Best Japan Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Are you trying to plan your first Japan itinerary? If you’re not sure what to do in Japan, where to fly to or what places to visit in Japan, fear not… we wrote so many notes on our first trip so you won’t have to spend hours researching anymore.

Now, if you’re like us and you’re a bit overwhelmed with deciding on things to do in Japan, don’t worry, we felt the same.

Japan-2-week-itineraryYou know we nearly didn’t go to Japan purely because we thought it would be too overwhelming with the amount of research needed and we were worried we would leave the country disappointed that we didn’t see everything we wanted to. We needed a Japan itinerary and an honest review of what it’s like visiting Japan for the first time.

I’m going to brake it all down for you in this post as to what we did in two weeks in Japan, how much we spent in Japan, why we fell in love with Japan and everything you need to know about Japan before you visit, how much we spent and what we would have done differently.


So I’m going to start this post by recapping some of the posts I’ve already written as they offer a lot of insight with things to see in Japan, tips before you go and much more. Then we’ll get onto our itinerary with what we actually did in two weeks.

Reasons Why You Need To Visit Japan


If you need reasons why you need to visit Japan, not like you should be convinced, you’ll need to read this post!

We were also worried that we wouldn’t love Japan like every single person on this planet seems to. We’ve been to countries before that we just didn’t get the hype at all but with Japan, thankfully we were won over.

We especially loved the people for their friendliness and their sense of fun, the insane culture of old and new Japan, the ridiculously incredible art islands and so much more!

What you need to know before you visit Japan


We spent ages researching Japan so luckily for you I’ve compiled all the things I researched and learnt in this little post. There’s vital information in this post about using transport, booking transport passes before you arrive in Japan, what’s the deal with the hygiene situation, how much we spent and so much more!

Fun things to do in Japan


We have very much a fun, childish side to our personalities and couldn’t wait to check out all of the weird and wonderful random stuff Japan is known for.

A few of our favourite things we did included a visit to Harry The Hedgehog Cafe to have a cuddle with the furry animals, a night out to the awesome Ninja Restaurant and Robot Restaurant and a visit to see the wild deer at Nara Park.

16 things to do in Tokyo


If you’re heading to Japan, the chances you’re going to Tokyo will be high. There’s so many things to do in Tokyo, you won’t get bored! Don’t worry though, I got you sorted with Tokyo with my 16 things to do in Tokyo post! Tokyo should definitely be included on your 2 week Japan itinerary for sure.

Japan 2 week itineraryroppongi-hills-japan

So I’m going to share with you our 2 week Japan itinerary, where we stayed in Japan, and what we would have done differently.

We did only book our flights like two weeks before we got there and probably missed out on some fab accommodation but we were happy with everywhere we stayed in the end.

Turns out apparently we weren’t the first people to try and see everything on our first visit to Japan. We met some other tourists who were on their second trip because when they tried to fit too much in last time, they felt like it was a total whirlwind. We also stayed in cheap airbnb’s and some of them we only spent like 6-7 hours in to literally sleep because we were on the move so much.

I can say I’m happy with the trip I had and would certainly go back to see Japan in different seasons but I’m happy with the amount see saw. Here’s what we did:

4 days in Toyko

Tokyo Accommodation


We stayed at Space Hostel in Tokyo (you can get 10% off by using this promo code:897950) which was the only hostel we stayed at during our 8 months of travel around the world. We loved it here as it was a quiet hostel with people staying there of all ages.

It’s next to Ueno Station which is on the train line from the airport. It’s also next to Electric Town which is a must visit on your trip. It’s the gaming centre of Japan so essentially it’s the area everyone thinks Japan will be like with the futuristic feel.


Things you need to know about visiting Japan


Something that’s super important about your Japan 2 week itinerary is knowing the finer details.

We booked a super cheap flight with Skyscanner from Nepal with Cathay Pacific who were brilliant.

We had to order the JR Pass and wifi portal before we arrived into the country which both were 100% worth it.

We also bought a 3 day train pass for Tokyo when we arrived at the airport, just outside the train line.

It also took us 3 hours to get off the plane and to our hostel which was on the train line into the city.

What to see in Tokyo

harry-the-hedgehog-cafe-japanOur first 3 days were spent in Tokyo doing an awesome bike tour with Freewheeling, eating at the absolutely fantastic Ninja Restaurant, seeing as many animal cafes as possible and walking around the city.

What we would have done differently in Tokyo


We would have definitely gone to see the Sumo wrestlers which is best to book in advance so make sure you add it to your Japan itinerary. See the schedule here and book here although you can get tickets on the day at 7am in the morning of the day by lining up outside of the stadium.

We did see them briefly as you can go and watch them practice but they had finished by the time we got there. To be honest, it was pretty weird as you can just stand outside their studio and peer through the window.

I just managed to capture this shot when someone turned up with their little doggie and a sumo wrestler came outside to say hello.

We also would have gone to the famous fish markets in Tokyo as well if we had more time and of course we would have driven around the centre of Tokyo in go karts dressed up as Mario Bros IF we had an international driver’s licence.


How to spend 3 nights in Kyoto


How long does it take to get from Kyoto from Tokyo? 

Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto is actually really easy. We just took the JR train which took us 3 hours.

Kyoto Accommodationairbnb-in-kyoto-japan

Our airbnb in Kyoto was by far our favourite little place we stayed in during our entire trip to Japan. It’s a small place but it had a sense of cosiness that we both loved. It’s also just one stop on the train from the action of Kyoto which we really loved.


Things to do in Kyoto

Kyoto was packed full of tourists as we went to visit the Bamboo forest, The Golden Temple and the older streets of the city but there’s quite a few things to do in Kyoto that you won’t get bored. bamboo-forest-kyoto-japanAt the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto

If you want to go and see the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto then I recommend going as early as possible because it was packed when we turned up at lunchtime!

We saved one of the days to go and check out Fushimi-Inari (the orange gates) and got up at 5am to go and see it before the crowds turned up. It was pretty amazing and worth getting up early for without a doubt.

fushimi-inari-kyoto-japanFushimi-Inari Shrine, Kyoto

We then went out of the city to spend the day at the Koka Ninja Village which was a laugh but not quite worth the effort as it was pretty run down.

We ended up having to hire bikes to get to the village from the nearest train station do we really enjoyed the adventure of cycling around the Japanese countryside. We had a brilliant day even if the Ninja Village itself was a bit crap.Japan-ninja-villageHaving fun at the Ninja Village!

What we would have done differently in Kyoto

kyoto-women-in-kimonoWe probably would have spent just 2 nights in Kyoto to see the temples. We didn’t need to go to the Ninja Village although it was fun and we would have got up early to go to the Bamboo park if we had more energy.

I would have also loved to have dressed up in a kimono for the day as there were a lot of tourists doing so and it looked like fun (although slightly cheesy!).kyoto-river-sideAlong the river in Kyoto!

I also wished we hired bikes and cycled along the river, I think that would have been a lot of fun!


How to spend one night in Osaka


How long does it take to go from Kyoto to Oaska? 

Kyoto to Osaka is an easy 1 hour on the train which we loved. We used our JR Pass for this.

Osaka Accommodationosaka-airbnb

We stayed at this lovely airbnb in Osaka!

Although we only had one night in Osaka, we loved our little airbnb we stayed in and could have stayed there for a couple of nights during our Japan trip.


Things to do in Osakat-site-bookshop-osaka

The incredible T-site bookstore in Osaka.

We knew there were some things to do in Osaka that we didn’t want to miss. As soon as we arrived, we went straight to the T-site bookstore, the only place I can admit was a visit purely because of and for Instagram. I saw a picture of this book shop ages ago and it looked insanely amazing I wanted to go and see it myself.

todai-ji-wooden-temple-japanAt Nara Park outside the insanely amazing Todai-ji Temple

After we went to the bookshop, we headed over to Nara Park which is definitely a must visit in Osaka. We loved the wild deer everywhere and the big wooden Todai-ji Temple is incredible! Todai-ji Temple is the largest wooden temple in the world!

To be honest this was the first temple we saw in Japan that both of us were completely wowed by. It’s so big and incredibly impressive, make sure you put it on your 2 week Japan itinerary. We arrived late in the day so all the crowds were leaving as we got there. It was perfect!! nara-park-wild-deer-japanStevo loved all of the wild deer just hanging out in the city!

We also loved the little bars and restaurants underneath the Osaka-shin train station. This is where we tried the famous Okonomiyaki dish for the first and only time (it’s sort of like a pancake with meat and veggies). It wasn’t quite for us but you must try it when visiting and add it to your Japan itinerary.

What we would have done differently in Osaka

nachi-waterfalls-japanI wish we had time to visit Koya San in Japan (where you can stay overnight with the monks). We looked into it but it was quite expensive and we wondered whether it would be a bit of a tourist display. We’ve both stayed in various monasteries around the world and because we couldn’t fit everything in, we decided to give it a miss.

If we had gone to Koya San we probably would have ventured further south of Osaka to Nachi Waterfall which looks absolutely stunning.


Day trip to the Naoshima and Teshima Japan Art Islands


How long does it take to get from Osaka to the art islands 

It took us 2 and a half hours from Osaka to get to Uno, then another half an hour on the ferry to the art islands. We left at 6am from Osaka so we could see both islands in one day. It was a bit of a rush but I’m glad we got to see them both.

Things to do at the art islands in Japan

teshima-art-museum-japanThe incredible Teshima Art Museum is a must visit when in Japan!

We hired out electric bikes on both islands but the highlights were the Teshima Art Musem on Teshima and Chichu Art Museum on Naoshima.

What we would have done differently at the Japan Art Islands


We would have stayed over night on Naoshima Island so we could have spent more time there as these islands were easily the best things we saw in Japan by a mile.

How to spend one night in Hiroshima


How long does it take to go from Osaka to Hiroshima via the art islands? 


It takes just two hours from the art islands to Hiroshima on the JR train and equally the same time from Osaka to Hiroshima. If you’re wondering whether Hiroshima is worth visiting, definitely make the effort, it’s a beautiful place and there’s plenty to see in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Accommodation

hiroshima-airbnbWe stayed at this lovely little airbnb in Hiroshima for approx. $80 a night.

We didn’t get into Hiroshima until really late and literally stayed at our airbnb for like 8 hours.

Things to do in Hiroshima


When we got into Hiroshima really late at night, we woke up to a new city. We straight away went to check out the memorial park which was absolutely fascinating to see. I was interested to see what Hiroshima would be like but it’s a city that hasn’t forgotten but has moved on. Unlike the busyness of Tokyo or Osaka, it is a much quieter city in a beautiful part of Japan and there is plenty of things to do in Hiroshima.

ferry-to-miyajima-hiroshima-japanThe ferry ride over to Miyajima is free if you have the JR pass!

Looking to store your luggage at the train station in Hiroshima? We managed to find some lockers at Hiroshima train station (there’s more on the third floor if the ground floor one’s are taken) to put our backpacks away before we jumped on the train and ferry to Miyajima to see the famous shrine in the water. Put Miyajima on your Japan itinerary because it’s amazing!

Be careful when purchasing ferry tickets, it will be free on the JR ferry as long as you bought the JR train pass. You’ll see some signs about buying tickets but it’s actually free with that pass. Find out the ferry times here. You’ll need to get the train from Hiroshima 20 minutes south before.

miyajima-shrine-low-tide-japanWe managed to see Miyajima at both high and low tide!

When we arrived onto the island, it was packed full of tourists and lots of hungry wild deer. These deer were more ruthless than the ones at Nara, probably because more people were feeding them that they were running up to people with food and snatching it off them.

miyajima-island-cable-carThe Miyajima shrine was impressive but we really enjoyed the cable car up to the top of the mountain. As you go up to the mountain, you have to walk the last 30 minutes to the top. I did it in a pair of flip flops but you would want to wear a pair of trainers ideally.

When we started walking up, we found a shrine that had a fire burning in the middle of it for over 1200 years, we couldn’t believe it!

What we would have done differently in Hiroshima

We would have stayed two nights in Hiroshima to have given us enough time to really see the city. It was the most peaceful and quietest city we saw in Japan.


3 Days in Tokyoakhibara-tokyo-japan

How long does it take to go from Hiroshima to Tokyo? 

It took us 4 hours on the JR train to get from Hiroshima to Tokyo, the longest train ride we had been on.

Tokyo Accommodation

tokyo-budget-cheap-airbnbOur AU$50 a night airbnb in Tokyo!

When we arrived back in Tokyo, we found the cheapest airbnb possible. We weren’t expecting much from it at all and although it was the basic of basics with a shared bathroom, we were OK with staying there. We really liked the area and it made our last few days in Tokyo a good one.

We found Tokyo quite exhausting to begin with because it was so tiring walking around everywhere and sitting on trains 90% of the time. If we had been living in London beforehand, we wouldn’t have battered an eyelid. We had just come from Nepal and had done the Everest Base Camp trek which neither of us had really got over which didn’t help!


Things to do in Tokyo Japan


It was good being able to come back to Tokyo again to see the things we hadn’t see yet. We went to Electric Town, went to find out what fuss was all about before Steve dragged me into a maid cafe which was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.

A maid cafe in Tokyo is literally a scene where tourists sit there playing games with young girls dressed up as maids. It’s a bizarre experience as you get to choose which maid you’d like a photo with. But it’s a typical crazy thing to do in Japan you won’t find anywhere else in the world that you’ll need to put it on your Japan 2 week itinerary.


We also went to the Meiji shrine complex in Harijuku which we probably should have done when we got there as we were templed out by the end.


We spent one of the days down at Mount Fuji which was absolutely beautiful. We honestly weren’t expecting much but that area is stunning! We went there to visit a flower festival although there weren’t many pink flowers left to see as we were too late in the season. Make sure you visit Mount Fuji when you visit Japan, it’s a definite must see.


We also went to visit the National Art Centre which is free thing to do in Tokyo. We also went up to the top of Roppongi Hills for the incredible views over the city which was definitely worth visiting. We ended the trip with dinner at the amazing Kagaya Restaurant and drinks with the locals on Piss Alley and Golden Gai.


What we would have done differently in Tokyo

If we had to do our Tokyo trip all over again we would have gone to the shrine complex in Harijuku at the beginning of the trip, not at the end. I wish we had time for the sumo wrestlers!!

Anything else we would have seen in Japan if we had time?


I’d love to go up to the north to go on the various hikes which I think would be stunning.

Equally I’d like to go down to the very south to see the famous wisteria tunnel at the Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Fukuoka.

We would have also rented a rowing boat and row through the Takachiho Gorge on Kyushu Island. When I saw a picture of this gorge, I actually thought it was in The Philippines. Couldn’t believe it’s actually in Japan!!


Image via Pop Japan. 

I’d also love to go and visit the snow monkeys during winter. Trust me I looked into it for May, but a small hot pool with no snow and no monkeys didn’t look very appealing. Warning – don’t visit the snow monkeys in Summer!snow-monkeys-japanI’d love to visit Japan for the cherry blossoms although I know I’d have to accept how busy it is and I’d love to go in Autumn to see the beautiful landscapes at Hitachi Seaside Park. The countryside would be incredible!

So there’s our complete Japan 2 week itinerary! If you have any questions, just write a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

Japan 2 week itinerary

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