Categories

Japan Itinerary – The Best Of Japan In Two Weeks

Dear Reader: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this article, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep the site running and free for all. Thank you! ❤️

 Are you planning a trip to Japan and looking for a Japan itinerary? Here we give you first-hand travel tips and recommendations for Japan, together with a two-week Japan travel itinerary with the places we consider to be the highlights of Japan for first-timers.

The Land of the Rising Sun is the world’s fastest-growing travel destination, and we understand why. We love Japan – with its incredibly varied and healthy food, its exciting mix of old history and futuristic cities, and its unbeatable combination of hiking in the mountains followed by soaking in an onsen /hot spring bath.

Plus, Japan has the best and most effective public transportation system in the world, making it easy to get around the country. Japanese trains always run on time and are super fast. Japan is a modern and clean country with a very low crime rate, making it an easy, comfortable, and safe country to travel in.

This is our recommended itinerary for 2 weeks in Japan which includes our favorite places to visit in Japan and what we think are the top things to do in Japan. This itinerary is flexible and can easily be extended or shortened depending on the length of your Japan trip.

Along with descriptions and travel information for each place and how to get around, we have also included some recommendations for places to stay. None of the hotels recommended here are paid placements or have sponsored our stay in any way. If you book through any of our links, we make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep our site running – so thank you in advance for your support! ♥

We hope you find this Japan Itinerary helpful when planning your trip! 🙂

BONUS: We have made a free printable PDF and ePUB version of this two-week Japan travel itinerary available to our newsletter subscribers. Perfect to print or carry on your iPad!

⇒ CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE NEWSLETTER AND DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE JAPAN PDF ITINERARY ⇐

How To Travel In Japan

We used the train to travel around Japan. It can be done by bus but it would be much slower. The Japanese train system is amazing with an extensive network of high-speed trains that can take you almost everywhere in Japan.

JR Railway Pass – JR Pass

Japan has a unique train pass available only to foreign visitors that makes train travel much cheaper. The pass provides almost unlimited use of Japan’s extensive rail network and high-speed trains. It is available for either 7, 14, or 21 days.

The easiest and least expensive way to buy the Japan Rail Pass is online from an official JR Pass vendor before you leave for Japan.

Click here for prices & information on how to order the JR Pass online

We recommend that you wait to activate your JR Pass until you are leaving Tokyo as Tokyo has just a few JR Lines so you will most likely not use your JR Pass in Tokyo. It is best to use the JR Pass for long-distance train travel around Japan.

Why You Should Visit Japan

Japan has a unique combination of modern and future trends and pop culture and old traditional culture, temples, castles, festivals, clothing, and age-old traditions. Hardly any other country in the world blends this so seamlessly. While walking in the streets of Kyoto, one minute you walk next to a girl wearing a kimono, while the next you walk shoulder to shoulder with a girl in the latest pop culture fashion looking like something from the future. It is incredible!

One of the reasons why Japan has managed to preserve its unique culture, language, and traditions so well, is that Japan was isolated from the rest of the world, and especially the West, for 220 years (!), from the early 17th century until 1853. In this period, no foreign people were allowed to enter Japan, and ordinary Japanese people were not allowed to leave Japan. Going to Japan is still like entering another world, it is totally different from the rest of Asia, and also Europe, the USA, and Australia.

The stunning temples, the interesting and varied sights, the beautiful nature and mountains, the delicious and healthy food, and the friendliness and politeness of the Japanese people is what fascinates me the most about Japan, and why I think you should visit Japan.

Two weeks is the ultimate time to experience the highlights of Japan for first-timers, in my opinion. With two weeks on your hands, you will be able to visit the two most important and distinct cities of Japan – Tokyo, and Kyoto, plus do some day trips from these two big cities to Nikko and Nara, or even Osaka if you want some more big city time.

You will also have time to experience some of the country’s beautiful nature, see Mount Fuji in Fuji Five Lakes and/ or Hakone, and do the scenic Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. You will be able to head to the western part of Japan, Takayama, and Kanazawa, which was a real surprise to us as they have so many awesome things to do and see. You can also head down to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island and see one of Japan’s biggest tourist attractions – the bright red floating Tori gate out in the sea.

But if you have less than two weeks, or even better, more than two weeks, read at the bottom of this article as I give you suggestions of how to shorten and extend this itinerary.

This Japan Itinerary includes the “Golden Route” of Japan and is the perfect route to do if you are visiting Japan for the first time. Here are 11 reasons why you should check out Japan and book your next vacation there.

The Ultimate Two Weeks Japan Itinerary

Japan_map_smallPin
Our two week Japan itinerary includes these 11 places

1. Tokyo (A) – Day 1 & 2 (4 nights)

_DSC7165Pin
Me in Shibuya in Tokyo, one of the world`s busiest street crossings. Shibuya is one of the fashion centers in Japan with great nightlife.

Start your Japan adventure in the urban, modern, and energetic big-city Tokyo, the capital of Japan with 13,8 million people.

Tokyo should be an essential part of everyone’s Japan Itinerary, especially those visiting Japan for the first time. Tokyo is the perfect mix of old and new Japan and this big city has it all – fantastic traditional grand temples and shrines, top-notch and corky museums and art exhibitions, and beautiful and relaxing zen gardens.

Tokyo is also an ultra-modern city, not only filled with Japanese history but also futuristic neo-sci-fi streetscapes that make you feel like you’re a part of the Blade Runner movie.

The city has one of the world´s best and most amazing shopping, dining, and nightlife, with the biggest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world in the 2019 guide. Toky has an incredible 230 restaurants with Michelin stars! But you will also find delicious and cheaper restaurants and food courts. Grab a hot bowl of steaming ramen and slurp away just like the locals. Read our post on what dishes you must try when visiting Japan.

Tokyo can be divided into eight different and exciting areas and neighborhoods, all with their distinct character and lots of things to do:

  • Shinjuku
    Head to Shinjuku to see the modern skyscraper version of Tokyo and to do some big mall shopping, but here you will also find Golden Gai and Memory Lane, two bar and restaurant alleys that have been unchanged since the second world war.
  • Shibuya
    If you want even more action, head to vibrant Shibuya with the world´s busiest pedestrian crossing of which you can have the perfect bird´s eye look from the Starbucks cafe. Shibuya has fun and action 24/7 with lots of shopping, bars, and restaurants. Harajuku is a small area within Shibuya that is most famous for being the center of Tokyo’s goth/ zombie/ emo-like subculture. The perfect place to go for some people watching. Running through Shibuya is a wide boulevard-like street called Omotesando, sometimes called Tokyo’s Champs Elysées, with designer boutiques and international fashion brands. Our favorite street in Shibuya is “Cat Street” (Kyu-Shibuya-gawa Yuhodoro), which is more relaxed and has a more hipster kind of vibe. You will also find Tokyo`s grandest shrine, the Meiji-jingu Shrine, in Shibuya.
  • Ginza, Tokyo Station & Tsukiji
    Ginza is Tokyo`s answer to New York`s Fifth Avenue, or London`s Oxford Street, with broad boulevard shopping streets and the world-famous fish market – Tsukiji Fish Market just a short walk from these posh shopping streets. Although the fish market has moved, the outer market with lots of excellent seafood restaurants remains. We loved the beautiful Hama-rikyu Onshi-teien Garden located in this area, with its lovely tea house which dates back to 1704, perfect for a cup of Japanese tea.
  • Roppongi
    This area is famous for entertainment and nightlife, but it also contains several art museums, galleries, shopping centers, and theaters. The most international part of Tokyo, with restaurants having menus in English. The biggest sight in this area is Tokyo Tower (take the lift up to the main observation deck at 150 m, or up to the “special” deck at 250 m) and Roppongi Hills (with 220 restaurants and shops, offices, cinemas, a hotel, and art museums. Great city view from the top floor, the “Tokyo City View” which also has an open-air Sky Deck).
  • Ueno
    This area has several nice museums (including the biggest museum in Tokyo – Tokyo National Museum), art galleries, a zoo, and parks (like the lovely and huge Ueno-Koen Park).
  • Asakusa
    This is one of the few areas of Tokyo that still look much like it has for decades, except for Tokyo’s tallest building, the Tokyo Sky Tree (well worth a visit!). Here you also find Tokyo`s most visited temple, Senso-ji Temple, and the National Sumo Stadium Kokugikan.
  • Akihabara & Iidabashi
    Akihabara is also called Akiba and is the center of the geek culture, manga, and anime. Walk around the streets of Akiba and watch the craziness, or go shopping for electronics (both used and new). 
  • Odaiba & Tokyo Bay
    This is quite different from the rest of Tokyo as it is the result of urban planning in the 1990s. It consists of a beach, a waterfront, promenades, and walkways with a lovely view of the Rainbow Bridge, especially after dark. Here you find some big shopping malls and Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.

Spend two full days here, as there is plenty to do and see in Tokyo. Tokyo is the place to experience the modern side and culture of this amazing country.

Read more: What To See And Do In Tokyo – A Tokyo Itinerary

Where To Stay In Tokyo

MyStays Hotel
We stayed at MyStays Hotel in Asakusabashi and loved it. It is cheap and brand new with excellent service and location, close to the subway/train station Asakusabashi. The train station Akihabara is also within walking distance.  Lovely beds and the rooms have everything you need and more. The hotel has washing machines where you can wash your clothes. There are plenty of excellent and cheap restaurants nearby (check out the cozy pizzeria one street away), and there is a small convenient store (7 Eleven) in the basement of the hotel open 24/7.
Click for latest prices

It can be difficult to find a good and cheap hotel in Tokyo as it is an expensive city, so this is a real gem!

For more about Tokyo’s many exciting neighborhoods and our favorite Tokyo hotels, click here to read our ultimate guide to where to stay in Tokyo.

2. Nikko (B) – Day 3 – A Day Trip From Tokyo

DSC00530PinIn the morning of day 3, activate your JR train pass in Tokyo, and take an early morning train up to Nikko (2 hours north of Tokyo) for a day trip.

Nikko, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a small town tucked away among forest-covered mountains with several grand ancient Shinto shrines and temples.

Nikko is one of Japan`s biggest tourist attractions, and for a good reason. The temple buildings are stunning and beautifully located on the hillsides of Nikko town, surrounded by green and lush cedar trees.


The temples and shrines date back to the glories of the Edo period (1600-1868), with the Toshogu shrine being the biggest and most famous. Toshogu shrine was built in 1617 as a memorial for Tokugawa Ieyasu, founding ruler of the Tokugawa shogunate, or Edo Period.

Use the whole day walking among the colorful shrines and temples tucked away in the green and lush forest.

Head back to Tokyo for the night, or spend the night in Nikko (see below for our recommended places to stay in Nikko).

Read more: What To See And Do In Nikko

Where To Stay In Nikko

If you want to stay the night in Nikko, we recommend:

Nikko Station Hotel Classic
We walked past this hotel, which is located just opposite the Tabu train station right in the downtown of Nikko. The rooms are spacious by Japanese standard and cheap for Japan and this area. The hotel also has a nice Onsen/ hot spring.
Click for latest prices

Nikko Tokinoyu Hotel
The Nikko Tokinoyu Hotel has a perfect location as it is the hotel/ryokan that is closest located to the sights and temples of Nikko. You only have to walk 2 minutes to get to the temple area. There is a bus stop for the shuttle bus from the train station/ downtown of Nikko just outside the hotel. It is also possible to walk to the hotel from the train station. This ryokan has an onsen/ hot spring in the basement and free wifi in all rooms. There are plenty of restaurants nearby the hotel.
Click for latest prices

Okunoin Hotel Tokugawa
If you want to treat yourself to a top-notch traditional Japanese Ryokan (inn), then you should book a night at the Okunoin Ryokan Hotel Tokugawa. They have an excellent Onsen/ hot spring with a beautiful mountain view. The dinner is an authentic Japanese gourmet food experience. They have a free shuttle service that can pick you up at the train station or bus stop. This hotel is number 1 on Tripadvisor for Nikko hotels at the moment.
Click for latest prices

How To Get To Nikko

If you have bought and activated the JR Pass, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (from Tokyo Station or Ueno Station) to Utsunomiya Station. At Utsunomiya Station, transfer to the JR Nikko Line, and take the train to JR Nikko Station. With a good connection at Utsunomiya, the one-way trip takes about 100 minutes.

If you don´t have a JR Train Pass, read the end of our Nikko post.

How To Get Around Nikko

From Nikko train station there are buses (190 Yen = 2 us$ one way) up to the temple and shrine area. Or you can walk (uphill for about 20 min). Bus stops are announced in English onboard the bus.

3. Hakone (C) – Day 4 (1 night)

Take a morning train south to Hakone (2 hours), a part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Hakone is a scenic place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and enjoy the natural beauty of this national park and see the spectacular Mt Fuji.

Spend the day walking around Hakone and its peaceful surroundings, and admire the spectacular view of Japan’s highest mountain Mount Fuji (3776 meters), one of Japan`s three sacred mountains. At the center of Hakone is the Ashino-ko lake with its much-photographed red Torii gate.

Other highlights include the Odawara Castle, The Open Air Museum, Hakone Shrine, and Choanji Temple. Hakone is also well known for its many traditional Japanese Inns (Ryokans) and hot spring baths (Onsen).

Spend the night in Hakone, and in the evening indulge in one of the many famous hot springs/ Onsen here. Make sure to read up on the etiquette of taking an Onsen bath before you jump in though. 🙂

Read more: What To See And Do In Hakone – Hakone Itinerary

Fuji Five Lakes

If you have the time and want to explore some more of the area around Mt Fuji, you can also head to the Fuji Five Lakes, which is the area at the north base of Mt Fuji Mountain. This area is located 1000 meters above sea level and consists of the five lakes Kawaguchiko (the most accessible and has most things to do), Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, and Motosuko.

Here you can get a real close-up look at Mt Fuji, and this is the perfect base if you want to climb Mt Fuji (the climbing season is from July to September).

The most famous and popular attraction in the Fuji Five Lakes area is the red Chureito Pagoda with Mount Fuji in the background. I´m sure you have seen photos of it, they are everywhere on Instagram. 🙂

In Fuji Five Lakes, the lake resort area is called Fujigoko. Here you can do different outdoor sports activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and skiing, and snowboarding in winter. This area also has several hot springs, a couple of museums, and Fuji Q Highland, Japan´s most popular amusement parks with roller coasters.

Read more: What To See And Do In Fuji Five Lakes (Lake Kawaguchiko) – Fuji Five Lakes Itinerary

Where To Stay In Hakone

Mount View Hakone Ryokan
This beautiful ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is easy to access, with a bus stop right outside the hotel. It has delicious authentic Japanese food included in the price, both dinner, and breakfast, as well as a lovely Onsen/ hot spring.
Click for latest prices.

Hyatt Regency Hakone
The Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa seems just perfect and has everything you want in a hotel. The hotel has a free bar every day from 4 to 7 pm in the lounge area with a fireplace. The hotel has an eastern/ western fusion feel to it, both when it comes to interior and food. They provide a complimentary shuttle service from Odawara train station. This hotel also has a lovely Onsen/ hot spring, and the rooms have a mountain view.
Click for latest prices

How To Get To Hakone

If you have a JR Train Pass: From Tokyo Station, take a bullet train on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen line to Odawara Station (included in the JR Train Pass). From Odawara Station, take the Hakone Tozan line (a short 4 min train ride) to Hakone-Itabashi Station (not included in the JR Pass) and you are in Hakone, or you can take the bus from Odawara Station to Hakone. This trip from Tokyo to Hakone takes less than two hours in total.

There is, however, a faster direct route from Tokyo to Hakone called Odakyu Limited Express Romancecar on the Odakyu Electric Railway. But this is unfortunately NOT covered by the JR Train Pass as it is not part of the Japan Railways network. This direct train departs from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto Station in Hakone.

This Romancecar train trip takes one and a half hours and costs 2,080 yen (one-way ticket). You must reserve seats to go on the Romancecar trains, which you can do at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center (close to the West Exit of Shinjuku Station), at Odakyu Line ticket machines, or online at the website of e-Romancecar.

How To Get Around Hakone

Once you are in Hakone, there is an efficient network of buses, trains, cable cars, ropeways, and different sightseeing boats to get around the Hakone area, called the Hakone Round Course. You can choose between three different types of passes to get around the Hakone and Fuji Five Lake (Mt Fuji) area:

  • Hakone Free Pass
    From 4600 Yen – Valid two or three days (you can choose) with unlimited use of all trains, buses, boats, cable cars, and ropeways in the Hakone area. You can also buy a pass that includes a round-trip from Tokyo to Hakone.
  • Fuji Hakone Pass
    From 6740 Yen – Valid for three days, covers all transportation in the Hakone area, but this also includes transportation to and around the Fuji Five Lake area (just north of Mt Fuji). You can also buy one that includes a round-trip from/ to Tokyo.
  • Hakone Kamakura Pass
    Costs 7000 Yen – Valid for three days, unlimited use of all rail network of the Odakyu company in the Hakone area, but also to Kamakura, a popular coastal city south of Tokyo. Kamakura is famous for a dozen temples and shrines and a 13 m high Big Buddha bronze statue. The Yuigahama Beach on Sagami Bay is a popular surfing spot.

4. Matsumoto (D) – Day 5 (1 night)

_DSC8224Pin
The beautiful Crow Castle in Matsumoto

The next day, head north up to Matsumoto after breakfast (4,5 hours by train).

Matsumoto is a small and cozy mountain town where the main attraction is the beautiful black and white Crow Castle. The castle is surrounded by a lake and a bright red photogenic bridge.

The downtown of Matsumoto has a walking street, Nawate-dori, along the river with cozy shops and cafes, and there is a market in the evenings during summer. Make sure to try the taiyaki, crispy cakes in the shape of a fish and filled with chocolate and vanilla, which is a specialty of Matsumoto. They taste a bit like waffles. Soooo yummy!! 🙂

In front of the entrance to the walking street Nawate-dori you will notice a big green frog (a statue….) which is the mascot of the shopping street. It refers to the Japanese word kaeru, meaning both “frog” and “return”. So it has a double meaning, where they hope that customers, money, and goods will return.

Make sure to go for a stroll along the street Nakamachi-dori, which is lined with beautiful white old kura, warehouses. These kinds of warehouses were common in merchant districts of Japan, but nowadays Matsumoto is one of the very few places where you can still see these kinds of warehouses, at least this well preserved. The shophouses now house restaurants, cafes, ryokans (inns), and shops.

Matsumoto has a laid-back atmosphere and is the perfect starting point for doing the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

Spend the day visiting the beautiful Crow Castle, and walk around the cozy streets by the river in the evening.

Read more: What To See And Do In Matsumoto

Where To Stay In Matsumoto

Richmond Hotel Matsumoto
We stayed at Richmond Hotel, a western-style hotel (not a Ryokan). This hotel has a perfect location, right in the center of Matsumoto, within walking distance to the train station, Matsumoto Castle, the river, Walking Street, and lots of restaurants. There is free wifi in all rooms and a breakfast buffet in a cafe next door. It is #1 on TripAdvisor for Matsumoto.
Click for latest prices

Dormy Inn Matsumoto
The Dormy Inn is located only three minutes walk from the JR Matsumoto Train Station, right in the heart of everything. It has a lovely Onsen and is modern and new.
Click for latest prices

How To Get To Matsumoto

To get to Matsumoto you first have to take the train to Nagoya Station. From Nagoya, take the JR Shinano Limited Express Line from Nagoya Station to Matsumoto Station (2 hours).

You can get to Nagoya from:

  • Hakone – make your way back to Odawara station from Hakone-Itabashi Station either by way of the Hakone Tozan line (a short 4 min train ride) or the bus. Then take the Shinkansen Hikari to Nagoya station. Total travel time to Matsumoto is about 4,5 hours.
  • Kyoto – take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Nagoya Station (35 minutes) and transfer to the JR Shinano Limited Express Line to Matsumoto Station. Total travel time to Matsumoto is about 2 hours.
  • Osaka – take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line from Shin-Osaka Station to Nagoya Station. At Nagoya Station, transfer to the JR Shinano Limited Express Line to Matsumoto Station. Total travel time to Matsumoto is about 2 hours.

There is a direct train from Tokyo to Matsumoto.

  • Tokyo – take the JR Azusa or Super Azusa Limited Express Train from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto Station (we took this train). This train trip takes about 2,5 hours. You can use a JR Pass for this train trip.

Matsumoto is a small town, so once you are in Matsumoto you can easily walk between the sights.

5. Alpine Route – Day 6

_DSC8783Pin
One of the cable cars we took at the Alpine Route

Get up real early in Matsumoto, and do the Alpine Route Tateyama-Kurobe. We spent 9 hours altogether on this route, but it can be done faster if you don`t want to walk around on the mountain as much as we did.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which opened in 1971, is an awesome and unique nature experience through the alps of Japan by different transport means. In my opinion, it is a must-do if you are visiting Japan!

The whole route is 90 km long and is commonly called “The Roof Of Japan“. It goes between the town Omachi (in Nagano Prefecture in the east) to the city Toyama (in Toyama Prefecture in the west), through the stunning mountain areas surrounding Mount Tateyama. Mount Tateyama is 3015 m high, one of the tallest mountains in the Hida Mountains, and it together with Mount Fuji and Mount Haku, is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains“.

Along the way, you will experience different transport means, like buses, trolleys, cable cars, and ropeways, until you reach the highest point of the route, the Murodo Station, at 2450 m. You can also do different hikes in the area, and you will walk across Japan’s highest dam, Kurobe Dam (186 m). An impressive sight!

Bring warm clothes and good walking shoes, and be prepared to get a day packed with amazing Japanese nature and scenery, plus a ton of fresh mountain air. Lovely! 🙂

This Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is only open from the 15th of April till the 30th of November, as it closes during winter. The lower parts of the route open 10th of April.

When they open up the road to the Alpine Route in the middle of April, the road goes through an 18 m tall ice and snow corridor. So cool! This snow wall is a big tourist attraction, and you can see it even in June, although it has shrunk a bit by then.

In the evening, take the train to Kanazawa city on the west coast of Japan, and spend a couple of nights there.

Read more: Our Complete And Detailed Alpine Route Guide With All The Steps/ Transport Means

How To Get To The Alpine Route

From Matsumoto, take the JR Oito Line (1 hour), or the JR Shinano Line (36 min), or the JR Chuo Line-Limited Express Line (33 min) to Shinano-Omachi station. All of these trains are covered by the JR Pass.

The Alpine Route starts at Shinano-Omachi.

6. Kanazawa (E) – Day 7 (2 nights)

DSC01480Pin
The famous Kenroku-en Japanese Garden in Kanazawa

Kanazawa turned out to be one of our favorite Japanese cities and was a real surprise to us. It is quite a big city (500 000 inhabitants) on the west coast of Japan with a lot to offer its visitors. Kanazawa means “golden marsh“, and was Japan`s richest region in its glory days during the 15th century, which led to its rich culture and art focus that we still see today.

There are so many things to do in Kanazawa with a beautiful and big castle, a Japanese Garden ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan, beautifully preserved Samurai and Geisha districts with old traditional Japanese wood houses, several temples, and wonderful museums. We fell totally in love with Kanazawa, and it is definitely one of the Japanese cities we will head back to soon.

Spend a full day in the beautiful Kanazawa city, visit Kanazawa Castle, go for a walk in the stunning Kenroku-en garden ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan, and stroll through the Samurai district and the geisha district.

Top off your day in Kanawaza with some shopping and a delicious Japanese meal downtown in the evening. Stay two nights in Kanazawa.

Read more: What To See And Do In Kanazawa – Kanazawa Itinerary

Where To Stay In Kanazawa

We stayed at Hotel Trusty and loved it. It is brand new, with a beautiful design and super comfortable beds. It has the best location in Kanazawa, right in the center, with easy access to all the sights. A real gem! In the basement, next to the reception, is a lovely cafe with delicious cakes and coffee.
Click for latest prices

Read more: Where To Stay In Kanazawa – Our Favorite Hotels & Areas

How To Get To Kanazawa

From Toyama Station (where the Alpine Route Tateyama Kurobe ends), you should take the train to Kanazawa Station. You can take local trains, IR Ishikawa Railway Line or Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line (a 57 min train ride, 1220 Yen). Or you can go by Shinkansen, JR Hokuriku-Shinkansen, which only takes 20 min (2810 Yen). You can use JR Pass on this train ride, both local and shinkansen.

The JR Hokuriku Line links Kanazawa with Kyoto (2 ¼ hours, 6200 Yen), Osaka (2 ¾ hours, 6930 Yen), and Toyama (35 min, 2100 Yen) with a connection to Takayama (90 min more, 4870 Yen).

How To Get Around Kanazawa

Kanazawa Train Station is located two kilometers (a 10 min drive) from the downtown of Kanazawa city. You can take a taxi or bus to the city center.

There are several buses to choose from within Kanazawa. If you have a JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass), you can take the JR Bus Line for free. It connects Kanazawa Station via downtown of Kanazawa, to Korinbo Bus Stop (close to Kanazawa Castle), and on to Kenrokuen Garden. There are 1-3 bus departures per hour, and the bus ride (one way) takes approximately 12 min in total. This bus is included in the JR Pass. If you don´t have a JR Pass, a one-way ticket costs 200 Yen.

Once you have gotten from Kanazawa Station to your hotel, and are ready to explore the city, you can walk between the sights. Kanazawa’s main attractions are located within an area of a two-kilometer radius from Kanazawa Castle Park. So you can walk or rent a bicycle.

A more relaxing and convenient way to get around the city is by bus. You can take the Kanazawa Loop Bus, which goes from Kanazawa Train Station to all the sights and highlights of the city. The bus departs every 15 min in both directions and costs 200 Yen per ride. Or you can take the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus, which departs from Kanazawa Station every 20 minutes and goes through the city and to Kenrokuen Garden. This shuttle bus costs 100 Yen per ride on weekends and national holidays, and 200 Yen per ride on weekdays.

If you plan on taking the Kanazawa Loop Bus and the Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus quite a lot during a day, you should buy a 1-day bus pass that gives you unlimited use of these two buses plus all local Hokutetsu buses in Kanazawa. With this pass, you also get discounted admission tickets to the main sights of Kanazawa. This 1-day pass costs 500 Yen and is a good deal if you want to take the bus around the city.

7. Shirakawa-go (F) – Day 8

Shiragawa-go-6_litePin
Gassho-zukuri farmhouses in Shirakawago

Take the bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go the next day (1,5 hours). The bus departs every hour from the east side of Kanazawa Train Station. When you get to Shirakawa-go, leave your luggage at the tourist center next to the bus stop (they have lockers). Or you can go from Kanazawa to Takayama directly (by bus or train, 2 hours bus ride), and do a day-trip back to Shirakawa-go from Takayama instead if you don´t want to bring your luggage.

Stroll around the narrow streets of this World Heritage Site and admire the over 110 famous gassho-zukuri farmhouses, many of which are now museums and restaurants.

Shirakawa-go is a small, traditional mountain village with many unique farmhouse buildings known as Gasshō-zukuri, a unique architecture style special for the Hida district of Japan. “Gassho” means prayer, as the steep shape of the roofs resembles praying hands. Only about 600 people live in this village today.

The village and its houses of Shirakawa-go are a Unesco World Heritage Site. The houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs surrounded by green rice fields are a fantastic view and well worth a visit.

This area of Japan gets plenty of snow during winter, that´s why the roofs of the houses are steeply angled to prevent the snow from piling up. Quite clever!

Take the bus to Takayama city in the afternoon (50 minutes bus ride) after your visit to Shirakawago. Most of the Gasho-zukuri houses close at 17:00 (5 PM).

Read more: What To See And Do In Shirakawago

How To Get To Shirakawago

There are buses between Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go, as well as Shirakawa-go and Takayama (and opposite directions), operated by Nohi and Hokutetsu Bus companies.

The bus ride takes 1,5 hours from Kanazawa to Shirakawago and costs 2000 Yen = 18 US$. The bus departs every hour from the east side of Kanazawa Station.

The JR Pass is unfortunately not valid on these buses, but the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is.

Once you are in Shirakawa-go, you can easily walk around the town and all its sights as it is a compact little village.

8. Takayama (G) – Day 9 (2 nights)

The Yamakyu Ryokan in Takayama where we stayed one nightPin
The Yamakyu Ryokan in Takayama where we stayed one night

Takayama is a beautifully preserved old mountain city located in northern Gifu Prefecture in the heart of the Japanese Alps.

We loved walking around in the narrow cobblestoned streets lined with charming old wooden houses with small shops, cafes, and restaurants. Takayama has a unique and cozy atmosphere, and walking around in the old part of Takayama makes you feel like you are back in the Edo/Samurai period. There is a wide and calm river running through the city, with several bridges, making it even more picture-perfect.

Takayama has several nice ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), and we stayed in one of them – the Yamakyu Ryokan (one of the most affordable ryokans in Japan). We loved it, especially the onsen and the traditional dinner and breakfast were awesome.

Sake is one of Takayama’s specialties. Tayakama has some of Japan’s oldest sake breweries, and the Sanmachi Suji area is where you will find several of them. Here you can buy sake bottles and small sample bottles to bring back home, the perfect gift.

You can find several small hillside shrines and temples in Takayama, plus several nice museums. We loved Takayama, and think it is a real must-visit place if you are visiting Japan. Spend at least a whole day in the beautifully preserved old city of Takayama, and indulge in old Japanese history and museums.

The famous Takayama Festival is held in the old town twice a year – in spring (14th – 15th of April) and autumn (9th – 10th of October) and is a great and fun experience. Takayama Festival is considered to be one of Japan’s best festivals.

If you want to see and hike some of the Japanese Alps, you can take a bus from Takayama Bus Station up to Norikura Bus Terminal (2700 meters above sea level). This is near the summit of Mount Norikuradake, a 3028-meter high volcano located east of Takayama. Here you can go for walks further into the mountains. This hike is especially popular during autumn (mid-September till October) as this is the first part of Japan to get autumn colors. It is also popular for skiing during winter. Or you can take The Shin-Hotaka Ropeway that gives you a spectacular view of the northern part of the Japanese Alps, where you can also take onsen/ hot spring.

Read more: What To See And Do In Takayama

Where To Stay In Takayama

Takayama is a great place to try a traditional Ryokan hotel. We stayed one night at the classic Yamakyu Ryokan, one of the most affordable Ryokans in Japan. There you can have a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast and have Onsen/ hot spring bath.
Click for latest prices

How To Get To Takayama

From Shirakawago, take the bus to Takayama, operated by Nohi (16 round-trip buses each day) and Hokutetsu Bus companies. We took the bus by Nohi bus company.

The bus ride takes 50 minutes. It is not included in the JR Pass, unfortunately. A one-way bus ticket costs 2470 Yen = 23 US$, while a round-trip bus ticket costs 4420 Yen = 40 US$.

If you want to go directly from Kanazawa to Takayama, and instead do a day-trip back to Shirakawago from Takayama (so that you don´t have to bring your luggage with you to Shirakwago), you can take the bus or train.

There is a direct bus from Kanazawa to Takayama which takes 2 hours and 10 min and costs 3600 Yen = 33 US$ one way and 6400 Yen = 58 US$ round trip. The round-trip ticket is valid for up to ten calendar days. These buses are operated by Nohi BusHokutetsu, and Toyama Chiho Tetsudo.

Or you can take the train from Kanazawa to Takayama: Take the train from Kanazawa Station to Toyama Station by Hokuriku Shinkansen (Tsurugi or Hakutaka) or local lines – a 22 minutes train ride. In Toyama Station, transfer to the Limited Express Hida which runs on the Takayama Main Line. The Limited Express Hida takes about 1,5 hours between Toyama and Takayama. So the total train trip from Kanazawa to Takayama takes about 2 hours and is covered by the JR Pass.

How To Get Around Takayama

The bus arrives at Takayama Hida Bus Center, just opposite Takayama Station, and is centrally located in Takayama. It is only a 10-min walk from the bus stop where you arrive and to the old town of Takayama.

You can easily walk to most of the main sights and attractions of Takayama. The Hida no Sato open-air museum and the Matsui no Mori festival museum are both, however, a bit far out of the city center. You can walk, of course, but it is easier to take the bus from Takayama Station (a 10-15 bus ride, see more info below).

Takayama has two sightseeing buses:

  • Machinami Bus – Runs every hour and drives a circular route between Takayama station and the old town of Takayama. This bus costs 100 Yen = 1 US$ per ride.
  • Sarubobo Bus – Runs every 20-50 minutes, and goes from Takayama Station to Hida no Sato open-air museum and the Matsuri no Mori festival museum. This bus costs 210 Yen = 2 US$ per ride.

You can buy a 1-day pass which costs 620 Yen = 6 US$ for unlimited use of both these sightseeing buses for one day.

Rickshaws (jinrikisha) are also very popular in Takayama, especially around the old town area. These cost approximately 7000 Yen = 64 US$ (for two people) for a 30-minute or so tour.

9. Kyoto (H) – Day 10, 11 & 12 (3 nights)

DSC04513Pin
Kimono dressed girls in the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto

Kyoto, which means “capital city“, was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. Today Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan and home to 1,5 million people. This is the place to head to if you want to experience historic and ancient Japan.

Kyoto has an impressive number of Unesco World Heritage Sites – in total 17! The city is home to 400 colorful Shinto shrines, 1600 ancient Buddhist temples, and several fantastic Japanese gardens.


The city is not only about old ancient Japanese culture, shrines, and temples, however, it is also a great place for shopping, dining, hiking, and watching a traditional Geisha performance.

Kyoto most notable areas are:

  • Southern Higashiyama
    Is the most popular area and includes the famous and grand Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the cozy streets of Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka lined with traditional wooden buildings, small cafes, and restaurants. Other notable sights in this area include Kodai-ji Temple, Chion-in Temple Yasaka, Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and Gion Shidare Zakura, Kyotoś most famous cherry tree.
  • Northern Higashiyama
    Is less visited but should not be missed. Here you´ll find Nanzen-ji Temple, one of our personal favorites and possibly the finest temple in Kyoto. Surrounded by a large park and several smaller sub-temples. Take the stairs to the second level for a fantastic view of Kyoto. Other sights here include Honen-ni temple and Ginkaku-ji Temple.
  • Gion
    Gion is Kyoto’s most historic neighborhood and offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan´s history. The houses here are some of the best-preserved from the Edo period anywhere in Japan. If you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a Geiko or Geisha as she hurries through the streets. Check out our recommended walking route of Gion and Pontocho.

There is plenty to see and do in this amazing city, like going for a stroll through the magical Bamboo Forest, walk under thousands of bright red torii gates at Fushimi-Inari Shrine,  marvel at the famous Golden Pavillion floating on its small lake, and see the lovely Njio Castle. Don´t miss the lively Nishiki market and the cool Mange museum.

No Japan trip is complete without a visit to Kyoto, it is mandatory! ♥

Trust me; time will fly in this big city, so if you have a few days more, spend them in Kyoto. Stay at least three nights in Kyoto.

Read more:  What To See And Do In Kyoto – Kyoto Itinerary

Where To Stay In Kyoto

We stayed at Century Hotel Kyoto, which is located right by the main train station making it easy to get around the city. Our floor had recently been refurbished, and we loved everything about this hotel, especially their comfortable beds and fast wifi.
Click for latest prices

Read moreWhere To Stay In Kyoto – Our Favorite Hotels & Areas

How To Get To Kyoto

From Takayama Station, take the JR Hida Limited Express Train to Nagoya Station. This train ride takes about 2,5 hours and there is one train departure per hours. At Nagoya Station, transfer to the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Kyoto. This train ride takes about 35 minutes and there are several trains per hour.

In total, this train journey from Takayama to Kyoto takes approximately three hours.

This route is fully covered by the JR Pass if you on the second leg (between Nagoya and Kyoto) use a Hikari (the second fastest train category along the Tokaido Shinkansen) or Kodama train (the slowest train category along the Tokaido Shinkansen, stops at every station along the way). If you, however, use a Nozomi train (the fastest train category along the Tokaido Shinkansen), these are NOT covered by the JR Pass, so be aware of which train you jump on. If you don´t have a JR Pass, this entire journey will cost around 9500 Yen = 87 US$.

How To Get Around Kyoto

Kyoto is easily explored by public transport like trains (six train lines), subways (two subway lines), and buses, plus taxis. And it is an easy and safe city to explore on foot or bicycle as is relatively compact and mostly flat.

There are, however, very few JR lines in Kyoto so you will unfortunately not be able to use your JR Pass that much inside Kyoto. The JR Pass does unfortunately not cover the two subway lines in Kyoto.

The best and cheapest way to get around Kyoto is with a Kyoto Pass which you can buy at Kyoto Station. You can choose between several types of passes:

  • Kyoto City Bus Only, All-Day Pass – 500 Yen for adult and 250 Yen for a child. This pass gives you unlimited use on the same day on all buses inside Kyoto city. Not valid for zones outside of Kyoto city, so it is not valid for Arashiyama (Bamboo Grove) or Fushimi Inari shrine.
  • Kyoto Sightseeing Bus and Subway, One or Two-day Pass Card – 1200 Yen for a one-day adult card, 600 Yen for a one-day child card. Two-day card: 2000 Yen for adult, 1000 Yen for a child. Unlimited use on all buses and subways for one or two days.
  • Surutto Kansai Miyako Card – You charge it with 1000 Yen, 2000 Yen, 3000 Yen or 5000 Yen, and use it on city buses and subway lines, as well as Hankyu Line, Keihan Line, and other participating private companies. You pay per trip until the card is empty.
  • Traffica Kyoto Card – You charge it with 1000 Yen or 3000 Yen and it is valid on all city subways and buses. You pay per trip until the card is empty.

10. Hiroshima & Miyajima Island (I) – Day 13

DSC05299Pin
Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima

Take an early morning train from Kyoto to Hiroshima (2 hours) and spend the day visiting the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum, and head out to Miyajima Island to see the floating torii gate.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a modern city with 1,2 million people and is most famous for its sad history of being the first city in the world to be hit with an atomic bomb on August 6th, 1945. The main attractions in Hiroshima are the Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum. In the Peace Memorial Park, you will see the ruins of Genbaku Dome which is one of the very few buildings that was left after the atomic bombing.

Other sights in Hiroshima are the Japanese garden Shukkei-en and Hiroshima Castle which is surrounded by a moat and a nice park.

Miyajima Island

After the Peace Memorial Museum and Park, Miyajima Island was a highlight of our Hiroshima visit.

Miyajima is a small island outside of Hiroshima, where its real name is Itsukushima. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions. The main attraction of Miyajima Island is the bright red Torii gate of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine which stands out in the sea. This “floating gate” is actually ranked as one of the three best views in Japan!

Taking the Miyajima Ropeway up to the sacred Mount Misen is a great highlight of Miyajima.

Another attraction that travel books don`t tell you about is all the tame deer! They are everywhere and follow you around. Watch out for your belongings, especially paper and maps as they looooooove to eat paper.

There are several temples, pavilions, and pagodas on the island too. You can also take the ropeway and get a fantastic view of the island and its surroundings, and Mount Misen where you can go hiking.

Read more: What To Do In Hiroshima – 1-Day Hiroshima Itinerary

Read more: What To Do On Miyajima Island

You can either spend the night in Hiroshima or in the evening, take a late train to Nara (3,5 hours).

Where To Stay In Hiroshima

Sheraton Grand Hotel Hiroshima
The Sheraton Grand Hotel is a modern high-end hotel situated in a great location close to the train station with plenty of transport and dining options nearby. The rooms are large, bright, and well furnished with comfortable beds and all modern comforts. Breakfast has a good selection of both Japanese and Western food. The Wi-fi is free and fast.
Click for latest prices

Rihga Royal Hotel Hiroshima
Rhiga Royal hotel offers excellent value for money, and its location is fantastic for exploring Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial Park and the city’s buses are both within easy walking distance, and the views overlooking the beautiful Hiroshima Castle are spectacular. Rooms are spacious, well furnished, and comfortable with every modern amenities including free Wi-fi. Breakfast is excellent, and there is even a swimming pool!
Click for latest prices

Read more: Where To Stay In Hiroshima – Our Favorite Hotels & Hiroshima

How To Get To Hiroshima

From Kyoto Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line to Hiroshima Station. This train ride takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes and is covered by the JR Pass if you take Sakura, Hikari, and Kodama trains, although not on Nozomi trains (the fastest train category). Otherwise, the fare for an unreserved seat is 10570 Yen = 96 US$, and a little bit higher for a reserved seat.

How To Get To Miyajima Island

You can either take the ferry from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (45 min each way, 3600 JPY = 34 US$ round trip, 1-2 connections per hour), which we did. But this is unfortunately not covered by the JR Pass.

There are also two other ferries that leave from Miyajima-guchi (outside of Hiroshima), where one is operated by JR. So if you have a JR pass you can take this ferry for free.

In order to get to the ferry terminal, take the train (JR San-yo line) to Miyajima-guchi Station (halfway between Hiroshima and Iwakuni) (27 min). You can also take tram 2 from Hiroshima Station to the ferry terminal (70 min, 270 JPY). The JR ferry trip from here takes about 10 minutes to Miyajima Island.

How To Get Around Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

Hiroshima has eight tramlines connecting Hiroshima Station with most of Hiroshima´s main attractions. Unfortunately, the JR Pass is not valid for trams. The ticket for a single tram ride within central Hiroshima is 180 Yen = 1,6 US$.

You can also use IC cards, including Suica and Icoca, to pay for tram tickets and buses in Hiroshima, as well as on the ferries to Miyajima (both companies).

You can also buy a 1-day pass and get unlimited use of all trams. This 1-day pass costs 600 Yen = 5,5 US$. Or, alternative if you want to visit Miyajima Island, you can get a 1-day pass that also includes the round-way ferry ride to Miyajima by Matsudai ferry (but not by JR ferry). This 1-day pass + Miyajima Island ferry costs 840 Yen = 7,7 US$. If you have a 1-day pass, you get a discount on the Miyajima Ropeway ticket as well (you save 450 Yen = 4 US$ for a round-trip ticket on the ropeway).

If you have a JR Pass, you can take the JR Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Buses, called Meipuru-pu. This bus loop goes between all of central Hiroshima’s major sights. There are three routes – orange, green, and lemon routes, and they have one to three buses per hour each. The buses are covered by the JR Pass, otherwise, it costs 200 Yen = 1,8 US$ per ride or 400 Yen = 3,7 US$ for a 1-day pass.

Miyajima Island is quite small, so you can easily get around by walking.

11. Nara (J) – Day 14

_DSC0785Pin
The amazing Todai-ji, Nara’s star attraction. It houses the Great Buddha.

Take the train from Hiroshima to Nara (a 3,5-hour train ride).

Nara is home to the greatest Buddha image in Japan and is Japan’s first permanent capital. Visit some of the oldest and biggest temples in Japan, and feed and cuddle the deer that walk freely around the city and temples.

Todaiji Temple, which means “Great Eastern Temple“, is Japan´s most famous and significant temple, completed in 752. It is a stunning black and white temple with a huge Buddha which is 15 meters tall and is Japan’s largest bronze statue. There are plenty of temples and shrines to see in Nara, as well as the National Museum, so you can easily spend a whole day in Nara.

Close to Todaiji Temple, you will find the beautiful Isuien Japanse garden. But the most fun place to visit in Nara is Nara Park where you can play around with the tame deer that follows you around.

Head back to Tokyo in the evening (4 hours) and enjoy the extraordinary cuisine that Tokyo has to offer on your last nights out in this great metropole.

Where To Stay In Nara

Super Lohas JR Nara Eki
The chick budget hotel Super Lohas JR Nara Eki is great, located right at the JR Nara Train Station. Staying at this modern hotel puts you within walking distance to all the sights and temples in Nara. Breakfast is included, and there is a huge Supermall on the floor below the hotel. The hotel´s free Onsen/ hot spring is bliss. An extra plus is the hotel’s fast and reliable wifi.
Click for latest prices

Nara Hotel
The beautiful wooden Nara Hotel was built in 1909. This famous hotel sits on top of a hill and offers a panoramic view of the city’s historic culture. It is located next to the lovely Nara Park with deer walking around freely. You can choose between staying in the old or new wing. The old wing feels like stepping back in time to the old Samurai period of Japan. The new wing gives you a renovated and bigger room with a bit more comfort. Some rooms even have a fireplace. The breakfast is great too.
Click here for latest prices

How To Get To Nara

The best way to get to Nara from Hiroshima is to take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto first (1 hour and 40 min, see more detailed info below), and then to Hiroshima. This is covered by the JR Pass if you take Sakura, Hikari, and Kodama trains, although not on Nozomi trains (the fastest train category).

Nara can easily be reached as a day-trip from Kyoto and Osaka.

From Kyoto, there are two lines to Nara: JR Nara Line and the private Kintetsu Line:

  • JR Nara Line – If you have a JR Pass, this is the line to take. The JR Miyakoji Kaisoku Express (kaisoku) is the fastest on the JR Nara Line and takes 45 minutes from JR Kyoto Station to JR Nara Station. Otherwise, the local train (futsu) takes 70 minutes. If you don´t have a JR Pass, this train trip costs 690 Yen = 6 US$.
  • Kintetsu Line –  This is the fastest way to get from Kyoto to Nara as it will only take 35 min if you take a direct express (tokkyu) train. But this is NOT covered by the JR Pass. The ticket price is 1110 Yen = 10 US$. This train departs from Kintetsu Kyoto Station (on the south side of JR Kyoto Station) and arrives at Kintetsu Nara Station in Nara.

How To Get Around Nara

Nara is a small city and all the sights are located within walking distance of each other. Head to the Nara City Tourist Information Center at Nara Station, and get a free copy of their excellent walking tour map with all the attractions that Nara has to offer. We used this and it was great until a deer ate it….. 🙂


That`s it, our recommended 14 days itinerary to see the best of Japan. It is a quite busy itinerary. If you want to take things a bit slower, you can cut down on the temples and shrines and choose either Nikko or Nara and not both. You can also skip both of them as you will be able to see plenty of shrines and temples in Kyoto and Tokyo. Then you can put in an extra day or two in Kyoto or Tokyo.

If castles are more your thing rather than temples, then you should visit the beautiful bright white Himeji Castle on your way from Kyoto to Hiroshima/Miyajima Island. To be honest, we got a bit “templed out” in the end doing this itinerary, so skipping a few temples might be a good idea. 🙂

This Japan two-week itinerary can also easily be expanded to suit a three-week trip; that would give you more breaks from traveling, and more time to enjoy each place.

Japan is expensive compared to other Asian countries, but it is possible to travel this country cheaply. To cut down on your travel expenses, we highly recommend that you buy a Japan Rail Pass. A Japan Rail Pass gives you almost unlimited use of Japan’s world-class train network. You can purchase your JR Rail Pass online from official JR Pass vendors such as www.jrailpass.com.

Read next: How Expensive Is Japan & How To Travel Japan Cheaply

Read next: 11 Dishes You Must Try When Visiting Japan

BONUS: We have made a free printable PDF and ePUB version of this two-week Japan travel itinerary available to our newsletter subscribers. Perfect to print or carry on your iPad!

⇒ CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE NEWSLETTER AND DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE JAPAN PDF ITINERARY ⇐

When To Visit Japan

Japan is a fantastic country to visit all year round. Japan has all four seasons, however, with big variations in the weather and temperatures. You can expect snow and minus degrees during the winter season (November – February) and hot and humid weather during the rainy season in summer (June – August).

The most beautiful, but also the most popular time to visit Japan, is spring (March – April) and fall (September – November) due to the Sakura/ Cherry blossom and fall foliage. These two seasons are, however, the most crowded and expensive time to visit Japan when prices on plane tickets and accommodation skyrocket.

When planning your visit to Japan and deciding when to go to Japan, you should consider what you want to experience and do in Japan. What is the most important to you – having nice and dry weather, avoiding the crowds, seeing the Cherry blossom or autumn foliage, go skiing, or saving some bucks?

For more information about the different seasons of Japan, and what they are all about regarding the weather, festivals, and pros and cons, check out our article: When Is The Best Time To Visit Japan? 

Money In Japan – Cash vs. Credit Cards

There are plenty of ATMs in Japan that accept foreign credit cards, especially in big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, so you will have no problem withdrawing Japanese Yen in cash. Most 7-Eleven kiosks have ATMs that accept foreign credit cards, and they are open 24 hours. I recommend that you withdraw money at one of the many ATMs at the airport when you arrive in Japan so that you have some money to start with.

Japan used to be all cash-based, but in the last few years this has changed a lot, and now most big shops, hotels, sights, museums, and restaurants accept foreign credit cards. But, of course, small street stalls, temples, and more local small restaurants and shops still only accept cash. So always make sure that you have some Japanese Yen in cash with you at all times.

WIFI – SIM Card vs. WIFI Router

Japan is one of the most modern and high-tech countries in the world and the Japanese, and especially the young ones, are online all the time and are continually using their mobile phone.

You will find free WiFi at most accommodations, restaurants, cafes, museums, and big sights all over Japan.

But if you, like us, want to stay online constantly so that you can use Google Maps while walking on the streets, check your emails, FaceTime your family and friends, and stay connected on social media. Then there are two choices, buying a local Japanese SIM-card or renting a pocket-sized personal WiFi router/ hotspot.

A Pocket Wifi is a small portable internet router that you basically rent for the duration of your trip. You can connect all your devices such as mobile phones and laptops to it and be connected anywhere. A family or even a large group can share one Pocket Wifi.

Alternatively, you can buy prepaid SIM cards for your mobile phones and stay connected that way.

There are some pros and cons to both and you should consider the following before deciding.

Pros of a Pocket Wifi:

  • Can be ordered online and either picked up at the airport or shipped to your hotel room in Japan.
  • If you are a family or large group, sharing one Pocket Wifi can cut down on the cost compared to each buying their own Data SIM card
  • You can keep your existing SIM card in your phone and be accessible on your regular phone number

There are however some cons as well:

  • It is one more device to carry around and keep charged
  • If your group splits up then someone will lose internet connection, potentially making it more difficult to stay in touch
  • Unlike SIM cards you will not have a Japanese phone number and will not be able to call Japanese numbers

We prefer to buy SIM cards for our mobiles when traveling in Japan, but it all depends on the size of your travel party and how much you depend on being constantly online. Prepaid SIM cards for foreigners are available from BIC camera stores in large cities.


What To Bring To Japan

Japan is a great place to shop so you don't need to bring much from home. There are however some essentials that you should have in your bag.

  • Japan Rail Pass Voucher - If you are planning on traveling around Japan by train, a Japan Rail Pass will most likely save you a lot of money.  It's available for unlimited train travel for either 7, 14 or 21 days.

Click here to check prices and order the Japan Rail Pass online

  • Travel Insurance - Many Japanese hospitals will refuse to treat you if you don’t have valid travel insurance. With travel insurance costing just a few dollars a day and potentially saving you thousands of dollars if something happens, you really can't go wrong.  We've used World Nomads in the past, and they offer an excellent service for backpackers, vacationers, and short-term travelers alike.

Click here to get a quote on travel insurance from World Nomads

  • Travel Power adapter - Make sure you can use your electronic devices in Japan by bringing a travel power adapter. Our favorite is the FosPower Fuse. It is small and light, can charge USB devices, and it works in more than 150 countries.
  • Hand sanitizer - Japanese restrooms are usually spotless but very often lack soap. Bring some hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
  • A small towel - A small towel in your bag for drying your hands is very useful. In most restrooms, in spite of their extreme cleanliness, there are no paper towels. Carrying a mini towel with you is a very typical Japanese thing to do.
  • Name and address of your hotel in Japanese - Many Japanese don't speak or read much English so be sure to bring the name and address of your hotel in both English and Japanese letters. Most hotels also have a taxi card that you can get at the hotel's reception.
  • Camera - Don't forget a camera to document your adventures around Japan! Check out our article on what we pack in our camera bag.

Travel Guides

We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):



PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hover over the pictures below and press the red “Save” button that pops up: 

Japan Two Week ItineraryPin         Japan Two Week ItineraryPin

Have you been to Japan? If so, do you agree that these are the highlights of Japan? What is your recommended two weeks itinerary for Japan? We would love to hear your opinion in the comment area below. Thanks! 🙂 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, and we will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at absolutely no extra cost to you! This helps us keep the content up to date, create new travel guides, and keep the website going. Thank you! ♥ For more information, see our disclosure here.

Photo of author

Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

352 Comments

  1. Hi Maria, thanks for advising me of this post on Instagram, its one of the best posts I have seen so far showcasing the best of Japan. I have gotten some great ideas from this post and will be forwarding it to my mum and sister to read as they will be travelling with my daughter and myself on our trip. Thank you for the great information.
    Sally.

    Reply
    • Hi Sally,

      Thank you so much for commenting! So happy that you liked it and that I could help you with some ideas for your Japan trip.

      Have a great trip to Japan, I`m sure you will love it!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
      • Hi Maria
        Thank you for you providing this very useful itinerary. My question is where did you leave the luggage when you went sightseeing during the day and before you took the train to the next destination?

        Reply
        • Hi Deanna,

          Thank you so much! Glad our Japan Itinerary could be of help to you!

          We either stored our luggage at lockers at train stations (most train stations in Japan have big lockers), or at the hotel either before checking in or after we checked out. Most hotels will give you your room after 14:00, and you have to check out at 10:00 or 12:00, but they usually store the luggage for you in a luggage room while going sightseeing. Then you can pick it up before leaving for your next destination.

          -Maria-

          Reply
          • Hi Maria, how do you recommend doing this itinerary but still making it to either Osaka/Narita International Airport at the end?

          • Hi Sarah,

            From Nara, you can take the train to Tokyo, via Kyoto (JR Nara Line), to Narita Airport. Check https://www.google.com/maps/ for train options and departure times. The whole train trip Nara – Narita Airport will take about four to five hours.

            The best way to get from Tokyo to Narita Airport is by the JR Narita Express (NEX) train. The one-way journey takes roughly one hour and is fully covered by the JR Pass. There are departures every 30 to 60 minutes.

            The train trip from Nara to Osaka city takes about one hour. Check Google Maps for train options and departure times as there are several options.

            -Maria-

          • Hi Kristen,

            Yes, there are small fees for luggage lockers in train stations. I don´t remember how much, I´m afraid.

            -Maria-

          • Hi Maria,

            Great tips on this itinerary 🙂 My husband and I are planning of going on a 12 day trip to Japan in mid October. This will be out second time visiting and we were hoping to visit Takayama this time round as well as going back to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto (day trip to Hiroshima). My question is what order do you recommend we travel? We will be flying in and out from Tokyo and I’m not sure if we should travel to Takayama straight after Tokyo or if we should leave this towards the end of the trip. I’m looking forward to Takayama as I think it’s going to be a little more relaxing then the fast paced big cities.

            Thanks,
            Nahide

          • Hi Nahide,

            Thank you so much! Takayama is more relaxing than Tokyo and Kyoto for sure, with lots of nice museums and things to do. You should consider doing a day-trip to Shirakawa go, it is a lovely village with amazing houses.

            Traveltime-wise it does not matter if you visit Takayama first or at the end of your trip. The train trip from Tokyo to Takayama takes about 4-5 hours, while the train trip from Kyoto to Takayama takes about 3-4 hours.

            Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy beautiful Takayama!

            -maria-

  2. Maria, thank you for sharing your itinerary of Japan. We have also just returned from a two week trip to Japan and did some similar and different things to you. As a family with three young children we decided to take things a bit slower and not move accommodation as often as you did. We spent 6 nights in Tokyo, 4 nights in Kyoto, 2 nights in Shinano Omachi and 2 nights in Shibu Onsen. We also limited the number of temples we visited…

    But we also did half of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (from Shinano Omachi to Murodo and return). It is such an awesome experience which we loved but is relatively unheard of by visitors to Japan. I originally wanted to do the full route but then realised that if the weather was bad that we would have limited options to adjust our accommodation, so as a result I set up our itinerary so that we had two possible days to do it. Fortunately the first day was absolutely glorious and we were able to take our time and do several of the walks as we went – I am not sure if you did the walk to see Hell Valley but I can assure you that it was worthwhile!

    We also loved Matsumoto Castle – it was great climbing all the way up to the top and getting a feel for ‘old Japan’.

    We all had a great time but we would have loved to stay for longer – I could easily envisage setting up a 4-6 week visit or longer sometime in the future.

    Reply
    • Hi Anne,

      Seems like you had a great trip to Japan! Unfortunately, we just missed the opening hours for Matsumoto Castle as it closed one hour earlier than Lonely Planet said. So we were not able to go inside, it was still great to see it from the outside. There was a taiko drum festival in the castle park in front of Matsumoto Castle the weekend we visited, which was fantastic!

      The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route was definitely one of the highlights from our Japan trip too, we loved it! Wish we had stayed up there longer, and stayed the night at one of the mountain hotels. No, we did not do the walk to Hell Valley, sounds like we missed out on something. One more reason to head back to Japan then. 🙂

      I agree, one month+ in Japan is definitely better and gives you more slack and time to take in and enjoy this great country. We only had a two week JR train pass. Personally, I could easily spend a year in this amazing country, and experience the different seasons. I would love to go skiing in Japan in winter.

      Thanks for commenting Anne! Happy travels!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
      • Hi Maria & Anne,

        Maria, I loved this post! I am planning a 2-week vacation to Japan in November and I stumbled upon your article.

        My question to you both: Tatyama Kurobe Alpine Route, what was great about it? I see that you both agreed that this was one of your highlights of the trip. I personally have never heard of this. A lot of my friends have been to Japan and I have never heard of it or seen it. Do you do on your own or do you take a tour to the Alphine Route?

        Any additional info would be great! Thanks to you both.

        Reply
        • Hi Joanna,

          Thank you so much! The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is great if you like nature! For me, it was a great and easy way to experience the nature and alpine landscape of the highland of Japan. By doing this trip you get to easily see a part of the Japanese Alps that would take many days to see on foot.

          The scenery is breathtaking with awesome views of mountains, rivers, flowers, and trees, and if you are lucky wild animals too. You get plenty of fresh air and you can do different hikes along the route if you want. It was great to get out of the huge cities that Japan is famous for (Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka) and see a totally different part of Japan.

          You can check their official website if you want to learn more about this route.

          Yes, you do this route on your own. It is very easy, just buy the ticket at one of the sides (either at the east side, Ogizawa, where we started our Alpine trip, or from the west side, Toyama train station), and just get along with the flow. You will not be the only one so you just follow the rest of the people. There are also several guides along the way helping you.

          I really recommend doing this Alpine Route if you have the time. It might not be that known among western tourists yet, but it is popular among the Japanese.

          -Maria-

          Reply
  3. Awesome !
    This is a great guide for those who want to travel to Japan by themselves. After reading your itinerary, I have a lot of idea for my trip in Japan with my friend! Thanks for sharing!
    Cheer!
    Lien

    Reply
    • Hi Lien,

      So glad this could be of help. Have an awesome trip to Japan, I`m sure you will love it!

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Cheers, Maria

      Reply
  4. What a great list! I think you have seen more of Japan more than average Japanese people and certainly you have seen more than I have! I have been wanting to take my husband and our kids to Nikko. One day! Your photos are so lovely! I miss onsen!!

    Reply
  5. Hey I was just wondering what you budgeted for this trip? I’ll be going in May and want to focus on a lot of the smaller towns and natural places rather than big cities. I was also going to add Nagoya into it to visit a friend and wondered where you think that would be suitable?

    Reply
  6. Thanks for sharing this itinerary! I haven’t made to Japan yet but this is super helpful – one day i’ll travel there for sure 🙂

    Reply
  7. So fascinated with this post! I just wonder how did you manage having a two-week experience in Japan and that within that two weeks, you’ve already visited a lot of places! Definitely would let my friends see this article for our Japan dream travel soon! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for commenting!

      This two-week itinerary is definitely pretty packed and that is why we suggest perhaps skipping some stops along the way. Another option is to take a little while longer to do this. We did most of our traveling in two weeks since we only had a two week Japan Rail pass, but we did spend about a week in Tokyo before we activated the pass.

      Hope you make your Japan dream come through soon, it really is an amazing place to travel 🙂

      Reply
  8. Just wondering if you used a luggage forwarding service as you seem to have done day trips on your way to your next night of accommodation? Or perhaps lockers?
    Was nice to see an itinerary that was a little different from the usual. I’m planning for my third time in Japan and I’m looking forward to seeing some new places as well as revisiting others.

    Reply
    • Hi Sheila,

      Wow, your third trip! Lucky you! We hope to go back to Japan soon as well. It really became one of our favorite countries.

      Really happy to hear you got some new ideas from our itinerary 🙂

      We used a luggage forwarding service for the Japan Alpine route. Other than that we typically left our luggage at the hotel after we had checked out, and then picked it up in the evening. They are usually very happy to take care of your luggage for the day.

      A few times we used the coin lockers at the train stations.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Espen

      Reply
  9. I love the look of this itinerary! Includes all I had hoped to see and more – as long as I can relax in onsen in the evenings – it’s not too packed! Only question, why no stop to Osaka? Do you recommend it?

    Reply
    • Hi Jazz,

      I agree, as long as I get an Onsen in the evening, everything is good 🙂

      I am sure Osaka is awesome, but since we started in Tokyo, and there was so much more we wanted to see, there just wasn’t room for another mega city in the time we had. We will for sure check it out next time. If you have the time you can add it to your travel itinerary.

      Best of luck!

      -Espen

      Reply
    • Hi Clara,

      There is no train going from Tokyo to Shirakawago. It`s connected by bus only from either Takayama city or Kanazawa city. The best option for you will be Takayama as it is easiest to get to Takayama from Tokyo, either by train or bus. You can stay the night in Takayama and do a side trip by bus to Shirakawago as we did.

      Train journey from Tokyo to Takayama takes about 4.5 hours with a transfer in Nagoya. I will recommend you get a 7-day JR rail pass, this will be cheapest. Just make sure you do all your traveling with a period of 7 days.

      A cheaper option is to travel to Takayama by highway bus. There are six daytime highway bus round trips per day between Tokyo (Keio Highway Bus Terminal in Shinjuku) and Takayama operated by Keio and Nohi Bus. The one-way trip takes 5.5 hours and costs 6,690 yen. A round trip ticket costs 12,040 yen, but the return trip has to be made within seven days of the outward journey. During the summer holidays only, there is also an overnight bus.

      Here is the bus schedule for Tokyo – Takayama

      Bus from Takayama to Shirakawago takes about 50 min. Here is the bus schedule for Takayama – Shirakawago

      Have a great trip to Japan and Shirakawago!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  10. Dear Maria,

    Thanks for sharing your trip to Japan. We are right now planning our trip so it has been great getting some tips from you. Just one question; when did you travel to Japan? Would you recommend doing a similar route in October?

    Thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,
    Hanna

    Reply
    • Hi Hanna,

      We were in Japan in the beginning of August. Yes, I would recommend visiting these places in October. The Alpine Route is open till 30th of November. October might be a bit colder than August up in the mountains if you want to do the Alpine Route (around 10 degrees celsius), so bring warm clothes.

      October is one of the most pleasant months for traveling in Japan as the weather remains warm, but is not hot and humid anymore. The average temperature in Tokyo is 22 degrees celsius at daytime. Also, the trees begin turning to autumn colors in October in the northern regions and higher elevations like in the Alpine Route. So October is perfect for visiting Japan!

      Have a great trip to Japan!!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  11. Hi there, hoping to plan a trip to japan for next year. How much money would you recommend taking or how much would this itinerary cost on average?

    Reply
    • Hi Troy,

      This is very difficult to answer, it depends on what kind of accommodation you are looking for, and so on.

      We have written a guide on the cost of traveling Japan, with some tips on how to save money and make your Japan trip cheaper: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap.

      Hope this can be of help to you when planning your trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  12. Hi guys. How come you guys decide to skip Osaka? I read you can do day trip from Kyoto. I myself is planning to do a Thailand/Japan trip. And your website had helped me trememdously

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Thank you so much! Glad our blog could be of help to you when planning your trip to Thailand and Japan!

      We ran out of time on our 14 days Japan Rail Pass (JR) , so we had to skip something on our planned itinerary, and that was unfortunately Osaka. There are so much to see and do in Kyoto, so we chose to spend an extra day there instead of rushing on to Osaka. But I`m sure Osaka is a nice city too.

      Check out our post on how to save money when traveling to Japan: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap

      Lucky you who are going to Thailand and Japan, they are actually our two favorite countries in Asia, together with Sri Lanka. Have a great trip! I`m sure that you will love both countries!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  13. Hi Maria,

    Loved your post on Shiragawa! 🙂 If travelling from Tokyo, would you recommend staying a night in Takayama or Shiragawago?

    I read an article on the Japan Guide that Shiragawago offers great farmhouse stays, which got me interested. Would you recommend it?

    Many thanks in advance!

    Regards,
    Mel

    Reply
    • Hi Mel,

      Thanks, so happy to hear that you liked our post on Shirakawa! 🙂

      We stayed in Takayama. It is very easy to get to Shirwagawago on a day trip from Takayama (about 50 minutes each way). Staying at a farmhouse in Shirakawago sounds great, however! We might try that the next time. We considered staying a night at the small World Heritage site/ village Ainokura, north of Shirakawago.

      Wherever you choose to stay, in Takayama or at a farmhouse in Shirakawago, I`m sure you will love the green and lush village! Have a great trip!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  14. Hi Maria,

    Wow that’s an amazing itinerary !! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    My bf and I are planning a 13 day trip to japan in May travelling from Hiroshima to Tokyo. I know most travel from North to south but our tickets is from south to north. I find the whole planning business a bit overwhelming given how much we want to see and do and eat .. Etc, so your suggestions are life saver !! We want to visit Hiroshima and miyajima, Osaka , Kyoto , Nara , Matsumoto , Toyama, hakone, Yokohama , Fuji 5 lake, finish at Tokyo… Think this in too aggressive ?? Any suggestion to where we should stay for hot spring and ryokan?? Did you guys see any volcano along the way ??? Based on this itinerary what would you suggest in term of transit ???

    Any idea to how we can make the best out of our 13 day would much appreciated !!thank you so so much!

    Celina

    Reply
    • I agree, the planning a trip bit can be pretty overwhelming and frustrating sometimes. 🙂

      A 13 days itinerary for you could be something like this:

      1. Hiroshima – 1 night (a day trip to Miyajima Island)
      2. Osaka – 2 nights
      3. Kyoto – 4 nights (including a day trip to Nara and Fushimi Inari shrine: https://nerdnomads.com/fushimi-inari-shrine)
      4. Matsumoto – 1 night
      5. Toyama – 1 night
      6. Hakone/ Fuji 5 lake – 1 night in Ryokan
      7. Yokohama – 1 night
      8. Tokyo – 2 nights

      It will be a super tight schedule. 🙂 It is doable, but it will be pretty exhausting so you might want to skip a place or two. You might want to spend two nights in Hiroshima though, especially if you are travelling from Europe/USA and have a jetlag. 😉

      I think you should choose either Hakone or Fuji 5 lake, I don`t think you have time for both. They say Hakone is a more developed tourist spot and there are more things to see and do compared to Fuji 5 lake. If you are interested in Mt. Fuji and outdoor type activities (boat trips, hikes and so on), Fuji 5 lakes will be a more interesting trip. Fuji 5 Lakes have a more stunning view since it is closer to Mt. Fuji than Hakone, but it might be misty the day you are there and you won`t see it at all anyway. We did not see the Mt. Fuji as it was misty.

      There are some great Ryokans in Hakone, with both outside and inside Onsen/ hot spring (https://nerdnomads.com/how-to-take-japanese-onsen), and some with Mt. Fuji view.

      You should buy a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) when it comes to transportation. Read more about that here: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap. The pass is only for tourists and has to be bought outside of Japan.

      Hope this helps a little when planning your trip. Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  15. Hello Maria,

    I have been looking through various travel sites for Japan and your blog is by far the best I have seen. I really enjoy reading all the details and seeing the pictures you took and appreciate the honest and personal touch you put in each post.

    My wife and I from Canada will be visiting Japan as well for 13 days (flying in to Narita on May 9 and flying out of Narita on May 21). Your itinerary looks great but we may have to cut some segments such as the Alpine route, Matsumoto or Shirakawa-Go.

    What do you suggest if our “must sees” are: Tokyo, Hakone, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima? Is it doable? Do you recommend other cities along the way? We’d like to see a temple or two but not too much, but definitely want to checkout an onsen and the ryokan you recommended in Takayama, and also experience different types of food.

    I really appreciate your help as planning can be overwhelming!

    Cheers,
    Mark

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our posts about Japan can be of help.

      A 13 days itinerary for you could be:

      1. Tokyo – 3 nights
      2. Hakone to see Mt. Fuji – 1 night (in a Ryokan?)
      3. Kanazawa – 1 nights
      4. Takayama – 1 night in Yamakyu Ryokan + maybe a day trip to Shirakawago (only 50 min away with bus from Takayama)
      5. Kyoto – 3 nights
      6. Osaka – 1 night
      7. Hiroshima – 1 night + a day trip to Miyajima Island
      8. Tokyo – 1 night

      It is absolutely doable, but it will a be a tight schedule and can be stressful.

      If you want more slack you should skip Takayama and instead book a Ryokan in Hakone. Hakone has plenty of beautiful ryokans with onsen/hot spring where you can relax and enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji. The Ryokans here might be more expensive though than the Yamakyu Ryokan that we stayed at in Takayama.

      If you want to cut another city off this list, I would say Kanazawa as it is a bit “out of the way” from Kyoto/Tokyo/Osaka area. Then you can add an extra night in Hiroshima (2 nights here) so that you can do a day trip out to Miyajima Island: https://nerdnomads.com/miyajima-island.

      Kyoto and Tokyo are packed with temples, so you will see lots of temples there. It`s better to add more time at each place than to add more cities, in my opinion. It`s more relaxing and you get to see more instead of spending lots of hours on the train and bus between places.

      You should buy a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). This will save you a lot of money. Read more about that here: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap. The pass is only for tourists and has to be bought outside of Japan.

      If you are looking for tips on what kind of Japanese food you should try, check this out: https://nerdnomads.com/japanese-food

      Have an awesome trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  16. Hi! I have been researching ideias for my upcoming trip do japan and i really love your sugestions! 🙂 There’s only one thing that you don’t mention here that I have seen in other blogs and sites, and that is mount koya. Why did you left it out? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Ines,

      I have actually never heard of mount Koya, just googled it. It is just south of Osaka, and we did not go to Osaka. With just two weeks we could unfortunately not cover everything or all the highlights of Japan. It was just not enough time, so we chose Hiroshima over Osaka.

      Thanks for the tip on mount Koya, will check it out on our next trip to Japan.

      Reply
  17. Hi Maria, thanks for creating this awesome 2 weeks in Japan itinerary. After going through various sites and even thinking about joining a Japan Tour, we have decided to follow your lead and enjoy our 14 days in Japan. We are flying to Japan from US on 5/20 and back on 6/5. Our last time in Japan was in 2010 and we were only there for 3 days business trip so we pretty much only walked around Tokyo the whole time. My wife’s really likes Shirakawa-go and she specifically asked me to spend more time there if possible. According to your schedule, it seems one day is sufficient, is that right?

    There are so many shrines in Japan and I was wondering if you have any suggestions on which ones are must see. If you could make any small modifications from your trip, what would you have done differently?

    Once again, thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us and if you are ever visiting Los Angeles, I would love to take your and your husband out to dinner 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Jack,

      Thank you so much, so happy to hear that our Japan itinerary could be of help to you!

      Shirakawa-go is such a beautiful place! Yes, I would say that one day in Shirakawa-go is sufficient. If you want you can spend a night there. There are some Ryokans and farm-house stay options in the area. The houses/ museums close around 5 p.m. and the tourist buses leave around that time too. So spending the night there gives you the opportunity to walk around the village without other tourists. But at the same time, everything close in the afternoon so there is not much to do after 5 p.m. than to talk around and look at the houses from the outside.

      Our favourite shrine was the Fushimi Inari Shrine outside Kyoto: https://nerdnomads.com/fushimi-inari-shrine. It is a pathway of 4 km up the mountain lined with thousands of red torii gates. There are also dozens of stone foxes everywhere. We loved it! It is a great day-hike, or afternoon stroll.

      Kyoto is packed with shrines and temples, the best being:
      – Nanzen-ji – one of the finest temples in Kyoto, with its big grounds, Leaping Tiger Zen garden, tea houses, and numerous subtemples
      – Kinkaku-ji – “Golden Pavilion”. This temple can be packed with people so the best time to visit is early in the morning (9 a.m.) or afternoon just before it closes at 5 p.m.
      – Ginkaku-ji

      In Tokyo, you should visit the Senso-ji temple, one of Tokyo’s oldest.

      Hmm, if I was to do any changes to this itinerary, it would be to cut some places and spend more time at each place instead. If you are not that keen on temples and shrines, I would skip Nikko and Nara, as there are plenty of shrines and temples to see in Kyoto. It can be a bit too many temples and shrines with both Nikko and Nara…… 🙂

      And if the weather is bad, rainy, cloudy and foggy, I would skip Hakone as you will not be able to see Mt. Fuji anyway. So check the weather forecast before you jump on the train to Hakone. You may consider adding Osaka city to your itinerary instead, with Osaka Castle as a highlight.

      Awww, thank you so much for the dinner invitation! We have never been to LA, it is high up on our bucket list. Would love to see Hollywood! Maybe next year.

      Have an awesome trip to Japan!!!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  18. Hi Maria,

    Your post is very helpful. My family (Me and wife and 3 kids ages 14-18) are planning to visit Tokyo on October 22-Nov 3, 2016. May I know how much did you spend in your 2 week trip to Japan?

    Also, Do you have any suggestions, tips for us first time tourist in Japan?

    Reply
    • Hi Jon,

      Hmm, I don`t know how much money we used on our two week trip to Japan, way too much compared to the other SouthEast Asian countries we have visited. 😉

      You biggest expenses are going to be accommodation. I would go for business hotels if I were you. You can easily find cheap food, like noodle dishes.

      You can save a lot of money on transportation if you buy the Japan Railway pass for tourists before you go to Japan.

      We have written a post on how expensive is Japan and how to save money: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  19. Hi Maria!

    I go to Thailand every year, as my mom is Thai and I’m half-Thai. December this year would be my 8th year in a row. Every year I am really looking forward to this trip, but this year I wanted to do something else. Of course I am going to visit my mum in Thailand, but I thought “why not combine it with another Asian country?”. Then I saw my friend’s Facebook post titled “10 reasons why you should visit Japan”. I wanted to go to Japan since I saw”Lost In Translation” with Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, but this Facebook-post drew me over the line. Two days later I purchases my ticket to Tokyo. “But then what?” I know Thailand, but Japan was and still is completely new for me. Didn’t have a clue what to visit first. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advise here online. You two-week-trip is so varied. I will definitely take it with me to Japan as a “tour guide”

    Gentilla

    Reply
    • Hi Gentilla,

      Lucky you who are half Thai and get to visit Thailand every year. Ah, we love Thailand!! It is our second home away from home. 🙂

      Yep, Japan is completely different from Thailand, and all other SouthEast Asian countries, that’s for sure. Sometimes we felt like we had landed on another planet, especially in some areas of Tokyo. 🙂 It is so modern and high-tech, it feels like visiting the future.

      Japan is also a lot more expensive than Thailand. We have written an overview of how expensive is Japan, and how to make your trip cheaper: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap

      The people in Japan are very polite, but not as friendly or in the same way friendly as Thais. Also, Japanese don`t like speaking English, so it was difficult communicating with the locals. But at the same time, Japanese (at least the young ones) love American culture and food. Some areas in Tokyo feels like being in the USA.

      Ah, I love Lost in Translation too. Great film!

      Have an awesome trip to Japan, and of course Thailand! I´m sure you will love Japan too!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Rianti,

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear that you found this itinerary useful!

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  20. Hi Maria

    Thanks for sharing this itinerary and for posting a lot of resources.

    My wife and i are planning an 18 day trip so just wondering what would you change on your itinerary. We may skip the alpine route but we are considering visit Nagano instead and maybe add Tottori to the trip, everything else will remain the same as yours. Do you think that will be doable?

    Again thanks for a great blog and totally will share with all my friends that want to travel outside America,

    Reply
    • Hi,

      With 18 days you have some more slack if you want to do this itinerary. Since you have 18 days instead of 14, plus the extra days if you skip the Alpine Route, you should have enough time to see the highlights of Japan.

      To add Nagano and Tottori to this itinerary instead of Alpine Route is a good idea, and absolutely doable.

      Have a great trip to Japan! I´m sure you will love this beautiful country just as much as we do!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  21. Hi Maria

    First of all thanks for sharing your itinerary with us, it’s been really helpful when planning my trip to japan. I wanted to ask what do you think of the following itinerary for 18 days. Do you think we are missing anything?. Congrats on your blog and i hope more people can read your experiences

    1 Tokyo
    2 Tokyo
    3 Tokyo
    4 Tokyo
    5 Hakone
    6 Matsumoto
    7 Nagano
    8 Nagano
    9 Kanazawa
    10 Kanazawa
    11 Shirakawa-go
    12 Takayama
    13 Kyoto
    14 Kyoto
    15 Hiroshima and Miyajima Island/Osaka
    16 Osaka
    17 Nara
    18 Nara/Tokyo

    Reply
    • Hi Levi,

      Thank you so much, happy that this article could be of help to you!

      Looks like a great itinerary! You are going to be pretty busy these 18 days. 🙂 You could consider skipping Nara and spend some more time in Kyoto. There is so much to see and do in Kyoto, and I really like that city.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love it!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • We just came back from our awesome experience and just need to thank you for sharing your itinerary, we made some adjustments on the go but we mostly did the itinerary i posted above, that was based on yours originally. Your blog is so full of resources that really helped us in our trip so keep sharing your adventures so we can plan ours afterwards :D.
        Levi

        Reply
        • Awwww, thanks a million Levi!!! So great to hear that you had such an amazing Japan trip! You really made our day by posting this comment. It is awesome to hear back from our readers after they have been on their trip. Glad to be of help!

          Thanks again for coming back and commenting! You are the best! 🙂

          Cheers,
          Maria

          Reply
        • Hello levi.

          Did you make a note of your journey and things that you did. 18 days sounds really good. Can you help with any tips?

          Reply
  22. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for sharing your trip to Japan – awesome! We are flying to Tokyo in a couple of days and will follow your itinerary. What is your next trip? 🙂 What about New Zealand? 🙂

    Have a great summer!
    Petra

    Reply
    • Hi Petra,

      Thrilled to hear that you found our Japan itinerary useful when planning your Japan trip! Thank you!

      Would love to visit New Zealand! It looks stunning and is definitely on our travel list! Have heard that New Zealand is a bit similar to our home country Norway, excited to check out if that`s true. 🙂

      Our next trip is to the Lofoten Islands in Norway, and in September I am going to Germany and in October we are both heading over to the USA and Canada.

      Have an awesome trip to Japan, Petra! I`m sure you will have a great time!

      Love,
      Maria

      Reply
  23. Hi. We’ll be visiting Japan for about 13 days from 24 Oct – 5 Nov

    Draft itinerary as follows:

    Narito to Tokyo- 24 Oct
    Tokyo – 24-27 Oct
    Matsumoto – 28-29 Oct
    Takayama – 29-30 Oct (w/ day trip to shinhotaka ropeway)
    Kyoto – 31 Oct to 3 Nov
    Tokyo 4-5 Nov

    What do you think of the itinerary? Is it too rushed? We’re trying to take it slow and easy, while visiting beautiful places outside of the busy cities. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the itinerary?

    Most likely getting the 14-day JR pass.

    Appreciate your advice. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Alex,

      Your itinerary seems very good. I would say it is not too rushed, you have three full days in Tokyo and four days in Kyoto, which is good. You could stop by Shirakawago on your way from Takayama to Kyoto (only for a couple of hours, it is a small little village so you don`t need many hours).

      We took the bus from Takayama city to Shirakawago. Nouhi Bus Company (https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/) has many buses daily from Takayama to Shirakawa-go. The bus ride takes about 50 minutes.

      If you want to see Japan´s first capital as well as the biggest golden Buddha in Japan and cuddle with deer, then you can go down to Nara on your way from Kyoto to Tokyo, for a day-trip. And head up to Tokyo in the evening. Nara is a small, quiet, and cosy city compared to Kyoto and Tokyo.

      I`m sure you will have a wonderful time in Japan! It might be good to be able to be a bit impulsive and decide on some places along the way. You will for sure get plenty of tips from other travelers once you are in Japan. We had not pre-booked anything and did not know where in Japan we wanted to go. 🙂 The only thing we had was a 14-days JR train pass, and our first two night at a hotel in Tokyo.

      If you have not booked a hotel in Tokyo, I would really recommend MyStays Hotel in Asakusabashi . We stayed at that hotel and loved it.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  24. Hey there!

    I LOVE this itinerary and I’m SO excited to start planning. I’m just wondering if you have a ballpark figure of how much it cost in AUD.

    Reply
    • Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you so much! Unfortunately I don`t have any estimate of how much this itinerary will cost. It all depends on what kind of accommodation you choose, where you eat, how many museums and temples you visit and so on.

      We have however put together an overview of how expensive Japan is, and how you can save money: https://nerdnomads.com/expensive-japan-travel-cheap

      Have an amazing trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  25. My family will be in Japan traveling late Dec/early Jan. for approx 12 days.

    Our interests are culture, experiencing Japan modern and old. Some temples and shrines, hot springs ( Onsen (outdoors?), ryoken, castle, sumo, geisha, kabuki, historic town). We are not interested in skiing or going to beaches

    I was thinking of doing the following:

    Tokyo – 3 days

    Niko – 1 day

    Hakone – 1 day

    Takayama – 2 day

    Kyoto – 4 days

    Are there any stops that I’m missing? If I go to Tokyo, am I missing out in seeing modern Japan in Osaka? Thoughts on going to Matsumoto? Alternative cities which are better for my interested (Matsumoto)? Are these accessible and good locations to go to during winter? Is there a great historic city that preserved much of old Japan (Takayama?)?

    Is the JR pass the best way to go? Are these places all accessible with the JR pass?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Your itinerary looks great! With this itinerary you will see a good combination of old Japan (Nikko, Takayama and parts of Kyoto), while you will experience modern Japan in Tokyo and parts of Kyoto.

      I think you will get plenty of modern Japan in Tokyo, but we have not been to Osaka. Osaka castle looks beautiful, though.

      Matsumoto also has a nice castle, Crow Castle, but other than that there are not that much to see in Matsumoto. We mainly visited Matsumoto because we did the Japanese Alps tour (it is closed during winter when you are there). If you want to see a castle, then Osaka is probably better and easier to access than Matsumoto. The train trip from Kyoto to Osaka only takes about 1 hour.

      As for shrines and temples, you will get plenty of that in Nikko, Kyoto and Tokyo.

      While you are in Takayama, you should consider taking the bus out to Shirakawa-go, to see some of the old authentic Japan. The bus ride only takes 50 minutes from Takayama. The old houses of Shirakawa-go look amazing during winter, covered in white snow.

      All of these places that you have in your itinerary is accessible during winter.

      Getting a JR Pass will save you money: https://nerdnomads.com/jr_rail_pass

      All of these places that you are mentioning are accessible with this pass. If you are going to spend a few days in Tokyo in the beginning, you can choose to buy a 7-day pass, and activate it when you are heading out of Tokyo. A 7-day pass is probably enough for you.

      You should stick with this itinerary, it looks really good. You might, however, want to add Shirakawa-go (a day-trip from Takayama) and Osaka to see the castle (a day-trip from Kyoto).

      Have a wonderful time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  26. This is a great plan Maria. I spent 15 days in Japan in April and travelled along a similar route. I didn’t visit Hiroshima and Miyajima island. I spent one day visiting Snow corridors in Alpine route.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Ankur. Wow, the Snow corridor looks amazing! We have a similar snow corridor her in Norway as well, in the spring.

      Thanks for commenting!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  27. Hi Maria. Been searching for travel tips going to Japan and Im so glad I found your blog.
    Will surely follow your suggestions. Cant wait to go to Japan next year. Booking our trip now while its cheaper. Thanks for all your insights, really helps.
    More power and more traveling.

    Christina

    Reply
    • Hi Christina,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment! So glad to hear that our suggested itinerary could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip. Don`t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

      Have a great trip to Japan next year! You will love this beautiful country! Happy traveling!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  28. hi Christina

    Thanks for this wonderful itinerary. My hubby and I are about to head off in November 10 (going for 17 days) and landing in Tokyo (from Australia). We want to spend a good 5 days in Tokyo, a good 3 days in Kyoto and also want to see Hiroshima and Mount Fuji. Apart from this, everything is negotiable. we are looking at getting a 2 week JR pass.

    I’m just having some trouble understanding how to ensure we cover these places in the most efficient way and also connectivity with JR and bus but not spending hours just travelling. Can you suggest an itinerary? We have only booked 2 nights of accommodation in Tokyo up front so far…

    thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Nandita,

      I will recommend train over bus in Japan. The shinkansen trains are some of the world`s fastest trains. They are very efficient, run exactly on time, and can take you all over Japan.

      I would suggest an itinerary like this for you:

      Day 1: Landing in Tokyo
      Day 2 – 6: Tokyo
      Day 7: Activate your JR pass. Take the train from Tokyo to Hakone. Take the Kodama shinkansen (50 min) or the JR Tokaido line (1 hour) from Tokyo Station. This train has lots of departures. Or take the Shonan-Shinjuku line from Shinjuku station in Tokyo (80 min) to Odawara and change there for trains or buses for Hakone-Yumoto. Buy the 2-day Hakone free pass at Odawara train station to get around Hakone area (the lake cruise is included).
      Day 8: Hakone
      Day 9: Take the train from Hakone to Kyoto. From Odawara station you can take the shinkansen Hikari to Kyoto (about 3 hours). This is the fastest and most direct way to get from Odawara to Kyoto.
      Day 10-12: Kyoto
      Day 13: Take the train from Kyoto to Hiroshima (two hours). Hiroshima station is on the JR San-yo line.
      Day 14-15: Hiroshima and Miyajima island: https://nerdnomads.com/miyajima-island
      Day 16: Head up back to Tokyo by train (the fastest train takes about 5 hours). Consider stopping in Nara on your way back to Tokyo.

      Hope this helped a little. Have a great trip to Japan in November! I`m sure you will have a great time!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  29. Hi,
    This may seem an odd comment, but what did you do with your luggage on the days where you moved town? Does Japan have lockers and things in train stations? The reason I ask is, I’m assuming that when you arrive in a town you didn’t go to your hotel/Onsen to deposit your luggage as surely you couldn’t check-in early in the morning? Or were the hotels good at storing luggage so you could go out for the day and then come back to check in later on? Any tips are greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Hi Caz,

      It’s not an odd question at all 🙂 Actually, we should write something about this in the article.

      You basically guessed it. If we check out early from a hotel we usually ask the hotel to look after our luggage for the day, and then pick it up in the evening before departing. They are very used to getting this request and usually have a dedicated luggage room. If we arrive early we will often go to the hotel and leave our bags there before we go out exploring.

      The alternative is to use the coin-operated luggage lockers available at just about every train station in Japan. Whether we leave our bags at the hotel or at the train station really depends on what is most convenient based on the location of the hotel and train station, what we want to see that day etc.

      I hope this clears it up a little.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Espen

      Reply
  30. Maria,
    Your blog on this subject is excellent.
    We desire to take our Mother 77yrs to this destination. She is able to walk on level ground, easily. With a little difficulty, climbing stairs.
    Observation Deck at the Dam has 220 steps – can this be bypassed ? She would be able to walk over the dam, though slowly but manageable.
    Your first hand experience and advice :
    Should we take the risk for her
    Any other place during the entire length – Ogizawa to Tateyama, which entails walks with ups and downs (steps)
    Any other advice for an elderly in this terrain
    Trip is scheduled for April 2017 (after the 16th
    Regards

    Dushyant

    Reply
    • Hi Dushyant,

      Thank you so much! Glad to be of help!

      As for the Japan Alps trip, you don`t have to go up the 220 steps to the observation deck of the Kurobe Dam, this is just an extra walk for those who want to get higher up to take photos. You can just stay down at the trolley-bus station, and walk over the dam on the flat pathway (no stairs) till the next train station. You will still have beautiful views of the dam and its surroundings. No need to go up to the Observation Deck.

      The only places you have to walk a few stairs are at the train and cable car stations, but there are not many steps. So I would say that your mother will manage to do this trip perfectly. You don`t have to walk much if you don`t want to or manage. You will see lots of beautiful nature from each transportation (train, bus and cable cars) and can do short walks just around each station on flat terrain.

      At the web page for this trip, they write: “Wheelchair users and those concerned about walking have no need to worry. When negotiating the stairs and vehicles at each station, please feel free to contact a member of staff for assistance.”
      http://www.kanko-omachi.gr.jp/en/alpen_route/plan#p09

      I`m sure you and your mother will have a great trip into the Japanese Alps, it is truly a spectacular trip with amazing views. You will love it!

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  31. Hello Maria,

    As all the other readers of your blog, I would like to thank you for the excellent article about the itinerary in Japan. It was an excelent inspiration for my and my wife for our 3 weeks trip in Japan starting with 28. October.

    We have already a itinerary which is not final however, and I would like to ask your opinion about it.
    – Days 1-4: Tokyo (with a probable day trip to Hakone or Fuji Five Lakes; I’m not sure though which one to choose);
    – Day 5-8: Kanazawa (with 2 days trips to Shirakawa Go & Alpine Route);
    Day 9-10: Miyajima (with short stop in Hiroshima on our way);
    Day 11-14: Kyoto
    Day 15: Mount Koya with accomodation on one of the budist temples;
    Day 16-17: Osaka (with one possible day trip either to Nara or to Castle Himeji
    Day 18-20: Tokyo (with one last possible day trip to Nikko; I’m not sure though whether we will reach saturation with so many temples by now ).

    Thank you,
    Daniel

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel,

      This looks like a great itinerary! Yeah, it might be that you get a bit templed out in the end, there are plenty of beautiful temples and shrines to see in both Tokyo and Kyoto.

      I really recommend you to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine just outside of Kyoto, it is very nice: https://nerdnomads.com/fushimi-inari-shrine

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  32. Hi Maria,
    Thank you for this excellent post – your whole website more generally is such a tremendous resource for travelers!
    I have been teaching English in Thailand for the past 8 months and have finally convinced my dad to come meet me in this part of the world. We will be in Japan from November 16th – 24th – I know it’s a terribly short period of time 🙁 Do you have any suggestions for how we could make the most of this time? I feel like Tokyo and Kyoto are must-sees. Is there anything else you feel we can’t miss out on? Maybe some place where the changing leaves will be especially beautiful? We’re happy to have a packed well-rounded itinerary!
    Thank you so much!
    Delphine

    Reply
    • Hi Delphine,

      Great to hear that you and your dad are going to Japan! You will love it!

      Hmm, eight days are not much in this beautiful country. A visit to Tokyo and Kyoto is definitely a must, I agree.

      If you want to see other places than Tokyo and Kyoto, you can go on some day trips to for instance Nikko (a temple town north of Tokyo), Nara (also temples and shrines and a big golden Buddha south of Kyoto) and Hakone (to see mount Fuji and autumn leafs colors).

      In Kyoto, you should visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine just outside of the city: https://nerdnomads.com/fushimi-inari-shrine

      There are some very nice places to see the beautiful autumn colors and changing leafs in Tokyo, like the Showa Kinen Park and Meiji Jingu Shrine and surrounding park. Hakone area (south of Tokyo) is also beautiful in November, especially Lake Kawaguchi.

      We have written an itinerary for Tokyo, with the highlights of Tokyo: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-do-in-tokyo. You might find some inspiration here on what to see and do in Tokyo.

      Have a great trip to Japan with your dad!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  33. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for your insight in to travelling Japan. We are going travelling there in march with our 22 month old. We will skip the alpine section and spend more time in Kyoto but would you change anything else if travelling with a toddler?

    Kind regards,

    Erin

    Reply
    • Hi Erin,

      Lucky you who are going to Japan! You will love it!

      I would suggest that you slow down and spend a little more time at each place. This is a pretty intense two-week itinerary, that may be a little stressful traveling with a small child. But all of these places are perfectly doable with small children.

      Japan is very clean and modern and there will be no problem walking around with a stroller in the streets as the pavements are broad and in good shape (unlike some other Asian countries).

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  34. Hello and thanks for your excellent web site. I am using this as a basis for my planning for a trip we have booked for the first 2 weeks of April.
    Coming from arid Australia, we are looking also looking to maximise our time in tall lush green forests as well.
    A couple of quick question as I am working my way through this:
    1. Your description of Hakone is very sparse. Other than looking at Mt Fuji, is there a lot more to offer? It looks to be a bit out of the way for only the “chance” of seeing a hill depending on the weather : )
    2. I have just seen that the Alpine route this year opened from 16 Apr. Extremely disappointed as we will be leaving Japan on the 16th : ( Any suggestions on how we can still experience this part of the world without actually travelling the route? I don’t think we will be heading down to Hiroshima so will have another couple of days to play with.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Glenn,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that you like our site!

      1) The description of Hakone is sparse because we did not go there ourselves due to bad weather (lots of rain and fog).

      Hakone area is famous for its beautiful nature, parks, forest, and lakes. There are lots of hiking/walking tracks in and around Hakone with beautiful scenery.

      Apart from beautiful nature, Hakone also has a lot of hot springs/ Onsen where you can go for a bath and relax while looking at the great views. There are also several nice parks in Hakone, like the Botanical Garden with lots of alpine plants. At the entrance to Hakone, there is a beautiful white castle, the Odawara Castle. There are a few temples and shrines in the area too, like the Hakone Shrine and Choanji Temple with lots of ancient statues in the garden and forest surrounding the temple. You can also visit several museums; Hakone Art Museum, Okada Museum of Art, Open Air Museum, Pola Art Museum, and Narukawa Art Museum. And finally, if you want to go shopping, there is Gotemba Outlet Mall.

      So there are lots to see and do in the Hakone area, but people mainly come here to see the beautiful nature and go for walks/hikes.

      2) The full Alpine route opened 16th of April this year (will probably be something similar next year), but the Partial route (from Dentetsu Toyama – Midagahara) was open April 10th to 15th 2016. So you can do the partial route before you head home on the 16th.

      Have a great trip to Japan! I`m sure you will love it! Ah, lucky you who live in Australia! We studied in Brisbane (at Queensland University of Technology) some years ago. Really miss Australia and hope to come back one day!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  35. Hello nomads! Digital nomad here myself and what a great trip. I find myself in Japan around DEC and wanted to know if you could adjust this for winter instead of fall or point me in the right direction. Hotspring with snow? Yes please lol.

    2 people backpacking no checked luggage.

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi NomadicBryce,

      Nice to hear from a fellow digital nomad! 🙂 Lucky you who are going to Japan in December, you will love it!

      All of these places will be fine and beautiful to visit during winter too, except for the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which is closed from 30th of November till 16th of April.

      I`ve seen pictures from the mountain village Shirakawa-go during winter, and it looks absolutely stunning with all the snow covering the houses.

      Japan has one of the world’s best places to go skiing and snowboarding if that`s your thing? Up north, you have the famous Hokkaido island with Sapporo as it`s famous capital that had the Winter Olympics back in 1972. This island is a nature paradise with beautiful scenery and national parks. There are plenty of Onsen (hot springs) in this area, and the skiing is supposed to be awesome with plenty of slopes.

      Another great area to visit in winter time is Nagano and Niigata area. Nagano had the Winter Olympics in 1998. Here are many 2-3 000 metre high mountains, where the areas between are dotted with ski resorts and hot springs. Niigata is also home to many of Japan`s leading sake labels. Nagano is famous for its hot springs like Nozawa Onsen and Shibu Onsen, the latter being well known for the snow monkeys which bathe in the hot spring at Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park. The photos from these bathing montain monkeys look awesome!

      To go skiing in Japan is high up on our list, and our next trip to Japan will have to be during winter.

      Have a great trip to Japan in December! Bring warm clothes!

      Happy Travels!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  36. Hi Maria & Espen,

    We just got back from our two week travel to Japan and boy it was beyond amazing, thank you for sharing your itinerary it really helped us a lot, if not for this blog we might be scowering on what to do and where to start. Just like us a lot of first time traveler would have that feeling of unease especially travelling on a buzzling country but you guys gave us that assurance that in reality there’s really nothing to worry about and all we need to do is just enjoy; and now after the trip we have decided that definitely we’ll be back, there’s a lot to see in this beautiful country. Keep up the good work, you are such an inspiration for a lot of people who wants to take that first step in exploring the world. Thank you very much and God bless.

    p.s. we fed the deers in Nara and it’s awesome; however one of the deers have gone rogue and ate a piece of our map hahaha

    Reply
    • Hi Karl,

      Wow, thank you sooooo much for this nice comment! It made our day! 🙂

      I`m so glad to hear that your Japan trip was a success and that you want to come back for more, excellent! Hehehe, we also lost our map to the deers in Nara, they seem to love all kinds of paper. 🙂

      Thanks again for commenting! Happy travels!

      Love & Peace
      -Maria-

      Reply
  37. Hi Maria,

    Your blog is a real inspiration for our trip to Japan next April. However we have 13 days in Japan and therefore if we follow your trip we would need to skip one day – which one would you recommend as the least worst visiting?

    Reply
    • Hi Carl,

      Thank you! Glad our article could be of inspiration to you.

      Hmm, regarding what to skip, I would say that it depends on your interests and what you like to do.

      If you are not that keen on seeing lots of temples, then you should skip Nikko or Nara or both, as you will see plenty of temples and shrines in Tokyo and Kyoto.

      If you are not that interesting in the World War II and the sad history of Hiroshima and the atomic bombing, then you should skip going down to Hiroshima (it is a bit out of the way compared to the other places in more central Japan).

      If nature and hiking are not really your favorite thing, then you should skip the Alpine Route and save a couple of days. By the way, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route opens around 16th of April, so it depends on when in April you are visiting. It might still be closed so you check the opening dates carefully on the web page of the alpine route.

      Also, if the weather is bad, then you should skip Hakone and the Alpine Route as you will not see much if there is a lot of rain and fog.

      Have a great trip to Japan! I`m sure you will love it!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  38. Hi Maria

    I will be traveling to japan for 9days 8 nights and will be bringing my mum (70 yr/o) along. Osaka will be my base. I have a rough itinerary of my trip but I am not sure what kind of pass should I purchase : Kansai Area Pass (4day) or Kansai Wide Area Pass (5day) or Kansai Thru Pass (3day) or 2 of the kind

    My itinerary are all day-trip (can you let me know whether my itinerary is alright) :
    Day 1 – Osaka (to hotel near dinner time, will walk around places that are near hotel)
    Day 2 – Osaka (Tsutenkaku – Sumiyoshi Taisha – Tempozan Mkt place – Umeda Sky Bldg)
    Day 3 – Kyoto
    Day 4 – Kyoto
    Day 5 – Kyoto – Uji
    Day 6 – Nara
    Day 7 – Himeji – Kobe (include Arima Onsen)
    Day 8 – Osaka (from Abeno Q’s Mall – Mio Tennoji – Shitennoji – Osaka Castle – Osaka Tenmangu Shrine – Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping)
    Day 9 – Home sweet home

    Regards, Serina

    Reply
    • Hi Maria

      I will be traveling to japan for 9days 8 nights and will be bringing my mum (70 yr/o) along. Osaka will be my base. My itinerary are all day-trip (can you let me know whether my itinerary is alright) :
      Day 1 – Osaka (to hotel near dinner time, will walk around places that are near hotel)
      Day 2 – Osaka (Tsutenkaku – Sumiyoshi Taisha – Tempozan Mkt place – Umeda Sky Bldg)
      Day 3 – Kyoto
      Day 4 – Kyoto
      Day 5 – Kyoto – Uji
      Day 6 – Nara
      Day 7 – Himeji – Kobe (include Arima Onsen)
      Day 8 – Osaka (from Abeno Q’s Mall – Mio Tennoji – Shitennoji – Osaka Castle – Osaka Tenmangu Shrine – Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping)
      Day 9 – Home sweet home

      In view of the above, I am not sure what kind of pass should I purchase : Kansai Area Pass (4day) or Kansai Wide Area Pass (5day) or Kansai Thru Pass (3day) or 2 of the different kind.

      Regards, Serina

      Reply
  39. Hello, Your 14 day itinerary has really peaked my interest. My wife and I will be in Japan from March 8th thru the 23rd. My question is do we need to make advanced reservations, or can we wing while traveling about and reserve a day or two in advance.

    Later, Michael

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      We did not pre-book much in advanced when we traveled through Japan (July-August). We only booked hotels a couple of days up front as we like to be flexible when we travel. But March is the start of Cherry Blossom season in Japan so the hotels might be full and expensive around this time. So it might be a good idea to pre-book, at least most of the nights.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  40. Hi Maria!
    very interesting post!! thank you for being so informative 🙂
    We (my partner and I) traveling to Japan next year; We still don’t know when dough 🙂

    My questions is, what made you pick this cities?
    I have a travel guide but uff very hard to decide which cities, all the pictures and description are so amazing! I think is one of those place you have to go several times. What do you thing?

    Regards,

    Maria.
    p.s: I am Colombian, so Maria is a very popular name in catholic countries 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Maria!! Love your name, by the way….hehe

      So cool that you are planning on going to Japan next year! You will love this beautiful country! Japan is one of our favorite countries.

      We did a lot of research on the internet and blogs, read several guide books, and talked to other travelers that had been to Japan, and ended up with a long list of recommended cities and places. Then we picked the cities and places that seemed interesting to us and matched our interests like we did the Alpine Route because we love hiking, nature, and mountains. We also focused on trying out typical Japanese stuff, like we stayed a night at a traditional Japanese Ryokan (bed and breakfast), and tried hot spring (Onsen). In our opinion, this list is the highlights of Japan.

      Japan is a big country, there are so many places to see and so much to do. We would love to go back to Japan during winter to go skiing, and also in spring to see the Cherry Blossom. Japan is definitely a country you would like to and should visit over and over again.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  41. Hi Maria!

    I stumbled upon your blog when looking for 14 day itineraries of Japan and your 14 day course has been my favorite so far. I would like to hit most of the things you suggested but skip the Alpine Route (this seemed to take a lot of travel time) so I came up with my sample route below. Do you think this would work? Thanks for any suggestions!

    Day 1-3 Tokyo (May 7th) Tokyo
    Day 4 (May 10th) Hakone
    Day 5-6 (May 11th) Kyoto
    Day 7 (May 13th) Kyoto–Osaka
    Day 8 (May 14th) Kyoto–Nara
    Day 9 (May 15th) Miyajima–Himeji Castle
    Day 10 (May 16th) Hiroshima
    Day 11 (May 17th) Kanazawa
    Day 12 (May 18th) Takayama
    Day 13-15 (May 19th) Tokyo–>USA

    Reply
    • Hi Jenny,

      Ah, thanks! So happy that our itinerary could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip! 🙂

      Your itinerary looks great! I would say that you have covered all of the highlights of Japan. It looks a bit busy, though, but I`m sure you will manage.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • You’re absolutely right Maria! My previous itinerary was terrible and included so much travel time. I made some revisions and took out Kanazawa and Takayama so it is much better now. Right now I’m using your Tokyo guide to plan my time in Tokyo and loving it! Your website has seriously been more useful than the Fodor’s guide that I bought and neglected. Thank you!

        Reply
  42. Hi Maria , your post is incredibly detailed and your blog is a lifesaver . My husband and I are going from 12 march to 1st April . Our iteniary looks like this : from Haneda airport go to hakone for 2 nights then go to Tokyo for 5 nights , then go to mt Fuji 5 lakes 1 night , Nagano 1 night ( to see snow monkeys) , Kanazawa 1 night . Shirakawago 1 night ( or just stay Shirakawago 1 night) Kyoto 5 nights (may reduce to 4 and 1 night Osaka) Okinawa 3 nights . We want to see it all . What do you think ? I also really like kamikochi is there a similar area open in late march at all you would recommend?

    Jenan

    Reply
    • Hi Jenan,

      Thank you so much, so happy that our articles from Japan could be of help to you!

      Your itinerary looks great! It’s pretty packed, but as you say, if you want to see it all it has to be this way. 🙂 It might be more convenient to head straight to Mt Fuji 5 Lakes from Hakone? And visit Tokyo after Mt Fuji 5 Lakes? Just a suggestion, but I have not checked how the transportation options are between these places.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Thanks Maria ! It does work out better – definitely doing that .

        Quick one any recommendations on where to base ourselves in Tokyo ? Odaiba looks cheaper and better value for money but seems too far from all the action . Is Shinjuku or elsewhere better ? I also want to stay clear of the red district etc

        Reply
        • Hi Jenan,

          We stayed at MyStays Hotel in Asakusabashi and loved it! It is cheap and brand new with excellent service and location, close to the subway/train station Asakusabashi. The train station Akihabara is also within walking distance.

          Lovely beds and the rooms have everything you need and more. The hotel has washing machines where you can wash your clothes. There are plenty of excellent and cheap restaurants nearby (check out the cozy pizzeria one street away), and there is a small convenient store (7 Eleven) in the basement of the hotel open 24/7.
          Click for latest prices.

          We are actually working on an article on the different areas of Tokyo and which are best to stay in. Hope to get it finish and published soon.

          -Maria-

          Reply
  43. Hi Maria,

    I just started my own travel and streetfood blog a month ago.
    I read your article and have to say that I’m amazed by your blog. Such helpful and detailed information!
    My next travel destination is going to be Japan and I’m really looking forward to visit some of the places you mentioned in your post.
    I’m happy that I found your page – you’re a big inspiration!

    Thanks a lot and keep up your amazing work!

    Reply
    • Hi Niko,

      Awwww, thank you sooooo much, Niko! Your comment made my day!

      I have been browsing through your blog, and love it! Great photos! I especially love the one of you standing on a mountain on the front page, awesome shot! You have some great articles on food, mmm, I am really getting hungry here from reading them. 🙂

      You will love Japan and it`s great food. Here are 11 Japanese dishes that you have to try on your trip to Japan:
      https://nerdnomads.com/japanese-food

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  44. Hi there Maria,

    This blog is a life saver as I am definitely going to follow your itinerary so is the best well written itinerary i’ve come across and truly appreciate the details. If I want to follow your exact itinerary do you recommend the 14 day JR Pass or the 7 day JR pass?

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our Japanese itinerary could be of help to you!

      We had a 14 day JR Pass when we did this itinerary. But it is a good question since you spend the first three days in Tokyo. You can buy a round-trip ticket to Nikko, a one-way ticket to Hakone, and Matsumoto/ Alpine Route, and not activate your JR pass until the sixth/ seventh day.

      If you buy a 7 day JR Pass, you should probably activate it after the Alpine Route. Since the long train trips are most expensive when buying one-way-tickets. So you should save your JR Pass till you are doing these long train trips (like Kyoto, Hiroshima and back up to Tokyo). But you should do the math on this, and see what is cheapest.

      The easiest is probably to buy a 14 day JR Pass, then you don’t have to worry about buying extra tickets.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  45. Hello Maria,
    I am in the midst of planning a trip for my parents, aunt and myself to visit Japan this April. Needless to say, I am overwhelmed by all the suggested things to see and do! I want to make it memorable for them and not miserable!
    We arrive on the evening of April 3rd and depart the morning on April 11th. So I actually only have 7 full days of touring to do. I’ll be flying in and out of Narita and continuing on to China for a 14 day tour. The China portion is easy because we’re on a tour. Japan is all on our own.
    We are from Hawaii and it’ll be my parents first time to Japan. My mom wants to see Cherry Blossoms & temples, my dad wants to see old Japan, Tokyo and the Tsukiji Fish Market auction. My aunt and I want to see Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and onsens. My parents and aunt are in their late 60’s and fairly healthy but intense hikes are out of the question.
    Would you be so kind to give me a suggested itinerary of sorts to make sure we all get a little of what we’re wanting to see in Japan?
    Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Melanie,

      Lucky you who are going to Japan and China with your parents and aunt from Hawaii! Sounds like a real adventure!

      Since you only have 7 days, I will recommend that you do this itinerary:
      1. April 3. – 6.: Tokyo, see the cherry blossom, visit some temples, and Tsukiji Fish Market: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-do-in-tokyo

      2. April 6. – 7.: Hakone, see Mt. Fuji, stay one night at a Ryokan (an old traditional Japanese bed and breakfast) where you also do Onsen (hot spring): https://nerdnomads.com/how-to-take-japanese-onsen and https://nerdnomads.com/staying-in-ryokan

      3. April 7. – 10.: Kyoto, visit the bamboo forest and Fushimi Inari shrine: https://nerdnomads.com/bamboo-grove-kyoto and https://nerdnomads.com/fushimi-inari-shrine

      4. April 10. – 11.: Tokyo, last night before heading to China

      And if you have some time left, and want to see some more temples and shrines, you can consider visiting Nara (about one hour with train from Kyoto).

      I am actually in a similar situation as I am taking my parents who are the same age as yours to Sri Lanka in February. It`ll be their first time visiting Sri Lanka. I am really excited and a bit scared. I have mixed feelings about being a travel guide for my parents, hehe. As you say, I too want to make it a memorable and great trip for them.

      Have a great trip to Japan and China! I am sure you will have a great time and that you will do excellent as their travel guide!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Maria,
        Thank you for your suggested itinerary! Your website has been such a big help for me to plan this trip to Japan.
        Should I purchase the 7day JR pass?

        Reply
          • Thank you Maria! How was Sri Lanka with your parents?

            Also, I changed my flight and will now be flying out of Osaka (KIX) on 4/11. Should I stay in Osaka the night before or just take the train from Kyoto? My flight departs at 10:00am.

          • We had an awesome time in Sri Lanka with my mom and dad! They loved Sri Lanka just as much as we do.

            The train trip from Kyoto to Osaka takes 30 minutes, so you can take an early morning train from Kyoto and catch your train from Osaka. No problem. Or you can take the train from Kyoto to Osaka International Airport (to the Osaka Airport Station). That takes about 1 hour.

            -Maria-

  46. Hello Maria

    Thankyou for the details above. Very helpful.
    How easy did you find the trains and buses to use? They look very complicated with all the different companies and some being covered by a pass and some not. I am planning on travelling to Japan in late March and am concerned that it will be very difficult to navigate my way around. I was in China last year and some of the travel was difficult due to language barriers and poor internet access.

    I intend to buy the JR pass before leaving. Did you book your trains in advance or just turn up each day? Also i see that you took a train from Hakone to Matsumoto, did this pass back through Tokyo as Mount Fiji seems to be obstructing the route!

    The Alpine Route will unfortunately be closed when i am there but other than the omission of Shirakawa-go my itinerary looks very similar to yours. I was planning to do Kanazawa and Takayama the opposite way around and not to visit Nara.
    Any thoughts??
    Thanks again, Claire

    Reply
    • Hi Claire,

      The Japanese train system seems confusing at first, at least in Tokyo city, but it is actually quite easy to navigate and figure it out.

      We travelled through China at wintertime for one month by train, and it was really exhausting and frustrating, I agree. The Japanese train system is so much easier than the one in China, trust me! And the Japanese trains are right on time to the second, it is incredible and very impressive. They are super fast too, and very clean.

      We did not book any of the trains in advance, we used the JR pass as a ticket, and it was never a problem. We got seats on every train we took.

      You can take the train from Hakone to Matsumoto that goes through Tokyo, but there are also trains going through Yokohama and Kofu that ends up in Matsumoto. So you don`t have to go via Tokyo, although the trains passing through Tokyo does not take any more time than the ones going through Kofu as they are express trains.

      Your itinerary seems very good. No problem skipping Nara as you will see plenty of shrines and temples in Tokyo and Kyoto.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  47. Hi Maria,
    thank you very much for posting so many useful information.
    We are lucky enough to be spending 3weeks in Japan in May (after the Golden Week), where would you have spent more time if you had the opportunity?

    Thanks
    Stefano

    Reply
    • Hi Stefano,

      Thank you, happy to be of help!

      Lucky you who are going to Japan for three weeks in May! Hmm, it depends on what you are interested in. I would say Kyoto and Tokyo, big cities that have a bit of everything.

      You can also consider spending some time in Osaka. We have not been there but I`ve heard it`s great! The Okinawa islands are also supposed to be beautiful, we have unfortunately been there either.

      Have great time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  48. Great post Maria and love the pics. No wonder it comes up as the top item when I search in google for 2 weeks in Japan itinerary. I’m thinking of going to see the Cherry blossoms as well. Is late March a good time to go? And if so, do you recommend the itinerary that you have in your post? I heard Osaka is really good as well. If I have to include that in my trip, what would be your recommended itinerary? I will be flying into Tokyo from Chicago. Thanx in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Francis,

      Thank you so much!

      Late March/ beginning of April is a good time to see the Cherry blossoms. The Japan weather association has just announced their prediction of this year`s Cherry blossoms. In Tokyo, it will start around March 24th, and Kyoto and Osaka around March 28th. They say, however, that the best time for viewing the blossoms (at its best) is the first week of April this year. Do book accommodations well in advance as it will be packed with visitors in Japan during Cherry Blossoms.

      This itinerary is good for Cherry blossoms as well, as most of these places have great parks with Cherry trees.

      If you want to include Osaka, you should visit it before or after Kyoto as Osaka is only about one hour by train from Kyoto. Nara is also close to Osaka (about one hour).

      Have a great trip to Japan! I`m sure you will love it!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  49. Hello Maria,

    This post was excellent and very informative, I am headed to Japan in May for 3 weeks and your itnierary is very close to the one that I had planned for myself! Reading this article gave me some really useful information and cleared a lot of the questions that I had stored up 🙂 Thanks for posting!

    Happy Traveling!

    Amanda

    Reply
    • Hi Amanda,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment! Lucky you who are going to Japan in May, I`m sure it`s wonderful in Japan during spring.

      Have a great time in Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  50. Hi Maria,

    We are planning our Japan trip, we are going in April. The route you guys did in the Japanese Alps sounds amazing! I was just wondering were you left your luggage for instance when doing the Alpine route or taking a day trip to a place and then travel along to the next (different) stop to stay.

    Thanks!!!

    Mila

    Reply
    • Hi Mila,

      They provide a baggage delivery service on the Alpine Route, so you don`t have to carry your luggage on the trip. We handed in our luggage at Shinano-Omachi (the office is just outside the train station, take a right when you get out of the station). Drop-off is between 8:00 – 11:10. And we picked up our bags at Toyama Train Station (the office is actually on the train platform). Delivery time is between 15:00 – 18:00. We paid 1540 JPY (15 us$) for one bag. Some hotels also have pick-up and delivery of baggage.

      You can read more about this service here: http://www.alpen-route.com/en/transport_new/baggage.html

      We have written about each step of the route here, including photos: https://nerdnomads.com/alpine-route-japan

      By the way, the Alpine Route is closed during winter, and the partial route opens 10th of April while the full route opens 15th of April. Hope you are going to Japan in the second part of April then.

      Have a great time doing the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route! You will love it!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  51. If I had to pick Kanazawa or takayama as a base for 2 days and to see shirakawago which would you pick ? What’s the best way to enjoy shirakawago

    Reply
    • Hi Jenan,

      Hmm, good question! Kanazawa is a much bigger and more modern city than Takayama. Takayama is cozier and feels more authentic Japanese, and is also more peaceful. I think I would have picked Takayama. But there are lots of nice things to see and do in Kanazawa too: https://nerdnomads.com/kanazawa

      We stayed in Takayama and went on a day-trip to Shikawago, which worked out perfect. The best way to go to Shirakawago is by bus (1 hour each way), there are several buses leaving from Takayama to Shirakawago every day.

      Have a great trip to Shirakawago!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  52. First I want to say how awesome your post is! This has been really helpful in deciding what to do and adjusting to our own interests.

    I will be in Japan with my SO for 2 weeks so here’s my itinerary:
    D1-5: Tokyo w/ half-day trip to Kamakura & day trip to Kawaguchiko IF weather is nice
    D6: Kanazawa
    D7: Shirakawago/Takayama
    D8-10: Kyoto w/ half-day trip to Nara
    D11: Osaka
    D12: Himeji/Hiroshima
    D13: Itsukushima (Miyajima)
    D14: Tokyo
    D15: Leave Japan.

    Total useful days 13.5: Tokyo (4*), Kamakura (0.5), Kawaguchiko (1*), Kanazawa (1), Shirakawago/Takayama (1), Kyoto (2.5), Nara (0.5), Osaka (1), Himeji (0.5), Hiroshima (0.5), Itsukushima (1). *Depends on weather.

    I think this plan gives us a balanced combination of city time, temples, castles, nature, old towns, technology, aquarium, parks, cultural, and anime/manga stuff without wearing out of any.

    Also, if the day trip to Kawaguchiko doens’t happen I would be open for a day trip on the last day. Maybe then I can see the snow monkeys or the fox park. I think have made my peace with skipping Nikko to avoid getting “templed out” (as you say) and Hakone to have more time for other things.

    If you have some spare time, could you answer these questions:
    1. Considering my schedule, where would you stay at a ryokan with Onsen?
    2. Shirakawago/Takayama – Half day each – how to go about it? If not advisable, which one to pick for a full day? Would it be better to skip them and add another full day elsewhere? I feel they are essential for the “old Japan” part of the trip but is also a lot of traveling time for little useful time.
    3. Would you change anything?

    Reply
    • Hi P.C.!

      Your Japan itinerary looks great! The perfect combination of city, old Japan, temples and modern Japanese culture. Ah, the snow monkeys are high up on my bucket list too for our next visit to Japan. They look supercute! Thanks for the tip about the Fox Village, had never heard of it but googled it now and it looks awesome! Definitely putting it on my list too. Kamakura looks great too.

      I will try to answer your questions:

      1. We stayed at a Ryokan with Onsen in Takayama, and it was great: https://nerdnomads.com/staying-in-ryokan. Ryokans are usually very expensive, but this one is among the cheapest and is still an old and authentic Ryokan with amazing Japanese food. Kawaguchiko also has several nice Ryokans with views over Kawaguchiko Lake and Mt Fuji.

      2. From Takayama there is only a one hour busride to Shirakawaygo, so it is absolutely doable to walk around Takayama in the morning/ midday after breakfast at the Ryokan, and then head to Shirakawago in the afternoon. You can probably store your luggage at the Ryokan or at Takayama train station till you come back from Shirakawago in the evening. Then you can take an evening train to Kyoto.

      Takayama is a small city, so you get a good impression of the city by strolling around the Takayama streets for a half day. Shirakawaygo is really nice, so you should definitely try to get there: https://nerdnomads.com/guide_to_shirakawa-go

      You can find bus schedules from Takayama to Shirakawago here: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/

      3. I think your itinerary looks great! And as you say, if the weather is bad then you`ll skip Kawaguchiko and you will have one extra day that you can add to for instance Takayama.

      Have a great trip to Japan! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  53. Hi Maria,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your trip, seems amazing!
    I am planning to visit Japan in April from 10th (arriving 10am) until 22nd April (leaving later at night).
    I am thinking of the below itinerary:

    Tokyo – 1 day
    Takayama – 1 day (also visit Shirakawago the following morning)
    Kyoto – 3 days (including Nara day trip)
    Osaka – 2 days
    Hiroshima – 1 day
    Tokyo – 4 days

    What do you think? Would it be worth also staying overnight to Shirakawago?

    It is my first time in Japan and there are so many things to choose from so I would appreciate your view on this.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Akrivi,

      Your itinerary looks great! A little busy, but absolutely doable.

      And you will have the chance to see the famous Cherry Blossom as well! The Japan Weather Association has estimated that the best viewing will be in the first half of April this year. Therefore you should book accommodation as early as possible, as this time of year is very popular for tourists to visit Japan.

      I don`t think you should stay a night in Shirakawago, as everything closes pretty early in the evening, and it is a very compact little village so you will easily be able to walk through it in 2-3 hours. The bus ride from Takayama to Shirakawago only takes 1 hour one way.

      You should also buy the Japan Railway Pass (JR Pass) before you enter Japan: https://nerdnomads.com/jr_rail_pass. This will save you a lot of money.

      If you were to cut something out, I would suggest Hiroshima since it is a bit “out of the way” and takes some travel time to get to only for one day.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  54. hi!

    does this itinerary work backwards or are there any catches with doing it the other way round? I want to do Alpine pass later rather than earlier to make sure it’s open!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Hannah,

      This itinerary also works backward. I don`t see any reasons or catches why it shouldn`t.

      The full Alpine Route opens 15th of April. You can read more updated info on that here: http://www.alpen-route.com/en/

      Have a great trip to Japan, and enjoy the Alpine Route!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  55. Hi!
    My husband and I are planning a trip to Japan in May. It was quite overwhelming at first, but your blog has become by bible. I have read every post you have about Japan and really appreciate it! This definitely helps, and you have made us even more excited!
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Ashley & Darrell from Canada

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Ashley! So happy that our blog could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip! You have so much to look forward to, I`m sure you will love this beautiful country.

      Have an awesome time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  56. Hi Maria
    Well done on a great blog!
    I am desperate for some help in planning a 7 night, 8 day trip to Osaka this April. We arrive in the evening in Osaka and want to cover Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. I have drafted the following:
    Day 1 Osaka (Obviously)
    Day 2 Hiroshima and stay overnight
    Day 3 Miyajima in morning and then Osaka
    Day 4 Osaka
    Day 6 Nara in morning and then Kyoto
    Day 7 Kyoto
    Day 8 Osake and Kobe

    I am considering buying the JR WEST JR SANYO SANIN AREA PASS for 7 days and activating on Day 2. Will this be the best option? I don’t want any stress…

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Mary,

      I think your itinerary looks great! It can be a bit hectic, however, at least with only one day in Kyoto. This day can be a bit stressful as there is a lot to see in Kyoto. But if you want to spend more time in Kyoto, you would, of course, have to cut something out; Nara, Hiroshima/Miyajima or Kobe. If you are willing to cut Hiroshima/Miyajima, this will save you six hours on the train as it takes three hours each way from Osaka.

      Yes, the JR West JR Sanyo Sanin Area Pass seems to be the best option.

      Have a great trip to Japan! Enjoy the cherry blossoms!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi,

      It`s a good idea to visit Japan in June/July, not a bad idea at all. We visited Japan in July, and it was great! We had a few days with rain but usually only a little in the morning.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  57. Hi Maria.

    My wife and I are planning a trip to Japan in late August and early September. I tried to plan something similar to your itinerary. What do you think of this? Is it too hectic?

    Aug 20 Tokyo
    Aug 21 Tokyo
    Aug 22 Tokyo
    Aug 23 Tokyo (Morning) -> Hitachi (Afternoon)
    Aug 24 Hitachi/Mito (Morning) -> Hakone (Night)
    Aug 25 Hakone
    Aug 26 Hakone (Morning) -> Matsumoto (Night) -> Kanazawa (Night)
    Aug 27 Kanazawa
    Aug 28 Kanazawa (Morning) -> Shirakawago (Afternoon) -> Takayama
    Aug 29 Takayama (Morning) -> Kyoto (Night)
    Aug 30 Kyoto
    Aug 31 Kyoto
    Sep 1 Kyoto
    Sep 2 Kyoto (Morning) -> Hiroshima/Miyajima (Afternoon) -> Osaka
    Sep 3 Osaka (Morning) -> Tokyo (Night)
    Sep 4 Tokyo (Morning) ->HK (Afternoon)

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Richard,

      Lucky you who are going to Japan in August/ September! These autumn months are usually cool and clear and the perfect time to see Mt Fuji. You can even see Mt Fuji from Tokyo at this time of year cause the sky is so clear.

      I think your itinerary looks really good, and not too busy. Nice that you will spend three full days in both Tokyo and Kyoto, as there are so much to see and do in these two cities. The only day that can be a bit too hectic is 2nd of September when you plan to take the train from Kyoto to Hiroshima (train trip takes about two hours), and only spend the day in Hiroshima + Miyajima, and head back to Osaka in the evening (two hours). But it is doable.

      Have a great trip tp Japan! I`m sure both you and your wife will love it.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  58. Hi Maria do you recommend this itinerary for the month of April 9-23rd? Heard it rains during that month,

    I’m coming into/leaving Tokyo. Should I get the 7 day pass or 14 day?

    Thanks
    John

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Yes, I would say that this itinerary is also great for April. It is actually quite dry and nice weather in Japan in April. The rainy season is in June/ July. We visited Japan in July/ August and it didn`t rain every day but it was pretty humid.

      If you plan to spend some days in Tokyo when you arrive in Japan, then you should activate you JR Pass when you leave Tokyo and start to actual travel around Japan by train. If you should get the 7 or the 14 day pass really depend on how many days you plan to travel around Japan. If you spend some days in Tokyo in the beginning and in the end of your Japan trip, then 7 days might be enough. You can also buy some singel extra train ticket in the end if your JR Pass expires too early. For instance if you plan to spend some days in Kyoto before you head to Tokyo to catch the plane back home, then you can just buy an extra singel ticket Kyoto-Tokyo.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  59. Hello Maria,
    We loved your tips and areas you’ve been to, and basically we are planning our 2.5 weeks vacation based on your Itinerary with some minor adjustments 🙂
    We were wondering , did you go with a backpack or a rolling suitcase? and what would you recommend ? (obviously we’ll also have a small bags for the daily trips)

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Aviv,

      Thank you! Great to hear that you find our tips about Japan helpful!

      We traveled through Japan with an Osprey Waypoint 85 liters backpack each. A backpack is good when you have to climb stairs at for instance train stations, although in Japan there are escalator stairs at many stations so this is not a huge problem. We have just bought backpacks that also have wheels, Osprey Sojourn 80 liters, that can be converted into a backpack when needed and a rolling suitcase the next minute. Looking forward to trying them out on our next trip.

      There is no problem traveling in Japan with a rolling suitcase.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  60. Hi Maria
    Thank you so much for sharing your japan trip with us. My wife and I are going later this week on a 14 day trip to Japan.

    What type of luggage do you think suits best as obviously we will be doing a lot of train travel. Do the various trains have available an area for luggage ? We were planning to take two standard suitcases.

    Phil

    Reply
  61. hello, this a very very helpful guide. we are going for 14 nights in may. as a first visit we do not want to much by way of one nights so had in mind –

    tokyo 4 nights( plus 1night for return uk flight)
    kyoto 4 nights

    we then need to fill in the other 4 nights and had in mind 2 nights in the hakone and then 2 nights in masumoto. how does that sound

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      Your itinerary sounds great! It is, of course, more relaxed to have more nights in a few places than to cover the whole of Japan, and you will get to fully enjoy each place.

      Have a great trip to Japan in May!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  62. Hello

    Thanks again for your site and information. We have just returned home from 2 weeks in Japan and used your site as the basis for our trip.
    After arriving in Tokyo, we caught a train to Kanazawa. We had hoped to do the Alpine route but it is only just opening up now. There was a late winter here and still a lot of snow about the mountains.

    After a day in Kanazawa, we caught a bus to Takayama, stopping at Shirakawa-Go along the way. In Shirakawa-Go the buses now use the Ogimachi bus stop you can see at the North of your map. We left our luggage at the luggage minding there (1300 for 3 suitcases) and explored the village, still snow all over the ground but none left on roofs). Back on a bus to Takayama where we also did the Ryokan stay.

    In Takayama, we also caught a taxi out to the squirrel park to hand feed some chipmunks and squirrels (no squirrels here in Australia so pretty cool for us) and also did part of the Higashiyama walking course.
    From there, a bus over the mountains (again a lot of snow) to Matsumoto for a night.

    The next day we went to Kyoto however we did the Magome-Tsumago Walking Trail along the way. Both Magome and Tsumago are lovely little towns keeping Edo style buildings. The walk is about 8km next to streams, past farms, through the forest. It took us 3 hours at a VERY leisurely pace (both because I have an injured heel and couldn’t walk fast plus because we did it from Tsumago to Magome instead which has 5.5km uphill to the pass (not too steep except for the last little bit) and then 2.5km down the steeper bit to Magome. There was a luggage forwarding service between the tourist information of these 2 villages. Then we continued on to Kyoto.

    In Kyoto, we had perfect timing for cherry blossom blooming which was great. After a few days there, we went back to Tokyo for a few days before going back home.
    While in Tokyo we also did a day trip out to Nikko. We found the Nikko historical walking map excellent for planning where we wanted to go and see.

    So thanks again for all the info here helping to make a most enjoyable trip.
    Glenn

    Reply
    • Hi Glenn,

      Thank you sooooo much for giving us all these tips about Japan and telling us about the Magome-Tsumago Walking Trail. Really want to do it too now. Sounds like you had an amazing time in Japan! Lucky you who got to witness cherry blossom in Kyoto, that is high on my bucket list, hope to see it one day too.

      Thanks again for this great comment! Love getting travel tips and feedbacks from our readers! So useful!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Oh, while talking about tips, I would also add these few:
        – There are virtually no public rubbish bins in Japan. If you buy some food or drink and walk off with it you will be left holding your rubbish for ages. A large number of vending machines have a recepticle next to them for the empties. Convenience stores such as Family Mart. 7/11 have bins. If you buy there, stay and finish to drop off your rubbish. Train platforms and major bus stops also have bins. Other than that they were rare as hens teeth.
        – Don’t expect to exchange your JR vouch for your JR pass in a hurry. After taking an hour to get through customs and immigration at Narita (there were still long queues behind us) we went down to B1 to the JR ticket office. You have to fill out another form there, then queue up to get your pass. There were about 10-15 people in front of us and it took about 20- 30 min to get through. When we left the queue snaked out the store and around out the front. The people at the end of that would have had at least an hour’s wait there. Due to the queue as well, they will then only book you on a train from the airport. If you want to make other bookings you have to go to another service centre at a different station. That also took a while to queue and make the bookings at Tokyo station.
        – Opposite the JR ticket office on B1 at Narita there is a Telecom shop that rents wifi thingies. We bought a data sim card for our phone there. We went with the 5GB 30 day card. Can’t remember how much in Yen but know that it was around $64 Australian. I used my phone as a mobile hotspot and my wife and daughter tethered off me and all 3 phones were used very hard for 2 weeks playing Pokemon amongst other things as we travelled around and we used up 4.4GB. Reception and speed were excellent everywhere and had no problems with 3 items off the one card.
        – You enter the local buses from the rear door. If it is in an area where it is just a flat fare, you just pay the driver as you leave (must have exact fare as no change is given). If it is in a multi zone area, you grab a ticket from a machine as you enter the bus. You can see the bus stop numbers on a screen at the front of the bus which display the fare from the start to that stop.
        – Queing is good manners. Orderly queues form everywhere such as at bus stops and stations. At a major hub for local buses such as at Kyoto station there are 4 or 5 different bus routes stopping at each bus bay. The buses are listed on a display. If yours is say the 3rd or 4th bus due to arrive, you just join the line anyway. You just move forward as the next buses arrive and start to fill but stop before getting on those buses. The people behind you will just walk around you if they want to get on that bus.

        Finally, the heated toilet seats everywhere are great. Try the bottom showers too (although, from personal experience, beware if they are turned up to full power as an unexpected enema can be quite surprising : )

        Reply
  63. Hi Maria,

    I would be travelling to Japan in June 2017. We will be staying in Tokyo for 5 nights and then planning to go further down to western side (Mount Fuji).
    Can you please suggest if it is worth having a day trip at either Hakone or Kawaguchiko? After either of these place we will be planning to go to Matsomoto.

    Your prompt reply would be highly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Vineet,

      We have unfortunately not been to neither Hakone nor Kawaguchiko because the weather was bad (rain and fog) when we were in Japan in July/ August (rainy season).

      I have heard from other travellers that Kawaguchiko has a better view of Mount Fuji than Hakone, but that Hakone has more things to do in general. You will find onsen (hot springs), museums and viewpoints at both places, but there are more of them in Hakone than in Kawaguchiko. But I`m sure both places are beautiful. Sorry I could not be of more help regarding this question.

      Have a great trip to Japan! Crossing my fingers that you will get clear sky while you are in Hakone or Kawaguchiko so that you get to see Mount Fuji! It is high up on my bucket list, hope to see it on our next Japan trip.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  64. Hi Maria,

    Love your suggested itinerary ! Trying to organise a trip to Japan this October and flexible about the number of days, although I’m think somewhere between two and three weeks. Love all your suggestions but would like to cut out a day or two in Tokyo (maybe 2 full days, 3 nights?), omit Nikko, and add in Osaka and Naoshima art island. Any idea where I could slot them in and how that itinerary might look? Also my partner is very keen to stay on at the end or tack on a few days at the beginning to do a walk…possibly part of the Nakasendo way. Do you have any advice on that?

    Reply
  65. I noticed that you activated the Jr pass on day 3. Is it because the jr pass is only useful for long distance trips between cities. How did you travel within Tokyo for day 1 and 2? I’m trying to utilise my 14 day jr pass wisely. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Jen,

      There are only two JR lines in Tokyo; JR Yamanote Line and JR Line. But there several other lines where you can`t use your JR pass. There is a total of 13 subway lines through Tokyo; 4 are operated by Toei and 9 by Tokyo Metro. So we found it best to save our JR Pass to when we left Tokyo so that we could maximize the number of days and train rides on the JR Pass.

      You can choose between:
      – Tokyo Metro 1-Day Open Ticket (710 Yen) covers Tokyo Metro subway lines (9 lines)
      – Common 1-Day Ticket (1000 Yen) covers both all lines at Tokyo Metro and all the Toei subway lines (basically all 13 lines in Tokyo)
      – Tokyo Combination Ticket (1580 Yen) covers JR Trains in Tokyo, all subway lines, and Toei buses (all trains in Tokyo)

      So it really depends where you plan to go, and how much you will be traveling each day.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  66. Hi Maria

    What a useful post and a beautiful website! It is very inspiring.

    I was wondering if you could advise me on my 2 week itinerary?
    Do yo think there is anywhere we should spend an extra day in instead of having almost 5 days in Tokyo? Perhaps we should dedicate to to Kyoto? I’d be grateful for any suggestions.

    Day 1 – Arrive in Tokyo at 11pm
    Day 2 – Tokyo
    Day 3 – Tokyo
    Day 4 – Travel to Hakone and stay in Hakone
    Day 5 – Travel to Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto
    Day 7 – Kyoto
    Day 8 – Travel to Nara and stay in Nara
    Day 9 – Travel to Mount Koya and stay in Mount Koya (temple)
    Day 10 – Travel to and visit Hiroshima, then Miajima. Stay in either Hiroshima or Miajima
    Day 11 – Travel to and visit Shirawkawa-Go. Go to Nagano. Stay in Nagano
    Day 12 – Snow Monkey Park. Stay in Ryokan?
    Day 13 – Travel back to Tokyo and spend day in Tokyo
    Day 14 – Tokyo
    Day 15 – Tokyo, fly back at 10pm

    Reply
    • Hi Ewa,

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear that you find our itinerary inspiring!

      Your itinerary looks great! If you want to add some more places, you could consider adding Takayama (before or after Shirakawa-go), or Osaka (to see Osaka Castle). Or as you say stay longer in Kyoto. You should have at least three days in Kyoto, as there are so much to see and do: https://nerdnomads.com/kyoto-itinerary

      But you should not put too many places into the itinerary. Make sure that you take your time and enjoy the places too.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  67. Hi,

    Great itinerary! I plan to head to Japan next week and follow this itinerary over 3.5 weeks. Question-you recommend seeing Kanazawa, followed by Shirakawa and then head north again to visit Takayama…wouldn’t it make more sense to see Takayama on the way south to Shirakawa instead of backtracking north? I must be missing something? Thanks again for this awesome itinerary. This is going to save me so much time.

    Reply
    • Hi Kimberly,

      Thank you so much! Glad you found our itinerary helpful when planning your Japan trip!

      Takayama is located south of the Shirakawa-go village, as you can see from this Google map.

      There are buses going to Shirakawa-go from both Kanazawa (1,5 hour bus ride) and Takayama (50 min), so of course, you can go straight to Takayama and do a day-trip up to Shirakawa-go from Takayama. We actually did that, we took the train from Kanazawa Station to Takayama Station, and did a day-trip by bus to Shirakawa-go.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  68. I’m also planning to make the most out of my Japan visa, staying up to 2 weeks. Your post is very informative and detail! Planning not to avail a JR pass though because I’ll be entering Japan via Narita and exit using Kansai Airport. I’ll just take the overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto, do you think it’s better to do advance booking for bus ticket or just buy it at the station before the trip? Traveling to Japan first two weeks of June.

    Reply
    • Hi Arjay,

      Thank you so much! We have not taken the overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto, but I always like advance booking of tickets if possible when I have decided on the date and time. That way you will avoid the surprise of finding out that it is sold out on the day you want to travel.

      Have a great trip to Japan in June!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  69. Hi Maria,

    Just came across you blog when looking for some ideas in Kanazawa and loved it. It is so well written, informative, beautiful pictures and amusing (I will keep that handkerchief handy) .

    Though the route we planned is different to what you did its not too far off – Tokyo 4nights (Nikko- day trip)-Hakone 1night-Kyoto 4 nights(Nara – day trip + Himeji onward to Hiroshima)-Hiroshima 1 night (including Miyajima)-Kanazawa 2 nights -Takayama 3 nights(Shikarawago – day trip)-Tokyo 2 nights. We are sneaking in a visit to the Yamazaki distillery as well when in Kyoto. We are looking into stays at the moment, using the convenience of Airbnb. But please, do let me know if you have any suggestions along the way or anything that’s a must do that we can add.

    This is our first visit to Japan, with my bestie (meeting after 7 years) taking husbands along – converging from two sides of the world (Australia and USA) in October. So not long to go and very excited. I will be referring to your blog again and again no doubt in the months to come. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    regards,
    Flevy

    Reply
    • Hi Flevy,

      Thank you so much for your nice words about our blog! Sounds like you are going to have a great trip together with your bestie and both your husbands! What a great idea to go traveling together after so many years apart!

      Your itinerary looks great! The only tip I have is that you should stay at least one night at a Ryokan (a traditional Japanese Inn). We stayed at a really nice Ryokan, and cheap compared to others, in Takayama. You also have to try an Onsen (natural hot spring bath).

      Have a great trip tp Japan in October!! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  70. Konichiwa Maria,

    I just wanted you to know that I had 3 1/2 weeks to follow your itinerary. I had to forego Hakone and Nara but had the pleasure of traveling to Hokkaido for a week (in addition to your itinerary. I was blessed with ONE day of rain (in the rainy season) out of 25 days. THANK YOU for all of your recommendations. I stayed at the onsen you recommended in Takayama and it was lovely. The food there was the best part. The JR Rain Pass was the way to go. The time and effort you spend on your website is impressive. Not sure how you have time to do all that and hold down a regular job. Hats off to you. Loved Japan, the people and their culture. So very different from America, where I from, and the other places I have traveled.

    Kampai!

    Reply
  71. Been getting so many ideas from your post! We have been working on a sample itinerary, but don’t really have a good sense of how long to stay in each place, how long it takes to get from each place, or what method of travel to choose. We think the rail pass makes the most sense, but not sure how to works with the places we are choosing to go. We are working on a 16 day trip first flying into Tokyo.

    Day 1- fly into Tokyo
    Day 2, 3, 4 Tokyo (3 nights)
    Day 5 and 6 Hakone (2 nights) with a day trip to Izu Peninsula
    Day 7 and 8 Alpine Route (2 nights in the mountains) & a stop to Matsumoto Castle
    Day 9 and 10 Takayama (2 nights) with a day trip to Shirwagawao
    Day 11, 12 and 13 Kyoto (3 nights)
    Day 14 Kurashiki (1 night)
    Day 15 Hiroshima (1 night) with a day trip to Miyajima Island
    Day 16 and 17 Nara (2 nights) with a day trip to Odaigahara
    Day 18- fly out from Osaka

    Does this seem doable or that we are trying to cram too much in? I’d love opinions/suggestions!

    Reply
    • Hi Kaitlyn,

      Your itinerary looks perfect! Your number of days/ nights at each place seems ok in my opinion.

      Trains are definitely the best method of travel in Japan, and you will save a lot of money by buying the Japan Railway Pass (JR Pass). Remember to activate it when you leave Tokyo to go to Hakone. You don`t need it in Tokyo as there are only a few metro lines where you can use this JR pass. A 14 day JR Pass will be perfect for you.

      With the JR Pass you can also do seat reservations on trains for free.

      Just type in each destination in Google Maps, and you will see the train times and how long each train trip takes: maps.google.com

      Have a great trip to Japan! Seems like you will have an awewsome trip based on your itinerary!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  72. Hi there,
    This is probably one of the greatest posts I’ve read on Japan! Thank you so much for sharing this. My partner and I are travelling to Japan in Dec/Jan 2017, this is our current itinerary, do you think it’ll be too packed?

    Day Date Destinations
    1 15-Dec Singapore
    2 16-Dec Tokyo
    3 17-Dec Tokyo
    4 18-Dec Hakone
    5 19-Dec Nagoya
    6 20-Dec Matsumoto
    7 21-Dec Nagano?
    8 22-Dec Kanazawa
    9 23-Dec Shirakawa-Go
    10 24-Dec Takayama
    11 25-Dec Kyoto
    12 26-Dec Kyoto
    13 27-Dec Hiroshima & Miyajima Island
    14 28-Dec Osaka
    15 29-Dec Osaka
    16 30-Dec Nara
    17 31-Dec Tokyo
    18 01-Jan Hakodate
    19 02-Jan Niseiko
    20 03-Jan Niseiko
    21 04-Jan Niseiko
    22 05-Jan Hakodate
    23 06-Jan Tokyo
    24 07-Jan Nikko
    25 08-Jan Plane

    We’ve added Niseiko since we’re staying there for so long…
    My biggest concern will probably be logistics, moving from one town to another.
    What are you advice? It’ll be very much appreciated by us!

    Reply
    • Hi Dawn,

      Thank you so much! Your itinerary looks great! It is a bit packed, but I think it is doable. Since you plan to travel a lot, you should buy a JR Pass which you can use on JR train lines, buses, and ferries. This will save you some money.

      You might get a bit templed out after Kyoto and Nara, then you should just skip Nikko at the end and stay two days in Tokyo instead. There are plenty to see in Tokyo, temples and shrines too.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Melani,

      Yes, you can do the alpine route from both sides and in reverse from what we did. You can also do only parts of it, or half of it, and head back to where you started. It is very flexible.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  73. Hello,

    I tried following your 14 day itinerary in 11 days. I had to skip Nikko, Nara and Miyajima islands. I spent just an hour in Hiroshima. I stayed at Yokohama on my way to Hakone. It had the best view of Mt Fuji!

    My phone popped out of my pocket on my way to Yokohama. I did not have any other wifi enabled or data device. I was unable to remember where exactly I dropped my phone so it was hard to file a report. Also, I do not speak any Japanese.

    I know I could get a rental from the airport. But my schedule was tight and there was no airport on my schedule for a few days. I finally got an iPhone from a second hand store. But it was wifi only. I was unable to get an open market phone from Docomo or any other cellular service provider as phones are only available on contract in Japan.

    I am now back in the US and I’ll have to pay a fee to Docomo if I want to unlock the iPhone for other carriers even to sell it. I’m not a fan of jailbreaking.

    I am curious if you have been in a similar situation or where/ how I could get a wifi device in a smaller city in Japan the next time?

    For now, I am using my iPhone as a spare wifi device…

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Oh no, so sorry to hear that you lost your phone!!! And to hear about all the troubles it led to for you! Sorry, we have not been in any similar situations so I`m afraid I can`t help you.

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Vin,

      Yes, this itinerary is doable in December, except for the Alpine Route which closes on the 30th of November this year.

      Happy travels! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  74. Hi Maria, loved reading your guide. I’m travelling to Japan as a group of 3, and we’re heading off at the end of October for two week. A couple of questions for you:
    1. We really want to stay a night in Mount Goya (we’re vegetarian, and heard the food is great). What would you recommend sacrificing in your agenda to make space for this? We were thinking of skipping Shirakawa / Takayama…what do you think?
    2. I normally like to stay flexible when travelling, especially around Asia, as I generally find some places I’d like to stay longer, and others that are less interesting. With regards to booking accommodation, would you recommend getting everything booked in advance, or is it possible to book places on the fly (cost / availability at time of year)?

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Kru,

      Thank you so much, happy to hear that you like it!

      1. We have not been to Mount Goya (or is it Koya?) Looks like this area has lots of temples and shrines, so you might want to skip Nikko and Nara then, since they are a bit similar. Takayama and Shirakawa are very different from Mount Koya, as they are more about the special Japanese houses Gasho that are unique to this area of Japan.

      2. We like to have flexibility too when we travel, so we did not book accommodation in advance in Japan, only a couple of days before. It always worked out fine for us.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  75. Hey! Thanks for a lovely blog.

    I see that the Rail pass is extremely convenient to use, I just have a few doubts regarding it :

    1. Is it activated on the day you exchange order or is it activated on the day you take your first ride?

    2. Once exchanged, Can you reserve seats online or do you have to go to a ticket office every time?

    3. When you were in Tokyo , did you reserve seats for all subsequent train travel or did you have to go to a booking office every time you needed a reservation?

    Thanks in advance! I hope to see you in India soon 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Shikhar,

      Thank you so much! I will try to answer your questions the best I can:

      1. To activate your JR Pass, you will have to exchange your voucher at a JR office (at the airport or one of the major train stations in Japan). You will have to fill out a form with your details and show your passport at the JR office. Here you also decide which start date you want on your JR Pass, which does not have to be the same date as the exchange date. It cannot exceed 30 days after the exchange, however. You can then start using your JR pass on the date you have chosen.

      2. No, you cannot make seat reservations online, sorry. To make seat reservations, go to any Travel Service Center or a “Midori-no-madoguchi” (ticket office) at a JR station. You can also make seat reservations at JR-associated travel agencies. To reserve a seat, show your JR Pass and obtain your reserved-seat ticket before boarding the train.

      3. We did not do any train or seat reservations in Tokyo, or anywhere else in Japan. We just showed up at the station and jumped on the train we wanted without a seat reservation. We just showed our JR Pass. It was never a problem finding seats.

      We have unfortunately not been to India yet. Would love to visit India and see the beautiful Taj Mahal!

      Have a great time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  76. Hi Maria,

    Your post is so helpful. I am planning my trip for 20 September- 5 October 2018. Do you reckon this is a good time to visit ? I understand that Autumn hits around this time and I am planning to stay longer in Kyoto (5-6days). Interested to know how Kyoto would be around this time.

    Reply
    • Hi Nasim,

      Thank you so much! Glad that our Japan Itinerary post could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip! 🙂

      September – December is a shoulder season in Japan with not too many tourists. September/ October is a very nice time to visit Japan and Kyoto. The air is cool, clear and crisp with not much rain, and the autumn colours are beautiful! Check out our Kyoto Itinerary if you want to plan what to do during your 5-6 days stay in Kyoto.

      Have a great autumn trip to Japan next year! It will be awesome!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  77. Hi there! I’ve been to Japan 4 times (with a 5th on the way next year) and I have two suggestions to add for those who travel with tech…

    One suggestion is specifically aimed at my fellow Americans but applies to other countries with money hungry mobile providers:

    Rent a mobile hotspot – our mobile providers in the US are overpriced when traveling abroad and most offer subpar roaming in Japan. For example, Verizon wanted $45/mo extra for 3Mb (Yes, that’s Mb, not Gb) of international data. A mobile hotspot almost guarantees you coverage and costs all of 7300 to 14000 Yen for two weeks. You can also use a VoIP program (Google Voice) to make calls without using international roaming.

    A more generalized suggestion:

    If you are doing any serious work/blogging/sharing of media, then consider bringing a travel router. Some budget/business hotels only offer an ethernet connection; most of the time the hotel has a wifi router you can borrow, but it’s a crapshoot at best. For $14 USD, it’s a cheap investment to bring your own.

    If you are worried about running out of power plugs, Daiso (100 yen store) is your friend – grab a power tap/strip for 100 yen at any of the locations around a major airport.

    Reply
    • Hi Erik,

      Wow, thanks a million for these awesome tips! I totally agree, a travel router is a must! We used it a lot in Japan as most hotels we stayed at only provided cabled ethernet and our Macs don`t even have an ethernet port. We bought tourist data sims in Japan which is a good deal.

      Have a great trip to Japan next year!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  78. Hello Maria,

    I got caught up reading your blog and comments during office hours. lol. I am planning to use your travel guide on my 2 week vacation in Japan next year latter part of February. Do you think your travel guide will be ideal since it is the coldest month of the year there?

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Gian,

      Thank you so much! Can`t believe that you would rather read our blog than doing your work! You are awesome! hehe 🙂 Lucky you who are going to Japan in February!

      Yes, I would say that this itinerary is great in February too, but the Alpine Route (Tateyama Kurobe) is closed during winter from November till April. You might want to add for instance Yamanouchi town in Nagano district to see the snow monkeys bathing in the hot spring. There are several great places to go skiing in Japan, especially in Nagano area if you area skier or snowboarder.

      Have a great trip to Japan in February!!! I`m sure you will love this country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  79. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for this. It looks great and very helpful. My family will be having a 7-day trip to Japan this coming Spring season because we know it is the best season to experience in Japan but we have no itinerary yet. Would you mind on helping us create our itinerary.

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Aaron!

      Thank you so much! So cool that you are heading to Japan with your family.

      Hmmm, with only 7 days you could spend half the week in Tokyo and the rest in Kyoto. But it really depends on what your interests are and what you want to see and experience. Tokyo og Kyoto has a lot to offer with plenty of temples and shrines, but also modern Japan, lots of museums and great shopping.

      Here are our recommended things to see and to in Tokyo: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-do-in-tokyo and in Kyoto: https://nerdnomads.com/kyoto-itinerary

      Cherry blossom season (March & April) is a beautiful time to visit Japan and both Tokyo and Kyoto have many nice parks and green lungs where you can admire the beautiful cherry blossom colours.

      If you want to see more of the Japan nature, you could go on the Hakone area and see the famous Mount Fuji and the 7 lakes on your way from Tokyo to Kyoto.

      Have a great week in Japan this spring!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  80. Hello Maria!
    We are travelling to Japan in April 2018. We plan to do your 2 weeks itinerary because we love it!
    We are especially excited to see the cherry blossoms in the parks in Tokyo and Kyoto.

    I’ve read that it is possible to go on a boat trip to watch whales and dolphins in Shikoku (Kochi). Do you happen to know any details whether it’s worth going and which websites offer such trips? Because I’ve tried to google it but haven’t found any relevant tourist info about it.
    Or are there any other places to do such trips?
    Thank you very much again for writing this awesome blog about your Japan experience. It is super helpful!
    Simona

    Reply
    • Hi Simona,

      Thanks a million for your great words about our blog! So happy to hear that you find our Japan itinerary article useful and inspiring!

      Sorry, we have never been to Shikoku island and have unfortunately never been on a whale and dolphin safari in Japan. So I cannot help you with any information on that, sorry.

      Have a great trip to Japan in April and enjoy the cherry blossom!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  81. Hi Maria and Espen!

    Your blog has really helped us out with the planning of our trip to Japan in August this year. In fact, we have pretty much copied it with just a few tweaks here and there because climbing Mt Fuji is an absolute must for us. With 15 nights there, and in the height of the summer, do you think the below itinerary is plausible? We’re used to a very hot summer as we live in Madrid!

    Any tips and advice would be so much appreciated. You guys rock!

    Tokyo – 3 nights
    Mt Fuji – 1 night
    Tokyo (rest day) – 1 night
    Matsumoto – 1 night
    Kanazawa – 2 nights
    Takayama – 2 nights
    Kyoto – 3 nights
    Nara – 1 night
    Tokyo (final night) – 1 night

    Reply
    • Hi Nathalie,

      Thanks a million! So happy to hear that our Japan Itinerary could be of help to you!

      Your itinerary looks great! You should definitely do a day-trip to the beautiful and charming mountain village Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa or Takayama.

      The average temperatur in Japan is around 25 C in August so it is not that hot, at least not compared to Madrid. We visited Japan in August too, and we found the temperature perfect and comfortable, and we are from freezing cold Norway and not used to warm weather. 🙂

      I have been to Madrid once and loved it! It is a beautiful city! Hope to be back one day! Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy the hike to Mt Fuji!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  82. Hi Maria,

    Nice itinerary with helpful links. We would simply copy it but bad luck, we have 2 days less! Also, we like hiking. Do you have suggestions what we could skip? Last but not least, does it matter if we do Kyoto before doing the loop via Kanazawa and matsumoto back to Tokyo?

    Thanks, Edwin

    Reply
    • Hi Edwin,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that you like our itinerary!

      Hmm, with 2 days less, you could skip Hiroshima/ Miyajima island as this is a bit out of the way compared to the rest of the itinerary. Unless you really want to see the Atomic Bomb Museum and learn about the tragic history of Hiroshima.

      You can also skip Nikko and Nara as you will see plenty of temples and shrines in both Tokyo and Kyoto unless you are extremely interested in temples and shrines of course. 🙂 If you want to see one of them, either Nikko or Nara, I personally like Nara better than Nikko. Nikko is very crowded with school kids, and Nara has lots of cute and friendly deer running around.

      Great to hear from a fellow hiker! Since you like hiking, you should definitely do the Alpine Route, we loved it! Also, the Hakone area is great for hiking. Takayama is a must, as well as a stop at the small mountain village Shirakawa-go.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • And no, it doesn`t matter if you do Kyoto before the loop Kanazawa – Alpine Route – Matsumoto – Tokyo. You can do the Alpine Route from both sides (Kanazawa or Matsumoto).

      Reply
      • Hi Maria,
        Thanks for your swift replies. We will leave out Nikko, Nara and Hirosjima. If we want to do less stops between Tokyo and Kyoto but spend more days in the places where we do stop, what would you suggest to skip and where would you suggest to spend more time?

        Thanks,

        Edwin

        Reply
        • Hmm, since you have already left out Nikko, Nara, and Hiroshima, the rest you should keep. If the weather is bad, foggy and rainy, however, you can cut Hakone as well as you will not see the Mt Fuji anyway.

          When are you going to Japan? The Alpine Route is closed now and doesn`t open until 15th of April, and closes again on the 30th of November: https://www.alpen-route.com/en/. If it`s not open when you are there, you can skip both the Alpine Route and Matsumoto. The castle in Matsumoto is nice, but it`s not that much else to see there.

          Kanazawa is great, though, and I would say that Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, and Shirakawa-go are must-visit places.

          -Maria-

          Reply
  83. Hi Maria,

    What does the timing on this day 13 look like? How much time at the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum, what ferry to take and how much time on Miyajima? And when to take the ferry back? Thank you!

    “Take an early morning train from Kyoto to Hiroshima (2 hours) and spend the day visiting the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum, and head out to Miyajima Island to see the floating torii gate.

    You can either spend the night in Hiroshima or in the evening, take a late train to Nara (3,5 hours).”

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      Day 13 is very busy if you want to do both the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum and the Miyajima Island in one day, so I recommend that you stay the night either in Hiroshima city or at Miyajima Island.

      But if you want to do this in one day, it is doable. You should catch an early train from Kyoto. For instance, the 07:43 train from Kyoto Station (Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen) which takes 1h and 37 min to Hiroshima. You will arrive at Hiroshima Station at 09:20. From Hiroshima Train Station it takes about 15-20 min to get to the Atomic Bomb Museum by taxi or train. So you will arrive at the Atomic Bomb Museum at around 10:00 AM.

      You should spend 2-3 hours in the museum and in Peace Memorial Park that surrounds the museum. The ferry Aqua-net HP to Miyajima Island leaves from the Peache Memorial Park just next to the Atomic Bomb Museum. You can see the timetable of the ferry here. Or you can take the JR Ferry, where you can use your JR Pass (if you plan to buy a pass before you arrive in Japan). You can find the timetable for the JR Ferry here.

      The ferry ride takes about 30 min each way. The last Aqua-net HP ferry leaves Miyajima Island at 17:30 PM, while the last JR Ferry leaves at 22:14. We took the Aqua-net HP ferry both ways, took the last ferry from Miyajima Island, and were back at the Peace Memorial Park at around 18:00 PM. We then took an evening train to Nara (about a 3-hour train trip). And arrived in Nara around 22:00 PM.

      If you spend the night in Hiroshima or Miyajima Island, you will, of course, have more time to walk around Miyjima island and explore Hiroshima city.

      Hope this gave you a little ide of how day 13 could be timewise. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy Hiroshima and Miyajima Island!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • This is great Maria! Thank you so much! I have adjusted our itinerary to spend an overnight in Hiroshima. Does our overall plan look doable? We only have 7-day JR passes so we are trying to figure out which days out of the two weeks would make the most sense to use them.

        Day 1 – Fly into Kansai Airport at 12PM. Purchase ICOCA card and head to Kyoto.
        Day 2 – Kyoto.
        Day 3 – Day trip to Nara using ICOCA card. Stay in Kyoto.
        Day 4 – Kyoto.
        Day 5 – Spend day in Kyoto, travel to Hiroshima in evening using JR pass.
        Day 6 – Visit Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial and Museum. Take ferry to Miyajima using JR pass (1/7). Stay in Hiroshima overnight.
        Day 7 – Travel to Takayama using JR Pass (2/7).
        Day 8 – See Takayama and Shirakawago using Nohi bus ticket.
        Day 9 – Travel from Takayama to Nagano using JR Pass (4/7). [Or, head straight to Nikko? Is Negano worth keeping in our trip?]
        Day 10 – Spend day in Nagano and travel to Nikko at night using JR Pass (5/7).
        Day 11 – Spend day in Nikko, travel to Hakone at night using JR Pass (6/7).
        Day 12 – Hakone
        Day 13 – Hakone to Tokyo using Tokyo Wide Pass? Or can JR Pass be used in which we would leave a day earlier?
        Day 14 – Tokyo
        Day 15 – Tokyo
        Day 16 – Fly out of Tokyo Narita International at 21:00 using Tokyo Wide Pass?

        Thank you so much for any advice you can offer!
        Laura

        Reply
        • Hi again Laura,

          Your itinerary looks great! Good idea to not activate your JR pass the first days when you are in Kyoto and Nara and activate it on day 5 when you take the train south to Hiroshima.

          We have never been to Nagano, unfortunately, so I don`t know if it is worth it. You don`t say what time of year you are going to Japan, but I think Nagano is most famous for skiing in the winter and outdoor activities, and of course the snow monkeys (in a town called Yamanouchi, one hour from Nagano). You should google it and read what there is to see in Nagano the time of year you are going to be there.

          One option could be to skip Nagano and instead go to Kanazawa after Shirakawago. Something like this:
          – Day 8: See Takayama in the morning, go to Shirakawago and walk around the mountain village for a couple of hours, and then up to Kanazawa in the evening. We loved Kanazawa! The Japanese garden is beautiful if you are going there in spring/summer/autumn, also the castle and the city itself is really nice.
          – Day 9: Kanazawa
          – Day 10: Kanazawa – Hakone
          – Day 11: Hakone
          – Day 12: Tokyo
          – Day 13: Day-trip to Nikko (leave your bags in the hotel in Tokyo). Or you can skip Nikko as you have seen plenty of temples and shrines in both Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nara. 🙂
          – Day 14: Tokyo
          – Day 15: Tokyo
          – Day 16: Fly back home

          Hope this helped a little. I`m sure you will have an amazing time is Japan!

          -Maria-

          Reply
  84. Hi Maria, thank you for your well-informed article.
    I get a lot of useful information from your writing.
    Could you please give some advice, I plan to go to Japan in mid May, and my itinerary roughly will be:

    1 day Osaka
    1 day Kanazawa
    1 day Shirakawago – staying at Takayama
    1 day Fuji Kawaguchi
    1 day Yokohama
    2 days Tokyo

    Is there any inputs you could give me about this itinerary in terms of traveling time efficiency and cost?
    Is there any pass you would suggest to economize the cost?

    Thank you

    Catherine

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our Japan articles could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip! 🙂

      Your itinerary looks great, but it will be busy, however, if you only have seven days.

      I would probably have done this itinerary in this order (I assume that you fly in and out of Tokyo):

      Day 1: Tokyo
      Day 2: Tokyo
      Day 3: Yokohama (1-hour train trip from Tokyo). You can do Yokohama as a day-trip and head back to Tokyo in the evening and spend the night.
      Day 4: Fuji Kawaguchi (3-hour train trip from Yokohama)
      Day 5: Takayama (5-hour train trip from Fuji Kawaguchi)
      Day 6: Do Shirakawa-go on the way to Kanazawa. Spend a couple of hours in Shirakawa-go, then head up to Kanazawa.
      Day 7: Kanazawa
      Day 8: Tokyo (3-4 hour train trip from Kanazawa)

      This will be a bit stressful itinerary, so you might want to cut out a place or two, for instance, Kanazawa which is pretty far away from Tokyo.

      You should definitely buy a Japan Railway Pass for 7 days for your trip as this will save you some money. You have to buy it before entering Japan as this is a pass for tourists only. You can buy a Japan Railway Pass here.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hi Maria,

        Wow, thank you for the very fast and elaborated reply 😀

        How if I arrive in Osaka Kansai and depart from Tokyo Haneda?

        Will the schedule be more reasonable?

        Thanks a lot dear Maria!

        Reply
        • Hmm, if you want to spend a day or two in Osaka, then you should definitely cut either Kanazawa, Fuji Kawaguchi, or Yokohama. I think it will be too stressful to do all these places in just one week.

          We have not been to Yokohama, but we love Kanazawa! It has one of the nicest Japanese gardens in the whole of Japan, which is beautiful, and a cool castle. The city is very cozy too.

          -Maria-

          Reply
          • Hi Maria,

            I’ve been wanting to visit Kanazawa particularly to see the beautiful garden, and after reading your article about Kanazawa I think I’m gonna follow your suggestion and cut either fuji kawaguchi or yokohama.

            Again thank you very much Maria.
            Wish you all the best always!

  85. Hi Maria! Thank you very much for posting about your trip. At first I felt overwhelmed, but your itinerary gave me peace of mind 🙂
    I am going to Japan in March for 2 weeks (10th – 24 th) and I would really appreciate if you could give me some feedback:

    DAY 1: Narita Airport – night in Nagano.
    DAY 2: Jigokudani Monkey Park – night in Matsumoto.
    DAY 3: Matsumoto – night in Takayama.
    DAY 4: morning in Takayama – afternoon in Shirakawa – night in Kyoto.
    DAY 5: Nara – night in Osaka.
    DAY 6: Osaka – night in Osaka.
    DAY 7: morning in Hiroshima – afternoon and night in Miyajima Island.
    DAYS 8 – 9 – 10: Kyoto.
    DAY 11: Kamakura – night in Tokyo.
    DAYS 12 -13: Tokyo.
    DAY 14: Kawaguchiko – night in Tokyo.
    DAY 15: morning in Tokyo – Narita Airport in the afternoon.

    I would like to visit Kyoto and Tokyo during the last days in order to try to see the cherry blossom (which is supposedly starting on March, 19th).
    I guess I will need to get the 14 day JR pass.

    Do you think this itinerary is doable? What would you skip? Am I missing a must-see?
    Where would you spend a night in a ryokan?

    I am looking forward to reading your response.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Belen,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our Japan itinerary could be of inspiration to you when planning your Japan trip!

      Your itinerary looks great! It is a bit busy. If you were to skip something, I would say Hiroshima/ Mijayima Island as this is a bit out of the way compared to the rest of your itinerary. Good idea to save Kyoto and Tokyo to the last days of your Japan trip in order to see the cherry blossom. You will save a lot of money by buying a 14 day JR Pass.

      We loved our stay at the Yamakyu Ryokan in Takayama. It is one of the cheapest ryokans in Japan, traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast, as well as onset, is included in the price.

      Have a great trip to Japan i March and enjoy the beautiful cherry blossom!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  86. Hi Maria,

    Your 2 week itinerary has helped me a lot planning mine.

    My wife & I are off to Japan for 3 weeks in October. We plan to see a few temples/castles but not heaps. Kumano Kodo walk has been booked & paid for so we can’t change anything there. (Used the wonderful Tanabe tourist office to book everything – highly recommended!)

    Any suggestions on this itinerary in regards to travel direction and efficiency?

    Arrive 09:05 in Osaka and travel to Koyasan
    Koyasan→Kyoto
    Kyoto
    Kyoto
    Kyoto→Himeiji→Hiroshima (visit memorial in arvo) – activate 14 day JR pass
    Full day at Miyajima & evening in Hiroshima
    Hiroshima→Tokyo
    Tokyo
    Tokyo
    Tokyo→Magome→Tsumago
    Tsumago→Nagiso→Matsumoto
    Matsumoto→Japanese Alps (Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route)→Kanazawa
    Kanazawa
    Kanazawa→day trip to Shikawago & evening in Takayama
    Takayama
    Takayama→Kii-Tanabe
    Walk Kumano Kodo
    Walk Kumano Kodo
    Walk Kumano Kodo
    Walk Kumano Kodo
    Walk Kumano Kodo
    Kii-Katsuura→Kansai (Osaka) Airport (via Hineno) – fly out at 23:30

    Many thanks,
    Rob & Rosie

    Reply
    • Hi Rob and Rosie,

      Thank you so much! Really nice to hear that our itinerary could be of help to you when planning your three weeks in Japan.

      Wow, your itinerary looks awesome! You shouldn`t do any changes, it looks perfect.

      So cool that you are doing the Kumano Kodo walk! I really want to do this walk myself, so please let me know how it was if it was worth it. Thanks for the tip about booking this walk through the Tanabe tourist office, will definitely look into it for our next Japan trip.

      Have a great trip to Japan! And enjoy the Kumano Kodo walk, crossing my fingers that you will have nice weather.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  87. Hi Maria, do you have any ideas for getting off the beaten track? An itinerary with your views would be appreciated. We are two married fun-loving couples in our 60s. One couple is able to walk for hours but the other is not so. Trekking will be out. We love meeting locals and getting a “feel” for the place instead of all the touristy places. We appreciate there may be a language barrier but it hasn’t stopped us before! 🙂 We will have a car and about 2-3 weeks to spend in Japan. Happy (and know we need) to do some of the “must see” places but don’t want to spend our entire time dodging other tourists and we figure that there are only enough temples you can see before you’ve had enough. I hope you can help us. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Hi Lor,

      If you want to get off the normal tourist route like Tokyo/Kyoto area, you can for instance head up north, to Hokkaido and Honshu area. One option is to fly to Sapporo city and have this as a hub to see this area.

      Southwest part of Japan also has few tourists, like the cities Ohkihama and Matsuyama, and Nagasaki, Beppu and all the way south to the sea town Ibusuki and Yakushima (take the ferry).

      Have a great car trip off the beaten track around Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  88. Thank a million for this and other posts on Japan! We just booked our 15-day trip to Japan in July. We will to a large extent follow your route, except skip Nikko and Hiroshima, and spend a night in Hakone on our way back from Kyoto to Tokyo Narita airport. Your posts on ‘where to stay in’ were super-useful too – they made it so much easier to identify the best places to stay.

    Best, Inge

    Reply
    • Hi Inge,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our Japan posts could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip. This itinerary is a bit hectic, so good idea to skip a couple of places so that you have more time at each place.

      Have a great trip to Japan in July! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  89. Hi Maria, your itinerary is just great for my husband and I in our first visit to Japan!! 😀 We are so excited, can’t wait to get there. I would love to participate in a ceremony at a temple or in a mediation ritual or spiritual act. Have you been to one? We really have this in mind but not sure where we could have that experience… Regards

    Reply
    • Hi Mar,

      Thank you so much! And lucky you who are going to Japan with your husband! I`m sure you will have a wonderful time!

      No, we have never been to a ceremony or meditation ritual in a Japanese temple, so cannot help you out with any information about that. Sorry!

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  90. Hi,
    thanks for providing insight of japan. I find Japan similar to Korea. I prefer to have a plan which include zoo, aquariums, national parks / forest, landscapes for ex. nara deer park etc. i plan 10 days itinerary for travel to japan with my 2 year old kid. starting from tokyo, we plan to see Mt Fuji, nara deer park, kyoto city and ends at osaka to take panstar cruise back to Busan, south korea. can anyone share their experience when travelling with family.
    thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Nikhil,

      Thank you so much! Your Japan itinerary looks great! You should not cover too much of Japan since you have a 2-year old, as it can be too much stress and train travel if you try to cover too much. So I think it`s a good plan to visit these five places that you have planned – Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka, in 10 days.

      We have unfortunately not been to Korea yet, but hope to visit South Korea soon. It looks like a beautiful country! As a Norwegian, I did, of course, watch many of the competitions in the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeong Chang. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Japan with your family!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  91. Hey,
    This post is very helpful!

    We booked our trip to Japan between 14-27 May. We land the morning of the 14 and we leave the 27 at noon, so we have 13 full days. We’re both around our 30s.
    The itinerary looks great but probably a bit too busy for 13 days.
    What would you remove ? we were told maybe to remove Matsumuto.
    Also we’re more nature and scenery lovers than Museum, so maybe hiroshima can be taken off as well ?
    Also we really want to add Mount Koya.
    How would you plan it so we can experience nature (we like hiking and stuff), sightseeing, culture and food ?

    Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Hi Idan,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our post could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip!

      I agree that this itinerary is a bit too busy with only 13 full days in Japan. I suggest that you skip Nikko, Hiroshima, and Nara. That way you will shorten this itinerary by three days. You can also cut the number of days spent in Tokyo and Kyoto if you are not that interested in museums, temples, and shrines.

      Since you like hiking and nature, you should definitely do the Alpine Route. It was the best experience of our entire Japan trip in my opinion (yes, I love hiking and mountains too 🙂 ). You can either do the Alpine Route from the east side (Matsumoto), like we did or from the west side (Kanazawa). From the east side, Matsumoto is the best place to stay the night before doing the Alpine Route. You don`t have to get to Matsumoto early in the day if you don`t want to see the city and Matsumoto Castle, but you should sleep there so that you will have an entirely full day when doing the Alpine Route.

      This gives you an itinerary like this: Tokyo – Hakone – Matsumoto – Alpine Route – Kanazawa – Shirakawa-go – Takayama – Kyoto – Tokyo

      Another option is to do the Alpine Route from the west side, and sleep in Kanazawa and take an early train to the start of the Alpine Route on the west side (Toyama).
      This gives you an itinerary like this: Tokyo – Hakone – Kyoto – Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa – Alpine Route – Matsumoto – Tokyo

      Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy the Alpine Route!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Those are great suggestions!

        Few questions that i’m considering:
        1. Based on the itinerary you suggested (with Matsumoto) – Do you think it’s worth buying the JR pass ?
        2. I saw some people online suggesting to get a tickets in advance for the alpine route, either here : http://www.jrtateyama.com/e/
        or here : https://www.alpen-route.com/en/
        Not sure what is the difference between the two.
        What do you think ? We’re going mid May that can be busy. Is it cheaper online or buying there ? All those options are quite confusing, and i’m not sure which option we need to buy.

        3. A bit out of context, but while in Tokyo, we want to a trip to one of the 5 fuji lakes (maybe even doing a small hike around) and also going to the pink moss festival. You think both can be combined in one day ?

        Thanks!!!

        Reply
        • Hi,

          1. Yes, you will save a lot of money with the JR Pass, so you should definitely buy it before you head to Japan (you can only buy it outside Japan).

          2. It looks like you can buy the ticket for the Alpine Route in advance online, you can find more info about it HERE. Both the links you sent me goes to the same booking page. It looks like the tickets are a bit cheaper online yes. The only bad thing about buying it online in advance is if something happens and you want to cancel the trip (you get sick, the weather is bad or something). But it looks like the tickets are valid for five days.

          We did not book the tickets online in advance, we only showed up at the ticket office at the Shinano-Omachi Station (where the Alpine Route starts on the east side). You must take an early morning train from Matsumoto to the Shinano-Omachi Station (a 1-hour train ride).

          3. We have not been to the Pink Moss Festival yet, so I don`t know much about it, sorry. But it looks like it is located about three kilometers south of Lake Motosuko in the Fuji Five Lakes area, so it should be easily combined in one day.

          Have a great time in Japan in May! 🙂

          -Maria-

          Reply
  92. Hi Maria

    I am so glad I came across your website. I have just started planning our first family trip to Japan in December 2018. I have not booked anything (not even flights) as I am not sure what would be available especially over Winter. I am hoping you can provide some guidance on the best location/cities for following experiences we are hoping to have :

    White Christmas (maybe at a Ryokan with white snowy backdrops)
    Tea ceremony
    Geisha

    Have you been to Tokyo Disneyland over Winter? Do they close off rides?

    Finally do we need snow boots?

    So far the plan is to stay within Tokyo and Hiroshima zone. The actual cities are still to be finalised.

    Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi Julia,

      So cool that you plan on spending Christmas in Japan! Takayama and Shirakawa-go are supposed to be beautiful during winter, with the famous gassho-zukuri houses covered in snow. We stayed at a really nice Ryokan in Takayama, the Yamakyu Ryokan, which is also one of the cheapest Ryokans in Japan.

      You will find tea ceremonies in Tokyo and Kyoto, and Kyoto is where the geishas are.

      Also, the Jigokudani Monkey Park is in Yamanouchi is very famous and cool to visit during winter to see the snow monkeys bade in the hot springs. There are some really nice Ryokans that have hot springs (Onsen) in this area too.

      Sorry, we have not been to the Tokyo Disneyland yet so I don`t know if they close off the rides during winter. You can check their webpage: http://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/ or send them an email and ask.

      Have a great trip to Japan in December! I don`t think you need big snow boots meant for hiking if you only plan on staying in cities, but you should bring some warm shoes that are waterproof and can handle some snow.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  93. Hi Maria,

    Thank you a lot for all the work you’ve been doing for years. Since we have discovered Nerd Nomads 3 years ago (we were looking for information about Sri Lanka railroad), whenever we travel in a place you have been traveling, this blog is our first source of information.

    So we have finally got our tickets for Japan in May (after the Golden Week). Unfortunately, we only have 10-11 days. Our plan is 4 nights in Tokyo, 2 nights in Kanazawa, 4 nights in Kyoto. We plan to take 7-days JR pass and also have day trips to Osaka from Kyoto and (maybe) to Nikko from Tokyo. What do you think about this? Do you maybe have other suggestions for day trips or maybe an idea of a place on the east coast that should be visited instead of Kanazawa?

    Reply
    • Hi Bojana,

      Awwww, thank you soooo much!! Your nice words about our blog made my day! 🙂

      Your planned itinerary looks great! We love Kanazawa, but another option could be Takayama and do a day-trip to Shirakawa-go. But if I were to choose between either Kanazawa or Takayama, I would choose Kanazawa. Nara is also a great day-trip from Kyoto (50 min by train) or Osaka (55 min by train) with its shrines and temples and lots of deer walking around.

      Have an amazing trip to Japan in May! Thanks for commenting!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  94. Hi Maria

    We are planning on going to Japan this summer for two weeks. I stumbled upon your blogs and what a fantastic collection of experiences! Beautiful pictures! Your blogs are so alive and informative!
    We have two kids with us so we are trying to not do too many one night stays and possibly pick one place for 2-4 nights and do day trips. We are thinking of doing few days in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and do day trips to Hiroshima, Nara, Fuji and possibly Hakone. We also want to see Takayama and Kanazawa. But I am not sure what should be the sequence of visits and which place is best for which day trip.
    Really hoping that you could give some advice on this?

    Thanks so much for all the help in advance:)

    Reply
    • Hi Vandana,

      Thank you sooo much!!! Wow, so cool that you are heading to Japan with your kids this summer! They will love this beautiful country!

      I agree that you should stick to fewer places and stay longer at each place since you are traveling with kids. With the places you mention that you want to visit, here is my suggested itinerary for you:

      Day 1-4: Tokyo with a day-trip to Hakone/ Mt. Fuji (about 1,5-2 hours by train or bus from Tokyo one way)
      Day 4-8: Kyoto with day-trips to Nara (about 40 min by train one way), Osaka (about 30-40 min by train one way), and if you have some energy left Hiroshima (1,5-2 hour by train one way)
      Day 8-11: Takayama (about 3 hours by train from Kyoto), with a day-trip to Shirakawa-go (50 min by train or bus one way), or do Shirakawa-go on your way to Kanazawa
      Day 11-13: Kanazawa (2,5 hours by train from Takayama)
      Day 13-14: Spend your last night in the city where your flight home departs, Tokyo? 2,5-3 hours train ride from Kanazawa to Tokyo

      This itinerary will be a bit busy too, so you might want to cut out some of these places.

      Have a great time in Japan with your family!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  95. I must say it’s amazing you keep up with these posts and recommendations, a fantastic resource for everyone. I’ll throw my itinerary into the bunch for suggestions. We are a couple in our 30s, live in NYC (so Tokyo isn’t a high priority), like nature/hikes and relaxation, currently planning to skip Hiroshima.

    12-Nights
    1) Tokyo
    2) Tokyo
    3) Early train; Tokyo to Hakone
    4) Early train; Hakone to Matsumoto
    5) Alpine Route to Kanazawa
    6) Kanazawa to Shirakawa-Go to Takayama
    7) Takayama to Kyoto
    8) Kyoto
    9) Kyoto
    10) Early train; Kyoto to Tanabe, bus to Hosshinmon (Kumano Kodo), stay Yunomine
    11) Yunomine to Kyoto
    12) Kyoto to Tokyo (possibly stop in Nara).

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Zach,

      Thank you so much! Your itinerary looks great!

      Thanks for the tip about the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Routes! Love hikes like this so will definitely check out these pilgrimage routes on our next Japan trip. Yunomine with its hot springs (Onsen) looks awesome too.

      It’s amazing getting tips about itineraries, places to see, and activities to do from our readers. Have added Tanabe, Kumano Kodo, and Yunomine to our must-see-list Japan. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  96. Hi Maria, I like your name, Nerd Nomads. Thanks for putting this together–it looks like you spent a lot of time researching and documenting your trips. To me, that’s half the fun. I like your travel ideas and the places you recommend sound ideal.

    My wife and I are headed to Japan for a 8-night cruise around Japan. Ports include Yokahama, Ishinomaki, Hakodate, Akita, Busan (Korea), and Kagoshima. Then we will stay another 9 days (8 nights) visiting the country on our own. I was thinking going directly from the port in Yokahama to Hakone (already reserved Mount View Hakone) , then traveling to some of your other recommendations, saving Tokyo for the last couple days. So my question is, what would you cut out of your itinerary to make this work? We leave mid-Sept so not a lot of time to make reservations. Thanks for your time!

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you so much!! Hehe, glad to hear that you like our blog name, it was really difficult to come up with a name. 🙂

      Wow, so cool that you are going to Japan on a cruise! We have never been on a cruise, sounds fantastic. Good idea to start with Hakone after the cruise, it is a beautiful area of Japan!

      Hmm, which places you should go to on the rest of your really depends on what you like, but I figure hiking and the Alpine route is out since you probably want to experience the culture of Japan and not nature? And you get some beautiful scenery and nature in Hakone.

      Here is my suggestion for 9 days (8 nights):

      Day 1: Hakone (1 night?)
      Day 2: Takayama (2 nights)
      Day 3: Shirakawa-go (day-trip)
      Day 4-7: Kyoto (3 nights)
      Day 7-9: Tokyo (2 nights)

      Have an awesome cruise and trip to Japan in September! I`m sure you will love it! Plenty of time to make bookings, so don`t worry. 🙂

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  97. Hi Maria, just wanted to Thank You for doing my homework for me…. It’s been easy and informative!

    Best Regards,

    Jaime

    Reply
    • Hi Jaime,

      Awww, thank you soooo much!! Have an awesome time in Japan!! Thanks for commenting!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  98. Hi Maria,

    I need help since I and my family have never been to Japan because I have to work hard in US to support my family overseas. However, I manage to have 5 days flying into and out of Tokyo. I appreciate if you could help me with our short 5 day trip to Japan. I have been told to go to Tokyo and Osaka. Please advise
    Many thanks,

    Tim

    Reply
    • Hi Tim,

      Great to hear that you and your family are heading to Japan! With only five days in Japan, my suggestion is that you use them in Tokyo and Kyoto. For instance three days in Tokyo and two days in Kyoto.

      Here you can get an idea of what to do in Tokyo, and what to do in Kyoto.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  99. Hi Maria,
    Love your blogs, and wise advice. In fact, we are following one of your suggested schedules for our trip. We (family of 3 – 2 adults and a teen) are heading to Japan for the first time mid June for 3 weeks, but do not have any idea whether we should rent the pocket wifi. JR Rail rents the pocket wifi (USD 29 for 5 days) or a SIM card (USD 29 for 15 days). We plan to spend 5 days in Tokyo (most airbnb offer free wifi), then Hakone, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. Outside of Tokyo, do the accommodations (mainly airbnb, Ryokan or local hostels or inns) provide free wifi? Any suggestions ? Thanks a million.

    Reply
    • Hi Pete,

      Thank you so much! So cool that you and your family are heading to Japan!

      As for pocket wifi vs SIM card, it depends on how you want to access wifi and what is important to you.

      Pocket wifi
      – Pros pocket wifi: It can easily be shared between multiple devices (if you have one mobile phone each, tablet and laptop) so that you can all access the wifi at the same time. It usually has more GB than prepaid SIM. You can keep your SIM card from your home country in your phone so that people back home can reach you on your regular number if necessary.

      – Cons pocket wifi: If you plan to split up and communicate with each other, this is of course not possible with only one pocket wifi. Then you need a SIM card each. You will have to hand in the pocket wifi somewhere when you leave Japan which can be a hassle. With a SIM card, you can just throw it in the garbage when you go home.

      Free wifi is becoming more and more common at accommodations at least in the big cities that you plan to visit. But we experienced that some hotels actually only had cabled internet.

      Hmm, hope this helped a little with your decision on getting a pocket wifi or SIM card. Have an amazing trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  100. hi Maria
    great blog
    i am planning to go to honeymoon this summer
    i am just wondering about vegetarian
    how easy is it to get vegetarian food in tokyo , hakone and kyoto

    Reply
    • Hi Rahul,

      Thank you so much! So cool that you are going to Japan for your honeymoon!! Congrats on the wedding!

      I am not a vegetarian myself, but you should have no problem finding vegetarian food in Japan. Tokyo and Kyoto are really big cities so they have plenty of options for vegetarians.

      Have an awesome honeymoon to Japan!!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  101. Hi Maria, at what time of the year did you make this 2 week trip? I haven’t decided yet on the dates I want to go to Japan and I want to have the best weather I can to do as many things as you mentioned on the post.

    Thanks!

    Carolina

    Reply
  102. Hi Carolina,

    We did this Japan trip in July/August. July and August are not known to be the best time to visit Japan, however, as it is the rainy/ typhoon season and pretty hot and humid. We had some rain, but not every day.

    March to May (late spring) and September to November (late autumn) are the best times to visit Japan. There is little rain these months, the sky is clear, and the temperatures are mild. Also, the beautiful cherry blossom of spring and the colorful autumn leaves are stunning. But these months are also the most crowded as a lot of people visit Japan then.

    Late May and late September is a good time to visit Japan, as it is less people and you can get cheaper prices on accommodation since it is low season. Also, there is no public holiday in Japan in late May and late September so you don´t have to compete with the locals. Early December can also be good, it is especially perfect for onsen (hot springs).

    Have a great trip to Japan!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  103. Hi Maria
    Thanks for your very helpful blog. I would appreciate your help or advice on itinerary for late December/January. I have worked it out trying to avoid the New Year holiday busy trains and Tokyo being too quiet. So instead of starting in Tokyo I am considering starting from Osaka where we can fly direct. What I have thought is:
    Kyoto 5 nights
    Hiroshima 2 nights
    Takayama 2 nights
    Tokyo 5 nights

    Would also like a night in Hakone but not sure if we do before Tokyo straight from Takayama or if that is not practical. We don’t really want to leave Tokyo then go back for more nights but we could if that is the best way to do it.
    We will be catching trains. Does the itinerary look sensible or should we swap anything around or skip Hakone and do something else? Or change number of nights? We have travelled a lot in Asia but never Japan and do not want to be templed out but enjoy the culture and food.
    Thanks for your help
    Robyn

    Reply
    • Hi Robyn,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that you are going to Japan in December/ January! The winter months are great for visiting Japan as there isn’t usually much rainfall in the winter months, and the skies tend to be clear and the air dry. So good chances of seeing Mt. Fuji, even from Tokyo! 🙂

      Your itinerary looks great, also the number of nights at each place.

      As for Hakone, one night is enough as there isn’t much to see or do there once you’ve taken the standard tourist circuit of transportation available on the Hakone Free Pass. The scenery is nice, though, especially the view of Mt. Fuji which is probably your reason for going to Hakone. But you might want to see how the weather is like before deciding on spending a night in Hakone or not, as Mt. Fuji might not be visible if the weather is bad. Although it is more likely to see Mt. Fuji in the winter than at other times of the year.

      You will most likely be able to see Mt. Fuji from Tokyo as well, and it will be visible from the north side of the train between Tokyo and Kyoto for quite a long time in the middle of the journey. So you really don´t have to spend the night in Hakone just to see Mt. Fuji.

      The temperatures in Japan will be chilly in December/ January, around 5°-10°C during the daytime, but there is rarely any snow in Kyoto and Tokyo in December. So bring warm clothes.

      Have a great trip to Japan this winter!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  104. Hi Maria,

    Your itinerary is so fantastic! We can surely use it. 🙂
    Seems like you miss Osaka. We are also planning a trip to Japan. Do you have any recommendation for 19-20 days?

    Reply
    • Hi Yeru,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our itinerary could be an inspiration to you when planning your Japan trip!

      Yes, we left out Osaka as we think it is enough to visit two huge cities (Tokyo and Kyoto) in 14 days, and there is much more to see and do in Tokyo and Kyoto than in Osaka. But with 19-20 days like you guys have, you should definitely consider adding Osaka to your itinerary. Osaka Castle is beautiful, and they also have Universal Studios in Osaka and an aquarium.

      You should also consider doing this itinerary at a slower pace as this is a bit hectic for only 14 days. I recommend adding a night in Kanazawa (3 nights instead of 2) and spend a night in Hiroshima or Miyajima Island. You can do a day-trip to Nara from either Kyoto or Osaka.

      If you plan on heading inland to the Japanese Alps and do the Alpine Route, you can also consider going to Nagano. The mountains and nature there are beautiful, great for walking. They also have an onsen (hot spring) that is famous for monkeys, the snow monkey park.

      Have a great trip to Japan! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  105. Thanks for this two week itinerary idea for traveling to Japan, Maria! Also love the tips you included at the end part of the post. It really is helpful to be provided with such information and for sure will cut our loads as we plan a trip to Japan within this year or early next year. Your blog is a wonderful source of information that me and my loved ones could make use of. Kudos!

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much!! Really appreciate your nice words about our blog, glad it could be of inspiration to you when planning your Japan trip! You will love Japan, it is a beautiful country with great nature, lovely people, and delicious food.

      Have a great trip to Japan this or next year!

      Cheers,
      -Maria-

      Reply
  106. Hi Maria, this itinerary looks amazing, thank you for sharing it! We are starting to plan a 2-week trip for late May. We are going to use your trip, potentially with a couple of adjustments. We are interested in have some relaxation time at the end of the trip, and were thinking of going to Okinawa to stay at the beach resorts. One thought was to skip Nikko and Nara to save a couple of days, and use that time at the beach. At the end of the trip, is it worth flying from Hiroshima to Okinawa for beaches, or there are good ones to check out that are already on the itinerary that you outlined? Are there similar types of relaxation hot spring resort spots that we are better of going to instead? What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Thank you so much! Sounds like a great idea to skip Nikko and Nara and head south to the Okinawa Island for some beach time. We have not been to Okinawa yet, but I`ve heard that the beaches there are fantastic so I`m sure you will have an amazing time.

      Beppu is a popular hot spring area that has over 2000 (!!) hot springs/ onsen. It also has several nice resorts. We have not been there yet, but it looks pretty nice. But I`m not sure if they have any beaches.

      Have a great trip to Japan in May!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  107. Loved your itinerary…..we are leaving in September for two weeks….How did you go from Nara(your last day) to Tokyo Airport? Can you take the JR pass straight to the airport?

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you so much! We took the train to Tokyo city first, cause we had some hours until our plane departed, and took the train to the airport from there. It also depends if you are departing from Narita or Haneda Airport. Looks like you have to change train to both airports, but you can also go through Kyoto. Check https://www.google.com/maps/.

      Yes, you can use the JR Pass to go from Nara to Tokyo (the JR Nara Line via Kyoto).

      Narita Airport: The best way to get from Tokyo to Narita Airport is the JR Narita Express (NEX). The one-way journey takes roughly one hour and is fully covered by the JR Pass. There are departures every 30 to 60 minutes.

      Haneda Airport: From Tokyo to Haneda Airport, you can take the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line from Tokyo Station to Hamamatsucho Station (5 minutes, 160 yen) and transfer to the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport (20 minutes, 490 yen). Or you can take the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku Line from Tokyo Station to Shinagawa Station (10 minutes, 170 yen) and transfer to the Keikyu Airport Line to Haneda Airport (20 minutes, 410 yen). You can use the JR Pass for both options.

      Gave a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  108. Hi

    Did you book the bus the Shirakawa-go section? if you booked the bus are you able to get off and look around then board another bus to continue on?

    Helen

    Reply
    • Hi Helen,

      We bought the bus ticket at Kanazawa Station and did not pre-book the bus ticket. Yes, you can get off and look around in Shirakawa-go, and take another bus to Takayama. There are ten buses daily linking Kanazawa-Shirakawago-Takayama, where some of them require a reservation. The first one leaves from Kanazawa at 08:10, and the last is at 16:00.

      You can find more information on departure times, price and how to make a reservation HERE.

      Have a great trip to Shirakawa-go!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  109. Hello Maria,

    Thank you for your blog – it’s definitely the perfect place to look for itineries for trips along the same experiences I want to have (happy to be a nerd nomad too!) Me and my boyfriend are planning to go to Japan next September for 2 weeks and feeling a bit overwelmed by the internet and guidebooks, as there’s so much to choose and see! I was wondering if you had a good idea of what to see if you want to see old and new Japan within 12-14 days? it’d be great to see temples, forests and city scapes as well! I’m thinking at the moment a few days in Tokyo, a few days in Kyto, Nara, Niko and not sure where else on the way, any ideas? Thanks so much for your blog!

    Reply
    • Hi Melly,

      Thank you so much! Really happy to hear from a fellow nerd nomad! 🙂

      This article/ itinerary is what we recommend to see and visit on a 14-day trip to Japan. In our opinion, this itinerary is the perfect mix of old and new Japan, with temples, forests, and cityscapes. But of course feel free to do adjustments according to your interest and preferences. If you want more new Japan, add more days in Tokyo, or add in Osaka. If you want more old Japan, Kyoto, Nara, and Nikko is perfect.

      Your suggestion with Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Nikko sounds great! If you want some nature and stunning mountain scenery, you can do the Alpine Route and add Hakone, Takayama and a day-trip to the little mountain village of Shirakawa-go. Hiroshima is a great city with a very sad history from the second world war, but it is a bit “out of the way” so you might want to skip it if you only have 12 days.

      Have a great trip to Japan with your boyfriend! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  110. Hi Maria,
    it’s such a nice and helpful article.
    just wonder.. have you ever gone to Sapporo or other tourist destinations on Hokkaido?

    thank you..

    warm regards,
    Ferdi

    Reply
    • Hi Ferdi,

      Thank you so much!

      No, we have unfortunately not been that far north in Japan yet. Really want to visit Hokkaido and go hiking in the great national parks that are on the Island. Sapporo seems like a nice city too. I have heard that there are awesome skiing in Hokkaido, would love to go skiing there.

      Happy travels!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  111. Hi Maria!

    Thank you so much for this thorough guide! It’s a been a great help in finding the perfect itinerary for a two week trip to Japan.

    My girlfriend and I are traveling to Japan from the 1st of November to the 17th, giving us a total of 15 full days + 2 half days in the country.

    Inspired by your itinerary, this is what we’ve come up with:

    Day 1 – Arrive in Tokyo (half day)
    Day 2 – Tokyo
    Day 3 – Tokyo
    Day 4 – Matsumoto
    Day 5 – Day trip to Kamikochi from Matsumoto
    Day 6 – Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
    Day 7 – Kanazawa
    Day 8 – Shirakago –> Takayama
    Day 9 – Takayama
    Day 10 – Kyoto
    Day 11 – Kyoto
    Day 12 – Kyoto
    Day 13 – Osaka
    Day 14 – Osaka
    Day 15 – Fuji Five Lakes
    Day 16 – Tokyo
    Day 17 – Tokyo

    Does that sound doable? And are we missing anything or is there something you would change?

    Once again, we really appreciate the effort you’ve put in this itinerary. It’s been so helpful!

    Best
    Jonas

    Reply
    • Hi Jonas,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who are going to Japan in November! You will love it, it is a great country!

      Your itinerary looks perfect and absolutely doable. So happy to see that you plan to do the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, for me that was the highlight of our Japan trip. The nature and scenery up in the Japanese Alps is breathtaking.

      If you buy the Japanese Railway Pass (14 days), you should activate it on day 4 when you head out of Tokyo to Matsumoto. It is easier to just buy single tickets for the metro in Tokyo, or a Tokyo metro card, then you can use all the metro lines and not just the one where you can use the JR Pass.

      Have a great trip to Japan with your girlfriend! I`m sure you will have a wonderful time!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Thanks a lot Maria! We can barely wait! And yes, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route looks amazing.
        Once again, thank you for your tremendously helpful blog post and response.

        – Jonas

        Reply
  112. Great article and really nice hints Maria & Espen! Thanks for sharing 😉 We can’t wait to go to Japan.

    Reply
    • Hi Paulina & Pedro,

      Thanks a million! Japan is amazing, and a country you M-U-S-T visit! 🙂

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  113. Hi Maria,
    I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing the great guide you put together. I’ve referenced it a lot when putting together our trip coming up this weekend 🙂 Our trip is going to be a bit shorter at 11 nights because of how much holidays my husband can get from his work but we’ve used your 2 week framework as a guide to work out where we really want to go and what is the most economic route, its going to be a but mental but ace. One thing I am curious about is how you got on travelling with your luggage?
    Thanks Louise

    Reply
    • Hi Louise,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our recommended Japan Itinerary could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip!

      We travel with two big backpacks (80 liters each) that also have wheels (they are of the brand Osprey, model: Sojourn 80 l), and two small day backpacks (20 liters each), and had them with us on the trains all around Japan. It was never a problem. There is space for luggage on the trains.

      Have a great trip to Japan!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  114. Thank you so much for your tips Maria. I’m heading out to Japan next summer and I can’t wait! I’ll be following a similar route to your itinerary. One of the differences is my desire to go and stay with the monks in Mt Koya for the night.

    Do you know what would be the best thing to skip to do this trip instead? I must hit Hakone, Kyoto and Hiroshima. The other places are so beautiful and I’m afraid to miss anything in the 13 days I am there but it’s impossible to fit it all in.

    Thank you! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Luke,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment! Lucky you who are going to Japan next summer! Staying a night with the monks in Mt Koya sounds amazing and like a once in a lifetime experience! We have unfortunately not been to Mt Koya yet, but I see that it is about a 3-hour train ride from Osaka (one way).

      Since you want to head down to Hiroshima, you should skip heading north to Matsumoto, Alpine Route, and Kanazawa. If you see that you have the time, you can do Takayama and a day-trip to the village Shirakawa-go.

      An itinerary for you could, for instance, be something like this:
      – Day 1-2: Tokyo
      – Day 3: Hakone
      – Day 4-6: Kyoto
      – Day 7-8: Hiroshima/ Miyajima Island
      – Day 9-10: Osaka/ Nara
      – Day 11-12: Mt Koya
      – Day 13: Fly home (from Tokyo?)

      Or you can replace Osaka/Nara with Takayama and a day-trip to Shirakawa-go.

      Have a wonderful time in Japan next summer! It will be awesome!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  115. Awesome article! Did you make any reservations prior for the whole trip or did you just go and buy each ticket along the way? Do you know if they sell out? The reservation process is quite complicated and I’m not even sure what it guarantees you. Please get back to me ASAP being that I leave in 6 days!

    Reply
    • Hi Conor,

      Thank you so much! No, we did not make any train reservations in advance. We travelled through Japan in July/ August and had no problem getting seats at the trains without prior reservations (we just showed up at the train stations). We only bought the JR Train Pass before going to Japan.

      We only booked hotels a couple of days in advance so that we could be as flexible as possible.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  116. Hello Maria,

    Thank you very much for this post. It’s very informative.

    Me and my boyfriend are planning a 2 week trip to Japan in 2019 and this guide seems a perfect starter for us!

    I only wonder whether staying so little in Tokyo and Kyoto (considering you do day trips while staying there for the night) is worth it. Do you have time to explore these two amazing cities?

    Best wishes,
    Giota

    Reply
    • Hi Giota,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who are going on a 2-week trip to Japan with your boyfriend! You will love it!

      Three full days in Tokyo and three days in Kyoto is of course not enough to see the entire cities but it is sufficient to see the highlights. You should not do day-trips while staying in these cities, but do sightseeing in the city and the nearby surroundings. The only day-trip you can consider doing from Tokyo is Nikko. But you will see plenty of temples and shrines in both Tokyo and Kyoto so you can easily cut Nikko if you want to relax and see more of Tokyo on day 3.

      This is a busy itinerary, but it covers the highlights of Japan. You can, for instance, skip Nikko, Hiroshima and the Alpine Route to cut down on the amount of traveling and get more days in Tokyo and Kyoto. It depends on what your interests are and what you want to see and do.

      You can find our recommended Tokyo Itinerary here (it is 5 days, however, so you might have to cut something out), and Kyoto Itinerary here (3 days).

      Have a fantastic time in Japan next year!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  117. Wow, what a great itinerary!! Japan is on my list, so one day! How did you guys feel about seeing so much in only 14 days? I often get a bit overwhelmed when I’m doing that. I try to accept that I need more time, it’s difficult, hehe. Well, assuming that the public transport system was not much of a headache, it would probably be time to relax when taking the trains?

    Reply
    • Hei Pauline! (will write in English and not Norwegian…. ?)

      Thank you so much!! I must admit that this itinerary is a bit busy. We spent about five weeks in Japan, but only had a 14 days JR Pass so we did most of the travelling around Japan within 14 days. We spent the rest of our time in Tokyo and Kyoto.

      These are the highlights of Japan in our opinion, but it is a good thing if you have more than 14 days and can do this itinerary at a slower pace and relax some more. The trains in Japan are excellent, modern, run really fast, and always on time! NSB in Norway has a lot to learn, hehe ?

      Thanks so much for commenting! Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  118. Thanks for this great itinerary! We are planning a trip for the middle of May 2019 inspired by this post! Here is our plan:
    Arrive in Tokyo stay 3 nights
    Matsumoto 1 night
    Alpine route to
    Kanazawa 2 nights
    Shirakawa-go enroute to
    Takayama 2 nights
    Kyoto 4 nights (including long day trip to Hiroshima-Miyajima)
    Hakone 1 night
    Hakone -Narita train then depart for USA
    There many other places we’d love to see but 13 nights is all we have to work with.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you so much!

      Your planned Japan itinerary looks great! Looks like you have all the best highlights of Japan covered. You will have an amazing Japan trip!

      You should definitely buy a Japan Railway Pass (14 days) before entering Japan. This will save you a lot of money.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in May!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  119. Hi Maria, thank you for your wonderful itinerary suggestions. My husband and I and our 16 year old son will be travelling to Japan for the first time in late November 2019. This itinerary sounds ideal as we are thinking of going for around two weeks. We are especially keen on travelling some of the Nagoya to Matsumoto Post Road train. I am also particularly keen on seeing the Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani,Yamanouchi, Nagano. Can you recommend how we could fit this in to the itinerary you have written up? Where and how could we see them along the way and should we allow an extra day or two? Many thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Leigh,

      Thank you so much!

      Our recommended itinerary is pretty packed and I´m afraid that you will not have time to add much to it unless you cut something. You can, for instance, skip the day trip to Nikko from Tokyo (on day 3), as you will see plenty of temples and shrines in Tokyo and Kyoto, Hiroshima (it is a long train ride), and Nara (you can see once you are in Kyoto if you have the time and want to go on a day trip to Nara from Kyoto).

      An itinerary for you, where the Nagoya to Matsumoto Post Road Train and the Snow Monkeys are included, could be:

      Day 1-3: Tokyo (two nights)
      Day 3: Hakone (one night in the Hakone area, maybe at a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn? Or just a day trip to Hakone to see Mount Fuji)
      Day 4: Train from Hakone to Nagoya (1,5 hours). Nagoya to Matsumoto Post Road Train (a 2-hour train trip) (one night in Matsumoto)
      Day 5: Train from Matsumoto to Nagano. Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani, Yamanouchi, Nagano. One night in the Nagano-area.
      Day 6: Alpine Route (end this day in Kanazawa)
      Day 7-8: Kanazawa (2 nights Kanazawa)
      Day 8: Kanazawa- Shirakawa-go – Takayama
      Day 9-10: Takayama (2 nights in Takayama)
      Day 10-14: Kyoto (4 nights), can consider doing a day trip to Nara, Osaka (for instance Disneyland), or Hiroshima

      The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route closes during winter and the last day it is open is the 30th of November.

      You can find more information about the Nagoya to Matsumoto Post Road Train here.

      You should definitely buy a 14 days Japan Railway Pass, which will save you a lot of money. You have to buy this before you arrive in Japan, as this pass is only for tourists.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in late November next year!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  120. Hi

    I am putting together an itinerary for a 3 week trip to Japan in May/June next year. We are a middle aged couple and try to strike a balance between seeing as much of a country as we can and not wanting to live out of a suitcase by avoiding too many single night stays when we are travelling. We therefore like to stay a little longer in places and do day trips when we can. I am also a (very amateur) landscape, street and travel photographer, which does tend to influence where we go. Our initial draft itinerary is:

    3 nights Tokyo to acclimatise (including a day trip to Nikko,
    2 nighs Hiroshima,
    5 nights Kyoto,
    2 nights Kanazawa,
    2 nights Takayama,
    2 nights Hakone,
    6 nights Tokyo

    All suggestions and comments appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrew,

      Lucky you who are going to Japan in May/June next year! I totally agree with you, we also try to avoid too many single-night-stays as it gets too stressful.

      Your draft itinerary looks great! We also had two nights in Kanazawa, and I felt that it was a bit rushed. We really wanted to stay one more night in Kanazawa as we loved that city so I wish we had stayed three nights in Kanazawa. But we had unfortunately already booked our next stay in another city which we could not cancel so it was impossible to stay one extra night in Kanazawa. You could consider adding one more night to Kanazawa and cut one night in Tokyo (have 5 nights in Tokyo at the end). Also, the train ride from Kyoto to Kanazawa takes 3 hours, so part of day one in Kanazawa will be used on the train.

      On your way from Kanazawa to Takayama, you should consider stopping at the beautiful mountain village Shirakawa-go. The famous traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old, are great to photograph. Or you can do a day-trip from Takayama to Shirakawa-go, but then two nights in Takayama is a bit short as there is plenty to see and do in Takayama as well.

      You should buy Japan Railway Passes (JR Pass) before heading to Japan (these train passes are only available for foreigners and have to be bought outside of Japan). This will save you a lot of money. You can choose between 7, 14, or 21 days.

      You should activate the passes on your way out of Tokyo when you go to Hiroshima on day four, as there are not that many Tokyo subway lines that accept the JR Pass. It is better to buy PASMO or SUICA cards to use in big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. And you can buy single train tickets on your day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo. Then I think you only need 14 days JR Passes. And if the passes timeout when you arrive in Hakone, you can buy single tickets to Tokyo or take the bus, which is not that expensive.

      Great to hear from a fellow travel photographer! You will love Japan, it is awesome in a photographer’s perspective with plenty of amazing temples, shrines, nature, people, and urban street life to photograph. In Kyoto, make sure to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I love taking photos in those two places.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan next year! I`m sure you will love this awesome country! And bring plenty of memory cards and backup disks as you will be taking a lot of photos! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  121. Hi Maria

    Thank you for your feedback regrding our itinerary and the JR Pass. I’m already becoming an expert in the Japanese rail system 🙂

    Reply
  122. Hello. We will be traveling with seven people in April. 4 children. For this reason we thought it would be best to do day trips perhaps out of three cities. We have 13 days. Any ideas? Would like to see Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Great to hear that you are going to Japan in April! Then you might be able to see the Cherry Blossoms, at least at the beginning of April. It is a great time to visit Japan.

      I think I would have picked Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka as your three cities to stay in. You can easily do day-trips from these cities.

      An itinerary for you could be:

      – 5 days Tokyo: Day trips to Nikko, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hakone (Mt Fuji)
      – 5 days Kyoto: Day trips to Hiroshima and Nara
      – 3 days Osaka: Visit Universal Studios, Osaka Aquarium, Osaka Castle

      Or you can do the day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka. It takes about 1h 45 min by train from both Kyoto or Osaka to Hiroshima one way.

      There is plenty to do in both Tokyo and Kyoto so you should spend some time in these cities. You can find our recommended Tokyo Itinerary and Kyoto Itinerary here:
      Tokyo Itinerary
      Kyoto Itinerary

      Have a great trip to Japan in April!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  123. Hi Maria,
    We are planning to travel to Japan for two weeks from 19th of April to 4th of May with two kids (1 & 7 yr) old. We are visiting primarily for Sakura and want to do stay Tokyo & Kyoto most of our tour. Below is the plan I have thought of after going through your travel blog and discussion so far.
    1. Arrive Tokyo 19th night(late). Stay at Tokyo for 1 week, 20th to 26th April,
    2. On 26th travel to Hakone, stay at Hakone for 2 nights,
    3. Kyoto stay for 4-night (28th to 2nd May). During stay at Kyoto we are planning to day trip to Nara & Osaka.
    4. On 2nd May travel to Hiroshima and stay at Hiroshima for 1 night and return to Tokyo on 3rd.
    5. Last night at Tokyo, check-out on 4th May and catch return flight from Narita.
    I have few doubt in my plan and need expecting your suggestion on those doubts.
    A. During my 1 week stay in Tokyo I am planning to visit Disney Land, Disney Sea, yokohama & sea paradise, day trip to Nikko, kamakura and enjoy cherry blossom in an around Tokyo City.
    Questions –
    i. Do I need Japan rail Pass for this 1 week of travel and activity?
    ii. Which rail pass will be best suitable for me?
    iii. Could you please suggest a better 1-week Tokyo than with kids?
    B. I am planning take 7 days Japan rail pass for and activate from 28th April, on the day travelling to Kyoto and will use to travel to Osaka, Hiroshima and back to Tokyo.
    Is that a good idea? What would be your advice here?

    Thanks in advance,
    Monir

    Reply
    • Hi Monir,

      Lucky you who are going to Japan in April/ May! It is a great time to visit Japan!

      I will try to answer your questions the best I can:

      i. Do I need Japan Rail Pass for this 1 week of travel and activity?

      No, you don´t need the Japan Railway Pass for your first week while you are staying in Tokyo. The JR Pass can only be used on a few metro lines in Tokyo. It is better to buy a Pasmo or Suica card to use in Tokyo. The only difference between Pasmo and Suica is who sells them. Wherever you can use Suica, you can use Pasmo, and vice versa. You can also use Pasmo or Suica cards in other Japanese cities as well like Kyoto (even on the city buses) and Osaka.

      ii. Which rail pass will be best suitable for me?

      I think it is a good idea, like you say, to buy a 7 day JR Pass and activate it when you go to Kyoto. Then you can use it for your day trips to Nara and Osaka, and also for your trip to Hiroshima/ Miyajima Island and back to Tokyo.

      iii. Could you please suggest a better 1-week Tokyo than with kids?

      You can find our recommended Tokyo Itinerary here.

      Check out TimeOuts article for fun things to do in Tokyo for kids.

      Have a great trip to Japan with your family!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  124. Hi, Maria!

    Could you please suggest a 22 day itinerary arriving on June 12 and returning July 5? It will be myself and my lovely wife. We have traveled to Europe, but never to Asia (Japan). This will be our first experience. We are nervous because we don’t even know where to start. This is a trip of a lifetime, and we want it to be special.

    Thanks a million!

    Reply
    • Hi Richard,

      Great to hear that you are visiting Asia for the first time!

      Our recommended itinerary is a bit busy to do in only two weeks, so I recommend the same itinerary for your 22 day Japan trip just take it slower. I recommend that you add an extra night or two in Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Hiroshima (maybe spend a night at Miyajima Island outside of Hiroshima?). You can also add Osaka to your itinerary as this is a great city to visit with the stunning Osaka Castle.

      Have a great trip to Japan in June/ July! You will love Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  125. Hello Maria,

    My name is David and I wanted to get some insight on a Japan Honeymoon I am planning to take July 2-29. This is my itinerary

    July 3 we fly into Tokyo
    July 3 – 8 Tokyo (Day trips to Mt Fuji/ Fuji Q park, Nikko, Disneysea)
    July 8-12 Osaka
    July 12-16 Kyoto (Day trip to Nara)
    July 16-19 Hiroshima (Day trip to Miyajima Island)
    July 19-20 Kanazawa
    July 20-21 Takayama
    July 21-22 Matsumoto
    July 22-23 Minakami (Going to Takaragawa Onsen)
    July 23-29 Back to Tokyo to explore more

    We are getting a rail pass and are debating whether to do 21 days or 14.
    If you have any suggestions, tips or additions it would be much appreciated if you could let me know.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Congratulation on your wedding! Great to hear that you are planning on doing your honeymoon to Japan! Awesome choice!

      Your itinerary looks great! You have covered the most popular cities/ highlight of Japan.

      The only thing is that it might be a bit exhausting and stressful to visit three cities (Kanazawa, Takayama, and Matsumoto) in only four days (19-22 July). There is a lot to of great things to do in Kanazawa for instance, so you need some time there, preferably a full day. Takayama and Matsumoto are smaller cities than Kanazawa, but it´s still worth to spend some time there.

      I also recommend that you do a day-trip to the beautiful and charming Shirakawa-go mountain village on your way from Kanazawa to Takayama. So you might want to spend most of the 20th of July in Shirakawa-go which makes your stay in Takayama and time to see Takayama even shorter. So maybe you should add an extra night in Takayama?

      Also, on the 19th of July, the train trip from Hiroshima to Kanazawa takes at least four hours, maybe more depending on which train you choose. So you will not have a full day exploring Kanazawa as the 19th will be spent on the train and the 20th will be spent in Shirakawa-go. So you might want to add an extra night in Kanazawa too?

      I recommend that you cut down on the number of days in Osaka, four days is a bit much. If you want to visit Universal Studios in Osaka, however, you need a full day at Universal. Other than that, Osaka is just another big modern Japanese city. It has a beautiful castle, Osaka Castle, and an aquarium and is a nice city. But Kyoto and Tokyo have more sights and more must-see places. You can also cut down on the number of days in Tokyo, now you have 6 + 7 days in Tokyo, but a few days will be spent on day trips from Tokyo.

      With this itinerary, you can get by with a 14 days JR Pass. You don´t need a JR Pass in Tokyo, just buy single tickets (train or bus) to Mt Fuji, Nikko, and DisneySea. So you activate your JR Pass when you leave Tokyo for Osaka (July 8). Then your JR Pass will time out on July 21. July 21 will be the last day you can use your JR Pass, so you will get to Matsumoto on the JR Pass. Then you will have to buy single tickets Matsumoto – Minakami – Tokyo. Or you can, of course, buy single tickets on July 8 from Tokyo to Osaka, and wait to activate your JR Pass until you leave Osaka. Or you can just buy the 21 days JR Pass and use the pass on your entire trip, which is probably the easiest.

      Have a fantastic honeymoon trip to Japan in July! July is the rainy season in most of Japan, so bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. It does not rain every day but it is quite humid.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  126. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for a very helpful article!

    I’m planning to do a solo trip 14 days in April.
    Since I’m landing in Osaka I was thinking doing your route backwards 🙂
    Roughly something like this:

    Osaka
    Kyoto
    Shirakawa-Go
    Kanazawa
    Toyama
    Alpine Route
    Matsumoto
    Tokyo
    Osaka

    Does it sound reasonable? If you can recommend on how to divide the time I would appreciate it.

    Thanks again 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Constantine,

      Thank you so much! Your itinerary looks great! As for how many days you should spend in each place, my suggestion is something like this:

      Day 1-3: Osaka (2 nights)
      Day 3-7: Kyoto (4 nights)
      Day 7-8: Shirakawa-go (1 night)
      Day 8-10: Kanazawa (2 nights)
      Day 10: Alpine Route (day trip)
      Day 10-11: Matsumoto (1 night)
      Day 11-14: Tokyo (3 nights)
      Day 14: Osaka (airport)

      You don´t say when in April you are going. Just bear in mind that the full Alpine Route opens on the 15th of April (it is closed during winter, from December 1st). But there is a partial route (Dentetsu Toyama – Midagahara) open from April 10th to 14th.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in April!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  127. Hello Maria, brilliant itinerary. Just the kind we had in mind. We are an Indian couple and are vegetarians . Do you think we could still go ahead and do this and will find something to survive for 2 weeks? We are planning end of this May and beginning of June. Is that a good time? Take it easy and many thanks,

    Reply
    • Hi Jagdish,

      Thank you so much! You will have no problem finding vegetarian food in Japan, so no you will not starve, hehe. 🙂

      There are a lot of great vegetarian options to choose from in Japan, like noodles (ramen, soba, somen, and others), vegetarian sushi (instead of fish they use vegetables like cucumber, mushrooms, avocado, soybeans, and radish), vegetarian tempura (battered and deep-fried vegetables and spices of all kinds), skewed food called Yakitori (different vegetables grilled over an open flame), and vegetables hot pots and soups (cooked in steaming broth). Japan also has different rice dishes where you can choose no meat options, and tofu is very popular and something you will find in most restaurants.

      Other popular Japanese dishes such as Okonomiyaki, a savory pancake of mixed ingredients, and Monjayaki, a pan-fried batter similar to Okonomiyaki, can be requested to be made without meat. Gyoza, Japanese fried dumplings, also come in vegetarian-friendly varieties, where they usually contain a mixture of tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, and spinach.

      So don´t worry, Japan is a great country to visit for vegetarians and you will definitely survive! 🙂

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in May/June! May/ June is a great time to visit Japan, right before the rainy season sets in. June and July is rainy season in most of Japan. We have not been to India yet, unfortunately. It looks like a beautiful country! Hope to visit India someday, it is on our bucket list!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  128. Hello Maria, you are welcome to Bharath ie India anytime. We would be happy to assist you in whatever way possible. Thanks for the detailed reply. Since the page gave some error message yesterday, I posted my question again couple of minutes ago thinking it has not reached you. But a refresh enabled me to see your reply. So, please ignore my second post. You have a great time and shall keep in touch when you visit Bharath. You have my mail ID and in case you need our telephone number too, do not hesitate. Enjoy the weekend.

    Reply
  129. Hi Maria, first of all thank you for the value and detailed information. I am planning a 13 day trip to Japan at the end of March beginning of April.

    We our itinerary so far is as follows:
    – Arrival at 15:30pm to Narita airport.
    – 5 nights in Tokyo with a day trip to Hakone.
    – 1 night in Kanazawa taking an early train to arrive by 10am from tokyo
    – 1 night in Takayama stopping at Shirakawa go from Kanazawa
    – 2 nights in kyoto
    – 1 night in Hiroshima
    – 2 nights in Osaka
    – departure from nagoya

    I know that there are a lot of 1 night stays which makes the itinerary a bit hectic, however I think that by staying overnight in one place we will save time on travelling as opposed to organising day trips. What is you thought in this regard?

    Im having some difficult with the transportation. With our itinerary, will a 7 day JR pass should be enough. However this pass cannot be used inside the cities such as toyko osaka and kyoto. Is there a day pass ticket for such cities?

    I would appreciate your guidance on how to get around with transportation especially considering the costs.

    Thank you once again.
    Robetra

    Reply
    • Hi Roberta,

      Thank you so much! Your 13 days Japan itinerary looks great! It is, as you say, a bit hectic with mostly 1 and 2 nights at each place. But if you want to see the highlights of Japan and only have 13 days, then this is how it has to be.

      I also prefer to stay overnight at a place rather than only doing day trips. The only drawback is that you have to pack your bag/ suitcase almost every day and have to carry it with you from place to place. But if you are a light packer (I am not, unfortunately… 🙂 ) then it should be easy.

      I think you should be fine with a 7 day JR Pass. Wait to activate the JR Pass until you are leaving Tokyo to take the train to Kanazawa (on day 6). You have to buy the JR Pass online before arriving in Japan as this pass is only for foreign tourists. You can buy it here.

      When you arrive in Japan, you should buy a Pasmo or Suica card which you can use on public transport (for instance metro/ underground and buses) in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

      Pasmo vs Suica card
      Pasmo card and Suica card work in the same way and can be used in the same places, and they cost the same. The only difference is that they are sold by different companies. You will be able to buy both at Narita airport. You can use your Pasmo or Suica card in any of the major Japanese cities including Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, to pay at the underground or buses. The only difference is the location where you can give your card back and receive your ¥500 deposit:

      Pasmo card
      If you would like to return your Pasmo card at the end of your trip, you can only return it within the Tokyo area. Head to a station of a non-JR subway line (for instance: the Keihin or Keisei lines), or the stations at Narita or Haneda Airports. Your remaining balance and ¥500 deposit will be returned to you.

      Suica card
      If you want to return your Suica card at the end of your stay, you can only do this in the Tokyo region. In order to get a refund, go into any JR East station. You will then be able to recover the ¥500 deposit.

      But the deposit is only about US$5, so if you are not able to or don´t bother to return the card, it will not ruin you. We did not return our cards.

      Getting around Tokyo
      You can also buy specific Tokyo Subway tourist tickets (if you don´t want to buy a Pasmo or Suica card):
      Tokyo Subway unlimited 24-hour Ticket: ¥800 (Adult)/¥400 (Child)
      Tokyo Subway unlimited 48-hour Ticket: ¥1,200 (Adult)/¥600 (Child)
      Tokyo Subway unlimited 72-hour Ticket: ¥1,500 (Adult)/¥750 (Child)

      These tickets cover the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines (over 200 stations throughout the city), but NOT the JR Train lines. This is a Tokyo Tourist Pass and a foreign passport is required to purchase it. These can be bought at specific locations in Tokyo: Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, the electronic department stores BIC CAMERA, Sofma, and Laox, and HIS Tourist Information Center.

      Getting around Kyoto
      There are very few JR lines in Kyoto, so the JR Rail Pass is of limited use here. You can use your Pasmo or Suica card, or buy one of these passes:

      Kyoto Bus Only Pass – Unlimted use of the city buses of Kyoto in one day. Adult: ¥500 / Child: ¥250. Can be used within the allocated zone of the city (Arashiyama Bamboo forest, Sagano, Takao, Shugakuin etc. are outside of the allocated zone. You have to pay extra to get here.)

      Kyoto Bus and Subway Passes – Unlimited use of the city buses and subways in Kyoto one or two days. One-day Pass: Adult ¥1,200 / Child ¥600. Two-day Pass: Adult ¥2,000 / Child ¥1,000

      The best place to buy these passes is at the main Kyoto Bus Information Center in front of Kyoto Station.

      Getting around Osaka
      The Osaka Loop Line and the two subway lines (the red Midosuji Line and the green Chuo Line) will get you everywhere you need in Osaka. The most useful train line is the Osaka Loop Line (often just called the “Loop Line”). You can use your JR Pass on this line. You can also use your Pasmo or Suica card on public transport in Osaka.

      There are several other options as well in Osaka:

      Amazing Osaka Pass – Cost ¥2,300 (same price for adult and children). Unlimited use for 1 day on all subways and buses in Osaka, as well as on all private rails lines in and around Osaka (but cannot be used on JR trains like the Loop Line). Also, you get free admission to 20 attractions in Osaka including Osaka Castle and the Umeda Sky Building (but not Osaka Aquarium). You can buy the Amazing Osaka Pass at ticket offices at all subway stations and private rail lines in Osaka. A nice buy if you want to explore Osaka for one day and see the main attractions except for Osaka Aquarium.

      Osaka Kaiyu Ticket – Cost: ¥2,550 for adults, ¥1,300 for children. Unlimited use for 1 day on all subways and buses in Osaka (but cannot be used on JR trains like the Loop Line). Also, you get free admission to the Osaka Aquarium and discounted admission to 30 attractions in Osaka. You can buy this pass at ticket offices at all subway stations and private rail lines in Osaka. A nice buy if you want to explore Osaka for one day AND go to Osaka Aquarium.

      Osaka 1-Day Unlimited Subway/Bus Ticket (Osaka Enjoy Card) – Cost: ¥800 for adults on weekdays, ¥600 on weekends and holidays, ¥300 weekdays for children. Unlimited use of all subways and buses in Osaka. You can buy this pass at all Osaka subway vending machines and ticket offices. A nice buy if you want to explore Osaka for one day but don’t intend to see that many attractions.

      I think it´s easiest and more convenient to buy a Pasmo or Suica card, which you can use in all cities in Japan.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in March/ April!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  130. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for your full packed itinerary, taking on a number of tips from here for our trip in June 🙂 We are spending the first 3 nights in Tokyo and are also considering staying in the HOTEL MYSTAYS Asakusabashi.

    We are arriving in Narita airport and will be getting the 14 day JR pass and traveling into Tokyo by means of the NEX train. Once arriving in Tokyo, could you please tell me how you got to Asakusabashi station please by using the JR line?

    And also, do the JR lines run late? As we arrive at Narita at around 7.30 pm and until we pick up our JR passes and get to Tokyo..it would probably be 9pm minimum (excl. delays) and I am worried that we would miss the train into Asakusabashi since it might be late.

    Thank you for your tips and information,
    Julia

    Reply
    • Hi Julia,

      Thank you so much!

      The JR Narita Express Train, also called N’EX, departs every 30 min or so from Narita Airport into Tokyo. The N’EX trains begin at about 07:45 AM in the morning until about 21:45 (09:45 PM) in the evening. So yes, if you want to take the N’EX train, you should hurry up and be sure to be at the platform around 21:30 (9:30 PM) at the latest. Make sure to book your seats on the Narita Express in addition to buying the JR Pass, as this train is reservation only.

      Google Maps is excellent to use in Japan for finding trains, departure, and arrival times from and to where you plan on going. Just enter From: Narita International Airport, To: Hotel Mystays Asakushabashi, as well as your departure time, and you will get a lot of different options of trains and walking distance to choose from.

      I see that Google Maps suggest that you can take the JR Narita Line eight stops to Chiba Station, and then the JR Sobu Line (Rapid) seven stops to Bakurochō Station. From there you only have to walk seven minutes to Hotel Mystays Asakusabashi. The whole trip, including walking, takes 1 hour and 22 min.

      We arrived very late at Narita Airport, around midnight, so we just took a taxi from the airport to the hotel.

      But one option for you could be to not activate your JR Pass at Narita but wait to activate it until you leave Tokyo to go somewhere else in Japan. As there are very few lines in Tokyo where you can use your JR Pass. The JR Pass can’t be used on subways, and it can only be used on JR operated lines such as the Yamanote line in Tokyo.

      So the best and most convenient is to buy a Pasmo or Sicua card to pay for the trains and subways in Tokyo, like the N’EX train from Narita Airport. You can also use these cards in other cities in Japan.

      You can also buy specific Tokyo Subway tourist tickets (if you don´t want to buy a Pasmo or Suica card):
      Tokyo Subway unlimited 24-hour Ticket: ¥800 (Adult)/¥400 (Child)
      Tokyo Subway unlimited 48-hour Ticket: ¥1,200 (Adult)/¥600 (Child)
      Tokyo Subway unlimited 72-hour Ticket: ¥1,500 (Adult)/¥750 (Child)

      These tickets cover the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines (over 200 stations throughout the city), but NOT the JR Train lines. This is a Tokyo Tourist Pass and a foreign passport is required to purchase it. These can be bought at specific locations in Tokyo: Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, the electronic department stores BIC CAMERA, Sofma, and Laox, and HIS Tourist Information Center.

      We often walked to Akihabara Station from the Mystays Asakusabashi Hotel (a 15 min walk) as this is a bigger station and has more lines. Asakushabashi Station has two lines: The JR Sobu Line (train above the ground), and the Toei-Asakusa (subway underground). You can not use your JR Pass on the subway line Toei-Asakusa.

      Have a great trip to Japan in June! And good luck with figuring out the train and subway system in Tokyo, it is a bit complicated at first but you will soon get a hang of it once you get to Tokyo.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  131. Hello Maria, first I just want to say thank you for this awesome itinerary it was a very good read and I am definitely going to use it. I am planning to go to Japan in 2021 along with my coworker Sherwin and my friend Samantha. Now we currently saving up money to prepare for our trip as well. My question is about the ryokans. Is there ryokans that accept people with tattoos or is all ryokans that banned tattoos? I asked cause I have two tattoos that are visible on my arms and so does my coworker Sherwin. My next question is how much yen should I carry? I understand in Japan most places accept cash only.

    Regards,
    Paul

    Reply
    • Hi Paul,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you find our recommended Japan itinerary inspiring when planning your Japan trip in 2021 with your friends!

      There is no problem staying at ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) with tattoos. The problem is if you want to take the public onsen (hot springs) that many of the ryokans have. These are gender-based baths and usually, tattoos are not allowed. But it really depends on the ryokan if they allow tattoos or not in their onsen, and sometimes they allow tourists with tattoos but not Japanese. So you should email them and ask before booking your room just to make sure. One option for you could be to book a ryokan where you can have a private onsen. That way you will get your own private onsen and tattoos will be fine. There are also many tattoo-friendly onsens in Japan.

      I recommend contacting the onsen (or the ryokan if the onsen is at the ryokan) in advance and explain that you have tattoos and how extensive they are. And ask if it is still possible to use the onsen facilities. Some may suggest bathing at certain times or days to avoid busy periods and lots of other guests. Some may suggest booking a private bathing room (if they have them). Some onsen will welcome you but simply issue you with skin-colored patches to stick on, covering up any potentially offending ink.

      You will mainly need cash for buying food, drinks, and entrance tickets at temples and different sights. Big tourist sights usually take credit cards, as well as hotels, big shops, and big restaurants. So it really depends on how expensive you eat and how many sights you plan on visiting. But it is easy to withdraw cash in Japan at ATMs. Almost all 7-Elevens have ATMs accepting international cards. Withdraw cash from the ATMs at the airport when you arrive in Japan so that you have some money to start off with.

      I recommend that you buy Pasmo or Suica cards when you arrive in Japan (for instance at the airport). These cards can be easily be topped up with an amount of money and you can use the cards on public transport and also buy stuff at kiosks and food stores. Very convenient and you don´t have to use cash all the time.

      Hope you have a fantastic trip to Japan in 2021!

      Regard,
      Maria

      Reply
  132. Hi, Such a great guide and interesting trip. Could you tell me approximately what you spent in total on travel and accommodation? I am planning to go in july/august and wanted to get a rough idea of budget.

    Reply
    • Hi Warren,

      Thank you so much!

      As for a budget for visiting Japan, it really depends on how much you will travel around the country (trains and buses are expensive), how many sights you plan on visiting (entrance tickets to museums, temples, and so on), what kind of hotels you will stay at, and where you eat (fancy restaurants or cheap noodle places).

      We have written a post about How Expensive Is Japan, and How To Travel Japan Cheap. You can check it out, it will give you an idea of how much things cost in Japan.

      Have a great trip to Japan in July/ August!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  133. Hi Maria, I found your blog so helpful thank you so much for such great information! We love the idea of doing the alpine route sounds and looks amazing!

    Do you think our itinerary is doable? I’m concerned there’s too much travel time.

    2 nights Tokyo -( Flight arrives Tokyo early morning)
    2 nights Hakone
    1 night Matsumto
    1 night Kanazawa
    4 nights Kyoto
    1 night Hiroshima
    1night Miyajima Island
    2 nights Osaka – (flight home from Osaka)

    We go early May – is the alpine route doable then?

    Thank you, Sophie

    Reply
    • Hi Sophie,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that our Japan articles could be of help to you when planning your Japan trip!

      The Alpine Route (Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route) is amazing! I would say that it was one of the best highlights of our Japan trip. The Alpine Route opens on the 15th of April so it is doable in early May. Just bring warm clothes as it is chilly up there in the mountains.

      Your itinerary looks great! If I were you, however, I would spend more nights in Tokyo (there is a lot to see and do in Tokyo: https://nerdnomads.com/what-to-do-in-tokyo). 2 nights in Tokyo is too little in my opinion, plus you will be tired and jetlagged from your plane ride.

      You don´t need two nights in Hakone, one is enough (to see Mt Fuji and walk around the Lake Kawaguchi).

      There is a brand new train going from Tokyo to Hakone in less than two hours. It leaves from platform 9 at Tokyo’s JR Shinjuku Station. You can buy tickets for this train at JR East (Green colored) Office in any station. If you plan on buying a JR Pass (must be bought online before you enter Japan), you can use the JR Pass on part of the journey. You have to pay an additional fare as part of the journey is not by JR. Additional 1100 yen for adult and 550 yen for a child, you pay this at the Ōtsuki Station.

      Another option is to take the highway limited stoppage bus from Shinjuku station in Tokyo to Hakone, it cost 1900 yen one-way for an adult.

      But viewing Mt Fuji (Hakone) is weather dependent so if the weather is bad that day then no matter where you go, you won’t see it. Be flexible in your dates to go to Hakone if possible. And if the weather is bad on the day you planned on going to Hakone, just skip Hakone altogether.

      Also, you don´t need one night in Hiroshima and one night in Miyajima Island. Miyajima Island is located just outside of Hiroshima, so you can easily get between these two places by train (40 min one way), taxi (30 min one way), or ferry (45 min one way). We took the ferry from the Hiroshima Peace Park over to Miyajima Island.

      So I recommend that you only spend 1 night in Hakone, and 1 night in Hiroshima OR Miyajima Island. Those two extra nights you get from doing this, you should spend in Tokyo. Kanazawa is also a stunning city with lots to see and do, so one option is to add an extra night there. I wish we had as one night was too short for us to see everything we wanted to see in Kanazawa.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in May!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  134. This is great. I’m just wondering overall how much money did you spend before going over ? On flights, rail pass and accommodation. And how much money would you recommend to bring over with you for spending? 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Klaudia,

      Thank you so much!

      It really depends on where in the world you are traveling from and what flight companies are operating between that country and Japan. We traveled from Norway to Bangkok, spent some days there, and then with AirAsia to Tokyo. AirAsia has some good deals on flight tickets.

      It also depends on how many days you are spending in Japan and how many days and how much you will travel around Japan. You can choose between Railway Pass for 7, 14, or 21 days (we had the 14 days). As for accommodation, you can stay in luxury hotels and expensive Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), or cheap capsule hotels and hostels.

      We have written an article about How Expensive Is Japan? How To Travel Japan Cheap? where you can get some impressions of how expensive the country is.

      As for cash, you can withdraw money at ATMs in 7-Elevens. They are everywhere, at least in the big cities, so you don´t have to bring Japanese Yen in cash.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  135. Hi Maria,

    I’ve come across a lot of blogs about Japan but yours is the most helpful and covers a lot of places which maximizes one’s stay in Japan. I’ve been sorting out our itinerary for months now but I just couldn’t find the right resources especially regarding travel times and where is the best starting point when travelling to a certain area in order to save as much time. Luckily, I found your blog which shed light to my itinerary. We’re planning to visit Japan this coming May for 2 weeks and I was wondering if it is possible to insert Koyasan (for shukubo), Kamakura (day trip), Chureito Pagoda and Kawaguchiko (day trip) in this itinerary. I would really love to add these places on top of the itinerary you had although I am aware that we might have to cut down some days in other places in order to achieve this. Hoping to hear from you soon. Thank you for the wonderful blog you have! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Fatima,

      Thank you so much for your nice words about our blog! Really appreciate it! Great to hear that you are going to Japan in May! You will love this fantastic country!

      Yes, it is possible to add Koyasan, Kamakura, Chureito Pagoda, and Kawaguchiko to this itinerary. But as you say, this itinerary is pretty hectic and busy originally so you will have to cut some of the original places.

      Koyasan/ Shukobo Inn (Temple stay)
      Koyasan is close to Nara (about 1,5 hour one way) so you can add a night at a Shukubo Inn (Temple stay) when you are in the Kyoto/Nara area.

      Kamakura Seaside City
      Kamakura is a city by the sea outside of Tokyo on the east coast (about 1-hour train trip from Tokyo one way). I suggest that you cut the day-trip to Nikko, and instead do a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo on your day 3. You will get so see enough temples in Tokyo and Kyoto anyway.

      Kawaguchiko and Chureito Pagoda
      Chureito Pagoda, with the iconic Mount Fuji in the background (very popular photo that “everyone” takes), is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine in the Kawaguchiko area.

      From Tokyo, you can take the train either to Kawaguchiko Station (about 2 hours one way) or to Otsuki Station (1,5 hours one way). Arakura Sengen Shrine is then a ten-minute walk from Shimo-Yoshida Station along the Fujikyu Railway Line (35 minutes, 960 yen from Otsuki Station or 10 minutes, 300 yen from Kawaguchiko Station). The pagoda is an additional five-minute walk up the hill.

      You can either do the trip to Chureito Pagoda as a day trip from Tokyo or on your way to Hakone. Or skip Hakone and instead spend the night in the Kawaguchiko area (see Mt Fuji, Chureito Pagoda, and the Fuji Five Lakes). The train trip from Kawaguchiko area to Hakone takes about 2,5 hours one way. You can also take the bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko area and Chureito Pagoda.

      Itinerary
      So you will have to cut something from our original itinerary in order to add these three places. I suggest that you skip Nikko (instead do a day-trip to Kamakura city on day 3), and Hakone (instead go to Kawaguchiko). You can also skip Hiroshima/ Miyajima Island or the Alpine Route, or both. It depends on your preferences and what your interests are, do you enjoy the mountains and doing hikes? If not, skip the Alpine Route. This will save you a couple of days that you can spend in Koyasan and in Kawaguchiko instead.

      Then your 2-week itinerary will be something like this:
      Day 1 & 2: Tokyo
      Day 3: Day trip from Tokyo to Kamakura city on the east coast
      Day 4: Day trip from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko/ Chureito Pagoda or spend a night there
      Day 5: Kawaguchiko – Takayama (4-hour train trip), or Tokyo – Takayama (4,5- hour train trip)
      Day 6: Takayama
      Day 7: Day trip to Shirakawa-go, go to Kanazawa in the evening
      Day 8: Kanazawa
      Day 9: Kanazawa – Kyoto (2,5-hour train trip)
      Day 10-11: Kyoto
      Day 12: Day trip from Kyoto to Nara (45 min one way)
      Day 13: Kyoto – Koyasan (3-hour train trip) and stay at a Shukubo Inn (Temple stay)
      Day 14: Go back home

      Hope this helped. I know it is difficult to choose what to see in Japan, as the country has so many amazing sights. Have a fantastic trip to Japan in May!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  136. Hi Maria,

    Do you think it’s a good idea to go to Japan at the end of May and beginning of June? I know that it’s rainy season during that period, but does is actually rain a lot? Am I wrong for thinking that it won’t be too bad and that I should take my chances?

    Thanks for sharing your itinerary and other information you posted, it’s really helpful!!

    kind regards,
    Kushtrim

    Reply
    • Hi Kushtrim,

      I think May/ June is a great time to visit Japan. The rainy season in Japan is usually from early June to mid-July, so you should be fine. Also, it does not rain all the time or even every day during the rainy season.

      We visited Japan in the middle of the rainy season (July) and it only rained some days, normally in the late evenings and nights. During the day-time, we had nice weather. May/ June is a nice time to visit Japan as there are fewer tourists (most come during Cherry Blossom in March/April) and the hotel prices are at their lowest.

      You should definitely take your chances and visit Japan in May/June. You will love it!

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  137. Dear Maria,

    Thank you so much for this itinerary, we were planning our trip based on this. We are travelling in the beginning of May, but still struggling with some final details. We are a little bit lost with the JR pass, as we’ve found a website which says, it does not pay off to buy a pass longer than 7 days, as there are many places where we cannot use the pass. The total trip would be 20 days for us with the following details:

    Tokyo 4 days
    Hakone 2 days
    Matsumoto 1 day + Alpine route
    Kanazawa 1 day
    Shirakawa-go 1 day
    Takayama 1 day
    Kyoto 5 days
    Mount Koya 1 day
    Nara 1 day
    Tokyo end of trip

    Could you please help, what would you suggest to buy?

    Thanks in advance,
    Kati 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Kati,

      Thank you so much!

      We bought the 14-days JR Pass and did this itinerary and it was never a problem using the JR Pass between these places. It definitely paid off for us as only the round trip (train) from Tokyo to Kyoto and back normally cost the same as a JR Pass. But you should wait to activate the JR Pass to after your days in Tokyo, as you can only use the JR Pass on a few metro lines in Tokyo.

      It is better to just buy single metro tickets in Tokyo or a metro card (you can choose between different types of tourist metro cards, 24-hours, 48-hours, and 72-hours, which you, for instance, can buy at the airport when you arrive).

      Another option is to buy a Pasmo or Suica card, which you also can use in most big cities in Japan like Kyoto. You can use the Pasmo or Suica card on the metro/ underground, buses, and even to buy stuff at kiosks. You top up these cards with a certain amount of money, and you refill it when needed. They work forever as long as you have money on it.

      So activate your JR Pass on your day 5, when you leave Tokyo to go to Hakone. To get from Tokyo to Hakone: from Tokyo Station, you can take a bullet train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line to Odawara, which is included in the JR Pass. From Odawara Station, you then take the Hakone Tozan train and get off at Hakone-Itabashi, the final destination stop in Hakone. This trip takes less than two hours, however, the second part of the journey is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass so it is necessary to buy a separate ticket for this leg.

      You can use the JR Pass for the rest of your trip, no problem. The Alpine Route ticket is not included in the JR Pass, however, as this is a separate Alpine Route ticket (includes several different transportations means to get you over the mountains like small trains, trams, cable car, bus and so).

      A 14-days JR Pass should cover your trip since you will not activate it the first four days while you are in Tokyo. I highly recommend it!

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan at the beginning of May! Your itinerary looks great! You will love this beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  138. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for writing such detailed itinerary. We referred your itinerary to make ours and we even booked the hotels you suggested in your blog.

    We are flying into Japan in May and our itinerary looks like this:
    Day 1-2: Arrive at Tokyo; Stay for two nights in Tokyo
    Day 3: Leave in afternoon for Shinano Omachi station
    Day 4: Do Alpine Kurobe trek and stay at Kanazawa
    Day 5: Stay at Kanazawa
    Day 6-8: Stay at Kyoto
    Day 9: Leave for Hirsohima in late afternoon
    Day 10: Stay at Hiroshima
    Day 11: Leave for Hakone
    Day 12: Stay at Hakone
    Day 13-14: Stay at Tokyo
    Day 15: Leave in afternoon for airport

    My question is that should we do a day trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo on Day 14 using Shinjuku – Kawaguchiko so that we can have a trek to Base Camp 5 at Mount Fuji as well as go to places such as Chureito Pagoda, Shimoyoshida. What do you suggest? Should we make this day trip from Tokyo in addition to our stay in Hakone?

    Reply
    • Hi Aneesh,

      Soooo sorry for my late reply to your comment! Thank you so much for using the hotel links on our blog when doing your hotel bookings. We will receive a small percentage of your bookings at no extra cost to you. This will help to keep this blog running, so thank you! Maybe you are in Japan already?

      Your itinerary looks great! It is a good idea to do a day trip to Mt Fuji and Fuji Five Lakes area (Kawaguchiko) on your day 14. There are lots of things to see there – Mt Fuji, Chureito Pagoda, Lake Kawaguchiko, Fuji Q Highland amusement park, some museums, and a shrine. Although you might want to check the weather first before heading to Mt Fuji. If the weather is bad (rain and overcast), you will not see Mt Fuji anyway so not worth the trip. So you can wait and see after you have been to Hakone and also how the weather is like.

      Have a fantastic time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  139. Hi Maria,
    I’m just starting to plan a trip to Japan with my granddaughter who will be 13 when we go next Spring. I love your itinerary. I’m assuming this will also take us by some cherry blossoms? Any other tips you may have for the two of us?
    King regards,
    Linda

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you so much! So cool that you are going to Japan with your granddaughter! You will love this beautiful and unique country!

      Yes, you will see heaps of cherry blossoms by doing this itinerary, both in the parks of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa, and Hakone and Mt Fuji area. But the flowering of the cherry blossoms only lasts for a couple of weeks, usually in April, starting in the south of Japan and ending in Hokkaido in the north. But you should check the cherry blossoms forecast to get the exact dates. The cherry blossoms forecasts are usually issued in January.

      The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route ice walls are very popular and a spectacular sight (when they open up the roads to the mountain so that the sides of the road becomes a huge ice and snow wall). The partial route opens 10th of April, while the full route opens 15th of April.

      If your granddaughter likes Disney, then you should spend a day or two extra in Tokyo and visit Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. You should definitely check out Akihabara area in Tokyo which is packed with cool anime and gaming stuff. Very fun! And also in Tokyo, you should visit teamLab Borderless, a super cool digital art center.

      There is also Universal Studios Japan which is located in Osaka city (you can easily do a day trip from Kyoto to Osaka, or spend a night in Osaka). There is also an amusement park close to the base of Mt Fuji, called Fuji-Q Highland. Great fun!

      And if you want to do a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, you should visit the Edo Wonderland in Nikko and learn about Japanese history through actually doing activities and not just read about it at museums.

      Miyajima Island is also great fun for kids with lots of tame and cheeky deer to play with.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in the spring!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  140. Dear Maria,
    Thank you so much for sharing your itinerary and great knowledge on how to navigate and make the most of any Japan trip. My husband and I are traveling with our 2 children (ages 12 and 10) arriving in Osaka June 1 and departing Tokyo on June 11. We wanted to cover as much as we can during this time including a trip to Universal Studios and Disney of course. I am having a hard time figuring out how to plan how many days to spend on each cities (Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo) and how to maximize the time we have. I am also not sure how to use the JR system if we buy the 7 day pass. Would you be kind to share how think we should spend our time in Japan with an itinerary and how kind of transport we should use covering our trip? Again thank you so much for sharing your time.

    Best,
    Jas

    Reply
    • Hi Jas,

      Thank you so much! So cool that you are going to Japan at the beginning of June! With 10 days I think it is a good idea to only stay in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, especially since you will be going to Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios in Osaka.

      There are most things to see and do in Kyoto and Tokyo, so I recommend that you spend most of your days in these two cities, while only a couple of days in Osaka (for Universal Studios and Osaka Castle). You set aside a whole day for Disneyland in Tokyo. Are you going to Tokyo DisneySea as well?

      An itinerary for you could be something like this:

      1st of June: Arrive in Osaka
      2nd: Osaka (see Osaka castle, do some sightseeing in the city, sleep off some jetlag)
      3rd: Universal Studios Osaka
      4th: Take the train from Osaka to Kyoto (a 30 min train ride)
      5th & 6th: Kyoto
      7th: Take the train from Kyoto to Tokyo (2 hours and 15 min train ride)
      8th – 10th: Tokyo (where on one day you do Disneyland)
      11th of June: Go back home from Tokyo Narita Airport

      You should also consider going to Teamlabs Borderless in Tokyo, which is an interactive digital art museum which is so cool. The kids will love it. Also, the Robot Restaurant is very popular among kids, but don´t go there for the food as the food is not that good. Only buy drinks and come for the robot show, have dinner elsewhere. You should definitely check out the Akihabara area in Tokyo which is packed with cool anime and gaming stuff. Very fun!

      I don´t think you will save any money by buying a 7-day JR Pass for the train since you are only doing two train trips (Osaka-Kyoto and Kyoto-Tokyo). Inside Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo you cannot use the JR Pass anyway. You can buy a Suica or Pasmo card that you fill up with an amount of money that you so can use for trains, buses, metro, subway and so on. I think you can buy tickets for all four of you using the same Suica or Pasmo card (but you should check this). You can also use the Suica or Pasmo card to buy stuff at kiosks and some shops as it works almost like a debit card that you prefill.

      Have a great trip to Japan with your family at the beginning of June! Bring raincoats and umbrellas as June is the rainy season in Japan so you might get some wet weather.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  141. Greetings Maria, what a fantastic informative site you’ve developed for people like me. We thank you for all your time and energy and helping other lovers of travel! I have a request if you can help me. My son 18 years old has learned Japanese on his own and will be starting College in the fall… we’re heading to Japan next month. We’ll be there from June 8th to June 29th – 3 weeks. He loves the language he loves the people and the culture and wants to see remote areas as opposed to taking a cruise. I know you have a lot of itineraries but is there one you could recommend for us with his young passion it’s just he and I we’re starting from Narita Airport. We have no set ajenda yet and I’ve read every word of your 300 + page site. JR Pass is set. Thank you for your help and again for your time. Just looking for your latest tips. Your friends from Orlando Florida, John & J.P.

    Reply
    • Hi John & J.P.,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment and words about our blog and Japan info. Really appreciate it! Wow, so cool that your son has learned Japanese on his own! I am really impressed! It seems like an extremely difficult language to learn as it is so different from English. Awesome that you are going to Japan for three weeks! You son will have a fantastic time in Japan, especially since he speaks Japanese as the Japanese love when foreigners can speak their language, even just a few words. The locals are very friendly and welcoming, and they seem keen on talking to foreigners and tourists, but many of them do not speak English so unfortunately the conversations usually stop very quickly.

      If this is your first time in Japan, I recommend this itinerary as it covers the highlights of the country. Even though Kyoto is not that remote, it is popular for a reason as this is the cultural “center” of Japan and a great place to visit with so many things to see and do.

      Since you have three weeks, and not only two, you can extend your stay at some of these places (we loved Kanazawa so I recommend some extra days there, and you can also add a day or two in Hiroshima). Or you can add some additional places, like for instance Osaka or do a day trip to Himeji Castle.

      For more remote areas, you can head up north to Hokkaido (Sapporo city), or down south to the beautiful Okinawa island.

      Have a wonderful time in Japan in June! I am sure you will love Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  142. Hello Maria,

    I’m sorry but I did not get the itinerary in your reply. I’m not sure which one you are referring to but I really like the offshoots and extra day mentions you recommended. Thank you again and sorry if I missed something.

    John & J.P.

    Reply
  143. Hello, this article is great, but I was just wondering have you got any advice for budgeting on this vacation, as I have never been to anywhere like Japan before so I have no knowledge on the prices over there for things like food, drinks, stalls etc.

    Reply
    • Hi Lucas,

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that you like our itinerary!

      Japan is an expensive country compared to other Asian countries. I would say that it is as expensive as Western European countries (like my home country, Norway), Australia, and the USA. But it depends on what kind of hotels you stay at (or hostels), what type of food and restaurants you choose to eat at, how many sights you visit (entrance tickets), and if you plan on walking around in each city or take taxi/ train/ subway/ bus.

      I will try to give you a rough overview of the costs in Japan here:

      Transport

      JR Pass that you can use to travel by train all over Japan:
      – 14 days: US$ 437

      Or if you plan on traveling around Japan for one week (and for instance stay in Tokyo the rest of your holiday), you can get away with 7 day JR Pass: US$ 273

      City 24-hour subway ticket (Tokyo/ Kyoto): ¥ 800 = US$ 8
      Taxi ride: appr. ¥ 2600 = US$ 25 between sights within a city like Tokyo or Kyoto

      Accommodation

      Hostels (bunkbed in dormitory) – around ¥ 3000 = US$ 28 per person
      Cheap business hotels/ guesthouses (we stayed at a cheap business hotel chain called MyStays which was great) – from ¥ 8000 = US$ 75 for one double room (two people)
      Nice hotel/ resort/ ryokans (traditional inns) – from ¥ 15000 = US$ 140 for a double room (two people) which often includes breakfast, and up to JPN ¥ = US$ 280 +

      Food

      Cheap food: You can get a cheap bowl of ramen (egg noodles) for around ¥ 700 = US$ 7, and a bento box (Japanese lunch box with different kind of foods and vegetables) from around ¥ 600 = US$ 5. 7-Elevens in Japan also sell an impressive amount of different food, even dinner, for a cheap price.

      Midrange food: dinner for two people at an Izakaya (Japanese pub/ restaurant) – ¥ 6000 = US$ 56

      Luxury food: dinner for two people at a decent sushi restaurant – from ¥ 15000 = US$ 140

      Attractions

      Some of the temples and shrines are free, at least if you only view them from the outside and don’t enter the halls. Many parks and gardens are also free.
      Tokyo National Museum ticket cost, for instance, ¥ 620 = US$ 6
      Temples usually cost around ¥ 500 = US$ 5 per ticket

      Tickets to the digital art museum Borderless in Tokyo is, for instance, ¥ 3200 = US$ 300 per person. While the Robot Restaurant cost US$ 72, Tokyo Skytree cost US$ 16. So it depends on what kind of attractions you want to do.

      In Total 14 Days

      So all in all, you can do 14 days in Japan for approximately (per person):

      14 days Budget trip in Japan per person
      14 days JR Railway Pass: US$ 437
      + 14 nights in cheap hostels (US$28*14nights): US$ 392
      + cheap food (three meals per day, US$7*3times*14days): US$ 294
      + attractions (1 per day: US$ 6*14): US$ 84
      = US$ 1207

      14 days Mid-range trip in Japan per person
      14 days JR Railway Pass: US$ 437
      + 14 nights in cheap business hotels (US$38*14nights): US$ 532
      + mid-range food (three meals per day: US$20*3times*14days): US$ 840
      + attractions (three per day, each cost US$ 6): US$ 252
      = US$ 2061

      14 days Luxury trip to Japan per person
      14 days JR Railway Pass: US$ 437
      + 14 nights at nice hotels (US$75*14nights): US$ 1050
      + top-end food (three meals per day, US$30*3times*14days): US$ 12600
      + attractions (three per day, each cost US$10): US$ 420
      = US$ 14507

      But it is difficult to predict how much money you will use in Japan. I have not calculated any subway/ taxi/ transport except the JR Pass, and no organized tours (guided walking tours, food tours, etc). And if you want to do the Alpine Route, it is not covered by the JR Pass so this ticket you will have to buy extra. A one-way Alpine Route ticket cost ¥ 8290 = US$ 78. Hope this helps a little to get an overview of how expensive Japan is.

      -Maria-

      Reply
  144. Hi! Thank you so much for this well thought itinerary. My husband and I will be traveling to Japan with our 3 1/2 year old in November and I am completely overwhelmed. Do you think this itinerary is too aggressive with toddler? If so, what would you omit? Also, can any of these destinations be a day trip from say Tokyo and Kyoto? Our toddler is pretty easy on train rides, etc so we don’t mind longer train rides if it means having a “home base” … thoughts? Also, thoughts on Osaka or just another big city? Thanks! Danielle

    Reply
    • Hi Danielle,

      Thank you so much! So cool that you are going to Japan with your husband and a 3,5-year-old!

      Hmm, yeah, this is a very packed itinerary, especially for two weeks. So with a 3,5-year-old, you probably should slow it down a bit.

      One option is, as you mention, to use Tokyo and Kyoto as your home base and do day-trips from these two cities:

      Tokyo:

      – There are plenty of things to do in Tokyo. Check out our recommended Tokyo Itinerary here (5 days).

      Recommended day-trips from Tokyo:

      Nikko (a 2-hour train trip one way from Tokyo)
      – Hakone (a 2-hour train or bus trip one way from Tokyo). Admire the spectacular view of Japans highest mountain Mount Fuji, Odawara Castle, The Open Air Museum, Hakone Shrine, and Choanji Temple. Enjoy a hot spring/ Onsen if you have the time and the 3,5-year-old is up for it.
      – Fuji Five Lakes (2-hour train or bus trip one way from Tokyo) – The area at the north base of Mt Fuji Mountain. It is located at 1000 meters above sea level and consists of five lakes. Other attractions: The red Chureito Pagoda with Mount Fuji in the background (very popular Instagram photo), Oshino Ninja Village, hot springs/ Onsen, Fuji Q Highland – Japan´s most popular amusement park with roller coasters (maybe your kid would love this?)
      – Disneyland and Disneysea which I’m sure your kid will love! 🙂
      – Nagano to see the snow monkeys (1:40 min by train from Tokyo one way) – Great fun for both adults and children, the monkeys are soooo cute!
      – Kamakura (30 min by train one way from Tokyo) – Sights: the giant Great Buddha of Kotokuin statue, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Engakuji Temple and Hasedera Temple.

      Kyoto:

      – There are lots of fun things to do and see in Kyoto. Read our recommended Kyoto Itinerary here (3 days).

      Recommended day-trips from Kyoto:

      – Nara (a 45-min train trip one way from Kyoto) – Lots of fantastic temples and shrines, and deer
      – Osaka (a 50-min train ride one way from Kyoto) – Highlight: Osaka Castle
      – Hiroshima (1:45 min by train one way from Kyoto) – Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park, Atomic Bomb Dome, Miyajima Island
      – Himeji (47 min by train one way from Kyoto) – Himeji Castle
      Kanazawa (2 hours by train each way from Kyoto)

      Yeah, Osaka is just another big Japanese city but it has a beautiful castle which is well worth the visit if you have the time and energy. But if not, I would visit Nara instead, much more fun and interesting and your kid will love the deer roaming around in the streets. So cute and friendly!

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan with your family!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • This is awesome, Maria! Thank you so much! This is super helpful. Do we activate the JR passes when we do our day trips from Tokyo or only when we leave for Kyoto? Also, if we decided to stay 2 nights somewhere besides Tokyo/Kyoto where do you think it should it be? Maybe Kanazawa? Or Mt. Fuji at a fancy ryokan? I REALLY want to go to Takayama, but I just don’t know if it’ll be too much with kiddo. Thanks again!

        Reply
        • If you want to stay some nights somewhere else than Tokyo & Kyoto, then yes, I recommend that you stay 2 nights in Kanazawa. It is a fantastic city with so much to see and do! I fell totally in love with Kanazawa, we only had one full day there and I so wanted to stay longer. A night at a fancy ryokan in the Hakone area sounds pretty sweet too though. 🙂

          If you stay two nights in Kanazawa, you could do a day-trip to Takayama. You can just wait and see when you get to Kanazawa if your kid is up for it or not. Or you could stay one night in Kanazawa and one night in Takayama. It takes two hours to get from Kanazawa to Takayama by train (you have to change train at Toyama Station).

          You can also do a day-trip to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa (a 1-hour bus trip one way) if it is not too much for your kid.

          When To Activate Your JR Pass

          You don’t say how many days you will be in Japan, but you can get the JR Pass for 7 days (US$ 276 per adult), 14 days (US$ 442), and 21 days (US$ 564). Your 3,5-year old can take the trains for free (only 6-11 years old children must pay). The JR pass only lasts from the date you activate it until the number of days runs out, no matter how many train trips you take. If there are days when you don’t take trains at all (stay put in Tokyo or Kyoto) it will still count as a day on your JR Pass.

          JR Pass is the ultimate train travel pass for Japan, allowing you unlimited use of all JR trains all over Japan. You can take super-cool and fast Shinkansen/ bullet train, local JR commuter trains, JR buses, and JR ferries (for instance from Hiroshima city to Miyajima Island).

          But you cannot use the JR Pass within a city on subways, local buses, and non-JR trains. The number of JR trains within cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kanazawa is very limited so you will most likely use the subway and local buses a lot. I recommend that you buy a Suica or Pasmo card to use on the subway within these cities. Suica and Pasmo cards are a rechargeable contactless smart card/ electronic money used as a fare card on train lines and buses in Japan. It is very convenient and makes buying tickets on the subway in Tokyo and Kyoto so much easier. You can buy Suica and Pasmo cards at any subway station in Tokyo and Kyoto.

          When to activate your JR Pass depends on how many day-trips you plan on doing from Tokyo and Kyoto. Maybe you can do with a 7-day JR Pass? If you plan on spending, for instance, your first week in Tokyo and only do one or two day-trip within your first week (for instance to Nikko and/ or Hakone). Then you should wait to activate your JR Pass until you go to Kyoto. Instead, you should just buy return tickets Tokyo – Nikko, and Tokyo – Hakone, and use the subway within Tokyo. But it depends on how many day-trips you will be doing outside of Tokyo.

          There are several JR fare calculators online where you can calculate if a JR pass is worth it compared to just buying single train tickets. And how much money you will save with a JR Pass. One of the JR Fare Calculator is this.

          Hope this helped a little. Have a great trip to Japan! 🙂

          -Maria-

          Reply
  145. Maria,

    This has been such a HUGE help. Again, thank you so much for all of your insight and suggestions.

    So this is what I think we’re going to do:

    11/16 – 11/21: Tokyo 5 nights
    Day trip to Hakone, Disneyland, Nagano and other small day trips, exploring the city, etc.

    11/21-11/23 – Kanazawa: 2 nights
    11/23-11/25 – Takayama: 2 nights

    11/25-11/30 – Kyoto
    -Day trips to Hiroshima and Nara

    11/30 – Back to Tokyo
    12/1 – Depart Tokyo

    How does that sound? I am thinking 7 day JR pass?

    THANK YOU!

    Reply
    • Hi Danielle,

      Thank you so much! ❤️????

      Your itinerary looks awesome! You will see most of the highlights of Japan and have a wonderful trip!

      7 Days JR Pass

      With 7 days JR Passes you should activate them when you leave Tokyo for Kanazawa on the 21st of November.

      Then the last day you can use your JR Passes will be on the 27th of November, while you are in Kyoto. So you should do day-trips to Hiroshima and Nara before the JR Passes expires, that is during your first couple of days in Kyoto (11/26 and 11/27).

      Then you just have to buy single train tickets for Kyoto – Tokyo on the 30th of November.

      14 Days JR Pass

      If you, however, buy 14 days JR Passes, you can activate them on your first day-trip from Tokyo (for instance to Nagano or Hakone), and use the JR Passes for all your day-trips out of Tokyo.

      If you activate the JR Passes on the 18th of November, the last day you can use them is on the 1st of December. Then you can use the JR Passes to get to the airport from Tokyo when you depart. Both Narita Express Train to get to Narita Airport, and Tokyo Monorail to get to Haneda Airport accepts the JR Pass.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan next month! We will also be traveling in Japan in November, maybe we’ll see you around. 🙂 Crossing my fingers that the weather will be nice!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  146. Hello, this is one amazing post!!! many thanks for your effort and the time to put this together. I’m currently planning my itinerary as per your blog 🙂

    I need an advice: we will have 2 weeks in Japan and we want to do Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo and 3 days to visit some places in nature. So we are definitely up for this Alpine Route, and I think it’s good to see the Shirakawa-gō village as well. In this case, would you suggest we base ourselves in Matsumoto or Takayama? Matsumoto seems to have more to offer. We will do this in the order of Kyoto to Osaka to Takayama/Matsumoto and then Tokyo.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Mehmet,

      Thank you so much! Awesome that you found our recommended Japan Itinerary useful when planning your Japan trip!

      As for the Alpine Route, you can do it in either direction. Since you are coming from the west side, Kyoto, you should go to Takayama first. From Takayama, you can do a day-trip to Shirakawa-go, and the next morning head to Toyama Station where you will start the Alpine Route. Once you have done the entire Alpine Route (nine sections and different modes of transport), you will end up on the east side of the mountain at Ogizawa Station. From here you can take the train to Matsumoto Station.

      The Alpine Route is closed from 30. November till 15th April.

      I recommend this itinerary for you (14 days):

      Day 1-4: Kyoto (3 nights)
      Day 4-6: Osaka (1-2 nights, or just a day-trip from Kyoto), a 30-min train-trip one way from Kyoto
      Day 6-8: Takayama (2 nights), a 4-hour train trip from Osaka. Do a day-trip to Shirakawa-go (by bus or train, a 50-min ride from Takayama one way).
      Day 8: Alpine Route (full day, at least six hours, we used nine hours). You will end up at Ogizawa Station. From Ogizawa, take the train directly to Matsumoto (a 3-hour train ride). Or take the bus from Ogizawa to Shinano-Omachi (40-min bus ride) and from Shinano-Omachi Station the train to Matsumoto Station (50 min train ride). We took the bus+train option.
      Day 8-10: Matsumoto (2 nights)
      Day 10-14: Tokyo (4 nights), a 3-hour train trip from Matsumoto one way

      You can find this itinerary in Google Maps here.

      Have a great trip to Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  147. Oh, one more question. I’ve posted this on TAdvisor as well but they didn’t quite get it I suppose or they are just thick (sorry to say this):

    We will fly into and out of Nagoya airport and we will go to Kyoto as soon as we arrive and return to Nagoya Airport from Tokyo at the end of 14 days. I’ve asked which JR pass would be better for us and people suggested that we get a 7-day pass and don’t active it on the day 1. Now, what is the point of getting a 7 day pass then??

    If I’m not activating it on day 1, then that means I need topay extra for the train from nagoya airport to kyoto, which is around or more than 100 euros…if I’m to pay another 80-90 euros extra for another train then what’s the point of getting a 7 day pass because it will total up to the amount of 14 day pass in the end…

    I hope I’m the thick one and missing something out but I don’t get the logic behind this. Even though I won’t be using the 14 day pass every single day, it still seems to be the best option for me right? Not that I can easily afford it but if I get a 7 day pass and need to cover some trains as extras, then it will be the same amount as 14 day pass. Please let me know what you think. Thank you.

    Reply
    • So your two JR Pass options are:

      1. 7 Days JR Pass

      With only a 7 Days JR Pass, you will as you say wait to activate it until you take the train out of Kyoto, to for instance Osaka. With the suggested itinerary that I wrote to you earlier, you can activate it on day 4 (Kyoto – Osaka). The last day you can then use your JR Pass is on day 10 (Matsumoto – Tokyo). And you have to, as you say, buy the train tickets from and to Nagoya Airport in addition.

      This option will cost you:

      7 Days JR Pass: 246 euros
      + Nagoya Airport – Kyoto train ticket: 5910 yen = 49 euros
      + Tokyo – Nagoya Airport train ticket: 11300 yen = 94 euros
      Total: = 389 euros

      2. 14 Days JR Pass

      With a 14 Days JR Pass, you can activate it on your way from Nagoya Airport to Kyoto, and use it all of your 14 Days in Japan.

      14 Days JR Pass: 391 Euros

      Conclusion:

      So the price difference between these two options is actually only 2 euros. I agree with you, you should buy a 14 Days JR Pass as the other option will basically not save you much. No, you are definitely NOT the thick one or missing something out, hehe. 🙂

      Go for the 14 Days JR Pass and use it whenever and wherever you can – on all JR trains, JR buses, and JR ferries!

      You will not get to use the JR Pass inside Tokyo or Kyoto that much, however, as most Metro lines do not accept the JR Pass. You can either get a Pasmo or Suica card (a rechargeable smart card) and use it on the Metro and buses in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka. Or you can go for day-passes like:

      Kyoto: Subway & Bus Two-Day Pass costs 1700 yen = 14 euros (adult). There are lots of different passes options.
      Tokyo: A 72-hour ticket costs 1500 yen = 13 euros (adult), see the different cards here

      Have a fantastic time in Japan!

      -Maria-

      Reply
      • Hello again Maria,

        Our final itinerary as follows (sorry I did this before reading your suggestions but I’ve also used them afterwards):

        5-8 April: Kyoto
        9-13 April: Tokyo
        14 April: Matsumoto
        15 April: Alpine Route (Stay at Toyama)
        16 April: Takayama
        17 April: Takayama (take a late train/bus to Nagoya)
        18 April: Fly out of Nagoya

        I am still mulling over weather 14 day JR pass pays off for our trip as we only have 1 big trip. I wanted to ask if you are familiar with Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass which I think we can use from Matsumoto to Nagoya within 5 consecutive days which also includes the Alpine Route transportation.

        it costs 17,830 Yen per person and I think it’s a good value however I am not sure which trains this can be used for as I’m still confused by all the train types. Would love to hear your opinion if I can indeed use this from Matsumoto to Nagoya. https://touristpass.jp/en/alpine/

        If we can, I think we deffo won’t need JR Pass and maybe we can even get a night bus from Kyoto to Tokyo.

        Thanks very much!

        Reply
        • Hi again Mehmet,

          The Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass is an excellent value as it also includes the Alpine Route ticket. For your trip, this pass will be great as it will cover most of your Japan trip.

          You will, however, have to buy single tickets Tokyo – Matsumoto, and as you say Kyoto – Tokyo, or take the bus which is cheaper.

          -Maria-

          Reply
  148. Hi Maria,

    THANK YOU for such great post! The best I’ve seen so far =D
    I’m planning my trip based on your recommended itinerary and hope you could advise me.
    I’m travelling with my brother, it’s our first time to Japan (VERY EXCITED!) and we are looking into medium-low budget travelling.
    We have bought flight in to Haneda and out from Fukuoka, my itinerary is as such

    4N Tokyo
    10 Dec: arrive at HANEDA airport at 01.00AM / gonna spend the day in Tokyo
    11 Dec: Tokyo
    12 Dec: Tokyo
    13 Dec: Hakone day trip from Tokyo

    2N Takayama
    14 Dec: Takayama
    15 Dec: shirakawa-go day trip from Takayama

    1N Osaka
    16 Dec: Osaka

    1N Koyasan, 2N Kyoto
    17 Dec: Koyasan
    18 Dec: Kyoto
    19 Dec: Kyoto

    2N Fukuoka
    20 Dec: Hiroshima + Miyajima island and train to Fukuoka
    21 Dec: Fukuoka
    22 Dec: morning flight 09.45AM back home

    Based on my itinerary, would you suggest me buying 7days or 14days pass?
    I have in mind taking the normal train to hakone and only activate 7days JR pass when leaving Tokyo to Takayama.
    I’m not sure if it is feasible though..

    I will be arriving Haneda airport at 1AM, would you recommend me stay a night in Haneda airport (capsule hotel?) or I should head to Tokyo?

    Could you advise me on how to better my above itinerary please?

    THANK YOUU!!

    – Emilia-

    Reply
    • Hi Emilia,

      Thank you so much!! Your itinerary looks great and you will see most of the highlights of Japan!

      7-days JR Passes should be fine for your itinerary. If you activate the pass on the 14th of December, when you go from Tokyo to Takayama, the last day you can use your passes are the 20th December. So it will just cover your trip since you plan on going to Fukuoka on the 20th.

      As for Miyajima Island, the main sight at Miyajima, the Floating Torii Gate is undergoing repair work at the moment (from June 2019 and 2-3 years) so it is unfortunately not visible to the public. Miyajima Island is, however, well worth a visit anyway as it is a beautiful little island with several temples and lots of friendly deer.

      Hakone

      As for Hakone, the Odakyu Line goes directly from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Hakone-Yumoto Station (the main transport hub in Hakone). You can either take the Romance Car (1,5-hour train trip, cost 2280 Yen = US$ 21) or the regular express train Kyuko (2-hours train trip where you must change train at Odawara, 1190 Yen = US$ 11).

      You should consider buying Odakyu’s Hakone Freepass which you can buy at all Odakyu Line Stations (for instance Shinjuku Station in Tokyo). Hakone Freepass is an excellent deal where you get the return fare Tokyo – Hakone and unlimited use of most modes of transport within the Hakone region. Hakone Freepass also gives you discounted tickets at museums and facilities in Hakone. A 2-day Hakone Freepass cost 5140 Yen = US$ 47 for adults from Shinjuku Station. A 3-day Hakone Freepass cost 5640 Yen = US$ 52 from Shinjuku.

      Haneda Airport

      Yes, I think it is best to spend your first night at Haneda Airport since you are arriving at night. Between midnight at 05:00 (5 am), your only transport option for getting from Haneda Airport into Tokyo is infrequently night buses and expensive taxi.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in December! We are actually on our way to Japan right now, will arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday. Can’t wait! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  149. Thank you for sharing this amazing itinerary, I usually write myself the travel diaries of the places I have been to, and I know how hard it is to write things in detail. And this itinerary is so so good and detailed, specially in Japan that everything needs to be planned.

    Reply
    • Hi Nicole,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you find our recommended Japan Itinerary useful! Happy travels! 🙂

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  150. Hi!
    Really like your itinerary:)
    I’m arriving at Tokyo Narita on 27 Apr morning and departing from Hiroshima on 11 May morning.
    I’m intending to buy 14D JR Pass and Alpine route ticket.
    May I know if the alpine route option ticket covers the trip Ogizawa station to Matsumoto? Is it direct bus? What time did you depart Matsumoto for Alpine Route?
    How do I get to

    What do you think:
    27 Apr Tokyo
    28 Apr Tokyo
    29 Apr Tokyo
    30 Apr Tokyo (side trip to Fuji shibazakura)
    1 May Hirugami Onsen
    2 May Gero Onsen
    3 May Takayama (side trip to Shirakawago)
    4 May Matsumoto?
    5 May Alpine Route from Ogizawa to Tateyama
    6 May Kanazawa
    7 May Kyoto – skip bamboo forest as I’ve seen it
    8 May Osaka
    9 May Osaka (side trip to Kobe)
    10 May Hiroshima + Miyajima
    11 May Depart Hiroshima

    I’m having problem planning the chubu region. How should I rearrange the itinerary then?
    Matsumoto is not a must-see for me.
    Should I stay 1 near Mt Fuji or make it a day trip from Tokyo instead?

    Thanks so much

    Reply
    • Hi J,

      Thank you so much!

      Alpine Route

      We used our JR Pass and took the train from Matsumoto Station to Shinano Omachi Station (a 1-hour train trip), to save some money. The Alpine Route starts at Shinano Omachi Station.

      The Alpine Route tickets cost 11050 JPY (US$ 103) per person (adult 12 years old and older) from Shinano Omachi to Dentetsu Toyama Station. Yes, it includes the bus ticket from Shinano Omachi to Ogizawa. The bus from Shinano-Omachi to Ogizawa took about 40 min.

      We had an early start in Matsumoto to make sure that we would be able to do the Alpine Route as a day-trip. We took the 8:00 AM train from Matsumoto Station to Shinano-Omachi Station. We reached the end of the Alpine Route, Toyama Station, at 5:00 PM/ 17:00. From Toyama Station, we took the train to Kanazawa Station (a 35 min train trip), using our JR Passes.

      So altogether we used about 9,5 hours doing the Alpine Route, from Matsumoto to Kanazawa.

      The baggage pick-up office at the other end of the Alpine Route (Toyama Station) closes at 20:00 (8 PM), so make sure that you reach Toyama Station before it closes. Or you can arrange for baggage forwarding from your hotel in Matsumoto to your hotel in Kanazawa.

      Another option for you could be to buy the Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket which is a bit cheaper. You can read more about it here.

      14 Days Itinerary From Tokyo To Hiroshima

      Your itinerary looks great! You plan on seeing a lot of places and travel a lot within these 14 days!

      Your itinerary is a bit too hectic and stressful for my personal liking. It might be doable although I’m afraid that you will not get to see much of each place. Only one day in Kyoto? And only one day in Osaka and one day in Kanazawa? And with only one day in Takayama, where you want to do a day-trip to Shirakawago (which takes a full day), you will not get to see anything of Takayama. But since you have been in Japan before, maybe you have seen these cities already, that’s why you don’t want to spend much time there?

      I see that you have included one day in Hirugami Onsen and one day in Gero Onsen which are both a bit remote and out of the way, at least if you want to take the train/ public transport? It seems like getting from Tokyo to Hirugami Onsen takes 3-4 hours by car or train. Getting from Hirugami Onsen to Gero Onsen with public transport takes 5 hours, while it only takes 1,5 hours by car.

      One option for you could be to rent a car for these days (Hirugami Onsen, Gero Onsen, Takayama, Shirakawago), that way you will save a lot of traveling time. Maybe you then can then do with a 7-day JR Pass + a rental car? No point in activating your JR Pass for your three days in Tokyo as there are very few metro lines that accept the JR Pass.

      I recommend that you buy a Suica or Pasmo card at Narita Airport when you arrive. These are smart cards that you tap up with a certain amount of money, and you can use it to pay for all public transport (metro, subway, bus, etc) and also for food at kiosks. You can also use the Suica/ Pasmo card to pay for the bus from Tokyo to Mt Fuji (Lake Kawaguchiko).

      You can also do the Alpine Route the other way, from Kanazawa to Shinano Omachi/ Matsumoto/ Nagano, if that is better for you?

      I would have skipped something from your itinerary, to make room for some more days in each place. You can, for instance, skip Hirugami Onsen and Gero Onsen, and/ or Takayama/ Shirakawago. Since you have been in Kyoto before, one option could be to stay more days in Osaka and just do a day-trip or two to Kyoto. That way you don’t have to change hotels every day which can be exhausting and time-consuming.

      So one more relaxing itinerary for you could be something like this:

      27 Apr: Arrive in Tokyo (Narita Airport) in the morning. 3 nights in Tokyo.
      28 Apr: Tokyo
      29 Apr: Tokyo
      30 Apr: Tokyo – Mt Fuji (a 2-3 hour train or bus trip). 1 night Mt Fuji (Fuji Shibazakura/ Lake Kawaguchiko?)
      1 May: Mt Fuji. Head to Matsumoto in the evening (a 3-hour trip). 1 night in Matsumoto
      2 May: Alpine Route from Shinano-Omachi to Kanazawa. 2 nights in Kanazawa
      3 May: Kanazawa
      4 May: Kanazawa – Shirakawago – Takayama (a 2,5 hour bus trip, plus a stop in Shirakawago for some sightseeing. You can store your luggage in the storage boxes at the Tourist Information/ Bus Stop Center). 2 nights in Takayama.
      5 May: Takayama
      6 May: Takayama – Osaka (a 3,5-4-hour train ride). 3 nights in Osaka.
      7 May: Osaka
      8 May: Osaka – Day-trip to Kyoto
      9 May: Osaka – Day-trip to Kobe or Himeji Castle. Head to Hiroshima in the evening. 2 nights Hiroshima.
      10 May: Hiroshima + Miyajima
      11 May: Depart Hiroshima early morning

      Mt Fuji

      We stayed a night at Kawaguchiko Lake next to Mt Fuji on our last trip to Japan, and it was great! If you have time, I recommend that you stay one night near Mt Fuji. Especially since the Fuji Mountain usually gets covered by clouds around mid-day, while it is normally a clear sky early in the morning. So your chances of seeing the mountain is best early in the morning.

      Have a fantastic trip to Japan in April/ May!

      -Maria-

      Reply