A 2 week Japan itinerary that has you covered! Japan offers a really unique holiday experience. Whether you look to explore ultra modern cities with cutting edge technology, rich culture and history, a diverse culinary experience, beaches, mountains and world class skiing and snowboarding, cities and countryside, this 2 week Japan itinerary has you covered.
It was never hard for me to pick my favourite thing about Japan. The Japanese people would have to be the kindest and genuinely considerate collective group I think I’ve ever encountered travelling. The funny thing is, it’s not uncommon to be approached by locals offering assistance, but it my experience it’s uncommon to be approached regularly! Our first evening in Japan on board a local train from the airport, an elderly Japanese businessman made his way to the exit as the train slowed to stop. Before he left though, he made a turn and approached us. He slowly spoke in English “I wish you a pleasant stay in Japan”…. awwwww it melted my heart. It didn’t stop there, we were approached many more times with well wishes, or offers of assistance, even when they couldn’t speak English there was still a major attempt to help!
Anyway, go for the culture, the food and the beautiful scenery but do take time to connect with the locals, they are pure magic. Here is my 2 week Japan itinerary, it will keep you on your toes but it’s doable! Take longer if you want to go at a slower pace.
How to get around
The best way to cover some ground in Japan is on the fast train network. Booking ahead will save you some cash making it very affordable. As an Australian traveller, I found Japan Travel to be cheapest place to buy my rail pass in Australia. The 7 day pass was $300 (now about $380) which seems like a bargain when you consider unlimited use for 7 days including use of the local train networks within cities. Especially when comparing the cost of flying in Australia! For the additional 3 days not covered by the pass, we used the subway system in Tokyo which wasn’t too expensive, never more than about $5 a day.
This guide has been set up in a way for you to maximise your time as part of a 2 week Japan itinerary.
How to get there
Tokyo is the largest city and where the majority of international flights will be flying into. I have based this itinerary from a Tokyo arrival.
From Australia watch out for regular Jetstar sales. If you are lucky you may score 2 for 1 flights like I did.
Start your 10 day adventure in Tokyo. Stay at least 3 days to get your bearings, to take in the sights and recover from your jetlag!
Tsukji Fish Market
The Tsukji Fish Market is a great place to kick start your time in Tokyo. The market opens early (around 5am), get there early when the atmosphere is at its peak to see all the action when the early bird gets the best seafood! The market wraps up about midday.
Possibly the busiest intersection in the world, but most definitely the busiest intersection in Japan, Shibuya Crossing is something to be experienced in person. But if the thought of the crowds bring you to a state of anxiety – there’s always L’Occitane Cafe (or a nearby Starbucks if you’re desperate) to see the crowds from above. Our little break at L’Occitane Cafe is captured below.
The Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Imperial family (aka the Emperor and his extended family). There’s not a whole lot you can see without pre-booking for a guided tour so its highly recommended.
There’s a famous story you may have heard about a professor who’s dog would follow him to work every day and wait at Shibuya Station. When the man died, his dog would return to Shibuya Station every day for 10 years until he too passed. A statue in Hachiko’s honour now stands in Shibuya Station in honour of the sweet pup. Knowing the story behind this statue made the Hachiko Statue my mum’s highlight of Day 2 in Tokyo!
Another unique Japanese experience would have to be seeing a sumo match. While it can be a little hard to get tickets it’s definitely worth it. You can purchase tickets online before you travel through the Ticket Oosumo website or same day at the stadium.
Metropolitan Government Building
For panoramic views of the city, the observation desk of the Metropolitan Government Building offers free entry from the 45th floor. Go on your last day in the city to pick out your favourite landmarks of Tokyo.
In recent years, themed cafes seem to have become an emerging trend in the past few years. Anything from animals (think cafes where you can interact with animals like cats, goats, hedgehogs, owls) or see robots, get cuddles. These weird cafes seem to becoming a more common place to visit while in Tokyo.
Day trips from Tokyo
Take the train for free look out over the city and to Mt Fuji if its a clear day.
The city of Hiroshima is most commonly known for its bombing and destruction during World War II, even today the city remembers its history through beautiful memorial parks and informative museums. Hiroshima is a five hour fast train ride from Tokyo – about 45 mins into the trip, on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji on your right hand side of the train.
I recommend spending at least 1.5 to two days in Hiroshima to see all the history and parks of the city as well as include a day trip to Miyajima Island.
Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is a significant feature within the city. At 120,000 m2, the park is hard to miss! It includes beautiful paths, trees and gardens.
Peace Memorial Museum
Wandering through the paths of the Peace Memorial Park will lead you to the Peace Memorial Museum. You’ll be deeply moved by the displays which capture the suffering and recounts of the nuclear bombing.
Children’s Peace Monument
If you were anything like me, in school you may have learnt about a healthy little girl from Hiroshima who developed leukaemia following World War II. In hospital she folded paper cranes as she believed it would make her feel better. After eight months of fighting sadly young Sadako lost her life. Following her death, Sadako’s death triggered a campaign to acknowledge the children who lost their lives after being exposed to the A-bomb. Every year 10 million cranes are collected for the monument.
A-Bomb Dome or as it’s also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial was an industrial building bombed and one of the only buildings left standing. The memorial is a constant visual reminder of Hiroshima’s past.
Less than an hour’s train and ferry ride from Hiroshima’s city centre, you’ll discover Miyajima Island. Miyajima or ‘Shrine’ Island is most commonly known for the giant red torri gate which appears to float on the water just off shore. It also features a number of over-friendly deer, temples and a series of hikes with stunning views towards Hiroshima.
While the island isn’t all that big, if you are fit and active you could take one of the three hiking trials up Mount Misen. The views are simply stunning and you can rest in the restaurant on top of Mount Misen and catch the Ropeway down.
While everyone has their favourite Japanese city for different reasons, mine without a doubt is Kyoto. Kyoto is a city of history, culture and has easy access to some beautiful natural features.
By train you can access Kyoto from Hiroshima in about 2.5 hours. I recommend basing yourself in Kyoto for at least four days, more if you’d like to go at a leisurely pace.
My highlight for Kyoto was travelling out to see the Bamboo Grove. Access to the Bamboo Grove is free, and you can pay for the bus or use your rail pass to get there for free. The Bamboo Grove is located in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, about 45 mins outside of the city. Get there early for insta-worthy shots.
Gion is known as Kyoto’s entertainment district. It is also the best place to spot Geisha.
Southern Higashiyama has many with cultural buildings and landmarks. Spend a few hours walking along the base of the mountains, flowing narrow streets and taking in the historic Kyoto street scape. My personal favourites include Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) and Yasaka Pagoda.
Sitting at the base of the Higashiyama Mountains, Northern Higashiyama is less busy than Southern Higashiyama. It contains a number of significant temples, shrines and other cultural landmarks including Nanzen-ji Buddhist Temple, National Museum of Modern Art, Tetsugaku-no-Michi (Path of Philosophy) and Eikan-so temple.
Nearby day trips
There are a number of day trips you can take from Kyoto. Some of the popular day trips you can do to make use of your rail pass would have to be Osaka, Kobe and Nara.
With the time we had available we opted to see Nara after reading about the Giant Buddha, more temples, and a little town filled with deer – need I say more!
While I can’t recommend visiting Japan enough, there will be some people who find it challenging and possibly very overwhelming. In a 2013 Japanese survey, over 70% of Japanese people claim they can’t speak English. For the less experienced, this might be a bit daunting and if you rely on communicating in English to get around!
And finally, it’s a surprise to many people (mostly Australians who live in an endless summer), that cherry blossoms bloom in the spring, during March-April. It can be hard to time your visit as warmer or cooler seasons and wet weather can all impact the timing of cherry blossoms and how long they stay in bloom.
This 2 week itinerary of Japan includes everything you need to know about planning your Japan holiday. More travel in Asia here.