Japan is a magical place and is full to the brim with gems, such as delectable Japanese cuisine, entertainment and enchanting places. So if you are planning your Japan 2 week itinerary, here are the must see places so you can easily plan your 2 weeks in Japan.
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Japan Itinerary Day 1: Narita and Sawara
Most international tourists may arrive at Narita but then quickly take the Japan rail into Tokyo. If you don’t want to miss out on one of the most important temples in Japan, don’t overlook Narita in your Japan itinerary! Narita itself is a small town but has a wonderful old district with traditional wooden houses and shops that line the cobblestone streets. Take a stroll along Naritasan Omotesando Street to feel transported back in time and/or to stock up on Japanese souvenirs.
After not even ten minutes you will aleady be abe to enter the premises of Narita-san Shinshō-ji (成田山新勝寺). If you arrive in the morning, you might be lucky enough to witness the daily monk ceremonies. Otherwise, the ritual washing upon entrance, light an incense stick and roam the area. Don’t forget to visit the Great Pagoda of Peace and the little waterfalls.
Getting to Narita
From Narita Airport, take a JR or Keisei train for 10 minutes to Narita Station. Keisei limited express runs more frequently (every 20mins) and costs 260 yen for the one way. JR trains leave once per hour an cost 240 yen.
Where to Stay in Narita
- Mid range: Narita U-City Hotel*
- Capsule: Nine Hours Narita Airport*
- Upper range: ANA Crowne Plaza Narita*
If you still have some time before heading to Tokyo during your 2 weeks in Japan, you can take the train to Sawara. This little town looks straight out of the Edo period (and is in fact caled “Little Edo”) with its historic wooden buildings and little canals and bridges that used to serve the rice transport.
In July and October you can attend the Sawara Matsuri festivals, where you can see floats with dolls representing mythological Japanese warriors and heroes.
Best time to visit
Catch the cherry blossom season from the last week of March for the south of Japan to the end of April for all kinds of beautiful Japanese flower festivals all over the country. Autumn is great for the vibrant colours.
Getting to Sawara
Take the JR Narita Line (30 minutes, 500 yen, 1-2 trains per hour) from Narita station. Walk to the historic town center for 10-15 minutes.
Japan Itinerary Day 2-4: Tokyo
You could easily spend your entire two week Japan trip in Tokyo and still not have seen it all. I stayed there for two months and still discovered ‘new’ districts. I used a combination of walking between districts to get a real ‘behind the scenes’ look of Tokyo life but if you want to see as much as you can, get a pass and save your sore feet.
Places to consider are Akihabara for Video Games and the free little Anime Museum and Nakano Broadway for stocking up on anime and manga merchandise at amazing prices. But of course there are many more otaku spots in Tokyo.
Great kimono deals, affordable souvenirs and local food you can find for instance at the Ueno Station. Visit the nearby park and temple as well. Ueno Park is a great spot for enjoying cherry blossoms but there are lots more insider spots for hanami.
Check out Shibuya in the late afternoon for the busy crosswalk view from the train station and head over to Shibuya 109 for crazy quirky fashion. 109 Men’s is not very exciting. Harajuku is a 20min walk away but take the train anyway. Hit SoLaDo for a chance to see a live boyband performance and delirious fangirls.
Around the corner is the marvellous Meiji Shrine hidden behind crooked old trees and if you’re lucky, you can spot a wedding ceremony. If you want to see the biggest temple festival in Tokyo, come for the Sanja Matsuri at the Sensoji Shrine. You’ll see geiko dances, people carrying local deities in shrines through the streets, have a huge selection of food stalls and generally a great time. It will be insanely crowded.
If you want something very different entertainment wise, try the popular Takarazuka Revue with all-female cast and terribly dramatic acting and singing. If you queue for your day ticket the same day at least an hour in advance (it’s impossible to get tickets on short notice otherwise), you can greet the show stars as they walk by and collect fanmail.
Where to stay in Tokyo
- Budget: Khaosan World Asakusa RYOKAN&HOTEL* (stayed here multiple times myself)
- Mid range: Book And Bed Tokyo Asakusa*
- Upper range: SAKU REN Jimbocho*
- Holiday home: Araiya*
For a glimpse of sumo, you can purchase tournament tickets far inadvance or attend a free training session (asa-keiko). Try the Arashio-beya dohyo in Hamacho.
Skip the Skytree Towerentrance fees and go up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free. The best time is just before sunset and on clear days you can see Mount Fuji. Afterwards, you can stroll around Shinjuku and choose one of the many restaurants.
For an entirely different feel and a more historical district, check out Shibamata, where you can see doppelgängers of the iconic Japanase movie character Tora-san, visit the temple and stroll through the old streets.
A big thing for a lot of visitors to Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market at 5am. If you want to see the craziness of the live tuna auction, check for public admission days and register at 4:30am.
Getting to Tokyo
From Narita, take the JR Sobu Line to Tokyo Station for 70 mins, which costs 1140 yen. The JR Narita Express (NEX) usually only stops in Narita in the early morning and evening, takes 60mins and costs 3000 yen one way.
You have to reserve a seat ticket. The other option is the Keisei Main Line to Tokyo’s Keisei Ueno Station. This takes 75mins, leaves every 20 mins and costs 840 yen. Plus, it will cause some slight confusion in case you want to use the JR line in Tokyo (buy a ticket BEFORE leaving through the gates).
Getting around Tokyo
You can purchase day passes at station vending machines. However, make sure you check which lines you can use them on as Tokyo has several train service providers. Skip on the pricey Tokyo Free Kippu Pass.
Take the JR Yamanote-Linie to get all the main stations. It takes an hour. The Yurikamome line leads you to the artificial island of Odaiba with a view of the Tokyo Tower.
If you are thinking about getting a rechargeable SUICA or PASMO card for not having to pay cash every time, know that it won’t give you a discount and you might end up paying more because you don’t realise how often you pay extra for unknowingly changing line companies (even if you already paid for the whole trip).
If you have a JR pass, you can use that as well, though I recommend using it more outside of Tokyo, for longer distance travel. It’s a real money saver and you can get it easily in advance here*.
Food in Tokyo
Shinjuku and Nakano have great restaurant alleys. The best and cheapest ramen is in Tokyo Central, I’ve been told. I have not been but themed restaurants, such as the Robot Restaurant or Vampire Restaurant are super popular as are Maid Cafes. Cat cafes I find rather cruel. You can even do a ramen tasting tour* to sample as much of the iconic dish as possible.
Travelling Japan Day 5-6: Nikko
For a collection of the pretties temples and shrines in a forest setting and next to bubbling streams, head to Nikko. It is one of the most charming spots in Japan. If you ask me, it is a definite must for any Japan 2 week itinerary.
You can also head out and go hiking in nature. Start at the Kegon Waterfalls and hike along Lake Chuzenji to the Senjogahara Plateau and past more waterfalls. There are different hiking paths with different difficulty levels.
The local 2-day bus pass is the best option to get around for an affordable price. Make sure to carry the timetable with you, which you can get from the train stations.
Getting from Tokyo to Nikko
The most expensive and fastest option is the the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Station to Utsunomiya Station with a transfer to the JR Nikko Line. It takes abut 100 minutes and costs about 5000 yen one way.
For two hours and 4000 yen you can take the direct limited express trains by Japan Railways (JR) and Tobu Railways from JR Shinjuku Station. The cheapest option are the hourly rapid trains from Tobu Asakusa Station for two hours and costs 1360 yen one way. But there are also free passes by Tobu.
Where to Stay in Nikko
- Budget: Nikkorisou Backpackers*
- Mid range: Ohruri Sanso Nikko*
- Upper range: Hotel Shikisai*
- Holiday home: Guest House Koundo*
Travelling Japan Day 7-8: Nagano, Jigukudani and Matsumoto
You’re already halfway through your Japan 2 week itinerary! Make your way up to Nagano and walk up to the temple. Already on the way there, you can find many foodie spots, taste different rice balls, miso ice cream (don’t!) and lots of other snacks. Get a local map to see the best spots marked.
At Zenkō-ji (善光寺), go inside the information to your left and rub the ox for good luck. Then stand near the incense burners and get some smoke on you or – even better – burn incense sticks (osenko) yourself. This is for good health. Take your shoes off at the temple entrance, throw in a coin before the deity, say a silent prayer and then turn right to go down to the gates of heaven.
The idea is that you have to feel your way along the pitch black passage downstairs and try to find the door and rattle it. This is so you can make a wish and know how to find the gate to heaven once you’re dead more easily.
Where to Stay in Nagano
- Budget: Backpackers Dorms Miwa*
- Mid range: Jizokan Matsuya Ryokan*
- Upper range: Hotel Metropolitan Nagano*
The next day in your Japan itinerary, buy a Snow Monkey 1 Day Pass and take the bus to the Jigukudani Snow Monkey Park. The pass covers the entrance fee as well. You’ll love the playful monkeys and can take pictures up close as they are used to visitors. Just don’t try to touch them or even think about taking a bath with them.
After you’ve had enough, you can visit the local art museum by the bus stop and then take the bus to the local villages to take a bath at an onsen. If you need an extra dose of good luck, soak in all nine onsen of the Shibu Onsen area.
Where to Stay near Jigokudani
Guide to Japanese onsen
Check if you are headed for a mixed or gender specific onsen. Get a locker and put away all your stuff, then strip completely naked and only take your modesty cloth with you (and cover all tattoos). Wash, scrub and rinse yourself before slowly entering the hot water (no soap on you!).
Cool down a little occasionally by standing up or heading to the outside tub. Wash yourself again before going back to the changing room. Never come drunk to an onsen for health reasons.
Now it’s time to visit one of Japan’s oldest castles, Matsumoto. You can take the local bus from the train station, which leaves every 30 mins and costs 190 yen one way or rent a free bicycle daily from 8:30am to 5pm at various locations.
To get into the castle and its museum, you have to pay an entrance fee. The castle museum is located inside the buildings and displays samurai history, weapons and clothes.
Between the station and the castle you will cross a canal and along it you can find food stalls. Grab a pancake fish with a sausage and Japanese mayonnaise. It’s divine and apparently it’s the only place in Japan that sells it with this filling.
Where to Stay in Matsumoto
Travelling Japan Day 9-11: Fuji Great Lakes and Nagoya
Ok, this one can easily be stretched to a three day adventure. But if you really want to see Mount Fuji – especially in mid April for the pink shibazakura flower fields – then you need to make a detour. The area has a lot to offer: sacred springs, old villages, ice and bat caves, the lookout stations at Fuji and of course onsen. It’s a hiker’s paradise.
You can invest in day passes as well but make sure to know the timetable as well as the actual bus stops since bus drivers easily ignore you I found.
I visited Fujikawaguchiko for the sights in the Northern part of the Fuji area but I know a lot of people visit Hakone (the well-known postcard spot). Both are beautiful destinations.
Hiking Mount Fuji
Throughout the year you can go up to Fuji’s Fifth Station, which has a great view, a little hiking path (unless it is blocked by snow) and ‘road houses’. The way between the Fifth and the Last Station is only open for a short time in the year when it’s hot enough for the snow to disappear at the top. Usually in August.
Where to Stay in Kawaguchiko
When you have had enough of the area (will you ever?), head down southwest to Nagoya and visit the local castle. Again, you have to pay an entrance fee and it’s particularly worth it during spring festivities. You can also attend free Noh Theatre practices – but without the costumes and masks.
Where to Stay in Nagoya
- Budget: Nagoya Travellers Hostel*
- Mid range: The Strings Hotel Nagoya*
- Upper range: Mitsui Garden Hotel Nagoya Premier*
Day 12-14: Osaka, Nara and Kyoto
It is a great idea to conclude your two weeks Japan trip with a foodie spree in Osaka. The second biggest Japanese city has a big international airport as well and is the best hub for exploring a Japanese city or heading out for day trips around Kansai. In Osaka, you can take a walk among the cherry blossoms by the river and then see some more at the base of the Osaka castle. Make a quick stop at Dotonbori for the flashing neon lights and the famous ‘Runner’.
Take the train down to Shitennoji and explore the temples and, if you like, the zoo. For the evening you can taste local fried teppanjaki and okonomiyaki (make it yourself!) a little further up in Tennoji underneath the tower. Try the fried ice cream on a stick!
Food & shopping in Osaka
In Osaka’s station, you can go shopping to your heart’s delight and if you want to taste the typical Japanese cuisine all at once and for a good deal, go up to the food level on one of the top floors with a great view over the station and join the buffet. You can eat as much as you want for two hours.
Where to Stay in Osaka
- Budget: The Dorm Hostel Osaka*
- Mid range: Briller Nakazaki*
- Upper range: Hotel Agora Regency Osaka Sakai*
The next day of your two weeks in Japan, take a day trip to Nara and visit the temples, get a cutesy dose of the sacred Nara deer. Hundreds of years ago, Nara was a favourite hunting ground but legend has it that a deity sent a deer as their messenger and from that day onwards, deer were not allowed to be harmed. And they certainly know it.
You can hike in the forest, but be warned that the ‘pristine’ forest has a big concrete street winding through it, which is the hiking path as well. Also visit the Isuen garden and as a foreigner, you can get free access! Walk through the Nara Park and visit the Seven Great Temples.
Do not bring your own food for the deer (or eat in their vicinity). Buy the dry crackers to give to them or better not feed them at all. They will chase you if you do because they are super greedy. They can be quite violent. Believe the signs that are all over the place warning you (and the video I filmed here.)
Where to stay in Nara
- Budget: Oak Hostel Nara*
- Mid range: Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Eki*
- Upper range: Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring*
Nara is further away than it seems because of the train network, so you should plan a whole day within your Japan 2 week itinerary for this and for Kyoto as well, which luckily you an reach within 15 minutes from Osaka. Know what you want to see in Kyoto in advance to avoid crowds by going early and covering more ground. It is bigger than it seems.
Start with the coveted red Torii gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The walk up is harder than it seems and can take about two hours. Then catch the bus to the Gion district to hopefully spot a geisha. If your budget allows, invest in a local Kyoto cuisine, such as “Kyo-kaiseki-ryori,” “Shojin-ryori” (good for vegetarians), and “Obanzai”. Then get a ticket to the geisha dance (better book in advance or show up early) and visit the Buddhist temple at the end of the street.
Head over to the Nijō Castle (二条城) and parks and then take the bus to the Golden Pavilion. Don’t overlook Arashiyama with its kimono and bamboo forest either. It has great foodie streets as well. Kyoto is the perfect place to wrap up your Japan two week itinerary.
Where to Stay in Kyoto
- Budget: Imano Kyoto Kiyomizu Hostel*
- Mid range: Japaning Hotel Hakkoen*
- Upper range: Kyoto Granbell Hotel*
What to eat in Kyoto
Visit the food houses near the river and get some free sample of local delicacies, such as star shaped sugar, sweet cakes and pickled vegetables. It’s more exciting than it sounds, just go ahead and try it!
More Japan Trip Inspiration
If you have some more days to spare, go west and visit Okayama, Himeji and Hiroshima (try the okonomiyaki!) for some more Japanese castles and cherry blossom walks. A very special place is the island of Miyajima with its deers, the floating gate, the many temples and mountain hikes. You can easily spend two days here.
Alternatively, you can minimise your actual travel time and stay closer to the Tokyo area during your 2 week trip to Japan. There is plenty to see in this metropolis already. Check out Shibamata on the outskirts of Tokyo for a traditional feeling or head up to Ashikaga Flower Park for a stroll among beautiful blossoms. To see a world famous Buddhist temple, day trip over to Kamakura.
Note that the famous arcade Anata no Warehouse in nearby Kawasaki has been permanently shut down. If you click on the link, you can still see the photos and video I took there. For nostalgia.
How to Get Around During a Japan Trip
The cheapest way to travel for 2 weeks in Japan is by bus. Willer Express has pink plush seats, a sleeping hoodie and retro nintendo console games. There is space for your luggage, so be free to not pack light for Japan. An alternative is Highway Express. Both bus companies vary slightly in their routes and also offer day trip packages in case you want everything planned out for you.
The most fun, fastest and classiest way to see as much as possible during two weeks in Japan is by bullet train, Shinkansen. This can get quite pricy, especially if you don’t book in advance or require reserved seats. Therefore, I cannot recommend the RailPass enough. It’s totally worth it if you want to use trains a lot and want to maximise your sightseeing. If you want to extensively travel a certain region, local passes are also an option, like the JR Kansai pass.
The JR Railpass can only be bought while abroad and gives you discounts the Japanese cannot access. You can board the trains without a reserved ticket. Just check for the few lines that are not included and whether you need to reserve a seat.
Note: If you want to be flexible on the go, I recommend getting a pocket wifi. Not all stations had wifi and it really helped to be able to google. Especially since many accommodations have directions with photos that help finding your way around. You can order one in advance here*.
Would you want to spend 2 weeks in Japan? Let me know in the comments below.
More tips for your holiday in Japan
- Did you know about these Jawdropping Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan?
- How to Make the Most of Visiting Nikko
- Your Ultimate Otaku Guide To Tokyo
- How to Please Foodies in Japan
- How to See the Best of Hiroshima and Miyajiama in one Day