How to plan a trip to Japan: Everything You Need To Know

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting Japan, you’re in luck. The country is one of the most beautiful and fascinating destinations on Earth. 

Its culture and history are steeped in thousands of years’ worth of tradition, but at the same time, it’s also home to cutting-edge technology and innovation. 

It’s where ancient temples sit next to modern skyscrapers, where food is an art form, and its sake flows like water.

Japan Map

Plan your trip carefully.

A plan is essential because it will help you make the most of your trip. You must also consider whether or not you want to stay in Japan for an extended time, as this can affect how long each city/area needs to be planned out. 

For example, if you were planning on staying in Tokyo for two weeks and then moving to Kyoto and Osaka after that, then having a plan for each location would probably be better than trying to fit everything into one week’s worth of days.

You should consider several things before packing your bags and leaving for your dream destination.

Pay attention to the weather conditions of where you’re going, what kind of transportation is available, if there are any language barriers, and more. All these factors affect how pleasant or challenging your travel experience will be!

When to visit, how long to stay, and where to go

Fushimi Inari Shrine kyoto
Fushimi Inari Shrine kyoto

If you are considering going to Japan, there are some essential things to consider. First, when is the best time to visit? 

Each season has unique beauty and charm, so the answer is whichever one you prefer. There are several good reasons why you might choose spring or summer over fall or winter:

  • In spring (April through May), cherry blossoms are in full bloom all over Japan; this is by far the most popular time for tourists and locals who want to enjoy these beautiful flowers before they begin their annual symbolic death at the end of May.
  • Summer (June through August) is hot and humid but also offers many outdoor activities such as swimming and hiking—plus festivals celebrating everything from Tokyo’s annual fireworks festival (Hanabi Taikai) to Hakata’s street food festival (Osaka Gourmet Walk).
  • Autumn brings cooler weather; this season features celebrations like Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto and Chichibu Yomatsuri held near Mount Fuji. 

Cherry blossoms Season

The cherry blossom season in Japan spans from late March to early May, depending on the region. In Tokyo, for example, it usually begins in late April and runs until early May. 

The best time of day to see cherry blossoms is in the morning when they are at their most whole glory. 

If you’re planning a trip around this time of year and want to experience cherry blossoms during your stay in Japan, keep these tips in mind:

  • Plan ahead! You’ll need an advanced reservation if you wish to visit popular spots like Kiyomizu Temple or Yasukuni Shrine during peak times, especially if you plan on visiting during Golden Week (late April/early May).
  • Look for festivals featuring food vendors who sell delicious treats like yakisoba noodles with grilled pork belly skewers or takoyaki (fried octopus balls). Trust us when we say these festivals are fun and worth getting up early for! 

Japan itinerary

Hokkaido
Hokkaido

Tokyo and Kyoto are popular tourist destinations, but many other spots are worth visiting, like Osaka or Hokkaido Island

  • Consider each location’s climate. If it’s wintertime at home when your trip begins, consider going somewhere warm like Okinawa during those months instead.
  • Figure out how long you want to stay in Japan and your schedule there. 
  • Are there any festivals or events that coincide with your travel dates? Do some research beforehand so you can plan accordingly.
  • If no events or festivals are happening while you’re in Japan. In that case, you can use this as an opportunity to plan your itinerary around particular attractions and activities that interest you.

15 Days Japan Itinerary Example:


Day 1: Arrive at Narita Airport.

Day 2 to 4: Full Day in Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world for sightseeing, but if you only have a few days, it’s probably not worth trying to see everything. 

Instead, spend your time visiting some of Tokyo’s most popular attractions, such as the Meiji Shrine and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. 

You can also take a day trip out to Mt Fuji and hike up to see one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks.

Day 5: Day Trip to Kamakura

Kamakura is an easy day trip from Tokyo. It’s not as big or crowded as its larger neighbor, but it still has plenty of things to see and do. You can visit the famous Hasedera Temple or hike through the beautiful Daibutsu Hiking Course.

Day 6: Tokyo to Kyoto

The journey from Tokyo to Kyoto takes about five hours. If you have time, it’s worth stopping off in Nara for a day trip. It’s only an hour away from Kyoto by train and has its own set of iconic temples and shrines worth checking out.

Day 7 to 10: Kyoto

Kyoto is a great city for exploring. There are plenty of temples and shrines to see and some fascinating museums. If you’re looking for something more relaxing, there are also many beautiful parks with lakes and gardens.

Day 11: Kyoto to Mount Koya

Mount Koya is a great place to spend an extra day or two. Many temples and shrines are on the mountain, and it’s also home to one of Japan’s most famous pilgrimage routes.

If you’re interested in hiking or exploring nature, some great trails around Mount Koya allow you to do just that.

Day 12: Mount Koya to Osaka

It’s about a two-hour train journey from Mount Koya to Osaka.

Osaka is known for its cuisine, so sample some local delicacies such as okonomiyaki or takoyaki. Alternatively, explore Osaka Castle or go on a day trip to Nara.

Day 13: Osaka To Hiroshima

There are two ways to get from Osaka to Hiroshima: train or plane.

Taking a train is the best option to save money and have time. Multiple trains leave from Shin-Osaka station every day, taking about four hours.

Day 14: Hiroshima To Tokyo

The best way to get from Hiroshima to Tokyo is by plane. Several airlines, including Japan Airlines, ANA, and All Nippon Airways, offer direct flights between these cities.

The flight takes about two hours and 15 minutes, so it’s perfect if you want to get back home quickly.

Day 15: Narita Airport

To Tokyo, The best way to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo is by train. Two trains run between the cities: J.R. Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner.

Both of these trains take about an hour and 20 minutes. Taking the J.R. Narita Express would be best if you’re in a hurry since it’s faster and cheaper than Keisei Skyliner.


Major cities in Japan

The biggest cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are easy to get around.

You can easily use public transportation to explore these cities. However, if you’re planning on visiting more rural areas that are further away from the main cities, it’s best to rent a car or take a tour so that you can see as much as possible while still having fun!

Tokyo

Tokyo skyline
Tokyo skyline

Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the most populous city in the world, with a population of around 13 million people. 

It’s a modern, sprawling city with plenty to see and do: you can visit its many museums and galleries or walk around the Shibuya crossing. (which is famous for its crowds of pedestrians who rush across the road every time traffic stops).

If you like sushi or ramen noodles, you’ll love Tokyo; countless restaurants serve them up at all hours of the day and night.

Kyoto

Ginkaku-ji temple in Kyoto
Ginkaku-ji temple in Kyoto

Kyoto was Japan’s capital from 794 until 1868 (before Tokyo became its capital); it has some beautiful temples, shrines, and gardens that date back hundreds of years.

These make for great photo opportunities if you’re looking for something different from your trip than just seeing temples in Thailand or Malaysia! 

The streets here are very narrow, so be careful when walking on them; even though they’re not very busy right now due to the low season, prices haven’t gone down either, so expect high hotel rates as well!

There are plenty of things to do here, from shopping for souvenirs to visiting the many temples and shrines in the city. 

Kyoto is a little more conservative than other parts of Japan, so don’t be surprised if you see some people wearing traditional clothing while walking around town! 

The city is known for its many shrines and temples, including Kiyomizudera Temple. This temple is famous for its wooden balcony, which overlooks a beautiful valley. 

If you’re into anime or manga, you might recognize some of the locations in Kyoto from popular shows.

Osaka

Osaka city skyline
Osaka city skyline

Osaka is Japan’s third largest city and also its culinary heart. It’s a foodie paradise, with many restaurants specializing in everything from ramen to okonomiyaki (a savory pancake-like dish).

The Dotonbori district is one of the most popular places in Osaka because it has many restaurants and shopping and entertainment options. You’ll find plenty of gyoza (dumplings) shops here!

Hiroshima

Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima is the closest Japanese city to where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb during World War II, and as a result, this city has a tragic history that you’ll learn more about if you visit. It’s also known for having some of the best seafood in Japan!

Okinawa

Okinawa

Okinawa is a large island in the south of Japan famous for its beautiful beaches and tropical atmosphere. 

You’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars around Naha, Okinawa’s capital.

You can enjoy the beach and swim in the ocean or visit one of the many theme parks around the island. There are also some great shopping options here!

Nara

Nara Japan

Nara is a city in the Kansai region of Japan famous for its historic temples

It’s home to one of the oldest wooden buildings in Japan, so if you’re interested in architecture, this is a great place to visit! You can also see deer roaming freely throughout Nara and even pet them if you want!

Bonus: Mount fuji

Fuji volcano

Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, located on the border of Tokyo and Yamanashi Prefecture. 

It stands 3776 meters high and is a dormant volcano, which means there hasn’t been any volcanic activity since the 17th century. 

Many Japanese people consider Mount Fuji sacred, so it’s important to respect its natural beauty when you visit. 

The mountain is also home to several temples and shrines, including the Sengen Shrine and Fujinomiya Shrine. These are both located near the starting point of the hiking trails that lead up Mount Fuji. 

If you’re planning on climbing the mountain yourself, prepare for it! You’ll need proper equipment like trekking poles, a hat, and sunscreen.

First time in Japan Tips:

Disclaimer: LoveForTraveling.com participates in affiliate programs like booking.com and Amazon, which means that if you click on a link from our site and book a reservation or buy a product, we get a small commission at absolutely no cost to you.

As a seasoned traveler in Japan, I have some tips for you. Let’s start with the basics.

  • When planning your trip, remember that flights are often more expensive if they leave during the middle of the day or on weekends. If possible, try to book a flight that leaves late at night or early in the morning; you’ll save big!
  • Public transportation is an excellent option for getting around quickly and easily (and it’s also super cheap). In almost all cases, J.R. trains are faster than buses; however, if time isn’t an issue, taking a bus will save money because bus tickets cost significantly less.
  • You can purchase tickets from vending machines or ticket offices at train stations.
  • Japan Rail Pass can save you a ton of money if you’re planning on using the train a lot while you’re here; however, it can only be purchased outside of Japan. (Click here to buy it)

How much will a trip to Japan cost?

Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto

The cost of a trip depends on: 

  • Where you’re going
  • When you’re traveling
  • And how you plan to get there. 

You can travel cheaply by taking public transportation and staying in budget hotels, but if you want to see some of Japan’s most famous sites and eat at top-notch restaurants, then expect the costs to be significantly higher. 

Number of PeopleAccommodation: Daily Expenses: Extra:Total:
Solo Traveler Low Daily Budget$25 To $50$25 To $50$10 To $25$60 To $125
Solo Traveler Medium Daily Budget$65 To $100$60 To $100$25 To $60$150 To $260
Two people Average Cost Low Budget$50 To $100$25 To $40$125 To $220$125 To $220
Two people Average Cost Medium Budget$110 To $210$95 To $195$25 To $60$230 To $465

A solo traveler will spend about $75-$125 each day. This can vary depending on how long the single visitor stays and what activities they enjoy in town.

If your trip is less than two weeks long, most expenses will likely come from transportation (airfare or train fare) since accommodation won’t be as expensive as it would be for more extended stays.

  • For example, flights from Tokyo to Kyoto are around $100 each, while round-trip bus fares between Tokyo and Kyoto are approximately $50 per person ($100 total).
  • If you’re planning to visit Japan for three weeks or more, you should factor in the cost of lodging, which can range anywhere from $25-$50 per night for a hostel to $60-$100 per night for a hotel room.

Other expenses to consider while traveling solo include food, sightseeing, and souvenirs.

  • Depending on your budget and preferences, you can expect to spend anywhere from $20-$50 per day on food.
  • For activities and admissions, the amount you spend each day will likely be $10-$30.
  • Lastly, the average person spends between $5-$10 daily on small souvenirs or gifts.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a must for any trip and is something many overlook. 

When planning your trip to Japan, it’s essential to get travel insurance, as the cost of an accident or medical emergency can easily reach thousands of dollars.

You should be looking for these things when shopping around for travel insurance:

  • Coverage for medical emergencies and accidents
  • Cancellation coverage in case you can’t make it to your flight or trip due to illness or other reasons.
  • Accommodation costs if your plans change last-minute (for example: if you have to cancel).
  • Coverage for COVID-19 is essential.

Extra cost and Tips to save Money Traveling in Japan

Extra costs can be the most frustrating part of traveling. You’re excited to see the things you’ve always wanted to see, but then you remember that you have to pay for them. 

This is especially true when traveling in Japan, where everything seems so expensive compared to other places. But there are ways around it! Here are some typical extra costs and how you can avoid them:

Credit cards

Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Japan. You can use them to pay for train tickets and hotels, but you can also withdraw cash from ATMs with your card. You can easily find an ATM by looking for a seven 11 store.

Just notify your bank about your upcoming trip, so they don’t flag your account for suspicious activity.

Keep in mind that Withdrawing cash from ATMs outside of your home country can result in extra fees, so it’s best to use your credit card for purchases and only take out money when absolutely necessary.

Airfare:

It might seem like airfare is a fixed cost, but airlines often offer discounts if you book early or travel on off-peak days. Sites like Kayak and Orbitz allow you to search for flights by price, departure date, and airline type.

Try booking directly instead of through an intermediary site such as Expedia. You may save money this way! Other sources of information include Google Flights or Hipmunk’s flight comparison tool, or even Facebook groups where locals share tips on cheap flights in your area.

Transportation between cities:

Getting from one place in Japan to another can be expensive because there aren’t many options besides trains (and taxis). If possible, try taking local buses, which are cheaper and give travelers more access to small towns off the beaten path!

Avoid buying souvenirs.

Most people think they need something to remember their trip, but in reality, most things you can get at home will be cheaper than what you’d find in an airport gift shop or tourist trap. Plus, carrying around heaps of stuff while traveling is a pain!

Free Shuttles

Take advantage of the free shuttles offered by hotels; these shuttles usually run from late afternoon until the evening, allowing tourists to return after dark without worrying about spending any money!!

Convenience stores (Conbini and Other Shops)

Convenience stores are everywhere in Japan. You can find them on almost every corner, and they’re easy to spot with their bright signs and logos. 

If you are lost, just look for the big red circle sign with a white background that says “conbini” (short for “convenience store”) written in Japanese characters.

You’ll often find these shops near train stations or bus stops, but they can also be found anywhere else. 

Most convenience stores have parking lots right out front, so you don’t have to worry about finding a safe spot if you’re driving around looking for one at night or in bad weather conditions!

Once inside, there is usually an aisle with aisles of snacks, drinks, and other foods like hot dogs & pizza slices. 

Getting a visa for Japan

U.S. citizens can travel to Japan visa-free for up to 90 days.

  • Visitor Visa: This is the most common kind of Japanese visa and can be used as a way to enter the country. It allows you to stay in Japan for up to 90 days. Visitors who wish to stay longer than 90 days must apply for another type of visa.
  • If you plan to stay in Japan for more than 90 days, applying for a Japanese visa is essential. You will need to submit certain documents and pay a fee before being granted permission to enter Japan. (More Here)

Booking your hotels in Japan and Types of Accommodations

Planning a trip to Japan is exciting but can also be overwhelming. 

  • How do you find the right hotel? 
  • How do you know if it’s the right price? 
  • Is there wifi?

Here are some tips for booking your hotels in Japan:

Land on a location first.

If you’re trying to be budget-conscious, don’t choose Tokyo as your destination. Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in Japan! 

Instead, pick a smaller town or city that still has plenty to offer and has better prices for accommodations. For example, consider staying in Osaka or Kyoto instead.

Know what kind of room will work best for your trip needs.

If you’re traveling with kids or lots of friends and family members, then booking multiple rooms at one hotel might be an option that works best for everyone involved. 

However, if it’s just one or two people traveling together and wanting privacy while away from home (for example), renting out an entire apartment may be worth considering since this will provide more space.

Where you book your room also plays a role in how soundproof it is; most people don’t want to hear construction or traffic when trying to sleep, so unless you’re looking for a party atmosphere, try avoiding places near nightclubs or main roads.

While searching online, you can filter for this, but be aware that some hotels will charge extra if they think you’ll need a quiet room.

Capsule hotels

Japan is famous for its small capsule hotels and single-sleeping accommodations in most tourist areas.

These hotels are popular because they offer a cheap stay: the average fee per night is less than $25! In addition, capsule hotels usually offer amenities like towels and toothbrushes for rent.

Capsule hotels provide a great way to save money on your trip to Japan without sacrificing comfort or cleanliness.

Traditional ryokan

Traditional ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, usually in rural areas. They typically have tatami mat floors, futon beds for sleeping, communal baths, and other small comforts such as a kotatsu table or seasonal tea ceremony.

  • Ryokan food is usually served on small dishes known as oshibori (hot towels) when you arrive at the ryokan in the evening after checking in. The oshibori is typically accompanied by a tray of pickles called makizushi or sashimi. 
  • A typical ryokan breakfast usually consists of rice, miso soup, and fish.
  • Dinner is often kaiseki style, a multi-course meal that typically includes seasonal ingredients.

Some ryokan will also offer onsen (hot spring) experiences where you can relax in an outdoor bath.

Ryokans are usually much more expensive than other accommodations, but they offer a unique experience worth the cost.

Hot springs

Hot springs are a great option if you want to get some exercise and see the landscape. Some of them are open in winter, which means you can enjoy the snow while soaking in your natural jacuzzi. 

Hot springs also provide an excellent opportunity to meet people who live in Japan and learn about their culture by chatting with them while they relax in the water.

Booking flights to Japan

When it comes to booking flights, you have a couple of options. You can book them yourself through an online travel site like Expedia or Kayak, or you can use the services of a travel agent. 

If you choose the latter option, ensure that your agent isn’t charging an exorbitant fee for the service.

When it comes to planning your trip, many factors need to be taken into consideration. 

For example: what time of year will you be traveling? 

Many festivals and events are happening in Japan throughout the year; knowing what is happening during your visit will help you plan activities and sightseeing stops along the way!

TIP: It’s always a good practice to book 6-9 months in advance to get the best flight deals. 

To find the best rates, compare prices on websites like Google Flights or Momondo. After you’ve found the cheapest option, buy it directly from the company website.

Getting from the airport to your hotel in Japan

Getting from the airport to your hotel in Japan is easy and a great way to get your bearings. While not all airports are connected with Tokyo (Osaka and Kyoto are best served by their own airports), you can quickly get from Narita International Airport to Tokyo.

Getting from Narita International Airport to Tokyo

  • Narita’s shuttle bus service is available 24 hours a day and runs approximately every 50 minutes between 5:30 AM and 11:00 PM (11:50 PM on Fridays). 
  • The fare is 1,000 yen per person one-way or 2,000 yen for the round trip, a small price to pay for a direct connection between the airport and downtown Tokyo! 

You can also take an express train directly into town for about 500 yen per person, but this option takes longer than the shuttle bus since you won’t be dropped off anywhere near your final destination.

Getting around Japan once you’re there

Once you’re in Japan, there are several ways to get around the country. First and foremost is the J.R. Pass, which gives you unlimited travel on all J.R. trains (as well as selected buses). 

This will be the most straightforward option if you plan to travel by train. 

However, it’s worth noting that some of Japan’s most famous sights, like Mount Fuji and Kyoto’s temples, are located outside major cities and can only be reached via bus or taxi. 

If there’s one thing that makes traveling in Japan unique (besides Pokémon), it would have to be its extensive public transportation system. 

There are three main types: airport express trains, subways, and buses. 

The former two will take passengers from their airport directly into the city center, while buses serve smaller towns or neighborhoods not covered by rail lines (like those along Tokyo’s coastline).

Japan Rail Pass.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of train travel in Japan, consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. The J.R. Pass is a rail pass for foreign tourists that allows unlimited travel on J.R. trains in Japan for a fixed time. 

It can be purchased outside of Japan at any central J.R. station, from a travel agency, or online from an official J.R. website.

The Japan Rail Pass is an excellent way to see the country and save transportation costs.

The pass can be purchased online here.

There are different types of passes available, so be sure to do your research to find the one that best suits your needs.


FAQ:


How many days in Japan is enough?

We recommend staying at least two weeks. If possible, try to stay longer so that you have time to explore multiple regions of Japan. After all, there’s no better place for culture shock than in Tokyo!

Does my phone work in japan?

Yes, your phone will work in Japan. Just be sure to get an unlocked phone before you leave home so that you can use a local SIM card when you arrive. This will save you money on international roaming charges and allow you to stay connected while traveling in Japan.

What is the best sim card to use in japan?

We recommend the Japan Wireless card. This is the largest provider in Japan and has a wide range of data plans to suit your needs. The company has excellent coverage throughout the country, so you can use your phone for navigation, maps, and other services without worrying about losing the signal.

Does my iPhone charger work in japan?

Yes, your iPhone charger will work in Japan. The voltage is different in Japan, but the plug adapter will convert it so that you can charge your phone. This is true for most electronics (like laptops), although some devices may not work correctly if they are older models.

Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you to plan your trip to Japan. 

Remember, the key to a great trip is to do your research beforehand to know what to expect.

The country is full of amazing things to do and see, so we encourage you to take advantage of it on your next vacation!

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