The Essential Guide to 2 Weeks in Japan for First Time Visitors

The Essential Guide to 2 Weeks in Japan for First Time visitors - featured image

As a first time visitor to Japan it can be difficult to put together a two week itinerary which will work for you.  There are so many choices and options!  To help you to develop your own itinerary I have put together three sample itineraries for first timers which can then be easily tailored to suit your particular trip.

My only other comment is don’t be afraid to go off any of these routes!  Every person has different interests, and sometimes it is good to go off route as usually those destinations will be much less crowded – I have included an off route itinerary as the final option to consider (which is actually almost identical to the itinerary we did for our first trip to Japan! – I wanted to make sure we had some ‘mountain time’ on our trip, and I was also keen to see the snow monkeys 😉 ).

If you would prefer to have someone else take care of the bookings there are also quite a few options to book a good quality and affordable package tours.  Click here to check out more information about package tour options for Japan.

Check out my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Your Japan Planning Calendar

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Understanding Japan Distances and Travel Times

When you think about visiting Japan it is a good idea to get your head around the size of Japan and the typical places people visit, and how long it will take you to get around.  The majority of first time visitors to Japan will typically visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka with many also visiting Hiroshima.  The four cities can be visualised as a straight west to east line as you can catch a single train line which stops in all 4 cities.  The distances are travel times are as follows:

  • Tokyo to Kyoto is a 457km / 284 mi distance which takes approximately 2:30 hours on the Shinkansen bullet train. Kyoto does not have an airport, so flights arrive in Osaka
  • Kyoto to Osaka is a 55km / 34 mi distance which takes approximately 30 minutes on the train. The train from Tokyo to Osaka takes approximately 2:50 hours.  Flights from Tokyo to Osaka take approximately 1 hour.
  • Osaka to Hiroshima is a 326km/203km distance which takes approximately 1:45 hours on the Shinkansen bullet train.


To catch the fastest Shinkansen bullet train (the Nozumi, which is not covered by the JR Pass) from Tokyo to Hiroshima you can travel the 816km / 507 mi distance in 4 hours at a cost of 17000-24000 Yen ($US 150-215 / $A190-270) per one way ticket.  By comparison you can also fly from Tokyo to Hiroshima directly which is a 1:20 hr flight at a cost from $US100 / $A127 upwards.

When you plan your Japan itinerary you should therefore consider transportation options to minimise back tracking which will then save you time and money on your trip.  Also, if you are considering Japan Rail train pass options you should also build your itinerary to maximise the value of your pass – more on that later!  Check out my article on how to purchase the cheapest Japan Rail Pass for latest prices.

Flights to Japan

Skyscanner is a great option to find the best value flights for your trip to Japan.  Click on the below airfare finder box to find the flights which will best suit your planned trip to Japan.

Three 2 Week Itineraries for First Time Visitors to Japan

The three proposed two week itineraries for first time visitors to Japan are summarised below, with further details to follow:

  • The ‘Classic’ Golden Route First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka
  • The ‘Extended’ First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Mt Fuji/Hakone Region, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima
  • The ‘Japanese Alps’ First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Kyoto, Japanese Alps, Snow Monkeys

When you are planning your trip you may also be interested in checking out my article – Best Time to Visit Japan Including Tokyo, Kyoto and Sapporo.

The ‘Classic’ Golden Route First Time Japan Trip – Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka 2 Week Itinerary

For first time visitors to Japan the main sights most people want to see are Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima.  The great thing is that each of these cities is well connected by the shinkansen or bullet train system and you can travel quickly between cities.

My sample 2 week itinerary for Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima is as detailed below.  Obviously the specific activities for each day also need to be further considered based upon your particular interests and the events available during your visit.  An advantage of this itinerary is that you have a bit more time in each location to explore, rather than moving around every couple of days.

  • Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo
  • Day 2 – Explore Tokyo – Tour
  • Day 3 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 4 – Disneysea/Disneyland or day tour to Mt Fuji
  • Day 5 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 6 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 7 – Catch train to Kyoto (2:30 hrs), Gion evening tour
  • Day 8 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 9 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 10 – Catch train to Osaka (0:30 hrs). Explore Osaka
  • Day 11 – Universal Studios
  • Day 12 – Explore Osaka – Nara Day Tour
  • Day 13 – Day tour to Hiroshima
  • Day 14 – Depart Osaka

If you prefer to travel independently it is easy to book your own accommodation and transport.  This itinerary is also optimised to make best use out of a seven day Japan Rail pass – you start using the JR Pass on day 7 and finish using it on day 13.

Inside the tunnel of Japanese Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha , Kyoto Japan
Inside the tunnel of Japanese Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha , Kyoto Japan

The ‘Extended’ First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Mt Fuji/Hakone Region, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima

The ‘Extended’ itinerary for Japan enables you to see more areas of Japan, however you will not have much time in each location.

  • Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo
  • Day 2 – Explore Tokyo – Tour
  • Day 3 – Disneysea/Disneyland
  • Day 4 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 5 – Catch Shinkansen to Mt Fuji (Odawara Station – 0:35 hrs). Stay in onsen
  • Day 6 – Explore Mt Fuji / Hakone region
  • Day 7 – Catch train to Kyoto (2:15 hrs). Explore Kyoto, Gion evening tour
  • Day 8 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 9 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 10 – Catch train to Osaka in morning (0:30 hrs), Explore Osaka in afternoon / evening.
  • Day 11 – Universal Studios or day trip to Nara
  • Day 12 – Catch train to Hiroshima
  • Day 13 – Explore Hiroshima
  • Day 14 – Depart Hiroshima

If you prefer to travel independently it is easy to book your own accommodation and transport.  This itinerary is also optimised to make best use out of a seven day Japan Rail pass – you start using the JR Pass on day 7 and finish using it on day 12, and purchase a separate train ticket from Tokyo to Mt Fuji.

Mt. Fuji viewed from Chureito Pagoda in Japan
Mt. Fuji viewed from Chureito Pagoda in Japan

The ‘Japanese Alps’ First Time Japan Trip Itinerary – Tokyo, Kyoto, Japanese Alps and Snow Monkeys

The ‘Japanese Alps’ itinerary for Japan enables you to spend time in Tokyo and Kyoto, and then check out the mountains around the Nagano area (which is north west from Tokyo), as well as stopping by to see the snow monkeys.  Note that this route can only be travelled when the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is open between mid April to late November each year.

  • Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo
  • Day 2 – Explore Tokyo – Tour
  • Day 3 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 4 – Disneysea/Disneyland or day tour to Mt Fuji
  • Day 5 – Explore Tokyo
  • Day 6 – Catch train to Kyoto (2:30 hrs), Gion evening tour
  • Day 7 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 8 – Explore Kyoto
  • Day 9 – Day trip to Universal Studios in Osaka
  • Day 10 – Catch train to Toyama (3:10 hrs). Explore Toyama.
  • Day 11 – Do Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route day trip – one way trip (8-9 hours). Lodge luggage for one way transfer to Shinano Omachi Station.  Note that this route is only open from mid April to late November each year.
  • Day 12 – Catch bus to Nagano, explore Nagano. Catch train to Shibu Onsen.
  • Day 13 – Visit snow monkeys, explore onsen town
  • Day 14 – Catch train to Tokyo (explore Nagano enroute) and depart from Tokyo

If you prefer to travel independently it is easy to book your own accommodation and transport.  This itinerary is also optimised to make best use out of a seven day Japan Rail pass – you start using the JR Pass on day 9 and finish using it on day 14, and purchase a separate train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Japan
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Japan

Hopefully you now have a much better perspective on some of the itinerary options and tour packages which are available for a 2 week stay in Japan for first timers.

The Essential Guide to 2 Weeks in Japan for First Time Visitors

Check out my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – you are welcome to join and it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Your Japan Planning Calendar
Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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