Throughout our two weeks in Japan we skilled as a lot as doable of what the nation has to supply. From the neon lights of Tokyo to the picket teahouses of Kanazawa; from driving go-karts dressed as Mario characters to the solemn and tranquil tea ceremony; from steaming bowls of low cost ramen to beautiful kaiseki delicacies; from temples, mountains and rice paddies to bullet trains, skyscrapers and arcades. We fell in love with the nation much more than on our first go to.
Our Japan Itinerary
- Tokyo – 5 nights
- Nikko – 1 evening
- Hakone – 1 evening
- Takayama – 2 nights
- Kanazawa – 2 nights
- Tokyo – 5 nights
Our Japan journey was on the finish of September till mid-October and was really for 16 nights, however you would simply minimize this all the way down to 14 by spending much less time in Tokyo.
Our Japan itinerary included 5 nights in Tokyo, six nights travelling with a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass, and ended with 5 extra nights in Tokyo. We spent over three weeks in Kyoto on our final journey so we didn’t go to this time, however if you’re travelling to Japan for the primary time, I extremely advocate substituting the second Tokyo stick with Kyoto because it actually is a must-see.
On the finish of this put up I’ve included different instructed locations for those who resolve to get a 14 Day Rail Cross on your two weeks in Japan and add extra locations to your itinerary and scale back the time spent in Tokyo or Kyoto.
As Japan is pricey and there’s a lot to do, we moved at a a lot faster tempo than regular. The week travelling with a rail go was particularly exhausting and we might simply have added an additional evening (or two) to all over the place we visited. That stated, we don’t remorse our itinerary as we had a tremendous time and liked all over the place we visited.
Japan Two Week Itinerary Map
This map exhibits our Japan two week itinerary with blue markers and different potential locations to think about with crimson markers.
Getting Round Japan
Trains are one of the best ways to get round Japan and we travelled with a 7 day Japan Rail Pass. Though the passes appear costly (a 7 day go is $250) they are going to normally prevent cash if you’re travelling to many locations, particularly for those who take the quick bullet trains (which you wish to!). We saved $150 per individual for this itinerary!
You need to use the Hyperdia web site to seek out prepare occasions and prices and examine these to the price of a go. If the fee is shut then get the go because it’s a lot simpler having the ability to hop on and off trains if you like and never fear about buying tickets.
You might want to e book Japan Rail Passes prematurely earlier than you arrive in Japan. You’ll obtain an alternate order within the mail that you just then alternate for the go in Japan. We booked ours with JRailPass.com who ship wherever on this planet, together with to your Japan resort for those who’ve left it to the final minute. We obtained ours delivered to a resort in Bali.
See my detailed information on tips on how to calculate whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth it together with every thing it is advisable know to make use of the go.
Days 1 – 5 Tokyo
It’s simple to spend 5 days in Tokyo, but when time is proscribed you would scale back your keep to a few. It’s an enormous sprawling metropolis so it’s greatest to focus your explorations on neighbourhoods. Listed below are a few of my suggestions and you may see my information to the coolest things to do in Tokyo for extra particulars.
Shinjuku Day: Store in big electronics shops like BIC Digicam and the meals basements of malls like Takashimaya. Stroll across the lovely Shinjuku Gyoen Nationwide Backyard.
Shinjuku Evening: See the insane Robot Restaurant show. Eat in a tiny restaurant on atmospheric Reminiscence Lane. See the skyline view from the free Tokyo Metropolitan Authorities Constructing. Bar hop on the Golden Gai.
Shibuya and Harajuku: Stroll throughout the well-known Shibuya Crossing. Gawp on the loopy fashions of Takeshita Road. Take pleasure in gorgeous ukiyo-e woodblock prints on the Ota Memorial Museum of Artwork. Go to the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park.
Asakusa: Step again into outdated Japan and get your fortune advised at Sensoji Temple adopted by a meal in a conventional restaurant (we had a 12-course vegetarian feast at Bon).
I additionally advocate:
- Spending a day on the magical DisneySea.
- Visiting the Ghibli Museum if you’re a Studio Ghibli fan (e book far prematurely).
- Taking a two-hour Maricar tour in Roppongi driving the Tokyo streets in a go-kart dressed as Mario characters!
The Narita Express train is the best method to get from Narita airport to Shinjuku, Shibuya and Tokyo stations. It prices 2990 yen ($26) and takes 87 minutes to Shinjuku. You need to have a seat reservation however you will get this if you purchase the ticket from the machine or counter within the airport station.
The Japan Rail Cross is legitimate on this line however if you’re following this itinerary with a 7 day go you received’t wish to activate it till the day you allow Tokyo.
Purchase a Suica card to make use of as a ticket on all trains and metro traces in Tokyo. It’s also possible to use it for lockers, merchandising machines, and even in lots of retailers. If you happen to return it on the finish of your keep you’ll get the 500 yen deposit again.
If you’ll be utilizing a Japan Rail Pass throughout your keep ensure you swap your alternate order for a go and activate it at one of many JR places of work in prepare stations. You may’t change the beginning date upon getting accomplished this.
The place to Keep in Tokyo
Shinjuku is our favourite area to stay in Tokyo because it has glorious transport hyperlinks, good meals, and most of the sights above are in strolling distance. Shibuya is one other handy base however we discovered it too crowded.
We stayed in an Airbnb studio apartment a 10-minute stroll from Shinjuku Station. It was small (all over the place is in Tokyo) however snug and well-equipped with quick WiFi and a washer. Our host despatched us glorious instructions and we have been capable of self-check-in by choosing up the important thing from the mailbox. We discovered Airbnb higher worth than motels in Tokyo and there’s a lot of selection.
If you’re on the lookout for luxurious, the Park Hyatt has an awesome location in Shinjuku and implausible views. It’s the place the movie Misplaced in Translation was filmed.
The place to Eat in Tokyo
There may be a lot wonderful meals in Tokyo from low cost eats to fantastic eating. Whilst vegetarians we ate very well with some planning. See my put up on our favourite Tokyo vegetarian restaurants. The spotlight was Bon which serves beautiful multi-course Zen Buddhist delicacies in non-public tatami rooms—it’s an expertise greater than only a meal.
Day 6 Nikko
On Day 6 we activated our Japan Rail Pass and headed off early to Nikko, a temple city within the mountains just a few hours north of Tokyo. Many individuals go to on a day journey from Tokyo however because it’s a reasonably lengthy journey we determined to remain the evening.
The air felt cool and contemporary and it was pretty to see mountains after Tokyo’s concrete jungle. From the prepare stations it’s a 30-minute stroll alongside the principle highway to the brilliant crimson Shinkyo bridge and the temples begin up the forest coated hill simply past. Nikko’s shrines and temples are a UNESCO world heritage website.
Toshogu Shrine is essentially the most well-known Nikko attraction and is the ultimate resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founding father of the Tokugawa Shogunate that dominated Japan for over 250 years till 1868. It’s one of the vital gorgeous temples I’ve ever visited with greater than a dozen intricately adorned crimson and gold buildings amongst big cedar bushes (some over one thousand years outdated). However on a Sunday it was overwhelmingly busy and we didn’t keep lengthy.
Fortunately Nikko has many different shrines to discover which are a lot quieter than Toshogu. Though they’re much less spectacular we had a extra fulfilling expertise at Futarasan-jinja shrine, Taiyuinbyo temple, and up the mountain at Takino shrine.
Though half a day on the temples was sufficient for us, it will have been higher to go to Toshogu very first thing within the morning earlier than the day trippers arrived. With extra time we might even have accomplished some close by hikes.
Nikko has two prepare stations which are a couple of minutes stroll from one another. Tobu Nikko Station is served by Tobu Railway trains and Japan Rail Passes can’t be used on this line, so with a rail go you’ll arrive on the JR Nikko station. There are lockers at each stations the place you may go away baggage.
From Tokyo I like to recommend getting the bullet prepare from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya then altering for the native prepare to Nikko—there have been even pleasant workers at Utsunomiya exhibiting us the place to go. The entire journey takes about two hours.
Don’t make the error we did on the best way there and take the JR Shonan-Shinjuku line from Shinjuku to Utsunomiya. It is a native line so is busy and never very snug for the lengthy journey. It took us three hours to get to Nikko.
The Nikko prepare stations are a few 30-minute stroll from the temple space or you may take the bus. We walked all over the place. I like to recommend choosing up a vacationer map from the prepare station as not all of the temple indicators are in English.
The place to Keep in Nikko
We stayed at Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station which has a handy location near the prepare stations. We selected the costliest triple room with non-public toilet, however there are cheaper rooms with shared toilet. The decor was reasonably dated, however the mattress was snug and it was spacious by Japanese requirements with a double mattress, single mattress, armchair, and kitchenette (though no plates or pans have been supplied). Breakfast prices further however there’s a giant grocery store shut by.
The place to Eat in Nikko
We had lunch at Yasai Cafe Meguri, a vegan cafe in an outdated artwork gallery with an attractive painted ceiling. It’s on the principle highway not removed from the temples—search for the signal that claims “Oriental Nice Arts & Curios”. It will get rave evaluations and is usually absolutely booked, though at 11.30 am we had no issues getting in. We every had one of many two lunch units that include miso soup, salad, and some greens—Simon had avocado, tomato and seaweed on rice and I had the native speciality yuba (tofu pores and skin) filled with rice. It was good and wholesome however not excellent and somewhat costly at 1600 yen ($14).
Many eating places in Nikko shut within the night so Komekichi Kozushi was an awesome discover only a few minutes stroll from our resort (and the prepare stations). This small family-run sushi place has two tables, counter seating and a tatami room the place we ate. It was the primary sushi place we present in Japan that had loads of vegetarian choices on the English menu together with pickled plum, pickled greens, natto, cucumber, and egg.
They even have an English information to sushi etiquette, so that you don’t make a pretend pas like dipping the rice finish of your sushi in soy sauce. We liked the pickled vegetable sushi and particularly the inari zushi—tofu filled with rice. At 700 yen ($6) a plate it was glorious worth.
For a snack, strive dango, grilled rice balls on a stick brushed with miso or soy and offered at just a few stands on the principle highway.
Day 7 Hakone
Hakone is an space encompassing Lake Ashi and the mountains round Gora. It’s identified for its views of Mount Fuji, sizzling springs, and the distinctive loop that takes you to all of the sights on totally different types of transport.
We started at noon by Lake Ashi in Moto Hakone the place we have been staying. It was a cloudy day so our hopes of seeing the reclusive Mount Fuji have been dashed, however as we walked alongside the lake the enduring mountain appeared via the clouds. It lived as much as our expectations and the truth that it saved disappearing and reappearing via the day solely made the sight extra particular.
We hopped on the pirate ship (sure, actually!) to move throughout the lake for extra views of Mount Fuji and the encompassing mountains. At Togendai we switched to the ropeway (cable automobile) which took us up the mountain to Owakudani. We have been delighted to see Mount Fuji on the best way up and from the highest.
Owakudani is an energetic volcanic valley so steam and a foul odor rise from the yellow earth. The Japanese go loopy for black eggs which are cooked within the sizzling sulphur springs, however we handed.
From Owakudani you may proceed on the cable automobile to Sounzan then all the way down to Gora, however from there we might have needed to take the bus again to Moto Hakone, so it made extra sense for us to return the best way we got here and preserve having fun with the Fuji views.
We obtained off the boat a cease early at Hakone Machi and walked the two km again to our resort which took us via the historic Cedar Avenue. We spent the remainder of the afternoon soaking in an onsen and having fun with our fantastic ryokan room at Hotel Musashiya.
Within the morning we walked via the mist and drizzle to the close by Hakone-jinja shrine with its massive crimson torii gate overlooking the lake.
On our method again to Odawara station we continued with the loop by taking the bus to the Ninotaira Iriguchi cease and strolling to the Hakone Open Air Museum, which is a spotlight of the realm with out of doors sculptures, uncommon artwork installations, a Picasso gallery, and even a free sizzling spring foot tub. There are lockers for baggage.
From the close by Chokokuno-Mori station we took the Tozan mountain railway on a winding observe via the forest to Hakone Yumoto the place we switched trains to Odawara.
Though we managed to finish a lot of the Hakone loop in 24 hours we might have liked to remain an additional evening and have extra time to get pleasure from our lovely ryokan.
To get to Hakone from Nikko we needed to backtrack via Tokyo so it was an exhausting morning of journey. We left at 7.30 am and took the native prepare to Utsunomiya, the bullet prepare from there to Tokyo, and one other bullet prepare to Odawara.
In Odawara prepare station we purchased a Hakone Free Pass on the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centre. The go prices 4000 yen ($35), is legitimate for 2 days, and can be utilized on the buses, pirate ship, cable automobile, and mountain railway.
As we have been staying in Moto Hakone we took the H bus there from Odawara which took about an hour on a windy mountain highway and arrived round 11 am.
The place to Keep in Hakone
As Hakone is a big space it may be complicated deciding which city to remain in. A very powerful factor is to remain someplace with good transport hyperlinks. We determined to remain by Lake Ashi to have a second likelihood of seeing Mount Fuji within the morning.
We stayed in a ryokan (conventional inn) referred to as Hotel Musashiya on the shores of Lake Ashi in Moto Hakone. Though it appears like a contemporary resort from the skin, the minimalist tatami rooms are conventional with futon beds (which are cleared away throughout the day), a low desk and chairs, and unusually a small ensuite toilet. We had a stunning view of Lake Ashi from our room and there are additionally lake views from the onsens (sizzling spring baths) and lounge (the place there’s WiFi).
In typical Japanese fashion the onsens are public with out of doors and indoor baths for women and men. As soon as I obtained over my worry of public nudity it was a splendidly enjoyable expertise to soak within the sizzling water and I felt blissed out our complete keep.
Hotel Musashiya was by far our favorite place we stayed in Japan and I extremely advocate it.
The place to Eat in Hakone
Vegetarian choices are restricted in Hakone. After we arrived in Moto Hakone we had a fast lunch at Bakery and Table—you may select from various rolls (filled with cheese, potato, and so on) and pastries and take them upstairs to eat overlooking Lake Ashi.
Dinner and breakfast have been included at Lodge Musashiya they usually have been completely happy to cater for vegetarians. Dinner was served in our room and was an actual feast—tempura, rice, miso soup, yuba, pickles, vegetable and tofu hotpot, eggplant and mushrooms in a scrumptious sauce, Caprese salad, matcha pudding, and plum wine.
Days eight – 9 Takayama
Takayama is considered one of my favorite locations in Japan. It’s a small city on the sting of the Japan Alps with a superbly preserved historic centre of picket homes, temples, neatly formed bushes, and vibrant crimson bridges over the river. There’s a lot to do within the space we might simply have spent longer than two nights right here (a theme of our journey!).
Our highlights included wandering the outdated city within the early morning earlier than the crowds arrived, shopping for scrumptious apples and pears from the morning markets, seeing the extravagant, vibrant floats on the Competition Floats Exhibition Corridor, and visiting the Hida People Village, a show of conventional thatched homes from the realm.
We additionally spent a day in close by Hida Furukawa, an lovable city that’s effectively value a go to. We did a superb (and straightforward) biking tour with Satoyama Experience the place we biked via the gorgeous countryside previous rice fields and idyllic villages and learnt concerning the traditions of the realm.
From Hakone to Takayama we took the two.08 pm bullet prepare from Odawara to Nagoya then modified to the Restricted Categorical Large View Hida prepare to Takayama which has massive home windows to reap the benefits of the gorgeous river and mountain views. We arrived in Takayama simply after 6 pm.
Takayama is a small city so we walked all over the place besides after we took the 15-minute prepare experience to Cover Furukawa for our biking journey.
The place to Keep in Takayama
We stayed at Super Hotel Hida Takayama, a enterprise resort near the station and a 10-minute stroll from the outdated city. Our room was tiny however had every thing we would have liked—ensuite, desk, fridge, kettle, WiFi, and free breakfast buffet. There’s even an onsen however we didn’t have time to make use of it.
Takayama is good for experiencing a conventional inn or ryokan. If we had the funds we might have stayed someplace extra atmospheric just like the extremely rated Oyado Koto No Yume.
The place to Eat in Takayama
Our favorite place to eat in Takayama was Heinraku, a tiny restaurant run by the friendliest woman we’ve ever met! There’s a a number of web page vegetarian part on the menu with a mixture of Chinese language and Japanese dishes together with native specialities just like the scrumptious Hida miso ramen. The chile tofu and vegetable gyoza have been additionally glorious and don’t miss their home made plum wine.
Suzuya is an effective place to strive native specialities. They do a tasty vegetarian model of hoba miso the place greens and tofu are cooked at your desk on a big magnolia leaf unfold with miso paste.
Fukutaro is a cute cafe that makes glorious gohei mochi, mashed rice grilled on a skewer with sesame sauce.
Mitarashi-dango is one other native dish to strive—small, virtually creamy rice balls grilled with soy. The Jinya Dango stand close to Jinya Mae market makes one of the best on the town.
Days 10 – 11 Kanazawa
At first glimpse Kanazawa looks like one other Japanese concrete metropolis however if you start to discover you’ll uncover a number of the most lovely gardens within the nation in addition to three geisha districts with preserved picket buildings.
Higashi Chaya is the most important geisha space the place geisha used to carry out and entertain visitors within the picket teahouses courting again to 1820. It’s lovely however crowded with vacationers and memento retailers. We most well-liked the quieter geisha areas of Kazuemachi and Nishi Chaya.
Kenroku-en Backyard is likely one of the high three gardens in Japan. It’s identified to get crowded however we had it virtually to ourselves at 7.30 am. The gardens are pretty however they might be higher within the spring or autumn.
I really most well-liked the tiny however beautiful Gyokusen-en Gardens which has all of the basic Japanese backyard components in a small package deal—moss coated rocks, stone lanterns, carp-filled ponds, a picket teahouse, and maple bushes starting to show crimson.
One of many highlights of our journey was the tea ceremony with did with Ms Nishida who’s from the fifth era of the household who owns the gardens. Carrying a chic kimono she took us via the rituals of the ceremony, beginning with washing our arms and mouths to purify ourselves.
Within the tatami room we have been served a candy mochi (rice cake) whereas she fastidiously ready the brilliant inexperienced matcha tea by whisking the powder with sizzling water in a small bowl. We learnt the phrases to say to our host and different visitors earlier than ingesting the tea and tips on how to study the tea bowl afterwards to understand each element. We then made our personal tea for one another. It was a relaxing expertise and engaging perception into Japanese tradition.
To e book the tea ceremony call the gardens or e mail [email protected] a minimum of three days prematurely (response by e mail is sluggish). It prices 3000 yen ($26) together with entrance to the gardens.
After spending the morning in Takayama we took the 1.15 pm prepare to Toyama—one other lovely journey previous mountains, rivers, and rice fields—the place we switched to the bullet prepare to Kanazawa. The journey took two hours.
Kanazawa is a big metropolis so we needed to take a 10-minute bus experience from the prepare station to the Katamachi space the place we have been staying. From there we might stroll to all the principle sights.
The place to Keep in Kanazawa
Smile Hotel Kanazawa was the most cost effective ensuite room I discovered within the centre of Kanazawa. It’s a normal enterprise resort with all the standard services however our room was bigger than in Takayama (with entry to the mattress on either side!). The situation was handy because it was a 15 to 30 minute stroll to all of the sights.
The place to Eat in Kanazawa
We struggled to seek out Japanese vegetarian meals in Kanazawa so ended up consuming Western meals.
Taste and Scent is a principally vegetarian cafe close to the Ninja Temple. The 800 yen ($7) set lunch with rice and a wide range of salads and vegetable dishes was excellent.
Slow Luck is a tiny place with 4 tables run by two younger Japanese guys. They make inventive Italian-influenced dishes utilizing natural farm greens. There’s a vegetarian part of the menu they usually provide you with a survey to fill in with what you may’t eat. The meals was wonderful together with grilled greens with a beautiful basil dip and a skinny, crispy pizza topped with pesto, potato, and mascarpone cheese that was so good we ordered one other one.
Oriental Brewery within the Higashi Chaya space serves craft beer brewed in-house and glorious beer yeast french fries. The pizzas appeared good too.
Days 12 – 16 Tokyo (or Kyoto)
On the final day of our rail go we took the bullet prepare from Kanazawa to Tokyo (2.5 hours direct) the place we stayed in an Airbnb in Shibuya for the final 5 nights of our journey.
If it’s your first journey to Japan I like to recommend travelling from Kanazawa to Kyoto (2.5 hours direct) as an alternative and spending a minimum of three nights there. You might then fly out from close by Osaka airport or take the bullet prepare again to Tokyo.
Different Japan Locations
When you have extra time or resolve to get a 14 Day Japan Rail Cross and spend extra time travelling and fewer in Tokyo, you would contemplate these locations that we loved on our final journey:
- Kyoto – A must-see with many gorgeous temples and other attractions to discover.
- Nara – Lovely temples which are a simple day journey from Kyoto.
- Koya-san – A temple city within the mountains just a few hours from Osaka the place you may stay the night in a Zen Buddhist temple.
- Tsumago – An image-perfect conventional village of picket homes within the Kiso Valley.
- Hiroshima – To see the shifting Peace Memorial Park.
Two Weeks in Japan Finances
We spent £180 ($238) a day for 2 folks staying in mid-range lodging with non-public bogs and one splurge on a stunning ryokan in Hakone. Our common value of lodging was £65 ($87) an evening.
We ate out for all our meals and spent £42 ($55) a day on meals. Most meals have been round $20 however we had just a few costly meals like Bon in Tokyo. We travelled with a rail pass for per week and by trains and metro in Tokyo and averaged £38 ($50) a day on transport. We did loads of actions and spent £24 ($32) a day on leisure.
You might actually journey in Japan for much less by staying in rooms with shared bogs (or in hostel dorm rooms), cooking for your self (or consuming within the low cost ramen joints), specializing in free actions, and travelling at a slower tempo to scale back transport prices.
It’s also possible to see our put up on how much it costs to travel in Japan from our final journey in 2011. We averaged £140 ($183) a day on a two week journey with one week in Tokyo and one week travelling round with a rail go. We have been extra funds acutely aware on that journey however nonetheless had splurges like ryokan and temple stays and two days at Tokyo Disney.
Costs haven’t really risen in Japan since then because the pound and particularly the greenback are stronger towards the yen now so that you get a greater alternate charge.
Japan Journey Sources
- Japan Rail Pass – Ensure you order your go on-line earlier than you go to Japan.
- Journey Insurance coverage – Important in case something goes fallacious as Japanese healthcare is pricey. We used True Traveller as all the time—they’re one of the best deal we’ve discovered for UK/EU residents. World Nomads is one other well-respected firm we’ve used previously and is accessible worldwide.
- Information E-book – We used the Lonely Planet Japan printed in August 2017.
- Lodging – We used Airbnb for residences in Tokyo and Booking.com for motels all over the place else.
- SIM card – We purchased a Umobile data SIM card from a merchandising machine at Narita airport.
- Voyagin – For reserving enjoyable actions in Tokyo and past. They provide reductions on sights just like the Robot Restaurant and Maricar.
Japan Journey Weblog Posts
- Planning a Trip to Japan: Dos and Don’ts
- Where to Stay in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Accommodation
- Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
- Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan
- 72 Random Observations About Japan
- 15 Fascinating Books About Japan
- 17 Cool Things to Do in Tokyo
- The 12 Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Tokyo
This two week Japan itinerary is the proper introduction to the nation for first-timers, and it’s additionally very best for second-time guests like us who wish to revisit Tokyo and/or Kyoto in addition to discover some new locations. We hope you get pleasure from this bizarre nation as a lot as we did!
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