Alright, let’s dive into the vibrant, intricate, and fascinating world that is Japan, and explore the best possible itineraries for all types of travelers, be it a family of four, solo explorers, lovey-dovey couples, or the wise and adventurous senior citizen duos.
Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so get your reading glasses on and prepare for a long, enjoyable journey through the Land of the Rising Sun!
In this article…
I. For the Family: The Adventurous Foursome
Let’s kick things off with a 7-day itinerary designed specifically for families.
Day 1 & 2 – Tokyo: $600-$1200
Start with Tokyo, the city that effortlessly merges the old with the new. Visit Tokyo Disneyland (tickets around $70 per person), explore Asakusa (Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise shopping street), and take a cruise on the Sumida River.
Visit the Odaiba area for teamLab Borderless digital art museum (tickets around $30 per person) and a photo op with the giant Gundam statue. Lodging costs will likely range from $200 to $400 per night for a mid-range family room.
Day 3 – Nikko: $100-$300
Take a day trip to Nikko. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage shrines and temples. Experience nature at Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls. Consider getting a Nikko All Area Pass for unlimited travel around Nikko (about $30 per person).
Day 4 & 5 – Kyoto: $600-$1200
Head to Kyoto, the city of a thousand temples. Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, take a stroll in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and visit Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). Remember to try out a traditional tea ceremony (around $20 per person).
Day 6 – Nara: $100-$200
Take a day trip to Nara. Visit Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga-taisha Shrine, and don’t miss the friendly deer in Nara Park.
Day 7 – Osaka: $200-$400
Finish your trip in Osaka with a visit to Osaka Castle and Dotonbori. Try out the local food like takoyaki and okonomiyaki.
II. Solo Explorer: The Lone Ranger
Next, a 14-day itinerary for the audacious solo traveler:
Day 1-4 – Tokyo: $100-$200 per day
Spend the first four days exploring Tokyo. Visit Shibuya Crossing, Shinjuku’s nightlife, the tranquil Meiji Shrine, and the hipster neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. Consider staying in a capsule hotel for a truly unique experience (around $40 per night).
Day 5 & 6 – Hakone: $100-$200 per day
Head to Hakone for some relaxation in hot springs (onsen). Stay in a traditional Japanese inn or ryokan (about $200 per night). Visit the Open Air Museum and try to spot Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashi.
Day 7-9 – Kyoto: $100-$200 per day
Next, head to Kyoto. Explore the philosopher’s path, Gion district, and try out some kaiseki dining (from $100 per meal).
Day 10 – Hiroshima: $100-$200
Take a day trip to Hiroshima and visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Take a ferry to Miyajima to see the famous Itsukushima Shrine (round-trip ferry ride around $20).
Day 11 & 12 – Osaka: $100-$200 per day
Explore Osaka’s bustling streets, visit the historic Osaka Castle, enjoy the panoramic city views from the Umeda Sky Building. Get a taste of the local cuisine in Dotonbori and don’t miss out on Universal Studios Japan (a one-day ticket is around $70).
Day 13 – Koya-san: $100-$200
Spend a day in Koya-san, the center of Shingon Buddhism. Stay in a temple lodging, or Shukubo, for a unique experience (around $100-$200 per night).
Day 14 – Return to Tokyo: $100-$200
Return to Tokyo and spend your last day shopping for souvenirs and revisiting your favorite spots or exploring new ones like the ritzy Ginza district or Odaiba.
III. The Romantic Duo: Two Peas in a Pod
This 10-day itinerary is for the couples who’re seeking a blend of romance, adventure, and culture in their Japanese expedition:
Day 1-3 – Tokyo: $200-$400 per day
Start your romantic journey in Tokyo. A picnic under the cherry blossoms in Ueno Park (if in season), a boat ride on the Sumida River, a romantic dinner with a view in Roppongi Hills, and a walk across the iconic Rainbow Bridge should definitely be on your list.
Day 4 & 5 – Hakone: $300-$600 per day
Head to Hakone for a relaxing retreat. Stay in a ryokan with a private onsen for an intimate experience. Cruise on Lake Ashi, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
Day 6-8 – Kyoto: $200-$400 per day
Explore Kyoto’s romantic spots like the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, the Golden Pavilion, and the thousands of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine. A romantic kaiseki dinner would be the perfect end to your Kyoto days (starting from $100 per meal).
Day 9 – Nara: $100-$200
Take a day trip to Nara, feed the friendly deer in Nara Park, and visit the Todai-ji Temple, home to the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.
Day 10 – Return to Tokyo: $200-$400
Return to Tokyo for a final day of shopping and reminiscing your journey at a cozy Izakaya (Japanese pub) in Tokyo’s vibrant Shinjuku district.
IV. The Wise Duo: Senior Citizen Explorers
Finally, a 7-day relaxed itinerary for experienced and wise travelers:
Day 1 & 2 – Tokyo: $200-$400 per day
Explore Tokyo at a leisurely pace. Visit the serene Meiji Shrine, take a stroll in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at Hamarikyu Gardens, and take a relaxing river cruise.
Day 3 – Kamakura: $100-$200
Take a day trip to the ancient capital city of Kamakura. Visit the Great Buddha and take a walk along the beach.
Day 4 & 5 – Kyoto: $200-$400 per day
Head to Kyoto and visit its iconic sites such as Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji with its famous rock garden, and Nijo Castle. Take a boat ride on the Hozu River and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Day 6 – Kanazawa: $100-$200
Explore Kanazawa, known for its well-preserved Edo-era districts, traditional crafts, and the beautiful Kenroku-en Garden, one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens.” Experience the unique tea culture in the geisha districts of Higashi Chaya and Nishi Chaya.
Day 7 – Return to Tokyo: $200-$400
Return to Tokyo and spend your last day enjoying some shopping at Asakusa’s Nakamise shopping street for traditional Japanese goods and crafts. Spend your last night in a leisurely dinner at a reputable sushi restaurant to celebrate the end of a memorable trip.
These itineraries are simply guidelines and the beauty of traveling is that you can customize it based on your interests and preferences. Japan has so much more to offer and each region has its own unique charm and experiences. Enjoy your journey!
Itinerary for Solo Travellers
As a solo traveller, you’ll have the freedom to set your own pace and indulge your personal interests. Here’s a 7-day itinerary that covers a mix of famous landmarks and unique experiences.
Day 1 – Tokyo: $150-$200
Start your journey with Tokyo’s modern wonders. Visit the Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection, and explore the high-end fashion district of Ginza. Dine in one of the small ramen shops, like Ichiran, where dining booths are designed for solo diners.
Day 2 – Tokyo: $100-$150
Explore Tokyo’s traditional side. Visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, enjoy the natural beauty of Ueno Park, and explore Yanaka Ginza, an old-fashioned shopping street. Try a traditional tea ceremony at Happo-en Garden.
Day 3 – Hakone: $150-$250
Escape to Hakone, renowned for its hot springs and stunning views of Mount Fuji. Enjoy a boat tour on Lake Ashi, soak in an onsen (Japanese hot spring), and check out the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
Day 4 – Kyoto: $100-$200
Head to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural heart. Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine with its iconic red torii gates, stroll along the Philosopher’s Path, and explore Gion district, known for geishas. Grab a quick bite from Nishiki Market.
Day 5 – Kyoto: $150-$250
Spend another day in Kyoto. Visit Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), wander through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and enjoy a Zen meditation session at one of the local temples.
Day 6 – Hiroshima and Miyajima: $200-$300
Take a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. Reflect on history at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and marvel at the Great Torii Gate at Miyajima.
Day 7 – Osaka: $150-$200
Spend your final day in Osaka, Japan’s kitchen. Try local specialties like takoyaki and okonomiyaki, visit Osaka Castle, and take in panoramic city views from Umeda Sky Building.
For the solo traveller, Japan is a friendly and safe country with a lot to offer. Embrace the freedom and enjoy the adventure!
1. Are these itineraries inclusive of all travel costs?
No, these are estimated costs for activities, accommodation, and meals. Other costs, such as airfare, local transportation, and personal shopping, are not included.
2. Can I alter these itineraries?
Absolutely! These are just suggested itineraries. Feel free to add, remove, or change the duration based on your preferences and travel goals.
3. Is it cheaper to book activities in advance or on the spot?
It depends on the activity. Some activities may offer discounted rates when booked in advance or online. Others might be the same price whether booked in advance or purchased on the spot.
4. What’s the best way to travel between cities in Japan?
Japan’s public transportation system is efficient and reliable. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is a great way to travel long distances quickly. If you’re planning to travel extensively, consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. Buses and domestic flights are also available for long distances, while buses, trams, subways, and taxis are commonly used for shorter distances within cities.
5. When is the best time to visit Japan?
Japan can be visited year-round, but spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are often considered the best times to visit because of the mild weather and beautiful scenery (cherry blossoms in spring and colorful leaves in autumn). However, the best time depends on the activities you want to do.
Remember, Japan is a marathon, not a sprint. So take your time, immerse yourself in the culture, and enjoy the journey. Happy travels!
6. Is Japan safe for solo travellers?
Japan is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world, making it a great destination for solo travellers. However, it’s always important to take basic safety precautions, like not walking alone late at night in unfamiliar areas and keeping an eye on your belongings.
7. Can I book single rooms in Japan’s accommodations?
Yes, many accommodations in Japan offer single rooms. You’ll also find many hostels and capsule hotels which are budget-friendly and great for solo travellers.
8. Is it easy to meet other travellers in Japan?
Yes, it’s fairly easy to meet fellow travellers, especially in hostels, guesthouses, and bars in major cities. Joining group tours or activities can also be a good way to meet people.
9. Can I dine alone in Japan?
Absolutely. Many restaurants in Japan are solo-diner friendly. Some even have single dining booths for individual customers.
Remember, traveling solo can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Enjoy the freedom and make the most of your time in Japan!