8 Unique Japan Itinerary Ideas Based on Your Interests

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If you’ve been wondering where to start when planning your Japan itinerary, we’ve got some inspiration for you! These unique Japan itinerary ideas are based on your personal travel interests.

Kanmangafuchi Abyss Nikko Japan

Japan is so much more than just Tokyo. If it’s your first time traveling to the “Land of the Rising Sun”, we’d definitely recommend a visit to its capital city as well as some of the other more well-known places like Kyoto and Osaka.

But, if you have “been there done that”, or you have a lot of time to play with, we’ve come up with some unique ideas to create a Japan itinerary more suited to your interests. 

Japan itinerary ideas

Other resources: We’ve included some other helpful info at the bottom of this guide to help you plan your Japan itinerary. 

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1. Itinerary ideas for your first time in Japan

Fushimi Inari Kyoto Japan

Here are some of the quintessential Japanese places and experiences you won’t want to miss on your first visit to Japan. 

  • Tokyo: This huge metropolis is likely where you’re flying in and out of, and it is one of the most interesting cities we’ve visited anywhere in the world. From quirky experiences, to amazing foods, Tokyo is definitely worth some time on your first Japan itinerary. 
  • Kyoto: Considered the “cultural capital of Japan”, Kyoto is packed with history, important temples, gorgeous architecture and a charming atmosphere. If you are traveling with your little ones, there are tons of things to do in Kyoto with kids.
  • Osaka: Another major hub to fly in and out of Japan, Osaka is worth a visit. Known for lively nightlife and endless street food, there’s a lot more to discover beyond Osaka’s neon-lit facade. 
  • Hakone: At the footsteps of Mt. Fuji, Hakone is a peaceful retreat from the big cities of Japan and a chance to relax in an onsen and sleep in a ryokan

Psst! Be sure to check out our Japan Trip Planner for all the information you need to know before planning your trip. This mega guide is packed with tips and advice for planning your first trip to Japan. 

2. Japan itinerary ideas for couples

Ryokan in Japan

It may come as a surprise, but Japan can actually be an incredibly romantic place, depending on the destinations you choose.

  • Okinawa: If you’re looking for a romantic beach getaway, this may be just what you’re looking for!
  • Shirakawa-go: Tucked away in the mountains of Central Japan, this UNESCO historical village is stunning.
  • Kurashiki: Sometimes referred to as the “Amsterdam of Japan” for its canals and charming architecture, it’s easy to see the romantic appeal of this town.
  • Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo: Have a drink at the hotel known for its iconic scene in Lost in Translation. If you want to experience more than the intimate hotel bar, splurge on staying there for an unforgettable experience! It’s an incredible view overlooking one of the largest cities in the world. You can pretend you’re Bill Murray and the other Scarlett Johannson.
  • Minoo Park: Riverside walking paths and a picnic area next to a waterfall make this a popular date spot for locals. Bonus: it’s an easy day trip from Osaka!

3. Japan itinerary ideas for families

Teamlab Planets Tokyo Japan

If you’re traveling to Japan with children, here are some ideas that are great for families with kids of all ages:

  • TeamLab Planets and teamLab Borderless: Interact with colorful projections of moving art as you explore different worlds that overload your senses.
    • Our personal experience: We’ve been to Borderless (reopening in 2024) by ourselves and Planets with our daughter (who was 2 years old at the time), and we can say it is a fantastic experience for both adults and children!
  • Nara Deer Park: See 1,200 adorable and friendly deer roaming freely around this park.
  • Amusement Park(s): There are many to choose from, including DisneySea Tokyo, DisneyLand Tokyo and Universal Studios Osaka (which includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).
  • Hitachi Seaside Park: Popular with families for the millions of flowers that bloom all year round, ferris wheel, putt-putt golf and bike paths, this could be a nice day trip from Tokyo.
  • Jigokudanoi Snow Monkey Park: Watch Japanese macaques bath in onsen pools in a mountainside forest for a fun family adventure!
  • Koizumi Bokujo Farm: Visit a Japanese dairy farm just outside Tokyo where your family can learn about the animals and nature. You can even feed or milk the cows if you like. Oh and don’t forget to get some ice cream from the farm shop before you leave.

4. Japan itinerary ideas for nature-lovers

Hiking the Kumano Kodo Trail

Despite having some of the largest and busiest cities in the world, there is so much nature to be explored in Japan, especially in the mountains. There are plenty of incredible hiking trails throughout Japan, so make sure you pack your hiking boots.

  • Mount Fuji: The icon of Japan is open for hiking during the peak season of July and August when the mountain huts are open. But even if you don’t want to hike to the summit, there are lots of places nearby to get great views amongst nature.
    • Our personal recommendation: Shiraito Falls was an unexpected highlight for us, as there were very few people when we visited around sunset time, and it is a spectacular waterfall with views of Mount Fuji nearby.
  • Kumano Kodo Trail: Quite literally, off the beaten path, this destination is a historic pilgrimage trail that has been trekked for thousands of years. Hiking this trail is one of the best things we’ve ever done in Japan.
  • Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route: To travel through this area, visitors must take 8 different modes of transport, including electric buses, cable cars, and funiculars, all to see what is known as the “Roof of Japan”. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and few other foreign travelers.
    • It is a cool year round destination: In the summer time you can hike up to Mt. Tateyama, but in the spring you can walk next to the 7 meter high snow wall.
  • Takachiho Gorge: Walk along or even boat through the mossy green gorge in the Miyazaki region of Kyushu Island. The Tatsuzawa Fudo no Taki Waterfall ends the 1 km trail near a Buddhist temple.
  • Cedar Avenue in Hakone: It’s a preserved section of the historic Tokaido Road, this area has over 400 Cedar trees towering over the forest floor.
  • Tottori Sand Dunes: Stretching over 2 km and rising up to 45 meters high, these sand dunes are a a unique attraction that seem so far from what you’d expect to find in Japan.
  • Mount Tateyama: It has the highest peak of the Toyama mountains and is one of the three sacred mountains of Japan, after Mt. Fuji and Hakusan.

5. Off-the-beaten-path ideas for your Japan itinerary

Best Time to Visit Japan | Two Wandering Soles

Are you a traveler who prefers to escape the crowds for a more unique adventure? Here are some great ideas for you to put on your Japan itinerary. 

  • Shinjuku’s Golden Gai Bar Crawl: Tucked away in a corner of Tokyo, these 6 narrow streets are home to a variety of micro bars that can only fit a handful of people, some with only 3 or 4 seats. Most of these establishments have their own themes as well, and you’ll feel like you’ve discovered hidden gems even in one of the world’s biggest cities.
  • Nakasendo Trail: An ancient route that spanned more than 330 miles to connect Kyoto and Tokyo and was used in the Edo Period. While modern development has taken over many portions of the trail, there are still a few sections that remain more or less in their original form. You can walk from village to village and stay in countryside accommodation.
    • Our personal opinion: We’ve walked the Nakasendo Trail twice and think it’s one of the most underrated things to do in Japan.
  • Akigawa Valley: Located in Tokyo prefecture this area has a much more chill vibe than the city and can be visited as a day trip or for a getaway from the crowds and hang out by the river.
  • Takayama: While the city itself isn’t truly off the beaten path, it is a lot less popular with tourists than Tokoyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. And the surrounding countryside is where you can really see the “real” rural Japan.
    • Our personal recommendation: If you want an authentic experience (and are renting a car in Japan), we loved our experience staying at this historic home in a tiny village outside of Takayama. You can even take a soba noodle making class and you’ll have your own private onsen to soak in.
  • Nikko National Park: The city of Nikko, while beautiful, isn’t a hidden gem at all. However, the national park just outside the city is seldom visited by foreign travelers.
    • Our personal recommendation: One of our favorite stays in Japan was at this onsen hotel located in this national park. It took a bit of planning to get there (and we drove ourselves), but it was well worth the effort!

6. Japan itinerary ideas for foodies

foods to eat in Japan | ramen

Japanese cuisine is renowned around the world, and there’s nothing quite like trying it at the source. Foodies will love Japan for its fresh ingredients and careful attention to technique.

  • Tsukiji Fish Market: Get the freshest sushi you will ever taste. It’s better than you can ever imagine.
  • Cooking Class: Learn how to make your favorite Japanese dishes and then bring your skills back home to impress your friends.
  • Ramen Hunting in Tokyo: Slurping down a proper ramen is a must do in Tokyo. You’ll know it’s legit when you have to order at a machine first and hand over your ticket to the workers behind the counter.
  • Kanazawa: If you love seafood, Kanazawa has some of the best in Japan. Plus, there is a really cool izakaya culture here.
    • Our personal recommendation: The cozy, yet refined Fuwari, located on a quiet street in Kanazawa) is one of our all-time favorite dining experiences in Japan!
  • Food Tour: Try taking a food tour one of your first days in Japan so you know what to look for during the rest of your stay. You’ll leave full of knowledge and with a full belly.
  • Dine at a ryokan: Staying at a ryokan is much more than just accommodation. The really nice ones often include dinner and breakfast, and you will be wowed by the traditional kaiseki style dining.

7. Quirky ideas for your Japan itinerary

teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum Tokyo Japan

There are endless weird and quirky things to do in Japan, so take full advantage of the culture. 

  • Stay in a capsule hotel: Hope you’re not claustrophobic! Capsule hotels are a good budget option and a unique experience you can’t get outside of Japan.
  • Visit teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum in Tokyo: Probably one of the most Instagrammable locations in Tokyo, if not all of Japan! Interact with colorful projections of moving art as you explore different worlds that overload your senses.
  • Take your picture in a photobooth: Not your average mall photo booth. Once inside a purikura booth, take fun pictures with your travel partners (dress up if they have props). Then head to the editing screen and make your eyes bigger, your cheeks blush, and your smile more white. You can even add captions before it prints it out for you.
  • Karaoke: Rent out a room with your travel partner or take a night-time karaoke tour and belt out your favorite 90’s hits. Hint: Ben’s is Wannabe by the Spice Girls!
  • Theme cafes*: Theme restaurants and cafes are huge in Japan, and there is such a variety of types to choose from that every traveler should be able to find one that appeals to them. 

A note on responsible travel in Japan

*Animal cafes: We’ve been to a few dog and cat cafes in Korea, but have heard not so great things about the animal cafe culture in Japan when it comes to animals that are not typically domesticated or are nocturnal, like owls, sheep, and hedgehogs. Again, do a little research and make your own informed decision about if you would like to support this business.

8. Japan itinerary ideas for culture-seekers

Sunset in Kyoto Japan
  • Stay at a ryokan: Enjoy traditional Japanese hospitality in a paper-walled ryokan room while sleeping on a comfy futon on the ground. The service is always excellent and so are the meals.
  • Geisha experience: Hang around Kyoto’s Gion district around dinner time to spot a geisha traveling to her events that evening. They typically don’t like to be bothered, so just watch from afar. Or better yet, book a Geisha experience which will allow you to interact with them.
  • Tea Ceremony: There is a specific art form to creating the perfect cup of tea and the Japanese have made that perfection. Probably the best cup of tea you’ll ever have.
  • Temple and shrine hopping: There are thousands of temples and shrines throughout Japan. Some in the heart of the city and others resting on the peaks of mountains. Try to understand the history of each temple you visit and be in awe of how many people they have served.

Psst! We have a list of must-see landmarks in Japan that’s sure to give you some inspiration for your itinerary!

The perfect done-for-you Japan itinerary

couple holding hands in Japan

Want the perfect itinerary planned for you? 

If you don’t have a ton of time to spend planning your Japan itinerary (or you just don’t find travel planning fun!), we’re working on something you might be interested in… 

We are in the process of creating done-for-you Japan itineraries that are packed full of all sorts of tips we’ve gathered from 3 trips to Japan as well as literally hundreds of hours of research (no exaggeration). 

We will have both off-the-beaten path routes as well as a classic itinerary that hits the top attractions. If you want to be the first to know when our Japan itineraries are on sale, get on the waitlist!

How many days do you need in Japan?

Harajuku Tokyo Japan

Depending on your intended itinerary, you could spend as little as one week in Japan, like we did on our first trip. 

Ideally, 2-3 weeks will give you enough time to see iconic and lesser-known sights as well as recover from a long travel day and potentially a big time difference.

But the ideal duration for your trip depends on several factors, including destinations you want to visit and your travel style. Our guide to how many days to spend in Japan will help you figure out how much time you need based on what you want to do.

Best time to visit Japan

Mount Fuji Japan

In short, you’ll have the best chance of comfortable weather in early spring (March – early April) and in autumn (late October – November)

That said, each season boasts different highlights such as the cherry blossoms blooming in the springtime, Mt Fuji opens for climbing in the summer, the leaves changing colors in the fall and of course ski season in the winter.

The ideal time to visit largely depends on your interests, preferences, and itinerary. We have a full breakdown of each season, plus pros and cons in our guide to the best time to visit Japan.

How to get around Japan

Riding the trains in Japan with the Japan Rail Pass

The trains and metros in Japan are some of the cleanest and most efficient in the world, and the rail system covers almost the entire country making it a very efficient way to get around. 

However, transportation is one of the biggest expenses to factor into your Japan travel budget

Travel by train in Japan

We have an entire guide to navigating the Japan Rail system and whether or not getting a J Rail Pass is worthwhile for your trip, depending on your itinerary.

Likewise, if you are just planning to spend your time in Tokyo and trying to figure out how to navigate the metro, you can find that info in our Tokyo article

Renting a car

While we love the ease and efficiency of Japan’s public transportation system, we rented a car during our most recent trip to Japan and we absolutely loved it.

Having our own car was really convenient, especially now that we’re traveling with a toddler. Plus, it gave us the opportunity to get off the beaten path and explore places with very few tourists that would be difficult to visit via public transportation. 

I think we will forevermore be renting cars when we visit Japan, even if just for part of our trip.

Psst! We have a guide to renting a car in Japan (packed with lots of driving tips you won’t want to miss!).

What to pack for traveling to Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto Japan 2023

We know it can be overwhelming packing for a trip to a new destination. That’s why we spent hours creating these super helpful guides full of packing hacks and tips for traveling in Japan that you won’t find anywhere else:

  • Our Japan packing guide lists all the essentials (many of which you might not think about), as well as what you should NOT pack for a trip to Japan.
  • This article on what to wear in Japan will help you create a perfect capsule wardrobe for every season and let you in on some cultural taboos so you can be sure to dress appropriately.
  • With this FREE Japan packing list PDF download, we’ll send checklists straight to your inbox for everything from clothing and toiletries (for both women and men!) to what shoes to pack and extra stuff you may want to have on-hand just in case. Click the image below to get your free copy!
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Are you planning a trip to Japan?

We have TONS of resources on travel in Japan and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Japan Travel Guide for all the answers to your most burning questions, or read some of our favorite articles below.

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Japan Itinerary | Two Wandering Soles
Japan Itinerary | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

What do you think of these Japan itinerary ideas? Which idea do you want to steal for your next Japan trip?? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

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