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14-Day Japan Itinerary: What To Do if You Have 2 Weeks in Japan

By Lisandra Moor
Updated: July 1, 2024

Your plane tickets are booked — your trip to Japan is really happening! The next step is planning the perfect itinerary, ensuring you leave no stone unturned. Lucky for you, we've got a well-rounded 2-week plan you can use as-is or as a base to prepare for your highly anticipated trip. 

If it's your first time in Japan, chances are you'll want to hit what many call "the golden route." That's Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka in a single visit. Plenty of other destinations in Japan are worth visiting (we'll suggest a few and some alternatives), but if you want to get the classic Japan experience, sticking to the golden route is the most suitable option.

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Looking for more itineraries? See our other guides:

2-week Japan itinerary

Two weeks (or 14-15 days) is a long trip, making it ideal for those who want to hit multiple destinations in one go or for those who only plan to visit Japan once and do it all. Here is a breakdown of the cities we think are worth including in your itinerary:

  • Day 0: Arrive in Tokyo
  • Day 1–2: Tokyo
  • Day 3–4: Hakone (or Kawaguchiko)
  • Day 5–9: Kyoto (with a day trip to Nara)
  • Day 10–11: Osaka
  • Day 12–13: Himeji and Hiroshima
  • Day 14: Back to Tokyo
  • Day 15: Departure

We recommend not planning too much on the day you land in Tokyo, which we've labeled "day 0." It's tempting to make the most of your time in Japan from the moment you get off the plane, but getting to your accommodation, setting yourself up for traveling in Japan, and allowing yourself a first good night's rest will make a huge difference.

Getting around Japan

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Public transportation remains the best way to visit Japan, especially if you're sticking to major cities. This specific itinerary was made with train travel in mind. 

It's recommended that you purchase a Suica or Pasmo card, which you can use all over Japan on most train and bus routes. JR, one of Japan's biggest train companies, issues a special Welcome Suica for travelers that's free to acquire and functions just like a standard Suica. 

One of the biggest perks of getting a Suica or Pasmo card (or any IC card) is that you can use it to buy drinks and food at convenience stores, most vending machines and select retailers. This is handy to avoid accumulating too many coins during your trip. 

What about the JR Pass? We've planned enough train travel for this two-week Japan itinerary to make the 14-day JR Pass worth the investment (yes, even with the increased pricing). Just be sure to keep some cash on hand, just in case! Read more about the JR Pass. 

Day 1 in Japan: Tokyo

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Tokyo Skytree

Start your first day early and head to northern Tokyo to see the old and the new. Once the tallest tower in the world, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan at 634 meters. Like Tokyo Tower, Skytree doubles as a communication tower, but it has observation areas on floors 340, 345, and 350, and 445 and 450, both offering 360-degree views of Greater Tokyo. On clear days, you can see Mt.Fuji!

In addition to the tower itself, there are many other things to do and eat around Tokyo Skytree. At the base is a shopping complex where you can buy souvenirs and see what Japan's popular brands have to offer this season. Traveling families might be more interested in visiting the Sumida Aquarium, which has two popular exhibits featuring adorable penguins and hypnotizing jellyfish. 

Pro tip: Different combo tickets are available via the Tokyo Skytree website or on-site. To make your visit smooth, we recommend securing a time to visit both the tower and the aquarium. 

Senso-ji and Asakusa 

Asakusa is a short train ride or 20-minute walk from Tokyo Skytree. One of Tokyo's oldest neighborhoods, it's also one of the capital's most popular destinations. Expect crowds and a (slightly imposed) leisurely stroll along Nakamise, the store-lined street that leads to Senso-ji's main temple building. 

One of Asakusa's greatest appeals is its delicious Japanese street food. It's impossible to walk around this area without getting a hint of something cooking nearby. And it can be tricky to know what's worth waiting in line for! Optimize your visit by signing up for an Asakusa and Senso-ji food tour, where every bite will be memorable.

Bonus: Akihabara

While you're on this side of Tokyo, visit Akihabara, also known as “Electric Town” because of its numerous electronic shops. Photographers especially can trust the shops in Akihabara to stock whatever camera or camera accessories they're looking for. 

But most people know Akihabara for its association with otaku culture, including anime, manga and video games. If you're looking for a particular figure of memorabilia from your favorite franchise, you have a good chance of finding it here. Akihabara is also one of the most popular neighborhoods for themed and game cafes.

Akihabara is also a good place to try your hand at Japanese arcades. The first floor is always filled with UFO catchers (or claw machines), but do check out the higher floors for rhythm games, card games and more! The neighborhood's latest addition is Bandai Namco's first center in Akihabara, and it's six stories tall! 

Day 2 in Japan: Tokyo

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Shibuya

Your second day in Tokyo should be spent exploring the west side of the city. Start in Shibuya, one of Tokyo's fashion districts. If you want to see what young folks are wearing these days, Shibuya is where you need to be. 

In the last five years, the area around Shibuya Station has seen a massive wave of reconstruction. Visit Shibuya during the daytime to shop, and consider squeezing a second visit at night to explore its foodie options. 

Staying in Shibuya during your trip? Check out these Shibuya breakfast options.

Harajuku and Omotesando

Harajuku is where Japanese subcultures and communities thrive. Even if you're not shopping for anything in particular, it's worth a visit if you're visiting for the first time. Omotesando, on the other hand, is West Tokyo's posh shopping street. Stay on the main streets to see what the cool kids are wearing, or wander around the backstreets and keep your eyes peeled for hidden art galleries and coffee shops. 

If you want to indulge in the latest Instagrammable street foods, head to Harajuku's Takeshita Street. Crepes are one of the most popular items to get here. Want to dive mouth-first into Harajuku street food? Join byFood host Shizuka on a Harajuku street food tour!

Shinjuku Golden Gai

End your day in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, a series of small alleys that house independent bars sitting at most 10 customers. This area was infamous for discrimination against tourists a couple of years ago, but it has changed a lot since then — and for the better! Still, knowing Golden Gai well takes quite a few nights out. You're welcome to wander alone, but you can also count on a Tokyo guide to lead the way through the winding streets. 

Pro tip: Are you a solo traveler? You can still experience the Golden Gai hype by joining a Golden Gai bar-hopping tour. A taste of Tokyo nightlife and new friends? Yes, please!

Day 3 in Japan: Hakone (or Kawaguchiko)

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Now that you've experienced the city, it's time to get away for a little bit. Hakone is one of the top day-trip destinations for Tokyoites (and Kanagawa residents). It's also well-known among tourists, and the city is now very prepared to guide travelers so they can make the best of their time in this corner of the Izu Peninsula. 

Some of Hakone's top activities include:

  • Visit Lake Ashi
  • Check out the Hakone Open-Air Museum
  • Hike to Owakudani Valley
  • Take a photo at Hakone Shrine

But few remember to mention the food. What can you eat when in Hakone? From Owakudani Valley's black eggs to kaiseki ryori, Hakone has loads of options when it comes to dining experiences. See our list of what to eat in Hakone to prep for your trip.

That said, we'll forgive you for wanting to stick to your comfort foods. The best shabu-shabu in the area is at Kawadoko Gyunabe Ukon, where you can feast on a hot pot filled with delicious Hakone-grown veggies by the river. 

Alternative: Kawaguchiko

Alternatively, take a trip to Kawaguchiko, even if it’s just to see Mt. Fuji up close. Kawaguchiko is a great weekend getaway destination (if you’re not strictly sticking to this itinerary) known for its natural beauty. We’d go and survive on convenience store food if we had to, but Kawaguchiko also has incredible restaurants and foodie activities like this houtou noodles cooking class.

Day 5 in Japan: Kyoto

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Fushimi 

Any first-time visit to Japan should include a trip to Kyoto. Three days is plenty of time to do the main activities plus a little more, and it'll really make you appreciate Japan's diversity of culture, food and lifestyles. Take the shinkansen from Tokyo in the morning to arrive at Kyoto Station around 1 pm. Be sure to grab a bento to eat on the train, leave your baggage in a locker at the station, and head straight to Fushimi

Fushimi is one of Kyoto's most picturesque districts despite being often overlooked by travelers. It's where most major sake breweries in Kyoto are located. If you have yet to try sake, this is the place to do it at this point in your journey. Many breweries in the Fushimi district offer sake tastings and brewery tours, which will grant you all the skills necessary to order and enjoy sake on your own for the rest of the trip. 

Explore Fushimi with a savvy guide to make the most of your visit. 

Fushimi Inari Shrine

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Fushimi's best-known attraction is the Fushimi Inari Shrine. In 2023, it made global news because it appeared on a list of the world's worst attractions due to being crowded. It's true that the shrine and the walk to and from the nearest train station are crowded, but this is inevitable at many shrines and temples in Kyoto, not just Fushimi Inari.

Visit Fushimi Inari with a short hike in mind. Fifteen minutes into climbing, you'll see it's much less crowded. You can reach the top in about 2 hours, but you'll be satisfied hitting the halfway point!

Feast on kaiseki ryori at Seiwasou

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Transport yourself to old Japan while eating authentic Kyoto cuisine at Seiwasou. Opened in 1957, this Fushimi restaurant serves dishes featuring Kyoto ingredients, including vegetables and seafood, which the restaurant sources from a closely-knit network of local suppliers. 

Head chef Tetsuo Takenaka is also famously particular about his tempura, using seasonal ingredients fried in his own special blend of fragrant “taikou” sesame oil and cottonseed oil. “Through both the food and the space, I want visitors to feel the culture of Japan,” says Chef Takenaka with a bow. “We look forward to guests experiencing the heart of true Japanese hospitality here at Seiwasou.”

Pro tip: When booking byFood, certain course menus can be modified for travelers following vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diets. 

Find a table at Seiwasou.

Looking for more traditional Japanese food options? See our curated list of kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto.

Day 6 in Japan: Kyoto

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Ryoanji and Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

On your second day in Kyoto, head north and west. For the best experience, we recommend starting your day early and heading north to visit Ryoanji, a Zen temple famous for its rock garden, and Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, one of Japan’s most recognizable symbols. 

Pro tip: Head to Ryoanji in the early morning for a sparser crowd. After you’ve done a lap around the temple, you can walk up the main road to Kinkaku-ji to continue your spiritual exploration.

Arashiyama

The Arashimaya area is most famous for its bamboo forest. While the forest is lovely, it really isn't the best the neighborhood has to offer. Arashiyama is also a food haven, especially if you like sweets. From sweet potato-flavored cotton candy to cloud-shaped matcha mousse cake at Kumonocha Cafe, there is tons of eating to be done in Arashiyama. 

Plus, if you don't mind exploring and walking a little, tourists often ignore some pretty cool shrines and temples, like Giouji, a small temple with a moss garden that’s especially stunning in the spring and summer.

Did you know? You can also find award-winning establishments in Arashiyama. One such place is Tozentei, a family-run Michelin-starred restaurant. See lunch and dinner courses available on byFood.

Nishiki Market

Still hungry? Make your way back to central Kyoto and visit Nishiki Market, a lively commercial street lined with shops and food stalls. You can find everything from crafts (which make excellent souvenirs) and freshly fried or grilled street food. 

Make the most of Nishiki Market by exploring this corner of Kyoto with a knowledgeable guide. Check out our list of the best Nishiki Market tours and other Kyoto tours.

Day 7 in Japan: Nara

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Nara Park

It's time for another day trip, this time to Nara! Just a short hour-long train ride from Kyoto Station, Nara is best known for Nara Park and its resident deers. However, Nara also served as a capital between 710 and 794 AD. You can learn more about Nara's history at the Nara National Museum and visit some major shrines in and around Nara Park. 

Todaiji and Kasuga Shrine

Todaiji is perhaps one of the most popular sightseeing sights, as it houses the world's biggest Buddha Vairocana bronze statue. On the other side of the park, there is also Kohfukuji, another of Japan's older Buddhist temples. If you don't mind walking deeper into Nara Park, you can check out Kasuga Shrine, a Shinto shrine famous for its collection of lanterns. 

Fun fact: Nara has a special relationship with sake and fermentation, seeing as these two aspects of Japanese cuisine have special ties to shrines and temples in Japan. Hard-core foodies should consider swapping one or more Kyoto days for this 3-day Nara stay

Try wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets

When in Nara, eat some wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets usually made with some combination of rice flour and red bean paste. There are a few popular places and even a few food stalls along the way, making it easy to try strawberry daifuku, mochi and even monaka. Fancy trying something less commonly found in Japan? Look for these unique Nara sweets.

For more travel ideas, see the best things to do in Nara.

Day 8 in Japan: Back in Kyoto

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Kiyomizu-dera

Continue your Kyoto adventure, this time hitting the east side of the city. Along with Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto. Be prepared to have to wait in line. This said, this temple is a defining landmark of the cultural capital, and on your first visit, it’s worth it.

Pro tip: Skip walking through the nearby Sannenzaka street, which is usually crowded. Instead, shop for pottery along Chawanzaka, a street south of the temple lined with small shops filled with any and every trinket you can imagine. 

Yakasa Shrine and Gion

From Kiyomizu-dera, it takes about 20 minutes to walk to Yakasa Shrine, another must-see spot in Kyoto. At this point in the day, you might be feeling a bit peckish; luckily, there are always a couple of food stalls at the shrine, where you can buy some street food snacks. 

Yasaka Shrine is just a few blocks from Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. While the Kyoto government recently banned tourists from walking through the neighborhood’s private alleys, the main street, lined with shops and restaurants, remains open if you want to check it out.

Alternatively, splurge on an award-winning fugu course meal in Gion. This unique Gion tour and dining experience combines exploration and degustation of a premium fugu prepared by a certified chef.

Pontocho

An evening spent wandering Pontocho is a must on any proper Kyoto trip. The small alleyway is home to dozens of restaurants and bars. You can find especially delicious Japanese food here, from top-grade wagyu beef to nabe (hot pot)

Admittedly, navigating Pontocho can be intimidating on your first visit. Let a local guide lead the way while sampling some of the area's delicious dishes. Book a Pontocho evening food tour on byFood.

Day 9 in Japan: Kyoto

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Now that you’ve got Kyoto’s must-visit sights out of the way, it’s time to dive deeper into the city’s cultural history. On your last day, hit the backstreets. The best way to do this is to wander aimlessly, just as Baudelaire did, but here are some lesser-known spots you can visit.

Garden of Fine Arts Kyoto

This outdoor art space, designed by architect Ando Tadao, is a unique space where famous paintings were recreated using ceramics with permanent and waterproof properties. The idea is that the original works will one day be lost, but they’ve been immortalized here, in north Kyoto, for future generations to see.

Bonus: If the weather permits, visit the neighboring Kyoto Botanical Gardens. Dual tickets for the garden and the art exhibits are available. 

Philosopher’s Path

The Philosopher’s Path is a walking route that spans 2 kilometers roughly from Higashiyama Jisho-ji temple and Kumano Nyakuoji shrine. This path is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot in spring, but it is a just-as-good place to walk slowly, taking in the sights, smells and sounds of Kyoto with every step. 

Not too far from the southern tip of the Philosopher’s Path is Eikando, a Buddhist temple with impeccably preserved structures, including a Zen garden.

Heian Shrine

Not too far from the Philosopher’s Path is the Heian Shrine. It’s a fairly quieter place compared to Kiyomizu-dera. Near the Heian Shrine is also where the Kyoto Heian Antique Market is held once a month, usually on a Wednesday, but it’s best to check their website for the updated schedule. See our list of the best markets in Kyoto for food and crafts.

Day 10 in Japan: Osaka

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Osaka Castle

It’s time to leave the peaceful streets of Kyoto and head to Osaka, the country’s third-most-populated city and one of Japan’s top foodie cities. Getting from Kyoto to Osaka takes about 45 minutes, depending on which train you take. 

On your first day in Osaka, check out Osaka Castle and its surrounding park. This is our first castle of the trip, which offers a great opportunity to see a new facet of Japanese architecture. Though most of the castle has gone through numerous renovations, it still has a distinct spirit to it. The green space around the park is vast, and even though there may be a lot of people visiting this popular attraction, it really will not feel like it.

Shinsaibashi

Shinsaibashi is one of Osaka’s major shopping districts. You’ll find all the big-name brands here, like Uniqlo and ABC Mart. If you’ve been looking for somewhere to splurge on Japanese fashion, this is an excellent place to do so. Branch out to some of the side alleys, too, as this is where you’ll find independent shops selling more traditional crafts. 

Dotonbori and Namba

You know the Glico man? He lives in Dotonbori, Osaka’s famous nightlight district and food 

hub. It’s here that you should try some Osaka staples, like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. As one of Osaka’s most popular sightseeing spots, Dotonbori can get quite crowded during peak seasons like Golden Week and Lunar New Year. Be prepared to wait in line for a few restaurants!

Navigating Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori for the first time can be overwhelming. Book the ultimate Osaka night tour to make sure you hit all the must-visit spots.

Day 11 in Japan: Osaka

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Dedicate your second day in Osaka to going a little bit outside the heart of the city. Here are three Osaka destinations we recommend, depending on whether you’re looking for thrill, wonder or more Japanese food.

Universal Studios Japan

Arguably one of the top attractions in Osaka, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is one of the biggest theme parks in the country after Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. It houses unique areas based on popular Universal franchises such as Jurassic Park as well as Harry Potter World. In 2021, the park opened Nintendo World, which remains a high-traffic area within the park. 

USJ is on the more expensive side in terms of activities you can do in Japan and does require a fair bit of planning (ticket booking, getting there early in the day to avoid overcrowded trains). Luckily, there is a Hollywood-esque area just outside of the park that is free to visit if you’re okay to settle for the vibes without the rides.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

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Another popular attraction in Osaka is the city’s aquarium. Once the world’s largest aquarium, it’s famous for its Pacific Ocean exhibit, a 9-meter, 34-meter-long tank that takes visitors around 2.5 hours to walk around. There are about 15 exhibits in total with fish and other animals from around the Pacific Rim.

Shinsekai

Located a few subway stations south of Namba, Shinsekai is another foodie area of Osaka. It’s the place to go if you want to try kushikatsu, another of Osaka’s staple dishes. Shinsekai has a bit of a retro feel to it, with some classic arcades and mom-and-pop shops in more reclusive alleyways. If you’re keen to see what Japan looked like half a century ago, then Shinsekai should be on your itinerary.

Bask in the nostalgic atmosphere on a Shinsekai food tour! Fun facts and local insights are guaranteed.

Day 12 in Japan: Himeji

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Himeji is a popular day trip from Osaka, located only an hour away by train via the JR Kobe Line. The Hyogo city is more famous for its castle, considered one of the largest and best-preserved castles in Japan. Himeji Castle was one of the first sites in Japan to make the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1993, and along with Matsumoto Castle (Nagano) and Kumamoto Castle, it’s one of the top three castles in Japan.

The best way to supplement a visit to Himeji Castle? Combine a walk around the castle and a sake brewery tour! Book this Himeji experience on byFood.

Then, have a bite of the sweet side of Japanese cuisine with one of Himeji’s local delicacies: almond butter toast, a thick slice of shokupan (milk bread) topped with a layer of almond butter toasted to perfection. You can try almond butter toast at Café de Muche.

Day 13 in Japan: Hiroshima

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Continuing your last stretch to the west, take another day trip to Hiroshima (or continue your journey if you stayed a day in Himeji). 

If you’re visiting Hiroshima for the first time, a visit to the Peace Memorial Park is imperative. This museum and space is dedicated to the victims and effects of the world’s first atomic bomb, which was dropped here on August 6, 1945, destroying everything within a 2-kilometer radius. 

This activity is not for the faint of heart; visitors of the adjacent museum should note that some of the exhibits display graphic scenes. 

Try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki

When in Hiroshima, try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, which is quite different from Osaka-style okonomiyaki. This okonomiyaki cooking class takes place right at Hiroshima Station and is hosted in collaboration with Otafuku, the famous okonomiyaki sauce you’ll find in grocery stores all over Japan. 

What else should you eat in Hiroshima? Check out our list of must-try eats.

Watch our guide to Hiroshima on YouTube!

ByFood host Shizuka takes viewers on a foodie adventure around this amazing city.

Day 14 in Japan: Back to Tokyo

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It’s all coming to an end. Spend your last day in Japan heading back to Tokyo. If you weren’t able to hit some of the previously mentioned spots, now’s your chance! 

Alternatively, take it slow and treat yourself to a second (or third) serving of your favorite Japanese meal. Need some inspo? Check out these lists of Tokyo restaurants worth reserving during your time in the capital:

This wraps up our extremely busy 2-week Japan itinerary! There’s a lot of room to adapt this route to your preferences and wants. Remember: this itinerary is for first-time visitors! It includes all of the major destinations and attractions so that on your second trip (because there will be one), you can travel further and deeper.

FAQ

Can I cover all the major attractions in Japan in 14 days?

Japan is a relatively small country, but there’s a lot to see. While it may be challenging to see everything in Japan in just 14 days, with careful planning and prioritizing, you can definitely cover many major attractions.

Is it better to use a Japan Rail Pass for traveling around Japan?

The Japan Rail Pass can be a cost-effective option for traveling around Japan. This particular itinerary was planned with this convenient pass in mind, making sure it pays for itself in train travel.

What are some must-visit destinations for a 14-day Japan itinerary?

Some must-visit destinations include Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara and Hakone. We’ve included these plus others in this itinerary to present a wide array of options. This said, there are a lot of other cities worth visiting that we didn’t include, like Yokohama, Nagoya, and Fukuoka.

Can I experience traditional Japanese cuisine during my 14-day itinerary?

Absolutely! Make sure to try sushi, ramen, tempura, and other traditional dishes at local restaurants and street food stalls to get a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine. We’ve linked a few throughout this itinerary, but you can browse byFood’s full catalog of food experiences and restaurants for inspiration.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Lisandra Moor
Hailing from multicultural Montreal, Lisandra moved to Japan in 2019. She writes about off-the-beaten-path travel destinations and showcases notable creators from Japan through insightful interviews with insatiable curiosity.
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