Planning your Japan itinerary and looking for guidance and inspiration? You've come to the right place! From the first time I went as a doctor who'd just handed my notice in to the last when I was broadcasting for Lonely Planet and all the times in between, I've loved travelling to this country. Here, I draw together my professional experience to create your Japan trip planner. Because despite the difference in language, it really is a great destination for independent, authentic travel.
Look at the Japan Itineraries At a Glance section first to get an idea of time and an overview of what's possible. There's plenty of practical advice throughout the article as well as links to more in-depth information both here and elsewhere.
This five day itinerary for Tokyo is also a great place to start. Most travellers fly in and out of the capital but there are routes into other cities as well and it's certainly worth considering flying in to one and out of another if you wish to venture south to Kyushu or Okinawa.
I cover a lot of ground on this site, focusing wherever possible on unusual, authentic travel. So if you're feeling overwhelmed, go whelm yourself with this clear introduction to the classical highlights of Japan.
But don't stress. It's an amazing country with so much to see and do. But there aren't really "must-sees" like the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. So, I suppose what I'm saying is: don't worry. You can't go wrong!
Head to the country's capital, Tokyo. Explore the traditional city on the east side with its history, temples and shrines, and modern Tokyo with its boutiques and department stores on the west. Don't missthe Imperial Palace area and the Tsukiji fish market.
Spend a few days in Tokyo, including the Meiji Shrine. Take an excursion to Mt. Fuji and visit the ancient capital of Kyoto, including the Tojo Temple. Visit Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Museum and stop by in the mountains on your way back to the capital.
Build on the classical route by heading north into Sendai or south to the tropical islands of Okinawa. Expand on Hiroshima by visiting Nagasaki, Japan's only contact with the outside world for centuries at a time. Brave a black volcanic sand treatment on the beach in Kyushu.
It's up to you. It's a fascinating city but (shh) I wouldn't put it in my top 10. I've written a 5 day itinerary to Tokyo here. You shouldn't really need longer than that and can easily cut down your time here if you want to see more of the country.
Ha! Easy and not so easy, I suppose. The hike itself is straightforward. You don't need specialist climbing skills or gear, just sensible hiking gear. At a stretch, you can do it in a day trip from Tokyo. However, most people climb at night and the mountain top is closed for most of the year. I've climbed it once but would not do so again!
Pretty easy, actually. Unlike most of Asia, Japan moves in a strictly regimented way. People tend to be incredibly polite, reserved, helpful and quiet and the public transport system is dazzlingly superb. You may struggle with language outside of the classical itineraries and the culture shock can be quite profound. But I've travelled as a couple, in a group and on my own and it's been a pleasure each time.
First up, there are fantastic day trips you can take from Tokyo. These include Mt Fuji, smoking black eggs in Hakone and the cheery hot springs bathing monkeys at Jigokudani Yaenkoen.
At a push, you can get to Kyoto and back in a day on the shinkansen bullet train but only do that if you have to. I'd highly recommend taking your time to visit Kyoto, with maybe a stop in Hiroshima and the "Japanese Alps" on the way back as well.
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