Japan is a destination that had long been on my bucket list but in terms of sights and attractions I didn’t know much other than Tokyo, Mt Fuji and the famous Cherry Blossoms.

Planning the itinerary for this adventure was challenging – I wanted to see as much as possible while still having time to relax and enjoy the country’s food, scenery and culture. I followed my normal planning process with plenty of reading and talking to friends, family, colleagues, and basically anyone that mentioned they had visited. The more I researched the more I wanted to see but I needed to be realistic with the time I had –  17 days – and choose quality over quantity.

I heavily relied on TripAdvisor for accommodation reviews and completed bookings through a number of providers to get the best deals.

Given I had done so much research and much of what we were hoping to see was pretty accessible I didn’t book any organised tours or day trips.  In hindsight we could have benefited from a city day tour in Tokyo just to set the scene as we did find we had some questions about day to day Japanese traditions and customs that would probably have been explained on a tour. Despite this our trusty Lonely Planet and helpful locals answered most of our questions.

The JR train pass was absolutely worth it and ensured that we could get to our destinations quickly and easily. At the station it seemed to be a case by case situation if you needed to make reservations or not but we found it easier to make reservations to ensure we had a seat given our accommodations were locked in.  I used the Hyperdia website to review timetables.

The final itinerary wasn’t quite perfect due to accommodation availability and a few instances where stopovers probably weren’t necessary due to the efficiency and regularity of the train services but all in all it was well paced with the chance to explore and allow for spontaneous experiences.

Itinerary

Location Key attractions/highlights Accommodation type
Day 1-3 Tokyo Tsukiji Market, temples, Tokyo National Museum,Yanaka Cemetary, Imperial Palace, Tokyo Skytree Hotel
Day 4 Nagoya Nagoya Castle Hotel
Day 5 Magome Nakasendo Trail Walk Temple
Day 6-7 Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nishiki Market, Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Ginkaku-ji Temple, Philosopher’s Walk, Kiyomizu-dera Temple Boutique Hotel
Day 8 Kinosaki Onsen visits Ryokan
Day 9 Kyoto Arashiyama Path of Bamboo, temples, gardens, Togetsu-Kyo Bridge Air BnB Apartment
Day 10 Koyasan Temples, Oku-no-in Shrine Temple
Day 11 Osaka Shopping Hotel
Day 12-13 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park, Miyajima Island Hotel
Day 14 -16 Tokyo Edo Museum Hotel

 

If I could make suggested improvements to this itinerary I would do the following:

  • Optional to got to Nagoya – could take the train straight to Magome and stay 2 nights
  • Spend 2 nights (at least) in Osaka
  • Kinosaki is not only home to many famous onsens (traditional Japanese baths) but is just around the corner from the beach if you want time to explore the coast and town 2 nights  minimum would be best
  • There is so much to see in Kyoto you could easily spend 5 days to a week there – give it as much time as you can

There are so many amazing things to see and experience in Japan I will definitely be planning another trip in the near future.

What are your Japan itinerary planning tips? Share them in the comments below.

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