One of the most common questions we get asked about Japan is how many days to spend in Japan to make the most of your trip. It’s not a cut and dry answer, because it ultimate depends on your budget, interests, and travel style. However, there are some general recommendations we can make to help you decide how long to stay.
We most often recommend spending at least one week in Japan to get a taste of the country and visit some of the major tourist destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. However, if you have more time and want to explore more of the country, you can easily spend two or three weeks in Japan.
The key to seeing and experiencing as much of Japan as possible is to plan your itinerary carefully and prioritize the things you really want to see and do.
There are way too many sights, cities, and experiences to do in one trip. So you will need to be judicious and only add things to your itinerary if they really excite you.
In this article, we will explore different options for how many days to spend in Japan based on different travel styles and interests. We will also provide some sample itineraries and tips for making the most of your time in the country. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this guide will help you plan the perfect trip to Japan.
Planning Your Japan Trip?
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- In Tokyo: The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo
- In Kyoto: ACE Hotel Kyoto
- In Osaka: Intercontinental Osaka
Best Tours to Book
Planning Your Trip
When planning a trip to Japan, there are several things to consider to ensure that your experience is enjoyable and stress-free. In this section, we will cover the ideal duration for your trip, the best time to visit, and budgeting your trip.
How Many Days to Spend in Japan
The ideal duration for your trip to Japan depends on your travel goals and interests. We recommend spending at least one week in Japan. This will allow you to explore multiple cities and regions and experience the unique culture and traditions of Japan.
For those with more time, you can adopt a more leisurely pace and have the opportunity to visit lesser-known destinations. With two weeks, you can explore the major cities and also venture out to the countryside and smaller towns. A one-month trip allows for even more flexibility and the chance to truly immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
One-Week Japan Itinerary
Days 1-3: Tokyo
While you could easily spend 7 or more days just in Tokyo, you’ll have to do the abbreviated version in order to see more of the country.
We recommend following this 3-day Tokyo itinerary. You can mix and match what you do, to suit your interests.
Top things to see in Tokyo include:
- Tokyo Skytree
- Tsukiji Outer Market (read more about it here)
- Shibuya Crossing at Shibuya Station
- Meiji Jingu Shrine
- The Imperial Palace East Gardens
- Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple
You’ll definitely want to indulge in some ramen, which can be found in abundance at Tokyo Station Ramen Street.
Day 3: Hakone/Mt. Fuji
The major reason people come to this area is for Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi, two very beautiful natural highlights of the area. Hakone is also famous for its traditional hot springs (onsen) and Ryokan.
This is the place to go if you want to experience these hot baths. The onsens are separated by gender and are a “no bathing suit” style traditional bath. Here are a few things you’ll want to do in Hakone:
- Take the cable car to see Mt. Fuji
- Go hiking
- Hakone open-air museum
- Hakone Yumoto hot springs
- Owakudani – an active volcano
- Lake Ashi
Day 4: Kyoto
Kyoto is known for its temples, Kaiseki cuisine, and even tofu, so this is an excellent place to spend a few days immersed in a fascinating culture.
You’ll want to see the temples of Kyoto, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Golden Temple, visit Nishiki Market, see the geishas walking around the city center, and eat a wonderful meal.
Another way to experience the cuisine is to take a cooking class. AirKitchen matches you with dozens of locals who will show you the ins and outs of Japanese cooking in their own kitchen.
Tours to Book in Kyoto
- Kyoto Private Custom Walking & Sightseeing Tour
- Private Geisha district tour “Explore Gion, the Geisha world”
- Traditional Tea Ceremony wearing a Kimono in Kyoto MAIKOYA
- Kyoto Samurai Experience
- Nishiki Market Food Tour in Kyoto
Day 5: Split Between Kyoto & Osaka
I recommend spending the extra day between Kyoto and Osaka – splitting your time in these cities as you see fit. You might want to spend more time in Kyoto seeing the temples, or you might want to get to Osaka to experience the street food.
Since it’s a quick transition between these two cities, and there is so much to see and do, you’ll definitely be able to take advantage of the extra day.
Day 6: Osaka
Osaka is a lively port city packed with interesting architecture, an incredible street food scene, buzzing nightlife, and cherry-blossom trees that bring color to the city in the spring.
We have a 2-day Osaka itinerary that you’ll want to follow to be sure you see it all. Here are some top sights to see in Osaka:
- Osaka Castle and Park
- Shopping in Shinsaibashi
- Osaka Aquarium
- Tempozan Ferris Wheel
- Omeda Sky Building
- Universal Studios Osaka
- Shinsekai shopping area
Be sure to visit Dotonbori Street to try all the Japanese specialties, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki. It’s best after 8pm, when the street gets packed with people and becomes exciting. If you have time, also visit the food-focused Kuromon Ichiba Market.
Tours to Book in Osaka
- Deep Backstreet Osaka Tours
- Osaka Food Tour (10 Delicious Dishes at 5 hidden Eateries)
- Osaka Walking Tour
- Eat, Drink, Cycle: Osaka Food and Bike Tour
Day 7: Kobe
From Osaka-Umeda stations, take the Hanshin or Kobe line to Kobe-Sannomiya station. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the train type.
The city of Kobe is rather large and there are a few things to see. You can visit the Kobe Harborland for shopping, restaurants and bars. We spent our day in Kobe having a really amazing lunch at a Kobe beef restaurant, which was very much worth it.
Then we transferred to Kobe’s Nada district where you find all the sake breweries. Many of the breweries offer tours and tastings and they are all reachable by train and on foot. See this post for information how how to visit the breweries
If You Have a Second Week in Japan
If you have the time to spend, adding a second week to your trip is a great way to expand what you see in Japan and spend more quality time doing it.
I wouldn’t just add extra days at the end of the trip, however. I would add extra stops throughout the 7-day itinerary to lengthen it. That would look something like this:
- Day 1-3: Tokyo
- Day 4: Kamakura
- Day 5-6: Hakone and Mount Fuji
- Day 7-8: Kyoto
- Day 9: Nara
- Day 10-11: Osaka
- Day 12: Kobe
- Day 13-14: Setouchi, Hiroshima & Miyajima
Day 4: Kamakura
For a change in pace, visit Kamakura, a seaside town south of Tokyo. It was the political center of medieval Japan, but is now a popular resort town, with dozens of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
The most recognizable of these is the Great Buddha, a 42-foot-high bronze statue that has withstood the test of time.
Spend the day visiting the temples and shrines, hiking one of the many trails, enjoying Shichirigahama Beach, and the many museums around town.
Day 9: Nara
Nara Park: Take a JR train to Nara Park at the base of Mount Wakakusa. The park is home to more than 1200 freely roaming deer that are domesticated enough to let you feed them.
You will also see the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue and one of the tallest pagodas in Japan, among other historic structures. Take the JR train onward to Osaka.
Day 13-14: Setouchi, Hiroshima & Miyajima
The more off-the-beaten-path Setouchi region in Japan is a gem that many travelers miss in their typical itinerary, except those who make a point to visit Hiroshima (which we’ll talk about next). Setouchi has 350 islands that flank the Seto Inland Sea, so there are many hidden gems to explore.
For foodies, you don’t want to miss the oysters and the udon. With the proximity to the sea, oysters are a specialty in the area, with all-you-can-eat shacks open throughout the season.
Ritsurin Garden and Korakuen are two of the most beautiful of Japanese gardens and a must-see in Setouchi.
Hiroshima & Miyajima
Knowing that Hiroshima was effectively leveled in 1945, you will be in awe to see the city now. Hiroshima preserves the memory of the atomic bombing in the Peace Memorial Park and Museum.
Other popular sights to see in the city are the Hiroshima Castle, the city’s family shrines and temples, the Museum of Art and the Flame of Peace garden.
You can also go out to Miyajima, where the orange Great Torii Gate sits at the entrance to the Itsukushima temple, and is partially submerged in water during high tide.
If you have a Japan Rail Pass, it will cover the train and ferry between Hiroshima and Miyajima on the Japan Rail ferry.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Japan depends on your travel preferences. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are popular times to visit due to the mild weather and beautiful scenery. Spring is especially popular for cherry blossom season, while autumn is known for its stunning fall foliage.
Summer (June to August) can be hot and humid, but it is also a great time to experience festivals and outdoor activities. Winter (December to February) can be cold, but it is a great time to visit ski resorts and enjoy winter festivals.
Budgeting Your Trip
Japan can be an expensive destination, but there are ways to budget your trip without sacrificing your experience. Accommodation can be one of the biggest expenses, but there are affordable options such as capsule hotels and guesthouses. Eating at local restaurants and street vendors can also be a budget-friendly option, and many museums and attractions offer discounted admission for students and seniors.
When budgeting your trip, consider the cost of transportation, food, accommodation, and activities. Researching and booking in advance can also help you save money. With careful planning, you can have a memorable trip to Japan without breaking the bank.
Transportation in Japan
When planning your trip to Japan, it’s important to consider the different transportation options available to you. Japan has a well-developed transportation system that includes bullet trains, public transportation, and driving.
Japan’s famous bullet trains, also known as shinkansen, are a great way to travel between major cities quickly and comfortably. These high-speed trains can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h and are known for their punctuality and reliability. You can buy a Japan Rail Pass that will save you money on the 7 or 14-days you travel around Japan.
The shinkansen network connects most major cities in Japan, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. You can purchase tickets at the train station or online, and it’s recommended to reserve your seat in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
Japan has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, subways, and trains. While it can be overwhelming at first, it’s also efficient, reliable, and relatively affordable. The Japan Rail Pass is a popular option for international tourists, as it allows unlimited travel on most JR trains, buses, and ferries for a set period of time.
Other options include prepaid IC cards, such as Suica or Pasmo, which can be used on most trains, buses, and subways in major cities. It’s important to note that rush hour can be extremely crowded, so it’s best to avoid traveling during peak times if possible.
Driving in Japan
Driving in Japan can be a convenient way to explore rural areas and small towns, but it’s important to be aware of the rules and regulations. In Japan, cars drive on the left side of the road, and road signs are in Japanese and English.
You will need an international driving permit, which can be obtained in your home country before your trip. It’s also important to note that parking can be expensive and difficult to find in major cities, so it’s often easier to use public transportation instead.
When planning your trip to Japan, it’s important to consider which destinations you want to visit. Here are some of the top destinations to consider:
Tokyo is a bustling metropolis that offers a unique blend of modern and traditional Japanese culture. Some of the top attractions in Tokyo include the vibrant neighborhood of Shinjuku, the historic district of Asakusa, the trendy area of Shibuya, and the upscale shopping district of Ginza. Other must-see sights in Tokyo include Tokyo Station, the Imperial Palace, and the Tokyo Skytree.
Kyoto is a city that is steeped in history and tradition. It is home to numerous temples, shrines, and gardens that offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage. Some of the top attractions in Kyoto include the stunning Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), and the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Kyoto Station is also worth a visit for its impressive architecture and shopping options.
Osaka is a vibrant city that is known for its food, nightlife, and entertainment. It is home to numerous attractions, including the iconic Osaka Castle, the bustling Dotonbori district, and the Universal Studios Japan theme park. Other must-see sights in Osaka include the Umeda Sky Building and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island and is known for its stunning natural beauty. It is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and hiking and outdoor activities in the summer. Some of the top attractions in Hokkaido include the picturesque town of Otaru, the stunning Shiretoko National Park, and the vibrant city of Sapporo.
Okinawa is a group of islands located in the southernmost part of Japan. It is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and unique culture. Some of the top attractions in Okinawa include the stunning Churaumi Aquarium, the historic Shuri Castle, and the beautiful beaches of Ishigaki Island.
Japan has a rich cultural heritage that you can discover through a range of cultural experiences. You can immerse yourself in the country’s traditions and customs, even if you have little to no knowledge of Japanese. Here are some cultural experiences you should try during your visit to Japan.
Japan’s historical sites offer a glimpse into the country’s rich past. You can visit the Meiji Shrine, which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. The shrine is located in a serene forest in the heart of Tokyo and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Another historical site worth visiting is Ueno Park, which is home to several museums and galleries, including the Tokyo National Museum.
Japanese cuisine is famous all over the world, and for a good reason. Sushi, sashimi, and tempura are just a few examples of the many delicious dishes you can try during your visit.
You should also try sake, a traditional Japanese rice wine, and kaiseki, a multi-course meal that is served in traditional Japanese restaurants. Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake filled with meat, vegetables, and seafood, is another must-try dish.
Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that offer a unique cultural experience. You can stay in a ryokan and enjoy a traditional Japanese-style room, complete with tatami mats and futons. You can also enjoy a kaiseki meal and relax in an onsen, a hot spring bath.
Japan is a country with a diverse and stunning natural landscape. From the iconic Mount Fuji to the tranquil hot springs, there are a variety of natural attractions that you won’t want to miss during your visit.
Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san as it is known in Japan, is one of the most iconic natural attractions in the country. Standing at 3,776 meters tall, it is the highest mountain in Japan and is considered a sacred site. Many visitors climb Mount Fuji during the summer months, but you can also enjoy the stunning views of the mountain from nearby peaks, such as Mount Tenjo or Mount Mitsutoge.
Japan is famous for its hot springs, or onsen, which are scattered throughout the country. A visit to an onsen is a great way to relax and soak in the natural beauty of Japan. One popular hot spring destination is Hakone, which is located near Mount Fuji and offers stunning views of the mountain. Other popular hot springs include Kusatsu, Beppu, and Noboribetsu.
Cherry Blossom Spots
Cherry blossom season, or sakura season, is one of the most popular times to visit Japan. During this time, the country is covered in a blanket of pink and white cherry blossoms. Some of the best cherry blossom spots include Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, and Hirosaki Castle in Aomori.
Japan has many national parks that offer visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty of the country. Some of the most popular national parks include Nikko National Park, which is home to stunning waterfalls and temples, and Shiretoko National Park, which is located in Hokkaido and is known for its rugged coastline and diverse wildlife.
Day Trips from Major Cities
When planning your trip to Japan, it’s important to consider taking day trips from the major cities to explore the surrounding areas. Here are some recommended day trips from Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
Nikko is a popular day trip from Tokyo, known for its stunning temples and shrines set against a backdrop of beautiful mountain scenery. The most famous attraction in Nikko is the Toshogu Shrine, which is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Other popular attractions include the Rinnoji Temple and the Kanmangafuchi Abyss.
Kamakura is another popular day trip from Tokyo, known for its many temples and shrines, as well as its beautiful beaches. The most famous attraction in Kamakura is the Great Buddha, a bronze statue that stands over 13 meters tall. Other popular attractions include the Hasedera Temple, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and the Enoshima Island.
Nara is a popular day trip from Kyoto, known for its many temples and shrines, as well as its friendly deer population. The most famous attraction in Nara is the Todaiji Temple, which houses the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. Other popular attractions include the Kasuga Taisha Shrine and the Nara Park.
Uji is a small town located just outside of Kyoto, known for its beautiful tea fields and historic temples. The most famous attraction in Uji is the Byodoin Temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other popular attractions include the Ujigami Shrine and the Uji Bridge.
Hiroshima is a popular day trip from Osaka, known for its tragic history and beautiful scenery. The most famous attraction in Hiroshima is the Peace Memorial Park, which commemorates the victims of the atomic bomb that was dropped on the city during World War II. Other popular attractions include the Hiroshima Castle and the Miyajima Island.
Miyajima is a small island located just off the coast of Hiroshima, known for its beautiful Itsukushima Shrine and friendly deer population. The most famous attraction in Miyajima is the floating torii gate, which is one of the most photographed sights in Japan. Other popular attractions include the Daisho-in Temple and the Mount Misen.
Pros and Cons of Traveling in Japan
Traveling to Japan can be an amazing experience, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding how many days to spend in the country. Here are some things to consider:
- Unique Culture: Japan has a rich and unique culture that is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. From traditional tea ceremonies to modern pop culture, there is something for everyone.
- Beautiful Scenery: Japan is home to stunning natural landscapes, including cherry blossom trees, Mount Fuji, and beautiful beaches.
- Safe and Clean: Japan is known for being one of the safest and cleanest countries in the world. You can feel comfortable walking around at night and using public transportation.
- Delicious Food: Japanese cuisine is famous around the world for its delicious and healthy dishes. From sushi to ramen to tempura, there are endless options to try.
- Efficient Transportation: Japan has a highly efficient and reliable transportation system, including the famous bullet trains. This makes it easy to get around the country quickly and easily.
- Expensive: Japan can be quite expensive, especially in major cities like Tokyo. Accommodations, food, and transportation costs can add up quickly.
- Language Barrier: While many Japanese people speak English, there can still be a language barrier, especially in more rural areas. It’s a good idea to learn some basic Japanese phrases before your trip.
- Crowded: Japan is a densely populated country, and major cities like Tokyo can feel quite crowded. This can make it difficult to navigate and can be overwhelming for some travelers.
- Strict Customs: Japan has strict customs and social norms that may be different from what you’re used to. It’s important to research these customs before your trip to avoid any unintentional faux pas.
- Natural Disasters: Japan is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons. While the country is well-prepared for these events, it’s still important to be aware of the risks and have a plan in case of an emergency.
What are the must-visit places in Japan for a 10-day itinerary?
If you have 10 days to spend in Japan, you can visit some of the country’s most iconic destinations. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the most popular cities to visit. In Tokyo, you can explore the vibrant neighborhoods of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku, and visit famous landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower, the Meiji Shrine, and the Sensoji Temple. In Kyoto, you can visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Kinkakuji Temple, and the Gion district. In Osaka, you can try local food and visit the Osaka Castle and the Dotonbori district.
How many days should I spend in Japan to get a good experience?
The number of days you should spend in Japan depends on your interests and budget. If you want to see the major cities and landmarks, a 10-14 day itinerary is recommended. However, if you want to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations, you may want to spend 3-4 weeks in Japan.
What is the best time of year to visit Japan for a 10-day itinerary?
The best time to visit Japan depends on your interests. Spring (March to May) is the best time to see the cherry blossoms, while fall (September to November) is the best time to see the autumn foliage. Summer (June to August) is a popular time to visit, but it can be hot and humid. Winter (December to February) is a good time to visit if you want to see the snow and enjoy winter sports.
Is 21 days too long for a trip to Japan?
Twenty-one days is a good amount of time to explore Japan and see both the major cities and off-the-beaten-path destinations. You can visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, and Okinawa, and still have time to explore other regions and attractions. It is recommended to plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time in Japan.
Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.