Travel. It leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller” ~ Ibn Battua.

Why spend 2 weeks in Japan?

If you’ve read my article explaining the reasons to visit Japan, you may have been inspired to make it happen! For first-timers, 2 weeks in Japan is the perfect introduction to this beautiful country’s unique history, culture and stunning landscapes. There aren’t many destinations in the world that have managed to blend past and present so seamlessly as Japan. Sometimes it can feel as though you’re living in the ancient past and the distant future at the same time, you’ll soon find out why!

Spending 2 weeks in Japan allows you to get a taste for much of the country (and maybe leave you wanting more). My first-timers guide below focuses on Japan’s “Golden Route”: Major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, as well as day trips to experience the beauty of Mt Fuji and the ancient traditions of Nara and Miyajima. Don’t worry, I’ve included the tiny details about the best way to travel to each destination, as well as how to get around once you’re there so you can be confident on your journey across Japan.

As this guide focuses on the Golden Route, I’ve created separate guides for Japan’s off the beaten path destinations, hidden gems and cultural experiences.

So, why should you trust me? I’m a geek who loves researching a destination to death before I visit! My preference is to be organised and aware of what to expect when travelling and I’m passionate about sharing my findings with you so you can make the most of your trip, too. For you book lovers, I created this itinerary with these Japan travel books so take a look. 

Finally, at the conclusion of this itinerary make sure you download your FREE Japanese Phrases for Tourists PDF to take along with you to Japan!

Here’s some highlights of what you can expect to experience during your visit:

2 Weeks in Japan: A Complete Itinerary for First-Timers | The Invisible Tourist
2 WEEKS IN JAPAN HIGHLIGHTS ~ 1: Be stunned by vibrant signs and buildings in Electric Town, Tokyo ~ 2: Reflect on consequences of war at the Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima ~ 3: Wander the tranquil Bamboo Groves, Kyoto ~ 4: Make friends with sacred deer, Nara ~ 5: Explore beautiful Osaka Castle & Museum, Osaka ~ 6: Visit Japan’s largest Torii Gate at Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima ~ 7: Enjoy the world’s best wagyu beef, everywhere! ~ 8: Explore the peaceful mountainside at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto.

This 2 weeks in Japan itinerary and guide will cover:

  • Exploring Japan on your own
  • How to spend 2 weeks in Japan on a mid-range budget
  • Quick links to useful resources
  • Complete 2 Weeks in Japan itinerary, day-by day guide including costs, things to do, where to stay, where to eat and getting around for:
    • Days 1-5: Tokyo (including day trip to Mt Fuji)
    • Days 6-10: Kyoto
    • Days 10-12: Hiroshima (including day trip to Miyajima)
    • Days 12-14: Osaka (including day trip to Nara)
      • Ideas for day trips from Tokyo
    • Day 15: Transit to Tokyo
  • Things to keep in mind about your two weeks in Japan
    • Flights to Tokyo
    • Do I need a JR Railpass? How to catch the shinkansen in Japan
      • Types of shinkansen explained
      • How much time you can save using Nozomi shinkansen
      • Purchasing Nozomi shinkansen tickets
    • Busy Periods and Public Holidays in Japan for 2019
    • Japanese Etiquette: Do’s and don’ts when visiting Japan
  • Conclusion
    • 2 weeks in Japan cost overall for two adults

Exploring Japan on your own has never been easier

If you’re planning a trip to Japan you may be overwhelmed on where to start and wondering how you’ll get around (isn’t there a language barrier?!) so I’ll reveal the tips and tricks I used for my own 2 weeks in Japan itinerary. Below you’ll find ideas for day trips, my hotel recommendations and what you could expect to see in a day at each destination. Hopefully it will inspire you for your own trip and get your itinerary planning off to a good start!

Heads up: As Japan is becoming such a popular destination (especially with the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games), it helps if you are aware of issues the influx of tourists is having on local communities. Here’s what you can do to help curb overtourism in Japan plus 10 easy solutions for how to travel and avoid contributing overtourism issues at any destination.

 

This is a lengthy post so grab yourself a cuppa and get comfortable ☕
This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Torii Gate at Low Tide, Miyajima Island

How to best spend 2 weeks in Japan on a mid-range budget?

To really be an Invisible Tourist on any trip, staying in a centrally located hotel is of utmost importance if you want to maximise your travel experience. In Japan it means you’ll spend less time getting around and more time exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites (7 in this itinerary), wandering the vibrant streets and enjoying the culinary delights that make Japan world-famous.

The hotels I’ve recommended below are mid-range, in the heart of the city centres and only a few moments walk to Metro stations.

Also, make use of Shinkansen – Japanese Bullet Trains. They are the most efficient way to get around Japan. I’ll discuss these in more detail at the conclusion of this itinerary.

Quick links to useful resources

Here’s a quick summary of resources you may find useful for your trip to Japan.

  • Learn 20 crucial travel tips you must know in my detailed Japan travel planning guide
  • There’s lots of talk about the JR Railpass. I personally didn’t use one for reasons I mention in this itinerary, but if you’ve done the math and figured out it’s best for you, make sure you buy your JR Railpass in advance. These passes aren’t available once you’ve arrived in Japan! Just make sure to leave enough time for it to be posted to you before your trip. If you enjoy being organised you can also buy a Suica card in advance to use on the Tokyo Subway as soon as you arrive in Japan.
  • After not using it before, after my recent Japan trip I’ve totally converted from not having pocket wifi to making it a must! It’s dirt cheap and possible to pre-book your pocket wifi hire and pick it up from an airport of your choice when you arrive in Japan. It’s super easy and convenient, too!
  • Tickets for teamLab Borderless, Robot Restaurant, Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea, Hakone Free Pass, Universal Studios Osaka, Studio Ghibli Museum and many more passes can be purchased in advance online. This will save you loads of hassle and wasted time lining up when you’re there so be sure to take a look!
  • If you’re a foodie, you may like to take an authentic Japanese cooking class! Hosted by locals, there’s no better way to learn more about Japan and its culture than through food. Read about my ramen cooking class in Kyoto for more info.

 

One last thing before we dive into the 2 weeks in Japan itinerary! To help you overcome the language barrier in Japan, I’ve created a FREE PDF Cheat Sheet of useful Japanese phrases you’ll need on a daily basis. Go take a look ⬇️Japanese for travelers pdf

Are you ready? Let’s do this!

Japan Itinerary Overview
Japan Two-Week Itinerary Overview

Map: 2 Weeks in Japan Itinerary

2 Weeks in Japan Itinerary: Complete Guide for First Timers | The Invisible Tourist #japan #japantravel #japanitinerary #tokyo #kyoto #nara #osaka #hakone #hiroshima #miyajima #cherryblossom
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Complete 2 Weeks in Japan Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

Day 0: TRANSIT

Fly to Tokyo overnight and get excited about where you’ll be waking up tomorrow!

Days 1-5: TokyoDays 1 – 5: TOKYO

A little word of advice: Don’t underestimate the sheer size of Tokyo. It will be one of the largest cities you ever visit, with many attractions spaced out in different neighbourhoods. It’s good to know what you want to see before you go so you can plan ahead accordingly. This will help you to not feel rushed during your visit and you’ll enjoy every minute!

How to get to Tokyo from Narita Airport

Getting there: Narita Airport to Tokyo via Narita Express, approx. 1 hour.
Cost: Adult Narita Express Ticket JPY 3,020 ea

A popular option is also the Narita Airport Limousine Bus. At almost half the cost of Narita Express, you’re able to book tickets in advance! For more information and prices, click here to book your Narita Airport Limousine tickets.

How to get to Tokyo from Haneda Airport

Getting there: Haneda Airport to Tokyo (Hamamatsucho) via Tokyo Monorail, 15 minutes.
Cost: Adult JPY 500 ea

Your IC/Suica Card will cover the cost of the monorail, too! It’s easy to pre-purchase your Suica card and have it mailed to you before your trip so you’re ready to roll on arrival in Tokyo.

Tokyo Highlights
TOKYO HIGHLIGHTS: 1 & 2: Senso-ji Temple ~ 3: Shinjuku Gyoen ~ 4: Shinjuku ~ 5: View from Tokyo Skytree ~ 6: Shibuya Crossing ~ 7: Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens ~ 8: Robot Restaurant

Where to stay in Tokyo

I My favourite hotel in Tokyo is Dormy Inn Premium, Shibuya ドーミーイン PREMIUM 渋谷神宮前.
Shibuya is the perfect location for getting around Tokyo and intercity!

I can also recommend 3 other hotels I’ve personally stayed in various neighbourhoods throughout Tokyo. Read my full reviews in my detailed 6 Days in Tokyo Itinerary.

Need some more information on Tokyo hotels? Check out:
Where you can find alternative hotels in Shibuya.
Read more reviews and compare Tokyo hotel prices here.
Find out why I don’t recommend Airbnb here.

 

Akihabara (Electric Town), Tokyo

Where to eat in Tokyo

Han No Daidokoro, Kirin City, Crepes in Harajuku, Maid Café in Akihabara, Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku.

Things to do in Tokyo

  • Spend your first day discovering Shibuya 渋谷 by crossing “The Scramble” (world’s busiest street crossing – some 3,000 people use it at any one time). Wander through the quirky shops on Takeshita-dori, Harajuku 原宿. While you’re in the neighbourhood, the tranquil grounds of Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s major Shinto shrine, are definitely worth a visit.
  • Explore Shinjuku 新宿 Station (busiest station in the world) and its bustling streets then escape to Shinjuku Gyoen for some tranquility in the busy city.
  • Discover Senso-ji Temple at Asakusa 浅草 then visit Akihabara 秋葉原 Electric Town for anime and electronics. Start your night off at the amazing Robot Restaurant ロボットレストラン (read my experience here). 
  • Take the trip up Tokyo Skytree 東京スカイツリー then spend the afternoon strolling Tokyo Imperial Palace 皇居 gardens.
  • Start your morning off by spending a few hours being blown away by teamLab Borderless. Check out Odaiba‘s お台場 Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge along Tokyo Bay. Hamarikyu Gardens in Minato 港区 are also stunning to visit and enjoy a traditional cup of matcha tea in the lakeside teahouse. Spend the afternoon wandering the streets in Ginza 銀座 and admiring the designer shops and funky architecture.

Buy tickets in advance to save time

Find tickets and latest prices here for the Robot Restaurant, teamLab Borderless, Sumo Tournament and Tokyo Skytree! You can also find more activities in Tokyo to book in advance here.

NOTE: Read my in-depth 6 day Tokyo itinerary with more information about each item listed above!

 

Robot Restaurant performance in Shinjuku
TOP: Incredible teamLab Borderless, Odaiba ~ BOTTOM: Sensory overload at the Robot Restaurant, Shinjuku

More things to do in Tokyo

  • Wander around Shiba Park and visit the Tokyo Tower, an icon of the city. Did you know its orange and white frame is modelled loosely on the Eiffel Tower? You can also buy tickets in advance to skip the line at the Tokyo Tower Observation Deck!
  • Pay your respects to children at Zojo-ji Temple.
  • Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest wholesale fish market in the world! Once attracting over 40,000 visitors per day, the Inner Market that hosted the tuna auction and wholesale produce has been closed off to tourists since October 2018. However, you can still visit the Tsukiji Outer Market in Toyoso. You can find out more about how to be a conscious consumer of bluefin tuna and other seafood during your visit.

Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa
TOP & MIDDLE: Zojo-ji Temple & Tokyo Tower ~ BOTTOM: Tokyo SkyTree from Asakusa

READ MORE: 20 Essential Tips You Must Know When Planning a Trip to Japan
RELATED: The Best Time to Visit Japan for Cherry Blossoms
READ MORE: Hida No Sato Folk VIllage: Takayama’s Delightful Crown Jewel

OPTIONAL: Day Trip from TOKYO to HAKONE

The easiest way to see all the sights is to do the Hakone Round Course with the Hakone Free Pass. It includes a combination of train, cable car, ropeway, boat and bus to see lakes, hot springs, active volcanos, art galleries and gardens. Highlights are the Picasso Museum, Open Air Museum and Mount Fuji (if she decides to peep out from behind the clouds!)
For pricing and more information on the Hakone Free Pass click here!

Getting there: Tokyo Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto stations via Odakyu Express, approx 75mins.
Cost: Adult JPY 2,280 ea (including Limited Express surcharge).
TIP: Sit on the right side of the Odakyu Express from Tokyo to get the best view of Mount Fuji as you speed past.

Hakone Day Trip Highlights
HAKONE HIGHLIGHTS: 1: Lake Ashi ~ 2: Hakone Cable Car ~ 3: Sulphur mines ~ 4: Sailing Lake Ashi ~ 5: Cedarwood Forest ~ 6: Botanic Gardens ~ 7: Picasso Museum ~ 8: Open Air Museum

RELATED: 6 Days in Tokyo: A Complete Itinerary for First-Timers


Days 6-10: KyotoDAYS 6 – 10: KYOTO

With over 1600 temples and shrines, dear old Kyoto deserves more than just one day of your time! There is so much more to see in Japan’s old capital than the ever-popular Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Kyomizu-Dera. Get ready to experience a different side of Kyoto by uncovering some hidden gems over 4 days.

Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto

2 hours 20 minutes from Tokyo Shinagawa station on Nozomi shinkansen
Cost: Adult Nozomi ticket JPY 13,910 ea

Kyoto Highlights
KYOTO HIGHLIGHTS: 1: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove ~ 2: View from Sanjo Ohashi Bridge ~ 3: Daigo-ji Temple ~ 4: Kinkaku-ji Temple ~ 5: Fushimi Inari Shrine ~ 6: Backstreets of Gion ~ 7: Gio-ji Moss Gardens ~ 8: Kiyomizu-Dera

Where to stay in Kyoto

Kyoto Hana Hotel, Gion 京都 花ホテル [公式]. This hotel was in a wonderful, central location. Perfect for exploring surrounding Gion by foot. For my full review, see my detailed 4 Days in Kyoto Itinerary.

Need some more information on Kyoto accommodation? Check out:
Where you can find alternative hotels in Gion.
More reviews and compare Kyoto hotel prices here.

 

Dubbed "the most beautiful street in Asia", Kyoto

Backstreets of Gion, a few moments' walk from Hana Hotel, Kyoto

Where to eat in Kyoto

Manzara-Tei in Pontocho Alley and any restaurant in Gion ぎおん alleyways (Geisha district). One of the best ways to discover where to eat in Kyoto is to take the advice of a local. During my recent visit, I took this Kyoto night tour and was able to find hidden bars in the Pontocho area. On the pub crawl, I even got to sample a special “rose sake” that I wouldn’t have been able to find by myself! Read more in my bar hopping in Kyoto at night article.

Things to do in Kyoto

  • Explore downtown Kyoto 京都 and walk along the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge 三条大橋.
  • Start at Arashiyama 嵐山 Bamboo Grove  then walk to Gio-ji Temple & Moss Gardens 祇王寺, Adashino Nembutsu-ji 化野念仏寺, then finish the day at famous Kinkaku-ji Temple 金閣寺 (Golden Pavilion), a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Golden Pavilion is perhaps Kyoto’s biggest drawcard.
  • Begin the day at stunning Daigo-ji 醍醐寺 temple & gardens followed by Nanzen-ji 南禅寺 gardens. Nanzen-ji features a massive working aqueduct that dates back to the mid-19th century. Spend the afternoon strolling the Philosopher’s Path north to Ginkaku-ji 銀閣寺 (Silver Pavilion). The Silver Pavilion is said to be the little brother of Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and in my opinion had the more exquisite gardens! After that big walk you may want to take a taxi back to your hotel (around 20mins, approx. 2,400 JPY from memory).

  • Maruyama Park 円山公園 in the morning, wander the backstreets of Gion ぎおん ensuring you stop by Sannen-zaka & Ninnen-zaka streets for some stunning hand-crafted souvenirs on your way to Kiyomizu-Dera 清水寺 (UNESCO World Heritage site). Spend the afternoon at Fushimi Inari Shrine 伏見稲荷大社 (Thousand Torii Gate), a UNESCO World Heritage site you’re sure to recognise.

TIP: Fushimi Inari literally sits on the side of a mountain. Be prepared for loads of walking because the sign at the start is NOT to scale! 

BONUS: Check out “Gear”, an incredible non-verbal performance exclusive to Kyoto. The characters really come to life and tell a story through music, magic tricks, various choreography routines and colourful lighting. It’s very enjoyable!

Buy tickets in advance to save time

NOTE: Read my in-depth Kyoto itinerary for more detailed information!

 

Beautiful Kyomizu-Dera - like a giant treehouse!

The Philosopher's Path. Imagine the sheer beauty of this covered in cherry blossoms in springtime

RELATED: Kyoto Hidden Gems You Won’t Want To Miss
READ MORE: What to Except at a Traditional Kyoto Tea Ceremony


Days 10-12: HiroshimaDAYS 10 – 12: HIROSHIMA

In my opinion, no visit to Japan is complete without a visit to Hiroshima. Being a history nerd, I was so interested to see how Hiroshima recovered after the fateful blast in August 1945. To be completely honest, if the Atomic Bomb Dome wasn’t sitting centre stage as a reminder of the past, you would never guess the atrocity that happened here over seventy years ago.

Getting from Kyoto to Hiroshima

1 hour 40 minutes from Kyoto Station on Nozomi shinkansen
Cost: Adult Nozomi ticket JPY 11,410 ea

Hiroshima Highlights
HIROSHIMA HIGHLIGHTS: 1: Hondori Arcade ~ 2 & 4: Children’s Peace Memorial ~ 3: View from Royal RIGHA Hotel ~ 5: Jizoson with its nuclear shadow ~ 6: Peace Memorial Museum ~ 7: Peace Arch & Atomic Bomb Dome ~ 8: A-Bomb Dome

Where to stay in Hiroshima

Royal RIHGA Hotel, Hiroshima リーガロイヤルホテル広島宴会. This is a gorgeous hotel in the heart of the city, making it perfect for exploring all Hiroshima’s attractions on foot. You definitely get more bang-for-your-buck here compared to other city hotels throughout Japan, it’s a very beautiful hotel.

Not to mention the gorgeous view I was spoilt with overlooking Hiroshima Castle! ?

If you need more information for accommodation in Hiroshima, be sure to check:
Where you can find alternative hotels in Central Hiroshima.
More reviews and compare Hiroshima hotel prices here.

TIP: If you happen to book a stay at the Royal RIHGA Hotel, request a corner room if possible as you’ll be treated to a 180° view over the city, which is quite breathtaking:

View from RIHGA Royal Hotel Hiroshima

Where to eat in Hiroshima

Restaurants along the Hon-dori. Try the local okinomiyaki (savoury pancake), the best place to try this local specialty is at Okonomimura, a four-storey building packed with okonomiyaki eateries! You can’t really go wrong in here as each restaurant inside the building is its own business that specialises in cooking these their own way.

Want to discover more of the hidden eateries and drinking spots? For an authentic Japanese experience, you can take a bar hopping Hiroshima tour with a small group led by a local who grew up in the city. Learn more about Japanese food, culture and even make some new friends along the way!

Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Japan | The Invisible Tourist
Okonomimura is four storeys of okonomiyaki eateries

Things to do in Hiroshima

  • Eat, explore and shop on the Hondori. You’ll also find wonderful little souvenirs to remember your visit.
  • Reflect at the A-Bomb Dome 原爆ドーム (UNESCO World Heritage site), be amazed by thousands of colourful paper cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument and find Jizoson. The atomic bomb struck Jizoson and left it with a nuclear shadow, incredible and eerie.
  • You’ll also see the Peace Arch on your way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 広島平和記念資料館. Artefacts that survived the blast are on display in the museum, including ceramics that were fused together due to the extreme heat from the explosion. It’s difficult to get your head around but the Museum does a great job of helping you gain a better understanding about nuclear bombs and their consequences. Finally, the Peace Flame located by the Peach Arch will burn until the last nuclear weapon on Earth is destroyed.
  • If you would prefer a local guide to show you around the city and explain the sights in more detail, a Hiroshima walking tour may be a good option for you. With a personalised touch and stories from a local who calls Hiroshima home, you’ll gain a greater understanding about this beautiful city. Lunch is included, too!

Atomic Bomb Dome (A-Bomb Dome)

Model of where the atomic bomb detonated over HiroshimaColourful paper cranes and messages of peace at the Children's Peace Monument

RELATED: Meaningful Souvenirs from Japan You Can’t Return Home Without

 

OPTIONAL: Day trip from HIROSHIMA to MIYAJIMA (Itsukushima Shrine)

Itsukushima Shrine 厳島神社 is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The present shrine dates back to the mid-13th century and is one of Japan’s National Treasures.
Getting there: Aquanet Ferry from Hiroshima Peace Park to Miyajima island, approx 45mins.
Cost:  Adult roundtrip JPY 3,600.

TIP: Check the tide information before your trip to find out whether the Grand Torii Gate will be in high or low tide during your visit. At high tide, it appears to float on the water and makes for stunning photos. In low tide, you can walk right beneath it and appreciate the bright vermillion colour up close.

I’ve written a detailed guide for your Hiroshima to Miyajima day trip here! Take a look for more photos, ferry comparison, information about the upcoming restoration work from June 2019 – August 2020 and what NOT to do to help make the most of your visit.

Miyajima Day Trip Highlights
MIYAJIMA HIGHLIGHTS: 1: Miyajima Natural Botanic Garden ~ 2 & 6: Grand Torii Gate ~ 3: Coins left for good luck between barnacles on the Grand Torii Gate ~ 4: Sacred deer roaming freely on the island ~ 5: Pagoda ~ 7: Tōrō (stone lanterns) lining a walkway ~ 8: Itsukushima Shrine

Days 12-14: Osaka

DAYS 12 – 14: OSAKA

Known as Japan’s foodie capital, you can literally eat and shop until you drop in Osaka! Prepare for all your senses to be delighted in this city, from the aromas of sizzling takoyaki to the dizzying sounds of Pachinko parlours and bright neon signs assaulting your eyes. Osaka was a merchant city rather than samurai so be sure to stand on the RIGHT of escalators instead of left (like the rest of the country)!

Getting from Hiroshima to Osaka

1h30 from Hiroshima on Nozomi shinkansen
Cost: Adult Nozomi ticket JPY 10,440 ea

3 Days in Osaka Itinerary Highlights
OSAKA HIGHLIGHTS: 1, 2 & 6: Dotonbori ~ 3: Glico Man and neon signs along Dotonbori River ~ 4: Osaka Castle Moat ~ 5: Osaka Castle & Museum ~ 7: View from Osaka Castle Observation Deck ~ 8: Artistic Street Drain Cover

Where to stay in Osaka

Cross Hotel Osaka クロスホテル大阪. Just steps away from Dotonbori Arcade, restaurants and a few minutes walk to Namba station. As a business hotel it means there are many power points for charging devices which is handy.

TIP: Ask for a room facing Mido-suji (street entrance) side for a super quiet sleep!

Need more information on Osaka accommodation? Check out:
Where you can find alternative hotels in Chuo Ward, Osaka.
More reviews and compare Osaka hotel prices here.

 

The main street, Dotonbori, is just a few steps away from Cross Hotel Osaka
The main street, Dotonbori, is just a few steps away from Cross Hotel Osaka

Where to eat in Osaka

Showa Taishu Horumon Beef BBQ, try Osaka’s famous takoyaki (octopus balls)!

Things to do in Osaka

  • See the famous Glico Man over the river from Dotonbori 道頓堀, keep an eye out out for artistic drain covers (pictured below), be amazed at all the shops and how meticulously the products are arranged.
  • Spend the day at Osaka Castle Museum 大阪城, check out the 360 degree view from the observation deck and wander the beautiful grounds.

NOTE: Be sure to check out my in-depth Osaka itinerary for more details than I’ve listed here, plus all the information you’ll need for a day trip to Nara!

Osaka manhole cover art

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

OPTIONAL: Day trip from OSAKA to NARA

Nara 奈良 was Japan’s first permanent capital in 710 AD so it holds a great historical significance. The city was heavily influenced by Buddhism and many structures reflect this.
Getting there: Yamatoji train from JR Osaka station to JR Nara station, approx 45mins.
Cost: Adult one way JPY 800 ea.

MUST SEE: Todai-ji Temple 東大寺, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest wooden structure in the world. Be amazed by the giant bronze Buddha and see if you’re small enough to fit through the pillar with a hole the size of Buddha’s nostril for good luck! ~ Yoshikien Gardens are breathtaking ~ Nigatsu-do for views over Nara ~ Kasuga-Taisha Shrine 春日大社 for 3,000 stone lanterns ~ Kofuku-ji 興福寺, family temple of the Fujiwara clan.

Day Trip to Nara Highlights
NARA HIGHLIGHTS: 1 & 4: Yoshikien Gardens ~ 2: Tōdai-ji Temple, home of the bronze Buddha ~  3: Some of the 3,000 tōrō (stone lanterns) at Kasuga-Taisha Temple ~ 5: One of Buddha’s minders at Tōdai-ji ~ 6: Bronze Buddha ~ 7: Kōfuku-ji pagoda, first built in 730 AD (rebuilt 1426).

READ MORE: 3 Days in Osaka Itinerary: Complete Guide + Nara Day Trip
READ MORE: 6 Unique Experiences in Takayama Old Town (By a Local)
READ MORE: The Venice of Japan: Amazing Things to Do in Kurashiki

Day 14: OSAKA to TOKYO

Once you arrive back in Tokyo from Osaka, you can spend the day revisiting a favourite neighbourhood, exploring a new one or taking a day trip from Tokyo. I have some exciting suggestions below so read on!

Getting back to Tokyo from Osaka

2 hours 30 minutes from Osaka on Nozomi shinkansen
Cost: Adult Nozomi ticket JPY 14,450 ea

Where to stay in Tokyo

Different neighbourhood, this time Ginza 銀座 for 1 night. I can recommend the hotel (Mercure Hotel Ginza メルキュールホテル銀座東京) but be aware that this ritzy neighbourhood feels strikingly similar to most New York City neighbourhoods. You don’t really feel like you’re walking the streets of Japan.

 

Ginza, Tokyo
Ginza, Tokyo

Day trips from Tokyo

Here’s some ideas for how to spend your last day in Tokyo:

  • Nikko 2.5 hours from Tokyo
    This stunning UNESCO World Heritage site is home to many temples and shrines (pictured below) nestled within nature’s finest scenery. You can easily get there with this popular day trip to Nikko.
  • Kawaguchiko (Fuji Five Lakes) 2 hours from Tokyo
    Lavender fields and reflective lakes paired with a backdrop of Mt Fuji means you really can’t go wrong!
  • Kamakura 50 minutes from Tokyo
    With many temples and shrines, Kamakura is popular for its famous Buddha and easy hikes nearby.
  • Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea 25 minutes from Tokyo
    If you’re into all things Disney, these theme parks are the obvious choice for you. Don’t forget to book your Disney tickets in advance!
  • Fujiyama Snow Resort 2 hours from Tokyo
    Why not try your hand at skiing in Japan’s powder! Best of all, there are ski runs for all levels and Mt Fuji will be watching over you throughout the day. You can take this Snow Town Yeti tour that includes a coach roundtrip from Shinjuku.
  • Nagano 3 hours from Tokyo
    Known as being a ski town, Nagano sure does delight in the summer months, too! Here you can visit the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park (and their newborn babies in summer), or combine this with a tour including sake tasting and a visit to Zenko-ji Temple.

Nikko, Japan

TOP: Stunning Nikko ~ BOTTOM: Summer is the perfect time to see newborn snow monkey babies near Nagano

Day 15: TRANSIT

Spend half day in Tokyo before heading to airport for your night flight home. I’m sure you’ll be sad to leave Japan!

Getting back to Narita Airport from Tokyo

Getting there: Narita Airport to Tokyo via Narita Express, approx. 1 hour.
Cost: Adult Narita Express Ticket JPY 3,020 ea

You can also get the Narita Airport Limousine Bus back to the airport. For more information and prices, click here to book your Narita Airport Limousine tickets.

Getting back to haneda Airport from Tokyo

Getting there: Haneda Airport to Tokyo (Hamamatsucho) via Tokyo Monorail, 15 minutes.
Cost: Adult JPY 500 ea

Day 16: Home

Arrive home on Sunday.

Bonus: Day 17

Head back to work on Monday wanting to do it all again!!

Geisha & Maiko in Gion, Kyoto | The Invisible Tourist #geisha #maiko #kyoto #japan


Things to keep in mind during your two weeks in Japan

Contrary to popular belief, you DO NOT need to buy a JR Railpass before you visit Japan.

Flights to Tokyo

If possible, book a red-eye (overnight) flight. Most international flights will land at Tokyo Narita Airport. Get a good sleep and you’ll wake up the next morning in Japan saying “こんにちは” (konnichiwa) ready for a full day of action! Choosing night flights means maximising every waking moment having a blast exploring.

Do I need a JR Railpass? Here’s how to catch the Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) in Japan

If you have calculated how many shinkansen trips you’ll be using on your trip, the JR Railpass may be for you. By purchasing this pass, train travel across JR trains in Japan (where your pass is valid) is free. Prices vary depending on whether you purchase a 7 day, 14 day or 21 day pass.  I personally didn’t use it for reasons I explain below, but if you think it will benefit you you make sure you purchase a JR Railpass here before you enter Japan (this is important because they aren’t available once you arrive!)

The types of Shinkansen in Japan

So, contrary to popular belief here’s why you may not need to buy a JR Railpass before you visit, especially if you’re travelling with a mid range budget.

There are 3 kinds of Shinkansen in Japan. Here’s some fast facts:

  • Nozomi のぞみ and Mizuho みずほ Shinkansen reach speeds of 300km/h
  • Hikari ひかり Shinkansen reach speeds of 230km/h
  • Kodama こだま Shinkansen stop at all stations.

The Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen are the fastest trains but are not covered by the pass. Additionally, Metro tickets in all cities are only a few hundred yen each way (USD 2.70) so I never bothered with the pass.

Nozomi Shinkansen

How much time you can save using Nozomi Shinkansen

Over the duration of this trip you can save 3 hours of time using Nozomi over Hikari trains and save 5 hours of time using Nozomi over Kodama trains. Personally, I prefer to pay as I go and not sacrifice exploration time trying to save a small amount of money.

With only 15 days (including all travel time), every hour counts. My advice would be to weigh up the cost saving vs extra travel time and what that means to you before you consider purchasing a JR Railpass. If you’re worried about lengthy queues to purchase tickets, don’t be.

Purchasing Nozomi Shinkansen tickets

It’s simple to purchase Shinkansen tickets a day or so in advance from the stations, especially not during peak times. I can honestly say doing it this way meant I never had to wait long to purchase tickets and I was ready to go on the day of travel – plan ahead and you’ll be sweet!

TIP: Buy Nozomi Shinkansen tickets a few days in advance to ensure you will get reserved seating. When buying from the ticket offices at train stations it’s useful to have pre-printed information in Japanese to give to the sales clerk. This is easy with a little help from Google Translate. If you know the time you’d prefer from the timetables I’ve linked below, add that in too. That way nothing will be lost in translation and your transaction will be swift and efficient!

Shinkansen Ticket Info | The Invisible Tourist
Shinkansen Ticket Info Example

You can find the Japan Rail (JR) shinkansen timetables used for this itinerary here: Westbound from Tokyo and Eastbound from Hiroshima.

 

Busy Periods and Public Holidays in Japan for 2019

Once you know you’re able to visit Japan, it’s wise to book accommodation and flights well in advance to avoid disappointment during what’s expected to be busy travel periods. 2019 is quite a hectic year for travel in Japan!

  • Late March – late April is the popular cherry blossom season so plan in advance when the best time to visit is depending on the locations you wish to view.
  • In late April – early May, Golden Week will be a once-off celebration over 10 days to coincide with the accession of the new emperor, Crown Prince Naruhito. His father’s abdication is set for 30th April, the first abdication in over two centuries. The holidays begin on 27th April and will run through to 5th May, so travel in Japan is expected to be incredibly busy during this time.
  • Additionally, from 20th September to 2nd November, various cities throughout Japan will play host to the Rugby World Cup. Expect crowds, avoid the main tourist hotspots and snap up your preferred accommodation as soon as possible!Crowds in Japan

Etiquette in Japan: Good to Know

Did you know there are many do’s and don’ts you should follow in Japan to avoid looking like a tourist? There’s quite a number of differences compared with the Western culture! Not only is practising the correct manners and behaviour polite, it will earn you massive brownie points with the locals and you’ll make the most of your trip. With my guide below, feel confident travelling in Japan knowing you won’t be doing something wrong that you didn’t know about!

Be sure to check out my 28 crucial do’s and don’ts in Japan – how many are you aware of?

Concluding my two weeks in Japan itinerary

…we never felt rushed. Because we were prepared it allowed us to leisurely stroll between many attractions and enjoy taking our time uncovering the wonders that make this incredible country so unique.

The last day in Tokyo isn’t necessary from a sight-seeing perspective but personally I always like to ensure there is a buffer so I won’t miss my flight home. Although highly unlikely in Japan, it’s wise to factor in train delays in case something unforeseen (like an earthquake) were to happen.

You don’t want to be stuck down in Hiroshima or Osaka with no way of getting to Tokyo for your flight that same night. Why stress? Planning this way allows you to spend extra time exploring Japan’s largest city. Go visit a new neighbourhood or revisit one of your favourites before you fly home!

Although it may look like my travel buddy and I crammed a lot into our 2 weeks in Japan, I can honestly say we never felt rushed. Because we were prepared it allowed us to leisurely stroll between many attractions and enjoy taking our time uncovering the wonders that make this incredible country so unique. Travelling The Invisible Tourist way is about being efficient and making the best use of your travel time.

Take your time in Japan to discover hidden gems, such as Gio-ji in Kyoto
Take your time in Japan to discover hidden gems, such as Gio-ji in Kyoto

What about the language barrier?

⬇️ Download your FREE Japanese for tourists CHEAT SHEET!

Worried about the language barrier in Japan? Don’t be! Head over to my guide on Japanese for Tourists to download your FREE PDF of 20+ useful phrases, created specifically for visitors to Japan. Simply print out this super handy cheat sheet to take with you, or store it on your phone for offline use when you’re adventuring around Japan! 

Japanese for travelers pdf

 

If you’re worried about the language barrier, there’s no need to be. You’ll find hotel staff speak English and in Tokyo many people do, too. They may just be shy to speak to you in English as the Japanese are perfectionists but are very eager to help.

Kindly greet someone in Japanese first before using English if you can. The further south from Tokyo you venture however, English is less widely spoken and understood. Hand gestures go a long way! In terms of getting around there are signs in English and the Metro is colour coded – very simple to navigate without knowing  Japanese.

If you’d like to know how I learnt Japanese for travelling, click here!

Japanese Metro Signs
Many Metro signs are in Japanese and English

So there you have it with my 2 weeks in Japan itinerary! I’m a little biased, but I firmly believe visiting these cities in a loop as described here is the best itinerary for Japan. After much research I concluded this was the most efficient way to see all the main sights (and also wander off the beaten path) without being rushed or short on time.

2 weeks in Japan cost

To make things even easier for you, I’ve added up the totals I’ve mentioned in this itinerary to give you an overall 2 weeks in Japan cost. This total is travelling with a mid range budget.

By all means, don’t take this as absolute gospel, my preferences may differ to yours in terms of using the JR Pass (and the exchange rate may alter a little) but feel free to use it as a ballpark figure. You can aways spend more or less than this!

2 weeks in Japan cost for two adults

  • Flights – USD 2,374 / JPY 252,109
    From Sydney, Australia to Tokyo Narita including a premium economy leg (this price will obviously vary depending where you’re flying in from)
  • Hotels – USD 2,148 / JPY 288,286
    All 3-4 star, twin share
  • Long Distance Trains – USD 1,195 / JPY 126,940
    All Nozomi shinkansen trips, express train to Hakone, Ferry to Miyajima etc
  • Total for 2 adults, 2 weeks excluding spending money: USD 5,717 (approx, depends on exchange rate).

RELATED: Tokyo Treat: Discount Code, First Impressions & Review


Let’s get your 2 weeks in Japan itinerary started now!

What are you waiting for? Take the next step and get your Japan itinerary planning started by searching for hotels in Tokyo here If you’re after more inspiration, I have many more travel guides and itineraries here in my full Japan archive. From finding hidden gems, detailed city guides, best time to visit for cherry blossoms and more, I have your Japan trip covered!

If you’re wanting to learn the tips and tricks I personally use to be an Invisible Tourist, be sure to have a look through my complete “Be Invisible” archive.

Are you thinking of heading to Japan? What are your thoughts on this 2 weeks in Japan itinerary or do you have any questions about it? I’d LOVE to hear if you use this itinerary on your visit! If you found this helpful please share it with your friends or come and join me on Facebook, PinterestInstagram and Bloglovin’ for more Japan inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist

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Alyse
Author

Australian-based Alyse has been travelling "The Invisible Tourist Way" for eleven years and hopes to encourage fellow travellers to do so, too. She's passionate about responsible travel, history and preserving local cultures. A professional language hoarder, she can usually be found burying herself in travel books and Wikipedia articles. Her dreams? Always about the next destination and how to make the most of the experience.

42 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Love your Japan recommendations! I’ll be in Japan in a few weeks myself and most of the locations are already on my list ^^ now I’m even more excited! I decided to take the Rail pass because I didn’t want to spend (= loose) time buying tickets for all the journeys every other day. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Hi Pina, I’m jealous to hear you’re going so soon! Good on you. Whatever it takes to save precious travel time is worth it 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks so much for your comment. I hope you have a blast in Japan!

    • Avatar

      Hi we are going next year as a family – any tips for going with kids?

      • Alyse
        Alyse

        Hi Kylie, I didn’t travel to Japan with kids so unfortunately I don’t really have any specific tips that worked for me – sorry! You may already be familiar with some of these but generally speaking, travelling with kids:
        • I’d aim for quality over quantity with the places you visit (don’t try to rush and squeeze in too many things)
        • Allow lots of extra time to get between attractions/cities
        • If you’re taking a pram/buggy, get a smaller one as some places will be very crowded and a bit tricker to navigate with one
        • Get a good idea of how to use the Metro, Shinkansen, language (even just for reading) before you go as this will prevent you wasting time trying to figure it out as you go along.
        I hope this helps and you all have a lovely trip!

  2. Avatar

    I’ve wanted to go to Japan for such a long time, and your post has made me want to pack up and go immediately! The time and the budget just aren’t there for Japan right now, but I’m hoping that my family and I get there sooner rather than later. Gorgeous pictures! 🙂

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      I am so happy to hear I’ve inspired you, Natalie! If you want to go you will definitely find a way to make it happen someday. It will be one of the best trips you’ll ever do 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  3. Avatar
    Katie Hughes

    This itinerary is a dream ^0^! It’s exactly everything I want to do when I travel there, but I would like to spend another day in Osaka.

    I’m interested to know how much spending money you took for the whole 2 weeks – and what type of accommodation did you stay in for all of the places? Hostel’s aren’t my thing so I’m expecting a pricey trip.

    Japan is my dream destination – and I want it to be perfect. Your itinerary is perfection!

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      I am so happy to hear that, Katie! Why not spend an extra day in Osaka, there is loads to see.

      For accommodation, I mentioned in the hotels I stayed in the first paragraph for each city (under Where to Stay?). Just like you hostels aren’t my thing either 😉 All hotels I chose are centrally located and within walking distance to Metro stations. The Tokyo hotel was around AUD 220 per night during my stay and the others were cheaper than that, within a mid-range budget. Hiroshima was the best value. In terms of spending money I found everything to be quite cheap compared to many European/North American destinations – you can grab delicious dinners at sit-down restaurants for under JPY 1000 and breakfasts from convenience stores for under JPY 800. Of course you can choose higher-end restaurants as well if you prefer. Temple entries are usually only a few hundred yen too.

      Japan is not as expensive as people think!

      If you have any other questions I am happy to help. Thanks for your lovely comment and I hope you have the best time in Japan 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Sandy N Vyjay

    A perfect itinerary for Japan. I have never been to Japan, but am fascinated by its mystic beauty. I am always intrigued by the way the future, past, and present seem to merge seamlessly in Japan. Technology and tradition go hand in hand, which is amazing.

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      You are spot on about future, past and present merging seamlessly in Japan! It’s one of the few places in the world that does that so brilliantly. You will have to visit someday, it’s truly an amazing destination. Thanks for your comment Sandy N Vyjay!

  5. Avatar

    Thank you for this awesome blog. I will definitely be referencing it to my plans for Japan.

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      I’m so glad to hear that, Julie! I hope you enjoy your trip to Japan as much as I did, it’s such an incredible destination ? Thanks for your comment and safe travels!

  6. Avatar
    Carah Campbell

    I am heading to Japan in 5 weeks with my brother! We are doing 2 weeks in Japan and then a week in Thailand. I will be following your itinerary; it lines up perfectly with what we want to see!

    • The Invisible Tourist
      The Invisible Tourist

      How exciting for you, Carah! So glad to hear you’ll be using my itinerary 🙂 I hope you and your brother have a wonderful trip!

  7. Avatar

    Oh my goodness, thankyou for sharing your itinerary!
    I stumbled on your blog via one of your responses on Quora and am so glad I did. Your suggestions, maps, links and cost estimates, etc. are all amazingly helpful. Love the photos too!
    I’m planning a two-week-ish trip next year for my 30th birthday and was having trouble trying to figure out the best way to fit everything in.
    I’ve emailed myself the link so I can check it out properly later when I’m not at work, hehe.
    Thanks again! 🙂

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      What a lovely compliment Alex, thank you so much! So happy to hear my itinerary has been helpful for you 🙂 I try to be as thorough as possible so you can get the most out of your trip! If you have any questions about anything here feel free to let me know. If not I hope you have an absolutely amazing time for your 30th birthday (I personally went for my birthday too, best birthday EVER!!) Thanks again for your comment 🙂

    • Avatar

      Hey Alyse! Thanks so much for this awesome itinerary! A fellow travel blogger shared your article with me as they know I’ve been thinking about booking a trip next year for the cherry blossom festival. Super helpful pricing and railway info! I’ve been trying to decide whether a JR pass was a necessity or not. Cheers!

      • Alyse
        Alyse

        You’re very welcome Boxman and I’m so happy to hear you found this helpful 🙂 Even better my article came recommended to you by a fellow blogger – huge thanks from me, too! Yes the JR pass is interesting isn’t it. I think many people think it’s a necessity but I didn’t think it was, especially with the Nozomi shinkansen. I hope you have a blast in Japan and thanks alot for your comment!

  8. Avatar
    Victoria

    Thank you for this itenerary. It’s just what I’ve been looking for. We are interested in going to Japan for two weeks next May for the Wisteria Festival. How would you go about incorporating that into your itenerary? Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      You’re welcome and I’m so glad you found it helpful, Victoria! How amazing the Wisteria Festival would be ? As Ashikaga Flower Park is about 1.5 hours from Tokyo by bullet train, you could visit as a day trip or even spend a night. With this itinerary I’d probably spend 3 or 4 days in Tokyo instead of 5 and use that time to visit the Flower Festival in Tochigi ? I hope you have a wonderful trip and thanks for your comment!

  9. Avatar

    Hai, love this post! And i love the pictures you have, it seems you travel with a perfect weather. When did you do the travel? Was it in spring?

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks very much, Ayu! I travelled at the end of August/early September so it was late summer. The weather wasn’t all perfect though – it was quite hot but there was some heavy rain and fog during my visit. I’m definitely going back in Spring someday though. Are you planning on visiting?

  10. Avatar

    Hi! I will spend about 14 days in Japan this summer and I really like your itinerary. With regard to travelling by train, what kind of tickets did you end up buying (JR Railpasses, regional passes, single tickets) and what were the approximate costs? Thanks in advance! ?

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      That’s awesome to hear, Nina! I just purchased single tickets. Personally I didn’t bother with the JR Railpass because I wanted to use the Nozomi (fastest) Shinkansen to save time and Nozomi trains are not covered by the pass. I provided the costs for getting to each destination in this itinerary under each city (look for the headings “Getting to Tokyo/Kyoto/etc” and “Cost”) 🙂 If you need more tips on how I used the bullet trains in Japan, please see my “JR Railpass & Shinkansen” section toward the conclusion of the itinerary above 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful trip and thanks for your comment!

  11. Avatar

    I love your itinerary! It sounds perfect for a trip I am planning next summer for my husband, son , and I.

    Can you give me a ballpark figure on how much you spent except spend money? I am having a hard time with a budget that includes hotel, airfare, food, and train or travel once there.

    I have also looked into tour companies to take the headache out of figuring it all out but we generally like to explore on our own. ?

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      So glad you love the itinerary, Sarah! I’m not sure if you saw but I have included the costs for all train travel in each section of this itinerary 🙂 The Nozomi bullet trains I used are the fastest yet most expensive so you can only expect the slower trains to be cheaper than the costs I’ve mentioned here.

      What I spent on flights may vary to what you will (my flights were from Sydney, Australia including a premium-economy leg). As mentioned in another comment food can be very cheap (under JPY 1,000/ USD 9.00) if you eat where locals do or grab a few meals at convenience stores such as Lawson & Family Mart (the food here is amazing as standards are much higher than convenience stores we’re used to in the West!)

      Kindly keep in mind I travel with a mid-range budget (in between luxury and on the cheap) and prefer to save up and splurge a little for a trip. Everything I’ve mentioned can of course be done by spending less than what I did 🙂

      To break it down for you, my costs (totals for 2 adults in USD & JPY to make it easy) were:
      Flights – USD 2,374 / JPY 252,109
      Hotels – USD 2,148 / JPY 288,286
      Long Distance Trains – USD 1,195 / JPY 126,940
      Total for 2 adults, 2 weeks excluding spending money: USD 5,717 (approx, depends on exchange rate).

      As for tour companies, my travel buddy and I found Japan to be super easy to navigate and with our own research beforehand we got SO much out of this trip without any hassle at all! If you usually enjoy travelling on your own there really isn’t much of a better place to do it than Japan 😀 I hope this helps and you have an amazing time in Japan!

  12. Avatar
    John Lee

    I recently spent a little over two weeks in Japan. This was my first time in Japan, so there was a lot to see. I like your itinerary! I think it’s a perfect for a trip. Thank you for this awesome blog and sharing your idea.

  13. Avatar
    Benedicte

    Thanks for this itinerary, it looks great. We are going to Japan in July for two weeks, we will arrive in Tokyo from Australia. We will probably stay just one night in Tokyo to start with as we will finish with a week in Tokyo to catch up with family coming from Europe.
    Where should we stay for our first night in Tokyo? Should we start with Kyoto as suggested or should we do the itinerary in reverse?
    Also I find it interesting what you mentioned about the train pass, as many people told us to get one as it is easier, and you don’t have to queue for tickets.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks for your question Benedicte, that’s a good one! I would say it depends on what time of day you arrive in Tokyo. If your flight arrives early AM in Tokyo, you may wish to travel on to Kyoto right away and skip a first night in Tokyo. However, in my opinion it’s a bit more enjoyable to take your time, allow for any delays and it won’t hurt to get a feel for Tokyo first (it’s so massive!) You can always carry on to Kyoto the following day when you’re more energised and refreshed 🙂 If you do decide to stay in Tokyo the first night, you can’t go wrong with Shibuya, Shinjuku or Shinagawa neighbourhoods as they are the major stations that will allow you to easily take the bullet train to Kyoto the next day.

      Regarding the train pass it really depends on your type of travel style; I really wanted to experience the Nozomi shinkansen and didn’t mind the extra cost. Mizuho trains are now also not covered by the pass so you may need to weigh up how much money vs travel time you will be saving on your trip if you buy the pass in advance. Personally, I purchased my tickets a day or two in advance and not during peak times so I didn’t really have to line up 🙂 I hope this helps and I hope you have an unforgettable trip!

  14. Avatar

    Your itinerary fits perfectly for a trip I wish to do next year to see cherry blossom. Thanks you for sharing it. I hope if booking in advance the price of hotel will be lower. I don’t mind to stay in hostel.

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks, Thibe! Glad you like the itinerary 🙂 Definitely book in advance because the cherry blossom season is one of the busiest times in Japan!

  15. Avatar

    Fantastic post, thank you for the wonderful insight. We are traveling for two weeks in July, arriving into KIX with plans of a week in Kyoto and week in Tokyo with day trips you’ve mentioned above. I would like to see Osaka and enjoy the food scene there. Would you recommend starting with a night in Osaka before heading to Kyoto or should we go straight to Kyoto and visit Osaka on a day trip? Thanks!

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks for your lovely compliment, Joe! A week in both Tokyo and Kyoto would be perfect if you’re also doing day trips. It depends what time you arrive in Osaka, if it’s late afternoon I’d suggest just staying there the night so you can take your time, enjoy a great dinner and be refreshed for the next day. But if it’s earlier in the day you may wish to go straight to Kyoto as it’s only about 15mins travel on the Nozomi shinkansen. I am currently working on my Osaka itinerary so please check back soon 🙂 I hope you have a great trip and enjoy Japan!

  16. Avatar
    Lucinda

    My husband had business in Himeji so I travelled along with him and extended our time in Japan to 17 days. Your suggestions were immensely helpful as I had only a few weeks notice before leaving. We flew into Osaka via Tokyo from the US and traveled by bus to Himeji. Such a beautiful city to explore and navigation was easy as we stayed at the Hotel Monterey, near Himeji Station. Of course we visited Himeji Castle but also Mount Shosha and Engyōji temple. From there, we used your Kyoto itinerary as a guide, staying in a new boutique hotel called Karasuma Oike Hotel grandreverie … highly recommend as the room was large (330 sq. ft.) and the staff super-helpful. The BEST thing was the theater performance you recommended called Gear! We explored Gion, the Golden Pavilion, Fushimi Inari (climbed the entire path to the top), Bamboo Forest (escaped the crowds to tour the lovely Ōkōchi Sansō gardens), Nishiki Market and much more. Then on to Tokyo for three days, staying at the Dormy Inn in Shibuya. I think we stood at the crossing for an hour, taking time-lapse videos and people watching! We stumbled upon an English led tour of the Imperial Palace before a trip to the Tokyo Skytree to watch the sunset followed by the sparkling lights of the city.

    Finding your blog and the helpful suggestions was a blessing. I plan to keep reading here to discover our next trip, wherever that may take us! Thank you, Alyse ?

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Lucinda, this is possibly the most lovely compliment about my blog I have received to date – thank you so much for your kind words! So happy to hear you thoroughly enjoyed “Gear” – it’s such a wonderful performance, isn’t it?! Sounds like your trip was magical, and good on you for getting out there and seeing the other things this itinerary hasn’t covered as well (a few of the attractions you saw are on my list for when I next visit Japan!). From what I can tell, you really made the most of your visit which means if I’ve inspired even one person such as yourself then setting up this blog has achieved it purpose. Thanks again and hope to see you back here soon 🙂 🙂

  17. Avatar

    Love this itinerary! I’m off to Japan in Feb and a little anxious about planning to make sure we make the most of our trip so this is a great help! We are considering doing the tour backwards to leave time at the end to explore Tokyo (and not have to carry a bunch of stuff around if we buy lots of souvenirs!). So we’re thinking may be do one day/night in Tokyo (since we arrive at 6am) then head off to Kyoto on day 2. Is there any reason we shouldn’t do it this way?

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thank you, Beth! So glad you’ve found this Japan itinerary helpful 🙂 I absolutely see no reason at all why you shouldn’t do this itinerary backwards, in fact I think it’s a great idea! Especially since you’ve decided to just spend one night in Tokyo to start with, allowing you enough time to get settled without having to rush. If you like shopping you are going to LOVE Tokyo, and I always like to say if you can’t find what you’re looking for in Japan’s capital, it probably doesn’t exist! Haha. I hope you have an incredible trip and thanks for your comment 🙂

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      So glad you found this helpful, Rafal 🙂

  18. Avatar

    Alyse, this is such a helpful blog and itinerary. We are planning on a 2 week trip in May and I’m struggling with adding BOTH Takayama and Kanazawa to Tokyo/Hakone/Hiroshima/Miyajima/Kyoto, departing from Kansei airport to China. What are your thoughts re those two cities….and also thoughts re doing only carryon vs moving around with a medium checkin size bag (we will be travelling for six weeks total!)

    Thanks!

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks so much, Reenie! Really happy you found my itinerary helpful 🙂
      I had that dilemma as well when I was planning, too! They are both significant cities to visit in Japan but I figured I would spend more time in Kanazawa and Takayama on a separate trip to Japan to avoid rushing around. It depends on your travel style though, I personally prefer to dedicate more time to discovering a city, I understand everyone is different. But if that’s not an option for you, you could definitely make it work for this trip by spending less days in Tokyo and Kyoto, and maybe skipping Nara and use that time in Kanazawa and Takayama instead!
      Like you, I travelled the entire two weeks with a suitcase (not carry-on) and had absolutely no issues. Staying in hotels means they can hold your bag for you so you don’t need to lug it around, and by taking the less crowded (and not touristy) Nozomi shinkansen meant there was always room for our luggage. If you’re using the JR pass and Nozomi bullet trains aren’t an option for you, if possible try to transit outside of peak hours so you don’t need to worry about space for your luggage 🙂
      I hope that helps and you have an amazing trip!!

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