This is based on our itinerary for Japan, but with some improvements and bits that we missed due to bad weather / jetlag etc. This two week Japan itinerary gives plenty of time to see the highlights in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima as well as some extra day trips to see even more of what Japan has to offer. Ideally you’ll be able to spend much longer than this, but this is a great two week outline to help you plan your trip.
For us, we wanted to see all the main city highlights in each location but we also wanted some time to take day trips and see some more of Japan outside of these urban hubs. We tried to get in some hiking, plenty of history and also some of those bizarre experiences that are completely unique to a trip to Japan! Our two week Japan itinerary was pretty busy and we walked more than I think we’ve ever walked before, but it was so worth it to feel completely immersed in the travel experience.
Tokyo: 4 Days
You can spend a lot of time in Tokyo – some people visiting Japan just spend a week or more here. From exploring the city’s famous museums and parks to eating at amazing and unique restaurants, there is an unbelievable amount to do here. My recommendation is to structure your days around different areas of Tokyo, otherwise it’s easy to find yourself exhausted right at the beginning of your two week Japan itinerary!
Oak Hostel Fuji – great location and super friendly staff
Metro – relatively inexpensive and covers everywhere you’d want to visit
- Ueno Park & Gardens
- National Museum
- Shibuya Crossing
- Asakusa & Senso-ji Temple
- Tsukiji Fish Market
We also made a quick video about Tokyo – check it out!
Nikko: 1 Day
Sadly the day we had planned to visit Nikko it was so cold and rainy that we gave up. It was below zero and chucking it down and walking around all day just didn’t seem like the most fun use of our time. Based on what I’ve seen and read about Nikko though, it should be a stop off on your two week Japan itinerary if you can squeeze it in.
A world heritage site, it looks beautiful and best of all, you can reach it using JR lines making it a free day trip – always a bonus!
Osaka: 2 Days
I didn’t think I’d like Osaka that much but as it turned out we all loved it. A huge modern city it’s more manageable to explore than Tokyo and there are some great areas to discover. Osaka is also well known for its foodie scene and is a great place to try amazing food, especially Takoyaki which is a local speciality. We did a sushi making class in Osaka which was a particular highlight of our two weeks in Japan.
The Library – featuring an actual library this is a great little Hostel with free tea and coffee and a large space to relax after a day exploring Osaka
Once again the metro system is great and definitely the easiest and most cost effective way to get around
- Osaka Castle
- Ferris Wheel
- Tenmangu Shrine
- Tempozan Marketplace
Nara: 1 Day
An awesome day trip I’d 100% recommend visiting Nara from Osaka if you have a chance on your two week Japan itinerary. It was an amazing day spent playing with the cutest and tamest deer as well as seeing a beautiful and historical part of Japan. We had a crisp, cold, sunny day and it was just a stunning place to explore. It’s around 40 minutes by train and best of all, it’s free again if you have the JR Pass.
Here’s a handy guide on how to visit Nara from Osaka.
Kyoto: 4 Days
I’ve written a really detailed guide on how to spend 4 days in Kyoto, but I’ll cover our highlights again here. As pretty much everyone knows this is the historic heart of Japan and home to the country’s most famous temples. I think for many people 4 days here might seem like a lot of time when you’re only looking at a 2 week Japan itinerary, but I can promise you there is so much to do that you’ll need this time to see the highlights without completely exhausting yourself.
Once again there’s a metro system which is good. Buses in Kyoto are also handy for areas that aren’t covered by the metro, and finally we cheated and caught some taxis. They are very expensive but so convenient.
- Fushimi Inari
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
- Gold Temple
- Nijo Castle
- Nishiki Market
Hiroshima: 1 Day
Some people don’t make it far enough through Japan to reach Hiroshima, as it is about 3 hours onwards from Osaka / Kyoto. It is so worth visiting though and we felt that we just couldn’t miss it, with it being such an important place in Japanese and, indeed, world history. The main historical sights are in the same area of the city and it’s easily a full day of exploring to really discover the history of how the A Bomb impacted Hiroshima and its people.
There’s a handy tram system which will take you to key areas of the city.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
- Children’s Peace Memorial
- A Bomb Dome
Miyajima: 1 Day
I’d also include Miyajima, up there with Nara, as an amazing day trip to include in your 2 week Japan itinerary and if you’re in Hiroshima it’s very easy to reach. It’s a completely different side of Japan, a quaint seaside town with the famous floating shrine and Torii as well as Mount Misen with its beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. We spent an afternoon here when we arrived in Hiroshima and although we saw everything we wanted to, a full day would have been ideal.
You can reach Miyajima on the train and ferry from Hiroshima. It’s very easy – around 30 minutes on the train then 10 minutes on the ferry – and it’s all JR covered as well so another freebie if you have the JR Pass. Once there you can just walk around the island.
- Mount Misen
- Miyajima Beach
- Fresh Oysters
- Floating Shrine
How To Get Around: 2 Week Japan Itinerary
I’ll write a more detailed post on getting around Japan as I know it’s a topic that many people have questions about, but for now just an overview.
We invested in the 14 day JR Pass as whilst it’s very expensive, it definitely pays for itself, especially if you include day trips to Miyajima, Nikko and Nara on your 2 week Japan itinerary. The total cost was 413USD per person, we ordered it online about 2 weeks before reaching Japan and it arrived in the post less than 48 hours after we ordered it!
Once you arrive in Japan you need to pop to a station with a JR desk, and activate your pass by filling in a couple of forms. Make sure you have your passport!
My recommendation is to plan out all of the journeys you want to make, the dates you want to make them and write them on a piece of paper together with the rough times you want to travel at. If you then take this piece of paper to a JR booking desk (at most big stations), they will be able to just reserve your seats on all of the trains you want and give you all the tickets. It makes it SO easy to travel if you have all your times and tickets sorted. If you miss one or your plans change it’s not even an issue as your pass is valid on all JR trains for the 2 weeks you’re travelling.
We did this when travelling in Taiwan as well and it’s just the simplest way to stay on track and means your transport between stops is one less thing you have to worry about.
I’d suggest two different route options for this two week Japan itinerary depending on your preferences:
Option 1: A Straight Line
Travelling straight North to South was our preferred option as we wanted to see cherry blossoms and as they flower gradually across the country this gave us the best option to see as many blooms as possible. Disadvantages mean a long train journey back up to Tokyo on the last day but we just worked for the day and had a nice chill after a manic two weeks.
Option 2: A Loop
This makes a bit more sense and helps you to avoid any really long train journeys, you can interchange between doing Osaka or Kyoto last as they are so close to one another.