2 Weeks in Japan – Where to Go, What to See

Japan is a magical place and is full to the brim with gems, such as delectable Japanese cuisine, entertainment and enchanting places. So if you are planning your Japan 2 week itinerary, here are the must see places so you can easily cover Japan in two weeks.

**** This post contains affiliate links. If you book anything from them, this doesn’t cost you anything but might give me a little commission to help keep this free blog full of more travel tips and me fuelled with chocolate to keep writing. ****

Photo by Federica Galli on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Japan Itinerary Day 1: Narita and Sawara

Most international tourists may arrive at Narita but then quickly take the Japan rail into Tokyo. If you don’t want to miss out on one of the most important temples in Japan, don’t overlook Narita in your Japan itinerary! Narita itself is a small town but has a wonderful old district with traditional wooden houses and shops that line the cobblestone streets. Take a stroll along Naritasan Omotesando Street to feel transported back in time and/or to stock up on Japanese souvenirs.

After not even ten minutes you will aleady be abe to enter the premises of Narita-san Shinshō-ji (成田山新勝寺). If you arrive in the morning, you might be lucky enough to witness the daily monk ceremonies. Otherwise, the ritual washing upon entrance, light an incense stick and roam the area. Don’t forget to visit the Great Pagoda of Peace and the little waterfalls.

Getting to Narita
Where to Stay in Narita

Photo by Steven Diaz on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

(With my affiliate link, you can get 5% Off Japan Rail Passes) for your 2 week trip to Japan.

If you still have some time before heading to Tokyo during your 2 weeks in Japan, you can take the train to Sawara. This little town looks straight out of the Edo period (and is in fact caled “Little Edo”) with its historic wooden buildings and little canals and bridges that used to serve the rice transport. In July and October you can attend the Sawara Matsuri festivals, where you can see floats with dolls representing mythological Japanese warriors and heroes.

Best time to visit
Getting to Sawara

Photo by Cory Schadt on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Japan Itinerary Day 2-4: Tokyo

You could easily spend your entire two week Japan trip in Tokyo and still not have seen it all. I stayed there for two months and still discovered ‘new’ districts. I used a combination of walking between districts to get a real ‘behind the scenes’ look of Tokyo life but if you want to see as much as you can, get a pass and save your sore feet.

Places to consider are Akihabara for Video Games and the free little Anime Museum and Nakano Broadway for stocking up on anime and manga merchandise at amazing prices. But of course there are many more otaku spots in Tokyo.

Great kimono deals, affordable souvenirs and local food you can find for instance at the Ueno Station. Visit the nearby park and temple as well. Ueno Park is a great spot for enjoying cherry blossoms but there are lots more insider spots for hanami.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Check out Shibuya in the late afternoon for the busy crosswalk view from the train station and head over to Shibuya 109 for crazy quirky fashion. 109 Men’s is not very exciting. Harajuku is a 20min walk away but take the train anyway. Hit SoLaDo for a chance to see a live boyband performance and delirious fangirls.

Around the corner is the marvellous Meiji Shrine hidden behind crooked old trees and if you’re lucky, you can spot a wedding ceremony. If you want to see the biggest temple festival in Tokyo, come for the Sanja Matsuri at the Sensoji Shrine. You’ll see geiko dances, people carrying local deities in shrines through the streets, have a huge selection of food stalls and generally a great time. It will be insanely crowded.

If you want something very different entertainment wise, try the popular Takarazuka Revue with all-female cast and terribly dramatic acting and singing. If you queue for your day ticket the same day at least an hour in advance (it’s impossible to get tickets on short notice otherwise), you can greet the show stars as they walk by and collect fanmail.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

For a glimpse of sumo, you can purchase tournament tickets far inadvance or attend a free training session (asa-keiko). Try the Arashio-beya dohyo in Hamacho.

Skip the Skytree Tower entrance fees and go up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free. The best time is just before sunset and on clear days you can see Mount Fuji. Afterwards, you can stroll around Shinjuku and choose one of the many restaurants.

For an entirely different feel and a more historical district, check out Shibamata, where you can see doppelgängers of the iconic Japanase movie character Tora-san, visit the temple and stroll through the old streets.

A big thing for a lot of visitors to Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market at 5am. If you want to see the craziness of the live tuna auction, check for public admission days and register at 4:30am.

Getting to Tokyo
Getting around Tokyo
Food in Tokyo

Photo by Jordy Meow on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Travelling Japan Day 5-6: Nikko

For a collection of the pretties temples and shrines in a forest setting and next to bubbling streams, head to Nikko. It is one of the most charming spots in Japan. If you ask me, it is a definite must for any Japan 2 week itinerary.

You can also head out and go hiking in nature. Start at the Kegon Waterfalls and hike along Lake Chuzenji to the Senjogahara Plateau and past more waterfalls. There are different hiking paths with different difficulty levels.

The local 2-day bus pass is the best option to get around for an affordable price. Make sure to carry the timetable with you, which you can get from the train stations.

Getting from Tokyo to Nikko
Where to Stay in Nikko

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Travelling Japan Day 7-8: Nagano, Jigukudani and Matsumoto

You’re already halfway through your Japan 2 week itinerary! Make your way up to Nagano and walk up to the temple. Already on the way there, you can find many foodie spots, taste different rice balls, miso ice cream (don’t!) and lots of other snacks. Get a local map to see the best spots marked.

At Zenkō-ji (善光寺), go inside the information to your left and rub the ox for good luck. Then stand near the incense burners and get some smoke on you or – even better – burn incense sticks (osenko) yourself. This is for good health. Take your shoes off at the temple entrance, throw in a coin before the deity, say a silent prayer and then turn right to go down to the gates of heaven.

The idea is that you have to feel your way along the pitch black passage downstairs and try to find the door and rattle it. This is so you can make a wish and know how to find the gate to heaven once you’re dead more easily.

Where to Stay in Nagano

Photo by Riccardo Chiarini on Unsplash
How to Get Close to the Snow Monkeys in Japan

The next day in your Japan itinerary, buy a Snow Monkey 1 Day Pass and take the bus to the Jigukudani Snow Monkey Park. The pass covers the entrance fee as well. You’ll love the playful monkeys and can take pictures up close as they are used to visitors. Just don’t try to touch them or even think about taking a bath with them.

After you’ve had enough, you can visit the local art museum by the bus stop and then take the bus to the local villages to take a bath at an onsen. If you need an extra dose of good luck, soak in all nine onsen of the Shibu Onsen area.

Where to Stay near Jigokudani
Guide to Japanese onsen

2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Now it’s time to visit one of Japan’s oldest castles, Matsumoto. You can take the local bus from the train station, which leaves every 30 mins and costs 190 yen one way or rent a free bicycle daily from 8:30am to 5pm at various locations.

To get into the castle and its museum, you have to pay an entrance fee. The castle museum is located inside the buildings and displays samurai history, weapons and clothes.

Between the station and the castle you will cross a canal and along it you can find food stalls. Grab a pancake fish with a sausage and Japanese mayonnaise. It’s divine and apparently it’s the only place in Japan that sells it with this filling.

Where to Stay in Nikko

2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See - Mt Fuji

Travelling Japan Day 9-11: Fuji Great Lakes and Nagoya

Ok, this one can easily be stretched to a three day adventure. But if you really want to see Mount Fuji – especially in mid April for the pink shibazakura that cover the ground – then you need to make a detour. The area has a lot to offer: sacred springs, old villages, ice and bat caves, the lookout stations at Fuji and of course onsen. It’s a hiker’s paradise.

You can invest in day passes as well but make sure to know the timetable as well as the actual bus stops since bus drivers easily ignore you I found.

I visited Fujikawaguchiko for the northern part of the Fuji area but I know a lot of people visit Hakone (the well-known postcard spot). Both are beautiful destinations.

Hiking Mount Fuji

When you have had enough of the area (will you ever?), head down southwest to Nagoya and visit the local castle. Again, you have to pay an entrance fee and it’s particularly worth it during spring festivities. You can also attend free Noh Theatre practices – but without the costumes and masks.

Where to Stay in Kawaguchiko
Where to Stay in Nagoya

Photo by Walter Mario Stein on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Day 12-14: Osaka, Nara and Kyoto

It is a great idea to conclude your two weeks Japan trip in Osaka as it has a big international airport as well and is the best hub for exploring a Japanese city or heading out for day trips. In Osaka, you can take a walk among the cherry blossoms by the river and then see some more at the base of the Osaka castle. Make a quick stop at Dotonbori for the flashing neon lights and the famous ‘Runner’.

Take the train down to Shitennoji and explore the temples and, if you like, the zoo. For the evening you can taste local fried teppanjaki and okonomiyaki (make it yourself!) a little further up in Tennoji underneath the tower. Try the fried ice cream on a stick!

Food and shopping tip
Where to Stay in Osaka

Photo by Riccardo Chiarini on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

The next day of your two weeks in Japan, take a day trip to Nara and visit the temples, get a cutesy dose of the sacred deer. Hundreds of years ago, Nara was a favourite hunting ground but legend has it that a deity sent a deer as their messenger and from that day onwards, deer were not allowed to be harmed. And they certainly know it.

You can hike in the forest, but be warned that the ‘pristine’ forest has a big concrete street winding through it, which is the hiking path as well. Also visit the Isuen garden and as a foreigner, you can get free access! Walk through the Nara Park and visit the Seven Great Temples.

Where to Stay in Nara
Deer tip

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Nara is further away than it seems because of the train network, so you should plan a whole day within your Japan 2 week itinerary for this and for Kyoto as well, which luckily you an reach within 15 minutes from Osaka. Know what you want to see in Kyoto in advance to avoid crowds by going early and covering more ground. It is bigger than it seems.

Start with the coveted red Torii gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The walk up is harder than it seems and can take about two hours. Then catch the bus to the Gion district to hopefully spot a geisha. If your budget allows, invest in a local Kyoto cuisine, such as “Kyo-kaiseki-ryori,” “Shojin-ryori” (good for vegetarians), and “Obanzai”. Then get a ticket to the geisha dance (better book in advance or show up early) and visit the Buddhist temple at the end of the street.

Head over to the Nijō Castle (二条城) and parks and then take the bus to the Golden Pavilion. Don’t overlook Arashiyama with its kimono and bamboo forest either. It has great foodie streets as well.

Food tip
Where to Stay in Kyoto

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

More Inspiration

If you have some more days to spare, go west and visit Okayama, Himeji and Hiroshima (try the okonomiyaki!) for some more Japanese castles and cherry blossom walks. A very special place is the island of Miyajima with its deers, the floating gate, the many temples and mountain hikes. You can easily spend two days here.

The cheapest way to travel for 2 weeks in Japan is by bus. Willer Express has pink plush seats, a sleeping hoodie and retro nintendo console games. The most fun, fastest and classiest way is by bullet train, Shinkansen.

I cannot recommend the RailPass enough (With my affiliate link, you can get 5% Off Japan Rail Passes), which can only be bought while abroad and gives you discounts the Japanese cannot access. You can board the trains without a reserved ticket. Just check for the few lines that are not included and whether you need to reserve a seat.

Would you want to travel for 2 weeks in Japan? Let me know in the comments and feel free to ask any questions you might have.


Read next:

Did you know about these Jawdropping Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan?
How to Make the Most of Visiting Nikko
Your Ultimate Otaku Guide To Tokyo
How to Please Foodies in Japan
How to See the Best of Hiroshima and Miyajiama in one Day

Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash
2 Weeks in Japan - Where to Go, What to See

Tags: , , , , , ,

Related Posts

Previous Post Next Post


    • Gabriel Fodor
    • 18/03/2018

    What I say about this places. When I am a child my father say about this places. This is fully different country on other country. There culture is wonderful thing for there society. I love it. I want to go there. There you share many type information. Your information and my information.

    1. Reply

      Hi Gabriel, how are you? Japan really is a very unqiue country and unlike any other I’ve been to. I hope you can visit in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 share