Japan is made up of hundreds of islands that extend for nearly 2,000 miles. How many days should you spend exploring, and where should you focus your time? From an action-packed four days in Japan to a leisurely three week itinerary, here are some suggestions for making the most of your time in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Japan Travel Insights
Most visitors to Japan hit up Kyoto's temples, Tokyo's shopping streets, and Osaka's food scene—but there's much more to this country than what you'll find in its cities. Soak in natural hot springs, hike through primeval forest, and spot wildlife on a pristine chain of islands with these under-the-radar suggestions.
The sunny, laid-back island of Okinawa is not just a tropical paradise: it's also a foodie heaven with its own unique set of flavors and a famously healthy diet. Whet your palate with this guide to some of the island's classic dishes, and learn where you can try them.
A chain of mountainous islands stretching from the tropics to the Sea of Okhotsk, Japan is home to some of the most beautiful scenery on earth—from active volcanoes and hilly snowscapes to cascading waterfalls and bright pink cherry blossoms. Here are just a few of the natural highlights you can experience on a trip to the country.
Okinawa's attractions have something for everyone. They cater to cocktail-sipping beach bums, history buffs, and active adventurers alike. The island is fairly small, so even a long weekend can make for a refreshing breath of tropical air.
Over 900 miles southwest of Tokyo, Okinawa-hontō—Okinawa's main island—anchors the lesser-known string of islands straddling Japan's two southernmost prefectures. For those who fancy a beach holiday on their grand tour of Japan, its tropical climate and unique Ryūkyūan culture are just a two-hour flight from Tokyo.
Crescent-shaped islands surrounded by deep blue sea, Japan has everything from Buddhist temples to great beaches. Home to both a robot restaurant and an ancient rainforest, it's beautiful, diverse, and never boring. Here are ten essential things to do in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Take a walk through time on this 10-day self-guided tour of the Nakasendo Trail, part of feudal Japan's original network of highways. Travelers on the mountain path between Kyoto and Tokyo took several days to travel the distance, staying overnight in Juku post towns. You'll retrace their footsteps as you travel through serene forests, stay in historically preserved local inns by night, and explore the vibrant cities of Kyoto and Tokyo.
Get ready for an unforgettable village-to-village trek on the Kii Peninsula along sections of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. Perfect for avid hikers, this self-guided tour will take you past thermal hot springs, grand shrines, and waterfalls as you walk in the footsteps of emperors.
The beautiful ancient city of Kyoto is the spiritual home of Japan and the perfect base for this week-long cycling adventure. Explore the streets of Kyoto by bike and venture further afield as you delve into Japanese culture and cuisine. Take an exhilarating ride from the city to sacred Mount Koya and around the region's stunning landscape for an unforgettable vacation.
Get off the beaten path and onto the Kumano Kodo, a network of ancient pilgrimage trails in the remote Kii Peninsula. Trek to grand shrines, thermal hot springs, and the sacred Mount Koya, one of the most important sites in Buddhism. This self-guided trip is great for those looking to challenge themselves with full-day hikes through hilly terrain. You'll be rewarded, however, with unforgettable experiences as you follow in the footsteps of emperors.
Step back in time and immerse yourself in nature on this five-day hiking trip along the historic Nakasendo Trail. Feudal lords and samurai once walked this mountain path connecting Kyoto and Tokyo, stopping at some of the historic 69 post stations to rest for the night. You'll follow in their footsteps as you trek through picturesque valleys, stay in idyllic villages, and relax in the thermal waters of hot springs along the way.
Calling all foodies! Eat your way through the Land of the Rising Sun on this comprehensive 11-day "foodcation." You'll immerse yourself in Japanese history and culture through its legendary cuisine, and treat your taste buds to everything from home-brewed sake to the freshest sushi, to delectable street food and a fancy gourmet feast.
Japan is roughly the size of California, with thousands of islands offering a huge variety of things to see and do. You can experience some of the world's best powder skiing in the north of the country or bask on tropical beaches in southern Okinawa. Top it off with its unique traditional culture and fabulous transportation system, and you're sure to have the trip of a lifetime.
Japan is famous for its Spring cherry blossoms and its changing colors in Autumn, but there are beautiful places to see in every season. Japan stretches from subtropical southern extremes to the northern reaches just across from Siberia, so with a little planning, you can find the right place to explore any time of year.
Looking for lesser-known, beautiful places to visit in Japan? Here is a shortlist of under-the-radar destinations to visit outside of the usual places most people go, like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.