If you’ve been wanting to visit Japan for as long as I had, you’ll probably be just as excited to plan the trip and build your Japan itinerary. However, planning a trip to Japan can be quite overwhelming, because there are so many place to go and things to see. With such a long flight to get there, and the expense involved, you want to make sure you see everything possible in your 10 days to 2 weeks in Japan. Believe me, we understand! That’s why we’ve prepared the perfect Japan Itinerary for you, if you have at least 10 days to spend in the country.
Where to Go in Japan
Japan is full of mesmerizing landscapes, incredible sights and – my favorite – amazing food! There are a good number of tourist destinations that just about anyone planning a trip to Japan would want to include in the itinerary. But, obviously, with just 10-14 days in Japan, there’s no way you can cover them all. We’ve chosen the top destinations that we feel you can fit comfortably into 10+ days.
Do keep in mind that traveling in Japan can be expensive, as well as long. The cities aren’t as that close together, so you have to be very wise in your planning to make everything fit together perfectly.
Here are the top destinations we recommend visiting in 10+ days in Japan:
Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and Miyajima, and Kamakura.
This is the place to go if you want to experience a traditional onsen (hot springs). The onsens are separated by gender and are a “no bathing suit” style traditional bath. You can also take the cable car to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
How to Spend 2 weeks in Japan
There are really two perfectly acceptable choices for your vacation in Japan. You can do it the easy way, or the much more difficult way. Either way can be quite rewarding, but it depends greatly on your travel style and how much energy you want to put into planning.
The options are to book a guided, pre-planned tour, or to plan everything yourself and do a self-guided tour. The first options is the easiest, by far. While Japan is very easy to get around and well suited for travelers, it can be difficult to do it on your own due to the language barrier and the difficult train schedules you’ll have to navigate. A pre-planned tour won’t give you the same freedom to do what you want, but it is completely planned out for you and you will always have a guide along to help you with anything you need.
We will give you the options for both below, including a pre-planned tour we highly recommend and a 14-day self-guided itinerary to follow.
Go on a Guided Japan Tour
Japan and More offers a fully escorted, small group tours of Japan. The cost of the tour includes all accommodations, transportation, entrance fees, some meals, and pre-departure help and advice. The tour group is small, at just 8 people, so you won’t feel like you’re stuck on a bus or anything. They have three different tours that depart throughout the year.
- Spring 2019 Tours: 9-nights – explore Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, plus a few others like Nagoya and Takayama, depending on which itinerary you choose. There are 6 choices so you can find one you love!
- Discover Japan Tour: 14 nights – Start out in Tokyo, then travel to Nagoya and Kiso Valley, stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan, visit the ancient capital of Nara, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and see the famous floating torii gate at Miyajima. Ride a cable car up Mount Koya, soak in a Japanese onsen bath in Hakone, and discover Kyoto and Osaka.
- Explore Japan Tour: (spring or fall) 21 nights – Visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, plus stay 4 nights at a traditional Japanese Ryokan, and a Buddhist temple on Mount Koya. You’ll visit the beautifully preserved villages of Kiso Valley, relax in a hot sand bath in Beppu, witness the magnificence of the Great Buddha in Kamakura. This is the tour that will ensure you see it all!
For more information, check out Japan and More’s website. You’ll get $100 off the cost of your tour by using our coupon code. Not sure about a guide tour? Read this review by someone who’s taken the trip.Use coupon code: SAJN for $100 off
Self-Guided Two Weeks in Japan
With a good plan of action, your Japan 2 week itinerary will run smoothly and provide you with a stunning overview of this beautiful country. If this schedule seems to0 ambitious for just 14 days in Japan, you can always extend your stay in the areas that interest you most and cut out some you want to save for your next trip. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s entirely up to you.
Day 1-3: Tokyo
Arrive in Tokyo. Keep in mind that Tokyo is a huge city with many different areas to explore. You won’t want to stay put in one area, but travel around and see as much as possible. We recommend seeing major sites like Tokyo Skytree, Tsukiji fish market, Hamarikyu Gardens, Meiji Shinto Shrine, Imperial Palace, and Shibuya Crossing. Also try to go shopping in Ginza, take a food tour, and try an Izikaya or two.
Day 4: Hakone and Mount Fuji
Transfer to Hakone. Known for its traditional onsen, or hotsprings, Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and it has incredible mountain scenery and hikes, as well as art museums and shrines to see. You can also take the cable car to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. You’ll want a full day here to explore and stay overnight.
Day 5-6: Kyoto
Transfer to Kyoto. There are many iconic and eye-catching shrines and temples in Kyoto that you’ll want to see. including the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Golden Temple. You can’t leave without visiting Nishiki Market, seeing the geishas walking around the city center, participating in a tea ceremony, and eating at a traditional kaiseki restaurant for lunch or dinner. At the right time of year, you can also see the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Fushimi Inari-Taisha temple.
Day 7: 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 8-9: Osaka
For foodies, there’s nothing quite as exciting as Dotonbori Street during the evening hours. The street comes alive with every kind of Japanese specialty street food, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Visit Osaka Castle and Park, and check out the Instant Ramen Museum. If you have time, visit the food-focused Kuromon Ichiba Market and shop for a Japanese knife.
Day 10: Kobe
Take a 30-minute train ride to Kobe to try the famous Kobe beef. You will thank yourself for doing it – there’s nothing quite like it, and as a foodie, you owe it to yourself! On the way back to Osaka, you can stop off in Kobe’s Nada district for a tasting and history about the making of sake at a few sake breweries.
If you aren’t a sake drinker, check out the Himeji Castle, just 30 mins outside Kobe.
Stay overnight again in Osaka.
Day 11 & 12: 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.
Day 13: 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 14: Return to Tokyo.
How to Plan a Vacation in Japan
Best Time to Go to Japan
When you decide to go to Japan should be based on what type of experience you want to have. A lot of people make it a priority to go to Japan in the spring to see the cherry blossoms, while others wouldn’t want to be there during such a high tourist season. If you want to catch the fireworks season in Japan, you need to go in August, but it’s really steamy and hot at that time of year. The best weather can be found from late March to May.
Another great time to visit is in autumn, when the leaves are changing, from September to November. As it can get very hot in summer in Japan, try to avoid traveling between June and August.
Getting to and Around Japan
Many top airlines have direct flights into Japan. You can check the status of flights into Japan from your home airport, to see which route and airline is best for you. Top Japan airlines include ANA and Japan Airlines, but you can fly to Japan with most U.S. airlines that fly internationally, like United and American.
Once you arrive in Japan – likely in Tokyo – you can get the train into the city center. The best way to do it is to get on the Japan Rail (JR) Narita Express (called NEX). If you have a Japan Rail Pass, this journey is included in the pass. It goes to Tokyo Station in 60-90 minutes. You will then likely have to change trains at Tokyo Station for the Yamanote Line, which serves most of the tourist hotels.
The best way to travel around Japan in by train. You’ll want to purchase a 14-day Japan Rail Pass. The pass allows you to travel on all JR trains throughout Japan, including the high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains. It’s the most economical and worry-free way to travel. Travel in Japan is not cheap and the cost of buying individual tickets will far exceed the cost of the Japan Rail Pass, which you can purchase for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days.
Just remember, you have to purchase it before entering the country and give time for it to be delivered to you. Read our guide on where to buy a Japan Rail Pass and if it’s worth it.
When planning your Japan itinerary, keep in mind the distance between each destination (for instance, the train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 3:15). As long as there is a train linking each of your chosen cities, you’ll be able to easily travel around the country.
Traveling in Japan is not cheap, but you can save money in Japan by doing things like buying a Japan Rail Pass and eating street food.
Tipping in Japan
If you’re from the United States, Canada, or another country where tipping is customary, you should be aware that tipping in Japan is not customary. If you do try to tip, in a restaurant or a hotel for instance, it might even be refused or considered rude. To avoid awkwardness, follow the Japanese custom and do not tip.
Eating in Japan
Japan is a country with a lot of unique foods. You will have the best overall experience if you’re willing to try the food and have an open mind that you mind really like something you’ve never tried before.
Aside from the expected sushi you’ll find all over the country, there are many specialties you should try. Some of our favorites are okonomiyaki (found mostly in Osaka), takoyaki (also from Osaka), yakitori, gyoza, and Kobe beef (only in Kobe). You might also want to try kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto, a traditional, yet very modern preparation. Many of the top kaiseki restaurants have been awarded Michelin stars, too!
⇒ Learn the proper way to eat sushi in Japan.
Whether you take a guided tour or do this Japan 2 week itinerary on your own, I am certain it will be one of the most exciting and rewarding trips you’ll ever take. It is a fascinating country full of surprises.
Let us know how your trip to Japan turns out!
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Laura Lynch is the creator and writer of Savored Journeys, an avid world traveler and lover of great food and wine. She has been a travel writer for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.