We spent 23 nights in Japan, it was the last stop on our 12-month Asian adventure, so we crammed in as much as we could, knowing that we could rest as much as we wanted too when we got home.
Osaka (3 nights), a really good place for your ‘introduction’ to Japan, slightly calmer than Tokyo and cheaper than most other places in Japan.
Hiroshima (2 nights), I didn’t have a clue what to expect, I certainly wasn’t expecting such a beautiful little city. If you only plan on seeing the WW2 memorials then you can easily do Hiroshima in a day trip, getting the 1st and last trains from Osaka or Kyoto.
Kobe/Himeji (2 nights), only 20 minutes from each other we stayed in Kobe to save lumping our backpacks around, but if you have longer, both cities are worth your time.
Kyoto (4 nights), just not enough, I could have stayed her forever, Kyoto was by far my favourite place in Japan. We included a day trip to Nara from Kyoto.
Takayama (2 Nights), my second favourite place in Japan, not too touristy and totally traditional. You could do this in 1 night if you plan it well.
Mt Fuji (2 nights), probably the reason you always wanted to visit Japan, if the weather is right then Mt Fuji lives up to all expectations. There’s plenty to keep you busy for days on end, but it’s also a really easy day trip option from Tokyo if you’re on a shorter itinerary.
Yokohama (2 nights), Tokyo’s smaller, cuter next-door neighbour. Only 25 minutes on the train from Tokyo is perfect for a night out along the impressive sea front skyline.
Katsuta (2 nights), one of the more laidback areas we visited, it’s a beautiful seaside town but if your tight for time, there are more impressive places to visit.
Tokyo (4 nights), you could spend a full week here and still not see everything this mega-city has to offer, I’ve been lucky enough to visit 3 times now and I’m still discovering new things.
If you only have 2 weeks to see Japan, then it’s easy to shave days off this itinerary and still see a good mix of modern vs old and city vs nature. If you skip Katsuta and do Mt Fuji as a day trip from Tokyo you’ve already saved 4 nights. Whatever you do, don’t skip Takayama, it’s a little bit of a pain to get to but it’s such an amazing insight into ‘traditional’ Japan.
One week is still enough to see the countries highlights, spend half the week in Tokyo (3 days) on the other half in Kyoto (4 days), try to cram in as many day trips as you can, the JR pass and the super speed trains really make this possible, though you’ll need to plan it well and make the most out of your time. Form Tokyo take a trip to Mt Fuji and from Kyoto take a trip to Nara, Osaka and Hiroshima, the last one will be a long day but it’s worth it.
If you only have a day or two in between meeting or as an extra-long layover, its best to stay in Tokyo, chances are you’ll be flying through either of the major airports there anyway. Tokyo has enough to keep you busy during your whole stay and it’s enough to give you a feel for the rest of the county, you’ll certainly want to visit again.
What’s your perfect Japan itinerary?