To successfully summarise Japan in a matter of words is to ultimately underestimate it. Describing the pure marvel that is Japan –the home of sushi, anime, futuristic technology, outrageous fashion, devastatingly beautiful landscapes, ancient customs, and so much more– merely scratches the surface. When you experience 2 weeks in Japan first-hand, you’ll truly understand its magnificence.
In Japan, the polite and the outrageous stand side by side, as do the futuristic and the age-old, along with the quirky and the peaceful. On the surface, the country may appear every bit the epitome of modernity, but strip back this exterior, and you’ll find numerous contrasts in this 6,800-island archipelago. It is this seamless blend of ancient customs and traditions with lightning-speed industrialisation, pioneering design and hyperactive metropolises that makes this timeless country a “pleasantly disorientating experience”, as so beautifully put in our Japan travel guide.
Whether your enthusiasm to visit Japan lies in its dining experiences, modern technology, traditional culture, or diverse landscapes, there is quite literally something for everyone.
Is a 2-week Holiday to Japan Enough?
With a very efficient public transport system and a handful of fantastic local guides, you’ll be surprised at how much you can fit into a 2-week tour of Japan. Better yet, by narrowing down exactly what you’re most interested in seeing and doing, you’ll be able to plan an itinerary that’s perfect for you.
Our expert Local Designers in Japan have put together this 14-day Japan itinerary to give you a taste of the highlights of Japan that you can experience on your trip!
Planning to Spend 2 Weeks in Japan?
Designer Journeys’ network of in-destination Local Designers will use their expert knowledge, local insight and travel planning skills to design your ultimate Japan experience. Begin designing your journey today!
What to Pack?
Packing for 2 weeks in Japan can feel like a daunting task. After all, you want to be prepared for everything, right? But what if I told you that you could pack like a local and still have everything you need?
Think of packing as if you’re preparing a traditional Japanese bento box. You know, those beautifully arranged lunch boxes with various foods in small portions. Each item in the box has its place and purpose, and everything is well-spent. Similarly, every item should be carefully chosen and necessary when packing your suitcase.
First up, let’s talk about clothing. Japan’s weather can be quite unpredictable, so layering is key. Pack light, breathable clothes for the warmer days and a few sweaters or jackets for the cooler ones. And remember, Japanese people value modesty, so avoid revealing clothes.
Footwear is another crucial aspect. You’ll be walking a lot, so comfortable shoes are a must. But also remember that in Japan, taking off your shoes is customary when entering homes and some traditional restaurants. So, shoes that are easy to slip on and off are a good idea.
Next, let’s discuss toiletries. While you can find most things in Japan, bringing travel-sized versions of your favorite products might be more convenient. Don’t forget your sunscreen and a good moisturizer, as the weather can be harsh on your skin.
And, of course, remember your travel documents, some cash (as not all places accept cards), and a portable Wi-Fi device or SIM card to stay connected.
One more thing: Japanese people appreciate it when foreigners try to respect their customs. So, consider packing a small gift from your home country. This is not a requirement, but it’s a nice gesture, especially if you’re visiting someone’s home.
And there you have it—a perfectly packed suitcase for your 2 weeks in Japan, assembled with the precision and balance of a bento box.
Days 1-4: Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo, the buzzing capital of Japan! With its towering skyscrapers, bustling streets, and vibrant culture, it’s a city that never sleeps. Spending the first few days of your 2 weeks in Japan here is like stepping into a new world, but also strangely familiar. It’s like reading your favourite book for the first time – exciting, overwhelming, but captivating.
Let’s start with the must-visit places. Head to the historic Asakusa district, where you can visit Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. Nearby, Nakamise Shopping Street is perfect for picking up souvenirs and tasting local street food. Don’t forget to explore modern marvels like the Tokyo Skytree and Shibuya Crossing, often termed ‘The Times Square of Tokyo’.
But to live like a local, you must venture off the beaten path. Start your day early at the Tsukiji Fish Market, where you can enjoy the freshest sushi for breakfast. Take a stroll in Yoyogi Park, a favourite spot for locals to relax and practice their hobbies.
Food is integral to Japanese culture, and Tokyo is a foodie’s paradise. Try local dishes like ramen, yakitori, and okonomiyaki. And remember, slurping your noodles is not considered rude but a sign that you’re enjoying your meal!
Tokyo’s nightlife is just as exciting as its daylife. Whether you choose to sing your heart out in a Karaoke bar, enjoy a quiet evening at an Izakaya (Japanese pub), or dance the night away at a club in Roppongi, you’re sure to have a memorable night.
Remember, living like a local is about visiting the places locals visit and adopting their lifestyle. So, take your time, observe the people around you, and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Days 5-7: Kyoto
As you leave the bustling metropolis of Tokyo behind, get ready to step into the heart of Japan’s rich history and tradition in Kyoto. Spending the next part of your 2 weeks in Japan here is like turning the pages of a beautifully illustrated history book.
Start your exploration with a visit to the Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple that is covered in gold leaf. Then, head to Fushimi Inari Taisha, which is famous for its thousand red torii gates. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is another must-visit, offering a surreal experience of walking through towering bamboo stalks.
But to truly experience Kyoto like a local, you must delve deeper. Visit the Nishiki Market, often called “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, where you can sample local delicacies, from pickled vegetables to grilled seafood. Try to catch a traditional tea ceremony or even participate in one – it’s a quintessential Kyoto experience.
Kyoto is also known for its traditional crafts. Visit the backstreets of the Gion district, where you can find shops selling Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, Kyoto-style dolls, and other handcrafted items. You can even take a workshop to learn about these crafts.
And let’s not forget about the food. Kyoto is famous for kaiseki, a traditional multi-course meal that is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate. Also, make sure to try yuba (tofu skin), a speciality of the region.
As the sun sets, take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Kamo River. It’s a popular spot for locals to unwind and enjoy the evening breeze.
Remember, Kyoto is a city that values its traditions and customs. So, be respectful, observe the local etiquette, and take the time to appreciate the city’s timeless beauty.
Days 8-10: Hiroshima and Miyajima
As you journey further into your 2 weeks in Japan, it’s time to explore the resilient city of Hiroshima and the scenic island of Miyajima. This part of your trip is akin to a poignant tale of resilience, rebirth, and serene natural beauty.
A visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum is a must in Hiroshima. It’s a stark reminder of the city’s tragic past but also a testament to its remarkable recovery. The A-Bomb Dome, one of the few buildings that survived the atomic bombing, stands as a powerful symbol of peace.
But Hiroshima is not just about its past. The city has a vibrant food scene, with its own take on okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake loaded with cabbage, noodles, and other ingredients. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is unique as the ingredients are layered, not mixed, making it a delicious culinary experience.
Next, take a short ferry ride to Miyajima, an island renowned for its natural beauty and cultural significance. The island’s star attraction is the Itsukushima Shrine, particularly its floating torii gate, which appears floating on the water at high tide.
To truly experience Miyajima like a local, explore the island’s hiking trails that lead to Mt. Misen, the highest peak on the island. The trails offer breathtaking views of the Seto Inland Sea and are a favourite among locals. Don’t forget to try the local speciality, grilled oysters, which are incredibly fresh and flavorful.
As you explore Hiroshima and Miyajima, remember to take a moment to reflect on the past, appreciate the present, and hope for a peaceful future.
Days 11-14: Osaka and Kansai Region
As you approach the end of your 2 weeks in Japan, it’s time to immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Osaka and the surrounding Kansai region. It’s like the grand finale of a spectacular fireworks display, leaving you with unforgettable memories.
In Osaka, start your exploration with a visit to Osaka Castle, a majestic fortress with a rich history. Then, head to Dotonbori, the city’s entertainment district known for its neon lights, bustling shops, and diverse food stalls. Trying local dishes like takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki is necessary here.
For a local experience, visit the Kuromon Ichiba Market, where Osakans shop for fresh produce and speciality foods. You can also explore the city’s retro shopping streets, like Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, where you can find everything from traditional crafts to vintage items.
Next, venture out to the wider Kansai region. Visit the city of Nara, known for its historic temples and friendly deer roaming in Nara Park. Or explore the town of Uji, famous for its high-quality green tea.
Another must-visit is the city of Kobe, known worldwide for its succulent Kobe beef. But there’s more to Kobe than just its beef. The city’s harbour area offers beautiful sea views, while the Kitano district is known for its Western-style houses.
Remember, Osaka and the Kansai region are known for their friendly and outgoing locals. So, don’t shy away from striking up a conversation. You might just make some new friends!
Design Your Japan Tour with a Local Today!
Our network of trusted Local Designers in Japan is ready and waiting to use their expert knowledge, local insight and travel planning skills to design your ultimate Japan experience. If you know what you’re looking for, tell us your plans, and our Local Designers will build your free personalised itinerary in 48 hours or less!
Tips when Traveling to Japan
As you plan your two weeks in Japan, here are some practical tips to help you navigate the country like a seasoned traveller.
Learn Basic Japanese Phrases: While many people in Japan understand English, knowing a few basic Japanese phrases can go a long way in making your trip smoother and more enjoyable. Phrases like “Arigato” (Thank you), “Sumimasen” (Excuse me/Sorry), and “Eigo o hanasemasu ka?” (Do you speak English?) can be helpful.
Respect Local Customs: Japanese society is deeply rooted in tradition and etiquette. Simple gestures like bowing when greeting someone, removing your shoes before entering a home or certain restaurants, and not speaking loudly on public transport can help you blend in with the locals.
Stay Connected: A reliable internet connection can make travel much easier. Consider renting a portable Wi-Fi device or buying a local SIM card.
Use Public Transportation: Japan’s public transportation system is one of the best in the world. It’s efficient, punctual, and covers most parts of the country. Don’t forget to get a Japan Rail Pass for unlimited travel on JR trains.
Cash is King: While credit cards are accepted in many places in Japan, there are still many places, especially in rural areas, that only accept cash. Always keep some cash on hand.
Try Local Food: Japanese cuisine is diverse and delicious. Feel free to try local dishes and specialities. It’s a vital part of the Japanese experience.
Remember, the goal is not just to visit Japan but to experience it. So, embrace the culture, enjoy the food, respect the customs, and make the most of your two weeks in this incredible country.
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide on how to spend two weeks in Japan like a local. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the historic charm of Kyoto, the resilience of Hiroshima, the scenic beauty of Miyajima, and the vibrant energy of Osaka, this journey will surely offer you a unique and unforgettable experience.
But remember, this guide is just a starting point. Japan is a country rich in culture, history, and natural beauty, and there’s always more to explore. So, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path and create your own adventure. After all, isn’t that what travel is all about?
Now, pack your bags, say “Sayonara” to your routine life, and get ready to say “Konnichiwa” for an incredible two weeks in Japan. Happy travels!
Don’t Miss Our Exclusive Offers! Subscribe Today!
For the ultimate travel inspiration, local insight straight from our expert Local Designers and exclusive offers you won’t find anywhere else from Designer Journeys, sign up today! Don’t miss out.