Visiting Japan In 2023
Japan has such an incredible array of offerings for travelers that it can be overwhelming trying to see everything in one trip.
Some careful planning is your best chance at successfully making your way through some of the major sites to see in the country for your first trip.
With how much there is to see and do in Japan, it’s a country that people will often come back to more than once.
Not only does it allow them to see and do more, but even experiencing Japan in different seasons is worth coming back for. This guide will help you plan your own trip of a lifetime.
What Makes Japan So Enticing?
One of the many fantastic traits of Japan compared to other countries is the way it’s been able to retain a lot of tradition and remnants of culture from centuries ago while also embracing modern technology and Western influences.
You can move from a big city to a small town in a short train ride, almost as if you’re being transported from one time period in Japan to another.
Japan is also a very safe country comparatively, both for locals and tourists. Tourists who are respectful of Japanese culture are embraced and treated with kindness and hospitality wherever they go. Many people in Japan love to share their traditions, food, and their ways of life with those willing to learn.
Getting Around Japan
It’s completely unnecessary to rent a car when traveling through Japan, though it is something you can do should you need one.
The public transportation system in Japan is one of the best systems in the world and is clearly the best way to venture from city to city or within a city itself.
While it takes some time, planning out the specific routes for where you want to go in Japan is crucial, so you know how to budget for your transportation costs. It also helps you understand what your options are in terms of getting from one place to another.
It can be overwhelming traveling through a foreign country when you don’t speak the language fluently.
It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to find these devices; you can book one in advance and pick it up at the airport you fly into.
To have access to pocket wifi for a two-week trip, you’re looking at around $50 USD or so. It’s worth adding that to your budget to stay connected and look up directions when needed.
The Japan Rail Pass
One of the most economical ways to utilize public transportation when making your way through Japan is to purchase a Japan Rail pass. A JR Pass gives you the ability to ride many of the local trains and even some bullet trains, or shinkansen, simply by presenting your pass at any train station.
You’ll save a lot of money using a pass, even if some of the routes you plan on taking don’t accept the pass. The 14-day pass is an excellent bargain if you want to see as much of Japan as possible. If you’re mainly spending your trip in Tokyo, it’s not worth buying a pass.
The cost of the Japan Rail Pass will likely vary depending on which pass you choose, as well as whether or not you want to buy an upgraded pass to get luxury seating on select trains.
While it’s quite a cool experience to have a green pass, especially if you plan on riding a bullet train, it’s not a necessary expense.
The Limits Of The JR Pass
It’s important to note that while the JR Pass is extremely convenient and cost-effective for traveling through Japan, there are some limitations to where you can use the pass.
You’re only going to be able to use it when traveling on a Japan Rail-owned public transportation medium. Take note that there is some extra cost when using limited express or shinkansen routes.
If you find that you’ll have to ride some subways or public transportation owned by other transportation companies in Japan, it’s worth looking into an IC Card. IC Cards are available for major transportation companies such as Pasmo and Suica.
These cards let you board these trains and subway cars, as the Japan Rail pass doesn’t work on them.
The IC Card doesn’t get you any special deals when you use them, but they help you limit the number of yen you have to carry on you.
Since there are numerous companies that offer IC Cards, your research is going to have to be thorough once you decide where you’re going, so you choose the right card.
You can purchase and load an IC Card at a train or subway station; Tokyo Station will likely be your best bet since you’ll likely make your way there on your trip.
Tips For Using Public Transportation In Japan
When you’re planning out your routes for getting around Japan, planning around where the JR Pass and IC Cards can get you is the most effective way to get around.
It’s not only convenient but helps you keep your travel costs down as much as you can.
What most seasoned travelers and locals do is use their JR Pass to get as close to their intended destination as possible, as JR routes tend to go pretty far through Japan.
Then, they will use their IC Cards for the more direct route to get to their intended destination.
You can take your luggage on public transportation with you, but you’ll want to be cognizant of how much you pack when you know you’ll be using public transportation.
Some trains will have limits on what you can bring on board with you in an effort to make sure you don’t take up too much space.
Preparing For Your Trip To Japan
You’ll want to prepare yourself with a good portion of yen based on what you decide to do on your trip. A lot of places in Japan either only accept cash or prefer cash.
Be sure you have a small and secure spot for storing your cash when you have it on you. Japan is safe, but you can never be too careful.
Japan has centuries of history that may be overwhelming to some, but taking the time to learn basic manners and important aspects of the culture can help you navigate the country much more seamlessly. Some light online reading about manners and a translation app on your phone will do wonders for you.
So long as you’re sure to be polite, say please and thank you, and avoid being too loud or rowdy, you’re likely going to fit in very well in the country.
Visiting Japan: Why Two Weeks?
Japan is not a country to visit for only a couple of days, or even a week. Two weeks will give you the opportunity to see a sufficient portion of the country.
One of the best ways you can pack in as much adventure and sightseeing as you can hope for is to organize your trip by the cities you want to stay in.
If you plan to spend two or three days in each city, you’ll have the opportunity to not only explore the city itself but explore nearby towns. Pretty much all of Japan is accessible by train or bus, so you have the ability to make day trips to nearby cities or towns a part of your trip.
A Two-Week Itinerary For Visiting Japan In 2023
Japan is a fairly big country, and narrowing down where to go can be tough. If you have two weeks, planning to see a couple of cities at minimum is not only doable but recommended, especially if you have a JR Pass. While Tokyo is a grand city and is worth spending a couple of days in, it’s not the only big city worth seeing.
You also don’t want to overlook smaller villages and cities where the amount of learning you can do is tremendous. So many of these smaller cities and towns have remnants of traditional Japanese culture and ways of living that you have the opportunity to witness.
When visiting Japan for the first time, you’re likely going to want to hit some of the popular spots that bring people to the country every year.
You’ll eventually want to come back again to explore some of the hidden gems of the country and the smaller neighborhoods where unique culture abounds.
To make your two-week trip as comprehensive and adventure-packed as possible – without spending too much time traveling and overwhelming yourself – your best bet is as follows:
- Start your trip in Tokyo and spend three to four days there, with the option of staying in the Fuji Five Lakes for a day
- Make your way to Kyoto for three to four days
- Next go to Hiroshima for two days, making a jaunt to Miyajima island for the day
- Spend your remaining days in Osaka before heading back to Tokyo to head home
Below are some of the top destinations for each of these cities, as well as some other ways to enjoy your time in between seeing the big sights.
It’s important to note that there are so many other places in Japan that are just as beautiful and full of places to see, but you’d need much more than two weeks to see them all.
There are lots to see and do in the large city of Tokyo, and you have access to so many other places in Japan through a bus or train ride. For instance, making your way to Mount Fuji from Tokyo to spend a day or two there is very easy. You could easily spend your whole two weeks in Tokyo, but you don’t want to limit yourself.
Tokyo is made up of several different districts and neighborhoods and is divided by Central, North, South, East, and West Tokyo.
No matter which part of Tokyo you decide to stay in, you have the opportunity to visit special districts dedicated to certain aspects of Japanese culture while also being able to shop, see shrines, and enjoy various activities and delicious foods.
In Central Tokyo, you’ll find Tokyo Station, the Akihabara District, which is perfect for anime, manga, and tech lovers, as well as Ginza, home to the best shopping you’ll do in Tokyo. You’ll also find the Tokyo Dome and the nearby Koishikawa Korakuen garden, as well as the Yasukuni Shrine.
North Tokyo features the infamous Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo National Museum, in addition to Ryogoku, known as the sumo wrestling epicenter. You’ll also want to see the Sensoji Temple or the landscapes of the Botanical Garden or Ueno Park.
South Tokyo is home to some temples and shrines, such as Sengakuji, and the man-made island of Odaiba. You can also enjoy a ride on the Tokyo Water Bus, or do some shopping and exploring in Roppongi or Shiodome districts.
Finally, West Tokyo is home to the fantastic Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku districts, full of shopping, fun activities, and various subcultures. Yebisu Garden Palace is a great place to enjoy some Japanese beer, and the Meiji Shrine is a gorgeous place to see.
Tokyo can be a confusing city to traverse, so google maps are highly recommended to aid you in your exploration.
You’re likely going to make your way through Tokyo Station a few times in your travels through Japan. Don’t just let the station pass you by, though; in and around Tokyo Station, you’ll find a wealth of things to see and do.
Tokyo Station is also where you’re able to catch the shinkansen, or bullet train, which is likely to get you to many of your intended destinations.
When you venture outside of Tokyo Station, which is in Central Tokyo, you’re surrounded by the Marunouchi business district, a vast array of shopping, and the Imperial Palace and accompanying garden. There’s also a lot of green space to sit down, relax, and enjoy some fresh air.
Mount Fuji And Fuji Five Lakes
Mount Fuji brings floods of tourists to Japan every year. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a crucial element of Japanese culture and spirituality and is a very important symbol for Japan.
The beauty of Mount Fuji cannot be understated, and it’s worth the trek to the area. There’s a lot more to do around the Mount Fuji area than some might realize.
While it can be hard to pick where to stay since there are so many enticing spots in Fuji Five Lakes, you’ll want to stay at least one night to get to explore as much as possible.
You’ll be surrounded by some of Japan’s main attractions in this one region. Mt. Fuji is the symbol of Japan itself. There is a cable car in the area, but it does not offer a trip to the summit of Fuji. If you have a few extra days to spend in the area, you’ll be rewarded with incredible mountain views at sunset and sunrise.
Kyoto is a place in Japan that is so full of history, a lot of which can be learned about from various museums and temples in the city. Many of these historically significant sights in the city have been standing for a very long time, despite the amount of devastation the city has seen over centuries of strife.
Like Tokyo, Kyoto is split up into Central, Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern Kyoto, so you’ll want to spend a couple of days in the city at least. Central Kyoto is home to palaces and temples galore, such as Sento Palace and the Kyoto Manga Museum.
In Eastern kyoto, you’ll find numerous temples and shrines, as well as Maruyama Park and Gion, the famous geisha district.
Northern Kyoto houses a wealth of stunning locations of both historical and spiritual importance, including the Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion, the Enryakuji Temple, and the Kamo Shrines.
In Western Kyoto, you can sip some Japanese whiskey in the Yamazaki District, or take a boat ride through the Hozugawa River. Southern Kyoto has the Fushimi Sake District and the Daigoji Temple among other sites. Don’t forget to visit Nishiki market in downtown area. Kyoto itself is one of the best cities to see cherry blossoms in the spring.
Of All Japanese cities kyoto is one you should not miss if you want to see the real Japan.
Hiroshima is the city known for falling victim to the atomic bomb, but the resilient city is so much more than that. The picturesque city is full of natural and created beauty, and there’s a lot to be learned from the major sites there.
The Peace Memorial Park is the place to remember the lives lost from the atomic bomb, and the Hiroshima Castle is truly a marvel in construction.
When you make your way to Hiroshima to stay for a couple of days, you’ll want to split up your trip to venture to nearby Miyajima.
Miyajima is a stunning island that’s not too far from Hiroshima, and you can take a short boat ride to spend the day there before heading back to Hiroshima.
Miyajima is also where you’ll find the very famous red torii gates of Itsukushima.
Nature lovers will enjoy seeing the very large Mount Misen, and making their way along the various walking trails around the island. A truly beautiful city you will want to see if you’re visiting Hiroshima.
Finally, you’ll absolutely want to make your way to Osaka to spend the final days of your trip there. Osaka is full of bright lights, bustling city life, and many things to see and do. For instance, you can do some shopping and exploring in Shinsekai, a district that looks a lot like old Japan.
Minoo Park and Mozu Tombs are great places to get some sun and see some nature, and the Tenma District is the place to go for arcade games. Kuromon Market is a great place to go for some food-based souvenirs or some snacks to take home for yourself.
Osaka is the perfect place for hardcore foodies. The good news is that so many restaurants ensure you have enough time to sample Osaka’s various dishes.
If your visiting Osaka for more than a couple of days, a short train ride will take you to Himeji Castle Japan’s most visited castle.
Making Your Two Week Stay Memorable
When you’re finalizing your two-week itinerary, there are some things to keep in mind before you make your final decisions.
These travel tips can not only help you keep to your intended budget, but they can also help you make the most of your trip.
Take Advantage Of Free Experiences
Exploring Japan doesn’t have to be expensive. There is a lot to see and do that doesn’t require any money, other than what you might need to spend traveling to and from the spot as well as any sustenance you might need.
For instance, parks in Japan offer green space, plenty of seating, and even some amenities and trails to walk around.
Visit Temples And Shrines
Even if you don’t practice religion, visiting some of the thousands of Buddhist temples, Shinto temples, and accompanying shrines is not only inexpensive but will be an especially memorable experience.
Many of these spots have guides you can learn from, picturesque gardens to walk through, and works of art in their architecture.
Hot Spring Baths/Onsens
An onsen is a hot spring bath, usually sourced from natural spring water in the area of the bath. One can find these baths indoors and outdoors, and onsen towns have been created by many sources of hot spring water throughout Japan.
These small and inviting towns are some of the best places to stay in Japan if you’re looking for a reprieve from the stresses of life.
Hot spring baths and bathing culture are big in Japan. Before homes had accessible baths, the only option in Japan was to enjoy a public bath or Sento.
Outside of the social aspect of bathing culture, hot spring baths have been utilized in Japan for centuries for various ailments and health concerns.
If you plan on spending any time near Mount Fuji, you’ll definitely be able to enjoy your fill of hot spring baths. That said, there are plenty of onsens all around Japan so no matter where your travels take you, you’re likely to find at least one.
Where To Stay In Japan
The specific accommodations you book for your travels are going to be dictated by where you want to go.
The fantastic aspect of accommodations in Japan is that many of them is an experience in and of themselves rather than simply a place to sleep. Your options are quite extensive, from hostels to capsule hotels to traditional Japanese inns, also known as ryokans, that have a traditional Japanese private rooms.
The language barrier is not as big a problem as you might imagine, as most accommodations will have at least one persons who understand basic English.
A hostel is most often the cheapest option, especially if you’re not picky about your accommodations.
What’s important is to research hostels to ensure that where you’re staying is suitable to your needs and comfort level.
That said, Japanese hostels have a fantastic reputation for being clean, full of friendly and hospitable people, and very affordable.
Japanese Capsule Hotels
A Japanese capsule hotel is a unique experience where you sleep inside a pod. Most of these capsule hotels are fairly affordable, though, of course, a hostel or a hotel may end up being more affordable.
If you have the room in your budget, it’s worth checking out a capsule hotel for a night. If you’re looking for a cheap hotel, this is your best option.
Staying at a regular hotel in Japan can easily become expensive, depending on what kind of hotel you choose to stay at. As expected, hotels range from mid-range to luxury in terms of price, amenities, and location. You can find a lot of recognizable hotel chains in Japan, as well as a mixture of local and smaller hotels.
Hotels cost more if you stay right in the heart of major cities. Given how great public transportation is in Japan, there’s no need to stay in a hotel right in the city.
Instead, you can save a few bucks if you stay in a hotel just outside of the city and take the train in when you’re planning on sightseeing.
A ryokan is a preferred accommodation option if you’re looking to immerse yourself into Japanese culture as much as possible.
These traditional inns can offer a range of different experiences and amenities depending on where you’re staying. Typically, you’ll have a small, clean room to yourself, though bathrooms are often shared between guests. Most ryokan has hot springs on site.
Some of their hotel rooms even have a private onsen (hot spring bath) located within the room. One of the most important things to remember if your using a shared onsen with other guests is that nudity is part of the onsen experience.
Eating In Japan
Going out and experiencing authentic Japanese food is well worth making a part of your travel budget. While it’s not economical to indulge at five star restaurants every night, you don’t want to miss out on local delicacies and unique dining experiences based on where you’re staying.
There is so much more to Japanese food than sushi, though sushi in Japan is better than anywhere else.
Comparatively, it’s not expensive to feed yourself when traveling through Japan. Your best plan of action to ensure you get to indulge in some memorable meals is to seek out the local delicacy in each place you stay in as you make your way through your itinerary.
You can either chat up the locals or do some research beforehand, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
Seeking out an izakaya is also highly recommended at least a few times when you’re in Japan. These are Japanese bars that serve small bites and snacks often using locally sourced ingredients crafted in unique ways.
Budget-Friendly Eating In Japan
You have a ton of options to get your fill of delicious Japanese food without blowing your food budget too quickly. You won’t miss out on good eating even when you opt for budget friendly options.
There are ways to find authentic, yummy Japanese fares without having to go to a restaurant for every meal.
Street food is pretty bountiful in Japan, from vendors on the street to various stalls at a market. You can even find vending machines that offer inexpensive yet delicious snacks.
You can also grab some quick meals at convenience stores that are high quality, made with fresh local ingredients, and are also very budget-friendly.
Shopping In Japan
Japan is an epicenter of some very unforgettable shopping, as it’s one of the biggest fashion trend-setting countries in the world.
Outside of fashion, there is so much shopping to be done in Japan that it’s very easy to spend a lot of money doing so.
Having a strict budget for yourself can help you avoid spending all your money on other parts of your trip buying things. Tokyo department stores often have multiple levels of goods and services. The best thing is the onsite restaurants that have incredible dining experiences.
Japan is known as a cash-based society, so its a great idea to have Japanese yen in case credit cards are not an option. Many small mom-and-pop coffee shops are cash-only.
Budgeting For Your Trip To Japan
Budgeting is a major priority as soon as you know you’ll be planning a trip anywhere. The time of year you opt to travel to Japan can have some influence on cost. For instance, Japan is a popular place during cherry blossom season, which starts in April, so you can end up paying premiums for travel and accommodations.
Despite popular belief, traveling within the country of Japan isn’t as expensive as one might assume. Some careful planning and having an itinerary mapped out beforehand can help you get a better sense of how much money you’ll need.
Having a safety net such as a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees can give you some peace of mind, even if you don’t end up using it.
You can use a credit card at many places in Japan you’ll likely frequent, though it’s good to note that many places, especially tourist destinations, prefer cash when possible.
An Estimated Budget Of A Two Week Japan Trip In 2023
The biggest expenses you’re likely to see will be your flights and your accommodations. Your flight costs will vary depending on where you’re flying from, what season you’re choosing to fly in, and whether you pick a direct or indirect route, with added advice on the best time to fly.
Keeping your eye out for deals or seeing if you can cash in some reward points towards your flight can potentially save you a lot of money flying such a potentially long way.
There’s no exact answer for how much money you’ll need for a trip to Japan, no matter if you’re looking for a trip on a budget or not. All things considered, you could travel to Japan and stay for two weeks with between $3000 to $6000 USD based on what your final itinerary looks like and how well you manage your money in the country.
The following list features estimates based on a two week stay in Japan, considering some of your major and minor expenses. It’s important to note that estimates are just estimates and cannot be considered exact due to the numerous variances in costs associated with travel.
Furthermore, this chart and the estimated costs are based on traveling from the United States and are based on American currency USD.
Estimates may also be a little bit higher than what you could actually spend based on a number of factors. It’s always better to budget extra and have extra wiggle room than underestimate how much your trip will cost.
Estimated Costs (USD)
Airfare (international flights)
Attractions and Experiences
TOTAL (Estimate by Budget)
Below is a further explanation of the budget seen above in the chart to understand how prices can vary depending on your specific plans and overall Japan cost.
It is a good idea to purchase a sim card to ensure your phone will operate on Japanese networks. The following is a more detailed look at cost of your Japan itinerary:
You’re likely looking at anywhere between $1300 to $1800 USD for your flights to and from Japan if you’re traveling from the United States.
If you have the option to, fly into the Haneda Airport. It’s the most convenient airport to fly into as it’s close to Tokyo, which you’re likely going to travel in or through as you make your way through Japan.
Depending on your origin city, there are many direct flights to Tokyo and Haneda and Narita are the easiest way to begin a journey in Japan.
Conveniently, you can purchase a JR Pass for a 14 day trip for unlimited travel on most of Japans train system. The cost for a 14 day Japan Rail pass is about $400 USD.
If you decide you want the upgraded pass, you’re looking at around $600. With how clean, safe, and accommodating transportation is in Japan, it’s really not needed for you to upgrade to a green pass to get luxury seating. If your traveling with a small group JR Pass will save you a lot on public transport.
If you also plan on getting an IC card, you’ll have to account for the deposit and the minimum amount needed on the card. This only accounts to about $15 USD altogether.
If you put $50 USD on your card, you’ll be able to use it for local transportation fares and likely not have to reload it, though doing that is pretty simple.
You can also choose to add a little more since you can also use the card at vending machines and select convenience stores. It’s good to have a little extra cash on you for transportation in the very off-chance you can’t use either of your passes.
Accommodations can make up a moderate to big portion of your budget depending on what kinds of places you choose to stay in.
Generally speaking, accounting for between $100 and $125 dollars per night you’re in Japan is a good place to start.
You’ll find quite a few accommodation options that are going to fall under this amount, though whether or not you choose to stay in those options is based on your comfort level.
You could easily feed yourself well on a budget in Japan without missing out. If you consider a food budget of about $30-$50 USD a day, you’ll have a lot of freedom in terms of being able to mix in some indulgences with some more budget-friendly options.
For two weeks, you’re looking at anywhere between $400 to $700 USD, though it’s very easy to be flexible with your food budget at many great restaurants.
Attractions And Experiences
This is likely to be one of the trickiest parts of your budget to plan. Traversing through Japan can be affordable or very expensive depending on how you plan and what it is you’d like to do.
The good thing is that you have a range of affordable places to see and things to do in Japan, many of which are highly desirable tourist spots.
When possible, it’s worth seeing if you can purchase admission or tickets for your planned excursions in advance.
This won’t usually save you money, but in some cases, it might; it’ll definitely save you a lot of time you could waste waiting in long lines to get admissions. It can also help you reserve your spot should you indulge in something where participants are limited.
Your shopping budget will also have a lot of flexibility depending on your shopping habits. You always want to keep in mind what you have the capacity to bring back with you.
You want to be somewhat generous with your shopping budget no matter your habits, as letting yourself experience all the incredible districts with unique shopping opportunities is a must.
It’s important that you don’t over-promise people regarding what kinds of souvenirs you’ll bring back for them, as you don’t want to blow your spending budget on souvenirs for other people.
There are many places where you can find inexpensive souvenirs for people, however, and not just cheap, boring souvenirs, either.
You’ll want to have some room in your budget for things like incidentals or extras that you may not necessarily need but can make your trip more convenient. This can include things like a pocket wifi device so you can look up maps and connect to the internet safely when needed.
If you can budget for some wiggle room or have a backup plan should you run out of money, it can be a safety net of sorts if you find a few things you just can’t do without.
This is where a credit card with no foreign fees can be handy, though not if you’re the type of person who will be tempted to continuously swipe their card.
There are some costs associated with traveling to Japan that can’t be avoided, such as your plane ticket and your accommodations. The further in advance you can plan your trip, the better off you’ll be in terms of being able to shop for deals on tickets to sites, plane tickets, and even hotels or ryokans.
Don’t just stick to fancy restaurants when eating out either; some of the best food you’ll find will be in the streets or in little hole-in-the-wall restaurants that you’ll only discover once a local tells you about it.
Final Pro Tips On Visiting Japan
Depending on what your travel goals are, Tokyo is the best place to begin your exploration. Even if you are planning on spending your time in another city, it’s best to plan at least one full day there.
It’s a great way to see ultra-modern Japan and experience good food, luxury hotels, and the many Buddhist temple sites.
japan is known as an expensive country to visit and so having credit cards for an unplanned emergency is a great idea.
The Japanese people are incredibly well-mannered and kind. First-time visitors will be surprised, even in crowded Tokyo, by how willing they are to assist you if you find you need help.
The price range for visiting Japan can vary greatly depending on your personal budget, and travel guides are a popular option for your first day in Japan.
It is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit there is still room for a good deal for savvy travelers. Some single-room business hotels can have lower average prices over larger chains, and many of Japan’s big cities have business hotels.
Finally, if your planning to travel long distances, then train travel is your best option, and comfort and speed is a good reason to opt for the shinkansen if only for a single trip between cities.
Flights can vary greatly depending on your home country, so remember to use sites that can search for great deals on flights, such as Kayak or Flight Hacker, which will charge a small commission to save more.