Japan is a fascinating country, full of charms and much larger than it seems at first glance. Therefore, it is difficult to decide what to see and what to do. For this, in Japonismo we have created several itineraries around Japan to give you ideas.
It doesn’t matter if you have a week, two weeks or even more time. We have perfect itineraries for every type of traveler. And all of them are based on real itineraries that we have done in our 20 years traveling to Japan.
With these ideas you can start putting together your trip to Japan. Either doing these itineraries exactly as we tell them (you can because they are real) or inspiring you and taking what you like the most to incorporate it into yours.
If you are making your own itinerary, in addition to using these as a base, take a look at other Japanese destinations that may interest you. You will find them on our Destinations in Japan page.
And don’t forget to check out our list of interests and tips when planning a trip to Japan. So you can see specific content if you like nature, Japanese gastronomy or castles, to name just a few.
Each traveler is different and looks for different things. So use all this information that we make available to you for free, get inspired and personalize your trip. Of course, keep in mind that it is impossible to see everything that Japan has to offer at the first time. You will have to make concessions. And, of course, come back. And is that Japan is a country that hooks.
General itineraries throughout Japan
Below you can see basic Japan itineraries. In this way, if it is your first time, you will be able to know the basics of the country and get a first impression. And you will see that there are ideas whether you have little time or if your trip is longer.
More and more of you are traveling to Japan to enjoy how much this country has to offer (which you can check on our destinations page). And in many cases you decide to take a long trip and visit Japan in 3 weeks. We sincerely believe that it is a great option, because although we will always have things to see, with 3 weeks we have to see the main tourist attractions in Japan.
For this reason, we leave you here an itinerary that will take you through some of the most characteristic corners of Japan over 3 weeks, but adding excursions and extensions in case you want to get off the beaten track. Of course, if you already know some places, take a look at some of the other itineraries that we have published. You can exchange visits and set up a totally personalized itinerary.
Planning a basic 3-week Japan itinerary
As we always say, what you will see here is just an idea. It is not intended to be a fixed itinerary that cannot be changed. Because in the end there are as many different trips as there are travelers. Here you will see inspiring ideas that you can then combine as you wish to make your trip to Japan something unique and special.
This itinerary is designed to go to Tokyo and back from Osaka. It’s becoming easier to find such options on airlines flying to Japan. And it avoids long trips as soon as we arrive or at the end, which do not contribute much either.
Actually, you will see that this itinerary mixes the two two-week itineraries that we already published. But sometimes what is difficult is knowing how to organize the views in a way that scrolls are effective.
And why “basic”? Because if it is your first time in Japan, although we will always recommend you do something that allows you to get out of the typical, you will surely want to see what other friends have told you, the places that appear in movies, the most recognizable. It would be a shame to spend time and money to go to Japan and then come back and feel that we have missed everything we wanted to see.
Day 1: Flight to Tokyo
The ideal for this day is to take a flight to Tokyo that arrives the next day in the morning, to have more time to enjoy the city. Besides being a good way to combat jet lag. To see what are the best prices for flights to Japan and the best dates, you can read the linked post. It also includes a search engine in collaboration with Skyscanner so you can find the best flight.
Tokyo has two airports, Narita and Haneda, although due to its proximity to the city, we tend to prefer Haneda. If you don’t want to have to go by train from the airport to your hotel, we have a private transfer service from both airports to Tokyo in our store.
Day 2: Arrival in Tokyo
If we have arrived in Tokyo in the morning, even if it takes a while to collect luggage, pass immigration and get to our hotel, we will have the whole afternoon free.
We recommend visiting Odaiba, for example, because it has many things to do, some of them a bit geek (like seeing the Gundam Unicorn), and this way it will be easier for us not to get bored and fight jet-lag, keeping us awake. In addition, when the sun begins to fall, we will enjoy beautiful views of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge.
Day 3: Tokyo
As this day we will still be somewhat tired from the trip, it is better to be in Tokyo before we go on excursions. As we said before, there are many options to do in Tokyo. But this day we recommend the following.
We start by visiting Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine, easily accessible also with the Yamanote line. Then, we can take a walk through Harajuku, enjoying all the shops that there are and the fashion of many of the people who walk there, especially on Takeshita Street.
After this, we can eat at Gyoza Lou, for example, which is not far. We will then continue the walk through Omotesando, enjoying the luxury brand stores, but above all, enjoying the architecture of many of these unique buildings.
Finally, we recommend you stop by Shibuya and enjoy its atmosphere, the busiest zebra crossing in the world, the Hachiko dog statue, go shopping at the famous 109, enter the Mandarake store, go to karaoke … whatever you want !
Day 4: Excursion to Kamakura
This day we will be a bit more rested, so we suggest a day trip to nearby Kamakura. There we can enjoy the Great Seated Buddha of Kamakura and the beautiful Hasedera temple, for example. We can also walk a bit through the streets of Kamakura and enjoy the beautiful Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine, before returning to Tokyo.
Depending on how fast you are visiting things, you can dedicate part of the afternoon / evening time to Tokyo, to walk around where you have the hotel, for example, or take the beautiful Enoden train from Kamakura to visit Enoshima or even go to dinner at Yokohama and enjoy the neon lights and the views from the harbor. This will depend, as we say, on whether you have half a day in Kamakura or not.
Day 5: Excursion to Nikko
Nikko is a beautiful place about two hours from Tokyo. Its World Heritage sanctuaries in the middle of nature are wonderful, plus there is much more to see. To take advantage of the day, we must start early in the morning and bear in mind that we are going to waste a lot of time traveling.
Once in Nikko, we can visit the Toshogu shrine and the most notable points of interest before returning (you have them all explained in the linked post from Nikko). If we have been using our JR Pass, we will have climbed a shinkansen to Utsunomiya, which is the Japanese capital of gyozas.
Already, we have recommended you gyozas in the Harajuku area, but in Utsunomiya there are tons of restaurants with gyozas of almost any filling you can imagine. It would be a sin to go through there back to Tokyo and not take advantage, right? We have been several times and we have told you in great detail in the linked post from Utsunomiya, so take a look.
Day 6: Tokyo
Before leaving Tokyo, and to rest a bit from so much train, we recommend another plan to get to know the highlights of the Japanese capital.
Thus, we recommend starting the day in Asakusa, where you can enjoy the Kaminarimon Thunder Gate, Nakamise Shopping Street and Sensoji Temple. We can eat here and then go to Akihabara to enjoy the atmosphere in this technological and geek district.
And we couldn’t finish the day without visiting Shinjuku. Depending on how fast we have done the rest of the visits, we can go to the free viewpoints of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and enjoy the architecture of this entire area full of skyscrapers; we can see the old pleasure district of Kabukicho, Shinjuku park, and much more. You have a lot of ideas in the linked Shinjuku post.
Day 7: Arrival in Kanazawa
This day we will take a bullet train from the Hokuriku Shinkansen line to Kanazawa in the morning (fully included in the Japan Rail Pass, in addition). The good thing is that we will arrive to eat, which we can do for example by buying something while visiting the market, located right in front of the station.
During the rest of the day, we recommend visiting Kenrokuen Gardens, one of the 3 most beautiful gardens in Japan. Next to it we have the castle that, although almost all of it is a reconstruction, it may be worth it to continue the visit, taking advantage of its proximity.
Day 8: Kanazawa and Takayama
We start this day in Kanazawa taking a walk through the old geisha neighborhoods and the old samurai neighborhood, which will allow us to travel back in time and see what Japan was like in the past. It depends on our interests, we can spend more or less time and visit one of the samurai or geisha houses that we show you in the linked posts.
After seeing this, we headed towards the train station, and we can take advantage of it to enjoy it if we did not do it when we arrived, before taking a train that takes us to Takayama.
The journey itself is not very long, so we will arrive in Takayama in time to take a walk and see some of the temples on the Higashiyama temple route. The ideal is to spend the night in a ryokan that has onsen, to relax and enjoy the experience to the fullest. We recommend the traditional-style Oyado Koto no Yume ryokan and the Western-style Hida Hotel Plaza hotel, also with onsen. And we have been in both and we can assure you that they are comfortable and worth it.
Day 9: Takayama
We dedicate this day entirely to Takayama. We can start by taking a walk through the morning market of the city and visit the Takayama Jinya, at one end of the historic center, an impressive building and equally impressive its history.
From here, we can walk through the streets of the historic center enjoying its beautiful bridges and its dozens of craft shops, restaurants or sake cellars and eat Hida meat at the Maruaki restaurant, for example. And if we keep walking we can reach the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine, which is known for organizing the famous Takayama Autumn Festival or Hachiman Matsuri, which is celebrated every year on October 9 and 10.
Day 10: Shirakawago
The next day we will visit another World Heritage Site worth visiting: the historic village of Shirakawago. Half a day can be worth it or, if we don’t want to have to get up too early, we can leave Takayama mid-morning, eat at Shirakawago and then return to Takayama for dinner.
Of course, here you have to go by bus because there are no train lines. Once in Shirakawago, we will enjoy a spectacular landscape between the mountains, with a bridge that crosses the beautiful river. And, of course, we will see the gassho-zukuri style houses, being able to also enter several of them.
Do not forget to go up to the Shiroyama viewpoint, since from there you have beautiful views of the entire valley and the town. If you have time, you can also walk to the other end of town, to have one of the most iconic photos of Shirakawago. Anyway, you have everything explained and detailed in our linked Shirakawago post.