Self Guided Walking Tours in Japan Just Got Easier
Walking in Japan happens all the time. If you are preparing to go to Japan you are already prepping yourself for the walks to the rental car, the train station, the bus station, around the neighbourhood school. Wherever you plan to be you will need to walk. Let's use that time and actually make that walking time one of the best parts of your trip. Walking around Japan's uttermost hinterlands can be lots of fun or it can be super draining if you are shall we say, lost. I discuss in lots of great detail and video about tackling the transportation in my online course for planning your trip to Japan.
This awesome post is all about self-guided walking tours for your time in Japan. Why?
Self-guided walking tours are free
They are flexible. You can stop and continue at your own leisure.
Adapt your route if you want to spend more time at something interesting along the way.
Confidence that you are using your time efficiently.
So let's get into it. And for those of you who have traveled to Japan before, let me know any walking routes in Japan you have enjoyed. I'll keep updating the routes to walk all over Japan. And I'll keep this list's routes
These routes are not going to be random routes I've done on my first trip to Japan. They are routes I have put together after several experiences of figuring out what went well and what didn't go so well. If you follow any of the routes I am sharing below I guarantee you will walk past some iconic Japanese buildings whether they be UNESCO World Heritage sights or from the top sights on TripAdvisor. And just maybe, I'll drop in a few of my secret local places in Japan.
So on the self-guided walking routes you'll get:
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Uniquely Japanese places like onsens, sumo, etc
Where the locals hang out
One Green Bicycle is where I pull all of my best and sometimes worst experiences together for others to learn from and then experience. For a little variety, these routes will be in some of the most popular places in Japan for tourists like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nikko, Osaka and more coming soon like Hiroshima, Karuizawa, Hakodate, and Otaru. If you are interested in other areas, let me know.
So get these walking tours on your itinerary for touring Japan. Better yet, start your planning with our online course. And let me know what you think in the comments sections when you come home.
Japan's Best Routes for Self-Guided Walking Tours
Downtown Tokyo Self-Guided Walking Tour
Start at Tokyo Station
Walk to the 100% Chocolate Cafe in Ginza
OneGreenBicycle Tip:Try the Hokkaido Milk chocolate and fill an eclair with a fresh chocolate filling of your choice.
Walk the main Ginza strip
Ginza Itoya Stationary
OneGreenBicycle Tip:Go to the Cafe on the top level for some great views and farm fresh food.
Walk to Hibiya Park
Past the Godzilla Statue
French Garden in the Park
Also, one of the few parks in Tokyo with tennis courts.
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Don't miss this! It's in the top ten on Tripadvisor along with being a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you go on Sundays you can even rent a bike and ride around the palace. This is definitely a place where locals work out too. So a great blend of touring Japan and a local feel.
Walk back to Tokyo station
Perfect photo op of station
Eat around the station (lots of awesome spots)
Use Tokyo station for local or shinkansen lines to go wherever you want
Kyoto Self-Guided Walking Tour
To get the most out of Kyoto, you'll need to take tourist Raku bus (#100, 101, or 102) or a taxi which takes a large loop around Kyoto and hits top spots like the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) and the Silver Temple (Ginkakuji) and more. Bus fees are 230yen or you can opt for a day bus ticket for 500yen. More on the Raku bus routes for tourists here.
Before or after taking that bus loop, take the bus or subway to Kiyomizu Gojo station. If you have a car or taxi, stop at Kiyomizudera Temple to start this walking route.
Start at Kiyomuzu Gojo station which sets nicely on the riverside at the Gojo Ohashi Bridge.
Be ready for a steep slope
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sannenzaka is an old alleyway with lots of character and shops
OneGreenBicycle Tip: There's a pottery store, omen noodle shop, and Camellia Tea Ceremony all of which I recommend trying out if you have time.
Gion Nanba is a great kaiseki restaurant
Gion Corner is a fun jaunt down the Gion alleyways for some structure cultural experiences for Kabuki, Geisha, Ikebana, Noh, and others.
Shinbashi Dori is a picturesque old Japanese street
OneGreenBicycle Tip: The hole-in-the-wall Pontocho Area/Alleyway
Teramachi Shopping Hall (covered road in case you have a rainy day)
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Most Food Tours or Classes will start or end here
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Favorite Restaurant in Kyoto
9 Hours Capsule Hotel
Just ask the front desk to take a walk through if you're curious. If you want reservations, better reserve ahead online!
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Walk back along the Kamo River and eat at any of the kawadokorestaurants with overhanging patios over the river for a refreshing lunch or dinner.
Finish at Kiyomizu Gojo subway station and head back to Kyoto Station, your lodging, or keep exploring!
Nikko Self-Guided Walking Tour
Duration: 3-hour walking tour, perfect for the day trip to Nikko
May cut off 45 minutes by removing Shiraito Falls
Starting from Tobu Nikko Station
OneGreenBicycle Tip: A bit of a jaunt outside the walking loop but totally worth it for travelers who like nature and untouched beauty.
#2 Restaurant on Tripadvisor
#1 Restaurant on Tripadvisor
Finish walking tour back at the train/bus station
Osaka Self-Guided Walking Tour
Duration about 45minutes
Starting at Nanba Station's "Osaka Visitor Information Center" Exit Door 2
Restaurant Wanaka Sennichimae Honten
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Great Lookout from the Don Quixote Ferris Wheel
Ending at Shinsaibashi Station
Karuizawa Self-Guided Walking Tour
Karuizawa is a beautiful town in the mountains. If you picture misty, green mossy areas like the Shire you'd be pretty close. There are some great spots that weren't able to get on the main walking route. If you have a desire to make it to those sites as well, use the station to go to Nakakaruizawa station and then walk or take a taxi from there. There are some buses but not as many as cities like Kyoto or Tokyo. Most transportation is by car.
If you have more time to explore, get a bus from the Prince Shopping Plaza to the Hoshino area and continue exploring the grounds at the stone church, Hoshino onsen, and Harunire Terrace. Be prepared to see some wedding venues, parties, and picture taking.
The duration of this walking tour is about 3 hours. You can cut off about 45minutes by taking out the pond, outlet malls, and adventure course.
Starting at Karuizawa Retreat Center
Inexpensive lodging in an awesome location, no affiliates, just love it!
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Find the hidden spherical house in the forest
perfect for adventurers
and those who love modern architecture
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Go chopstick shopping at Okuratouen
They have some well-priced hand carved options, most are made out of local materials as well
Next door, sample some honey flavors like yuzu, lavender, and even mint.
Karuizawa Union Church
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Right across the road, you can see a tennis court. This tennis court is where the current emperor first met the empress.
Gateau de Clochette- Japanese Sweet Shop
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Perfect for people watching in a Japanese style restaurant
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Try their signature cheese ice cream
Kumobaike Pond with a great walking trail around it.
OneGreenBicycle Tip: Great views for photography and quiet nature spots
OneGreenBicycle Tip: For a Brazilian Cafe twist, this coffee spot has been my favorite. The coffee is awesome, the latte art is fantastic, and the food is delicious. Can't recommend enough.
Try out your zip lining skills, rock climbing, and more with this adventure course
Finish up at the large set of outlet shopping areas that sit right behind the train station
Hakodate Self-Guided Walking Tour
Hakodate is a city on the bay with so many other cultural styles. This walking route would only take 2 hours but it is perfect for relaxing along the way and taking your time at each "must see" spot. It also does use the tram (which is #3 on Tripadvisor's Things to Do in Hakodate list).
Starting from Hakodate Train Station
Catch and eat squid at the Ekini Market and the Morning Market
Walk the Daimon Yokocho
Get on the Tram and get off at Jujigai stop
Starbuck's on the Bay
Order and go up the stairs and to the outside rooftop terrace. Enjoy! And be careful of seagulls.
Hachimanzaka Walking Area
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Want to make sure you have internet while you're walking? Check out my awesome freebie for staying connected in Japan.