In 12 days, you can explore as few as four destinations, like Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka, or over eight on a faster-paced trip, adding in lesser-known locales like Kurashiki, Oda City, and Hagi. Cover the best of Japan and include an island visit to Okinawa, Japan's "Hawaii," indulge in the culinary delights and sake on a food-forward tour, or discover stunning nature from Lake Kawaguchi to peaceful gardens in Kanazawa. Or consider a multiday trek on the historic Nakasendo Trail.

Itinerary #1: History, Tradition & Culture: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima & Osaka

This history, tradition, and culture itinerary is perfect for travelers preferring diverse activities at a moderate pace. It samples the highlights of Japan's four major cities with events and tours focused on its unique traditions. You'll visit historical and modern sites, such as the shopping areas in Tokyo, attend a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto, admire the charming deer-filled Nara, discover the rebirth of vibrant Hiroshima, and savor traditional street food in Osaka.

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Visit the Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo Customized Private Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Modernity & Tradition Tour Tokyo
Day 4 Afternoon Food Tour of Nakameguro Tokyo
Day 5 Bullet Train to Kyoto, Traditional Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 6 Explore Kyoto, Optional Geisha Dinner Show Kyoto
Day 7 Day Trip to Nara Kyoto
Day 8 Train to Hiroshima, Explore Hiroshima
Day 9 Guided Hiroshima or Miyajima Excursion, Sake Tour Hiroshima
Day 10 Hiroshima to Osaka, Tombori River Cruise Osaka
Day 11 Evening Food Tour in Osaka Osaka
Day 12 Depart from Osaka  

On Days 1 through 4, discover Toyko's highlights. Shop in the Ginza District and/or Tsukiji Market, ascend the Shibuya Scramble Square tower for views of the world's busiest pedestrian crossing, or visit a traditional Asakusa District neighborhood and catch a glimpse of the Skytree and Mount Fuji from Tokyo Tower. Guided by a professional food writer, sample taiyaki and fruit sandwiches in the Nakameguro neighborhood. Hop on a bullet train for adventures in Kyoto on Days 5 and 6, where you can participate in a private tea ceremony and learn more about classic Japanese culture at a geisha dinner show. 

On Day 7, explore Nara with its Buddhist Todai-ji temple and Nara Park, where you'll encounter the city's famous deer. Days 8 and 9 take you through Hiroshima's meaningful historical sites, like the Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Castle, and the pagoda at Toyokuni Shrine. A customized tour can take you to must-see spots like Miyajima island and around Saijo Sake Brewery. Cruise through the Dontonburi in Osaka on Day 10 and enjoy famous sights, like Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building, and Shin-Sekai, before trying small Japanese plates, local beer, sake, and shochu on a food tour. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Best of Japan: Osaka to Tokyo

From Osaka to Tokyo, you'll discover the best of the country's four major cities, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka. And, you'll relax in a Japanese onsen in Hakone and bask on the sandy beaches of Okinawa, perfect for travelers wanting to see as much of Japan as possible at a fast pace. 

Discover the bright lights of Yokohama district in Tokyo, Japan
Discover the bright lights of the Yokohama district in Tokyo, Japan
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Osaka Osaka
Day 2 Train to Kyoto  Kyoto
Day 3 Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike Kyoto
Day 4 Day Trip to Nara & Uji Kyoto
Day 5 Train to Hiroshima, Memorial Visits Hiroshima
Day 6 Hiroshima or Miyajima Private Tour Hiroshima
Day 7 Fly to Okinawa, Beach Day Okinawa
Day 8 Tokashiki Island Self-Guided Tour  Okinawa
Day 9 Fly to Hakone, Onsen Experience Hakone
Day 10 Train to Tokyo, Free Afternoon Tokyo
Day 11 See a Sumo Training Session & Tokyo Tour Tokyo
Day 12 Depart Tokyo  

On Day 1, sample Osaka's Tombori Riverwalk, the Namba District, or Shinsaibashi-suji for shopping. Catch a bullet train for adventures in Kyoto on Days 2 and 3, where you'll visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, tour a geisha studio, hike a forested trail from Fushimi Inari Shrine, and learn about the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Day 4 brings a trip to see the Todai-ji temple's tea houses, a museum, and the roaming deer of Nara. Discover Hiroshima's numerous memorial sites and shrines on Days 5 and 6, as well as visit nearby Miyajima island or Saijo, one of Japan's leading producers of sake. 

Admire the azure water and sandy beaches of Okinawa and its Araha Park on Day 7. The following day, take a ferry to Tokashiki Island and bask in the sun at Aharen Beach. On Day 9, enjoy a relaxing onsen experience in Hakone, where you'll overnight in a traditional Japanese inn. You'll take in Toyko's exciting sites on Days 10 and 11, like its Shinjuku Gardens and the lively Kabukicho District. Witness a sumo training session in Ryogoku, tackle the busy Shibuya Scramble pedestrian crossing, or go to the Metropolitan Government Observatory for views of Mount Fuji. Learn more 

Itinerary #3: From Tokyo to Kyoto: Japan's Flavors & Ceremonies

Foodies will enjoy this flavors and ceremonies itinerary that focuses on exploring the delicacies of Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka and includes an excursion to see Kotoku-in temple's Great Buddha in Kamakura. Highlights include learning how to cook like a local in Tokyo, sipping on matcha during a tea ceremony in Kyoto, tasting sakes at a brewery in Saijo, and dining on regional specialties of fish cakes and shrimp dumplings in Kamakura.  

Learn how to make sushi in a Tokyo cooking class
Learn how to make sushi in a Tokyo cooking class
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo City Tour & Cooking Class Tokyo
Day 3 Nakameguro Food Tour Tokyo
Day 4 Train to Kyoto, Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 5 Kyoto History & Culture, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan Kyoto
Day 6 Nishiki Market Tour & Sushi Class, Train to Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 7 Hiroshima Gardens & Saijo Sake Brewery Tour Hiroshima
Day 8 Miyajima Cruise, Train to Osaka & Osaka Food Tour Osaka
Day 9 Osaka & Nara Tour, Evening Osaka Food Tour Osaka
Day 10 Train to Hakone, Hakone Free Day Hakone
Day 11 Train to Kamakura, Free Day Kamakura
Day 12 Train to Tokyo, Depart  

On Days 1 through 3, see the highlights of Tokyo, including the Metropolitan Government Observatory, for views of Mount Fuji and Omoide Yokocho, adorned with paper lanterns. In Asakusa, visit Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple, and learn how to make ramen in a local's home. Tour Nakameguro, lined with cherry blossoms, before joining a food tour in Shinjuku, where you'll study the art of sushi. Discover tea ceremonies in Kyoto and watch a geisha performance on Day 4. Explore the grounds of Kyoto's Golden Pavilion on a history and culture walking tour and savor dinner at the Hiiragiya ryokan (inn) on Day 5. 

Taste local dishes at Nishiki Market and perfect your sushi-making technique on Day 6. The next day, explore Hiroshima's Shukkeien Garden, visit Hiroshima Castle, and learn about sake-making in Saijo. On Day 8, cruise to Miyajima's floating shrines before traveling to Osaka to try dishes from the Kansai region. Discover more of Osaka's gems on Day 9, like the deer-specked Nara Park and Osaka Castle, and join a food tour in the Tenma and Kyobashi neighborhoods. Day 10 is for soaking in warm water and relaxing at a Hakone onsen, while Day 11 is for marveling at the towering Great Buddha in Kamakura. Learn more 

Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Itinerary #4: Japan's Natural Beauty From Lakes to Mountains

In this natural beauty itinerary, outdoor adventurers will relish opportunities to venture outside cities and admire Japan's lakes and mountains. You'll see Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, ride a bike around Lake Kawaguchi and Mount Fuji, and stand next to Kamakura's towering Great Buddha. Near Kyoto, pass through Fushimi Inari Shrine's 10,000 red torii gates. Take a day trip from Osaka to Kanazawa, known for its Edo district and gold leaf workshops, and cycle among the Hida mountains in Takayama.
On Lake Kawaguchi, one of the Fuji Five Lakes, see Japan's natural beauty
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Explore Tokyo Tokyo
Day 3 Nikko Hiking & Lake Chuzenji Trails Tokyo
Day 4 Lake Kawaguchi Mount Fuji Trails & Views Tokyo
Day 5 Day Trip to Kamakura Tokyo
Day 6 Train to Kanazawa, Kanazawa Arts & Gardens Kanazawa
Day 7 Transfer to Takayama, Takayama Cycling & Temples Takayama
Day 8 Train to Kyoto, Kyoto Walking Tour Kyoto
Day 9 Arashiyama Forest & Kyoto Landscapes Kyoto
Day 10 Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
Day 11 Train to Osaka, Osaka Free Day Osaka
Day 12 Depart Osaka   

Explore Toyko during your first four days. Shop at Shinjuku, visit Tsukiji Fish Market, go to Hamarikyu Gardens, and watch the sunset from Tokyo Skytree, the city's tallest building. In Nikko, hike through the forest and to Lake Chuzenji. The following day, trek to Chureito Pagoda for Mount Fuji views. Day 5 is for venturing to the seaside town of Kamakura to marvel at its Great Buddha statue, while Day 6 is for exploring Kanazawa, known for its Edo district and gold leaf workshops. Cycle among the Hida mountains in the Gifu area in Takayama on Day 7 before traveling to Hida no Sato's open-air museum of traditional houses.

Discover the gems of Kyoto, including the Golden Pavillion, Ryoan-ji—known for its Zen garden, and Gion, a geisha district, on Day 8. On Day 9, visit the bamboo groves and the Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama. Climb to Fushimi Inari Shrine's 10,000 red torii gates, visit Nishiki Market and Nijo Castle, and stop by the temple of Kiyomizudera for panoramic city views on Day 10. See Osaka's highlights on Day 11, such as Osaka Castle and Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine, or take a side trip to the Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda to learn about the history of ramen. Learn more 

Itinerary #5: Nakasendo Trail: Tokyo to Kyoto

Active walkers will enjoy discovering Japan via the Nakasendo Trail, featuring multiple days of short treks and scenic train rides. You'll cover three historic Japanese capitals, Tokyo, Nara, and Kyoto. On your walk, visit samurai-era post towns, UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nara, Yoshino, and Mount Koya, and see the living museum of Tsumago and ancient sites like the Okunoin Cemetery.

Japan's Nakasendo Trail
Embark on a multiday trek along Japan's Nakasendo Trail
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Walking Tour of Tokyo Tokyo
Day 3 Nakasendo Trail from Kiso-Hirasawa to Narai Narai
Day 4 Walk to Yabuhara via the Torii Pass, Train to Kiso-Fukushima Kiso-Fukushima
Day 5 Train to Nojiri, Walk from Nenoue-Toge Pass to Tsumago Tsumago
Day 6 Walk to Magome, Bullet Train to Nara Nara
Day 7 Guided Tour of Nara, Free Afternoon Nara
Day 8 Transfer to Yoshino, Explore Yoshino
Day 9 Scenic Train to Mount Koya Mt Koya
Day 10 Train to Kyoto Kyoto
Day 11-12 Morning Walking Tour, Depart Kyoto

On Days 1 and 2, sightsee in Tokyo, starting at Nihonbashi ("Japan Bridge"), the Meiji Jingu shrine, and the fashionable Harajuku district. Embark on your rural travels in the Kiso Valley on Day 3 and walk 1.6 miles (2.5 km) to Narai. Day 4's adventure—your second day on the Nakasendo Trail—takes you 3.9 miles (6.2 km) to Yabuhara via the Torii Pass. Sleep in a traditional ryokan with its natural hot spring in Kiso-Fukushima, then travel through small settlements and rice fields to Tsumago on the following day, including 8.7 miles (14 km) of hiking.

On Day 6, you'll trek 5.2 miles (8.3 km) to Magome along the best-preserved section of the trail and discover Nara's cultural treasures on Day 7, like Nara Park, home to free-roaming deer, Kasuga Taisha shrine, and the Todai-ji Daibutsu-den, with its 53-foot (16-m) image of the Rushana Buddha. On Day 8, wander among cherry blossoms (season depending) to Yoshino village. Take in the serenity of Mount Koya's monasteries, Kongo-buji temple, and Okunoin Cemetery before learning about Japanese culture in Gion, exploring Kyoto's geisha district, and strolling around the Sanjo Ohashi bridge and Nanzen-ji temple. Learn more

Itinerary #6: In the Shadow of Mountains: From Sea to Sea in Southern Japan

This sea-to-sea focused itinerary explores the coast along the Sea of Japan and the Seto Inland Sea. It's great for intrepid travelers looking to explore lesser-touristed sights that highlight Japan's historical and natural wonders. You'll visit a miso paste factory and sake brewery, discover castles and samurai dwellings, try your hand at making pottery in Hagi, see the world-famous "floating" Great Torii on Miyajima island, relax in a hot spring bath, and learn about Japan's mining history at the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. 

Hagi City along Sea of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Visit historic Hagi on the Sea of Japan coast in Yamaguchi Prefecture
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kyoto Kyoto
Day 2 Train to Kurashiki, Guided Tour & Free Afternoon Kojima
Day 3 Explore Kojima Kojima
Day 4 Train to Yunotsu, Onsen Experience Oda City
Day 5 Day Trip to Omori-cho, Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine Tour Oda City
Day 6 Transfer to Tsuwano, Guided Tour Tsuwano
Day 7 Bus to Hagi, Former Castle Town Hagi
Day 8 Explore Hagi & Pottery Class Hagi
Day 9 Transfer to Hiroshima, Visit Miyajima Island & Itsukushima Shrine Hiroshima
Day 10 Ferry to Sensuijima Island via Tomonoura Sensuijima Island
Day 11 Morning Visit to Tomonoura, Afternoon Transfer to Osaka Osaka
Day 12 Tour ends  

On Day 1, catch a glimpse of Kiyomizu-dera temple before spending Day 2 sightseeing in Kurashiki along the canals and storehouses from the Edo Period. Tour a sake and miso paste brewery on Day 3. Next, you'll walk to Mount Washuzan to witness stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea. Spend Day 4 soaking in Yakushi-yu, a pure hot spring in Yunotsu, and Day 5 immersed in the history of Omori-cho's silver mine. You'll see Tsuwano on Day 6, home to the mountainside Taidokani Inari Shrine with its one thousand vermilion torii gates and the ruins of Tsuwano Castle

On Days 7 and 8, discover the historic town of Hagi. You'll visit Hagi Castle and its ancient samurai dwellings, learn about tea ceremony pottery, and try your hand at pottery-making. Spend Day 9 on Miyajima island near Hiroshima, encountering wild deer at Itsukushima Shrine and visiting the nearby Daisho-in Temple. Take a ferry to Sensuijima island for an onsen experience overlooking the sea on Day 10. Before heading to Osaka on Day 11, explore the quiet fishing town of Tomonoura, a shooting location for several international and local films. Learn more

More Great 12-Day Japan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other 12-day Japan itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


A note on diacritical markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of 12 Days in Japan - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in Japan - 6 Unique Itinerary Ideas