How to Plan a Trip to Japan
Planning a trip to Japan can be daunting, especially if it's your first time visiting. There are so many things to consider, such as when to go, what to see, and how to get around. That’s why we have created this comprehensive guide for planning a trip to Japan. In this guide, you will learn:
While most experienced travelers agree that spring and fall are the best times to visit Japan, that doesn't mean summer and winter are out of the question. Actually, Japan is a year-round destination that has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each season has its own charms and attractions. Here is a brief overview of what to expect from each season:
Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Japan, as the weather is mild and pleasant, and the cherry blossoms (sakura) bloom all over the country, creating a stunning scenery. Cherry blossoms usually bloom from late March to early April.
Summer is hot and humid in most parts of Japan, except for Hokkaido and the northern regions, which are cooler and drier. Summer is also the rainy season in Japan, which lasts from mid-June to mid-July. The peak of summer is from late July to late August, many people visit Japan during this time to enjoy festivals (matsuri), fireworks (hanabi), beaches (umibe), mountains (yama). Summer is also the best time to see the lavender fields in Hokkaido and the sunflowers in Tochigi.
Fall is another peak season to visit Japan, as the weather is comfortable and the foliage turns into vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow. Fall is also the best time to visit some of the cultural and historical sites in Japan, such as Kyoto, Nara, Nikko, and Kamakura.
Winter is cold and snowy in many parts of Japan, especially in Hokkaido and the northern regions, which are famous for their winter sports and activities. Winter is also a good time to enjoy hot springs (onsen), winter illuminations, New Year celebrations, and strawberry picking.
Visit the iconic landmarks and attractions of Japan
Top attractions in Tokyo: Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, Shibuya Crossing, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ginza, Asakusa,
Other best places to visit: Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Nara Park, Todaiji Temple, Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Miyajima Island, Himeji Castle, Nagoya Castle, Mount Fuji, Hakone, Nikko, Kamakura, etc.
Experience the traditional and modern culture of Japan
Watching a sumo match, attending a tea ceremony, wearing a kimono or a yukata, taking a calligraphy or origami class, visiting a manga or anime museum or cafe, playing arcade games or karaoke, watching a kabuki or noh performance, participating in a festival or a parade, etc.
Enjoy the natural beauty and diversity of Japan
Viewing the cherry blossoms or the autumn leaves, hiking in the mountains or the forests, skiing or snowboarding in the winter resorts, surfing or snorkeling in the beaches or the islands, soaking in a hot spring or a spa, camping or glamping in the countryside or the parks, etc.
Taste the delicious and varied cuisine of Japan
Some of famous and popular food you should try including sushi, sashimi, ramen, udon, soba, tempura, yakitori, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, kushikatsu, yakiniku, shabu shabu, sukiyaki, nabe, kaiseki, bento, onigiri, dango, mochi, dorayaki, matcha, sake, etc.
Depending on your budget, preferences, and interests, you can spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or even months in Japan. However, a common and recommended length of time for a first-time visitor is around 7 to 14 days. This will allow you to see some of the most popular and iconic places in Japan, as well as experience some of the most unique and memorable aspects of Japanese culture. Here are some general guidelines and suggestions for planning your trip length:
►If you only have a few days in Japan (less than a week), it is advisable to focus on one destination and explore it in depth. You can choose a major city like Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka, or a scenic area like Hakone or Hiroshima. You should avoid traveling to multiple cities as it will take up a lot of your time and energy. A short trip can save you money and allow you to enjoy the local culture and atmosphere at your own pace.
►If you have one week in Japan, you can visit the top three destinations in Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. These cities offer a good balance of modernity and tradition, culture and nature, history and innovation. You can spend about two or three days in each city, depending on your interests and priorities. A one-week trip can give you a comprehensive overview of Japan's highlights and diversity.
► If you have two weeks in Japan, you can add a side trip to another destination that suits your taste and style. You can choose from places like Hakone (famous for hot springs and views of Mount Fuji), Takayama and Shirakawa-go (known for their rural charm and traditional architecture), or Hiroshima (a city of peace and resilience). A 10-day trip can allow you to experience more aspects of Japan's culture and nature.
The most important airport hubs are located outside the two major cities of Tokyo and Osaka. Narita Airport is located in neighboring Chiba Prefecture, an hour's express train ride from Tokyo. The airport serves most global destinations, as well as a large number of domestic flights. Kansai International Airport (KIX) serves the western region of Japan, including the tourist destination of Kyoto and the city of Osaka, as well as the surrounding Nara and Wakayama prefectures.
Buy a prepaid card or a pass that can save you time and money on your travel. You can buy a prepaid card, such as Suica or Pasmo, that can be used on most trains, buses, subways, and taxis in Japan.
If you plan to travel extensively across different regions of Japan, you may want to consider getting a Japan Rail Pass, which is a special ticket that allows unlimited use of most JR trains, including shinkansen (bullet trains), for a certain period of time (7, 14, or 21 days). The JR Pass can save you a lot of money and hassle if you plan your itinerary accordingly.
Organized tours in Japan are a good option if you want to have a hassle-free and informative travel experience in Japan. Organized tours in Japan can offer you many benefits, such as:
- You can have a professional and knowledgeable guide who can show you around and explain the culture and history of the places you visit.
- You can have a comfortable and reliable transportation that can take you to your destinations and pick you up from your accommodation.
- You can have a pre-planned and pre-booked itinerary that can cover the best attractions and activities for your travel in Japan.
- You can have a social and fun atmosphere that can allow you to meet and interact with other travelers who share your interests and passions.
You can also contact us to customize your own tour according to your interests and preferences.
According to budgetyourtrip.com, the average travel cost for a solo traveler to Japan is about $197-$396 per day, including accommodation, food, transportation, and sightseeing. For a couple, the average travel cost is about $326-$695 per day. For a family of four, the average travel cost is about $623-$1,389 per day.
A one-week trip to Japan usually costs around $1,659-$2,771 for one person, $2,279-$4,865 for a couple, and $4,360-$9,723 for a family of four. These prices include accommodation, food, transportation, and sightseeing.
A package tour to Japan costs around $415 per person per day (with 2-4 people), including private car, private guides, local 4-star hotels, tickets for attractions, and full-day itineraries. The total cost is around $2,500-$2,905 for a week.