Plan a Trip to Japan: How Long Should You Stay?

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When you are visiting Japan for the first time, you may have some places in mind that you want to visit; Tokyo as the huge, modern city, Kyoto to see the many shrines and temples, and maybe Nara to meet the friendly, free-roaming deer. Or perhaps you have some other great places in mind where you can enjoy the diverse culture and nature of Japan. But what is the perfect amount of days to spend in Japan when you visit for the first time? Well, it really depends on your preferences, including where in Japan you want to go and what kind of experiences you want to try, and let’s not forget your budget! In this article, we will introduce the pros and cons of four itineraries with different lengths ranging from a few days up to one month so you can decide how long you should stay for your first time in Japan!

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A few days in Japan

If you plan a short trip to Japan for less than a week, it is a good idea to pick one destination and spend your time exploring that area. You should avoid traveling around several cities as it takes considerable time and you might end up spending most of your time on transportation. However, in some cases, you can travel across a prefectural border to visit highlights in the surrounding areas depending on what area in Japan you are in. 

There are some pros to a short trip. First of all, it saves you money that you can spend on other things like museums or exciting experiences instead of accommodation. In addition, you will have time to get used to the culture and discover the place at your own pace. The longer you stay in Japan, the more energy you will need. A short trip enables you to stay healthy and energetic the whole trip without having to worry about all the complications of a longer stay.

Pros for a less than a one-week trip

  • Save money that you can use on other experiences
  • Don’t have to spend too much time on travel

Cons for a less than a one-week trip

  • Only visit a limited amount of areas with a limited time
  • Cannot visit many places and attractions

Itinerary for a few days in Japan

When you only have a few days to spend in Japan, we recommend you visit Tokyo, Especially if it is your first time visiting Japan. In the capital city, you can have tons of different experiences and gain an understanding of Japanese culture.

Tokyo – Shibuya, Shinjuku, Nihonbashi, and more

Explore the highlights in Tokyo in different wards. It boasts a number of tourist attractions such as Shibuya Crossing, Asakusa Sensoji Shrine, Ghibli Museum, and many other places that are listed as the most popular tourist spots in Japan. The public transportation system in Tokyo is very punctual and takes you anywhere for an affordable fare. The city has easy access to and from both Narita and Haneda airports, and you can easily find everything such as restaurants, gift shops, historical sites, and accommodations. Lastly, Tokyo also offers easy access to Mount Fuji, something you do not want to miss when visiting Japan! Tokyo is the perfect destination for your first visit to Japan!

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One week in Japan

On a one-week trip to Japan, you can visit two major cities or one city and the surrounding area. You can spend the first couple of days walking around the first destination while you get used to the culture and figure out how to get around, where to go etc. Also, if you travel from far away and there is a time difference, you will have some time to get used to the different time zones and get over the jet lag. After a few days, you can gradually expand the area you are exploring and enjoy the tourist attractions in the surrounding areas or travel to another city by Shinkansen! This will offer you memorable experiences and you can get a better idea of the country as a whole. It will also help you get used to the new environment and enjoy your trip with a more relaxed feel.

Koichi Hayakawa, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via flickr

When you spend one week in Japan and travel to two or more big cities, we recommend getting the JR Rail Pass. With this pass, you can save money on public transportation.

Even though a one-week trip might be the best option for some people, it doesn’t always allow you to enjoy the entire country and everything it has to offer. You will still need to decide your destination and plan your trip. It is possible to visit main destinations such as Tokyo and Osaka within a week, but it might make you feel a little rushed. If you prefer a slower, more relaxed trip that will allow you to explore more places and hidden tourist spots, adding another week might be the best option for you.

Pros for a one-week trip

  • Able to explore the highlights of Japan
  • You can save money with the JR Pass

Cons for a one-week trip

  • Requires planning because of the time limit
  • Feel a little rushed

Ideal one-week itinerary in Japan

When you have one week in Japan, we recommend you combine your visit to Tokyo with another city such as Kyoto, or make some day trips/overnight trips to the areas located close by. Explore the highlights in Tokyo and travel to any of the surrounding areas and witness the sacred Mt Fuji or visit the impressive shrines of Nikko. You can take local trains or highway buses which are convenient and relatively affordable, especially with the JR Pass. Several types of Shinkansen are also available leaving from the main stations in Tokyo. Some great destinations with a considerably short travel distance from Tokyo include:

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Two weeks in Japan

In our opinion, a two weeks stay is the ideal length to enjoy the country without worrying about time. You can pick up three or four areas located throughout the country and decide how many days you spend in each area. As a first-timer in Japan, you should definitely visit the main tourist spots like Tokyo, Kyoto, and/or Osaka. In addition, you can also visit some isolated areas such as some beautiful islands like Hokkaido and Okinawa

Tokyo Bay

Of course, your budget for the trip will have to be much higher than any shorter trips we introduced above, though because you have more time you might be able to save some more money on public transportation with the 14-day JR Pass or other multi-day discounts. Don’t forget to try to reduce the amount of luggage you need to carry around, as it could be bothersome and exhausting to travel with huge bags!

Pros for a two-week trip

  • Perfect length to enjoy the whole country (one or two areas separately)
  • Can also visit more off-the-beaten-path areas

Cons for a two-week trip

  • Higher travel costs

Ideal itinerary for two weeks in Japan

Visit the main hotspots in Japan and compare their respective highlights! Spend your first week visiting the tourist attractions in and around Tokyo, and take the Shinkansen to reach the Kansai region where Osaka and Kyoto are. As an ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto welcomes you with a number of historical and traditional spots. In addition, you could combine Kyoto with a day trip to Osaka (30 min by train) or Nara (40 min by train).

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One month in Japan

A one-month trip to Japan will give you the freedom to travel around the country more freely without too much planning beforehand. You can explore the country as you go, based on your own interests and preferences. Especially when you travel outside of the popular holidays. You can also rent a car with an international driver’s license to get to more remote, countryside areas. It enables you to enjoy a private trip with a flexible itinerary!

Maybe you can join some private tours to explore the tourist spots more deeply with a local guide. You need to make sure that you save up enough money prior to your departure, as traveling in Japan can be quite expensive. Traveling for one month in Japan might seem like a long period of time, but the country has so many different areas and experiences to offer, from the mountains in Hokkaido, to the exotic islands of Okinawa and everything in between. It will definitely be one of the most unforgettable trips in your lifetime!

Pros for a one-month trip

  • Can explore the whole country
  • Flexible travel plans

Cons for a one-month trip

  • High costs and travel expenses
  • Might not appreciate each destination as much

Ideal itinerary for a one-month trip to Japan

Tohoku, Kyushu, Shikoku, some remote islands from Tokyo.. visit wherever your want!

You can visit wherever you want when you have one month to spend in Japan. With frequent and fast trains and many fairly cheap domestic flights, you can travel from up north all the way down south. Almost nothing is off the table! Also, when spending some time in one place, you will have the opportunity to get a special long-stay rate at some hotels and inns. But it is better to not stay in one place and be active to make the most of your time in Japan!

Things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Japan

Regardless of the length of your stay, Japan offers every tourist a memorable experience with amazing tourist attractions. For your first trip to Japan we recommend staying for about two full weeks if you can. This will enable you to discover the main tourist hotspots together with some more remote places. You should carefully choose the season because of the large difference in weather circumstances. Also, we recommend to travel lightly when you are exploring the country, carrying a large suitcase around is exhausting and can also cost you extra money (for example when taking the Shinkansen). We hope you enjoy planning your trip and that you will have a great time first time in Japan! 

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Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

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Happy traveling!

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