Welcome to our Japan 3-Week Itinerary Planner.
Japan is a fascinating country.
It has many vibrant cities and incredible tourist attractions including renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites and ancient monuments.
You will find spectacular landscapes, intriguing culture, urban skylines, temples and pagodas, delicious food, and even a suicide forest!
The nature here is very beautiful: from the stunning cherry blossom trees in spring to beautiful fall colors; the natural sights are a photographer’s delight.
The Japan Rail bullet train system is fast, efficient, and great to get around during your Japan itinerary.
Located in the Far East, Japan comprises of 4 main islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku and thousands of smaller islands.
Honshu is the largest island and is also called the Mainland.
Its area is roughly comparable to that of California.
The popular Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are located on Honshu and this is where most first time visitors plan their trip.
The mainland is well connected by the Japan Rail bullet train system.
3 Weeks in Japan Itinerary
Japan Itinerary 3 Weeks is a perfect time to explore this beautiful country.
We recommend flying in and out of Tokyo at the Narita International Airport.
See the city’s highlights including the skyline and urban attractions.
The visit the cultural destinations located away from the capital in Kyoto, Nara, and Miyajima using the Japan Rail.
Enjoy the natural wonders, cuisine, and culture of Japan. Buy unique souvenirs and plan a memorable trip.
This amazing Japan itinerary 3 weeks will guide around the best places to visit in Japan.
The itinerary assumes a leisurely pace of travel using the Japan Rail and is perfect for solo travelers, couples as well as families.
It covers major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and includes interesting side trips to Mt. Fuji, Nara, and Miyajima via the bullet train.
It also includes trips to Nikko in Northern Japan and to Takayama in the Japanese Alps.
The itinerary also offers suggestions for day tours, add-on activities, and includes recommendations for hotels of all budgets.
We have also included what and where to eat recommendations wherever possible.
You will also find key travel tips and travel essentials including the Japan Rail bullet train pass to plan your Japan 3 week itinerary.
Tokyo – 3 Days
Tokyo is Japan’s bustling capital city. It is a unique and startling mix of the ancient and the modern.
It is the perfect place to begin your 3 Week itinerary Japan.
Land at the Narita International Airport and begin your trip. Take the train to Shinjuku station.
Shinjuku is the most central part of Tokyo and has been a popular tourist destination for decades.
In Tokyo, you will find cultural sights, museums, wide open places, neon skylines, and Instagram famous animal cafes.
While we suggest spending 3 days in Tokyo, you can easily spend a week to a fortnight in the city and still not want to leave.
To know more about the ethical side of animals cafes, read this post on Should you visit Animal Cafes while in Japan?
Things To Do In Tokyo
Tokyo’s most famous tourist attractions include Tsukiji Fish Market and Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest observation tower.
For a unique attraction, snap a photo with the Hachiko dog statue in Shibuya Crossing.
The Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are popular with families and kids.
Here are some of the best things to do in Tokyo itinerary during your visit.
Tokyo National Museum
A must for history connoisseurs, the Tokyo National Museum has several exhibits and artifacts about the Japanese history and culture.
The museum is largest in Japan and has an amazing collection of art pieces, artifacts, and relics dedicated to Japan’s intriguing history.
Here you will find samurai swords, kimonos and clothing articles, ancient pottery, beautiful paintings, and sculptures.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market is world famous for its gigantic seafood section.
The market also has the distinction of being the oldest fish market in the world.
Here you can get everything you want from cheap breakfast sushi to expensive caviar and sea urchins.
Whether you are looking to buy anything or not, just a stroll through the Tsukiji Fish Market is an unforgettable experience.
The market is open for business since dawn when the first fishing ships arrive from the sea.
Fresh seafood for sale at the Tsukiji Fish Market
Senso-ji Temple is the oldest and most visited temple in the city.
The temple is dedicated to the Buddhist God of mercy and happiness.
The temple and its grounds are grand and have beautiful architectural features which are highly popular with most visitors.
Entry to the temple is free and it is one of the best free things to do in Tokyo.
Odaiba is located on the Tokyo Bay right next to the Downtown.
Odaiba has everything from stunning buildings, museums, parks, beaches, and even a Legoland.
In fact, Legoland is not the only amusement park on this island; Odaiba has many kid-friendly attractions from go-karting, Ferris wheels, and even a natural hot springs theme park for adults.
Where to stay in Tokyo
Shibuya Station of the Japan Rail system is the perfect location for getting around Tokyo and intercity.
We recommend staying in this area to be close to attractions.
Tourists who are looking for the perfect luxury hotel experience should look no further than the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel.
The Park Hyatt has been ranked as one of the top 10 hotels worldwide and offers everything from luxurious rooms to fantastic food options at its restaurants.
If you’re looking for something more affordable, then check out Hotel Metropole Shinjuku where rates are reasonable and rooms are clean.
Kyoto – 3 Days
From the urban hustle and bustle of Tokyo, escape to the charming delights of Kyoto via the bullet train system to continue your Japan itinerary.
Kyoto is old Japan.
The time stands still among Kyoto’s more than 2000 temples and shrines, age-old teahouses, tranquil Zen gardens and inspiring bamboo forests, and traditionally dressed geishas carrying dainty umbrellas.
We would ideally recommend spending 3 to 4 days in Kyoto to see everything however for time-strapped travelers, 2 days is a great time to experience Kyoto’s highlights.
Things To Do in Kyoto
Kyoto, which was once the imperial capital of Japan, is a perfect introduction to Japanese culture and presents innumerable opportunities to immerse in Japanese culture.
Kyoto has a host of famous temples, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Golden Temple.
The city is home to over 2,000 different shrines and museums.
Take an extra day trip from Japan to see the other side of the city, including a visit to the Grand Kyoto Temple of the Murryry.
There are also plenty of cultural events to offer throughout the city to see, such as the Grand Gura and some of Japan’s oldest pagarina temples.
Here are the 5 must have Japanese experiences in Downtown Kyoto and surrounding areas that can be easily covered in two to three days:
Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji
The Golden Pavilion of Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji is one of Japan’s popular sights.
Reconstructed in 1955, the temple with its gold-foil covering is very spectacular.
Visitors cannot enter the temple, however beautiful views of the temple surrounded by the lake can be seen from the garden.
Being one of Kyoto’s top sights, it is always crowded. You can avoid crowds by visiting early in the morning on weekdays.
This Shinto shrine is most photographed sight in Kyoto.
The Fushimi Inari shrine was built to honor Inari, the Shinto god of rice and is famous for its endless array of bright orange torii gates.
The shrine is guarded by the many statues of sacred foxes of Inari.
Visiting the Fushimi Inari shrine is not easy.
It requires a 90 min hike up the mountain and we recommend starting early to avoid crowds.
Ginkaku-ji stands for the silver pavilion however the temple was never actually covered in silver.
This Buddhist temple has a very beautiful Zen garden that looks spectacular especially in spring and in autumn.
The garden has beautiful sand sculptures, small waterfalls, and many other structures and is a great place to unwind.
Nishiki Market is a busy, bustling traditional Japnese market selling everything from food to souvenirs.
It is a foodie’s paradise with thousands of unexpected food items to tease the taste buds.
Specialty shops selling varieties of pickles, tofu, and dried fish are fascinating to look at.
The market also has shops selling Japanese knives and other fascinating accessories.
Bamboo Forest Street
The walk through the street lined with bamboo trees is incredibly pleasant.
There are usually lots of people on the hike and it is crowded but walking slowly and letting other people pass is a good way to enjoy the tranquility of the hike.
The view over the river at the end of the hike is impressive.
Gion is Kyoto’s largest and most famous geisha district. This is a highlight of the Japan itinerary for many visitors.
The district is very picturesque with traditional teahouses lining up the roads and dainty geishas walking to work.
In the evening, Japanese paper lanterns cast flickering shadows and Gion looks even more beautiful in their light.
Gion is full of upscale restaurants serving delicious Japanese food.
Did you know that you can also wear a traditional kimono or dress as a geisha while in Kyoto?
We highly recommend this one of a kind experience.
Visitors can rent a kimono for a day and walk about the charming old town.
Gion is a great place to take a photograph in a traditional kimono.
Alternatively, many shops also offer a geisha costume and makeup to tourists.
Dressing up as a geisha is an incredible way to understand this aspect of the Japanese culture.
Where to stay in Kyoto
We highly recommend staying in a Ryokan during your Kyoto itinerary.
Ryokan’s are present all over Japan, however, there is a special charm in staying in a Ryokan in the heart of Japan’s cultural capital of Kyoto.
For a luxurious stay, you can also try the Four Seasons Kyoto!
Kyoto Hana Hotel is also a wonderful choice in a central location. It is perfect for exploring surrounding Gion by foot.
The Hyatt Regency or the Kyoto Hotel Granvia Kyoto is also popular with tourists.
Century Hotel Kyoto, located right by the main bullet train station, is good for those short on time since it easy to get around the city from here.
Nara – 2 Days
Nara was once the imperial capital of Japan.
Just like Kyoto, Nara is all old Japan and has 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Visitors love walking through Nara Park’s moss laden statues, tranquil shrines and friendly deer.
You can easily visit Nara using the JR train.
Things To Do in Nara
Daibutsu or the Great Buddha statue of Nara, located in the Todai-ji temple, is a magnificent bronze figure.
The statue is over 16 m high and housed in the temple’s Great Buddha Hall.
The original structure of Todai-ji’s Great Buddha Hall was the largest wooden building in the world; the current hall is two-thirds that size.
Nara Park is a tranquil garden with many paths and plenty of friendly deer.
The deer are a special highlight of the park due to their sheer number and willingness to come close to tourists.
Visitors can buy deer crackers from vendors and feed the deer.
The Nara Park also has Kohfukuji National Treasure Hall, the Tokodo hall and the Todaiji Museum which have a great collection of Japanese sculptures.
This beautiful Japanese garden is a must visit especially in spring and fall.
The garden is also spectacular in summer when the entire landscape is a rich green hue.
The teahouse, interesting garden layout, and sculptures, streams, stepping stones are beautiful to see.
The Yoshikien Garden located next to the Isuien garden is also must see during spring and fall.
Naramachi is a quaint, historic neighborhood with 2 traditional Japanese style merchant houses open for viewing, lots of shops, rustic teahouses, and temples lining the streets.
A walking tour in this area is best started at the visitor center where you will get maps and locations of interesting sites. We highly recommend having tea in one of the traditional teahouses to end your trip.
Osaka – 3 Days
Osaka is Japan’s third largest city after Tokyo and Kyoto.
Not many tourists visit Osaka, which is a shame because this vibrant city has great shopping and is a foodie’s paradise.
We definitely recommend adding Osaka to the 3 week Japan itinerary.
Osaka has many tourist attractions and is a perfect introduction to modern Japan after the charm of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and old Japan in Kyoto.
The Osaka station of the Japan Rail is well connected making it easy to see the city in a short time.
Things to do in Osaka
Osaka is a lively city, both day and night, with places like the city’s entertainment district of Shinsekai.
Grab lunch at Janjan Yokocho Alley, the best place in the city to try kushikatsu, a dish of breaded and deep-fried skewered foods.
Check out the Instant Ramen Museum, located in nearby Ikeda City, and visit the Minoo Park, a nature preserve with a number of attractions, including a 3-km nature walk to a massive waterfall.
Also Read: One Day in Osaka Itinerary
Osaka Castle is among Japan’s most famous castles and one of the must-see attractions in the city.
Visitors can take a tour of the Osaka Castle.
The interior has been reconstructed into a museum and hence does not feel original; however, the exterior is a splendid example of magnificent Japanese castles.
Views from the top of the castle are impressive.
Osaka Castle Park
Located next to the Osaka Castle, the large public park is a beautiful place with sculptures, mature trees, and duck ponds.
In spring the park blooms with cherry blossoms and plum blossoms and is one of the best places for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in the city.
The park has beautiful views of the Osaka Castle.
Dotonbori neighborhood is the heart of Osaka’s modern lifestyle and is filled with theatres, restaurants, street shacks, shopping and more.
The area looks colorful during the day but is best viewed at night when all sorts of colorful neon signs come to life.
Visitors enjoy walking along the neon-lit storefronts, shopping for souvenirs and eating local cuisine off roadside eateries.
Some of the must eat street foods in Osaka include takoyaki, skewered chicken, Kobe beef, ramen, fugu fish, and other seafood.
Minami (Namba) and Shinsaibashi
After Dotonbori, these two areas are Osaka’s biggest night attractions.
All 3 shopping areas are located near each other.
Minami and Shinsaibashi also come alive at night with street food vendors, brightly lit neon signs, and an unbelievably large number of visitors.
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Founded in the 3rd century, this shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines.
The architecture style is purely Japanese (lacks Buddhist style influences) and is stunning with its straight roofs and finials.
It is also surrounded by a tranquil Japanese garden with sculptures and beautiful trees.
The highlight of this shrine is the red arched bridge called Sorihasi, also constructed in a purely Japanese style.
Osaka also has many other attractions which are popular with families including Universal Studios Japan, the Osaka Aquarium, Kuchu Teien Observatory, and the Ferris Wheel.
Where to stay in Osaka
Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel is one of our favorite hotels in Osaka.
It’s located close to Dotonbori and has really comfortable rooms.
It is also a great place to stay because of the food and entertainment options nearby.
Cross Hotel Osaka is a few minutes walk to Namba Japan Rail station and another great choice.
Kobe 2 Days
A must for culinary travelers, Kobe is famous for its seared Kobe beef and crisp, locally-brewed sake.
This cosmopolitan town is situated on the slopes of Rokko Mountains adjacent to the sea and has origins as a popular port city.
Kobe is a delight to wander and explore for most travelers.
We recommend Kobe as a short day trip from Osaka.
Things To Do in Kobe
Port of Kobe Memorial Park
Kobe was damaged due to a severe earthquake in 1995 which resulted in the complete devastation of the port area.
The Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims and destruction, is a great place to visit and view the immense damage in the form of demolished structures and tilted light poles.
Kobe’s Chinatown may be small but it is a great place to visit especially if you are hunkering for delicious Chinese food.
Must try items include steamed dumplings, meat skewers, and the famous Kobe Beef.
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
The Brewery Museum is a great place to understand the traditional sake-making equipment and the sake brewing process.
The visit starts with a free self-guided tour and ends with free sake tasting. Visitors can also try sake ice cream at the souvenir shop.
Located in the center of Kobe, Ikuta Shrine is famous in Japan.
It consists of several shrines around the main building and a surrounding wooded garden.
The shrine is dedicated to relationships and finding love. Visitors can tie love prayers in the garden.
Many weddings take place at the Ikuta Shrine.
Hiroshima – 2 Days
The name Hiroshima evokes unpleasant memories of the atomic mushroom cloud, innumerable deaths and destruction on a never seen before scale.
Hiroshima was the first city in Japan to be hit with an atomic bomb in 1945.
However, the present day Hiroshima shows great resilience and has come a long way from the bleak, abandoned blast zones.
It is a beautiful, cultured city that is a delight to visit, making it a must on your Japan trip.
To visit Hiroshima is to honor the cities hundreds of thousands of victims and their stories.
Things To Do in Hiroshima
Reach the city by the bullet train which goes to Hiroshima Station.
The Peace Memorial Park and the Hiroshima Castle are the main attractions to visit the city.
The city is also known for its seafood, especially oysters and sushi.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The world’s most somber peace monument, the park does a great job of explaining everything that happened in the city on that fateful day.
The museum has many artifacts and exhibits about the atomic bombing.
Atomic Bomb Dome
Atomic Bomb Dome has been preserved in its original state of devastation.
It serves as a haunting reminder of the vast destruction caused in a single moment.
We also recommend visiting the dome after dusk to understand the eerie silence and atrocities of world war II.
Some of Hiroshima’s other peace monuments including Memorial Hall for the victims, Children’s peace monument, the peace bell are well worth a visit.
If you want a more detailed travel guide to Hiroshima, check this one out!
Where to stay in Hiroshima
Royal RIHGA Hotel in Hiroshima offers great value for money and is a great place to explore all Hiroshima’s attractions.
Rooms are large, bright, and well furnished with all modern comforts.
The Sheraton Grand Hotel is situated in a great location close to the train station with plenty of transport and dining options nearby.
The hotel is connected to Hiroshima Shinkansen station by a short, covered walkway, providing easy transportation around the city and out to Miyajima.
The Peace Memorial Park and the city’s buses are both within easy walking distance.
Miyajima Island – 1 Day
Miyajima is a small island in the Hiroshima Bay and is known as the island of the gods.
The entire island is preserved as part of the UNESCO world heritage site and is one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions.
Miyajima Island is close to Hiroshima and should definitely be on your list.
The friendly and tame deer that float all over Miyajima island are delightful while the cultural attractions are stunning.
Things To Do in Miyajima
It is one of Japan’s most popular tourist attractions.
Main attraction is the bright red Torii gate of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine which stands out in the sea.
You can also take the ropeway to the sacred Mount Misen where you can go hiking.
Watch out for the tame deer that follow you around, especially paper and maps, as they love to eat paper.
Itsukushima – The Great Torii
The Great Torii is a single free-standing gate of the Itsukushima Shrine.
At high tide, the Torii is surrounded by water and appears to float on the sea.
It is one of the most photographed sites in the world and the gate is commonly called ‘The Floating Torii’.
Mt. Misen is Miyajima’s highest peak.
The observation deck at the top of Mt. Misen is accessible via a 2 hr hike or a ropeway and offers beautiful views of the island.
Five Story Pagoda
This lesser known attraction on Miyajima is a beautiful sight.
Almost 27 meters tall, the majestic Pagoda is dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine.
Himeji – 1 Day
Himeji is home to Japan’s most beautiful castle.
A stopover at Himeji is necessary for history lovers, art and architecture patrons, and culture geeks.
Things To Do in Himeji
Almost everyone comes to Himeji for the castle.
The beautiful castle has been recently renovated and is a glorious example of Japanese architecture.
The castle is a world heritage site and looks spectacular during the cherry blossom season.
Kokoen Garden is home to 9 reconstructed Samurai style houses.
They reflect Edo period style architecture and are surrounded by stunning Japanese gardens with water features, sculptures, and elegant trees.
The garden is spectacular in spring and fall.
Himeji makes a perfect day trip from Kyoto and Osaka and is a perfect stopover on the way to Hiroshima.
Takayama, Shirakawa-Go & Shinhotaka – 2 Days
In the mountainous region of Gifu prefecture, Japan, there are quaint villages and towns that have been preserved from an earlier era.
The best known are Takayama, Shirakawa-Go, & Shinhotaka. They are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
These villages have a long history dating back to the 16th century when rice farming was introduced to the area.
Today, many tourists visit this region for its beautiful scenery, bamboo Japanese style homes, cobblestone streets, traditional gardens, quaint shops, temples and shrines, and craftsmanship in wood carving.
If you’re looking for a place with traditional Japanese culture as well as nature views then head over to Takayama Shirakawa-Go Shinhotaka!
Hakone & Mt Fuji – 2 Days
Hakone is a popular tourist destination in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is known for its natural beauty and hot springs.
Hakone also makes the perfect base to explore Mt Fuji.
Things to do in Hakone
The town of Hakone has been attracting tourists for centuries because it is an easy day trip from Tokyo and offers visitors a chance to enjoy the Japanese culture and scenery.
Hakone has many onsen, or hot spring bathhouses to enjoy.
The most popular way to experience an onsen is by visiting a traditional Japanese Ryokan (hotel) in Hakone.
These hotels usually have one or more private outdoor baths which guests can enjoy after a long day exploring the outdoors.
Hakone also has many parks with views overlooking Mount Fuji.
The town’s other attractions include temples, museums, gardens with cherry blossoms trees, shops selling traditional goods or souvenirs such as lacquerware or samurai swords.
Hakone is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations because it offers something for everyone: cultural sites for history buffs, outdoor adventures for sports enthusiasts, nature retreats for hikers and cyclists alike.
Hakonemachi Station connects to the Hakone Ropeway for access to more natural attractions like Lake Ashi or Owakudani Valley.
The best time of the year to visit this area is during winter when the ground becomes covered with snow and there are no crowds around as most Japanese people head south where it’s warmer.
Things to do in Mt. Fuji
Mount Fuji is a dormant volcano that is the highest mountain in Japan.
Tourists often visit Mt.Fuji as they are drawn by its beauty or because they want to climb it for themselves!
Whether you’re looking for a place to hike or something more spiritual, there’s plenty to do near this amazing natural wonder.
After seeing Hakone and Mt. Fuji, head back to Tokyo and take your return flight from the Narita International Airport.
If you want to stay in Japan longer, you can spend more time in Osaka or Nikko to extend your trip.
Or visit the scenic Kiso Valley near the Central Alps.
2 Week Japan Itinerary
Often tourists have only 2 weeks to 10 days in Japan.
While not easy, you can definitely plan a trip to Japan in 2 weeks.
2 weeks is a perfect time to get out of Tokyo & Kyoto, explore the stunning landscapes including bamboo forests, understand the local customs and traditions like onsen, live in a ryokan and visit some of the distant attractions including the Japanese Alps.
With some initial bit of planning and booking hotels in advance, the 2 weeks you spend in Japan will be the most memorable ones.
The itinerary relies on using the Japanese bullet train system to get around Japan.
Our 2 week Japan itinerary is perfect for first-timers who want to see the absolute highlights of Japan in a single trip.
Tokyo – 3 Days
Kyoto – 3 Days
Nara – 1 Day
Osaka – 2 Days
Kobe – 1 Day
Hiroshima & Miyajima – 2 Days
Hakone & Mt. Fuji – 2 Days
How to get around Japan
The best way to get around Japan is the Japan Bullet Train system or Shinkansen using the JR Rail Pass.
The bullet train is safe, efficient, and extremely popular with travelers.
The Shinkansen train is the fastest way to get around Japan.
The shinkansen operates at speeds over 200 miles per hour and can transport passengers from Tokyo Station to Kyoto train station in a little under three hours.
Using the Shinkansen, visitors can explore different parts of the country without having to worry about costs or time spent traveling by bus or car between destinations.
We definitely recommend getting the JR Pass for travel via Shinkansen.
Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass is a rail pass that can be purchased by tourists in order to explore the country.
This unique rail pass is available only to foreign visitors.
The rail pass provides unlimited use of the bullet trains and buses operated by the various JR companies throughout Japan, as well as some of its ferries.
The pass also includes free seats on many shinkansen services!
The JR rail pass is available for either 7, 14, or 21 days.
14 day JR Rail Pass is very inexpensive and a practical option compared to renting a car and most destinations can be accessed for free via the rail pass if you have 2 weeks in Japan.
Similarly, get the 21 day bullet train JR rail pass if you are spending 3 weeks in Japan.
The easiest and least expensive way to buy the Japan Rail Pass is to buy it online from an official JR Pass vendor.
We recommend that you wait to activate your JR Pass until you are leaving Tokyo as Tokyo has just a few JR Lines.
Best Time to Visit Japan
When should you plan the Japan trip?
Spring is the perfect time to visit Japan.
Seeing cherry blossoms in Hirosaki, in northern Japan, is an amazing experience.
During summer, visit Japan’s most beautiful beaches and enjoy the amazing cultural attractions.
Travel Tips to plan Japan Itinerary
Anywhere from 15 days to 3 weeks in Japan is also a good time to learn some basic Japanese phrases. We definitely recommend this as it would make your trip easier.
If you have less time, you can also read this post about seeing the highlights of Japan in 10 days.
If you are visiting Japan with kids, then check out this awesome itinerary by my blogger friend Melissa.
This itinerary assumes that you have your visas in order.
For more on visas and Japan budget, read this guide for essential things to know before your Japan trip.
We hope you liked our Japan 3 week itinerary and options to create your own 2 week Japan itinerary.
Are you looking forward to your trip to Japan? What are you most excited about? Drop a comment and let us know!