Five days in Japan is never going to be enough but hey, it’s a great place to start, in this article we will be covering off 2 of my favorite areas in Japan – Tokyo and Ehime for first time (or 64th time) travellers.
Tokyo is very obviously a well known city however Ehime isn’t very well known as say Kyoto or Osaka but keep reading to discover a new and interesting place in Japan…
This is essentially a 5-6 day Tokyo Itinerary/Ehime Itinerary but we have removed the first and last day for travel days, you can of course chop and change and remove things that won’t work or don’t interest you.
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Day 0 – Arrive into Tokyo
Overseas flights usually arrive early afternoon/evening. If you arrive in the morning then you can drop your bags off at the hotel and start Day 1.
I would recommend the Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo to stay at while in Tokyo, it’s just across the road from the Tokyo station, making it super easy to get around.
Day 1 – Experiencing Tokyo
Enjoy a nice breakfast with a view over Tokyo station, head down to Tokyo station and take the Marunouchi Line then the Hibiya Line and get off at Roppongi Station, head towards the Tokyo City View and Sky Deck.
Tokyo City View and Sky Deck
The Tokyo City View and Sky Deck, in my opinion is the best viewpoint in Tokyo. The Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower are also very popular but I prefer the Tokyo City View and Sky Deck because you get uninterrupted 360 degree views of the city from the rooftop and are able to see the stunning Tokyo Tower in all its glory! *Note, it can be cold and windy, so make sure you pack a jacket.*
You can purchase tickets for the Observation deck here and the Sky Deck tickets can be purchased here (in conjunction with the Observation deck tickets). You can also purchase tickets directly at the entrance.
After taking in the sights at the Tokyo City view, take a wander around and grab some lunch, I loved Hyoki Kasuitei restaurant in Roppongi, they offer delicious bento boxes and private rooms to enjoy your lunch with friends or family.
Hire a Kimono in Ginza
Once you’ve had your fill of yummy Japanese cuisine, take the Toei Oedo Line (train) from Roppongi station to Shiodome station and walk along the very popular (and somewhat expensive) Ginza shopping area. Here you can also hire a Kimono for a few hours, it’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself into the Japanese culture and take some great photos of you in a Kimono to share with your friends and family back home.
I would recommend the Kimono Gallery (located at 3F, Ginza EH Building, 8-9-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo). The cost is anywhere between 1080 yen and 8640 yen, depending if you are going in for a photo set, basic plan or luxury plan. The kimono experience includes having you dressed in your choice of kimonos as well as having your hair done to complete the look.
Once dressed, you are free to walk around for a few hours. There are plenty of old style Japanese buildings or Japanese gardens (on the top of buildings) in this area to take some great photo.
Tokyo Sky Bus
When you are finished with your Kimono experience, take the Yamanote Line from the Shimbashi station to the Tokyo station and make your way to the Sky Bus Counter and pick up your tickets for the Odaiba night view tour of Tokyo with a stop off at Aqua city for dinner.
The Sky bus leaves at 6:30 pm every night and is a great way to sit back, relax and enjoy the view of Tokyo. The tour is in Japanese however they do offer earphones to listen to English side of things (*note* for us, this didn’t work 100% of the time but I don’t think it was a crucial part, iIstill enjoyed the ride and the views). Make sure to bring a coat/raincoat in case of rain and be aware that your face may get wet as umbrellas not permitted on board.
The Skybus will take you along the streets of Tokyo, under the Tokyo Tower and along the Rainbow Bridge.
When stopping at Aqua City for dinner, I would recommend Dinner at Tsukiji Sushiko, which is a traditional Japanese restaurant offering proper Sushi. I say proper sushi as in Australia we only really have sushi rolls, which isn’t technically proper sushi. The sushi is freshly handmade right there in front of you.
After dinner, the SkyBus will collect you from Aqua City and take you back to Tokyo Station, from there you can go back to your hotel and have a nice hot bath – you did a great job today and a lot of walking around!
Day 2 – Your first day in Ehime
Hold onto your hats kids because today is going to be a very busy day – don’t fret, you’re only in Japan for a few days so lets make the most of it!
Today you are heading to the Ehime prefecture, so you will need to get up early, have some breakfast at your hotel and then check out and head to Haneda Airport to catch a flight to Matsuyama. The flight is only about an hour so you’ll be there in no time at all! Once you land, I’d recommend catching the airport bus to your hotel (or the nearest station to it), you can book tickets for the bus and check out a map at the counter in the airport.
I’d recommend staying at the Daiwa Roynet Hotel Matsuyama as its in a central location and across the road from a large mall area that offers lots of local restaurants, my favourite being Kadoya which is on the corner nearest to the hotel.
At Kadoya, you can enjoy a local dish called “Uwajima sea bream and rice”, which is a dish of sea bream served in raw egg and soy sauce over rice. At first, I was a little worried about trying this as it was a raw egg, however after our guides explained that you mix the egg in with the sauce, I was pleasantly surprised how tasty it was (mind over matter).
Explore Matsuyama Castle
Walk through Ropeway shopping district on your way to Matsuyama Castle. You can purchase your tickets for Matsuyama Castle at the base either by going to the counter or to the ticket machines, you might need some help from the staff as the machines are mostly in Japanese. The cost to visit Matsuyama Castle is only 510 yen for an adult ticket.
From the base of the mountain, you can choose to take the cable car or the chairlift, I’d highly recommend the chairlift, it’s so much fun and you can enjoy the view on the way up (and down) – don’t worry, it looks scary but it’s very safe.
Matsuyama Castle is one of Japan’s few original surviving castles which was built in the Momoyama period, it hasn’t been restored over the years which is what makes its so amazing to visit! It’s also one of only 12 original castles that remain in Japan and it was completed in 1854. The Castle is located 132 m above sea level in the heart of Matsuyama on Katsuyama peak.
It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to Matsuyama city and get some amazing views from the top of the castle, it will be hard to pull yourself away, especially on a clear day.
After spending the day flying and walking around the Matsuyama Castle for a few hours you might want to consider a nice long soak in Japan’s world famous hot springs.
Dogo Onsen – Japan’s Oldest Hot Spring
The Dogo Onsen is a 3-story wooden structure renovated in 1894 and offers a more traditional bathing experience as well as private rooms to get ready in and relax in after your bath. There is a small section you can tour which is reserved for the emperor and his family – it is not in use for the public.
Where as the Dogo Onsen Annex Asuka-no-Yu is a newer version of the Dogo Onsen, it opened in December 2017 so it’s almost brand new and it’s located just down the road from the Dogo Onsen (main building). It offers more of a modern facility. This Onsen features different kinds of Japanese art through the building. Here you can hire a private room which are replicas of the emperors room in the main Onsen so you can feel like royalty for the day (or just a few hours).
Day 3 – Time to work off those calories!
Today is going to be a day of fun and adventure and burning off some of the calories you’ve consumed over the last few days! Yay! Make sure to have a nice big breakfast to help fuel your day.
You can either take a taxi to the JR Matsuyama station to get a train to Imabari or you can jump on the tram from Okaido station to JR Matsuyama station and then purchase tickets for the train to JR Imabari station. Once you arrive, take a taxi to Sunrise Itoyama, here you will be hiring bike to ride across the Shimanami Kaido.
The Shimanami Kaido is a 60km long road that connects Ehime and Hiroshima prefectures. Dont fret, you won’t be riding all 60km today, however at times it might feel like it haha! It’s a fun ride, I promise!
Once you’ve hired your bike, ask the staff for directions on how to get onto the bridge and from there you will ride approx 7km along the bridge to Yoshiumi Iki-iki-kan roadside rest area, where you will be stopping for lunch and then riding 7km back. The roadside rest area is your first “major” turn off so you won’t miss it.
The views along the bridge are incredible as you’ll be crossing over the the Seto Inland Sea and over a few small islands. If you stop to take photos, please make sure you check behind you before stopping and make sure to pull over to the side to keep out of the way of other riders along the bridge.
The Yoshiumi Iki-iki-kan roadside rest area has a number of different dining options, there is a main restaurant that offers a heap of Japanese dishes or an area where you can purchase fresh fish from the local fish market and cook it yourself on a table side BBQ.
It’s also a great spot to take some photos of the bridge from an different angle.
If you have some energy left after your ride back, I’d recommend checking out the Imabari Towel Museum, which you can catch a taxi to. The museum takes you through how towels are made and shows off how towels can be made into different items, including clothing and art!
Day 4 – Taking in the sights in luxury
Time to check out of your hotel, don’t have breakfast as you’ll be enjoying a delicious breakfast with a view on the Iyonada Monogatari Sightseeing train. Head to the Matsuyama station to embark on a scenic journey on this luxurious train.
Monogatari Sightseeing train
The trip will take around 2 hours from Matsuyama to Iyo-Ozu station. You can enjoy the view of the gorgeous coast of Shikoku with you delicious breakfast. You have the choice of 3-4 different breakfast menu items, from western to Japanese. My favourite part of this trip was see all of the friendly locals who came out to wave to the train, there was a group people soccer, who stopped playing just to wave as we went past.
You’ll make a short stop at Shimonada station, where you will be given the opportunity to get off the train to stretch your legs and take some photos with friends and family or of the train with the Iyo Sea as the background.
Garyu Mountain Villa
I would recommend getting off at the JR Iyo-Ozu station (where most people get off anyway), from here you can either catch a taxi or take a short walk to the Garyu Mountain Villa, also known as Garyu-Sanso. This is one of the main tourist attractions in Ozu. The main points of interest at the villa include the beautiful garden formed to naturally fit within the home (including a tree growing through the outside of the house), the Garyu-In Main house and the Tea Room.
The Garyu villa is built just above the Hijikawa River, which was designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa, everything in the house was made with a specific reason in mind or to be made to be artistic. Entry price is 500 yen for adults.
If you’re hungry you might want to consider Lunch at Aburaya while in Ozu, try out a local dish of pork and chestnuts (and rice of course).
For the last stop of the day, you can either walk or take a taxi to JR Iyo-Ozu train station (depending how tired you are) and catch the next train to JR Uchiko station.
Uchiko is a historic Japanese city made popular by its wax production in the early 1900s, which you can learn more about at the Kamihaga Residence and wax museum. The Uchikoza theater is a full scale kabuki (classical Japanese dance-drama), which is fully equipped with trap doors, hidden entrances and a rotating stage, you might even be lucky to visit when they have a show on.
This historical area of Uchiko looks just as it did over 100 years ago which is what makes it such a popular destination to visit as it feels a though you are stepping back in time.
Take your time and wander around this little city, once you’ve had your fill of Japanese history, head back to the train station and back to your hotel in Matsuyama.
Day 5 – Free time
This is your last day in Japan, from here, you can either fly by to Tokyo and spend a few hours shopping or sightseeing before your flight or you might be able to get a direct flight from Matsuyama.
If you choose to head back to Tokyo you can get a flight on the evening of day 4, that way you can enjoy some of the day back in Tokyo, I would suggest checking out the Tsukiji fish market or the grounds of the Imperial Palace
Overall, it’s impossible to see all of japan in a week or even a few weeks but I hope that i’ve been able to introduce you to a new, lesser known area of Japan that you will visit and enjoy as much as i have!
Travelling King was supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for this trip but all of the opinions, recommendations, suggestions and terrible “jokes” are our own.