The 12 Places in Tokyo Every Nerd Needs to Visit

japan nerd tour

If you haven’t heard, being nerdy is cool now (take that, middle school). And if you want to know more awesome places to visit in Japan , feel free to contact us so we can answer any of your questions!

Going to Japan?   Experience it like a local .

#1: The Pokémon Center

Pokemon Center Place to Go in Tokyo

Every kid dreams of being a Pokémon trainer, and now you can actually do it. At the Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo Store (yes, that’s the real name), you can purchase items from and about the greatest game/timewaster of our generation. From Pokémon cards to games to clothes, and even “healing berries”, the Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo Store takes “Pokémon Go!” to a whole new level. If you’re a ‘90s kid (or really, just a nerd of any age), this is something you have to do while you’re in Japan .

#2: J-World Tokyo—the anime theme park

If you’re a true geek, you love rollercoasters. And you love anime. And you love the indoors. So why not go to a place that combines all three! J-World Tokyo is a theme park based off of your favorite animes like One Punch, Dragon Ball-Z, Naruto and more. With indoor rides, games, cosplayers, and more, J-World Tokyo is a perfect addition to your Japan itinerary .

#3: The Akihabara shopping district

Akihabara Places to Go in Tokyo

Nerds of all kinds converge at Akihabara, the historic electronics district in the heart of Tokyo. Whether you are looking for some fun shopping, want to find your way to an arcade, or just want to soak up the dorky goodness, Akihabara is one Japanese locale you have to check out.

#4: Cosplay cafes

Cosplay isn’t just for Comic-Cons anymore—in Tokyo, you can find entire cafes complete with costumed servers, themed food, and corresponding decor. From Alice in Wonderland to french maids, there’s a cafe for every cosplay theme. Have your trip planner find the perfect cafe for your favorite niche!

#5: The Studio Ghibli Museum

Studio Ghibli Museum Places to Go in Tokyo

Seen Spirited Away? Loved it? Duh. That’s why you need to head to the Studio Ghibli Museum. Dedicated to the works of the incredible anime Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, the Ghibli Museum features film replicas, props, as well as a history of the studio.

#6: The museum that inspired Spirited Away

If you want even more Miyazaki, visit the Edo-Tokyo Architectural Museum . While the museum itself is very cool and packed with baller artifacts, you’ll be even more impressed with the fact that it is the inspiration for the abandoned theme park from Spirited Away.

#7: The Tokyo Metropolitan Rock Festival

Tokyo Metropolitan Rock Festival Places to Go in Tokyo

Are you a big music fan? If so, you absolutely need to see the Tokyo Metropolitan Rock Festival. Possibly the best music fest in Japan, has played host to some of Japan’s best bands, making it an absolute Tokyo must-do for anyone who wants to check out Japan’s awesome music scene. Make sure to plan your Japan trip with it in mind!

#8: The Tokyo National Museum

History nerd? Then you’re gonna want to visit the Tokyo National Museum . One of the largest art museums in the world, the Tokyo National Museum provides an inside look at the history and culture of Japan across its entire storied history. The museum is easy to get to and is 100% worth visiting.

#9: A Sumo tournament

Sumo Places to Go in Tokyo

Sure, sports aren’t really the “geekiest” things you could do, but admit it—you want to see a sumo match as much as anyone. Tournaments happen all year round across Japan and Tokyo, so ask your travel planner to find a perfect tournament for you while you’re in town.

#10: Karaoke!!!

Look, everyone loves a good karaoke party. And if you really want to embrace the nerdiness within, you’re going to have to sing your heart out (preferably terribly and drunkenly) to an ‘80s power ballad in an authentic karaoke bar. Japan invented the art, after all. And if you’re a film buff, make sure to add Karaoke Kan —the karaoke bar from Lost in Translation—to your Tokyo itinerary .

#11: Tokyo Disneyland

Disney nerds are probably already planning to go to Tokyo Disneyland , but it’s really a pretty great trip for anyone. Whether by itself or with its sister park DisneySea, Tokyo Disneyland is one of the best spots in Japan for people-watching.

#12: The Panasonic showroom

Everyone loves toys, regardless of age. So make the big kid inside of you happy by going to the Panasonic showroom, where you can play with the newest gadgets and gear that Panasonic has to offer. Have your Hero work it into your itinerary.

Ready to get nerdy in Tokyo? Have one of our Heroes plan your trip—or, feel free to send us a message with any questions you have.  And before your trip, make sure to check out:

  • Connect With a Local to Plan Your Trip
  • The Best Places to Visit in Japan 2024
  • 10 Things You Have to Do in Osaka
  • The 4 Japanese Cities You Need to Check Out


Looking for more info?

  • BoB’s Epic Adventure – all about my 7 month journey
  • Classic backpacker favorites
  • Sleep Less, Dream More stories – Unusual accommodations
  • Travel tips and tricks
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Freaky, geeky Japan: 11 quirky things to do for travelers

Dressed in a French maid uniform, a young, pretty Japanese girl with long brown-dyed hair kneels next to our table: “What can I get you, Master?” she asks with a soft, but high voice while making a small bow.

This is not an adult movie or a manga comic. This is real. This is a Maid Cafe.  This is Japan .

During my travels in Japan I came across a few wonderfully odd and interesting experiences ranging from cute and nerdy to futuristic and downright bizarre. Go beyond the traditional Japan sights with these alternative ’11 quirky Japanese things to do’. All are easy to arrange or see and will give you loads of geeky fun!

Welcome to Quirky Japan!

Flights with a hello kitty theme .

The. Best. Flight. Ever. Ok, this is EVA Airlines (a Taiwanese airline company), but this flight was the perfect start of my Japan trip. Even the flight attendant ended her welcome talk with ‘We wish you a happy Hello Kitty flight’! How cute is that?

Quirky Japan Hello Kitty

Futuristic Japanese toilets

Never a dull moment during a visit to a hi-tech Japanese toilet. Adjust the water pressure, use the bidet or press the flushing sound (my favorite). Afterwards, if needed, you can use the deodorizer.

Quirky Japan Toilet

Lattes and cats at the Cat Cafe

Cat cafe’s are the gathering place for those who love overpriced lattes and of course… cats. I’m more of dog person, and even in a cat cafe, where you would think all cats would be snuggly and cuddly, I didn’t feel much of a connection. Still, it’s a big hit in Japan and a cool and geeky Japan must-do! These days there are also many other animal cafe’s in Tokyo, like you can read in this cool blogpost on  things to do in Tokyo! 

Quirky Japan Cat Cafe

Role play at a Maid cafe

‘Welcome home, master’. This is how we were greeted upon entering the Maid Cafe. A Maid Cafe is one of the most curious things I’ve ever been to. It’s all about pink, cute (kawaii) and masters and maids. The Maid thing goes quite far and they often have thousands of fans. Some ‘geeks’ even pay weekly visits to the same maid. You can drink coffee, eat cake or play (against payment) a simple game against one of the maids. What a world!

Home Cafe is the most famous Maid Cafe chain. You can find a number of Maid Cafe’s in Akihabara in Tokyo, the electronics district.  Find their website here.

Quirky Japan Maid Cafe

Comic books and cheap sleeps at a Manga kissa 

A dream come true for all manga lovers and a highlight of your geeky Japan experience!

Step 1: Enter a manga kissa (they are in every city) Step 2: Choose a comic book from their large manga library Step 3: Retreat to your own private cubicle with a large comfy chair, a computer and video games. Step 4: Enjoy, read and relax! (Step 5 for travelers: Stay overnight. Some manga cafe’s allow you to stay overnight (like I did to save money). One night is only about 2500Y.)

You may also like: Do as the Japanese do for travelers! 

Quirky Manga Kissaten

Claustrophobic in a capsule hotel

Capsule hotels… Although primarily meant for Japanese business men who are too drunk to go home, capsule hotels are also very suitable for low-budget travelers because of the reasonable price. I slept in a female capsule hotel in Nagoya and absolutely loved it. My capsule was approximately 1 meter high and 2 meters long and in one room there can be as many as 50 capsules stacked together. You can book your own night in a Tokyo capsule hotel here! 

Quirky Japan Capsule Hotel

Juicy honey vending machine

I only saw these juicy honey vending machines once in Tokyo, but they sell small keychains with the voice of a girl (making for example a moaning sound). Who doesn’t want to have that on their keyring?

Quirky Japan machine

Luck and loss at Pachinko

Pachinko is a typically Japanese arcade game and if you’re in Tokyo you will hear the loud noise of the bouncing small silver pinballs all around you. In the centre of the machine is a screen playing (of course) an anime movie!

Quirky Japan Pachinko

The Ganguro girls

The Ganguro girls are a Japanese fashion culture. These girls love dark tan and flashy make-up, strongly contrasting the traditional Asian beauty concept of pale skin and sweet neutral make-up tones. A great example of geeky Japan stuff!

Note: The girl on my photo (taken in Tokyo) is a mild (or no) Ganguro girl. WikiHow published a useful guide on How to Look Like a Ganguro Girl. 

Quirky Japan girl

Fun with vending machines

From remote mountain temples to Japanese city bathhouses, vending machines can be found everywhere throughout the country. The vending machines are often quite futuristic and sell everything from underwear and comic books to soft drinks and beer. Both the vending machines and the products scream: “Buy me… buy me…”

Quirky Japan vending machines

Japanese transport: fast, frequent and on time

Japan is world famous for the punctuality of its trains, but in general all modes of transport are fast, frequent and on time. Also, cabins are clean and they provide good meals in the long-distance (lightning-fast) trains. If only it wasn’t so expensive!

Quirky Japan punctuality

Getting lost in the streets of Harajuku

I love Harajuku! It’s so colorful, poppy, unusual, geeky and fun! It’s not only the most famous fashion district of Tokyo, but it also became a complete separate fashion culture with young Harajuku girls and boys. The best day to visit is a sunday, when the nearby Yoyogi park is full of ‘Elvis’ groups playing rock music, Lolita girls and anime characters. It goes without saying Harajuku is perfect for some streetstyle photography.

Quirky Japan Harajuku

Please note that some of the above-mentioned experiences are also considered ‘strange’ by a majority of Japanese people. 

–> Like this article :)? Book your Japan accommodation through  or ! Booking through these links won’t cost you anything extra, but it will get me a small commission to keep this website up and running! Thanks! ~ Manouk

What do you think of these quirky and geeky Japanese things?

Recommended additional Japan reading: 

Staying at a female capsule hotel in Japan Peace and quiet during a temple stay in Takayama How much does your trip in Japan cost?  11x ‘Do As The Japanese Do’ for Travelers


japan nerd tour

My trip to Tibet: 20 photographs from the Roof of the World

japan nerd tour

11 x ‘Do As The Japanese Do’ For Travelers

japan nerd tour

Staying in a female capsule hotel in Nagoya, Japan

japan nerd tour

BoB vs. the Great Wall

japan nerd tour

BoB vs. the Karst Hills in China

japan nerd tour

BoB vs. the Gobi desert in Mongolia


Hi manouk, wat een leuke blogpost! Wij hebben een reis naar Japan gepland voor het komende voorjaar! Je hebt een mooie site om inspiratie op te doen! Groetjes Tessa

Dank en wat leuk Tessa :)! Alvast heel veel plezier met voorbereiding! Mocht je vragen hebben, let me know!!

God I miss those toilets.

Me too Melissa. Me too. Especially my heated toilet seat..!

Nu al het leukste artikel dat ik dit jaar heb gelezen. Ik wil naar Japan.

Ah superlief! Ik wil terug ;)!

Wat een leuk artikel! Nu wil ik helemaal naar Japan!!

Haha top dat het artikel het gewenste effect heeft Denise! Japan is cool! Zeker doen!

Haha – I love all the weird things in Japan. I wrote all about their toilets last time we were there – they are hilarious!

Haha yes they are :)!

Vergeet ook niet de crazy photobooths die je een porseleinen huidje geven en mega poppen ogen :) Leuk artikel, ik mis Japan meteen.

Jaa I know! Ik wilde die er bij zetten, maar had er niet echt een goede foto bij! Ook in het Engels: Extra tip from Maris and me: Try a crazy photobooth! ;)

Super leuk artikel! Ik ga in juni naar Tokyo en kan niet wachten om sommige van de dingen op je lijstje uit te proberen! Ik ben vooral nieuwsgierig naar Harajuku.

Superleuk Deniz! Harajuku is inderdaad heel gaaf. Naast je ogen uitkijken, kan je er ook heel goed shoppen :)!

Public transportation is reasonably cheap if you purchase a Japan Rail Pass. They’re valid for train (even the high speed trains!) and bus. Remember though: they can only be purchased outside Japan ahead of you trip.

Good tip Sjoerd! Thanks :)

Haha awesome! I am planning to visit Japan in 2016 so hopefully I can experience some of these quirky things myself:-)

Great post Manouk.

Japan is a great country but it was confusing to me a little bit and of course it was 7 years ago and I would love to visit in the near future and you are right those trains are always on time.

I just have to find Juicy honey vending machine. Where in tokyo did you see it?

Haha aren’t they the best ;)? I think in Akihabara Agnes!

Hahha, yes i just need to buy one of those. So funny :) Where is the vending machines? In the subway? I really like your post, i need to do everything when i go to Tokyo :)

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Two Weeks in Japan: A Super Efficient Itinerary

Before you start to read this itinerary, there’s a very important question you have to ask yourself: Are you a “do it all, see it all” traveler? Or do you prefer to take things slow and steady? If the first describes you: perfect , you’re going to LOVE this itinerary for two weeks in Japan . If you you fall into the second camp, allow me to explain why you might still enjoy this whirlwind tour of Japan without getting overwhelmed…

Why visiting 12 locations in 14 days is completely doable in Japan

The key to see Japan in an affordable and efficient way is the Japan Rail Pass . This pass allows you to take unlimited super fast “bullet trains” between locations, which is critical in a country that is surprisingly big (150% the size of the UK!). Here’s why the bullet train makes it work:

  • You can make it between huge stretches of Japan in relatively little time.
  • The train is so comfortable, that traveling to your next destination feels relaxing .
  • Every train station has coin lockers, where you can store your backpack while you explore a city and haven’t checked into your Airbnb or hotel yet. This means you can pop into a new place, store your stuff, and get going.

Let’s look at the awesome experiences packed into these two weeks, and then you can tell me if you think it’s crazy or kinda clever 😉

Recommended accommodation in Japan

I stayed a lot of places in Japan, but out of those can only recommend a few. Here are the two specific spots I stayed in that I absolutely loved during my time in Japan.

  • Sumiyoshi Ryokan (Takayama) – Absolutely the best place we stayed in Japan . Such friendly hosts, amazing traditional Japanese ryokan, and it’s entrancing to see your in-room breakfast get cooked before your eyes. It does get completely sold out at times so booking in advance is advised!
  • Nikko Backpackers Nikkoriso (Nikko) – Technically a hostel, we booked a private couples room, which was beautifully decorated. But what made this place special is that the hosts happened to recognize us at the train station and gave us a ride! That was so lucky and so kind.
  • Airbnb or (any large city: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto) – We mostly stayed in Airbnb in large cities. That said, It can be hard to find the location because of the complex Japanese address system, the fact that the addresses are often in Japanese and the hosts sometimes don’t speak much English, so be prepared to improvise 😉
Eating our in-room breakfast at a ryokan in Takayama, Sumiyoshi Ryokan , in the Japan Alps!

At least once during your trip in Japan, I do recommend staying in a ryokan , which is a traditional Japanese inn. You can read my entire post about staying in a Ryokan in Japan to learn what to expect and how to find a ryokan that fits your budget!

Can you visit Japan now? (Summer 2023)

Japan officially opened its borders to international tourists in October 2022. This applies to the majority of countries that Japan allows to enter visa-free.

How to prepare for a trip to Japan

Here are a few ways I really recommend being prepared before you actually travel to Japan. In a lot of places you can “wing it”, but I think Japan really favors the prepared! Some things are a lot easier (or mandatory) to do before you land in the country.

  • Buy a Japan Rail Pass , as they can only be purchased OUTSIDE the country . They’ll mail you a voucher which you can redeem in the airport. I later calculated that the JR Pass saved me more than $450 in train tickets. You can use this super helpful website to compare different Japan Rail Passes to see which one makes the most sense for your trip – both financially and in terms of the areas you want to visit.
  • Plan your train travel with Hyperdia – Hyperdia is an amazing English-language timetable tool for Japanese trains. You can also use it to calculate whether the Japan Rail Pass will save you money based on your Japan itinerary by looking at the standard train costs.
  • Get an offline-friendly Japan guidebook – It can be very useful in Japan to have a guide available offline. I personally don’t like to rely on my phone to get around! I tried 3 different travel guide books for planning my trip, and this travel guide book was the best one (and was just updated at the end of 2019).

2 weeks in Japan

Here is what you’re going to see in this incredible two week Japan itinerary! One important thing to note is that this itinerary is optimized for seeing cherry blossoms in Hirosaki , in northern Japan. If you are not visiting during the later part of the cherry blossom season, you can swap out Hirosaki for another destination. I would’ve loved to spend more time in Osaka or Nikko, so those are great options for extending your trip!

Where to go for two weeks in Japan (especially during cherry blossom season!)

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Day 2: take the train to kyoto, day 3: enjoy the highlights of kyoto, day 4: day trips to fushimi inari shrine & nara deer park, day 5: remember the history of hiroshima.

  • Day 6: Miyajima, Himeji, Osaka

Day 7: Take the train to Takayam in the Japan Alps

Day 8: day trip to shirakawa-go, day 9: travel to aomori in northern japan, day 10: spend the day at the hirosaki cherry blossom festival, day 11: experience beautiful nikko.

  • Day 12-13: Tokyo
  • Day 14: Mt. Fuji

Today is about getting adjusted. About realizing: OMG I am in Japan right now , and my universe is in chaooooos! There’s no pressure to do anything in particular besides finding your hotel or Airbnb, try to order food in Japanese for the first time, and experience a

<a href="” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">complicated Japanese toilet .

No pressure, right?

Tokyo’s Ginza , an upscale shopping district. Streets are lined with shops carrying Chanel and Prada. This area in the heart of Tokyo is very close to the Tsukiji fish market , where my top Tokyo restaurant recommendation is located!

That said, depending on when you arrive you might have some time to really spend exploring Tokyo. We’re going to come back to Tokyo at the end of the trip, so our first day is really just about getting faimiliar with the city. Here are a couple of ideas of things to do in Tokyo

Things to do in Tokyo for first-time visitors to Japan

  • Go to Tokyo’s famous Robot Restaurant. It’s just one of those things that is “so Japan” you have to see it to believe it. During this 90-minute show robots in costumes sing and dance while you eat dinner and down Japanese beer. Book Robot restaurant tickets in advance because as weird as it sounds, this is a super popular thing to do.
  • Enter an immersive digital art museum. This limited, interactive art show is one of the most popular things to do in Tokyo. There may literally not be a better place in the city for instagram photos than this. Book tickets to the teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum (children 3 years old and younger can enter free!).
  • See Tokyo by night from its tallest building, Tokyo Skytree. Last admission is at 9:00PM, and you can even buy skip the line tickets before you go. We didn’t have skip-the-line tickets and ended up waiting almost an hour to get to the top. If you want to make it even more memorable, you can have dinner overlooking Tokyo at the Skytree’s Panorama restaurant 😱
  • Just explore your neighborhood. It’s pretty much guaranteed that no matter where you stay, there’s going to be an awesome point of interest right in your vicinity. Go outside, pop into a totally overwhelming electronics store, accidentally go into the “adult” section of the comics shop , pass by noisy pachinko parlors. There is nothing like people-watching in Japan.
  • Get your first sushi meal! I had the best sushi of my life at Sushi Zanmai (すしざんまい 本店) which is located in the super famous Tsukiji fish market . You can also try out conveyer-belt sushi , which is an experience of its own. Indulge in some sake while you’re at it!

japan nerd tour

The delicious, unique, and sometimes strange regional dishes and street foods of Japan that you simply won't find anywhere else.

After your first night in a probably miniscule Japanese hotel, the next morning is time to hit the road for Kyoto, where we’ll spend three nights!

Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan. Why not? It was Japan’s official capital for nearly 700 years. Here you’re going to get a real taste for what traditional Japan was like, by visiting shrines and temples erected hundreds of years ago (or more!). Besides architecture, Kyoto also has an incredible food scene. Here is where you can try Japan’s famous multi-course meal, called kaiseki .

But we’ll get to all that later!

For now, store your stuff in a coin locker at the Kyoto train station and catch the bus or train to the Saga-Arashiyama Station . Getting from there to our first stop, Tenryu-Ji is as easy as following the flow of people. After that, we’ll visit the neighboring Arashiyama bamboo forest . The final stop of the day is the super shiny Golden Pavillion .

For more details, you can read my in-depth Kyoto itinerary , but the main points are all mentioned here in this post!

Get ready to start taking off your shoes! Every shrine or temple you visit will require that you remove your shoes to enter. Luckily these places have soft wooden or tatami floors, so removing your shoes feels like a relief after long days of walking. And don’t worry – no one will steal your shoes. This is Japan ✌️

Here you’ll wander around the shrine. Starting with the building and its many exterior halls. Afterwards, venturing into the zen garden, which is the real star. There are many beautiful plants and flowers, such as the Japanese wisteria, which you never see outside Japan. They’re all labeled in English and Japanese. It was also here that I saw my first cherry blossom tree in Japan! Even though we were way too late for cherry blossoms in Kyoto, this late bloomer stuck around. It was pretty special to see it just chillin’ in the garden.

Tenryu-Ji is conveniently located right next to the Arashiyama bamboo forest . You can simply follow the signs and you’ll find yourself at its entrance.

Bamboo Forest

Let me be the first to tell you: this bamboo forest is kinda small . At least, I was expecting something much more massive! That said, it’s clearly one of the essential experiences to have in Kyoto so I wouldn’t pass it up. You’ll walk through in 10-15 minutes (depending on how determined you are to take a photo with no people in them). Be sure to bring a wide-angle camera lens in order to really capture the super tall bamboo. I was severely lacking one and my photos reveal that!

From the Bamboo forest, take the bus to the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-ji) . The bus ride takes a little under an hour and involves a transfer, but you’ll get to see a bit of the city of Kyoto on the way!

Golden Pavillion

The Golden Pavillion was probably the place where I realized: holey moley, there are a LOT of tourists in Japan . It was so incredibly crowded, and getting a decent view of the pavillion was pretty difficult! People just tend to bunch up at the best photo spots, taking what feels like a dozen pictures, and then sticking around to chat!

That said, the pavillion is obviously super impressive and beautiful. Reflected in the lake, it’s no wonder this is securely in the top 3 things to see in Kyoto! From the vantage point of the photo, you can wander around the pavillion’s surrounding gardens.

I also have to say that this is the place where I had my first ever Japanese-flavored ice cream . Gernot had the green matcha, and I took the black sesame. It was actually some of the best ice cream of the trip, so even though it’s expensive and touristy, it was perfect!

Which brings me to another thing about Japan: walking and eating is considered grossly uncivilized in Japan. We realized this was true, for the first time, when everyone was sitting in a room to eat their ice cream instead of walking around.

After the pavillion, it’s time to come back to the train station, grab your stuff, and check into the hotel or Airbnb where you’re staying. At this point, it’s well and duly time for dinner! Kyoto is famous for haute cuisine , so you can get an extremely fancy multi-course meal in Kyoto.

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Today is the main day to discover Kyoto, so be sure to start early! Your most efficient path would be to start your morning at the Nishiki Market , take the bus to Gion , and then spend the day in East Kyoto in the Higashiyama area. After following that path and seeing tons of temples, shrines, and beautiful streets, you’ll end up close to Philosopher's Path , where you can walk a long the stream and enjoy some solitude!

Nishiki Market

If you’re set on trying all the weird foods you can find in Japan, Nishiki Market is an absolute goldmine. This relatively small market hall spans several streets, and offers snacks and produce which you can pick up to sample some traditional Japanese food. Here is where I tried tako tamago , the infamous candied baby octopus stuffed with a quail egg. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s the only place I saw it while in Japan!

Gion is Kyoto’s famous geisha district . This is really the epicenter of geisha culture in Japan, and the place which has the most traditional rules regarding who can become a geisha. Outside Kyoto, there have been very few non-Japanese geisha, whereas in Kyoto it is completely not allowed.

Can you see the geisha (or more likely, geisha-in-training) hustle down the street in her red kimono?

From Gion, we’ll walk towards the world famous hub of Kyoto’s best-known shrines and temples: Higashiyama . Southern Higashiyama is the place to be for the very best the area has to offer!


Chances are if you’ve looked up photos of Kyoto, you’ve seen mostly pictures of Higashiyama. The rest of the city is very modern and, I must say, not so beautiful in comparison to the historic Higashiyama district.

  • Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka – The two most beautiful streets in Higashiyama. The former is the location of the famous stairs. Most of the houses have been converted into souvenir shops. It can get pretty crowded at mid-day, so come either first thing in the morning or around dusk for a less cramped experience.

Besides the beautiful streets, there are loads of shrines and temples for you to visit. Here are a selection of my favorites:

  • Kyomizu-dera – This area is one of the busiest and best known in Kyoto for a reason. The view out over a sea of trees is hard to match – and in cherry blossom season, they’re also in bloom.
  • Kodai-ji – This place has got a yuuuge zen garden. Come here for one of the nicest zen gardens you can find in Kyoto.
  • Shoren-in – An oft-skipped but totally majestic Buddhist temple at the end of the Higashiyama route. Not crowded, gorgeous gardens, many winding corridors for you to explore. This place will make you want to live in your own Japanese villa one day! Read more about Shoren-in

After Shoren-in, you can walk to the Philosopher’s Path (2.3 km, found on Google Maps as Tetsugaku-no-michi ). This path along a narrow river is lined with cherry blossom trees in Spring. If you decide to talk this walk, you’ll end up near the Silver Pavillion . If you’ve still got energy, you can check it out! Otherwise, I recommend grabbing dinner at Asian Cample Foods Goya for a taste of delicious Okinawan food .

japan nerd tour

Here are the best things to do in Kyoto that deserve a place on your two or three-day itinerary. From world-famous food to ancient temples and interesting day trips.

Imagine this: a capital city full of thousands of docile, free-ranging deer. If this sounds like your idea of paradise, you can’t miss Nara, Japan .

But first, it’s time to visit one of Japan’s most famous landmarks.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

These dizzying rows of red Torii are a photographer’s dream: if you can manage to capture an empty shot. I saw some of the thickest crowds of the whole trip when visiting these shrines, so be sure to give yourself some extra time if you want to focus on photos!

To get here, you’ll need to take the JR Line from Kyoto to Inari . After your time at the shrine, pop back on the train and continue to Nara.

The very first capital of Japan, Nara is humble by today’s standards. The city center is small, and the population a mere 360,000 inhabitants. But don’t let that fool you: Nara has some of the most unique experiences to offer on the Japanese itinerary:

  • Todai-ji – The world’s largest wooden building. Inside, a massive Buddha. You can try to climb through its nostril (a sign of good fortune).
  • Isui-en – One of the best gardens we saw in Japan. That, plus a personal tour from a member of the staff, made the story behind the garden really come alive.
  • Nara Park – Over 1,200 free roaming deer. Keep your map close, they will eat anything. Note that if you buy biscuits in Nara, those are for the deer , not you.
Sadly my camera died in Nara so I have very few photos to share. You’ll have to see for yourself!
Left, Isui-en Garden, Right, Deer 😂

Plan a solid half-day for Nara, if not more. We spent a lot of time walking around Nara Park, there is a lot to explore and hiking paths if you want to speak more time walking around!

Spend your last night in Kyoto and wake up early to catch the train down to the southernmost post on our itinerary: Hiroshima .

I will start by saying that Hiroshima is simply not a beautiful city. It was hastily rebuilt after the tragic events of World War II and the destruction of the atomic bomb. As a result, you won’t find charming alleys or old merchant districts. Instead, you come to Hiroshima to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who both died and survived as a result of the bomb, and the effects it’s had on the community.

The Atomic Bomb Dome

This is the singular building that was left standing after the atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima. You should absolutely visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum . The museum really toes the line between giving a realistic look at the consquences of the bomb, while also shielding you away from some of the more gruesome details (meaning, it is still suitable for children).

Hiroshima Castle

This is the first castle on our trip to Japan, and to be honest, it’s a bit underwhelming. The interior has been completely gutted to turn into a museum (on the up-side: you can get your photo taken in a samurai outfit!). Don’t worry, we’ll end up at the mother of all Japanese castles later.

Here are some more ideas for things to do while you’re in Hiroshima, after you’ve visited the museum, the Peace Park, and seen the flame that remains lit until the last nuclear weapons on earth are destroyed.

Things to do in Hiroshima

  • Hiroshima is the birthplace of

<a href=”/regional-cuisine-street-food-to-try-in-japan/#okonomiyaki” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">Okonomiyaki , and the city does it like nowhere else. Combine that with

<a href=”/regional-cuisine-street-food-to-try-in-japan/#oysters” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”


and you’re eating the most quintessential regional dish. Be sure to visit Okonomi-mura (Okonomiyaki Village) for the epicenter of Oko-eating in the city.

  • Hiroshima is also famous for its nightlife. If you’re looking for a wild night, Hiroshima might just be the place to have it.
  • Mitaki-dera is a very special and unique shrine in the northwest of Hiroshima.
  • Ride the vintage tram. Hiroshima prides itself on having a super old-fashioned tram system, complete with cars from the 70s! Blast from the past, yoo.

Spend the night in Hiroshima and wake up early, we’re going to Miyajima!

Day 6: Miyajima, Himeji, & Osaka

This is our crazy day. Start in Hiroshima, take the JR Ferry to Miyajima. Spend some time on the island, catch the ferry back, connect to a train to Himeji. Spend the rest of the day exploring the castle and grounds until it closes. Wind up in Osaka to start binging on street food.

Are you ready?

I’ll start with this preface: If you’re not set on exploring Hiroshima by night, I’d encourage you to spend the night on Miyajima instead. This island in Hiroshima bay is home to one of the top 3 national sights in Japan, and is one of the most visited locations in the entire country. You can beat the first boat ride in and have a Miyajima at sunrise all to yourself!

Things to know about visiting Miyajima

I’ve already written a bit about things to do on Miyajima besides seeing the shrine so I won’t duplicate the information here. Here is a quick summary of things you need to know when visiting Miyajima:

  • Don’t take the “scenic boat ride” around Hiroshima’s harbor, just go for the JR Ferry. As I mentioned, Hiroshima is not very scenic and its harbor is no exception. It costs more and takes longer.
  • Take the ropeline to the top of the mountain for a view over the bay. Along the way you’ll see many treasures ^__^
  • If you’re collecting souvenirs, buy a rice paddle in Miyajima. It’s the essential Miyajima souvenir!
  • Skip paying to go out onto the dock in front of the shrine – the best photos can be taken from the shore anyways, and you can just walk around to the other side without paying.
  • Be sure to plan your visit in tune with high tide! At low tide, the water recedes and you miss the “floating Torii ” illusion.

Did I mention there are also deer on Miyajima? They’re more aggressive than the Nara variety. Guard your map!

japan nerd tour

Anyone and everyone who goes to Japan has probably seen the famous floating Torii on Miyajima Island – but far fewer see Mt. Misen for sweeping views over Hiroshima bay.

After taking the ferry back from Miyajima to the mainland (you want the Hiroden-miyajima-guchi station ), hop on the train to Himeji. We’ll spend the rest of the day here until the castle closes at 5PM. Upon arrival, lock your backpack in a coin locker and catch the bus to the castle from the train station.

For the uninitiated: Himeji Castle is perhaps Japan’s most famous and best-preserved castle. It’s meant to resemble a bird in flight, and is known as the “White Heron Castle.” It has survived extensive bombing of the surrounding city during World War II as well as a massive earthquake in the mid-nineties. Himeji is here to stay.

If you have time, there are also samurai quarters to explore in the vicinity. You can buy a combination ticket for the castle and the quarters at the entrance. Unfortunately we couldn’t make time to see those before leaving, but they’re reportedly really interesting.

Important! Check the train times to make sure you’ll be able to catch a train to Osaka shortly after the castle closes.

If there’s one place I feel I didn’t get enough time, I’d have to say it was Osaka. It’s got such a cool, alternative vibe when compared to high-heels-and-Prada Tokyo. It’s most famous for its street food, and it considered the foodie capital of Japan . If you’re here to eat everything in sight, Osaka is a wonderfully dangerous place to end up.

Where to stay in Osaka

If you have just one night in Osaka, there’s no other place to stay than Dotonbori . The neighborhood’s eponymous street is THE definition of the loud and chaotic Japan. The first thing that happens as you approach is that you smell SO much food. Street vendors cook takoyaki in giant, metal trays filled with fried balls of dough and minced squid. If you don’t come hungry to this street, you are making a huge mistake!

Besides food, this street is also famous for its moving, animal billboards. Cows, crabs, and pufferfish are just a few of the giant electonic puppets looming over the heads of pedestrians.

Things to do in Osaka

  • See the famous Glico Man sign at Ebusu-bashi bridge. This is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Osaka (that’s right: a giant illminated sign).
  • Go to the Osaka Castle , one of the prettiest in Japan with its teal and gold coloring.
  • Eat Honetsuki-dori ! This was one of my most memorable meals in Japan. You basically get two choices of chicken (young chicken or old chicken) and then you can choose from sides, which are mostly also chicken.
  • As mentioned, eat the takoyaki!
  • If you’re feeling adventurous (and spendy), you can splurge on a plate of Fugu (pufferfish, which can be deadly if not cooked by a licensed expert).
  • Osaka also has a huge aquarium, which you can visit if you decide to spend more than a night in this city.

Don’t get too comfortable: after a lazy breakfast and a sobering view of Osaka by day, it’s off for a culture shock on top of your existing culture shock. We go from always-on Osaka to sleepy Takayama in the Japan alps.

You read me right: Japan has got its very own range of alps. It contains three mountain ranges: Akaishi mountains, Kiso mountains, and Hida mountains. We’re going to the latter, to the Hida region.

Absolutely do not forget to book the Wide View train for your ride through the mountains! You’ll get a train with enormous glass windows, perfect for day dreaming about your imaginary life in the Japanese countryside a la My neighbor Totoro .

For us, Takayama seemed the perfect place to check in to a traditional Japanese inn, called Ryokan . This has got to be one of the top experiences to try in Japan , and if you’re not in a big city like Kyoto, you can do it for a bit of a better price.

Why you should stay in a Ryokan in Japan

  • You get to dress up in Japanese dress. You can put on a Yakuta (a summer kimono) while you eat your delicious, amazing, unidentifiable Japanese breakfast.
  • Experience Japanese hospitality. Our hosts were so kind and hilarious. At times it was a challenge to communicate, but with patience and humor anything is possible.
  • Onsen minus public nudity. If you aren’t familiar with the Japanese concept of onsen , it’s basically a super hot public bath where head-to-toe nudity is mandatory. You shower off before getting in, and they’re divided by gender. Our ryokan had a private onsen you could visit with your partner. It’s awesomeeee.

Be sure to consider Sumiyoshi Ryokan when you go to Takayama! Room rates start around 150 EUR so it’s not cheap, but it’s absolutely going to be the most memorable place you stay on your trip!

japan nerd tour

Staying in a Ryokan in Japan is supposed to be one of the top ways to experience authentic Japanese culture. But is it worth all the extra money, which can run up to a thousand dollars per night? Let's see!

All checked in and cozy? Here are some ideas of what to do during your time in Takayama.

Things to do in Takayama

  • Stroll around the Edo-era merchant district . The houses are very well preserved, although many have been converted into souvenir shops.
  • Try Hida beef , the local variant similar to Kobe beef. You can go to various grill-your-own joints for a fancy experience, or get a skewer for a couple bucks at the morning market.
  • Visit the morning market for handcrafted souvenirs. There are two markets, but the one along the river is far better for souviners. You can get wooden carvings made from the Japanese Yew, chopsticks in all configurations and price ranges, and of course a lot to eat.
  • Indulge in a box or two of sake! Takayama has a prominent sake industry, and you can recognize sake spots around town by the dried cedar balls that hang in front of the front door.
  • Buy your Japanese souvenirs, period. This is where we bought our one serious souvenir from Japan, which is a gorgeous black and gold teapot. It cost around 80 EUR (which is a pretty standard price for teapots, believe it or not!)
  • Visit “Little Kyoto”. Now that you’ve been to Kyoto, you’ll realize: Takayama’s temple district is nothing like that of sprawling Higashiyama in Kyoto, but there is one distinct difference: you have the place to yourself.

Enjoy breakfast in your Ryokan , check out the morning market, and in the early afternoon, hop on a bus to Shirakawa-go.

Shirakawa-go, is one of the tiny tiny villages where people still live in thatch-roof houses. Every 30-40 years the roofs are replaced by 200 community members and volunteers working quickly over two days. The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you can go inside several of the thatched houses and learn more about life in the village.

What to know before visiting Shirakawa-go

  • Shirakawa-go is visited by massive tourist crowds. No one in the blogosphere seems to admit this, but it’s a simple fact: Shirakawa-go experiences hit-and-run by tons of tourist groups.
  • That said, your best option is to spend the night in Shirakawa-go in order to get a more authentic and private experience.
  • Shirakawa-go’s scenic overlook is not accessible in winter. If you’re traveling to Japan in Winter, the location where you can see the entire valley at once is not accessible when the path is snowed in.

After visiting Shirakawa-go, spend your last night in Takayama. Enjoy breakfast the next morning, because it’s time to hit the road and head north.

I will start with this: If you’re not visiting Hirosaki during cherry blossom season, I’m not sure it’s worth it . The town itself is pretty lackluster, and it’s the park filled with 2,500 cherry blossoms which makes this location truly spectacular and yet under-the-radar for western visitors.

That said, Hirosaki is probably one of the few places where we really felt like we weren’t just one of thousands of western tourists. Almost everyone in the city was either Japanese, or traveling to Japan from a neighboring country in Asia. For that reason, it was really cool to visit somewhere that felt a little undiscovered by people like us.

The trip from Takayama to Hirosaki takes about 8 hours, so most likely, you’ll arrive in the early evening, with enough time to see Hirosaki’s cherry blossoms illuminated by night.

After spending the night in the park, grab dinner at

<a href="” class="place” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">Kadare Yokochō . This food hall is a favorite with locals, and offers a ton of options. You can read more about what to try here in my guide to Hirosaki.

japan nerd tour

Few Western visitors ever experience northern Japan, but Hirosaki's immense Castle Park bursting with blossoms, bridges, and moats is an unbeatable reason to come north during Cherry Blossom Season. It's even illuminated at night. Come see for yourself!

The next day, it’s time to enjoy the park in all it’s bright and blooming glory. The park is overflowing with flowers, idyllic Japanese-style bridges, petal-filled moats, and one of the coolest sights: Sakura Tunnel .

I imagine this place also looks spectacular in Autumn, but I can only tell you: it’s gorgeous in Spring, and perfect if you’re making a late Spring trip, where the cherry blossoms in more southerly locations will have already gone.

japan nerd tour

Catching a glimpse of sakura in Japan is more than a matter of timing and luck. When and where to see cherry blossoms all throughout Spring!

Tonight, take the train to Nikko, Japan, a town a short way from Tokyo but packed full of historic locations and natural wonders!

I made a critical mistake when coming to Nikko. I came during Golden Week, which happens at the beginning of May. During this time, the entire country of Japan is basically on vacation, and of course, where do they go on vacation: why, Nikko!

And it’s no wonder: Nikko was once a favorite retreat for the emperor, once he had moved his residence from Nara to Tokyo. As a result, Nikko has some of the most concentrated famous sights in Japan. In fact, a huge swath is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a small town, this place has got a lot going on.

Things to do in Nikko (AKA more shrines 😄)

  • Shin-kyo – The most famous bridge in Nikko (pictured above). There’s a fee if you want to cross it, but perfectly good photos can be taken fo’ free.
  • Tosho-gu – This group of buildings that comprise the Tosho-gu shrine comprise several buildings. Each structure offers something different. Here are a few of them:
  • Yomeimon (Gate of Sunlight) – Perhaps the climax of Nikko’s temple district, this gate is unique because it’s just so gaudy . Gold everywhere, super ornate. The only problem is that it’s currently under rennovation until March 2019.
  • Naikiryu (Crying Dragon) – Enter the Yakushi Hall at Tosho-gu and see, painted on the ceiling, an enormous dragon. It’s believed that the sound of wooden blocks clapping together in this room sound like the dragon is crying (depends on how imaginative you are if you ask me!)
  • Kegon Waterfall – I didn’t have time to see this myself, but if you stay a little longer in Nikko, you can take the trip here. Nikko has a few other waterfalls, but Kegon is easily the most popular.

Now, after all of this, I was honestly left pretty overwhelmed by Nikko. 99% because the crowds were so dense, it was totally uncomfortable to view some of these places. The other 1% was probably actually being underwhelmed because of some of the construction that covered the coolest structure, Yomeimon .

Actually, I wanted to LEAVE. Luckily, Nikko still had something waiting for me…

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

After a tasty and expensive slice of cheesecake and coffee at Nikko Coffee , we embarked on a walk to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss . This natural canyon in Nikko is like the polar opposite of Tosho-gu . Somehow no one else knew that there was this natural treasure just a kilometer away from the popular shrines. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful places in Japan .

On your way in, these statues line the path to the gorge. It’s said that it’s not possible to count the name number of Bake-jizo on your way in as on your way out. You’ll just have to try for yourself! (Spoiler: I failed, but I don’t blame any inanimate objects for that).

japan nerd tour

With UNESCO World Heritage sites galore, Nikko is a popular day trip from Tokyo. But the best part of Nikko just a little over a kilometer away from the most popular shrines, in a small gorge with its own shrines, whirlpools, and waterfalls called Kanmangafuchi Abyss.

Enjoy your time in Nikko, because after this it’s back to the big city! Pick up your stuff from the hostel, hop on a train, we’re going to Tokyo…but for real this time.

Day 12 and 13: Time for Tokyo

A lot of people who come to Japan spend a lot of time in Tokyo. I mean, it makes sense: it’s got the most restaurants per capita in the world, you could spend a lifetime exploring every conceivable experience this city can offer. That said, I didn’t try to do Tokyo hardcore. For one, I actually visited friends while here, which tends to make everything a little less go-go-go. On the other hand, there is just so much there, your chances of “making a dent in Tokyo” are miniscule, so why try!

Ideas for what to do in Tokyo

  • Ascend the Tokyo Skytree. If you’re scared of heights (like me), this place is going to make you SO NERVOUS. The highest point in the city, on a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji which is 100 kilometers away.
  • See the faithful Hachiko statue at Shibuya station. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the faithful dog that waits for years at the train station, even 9 years after his owner has passed. If you want to see this world famous symbol, head here – also a popular meeting place!
  • Take a walk through the Yoyogi Park. You’ll see buskers, groups of friends, maybe even the famous

<a href="” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’,‘href’));”

target=”_blank">Tokyo rockabilly dancers .

  • See the Shibuya Crossing. One of the most famous sights in Tokyo, this crosswalk is the busiest in the whole world. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out – you can get a view over it from a 2-storey Starbucks across the street.
  • Visit the Tokyo National Museum. Learn more about the culture and history associated with Japan in this museum. It’s got art, statues, scrolls, outfits, armor, pottery – so many things you can see develop over time with the Japanese people.
  • Eat a meal at the Tsukiji Fish Market . If you missed it on your first night, now’s the time to come back! Wake up at the crack of dawn to see the daily haul of tuna, or come by in the evening to grab some dinner.
  • If you haven’t gotten enough of shrines, check out Meiji Shrine. Easily the most popular shrine in Tokyo! Unlike so many shrines, admission here is free.
  • Do some luxury shopping in Ginza. Essentially every world famous fashion brand has a flagship store in this shopping district. If you’re a luxury traveler, this might be the perfect place to pick up your Tokyo souvenir.
  • Go to Harajuku and feel extra ordinary. This area has some of the most eccentric people you’ll see in the city, with the very best outfits and hairstyles. It’s a must-see area if you love people-watching!
  • Stock up on electronics in Akihabara. Known affectionately as Electric Town, Akihabara is a bright and loud neighborhood and home to the largest electronics store in the world, Yodobashi Akiba .
  • Got more time in Tokyo? Find more things to do in this Tokyo 5-day itinerary or go to one of many amazing day trips from Tokyo .

After your last day in Tokyo, take the train to Kawaguchi-ko and sleep at the base of Mt. Fuji. Wake up early the next morning to enjoy the mountain!

Day 14: Spend the day at Mt. Fuji and fly home in the evening

It’s the last day, you can do it! Get up as early as you can muster to see Mt. Fuji in the morning light, reflected in Lake Kawaguchi. Conventional wisdom states that your best viewing of Mt. Fuji happens first thing in the morning, but for us, the mountain became more visible as the day went on. By the end of the day, it was clear and big and blue.

I’ve gone in-depth about the best places to view Mt. Fuji , especially if you’re going in Spring, but one thing I can’t help but mention here is the Pink Moss Festival ! You can take a bus here from the main station in Kawaguchi-ko, and travel to a spot closer to the mountain that is just covered in pink flowers.

In terms of booking tickets to the festival, I just happened to discover it thanks to a brochure in my hotel. Check the website for admission tickets. There’s also tons of different ways to get to the location by bus, just check on the website’s “Access” page.

In 2019, the Pink Moss Festival is happening from April 13th - May 26th ! That means you can still visit this year if you’ll be arriving between now and the end of May.

How cute is this? There’s even a mini-Fuji made out of flowers! After you’ve had your fill of flowers and too-perfect shots of Mt. Fuji, take a bus back to down and spend any free time you have walking around the lake and walking around town. Get your last matcha ice cream or any last-minute Fuji-themed souvenir.

japan nerd tour

Spring is one of the best, most magical times to see Mt. Fuji of the whole year. Here are several vantage points that offer the most impressive view of "Fuji-san", plus tips on predicting Mt. Fuji's visibility.

Alas! It’s time to take the train back to Tokyo, transfer to transport that’ll take you to your airport, and start the long journey home.

And that’s a wrap!

Have you ever been to Japan? Or are you planning a trip RIGHT NOW? Would love to know about anywhere I missed in my itinerary or what you would do differently! Leave a comment with your thoughts!

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About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for over six years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

Follow along on Instagram , Twitter , Bloglovin , & Facebook .

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A Nerd’s Guide to Tokyo: 15 of the Best Things to Do

Sustainable travel expert, adventure seeker

Tokyo, more than any other city on Earth, is a golden land of nerd culture. So much of nerd fandom originated here (and boy does it show). From video games to anime, samurai to geisha, there is so much to explore, discover, and adore in nerdy Tokyo.

Akihabara District

(Accessible via the Yamanote, Chuo-Sobu, and Keihin-Tohoku subway lines)

Akihabara is the number one district for nerd culture in Tokyo, overflowing with themed cafes, vintage video game stores, and anime-related merchandise. Looking for nerdy things to do in Tokyo? Definitely start here.

Square-Enix Cafe

Square Enix Cafe, Tokyo, Japan.

For those who grew up through the nineties and noughties enjoying the height of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest crazes, this cafe is a dream come true. Situated just outside Akihabara Station, the Square-Enix Cafe provides coffee and snacks themed around the game of the month, presented beautifully (and usually on the sweet side!) Merchandise can be browsed and bought, from the hottest new game to older classics. Every so often, when a new Square Enix game launches, the entire cafe’s decor, menu items, music, and items for sale dramatically transform, giving both locals and tourists a reason to keep returning.

Gundam Cafe

Gundam Cafe, Tokyo, Japan.

The Gundam franchise is huge in Japan, with hundreds of stores across the country dedicated to models that can be bought, built, and painted. At the Gundam Cafe , diners are treated to coffees, cakes, pancakes, and ice cream all named for and styled after different characters and mechs from the Gundam universe. Servers greet you with a salute and classic lines from the anime, and there is even an adjoined store for super fun merchandise.

Super Potato

Super Potato, Tokyo, Japan.

In Japan, people take exceptional, immaculate care of their toys and games. In Akihabara (and Osaka’s Denden Town), vintage video game stores can be found in abundance. The number one store is definitely Super Potato , a store with a lifesize Mario at the door. Inside are aisles upon aisles of video game consoles, cartridges, and discs from the eighties up to the modern day. Every single machine and game is in crisp, perfect condition and incredibly affordable. There are also vintage arcade machines to play and old merchandise from Nintendo and other brands that can’t be found outside of Japan.

Animate is a big chain, with stores found across Japan and Taiwan. The store in Akihabara, however, is the biggest and best of the bunch. Everything an anime fan could ask for is here: from DVDs and blu-rays to manga, toys, games, plushies, statues, and posters. The list goes on and on. Wandering and browsing itself is enough of an exciting experience, seeing favorite characters brought to life, and seeing so many anime fans all in one place, losing themselves in their favorite worlds.

Nakano District

(Accessible via the Chuo, Chuo-Sobu, and Tozai subway lines)

Nakano is a relatively quiet residential district, but it has one well-kept nerd-related secret: Nakano Broadway shopping center.

Nakano Broadway

Nakano Broadway, Tokyo, Japan.

Nakano Broadway is very similar to Akihabara, but definitely lesser-known. In fact, while most tourists flock to Akihabara for their games, anime, and action figures, local Tokyoites are shopping in Nakano Broadway for all the same items (just found in a non-touristy space, with just as much variety and often slightly cheaper prices). The space is an indoor shopping center with cafes, restaurants, and video game and anime stores.

Nihonbashi District

(Accessible via the Asakusa, Ginza, and Tozai subway lines)

One of the most beautiful and up-market areas in Tokyo draws in more than just foodies and sightseers: it also has a few things for the travelling nerd to discover and enjoy.

Pokemon Center Tokyo DX

Pokemon Center Tokyo DX, Tokyo, Japan.

While Pokemon Centers can be found across Japan, here is one of the smaller branches, providing a more intimate shopping experience (but with just as much variety in its offerings). The focus here is on Pokemon toys and plushies, and there is huge incentive to visit every few months as the toys on offer change with the seasons. Special edition Pokemon pop-up constantly for events like Halloween (a very big deal in Japan) or just to match the changes in the seasons.

Pokemon Cafe

This is currently the only Pokemon Cafe in Tokyo, and it is attached to the Pokemon Center DX. This cute and quintessential Tokyo cafe offers themed snacks, coffees, and milkshakes all in classic pokemon shapes and with adorable names. There is often a waiting list, given how popular it is, so it’s a good idea to join the list and browse the store while you wait for a seat.

Maruzen Bookstore

Maruzen Bookstore, Tokyo, Japan.

A lot of foreign residents of Tokyo, or those visiting and swept up in the excitement, want to join the fun of collecting manga , or want to deepen their knowledge of Japanese culture while they’re there. Maruzen Bookstore is the best place to do that, with a huge English section which offers a good range of manga for sale, as well as Japanese history books and literature, a lot of which can’t be found on Amazon or Kindle and is often out of print.

Ikebukuro District

(Accessible via the Yamanote, Fukutoshin, and Marunouchi subway lines)

This area is one of the happiest and energetic in Tokyo. Full of hotels, cafes, and cheap-but-tasty restaurants, Ikebukuro is a big draw for budget travellers and young nerds.

Gudetama Cafe

The most successful Sanrio mascot, after Hello Kitty, is the depressed and lethargic egg, Gudetama (his name deriving from the Japanese word for egg – tamago – and the onomatopoeia for laziness – gude ). Gudetama Cafes have been slowly popping up across Japan and Taiwan, and the cafe in Ikebukuro is currently the only one in Tokyo. The cafe’s interior is styled after Gudetama as he lazes around sorrowfully in different hilarious positions and situations, and the menu items all feature his sad face in a clever way. The menu also offers a mix of sweet foods and full meal items, such as sandwiches and burgers.

Animate Cafe

Animate Cafe, Tokyo, Japan.

Any anime fan who visits Tokyo has to make a stop at this cafe. Rather than having one specific theme, the tone here is simply ‘anime is great!’ The walls, posters, tables, placemats, coasters — essentially all of the decor — are dripping with color and vibrancy. Happy anime faces are everywhere, including atop the coffee and in the food. The menu is a great mix of desserts and more traditional Japanese foods like katsu curry and grilled fish. More than a themed cafe, it’s a great place to have a wholesome lunch.

Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo

The biggest Pokemon Center in Tokyo is, of course, the biggest in the world. This place is a dream come true for Pokemon fans as they make their way through a world of plushies that are as close to real life Pokemon as you could imagine. This store also does some unique and exciting themes, such as 2018’s month of selling plushies of every single one of the original 151 Pokemon, celebrating the launch of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee .

Shinjuku District

(Accessible via the Chuo, Odakyu, Yamanote, and Marunouchi subway lines)

The most famous and exciting area of Tokyo holds a wealth of things to do, from shopping to movies to museums. The atmosphere is always buzzing, always enticing.

Samurai Museum

Japan draws so many kinds of nerds, for so many reasons, and for those who aren’t anime or video game nerds, but rather keen history buffs, there’s the incredible Samurai Museum . This museum, situated in Kabukicho, offers hourly tours showing off ancient samurai armor and weapons and explaining the lives and stories of famous samurai and shoguns, such as Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga. There’s even a demonstration of how to wield a katana by a classically trained samurai.

Final Fantasy Cafe

Final Fantasy Cafe, Tokyo, Japan. Meaw Mocha /

This strangely egg-shaped building is situated on a grassy mound right outside the Square Enix headquarters. Inside is a store selling a tremendous selection of Square Enix merchandise, including plushies from Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest , such as Slimes, Chocobos, and Tonberries. There are also t-shirts, soundtrack CDs, and playing cards for sale. Once exhausted from shopping, the cafe area offers some affordable and themed coffees and sweet snacks.

Suga Shrine

Suga Shrine, Tokyo, Japan.

The Suga Shrine is one of many beautiful shrines in Tokyo, and while it might not be as spectacular as the Senso-ji in Asakusa, this one is hugely popular with anime lovers for the staircase leading up to it. This staircase, with its simple red railing, seems tame at first, until it clicks that this is the staircase from the most famous shot in the biggest anime film in history: Your Name (or Kimi no Na wa ). The staircase was featured in every promotional poster and trailer before the film’s release, and continues to be the image most associated with the film. As such, getting a photo at this staircase is a must-do.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

One of the most wildly-instagrammed things to do in Japan , the Kawaii Monster Cafe is a ludicrously-designed place with silly creatures adorning every wall, doorway, table, and chair. The servers are dressed up in lavish, adorable outfits, and the food is the brightest, most colorful cuisine you’re likely to see in your lifetime. Eating here is akin to taking part in the Mad Hatter’s tea party, if that party were held in the brain of a six-year-old girl. An incredible experience.

Traveling beyond Tokyo? Check out our complete guide to things to do in Japan.

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The Ultimate Two Weeks in Japan Itinerary: Where to Visit

The Ultimate Two Weeks in Japan Itinerary

For the first-timer, spending two weeks in Japan is the ultimate way to go. This Japan itinerary will break down exactly where to visit in Japan and how long to stay. Japan is a special place for me. After visiting for my third time this last year, it has become easily my number one destination in Asia.

Japan is wildly different from anything here in the U.S. Their culture has preserved the arts and historic components of society. Meanwhile, it has integrated technology and processes that drive their community forward. I’ve never seen anything quite like it — an incredible blend of the old world and the new world. Japan has a wonderful way of drawing you in and showing you a new way to live.

So if you’ve booked yourself a two-week trip to Japan, here’s everything you need to know about where to visit and why.

Why You Should Spend Two Weeks in Japan

How long you spend in Japan is entirely up to you. I would vote to do two weeks for a few reasons especially if it’s your first time. The first is that it allows you to get off the main path that most tourists will visit. All of those cities like Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo are wonderful. However, there are some other hidden gems of places to go. Spending two weeks gives you the right amount of time to truly digest it all. You can blend the perfect trip of highlighted cities and some other experiences that will take you by surprise. There are several world heritage sites you won’t want to miss as well along the way.

On our first trip to Japan, we booked in over two weeks and we felt we had really gotten a taste of the country. By the end of the trip, we were ready to go home. Our most recent trip was around 12 nights long and we felt we could have stayed the full two weeks. So my suggestion based on experience is that two weeks is the golden number.

What will be in this two-week itinerary in Japan post:

  • A sample itinerary.
  • Information on accommodations and dining.
  • Sources for more detailed guides.
  • What to Know About Transportation and the JR Rail Pass

Short on Time? Here’s How I Would Spend 2 Weeks in Japan:

Before arrival.

  • Purchase a JR Rail Pass , for unlimited train travel while in Japan

Stop 1: Tokyo — 3 nights

  • Shibuya Hotel En , for the best centrally-located hotel
  • Shibuya Granbell Hotel , for the best Shibuya Station hotel
  • Keio Plaza Hotel , for the best Shinjuku hotel

Stop 2: Kiso Valley — 2 nights

  • Magome Chaya , for the best Magome hotel
  • Ooedo Onsen Monogatari Hotel Kisoji , for the best hotel near Tsumago
  • Japanese Guesthouses , for the best intimate stays in the Kiso Valley

Stop 3: Kyoto — 4 nights

  • Kyoto Hotel Okura , for the best downtown hotel
  • Yuzuya Ryokan , for the best ryokan hotel
  • Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo , for the best budget hotel

Stop 4: Onsen Experience — 2 nights

  • Gora Kadan , for the best modern onsen hotel
  • Yaeikane , for the best traditional onsen hotel

Stop 5: Tokyo — 2 nights

The ultimate two weeks in japan itinerary, stop 1: tokyo — 3 nights, tokyo highlights.

Starting in Tokyo is a wonderful immersion into Japan. I’d recommend flying into Narita Airport as it has a fast train into the heart of the city. Your first day or night will give you time to adjust to the changes. There are wonderful highlights to visit in Tokyo including incredible museums, neighborhoods, markets, and restaurants. You get an opportunity to experience Japan’s sprawling city.

A few favorites for me include spending a morning at Tsukiji Fish Market. It is certainly sensory overload but out of this world. One new thing we did this last trip was going to teamLab Borderless afterward since they’re both on the outskirts of town. It was a wonderful way to spend a day.

There are other day trips you can do as well like to the Fuji Five Lakes, so if you want a break from the city you can consider this. Overall starting your time in Tokyo is the most convenient for getting adjusted and from there you can continue on to your next destination with the extensive train routes.

Helpful Tokyo Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • For creative things to do: The Alternative Guide to Tokyo
  • Most recent coffee guide: A Guide to the Coolest Coffee Shops in Tokyo
  • Back-up coffee guide: 7 Coffee Shops Not to Miss in Tokyo
  • General travel guide: The First-Timer’s Guide to Tokyo

Where to Stay in Tokyo

I personally love to stay in Shibuya as it’s the best-located neighborhood to explore. A few recommended hotels:

Stop 2: Kiso Valley — 2 Nights

Kiso valley highlights.

If there is one recommendation for getting out of the major cities, it’s to go visit the mystical Kiso Valley. It’s famed for the Nakasendo Trail where you can hike between the small towns of Tsumago and Magome. These two towns are historic and contain old-world buildings telling of Japan’s past.

Whether you’re looking to slow down, get some time in nature, or do something a bit more traditional like stay in a ryokan, the Kiso Valley is it. It does take some patience and time to plan this part of a trip to Japan as it’s only ryokans available in the towns. You can reach it by train from Tokyo with a few transfers and a final bus ride into Tsumago.

Need A Japan Rail Pass?  This Is Where I Book Mine

Two nights is wonderful here and a welcomed reprieve from city life. This is mostly why I’d recommend doing it between Tokyo and Kyoto and you can easily follow the train routes.

Helpful Kiso Valley Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • My personal experience : Visiting the Kiso Valley

Sample Train Route from Tokyo to Tsumago

You will need to bus from Nagiso to Tsumago, see schedule here

Where to Stay in Kiso Valley

I’d recommend staying in Tsumago or Magome which sit on either end of the Nakasendo Trail. Here are my top picks of where to stay in the Kiso Valley:

Stop 3: Kyoto — 4 Nights

Kyoto highlights.

Oh Kyoto, this city forever has my heart. Whether you come for the famed cherry blossom season that transforms the city or to explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites, it’s wonderful. Kyoto is a special place in Japan and a must on the first trip.

A few highlights for me are the Arashiyama bamboo grove in the early hours before the crowds. I’ve done it twice and each time it has been worth the early wake-up call to catch sunrise there. The red Torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine are another wonderful highlight as well. Fushimi Inari Taisha (full name) is not a world heritage site but nonetheless incredible.

You could easily spend 4 nights in Kyoto mostly because there is so much to do there. One way you can get out of the city is a day trip to Nara as well, utilizing the central train station. I’d recommend reading the extensive guides below to plan your days in Kyoto as there is a lot to do. That’s why I’d allot four nights in this city alone.

Helpful Kyoto Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • Accommodation advice : Where to Stay in Kyoto By Neighborhood
  • Temple and shrine guide : A Guide to the Best Temples & Shrines in Kyoto
  • Local artisan shops: 7 Local Shops Not to Miss in Kyoto
  • For photography: Best Photography Locations in Kyoto
  • Where to eat: 20 Best Restaurants in Kyoto
  • Where to get coffee: 7 Coffee Shops Not to Miss in Kyoto
  • The overall guide: The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto

Sample Train Route from Tsumago to Kyoto

You will need to bus from Tsumago to Nagiso, see schedule here

Where to Stay in Kyoto

I have an entire post on where to stay in Kyoto and it is broken into the neighborhoods. The city is very diverse so I’d recommend giving it a read before making a choice on where you stay. The accommodation location in Kyoto makes a huge difference in your experience in the city.

Here’s my short list of best hotels in Kyoto:

Stop 4: Onsen Experience — 2 Nights

Onsen experience highlights.

A traditional experience in Japan is to go stay and enjoy the healing waters of an onsen. It’s truly Japanese in the sense of slowing down and restoring the body. After all the travel, I love to schedule this towards the end of the trip which is why I’ve placed it after four nights in Kyoto where you’ll walk a lot.

Since you’ll need to make your way back toward Tokyo eventually, you can choose a few locations. The more commonly visited area is Hakone which is filled with onsen ryokans. You can even get a day pass to the onsens and buy the Hakone Free Pass to visit the nearby sights. This is just one option if the area of Hakone is of interest.

We decided to spend a few more hours on a train and make our way towards the onsen region of the Yakushiyma mountains where the Yamashiro Onsen is. We splurged on two nights at Beniya Mukayu. It’s the single most expensive hotel we’ve paid for but in return received the best stay and a lot included. The hotel stay included daily breakfast and dinner, and our room had a private onsen. The food was exquisite, each meal several courses long with fine ingredients. Again this is a splurge experience but I’d say is well worth it.

You could choose to stay in this region (there are other onsen ryokans and hotels) as well. You’ll have to account for a few more transfers to get back to Tokyo but it is totally doable.

Helpful Onsen Guides to Plan Your Trip

  • Our onsen experience : Staying at an Onsen in Japan’s Countryside

Sample Train Route from Kyoto to KagaOnsen

Local hotels pickup at the train station.

Where to Stay: Best Onsen Hotels

In Hakone, some of the top-rated onsen hotels include:

  • Hakone Airu , for the best Balinese onsen hotel

Check out 224 more hotel options in Hakone here.

For onsen hotels near the Beniya Mukayu in Kaga, see this page for the city of Kaga and over 40 options.

Stop 5: Tokyo — 2 Nights

We always tack on two more nights in Tokyo before leaving Japan. One reason is that we want to be in the city at least the night before our flight and the second is, there’s always something we didn’t get to. If you’re there for cherry blossom season, then definitely make an extra stop as the blooms could have changed.

I love eating once more at our favorite yakitori restaurant, strolling the gardens and shrines of Yoyogi Park, and soaking in the city’s energy. It’s a special city and one I always look forward to going back to.

  • The Alternative Guide to Tokyo
  • A Guide to the Coolest Coffee Shops in Tokyo
  • 7 Coffee Shops Not t o Miss in Tokyo
  • The First-Timer’s Guide to Tokyo

Sample Train Route from KagaOnsen to Tokyo

Before leaving Tokyo to go back to the airport, I’d recommend booking a hotel near the main train station like Shibuya for easy, direct access. Here are my top picks for best hotels when returning to Tokyo:

Planning for Transportation in Japan

One of the most overwhelming parts of Japan is sorting out whether or not you need a Japan Rail Pass and the train systems. The rail pass and Japan Rail are incredibly easy to use and convenient pending a few factors. I have an entire blog post dedicated to transportation in Japan which goes into great detail on all of the factors to consider.

The  JR Rail Pass  is essentially a joint pass for the majority of the JR Company trains in Japan. Passes are available by either a 7, 14, or 21-day period. If you do a quick tally of individual ticket prices (especially between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other regions) it will be worth it. You can use it on the JR lines in Tokyo and Kyoto which connect you between neighborhoods. You can purchase it through this link and it must be done so before arrival (give a few weeks to receive the pass). One other benefit is the ability to reserve seats on certain trains.

*You’ll find each train station easy to navigate and the famed bullet train really is wonderful. Trains in Japan are timely so be prepared to arrive ahead of time.

Other Destinations to Consider for Your Two-Week Japan Itinerary

There are several other destinations you can consider as even Hakone mentioned above. One popular other destination is Hiroshima which is home to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Peace Memorial Park. I know so many people love to visit as the Peace Memorial Museum is incredibly special. A few other destinations to consider are:

  • The Alpine Route
  • Miyajima Island
  • Osaka (wonderful for a few days in a different city)

Get Travel Insurance Here

I always recommend travel insurance for international travel. Especially when you’re headed overseas for an extended time. I often use World Nomads , they’ve reimbursed me personally on a few occasions for trip delays and cancellations.

Want to create your own travel itinerary?

Save this post for later on pinterest, ps — are you booking a trip soon use my booking checklist.

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you . If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here .

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:

  • World Nomads (best for all-around)
  • Safety Wing (best for frequent travelers)

Xx, Jessica

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Takayama, one of the best stops on our Japan 2 week itinerary

2 Weeks in Japan: The Perfect Itinerary for First Time Visitors

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During our two weeks in Japan we experienced as much as possible of what the country has to offer.

From the neon lights of Tokyo to the wooden teahouses of Kanazawa; from driving go-karts dressed as Mario characters to the solemn and tranquil tea ceremony; from steaming bowls of cheap ramen to exquisite kaiseki cuisine; from temples, mountains and rice paddies to bullet trains, skyscrapers and arcades.

We fell in love with the country even more than on our first visit.

In this detailed Japan 2 week itinerary, I share exactly where we went, how we got there, where we stayed and ate, how much it all cost, and a map of our route.

This trip is ideal for first-time visitors to Japan as it covers the highlights (modern Tokyo, traditional Kyoto, stunning Mount Fuji) as well as some less-visited gems.

It also works well for return visitors like us who want to revisit their favourite spots and make some new discoveries.

Video: Japan Highlights

Our japan itinerary, japan two week itinerary map, getting around japan, days 1 – 5 tokyo, day 6 nikko, day 7 hakone, days 8 – 9 takayama, days 10 – 11 kanazawa, days 12 – 16 kyoto, alternative japan destinations, two weeks in japan budget, japan travel resources, japan travel blog posts.

Watch our video for ideas on how to spend two weeks in Japan.

Back to Contents

  • Tokyo – 5 nights (stay in an apartment in Shinjuku )
  • Nikko – 1 night (stay at Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station )
  • Hakone – 1 night (stay in a traditional room at Hotel Musashiya )
  • Takayama – 2 nights (stay at Super Hotel Hida Takayama )
  • Kanazawa – 2 nights (stay at Smile Hotel Kanazawa)
  • Tokyo – 5 nights (I recommend Kyoto instead for most people)

Our trip was at the end of September until mid-October and was actually for 16 nights, but you could easily cut this down to 14 days in Japan by spending less time in Tokyo.

Our Japan itinerary included five nights in Tokyo, six nights travelling with a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass , and ended with five more nights in Tokyo.

We spent over three weeks in Kyoto on our first trip so we didn’t visit this time, but if you are new to Japan, I highly recommend substituting the second Tokyo stay with Kyoto as it really is a must-see.

See my detailed guide to the best things to do in Kyoto for lots of tips.

There are so many amazing places to visit in Japan . At the end of this post I have included other suggested destinations if you decide to get a 14 Day Rail Pass for your two weeks in Japan and add more places to your itinerary and reduce the time spent in Tokyo or Kyoto.

As Japan is expensive and there is so much to do, we moved at a much quicker pace than usual.

The week travelling with a rail pass was especially exhausting and we could easily have added an extra night (or two) to everywhere we visited.

That said, we don’t regret our itinerary as we had an amazing time and loved everywhere we visited.

This map shows our 2 week Japan itinerary with blue markers and other potential destinations to consider with red markers.

Trains are the best way to get around Japan and we travelled with a 7 day Japan Rail Pass .

Although the passes seem expensive (a 7 day pass is $214) they will usually save you money if you are travelling to many places, especially if you take the fast bullet trains (which are one of the best things to do in Japan ). We saved $150 per person for this itinerary!

You can use the Navitime website to find train times and costs and compare these to the cost of a pass.

If the cost is close, get the pass as it’s much easier being able to hop on and off trains when you like and not worry about purchasing tickets.

You need to book Japan Rail Passes in advance before you arrive in Japan. You’ll receive an exchange order in the mail that you then exchange for the pass in Japan.

We booked ours with who deliver anywhere in the world, including to your first Japan hotel if you’ve left it to the last minute. We got ours delivered to a hotel in Bali.

See my detailed guide on how to calculate whether a Japan Rail Pass is worth it including everything you need to know to use the pass. 

Memory Lane in Shinjuku, Tokyo

It’s easy to spend five days in Tokyo, but if time is limited you could reduce your stay to three.

It’s a huge sprawling city so it’s best to focus your explorations on neighbourhoods.

Here are some of my recommendations and you can see my guide to the coolest things to do in Tokyo for more details.

Shinjuku Day

  • Shop in huge electronics stores like BIC Camera and the food basements of department stores like Takashimaya.
  • Stroll around the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (having a picnic here is one of our favourite things to do in Shinjuku ).

Shinjuku Night

  • Eat in a tiny restaurant on atmospheric Memory Lane.
  • See the skyline view from the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (or Lost in Translation fans might want to pay for a drink at the NY Bar at the Park Hyatt Hotel).
  • Bar hop on the Golden Gai and perhaps join a Shinjuku bar hopping tour to explore with a guide.

Shibuya and Harajuku

  • Walk across the famous Shibuya Crossing.
  • Gawp at the crazy fashions of Takeshita Street.
  • Enjoy stunning ukiyo-e woodblock prints at the Ota Memorial Museum of Art.
  • Visit the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park.
  • Step back into old Japan and get your fortune told at Sensoji Temple.
  • Enjoy a meal in a traditional restaurant (we had a 12-course vegetarian feast at Bon ).

Rest of Tokyo

  • Spend a day at the magical  DisneySea or Tokyo Disneyland parks.
  • Visit the Ghibli Museum if you are a Studio Ghibli fan (tickets must be booked on 10th of the month for the following month).
  • Immerse yourself in the colourful digital art museum, TeamLab Planets .
  • Take a fun go-karting tour driving the Tokyo streets dressed as your favourite character!

Dressing up as Mario characters and driving a Maricar go-kart is one of the many fun things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo Transport

The Narita Express train is the easiest way to get from Narita airport to Shinjuku, Shibuya and Tokyo stations.

It costs 3250 yen ($23) and takes 87 mins to Shinjuku. You must have a seat reservation but you can get this when you buy the ticket from the machine or counter in the airport station.

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on this line, but if you are following this itinerary with a 7 day pass you won’t want to activate it until the day you leave Tokyo.

Buy a Suica card to use as a ticket on all trains and metro lines in Tokyo. You can also use it for lockers, vending machines, and even in many shops.

If you return it at the end of your stay you’ll get the 500 yen deposit back. You can also use the card for local transport in Kyoto (and other Japanese cities), but you can’t get a refund there.

If you will be using a Japan Rail Pass during your stay, make sure you swap your exchange order for a pass and activate it at one of the JR offices in train stations. You can’t change the start date once you have done this.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Shinjuku is our favourite area to stay in Tokyo as it has excellent transport links, good food, and many of the attractions above are in walking distance.

Shibuya is another convenient base, but we found it too crowded.

We stayed in a studio apartment a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station. It was small (everywhere is in Tokyo) but comfortable and well-equipped with fast WiFi and a washing machine. 

Search for apartments in Shinjuku on Vrbo . 

If you are looking for luxury, the Park Hyatt has a great location in Shinjuku and fantastic views. It’s where the film Lost in Translation was filmed.

Search for more hotels in Tokyo here .

Where to Eat in Tokyo

Vegetarian ramen at Afuri, Tokyo

There is so much amazing food in Tokyo from cheap eats to fine dining. Even as vegetarians we ate really well with some planning.

See my post on our favourite Tokyo vegetarian restaurants . The highlight was Bon which serves exquisite multi-course Zen Buddhist cuisine in private tatami rooms—it’s an experience more than just a meal.

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Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, the first stop after Tokyo on our two week trip in Japan

On Day 6 we activated our Japan Rail Pass and headed off early to Nikko, a temple town in the mountains a few hours north of Tokyo.

Many people visit on a day trip from Tokyo, but as it’s a fairly long trip we decided to stay the night.

The air felt cool and fresh and it was lovely to see mountains after Tokyo’s concrete jungle.

From the train stations, it’s a 30-minute walk along the main road to the bright red Shinkyo bridge and the temples start up the forest-covered hill just beyond.

Nikko’s shrines and temples are a UNESCO world heritage site.

Toshogu Shrine is the most famous Nikko attraction and is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. 

It’s one of the most stunning temples I’ve ever visited with more than a dozen intricately decorated red and gold buildings amongst huge cedar trees (some over one thousand years old).

But on a Sunday it was overwhelmingly busy and we didn’t stay long.

Luckily Nikko has many other shrines to explore that are much quieter than Toshogu.

Although they are less spectacular we had a more enjoyable experience at Futarasan-jinja shrine , Taiyuinbyo temple , and up the mountain at Takino shrine .

The quiet Takino shrine in Nikko on our two week trip to Japan

Although half a day at the temples was enough for us, it would have been better to visit Toshogu first thing in the morning before the day-trippers arrived.

With more time we could also have done some nearby hikes.

Nikko Transport

Nikko has two train stations that are a few minutes walk from each other.

Tobu Nikko Station is served by Tobu Railway trains and Japan Rail Passes can’t be used on this line, so with a rail pass you’ll arrive at the JR Nikko station. There are lockers at both stations where you can leave luggage.

From Tokyo, I recommend getting the bullet train from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya then changing for the local train to Nikko—there were even friendly staff at Utsunomiya showing us where to go. The whole journey takes about two hours.

Don’t make the mistake we did on the way there and take the JR Shonan-Shinjuku line from Shinjuku to Utsunomiya. This is a local line so is busy and not very comfortable for the long trip. It took us three hours to get to Nikko.

The Nikko train stations are about a 30-minute walk from the temple area or you can take the bus. We walked everywhere.

I recommend picking up a tourist map from the train station as not all the temple signs are in English.

Where to Stay in Nikko

We stayed at budget-friendly Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station which has a convenient location close to the train stations.

We chose the most expensive triple room with private bathroom, but there are cheaper rooms with shared bathroom.

The decor was rather dated, but the bed was comfortable and it was spacious by Japanese standards with a double bed, single bed, armchair, and kitchenette (although no plates or pans were provided).

Breakfast costs extra but there’s a big supermarket close by.

Search for more accommodation in Nikko here .

Where to Eat in Nikko

Yuba (tofu skin) set lunch at vegan cafe Yasai Cafe Meguri in Nikko

We had lunch at Yasai Cafe Meguri , a vegan cafe in an old art gallery with a beautiful painted ceiling.

It’s on the main road not far from the temples—look for the sign that says “Oriental Fine Arts & Curios”. It gets rave reviews and is often fully booked, although at 11.30 am we had no problems getting in.

We each had one of the two lunch sets that come with miso soup, salad, and a few vegetables—Simon had avocado, tomato and seaweed on rice and I had the local speciality yuba (tofu skin) stuffed with rice. It was nice and healthy but not outstanding.

Many restaurants in Nikko close in the evening so Komekichi Kozushi (now called Yonekichi Akira Sushi I believe) was a great find just a few minutes walk from our hotel (and the train stations).

This small family-run sushi place has two tables, counter seating and a tatami room where we ate.

It was the first sushi place we found in Japan that had plenty of vegetarian options on the English menu including pickled plum, pickled vegetables, natto, cucumber, and egg.

They even have an English guide to sushi etiquette, so you don’t make a faux pas like dipping the rice end of your sushi in soy sauce.

We loved the pickled vegetable sushi and especially the inari zushi—tofu stuffed with rice. It was excellent value.

For a snack, try dango, grilled rice balls on a stick brushed with miso or soy, which are sold at a few stands on Nikko’s main road.

Mount Fuji from Lake Ashi in Hakone, one of the stops on our two week Japan itinerary

Hakone is an area encompassing Lake Ashi and the mountains around Gora.

It’s known for its views of Mount Fuji, hot springs, and the unique loop that takes you to all the sights on different forms of transport.

We began at midday by Lake Ashi in Moto Hakone where we were staying. It was a cloudy day so our hopes of seeing the reclusive Mount Fuji were dashed, but as we walked along the lake the iconic mountain appeared through the clouds.

It lived up to our expectations and the fact that it kept disappearing and reappearing through the day only made the sight more special.

We hopped on the pirate ship (yes, really!) to head across the lake for more views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding mountains.

At Togendai we switched to the ropeway (cable car) which took us up the mountain to Owakudani . We were delighted to see Mount Fuji on the way up and from the top.

Owakudani is an active volcanic valley so steam and a bad smell rise from the yellow earth.

The Japanese love the black eggs that are cooked in the hot sulphur springs, but we passed.

The volcanic site Owakudani that's reached by the Hakone ropeway

From Owakudani you can continue on the cable car to Sounzan then down to Gora, but from there we would have had to take the bus back to Moto Hakone, so it made more sense for us to return the way we came and keep enjoying the Fuji views.

We got off the boat a stop early at Hakone Machi and walked the 2 km back to our hotel which took us through the ancient Cedar Avenue .

We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in an onsen and enjoying our wonderful ryokan room at Hotel Musashiya .

In the morning we walked through the mist and drizzle to the nearby Hakone-jinja shrine with its large red torii gate overlooking the lake.

Hakone jinja shrine in Japan

On our way back to Odawara station we continued with the loop by taking the bus to the Ninotaira Iriguchi stop and walking to the Hakone Open Air Museum .

This is a highlight of the area with outdoor sculptures, unusual art installations, a Picasso gallery, and even a free hot spring foot bath. There are lockers for luggage.

From the nearby Chokokuno-Mori station we took the Tozan mountain railway on a winding track through the forest to Hakone Yumoto where we switched trains to Odawara.

Although we managed to complete most of the Hakone loop in 24 hours, we would have loved to stay an extra night and have more time to enjoy our beautiful ryokan.

Hakone Transport

To get to Hakone from Nikko we had to backtrack through Tokyo so it was an exhausting morning of travel.

We left at 7.30 am and took the local train to Utsunomiya, the bullet train from there to Tokyo, and another bullet train to Odawara.

In Odawara train station, we bought a Hakone Free Pass at the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centre. The pass costs 5000 yen ($35), is valid for two days, and can be used on the buses, pirate ship, cable car, and mountain railway.

As we were staying in Moto Hakone, we took the H bus there from Odawara which took about an hour on a windy mountain road and arrived around 11 am.

Where to Stay in Hakone

Hotel Mushashiya ryokan in Hakone

As Hakone is a large area it can be confusing deciding which town to stay in. The most important thing is to stay somewhere with good transport links.

We decided to stay by Lake Ashi to have a second chance of seeing Mount Fuji in the morning.

We stayed in a ryokan (traditional inn) called Hotel Musashiya on the shores of Lake Ashi in Moto Hakone.

Although it looks like a modern hotel from the outside, the minimalist tatami rooms are traditional with futon beds (that are cleared away during the day), a low table and chairs, and unusually, a small ensuite bathroom.

We had a gorgeous view of Lake Ashi from our room and there are also lake views from the onsens (hot spring baths) and lounge (where there’s WiFi).

In typical Japanese style, the onsens are public with outdoor and indoor baths for men and women.

Once I got over my fear of public nudity, it was a wonderfully relaxing experience to soak in the hot water and I felt blissed out our whole stay.

Hotel Musashiya was by far our favourite place we stayed on this Japan trip and I highly recommend it.

You can search for more hotels in Hakone here.

Where to Eat in Hakone

Vegetarian options are limited in Hakone.

When we arrived in Moto Hakone we had a quick lunch at Bakery and Table —you can choose from a number of rolls (stuffed with cheese, potato, etc) and pastries and take them upstairs to eat overlooking Lake Ashi.

Dinner and breakfast were included at Hotel Musashiya and they were happy to cater for vegetarians.

Dinner was served in our room and was a real feast—tempura, rice, miso soup, yuba, pickles, vegetable and tofu hotpot, eggplant and mushrooms in a delicious sauce, Caprese salad, matcha pudding, and plum wine.

Takayama street leading to the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

Takayama is one of my favourite places in Japan.

It’s a small town on the edge of the Japan Alps with a beautifully preserved historic centre of wooden houses, temples, neatly shaped trees, and bright red bridges over the river.

There’s so much to do in the area we could easily have spent longer than two nights here (a theme of our trip!).

Our highlights included:

  • Wandering the old town in the early morning before the crowds arrived.
  • Buying delicious apples and pears from the morning markets .
  • Admiring the extravagant, colourful floats at the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall .
  • Visiting the Hida Folk Village , a display of traditional thatched houses from the area.

Traditional grass roof houses at the Hida Folk Village in Takayama with autumn colours

We also spent an afternoon in nearby Hida Furukawa , an adorable town that’s well worth a visit.

We did an excellent (and easy) cycling tour with Satoyama Experience where we biked through the beautiful countryside past rice fields and idyllic villages and learnt about the traditions of the area.

Cycling past golden rice fields with Satoyama Experience in Hida Furukawa

Takayama Transport

From Hakone to Takayama we took the 2.08 pm bullet train from Odawara to Nagoya then changed to the Limited Express Wide View Hida train to Takayama, which has large windows to take advantage of the beautiful river and mountain views.

We arrived in Takayama just after 6 pm.

Takayama is a small town so we walked everywhere except when we took the 15-minute train ride to Hide Furukawa for our cycling trip.

Where to Stay in Takayama

We stayed at Super Hotel Hida Takayama , a business hotel close to the station and a 10-minute walk from the old town.

Our room was tiny but had everything we needed—ensuite, desk, fridge, kettle, WiFi, and free breakfast buffet.

There’s even an onsen, but we didn’t have time to use it. 

Takayama is ideal for experiencing a traditional inn or ryokan. If we had the budget we would have stayed somewhere more atmospheric like the highly rated Oyado Koto No Yume . 

See the full range of accommodation in Takayama here .

Where to Eat in Takayama

Vegetarian hoba miso at Suzuya, Takayama

Our favourite place to eat in Takayama was Heianraku , a tiny restaurant run by the friendliest lady we’ve ever met!

There’s a multiple page vegetarian section on the menu with a mix of Chinese and Japanese dishes including local specialities like the delicious Hida miso ramen.

The chile tofu and vegetable gyoza were also excellent, and don’t miss their homemade plum wine.

Suzuya is a good place to try local specialities. They do a tasty vegetarian version of hoba miso where vegetables and tofu are cooked at your table on a large magnolia leaf spread with miso paste.

Fukutaro is a cute cafe that makes excellent gohei mochi , mashed rice grilled on a skewer with sesame sauce.

Mitarashi-dango is another local dish to try—small, almost creamy rice balls grilled with soy. The Jinya Dango stand near Jinya Mae market makes the best in town.

Kazuemachi geisha area in Kanazawa, Japan

At first glimpse Kanazawa seems like another Japanese concrete city, but when you begin to explore you’ll discover some of the most beautiful gardens in the country as well as three geisha districts with preserved wooden buildings.

Higashi Chaya is the largest geisha area where geisha used to perform and entertain guests in the wooden teahouses dating back to 1820.

It’s beautiful but crowded with tourists and souvenir shops. We preferred the quieter geisha areas of Kazuemachi and Nishi Chaya .

Kenroku-en Garden is one of the top three gardens in Japan. It’s known to get crowded but we had it almost to ourselves at 7.30 am. The gardens are lovely but they would be better in the spring or autumn.

I actually preferred the tiny but exquisite Gyokusen-en Gardens which has all the classic Japanese garden elements in a small package—moss covered rocks, stone lanterns, carp-filled ponds, a wooden teahouse, and maple trees beginning to turn red.

 Gyokusen-en gardens in Kanazawa

One of the highlights of our trip was the tea ceremony with did with Ms Nishida who is from the fifth generation of the family who owns the gardens.

Wearing an elegant kimono she took us through the rituals of the ceremony, starting with washing our hands and mouths to purify ourselves.

In the tatami room we were served a sweet mochi (rice cake) while she carefully prepared the bright green matcha tea by whisking the powder with hot water in a small bowl.

We learnt the phrases to say to our host and other guests before drinking the tea and how to examine the tea bowl afterwards to appreciate every detail. We then made our own tea for each other.

It was a calming experience and fascinating insight into Japanese culture.

Tea ceremony at Gyokusen-en gardens in Kanazawa

To book the tea ceremony call the gardens or email [email protected] at least three days in advance (response by email is slow). It costs 3000 yen ($21) including entrance to the gardens.

Kanazawa Transport

After spending the morning in Takayama we took the 1.15 pm train to Toyama—another beautiful journey past mountains, rivers, and rice fields—where we switched to the bullet train to Kanazawa. The journey took two hours.

Kanazawa is a large city so we had to take a 10-minute bus ride from the train station to the Katamachi area where we were staying.

From there we could walk to all the main attractions.

Where to Stay in Kanazawa

Smile Hotel Kanazawa was the cheapest ensuite room I found in the centre of Kanazawa.

It’s a standard business hotel with all the usual facilities but our room was larger than in Takayama (with access to the bed on both sides!). The location was convenient as it was a 15 to 30 minute walk to all the sights.

Find more hotels in Kanazawa here .

Where to Eat in Kanazawa

We struggled to find Japanese vegetarian food in Kanazawa so ended up eating Western food.

Slow Luck is a tiny place with four tables run by two young Japanese guys. They make creative, Italian-influenced dishes using organic farm vegetables.

There’s a vegetarian section of the menu and they give you a survey to fill in with what you can’t eat.

The food was amazing including grilled vegetables with a wonderful basil dip and a thin, crispy pizza topped with pesto, potato, and mascarpone cheese that was so good we ordered another one.

Oriental Brewing in the Higashi Chaya area serves craft beer brewed in-house and excellent beer yeast french fries. The pizzas looked good too.

Yasaka Pagoda is one of the photographed sights in Kyoto

Although we returned to Tokyo (2.5 hours from Kanazawa), I recommend spending the last 3-5 days of your trip in Kyoto, our favourite city in Japan.

There are so many beautiful temples and traditional streets to explore.

It’s 2.5 hours from Kanazawa to Kyoto on the Thunderbird Limited Express train.

After your stay, you could then fly out from nearby Kansai International Airport near Osaka (easily reached by train from Kyoto) or take the bullet train back to Tokyo (2 hours 40 minutes).

Since we travelled this two week Japan itinerary, we returned to Kyoto for a month-long stay and we loved it even more than on our first visit (despite the increase in tourists).

See our Kyoto guides to help plan your stay: 

  • 26 Unforgettable Things to Do in Kyoto
  • 14 Stunning Places to See the Kyoto Cherry Blossoms (if you are visiting in late-March/early-April)
  • 16 Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Kyoto
  • 14 Best Day Trips from Kyoto

City view from Harukas 300 in Osaka at night

If you have more time or decide to get a 14 Day Japan Rail Pass and spend more time travelling and less in Tokyo, you could consider these destinations that we enjoyed on our last trip:

  • Osaka – A fun city with delicious food, the vibrant Dotonburi area, and the Universal Studios Japan theme park (featuring Harry Potter World). You could visit as a day trip from Kyoto or add on a night before flying out from Kansai airport.
  • Kinosaki Onsen – Take a break from sightseeing in this beautiful hot spring town, wander around in a kimono, and relax in one of the seven public onsen. Read our Kinosaki Onsen post for everything you need to know including onsen etiquette. 
  • Nara – Beautiful temples that are an easy day trip from Kyoto .
  • Koya-san – A temple town in the mountains a few hours from Osaka where you can stay the night in a Zen Buddhist temple .
  • Tsumago – A picture-perfect traditional village of wooden houses in the Kiso Valley.
  • Hiroshima – To see the moving Peace Memorial Park and Museum.
  • Okayama – Get off the beaten track and use this affordable city as a base for exploring the area. I especially recommend it in cherry blossom season. See my Okayama Japan travel guide for more details.
  • Kawaguchiko – The views of Mount Fuji are even better here than in Hakone, but it’s trickier to add into this itinerary.

See our posts on 16 Unmissable Places to Visit in Japan and 54 Top Things to Do in Japan for more ideas. 

Simon and I at a tea ceremony in Kanazawa

Although this Japan trip budget was from 2017, I don’t think prices have gone up much. The British pound and especially the US dollar is much stronger against the Japanese yen now so you get more for your money.

As I updated the prices in this post, I found that the USD cost had actually gone down significantly.

We spent £180 ($238) a day for two people staying in mid-range accommodation with private bathrooms and one splurge on a lovely ryokan in Hakone. Our average cost of accommodation was £65 ($87) a night.

We ate out for all our meals and spent £42 ($55) a day on food. Most meals were around $20 but we had a few expensive meals like Bon in Tokyo.

We travelled with a rail pass for a week and by trains and metro in Tokyo and averaged £38 ($50) a day on transport. We did plenty of activities and spent £24 ($32) a day on entertainment.

You could certainly travel in Japan for less by staying in rooms with shared bathrooms (or in hostel dorm rooms), cooking for yourself (or eating in the cheap ramen joints), focusing on free activities, and travelling at a slower pace to reduce transport costs.

You can also see our post on how much it costs to travel in Japan from our first trip in 2011. We averaged £140 ($183) a day on a two week trip with one week in Tokyo and one week travelling around with a rail pass.

We were more budget conscious on that trip but still had splurges like ryokan and temple stays and two days at Tokyo Disney.

  • Japan Rail Pass – Make sure you order your pass online before you go to Japan.
  • Travel Insurance – Essential in case anything goes wrong as Japanese healthcare is expensive. We used True Traveller —they are the best deal we’ve found for UK residents. SafetyWing is another affordable option that’s available worldwide.
  • Guide Book – We used Lonely Planet Japan .
  • Accommodation – We recommend Vrbo for apartments  in Tokyo and Kyoto and for hotels everywhere else.
  • SIM card – We bought a Umobile data SIM card from a vending machine at Narita airport. Lately we’ve been using Airalo eSIMs which are much easier as they don’t require a physical SIM and you can set it up before you arrive. Check out the Japan eSIMs on Airalo .

This two week Japan itinerary is the perfect introduction to the country for first-timers, and it’s also ideal for second-time visitors like us who want to revisit Tokyo and/or Kyoto as well as explore some new places.

We hope you enjoy this weird and wonderful country as much as we did!

Explore more of our guides to Japan.

  • Planning a Trip to Japan: Dos and Don’ts
  • 16 Unmissable Places to Visit in Japan
  • 54 Unforgettable Things to Do in Japan
  • Where to Stay in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Accommodation
  • Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
  • Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan
  • 23 Cool Things to Do in Tokyo

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As everyobe says – amazing blog thank you. Im looking at following it for a family trip (with teenagers), and replacing the second Tokyo visit for Kyoto as you suggest. Would you recommend flying in and out from Tokyo (direct flights to and from London)? I guess that would mean a train back to Toyko at the end of our trip… is that the most sensible option do you think? Secondly, are there any nice beach locations you recommend that we may beable to include? Thanks so much Sam

Reply ↓

Hi Sam, It would be more convenient to fly into Tokyo and out of Kansai/Osaka airport, but there aren’t direct flights from Kansai to London.

It’s only 2hrs 15 minutes on the fastest Nozomi train from Kyoto to Tokyo, so it’s not too hard at the end of your trip (although you may need a night in Tokyo before a morning flight). That’s exactly what we did before travelling back to London last month.

We actually haven’t spent any time at the beach in Japan but Kamakura is an easy day trip from Tokyo.

Have a wonderful time in Japan! Erin

I’m literally at the start of thinking about planning a trip to Japan for my partners 40th in 2025 and this itinerary sounds perfect and has really inspired me!! I’m going to need to start a savings pot for this holiday but can you tell me how much you spent overall? How much were flights? And did you book and pay for everything separately?

Would really appreciate a jump start to my plans!

Thanks in adavance

I don’t know the overall cost and our flight costs wouldn’t be useful as we travel to Japan one way from various places around the world (most recently from Cairns, Australia for example). You can check sites like Kiwi for flight costs (although I prefer to book direct with the airlines).

We do always book and pay for everything separately. I have updated our Planning a trip to Japan post with what we booked in advance and when for our latest trip.

Good luck with the planning!

Hi Erin, Thanks for putting this information out there – it is so helpful as I start to plan our Japan family holiday. A problem we have though, is that our children have sensory issues and would absolutely refuse to eat most of the traditional / everyday food Japan has to offer. How easy is it to come across western-style food options in the places that you mention in your first-timer 2 week itinerary?

You’ll be fine in the bigger cities as there are McDonalds, Starbucks, and lots of Italian restaurants if they like pizza/pasta. The smaller towns like Nikko and Hakone will be more challenging. I would look at Google Maps for towns like that and search for food that your kids like (burgers etc) and see if anything comes up.

You could also try convenience stores which are known for their surprisingly decent food in Japan. As vegetarians we stick to plain rice balls, but there are also sandwiches, pot noodles, and a hot counter with stuff like fried chicken and fries.

Bakeries are another good option – you often find them near train stations.

Mos Burger is a Japanese burger chain that could maybe work.

Hi Erin, what a wonderful piece of work. The information is so useful for my planned 2 week trip next late September. I have a question or 2. This will be our 2nd visit. First time it was Kyoto 3 nights and Tokyo 5 (Rugby world cup). We are foodies and part of our return trip will be this focus along with all the natural wonders of this country. I was particularly interested in your comments of having a base and doing day trips rather than lots of mini stays. Initially i planned 5 nights Tokyo, 1 overnight Onsen stops on way to Takayama 2 nights and Kanazawa 1, then skipping Kyoto to see Osaka Hiroshima and Mayajima…but what a shame to miss a bit more of Kyoto? so maybe no Onsen on way and just do 4 stays in Tokyo- but day trip to Onsen, then Takayama and Kanazawa, and finally Kyoto with day trips to Osaka, and Hiroshima and Mayajima. Do you think that makes more sense and is quite do able, probably offering a more chilled experience?

Kyoto is our favourite place in Japan and even with repeat extended visits, we still never run out of places to see.

It is a good base for day trips too. Definitely Osaka (maybe go afternoon/evening so you can enjoy dinner and the lights at night). Hiroshima/Miyajima is a much longer day trip but it is doable if you get an early start.

You could maybe look for a ryokan with an onsen in Takayama to have that experience there.

What would you suggest for a three weeks in October?

Hi Julie, October is a great time everywhere. It depends how much you want to move around. You could follow this itinerary and add more time in various places, especially Kyoto.

If you want to add some extra places, you could head further south to Hiroshima and Miyajima.

Or if you want to see some autumn colour, it’s too early for Kyoto and Tokyo, so you’ll need to head further north or up into the mountains.

Options that are easy to add onto this itinerary are Kamikochi (a mountain town near Takayama) or the Nikko area (take the bus from Nikko town to Chuzenji Onsen/Kegon Falls or Yumoto Onsen).

thank you so much for the clear explanation. I really appreciate it. Can you guys tell me how much money will needed for all of these travels above ?

You can see the budget section in the post for a rough idea.

Hi! This is super informative for our upcoming first-time visit to Japan. Do you think it’s okay to visit Osaka as a day trip or should we stay overnight? Tentative: 5 nights Tokyo, 2 nights Takayama, 1 night Kanazawa, 3 nights Kyoto and 3 nights Tokyo. We’re flying in/out of Tokyo and hoping to get by with 7 day JR pass. Also, wanted to visit Hakone, but not enough nights – or I suppose we could do as day trip from Tokyo-and pay separately? i.e. not part of JR pass?

Honestly, I’d be tempted to skip Osaka. It makes most sense to do a day trip from Kyoto, but you only have 3 nights in Kyoto and there’s so much to do there. Plus Osaka is more similar to Tokyo, where you have plenty of time.

You can do Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo and pay separately. You can’t use the JR pass from Odawara (where you change to get to Hakone) anyway and you can buy the Hakone Free Pass with the option to include the train from Shinjuku:

Have a wonderful trip!

Thank you! This is so helpful!

This site is amazing. I have written down so much. I have so much that we want to do in 2 weeks and was wondering if you could suggest the best way to go about it. Tokyo Disneyland Kyoto Universal studios Hiroshima

We have two kids who do not want to miss these things.

A possible itinerary would be Tokyo (including Disney) – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Osaka (for Universal). You can get the train everywhere. If you can fly into Tokyo and out of Osaka that would be ideal or you can just get the train back from Osaka to Tokyo.

For Disney, if you just want one day in the parks you can do a day trip from Tokyo. If you want to visit both parks in two days, it might be easier to spend a couple of nights close to the park before moving on to Kyoto. We’ve done it both ways and like staying near the park to avoid a busy early morning commute, but changing hotels is the downside.

What an amazing guide! Do you think these prices are still pretty accurate united states dollar wise? When was your trip in which you spent around $238 a day? Also I am allergic to wheat/gluten, eggs, and dairy so eat vegan and gluten free… maybe some fish here and there. Is it hard to eat gluten free in Japan?

That trip was about 4 years ago. If anything you get much more dollar to the yen these days so I don’t think prices will have gone up too much. Of course, it’s difficult to say what will happen when the borders finally reopen. Prices (for hotels etc) may go up if there’s a lot of pent up demand.

I’m afraid I’m not sure about gluten free eating in Japan.

After trawling through so many sites I found your guide absolutely marvellous. So many great tips, and a true travellers experience. I will be travelling on my own, it’ll be my first time to Japan so your advice has been really helpful. I don’t want to miss out on anything so I’ll make sure I take on board all your recommendations. I didn’t have any idea how long to stay in Japan so I’ll base it on 2 weeks as I’ll be travelling on to other countries afterwards. Thank you for taking the time to share all your knowledge, I’ve found it really helpful

Hi Lisa, Thanks for the kind words! 2 weeks is a great introduction to Japan, although if you’re like us, it’s never enough!

Hi Erin Again thank you for your very informative blog! We’re travelling to Japan in April (my daughter and I) and was hoping you could suggest some accommodation preferably hotels near transport. I have yet decided whether to purchase a JR rail pass. We will be in Tokyo then (as per your suggestion) Kawaguchiko and from there to Kyoto then Osaka Thank you Maria

Hotel Sunroute Plaza is close to Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

We liked Kawaguchiko Lakeside Hotel . It’s a longish walk from the train station but near a bus station and the hotel will pick you up from the station.

You can’t get any closer to the train station in Kyoto than Hotel Granvia although we prefer to get a taxi to Gion and stay there.

There’s also a Hotel Granvia in Osaka Station .

Enjoy Japan!

This is the first Japan travel website I have found whee I found myself agreeing with pretty much all of your recommendations, not just for which cities and towns to visit but what to do in those cities and cities. Amazing. One clarification – there is no bullet train from Kanazawa to Kyoto. Not yet, anyway, although it is being built. I suspect you were thinking of the Thunderbird train instead.

Thanks very much Steve! I’ve updated the post now as you’re right – it’s the Thunderbird train not a bullet train from Kanazawa to Kyoto.

Thank you for putting together this information, it is very valuable for planning our next trip to Japan.

Thanks Kyle! I’m glad it helped and have a wonderful trip!

Hi guys, such valuable information. Thank you! I am hoping you could help me make a decision on which places to visit, if I am planning to visit Japan for 10 days. I was going through your blog and every place listed in the 2 weeks trip to Japan seems unmissable. Can you please suggest, places to visit for 10 days. I will be travelling with elderly people (80’s) and vegetarians. Looking forward to your suggestions. Thank you!

I would recommend Tokyo, Hakone, Takayama and Kyoto. You’ll have an amazing time wherever you go! Enjoy!

Absolutely LOVING your Japan guides. I have already taken your advice and booked Shinjuku in Tokyo and adding extra time in Kyoto. I stumbled upon your site when looking for vegetarian food in Japan, I have a feeling you will be a life savers. I will be there in mid-December, do you have any extra tips for things to see in winter, in addition to the above? thanks

I’m so glad you’ve found them useful, Sudeep!

Winter is great for onsens so you might want to consider visiting an onsen town like Kinosaki Onsen:

If not, Kurama onsen in the mountains near Kyoto is supposed to be nice and you can easily visit on a half day trip. It’d be nice after hiking from Kibune. More details in this post: (we did the hike in the summer so didn’t use the onsen).

Have an amazing trip! Erin

My wife and I will be going to Japan next year, and were thinking about going the last week of September and the first week of October like you did. With that being said, how was the weather?

It was pretty hot in Tokyo (made 25ºC) and cooler at higher elevations like in Takayama (especially at night when it got pretty chilly). We had some rain, some sunny days. Layers are the way to go as you’ll need to be prepared for everything! It depends where you go though – Tokyo and Kyoto should be warm but norther north or higher up will be colder.

It’s a quieter time of year so I think it’s a good time to visit. Enjoy!

Wow, my husband and I are planning 3 weeks travelling around Japan in March/April 2020 and I am so glad I found your report. My husband worked in Tokyo for 3 weeks and managed a few weekends out sightseeing but had always talked about going back. We are only in the initial stages of planning but this is really helpful especially as I am pescatarian and although my hubby eats meat, he is the chef at home so cooks veggie and fish (we don’t buy meat) and if he fancies meat he eats this when we are out. We are in our early 50’s but love to walk and cycle around and don’t like package deals or organised tours. We live in Greece so have sun and beaches for 9 months of the year so our holidays are based around food, culture, sightseeing and new experiences. Great tips on travelling light, I hadn’t even thought about a big suitcase and moving from hotel to hotel, the JR pass in advance and veggie cards to take and learning a few words, we have the whole Winter to learn (Greeks hard enough though!) The colours and the food look amazing, we are so looking forward to 3 weeks of planning. A big thank you from us ….. India next so we will be back ….

Spring is a wonderful time of year for Japan so I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time. I have some more posts coming soon about our spring trip, especially using Okayama as a base for some more off-the-beaten track locations. I mentioned a few in this post:

You’ll be fine as a pescatarian in Japan as there are plenty of fish-based dishes.

Erin, I rarely… And I do mean rarely – ever make comments in regards to travel blogs. I honestly am so impressed with the amount of information and meticulous detail that you have included on Japan. The content is compelling enough to keep me engaged throughout the entire peace. I can honestly say it is the best that I have ever seen. I hope that your sponsorship/advertisers understand what true value you are offering to people and comfort when it comes to making decisions, saving money, and more. You truly are a master in the field of travel blogging. I wish you all the best in your future travels and blogging, I will definitely be reading.

Thank you Geoff for your very kind words – that means a lot!

This is great inspiration for a first timer to Japan. I will be using it lots for plan my trip next March. Thanks!

Thank you so much for all this write up about you Japan trip. Really a great read! We as family of four are planning to see Japan this last week of October thru the first week of November, hoping to see the splendor of the season of fall in that region. Anxious about this trip, your blog has made my planning a lot easier. Thank you!

Have a wonderful time in Japan, Noel!

Hi Erin. I am hoping to plan a 2 week tour in Japan in April 2021 for my Dragon boat team of 25 women. Would you still suggest your itinerary for such a large group? I am in the initial stages of planning and I am open to any hints that you can offer. Thx so much. Gloria

I would say it’s possible. Maybe skip Nikko though to reduce the number of one night stays. I imagine travel days might be a bit complicated with a big group so consider visiting fewer places and staying for longer. You could also visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo. Good luck with the planning!

What is the cost of this two week trip? My cousin and I are saving up to go to Japan for two weeks next June.

See the budget section of this post :)

Hi, This is a very good and exhaustive writeup . Thanks again. This helped me streamline my itineraries better. I have one concern though and it is on the AirBnB accomodation. Is it OK for you to suggest the best way to choose one here? I am also looking out in Shinjuku area.

The way I find somewhere on Airbnb is to type Shinjuku Tokyo into the search bar then choose homes, your dates, number of guests, home type (entire place) and then use filters to narrow things down (for example we like to have wifi, kitchen, washer, and air conditioning in the summer).

I then use the map view to zoom in to around the Shinjuku station area and see what’s available. If there aren’t any you like them remove a filter or widen the area of the map. I recommend choosing a place that has at least 5 reviews. Feel free to message a host if you have any questions before you book.

Good luck with it! Erin

Hi, we are a family of 4 and planning to visit next Nov 2019. Thank you for sharing your journey it sounds and looked amazing. Hope to follow some of your trips but not planning to stay 2 weeks.

So just wanted to thank both of you for sharing your experiences and photos. I now have an idea what to expect and cost wise as well.

Thank you All the way from New Zealand

Thanks for the feedback Sharlene and have an amazing time in Japan!

Your series of posts about Japan is amazing! The details you include are definitely invaluable. I am in the very preliminary stages of planning a 2?-week vacation there (my wife and daughter pester me weekly, if not daily, to go; I was born in Kyoto, been back once, but don’t remember much of it, besides the food).

I do have some questions for you, hope you don’t mind:

how did you figure out the “little things” (for example, As we were staying in Moto Hakone we took the H bus there from Odawara; On our way back to Odawara station we continued with the loop by taking the bus to the Ninotaira Iriguchi stop and walking to the Hakone Open Air Museum). did you plan these in advance? did you ask locals? you just stumbled up on these?

I presume you don’t speak fluent Japanese (forgive me, if you do), but were you able to get assistance, if you needed? Between my wife, my daughter, and myself, we may be able to get by, but I’m curious.

Did you encounter many situation when your JR pass couldn’t be used?

Thanks again for taking the time to write and post your experiences.

Hi Charles I’m so glad you’ve found the posts useful.

I figure out the little things by doing a lot of research online in advance. So for Hakone I studied the Hakone free pass map and found the bus timetable and map. I’m sure we could have also asked our hotel but I like to be prepared!

I only speak a few words of Japanese but we managed to get by fine. On our last visit we noticed that many more locals spoke English than on our previous trip. People are really helpful – when we look confused at a train ticket machine at the airport, for example, a young Japanese guy approached us to help (he spoke English). Google translate is also really useful – we used the camera feature a lot to translate food labels (as we’re vegetarian we have to be more careful). It’s definitely worth getting a SIM card for your phone so you can translate things and use Google Maps to get around (we never needed to ask for directions).

On our last two trips we couldn’t use our rail pass to get to Mount Koya and in Hakone (where we bought the pass at Odawara). We also had to get a slower train from Tokyo to Nikko. It still worked out good value for us even paying for the extra tickets.

I hope you do make it to Japan! Erin

I love al the info you have about Japan. I am super excited as I am planing in visiting 2020 spring time. I will be traveling along for 3 or 4 weeks. If anyone has recommendations or any helpful advice about places I should visit, please leave me a message. thank you

We’re in Japan right now. Spring is a lovely time to be here – don’t miss Kyoto as the cherry blossoms are amazing. I’ll be writing more about spring/cherry blossom season travel in the next few months so look out for those posts (or sign up to our newsletter ).

Wow, this article is fantastic! I’m currently planning my trip to Japan for the 2020 Olympics, which will knock off 2 items from my bucket list! :). Thanks for sharing your adventure. I will surely take notes and consider your recommendations.

I’m glad you enjoyed it and hope you make it for the Olympics!

Amazing website and all the links is helping me plan our trip to Japan this summer. We only have booked our tickets, its time to fast track on booking accommodation. Cant wait to see the beauty of Japan!

I’m really glad you found it useful. Have an amazing trip to wonderful Japan!

Thank you ! I find this very interesting and useful for my up coming trip to Japan in summer 2018. This will help me plan my family trip to Japan without having to pay so much to the travel agency. Thank you again and i m very much appreciate the sharing of your Japan trip.

Please let me know Anita if you have any questions and good luck with the planning!

Hi . Been searching for travel tips going to Japan and Im so glad I found your blog. Will surely follow your suggestions. Cant wait to go to Japan next year. Booking our trip now while its cheaper. Thanks for all your insights, really helps. More power and more traveling.

I’m glad you found it useful and have an amazing trip to Japan!

Japan seems to one of the world’s hottest travel destinations at present. I’ve been just once and would love to return. Thanks for the handy advice.

Tourism numbers have been growing at a rapid rate there. I’m not surprised as it’s a fascinating country. We’re already planning our third trip!

Nice interesting post, thank you for sharing it ! Japan is such a beautiful and awesome country.

Thank you. It is an amazing place.

I’ve been wanting to go to Japan for years now, but it’s always been just a bit too far out of the way on our travels. I’ve seen videos of the maricart tours before and they look fun. I’ve never heard of tofu skin – was it good?

I can’t recommend it enough Rhonda. My biggest regret is that we waited six years to return – put off by the cost. It is absolutely worth some effort to get there as it’s such a unique place.

Japan does tofu like nowhere else -there are actually tofu speciality restaurants (not vegetarian either). The tofu skin has a pretty subtle flavour but I like it.

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7 Nerdy Things To Do In Tokyo That Are SO Much Fun

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Have you ever felt out of place with your Dragonball Z lunchbox? Ever been confused by others less than enthusiastic reaction to the latest addition to your Lego Starwars collection? Ever weirdly been made to feel like your replica Lord of the Rings elven leaf broach wasn’t the coolest thing ever?

More importantly, have you ever wished there was a place you could go and be accepted for the beautiful, strong and enigmatic geek that you are? Well, what if we told you that this place not only exists but is yours for the visiting. Welcome, friends, to the geeky glory that is Tokyo. Here begins a list of nerdy things to do in Tokyo, Japan’s amazing capital.

1. Robot Restaurant

Do we need to say anymore? Probably not, but we’re going to anyway, because a Robot Restaurant is definitely something worth talking about. Part cabaret, part techno music and all robot, this show is a highlight of anyone’s visit to Japan. Confusingly this experience is much more robot than restaurant with some deals offering the food section of the evening in a different venue altogether. We suspect they assume visitors are more excited about the robots than the dinner. And ticket sales suggest they might be right. It’s for this reason we recommend booking well ahead of time as these tickets sell out fast!

2. Real Life MarioKart

This activity has already been covered in depth elsewhere on our site but it’s just too awesome not to mention. Japan is an amazingly clean, courteous and careful country. Which makes it even more amazing that it’s also the only place where you can dress up as Mario, put on a themed onesie and drive a glorified Go-Kart around the streets of Tokyo.

As in real streets.

Real Life Mario Kart, Shibuya

Where normal people are going about their daily lives.

And are possibly not expecting to see a life-size Bowser scoot past them in a tiny car.

If you’ve ever played Mario Kart, you’ll love this; if you’ve never played Mario Kart—well you’ll probably still love i, because it’s just really good fun to go whizzing by Tokyo tower in a Princess Peach costume.

3. Grab a snack at the Pokemon café

Phew, are you exhausted from all that scooting around? You deserve a sit down and some kind of delicious sustenance. But where could you go that satisfies both your hunger and unquenchable desire for character based snacks? Look no further than the recently opened Pokemon Café. Pikachu omelettes, Eevee burgers and Jigglypuff cheesecakes are all on offer. Too cute to eat!

4. Visit an Arcade

Item 4 on our list of nerdy things to do in Tokyo won’t even require a special trip, as you can do this by popping into any of the plethoras of Arcades around Tokyo. The assault on your senses as you enter is both astounding and exhilarating. Lights, noise and color all compete for your attention as you can choose from a vast array of arcade games. Once you’ve had your fill of dancing games and train driver simulators, we recommend simply watching some of the hardcore gamers play their favorite machines. Nothing makes you feel amazed at other’s abilities and ashamed of your own more than watching a teenager on Guitar Hero.

Tokyo Arcade

No, I mean really seriously.

Why I Fell In Love With Berlin (And Why You Will Too)

Why I Fell In Love With Berlin (And Why You Will Too)

5. get your food delivered by a tiny train.

Niagara Curry restaurant in Tokyo is the result of one man’s love of trains. This Meguro based restaurant was created by an avid train fan and memorabilia collector. As a result, not only are the walls full of fascinating train trinkets but your food is delivered to you by a mini SL-train. If you want to ramp up the experience even more, try and time your visit to coincide with when the owner is around as he will hand out authentic train hats and pose for selfies with happy punters.

6. Visit the Ghibli Museum

If you’re at all interested in Japanese culture, chances are that you’ve watched a Ghibli flick or two. Whether it’s the breath-taking animation, deliciously depicted food or just the charming and captivating storylines, Studio Ghibli’s films have been delighting audiences for over 30 years. At the Ghibli Museum, you can see exhibits relating to the movies, watch clips and then relax in their rooftop garden. There’s also a play area for kids. Although when watching a Studio Ghibli film, aren’t we all kids really?

A post shared by kanako🍡 (@daccha0730) on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:54am PDT

Ghibli Museum Robot

7. Buy a hat for your cat

One of the most impressive things Japan has managed to achieve is creating photos of cats wearing hats, and not looking like they’re about to scratch the living daylights out of the photographer.

A post shared by Jurrian Hartveldt (@jur_rian) on Oct 18, 2017 at 1:41am PDT

I mean, just look at it. Do you know even one single cat that would let you put this hat on it? Let alone then pose for a photo.

However, if you do know of such a cat then you should definitely take all your change and head to the nearest Gachapon machine—a vending machine which dispenses capsule toys—and put all your money in it until you find the perfect cat banana hat.

If felines dressed as fruit isn’t your thing, that’s not a problem. How about as flowers? Or vegetables? Or bunnies? Or Christmas trees? Or bears? Or squirrels? Or…

And that’s our list of nerdy things to do in Tokyo! But Tokyo is a massive place—have we missed any out? Send us a Howler or reply in the comments to let us know.

Suggested next reading:  Real Life Mario Kart In Tokyo: Everything You Need To Know

japan nerd tour

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Hannah Wise

Published by Hannah Wise

Hi, I'm Hannah! I'm not a natural traveler, but having been persuaded that there’s a world outside my sofa by my more adventurous partner Jonathan, I've decided to take some time out to travel the world with him. Results so far have been promising and delicious. I hope to share these with you here! View all posts by Hannah Wise

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Looks so cool! I literally want to do everything on this list. We’re currently planning a trip to Tokyo and it just keeps getting longer and longer because we want to do All The Things. I especially can’t wait to check out the Robot Restaurant. Definitely pinning this list for later, thanks for sharing!

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Never Ending Footsteps

How to Spend Two Weeks in Japan: An Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

japan nerd tour

Two weeks is the perfect amount of time for your first trip to Japan.

You’ll be able to explore this wonderful country from the mountains to the sea, wandering through chaotic neon-lined streets and serene Zen temples, soaking in onsens and filling yourself with more ramen and sushi than you ever thought possible.

For your first visit in Japan, I recommend kicking things off in Tokyo (4 nights) before heading to Hakone (1 night), Yudanaka (1 night), Kanazawa (2 nights), Takayama (1 night), Kyoto (3 nights), Hiroshima (1 night), and Osaka (2 nights). You’ll experience a perfect blend of cities and nature, and leave craving a return visit to do it all over again.

Here’s how these destinations look on the map:

Two week itinerary map for Japan

Day One: Arrive in Tokyo and Get Your Bearings

If you’ve come from afar, this is likely going to be a hectic day that passes in a haze of jet-lag. It’s best to take things easy on yourself during your first day in this chaotic city, and spend your time exploring the touristy parts of Shibuya

Make sure to walk across the iconic Shibuya Crossing on your first day, then head to the nearby Starbucks for a kickass view from above. Tower Records is fun to visit for a hefty dose of nostalgia, and if you discover you’ve forgotten to pack anything in your luggage, this is the perfect area for shopping. I may  have spent this first day replacing my well-worn travel closet with Japanese versions.

Where to stay in Tokyo: It’s your first day in Japan! And so, it makes sense to really throw yourself into the local experience. That’s why we decided to stay at this lovely onsen-ryokan in Shinjuku. (Whenever readers ask me which neighbourhood to choose in Tokyo, I always recommend Shinjuku or Shibuya.) The reason why I loved this specific property, though, is because it’s a ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) that also has an onsen (hot pool). It’s a great way to jump immediately into all things Japanese.

And it was wonderful; one of my favourite hotels in the country. The rooms were small and cosy, and felt super-traditional and calming. The views over Tokyo at night from the window were incredible. And the rooftop onsen? With free popsicles afterwards? So good. It’s located in a quieter neighbourhood, but still only a 10-minute walk to the subway. I really recommend this one!

Desolation Row in Harajuku Japan

Day Two: Explore Harajuku and Shinjuku on Foot

Kick off your day with a hipster breakfast and latte in Harajuku. You’re going to adore  this cool as hell neighbourhood , and want to spend an entire day cafe-hopping my way around the area. I recommend eating at Mr Farmer for a fun brunch, and loved Deus Ex Machina cafe for a morning caffeine kick.

There’s tons to do in Harajuku, so you’ll likely spend much of your second day in Tokyo walking, taking photos, and people-watching. I went to an ethically dubious hedgehog cafe , gawped at the unique fashion stores, fell in love with the Big Love Records store, and snacked on excellent gyozas at Gyoza Lou.

In late-afternoon, make your way back over to Shinjuku to head up to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It offers one of the best free views in the city, and is worth visiting at sunset to watch the city slowly light up.

Round off your evening with one of my personal highlights from my time in Tokyo: yakitori and cold beer on Piss Alley, followed by bar-hopping around the charismatic Golden Gai bar district. This was so much fun!

Views of Tokyo at night

Day Three: Head Over to Central Tokyo

Start your day at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, and spend your morning wandering around the grounds and gardens. This is a wonderful area of the city and you can easily spend several hours exploring, especially in the beautiful East Gardens.

After grabbing lunch, opt for a laid back afternoon walking the streets of high-end Ginza to see a different side of the city. Ginza may be known for its luxury shopping opportunities, but Ginza Crossing, Itōya Stationary Store, Hamarikyu Gardens are all free to see.

Tokyo memory lane

Day Four: Get Your Geek On in Akihabara

The jet lag should be wearing off by about now, so how about a hefty dose of culture shock?

Kick off your final morning in Tokyo by heading to Asakusa to check out the famous Senso-ji Temple. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the city, so you’ll want to get there early. Once the crowds start to arrive, wander over to Ueno Park to spend a couple of hours walking the trails and sitting on benches beside the pretty lake.

Akihabara used to be Tokyo’s electronics district and while you can still find plentiful technology stores there — Dave bought a new shaver there! — it’s now also the home of manga madness . In short, this neighbourhood is bright, noisy, and jam-packed with comic book stores. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon people-watching, experiencing culture shock, and pondering how it’s possible for so much neon to exist in one place.

There’s tons to do here: you could jump on an afternoon walking tour that takes you to all of the hidden gems and big-name anime-themed attractions in the neighbourhood. You could visit one of the infamous maid cafes, or you could hit up Super Potato to dive into the vintage gaming classics of the 80s and 90s; some of the games aren’t for sale anywhere else in the world! And if you want to go all in on the madness, you could sign up for a themed go-karting tour through the streets of Akihabara, dressed as a character from a Nintendo game. Yes, really.

This part of the city is exactly what you’re imagining when you think of Tokyo.

Mount Fuji in spring

Day Five: Check Out Mount Fuji from Hakone

If seeing Mount Fuji is high on your wishlist, you’ll want to take a trip out to Hakone. I spent the night there in order to see as much as possible, but you could also do it as a day trip from Tokyo ( there are day trip tours ) if you’re short on time. Check availability for those day trips using the widget below:

If you’re aiming to climb this active volcano, keep in mind you can usually only do so between July and August, and also remember it’s rare to find yourself in front of Mount Fuji with bright blue skies. Prepare for clouds in the hopes of being surprised —  December offers the best chances of seeing the mountain with pristine blue behind it.

The best and cheapest way to see Hakone is by purchasing the Hakone Free Pass , which gives you unlimited rides on all the transportation options over two days. You’ll start by taking the train from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora, then jumping on the cable car to Sounzen. From there, you’ll board a ropeway to Owakudani where you can check out the volcanic activity and sample some sulphuric eggs, and then continue on the ropeway to Togendai.

Next up: a pirate ship! Yes, really. You’ll be able to grab a ride on the boat that sails across Lake Ashi from Togendai to Hakone-machi, and then walk around the lake to Moto Hakone. From there, you’ll be able to jump on a bus to the starting point! It’s an easy circular journey that’ll expose you to pretty views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding area.

If you have extra time and love checking out quirky sights when you travel, head to Yunessun Spa Resort, which was my one big Hakone oversight. There, you’ll be able to bathe in hot pools filled with sake, coffee, red wine, and even ramen .

Where to stay in Hakone:  We opted for a private room in a lovely guesthouse , with a tatami mat floor to sleep on and a private onsen on-site. It ended up being another one of our favourite stays in Japan! The staff were lovely and there was a restaurant/bar that served up surprisingly fantastic pizzas. It had a cosy and chilled-out atmosphere, with great food and wine, and lots of blankets to snuggle up with as we ate. It was also worth staying here just to experience the private onsen — we got to go in as a couple!

japan nerd tour

Day Six: See the Snow Monkeys in Yudanaka (Optional)

It makes little logical sense to head from Hakone all the way to Yudanaka, as it involves four trains, some with tight changes, and half a day of travel, but if it’s winter and you’ve always dreamed of seeing Japan’s famous snow monkeys, this might be worth the detour for you.

Just keep in mind that the experience isn’t as organic as it’s touted to be online, and felt a bit like a zoo to me. You can read my report from my time at Jigokudani Monkey Park , along with some recommendations for making the most out of your visit if you do decide to go. If you’re visiting outside of winter, don’t bother going — the monkeys won’t be in the hot pools and the surrounding area is pretty ugly.

If you do decide to skip Yudanaka, I’d add an extra day to Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka in its place. 

Where to stay in Yudanaka:  In Yudanaka, we splurged on a stay  in a cosy ryokan , which is something you have to experience at least once in Japan. With prices often reaching as high as $300 a night for the experience, I was thrilled when I stumbled across a more budget option in Yudanaka. It was run by an adorable Japanese couple, and their house came with a private onsen, return transport to the snow monkeys, and one of the most extravagant meals of my life. A kaiseki is a multi-course meal that will see you eating roughly a week’s worth of food (maybe an exaggeration) in a single night, sampling fresh, local Japanese cuisine. It was delicious, and I adored having no idea what anything was. I highly recommend the experience, although being presented with a seven course meal for breakfast had me on the verge of tears the morning after. 

Kenruko-en Gardens in Kanazawa

Day Seven: Sushi, Architecture, and Gardens in Kanazawa

I love Kanazawa! I added it to my itinerary because so many of my friends told me it was their favourite place in Japan and I came away having fallen head over heels in love with it, too. This lovely city on the coast is one of the more chilled-out spots in the country, where you can take things slow and enjoy where you are, rather than rushing around and trying to see as much as possible.

Odds are, you’ll be travelling a fair distance to get to Kanazawa (it’s about three hours on public transport from either Tokyo or Yudanaka), so you likely won’t get into the city until the afternoon. That’s no big deal because there’s not a huge pressure to sightsee here.

There are three main standouts when it comes to Kanazawa — the sushi, the history, and the gardens — and as long as you get to experience all three, you’ll be doing great. In fact, odds are, you’ll be able to see them all today.

Sushi in Kanazawa

If at all possible, try to time your arrival in Kanazawa with lunch. One of my favourite meals in Japan was at the fabulous Omicho Market, which is famous for its sushi, sashimi, and high-quality fresh seafood.

The market is less touristy than the chaotic Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, and that means more locals, cheaper prices, and just-as-fantastic seafood. Wander the stalls taking photos, choose a restaurant that’s packed with locals, then sample some of the freshest sashimi you’ll ever encounter. Let’s just say I don’t plan on opting for sashimi outside of Japan very often after this experience!

After lunch, kick off your sightseeing in Kanazawa by heading to its most famous attraction: Kenruko-en Gardens. It’s one of the top three gardens in Japan and makes for a perfect way to soak up the relaxed vibes. You could see the entire park in half an hour, but most people opt to go slow and spend a full hour there. Somehow, Dave and I managed to fill a whole two hours in the park, sitting beside the pond, admiring the trees, and wandering down every pathway we could find.

To round off you afternoon explorations, pop over to the nearby Kanazawa Castle for a deep dive into Japanese history and architecture, before venturing out for some more delicious seafood in the evening.

Where to stay in Kanazawa: Kanazawa is home to some seriously cool accommodation! We had a hard time choosing where to stay because every property looked so cosy and inviting. In the end, we settled on this minimalist, modern set-up — it was great value for money relative to most other places we stayed in Japan, especially when you consider it’s only been open a year. It’s in a great location, right outside Omicho Market, where you’ll sample the best sushi of your life. Also within walking distance is Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, so you’re really staying in the heart of it all. I recommend signing up for the traditional Japanese breakfast, as you’ll likely not have had anything else like it before! There’s also an onsen and laundry facilities (always appreciated mid-trip!), and the staff were so sweet and kind.

Kanazawa Castle

Day Eight: Go District-Exploring in Kanazawa

For your second day in Kanazawa, get ready to get your history on by spending some time in the well-preserved teahouse, geisha, and samurai districts.

Higashi Chaya District is the largest and more famous geisha district, dating back to the 1820’s, and is full of pretty buildings, teahouses, and gold leaf galleries. Make sure to take a look around Ochaya Shima, an old geisha house that’s been preserved as a museum and is fascinating to walk around.

If the crowds at Higashi Chaya get too much for you, spend some time around the nearby Nishi Chaya and Kazue-machi districts, which are less crowded. Nagamachi Bukeyashiki District is where middle-class samurai families used to live and is now home to canals, cobblestone streets, and mud walls surrounding former samurai houses.

Spend the afternoon wandering alongside Kanazawa’s river as a lowkey way to round off your time in the city.

Street of Takayama

Day Nine: Step Back in Time in Takayama

Takayama, in the Japanese Alps, is a relaxed mountain town with beautiful traditional buildings, famous sake, and delicious Hida beef.

Spend your morning exploring the old wooden houses and hillside shrines, while making it a priority to check out one of the town’s cosy cafes for a soothing cup of green tea.

In the afternoon, head to the Hida Folk Village — an open-air museum showcasing 30 traditional farmhouses in the architectural style of the Hida region. If you were feeling particularly ambitious, you could attempt to squeeze in a half-day trip to UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go, where you’ll find a secluded village full of traditional gassho-style homes with steep thatched roofs that keeps the snow off in colder months.

Make sure to squeeze in some sake-tasting and Hide beef-sampling during your evening in Takayama.

While Takayama is small and easily explored, there’s tons to do in the surrounding area, so you could easily swap your itinerary around in order to spend two nights here and one in Kanazawa.

Where to stay in Takayama:   In Takayama, we stayed in a small, locally-run guesthouse  in the centre of town. It felt like particularly good value for Japan, as it was one of the few places we stayed that you could describe as spacious! It even had a kitchen and washing machine. The beds were comfortable and the hotel was within walking distance of everywhere, including the train station. It was quiet, the staff were lovely, and overall, it made for a comfortable stay!

Golden Pavilion in December

Day 10: Check Out the Highlights of Northern Kyoto

Kyoto! This will likely be one of the highlights from your trip to Japan — as long as you’re prepared for the number of tourists to be intense at times.

The busiest time to travel is the first week of April when cherry blossom season rolls around and you’ll be looking at extreme prices and enormous crowds if you decide to visit then. In mid-November, the autumn foliage hits its peak, and it’ll be almost as crowded. In general, summer and winter are the least overwhelming months in Kyoto, although mid-August and the week around New Year’s Day are popular with local tourists.

Aim to spend your first day in the city hitting up the highlights of  Arashiyama, in Northern Kyoto. Make the Bamboo Grove your first stop, as the later in the day you leave it to visit, the more people you’ll have to contend with. Unless you can get there right as the sun rises, dismiss your dreams of having the entire spot all to yourself. Still, it’s a beautiful place, whether it’s overrun with tourists or not.

Tenryu-ji Zen temple, at the entrance to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is worth a look and worth the entrance fee for some respite from the noise, and it’s home to one of my favourite gardens in Japan.

After grabbing some lunch in Arashiyama, head over to Kinkaku-ji temple — one of Japan’s most iconic buildings. Otherwise known as the Golden Pavilion, this is a must-see while you’re in Kyoto, and I bet you won’t be able to stop taking photos of its glistening reflection in the water. It’s likely to be the most crowded place you visit in all of Japan, but it’s still easy to snap shots without other people in view.

Where to stay in Kyoto:  In Kyoto, we stayed in a cosy hotel in the heart of town — we loved this place so much in 2017 that when we returned to Japan in 2023, we knew we’d have to stay there again! The property was in a fantastic location for exploring Kyoto and the bathrooms were nicer than anywhere else we stayed. It’s one of the top-rated guesthouses in the city — while also being one of the cheapest — so when you take that into consideration, I’m convinced you won’t find anywhere better to stay in Kyoto.

lauren feeding deer in Nara

Day 11: A Day Trip to Deer-Filled Nara

The undisputed highlight from my time in Japan was the day I spent playing with deer in Nara. If you want to know what my idea of paradise looks like, it’s fairly identical to that photo above.

Nara was the first capital city in Japan, so there are lots of shrines and historical activities to explore while you’re there.

You could spend the entire day squealing over the wild deer that have made Nara their home. With over 1,000 of them inhabiting the city, you’ll find them everywhere. In the parks, outside the temples, wandering into shops, queuing for a bus — these deer are viewed as sacred by locals and are protected as national treasures. You can buy snacks from vendors around the city and feed them if you like — it’s a lot of fun, especially when they bow to greet you!

If I was going to do this day trip again, I’d book a morning half-day tour that takes you to all of the important temples, shrines, and historical monuments in Nara. Then , I’d spend the entire afternoon just hanging out with the deer and marvelling at how calming they are. (I got so excited about the deer that I spent all day posing with them and didn’t see any of the important parts of Nara!)

Kyoto at night

Day 12: Geishas and Shrines in Kyoto

For your final day in Kyoto, plan to spend your time hunting down geishas, wandering through the historic district, and hiking through the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine’s thousands of red torii gates.

Kick off your day in the historic Higashiyama district, one of the best-preserved parts of Kyoto. Stroll through the narrow lanes, take photos of the old wooden buildings, and stop at traditional stores to stock up on souvenirs.

Roughly an hour before sunset, head to Fushimi Inari Taisha to get some exercise in. I recommend walking the entire four kilometre climb up the mountain for one specific reason. Sure, you’ll get the gist of the shrine within the first couple of minutes, but the further you walk, the less people you’ll encounter. By the time you reach the top, you’ll have those famous torii gates all to ourselves. By going around sunrise or sunset, you maximise your chances of finding solitude.

Next up: the district of Gion! It’s the birthplace of geisha culture and as such, many tourists head there in search of a glimpse of a working maiko or geisha. Make sure you head there in the evening after climbing through the torii gates.

Hiroshima at night

Day 13: Hiroshima and Miyajima Island

Hiroshima’s an important place to visit, both to educate yourself on the horrors that took place here and to witness the city’s incredible strength and resilience.

Start off by giving yourself several hours to wander the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It’s undeniably intense and a difficult place to visit, but you need to go in order to fully understand what took place in this city.

After a quick lunch in Hiroshima, hit the rails and take the train and ferry out to nearby Miyajima Island. It’s a place for respite after a heavy morning of sightseeing, and while you’re there, you can swoon over the wild deer that roam the island, snack on street food, and take selfies in front of the famous Great Torii of the Itsukushima Shrine — you’ll probably have seen this in Japan guidebooks. Most visitors love the laid back vibe of Miyajima.

Head back to Hiroshima for dinner and tuck into a delicious plate of okonomiyaki. Hiroshima’s version of this savoury Japanese pancake is filled with yakisoba noodles, and is the ultimate in comfort food. Definitely make sure to try this while you’re in town so that you can compare it to the Osakan version at your next stop.

Where to stay in Hiroshima:   In Hiroshima, we opted for  a capsule-style hostel  because I didn’t want to leave the country without trying one. Fortunately, we found ourselves in a room with only two other people staying there, so our capsule room with 20-odd beds was light on snorers. The owner of this place was ridiculously lovely, and it was in walking distance of all of the attractions. Really great bathrooms, a fun common area, and a cheap price. I would have stayed another night!

Osaka Castle

Day 14: Start Eating Everything in Osaka

Wake up bright and early on day 14 and spend a couple of hours wandering through Hiroshima before checking out of your hotel and heading to Osaka. I used this time to stroll through Shukkei-en Garden, visit the Children’s Peace Monument, and take one final wander through Peace Memorial Park.

Onwards! Osaka ended up being my favourite city in Japan, and that’s primarily because it’s where you go to eat . I had one of the best meals of my life in Osaka, and every single thing I ate felt like it was on the verge of life-changing. Dramatic? Always. But man, I love the food in Japan.

After grabbing some lunch, head straight to the city’s most famous attraction: Osaka Castle. If you’re tight on cash, you don’t need to pay to head into the interior, but it does have a pretty great view over the city from the top floor. It’s one of the prettiest castles in Japan, so even sitting outside and taking photos of the shimmering specks of gold feels like a worthwhile activity.

Spend your first evening exploring Dotonbori by night. This vibrant, bustling neighbourhood, and the flashing lights at night are exactly what you’re picturing Japan to be like. Head to Hanamaruken Namba Houzenji for a bowl of pork rib ramen for dinner because it was one of the best meals of my life.

If you’re as much of a foodie as I am, you might want to opt to take this three-hour walking food tour of Osaka while you’re in town. You’ll get to sample 10 of the best local dishes, like takoyaki and yakitori, and two local drinks. The tour covers a whole range of eating establishments, leading you from a street stall to a market, introducing you to a classic Japanese restaurant and izakaya, and finishing off with a secret local hangout.

Where to stay in Osaka: I rounded off my time in Japan with a little bit of a treat, opting for this four-star hotel that offered a ton of freebies. It’s all about the onsen here — it’s open all day and is simply beautiful. After you’ve finished your daily bathe, there’s free ice cream to eat, free comics to read, massage chairs to relax in, and even free ramen to slurp on. Yes, really! It was in a great location for Osaka — just a couple of blocks from the nearest metro station. The decor was calming and traditional; the perfect way to say goodbye to Japan.

Crowded street in Osaka

Day 15: More Osaka Exploring

If you’re flying out of Tokyo, you’ll likely want to head back to the capital today, but if, like me, you’re flying out of Osaka, you have another day to eat, eat, eat!

Spend your morning in northern Osaka, exploring the area around the Umeda Sky Building. Consisting of two 40-floor skyscrapers connected at the top by the world’s highest escalator, it offers an excellent view of the city and is one of Osaka’s most recognisable landmarks. If you’re into your technology, I recommend spending the rest of your morning marvelling at the enormous Yodobashi Umeda electronics store. You could easily spend an entire day getting lost inside there!

Head to nearby Nakazakicho for the afternoon, which is Osaka’s hipster neighbourhood, and so much fun to explore. There’s lots to keep you busy here, from vintage clothing stores to adorable cafes to craft beer to homemade organic granola, because of course.

Red torii Gates in Kyoto at night

And That’s How to Spend Two Weeks in Japan!

This itinerary is perfect for a first-time visitor to Japan. It won’t feel too rushed, there’ll be a good mix of cities and nature, and you’ll undoubtedly leave with a dream of returning for a second visit.

There isn’t too much I’d suggest in terms of alternations: I’d probably suggest skipping out on the snow monkeys and giving yourself an extra day in Takayama instead. You might want to trade a day in Tokyo for a day trip to Nikko, or potentially take a half-day trip from Osaka to Kobe, but that would really be it.

Now, book those plane tickets and start counting down the days until you touchdown in Tokyo!

If you’ve been to Japan before, what would you have done differently?

Related Articles on Japan 🇯🇵 What’s it Like to Travel in Japan? 💴 The Cost of Travel in Japan: A 2023 Budget Breakdown 🍣 15 Weird and Wonderful Things to Eat in Japan 🎌 23 Incredible Things to Do in Osaka, Japan 😎 Hipster Harajuku: The Coolest Neighbourhood in Tokyo 🦔 Should You Go to a Hedgehog Cafe? My Experience in Japan 🐒 Why Seeing the Snow Monkeys in Japan Sucked

[Photo credits: Mount Fuji via Sean Pavone/Shutterstock; snow monkeys via BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock]

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff is a published author and travel expert who founded Never Ending Footsteps in 2011. She has spent over 12 years travelling the world, sharing in-depth advice from more than 100 countries across six continents. Lauren's travel advice has been featured in publications like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan, and her work is read by 200,000 readers each month. Her travel memoir can be found in bookstores across the planet.

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Hi Lauren, Great write up. Just curious what was the final cost of your trip minus the flight costs. Planning on going next year and want a gauge on how much I will need. Don’t worry about costing it down to make it more appealing. :)

Thanks, Jon

I published a detailed budget breakdown last week. Here’s the link: worked out to just under $100 a day. Would never lie about my expenses to make a place seem more appealing, by the way! I pride myself on my transparency.

Thanks Lauren, Didn’t mean to offend. Just meant to include things like food, activities, travel, etc so I can get a good picture. New to your site, didn’t know you posted a budget.

No worries!

Where did u stay in Yudanka?

It’s linked in this post:

If you ever make it to Okinawa, please visit the Pineapple Farm and try pineapple chocolate!! My family lived there for a couple years when I was younger and whenever coworkers of my siblings are stationed over there (in the military), I always ask them to bring me back pineapple chocolate – so delicious!!

Oooh, would love to go to Okinawa! I met a couple who live there while I was on my Great Barrier Reef tour last year and they really sold it to me :-)

Thanks Lauren. This perfect. I am planning on visiting Japan mid April 2019 and hopefully will see the cherry blossoms in bloom. Your itinerary sounds fantastic so I will definitely use it to plan my trip.

Ah, the cherry blossoms look amazing! You’ll have such a great trip :-)

Love this post! I’m hoping to go to Japan within the next few years :) Did you find it difficult to communicate while there?

Not at all! I was expecting a higher language barrier, but we didn’t struggle to communicate. There were a couple of restaurants and train stations where the locals couldn’t speak any English, but miming helped us a lot.

Japan is one of my top dream destinations! Hoping to head there next year. I am bookmarking this itinerary for future reference. This is so, so helpful – along with your Japan budget breakdown! Thanks for the awesome resources :)

Thank you for reading! :-)

Wonderful thank you for this fantastic post.! We are heading to Japan (first time visit) in 10 days time for 2 weeks ? super excited! I have done heaps of research and read lots of blogs etc and we have pretty much got the same route planned. Just a few wee differences…. we are skipping the snow monkeys but visiting Matsumoto and the Alpine Route instead. Thank you once again for your recommendations and sharing your knowledge with us ?

Sounds like a pretty perfect route to me! You’re going to have an incredible trip and eat SO WELL. :-)

*runs to pinterest pins* Thanks for all the information! Will def use this to plan my stay in Japan xx

Yay! Hope you have an amazing trip :-)

As you experienced, Japan has a terrible stance on the ethical treatment of animals. As I’m also sure you know, Japan is one of only three nations- the others being Iceland & Norway- that still engage in the slaughter of whales (Iceland’s began last week). For that reason, I would never set foot in those countries.

I’m not a fan of travel boycotts, but to each their own! If I didn’t visit countries that slaughtered whales, I’d feel as though I’d have to extend the same rule to countries that slaughter chickens, cows, pigs… and then I’d have nowhere left to visit.

Hey LAUREN! you are such an amazing writer. I loved this post. you represent Japan very well. after reading this blog, I am planning to take a trip to Japan in my coming holidays. thank you for this great piece of information.

Thank you so much! I hope you make it there and have a wonderful trip!

This itinerary sounds amazing! I spent a month in Tokyo back in 2014 working for a language program. It was an amazing month but sadly I didn’t get to explore around Japan as much as I would have liked to. We’re headed back in January but only for a 2 day layover. So will definitely look into your Tokyo suggestions. And have pinned this for later when I return to Japan and get to explore more!

Hi Lauren, I really enjoyed while reading your blog. Yes I totally agree with NISHA, Your are such a amazing writer.

I have been to Japan three times and I have to say this is the definition of a perfect trip around Japan! You hit all the major sites, saw a little bit of everything, and seemed to have a great trip. Now it’s time to start planning trip two, eh?

Thanks so much, Marie! I’d love to return during spring or autumn for my next visit.

I love the level of detail you included in this, Lauren. I have a week in Japan booked for October and I’m struggling to narrow down where to go. I know it isn’t really enough time to see much! Do you have any suggestions? Can I fit in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka? And maybe Hiroshima?

Did you use the street vending machines?

They sell everything and are everywhere

I loved the soiled females panties machine the best :-)

Yeah, but only for drinks.

i can’t wait to head to Japan and replicate your itinerary exactly. Apart from the snow monkeys, as I don’t want to visit in winter anyway. Thanks for the useful post!

No problem! So happy to hear you found it useful :-)

The first time I went, we also visited Miyajima Island from Hiroshima… since then, we’ve (twice) stayed on the island for three nights. Totally worth it, as you might guess! Things do close early, but it’s lovely and the hike up Mt. Misen is great.

Ah, lovely! I’ll have to make sure I opt to spend more time there on a future visit :-)

Awesome tips! Will be headed to Tokyo for a week in a few months and this would really come in handy! I wanna try your Google Maps trick for food. I’ve always just researched a lot before I went but your trick seems like a lot of fun

Yeah! It’s mostly due to laziness on my part, but as long as I choose a place with high ratings, I’m very rarely disappointed :-)

Hi Lauren, We love Japan also but on our first trip (we live close by in Australia), we spent two weeks in Kyoto, venturing to Osaka, Nara and Lake Biwa from there. Next time we will want to go further afield and see much more, so I think your itinerary will serve us well for that trip. My husband isn’t keen to see the snow monkeys, so I was interested to hear that you weren’t that impressed. We will possibly switch out the 3 days in Kyoto for somewhere else, maybe Osaka so we can eat up big!

Hi Lauren, we are planning a two week trip June-July next year, two adults and my 11 yo daughter, who is just as keen as us to see Japan, being an amine fan and loving all things kitsch Japanese. You itinerary sounds perfect for us and will take you advice and skip the monkish but perhaps squeeze in Okinawa?

Does your itinerary include some rural Japan? I think you referred to a bathhouse, but we were thinking something up in the hills, very basic and authentic. Perhaps something like a short pilgrimage? Any ideas.?

Thanks so much for your great writing. I’m going to follow you!LUISA

Great post! planning on going to japan on March and your tips and itinerary will definitely help!!

Did you travel by yourself? did you meet other travelers? I’ll be going on a solo trip and I’m worried it might get lonely… any tips?

Super helpful post, thank you! My husband and I will be visiting Japan for the first time in mid-March for about two weeks. We’d like a mix of city/modern and nature and old Japan and crafts, and good food! Does this itinerary make sense? Day 1: Late afternoon arrival in Tokyo Day 2: Tokyo Day 3: Tokyo Day 4: Morning trains to Takayama Day 5: Takayama Day 6: Morning train to Kyoto Day 7: Kyoto Day 8: Kyoto Day 9: Day trip to Nara Day 10: Kyoto Day 11: Morning train to Hakone, do the loop that afternoon and stay overnight at an ryokan/onsen Day 12: train to Tokyo, stay one last night Day 12: Fly home

That sounds like a perfect itinerary to me! :-)

Hi! I just found your blog and I have to say that these Japan posts are incredible. There’s ample material online on Japan, but in the modern day of clickbait and 140 character statements, I actually sat and read each and every one of your posts from start to finish. Thank you for the time, effort, and for conveying your journey so eloquently. You’re helping me plan the honeymoon of a lifetime : ).

Quick question for you – what time of year did you go? Seems like November or December based on your snow monkey post. We were looking at mid to late November. Thank you!

Wow, that’s such a compliment! Thank you so much, Nikki :-) We went in early December.

Great post! I’m aiming to visit Japan in March and I’m going to follow your itinerary exactly.

Awesome! I hope you have the best time in Japan :-)

Hi and Happy New Year Lauren! I plan to take my nice and nephew who are 18 yrs. old to Japan. Based on their age, what 2 or 3 cities do you think offer the most for them during a week in Japan? They might get bored with too many temples. Are there any physical activities/experiences that you could recommend? For example, in Hawaii we went diving with the fish with an underwater scooter. Thanks for your time and thanks for your insight!

Hi Lauren, Your posts on Japan have been very helpful! :-) Thank you for sharing. We are planning to make a trip out to Japan and was wondering what you thought of the following itinerary.

D1/D2: Traveling to Tokyo from the US (we are staying in Shinjuku) D3-D4: Tokyo (East side one day and West side another day) D5: Visit Studio Ghibli in AM and then take train to Kyoto (we are staying in Gion) D6-D9: Kyoto (planning for one full day for Hiroshima/Miyajima and a half day in Osaka) D10: Leave Kyoto early for Takayama – visit Shirakawago for the illumination event D11: Explore Takayama in the morning and take train in afternoon to Nozawa Onsen D12: Nozawa Onsen (ski day!) D13: Nozawa Onsen (ski day!) D14: Nozawa Onsen (ski day vs. Snow monkey vs. head to Tokyo early vs. something local?) – travel to Tokyo in evening D15: Flight back to US from Tokyo in the evening

I am wondering what your thoughts are on our stopover at Takayama/Shirakawago. I was torn between getting tickets for the the illumination event vs. just visiting Shirakawago the next morning. I thought it would make the next day very rushed looking at the train time table since we would need to catch a train at 2 or 3PM in Takayama.

Also, I was very disheartened to read about your post about the snow monkeys. I wonder if you think it’s truly worth it. Our hotel in nozawa onsen has a bus that leaves at 9AM, reaches the park at 10AM and then returns to the hotel around 4PM. It will basically eat up the whole day. We weren’t technically planning on skiing 3D in a row but since the northeast has yet to have any significant powder snow… we are wondering whether we should stick to the resort and enjoy the real snow while we can.

Most itineraries such as yours sometimes include day trips from Tokyo to Hakone or Nikko. I feel like there is so much to see already in Tokyo that making a day trip out there will just take away from the other experiences. I know everything is a trade off with limited schedules. But I was wondering if you had any thoughts on whether Hakone/Fuji 5 lakes is particularly worth visiting in the winter? (we are going in February).

Finally, when you were in Japan did you go to a tea ceremony? All the guidebooks I have read mentioned it but I am wondering if it’s a tourist trap.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!

Hi, Thanks for such a good piece! Just wondered why you chose to do Kyoto-Hiroshima-Osaka in that order? If there was any particular reason? Thanks again :)

I had flights out of Osaka, so needed to finish up there. No reason why you couldn’t switch the destinations around if you wanted to! :-)

Hi Lauren, great post! I have just started on working on my itinerary for May-June. Where did you stay at Hakone?

Hi Kris! I list all of the accommodation I stayed in along with a mini-review of each in my Japan budget guide here: In Hakone, I stayed in Hakone Tent and loved it — they had a private onsen for guests to use!

I just wanted to commend you on a couple of brilliant blog posts detailing Japan. I read both this and your breakdown of costs, prior to my trip last month, and found them extremely useful. I even stayed in the capsule-style hostel (somewhat akin to a kennel for adults) in Hiroshima – what an incredible location that was!

Thank you so much, Guy! That means a lot. I’m so glad to hear you had a wonderful trip!

Japan is something magical. Never felt so peaceful and safe as in this country. As soon as you leave Japan, you want to come back again! …to feed shikas in Nara! :D Can’t stop exploring this beautiful corner of the World! :) Thank you Lauren!!!

Hi there! Thanks for sharing your itinerary, it might inspire ours too. I was just wondering, did you travel with a backpack or a suitcase? In such a crammed holiday, I would be thinking backpack for practicality, but I know already that I want my suitcase there with me, to fill it to the brim with things to bring back from that land of dreams…

I have the feeling I’ll have more reading to do on your blog to try and find out more on, say, hedgehogs cafés and such ;)

I travelled with my 40 litre Osprey Farpoint backpack :-)

Ah right I see, that does seem more practical :)

Absolutely amazing post, and consider this bookmarked! It was a great explanation of fantastic places in Japan. This blog is helpful for 1st-time visiter to visit in Japan. Thanks for Sharing.

Hi Lauren! I’ve been having trouble finding the official link to the JR Rail pass, do you know which is the valid and proper cost? I’m afraid of paying so much and having it not be valid!

Thank you so much! is the official site, but you can’t buy passes from them — you have to use one of the authorised sellers. I used the site I linked to in this post and it wasn’t any more expensive than anywhere else.

Thanks for sharing this! I’ve built out an itinerary and was hoping you could take a look. Is this too heavy on Tokyo vs. Kyoto?

Oct. 11 – 17: Tokyo Oct. 17 – 21: Kyoto (including day trip To Fushimi Inari/Uji/Nara) Oct. 21 – 23: Osaka (including day trip to Kobe) Oct. 23 – 24: Hakone Oct. 24 – 25: Return to Tokyo for 1 night + depart next day

Thanks for the great advice, we are going for blossom season this year and will be certain to use a lot of it!

I had one question if I may. It seems quite difficult/confusing to get to Takayama or Kanazawa from Hakone. Do you mind please letting me know how you went about it please as both places look great and would be a shame to miss out!

Thanks Lauren

I’d go back to Tokyo and then onwards to Kanazawa. You could break up the journey by spending a night in Matsumoto or Nagano if you don’t want such a long train ride. Hyperdia is the best app for figuring out which trains to take.

Great, thanks!

Google maps can now navigate all up to par with Hyperdia, even subway connections down to minutes. Give it a try first, I find some of the Japan based apps not as intuitive.

Thanks for sharing that tip, Howard!

Hi, what month did you travel in? Trying to work out whether it’s best to go in December or April!

I was there in December. The pros were fewer crowds and lower prices, but it was really, really cold. In April, the weather will be nicer but it’ll be crowded as hell and very expensive.

Lauren, My wife and I have a similar trip coming up. We bought the rail pass and are so excited to travel up and down japan. I have a question about baggage? For a two week trip that is going to utilize 95% public transport, and no lack of souvenirs, how do you manage your bags?

Thank you so much for all your great insights!

Thank God the Japanese have respect for public transportation, because, in a city like Tokyo, cars on the streets during rush hours would be Hell on Sundays. We had the luck to experience being on the moring train with suitcases, children going to school, commuters, and workers wondering what wrong with these people? Rush hour in Tokyo is such a great study of people working as a unit.

Hi Lauren! Thank you for your post is very inspiring. I know that it has happend almost one year from the post but I was wondering if you could remember the train combinations to arrive to Yudanaka. Thank you in advance, Sara from Spain

Hi! Can I ask how much this trip cost? It would be nice to know roughly how much I need to save.

Yep! I’ve got a detailed breakdown of every Yen I spent here:

I have plans to travel from Tokyo to Sapporo. Any advice please? Thanks

What would you like advice on specifically?

We’re planning a trip with our boys (7,7 and 8) in October and wilst we are worried about the costs – it’s great to see there’s also budget options without being in dorms:-).

We are thinking of visiting South Korea in the same trip – and have seen only a few posts there from your hand. Does it suck there since you didn’t blog so much from there?

I was wondering if SK is worth the trip at all? It’s cheaper than Japan and kind of similar and “just around the corner” from Japan.

We plan to begin in Tokyo and then take the trip all the way through to lastly take a ferry to Busan (SK). And stay for a month.

Thanks for a fab blog – I hope you get to travel soon:-)

Hello and thank you so very much for your “How to spend two weeks in Japan” ! We are using your itinerary as a basis to tailor our first trip to this amazing country. You mention staying in Shibuya whilst in Tokyo. I’ve checked out the Airbnbs and most seem to be Shinjuku City. Is that close enough to Shibuya? Hard to tell from the map – and obviously, haven’t got a clue if it would be a good “substitute” for Shibuya. Any suggestions, much appreciated. Thanks once again. Ana

Hi Ana! Yep, Shinjuku would be just as great. Shibuya and Shinjuku are about a half an hour walk from each other, so not too far. And Shinjuku is just as wonderful to stay in! If you can’t find anything in Shibuya, then I’d definitely be happy to go with Shinjuku.

Hi. Love your post and it’ll be my guide for my upcoming Japan trip. Can you please confirm the name of the hotel in Kanazawa? Everytime I click the link, a new hotel pops up.

Hi Keshav! Unfortunately, it looks like the hotel I stayed in is temporarily closed! I’d take a look at Kanazawa Guesthouse Stella as an alternative option: well-rated and good value for money!

Hi! With little time for planning, me and my husband followed your itinerary, and we had a great time, so I just wanted to thank you for your blog. We actually did it backwards, from Osaka to Tokyo, and I’m glad we did it this way, as Tokyo is so different from the rest of Japan. Takayama (cool, mountainous, so many temples!) and Itsukushima (Miyajima Island – deer, tasty food, water floating temple!) were my highlights. Unfortunately I was ill in Kyoto and missed a lot, so I’ll have to go back one day. My husband loved Kanazawa, the sushi was SO good there. Anyway, thanks to you we had an AMAZING holiday, and we feel we did Japan justice in only 2 weeks.

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Meet Lauren Juliff

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Nerd Tour Japan 2014

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It's been a long time, but I'm back in Japan. After my last trip in 2009 I decided I wanted to take a break for a while – maybe see some other parts of the world, if I'm gonna travel internationally – but it had been long enough, and if I go cover AnimeJapan (the replacement for the Tokyo Anime Fair/Anime Contents Expo) then it'll be a work trip. I missed the place, dammit. And I really did enjoy myself those last two times. Things are a little different this time. Way back in 2008 and 2009 I traveled with the ANN crew: Christopher Macdonald , Justin Sevakis and our guide/translator, Evan Miller , who I wound up spending many an evening with back then, downing beers and obnoxiously asking him to translate silly things for me. Since then, Evan's last name changed to Liu (he married the lovely and talented Lanny Liu , who designed the banner for House of 1000 Manga for us) and he started what is now a successful destination tour company focusing on Japan, PacSet Tours . I was given the opportunity this year to cover AnimeJapan 2014 while riding shotgun on Evan's Animated Spring tour, which has a whopping 30+ other nerds on it. Most importantly, it'd mean that once we're done with AnimeJapan, I can finally see something outside of Tokyo (I've been to Japan twice and have never set foot outside of the city) which was one of the criteria I had for ever returning to the country (last time I basically got to sit in a hotel room in Shibuya for a week). And so, for the next week and change, I'll have a whole bunch of photos and commentary for you from the tour, with special side coverage of AnimeJapan this weekend. I was also given the opportunity to bring along a companion who had never been to Japan before, if only so my weary “been there, done that” perspective wouldn't be the only one we had, so Hope's here with me. She'll be commenting below on her experiences. These are pretty packed days – Evan keeps us moving from one dorky thing to the next – so there'll be a whole lot of photos (all of which can be clicked for embiggening). HOPE: Having never set foot outside my home country prior to this trip, I was kinda nervous about spending over a week in Japan. Once we landed, however, it struck me how “familiar” a lot of the important things are, and that put me at ease pretty quick. Compared to most American cities, Tokyo is a little cleaner, quieter, and the spaces and halls are narrower and smaller, but it's a lively city full of normal folks going about their business much the same way as we do in the western world. It's easy to get comfortable once the jet lag wears off and just start having fun! Let's get to it!

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Vacations to popular destinations can sometimes feel like you’ve been sucked into a tourist trap rather than immersed in a new culture.

Given that, you might seek a vacation spot that has a track record of tourist appeal, but remains off the mainstream’s radar — for now.

American Express Travel's 2024 Trending Destinations list offers a lineup of 10 destinations that fit that bill. Using global AmEx Card Member bookings through the American Express Travel portal , the report highlighted locations with major increases in bookings from 2019 to 2023.

Here are 10 places from the report that are on the rise, in alphabetical order:

1. Adelaide Hills, Australia 

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Adelaide Hills, Australia. (Getty Images)

While Australia is usually best known for its beaches, crocodiles and the Outback, don’t overlook its vibrant wine country. Adelaide Hills, a region in South Australia, is all about rolling vineyards, charming villages and world-class wineries.

Adelaide Hills is already booming, marking a record $272 million in visitor spending for its fiscal year ending in June 2023, according to the region’s tourism bureau. That’s more than 1.3 million day trips made, and 737,000 nights spent by tourists.

2. Bodrum, Turkey

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Bodrum Castle in Turkey. (Getty Images)

To get the energy of Santorini without the crowds, consider Bodrum, Turkey. Tour the Bodrum Castle for a taste of history, swim in Bodrum's pristine waters or go diving among the beautiful coral reefs.

3. Cervo, Italy 

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The ancient borough of Cervo, a town in the province of Imperia, Italy. (Getty Images)

Cervo offers what you might expect from an Italian vacation, including boutiques from Italian fashion designers and Michelin-star meals. But it also offers a lovely mix of luxury and laid-back charm — all without the high tourism numbers of other Mediterranean regions like the Amalfi Coast.

4. Niseko, Japan

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Niseko, Japan. (Getty Images)

Travel to Japan as a whole is rising in popularity . The country is the fastest-growing travel destination globally among Generation Z and millennials, according to AmEx Travel, witnessing a 1,300% increase in travel bookings from 2019 to 2023.

But where in Japan should you go? Nestled on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the resort area of Niseko is especially delightful in winter, particularly for skiers and snowboarders. But it’s not just about action — there’s room for relaxation, too.

Stay warm by soaking in Niseko's onsen hot springs or sample ramen from one of the many cozy noodle shops.

5. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

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Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel Church in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. (Getty Images)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, stands out for its cobblestone streets adorned with candy-colored houses and its ornate church in the town square. While there, don’t miss sipping on a Mezcal cocktail.

According to AmEx Travel, from 2019 to 2023 the city has seen a 57% increase in bookings among Generation X and baby boomer travelers — and a 400% increase in bookings among Gen Zers and millennials.

6. Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S. 

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Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Getty Images)

Santa Fe is the only U.S. destination on the list, and it’s certainly one worth visiting. Largely known for its art scene, it’s also excellent for dining and outdoor activity.

Lately, big things are happening that could make Santa Fe more appealing than ever. For example, construction is set to begin on the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum downtown this year, with a plan to reopen in 2026. For modern art, there’s Meow Wolf, which has 70 rooms of immersive art from local and community artists.

7. The Seychelles 

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The Seychelles. (Getty Images)

The Maldives tend to get all the love among travelers seeking crystal clear waters and sandy beaches. But there’s a similar archipelago in the Indian Ocean that you shouldn’t overlook. Many well-traveled folk actually consider the Seychelles to be the better of the two, citing reasons like more outdoor activities and secluded beaches.

It’s also generally cheaper. At the time of writing, average hotel room rates in the Maldives span about $800 to $1,300 a night depending on the season and day of the week, according to travel fare aggregator Momondo. Average nightly rates in Seychelles range from $600 to $1,100.

8. St. Kitts and Nevis 

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Saint Kitts and Nevis. (Getty Images)

If you’re visiting the Caribbean in 2024, consider Saint Kitts and Nevis. On the two islands (which are considered one country), you’ll find lush rainforests, soft sand and turquoise waters. Activities include exploring the island's colonial past at Brimstone Hill Fortress, (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) or wandering the colorful streets of its capital, Basseterre.

You might also bathe in the hot springs or climb Mount Liamuiga, the island's highest peak.

9. Udaipur, India

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City Palace and Pichola Lake in Udaipur, India. (Getty Images)

With its majestic palaces reflected in shimmering Lake Pichola, Udaipur, India, is sometimes referred to as the "Venice of the East." The city has bazaars selling handcrafted textiles, jewelry and other wares. For a little exercise, climb to Mehrangarh Fort, which was built on sandstone hills 400 feet above Jodhpur.

10. Zermatt, Switzerland 

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Zermatt, Switzerland. (Getty Images)

With chalets, car-free streets and views of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is your quintessential Swiss village. It’s best known for its skiing, which you can do year-round. In fact, some national ski teams train here in the summer.

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5 Japanese Villages to Visit 日本の美しい村

  • Published on : 12/08/2020
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Village Gokayama

Japanese rural getaways

The image of Japan for many is often futuristic with crowded cities but Japan also has its small ancient villages, a more rural and quiet side of Japan, the heart of Japan.

Many charming Japanese villages lie in the Japanese Alps area, isolated in forgotten valleys free of urbanization. These villages have been abandoned by most of their inhabitants and have become tourist attractions instead, monuments to the memory of rural Japan. The complete list numbers nearly 50 villages, listed on this website.

Shirakawa-go (Gifu Prefecture)

This is the most famous and most beautiful, with traditional  gassho-zukuri  farmhouses scattered around the valley.  Shirakawago  and its neighbor, Gokayama , are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites and can be visited as a day trip from  Nagoya  or  Kanazawa . Nearly 70  gassho-zukuri  (houses with steep thatched roofs) are kept authentic, some have been converted into museums or hostels for a night's stay. The village is very popular: more than 1.5 million tourists a year visit, especially in winter when a thick blanket of snow gives the place an unreal beauty.

Gassho-zukuri type houses, in the village of Shirakawago

Gassho-zukuri houses in the village of Shirakawago, near Takayama

Takayama (Gifu Prefecture)

Not far from Shirakawa-go, the ancient village of  Takayama  is now a small town but has kept its old center , consisting of small traditional houses, intact. There are also some rural houses with thatched roofs in the district of Hida . Takayama has been dubbed " Little Kyoto " for its similar old-fashioned charm. The city also has temples, the ruins of a castle, and a morning market.

Charming streets of Hida Furakawa

Charming streets of Hida Furakawa

Ine (Kyoto Prefecture)

Far from the mountain villages,  Ine  is an ancient fishing village famous for its  funaya   houses .  These houses, at the water's edge , were also used as sheds for fishing boats. The village lies on a narrow strip of land nearly 20 meters wide. 

The  funaya  are now houses and restaurants overlooking the bay waters. This is one of the last fishing villages in Japan.

The funaya houses in Ine

The funaya houses in Ine

Tsumago (Nagano Prefecture)

Tsumago is in the  Kiso Valley , a place renowned for hiking . This is one of the last postal towns that lined the  Nakasendo road . This road linked Kyoto to Edo by an inland route (the Tokaido, most famous, followed the shoreline). Officials or simple travelers stopped in the many hostels and rest stops along the way. Tsumago was one of the  villages established to accommodate travelers . The place is lovingly preserved - cars are banned and modern electric cables are hidden to maintain the atmosphere of the Edo period.

On the Nakasendô road in the Japanese countryside.

On the Nakasendo road in the Japanese countryside.

Taketomi (Okinawa Prefecture)

This village is much more isolated than many others, on a small island south of the  Okinawa island chain ,  but its landscape is familiar to all Japanese. The small paths in Taketomi  are lined with dry stone walls and low houses covered with tiles. A typical landscape of the villages of Okinawa , where you can only travel on foot or by buffalo-led cart. A small tropical island paradise near Iriomote.

Taketomi Island, Okinawa

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Japan Tours & Trips 2024

Experience the best of Japan tours featuring iconic destinations like cherry blossom -lined Mount Fuji , the high-speed bullet train to Osaka, and Tokyo's futuristic cityscape. Immerse yourself in a cultural paradise, from relaxing in Hokkaido's spas to exploring ancient temples with a geisha in Kyoto. Choose from a variety of tour packages, or get inspired by our 1 week , 2 weeks & 3 week Japan itineraries !

250+ Japan tour packages with 3,584 reviews

Ultimate Japan Tour

  • Christmas & New Year

Ultimate Japan

"At the end of my trip, I was literally sobbing because I didn't want it to end. I completely fell in love with Japan! It was such a memorable and spectacular trip but don't get me wrong, it's not for the faint of heart. We were walking 25,000 steps every single day and sometimes sprinting to catch a train, sometimes in the rain. Also, stairs are everywhere in Japan, so my feet were swollen the entire time, but I made sure to make time to soak in the onsens and get full body massages. Every activity was terrific, fun, and instagrammable! Also, I absolutely loved our guide, Tea. Tea was funny, sweet, patient, helpful, and thoughtful! He took the time to get to know everyone's interests and ensured that we all experienced everything on our to-do list. This package was worth the price and more! I felt supported and safe throughout the trip, as I have severe anxiety and food allergies. However, I wish I had received more prep before flying out about what to pack and when we will have luggage transfers. Lastly, I did like all of the hotels except one, so there's that too. I will definitely book this tour again!"
  • €150 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Japan One Life Adventures - 10 Days Tour

Japan One Life Adventures - 10 Days

"I absolutely loved this tour. All transportation tickets/timetables was taken care of by the guide. Anyone who has traveled knows that getting around a country where you don’t speak the language is often the hardest part of the tour. People interested in this package must be forewarned: there is ALOT of walking. A lot. I averaged 20k steps a day. There’s just no getting around walking a lot. The variety of activities planned was perfect. From group time to individual time, you get plenty of both. Be forewarned: you will be sharing accommodations in a couple of the spots so don’t be surprised. To me, that just added to the experience of group traveling. This tour package includes lots of small group stuff like a private sushi making class, kendo lesson, walking food tour. Loved the mix of scheduled events vs free time. HIGHLY recommend this package"

10 Days Splendid Japan with Nagoya (3 star hotels) Tour

  • In-depth Cultural

10 Days Splendid Japan with Nagoya (3 star hotels)

"I did the 10 Days Splendid Japan with Nagoya tour. This is a great way to experience Japan! We saw a wide variety of sights. The travel was also broken up well with frequent stops for sightseeing. The itinerary was packed with exciting activities, leaving us feeling like we'd only scratched the surface of Japan's treasures. The exhaustion at the end of each day was a testament to how much we saw and experienced. Tokyo alone could easily occupy a month of exploration! We returned home with a deep appreciation for the beauty and diversity of Japan, and we are planning our next trip already!"

Japan Adventure Tour

Japan Adventure

"Just finished the most amazing tour of Japan, I hate planning things so the trip was perfect and had everything I wanted to do. Rachel is the best tour guide anyone could ask for 10/10, I would very happily do more of her tours x"

9 Days Stunning Japan with Shirakawa-go (3 star hotels) Tour

9 Days Stunning Japan with Shirakawa-go (3 star hotels)

"My husband and I used Stunning Tours for our honeymoon and we had a wonderful experiences. We made friends with our guides and got to ask more questions and go to more places that we really wanted to see. The hotels were fantastic and transportation was easy with our guide. My husband and I can’t wait to go back to Japan and would definitely book with them again with our friends!"

Japan Express: Osaka to Tokyo Tour

  • Train & Rail

Japan Express: Osaka to Tokyo

"I loved the variety...people, places, experiences."

Essential Japan Tour

Essential Japan

"I recently booked the 7day Essential tour to Japan. Want to commend 3 tour guides that accompanied my group in those 7 days. First guide MINJI Japanese born but spoke perfect spanish ,english and of course Japenese. She was with us the inicial 6days of the tour. What a fun,knowledgeable, patient,fun,entertaining guide she was. To make our long bus rides less boring,she had us learn to write our name in Japanese , another we had a japanese vocabulary lesson, and last we got to make an origami swan. She was AWESOME. Next David I believe he is from Spain he was with us 1day. Full of energy,humor and music. Last KIKO from Argentina sweet and very patient and helpful. The tour itself was well planned. Loved all the hotels we stayed at. Breakfast was good. All hotels were conviently located across from the train stations except in Osaka. Tours were great wish we had a little more time..but it was really crowded with tourist at most of the places we understandable. Favorite places for me Mt Fuji,Asakusa, Inari Shrines,Bamboo Forest, Nara. Again it was great thanks Europamundo y TourRadar"

Looking for tours beyond just Japan?

Explore tours with itineraries going through multiple countries, including Japan.

Wonders of Japan End Osaka Tour

  • Coach / Bus

Wonders of Japan End Osaka

"Great tour but need to point out a few things. Ken, knew his stuff but was very political.Said he hated his PM and mentioned he was also adding a tax for tourists. He also mentioned that immigrants - 2 million brought bad culture. He talked about the dirty street in Kyoto where we spent an evening shopping, had dirtied the area. Before booking it would be nice to mention there is a lot of climbing and walking - we over 82+ had to sit out of some of the sightseeing. What we saw we loved Japan and the tour."

Epic Japan: Speed Trains & Street Food Tour

Epic Japan: Speed Trains & Street Food

"Had a great time. Shoichi was number 1 guide!"

Epic 13-Day Japan Budget Tour: Odyssey Across the Land of the Rising Sun Tour

Epic 13-Day Japan Budget Tour: Odyssey Across the Land of the Rising Sun

"The guide was very nice, he does walk fast though. There is a LOT of walking. The only shoes you will need are either a good pair of trainers or dare I say I even almost wished I bought my hiking boots a couple of times. I like the fact he acknowledges some people will have different interests for things to do outside of included activities and different food budgets. Price is quite fair for the inclusions although yes you are paying a premium for the group tour, remember that, I found the price fairer than some other international companies I've used in the past who I won't name. You end up doing things you might not have thought of as well Dragon trip attracts a good crowd. There's a good mix of free time and included activities. I recommend you book some optional activities available in Kyoto in particular in advance though. It is in hostels so prepare for that unless you want your own room, which I suggest if possible. There was only one hostel I really was not a fan of at all (Kyoto), the rest of the accommodation was fantastic. The arcade was fun, bike riding was good. I liked the ninja/samurai tour. I think just the itinerary needs to be a bit clearer and giving everyone just an extra $10 on the pasmo card would have made a world of difference or just tell us to buy our own card once in osaka. Also might want to look into: Apparently the jr price has gone up recently and might outweigh booking jr trips separately. Book some extra days maybe in tokyo for yourself at the end if you can otherwise book a flight after 6.30pm on the last day since you may as well use jr to get back to tokyo. I kind of stuffed up my own planning with that one."
  • 5% deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Japan Express Tour

  • Active Adventure

Japan Express

"Really enjoyed the fact that this was a very 'authentic' tour with traditional Ryokans and using the public transport used by the locals. Also loved that there was so much flexibility and I could opt to join the group or go off on my own. Really enjoyed it."

Essential Japan Tour

"Yutaka was a great guide, helped get everything situated and really made this trip special. Thanks, Yutaka!"

Japan One Life Adventures - 14 Days Tour

Japan One Life Adventures - 14 Days

"The tour was a great experience. A perfect mix of sightseeing, various cultural activities and fun. Many thanks to Beth and Holly who got us through the tour safely, told us a lot about Japan and gave a lot of effort to make sure we all had a great time."

All Inclusive Japan Classics- 9 days Tour

All Inclusive Japan Classics- 9 days

"Great value well coordinated. Miki was great making sure everyone was taken care of and answering questions"

Splendours of Japan (9 Days) Tour

Splendours of Japan (9 Days)

"We have just returned from 9 day tour. Our tour director Naggi was great. She did everything to accommodate all our needs. The locations and the hotels themselves were very good. It is true that the hotel in Nagano was not on the same level but we were brought in at the end of the very long day so nobody had any desire to leave the hotel for any exploration and we got an excellent opportunity to change into kimonos, experience Japanese onsen and had the great buffet dinner. My greatest complaint is with Trafalgar's itinerary. For the first day in the itinerary it says 'see the Tokyo skytree' but it should say " mention the Tokyo skytree". "5th station" on mount Fuji - none though there were weather problems. The worst part though was that we drove to the Goykayama in anticipation of washi paper demonstration but instead were had 30 minutes in Mr. Murakami house for the very mediocre presentation, drove an 1.5 hour to Kanazawa and then told that by the way tomorrow we should drive back to Goykayama to watch washi paper demonstration. How can any company plan such things?! If for whatever reason washi demonstration could not be done on the day of the tour they should have replaced it with for example pottery demonstration which Kanazawa is famous for. As the result when the group came back after 3 hour roundtrip it started raining and there was no time to enjoy one of the real highlight of the tour - Kenroku-en garden. The itinerary in Tokyo is very poor. They could have done Edo Museum, Asakusa (greatly overrated) and Imperial Palace (worth 40 minutes) in one day, leave out sushi preparation as optional but on the second day organize the day trip to Nikko. Moreover Nijo castle is the real highlight in Kyoto (not planned) while overcrowded Fukushima Inari (planned) is curious at best. Bottom line: the itinerary deserves C+ at best."
  • €100 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Reviews of Japan Tours

"At the end of my trip, I was literally sobbing because I didn't want it to end. I completely fell in love with Japan! It was such a memorable and spectacular trip but don't get me wrong, it's not for the faint of heart. We were walking 25,000 steps every single day and sometimes sprinting to catch a train, sometimes in the rain. Also, stairs are everywhere in Japan, so my feet were swollen the entire time, but I made sure to make time to soak in the onsens and get full body massages. Every activity was terrific, fun, and instagrammable! Also, I absolutely loved our guide, Tea. Tea was funny, sweet, patient, helpful, and thoughtful! He took the time to get to know everyone's interests and ensured that we all experienced everything on our to-do list. This package was worth the price and more! I felt supported and safe throughout the trip, as I have severe anxiety and food allergies. However, I wish I had received more prep before flying out about what to pack and when we will have luggage transfers. Lastly, I did like all of the hotels except one, so there's that too. I will definitely book this tour again!"
"The entire trip to Japan was incredible and went so smoothly. This was largely due to the agent of One Life Adventure’s deep knowledge and resources. The hotels, driver, and tour guide were superb. The holiday was flawless from One Life Adventure's angle, Professional, engaged, and highly recommended."
"Stunning Tours did an amazing job on our 10-day trip to Japan. We had a fantastic holiday so well organized and were really well looked after. All the transfers were smooth. The accommodation was the best with highly knowledgeable guides. Excellent advice covering all aspects of a trip prior to travel from a specialist who knows the area very well, excellent service in terms of booking travel, hotels, and guides, delivering a wonderful and memorable holiday. Highly recommended"
"Really loved this tour! The balance between city and rural based experiences was perfect and our group leader Rachel was such a lovely and supportive guide. Would really recommend this trip!"
"Without doubt a 5-star service. Stunning Tours are a game-changer when it came to overseeing our family holiday itinerary suggestions and the final plans. Their so helpful and responsive throughout the entire process, and a joy to coordinate with. Full of great ideas and little tips and pointers that made our holiday run like clockwork. The organisation on the ground in Japan couldn’t have done any smoother. We would 100% use Stunning Tours again. Amazing value!"
"Wonderful trip. Had a great time!"

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Skiers and snowboarders carve their way down a wide-open run as they near the bottom of the Happo-One Snow Resort Feb. 7, 2023, in Hakuba, Japan. (Jennifer Buchanan / The Seattle Times)

Why Northwest skiers flock to Japan every winter

  • Snow Sports

HAKUBA VALLEY, Japan — Snow crab legs protruded from a steaming bowl of miso soup accompanied by a golden-brown portion of takoyaki , a battered ball stuffed with grilled octopus. What did this slopeside lunch set me back at Goryu, one of several ski areas lining Japan’s Hakuba Valley? Some 1,150 yen, or about $8.

You can barely buy a coffee for that price at Seattle-area ski lodges , a value underscoring why a ski trip to Japan is such a delight. Last February marked my third cold-weather vacation to the Land of the Rising Sun, a country whose boom-bust experience with winter sports has left a mix of charmingly dated resorts matched with an infusion of newfound interest from foreign visitors.

In the inverse of the Washington scenario, where demand outstrips supply , the Japanese ski resorts are vastly overbuilt for their domestic market. There are one-sixth as many Japanese skiers and snowboarders today compared with 30 years ago. Japan’s ski operators are increasingly catering to foreign visitors to revive an industry that peaked in the early 1990s at the height of the country’s economic bubble.

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Northwest skiers are happy to oblige. There are three daily flights making the eight-hour hop to Tokyo from Seattle-Tacoma International, the closest mainland U.S. airport to Japan. For Seattle-area skiers planning an overseas ski trip, traveling to Japan is quicker and more convenient than heading to the Alps.

Want to experience Japan’s world-class train infrastructure, inimitable hospitality and legendary powder snow for yourself? Read on for a deep dive into the Hakuba Valley.

Getting there and getting around

Japanese tourism conjures images of springtime Sakura (cherry blossoms) and ancient temples, but the mountainous regions are longtime winter destinations beloved for their abundant snow.

Japan’s capital is your port of entry coming from Seattle. Both Delta and All Nippon Airways fly once daily to Haneda Airport. While Haneda is closer to the Tokyo city center, Narita is served daily from Seattle by Japan Airlines, an Alaska Airlines partner. I used frequent flyer miles for my family’s trip last winter.

Like lift tickets, airfare fluctuates with demand-based dynamic pricing. As of press time, nonstop round-trip airfare ranged from $1,200-2,300 for a Saturday to Saturday trip in February. Japan sees peak snowfall in January and February, and most ski areas close up shop by the end of March.

As for mountain towns, consult Winter Olympic history: Nagano hosted in 1998, while Sapporo did the honors for the 1972 games, where Seattleite Susan Corrock took bronze in Alpine skiing, the second-ever American medal in that discipline.

While Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido prefecture, gets some of the world’s most consistent powder dumps, nicknamed “ Japow ,” the slopes often aren’t adequately steep. When slowed to a dead stop in thigh-deep powder, I wish I could tilt the island another 10 degrees.

Nagano is your gateway to the Japanese Alps, the country’s steepest mountains, and conveniently located on Honshu, the main island. The Shinkansen bullet train ride is 80-100 minutes from Tokyo Station and runs about 8,000 yen ($56). From there, you can transfer to a bus for Hakuba.

From Nagano train station, transfer to the Alpico bus for the 75-minute ride to Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal (16 times daily, 2,800 yen or $19.69). The bus terminal is walking distance from Happo-One, the valley’s largest ski resort, and a number of lodging options. Hakuba also has a train station on the edge of town if coming from somewhere other than Tokyo.  

Get familiar with the bus terminal — if you decide to bounce around the valley’s ski areas, you’ll be a repeat visitor. Car rentals are available, but scarce, which means relying on the extensive Hakuba Valley shuttle (600 yen, $4.22 per ride, or free with same-day lift ticket). In addition, most ski areas operate their own shuttles that serve the main hotels and bus stations.

While deciphering the various bus timetables looks intimidating, once you crack the code, getting around the valley is remarkably easy.

Finally, Japan is eminently navigable for visitors who don’t speak or read Japanese — though learning key phrases is always good travel etiquette. But if you find the logistics too daunting, Seattle-based evo runs multiple turnkey trips every winter starting at $3,250. See .

In the valley

I settled on the Hakuba Valley for my most recent Japan ski trip for one reason: Vail’s Epic Pass. Since 2018, nine of the valley’s ski areas are included on the season pass, which is popular with Western Washington skiers who day trip to Stevens Pass and overnight at Whistler Blackcomb .

As an Epic pass holder last winter, I redeemed my pass for a five-day lift ticket. But even if you’re not wielding a U.S.-based multi-resort megapass, skiing in Japan remains a bargain. While each of Hakuba’s ski areas operates independently, lift tickets rarely top $50 per day. In a throwback, some ski areas even let you pay by the ride, a few bucks per chairlift bump.

Hakuba felt like an amalgam of different mountain towns. Train service and jagged peaks reminded me of Chamonix, France, where village streets are lined with a global clientele in ski boots — though here tilting West Coast, Australian and Southeast Asian. The shabbiness of faded glory was reminiscent of Bariloche, Argentina. And our quiet corner of hotels and chalets, the tree-lined Echoland neighborhood, felt like a Japanese version of Girdwood, Alaska. What Hakuba did not resemble: Whistler. With disconnected neighborhoods, it is not designed for maximum pedestrian ease.

We rented a brand-new, free-standing cabin with its own bathroom, kitchen and laundry for about $400 per night at Hotel Oak Forest . Self-catering options are less common than hotel rooms (both Western and Japanese style, meaning a futon-style mattress atop a tatami mat). Most important, the hotel had an onsen, or hot spring bath . Geothermally heated pools abound in Japan and soaking after a ski day is one of the supreme pleasures of a trip here.

Our daily culinary highlight was lunch, where resort cafeterias churned out top-notch, affordable Japanese food. From ramen to curries to rice bowls with fresh fish, you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than 2,000 yen ($14). On busy days, adorable food trucks pulled up to the slopes. At après-ski time, keep your eyes peeled for bars serving Hakuba Brewing Company .

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The Epic Pass five-day deal is an ideal sampler pack to check out the valley’s offerings, then go back to your favorite if you stay longer.


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Happo-One, which hosted the 1998 Olympic alpine events, sets the standard with highest vertical relief (3,500 feet) and steeper terrain. It also boasts a rare backcountry gate off the summit. Japan’s safety-conscious culture has made resorts hesitant to allow patrons off marked trails, although that reluctance is slowly changing.

Only venture out the gates if you are equipped to manage avalanche hazards. Consult the Japan Avalanche Network online for the daily avalanche bulletin. In January, professional skier Kyle Smaine died in an avalanche near Myoko that also buried Glacier-based pro skier Adam Ü, who survived, an incident documented by Bellingham-based photographer Grant Gunderson .

Goryu/Hakuba 47, two interconnected resorts, are the second-largest offering after Happo-One and provide a quieter alternative to the Happo scene while still close to town. Both Happo and Goryu have impressive facilities for kids, from indoor play structures made from locally sourced wood to outdoor snow play areas with magic carpets, sleds and snowball makers, that exceed affordable family-friendly offerings at any ski resort I’ve ever visited. Fees varied but typically topped out at 1,000 yen ($7).

Further afield, Cortina and Norikura are favored, if busy, destinations on powder days. Tsugaike caters to beginners, while Iawatake is known for its halfpipe and terrain park.

As every skier knows, winter weather is fickle. It rained one day — the curse of Pacific proximity, something Seattle skiers know too well — and we tried in vain to visit HakuBounce , an indoor trampoline park. Everyone had the same idea — the town could use more attractions on down days from skiing. Though it boasts one truly unique day trip: a chance to observe wild snow monkeys who bathe in hot springs (15,000 yen, or $105, includes lunch).

Changing fortunes

While 1980s and ’90s vintage buildings abound — one reason that property is cheap by global ski town standards — a revival is clearly underway.

On the train ride into Hakuba, I spied a boarded-up nightclub, a ghost from Japan’s ski boom. A new nightlife era dawns in late February and early March, however, when international music festival Snow Machine lands in the valley.

Local families who weathered hard times are riding a fresh tourism wave with new upscale hotels like ski-in, ski-out Starry . Japanese outdoors brand Snow Peak inaugurated a landmark in 2020 with Land Station , a store, restaurant, lodge and campsite designed by top architect Kengo Kuma. (Japanese outdoors brand Montbell also operates a shop upstairs from the Happo Bus Terminal.)

On my trip, I crossed ski tracks with evo founder and CEO Bryce Phillips. It turns out he was scouting properties. In November, the company announced it had purchased a 21-room hotel that will soon get an evo makeover. That move comes on the heels of evo’s 2022 acquisition of Rhythm Japan , a ski and board shop providing Hakuba’s best rentals.

All of which seems to be welcome news for Hakuba residents, who elected a young hospitality professional, Toshiro Maruyama, as mayor last year. As he told Hakuba Connect magazine, “after the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the economy collapsed and Hakuba took a sharp decline. It is unique that Hakuba can use tourism to solve many of the resort’s problems. When the tourism industry is strengthened, Hakuba as a whole benefits.”

ABLE Hakyba Goryu & Hakuba 47 Winter Sports Park : , adult lift tickets 6,500-7,500 yen ($44.05-50.83)

Where else can you ski in Japan?

Japan has over 450 ski areas, but only a handful are worthy of the long journey from the Northwest. Besides Hakuba, here are a few of the top destinations:

Myoko : Visit the other near-Nagano major resort before it becomes unrecognizable. In October, financier Ken Chan announced plans to invest $1.4 billion in what is now being called the next Aspen or St. Moritz. The Ikon Pass is currently accepted at Lotte Arai , a resort run by the same South Korean hospitality outfit behind the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seattle.

Niseko : Average annual snowfall at Niseko, the premier resort on Hokkaido, rivals the likes of Mt. Baker Ski Area : around 600 inches, but with far fewer rain spells. A progressive sidecountry policy makes Niseko the island’s top lift-served destination, and when the sun comes out, neighboring stratovolcano Mount Yōtei is a work of art. With flashy resort vibes, Niseko has Big Whistler Energy. Or maybe it’s just all the Australians. Ikon Pass is valid here, while Epic Pass works down the road at Rusutsu.

Furano : Imagine the Catskills meet the Cascades. The actual ski area is modest and the town is Vermont-adorable, with more ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) than large ski hotels. Deep in the heart of Hokkaido cow country, expect cheese, ice cream and other dairy delights. But then there’s the view: volcanoes rising across the valley, a panorama unlike anything you’ll find in New England. Tour operators offer snowshoe trips to backcountry onsen.

Asahidake : The volcanoes you see from Furano? That’s Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido’s wildest corner. One lonely road dead-ends at the Asahidake Ropeway, a single tram serving two mellow runs. But if the weather clears, an entire alpine playground presents itself for backcountry skiers. Down in the valley, there are only a dozen-odd ryokans with onsen. Yumoto Yukomansou remains an all-time memorable lodging experience, especially the omakase dinner.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

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Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ Resumes Rehearsals 13 Days Before Tokyo Shows

Taylor Swift Resumes Eras Tour Rehearsals Ahead of International Leg

Taylor Swift is back in rehearsals for the next leg of her Eras Tour .

Natalie Lecznar , one of Swift’s Eras Tour dancers, revealed that the singer is officially gearing up to hit the stage once again.

“13 Days. First day of rehearsals for tour,” Lecznar shared via Instagram Stories on Thursday, January 25. “Countdown to Tokyo.”

Swift and her team will be taking a trip to Japan for four tour stops in February before jetting to Australia later that same month. The musician is set to hit everywhere from Japan to Europe on the tour’s international leg, which runs from February to August of this year.

Celebrities Who Had the Time of Their Lives at Taylor Swift s Eras Tour Selena Gomez Emma Stone HAIM and More 260 Sabrina Carpenter and Danielle Fishel.

Related: Celebrities Who Had the Time of Their Lives at Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’

The same day that Swift and her dancers resumed rehearsals happened to be the one year anniversary of the crew’s Eras Tour journey.

“One year ago today, this journey began in a rehearsal room with some of the hardest working, dedicated, and most talented humans!” Lecznar captioned a black-and-white Instagram post of Swift . “Thank you @nopenother for bringing it all together and making us shimmer, and to our fearless leader Taylor Swift, you inspire us all. Thank you for taking us on this world journey with you! See you soon tour fam, See you soon.”

Taylor Swift Resumes Eras Tour Rehearsals Ahead of International Leg

Lecznar gave a special shout-out to famed choreographer Mandy Moore who put together all the Eras Tour moves.

“I love that she is a hard worker, she cares so much about what she’s doing, she wants the fans to have the best show possible, and she stops at nothing to get that done,” Moore told Entertainment Tonight in November 2023 about working with Swift. “And I appreciate it because I like to work hard too, and we are really alike. We had a really good working relationship; it was awesome.”

Swift officially kicked off her Eras Tour in March 2023, months after the now-infamous Ticketmaster debacle which caused chaos among Swifties when many of them were left without tickets.

“It’s really difficult for me to trust an outside entity with these relationships and loyalties, and excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse,” Swift shared in a statement following the incident. “There are a multitude of reasons why people had such a hard time trying to get tickets and I’m trying to figure out how this situation can be improved moving forward.”

Taylor Swift Resumes Eras Tour Rehearsals Ahead of International Leg

While she’s since added various other dates to the Eras Tour lineup, Swift also released a film version of her concert, titled Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour . The movie was nominated for Cinematic and Box Office Achievement at the Golden Globes earlier this month after grossing $250.3 million worldwide at the box office. (The win ultimately went to Barbie .)

Every Time Taylor Swift Eras Tour Became the Errors Tour

Related: Every Time Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ Became the ‘Errors Tour’

The next leg of Swift’s tour overlaps with the NFL postseason. If her boyfriend, Travis Kelce , and the Kansas City Chiefs make it to the Super Bowl , fans are speculating whether Swift will make the trip from Tokyo to Las Vegas, where this year’s big game is being held on February 11.

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Drew Barrymore previously teased that it’s possible Swift make it to the game — even if she flies commercial.

“If she left Tokyo at midnight. The flight time is 11 hours and 35 minutes approximately from Tokyo to Vegas, so she might arrive at 10:30 p.m., but on February 10, leaving her a full night’s sleep,” Barrymore explained during a November 2023 episode of The Drew Barrymore Show .

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Jan. 24, 2024

Rice international students take young adults with special needs on great tour of japan.

GREAT Project 02

Rice University's international students, hailing from diverse corners of the globe, recently took on the role of guides and teachers, bringing a taste of Japan to a special group of Houstonians within the walls of Herring Hall.

“I want this event to be like a traveling experience where they get to feel like they're outside of the U.S. and in Japan for two hours,” said Asahi Obata , a Rice doctoral student who was in charge of the Jan. 20 presentation for the Global RICE Empowers Academics & Training (GREAT) Project .

“The GREAT Project is a project that brings two very unique groups together,” said Adria Baker , the lead of the project, which focuses on education with a country or region as a backdrop. “(It) brings graduate international students and scholars at Rice together to mentor and train young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Asaha Obata, lead volunteer for GREAT Project

Christi Roberts is one of those young adults. She’s been attending GREAT Project presentations since the first one in 2019, which focused on Brazil.

“The people, their personality …. and learning the Portuguese language,” said Roberts, listing the reasons why that presentation was her favorite.

The event series, covering Brazil, China, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Latin America, India and now Japan, transcends traditional presentations. The staff and volunteers from Rice’s Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) follow a well-established template to curate interactive crafts, games and academic exercises tailored to enhance the participants' experience.

“It is so cool when the international students start learning how to teach things differently. They just radiate,” said Baker. “Of course, the participants are radiating because they get international students to be their mentors and friends.”

“It's so much fun,” said Roberts. “You get to learn like a lot of new countries and I just really enjoy it because the teachers teach us (in a way that’s) easy enough for us to understand without the teachers just talking through it.”

Participants were immersed in a 30-minute introduction to Japan by Obata, the doctoral student, who later divided them into groups at four thematic tables representing the seasons.

“In Japan, we have four seasons and in Japanese culture, we celebrate it a lot,” said Obata, explaining why she chose winter, spring, summer and fall as the topics. “For every season, we eat different types of cuisine, we have different events, we have different things that we usually do for each season.”

The hands-on activities ranged from creating origami cherry blossoms at the spring table to savoring sushi and learning Japanese words at the fall table.

“It's just pure joy,” said Baker.

The GREAT Project's innovative approach garnered recognition in 2023, receiving a Heiskell Award  from the Institute of International Education in the category of “Widening Access to International Education.”

“That's given Rice a lot of notoriety for this program,” said Baker. “It's giving other universities the opportunity to replicate what we're doing.”

Looking ahead, Baker and her team of OISS volunteers are already planning the next presentation, set to transport GREAT Project participants to Colombia on Saturday, April 13.

For more details about the program, visit .

Christi Roberts GREAT Project


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