trees at the park around the castle. Nagoya Castle is also one of the best cherry blossoms viewing spots in Japan. There are not many crowds here as well compared to Tokyo and Kyoto.
We went to Nagoya station for lunch. We ate Hitsumabushi, which is an eel dish. Nagoya is famous for having delicious eel dishes. I recommend trying out Hitsumabushi when you are in Nagoya
Nabana no Sato
We took the bus from Meitetsu Bus Center, just beside Nagoya station to Nabana no Sato, a flower theme park in Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture. Nabana no Sato is also the place where you can find the biggest winter illumination in Japan. This is my favorite place that we visited on our trip.
Although it is a winter illumination, you do not have to visit only during the wintertime. This illumination is open from late October to early May. It is really great because if you want to see winter illuminations in Japan but cannot visit during winter, you will still be able to experience it.
Nabana no Sato is also a flower theme park so you can also see many beautiful flowers such as Begonia, Tulips, and others. The Begonia Garden is such a beautiful and relaxing place.
Day 7: Last Day
Our flight is still at 9 P.M so we can still explore Osaka before heading to the airport. Our original plan was to visit Osaka castle in the morning but since we arrived in Osaka from Nagoya at midnight the night before, we were very exhausted. Even if my travel style is ‘always on the go’, it is actually nice to just relax and chill sometimes, you’re on a vacation after all. We went out after checking out at the hotel. It was already 11 A.M and we head to Dotonbori for lunch
Creo-ru for Lunch
Everyone who visits Osaka must try Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. Osaka is known as the nation’s kitchen so you’ll surely enjoy the food here.
I highly recommend Creo-Ru, they have the best Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki in Osaka. Once we finished lunch, we went for last-minute shopping. We also stopped by one of the cutest and unique shops in Japan, Alice on Wednesday.
After shopping around Dotonbori, we headed to the airport. We dropped off the wifi that we have rented and checked in for our flight back to Manila.
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