Japan sure is one of the most incredible countries in the world and spending 2 weeks in Japan was simply not enough for us. That's why, every year, we return to Japan to explore its off the beaten paths which we love so much. We like learning about its less known districts and cities. We believe that Japan is the best place in the world and we are certain you are going to enjoy your initial 2 weeks in Japan. After spending several months in the country and briefly living in Tokyo, we decided to share with you our comprehensive guide on how to create your perfect 2 weeks in Japan itinerary. So let's start planning:
Table of Contents
2 Weeks In Japan Itinerary
Your 2 weeks in Japan itinerary should include several day trips from your base cities. We included what we loved the most about Japan and what we would recommend to any first-timers.
Day 1: Tokyo
Immerse yourself in Tokyo’s most vibrant district.
Head to Shinjuku and get to feel what Tokyo is all about: crazy neon ads, crowds, signs and music everywhere. Shinjuku is such cool neighbourhood because it shows Tokyo from so many angles. It has the Shinjuku Goyen Park, which is an immense green space with a pon and countless cherry blossoms. It will give you a great overview of how a Japanese zen garden really looks like. Then, just a few minutes walk away you can find yourself in Asia’s largest red district where everything looks a little dodgy but charming at the same time. Then Shinjuku’s skyscraper district is full of impressive buildings which offer killer views of the city. You can even go in the Metropolitan Government Building for free to photograph Tokyo from above. It’s the best first day in Tokyo anyone could ask for. Let the 2 weeks Japan itinerary begin!
Head over to Shinjuku Goyen to get over your jet lag and enjoy a lovely morning stroll in the park. Photograph the countless cherry trees and sit down on one of the benches to relax before your awesome, activity-packed 2 weeks in Japan itinerary.
Tip: There are lots of vending machines everywhere in Tokyo. Grab a hot tea from one of them, and head over to a picnic area to enjoy a nice Japanese cup of tea surrounded by beautiful nature.
This is Asia’s largest red district where things can get seriously steamy. You should watch but not touch. And hey, why don’t you read more about 18+ activities in Tokyo if you want something tailored for adults only.
Have a look at Tokyo from above entirely free of charge. Just make sure you bring your camera with you so you can seriously photograph this beautiful city. A sea of colours and lights, right?
Day 2 - Tokyo
Today is all about eating your way around Tokyo.
Start the day as early as possible with a visit to the famed Tsukiji Market. You will have a chance to indulge in fresh seafood caught just hours before. Just make sure to be respectful of the rules and regulations around. As a tip, if you wake up super early, you can visit the Tuna Auction which is open to a handful of visitors only. Alternatively, just meander around and buy lots of street food from various vendors.
Head over to Yoyogi Park so you can visit the gorgeous Meiji Shrine. There are many Japanese traditional weddings held at Meiji and very likely you will be able to see one as well. Just photograph from afar and be respectful. Check out Yoyogi massive wooden Torii gate, before heading to the Sake wall where there are many sake barrels stored right in the park.
Time to have some colourful food in Harajuku, especially on Takeshita street. You can purchase silly merchandise as well as crazy pancakes: my favourite Tokyo food. Crazy pancakes are rolled pancakes cones filled with cream, cakes and ice cream. On Takeshita Street you will also find colourful popcorn and a multilayered candy floss with various tastes and you guessed it: colours!
Head over to Tokyu Plaza in Omotesando Hills and go to the top floor where there is an open-air garden. That's where all the cool kids go to chill and enjoy vires of the city. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from this terrace.
End the day with an evening stroll on Omotesando Hills, where you can shop, or just admire the lit up boulevard.
Day 3 - Tokyo
Crossing to the spiritual side of Tokyo
Senso-Ji is one of the oldest temples in Tokyo, located in the districts of Asakusa. The entry to the Senso-Ji is entirely free of charge. You should also draw an omikuji, a Japanese fortune telling paper strip.
From Senso-Ji, make your way around Asakusa, which is known to be a great district for affordable shopping. You can find many souvenirs in the area.
Head over to Shibuya and feel Tokyo’s most vibrant crossing in the world. Cross the pedestrian scramble a few times and immerse yourself in one of Tokyo’s most alive corners. You can photograph it from above from a nearby Starbucks or from the train station. There plenty more to do in Shibuya, including fun shopping and excellent dining options.
If shopping is your best friend, then Ginza will not disappoint. Ginza is the fashion district in Tokyo, lined with high-end boutiques which look especially stunning during night time. Visit during the weekend when the whole shopping street becomes open for pedestrians only.
Accommodation in Tokyo
Shinjuku is usually the prefered accommodation for first-time travellers. I tend to agree, although I personally prefer the quieter quarters of Chiyoda. As long as you are close to a subway station, it's rather difficult to get it wrong in Tokyo. Whether you are a budget, midrange or luxury traveller, we curated our favourite accommodation in Tokyo to make sure you are comfortable and enjoy your stay. Alternatively, please check where to stay in Tokyo for more options in other, quieter neighbourhoods.
Budget: The Millennials Shibuya
The Millennials Shibuya is located just 400 metres away from the famed Shibuya crossing. Each room comes with shared bathroom and free toiletries. A very nice buffet service is served each morning at the property and it is included in the price. The rooms are super clever and can be used as day lounges as well bedrooms due to the reclining capability of your bed. Prices started from £23 per night.
Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com
Mid-range: Citadines Central Shinjuku Tokyo
Citadines Central Shinjuku Tokyo is located right in downtown Kabukicho with super easy access to all transport links. It features large and clean rooms with free internet and a coin-operated laundrette. This is a 4-star hotel which is very well priced for Tokyo and couples particularly enjoy this location and hotel.As a tip, you should try and ask for the rooms on the top floors as they have amazing views over the city.
Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com
Luxury: Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is a 5 star hotel located in Shinjuku Skyscraper district. This can only mean one thing: amazing views over Tokyo. The comfortable rooms all come with free wifi and 21 dining options. You can enjoy a fitness centre, swimming pools, convenience stores and even a business centre. The hotel also provides a free shuttle to Tokyo Disney Resort. Unlike other luxury Tokyo hotels, Keio Plaza is actually really well priced, with rooms starting from just £150 per night.
Compare prices and read reviews, check: Booking.com
Day 4 - Nikko
Day out in Nikko
Located just a couple of hours away from Tokyo, Nikko is home to a variety of natural and cultural wonders. Although Nikko is known mainly for the Tōshō-gū shrine and the Kanman-ga-Fuchi Abyss park, in reality, there is a lot more about this place than meets the eye. I recommend heading into its mountains to fully discover what Nikko has to offer. Arrange a stay in a hotel with onsen.
Watanabe Sahei offers free tours of the Sake brewery in Nikko where you can sample some sake and learn about how this incredible Japanese beverage is produced. It’s a lot of fun and since it’s entirely free, all you have to do is to book in advance to ensure they have time to show you around. Totally worth it.
450 Imaichi, Nikko 321-1261, Tochigi Prefecture
A beautiful vermilion bridge in Nikko. You can take various photos of it, but note that you are not allowed to cross it. You can pay a small fee to stand on it and take a beautiful picture. Shinkyo bridge can only be crossed by the Royal Family.
Tōshō-Gū Shrine is a UNESCO Heritage Site and it belonged to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. This very well known shrine was once part of an amusement park. Back then, the entrance was free of charge and people from all over Japan came to visit the lavish decorations were subject to amusement, talk and admirations.
Address: 2301 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1431, Japan
Nikko Astraea Hotel
This 3-star hotel is located deep in the Japanese mountains. It will take a while to get to the hotel, but that is part of the fun. You will be able to enjoy incredible views from the tightest curves going up the mountain. Once at the hotel, make sure you soak in the onsen after the fantastic dinner this hotel has to offer.
Day 5 - Kyoto
Any 2 week in Japan itinerary should take you to Kyoto. Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan and was once the capital city. Incredibly well preserved, Kyoto remains one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Japan, with wooden houses, narrow streets where you can spot Geishas, and perfectly kept temples surrounded by zen gardens. Kyoto will definitely steal your heart.
Kyoto Station will sure look out of space when you think of the old, quaint city, Kyoto is meant to be. The Kyoto Station is a 14+ story building, which looks incredibly modern and has more facilities than many Western malls. Once you check in, I recommend spending some more time exploring the Kyoto Station. Partly because of the great shopping opportunities and partly because of the several floors dedicated to food establishments, which serve some of the best food you can possibly imagine.
Since you are in Kansai Area, head over to Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto’s kitchen. Here you can sample plenty of street food, including the unusual tako tamago (octopus on a stick with an egg in its head). It’s time to try matcha sweets and ice cream and taste Japanese fluffy pancakes and freshly prepared sushi. It’s a pretty great place to get introduced to Kyoto’s delicious cuisine.
Evenings are definitely perfect for exploring the gorgeous Gion. Gion is the Kyoto’s old entertainment quarters where you can reserve a Geisha show and enjoy the more alluring cultural aspect of Japan. Once you are finished, take a stroll on Shijo-Dori, a long street in Kyoto which starts from the Yasaka Shrine. It’s dotted with food establishments which offer free samples. Make sure you try everything and buy your favourites. It’s also a great place to grab dinner.
Day 6 - Kyoto
Start the morning with a trip to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. Make sure you arrive as early as possible to avoid crowds and be able to enjoy this beautiful alien world.
Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Admission Fee: FREE
There are various temples around Arashiyama which look absolutely stunning. I strongly recommend checking them out.
Okochi Sanso Villa
This beautiful villa is located in the back of Arashiyama's bamboo groves. With the entry fees you get a free matcha and a small dessert.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Admission: 1000 yen
This temple has a quiet and magical atmosphere. You can admire some incredible views of the nearby mountains.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Admission: 400 yen
Nisonin Temple is a hillside temple with slightly larger and imposing buildings. You can admire gorgeous views from this temple.
Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Admission: 500 yen
It is known for its moss garden that is punctuated with tall maple trees, so it looks most beautiful during Autumn.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Admission: 300 yen
Towards lunchtime, take the train to Fushimi Inari Shrine. From what I noticed, it’s best to visit Fushimi during the evening. The hike to the top and back is a loop and the further up you go, the fewer tourists you will encounter. The views are absolutely fantastic when you get to the Yotsutsuji intersection. You can admire a gorgeous sunset over Kyoto. That’s also a great coffee shop where you can grab a bite and a cup of green tea. I recommend having some snacks with you, but note there are several vending machines along the path so you can purchase water or tea if you need to hydrate.
Address: Japan, 〒612-0882 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Fushimi Ward, Fukakusa Yabunouchicho
Opening Times: 24/7
Admission Fee: FREE
Day 7 - Nara
Nara is a well known for its cute semi-wild deer which you can feed and photograph.
To get to Nara from Kyoto, you need to take the Shinkansen. The journey is short, about 45 minutes. Don't forget your JR Pass.
I love tea so much with matcha being one of my favourite types of green tea. Naturally, I wanted to stop in Uji, explore the old town and buy myself some authentic matcha from the birthplace of Japanese green tea. This stop is completely optional, but the Shinkansen stops in Uji anyway, so why not take a small detour and add another lovely place to your 2 weeks in Japan itinerary?
The park is home to hundreds of freely roaming cute deer. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara's nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. Please be careful when you feed them and know that they might chase you and even try to bite if they think you have food on you. So keep those biscuits well away from reach.
Horyuji is one of the country's oldest temples and contains the world's oldest surviving wooden structures. Definitely a must see whilst in Nara.
Address: 〒636-0115 Nara Prefecture, Ikoma District, Ikaruga, Horyuji Sannai, １−１
Opening times: 8:00 to 17:00 (until 16:30 from early November to late February)
Nara National Museum
Established in 1889, The Nara National Museum is one of the pre-eminent national art museums in Japan.
Address: Japan, 〒630-8213 Nara-ken, Nara-shi, Noboriōjichō
Opening times: 9:30 to 17:00 (extended hours on Fridays, Saturdays and other selected days); admission ends 30 minutes before closing
Admission: 520 yen (includes admission to both wings of the museum)
Tōdai-ji is a Buddhist temple complex that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. It is well known for its Great Buddha Hall which has the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana.
Address: 〒630-8211 Nara Prefecture, Nara, Zoshicho, ４０６−１
Opening times: 8:00 to 16:30 (November to February)
8:00 to 17:00 (March)
7:30 to 17:30 (April to September)
7:30 to 17:00 (October)
Admission: 500 yen
Address: 60 Noboriojicho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8213, Japan
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed: December 28 through February
Admission: 250 yen (free for foreign tourists)
Naramachi which translates to Nara town is the former merchant district of Nara. There are many shops, restaurants and boutiques all dotted around the quaint narrow alleyways.
Omizutori or Shunie is a series of events held annually from March 1 to 14 at Todaiji Temple. These Buddhist rituals have been held every year for over 1250 years, making it one of the oldest reoccurring Buddhist events in Japan.
Omizutori is held at Nigatsudo, a ten-minute walk from Todaiji Temple's main building.
The Wakakusa Yamayaki is matsuri (festival) during which the grass on the hillside of Nara's Mount Wakakusayama is set on fire. The festival takes place every year on the 4th Saturday of January and sometimes can be delayed depending on the weather. conditions.
Wakakusayama is located about a 10-15 minute walk from both Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Taisha.
Day 8 - Yoshino
Take the train from Nara to Yoshino, a small town located South of Nara, into the Japanese mountains. Yoshino is very special because it has been named as the top location for sakura blooms. This means Yoshino looks absolutely fabulous during Spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. There is a path up the mountain, which leads you through a town dotted with shops, boutiques, restaurants and shrines. Although a little commercial, the town itself looks fantastic. It can get a little busy during the cherry blossom festival, but with a little patience and a small trick I'm about to reveal, you will be able to take those fantastic pictures.
There isn't anything specific you need to do in Yoshino. This is a free day of exploring, photographic, admiring.
Here is what I strongly recommend though: buy your tickets to Yoshino in advance. This is because tickets can actually sell out, especially during the cherry blossom festival. Once you arrive at the Yoshino train station, start queuing to buy your return ticket. The trick? Buy them relatively late, for around 7 pm. Here's why: Yoshino gets mega crowded, but as you will notice, most people will arrive first thing in the morning and leave before the sunset. So after 4 - 5 PM, Yoshino becomes a bit of a ghost town. The shops and restaurants close, the tourists are all gone, and there is a deep and beautiful silence left for you to enjoy. Continue trailing up the mountain for quite some time, so you can enjoy views of the Yoshino from above. Once the sun starts setting, make your way back towards the train station. Stop along the way and take those pictures you couldn't during the busy times. You can also catch some beautiful pink mist just before sunset, as the clouds are coming in. It looks stunning!
Day 9 - Osaka
From Nara, take the Shinkansen to Osaka, first thing in the morning. The journey will take roughly an hour. Check-in and leave your luggage at the hotel, it's time to explore a new city.
Osaka is home to one of the world's biggest aquarium. I was most impressed with it. There is a seating area where you can relax and admire the whale sharks and myriad other sea creatures. It's definitely a must whilst in Osaka.
Address: 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 552-0022, Japan
Opening times: 10:00 to 20:00 (from 9:30 in May, Octomid-Julymid July to August); admission ends one hour before closing
Admission: 2300 yen
Osaka Ferris Wheel (Tempozan Ferris Wheel)
Located right next to the Aquarium, The Ferris Wheel will enable you to photograph parts of Osaka from above. It really looks stunning but note that it might give you a bit of vertigo. Even if you are not afraid of heights, it will still be a bit weird at times. Nonetheless, it's an experience I strongly recommend.
Opening times: 10:00 to 22:00 (entry until 21:30)
Admission: 800 yen
Osaka Castle is a beautiful Japanese style castle with a large park which covers about two square kilometres with lots of green space, sport facilities, a multi-purpose arena (Osakajo Hall). This is a popular hanami spot during the sakura season so it can get pretty busy. There are fantastic picture opportunities around, hence the Osaka Castle is not to be missed. For a fee, you can enter the castle which has been converted into a museum.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan
Opening times: 9:00 to 17:00 (entrance until 16:30); extended hours during various holidays and special exhibitions
Admission: 600 yen
Dōtonbori is the main tourist attraction in Osaka. This is a relatively large area which gets pretty colourful during night time. It's best to visit after sunset, but remember that it gets pretty crowded. There are lots of restaurants, with all sort of weirdly animated plastic statues. Here, you can find shops, boutiques and street vendors with some pretty epic food. It is a bit of a tourist trap, but one you must experience whilst in Osaka. It's also a great place to take a nighttime video, but as I said, keep your wits as it can get mega busy. Great restaurants have really long queues, so don't wait until you are super hungry to sit down and eat somewhere.
Address: Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0071, Japan
Day 10 - Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima)
Today is a rather long day trip from Osaka, all the way to Hiroshima's famed floating gate. The best way to get there is by Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station (about 1 hour 30 minutes to Hiroshima). To reach the ferry port from Hiroshima Station, take the JR Sanyo Line to Miyajimaguchi Station (25 minutes, 410 yen one way, covered by the Japan Rail Pass). From Miyajimaguchi Station, it is a short walk to the ferry pier, from where ferries depart frequently for Miyajima. Make sure you take the JR Ferry which is also covered by your JR Pass.
Miyajima is quite a large island, but its attractions are concentrated in two main areas: the small town around Itsukushima Shrine and Mount Misen.
I recommend spending the time around Itsukushima, where you can find more cute deer and plenty of narrow alleyways which have stores and restaurants. You can get some great street food and snacks from various vendors. Make sure to buy the Momoji Manju, which are maple leaf cakes filled with all sort of goodies, including custards, matcha and chocolate.
You should check the tide timetable before your visit to ensure you reach the shrine during your preferred time. For the floating effect, you need to arrive during high tide. If you wish to go close to the gate, then make sure you arrive during low tide.
Day 11 - Himeji (And Kobe)
You didn't think I was going to omit a visit to the Himeji Castle, now did you? Well of course not. When I went to the Himeji, I got there during a rainy day. I honestly thought this will seriously affect my visit, but instead, it was pretty glorious. There were fewer tourists around and more pictures opportunities. Himeji looks pretty grandiose during the sakura season, so of course, that is one of the best times to visit. You can photograph a glimpse of the castle through branches of Sakura. Himeji is also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance. Himeji Castle is a UNESCO heritage site.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 from late April through August)
Admission ends one hour before closing
Admission Fee: 1000 yen (castle only)
1040 yen (castle and nearby Kokoen Garden)
Once you finish with your Himeji Castle visit, I recommend taking a stroll back towards the train station, but by taking the narrow market street in parallel with the main boulevard. You might even find some great ramen restaurants around.
On the way back to Osaka, you can make a brief stop in Kobe. Kobe is well known for its multicultural scene as well as its fantastic Kobe beef. Kobe beef is rather expensive but it's one of those experiences once must have whilst in Japan. Very close to the train station you can hike to the Nunobiki Falls, a group of 4 waterfalls significant in Japanese art, accessible by wooded hiking trail.
Depending on how late it is, I actually recommend not sleeping in Osaka, but taking your luggage and making your way back to Tokyo as late in the evening as possible. The journey is close to 4 hours so make sure you arrive back to Tokyo just in time to get a good night sleep.
Day 12 - Lake Kawaguchi (Mount Fuji)
This day can go two ways. If you didn't return to Tokyo the previous night, then you probably will spend most of the day getting back to Tokyo, checking and taking it easy. If that's the case, I recommend spending the rest of the day exploring Tokyo at your own pace. There is plenty to do, so you won't get bored, I promise.
If you arrived back to Tokyo the previous night, then I recommend taking a day trip to the Five Lakes to see Mount Fuji. You want to travel from Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchi, which offers fantastic vistas of the mountain. Take the JR Chuo Line from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Otsuki Station (70 minutes, about 2500 yen by direct limited express train or 100 minutes, 1320 yen by local trains with usually one transfer along the way). From Otsuki, take the Fujikyu Railway Line to Kawaguchiko Station (55 minutes, 1140 yen one way). The Japan Rail Pass and other JR passes are not valid between Otsuki and Kawaguchiko.
Take a long walk around the lake, admire the beautiful mountains and ultimately spend some time admiring the gorgeous Mount Fuji. There are plenty of restaurants around, but I recommend a stop at the Ogino supermarket, which has lots of food, bakery items and plenty of snacks. We bought bags full of food to have snacks on the train back to Tokyo.
Day 13 - Snow Monkey Pass
You can, of course, enjoy a relaxing day around Tokyo, or you can join the adventure to the Snow Monkey Pass in Nagano. You will have to take the train from Tokyo to Nagano, then change to a local line on your way to Yodanaka. From there, you will have to take a bus to the Snow Monkey Pass, then hike to the park itself, through a beautiful forested path.
Is it worth it? I'd say so. The journey is actually pretty seamless, and not at all as complicated as it sounds. Once you get to the park, you can stay there as long as you wish, and photograph the cute snow monkeys bathing in the onsen. Many stop in Yudanaka for a quick trip around Shibu Onsen. The town looks pretty amazing. If you want, you can even spend the night in one of the ryokans and enjoy a well-deserved bath in the onsen. You can check how to use an onsen here.
Day 14 - Airport
Your 2 weeks in Japan have come to an end, and I'm sure by now you can't wait to start making plans for another Japan itinerary. I just came back from a trip to this beautiful country and I am already missing it so much. There is so much we are yet to discover, and as you probably guessed, Japan sure changed my life forever.
End your 2 weeks in Japan by making your way to the airport. I really hope you had the best of travel times. Did you enjoy our comprehensive guide on how to plan 2 weeks in Japan? Please let us know in the comments section below.