With nine days in Japan, you can visit three to six destinations. Foodies and first-timers can hit the highlights and taste their way around Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Nature and culture enthusiasts can visit villages and hike the Nakasendo Trail in Central Japan. The Northern Japan itinerary is suited to travelers interested in Hokkaido and families with little ones that will love kid-friendly activities like Oshino Ninja Village. Active travelers who prefer to venture independently can cycle, kayak, and hike on the self-guided tour.

Itinerary #1: Explore Nature in Traditional Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto & Osaka

Travelers visiting Japan for the first time will appreciate the variety of cultural, culinary, and nature experiences in some of the most beloved destinations on this itinerary. Taste your way around Tokyo on a food tour, soak in the hot springs in Hakone, visit Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, and sample street food in Osaka.   

Explore the traditional side of Tokyo
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the City Tokyo
Day 2 Modernity & Tradition Tour, Tokyo Night Foodie Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Day Trip to Nikko, Self-Guided Hiking Tour Tokyo
Day 4 Day Trip to Kamakura, Temple & Shrine Tour Tokyo
Day 5 Transfer to Hakone, Cruise Lake Ashi Hakone
Day 6 Transfer to Kyoto, Traditional Afternoon Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 7 Arashiyama Bamboo Walking Tour, Kyoto Temple Afternoon Tour Kyoto
Day 8 Transfer to Osaka, Explore the City & Castle Visit Osaka
Day 9 Depart Osaka  

Tour Tokyo's modern and traditional sites, including Meiji Jingu Shrine, the playful Harajuku district, and Tokyo Tower—a great place for views of the city (and even Mount Fuji on a clear day). Then join a food tour for a taste of Tokyo. Take the train to Nikko and do a little hiking in Nikko National Park before visiting Chuzen-ji temple. You can also see Kegon Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the region. Take the train to Kamakura, a picturesque coastal city where you can join a guided tour of some of the sites, including Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, sample local eats, and then go souvenir shopping on Komachi Street.

Catch the train to Hakone, a mountain town known for its hot springs. Take the cable car to Owakudani and check out the geysers, cruise Lake Ashi, visit the red torii (shrine gates) of Hakone Shrine, and, finally, soak in the onsen (hot springs). Your next stop is Kyoto, where you'll attend a tea ceremony, sample street foods, and visit some of the most iconic temples and shrines, including the golden Kinkaku-ji. Stroll through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, then pass through the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha. Spend your final full day exploring Osaka, including Osaka Castle, then cap off the trip with a foodie tour. Learn more 

Itinerary #2: Cultural Trip to Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka

With a focus on Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, this cultural trip is another great option for first-time visitors interested in hitting the highlights. Those looking for cultural experiences will appreciate the sumo training session in Tokyo, the tea experience with a maiko in Kyoto, and karaoke in Osaka. Foodies will love the inclusion of a yakitori dinner in Tokyo, a culinary tour in Nakameguro, a whiskey tasting at Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery, and a street food tour in Osaka. 

Visit Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore Shinjuku Tokyo
Day 2 Day Trip to Lake Ashi, See Mount Fuji Tokyo
Day 3 Morning Sumo Practice Viewing in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 4 Transfer to Kyoto, Meet the Geisha Kyoto
Day 5 Hike at Fushimi Inari Shrine  Kyoto
Day 6 Visit Arashiyama District Kyoto
Day 7 Transfer to Osaka, Evening Street Food Tour Osaka
Day 8 Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery Osaka
Day 9 Depart Osaka  

Wander the paper lantern-filled alleyways of Omoide Yokocho and pop into a restaurant for a yakitori dinner. Take a bus tour to Hakone, and be sure to bring a camera to capture the views of Mount Fuji on a Lake Ashi cruise. Observe a sumo training session in Ryogoku, then taste your way around Nakameguro on a food tour. Catch a high-speed train to Kyoto, where you'll visit the iconic Yasaka Pagoda before having tea with a maiko (apprentice geisha). Hike to Fushimi Inari Taisha (you may recognize the red gates from the film "Memoirs of a Geisha"), then sample Kyoto flavors at Nishiki Market.  

Take the train to Arashiyama to visit Kinkaku-ji and a walk in the bamboo forest, then continue to Osaka. Visit Osaka Castle and Umeda Sky Building, then acquaint yourself with regional favorites, such as takoyaki (balls of dough filled with bits of octopus) and okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), on a street food tour. On your final full day, try a whiskey tasting at Suntory Yamazaki Whisky Distillery and participate in a tea ceremony before one last dinner—perhaps Osaka's famous yakiniku (grilled meat)—followed by some sake and karaoke in Dotonbori. Learn more 

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Itinerary #3: Central Japan Highlights: Tokyo, Kyoto & the Kiso Valley

This highlights tour of central Japan, focusing on historical cities and villages, such as Kyoto, Kanazawa, and Takayama, is perfect for travelers keen on Japanese culture and history. It's also an excellent option for nature lovers and hikers who enjoy trekking some of the Nakasendo Trail.

Hike a section of the Nakasendo Trail
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Train to Kanazawa Kanazawa
Day 3 Explore Shirakawa-go, Transfer to Takayama Takayama
Day 4 Cycle Around Takayama Takayama
Day 5 Nakasendo Trail Hike, Transfer to Kiso-Fukushima Kiso-Fukushima
Day 6 Nakasendo Trail Hike, Transfer to Matsumoto Matsumoto
Day 7 Transfer to Kyoto Kyoto
Day 8 Tour Kyoto at Your Own Pace Kyoto
Day 9 Depart Kyoto  

Start with a visit to Senso-ji temple and some sushi and sake in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Board the high-speed train to Kanazawa, a historic town where you can visit Kanazawa Castle, try tea and sweets in a teahouse in Higashi Chaya, and shop for handcrafted souvenirs. Head to Shokawa Valley with a stop to see the wooden farmhouse in Shirakawa-go. Continue to Takayama, a rural village famous for its carvings, pottery, and lacquerware. Take a bike tour around Takayama, stopping at the Asaichi market and Kokubun-ji temple, then soak in the hot springs at your ryokan (traditional guesthouse).     

Experience the quiet of the forests and countryside while trekking a section of the Nakasendo Trail, with a stop for lunch in Tsumago. Continue to Kiso-Fukushima for an overnight stay at a ryokan. Rejoin the Nakasendo Trail for a walk from Yabuhara, crossing the Torii Pass en route to Narai, where you'll make gohei mochi (a grilled and glazed rice cake) in a cooking class. Spend your last few days exploring Kyoto: walk through the iconic red gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha, visit a traditional tea house, and enjoy local cuisine in a restaurant in Pontocho. Or, if you prefer a guided tour, one can be arranged. Learn more 

Itinerary #4: Touring Northern Japan

Discover northern Japan on this itinerary, best suited to those that want to focus on urban adventures in Tokyo followed by cultural experiences, such as the Hokkaido Historical Village in Hokkaido. The child-friendly activities, including the Oshino Ninja Village and the Asahiyama Zoo, also make it a great choice for families traveling with little ones.

View Mount Fuji during cherry blossom season
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Optional Activities Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo Modernity & Tradition Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Mount Fuji Day Trip & Ninja Village Tokyo
Day 4 Cherry Blossom Tour Near Mount Fuji Tokyo
Day 5 Transfer to Sapporo, History & Architecture Tour Sapporo
Day 6 Day Trip to Otaru Sapporo
Day 7 Explore Hokkaido, Transfer to Asahikawa Asahikawa
Day 8 Asahiyama Zoo, Transfer to Sapporo Sapporo
Day 9 Transfer to Tokyo, Depart  

Appreciate old and new on a guided tour of Tokyo that includes a visit to the seventh-century Senso-ji temple, shopping on the Edo-era streets of Dogugai and Nakamise, and watching the sunset from Tokyo Tower. Take a bus tour to Mount Fuji with a chance to snap photos of the mountain from the Fuji Five Lakes district. If you have little ones with you, check out the performances at Oshino Ninja Village. For visitors in Japan during cherry blossom season, head for Yamanashi Prefecture, where you can capture pagodas, cherry blossoms, and Mount Fuji all in one frame. On Day 5, catch a flight to Sapporo

Explore Sapporo's landmarks, including Sapporo TV Tower, where you can get a 360-degree view of the city. If you're visiting in February, spend some time at Sapporo Snow Festival in Odori Park. Head for Otaru, where you can cruise the canal, shop for souvenirs, and sample fresh seafood. Visit the Hokkaido Historical Village, a replication of a 19th-century farming village, before continuing to Asahikawa. Walk through the glass tunnels at Asahiyama Zoo—kids will be delighted to see penguins swimming around them. Return to Sapporo and enjoy one last seafood dinner before departure. Learn more 

Itinerary #5: Self-Guided Active Japan: Cycling, Hiking & Kayaking

This self-guided trip is ideal for active travelers who like to immerse in nature and venture off independently. You'll cycle some of the Shimanami Kaido, kayak around Sensuijima island, and hike a few sections of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage trail at your own pace, taking side trips if you choose to.

See the "floating" torii at Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 2 Travel to Miyajima Island Miyajima
Day 3 Sea Kayak Around Sensuijima & Walk Through Tomonoura Tomonoura
Day 4 Walk in the Hilltops of Onomichi Onomichi
Day 5 Cycle Along the Shimanami Kaido Onomichi
Day 6 Complete the Shimanami Kaido, Begin the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Imabari
Day 7 Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Temple 58 to Dogo Onsen) Matsuyama
Day 8 Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Temples 45 to 44) Matsuyama
Day 9 Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Temples 60 to 62), Depart  

Get a better understanding of Hiroshima's history by visiting the significant sites, including the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial and Museum. Overnight at a modern hotel in Hiroshima or opt to stay at a ryokan on the island of Miyajima. Taste Mijiyama oysters, snap photos of the "floating" torii of Itsukushima Shrine, and climb Mount Misen for a view of the Seto Inland Sea. Visit the Tomonoura Bay port to see Edo-period structures, then kayak around Sensuijima island. Your next stop is Onomichi, the mainland starting point for the Shimanami Kaido cycling route.

Set out on the Shimanami Kaido, stopping at cafés and points of interest en route. Continue to Shikoku island, where you'll drop off your bike and catch a bus to the trailhead for a section of the Shikoku Pilgrimage route, a multi-temple pilgrimage. Hike from Eifuku-ji (Temple 57) to Senyu-ji (Temple 58) before catching a train to Matsuyama, where you'll overnight in the hot springs area. Transfer to Iwaya-ji (Temple 45) for views from Kobo Daishi's meditation spot, then hike to Daiho-ji (Temple 44). On your final day, catch a bus to Ehime Prefecture, then take a cab to the trailhead for your hike to Temples 60-62. Learn more

More Great Japan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other 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 9 Days in Japan - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 9 Days in Japan - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas