Japan is a fascinating destination that has much to offer. When you have just 2 weeks in Japan you will have to make choices. We spent 3 weeks in Japan and even then we had to skip certain destinations. We recommend spending 3 weeks in Japan if you can but we know that this is not always possible. That’s why we compiled this 14 days Japan travel itinerary based on the highlights and the things we loved the most during our Japan itinerary. We want to inspire you with this 2 week Japan itinerary and hope you will love your Japan trip as much as we did.
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Best time to visit Japan
It is difficult to specify one particular season as the best to visit all of Japan. The best season will depend on the region you’re going, the activities you want to experience and the things you want to see. But in general spring and autumn come to mind for a trip through Japan. There is little rainfall, overall pleasant temperatures, and clear skies. The stunning cherry blossoms are a real tourist attraction in spring and the vivid hues of the autumn leaves ensure a colorful experience in autumn. Here is some more information about the different season and some specific regions.
Spring is an excellent season to visit Japan as early in spring the cherry blossoms (Sakura) will start appearing in Southern Japan. They start blossoming in the South and gradually make their way Northwards. It is a natural event so the exact blossoming period is different each year but the Japanese tourist board keeps predictions on its website.
Spring is also the most touristy season. The Sakura not only draws tourists from all over the world but also Japanese go crazy over this yearly event.
Late April and early May also marks the “Golden Week”, a week with 4 Japanese holidays in which many Japanese take a local trip.
We found it was still OK in terms of crowds but we definitely advise to book your accommodation well upfront because the prices go through the roof.
Over summer the temperatures can rise up to 35 degrees Celsius but it may feel even hotter due to the humidity. Big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka become uncomfortably hot. June and July is also the rainy season. The rainy season ends by the end of July but the days continue to be hot and humid and generally unpleasant if you’re not used to this kind of weather.
During August and September, you also have the biggest risk of seeing (part of) your travel plans ruined by a typhoon. Hokkaido is the only region in Japan that escapes the stifling heat. Here you have mild temperatures all summer long.
During summer Japanese organize a number of popular festivals (called ‘Matsuri’). Each festival is different but they’re all very brisk and impressive.
Autumn is another lovely option to discover Japan. Colorful autumn leaves, known as Koyo in Japanese, draw just as many visitors in autumn as the cherry blossoms do during spring. The best time to view the colorful foliage is subject to weather conditions and, as Japan is surprisingly vast, it also differs greatly between the various regions. The Japanese tourist board has an overview of the best times to visit the popular Koyo spots.
It starts to get cooler by the end of September. October offers pleasant temperatures slightly above 20 degrees Celsius. November tends to be somewhat cooler but thanks to the clear blue and sunny skies it is still a lovely month to travel.
Winter in Japan is a time for snow sports in Hokkaido but it is low season in most other regions in Japan. Temperatures range from cool to cold, there may be some snowfall in and around Tokyo in January and February but the snow usually melts as soon as it falls.
Mt. Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain, can be best viewed on a clear day from Hakone. The cooler months offer the best chance of seeing the volcanic mountain. The biggest chance to see the mountain in all its glory is from November to February. March, April, and October also offer reasonably good chances of a complete view but during the other months, your chances are slim.
The season to climb Mt. Fuji is July to mid-September when the mountain is generally snow free.
Yudanaka Snow Monkeys
The Yudanaka Snow Monkeys are so cute if you can see them bathe in their hot springs. They take these baths to warm up which means you have to plan your visit during the colder months. Winter is without any doubt the best season but early spring is still OK as long as you make sure you go early in the day.
We went late March, first thing in the morning, and could still catch a few monkeys in the hot springs.
Okinawa has a subtropical and humid climate. Summers are hot and wet with temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius, in the winter months, the day temperature on these islands still reaches a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius. Often called the Hawaii of Japan this place is popular for snorkeling. The water temperatures range from about 18 degrees Celsius in winter to 29 degrees during summer.
Japan travel tips
If you want to score cheap flights to Japan we advise you to have a look at Momondo and Skyscanner. Both are flight aggregators that compare several hundreds of booking sites and give you an overview of the best flights and the cheapest sites to book them.
Momondo and Skyscanner are both very good at finding good deals, of the two, Momondo is probably the one with the most intuitive user interface.
Those who are always on the lookout for the best deals should join the Dollar Flight Club. Joining is free and once you’ve joined you will get alerts in your mailbox whenever cheap flights out of your home airport have been found.
I recently joined the club and already saw some incredible deals. Joining is free and it can literally save you thousands of dollars.
Expenses abroad can be seriously inflated by fees from your bank or credit card. That’s why I’m a huge fan of my N26 account. The account is available to most EU residents. The checking account is free as well as the associated Mastercard and there’s no exchange rate provision when you use to card for payments abroad. There’s a 1,7% exchange rate provision when you withdraw money abroad but even that is free with the premium Black Mastercard.
The app is another great feature of the card, you can follow your expenses in real-time and instantly block your card if you see any signs of fraud.
A local SIM card comes in handy. We have often used Google Maps to find our way around major cities.
When you’re traveling by train it’s also a good idea to forward your baggage. You can read these tips and much more in our separate article about traveling to Japan for the first time.
We traveled around Japan by train and could save a few bucks by buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance.
Public transport is very well organized in Japan but can seem quite complicated at first. That’s why I’ve compiled a first-timers guide to Tokyo’s public transportation. We already had to pay a supplement on the first train we boarded upon arrival at the airport. I hope my complete guide will save you from paying any such supplements.
Wondering what to wear in Japan? Take a look at our complete Japan packing list.
If you are looking to buy some souvenirs? These are the best Japanese souvenirs.
Last but not least… As you might expect health care in Japan is excellent but it comes at a high cost. Make sure you have some sort of insurance before you leave for Japan. We never had anything serious happen on any of our journeys around the world but you know what they say, better safe than sorry…
Our Japan itinerary for 14 days
Day 1-2: Tokyo
Most international flights will take you to Tokyo so this is where you’re 2 weeks in Japan adventure starts.
Getting from the airport to Tokyo
When somebody is referring to Tokyo International Airport they refer to Haneda airport but in reality, Tokyo has 2 international airports: Haneda and Narita airport.
Haneda International Airport is located 14 kilometers south of Tokyo Station. It is the oldest of the two airports. It used to mainly handle domestic flights after Narita airport opened but with the addition of a new international terminal in 2010, it now handles most business routes while Narita focuses more on leisure routes.
The two main ways to reach central Tokyo from Haneda Airport are the Keikyu Line and the Tokyo Monorail. Both require a transfer to the JR Yamanote Line to reach major stations in central Tokyo.
Depending on the location of your hotel and the length of your flight (and the amount of sleep you could get) you might not be looking forward to train and subway rides in your first hours in Tokyo.
After a long flight, a direct transfer from the airport to your hotel will be a lot more comfortable.
or you can opt for a private transfer here: Private Transfer
Narita is the smallest of the 2 airports but does serve as the international hub of both major Japanese airlines, Japan Airlines, and ANA. It lies 60 km east of central Tokyo. Although it is located further from central Tokyo than Haneda it is actually better connected to the city. There are plenty of public transportation options to reach central Tokyo from the airport. You could take the JR Narita Express, the Keisei Skyliner, buses and taxis. Those who like to make a grand entrance can even choose for a helicopter transfer.
The JR Narita Express, abbreviated as N’EX, is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. This makes N’EX your best option if you have a JR Pass. To use this train with your Japan Rail Pass you need to exchange your voucher for the actual pass at the airport. Once exchanged you will also need to reserve seats as N’EX is one of the few trains that only has reserved cars.
Read also: Japan Rail Pass is it worth it?
The Keisei Skyliner is a good alternative to N’EX if you have no Japan Rail Pass. The prices, the comfort and the train schedule of both trains are comparable. The main difference is that N’EX will take you to Tokyo station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro & Yokohama. The Keisei Skyliner heads to Nippori station and Keisei Ueno (close to Ueno station). Both trains offer easy transfer to the JR Yamanote line, the main loop line in Tokyo.
As with Haneda, you can also book private or shared transfers from Narita to Central Tokyo. After a long flight, a direct transfer from the airport to your hotel will be a lot more comfortable.
or you can opt for a private transfer here: Private Transfer
Things to do in Tokyo
If you visit Tokyo during the cherry blossom season it may be tempting to spend 2 days visiting the parks. There’re many great parks to see the cherry blossoms. We wrote a separate article about the best places to see the cherry blossoms.
The parks are great but there’s so much more to see and do in Tokyo…
Out of all the highlights in Tokyo, we visited the busiest intersection in the world at Shibuya as well as the Imperial Palace, Harajuku, Yoyogi Park, the Sensoji temple, the Asakusa district, the neighborhood around the Skytree and much more. Here you will find our detailed Tokyo 2-5 itinerary.
Organized tours in Tokyo
Here is an overview of the best-organized tours in Tokyo An organized tour saves you time and, moreover, the tour guide will enlighten you about the different sights you visit.
We partnered up with GetYourGuide for these activities. We love GetYourGuide because they’re flexible. Sometimes your plans change last-minute and then you want to be able to cancel your tickets and get your money back. It’s also good to know that GetYourGuide has your back when the local tour operator doesn’t show up or cancels your trip.
GetYourGuide is a reliable platform where you can book thousands of tours anywhere in the world.
We selected 3 excellent tours in Tokyo just for you.
Robot show at robot restaurant
The robot show is touristy, expensive and the food isn’t so great so you might wonder why you need to visit it. Well, it’s something you can only experience in Japan. The show is grotesque and completely over the top like one can only experience in Japan. That makes it a must-do while you are in Tokyo.
Tokyo Skytree skip the line Tickets
The Tokyo Skytree is, with a height of 634 meters, the highest building in Japan. It’s also the highest free-standing tower in the world. The tower houses 2 observation platforms that offer a fantastic view of Tokyo. They are respectively at a height of 350 and 450 meters and are amongst the highest in Japan. Here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Tokyo. An absolute Tokyo must visit when you want to see Tokyo from above.
The lines are often very long so we recommend you to book skip the line tickets.
If you are looking for a free alternative, you should head to the Metropolitan Government Building. This building has 2 towers that each offer a viewing platform at a height of 202 meters. The northern tower stays open until 11 p.m. and ‘Tokyo By Night’ is really spectacular.
Day trip to Mount Fuji
This is the perfect excursion if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. You will travel by coach to enjoy Mount Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes. Enjoy a Japanese lunch and see Mount Fuji in all seasons at the 4D Fuji Airways flight simulator.
An amazing tour with lots of activities.
Where to stay in Tokyo
When you only have 2 days in Tokyo we recommend that you stay centrally in Shinjuku where the Shinjuku train station offers you quick access to all places in Tokyo and even throughout Japan.
Read also: Japan Rail Pass, is it worth it?
The Tokyo Hilton is situated in lively Shinjuku. From the hotel, it’s about a 15-minutes walk to Shinjuku train station. You can also make use of the free hotel shuttle which can take you to the station every 20 minutes. The airport limousine bus has a stop at this hotel. There’re multiple restaurants and supermarkets in this area. Last but not least, after a busy day exploring this vibrant city you can relax in the indoor pool or sauna. Highly recommended if you are looking for a good hotel in the vicinity of public transport.
Day 3: Matsumoto
Things to do in Matsumoto
We continued our 14 day Japan itinerary in Matsumoto.
There’re many Samurai Castles scattered across Japan and you should visit at least once during your 14 days in Japan. We opted for the castle in Matsumoto as it is one of few remaining original castles. Most other castles you will see are reconstructions.
Guides are available at the entrance of the Matsumoto castle. They provide free tours and will share interesting stories about how life used to be in the castle as well as about the different wars that prevailed over Japan.
All castles are similar so there’s no reason to visit more than one, certainly not if you’re short on time.
Where to stay in Matsumoto
This hotel more than exceeded our expectations. Hotel Kagetsu is situated 20-minutes by foot from the train station and really close to Matsumoto Castle and the small but picturesque old town. The hotel offers free bicycles to explore the area. The hotel also has a good restaurant but you will also find other restaurants within walking distance. You get a comfortable and spacious room, certainly by Japanese standards, and your Yukata and slippers will be waiting in your room if you want to use the onsen. A great option in this charming city.
Day 4-5: Yudanaka
Things to do in Yudanaka
Yudanaka was one of the highlights of our 14 days Japan itinerary. We visited the snow monkeys and, just like the monkeys, we also took some time ourselves to relax in one of the many local onsens. Yudanaka is in the countryside. Here you see a different side of Japan, different from the crowds in the mega-cities.
We spend about half a day with the monkeys. Not because the park was that big, but it was very cute to see the monkey’s doing their thing.
The best time to visit the snow monkeys is, of course, the winter. During other periods it’s best to head to the park very early when it’s not yet too warm. The colder it is, the more likely you will see the monkeys warming themselves in the natural onsen.
The best place to relax in the Onsen yourself is Shibu Onsen. You should head to Shibu onsen in the evening. This is a village a few minutes’ walks from Yudanaka. In the picturesque car-free high street you will find 9 public onsens that are supplied by the hot springs. You can wander from one bathhouse to another in your Yukata and on your traditional wooden sandals.
Where to stay in Yudanaka
Shimaya Ryokan is not a hotel that we typically would recommend. To start with it’s not a hotel but a Ryokan which is more like a B&B. The rooms are very simple, typical for a Ryokan, and look a bit dated. But the hospitable owners of this Ryokan made up for all of this. The owner picked us up at the train station, offered us a ride to the monkey park and back and gave us tons to tips about all the places we would visit next during our trip.
Sleeping in a traditional ryokan is something you should do at least once when you’re in Japan, so why not do it here with these friendly hospitable owners.
Day 6: Kanazawa
Kanazawa charmed us enormously during our 14 day trip to Japan. This city seemed less touristy and that might have something to do with it.
Things to do in Kanazawa
A visit to Kanazawa is not complete without a visit to the Kenrokuen Garden. The garden is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Japan and it is also one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms. The weather was a bit disappointing during our visit so we couldn’t fully appreciate the park. We certainly thought it was beautiful, but not better than what we already saw in Tokyo. Still, we could not get enough of the cherry blossoms.
Right next to the Kenrokuen garden is the reconstructed Kanazawa castle. Visits are free and can easily be combined with a visit to the Kenrokuen Garden.
Another highlight of a visit to Kanazawa is a stroll through the old Geisha district Higashi Chaya, often just called: “Old Town”. The old town of Takayama is more often mentioned but we found the old city in Kanazawa to be much more charming. Besides, it was also a lot less crowded. You could take a quiet stroll, look around and enjoy the beautiful old houses. A walk through the geisha district in the evening, where you learn more about the mysteries and intrigues of this old neighborhood, was an unforgettable experience.
We also went to take a look in Nagamachi, the old Samurai district. There’re some really spectacular villas in this district, but Higashi Chaya impressed us more.
You can enjoy a nice meal, both lunch or dinner, in the Omicho market.
Where to stay in Kanazawa
Holiday Inn ANA Kanazawa Sky
The Holiday Inn ANA Kanazawa Sky is centrally located within walking distance of the station and just across the Omicho fish market. The Kanazawa castle and Kenrokuen Garden are just a few minutes’ walks away. You have spectacular views on Kanazawa from the lobby and the restaurant. We couldn’t have imagined a better hotel in Kanazawa.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other Kanazawa hotels on Booking.com. Check prices and availability here: BOOKING
Day 7-8-9: Kyoto
Things to do in Kyoto
Gion is an upscale neighborhood of Kyoto and is the oldest Geisha district of Japan. The first evening we went to explore this neighborhood together with Guenda, from HihiGuide. We still have fond memories of our hike. It was cool to spot geishas and it was fun to learn how Europeans who live in Japan look at the difference in culture. Here you can read the story of our evening walk in the Gion district.
The Inari Shrines where you will find thousands of Torii gates are very touristy but definitely worth a visit. It’s enough to move further away from the entrance, higher up the mountain, to escape the crowds.
The philosopher’s path is known as a place to see the cherry blossoms. But a walk along the path also pays off outside this season You come across plenty of temples along the path. Unlike Tokyo where all temples are free, there is an entrance fee for all temples in Kyoto. Most of them are however not that different from temples that you will find elsewhere in Japan.
One temple that is certainly worth visiting in Kyoto is Kinkakuji or the Golden temple. This is probably the most beautiful temple we saw in Japan. (Kinkakuji is not situated along the philosopher’s path.)
We also made a trip to Arashiyama, a district at the outskirts of Kyoto that is well known for its bamboo forests. Expect a big crowd! Fortunately, it immediately becomes a lot quieter as soon as you make your way away from the center. We discovered some charming quiet spots in Arashiyama. You can go to the park around the Jojakkoji temple from where you have a stunning view. From there, you can walk further north to the Saga-Toriimoto Street. This is a picturesque street lined with preserved, traditional houses. Best of all, we had the street to ourselves while we were wandering through it. When you reach the end of the street, you will reach the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple and adjacent you will find a bamboo forest that is just as beautiful as the one close to the center where all the tourists are.
When we just got off the train and ended up in the crowd, we were afraid it would be an unpleasant day because of the bustle. But in the end, we did have a really enjoyable day as we have discovered some pleasant quiet spots in and around Arashiyama. The bus tours seem to limit their visit to the Togetsukyo bridge and the nearby Tenryuji temple and bamboo groves. Other places were not nearly as crowded.
Where to stay in Kyoto
According to the statistics, Kyoto is the most touristic city in Japan. According to the prices for a hotel room that might be correct. We were confronted with prices upwards of € 800/night during the cherry blossom season. Because of these high prices, we started looking at alternatives and we decided to book a stay at the Marriott lake Biwa. This is a nice hotel that is located 20 minutes outside Kyoto by train, but it meant a serious difference to our wallet.
Marriott Lake Biwa
This Marriott hotel is located alongside the coast of beautiful Lake Biwa, an ideal setting if you want to escape busy Kyoto at night. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to the train station where you can catch the train to Kyoto station. As Marriott Rewards Platinum members we enjoyed an upgrade to a suite with a private onsen and a fabulous view of the lake. As platinum members, we also had access to a lounge area in the lobby where we could enjoy free breakfast, snacks, cocktails and a small buffet in the evening. The only drawback of this hotel is that you have to take into account the schedule of the shuttle which only runs once every hour. But considering what we got in return and the tremendous difference in price this is no big deal.
Royal Park hotel Kyoto
If you have only 3 days in Kyoto it might be better to stay in the center of Kyoto. In that case, the Royal Park hotel Kyoto is an excellent choice. It is within walking distance of the Gion district, two metro stations and various temples. The rooms are neat and the bathroom is fully equipped. You can enjoy a nice breakfast at the bakery next to the hotel.
Check prices and availability on Booking.com : BOOKING
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other Kyoto hotels on Booking.com. Check prices and availability here: BOOKING
Day 10-11: Hiroshima and Miyajima
Things to do in Hiroshima and Miyajima
We visited the peace park in Hiroshima and made a small detour to take a peek at the castle. There is a special atmosphere about the peace park. In the park, you will find an interesting museum about the atomic bomb and touching stories about how the survivors had to rebuild their city and their lives.
If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can make free use of the hop-on-hop-off bus operated by JR. When you arrive at the station, just drop in with the tourist office. They have route maps of the buses and will be able to explain to you which bus to take and which stop to get off to get to your hotel.
You can get from Hiroshima to Miyajima in about half an hour both by tram or by JR train. The latter is, of course, the cheapest option if you have a Japan Rail Pass. Once you arrive at the train station in Miyajima, it is nothing more but a short 5-minute walk to the harbor where you then take the ferry to Miyajima island.
On Miyajima island or rather just in front you will find the photogenic Torii gate which seems to float on water during high tide. The times of high and low tide are signposted at the entrance of the ferry terminal. The Torii gate is the tourist attraction of the island, but also the colorful Daisyoin Temple is worth a visit. We took the time to wander around this temple and it seemed like we found a hidden gem on this island.
If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can make free use of the Hiroshima hop-on-hop-off bus operated by JR. When you arrive at the station, just drop in with the tourist office.
You can choose from 2 ferries to go to Miyajima island, one is operated by JR. This JR ferry is also free for the owners of a Japan Rail Pass.
Where to stay in Hiroshima
ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima
The Ana Crowne Plaza is within walking distance of the peace park and near shops and restaurants. The rooms are not too big but clean and fully equipped. The staff also speak good English.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other Hiroshima hotels on Booking.com. Check prices and availability here:BOOKING
Day 12-13: Osaka
Back in Osaka, you’re once again in a metropolis. This was probably our favorite city during our 14 days in Japan.
Things to do in Osaka
The Namba district is alive day and night but is probably at its best at night. The least you can say about this district is that it is simply spectacular.
We also went to the Osaka Castle. This is a restored castle. The castle is also a very good spot to witness the beauty of the cherry blossoms. From here we took a walk along the river to the Kema Sakuranomiya Park, another beautiful park with lots of cherry trees.
We also visited Nara from Osaka. In the Todaiji Temple, you will find the largest wooden building in the world, the Daibutsuden (“big Buddha hall”). As its name says inside the building you will find a gigantic Buddha. Don’t limit yourself to this temple only. Venture up the mountain to “Nigatsu-do” for a breathtaking view. Nara was the original capital of Japan but once Buddhism became too powerful in the country the government decided to move the capital. You can still see traces of this as Nara is literally littered with temples. Lastly, a visit to Nara is also fun because of the deer that roam freely in the park and no doubt will come begging for cookies.
You can read our full 2 day Osaka itinerary here.
Where to stay in Osaka
Holiday Inn Osaka Namba
This Holiday Inn is close to Namba station and just a few minutes by foot from the famous Glico bridge, probably the most famous sight in Dotonbori. This neighborhood is alive day and night and as a result, the rooms can be somewhat noisy at night. The rooms offer all comfort but are rather small. The biggest asset of this hotel is its superb location.
If you want to know more about how to find the best place to stay in Osaka based on your own preferences, then take a look at our detailed where to stay in Osaka article.
Day 14: Tokyo
We end our Japan itinerary back in Tokyo.
If you would end your trip on a Sunday you could head to Akihabara. The main street that runs through the Akihabara district is closed for cars on Sundays. This makes a visit to Akihabara much more fun. Foresee enough time. Browsing through the shops like Mandarake is what makes a visit to Akihabara worthwhile but you will quickly spend several hours snooping around these stores, looking at all the curiosities.
If you’re looking for something completely different then we recommend a relaxing day in Tokyo DisneySea. Next to Tokyo DisneySea is Tokyo Disneyland but we recommend the first because Disneyland is a sort of replica of all the other Disneyland Parks in the world. And above all, DisneySea won an award for its design.
The park can be busy at times but it is possible to visit the majority of the attractions on one day by using the Fastpass system. We visited the park during the “Golden week” and we could do all the major attractions. If we can do that during the Golden week, so can you at any other time of the year. 🙂
We loved the design of the park and there were some great attractions. It was also fun to see how some Japanese completely dress-up in the Disney-magic.
We hope we have inspired you with this 14 day Japan travel itinerary. Japan has a lot to offer and unfortunately, there’re a number of things we had to omit in this Japan in 14 days itinerary but this trip takes you along the highlights and the things we loved most.
Are you ready to discover the best of Japan in 14 days?
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