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 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!
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 Japans 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.
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.
Instead of using your JR Pass in Tokyo, you should buy a Suica card which is a top-up prepaid card that you can use to pay for all trains, subways, and buses in most of Japan’s largest cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka, and so on. That way you don´t have to have a lot of heavy coins in your pocket or wallet and worry about if you have enough coins for the fare.
Suica is a rechargeable prepaid card (also known as stored-value cards, smart cards or internal chip/IC cards) that can be used to pay for tickets on public transportation. You can also use it to pay on vending machines and in shops and restaurants all over Japan.
You simply touch the card on a reader for about one second and the things you buy will be paid by the card. When the card is empty, you just refill it at JR train stations. These kinds of prepaid cards have become huge in Japan, everyone is using them, and so should you. Suica is the best card for foreign tourists visiting Japan as you can easily refill it on all JR train stations.
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, 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, in Hakone and Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, and 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 an see. You can also head down to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island and see one of Japans biggest tourist attraction – 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
1. Tokyo (A) – Day 1 & 2 (4 nights)
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 its 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 Omote-sando, 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 remain. 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 Do In Tokyo – A Tokyo Itinerary
Where To Stay In Tokyo
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.
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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
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 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 passed this hotel, it is located just opposite of 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.
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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.
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Okunoin Hotel Tokugawa
If you want to treat yourself with 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.
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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 very popular place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and enjoy the natural beauty of this national park.
Spend the day walking around Hakone and its peaceful surroundings, and admire the spectacular view of Japans 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 🙂
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.
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.
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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.
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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 hour 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 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 – 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)
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 fish 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 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.
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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.
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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
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 Japans 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 15th of April till 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.
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)
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 next: The Best Things To Do In Kanazawa
Where To Stay In Kanazawa
We stayed at Hotel Trusty and loved it. It is brand new, with 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.
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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, 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 two-kilometer radius from the 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, that 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 cost 500 Yen and is a good deal if you want to take the bus around the city.
7. Shirakawa-go (F) – Day 8
Take the bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go the next day (1,5 hour). 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: Things 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 the opposite directions), operated by Nohi and Hokutetsu Bus companies.
The bus ride takes 1,5 hour 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)
Takayama is a beautifully preserved old mountain city located in northern Gifu Prefecture in the heart of the Japan 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 Japans 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 Japan history and museums.
The famous Takayama Festival is held in the old town twice a year – at 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: Things To 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.
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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 Bus, Hokutetsu, 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 hour 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)
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 the historic and ancient Japan.
Kyoto has an impressive number of Unesco World Heritage Sites – in total 17! The city is also 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 – 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 as she hurries through the streets.
There is plenty to see and do in this amazing city, like going for a stroll through the magical Bamboo Forest and walk under thousands of bright red torii gates at Fushimi-Inari Shrine and marvel at the famous Golden Pavillion floating on its small lake. 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: For suggested itineraries, walking routes and all the highlights of Kyoto read our Our ultimate 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.
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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
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 is the Japanese garden Shukkei-en and Hiroshima Castle which is surrounded by a moat and a nice park.
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 it´s real name is Itsukushima. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and one of Japans 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!
Another attraction that travel books don`t tell you about is all the tame deer! They are everywhere and follows 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: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony
⇒ 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.
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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!
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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 the 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 tram lines connecting Hiroshima Station with most of the 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 the 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
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 Japans first permanent capital. Visit some of the oldest and biggest temples in Japan, and feed and cuddle the deer that walks 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 in 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.
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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.
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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 Japans world-class train network. You can purchase your JR Rail Pass online from official JR Pass vendors such as www.jrailpass.com.
We made this itinerary to help you explore Japan on your own, but if you would rather go with someone then G Adventures have several tours of Japan that look really cool. You can click here to see all of G Adventures upcoming Japan tours.
⇒ 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!
When To Visit Japan
Japan is a fantastic country to visit all year around. Japan has all the 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 the 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 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 the 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.
- Travel Insurance - Many Japanese hospitals will refuse to treat you if you don’t have a 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.
- 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 mini-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 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.
We used the Lonely Planet`s Japan travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:
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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! 🙂
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