Here's how to experience the best of Japan in just 5 days!!

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Photo of Here's how to experience the best of Japan in just 5 days!! by Divas Bahuguna
Photo of Tokyo, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

I don't even remember the countless days I spent just trying to understand the fascinating culture that Japan is known for, not to mention countless hours learning to navigate through the confusing labyrinth underneath Tokyo - what they call the Tokyo subway system!! From my experiences gathered from all the months that I stayed in Japan, I can vouch that you simply cannot find a more intriguing, fascinating, enchanting and pleasantly different experience anywhere else in the world - and that it definitely requires a lot of time to truly appreciate the charm of this island nation.

But does that mean you gotta compromise on the experiences in Japan if you are travelling on a tight schedule? Absolutely not !! Here's how you can fit the best experiences this beautiful country has to offer - all in 5 days.

Day 1

- Start with the blessings of Buddha:

Rich cultural and spiritual soul of Japan in its purest of forms!! (c)Mariamichelle

Photo of Sensō-ji, 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Given you'll most probably be arriving in Tokyo first, it makes sense to spend the first day in the capital city and take time to appreciate your first encounter with this colorful country. Pay a visit to the oldest temple of Tokyo, which takes you to the heart of Japanese cultural belief, and stand in awe of the famed Japanese architecture, dating as far back as 645 AD.

If you are travelling here in the month of May then consider yourself really lucky!! This is the month of popular festival “Sanja Matsuri”, during which the streets of Asakusa district come alive with beautiful traditional dancers dancing to the tunes of melodious Japanese sounds. However don't lose hope otherwise, since the temple compound is bustling with smaller festivities almost all year round.

- Explore the beautiful gardens

You just can't take your eyes off it. (c)Fast Japan

Photo of Ueno Onshi Park, 8 Uenokoen, Taitō, Tokyo, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Head to some of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo, which happen to be extremely popular for experiencing sakura. Choose either Ueno Park in central Tokyo or Shinjuku Gyoen in Shinjuku district, which is usually less crowded. Or if you have time, maybe both!! Ueno Park is extremely popular with travelers because it hosts some of the best museums, home to artifacts from intriguing Japanese history and culture - Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum to name a few. It also is home to Ueno Zoo - Japan's first zoological garden.

Shinjuku garden boasts of traditional Japanese landscape gardens - with beautiful bridges connecting small islands on water bodies. More than 400 cherry trees blossom in spectacular shades of pink in the months of March-April, making this garden one of the best hanami spots in the region.

- Experience the vibrant night life :

You cannot come to Japan and not take an izakaya experience during evenings. Simply called "Japanese Pubs", these lively and vibrant social outlets make up for some exciting evenings while enjoying authentic Japanese cuisines and local drinks. My personal recommendations include Sanchokuya Taka in Shinjuku, known for its excellent collection of sake, and Osaka Kushikatsu Tentekomai in Asakusa, popular for its delectable skewers.

Or simply take a walk along Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku and choose an izakaya from multiple options lining along the vibrant street.

Day 2

You may either choose to extend your stay in Tokyo or make your way to Kyoto. I personally recommend staying for a day more in Tokyo since it has so much more to see and experience.

Sushi at Tsukiji

Let the hunt for fresh seafood begin. (c)TheStyleScribe

Photo of Tsukiji Market, 5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chūō, Tokyo, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Known popularly as one of the largest seafood markets in the world, it is a must visit during the early hours in the morning. Here you can explore the most diverse collection of fresh seafood on display, thus making it a perfect place to experience some of the most delicious sushi.

Note: The inner market will close and shift to another location from October 2018 onward.

Watch the world collide around you :

Can't run away from people in Japan, can we!!

Photo of Shibuya Crossing Intersection, 2 Chome-2 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Watch the world literally converge at the famed intersection of Shibuya, the busiest intersection in the world, with as many as 2000 to 2500 pedestrians crossing the road every time the signal changes. It is one of the most surreal sights to marvel at and experience in person - especially when you are a participant in this organized chaotic experience.


Experience the vibrant fashion of Japan

Shopping time!!

Photo of Harajuku by Divas Bahuguna

It has a reputation for being the most unusual and influential teen fashion destination in the world. Start at Takashita Dori and walk your way through the most exciting shopping districts for fashion in Japan. You would also want to check out the electric town Akihabara, famous for its collection of electronic goods and manga, making it a shopping haven for techno-freaks and gamers alike.

Experience the Fast but not Furious - Shinkansen

With speeds touching more that 250 km/hr, this network of high speed bullet train means you can leave Tokyo in the evening and reach Kyoto in a matter of few hours. Arrive in Kyoto later at night and prepare to immerse into the heart of Japanese tradition and culture.

Day 3 -

I bet you ain't gonna find pathways prettier than this!!

Photo of Fushimi Inari Taisha, 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

A visit to this important Shinto shrine makes you understand the reasons why Kyoto is considered by most travelers to be the cultural capital of Japan. A leisurely walk through the thousands of vermilion colored torii gates is an experience you will cherish for the rest of the lives. Unlike most visitors, though, make it a point to complete the trail which leads you to the forests of the sacred Mount Inari. The panoramic views of Kyoto from the mountain top are worth all the efforts you would have put during the hike.

The perfect shade of green, as recommended by doctors across the world!!

Photo of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Saganonomiyacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Now who does not recognize this postcard-perfect shot on almost every travel website and Instagram travel feeds of Japan!! This extremely popular sight in Kyoto does take you into an entirely different world. Nothing beats the experience of standing amidst the tall trees - not even the best of the photographs.

(c)MarkCarnaby

Photo of Tenryu-ji Temple, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

While you are still in awe of the experience you have had at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, do check out one of the best gardens in Tokyo accentuated by this majestic zen temple, while enjoying some stunning mountain views in its neighborhood. This is probably the best exhibit of shakkei in Japan - the art of incorporating background landscapes to perfectly fit into the design of a garden.

Enjoy a sumptuous Japanese dinner at one of the many traditional local restaurants and call it a day.

Day 4

Photo of Kinkaku-ji, 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Start your day with a visit to the most iconic sight of Kyoto - the Kinkaku-ji temple. Also called the Golden Pavilion, this spectacular sight is a tourist magnet - so be prepared to run into a lot of visitors during the day. My recommendation would be to beat the crowd and visit this temple early in the morning, as soon as its gate opens!!

Photo of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, 294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Absorb the atmosphere of vibrant streets of Higashiyama district, as you make your way to one of the most revered temples in the country. The approach street to the temple offers you ample opportunities to appreciate fine examples of local pottery, sweets and souvenirs. The highlight of the temple is standing on its extended maple trees and watching the cherry and maple trees below treat you with their brilliant hues.

Photo of Tea Ceremony Camellia FLOWER, 349−12 Masuyacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

No visit to Kyoto is complete without experiencing the unique and aesthetic ritual of tea drinking - after all, Kyoto was the birthplace of this ceremony and remains its spiritual home!! Known as wabi-sabim this comprehensive ritualistic ceremony is an experience words simply cannot describe. Choosing the right place though is important to experience it in its most authentic forms.

Camellia located in Ninen-zaka, this place has perfect balance of formal and casual environment for a perfect tea ceremony. Tea Ceremony Kyugetsu is another recommended place to head to, where the two tea masters engage you in stories perfectly woven to make you understand the rich history behind this ceremony.

Day 5

Take a bullet train from Kyoto to the vibrant city of Osaka and bring your trip to Japan to a perfect end. One day might not do justice to the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo, but it should be enough to get you acquainted with the city's vibe.

Witness the Pacific Rim come alive!! (c)kansaiscene

Photo of Osaka Aquarium, 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

This is one of the most spectacular aquariums in Japan, with comprehensive collection of life from the Pacific region. The central tank, representing the Pacific Ocean, is home to the main attraction of the aquarium - a whale shark!!

(c)MithHuang

Photo of Sumiyoshi Taisha, 2 Chome-9 Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

One of Japan's oldest shrines, this 3rd century shrine is unique in its architecture from others- since it is from the era when Buddhism was not introduced in Japan. Known as Sumiyoshi-zukuri, this architecture is completely free from mainland influence, which can be easily seen in straight roof of the shrine as compared to the curved ones found in others across the country.

(c)GaijinPot

Photo of Dotonbori, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan by Divas Bahuguna

Bring your day to a perfect end with a walk through the Dotonobori Area - the most popular and lively entertainment district of Osaka. With colorful neon lights and billboards casting shimmering reflections as you walk along Dotonbori canal, this place makes your evenings really enjoyable.

Call it an end by hitting one of the famous sake breweries here. You may choose from Daimon Brewery or Saijo Limited Partnership based on your convenience and proximity. Kampai!!

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P.S : I did not touch on the topic of authentic Japanese onsens since it is based on everybody's personal choice. Given many are usually not comfortable to bare it all in front of others it is recommended to choose your hotels which provide private onsens, which most of the good ones will.

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It can take an entire lifetime to explore the hidden gems of Japan, with the country riddled with enviable landscapes, national parks and cultural centers all across the map. Plus, we did not get a chance to even touch Okinawa!! But five days is sufficient to completely convince you to revisit your priorities upon your return and feature a return visit to the country on your updated bucket list. So what are you waiting for?

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From doing my bit for the environment by working in electric mobility research field, often finding myself wandering aimlessly through landscapes, to continuously seeking thoughtful conversations with travelers from across the world, I am a travel experience narrator. A firm believer in the philosophy that a human should experience everything and do everything in his lifetime (for specialization is for insects....), you can say "hi" to my photographer alter-ego @througharobinseye on Instagram, read through my mind as I narrate my personal travel experiences at www.talesofarobin.wordpress.com or sing along with me @undrkn5trk5hn

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