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2 weeks in Japan: itinerary options

Two weeks in Japan: itinerary options | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here are some potential itineraries for 2 weeks in Japan. After a few trips there, I’ve become a self-confessed Japan geek and so now I’m always answering questions for friends planning their own Japan trips. So I thought it was about time I wrote something like this.

Your plans will of course depend on which airport you fly into: one of the Tokyo ones or Kansai (in Osaka Bay) or another. But these itineraries might be a starting point for you. They’ll give you a rough idea of where to start and how long you’ll want to spend in each place. Hint: there are very few places in Japan you won’t want to spend weeks in.

First of all, I should tell you that I’ve written an absolutely mammoth blog post on planning your first trip to Japan, which goes into loads of details about when/where/how to go as well as useful things about stuff like toilets, nudity and hairdryers that you need to know too. I’d recommend reading that before carrying on with this post. You’ll need to sit down with a cup of tea for it, mind.

Anyway, onto the Japan itinerary options…

2 weeks in Japan: itinerary options | PACK THE SUITCASES

2 weeks in Japan: a classic ‘big sights’ itinerary

This itinerary will work at any time of year, weather-wise, and it ticks off all of the main cities most people will want to see on their first trip. You will be best off getting a Japan RailPass for this one (see the planning your first trip to Japan post for more on that).

  • Day 1: Arrive at Tokyo Haneda Aiport (HND) and get into Tokyo city via the monorail and the JR commuter train. Or, arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) and get the N’EX train into the city. Although Haneda sounds more complicated, it is quicker than the Narita option. It takes under an hour to get into the city, whereas it takes an hour and 30 minutes from Narita.
  • Nights 1-5: You’re in Tokyo and have 4 full days to explore the city.
  • Day 6: Travel to Kyoto by shinkansen (bullet train). This takes just under 3 hours.
  • Nights 6-10: You’re in Kyoto and have 4 days to explore the city and do some day trips from there. We suggest picking from: Kobe, Nara, Osaka, Amanohashidate.
  • Day 11: Travel back to Tokyo by shinkansen.
  • Nights 11-12: You’re back in Tokyo to do anything you missed the first time or a day trip. We suggest Hakone, to see Mt. Fuji.
  • Day 13: Fly home from whichever Tokyo airport you fancy.

2 weeks in Japan: itinerary options | PACK THE SUITCASES

2 weeks in Japan: a Kansai Airport alternative itinerary

This itinerary will work best in spring or autumn, because Kanazawa can be very snowy in winter and too hot in summer. Again, you will be best off getting a Japan RailPass for this. I’ve based it around flying into Kansai but you could also do it from landing in Tokyo just by mixing the order round.

  • Day 1: Arrive in Kansai Airport (KIX), located on an artificial island in Osaka Bay. Get the Haruka Airport Express train straight to Kyoto. This takes about 1 hour 15 minutes.
  • Nights 1-4: You’re in Kyoto and have 3 days to explore the city and do some day trips from there. We suggest picking from: Kobe, Nara, Osaka, Amanohashidate.
  • Day 5: Travel to Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train). This takes just under 3 hours.
  • Nights 5-10: You’re in Tokyo and have 4 full days to explore the city.
  • Day 10: Travel to Kanazawa on the Hokuriku shinkansen in the morning. This takes about 2 hours 30 minutes.
  • Nights 10-11: You’re in Kanazawa and have almost 2 days to explore this city, including its amazing gardens (pictured below).
  • Day 12: Travel back to Kyoto by Thunderbird limited express train. This takes about 2 hours.
  • Night 12: Stay in Kyoto for one final night.
  • Day 13: Get the Haruka Airport Express train back to Kansai Airport for your flight home.

2 weeks in Japan: itinerary options | PACK THE SUITCASES

2 weeks in Japan: a tropical itinerary

This itinerary will work best in spring or even early summer because it’s tropical. Yes, tropical. In Japan. You weren’t expecting that were you? Crack out the pineapple emoji. You will be best off buying individual train tickets rather than a Japan RailPass as it should work out cheaper that way.

  • Day 1: Arrive at Tokyo Haneda Aiport (HND) and get into Tokyo city via the monorail and the JR commuter train. Or, arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) and get the N’EX train into the city. Although Haneda sounds more complicated, it is quicker than the Narita option. It takes under an hour to get into the city, whereas it takes an hour and 30 minutes from Narita.
  • Nights 1-4: You’re in Tokyo and have 3 full days to explore the city.
  • Day 5: Travel to Kyoto by shinkansen (bullet train). This takes just under 3 hours.
  • Nights 5-7: You’re in your base in Kyoto and have 3 days to explore the city and do some day trips from there. We suggest picking from: Kobe, Nara, Osaka, Amanohashidate.
  • Day 8: Travel to Osaka Airport (ITM) by train. From there, fly to Kagoshima Airport (KOJ). This entire thing will take about 5 hours.
  • Night 8: Stay in Kagoshima for one night. You can briefly explore – including the volcano, Sakurajima. If it isn’t erupting.
  • Day 9: Travel to the sub-tropical island of Yakushima by hydrofoil boat. This takes around 2 hours 30 minutes.
  • Nights 9-10: Spend two nights on Yakushima, staying in the village of Nagata. You will not be disappointed.
  • Day 11: Travel back to Kagoshima by hydrofoil boat.
  • Night 11: Stay in Kagoshima for one night again.
  • Day 12: Fly back to Tokyo (either airport, but Haneda would be easier). This takes about an hour and 30 minutes.
  • Night 12: You’re back in the madness of Tokyo for one night. Enjoy.
  • Day 13: Fly home from whichever Tokyo airport you fancy.

Note: the below picture isn’t of anywhere tropical. It’s of Naoshima but I thought it was passable as looking warm. I don’t actually have any of Yakushima. Soz.

2 weeks in Japan: itinerary options | PACK THE SUITCASES

2 weeks in Japan: a history and modern art itinerary

This itinerary will be great in any season apart from probably the humidity of summer. You will be best off buying a Japan RailPass.

  • Day 1: Arrive at Tokyo Haneda Aiport (HND) and get into Tokyo city via the monorail and the JR commuter train. Or, arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) and get the N’EX train into the city. Although Haneda sounds more complicated, it is quicker than the Narita option. It takes under an hour to get into the city, whereas it takes an hour and 30 minutes from Narita.
  • Nights 1-4: You’re in Tokyo and have 3 full days to explore the city.
  • Day 5: Travel to Kobe by shinkansen (bullet train). This takes about 3 hours. Bear in mind that Shin-Kobe (the shinkansen station) isn’t actually in the centre of Kobe and you’ll need to change onto a local train. It’s all v straightforward though.
  • Nights 5-7: You’re in Kobe and have 2 days to explore the city and maybe do a day trip from there. We suggest picking from Nara and Himeji.
  • Day 8: Travel to Hiroshima by shinkansen. This will take about an hour and 30 minutes.
  • Nights 8-9: You’re in Hiroshima and have a full day and a bit to see Hiroshima itself and visit Miiyajima.
  • Day 10: Travel to Okayama by shinkansen. Then change to a local train to get to Uno. From there, get the ferry to Naoshima.
  • Nights 10-11: You’re on the art island of Naoshima with about 2 days to see all the art and never want to leave.
  • Day 11: Travel to Takamatsu by ferry (see gardens and eat udon noodles there if you have time). Then get the Marine Liner train to Okayama. Change there to get the train to Tokyo. The total journey time should be about 4 hours 30 minutes.
  • Nights 11-12: You’re back in Tokyo to do anything you missed the first time or a day trip. We suggest Hakone, to see Mt. Fuji.
  • Day 13: Fly home from whichever Tokyo airport you fancy.

2 weeks in Japan: itinerary options | PACK THE SUITCASES

More stuff to read about Japan

Phew, that’s it. I hope this was somewhat helpful for you… because it’s taken me forever to put together.

Have you done 2 weeks in Japan? Where did you go and for how long – and of course, when are you going back (because I know you’ll want to)? Let me know in the comments.

Also, as you’ll have seen throughout this post, I have other blog posts on Japan that might be useful for you when you’re planning a trip there. I’ve listed them below:

I’d also recommend (if you’ve not had enough ideas here, ahem…) the Rough Guide Japan itineraries for further research.

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