March 26, 2023

A towering, colorful pagoda in the foreground with beautiful Mount Fuji in the distance in Japan
Posted: 1/16/23 | January sixteenth, 2023

I’ve but to satisfy a traveler who didn’t love their time in Japan. It’s simply a type of international locations that everybody loves. How are you going to not? The meals is wealthy, rigorously crafted, and scrumptious; the historical past and tradition wealthy and lengthy; the panorama breathtaking; and the individuals tremendous pleasant and well mannered.

Japan stays one among my favourite international locations. Regardless of how lengthy I go to, it’s by no means sufficient. I all the time go away wanting extra.

With Japan open to vacationers once more, individuals are racing to go to! I personally will likely be heading again once more this yr, and numerous individuals I do know are lastly making their first journey.

However the nation all the time appears forbidding to many vacationers. It undoubtedly nonetheless has that “unique” stereotype that makes individuals assume it’s laborious to journey round.

The place do you have to go? What do you have to see? How do you profit from your time there? Fortunately, due to Japan’s dimension and uber-fast trains, it’s very simple to see rather a lot in a really quick period of time.

That can assist you out, listed here are a number of recommended itineraries based mostly on my years of visiting that may make it easier to see one of the best websites in addition to get off the crushed path and get an actual sense of Japanese tradition:


Japan Itinerary: One Week

A traditional temple in Kyoto, Japan on a bright and sunny day

Day 1 & 2: Tokyo
Likelihood is you’ll be beginning your journey in Tokyo, because it’s house to the nation’s largest worldwide airport. In case your journey is seven days lengthy, activate your JR Pass straight away, with the intention to reap the benefits of the free JR trains that run by the town.

Whilst you might simply spend your total week in Tokyo and never get bored, listed here are a number of the highlights:

  • Go to the fish market – Toyosu is the world’s largest fish market. The day by day public sale right here powers a lot of the world’s sushi provide, and it’s really an absolute must-see! You possibly can go at no cost, however food and drink tours of the Tsukiji Outer Market can be found for round 13,500 JPY.
  • See Sensoji Temple – Sensoji is fantastically painted and sits in a scenic spot close to a five-story pagoda and the well-known Kaminari Gate. There’s an enormous statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, inside the principle corridor. It’s all the time busy however is price seeing with your personal eyes.
  • Drink in Golden Gai – This alleyway of back-street bars is a vigorous place to drink at evening and has a little bit of a red-light-district really feel to it. It’s not to be missed. Even in case you don’t drink, you should definitely wander about.
  • Go to the Imperial Palace – The house of the emperor of Japan was constructed within the fifteenth century, and whilst you can’t go inside, the palace and its grounds are a peaceable place for a stroll.
  • Watch a sumo match – In the event you’re on the town on the proper time, it is a must-do. Tickets promote out rapidly, so e-book early. Count on to pay round 3,800 JPY.

When you’ve got extra time, think about taking a day journey to Kamakura to see the enormous Buddha statue (Daibutsu). It’s over 13 meters (42 ft) tall and dates again to the thirteenth century. The journey is round 90 minutes every manner — and free with the JR Pass!

For scrumptious meals, a few of my favourite bars and eating places embrace: Uogashi Nihon-Ichi (Standing Sushi Bar), Nemuro Hanamaru KITTE Marunouchi, Motodane, Tokyo Whisky Library, Ichiran Shibuya, and Uohama.

For extra Tokyo ideas and solutions, try my complete free information!
Days 3 & 4: Kyoto
A narrow, old street in quiet Kyoto, Japan with a pagoda in the distance
Kyoto is arguably essentially the most stunning metropolis in Japan. It appears like stepping again in time. It’s nestled into the mountains and dappled with temples, gardens, and bamboo forests.

With its magnificence come plenty of crowds although, so attempt to go to exterior of the busy summer time months. Even with plenty of vacationers, although, the town continues to be magnificent and has rather a lot to supply. Some issues to see and do that you simply shouldn’t miss are the next:

  • Go to the Golden Pavillion – This well-known (and picturesque) temple dates to the Nineteen Fifties, when a monk burned down the earlier temple (from the 14th century) whereas making an attempt to commit suicide. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Website and one of many most-visited locations within the nation!
  • Discover Gion – Gion is the historic geisha district. Stroll alongside the principle avenue and see ochayas (teahouses the place geishas entertain), the small retailers, and the numerous eating places that line the district’s streets. You possibly can take a walking tour of Gion for 1,600 JPY.
  • Wander within the Bamboo Forest – For a calming break, head to Arashiyama and let the calm swaying of the forest envelop you. Positioned close to the well-known Tenryu-ji temple, it’s one of the stunning locations in your entire nation (arrive early if you wish to get pleasure from it with out the crowds).
  • Admire Ryoan-ji temple – That is my favourite temple in Kyoto. It’s additionally a UNESCO World Heritage Website and residential to a mausoleum that homes the stays of seven emperors. The normal rock and sand backyard is taken into account top-of-the-line within the nation.

For a half-day journey, it’s also possible to go to Nara. It’s a small metropolis only one hour from Kyoto. Nara was the capital of Japan within the eighth century, so there are many buildings and temples right here which can be upwards of a thousand years outdated (which is uncommon in Japan, on account of fires, in addition to World Battle II). The true attract Nara are the deer. For the reason that seventeenth century, these in and across the metropolis have been thought-about sacred. You should purchase crackers to feed them or simply watch them stroll round carefree.

Whilst you’re right here, don’t miss a go to to Todai-ji. It’s the world’s largest picket constructing and is house to a 16-meter (52-foot) Buddha statue. It was in-built 738 CE and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Website. Admission is 500 JPY.

For extra Kyoto ideas and solutions, try my complete free information!
Day 5: Osaka
The iconic, towering Osaka Castle overlooking busy Osaka, Japan on a sunny day
Osaka is the third-largest metropolis within the nation. It’s the monetary capital of the nation, however I come for the meals. Mouth-watering sushi and sashimi, Kobe beef and Japanese BBQ, and flavorful ramen can all be discovered right here in abundance. Plus there are native specialties like okonomiyaki (a savory pancake with egg and greens) and kushikatsu (skewered kebabs). You possibly can take a food tour for round 12,000 JPY or simply wander and eat. That’s all I do: eat, eat, eat.

Don’t miss Osaka Citadel although. Whereas it’s not the unique (this model dates to 1931), it’s nonetheless a powerful sight. It’s house to a small however insightful museum and an statement deck that provides some picturesque metropolis views.

And you should definitely stroll down Dotonbori (ideally at evening), the principle avenue, which is lined with eating places, shops, and tons of neon lights and indicators.
Day 6: Hiroshima
The bombed-out ruins of the atomic bomb site in Hiroshima, Japan
On August 6, 1945, Allied forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was the primary time a nuclear weapon was dropped on a metropolis, and it had devastating penalties. Upwards of 80,000 individuals have been killed by the bomb and the firestorm it created. One other 70,000 individuals have been injured, and 70% of the town was destroyed.

In the present day, Hiroshima is prospering. Don’t miss the Atomic Bomb Museum, which depicts the historical past of the town earlier than and after that fateful day. It has pictures, artifacts, movies, and details about the impact of radiation on the inhabitants. It’s a sobering expertise however one which shouldn’t be missed.

In the event you really feel like getting out of city afterward, head to Miyajima, an island that provides a spot to hike and luxuriate in nature. You too can take a cable automotive to the height of the mountain to absorb the view. A one-way ferry experience to the island takes 10 minutes and is free to JR Pass holders.

For extra Hiroshima ideas and solutions, try my complete free information!
Day 7: Tokyo
An empty street with glowing lights in Tokyo, Japan
Head again to Tokyo on your flight house. It’s just below 4 hours on the bullet practice, so that you’ll have time to discover a bit extra earlier than you permit!

Japan Itinerary: Two Weeks

A traditional Japanese castle on a sunny day near a moat in Japan
In the event you’re going to be in Japan for 14 days and have bought a rail pass, right here’s how one can divide your time:

Days 1-9
Observe the itinerary above however add an additional day in Tokyo and, relying in your pursuits, both Osaka or Kyoto.
Day 10: Takayama
The quiet streets of scenic Takayama, Japan
Takayama is a small metropolis with a stupendous historic outdated city (the Sanmachi Suji district) that dates again to the Edo Interval (1603–1868). The slender streets are lined with conventional picket buildings that make you are feeling such as you’ve stepped again in time. There are teahouses, cafés, sake breweries, and extra. It’s about as near historic Japan as you will get!

In the event you like historical past, don’t miss the Hida Minzoku Mura Folks Village, house to a group of conventional thatch-roof homes that you would be able to enter to additional immerse your self within the nation’s previous.

This metropolis (and area, actually) is known for its Hida beef, a high-fat selection that’s even higher than any A5 Wagyu you may need. It simply melts in your mouth. You should definitely have some if you are right here!

The Japanese Alps should not removed from right here as nicely, so in case you love mountain climbing and wish to lengthen your time within the area, head to Kamikochi for a day hike or in a single day journey. It’s simply an hour away and has each simple and average trails, that are open from April to November. Mountaineering trails can be present in Hakusan Nationwide Park (additionally only one hour away by automotive).
Day 11: Kanazawa
The quiet streets of scenic Kanazawa, Japan with locals wearing traditional clothing
Kanazawa is commonly thought-about “Little Kyoto,” as it’s house to an extremely well-preserved Edo-era district. There are quite a few outdated samurai properties you possibly can admire (and one, the Nomura Home, which is restored and open to the general public).

One of many extra distinctive temples in Japan is right here too: Ninja (Myoryuji) Temple. Whereas the temple wasn’t house to precise ninjas, Myoryuji was constructed as a defensive construction (strict legal guidelines forbade native lords from constructing defenses, in order that they have been hidden within the temple to bypass the foundations). These embrace hidden rooms, secret tunnels, and a maze of staircases and halls to confuse enemies.

In the event you want a break from exploring cities, Hakusan Nationwide Park, house to Mount Haku, one of many three holy mountains, is simply an hour south of city.
Day 12: Matsumoto
The traditional Japanese castle overlooking Matsumoto in Japan
Surrounded by stunning views, Matsumoto is house to one of many nation’s best-preserved castles, Matsumoto-jo (Matsumoto Citadel), which dates again to 1594. Whereas some sections have been rebuilt, the principle construction is unique. It’s colloquially often known as “Crow Citadel” on account of its black exterior.

In the event you’re right here in April, there are unbelievable cherry blossom shows which can be well-known within the area. And, similar to Takayama, Matsumoto is near the Japanese Alps, so that you’re only a stone’s throw from a number of the finest mountain climbing within the nation.
Days 13 & 14: Hakone
A red torii gate in the water with lush greenery and Mount Fuji in the background Japan
Positioned simply 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Tokyo, Hakone is a picturesque area recognized for its onsen (sizzling springs). The area is a part of a nationwide park and provides unbelievable views of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko. All the area is scenic and in style for laid-back getaways.

There are tons of motels (each trendy and conventional) which have their very own sizzling springs (usually each indoors and open air). It’s the right place to wrap up a visit, chill out, and take within the views.

Along with getting a copious quantity of R&R, you should definitely experience the cable automotive up the mountain for much more superb views. The world is surrounded by craters from an inactive volcano that erupted 80,000 years in the past (to not be confused with close by Mount Fuji, which is an lively volcano), and also you’ll discover plenty of distributors on the high promoting eggs cooked within the sulfurous waters. It’s stated the eggs lengthen one’s life by seven years, so be at liberty to offer them a attempt!

In the event you want to hike up as a substitute, the path is open between July and September, with the trek taking wherever from 5 to 12 hours, relying in your stage of health. Usually, hikers go away at evening with the intention to arrive on the summit by daybreak. There are little retailers alongside the best way that promote meals and even beds you possibly can hire upfront if you wish to cut up your journey up. Simply be sure to do your analysis and put together upfront because it’s a troublesome hike!

In the event you actually wish to play vacationer, it’s also possible to experience a mock pirate ship across the lake for extra views of the mountains, and Mount Fuji specifically.

Full-day tours around Hakone that embrace all the principle sights price 14,000 JPY.

Japan Itinerary: Three Weeks

A busy street in sunny, subtropical Okinawa, Japan
When you’ve got a 3rd week in Japan, you possibly can decelerate a bit and spend extra time in every vacation spot.

Utilizing the solutions above, right here’s how I’d arrange 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

Day 17: Practice to Hokkaido
The sprawling, green landscape of Hokkaido, Japan inside a national park
The practice to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island house to volcanoes and rugged landscapes, takes 15-16 hours by practice. There are sleeper vehicles accessible, however you’ll must pay a surcharge (round 9,500 JPY) for a mattress. You possibly can finish your journey in Hakodate if it’s good to stretch your legs and get off the practice for a bit. In any other case, you possibly can head on to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido (one other three hours by practice).

In the event you do wish to spend a number of hours in Hakodate, don’t miss the Morning Market, the place you could find plenty of recent seafood. You too can go to Fort Goryokaku, the primary “Western”-style fort within the nation.

In the event you’d quite not spend that lengthy on the practice, a flight from Hiroshima to Sapporo is simply two hours and prices round 12,000 JPY (one-way).
Days 18-20: Sapporo
An old brewery in the winter in Sapporo, Japan
Sapporo is the fifth-largest metropolis, although it’s far faraway from the remainder of Japan. The area was first house to the indigenous Ainu, although elevated immigration within the nineteenth century noticed the Japanese inhabitants skyrocket.

You should definitely cease in on the native Beer Museum too, owned by Sapporo Breweries (the oldest beer firm within the nation). It showcases the historical past of beer in Japan and the way the enterprise obtained its begin. In the event you’re a whiskey fan, cease by The Bow Bar, house to some uncommon (and costly) whiskeys and regarded top-of-the-line such bars on this planet.

What I really like concerning the metropolis is its location. This area has a number of the finest mountain climbing within the nation. There are many hills and mountains, providing choices for each day hikes in addition to in a single day journeys. Some highlights embrace Mount Me-akan, Mount Asahim, Mount Mashu, and Nishibetsu-dake. For one of the best views of the town, head to Mount Moiwayama. It’s only a 30-60-minute hike to the highest, although there’s a cable automotive you possibly can take as nicely.

And in case you’re visiting within the winter, hit the slopes! There are over 100 ski resorts in Hokkaido. You possibly can hire skis (or a snowboard) for round 4,500-10,000 JPY. Raise costs are often 4,000-6,000 JPY per day.Within the winter, don’t miss the annual Sapporo Snow Pageant. It’s held each February and attracts over two million guests. There are ice sculptures, igloos, dwell music, and scrumptious native meals on provide.

Moreover, you should definitely take a day journey to Otaru, the place you’ll discover a number of the freshest uni in the entire nation (that is the principle space the place the famed Hokkaido uni is caught). Go hungry and go to the markets, stalls, and retailers round there.

Day 21: House!
The busy streets of Tokyo, Japan near an old temple
Time to fly again to Tokyo or hop on the in a single day practice from Sapporo. You’ve had a whirlwind of a visit, so get pleasure from your ultimate hours right here and soak in as a lot as you possibly can!


There’s a ton to see and do in Japan, and you would simply spend one other month right here and nonetheless simply scratch the floor (we didn’t even get to Okinawa and the islands!). And whereas these itineraries are a bit fast-paced, Japan isn’t low cost, so funds vacationers want to maneuver rapidly to keep away from breaking the financial institution.

However irrespective of how lengthy you go to, you received’t be upset. Japan is an incredible, stunning, and distinctive vacation spot that I by no means get bored with visiting. Whereas it’s not as reasonably priced as its neighbors, it’s undoubtedly price spending the time (and cash) visiting. You received’t be upset!

REMINDER: You’ll undoubtedly want a JR Pass to get round. You should definitely get one BEFORE you go! For extra data on the go, learn this weblog publish I wrote about it.

E-book Your Journey to Japan: Logistical Ideas and Tips

E-book Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight through the use of Skyscanner. They’re my two favourite serps, as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe, so that you all the time know no stone is left unturned!

E-book Your Lodging
You possibly can e-book your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve essentially the most complete stock so they’re finest for reserving a hostel. If you wish to keep in a lodge or guesthouse in Japan, use because it persistently returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and motels. They’re one of the best reserving web site on the market. My favourite locations to remain in Japan are:

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you towards sickness, harm, theft, and cancelations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it, as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions previously. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite firms that supply one of the best service and worth are:

On the lookout for one of the best firms to economize with?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for one of the best firms to make use of once you journey! I checklist all those I take advantage of to economize after I journey — and I believe they may make it easier to too!

You should definitely try the Japan Rail Pass in case you’ll be touring across the nation. It is available in 7-, 14-, and 21-day passes and may prevent a ton of cash!

On the lookout for extra journey ideas for Japan?
Take a look at my in-depth Japan journey information for extra methods to economize; data on prices; recommendations on what to see and do; recommended itineraries, studying, and packing lists; and far, far more!