When you are visiting Japan for the first time, you may have some places in your 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 best number of days to spend in Japan when you visit for the first time? It really all 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 introduce pros and cons of four itineraries with different length ranging from a few days up to one month.
- Few days in Japan
- One week in Japan
- Two week trip to Japan
- One month in Japan
- Things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Japan
- Don’t forget to check out our private tour!
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Few days in Japan
If you plan a short trip to Japan of less than a week, it is a good idea to pick one destination and spend your time exploring within 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 transportations. However, in some cases, you can travel across the prefectural border to visit highlights in the surrounding areas depending on what area in Japan to go.
There are some pros for a short trip. First of all, it saves you money that you can spend on admissions or exciting experiences instead of accommodation. In addition, you have time to get used to the different cultures and discover the place at your own pace. The longer you stay in Japan, the more energy you need to spend. A short trip enables you to stay healthy without worrying about a long stay.
Pros for less than one-week travel
- Save money that you can use on other experiences
- Don’t have to travel much around
Cons for less than one-week travel
- Only visit limited areas with a limited time
- Cannot visit many places
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 some understanding of the 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 to anywhere for an affordable fare. The city has easy access to and from both Narita and Haneda airport, and you can easily find everything such as restaurants, gift shops, historical sites, and accommodation. Lastly, Tokyo also offers easy access to Mount Fuji, something you do not miss when visiting Japan! Tokyo is the perfect destination for your first visit to Japan!
One week in Japan
On a one-week-trip, you can visit two of the 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 can have some days to get used to the different time zones. After a few days you can gradually expand the area and enjoy the tourist attractions in the surrounding areas or transfer to another city by Shinkansen! This will offer you memorable experiences and you can get a better impression of the country. It will also help you get used to the new environment and enjoy your trip with a relaxed feeling.
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 week trip could be satisfying for some people, it doesn’t always allow you to enjoy the entire country. 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 slow, more relaxed trip to explore the places and hidden tourist spots, adding another week might be better for you.
Pros for one-week travel
- Able to explore the highlights of Japan
- You can save money with the JR Rail Pass
Cons for one-week travel
- 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 trip to the areas located closeby. Explore the highlights in Tokyo and travel to any of the surrounding areas and witness the sacred Mount 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 considerable short travel distance from Tokyo include:
Two week trip to 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 the beautiful islands, Hokkaido and Okinawa!
Of course, the budget for the trip is 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 the public transportation with the 14-days JR Rail 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 two-weeks travel
- Perfect length to enjoy the country (one or two areas separately)
- Can also visit isolated areas
Cons for two-weeks travel
- 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).
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 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 in the countryside 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 travelling in Japan can get quite expensive. Travelling for one month in Japan might seem like a long period, but the country has many different experiences to offer, from the mountain in Hokkaido, to the exotic islands of Okinawa and everything in between. It will definitely become one of the most unforgettable travels in your lifetime!
Pros for one-month travel
- Can explore the whole country
- Flexible travel plans
Cons for one-month travel
- High costs and travel expenses
- Might not appreciate the separate destinations as much
Ideal itinerary for one month trip to Japan
You can visit wherever you want when you have one month to spend in Japan. With frequent and fast trains and many domestic flights, you can travel from up north all the way down south. Almost nothing is impossible! Also, when spending some time in one place, you could get a special long stay rate at some hotels and inns. But.. don’t stay at 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
- The national holidays tend to get very busy and (much) more expensive so try to avoid travelling on these dates.
- Japan can be quite expensive, read more about your travel budget when visiting Japan
Don’t forget to check out our private tour!
If you need some help to organize your trip to Japan, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We’re glad to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory! When planning your trip to Japan, join our online tours to get an introduction of the highlights of 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. 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 first trip to Japan and that you will have a great time in Japan!
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