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From 1 to 3 Weeks

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A towering, colorful pagoda in the foreground with beautiful Mount Fuji in the distance in Japan
Posted: 1/16/23 | January sixteenth, 2023

I’ve but to fulfill a traveler who didn’t love their time in Japan. It’s simply a kind of nations that everybody loves. How will you not? The meals is wealthy, rigorously crafted, and scrumptious; the historical past and tradition wealthy and lengthy; the panorama breathtaking; and the folks tremendous pleasant and well mannered.

Japan remains one of my favorite countries. Irrespective of how lengthy I go to, it’s by no means sufficient. I at all times depart wanting extra.

With Japan open to vacationers once more, individuals are racing to go to! I personally can be heading again once more this 12 months, and numerous folks I do know are lastly making their first journey.

However the nation at all times appears forbidding to many vacationers. It positively nonetheless has that “unique” stereotype that makes folks assume it’s laborious to journey round.

The place do you have to go? What do you have to see? How do you profit from your time there? Fortunately, because of Japan’s measurement and uber-fast trains, it’s very simple to see so much in a really quick period of time.

That can assist you out, listed below are just a few recommended itineraries based mostly on my years of visiting that can show you how to see one of the best websites in addition to get off the crushed path and get an actual sense of Japanese tradition:


Japan Itinerary: One Week

A traditional temple in Kyoto, Japan on a bright and sunny day

Day 1 & 2: Tokyo
Likelihood is you’ll be beginning your journey in Tokyo, because it’s dwelling to the nation’s largest worldwide airport. In case your journey is seven days lengthy, activate your JR Pass straight away, so that you could benefit from the free JR trains that run by way of town.

While you could easily spend your entire week in Tokyo and never get bored, listed below are a number of the highlights:

  • Go to the fish market – Toyosu is the world’s largest fish market. The every day public sale right here powers a lot of the world’s sushi provide, and it’s really an absolute must-see! You may go free of charge, however food and drink tours of the Tsukiji Outer Market can be found for round 13,500 JPY.
  • See Sensoji Temple – Sensoji is superbly painted and sits in a scenic spot close to a five-story pagoda and the well-known Kaminari Gate. There’s an enormous statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, inside the principle corridor. It’s at all times busy however is price seeing with your individual eyes.
  • Drink in Golden Gai – This alleyway of back-street bars is a vigorous place to drink at night time and has a little bit of a red-light-district really feel to it. It’s not to be missed. Even should you don’t drink, be sure you wander about.
  • Go to the Imperial Palace – The house of the emperor of Japan was constructed within the fifteenth century, and when you can’t go inside, the palace and its grounds are a peaceable place for a stroll.
  • Watch a sumo match – Should you’re on the town on the proper time, this can be a must-do. Tickets promote out rapidly, so e book early. Anticipate to pay round 3,800 JPY.

If in case you have extra time, contemplate taking a day journey to Kamakura to see the large Buddha statue (Daibutsu). It’s over 13 meters (42 toes) tall and dates again to the thirteenth century. The journey is round 90 minutes every means — and free with the JR Pass!

For scrumptious meals, a few of my favourite bars and eating places embrace: Uogashi Nihon-Ichi (Standing Sushi Bar), Nemuro Hanamaru KITTE Marunouchi, Motodane, Tokyo Whisky Library, Ichiran Shibuya, and Uohama.

For extra Tokyo suggestions and options, check out my comprehensive free guide!
Days 3 & 4: Kyoto
A narrow, old street in quiet Kyoto, Japan with a pagoda in the distance
Kyoto is arguably essentially the most stunning metropolis in Japan. It looks like stepping again in time. It’s nestled into the mountains and dappled with temples, gardens, and bamboo forests.

With its magnificence come a lot of crowds although, so attempt to go to exterior of the busy summer time months. Even with a lot of vacationers, although, town continues to be magnificent and has so much to supply. Some issues to see and do that you just shouldn’t miss are the next:

  • Go to the Golden Pavillion – This well-known (and picturesque) temple dates to the Fifties, when a monk burned down the earlier temple (from the 14th century) whereas attempting to commit suicide. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Website and one of many most-visited locations within the nation!
  • Discover Gion – Gion is the historic geisha district. Stroll alongside the principle avenue and see ochayas (teahouses the place geishas entertain), the small retailers, and the various eating places that line the district’s streets. You may take a walking tour of Gion for 1,600 JPY.
  • Wander within the Bamboo Forest – For a calming break, head to Arashiyama and let the calm swaying of the forest envelop you. Positioned close to the well-known Tenryu-ji temple, it’s one of the crucial stunning locations in the complete nation (arrive early if you wish to get pleasure from it with out the crowds).
  • Admire Ryoan-ji temple – That is my favourite temple in Kyoto. It’s additionally a UNESCO World Heritage Website and residential to a mausoleum that homes the stays of seven emperors. The normal rock and sand backyard is taken into account among the best within the nation.

For a half-day journey, you too can go to Nara. It’s a small metropolis only one hour from Kyoto. Nara was the capital of Japan within the eighth century, so there are many buildings and temples right here which can be upwards of a thousand years outdated (which is uncommon in Japan, attributable to fires, in addition to World Battle II). The actual attract Nara are the deer. For the reason that seventeenth century, these in and across the metropolis have been thought-about sacred. You should purchase crackers to feed them or simply watch them stroll round carefree.

Whilst you’re right here, don’t miss a go to to Todai-ji. It’s the world’s largest picket constructing and is dwelling to a 16-meter (52-foot) Buddha statue. It was inbuilt 738 CE and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Website. Admission is 500 JPY.

For extra Kyoto suggestions and options, check out my comprehensive free guide!
Day 5: Osaka
The iconic, towering Osaka Castle overlooking busy Osaka, Japan on a sunny day
Osaka is the third-largest metropolis within the nation. It’s the monetary capital of the nation, however I come for the meals. Mouth-watering sushi and sashimi, Kobe beef and Japanese BBQ, and flavorful ramen can all be discovered right here in abundance. Plus there are native specialties like okonomiyaki (a savory pancake with egg and greens) and kushikatsu (skewered kebabs). You may take a food tour for round 12,000 JPY or simply wander and eat. That’s all I do: eat, eat, eat.

Don’t miss Osaka Fortress although. Whereas it’s not the unique (this model dates to 1931), it’s however a powerful sight. It’s dwelling to a small however insightful museum and an remark deck that provides some picturesque metropolis views.

And be sure you stroll down Dotonbori (ideally at night time), the principle avenue, which is lined with eating places, shops, and tons of neon lights and indicators.
Day 6: Hiroshima
The bombed-out ruins of the atomic bomb site in Hiroshima, Japan
On August 6, 1945, Allied forces dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was the primary time a nuclear weapon was dropped on a metropolis, and it had devastating penalties. Upwards of 80,000 folks have been killed by the bomb and the firestorm it created. One other 70,000 folks have been injured, and 70% of town was destroyed.

Right this moment, Hiroshima is prospering. Don’t miss the Atomic Bomb Museum, which depicts the historical past of town earlier than and after that fateful day. It has pictures, artifacts, movies, and details about the impact of radiation on the inhabitants. It’s a sobering expertise however one which shouldn’t be missed.

Should you really feel like getting out of city afterward, head to Miyajima, an island that provides a spot to hike and luxuriate in nature. You may as well take a cable automobile to the height of the mountain to absorb the view. A one-way ferry trip to the island takes 10 minutes and is free to JR Pass holders.

For extra Hiroshima suggestions and options, check out my comprehensive free guide!
Day 7: Tokyo
An empty street with glowing lights in Tokyo, Japan
Head again to Tokyo to your flight dwelling. It’s slightly below 4 hours on the bullet practice, so that you’ll have time to discover a bit extra earlier than you allow!

Japan Itinerary: Two Weeks

A traditional Japanese castle on a sunny day near a moat in Japan
Should you’re going to be in Japan for 14 days and have bought a rail pass, right here’s how one can divide your time:

Days 1-9
Comply with the itinerary above however add an additional day in Tokyo and, relying in your pursuits, both Osaka or Kyoto.
Day 10: Takayama
The quiet streets of scenic Takayama, Japan
Takayama is a small metropolis with a stupendous historic outdated city (the Sanmachi Suji district) that dates again to the Edo Interval (1603–1868). The slender streets are lined with conventional picket buildings that make you’re feeling such as you’ve stepped again in time. There are teahouses, cafés, sake breweries, and extra. It’s about as near historic Japan as you will get!

Should you like historical past, don’t miss the Hida Minzoku Mura Folks Village, dwelling to a group of conventional thatch-roof homes which you could enter to additional immerse your self within the nation’s previous.

This metropolis (and area, actually) is legendary for its Hida beef, a high-fat selection that’s even higher than any A5 Wagyu you may need. It simply melts in your mouth. You should definitely have some when you are right here!

The Japanese Alps are usually not removed from right here as effectively, so should you love mountain climbing and wish to lengthen your time within the area, head to Kamikochi for a day hike or in a single day journey. It’s simply an hour away and has each simple and average trails, that are open from April to November. Mountaineering trails may also be present in Hakusan Nationwide Park (additionally only one hour away by automobile).
Day 11: Kanazawa
The quiet streets of scenic Kanazawa, Japan with locals wearing traditional clothing
Kanazawa is commonly thought-about “Little Kyoto,” as it’s dwelling to an extremely well-preserved Edo-era district. There are quite a few outdated samurai houses you’ll be able to admire (and one, the Nomura Home, which is restored and open to the general public).

One of many extra distinctive temples in Japan is right here too: Ninja (Myoryuji) Temple. Whereas the temple wasn’t dwelling to precise ninjas, Myoryuji was constructed as a defensive construction (strict legal guidelines forbade native lords from constructing defenses, in order that they have been hidden within the temple to avoid the foundations). These embrace hidden rooms, secret tunnels, and a maze of staircases and halls to confuse enemies.

Should you want a break from exploring cities, Hakusan Nationwide Park, dwelling to Mount Haku, one of many three holy mountains, is simply an hour south of city.
Day 12: Matsumoto
The traditional Japanese castle overlooking Matsumoto in Japan
Surrounded by stunning views, Matsumoto is dwelling to one of many nation’s best-preserved castles, Matsumoto-jo (Matsumoto Fortress), which dates again to 1594. Whereas some sections have been rebuilt, the principle construction is unique. It’s colloquially referred to as “Crow Fortress” attributable to its black exterior.

Should you’re right here in April, there are unbelievable cherry blossom shows which can be well-known within the area. And, identical to Takayama, Matsumoto is near the Japanese Alps, so that you’re only a stone’s throw from a number of the greatest mountain climbing within the nation.
Days 13 & 14: Hakone
A red torii gate in the water with lush greenery and Mount Fuji in the background Japan
Positioned simply 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Tokyo, Hakone is a picturesque area recognized for its onsen (sizzling springs). The area is a part of a nationwide park and gives unbelievable views of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko. Your entire area is scenic and common for laid-back getaways.

There are tons of lodges (each fashionable and conventional) which have their very own sizzling springs (typically each indoors and outdoor). It’s the proper place to wrap up a visit, loosen up, and take within the views.

Along with getting a copious quantity of R&R, be sure you trip the cable automobile up the mountain for much more wonderful views. The world is surrounded by craters from an inactive volcano that erupted 80,000 years in the past (to not be confused with close by Mount Fuji, which is an energetic volcano), and also you’ll discover a lot of distributors on the high promoting eggs cooked within the sulfurous waters. It’s stated the eggs lengthen one’s life by seven years, so be happy to provide them a attempt!

Should you want to hike up as an alternative, the path is open between July and September, with the trek taking wherever from 5 to 12 hours, relying in your degree of health. Sometimes, hikers depart at night time as a way to arrive on the summit by daybreak. There are little retailers alongside the way in which that promote meals and even beds you’ll be able to hire upfront if you wish to cut up your journey up. Simply be sure to do your analysis and put together upfront because it’s a troublesome hike!

Should you actually wish to play vacationer, you too can trip a mock pirate ship across the lake for extra views of the mountains, and Mount Fuji specifically.

Full-day tours around Hakone that embrace all the principle sights price 14,000 JPY.

Japan Itinerary: Three Weeks

A busy street in sunny, subtropical Okinawa, Japan
If in case you have a 3rd week in Japan, you’ll be able to decelerate just a little and spend extra time in every vacation spot.

Utilizing the options above, right here’s how I’d arrange your itinerary:

  • Days 1-3: Tokyo
  • Day 4: Mount Fuji or Hakone
  • Day 5: Takayama
  • Days 6 & 7: Kanazawa
  • Days 8 & 9: Matsumoto
  • Days 10-12: Kyoto
  • Days 13 & 14: Osaka
  • Days 15 & 16: Hiroshima

Day 17: Prepare to Hokkaido
The sprawling, green landscape of Hokkaido, Japan inside a national park
The practice to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island dwelling to volcanoes and rugged landscapes, takes 15-16 hours by practice. There are sleeper vehicles accessible, however you’ll must pay a surcharge (round 9,500 JPY) for a mattress. You may finish your journey in Hakodate if it’s worthwhile to stretch your legs and get off the practice for a bit. In any other case, you’ll be able to head on to Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido (one other three hours by practice).

Should you do wish to spend just a few hours in Hakodate, don’t miss the Morning Market, the place you could find a lot of recent seafood. You may as well go to Fort Goryokaku, the primary “Western”-style fort within the nation.

Should you’d somewhat not spend that lengthy on the practice, a flight from Hiroshima to Sapporo is simply two hours and prices round 12,000 JPY (one-way).
Days 18-20: Sapporo
An old brewery in the winter in Sapporo, Japan
Sapporo is the fifth-largest metropolis, although it’s far faraway from the remainder of Japan. The area was first dwelling to the indigenous Ainu, although elevated immigration within the nineteenth century noticed the Japanese inhabitants skyrocket.

You should definitely cease in on the native Beer Museum too, owned by Sapporo Breweries (the oldest beer firm within the nation). It showcases the historical past of beer in Japan and the way the enterprise bought its begin. Should you’re a whiskey fan, cease by The Bow Bar, dwelling to some uncommon (and costly) whiskeys and regarded among the best such bars on this planet.

What I really like concerning the metropolis is its location. This area has a number of the greatest mountain climbing within the nation. There are many hills and mountains, providing choices for each day hikes in addition to in a single day journeys. Some highlights embrace Mount Me-akan, Mount Asahim, Mount Mashu, and Nishibetsu-dake. For one of the best views of town, head to Mount Moiwayama. It’s only a 30-60-minute hike to the highest, although there’s a cable automobile you’ll be able to take as effectively.

And should you’re visiting within the winter, hit the slopes! There are over 100 ski resorts in Hokkaido. You may hire skis (or a snowboard) for round 4,500-10,000 JPY. Elevate costs are normally 4,000-6,000 JPY per day.Within the winter, don’t miss the annual Sapporo Snow Competition. It’s held each February and attracts over two million guests. There are ice sculptures, igloos, reside music, and scrumptious native meals on provide.

Moreover, be sure you take a day journey to Otaru, the place you’ll discover a number of the freshest uni in the entire nation (that is the principle space the place the famed Hokkaido uni is caught). Go hungry and go to the markets, stalls, and retailers round there.

Day 21: Dwelling!
The busy streets of Tokyo, Japan near an old temple
Time to fly again to Tokyo or hop on the in a single day practice from Sapporo. You’ve had a whirlwind of a visit, so get pleasure from your last hours right here and soak in as a lot as you’ll be able to!


There’s a ton to see and do in Japan, and you would simply spend one other month right here and nonetheless simply scratch the floor (we didn’t even get to Okinawa and the islands!). And whereas these itineraries are a bit fast-paced, Japan isn’t low cost, so price range vacationers want to maneuver rapidly to keep away from breaking the financial institution.

However irrespective of how lengthy you go to, you received’t be dissatisfied. Japan is a tremendous, stunning, and distinctive vacation spot that I by no means get bored with visiting. Whereas it’s not as reasonably priced as its neighbors, it’s positively price spending the time (and cash) visiting. You received’t be dissatisfied!

REMINDER: You’ll positively want a JR Pass to get round. You should definitely get one BEFORE you go! For extra data on the go, read this blog post I wrote about it.

E-book Your Journey to Japan: Logistical Ideas and Tips

E-book Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight through the use of Skyscanner. They’re my two favourite engines like google, as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe, so that you at all times know no stone is left unturned!

E-book Your Lodging
You may e book your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve essentially the most complete stock so they’re greatest for reserving a hostel. If you wish to keep in a resort or guesthouse in Japan, use Booking.com because it persistently returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and lodges. They’re one of the best reserving website on the market. My favourite locations to remain in Japan are:

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you in opposition to sickness, damage, theft, and cancelations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it, as I’ve had to make use of it many instances up to now. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite firms that supply one of the best service and worth are:

On the lookout for one of the best firms to save cash with?
Take a look at my resource page for one of the best firms to make use of whenever you journey! I record all those I take advantage of to save cash once I journey — and I feel they are going to show you how to too!

You should definitely try the Japan Rail Pass should you’ll be touring across the nation. It is available in 7-, 14-, and 21-day passes and may prevent a ton of cash!

On the lookout for extra journey suggestions for Japan?
Take a look at my in-depth Japan travel guide for extra methods to save cash; data on prices; tips about what to see and do; recommended itineraries, studying, and packing lists; and far, far more!

Supply: www.nomadicmatt.com

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