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7 Best Japan Study Abroad Programs

June 14, 2023

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P assionate about ancient history, a diverse culture, modern advancements, and incredible natural landscapes? Then a study abroad adventure in Japan is the perfect opportunity for you.   

Read on as we list seven of our best Japan study abroad programs – you won’t want to miss it!  

Why Study Abroad in Japan   

Japan is an incredible country. Known for its intriguing mix of old and new, there’s much to discover during a Japan study abroad trip.   

With CIEE, you’ll have the chance to not only explore Japan but also take some pretty incredible courses that dive deep into a variety of subjects. This is one experience you’ll be reminiscing on for a lifetime.  

The Top 7 Best Japan Study Abroad Programs   

CIEE currently offers seven amazing study abroad programs in Japan – take note of the program details here to decide which program makes the most sense for your personal and academic goals as well as your schedule. We have a diverse mix of offerings, so you have the freedom to choose! 

Read More: What are Your Goals for Studying Abroad?  

Program #1: Ancient + Modern Japan (Kyoto)    

If you’re interested in learning new languages and exploring culture and history, look no further than our Ancient + Modern Japan program in the city of Kyoto .   

As one of the oldest cities in the world and the former capital of Japan, Kyoto is known as the cultural hub of Japan. Here, you’ll gain a unique insight into its ancient history, tradition, religion, and more while simultaneously learning about the city’s present-day culture. This is a truly diverse and rewarding study abroad program.  

And, w ith CIEE, you’ll have the chance to select from a wide range of courses, as well as go on guided cultural excursions to places like the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds and the iconic Nishiki Market! 

japan women kimonos

Program #2: Arts + Sciences (Tokyo)  

Our varied Arts + Sciences program takes place in the bustling capital of Japan, Tokyo , with a variety of course options from art , history , and philosophy to business , economics, and STEM classes . So, you’ll have the chance to study just about anything with this Japan study abroad program. And doing it in one of the busiest and liveliest cities in the world is a huge plus.  

With CIEE, you’ll get to go on exciting excursions to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and the Tokyo Skytree and study alongside tons of other international students at Sophia University, one of Japan’s leading institutions. 

Program details:  

  • Length : 18 weeks  
  • Credit : 15-16 semester hours /22.5-24 quarter hours  
  • Eligibility : 2.75 Overall GPA  
  • Cost : $26,950  

Program #3: Open Campus Block (Kyoto)    

Build your own study abroad program in Japan in one of the most well-preserved historical cities in the world, Kyoto, with our Open Campus Block option . You’ll have the chance to choose one, two, or up to three consecutive six-week block sessions and take courses that fit your academic interests like language, technology, and more.  

Plus, with CIEE you’ll get to go on exciting excursions to places like the Ryoanji Garden and try Kyoto’s iconic Uji green tea.  

Program details:   

  • Length : S ix to 18 weeks 
  • Credit : 6-7 per Block semester hours/9-10.5 per Block quarter hours  
  • Eligibility : 2.5 Overall GPA  
  • Cost : $6,950 per Block 

Program #4: Summer Global Internship (Tokyo)    

Gain practical real-world work experience with our Summer Global Internship program in Tokyo. You’ll get to work alongside professionals in an industry you’re passionate about, gain intercultural skills, and develop a global network – this is one opportunity you don’t want to miss.  

As one of the most innovative and dynamic cities in the world, you’ll get to learn all about Tokyo’s modern business practices. Bonus: This city serves as the headquarters for some of the top brands in the world, including Sony, Toyota Motor, and Honda.  

  • Length : Eight weeks  
  • Credit : 6 semester hours/9 quarter hours  
  • Cost : $6,950   

downtown city nightlife japan

Program #5: Summer Japanese Studies (Tokyo)    

Spend part of your summer in the lively city of Tokyo! With our Summer Japanese Studies program, you’ll have the chance to dive deep into Japanese art, history, and culture while also gaining insight into modern-day Japan with courses like Modernizing Ancient Japan, Japanese Popular Culture, and Religion in Japan.  

As with all of our Japan study abroad programs , you’ll get to go on fascinating cultural excursions to a Japanese baseball game and trips outside of Tokyo to Akihabara and Shibuya where you’ll get a firsthand look into the core of manga and anime as well as boundless shopping opportunities.  

Program details:  

  • Length : Six weeks  
  • Cost : $8,650  

Program #6: Summer Ancient + Modern Japan (Kyoto)  

If you’re looking for a summer adventure, consider our Summer Ancient + Modern Japan in beautiful Kyoto.  

While the city is known for its cultural traditions, Kyoto is also a fascinating modern metropolis, featuring companies like Nintendo and Q-Games. With our Summer Ancient + Modern Japan study abroad program, you’ll get to learn both sides of this incredible city.  

  • Cost : $6,650  

Program #7: January in Kyoto  

If you’re interested in a short-term study abroad program in Japan, consider our January in Kyoto option. Known for its many temples, teahouses, beautiful natural landscapes, and more, Kyoto is the perfect place to get a n authentic taste of Japanese culture.  

  • Length : Three weeks  
  • Credit : 3 semester hours/4.5 quarter hours  
  • Cost : $3,950  

students at temple japan

How to Study Abroad in Japan   

The steps to enroll in a Japan study abroad program are simple!  

Step #1: Choose Where You Want to Go   

The first step to your Japan study abroad program is deciding which incredible city you want to go to , Kyoto or Tokyo. While the two locations are different, they both promise to be exciting adventures.  

Read More: 2 Best Places to Study Abroad in Japan  

Step #2: Pick Your Dream Program  

Once you’ve decided between Kyoto and Tokyo (we know it’s a tough choice), you’ll need to explore our different study abroad program offerings in each city to find one that really speaks to you.  

And we offer several in both Kyoto and Tokyo, so take a close look and make sure your program of choice aligns with your personal and academic goals. 

Step #3: Explore Scholarship Options  

We get it. The cost of a study abroad trip might be overwhelming, but with CIEE, our one-time program fee covers most expenses including:   

  • Tuition  
  • Housing  
  • Pre-departure advising   
  • Orientation  
  • On-site staff and 24/7 emergency support  
  • Culture and co-curricular activities  
  • Travel protection   

We also offer millions in scholarships and grants each year to make studying abroad a reality for as many students as we can. Check out our How to Apply For a Scholarship page to see what type of financial aid you might be eligible for. We’re always available for questions too.  

Step #4: Start and Complete Your Application  

The last step to your dream Japan study abroad program is the easiest one: Applying! Our How to Apply page walks you through each of the application steps. We’re happy to help too. 

tokyo street shopping

Read More: How to Study Abroad in Japan  

Get on Your Way  

A Japanese study abroad adventure is calling! Ready to take the next step and make your dreams come true?  

EXPLORE JAPAN STUDY ABROAD  

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14 Days in Japan: Japan Golden Route Itinerary For First Timers

travel abroad japan

Wondering how to spend 14 days in Japan? I have prepared a detailed Japan itinerary for 14 days that covers Japan’s Golden Route, which is perfect for first-time visitors.

Japan , also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, is a fascinating country in East Asia. It is known for its unique blend of ancient traditions and modern technology, stunning natural landscapes, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality.

Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo , admiring the historic sites of Kyoto , or immersing yourself in the tranquility of rural Japan, the country offers a wide range of experiences that cater to various interests.

This 14 days Japan itinerary will help you unlock the best of Japan while exploring popular tourist destinations that blend perfectly with the hidden gems of Japan. I will add additional travel tips for Japan, like the best places to stay, the coolest restaurants, fun things to do, unique experiences and so much more.

This Japan travel guide will ensure that you make the most of your trip and cover Japan’s Golden Route in the most convenient way. Basically, everything that you need to know before visiting Japan, you will find here. 

*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at  no extra cost  to you.

Where to go in Japan for 14 days? (Itinerary overview)

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Day 1 – 4: Tokyo Day 4 – 6: Mt Fuji Day 6 – 11: Kyoto (day trip Nara+Uji) Day 11 – 13: Osaka (half-day trip Himeji) Day 13 – 14: Hiroshima Day 14: Departure 

This is your itinerary for 14 days in Japan at a glance. I will share the best things to do, where to stay, and some restaurant recommendations together with cool experiences in Japan. And the best ways to reach each destination on this Japan itinerary.

Remember, you can follow this itinerary starting from Tokyo or Osaka (or in reverse) if it suits your needs. Or you can fly in Tokyo and fly out of Osaka – this way you will save some time on your last day.

Are you excited to discover Japan and plan an unforgettable trip to Japan for 14 days? Because I am, so keep on reading!

Is 14 days enough for Japan?

travel abroad japan

With a well-planned itinerary, 14 days in Japan provide ample time to experience the essence of this remarkable country. From iconic cities to delectable sushi and unforgettable adventures, you can make the most of your trip. 

In this itinerary, we will cover how to spend 14 days in Japan and how to maximize your time in this amazing country. I will add some optional stops, so this itinerary suits different travelers and interests.

Keep in mind that for a comprehensive exploration of Japan, it is advisable to extend your stay to at least one month. Especially if you want to include some relaxing time during your trip and remote areas.

What is Japan’s Golden Route?

travel abroad japan

Japan’s Golden Route is a popular itinerary that allows travelers to experience the best of the country in 14 days. The route typically follows the Shinkansen (bullet train) line from Tokyo to the southern regions, encompassing a variety of iconic and historically significant destinations.

This well-established route ensures that you don’t miss out on the must-see attractions across the “Country of the Rising Sun.” From the bustling metropolis of Tokyo to the cultural treasure trove of Kyoto, and everything in between, the Golden Route promises a diverse and unforgettable journey through Japan.

And this 14-day Japan itinerary for first-timers will help you explore Japan’s Golden Route in the most convenient way.

How to move around Japan in 14 days?

travel abroad japan

Japan is renowned for its efficient and reliable train and public transport system, which makes getting around the country a breeze. The extensive network of trains, including the famous Shinkansen, connects major cities and regions, allowing travelers to navigate easily and swiftly.

In addition to trains, Japan’s public transport system, including buses and subways, is well-developed and user-friendly. With clear signage, helpful staff, and English language support in many areas, you can confidently explore Japan’s cities and towns using public transportation. 

Despite the recent price rise for the JR pass, I still recommend you purchase it in order to get the best out of your 14 days in Japan itinerary. This convenience adds to the overall ease and enjoyment of your journey through this incredible country. Purchase 14 day JR pass here.

Renting a car in Japan is generally not necessary, especially if you plan to follow the Golden Route or explore major cities. It can be expensive, and the road signs and driving customs in Japan may be unfamiliar to visitors, making it a less favorable option for most travelers. Therefore, relying on Japan’s excellent public transport system is highly recommended for a hassle-free and enjoyable trip.

However, if you prefer to drive and explore some additional areas, find your rental here .

Day 1 – 4: Tokyo

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Tokyo, the legendary capital of Japan, has a population of 35 million, making it one of the most exciting megacities in the world. It is a city where the past meets the present and the present meets the future. On top of that, Tokyo is a city that never sleeps and that offers something for everyone.

When you spend 14 days in Japan, make sure to spend at least 4 days in the capital in order to explore Japanese culture. You can climb up to the tallest tower in the world, eat your way through Japanese cuisine, explore old temples, or dive into the anime and manga world. 

Best things to do in Tokyo

travel abroad japan

Tokyo is a city of multiple personalities so here are some of the best things to do in Tokyo that you will want to add to your itinerary.

Asakusa is a must-visit destination in Tokyo for its rich cultural and historical significance. Here you can find Sanso-Ji which is the oldest temple in Tokyo. Senso-Ji is famous also for Nakamise-Dori, which is one of the oldest market streets in Japan.

Despite the huge population, Tokyo boasts some of the largest parks in the world. Ueno Park is one of the most popular spots where locals and tourists find a relaxing oasis in the busy capital. The district of Ueno must be included in your 14 days in Japan to pay a visit to the Tokyo National Museum and the local market.

Embrace your style and hunt for shopping in the quirky district of Harajuku, which is the fashion capital of Japan. Harajuku is also home to Yoyogi Park, another famous park in Tokyo. Inside Yoyogi Park, walk your way to Meiji Jingu, one of the most famous temples in Japan.

If you are into anime, manga, or video games passionate head to Akihabara where you will feel right at home. While Akihabara Electric Town is one of the best places to spend a night in Tokyo and dive into Japanese Pop Culture. Shinjuku is another fantastic place where to spend a crazy night at one of the million Karaoke, restaurants or clubs.

Ride the elevators of the Tokyo Skytree Tower, Roppongi Hills, or the iconic Tokyo Tower to see a different view of the capital. Here you can take your perfect postcard of the Japanese capital and have a great memory of your 2 weeks in Japan.

Unique experiences in Tokyo

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There are so many unique experiences to do in Tokyo that cater to a wide range of interests. Here are a few examples of the diverse and exciting activities you can enjoy during your 14 days in Japan.

RELATED : 13 Best Tokyo Tours: Fun and Unique Experiences in Tokyo

Where to eat in Tokyo

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Tokyo is the city with the highest amount of Michelin restaurants in the world, and you’d need a lifetime to try them all, here is a little list of popular places to try in Tokyo.

Sushizanmai is one of the best restaurants in Tokyo and a real icon to try sushi in the capital of Japan. The quality of the fish is on top and the price is still very reasonable. Obviously, this makes it one of the busiest restaurants in the capital, so you need to be a bit patient to enjoy your delicious meal. There is the main branch and other 2 locations in Tokyo.

If you are a meat lover, Han No Daidokoro is the right place to be. This typical Japanese restaurant has a wide selection of local high-quality meat. The ambiance is lovely and the service is professional. All this comes with a cost since it’s a bit expensive, but once you will try their dishes you will understand why.

Tonkatsu Maisen Aoyama is another legendary restaurant in Tokyo you can’t miss, especially if you are craving Tonkatsu. The meat is incredibly tender and the crumbs are delightfully crispy. Once again I recommend you get there early as this is another hot spot in Tokyo.

Ramen is another specialty you should try, so head to Nakiryu, which is one of the best ramen restaurants in Tokyo. The wait is totally worth it since the food is really outstanding. It is generously topped with a lot of high-quality ingredients including three different kinds of barbecued pork.

A trip to Japan comes with unique and fun experiences and ZAUO SHINJUKU is the perfect place to get a taste of it. Here you will see a pond with fish and you will have the chance to hook up your own fish and ask the cook to prepare it the way you like the most. This is a unique experience for an unforgettable meal.

Where to stay in Tokyo

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If you are looking for a home away from home, make sure you check Mimaru Hotels . They have multiple properties available around Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo and they are one of the top-rated hotels in Japan.

Mimaru offers modern accommodations with a Japanese touch in the most strategic locations of the city, so it is suitable for any kind of traveler. It also stands out in terms of hospitality and amenities. 

The accommodations at Mimaru are real flats providing all the amenities and comfort for short and long stays. It is a great hotel for families or bigger groups as well since most of the hotels offer connected rooms.

According to your preference and itinerary, you can choose the most convenient location. Here are my top 3 recommendations and the best places to stay in Tokyo.

RELATED : 13 Incredible Hotels With Tokyo Tower View In Tokyo

MIMARU TOKYO UENO OKACHIMACHI

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Strategically located near the station of Ueno, this is the perfect location to blend in an authentic and lively area and be connected with the rest of the city. The apartments are perfectly equipped for short and long stays, for couples and big groups. The hotel also boasts a unique Ninja Room.

MIMARU TOKYO ASAKUSA STATION

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Asakusa is one of the best areas to stay in Tokyo and this hotel lies exactly in the heart of it. The position and the high quality of the accommodations make this a perfect choice for a Tokyo vacation. If you want to spoil yourself, you can take an apartment with an epic river view.

Mimaru Tokyo Hatchobori

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Despite the fantastic location in the heart of Chuo, this is probably the most affordable Mimaru Hotel in Tokyo. Without giving up the high standards of Mimaru Hotels. It’s especially exciting that they offer a Pokemon-themed room. This would be a fantastic option for fans of the franchise, adding an extra touch of fun and nostalgia to their stay. 

Day 4 – 6: Mt Fuji

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Mount Fuji, or Mr. Fuji (Fujisan) as the Japanese call it, is probably the most iconic symbol of Japan. A perfect 14-day in Japan itinerary must include a stop to meet this famous volcano.

When visiting Mount Fuji, the Region of the Five Lakes (Fujigoko) is an excellent place to stay. This region offers stunning views of the mountain and is surrounded by five beautiful lakes: Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Yamanaka, Lake Saiko, Lake Shoji, and Lake Motosu. Each lake has its own charm and attractions.

When planning your 14-day itinerary in Japan, consider allocating a few days to explore the Region of the Five Lakes and Mount Fuji. This will give you ample time to admire the mountain, engage in outdoor activities, and immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery of the area.

How to get from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji?

How to get from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji?

There are several ways to get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji, so here is a quick summary that will help you find the most convenient way for your own travel style and budget.

Train : Take the JR Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station to Shin-Fuji Station or Fuji Station, then transfer to the Fujikyu Railway Line to Mount Fuji Station. This route takes around 2.5 hours and costs about 3,800 yen. Purchase 14 day JR pass here , however, keep in mind that it doesn’t cover Fujikyu Railway Line.

Bus : Several bus companies operate daily services from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. The journey takes around 2.5 hours and costs around 2,000 yen. You can purchase tickets here.

Car : You can rent a car in Tokyo and drive to Mount Fuji. The journey takes around 2.5 hours, but please be aware that traffic can be heavy during peak travel periods. Find your rental here.

Tour : Many tour companies offer day trips from Tokyo to Mount Fuji, including transportation and a guide. This can be a convenient option for those who want to see the mountain but do not want to navigate public transportation. This is one of the best-selling tours to Mt Fuji.

Taking the train is the most convenient and popular way to get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. However, taking a tour may be the easiest way for those who do not want to navigate transportation on their own.

Best things to do in Mt Fuji

Best things to do in Mt Fuji

The town of Fujikawaguchiko is the perfect place to snap an iconic photo of Fujisan. Wake up early to take a photo with a reflection on the water, or frame the mountain with cherry blossoms or autumn colors.

Another iconic location that you find in every Japanese guide is the Pagoda Chureito. This spectacular pagoda offers a stunning view of Mount Fuji and it is the best of Japan in 14 days.

Visiting Iyashi no Sato village will give you the chance to discover a unique open-air museum. This village is now composed of more than 20 houses that have been converted into museums, restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Hakone lies in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park less than a hundred kilometers from Tokyo and it’s a great place to have an iconic view of Mt Fuji. Hakone is also famous for its great number of hot springs and the Hakone Shrine. 

If you are visiting Japan in 14 days with kids, or you like amusement parks, Fuji-Q Highland is one of the fun things to do at Mount Fuji. This is one of the most famous amusement parks in Japan and you will be able to join the attraction of the park with an epic view of Mount Fuji.

Also, Fuji Shibazakura Festival is a magic festival where the Region of Five Lakes blooms and is one of the best and most loved events nationwide. If you visit Japan in 14 days between April and May you simply can’t miss this fantastic event.

Where to eat in Mt Fuji

Where to eat in Mt Fuji

When visiting Mount Fuji and the Region of the Five Lakes, you’ll find a variety of dining options to suit different tastes and preferences. Here are some recommendations for places to eat in the area.

Hotou Fudou is the place to go to try the flavors of the region. Try a bowl of Hot noodles to warm up on a cold day. There is one near the Kawaguchiko station and one in Fujikawaguchiko.

のん兵 is an Izakaya restaurant offering simple and delicious food in a typical Japanese environment. It’s cheap, quick, and always a good idea.

Japanese cuisine Fumi of the village “Kokorogi” is a place where to experience a fine dining experience and find some fine spirit labels.

If you are dreaming to get back to the old Japanese spirit, don’t miss Sanrokuen. An unforgettable dining experience that will take you back in time with style.

For modern and delicious sushi, head to Shaw’s Sushi Bar & Dining. The lovely environment and the quality of the food justify a slightly higher price compared to other locations.

Where to stay in Mt Fuji

Where to stay in Mt Fuji

When choosing where to stay in the Mount Fuji area, consider your preferences, budget, and the attractions you plan to visit. It’s also worth noting that during peak seasons, such as cherry blossom or autumn foliage seasons, accommodations can fill up quickly, so it’s advisable to book in advance.

Here are some recommended places to stay in the Mt Fuji area.

Fujikawaguchiko Onsen Konanso 

travel abroad japan

Are you looking for the best accommodation with a view of Mount Fuji? Don’t look any further! Fujikawaguchiko Onsen Konanso is a spectacular hotel built in Japanese style offering private Onsen with a jaw-dropping view of Mr. Fuji. It obviously comes with a price, but there is nothing better than Onsen Konanso to make your Golden Route Japan itinerary unforgettable .

Hotel New Century

travel abroad japan

If you are looking for a view of Mount Fuji at a more affordable price, this is your way to go! This hotel is modernly built in a traditional Japanese style and is conveniently located near the Kawaguchiko Train Station. The epic views of Mount Fuji are spectacular, especially from the Luxury suite.

Wafu Guesthouse Kashiwaya

travel abroad japan

If you don’t want to kill your finances, but still care about quality accommodations and warm hospitality this has to be your choice! It is located in a strategic position near Kawaguchiko station. Rooms are essential and exquisitely Japanese. Complimentary bread and coffee are served for breakfast.

RELATED : 15 Epic Hotels with a Mount Fuji View in Japan

Day 6 – 10: Kyoto (day trip Nara+Uji)

travel abroad japan

Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and a city of timeless charm, it is part of every Golden Route Japan itinerary. Visiting Kyoto means diving into the ancient Japanese culture at its best as it is the city where most of the old Japanese traditions start, like the famous tea ceremony.

In this Japan itinerary for 14 days, you will have to spend at least 4 nights seeing the essentials of Kyoto and visiting some surrounding areas like Nara and Uji.

RELATED : 25 Best Photo Spots in Kyoto That You Must Visit

How to get from Mt. Fuji to Kyoto?

How to get from Mt. Fuji to Kyoto?

To travel from Mount Fuji to Kyoto, you have several transportation options available. Here are a few common methods. Taking the train is the most convenient and popular way to get from Mount Fuji to Kyoto.

Train : Take the Fujikyu Railway Line from Mount Fuji Station to Mishima Station, then transfer to the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Kyoto Station. This route takes around 3.5 to 4 hours and costs about 12,000 yen. Purchase 14 day JR pass here , however, keep in mind that it doesn’t cover Fujikyu Railway Line.

Bus : Several bus companies operate daily services from Mount Fuji to Kyoto. The journey takes around 7 hours and costs around 7,000 yen, however, it is a long way and not the most convenient way. You can purchase tickets here.

Car : You can rent a car in Mount Fuji and drive to Kyoto. The journey takes around 4.5 hours, but please be aware that traffic can be heavy during peak travel periods. Find your rental here.

RELATED : 18 Best Free Things to Do in Kyoto + Kyoto Budget Tips

Best things to do in Kyoto

Best things to do in Kyoto

Kyoto is renowned for its abundance of shrines and temples, and exploring them is a highlight of any visit to the city. Fushimi Inari, with its famous torii gate pathway, Kiyomizu-dera overlooking the city, and the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) are all iconic sites that showcase the beauty of Kyoto’s religious architecture.

Nishiki Market is a must-visit for food lovers and those interested in traditional craftsmanship and shopping. The market offers a wide array of local and seasonal ingredients, street food, and unique local products. It’s a fantastic place to immerse yourself in Japanese culinary traditions and explore the rich heritage of Kyoto’s craftsmanship.

Arashiyama, located on the outskirts of Kyoto, offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and architectural wonders. The Bamboo Forest is a mesmerizing pathway that leads you through towering bamboo groves, while the Sagano Romantic Train provides a scenic journey through picturesque landscapes.

When it comes to dining, Pontocho, and Gion are vibrant districts that offer a range of dining options, from traditional Japanese cuisine to modern interpretations. Pontocho is famous for its narrow alleys lined with restaurants, while Gion is renowned for its historical atmosphere and the possibility of spotting geishas.

Higashiyama-ku, located in eastern Kyoto, is a district where you can truly appreciate the exquisite beauty of Japanese feudal-era architecture. Its traditional streets, wooden machiya houses, and preserved temples and gardens transport you back in time, offering a glimpse of Kyoto’s rich history.

For a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and history, a visit to the Samurai Museum can be enlightening. It showcases the samurai’s role in shaping Japanese society and offers exhibits and interactive experiences to learn about their traditions and way of life.

RELATED : Complete Kyoto Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Kyoto

Unique experiences in Kyoto

Unique experiences in Kyoto

Kyoto is truly a treasure trove of Japanese culture and traditions. From its ancient temples and shrines to its preserved historical districts, the city offers a rich tapestry of experiences for those seeking to immerse themselves in Japanese culture. Here are some key highlights that make Kyoto an amusement park for culture enthusiasts.

RELATED : Best Kyoto Tours: Unique Experiences in Kyoto That You Don’t Want to Miss

Where to eat in Kyoto

Where to eat in Kyoto

Kyoto is a city with countless restaurants, and it’s essential to choose wisely where to eat in order to get the best of your Japan itinerary.

For delicious ramen head to Honke Daiichi-Asahi located near the Kyoto station. This place has been serving ramen since 1947 and still going strong. If you want to twist your ramen, check Fire Ramen, where a cascade of fire will spice up your bowl.

For the freshest sushi, head to Nishiki Market. Here you can find Kimura Fresh Fish serving delicious sushi and sashimi in an informal environment, or 錦 鮨しん for something classy and unforgettable.

Kichi Kichi Omurice and 🦆🍜 are two restaurants serving Omurice and duck noodles which became popular thanks to Instagram. But they stayed popular thanks to the high quality of food and they will be delicious experiences.

For a fine dining experience head to Enen and try one of the best wagyu of your life! The fancy environment and the fantastic service will complete the experience.

Where to stay in Kyoto?

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By now you know that I am a big fan of Mimaru Hotels as they are known for providing a unique blend of traditional and modern Japanese elements, offering guests a home-away-from-home experience.

Whether it’s the cozy tatami mats, sliding doors, or the availability of kitchen facilities, staying at a Mimaru hotel can enhance your experience. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking a more immersive and authentic accommodation option while exploring Japan.

Here is the list of the best hotels in Kyoto.

MIMARU Kyoto Nijo Castle (Formerly Known as MIMARU Kyoto Horikawa Rokkaku)

Where to stay in Kyoto for 3 days?

This was my choice during my time in Kyoto. Conveniently located a few steps away from the castle and the Sanjo shopping arcade, MIMARU Kyoto Nijo Castle is a perfect place to sightseeing and see an authentic side of Kyoto.

Outside the hotel, you will also find several bus lines connecting to the main attractions in Kyoto, including the Golden Temple.

Guests can also relax on the terrace on the last floor of the hotel, maybe while sipping a Nespresso Coffee available in the reception.

MIMARU Kyoto Station

Where to stay in Kyoto for 3 days?

This is the most ideal location to explore other cities like Nara and Osaka, but also Kyoto itself, since there is a bus station just outside the hotel.

MIMARU Kyoto Station provides some unique accommodations like a room with a city view, where you can see the Shinkansen departing and arriving in the town. It also boasts a Pokemon room.

Due to the location and rooms, this is probably the best choice for a long stay in Kyoto. And it can accommodate up to 14 people in the Connecting Family apartment.

MIMARU Kyoto Shinmachi Sanjo

Where to stay in Kyoto for 3 days?

Conveniently located between the Nijo Castle and the Nishiki Market, this hotel lies in a very authentic yet comfortable area in Kyoto. This makes it perfect to have a relaxed stay in Kyoto, without giving up a strategic location.

Like the Mimaru station, MIMARU Kyoto Shinmachi Sanjo also boasts a unique Pokemon room. You can also find a connecting apartment of 80 m² that can accommodate up to 12 people.

MIMARU SUITES Kyoto Central

Where to stay in Kyoto for 3 days?

MIMARU SUITES Kyoto Central is located between Kyoto Castle and Nishiki Market, with easy access to all the Kyoto heritage. This makes it perfect for visitors who have 3 days in Kyoto or less.

The Three-Bedroom Japanese Suite is a wonderful example of Japanese design and style and can accommodate up to 6 people.

MIMARU Kyoto Nishinotoin Takatsuj

Where to stay in Kyoto for 3 days?

MIMARU Kyoto Nishinotoin Takatsuj stands between the Nijo Castle and the Kyoto Station, in a lively area full of restaurants and bars. Despite not being in the heart of the city, the Kyoto Heritage is easily accessible. All the main attractions in the city are well connected to the hotel.

This makes it a great location to explore local traditional restaurants, without the crowd of most tourist places. Also, the MIMARU Kyoto Nishinotoin Takatsuj boasts a Pokemon room, that can accommodate up to 6 people.

MIMARU SUITES KYOTO SHIJO

Where to stay in Kyoto for 3 days?

MIMARU SUITES KYOTO SHIJO lies between the Nishiki Market and the Kyoto station, and it’s served by a subway line and several bus lines. That makes it perfect for sightseeing and exploring the Kansai region since the station is very close. 

The apartments here are very spacious and can accommodate big groups of up to 6 people.

RELATED : 13 Best Ryokan in Kyoto with Private Onsen That Will Blow Your Mind

Day trip to Nara and Uji

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When you spend 2 weeks in Japan, you want to add a day trip from Kyoto to Nara and Uji. You can either visit both of these towns on separate day trips or combine them together, which is a great option if you are on the clock and don’t have a lot of time to explore the surroundings of Kyoto.

Nara is known for its friendly and freely roaming deer as well as its historical significance as the first capital of Japan. It has well-connected public transport, which makes it one of the best day trips from Kyoto.

Spend the day exploring Nara Park, where you can encounter the friendly deer that roam freely. Visit iconic attractions like Todai-ji Temple, home to the Great Buddha, and Kasuga Taisha Shrine with its beautiful lanterns.

RELATED : How to Plan a Day Trip to Nara? + One Day Nara Itinerary

While Uji is a beautiful city located just south of Kyoto, known for its rich history of tea cultivation and its association with matcha.

Take a day trip from Kyoto to Uji, which is easily accessible by train from Kyoto Station. Upon arriving in Uji, make your way to Byodo-In Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its stunning architecture and serene surroundings. Explore the temple grounds and learn about its historical significance.

After visiting Byodo-In Temple, take the opportunity to experience Uji’s tea culture. Visit traditional tea houses and sample locally produced matcha, which is known for its high quality. You can also participate in a tea ceremony to gain a deeper understanding of the art of tea preparation.

RELATED : How to Plan a Day Trip to Uji? + One Day Uji Itinerary

Day 11 – 13: Osaka (half-day trip Himeji)

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Osaka is known as the “Nation’s Kitchen” due to its vibrant food culture and delicious cuisine. However, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the city beyond eating. At the top of the list is Osaka Castle, which is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan and a must-visit attraction in Osaka.

Dotonbori and Shinsekai are not just food havens but also vibrant areas for shopping and entertainment. Visiting Osaka means also taking a glimpse at modern Japan, and appreciating the modern architecture of Umeda Skybuilldng. This is also the best place to catch a sunset over the city.

Osaka keeps also an intimate historical side after the castle that sometimes tourist miss. Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine and Nakazakichō area are perfect examples to find historical Japanese architecture.

And a day trip to Himeji is a popular highlight when visiting Osaka. Himeji is a city located in Hyogo Prefecture, just a short distance away from Osaka. The main attraction in Himeji is Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Japan’s most beautiful and well-preserved castles.

RELATED : 15 Best Photo Spots in Osaka That You Can’t Miss

How to get from Kyoto to Osaka?

How to get from Kyoto to Osaka?

Getting from Kyoto to Osaka is convenient and straightforward. There are several transportation options available.

Train : Take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line from Kyoto Station to Osaka Station. This route takes around 30 minutes and costs around 560 yen. Shinkansen is also a solution and it takes only 14 minutes. Purchase 14 day JR pass here.

Subway : Take the Karasuma Line from Kyoto Station to Shijo Station, then transfer to the Hankyu Kyoto Line to Umeda Station in Osaka. This route takes around 45 minutes and costs around 410 yen.

Bus : Several bus companies operate daily services from Kyoto to Osaka. The journey takes around 1 hour and costs around 2,000 yen. You can purchase tickets here.

Taxi : You can take a taxi from Kyoto to Osaka, but it can be quite expensive, costing around 30,000 yen. If you want to book your transfer in advance, you can do it here.

Taking the train or subway is the most convenient and popular way to get from Kyoto to Osaka. Buses can be a good alternative if you want to save money, while taxis are best reserved for those who prefer a more comfortable and direct mode of transportation.

Best things to do in Osaka

Best things to do in Osaka

 The Castle of Osaka (Osaka Castle) holds great significance as a symbol of the city and is one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks. Visitors to Osaka Castle can explore the picturesque gardens and the castle’s main keep, which houses a museum.

Eat until you are broke! Osaka is the nation’s kitchen and you would need a lifetime to try all the restaurants and food stalls in the city. But still, food hopping is one of the best things to do in Japan in 14 days and there is no better place than Osaka for this.

And there is no better place than Umeda Sky Building to catch a sunset over Osaka. Here you can take your postcards of Osaka in one of the most iconic skyscrapers of the city.

If you are passionate about Japanese pop culture, you will love Shinsekai! This vibrant district is home to the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower, one of the most photographed landmarks in Japan. The neon signs and the thousands of restaurants and shops will make you have one of the best times during your 2 weeks in Japan.

A few minutes away from Shinsekai, find Dotombori, another iconic location in Japan. Yes, Dotonbori can be a bit overwhelming considering the number of people in the district, but it’s one of the most colorful and lively districts in Japan. Here you will find plenty of shops and boutiques to satisfy your need for shopping and even more iconic restaurants and food stalls.

RELATED : Osaka Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Osaka

Unique experiences in Osaka

Unique experiences in Osaka

Taking a food tour in Osaka is a fantastic way to fully immerse yourself in the culinary delights the city has to offer. A food tour will allow you to sample a variety of local dishes, explore hidden gems, and learn about the history and culture behind Osaka’s food scene.

RELATED : 10 Best Food Tours in Osaka for Foodies

Where to eat in Osaka

Where to eat in Osaka

While it’s impossible to cover all the great places to eat in Osaka, here are some popular and highly recommended dining spots that can make your 14 days in Japan delicious.

Sushi Hayata is the ultimate experience to try some unforgettable sushi while visiting Japan. Delicious fish, beautiful and traditional environment, great hospitality, and awesome presentation. Don’t miss it.

Katsudon Chiyomatsu is a place that became popular through social media and they are specialized in Tonkatsu. I am not a big fan of pork meat but I have to admit that the Tonkatsu was ridiculously tasty. It was hands down the best pork meat of my life.

Rikuro’s Namba Main Branch is home to the most famous cheesecake in Japan. The giggly cheesecake is a real must-try when you visit Osaka.

Set in the folkloristic Shinsekai, Okonomiyaki Usagiya is your way to go to try some delicious okonomiyaki. The place is exquisitely Japanese and the prices are very affordable. Alternatively, you can try Okonomiyaki Chitose.

Where to stay in Osaka?

Where to stay in Osaka for 3 days?

Osaka is another destination where you can find Mimaru hotels located in the most strategic locations. So here is a quick summary of the best hotels in Osaka.

These are just a few examples of the Mimaru hotels in Osaka, each with its own unique features and benefits. Regardless of which one you choose, you can expect comfortable accommodations and convenient access to Osaka’s attractions and amenities.

RELATED : 12 Best Ryokans in Osaka with a Private Onsen

MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST

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This was my choice during my time in Osaka. MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST is perfect to experience the authentic side of Osaka as the hotel is located on a quiet street full of restaurants. The shopping streets are just 5 minutes away.

MIMARU OSAKA NAMBA North

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MIMARU OSAKA NAMBA North is set 70 m from Orange Street and 500 m from Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade.  It’s a great choice for those who want to experience the liveliest side of Osaka for shopping and food. Dotonbori is just a few steps away.

This hotel also boasts a unique and popular Pokemon room. If you are a fan this is simply a must for you.

MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North

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MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North is located 500 m from TKP Shinsaibashi Ekimae Conference Center and 600 m from Shinsaibashi Station. This is the Mimaru Hotel which is the closest to Osaka Castle.

What makes this hotel very special are the themed apartments like Ninja Room, so it is a great choice if you are looking for unique experiences in Osaka.

MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI EAST

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MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI EAST is located 5 minutes away from MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North, closer to the Dotonbori area.

If you are passionate about Japanese drinks like sake this is your place to go. The staff will take good care of you to make you experience a taste of Japan.

MIMARU Osaka Namba Station

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MIMARU Osaka Namba Station stands a few steps away from the infamous Kuromon Street Market and the train station. This is a perfect spot if you are planning to explore the surrounding of Osaka and the city. Many attractions are within walking distance.

The hotel boasts some unique accommodations like Board Game Rooms. Some are perfect for families, others for groups of friends.

Half-day trip to Himeji

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Himeji is located within close proximity to Osaka, making it an easily achievable day trip. It is famous for its picturesque castle, which will be one of the highlights of your 14-day Japan itinerary.

Be sure to check the train schedules for your return trip and allow for some flexibility in your plans. A day trip to Himeji from Osaka allows you to explore the beautiful castle and experience the historical charm of this city, making for a memorable day of sightseeing.

RELATED : How to Plan a Day Trip to Himeji: Travel Tips and Things to Know Before Visiting

Day 13 – 14: Hiroshima 

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Despite the tragedy that hit the city in WW2, Hiroshima is one of the most lively cities in Japan. If your 14 days in Japan itinerary allows you to spend an extra night here, I highly recommend you give Hiroshima and Miyajima Island a chance. 

Traveling from Osaka to Hiroshima on a day trip is a popular option due to the efficient transportation system in Japan. The Shinkansen is a convenient and fast way to reach Hiroshima from Osaka. However, spending a night is certainly a better option.

How to get from Osaka to Hiroshima?

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To travel from Osaka to Hiroshima, you have several transportation options available. Here are the most common methods.

Train: The Shinkansen is the fastest and most convenient way to travel between Hiroshima and Osaka. Take the Sanyo Shinkansen line from Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima. The journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the type of train you choose. Purchase 14 day JR pass here.

Local Trains: If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, you can take local trains. From Osaka, take the JR Sanyo Line to Hiroshima. The journey can take around 3 to 4 hours, depending on the train and transfers. This option is suitable if you have more time and want to enjoy the scenic route.

Choose the option that best suits your preferences in terms of budget, time, and comfort. The Shinkansen is generally the most recommended option due to its speed and convenience.

Best things to do in Hiroshima

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Visit the island of Miyajima, which is a small island famous for its iconic red tori in the water which is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views. Miyajima Island is also a peaceful and romantic place where the surrounding nature is absolutely stunning. Here you can also find hiking trails and temples such as Itsukushima.

There are thousands of shopping streets that are way less touristy than Kyoto or Tokyo and full of boutiques, cafes, and traditional restaurants, so it could be a great plan for some last-minute shopping before your departure.

Despite the tragic history, Hiroshima is a city where you can learn how to appreciate peace more than anywhere else in the world. Visit some iconic places like the Arch of Peace, the Museum of Peace, and the Atomic Bomb Dome. Pay your respect at Children’s Peace Monument and learn the heartbreaking story of Sadako Sasaki.

Hiroshima boasts a castle located on the water. This castle was reconstructed s the original one was destroyed but it’s rebuilt in the exact same style as the original.

Just like other cities in Japan, Hiroshima takes pride in some local food specialties. Onomichi ramen is probably the most famous, but don’t miss the famous Hiroshima Oysters to make Japan’s itinerary special. Some other foods you don’t want to miss are the sweets Momiji Manju and the Okonomiyaki in the Hiroshima way.

Cars lovers can’t miss the Mazda Museum. Mazda was established in Hiroshima in 1920 and it has played a key role in the economy of the city. If you want to visit the museum don’t forget to make your reservation online!

Where to stay in Hiroshima

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When choosing a place to stay in Hiroshima, you have several options depending on your preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodation or a more budget-friendly option, Hiroshima has a range of choices to suit different needs and preferences.

Here are some of the best hotels in Hiroshima.

bHOTEL246 

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This wonderful hotel lies 500 meters away from Peace Park. It offers stunning accommodations where the traditional Japanese style blends perfectly with a bright and modern design. A real treat for your 14 days in Japan itinerary if you are staying one night in Hiroshima.

FAV HOTEL Hiroshima Heiwa Odori

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This is the perfect choice to stay in a wonderful modern hotel without killing your budget. The hotel is located in a central position and offers all the comfort you might need in a stylish environment. Some apartments can accommodate up to 6 people.

Smile Hotel Hiroshima

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If you are looking for affordable accommodation in Hiroshima this is the way to go. It boasts an excellent score on booking and it offers basic but clean and comfortable accommodations. You won’t find anything better for the price.

Day 14: Departure

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Depending on your flight, you can either go from Hiroshima to Osaka or all the way back to Tokyo. Make sure you check the flight time and plan it accordingly to catch your flight back home.

RELATED : 150+ Best Japan Quotes and Japan Instagram Captions + Beautiful Sharable Photos

How to get from Hiroshima to Tokyo/Osaka?

The fastest and most convenient way to travel between Hiroshima and Tokyo is by taking the Shinkansen. The Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen line connects the two cities. Night buses and planes are also available but I don’t recommend these options.

To travel from Hiroshima to Osaka, you have a Shinkansen and a Local Train, so just follow the same steps as you arrived in Hiroshima.

Further reading for 14 days in Japan

Complete Kyoto Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Kyoto

Complete Kyoto Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Kyoto

13 Best Tokyo Tours: Fun and Unique Experiences in Tokyo

13 Best Tokyo Tours: Fun and Unique Experiences in Tokyo

Osaka Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Osaka

Osaka Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Osaka

BEST KYOTO TOURS: UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN KYOTO THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS

Best Kyoto Tours: Unique Experiences in Kyoto That You Don’t Want to Miss

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  • 15 Best Photo Spots in Osaka That You Can’t Miss

25 Best Photo Spots in Kyoto That You Must Visit

25 Best Photo Spots in Kyoto That You Must Visit

Travel tips for Kyoto:

  • How to Rent a Kimono in Kyoto: Detailed Process with Prices
  • 18 Best Free Things to Do in Kyoto + Kyoto Budget Tips
  • 13 Best Ryokan in Kyoto with Private Onsen That Will Blow Your Mind
  • Where to stay in Kyoto? Hotel Review of Mimaru Kyoto Nijo Castle
  • 15 Best Places to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Travel tips for Osaka:

  • 12 Best Ryokans in Osaka with a Private Onsen
  • 10 Best Food Tours in Osaka for Foodies
  • How to Plan a Day Trip to Himeji: Travel Tips and Things to Know Before Visiting

Travel tips for Tokyo:

  • 13 Incredible Hotels With Tokyo Tower View In Tokyo
  • 15 Epic Hotels with a Mount Fuji View in Japan

Or read more about Kyoto | Osaka | Tokyo | Himeji | Nara | Uji | Japan

Other useful tips for visiting Japan

🏠 Need a place to stay? Browse Booking or Agoda 💃 How about fun experiences? GetYourGuide , Viator , and Klook have it all 🚗 Considering renting a car in Japan? Use Rentalcars 🚂 If you need transfers, bus or train tickets, check 12Go 🔒 Don’t forget about travel insurance from HeyMondo

In conclusion…

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This is the end of your 14 days in Japan itinerary and I am sure that you are impatient to hit the road. Pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable trip to visit the most beautiful places in Japan and beyond.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.

Pin it for later and save this 14-day Japan itinerary for first-timers!

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Such an amazing guide, perfect for me as I have never been there before! And I love your photos too!

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Two Weeks in Japan: A Super Efficient Itinerary for 2024

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 Booking.com (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!

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).

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="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38660860” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’, event.target.getAttribute(‘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!

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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!

Higashiyama

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 .

travel abroad japan

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’, event.target.getAttribute(‘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’, event.target.getAttribute(‘href’));”

target=”_blank">oysters

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!

travel abroad japan

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!

travel abroad japan

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="http://www.kadare.info” class="place” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’, event.target.getAttribute(‘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.

travel abroad japan

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.

travel abroad japan

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).

travel abroad japan

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="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLl9GERTMYg” onclick="ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Affiliate Link’, ‘Click’, event.target.getAttribute(‘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.

travel abroad japan

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.

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Volunteer in Japan

Volunteers will have the chance to step back in time and volunteer in Okazaki City, a town reminiscent  of the Edo period, when Japan was in a time of peace and international openness. Japan is known for it’s traditional culture dating back thousands of years, while also having a vibrant society that continuously modernizes alongside the rest of the world in technology, fashion, cuisine, and daily life.

As a volunteer in Japan, you can choose between working with children in local educational settings, assisting a tea plantation throughout the entire tea-making process, or volunteering with a local artisan’s workshop to make drums, candies, and other handicrafts.

United Planet also offers virtual volunteering and virtual internships (1 month to 6 months) in Japan. Learn more about all of our  volunteer abroad programs and virtual volunteering and virtual internship countries in Asia.

One Question Videos with United Planet

Our Japan Country Coordinator, Naoko Jin, shares how United Planet volunteers will experience the real lifestyle of Japanese people in historical and beautiful Okazaki City. She is excited to bring volunteers into the city they love.

Volunteer Testimonials

I enjoyed so much staying with my host family! The family members looked after me so well. They bought T-shirts and stationery as a gift and treated me as their son, and I helped them back to clean the dishes and have fun with their children. So I really appreciated and enjoyed the time in Japan because of those happy experiences.

travel abroad japan

This experience taught me how much more I could possibly teach children, and how they could learn more than books. I also experienced making my own Matcha tea in a tea ceremony, dressed up in a yukata and painted my own wind bell, and even went fishing after watching the festival that wished for good catches of fishes! An experience full of learning, laughter, and smiles. Leaving it was a bittersweet moment.

travel abroad japan

United Planet in Japan was beyond ideal; it was very organized and sculpted my first experience in Japan to be the best it could be! Japan is everything I expected and much, much more. The traditional values that shape the everyday lives of the Japanese people are extremely inspiring. The people’s respect for each other and ultimately everything on earth is so admirable. I love it here and I will absolutely be back.

travel abroad japan

I learned a lot from their positive attitude I have had build up a strong independent character. It was a rich experience at first it was hard to grasp it all the food type and there respect gestures but I got through it with time and other assistance.

Project Information

japan_meganfreeney_2011 (13)

Working with Children

Volunteers in Japan will have the opportunity to work with children in a local kindergarten, junior high school, or after school program. Volunteer tasks include helping teach English and other subjects, organizing games and activities, as well as daily tasks like cooking and cleaning.

Available Dates:  Quests start every Saturday, year-round Minimum Stay: 1 week Requirements:  At least 18 years old, can be flexible

02

Culture and Education

Volunteers learn about local handicrafts and techniques by assisting with a local artisan’s workshop. Examples include drum-making, fabric dying, bonsai, and woodworking.

Available Dates:  Quests start every Saturday, year-round Minimum Stay:  1 week Requirements:  At least 18 years old, can be flexible

pic

Environmental Sustainability

Volunteers will have the chance to work with a local tea plantation, learning about the entire tea-making process, from farming and cultivating the tea leaves to processing and packaging.

Available Dates:  Quests start every Saturday, year-round Minimum Stay:  1 week Requirements: At least 18 years old, can be flexible

Your Japan Quest

travel abroad japan

Japan Country Coordinator: Naoko Jin. Naoko and her husband manage a cafe in Okazaki City that provides experience-based tour options for foreign tourists. They live in Okazaki City, located in the center of Japan about 2 hours from Tokyo.

travel abroad japan

As a United Planet volunteer in Japan, you will be based in Okazaki City. It is the birthplace of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa who established the peaceful Edo period, when Japan did not have wars for more than 250 years.

travel abroad japan

Volunteers will visit Okazaki Castle where the Shogun was born on December 26th, 1542. It is said that a golden dragon appeared from the castle’s well at the time of his birth, becoming well known as “the lucky dragon well”. The castle’s main prayer hall ceiling holds Japan’s largest wooden carved “Roaring Dragon”. Upon visiting the castle, volunteers can dress up in Samurai armor.

travel abroad japan

Volunteers will join a tea ceremony demonstration with seasonal confectionery at one of the oldest confectionery shops in Okazaki City. Woman dressed in kimono will demonstrate the tea ceremony and of course, volunteers can try on the authentic kimono. Volunteers can also enjoy calligraphy at the studio of Okazaki’s famous calligraphy artist.  You can select your favorite Kanji and write on a Washi paper (Japanese paper).

Free Time in Japan

travel abroad japan

Rent a bike: Okazaki City has many public parks that you can explore during an afternoon or morning bike ride.

travel abroad japan

Visit an art museum:  Witness the incredible architecture of the Okazaki City Art Museum!

travel abroad japan

Explore local temples:  Okazaki City is home to variety of temples, such as the zen temple of Tenonji and the pleasant   Ryukai-in Temple.

travel abroad japan

Indulge and learn about the local cuisine:  Visit the local Hatcho Miso Factory to learn about the fermented soya bean paste used in miso soup, one of Japanese cuisine’s mainstays. Take a free tour and enjoy a miso sweet at the end!

Japan in Photos

travel abroad japan

Check out the experiences of previous United Planet volunteers in Japan.

Volunteer Voices

United Planet Volunteer shared with us her second experience volunteering.

“I previously went to Mexico for a conservation program for sea turtles and am now assisting the elderly in Japan. I was very pleased with the level of support both provided in both Quests. I became very immersed in both places, learned a lot of the languages and experienced the local culture and cuisine of both places which is what I wanted.”

travel abroad japan

Japan Quest is offered year-round, and all projects start on every Saturday of the month. In 2023, there will be no quests from April – September.

For the Japan Quest, volunteers can choose to volunteer from 1 week to 12 weeks.

The age requirement for the Japan Quest is 18. Volunteers under 18 can be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

There is no language requirement to volunteer in Japan. Volunteers receive 1 hour of Japanese lessons with the opportunity to add more.

We ask that volunteers enroll at least 60 days prior to their anticipated departure date. This gives us enough time to schedule volunteer placements, coordinate in-country activities, and provide sufficient pre-departure training.

Quest Fees and Details

United Planet Quests are designed to be immersive, authentic, comprehensive and provide you everything you’ll need to succeed. The program elements allow you to engage fully with a new culture, forge strong relationships, and challenge yourself. Most importantly, we partner with the community to ensure your experience will be important, relevant and helpful to the community you serve.

Included in Your Quest Fee

  • Lodging at a local homestay
  • Two home-cooked meals per day
  • Welcome and farewell dinners
  • Tour of Okazaki City
  • Cultural activities and excursions (depending on length of stay)
  • Language lessons
  • Online pre-departure training with our Boston staff
  • Emergency medical and travel insurance
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • A United Planet t-shirt

Health and Safety

United Planet provides emergency travel and medical insurance for all volunteers. All staff members participate in extensive health and safety training, and are available at all times by 24-hour phone line. Upon enrollment, you will receive a full emergency contact list. In addition, we register all of our volunteers with US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) . We recommend booking a doctor’s appointment or visiting a travel health clinic a few months out to update your vaccinations.   Read more about health and safety.

Transportation and Flights

Due to varying airline prices, United Planet does not arrange or cover the cost of flights to and from Japan. Once you arrive in Japan, you will take a bus from the airport to Okazaki City, where the Japan team will welcome you and bring you to your host family. Public transportation to and from your project is cheap and easy with Okazaki City’s public transportation system or on foot. Daily commuting costs are covered by volunteers.

About Our Quest Fee

We want you to succeed. That means having in place the support our volunteers need. We don’t just drop you in country and hope for the best. We provide training before you leave … language exposure … 24/7 in-country support … support for your host family … accommodations, meals and airport transportation … activities and excursions. The whole idea is to make the experience successful and productive for you and the host community, and we have found that these things are crucial. Remember that we are a non-profit, mission-driven organization – we wouldn’t spend money on something that wasn’t important.

*Payment Plan Details: A $300 deposit is due at the time of your enrollment to lock in your spot in our program. After your confirmation in a program, you can choose to pay the Quest Fee all at once or in installments. The total Quest Fee is due 4 weeks before your departure date.

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Guide to Bringing Medicines Into Japan

Find out the rules on what medication you can bring to Japan

Japan Travel

Nothing ruins a trip more than getting sick and not being able to treat your illness. Often, travelers will carry typical over-the-counter or prescription medicines with them to avoid any unpleasant situations. However, Japan’s strict rules concerning the importation of medicines may affect your packing list.

Find out what the rules are for bringing medicine to Japan, and what you might be able to get locally, with our step-by-step guide.

The information shared in this guide does not constitute legal advice and is subject to change in accordance with the latest laws and regulations stipulated by the Japanese government. We advise contacting the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare or other official institution listed below for the latest information.

Over-the-Counter Medication

What otc medications are prohibited.

While numerous medications are easily available in Western countries without a prescription, Japan takes a much harder line on certain ingredients.

The following are prohibited as they contain narcotic or stimulant ingredients in excess of the Japanese standard:

  • These medications include (but are not limited to) Tylenol Cold, NyQuil, Actifed, Sudafed, Advil Cold & Sinus, Dristan Sinus, Vicks Inhaler, and Lomotil

Both the limits and what is considered a permitted ingredient is subject to change, so we advise consulting the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s English language website before any planned travel to Japan.

What OTC medication can you bring?

Travelers are permitted to bring a two-month (60 day) supply of any permissible over-the-counter medication, and an equivalent amount of vitamins. This also applies to contact lenses.

If you need more than two months’ supply, a Yunyu Kakunin-sho (輸入確認書) would then be needed.

Prescription Medication

Can i bring any prescription medicine into japan with me.

In general, visitors to Japan are permitted to enter the country with prescription medicine without any special procedures if they adhere to the following conditions:

It is only for your personal use

It is not a prohibited or controlled drug in Japan

The quantity is up to 1 month’s supply.

Please review Japan's Controlled Substances List from the Narcotics Control Department to ensure that you follow the appropriate protocols for your medication.

Which prescription medicines are outright prohibited?

Opium, cannabis and stimulant drugs (Amphetamines, methamphetamines), including certain medicines for the treatment of ADD/ADHD (such as Adderall and Dexedrine) are strictly prohibited and illegal to bring into Japan.

Travelers face prosecution if in possession of them, even if those medications come with a foreign prescription or a customs declaration form – there are no exceptions.

On a related note, it goes without saying that hard drugs—like heroin, cocaine and MDMA—are similarly outright prohibited.

Does your prescription involve narcotics?

If your prescription medication involves the use of narcotics (e.g. morphine, codeine, oxycodone, pethidine, hydrocodone), you must seek advance permission from one of Japan’s eight Regional Bureaus of Health and Welfare.

You will need to submit an import application form as well as supporting documentation at least 14 days before traveling to Japan.

Does your prescription involve psychotropics?

The permitted dosage depends on the drug. For example, drugs such as Valium do not require a Yunyu Kakunin-sho if in quantities lower than 1.2 grams (the limit for the active ingredient, diazepam).

For an outline of which drugs fall into this category and the permitted dosages of each, please refer to this list provided by Japan’s Narcotics Control Department.

How to prepare permitted medicine to bring with you?

A copy of the prescription and a doctor’s note of explanation should accompany the medication when brought with you to Japan.

Medication should be stored in the original bottle – do not store in an unmarked container or bottle labeled for a separate medication.

Do I need to apply for a Yunyu Kakunin-sho?

Generally, you will need to apply for a Yunyu Kakunin-sho (special certificate of import), under the following circumstances:

You need greater than 1 month’s supply of prescription medicine

You need greater than 2 month’s supply of non-prescription medicine

You need syringes or a number of Medical Devices that exceed the limit.

In these cases a Yunyu Kakunin-sho must be issued in advance so that it can be presented at customs if required.

For information on how to obtain a Yunyu Kakunin-sho, visit the website for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (which includes up-to-date information on when you do and don’t need to rely on this form). Note that this process could take up to 3 weeks to obtain, which you should have before you leave home to travel to Japan.

Be aware overseas prescriptions are not honored in Japan – if your prescription needs are greater than what you are able to bring with you (even with a Yunyu Kakunin-sho), you will need to see a local care provider. In this case, it is wise to speak to your home country health care provider in advance if this may affect an ongoing treatment.

Summary: How much medicine can I bring into Japan?

The following provides a basic framework summarising what can be brought into Japan without requiring special permission (see Yunyu Kakunin-sho above). Note that the aforementioned rules and exceptions, based on prohibited ingredients, still apply.

Locally Available Medicine

Where can i get otc medication in japan.

Japan does have well-stocked pharmacies in most major metropolitan areas, so finding relief for minor health issues (like coughs and sore throats) is often easily accomplished.

Brands and medication ingredients may differ from what travelers may be used, but pharmacists can often assist in finding an effective alternative.

Common drug stores in Japan

Where can i get prescription medication in japan.

For those in need of a specific prescription, a list of English-speaking doctors can be found through various embassy websites.

  • British Embassy Tokyo: Sources of Medical Information in Japan
  • US Embassy: Medical Assistance
  • Australian Embassy Tokyo: Medical Information

Often, a phone call to an English-speaking doctor before a trip to Japan to discuss any medicines with questionable content will go a long way to avoiding any potential issues at customs.

Official Links & Resources

  • Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
  • Narcotics Control Department
  • Essential Guides
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Guide to Bringing Medicines Into Japan

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Security Alert May 17, 2024

Worldwide caution, update may 10, 2024, information for u.s. citizens in the middle east.

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International travel documents for children

See what documents a child needs to travel to or from the U.S. alone or with a parent or relative.

Children traveling to the U.S.

All children, including infants, must have their own travel documents such as a passport or document from a Trusted Traveler Program to enter the U.S. If you travel or are going to travel with a child, consider taking the following documents:

  • If the child is traveling with only one of their custodial parents, they must have a letter of consent, preferably in English and notarized, from the other parent or signed by both parents. The letter should say "I acknowledge that my son/daughter is traveling outside the country with [the name of the adult] with my permission."
  • If one parent has sole custody of the child, a copy of the custody document can take the place of the other parent's letter.
  • Parents who frequently cross the border by land with a minor must always carry a letter of permission from the other parent.

U.S. citizen children traveling abroad

Ports of entry in many countries have security measures to prevent international child abduction . If you are traveling alone with your child, you may be required to present documentation proving you are the parent or legal guardian. You may also need a letter of permission from the other parent for your child to travel. 

If your child travels alone, depending on the country, they may be required to present a notarized letter from both parents or their legal guardian. If a minor is traveling abroad and is not accompanied by both parents or a legal guardian, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting and ask about entry and exit requirements for that country.

LAST UPDATED: December 6, 2023

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Frugal Traveler

Where to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

American travelers going abroad this summer will find their money buys more in some unexpected countries, including Japan and Australia.

A chubby gray koala bear lounges in between two branches of a tree.

By Elaine Glusac

Elaine Glusac is the Frugal Traveler columnist, focusing on budget-friendly tips and journeys.

It’s the backpacker’s call to India, the sunseeker’s attraction to Mexico, and the digital nomad’s drive to get to Thailand: Go where the dollar buys more.

The evergreen budget travel strategy is getting a boost this summer: The dollar has surged against a number of foreign currencies, including the Japanese yen, thanks to high interest rates offered by the Federal Reserve — attracting foreign investment, which bolsters the dollar.

“A destination’s weaker currency spells greater value for U.S. tourists,” said Erina Pindar, the chief operating officer and managing partner at SmartFlyer , a global travel agency based in New York City.

“This economic advantage could make far-flung bucket list destinations in Asia, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan, or in South America, like Peru, Argentina and Chile, more accessible than ever before,” she added.

Distant destinations are usually more expensive to fly to, which, along with the physical toll of jet lag, helps make the case for the country’s North American neighbors, Canada and Mexico , where the exchange rates have long favored the dollar’s buying power.

But this year there are some new contenders with attractive exchange rates to consider, including the following destinations.

Currently, the U.S. dollar is worth about 1.50 Australian dollars, up about 16 percent over the last three years.

The hurdle, of course, is the long flight, which can easily run over $1,000 round trip. But the travel search engine Kayak lists some attractive summer round-trip fares between the West Coast and Sydney starting at $770, with the best availability in August.

Getting around Australia by air isn’t cheap either, especially since the recent collapse of the low-cost carrier Bonza. Jetstar offers lower fares, including, recently, $50 one-way tickets between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Camper vans can be an affordable way to take an Australian road trip, with companies like Jucy , Britz and Apollo offering vehicles that include beds and cooking facilities. Jucy recently priced a two-person van rented for a week in July at about $53 a night.

The Northern Hemisphere summer is Australia’s winter. If you’re planning a ski vacation in the Australian Alps, Tourism Australia suggests avoiding mid-July when schools are on break and many families head to the slopes.

Australia does not have a culture of tipping, potentially saving travelers 20 percent on restaurant meals, according to Craig Bradbery, the chief operating officer of Baillie Lodges, which includes the newly rebuilt Southern Ocean Lodge , a luxury property on Kangaroo Island.

Bali, Indonesia

Many destinations in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, offer compelling exchange rates. In Indonesia, the rupiah is at a four-year low against the dollar.

“I would send clients to Bali, Indonesia,” said Rob Huie, the owner of Luxury Travel Services by Rob , based in Millsboro, Del., noting that the cost of living is low on the island. “The caveat is a higher upfront cost to fly there, but once you’re there you are able to stay at three- and four-star hotels at very affordable rates, have meals for $10 to $25 per day and massages for $10 to $30.”

Travelers with Marriott loyalty points can cash them in at the Four Points by Sheraton Bali, Kuta (rooms from $57 a night). IGH Reward members can spend or earn points at Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach (from $138).

Tripadvisor’s list of the top budget hotels in the central highlands around Ubud includes options under $100.

Bali is a good place to look for a vacation rental, according to the home rental platform HomeToGo . Its data shows the median per-night price for a rental property on Bali this summer is $86, compared to the median price of a rental in the United States at $388.

“Despite the strength of the U.S. dollar on a global scale, prices across the states continue to rise, prompting travelers to look to international destinations where their dollar can stretch further,” said Eleanor Moody, a travel expert at HomeToGo, who added that searches for rentals in Indonesia have more than doubled in the past year.

South America — including Argentina where inflation has spiraled, and Peru where the sol has softened against the dollar — is another place to look for value.

“Stop going to Europe,” said Cecile Blot, the owner of the travel agency Boundless Travels in Washington, D.C., praising “destination dupes” in South America. “Many of the countries on the southern continent offer the entire package — history, culture, nature, culinary delights, world-class accommodation — at a fraction of the price.”

One of these is Colombia , where the dollar recently equaled about 3,935 pesos, a gain of roughly 20 percent over the past five years.

“Colombia has something for everyone,” said Stefanie Pichonnat, the owner of AAV Travel , based in Terre Haute, Ind., citing Cartagena on the Caribbean as a budget-friendly substitute for a European capital, and coastal Tayrona National Natural Park as a cheaper alternative to Costa Rica.

“Coffee aficionados can spend days touring the coffee fincas, passionate hikers can challenge themselves with a trek to the páramo desert and bird watchers will find an abundance of options to explore,” she added.

Air service is frequent and affordable. A recent search for round-trip fares from the New York area turned up summer departures starting from about $290 to the capital of Bogotá and $320 to coastal Cartagena.

From Bogotá, visitors can reach Chingaza National Natural Park in the eastern Andes or spend a few days in the laid-back colonial city of Villa de Leyva . But Colombia’s mountainous terrain and perilous roads often require travelers to fly domestically to see other areas.

Among tour operators that do the planning for you, Responsible Travel , based in England, offers a customizable 12-day trip to Colombia that visits Bogotá, Medellín and the central coffee country, including the lush Cocora Valley with its nearly 200-foot-tall wax palm trees (from $2,990 a person).

The U.S. dollar is currently worth about 156 Japanese yen, a gain of more than 11 percent over the past year.

Demand for Japan was already booming when the economic picture improved. BWH Hotels , which includes Best Western Hotels & Resorts, said occupancy and rates have grown steadily for the past two years because of demand and a shortage of employees, especially in popular destinations like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido.

But with careful planning, Americans can still exploit the exchange rate. IHG Hotels & Resorts , which operates hotel brands in the country from the design-focused Voco to the high-end InterContinental, suggested traveling by early July for the best rates (an overnight at the Voco Osaka Central starts at $135).

The Japanese-owned Hoshino Resorts tend to be upscale, but their OMO line offers more entry-level accommodations, from capsule hotels to full-service locations. The OMO5 Kyoto Gion , for example, offers rooms that sleep up to six people and include kitchens, starting at 24,000 yen, or about $153. Staff guides offer free tours to temples in the area.

While many temples, parks and shrines are free, travelers in the capital can get the Tokyo Museum Grutto Pass for 2,500 yen (about $16) that includes admission to more than 100 museums and attractions around town.

Among its tips for budget travelers, the tourism office of Japan recommends making lunch your big meal as many restaurants offer midday specials.

There are a number of cost-conscious ways to get around Japan, including trains (a Japan Rail Pass starts at 50,000 yen, or about $320, for seven days), low-cost airlines like Peach and Zipair and overnight buses .

Or consider walking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route that connects sacred shrines in the Kii Mountains. Walk Japan has a self-guided seven-day trip, including accommodations and most meals, starting at 224,000 yen.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

Port Antonio, Jamaica:  The Grammy-nominated D.J. and music producer Diplo recommends spots in a city he loves  on Jamaica’s northeast coast. A dance party makes the cut.

New Mexico:  The Gila Wilderness, home to wolves, mountain lions and other wildlife, marks a century as a “land lab,”  where nature thrives as far as the eye can see.

Greece:  Is Serifos the perfect Greek island? A writer’s checklist included ferry service, great beaches and good local restaurants.

Brooklyn:  This 36-hour itinerary  skips the most touristy and overdeveloped areas, including Williamsburg and Dumbo, and requires no restaurant reservations or advance planning.

Costa Rica:  Travelers are signing up for phone-free tours to try to escape technology’s tether on daily life. But would it make for a better experience ?

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Chinese outbound travel recovery lags due to costs and visa snags

Passengers look at the tarmac as they wait for flights at Beijing Capital International Airport on April 20.

A recovery in Chinese overseas travel from the COVID-19 pandemic is fading as rising costs and difficulties in securing visas cement a preference for local and short-haul destinations.

Eighteen months after China dropped strict zero-COVID policies and reopened its borders, the recovery in overseas travel is lagging behind market expectations and the shape of Chinese travel is changing, with a surge in domestic trips.

Pressured by a prolonged property crisis, high unemployment and a gloomy outlook in the world's second-biggest economy, Chinese consumers have become more frugal since the pandemic, prompting discount wars on everything from travel to cars, coffee and clothes.

Chinese people took 87 million trips abroad last year, down 40% from pre-COVID 2019, and industry observers say the pace has slowed since the Lunar New Year in February. China's travelers spent 24% less last year than in 2019, while U.S. travelers' spending was up 14%, according to U.N. Tourism data.

The Chinese lag is bad news for countries like France, Australia and the U.S., which were among the top destinations for Chinese travelers before the pandemic.

Liu Simin, vice president of the tourism branch of the China Society for Futures Studies research institute, forecasts China's international travel might not recover to pre-pandemic levels for another five years.

"The recovery is a lot slower than expected," Liu said. "The devaluation of the Chinese yuan combined with inflation in the U.S. and Europe is a double blow."

The Chinese currency has fallen more than 2% against the dollar since the start of the year, raising costs in yuan terms for Chinese travelers abroad.

Consultancy Oliver Wyman last month pushed its estimates for China's international travel recovery to late 2025, half a year later than it forecast last year.

"I would actually argue that consumers are even more cost-conscious than last year, and you'll also see that feed into travel trends," said Imke Wouters, Hong Kong-based partner at Oliver Wyman.

Travellers walk past a display showing flight departure information at Shanghai Pudong International Airport during the Spring Festival travel rush on Lunar New Year's Eve, in Shanghai on Feb. 9.

To be sure, overseas travel is rebounding, with Chinese travelers again the world’s top spenders on international tourism last year after falling behind the United States in 2022, according to U.N. Tourism data.

This summer, 8% of flights at Chinese airports have been international, up from just 1% in 2022, according to aviation data provider OAG.

Flip to domestic travel

That recovery, however, is overshadowed by the surge in domestic trips, which hit a record 295 million during the five-day May Day holiday, up more than 20% from 2019, official data showed.

Domestic airlines seats were up 16% in May from the same month in 2019, while international flights were down 30%, Cirium data shows.

Wouters at Oliver Wyman said 40% of those who traveled abroad in 2023 for the first time since borders reopened had decided not to travel internationally again this year, mainly due to inconvenience and long visa processing times for many European destinations.

Beijing resident Wang Shu, 38, vacationed domestically after cancelling a trip to France because he could not get a visa, despite trying to book a visa appointment months ahead.

"I tried booking the interview in late March, as I planned to attend the French Open tennis in late May, but the earliest date that I could book was June 19," Wang said.

Wang instead vacationed in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, known for its spicy food.

"The food was great, I watched a concert and spent one-tenth of the money I'd have spent in France," he said.

Australia's top source of tourists before COVID, China is now number four, with arrivals down 53% in March from March 2019, said Margy Osmond, chief executive of Tourism & Transport Forum Australia.

Chinese travelers to France, the most visited country in the world, have reached only 28.5% of 2019 levels, according to airport operator ADP.

Capacity on U.S.-China routes remains down more than 80% from 2019 levels, weighed by intensifying bilateral political tensions. The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office expects Chinese tourism to the U.S. to recover fully only in 2026.

By contrast, countries with visa-free policies have received strong growth in Chinese visitors.

These include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where flight capacity has also increased.

Switzerland, growing in popularity with high-end travelers on Trip.com, boasts a seven-day visa process, said Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group.

Japan has also received a surge in Chinese travelers this year, boosted by a plunge in the yen's value.

"We are not just seeing a market re-growing, we are seeing a market re-shaping," Gary Bowerman, director of tourism intelligence firm Check-In Asia, said during an OAG webinar last month.

Passengers look at the tarmac as they wait for flights at Beijing Capital International Airport on April 20. | REUTERS

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IMAGES

  1. The Complete Japan Travel Guide

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  2. 10 Things to Know Before Traveling to Japan

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  3. Japan travel guide: Everything you need to know

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  4. THE ULTIMATE JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDE

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  5. 30 Important Japan Travel Tips To Know Before You Go

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  6. Various travel destination in Japan

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VIDEO

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  5. Cruise to Japan in 1932 日本へのクルーズ

  6. Study Abroad Top Countries

COMMENTS

  1. Home

    Abroad in Japan Podcast. Tune in to the No.1 Podcast about life in Japan as Chris Broad and co-host Pete Donaldson discuss weird, wacky and wonderful news going on around the country. From insider travel tips, and language learning secrets, to hilariously awkward travel stories sent in by listeners and a weekly Q&A answering your questions.

  2. Study Abroad Programs in Japan

    To study at universities in Japan, you need to be at least 18 years old. Some study abroad programs in Japan require a minimum GPA of at least a 3.0 to participate. Although Japanese language abilities are helpful, they may not be necessary if the program is in English. Prepare your application materials.

  3. The Ultimate Japan Travel Guide • The Blonde Abroad

    Highlight. Best Time To Visit. As a rule of thumb, late spring (March to May) and late fall (September to November) are the best times to visit. The temperatures are mild, and there's little chance of rain ruining any plans. Plus, if you book your flights for the spring, you'll be around for Japan's famous cherry blossoms!

  4. Study Abroad in Japan

    Japan is a good place to study abroad in Asia for students interested in studying Japanese abroad and learning about Japanese history and culture. With a unique history, traditional cuisine, ancient customs, and a variety of course options, Japan is an exciting study abroad destination for students looking for an adventure!

  5. Information for U.S. citizens traveling to Japan

    If you need after-hours assistance in an emergency, please call 03-3224-5000 and ask to speak with the Embassy's duty officer. Emergency Contact Information for U.S. citizens. Emergency Preparedness for U.S. citizens in Japan. Sources of Help, including counseling services. Medical Assistance in Japan.

  6. Japan International Travel Information

    Information on travel in Japan for travelers with disabilities is available at Accessible Japan. Travelers with disabilities can learn more about resources available in country from the Japan National Tourism Organization's traveling with a disability page. Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

  7. How to Spend 14 Days in JAPAN Ultimate Travel Itinerary

    Travelling to Japan is the trip of a lifetime, so spend those 14 days wisely!⭐ BOOK flights now on Skyscanner!https://skyscanner.app.link/98vIMcbE1DbABROAD ...

  8. Study Abroad in Japan

    281 available study abroad programs. Japan, a land of contrasts and traditions, is a nation that seamlessly blends ancient heritage with cutting-edge innovation. Situated in the Far East, Japan's essence is a fusion of history, modernity, and a deep appreciation for nature. With a population that embodies the discipline and hospitality of the ...

  9. 7 Best Japan Study Abroad Programs

    Program #3: Open Campus Block (Kyoto) Build your own study abroad program in Japan in one of the most well-preserved historical cities in the world, Kyoto, with our Open Campus Block option. You'll have the chance to choose one, two, or up to three consecutive six-week block sessions and take courses that fit your academic interests like ...

  10. Study Abroad Programs Japan

    It's not any more expensive to study abroad in Japan than elsewhere in the world. Depending on where you live though, the flight could get pricey. You can expect to spend up to $6,000 for a summer in Japan, and up to $11,000 for a semester program, not including flights, insurance, and visa expenses.

  11. Guide Map

    From snowy Hokkaido to bustling neon lit Tokyo, immerse yourself in our exciting Japan Guide Map and and witness every corner of the country through a dedicated Abroad in Japan episode. Don't just read where you want to go - watch it! With regular new videos, the map is becoming more and more packed by the month.

  12. Yes, You Can Travel to Japan Right Now

    Teach Abroad Yes, You Can Travel to Japan Right Now — Teach, Intern, and Study in 2024 Japan is one of the handful of countries maintaining COVID restrictions, so is it possible to travel there right now? Learn about the latest guidance for teaching, studying, and traveling to Japan as a tourist in 2024 and beyond.

  13. The Ultimate Guide to Learning Japanese in Japan

    Key Takeaways🔑. Start by getting to know the basics. Pick up some essential words and phrases, and get comfortable with the sounds and the three writing systems. Make learning fun by surrounding yourself with Japanese media and culture. Find support to help you on your language learning journey. The best way to learn a language is through ...

  14. 2 weeks in Japan

    Escapes Travel Sightseeing Podcasts Pete Chris gives us his best itinerary ideas for a couple of weeks in Japan. Warning: contains Tokyo bananas. ... Hullo me old China - Pete and Chris are here for more Abroad In Japan hi-jinx!... Podcast. U.S. records confirm 12 U.S. soldiers died from Hiroshima A-bomb.

  15. How Japanese travel 'abroad' without leaving home

    How Japanese travel 'abroad' without leaving home. Julian Ryall Tokyo. 11/26/2021. Replicas of towns from Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, the US and other countries have become hugely ...

  16. Japan Packing List: 50+ Things You Can't Forget (+FREE checklist)

    We have a round up of the best Japan travel apps, but here are 2 you will definitely use: Google Translate (download the Japanese language pack) GlobeConvert: convert prices in Japanese yen into your home currency with real time exchange rates. 13. Universal outlet adapter.

  17. Japan travel advice

    Travelling to Japan. FCDO travel advice for Japan. Includes safety and security, insurance, entry requirements and legal differences.

  18. Why Japan has so many 'never travelers'

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  19. 14 Days in Japan: Japan Golden Route Itinerary For First Timers

    Day 6 - 11: Kyoto (day trip Nara+Uji) Day 11 - 13: Osaka (half-day trip Himeji) Day 13 - 14: Hiroshima. Day 14: Departure. This is your itinerary for 14 days in Japan at a glance. I will share the best things to do, where to stay, and some restaurant recommendations together with cool experiences in Japan.

  20. Two Weeks in Japan: A Super Efficient Itinerary for 2024

    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.

  21. 10 Tips for Your First Trip to Japan • The Blonde Abroad

    Go for a Night of Karaoke. Once you are head over heels in love with Japan, you are ready to serenade her. Sing your heart out at and have an amazing night of karaoke. Head down to the Shinjuku district and into Tokyo's famous Golden Gai area for a drink to loosen up those vocal cords.

  22. Volunteer in Japan

    Volunteer tasks include helping teach English and other subjects, organizing games and activities, as well as daily tasks like cooking and cleaning. Available Dates: Quests start every Saturday, year-round. Minimum Stay: 1 week. Requirements: At least 18 years old, can be flexible.

  23. Guide to Bringing Medicines Into Japan

    Travelers are permitted to bring a two-month (60 day) supply of any permissible over-the-counter medication, and an equivalent amount of vitamins. This also applies to contact lenses. If you need more than two months' supply, a Yunyu Kakunin-sho (輸入確認書) would then be needed. Photo: Unsplash.

  24. International Travel

    International Travel. The highest priority of the Bureau of Consular Affairs is to protect the lives and serve the interests of U.S. citizens abroad. Across the globe, we serve our fellow citizens during some of their most important moments - births, adoptions, medical emergencies, deaths, arrests, and disasters.

  25. International travel documents for children

    Children traveling to the U.S. All children, including infants, must have their own travel documents such as a passport or document from a Trusted Traveler Program to enter the U.S. If you travel or are going to travel with a child, consider taking the following documents: If the child is traveling with only one of their custodial parents, they ...

  26. Destinations Where the Dollar Buys More

    American travelers going abroad this summer will find their money buys more in some unexpected countries, including Japan and Australia. By Elaine Glusac Elaine Glusac is the Frugal Traveler ...

  27. Chinese outbound travel recovery lags due to costs and visa snags

    Chinese people took 87 million trips abroad last year, down 40% from pre-COVID 2019. ... Digital Print . June 17, 2024 . Subscribe. Digital Print. Tokyo governor race; G7 Italy summit; Japan crime ...