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The Ultimate Japan Itinerary for First-Timers: From 1 to 3 Weeks

A towering, colorful pagoda in the foreground with beautiful Mount Fuji in the distance in Japan

I’ve yet to meet a traveler who didn’t love their time in Japan . It’s just one of those countries that everyone loves. How can you not? The food is carefully crafted and delicious; the history and culture are both rich and long; the landscape breathtaking; and the people super friendly and polite.

Japan remains one of my favorite countries. No matter how long I visit, it’s never enough. I always leave wanting more.

But the country always seems forbidding to many travelers. It definitely still has that “exotic” stereotype that makes people think it’s hard to travel around.

Where should you go? What should you include in your Japan itinerary? Should you buy a JR Pass to help you get around?

To help you out, here are a few suggested itineraries based on my years of visiting that will ensure you see the best sites on your Japan trip — as well as get off the beaten path and get a real sense of Japanese culture!

Table of Contents

Japan Itinerary: Know Before You Go

Japan itinerary: one week, japan itinerary: two weeks, japan itinerary: three weeks.

A bullet train passing the beautiful Mount Fuji in Japan on a sunny day

Just be sure to get one BEFORE you go as you cannot purchase them on arrival. For more information on the pass, including how much they cost and how you can get one, read this blog post . It has everything you need to know!

Mobile Data in Japan In Japan, English isn’t widely spoken (especially outside of the major cities) so having access to the internet is vital for checking addresses, using translation apps, and looking up things to see and do. The easiest way to get data is through an international eSIM for Japan .

An eSIM allows you to access mobile data via a QR code so you can have internet wherever you are, without worrying about physical SIM cards or roaming charges. This will save you a lot of time and hassle when using apps like Google Maps, Google Translate, Instagram, and YouTube. It will also come in handy for checking menus at restaurants (since they are rarely in english).  

The famous Sensoji temple during a sunny day in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, Japan

Day 1 & 2: Tokyo Chances are you’ll be starting your trip in Tokyo , since it’s home to the country’s biggest international airport. If your trip is seven days long, activate your JR Pass right away, so that you can take advantage of the free JR trains that run through the city.

While you could easily spend your entire week in Tokyo and not get bored, here are some of the highlights:

Visit the fish market – Toyosu is the world’s largest fish market. The daily auction here powers much of the world’s sushi supply, and it is truly an absolute must-see! You can go for free, but food and drink tours of the Tsukiji Outer Market are available for around 14,500 JPY.

See Sensoji Temple – Sensoji is beautifully painted and sits in a scenic spot near a five-story pagoda and the famous Kaminari Gate. There’s a huge statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, inside the main hall. It’s always busy but is worth seeing with your own eyes. The temple is free to visit.

Drink in Golden Gai – This alleyway of back-street bars is a lively place to drink at night and has a bit of a red-light-district feel to it. It is not to be missed. Even if you don’t drink, be sure to wander about. Arigato Tours offers tours of the area where you’ll learn about the neighborhood while stopping to sample Japanese classics like sushi, yakitori, and ramen. Tours are 23,900 JPY and include a drink and dishes at four food stops.

Visit the Imperial Palace – The home of the emperor of Japan was built in the 15th century, and while you can’t go inside, the palace and its grounds are a peaceful place for a stroll.

Watch a sumo match – If you’re in town at the right time, this is a must-do . Tickets sell out quickly, so book early. Expect to pay around 11,000-13,000 JPY.

If you have more time, consider taking a day trip to Kamakura to see the giant Buddha statue (Daibutsu). It is over 13 meters (42 feet) tall and dates back to the 13th century. The journey is around 90 minutes each way — and free with the JR Pass !

For delicious food, some of my favorite bars and restaurants include: Uogashi Nihon-Ichi (Standing Sushi Bar), Nemuro Hanamaru KITTE Marunouchi, Motodane, Tokyo Whisky Library, Ichiran Shibuya, and Uohama.

WHERE TO STAY IN TOKYO : Hostel Chapter Two – A small, family-run hostel not far from Skytree Station in Asakusa. I really like the shared kitchen and common room, as there’s a real social feel to them.

A narrow, old street in quiet Kyoto, Japan with a pagoda in the distance

With its beauty come lots of crowds though, so try to visit outside of the busy summer months. Even with lots of tourists, though, the city is still magnificent and has a lot to offer. Some things to see and do that you shouldn’t miss are the following:

Visit the Golden Pavilion – This famous (and picturesque) temple dates to the 1950s, when a monk burned down the previous temple (from the 14th century) while trying to commit suicide. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most-visited destinations in the country!

Explore Gion – Gion is the historic geisha district. Stroll along the main street and see ochaya s (teahouses where geishas entertain), the small shops, and the many restaurants that line the district’s streets. You can take a walking tour of Gion for 1,800 JPY.

Wander in the Bamboo Forest – For a relaxing break, head to Arashiyama and let the calm swaying of the forest envelop you. Located near the famous Tenryu-ji temple, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the entire country. Arrive early if you want to enjoy it without the crowds. Kyoto Bike Tours offers an early-bird bike tour for a guided way to do just that.

Admire Ryoan-ji temple – This is my favorite temple in Kyoto. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a mausoleum that houses the remains of seven emperors. The traditional rock and sand garden is considered one of the best in the country.

For a half-day trip, you can also visit Nara. It’s a small city just one hour from Kyoto. Nara was the capital of Japan in the eighth century, so there are lots of buildings and temples here that are upwards of a thousand years old (which is rare in Japan, due to fires, as well as World War II). But the real draw in Nara are the deer.

Since the 17th century, those in and around the city have been considered sacred. You can buy crackers to feed them or just watch them stroll around carefree. A guided half-day walking tour that includes all of Nara’s highlights as well as a traditional lunch is 11,500 JPY.

While you’re here, don’t miss a visit to Todai-ji. It’s the world’s largest wooden building and is home to a 16-meter (52-foot) Buddha statue. It was built in 738 CE and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission is 600 JPY.

WHERE TO STAY IN KYOTO : Backpacker Hostel K’s House – A fun, social backpacker hostel in a great central location. The rooftop terrace is a cool spot to hangout and meet other travelers after a day of exploring.

The iconic, towering Osaka Castle overlooking busy Osaka, Japan on a sunny day

Don’t miss Osaka Castle though. While it’s not the original (this version dates to 1931), it’s nevertheless an impressive sight. It’s home to a small but insightful museum and an observation deck that offers some picturesque city views.

And be sure to stroll down Dotonbori (ideally at night), the main street, which is lined with restaurants, stores, and tons of neon lights and signs. A guided walking tour that includes Dotonbori as well adjacent neighborhoods is 6,500 JPY.

The bombed-out ruins of the atomic bomb site in Hiroshima, Japan

Today, Hiroshima is thriving . Don’t miss the Atomic Bomb Museum, which depicts the history of the city before and after that fateful day. It has photos, artifacts, videos, and information about the effect of radiation on the population. It’s a sobering experience but one that should not be missed.

If you feel like getting out of town afterward, head to Miyajima , an island that offers a place to hike and enjoy nature. You can also take a cable car to the peak of the mountain to take in the view. A one-way ferry ride to the island takes 10 minutes and is free to JR Pass holders.

WHERE TO STAY IN HIROSHIMA : Roku Hostel – A cozy, small hostel with a rustic atmosphere and design. It feels like you’re staying with a friend here, and the beds are super comfy too.

An empty street with glowing lights in Tokyo, Japan

If you like history, don’t miss the Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village, home to a collection of traditional thatch-roof houses that you can enter to further immerse yourself in the country’s past.

This city (and region, really) is famous for its Hida beef, a high-fat variety that’s even better than any A5 Wagyu you might have. It just melts in your mouth. Be sure to have some while you are here!

The Japanese Alps are not far from here as well, so if you love hiking and want to extend your time in the region, head to Kamikochi for a day hike or overnight trip. It’s just an hour away and has both easy and moderate trails, which are open from April to November. Hiking trails can also be found in Hakusan National Park (also just one hour away by car).

The quiet streets of scenic Kanazawa, Japan with locals wearing traditional clothing

One of the more unique temples in Japan is here too: Ninja (Myoryuji) Temple. While the temple wasn’t home to actual ninjas, Myoryuji was built as a defensive structure (strict laws forbade local lords from building defenses, so they were hidden in the temple to circumvent the rules). These include hidden rooms, secret tunnels, and a maze of staircases and halls to confuse enemies.

If you need a break from exploring cities, Hakusan National Park, home to Mount Haku, one of the three holy mountains, is just an hour south of town.

The traditional Japanese castle overlooking Matsumoto in Japan

If you’re here in April, there are incredible cherry blossom displays that are famous in the region. And, just like Takayama, Matsumoto is close to the Japanese Alps, so you’re just a stone’s throw from some of the best hiking in the country.

A red torii gate in the water with lush greenery and Mount Fuji in the background Japan

There are tons of hotels (both modern and traditional) that have their own hot springs (often both indoors and outdoors). It’s the perfect place to wrap up a trip, relax, and take in the views.

In addition to getting a copious amount of R&R, be sure to ride the cable car up the mountain for even more amazing views. The area is surrounded by craters from an inactive volcano that erupted 80,000 years ago (not to be confused with nearby Mount Fuji, which is an active volcano), and you’ll find lots of vendors at the top selling eggs cooked in the sulfurous waters. It’s said the eggs prolong one’s life by seven years, so feel free to give them a try!

If you prefer to hike up instead, the trail is open between July and September, with the trek taking anywhere from 5 to 12 hours, depending on your level of fitness. Typically, hikers leave at night in order to arrive at the summit by dawn. There are little shops along the way that sell food and even beds you can rent in advance if you want to split your journey up. Just make sure you do your research and prepare in advance as it’s a tough hike!

If you really want to play tourist, you can also ride a mock pirate ship around the lake for more views of the mountains, and Mount Fuji in particular.

Full-day tours around Hakone that include all the main sights cost 14,800 JPY.

WHERE TO STAY IN HAKONE : Hotel Green Plaza – With gorgeous views of Mount Fuji, a huge buffet dinner (with both Western and Japanese options), and a private onsen where you can relax and enjoy the view, this is one of the best places to stay in Hakone if you want value but don’t want to break the bank.  

A busy street in sunny, subtropical Okinawa, Japan

Using the suggestions above, here’s how I would organize your itinerary:

  • Days 1-3 : Tokyo
  • Day 4 : Mount Fuji or Hakone
  • Day 5 : Takayama
  • Days 6 & 7 : Kanazawa
  • Days 8 & 9 : Matsumoto
  • Days 10-12 : Kyoto
  • Days 13 & 14 : Osaka
  • Days 15 & 16 : Hiroshima

The sprawling, green landscape of Hokkaido, Japan inside a national park

If you do want to spend a few hours in Hakodate, don’t miss the Morning Market, where you can find lots of fresh seafood. You can also visit Fort Goryokaku, the first “Western”-style fort in the country.

An old brewery in the winter in Sapporo, Japan

Be sure to stop in at the local Beer Museum too, owned by Sapporo Breweries (the oldest beer company in the country). It showcases the history of beer in Japan and how the business got its start. If you’re a whiskey fan, stop by The Bow Bar, home to some rare (and expensive) whiskeys and considered one of the best such bars in the world.

What I love about the city is its location. This region has some of the best hiking in the country. There are plenty of hills and mountains, offering options for both day hikes as well as overnight trips. Some highlights include Mount Me-akan, Mount Asahim, Mount Mashu, and Nishibetsu-dake. For the best views of the city, head to Mount Moiwayama. It’s just a 30-60-minute hike to the top, though there is a cable car you can take as well.

And if you’re visiting in the winter, hit the slopes! There are over a hundred ski resorts in Hokkaido. You can rent skis (or a snowboard) for around 10,000-18,000 JPY. Lift prices are usually 4,000-6,000 JPY per day. In the winter, don’t miss the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. It’s held every February and draws over two million visitors. There are ice sculptures, igloos, live music, and delicious local foods on offer.

Additionally, be sure to take a day trip to Otaru, where you’ll find some of the freshest uni in the whole country (this is the main area where the famed Hokkaido uni is caught). Go hungry and visit the markets, stalls, and shops around there.

WHERE TO STAY IN SAPPORO : Waya Hostel – This is a laid-back, colorful hostel with a social atmosphere that makes meeting people a breeze. It has a homey, DIY feel and is perfect for budget travelers looking for a no-frills place to crash.

The busy streets of Tokyo, Japan near an old temple

There is a ton to see and do in Japan , and you could easily spend another month here and still just scratch the surface (we didn’t even get to Okinawa and the islands!). And while these itineraries are a bit fast-paced, Japan isn’t cheap, so budget travelers need to move around the country quickly to avoid breaking the bank.

But no matter how long you visit, you won’t be disappointed. Japan is an amazing, beautiful, and unique destination that I never get tired of visiting. While it’s not as affordable as its neighbors, there are still plenty of ways to save money , and it’s definitely worth spending the time (and money) visiting. You won’t be disappointed!

Just make sure to get your Japan Rail Pass before you go!  

Book Your Trip to Japan: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner . They are my two favorite search engines, because they search websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is left unturned!

Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hostel. If you want to stay in a hotel or guesthouse in Japan, use as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancelations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • Safety Wing (best for everyone)
  • Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
  • Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think they will help you too!

Be sure to check out the Japan Rail Pass if you’ll be traveling around the country. It comes in 7-, 14-, and 21-day passes and can save you a ton of money!

Looking for More Travel Tips for Japan? Check out my in-depth Japan travel guide for more ways to save money; information on costs; tips on what to see and do; suggested itineraries, reading, and packing lists; and much, much more!

Got a comment on this article? Join the conversation on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter and share your thoughts!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend only products and companies I use and the income goes to keeping the site community supported and ad free.

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The Ultimate Itinerary for a Trip to Japan: Unforgettable 7, 10 and 14 Day Journeys (Updated 2024)

best japan trip itinerary

Some destinations reward spontaneity – in Europe, cheap flights and rail passes give  you the freedom to wake up in the morning and choose your next destination on a whim. Japan, on the other hand, rewards forward planning.

The country’s abundance of both natural and manmade attractions, combined with its high standard of living and general efficiency, make it a fairly pricey destination. The more you plan, the better you can mitigate the damage to your wallet, and get the most out your trip – no matter how long you plan to stay.

These itineraries are designed to inspire you to build your own trip. Based around a few key highlights that represent both modern and ancient, they’re crafted to give you a rich and satisfying experience of Japan in 7, 10 or 14 days. Let’s jump right in!

Psst: want more tips for planning a trip to Japan? Check our rail pass guide  and cheap eating tips .

  • 1 Getting Around
  • 2 7 Day Itinerary: Tokyo and Mt Fuji (Fuji Five Lakes)
  • 3 7 Day Itinerary: Osaka, Kyoto and Nara
  • 4 10 Day Itinerary: Tokyo, Mt Fuji and Kyoto
  • 5 10 Day Itinerary: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima
  • 6 14 Day Itinerary: Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima

Getting Around

Before we get to the itineraries, there's one important piece of planning to keep in mind – whether or not to get a JR pass . A Japan Rail (JR) pass is exclusively available to tourists, and grants you unlimited travel on JR trains within Japan, including the world-famous bullet trains. Depending on your itinerary, this will save you time and money vs buying individual train tickets within Japan. But importantly,  you must purchase the pass before you arrive in Japan . We recommend ordering from Klook for their low prices and 10-day global delivery.

We've marked the itineraries that we recommend the JR pass for below, but for a more in-depth guide, be sure to read our full guide The Japan Rail Pass: Is It Worth The Cost?

7 Day Itinerary: Tokyo and Mt Fuji (Fuji Five Lakes)

best japan trip itinerary

Get the essentials of urban and rural Japan with four days in the unforgettable capital, followed by three days of reflection and recovery under the shadow of Mt Fuji.


Tokyo: 4 Days

  • Highlights: Go crazy in Japan’s frenetic, eclectic and incomparable capital. Live out a manga fantasy in Akihabara , drink shoulder to shoulder with locals in Roppongi , and see the world’s largest metropolis in 360 degrees from the top of the Tokyo Tower . And for an immersive digital art experience, check out the popular teamLab Planets TOKYO Museum .
  • Where to stay: Public transport is comprehensive, so search far afield. Roppongi neighborhood if you like nightlife, Shinjuku to be close to the beating heart. Use TripAdvisor to compare hotel and hostel deals across all booking sites along with thousands of reviews.
  • What to eat : Chains like Sushiro ($1 / plate train sushi) and the ubiquitous Gyudon houses like Yoshinoya can get you a delicious local meal for a budget price. Check out a Maid Cafe for an authentic (if risque) local experience!

Mt Fuji: 3 Days

Tip: If you don't have 3 days to spend in Fuji, you can book a  full day tour from Tokyo .

  • Highlights: See why this 3776 meter high mountain has inspired artists, writers and pilgrims for countless centuries. Soak up the volcanic waters in the Five Lakes District , a major tourist destination since the 1920s, it’s still possible to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in nature.
  • Where to stay:  The Five Lakes Region contains a wealth of hotels and resorts. If you’re striking out, try a bit further away from (but still in plain view of) the mountain in Hakone district. Compare across booking sites with TripAdvisor's hotel search.
  • What to eat: Try the regional speciality: udon noodles, often served cold in a delicate, flavorful sauce.

Japan Mt Fuji

7 Day Itinerary: Osaka, Kyoto and Nara

best japan trip itinerary

Osaka: 3 Days

  • Highlights: Japan’s second biggest city is a microcosm of everything that magnetizes visitors to the country. Gaze in awe at giant plastic sea creatures and effusive street vendors in Dōtonbori , wander among the tuna merchants at the fish market, and connect with history at the 16th century Osaka Castle . Get to know Osaka like a local with a highly-rated walking tour .
  • Where to stay: Try AirBNB and trust the train network if you find a good option a little outside of town. For hotels and hostels, compare across booking sites using TripAdvisor .
  • What to eat : The same budget chains in Tokyo will serve you well here (I practically moved in to my nearest Sushiro!), but you really must try the street food on Dōtonbori .

Kyoto: 2 days

  • Highlights: After the urban grunge of Osaka, it’s time to embrace the Japan’s spiritual side at the ancient seat of empire. It’s still possible to see Geisha in the historic Higashiyama District, which you can even explore by rickshaw , and the subtle beauty of temples like Kinkaku-ji is simply too much to put into words. Make sure you catch everything there is to see with a custom-made walking tour with a local . Go!
  • Where to stay: Downtown Kyoto is the most convenient spot for sightseeing and will allow you to cover much of the historic town on foot. Try Airbnb or compare hotels and hostels across booking sites with TripAdvisor .
  • What to eat : Restaurant prices can be steep so take a trick from the locals and stock up on tasty (and filling) instant meals at chain stores like the ubiquitous 7/11

Nara: 2 days

  • Highlights: Stick with the theme of history but swap the Geisha for sacred deer in Nara , Japan’s capital from AD 710 to 794. In Nara park you can sip green tea in a traditional “Chaya” tea house and watch the deer frolic over 700 year old ground. Hire a local guide to make sure you catch it all!
  • Where to stay. While it’s possible to day trip from Osaka, the town is well worth staying overnight – guest houses are abundant and there are even hotels in the historical park! You can compare all your options and find the best price using TripAdvisor .
  • What to eat . Vegetarian food and pickled delicacies are the local specialities, due to the surrounding mountains and buddhist communities.

Bamboo Forest, Kyoto

10 Day Itinerary: Tokyo, Mt Fuji and Kyoto

Got 10 days? Let’s do it right. Take a deep dive into the capital, cleanse yourself with nature in Mt Fuji and the surrounding 5 Lake District, and transport yourself back in time in Kyoto – a rich overview that will leave you feeling refreshed, satisfied and exhilarated.

For this itinerary, we recommend a JR pass . It will save you precious travel time on the bullet train, and save you money on train fares between, and within, Tokyo and Kyoto. Remember to order your pass BEFORE you enter Japan (we recommend Klook ). If you're still unsure, be sure to check out our in-depth guide on whether the JR pass is worth it .

  • Highlights: Lose yourself among the neon lights of Shibuya and have a drink at the Monster Cafe . Watch locals transform themselves into Manga characters on an anime/gaming tour in Akihabara , drink hot sake with locals in Roppongi, and let digital art completely immerse your senses in  Japan’s unforgettable capital.
  • Where to stay: Public transport is comprehensive so search far afield. Roppongi neighborhood if you like nightlife, Shinjuku to be close to the beating heart.
  • What to eat : Tokyo has unlimited dining options – if you’re on a budget, try Gyudon and brave the budget chains where it’s still possible to order with ancient vending machine located by the kitchen!

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

  • Highlights: Make all your instagram followers jealous as you soak up the steamy volcanic waters under the shadow of Japan’s largest and most famous mountain.
  • Where to stay:  The Five Lakes Region near the mountain contains a wealth of hotels and resorts. If you’re striking out, try a bit further away from (but still in plain view of) the mountain in Hakone district.

Kyoto: 3 days

  • Highlights: The twin temples Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji  (gold pavilion and silver pavilion) have been carrying out an architectural and spiritual debate for centuries. It’s still possible to see Geisha in the historic Higashiyama District, which you can even explore by rickshaw . Make sure you catch everything there is to see with a custom-made walking tour with a local .
  • Where to stay: Downtown Kyoto is the most convenient spot for sightseeing and will allow you to cover much of the historic town on foot.
  • What to eat : Live out a warrior fantasy at the Samurai Restaurant . It’s a bit kitsch and definitely designed for the tourists, but so what – you’re on holiday!

10 Day Itinerary: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima

Get the best of Japan today and yesterday in racey Osaka, tranquil Kyoto and serene Nara, before coming face to face with perhaps the darkest period of Japan’s history at Hiroshima.

For this itinerary, we recommend a JR pass . It will save you tons of travel time on the bullet train to Hiroshima, and save money on train fares within the Osaka/Kyoto/Nara area. You need to order your pass BEFORE you enter Japan (we recommend Klook ). If you're still unsure, be sure to check out our in-depth guide on whether the JR pass is worth it .

best japan trip itinerary

  • Highlights: “Forget Tokyo,” I was told when I planned my first trip to Japan, “Go to Osaka!” While the capital is awesome, Japan’s second city more than holds its own. Here you can gaze in awe at giant plastic sea creatures and effusive street vendors in Dōtonbori, wander among the tuna merchants at the fish market, and connect with history at the 16th century Osaka Castle. Get to know Osaka like a local with a highly-rated walking tour .
  • Where to stay: Try AirBNB and trust the train network if you find a good option a little outside of town.
  • What to eat : Try the street food on Dōtonbori! A nightfood tour will help you find the best spots and eat where the locals eat!
  • Highlights: Say goodbye to the furious pace of modern Japanese city life, and embrace the tranquil, spiritual and ancient in Kyoto. Believe it or not, but it's still possible to see Geisha in the historic Higashiyama District, even from a rickshaw . The gentle beauty of temples like Kinkaku-ji is simply too much to put into words. Make sure you catch everything there is to see with a custom-made walking tour with a local . Go!

Higashiyama District, Kyoto

  • Highlights: In Nara park you can sip green tea in a traditional “Chaya” tea house and watch the deer frolic over 700 year old ground. Hire a local guide to make sure you catch it all!
  • Where to stay. While it’s possible to day trip from Osaka, the town is well worth staying overnight – guest houses are abundant and there are even hotels in the historical park!
  • What to eat . Thank the Buddhist communities in the surrounding mountains for the abundance of local vegetarian food.

Hiroshima: 2 days

  • Highlights : Infamous for its more recent history (which you can learn from a local on a cycling tour ), the rebirth of Hiroshima from ashes into a vibrant modern city is reason to visit in itself. In addition to haunting museums and poignant relics to the nuclear attacks, Hiroshima is the gateway to rural Chūgoku , a chance to tip your toes into Japan’s unspoiled wilderness.
  • Where to stay : Hiroshima is drenched in hotels. Stay near the train station for convenient access to the city center and surrounding attractions.
  • What to eat : Try the local okonomiyaki, a delicious, savory grilled pancake smothered in sauces and toppings.

Hiroshima city

14 Day Itinerary: Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima

This is an itinerary for people who want it all! You’ve got two weeks, you’ve got your rail pass , and you’re going to jolly-well make the most out of your time. Well, if you’ve got the energy, then here’s how it could be done. It’s everything you see above, rolled into one epic itinerary for the bold and brave.

For this itinerary, we definitely recommend a JR pass . With the distance being covered from the east to the west of country, the amount of time and money this will save is a no-brainer. You must order your pass BEFORE you enter Japan (we recommend Klook ). But if you're still unsure, be sure to check out our in-depth guide on whether the JR pass is worth it .

  • Highlights: Start with the blast of energy, neon, weirdness and glamour that is Japan’s capital. Opportunities for entertainment are virtually unlimited – feel the awe of the emperor at the imperial palace, indulge in a retail fantasy in Ginza, and finish the day with a well needed pint of Asahi in Roppongi.
  • Where to stay: Public transport is comprehensive so search far afield. Roppongi neighborhood if you like nightlife, Shinjuku to be close to the beating heart. Use TripAdvisor to compare hotel and hostel deals across all booking sites along with thousands of reviews.
  • What to eat : The real question is what NOT to eat. You could go to a different restaurant in Tokyo everyday for 20 years and still not run out of options. If you’re on a budget, look to the local fast food chains – if you’re on a tight budget, trust to the 7/11!

Mt Fuji: 2 Days

  • Highlights: Hear a rumble? Fuji-san isn’t just a stunning, snow capped mountain, it’s still an active volcano! Soak up the volcanic waters and watch Fuji’s towering form from the Five Lakes District , a popular spot for locals and and travelers.
  • Where to stay:  The Five Lakes Region contains a wealth of hotels and resorts. If you’re striking out, try a bit further away from (but still in plain view of) the mountain in Hakone district. Compare across booking sites with TripAdvisor's hotel search.
  • What to eat: Try the regional speciality: udon noodles, often served cold in a delicate, flavorful sauce. 

best japan trip itinerary

Osaka: 2 Days

  • Highlights: Japan’s second biggest city is a microcosm of everything that magnetizes visitors to the country. Gaze in awe at giant plastic sea creatures and effusive street vendors in Dōtonbori , wander among the tuna merchants at the fish market, and connect with history at the 16th century Osaka Castle .Get to know Osaka like a local with a highly-rated walking tour .
  • Where to stay: Try AirBNB  or TripAdvisor and trust the train network if you find a good option a little outside of town.
  • What to eat : The same budget chains in Tokyo will serve you well here (I practically moved in to my nearest Sushiro!) but you really must try the street food on Dōtonbori .
  • Where to stay: Downtown Kyoto is the most convenient spot for sightseeing and will allow you to cover much of the historic town on foot. Try  Airbnb  or compare hotels and hostels across booking sites with  TripAdvisor .

Monkey Park Iwatayama

  • Where to stay. While it’s possible to day trip from Osaka, the town is well worth staying overnight – guest houses are abundant and there are even hotels in the historical park! You can compare all your options and find the best price using  TripAdvisor .
  • Where to stay : Hiroshima is drenched in hotels. Stay near the train station for convenient access to the city center and surrounding attractions. Check both Airbnb and TripAdvisor for the best prices.

With the abundance of incredible places to visit in Japan, the only trouble you'll have with planning a trip here is which itinerary to follow. Tell us, what are your must-visit's on a trip to Japan?

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10 Days in Japan: A First-Timer’s Complete Japan Itinerary

last Updated: March 7, 2024 hiroshima japan kyoto miyajima nara osaka tokyo

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Looking for the best way to spend 10 days in Japan?  You’re in the right place! 

Continue reading for tons of first-hand tips, recommendations, and a complete 10 day Japan itinerary, which can easily be turned into two weeks in Japan if you’ve got a few more days.  I absolutely LOVED my time in the country, and with some proper planning, I can guarantee you will too.   

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Japan is over-stimulating and over-whelming in the best way possible. An absolute thrill to the senses. 

From the shiny bright lights of Tokyo’s Akihabara District to the serene temples and zen gardens in Kyoto , Japan is a country where the past and the future collide more than you initially realize.

I can promise you that every bite of food will be better than the last, and you’ll be saying oishi (“delicious” in Japanese) during every meal.

If you can visit during cherry blossom season, you’re in for a real treat – the streets will be lined with the most beautiful bunches of white and pale pink flowers you’ve ever imagined, which in turn makes the country smell absolutely phenomenal.

Japan is quite literally the most fascinating country I’ve explored to date. (And I just hit my goal of 30 countries by my 30th birthday a few months ago!) #killingit

I’d love to spend more time in Japan, and am highly encouraging everyone I know to discover this little piece of Asia sooner than later. So today, I am sharing with you my 10 day Japan itinerary, all heavily researched (for hours!) before my trip and followed pretty much to a T.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Overview of this 10 Day Japan Itinerary

When I initially started planning my trip, I was worried that 10 days in Japan wouldn’t be enough. Thankfully, I proved myself wrong and was able to see and do  oh so   much , as well as stuff myself silly with all those Japanese snacks I had heard so much about. [Spoiler alert: bring stretchy pants.] 

The country is filled with so many fascinating areas, but 10 days in Japan will give you enough time to see the highlights. To be completely honest, this Japan itinerary is rather jam packed, yet highly efficient (I promise!), although I suggest slightly modifying it if you’d like a more relaxed trip or are traveling with kids.

While we’re at it, check out all my travel planning tips right over here!

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

This Japan itinerary starts in Tokyo , makes a day trip to either Kamakura, Nikko, or Hakone, then ventures south to Kyoto , with day trips to Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Miyajima Island. Distances really depend on the mode of transport you use, with bullet trains being the fastest.

  • Days 1-3 : Tokyo
  • Day 4: day trip from Tokyo
  • Days 5-6: Kyoto
  • Day 7 : Nara and Osaka
  • Day 8 : Miyajima and Hiroshima
  • Day 9 : morning in Kyoto  → Tokyo
  • Day 10: Tokyo in morning/afternoon  → airport

Japan is a decently large-sized island country located in Eastern Asia, being slightly smaller than California .  Rest assured, the entire country is connected via trains. In my experience, Japan may have the most efficient and well-connected public transportation system in the world (and that’s coming from someone who spent their childhood riding the extensive New York City subway).

Despite holding the title for the 10th most populated country in the world (aka: it’s crowded), you can still find some peace and solitude in the many gardens and temples located just about everywhere.

Pre-Travel Guide to Japan

Where to get the best flight deals to japan:.

I swear by Skyscanner and Google Flights , and always always always use these two sites when looking for airfare.  The option to watch prices and get email notifications are top notch and one of my favorite features of the two. 

Always check budget airlines that may not be listed, especially if you are coming from other areas in Asia with shorter flight times.  A great list of budget airlines can be found here .

For reference, we flew premium economy on China Airlines with a short layover in Taipei for about $1200 round trip from San Francisco – during Easter and cherry blossom season – but I saw deals for under $800 in coach. [I’m not complaining about the upgrade that my husband insisted on buying, but know that cheaper flights are out there.]

If you’re coming from the East Coast USA, flights will be a bit more expensive but shouldn’t be more than $500 more or so.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Where to stay:

In an effort to keep things simple (and avoid changing accommodation every night or two – what a pain!), this itinerary will have you staying in 2 main areas (Tokyo and Kyoto).

I highly advise booking accommodations near centrally located train stations in each as it’ll be easiest for the day trips mentioned in the 10 day Japan Itinerary below.

I opted to stay near Shibuya Station in Tokyo, as it’s centrally located and easy to reach other districts. In Kyoto we stayed near Kyoto Station as we were taking a bunch of day trips and wanted to be able to walk to our accommodation easily after a long, busy day on the road bullet train.

  • Luxury:  Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel
  • Mid-Range:  Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyo
  • Budget:  Shibuya Tokyu Rei Hotel
  • Check out other hotels in Tokyo here.
  • Luxury:  Hotel Granvia Kyoto
  • Mid-Range:  Kyoto Century Hotel
  • Budget:  Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto
  • Check out other hotels in Kyoto here.
  • Yado Kiramachi
  • Kyoto Takasegawa Bettei
  • Muromachi Yutone Kyokoyado

Airbnb is also a great option and a good way to save some money if you’re spending a few nights in one spot (always check the cleaning and booking fees, as these can greatly increase the price should you only need a 1-night stay).

New rules regarding Airbnb rentals were implemented in June 2018, and now listings must be registered and display a license number on their booking page. Thankfully all current listings on Airbnb are compliant (the company removed any which failed to register in 2018), so you can be sure your booking is absolutely legit.

While I’d love to recommend the Airbnbs we stayed in during our trip to Japan, they are no longer available. However, there’s tons more to choose from – just check out the Airbnb website .

First time using AirBnB?  Sign up with THIS LINK to get $30 off your first stay!

When to visit:

There’s never a horrible time to spend 10 days in Japan, but each season has their pros and cons.

Spring : If you’re hoping to see the ever-so-beautiful cherry blossoms, April is your best bet. That being said, it’s also the month most people visit Japan for that very reason. I visited in early to mid-April, and while yes it was crowded, the beauty of the cherry blossoms found throughout the country was well worth it.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Fall : Autumn is another wonderful time to visit Japan, as you’ll get to experience the vibrant fall colors (bright red leaves) from September to November.

Summer (June to August) is hot, humid, and rainy (although the rain tends to dissipate in early July), while winter (Dec-Feb) is generally cool, sunny, dry and great for snow-sports in the mountains.

Note that weather varies dramatically throughout the country, so be sure to plan accordingly especially if you visit higher altitudes.

Read Next: When to Visit Japan (Weather, Seasons, Festivals, and Crowds)

Planning a trip and confused about the best month to visit Japan?! Keep on reading, because I’ll not only be dishing out info on when to visit Japan, but when to avoid the crowds, best times to see those beloved cherry blossoms, and when you can get the best bang for your buck.

How to get Japanese Yen:

I highly advise you to NOT exchange your money at a currency exchange kiosk before or after you land as you won’t get the best rates. Instead, take out local currency (Japanese Yen) at the airport via ATM machine.

If you travel quite frequently, consider applying for a Charles Schwab bank account. The company refunds any and all fees associated with foreign transaction ATM withdrawals. You’ll pay no ATM fees anywhere in the world, including your home country. It’s what I’ve been using for years and it’s saved me 100’s in unwanted pesky fees.

Surprisingly, considering it’s crazy-advanced technology and all, Japan is mostly a cash society; yes, we were exceptionally wowed by that! Expect your credit card to get rejected at most places (especially small eateries and of course street-food stands) and be sure to carry enough Yen with you.

If you’re coming from the US, an easy way to figure out USD to JY is to move the decimal point two spots to the right >> 100Y = approximately $1USD. Just for quick reference, 10,000Y = approximately 100USD.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

How to Get Around Japan:

If you’re visiting Japan from elsewhere in the world (i.e. you are not a resident of Japan), you are able to purchase a JR train pass for varying amounts of time.  The JR pass gives you access to all of the trains, most Shinkansen lines (bullet trains), the ferry to Miyajima, and a few other transportation lines.  Options include 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day.

I used a 7-day JR pass during my trip, and I highly advise you to do the same if you’ll be following this 10 day Japan itinerary. The Green Car option, while a bit more expensive, is JR’s version of “first-class” and most definitely worth it in my opinion.  Note that it does not cover all bus routes/lines and some local trains, but these only cost about 100-300Y ($1-3USD), so no biggie.

If you plan on using a JR pass, you NEED to purchase it before you enter the country . Once you arrive in Japan, there is no option to buy it. And when I say no option, absolutely NO option at all.  

Once you purchase the pass (which must be done outside of Japan) you will receive a voucher in the mail (within a few days) which you will then exchange upon your arrival in Japan at a designated JR ticket booth in major train stations. 

Buy your Japan Rail Pass here (it’s the company I used and our voucher arrived promptly in the mail). There was free delivery straight to our home which I greatly appreciated, and once in Japan we saved a ton of money on the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train), and breezed through the JR rail stations like a boss.

I can’t imagine doing Japan any other way than with a JR Pass. Check out the options (standard and green pass) here.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

UPDATE — Buying a JR Pass in Japan : The Japan Rail Pass be will sold at a higher price point and on a trial basis in Japan through October 1, 2023 at major stations and airports. However, if you know you’ll be using one, miiiight as well save a bit of money and purchase it beforehand from a trusted company . There’s really no reason not to.

The public transportation system in Japan is top-notch, and although extremely overwhelming (at first, trust me), it’s by far the best (and most cost effective) option for getting around throughout the country.

Electricity and Power in Japan:

Japan uses the same 2-pronged electrical outlets as found in the USA. If you’re coming from America, note that some electrical devices use a three-pronged plug.

It’s also important to understand that the amount of voltage is different and you’ll need a converter (different than an electrical adapter) to change the amount of electricity pushed to each device if you plan on bringing anything which uses an excessive amount of power (including hair dryers, curling irons, and/or straightening irons). 

If you don’t want to worry about this, I suggest you invest in dual-voltage devices made especially for travel like this  dual-voltage blow dryer , dual-voltage mini straightener , and this dual-voltage curling iron .

Using a Pocket Wifi Router in Japan :

If you’ve done any research on Japan, you probably came across something called Pocket Wifi . What is it exactly and why should you consider getting it for your trip to Japan?

Pocket Wifi is exactly as it sounds — a small portable device that you can keep in your pocket (or purse/backpack/day bag) that provides wifi to all your devices (cell phone, iPad, computers, etc). And the best part? One Pocket Wifi will power up to 10 devices, so you can share the same Pocket Wifi with your family and friends.

Since wifi is less common in Japan than in other countries (surprising, right?!), this handy little device does wonders! You will be able to find free wifi in your hotel/ryoken, Starbuck locations around the city, and some other restaurants, but I always recommend having your own, especially if you’re visiting any smaller cities. Do note that some ryokans and older hotels might only have LAN cable internet access, instead of wifi, so you’ll definitely want a Pocket Wifi there!

You’ll use wifi on your phone for just about everything in Japan — train schedules, getting around, translating important phrases, making FaceTime calls to family, etc. You don’t wanna be without it when you need it!

And they make it so super easy — the Pocket Wifi will be delivered straight to your hotel in Japan! Once you’re done with your trip, use the convenient prepaid envelop to return your router from any address in Japan. Couldn’t be simpler than that!

Check out the benefits and purchase your Pocket Wifi here. Honestly, a life saver!

Useful Japanese Phrases:

  • Hello/Good Afternoon: konnichiwa
  • Good bye: sayonara
  • Delicious: oishi
  • Thank you: arigatō
  • Please: kudasai
  • Where’s the toilet: benjo wa doko desu ka?
  • Does anyone speak English? Eigo no hanaseru hito wa imasen ka

Headed to Japan and looking for the best things to do in Kyoto? You’re in luck, because I’ve compiled a whole bunch of Kyoto sights and attractions!

Packing tips for Japan:

Clothing : Seaso ns are kind of temperamental in Japan, and you may be wishing you brought different clothing. Therefore, I highly suggest you pack layers for your trip to Japan. An umbrella (cute ones here , here , and here ) and light raincoat (like this or this one ) are recommended as well.

We encountered much more rain during our 10 days in Japan than we had originally planned for, and I’m glad I brought along a raincoat. If you don’t want to stuff a coat in your luggage, consider bringing along a poncho  just in case.

Electricity and Power : As noted above, most of Japan’s electrical outlets are the 2-pronged “Type A” type (100 Volt, 50-60 Hz).

If you have a device with a 3-pronged or European/UK-style plug, you may need a travel adapter (for all devices) and power converter (for high powered devices like a hair straightener or blow dryer).

Pack comfy shoes that are easy to take off. You’ll need to slip off your shoes at various temples, at the airport, at ryokans, and some restaurants. My favorite ones here (on sale), here , and here .

I also suggest bringing along socks if you don’t want to go barefoot… These sushi socks are quite cute and perfect for the occasion…  🙂 

Small throwaway bags for garbage. You won’t find many garbage cans around Japan in general, and it’s expected that you keep your trash on you until you can throw them away. Keep a small bag in your purse/backpack for this purpose. A small foldable tote is perfect for this, and can be used for spontaneous shopping trips.

Pack light. Navigating Japan is much easier when you have a small suitcase, especially since Japanese trains (and train stations) do not cater to travelers with a lot of luggage. In addition, there’s not as many elevators or escalators as you might wish, so remember, you may be carrying your luggage up and down a few flights of stairs.

I recommend traveling with a small rolling suitcase (one that fits in the overhead bin on an airplane like this one or this one ) and a backpack (I have this one and love it).

Stay organized with packing cubes , which also help you fit more into smaller suitcases (I’m able to fit about a months worth of summer clothing using packing cubes and packing strategically).

Language : If you’re up for it, you can also consider taking along a small Japanese Phrase Book . The language is quite difficult, and Google Translate (which won’t work without wifi or a cell plan) saved our butts far too many times.

Japanese written language uses characters, which you’ll see all over the place.  Thankfully, most signs are written in phonetics using the alphabet we use.

We were also surprised by the low number of people who speak any English. Save yourself some frustration and pack a lightweight phrase book in your bag. Interested in learning some Japanese before your trip?

This book looks like loads of fun, and I’m actually thinking of buying it before my next trip back to the country. (The Japanese language is difficult you guys, just trust me.)

Travel Insurance for Japan

Yes, you need this. I always recommend purchasing travel insurance before your trip. You never know what might happen (flight delays, lost baggage, illness), and travel insurance definitely helps with all of those unfortunate unexpectancies.

I highly recommend the companies World Nomads and SafetyWing . I’ve recently been buying coverage with SafetyWing since they cover pandemic-related costs (which most travel insurance companies do not do).

Whenever we travel, we always buy a short term plan (depending on how many days/weeks we’ll be away) before leaving for any trip! Even if you don’t end up using it, peace of mind is 100% worth it in my opinion.

Find plan options and pricing here (and at only a few bucks a day, there’s no excuse not to!) I always say, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford your trip. It’s that easy.

Buy your travel insurance now — don’t wait until it’s too late!

10 Days in Japan:  A Complete Japan Itinerary

And now, the fun part! The 10 day itinerary in Japan!

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo!

You’ll most likely be flying into Narita Airport  and will need a little over an hour to get into the city center via the Narita Express.  After such a long flight (with lots of time difference), it’s best not to plan much on this first day – hello, jetlag! 

I suggest exploring the area you’re staying in (my suggestions: Shibuya or Akihabara) and devouring your first Japanese dinner of either ramen or pork Katsu.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

During my stay, I opted for an AirBnB in Shibuya , which has an epic nightlife with tons of stuff going on, restaurants included (even if “partying” isn’t your thing- it sure ain’t mine!).  Use this first afternoon/night to relax and rest up, as the rest of this itinerary will be go-go-go!

Day 2: FULL DAY IN TOKYO (West Side)

Today’s all about modern Tokyo !  You’ll be exploring the western districts of the city, including Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku – just saying these names are fun!  You can either walk from district to district as they are fairly close together, or buy single use train tickets to hop between each. 

DO NOT USE YOUR JR PASS YET as it will expire before you finish needing it later on during the trip. Train tickets within Tokyo are not very expensive, and you won’t be needing many today anyways!

Stop 1: Shibuya

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

If you opted to stay in Shibuya, you won’t need to take a train here!  Shibuya is Tokyo’s version of Times Square , and with all the bright lights and massive amounts of people, it’s easy to see why.  Be sure to check out the world-famous Shibuya Crossing , where 100’s of people scramble across the street at once. 

For the best view above, head to Starbucks (you’ll need to order something before going upstairs), or find the Keio Inokashira Line at Shibuya Station for another perfect view.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Also say “Hello” – or Konichiwa — to Hachiko (the most loyal dog in the world statue) at Shibuya Crossing and do some shopping at Tokyu Hands .

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Meiji Shrine shouldn’t be missed as well, which is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.  You’ll be seeing lots of shrines and temples during your time in Japan, and Meiji is a great one to start with! 

If you’re lucky, you may even witness a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony!  I, however, was not so lucky.

Stop 2: Harajuku

If you want to get a taste for Japanese street style, visit Harajuku.  On Sundays, you can see traditional Harajuku Girls dressed in elaborate costumes and anime – so fun! Try and spot the girl in the photo below all decked out in costume. If you can’t make it on a Sunday, you can get a feel for Japanese street style any day of the week. 

You can reach Harajuku by taking the Yamanote line to Harajuku Station, although it’s not a far walk from Meiji Shrine.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Walk down the famous shopping street of Takeshita Dori , where you’ll find a whole mess of fun stores and fun cafes.  Note that most shops don’t open until 11am, but if you’re following this itinerary, you’ll probably arrive here around 1pmish or so. 

Be sure to try a crepe – the unofficial street food of Harajuku, which you’ll find all over Takeshita Dori!  We also visited a hedgehog café and played with them for about 45 minutes or so.  A super quirky and super weird area, definitely not meant to be missed!

Read Next: Top Things to do in Harajuku

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Stop 3: Shinjuku

Shinjuku is the largest neighborhood in Tokyo (dubbed the crazy entertainment district), and you’ll find thousands of restaurants, shops, entertainment, and other attractions that you could easily spend all day here. 

With limited time, we spent a decent portion of the afternoon and night here and felt that was sufficient enough to see the highlights.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Many people opt to see the ever-so-popular Robot Restaurant , which I’ve heard is an other-worldly experience, but after reading reviews, we decided against it.  Do your own research and decide for yourself whether this show is worthy of your time and money. 

Whether you decide to spend part of the evening at the Robot Restaurant, I highly encourage you to make a visit to Omoide Yokocho , commonly known as Piss Alley. 

Piss Alley is a small network of alleyways along the tracks northwest of Shinjuku Station filled with dozens of tiny eateries serving ramen, soba, sushi and yakitori.  Just pick one with open seats and go in – they’re all worthy of some stomach real-estate.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Consider the free observation deck on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building , visit Shinjuku Gyoen (a large public park near Shinjuku Station being a perfect cherry blossom spot – check on hours, we missed the entrance by about 20 minutes 🙁 ), and find an epic view of the area from the pedestrian overpass near the northwest corner of the Shinjuku station.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Day 3: FULL DAY IN TOKYO (East Side)

Now it’s time to experience the more traditional side of Tokyo , including Sensoji Temple and Ueno Gardens.  Another bird’s eye view can be seen today, at nearby Tokyo Skytree.

If you’re staying in Shibuya like I did, you’ll need to take the train from Shibuya Station to Asakusa Station (35-45 min on train) via the JR Yamanote Line to Ginza or Asakusa Line. Make sure to purchase single tickets – do NOT activate your JR pass yet!

Asakusa and Sensoji Temple

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Asakusa is the spiritual heart of Tokyo and a good place to start your day!  Sensoji Temple is the main attraction here, and you’ll start your morning journey at the Kaminarimon Gate . 

As you walk toward the temple buildings, check out the historic  Nakamise Dori shopping street, pick out some souvenirs and grab a Japanese snack (or two!) before exploring Sensoji Temple. 

Consider drawing Omikuji (written fortunes) while here.  If you’re up for it and are interested, check out the surrounding old-fashioned neighborhoods around Asakusa.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Sumida Park and Tokyo SkyTree

If you’re visiting during cherry blossom season, I highly advise you to visit Sumida Park , which is an absolutely wonderful spot to see the flowers in bloom!  It was one of the least crowded public parks we went to and FULL of cherry blossoms! 

I cannot recommend this spot enough!  Bring a snack or two and sit on a blanket for the ultimate experience. We got sakura donuts from Mister Donut (located all around), and ate our flower-themed treats amongst the cherry blossoms.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Next up – Tokyo SkyTree , the tallest tower in not only Japan, but the entire world!  At 634m (2,080 feet),  the complex has two observation decks with great views over the city.  There’s even a glass floor for any of you brave souls!  Expect a cue, so plan on spending a bit of time here.  The Tokyo Skytree is about a 20 minute walk or a 5 minute train ride from Asakusa.

If you don’t wanna wait in line, I highly encourage you to book your skip-the-line Tokyo SkyTree ticket in advance. You can even upgrade to include the Tembo Galleria.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

End the afternoon at Ueno Park , another large public space located in central Tokyo and another lively cherry blossom spot.  There are more than 1000 cherry trees of multiple varieties lining its central pathway and lots of temples and shrines here to check out, as well as museums and a zoo if those are of interest to you.

You’ll most likely want to take the JR train from Tokyo SkyTree to Ueno Park.  

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Akihabara District

Wake up because we’re off to Tokyo’s crazy Akihabara District! Spend the evening perusing the many electronic shops, including Yodobashi Akiba – the world’s largest with nine stories stuffed with hi tech equipment – for geeks with money.

You’ll also find Japan’s diehard fan anime culture here, with stores devoted to anime and manga; just be sure to keep kids away from the adult-only sections (I wondered at first why all the anime was butt naked)! 

You could easily fill up a whole afternoon and night in Akihabara, from its maid and Gundam cafes, gaming centers (check out Super Potato Retro Shop if you want to be transported into the 90’s), and just gazing at the bright lights.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Day 4: DAY TRIP from Tokyo — 3 Options

Today you’ll activate your JR pass and start putting it to use!  Now that you’ve explored Tokyo, get out of the busy city center and explore another nearby area.  There are numerous day trips you can take from Tokyo , and depending on your interests, you may want to visit more than one! 

Unfortunately this ten day Japan itinerary only allows for one, but if you have another day or two to spare, you could easily do all three. 

I opted for Kamakura because of the rainy and cold weather, but I would have loved Nikko or Hakone had the weather been more cooperative that day. With two weeks in Japan, you can most definitely do all three if you’d like.

Here are my three recommended day trips from Tokyo:

1) Kamakura

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

Don’t miss the Great Buddha of Kamakura (at Kotokuin Temple), easily the most popular attraction in the area, and literally hard to miss at 44 feet.  Here you’ll find the second largest Buddha in all of Japan. 

Another site not to miss, and only a few minute walk from the Great Buddha – the Hase Dera Temple , which is a beautiful temple located on a hillside overlooking the ocean.

Heading to Japan soon?! Check out this COMPLETE 10-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY filled with exactly how I spent my 10 days in Japan, which could easily be expanded to 2 weeks in Japan.

There’s also a bamboo forest at Hokokuji Temple , similar to that in Kyoto, and it’s possible to see Mt. Fuji on a clear day from Kenchoji Temple. 

Once you’ve had your fair share of temples, or are just hungry for some lunch, head on over to Komachi-dori , the busiest commercial street in Kamakura. Try the local specialty of Shirasu-don , (a Whitebait rice bowl), which you’ll easily find in numerous restaurants on the busy street.

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Not interested in venturing to Kamakura alone and prefer a group tour?  Looking back, I wished I booked a tour.  Although it wasn’t too far away, we got a bit confused on the train and wasted a bunch of time trying to navigate our way to Kamakura, and then even more time once we arrived.

Many of the tours include other highlights like a tea ceremony and a view of the Bay, which we missed by going alone. I recommend these (from Tokyo) which cover all the top attractions:

  • Full Day Trip to Kamakura, Yokohama, and Tokyo Bay (from Tokyo) : Not only does this day tour from Tokyo take you to all the highlights of Kamakura, but you’ll also get to have lunch in Yokohama’s bustling Chinatown, visit the traditional Japanese-style sunken garden of Sankei-en (including tea rooms!), and admire the modern cable-stay Yokohama Bay Bridge.
  • 5 Hour Nature and History Walking Tour:  This walking tour follows a hiking route from Kita-Kamakura to Hase-dera Temple, passing many historic temples and shrines.  You’ll be able to enjoy some wonderful panoramas from a hiking trail that offers views in all directions. Note that transportation is not included.

Literally sick of the city and need to get some nature into your life?  Nikko may just be your answer.  Full of ancient moss, stone lanterns, vermillion gates, and towering cedars, there’s a reason why this area is one of Japan’s most visited areas.

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Located about two hours north of Tokyo, Nikko is the site of the famous Toshogu Shrine , the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (VIP in Japan), and numerous other temples and shrines. Don’t miss the famous Shinkyo bridge , the beautiful Nikko National Park (on a sunny day), Kanman-ga-Fuchi Abyss, and Kegon Falls . 

I’m quite bummed we didn’t make it here as all the photos look absolutely spectacular, but now I’ve got another reason to return to Japan!

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Trying to fit in a lot during your one day in Nikko?  Consider a group tour which gets you around easily to all of the highlights.

Day Trip Options here: 

  • From Tokyo: Nikko World Heritage Full-Day Tour :  Explore the beautiful mountain landscape of Nikko, Japan, experience the majesty of the Tamozawa Imperial Villa, bow to the three golden Buddah’s at the Rinnoji Temple, explore the surrounding landscape with a trip to Kirifuri Falls, and have a relaxed Japanese lunch at a local restaurant.
  • Nikko: Autumn Leaves and World Heritage Full–Day Tour :  Discover the beautiful autumn leaves and world heritage of Nikko. During your full-day tour by air-conditioned coach, visit Nikko’s natural sights, Senjo-gahara and Kegon waterfalls, and Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Perfect during those autumn months!
If you have more than 10 days in Japan, check out these additional day trips from Tokyo .

If seeing Mt. Fuji is on your bucket list, then I definitely recommend making the day trip to Hakone. 

Once arriving, you have a whole slew of options to fill your day, including the Hakone Tozan Cable Car for stunning views, the Hakone Ropeway for even more epic views, Owakudani with views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day, and a small Buddhist alter. 

You can also take a Hakone Sightseeing Cruise and spend time at the Hakone Open Air Museum (art gallery). Brave? Try a black egg!

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If you’re not up for heading to Hakone alone , there are numerous day trips from Tokyo that leave the transportation and planning up to someone else.  You’re on holiday – treat yourself and save yourself the hassle! I recommend the followings tours:

  • From Tokyo: Mt. Fuji and Hakone Day Trip by Shinkansen : Spend a day trip traveling to Mt. Fuji, Japan’s most famous symbol and highest mountain. Enjoy the view from the 5th Station before visiting the nearby resort town of Hakone, known for its onsen hot springs. Return to Tokyo by bullet train!
  • From Tokyo: Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour with Bullet Train :  Get spectacular views of Mt. Fuji and its surrounding mountains on a day trip from Tokyo. Cruise across Lake Ashi by boat and take the ropeway up Mt. Komagatake. Relax in the hot springs resort of Hakone, and then catch the bullet train back to Tokyo.

However, note that seeing the mountain is never guaranteed and it’s possible you may make the trip only to be disappointed.  Some months out of the year have higher chances of visibility, including the winter months.  If it looks like a questionable morning with lots of clouds, I highly suggest you alter your plans and opt for either Nikko or Kamakura instead.


First Bullet Train Ride!

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*Note that you’ll be required to make a seat reservation if you have opted for the Green JR Pass.  Make this reservation when you first exchange your JR voucher for a ticket, or the night before leaving for Kyoto.  Don’t wait until the morning of because it’s possible the reservation desk will not be open yet.

Get up nice and early, grab some breakfast in the station/on the way to the station, and take a 7:00/7:30am bullet train from Tokyo Station (you may need to transfer at Shinagawa Station) in route for Kyoto! 

If you take this early morning train ride, you’ll arrive in Kyoto around 10:30am or so, which is necessary if you want to see a bunch of Kyoto sites today.  Once you arrive in Kyoto, put your luggage/bags into a coin locker (roughly 500-900 Yen for two suitcases for the entire day) and get exploring!

A note about Kyoto’s public transportation: Unlike Tokyo, Kyoto relies on large public buses. We were unaware of this and unfortunately caught off guard when we couldn’t take fast trains to get around. Give yourself some extra time as it’ll take longer to get around. Embrace it – look outside the window on the bus and take in some local Kyoto life.

Arashiyama Area

Catch the bus to the  Saga-Arashiyama Station , where you’ll be hanging out for a few hours.  First up, Tenyru-Ji Shrine and its accompanying zen garden.  So many beautiful plants and flowers (nicely labeled in both English and Japanese) here, such as the Japanese wisteria, which you’ll never see outside of Japan.

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Once you exit the garden, you’ll come across the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove/Forest .  Walking through the Bamboo Grove is definitely one of the essential experiences to have in Kyoto so don’t pass it up! 

The grove is much smaller than I thought, taking roughly 15 minutes to walk through, but is absolutely excellent for photography.

Walk through slowly to take it all in, and don’t forget to look up at the towering bamboo!  Bring a wide-angle lens and if possible, a go pro, in order to include as much of the bamboo in your photos!

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Before you head to the Monkey Park (coming up next!), you’ll most likely come across a lovely area with small eateries and a beautiful, green emerald lake. A good spot for some photos in my opinion!  🙂  We enjoyed a few vending machine coffees and teas here (you’ll be doing that everywhere in Japan too, you’ll see!).

Read Next: Top Things to do in Kyoto and Attractions

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Next up, walk to the Iwatayama Monkey Park !  Yes, it’s about a 15-20 minute walk completely uphill to reach the park, but definitely worth it!  Just be aware, the Google Maps directions to this attraction are wrong.

The entrance to the park is simply near the orange shrine gate at the south side of the Togetsu-kyo bridge. Look for a cartoon picture of a monkey and you’re golden!

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The park is a nice change from the temples and shrines you’ll be seeing a lot of in Kyoto, and it’s so much fun to feed the monkeys for only 100Y.  There’s also a wonderful view of Kyoto from up here.  

Before anyone gets mad at those pictures of the monkeys “behind bars”, please know they are free to roam wherever they’d like throughout the park, and us humans are actually put in an enclosed area when feeding them. This is to protect both the animals and us.

We could have easily spent hours watching the monkeys and admiring the view, but off to the Golden Pavilion it was!

Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)

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If you’ve got more time today, take the bus to the Golden Pavilion , which is super impressive and made entirely of gold!  Reflected in the lake, it’s no wonder this is one of the top things to do in Kyoto. 

Make sure to try some Japanese flavored ice cream here, such as green matcha and/or black sesame, my new favorite!  It’s guaranteed to be crowded, but very, very worth it in my opinion.

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*Don’t forget to head back to Kyoto Station to collect your bags before heading to your hotel or AirBnb for the night!


Nishiki Market

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Start the day at the Nishiki Market – known for its different food stalls where you can try all kinds of Japanese cuisine and treats. 

Stroll for an hour or so up and down the streets of the market, stopping whenever something tickles your fancy. The market is a great place to dive into some of the more unusual dishes – don’t be a chicken, try them!

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However, absolutely don’t leave the market without trying tako tamago – the infamous candied baby octopus stuffed with a quail egg.  It tastes way better than it sounds – I could have eaten three!

Want a taste of those cutesy animal donuts you’ve possibly seen all over the internet? You can try them here – at Floresta Donuts .  I had a hard time eating mine as it was just too cute to bite into! Quite possibly my favorite thing I ate during our 10 days in Japan! SO cute!

best japan trip itinerary

After your fix of Japanese delicacies and donuts, walk on over to Gion, Kyotos famous geisha district.  If you’re lucky you may spot a real true-life geisha , although they tend to walk fast to their destination and don’t like to show their face. 

However, if you do spot one, but courteous and don’t obviously follow them or point your camera directly to their face.  Show respect for their culture. I wasn’t so lucky and didn’t spot any on my trip.

Higashiyama District

End the day at the Higashiyama District, the world famous hub of Kyoto’s best-known shrines and temples.  And let me tell me, this place is worth checking out. It’s one of my favorite areas in all of Kyoto .

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Make sure to walk down Sannenzaka and Ninensaka – the two most beautiful streets in the district, with numerous souvenir shops and eateries.  It can get rather crowded during the day (for good reason!), so we chose to come a bit before dusk had encountered a less cramped experience. 

Still cramped, but less cramped than I imagine mid-day would be. You’ll find some eats on the walk – make sure to try a sakura cream puff !

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Kyomizu-dera Temple , a listed UNESCO site, should be next on your list.  Again, it’s quite busy, but the view out over a sea of trees is hard to beat – just imagine this during cherry blossom season (absolutely to die for!) And yea, try an onigiri maki – an emoji in the wild!

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Finish off this (long and tiring) day by walking part of the Philosopher’s Path (found on Google Maps as  Tetsugaku-no-michi) , a path that runs along a narrow river and is lined with more cherry blossom trees than you can ever imagine! 

You’ll end at the Silver Pavilion, although not as fancy and intricate as the Golden Pavilion, and not even lined in silver, but still impressive nonetheless.


It’s time for some day trips today, and we’ll be crossing off two in one day’s time!  Head to Nara from Kyoto Station (via JR Nara Line – roughly 1 hour on the express train), then after seeing some of the top temples, head on over to Osaka and eat everything!

Get ready to interact with some deer in Nara Park , which can be found all throughout the area and are literally impossible to miss!  And oh yea, those crackers you see being sold on the street?  Those are for the deer, not us hungry humans!

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A few temples to see: Todaiji (must visit Unesco World Heritage Site with super tall Buddha), Kasaguga Taisha Shrine (the most important shrine in Nara), Kofukuiji Temple, and Gangou-ji Temple.  If you’ve had enough of temples by this time, head over to Osaka and skip a temple or two.

Tip : Get the Nara Kotsu one day pass (it’s more of a wooden plague you can wear around your neck if you please) for 500 Yen.  This sightseeing bus brings you around to the top attractions in Central Nara, and is good for most of the buses you see throughout the city.

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Off to Osaka for the rest of the day!  Many people skip Osaka as they think it’s just another large city like that of Tokyo, but we absolutely loved our few hours here!  Don’t skip it!

First up, the ever-so-beautiful Osaka Castle , one of Japan’s most famous landmarks!  Get off at Osakajokoen Station. 

Note that the castle may very well be closed by the time you reach it depending on how long you spend in Nara (last admission is 4:30pm in April, a bit later in the summer months), but the outside alone is worth the train and short 20 minute walk!

Next up, Dotonbori Street !  It’s an absolute madhouse full of people, shops, and eateries, and an absolute must-do while in Osaka.  Be sure to look up and admire the moving animal billboards found on the buildings.

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Osaka is the food capitol not just of Japan, but of the entire world.  Hence, you’ll want to eat everything in sight (just leave some room for a Kobe beef dinner).  Try beloved regional dishes like okonomiyaki, takoyaki (fried octopus balls – tastes way better than it sounds), udon, and hiyashi ame ginger drink.

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Rule of thumb: if there’s a long line, the food is out of this world.  Wait and you’ll be rewarded.

If you want to get some shopping on, head on over to nearby Shinsaibashi, the city’s premier shopping district.  We chose to skip the shopping and focused on stuffing our faces 😉

Great dinner suggestion: Tsurugyu.  This place is all about Kobe beef , and is super fresh and decently priced.  Expect to pay around 5,000Y per person, drink included.  Reservations are highly recommended, although we somehow got extremely lucky and were able to sit at the bar – but don’t count on this!

Looking for the best places to go in Japan?! This Japan bucket list has you covered! Definitely saving this for my future trip to Japan!


Get ready for another jam-packed day.  Yes, it’ll take a while to get here, but trust me, on a clear, sunny day, it’s 100% worth it and absolutely beautiful. 

Take an early morning bullet train to Hiroshima, which takes roughly 2 hours from Kyoto Station, then a local JR train to Miyajimaguchi Station, then finally the JR ferry to Miyajima.  All included in your JR Pass .

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You can choose to visit either Miyajima or Hiroshima first, but I highly recommend visiting Miyajima during high tide to see the gate “floating” in the water.  Check tide schedules online.

If you opt for Miyajima first (again, tide dependent), and take an 8am bullet train out of Kyoto Station, you’ll reach Miyajima by approximately 11am.

Head straight to the tori gate (after some deer interaction of course, yes there’s deer here and they’re SUPER friendly, just watch your food). 

You’ll want to snap a million photos because this place is just so damn beautiful it’s hard not to!  You can also check out the floating shrine as well, which we loved and was unlike any other shrine/temple we saw in Japan!

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Spectacular views your thing? Take the Miyajima Ropeway (~15 minutes, $17 roundtrip) for better-then-great views of the whole area from the top of Mt. Misen . There’s a bus at the base of Miyajima Island which will take you to the ropeway station fo’ free as well if you’re already feeling super tired from your journey.

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Before heading back to the ferry, pick up some ice cream (green tea or black sesame, you are in Japan!) – perfect on a hot, sunny day.

Take the ferry back to Miyajimaguchi Station, then the JR train to Hiroshima.  Note that you’ll need to either take a tram or buy a Hiroshima Sightseeing Hop-On, Hop-Off Loop Bus “Meipuru-pu” to get around in Hiroshima super easily – which is free of cost for JR pass users . 

We took the sightseeing bus to Hiroshima Castle , and then to the area with the A-Bomb Dome , Children’s Peace Monument , and Peace Memorial Museum and Park .  The museum was closed by the time we arrived, but we were still able to wander around at the memorials and pay our respects.

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End this super long day eating okonomiyaki at Okonomimura , a humungous multi-level eatery with tiny stalls of different shops making varieties of the famous pancake.  Just for reference, we made it back on a bullet train around 8:30/9pm, getting back to Kyoto around 11pm.  Told you it was a long day.  😉

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Today’s your last day in Kyoto, so it’s time to do those last-minute things you missed, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine.   Put your bags in coin lockers at Kyoto Station before heading out for the day (just don’t forget to pick up before the bullet train heading back to Tokyo!)

Morning/Afternoon in Kyoto

1. Fushimi Inari Shrine (Taisha): COME EARLY BEFORE THE MASSES ! No matter how tired you are, do not skip Fushimi Inari Shrine!  To get here, you’ll need to take the JR Line (Nara or Keihan Main) from Kyoto to Inari Station. 

The shrine is comprised of over 10,000 beautiful orange-y red tori gates arching over a scenic, possible 2-hour-long walking trail. You don’t need to do the entire circuit, but definitely make it past the initial arch as this is the most populated one due to its close proximity to the start. 

Make sure to notice the numerous fox statues along the shrine grounds, as they are thought to be Inari’s messengers and hold much importance to this area. And get some inari sushi if you’re a bit hungry – look how cute they are! Definitely one of my favorite things we did during our 10 days in Japan.

Read Next: Alllll the best things to do in Kyoto

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2. Nijo Castle: One of Kyoto’s most popular and impressive sights, and a wonderful place to walk around on your last official morning in the city. The grounds are large with numerous fortifications, a lovely castle, beautiful moat, and gardens.

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Inari Shrine to Nijo Castle: Head back to Kyoto Station, then take the JR Sagano train to Nijo stop

3. To-Ji Garden and Temple: Depending on your groups level of tired-ness, you may choose to skip these gardens (which are a 15 minute walk from Kyoto station).  We were too pooped from the week’s festivities to even think about wandering around here, and let’s face it – I saved myself an hour or so of complaints from my husband. 

We both get a little grumpy when the tiredness kicks in.  If you do decide to go, you’ll find the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan, a lovely garden with a koi fish pond, and some beautiful cherry blossoms. Next time for me!

Bullet Train to Tokyo

Once you’re done with your activities in Kyoto, back on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo it is!

The bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo takes around 3 hours or so, and with our stomachs grumbling already, we opted for a dinner of bento boxes to take on the train with us.  You’ll find a handful of stalls in the train station selling a wide variety of food options, with bento boxes being absolutely perfect for the long train ride!

Since you’ll only be in Tokyo for one additional night and will need to take the train from Tokyo station to Narita International Airport the next day, I suggest staying in the Ginza area, 1 or 2 stops on the train depending on which line you take.

It also lets you explore a new area the next morning before heading off to the airport.

Recommended hotels in Ginza:

  • Luxury : Millenium Mitsui Garden Hotel  (where we stayed and we absolutely loved it! – and less than $150 a night!)
  • Mid-Line : Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Ginza  (super chic upscale hotel at affordable rates in a great location)
  • Budget : Tokyo Ginza Bay Capsule Hotel  (if you don’t know what a capsule hotel is… go check that out!)


Before heading out for the day, it’s a good idea to check out of your hotel to avoid rushing back for the mid-morning check-out time, and be sure to ask your hotel to store your bags (which you’ll pick up later before heading off to the airport).

Sushi Breakfast at Tsukiji Market

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On your last official morning after 10 days in Japan (cue the sad face), there’s nothing better than an authentic sushi breakfast!  And no better place to get fresh sushi than at the Tsukiji Fish Market – the world’s largest, busiest fish market! 

Note that the Tsukiji Fish Market is comprised of two parts – the inner market (the Uogashi wholesaler market) and the outer market.  The inner market is where you’ll find the early-morning wholesale tuna auction (think 4am, yes, really that early), while the outer market is for all of us foodies hoping to satisfy our taste buds with some seafood goodness.

While Daiwa Sushi and Sushi Dai are two of the most common sushi shops in Tsukiji Market, the lines are astronomically long.  We picked a place at random and had a wonderful experience – the fish was fresh, service was adequate, and prices were competitive.

You won’t find mediocre sushi anywhere in this area, so decide for yourself (and your hungry belly) if waiting in those long lines is worth it.

If you have a little extra time and wanna learn about Japanese food culture and the market in general, consider signing up for a Tsukiji Outer Market Food and Drink Walking Tour . You’ll sample bonito, katsuobushi, dashi stock, sushi, sake, fresh tuna, local omelets (my all-time fave) and so much more. I so wish we did this as we didn’t learn much about the market and honestly didn’t even know where to begin on our own — there’s so many stalls and we didn’t know half of the foods!

Next time we’re in Japan I REALLY wanna take this combined tour of the Tsukiji Outer Fish Market and sushi-making class! I love taking cooking classes when I travel (I’ve made macarons in Paris, egg tarts in Lisbon, and tamales in Mexico so far), so I think sushi in Japan is next for me!

Shopping in Ginza

After filling up on some sushi (and ice cream, because, why not?!), head back to Ginza for some upscale window shopping.  This district is home to the most expensive shopping and real estate in Tokyo – kind of like New York’s Fifth Avenue, but with more lights!

Off to the Airport

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Depending on your flight time, you may have a bit more time, but it’s always wise to get to the airport extra early for international flights. 

Head back to your hotel, collect your bags, head to Tokyo Station, then to Narita Airport (takes approximately 1 hour via Narita Express), have one more Japanese meal at the airport, and say goodbye to this eclectic yet charming country.

If you have any questions on this 10 day Japan itinerary, please ask below in the comments! If you follow this itinerary (exactly what we did), I can promise you not only will you see so much in such a short period of time, but you won’t be stressed out planning either!  🙂

TRAVELING TO JAPAN SOON? Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of  World Nomads  and SafetyWing when traveling abroad.

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Feel free to share this 10 day Japan itinerary with a friend (just copy and paste the link!), and get started planning your trip! Have you been to the country before? What were your favorite things to do in Japan?

Photos via Day 1a | Day 2 and Steam Fire at Asakusa  | cherry blossoms | Akihabara | Hakone 1 and 3 | Hakone 2 |

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September 23, 2020 at 10:18 pm

Great post! We are planning to visit Japan around cherry blossoms season next year. Your 10-day itinerary seems perfect. We might add 3 to 4 days to it as we love to follow the slow pace when we travel 🙂

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September 23, 2020 at 10:47 pm

You’re gonna have the best time ever – I wish I could go back and do my entire itinerary again! An extra few sounds would be perfect; we had to rush around a lot!

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April 13, 2021 at 11:26 pm

Very elaborate Japan guide! Hope to visit this wonderful place in the near future!

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March 27, 2022 at 5:54 am

Thanks so much, this was very helpful, and fun to read. I’ve been once by myself and hope to return with my wife. If it’s not too personal, what was the total cost of the trip for two?

April 4, 2022 at 6:16 pm

Hi Bill! So glad the post was helpful! Unfortunately it’s really hard to say the total cost, as it greatly varies depending on what hotels you choose, activities you do, and restaurants you eat at! With that being said, the street food is absolutely phenomenal and a great way to save a bit of money! We loved it all!

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April 7, 2022 at 1:22 am

such an amazing post and trip, wish i can go there very soon. thankyou for sharing 🙂

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July 18, 2022 at 8:44 am

I am so very grateful for your post. I have been researching for months and this is the most helpful post I have found! We will be traveling to Japan April 2023 for my sons graduation present. We will only have 7-8 days there. If you were to take off 1-2 days which would they be. Right now I am thinking one less day in Tokyo but not sure what else to eliminate.

July 20, 2022 at 6:58 pm

So glad you found it helpful! I would cut off the day trip from Tokyo, and eliminate a day in Tokyo like you suggested. You can see the main highlights of Tokyo in 2 long, jam packed days. It’ll be a very hectic and tiring trip, but you’ll see a lot in just a week! I cannot wait to go back to Japan! Enjoy your trip — sounds like it’ll be a special one!

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August 29, 2022 at 1:19 pm

I’m planning a trip to Japan and this has been super helpful! One question though, did you mainly find lodging in just Tokyo and Kyoto? And you did day trips out of those cities but would return back?

August 29, 2022 at 8:42 pm

Hi Francesca — yup, did exactly that! I stayed in Tokyo and Kyoto and did day trips! SO much to see! Have such a great trip! I cannot wait to go back to Japan!!!

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October 1, 2022 at 10:40 pm

Hey! your post is SUPER helpful for my 10 day trip I want to take in April 2023! But I was curious if you visited any hot springs or passed by any while on your trip? I want to go to one with my boyfriend and have a relaxing dip 🙂 I look forward to the trip and your trip sounds like something we would follow to enjoy our time! thnk you 🙂

October 2, 2022 at 4:33 pm

Hey there! We didn’t have time for any on our first trip, but spent a few days at an onsen in Mt. Muji on our second trip! Highly recommend adding that in if you’re looking for some peace and quiet! It was incredible!

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August 9, 2023 at 9:19 am

Hi! Which onsen do you recommend?

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November 1, 2022 at 11:18 am

Can u suggest a place to do one day of kintsugi lesson. I love your itinerary and plan to follow it to the T. And will definitely share my experience once I am back… I have about 13 days…one last thing..anything that a vegetarian can eat

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November 6, 2022 at 2:26 am

Excellent guide! May I know is the 7-day JR pass one-way only (Tokyo -> Kyoto)? Do we need to buy another ticket/pass for the bullet train from Kyoto back to Tokyo?

November 6, 2022 at 4:32 pm

The JR pass works for all directions! As long as it’s still within the 7 days if you buy the 7 day pass! You can use the pass as many times as you want within the time frame you buy it for. It’s great!

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November 27, 2022 at 10:18 pm

love your itinerary! i’m planning to visit japan in december and wondered if the disneyland in tokyo was worth it?

November 28, 2022 at 7:47 pm

Hi Rama! How exciting! I’ve never been to Tokyo Disney so unfortunately cannot comment! Have a great trip! Japan is easily one of my favorite countries!

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January 19, 2023 at 12:04 pm

This post is amazing! We are planning a trip to Japan and this has everything. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences!

January 20, 2023 at 5:15 pm

Of course, so glad it’s helpful! Let me know if you have any questions! We loved our trips to Japan and can’t wait to go back!

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February 9, 2023 at 2:03 pm

Thank you so much for sharing, this is super helpful! I was wondering, if you were to have stayed at a ryokan during this trip, when / in which city would you recommend staying? I’m currently planning a 10 day try and would like to follow your itinerary but also want to squeeze in a stay in a ryokan!

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March 22, 2023 at 6:38 am

I just wanted to thank you. My wife and I returned last night from our first trip to Japan, 11 nights in total. We followed your itinerary almost to the letter, including all three day trips from Tokyo – Kamakura, Nikko and Hakone.

It was an extra special trip for us, celebrating my 50th birthday, and your itinerary made the incredibly intimidating task of knowing how to structure a short trip to Japan, manageable and endlessly rewarding.

I commend you for your excellent research and wanted you to know how valuable of a service you are providing!

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March 28, 2023 at 7:06 pm

Just to be clear, you’re recommending just two home bases during the ten days in Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto? We’re going in October and are booking hotels. So – one hotel in Tokyo and one hotel in Kyoto from which we see those cities and take day trips. It’s that simple?

April 5, 2023 at 11:07 am

Yup — makes it so much easier than booking a different hotel for every night! 🙂 The train system is amazing in Japan and you can easily get to so many day trips from both major cities.

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April 26, 2023 at 3:42 pm

We are planning a trip to Japan in April 2024 and I came across you blog post. Amazing post and your detailed itinerary is very helpful. I’m wondering if there is any advantage of choosing Narita vs Haneda airport. We will be flying from SFO and have options to both.

April 27, 2023 at 2:05 pm

If you can find a flight to Haneda for a decent price, I’d actually choose that! It’s much closer to Tokyo itself. However, more airlines fly into Narita. I’ll be looking into Haneda for my next trip! 🙂

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May 9, 2023 at 4:22 pm

Thank you so much for this very helpful itinerary. My husband and I are planning to visit in early December to celebrate my 60th birthday. Your suggestions and recommendations were very helpful and I will definitely be using them. Thank you again.

May 9, 2023 at 5:54 pm

Glad it was helpful! That’s so exciting — what a special spot for a birthday! Have the best time, and let me know if you have any questions!

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May 21, 2023 at 2:06 am

We are booked on a cruise around Japan for 10 days but coming in earlier to do some land tours and hopefully see things we will not be able to do on the cruise. All your information was so informative and will be looking more into it all. We will be leaving Sydney Australia on 23rd March 2024 specifically for Cherry Blossom time.

August 9, 2023 at 9:17 am

Hi! We are flying to HND arriving June 8th at 21:05. We depart from NRT June 20th. I haven’t booked any accommodations yet. I’m trying to follow your itinerary. How many nights would you recommend in Tokyo and Kyoto? Should we stay in another city for a few nights to reduce traveling time? Regarding the JR Pass, we fall in between the 7 day and 14 day pass. I’m thinking the 7 day pass should be enough if we start using it day 4 or 5. Thank you!

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November 5, 2023 at 2:56 pm

Hi Jess. Your itinerary was the inspiration for my first visit to Japan last month with my niece. We followed the majority of the 10 days outlined including all of the daytrips except for Hakone. Your suggestions were excellent because each day trip was unique and memorable. Your tips on where to purchase the local currency, the JR train pass as well as the packing tips were incredibly helpful. We also made it a point to try every single one of your foodie recommendations. Black sesame and Sakura were definitely our favorite Japanese flavors for ice cream. Nishiki Market, Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, the floating shrine in Miyajima, the Great Buddha statues at Kotokuin in Kamakura and at Todaji in Nara, Okonomimura in Hiroshima, Fushimi Inari Shrine were absolute highlights. Thank you so much for sharing this well-researched and well-organized itinerary that helped us make the most of our truly breath-taking adventure in Japan.

November 8, 2023 at 12:16 am

So glad it was helpful and that you had an amazing trip to Japan! Every time I go back I’m already planning my next trip! Such a wonderful, diverse country!

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December 18, 2023 at 4:02 pm

Hello, I want to make sure I understand your itinerary. At the beginning, does it call for 4 or 5 nights in Tokyo?

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January 16, 2024 at 12:46 pm

What would you add to this itinerary if you travel with 12 and 13 year old children?

January 20, 2024 at 10:56 pm

Hi there! I don’t have kids so not sure I’m the best person to ask! There’s tons of things to do in Tokyo for people with all different interests though.

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February 20, 2024 at 5:16 am

Fantastic info for a possible first time visitor. Thanks so much! Just querying the following part of your page though:

“If you’re coming from the US, an easy way to figure out USD to JY is to move the decimal point two spots to the right >> 100Y = approximately $1USD. Just for quick reference, 10,000Y = approximately 100USD.”

If I move the decimal place to the right for 100.00Y that equal 10000 USD based on the above. Should that have said “move the decimal place two spots to the left (which would = 1.00)

February 20, 2024 at 5:19 am

Ignore all that.. I now see it from the US point of view – i.e. move the US decimal point two spots to the right to get JPY. Sorry! Great site, really appreciate ethe information.

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March 7, 2024 at 3:50 pm

what is the latest the bullet trains operate for example taking a day trip from Kyoto to Osaka at what time do you have to head back? Is there a website were we can see this?

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Asia , Japan , Travel

Two weeks in japan – the best japan itinerary for first-timers.

Visit Japan Itinerary

This first-timer’s Japan itinerary is perfect for your first visit to this incredible country. Discover the amazing things to do, food to eat, and places to visit in Japan in this complete guide.

This first-timer's Japan itinerary is perfect for your first visit to this incredible country. Discover the amazing things to do, food to eat, and places to visit in Japan in this complete guide.

  • The Perfect First Timer’s Japan Itinerary: The Best Places to Visit in Japan

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m so excited to share this Japan 2 week itinerary with you! We just booked tickets to go back to Japan again in 2024 and I’m so excited to revisit all of these places and add some new ones too! This will be our second Japan trip, and I can’t wait!

I have two good friends who live in Japan and they’ll only be there for another year, so I knew that my time to go to Japan was now! This was my first stop in Asia and I couldn’t have been more excited! While we’ve spent years in Europe, Asia has always eluded us, so I knew it was time!

best japan trip itinerary

Be sure to check out our Japan Trip Planner to help you get started. It’s a great step-by-step guide to help you plan your trip.

I’ll be totally honest and tell you that I was very anxious before my trip. New continent, new language, new culture, new food. Just a fear of all the unknowns to be honest. But rest assured, once I got to Japan I was feeling great about it all. It really helped to have friends who knew the culture too and I loved these tips for visiting Japan!

Did you know that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world? If you didn’t, don’t feel bad, I didn’t either. I think the number one thing I was totally shocked by was that almost none of the bikes in Japan had locks on them! I saw maybe 3 our entire time there.

The Japanese people are so kind, respectful, and helpful. I was chatting with a British ex-pat in a Japanese garden one morning and he said: “You couldn’t get mugged in this country if you tried!” I’m pretty sure he was right. I never once felt unsafe during our time in Japan.

My friend’s 5-year-old daughter goes to “Yo Chien” or Japanese Primary School and she said that the entire first year of school is dedicated to learning how to be a good person. They serve each other, clean the school, learn manners, and generally learn how to be a respectful human being and be a productive member of society. I think that is definitely more helpful than knowing their ABC’s at 5 years old! There is just so much that we can learn from Japanese culture and its definitely a country worth visiting.

There are so many amazing and unique things to do in Japan . If you’re going for the first time and looking for the perfect Japan trip, I’ve created this Japan itinerary that will explore the basic sites that are easily accessible by train or a bullet train and offer some of the best cultural, culinary, and fun experiences the country has to offer. While there is much more to explore in Japan, this is a really good starting itinerary.

  • Planning a Trip to Japan?

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, let me do the work for you. This 2 week Japan Itinerary is a detailed step-by-step guide for how to visit this amazing country.

best japan trip itinerary

Here's a Short Cut

Getting to Japan

What to pack when you visit japan, japan home rentals, money in japan, what to know before you go to japan, getting around japan how to use your japan rail pass, japan itinerary map, day trip to mount fuji, what to eat in japan, japan itinerary faq, more resources for japan.

Getting to Japan was fairly easy. Flying to Asia from the US can be pricey, but if you know how to get cheap flights, there are always good deals to be found. I spent quite a lot of time perfecting my cheap flight finding skills, so be sure to learn about it here . I spent $600 on tickets from San Francisco to Tokyo.

What to pack for your trip to Japan depends on what time of year you’re going and where you’ll be traveling to. I went the first two weeks of October and it was HOT! It rained on and off several of the days that we were there, but was still very warm and very humid. However, if you go to Northern Japan (great to try hot springs), the weather will be cooler. My friend lives in Misawa and they get huge snowfalls each winter. There is incredible, and affordable, skiing in Northern Japan as well.

If you’re going anywhere between April and October though, this is what I recommend taking to Japan

Here’s what I packed for our own trip to Japan in October:

  • 2 sundresses
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of leggings (for the plane mostly)
  • 1 jean jacket (that I hardly used)
  • 1 rain jacket (I brought this one and it is great because it’s light but totally waterproof)
  • 1 pair of sandals (a pair that can get wet in the rain… these are my favorite travel sandals ever )
  • 1 pair of boots (I wore these only one time and regretted it)

Miyajima Island Itsukushima Shrine

I think if you are sticking to Tokyo and south of Tokyo, this list would be appropriate from April to October. I honestly wish I would have packed more sundresses. I felt like almost everything we did could be done in a dress and it was much cooler!

Where to Stay on your Japan Trip

We were lucky and got to stay with friends at a Military Hotel for about $50/night, but we also stayed in VRBOs around the country. They were affordable, clean, and in good locations. As always, be sure to read reviews and the fine print before booking a VRBO . We love VRBO and use it around the world.   I’ve also compiled this list of great and affordable VRBOs in Japan :

Japan Itinerary

There are also some great hotels in Japan if VRBO is not your thing!

The currency in Japan is the Yen. Converting Japanese Yen to US Dollars is really simple. 100 Yen is Equal to about $0.70 USD 1000 Yen is Equal to about $7 USD Bills from the ATM or from an Airport Money Exchange come in 10000 , 5000, and 1000 increments. The coins come in 500, 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1 increments.

Most places in Japan accept cards. Just beware of any international transaction fees. We use the Chase Sapphire Card to earn double points on travel and to avoid fees while traveling. There were definitely some places that did not accept cards, so be sure to have cash on hand.

Japan is a completely different culture than what visitors may be used to. Anywhere you go in the world, it’s a good idea to learn about cultures and the best practices of your destination. You don’t want to accidentally offend anyone or make an embarrassing mistake. Be sure to read my top 20 tips for visiting Japan.

This is probably the most important information I can tell you about visiting Japan. Getting from city to city in Japan is NOT cheap! A train ticket from Tokyo to Hiroshima can cost around $180. That’s a little steep for my taste, but I knew I wanted to see more than just Tokyo.

The good news is that Japan offers an affordable “ Japan Rail Pass ” that makes traveling around the country extremely affordable for tourists. Read more about how to buy and use your JR Pass here: How to Use Your Japan Rail Pass.

Best places to visit in Japan

For your first Japan trip, it’s best to see a variety of places, but not move too quickly. For a somewhat small country, Japan packs a lot into a small geographical area. For the first time you visit Japan, I recommend seeing all the basic sites like Tokyo , Miyajima , Osaka, Hiroshima , and Kyoto. While there are many more places to visit in Japan that are just as incredible, these areas will be easily accessible using the Japan Rail Pass and are accustomed to tourists.

You can also check out some of these Japan tour packages to see what else you might be interested in. It’s a great way to see the country if you’re not up to planning your own Japan itinerary. 

You can use this interactive map to navigate the best places to visit in Japan on your first visit.

No trip to Japan would be complete without visiting the Japan’s capital city, Tokyo. As polite, respectful, and mild-mannered as the Japanese are, it can also be a fun and quirky culture. Tokyo is definitely evidence of this. This huge city is full of light, color, and craziness all around mixed in with serious businessmen and women going to and fro. If you want to learn more about Tokyo, read my guide to visiting Tokyo here: Complete Guide to Tokyo

Mount Fuji is a great place to take a day trips to from Tokyo. It’s a beautiful site and you’ll want to try to plan this on a clear day if you can, however it takes a few hours to go here from Tokyo. Be sure to read this for a complete itinerary for a day trip to Mount Fuji.

This island’s name literally means “island of shrines,” and is Japan’s third most popular site. On Miyajima Island, you will be greeted by friendly deer and beautiful scenery. Read more about this UNESCO World Heritage site in my article here: What to do on Miyajima Island

Famous for being the tragic first target of the nuclear bomb during WWII, Hiroshima is a city full of history and new beginnings that is worth seeing when you visit Japan. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Visiting Hiroshima was hard, but I think it’s so necessary. Read about my time in Hiroshima here: Complete Guide to Hiroshima Japan

Japan Itinerary Kyoto. Best Places to visit in Japan

Kyoto, known as the old capital of Japan is beautiful and unique for a reason. It is one of the only places in Japan that was saved from bombing during WWII and therefore has much preserved older architecture that is not seen in other areas of the country like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo. Kyoto is also home to some of the last remaining Geisha in Japan. Many visitors like to come to Kyoto and rent Kimonos and walk the city. The prefecture of Kyoto is large and there is much to do. Plan at least a few days here. Learn more about what to do in Kyoto with kids here and what to do in Kyoto as a solo traveler here. 

There is much to do and see in the city of Nara, including the Himuro Shrine, and Isuien Garde, but it is famous for Nara Park where wild deer roam free and are unafraid of humans. Nara is a really easy day trip from Kyoto or Osaka and a favorite with kids! You can read more about visiting Nara here .

Osaka is a great place to base yourself in Japan with Kids if you plan on visiting both Nara and Kyoto. It’s central to both and an easy train ride away. Osaka is also a great place for kids with Universal Studios, Legoland, Osaka Aquarium, Omigachi Park, Tennoji Zoo, and plenty of animal cafes around the city! You could definitely spend   several days in Osaka  and still not see it all.  Learn more about  Osaka for kids here. 

Japan Food Sushi. Japan Itinerary

Blending many influences from the east and west along with ancient traditions, Japanese cuisine is some of the tastiest in the world. After visiting Japan for several weeks and eating my way through the country, I compiled this list of 25 foods you must try in Japan  Don’t skip foods that might seem different or strange to you, especially their street food, you may just find something that you love. Be brave and have fun!

I absolutely loved my first time in Japan and grew to have a deep respect for the country and its people. I can’t wait to get back and bring the whole family next time. With so many things to do and places to visit in Japan, I think a trip back is definitely necessary, but I think this is a great first timer’s Japan itinerary to get you started.

To start, you near to specify your date of arrival, flights, and any other information required on your itinerary. Once you have that, you can then add details such as the duration of stay in each city, transportation options, and the attractions and activities planned. Make sure to include important contact information (such as your hotel address or phone number) so that it is easy to find if needed. Additionally, it’s a good idea to list any applicable fees and schedules, as well as the items you plan to bring with you. Finally, make sure to double-check all details for accuracy before submitting your itinerary so that your trip is uninterrupted.

Just like traveling to other countries, you need to make sure of your Visa requirements, have a travel insurance, and check the local customs. It is also important to research the currency exchange rates to budget properly as well as understand Japan’s language and culture. There are certain laws, such as no smoking indoors or in public spaces, which you should be aware of before travelling. Finally, it’s always best to have an itinerary ready for your trip so that you can make sure everything runs smoothly.

If you’re traveling for the first time, 7-10 days will provide you with enough time to get a feel for the country. You can take in some of the must-see attractions, visit popular cities, and explore other regions too. Of course, if you want to fully immerse yourself into Japan’s culture then it might be worth planning a longer trip with 14 days or more. That way you’ll have enough time to take in more sights and have a relaxed, enjoyable experience.

Currently, there’s no need to present a vaccination certificate upon entering Japan. However, it is important to take into account all the safety measures and regulations in place for visitors. You should also be aware of Japan’s laws regarding certain activities such as underage drinking and smoking before you arrive. Additionally, you should make sure to double-check your travel plans (including any visa requirements) before departing for your trip.

25 Foods You Must Try in Japan Guide to Miyajima Japan Guide to Hiroshima Japan Guide to Tokyo Japan Guide to Nagoya Japan Guide to Osaka Japan

This first timer's Japan itinerary is perfect for your first visit to this incredible country. Discover the amazing things to do, food to eat, and places to visit in Japan in this guide to Japan. #Japan #Itinerary #Japanese #Tokyo #Kyoto

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4 thoughts on “ two weeks in japan – the best japan itinerary for first-timers ”.

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This is a great overview! Thanks heaps. Japan is on my travel list but I need to convince my hubby (mainly because of the food is his reason I think). I love love love the first year of primary school! We have lots of learn from Japan (and Finland I think) for schooling. My son is going into grade 1 so I don’t think we’ll see any changes in his schooling life x

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Oh man, read this for the food in Japan. It might change his mind. I was a little worried about the food as well but ended up loving it so much! My friend’s kids go to a Japanese school and it’s so cool! All of kindergarten they just learn manners and how to serve each other. It’s such an amazing approach to education!

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Two Weeks in Japan: A Super Efficient Itinerary for 2024

Before you start to read this itinerary, there’s a very important question you have to ask yourself: Are you a “do it all, see it all” traveler? Or do you prefer to take things slow and steady? If the first describes you: perfect , you’re going to LOVE this itinerary for two weeks in Japan . If you you fall into the second camp, allow me to explain why you might still enjoy this whirlwind tour of Japan without getting overwhelmed…

Why visiting 12 locations in 14 days is completely doable in Japan

The key to see Japan in an affordable and efficient way is the Japan Rail Pass . This pass allows you to take unlimited super fast “bullet trains” between locations, which is critical in a country that is surprisingly big (150% the size of the UK!). Here’s why the bullet train makes it work:

  • You can make it between huge stretches of Japan in relatively little time.
  • The train is so comfortable, that traveling to your next destination feels relaxing .
  • Every train station has coin lockers, where you can store your backpack while you explore a city and haven’t checked into your Airbnb or hotel yet. This means you can pop into a new place, store your stuff, and get going.

Let’s look at the awesome experiences packed into these two weeks, and then you can tell me if you think it’s crazy or kinda clever 😉

Recommended accommodation in Japan

I stayed a lot of places in Japan, but out of those can only recommend a few. Here are the two specific spots I stayed in that I absolutely loved during my time in Japan.

  • Sumiyoshi Ryokan (Takayama) – Absolutely the best place we stayed in Japan . Such friendly hosts, amazing traditional Japanese ryokan, and it’s entrancing to see your in-room breakfast get cooked before your eyes. It does get completely sold out at times so booking in advance is advised!
  • Nikko Backpackers Nikkoriso (Nikko) – Technically a hostel, we booked a private couples room, which was beautifully decorated. But what made this place special is that the hosts happened to recognize us at the train station and gave us a ride! That was so lucky and so kind.
  • Airbnb or (any large city: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto) – We mostly stayed in Airbnb in large cities. That said, It can be hard to find the location because of the complex Japanese address system, the fact that the addresses are often in Japanese and the hosts sometimes don’t speak much English, so be prepared to improvise 😉
Eating our in-room breakfast at a ryokan in Takayama, Sumiyoshi Ryokan , in the Japan Alps!

At least once during your trip in Japan, I do recommend staying in a ryokan , which is a traditional Japanese inn. You can read my entire post about staying in a Ryokan in Japan to learn what to expect and how to find a ryokan that fits your budget!

How to prepare for a trip to Japan

Here are a few ways I really recommend being prepared before you actually travel to Japan. In a lot of places you can “wing it”, but I think Japan really favors the prepared! Some things are a lot easier (or mandatory) to do before you land in the country.

  • Buy a Japan Rail Pass , as they can only be purchased OUTSIDE the country . They’ll mail you a voucher which you can redeem in the airport. I later calculated that the JR Pass saved me more than $450 in train tickets. You can use this super helpful website to compare different Japan Rail Passes to see which one makes the most sense for your trip – both financially and in terms of the areas you want to visit.
  • Plan your train travel with Hyperdia – Hyperdia is an amazing English-language timetable tool for Japanese trains. You can also use it to calculate whether the Japan Rail Pass will save you money based on your Japan itinerary by looking at the standard train costs.
  • Get an offline-friendly Japan guidebook – It can be very useful in Japan to have a guide available offline. I personally don’t like to rely on my phone to get around! I tried 3 different travel guide books for planning my trip, and this travel guide book was the best one (and was just updated at the end of 2019).

2 weeks in Japan

Here is what you’re going to see in this incredible two week Japan itinerary! One important thing to note is that this itinerary is optimized for seeing cherry blossoms in Hirosaki , in northern Japan. If you are not visiting during the later part of the cherry blossom season, you can swap out Hirosaki for another destination. I would’ve loved to spend more time in Osaka or Nikko, so those are great options for extending your trip!

Where to go for two weeks in Japan (especially during cherry blossom season!)

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Day 2: take the train to kyoto, day 3: enjoy the highlights of kyoto, day 4: day trips to fushimi inari shrine & nara deer park, day 5: remember the history of hiroshima.

  • Day 6: Miyajima, Himeji, Osaka

Day 7: Take the train to Takayam in the Japan Alps

Day 8: day trip to shirakawa-go, day 9: travel to aomori in northern japan, day 10: spend the day at the hirosaki cherry blossom festival, day 11: experience beautiful nikko.

  • Day 12-13: Tokyo
  • Day 14: Mt. Fuji

Today is about getting adjusted. About realizing: OMG I am in Japan right now , and my universe is in chaooooos! There’s no pressure to do anything in particular besides finding your hotel or Airbnb, try to order food in Japanese for the first time, and experience a

<a href="” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">complicated Japanese toilet .

No pressure, right?

Tokyo’s Ginza , an upscale shopping district. Streets are lined with shops carrying Chanel and Prada. This area in the heart of Tokyo is very close to the Tsukiji fish market , where my top Tokyo restaurant recommendation is located!

That said, depending on when you arrive you might have some time to really spend exploring Tokyo. We’re going to come back to Tokyo at the end of the trip, so our first day is really just about getting faimiliar with the city. Here are a couple of ideas of things to do in Tokyo

Things to do in Tokyo for first-time visitors to Japan

  • Go to Tokyo’s famous Robot Restaurant. It’s just one of those things that is “so Japan” you have to see it to believe it. During this 90-minute show robots in costumes sing and dance while you eat dinner and down Japanese beer. Book Robot restaurant tickets in advance because as weird as it sounds, this is a super popular thing to do.
  • Enter an immersive digital art museum. This limited, interactive art show is one of the most popular things to do in Tokyo. There may literally not be a better place in the city for instagram photos than this. Book tickets to the teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum (children 3 years old and younger can enter free!).
  • See Tokyo by night from its tallest building, Tokyo Skytree. Last admission is at 9:00PM, and you can even buy skip the line tickets before you go. We didn’t have skip-the-line tickets and ended up waiting almost an hour to get to the top. If you want to make it even more memorable, you can have dinner overlooking Tokyo at the Skytree’s Panorama restaurant 😱
  • Just explore your neighborhood. It’s pretty much guaranteed that no matter where you stay, there’s going to be an awesome point of interest right in your vicinity. Go outside, pop into a totally overwhelming electronics store, accidentally go into the “adult” section of the comics shop , pass by noisy pachinko parlors. There is nothing like people-watching in Japan.
  • Get your first sushi meal! I had the best sushi of my life at Sushi Zanmai (すしざんまい 本店) which is located in the super famous Tsukiji fish market . You can also try out conveyer-belt sushi , which is an experience of its own. Indulge in some sake while you’re at it!

best japan trip itinerary

The delicious, unique, and sometimes strange regional dishes and street foods of Japan that you simply won't find anywhere else.

After your first night in a probably miniscule Japanese hotel, the next morning is time to hit the road for Kyoto, where we’ll spend three nights!

Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan. Why not? It was Japan’s official capital for nearly 700 years. Here you’re going to get a real taste for what traditional Japan was like, by visiting shrines and temples erected hundreds of years ago (or more!). Besides architecture, Kyoto also has an incredible food scene. Here is where you can try Japan’s famous multi-course meal, called kaiseki .

But we’ll get to all that later!

For now, store your stuff in a coin locker at the Kyoto train station and catch the bus or train to the Saga-Arashiyama Station . Getting from there to our first stop, Tenryu-Ji is as easy as following the flow of people. After that, we’ll visit the neighboring Arashiyama bamboo forest . The final stop of the day is the super shiny Golden Pavillion .

For more details, you can read my in-depth Kyoto itinerary , but the main points are all mentioned here in this post!

Get ready to start taking off your shoes! Every shrine or temple you visit will require that you remove your shoes to enter. Luckily these places have soft wooden or tatami floors, so removing your shoes feels like a relief after long days of walking. And don’t worry – no one will steal your shoes. This is Japan ✌️

Here you’ll wander around the shrine. Starting with the building and its many exterior halls. Afterwards, venturing into the zen garden, which is the real star. There are many beautiful plants and flowers, such as the Japanese wisteria, which you never see outside Japan. They’re all labeled in English and Japanese. It was also here that I saw my first cherry blossom tree in Japan! Even though we were way too late for cherry blossoms in Kyoto, this late bloomer stuck around. It was pretty special to see it just chillin’ in the garden.

Tenryu-Ji is conveniently located right next to the Arashiyama bamboo forest . You can simply follow the signs and you’ll find yourself at its entrance.

Bamboo Forest

Let me be the first to tell you: this bamboo forest is kinda small . At least, I was expecting something much more massive! That said, it’s clearly one of the essential experiences to have in Kyoto so I wouldn’t pass it up. You’ll walk through in 10-15 minutes (depending on how determined you are to take a photo with no people in them). Be sure to bring a wide-angle camera lens in order to really capture the super tall bamboo. I was severely lacking one and my photos reveal that!

From the Bamboo forest, take the bus to the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-ji) . The bus ride takes a little under an hour and involves a transfer, but you’ll get to see a bit of the city of Kyoto on the way!

Golden Pavillion

The Golden Pavillion was probably the place where I realized: holey moley, there are a LOT of tourists in Japan . It was so incredibly crowded, and getting a decent view of the pavillion was pretty difficult! People just tend to bunch up at the best photo spots, taking what feels like a dozen pictures, and then sticking around to chat!

That said, the pavillion is obviously super impressive and beautiful. Reflected in the lake, it’s no wonder this is securely in the top 3 things to see in Kyoto! From the vantage point of the photo, you can wander around the pavillion’s surrounding gardens.

I also have to say that this is the place where I had my first ever Japanese-flavored ice cream . Gernot had the green matcha, and I took the black sesame. It was actually some of the best ice cream of the trip, so even though it’s expensive and touristy, it was perfect!

Which brings me to another thing about Japan: walking and eating is considered grossly uncivilized in Japan. We realized this was true, for the first time, when everyone was sitting in a room to eat their ice cream instead of walking around.

After the pavillion, it’s time to come back to the train station, grab your stuff, and check into the hotel or Airbnb where you’re staying. At this point, it’s well and duly time for dinner! Kyoto is famous for haute cuisine , so you can get an extremely fancy multi-course meal in Kyoto.

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Today is the main day to discover Kyoto, so be sure to start early! Your most efficient path would be to start your morning at the Nishiki Market , take the bus to Gion , and then spend the day in East Kyoto in the Higashiyama area. After following that path and seeing tons of temples, shrines, and beautiful streets, you’ll end up close to Philosopher's Path , where you can walk a long the stream and enjoy some solitude!

Nishiki Market

If you’re set on trying all the weird foods you can find in Japan, Nishiki Market is an absolute goldmine. This relatively small market hall spans several streets, and offers snacks and produce which you can pick up to sample some traditional Japanese food. Here is where I tried tako tamago , the infamous candied baby octopus stuffed with a quail egg. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s the only place I saw it while in Japan!

Gion is Kyoto’s famous geisha district . This is really the epicenter of geisha culture in Japan, and the place which has the most traditional rules regarding who can become a geisha. Outside Kyoto, there have been very few non-Japanese geisha, whereas in Kyoto it is completely not allowed.

Can you see the geisha (or more likely, geisha-in-training) hustle down the street in her red kimono?

From Gion, we’ll walk towards the world famous hub of Kyoto’s best-known shrines and temples: Higashiyama . Southern Higashiyama is the place to be for the very best the area has to offer!


Chances are if you’ve looked up photos of Kyoto, you’ve seen mostly pictures of Higashiyama. The rest of the city is very modern and, I must say, not so beautiful in comparison to the historic Higashiyama district.

  • Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka – The two most beautiful streets in Higashiyama. The former is the location of the famous stairs. Most of the houses have been converted into souvenir shops. It can get pretty crowded at mid-day, so come either first thing in the morning or around dusk for a less cramped experience.

Besides the beautiful streets, there are loads of shrines and temples for you to visit. Here are a selection of my favorites:

  • Kyomizu-dera – This area is one of the busiest and best known in Kyoto for a reason. The view out over a sea of trees is hard to match – and in cherry blossom season, they’re also in bloom.
  • Kodai-ji – This place has got a yuuuge zen garden. Come here for one of the nicest zen gardens you can find in Kyoto.
  • Shoren-in – An oft-skipped but totally majestic Buddhist temple at the end of the Higashiyama route. Not crowded, gorgeous gardens, many winding corridors for you to explore. This place will make you want to live in your own Japanese villa one day! Read more about Shoren-in

After Shoren-in, you can walk to the Philosopher’s Path (2.3 km, found on Google Maps as Tetsugaku-no-michi ). This path along a narrow river is lined with cherry blossom trees in Spring. If you decide to talk this walk, you’ll end up near the Silver Pavillion . If you’ve still got energy, you can check it out! Otherwise, I recommend grabbing dinner at Asian Cample Foods Goya for a taste of delicious Okinawan food .

best japan trip itinerary

Here are the best things to do in Kyoto that deserve a place on your two or three-day itinerary. From world-famous food to ancient temples and interesting day trips.

Imagine this: a capital city full of thousands of docile, free-ranging deer. If this sounds like your idea of paradise, you can’t miss Nara, Japan .

But first, it’s time to visit one of Japan’s most famous landmarks.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

These dizzying rows of red Torii are a photographer’s dream: if you can manage to capture an empty shot. I saw some of the thickest crowds of the whole trip when visiting these shrines, so be sure to give yourself some extra time if you want to focus on photos!

To get here, you’ll need to take the JR Line from Kyoto to Inari . After your time at the shrine, pop back on the train and continue to Nara.

The very first capital of Japan, Nara is humble by today’s standards. The city center is small, and the population a mere 360,000 inhabitants. But don’t let that fool you: Nara has some of the most unique experiences to offer on the Japanese itinerary:

  • Todai-ji – The world’s largest wooden building. Inside, a massive Buddha. You can try to climb through its nostril (a sign of good fortune).
  • Isui-en – One of the best gardens we saw in Japan. That, plus a personal tour from a member of the staff, made the story behind the garden really come alive.
  • Nara Park – Over 1,200 free roaming deer. Keep your map close, they will eat anything. Note that if you buy biscuits in Nara, those are for the deer , not you.
Sadly my camera died in Nara so I have very few photos to share. You’ll have to see for yourself!
Left, Isui-en Garden, Right, Deer 😂

Plan a solid half-day for Nara, if not more. We spent a lot of time walking around Nara Park, there is a lot to explore and hiking paths if you want to speak more time walking around!

Spend your last night in Kyoto and wake up early to catch the train down to the southernmost post on our itinerary: Hiroshima .

I will start by saying that Hiroshima is simply not a beautiful city. It was hastily rebuilt after the tragic events of World War II and the destruction of the atomic bomb. As a result, you won’t find charming alleys or old merchant districts. Instead, you come to Hiroshima to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who both died and survived as a result of the bomb, and the effects it’s had on the community.

The Atomic Bomb Dome

This is the singular building that was left standing after the atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima. You should absolutely visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum . The museum really toes the line between giving a realistic look at the consquences of the bomb, while also shielding you away from some of the more gruesome details (meaning, it is still suitable for children).

Hiroshima Castle

This is the first castle on our trip to Japan, and to be honest, it’s a bit underwhelming. The interior has been completely gutted to turn into a museum (on the up-side: you can get your photo taken in a samurai outfit!). Don’t worry, we’ll end up at the mother of all Japanese castles later.

Here are some more ideas for things to do while you’re in Hiroshima, after you’ve visited the museum, the Peace Park, and seen the flame that remains lit until the last nuclear weapons on earth are destroyed.

Things to do in Hiroshima

  • Hiroshima is the birthplace of

<a href=”/regional-cuisine-street-food-to-try-in-japan/#okonomiyaki” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">Okonomiyaki , and the city does it like nowhere else. Combine that with

<a href=”/regional-cuisine-street-food-to-try-in-japan/#oysters” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”


and you’re eating the most quintessential regional dish. Be sure to visit Okonomi-mura (Okonomiyaki Village) for the epicenter of Oko-eating in the city.

  • Hiroshima is also famous for its nightlife. If you’re looking for a wild night, Hiroshima might just be the place to have it.
  • Mitaki-dera is a very special and unique shrine in the northwest of Hiroshima.
  • Ride the vintage tram. Hiroshima prides itself on having a super old-fashioned tram system, complete with cars from the 70s! Blast from the past, yoo.

Spend the night in Hiroshima and wake up early, we’re going to Miyajima!

Day 6: Miyajima, Himeji, & Osaka

This is our crazy day. Start in Hiroshima, take the JR Ferry to Miyajima. Spend some time on the island, catch the ferry back, connect to a train to Himeji. Spend the rest of the day exploring the castle and grounds until it closes. Wind up in Osaka to start binging on street food.

Are you ready?

I’ll start with this preface: If you’re not set on exploring Hiroshima by night, I’d encourage you to spend the night on Miyajima instead. This island in Hiroshima bay is home to one of the top 3 national sights in Japan, and is one of the most visited locations in the entire country. You can beat the first boat ride in and have a Miyajima at sunrise all to yourself!

Things to know about visiting Miyajima

I’ve already written a bit about things to do on Miyajima besides seeing the shrine so I won’t duplicate the information here. Here is a quick summary of things you need to know when visiting Miyajima:

  • Don’t take the “scenic boat ride” around Hiroshima’s harbor, just go for the JR Ferry. As I mentioned, Hiroshima is not very scenic and its harbor is no exception. It costs more and takes longer.
  • Take the ropeline to the top of the mountain for a view over the bay. Along the way you’ll see many treasures ^__^
  • If you’re collecting souvenirs, buy a rice paddle in Miyajima. It’s the essential Miyajima souvenir!
  • Skip paying to go out onto the dock in front of the shrine – the best photos can be taken from the shore anyways, and you can just walk around to the other side without paying.
  • Be sure to plan your visit in tune with high tide! At low tide, the water recedes and you miss the “floating Torii ” illusion.

Did I mention there are also deer on Miyajima? They’re more aggressive than the Nara variety. Guard your map!

best japan trip itinerary

Anyone and everyone who goes to Japan has probably seen the famous floating Torii on Miyajima Island – but far fewer see Mt. Misen for sweeping views over Hiroshima bay.

After taking the ferry back from Miyajima to the mainland (you want the Hiroden-miyajima-guchi station ), hop on the train to Himeji. We’ll spend the rest of the day here until the castle closes at 5PM. Upon arrival, lock your backpack in a coin locker and catch the bus to the castle from the train station.

For the uninitiated: Himeji Castle is perhaps Japan’s most famous and best-preserved castle. It’s meant to resemble a bird in flight, and is known as the “White Heron Castle.” It has survived extensive bombing of the surrounding city during World War II as well as a massive earthquake in the mid-nineties. Himeji is here to stay.

If you have time, there are also samurai quarters to explore in the vicinity. You can buy a combination ticket for the castle and the quarters at the entrance. Unfortunately we couldn’t make time to see those before leaving, but they’re reportedly really interesting.

Important! Check the train times to make sure you’ll be able to catch a train to Osaka shortly after the castle closes.

If there’s one place I feel I didn’t get enough time, I’d have to say it was Osaka. It’s got such a cool, alternative vibe when compared to high-heels-and-Prada Tokyo. It’s most famous for its street food, and it considered the foodie capital of Japan . If you’re here to eat everything in sight, Osaka is a wonderfully dangerous place to end up.

Where to stay in Osaka

If you have just one night in Osaka, there’s no other place to stay than Dotonbori . The neighborhood’s eponymous street is THE definition of the loud and chaotic Japan. The first thing that happens as you approach is that you smell SO much food. Street vendors cook takoyaki in giant, metal trays filled with fried balls of dough and minced squid. If you don’t come hungry to this street, you are making a huge mistake!

Besides food, this street is also famous for its moving, animal billboards. Cows, crabs, and pufferfish are just a few of the giant electonic puppets looming over the heads of pedestrians.

Things to do in Osaka

  • See the famous Glico Man sign at Ebusu-bashi bridge. This is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Osaka (that’s right: a giant illminated sign).
  • Go to the Osaka Castle , one of the prettiest in Japan with its teal and gold coloring.
  • Eat Honetsuki-dori ! This was one of my most memorable meals in Japan. You basically get two choices of chicken (young chicken or old chicken) and then you can choose from sides, which are mostly also chicken.
  • As mentioned, eat the takoyaki!
  • If you’re feeling adventurous (and spendy), you can splurge on a plate of Fugu (pufferfish, which can be deadly if not cooked by a licensed expert).
  • Osaka also has a huge aquarium, which you can visit if you decide to spend more than a night in this city.

Don’t get too comfortable: after a lazy breakfast and a sobering view of Osaka by day, it’s off for a culture shock on top of your existing culture shock. We go from always-on Osaka to sleepy Takayama in the Japan alps.

You read me right: Japan has got its very own range of alps. It contains three mountain ranges: Akaishi mountains, Kiso mountains, and Hida mountains. We’re going to the latter, to the Hida region.

Absolutely do not forget to book the Wide View train for your ride through the mountains! You’ll get a train with enormous glass windows, perfect for day dreaming about your imaginary life in the Japanese countryside a la My neighbor Totoro .

For us, Takayama seemed the perfect place to check in to a traditional Japanese inn, called Ryokan . This has got to be one of the top experiences to try in Japan , and if you’re not in a big city like Kyoto, you can do it for a bit of a better price.

Why you should stay in a Ryokan in Japan

  • You get to dress up in Japanese dress. You can put on a Yakuta (a summer kimono) while you eat your delicious, amazing, unidentifiable Japanese breakfast.
  • Experience Japanese hospitality. Our hosts were so kind and hilarious. At times it was a challenge to communicate, but with patience and humor anything is possible.
  • Onsen minus public nudity. If you aren’t familiar with the Japanese concept of onsen , it’s basically a super hot public bath where head-to-toe nudity is mandatory. You shower off before getting in, and they’re divided by gender. Our ryokan had a private onsen you could visit with your partner. It’s awesomeeee.

Be sure to consider Sumiyoshi Ryokan when you go to Takayama! Room rates start around 150 EUR so it’s not cheap, but it’s absolutely going to be the most memorable place you stay on your trip!

best japan trip itinerary

Staying in a Ryokan in Japan is supposed to be one of the top ways to experience authentic Japanese culture. But is it worth all the extra money, which can run up to a thousand dollars per night? Let's see!

All checked in and cozy? Here are some ideas of what to do during your time in Takayama.

Things to do in Takayama

  • Stroll around the Edo-era merchant district . The houses are very well preserved, although many have been converted into souvenir shops.
  • Try Hida beef , the local variant similar to Kobe beef. You can go to various grill-your-own joints for a fancy experience, or get a skewer for a couple bucks at the morning market.
  • Visit the morning market for handcrafted souvenirs. There are two markets, but the one along the river is far better for souviners. You can get wooden carvings made from the Japanese Yew, chopsticks in all configurations and price ranges, and of course a lot to eat.
  • Indulge in a box or two of sake! Takayama has a prominent sake industry, and you can recognize sake spots around town by the dried cedar balls that hang in front of the front door.
  • Buy your Japanese souvenirs, period. This is where we bought our one serious souvenir from Japan, which is a gorgeous black and gold teapot. It cost around 80 EUR (which is a pretty standard price for teapots, believe it or not!)
  • Visit “Little Kyoto”. Now that you’ve been to Kyoto, you’ll realize: Takayama’s temple district is nothing like that of sprawling Higashiyama in Kyoto, but there is one distinct difference: you have the place to yourself.

Enjoy breakfast in your Ryokan , check out the morning market, and in the early afternoon, hop on a bus to Shirakawa-go.

Shirakawa-go, is one of the tiny tiny villages where people still live in thatch-roof houses. Every 30-40 years the roofs are replaced by 200 community members and volunteers working quickly over two days. The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you can go inside several of the thatched houses and learn more about life in the village.

What to know before visiting Shirakawa-go

  • Shirakawa-go is visited by massive tourist crowds. No one in the blogosphere seems to admit this, but it’s a simple fact: Shirakawa-go experiences hit-and-run by tons of tourist groups.
  • That said, your best option is to spend the night in Shirakawa-go in order to get a more authentic and private experience.
  • Shirakawa-go’s scenic overlook is not accessible in winter. If you’re traveling to Japan in Winter, the location where you can see the entire valley at once is not accessible when the path is snowed in.

After visiting Shirakawa-go, spend your last night in Takayama. Enjoy breakfast the next morning, because it’s time to hit the road and head north.

I will start with this: If you’re not visiting Hirosaki during cherry blossom season, I’m not sure it’s worth it . The town itself is pretty lackluster, and it’s the park filled with 2,500 cherry blossoms which makes this location truly spectacular and yet under-the-radar for western visitors.

That said, Hirosaki is probably one of the few places where we really felt like we weren’t just one of thousands of western tourists. Almost everyone in the city was either Japanese, or traveling to Japan from a neighboring country in Asia. For that reason, it was really cool to visit somewhere that felt a little undiscovered by people like us.

The trip from Takayama to Hirosaki takes about 8 hours, so most likely, you’ll arrive in the early evening, with enough time to see Hirosaki’s cherry blossoms illuminated by night.

After spending the night in the park, grab dinner at

<a href="” class="place” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">Kadare Yokochō . This food hall is a favorite with locals, and offers a ton of options. You can read more about what to try here in my guide to Hirosaki.

best japan trip itinerary

Few Western visitors ever experience northern Japan, but Hirosaki's immense Castle Park bursting with blossoms, bridges, and moats is an unbeatable reason to come north during Cherry Blossom Season. It's even illuminated at night. Come see for yourself!

The next day, it’s time to enjoy the park in all it’s bright and blooming glory. The park is overflowing with flowers, idyllic Japanese-style bridges, petal-filled moats, and one of the coolest sights: Sakura Tunnel .

I imagine this place also looks spectacular in Autumn, but I can only tell you: it’s gorgeous in Spring, and perfect if you’re making a late Spring trip, where the cherry blossoms in more southerly locations will have already gone.

best japan trip itinerary

Catching a glimpse of sakura in Japan is more than a matter of timing and luck. When and where to see cherry blossoms all throughout Spring!

Tonight, take the train to Nikko, Japan, a town a short way from Tokyo but packed full of historic locations and natural wonders!

I made a critical mistake when coming to Nikko. I came during Golden Week, which happens at the beginning of May. During this time, the entire country of Japan is basically on vacation, and of course, where do they go on vacation: why, Nikko!

And it’s no wonder: Nikko was once a favorite retreat for the emperor, once he had moved his residence from Nara to Tokyo. As a result, Nikko has some of the most concentrated famous sights in Japan. In fact, a huge swath is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a small town, this place has got a lot going on.

Things to do in Nikko (AKA more shrines 😄)

  • Shin-kyo – The most famous bridge in Nikko (pictured above). There’s a fee if you want to cross it, but perfectly good photos can be taken fo’ free.
  • Tosho-gu – This group of buildings that comprise the Tosho-gu shrine comprise several buildings. Each structure offers something different. Here are a few of them:
  • Yomeimon (Gate of Sunlight) – Perhaps the climax of Nikko’s temple district, this gate is unique because it’s just so gaudy . Gold everywhere, super ornate. The only problem is that it’s currently under rennovation until March 2019.
  • Naikiryu (Crying Dragon) – Enter the Yakushi Hall at Tosho-gu and see, painted on the ceiling, an enormous dragon. It’s believed that the sound of wooden blocks clapping together in this room sound like the dragon is crying (depends on how imaginative you are if you ask me!)
  • Kegon Waterfall – I didn’t have time to see this myself, but if you stay a little longer in Nikko, you can take the trip here. Nikko has a few other waterfalls, but Kegon is easily the most popular.

Now, after all of this, I was honestly left pretty overwhelmed by Nikko. 99% because the crowds were so dense, it was totally uncomfortable to view some of these places. The other 1% was probably actually being underwhelmed because of some of the construction that covered the coolest structure, Yomeimon .

Actually, I wanted to LEAVE. Luckily, Nikko still had something waiting for me…

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

After a tasty and expensive slice of cheesecake and coffee at Nikko Coffee , we embarked on a walk to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss . This natural canyon in Nikko is like the polar opposite of Tosho-gu . Somehow no one else knew that there was this natural treasure just a kilometer away from the popular shrines. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful places in Japan .

On your way in, these statues line the path to the gorge. It’s said that it’s not possible to count the name number of Bake-jizo on your way in as on your way out. You’ll just have to try for yourself! (Spoiler: I failed, but I don’t blame any inanimate objects for that).

best japan trip itinerary

With UNESCO World Heritage sites galore, Nikko is a popular day trip from Tokyo. But the best part of Nikko just a little over a kilometer away from the most popular shrines, in a small gorge with its own shrines, whirlpools, and waterfalls called Kanmangafuchi Abyss.

Enjoy your time in Nikko, because after this it’s back to the big city! Pick up your stuff from the hostel, hop on a train, we’re going to Tokyo…but for real this time.

Day 12 and 13: Time for Tokyo

A lot of people who come to Japan spend a lot of time in Tokyo. I mean, it makes sense: it’s got the most restaurants per capita in the world, you could spend a lifetime exploring every conceivable experience this city can offer. That said, I didn’t try to do Tokyo hardcore. For one, I actually visited friends while here, which tends to make everything a little less go-go-go. On the other hand, there is just so much there, your chances of “making a dent in Tokyo” are miniscule, so why try!

Ideas for what to do in Tokyo

  • Ascend the Tokyo Skytree. If you’re scared of heights (like me), this place is going to make you SO NERVOUS. The highest point in the city, on a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji which is 100 kilometers away.
  • See the faithful Hachiko statue at Shibuya station. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the faithful dog that waits for years at the train station, even 9 years after his owner has passed. If you want to see this world famous symbol, head here – also a popular meeting place!
  • Take a walk through the Yoyogi Park. You’ll see buskers, groups of friends, maybe even the famous

<a href="” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">Tokyo rockabilly dancers .

  • See the Shibuya Crossing. One of the most famous sights in Tokyo, this crosswalk is the busiest in the whole world. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out – you can get a view over it from a 2-storey Starbucks across the street.
  • Visit the Tokyo National Museum. Learn more about the culture and history associated with Japan in this museum. It’s got art, statues, scrolls, outfits, armor, pottery – so many things you can see develop over time with the Japanese people.
  • Eat a meal at the Tsukiji Fish Market . If you missed it on your first night, now’s the time to come back! Wake up at the crack of dawn to see the daily haul of tuna, or come by in the evening to grab some dinner.
  • If you haven’t gotten enough of shrines, check out Meiji Shrine. Easily the most popular shrine in Tokyo! Unlike so many shrines, admission here is free.
  • Do some luxury shopping in Ginza. Essentially every world famous fashion brand has a flagship store in this shopping district. If you’re a luxury traveler, this might be the perfect place to pick up your Tokyo souvenir.
  • Go to Harajuku and feel extra ordinary. This area has some of the most eccentric people you’ll see in the city, with the very best outfits and hairstyles. It’s a must-see area if you love people-watching!
  • Stock up on electronics in Akihabara. Known affectionately as Electric Town, Akihabara is a bright and loud neighborhood and home to the largest electronics store in the world, Yodobashi Akiba .
  • Got more time in Tokyo? Find more things to do in this Tokyo 5-day itinerary or go to one of many amazing day trips from Tokyo .

After your last day in Tokyo, take the train to Kawaguchi-ko and sleep at the base of Mt. Fuji. Wake up early the next morning to enjoy the mountain!

Day 14: Spend the day at Mt. Fuji and fly home in the evening

It’s the last day, you can do it! Get up as early as you can muster to see Mt. Fuji in the morning light, reflected in Lake Kawaguchi. Conventional wisdom states that your best viewing of Mt. Fuji happens first thing in the morning, but for us, the mountain became more visible as the day went on. By the end of the day, it was clear and big and blue.

I’ve gone in-depth about the best places to view Mt. Fuji , especially if you’re going in Spring, but one thing I can’t help but mention here is the Pink Moss Festival ! You can take a bus here from the main station in Kawaguchi-ko, and travel to a spot closer to the mountain that is just covered in pink flowers.

In terms of booking tickets to the festival, I just happened to discover it thanks to a brochure in my hotel. Check the website for admission tickets. There’s also tons of different ways to get to the location by bus, just check on the website’s “Access” page.

In 2019, the Pink Moss Festival is happening from April 13th - May 26th ! That means you can still visit this year if you’ll be arriving between now and the end of May.

How cute is this? There’s even a mini-Fuji made out of flowers! After you’ve had your fill of flowers and too-perfect shots of Mt. Fuji, take a bus back to down and spend any free time you have walking around the lake and walking around town. Get your last matcha ice cream or any last-minute Fuji-themed souvenir.

best japan trip itinerary

Spring is one of the best, most magical times to see Mt. Fuji of the whole year. Here are several vantage points that offer the most impressive view of "Fuji-san", plus tips on predicting Mt. Fuji's visibility.

Alas! It’s time to take the train back to Tokyo, transfer to transport that’ll take you to your airport, and start the long journey home.

And that’s a wrap!

Have you ever been to Japan? Or are you planning a trip RIGHT NOW? Would love to know about anywhere I missed in my itinerary or what you would do differently! Leave a comment with your thoughts!

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About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for over six years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

Follow along on Instagram , Twitter , Bloglovin , & Facebook .

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The Perfect Japan 2 Week Itinerary: 10-14 Days in Japan

Planning a trip to Japan can be very overwhelming, because there are so many place to go and things to see. Where do you start planning the perfect Japan vacation?

You want to make sure you see everything possible in your 2 weeks in Japan, so planning each step of the way is very important. That’s why we’ve prepared the perfect Japan 2-week itinerary for you, so you have a starting point to build your dream trip from.

» Also read about Japanese Food: 45 Traditional Dishes to Look for in Japan.

Mt Fuji, Japan

You can use our itinerary to build your own independent trip to Japan, or you can leave the planning to the pros and go on a guided tour. Either way you choose, you’ll find all the information you need in this post.

Planning Your Japan Trip?

Buy flights. We recommend using Skyscanner or Expedia to find the best flight deals. Check out our guide to finding the best airfare for additional tips.

Get your Japan Rail Pass. You can buy it online here

Hotels See all hotel options

  • In Tokyo: The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo
  • In Kyoto: ACE Hotel Kyoto
  • In Osaka: Intercontinental Osaka

Best Tours to Book

  • Fully escorted 8-day Intro to Japan tour
  • Private Custom Tour: Tokyo in a Day
  • Tsukiji Fish Market Food and Culture Walking Tour

Table of Contents

Japan Itineraries

If you have longer to spend in Japan, you can expand this itinerary to any length you wish.

  • We have a 7-day itinerary and a 2-week Japan itinerary so you can choose which length of trip suits you best.
  • If you will only be visiting Tokyo, here’s a shortened 3-day itinerary for Tokyo .
  • Want to add more days outside of Tokyo? Here’s a 3-day Kyoto itinerary and a 2-day Osaka itinerary .

Traveling in Japan can be expensive, but we’ve put together a list of the best budget travel tips for Japan to ease the strain.

Also keep in mind that it takes a considerable amount of time to travel between destinations and cities. So you have to be very wise in your planning to make everything fit together perfectly.

Tokyo Japan

Where to Go in Japan

Japan is full of mesmerizing landscapes, incredible sights and – my favorite – amazing food!

There are a good number of tourist destinations that just about anyone planning a trip to Japan will want to include in the itinerary. Obviously, with just 10-14 days in Japan, there’s no way you can cover them all, so for this itinerary we’ve chosen the top destinations that we feel you can fit comfortably into 10+ days.

Here are the top destinations we recommend visiting in 10+ days in Japan: Tokyo , Hakone, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and Miyajima, and Kamakura.

Japan Vacation Options

There are two perfectly acceptable choices for your vacation in Japan: a self-planned individual trip or a guided trip. Either way can be quite rewarding, but which you should choose depends greatly on your travel style and how much energy you want to put into planning.

While Japan is very easy to get around and well suited for independent travelers, it can be difficult to do it on your own due to the language barrier, difficult train schedules you’ll have to navigate, and different foods and customs you’ll come across.

A pre-planned tour won’t give you the same freedom to do what you want, but it is completely planned out for you and you will always have a guide along to help you with anything you need.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

1. Guided Tours of Japan

The tour company we recommend, Japan and More , offers fully escorted, small group and private tours of Japan that can be from 8 to 15 days in length.

The company is run by Japan travel specialists, Becki and Shawn, who have over 20 years of experience living, working, and traveling in Japan. They know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. 

They are Americans who know Japan, understand Japanese culture, and speak the language. Their group tours book fast! So secure your place at least a year in advance.

Discover Japan Tour – 15 days

  • Start out in Tokyo, then travel to Nagoya and Kiso Valley
  • Stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan
  • Visit the ancient capital of Nara
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
  • See the famous floating torii gate at Miyajima
  • Ride a cable car up Mount Koya
  • Soak in a Japanese onsen bath in Hakone
  • Discover Kyoto and Osaka

Intro to Japan Tour – 8 days

  • Visit one of the last remaining original castles at Inuyama
  • See the preserved mountain village of Takayama
  • Explore Kyoto and have a traditional kaiseki dinner in Gion

For more information, check out Japan and More’s website . You’ll get $100 off the cost of your tour by using our coupon code.

Not sure about a guide tour? Read this review by someone who’s taken the trip.

Japan 13-Day Adventure

Another option we love for a guided Japan tour is this 13-day adventure by Intro Travel.

You’ll walk the streets of one of the world’s busiest and most futuristic cities, watch monkeys bathe in hot springs, roll your own sushi, visit ancient shrines and castles, get taught to wield a sword by a Samurai master, stay overnight with monks in a 1000 year old Buddhist temple, experience incredible and unique accommodation and much more! 

» See more details of this trip

2. Self-Guided Two Weeks in Japan

If you want to plan your own trip and be in charge of your own trip, then a self-guided tour is the way to go.

With a good plan of action, your Japan 2-week itinerary will run smoothly and provide you with a stunning overview of this beautiful country.

If this schedule seems too ambitious for just 14 days in Japan, you can always extend your stay in the areas that interest you most and cut out a destination or two that you can save for your next trip.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s entirely up to you.

Map of Japan Itinerary

2-Week Schedule

Day 1-3: tokyo, day 4: kamakura, day 5-6: hakone and mount fuji, day 7-8: kyoto, day 9: nara, day 10-11: osaka, day 12: kobe, day 13-14: setouchi, hiroshima & miyajima.

Tokyo City Lights

Arrive in Tokyo. Keep in mind that Tokyo is a huge city with many different areas to explore. You won’t want to stay put in one area, but travel around and see as much as possible.

We recommend seeing these major sites:

  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Tsukiji outer fish market
  • Hamarikyu Gardens
  • Asakusa area
  • Meiji Shinto Shrine
  • Imperial Palace
  • Shibuya Crossing

One of the best ways to see all the sights in a few days is on a day tour with a guide. We recommend this private customizable walking tour with Japan Wonder Travel. You can fit in whatever you want to see in one day or book them for a second to see even more.

Besides the main sights listed above, you have to save time for food! Tokyo is one of the best food cities in the world and there are dozens of food experiences to have. My favorites include:

  • Ramen Tasting
  • Tokyo Pub Crawl
  • Hidden Izakaya and Sake Small-Group Pub Tour
  • Sake Tasting & Seminar

⇒ Make it easy on yourself and follow this  3-day Tokyo itinerary  for food lovers.

If you’ve got more time, check out these day trips from Tokyo that will get your further out into the countryside and to surrounding cities.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

We recommend the Intercontinental The Strings Tokyo Hotel. It’s a really large hotel with nice rooms, located in Shinagawa, which is really close to shopping, eating and transportation. If this doesn’t suit you, check out our full list of Tokyo hotels we recommend .

⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor .

Buddha Statue

For a change in pace, visit Kamakura, a seaside town south of Tokyo. It was the political center of medieval Japan, but is now a popular resort town, with dozens of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.

The most recognizable of these is the Great Buddha, a 42-foot-high bronze statue that has withstood the test of time.

Spend the day visiting the temples and shrines, hiking one of the many trails, enjoying Shichirigahama Beach, and the many museums around town.

Where to stay in Kamakura

For a lovely stay on the beach with a view of the ocean from your room, stay at the Kamakura Prince Hotel . ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor .

▶ Transfer to Hakone via the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen

mt fuji

Known for its traditional onsen, or hotsprings, Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and it has incredible mountain scenery and hikes, as well as art museums and shrines to see.

You can also take the cable car to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. You’ll want a full day here to explore and stay overnight. With just one day it’s not practical to hike up Mt. Fuji. Did you know that the best time to see Mt. Fiji is in winter because of the crisp clear days? Check out other things you didn’t know about winter in Japan .

If you don’t have enough time for hiking, the best activity for visitors with only 1-2 days in the area is Lake Kawaguchiko.

One of the best views of Mt. Fuji can be found at Lake Kawaguchi, one of the largest of the 5 lakes in the region. It’s a great resort area with museums, a concert hall, and a museum shop. You can walk around it, go boating, fishing, and shopping.

  • Take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station (Tokyo) to Otsuki Station
  • From Otsuki, take Fujikyu Railway to Kawaguchiko Station (not covered by the JR Pass)

You can also catch amazing glimpses of Mt. Fuji from Arakurayama Sengen Park, which is located halfway up Mount Arakura.

Where to Stay in Hakone

Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa is within walking distance of the cable car that takes you toward Mt. Fuji. The hotel has very nice, classy rooms, with great views.  ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor .

We also recommend Hakone Mount View for a traditional Japanese ryokan experience with nice accommodations and good food. They have a rare volcanic hot spring called Nigori-yu – a fun and unique experience, especially for couples.  ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor .

Transfer to Kyoto.

kyoto cherry blossoms

There are many iconic and eye-catching shrines and temples in Kyoto that you’ll want to see, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, and Kiyomizu-dera. (More in depth info on the temples of Kyoto.)

You can’t leave without visiting Nishiki Market, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves, seeing the geishas walking around the city center, participating in a tea ceremony, and eating at a traditional kaiseki restaurant for lunch or dinner.

At the right time of year – usually from early to mid-April – you can also see the cherry blossoms, which are gorgeous in Kyoto.

» See our full guide on how to spend 2-3 days in Kyoto , and then tack on these extra day trips from Kyoto if you have extra time.

Where to Stay in Kyoto

We recommend the  Hyatt Regency , because it has a reliable standard for Western accommodations, however it’s not as close to the main sights as we’d like to be.

We found it more convenient to stay near Kyoto Station, since everywhere we visited we needed to go in and out of there. Our preferred hotel is the Hotel Granvia Kyoto .

Have a look at all Kyoto hotels for comparison.

Nara Prefecture

Nara Park: Take a  JR train to Nara Park at the base of Mount Wakakusa. The park is home to more than 1200 freely roaming deer that are domesticated enough to let you feed them.

You will also see the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue and one of the tallest pagodas in Japan, among other historic structures. Take the JR train onward to Osaka.


For foodies, there’s nothing quite as exciting as  Dotonbori Street  during the evening hours. The street comes alive with every kind of Japanese specialty street food, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki.

A great way to see a lot of Osaka during the day is on an Osaka Walking Tour . You’ll see Dotonbori during the day, visit the Hozenji temple, ride the subway, sample a local specialty, Kushikatsu, and explore traditional Shinsekai.

On your own, you can visit Osaka Castle, and check out the Instant Ramen Museum. If you have time, visit the food-focused Kuromon Ichiba Market and shop for a Japanese knife.

If you want to try the best izakaya food such as Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki and drink in Osaka, try this Osaka Bar Hopping Food Tour or go on a Foodie Walking Tour in Dotonbori and Shinsekai.

>> Read this post for an in-depth 2-day Osaka itinerary and here are some great day trips to take from Osaka if you have more time.

Where to Stay in Osaka

One of my favorite hotels is the  Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel . It is conveniently located for transportation, so you can easily get around to the top sights in Osaka and beyond. It’s got an insane view and really comfortable rooms. ⇒ Read reviews of the Osaka Marriott on Trip Advisor .

The beef was served with salt, pepper and fried garlic slices

Take a 30-minute train ride to Kobe to try the famous  Kobe beef.  You will thank yourself for doing it – there’s nothing quite like it, and as a foodie, you owe it to yourself!

On the way back to Osaka, you can stop off in Kobe’s Nada district for a tasting and history about the making of sake at a few  sake breweries . If you aren’t a sake drinker, check out the Himeji Castle, just 30 mins outside Kobe.

Stay overnight again in Osaka.

Transfer to Setouchi: Take the train from Shin-Osaka Station to Okayama Station, then the Ako line to Oku Station

Great Torii Gate at the entrance to the Itsukushima temple

The more off-the-beaten-path Setouchi region in Japan is a gem that many travelers miss in their typical itinerary, except those who make a point to visit Hiroshima (which we’ll talk about next). Setouchi has 350 islands that flank the Seto Inland Sea, so there are many hidden gems to explore.

For foodies, you don’t want to miss the oysters and the udon. With the proximity to the sea, oysters are a specialty in the area, with all-you-can-eat shacks open throughout the season.

Ritsurin Garden and Korakuen are two of the most beautiful of Japanese gardens and a must-see in Setouchi.

Hiroshima & Miyajima

Knowing that Hiroshima was effectively leveled in 1945, you will be in awe to see the city now. Hiroshima preserves the memory of the atomic bombing in the  Peace Memorial Park and Museum .

Other popular sights to see in the city are the Hiroshima Castle, the city’s family shrines and temples, the Museum of Art and the Flame of Peace garden.

You can also go out to Miyajima, where the orange Great Torii Gate sits at the entrance to the Itsukushima temple, and is partially submerged in water during high tide. 

If you have a Japan Rail Pass , it will cover the train and ferry between Hiroshima and Miyajima on the Japan Rail ferry.

Where to stay in Hiroshima

The Sheraton Grand Hotel in Hiroshima. The hotel is connected to Hiroshima Shinkansen station by a short, covered walkway, providing easy transportation around the city and out to Miyajima.  ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor .

Return to Tokyo.

Tips for planning a vacation in japan, best time to go to japan.

When you decide to go to Japan should be based on what type of experience you want to have. A lot of people make it a priority to go to Japan in the spring to see the cherry blossoms, while others wouldn’t want to be there during such a high tourist season.

If you want to catch the fireworks season in Japan, you need to go in August, but it’s really steamy and hot at that time of year. The best weather can be found from late March to May.

Another great time to visit is in autumn, when the leaves are changing, from September to November. As it can get very hot in summer in Japan, try to avoid traveling between June and August.

Getting to and Around Japan

Japan high-speed rail

Many top airlines have direct flights into Japan. You can check the status of flights into Japan from your home airport, to see which route and airline is best for you.

Top Japan airlines include ANA and Japan Airlines, but you can fly to Japan with most U.S. airlines that fly internationally, like United and American. Once you arrive in Japan – likely in Tokyo – you can get the train into the city center.

The best way to do it is to get on the  Japan Rail (JR) Narita Express (called NEX). If you have a Japan Rail Pass , this journey is included in the pass. It  goes to Tokyo Station in 60-90 minutes. 

You will then likely have to change trains at Tokyo Station for the Yamanote Line, which serves most of the tourist hotels.

The best way to travel around Japan in by train. You’ll want to purchase a 14-day  Japan Rail Pass . The pass allows you to travel on all JR trains throughout Japan, including the high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains. It’s the most economical and worry-free way to travel.

Travel in Japan is not cheap and the cost of buying individual tickets will far exceed the cost of the Japan Rail Pass, which you can purchase for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days.

Just remember , you have to purchase it before entering the country and give time for it to be delivered to you. Read our guide on where to buy a Japan Rail Pass and if it’s worth it.

When planning your Japan itinerary, keep in mind the distance between each destination (for instance, the train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 3:15). As long as there is a train linking each of your chosen cities, you’ll be able to easily travel around the country.

Traveling in Japan is not cheap, but you can save money in Japan by doing things like buying a Japan Rail Pass and eating street food.

Tipping in Japan

If you’re from the United States , Canada, or another country where tipping is customary, you should be aware that tipping in Japan  is not  customary.

If you do try to tip, in a restaurant or a hotel for instance, it might even be refused or considered rude. To avoid awkwardness, follow the Japanese custom and do not tip.

Eating in Japan

Kaiseki modern Japanese food

Japan is a country with a lot of unique foods. You will have the best overall experience if you’re willing to try the food and have an open mind that you mind really like something you’ve never tried before.

Aside from the expected and incredible sushi you’ll find all over the country, there are many specialties you should try. Some of our favorites are okonomiyaki (found mostly in Osaka), takoyaki (also from Osaka), yakitori, gyoza , and Kobe beef (only in Kobe).

You might also want to try kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto, a traditional, yet very modern preparation. Many of the top kaiseki restaurants have been awarded Michelin stars, too!

⇒ Learn the proper way to eat sushi in Japan.

Whether you take a guided tour or do this Japan 2 week itinerary on your own, I am certain it will be one of the most exciting and rewarding trips you’ll ever take. It is a fascinating country full of surprises.

Let us know how your trip to Japan turns out!

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How to spend 2 weeks in Japan

Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.

29 thoughts on “ The Perfect Japan 2 Week Itinerary: 10-14 Days in Japan ”

Hello Nick! Your vacation in Japan is very interesting and very enjoyable. Moreover, you enjoy this holiday with the people closest to you. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

Hello! I know you wrote that summer isn’t a very ideal time to visit Japan, but my plans don’t allow me to go at any other time unfortunately. Would the beginning of July really be that bad?

Of course it’s still a great time to go as long as you don’t mind the sometimes intense heat and humidity.

Hi, we are in our 60’s so not as energetic as some! We are planning a 2 week trip to Japan in April. We arrive in Narita and initial thoughts are to stay somewhere close to airport on first night to help with jet lag and then head out to Kyoto/Nara for 3 nights, followed by Fuji five lakes for 3 nights. We want to end our stay with 3 nights in Tokyo, where would you suggest we go between our Fuji stay and return to Tokyo?

Hi Louise, I would suggest adding another day to Kyoto for a day trip to Osaka. It’s very much worth it. Then how about adding in Hakone and/or Kamakura before heading back to Tokyo.

Hi, We are a family that loves hiking, biking and outdoor activities in general. Can you suggest some places for us to visit? It’s our first time in Japan and we are staying 14 days. Thanks and I really like your website; it’s easy to understand and full of good information.

Hi Anne. I’m sure you’d love the area around Mt Fuji. There are numerous opportunities for hiking, biking and outdoor activities. Check out our post on day trips from Tokyo for more information.

Interested in a two week tour but we want to go see the snow monkeys north oh Nagano. Is there another spot to see them. We want to go in oct. and we are aware no snow then. Two couples to start tour around 10/12.

Ruth, you can visit the snow monkey park year round. There won’t be snow, but the monkeys are still there!

Hi Laura, I’m from Australia/NZ and want to say THANKS for your itineraries! I was a but lost. My hubby and I & two boys (12 & 14) are trying to plan a late January Japan trip but the boys (ie all but me :-D) want to add in a 3day snow holiday which I’m happy to do, as long as we get to at least do your 7 day itinerary! Can you please help me by suggesting an addition to your fantastic 7day itinerary that would get them their chance to try ski/boarding. Also maybe a spot that has other snow fun and a spa for me?

Hi Andrea. Glad you found the itinerary helpful! If you’re doing the 7-day trip, I would recommend a ski resort near Mt. Fuji. There’s Snowtown Yeti and Fujimi Panorama Resort nearby that are fantastic for International visitors. There are many hot springs and tons of other things to do nearby. Plus amazing views.

Thanks!! So if we add in 3 days at Hakone/Mt Fuji that would work? 10 days total. So excited! Thanks for your help.

Absolutely. And it won’t require additional travel time. Have a great time. Come back and let us know how it was!

Hello Savoredjourneys Team,

I hope you are doing well. I’ve been following your post on “”, for quite some time now. Every time I read a post, I feel like I’m able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it’s so great. I, Kousik author at “Value Walk”. Working all around the globe. We are always looking for many resources for our business development.

Our goal is an only satisfied client. I saw your post on “Savoredjourneys”, It looks good. So I contact you for this purpose if you want to work for our company. When we can always increase when we grow:)

Looking forward to working with you.

Warm Regards! Kousik

Oh, this itinerary is everything I was looking for. Thanks for coming up with this comprehensive itinerary.

Regards Anshul

So I am planning a trip to go to Japan with my coworker and friend. Basically we want to go when there when is less tourists is that possible? We are planning to stay for two weeks as well. Also really good itinerary it is very helpful.

Paul – the main tourist spots will always be very busy, but those are likely the places you’ll want to see. I suggest following our 2 week plan and adjusting it to fit your interests. You can get off the beaten path in those places sometimes.

Hi Laura, thanks for the great guide! there’s just one thing that consearns me about this. How did you go all around with all the luggages? Since most hotels only check in at 12pm, that leaves you touristing with a lot of backpacks and luggages. If we stop to shop, that would just go heavier and heavier to go from place to place. How did you solved this? Thanks

Hi Thiago. Even if you can’t check into the hotel before afternoon, you can always check your bags with the hotel and go out exploring. We tend to pack really light so we don’t have a lot of luggage to trek around. It gets old when you’re on the train. I suggest taking a single piece of luggage, if possible.

Hi there! My trip is in October and we wanted buy the JR pass. I’m wondering if the JR pass will get us to all of these locations without purchasing extra train tickets? I woukd greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Hi Jouberte. All of the places in the itinerary are covered by the JR Pass. You would only need to purchase extra tickets if you want to take a train that isn’t a JR train, but there is a way to get to each place using JR trains.

Hi! We are heading to Japan in April 2020. We arrive in Tokyo on the 3rd and leave on the 7th. We are scheduled to be in Okinawa on the 10th to the 15th. We are trying to figure out the “best” place to visit in those 3 days (the 7th to the 10th), and need to keep in mind we need to fly into Okinawa in the 10th. Where do you recommend? We want somewhere either countryside or mountain town, but my wife seems to think Nagano is too “winter focused” so we’re looking elsewhere. We want traditional Japanese culture, a peaceful, country-like setting, and of course, great food and sites! Thanks!!

Hi. Read through your travel guide and would be trying out with my Mum. Would like your advise on how is it like to travel with luggage on train and buses as we would be planning to visit the Hakone for the hot springs. Also on day 7 it says that you in Nara. Did you spend the night there or in Osaka?

Gabriel, The trains and buses are usually packed full. While it’s absolutely possible to travel with luggage, I would advise taking the smallest form or luggage you can. We prefer backpacks, but you can get away with wheeled luggage. The biggest issue is just getting through the crowd easily, so suitcases with spinner wheels are the best option. When going to Nara, we always stay overnight in Osaka or Kyoto. It’s easy to get back and forth.

I am planning on going to Japan for 2 weeks in october this year, I really want to visit rabbit island (Ōkunoshima) but am unsure how to fit this in as it is not included on any online itinerarys I have seen – what would you suggest? Thank you!

Rachelle, it’s fairly easy to get there from Hiroshima, so I’d tack it on as an extra day in that area. You have to skip something else to fit it in, probably Kobe. If you go there directly from Osaka, then on to Hiroshima, it’ll fit right in.

Thank you!!

We are coming this December and have 16 nights between 12/18 – 1/3. Would your two week plan work at that time of year with maybe more time in Tokyo and a few modifications since no way to know the weather. We are from Colorado and our son is doing 1st semester of his Senior Year in College there in Osaka so a truly Once in a Lifetime Christmas Family Vacation! Thank you soo much!

Yes, I think you could do all of our itinerary in the winter time, though maybe not some of the things around Fuji. It’s always great to have more time in Tokyo, I think. Enjoy your trip!

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best japan trip itinerary

The Ultimate Two Weeks in Japan Itinerary: Where to Visit

The Ultimate Two Weeks in Japan Itinerary

For the first-timer, spending two weeks in Japan is the ultimate way to go. This Japan itinerary will break down exactly where to visit in Japan and how long to stay. Japan is a special place for me. After visiting for my third time this last year, it has become easily my number one destination in Asia.

Japan is wildly different from anything here in the U.S. Their culture has preserved the arts and historic components of society. Meanwhile, it has integrated technology and processes that drive their community forward. I’ve never seen anything quite like it — an incredible blend of the old world and the new world. Japan has a wonderful way of drawing you in and showing you a new way to live.

So if you’ve booked yourself a two-week trip to Japan, here’s everything you need to know about where to visit and why.

Why You Should Spend Two Weeks in Japan

How long you spend in Japan is entirely up to you. I would vote to do two weeks for a few reasons especially if it’s your first time. The first is that it allows you to get off the main path that most tourists will visit. All of those cities like Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo are wonderful. However, there are some other hidden gems of places to go. Spending two weeks gives you the right amount of time to truly digest it all. You can blend the perfect trip of highlighted cities and some other experiences that will take you by surprise. There are several world heritage sites you won’t want to miss as well along the way.

On our first trip to Japan, we booked in over two weeks and we felt we had really gotten a taste of the country. By the end of the trip, we were ready to go home. Our most recent trip was around 12 nights long and we felt we could have stayed the full two weeks. So my suggestion based on experience is that two weeks is the golden number.

What will be in this two-week itinerary in Japan post:

  • A sample itinerary.
  • Information on accommodations and dining.
  • Sources for more detailed guides.
  • What to Know About Transportation and the JR Rail Pass

Short on Time? Here’s How I Would Spend 2 Weeks in Japan:

Before arrival.

  • Purchase a JR Rail Pass , for unlimited train travel while in Japan

Stop 1: Tokyo — 3 nights

  • Shibuya Hotel En , for the best centrally-located hotel
  • Shibuya Granbell Hotel , for the best Shibuya Station hotel
  • Keio Plaza Hotel , for the best Shinjuku hotel

Stop 2: Kiso Valley — 2 nights

  • Magome Chaya , for the best Magome hotel
  • Ooedo Onsen Monogatari Hotel Kisoji , for the best hotel near Tsumago
  • Japanese Guesthouses , for the best intimate stays in the Kiso Valley

Stop 3: Kyoto — 4 nights

  • Kyoto Hotel Okura , for the best downtown hotel
  • Yuzuya Ryokan , for the best ryokan hotel
  • Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo , for the best budget hotel

Stop 4: Onsen Experience — 2 nights

  • Gora Kadan , for the best modern onsen hotel
  • Yaeikane , for the best traditional onsen hotel

Stop 5: Tokyo — 2 nights

The ultimate two weeks in japan itinerary, stop 1: tokyo — 3 nights, tokyo highlights.

Starting in Tokyo is a wonderful immersion into Japan. I’d recommend flying into Narita Airport as it has a fast train into the heart of the city. Your first day or night will give you time to adjust to the changes. There are wonderful highlights to visit in Tokyo including incredible museums, neighborhoods, markets, and restaurants. You get an opportunity to experience Japan’s sprawling city.

A few favorites for me include spending a morning at Tsukiji Fish Market. It is certainly sensory overload but out of this world. One new thing we did this last trip was going to teamLab Borderless afterward since they’re both on the outskirts of town. It was a wonderful way to spend a day.

There are other day trips you can do as well like to the Fuji Five Lakes, so if you want a break from the city you can consider this. Overall starting your time in Tokyo is the most convenient for getting adjusted and from there you can continue on to your next destination with the extensive train routes.

Helpful Tokyo Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • For creative things to do: The Alternative Guide to Tokyo
  • Most recent coffee guide: A Guide to the Coolest Coffee Shops in Tokyo
  • Back-up coffee guide: 7 Coffee Shops Not to Miss in Tokyo
  • General travel guide: The First-Timer’s Guide to Tokyo

Where to Stay in Tokyo

I personally love to stay in Shibuya as it’s the best-located neighborhood to explore. A few recommended hotels:

Stop 2: Kiso Valley — 2 Nights

Kiso valley highlights.

If there is one recommendation for getting out of the major cities, it’s to go visit the mystical Kiso Valley. It’s famed for the Nakasendo Trail where you can hike between the small towns of Tsumago and Magome. These two towns are historic and contain old-world buildings telling of Japan’s past.

Whether you’re looking to slow down, get some time in nature, or do something a bit more traditional like stay in a ryokan, the Kiso Valley is it. It does take some patience and time to plan this part of a trip to Japan as it’s only ryokans available in the towns. You can reach it by train from Tokyo with a few transfers and a final bus ride into Tsumago.

Need A Japan Rail Pass?  This Is Where I Book Mine

Two nights is wonderful here and a welcomed reprieve from city life. This is mostly why I’d recommend doing it between Tokyo and Kyoto and you can easily follow the train routes.

Helpful Kiso Valley Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • My personal experience : Visiting the Kiso Valley

Sample Train Route from Tokyo to Tsumago

You will need to bus from Nagiso to Tsumago, see schedule here

Where to Stay in Kiso Valley

I’d recommend staying in Tsumago or Magome which sit on either end of the Nakasendo Trail. Here are my top picks of where to stay in the Kiso Valley:

Stop 3: Kyoto — 4 Nights

Kyoto highlights.

Oh Kyoto, this city forever has my heart. Whether you come for the famed cherry blossom season that transforms the city or to explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s wonderful. Kyoto is a special place in Japan and a must on the first trip.

A few highlights for me are the Arashiyama bamboo grove in the early hours before the crowds. I’ve done it twice and each time it has been worth the early wake-up call to catch sunrise there. The red Torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine are another wonderful highlight as well. Fushimi Inari Taisha (full name) is not a world heritage site but nonetheless incredible.

You could easily spend 4 nights in Kyoto mostly because there is so much to do there. One way you can get out of the city is a day trip to Nara as well, utilizing the central train station. I’d recommend reading the extensive guides below to plan your days in Kyoto as there is a lot to do. That’s why I’d allot four nights in this city alone.

Helpful Kyoto Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • Accommodation advice : Where to Stay in Kyoto By Neighborhood
  • Temple and shrine guide : A Guide to the Best Temples & Shrines in Kyoto
  • Local artisan shops: 7 Local Shops Not to Miss in Kyoto
  • For photography: Best Photography Locations in Kyoto
  • Where to eat: 20 Best Restaurants in Kyoto
  • Where to get coffee: 7 Coffee Shops Not to Miss in Kyoto
  • The overall guide: The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto

Sample Train Route from Tsumago to Kyoto

You will need to bus from Tsumago to Nagiso, see schedule here

Where to Stay in Kyoto

I have an entire post on where to stay in Kyoto and it is broken into the neighborhoods. The city is very diverse so I’d recommend giving it a read before making a choice on where you stay. The accommodation location in Kyoto makes a huge difference in your experience in the city.

Here’s my short list of best hotels in Kyoto:

Stop 4: Onsen Experience — 2 Nights

Onsen experience highlights.

A traditional experience in Japan is to go stay and enjoy the healing waters of an onsen. It’s truly Japanese in the sense of slowing down and restoring the body. After all the travel, I love to schedule this towards the end of the trip which is why I’ve placed it after four nights in Kyoto where you’ll walk a lot.

Since you’ll need to make your way back toward Tokyo eventually, you can choose a few locations. The more commonly visited area is Hakone which is filled with onsen ryokans. You can even get a day pass to the onsens and buy the Hakone Free Pass to visit the nearby sights. This is just one option if the area of Hakone is of interest.

We decided to spend a few more hours on a train and make our way towards the onsen region of the Yakushiyma mountains where the Yamashiro Onsen is. We splurged on two nights at Beniya Mukayu. It’s the single most expensive hotel we’ve paid for but in return received the best stay and a lot included. The hotel stay included daily breakfast and dinner, and our room had a private onsen. The food was exquisite, each meal several courses long with fine ingredients. Again this is a splurge experience but I’d say is well worth it.

You could choose to stay in this region (there are other onsen ryokans and hotels) as well. You’ll have to account for a few more transfers to get back to Tokyo but it is totally doable.

Helpful Onsen Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • Our onsen experience : Staying at an Onsen in Japan’s Countryside

Sample Train Route from Kyoto to KagaOnsen

Local hotels pickup at the train station.

Where to Stay: Best Onsen Hotels

In Hakone, some of the top-rated onsen hotels include:

  • Hakone Airu , for the best Balinese onsen hotel

Check out 224 more hotel options in Hakone here.

For onsen hotels near the Beniya Mukayu in Kaga, see this page for the city of Kaga and over 40 options.

Stop 5: Tokyo — 2 Nights

We always tack on two more nights in Tokyo before leaving Japan. One reason is that we want to be in the city at least the night before our flight and the second is, there’s always something we didn’t get to. If you’re there for cherry blossom season, then definitely make an extra stop as the blooms could have changed.

I love eating once more at our favorite yakitori restaurant, strolling the gardens and shrines of Yoyogi Park, and soaking in the city’s energy. It’s a special city and one I always look forward to going back to.

  • The Alternative Guide to Tokyo
  • A Guide to the Coolest Coffee Shops in Tokyo
  • 7 Coffee Shops Not t o Miss in Tokyo
  • The First-Timer’s Guide to Tokyo

Sample Train Route from KagaOnsen to Tokyo

Before leaving Tokyo to go back to the airport, I’d recommend booking a hotel near the main train station like Shibuya for easy, direct access. Here are my top picks for best hotels when returning to Tokyo:

Planning for Transportation in Japan

One of the most overwhelming parts of Japan is sorting out whether or not you need a Japan Rail Pass and the train systems. The rail pass and Japan Rail are incredibly easy to use and convenient pending a few factors. I have an entire blog post dedicated to transportation in Japan which goes into great detail on all of the factors to consider.

The  JR Rail Pass  is essentially a joint pass for the majority of the JR Company trains in Japan. Passes are available by either a 7, 14, or 21-day period. If you do a quick tally of individual ticket prices (especially between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other regions) it will be worth it. You can use it on the JR lines in Tokyo and Kyoto which connect you between neighborhoods. You can purchase it through this link and it must be done so before arrival (give a few weeks to receive the pass). One other benefit is the ability to reserve seats on certain trains.

*You’ll find each train station easy to navigate and the famed bullet train really is wonderful. Trains in Japan are timely so be prepared to arrive ahead of time.

Other Destinations to Consider for Your Two-Week Japan Itinerary

There are several other destinations you can consider as even Hakone mentioned above. One popular other destination is Hiroshima which is home to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Peace Memorial Park. I know so many people love to visit as the Peace Memorial Museum is incredibly special. A few other destinations to consider are:

  • The Alpine Route
  • Miyajima Island
  • Osaka (wonderful for a few days in a different city)

Get Travel Insurance Here

I always recommend travel insurance for international travel. Especially when you’re headed overseas for an extended time. I often use World Nomads , they’ve reimbursed me personally on a few occasions for trip delays and cancellations.

Want to create your own travel itinerary?

Save this post for later on pinterest, ps — are you booking a trip soon use my booking checklist.

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you . If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here .

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:

  • World Nomads (best for all-around)
  • Safety Wing (best for frequent travelers)

Xx, Jessica

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7 Day Japan Itinerary: 2024 Guide For First-Timers

Looking for the perfect 7 Day Japan Itinerary 2024? This is the only guide you’ll need!

From the ancient temples and shrines of Kyoto to the modern cityscapes of Tokyo and Osaka, Japan is teeming with both old and new.

Whether you’re looking for a diverse range of amazing food, beautiful scenery, or unique cultural experiences, every region in this breathtaking country has something different to offer!

Japan is one of my absolute favorite countries to visit, and definitely the kind of place you could spend months exploring.

But don’t worry – if you only have a short time frame to visit, seeing Japan in a week is totally possible!

In this best 7 day Japan itinerary, you will find my recommendations for the top locations to visit, how to get around, where to stay, and much more.

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Table of Contents


To get the most out of your 1 week in Japan, here is an overview of my recommended route to take:

  • Day 1: Tokyo to Kyoto
  • Day 2: Kyoto
  • Day 3: Kyoto to Nara
  • Day 4: Kyoto to Osaka
  • Day 5: Osaka
  • Day 6: Osaka to Hiroshima
  • Day 7: Hiroshima to Fuji to Tokyo

japan itinerary 32


The easiest and most convenient way to discover Japan is with a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass that is valid for use on the vast majority of railways and local buses operated by JR (Japan Rail) throughout the country.

Choose between an Ordinary Pass, or the Green Class Pass if you’re looking to travel in more comfort with reclining seats, a footrest, extra leg space, and a travel magazine.

The Japan Rail Pass is definitely the best ticket to have when planning your Japan itinerary 7 days budget!

Travel Japan with the JR Pass!

jr pass

Get a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day JR Pass for your trip to Japan and enjoy unlimited travel on JR services!

The JR Pass is valid on the Shinkansen (bullet train), Limited Express, Local Trains, and JR Buses.

japan itinerary 59


You can purchase a JR Pass online through an official Japan Rail Pass reseller such as Klook .

I recommend buying your pass prior to arriving – not only is it cheaper online than buying in Japan itself but it will allow you to jump right into your trip!

When you purchase your JR Pass , a voucher will be mailed to your home address within a couple of days (or delivered to your hotel in Japan, if you choose).

At the Travel Service Center, the process is very simple. You exchange this voucher and show your passport and visa.

( Note: When you land in Japan, you’ll automatically get a tourist visa in your passport at immigration. For the majority of nationalities, the visa is free if you’re in Japan for less than 90 days. )

Then, after specifying the date you’d like your pass to start and reserving your seat for the first leg of the trip, you’ll receive your pass and be ready to begin your 7 days in Japan!

Read More: JR Pass – A Complete Guide On How It Works

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Now that we’ve covered some logistics on how to get around Japan, let’s get to the fun stuff – a Japan day-to-day itinerary!

So, without further ado here is a complete 7 day itinerary for Japan!


The first of your Japan itinerary for 7 days will be about getting from Tokyo to Kyoto, and that is pretty simple from Tokyo Station.

Note that, if you get to Tokyo late at night, I recommend staying near Tokyo Station so you’re ready to go early in the morning after.


If you’re arriving at Narita Airport, I recommend getting the 1300¥ ($9 USD) bus direct from the airport to Tokyo Station.

It only takes around 70 minutes, and offers great views as you approach and become engulfed by Tokyo city!

Once you get to Tokyo Station, follow the signs to the Marunouchi North Gate exit, and there you’ll find the JR East Travel Service Center.

This is where you will trade your JR pass voucher for your actual JR Rail Pass.

From there, head to the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line at Tokyo Station. Look for screens that show the name and departure time of your Shinkansen (this info is also on your reserved seat ticket), and you’ll be able to find the right platform and car number.

The trip to Kyoto takes about 3 hours on the bullet train, so if you leave in the early morning you can be there by around 11 am.

If the weather is clear, you might even sneak a view of Fuji on the way down, so keep a lookout on the right-hand side of the train!

In case you need to stay in Tokyo for the night, I recommend a hotel near Tokyo Station, and the one below is an excellent option.

The BEST Hotel in Tokyo

Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi

Need a place to stay? Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Marunouchi is conveniently located near Tokyo Station.

Whether you’re here to explore the sights or relax in comfort, Hotel Metropolitan offers the best of both worlds.

tokyo 2


The best tourist attractions you should check out when visiting Kyoto are the ones below.

Kyoto National Museum

For your first stop in Kyoto, I recommend briefly checking out the Kyoto National Museum.

With a wide range of exhibits showing off ancient Japanese culture and hosting many famous names in Japanese art, you’ll definitely be able to marvel at and learn something new about Kyoto’s rich history.

The entry price for adults is 700¥, and you can pay extra for exclusive seasonal exhibitions.

How to get there:

Kyoto City Bus 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station to Sanjusangendo-mae bus stop, or via a 10-minute walk from Shichijo Station on the Keihan line.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Next on your 7 days itinerary in Japan, I highly suggest paying a visit to Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto’s northwest, where you’ll find the famous Golden Pavilion, located on a small lake in the middle of a serene garden.

The building dates back to 1397, and was once the holiday retreat villa for a prominent Japanese Shogun!

You can expect to spend about an hour exploring the temple and its surrounding gardens. Opening hours are from 9 am – 5 pm and the ticket price is 500¥.

Kyoto City Bus 205 from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji-michi bus stop, Kyoto City Bus 59 from Sanjo-Keihan to the Kinkakuji-mae stop, or taxi directly to Kinkaku-ji Temple.

kyoto 58

Ditch Your Backpack, Get a Suitcase!

Nomatic check In

The Nomatic Check-In is the only luggage you’ll need with 90L capacity for those extended trips.

It’s sleek, it’s durable, and it will save your shoulders from pain by not having to carry any weight.

Ryoan-ji Temple

Finally, from Kinkaku-ji temple it is a 20-minute walk or 5-minute bus ride to Ryoan-ji Temple – the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden, attracting hundreds of visitors every day.

Meditating with the view of this immaculately well-kept Cultural World Heritage site is a perfect way to end the first day of your itinerary!

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Day 2 is all about visiting other tourist spots in Kyoto, from the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest to the Tori gates of Fushimi Inari and more.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Begin the second day of your 7 day itinerary Japan at the world-famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.

A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without having visited Arashiyama!

Kyoto’s bamboo forest  is one of the most photographed attractions in the city and experiencing it through your own eyes is even better than any picture you would have seen of this place!

There is one main path leading through the Kyoto bamboo grove and when you enter the parallel tunnel of bamboo trees, you’ll feel like you’ve just entered another realm.

The nature that surrounds Arashiyama is absolutely breathtaking and chances are you’ll spot a few monkeys in the area too, so keep your eyes peeled.

A personal recommendation – make sure to come just after sunrise as photos will look even more stunning and you’ll avoid the group tours.

Talking about group tours, in case you don’t feel comfortable visiting by yourself, consider this Early Bird Tour that includes a visit to the Bamboo Forest.

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest entrance fee is free of charge and the opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 5:30 am – 11:30 pm.

Find your way to Saga Arashiyama Station on the JR Sagano line using the JR Pass and it’s a short 10-minute walk from here.


Kyoto Early Bird Tour

A must-do when visiting Kyoto is joining a Kyoto Early Bird Tour !

It includes a professional guide, a tour of the Bamboo Forest, and a visit to Kinkakuji Temple!

kyoto 9

Fushimi Inari

Next up on this Japan itinerary is a journey through the world-famous Tori gates of Fushimi Inari.

This must-see shrine consists of a pathway lined with over 10,000 Tori gates that extend 4 km up to the very top of Mount Inari.

It takes about two hours to walk to the top and back down, however, you can turn back whenever you want!

Along the pathway, you will also see many stone foxes, symbolizing the messenger of Inari – the god of rice… and business!

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is free to enter and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

JR Nara Line from Kyoto railway station using the JR Pass , two stops to JR Inari station.

kyoto 72

Maiko Theater

One of the most exclusive experiences in Kyoto is meeting a traditional Geisha performer.

Geisha are highly skilled entertainers who appear at high-end dinners, private parties, and special events to add a special touch to the proceedings and are rarely seen in public.

Many foreigners tend to run around the red light district areas to try to get a glimpse of a Geisha girl or pay large sums to have a private performance.

Luckily, for travelers on a budget, there are some cheap options to get a taste of what a Geisha show is like!

I personally recommend Maiko Theater. While training to become a Geisha between the ages of 15 and 20, these girls are known as ‘Maiko’, and this theatre gives you the rare opportunity to get to see one of them close up!

It is relatively inexpensive (5500¥ for their basic show, including a special dance and Q&A session), and you can take as many photos of (and with) her as you like!

Bus from Kyoto Station to Kawaramachi Gojo bus stop, then walk for 2 minutes, or 3 minutes walk east from Keihan Shimizu Gojo station (exit 4).

japan itinerary 35


Next on this 7 days Japan itinerary, head to Kiyomizu-michi street and follow it uphill until you reach the popular Kiyomizu-dera (Water) Temple.

The walk leading up to the temple is almost as exciting as the temple visit, with many traditional buildings, shops, and restaurants.

The temple is built into the side of the mountain, and from the huge verandah, you can see spectacular views of the hillside and the entire city.

Below the Kiyomizu-Dera temple, you can find the reason why people make pilgrimages here from around Japan and the world – the Otowa Waterfall.

The waters are divided into three streams, and visitors use long poles with cups attached to drink from the streams.

Each stream has a different meaning and benefit – long life and health, success in school/career, and love. However, you can only drink from one… so choose carefully!

kyoto 95

From Kiyomizu-dera, you can meander down the iconic Sannenzaka alleyway.

This historical, stone-paved street is lined with many traditional Japanese buildings, shops, cafes, and inns, and is also surrounded by several famous landmarks such as Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Yasaka Pagoda, and Kodaiji Zen Temple.

Once you reach the bottom of the hill, you’ve basically arrived at Gion, home to various red-light districts where you might be lucky enough to spot a Geisha! My favorite is Hanamikoji Street.

I recommend timing your arrival here for around 5:30 pm, as this is when the Geishas start leaving their homes to go to work (…and avoid the paparazzi of foreigners while doing so!)

Be careful though, you can be fined for taking photos of them, as it is considered highly disrespectful.

Put the cameras down for this one, and enjoy the chance to see one in the moment!

japan itinerary 31


If you want to see more attractions in Kyoto, be sure to check out my other travel guide which includes 25 AMAZING things to do in Kyoto!

Read More: Kyoto Travel Guide – 25 AMAZING Things To Do

Where to stay in kyoto.

Kyoto has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Kyoto to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers, and everyone in between.

See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend in Kyoto for your 7 day itinerary Japan.








If you’re looking for an authentic experience to add to your Japan 7 day itinerary, I highly recommend staying at a traditional Ryokan (Japanese-style inn) during your stay.

My personal favorite is  Kyoto Ryokan Kinoe  which is conveniently located in central Kyoto just 5 minutes walk from Gion.

This cozy Ryokan offers spacious tatami mat rooms, 24-hour baths, and multi-course meals served for breakfast and dinner.

Staying here will make you feel like you’re a traveler back in Edo-era Japan!


For More Options In Kyoto, Search On

Day 3: kyoto to nara.

A day trip to Nara is an absolute must on your 7-day Japan itinerary and it’s best visited during your stay in Kyoto.

Once an ancient capital of Japan, Nara is home to some of the country’s most important cultural places, including the world’s largest wooden structure and the well-known Nara Deer Park.


Using your JR Pass , take the JR Nara line from Kyoto Station to JR Nara Station. Local lines run about three times an hour, and the journey takes about 70 minutes.


Below are some of the best things to do in Nara when visiting from Kyoto.

Todai-ji Temple

Todai-ji is the architectural highlight of this one-day Nara trip. Housing the world’s largest Daibutsu (bronze Buddha statue), this Great Buddha Hall is the world’s largest wooden structure.

As you approach Todai-ji, you can see the famous Nara deer chilling freely around the temple grounds.

It’s 800¥ to enter, and you can pay extra to visit the attached museum too.

Bus from JR Nara station to Todai-ji Daibutsuden station, then a 5-10 minute walk to the main temple.

japan itinerary 41

The BEST Affordable Camera For Travel

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If you’re on the hunt for a professional camera for traveling, check out the Canon G7 X Mark II .

This tiny camera fits in your pocket, captures high-quality photos and videos, and has Wi-Fi so you can instantly transfer to your phone!

Nara Deer Park

From Todai-ji, it’s a short work to Nara Deer Park.

This place is full of the city’s iconic animal residents, and they aren’t afraid to say hello! You can even bow to them, and they will bow back!

You’ll see numerous street vendors selling senbei crackers that you can feed them.

But beware, as soon as a deer sees you holding one in your hand, it won’t stop following until it gets its cracker!

japan itinerary 42


Day 4 is all about Osaka, and you’ll easily get there from Kyoto. Let me elaborate below as well as some must-see attractions.


The best way to get to Osaka station, once again using your JR Pass , is on the Special Rapid Service on the JR Kyoto Line.

The Special Rapid Train will get you to Osaka Station in 28 minutes. Trains depart from platforms 4 and 5 at Kyoto Station.


Once in Osaka, you have to check out some of the best places in town, but first, head to America Town and Universal Studios after that.

Amerika-mura (America Town)

For your first stop on your Osaka itinerary , I seriously recommend spending time in Amerika-mura – an American-inspired district filled with vintage shops, record stores, and Western foods with a Japanese twist.

The now-thriving neighborhood was once filled with empty warehouses and parking lots, but all changed in 1969 when a hip cafe opened, attracting young people and artists from around the region.

Nowadays, it’s still a vibrant hub, and has some of the most eccentric and punk fashion anywhere in Japan!

japan itinerary 46

Universal Studios

If you’re into theme parks, then put Universal Studios Japan (USJ) on your 7 days in Japan itinerary!

This huge park is Osaka’s equivalent of Tokyo Disneyland and offers a world of pop culture, family-friendly rides, and an ever-changing calendar of seasonal events.

A 1-day studio pass starts at¥8,600.

From Osaka Station, you can take a direct train and be there in just 12 minutes!

japan itinerary 63


On your Japan itinerary, you’ll want to stay 2 days in Osaka, and after visiting Universal Studios on the first day, here are other attractions to see.

Osaka Castle

On the morning of day 5, I definitely recommend checking out Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most recognized monuments.

Built by General Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1583 as a display of power after unifying Japan, the castle grounds cover around 15 acres!

The surrounding park itself is also a famous spot for the Hanami ( Cherry Blossom ) season.

It’s definitely a worthwhile visit on any Japan itinerary! You will get to learn about not only this amazing monument but the incredible history of the region too.

Osaka Castle is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day and admission is 600¥.

japan itinerary 48

Dotonbori & Shinsaibashi

Located just a short 10-minute walk away from B&S Eco Cube , Dotonbori is affectionately known as the “Kitchen of Japan”, or the heart and soul of Osaka – famous for its dining, entertainment, and nightlife.

A trip to Osaka is never complete without visiting Dotonbori!

The food options at Dotonbori are endless. Be it street snacks, fast meals, or exquisite dining, there is always something to satisfy every palate.

Most of the restaurants are open till the wee hours, offering high-quality food that will never disappoint. Make sure to try Takoyaki (grilled octopus), the local specialty!

Shinsaibashi is the largest, oldest, and busiest shopping district in Osaka. Shinsaibashi-Suji is at the center of Shinsaibashi, a covered shopping arcade located north of Dotonbori and connected by the Ebisu bridge under the Glico running man billboard.

osaka 3 1


Osaka has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Osaka to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers, and everyone in between.

See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend in Osaka for your Japan in 7 days itinerary.







For More Options In Osaka, Search On

Day 6: osaka to hiroshima.

On the second last day of your Japan itinerary, the adventure continues from Osaka to Hiroshima.

Sadly, Hiroshima is best known as the location of the world’s first nuclear bombing.

Its most poignant sites are the Genbaku Atomic Dome, Hiroshima Peace Park, and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

I believe visiting Hiroshima and learning about its history should be a core part of anyone’s 7 day trip to Japan.


To get to Hiroshima, you need to first go to Shin-Osaka Station where the bullet train platforms are located, which is a short 3-minute train ride from Osaka Station via the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line.

From Shin-Osaka , you can take a bullet train on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line from Hiroshima Station, which takes 1 hour and 32 minutes on the Sakura , or 2 hours and 13 minutes on the Hikari .


Hiroshima has endless things to do, especially on the historical side, and here are some of the best ones you should see.

Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome is an impressive and somber sight.

Known before the bombing as the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, it was one of the only buildings to survive the explosion and was preserved as a symbol of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Walking around this building can be a little bit eerie, and really makes you reflect on the destruction that war causes and how lucky we are to live in a mostly war-free world!

Tram from Hiroshima Station to Atomic Bomb Dome station, a flat rate of 180¥.

japan itinerary 54

Peace Park & Hiroshima Museum

If you cross the river from the Atomic Bomb Dome, you enter the beautiful Peace Park. The key site here is the Cenotaph, which frames the ‘eternal flame’ of Hiroshima.

It is said that this flame will be burning until all nuclear bombs are eradicated. Unfortunately, I think that this flame is going to be burning for a long time!

The Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Park, and Cenotaph are all free to visit and are simply must-see on your Japan tour itinerary 7 days.

For an entry price of 200¥, you can also visit the newly renovated Hiroshima Museum, which gives a very graphic and tragic historical account of the bombing and its lasting effects on Japan and the world.

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Miyajima Island

To finish off your day in Hiroshima, I recommend a visit to Miyajima Island.

Miyajima’s top attraction is the bright red shrine gate of Itsukushima-jinja which stands out in the sea and appears to be floating at high tide.

This spot is ranked as one of the three best views in Japan.

Trains depart from Hiroshima Station every 15 minutes for the 26-minute ride to Miyajimaguchi (JR Sanyo line), from where it is a 2-minute walk to the ferry bound for Miyajima.

You can ride on the JR Ferry for free with your JR Pass , it will take you 10 minutes to reach Miyajima.

japan itinerary 53


Hiroshima has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Hiroshima to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers, and everyone in between.

See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend in Hiroshima for your Japan in 7 days itinerary.







For More Options In Hiroshima, Search On

Day 7: hiroshima to fuji to tokyo.

The last leg of this 7 day Japan itinerary is a little long but definitely worth it for the chance to see Mt. Fuji at the end!


I highly advise you to wake up quite early on this last day!

From Hiroshima Station, get on the Sakura Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe, and then transfer to the Hikari Shinkansen and ride it all the way to Shin-Yokohama. You will arrive at around 12:40 pm.

From Shin-Yokohama, there are still a few more trains to catch.

First, you take the JR Yokohama Line Rapid until Hachioji, which takes around 40 minutes. From there, take the JR Chuo Special Rapid Service for Takao, which takes around 7 minutes.

Then, a 43-minute ride on the JR Chuo line until Otsuki station, where you can ride the Fuji View Express.

Fortunately, up until here, you can use your JR Pass , but as Fuji View Express is a private rail company, you can only get separate tickets or use your Suica card.

If you have any luggage, I recommend storing it at a locker at Takao station, as this is where you will come back to in order to return to Tokyo.

Locker prices are generally around 500-700¥ for a whole day, depending on if you are storing a backpack or suitcase.

Ride on the Fuji View Express until Shimoyoshida station. If all goes well, you should get in there by around 3:30 pm.

fuji kawaguchiko 4

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Chureito Pagoda

From Shimoyoshida, you have a 20-minute walk up to the Chureito Pagoda.

The Chureito Pagoda, also called the Chastain Tower and officially named the Fujiyoshida Cenotaph Monument, is a shrine located in the Fuji Five Lakes region at Mount Fuji’s northern base.

Chureito Pagoda has five stories; it is situated on a mountainside overlooking Fuji Yoshida City, with Mount Fuji itself visible in the distance.

This is one of the absolute best locations to get a shot of Fuji if she’s not being shy and hiding behind the clouds!

The locals say that the best time to visit for a full view is in the cold months of January and February, as that is when it is least cloudy.

The Chureito Pagoda is free to enter and it’s open 24 hours a day, so you can even stay to watch the sunset over this breathtaking mountain (depending on the time of year!)

I think it’s safe to say that Chureito Pagoda is an incredible sight to witness at the end of your 7 days in Japan.

fuji kawaguchiko 3 e1679346836442


To get back to Tokyo, take the Fuji View Express back to Otsuki, then get on the local line bound for Takao.

From there, you can pick up your bags, and get on a rapid service bound for Shinjuku, which takes around 40-50 minutes.

Alternatively, you can get a bus from Kawaguchiko station (4 stops from Shimoyoshida station on the Fuji View line) directly to Shinjuku.

However, I recommend getting the most out of your last few hours with your JR Rail Pass , and taking the trains!

If you have more time available, why not plan a Japan itinerary 7 days with Disneyland.

tokyo skytree


Where to stay in tokyo.

Tokyo has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Tokyo to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers, and everyone in between.

See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend in Tokyo for your Japan trip itinerary 7 days.




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For More Options, See My Guide On The Best Places To Stay In Tokyo

Things to know before you go.

The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 149 ¥.

There are plenty of ATMs in Japan located in most convenient stores, in front of banks, inside hotels, etc. where you can easily withdraw cash to have with you during your 7 days in Japan.

That being said, you’ll want to get ready for the Japan itinerary 7 days budget and expenses, and getting a Wise card is an excellent option.

Need A Travel Money Card?


Wise offers multi-currency cards that can be used worldwide and you’ll save $ on transaction fees.

Get a Wise card today for FREE!

Most Japanese people can speak English, so if you are ever lost or need help with something you will be able to converse in English.

Also, all the signs at the airports, train stations, and shopping malls are written in both Japanese and English.

Before preparing. an itinerary Japan 7 days, I recommend purchasing an eSIM so you have access to the internet throughout your trip.

Forget plastic SIM Cards… Get an eSIM!

one sim

Say hello to eSIM – a virtual SIM card pre-loaded with mobile data so you can get online and stay connected around the world.

OneSimCard is the best eSIM for travel, with low-cost data packages available in 150+ countries.

Simply buy online, install it on your smartphone, and you’re good to go!


The best time to visit Japan depends on what you plan to do.

I personally prefer the spring and summer months in Japan (April – September) when temperatures are warm and the landscapes are vividly green.

However, visiting Japan in winter (December – March) is absolutely magical because the landscapes are completely covered in glistening white snow.

Visiting Japan in winter also means you have to opportunity to go skiing and snowboarding in Japan’s alpine regions like Hakuba .

Kuroyu Onsen


Japan is visa-free for travelers from over 65 countries, and you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Plenty of time for a sample itinerary for Japan visa 2024.

Click Here to see the full list of nationalities that are eligible for the free 90-day tourist visa. 

You don’t need to apply online for this as you will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at the airport when you arrive.



Click here or on the image below for an interactive map of Japan.

japan map


When planning a 7 days itinerary Japan, here is a list of items I highly recommend bringing with you.

Must-Have Travel Essentials

Hidden money wallet.

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Keep your cash and other valuables safe with this anti-theft hidden money wallet!

Reusable Water Bottle

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The GRAYL GeoPress is the best reusable bottle that allows you to purify water from anywhere!

Travel Backpack

Nomatic 20L Bag

The Nomatic Travel Backpack has 20+ innovative features, perfect for everyday use!

Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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The most compact, lightweight, and quick-dry towel for traveling!

Portable PowerBank

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Keep your phone, laptop, and accessories charged while you’re on the go with the Anker PowerBank!

More Japan Travel Guides


Click the button below to view all articles related to Japan!


After seven eventful days of exploring Japan, this Japan 2024 itinerary by far exceeded my expectations!

With many fun activities to do and attractions to see, Japan is definitely worth adding to your bucket list. I guarantee you won’t regret it!

If you have any questions at all about this Japan 7 day itinerary, please leave me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

For a quicker response, be sure to join Jonny Melon’s Travel Tribe on Facebook and post your questions or recommendations to our awesome community.

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Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip overseas, here are some useful travel resources to help you kick-start your next adventure!


Search and book accommodation worldwide.

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Compare and book cheap flights to anywhere.

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Find tickets, tours, and experiences around the world.

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Book buses, trains, and transfers online in advance.

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Need travel insurance for your next trip?


Hey friend, thanks for reading this guide!

Please know this post may contain affiliate links. When making a purchase through one of my links, I earn a small kickback at no extra cost to you and it’s a big help to keep the site up and running. Rest assured, I only promote products and services that I personally use and recommend.

Click here to find out how you can support the site organically .

Many thanks!


7 Day Japan Itinerary

13 thoughts on “7 Day Japan Itinerary: 2024 Guide For First-Timers”

Love this 7 day itinerary. Planning to visit Japan this August with my husband and two teens. I would love to follow your proposed itinerary but a bit confused where to stay. Is it advisable to stay only in Kyoto in this 7 day itinerary of yours or would you advise as to stay to other accommodation each day?

Thanks and Kind REgards, Joan

Hi Joan, thanks for the positive feedback, glad you found my japan itinerary useful. I have suggested accommodations to stay in each location on this itinerary not just kyoto. you’ll find hotel recommendations in osaka, hiroshima, and tokyo. hope this helps and enjoy your trip!

Hey Jonny! I have two more questions:

1) I’m thinking about cutting out the activities on Day 4 so I can check out Kobe too! If I did this, how would you re-arrange the itinerary so it’s the most convenient for travel? Would you just insert Kobe to Day 4 or insert it the day before Hiroshima since it’s closer via location?

2) Also, would you spend a night in Kobe or just a day trip and sleep back in Osaka since it’s not far?

Much appreciated!

I would suggest stopping into Kobe on the way down to Hiroshima for a day trip, or half-day trip, makes more sense in terms of the location between Osaka and Hiroshima. Otherwise, yes, on day 4 you could skip activities and head to Kobe for the day, perhaps even stay the night, and then head to Hiroshima afterward. I hope that helps in some way!

Thanks again Melon! If you’re ever in South Korea hit me up and I can show you around. Gyeongju is known as the “culture capital”, it’s a beautiful place 🙂

A pleasure! South Korea is high on my list, I may take you up on that offer haha! Much appreciated and let me know if there’s anything else I can assist with for your Japan trip!

Sick! I should be here until March 2023, but who knows maybe I’ll stay for a 4th year too haha. Actually, yes, I did have something else:

1) On Day 3, since I’ll go to Nara, would you recommend staying the night instead of heading back to Kyoto? OR does that make the trip to Osaka the next day more difficult from Nara perhaps? OR is there not much to do in Nara at night maybe? What are your thoughts?

Your itinerary looks amazing it’s a big help! I have a question. I’m living in South Korea. On Day 7, would it be best to go all the way back to Tokyo, or is it easier to fly back to South Korea from Fukuoka? On the map, it looks much closer, and there’s a railway all the way there too. What do you think is best??

Hey Marco, you’re most welcome, glad you found this 7 day Japan itinerary useful! It’s not necessary to go all the way back to Tokyo and you could instead depart from Fukuoka. Hope this helps and enjoy your trip!

Thanks again, it really is helpful to me. Your story sounds epic, you’ll inspire others to travel for sure! I decided to fly in and out of Osaka and cut out Tokyo altogether for simplicity. My friend recommended the Kansai Thru Pass instead of the JR Rail as a budget-friendly alternative since I’ll be in the Kansai region for the majority of the trip. I’ll use a few of your affiliate links too so you can get paid for your efforts 🙂 Respect!

Amazing mate, you’re welcome!! Many thanks for using the aff links, it all helps to keep me going!

Very helpful indeed! Help us a lot with a very detailed itinerary. Kudos!

Do you have the updated it Itinerary for 2023? We will be going this last week of April last week. Very concerned with the pricing & places to stay.

Hey Paul, thanks for reading, and glad you found this japan itinerary useful! This is the most up to date itinerary for this year. Japan is generally an expensive country year-round and April is the high season because of the cherry blossoms season. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with. Enjoy 🙂

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Wapiti Travel

The Perfect 14-Day Japan Travel Itinerary for First Timers

By: Author Kris

Posted on Last updated: April 25, 2023

Are you planning a 14-day trip to Japan? You came to the right place. Japan is a fascinating destination that has much to offer.  But when you have just 2 weeks in Japan you will have to make choices.  

That’s why we compiled this 14 days Japan travel itinerary based on the highlights and the things we loved the most during our Japan itinerary.

We want to inspire you with this 2 week Japan itinerary and hope you will love your Japan trip as much as we did.

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There is a really good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are deeply grateful) at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

Tip: Be sure to become a member of our brand new Japan Travel Planning and Tips Facebook group . The purpose of this group is to help you plan an amazing vacation to Japan. You can ask questions and exchange tips with fellow travelers.

Japan Essentials

We almost always find the best flights to Tokyo and Osaka on Momondo .  It may be worthwhile to compare these with Skyscanner and a new but promising flight aggregator, WayAway .

Don’t lose time upon arrival at the airport and order your Japan travel SIM  or portable WiFi device in advance so that it’s ready and waiting for you at the airport when you arrive.

Find out which JR Pass will save you the most for your trip to Japan.

Check out our ultimate Japan travel blog where you can find many more interesting Japan articles to prepare for your trip.

Need help with your Japan trip planning? Check out this post on how to plan your trip to Japan.

Japan Travel Planner

If this is your first Japan trip, we totally understand if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with your travel planning. There is so much to see and to do and Japan’s train network is excellent but at the same time very different from what most of us know from our home country. That’s why we created our  Japan travel planner . A document that will help you with all the details of your travel plan.  Follow the  link for the full details .

best japan trip itinerary

Our Japan Itinerary For 14 days

Day 1-2: tokyo.

Most international flights will take you to Tokyo so this is where you’re 2 weeks in Japan adventure starts.

  • 5 days in Japan
  • 7 days in Japan
  • 3 weeks in Japan, the perfect itinerary for first-time visitors.

Getting from the Airport to Tokyo

When somebody is referring to Tokyo International Airport they refer to Haneda airport but in reality, Tokyo has 2 international airports: Haneda and Narita airport.

The general rule is that Narita is the airport for low cost carriers while premium connections are grouped at Haneda. But even if you don’t fly low-cost, you have a good chance of arriving at Narita. Narita handles 3 times as many international flights than Haneda. Domestic flights are mostly leaving from Haneda.

In reality you will notice that there isn’t really any logic in how the flights are divided between the 2 airports. Because there are not enough landing slots in Haneda, ANA sometimes has to look to Narita when it adds extra weekly flights to a certain destination. As a result the flight from Washington arrives in Narita on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and on Haneda on the other days of the week.

Which of the 2 airports is best for you as a passenger? Probably Haneda because it is closer to the city. It takes less time to get from the airport to the city and it is also cheaper.

Below is additional information about both airports.

Haneda International Airport

Haneda International Airport  is located 14 kilometers south of Tokyo Station. It is the oldest of the two airports. 

It used to mainly handle domestic flights after Narita airport opened but with the addition of a new international terminal in 2010, it now handles most business routes while Narita focuses more on leisure routes.

The two main ways to reach central Tokyo from Haneda Airport are the Keikyu Line and the Tokyo Monorail. Both require a transfer to the JR Yamanote Line to reach major stations in central Tokyo.

Depending on the location of your hotel and the length of your flight (and the amount of sleep you could get) you might not be looking forward to train and subway rides in your first hours in Tokyo.

After a long flight, a direct transfer from the airport to your hotel will be a lot more comfortable.

You can find more information about a shared transfer here:

Shared Transfer

Private Transfer

Narita Airport

Narita is the smallest of the 2 airports but it is the gateway to Tokyo for many international tourists. 

It lies 60 km east of central Tokyo. Although it is located further from central Tokyo it is also well-connected to the city. Compared to Haneda, you even have more options. 

There are plenty of public transportation options to reach central Tokyo from the airport. You could take the JR Narita Express, the Keisei Skyliner, buses and taxis.  Those who like to make a grand entrance can even choose for a helicopter transfer.

The JR Narita Express

The JR Narita Express , abbreviated as N’EX, is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.  This makes N’EX your best option if you have a JR Pass. 

To use this train with your Japan Rail Pass you need to exchange your voucher for the actual pass at the airport.

Once exchanged you will also need to reserve seats as N’EX is one of the few trains that only has reserved cars.

Japan Rail Pass is it worth it?

The Keisei Skyliner

The Keisei Skyliner is a good alternative to N’EX if you have no Japan Rail Pass. 

The prices, the comfort and the train schedule of both trains are comparable.

The main difference is that N’EX will take you to Tokyo station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro & Yokohama.  The Keisei Skyliner heads to Nippori station and Keisei Ueno (close to Ueno station). 

Both trains offer easy transfer to the JR Yamanote Line, the main loop line in Tokyo.

As with Haneda, you can also book private or shared transfers from Narita to central Tokyo.

Find more information about a shared transfer here: Shared Transfer

or you can opt for a private transfer here: Private Transfer

best japan trip itinerary

Getting Around in Tokyo

If you have a japan rail pass.

If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use this pass on  the JR trains that run on the inner-city network in Tokyo,  a very extensive network that can be compared with a metro network.

If You Don’t have a Japan Rail Pass

If you don’t have a Japan rail pass or you choose to activate your Japan rail pass after your visit to Tokyo, a Tokyo subway pass might be a good alternative. You can buy this pass at tourist information centers, BIC camera shops, and certain hotels.

There’s a  list of selling points on the Tokyo Metro website . Be sure to bring cash as credit or debit cards are usually not accepted.

The pass can also be  bought online  which is even more convenient.

When you buy your pass online you will receive a voucher that you can use to quickly and easily collect your pass at the airport and seconds later you will be on your way to your hotel.  Your pass can be used immediately, so you can use it if you would have to change to the metro en route to your hotel.

Click here to read reviews and buy your Tokyo public transportation pass here: Tokyo Metro Pass

  or read our full article about Tokyo’s public transport.

Things to Do in Tokyo

If you visit Tokyo during the cherry blossom season it may be tempting to spend 2 days visiting the parks. There’re many great parks to see the cherry blossoms. We wrote a separate article about the  best places to see the cherry blossoms .

The parks are great but there’s so much more to see and do in Tokyo…

Out of all the highlights in Tokyo, we visited the busiest intersection in the world at Shibuya as well as the Imperial Palace, Harajuku, Yoyogi Park, the Sensoji temple, the Asakusa district, the neighborhood around the Skytree and much more.  Here you will find our detailed Tokyo 2-5 itinerary.

Organized Tours and recommended activities in Tokyo 

Here are 2 top-recommended activities for when you’re in Tokyo.

We’re not a huge fan of organized tours but in this case it’s the best option. The tour will save time and, moreover, the tour guide will enlighten you about the different sights you visit.

We partnered up with GetYourGuide and Klook for these activities. 

We love GetYourGuide because they’re flexible.  Sometimes your plans change last minute and then you want to be able to cancel your tickets and get your money back.  It’s also good to know that GetYourGuide has your back when the local tour operator doesn’t show up or cancels your trip.

Klook is a trustworthy travel company headquartered in Hong Kong that teams up with local operators to offer all kinds of travel experiences.

We selected 2 excellent tours in Tokyo just for you.

Tokyo Skytree skip the Line Tickets

best japan trip itinerary

The   Tokyo Skytree   is, with a height of 634 meters, the highest building in Japan. It’s also the highest free-standing tower in the world.

The tower houses 2 observation platforms that offer a fantastic view of Tokyo.

They are respectively at a height of 350 and 450 meters and are amongst the highest in Japan.

Here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Tokyo. An absolute Tokyo must-visit when you want to see Tokyo from above.

The lines are often very long so we recommend you to book skip the line tickets.

Read reviews and book: Tokyo Skytree Tickets

If you are looking for a free alternative, you should head to the   Metropolitan Government Building.   This building has 2 towers that each offer a viewing platform at a height of 202 meters. The northern tower stays open until 11 p.m. and ‘Tokyo By Night’ is really spectacular.

Make a Day trip to Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

This is the perfect excursion if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

You will travel by coach to enjoy Mount Fuji lake Ashi, the must-do ropeway to Owakudani Valley, and a visit to Subashiri 5th station.

An amazing tour with lots of activities.

Read reviews and book: Mount Fuji Day Tour

For an overview of more amazing Mount Fuji Tours from Tokyo, check out this post. If you prefer making a private Mt Fuji tour, click here.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

When you only have 2 days in Tokyo we recommend that you stay centrally in Shinjuku. Then you are close to various highlights and thanks to the Shinjuku train station you have quick access to the other parts of the city and the whole of Japan.

  Hilton Tokyo

Hilton Tokyo Shinjuku

The Tokyo Hilton is situated in lively Shinjuku. From the hotel, it’s about a 15-minutes walk to Shinjuku train station. 

You can also make use of the free hotel shuttle which takes hotel guests to the station every 20 minutes. The airport limousine bus has a stop at this hotel.  

There’re multiple restaurants and supermarkets in this area. Last but not least, after a busy day exploring this vibrant city you can relax in the indoor pool or sauna.  

Highly recommended if you are looking for a good hotel in the vicinity of public transport.

Check prices and availability:

  • Where to stay in Tokyo for the first time to learn how the city is structured. We explain what the busy and quieter neighborhoods are and show you which sights are located where.
  • Tired of plain vanilla hotels?  We are too sometimes.  Check-out these Cool hotels in Tokyo !
  • Have a look at the Best Airbnb’s in Tokyo if you prefer a vacation rental over a hotel.
  • Hotel rooms can be small in Tokyo.  If you’re traveling with a group of friends or as a large family you may want to stay in one of these larger Airbnb properties that can host your whole party.
  • Looking for a ryokan with a private onsen in Tokyo, check out this post.

Matsumoto Castle Japan

Day 3: Matsumoto

Best things to do in matsumoto.

The next step in our 14-day Japan itinerary is Matsumoto.

There’re many Samurai Castles scattered across Japan and you should visit at least one during your 14 days in Japan.

We opted for the castle in Matsumoto as it is one of the few remaining original castles.  Most other castles you will see are reconstructions.

Guides are available at the entrance of the Matsumoto castle.  They provide free tours and will share interesting stories about how life used to be in the castle as well as about the different wars that prevailed over Japan.

If you’re short on time you could consider skipping Matsumoto and visit Osaka castle or Hiroshima castle. (both are reconstructions)

All castles are more or less similar so if you only have 14 days there’s not really a reason to visit more than one.

If you have more time, or are fascinated by the rich history of Japan, it’s worthwhile to visit multiple castles. With each visit you learn a little extra about the rich history of the country and the many aspects of these monumental buildings.

Where to Stay in Matsumoto

  hotel kagetsu.

Wearing our Yukata in Hotel Kagetsu in Matsumoto

This hotel more than exceeded our expectations.  Hotel Kagetsu is situated 20 minutes on foot from the train station and really close to Matsumoto Castle and the small but picturesque old town. 

The hotel offers free bicycles to explore the area. 

The hotel also has a good restaurant and you have more dining options within walking distance. 

You get a comfortable and spacious room, certainly by Japanese standards, and your Yukata and slippers will be waiting in your room if you want to use the onsen. 

A great option in this charming city.

Check prices and availability on

Snow Monkey - Jigokudani - Yudanaka - Japan

Day 4-5: Yudanaka

Best things to do in yudanaka.

Yudanaka will surely be one of the highlights of your 14 days Japan itinerary. 

You can visit the snow monkeys and, just like the monkeys, you can also take some time yourself to relax in one of the many local onsens. 

Yudanaka is in the countryside. 

Here you see a different side of Japan, different from the crowds in the mega-cities.

Seeing the monkeys takes about half a day. At least that’s how long we, true animal lovers, spent in the park. The park is not that big, but it was very cute to see the monkey’s doing their thing.

The best time to visit the snow monkeys is, of course, the winter. During other periods it’s best to head to the park very early when it’s not yet too warm. The colder it is, the more likely you will see the monkeys warming themselves in the natural onsen.

The best place to relax in the Onsen yourself is Shibu Onsen. You should head to Shibu onsen in the evening.

After you’ve seen the monkeys it’s time to head to the onsen. The best place to do so is Shibu Onsen. This is a village a few minutes walk from Yudanaka.

In the picturesque car-free high street you will find 9 public onsens that are supplied by the hot springs. You can wander from one bathhouse to another in your Yukata and on your traditional wooden sandals.

The baths are open from 6 AM to 10 PM. You can go exploring the onsen in the afternoon but the experience becomes truly magical after sunset.

The baths are always locked so make sure to ask for the key in your Ryokan.  Only Ryokans in Shibu Onsen will be able to provide you with a key.  If you’re staying somewhere else you can visit the public bath called O-yu which accepts day guests between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Where to stay in Yudanaka

Shimaya ryokan .

Yudanaka Onsen Shimaya - Japan

Shimaya Ryokan is not a hotel that we typically would recommend. To start with it’s not a hotel but a Ryokan which is more like a B&B. 

The rooms are very simple, typical for a Ryokan, and look a bit dated. But the hospitable owners of this Ryokan made up for all of this. 

The owner picked us up at the train station, offered us a ride to the monkey park and back, and gave us tons of tips about all the places we would visit next during our trip.

Sleeping in a traditional ryokan is something you should do at least once when you’re in Japan, so why not do it here with these friendly hospitable owners.

Kanazawa Old Town - Japan

Day 6: Kanazawa

Kanazawa charmed us enormously during our first trip to Japan.  If you ask us, this is one of the hidden gems of the country that gets too little attention. This city is less touristy and that makes a visit so pleasant.

Things to do in Kanazawa

A visit to Kanazawa is not complete without a visit to the Kenrokuen Garden .   The garden is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Japan and it is also one of the best places to see cherry blossoms.

The weather was a bit disappointing during our visit so we couldn’t fully appreciate the park. We certainly thought it was beautiful but not better than what we already saw in Tokyo. Still, we could not get enough of the cherry blossoms.

Right next to the Kenrokuen garden is the reconstructed Kanazawa castle.  Visits are free and can easily be combined with a visit to the Kenrokuen Garden.

Another highlight of a visit to Kanazawa is a stroll through the old Geisha district Higashi Chaya , often just called: “Old Town”.

The old town of Takayama is more often mentioned in tourist guides and blogs but we found the old city of Kanazawa to be much more charming. Besides, it was also a lot less crowded.

In Higashi Chaya, you could take a quiet stroll, look around, and enjoy the beautiful old houses. Unfortunately, this was not possible due to the crowds in Takayama.

To complete the experience you can do this hike with a guide.  A walk through the geisha district in the evening, where you learn more about the mysteries and intrigues of this old neighborhood, concluded with a traditional dinner, is an unforgettable experience.

You should also go and take a look at Nagamachi , the old Samurai district. There’re some really spectacular villas in this district, but Higashi Chaya impressed us more.

Finally, we recommend that you head to Omicho market to still your hunger. The market is open for both lunch and dinner. There are over 180 stalls selling everything from seafood to fresh fruit and vegetables and there are some restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy a full meal.

Here you can find a complete Kanazawa itinerary.

Where to stay in Kanazawa

Holiday inn ana kanazawa sky.

Holiday Inn Kanazawa Sky

The Holiday Inn ANA Kanazawa Sky is centrally located within walking distance of the station and just across the Omicho fish market. 

The Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Garden are just a few minutes walk away. 

You have spectacular views of Kanazawa from the lobby and the restaurant.  We couldn’t have imagined a better hotel in Kanazawa.

Golden Temple KinkakuJi, Kyoto, Japan

Day 7-9: Kyoto

Things to do in kyoto.

Kyoto was once the capital of Kyoto and today one can still see how prosperous this city once was and is up till today. There are thousands of temples and many well-preserved historical buildings. And Kyoto is of course also the place to see Geishas. That brings us to Gion.

Gion is an upscale neighborhood of Kyoto and is the oldest Geisha district of Japan.

A must-do experience in Gion is an evening walk in this charming district. You can do this on your own but we recommend doing it with a local guide. 

During our walk, we learned a lot about this traditional custom and we still have fond memories of our hike. 

It was interesting to learn about the difference in cultures and the icing on the cake was that we did spot some Geishas.

Here you can read the story of our evening walk in the Gion district .

Of course, Kyoto is not just about the Geishas. There are many other sights:

The Inari Shrines where you will find thousands of Torii gates are very touristy but definitely worth a visit. It’s enough to move further away from the entrance, higher up the mountain, to escape the crowds.

The philosopher’s path is known as a place to see the cherry blossoms.  But a walk along the path also pays off outside this season. You come across plenty of temples along the path. Unlike Tokyo where all temples are free, there is an entrance fee for all temples in Kyoto. Most of them are however not that different from temples that you will find elsewhere in Japan.

One temple that is certainly worth visiting in Kyoto is Kinkakuji or the Golden temple.  This is probably the most beautiful temple we saw in Japan. (Kinkakuji is not situated along the philosopher’s path.)

If you have the time you can also make a side trip to Arashiyama , a district on the outskirts of Kyoto that is well-known for its bamboo forests. Expect a big crowd! Fortunately, it immediately becomes a lot quieter as soon as you make your way away from the center.

We discovered some charming quiet spots in Arashiyama. You can go to the park around the Jojakkoji temple from where you have a stunning view. From there, you can walk further north to Saga-Toriimoto Street.

This is a picturesque street lined with preserved, traditional houses. Best of all, we had the street to ourselves while we were wandering through it.

When you reach the end of the street, you will reach the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple, and adjacent you will find a bamboo forest that is just as beautiful as the one close to the center where all the tourists are.

When we just got off the train and ended up in the crowd, we were afraid it would be an unpleasant day because of the bustle.

But in the end, we did have a really enjoyable day as we discovered some pleasant quiet spots in and around Arashiyama. 

The bus tours seem to limit their visit to the Togetsukyo bridge and the nearby Tenryuji temple and bamboo groves.  Other places were not nearly as crowded.

Take a look here for more must-see places in Kyoto  or read our detailed 2-day itinerary here. Here are some fun things to do in Kyoto at night.

Philosopher's Path Kyoto, Japan

Where to Stay in Kyoto

Kyoto is the most touristic city in Japan. You will undoubtedly notice this in the hotel prices.

We were confronted with prices upwards of € 800/night during the cherry blossom season.

Because of these high prices, we started looking at alternatives and we decided to book a stay at the Marriott Lake Biwa. 

This is a nice hotel that is located 20 minutes outside Kyoto by train, but it meant a serious difference to our wallets.

Below we show two options. 1 good hotel in Kyoto and the Marriott as an alternative.

Marriott Lake Biwa

Marriott Lake Biwa Kyoto

This Marriott hotel is located alongside the coast of beautiful Lake Biwa, an ideal setting if you want to escape busy Kyoto at night. 

The hotel offers a free shuttle service to the train station where you can catch the train to Kyoto station.  

The only drawback of this hotel is that you have to take into account the schedule of the shuttle which only runs once every hour.

But considering what you get in return and the price difference in the peak season, this hotel can be a good deal.

Royal Park Hotel Kyoto

The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo

If you have only 3 days in Kyoto it might be better to stay in the center of Kyoto.   

In that case, the Royal Park Hotel Kyoto is an excellent choice.

It is within walking distance of the Gion district, two metro stations, and various temples.

The rooms are neat and the bathroom is fully equipped. You can enjoy a nice breakfast at the bakery next to the hotel.

Check prices and availability on :

  • Here’s an overview of Kyoto’s various districts including some excellent hotels
  • We’ve also handpicked some highly-rated Airbnb’s in Kyoto
  • Kyoto might be the best place to stay in a Ryokan so we also have a great selection of Kyoto Ryokans and Ryokans in Kyoto with a  private onsen.

Hiroshima Piece Memorial, Japan

Day 10-11: Hiroshima and Miyajima

Best things to do in hiroshima and miyajima.

When you are here, don’t miss the peace park in Hiroshima .

There is a special atmosphere in the peace park. You will find an interesting museum about the atomic bomb and touching stories about how the survivors had to rebuild their city and their lives.

It is also worth making a small detour to have a look at the castle.

If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can make free use of the hop-on-hop-off bus operated by JR. When you arrive at the station, just drop in with the tourist office. They have route maps of the buses and can  explain which bus to take and which stop to get off to get to your hotel.

You can get from Hiroshima to Miyajima in about half an hour both by tram or by  JR train. The train is covered by the Japan Rail Pass , the tram is not. Once you arrive at the train station in Miyajima, it is nothing more but a short 5-minute walk to the harbor where you then take the ferry to Miyajima island.

2 ferries go to the island, one of which is operated by JR and also covered by the JR pass.

On Miyajima island or rather just in front you will find the photogenic Torii gate which seems to float on the water during high tide.

The times of high and low tide are signposted at the entrance of the ferry terminal. The Torii gate is the tourist attraction of the island, but also the colorful Daisyoin Temple is worth a visit.

We took the time to wander around this temple and it seemed like we found a hidden gem on this island.

Here you can find our detailed Hiroshima itinerary. 

Where to Stay in Hiroshima

Ana crowne plaza hiroshima.

ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima

The Ana Crowne Plaza is within walking distance of the peace park and near shops and restaurants. The rooms are not too big but clean and fully equipped. The staff also speak good English.

The Glico running man at the Dotonbori canal in Osaka

Day 12-13: Osaka

As soon as you arrive in Osaka you will notice that you are back in a metropolis.   We loved the atmosphere in this city, it’s alive 24/7 and is night and day compared to neighboring Kyoto.

Best Things to do in Osaka

The Namba district is alive day and night but is probably at its best at night. The least you can say about this district is that it is simply spectacular. You can find our complete article on the best things to do in Osaka at night here.

Osaka is also known as the kitchen of Japan. For an overview of the best Osaka food tours, click here.

Or why not attend a cooking class and learn how to prepare this delicious food yourself.

Osaka Castle is a restored castle but that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive.  It’s a popular tourist attraction and a good spot to enjoy the Sakura.

If you’re visiting Osaka during the Sakura season you can walk along the river from the castle to the Kema Sakuranomiya Park, another beautiful park with lots of cherry trees.

Shinsekai is another district that is worth a visit.

You can also make a day trip to Nara . In times long gone this city was the capital of Japan. It still houses a large number of historical temples, impressive landmarks, and national monuments from that day.

In the Todaiji Temple, you will find the largest wooden building in the world, the Daibutsuden (“big Buddha hall”).

As its name says inside the building you will find a gigantic Buddha. Don’t limit yourself to this temple only. Venture up the mountain to “Nigatsu-do” for a breathtaking view.

Children will also love a visit to Nara because of the deer that roam freely in the park and no doubt will come begging for cookies.

You can read our full 2 days Osaka itinerary here. 

Osaka castle

Where to Stay in Osaka

Holiday Inn Osaka Namba

Holiday Inn Osaka Namba

This Holiday Inn is close to Namba station and just a few minutes on foot from the famous Glico bridge, probably the most famous sight in Dotonbori. 

This neighborhood is alive day and night and as a result, the rooms can be somewhat noisy at night. 

The rooms offer all comfort but are rather small.  The biggest asset of this hotel is its superb location.

Holiday Inn

  • Read our detailed “ Best Place to Stay in Osaka ” article to discover the best locations
  • See a selection of recommended Airbnb’s is Osaka
  • Or go for a traditional stay in a Ryokan in Osaka . If you prefer a ryokan in Osaka with a private onsen, click here.
  • For a cheap stay in Osaka, check out our list of cheap capsule hotels in Osaka.

Akihabara, also called Electric City, in Tokyo

Day 14: Tokyo

We end our Japan itinerary back in Tokyo.

If you would end your trip on a Sunday you could head to Akihabara . The main street that runs through the Akihabara district is closed for cars on Sundays.

This makes a visit to Akihabara much more fun. Foresee enough time. Browsing through the shops like Mandarake is what makes a visit to Akihabara worthwhile but you will quickly spend several hours snooping around these stores, looking at all the curiosities.

If you’re looking for something completely different then we recommend a relaxing day in Tokyo DisneySea . Next to Tokyo DisneySea is Tokyo Disneyland but we recommend the first because Disneyland is a sort of replica of all the other Disneyland Parks in the world. And above all, DisneySea won an award for its design.

The park can be busy at times but it is possible to visit the majority of the attractions in one day by using the Fastpass system. 

We visited the park during the “Golden week” and we could do all the major attractions. 

If we can do that during the Golden Week, so can you at any other time of the year. 🙂

We loved the design of the park and there were some great attractions.  It was also fun to see how some Japanese completely dress up in the Disney magic.

Click here to get more information about the Disney tickets:

best japan trip itinerary

Japan Travel Tips

Here we share our best Japan travel tips that will help you plan your Japan itinerary and have an unforgettable tip.

Best Time to Visit Japan

It is difficult to specify one particular season as the best to visit all of Japan.

The best season will depend on the region you’re going, the activities you want to experience, and the things you want to see.

But in general spring and autumn come to mind for a trip through Japan .

There is little rainfall, overall pleasant temperatures, and clear skies.

The stunning cherry blossoms are a real tourist attraction in spring and the vivid hues of the autumn leaves ensure a colorful experience in autumn.

Here is some more information about the different seasons and some specific regions.

Our ultimate Japan travel guide where you can find all our Japan articles.

Spring is an excellent season to visit Japan as early in spring the cherry blossoms (Sakura) will start appearing in Southern Japan.

They start blossoming in the South and gradually make their way Northwards.

It is a natural event so the exact blossoming period is different each year but the Japanese tourist board keeps predictions on its website .

Spring is also the most touristy season.

The Sakura not only draws tourists from all over the world but also Japanese go crazy over this yearly event.

Late April and early May also mark the “Golden Week”, a week with 4 Japanese holidays in which many Japanese take a local trip.

We found it was still OK in terms of crowds but we definitely advise to book your accommodation well upfront because the prices go through the roof.

Over summer the temperatures can rise up to 35 degrees Celsius but it may feel even hotter due to the humidity.

Big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka become uncomfortably hot.

June and July is also the rainy season.

The rainy season ends by the end of July but the days continue to be hot and humid and generally unpleasant if you’re not used to this kind of weather.

“To Travel is to Live”

During August and September, you also have the biggest risk of seeing (part of) your travel plans ruined by a typhoon.

Hokkaido is the only region in Japan that escapes the stifling heat. Here you have mild temperatures all summer long.

During summer Japanese organize a number of popular festivals (called ‘Matsuri’). Each festival is different but they’re all very brisk and impressive.

Japan Matsuri festival

Autumn is another lovely option to discover Japan. Colorful autumn leaves, known as Koyo in Japanese, draw just as many visitors in autumn as the cherry blossoms do during spring.

The best time to view the colorful foliage is subject to weather conditions and, as Japan is surprisingly vast, it also differs greatly between the various regions. 

The Japanese tourist board has an overview of the best times to visit the popular Koyo spots .

It starts to get cooler by the end of September.

October offers pleasant temperatures slightly above 20 degrees Celsius.

November tends to be somewhat cooler but thanks to the clear blue and sunny skies it is still a lovely month to travel.

Winter in Japan is a time for snow sports in Hokkaido but it is low season in most other regions in Japan. 

Temperatures range from cool to cold, there may be some snowfall in and around Tokyo in January and February but the snow usually melts as soon as it falls.

Chureito Pagoda Mt. Fuji Japan

Japan Top Sites

Mt. Fuji, one of the most beautiful natural places in Japan and Japan’s highest mountain, can be best viewed on a clear day from Hakone.  

The cooler months offer the best chance of seeing the volcanic mountain. 

The biggest chance to see the mountain in all its glory is from November to February. March, April, and October also offer reasonably good chances of a complete view but during the other months, your chances are slim.

The season to climb Mt. Fuji is July to mid-September when the mountain is generally snow-free.

The easiest way to see Mount Fuji is with a day tour. Here is a complete overview of the Mount Fuji day trips from Tokyo. 

Looking for a place to stay in Hakone? Check out the following posts:

  • Best Airbnbs and vacation rentals in Hakone.
  • Best ryokan with private onsen in Hakone.

Yudanaka Snow Monkey

Yudanaka Snow Monkeys

The Yudanaka Snow Monkeys are so cute if you can see them bathe in their hot springs.

They take these baths to warm up which means you have to plan your visit during the colder months.

Winter is without any doubt the best season but early spring is still OK as long as you make sure you go early in the day.

We went late March, first thing in the morning, and could still catch a few monkeys in the hot springs.

best japan trip itinerary

Okinawa has a subtropical and humid climate.

Summers are hot and wet with temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius, in the winter months, the day temperature on these islands still reaches a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius.

Often called the Hawaii of Japan this place is popular for snorkeling.

The water temperatures range from about 18 degrees Celsius in winter to 29 degrees during summer.

best japan trip itinerary

Cheap Flights to Japan

If you want to score  cheap flights  to Japan we recommend using  Momondo and  Skyscanner .  

Both are flight aggregators that compare several hundreds of booking sites and give you an overview of the best flights and the cheapest sites to book them. 

Momondo and Skyscanner are both very good at finding good deals, of the two, Momondo is probably the one with the most intuitive user interface.

Read our full review about 10 booking sites here. 

Going Independent or Joining an Organized Tour

We found it easy and straightforward to create our own travel itinerary.

It was also fairly easy to travel through Japan independently. Despite the fact that the Japanese don’t always speak English very well, they are enormously helpful.

But if you want the company of a group, don’t have the time to create your own itinerary, or just don’t want to go independent, you could also join an organized tour.

  Tourradar  is a trustworthy company where you can book an organized tour to Japan to make it easy on yourself. 

Here you can find all organized tours to Japan: Organized Tours Japan

Here’s an overview of Japan package tours . We also made a selection of  5-day tours of Japan and 7 days Japan tours. 

If you prefer a self-guided Japan tour, click here.

best japan trip itinerary

Do I need Travel Insurance for Japan

Travel Insurance is something that can be overlooked when you prepare for your vacation.  Certainly when you’re traveling to a safe and civilized country. 

We didn’t get travel insurance for our first holidays. 

A few years later we both took out new credit cards that came with travel insurance and relied on those.  We know better now…

Overall, chances are slim that you will encounter any problems while traveling through a civilized country such as Japan. But when things go wrong in civilized countries, the medical costs can be high. 

We learned it the hard way when we once had to visit a hospital in the United States. 

The medical care was excellent but we had high out-of-pocket expenses as it turned out the insurance that came without credit cards didn’t cover these costs.  It turned out we were underinsured.

Drawing up a travel insurance policy may seem expensive at first but it can potentially save you a significant sum, significantly more than the small insurance fee. 

Good travel insurance covers things like medical expenses, trip cancellation, overseas medical costs, evacuation, baggage damage or loss, and theft.

Get a free quote:

or read our  in-depth post with everything you need to know about Japan travel insurance. 

What’s the Best Way to Pay in Japan

We took a little bit of cash with us but most things we paid with our credit card.

Expenses abroad can be seriously inflated by fees from your bank or credit card.  That’s why I’m a huge fan of my N26 account. 

The account is available to most EU residents. 

The  checking account  is free as well as the associated Mastercard and there’s no exchange rate provision when you use to card for payments abroad. 

There’s a 1,7% exchange rate provision when you withdraw money abroad but even that is free with  the premium Black Mastercard.  

The app is another great feature of the card, you can follow your expenses in real-time and instantly block your card if you see any signs of fraud.

multi-size SIM

Local SIM card or a Pocket WiFi Device

A local SIM card or   pocket WiFI device comes in handy. We have often used Google Maps to find our way around major cities.

When looking for a Japanese SIM card, there are so many options that you cannot see the forest for the trees, therefore we created this useful article so you can choose the best Japanese SIM card for you . If you prefer a pocket WiFi device, you can read our detailed post about the best WiFI pocket device here .


Luggage Forwarding Service

When you’re traveling by train it’s also a good idea to forward your baggage.  You can read these tips and much more in our separate article about traveling to Japan for the first time .

From May 2020 you need a reserved seat if you travel with large suitcases on the Tokaido-Sanyo-Kyushu Shinkansen.

best japan trip itinerary

Traveling Around Japan

We traveled around Japan by train and could save a few bucks by buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance.

Get more information on the Japan Railpass here: Japan Railpass

Or  read this article in which we describe how you can find out whether you would also benefit from a Japan Rail Pass .

General Japan Travel Tips

Wondering what to wear in Japan? Take a look at our complete Japan packing list. 

If you are looking to buy some souvenirs? These are the best Japanese souvenirs. 

If you have less than 2 weeks to spend in Japan, take a look at this 5 day Japan itinerary  or at this ultimate Japan bucket list  to get inspiration for your trip.

We hope we have inspired you with this 14-day Japan travel itinerary.  Japan has a lot to offer and unfortunately, there’re a number of things we had to omit in this Japan 14 days itinerary but this trip takes you along the highlights and the things we loved most.

Are you ready to discover the best of Japan in 14 days?

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Japan 2 week itinerary

Saturday 10th of August 2019

This is highly detailed post about Japan. I hardly found such a detailed post on Google.

Monday 12th of August 2019

Thanks, we do our best to provide in-depth information.

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Exploring Japan: A 10-Day Itinerary Packed With Fun And Adventure For First-Timers

From rejuvenating onsen baths to slurping delicious ramen, here's the perfect 10-day japan itinerary to ensure you don't miss out on anything.

By: Sharon Alphonso Published: Apr 08, 2024 04:05 PM UTC

Exploring Japan: A 10-Day Itinerary Packed With Fun And Adventure For First-Timers

For many travel enthusiasts, the dream of visiting Japan is almost universal. The island country is renowned for its rich culture, modern architecture, Zen lifestyle, clean streets, safety, efficient public transport, precise craftsmanship, and top-notch hospitality. Not to mention, the food is simply delicious! Did you know that Japan boasts some of the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world? This is because of its fresh, flavourful ingredients and diverse culinary offerings. If you’re planning a trip to Japan soon and need assistance with your itinerary, we’ve got you covered!

From white rocky beaches to scenic hot spring resort towns, explore our guide to the most beautiful places to visit in Japan .

The best time to visit Japan

Japan experiences four seasons, each offering its distinct array of events and activities. While spring and autumn are popular among tourists, summer and winter also have plenty to offer. Here’s what to expect during each season:

Spring (March-May): Cherry blossoms, Japan’s national flower, symbolise the end of winter and the fleeting nature of life. Cherry blossom trees bloom at different times each year, so planning your Japan itinerary around the cherry blossom forecast is advisable.

What to wear: Spring coat, turtle-neck sweaters, comfy sneakers, lightweight sweaters, and fleece pants.

Summer (June-August) : Japan’s summers are usually warm and humid. It’s the perfect time to wear a cotton summer kimono (yukata), indulge in shaved ice dessert (Kakigori), savour cold buckwheat noodles (zaru soba), and attend Japanese food and fireworks (hanabi) festivals.

What to wear : Sleeveless tops, cotton tees, linen pants, sun hats, sports sandals, sheer jackets, shorts, and jeans.

Autumn (September-November) : If you prefer milder temperatures, autumn is the ideal time to visit Japan. The weather is pleasant, and you can witness the stunning fall foliage as leaves change colours to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

From Kyoto To Kashmir, explore our guide to Asia’s diverse fall foliage wonders .

What to wear : Long-sleeved shirts, corduroy jackets, cardigans, fluffy jackets, sweaters, knitwear skirts, sneakers, warm leggings and ankle boots.

Winter (December-early March): Japan transforms into a magical wonderland during winter, thanks to the winter illuminations around Christmas and New Year . These illuminations aren’t limited to major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka; you can also find them in smaller towns across Japan.

Here’s our guide to unlocking a dreamy winter in Japan .

What to wear: Down jackets, warm leggings, fluffy sweaters, knee-high boots, ankle-high outdoor shoes, knee-high socks, earmuffs and cashmere scarves.

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Japan itinerary – arriving in tokyo.

Tokyo has two international airports: Haneda and Narita. Haneda Airport is within the city, while Narita Airport is in Chiba prefecture, further outside Tokyo. Upon arrival, buying a Pasmo or Suica IC Card at the airport is recommended for convenient travel on local trains and buses throughout Japan.

If you arrive at Haneda Airport , accessing taxis, local trains and buses in Tokyo is straightforward. However, since Narita is far from central Tokyo, the quickest way to travel is by train. The Narita Express or Keisei Skyliner will get you to central Tokyo in approximately an hour. If you’re driving or riding a taxi from Narita to Tokyo, expect the journey to take 2-3 hours.

Here’s what your ideal Japan itinerary should look like.

Day 1 – Tokyo

Japan Itinerary

If you arrive early in Tokyo, start your day with a fresh seafood breakfast at the Tsukiji Outer Market. We recommend trying the omelette sandwich (tamagoyaki sando) at Tsukiji Shouro, the jumbo mackerel rice ball (onigiri) at Onigiri-ya Marutoyo, sushi at Sushi Dai, and pork dumplings at Suga Shoten.

Hama-rikyu Gardens is a 20-minute walk from the Tsukiji Outer Market. This beautiful oasis of greenery offers a glimpse into an Edo-period-style zen garden. Remember to visit the Japanese tea shop inside the garden to enjoy matcha tea paired with Japanese sweets (wagashi).

TeamLab Planets is just a 10-minute taxi ride from Hama-rikyu Gardens. It is an interactive digital museum that seamlessly combines elements of nature and technology. Make a booking here .

For your evening entertainment, you have two options. You can take a 15-minute walk to LaLa Port in Toyoso, a popular dining and shopping destination, or head to Odaiba Seaside Park. To reach Odaiba Seaside Park, take the train from Shin-Toyosu Station (near TeamLab Planets) to Odaiba-kaihinkōen Station. From there, it’s a short 5-minute walk. Enjoy stunning views of Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Consider staying at one of the nearby hotels in Odaiba, such as Hotel Hilton , Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba and Hotel Trusty Tokyo Bayside.

Book your stay at Hotel Hilton, Tokyo via

Book your stay at Hotel Hilton, Tokyo via

Day 2 – Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen

Begin your day by taking a train from Tokyo’s Teleport Station in Odaiba to the Shibuya Station. Shibuya’s top attractions include Shibuya Scramble Crossing, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Hachiko Memorial Statue, and Shibuya Sky. Since Shibuya tends to get crowded later in the day, we recommend exploring it in the morning.

Spend your afternoon in Shinjuku (a 25-minute train ride from Shibuya). Stroll around Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the best spots to view cherry blossoms and fall foliage. You grab lunch at Shinjuku Golden Gai, a narrow district with tiny bars and restaurants. Explore our guide to Tokyo’s delicious and healthy vegetarian food options .

From Higashi-Shinjuku Station, take the Oedo Line subway to Asakusa. Visit Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, Sensō-ji, and its surrounding area teeming with traditional craft shops, street food stalls, bars, arcades and shops. These are the best ramen spots in Tokyo . Don’t miss the opportunity to view Tokyo Skytree from the temple. You can also enjoy a good view of Tokyo Tower from Asakusa’s Daimon Subway Line.

Consider staying at APA Hotel in Asakusa for a budget-friendly option, or check into The OneFive Tokyo Hotel Shibuya if you prefer to stay in Shibuya – it’s in the heart of Tokyo and just a 10-minute walk from Shibuya Station. If you are on a strict budget, capsule hotels like The Global Hotel Tokyo in Shinjuku offer modern amenities like free WiFi, 24-hour reception, breakfast and powder rooms.

Here's Why You Should Visit Tokyo During These Months

Here's Why You Should Visit Tokyo During These Months

Best Hotels In Tokyo To Experience Unmatched Luxury

Best Hotels In Tokyo To Experience Unmatched Luxury

Book your stay at The OneFive Tokyo Hotel Shibuya via

Book your stay at The OneFive Tokyo Hotel Shibuya via

Day 3 – Tokyo

Kappabashi Street

Devote an entire day on your Japan itinerary to shopping in Tokyo.

  • From high-end beauty products to designer fashion labels to luxury electronics, Chuo-dori in Ginza and Omotesando are shopping havens.
  • You will find the best deals at Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara and Bic Camera at Shinjuku West Exit for phones, laptops and house gadgets.
  • For manga comics and anime merchandise, Akihabara, Nakano Broadway and Ikebukuro will spoil you for choice.
  • If you love Japanese pottery and kitchenware, bookmark Kappabashi Street.
  • Travel to Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Shin-Okubo for the latest fashion, beauty, and food trends. For Japanese-themed souvenirs, shop at Nakamise-Dori in Asakusa, Tokyo Skytree in Sumida, Loft in Shibuya and Mega Don Quijote in Shibuya.
  • In Ginza, Itoya and Loft offer the best selection of stationery. Daiso Can Do, and Seria are all great 100 Yen stores if you’re looking for more affordable stationery options.
  • If you have free time in the evening, we recommend visiting Tokyo Skytree, Shibuya Sky or Tokyo Tower to get a bird’s-eye view of Tokyo.

Japan itinerary day 4 – Tokyo

Tokyo Disneyland

You must add Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea to your Japan Itinerary. Whether you are a Disney fan or not, these parks offer the most magical experience for visitors of all ages. Tokyo Disneyland is ideal for families with children, while DisneySea caters more to adults. Book your tickets online in advance to avoid long queues at the ticket counter.

Explore our comprehensive guide to things to do in Tokyo in 2024 .

Day 5 – Lake Kawaguchiko

Japan Itinerary

If the weather is sunny, take a day trip from Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchiko via a highway bus to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji . While in Kawaguchiko, visit Oishi Park, Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum and Arakurayama Sengen Park.

For those with a driver’s license, renting a car offers the flexibility to drive up to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji. Ride the Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway for breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. Some of the best hotels in Kawaguchiko with magnificent views of Mt.Fuji include Ubuya , Mizuno and Mt.Fuji Glamping Villa .

Book your stay at Ubuya via

Book your stay at Ubuya via

Japan itinerary day 6 – Kyoto


There is no direct route from Lake Kawaguchiko to Kyoto. The most cost-effective and reliable option is to take a bus from Kawaguchiko Station to Mishima Station, then catch the bullet train (or shinkansen) to Kyoto. The journey from Mishima to Kyoto takes approximately 2 hours.

Add Kyoto to your Japan itinerary for its laid-back ambience, rich Japanese culture, and traditional architecture. Begin your exploration of Kyoto by visiting Kinkaku-ji, one of Kyoto’s most iconic temples, featuring a stunning three-tiered pavilion covered in gold leaf. Take your time exploring serene zen rock gardens like Enkouji, Daitokuji Temple, Ryoanji, and Tofukuji.

Manga lovers must visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum , which boasts an extensive collection of Japanese manga, including a decent selection in English.

Explore The Historical Side Of Japan Through These UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Explore The Historical Side Of Japan Through These UNESCO World Heritage Sites

From Entertaining to Eerie, These Are The Most Unique Cafes In Japan

From Entertaining to Eerie, These Are The Most Unique Cafes In Japan

Day 7 – kyoto.

Fushimi Inari

Wear your most comfortable sneakers as you set off on a day of walking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Fushimi Inari. We recommend visiting the bamboo forest early in the morning (around 7-9 am) to avoid crowds. Take a 45-minute stroll along the 500-metre-long path, surrounded by bamboo stalks. To enhance your experience, you can rent a kimono or book a rickshaw tour . If you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants, food stalls, and cafes around the bamboo forest.

Next up on your Japan itinerary should be Fushimi Inari, located just outside the JR Inari station. Marvel at the long stretch of iconic vermillion torii gates lining the pathway. There’s a shrine at the base of the mountain, and to reach there, you must walk through the 1,000 torii gates. It takes two hours to reach the top. Don’t worry, as there are shrines and stalls along the way where you can take a break.

After a day of exploring, treat your feet to relaxation at Arashiyu Foot Massage & Spa , where you can experience Japanese hospitality and culture at its finest along with foot massages and refreshments.

For an early dinner, you can either dine at Gion’s main Hanamikoji Street or sample local delicacies at Kyoto’s 400-year-old Nishiki Market.

Here’s our explainer on Japanese Onsens and essential etiquette tips before visiting one .

Most hotels in Kyoto offer spacious and aesthetically pleasing accommodations. Consider staying at Six Senses Kyoto for a boutique hotel experience with wooden and neutral interiors, or opt for Kyoto Nanzen-ji Garden for traditional Japanese accommodations with rooms overlooking a serene Japanese garden. Budget-conscious travellers can find comfortable accommodations at Kyoto Hana Hostel , conveniently located just a 5-minute walk from Kyoto Station.

Book your stay at Nanzen-ji Garden, Kyoto via

Book your stay at Nanzen-ji Garden, Kyoto via

A T+L Guide On Where to Dine in Kyoto, Japan

A T+L Guide On Where to Dine in Kyoto, Japan

Top Ten Best Things To Do In Kyoto

Top Ten Best Things To Do In Kyoto

Japan itinerary day 8 – nara.

Japan Itinerary

From Kyoto Station, hop on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line Express to Nara. The journey takes less than an hour, with fares priced at under JPY 1,000. Nara, once the capital of Japan, is home to famous heritage sites like the Kasugataisha Shrine, Kohfukuji Temple, and Todaiji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Nara Park, where over 1,000 wild deer roam freely. Visitors can feed them special biscuits (shika senbei) and capture memorable photos with these friendly creatures.

Nearby, Sanjo-dori offers a shopping experience filled with traditional crafts, sweets, Japanese tableware, and souvenirs. Consider booking accommodations near Nara Park for convenience, with options including Iroha Grand Hotel Kintetsu Nara Ekimae , Hotel Tempyo Nara Machi, and Nara Park Hotel .

Book your stay at Nara Park Hotel via

Book your stay at Nara Park Hotel via

Day 9 – Osaka


Catch a rapid express on the Kintetsu Nara Line from Nara Station to Osaka . Begin your day exploring Osaka’s iconic landmarks, including Osaka Castle and its museum, which offer panoramic views of the city from the observation platform.

Next, head to Dotonburi, Osaka’s bustling shopping and food district. Indulge in local delicacies such as ramen at Ichiran, crab dishes at Kani Doraku, tempura at Dotonburi Imai Honten, and Japanese pancakes (okonomiyaki) at Mizuno. Dotonburi is also adjacent to the vibrant Namba District, popular for its shopping opportunities.

Wrap up your day by checking into one of the hotels near Dotonburi, such as Shinsaibashi Grand Hotel , Hotel Nikko Osaka or Namba Oriental Hotel.

Book your stay at Hotel Nikko Osaka via

Book your stay at Hotel Nikko Osaka via

Day 10 – Osaka

Japan Itinerary

You have two options for Day 10: visit Universal Studios Japan or the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Both attractions offer memorable experiences but require a significant portion of your day. If you’re seeking thrilling entertainment, head to Universal Studios Japan, where you can explore popular themed areas like Super Nintendo World Japan and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Make your booking here .

Alternatively, enjoy a more relaxing day at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in Minato Ward. As one of the world’s largest public aquariums, it boasts a mesmerising display of marine life, including a rare whale shark. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the sea creatures during their feeding times for an unforgettable experience.

Day 11 – Sayonara, Japan!

It’s now time to say goodbye to Japan! Catch a flight home from either the Kansai International Airport or Itami Airport. Arrive early at the airport for some last-minute shopping or enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants, convenience stores , or cafes at the airport before departure.

Shop the best travel experiences here.

Tips for travelling in Japan

Here are some essential tips to enhance your travel experience in Japan:

  • In case of losing important items like your phone, wallet, or passport, file a lost property report at the nearest police station (Koban).
  • Emergency numbers in Japan are 110 for the police and 119 for ambulance and fire services.
  • Respect the local customs and etiquette, such as speaking softly on public transport like trains and buses. From Pikachu to Thomas The Tank Engine, explore our guide to unique trains in Japan .
  • If you come across an abandoned item on the street or restaurant, refrain from picking it up as the owner may return to the location to retrieve it.
  • Use our guide to mastering basic Japanese phrases , which can significantly aid in communication and help you get around Japan comfortably, as English is not widely spoken here. You can also rely on Google Translate for help.
  • Utilise Google Maps for navigation and access to transportation routes and schedules.
  • Tipping is not customary in Japan; simply pay the amount stated on your bill.
  • Familiarise yourself with using chopsticks, as not all restaurants provide forks and spoons.
  • Check the weather forecast regularly, as Japan’s weather can be unpredictable.
  • Always seek permission when taking photos or videos, as some establishments may not permit it.

(Feature Image Credit: richardernestyap/Shutterstock)

Related:  This 9-Day Walking Tour In Japan Takes You To One Of The Most Scenic Trails In The World

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

-How many days should I spend in Japan? A duration of ten days to three weeks is recommended for first-time visitors. Spend two to four days in major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sapporo, or Nagoya. As you become more familiar with the country, you can explore more niche areas of Japan.

-What should I pack for my trip to Japan? Essential items to pack include comfortable sneakers, cash (as many local establishments do not accept cards), a Type A electric plug adapter, a portable WiFi device ( buy it here ), a Japan Rail Pass (if applicable, book yours here ), and any necessary medication. Note that over-the-counter medicine may require a doctor’s prescription in Japan.

-How do I get around Japan? Japan boasts an efficient transportation system, including buses, local trains, and cycling within cities. To travel between cities, options include driving, domestic flights, or riding the bullet train (shinkansen).

-Do I need a visa to visit Japan? Visa requirements vary depending on your country of citizenship or residency status. Citizens from these countries may enter Japan visa-free .

-What are some adventure activities to do in Japan? Japan offers a wide range of adventure activities, including hiking, skiing, snowboarding, trekking, kayaking, mountain climbing, rock climbing, camping, glamping, caving, and scuba diving.

-Where can I find the best dining options in Japan? Tokyo offers diverse culinary experiences from around the world, while Kyoto and Osaka are renowned for their local and traditional Japanese cuisine. Okinawa Island also boasts a unique cuisine distinct from mainland Japan.

-What activities are available in Japan besides sightseeing? In addition to outdoor adventures, you can participate in workshops on Japanese pottery, calligraphy, traditional sweets making, kimono painting (yuzen), and flower arranging (ikebana). Experience traditional Japanese culture through activities like tea ceremonies, sake tasting, Sumo wrestling tournaments, or visits to hot springs (onsen).

Customise this Japan itinerary to suit your preferences and pace, and approach your journey with an open mind to create lasting memories in this captivating country!

  • japan guide
  • japan itinerary
  • japan travel

Sharon Alphonso

Sharon Alphonso

Sharon is from Mumbai and currently lives in Tokyo with her Japanese husband. Before moving to Japan, she worked with POPxo, Grazia and MTV India. She now writes for several English magazines in Japan, including Savvy Tokyo, Tokyo Weekender, and GoConnect Japan. Her favourite way to unwind is to listen to lo-fi music while reading a book and sipping .. Read More on a matcha latte. Read Less

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  • Destinations

Ultimate 16-DAY JAPAN ITINERARY for Marvelous Culture, History, and Nature

This site uses affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Japan is a country that offers a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern innovation. From bustling cities to serene countryside, Japan has something to offer for every kind of traveler.

With a 16-day Japan itinerary , you will have enough time to experience the country’s rich culture, fascinating history, and breathtaking natural scenery.

In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through Japan and provide you with a detailed itinerary that covers some of the country’s most iconic destinations including Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Nara, Kanazawa, and Osaka.

So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in Japan!

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  • 1. Map of 16-Day Japan Itinerary
  • 2. DAY 1 - TOKYO
  • 3. DAY 2 - TOKYO
  • 4. DAY 3 - TOKYO
  • 7. DAY 6 - KYOTO
  • 8. DAY 7 - KYOTO
  • 9. DAY 8 - KYOTO
  • 10. DAY 9 - KYOTO
  • 14. DAY 13 - OSAKA
  • 15. DAY 14 - OSAKA
  • 17. DAY 16 - DEPARTURE
  • 18. Intrepid Scout's Tips for 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Map of 16-Day Japan Itinerary


  • Arrival in Tokyo
  • Stay in Ginza: Settle into Your Accommodations
  • Explore Ginza: 

 1. Check Out the Shopping and Dining Scene

  • Get a Good Nights Rest

Arrival In Tokyo and How to Get Around in Tokyo

Day 1 marks the beginning of your adventure in Japan!

You’ll be arriving in Tokyo , the vibrant capital city that’s known for its futuristic skyscrapers, traditional temples, and bustling streets.

Tokyo is a city of contrasts, where you can see ancient shrines alongside modern high-rises, and traditional festivals alongside high-tech gadgets. It’s a city that never sleeps, where there’s always something new to see and experience.

On your first day in Tokyo, my recommendation is to settle into your accommodation, explore the neighborhood around your hotel, and sample some of the city’s delicious cuisine.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Tokyo Station / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Before we dive in, here are a few tips on how to get around in Tokyo :

Tokyo has an extensive and efficient public transportation system that makes it easy to get around the city. Here are some common methods of transportation for navigating Tokyo:

  • The Tokyo Metro and subway  are a convenient and efficient way to travel within the city, with multiple lines covering different areas. Make sure to get rechargeable IC cards such as Suica or Pasmo, which offer discounted fares and can be used on multiple transportation systems.

Tokyo Metro

Tokyo Metro / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Japan Railways (JR)  operates several lines in Tokyo, including the Yamanote Line, which is a loop line that circles central Tokyo and connects major neighborhoods.
  • Buses  are another option for getting around Tokyo, although they are not as easy to use as Tokyo Metro and subway, as well as JR.
  • Taxis  are widely available in Tokyo, but they can be more expensive compared to other forms of public transportation.

Tokyo Taxis

Tokyo Taxis / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Walking  is a great way to explore Tokyo’s neighborhoods like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Asakusa.
  • Intrepid Scout’s Tip:

Make sure to buy  JR Pass  before going to Japan. It is a  huge cost-saving tool . It allows unlimited use of most JR trains, including the Shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express trains, and local trains, for a set period of time (7, 14, or 21 days).

The JR Pass also includes some  additional benefits , such as free seat reservations on most trains, which can be especially useful during peak travel times, and access to some JR buses and ferries. It also covers the Tokyo Monorail to/from Haneda Airport and the Narita Express to/from Narita Airport, which can be convenient for travelers arriving or departing from these airports.

Settle into Your Accommodations (Best Places to Stay in Tokyo)

My first choice is to always stay in  Ginza . I like the fact that Ginza is located in the heart of Tokyo, making it easy to access other parts of the city via public transportation. It’s also a walkable area, with many of the shopping and dining destinations within walking distance of each other.

  There are several hotels that I stayed at and really enjoyed. Check them out and see which one you like the best:

Muji Hotel Ginza  – this is my first choice. The rooms are elegantly designed like all Muji products. The location is perfect near the JR Yamanote line. The in-room extras, all Muji branded, are great, with everything from the slippers to bags of Japanese sweets yours to take with you. The breakfast is lovely with healthy and high-quality food options.

Muji Hotel in Ginza

Muji Hotel Ginza / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

AC Hotel by Marriott Tokyo Ginza  – it is a beautiful, modern, and well-maintained hotel right in the heart of Ginza. The rooms are a good size, which is unusual for Tokyo, nicely designed, and super clean.

Agora Tokyo Ginza  – stylish and elegant hotel. The location is great close to train stations. Rooms are on the smaller side, however, they are very comfortable and clean. You will love the bathroom which is beautifully designed and huge in size.

After you check in to your hotel and maybe take a little nap to recover after a long flight, let’s explore Ginza’s lively atmosphere.

Explore Ginza: Checkout out the Shopping and Dining Scene

Ginza, located in the heart of Tokyo, is one of the city’s most popular shopping districts, with high-end boutiques, department stores, and luxury brand shops. It’s also home to some of the best restaurants and cafes in Tokyo, where you can sample delicious Japanese cuisine, from sushi and ramen to tempura and soba noodles.

Some of the must-visit shopping destinations in Ginza include the iconic Mitsukoshi Department Store , the luxury brand shops on Chuo-dori Street , and the Ginza Six shopping complex . For a more local shopping experience, visit the Kabukiza Theatre , which has a small shopping mall with traditional Japanese handicrafts.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Ginza / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

When it comes to dining , Ginza has an abundance of options to choose from. Some popular restaurants include Kyubey for sushi, Ten-Ichi for tempura, and Ginza Kagari for ramen. For dessert , try the famous Japanese-style pancakes at Gram Cafe or indulge in some sweet treats at the Pierre Herme Paris boutique.

And to cap off your day in Ginza, head to IPPUDO for dinner . This famous ramen chain was founded in Fukuoka in 1985 and has since become one of the most popular ramen chains in Japan and beyond.

Their thin, yet firm, straight noodles are heavenly . They retain their bite even after being soaked in broth for some time. And, the broth is creamy yet not too heavy. If you are still hungry, then order Hakata Gyoza . They are crunchy, bite-size, crispy outside, and juicy inside, with the most delicious filling. Check out my post for location and more menu options.

Ippudo in Ginza

Ippudo in Ginza / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Intrepid’s Tip:

Read: BEST RAMEN in GINZA – Slurp-tastic Ramen at IPPUDO


  • Explore Tokyo

1. Shibuya Scramble and Hachiko Memorial Statue

2. Takeshita Street in Harajuku

3. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

4. Kabukicho District in Shinjuku

Experience Shibuya's Iconic Scramble Crossing and Say Hi to Hachiko

Shibuya Scramble Crossing is one of Tokyo’s most iconic and well-known spots!

The crossing is located just outside Shibuya Station , which is one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations and a hub for transportation to many parts of the city.

The crossing itself is a mesmerizing spectacle, with thousands of people crossing from all directions when the traffic lights turn red.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

The sheer number of people can be overwhelming, but it’s also an incredible sight to see. Many visitors come to Shibuya Scramble Crossing just to take photos or to watch the crowds from one of the nearby cafes or observation decks.

Some of the best spots to see the Shibuya Scramble Crossing are:

  • Starbucks Shibuya Tsutaya – Located on the second floor of the Tsutaya building, this Starbucks offers a bird’s eye view of the crossing from its floor-to-ceiling windows. It can get crowded, but it’s worth it for the view.
  • Shibuya Crossing Observation Deck – This recently opened observation deck is located on the 17th floor of the Magnet by Shibuya 109 building and offers panoramic views of Shibuya, including the famous crossing.
  • Shibuya Hikarie – This shopping and dining complex has a rooftop garden that offers great views of the city, including Shibuya Scramble Crossing.

Right next to Shibuya Station and near the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing is Hachiko Memorial Statue .

It is a beloved landmark in Tokyo and a symbol of loyalty and devotion . The statue is dedicated to a faithful Akita dog named Hachiko.

A Quick Read: 

In the 1920s, Hachiko would greet his owner at Shibuya Station every day when he returned from work. Even after his owner passed away, Hachiko continued to come to the station every day at the same time, waiting for his owner’s return.

The story of Hachiko’s unwavering loyalty touched the hearts of many, and a statue was erected in his honor in 1934.

Today, the Hachiko Memorial Statue is a popular meeting spot and a must-see attraction for visitors to Tokyo. The statue is especially popular with animal lovers and those who appreciate the story of Hachiko’s loyalty and devotion.

Hachiko Statue

Hachiko Statue in Shibuya / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

In addition to the crossing and Hachiko’s statue, Shibuya is also a great neighborhood to explore. It’s known for its shopping and dining scene , with many department stores, boutiques, and restaurants to choose from. You can find everything from high-end luxury brands to trendy fashion shops to unique souvenir shops.

Shibuya Center-Gai

Shibuya Center-Gai / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Some of the most popular shopping destinations in Shibuya include Shibuya 109 , a landmark building known for its trendy fashion shops, and Shibuya Center-Gai , a pedestrian shopping street lined with cafes and specialty stores.

Find Out More About Shibuya: WHAT to Do in SHIBUYA (11 Things to Explore in the Vibrant Heart of Tokyo!)

Explore Takeshita Street: A Colorful and Quirky Shopping Destination in Harajuku

Next, head to Takeshita Street in Harajuku District .

Takeshita Street is a vibrant and bustling pedestrian street. It is one of the most popular shopping destinations for Japanese youth and tourists alike.

The street is lined with trendy boutiques, quirky shops, and fashionable cafes, making it a hub for the latest fashion and pop culture trends .

In addition to shopping, Takeshita Street is also known for its mouth-watering street food . The street is home to many vendors selling delicious snacks, such as crepes, cotton candy, and ice cream.

Takeshita Street

Takeshita Street in Harajuku / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here are some places that you need to check out on Takeshita Street:

  • Kawaii Monster Cafe – It’s a colorful and quirky cafe that offers a unique dining experience with its colorful and whimsical decor, themed food and drinks that are Instagram-worthy, and performances by waitstaff dressed in colorful costumes.
  • Daiso Harajuku – Daiso is a popular chain of 100-yen stores in Japan, and this location on Takeshita Street is the largest in Tokyo. Here, you can find a wide variety of cute and quirky items, from stationery to beauty products to household goods.
  • Totti Candy Factory – This candy shop is famous for its giant rainbow cotton candy. It’s the perfect treat for anyone with a sweet tooth and makes for a great photo opportunity as well.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Totti Candy Company on Takeshita Street in Harajuku / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Kiddy Land – It’s a well-known toy store that features a wide variety of toys and collectibles, including many items featuring popular Japanese characters like Hello Kitty, Pikachu, and Gudetama. Kiddy Land. The store is spread over five floors, each with its own theme and selection of toys, making it a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Tokyo.
  • Marion Crepes – This small shop is famous for its crepes, which are made fresh to order and come in a variety of flavors. It’s the perfect snack to enjoy while exploring Takeshita Street.

Crepes on Takeshita Street

Crepes on Takeshita Street in Harajuku / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Read: Easy DIY Shibuya and Harajuku Walking Tour (11 Best Stops+Maps+Tips)

Catch Awe-Inspiring Views from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck

Now, let’s go to the Tokyo Government Building Observation Deck for sweeping views of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a towering skyscraper in Shinjuku that serves as the administrative center for the city government.

What makes this building particularly popular among visitors is its observation deck , which is located on the 45th floor and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

View from Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo

View from Metropolitan Government Building in Tokyo / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

From the deck, you will be able to see famous Tokyo landmarks like Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Skytree, and maybe Mount Fuji on a clear day.

The observation deck is free to enter !

In addition to the observation deck, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building also houses several exhibition halls that showcase the city’s culture and history.

Check Out Kabukicho: Tokyo's Thrilling Entertainment District with a Vibrant Nightlife

Kabukicho is a lively neighborhood located in the heart of Shinjuku. It is one of the largest entertainment districts in Japan and is known for its bustling nightlife and entertainment venues.

The neighborhood gets its name from a planned but never-completed kabuki theater that was originally intended to be built in the area.

One of the main draws of Kabukicho is its nightlife scene, which includes everything from bars and nightclubs to karaoke and game centers. The area is especially popular with younger crowds, but there are also plenty of venues that cater to older or more laid-back crowds.


Kabuchiko in Shinjuku / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Some of the most popular spots in Kabukicho include:

  • Robot Restaurant – It is a futuristic-themed show with robots and dancers
  • Shinjuku Golden Gai – A small but vibrant area with narrow alleyways lined with tiny bars and restaurants.
  • Several department stores and shopping malls in the area, including the massive Isetan Shinjuku and Takashimaya Times Square .
  • Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) – This narrow alleyway is located just a few steps away from Kabukicho and offers a glimpse into old Tokyo. Lined with small bars and restaurants, it’s a great place to grab a drink or a bite to eat while taking in the atmosphere.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Godzilla Head – Standing tall above the Toho Cinema in Kabukicho is a life-sized statue of Godzilla’s head. It’s a popular spot for photos and is especially impressive when lit up at night.
  • Samurai Museum – Located just a short walk from Kabukicho, the Samurai Museum is a fascinating attraction that showcases the history and culture of samurai warriors. You can learn about the weapons and armor used by samurai, watch live demonstrations, and even dress up in period costumes for photos.
  • Don Quijote – This popular discount store chain has a location in Kabukicho and is a great place to shop for souvenirs, cosmetics, and other items at bargain prices.

This concludes your second day of exploring Tokyo. It is time to grab something to eat and head back to your hotel and get a good night’s sleep.

If you are staying in Ginza, then I have several recommendations for some great places to try some Japanese delicacies:

  • Sushi Tokami – This Michelin-starred sushi restaurant is located in the basement of the Seiwa Silver building in Ginza, not far from Shimbashi station and it is known for its exquisite sushi and sashimi dishes. The restaurant has a traditional Japanese atmosphere and a counter-style seating arrangement that will allow you to watch the chef prepare the meals.
  • Kyubey – Another Michelin-starred sushi restaurant, Kyubey has been serving sushi in Ginza since 1935. The restaurant is famous for its high-quality ingredients and skilled chefs, and diners can choose from a variety of sushi and sashimi options.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Kyubey in Ginza / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Ginza Kagari Honten – This cozy ramen shop is famous for its rich and flavorful broth, made with chicken and seafood. The restaurant only has a few seats, so be prepared to wait in line, but the delicious ramen is well worth it.
  • Butagumi – If you’re a fan of pork, Butagumi is the place to go in Ginza. This restaurant specializes in tonkatsu, or breaded and fried pork cutlets, and offers a variety of different cuts and preparations.


1. Toyosu Fish Market

2. Imperial Palace

3. Akihabara

4. Sensoji Temple

Explore the Vibrant Toyosu Fish Market and Watch Tuna Auction

Start your day early at Toyosu Fish Market . It is one of the most famous and popular fish markets in the world. It’s located in the Toyosu area of Tokyo, and it replaced the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in 2018.

The market is a massive complex that covers more than 40 hectares and includes separate areas for auctions, wholesale sales, and retail sales.

You can watch the famous tuna auctions in action, where auctioneers and buyers inspect and bid on the tuna that are sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

Toyasu Market in Tokyo

In addition to the auctions, there are also many shops and restaurants in the market that sell fresh seafood and other culinary delights. Some of the must-try foods at Toyosu Fish Market include sushi, sashimi, grilled seafood, and the famous Japanese omelet known as tamagoyaki.

To watch the tuna auction at Toyosu Fish Market, you will need to participate in a lottery system . Here is how it works:

  • The lottery is held daily at the Visitors’ Center.
  • There are 120 available spots to watch the auction.
  • The tuna auction takes place early in the morning , typically between 5:30 and 6:30 am, so you need to arrive at least at 4:30 am to register and enter the lottery. The Visitors’ Center opens at 5:00 am, the line starts forming at about 4 am. So, arrive early to increase their chances of winning.
  • Once the Visitor’s Center opens, fill out a registration form with your name, nationality, and number of people in your group.
  • Submit the form to the staff at the Visitors’ Center and wait for the lottery to begin.
  • Winners of the lottery are given a colored vest and are escorted to the observation deck to watch the auction.
  • Flash photograph y is not allowed.
  • Visitors who are not selected in the lottery can still explore the rest of the market and enjoy fresh seafood and other culinary delights.

Discover the Rich History and Serene Beauty of the Imperial Palace

Next on the 16-day Japan itinerary is the Imperial Palace in Tokyo .

Imperial Palace in Tokyo is the residence of the Emperor of Japan . While the palace itself is closed to the public, there are still plenty of attractions to see in the surrounding gardens and parks.

Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Imperial Palace in Tokyo at Sunset  / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • One of the main attractions is the East Gardens , which is a spacious park with well-manicured lawns, cherry blossom trees, and various traditional Japanese structures.
  • One interesting feature of the Imperial Palace East Gardens is the Fujimi Yagura , which is a three-story watchtower that was originally built in the 17th century. You can climb to the top of the tower to get a panoramic view of the surrounding gardens and the city skyline.
  • Another must-see spot is the Nijubashi Bridge , which is one of the most iconic landmarks of the Imperial Palace. This historic bridge is located in front of the main entrance to the Imperial Palace.

The bridge dates back to the Edo period when it was originally built to span the palace moat and provide a grand entrance to the palace grounds. The bridge is made up of two arches and is adorned with intricate carvings and decorations, including mythical beasts and cherry blossom motifs.

Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Nijubashi Bridge at Imperial Palace in Tokyo at Sunset  / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • In addition, the Imperial Palace also has an Imperial Palace East Garden Museum , which displays various artifacts and historical objects related to the palace and the Japanese imperial family. The museum has a range of exhibitions, including paintings, ceramics, and calligraphy, which provide insight into the history and culture of Japan.
  • Another must-see sight is Kikyo-mon Gate . It is one of the main gates of the Imperial Palace and is located on the east side of the palace grounds. The gate was originally built in the 17th century and underwent several renovations over the years. The current gate is a reconstruction that was completed in the 1960s using traditional Japanese techniques and materials. The gate is notable for its distinctive curved roof and impressive wooden carvings, which depict chrysanthemum and paulownia motifs, the imperial emblems of Japan.
  • Otemon Gate is another major gate of the Imperial Palace, located on the southern side of the palace grounds. It was originally built in the 17th century but was destroyed in a fire and subsequently reconstructed in the 1880s. The gate is an impressive structure, featuring a massive wooden roof and intricate carvings on its wooden doors.

You should take part in a guided tour of the palace grounds , which provides a detailed overview of the history and architecture of the palace. The tour includes visits to the Seimon Ishibashi Bridge, the Kikyo-mon Gate, and the Otemon Gate: Private Tour – History, Art, and Nature at the Imperial Palace .

Akihabara: Explore Tokyo's Electric Town and Otaku Culture Hub

Akihabara , also known as “Akiba,” is a vibrant and colorful district in Tokyo that has become synonymous with otaku culture . The area is a hub for anime, manga, video games, and other fandoms, and it attracts visitors from all over the world who are passionate about these topics.

Here are some things to do and see in Akihabara:

  • Electronics shopping: Akihabara is known for its huge variety of electronic shops, selling everything from cameras and smartphones to computer parts and gaming consoles. Some of the most popular electronics stores include Yodobashi Camera , Bic Camera , and Sofmap .


Akihabara in Tokyo / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Anime and manga: Akihabara is also famous for its anime and manga culture. There are many anime shops and maid cafes in the area, including the famous Akihabara Radio Kaikan building , which has multiple floors dedicated to anime and manga merchandise.
  • Gaming: Akihabara is a popular destination for gamers, with many arcades and gaming centers in the area. The SEGA Akihabara Building is a must-visit for gaming enthusiasts, with multiple floors dedicated to various types of games.


  • Cafes and restaurants: Akihabara is home to many themed cafes, such as maid cafes and anime-themed cafes.  Maid cafes are a unique and popular feature of Japanese pop culture, especially in Akihabara. These cafes are staffed by young women dressed in maid costumes who serve customers and engage in playful conversation and activities.

In maid cafes, customers are treated as “masters” and are served by the maids with a high level of attention and hospitality. The atmosphere is usually very cute and cheerful, with the maids speaking in a polite and playful manner. Some cafes also offer special services like photo opportunities with the maids, games, and karaoke.

There are many maid cafes in Akihabara, and popularity can vary depending on a number of factors such as theme, atmosphere, and services offered. Some of the most popular maid cafes in Akihabara include:

Maidreamin is one of the most well-known and popular maid cafes in Akihabara, with multiple locations in the area. The cafe has a colorful and energetic atmosphere, with maids who perform songs and dances for customers.

@Home Cafe is another popular maid cafe in Akihabara that offers a more laid-back and relaxing atmosphere. The cafe has a menu of food and drinks, as well as games and photo opportunities with the maids.

In my opinion, the best way to experience Akihara is to take a guided tour.

I attended Akihabara Anime and Gaming Adventure Walking Tour and it was great. You will get explanations about Japanese culture that you would not get if exploring the area alone, and experience all the “must do” activities in Akihabara, such as visiting a retro video game store, a maid cafe, a photo booth, and much more.

Discover the Rich History and Spiritual Beauty of Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple is one of the most popular and oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo, located in the Asakusa district.

The temple was founded in the 7th century and is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, the goddess of mercy.

Legend has it that in the year 628, two brothers found a small statue of Kannon in the Sumida River while fishing. They recognized the statue as a sacred symbol and brought it to their village, where they built a small temple to honor the goddess. Over time, the temple grew and became known as Sensoji Temple

Here is what not to miss at the temple:

  • The main entrance to the temple is through the Kaminarimon Gate , which features a large red lantern and two fierce-looking statues of gods.

Sensoji Temple

Kaminarimon Gate at Sensoji Temple / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • The famous street leading to Sensoji Temple is called Nakamise-dori , a bustling shopping street that stretches about 250 meters from the Kaminarimon Gate to the temple grounds.

The street is lined with more than 50 shops and stalls selling traditional souvenirs, snacks, and sweets, providing visitors with a glimpse into Tokyo’s rich history and culture.

Nakamise-dori has a long history dating back to the 17th century when the street was established as a shopping district for pilgrims visiting the temple.

Today, the street remains a popular shopping destination for both locals and tourists, offering a wide variety of items, including Japanese snacks such as senbei (rice crackers), manju (sweet buns), and ningyo-yaki (small cakes shaped like dolls).

The street is also decorated with traditional Japanese lanterns and seasonal decorations, making it a picturesque location for taking photographs.

  • The main hall of Sensoji Temple is a beautiful five-story pagoda , which offers panoramic views of Tokyo from the top.

Sensoji Temple

5-Story Pagoda at Sensoji Temple / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • In front of the main hall of the temple, you will find a large incense burner . The smoke from the burning incense is said to have healing powers, and visitors often waft the smoke over their heads and bodies to purify themselves before entering the temple.
  • Make sure to explore the temple’s underground treasure hall , which houses a collection of valuable Buddhist artifacts and artwork.

Here are some details on how to visit the underground treasure hall :

Opening hours: The underground treasure hall is open to visitors daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. However, please note that the hall may close temporarily for maintenance or during special events.

Admission fee: The admission fee to enter the treasure hall is 300 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance to the hall.

Entrance location: To access the underground treasure hall, you need to enter through a small door located at the back of the main hall of the temple. The entrance is marked by a sign in English and Japanese.

The Sensoji underground treasure hall is home to a collection of valuable Buddhist artifacts and artwork , including statues, sutras, and paintings. The hall’s exhibits are rotated periodically, so each visit offers a new perspective on Japanese Buddhist history and culture. You can expect to see exquisite examples of Japanese craftsmanship and artistry, dating back hundreds of years.

Please note that photography is not allowed inside the underground treasure hall, and you will need to remove your shoes before entering the exhibition space.

  • Finally, try your luck at Omikuji , a paper fortune-telling system available at the temple!

This concludes 2 days of exploring Tokyo. Ahead of you are two exciting day trips from Tokyo!

If you have more time for Tokyo, I put together 3-Day Tokyo Itinerary that has more places to see and things to do.

You Might Also Like:

Amazing 3 DAYS in TOKYO (Thrilling Itinerary with 21 Things You Can’t Miss)


  • A Day Trip to Hakone

If you’ve had your fill of the fast-paced energy of Tokyo, it’s time to switch gears and experience a different side of Japan.

Luckily, just a short trip away from the city, you will find a plethora of day trip options that offer a change of pace and scenery. Whether you are looking to relax in natural hot springs, wander through ancient temples and gardens, or sample delicious local cuisine, the areas surrounding Tokyo are full of hidden gems waiting to be explored.

So take a break from the city bustle and get ready to slow down and savor all that Japan has to offer!

Escape the Bustle of Tokyo and Unwind in Nature: A Day Trip to Hakone

Hakone , a beautiful town nestled in the scenic Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park , is a perfect escape from the bustling city of Tokyo.

With its picturesque views of Mount Fuji , tranquil Lake Ashi , and lush cedar forests, soothing onsens Hakone has been a popular destination for centuries!

Things to Do in Hakone

Lake Ashi in Hakone / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

There are many things to do in Hakone and you can easily spend a few days exploring the area. To make it more manageable, there are a few things you should not miss:

  • One of the most famous attractions is the Hakone Open-Air Museum , which features a vast collection of sculptures from Japanese and international artists.
  • Another popular activity is taking a relaxing dip in one of the many hot springs , or onsen, in the area.
  • You can also take a scenic boat ride on Lake Ashi and enjoy stunning views of Mt. Fuji .
  • And for those who love nature, there are  numerous hiking trails  with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.


Hiking Trails in Hakone / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • The  Hakone Ropeway  is one of the most popular attractions in Hakone and a must-see for any visitor. The ropeway takes you on a 30-minute scenic journey over the  Owakudani volcanic valley , which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Ashi.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Owakudani Volcanic Valley in Hakone / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Odawara Castle  is another must-visit attraction in Hakone. This historic castle dates back to the 15th century and was once the stronghold of the powerful Hojo clan. The castle features a museum that displays armor, weapons, and other artifacts from the castle’s past.
  • Finally, don’t miss the chance to try some of the local specialty foods, such as  black eggs boiled  in the sulfur-rich hot springs, and the deliciously creamy  Hakone tofu .

Black Eggs in Hakone

Black Eggs in Hakone / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Read: Amazing TOKYO to HAKONE Day Trip (7 Fun Things You Can’t Miss)

19 Amazing THINGS to DO in HAKONE (Useful Maps+Photos+Practical Tips)

HAKONE FREE PASS – Is It Worth Buying?

14 Exceptional Must-See Things at HAKONE OPEN AIR MUSEUM


  • Day Trip to See Snow Monkeys from Tokyo (winter)
  • Day Trip to Nikko from Tokyo (spring, summer, or fall)

Embark on a journey beyond the bustling city of Tokyo and explore the natural beauty of Japan with two distinct day trips.

If you are visiting Tokyo in the winter , then, hands down, immerse yourself in the wonderland of the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park and witness adorable Japanese macaques soaking in steaming hot springs amidst the snowy landscape. A day trip from Tokyo to see snow monkeys will be the highlight of your trip to Japan!

If you are visiting Tokyo in the other seasons, discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nikko , famous for its stunning temples and shrines set amidst lush forests and serene waterfalls.

From winter wonderland to a world of natural beauty, these two day trips offer an escape from the city and an unforgettable experience in Japan!

Day Trip from Tokyo to See Snow Monkeys Soaking in Hot Spring (Winter)

The snow monkeys , also known as Japanese macaques, are a popular attraction in the Nagano prefecture of Japan.

You can watch these playful and intelligent primates soak in the warm waters of the hot springs, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

How to See Snow Monkeys in Japan

Day Trip to See Snow Monkeys from Tokyo / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

The snow monkeys are unique in that they are the northernmost non-human primate and the only ones known to live in areas with heavy snowfall.

There are many opportunities to snap great photos , from the monkeys’ playful interactions with each other to the steam rising from the hot springs in the cold air.

Day Trip to See Snow Monkeys from Tokyo

Make sure to dress warm and have sturdy shoes, as there may be snow and ice on the walking paths. It’s also important to respect the monkeys’ space and not approach or touch them.

A visit to see the snow monkeys is a must-do activity for any animal lover, especially during the winter season when they are most active.

Read: 14 Practical Tips How to See SNOW MONKEYS in JAPAN (Best Trip from TOKYO)

Explore the Cultural Treasures of Nikko: A Day Trip from Tokyo (Spring, Summer, or Fall)

If you are visiting Tokyo in spring, summer, or fall, then embark on a day trip to Nikko .

Nikko is a picturesque small town located in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture, about two hours north of Tokyo by train.

This charming town is a popular destination for both locals and tourists, especially during the autumn months when the trees turn brilliant shades of red and orange.

Nikko is known for its stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Toshogu Shrine, which is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years.

Additionally, Nikko offers beautiful nature, including waterfalls, lakes, and hiking trails. It’s an ideal destination for those who want to escape the bustling city and immerse themselves in Japan’s natural and cultural beauty.


Lake Chuzenji in Nikko / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here are some of the top things to see and do in Nikko:

  • Toshogu Shrine: This is the most famous attraction in Nikko and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 17th century and is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.
  • Futarasan Shrine: Another important shrine in Nikko, Futarasan Shrine is dedicated to the three sacred mountains of Nikko.
  • Shinkyo Bridge: This is a beautiful red bridge that is located near the entrance of Nikko’s shrines and temples. It is considered one of the three most beautiful bridges in Japan.

Day Trip to Nikko from Tokyo

Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Taiyuin Mausoleum:  This is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.
  • Lake Chuzenji:  This is a beautiful lake in the mountains above Nikko. It is a popular spot for hiking, boating, and autumn leaf viewing.
  • Kegon Falls:  This is a spectacular waterfall that is located near Lake Chuzenji. It is one of the most famous waterfalls in Japan and is especially beautiful in the autumn.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Kegon Falls in Nikko / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Kanmangafuchi Abyss:  This is a scenic gorge that is located on the outskirts of Nikko. It is known for its walking trails, old stone statues, and the sound of the river flowing through it.


  • Travel to Kyoto
  • Settle Into Your Accommodations in Kyoto
  • Explore Kyoto

 1. Visit Fanous Fushimi Inari

Travel to Kyoto and How to Get Around in Kyoto

Today, you will say goodbye to Tokyo and travel to Kyoto. I am super excited to show you around Kyoto!

Kyoto, located in the Kansai region of Japan, is known for its rich history, culture, and natural beauty. With its iconic temples and shrines, traditional gardens, and delicious cuisine, Kyoto offers a glimpse into Japan’s past while also embracing modernity.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s historic landmarks or simply strolling through its charming streets, Kyoto is a must-visit destination that offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience!

Before we dive into exploring Kyoto, here are some useful tips on how to get to Kyoto from Tokyo :

  • If you are a JR Pass holder, then taking Shinkansen is the most popular and convenient way to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto. You can use the JR Pass to board the Hikari or Kodama trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. The journey takes approximately 2.5 hours and is covered by the JR Pass.
  • You can also take limited express trains such as the Thunderbird or the Raichō, which run between Tokyo and Kyoto. These trains take longer than the Shinkansen but offer more scenic views of the countryside. The limited express trains may require seat reservations, which can be made at any JR ticket office.

Once you arrive in Kyoto, you might be wondering what is the best way to get around in Kyoto.

Kyoto is super easy to explore by public transport . The buses, trains, and subways will get you fast to all the amazing places you can’t miss on your first visit to Kyoto. And, there are always several ways of getting to a particular place.

If you want to explore Kyoto at a leisurely pace, then, hands down, walking and bicycling are awesome ways to see all the top sights in Kyoto as well.

  • Kyoto’s Trains

Kyoto has 6 train lines and consists of the national JR Line and several local private lines . If you have a  JR Rail Pass , then you will definitely want to use JR trains while you are exploring Kyoto!

You can download a free English-language PDF of Kyoto’s train system here .

  • Kyoto’s Subway System

The Kyoto subway system is composed of two lines: The north-south Karasuma Line and the east-west Tozai Line . These two lines intersect in the middle of Kyoto, allowing you to transfer lines.

Make sure to download a free English-language PDF of Kyoto’s subway system here to help you navigate Kyoto by the subway system.

  • Kyoto’s Bus System

The bus system is extensive in Kyoto is extensive, and honesty, you can get almost anywhere by bus in Kyoto.

Download Kyoto’s bus system map with Kyoto’s major attractions here .

From personal experience, I think you will find trains and subways easier to use especially if this is your first visit to Kyoto. However, once to take a bus a couple of times, you will be quite comfortable using it.

  • Walking and Bicycling

If you want to explore Kyoto at a leisurely pace , then what you need to know is Kyoto is a delightful city to explore on foot. It is completely flat and the weather is pleasant most of the year.

If you like bicycling then, you are for a treat! In my opinion, Kyoto is one of the world’s great bike cities . It is super easy to rent a bike in Kyoto and my recommendation is that you check out the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project for the best prices and best quality bikes.

Another great option is to book Kyoto Bike Tour . This tour is about 7-8 hours long (you will be biking for about 25 miles) and takes you to Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama), Kiyomizu, Golden Pavilion, and Fushimi Inari, plus you get to explore the Gion neighborhood.

  • Book a Tour 

If you are not comfortable using Kyoto’s public transportation, then my recommendation is to book a small group tour . 10 Must-See Spots in Kyoto One-Day Private Tour is a perfect tour if you only have one day in Kyoto and do not want the stress of figuring out the logistics of public transportation.

Settle Into Your Accommodations (Best Places to Stay in Kyoto)

My recommendation is to stay in either Downtown Kawaramachi or around Kyoto Station. Here are a couple of places that I stayed at and I liked:

  • Downtown Kawaramachi

The best area to stay in Kyoto is Downtown Kawaramachi . It offers plenty of restaurants and shops, and to top it off, it is just a walking distance of Gion.

My favorite place to stay is Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie . The location is perfect right in the heart of Kyoto (0.6 miles from Gion Shijo Station and a 15-minute walk from Kyoto International Manga Museum).

You will love everything about this place. The staff is so accommodating and extremely polite. The cleanliness of the rooms is top-notch. The breakfast is yummy and healthy.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Kyoto Shijo Takakura Hotel Grandereverie / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Another place that I want to recommend is Good Nature Hotel Kyoto . Again, great location: a 5-minute walk from Gion Shijo Station and 0.8 miles from Samurai Kembu Kyoto, 1.3 miles from Sanjusangen-do Temple, 1.4 miles from Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and 1.6 miles from TKP Garden City Kyoto.

Just an awesome hotel! You will love everything about it. The hotel is modern and beautifully designed. The rooms are super clean. The bedding and linens are always crisp and smell fresh. All the bath products are lovely and organic.

  •   Kyoto Station

Another excellent area to stay in Kyoto is anywhere around Kyoto Station. It is super convenient and all your public transportation options are in one spot.

The one place that I am recommending you check out is The Thousand Kyoto Hotel.  The Thousand Kyoto Hotel is another one of my favorites! The location is awesome, with the absolute cleanliness, super comfy bed, and fresh, crisp linens, fabulous breakfast, professional staff that will go out of their way to make your stay comfortable, you cannot go wrong with booking this hotel.

  • If Kyoto is fully booked, then start searching for hotels in Osaka . Kyoto is only less than an hour away from Osaka via train.

Venturing Through the Vibrant Gates of Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari Taisha is a sprawling complex of shrines and temples located on the Inari Mountian, in southern Kyoto.

The complex was founded in the 8th century and has since grown to include several sub-shrines, including the famous Senbon Torii , which is a network of thousands of torii gates that line the mountain trail.

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

The torii gates, which are painted a bright vermilion red , create a striking visual effect that contrasts against the natural beauty of the surrounding forest. The torii gates are donated by individuals and companies and have inscriptions on them that indicate the name of the donor and the date of the donation.

The experience of walking through the tunnels of bright vermillion torii gates is both mesmerizing and surreal, making it an essential destination for any traveler visiting Japan.

It takes about two hours to hike from the base of the mountain to the summit, but visitors can also choose to walk shorter segments of the trail. The view from the summit is breathtaking and offers a panoramic view of Kyoto city.

Fushimi Inari

In addition to the torii gates, Fushimi Inari is also known for its many stone foxes that are found throughout the complex. The fox is considered the messenger of Inari, and these statues are a symbol of the shrine’s connection to the god.

You can also find various shrines and temples throughout the complex, each dedicated to different aspects of Inari’s worship, such as agriculture, prosperity, and good health.

Fushimi Inari is particularly breathtaking during the autumn months when the leaves turn fiery red and gold, providing a picturesque backdrop for any photographs.

Whether you are a photographer, hiker, or simply interested in exploring the unique culture and history of Japan, a visit to Fushimi Inari is a must-do activity that will leave you with unforgettable memories!

Find Out More About Fushimi Inari: 

Amazing FUSHIMI INARI TAISHA in Kyoto (8 Things to Know Before You Visit)

This concludes the first day of exploring Kyoto. It is time to get back to your hotel and get a good night’s rest!


1. Kiyomizu-dera

2. Sanjusangento Temple

3. Gion 

Discover the Stunning Kiyomizudera Buddhist Temple

Kiyomizudera , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks. It is also known as the “Pure Water Temple.”

The temple, which dates back to the 8th century, is famous for its impressive wooden stage that protrudes out over the hillside, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

The main hall of the temple , the Hondo, is a designated National Treasure of Japan and is supported by 139 pillars.

Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

One of the most popular aspects of Kiyomizudera is the Otowa Waterfall , where you can drink from one of three streams of water that are believed to have different benefits: success in school, success in love, and longevity.

The temple grounds are also home to several other buildings, including the Jishu Shrine , a shrine dedicated to the god of love and matchmaking. Here, you can participate in a traditional ritual of walking between two stones with your eyes closed, which is believed to bring good luck in love.

Kiyomizudera is particularly stunning during the spring cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons when the temple and its surroundings are bathed in a riot of colors.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here is a list of things you should not miss at Kiyomizudera:

  • Main Hall (Hondo) – The main hall of the temple, which features a large veranda supported by wooden pillars.
  • Jishu Shrine – A small shrine on the temple grounds dedicated to the god of love and matchmaking.
  • Otowa Waterfall – A three-streamed waterfall where visitors can drink from one of the streams, which is said to bring health, longevity, and success in studies.
  • Okunoin Hall – A smaller hall located behind the main hall, which contains a statue of the deity of mercy, Kannon.
  • Three-story Pagoda – A pagoda located on the temple grounds that is a symbol of Kiyomizudera and Kyoto.

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto

Kiyomizedara in Kyoto / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Nio-mon Gate – A large wooden gate with two guardian statues located at the entrance of the temple.
  • Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka – Traditional streets lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, and tea houses, which lead up to the temple.
  • Night Illumination – During special events, the temple is illuminated at night, creating a magical atmosphere.

Sanjusangen-do Temple

Sanjusangen-do is a Buddhist temple that was founded in the 12th century by the powerful emperor Go-Shirakawa.

The temple’s name, which translates to “Hall of 33 Bays,” refers to the number of bays in the temple’s main hall.

One of the main attractions of Sanjusangen-do is the temple’s main hall, which houses a stunning display of 1,001 life-sized wooden statues of the goddess of mercy, Kannon. The hall is also the longest wooden structure in Japan, measuring at 120 meters long.

16-Day Japan itinerary

Sanjusangen-do Temple in Kyoto / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

The statues are arranged in 10 rows, with the central row consisting of 11 larger statues representing Kannon and her attendants.

You can walk along the rows of statues and admire their intricate details and the peaceful ambiance of the hall. Just keep in mind, that photography is not allowed!

In addition to the impressive statue display, Sanjusangendo is also home to a beautiful garden .

The garden features a pond, walking paths, and several picturesque spots that offer stunning views of the temple’s architecture and surrounding natural scenery.

Sanjusangen-do Temple in Kyoto

Discover Gion by Night: Kyoto's Most Enchanting Geisha District

Gion is a historic district in Kyoto that is known for its traditional architecture, teahouses, and geisha culture.

The district is home to many preserved buildings and streets that date back to the Edo period, as well as several famous landmarks, such as the Yasaka Shrine and the Kennin-ji Temple.

Yasaka Shrine is located at the eastern end of Shijo-dori. It is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. It is known for its bright orange gate and lanterns and is a popular spot for visitors to take photos.

Kennin-ji Temple is a historic temple that was founded in 1202 and is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. It features a beautiful garden and several impressive works of art.

Gion is most famous for its geisha or geiko (in Kyoto dialect) culture. Geisha are highly trained female entertainers who specialize in various arts such as dance, music, and conversation. They are often seen walking the streets of Gion, wearing traditional attire and makeup, on their way to perform at a teahouse or private party.

Gion in Kyoto

Gion / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

You can experience the traditional Japanese culture by walking down Hanami-koji , a famous street lined with old teahouses, restaurants, and shops. It is a great place to stroll and admire the traditional architecture of the area.

There are many great places to eat in Gion, Kyoto. Here are some recommendations:

  • Gion Kappa  specializes in traditional Kyoto cuisine, including kaiseki, a multi-course meal featuring seasonal ingredients. The restaurant is located in a historic building with a beautiful garden.
  • Gion Nanba serves traditional Japanese dishes, including sushi and tempura.
  • Kinmata is a traditional Japanese teahouse that has been in business for over 300 years and is known for its beautiful interior and delicious Japanese sweets.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

A visit to Gion concludes day 7 of the 16-day Japan itinerary. It is time now to head back to your hotel and get some rest. There is another exciting day ahead of you!


  • Explore Kyoto: 

1. Golden Pavilion

2. Arashiyama

Experience Kinkaku-ji: The Jewel of Kyoto's Temple Treasures

The Golden Pavilion , also known as Kinkaku-ji, is one of the most iconic and popular temples in Kyoto.

The temple is famous for the stunning golden facade that reflects off the pond in front of it, creating a picturesque view that is simply breathtaking.

Originally built as a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late 14th century, the building was later converted into a Zen temple after his death.

Golden Pavilion

Golden Pavilion / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

In 1950, the pavilion was burned down by a mentally ill monk, and the current structure was rebuilt five years later.

The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf , giving the building its iconic shimmering appearance. and feature different architectural styles, representing different periods in Japanese history.

You can walk around the temple’s beautiful gardens, admire the views, and learn about the temple’s fascinating history.

Read: Stunning GOLDEN PAVILION in KYOTO (How to Visit and What to See)

Afternoon Trip to Arashiyama

Hands down, Arashiyama is my favorite place to escape the hustle and bustle of Kyoto and enjoy some picturesque natural beauty!

The area is known for the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which features a towering forest of bamboo stalks that sway gently in the wind. You can also explore the district’s many temples and shrines, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tenryu-ji Temple, as well as the scenic Togetsukyo Bridge that spans the Katsura River.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here are some things that you should not miss in Arashiyama:

  • Take a stroll through the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove  and admire the towering stalks.
  • Explore Tenryu-ji Temple,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a beautiful Zen garden and pond.
  • Admire the Togetsukyo Bridge , a landmark of Arashiyama that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Hozu River.
  • Visit the Iwatayama Monkey Park which is home to over 170 Japanese macaques.
  • Visit the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple known for its 1,200 moss-covered statues of rakan, or Buddhist disciples.

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Find Out More About Arashiyama:

14 Amazing THINGS to DO in ARASHIYAMA, Kyoto (Map+Useful Tips)

Day 9 - kyoto.

1. Nijo Castle

2. Nishiki Market

3. Philospher’s Walk 

4. Pontocho

Tour Nijo Castle and Discover Its Secrets

Touring Nijo Castle in Kyoto is an immersive experience that will take you back in time to Japan’s feudal era.

The castle, which was built in 1603, served as the residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns and was later used by the Imperial family during their visits to Kyoto.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

One of the castle’s most intriguing features is its “ nightingale floors .” These floors are designed to chirp like birds when walked on, creating a distinct sound that was meant to serve as a warning against potential assassins. You can listen to the chirping sound as you walk along the corridors.

The castle’s walls are adorned with intricate paintings and decorations , including depictions of animals and nature scenes. These paintings were meant to convey messages of power and prestige, as well as to showcase the beauty of Japanese art.

Nijo Castle

Wall Paintings at Nijo Castle / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Nijo Castle features a “ hidden room ” where guards could hide during times of danger. The room is located behind a secret door that can only be accessed through a hidden passage.

The castle’s gardens are a must-see attraction, featuring meticulously manicured lawns, ponds, and walking paths. The gardens are designed to reflect traditional Japanese landscaping techniques and are particularly beautiful during the spring and autumn seasons.

Nijo Castle’s stunning architecture and historical significance have made it a popular filming location for movies. It has appeared in films such as “The Last Samurai” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Find Out More About Nijo Castle:

What to See at NIJO CASTLE in KYOTO (10 Things to Know Before You Visit)

Savor Kyoto's Culinary Delights: A Tour of Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market , known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” is a bustling covered market located in the heart of Kyoto. It is a must-visit destination for foodies and anyone interested in experiencing Kyoto’s rich culinary culture. The market features over 100 shops and stalls selling a wide range of fresh and local produce, traditional Japanese snacks, seafood, meats, and spices.

One of the highlights of Nishiki Market is the opportunity to taste a variety of traditional Japanese snacks and street food.

Here are a few popular options that you might want to sample :

  • Tsukemono (pickled vegetables): Nishiki Market has a wide selection of pickled vegetables, including daikon radish, cucumber, and eggplant. They are a great accompaniment to many Japanese meals.

Nishiki Market

Tsukemono (pickled vegetables) at Nishiki Market / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Katsuobushi (dried and smoked bonito flakes): This flavorful ingredient is used in many Japanese dishes, and you can find it freshly shaved and served over a variety of dishes at the market.
  • Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers): These savory skewers of chicken grilled over an open flame are popular street food in Japan, and you can find them at many of the food stalls in Nishiki Market.

Nishiki Market

Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) at Nishiki Market / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with sweet bean paste): These cute and tasty cakes are popular street food in Japan, and Nishiki Market has a number of stalls selling them. They are perfect for a sweet snack on the go!
  • Mochi (sweet rice cakes): These soft, chewy rice cakes are a traditional Japanese sweet. They come in a variety of flavors, such as green tea and red bean, and are often served fresh and warm.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Mochi at Nishiki Market / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Explore Kyoto's Famous Philosopher's Walk

The Philosopher’s Walk is a picturesque 2-kilometer stone path that starts at the Nyakuoji Bridge and ends at the Ginkaku-ji Temple. It runs alongside Shirakawa Canal lined with cherry trees in the northern part of Kyoto.

The path is named after the famous philosopher and Kyoto University professor, Nishida Kitaro, who was said to walk the path daily while contemplating his ideas.

Along the way, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of cherry blossoms in spring and colorful autumn leaves in fall.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Philosopher’s Walk / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

There are also several temples and shrines to see, including the Ginkaku-ji Temple , also known as the Silver Pavilion.

The Ginkaku-ji Temple was originally built as a retirement villa for a shogun but was later converted into a Zen temple. The temple’s gardens are renowned for their beauty and are a great place to relax and take in the scenery.

Another temple that can be visited along the Philosopher’s Walk is the Eikan-do Temple , which is known for its autumn foliage. The temple’s main hall houses a famous statue of Amida Buddha, which is said to have been carved by the famous sculptor Jocho in the 11th century.

The path also passes by several small shops, cafes, and restaurants, making it a great place to stop and rest or grab a bite to eat.

Philosopher's Walk

Discover Pontocho: Kyoto's Enchanting Alley of Geisha and Izakaya

Pontocho is a narrow alleyway that runs along the Kamo River in Kyoto. The alleyway is famous for its traditional wooden buildings, lantern-lit walkways, and a variety of dining options.

It is believed that Pontocho originated in the Middle Ages, during the Muromachi Period , as a small entertainment district for the wealthy merchant class of Kyoto. Over time, it evolved into a bustling hub of restaurants, bars, and geisha houses, where people could come to relax, eat, drink, and be entertained.

Pontocho in Kyoto

Pontocho in Kyoto / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Today, Pontocho is still home to many geisha and maiko , and you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these traditional performers in their beautiful kimonos and makeup as they move between appointments.

One of the main draws of Pontocho is its izakaya culture . Izakaya are Japanese-style pubs that serve a variety of small plates of food and drinks. They are a popular spot for locals to unwind after work or meet up with friends for a casual night out. Izakaya menus often feature traditional Japanese dishes like sashimi, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), and tempura, as well as a range of alcoholic beverages like sake, shochu, and beer.

Many of the izakayas in Pontocho are housed in historic buildings with traditional decor, and some even have riverside terraces that offer stunning views of the Kamogawa River.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Pontocho View from the Kamu River / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

During the summer months, Pontocho becomes even more lively with its “yuka” dining, where restaurants set up outdoor dining platforms over the river, creating a unique and romantic atmosphere.

Summer is also a time when the Pontocho Kaburenjo Theater Festival starts. This festival features traditional Japanese theater performances such as kabuki and kyogen, as well as geisha and maiko dance performances.

This concludes your exploration of Kyoto and now it is time to venture out for a couple of day trips from Kyoto, as well as attend the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony! Let’s go!

8 THINGS You Can’t Miss – Perfect 2 DAYS in KYOTO

FIRST VISIT to KYOTO (11 Awesome Things to Do in Kyoto)

7 Fun and Easy DAY TRIPS from KYOTO (Useful Maps+Photos+Tips)


Day trip to kanazawa from kyoto.

Kanazawa is a city that exudes charm and character.

With a rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and beautifully manicured gardens, a day trip to Kanazawa from Kyoto is a must for any visitor to Japan. So why not escape the hustle and bustle of Kyoto and discover Kanazawa’s hidden gems? Let’s go on a day trip to Kanazawa from Kyoto and explore this delightful city!


Higashi Chaya District in Kanazawa / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here are some things you simply cannot miss in Kanazawa:

  • Kenrokuen Garden – This is one of the most famous gardens in Japan and is considered one of the top three most beautiful gardens in the country. It’s especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season in the spring and the autumn foliage season in the fall.

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Kanazawa Castle – This castle was originally built in the 16th century and has been reconstructed multiple times over the years. The castle grounds are open to the public and offer great views of the city.
  • Higashi Chaya District – This is a historic geisha district in Kanazawa that has been well-preserved over the years. You can walk around and explore the old wooden buildings and shops that line the streets.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Omicho Market – This is a bustling market that has been around since the Edo period. You can find all sorts of fresh seafood, vegetables, and local specialties here.
  • Nagamachi Samurai District – This is another historic district in Kanazawa that was home to samurai families during the Edo period. You can visit the old samurai houses and learn about their way of life.

Find Out More About Kanazawa:

Perfect ONE DAY in KANAZAWA – 7 Things to Do (BEST TRIP from Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka)

Guide to KENROKUEN GARDEN in KANAZAWA (Japan’s Top Ranked Garden)


Japanese tea ceremony in kyoto.

  • Day Trip to Nara from Kyoto

Today, you will start with the Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony .

The tea ceremony is an essential aspect of Japanese culture and participating in one can be a truly unforgettable experience that will give you an insight into Japanese customs and aesthetics.

Not only will you learn about the art of tea making, but you’ll also gain an understanding of the importance of mindfulness, harmony, and respect in Japanese society.

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

A Japanese tea ceremony, also known as a “chado” or “sado,” is a traditional cultural experience that dates back centuries. It is a ritualistic preparation and presentation of powdered green tea, called “matcha,” served in a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

During a tea ceremony, you are going to be expected to follow certain customs and behaviors to show respect to the host and the art of tea making.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Steps

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

I have attended several tea ceremonies lasting from 30-minute experiences to all-day events. To make it more manageable I collaborated and put together a list of steps involved in the process. Make sure to read it before attending a tea ceremony.

My recommendation is to attend Traditional Tea Ceremony wearing a Kimono in Kyoto by MAIKOYA . You will learn about Japanese history and sample matcha green tea, plus wearing a traditional kimono.

Read: Discover 6 JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY STEPS for a Meaningful Experience

Afternoon Trip to Nara from Kyoto

I hoped you enjoyed the Japanese Tea Ceremony and are all energized for an afternoon trip to Nara.

Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, is located just a short 45-minute train ride from Kyoto. It is home to some of the country’s oldest and most significant temples and shrines .

In addition to its cultural and historical significance, Nara is also known for its stunning natural beauty , with sprawling parks and forests where you can encounter friendly deer roaming freely. And, the fun part is that you can buy some biscuits and feed them!


Friendly Deer in Nara / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

One of the main attractions in Nara is the Todai-ji temple , which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.

Todai-ji Temple in Nara

Inside the Todai-ji Temple in Nara / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

My favorite is the Kasuga-taisha shrine , with its many lanterns, and the Kofuku-ji temple, with its five-story pagoda. Make sure to read my post about 6 things that you should not miss in Nara , plus how to get there and navigate through the vast Nara Park.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Kasuga-taisha Shrine in Nara / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Find Out More About Nara:

Perfect Trip to Nara from Kyoto: 6 Things You Can’t Miss, Plus Useful Maps and Tips

Stunning KASUGA TAISHA SHRINE in NARA (7 Best Things to See)


  • Day Trip to Miyajima Island  and Hiroshima from Kyoto

Day Trip to Miyajima and Hiroshima from Kyoto

A day trip to Miyajima and Hiroshima from Kyoto is a perfect way to discover more of Japan’s history and culture. These two destinations offer a unique insight into the country’s past, with plenty of natural beauty and stunning sights to take in.

Read: How to Visit HIROSHIMA and MIYAJIMA in ONE DAY (3 Easy Steps Guide)

Miyajima is a small island located in Hiroshima Bay, famous for its picturesque views and the iconic Itsukushima Shrine. Another highlight of the island is the floating torii gate of the Itsukushima Shrine, which creates a stunning reflection on the water during high tide.

Floating Torii

Floating Torii Gate on Miyajima Island / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

My favorite activity on Miyajima Island is to take a ropeway to Mount Misen, which is the highest point on the island and takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the top. Along the way, you can enjoy stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding islands.

Once at the top, you can explore the mountain’s hiking trails, take in panoramic views from the observation deck, and visit the ancient Buddhist temple, Daisho-in .

View of Seto Inland Sea from Mount Misen / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Miyajima is known for its fresh oysters! You can try them grilled or fried at one of the island’s many food stalls or restaurants.

The oysters are harvested from the surrounding waters. They are known for their plumpness, sweetness, and creaminess, and are often paired with a glass of sake or local beer.

In fact, the island hosts an annual Oyster Festival in February , which attracts oyster lovers from around the country.

Find Out More About Miyajima:

Amazing DAY TRIP to MIYAJIMA from Kyoto, Osaka, or Hiroshima (9 Things to Do)

Hiroshima is a city known for its tragic history, resilience, and renewal. On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, instantly killing tens of thousands of people and causing widespread destruction.

Despite this devastation, the city has rebuilt itself into a vibrant metropolis that is now a symbol of peace and hope.


View of Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

You can pay your respects at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum which are powerful and poignant reminders of the atomic bombing that occurred in the city during World War II. The park and museum were built to honor the victims and promote peace around the world.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

The museum houses exhibits that tell the story of the atomic bombing, including photographs, artifacts, and personal accounts of the survivors.

The park features several monuments and memorials, including the Atomic Bomb Dome , a building that was partially destroyed by the bombing and left standing as a testament to the horrors of the attack.

Visiting the Peace Memorial Park and Museum is a somber yet important experience for anyone interested in history and promoting peace.

Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Find Out More About Hiroshima: 

Perfect ONE DAY in HIROSHIMA (5 Things You Can’t Miss+Useful Tips)

THINGS to DO in HIROSHIMA (10 Amazing Things to Do on Your First Visit)

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR (8 Easy Steps)

5 Fun and Easy DAY TRIPS from HIROSHIMA (How to Get There+Things to Do+Where to Stay)


  • Travel to Osaka and How to Get Around in Osaka
  • Check-in and Settle into Your Accommodations in Oska (Best Places to Stay)
  • Explore Osaka 

1. Visit Osaka Castle

  • Get a Good Night’s Rest

Travel to Osaka from Kyoto and How to Get Around in Osaka

Today You will travel to Osaka from Kyoto. and, it is super easy to do it!

If you are a JR Pass holder, then you can take the JR Kyoto Line to Osaka Station . The journey takes about 30 minutes and there are frequent trains throughout the day.

Alternatively, you can take the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station, which is a bit faster and more comfortable, but requires a reservation and an additional fee.

From Shin-Osaka Station, you can transfer to the JR Osaka Loop Line or other local JR lines to get to your final destination in Osaka.

Here is how to get around in Osaka:

  • Osaka Metro: The Osaka Metro is a subway system that connects various parts of the city. It is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to get around Osaka.
  • JR West: JR West is a train network that connects Osaka to other major cities in Japan. It also provides access to the Osaka Loop Line, which circles around the city.
  • Buses: Osaka has an extensive bus network that covers most areas of the city. Buses are a good option for short distances and for traveling to places that are not covered by the subway or train network.
  • Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Osaka, but they are relatively expensive compared to other modes of transportation.
  • Bicycle: Osaka is a bike-friendly city, and renting a bicycle is a great way to explore the city at a leisurely pace. There are many rental shops that offer bicycles for a reasonable price.
  • Walking: Many of Osaka’s attractions are located within walking distance of each other, and walking is a great way to get a feel for the city and discover hidden gems along the way.

Settle Into Your Accommodations in Osaka (Best Places to Stay)

There are many great neighborhoods to stay in when visiting Osaka. Here are some popular options:

  • Namba: This area is known for its vibrant nightlife, shopping, and dining options. It’s a great choice if you want to be in the heart of the action.
  • Umeda: Located in the northern part of the city, Umeda is a major transportation hub with easy access to both downtown Osaka and other cities in the Kansai region.
  • Shinsaibashi: Another popular shopping and entertainment district, Shinsaibashi is located near Namba and is a great place to stay if you want to be close to the action but prefer a slightly quieter atmosphere.
  • Shin-Osaka: If you’re arriving in Osaka by bullet train, Shin-Osaka is a convenient area to stay in. It’s also close to the Umeda area and has good transportation links to other parts of the city.

Here are some of the places that I stayed at and I think you might like them as well:

Swissotel Nankai Osaka : My top choice would be this luxurious hotel located in the heart of Namba with great views of the city. I loved it!

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Swisshotel Nankai Osaka / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

InterContinental Osaka : This is another one of my favorites! Just a beautiful hotel located in the heart of Umeda with stunning views of the city.

  • Shin-Osaka:

Courtyard by Marriott Shin-Osaka Station : If you are on a budget, then Courtyard by Marriott is an excellent option. It is a modern hotel located right next to Shin-Osaka Station.

Tour Fascinating Osaka Castle

After you settle into your accommodations, it is time to start exploring Osaka! So, let’s get started with  Osaka Castle . It is one of the most popular attractions in Osaka and a must-see for anyone visiting the city!

The castle, which was originally built in 1583, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, but the current structure was completed in 1931 and has been meticulously restored to its former glory.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here is what not to miss at Osaka Castle:

  • You can explore the castle’s interior, which houses a museum with exhibits on the castle’s history and the samurai culture of the time. The museum features a number of artifacts, including samurai swords, armor, and other weapons, as well as historical documents and artwork.
  • The castle grounds are also a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in the spring, with over 3000 cherry trees surrounding the castle. The grounds also feature several other attractions, including the Nishinomaru Garden , which offers stunning views of the castle and its surroundings, and the Hokoku Shrine , which honors Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the warlord who originally commissioned the castle.
  • One of the most popular activities at Osaka Castle is climbing to the top of the castle’s main tower , which offers breathtaking views of the city from its observation deck.
  • Located on the castle grounds is Plum Garden , which is absolutely spectacular spot to admire the beautiful plum blossom trees.
  • Do not miss Otemon Gate ! This is the main gate of the castle, and it has been designated as an important cultural property of Japan. It is a great spot for taking photos and experiencing the grandeur of the castle.

Find Out More About Osaka Castle:

What to See at OSAKA CASTLE (5 Amazing Things You Can’t Miss)


  • Explore Osaka

1. Kuromon Market 

2. Shinsekai District 

3. Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi

Sample the Best of Kuromon Market's Fresh and Flavorful Japanese Cuisine

Osaka is known for its lively and exciting food scene . The city is often referred to as the “ Kitchen of Japan ” due to its diverse and delicious cuisine.

Osaka is particularly famous for its street food , with many vendors selling delicious and affordable snacks like takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), and kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers).

Another unique aspect of Osaka’s food culture is its emphasis on “ kuidaore, ” which roughly translates to “ eat until you drop .” This concept reflects the city’s love for good food and the belief that one should enjoy life to the fullest. Many restaurants in Osaka offer all-you-can-eat or all-you-can-drink options, allowing diners to indulge in as much delicious food and drink as they desire.

Osaka is truly a food lover’s paradise!

The best place to sample some of the freshest and most flavourful dishes is at Kuromon Market .

Kuromon Market in Osaka

Kuromon Market , also known as “ Gastronome ,” is a vibrant and bustling marketplace located in the heart of Osaka.

Kuromon Market has a long history, dating back to the Edo Period when it was primarily a seafood market. Today, the market has expanded to include a vast array of food vendors, selling everything from sushi and sashimi to street food and sweets.

One of the unique aspects of Kuromon Market is its emphasis on freshness and quality . Many of the vendors source their products directly from local farms and fisheries , ensuring that their offerings are of the highest quality. This commitment to quality has earned Kuromon Market a reputation as one of the best places to sample Japanese cuisine .

What to Eat at Osaka Kuromon Market

One of the Many Delicacies to Try at Kuromon Market in Osaka / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Whether you’re a food lover or simply looking to experience the vibrant energy of Osaka, Kuromon Market is a must-visit destination. With its rich history and diverse culinary offerings, the market offers a unique and memorable experience!

Make sure to read my post: WHAT to EAT at Osaka KUROMON MARKET (10 Culinary Experiences You Can’t Miss)

Read: WHAT to EAT at Osaka KUROMON MARKET (10 Culinary Experiences You Can’t Miss)

Discover Shinsekai: A Neighborhood Like No Other in Osaka

Shinsekai, meaning “ New World ” in Japanese, is a lively and colorful neighborhood located in southern Osaka.

Developed in the early 20th century, Shinsekai was designed to be a showcase of the latest and greatest in urban development and technology at the time. Today, it has become a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and entertainment.

Shinsekai in Osaka

Shinsekai in Oskaka / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here are some of the things you can’t miss in Shinsekai:

  • Tsutenkaku Tower: The iconic tower of Shinsekai is a must-visit attraction. Originally built in 1912 and reconstructed in 1956, it stands 103 meters tall and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
  • Kushikatsu: Shinsekai is famous for its kushikatsu, a type of deep-fried skewered food. There are many kushikatsu restaurants in the area, each with its own unique take on the dish.


Kushikatsu in Shinsekai / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Janjan Yokocho: This narrow alley is packed with small bars and restaurants, each with its own unique atmosphere. It’s a great place to try some local food and drink and to get a taste of the local nightlife.
  • Spa World: If you’re in need of some relaxation, head to Spa World, a large hot spring complex with a variety of baths and saunas.

Find Out More About Shinsekai:

WHAT to DO in SHINSEKAI Osaka (6 Fun Things You Can’t Miss)

Explore the Heart of Osaka: Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi

Located in the heart of Osaka’s bustling city center, Dotonbori is a popular destination. It is known for its vibrant nightlife, iconic neon signs, and delicious street food. The main street, Dotonbori Canal , is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops, and is a great place to take a stroll and experience the energy of the city.

Here are a few things not to miss in Dotonbori:

  • Try Osaka’s signature street food, including takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancake), and kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers).
  • Take a photo with the iconic Glico Running Man sign or the Kani Doraku crab sign.
  • Explore the bustling streets of the area, including Ebisu-Bashi Bridge and the Hozenji Temple alleyway.
  • Take a river cruise down the Dotonbori Canal to see the city from a different perspective.


Dotonbori in Osaka / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Shinsaibashi is a shopping district located in the heart of Osaka, known for its bustling streets, high-end fashion boutiques, and traditional shops.

Shinsaibashi is home to a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as entertainment options like theaters and music venues. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion trends or traditional Japanese souvenirs, Shinsaibashi has something for everyone.

Shinsaibashi in Osaka

Shinsaibashi in Osaka / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Here is what to do in Shinsabashi:

  • Go shopping at one of the many department stores, such as Daimaru or Mitsukoshi.
  • Explore the traditional Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street , which dates back to the Edo period and is lined with shops selling souvenirs, clothing, and more.
  • Check out the latest fashion trends at the luxury shopping district, known as the Midosuji Line .
  • Visit the Amerikamura area , which is known for its hipster and alternative fashion scene.
  • Try some local cuisine at one of the many restaurants in the area, such as kushikatsu or okonomiyaki.

16-Day Japan Itinerary

Okonomiyaki in Shinsaibashi / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

7 Fun Things to Do in DOTONBORI and SHINSAIBASHI Osaka

Perfect ONE DAY in OSAKA Itinerary (6 Best Things to Do)

This concludes your tour of Osaka.

Tomorrow, you will embark on a fabulous day trip to explore the famous Himeji Castle!


Day Trip to Himeji Castle from Osaka

Explore Japan's Finest Castle: A Day Trip to Himeji Castle from Osaka

Himeji Castle , also known as the White Heron Castle due to its white exterior, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Himeji.

It is widely regarded as the finest surviving example of Japanese castle architecture from the early modern period.

A trip to Himeji Castle is a must if you are visiting Japan.

Before we dive in, let’s cover how to get to Himeji Castle from Osaka . If you have a Japan Rail Pass, then here is how to do it:

  • Take the JR Special Rapid Service or the JR Rapid Service train from Osaka Station to Himeji Station. Both trains are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
  • The journey takes around 1 hour by Special Rapid Service or 1 hour 20 minutes by Rapid Service.
  • Once you arrive at Himeji Station, you can either take a bus or walk to the castle. The castle is about a 20-minute walk from the station.
  • Alternatively, you can take a bus from Himeji Station to Himeji Castle. The bus ride takes around 10 minutes.

Himeji Castle is known for its complex system of defense and the intricate layout of its buildings.

It was built in the early 17th century by the order of the feudal lord, Ikeda Terumasa.

The castle was constructed using the latest architectural and defense techniques of the time, making it one of the most advanced castles in Japan. It has survived numerous wars and natural disasters, including earthquakes and fires, and is now open to the public for tours.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

You can explore the castle’s many rooms , halls, and towers, and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding area from the castle’s top floor.

The castle grounds also include beautiful gardens and a nearby museum that houses historical artifacts related to the castle’s history.

Here are some things you should not miss at Himeji Castle and also a couple of ideas of what to do around Himeji Castle, or maybe even a short trip to Kobe:

  • Explore Himeji Castle: The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for its white exterior and well-preserved interiors.
  • Visit the Himeji Castle Museum: Located within the castle grounds, the museum has exhibits showcasing the history and culture of Himeji.
  • Check out Kokoen Garden: Located next to the castle, this garden features nine different gardens representing different styles from the Edo period.

Kokoen Garden

Kokoen Garden / 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Kokoen Garden

  • Visit the nearby Engyoji Temple: This temple complex is located on Mt. Shosha and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
  • Take a walk through the nearby Otokoyama Haisuiike Park: This park is known for its beautiful seasonal flowers, ponds, and waterfalls.
  • Explore the Himeji City Zoo: Located near the castle, the zoo is home to a variety of animals, including rare species of primates and big cats.
  • Take a day trip to Kobe: Just a short train ride away, Kobe is a bustling port city known for its delicious beef, historic architecture and stunning views of the sea.
  • Visit the Tegarayama Amusement Park: This park features roller coasters, water rides, and other attractions for thrill-seekers.


Flight back home

Reflect on a Journey Through Japan: A Farewell Japan and a Flight Back Home

Here we are! This is the final day of your 16-day Japan itinerary.

I reserved this day for getting to the airport and embarking on your journey back home.

Saying goodbye to Japan has never been easy for me. It is usually a bittersweet feeling after experiencing all the country has to offer. With so much culture, food, and natural beauty, it is hard to leave without feeling like I have missed something.

So, here is my recommendation: as you make your way to the airport for your flight back home, take a moment to reflect on your trip and all the memories you have made. Maybe you will have one last meal of sushi or ramen, or buy some souvenirs to bring back with you. The journey back home may be long, but the memories of Japan will stay with you forever. As you board your plane, take a final look at the beautiful scenery and vibrant cityscapes, knowing that one day you will return to this wonderful country.

Remember, this is not goodbye but rather “ see you later .” You can always come back to Japan to explore more of its wonders and create new memories. We hope you enjoyed your trip and have a safe and comfortable flight back home!

Intrepid Scout's Tips for 16-Day Japan Itinerary

  • Plan your itinerary in advance: With only 16 days, it is important to plan your trip ahead of time to make the most of your time in Japan. Research the places you want to visit, check their opening hours, and make a rough itinerary to help you stay organized.
  • Use a Japan Rail Pass: If you’re planning on traveling to different parts of Japan, consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. This will allow you to travel on most trains operated by Japan Railways, which can save you money in the long run.
  • Book accommodation in advance: Japan is a popular tourist destination, and accommodation can book up quickly, especially during peak travel seasons. Book your accommodation well in advance to ensure you have a place to stay during your trip.
  • Pack appropriately: Japan has four distinct seasons, so pack clothing suitable for the time of year you’re traveling. Check the weather forecast before you go and bring comfortable shoes as you will likely be doing a lot of walking.
  • Learn basic Japanese phrases: While many Japanese people speak English, it is always a good idea to learn some basic Japanese phrases before your trip. This will make getting around and communicating with locals much easier.
  • Respect local customs : Japan has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local customs and etiquette. Be mindful of the rules and traditions when visiting temples, shrines, and other cultural sites.
  • Try local food: Japanese cuisine is renowned around the world, so be sure to try as much local food as you can during your trip. From sushi and ramen to tempura and okonomiyaki, there’s something for everyone.
  • Allow time for relaxation: Japan can be a busy and fast-paced country, so it’s important to allow time for relaxation during your trip. Take some time to unwind in a hot spring or go for a leisurely walk through a p

More Information About Japan:

14 Amazing Things to Do in Arashiyama (Map+Useful Tips)

What to See at Nijo Castle in Kyoto (10 Top Things to Know)

Stunning Golden Pavilion in Kyoto (How to Visit and What to See)

Amazing Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto (8 Things to Know Before You Visit)

First Visit to Kyoto – How to Visit and What to See (11 Things You Can’t Miss)

Perfect Day Trip to Miyajima from Kyoto, Osaka, or Hiroshima

10 Amazing Things to Do in Hiroshima You Can’t Miss of Your Visit 

Read All the Posts About Japan in: 

Japan Travel Guide

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WHAT to Do in SHIBUYA (11 Things to Explore in the Vibrant Heart of Tokyo!)

3 Days in Tokyo

Amazing 3 DAYS in TOKYO (Thrilling Itinerary with 21 Things You Can't Miss)

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7 Fun and Easy Trips from Kyoto (Maps+Useful Tips)

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  • 8 Days in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

Eight days are enough for you to visit the major cities of Japan — Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka — while also allowing you to have the flexibility to dedicate 1–2 days for enriching day trips to nearby destinations, such as Hakone, Mount Fuji, Nara, or Hiroshima.

In this article, we've selected five wonderful 8-day Japan itineraries to help you plan a once-in-a-lifetime, beautiful, and stress-free journey. You could choose one of them as a starting point or we could customize your own unique itinerary , maybe based on the inspiration they provide.

Itinerary 1: Classic Japan (Most Chosen)

  • Itinerary 2: For Family with Teenagers
  • Itinerary 3: Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

Itinerary 4: Japan Off-the-Beaten-Path

  • Itinerary 5: Get Involved with the Ainu Aboriginal People

How Much Does 8 Days in Japan Cost?

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  • 2 nights in Tokyo
  • 1 night in Hakone
  • 2 nights in Kyoto
  • 2 nights in Osaka

This 8-day itinerary is ideal for your first trip to experience the best of Japan in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Moreover, you could experience abundant authentic hands-on activities to create an unforgettable Japan trip.

Begins your journey in Tokyo.  Immerse yourself in the ambiance of the Edo era (1603–1868) at Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, walk along the wide stone paths adorned with towering trees at the downtown Meiji Shrine, experience a sushi-making class, and enjoy what you make as your lunch.

Then, travel to Hakone, a small town known for its onsens (hot spring baths). Spend a traditional Japanese-style night at a ryokan (inn) with an onsen, where you could unwind in the hot springs while admiring picturesque countryside views.

A ryokan usually has only 5–15 rooms and they easily become fully booked. You're advised to make reservations at least 3 months in advance to ensure that more options are available. Your personal Japan travel advisor would help you to select a family-friendly or couple-friendly ryokan.

Next, take a comfortable Shinkansen to Kyoto to visit its attractive highlights:  Fushimi Inari Shrine with thousands of orange-red torii gates, the gold-leaf-covered Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), and experience making Kyoto pottery.

Take a day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka to visit the site of the atomic bombing and explore the museum. This would allow you to witness the collection of items left behind after the attack and cherish the post-war peace.

Complete your trip in flourishing Osaka. Experience unique ukiyo-e printmaking to immerse yourself in the charm of Japanese culture, and feel the excitement of a classic Japanese sport — a sumo wrestling match.

Just let us know your interests and requirements , and our Japan travel expert can help make it happen.

Itinerary 2: A Japan Tour for a Family with Teenagers

  • 2 nights in Kyoto (side trip to Nara)
  • 3 nights in Tokyo

This 8-day Japan itinerary is perfect for families, especially those with teenagers. It caters to kids' love for animation and games, and provides a wealth of family-friendly activities that every member could participate in and enjoy. Plus, you won't have to switch hotels frequently.

You'll start in Osaka.  We could arrange many special experiences for your family, such as wearing ninja outfits to be immersed in a ninja experience, or embarking on an extraordinary adventure in the magic world of Mario at Super Nintendo World.

Kyoto is a medieval capital city that's rich in culture.  It's a great place to experience wearing kimonos as you explore shrines and feel like you're traveling back in time, enjoy a night's stay at a traditional ryokan with a family room (accommodating 3–5 people), and take a day trip to Nara to feed deer.

Finally, travel to Tokyo by Shinkansen. Tokyo is an exciting city offering anime elements for families.  You'll explore the Pokémon Center to buy Japan-exclusive products, enjoy coffee and desserts at an anime café themed around your kids' favorite cartoon characters, and dive into a fun-filled world in Tokyo Disneyland at your own relaxed pace.

You can just tell us your preferences and requirements and our Japan travel consultant will customize a tour for you.

Itinerary 3: Japan Cherry Blossom Tour (in March or April)

  • 3 nights in Kyoto (side trip to Nara)
  • 1 night in Osaka

March to April is the cherry blossom season in Japan. You could admire the beautiful cherry blossoms almost everywhere in Japan, making it one of the best times to visit due to the stunning scenery and pleasant weather.

In this well-planned 8-day cherry blossom itinerary, you would enjoy the breathtaking beauty of cherry blossoms, witness attractions adorned with delicate pink petals, and experience authentic activities to enrich your trip.

Staying at a ryokan with an onsen could be a memorable experience for you. Relax in an open-air hot spring while watching the cherry blossoms dance in the spring breeze. 

By starting to plan for the 2025 cherry blossom season now, you could make a wise decision that grants you a broader selection of hotels and ryokans, along with the possibility of taking advantage of early bird deals. This proactive approach also ensures a higher chance of securing a more experienced and knowledgeable guide with an early booking.

  • 3 nights in Kyoto
  • 1 night in Koyasan
  • 1 night in Wakayama

This 8-day itinerary not only allows you to visit two top cities, Kyoto and Osaka, but also it allows you to explore two off-the-beaten-path places near these cities. It provides you with the chance to experience the lifestyle of monks while enjoying a vegetarian meal in the mountains, to explore an exclusive traditional Japanese village, and to relax on a sandy beach.

Kyoto and Osaka are two major cities in the western region of Japan. Both cities offer plenty of awesome highlights and authentic activities for you to enjoy. Take a day trip to Kobe to sample the best high-quality wagyu — prepare to be amazed by the incredibly tender and juicy meat.

Koyasan is a significant holy site for Buddhists in Japan. You could spend a night at a well-equipped temple to experience Japanese accommodation, indulge in a healthy vegetarian meal, and immerse yourself in a serene Zen atmosphere to relax your mind and body.

End your trip in Wakayama, a city boasting the best western region beach. Leisurely stroll along the sandy beach to relieve your travel fatigue, take a glass-bottom boat trip to discover the wonders of the clear sea, and sample the exquisite culinary delight of fugu ryori, a Japanese pufferfish delicacy.

We'd like to create a wonderful trip based on your needs and interests, whatever the weather.

Itinerary 5: Get Involved with the Ainu Aboriginal People in Hokkaido

  • 3 nights in Sapporo
  • 2 nights in Furano
  • 2 nights in Noboribetsu

If you are interested in the aboriginal culture of Japan, then this 8-day Japan itinerary is suitable for you. You could gain more insights into how the Ainu aboriginal people impacted Hokkaido's history and culture. Furthermore, you would be able to try traditional crafts and observe wildlife up close.

One of the highlights of this itinerary is fully immerse yourself in the Hokkaido's Ainu artifacts.  You could learn about the Ainu aboriginal people and their way of life at the Historical Village of Hokkaido in Sapporo, and observe Ainu artifacts, such as tools and weapons.

For a more immersive encounter with the aboriginal culture, visit an Ainu village in Noboribetsu. Besides watching traditional Ainu dance performances and tasting authentic Ainu cuisine, you could engage in traditional handicraft activities, such as weaving bamboo baskets and making traditional Ainu dolls.

Another highlight of this itinerary is   you could experience yet more hands-on experiences in Furano.  For example, making cheese and candles, which could add more fun to your trip. Asahikawa boasts Hokkaido's best Asahiyama Zoo, where you could closely observe animals and learn about unique habitats specific to Hokkaido's diverse wildlife population, such as Sakhalin foxes and sika deer.

US$350-500 per person per day is the typical cost for a private tour with 4-star hotels, based on a family of 3–5 people. This includes a private guide, private car, full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, all intercity transport within Japan, and hand-picked 4-star hotels. Thus, the total cost for 8 days in Japan is about US$2,800-4,000 (international flights not included).

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2-Week Japan Private Family Vacation

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best japan trip itinerary

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Our guide lele is a wealth of information, Lele is very professional and very attentive to our needs. Lele is amazing. Lele got everything spot on. It probably helps that Guilin is a brilliant place to visit so Lele has great material to work with but that doesn't take anything away from how much Lele helped make it a great trip.

Our guide for Beijing was super knowledgeable and experienced and able to help us to achieve as much as we wanted within the time given. We had a fun time guided by him as he is also super humorous and you can see how he interacts with the vendors and people whom he comes by. Thank you for a very enjoyable time in Beijing and accommodating to all our needs!

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She was very flexible and added extra time when we needed it and we felt extremely well taken care of. She also chose the best restaurants for us,

Our tour guide Helen, was excellent, she was very kind, professional and passionate for her work and she also loves Pandas! She will take you to take the best panda photos and to know more about Chengdu city. Our tour was great, she took us to all our destinations always with the best spots: Temples, pagodas, famous streets, theaters, name it! Everything was great.

He picked up our pre-booked boat/other excursions tickets so we were able to avoid all the long lines and chaos. He is knowledgeable of the places we visited, courteous, fun to travel with and well-versed in Chinese classics.

Tom is the guide that will take you to where no other guide will. We pushed for the experience and Tom and the team delivered more than what we could have ever asked for. His English speaking ability and his Chinese history knowledge is second to none.

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Footsteps of a Dreamer

Ultimate 21 Day Japan Itinerary

In my opinion, 21 days in Japan is the perfect amount of time to spend in Japan. Sure with 14 days you could see all the highlights, but with 21 days you can really delve into the cities, as well as visit some of the more “off the beaten path” destinations, away from much of the tourists. Check out this ultimate 21 day Japan itinerary to see how to best spend your time!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Find more information about affiliate links on our policy page .

  • Before You Go

Day 1: Travel Day

Days 2-5: tokyo.

  • Days 6-9: Day Trips from Tokyo

Day 10: Yamagata & Sendai

Day 11: nagoya, days 12-14: kyoto.

  • Days 15-17: Day Trips from Kyoto

Day 18: Okayama

Day 19: hiroshima.

  • Day 20: Day Trip from Hiroshima

Day 21: Travel Day

Transportation & discount passes, souvenirs & shopping, additional information, before you begin.

If this is your first time traveling to Japan, I highly recommend doing some research into the country’s transportation system, customs, etc. I believe you’ll find it much easier to put together a Japan itinerary if you sort of know what you are getting yourself into.

Useful articles:

  • Top Japanese Phrases for Travel
  • Best Japan Travel Apps – Directions, Food, & More
  • Navigating Japan’s Train System: Tips for Traveling Japan by Train
  • Is the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) Worth It?

21 Day Japan Itinerary

You’ll likely spend your first day in Japan just getting settled. Depending on whether or not your purchased any discount passes, as well as a phone SIM card or pocket Wi-Fi, you may have to pick them up and/or get them activated. Between that and getting to your hotel in Tokyo, you’ll likely find that a good chunk of your day is gone. If you are lucky, you may have some time to explore the area around your hotel in the evening.

Four days in Tokyo gives you enough time to really delve into the city, instead just seeing the highlights.

I recommend spending the first day just exploring the Shinjuku area. There is so much to do there, from strolling around Shinjuku Gyoen (one of my favorite gardens in Tokyo), to visiting Hanazono Jinja (a shrine hidden away in the chaos of the city), to shopping in downtown Shinjuku.

With your second day, you can delve more into Japanese culture in the eastern districts of Tokyo. Take a tour of the Imperial Palace, and then head over to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Also in that area is Tokyo Skytree, he tallest tower in the world. If that’s not enough, I recommend taking a ride on the futurist Himiko and Hotaluna boats.

With your third day, its back to the hustle and bustle of the big city in the Shibuya District. Quite literally. Shibuya Crossing, also sometimes called the Shibuya Scramble, is the busiest intersection in Japan (and possibly the world). Also in this area are popular shopping areas like Shibuya 109 and Don Quijote. Once you’ve had enough of the city, take a stroll around Yoyogi Park and stop by Meiji Jingu.

With your last day, you have to stop by Harajuku. You just can’t miss the wild street fashion, especially common around the Takeshita-dori shopping street. Then, in the afternoon, head over to Akihabara the center of tech and anime culture in Tokyo.

Days 6-9: Tokyo Day Trips

Just outside the city are some truly spectacular places that make for a great day trip from Tokyo, such as Lake Kawaguchiko, Hakone, Kamakura, and Nikko.

Lake Kawaguchiko is one of the Fuji Five lakes. Not only does it offer fantastic views of Mt. Fuji, but it’s also one of the most accessible Mt. Fuji viewing spots. Some popular spots include Chureito Pagoda as well as Music Forest.

One of the most unique activities in Hakone is Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Spa and Resort . It has traditional style onsen (hot springs), but it also has a water theme park with themed onsen such as wine onsen and coffee onsen. It’s definitely a unique experience if nothing else.

Next is Kamakura , the former capital of Medieval Japan. It’s a city full of history and contains several sites of importance. You can take a stroll around Meigetsuin, which is particularly known for their hydrangea flowers, or check out Zeniarai Benten, a temple hidden away in the side of the mountain. Most importantly, make sure to stop by Kotokuin, which is known for housing the second largest Buddha statue in Japan.

I’ve always considered Nikko to by like a mini-Kyoto. It’s a great place to take a deep dive into Japanese culture and history without all the crowds. It’s home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as the mausoleum of a historic political leader.

It’s a bit of work to get there, but one of my favorite stops in Japan is Yamadera. Yamadera, which literally translates to Mountain Temple, is aptly named due to its unique location up in the mountains just outside Yamagata City. You’ll have to climb 1,000 steps to reach the top, but the view at the end is 100% worth every step.

About an hour east of Yamadera is Sendai . Founded by Date Masamune, much of his history is present within the city’s attractions, such as Zuihoden Mausoleum and Osaki Hachimangu.

If you have time in the afternoon, you can also head up to Matsushima Bay area, considered one of Japan’s three most scenic views. Otherwise, head to the train station and head off to your next destination: Nagoya!

Nagoya is a bit off the beaten path, but makes for a great stopover on your way to Kyoto (the next destination on this 21 day Japan itinerary). Checking out places like Nagoya Castle, Tokugawa Garden, and Osu Kannon Dori is a great way to spend a day and get a bit of break from the hustle and bustle. In my opinion, Nagoya Castle pales in comparison to some of the other castles included in this Japan 21 day itinerary, but it warrants a visit, if only so you can check out the exquisite paintings on the sliding doors in Honmaru palace. 

Kyoto was probably one of my favorite destinations in Japan. If you have an interest in traditional Japanese culture, customs, and history, you likely will too. The city is full of countless historically significant structures, and has plenty of fun activities to help you delve into it all.

The first thing I recommend doing while is renting kimono in Kyoto for the day. What better way is there to experience Japanese culture first hand? If you do rent kimono, I recommend keeping the itinerary for the day simple and making sure it doesn’t include a lot of walking, as you’ll find it a bit harder to get around in the kimono. Taking a bus to popular temples such as Ginkakuji, Nanzenji, Shorenin, and Kiyomizudera.

Any trip to Kyoto needs to include a stop at Fushimi Inari. It easily topped the list of my favorite shrines and temples in Kyoto . With over 1,000 bright orange torii gates, it’s definitely a sight to see. Plus, it’s set on the side of the mountain, making for a great place to do some hiking. A bit further south you’ll find Fushimi Momoya Castle. It’s a bit off the beaten path, making it a great place to get some pictures and relax without any crowds. To the east of Fushimi Inari and Momoya Castle is Daigoji, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On your last day in Kyoto, I recommend starting off at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. If possible, I’d get there early so that you can enjoy the tranquility of the walk and forest without all the other people. From there, hop on the Sagano Scenic Railway, where you can sit back and enjoy the relaxing views of Kyoto’s natural beauty. Also, don’t forget to make a stop at Kinkakuji, arguably one of Kyoto’s most famous temples, due to its bright gold color. Then, finish off your time in Kyoto by watching a Kembu demonstration , a traditional Japanese sword art practiced by ancient samurai, and maybe even take some lessons!

Days 15-17: Kyoto Day Trips

Similar to Tokyo, there are a lot of different places that make for great day trips from Kyoto. However, the main three I recommend are Osaka, Himeji and Nara.

With 19 million inhabitants, Osaka is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. It’s well known for its shopping streets, modern architecture, and bountiful activities. Some of my favorites included Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, and the observatory atop Umeda Sky Building.

Himeji is home to one of Japan’s most famous castles. Himeji Castle, also nicknamed the White Heron castle due to its color and shape, has not only been designated as a national treasure but is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby the castle is also Kokoen, a great place for a stroll in a Japanese garden.

Nara is likely most famous for being the home of Todaiji, which houses Japan’s largest, bronze Buddha statue. The second thing it’s most famous for is arguably its people friendly deer. If you have some deer treats, you may even be able to get them to bow to you!

Not only is Okayama the capital of Okayama Prefecture, but it’s one of those “hidden gem” cities. It’s not nearly as crowded with tourists as say Tokyo or Kyoto, but definitely has its claim to fame with iconic landmarks such as “Crow Castle” and Korakuen Garden, one of the three great gardens in Japan.

Hiroshima is one of those places that I personally feel every person should visit. It’s home to the Atomic Bomb Dome, also called the Genbaku Dome or Hiroshima Peace Memorial, which is one of the only buildings to survive the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is probably the most impactful, but also heart wrenching places to visit, because you can actually see the true extent of the damage of the atomic bomb. Also in the area are the Children’s Peace Monument, the Cenotaph and Peace Flame.

Day 20: Hiroshima Day Trip: Miyajima

You could spend one this day exploring more of Hiroshima, but I personally believe your time would be better spent taking a ferry over to the island of Miyajima for a day. One of the most popular attractions here is Itsukushima, known for the way its torii gate seems to float in the water when the tide is in. For some spectacular views of the island as well as the distant Hiroshima, head over to Mount Misen for some hiking.

If you made it all the way to Hiroshima during this 21 day Japan itinerary, and you are flying out of Tokyo, you’ll likely loose most of your last day to traveling. If you take the bullet train, you can likely make it back to Tokyo in about 4 hours, which may give you some extra time to do some last minute sightseeing depending on how late your flight is. Otherwise, take the time to explore the airport and pick up any last minute souvenirs for friends and family.

How Much Should I Budget?

How cheap or expensive the Japan trip is totally up to you. It really comes down to how cost-conscious you are. Do you prefer lodging that simply has a place to sleep for the night, or do want comfort and simple luxuries? How involved do you want to get with some of the activities. These types of questions will be the biggest driving factors of your budget.

Conversion Rate at time of writing: $1 USD = ¥110.71 JPY

For this 21 day Japan itinerary, I HIGHLY recommend buying the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) . Depending on the routes you take, you could spend anywhere from ¥89,662 ($810 USD) to ¥112,050 ($1,012 USD) just in transportation costs. The cost of a 21-day Japan Rail Pass, plus the cost of trains and busses not covered by the Japan Rail Pass comes out be ¥67,990 ($614 USD). By purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, you could save between ¥21,672 and ¥44,060 ($196 and $398 USD).

Assuming you’re not looking for the ultimate fine dining experience, you’ll likely pay about ¥1,000 ($9.01 USD) for a breakfast or lunch meal, and closer to ¥2,000 ($18.02 USD) for dinner. If you’re a nightlife person, I’d add an extra ¥2,000 – ¥3,000 ($18.02 – $27.03 USD) for drinks at an izakaya (Japanese pub).

For 21 days in Japan, a food budget of ¥84,000 – ¥105,000 ($759- $949 USD) should be plenty.

Most standard, western-style, 3 star hotels in cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima will likely be about $90 – $120 USD a night. Hostels and capsule hotels can range anywhere from $20 – $70 USD a night, depending on how fancy the place is and how close it is to downtown. On the luxury end, you can get as fancy as you would like. You could go from simple luxury around $250 USD a night, to over the top fancy at $920 USD a night.

If you get the opportunity, I recommend staying in a ryokan, or traditional Japanese Inn. These style inns typically feature the traditional tatami mats, shoji paper sliding doors, and traditional Japanese clothing for guests to borrow. Depending how fancy of a place you want to stay at, Ryokans typically range from $70 – $200 USD per night.

Overall, you’re looking at about $1,400 to $2,700 USD in lodging expenses.

Thankfully, most of the activities and sightseeing in this 21 day japan itinerary are free. However, many of the temples and shrines have an admission fee, and there are a handful of activities that require tickets or reservations. Depending on what type of package you purchase for some of the activities, you can expect to spend about ¥27,000 – ¥39,000 ($244 – $353 USD).

Chances are, you’re going to want at least one souvenir from Japan, especially if this is your first time. Thankfully, there are lots of places along this Japan 14 day itinerary to pick up some souvenirs. Shopping districts such as Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo as well as Dotonbori in Osaka are great places to start. Also, most shrines and temples sell small trinkets such as omamori (good luck charms), small Buddha statues, and other souvenirs. For more traditional Japanese handicraft, keep your eye open as you walk around Kyoto for shops selling more traditional Japanese products such as kokeshi dolls, furin (japanese windchimes), and similar items unique to Japan.

Like food, budgeting for souvenirs comes down to personal preference. Most smaller souvenirs like Japanese fans, chopsticks, maneki-neko (beckoning cats), Japanese towels, and such will likely be about ¥1,000 ($9.01 USD) or less per item.

As a general rule of thumb, I typically budget about $100 USD for souvenirs if the trip is less than a week. However, for 14 days in Japan, I would probably budget closer to $200 – $300 USD. Just remember you have to fit all your souvenirs in your suitcase when you go home!

When you combine the estimated costs of transportation, food, hotels, activities, and shopping, the total budget for 14 days in Japan comes out to be….

  • For budget travelers: $3,000 USD
  • For mid-range travelers: $4,500 USD
  • For luxury travelers: $7,000 USD

Figuring out where to go, what to do, and how much it all will cost is a big part of planning a trip to Japan. Unfortunately though, it’s not everything. Here are a few more articles that can provide even more helpful information when planning a 7 day trip to Japan.

  • Navigating Japan’s Train System
  • Best Japan Travel Apps

If you’re looking for some alternatives to the activities listed above, you can check out my in-depth itineraries.

  • Tokyo in 5 – 7 days
  • Kyoto in 2 – 4 days
  • Hiroshima in 1 – 2 days
  • Osaka in 2 days

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1 thought on “ultimate 21 day japan itinerary”.

Japan specifically Tokyo will always have special place in my heart. I love Japan’s culture but mostly the politeness of the people. In all my visits, I never experienced any rudeness.

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Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog

The Perfect One Month Japan Itinerary And Travel Guide (2024)

By: Author Lotte

Posted on Last updated: February 7, 2024

Categories Japan (3)

Japan is a beautiful country with a history of emperors and samurai, unique culture and religion, ancient temples, impressive castles, and stunning nature.

Japan never ceases to amaze and it's one of my favorite countries in the world. Over the years, we've  made quite a few trips to Japan; the last one was in October 2023.

Altogether we've spent almost two months exploring Japan and I'd love to go back for another trip.

This Japan itinerary gives you several options to explore this truly unique nation, depending on your preference and the amount of time you have available.

It includes some of the most popular places to visit and things to do in Japan, but also several off-the-beaten-path destinations .

Japan itinerary

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). We're very grateful when you use our links to make a purchase:-).

Universal Studio Osaka

Itinerary for Japan and Japan travel map

You can find our itinerary of Japan on the map below, as well as our accommodation and the highlights we visited during our trip to Japan.

Japan itinerary map things to do

Click here for the interactive map

The perfect one month itinerary in Japan

Kobe Japan

  • Day 1-7: Eat your way through Osaka and enjoy the city’s streets and tranquil shrines. Then, pay a visit to Universal Studios .
  • Day 7-9: Try the world-famous wagyu beef in Kobe, visit the museums in Hiroshima and explore the lovely island of Miyajima .
  • Day 9-11: Visit the magical Kyoto . Stroll around historic neighborhoods, learn about Japanese culture, and admire beautiful temples and the famous Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. After that, explore ancient temples in Nara and hike the  Koyasan pilgrimage trail .
  • Day 11-18: Take a road trip around Hokkaido , Japan's wild and untamed northernmost island with stunning scenery. Alternatively, stay in Sapporo and enjoy little daytrips to the nearest fun locations (like  Asahiyama Zoo  or nearest port town of Otaru).
  • Day 18-28: Explore Tokyo . Visit ancient temples, marvel at modern buildings, relax in one of the many parks and eat your way around this bustling city.
  • Day 28-33:  Go off the beaten track in the Japanese Alps and visit Kanazawa,  Shirakawa-go ,  Takayama , Kamikochi , and Matsumoto.

Blue pools Hokkaido Japan Furano

One-month Japan itinerary

Our recent trip to Japan in fall of 2023 was the most epic one: We spent 10 days in Osaka, then an entire week in Sapporo, before polishing off our stay with 10 days in Tokyo. Taking into account all the new and old information, we’ve created this perfect masterpiece — our extended and improved itinerary for an entire month in Japan!

I have written extensive guides for the majority of all the places we visited in Japan, with more information about our day-to-day activities, transportation, and accommodation.

You can find the links to those detailed posts in the itinerary below. If you don't have that much time available to explore Japan, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Further on in the post, I also suggest shorter options (7 and 10 days, plus 2 and 3 weeks) for your Japan travel itinerary.

Day 1 – 7: Osaka

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

✔️Osaka cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Osaka?  Get an ICOCA IC Card  (it comes with Kansai Thru Pass, perfect for moving around the cities). If you plan on being Osaka-bound for a few days in a row, without peeking outside city limits, then Osaka Metro Pass  will be fine.
  • Where to stay in Osaka?  4*  Miyako City Osaka Hommachi  (from $130 a night) is a great option for travelers. The hotel is located close to the train station, and the nearest tourist attractions are only a stop away!
  • What to book in advance for your time in Osaka?  A ticket to  teamLab Botanical Garden and a Universal Studios pass .
  • Where to learn more about Osaka?  Our 1-Day Osaka itinerary  is a treasure trove of things to do and see in this marvelous city.

Osaka is a great first stop on our 1-Month Japan Itinerary, and here’s why: The city has the best balance between tradition and modernity. Here, you can ease into the culture that is so different from the ones you’ve experienced before. If you get easily overwhelmed by neon-lit loud main streets, take a step back into nature — thankfully, Osaka has got the best of both worlds!

Apart from having the best time by eating your way around Osaka (after all, the proud title of the Nation’s Kitchen didn’t come from nothing), there are a few places that you absolutely must visit to get the most well-rounded experience of the city:

📍 Tsutenkaku Tower:  Osaka’s very own Eiffel Tower, this landmark is a crown jewel of the bustling Shinsekai district and the city in general. The structure lights up at night but it's not the only feature that attracts crowds of visitors daily. The tower is home to a viewing deck  (¥900 / $6) which is great for enjoying bird’s-eye view panoramas of Osaka, in all its dazzling glory.

Osaka Castle

📍 Osaka Castle:  After getting demolished and rebuilt again and again, the construction now stands as the epitome of traditional Japanese architecture. A visit to the castle grounds doesn’t stop at the main structure though, as there’re so many other things to marvel at here: Giant stone walls, moats (!), cherry blossoms… The mind reels at the sheer thought of seeing all of this for the first time. I recommend you booking tickets to Osaka Castle (¥600 / $4) in advance as the lines at the gates are HUGE.

📍 teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka:  When nature and technology come together, something beautiful appears. This installation (¥1800 / $12) set in Nagai Botanical Garden, is nothing you’ve ever seen before: Walking through moving fields, under lit-up trees, and surrounded by shapes out of a ski-fi movie is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you simply cannot miss when in Osaka.

Tickets to teamLab Botanical Garden >>

📍 Dotonbori:  A great foodie destination by day, the street comes alive with lights at night! Rendezvous with your travel buddies by the Glico running man and go explore this Adventureland-esque area of Osaka till the early hours.

Universal Studios

Universal Studio Osaka 2

Most people travel to Osaka just to get the experience of Universal Studios Japan (USJ), and who can blame them: This world-famous theme park is the ultimate fun capital of the country! With areas ranging from Harry Potter to Nintendo World (Jurassic Park, Jaws, Minions, and other themes to boot), this place has something for everybody.

  • There are a few Universal Studios passes you can choose from. You can get a simple 1-Day Studio Pass  (¥8600 / $58,5) or an Express Pass  (from ¥12,800 / $87) that lets you cut the line on a number of rides, depending on the package. Nintendo World requires a ticket with a separate access, you can reserve your spot in the USJ app in the morning of your visit. 

Note that exploring Universal Studios usually takes no less than a full day, so plan your itinerary accordingly! After all, there’s so many things to accomplish once inside: Take a ride on the Flying Dinosaur, drink butterbeer, help Mario save the Princess, hug minions, and eat your weight in themed snacks… You will need lots and lots of energy to experience anything and everything at Universal Studios Japan.

🔹 Side note : Based purely on our experience, we’ve come to a conclusion that you will have a great time at Universal Studios if you spend extra to fast-track everything. Huge lines for virtually all rides (with wait times starting at one hour) and giant crowds in general will dampen your mood if that’s all you’ll get to look at once inside. 

Day 7 – 9: Kobe, Hiroshima, Miyajima

Kobe Osui

After you’ve explored everything that Osaka has to offer, it’s time to broaden your horizons! Kobe, Hiroshima, and Miyajima are perfect day trips you can take and still come back to your hotel in Osaka for a nightcap.

Personally, that’s exactly what we did: With just day packs on our backs, we perused the fast and furious services of the Japanese bullet trains and got to discover these fantastic cities, each so unique and different.

Kobe Port

✔️Kobe cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Kobe?  Just like in Osaka, the same  ICOCA IC Card  will make your movements to and around the city much easier (it works in all of the greater Kansai area). You can take a short but sweet shinkansen (bullet train) ride from Osaka to Kobe — just 15 minutes and you’re here! Another option you can look into is taking a small detour in Kobe on your way back from Hiroshima — just remember to keep your original ticket, and then you can top it off with some cash to finally reach your base in Osaka. 
  • Where to stay in Kobe?  4*  The Royal Park Canvas Kobe Sannomiya (from $70 a night) — a perfectly located hotel, close to the train station and set right in the city center. But to tell you the truth, it’s much better to use Osaka as your base and go to Kobe purely in search of new experiences. 
  • What to book in advance for your time in Kobe?  Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway and Kobe Animal Kingdom . Besides these experiences, the best things to do in Kobe are walking and eating!

A beautiful city not too far from Osaka, Kobe is world-famous for being the place where the finest beef — Kobe Wagyu beef — comes from. However, that’s not all that Koby’s wrapped up to be! Because of its rich history as a port, Kobe is also home to some unique tourist attractions and landmarks worthy of your time and money. It’s as multicultural as Japan can get!

Sandwiched between the sea and the mountains, this small town can be explored in just a few hours (at least its main sights, since it's pretty much impossible to get to know the place in such a short amount of time). So, when in Kobe, try and diversify your experiences (thankfully, the city has many sides to it) and visit the following attractions:

📍 Kobe Port Tower : Referred to as “Steel Beauty”, this spectacular hourglass-shaped red structure is an iconic city landmark. The site is currently closed for seismic restoration, set to open in spring of 2024. Until then, the stunning views that open up from the tower’s viewing deck are unavailable to the public. The waiting’s going to be worth it, trust us!

📍 Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway : One of the largest herb gardens in Japan, Nunobiki is a standalone, super aesthetically-pleasing and relaxing destination in Kobe, perfect for a chill afternoon. Take a 10-minute ride on the ropeway and enjoy the lush greenery (lavender and lily gardens were the highlights of our visit). Ticket to Nunobiki is ¥1440 / $9,7.

Kobe Maritime Museum

📍 Kobe Maritime Museum : A cross between Sydney Opera House (the shape) and Louvre Abu Dhabi (the pattern), Kobe Maritime Museum is an architectural marvel and a true eye-candy set right by the water. At night, the structure is a stark contrast from the Kobe Port Tower: The swooshing strokes of green-illuminated roof construction of the museum are set against the tall and bright red tower complex. Inside, Kobe Maritime Museum is a wonderland of exciting maritime trivia — exhibitions are perfect for kids and adults alike! Admission is ¥900 / $6.

📍 Akashi Kaikyo Bridge : World’s second largest suspension bridge (it was the first for more than 20 years, until 2022; when the newly opened Turkish 1915 Çanakkale Bridge took the title), it connects Kobe to Awaji Island. The sight of the bridge itself is great enough: Just think about the efforts it took to create such a monstrous structure! However, if you’re more of a doer than an observer, there are tours you can book that let you climb to the very top of the bridge’s towers (adrenaline junkies unite!).

Hiroshima Memorial

✔️Hiroshima cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Hiroshima?  If you’re serious about covering lots of ground in Japan, maybe start looking into a JR Pass. It makes sense to invest in it if you move around a lot, otherwise we would stick to single-trip tickets.
  • Where to stay in Hiroshima?  2*  WeBase Hiroshima  — one of the more budget-friendly hotel options in Japan ($80 a night!) that we were lucky enough to experience during our last trip. Great location, as well as clean light rooms and spacious communal spaces make for a fantastic stay in Hiroshima. 
  • What to book in advance for your time in Hiroshima?  A guided bike tour  of the main tourist attractions is a great idea for the city where history is literally palpable when you’re exploring its streets. If you decide to kill two birds with one stone and explore both Hiroshima and Miyajima in one day, then a bus tour would be a perfect choice. 
  • Where to learn more about Hiroshima?  Our detailed guide to Hiroshima  should be more than enough to guarantee you have the best time in the city.

For me, visiting Hiroshima was a very moving experience. It felt strange to wander around streets that were completely and utterly destroyed when the A-bomb was dropped during WWII in 1945.

An entire city lost…

I couldn’t, and still can’t, grasp the enormity of that tragedy. When in Hiroshima, there are several places you must visit, to learn about the history of the city:

The Atomic Bomb Dome

📍 The Atomic Bomb Dome : The atomic bomb dropped by the United States Army detonated about 600 meters above this building, which is why it's still (partially) standing. It's a vivid reminder of the tragic history of Hiroshima.

📍 The Children’s Peace Monument:  This monument is dedicated to the children who died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

📍 Hiroshima Castle : The original castle was also destroyed by the atomic bomb, but has been reconstructed perfectly (like you could expect anything less in Japan). Explore the museum inside (¥370 / $2,5), wander the gardens, and admire the view from the top of the caste.

Check out my Hiroshima itinerary .

Miyajima island floating Torii gate in the water Japan

✔️Miyajima cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Miyajima?   First, you get on the island by ferry: From Hiroshima, take a train to the station nearest the pier — Miyajimaguchi Station, and then proceed onto the ferry. Both of these modes of transport are covered by JR Pass , so think about making this investment for your trip to Japan. While on the island, you can either rent a bike, walk, or hail a taxi — most of the sights are located quite close to each other, so you can see them in one day, easy.
  • Where to stay in Miyajima?  Accommodation options on the island are pretty out there, price-wise. However, you can find something affordable, if you look hard enough:  Miyajima Guest House Mikuniya  (from $70 a night) is a great choice for spending the night on the island.
  • What to book in advance for your time in Miyajima?  Apart from an obvious guided tour option, try and diversify your travel portfolio by booking a one-of-a-kind Kimono experience  that comes clad with a tea ceremony and a calligraphy lesson.
  • Where to learn more about Miyajima?  Our  Miyajima itinerary  will make you want to start your Japan exploration with the island, but pace yourself: Good things come to those who wait!

From Hiroshima, we traveled to Miyajima Island (also called Itsukushima). Miyajima is a beautiful green island and a great place if you love outdoor activities like me.

Things to do are:

miyajima ferry

📍 Itsukushima Shrine and the ‘floating’ Torii gate : This is definitely the most popular tourist attraction on Miyajima Island. The shrine is built over the water and supported by pillars. If you can, time your visit with high tide and the sunset for an unforgettable view.

📍 Hike to the top of Mount Misen : Mount Misen is a 535 meters tall ‘mountain' on Miyajima Island. Three official trails lead to the summit, though you can also do part of the ascend by ropeway .

📍 Daisho-in Temple: This ancient temple was founded in the year 80. Don’t miss the multicolored sand mandala, the beautiful lanterns hanging from the ceiling of the Henjokutsu Ichigandaishi cave and the many little statues found all around the complex.

Check out my  Miyajima Island guide .

Day 9 – 11: Kyoto, Nara and Koyasan

Kyoto viewpoint in Gion

Both Nara and Koyasan are very interesting places to visit.

While Nara offers some of the most famous temples in Japan, Koyasan is considered a sacred place and remains a popular pilgrimage destination even today.

Moving on to a more “traditional” city in Japan (after all, it has been the country’s capital for more than a thousand years), we made our way to Kyoto.

Gion Kyoto

✔️Kyoto cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Kyoto?   First, you need to know that the short trip from Osaka to Kyoto doesn't have to be by Shinkansen. You can get to Kyoto from Osaka station by train for 30 minutes and ¥580 / $4. When in the city, we did a lot of walking and occasionally hopped on the local trains to get to the shrines. 
  • Where to stay in Kyoto?  Although during our last trip we still decided to keep Osaka as our home base and use Kyoto as one of our daytrip destinations, we can’t help but mention that there are great accommodation options in the city, and some of them pretty budget-friendly. Take 3* Tune Stay Kyoto  (from $40 a night), for example, — it’s the best value hotel for the humble price tag in Kyoto! Clean rooms, great location, and excellent service will make you believe you’re paying hundreds of dollars for the experience.
  • What to book in advance for your time in Kyoto?  Exciting (and romantic) train (!) tour of Kyoto’s best sights , as well as a ticket to Kyoto Tower  should be good enough to start your Kyoto adventure with. 
  • Where to learn more about Kyoto?   Also known as the mother of all shrines, it’s easy to get lost in the myriad of sightseeing options of Kyoto (its “modern” side is pretty diverse as well). That’s why we encourage you to check out our Kyoto guide  before commiting to the itinerary.

Kyoto with its many temples and other highlights was another great place to visit in Japan.

We strolled around the busy streets for two days (three nights) and didn’t nearly see everything there is to see in Kyoto…

🔹 2024 Update : Another trip to Japan meant a well-overdue overhaul of all things we’ve first experienced in Kyoto. Our daytrip from Osaka to Kyoto (this time we opted against moving our luggage back and forth between the cities) was full with sights and experiences! Remember though, that Kyoto’s landmarks are pretty scattered, so you will spend quite a bit of time commuting between them. Because of that, we recommend you try and shake things up with some sort of activity; kimono rental  should do the trick!

I liked the vibe of this beautiful city and the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt either. And again, the food… Oh Japanese cuisine, I would travel back to Japan today for a bowl of abura soba or ramen!

In any case, when in Kyoto, definitely visit these places:

Fushimi Inari Shrine

📍 Gion: Gion is the historic district of Kyoto, a maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with old (wooden) buildings, restaurants, cafes, and traditional teahouses. If you are lucky, you may even spot a real geisha!

📍 Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion): Possibly the most famous construction in Kyoto, this temple was originally the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Later it became a temple and with its golden exterior and splendid architectural style, it's highly worth a visit (¥500 / $3,5).

📍 Inari Fukushi shrine: For me, this was the highlight of our trip to Kyoto. You probably have seen many photos similar to the one pictured above (on the right), however, actually walking this famous path below the Torii gates yourself is a very special experience.

📍 Kyoto Tower : The best way to get the feel for the city you’re visiting is looking at it from above! We have no idea why a lot of people consider the tower tacky and “ugly” (maybe it has something to do with the way Kyoto is advertised: Its not all historic districts and shrines like the internet makes it out to be), since we quite enjoyed looking at this tall structure and going up to its observation deck (¥900 / $6). A bird’s-eye view of Kyoto is like nothing you would expect; it’s a perfect way to finish your day in the city with: All the lights of the bustling city streets paired with shaded mountainous horizon make for a mind-boggling picture!

Check out my Kyoto itinerary .

1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map

✔️Nara cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Nara?   First, consider investing in some sort of travel pass for a more hassle-free experience: An  ICOCA IC Card  with Kansai Thru Pass should do the trick. 
  • Where to stay in Nara?  Nara is a mere half-hour ride away from Kyoto by Shinkansen, so you don’t have to look for accommodation here unless you really want to explore the area in detail (a daytrip is more than enough for Nara, at least it was in our experience). Still, it’s nice to know that should you decide to spend the night in Nara, there would be some appropriate accommodation options: 3*  Centurion Hotel Classic Nara  (from $50 per night) and 4* Henn na Hotel Nara  (from $40 a night) are both amazing and budget-friendly choices!
  • What to book in advance for your time in Nara?  A day tour of Nara  is a great way to get to know the city without doing too much planning yourself.

Nara, while far from a big city, is home to about 400.000 people and is most well-known for its temples and deer. And we saw plenty of both during our one-day visit to Nara.

Some of the main attractions in Nara are:

📍 Naramachi District: In the former merchant district of Nara, you can find traditional wooden houses, pretty little shops, art galleries, and much more. When strolling around this beautiful neighborhood, you will feel like you have stepped back in time.

📍 Todaiji : Todaiji roughly translates into the Great Eastern Temple, a fitting name for this huge and impressive temple. Housing the world's largest bronze Buddha statue, a visit to this temple should definitely be on your Nara itinerary (¥600 / $4).

📍 Nara Park : Go for a stroll in Nara Park, one of the oldest parks in Japan. Nara Park is home to hundreds of deer, which have become a symbol of the city. Several of Nara's highlights are located in the park as well, such as the aforementioned Todaiji, but also Kofukuji, and the Nara National Museum.

📍 Nara Kingyo Museum :  If you enjoyed Osaka’s teamLab experience, then you will absolutely love this museum  in Nara! However, it's not so much a museum per se, the exhibitions inside are all goldfish-themed (!) and are better described as backdrops for stunning Instagram pics. Get your Alice-in-Wonderland fix and leave with tons of content for your socials!

Check out this great guide to Nara for more details!

Koyasan chōishi-michi pilgrimage trail

✔️Koyasan cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Koyasan?   You’ve probably gotten your  ICOCA IC Card  already (about time, you’ve spent more than a week in Japan as of right now!), so use it to get to/around Koyasan. 
  • Where to stay in Koyasan?  Accommodation options are few and far between in Koyasan; and most of them are pretty expensive. Still, there’s a fantastic opportunity here if you want to spend the night — a temple stay experience! For a price of around $100, you can stay at a real functioning Buddhist temple — Mitsugonin. 
  • What to book in advance for your time in Koyasan?  There’s not a lot of “bookable” activities in Koyasan, so make do with simply walking around and enjoying the scenery, free of charge! 
  • Where to learn more about Koyasan?  We go into more detail about the area in our guide to hiking the Koyasan Chōishi-Michi trail .

From Nara, we traveled to Koyasan, or Mount Koya, to be exact.

We hiked the 24km Koyasan Chōishi-Michi pilgrimage trail, definitely a highlight of our trip. The fog drifting through the forest made the entire experience magical and mysterious…

And if our trip to Koyasan wasn’t perfect enough already, the next day was sunny with a clear blue sky.

Vermillion Kongobu-ji temple Mount Koya Japan

Some of the places in Koyasan you must visit are:

📍 Okunoin : The oldest graves in this cemetery date back to the year 816. Okunoin is a UNESCO heritage site, with over 200.000 tombstones, many of them covered by thick layers of moss, and the Kobo Daishi's mausoleum.

📍 Garan: This is Koyasan's central temple complex. Pictured above is the 45-meter-high vermilion Konpon Daito Pagoda, one of the most impressive buildings within the complex (¥1000 / $6,8). Another notable building is the Kondo Hall, a large wooden temple used for important ceremonies. 

📍 Daimon Gate : A magnificent two-story wooden gate that marks the end of the 24km Koyasan Chōishi-Michi pilgrimage trail. You'll be very happy to see this gate, it means you've finished your hike and made it all the way to Koyasan!

Check out my detailed guide to hiking the Koyasan Chōishi-Michi trail .

Day 11 – 18: Hokkaido (with and without a car)

Hot Springs Geysers in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan, and, in our opinion (though we may be biased), it's the most beautiful of the bunch. Famous for its flowering fields in the summer and the kick-ass slopes in the winter, it is a year-round destination that attracts tons of visitors from all over the world to the area.

  • Speaking of tourists, maybe it's because the sights in question are quite remote or because they’re mostly set in vast natural landscapes, we didn’t feel suffocated by crowds, which is a fear many travelers have when visiting Japan.

Hokkaido is also every foodie’s dream: Their produce (particularly melons), seafood (crab and sea urchin), and milk-based foods (soft-serve ice-cream is the best in the biz on Hokkaido) will leave you full and happy!

The island, as naturally beautiful as it is in real life, can seem daunting to an unexperienced traveler: It’s not as “modern” as the rest of Japan. Even bullet trains go only as far as Hakodate (Hokkaido’s southernmost city, one of the few large cities on the island), and then it’s good old slow trains all the way to Sapporo.

Because of that, there are a couple of ways to enjoy Hokkaido: First, to set up camp in Sapporo and make use of the bus and train system to make day trips to notable locations in the vicinity, and second, to rent a car and have more freedom of choosing your destinations and change your plans on the go, depending on the weather.

Hokkaido without a car (Sapporo and daytrips from the city)

Sapporo viewpoint

✔️Sapporo cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Sapporo?   Use the extensive Sapporo metro system and local trains.
  • Where to stay in Sapporo?  3* Sapporo Tokyu REI Hotel  (from $50 a night) — a perfect choice of a hotel that provides great value for the money. In Hokkaido, you won’t be spending too much time inside anyway: There’s so much waiting for you outside!
  • What to book in advance for your time in Sapporo?  All the day trips, obviously: We chose a tour to Noboribetsu and Lake Toya .
  • Where to learn more about Sapporo?  Our Hokkaido road trip itinerary  has some unique insight into the city of Sapporo, so make sure to check it out before you go!

Most of you must have heard of Hokkaido’s capital through Sapporo Snow Festival (held each February, the ice sculptures of Sapporo are unlike anything we’ve ever seen) and the eponymous brand of beer — Sapporo. However, in true Japanese fashion, the city is practically teeming with possibilities to have the best time — high-end and vintage shopping, thousands of restaurants, and exciting landmarks.

Because of the time limits, we will focus more on the day trip destinations you can explore on the island — the city will still be waiting for you when you get back!

📍 Hill of the Buddha : A marvelous Buddhist temple set in the most picturesque of places. Surrounded by lavender fields, with Easter Island-esque statues and a Bond-villain-ey pond in the vicinity, the temple is a must-see if you love to be surprised and aesthetically pleased by what you’re witnessing. 

Lake Toya from Sapporo

📍 Lake Toya : Located about two hours away from Sapporo,  Lake Toya  is one of the largest caldera lakes in Japan (lakes formed in the hollowed out volcano). The scenery of the area is simply breathtaking; it helps to know that plenty of tours have the lake in their itinerary.

📍 Otaru : A quaint port town set within an hour’s drive from Sapporo. Famous for its charming canals and historic fishermen’s mansions (also called Herring Mansions), Otaru is a perfect daytrip destination for people who enjoy exploring a new city at a leisurely pace. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of Japan, Otaru is the town with the right amount of fun and history, without the crowds.

📍 Jozankei Onsen : A very popular destination in Hokkaido. The hot springs and autumn foliage create a unique setting for a day trip from Sapporo. Trust me, if you want to lose your onsen innocence, let your first time be at Jozankei Onsen: These hot springs will help you alleviate all the travel stress and long days spent exploring the country thus far.

📍 Asahiyama Zoo : A perfect answer to the question of what to do in Hokkaido with children — pay a visit to Asahiyama Zoo ! An activity that includes watching animals like penguins and polar bears is a win in our book.

Hokkaido road trip 

rent a car in Sapporo

During our very first trip here, I was already sold on Hokkaido when I was still on the plane (from Tokyo to Sapporo). From my window seat, I could see nothing but nature. And nature is what I love the most.

Cities are nice, but nature is best…

I loved our time on Hokkaido, the island is wild and untamed and completely blew me away with its natural beauty.

There are impressive volcanoes, extensive forests, and vast lakes. Also, it was cold! And I mean cold…

Cold Hokkaido Japan dam

Hokkaido is a place where you'll be in awe but also grow healthy respect for nature.

The wind can be fierce and freezing, and we endured snow and hail but also got to enjoy days of sunshine and admire the famous cherry blossoms ( sakura ).

Farm Tomita Hokkaido Japan

We explored Hokkaido by car, which in my opinion is the best way to get around this island.

We discovered places we wouldn’t have been able to visit if we didn’t have a car and each of those places was absolutely incredible.

A couple of the highlights of our Hokkaido trip were:

📍 Matsumae Castle:  A beautiful traditional Edo-style castle surrounded by thousands of cherry blossom trees. Matsumae Castle is worth a visit during any time of the year but is particularly stunning during sakura.

📍 Furano: My favorite small town on Hokkaido with a myriad of things to do. You can visit a cheese or wine factory (or both), go for a hike, admire the vivid Blue Pools, and much more. Stay here for at least two nights if you have time!

📍 Shikisai no Oka : The most Instagrammable destination on the island, with vast rolling hills covered in a patchwork rotation of flowers. Amsterdam’s tulip fields don’t stand a chance in front of Shikisai no Oka! Don’t believe me? Come here and decide for yourself!

Check out my Hokkaido road trip guide .

Day 18 – 28: Tokyo

The Tokyo Sky Tree

✔️Tokyo cheat sheet:

  • How to get around Tokyo?   There are quite a few pass options you can look into: Tokyo Subway Ticket for unlimited rides, or a Welcome Suica Pass .
  • Where to stay in Tokyo?  We chose 3*  Almont Inn Tokyo Nihonbashi  (from $55 a night) — a great hotel within walking distance of Ginza , one of our favorite neighborhoods in Tokyo. From Pokémon to Godzilla, early morning fish markets, and high-end shopping, — Ginza will always leave you wanting more!
  • What to book in advance for your time in Tokyo?  Tokyo Sky Tree  and Shibuya Sky  admission tickets, as well as possible day outings to Warner Bros. Studio ( The Making of Harry Potter ) and Mt Fuji .
  • Where to learn more about Tokyo?   Our 7-day itinerary  is the ultimate guide for all things Tokyo, check it out!

Of course, no visit to Japan is complete without exploring Tokyo.

The city of flashing neon, Lolita dresses and other quirky looks , hidden alleys, ancient temples, the famous Tokyo Sky Tree , and the most Michelin stars of any city in the world. Tokyo offers days (or should I say months) of activities.

Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While the city center can be extremely busy at places like Tokyo Station and Shibuya Crossing, there are also much more quiet areas, like lovely Ueno Park.

We've visited Tokyo several times, twice for several days and once during a stopover. During our last visit we were lucky enough to spend an entire week in Tokyo, which was definitely the highlight of our entire Japan experience! With each trip, we discover more to see and do in this unique capital, mixing ultramodern and ancient traditions!

Some of the top things to do are:

Senso-Ji Temple

📍 Asakusa and the Senso-Ji Temple: Don't miss this beautiful historic neighborhood in Tokyo. Here you can find quaint little streets, boutique shops, and the impressive Sensō-Ji temple.

TeamLab Digital Art Museum 2

📍 TeamLab Digital Art Museum: This amazing interactive museum creates a fairytale world filled with light and colors. Be sure to buy a ticket online (¥3800 / $25) as they often sell out! It’s also good to note that the neighborhood adjacent to the museum — Odaiba — is definitely worth a detour during your visit to the area. 

The Tokyo Sky Tree viewpoint

📍 The Tokyo Sky Tree: The Tokyo Sky Tree is currently the third-tallest building in the world (after Burj Khalifa in  Dubai  and Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur). It is still, however, the tallest tower in the world! There are two observation decks, one at 350 meters and at 450 meters high, offering impressive views over Tokyo city. Book your ticket online  (¥1800 / $12 ) to save money and skip the queue .

📍 Shibuya Sky : Another viewpoint with stunning views of Tokyo. Come here if you haven’t secured the very sought-after Tokyo Sky Tree ticket and enjoy your time with less crowds and more open city panoramas. Book your ticket here (¥2200 / $15) and don’t forget to learn more about Shibuya neighborhood in this article .

fuji mountain trip

📍 Daytrips from Tokyo : After you’ve exhausted all the main city attractions (although it’s quite an impossible task, just look at our week in Tokyo itinerary here , it’s time to look outside Tokyo limits!  Warner Bros. Studio Harry Potter (¥6300 / $42), Tokyo Disney Resort Park (¥8400 / $56,5), and Mt Fuji are the top choices that you can start with. Although we doubt you’ll have the time or energy for more — each of these locations requires an entire day to experience!

Check out my Tokyo itinerary and what to do in Tokyo with kids . 

Day 28 – 33: The Japanese Alps

View from top of Mount Yakedake Japanese Alps Kamikochi

✔️The Japanese Alps cheat sheet:

  • How to get around the Japanese Alps?  Bus passes  (some with add-ons like a ropeway ticket included) are the most obvious transportation options, in our opinion. 
  • Where to stay in the Japanese Alps?  Depending on how much of your travel budget is left after an entire month in Japan, you can either treat yourself to a luxurious stay in 4*  Takayama Green Hotel  (from $120 a night) or resort to spending the night at 3* Alpico Plaza Hotel  (from $40 per night). What will it be? 
  • What to book in advance for your time in the Japanese Alps?  If you’re unsure how to navigate the many towns and locations that make up the Japanese Alps, an organized day tour  will be the perfect way to go about it!
  • Where to learn more about the Japanese Alps?  Our Japanese Alps itinerary  will make even the idlest homebodies into avid hiking enthusiasts in record time, that’s a guarantee!

Though our entire trip around Japan was amazing, the Japanese Alps were definitely one of my favorite areas. After all, getting outside city limits is one of the crucial tips to enjoying your time in Japan to the fullest (what are other things you should know before traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun?)

I love mountains, though unfortunately, we don’t have any near my home town. I also love hiking and this is something we did a lot in the Alps.

Kenruko-en garden Kanazawa - Japan itinerary

We started our journey through the Alps in Kanazawa to stroll around the lovely Kenruko-en garden.


Shirakawa-go (白川郷, Shirakawagō) village in Japanese Alps

The next day we got on a bus to Shirakawa-go, famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old!

Old shops in Takayama village Japanese Alps

The next city on our Alps itinerary was Takayama, where we explored the old neighborhoods and Hida Folk Village.

1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map

The absolute highlight of our Japan trip was Kamikochi, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

I spent three days in Kamikochi. We were surrounded by stunning mountains and scaled a volcano (Mount Yakedake).

We slept in our little tent at a very well-managed campsite and wandered around the valley. Suffice it to say, I was completely and utterly happy.

One month Japan itinerary - Matsumoto Castle

Last but not least we visited the beautiful castle in Matsumoto, one of Japan's most famous and well-preserved historic castles.

During our second trip to Japan, we spent 3 nights in Matsumoto, it's a very convenient hub to explore the Japanese Alps and a nice city as well.

Check out my Japanese Alps itinerary and Kamikochi camping and hiking guide .

Day 34: Goodbye Japan…

Outlet close to tokyo

Our flight back home was from Tokyo, so we changed the snowy mountain peaks for bustling city streets for our last day here. I was sad to leave because we had such an amazing month in Japan…

From the wilds of Hokkaido with its hauntingly beautiful nature and its bitter cold to the tragic and terrible history of Hiroshima.

From the floating Tori gate of Miyajima to the peaks of Kamikochi, the temples in Kyoto , and the mysterious forest of Koyasan, it was a wonderful trip. And that’s not even taking into account all the delicious Japanese food!

Japan is an amazing country and I highly recommend adding Japan to your travel bucket list, you won't regret it.

Fuji mountain

Alternative Japan itineraries (7 and 10 days + 2 and 3 weeks)

Japan itinerary 7 days.

If you just have 1 week in Japan, don’t worry! While you cannot see everything the country has to offer, you can get a taste and feel of the country. Here is my suggestion for a 7-day Japan itinerary:

  • Day 1-2:  Explore Tokyo
  • Day 3:  Make an easy day trip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji (one of the most popular destinations in Japan), Kamakura , or Nikko
  • Day 4:  Take the Shinkansen to Kyoto (2 hours and 15 minutes) and explore Kyoto
  • Day 5-6:   Explore Kyoto
  • Day 7:  Return to Tokyo and fly home (you can also fly out from Osaka)

Senso-Ji Temple viewpoint

10 day Japan itinerary

This Japan 10-day itinerary includes big cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, but also the beautiful nature of Koyasan and the famous temples (and deer) in Nara.

This Japan 10 days itinerary isn't too fast-paced, however, you will get to visit five very different places in Japan:

  • Day 3:  Make a day trip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji , Kamakura , or Nikko
  • Day 5-6:  Explore Kyoto
  • Day 7-8:  Hike the Koyasan Chōishi-Michi pilgrimage trail and explore sacred Koyasan
  • Day 9:  Visit Nara
  • Day 10:  Fly home from Osaka

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto 2

Japan 2 week itinerary

This 2 week Japan itinerary includes the major highlights of Japan, without rushing around the country.

During your 2 weeks in Japan, you'll visit the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima and get to enjoy some beautiful nature (and temples) in Koyasan and on Miyajima island.

  • Day 1-3:  Explore Tokyo
  • Day 4:  Make a day trip from Tokyo to Mount Fuji , Kamakura , or Nikko
  • Day 5:  Take the Shinkansen to Kyoto (2 hours and 15 minutes) and explore Kyoto
  • Day 6-7:  Explore Kyoto
  • Day 8-9:  Hike the Koyasan Chōishi-Michi pilgrimage trail and explore sacred Koyasan
  • Day 10-11:  Travel to Hiroshima and learn about the tragic history of the city
  • Day 12-13:  Go hiking on Miyajima island and admire the famous floating Torii gate
  • Day 14: fly home from Osaka

cherry blossom season tokyo

Japan 3-week itinerary

With this 3 week Japan itinerary, you get to experience very different sides of Japan. You’ll explore several interesting cities, spend a night in Koyasan, and hike around the Japanese Alps.

When you have 3 weeks in Japan, I suggest the following route:

  • Day 10-11:  Visit Nara
  • Day 12-13: Explore Osaka
  • Day 14-20: Travel around the Japanese Alps (Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Takayama, Kamikochi, and Matsumoto)
  • Day 21: Fly home from Tokyo

Houses with gassho-zukuri roofs in Shirakawa-go Japanese Alps

Plan your Japan trip like a pro with these tools: ✅ Get a Japan Railpass to save lots of time and money. ✅ Rent a car for your Japan road trip via . ✅ Stay connected with Airalo Japan offer . ✅ Plan your journey with the Japan Lonely Planet . ✅ Find the best hotel deals on . ✅ Join the best tours in Japan via Klook . ✅ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing .

Important things to know when planning a trip to Japan

What is the best time to visit japan.

Cape Chikyu

While Japan is a year-round destination, the best and most popular times to visit are March – May and September – November .

Sakura (the famous cherry blossom season) is very important in Japan and there is even a daily Cherry Blossom report with up-to-date information on where the flowers are at their most beautiful.

The changing color of the leaves in Autumn is almost equally popular, there is a daily report to monitor this as well.

We visited once in late April-May and once in October and had very comfortable temperatures and mostly sunny weather.

The winter months can be extreme with freezing temperatures and lots of snow, especially in the Alps (Honshu) and on Hokkaido. That being said, if you want to go skiing or visit the famous Sapporo snow festival, consider planning a winter trip to Japan .

The summer months are hot and humid and not the most comfortable time to visit Tokyo or Kyoto. Be sure to pack appropriately !

japan currency

Which currency is used in Japan?

The official currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (¥).  Here  you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately ¥160 and $1 is around ¥150.

How to travel around Japan?

Japan has an excellent public transport system and is famous for the shinkansen , also known as the bullet train (pictured below).

During both our trips to Japan, we mostly traveled by public transport (train, bus, MRT, and ferry).

Travel by train in Japan

Bullet train Japan

If you plan on covering large distances in Japan within a short period of time, I highly recommend buying the Japan Rail Pass .

This pass gives you unlimited trips on all JR trains, JR buses, and several other lines. You can choose a pass valid for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days.

While the Japan Rail Pass offers great value for money it may not always be the most economical option for your trip. It's worth calculating the costs of your itinerary to Japan with and without the rail pass to see which option is best for you.

You can use Hyperdia to check the costs of your intended Japan itinerary and decide whether or not the JR Pass is worth the money for your trip.

Rent a car in Japan

Michi no Eki road station Hokkaido Japan

If you plan to visit the more remote areas in Japan, public transport isn't your best bet. For our road trips to Hokkaido and Shikoku, we rented a car .

The public transportation network on these islands isn't as great as on Honshu, plus, driving on these islands is an awesome experience. Read more about driving on Hokkaido here .

Which car rental service is the best? If you're looking for a car rental service for your trip, I recommend Rentalcars . I've used this international car rental booking service myself many times and you'll definitely find the most appropriate car for your Japan itinerary. >Click here to rent your car .

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Where to stay in Japan on a budget

I have to admit I was slightly worried about finding affordable accommodation before traveling to Japan , the country of the rising sun.

This is why I searched Agoda , Booking , and Tripadvisor meticulously to find the best possible options.

While we definitely spend more on accommodation during our Japan family trip than when we were backpacking Japan as a couple (with a tent), I can say from personal experience that it is possible to find (relatively) cheap places to stay in Japan.

But let's also face the fact that prices in Japan are not like in Southeast Asia, you won't be able to find a pretty pool villa for €25 a night…

Read more about our Japan travel budget here.

The best budget tip to save on accommodation in Japan

Go camping! During our first Japan trip, we brought a small tent and stayed at several campsites around Japan, which were only $10-$15 a night.

Another advantage is you get to wake up with views like the one in the picture below.

Camping in Japan Hokkaido

Here is a list of all the places we stayed during our travels around Japan.

* Read more about our stay at Cando Hotel Shimbashi here .

** Unfortunately the accommodation we stayed at in Furano during our Hokkaido trip is no longer available. While we didn't personally stay at the Shin Furano Prince hotel we did visit their spa twice during our time in Furano.

Note:  Prices for the hotels, campgrounds, and guesthouses depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Click ‘book here’ to see the latest prices on  Booking  and book ahead to get the best deal.

Golden Week

Golden Week is the period from the 29th of April to early May and includes a number of Japanese holidays.

During this week many Japanese people go on holiday and accommodation can be extremely difficult to find.

If you are traveling in peak season and Golden Week in particular: book your accommodation in advance !

During our first trip to Japan, I was looking for accommodation for a night during Golden Week. I have never seen Agoda and Booking come up with only 2 available hotels in an entire city, the cheapest one was €400 a night…

I was very happy to have our tent and car as backup options!

Japan recommended itinerary: in conclusion

I hope this post has given you an idea of what to see in Japan, you can download the map of our Japan one-month itinerary below.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or  send me a message .

Planning a trip to Japan? This perfect Japan itinerary includes Tokyo, Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara, Koyasan, Kyoto, the Japanese Alps (Kamikochi) and Matsumoto. Read about the best things to do in Japan and check the included map to see where to find all the Japan highlights. #Japan #Asia #Travel #Itinerary

This post was updated in February 2024 .

Friday 27th of October 2023

Well it’s now 2023, ( what happen to 2020 - 2022, I wonder, little virus, unfortunately ? ) and we are thinking October 2024, I hope nothing has changed . Great article .

Sunday 4th of September 2022

Is there anything to consider when renting a car in Japan? Or something you have to do in advance that you are allowed to rent a car at all? I am planning to go on a road trip with my friends.

Tuesday 6th of September 2022

Hey Cedric,

Thanks for reading! Regarding your question, you may want to check out my guide to driving on Hokkaido: Many of the tips mentioned here are applicable for entire Japan. Most importantly: don't forget to bring a Geneva Convention International Driver’s Permit. You must have one in order to rent a car.

Have a great trip and let me know if there's anything else you need help with! Lotte

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

Fantastic itinerary. I will keep this in mind for the next time I travel:-)

Thursday 7th of January 2021

Thank you Daniel, let's hope we can travel (safely) again in the near future:-)

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Did you get any vaccinations for your trip to Japan? Specifically, for Japanese Encephalitis?

Cheers, Brendon

Monday 9th of September 2019

Hi Brendon,

Thank you for your email and we didn't get any vaccines specifically for Japan. However, we already had many vaccines (Hep A&B, MMR and tetanus etc). We did not get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccines, though I'm no medical expert so I don't feel qualified to give any advice regarding health issues. I recommend to check with your doctor and discuss the pros and cons with him/her:-). Have a great trip to Japan!

Thursday 13th of June 2019

Hello! I am wondering how you contacted the campsite in Miyajima. Thank you so much for this blog! It’s really helped a lot!

Very welcome! I actually didn't contact the campsite, we just showed up:-) Sorry I can't be more help. Have a great trip!

Going Awesome Places

Detailed itineraries + travel guides

12 Day Japan Itinerary – The Ultimate Trip Planning Guide

Last Updated February 20, 2023 William Tang

You are here: Home » Travel Itineraries » 12 Day Japan Itinerary – The Ultimate Trip Planning Guide

The essential 12 day Japan itinerary that is j a m packed   with incredible food, culture, and fun.

Japan was high on my list of countries to visit for a long time and when I finally got to go there, it met my expectations in every way and was a dream trip come true.  Knowing everything that I went through in planning the trip, there were a lot of takeaways from my booking activities and hotels ahead of time, experience on the ground, and things I didn’t expect along the way.  That’s why I’ve put together this ultimate 12 day Japan itinerary and collected all of the “need to know before you go” tips in this travel guide.

  • 12 Day Japan Itinerary Overview

12 day itinerary in Japan - visiting kyoto fushimi inari red torii gates

When planning for Japan, I knew I wanted to try to get a good overview of the “ best of the best ” of the country.  So I knew that would have to include Tokyo and Kyoto but filling in the blanks was a challenge as there just wasn’t that much online to go on.  It was a lot harder than other countries in part due to the difference in language and lack of English based sites.  Restaurants were also a hard part to figure out as I didn’t really want to rely only on TripAdvisor’s biases.  Luckily, I reached out to a local Japanese friend for real local recommendations and she was able to provide a ton of suggestions which worked out well.

The overall trip to Japan was a huge success as we got a combination of delicious foods, culture, history, outdoors and everything that goes with the big city of Tokyo.  I will say though that it was extremely hot and sticky in August.  That certainly weighed down on us on the day to day and found ourselves much more tired than usual.

If you’ve got 10-12 days only in Japan and want to see some of the best of the best, then you’re in the right place.  Read on!

Read more about Japan

  • Guide to Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo
  • Tokyo Japan food guide
  • Food souvenirs to buy in Japan
  • Where to stay in Tokyo – a neighbourhood guide
  • Best Ramen in Tokyo
  • Top Japan Articles

Where to stay in Japan?

  • If you’re looking for great places to stay, my recommendation is to take a look on whether you’re staying in Tokyo , Osaka , Kyoto , or Hiroshima .  They’re probably the most versatile hotel platform now mainly because they not only have a big hotel inventory but they also have a ton of B&Bs as well.
  • I have specialized neighbourhood guides for Kyoto , Hiroshima, and Tokyo .

In This Article

Japan 12 Day Itinerary

What we missed, things you need to know before going to japan, all of japan, travel advice on tokyo, travel advice on osaka, travel advice on nara, travel advice on kyoto, travel advice on hiroshima, travel advice on hakone, 12 day japan itinerary in photos.

To navigate, scroll left and right to see the full itinerary. 

If you’d rather have a version of the itinerary you can re-use, sign up to become an insider to get access to the Japan in 12 days itinerary.

At the end of the day, 12 days in Japan is just enough to explore the tip of the iceberg.  There were so many things we wanted to do but simply couldn’t fit into the itinerary.  Thinking back on the trip, if I were to isolate the top 5 things we regret not doing, it’d be the following:

  • Climbing Mount Fuji – I was this close to doing it but alas the weather conditions weren’t very favourable in August.
  • I wish I got to spend a little more time in Osaka itself.  We opted to switch out our day in Osaka with Nara since a friend said it would be nice out there.  Another night in Osaka also would’ve been nice to try out more food as Osaka is known to be the foodie capital of Japan.
  • Kobe is another place I regret not going to.  That mouth watering, butter-like quality beef lingers as an item I still have not been able to check off.  I couldn’t include it due to the lack of days I had but if this is your priority, you should definitely try to fit it in.
  • Koyasan (Mount Koya) was another option as a day trip from Osaka but seemed too ambitious as a day trip.
  • Outside of Tokyo I also thought about doing Yokohama or Kamakura but ultimately I chose Hakone because I wanted a more authentic onsen experience.

As you’re planning out your trip to Japan, I can relate to how head-ache inducing it can be because there’s either too much information or some of the information you’re looking for on official sites aren’t translated to English.  It’s totally overwhelming.  Thinking about my own trip experiences, I captured a BIG LIST of things that I know will be useful for your very own 12 day itinerary to Japan.

Japan Trip Planning Essentials and Discounts

If you’re in the middle of booking your trip to Japan, here are the most important places you need to go to book:

ninjawifi 15 percent off coupon code for pocket wifi in japan

  • JR Pass – The two most reliable places we always check are JRailPass and JRPass . If you are taking long distance Shinkansen across multiple region, get the full JR Pass . If you’re focusing on one specific area, you only need a JR regional pass .
  • Shinkansen – The JR Pass prices have gone up and for many of you, it’ll make more sense to book tickets individually. The secret is that when you buy your Shinkansen tickets through Klook offers special vouchers for Don Quijote and BIC when booking. Their tickets are super easy to redeem as well. Right now, use code SKS10OFF to save $10 USD off.
  • Hotels/Ryokans – In Japan, the best website for accommodations, hands down is Agoda . When we’ve compared them against Booking , Agoda consistently came out cheaper.
  • Tours – While Viator and GetYourGuide are our go-to’s, Klook and KKDay are much popular in Asia so it’s always worth comparing across all of them to make sure you get the best price.
  • Pocket Wifi – While we do love eSIMs, having a pocket wifi is great for sharing data with a large group. The most popular is NinjaWifi which is easy to pick up at the airport. Use code AWESOME15 to save 15% (automatically applied). Alternatives are offered by JRPass and JRailPass but they aren’t as cheap. For a more global solution, consider Solis and PokeFi .
  • eSIM – The best one is Airalo . Save money by getting the Japan region eSIM and use referral code WILLIA9500 to get $3 USD credit on your first purchase. From now to Feb 29, the 10GB package is half price as well! Ubigi is another one that we’ve had success with where they uniquely offer 5G coverage. Use code AWESOME10 to save 10% on your first order.
  • Car Rental – Big companies like Budget , Avis , and Enterprise operate in Japan but they’re usually the most expensive. The best companies are the local Japanese ones such as Toyota Rentacar, Nippon Rentacar, Orix Rentacar, Nissan Rentacar, and Times Car Rental. To make things easier, use Rentalcars and Klook to compare prices all in one place. Don’t forget, you need an IDP to drive in Japan so get one before you leave your home country.
  • Learn Japanese – It helps to know even a bit of the language before you go. Start your learning with Rosetta Stone Japanese .
  • Cash or credit – Cash is still very important to have in Japan but when you use credit cards, make sure you’re not getting charged those extra exchange rate fees. The best card right now is the Wise Multi-Currency Card which is actually a debit card where you can convert at favorable rates beforehand. This cuts out any sneaky transaction fees.
  • Travel Insurance – Make sure you’re covered in case something happens. Get quotes from Insured Nomads and if you’re from Canada, get quotes from RATESDOTCA .
  • Shopping – Discovering Don Quijote is a quintessential part of the Japan experience. The secret for tax-free shopping is that they have a coupon that can help you save 10% off + additional 5% off if you spend ¥10,000 or more.

shinkansen bullet train in 12 day japan itinerary travel guide

Japan by Train – The JR Pass is pretty much a must if you’re going to be travelling between major cities in Japan.  Read more about Japan by Rail .

Get Your JR Pass Before You Go

If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a  JRailPass .  Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.


Train Schedules – If there’s one site you need to know when travelling with a JR pass is .  First of all, it’s English friendly so no need for complicated translations.  This is an excellent page to figure out the train schedules and since you know the Japanese railway system runs like clockwork you don’t need to worry about whether it’ll be early or late.   I used this on many occasions during the trip to figure out the most effective trains to take to get from point A to B.

  • For example when going from Kyoto to Hiroshima most of the itineraries involved a transfer in Osaka which would waste time.  I played around with different departure times and eventually found a direct Shinkansen that ran from Kyoto to Osaka and then to Hiroshima.  No transfer required = less time = more sleep on the train.

ATM’s – If you have a foreign debit card like I did, you’re going to run into problems withdrawing from normal legit bank ATM’s.  For some reason these machines don’t take foreign cards.  The only machine that worked for me the entire trip was the 7-Eleven .  This one worked all the time.  So don’t worry, it’s not you when your debit card doesn’t work anywhere else.  Just go over to any 7-Eleven which won’t be hard to find and you’ll be good to go.

Baggage Delivery Service  – Look for Yamato either at the airport or anywhere in major cities to get it done.  They’re fast, simple and reliable.  You can either use this service to ship bags from the airport to a city ahead of you so you don’t have to lug it around while taking the train.  You can also do what I did which was to ship my larger suitcase to my last destination in Japan.

Most Useful Website – Aside from my own of course ;),  Japan Guide was probably the most useful site for Japan that rivalled even TripAdvisor and their forums.

Tuesdays – This one easily creeps up on you without you realizing.  There are many places including attractions and restaurants that are closed on Tuesdays so make sure to double-check.

tsukiji fish market as part of 12 day japan itinerary

Tsukiji Fish Market Toyosu Fish Market

  • NEW IN 2019 – Toyosu Market (豊洲市場) opened October 2018 and is the new site of the Tsukiji Fish Market.  Tuna auctions occur at 5:30 and 6:30AM and can be viewed from a few places – observation windows, observation deck (reservation required).  For a full guide on how to get into the Toyosu Fish Market Lottery and the full details about what the experience is like .
  • How to get to the observation deck – Advance reservation  is required to access this deck during the tuna auctions. Similar to before, there are 3 groups of 40 that are allowed in for 10 minutes at a time between 5:45AM and 6:15AM.  You must submit your application a month prior at a selected time .   It’s a lottery system which is good and bad – good that you don’t have to attempt in the morning and fail but bad in that it is possibly even more competitive because everyone will put their names in.
  • Eat lots – Make sure you make it to the restaurants there.  Sushi Dai and Daiwa are the go-to places but expect to line up.  If you failed at going to the auction you might as well go straight to the restaurants.  These classics from Tsukiji Fish Market have been relocated to the new market.
  • Seafood Intermediate Wholesaler’s Area – The area is off limits to visitors but they also have their own observation windows for viewing.  That said the views are quite narrow and limited.

Restaurant  Reservations – For a lot of the well-known restaurants in Tokyo it’s important to make reservations a day in advance.  We did this for the entire trip and didn’t run into any problems.

Harajuku  – One of the must-visit neighbourhoods of Tokyo.  It was a ton of fun to explore even when packed.  Filled with many boutique shops, girls in Lolita costumes, and many snacks.

  • TIP:  To see Lolita girls, make sure you go on the weekend.

Hato Bus  – This is a popular tour bus company that locals use and is just as well known for visitors.  Hato Bus is a great option in Tokyo because it saves you the hassle of figuring out public transit and allows you to see way more in one day than you would on foot.  They offer high quality tours that are quite affordable as well.  For the tour that we went on, it also came with a fabulous lunch in a zen park.

  • TIP:  If you’re doing the Hato Bus, just make sure you plan your itinerary around the tour so you don’t end up redoing any sights.

Looking For Great Views? – If you’re looking to go up a skyscraper with fantastic views of the city AND you want to do it for FREE , look no further than the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the one you want to go to.  Based on personal experience though, the one thing to note is that the views from the top are somewhat limited. I feel that Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree would offer better views but those have paid admission.

Best Shrine  – If there’s one shrine you want to go to in Tokyo, I would recommend Meiji Shrine.  My #2 would probably be the one in Asakusa.

Recommended Restaurant – Gonpachi is a must-do restaurant in Tokyo.  Make reservations!  It’s the restaurant that inspired the epic restaurant scene in Kill Bill.

Odaiba  – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Odaiba to first time visitors of Tokyo but if you’re looking to do some shopping and want to hang out at as a local for shopping and entertainment arcades, you can definitely make the trip out to this man-made island.

Day trips – Tokyo is massive and so if you’re looking for a great day-trip recommendation, check out foodie destinations like Kichijoji which is well known for their street food.

Where to Stay – Here are my recommendations for top 4 picks in the city that caters to all budgets.  If you want more recommendations, make sure to take a look at the in-depth neighbourhood guide and best places to stay in Tokyo .

hostel oomori souko cheap accommodation in toyko


If you’re looking for cheap accommodations in Tokyo (sub $100), you’re looking at hostels and ones that are going to be a little away from the core.  The host, Kato-san is extremely friendly which is why the property is so well reviewed.  It’s minutes away from Haneda airport and 16 minutes walk to the train to head into the downtown.


daiwa roynet hotel place to stay in tokyo


Brand new hotel as of February 2019, this a 3-star hotel with affordable prices because it is in the Shinjuku Ward which should not be confused with Shinjuku.  You’ll need to take the train into the city but for the cost and as a brand-new property, this can’t be beat.


hotel sunroute higashi shinjuku hotel suite


Located near Shinjuku, this hotel is conveniently located 10 minutes walk from the Isetan department store and more importantly right by the train station.  The rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable and up to standards as a mid-level hotel.

conrad tokyo suite - luxury place to stay in tokyo


This property is well deserved of Hilton’s top brand.  Located near Shimbashi and Shiodome, this is located in a financial area which means there isn’t too much around directly in its vicinity but Shimbashi certainly makes up for it.  It is also walking distance to Tsukiji.  Impressive room, executive lounge, the lobby, and impeccable service.

osaka dotonbori place to visit as part of 12 day japan itinerary

Hotels in Osaka – Accommodations aren’t the easiest to find in Japan but Hostel 64 Osaka was recommended by my Japanese friend and it sure was a winner.  Highly recommended for their spacious rooms, location, service, and breakfast.  It has many of the hostel qualities but out of all hostels I have ever stayed at, this has to be #1.

Foodie Paradise – Come to Osaka for the food.  There’s just so many options here and things seem more accessible here than in Tokyo.

Where to Stay – Even with only a couple of days here, you’ll need to find a good place to stay as a base of operations whether you’re doing Osaka, Nara, or any of the other outlying cities.

hostel chill out osaka recommended cheap accommodations


This is a killer hostel that’s conveniently located right along the Dotonbori River, is really cheap, and comfortably spacious for shared accommodations.  This one is top in my books for Osaka.

sarasa hotel shin osaka japan


A great steal of a property for those not looking to stay at a hostel where I’ve seen prices hovering around USD$60 or less.  What you need to know that this is located north of central Osaka in Yodogawa Ward district and right by Shin Osaka station.  Bonus is that they include a mobile phone with internet access.

where to stay in osaka - hotel unizo osaka


A hotel that includes all the fixings you’d expect from a modern property.  The highlight though is the location which is just a here 5-minute walk to Umeda station and a 10-minute walk to Osaka station, respectively. There is free wifi at this hotel.

interior room of hotel nikko osaka


Looking to go a little fancy?  Well right up there in terms of top properties in Osaka is the Nikko Osaka which sits right above Shinsaibashi subway station which gives you access to the shopping and restaurants of the Dotonbori area.  It is also located Daimaru.  The rooms are of the highest class and many offer excellent views of the city.

Is Nara Worth It? – Without seeing much of Osaka outside of Dotonbori I can’t really say whether Nara was better than Osaka or not but it’s definitely a side trip worth doing.  The deer experience alone made it worthwhile.

kyoto kinkakuji temple is a favourite for a 12 days in japan itinerary

Ryokans – One of the must-try things in Kyoto is to stay at a traditional ryokan.  Ryokans are a type of traditional Japanese inn that has existed since the eighth century.  For something on the budget side of things Ryokan Shimizu is perfect.  It’s clean, it has its own en-suite bathroom, and is close to transportation.  Get the ryokan experience for a fraction of the cost.

Higashiyama District  – You can easily spend a full day in the Higashiyama Area and I would highly recommend it if you have 2 days to work with.  This is the area where you’ll be able to see Kiyomizu-dera and Yasaka Shrine.

Plan Wisely – Something you should note as you plan your trip is that special buildings such as temples, shrines, and castles close between 4PM-5PM.  This means that if you don’t want to run risk of being shut out of any places, it makes sense to do these sights earlier in the day.

Fushimi Inari – Now what’s unique about this cascade of red torii gates is that there’s no official closing time here so when planning your day, slot this towards the end of the day so you can still see your temples, shrines and castles and then round out the day exploring Fushimi Inari.  For the photographers out there, Fushimi Inari is absolutely stunning for photos.

Where to Stay – Kyoto has an interesting mix of accommodations that makes it one that you really have to do some research for.  As mention above, there are the traditional ryokans that most of you will undoubtedly want to try here.  I pick out the best affordable ryokans in Kyoto but what are others you should consider?  We also have an detailed Kyoto where to stay and neighbourhood guide that you should use for your trip planning.

hotel m's plus shijo omiya room in kyoto


It’s crazy to find such a popular property (close to 6,000 reviews) at such cheap prices (USD$50) in Kyoto but here it is.  The surprising thing is that their rooms are just like any other high quality hotel room.  You can’t go wrong with this one.

hotel keihan kyoto grande exterior


Another property that should be more expensive than it is.  Hotel Keihan is directly connected to the JR Kyoto train station, is 10 minutes from Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, and 15 minutes from To-ji Temple.  All of the modern rooms also come with free wifi.

hotel resol kyoto kawaramachi sanjo interior


Located in the Nakagyo Ward, just north of Kyoto station, you’re only 1.6km to temples such as Shoren-in.  This is comfortable and upscale hotel that is built in the modern style but mixes in the ambiance of what it’s like to stay in a ryokan.

ryokan tori in kyoto as part of 12 day japan itinerary


Completely authentic ryokan experience that is definitely more expensive than the budget ryokans I’ve written about but the reason for this is all the extras you get – private hot bath well prepared for you each evening, tea ceremony at the tea room, and love the homemade Kyoto style breakfast.

site of atomic bomb memorial site in hiroshima in 12 day japan itinerary trip plan

I’m glad we were able to fit in Hiroshima as part of this 12 day itinerary of Japan.  For more details about places to go, make sure to head to the top 5 things to do in Hiroshima .

Photography at Miyajima  – One thing that people say about photographing Miyajima and the floating torii is that you have to decide whether you want to shoot it with the tide up or down.  I didn’t have the luxury of choosing when I went so this was a non-factor for me but if you want to shoot it at high tide, go in the morning.  If you want to see it at low tide and be able to walk right up to the gate, you’ll want to be there in the late afternoon.  Of course the time of the year matters as well but the tide trend should stay the same.

Why Hiroshima? – Hiroshima is definitely something not to miss if you’re going to be in the Osaka region.  Even if you’re not a WWII history buff, the atomic bomb history is thoroughly interesting and of course Miyajima is beautiful.

Remembering – The atomic bomb monuments, museums, and park can done in half a day so if you have a full day in Hiroshima, you can easily do both the atomic bomb memorials and Miyajima island.  If you’re looking for a tour, this full day tour that combines Hiroshima with Miyajima is excellent.

Where to Stay – When in Hiroshima, you’ll need a few nights stay so here are my top picks for the city.  I have a full guide on where to stay in Hiroshima but for a few quick recommendations take a look below.

court hiroshima hotel room


The rooms here are tiny but for the cost, you can hardly complain.  At rates around US$50, you’re walking distance from the Hiroshima tram and in between the train station and the downtown core.  Note that they only offer free wired internet.

daiwa roynet hiroshima hotel in 12 day japan itinerary


Conveniently located in  Hiroshima ‘s main commercial district, it’s  just a 1 minute walk to Chudenmae  Tram Station.  This property is affordably under US$100 and offers  free wifi which is key.  Walking to  Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park  only takes 10 minutes.

hotel granvia hiroshima mid-range property


Ranked #2 in Hiroshima, this hotel is directly connected to the JR Hiroshima station which makes it uber convenient. Also, you’ll find that the rooms are larger than most hotels in Hiroshima.  Wifi is free as well.

rihga royal hotel hiroshima luxury property


Smack right in the middle of the Hiroshima core is this top-end hotel that can only be described as grand.  As more of a business-hotel, the rooms are extremely spacious but some have said are a bit dated.  The best part is that it is only 5 minutes away from the city’s main attractions.

lake ashi pirate cruise ships - 12 day itinerary in japan

Hakone Free Pass  – If you’re going to be going to Hakone and going to do the round-the-city tour like we did, this is the one to get.  5000 JPY can’t be beat.  Get an earlier start than we did and in one day you can pretty much see all the main sights and activities in Hakone.

Hot Springs for Couples – Do your research beforehand and if you’re not sure, ask your concierge if you have any questions or get them to call to get the answers.  If you’re looking for hot springs for couples, they are rare in Hakone.  The onsen we ended up choosing  was  Tenzan  and they had them available but only for 2 hour time slots.  On top of that, you can only reserve them when you get there.  There are only 3 or 4 of these type of rooms but you only get one temperature pool and that’s it.  We opted to go to the regular onsen area as we wanted to experience it to its fullest (nude and all).

The visuals really tell the story of why it was so easy to fall in love with Japan in a matter of 12 days.  Here’s a glimpse of the things I was able to capture.

best japan trip itinerary

Read More About Japan

  • Guide to the Must-Try Food in Osaka
  • Where To Stay In Hiroshima – A Guide To The Best Hotels and Neighborhoods
  • Top 5 Things to Do in Hiroshima, Japan
  • When Is The Best Time To Go To Kyoto?
  • Immerse Yourself in Japanese Culture in Kyoto

About William Tang

William Tang is the Chief of Awesome behind the award-winning Going Awesome Places which is focused on outdoor adventure, and experiential travel. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring photography and videos, and writing detailed itineraries and travel guides. He is a member of Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), and Travel Massive. He has also been featured in publications such as Reader's Digest, Entrepreneur, Men's Journal, and Haute Living. Make sure to learn more about William Tang to find out his story and how Going Awesome Places started.

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Shinkansen rolling past Mt Fuji in Japan

Two weeks in Japan: the ultimate rail itinerary for first-time visitors

Got two weeks to explore Japan? Lucky you. Here’s how to spend your time in the island nation using the 14-day Japan Rail Pass

Selena Takigawa Hoy

It’s cliché to say you could spend forever in Japan and not get bored. What I will say is that two weeks in Japan will never feel like enough, but makes for a great introduction to this endlessly fascinating country. Using the Japan Rail pass, you can take in the lights and buzz of Tokyo  before experiencing the country’s rich local culture. 

This two-week Japan itinerary takes you on a round-trip from Japan’s delightfully disorienting capital, whisking you from castle towns in the north to the cities of Osaka ,  Kyoto  and Hiroshima in the south – and finishing off with a relaxing break in the hot spring town of Beppu. You’ll travel the length of Japan’s main island of Honshu and experience the onsen island of Kyushu,  visiting craftspeople, rolling through rice paddies,  marveling at  mountain temples, feasting on local specialties like  okonomiyaki –  and much, much more. 

Japan itinerary map

Spoiler: some of the best places in Japan are the ones that you stumble upon in between hitting the major attractions. Do treat this as a guide and feel free to go your own way – that’s the flexibility the Japan Rail Pass can offer (more on that below).

How to travel around Japan

There’s no more natural way to travel in Japan than by train. I’ve traveled extensively from north to south using Japan’s famously efficient, modern rail system, which reaches nearly every corner of the country. 

For maximum freedom and flexibility, a rail pass is a great way to go. The best pass for visitors is the Japan Rail Pass or JR pass, an all-inclusive ticket covering almost any Japan Rail train in the country – including most high-speed trains. 

The current price for a 14-day adult pass purchased outside of Japan is ¥47,250 (£275, $341); ¥52,960 (£302; $380) if purchased inside Japan. Note that the price will rise in October 2023 to ¥80,000 ( £457; $575) for a 14-day pass. Before the increase, the pass is excellent value; after the hike, the pass is still a good choice if you want to travel all over Japan, visit several different places, and plan to spend no more than a few days in each location. 

You should order your passes well in advance of your trip, as shipping can take a while. Note that passes are only open to foreign visitors, and cannot be purchased by residents of Japan or those with Japanese passports. 

If you’d rather concentrate on seeing one area, a regional pass is a good bet. Choices include the JR East Pass (Tohoku), the JR Tokyo Wide Pass (Area surrounding Tokyo), the JR West All-Area Pass (Western Honshu), as well as passes covering Kyushu , Shikoku , and Hokkaido . 

The following itinerary uses the nationwide Japan Rail Pass.

Selena Takigawa Hoy is a Japanese-American writer based in Tokyo. A t Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our  editorial guidelines  and check out our latest  travel guides  written by local experts.


🇯🇵 The   best things to do in Japan 🏨 The   best hotels in Japan

An email you’ll actually love

The ultimate two-week Japan itinerary

Days 1-3: Tokyo

Days 1-3: Tokyo

Welcome to Tokyo! It’s time to start your trip with a few days in Japan’s exhilarating capital. Most of central Tokyo is accessible by the metro – this is a separate system from Japan Rail and does not fall under the pass, so we recommend you don’t activate your rail pass yet (more on that later).

Shop your way through bustling  Shibuya , stroll through Yoyogi Park , visit Meiji Shrine , look for toys and anime goods in Akihabara , and eat and drink your way through the city, from Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap noodle stands and quirky street food  (make sure to snap a photo of the crazy cotton candy from Momi & Toys ). 

Where to stay in Tokyo

The Asakusa Kokono Club Hotel is spacious by Tokyo standards, close to the famous  Sensō-ji (temple), and loaded with delightful design details. On a tight budget?  The Toyoko Inn chain has locations all over the city. Quarters are on the smaller side, but rooms are clean and serviceable, and there’s a basic free breakfast.

Next stop… Hirosaki

It’s time to activate your rail pass! Take it to the ticket office of a major Japan Rail station to activate, then book a seat on your northbound train. You can travel from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station. Reservations (free) are required on the Tohoku Shinkansen, so be sure to secure a booking as soon as you validate your pass.

Ride the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori Station, then switch to the limited express Ou Line to Hirosaki Station. The journey takes four hours.

Days 3-4: Hirosaki

Days 3-4: Hirosaki

Hirosaki is a castle town in Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost prefecture in Honshu. Once there, stroll the grounds of Hirosaki Castle and the adjacent park, and visit the Neputa Village to learn about the fascinating culture of neputa :  huge paper lanterns covered with depictions of gods and warriors that grace the summer Neputa Festival floats. Don’t leave without sampling the city’s famous apple pastries and hard cider. 

Where to stay in Hirosaki

The Good Old Hotel , in the heart of the drinking and nightlife district, is a row of tiny former ‘snack’ bars converted into accommodation. The Dormy Inn  is an efficient chain known for its on-site hot spring baths and free late-night instant ramen. 

Next stop… Akita and Sendai

Train enthusiasts will want to reserve a seat on the scenic Resort Shirakami , running between Hirosaki and Akita. The one-way trip takes under five hours, spent gazing out at the ocean and enjoying some of the onboard interludes, such as a Tsugaru-jamisen performance and a puppet show. Change in Akita , where you can spend a few hours visiting Akita Museum of Art and Senshu Park , adjacent to the station, before boarding a southbound shinkansen (don’t forget your reservation) to Sendai , the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture. The Akita-Sendai train takes two hours 20 minutes. 

Days 4-5: Sendai

Days 4-5: Sendai

Delve into Sendai’s samurai history, learning about the exploits of Masamune Date and the Date Clan, whose mausoleum and statues dot the city. Spirits fans will enjoy visits to the Nikka Whisky Distillery or touring some of the many local sake breweries. In the hot spring enclave of Sakunami Onsen , you’ll find traditional artisans making carved wooden kokeshi dolls and other crafts. 

Where to stay in Sendai

A fun choice in Sendai is the Hen-na Hotel (literally ‘Strange Hotel’) featuring a high-tech, hologram-driven check-in. 

Next stop... Kanazawa

You’ll need two shinkansen to get to Kanazawa on the west coast of Honshu: the Tohoku or Akita Shinkansen from Sendai to Omiya (just over an hour) and the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Omiya to Kanazawa (about two hours). 

Days 5-7: Kanazawa

Days 5-7: Kanazawa

The capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa has loads of traditional charm and well-preserved areas with a fraction of the tourists of Kyoto or Tokyo. There’s a lot to pack in here. Stroll around  Kanazawa Castle  and the colourful Edo-era gardens of  Kenroku-en , admire the handsome wooden buildings in the teahouse districts of  Higashi Chaya  and Nishi Chaya , browse the stalls at  Omicho Market , learn about the art of gold leaf and its history in the region, and check out the  21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art .

Where to stay in Kanazawa

A new(ish) opening in May 2023, Omo5 Kanazawa Katamachi is a boutique mid-range option not far from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Next stop... Kyoto 

You have a few options to get between Kanazawa and Kyoto; the most direct is the Thunderbird Express, taking about two hours 15 minutes.

Days 7-10: Kyoto, Osaka and Nara

Days 7-10: Kyoto, Osaka and Nara

There’s so much to see in Kyoto  –  and everyone else wants to see it too. If possible, visit during the week for slightly fewer crowds. Highlights include Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), the pagoda and shopping street at Kiyomizu-dera , and the Zen garden at  Ryōan-ji . Use Kyoto as a base to visit nearby cities as well: head over to Osaka (30 minutes by shinkansen) to explore foodie neighborhoods like Dotonbori , Shinsekai , and Kuromon Market . You might also want to visit the ancient capital of Nara to see the enormous Buddhist temple Todaiji and its accompanying tame deer. 

Where to stay in Kyoto

For a nice midrange hotel right near Kyoto Station, try the Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto , which has an indoor swimming pool and several dining options onsite. For something more classic, there’s Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Urushitei , with futon bedding, tatami mats, and traditional furnishings. Do opt in for the excellent Japanese breakfast.  

Next stop... Hiroshima

Time to board the Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima; 1 hour 40 minutes. Reservations are recommended, but not required. 

Days 10-12: Hiroshima

Days 10-12: Hiroshima

The focus of any Hiroshima visit is of course Peace Park , the A-Bomb Dome , and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum . Hiroshima is also a beautiful, resilient, and thriving city.

Spend at least half a day visiting the island of Miyajima ; with a  moderate hike, you’ll catch sight of roaming deer and monkeys, as well as  Itsukushima Shrine ,  a Unesco World Heritage Site  famous for its ‘floating’ torii  (the red shrine gate that rises from the sea off the coast).

Don’t forget to get your fill of okonomiyaki , Hiroshima’s most famous food, a thick savory pancake made with batter, noodles, vegetables, meat or seafood, and more. Vegan versions are available at several locations including Okonomimura .

Where to stay in Hiroshima

The Knot Hiroshima is a stylish, affordable option near Peace Park; or if you don’t mind tight spaces, why not try a budget capsule hotel? The Sejour Inn Capsule offers pods for all genders (some capsule hotels only accept men), with compact sleeping quarters, lockers, and shared bathing facilities.  

Next stop... Beppu

Take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kokura Station, then change to the Sonic Nichiren Express to Beppu Station; 2 hours 30 minutes. 

Days 12-14: Beppu

Days 12-14: Beppu

The island of Kyushu generally has a more laid-back vibe than much of Honshu (Japan’s main island), and in the hot spring resort town of Beppu , relaxation is the name of the game. Check out the sulfuric pools and geysers called the ‘Hells’ of Beppu and soar over the active volcano of Mt. Tsurumi on the Beppu Ropeway   – then unwind in the region’s famous hot spring baths. Each has different mineral properties that are believed to soothe various ailments. 

Where to stay in Beppu

When in a hot spring town, staying at a ryokan is a must. Try Beppu Nagomitsuki  or Ryokan Sennari , both of which offer sumptuous multi-course meals and on-site open-air hot spring baths. 

Next stop... back to Tokyo

Use the last day on your pass to return to Tokyo . Take the Sonic Nichiren Express back to Kokuro, then the Tokaido Shinkansen all the way back to Tokyo; about 6 hours. Don’t forget to pick up a bento at the station or buy one on the train.

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best japan trip itinerary

Thrilling Tohoku

April 10, 2024 by Robert Schrader Leave a Comment

Whether you’ve come here searching for a comprehensive Tohoku travel itinerary, or are simply seeking general information about Japan’s exciting northeastern region, you’re in the right place. I’m excited to share anecdotes and advice about my various Tohoku trips with you, and to get you as excited about this underrated part of Japan as I’ve always been.

Likewise, the paragraphs that follow aren’t specific to any one season, even if many of my photos depict Tohoku winter travel. As is the case for most other destinations in Japan , Tohoku is nothing if not a place you can enjoy 365 days per year.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the amazing region that is Tohoku, Japan, in all its cultural and natural glory. I have a feeling you’ll soon be booking flights! (Assuming you haven’t done so already.)

Where to Stay in Tohoku

You’ve probably gleaned from my various Tohoku travel blog posts that I’m ambivalent about certain Tohoku hotels. This is especially true in cities. From Morioka’s Art Hotel to the Almont Hotel in Sendai, it’s very difficult to distinguish urban accommodation in one Tohoku city from another. (Note that this is not necessarily a problem: All are high-quality and fairly priced, to say nothing of how large rooms tend to be by Japanese standards.)

On the other hand, if your Tohoku travel itinerary takes you to more rural places, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how special your sleeping quarters will be. At least if you aren’t on much of a budget. Whether you choose Shouan in Miyagi prefecture’s scenic Matsushima Bay, or Meigetsuso in the wooded hills of Yamagata prefecture, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Tohoku’s best hotels can costs you tens of thousands of yen per night!

Popular Places to Visit in Tohoku

best japan trip itinerary

Sendai is the largest city in Tohoku, and one of the most commonly visited, but I didn’t appreciate it for a long while. I’m glad I changed my tune . From city center attractions like Zuihoden Temple and the Aoba Castle Ruins , to day trips to wondrous spots like Matsushima Bay , Sendai far exceed anything you’re expecting from a visit there. Miyagi is also the prefecture where you find the internet-famous Zao Fox Village , although I’ll be frank: I wouldn’t really recommend you visit here .

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If you’re on the hunt for Tohoku cherry blossoms , there’s no place better to go than Hirosaki Castle (which is also excellent in other seasons, including winter, as I recently learned ). Located in Aomori prefecture about an hour south of Aomori city (which is also very worth visiting, especially if you like Japanese festival floats or fresh apples), Hirosaki Castle is world-famous for the so-called “petal moat” phenomenon, which occurs about a week past the peak of the sakura . In most years, this occurs during the last days of April or the first days of May. If you have extra time, I’d also recommend touring sake-breweries in Hachinohe along the Sanriku Coast , or visiting scenic attractions such as Lake Towada and Oirase Stream .

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Another place with attractions high on my list of things to do in Tohoku is Kakunodate . Conveniently located along the Akita Shinkansen line, this charming town is full of former Samurai houses and temples, and is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season. Of course, it’s only the beginning of Akita prefecture , which also includes the monster-infested Oga Peninsula , some of Japan’s best ski fields and of course, Akita City .

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Next up on the list of Tohoku travel destinations is Iwate , whose capital Morioka is a charming riverside city whose humble skyline rises beneath the prefecture’s namesake Mt. Iwate . Once you finish eating famous Jajamen noodles in Morioka city, you can continue off the beaten path of Iwate , whether that entails hiking along the scenic Oirase Stream , marveling at the Dragon Eye of Hachimantai , taking a dip at Jodogahama Beach in Miyako or enjoying a boat tour at Lake Towada , one of the largest and deepest volcanic lakes on Earth.

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As I mentioned in the intro to this post with regard to the timing of your Tohoku itinerary, winter is a popular time—even if you don’t ski. Which is not to say that the snow monsters Mount Zao are the only thing to do in Yamagata prefecture. Cherry blossoms abound in Yamagata City in spring, while actual cherries grow in the town of Sagae starting from early June. Although Yamadera temple (along the Senzan Line back to Sendai) is at its most stunning during the autumn, it’s also delightful during the summer months. Furthermore, Yamagata is home to the coastal city of Sakata , a charming center of sake breweries, Geisha tea houses and so few tourists you’ll feel like it belongs to you !

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Fukushima is perhaps Japan’s most misunderstood prefecture, for reasons that should be obvious to you if you were alive and sentient in 2011. However, in addition to the fact that Fukushima-ken is definitely not still radioactive, it happens to be a treasure trove for travelers. I recommend basing yourself in Aizu-wakamatsu , a castle town where you can dine on sauce katsu before venturing to more distant destinations, be they the Ouchi-juku old street, the Goshikinuma five-colored ponds or Tadami Bridge.

The Best Time to Visit Tohoku

You’ve probably noticed that my Tohoku travel guide focuses much more on spring and winter than other seasons. However, I also love visiting Tohoku in autumn and summer, and I’ll now reference specific destinations that make me feel that way. My favorite autumn color spots in Tohoku, for example, include Mount Hakkoda in Aomori prefecture and Naruko-kyo Gorge in the wilds of Miyagi prefecture.

You say you’re planning a Tohoku itinerary for the summer ? Many of my favorite summer destinations in Tohoku is actually located a stone’s throw from my favorite winter ones. Indeed, Tohoku hosts as many summer hikes as it does opportunities for winter skiing, my favorites of which include Mount Iwaki in Aomori prefecture and Mount Iide , which actually straddles three prefectures.

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Other FAQ About Tohoku Travel

What is tohoku known for.

In popular culture, Tohoku is unfortunately known primarily for the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster. For travelers, however, Tohoku is known as a wonderland of snow monsters (Mt. Zao), onsen (Tsuru No Yu) and ski slopes (in Akita, Niigata and elsewhere), as well as underrated cities like Sendai, Morioka and Aomori.

Is Tohoku safe?

Tohoku is one of the safest places in Japan, which is one of the least dangerous countries in the world even in its most “dangerous” reaches. While there’s always the risk of an earthquake anywhere in Japan, the chances of a strong or certainly catastrophic one befalling you are minimal. Likewise, unless you plan to hang out in the small nuclear exclusion zone, there is no risk of radiation from Fukushima.

How far is Sendai from Tokyo?

Sendai is about 90 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen . ANA offers a couple of daily NRT-SDJ flights, which take less than an hour, but these are impractical given how long it takes to get from central Tokyo to Narita Airport—it’s faster just to take the train!

The Bottom Line

If you weren’t excited to plan your Tohoku itinerary before you arrived here, chances are that you are now. Rather than telling you precisely where to go or what to do, my goal with this page has been to inspire you, and to stoke your curiosity for digging deeper into this underrated, rich region. This is not to say you can’t assemble a complete trip using the information I’ve shared—you absolutely can. On the other hand, if you would rather truth someone else (namely me) to sweat the details, commission a custom Japan itinerary today .

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12 days, 11 nights

The following is a suggested itinerary for first time travelers to Japan who spend 12 days and 11 nights in Japan, and arrive/depart from Tokyo 's Narita Airport .

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Day 1 - Arrive at Narita Airport

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Day 2-5 - Tokyo with sidetrips

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Day 6 - Tokyo to Kyoto

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Day 7-9 - Kyoto with sidetrips

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Day 10 - Kyoto to Hiroshima

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Day 11 - Miyajima to Tokyo

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Day 12 - Depart from Narita Airport

Regular train tickets will be cheaper than a Japan Rail Pass for this itinerary; however, travelers who do not mind paying extra for the convenience and flexibility of the pass' all-you-can-ride priviledge could consider using a 14-day Japan Rail Pass. Below are some sample budgets for the itinerary, excluding airfare. Find out more about the sample budgets and about the current yen exchange rates .

Questions? Ask in our forum .

best japan trip itinerary

best japan trip itinerary

The Best 10-Day Itinerary for Exploring Japan’s Cultural Treasures

E mbark on a journey through Japan’s rich cultural heritage with this comprehensive 10-day itinerary. From ancient temples and traditional tea ceremonies to bustling city streets and serene countryside landscapes, this itinerary is designed to provide you with an unforgettable experience of Japan’s cultural treasures. Let’s dive into the best 10-day itinerary for exploring Japan’s cultural riches:

Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo

  • Arrive in Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital city.
  • Explore the vibrant neighborhoods of Shibuya and Harajuku.
  • Visit the iconic Meiji Shrine and stroll through the tranquil gardens.
  • Experience the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s famous Shibuya Crossing.
  • Enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner at a local izakaya.

Day 2: Tokyo

  • Start your day with a visit to the historic Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.
  • Explore the traditional shops and street food stalls of Nakamise Shopping Street.
  • Visit the Tokyo National Museum to learn about Japanese art and history.
  • Take a relaxing stroll through the cherry blossom-lined paths of Ueno Park.
  • Experience the futuristic architecture of Tokyo Skytree and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Day 3: Kamakura Day Trip

  • Take a day trip to Kamakura, a coastal city known for its historic temples and shrines.
  • Visit the iconic Great Buddha of Kamakura at Kotokuin Temple.
  • Explore the serene grounds of Hase-dera Temple and enjoy panoramic views of the coastline.
  • Wander through the bamboo groves of Hokokuji Temple and enjoy a traditional tea ceremony.
  • Relax on the beaches of Yuigahama or Zaimokuza before returning to Tokyo.

Day 4: Kyoto

  • Travel to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural heart and former imperial capital.
  • Visit the iconic Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion.
  • Explore the historic streets of Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district.
  • Visit the serene Ryoan-ji Temple and admire its iconic rock garden.
  • Enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner at a local ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).

Day 5: Kyoto

  • Explore the stunning bamboo groves of Arashiyama and visit the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge.
  • Visit the historic Kiyomizu-dera Temple and enjoy panoramic views of Kyoto.
  • Wander through the traditional wooden houses of the Higashiyama District.
  • Explore the sprawling Nijo Castle and its beautiful gardens.
  • Experience a traditional tea ceremony at a local tea house.

Day 6: Nara Day Trip

  • Take a day trip to Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital and home to some of the country’s oldest temples and shrines.
  • Visit the iconic Todai-ji Temple and its massive bronze Buddha statue.
  • Explore the tranquil grounds of Kasuga Taisha Shrine and its thousands of stone lanterns.
  • Wander through Nara Park and encounter friendly deer roaming freely.
  • Visit the picturesque Isuien Garden and enjoy a traditional kaiseki lunch.

Day 7: Hiroshima

  • Travel to Hiroshima, a city known for its tragic history and inspiring resilience.
  • Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum to learn about the atomic bombing of 1945.
  • Explore the historic Hiroshima Castle and its surrounding gardens.
  • Take a ferry to Miyajima Island and visit the iconic Itsukushima Shrine, known for its floating torii gate.
  • Enjoy a traditional Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki dinner.

Day 8: Osaka

  • Travel to Osaka, Japan’s culinary capital and vibrant cultural hub.
  • Visit the historic Osaka Castle and its informative museum.
  • Explore the bustling streets of Dotonbori and sample local street food delicacies.
  • Visit the vibrant Kuromon Ichiba Market and experience the lively atmosphere.
  • Enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 9: Osaka

  • Take a day trip to Himeji and visit the stunning Himeji Castle, one of Japan’s most iconic and well-preserved castles.
  • Explore the beautiful gardens and historic structures of Koko-en Garden, located adjacent to Himeji Castle.
  • Return to Osaka and spend the afternoon exploring the trendy neighborhood of Shinsekai.
  • Visit the Tsutenkaku Tower and enjoy panoramic views of Osaka.
  • Sample Osaka’s famous takoyaki (octopus balls) at a local street vendor.

Day 10: Departure

  • Spend your final morning in Japan exploring any last-minute sights or souvenir shopping.
  • Transfer to Kansai International Airport for your departure flight, bidding farewell to the Land of the Rising Sun.

This 10-day itinerary offers a comprehensive exploration of Japan’s cultural treasures, from the historic temples and shrines of Kyoto and Nara to the bustling streets and vibrant neighborhoods of Tokyo and Osaka. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply seeking to immerse yourself in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, this itinerary has something for everyone. Get ready for an unforgettable journey through the Land of the Rising Sun!



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