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 kind of international locations that everybody loves. How will you not? The meals is wealthy, fastidiously crafted, and scrumptious; the historical past and tradition wealthy and lengthy; the panorama breathtaking; and the folks tremendous pleasant and well mannered.

Japan stays one in every of my favourite international locations. Regardless of how lengthy I go to, it’s by no means sufficient. I at all times depart wanting extra.

With Japan open to vacationers once more, individuals are racing to go to! I actually will likely be heading again once more this 12 months, and numerous folks I do know are lastly making their first journey.

However the nation at all times appears forbidding to many vacationers. It positively nonetheless has that “unique” stereotype that makes folks suppose it’s exhausting to journey round.

The place must you go? What must you see? How do you take advantage of your time there? Fortunately, due to Japan’s dimension and uber-fast trains, it’s very simple to see lots in a really quick period of time.

That will help you out, listed below are a couple of urged itineraries based mostly on my years of visiting that can aid you see the most effective websites in addition to get off the overwhelmed 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
Chances are high 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 instantly, to be able to benefit from the free JR trains that run by way of town.

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

  • Go to the fish market – Toyosu is the world’s largest fish market. The each day public sale right here powers a lot of the world’s sushi provide, and it’s actually an absolute must-see! You may go without 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 primary corridor. It’s at all times busy however is value seeing with your personal eyes.
  • Drink in Golden Gai – This alleyway of back-street bars is a energetic 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, make sure to 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 – For those who’re on the town on the proper time, this can be a must-do. Tickets promote out rapidly, so guide early. Count on to pay round 3,800 JPY.

If in case you have extra time, take into account 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 approach — and free with the JR Pass!

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

For extra Tokyo suggestions and ideas, 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 probably the most stunning metropolis in Japan. It looks like stepping again in time. It’s nestled into the mountains and dappled with temples, gardens, and bamboo forests.

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

  • Go to the Golden Pavillion – This well-known (and picturesque) temple dates to the Fifties, when a monk burned down the earlier temple (from the 14th century) whereas attempting to commit suicide. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Web site and one of many most-visited locations within the nation!
  • Discover Gion – Gion is the historic geisha district. Stroll alongside the primary road and see ochayas (teahouses the place geishas entertain), the small outlets, and the numerous eating places that line the district’s streets. You may 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 probably the most 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 Web site and residential to a mausoleum that homes the stays of seven emperors. The standard rock and sand backyard is taken into account among the best within the nation.

For a half-day journey, you too can 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 are upwards of a thousand years previous (which is uncommon in Japan, because of fires, in addition to World Warfare II). The actual attract Nara are the deer. For the reason that seventeenth century, these in and across the metropolis have been thought-about sacred. You should buy 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 wood 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 Web site. Admission is 500 JPY.

For extra Kyoto suggestions and ideas, 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 may 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 formidable sight. It’s house to a small however insightful museum and an remark deck that provides some picturesque metropolis views.

And make sure to stroll down Dotonbori (ideally at evening), the primary road, 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 folks have been killed by the bomb and the firestorm it created. One other 70,000 folks have been injured, and 70% of town was destroyed.

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

For those who really feel like getting out of city afterward, head to Miyajima, an island that provides a spot to hike and revel in nature. You may also take a cable automobile to the height of the mountain to absorb the view. A one-way ferry journey to the island takes 10 minutes and is free to JR Pass holders.

For extra Hiroshima suggestions and ideas, try my complete free information!
Day 7: Tokyo
An empty street with glowing lights in Tokyo, Japan
Head again to Tokyo in your flight house. It’s just below 4 hours on the bullet prepare, 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
For those who’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
Comply with 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 an exquisite historic previous city (the Sanmachi Suji district) that dates again to the Edo Interval (1603–1868). The slender streets are lined with conventional wood 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 may get!

For those who like historical past, don’t miss the Hida Minzoku Mura Folks Village, house to a set of conventional thatch-roof homes you can enter to additional immerse your self within the nation’s previous.

This metropolis (and area, actually) is legendary for its Hida beef, a high-fat selection that’s even higher than any A5 Wagyu you might need. It simply melts in your mouth. Be sure you have some while you’re right here!

The Japanese Alps are usually 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 reasonable trails, that are open from April to November. Mountain climbing trails can be present in Hakusan Nationwide Park (additionally only one hour away by automobile).
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 previous samurai properties you’ll be able to 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 avoid the foundations). These embody hidden rooms, secret tunnels, and a maze of staircases and halls to confuse enemies.

For those who 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 primary construction is unique. It’s colloquially often known as “Crow Citadel” because of its black exterior.

For those who’re right here in April, there are unbelievable cherry blossom shows which are well-known within the area. And, identical to Takayama, Matsumoto is near the Japanese Alps, so that you’re only a stone’s throw from a number of the greatest 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. Your entire area is scenic and widespread for laid-back getaways.

There are tons of resorts (each fashionable and conventional) which have their very own sizzling springs (usually each indoors and outside). It’s the proper place to wrap up a visit, loosen up, and take within the views.

Along with getting a copious quantity of R&R, make sure to journey the cable automobile up the mountain for much more wonderful 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 numerous distributors on the prime promoting eggs cooked within the sulfurous waters. It’s stated the eggs extend one’s life by seven years, so be at liberty to present them a attempt!

For those who desire 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 degree of health. Usually, hikers depart at evening with the intention to arrive on the summit by daybreak. There are little outlets alongside the way in which that promote meals and even beds you’ll be able to hire prematurely if you wish to cut up your journey up. Simply ensure you do your analysis and put together prematurely because it’s a tricky hike!

For those who actually wish to play vacationer, you too can journey a mock pirate ship across the lake for extra views of the mountains, and Mount Fuji particularly.

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

Japan Itinerary: Three Weeks

A busy street in sunny, subtropical Okinawa, Japan
If in case you have a 3rd week in Japan, you’ll be able to decelerate just a little and spend extra time in every vacation spot.

Utilizing the ideas above, right here’s how I’d set up 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 prepare to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island house to volcanoes and rugged landscapes, takes 15-16 hours by prepare. There are sleeper vehicles accessible, however you’ll should pay a surcharge (round 9,500 JPY) for a mattress. You may finish your journey in Hakodate if you might want to stretch your legs and get off the prepare for a bit. In any other case, you’ll be able to head on to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido (one other three hours by prepare).

For those who do wish to spend a couple of hours in Hakodate, don’t miss the Morning Market, the place you will discover numerous contemporary seafood. You may also go to Fort Goryokaku, the primary “Western”-style fort within the nation.

For those who’d somewhat not spend that lengthy on the prepare, 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.

Be sure you 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 received its begin. For those who’re a whiskey fan, cease by The Bow Bar, house to some uncommon (and costly) whiskeys and thought of among the best such bars on this planet.

What I really like in regards to the metropolis is its location. This area has a number of the greatest 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 embody Mount Me-akan, Mount Asahim, Mount Mashu, and Nishibetsu-dake. For the most effective views of town, head to Mount Moiwayama. It’s only a 30-60-minute hike to the highest, although there’s a cable automobile you’ll be able to take as nicely.

And in case you’re visiting within the winter, hit the slopes! There are over 100 ski resorts in Hokkaido. You may hire skis (or a snowboard) for round 4,500-10,000 JPY. Elevate costs are normally 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, reside music, and scrumptious native meals on supply.

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

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


There’s a ton to see and do in Japan, and you possibly can 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 regardless of how lengthy you go to, you gained’t be disenchanted. Japan is a tremendous, 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 positively value spending the time (and cash) visiting. You gained’t be disenchanted!

REMINDER: You’ll positively want a JR Pass to get round. Be sure you get one BEFORE you go! For extra info on the cross, learn this weblog put up I wrote about it.

Ebook Your Journey to Japan: Logistical Suggestions and Methods

Ebook Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight through the use of Skyscanner. They’re my two favourite engines like google, as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe, so that you at all times know no stone is left unturned!

Ebook Your Lodging
You may guide your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve probably the most complete stock so they’re greatest for reserving a hostel. If you wish to keep in a resort or guesthouse in Japan, use Booking.com because it constantly returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and resorts. They’re the most effective reserving website on the market. My favourite locations to remain in Japan are:

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you in opposition to sickness, harm, theft, and cancelations. It’s complete safety in case something goes incorrect. 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 corporations that supply the most effective service and worth are:

On the lookout for the most effective corporations to save cash with?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective corporations to make use of if you journey! I record all those I take advantage of to save cash once I journey — and I feel they’ll aid you too!

Be sure you 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 might prevent a ton of cash!

On the lookout for extra journey suggestions for Japan?
Take a look at my in-depth Japan journey information for extra methods to save cash; info on prices; recommendations on what to see and do; urged itineraries, studying, and packing lists; and far, far more!