Two Weeks in Japan: A Detailed Itinerary

November 13, 2017 - Comment

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures. During our two weeks in Japan we experienced as much as possible of what the country has to offer. From the neon lights of Tokyo to the wooden teahouses of Kanazawa; from driving go-karts dressed as Mario characters to the solemn and tranquil tea ceremony; from

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures.

Takayama, one of the best stops on our Japan 2 week itinerary

During our two weeks in Japan we experienced as much as possible of what the country has to offer. From the neon lights of Tokyo to the wooden teahouses of Kanazawa; from driving go-karts dressed as Mario characters to the solemn and tranquil tea ceremony; from steaming bowls of cheap ramen to exquisite kaiseki cuisine; from temples, mountains and rice paddies to bullet trains, skyscrapers and arcades. We fell in love with the country even more than on our first visit.

Our Japan Itinerary

  • Tokyo – 5 nights
  • Nikko – 1 night
  • Hakone – 1 night
  • Takayama – 2 nights
  • Kanazawa – 2 nights
  • Tokyo – 5 nights

Our Japan trip was at the end of September until mid-October and was actually for 16 nights, but you could easily cut this down to 14 by spending less time in Tokyo.

Our Japan itinerary included five nights in Tokyo, six nights travelling with a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass, and ended with five more nights in Tokyo. We spent over three weeks in Kyoto on our last trip so we didn’t visit this time, but if you are travelling to Japan for the first time, I highly recommend substituting the second Tokyo stay with Kyoto as it really is a must-see.

At the end of this post I have included other suggested destinations if you decide to get a 14 Day Rail Pass for your two weeks in Japan and add more places to your itinerary and reduce the time spent in Tokyo or Kyoto.

As Japan is expensive and there is so much to do, we moved at a much quicker pace than usual. The week travelling with a rail pass was especially exhausting and we could easily have added an extra night (or two) to everywhere we visited. That said, we don’t regret our itinerary as we had an amazing time and loved everywhere we visited.

Japan Two Week Itinerary Map

This map shows our Japan two week itinerary with blue markers and other potential destinations to consider with red markers.

Getting Around Japan

Trains are the best way to get around Japan and we travelled with a 7 day Japan Rail Pass. Although the passes seem expensive (a 7 day pass is $250) they will usually save you money if you are travelling to many places, especially if you take the fast bullet trains (which you want to!).

You can use the Hyperdia website to find train times and costs and compare these to the cost of a pass. If the cost is close then get the pass as it’s much easier being able to hop on and off trains when you like and not worry about purchasing tickets.

You need to book Japan Rail Passes in advance before you arrive in Japan. You’ll receive an exchange order in the mail that you then exchange for the pass in Japan. We booked ours with JRailPass.com who deliver anywhere in the world, including to your Japan hotel if you’ve left it to the last minute. We got ours delivered to a hotel in Bali.

I will be writing a detailed guide to using a Japan Rail Pass soon.

Days 1 – 5 Tokyo

Memory Lane in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Memory Lane, an atmospheric street of tiny restaurants in Shinjuku

It’s easy to spend five days in Tokyo, but if time is limited you could reduce your stay to three. It’s a huge sprawling city so it’s best to focus your explorations on neighbourhoods. Here are some of my recommendations and you can see my guide to the coolest things to do in Tokyo for more details.

Shinjuku Day: Shop in huge electronics stores like BIC Camera and the food basements of department stores like Takashimaya. Stroll around the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

Shinjuku Night: See the insane Robot Restaurant show. Eat in a tiny restaurant on atmospheric Memory Lane. See the skyline view from the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Bar hop on the Golden Gai.

Shibuya and Harajuku: Walk across the famous Shibuya Crossing. Gawp at the crazy fashions of Takeshita Street. Enjoy stunning ukiyo-e woodblock prints at the Ota Memorial Museum of Art. Visit the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park.

Asakusa: Step back into old Japan and get your fortune told at Sensoji Temple followed by a meal in a traditional restaurant (we had a 12-course vegetarian feast at Bon).

I also recommend:

  • Spending a day at the magical DisneySea.
  • Visiting the Ghibli Museum if you are a Studio Ghibli fan (book far in advance).
  • Taking a two-hour Maricar tour in Roppongi driving the Tokyo streets in a go-kart dressed as Mario characters!
Dressing up as Mario characters and driving a Maricar go-kart is one of the many fun things to do in Tokyo

Dressing up as Mario characters and driving a Maricar go-kart!

Tokyo Transport

The Narita Express train is the easiest way to get from Narita airport to Shinjuku, Shibuya and Tokyo stations. It costs 2990 yen ($26) and takes 87 mins to Shinjuku. You must have a seat reservation but you can get this when you buy the ticket from the machine or counter in the airport station.

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on this line but if you are following this itinerary with a 7 day pass you won’t want to activate it until the day you leave Tokyo.

Buy a Suica card to use as a ticket on all trains and metro lines in Tokyo. You can also use it for lockers, vending machines, and even in many shops. If you…

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