Planning 2 weeks in Japan and want to know how to see the best of Japan in that time?
No problem, I spent several months travelling the country and this is what I recommend for where to travel in Japan.
It will give you time in big modern Japanese cities, historic locations, and nature (as well as some perfect Japanese Onsen relaxing time).
I’ve added additional links to other more in-depth articles on the places mentioned within each section.
This also makes a great itinerary for 7 days in Japan if you just follow the first week in Japan mentioned. Or add the first 2 weeks to a longer 3 weeks in Japan itinerary.
I hope this gives you a good idea on where to go!
My Japan travel tip before going:
Take a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) if you plan to visit Japan for 2 weeks as it will save you money for getting around Japan, especially on the fast Shinkansen trains that are essential for some day trips.
The Best Of Japan In 2 Weeks
1 – Tokyo
Tokyo is an obvious and essential place to visit on any itinerary for Japan no matter how much time you have there.
Even in if you don’t like cities it’s worth at least 1-2 days of your time.
On a 2 week Japan itinerary I would suggest to spend 3 nights of that in Tokyo as there is so much to do and would be (most likely) your entry point into Japan.
You can see the busy areas of Shinjuku and Shibuya, the gaming otaku (geek) Akihabara district, but Tokyo is not just about the massive modern shopping districts.
There are plenty of more relaxed places to visit and offbeat neighbourhoods to explore.
Yoyogi Park is not far from the crazy busy Shibuya and fun Harajuku but is a place of calm and peace.
In Yoyogi Park at a shrine.
Find out what I recommend for things to do Tokyo to help plan your trip in the city.
2 – Kyoto
Kyoto is a must visit city in Japan just like Tokyo.
Where Tokyo is fast paced and modern Kyoto holds some of the oldest and best preserved old temples and shrines in Japan.It’s
Kyoto is Japans cultural capital.
Of course it has its modern parts but the main reason for visiting is the history.
Kyoto temple Kinkaku-ji.
You can see the best of Kyoto in one day to save time for other places.
Spend 1 night there if you get there early enough from Tokyo on the Shinkansen.
This gives you half a day the first day and all day next day before taking an evening train the short distance to Osaka where you will spend the next 2 nights.
If you would prefer to do Kyoto in 2 days then take that extra night away from Osaka.
For a very good detailed guide for the Kyoto/Osaka area I recommend picking up the Lonely Planet Pocket Kyoto & Osaka Guide.
3 – Osaka
Osaka gets overlooked by many visitors to Japan as they focus (and rightfully so depending on your time) on Tokyo and Kyoto for the main cities to visit.
But Osaka, despite not having the temples of Kyoto or the sheer size of Tokyo, has its own charm and can even make a better city to stay in Kansai for exploring the surrounding area.
Osaka shopping at night in Dotonbori.
Osaka makes a great base for doing day trips
There are many day trip options but the 2 of my favourite is a visit to Koyasan and Nara.
Allow 2 nights in Osaka to do 2 day trips from there to your choice of place from the options in this post about day trips from Osaka.
4 – Hiroshima
Hiroshima A – Bomb Dome.
Normally I would recommend doing a day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka or Kyoto if on a 1 week Japan itinerary, however with 2 weeks it’s best to stay overnight.
It only takes 2 hours average on the fast Shinkansen trains between Osaka and Hiroshima so you can get there early.
That gives you plenty of time to see the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park dedicated to bring peace to the world and an end to nuclear weapons. Hiroshima was the first city in the world to be hit with the atomic bomb in World War 2.
You will have time to visit nearby Miyajima Island known for the Floating Tori Gate which is one of Japans most photographed places.
The Floating Tori Gate (at low tide).
Spend the 1 night there munching on some Hiroshima Okonomiyaki which the city is famed for.
Your Choice On The Next Direction
Ok, if you don’t like making decisions then you won’t like this as There are so many different choices on where to go next on the trip.
The Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima part should definitely be done but the 1 week after can be done in many ways.
Like mentioned at the beginning this is weather dependant on what time of year it is.
If in Japan in summer maybe you want to go hiking in the Japanese Alps or try climbing Mount Fuji.
But the places I recommend next are generally good year round and so perfect for any itinerary.
The 2nd Week
5 – Matsuyama
Matsuyama is a few hours by ferry from Hiroshima on Shikoku Island and easy to get to.
The main reason for visiting Matsuyama is Matsuyama Castle (my favourite and best castle in Japan) and the historic Dogo Onsen.
Spend 1 night in Matsuyama to see those 2 things before taking a ferry from nearby Yawatahama port to Beppu on Kyushu Island which takes around 3 hours (ferry timetable here).
On the ferry.
6 – Beppu
Beppu hot spring activity.
Beppu is one of the best onsen towns in Japan and this is where you can get some proper Japanese hot spring bathing in.
The whole area is covered in volcanic activity.
Hot steam everywhere in Beppu.
Spend 1 night in Beppu and enjoy walking from onsen bath to the next and get some proper relaxation in.
7 – Nagasaki
Old trading boat in Nagasaki
You could skip over Nagasaki if you want to spend an extra day in the next places I mention but it is worth a visit.
Nagasaki was the first trading place for foreigners in Japan and they were allowed a very small piece of land to trade with the Japanese.
There is a replica of this settlement worth seeing.
Nagasaki was the city that was bombed with the 2nd atomic bomb in World War 2 after Hiroshima and you can visit ‘ground zero’ where the bombs centre was.
It’s a very moving place to be just like at Hiroshima.
Where the A-Bomb hit at the centre.
You can visit those 2 places before heading up Mount Inasayama in the evening for great views across Nagasaki.
The next day take the train or bus to Kumamoto.
Kumamoto is famous for its samurai castle but this castle was damaged in a 2016 earthquake and is undergoing repairs.
Check before going to see if the castle repairs are done in which case you should spend a few hours in Kumamoto to see the castle before taking the train to Kagoshima on the ‘Kyushu Scenic Train Route‘.
8 – Kagoshima
Sakurajima Volcano seen from Kagoshima.
Kyushu has some stunning scenery and taking these small trains along the scenic route is the best way to go. It takes several hours from Kumamoto to Kagoshima by these trains (they are covered by the Japan Rail Pass).
Kagoshima itself is not that fascinating but the most active volcano in Japan (Sakurajima) is across the water where you can find some good hiking and hot spring bathing which is worth at least half a day of your time around Kagoshima (skip the bathing if Beppu was enough).
On the ferry to Sakurajima.
Spend 2 nights in Kagoshima as you will be getting in late the night before.
Another option is to spend 1 night in Kumamoto after Nagasaki and leave early for Kagoshima which would mean you would only need 1 night in Kagoshima.
The next day take the passenger ferry from Kagoshima to Yakushima Island, the last stop on your trip.
9 – Yakushima Island
Ancient forest Yakushima
Why not end your trip in a mystical forest with some of the most ancient trees on earth?
That’s what you will find on Yakushima Island and the best thing to do there is to go hiking in these ancient forests.
Some of the trees are 7000 years old. It really is a special place and was the inspiration behind one of Japans best animation movies, Princess Mononoke.
As well as spending a full day hiking in the forest you ca relax at small quiet onsens down by the sea to end your trip to Japan.
Spend 2 nights in Yakushima and then fly back to Tokyo from there and fly out of the country.
Another option is if leaving early from Kagoshima lie on the 1st ferry at 7.30 in the morning (at the time of writing) to spend the afternoon hiking part of the forest and the next morning and then take the passenger ferry back to Kagoshima and fly from there back to Tokyo.
It takes 3 hours to get from Kagoshima to Yakushima on the ferry. Find the ferry timetable here.
That would be rushing though so I would say to spend 2 nights on Yakushima.
A Week In Japan Itinerary
Just covering the other itinerary options out there in case you are looking for a shorter or longer time, or just curious.
As mentioned in the beginning if you are wondering the best way to spend a week in Japan then just follow the first 1 week of this 2 week Japan itinerary.
That will give you the best options for the shower time in order to get the best of Japan.
Japan Itinerary 10 Days
Again do the first week in the Japan itinerary here but then add on Hiroshima and Matsuyama only instead of the Kyushu part.
Japan Itinerary 3 Weeks
Add on another region entirely if you have 21 days in Japan.
If you want more islands and warmth you can continue to head south from Yakushima exploring more of Japans smaller islands until you get to Okinawa.
In this part of Japan you will get a different feel than the rest.
Or head to the far north to Hokkaido and go hiking in nature (summer only), go skiing in winer at famous ski resorts, or drift into quiet Japanese traditional island life, especially in spring/summer at Rishiri and Ruben Islands
Rishiri Island seen from Ruben Island.
It does get confusing trying to figure out where to go when you have longer than 1 week in Japan as there is so much variety to choose from.
The Best Of Japan In 2 Weeks
And that’s what I recommend for you to get the best ‘some of Japan’ in 2 weeks.
‘Some of Japan’ for a reason: there is so much to see and experience. This is just what I would recommend if you are traveling to Japan for the first time to get an idea for where to travel.
But there’s loads more options you could do for your 2nd week such as heading to the far north to Hokkaido, or getting into the central mountains as I said.
If you are planning a shorter trip like 1 week in Japan, or 10 days (for example as before) then you can do most of what’s mentioned here but just skip a day trip or 2 and maybe spend less time in Tokyo.
Practical Things for Japan
Again a Japan travel tip: Take a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) if you plan to visit Japan for 2 weeks as it will save you money for getting around Japan, especially on the fast Shinkansen trains that are essential for some longer journeys.
For an overall guide for Japan check out the Lonely Planet Japan Travel Guide.
Definitely take travel insurance before going to Japan as it’s an expensive country for medical treatment if you get sick on your trip.
I’ve been caught out myself in the past medically while travelling and have used World Nomads for my travel insurance and they have been excellent.
Get an insurance quote:
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