While a bucket list destination for many people, planning a trip to Japan can be daunting. This 2-week Japan itinerary is perfect for first-time visitors! It covers the most popular highlights of this beautiful and enigmatic country.
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The Quintessential 2-Week Japan Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
The Japanese archipelago is both expansive and diverse. From the rugged landscapes of the northern Hokkaido region to the sub-tropical paradise of Okinawa, a person could spend months exploring. However, the most popular destinations fall in a cluster of regions that are located in the mid-section of the country.
This 2-week itinerary focuses on these quintessential sights. While based mostly on larger urban areas, this plan does allow the first-time visitor a taste of smaller towns and a glimpse of rural Japan.
Before tailoring this plan to your specific tastes, be sure to check out these seven things to know when Japan trip planning.
|Depart home and fly to Tokyo.
|Land later in the day and get settled in your hotel.
If you’re up to it, pop out for some ramen or a quick snack!
|Explore Modern Tokyo.
(Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku)
|Explore Traditional Tokyo.
Add in the electronics district (Akihabara) if you’re interested.
|Take a day trip. Great options include Hakone/Mt. Fuji, Kamakura, Kawagoe or Tokyo Disney.
|Explore Ginza and Roppongi.
|Take a morning bullet train to Kyoto.
Spend the afternoon touring the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
|Explore Central Kyoto
Major Sights: Philosopher’s Walk, Gion, and Nishiki Market
|Explore Northwest Kyoto.
Major Sights: Arashiyama, Bamboo Forest, Monkey Park,
and the Golden Pavilion
|Take a morning train to Hiroshima.
Tour major sites of Hiroshima.
Continue by train/ferry to Miyajima Island.
|Spend the day touring Miyajima Island and relaxing.
|Take a morning train to Osaka via Himeji Castle.
Dinner in Dotombori.
|Explore the Namba, Dotombori, and Shinsekai areas of Osaka.
|Visit Osaka Castle and the Umeda Sky building.
|Fly home from Osaka.
- Day 5: While the day trip offers a chance to see a smaller Japanese town, you may want to skip it and spend more time in Tokyo.
- Days 10-11: As above, the time in Miyajima allows you to slow down and take in a peaceful/rural Japanese experience. However, if you prefer to move around a bit less, consider adding 1 night each in Kyoto and Osaka instead. This would allow you to visit Nara (another popular first-timer stop) and Himeji Castle as day trips while spending a bit more time in each of the cities.
Good to Know
- Public transportation in Japan is excellent and easy to use! For the first-time visitor, I recommend using it exclusively and saving a car rental for a future trip.
- The best seasons for Japan travel are Spring (March-May) and Fall (September-November). Temperatures are mostly mild and dry but you can expect crowds, especially during the peak weeks for cherry blossoms and fall foliage. The summer months are very hot, humid, and rainy. While winter can get quite cold and bring some snow, you’ll also experience fewer crowds. Consider it if lower temps don’t bother you.
- The currency in Japan is the yen. While credit cards are increasingly accepted, Japan remains a largely cash-based society, particularly at smaller markets and food stalls. As of this writing $1 = approximately ¥150.
Stay tuned for future posts that will contain in-depth city guides for each of the areas visited in this itinerary. For other trip inspiration, consider these itineraries for the Balkans, Jordan, the UK, and Havana.
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