2 Weeks in Japan: Sample Itinerary
2 Weeks in Japan
One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “So I’ve got 2 weeks in insert country here what should I see and do?”
In this, our newest addition to our popular itinerary series, we give you a fantastic sample itinerary for 2 Weeks in Japan. This itinerary begins in Tokyo, where most travellers, whether seeking culture, cuisine, or shopping will begin their adventure through the unique and culturally rich island nation of Japan.
Of course, this sample itinerary is just a guide and depending on what type of traveller you are, you can modify this to suit your own style.
Not only was Japan the very first country that we travelled to on our round-the-world trip, but remains to this day one of our all-time favourite places.
Cities like Tokyo and Osaka are modern, fast paced and futuristic with endless things to do day and night. Kyoto on the other hand, offers beautiful gardens, temples and rich cultural experiences that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
If you are lucky enough to have more than 2 weeks in Japan then you should definitely plan on spending more time exploring the Tokyo area, Kobe, Hokkaido, and/or Iga where ninjutsu is said to have started.
For an in-depth guide to Japan make sure to check out our Backpacking Japan on a Budget Guide which shows you how to travel around the country while on a tight budget.
2 Week Itinerary
Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nagano
Days 1-3: Tokyo
- Begin your trip by heading straight to the Shibuya area to see the world famous Shibuya Crossing. The best views are from the second level of Starbucks so grab an overpriced latte and enjoy the incredible people watching. If time permits, check out one of the cat cafes near the crossing for something wonderfully strange.
- Find your way to the colourful Shinjuku area where you can shop, eat and even hit some baseballs at an indoor batting cage! We highly recommend dinner at the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku’s Red Light District which should be the most fun you have in Tokyo. Check out our photo tour to preview the psychedelic techno cabaret.
- Wake up very early (or pull an all-nighter like we did) and get to the Tsukiji Fish Market’s information office by 3:30 am to lineup for the world’s largest tuna auction. Afterward enjoy some of the freshest sushi you’ll ever have at one of the food stalls before exploring what mysterious ocean creatures are for sale in the winding lanes of one of Tokyo’s greatest attractions.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, find a restaurant that specializes in the legendary fugu (blowfish) and try a bit of the fish that if not cut and prepared the right way by the sushi chef, could kill you! Read about our experiences trying some in this post.
- If you’re in Tokyo on a Sunday, make sure to head to Harajuku to see check out the guys and girls dressed up in cosplay outfits as well as the rockabillies dancing and lip syncing to fifties music.
- If time permits, head to Tokyo Disney or Disney Sea during the day or at night (discount rates apply after 6 pm) for a familiar but totally strange experience.
- Keep an eye on the Grand Sumo website to see if a sumo tournament is going on in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan during your travels. Check out our post on our experience watching a sumo tournament in Tokyo.
- If you are there during the right time of year, you should try and climb Mount Fuji. Check out this website for more information on hiking Japan’s most iconic volcano.
- Check out our photo tour of Tokyo to charge up your wanderlust!
Where to stay: 1 Night 1980 Capsule Hostel – $20 USD pp per night (private capsule)
Days 4-6: Kyoto
- Wake up early and head to Arashiyama district where you can check out the stunning Bamboo Groves and the beautiful gardens and shrines in the area. Afterward make your way east to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji (Zen Rock Garden) and Nijo Castle.
- After breakfast the next day head to Fushimi Inari-taisha and walk through thousands of red tori gates in arguably Kyoto’s most famous shrine. Next travel on to the Gion, Higashiyama area where you will stroll through one of the prettiest and oldest areas of Kyoto and hopefully spot a Geisha walking between appointments.
- If you are there during the right season, make sure to head out in the evening to one of the Geisha performances. Check out this website for more information.
- If you’re looking for something different to do than temple hop, head to Toei Kyoto Studio Park and tour through the movie studios.
- Find yourself a local karaoke bar and then drink and sing the night away with locals.
- Check out our photo tour of Kyoto to help charge your wanderlust.
Where we stayed: Piece Hostel – $52 USD per night (private room, breakfast and shared washroom)
Days 7: Nara
- Wake up early and jump on the train and head south to the town of Nara (for a day trip) which is famous for the hundreds of deer that roam through the town.
- Head to Todai-ji, which houses a 15 m high bronze Buddha statue, the second biggest Buddha in Japan along with many other holy statues.
- Check out Kofuku-ji which is one of the tallest pagodas in Japan. If you have time, check out Nara National Museum which houses some of Japan’s top Buddhist artwork.
- Walk around the town site, grab some biscuits and feed the deer who run wild throughout Nara.
- In the evening take the train back to Kyoto.
Where we stayed: Piece Hostel – $52 USD per night (private room, including breakfast & shared washroom)
Days 8: Hiroshima
- Wake up early, jump on the train and head west to Hiroshima for a day trip.
- Spend the afternoon, wandering the grounds and learning about the most devastating bomb to have ever been dropped in human history at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
- If you’re in Japan during the baseball season, make sure to check out a game. Check out this post which talks about our awesome experience at a Hiroshima Carps game.
- In the evening jump back on the train and head back to Kyoto.
Where we stayed: Piece Hostel – $52 USD per night (private room, included A/C and hot shower)
Days 9-10: Osaka
- Spend your first evening exploring the restaurants and shops under the neon lights of Dotonbori.
- Check out the Osaka Castle, known as one of the prettiest in Japan.
- Spend a few hours in one of the world’s biggest and best aquariums.
- Make sure to try some Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake, known in Osaka as soul food!
Where we stayed: Hotel Lucky – $15 USD per night (private room, shared bath)
Days 11-13: Nagano
- Wake up early, grab a tea and get yourself on a train heading to the beautiful mountain town of Nagano.
- If you have time and ability, stop off in Matsumoto and check out one of the most stunning castles in all of Japan.
- Spend at least two hours exploring Zenkoji Temple with is one of Japan’s most popular.
- Wake up early and head back to the train station where you’ll make your way to Jigokudani Monkey Park to visit Nagano’s most famous hot spring bathing residents, the snow monkeys.
- Make sure to check out our photo tour of the Snow Monkeys.
- Head to one of the local onsens (hot springs) and experience why the locals swear by the healing waters and make it part of the weekly ritual.
- Splurge on a night in traditional Ryokan while in Nagano (see where we stayed below). We loved the hospitality and tradition. Also a great place to try out Kaiseki, painstakingly artful and delicious traditional cuisine.
Where we stayed: Matsuya Ryokan – $108 USD per night (private room, hot shower, private onsen)
Day 14: To the Airport
- Fly back home or onward to your next destination!
Ross & Alyse
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