trip ideas for japan

Planning a Trip to Japan: DOs & DON’Ts (2024)

This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

This post is based on an amazing guide our friend Amy Dunn-Cham compiled us full of her Japan tips on how to plan a trip to Japan years ago. We have since visited Japan five times and update this post regularly with what we’ve learnt.

Ah Japan, irasshaimase! Welcome to the land where everything just works. The land of convenience, the land of delicious food, paradox, naked strangers, and where respect permeates through every part of society and culture.

In Japan the food can be described as clean and minimalist, but never simple, which probably sums up Japan as a whole. It’s a place that both lives up to, and out does, any expectation you have upon arrival.

Uh-huh, they have the fastest, sleekest, most efficient trains (ever!), but they still have paper posters pegged up on their Tokyo subway. Yeah, they have amazing futuristic architecture, but they also have countless traditional wooden buildings in amongst it all. 

Yes, they have the busiest people crossing in the world (Shibuya), but at no point is it ever chaotic, no need for anyone to bang on a cab screaming, “Hey, I’m walking here!”. 

Yes, they have scores of scarily trendy, funkily clad young people who like to cosplay on weekends, but they also have evening family outings to sentos (public bathhouses).

In this Japan travel guide, we’ll help you make sense of it all and share our best tips for planning a trip to Japan.

Elegant women in Tokyo - Japan travel tips

2024 Update: No Japan Travel Restrictions

When to visit japan, how long to spend in japan, video: best japan destinations, before your japan trip, general dos and don’ts in japan, what to book in advance for a japan trip, top japan destinations, more japan tips.

Japan reopened to independent international tourists on 11 October 2022.

Remaining restrictions were dropped on 29 April 2023, so visitors no longer need to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.

The government also dropped the indoor masking recommendation. Many Japanese people still wear masks (on our late 2023 trip, I’d say about 30-40% of people wore them), but you are unlikely to be required to.

With the yen at the lowest it has been for decades, now is a great time to travel to Japan.

Health care is expensive in Japan, so I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance that covers Covid-19 medical expenses.  SafetyWing Insurance  is an excellent budget option, especially for travellers on longer trips and families (as children under 10 are free). It’s available worldwide.

If you want a more comprehensive policy with cancellation cover, check out Heymondo travel insurance , which we used on our last Japan trip (it came in handy when Simon broke his foot!). It’s also available worldwide and offers 5% off for our readers.

Are you planning a trip to Japan? Here are the dos and don'ts to follow to help you make the most of your time in this crazy and wonderful country.

Back to Contents

We’ve visited Japan in all four seasons and don’t think there’s a bad time to go. 

In winter , it’s chilly and gardens are a bit bare, but crowds are lower, you’ll find great deals on accommodation, and you’ll really appreciate those onsens (hot springs). You can also go skiing or snowboarding and have the best chance of seeing snow-capped Mount Fuji.  

In summer , it is steaming hot and humid (and June is the rainiest month), but there are fewer foreign tourists around and lots of local festivals to enjoy. It’s also the best time to visit the many beaches and the only time you can climb Mount Fuji. 

The most popular and best overall times to visit Japan are spring (March-April) and autumn (October – early December). This is when you can enjoy the gorgeous cherry blossoms (sakura) or autumn leaves (koyo). It’s more crowded and expensive, but the weather can be ideal and it is just stunning. 

See our guide to visiting the Kyoto cherry blossoms for more information on the popular sakura season. 

On our recent autumn trip, we had warm weather (up to 77ºF/25ºC) with very little rain from October until mid-November, when the temperature in Kyoto suddenly plummeted ahead of the leaves turning colour.

Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms at the Arakurayama Sengen Park in the Fuji Five Lakes area

Shoulder seasons May and late-September/early October  are also good times to visit with warm weather and lower crowds.

Two times of year I would avoid for a vacation to Japan are:

Golden Week in early May – In 2024, Golden Week is from 27 April – 6 May. This is a series of national holidays so many Japanese travel domestically, trains and hotels book up, and popular spots will be extra crowded.

New Year – Late December to early January. This is also a busy time with local travellers and most businesses close for up to four days.

How long do you need in Japan? As long as possible!

There is so much to see—we have spent months in the country and still have a long bucket list.

For first time visitors, I recommend visiting Japan for two weeks. This is enough time to see some highlights—Tokyo, Kyoto, and one or two smaller destinations. See our Japan two week itinerary for suggestions.

A week is the minimum time I recommend for a Japan trip. For a more relaxed Japan vacation, spend the whole week in Tokyo or Kyoto and take day trips. Or if you don’t mind rushing about, visit both major cities with an overnight stop on the way (such as Hakone).

Read our guide on the best places to visit in Japan to decide where interests you most and come up with an itinerary. You’ll find some suggestions at the end of this guide.

Watch this video for Japan trip ideas.

  • Check if you need a visa . Visa-free travel is possible for citizens of 68 countries for stays of up to 90 days (including US, UK, Canada, Australia and the EU). Do have a return or onward flight out of the country as they may grill you upon arrival. It was the nicest immigration interrogation we’ve ever had, though.
  • Purchase your Japanese Rail Pass exchange order before you travel to Japan (if needed, more on that later).
  • Learn some Japanese —numbers are especially useful! While you can get by with Google Translate, it’s much more fun to learn some Japanese (which isn’t as hard as you might think) and locals really appreciate it. We are currently learning with the comprehensive Rocket Japanese online course , which includes audio lessons with natural dialogue, grammar and culture tips, and voice recognition to test your pronunciation. It’s a little pricey but unlike most subscription-based courses, you get lifetime access and discounts are often available.
  • Get an International Driving Permit . You’ll need this for go-karting on the real Tokyo roads dressed as your favourite character. Insanity but one of the most fun things we’ve done in Japan.
  • Arrange travel insurance. Healthcare is expensive in Japan, so make sure you are covered in case the worst happens. We’ve used and recommend Heymondo and  SafetyWing (both available worldwide). 

Safetywing travel insurance

  • Apply for a Mastercard credit or debit card – If you don’t already have one. Some Japanese websites don’t work with Visa so it’s good to have a backup. We used a Starling Bank debit card (UK only), which has free international transactions and cash withdrawals.
  • Walk as much as possible – You will walk a lot in Japan cities so it helps to get some training in beforehand (and wear in some comfy shoes).
  • Practice using chopsticks – You’ll need them to eat in almost every restaurant (curry is the exception as it’s eaten with a spoon). Getting used to sitting on the floor is a good idea for some restaurants and experiences too.

Vegan ramen at Chabuzen in Tokyo

  • Buy a pre-paid transport IC card  for local trains, metro and buses. You just tap on and off and don’t have to worry about buying a ticket. In Kyoto and Osaka, it’ll be an ICOCA card, and in Tokyo, it’s a Suica or Pasmo, but you can use any of the cards all over the country. Physical cards are currently in short supply (due to a chip shortage), so I recommend adding Suica to Apple Wallet on your phone or watch. Visa doesn’t work as a payment method so use Apple Pay, Mastercard, or American Express to top up. We just tapped on transport with our Apple watch and didn’t even need to open the app. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for Android phones bought outside Japan.
  • Set up an Airalo eSIM – You’ll want affordable data on your phone as having access to maps and Google Translate makes life so much easier. A digital eSIM is simple to set up before you arrive and prices at Airalo start at just US$4.50. We used it on our last Japan trip and it worked great. If your phone doesn’t support eSIMs, you can buy a physical Umobile SIM from a vending machine at Tokyo Narita Airport (make sure your phone is unlocked).
  • Sign up to the Timeout Tokyo newsletter – To learn about special events during your stay.

Meeting Totoro at the bar at Ghibli Park in Nagoya, Japan

  • Buy tickets for Ghibli Museum and Ghibli Park – If you are a Studio Ghibli fan, you might want to visit the museum in Tokyo or new park in Nagoya. It’s essential to book ahead. See below for details.
  • Research what else to book in advance – Many attractions and restaurants in Japan require advance booking so decide what’s important to you (ideally at least three months ahead) and set reminders for when bookings are available. At the end of this post you can see the timescale for what we booked for our latest trip.

Simon dressed up as Yoshi on our go karting experience in Tokyo

  • Consider a Japan Rail Pass . The luxury of shinkansen (bullet train) hopping is exhilarating. No need to book seats in advance, just choose a train, wave your pass and hop on. These passes are only available to foreigners and you can order online from  JRailPass.com . Read our guide to whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth it for everything you need to know after the price increase in October 2023 (it’s still worth it for some trips if you are travelling a lot).

Hello Kitty Shinkasen bullet train in Japan

  • Bow if you are being bowed to . If you can manage it too, don’t turn your back upon exit. Don’t overdo it though or you’ll be a total gaijin , no need to bow to the supermarket checkout person!
  • Pre-book accommodation. Wise anyway as the more affordable accommodation fills up fast, but also in line with the whole respect thing, Japanese people like to be prepared for your arrival.  So don’t just randomly rock up at a ryokan for the night! Booking.com is our favourite site for finding hotels and guesthouses, and we also use AirBnb and Vrbo  to find apartments in the big cities (which are often cheaper than hotels). See our Japan accommodation guide for recommendations.

Hotel Mushashiya ryokan in Hakone

  • Go onsening! You might want to skip this in summer as hot doesn’t even come close to describing the water temperatures! But soaking in a hot spring is one of the most typical things to do in Japan and is ultra relaxing once you get over your fears of public nudity (yep, no clothes allowed!). Best of all, visit an onsen town where you can onsen-hop dressed in a kimono. See our Kinosaki Onsen travel guide for details on this lovely onsen town as well as hot spring etiquette. 

Erin in kimono by the cherry blossom lined canal in Kinosaki Onsen

  • Stay in a ryokan (traditional inn). Pricey but worth it for at least a night or two for the unique experience and the amazing meals that are often included in the room rates (and many can cater for vegetarians/vegans). Our favourite ryokan is Tsukihitei in Nara, so traditional and with a magical forest setting. We also loved our private bath overlooking the scarlet maple trees at Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo in Kyoto (book a suite not a standard room). More budget-friendly options are Hotel Musashiya in Hakone, where our room and onsen had a view of Lake Ashi, and Morizuya Ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen, which is perfect for onsen-hopping.
  • Stay in a traditional tatami mat room.  If you can’t stay in a ryokan, a much cheaper way to stay in one is a traditional room in K’s House hostels—they have branches in Hakone  (with onsen), Kyoto , Izu Peninsula (in a 100-year-old building with onsen), and all over the country. We never had a bad experience with this hostel chain in our budget travel days.

Suite overlooking maple trees at Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo in Kyoto, Japan

  • Appreciate the zen-like calm on all modes of transport – no need for quiet only carriages here! Just remember that it’s rude to speak on your phone on trains in Japan.
  • Use Google Translate . Many people don’t speak English, so the Google Translate app is helpful for communicating. Write what you want to say in English then show the Japanese translation to the person. Even more impressive is the feature to translate images—point your camera at a sign, menu, or food label and it translates the text instantly. It’s not perfect but when it works, it’s brilliant.
  • Translate websites too – Many Japanese websites (especially restaurants) are only in Japanese so using Chrome or Safari, refresh the page and select the English option at the top. On Safari on my iPhone, I tend to select a block of text and tap translate from the popup.
  • See some sumo . If you’re lucky enough to be in the country when one of the sumo tournaments is on, go! The pre/ post game rituals are fascinating to watch. If you aren’t there during a tournament, you can see a practice session at a sumo stable in Tokyo . It was one of our favourite experiences in Japan—it felt like such an honour to see these huge, impressive sumotori training so close.
  • Expect bursts of freakery!

Weird statue in Kyoto - expect bursts of freakery when planning a trip to Japan for the first time

  • Get your paper fortune at a Japanese Buddhist temple. Okay, we cheated and got an English one at the Golden Pavilion (see our guide on the best things do to in Kyoto ), but what the hell! You can also get one at the gorgeous Sensoji Temple in Tokyo . 
  • Love the Japanese for their never-ending capacity to help you out , and they won’t stop until they do!
  • Read these Japan books before you visit for a greater understanding of this weird and wonderful culture. 
  • Have some sushi – Sushi is the essence of Japan, plus sushi-train/ sushi stand up bars are so much fun watching the chefs take your order, and all shout in unison, “samon!” or “tamago!” etc. Vegetarian sushi isn’t very common, but we did find some—see our vegetarian Japanese food guide .

Simon wearing a kimono for our vegetarian sushi feast at Morizuya Ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen

  • Appreciate the plastic food models as works of art!
  • Pack slip-on shoes. You’ll be taking your shoes on and off a lot in temples and restaurants. I wear the comfy ballet flats Allbirds Tree Breezers in warmer weather and Allbirds Wool Runner sneakers (for men and women) in cooler weather—they keep your feet cosy but can be worn without socks and easily slipped off without untying the laces. See my detailed Allbirds review .
  • Shop at the 100 Yen shops.  Like pound shops BUT BETTER! Daiso is a great one.
  • Play in the arcades dotted around cities, the taiko drum game rocks! 
  • Make use of the many vending machines EVERYWHERE . You will never go thirsty in Japan that’s for sure.  You can even get hot coffee…in a can! (Simon’s saviour when we had early morning trains to catch.) In fact, you can get friggin’ anything from vending machines from cheap 100 yen sake (yuk!) to hot chips (not surprisingly we did not try!) and SIM cards. In Tokyo you can use your Suica transport card to pay. 
  • Press random buttons on the panel next to you on the loo . It will make you giggle ;o)!  Also, if it’s cold then appreciate the absolute miracle of heated toilet seats.
  • Fall in love with seeing toriis (shrine gates) everywhere , especially small red ones in rows behind each other. Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is our favourite (but go early as it’s popular). 
  • Love and appreciate the beautiful presentation of absolutely everything from the amazing architecture to the way bento boxes are wrapped in a napkin tied in a knot just so, to amazing manhole covers!
  • Pack light.  It will be much easier to hop on and off trains while travelling around Japan if you pack light, and hotels have limited storage space for luggage. Best of all, travel with just carry-on luggage . The Away Bigger Carry-On was perfect for our trip and fit overhead in trains.

Erin and Simon with their Away bigger carry on suitcases in Japan

  • Consider luggage shipping – We haven’t used this yet, but if you have large luggage, it’s common to send it between hotels (it takes a day, so pack essentials in an overnight bag).
  • Withdraw cash from 7-11 ATMs.  They are the most reliable no-fee option for international cards and can be found everywhere. Make sure you always have cash on hand as many places don’t accept credit cards (although this is improving). Note that some 7-11 ATMs in popular spots (the airport, Gion), do now charge, so try to withdraw in less touristy areas.
  • Use Navitime to check train times and prices (and to work out if a Japan Rail Pass is worth it for your itinerary ).
  • Visit BIC Camera if you need any kind of electronics. These massive stores have everything you could imagine. Take your passport if you are making a large purchase (over 5000 yen) and get it tax free. I bought a camera here and ended up getting lots of extra discounts and free accessories. It’s also a good place to buy a SIM card if you didn’t pick one up at the airport.

DON’T:

  • Rent a car – For most visitors the best way to travel Japan is by train. Elsewhere we love road trips, but renting a car in Japan is just not worth the hassle unless you are travelling far off the beaten track.
  • Open the door if taking a taxi. They are either automated or the driver will open it for you. It’s also a good idea to have your destination’s address written down in Japanese to show the driver as most don’t speak English.
  • Feel bad if you need to take a break from Japanese food – Japan isn’t always an easy destination and indulging in a comfort meal can be restorative (we’ve had some excellent pizza in Japan).

Pizzeria Yuki in Kyoto Japan

  • Forget to check opening hours – Japanese restaurants aren’t usually open all day and both restaurants and attractions usually have a last order/entry 30 to 60 minutes before closing.
  • Go whizzing around the country too much. It can save energy to base yourself in one place and take day trips as we did in Kyoto and Okayama .
  • Wear holey socks. You’ll only be embarrassing yourself when you take your shoes on/ off constantly!
  • Go into an onsen without washing first , that’s just dirty dude!  Also, don’t go into the bathing area with a towel wrapped around you, you’ll just look stupid. Embrace the nudity! Everyone’s naked so no-one cares. My Kinosaki Onsen guide has more etiquette tips for newbies.

Autumn themed dishes and chefs at work at Monk restaurant in Kyoto

Japan is a popular destination and many hotels, restaurants, and attractions book up in advance. While you can still have a wonderful last-minute trip, it’s worth researching what you’d like to do months in advance to see what needs reservations.

On our most recent trip to Japan (in the busy autumn October/November season), this is what we booked ahead:

5 Months Before

  • Flights – This is personal preference and earlier or later could also work. Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo Haneda (HND), or Kansai International Airport in Osaka (KIX) are all good options to fly in to.
  • Accommodation – Ryokans and hotels in smaller towns are most important to book ahead. Some hotels don’t take bookings more than 3 or 6 months in advance, though. We used Booking.com and almost all had free cancellation.

4 Months Before

  • Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta – Our favourite place to stay in Japan is right inside the best Disney park in the world. Rooms go on sale 4 months in advance at 11am JST and sell out in minutes, so it’s essential to do some practice runs.

3 Months Before

  • Harry Potter Studio Tour, Tokyo – We booked 7 weeks in advance and only got an afternoon slot, so earlier is a good idea. Check Klook and the Warner Bros Studio Tour website as they have different availability.

2 Months Before

  • Ghibli Park , Nagoya – Tickets go on sale on the 10th of the month at 2pm JST for 2 months later (it changed recently from 3 months). So March tickets will be on sale on 10 January. These sell out quickly, so be prepared.
  • Teamlab Planets , Tokyo – Book early if you want a specific time for this interactive digital art exhibition (we wanted the first slot). We booked on Get Your Guide . Teamlab Borderless will also be re-opening on 9 February 2024.
  • Some Restaurants – We booked Monk in Kyoto exactly 2 months in advance at 12pm JST (after five attempts) and Shigetsu in Kyoto (as we were visiting during peak autumn colour). Creating a Tablecheck account is a good idea as quite a few restaurants use it for bookings.
  • Saihoji (Moss Temple) , Kyoto – It’s expensive and might not be a priority with limited time in Kyoto, but it’s our favourite temple. Reservations open 2 months in advance.
  • Universal Studios Japan Express Passes – These are essential to skip the lines at this very busy park in Osaka, and they do sell out. We bought the Express Pass 7 – Backdrop and Spiderman on Klook (much easier than the official site which is in Japanese only). We bought our USJ entrance tickets on Klook at the same time. See our Universal Studios Japan guide for more tips.

trip ideas for japan

1 Month Before

  • Ghibli Museum , Tokyo – Available at 10am JST on the 10th of each month for the following month.
  • Shibuya Sky , Tokyo – Bookings open 4 weeks in advance at midnight Japan time. Book fairly soon after that to get the peak slot (one hour before sunset).
  • Tours – I booked a sumo stable visit (highly recommended) and Shinjuku bar hopping tour in Tokyo. Go-karting is another fun option we’ve done before. I used Get Your Guide for most tours. Klook is a good option for tickets and attractions too.
  • Tea Ceremony Ju-an , Kyoto – Learn the traditions of tea in a temple. One of the highlights of our trip.
  • Sakurai Tea Experience , Tokyo – If you love green tea, don’t miss the tea tasting at this modern tea room.
  • More Restaurants – I booked Saido in Tokyo, Uzu Vegan Ramen in Kyoto (reservations essential), and Ristorante di Canaletto at DisneySea (one month in advance at 10am JST exactly).
  • Tokyo DisneySea and Disneyland tickets – I booked on Klook. The parks probably won’t sell out, but we didn’t want to take the chance.
  • Japan Rail Pass – If you decide to get one, allow plenty of time for your exchange order to arrive by post, just in case (you activate it on arrival).

2 Weeks Before

  • Shinkansen Train Seat Reservations – We used the SmartEx website , which can be difficult to set up (use a Mastercard and keep trying to authenticate the payment method) but very handy. When booking a train from Tokyo to Kyoto, choose a seat on the right side of the train for Mt Fuji views (if clear). If you have large suitcases, you’ll also need to make an oversized baggage reservation .
  • Airport Taxi Pickup – From Narita Airport we get the Narita Express train, but from Haneda Airport (which is closer to central Tokyo), we prefer a taxi for ease. We booked this Haneda airport pickup on Klook .
  • More Tours and Restaurants – Book any more priorities as you finalise your itinerary.

Takayama, one of the best stops on our Japan 2 week itinerary

Japan has so much to offer but here are a few places to get you started.

  • Tokyo – The best of modern Japan. This huge city has incredible food, diverse neighbourhoods, and some unique experiences. Try these cool things to do in Tokyo and enjoy the best vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo . 
  • Kyoto – The best of traditional Japan with many stunning temples to explore . Read the best things to do in Kyoto .
  • Takayama – A smaller, quieter alternative for traditional Japan with a beautiful historic centre of preserved wooden houses. 
  • Hakone – For the chance to see Mount Fuji, mountain scenery, lakes, onsens, and fun transport options (cable cars and pirate ships!). 
  • Kawaguchiko – Even better views of Mount Fuji at Lake Kawaguchiko . 
  • Nikko – Stunning temples in the forest. Could be visited as a day trip from Tokyo. 
  • Hiroshima – Visit the moving peace memorial that commemorates the atomic bombing and don’t miss nearby Miyajima Island. 

See our Japan 2 Week Itinerary for a detailed guide to visiting many of these places including things to do, transport, and where to stay and eat.

Or our guide to the best places to go in Japan has more ideas.

Japan Tips, Direct to your Inbox!

Thank you for subscribing! You should receive an email from us very soon. Click on the link in the email to confirm your subscription.

  • Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
  • 54 Best Things to Do in Japan for an Unforgettable Trip
  • Where to Stay in Japan: A Guide to Accommodation Options
  • 20 Fascinating Books to Read Before Visiting Japan
  • 16 Unmissable Places to Visit in Japan
  • Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

If you enjoyed this post, pin it! 

Dos and Don'ts in Japan Pinterest pin

164 Comments

Wow, an amazing blog, Erin. This is helping us so much plan our trip. It is great to see you updating it regularly too. It’s becoming a daily read.

Kind regards,

Reply ↓

Thanks so much for this post! As is often the case I am following you around the world and now I’m going to Japan. Look forward to reading everything you’ve written on it!

Good to hear you are going to Japan, Ruth! I hope you enjoy it as much as we always do!

We are a very active retired couple and love exploring different cultures, sights, and exploring nature. We are planning on going to Japan for the first time for 3 -4 weeks, around the third week or so in Sept to mid October or later. We will travel with just carry on luggage and backpacks. We love touring on our own, or booking individual tours at the different places. We are open to basing in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima(?) plus other places and doing day trips from these places. What would be a good itinerary for our 21+ day trip? Thanks so much! We love your website! Bunny

Hi, I lost my comment somewhere on your blog 😅 So, me and my partner are going to Japan for 4-6 weeks in sept/october. We want to travel in a slow pace and want to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, hiking around Kiso Valley (and Kumano Kodo?), Nagano, Kanazawa? We also want to explore some nice nature, visit onsen, sleep at a roykan etc. Hokkaido would be cool but i don’t know if we will have time with that. Do you have any tips where we must go? I think our plan is to be at least 7 days each in Kyoto and Tokyo, we want to stay for minimum 2 nights at each place. Would you recommend to start in Tokyo? Is it worth to start a week in a busy town with jetlag? Should we go somewhere else (where?) for a nice start on the vacation?

Thank you! /Johanna

Hi Johanna!

I’m planning a solo trip from ~May 21-June 21, but i’m worried i’ll hit the rainy season and humidity. What to you advise? I’m limited to May 21st as my earliest trip start date due to school!

I think it makes sense to start with Tokyo if that’s where you are flying in to. That way you don’t have to worry about travelling elsewhere and you have enough time there that you can plan for the first few days to be pretty relaxed – wander some neighbourhoods, eat etc.

Sounds like you have plenty of time to do everything you want. You could easily use that time in central Japan, but you could add in Hokkaido if you really wanted (we still haven’t made it there). Enjoy!

Hi Erin, is it advisable to visit Lake Kawaguchiko in November? And, do you think it is possible to do a day trip to Lake Kawaguchiko having Tokyo as the base?

We haven’t been in November but we definitely would. You will likely see the autumn colours too (generally peak around mid-Nov), which would be beautiful.

It will likely be colder than Tokyo, but as long as you are prepared with warm clothes it should be enjoyable.

And yes, it is possible as a day trip from Tokyo – many people go by train or on bus tours. Just be aware that Mt Fuji is often hidden in cloud, so if you stay overnight you increase your chances to see it. But you could also try to choose a clear day for your day trip. Enjoy!

Our Lake Kawaguchiko travel guide has more details.

Thank you for creating this! I’m making my way through reading all of your posts. I will be visiting Japan for 14 days for the first weeks in April with my husband, a 7 year old, 10 year old and my two of my adult siblings. We’ll be a big group but I’m very excited as this is my first time and have always dreamed of going. Wondering if you have any advice for the younger kids or any kid entertainment? Thanks again!

Travelling with kids isn’t our area of expertise so I don’t have any specific recommendations except for Tokyo Disney, which we love. Tokyo DisneySea is our favourite park—it’s the only one in the world and has plenty to offer for kids and adults. Enjoy!

Absolutely love this perspective on travel! It beautifully captures the essence of what it means to explore the world. Travel isn’t just about ticking off destinations; it’s about slowing down, immersing yourself in new cultures, savoring moments, and absorbing the rich tapestry of life that the world has to offer. 🌍✈️🌏

Thank you so much for this! I have started notes and saved the page so that I can come back and check out all the links. :) I am wanting to take my 14 (would be 15 then) daughter alone (we do girl’s trips every year without dad) to Japan. She loves all things Cherry Blossoms! We try and do her spring break time (next year will be the first week of April), but I am concerned about that being too short of time period. Could we do it? If that is all the time you had, would you have a ‘base in Tokyo and then do some excursions from there (which is how we like to travel)? I am also worried about the language barrier and us being able to navigate since sometimes Google translate will not work. Thanks again!

Hi Jennifer, With one week I would focus on Kyoto, which is a better location for cherry blossoms and also has so many beautiful temples and gardens. It’s more traditional Japan (although there is a modern part too). Ideally, you’d fly into Kansai Airport which is closest.

If you have to fly into Tokyo, you could spend a few nights there before taking the shinkansen train to Kyoto (the quickest one is just over 2 hours).

If you really want to see the more modern side of Japan or don’t want to take the train, then Tokyo would be a great base. You can still see plenty of cherry blossoms there.

We don’t speak Japanese (although we are trying to learn this year) and have always managed. The Japanese are very helpful and will always try to help you out, even with a language barrier. And there are an increasing number of signs in English. Just make sure you have data on your phone as Google Translate and Maps are super helpful (you can download Japanese offline in Translate too).

Be sure to book accommodation far in advance for the cherry blossom season (ideally 6 months+).

Enjoy Japan! Erin

Hi Erin, My husband & I are travelling to Japan in August as he is competing in the world masters swimming competition. We have to be in Fukuoka for the competition and then he have 9 days to explore the country ending up in Tokyo for our flight home. Could you advise what we should do at this time of year. Do you think it is sensible to base ourselves in Kyoto and then take daily trips from there using the JR Pass, (do you recommend we get the Green pass). Your advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanking you in advance.Pia

Hi Pia, that’s exciting!

If you don’t want to move around too much then I do think Kyoto is a great base. There’s so much to do (including festivals in August) and lots of possible day trips. You could finish up with a couple of nights in Tokyo.

If you want to add some extra places you could stop in Hiroshima on the way to Kyoto for the peace memorial and nearby Miyajima Island. It’s a quick journey on the bullet train from Fukuoka.

You’ll need to work out your route first to see whether a rail pass is worth it. It probably won’t be worth it for day trips but could work out worthwhile including the shinkansen up from Fukuoka and on to Tokyo.

We’ve never used a green pass but if you want a bit more space you could consider it.

Also bear in mind that around the Obon holiday (13-16 August) the trains will be busier than usual so book your seat in advance.

Enjoy Japan!

Hi Erin – great post, thanks for your comprehensive insight! My partner and I are heading to Tokyo for NYE and planning on heading from there to Kyoto around the 2nd for a couple of nights. I understand that Japan can be very quiet during the first week of January. Do you have any experience travelling at this time? If so, do you have any suggestions about how to make the most of the trip while the country is a bit quieter? Thanks in advance :)

Hi Sarah, We haven’t been to Japan at New Year. The important thing to bear in mind is that many businesses will be closed on some or all days between 29 Dec and 4 Jan. So make sure you look at the hours of any restaurants and attractions you want to visit and work around them.

I think Kyoto will be lovely at a quieter time of year especially as it does get so busy. There are so many temples and shrines to explore and they stay open over NY. Enjoy!

Wonderful website and tips. I know one of your dont´s is rent a car, but we are hoping to visit Shirakawa-go, Gokayama and Takayama, and have found no easy way to get there from Tokyo or Kyoto on train. Do you have any recommendation on how to do that?

Many many thanks¡

Hi Natalia. You can get to Takayama from Kyoto or Tokyo easily by changing trains in Nagoya. The journey from Nagoya to Takayama is beautiful.

The other villages can be reached by bus from Takayama (Shirakawa-go is easiest), but yes, a car would give you more flexibility to explore the countryside around here.

Maybe look into renting a car for a few days in Takayama? Just remember you’ll need an international driving licence, which you’ll need to get in your home country.

While a car could be useful in the countryside, I wouldn’t want to drive in the cities and the train between cities is probably quicker.

I’ve written a bit about Takayama in our 2 week itinerary: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-2-week-itinerary/

Have a wonderful trip to Japan! Erin

Hello Enrin, your tips makes me very enthousiatic to plan a 4week trip to Japan. Is that a good way to tour? (Will be half september-half oktober).

forgot to say ;-) we plan to travel with a campervan: is that a good way to tour?

That’s a great time to visit and a nice amount of time to explore. I don’t think a campervan or any rental car is the best way to travel though. Driving (and finding parking) in the cities is a challenge and it’s much easier to travel by train.

A campervan would only be advisable if you want to focus on rural areas like Hokkaido.

Remember you’ll need an international driving licence, which you’ll need to get in your home country.

Hello Great Blog. full of advices How do you suggest to travel the “alps” from Kanazawa that one can reach by train to takayama and around ? would that be the place where you rent a car?

You can visit places like Kamikochi by bus from Takayama so a car isn’t essential.

Hi Erin, would like to ask is hiring tour guide better or do it yourself to see all nice place in Japan?

It depends how you prefer to travel. I definitely think it’s possible to travel by yourself. A compromise might be to hire a guide for a day (or join a tour) in Kyoto and/or Tokyo.

Good Day Erin. Just doing beginning research for our yearly trip this year, and we are considering Japan. Your excellent article is the first I started with. We like to spend minimum of 2 weeks, usually longer at our destination. You suggest that using public transportation throughout the country and not to rent a car. My husand and I are seniors. My husband has difficulty (pain) after walking a short distance (100 yards). Would this destination be a wise choice for us? Before going further in my research an answer to this question is most appreciated. Regards

Hi Diane, yes, trains are definitely the best way to visit Japan’s cities. You could hire a private driver for day tours within places like Kyoto, though, which could minimise the need to walk as much when sightseeing.

It would probably be best to minimise the places you visit (such as Tokyo and Kyoto or even just Kyoto) as train stations are quite large and do involve walking. If you fly into Kansai airport you could take a taxi to Kyoto and see a lot based there.

Perhaps renting a wheelchair is worth considering. There is also an overnight luggage delivery service where you can send your bags between hotels to make train travel easier.

As we don’t have any experience of travelling Japan with mobility issues, I would look for advice from those who have. Here’s one post that might be useful: https://www.japan-guide.com/forum/quereadisplay.html?0+132386

Diane: As someone who recently travelled to Japan having had double knee replacement surgery less than 12 months previously, I can offer a little insight! While I agree that travelling by train is a fantastic way to get around Japan (I covered a LOT of miles!) you should be aware that not all train stations have lifts or escalators. Many stations in Tokyo have quite long flights of stairs which can be a challenge to anyone less able or in pain, especially when you have luggage. Even when there is a lift, it’s typically right at the end of the platform (often the “wrong” end for where you want to be), so I would do some research before deciding how much urban train travel you will do; it’s less of an issue when taking the shinkansen to cover a reasonable distance. I much prefer trains to coaches, but I did use buses in places and that was fine. On the topic of car hire, I probably wouldn’t bother myself but I know someone who travels widely across Japan with a couple of kids and she swears by it, not least because they can easily reach locations that would otherwise be a hassle to get to. She doesn’t use one in the cities though. Lastly, I don’t think you should be put off going to Japan – it’s an amazing country and I found everyone to be unfailingly helpful. No problem is insurmountable!

Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Sue.

Hello Erin,

Would you recommend visiting Jaoan with a 1.5 year old? Do the onsens have babysitters?

We don’t have any experience travelling with kids but our friends took their toddler and loved it. The onsens don’t have babysitters as far as I know.

Thank so much for all the amazing info! Heading to Japan in June for two weeks with my daughter. It’s especially wonderful to know there are some great vegan/vegetarian options.

Hi Erin… I stumbled onto your website as I’ve started looking into planning for a trip in 2024 for my daughter’s High school Senior trip. Is Mid June a good time weather wise? Super hot? Also, are there food/restaurants that are gluten free for Celiacs? You mentioned beaches are those places more expensive than the cities? I will check out all your links too. TY for all the info, this will truly help.

It will be hot but if that’s the only time you can go, I wouldn’t let it stop you and it’s cooler than July and August.

I don’t have any experience being gluten free in Japan but our friend has written this guide: https://www.legalnomads.com/gluten-free/japan/

Beaches shouldn’t be more expensive than the cities but it depends where you go. We haven’t spent much time at the beaches.

Have a wonderful trip!

hi Erin, lovely website with a lot of good information. Do you list of places to visit / see – for a 4 week trip. We wanted to do the North part of the country as well. thanks for any tips and help. We are vegetarians as well but saw that you all managed to get delicious looking vegetarian food : ).

We haven’t actually made it very far north as there’s always so much to do in the central part. See our guide to the best places to visit in Japan for our favourite places: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/best-places-to-visit-in-japan/

And yes, vegetarian food in Japan is great if you plan in advance (use the Happy Cow app).

Thanks for the info Erin. Cultural.differences are amusing at least.

Thank you so much for this guide Erin! It’s really helpful. I’m planning a 2-3 week trip to Japan around September. However, I’ve read and seen a lot of people saying to avoid this time of year due to typhoon season. Would you recommend visiting Japan around this time despite the typhoons that might hit?

We’ve been in September and enjoyed it. We did get some rain but nothing that disrupted our trip. I wouldn’t let it stop you visiting.

Hello Erin! Great information. Thank you! What percentage of small businesses (resturants, clubs, rooms, etc) are open this month (March)? What percentage may be open in May? Should I wait until September to experience Japan? Take care,

Everything should be open now so any month this year is good to visit!

How easy is it to navigate in Tokyo and Kyoto with a group of 8? We’re concerned about everything from attractions to train travel to being able to eat together. This is a trip to celebrate our friends’ 40th birthday and logistics just seem to be overwhelming!

Hi Laurie We’ve only visited Japan as a couple, but I’d say it might be a bit challenging in a big group. Many restaurants are quite small and trains can be crowded (although you can book seats together for the longer trip between Kyoto and Tokyo).

I’m sure it would be possible if you plan in advance (book some restaurants etc) and maybe break into smaller groups for some of the time. Perhaps discuss what everyone definitely wants to do and do those things together, but then have some time doing your own thing.

Good luck with it and enjoy Japan!

I’ll be visiting Japan for 10 days in March! Could you give me a little insight on the paying methods there? How much cash should I bring/have on hand? Do they mostly accept cash or do most places accept credit cards?

Thanks in advance!

Hi Susan When we visited Japan previously we needed cash for most places. We just withdrew from an ATM (the ones at 7-11 were most reliable for foreign cards) when needed so we didn’t exchange any cash in advance. Just make sure you use a card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees (this will depend which country you are from).

But I have heard that since Covid more places accept credit cards and contactless payment methods, so I’m really hoping there’s less of a need for cash now. I would still recommend always having some with you just in case.

Hello . I want to visit Japan with my 13 year old granddaughter in June. I have never been in Japan, but have traveled widely. We plan to visit Kyoto and its environs mostly but want to spend couple days in Tokyo. We do not speak Japanese but will find a way to learn some. We are coming from the US, but my home country is Finland (very Japan friendly :)). We definitely want to get bullet train passes and need to learn about cell phone communication. And we are both into adventure and are looking forward to seeing Japan. Thank you for any advice you can give us.

I plan to visit Japan soon, spiritualy a home I have never been to yet. This is due to my work and my partners need for beach and sun. I’m hoping I can convince her soon to travel with me there. Or it’s over… the Japanese have a way of life with nature that we miss here in the UK….. I have so much respect for the people of Japan. We could learn a thing or two….. I plan to beg konami tsukamoto to mentor me in order I can preserve British trees as she does her native species…… much respect.

Excellent post Erin. You’ve included some great examples of things specific to Japan that it would be great to know in advance for new travellers.

I especially liked your recommendation not to try and cram too much in and whiz around the country. This is a common mistake people make when visiting Japan. Also, not wearing socks with holes in! Once you’ve done this in Japan, you’ll never do it again LOL!

Also, an upvote for your suggestion to visit Takayama – a wonderful place that has a charming historical district that’s like stepping back in time.

Good information given u

I’m doing a project on Japan for school, your posts on Japan were all SUPER helpful- thank you so much!

Glad it helped!

Hello We are looking to travel to Tokyo with out 2 year old in October. We were told that we would need to book travel guides for us to have a visa to enter in Japan. As great as that all sounds, it’s also more then we intend to spend for our trip. How true is needing the visa to enter Japan? Should we do a tour guide for a couple days? If that is allowed.

Hi Vee, As things currently stand, Japan’s borders are still closed to independent travellers. You can only enter the country as part of a package tour that is very restrictive (you can’t do any exploring alone), and, yes, it would be expensive. You would need a guide for the whole trip.

There is a chance borders will reopen by October but really there’s no way of knowing right now. If you decide to go ahead and book in the hope they do reopen, I would make sure everything has free cancellation.

So I’m trying to plan a trip to Japan with my family next year July (4kids) but I keep hearing super expensive, anyways nanny suggestions on where or how to plan n book.? Also my chance do you have any info on Tokyo Disneyland?

yes, japan can be quite expensive but if you plan your stay well and get a rail pass if you’re hopping between cities then you should be able to manage it :)

Should we rent a car or is public transportation the preferred mode of transportation for tourists?

Public transport is easier to deal with. I wouldn’t rent a car unless you are going somewhere remote.

Is it better to custom plan everything? Like book 2-3 week stay and go whichever places we want to visit ourselves or get a package that offer planned trips?

I think it’s best to book everything yourself, but it really depends on how much experience you have travelling and how much time you have to plan it all.

I’m going to Shinjuku. Next year in June this has really helped thank you

This helped so much, im going to Japan in 2 years with my dad (to film a documentary) and this helped so much

Thanks Lillee and have a great trip!

I’d love all the great tips, but should add make sure that you keep eyed out on your train timetable…I’d went to the Takayama Festival and didn’t watch my time. I’d miss my train and got stuck in Nagoya for six half hours trying to get back to Asakusa. (Never again?)…watch your JR Rail or Metro timetable. Japan trains are on point.

Oh no, what a nightmare!

Bravo, your article full of good advice with beautiful pictures. A small precision for foreigners who wish to drive in Japan, they have to translate their driving license at a JAF center.

Now this I call a detailed guide! We are hoping to visit Japan next year so I am gathering all the info I can before I start any serious planning. This post was really helpful!

Thanks Julia! Good luck with your planning!

Hi thanks for sharing this Me & my nephew are planning to visit japan for the 1st time this September can you pls recommend any place to stay or eat and should we do tour or should we go on our own ? We kinda nervous abt the trip .

You should be fine without a tour. The train system is very comfortable and efficient and if you buy a rail pass, you don’t even have to worry about buying tickets for each trip. If you ever get confused, the Japanese are very friendly and will help you out.

Here are a few posts that should give you some ideas on where to go with accommodation and restaurant recommendations: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-2-week-itinerary/ https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/best-places-to-visit-in-japan/

Good luck and enjoy!

Wonderful and very Insightful Information.

I am a solo traveler from India, planning to travel to Japan for this first time, this summer for about 7-8 nights (June’2020), do you recommend going through some tour company or going on my own. How difficult is managing through Japan, without any knowing any Japaneses. Would you have a recommendation for a tour company.

I think Japan is fairly easy to manage without a tour company. The trains are a great way to travel and with a rail pass you don’t even need to worry about buying a ticket each time.

It helps to buy a local SIM card so you can use Google Translate on your phone. The Japanese are also usually very helpful even if they only speak a little English. We only speak a few words of Japanese are always manage fine.

Hello Erin, this is very useful. Thank you for sharing. Can you suggest us an 8 days itinerary for Japan. We’re visiting Japan for the first time and wish to enjoy the natural beauty and culture.

I would probably just focus on Kyoto and Tokyo in that time, perhaps with some day trips. Enjoy!

Hi! I’ve already been to Japan 2 times in the summer. The first time I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and the Island of Shôdoshima. The second time I browsed a bit more around Tokyo and in the countryside (mainly in the Gunma prefecture – gorgeous landscapes!). I am going back in February. Two places I will visit for sure are Yokohama (first stop) and Sendai (2nd stop). And I and am wondering if there are “musts” I should not miss at that time of year (are snow festivals worth it? Or anything else?) and if it would be worth it to go as far south as Hiroshima? I should have about 12 days for Sendai onwards. I haven’t decided yet if I am going to fly back to Canada out of Tokyo (I could fly out from elsewhere too). Many thanks for your help and for sharing all of this! You’re doing a tremendous job!

Honestly this guide is incredible. I’ve booked marked this as I’m currently planning my things to do for March/April 2020! Any website booking recommendations?

Thanks Alyssa! Spring is such a lovely time in Japan.

Do you mean websites for booking accommodation or tours? We use Booking.com for hotels, Airbnb for apartments (in the big cities like Tokyo), and Voyagin for tours. You might find this post helpful: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/things-to-do-in-japan/

Good afternoon! I’m planning a 1-month trip to japan in two years and would like to know how much money you think I should save up. I already have the places I wanna visit in mind and would just like some bit of info.

Thank you. :)

That’s a difficult question to answer as it depends so much on your travel style. Do you want to stay in hostels or fancy ryokan or a mix of both? Do you want to do expensive tours and activities or are you happy just wandering? Are you happy with cheap ramen or do you want to try a pricey kaiseki meal?

As a rough idea, on this two week itinerary ( https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-2-week-itinerary/ ) we spent about US$120 per person a day which I’d say is a mid-range budget. There is more info in the itinerary post.

“Well there it is” I shouted as I scrolled through this fantastic information resource. An superb honest, unbiased view and answer to all, yes all, my questions. Except one…. Did you get to visit Okinawa? I desperate to get there… I will have 3-4 weeks….

Thank you so much Brian!

Unfortunately, we haven’t visited Okinawa yet. You’ll have plenty of time to add on a flight down there though. Enjoy Japan!

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep up the good work.

Thanks Brian!

Those photos of the dog pulling the mans underpants!?! My child was looking at this with me and now he is scarred for life!

Oh dear! You do find some very strange things in Japan.

I really enjoyed the detail you gave on your trip to Japan! This is 100% helpful as someone planning a trip there for the first time.

Thanks and enjoy Japan!

Hi Erin, thank you for taking the time to put all this great info together. One question I have is in regards to Takayama. Did you like it more than Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go, if you went? We originally planned to stop for a night in each place, however, because of availability in Shirakawa-go, we had to switch up our itinerary a little bit. To adjust, we have considered skipping Takayama and just doing Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go, but this makes me think twice. We also have the option of leaving Tokyo a day early (currently booked for 4 full days there) to keep all 3 places in the line-up. Would love to hear your input! Thank you!

I did like Takayama more than Kanazawa. It’s smaller and cuter and is surrounded by countryside. But then I do prefer small towns to big cities so it depends on your preferences. If you can fit it in I would.

We didn’t visit Shirakawa-go in the end. We were thinking of visiting as a day trip on the way between Takayama and Kanazawa but it would have meant having to use buses rather than take the train which we prefer (and we had a rail pass). If we had had time for a night’s stay there it would have been better I think.

Whatever you choose you’ll have an amazing time though!

Thank you so much for your post! It’s incredibly informative :)

I have one question, I am a woman traveling alone is there anything I need to consider? I have heard that Japan is a safe country, as you have the real-life experience, I’d love to hear what you think!

Thank you for your time, and excellent blog post!

I don’t think you need to worry – Japan is a very safe country. Have a great trip!

Nice list, and pretty accurate- thanks for sharing all the info!

I have to say though- DO try non-Japanese food. Things off the top of my head: bread from the local bakeries, 600¥ cake from fancy department stores, Starbucks (the seasonal things!). Pork buns in Yokohama, Pirozhki in Kamakura… The list is endless. Of course eat all the Japanese food too, because it’s amazing too.

But, I’m also so sorry you had such a bad experience (I’ve been there too)! The size of the nan though? Oh-my-god, right? :)

I do think non-Japanese food has improved a lot in recent years. We had some fantastic Italian food on our last trip (as vegetarians it’s a good backup option for us!).

Which places do you wish you would have stayed longer?

Kyoto (even though we had three weeks there!) and Tokyo.

Great list! It’s made me even more excited to get to Japan now!

I love saying ‘moshi moshi’ – i used to hear it when I worked in an international call centre – it’s so much better than plain old ‘hello’!

Excellent post – interesting, funny and very informative! Currently planning my Japan trip, this was a lot of help :)

Have an amazing trip to Japan!

I am visiting my daughter in Singapore and on the way back to the US my wife and I are visiting Japan (3Jun-8Jun). It is only for 5 days so unfortunately our time there will be very short. Originally I wanted to climb Fuji but the guided trip company I emailed claimed they only had a 1 day guided trips and crampons were required. Although we love to hike this may be too much for such a short trip. If anyone has hiked Fuji in crampons in 1 day I would love to hear about the experience. I still want to see Fuji up close, Kyoto, old family member used to live in Nagoya so would like to stop by there and perhaps Hakone. I just started looking for any special events that take place in the first week of June. Looking forward to this trip and a longer one next time.

Hi there :) Loved your post. I’m from Portugal but I’m a Japan fan. Went to Tokyo las year on March but this time I’m planning on 3 weeks travel around Japan. Can you help me? I already have the places to visti but I need help spliting the time… Oh and if yo see any of the plaes below that arenot woth to visit or less mportant please I’d aprreciate if you tell me: – Chiba – Nikko – Nagano and Matsumoto – Kawagoe – Kanagawa – Mt. Fuji (just planning on going near to have a view – Lake Kawaguchiko) – Magome – Takayama – Nagoya – Kyoto – Nara – Osak – Himeji – Hiroshima – Miyajima – Tokyo (and surroundings)

Thank you so much if you can help me.

Kind regards

Hi guys! I’m planning a trip to Japan in January with mum (I know it’s cold over there, but that’s the only break we’ve got!). We’re planning for a stay for around 8 days, any tips on where to go? I heard that an ideal short trip will consist of arriving at Tokyo and departing at Osaka, is that true? I really don’t know much about Japan so any advice is appreciated!

I would focus on Kyoto and Tokyo and take the train between them. Maybe include a day in Osaka if you can get a flight out from there.

We’ve written lots more about Japan: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-round-up/

Good advice. I hope to use this on my up come trip.

This is a great post! It is very helpful. I am planning to go to Tokyo this June. I will be staying in Shibuya/Shinjuku area. I don’t know which hotel to stay in and where to go first. Do you have any advice for the first time traveler? Thank you very much! :)

I am planning a trip in March 2015. Reading your website has got me extra excited already

Hi Matthew, I’m planning to travel to Japan at the beginning of March 2015 as well. If you got any great idea, we can discuss. Thanks

I am planning a trip to Kyoto to see where Reiki was started, your insights are great. Thank you

Are you house sitting for a friend or do you use a website to find/sign up for sitting jobs?

We used mindmyhouse.com

Hi guys, great blogs-thank you for sharing it. We’re planning to do a trip in December 2013 14-27/12.

Could you advise which cities we should visit using the shinkansen. We have 14 days to spend with the first 3 days in Tokyo, so it’ll leave us with 11 days in other cities.

I am confused with the the shinkansen map and which one we should take and which cities we can visit that is on the way. We are targetting to return to Tokyo on the last 3 days to do some shopping.

It is basically that 8 days, we need to use to the cities that can be visited using the shinkansen line.

Thank you in advance for your help

Hi Hemmy. I wrote up an itinerary I followed with a one-week JR Pass that might be of some help. It includes other useful tips for planning as well. Find it at:

http://www.lengthytravel.com/saving-on-travel-in-japan-with-a-jr-rail-pass-my-itinerary-tips-and-cost-savings/

Hi Jeff, thank you for your prompt reply. I really appreciate it. You’re really helpful

This site is really helpful about Japan and shows a route map: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018.html

I would definitely recommend Kyoto and probably Hiroshima as well. These are the details of where we visited: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/japan-round-up/ .

Have a great trip!

Hi I was wondering if you could help. Basically I want to pay my mum and dad back for being such brilliant parents and helping me bring up my little boy. My dad went to Japan about 40 yrs ago he has always wanted to go back. I want to plan a surprise trip next year to Japan. I’m planning about 10 or 14 days away but not too much travelling maybe a few days in 3 places and ending up in Tokyo for 4 days to finish . Can you recommend anywhere that would be a must. I am completely lost as am not familiar with hotels or places etc. Any help would be brilliant Thanks nadya :)

It really depends what you are interested in but I’d definitely recommend Kyoto as well as Tokyo. Have a read through our Japan posts and see what you like the sound of. Good luck with it.

Thanks had a look and they’re into history so definitely Kyoto . Cheers for ur help Nadya

I going to Japan next year and through out my researches I always came across those dos an don’ts and I have to say this is really nice and short one but has a lot of information in it, which is something I really like! Keep up the good work ;D

Thanks and have a great trip.

Hello, i am starting a trip around the world in february. I start in Tokio and end in Canada in december. How many days do i need to see Tokyo and are there some real good hidden secrets? Gr. Bert

That’s a difficult question. There is so much to do in Tokyo you could spend a few days or months. We didn’t spend that much time there so can’t really advise.

Hello, with one of your Dos its not mushy mushy its moshi moshi aka (もしもし). I’ve been leaning japanese for about 9 years now i was wondering id you could correct it please

ありがとうございます (^_^)

Done. Thanks for letting us know.

Your topic is amazing, I learned a lot but can you tell me what money should i required for 1 month to travel in Japan.

It’s hard to say but you can see our budget post for an idea of what we spent: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-travel-in-japan/

Very nice and interesting article plus points. Japan is a place I really have wanted to go forever!

I am planning a 10 day trip with my two teenage girls. We really want to see Tokyo well. I keep hearing about Kyoto is it worth seeing, it seems far from Tokyo (8hrs) and expensive to get to?

I don’t think it’s that far if you get the bullet train. You can look up train times and prices on this website: http://www.hyperdia.com/ . You might also want to consider a rail pass if you are planning to visit other places. Compare the prices on that site with the rail pass.

Great Post. I lived in Japan for a few years and loved it. I would suggest going to any matsuri (festival) that are going on during your stay. There is lots of culture to be seen at those events. Plus there is good food. Depending on the location you’re at in Japan, during August or September, there are festivals for Obon.

In the planning stages for 9 days in Japan during June 2012 (flights booked). Can anyone help me with how long to see Hiroshima/Miyajima and whether we should base in Osaka or Kyoto to do the Osaka / Kyoto / Nara and possibly Takayama?

Hi Leonie, Two days would be enough for Hiroshima/Miyajima. I would chose Kyoto as a base as we much preferred it to Osaka and there’s more to see there. You can easily visit Osaka and Nara as day trips. We didn’t go to Takayama but it is quite a bit further away so it’s up to you how much you want to rush around. You could definitely find enough to do in Kyoto with a week.

Very useful! I wish I could go soon!!! Do you recommend any specific time in the year?

We were there in summer which suited us as we like hot weather. It is more scenic in the spring or autumn as you have the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves. The spring is peak season though. My friend went in the winter and loved it as the snow is beautiful, you can ski, and you can warm up in onsens (it was too hot for those when we were there). It really depends what you are looking for but anytime has something to offer.

I think Japan is going to be my next trip abroad, and this list is extremely helpful. I love that it addresses those smaller opportunities and moments and not just the big sites to see. Bookmarking right now!

Glad you found it helpful. Yes, for us travel is always more than just about the big sites. So far we are really enjoying Japan and soaking up the cultural differences.

Oh I forgot one of the highlights of Kyoto (besides the monkey park) is a trip on a little train that takes you outside of Kyoto and up into the mountains to Kurama and Kibune. You can then do a walk up over the hills from one village through to one of the big shrines at the other village. There are onsens at the end to rest in. A really lovely walk out in the countryside and the train trip is so much fun.

Sounds wonderful!

We stayed in Kyoto in 2008 for a week and went back there last year for a quick day during a week long trip to Osaka. The best thing about Kyoto is it’s location to other places for day trips – Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Himiji (although the castle is covered in scaffolding). You can get a cheaper Kansai Japan rail pass for four days (about $80?) to get to all these places.

Make sure you get to the Nishiki Market for fresh food – our post at is a big band width one with loads of pictures and we have more posts on our trip last year. Also, the rice burger at MOS burger is vegetarian and yum.

We will be in Tokyo from Sep 23 for a week of exploring Tokyo and surrounds. Thanks for the onsen tips nearby, will be looking for some there.

Thanks for all your tips Alison. Your post on the Nishiki market is fantastic – we will definitely visit although I’m not sure I’ll know what most of the things are! Looks like we’ll be in Tokyo around the same time as you!

Oh yeah, JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) has an excellent series of booklets on different topics. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have Kindle versions, but probably worth the price to pick up one or two. For example: http://www.amazon.com/Look-into-Japan-Your-Pocket/dp/4533013813/ref=pd_sim_b_1

I love Kyoto though it has been years since I was in Japan and longer since I was specifically in Kyoto. My recollection is that it was easier to find English speakers there, though I tend to agree the not speaking the local language is harder in Japan than many places. To make up for that though, the people are probably more willing to be helpful than anywhere else I have ever traveled. Anyway, the number of incredible temples in Kyoto is impressive. Also, if you will be there for the fall foliage (Kouyou in Japanese) you will indeed be fortunate as it is incredible in Kyoto.

I would also point out that Japan is definitely one of the safest places in the world to visit.

Also worth mentioning is that Japan is a country where many towns and cities are famous for something very specific (knives, a certain type of food, pottery, etc.) so always try to find out what a place you are visiting is famous for.

I can’t recall how far away it is from Kyoto, but I think not too far is a place called Takayama which is one of my favorites. Especially if you can make it to the Fall festival which is one of the most impressive festivals in all of Japan, though there are many all around the country and throughout the year. Good festival street food is always available too, though I can’t recall if any of it is vegetarian friendly.

Many famous things in Japan come in 3s – 3 famous gardens, 3 famous shrines, etc. One of the 3 famous shrines is Ise Jingu which is a bit south of Nagoya and one of my favorites if you get a chance to see it. Nara is also quite special and not too far from Kyoto.

Speaking of food, you’ll have no trouble satisfying a sweet tooth as there are many good bakeries to be found, especially in the train stations. And, a popular chain of restaurants called Mister Donut is good and ubiquitous. You may also be surprised by how many people get a quick meal at the local convenience store.

If I think of anything else I’ll add it later. Ganbatte ne! (“good luck”)

Thanks so much for the advice Jeff! Unfortunately we are only in Japan until the end of September so I think we’ll miss the foliage. I had been considering Takayama though so glad to hear you like it.

Great post and very informative. The Japan Rail pass is a must if you plan to to a lot of traveling and the 100 yen shops are great for souvenirs.

Japan Australia

Am really hoping to make it to Japan sometime in the next 12 months – bookmarking this!

Hopefully we’ll have lots more posts about Japan when we get there next month.

Hi, it’s Mariko, came to check out your blog. Interesting article but I can’t keep my mouth shut on a few things. Please DO try non-Japanese food in Kyoto… we have such a great selection of Brazilian, Nepalese, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian restaurants it would be a shame if you stuck to only Japanese food. Also, Kyoto is probably the vegetarian capital of Japan if there ever was one. There are a lot of veggie and vegan places as well as a special kind of buddhist vegan meal that you have to pre-book, but is very nice.

A lot of people speak English here (not necessarily GOOD English, but…) . Almost everywhere in Japan there are English translations of Japanese signs (subway, trains, buses etc. ).

….I swear I’m not a jerk! I just want your information (and the info for anyone else who reads this) to be up to date. Don’t hate me, Amy!

It sounds like Kyoto is a lot more cosmopolitan than other parts of Japan. We are really looking forward to trying the vegetarian food, especially the Buddhist meals.

Thanks for your comment and of course you’re not being a jerk, :o)! The post is based on our 3 week experiences in Japan so obviously would never be definitive in anyway. I’m sure that other non-japanese food is great (apart from the Indian curry we had in Fukuoka!) but I guess my point for fellow travellers is that Japanese food is so delicious why waste your stomach and yen on other food during your stay!

I’m sure too that many people do speak english, in our encounters this was rare even in Tokyo, but again Japanese is such a beautiful language why not go ahead and dive in and try to speak it!

Lastly too, in our 3 weeks there were indeed occasional english transport signage to be found, but we also had many experiences standing at a bus/ subway terminals not having any clue as to where to go or what to pay. Again though, this isn’t a bad thing, sometimes the best thing about being intrepid travellers is being able to figure things out!

I certainly don’t hate you (!), in fact I apologise if you found anything in the article to be of offence. I certainly did not mean to, and again after only 3 weeks in your amazing country, the list was only ever meant to be a broad guide to anyone else going to visit.

All the best,

Totally agree about the non-Japanese food!! I loved Japanese pizza so much I would go back just for that :D

Awesome Amy my husband and I who have never been overseas before have chosen Japan as our first overseas destination for our honeymoon and soaking up any information we can get ?

Glad everyone likes the post! Love your story too Erin! I remember our friend Noriko said that, after living in Manchester for awhile, she was glad to return to her homeland of convenience!

Oh, how I want to see Kyoto! Bamboo grove, old temples, aaaah…

I know about this website: http://www.vegietokyo.com/info4vegie/articles/article2.html Though it’s for Tokyo mostly. Hope it’s helpful :) Have fun on your trip!

Thanks for that – the article is really useful.

100 Yen shops are soooooo brilliant. Get some tabbi socks too. Shinkansen, though expensive, are so worth it – you can travel vast distances so quickly and it is a breath of fresh air to use any Japanese public transportation after the British version! Gavin and I were due at Tokyo airport one cold wintery day. Woke up at 4.30am to catch our bus to Tokyo (4 hours away) to find snow knee deep. Freaked out, how would we get to Tokyo now? Needn’t have worried – Japanese workers were all out clearing the roads and our bus rolled in right on time.

Really good post, Amy you sure squeezed a lot into your 3 weeks! Erin x

I love that story! I can’t wait to try the bullet trains and enjoy everything being super-efficient and on time.

Really great posts, I have been to Japan several times and you are spot on!

Oh I love Japan so much and I haven’t even been there yet! This is a great list – it solidified everything I was thinking about our upcoming trip to Japan. My 3 years of Japan in college might finally pay off…haha.

I’m excited to hear about your 3 weeks in Kyoto too!

When will you be in Japan Ashley? We can’t wait for our trip too. Kyoto seems like the perfect place to base ourselves.

Won’t be there until January! But super excited cause I’ve wanted to visit fooooorever.

Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

GREAT post – you’ve got a little bit of everything here =) Let me know if you need any ideas on Tokyo – I spent about 10 days in and around that area last year =)

Any highlights of your trip in Japan that you can share would be much appreciated!

Toni, I am going to Japan for 10 days at the end of June. Can you give me the scoop of MUST SEE sites that you really liked?

I DO :) would love some recommendations if still relevant

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Required fields are marked *. Your email address will not be published. By clicking the Submit button, you give consent for us to store your information for the purposes of displaying your comment and you accept the terms of our Privacy Policy .

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

css.php

  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar

trip ideas for japan

Destinations

  • Plan Your Trip

trip ideas for japan

Japan Trip Ideas

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, 2024 is your year—it’s the first year since 2019 without any covid-related restrictions.

Putting it together requires equal parts information and inspiration, which is the approach I’ve taken with the Japan trip ideas I’m about to share with you. Whether you have a specific amount of time you want to spend in Japan or prefer to organize your trip based upon Japan destinations or experiences, you’re in the right place.

For instance, if you have just one week in Japan, your top Japan vacation ideas might include a marathon trip through destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima , taking advantage of lightning-fast Shinkansen bullet trains and sleeping relatively little. Alternatively, you might use this relatively short span of time to hone in on a specific region or travel interest, be it islands like Shikoku and Kyushu or, skiing in Nagano or Hokkaido’s Niseko area.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. For now, I want you to open yourself up to the knowledge and beauty I’ve acquired over more than two dozen trips to Japan, which I’m happy to share with you below.

The Two Main Ways to Plan Your Japan Trip

The first way to organize your Japan travel ideas into a trip is to work backwards, starting with the number of days or weeks you can travel and filling those up with the destinations you want to visit. To this end, I’m going to share my recommendations for one, two and three weeks in Japan, as well as my one month in Japan itinerary, if you happen to have that long to travel.

I’ll also make sure to share city itineraries for specific places in Japan, but then I’ll change course a little bit. Specifically, I’ll provide recommendations for trips that spotlight a particular aspect of traveling in Japan, be it a season (such as cherry blossoms or fall colors) or an experience like hiking or having animal encounters.

Comprehensive Japan Trip Ideas

One week in japan.

trip ideas for japan

Although this is the shortest of the Japan holiday ideas I’m going to share, it’s also the most ambitious. This is because having only a few days in Japan (which is much, much larger than it looks on the map) presents you with a choice: To pack your trip full of destinations and make excessive use of your Japan Rail Pass ; or to focus on a specific part of the country or experience: The island of Shikoku , for example, is a great place to spend a week in Japan.

READ MORE: One Week in Japan

Two Weeks in Japan

trip ideas for japan

If your priority is seeing the main Japanese attractions and you don’t mind traveling at a fast pace, a two-week trip through Japan is just what the doctor ordered. Starting and ending in Tokyo , trips to Japan that follow this general shape include time in Kyoto and Osaka , day-trip destinations like ancient Nikko and deer-filled Nara (a top destination for Osaka day trips ), and one night at what many consider to be the best onsen in Japan. Don’t have quite two weeks? Spend 10 days in Japan instead.

READ MORE: Two Weeks in Japan

Three Weeks in Japan

trip ideas for japan

Have a little longer for Japan itineraries than two weeks? Supplement your sightseeing in Japan with some deeper cuts into the country, from emotional Hiroshima , to the ecotourism paradise of Nagano prefecture (where you’ll find the internet-famous Japan Snow Monkeys ), to the Fuji Five Lakes region near Japan’s iconic mountain of the same name.

READ MORE: Three Weeks in Japan

One Month in Japan

trip ideas for japan

For travelers who can devote a month to their Japan tour ideas, it’s possible to knock off a large number of must see in Japan items. In addition to the ideas for a Japan trip I’ve mentioned before, you can add in quirky destinations like the stunning San’in region , active experiences like the Nakasendo Way and trips to secondary Japanese islands like Hokkaido , Kyushu and Shikoku , the latter of which you could separate out on its own if one week in Japan is all you have to spend.

READ MORE: One Month in Japan

Japan City Itineraries

trip ideas for japan

There are so many places to visit in Tokyo that you could easily spend a month here. On the other hand, time is an issue on all but the most flexible Japan trips, so you’ll need to narrow down your Tokyo bucket list—you can visit both Shinjuku and Ueno parks, probably, but you might need to choose between day trips to Kamakura and Nikko . You should also make sure to visit the capital in many different seasons, including underrated winter in Tokyo .

READ MORE: How Many Days Do You Need in Tokyo?

trip ideas for japan

Like Tokyo but for completely different reasons, Kyoto is a city where you could spend a long, long time. If you’re keen to dive deep into districts like like temple-filled Higashiyama , lush Arashiyama and the Geisha quarter of Gion district, however, you can see most of Kyoto’s essentials in just 48-72 hours, give or take, depending on which other Japan travel ideas your itinerary entertains.

READ MORE: Kyoto Starts Here

Cities of the Kansai Region

trip ideas for japan

One of my favorite things about Kyoto is that it sits in the Kansai region, the most dynamic part of western Honshu island. After you finish temple-hopping in Kyoto, you can pet deer in Nara , eat yourself sick in Osaka , marvel at Japan’s best castle in Himeji or explore underrated cities like Uji , Kobe and Wakayama —all these Japanese trips are so easy to take.

READ MORE:   How Long Should You Spend in Kansai?

Underrated Japanese Cities

trip ideas for japan

Speaking of underrated Japanese cities, many of the best cities in Japan are ones you’ve likely never heard. From Hakodate on the southern tip of Hokkaido, to Matsuyama in Shikoku, and from Shimonoseki at the western tip of Honshu to Matsumoto in the heart of the Japanese Alps , there are plenty of reasons to venture of Japan’s not-so-beaten path on your own Japan trips.

READ MORE: Japan’s Underrated Cities

Special Japan Trip Ideas

Cherry blossoms.

trip ideas for japan

The ultimate Japan trip is coming when the sakura  cherry blossoms are at full bloom. The downside to having this dream? It’s extraordinarily difficult to time a trip just right—my first trip to Japan just so happened to hit the right spots at the right times, while many subsequent spring jaunts were daunting experiences, ones I hope you can learn from.

READ MORE:  Planning a Cherry Blossom Trip

Japan’s Best Hikes

trip ideas for japan

It should come as no surprise that Japan is one of the world’s top hiking destinations, what with it being a mountainous archipelago that boasts four distinct seasons. Whether you walk the ancient Nakasendo trading route, climb Mt. Daisen or hike pilgrimage trails like Wakayama’s Kumano Kodo and Shikoku ‘s 88 Temple Trek , or simply take day hikes from major cities ( Mt. Aso from Kumamoto , for example), Japan is an ecotourism paradise.

READ MORE: Japan’s Best Hikes

Autumn Colors

trip ideas for japan

I’ve gone on a lot about Takayama fall colors on this website, but the truth is that most everywhere in Japan (with the exception of maybe tropical Okinawa ) is beautiful during the fall season. However, this season is temperamental (though not as much so as cherry blossom season) and occurs later in the year than you’d probably imagine, so you’ll want to read my guide before taking Japan trip ideas related to fall colors too seriously.

READ MORE:  Fall Colors in Japan

Winter in Japan

trip ideas for japan

As far as I’m concerned, seeing Japan in winter is the most underrated seasonal experience—even if you’re not a skier. Whether you rub shoulders with the so-called “Snow Monsters” of Zao Onsen in Tohoku , walk along the icicle-lined Otaru Canal in Hokkaido or simply explore major Japanese destinations without the crowds, winter in Japan will warm your soul.

READ MORE:  Japan in Winter

Japan Animal Experiences

trip ideas for japan

If you’re like most of the internet, a trip to Japan’s aptly-named “Fox Village” probably sits high on your Japan bucket list. Absent that (what is wrong with you?) you likely want to visit the country’s cat- and rabbit-filled islands, or one of the many animal-themed cafés in Tokyo and Osaka . Even if your interest in Japan’s animals only extends to Hello Kitty , I’ve got you covered.

READ MORE:   Weird and Wild Japan

Custom Japan Itineraries

Set on places to go in Japan or experiences to have there, but don’t know how to put them together? The good news is that this website is a sprawling (and growing) resource that can help you find all the information you need, whether you see a two weeks in Japan itinerary or something more comprehensive.

FAQ About Planning a Trip to Japan

What does the average trip to japan cost.

You can expect to spend between 100-300 USD per person, per day in Japan, regardless of which of these Japan vacation ideas appeals most to you. Travelers who seek out luxury ryokan and Michelin-star dining experiences will be on the high side of this range, while those content to sleep simply and focus on experiences can potentially get by on even less.

What is the best itinerary for Japan?

I won’t go so far as to say the Japan travel ideas I’ve presented here are all created equal, but there isn’t one right way to travel in Japan. With this being said, if it’s your first trip to Japan, the best itinerary usually combines the “tourist” trail—from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka then Hiroshima and back—plus additional day trips (Nikko from Tokyo or Nara from Kyoto) and maybe a secondary destination like Shikoku island or the San’in region, depending on how long you spend.

How do I plan a trip to Japan?

You can plan your Japan trips in one of two ways. The first option is to do it yourself, mapping out your day-by-day itinerary first with lodging, then with transportation and finally with activities and meals. The second option is to hire a professional (namely, me) to plan your trip to Japan for you.

The Bottom Line

Whether you follow one of my Japan trip ideas precisely or combine a few of the suggestions I’ve made into your own custom itinerary, your Japan adventure starts here. Use the information I’ve provided to fill out the amount of time you’ve set aside to explore Japan, or take a more esoteric approach and allow your inspiration to guide to. Still think you need more help? Thankfully, you’ve arrived at a proverbial Japan encyclopedia. I’ve written literally thousands of Japan blog posts to aid you along your way!

Plan Your Japan Trip

trip ideas for japan

Subscribe to email updates!

Words, images and design ©2018-2024 Robert Schrader, All rights reserved. Read Privacy Policy or view sitemap .

Boutique Japan

30 Japan Experiences to Add to Your Bucket List

At Boutique Japan, our specialty is helping travelers who believe that travel is about unique experiences, not just sightseeing or checking items off a list.

But when you’re planning a trip to Japan , it can be hard to know which places are worth visiting, and which places to skip. After all, some popular experiences are actually worthwhile and live up to the hype, while others are just as touristy as they look on Instagram.

If you’re looking for inspiration on where to go and what to do for a truly memorable Japan trip, we recommend the remarkable places and experiences listed below. Some are more well-known, while others will help you get off the beaten path (and into the Japanese countryside ).

Originally written in 2015, this post was updated and republished on September 21, 2021.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Tokyo

To Tour or Not to Tour

While we specialize in planning custom trips to Japan, we realize many people refer to our website to help them plan their itineraries independently. Many of the experiences featured below can be done without a guide, though most can be greatly enhanced with a fun, local expert.

We hear from lots of travelers who have had mediocre tours in the past, and we get it. Few things are more frustrating than a boring, or bad, guide. Along with visiting boutique and luxury hotels and ryokans , perhaps the most important part of our team’s work is vetting guides and local experts (there are plenty of guides throughout Japan, but few who are knowledgeable, flexible, and authentically engaging).

Of course, even for travelers who appreciate a great guide, there may be times where you simply want to relax or explore on your own. This might mean wandering around a charming neighborhood, people watching at a stylish cafe, or enjoying a spa treatment. We take this into account when designing your Japan itinerary , and suggest local experts especially where we think it will most enhance your experience.

We hope our ideas provide you with travel inspiration, whether you contact us for your trip or plan independently!

Here are 30 unique and immersive experiences to consider for your Japan bucket list:

  • Drink and Dine at an Izakaya
  • Soak in Healing Onsen (Hot Springs)
  • Explore Art & Architecture on The Art Island of Naoshima
  • Splurge on a Night at a Tokyo Luxury Hotel
  • Attend a Japanese Matsuri (Festival)
  • Sample the World’s Finest Sushi & Sashimi
  • Ride the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Around Japan
  • Stroll Through Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest
  • Eat The Best Ramen of Your Life on a Ramen Deep Dive
  • Stay at a Shukubo (Buddhist Temple Lodging)
  • Watch Sumo and Baseball
  • Ski or Snowboard Japan’s Legendary Powder
  • Admire Sakura During Cherry Blossom Season
  • Taste Premium Nihonshu (Sake)
  • Hike Through the Japanese Countryside
  • Experience Nightlife in Japan
  • Cycle Through Kyoto or Tokyo
  • Trek Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
  • Eat Your Way Through Tsukiji’s Outer Market
  • Climb or Admire Fuji-san (Mount Fuji)
  • Marvel at Japan’s Modern Architecture
  • Find Zen in a Japanese Garden
  • Experience Japanese Coffee Culture
  • Savor Matcha , Genmaicha , and More
  • Visit an Original Japanese Castle
  • Get Lost in Tokyo’s Stylish Backstreets
  • Sip on Rare Japanese Whisky
  • Experience Paradise in the Islands of Okinawa
  • See the Famous Snow Monkeys in Nagano
  • Obsess Over Japan’s World-Class Baked Goods

Himeji Castle Japan

1. Drink and Dine at an Izakaya

You’ll find an amazing variety of culinary experiences in Japan , but there’s nothing like eating and drinking at an izakaya .

In addition to being the perfect place to sample a wide variety of Japanese dishes — from sashimi and fried foods, to tofu and seasonal vegetables — eating and drinking at an izakaya is also a great way to mingle with locals. Kanpai!

2. Soak in Healing Onsen (Hot Springs)

Soaking in a remote onsen while the snow falls around you is one of the most magical experiences you can have in Japan, and makes braving the cold all the more worthwhile. It’s one of our favorite things about winter in Japan .

Combined with a stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn) , and you have all the makings of an unforgettable trip. For more ryokan inspiration, see our Luxury Ryokans & the Japanese Countryside sample trip.

Taenoyu Onsen Akita Prefecture, Japan

3. Explore Art & Architecture on The Art Island of Naoshima

For art lovers, the so-called art island, Naoshima , is a must-visit, with museums designed by Tadao Ando and works by world-class artists from around the world. Stay at the museum-hotel Benesse House, and also make sure to visit the tiny nearby art islands of Teshima and Inujima.

4. Splurge on a Night at a Tokyo Luxury Hotel

Tokyo is home to some of Japan’s best hotels . Luxury options include Aman Tokyo, Palace Hotel Tokyo, and HOSHINOYA Tokyo. Stylish boutique hotels in Tokyo include TRUNK, K5, and Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten.

And there are many, many others (including, of course, the Park Hyatt Tokyo made famous in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation ). With so many fun and beautiful options, it’s worth splurging on at least one night at a luxurious Tokyo hotel.

If you can, it’s also worth splurging on a night at a luxury ryokan in rural Japan , as well!

Trunk Hotel Tokyo Japan

5. Attend a Japanese Matsuri (Festival)

If you want to see Japan at its liveliest, a high-energy matsuri is the place to do it! Japanese festivals ( matsuri ) are full of color, tradition, and exuberance. Some of the most remarkable include Hokkaido’s Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival), Shikoku’s boisterous Awa Odori dance festival, and the beautiful Gion Matsuri of Kyoto.

6. Sample the World’s Finest Sushi & Sashimi

Sushi and sashimi in Japan are, unsurprisingly, on a level of their own. Tokyo’s best sushi shops are just the tip of the iceberg, and you’ll find top-quality sushi and sashimi throughout the country, in places such as Kanazawa , Hokkaido, Toyama Prefecture, and beyond.

Even more price-conscious travelers will find excellent sushi and sashimi at moderately priced restaurants, and in beautiful depachika bentos.

7. Ride the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Around Japan

Whether or not you’re a train geek, you’re likely aware that Japan’s rail network is part of what makes traveling around Japan such a joy. Even though we typically don’t recommend the Japan Rail Pass for most of our clients, we do recommend getting around via shinkansen whenever possible, and fortunately Japan’s extensive rail system connects the country from Hokkaido in the north, to Kyushu in the southwest.

Part of the fun of riding the bullet train is the food. Before hopping on the train, pick up a delicious seasonal bento and a bottle of sake (eating and drinking on the train is a national tradition), and enjoy the landscape as it zips by.

8. Stroll Through Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest

Too touristy? Not necessarily . Yes, Kyoto’s scenic Arashiyama district (home to Zen temples and the iconic bamboo forest) can get extremely crowded at peak hours, and during peak seasons such as spring and fall .

On the other hand, if you visit off-season — or have the motivation to wake up early — you may have this magical place all to yourself. Depending on the time of year, the crowds often also begin thinning out in the late afternoon, when most tourists head back to their hotels.

Arashiyama bamboo grove Kyoto Japan

9. Eat The Best Ramen of Your Life on a Ramen Deep Dive

These days you can find good-quality ramen in most major cities around the world, but there’s still nothing like ramen in Japan. Wherever you go, from Fukuoka (aka Hakata) in the southwest to Sapporo in the north, you’ll find incredibly good ramen shops with passionately devoted followers.

If you’re a hardcore ramen lover, geek out with a ramen-obsessed expert who will take you to a selection of great ramen-ya to experience distinct styles and varieties. There are also less obsessive ramen guides for travelers seeking a more basic introduction to these famous noodles.

For more on ramen, see our introduction to ramen in Japan and our guide to Tokyo’s 5 top historic ramen shops .

10. Stay at a Shukubo (Buddhist Temple Lodging)

For a taste of traditional Japanese Buddhist life, there’s no better experience than spending a night or two at a shukubo (temple lodging).

Temple accommodations are typically on the rustic side, but prepare for a fascinating and immersive cultural experience, and delicious vegetarian shojin ryori cuisine. Japan’s most famous destination for shukubo stays is sacred Mount Koya (Koyasan) , and there are many other off-the-beaten-path options elsewhere in Japan as well.

Zen Garden Kongbuji Temple Mount Koya Japan

11. Watch Sumo and Baseball

The chance to watch sumo in Japan should not be missed! Along with being highly entertaining, attending a sumo basho (tournament) is also a fascinating cultural experience.

And even if you’re not a baseball fan, few things are more fun than going to a baseball game in Japan. Japanese baseball fans are renowned for their liveliness, and the food and drink is also a highlight!

12. Ski or Snowboard Japan’s Legendary Powder

From the legendary powder of Niseko and Hokkaido, to the Japanese Alps and Tohoku, Japan has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. After a day on the slopes, rejuvenate with cozy izakaya food and healing onsen .

13. Admire Sakura During Cherry Blossom Season

We were torn about whether to include this on our list, as we generally believe Japan is best experienced with fewer crowds. On the other hand, despite the number of tourists, there is nevertheless something beguilingly magical about sakura (cherry blossoms).

During hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season, the country is covered in pink blossoms, and parks and gardens are filled with revelers celebrating over sake and seasonal bentos. It’s definitely not for everyone though, so make sure to read all about the pros and cons of visiting Japan in cherry blossom season .

A popular and slightly less crowded alternative is Japan’s autumn , renowned for its brilliant fall colors.

Sakura (cherry blossoms). Hanami season in Japan

14. Taste Premium Nihonshu (Sake)

Many would-be nihonshu (sake) lovers have been turned off of sake thanks to subpar experiences at Japanese restaurants outside of Japan. But the quality of sake to be found in Japan is simply remarkable. Forget the sake you’ve tried in the US, Europe, or Australia. Come to Japan with an open mind and prepare to sample premium nihonshu from small local producers who rarely export.

15. Hike Through the Japanese Countryside

Japan is a hiker’s paradise, with wonderful day hikes and multi-day walks throughout the country (there are even great hikes near Tokyo , and many more in and around Kyoto).

Two of Japan’s best multi-day hiking adventures are the charming Nakasendo Trail in central Japan’s Kiso Valley, and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route in the Kii Peninsula, but for intrepid travelers there are also plenty of other options, on and off the beaten path.

16. Experience Nightlife in Japan

Japan is culturally thrilling during the day, and equally dynamic at night.

Whether you’re enjoying craft cocktails or Japanese whisky at a tiny bar, drinking with locals at a casual izakaya or tachinomi (stand bar), or singing all-night karaoke, Japan has some of the most varied and entertaining nightlife in the world. Tokyo’s nightlife is legendary, and you’ll also find bustling nightlife scenes in cities such as Sapporo, Osaka , Fukuoka, and more.

golden gai shinjuku tokyo

17. Cycle Through Kyoto or Tokyo

For serious cyclists, the Japanese countryside offers countless opportunities for distance rides (mountain biking is also popular in Japan). But even if you’re not looking to plan your whole trip around cycling, you can still fit some in while having fun exploring cities such as Kyoto and Tokyo.

Both are great cycling cities, especially when you’re winding your way through charming backstreets, away from the tourist centers. Think of it as a neighborhood stroll by bicycle, taking in quiet areas filled with authentic street life, old-fashioned shops, and neighborhood shrines and temples.

18. Trek Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Like Arashiyama’s bamboo forest, Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha tends to draw huge crowds. Yet also like the bamboo forest, Fushimi Inari is nevertheless still worth visiting.

One way to minimize exposure to crowds is by coming here early in the morning before most travelers have had their morning tea or coffee. For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, hike up Mount Inari and you’ll see that gradually the selfie sticks give way to peace and quiet!

19. Eat Your Way Through Tsukiji’s Outer Market

Wait, didn’t Tokyo’s fish market move to Toyosu ? Yes, it did! But Tsukiji remains a must for food and market lovers. While the market’s wholesale operations have moved to the slightly out-of-the-way Toyosu, the jogai (outer market) at Tsukiji is still thriving.

In Tsukiji’s Outer Market you’ll find historic lanes and alleys packed with a colorful array of shops and small restaurants, not to mention atmosphere and charm to spare. For more info, see our guide to visiting Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market .

Tako octopus Tsukiji Market Tokyo Japan

20. Climb or Admire Fuji-san (Mount Fuji)

As the old saying goes, there are two types of fools in the world: those who never climb Mount Fuji, and those who climb it more than once. On the way up you’ll see children and grandparents, and while not the most scenic trek, it is all worthwhile when you reach the summit in time for sunrise.

There are other great ways to admire Mount Fuji, as well. One is to visit Hakone , which offers good views of the mountain if and only if the weather is clear. For an even closer vantage point, and incredible views when it’s clear, head to the lakeside resort of Kawaguchiko. And for active travelers seeking a vigorous hike with views of Mount Fuji, there are some excellent off-the-beaten-path in the Fuji-san area.

21. Marvel at Japan’s Modern Architecture

Along with its traditional gems, Japan is home to some of the world’s most accomplished architects, and you’ll find stunning architecture throughout the country.

In Tokyo, you could spend hours strolling the main avenues and backstreets of the Ginza, Aoyama, and Omotesando neighborhoods, filled with iconic buildings by Japanese luminaries and Pritzker Prize winners. Throughout Japan, from tiny villages to major cities, you’ll come across the work of legendary architects such as Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma, often in the most surprising of locations.

22. Find Zen in a Japanese Garden

Kyoto is particularly renowned for its wealth of gardens (not to mention shrines and temples ). Even beyond Kyoto, impeccable gardens abound in Japan, from stroll gardens like Kenrokuen in Kanazawa , to the gorgeous gardens of the Adachi Museum of Art. See our full guide to the best gardens in Japan .

Lilo Coffee Roasters Osaka Japan

23. Experience Japanese Coffee Culture

Coffee has been an art form in Japan for decades, and while tea may still be a more prevalent part of traditional daily life, coffee is also deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Throughout Japan you’ll find classic kissaten (old-school tea and coffee shops), where part of the experience is slowing down.

You come to a kissaten to sit for a while, chat quietly or read a book, and enjoy an expertly, laboriously prepared cup of coffee. As with most things in Japan, you’ll find that kissaten proprietors on the whole take a meticulous approach to quality and technique. At some shops, the obsession with perfection is taken to another level!

To complement your quaint kissa experiences, you’ll also want to seek out some of the modern temples of specialty coffee in Japan .

24. Savor Matcha , Genmaicha , and More

Even coffee-obsessed travelers should make sure to sample tea in Japan .

Though best known for green tea, while exploring Japan you’ll come across an incredible variety of teas, ranging from matcha and genmaicha , to tea made from sakura and more. Whether at a specialty tea shop, or as part of a tea ceremony, few things are more heartwarming than a thoughtfully prepared cup of matcha .

25. Visit an Original Japanese Castle

Lovers of history and traditional architecture should go out of their way to visit at least one original, preserved Japanese castle. Most castles you see in photos (for example, Osaka Castle) are reconstructions, with beautiful external appearances but lackluster interiors.

Japan retains a small but wonderful collection of preserved original castles including Himeji-jo (Himeji Castle), Matsumoto-jo (in the alpine city of Matsumoto ), Hikone-jo, Matsuyama-jo, and more. With gorgeous exteriors and captivating interiors full of intrigue, these national treasures are a must for history buffs.

Backstreets of Setagaya War in Tokyo, Japan

26. Get Lost in Tokyo’s Stylish Backstreets

Getting lost is not everyone’s idea of fun, but in a safe and gem-filled city like Tokyo, it can lead to some delightful travel experiences.

For expert insight to complement your wanderings, spend some time walking through the maze-like backstreets of Daikanyama and Naka-Meguro, two of Tokyo’s most unique neighborhoods , with a fun local guide. Leave the main streets behind as you find endless inspiration in the labyrinthine (and astoundingly quiet) lanes of these fashionable and picturesque districts.

27. Sip on Rare Japanese Whisky

One option for spirit lovers is to visit some of Japan’s whisky distilleries , but you don’t necessarily need to go to the source to enjoy some of the country’s best whisky.

There are few better places to drink Japanese whisky than in Tokyo (and other major cities, including Kyoto and Osaka), which are home to some of the best whisky bars on the planet. You can venture out on your own, or with a local whisky expert be introduced to exclusive whisky establishments where you can splurge on rare samples.

28. Experience Paradise in the Islands of Okinawa

The islands of Okinawa are home to stunning beaches, world-class scuba diving, and fascinating culture and history. In particular, the remote islands of Okinawa — such as the pristine Yaeyama Islands — feel worlds apart from mainland Japan. For culinary travelers, Okinawa’s food is also a highlight.

Uruma Okinawa Japan

29. See the Famous Snow Monkeys in Nagano

Located in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, animal lovers flock to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park) to see Japan’s famous snow monkeys up close. While possible to visit throughout the year, the best time to visit the onsen -loving snow monkeys is in deep winter, when the landscape is completely covered in snow.

30. Obsess Over Japan’s World-Class Baked Goods

It’s easy to focus on Japanese cuisine when traveling through Japan, but for lovers of bread, croissants, and pastries, do not miss out on enjoying baked goods while in Japan! You can find top-quality bakeries and patisseries around the country, from the remote countryside of Hokkaido, to cities like Osaka and Tokyo. While you’re at it, make sure to save a meal for one of Japan’s legendary pizza specialists, too.

Japan Has Even More Amazing Places to Experience

Whether you usually plan your own trips, or normally work with a destination expert, planning a trip to Japan can seem overwhelming at times.

At Boutique Japan, our specialty is crafting completely customized trips for travelers seeking unique, authentic experiences. If you are interested in learning more about working with us, please feel free to explore our trip planning process .

More Great Posts

HOSHINOYA Tokyo Japan

Japan’s Best Boutique and Luxury Hotels & Ryokans

The best hotels and ryokans in Japan range from charming traditional inns in the countryside, to stylish design hotels and…

Shinkansen bullet train conductor Japan

Traveler’s Guide to the JR Pass (Is It Worth It?)

The Japan Rail Pass (or JR Pass, for short) can be a good way to get around Japan, but many…

Japanese holidays

Major Holidays and Peak Travel Seasons in Japan

If you’re considering a trip to Japan during one of the country’s peak travel seasons, be aware that things can…

Plan Your Japan Trip

Learn more and contact us to discuss your unique trip.

Get Started

  • The Process
  • Testimonials

Protect Your Trip »

Best places to visit in japan.

Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan's civilization dates as far back as 30,000 years. Today, the archipelago seamlessly blends its rich history with its ultra-modern present. And while its capital, Tokyo, is a must-visit for first timers, Japan has so much more to offer travelers of all types, from cherry blossoms to white sand beaches to soothing onsen (hot spring spas). U.S. News took into account cultural attractions, culinary options and accessibility (among other factors) to bring you the best places to visit in Japan. Have a favorite? Vote below to help decide next year's ranking.

Izu Peninsula

trip ideas for japan

This metropolis is a feast for the senses. Neighborhoods like Ginza and Akihabara buzz with flashing lights and larger-than-life shopping, while Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Imperial Palace give you a look into Japan's storied past. There are also a number of green spaces like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which acts as a place to escape from the chaotic, concrete jungle. What's more, Tokyo is regularly regarded as a top foodie city thanks in part to its abundant Michelin-starred restaurants (the most you'll find in any city in the world), so come hungry.

trip ideas for japan

Travelers most interested in Japan's history and traditions should head to Kyoto. Centrally located on the archipelago, Kyoto has long been considered the cultural capital of Japan. Here, you'll find more than 1,000 Buddhist temples and 400-plus Shinto shrines (you can't miss the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha), including a whopping 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can also stroll through geisha districts like Gion and Miyagawacho, admire classic wooden architecture and visit traditional teahouses before checking out more modern attractions, such as the Kyoto Aquarium.

trip ideas for japan

Nikko is the place to go to see lavish architecture surrounded by nature. Head to Nikko National Park, one of Japan's oldest national parks, to enjoy an up-close look at traditional structures situated alongside mountains, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs. The park is especially beautiful in fall when its trees display vivid shades of yellow, red and orange. The 103 Edo-era (1603–1868) temples and shrines in Nikko include world-renowned sites like Toshogu Shrine and Rinnoji Temple.

trip ideas for japan

Situated about 35 miles southwest of Kyoto, this port city is worth a visit for its food alone. One of the city's most famous dishes, the tasty pancake-like okonomiyaki (which means "grilled as you like it" in Japanese), is made with batter, cabbage and your choice of meat and other toppings. After you've gotten your fill of the delectable local cuisine, explore the flashy Dotonbori neighborhood, check out the reconstructed 16th-century Osaka Castle or head to contemporary sights like Universal Studios Japan and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

trip ideas for japan

As Japan's second most populous city, Yokohama is often touted as a more approachable and more affordable alternative to Tokyo (located 22 miles northeast). As one of the country's first ports to open to international trade, Yokohama features unique culture fusions, including a sizable expat population, Western-style buildings in the Yamate area and the largest Chinatown in Japan (it has more businesses than residents). While here, visitors can explore Minato Mirai 21, the city's modern central district teeming with skyscrapers and shopping malls, and visit museums ranging from the Cup Noodles Museum to the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum.

trip ideas for japan

More than 160 islands comprise Okinawa, a top destination for snorkeling and diving. The Japanese prefecture boasts proximity to multiple coral reefs teeming with fish, manta rays and hammerhead sharks that you can access from beautiful beaches like those found on Okinawa's Kerama Islands. These 20-plus islands are also ideal places to see migrating whales between January and March. Back on the main island, visitors will find one of the world's largest aquariums, several castle ruins and a museum that focuses on Okinawa's unique history and culture. And on the less developed Iriomote Island, adventurous travelers can hike to awe-inspiring waterfalls.

trip ideas for japan

Spared from World War II air raids and the major natural disasters that have affected other Japanese cities, Kanazawa on the western coast is home to some of the country's best-preserved architecture from the Edo period. Sites like Kanazawa Castle, Seisonkaku Villa and Myoryuji temple are popular among visitors, as are the Higashi Chaya geisha district and Nagamachi Samurai District. Plus, no trip to Kanazawa would be complete without a visit to the resplendent Kenrokuen Garden. With its water features, bridges and a variety of flowering trees that add beauty to any season, Kenrokuen is often described as the perfect garden.

trip ideas for japan

Nestled in the mountains of the Gifu prefecture, Takayama is ideal for visitors looking for a rural retreat with a dose of history. Start your visit with a rickshaw ride through the well-preserved old town, which features sake breweries, traditional residences and shops that date back to the feudal ages. Then, head to the Hida Folk Village, a former farming village with 30 gassho-style houses. When you've worked up an appetite, indulge in must-try local specialties including Hida beef and Takayama ramen. To further immerse yourself in Takayama culture, visit during the Takayama Festival, held for two days every spring and fall.

trip ideas for japan

The country's tallest mountain and one of its most iconic landmarks is a popular destination for outdoor recreation. For centuries, Japanese artists and poets have been inspired by Mount Fuji's almost perfectly round form. The Fuji Five Lakes region at the foot of this UNESCO World Heritage Site makes a great base for the thousands of climbers who visit each year. Enjoy the area's museums and amusement park during the warmer months. Or, arrive in winter to soak in the onsen and ski Mount Fuji's slopes.

trip ideas for japan

Located on Kyushu (Japan's third-largest island), Fukuoka offers travelers a mix of urban sprawl, sandy coastlines and ancient temples and shrines. Can't-miss sights include Tochoji Temple – home of the largest sitting wooden Buddha in Japan – and Nokonoshima Island, which features colorful flower fields and beautiful views of the surrounding bay. Fukuoka is also known for its incredible Hakata ramen, so be sure to try this tasty dish at one of the city's many food stalls. Plan your visit around one of Fukuoka's lively festivals, such as the Hakata Gion Yamakasa, which takes place throughout the first half of July.

trip ideas for japan

Head to the smallest of Japan's four main islands if you're looking to get off the beaten path. Shikoku is best known for its 88 Temple Pilgrimage – a nearly 750-mile loop that covers sacred sites around the island. Whether you're trekking this path or creating your own, you'll encounter Shikoku's natural beauty (think: forest-covered mountains and an unspoiled coastline). Meanwhile, the city of Kochi features cheap eats and a well-preserved castle. If you're visiting in mid-August, add Shikoku's cultural pinnacle, Awa Odori, to your itinerary. One of the most famous festivals in Japan, this dance celebration in the city of Takushima is a must-do.

trip ideas for japan

Mountainous Hakone is one of Japan's most popular hot spring destinations. Nestled within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the town features 17 different hot springs, plus a hot spring theme park with unique baths like one with coffee and another with mulled wine. After you've dried off, visit one of Hakone's art museums, such as the Hakone Open-Air Museum, the Okada Museum of Art or the Hakone Museum of Art. No Hakone vacation would be complete without enjoying spectacular views of Mount Fuji from Lake Ashinoko and the Komagatake Ropeway.

trip ideas for japan

After an earthquake caused significant damage to the city in 1995, Kobe rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan city. You'll want to remember to bring your appetite when you visit. Kobe is famous for its namesake beef, as well as its sake. It's also considered one of Japan's most attractive cities, with sleek architecture and beautiful green spaces like Sorakuen Garden. For some of the city's best views – especially at sunset – go to the top of Mount Rokko or ride the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway. End your evening exploring Nankinmachi (Kobe's compact Chinatown) or dining at one of Kobe Harborland's waterfront restaurants.

trip ideas for japan

For many, Hiroshima brings up memories of war, as the city is where the world's first atomic bomb attack occurred in 1945. But today, Hiroshima is a city of peace, with the vast Peace Memorial Park as the center for monuments and memorials like the  the Children's Peace Monument and the UNESCO-certified Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome). It is also a city of great beauty. Travelers can take a scenic stroll through Shukkeien Garden, peruse the exhibits at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art or visit Sandankyo Gorge to hike or boat past its beautiful waterfalls, caves and coves.

trip ideas for japan

Tourists flock to the island of Miyajima (formally named Itsukushima) for its prime attraction: Itsukushima Shrine and its postcard-worthy torii gate. To see the shrine at its most picturesque, try to visit during high tide, when the gate appears to float on the water. Since the island is just a 30-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima, it makes for a great day trip. However, visitors may want to stay the night at a charming ryokan (Japanese-style inn) to experience Miyajima at its most serene and walk by the illuminated shrine at night.

trip ideas for japan

An outdoor-lover's delight, Matsumoto is just 22 miles east of Kamikochi, an awe-inspiring valley in the Hotaka mountain range. But though it serves as a gateway to the Japanese Alps, this city in central Japan should not be skipped over. As the birthplace of contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, known for polka dots and pumpkins, Matsumoto pays her tribute at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art. Meanwhile, those who prefer more ancient masterpieces can visit Matsumoto Castle, one of the oldest and grandest castles in the country.  

trip ideas for japan

Japan's first permanent capital is famous for housing the Great Buddha, a nearly 50-foot-tall bronze statue of Buddha. You'll find this jaw-dropping national treasure in Nara's Todaiji temple, which is the one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. While on the temple grounds, explore the deer-filled Nara Park and the ornate Kasuga Taisha shrine. Also save time for visiting Yakushiji Temple, one of Japan's oldest temples that dates back to A.D. 730.

trip ideas for japan

This peninsula situated 62 miles southwest of Tokyo makes a great getaway from the busy city. It is popular among locals and tourists alike thanks to its relaxing hot springs and stunning beaches. These, along with various museums and ryokans, can be found in cities like Atami and Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula's eastern coast. During spring visits, travelers will also want to check out Kawazu's vibrant pink blooms at the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival. Meanwhile, on the southern and western coasts, vacationers will find more rugged yet equally scenic coastlines, such as Cape Irozaki and Dogashima.

Vote to Add these Destinations to the Rankings

trip ideas for japan

Chubu Sangaku National Park

trip ideas for japan

Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

You may be interested in.

trip ideas for japan

Best Places to Visit in Asia

trip ideas for japan

Best Places to Visit in Thailand

trip ideas for japan

World's Best Places to Visit for 2023-2024

trip ideas for japan

Africa & The Middle East

Best Places to Visit in Africa in 2023

trip ideas for japan

Best Places to Visit in October 2024

trip ideas for japan

Australia & The Pacific

Best Places to Visit in Australia and The Pacific in 2023

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The 50 Best Hotels in the USA 2024

Christina Maggitas February 6, 2024

trip ideas for japan

The 32 Most Famous Landmarks in the World

Gwen Pratesi|Timothy J. Forster February 1, 2024

trip ideas for japan

9 Top All-Inclusive Resorts in Florida for 2024

Gwen Pratesi|Amanda Norcross January 5, 2024

trip ideas for japan

24 Top All-Inclusive Resorts in the U.S. for 2024

Erin Evans January 4, 2024

trip ideas for japan

26 Top Adults-Only All-Inclusive Resorts for 2024

Zach Watson December 28, 2023

trip ideas for japan

Solo Vacations: The 36 Best Places to Travel Alone in 2024

Lyn Mettler|Erin Vasta December 22, 2023

trip ideas for japan

26 Cheap Beach Vacations for Travelers on a Budget

Kyle McCarthy|Sharael Kolberg December 4, 2023

trip ideas for japan

The 50 Most Beautiful White Sand Beaches in the World

Holly Johnson December 1, 2023

trip ideas for japan

The 26 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Rachael Hood November 16, 2023

trip ideas for japan

44 Cheap Tropical Vacations That Feel Expensive

Holly Johnson|Alissa Grisler November 10, 2023

trip ideas for japan

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site

Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer

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?

Luckily, thanks to Japan’s size and uber-fast trains, it’s very easy to see a lot in a very short amount of time.

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

Suggested Route: One Week in Japan Suggested Route: Two Weeks in Japan Suggested Route: Three Weeks in Japan

Japan Travel Itinerary: One Week

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.

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). 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.

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.

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.

An empty street with glowing lights in Tokyo, Japan

Japan Travel Itinerary: Two Weeks

A bullet train crosses in front of the famous Mount Fuji in the background in 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 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.

The traditional Japanese castle overlooking Matsumoto in 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.  

Japan Travel Itinerary: Three Weeks

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.

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!

REMINDER : You will definitely need a JR Pass to get around. Be sure to get one BEFORE you go! For more information on the pass, read this blog post I wrote about it .  

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 Booking.com 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 (for everyone below 70)
  • Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)

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.

Related Posts

a pagoda in Japan overlooking Mount Fuji

Get my best stuff sent straight to you!

Pin it on pinterest.

Sharing the beauty of Japan

The Ultimate Japan Bucket List: 100 Things to do in Japan

The Ultimate Japan Bucket List: 100 Things to do in Japan

Every country has its own list of things that make it unique and Japan is no exception. In my opinion, it is one of the most distinctive and fascinating countries in the world, though I may be a little biased! Whether you agree or not, there’s no denying that Japan is as alluring as it is special. A quick skim of this list alone displays such a rich variety of activities and experiences that it is sure to excite and inspire you to book your next trip to Japan!

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a frequent visitor, I hope this post inspires you to discover all the wonderful treasures Japan has to offer. I’ve left a little map of Japan next to all the experiences I have done myself, so if you’d like more info about it, make sure to let me know in the comments below!

So let’s get into this jumbo Japan bucket list and find out what 100 activities I think you should do while in Japan!

  • Visit the happiest place on earth at Tokyo Disneyland 🇯🇵
  • Visit the iconic Tokyo Tower 🇯🇵
  • Be delighted with kawaii goods and delicious sweets at Harajuku 🇯🇵
  • Stock up on anime figurines, vintage video games and licensed merchandise at Akihabara 🇯🇵
  • Be treated like a master/mistress at a Maid Café such as Maidreamin 🇯🇵
  • Dine at the spectacular Robot Restaurant at Kabukicho
  • See pedestrians cross one of the busiest intersections in the world at Shibuya crossing 🇯🇵
  • Escape the city and step into stunning green forests at Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park 🇯🇵
  • Beat the crowds and grab a ticket to the famous Studio Ghibli Museum 🇯🇵
  • Explore the streets of Kabukicho, Tokyo’s Red Light District 🇯🇵

Check out my blog post for more things to do in Tokyo .

  • Visit the most iconic shrine in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha 🇯🇵
  • Walk down the famous bamboo-lined path at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 🇯🇵
  • Stand in the presence of a completely golden temple at Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) 🇯🇵
  • Step into the past, meet a geisha and engage with traditional Japan in Gion 🇯🇵

Check out my blog post for more things to do in Kyoto .

Japan Bucket List: Dotonbori

  • Eat the best street food in Japan at Dotonbori 🇯🇵
  • Visit the most iconic castle in Japan, Osaka Castle 🇯🇵
  • Step into the world of Harry Potter, Despicable Me and more at Universal Studios Japan 🇯🇵

Check out my blog post for more things to do in Osaka .

  • Learn of the destruction of the world’s first atomic bomb at Hiroshima Peace Memorial museum
  • Witness the destruction of WWII at the Atomic Bomb Dome and pray for peace at the Peace Memorial Park
  • View the famous torii gate in the ocean at Itsukushima Shrine
  • Island hop and beach hop in Japan’s sub-tropical prefecture, Okinawa 🇯🇵
  • See stunning coral, sea turtles, beautiful fish and more while snorkelling and scuba diving in Okinawa 🇯🇵
  • Take a ride from a water buffalo on Ishigaki Island
  • See Darth Vader, Pikachu, Totoro and more carved in snow and ice at the Sapporo Snow Festival 🇯🇵
  • Eat fresh crab from the icy stalls at Nijo Market 🇯🇵

Check out my blog post for more things to do in Hokkaido .

Japan Bucket List: Himeji Castle

Other Destinations

  • See Himeji Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in Japan 🇯🇵
  • Climb Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan
  • Run around with the Japanese macaques at Jigokudani Monkey Park 🇯🇵
  • Stay the night at a temple alongside Buddhist Monks in Koyasan 🇯🇵
  • Visit the oldest, largest and most sacred cemetery in Japan, Okunoin Cemetary 🇯🇵
  • Witness the stunning illuminated floats of the Aomori Nebuta Festival
  • Ride a pirate ship around Lake Ashi in Hakone 🇯🇵
  • Feed the many deer at Nara Park 🇯🇵
  • Visit the big buddha at Todai-ji Temple 🇯🇵
  • Contemplate modern art at Naoshima art island 🇯🇵
  • Trek the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route and visit the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano; Kumano Hongū Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha
  • Take a trip to Aoshima island, where cats outnumber humans six to one
  • Take a stroll through the vibrant flower fields in Furano
  • Explore one of the most authentic castles left in Japan, Matsumoto Castle 🇯🇵
  • Soak in the healing waters of Kusatsu Onsen, one of the best onsens in Japan
  • Walk along the scenic streets of Ginzan onsen, marveling at the many gorgeous ryokan that line the river
  • Visit the upcoming Studio Ghibli theme park (2022) at the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park 🇯🇵
  • Spend the day enjoying thrilling rollercoasters, peaceful baths and an outdoor shopping centre at Nagashima Spaland 🇯🇵
  • Ride your bike along the Shimanami kaido, a route along the six islands connecting Chugoku to Shikoku 🇯🇵
  • Visit the seven Hells of Beppu, hot springs so hot they are for viewing only
  • Attend a hanami festival to see Japan’s iconic cherry blossoms in full bloom 🇯🇵
  • View the stunning red, orange and yellow autumn leaves called koyo
  • Walk amongst the incredible winter illuminations displayed all over Japan in December 🇯🇵
  • Snowboard in some of the best powder snow in the world 🇯🇵

Japan Bucket List: Ramen in Fukuoka

Food and Drink

  • Dine in one of Japan’s teeny izakaya’s
  • Compare Osaka style and Hiroshima style okonomiyaki 🇯🇵
  • Try fugu, or blowfish, one of the most dangerous foods in the world
  • Attend a sake tasting event to savour Japan’s signature alcoholic beverage
  • Grab a quick, cheap dinner from the closest conbini (convenience store) 🇯🇵
  • Dine at an Italian restaurant and experience one of the best Italian meals you will ever try 🇯🇵
  • Try every different kind of ramen, including shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso and tonkotsu (pork) 🇯🇵
  • Eat authentic sushi and try as many kinds of Japanese fish as you can 🇯🇵
  • Attend a traditional Japanese cooking class to learn how to cook one of their signature dishes
  • Try matcha, Japan’s traditional green tea 🇯🇵
  • Feast on a traditional kaiseki meal
  • Make your own cup noodles at the Cup Noodles Museum
  • Try as many Michelin starred restaurants as you can (there are many!)
  • Treat yourself with Japan’s famous fluffy cheesecake 🇯🇵
  • Pick a crepe from the many options available at Japan’s crepe stores 🇯🇵
  • Warm up with Japan’s delicious winter cuisine, oden 🇯🇵
  • Try as many kinds of donburi as you can 🇯🇵
  • Snack on yummy rice balls called onigiri 🇯🇵
  • Eat a new soft serve flavour at every destination 🇯🇵
  • Go fruit picking in Japan’s many fruit farms across the country 🇯🇵
  • Visit Fukuoka’s ramen stadium, a ramen theme park located on the top floor of a department store 🇯🇵
  • Try Hokkaido’s winter specialty, soup curry 🇯🇵

Historical/Cultural

  • Attend a traditional tea ceremony 🇯🇵
  • Witness a stunning geisha dance 🇯🇵
  • Laugh until your sides hurt at a kabuki performance
  • View a dramatic performance of Noh theatre
  • See a traditional Japanese puppet performance at a bunraku theatre
  • Watch a thrilling sumo match
  • Fight like a ninja with an authentic ninja experience
  • Learn of the power of the samurai with an authentic samurai experience
  • Dress like a geisha and walk the streets of Japan 🇯🇵

Modern Experiences

  • Let loose and sing your heart out at Karaoke 🇯🇵
  • Pet all the kitties at a cat café 🇯🇵
  • Snuggle up to a super cute shiba puppy at a Shiba cafe 🇯🇵
  • Take a ride on Japan’s famous shinkansen (bullet trains) 🇯🇵
  • Try pachinko, the only way to “legally” gamble in Japan
  • Take a kawaii selfie at a purikura booth 🇯🇵
  • Experience the thrilling atmosphere at a Japanese baseball game
  • Grab a drink from one of Japan’s many vending machines 🇯🇵

Japan Bucket List: Shopping Mall

  • Shop till you drop at a shotengai (Japanese shopping street) 🇯🇵
  • Purchase all the omiyage (food souvenirs) your loved ones could eve wish for 🇯🇵
  • Explore one of Japan’s ginormous shopping malls such as Aeon Mall, Shibuya 109, HepFive, Ario, Canal City Hakata and Youme Town 🇯🇵
  • Buy cheap souvenirs and a whole lot of other stuff at Don Quijote 🇯🇵
  • Grab souvenirs at a great bargain at a ¥100 store such as Daiso 🇯🇵

Accommodation

  • Relax at a traditional ryokan 🇯🇵
  • Experience a Japanese capsule hotel 🇯🇵
  • Stay a few hours at a love hotel
  • Squeeze into teeny rooms at a business hotel 🇯🇵
  • Visit one of Japan’s many Pokémon Centres 🇯🇵
  • Dine at a themed café 🇯🇵
  • Win prizes, dance like crazy and enjoy an insane amount of video games at an arcade 🇯🇵

What is on your Japan bucket list? Have you done any of the things I’ve mentioned? Make sure you let me know in the comments below!

Pin post for later:.

Ultimate Japan Bucket List

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Lovely Japan

HOME       BLOG        ADVENTURES       ABOUT ME

© Copyright Lovely Japan 2020. All Rights Reserved

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | Data Protection Policy Terms and Conditions

Start typing and press Enter to search

Essential Japanese Phrases While Travelling in Japan

trip ideas for japan

Privacy Overview

Thrifty Nomads

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

trip ideas for japan

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)

trip ideas for japan

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.

Akihabara

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

trip ideas for japan

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 .

trip ideas for japan

  • 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. 

trip ideas for japan

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?

Best of Japan in 14 days

trip ideas for japan

Day 1 and 2 - Tokyo

trip ideas for japan

Day 3 - Side trip to Nikko

trip ideas for japan

Day 4 - Tokyo to Hakone

trip ideas for japan

Day 5 to 7 - Kyoto

trip ideas for japan

Day 8 - Side trip to Nara

trip ideas for japan

Day 9 - Kyoto to Miyajima via Himeji

trip ideas for japan

Day 10 - Miyajima to Kanazawa via Hiroshima

trip ideas for japan

Day 11 - Kanazawa

trip ideas for japan

Day 12 - Kanazawa to Shirakawago

trip ideas for japan

Day 13 - Shirakawago to Takayama

trip ideas for japan

Day 14 - Takayama to Tokyo

The above itinerary is somewhat fast-paced. Tourists preferring a slow pace of travel should consider spending more time at some of the destinations along the way.

Questions? Ask in our forum .

trip ideas for japan

The Real Japan

  • PLAN MY TRIP
  • All Destinations
  • Discover Hokkaido
  • Discover Honshu
  • Discover Kyushu
  • Discover Shikoku
  • THINGS TO DO
  • Japan Travel Deals

How To Plan Trips To Japan

4    comments

Rob Dyer promo The Real Japan

When it comes to travel planning, they do kind of have a point.

When you start out, there can be dozens of questions that need answering when trip planning...

  • How long should we travel for?
  • Where will we go?
  • How much do we need to budget?
  • What type of accommodation should we focus on?
  • What are the essential things to do?
  • Can we do it all by ourselves, or should we book some guided trips?

...and so on, and so on.

In this post I’ll share with you the 5 stages of travel and how to get the most out of each of them by planning ahead. Along the way, I'll share how I approach each of them, and how you can create your own ‘travel planning formula’ to make your trip planning easier and your travel more fulfilling.

How I Plan Trips To Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

The goal of the Planning Stage

The goal at the Planning stage is to research your options, manage the overwhelm of possibilities and begin organising. Narrowing down your options.

This will be an iterative process and it will take time. Do not attempt to rush this stage. If you do, you'll only be doing yourself and your potential future memories a disservice.

Tsumago Nakasendo The Real Japan Rob Dyer

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.

Wapiti Travel icon

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 .

trip ideas for japan

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

trip ideas for japan

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

trip ideas for japan

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:

Booking.com

  • 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 Booking.com: Booking.com

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 Booking.com : Booking.com

  • 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:

trip ideas for japan

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.

trip ideas for japan

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.

trip ideas for japan

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.

trip ideas for japan

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

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.

trip ideas for japan

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?

If you like this article, pin it

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.

ABOUT CONTACT US

  • Destinations
  • Itineraries
  • US National Parks

Kyoto Bucket List: 18 Amazing Things to do in Kyoto, Japan

Julie Last updated: January 15, 2024 Japan 7 Comments

Kyoto Japan Best Things To Do

Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan. Visiting the shrines and temples, with their perfectly landscaped gardens and views over the city, top the list for most visitors to Kyoto. But there are also bamboo groves and small neighborhoods to explore, food markets and shopping streets to visit, and some very cool day trips that you can take. The list of things to do in Kyoto is long. So long, in fact, that it would take you weeks to thoroughly explore this extraordinary city.

In this post, we narrow down the long list of things to do in Kyoto to 18 unforgettable experiences. If this is your first time in Kyoto, this is a great starting point for having the best holiday here.

Table of Contents

Interesting Facts about Kyoto

For over 1,000 years Kyoto was the capital city of Japan. Tokyo took over this title in 1868.

Kyoto is one of the best-preserved cities in Japan. In World War II, it escaped bombing at the intervention of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and has remained Japan’s cultural center.

Kyoto has one of the world’s largest collections of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 17 UNESCO Sites, several of which make our list of the best things to do in Kyoto.

Kyoto has a massive network of trains and subways. Trying to get from one place to another can be mind-boggling at first, as they are not all operated by the same company. Occasionally, you will have to purchase more than one ticket to travel from point A to point B.

Kyoto is unlike many other cities in the world, where the top sights are clustered in the historic city center. In Kyoto, the shrines and temples sit on the outskirts of the city, on the lush hillsides and mountains that surround the city. When you visit these temples, the experience is more than just visiting and photographing the main hall or pavilion. Strolling the paths and wandering through the tranquil gardens is the best part of the experience, in my opinion.

Temples vs. Shrines

Kyoto is filled with temples and shrines. So, how do you know the difference between the two?

Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s two major religions. The temples are Buddhist and the shrines are Shinto.

There are over 1600 Buddhist temples in Kyoto. At the temples, you will see a Buddha statue, burning incense, and beautiful buildings surrounded by manicured gardens.

Shrines are characterized by bright red torii gates. You know you are entering a Shinto shrine when you enter through a bright red gate. There are over 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto.

Map of Things to Do in Kyoto

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Things to do in Kyoto

1. fushimi inari taisha.

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the most important and iconic shrines in Kyoto. Fushimi Inari honors the Shinto god of rice.

There are thousands of torii here, each donated by a company giving thanks for its prosperity and hopes for a prosperous future. The name of each company is labeled on the torii.

For us, it was magical, walking through these tunnels of torii. Walking through thousands of these gates, in the quiet forests on the outskirts of Kyoto, felt peaceful and even a little bit mysterious.

Torii Gate best things to do in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Torri gates at Fushi Inari Taisha | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha Photo

As you climb up the hillside, you will see many sub-shrines. You will also frequently see the fox, the messenger of the Inari shrine.

Inari Shrine best things to do in Kyoto

The farther you walk up the hillside, the fewer people you will see. You can actually turn this walk into a short hike to the summit of Mt. Inari-san. This takes about 3 hours and you can learn more here.

Getting Here: Inari Station on the JR Nara Line; Fushimi-Inari Station on the Keihan Line

2. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the “Pure Water Temple,” is one of Kyoto’s most popular temples to visit. It feels more touristy and more commercial than many other shrines and temples in town, but even so, it’s worth a visit.

This huge complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kiyomizudera Entrance best things to do in Kyoto

From the Kiyomizu stage of the Main Hall (a large, wooden balcony), enjoy gorgeous views over the city of Kyoto. In autumn, the view is spectacular when the maples turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Kiyomizu Stage

Kiyomizu Stage | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

At the base of the main hall is the Otowa waterfall. Using ladles, visitors can drink water from the three streams. Each of these streams can help fulfill a wish: longevity, good luck in love, or success in school. Drinking from one or two of these streams is acceptable, but never drink from all three.

Ladles best things to do in Kyoto

Other places to visit are the Jishu Shrine, Koyasu Pagoda, and Okunoin Hall. There are small shops selling good luck charms for love, wealth, happiness, and good health.

Kiyomizudera Pagoda best things to do in Kyoto

Koyasu Pagoda | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Wishes best things to do in Kyoto

Getting Here: Take the Keihan Railway Line to Kiyomizu-Gojo and it is a 20 minute walk to the temple. Or, take bus 100 or 206 to Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi stop and it is a 10-minute walk to the temple.

3. Stroll through the Higashiyama District

This historic district is a maze of narrow, paved streets and traditional wooden buildings. The Higashiyama District is the perfect place to visit if you like wandering picturesque streets, shopping, and hopping from café to café. This part of Kyoto feels more traditional than some of the other districts in the city.

Higashiyama District

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the Yasaka Shrine, the Yasaka Pagoda, and Kodai-ji Temple are all found in the Higashiyama District. Strolling these narrow lanes is a great way to connect Kiyomizu-dera Temple with the Yasaka Shrine and Kodaiji Temple, if these are also on your list to visit. In our map above, we provide a walking route that connects Kiyomizu-dera Temple with the Yasaka Pagoda, Kodai-ji Temple, and the Yasaka Shrine, and ends in Gion.

Gion, which I talk about next, is also located in the Higashiyama District.

4. Wander through Gion

Gion is a small neighborhood in the Higashiyama District. These narrow lanes are lined with teahouses, as well as bars, clubs, and pachinko parlors. If you stroll the streets in the evening, there is a chance that you might spot a geisha as she enters one of the teahouses.

Gion Photo best things to do in Kyoto

Gion | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

On your visit here, don’t miss Hanami-koji, one of the most famous streets in Gion.

Hanamikoji Kyoto

Hanami-koji | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Note: In response to the recent explosion in tourist levels in Kyoto, a new rule has been put into effect. Photography on the private streets in Gion is no longer allowed. Please be respectful of the geisha and do not act like a crazy paparazzi in order to photograph them.

5. Visit Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple is located in the Higashiyama district. This temple, which dates back to 1606, is a temple dedicated to Zen Buddhism. Walk the path through the rock garden, follow it up to the tea houses and mausoleum, and circle back to the main complex through the bamboo grove.

Our favorite experience was sitting on the tatami mats inside of the main temple and looking out over the gardens.

Kodaiji Temple

Bamboo grove at Todai-ji Temple | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Kodaiji Main Hall

Getting Here: Gion-Shijo is the closest metro station to the temple (1 km walk, about 12 minutes). Many people visit Kodai-ji Temple when strolling through the Higashiyama district.

6. Photograph Yasaka Pagoda

Kyoto has a long list of stunning photography locations and the Yasaka Pagoda is one of our favorites. Located in southern Higashiyama, this pagoda towers over the twisting lanes and traditional wooden houses. We got extremely lucky with our timing, as there was a photography session with a young Japanese couple during our visit.

Yasaka Pagoda

If you want this same photo, take a stroll down Yasaka Kamimachi. I took this photo here: 34°59’53.4″N 135°46’48.1″E

7. See the Cherry Blossoms at Maruyama Park

In April, Maruyama Park is the place to see the cherry blossoms. The centerpiece of the park is the large weeping cherry tree which is lit up at night. To get here, you will enter the park through the Yasaka Shrine.

8. Enjoy the Fall Colors at Eikan-do Temple

Eikan-do Temple, which was once called Zenrin-ji Temple, is known for being one of the best spots to see the fall colors in Kyoto.

This temple dates back to 853. Since that time, several halls and chambers have been added to the temple complex. Inside of Amida Hall you can see the unusual statue of the Amida Buddha, which looks over its shoulder rather than straight ahead.

Getting Here: Eikan-do Temple is located in northeast Kyoto. Keage Station is the closest metro stop (1 km, 15 minute walk). Nanzenji-Eikando-michi is the closest bus stop (5 minute walk). Or, take a taxi.

9. Take a Stroll on the Philosopher’s Path

The Philosopher’s Path is stone path that follows beside a canal. It is lined with cherry trees and during the spring months, this is one of the most popular places to visit in Kyoto, in order to see the blooms.

The Philosopher’s Path starts near Ginkaku-ji Temple. It is about 2 kilometers long, ending in Nanzen-ji neighborhood.

You can walk part or all of the path. Crowds are at their largest midday, especially when the cherry trees are blooming.

10. Visit Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion)

Ginkaku-ji Temple is a Zen temple in northeast Kyoto. The main temple is an understated wooden building, but its setting amongst the trees and gardens is what makes this temple special.

Ginkakuji

Ginkaku-ji | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

In front of the pavilion is the “Sea of Silver Sand,” a large sand garden that features a giant cone of sand that resembles Mount Fuji. This is a beautiful place to go for a stroll, with paths that meander through the gardens, over small bridges, and up to a viewpoint over the pavilion.

Sea of Silver Sand

There are several theories as to why it is called the Silver Pavilion. One theory is that it was to be covered in silver once construction was completed, but shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa died before the temple was constructed. On a clear night, the moonlight hitting the temple creates a silver reflection, so this another possible origin of the name.

Getting Here: Take a stroll on the Philosopher’s Path, starting in the Eikan-do Temple and ending at Ginkaku-ji Temple (2 km, 30 minute walk).

11. Feed the Monkeys at Iwatayama Monkey Park

There are several different reasons why you should visit Arashiyama Monkey Park. Sure, feeding the monkeys is fun, especially if you are visiting Kyoto with kids, but the views from the park are beautiful. Not only do you have great views over the city, but if you look to the northwest, all you see are green mountains stretching off in the distance.

Monkey Park View best things to do in Kyoto

View over Kyoto | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Monkey Park View best things to do in Kyoto

Another view from the Monkey Park | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

To get to the Monkey Park, it is a 20 to 30 minute hike to the top of Mount Arashiyama. Over 120 Japanese macaque monkeys live here. They are wild but you can feed them, if you follow several rules. Don’t look the monkeys in the eye, do not touch them, and only feed them when you are inside of the building.

Once inside the building, purchase your monkey food and you can feed them once you are behind the metal grates.

Kyoto Monkey Park best things to do in Kyoto

We really enjoyed this experience, despite its rather remote location. But maybe that is exactly why we liked it so much. This is a nice break from visiting the temples and shrines, and this rural area of Kyoto is beautiful. Even if you have no plans to feed the monkeys, I still think it is worth it to journey out this way.

Plus, you can add this visit on to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Tenryu-ji Temple.

Getting Here: The closest metro stop is the Hankyu Arashiyama station (5 minute walk). It is a 15-minute walk from the JR Arashiyama station. This is a very nice walk, as you get to cross the Oi River to get to the park entrance.

Oi River

Oi River | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

12. Visit Tenryu-ji Temple

This temple is located just a short walk from the Monkey Park (about 1 km, 10 to 15 minutes).

This temple was founded in 1339 by shogun Ashikaga Takauji to venerate Gautama Buddha. It was also dedicated to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had died the year after Ashikaga became shogun.

Tenryuji Temple

Most of the buildings and halls are relatively new. They date back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, having been destroyed by fires or wars. The centerpiece of this complex is the large pond that is surrounded by manicured gardens, with the Arashiyama Mountains forming the backdrop.

Getting Here: It is five minute walk from the JR Saga-Arashiyama station.

13. Visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

You have no doubt seen photos of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove…a long, snaking pathway that is lined with hundreds of bamboo trees.

This is one of the most visited sights in Kyoto. So, expect to share it with many, many other people.

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is often described as being a mystical, serene experience. Yes, that can be true, but you have to get your timing right. Midday this short path can be swarmed with visitors, which is hardly a Zen experience.

We planned our visit for the early morning and it paid off (we were here at 9 am in July). We were one of only a few groups of visitors. Even so, it lacked the mystical nature we read so much about before our visit.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Arashiyama Bamboo

The pathway is relatively short, about 500 meters long, so it only takes a few minutes to walk the entire distance. However, it can take much longer, depending on how often you stop and take photos.

In my opinion, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is worth visiting, just try to go early so you can avoid the crowds.

14. Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion)

Without a doubt, a visit to Kinkaku-ji Temple is one of the best things to do in Kyoto.

Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkaku-ji | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

This brilliant golden temple attracts huge numbers of tourists and photographers. The prime spot to take a photo is directly across the Kyoko-chi Pond from the pavilion, which will be one of the first places that you visit when touring the temple complex. This can be a very busy spot midday.

The top two levels of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, was modeled after this temple.

Kinkakuji Temple Kyoto

Interesting Fact: The pavilion that you see today dates back to 1955. In 1950, a young monk set fire to the pavilion and then attempted suicide. The pavilion was rebuilt in 1955.

Getting Here: Kinkaku-ji is located in northern Kyoto. The closest metro stop is Kita-Oji (3 km, 35 minute walk). We got here by taxi and had no problems catching another taxi once we finished our visit.

15. Nijo Castle

Did you know that you can tour an actual castle in downtown Kyoto?

Nijo Castle is over 400 years old. With stone walls, a five story castle keep, and a moat, this castle seems almost out of place with its location near the city center.

Nijo Castle best things to do in Kyoto

Nijo Castle | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Nijo Castle Gate

It was built in 1603 as a residence for Tokugawa lesayu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. Later, it was used as a palace and then eventually it was turned over to the city and opened as a historic site. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

What is a Shogun? A shogun is a military dictator. The title of “shogun” was granted by the Emperor. The shogun was the ruler of the country and the Emperor was a figurehead. This period of military dictators spanned from 1185 to 1868. In 1868, power was returned to the Emperor.

On a visit to Nijo Castle, you can stroll through the gardens, rent an audio guide to learn more about the history of the castle, and, the best part, visit Ninomaru Palace. This is ancient Japan as I imagined it…large, open rooms, tatami mats covering the floors, and screens painted with dragons, Japanese maples, and evergreen trees.

Getting Here: Nijojo-mae station is the closest station to Nijo Castle.

16. Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is a long, narrow shopping street that is lined with over 100 small shops and restaurants.

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Shopping Nishiki Market best things to do in Kyoto

We loved our visit here. Some foods we recognized but many we didn’t. All the signs are in Japanese but we had a lot of fun purchasing “mystery foods” as we walked through the market.

We have never seen a market this clean. Fish, seafood, and meat make up the majority of what is for sale in Nishiki Market, but the floors were spotless and everything was very orderly.

Getting Here: Shijo station is the closest metro stop (about a 5 minute walk).

17. Participate in a Tea Ceremony

One of the best things to do in Kyoto is to participate in a traditional tea ceremony. This is a great cultural activity and a nice break from touring the temples.

A Japanese tea ceremony involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, which is powdered green tea.

Numerous tea ceremonies are offered throughout Kyoto. In this experience, you sit on tatami mats while your host carries out the ceremonial preparation of the matcha green tea.

18. Eat Sushi

This may be a bit cliché, but you can’t visit Kyoto without eating sushi. 

There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from. One of the best places to go is Pontocho Alley. Not only is this sometimes called the most beautiful street in Kyoto, but this street is lined with restaurants, making this one of the best spots in Kyoto to grab a bite to eat (not just sushi but many different types of Japanese food). The restaurants on the east side of Pontocho Alley have outdoor decks where you can overlook the Kamogawa River.

Kamogawa River Kyoto

Outdoor decks off the Pontocho Alley restaurants along the Kamogawa River

Pontocho Alley best things to do in Kyoto

Restaurant on Pontocho Alley | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

Sashimi best things to do in Kyoto

Sashimi | Best Things to Do in Kyoto

We were HUGE fans of kaiten sushi (kaitenzushi). Kaiten sushi is one of the most innovative ways to have dinner. As plates of sushi drift by your table on a conveyor belt, you can pick and choose what looks good. If you want something special, place your order on the touch screen computer at your table.

Kaiten sushi is cheap, fast, and lots of fun. It’s great if you are new to eating sushi, because you can just pick out what looks good as it glides past your table. This type of sushi lacks the high quality of what you will get in other restaurants in Kyoto, but it is still absolutely delicious. If you are on a budget, this is a great option to dine on sushi without spending a lot of money.

Japan with Kids

Our favorite kaiten sushi restaurant in Kyoto was Sushiro. Yum!

If you want to see more, check out our video from our first visit to Sushiro, when we were newbs at kaiten sushi restaurants. But by the end of our visit we were pros.

List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto

Here is the list of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto.

  • Kinkaku-ji Temple
  • Ginkaku-ji Temple
  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple
  • Tenryu-ji Temple
  • Ninna-ji Temple
  • Nijo Castle
  • Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple
  • Ryoan-ji Temple
  • To-ji Temple
  • Daigo-ji Temple
  • Saiho-ji Temple
  • Enryaku-ji Temple
  • Byodo-in Temple
  • Kozan-ji Temple
  • Shimogamo-jinja Shrine
  • Kamigamo-jinja Shrine
  • Ujigami-jinja Shrine

Day Trip Ideas from Kyoto

Nara makes an excellent day trip destination from Kyoto. Feed the deer, visit Kasuga-taisha, and tour Todai-ji Temple. Until 1998, the main hall of Todai-ji Temple was the world’s largest wooden building, having been bumped from the top of the list by a baseball stadium in Japan as well as other buildings.

LEARN MORE: Feeding the Deer in Nara, Japan

Deer in Nara

Todai-ji Temple

Hiroshima is the site where the first of two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during World War II.

A day trip to Hiroshima is very easy to do from Kyoto. By Shinkansen, it takes just over two hours to travel from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Spend the day at Hiroshima, visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Cenotaph, and the Atomic Bomb Dome, and more. You also have the option to add on Miyajima to this day trip.

LEARN MORE: How to Plan Your Day Trip to Hiroshima

Hiroshima Cenotaph

Hiroshima Victims Memorial Cenotaph

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan. It is called Hakuro-jo or Shirasagi-jo (“White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle”) for its white exterior and appearance of a bird taking flight. It takes about an hour to get here from Kyoto.

LEARN MORE: How to Plan a Day Trip to Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle Day Trip

How Many Days Do You Need in Kyoto?

To visit the highlights in Kyoto, you will need a minimum of 3 days. This gives you just enough time to visit most of the temples and sites listed in this post. More time is better, because it allows you to slow down, spend more time exploring the neighborhoods and temples, and soak up the culture.

For each day trip we list, you will need an additional day.

On our visit, we had 7 days. That gave us three days for day trips and four days to explore Kyoto. That was the perfect amount of time for our first visit but I can’t wait to come back and explore some more.

If you have any questions about the best things to do in Kyoto, let us know in the comment section below:

More Information about Japan

TOKYO: Journey through Tokyo in photos and learn how to plan a day trip to Kamakura.

KYOTO: Travel through Kyoto in Photos  and read about our first impressions of Osaka and Kyoto.

SUMO WRESTLING: Watching Sumo wrestling is one of the best things to do in Japan. We write about our experience and get tips on how you can do the same in our article How to Watch Sumo Wrestling in Japan.

TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more travel ideas, here are 10 unique destinations to put on your travel wish list and 10 bucket list destinations from around the world.

TRAVEL ADVICE: Here is our list of tips to help you maximize your time while traveling. We also have tips on traveling with kids plus a massive list of 101 travel tips we learned while traveling around the world.

Read all of our articles about Japan in our Japan Travel Guide.

Kyoto Japan Best Things To Do

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Related Posts

Kyoto Japan

Thank you, Julie and Tim! We’re in Japan and following your guidance, especially in Kyoto.

Avatar for Julie

You’re welcome!!

Avatar for Tom

Thank you for the great information! My son is in Kyoto for 8 weeks and has been using your information to check out all the city has to offer!

You’re welcome! What a great opportunity for your son! Cheers, Julie

Avatar for Kathryn

Thank you for providing this treasure trove of places to visit in Kyoto. You have laid out the information beautifully. We will likely follow it to the tea!

You’re welcome!

Avatar for Mushroom

Thank you very much. I miss Japan.

Leave A Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name and email in this browser for the next time I comment.

Sign me up for the monthly newsletter!

Adventure & Experience

  • Adventure & Experience

Art & Culture

  • Art & Culture

History

  • Sea & Nature

Food & Drink

  • Food & Drink

Relaxing Stay

Relaxing Stay

Adventure & Experience

  • For First-Time Visitors

Getting to Setouchi

  • Getting to Setouchi

Getting Around Setouchi

  • Getting Around Setouchi

Travel Tips

  • Travel Tips

Travel Tips

  • Itineraries
  • TRAVEL TRADE & MEDIA

trip ideas for japan

Discover the attractions of the Setouchi area through inspiring articles, guides, and more.

Adventure & Experience

Art & culture, sea & nature, food & drink.

trip ideas for japan

Visiting a new place is no longer about passive consumption, move your body, learn new skills, and challenge your limits to find the very thing that makes your Setouchi journey unique and unforgettable.

Setouchi Trip Ideas that are better with a Private Guide

Setouchi Trip Ideas that are better with a Private Guide

Watch a Superb Panoramic View Over the Seto Inland Sea

Watch a Superb Panoramic View Over the Seto Inland Sea

Uncovering the World Heritage of Himeji Castle and the Machu Picchu of Japan

Uncovering the World Heritage of Himeji Castle and the Machu Picchu of Japan

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge — Climbing the Tallest and Longest Suspension Bridge in the World

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge — Climbing the Tallest and Longest Suspension Bridge in the World

Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road - A Cyclist's Paradise

Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road - A Cyclist's Paradise

Happy Raft - Riding Japan’s World Class Rapids

Happy Raft - Riding Japan’s World Class Rapids

Things to Do in Hiroshima at Night

Things to Do in Hiroshima at Night

Things to Do in Matsuyama

Things to Do in Matsuyama

Enjoy Rural Landscapes and Japanese Heritage on the Kibiji Cycling Route

Enjoy Rural Landscapes and Japanese Heritage on the Kibiji Cycling Route

trip ideas for japan

Whether basking in the glory of masterful works, taking in performance honed to perfection over centuries, or finding yourself captivated by some of the very best in modern art, there is something for everyone. [Photo : “Red Pumpkin” ©Yayoi Kusama,2006 Naoshima Miyanoura Port Square | Photographer: Daisuke Aochi]

Discover Shikoku’s Cultural Heritage, from Traditional Arts to Local Crafts and Cuisine

Discover Shikoku’s Cultural Heritage, from Traditional Arts to Local Crafts and Cuisine

GREENable HIRUZEN: Experience the Essence and Fun of Sustainability at This Cultural Hub Amidst Nature

GREENable HIRUZEN: Experience the Essence and Fun of Sustainability at This Cultural Hub Amidst Nature

Kobe Art Style - Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art and Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art

Kobe Art Style - Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art and Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art

Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum - Keeping the Ancient Arts Alive

Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum - Keeping the Ancient Arts Alive

Kojima Jeans Street - Weaving History from the World’s Finest Denim

Kojima Jeans Street - Weaving History from the World’s Finest Denim

Teshima: A Flourishing Island Where Nature and Art Merge Teaching Me the True Meaning of Grandeur

Teshima: A Flourishing Island Where Nature and Art Merge Teaching Me the True Meaning of Grandeur

Contemporary Art Inspired By Maritime Heritage

Contemporary Art Inspired By Maritime Heritage

Himeji Castle: An Architectural Masterpiece and Symbol of Japan

Himeji Castle: An Architectural Masterpiece and Symbol of Japan

Art in Uno Port, Gateway to Naoshima and Other Setouchi “Art Islands”

Art in Uno Port, Gateway to Naoshima and Other Setouchi “Art Islands”

trip ideas for japan

Travel in time and marvel at surroundings etched deep into history. Dig a bit deeper and discover the central role the Setouchi region has played in making this diverse and fascinatingly complex country.

Setouchi Castle and Samurai Highlights

Setouchi Castle and Samurai Highlights

Iwakuni’s Kintaikyo Bridge - Feudal Architecture at its Finest

Iwakuni’s Kintaikyo Bridge - Feudal Architecture at its Finest

Time Travel in Mitarai - Hiroshima’s Idyllic Island Town

Time Travel in Mitarai - Hiroshima’s Idyllic Island Town

Hope Amidst the Ruins - a Visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hope Amidst the Ruins - a Visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Oyamazumi-jinja Shrine - Japan’s Most Extensive Samurai Treasury

Oyamazumi-jinja Shrine - Japan’s Most Extensive Samurai Treasury

Onomichi City - Where Temples, Cats, and Bicycles Collide (in a Good Way!)

Onomichi City - Where Temples, Cats, and Bicycles Collide (in a Good Way!)

Ritsurin Garden - A living window into Japan’s past.

Ritsurin Garden - A living window into Japan’s past.

Himeji Castle - The White Heron

Himeji Castle - The White Heron

Tsuyama: Wander Through a Thousand-Year-Old Castle Town Where Historical Marvels Meet Sustainability

Tsuyama: Wander Through a Thousand-Year-Old Castle Town Where Historical Marvels Meet Sustainability

trip ideas for japan

Some of the world’s most stunning seascapes are complemented by the natural beauty and richness of forests that will have you breathing deeply in the very essence of what it is to be alive.

Hopping Mad for Rabbit Island

Hopping Mad for Rabbit Island

Mt Misen - Scaling Miyajima’s Sacred Mountain

Mt Misen - Scaling Miyajima’s Sacred Mountain

The Vine Bridges of Iya Valley - 800 Years of History

The Vine Bridges of Iya Valley - 800 Years of History

Top 3 spots to visit during Cherry Blossom Season in Setouchi

Top 3 spots to visit during Cherry Blossom Season in Setouchi

Lose Yourself in the Rugged Beauty of the Iya Valley and Oboke Gorge

Lose Yourself in the Rugged Beauty of the Iya Valley and Oboke Gorge

Nakajima: A Soothing Day on Japan’s Remote Island Promoting a More Sustainable and Slower Way of Life

Nakajima: A Soothing Day on Japan’s Remote Island Promoting a More Sustainable and Slower Way of Life

A Trip Around the Mystical Ponds and Crystal-Clear Waters of Shimonoseki and Mine

A Trip Around the Mystical Ponds and Crystal-Clear Waters of Shimonoseki and Mine

A Pottering Tour Through Iya Valley: Exploring One of Japan’s Most Secluded Regions

A Pottering Tour Through Iya Valley: Exploring One of Japan’s Most Secluded Regions

Aoshima, the Purest Cat Island in the Seto Inland Sea

Aoshima, the Purest Cat Island in the Seto Inland Sea

trip ideas for japan

As diverse and tantalizing as the region itself, the bounties of Setouchi are near at hand. Fresh fish, fabulous meats, exquisite vegetables, and a vast array of local brews will be gracing your tables for a procession of unforgettable feasts.

Setouchi Spirits Tour - Whisky, Sake, Craft Beer and More

Setouchi Spirits Tour - Whisky, Sake, Craft Beer and More

A Foodie's Tour of Hiroshima and  Yamaguchi

A Foodie's Tour of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi

Irori Sanzoku – Yamaguchi’s Perpetual Food Festival

Irori Sanzoku – Yamaguchi’s Perpetual Food Festival

Setsugetsuka - Home of Kobe's iconic beef steak

Setsugetsuka - Home of Kobe's iconic beef steak

Karato Market - Shimonoseki's Finest Fish on the Waterfront

Karato Market - Shimonoseki's Finest Fish on the Waterfront

Exploring Hyogo’s Terroir and Gastronomy: A Feast for the Eyes and Stomach!

Exploring Hyogo’s Terroir and Gastronomy: A Feast for the Eyes and Stomach!

Setouchi’s Soul Food: A Masterclass in Udon Noodles at Udon House!

Setouchi’s Soul Food: A Masterclass in Udon Noodles at Udon House!

Kakushi Sushi - Seditious, Nutritious, and Delicious

Kakushi Sushi - Seditious, Nutritious, and Delicious

Sawada - Exquisite Kaiseki Cuisine in Matsuyama

Sawada - Exquisite Kaiseki Cuisine in Matsuyama

trip ideas for japan

Savoring the journey means sometimes you just need to catch your breath, wind it back a gear to relax and pamper yourself. Whether it is a traditional ryokan, luxury hotel sea view, or even a pre-modern house, the fineries of life await.

Bella Vista Spa & Marina Onomichi: The Luxury Hideaway Immersed Within the Beauty of Setouchi’s Many Islands

Bella Vista Spa & Marina Onomichi: The Luxury Hideaway Immersed Within the Beauty of Setouchi’s Many Islands

Art-Infused Experiences at Motonosumi Shrine and Nagato Yumoto Onsen

Art-Infused Experiences at Motonosumi Shrine and Nagato Yumoto Onsen

IWASO - Miyajima’s Iconic Inn

IWASO - Miyajima’s Iconic Inn

Setouchi Aonagi - Sojourn to Luxury Minimalism

Setouchi Aonagi - Sojourn to Luxury Minimalism

Chiiori - Discovering the charm of a traditional Japanese kominka

Chiiori - Discovering the charm of a traditional Japanese kominka

guntû - Setouchi’s Own Luxury Floating Ryokan

guntû - Setouchi’s Own Luxury Floating Ryokan

Yamatoya Honten - Dogo’s Legendary Ryokan

Yamatoya Honten - Dogo’s Legendary Ryokan

Zenbo Seinei: Nourish Your Soul With This Zen Retreat Imbued With the Vast Nature of Awaji Island

Zenbo Seinei: Nourish Your Soul With This Zen Retreat Imbued With the Vast Nature of Awaji Island

A 3-Day Wellness Tour of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi

A 3-Day Wellness Tour of Hiroshima and Yamaguchi

Asiahighlights logo

  • 2 Weeks for Couple
  • 2 Weeks for Family
  • Thailand Lantern Festival
  • Indonesia(Bali)
  • South Korea
  • China (HK, Taiwan)
  • Itinerary Ideas
  • Asia Highlights Travel Reviews
  • Thailand Travel Reviews
  • Vietnam Travel Reviews
  • Cambodia Travel Reviews
  • Japan Travel Reviews
  • Myanmar Travel Reviews
  • China Travel Reviews

Plan a Japan Winter Trip 2024: Top Experiences & 2 Itineraries

Plan a Japan Winter Trip 2024: Top Experiences & 2 Itineraries

Winter (December to February) in northern Japan is like a white fairy tale world: white snow, colorful Christmas illuminations, and a relaxed atmosphere. Although Japan is cold in winter, it still attracts visitors with its unique winter experiences, fewer travelers, and cheaper costs.

Japan is a great place to spend Christmas holidays with your family: relax in an onsen (hot spring) in a traditional ryokan (inn) while appreciating the snowy scenery in Hakone, ski with your teenage kids at Hokkaido's best powder-snow ski resort, experience dreamy wintry lighting in Shirakawa-go, and see snow monkeys bathe in an onsen in Nagano.

In this article, we are going to look at how to plan a winter travel itinerary, which could be a memorable family holiday.

  • Do I Need a Visa to Visit Japan?

4 Top Japan-in-Winter Experiences

  • Top 2 Winter Itineraries in Japan

Tips for Winter Travel in Japan

Winter weather in japan.

  • How Much Does It Cost?

Do I Need a Visa to Go to Japan?

Japan restored its visa-waiver system from October 11th, 2022. If your country is on the Japan visa exemption list, like Australia, Canada, USA, UK and almost all European nations, you can visit Japan for 90 days (in most cases) without applying for a visa in advance.

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family 's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

Here are four top things to do that you should not miss in Japan in winter:

1) Relax in a Onsen in a Cozy Ryokan in Hakone

Staying at a ryokan with onsens (hot spring baths) is the most attractive experience to be had on a winter's day for many travelers from Japan and abroad.

Hakone is the home of onsens and has numerous natural hot springs, some of them are believed to have healing properties. A ryokan is a traditional-style Japanese form of accommodation where you can sleep on a tatami and enjoy high-class kaiseki (multi-course classical Japanese cuisine).

Nothing is better than to relax in an onsen with stunning snowy trees and mountains around you and your family to create unforgettable holiday moments.

Suggested reading: How Long Should I Spend in Japan

2) Ski with Your Kids in Hokkaido/Nagano

Japan has lots of family-friendly ski resorts offering quality powder snow, perfect surroundings, clear English signage, and excellent service. Japan has the best ski resorts in Asia, but it is still cheaper to ski there than in Europe.

Hokkaido's pistes are definitely some of the top Japan destinations in winter , where world-class ski resorts include Niseko and Rusutsu. Skiing in Hokkaido you can enjoy light and fluffy snow, icy mountain scenery, professional English-speaking skiing lessons for kids, teenagers, and families, and fresh seafood.

Nagano, just an hour and a half from Tokyo, is also a well-known ski resort. Once the main venue for the Winter Olympics, Hakuba Valley is Nagano's best family-friendly ski resort.

Check more details about plan a ski holiday with your family >>>

3) See Charming Winter Lighting in Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage site , a picturesque village known for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which have steep thatched roofs that are named after 'praying hands'. In recent years, Shirakawa-go has become popular with travelers for its beautiful countryside views and unique farmhouses.

These farmhouses are extremely charming when covered in snow and illuminated at night. The wintry lighting scenes can usually be seen from January to February, but the lighting-up time varies from year to year and stays require advance booking.

Contact our travel advisors and we can arrange it for you.

4) Watch Snow Monkeys Soak in Onsens in Nagano

Nagano is a city surrounded by mountains and is not far from Tokyo. It's well-known for its Hakuba Ski Resort and snow monkeys that soak in hot springs. It is a good place to go for family holidays in winter.

Monkeys (Japanese macaques) in Jigokudani Monkey Park are the only ones in the world who love to soak in hot springs in winter. Watching the snowflakes fall on the monkeys, each of them relaxing in hot springs to keep warm, would be a new and unforgettable memory of the trip.

Winter Itineraries in Japan: The Top 2 Options

Here are two winter itineraries that are hand-picked for families visiting Japan for the first time with two popular lengths of holidays (9 and 14 days) , both including relaxing in hot springs, seeing snow-covered shrines, enjoying a cup of steaming Japanese tea, and the option to go skiing with your kids.

1) The 9-Day Classical Route: Cover Major Highlights in Japan and Ryokan Experience

  • Tokyo–Hakone–Kyoto–Osaka

This itinerary covers the top highlights of Japan: experience kid-favoured anime elements and an attractive Christmas atmosphere and illuminations in Tokyo, soak in onsens at a comfortable ryokan with snow scenery in Hakone, spend family time in Kyoto trying on kimonos and feeding friendly deer.

Here is a summary itinerary for you ( contact us for more details):

  • Days 1–3: Tokyo (samurai, make sushi, anime center, and Asakusa)
  • Days 4–5: Hakone (ryokans with onsens)
  • Days 6–8: Kyoto (snow-covered shrines, geishas, sake, and feed deer)
  • Day 9: Osaka and departure

It's also a great idea to spend an extra 2–3 days having a family ski time in Nagano, which is not far from Tokyo.

Suggested reading: 10 Days in Japan >>>

2) 14-Day Best Winter Experience Route: Skiing, Snow Monkeys in Onsens, Wintry Lighting in Shirakawa-go

  • Sapporo–Otaru–Tokyo–Nagano–Shirakawa-go–Kyoto

You can get the best winter experience in Japan with this itinerary: ski and explore a famous chocolate factory in Sapporo — capital of Hokkaido, take a day trip to Otaru to enjoy a snowy view on the Otaru Canal, see the magical sight of snow monkeys soaking in hot springs in Nagano, and appreciate the wintry lighting in Shirakawa-go.

Here is a summary itinerary for your inspiration ( contact us for further details):

  • Days 1–3: Sapporo (skiing, the most famous local chocolate factory and Sapporo Ice Festival)
  • Day 4: Otaru (Otaru Canal and exquisite glass)
  • Days 5–7: Fly to Tokyo (Tsukiji Market, Tokyo Tower, sumo, and anime)
  • Day 8: Nagano (snow monkeys soaking in hot springs)
  • Days 9–10: Takayama and Shirakawa-go (well-preserved townhouses and snow-covered gassho-zukuri farmhouses)
  • Days 11–13: Kyoto (geisha, tea ceremony, sake, ryokan with onsen, feed deer in Nara)
  • Day 14: Depart from Kansai International Airport in Osaka

How would you travel?

Adults number (age ≥ 18 years old)

Children number

10-17 yrs old

3-9 yrs old

0-2 yrs old

When would you travel?

I prefer to be contacted via:

For a quick conversation, simply reach us via WhatsApp:

asia highlights' wechat code

To create a wonderful winter trip in Japan, here are some suggested tips to help you to avoid unnecessary hassles.

  • Christmas and New Year is one of the busiest times in Japan. It's better to plan ahead and book flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance to reserve your favourite hotel/room.
  • Winter in Japan is cold and snowy. You'd better take thick clothes to keep warm. We recommend you to bring a down jacket, gloves, and waterproof boots.
  • Most ski resorts in Japan have rental shops to rent or sell ski equipment, so you don't have to take heavy ski equipment to Japan. Of course, it's okay to bring your own equipment. You can pay for a delivery service that will ship your skis directly to the ski resort.

Just let us know your interests and requirements , and we can help make it happen.

Winter in Japan is from December to February and the weather is cold and dry.

  • In Sapporo on Hokkaido, the average daily temperature range is from 0°C (32°F) in the warmest part of the day down to -6°C (20°F) at night. While in Tokyo or Kyoto temperatures average above freezing, ranging from 2 to 10°C (36–50°F) on average.
  • The average rainfall per month in winter is low in Tokyo/Kyoto at around 58 mm (2 in), but the average snowfall in Sapporo on Hokkaido is a moderate 104 mm (4 in) — and more snow falls at Hokkaido's mountainous resorts.

December sees the beginning of winter in Japan, with clear skies, and colder and drier weather. Cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sapporo get into the festive spirit when celebrating Christmas and New Year.

January/February is the best time to ski in the white world of northern Japan. The high-quality powder snow is the most important feature of ski resorts in Japan, which attracts many skiers to come and enjoy it.

How Much Does a Japan Winter Trip Cost?

Japan rivals Europe both in terms of facilities and service standards, which means that travel in Japan costs more than in China or in Southeast Asian countries.

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, and a local 4-star hotel.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)

  • Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
  • Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.

2-Week Japan Private Family Vacation

  • 7-Day Japan Cherry Blossom Tour 2025: Essential Springtime Mini-Group Tour
  • 7-Day Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Tour
  • 8-Day Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka Tour
  • 9-Day Japan Highlights Tour
  • 10-Day Japan Cherry Blossom Spring 2025 Mini-Group Tour
  • 10-Day Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka Tour
  • 11-Day Traditional Japan Tour
  • 12-Day Classic Japan Tour
  • 12-Day Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka and Himeji Tour
  • 2-Week Highlights of Japan in the Cherry Blossom Season
  • 16-Day South Korea and Japan Cultural Adventure Tour
  • 16-Day Japan and China Discovery Tour
  • How to Plan a Trip to China and Japan
  • Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip 2024/2025, Dates and Avoid Crowds
  • Plan a Family Trip to Japan 2024/2025: Experiences and Itineraries
  • How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Japan in 2024/2025
  • Best (and Worst) Time to Visit Japan 2024, Cherry Blossom Time
  • 1 Week in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 8 Days in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 10 Days in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 12 Days in Japan: Top 4 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 2 Weeks in Japan:Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • 3 Weeks in Japan: Top 3 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025
  • How to Plan a 2-Week Itinerary in Japan and South Korea
  • Japan Weather in January: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in February 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in March 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in April 2024, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
  • Japan Weather in May 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in June 2024: Coolest Summer Month, Travel Tips
  • Japan Weather in July 2024: Best for Festivals, Travel Tips
  • Japan Weather in August 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in September, Travel Tips (for First-Timers)
  • Japan Weather in October 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers
  • Japan Weather in November 2024: Best Autumn Month, Travel Tips
  • Japan Weather in December 2024: Travel Tips for First-Timers

trip ideas for japan

We met our tour guide Shannon in Xi,an and we enjoyed very much our stay. Her good English level and her knowledge of the history of the city made our jorney very memorable. Kind, flexible and patient, she attended all our wishes. We will always be grateful for her work.

trip ideas for japan

This is my 3rd tour of Beijing in the last 18 months and I think that speaks a little to the quality of service you get with China Highlights. Each time the sites are the same but each tour guide managed to present them in new and wonderful ways. Also some attractions that were undergoing renovations have been completed, so there were new things to see as well.A big thanks to Mr. Michael, our tour this time around. He was very gregarious and knowledgeable about all the sites.

Mi esposo y yo, tuvimos la oportunidad de visitar la hermosa ciudad de Xian, la muralla de la ciudad, los guerreros de terracota, el barrio musulmán, todo esto con la mejor guia del mundo mundial!!! Susana, quien aparte de ser super simpática, tiene un gran conocimiento de la ciudad, la historia de los lugares y monumentos y aparte está siempre al pendiente de cualquier cosa que necesites y va más allá par hacerte tener una experiencia excelente, nos quedamos con ganas de regresar. Gracias x todo!!

Shanghai is an amazing mix of modern and historical China. Our guide Kris was great and very flexible when it came to completing the itinerary which was helpful considering the poor weather + visibility on the first day when we were supposed to visit Shanghai tower. Walking along the river front (bund) area was a big highlight for us.

We traveled to Shanghai in Jan/Feb 2024 with China Highlights. Shanghai is an amazing mix of modern and historical China. Our guide Kris was great and very flexible when it came to completing the itinerary which was helpful considering the poor weather + visibility on the first day when we were supposed to visit Shanghai tower. Walking along the river front (bund) area was a big highlight for us.

Our guide, Jenny, was extremely knowledgeable of the area, history and culture. She addressed our questions and provided additional insights and recommendations for our free time. She was an amazing guide that always checked in and took the extra steps to make the trip special. Jenny definitely made our trip to Xi’an memorable and very special!

Daisy was our guide for 3 days in Dali. She was the best guide we have had in China. She was very warm. Just like a close friend. She was extremely knowledgeable about the culture and history of the area. She took many pictures of us even without our asking her to.Her English was excellent!

Daisy was an amazing guide. She took us to the old town, on a boat ride, and to Sha xi. She was very warm. She explained everything in detail and answered all of our questions. She made us feel very welcome.

I had a wonderful trip to China. Martin was my guide. The history and sights picked were wonderful. The additional spots like the world’s largest Starbucks and the help to make reservations at the Old Jazz club were great.

More reviews

Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.

More Travel Ideas and Inspiration

TrustPilot rating

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

The Asia Highlights Experience

Where can we take you today.

  • Middle East
  • African safari
  • Indonesia (Bali)
  • South Africa
  • Central Asia

China Tours

  • Inner Mongolia
  • Yangtze River
  • Zhangjiajie
  • Tours from Hong Kong
  • Tours from Shanghai
  • Travel Agents
  • Our Differences
  • Search Please fill out this field.
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Give a Gift Subscription
  • Sweepstakes

This Tree House Resort in Japan Has 360-degree Jungle Views — and a Slide From a Sauna Into the Genka River

The resort, Treeful, even has a slide from the sauna into the Genka River.

trip ideas for japan

Courtesy of Treeful Treehouse Sustainable Resort

When Satoru Kikugawa was a boy, he read a book called “I Want a Big Tree,” where the protagonist searched for a huge tree to build a tree house. The childhood tale had such a profound effect on him that a few years back, he found himself scouring northern Okinawa for the biggest tree, eventually landing on a massive Akagi among the virgin forests. As soon as he saw it, he hugged it and realized, “This is it!” 

After starting construction in 2014, that exact tree has become the host of the Spiral Tree House, one of two accommodations currently available for stays at his Treeful Tree House sustainable resort in Nago, Okinawa, which opened in 2021. 

With a winding staircase leading up to the Spiral Tree House, nature and comfortable living are perfectly merged in the forest with 360-degree views of the Japanese island’s jungle, complete with a relaxing deck space with string lights and decorative pillows. The tree house also has two hammocks, two yoga mats, a mini fridge and freezer, a compost toilet, air conditioning, and a semi-double bed.

Sitting in a nearby tree is the other tree house, the AeroHouse, which is a sustainable luxury rental, designed by architect Tadashi Murai and decorated by interior designer Yasuhiro Koichi. The spacious setting with large open windows has an equipped kitchen with a microwave, oven, fridge, and freezer, as well as a wine cellar, day bed, king bed, shower, toilet, and even a washing machine. 

Currently under construction is a third tree house, dubbed the Trophy Tree House, which will have a Japanese tea room theme and be equipped with two futons, a flushable toilet, and a rooftop viewing area.

Perhaps the highlight of the property is the Indigo Sauna Tree House, available for groups of up to six people for three hours. After warming up in the sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows, hop right onto the slide to cool off in the Genka River below. Repeat the cycle as many times as you’d like, and also find Zen in the relaxation and spa rooms. Every wooden piece supporting this tree house is painted with Okinawan indigo dye. The slit-style structure, using thin rods with gaps, allows natural sunlight to fill the entire tree house during the day. 

Recent guests also rave about the on-site food, including the option to indulge in the fireside dinner on an open grill with menu items like Agu pork shabu-shabu and Okinawa soba noodle; Agu pork and Okinawa Motobu beef mixed sukiyaki; or seafood BBQ and Okinawan Jushi steamed rice.

Most importantly, sustainability is the core pillar of the resort: the tree house itself is carbon-negative without any use of fossil fuels, depending only on renewable energy from Okinawa Electric Power’s Uchina CO2 Free Menu. All of the structures are also built higher to depend on natural sunlight and allow the nature below them to thrive.

“We consider that we are renting the space on the tree,” the resort explained on its site , noting that water, waste, and building materials are also approached with the environment top of mind.

Above all, Treeful Tree House is about allowing guests to connect with its stunning natural scenery. “At Treeful, you can find many ways to relax in nature and forget about the fast-paced daily lives we live in,” the resort said .

Wander With Alex

Wander With Alex

Food to Try in Japan on Vacation

Posted: December 18, 2023 | Last updated: February 5, 2024

<p><span>Japanese cuisine, known for its fresh ingredients, precision in preparation, and harmonious balance of flavors, offers an incredible culinary experience far beyond the well-known sushi and sashimi. Each dish in Japan tells a story of tradition, regional variation, and the meticulous art of cooking. </span></p><p><span>Whether you're slurping a bowl of hearty ramen, biting into a crispy piece of tonkatsu, or savoring the delicate flavors of matcha in a tea ceremony, the culinary landscape of Japan promises a rich tapestry of tastes and experiences. </span></p><p><span>For travelers and food enthusiasts, a culinary journey through Japan is not just about enjoying delicious meals; it's about immersing oneself in a cultural experience integral to understanding and appreciating the essence of Japanese life.</span></p>

Flavors of Japan: Iconic Japanese Dishes to Try on Vacation

Japanese cuisine, known for its fresh ingredients, precision in preparation, and harmonious balance of flavors, offers an incredible culinary experience far beyond the well-known sushi and sashimi. Each dish in Japan tells a story of tradition, regional variation, and the meticulous art of cooking. 

Whether you're slurping a bowl of hearty ramen, biting into a crispy piece of tonkatsu, or savoring the delicate flavors of matcha in a tea ceremony, the culinary landscape of Japan promises a rich tapestry of tastes and experiences. 

For travelers and food enthusiasts, a culinary journey through Japan is not just about enjoying delicious meals; it's about immersing oneself in a cultural experience integral to understanding and appreciating the essence of Japanese life.

<p><span>Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal that emphasizes seasonality, balance, and presentation. It includes a variety of dishes, each prepared in a way that highlights the natural flavors and textures of the ingredients. Kaiseki is more than just food; it's an artistic expression and a cultural experience.</span></p>

Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal that emphasizes seasonality, balance, and presentation. It includes a variety of dishes, each prepared in a way that highlights the natural flavors and textures of the ingredients. Kaiseki is more than just food; it's an artistic expression and a cultural experience.

<p><span>Onigiri are Japanese rice balls, often wrapped in nori seaweed and containing a filling like salted salmon, pickled plum, or tuna mayonnaise. They're a popular, portable snack or meal known for their simplicity and the comforting taste of lightly salted rice.</span></p>

Onigiri (Rice Balls)

Onigiri are Japanese rice balls, often wrapped in nori seaweed and containing a filling like salted salmon, pickled plum, or tuna mayonnaise. They're a popular, portable snack or meal known for their simplicity and the comforting taste of lightly salted rice.

<p><span>This dish consists of rice served with a rich, mildly spicy curry sauce, often containing meat and vegetables. It's a beloved comfort food in Japan, showcasing a unique adaptation of Indian curry tailored to Japanese tastes.</span></p>

Kare Raisu (Japanese Curry)

This dish consists of rice served with a rich, mildly spicy curry sauce, often containing meat and vegetables. It's a beloved comfort food in Japan, showcasing a unique adaptation of Indian curry tailored to Japanese tastes.

<p><span>Gyudon is a rice bowl with thin slices of beef and onions, simmered in a mildly sweet sauce combining soy sauce and mirin. This quick and hearty meal is a favorite among those looking for a satisfying, flavorful, affordable, and ubiquitous dish in Japan.</span></p>

Gyudon (Beef Bowl)

Gyudon is a rice bowl with thin slices of beef and onions, simmered in a mildly sweet sauce combining soy sauce and mirin. This quick and hearty meal is a favorite among those looking for a satisfying, flavorful, affordable, and ubiquitous dish in Japan.

<p><span>These are ball-shaped snacks made of a wheat flour batter. They are stuffed with minced octopus, tempura pieces, pickled ginger, and green onion. Takoyaki is typically brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayo, then topped with green laver and dried bonito shavings.</span></p>

These are ball-shaped snacks made of a wheat flour batter. They are stuffed with minced octopus, tempura pieces, pickled ginger, and green onion. Takoyaki is typically brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayo, then topped with green laver and dried bonito shavings.

<p><span>Often described as a Japanese savory pancake (sometimes called a Japanese "pizza"), okonomiyaki is made with a batter and different ingredients such as cabbage, pork belly, seafood, and cheese. Cooked on a griddle, it's usually topped with a rich sauce, mayonnaise, green onions, and bonito flakes. </span></p>

Okonomiyaki

Often described as a Japanese savory pancake (sometimes called a Japanese "pizza"), okonomiyaki is made with a batter and different ingredients such as cabbage, pork belly, seafood, and cheese. Cooked on a griddle, it's usually topped with a rich sauce, mayonnaise, green onions, and bonito flakes. 

<p><span>Tonkatsu is a popular dish consisting of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, often served with shredded cabbage, rice, and a sweet and tangy sauce. It is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, making it a satisfying comfort food.</span></p>

Tonkatsu is a popular dish consisting of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, often served with shredded cabbage, rice, and a sweet and tangy sauce. It is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, making it a satisfying comfort food.

<p><span>A hearty bowl of ramen consists of wheat noodles served in a flavorful broth, often adorned with slices of pork, green onions, and a soft-boiled egg. Each region of Japan offers its own unique twist on ramen, varying in broth flavor, noodle thickness, and toppings. This dish is cherished for its comforting warmth and rich, savory flavors.</span></p>

A hearty bowl of ramen consists of wheat noodles served in a flavorful broth, often adorned with slices of pork, green onions, and a soft-boiled egg. Each region of Japan offers its own unique twist on ramen, varying in broth flavor, noodle thickness, and toppings. This dish is cherished for its comforting warmth and rich, savory flavors.

<p><span>Tempura involves seafood and vegetables that have been battered and deep-fried, resulting in a light, crispy coating. It's often served with a dipping sauce or sprinkled with salt to enhance its delicate flavor.</span></p>

Tempura involves seafood and vegetables that have been battered and deep-fried, resulting in a light, crispy coating. It's often served with a dipping sauce or sprinkled with salt to enhance its delicate flavor.

<p><span>Udon are thick, chewy wheat noodles served in a savory broth, often accompanied by ingredients like tempura, tofu, and green onions. It's a staple in Japanese cuisine, known for its comforting and subtle flavors.</span></p>

Udon are thick, chewy wheat noodles served in a savory broth, often accompanied by ingredients like tempura, tofu, and green onions. It's a staple in Japanese cuisine, known for its comforting and subtle flavors.

<p><span>Yakitori consists of skewered and grilled chicken, often seasoned with salt or a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. This street food favorite is cooked over charcoal, which imparts a smoky flavor. It's a social food, commonly enjoyed with friends and a cold beer.</span></p>

Yakitori consists of skewered and grilled chicken, often seasoned with salt or a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. This street food favorite is cooked over charcoal, which imparts a smoky flavor. It's a social food, commonly enjoyed with friends and a cold beer.

<p><span>Sushi is a Japanese dish featuring vinegared rice with ingredients like seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits wrapped in seaweed. It's known for its fresh, clean flavors and is often enjoyed with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. The artistry in sushi making, from the precise cutting of the fish to the elegant presentation, is a cultural experience in itself.</span></p>

Sushi (Maki)

Sushi is a Japanese dish featuring vinegared rice with ingredients like seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits wrapped in seaweed. It's known for its fresh, clean flavors and is often enjoyed with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. The artistry in sushi making, from the precise cutting of the fish to the elegant presentation, is a cultural experience in itself.

<p><span>Sashimi is a delicate and elegant dish of fresh sliced raw fish served with soy sauce and wasabi. It is often confused with nigiri, vinegared rice balls topped with raw fish. </span></p>

Sashimi is a delicate and elegant dish of fresh sliced raw fish served with soy sauce and wasabi. It is often confused with nigiri, vinegared rice balls topped with raw fish. 

<p><span>It is a traditional soup in Japan made with a stock called dashi and miso paste, often containing tofu, seaweed, and green onions. It's a staple in Japanese meals, known for its soothing, umami-rich flavor. </span></p>

It is a traditional soup in Japan made with a stock called dashi and miso paste, often containing tofu, seaweed, and green onions. It's a staple in Japanese meals, known for its soothing, umami-rich flavor. 

<p><span>Matcha is a finely ground powder made from grown and processed green tea leaves. It's known for its bright green color and rich, slightly bitter flavor, often used in teas and desserts. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies center around the preparation and drinking of matcha.</span></p>

Matcha (Green Tea)

Matcha is a finely ground powder made from grown and processed green tea leaves. It's known for its bright green color and rich, slightly bitter flavor, often used in teas and desserts. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies center around the preparation and drinking of matcha.

<p><span>Experiencing these iconic Japanese foods on vacation is not merely about satisfying hunger; it's about engaging with a culture that reveres every aspect of dining as an art form. As travelers return from their journey, they carry memories of delicious meals and an appreciation for the intricate tapestry of Japanese culinary culture that extends far beyond the dining table.</span></p>

Japanese Food to Try on Vacation

Experiencing these iconic Japanese foods on vacation is not merely about satisfying hunger; it's about engaging with a culture that reveres every aspect of dining as an art form. As travelers return from their journey, they carry memories of delicious meals and an appreciation for the intricate tapestry of Japanese culinary culture that extends far beyond the dining table.

More for You

donald trump town hall

Aileen Cannon Blocks Donald Trump Lawyers' Legal Plan

andrei morozov milblogger.jpg

Russian war blogger dies in apparent suicide after revealing Moscow’s losses

Voter guide: Texas State Representative, District 22 - Democratic Primary

Letter: Republican politicians forgetting they serve all constituents

Hydeia Broadbent

Hydeia Broadbent, Prominent HIV/AIDS Activist, Dies at 39

Social Security Cards On Top Of $100 Bill

This Social Security Spousal Rule Is Officially Finished in 2024 — But These 3 Strategies Remain

3 things to never do at work, according to an HR professional with 10 years' worth of experience

3 things to never do at work, according to an HR professional with 10 years' worth of experience

Trump asks judge to delay the penalties in his civil fraud case

Trump asks judge to delay the penalties in his civil fraud case

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Europe clearly now wants Vladimir Putin to win

Brit Hume: Teamsters giving money to the RNC is a 'sign of the times'

Brit Hume: Teamsters giving money to the RNC is a 'sign of the times'

The mothers fighting a scandal bigger than thalidomide: ‘We were told the medication was safe’

The mothers fighting a scandal bigger than thalidomide: ‘We were told the medication was safe’

How to Spot a Credit Card Skimmer at Gas Pumps and Avoid Getting Scammed

How to Spot a Credit Card Skimmer at Gas Pumps and Avoid Getting Scammed

Popular holiday island ‘heading for disaster’ over sunken cruise ship

Popular holiday island ‘heading for disaster’ over sunken cruise ship

The great irony of this Supreme Court’s refusal to save Trump’s ethically-challenged attorneys

The great irony of this Supreme Court’s refusal to save Trump’s ethically-challenged attorneys

Footwear Leaders Point Out the Irony of Trump Entering the Sneaker Game

Footwear Leaders Point Out the Irony of Trump Entering the Sneaker Game

William Hogarth - Marriage a la mode - The tete a tete

We are too stupid to see the Dark Ages are back

How The Detroit Pistons Unintentionally Made Wingstop Over $19 Million

How The Detroit Pistons Unintentionally Made Wingstop Over $19 Million

Newt Gingrich: 'It's all a lie'

Newt Gingrich: 'It's all a lie'

Human rights activist Narges Mohammadi

Iran: Prisoners sentenced to a living death

The ERS-2 satellite viewed by a satellite in Earth's orbit.

Spacecraft looks like a 'Star Wars' ship. It just crashed into Earth.

New York AG seeks December deadline to respond to Trump’s mistrial motion

NY AG on Trump judgments: ‘If you want something done, give it to a woman’

12 of the best things to do in Japan with kids

Ray Bartlett

Feb 11, 2024 • 11 min read

trip ideas for japan

Plan your family visit to Japan with these top things to do with kids © kiatthaworn khorthawornwong / Shutterstock

No matter where you go in Japan , you’ll find it’s an easy, fun, safe place to travel with kids.

What’s more, with one of the world’s lowest birth rates, Japan is likely to welcome you and your kiddos with open arms. Many older people, without grandchildren of their own, will dote on yours. While there are certainly some places that are for adults only, most hotels, restaurants and even car rental agencies have equipment and are happy to accommodate families. Add to that the “wow!” factor that your kids will have traveling through a unique, vibrant and fascinating country, and you’re sure to have a trip of a lifetime.

Here are our top tips and recommendations that will make your family trip to Japan a success.

A family with a stroller walk along a path beside a river under cherry blossom

What makes Japan good for kids?

Japan has fascinating festivals to witness (or even participate in!), great restaurants to dine at, interesting museums and temples, and your kids may even know more than you do about Japanese culture – especially if they’re Ghibli fans or enjoy manga and anime. That said, there are some things to be aware of and a few precautions that can make a trip go even more smoothly.

If you’re traveling with really little ones – babies or toddlers – you’ll likely want to bring (or perhaps rent) a small, lightweight stroller. Subways do have elevators, but the narrow escalators can be tricky to safely use with a bulky stroller, and depending on where you go, there may be lots of stairways. Having a stroller that folds up to not much more than an umbrella is a godsend.

Nearly all restaurants and hotels have accommodations like high chairs, but keep in mind that Japan hasn’t had much need to invest in the latest and greatest when it comes to kiddo equipment. While spotlessly clean, these things may be older and more tippy than what you’re used to at home. They’ll still get the job done, but you’ll want to be alert.

Nursing mothers will find that nearly all public areas (such as train stations and airports) have lockable “family” bathrooms that you're welcome to use for changing a diaper or breastfeeding. Open breastfeeding is uncommon, but inconspicuously feeding under a shawl or cloak won’t raise eyebrows.

And Japanese people are pretty easy-going about a noisy kid, too, so you don’t need to be too quick to shush them if they’re getting loud or having too much fun. Playgrounds are found in many parks, apartment complexes and rest areas. They’re rarely private, so in most cases, you can enjoy them at will.

Boys playing in falling blossom in a park and laughing

There are two important things a family traveling with kids in Japan will want to prepare for:

  • Crowds: If you’re traveling at peak times , the crowds can be mind-boggling, and it’s easy to get separated if you’re not careful. Make sure (in a park or temple) that you’ve set a meeting spot. In places like a subway, you may want to invest in a backpack leash set so your child won’t get swept away by the hordes.
  • Quick train transfers: Japan’s trains run on time, always to the minute and sometimes to the second. They do this by opening the doors quickly and shutting them the moment folks have gotten into or out of the cars. If you’re busy wrangling kids and trying to get luggage to the door at the last minute, you may miss that chance to get on or off – or worse, some of you will get out, and some won’t. Plan ahead by keeping careful track of when your stops are, make sure (if you’re a two-parent family) that one parent gets out first and the other gets out last, bookending the kids, and have a plan in place if the train leaves while someone’s still on it. For example, tell your kids to get off at the next stop, find a police officer and wait for you to get them.

Where is best in Japan for kids?

Japan is a playground that kids will adore no matter what age they are. Majestic Mt Fuji will impress young travelers of any age, as will the many castles, temples and Japanese gardens.

Tiny tots will love the goldfish and koi ponds found in almost any temple, the interesting foods, and of course the Pokémon and Ghibli museums. Older kids may love all that too, plus the technological wonders of Tokyo ’s Akihabara neighborhood or looking out at the sprawling metropolis from the famous Skytree .

But there’s so much more: river rafting in the countryside, steaming onsen baths, beautiful temples, hiking and skiing. Best of all, it’s safe and clean.

A family sits at a table in an outdoors museum complex with a toddler standing nearby

Best things to do in Japan with babies and toddlers

Enjoy the cherry blossoms.

If you’re in Japan in March, you should bring your baby or toddler to a local cherry blossom viewing . Any major city will have a park or hilltop where the yoshino cherries thrive. In Tokyo, Ueno park and the Imperial Palace are excellent spots. Osaka Castle is also gorgeous at this time of year. It’s so popular that there’s even a cherry blossom forecast so you can plan the right weekend to visit. These gorgeous trees burst with pale pink blossoms in late spring, making for truly stunning photographs.

Bring food and drink and find a place to sit, enjoy the quiet beauty, or make friends with nearby families. And if you can't make it at cherry blossom time, the fall maple leaves generate similar excitement and are just as beautiful.

Reserve your spot at the Ghibli Museum

For toddlers who have seen a Ghibli movie or two, a trip to the Ghibli Museum will probably be a highlight of the trip. They can clamber over a stuffed version of the famous Nekobus, see original artworks, and take pictures with life-size figures of movie characters. There’s even an impressive bronze Laputa: Castle in the Sky robot. (It’s worth noting that just about any fan of Miyazaki Hayao will enjoy visiting, though there’s an age cutoff on clambering around on the Nekobus.)

If this is a key spot for your visit, you’ll need to plan months in advance, as reservations are necessary and will not be changed if you can’t come at the reserved time.

Visit Rabbit Island (Ōkunoshima)

Instead of just going to a zoo, which of course is fun for kids but can be done at home, consider a trip to Rabbit Island (known as Ōkunoshima), in Japan’s beautiful Inland Sea area. Once a location for poison gas production during World War II, this spot now has a number of hotels and literally thousands of free-roaming rabbits that are totally unafraid of people. The chance to see them up close and even feed them is a sweet, safe, fun thing that’s great for little ones. That said, like any wild animal, they can nip – you don’t want to encourage the tots to touch or hold them.

Feed the fish in the gardens, parks and castle grounds

Japanese gardens, parks, castles and museums often have impressive koi and goldfish ponds, and young tots love watching the beautiful colored fish swirl around in hopes of a handout. Often, there are fish-food pellets you can buy, but if not, just letting your child get close and personal with some friendly fish will be a hit. Kyoto’s beautiful Gold Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion have lovely ponds with fish and turtles to look for, but they’re found all over the country.

A child eats sushi that they have selected

Best things to do in Japan with school-age kids

Eat well at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant.

Eating takes on a whole new meaning in Japan. Sushi is a ubiquitous staple, and seeing it trucking by on a conveyor belt is a hit with kids who are old enough to watch and only touch items they’re actually going to eat. Chances are there’s a place near your hotel, so ask at the front desk for directions.

Conveyor-belt restaurants are called kaiten-zushi in Japanese, and it’s mesmerizing to see the little plates pass by. Look out for the classic tuna and salmon nigiri , but you may see lots of unfamiliar seafood, too. Grab the ones that look tasty and give them a try. One note of caution: most booths have individual dispensers of boiling water for tea, which can cause a splash. Make sure kids don’t try to use it themselves until they’ve gotten the hang of it.

At the end of the meal, the bill is calculated by counting and sorting the empty plates, which are color-coded to the prices. In seconds, your server will stack and calculate the bill, and you’re on your way.  

Ride Yokohama’s Cosmo Clock 21

For a bird’s eye view of a beautiful cityscape, hit Yokohama (a city near Tokyo) and take a ride on the unmissable Cosmo Clock 21 , a giant Ferris wheel by the waterfront. As you ascend, you’ll enjoy picturesque views of the bay and the city. Interestingly, this was for a time the tallest Ferris wheel in Japan, until it was bested by only 0.5m (1.6ft) by one in Shiga prefecture. Not to be outdone, the crafty Yokohama-ians built a pedestal for their wheel that brought the height up by just enough to keep the title of “country’s tallest.” At least for now.

See the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Whatever your spirituality, the Great Buddha of Kamakura  is a special site that’s worthy of a visit, and impresses even little kids. You can marvel at this enormous copper statue from the plaza in front, which is paved and easy to access with strollers. But the truly inquisitive will also want to go inside the structure (look behind for the entrance). Fascinatingly, this statue has endured typhoons and even tsunamis since the 1200s.

A teenager gazes upwards at the electric-light signs in a city street

Best things to do in Japan with tweens and teenagers

Hike mt fuji.

Young hikers will want to summit the incredible Mt Fuji, but it’s worth noting that this popular hike shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. You’ll find the peak is much colder than the base, and while you can ascend about halfway by car, the steepest parts of the climb will await you. Those wanting to see the sunrise should overnight partway up the slope, but the view of the asahi (morning sun) is worth it!

Visit an onsen

Japan’s delightful onsen – hot springs – are a treat for teens, tweens and even younger kids, though the latter should be careful as sometimes the water is very hot. You’ll find the most relaxing are those outside in the countryside, where a gurgling stream or chirping frogs might be the soundtrack, but even in Tokyo or Kyoto , you can find baths to enjoy. Note that no swimwear or even towels are allowed in the bathwater – this experience is strictly au naturel .

If you’re bashful about being naked with strangers (usually separated by gender, though there are mixed baths), ask for a “kashikiriburo” at your hotel: these are locked baths you reserve time in (often 60 minutes) and can bathe in private alone or with your family.

Marvel at Tokyo’s Akihabara district

The sheer size of Akihabara is overwhelming, street after street filled with towering skyscrapers selling electronics of every type imaginable. If your kid has been looking for a camera, phone, audio equipment or headphones, this is the place to find them, or at least to see what the future’s going to look like – because in Akihabara, the future is now.

See Hiroshima or Nagasaki

A trip to either of the cities of  Hiroshima  or Nagasaki  will impress on anyone the horrors of nuclear technology, and the strength and courage of the human spirit. There’s no denying this is a somber, grim topic, but the Peace museums in both cities, with iconic structures and artifacts, are vivid reminders of how much we as a global people must work to ensure these awful events never happen again. Though some of the photos are graphic and even upsetting, kids will come away knowing more about the role these two cities played in WWII, and with a deeper understanding of how vital peace is.

Go skiing in spectacular snow

Snow lovers will find great skiing in places like Niseko, Furano or Zao Onsen, and lessons for tweens, teens and even toddlers are easy to arrange at any of the popular resorts. The winter fun doesn't stop on the slopes though: take a tour of the vast snow fields (some of them 6m/20ft deep) or cruise above the strange, gargoyle-like forms of the “snow monsters” – conifer trees that have been covered so much by wind-driven snow that they are unrecognizable. There are also the famous snow monkeys to look for, too!

Planning tips

  • Trains are a fantastic way to see the country, and if you’re planning to travel around, consider getting a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). Available for seven, 14 or 21 days, these must be purchased outside of Japan, and the voucher exchanged once you arrive.  Note that they’re not cheap, so you’ll want to do the math. With the pass, you can do all the travel you want, thanks to unlimited rides. It also lets you reserve seats in advance, making family travel that much easier. Note that many city trains and subways are not part of the JR Rail system.
  • Many of the nicer hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) will have loaner family items, such as umbrellas, strollers and high chairs.
  • If you run out of a product or need to buy additional ones, know that Japanese sizes for some items – such as diapers – can be a little small.
  • Be aware that Japan prohibits some common medicines, such as popular antihistamines. If you or your child have hay fever, you may need to opt for a Japanese brand once you arrive.

Explore related stories

trip ideas for japan

Family Travel

Feb 21, 2024 • 7 min read

Japan is a delightful place for travel with little ones in general, and Kyoto is no exception – here are our favorite things to do with kids and teens.

trip ideas for japan

Mar 7, 2023 • 7 min read

Japanese teppanyaki features beef, shrimp, scallops, lobster, chicken and a variety of vegetables that might include mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, peppers and squash

Mar 27, 2022 • 10 min read

Crowds in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Jan 26, 2022 • 6 min read

Close-up of Christmas turkey

Nov 30, 2020 • 5 min read

kid-colouring-world-map-atlas.jpg

Mar 10, 2020 • 6 min read

kyoto-kids-family-travel-wabi-sabi.jpg

Feb 18, 2020 • 10 min read

Pokemon hotel.JPG

Jan 17, 2020 • 1 min read

Shodoshima-Olive-Park-kikis-delivery-service.jpg

Jan 13, 2020 • 6 min read

Iiyama-Kamakura-Village-Nagano-Japan.jpg

Dec 7, 2019 • 5 min read

news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site

  • Travel Ideas
  • Food & Drink

Aussie woman reveals which KFC burger she wants to bring Down Under

An Aussie KFC fanatic says the fast food chain have created a burger overseas that needs to come Down Under immediately.

KFC reveal Travis Kelce's mammoth Thanksgiving order

Iconic restaurant prepares to take final bow

Surprise new product from fast-food chain

Surprise new product from fast-food chain

Coles and Arnott’s team up to launch limited edition hot cross buns

Coles and Arnott’s team up to launch limited edition hot cross buns

An Aussie woman has revealed the international KFC burger she hopes to see Down Under, following a surprise trip to Tokyo in Japan.

Sydney executive assistant Lisa Wenban, won a trip to Japan’s capital city as part of the fast food restaurant’s ‘Kentucky Fly Chicken’ campaign.

The campaign, which runs until March 18, will see a handful of Aussie fried chicken fans travel to certain destinations around the world and experience KFC in a foreign land.

Ms Wenban, who is a self-confessed fried chicken addict, was the first of the competition winners to travel abroad — and revealed there was one burger while visiting Tokyo that she hopes will make its way to our shores.

Lisa went to Japan and found a burger she's keen to bring back to Australia

“I had the Wafu Cutlet Burger, which was like a crumbed chicken fillet, teriyaki sauce, cabbage and mayonnaise on this super soft bun,” the 32-year-old told news.com.au.

“I 10 out of 10 wish we had it here.”

The KFC fanatic said while nothing will ever compare to the fast food chain’s Zinger Burger, the Japanese staple comes a very close second.

“Australia does it [KFC] better,” she said. “I think it’s the freshness, and the Zinger has always been my go to.

“Although, they had a bread that was a dessert bread and that had a honey maple syrup that was pretty yum. But the salt they put on their chips was a little different.”

Lisa went to Japan to check out some of the famous menu items on the KFC menu.

The competition, which is a world first for the chain, means KFC fans can go in the running to taste international KFC menu items.

To win, participants need to download the KFC App, find the hidden international menu items which have never been seen in Australia, add them to their cart and go into the draw.

While Ms Wenban said a large chunk of her five-day jaunt in Tokyo was centred around food, she also did a day trip to Mt Fuji, street Go-Karting, a visit to Disneyland, and tours of the fish and night markets.

The burger that Lisa hopes will come back to Australia

More Coverage

trip ideas for japan

When it comes to unique dining experiences with KFC, diners really are spoiled for choice.

In the Philippines, fans might like to try the Double Down Dog.

In China, where KFC is the most popular fast food chain in the country — the most popular is the chicken and seaweed rice bowl, peach tea, congee (or rice porridge) and breakfast sushirittos, an interesting blend of sushi and burritos. And in Brazil, well, you can grab yourself a chicken burger — topped with creamed corn.

One of Adelaide’s best loved restaurants has announced it will close its doors for good after more than two decades.

The beloved Aussie fast-food chain is sure the surprise new product is set to be a fan favourite.

Coles has teamed up with Arnott’s Biscuits to offer limited edition Iced VoVo and Pizza Shapes hot cross buns.

IMAGES

  1. Planning a Trip to Japan? 20+ Essential Travel Tips for 2021/22

    trip ideas for japan

  2. Planning a Trip to Japan? 20+ Essential Travel Tips for 2021/22

    trip ideas for japan

  3. Planning a Trip to Japan? 20+ Essential Travel Tips for 2021/22

    trip ideas for japan

  4. The Ultimate Itinerary for a Trip to Japan: Unforgettable 7, 10 and 14

    trip ideas for japan

  5. Planning a Trip to Japan? 20+ Essential Travel Tips for 2021/22

    trip ideas for japan

  6. Japan ITINERARY + Travel Guide BLOG + BUDGET

    trip ideas for japan

VIDEO

  1. Why Do we RETURN to Japan? #japan #japantrip #japanopen

  2. Japan Travel Vlog

  3. A nearly Perfect 14 Day Itinerary in Japan Part 1

  4. Japan travel costs! 😮💸 (AUD) #japan #travel #travelbudget #travelguide

  5. japan home tour #hometour #roomtour #house #japan #homedecor #decorideas

  6. Japan travel vlog: Tokyo & Kyoto

COMMENTS

  1. Planning a Trip to Japan: DOs & DON'Ts (2024)

    Contents 2024 Update: No Japan Travel Restrictions When to Visit Japan How Long to Spend in Japan Video: Best Japan Destinations Before Your Japan Trip General Dos and Don'ts in Japan What to Book in Advance for a Japan Trip Top Japan Destinations More Japan Tips 2024 Update: No Japan Travel Restrictions

  2. Amazing Japan Trip Ideas for 2024

    Contents 1 The Two Main Ways to Plan Your Japan Trip 2 Comprehensive Japan Trip Ideas 2.1 One Week in Japan 2.2 Two Weeks in Japan 2.3 Three Weeks in Japan 2.4 One Month in Japan 3 Japan City Itineraries 3.1 Tokyo 3.2 Kyoto 3.3 Cities of the Kansai Region 3.4 Underrated Japanese Cities 4 Special Japan Trip Ideas 4.1 Cherry Blossoms

  3. Planning a Trip to Japan? 20+ Essential Travel Tips for 2024

    From the best time to visit, transport, accommodation, places to visit by interest, experiences, navigation, language, how much cash, overall budget and more, the following checklist is my tried-and-tested process to help you have THE best Japan vacation ever. Read on for more! This guide for planning a trip to Japan will cover:

  4. 30 Unforgettable Japan Experiences

    Stay at a Shukubo (Buddhist Temple Lodging) Watch Sumo and Baseball Ski or Snowboard Japan's Legendary Powder Admire Sakura During Cherry Blossom Season Taste Premium Nihonshu (Sake) Hike Through the Japanese Countryside Experience Nightlife in Japan Cycle Through Kyoto or Tokyo Trek Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

  5. 1 Week in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

    1. 7-Day Classic Japan (Most Chosen): Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka 2 nights in Tokyo 2 nights in Kyoto 2 nights in Osaka 7-Day Japan Essence Tour Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka Experience the best "golden triangle" cities in Japan — Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. On a week-long trip, it is perfect to spend 2 nights in each.

  6. 18 Best Places to Visit in Japan

    Best Places to Visit in Japan By Elizabeth Von Tersch | Reviewed by Erin Evans | Last updated on July 27, 2023 Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan's civilization dates as far back as...

  7. 10 best places to visit in Japan

    1. Tokyo Best for contemporary culture Tokyo is a city forever reaching into the future, pushing the boundaries of what's possible on densely populated, earthquake-prone land, adding ever taller, sleeker structures.

  8. The Ultimate Japan Itinerary for 2024: From 1 to 3 Weeks

    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.

  9. Japan Travel: Suggested Itineraries

    Plan a trip Itinerary Ideas Great Traverse Best in 14 days Best of Kanto Best of Kansai Best of Tohoku Best of Kyushu Plan a trip Itinerary Ideas Nationwide Itineraries Great Traverse of Japan Best of Japan in 14 days Regional Itineraries Best of Kanto Best of Kansai Best of Hokkaido in Summer Best of Hokkaido in Winter Best of Tohoku

  10. The Ultimate Japan Bucket List: 100 Things to do in Japan

    Run around with the Japanese macaques at Jigokudani Monkey Park 🇯🇵. Stay the night at a temple alongside Buddhist Monks in Koyasan 🇯🇵. Visit the oldest, largest and most sacred cemetery in Japan, Okunoin Cemetary 🇯🇵. Witness the stunning illuminated floats of the Aomori Nebuta Festival.

  11. The Ultimate Itinerary for a Trip to Japan: Unforgettable 7, 10 and 14

    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 Getting Around

  12. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Japan

    Things to Do in Japan Explore popular experiences See what other travelers like to do, based on ratings and number of bookings. See All Walking Tours (1,544) Half-day Tours (1,103) National Parks (56) Cultural Tours (1,371) Cooking Classes (292) Historic Walking Areas (806) Day Trips (454) Private Sightseeing Tours (1,730)

  13. Japan Travel Itinerary

    Itinerary Ideas Best of Japan in 14 days Day 1 and 2 - Tokyo Spend three nights in Tokyo. Consider our suggested Tokyo itineraries. Day 3 - Side trip to Nikko In a side trip from Tokyo, visit Nikko, home to Toshogu, Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.

  14. How To Plan Trips To Japan

    A potentially never ending series of problems to solve, that just get in the way of the fun bit of actually travelling. Stage 3 is largely a necessity. It's the one where you turn your ideas into concrete plans. Stage 4 is the fun part. And stage 5 is the most overlooked, but, as we'll see, one of the most important.

  15. The Perfect 14-Day Japan Travel Itinerary for First Timers

    The Imperial Palace in Tokyo 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

  16. 10 Days in Japan: Top 5 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

    1 night in Hakone 3 nights in Kyoto 2 nights in Osaka This itinerary is ideal for you to explore Japan's major highlights in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Experience the best of Japan, including plenty of hands-on, authentic activities that would make your trip memorable. Tokyo, as the capital city, offers a perfect blend of history and modernity.

  17. Japan itinerary: How to get the best out of Japan in 10 days

    Last updated on January 12, 2024 Looking for the perfect way to spend 10 days in Japan? We spent sooo long crafting our 10-day Japan itinerary, sifting through all the best things to do and how to make the most of it all. A trip like this is an investment, so you want to get it right!

  18. 15 things to know before traveling to Japan

    1. Book accommodation in advance (and arrive at the right time) You can probably get a room at a basic business hotel without a reservation in a pinch, but why risk it? Top accommodations can book up weeks or even months in advance, so it's best to plan ahead.

  19. 15 Days in Japan

    With 15 days in Japan, you can delight in a well-rounded introduction to Tokyo and Kyoto's rich history and culture on a highlights tour or include time in Kanazawa, Naoshima, and Hakone to immerse yourself in the country's art scene. Those looking to get off the beaten path can make their way north from Tokyo to Akita and back, while travelers seeking a relaxed trip will enjoy the gentle pace ...

  20. 10 best road trips in Japan

    Get out and explore Japan's incredible natural scenery on this coast-to-coast road trip ©varandah/Shutterstock 4. Coast-to-coast Hokkaidō. Best for gorgeous northern countryside Rausu - Hakodate; 700km (435 miles), 3-4 days. Hokkaidō, Japan's northernmost island, is a driver's dream: vast, untamed, sparsely populated and veined with quality roads (though they're best avoided in the ...

  21. Kyoto Bucket List: 18 Amazing Things to do in Kyoto, Japan

    Day Trip Ideas from Kyoto Nara. Nara makes an excellent day trip destination from Kyoto. Feed the deer, visit Kasuga-taisha, and tour Todai-ji Temple. Until 1998, the main hall of Todai-ji Temple was the world's largest wooden building, having been bumped from the top of the list by a baseball stadium in Japan as well as other buildings.

  22. Trip Ideas

    A Quiet Stay on one of Japan's Cat Islands: Manabeshima. Relaxing Stay. Art-Infused Experiences at Motonosumi Shrine and Nagato Yumoto Onsen. Setouchi encompasses charming seaside towns, vibrant cities, and a beautiful sea dotted with islands. Find ideas and inspiration for your next Setouchi trip.

  23. Plan a Japan Winter Trip 2024: Top Experiences & 2 Itineraries

    Winter in Japan is from December to February and the weather is cold and dry. In Sapporo on Hokkaido, the average daily temperature range is from 0°C (32°F) in the warmest part of the day down to -6°C (20°F) at night. While in Tokyo or Kyoto temperatures average above freezing, ranging from 2 to 10°C (36-50°F) on average.

  24. This Tree House Resort in Japan Has 360-degree Jungle Views

    With a winding staircase leading up to the Spiral Tree House, nature and comfortable living are perfectly merged in the forest with 360-degree views of the Japanese island's jungle, complete ...

  25. Food to Try in Japan on Vacation

    Japanese cuisine, known for its fresh ingredients, precision in preparation, and harmonious balance of flavors, offers an incredible culinary experience far beyond the well-known sushi and sashimi.

  26. 12 of the best things to do in Japan with kids

    Enjoy the cherry blossoms. If you're in Japan in March, you should bring your baby or toddler to a local cherry blossom viewing. Any major city will have a park or hilltop where the yoshino cherries thrive. In Tokyo, Ueno park and the Imperial Palace are excellent spots. Osaka Castle is also gorgeous at this time of year.

  27. Australian woman reveals KFC burger in Japan that needs to be on menus

    An Aussie KFC fanatic says the fast food chain have created a burger overseas that needs to come Down Under immediately. Sydney executive assistant Lisa Wenban, won a trip to Japan's capital ...