Japan is the world’s fastest-growing travel destination. Home to futuristic cities, historical sites, a world-class food scene, and some of the most awe-inspiring nature on the planet, it is easy to see why. Japan also boasts the world’s most efficient public transportation system. Coupled with its unusually low crime rate, Japan is known as a very safe and easy country to travel to.
This two-week itinerary brings together the best parts of Japan for you to peruse now and experience soon. Hitting world-famous cities like Tokyo and Kyoto as well as lesser-known gems like Nara, and Kinosaki, you will understand how Japan came to be and where it is going by the end of your trip.
Your 14-Day Japan Itinerary
Days 1 – 5: Tokyo
Tokyo is the number one visited destination in all of Japan. And for good reason, the city is a melting pot of Japanese culture. Where the modern and ancient come together in a fast-paced, enchanting way, there is nowhere on earth like Tokyo.
Your first three days in Japan should be spent exploring Tokyo for all its worth (and it’s worth a lot). The city benefits from a highly efficient metro that links districts far and wide. Three such districts that you can’t leave Tokyo without visiting are Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku. Together they form a perfect snapshot of Tokyo’s uniquely inspiring weirdness.
From Shibuya’s stark busyness to Harajuku’s chic fashion and shopping culture and the late-night party scene of Shinjuku, Tokyo’s futuristic side can be well witnessed and experienced in the streets of these three districts.
Hakone Day Trip
Once you have had your fill of ramen, sake, and partying in Tokyo, it’s time for your day trip to Hakone. Hakone can be reached in less than one and a half hours from Tokyo on the high speed, making it a perfect day trip out of the city.
Hakone is set within the mountains and boasts uninterrupted views of mighty Mount Fuji looking out across Lake Ashi. Whether you want to soak in an onsen or do some Shinto Shrine sightseeing, Hakone is hospitable to either.
Kamakura Day Trip
Your 5th day in Japan will be spent by the seaside. Less than an hour on the high speed, Kamakura is a seaside escape that is especially popular with domestic tourists in the summertime. Its most famous landmark “The Great Buddha” and its partnering museum are a must-see while in Kamakura.
For lunch, we recommend heading to Shirasuya Honten for their high-quality seafood menu. Depending on your efficiency, Kamakura is home to many more Zen Temples, Shrines, and traditional Japanese-style gardens that are all worthy of a visit.
Days 6 – 10: Kyoto
After four nights in Tokyo with two day trips in the mix, it is officially time to leave the capital and make tracks for (slightly) quieter pastures. Kyoto is regarded as the “ancient heart” of Japan, and it is an essential destination for any Japanese vacation.
While in Kyoto you will have the opportunity to visit 17 UNESCO World Heritage Listed Sites plus hundreds more Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and imperial palaces. Obviously, this is a tall order for a two-week trip, so Kyoto’s most iconic sites of Kinkaku-Ji, Kiyomizu-Dera, and Fushimi Inari are a good place to start.
Two excellent districts in Kyoto that are conveniently neighbors are Higashiyama Ward and Gion. Both districts are utterly beautiful representations of traditional Japanese design and culture. Gion is most famous for its Geisha traditions, with many of its quieter streets home to discreet private clubs and tea rooms.
Nara Day Trip
By Japanese standards, Nara is a small city with a considered population of just 360,000 people. This, coupled with its close proximity, make it a great day trip from Kyoto. Like many of Japan’s cities, Nara has an incredibly rich history that dates back to ancient times.
Established in 768, Kasuga-Taisha is the city’s most recognizable Shinto Shrine. Another thing Kasuga-Taisha is known for is the wild deer population that can be seen frequenting its grounds most days.
Although you won’t have the time to visit them all, we would highly recommend making the effort to see at least one historical site on top of your visit to Kasuga-Taisha. Toshodai-ji, Todiji, Kofukuji, Shosoin, and Akishinodera are four more of Nara’s most impressive landmarks.
Kinosaki Day Trip
Kinosaki is a quaint mountain town that is not practically reached via the high-speed train, from Kyoto, in a day. It is, therefore, advisable to rent a car. Driving, it will only take you two and a half hours to get to Kinosaki. If you don’t fancy driving in Japan, you could always hire a private driver for the day.
Set within a densely green valley by the coast, Kinosaki is a stunning example of Japanese beauty. While in Kinosaki, it really is all about experiencing an onsen as the town boasts seven of them. Try to allow a little time to check out the region’s rugged coastline as it’s a shining example of ancient Japan.
Days 11 – 14: Hiroshima
Hiroshima is well connected to Kyoto via the high-speed train, and the journey typically takes about two and a half hours. The city may have a torturous past but its future is one of hope and peace – known globally as “Peace City” now. Hiroshima is filled with historical sites that are dedicated to the legacy of the victims of that fateful day on August 6th, 1945.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is the city’s most iconic and visited landmark. Along with its memorial for the fallen victims, the park is home to the Genbaku Dome. This is a symbol of the city’s strength as it was one of the only buildings left standing after the attack.
The Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace are two more sites that, between eating well, will fill your time in Hiroshima. If you’re flying out of Tokyo, you will need to allow four hours to get the high-speed train back into the city, and another hour on the JR Narita Express to the airport.
So there you have it. Two weeks in Japan visiting quaint mountain towns, bustling cities, and many ancient temples. Of course, you could spend a whole year in Japan and still feel like there’s more.
If you’re prepared, however, two weeks is just enough time to experience Japan in all its forms, and this itinerary aimed to do just that. We hope very much that it was inspiration enough to book your dream Japanese vacation today.