Japan Itinerary – 14 Days of Our Incredible Japan Winter Itinerary

Japan is an incredibly diverse country.  With amazing nature, traditional architecture and a distinctive mix of ancient and modern culture, there’s really nowhere else in the world like it!  Maximise your time with this Japan itinerary 14 days and prepare for the time of your life.  Amazing in any season, this reflects our Japan winter itinerary, but can just as easily be applied to spring, autumn or summer (with just one or two tweaks).

Towering skyscrapers, incredible technology, pop culture, ancient traditions, wildlife, food and so, so much more.  Japan literally offers something for everyone.

Having spent two incredible weeks in the ‘land of the rising sun’, we’re pleased to share our honest thoughts on everything we did (and a few things that we didn’t have a chance to do ourselves too)!

Having visited the island of Honshu in late December/early January, this post is first and foremost a Japan winter itinerary, but the activities and ideas we share are largely transferrable to any season.

Just as Japan packs a punch, so does this itinerary!  Be sure to use the table of contents box that follows should you want to jump to one section in particular (though we’d always suggest you start by skim reading the entire post).

Jump straight on in...

Getting Around Japan on Your Japan Winter Itinerary – Plan Transport for Your Japan Itinerary – 14 Days

Japan is renowned for it’s incredible transport system.  Trains, in particular, making travelling in Japan an absolute breeze.

It is possible to travel through Japan by bus, rental car and plane too, but in our experience, trains generally end up being the best bang for buck (in regards to time vs cost).

Though its rail system isn’t particularly cheap, it is efficient, fast and convenient and though we initially questioned the value in our JR Passes (as they were far from affordable), we came away from our 2-week itinerary as complete converts.

When travelling to Japan, we suggest pricing up the train transport you require before comparing that total with the price of a JR Pass – that way you’ll be able to figure out the most cost-effective way for you to travel across the country.

Plan Your Own Japan Itinerary – 14 Days on Your Japan Winter Itinerary

Japan is an incredibly diverse and exciting country, that combines both ancient cultures and modern life in a manner that we’ve not experienced anywhere else in the world.

It is a place that has to be seen and experienced to be believed.

To help make life easy for you, we’ve broken down where we stayed and what we did in each of the key locations we visited.

From the incredible history of Hiroshima and Kyoto, to the buzz of Tokyo (and everywhere in between), this Japan Itinerary 14 Days covers many of the key highlights in Japan whilst taking a well-considered route.

Back your bags and great ready to hit the road!

There are so many things to do in Japan and with limited time, it’s just not possible to do everything.  In this post, we’ve shared what we actually did in the first section of each location (labelled ‘what to do in…), and additional activity ideas (which we didn’t have a chance to do, labelled ‘additional things to do in…’).  Happy planning!

Osaka (1 Night) – The Start of Your Japan Itinerary 14 Days

A vibrant, buzzing city, Osaka is known for its nightlife, incredible street food and it modern architecture.  It also serves as a great entry or exit point to Japan, when combined with Tokyo – do as we did and fly into one city and out of the other, to save both time and money.

Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. It’s known for its modern architecture, nightlife and hearty street food. The 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle, which has undergone several restorations, is its main historical landmark. It’s surrounded by a moat and park with plum, peach and cherry-blossom trees. Sumiyoshi-taisha is among Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines.

What to Do in Osaka

Visit Dotonbori – the heart of Osaka

There you’ll find countless neon signs (which are best viewed at night) lining a beautiful canal.  There is also a 580m long shopping street that connects Dotonbori to Shinsaibashi – it’s the best place to go to try local street food dishes.  You’ll be spoilt for choice there!

Admire the Osaka Castle

As beautiful as it is important, the Osaka Castle is a must-see whilst in the city.  This castle is recognised as one of the most famous landmarks in all of Japan as it played an important part in being to unify Japan in the sixteenth century.  It has since been decimated by fire and rebuilt and repaired a number of times; existing in its current form since 1931.

Our favourite time to visit is at night when it is illuminated (which just so happens to be when you see it on the go kart tour).

Check out Tsutenkaku – The Osaka Tower

This 100m+ observation tower boasts beautiful views of Osaka.  Whilst you’re in the area, be sure to check out the restaurants and shops in Shinsekai.

Hit the streets on a Go Kart!

If you’re looking for a good time (and we know you are), you’ve got to jump in a go kart in Japan!  We’d heard mixed things about just how appreciated the go karts are in Tokyo (and by that, I mean we’d read some horror stories), but that’s absolutely not the case in Osaka.  We donned onsies and had the time of our lives!

Our guide did a great job of explaining how to safely drive the go karts on the open road, ensured we felt comfortable the entire time and zipped us around all of the key sights in the city (including the Osaka Castle, Namba, Dotonbori, Osaka Tower and the stunning Christmas illuminations).  Be prepared to feel like a celebrity though; we couldn’t get over how many people were waving and snapping photos of us.

If there’s one thing you do in Osaka, make sure this is it!  It really is the perfect way to get a sense of Osaka whilst having a good giggle.

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Additional Things to do in Osaka:

Spend a day at Universal Studios Japan

A world renowned theme park brand, with rides and attractions based on Hollywood blockbusters, Universal Studios Japan (or USJ as it’s known by fans) appeals to guests of all ages.  If you’re wondering whether it’s worth paying the Japanese park a visit (when you’ve already been to one elsewhere), the answer is yes; not only do they have an incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but they also have Japanese favourites like Sailor Moon, Godzilla and Attack on Titan – attractions you don’t see anywhere else in the world.  They’ve also got one of my Universal favourites – Jurassic Park: The Ride!

Visit the Kuromon Market

This is the most famous market in Osaka and where you’ll find endless fresh seafood, meat, fruit and more – Osaka is known for its regional street food and this is one of the best places to find it.

Spend some time at Kaiyukan – Japan’s Largest Aquarium

Osaka is home to one of the biggest aquariums in the world.  There you’ll find whale sharks, rays, seals and over 600 other species of fish and marine animals.  If you’re looking for a low-key wall to fill your time or entertain younger travellers, this is a great way to do so.

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Where to Stay in Osaka

Kaja Hotel.  Modern and funky, this surf-inspired hotel represents excellent value for money.  With each self-contained suite built within a shipping container, it’s far from a traditional Japanese hotel but that doesn’t make it any less memorable.  The Kaja Hotel is also close to a local light rail station, making it incredibly easy to get in close to the action of Osaka (and out of it again when it’s time to rest.

Hiroshima (1 Night)

Made famous for all the wrong reasons, Hiroshima was all but destroyed when an atomic bomb was dropped on it during World War II.  Having worked hard to rebuild itself, it is an a modern city that draws in tourists from all around the world, looking to reflect and observe a glimpse into its difficult past.

What to Do in Hiroshima

Visit the Peace Memorial Park

The Peace Memorial Park spans the worst affected part of Hiroshima; the first city in the world to fall victim to a nuclear attack.  It serves to remember those affected by this atrocity, both directly and indirectly.

Once home to the busiest commercial and residential district in the city, it is now an expansive park where you’ll find the A-Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, countless monuments and more.  Unfortunately the museum was closed during our visit (what are the chances when it’s only closed two days a year – the 30th and 31st of December) but we have heard it’s well worth seeing.

The A-Bomb Dome is on display year-round and is a moving reminder of the physical damage that atomic bombs cause in a community.

Check out Hiroshima Castle

Another beautiful example of Japanese architecture, the Hiroshima Castle is also known locally as the Carp Castle.  Though it was originally built in the late 16th century, it was sadly destroyed, along with the rest of the city, by atomic bomb in 1945.  In 1958, the castle was rebuilt as an exact replica – this now houses a museum to help inform visitors about life in Hiroshima before the war.

Additional Things to Do in Hiroshima

Enjoy Shukkei-en – Formal Japanese gardens

Shukkei-en (which means ‘shrunken scenery garden’ in English) is a great example of traditional gardening in Hiroshima.  It includes a pond, tea houses and a range of scenery which is represented in miniature form (including mountains, valleys and forests).

You’ll find the garden connected by a path which works its way around the pond.  We suggest you follow this pathway to ensure you see all of the miniature scenes.

Visit Miyajima

There are many day trips that are possible from Hiroshima but the most well-known is Miyajima (which is formally known as Itsukushima).  Miyajima Island is recognised as one of the most scenic locations in all of Japan thanks to it’s incredible .  This ‘island of the Gods’ is home to the iconic orange Great Torii Gate, which appears to float above the water at high tide.  Whilst visiting this island, visitors are also able to enjoy museums, temples and gorgeous forrest trails.  Though we were short on time in Hiroshima, we will certainly be back to visit Miyajima.

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Where to Stay in Hiroshima

Nest Hotel Hiroshima Hatchobori.  Another excellent find, Hiroshima’s Nest Hotel is conveniently located in the shopping district of Hatchobori.  Even better, the free JR tourist bus has a stop literally right outside!  The hotel itself is modern and conveniently appointed, again offering privacy and comfortable whilst being superb value for money.

Nara (Day Trip)

A fantastic day trip from Kyoto, Hiroshima or Osaka, Nara is a quiet little town that surges to life each day as the tourists arrive.  The town itself is beautiful but it’s the deer, shrines and temples which you’ll find just outside of town that are the main attraction.

What to Do in Nara

Feed the wild deer

The best-known attraction in Nara was certainly our favourite; Nara Park where you’ll find hundreds of wild (but surprisingly tame) deer.

At the park, you’re able to buy deer crackers, but be warned – some the deer just love and some they won’t even touch.  We arrived late in the afternoon when the deer were full and really didn’t feel the need to buy crackers for them – it was awesome just to be there, in amongst the deer.

For animal lovers, Nara is a real highlight on this Japan itinerary 14 days.

Want to join a Nara tour? This one wlll take you to see the deer, along with a town known for its green tea and to natural hot springs; all without you having to worry about the planning.
Visit Nara’s Temples and Shrines

As you walk along the main road to Nara Deer Park, you’ll find countless Japanese temples and shrines.  They’re all beautiful and worth swinging up as you walk back from your visit to the deer.

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Kyoto (3 Nights)

Widely recognised as ground zero for Japanese culture, if there’s one place to go to get a glimpse into the past, this is it.

Falling within the list of Japan’s ten largest cities, it has a population of 1.5 million, which swells exponentially due to tourism.

Once the capital city and home to emperors from 794 to 1868, the city was spared from atomic bomb during WWII due to its incredible history.  Thanks to that decision, tourists and locals a like can enjoy many priceless original shrines and temples; more so in Kyoto than anywhere else.

Kyoto is absolutely gorgeous and a must-see on your Japan itinerary 14 days.

What to Do in Kyoto

Wander through Fushimi Inari Taisha

A key Shinto shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most famous and ancient in all of Japan.  Known for its orange torii gates, its mountain trail winds up Mount Inari, paying respects to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.  On your hike along Fushimi Inari, you’ll notice an abundance of foxes, thought to be Inari’s messengers, and smaller shrines off to the side of the gates on occasion.

It is possible to hike to the summit of Mt Inari over the course of 2-3 hours, but it is certainly possible to stop and turn around at any stage.  The further you walk along the mountain trail, the fewer torii gates you’ll see and the further apart they are; this means that from a photographic point of view, the first 30 minutes or so of the hike is the most interesting.

Did you know?  The gates that you’ll walk through have all been donated by Japanese citizens and companies.  The smallest gates start at approximately JPY400,000 (USD3,635/NZD5,515) and larger ones require payments of over JPY1,000,000!  In the small shrines that sit off to the side of the main trail, you’ll also spot mini torii gates which have been donated by people with smaller budgets.

Visit Arashiyama
Explore the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

One of the most photographed parts of Kyoto, a visit to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is practically a must on your Japan itinerary 14 days.  With a number of pathways, the forest is free for visitors to access, and even on a busy day, it’s magical.  The sound of the breeze russling through the bamboo is unbeatable – to the point that that Ministry of the Environment has recognised it as part of the official soundscape of Japan!

Visit Monkey Park Iwatayama

On the opposite side of the Ōi River (to where you’ll arrive by bus or train), you’ll find a group of almost 200 wild Japanese macaque monkeys.  Food can be purchased at the park, where you can enjoy some quiet time with our distant relatives.

Though we made the decision not to visit Iwatayama Monkey Park whilst in Arashiyama (as we knew we’d see the snow monkeys later in our Japan itinerary 14 days), we had been told that it was amazing!

Enjoy the township of Arashiyama

A stunning old village, Arashiyama is now home to countless authentic souvenir shops, street food vendors and restaurants.  It is the perfect place to meander and soak in what makes Japan so special.

Wander Higashiyama
Check out Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka

Two of the most iconic streets in Kyoto, a visit to Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka is a must.  These two lanes slope gently down, past teahouses, beautifully preserved buildings and, at the right time of year, one of the most incredible displays of cherry blossoms you’ll see in the city.

If you follow these two ‘slopes’, you’ll find yourself at the beautiful Kiyomizudera Temple.

Admire the Kiyomizudera Temple

Build way back in 780, Kiyomizudera (known as the “Pure Water Temple”), is one of the most celebrated in the whole country.  It is best known for its large wooden stage which provides incredible views out over Kyoto.

So you’re in the know…  The Kiyomizudera Temple is currently being renovated; this work is expected to be completed in 2021.

Roam Gion on the look out for Geishas

Known across the world for their incredible ability to entertain (dance, culture, poetry – you name it, they can do it), geishas are unique to Japan.

In Gion, geisha’s learn their craft, so if you keep your eyes peeled (and have a little luck) you may find one wandering the streets.

Hire a traditional kimono

Though I went back and forth about dressing in a kimono and wandering the streets of Kyoto, it ended up being one of the real highlights from our trip!

To start, I selected my silk kimono (a difficult task in a sea of stunning options) and the team got to work on me.

If you’ve never been dressed in a formal kimono, it’s hard to explain just how incredibly involved the process is.  It involves two women working together, towels, cord, tape and layer after layer of material, all whilst they natter away in Japanese.  It is an amazing experience and one that I highly recommend!

Once you’re kitted out in your kimono, you’ll pick your hairstyle and accessories before setting off for the streets of Kyoto, ready to explore and snap photos.

Walking around the old streets of Kyoto, I felt a little like a Japanese princess!

Cultural appropriation or appreciation?  The main reason I wasn’t initially 100% sold on dressing in a kimono for for exactly this reason – I didn’t want to cause offence or upset whilst travelling in Japan.  When I carried out some research, spoke to a blogging friend of mine and talked with the rental company, I came to the conclusion that dressing in a kimono was an appropriate thing to do.  When I arrived in Japan and took to the streets, dressed in my gorgeous kimono, I felt more than comfortable doing so.  Most people went about their business without paying any attention to us, and the few that did interact with us, were incredibly positive.  This isn’t to say that all Japanese will be keen on having foreigners wearing their traditional clothes, but my experience was a fantastic one.
Discover local eats on a food tour

A firm favourite for us whenever we travel, food tours are an amazing way to get to know locals, meet new travelling friends and chow-down on a variety of local dishes.  In a country like Japan where meals are often foreign (not to mention, presented in a different language), having a Japanese guide order on your behalf is a godsend!

We tried a variety of meals on our tour, ranging from those that were fairly familiar to ones that we wouldn’t ever have thought to order (cold soba noodles, anyone?) but that is precisely what food tours are all about.  Every dish was a treat and the company was even better.

We loved our time with Arigato Food Tours and will certainly be back when we next travel to Japan.

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Additional Things to Do in Kyoto

Admire Kinkaku-ji – the Golden Pavilion

One of the most beautiful buildings in all of Japan, a visit to the Golden Pavilion is a highlight for many.  This Zen Buddhist temple (which is officially named Rokuon-ji) has two floors completely covered in gold leaf – it is just stunning!

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Where to Stay in Kyoto

M’s Inn Sanjo Omiya.  Another fantastic hotel, M’s Inn Sanjo Omiya wasn’t as affordable as the aforementioned hotels, but when you’re visiting Kyoto over the New Years period, nothing is cheap!  When compared to other properties, it was a great day though, and it certainly delivered on comfort and convenience.  Located in a fairly local part of the city, it was away from the madness of central Kyoto (which we appreciated) but still well-connected both by bus and train.  The rooms themselves were well-appointed and comfortable and though reviews online talked about some frustrations with the automated check-in, we didn’t have any issues (and found their staff to be very helpful).

Matsumoto (Day Trip)

The perfect day trip on the way from Kyoto to Nagano (and then on to Yudanaka), Matsumoto is a small town that packs a mighty punch!

What do Do in Matsumoto

Admire Matsumoto Castle

One of the most important castles still standing in Japan, the Matsumoto Castle is a stunner.

With only three premier historic castles left in the country, it really is worth hopping off the train to see Matsumoto Castle for yourself.  Best of all, access to the grounds are free and as it’s a relatively small town that doesn’t get as many tourists as other spots, you’ll be guaranteed an amazing view of the castle.

Snap a photo by the Seikando Bookstore

Sandwiched between two modern buildings, you’ll find the Seikando Bookstore.  This incredible little building was modelled after the Matsumoto Castle and is home to an incredible collection of second-hand Japanese books.  Unfortunately the store was closed when we visited, so we didn’t get a chance to explore inside, but the building itself is well worth seeing – even if you don’t step foot inside.

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Yudanaka (1 Night) – Winter Paradise on this Japan Winter Itinerary

The gateway to the Snow Monkey Resorts Park, this is as close as you can get to them by train.  Sleepy and quaint, Yudanaka provides a glimpse into rural life in Japan.

What to Do in Yudanaka

Visit the Snow Monkeys

Winter icons in Japan, we loved visiting the snow monkeys just out of Nagano.  Though they can be seen any time of year, it’s best to see the snow monkeys whilst on your Japan winter itinerary.

After completing an easy hike (which takes approximately 25 minutes), you’ll climb up to the geothermal home of the wild Japanese macaque troupe.  There you’ll find the snow monkeys swimming, bathing, grooming and getting up to all sorts of general mischief!

It’s a must-do if you’re visiting Japan in the colder seasons and for us, was a real highlight on our Japan itinerary 14 days.

If you’re travelling from Tokyo, it’s possible to join a tour to make seeing the snow monkeys incredibly easy.
Relax in an onsen

If you’re looking for the perfect way to relax your tired, travelling muscles, an onsen is the perfect place.  You’ll find these traditional Japanese hot springs throughout Japan, but they are especially popular in this region.

If you want to use the public onsens, you’ll need to be prepared to enter naked with only your own gender.  It’s also important to check that tattoos are allowed at your onsen of choice, as they often aren’t.

Should you prefer to swim clothed or with your hetro partner it is possible to hire private onsens for periods of time.  This is also a great solution should you have tattoos that cannot be covered (and onsens that are not tattoo-friendly).

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Where to Stay in Yudanaka

Guest House Honami-Kaido.  If you’re looking for a real taste of what it is to live in Japan, look no further!  Yoshirou, the owner of this guest house, goes above and beyond to ensure his guests have a fantastic stay.  What he lacks in English, he certainly makes up for in enthusiasm and kindness!  Though the guest house is a little out of town, Yoshirou includes three return journeys each day and will happily drop you into town, to the famed onsens and also to the snow monkeys.  It’s worth noting that as this is a traditional guest house, you will be sleeping on futons on the floor, but it’s all a part of the Japanese experience.  This snuggly guesthouse is the perfect place to stop off for an evening or two on your Japan winter itinerary.

Shiga Kogen (2 Nights): Another Japan Winter Itinerary Highlight

Shiga Kogen (which means Shiga Heights in English) is all about the snow.  Perfect for all skiers and snowboarders, it is close to the snow monkeys and to Nagano and is especially known as being an ideal spot for intermediate snow-bunnies.  It first came into the spotlight internationally as the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and is now a favourite amongst locals and in-the-know travellers.

For snowboarders and skiers, no visit to Japan is complete without a stop off at the mountains, as part of a Japan winter itinerary.

What to Do in Shiga Kogen

Ski and snowboard up a storm!

Shigan Kogen is the second highest ski resort in Japan and one of the largest too.  With 19 different interconnected ski fields, it’s easy to cover a lot of ground in a very short amount of time – both via ski lift and their bus system.  As all of these lifts and buses can be accessed using the one ski pass, multi-day skiing and boarding really is a breeze.

In total, you’ll find more than 80 kilometres of trails (wow!) that span an elevation of 980 metres, serviced by almost 70 lifts, gondolas and chairs.  This is a serious ski resort by any standards, but add in a might dose of infamous Japanese powder (japow, anyone?) and you’ve got a match made in heaven.

After being dropped off at the Giant ski field (which was nice and handy to our accommodation), we spent the day snowboarding Hoppo Bunadaira and, my personal favourite, Nishidateyama.  Though visibility wasn’t great for us on the mountain, we were blessed with the most incredible powder that fell right throughout the day.

We’d never experienced snowboarding in such incredible snow but now really do understand why people hunt the world for powder!

Where to Stay in Shiga Kogen

Hotel Astoria.  Owned and run by a fabulous Japanese couple, Kyoko & Satoshi really make Hotel Astoria the kind of place that you could return to time and time again (made all the more magical when you’re cuddled up inside at night as the powder falls outside).  Though the hotel is a little dated now, it all adds to the charm.  Located well in Shiga Kogen, you’ll find yourself close to countless ski fields.  The evening meals (cooked by Kyoko) were fantastic and offered an amazing selection of food and Satoshi really went out of his way to help us throughout our stay.  Ski and snowboard gear is conveniently available to rent onsite and Satoshi will gladly take you to and from the ski fields each day (at no additional cost and at the times you choose) – plus he’ll collect you from the nearby bus station too.  This is another hotel that offers true Japanese hospitality!

Fujiyoshida (1 Night)

With Mt Fuji looming in the background, Fujiyoshida is a small, quiet city that services Japan’s tallest peak (at almost 3,800m high).

What to Do in Fujiyoshida

Get your scream on at Fuji-Q Highland!

Widely recognised as the best rollercoaster theme park in Japan, Fuji-Q Highland calls adventure-seekers from all around the globe.  With giants like Eejanaika (a 4th dimension hypercoaster, like X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain – one of my favourite coasters of all time), Do-Dodonpa (maximum acceleration) and Takabisha (with a record-breaking inverted drop-hill), Fuji-Q Highland really does play with the big boys.

Though it would be next to impossible to compete with the quality thrills of Six Flags Magic Mountain and Cedar Point, or the theming of Disneyland, Fuji-Q Highland provides an awesome introduction to serious coasters (even if many of them are getting on a little in age now).

Off to Fuji-Q Highland from Tokyo? Check out our transport guide!

Where to Stay in Fujiyoshida

Hostel Fujisan YOU.  If you’ve new to hostel life, this is the perfect place to start (though it’ll probably ruin you for any future hostel!).  With a full breakfast (including fresh bread, cooked daily), a lovely quiet atmosphere, comfortable beds and an impeccably clean and well-appointed bathroom setup, it’s exactly what a hostel should be.  Better still, it’s so affordable that we didn’t think twice about getting a private room.

Tokyo (4 Nights); The Last Stop on Your Japan Itinerary 14 days

The beating heart of Japan, Tokyo really does have to be seen to be believed.  With its busy streets, vibrant pop-culture, ancient traditions and towering buildings, no trip to Japan is complete without paying this amazing city a visit.

What to Do in Tokyo

Be wowed at the Robot Restaurant (Shinjuku)

I thought I knew what to expect walking into the Robot Restaurant but truth me told, nothing can prepare you for the insane spectacle that you’ll experience.

It’s loud, it’s bright, it’s manic and over-the-top.  Above all else though, it is an amazing glimpse of modern Japanese pop-culture and a must-do in Tokyo!

Though food is available for purchase, it’s fairly expensive and of questionable quality (especially when compared with the incredible food everywhere else in the city) but contrary to the name, this spot’s all about the show.  Go in with an open mind and ready for a good time and you’ll come out buzzing.

Whilst in Shinjuku, be sure to spend some time wandering the streets – it’s one of the most vibrant and exciting parts of Tokyo!

Take a supercar for a spin in the home of street racing!

Considering the supercar scene in Tokyo, there really is no better place to put a fast car through its paces.

We booked in to drive a Ferrari F430 and spent two hours weaving in and out of inner-city streets, racing along the motorway and stopping off at key landmarks.  The highlight of it all (besides driving in an incredible car of course), was our stop at a local carpark – there, dozens of car enthusiasts would meet up to show off their amazing rides.

It was a taste of the good life that we’d love to experience again!

Treat yourself to a dinner cruise

A surprisingly local experience, we really enjoyed our dinner cruise.  As the only obvious tourists onboard, we really felt like we stumbled across a surprise Japanese gem!

Based on the menu you choose, you’ll be served an outstanding multi-course meal all whilst sailing through Tokyo Bay. Throughout the evening, you’ll enjoy live music and have the opportunity to take to the deck to enjoy incredible city views (and to snap the odd photo of course).

Maybe you have a special occasion to celebrate?  Or maybe simply being away is reason enough to treat yourself?  Either way, an evening dinner cruise is the perfect combination of sightseeing and fine food & wine.

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Chow down on world-class steak

Apologies, first of all to our vegetarian and vegan readers – we suggest you skip right on past this suggestion.

Assuming you do eat meat, you absolutely have to try Japanese steak whilst visiting the country – it really is unlike anywhere else.

If Japan has the best steak in the world (and it really does), then Misono really is the best of the best.  Established in 1945, this restaurant created the concept of teppanyaki steak – where delicious high-grade steak is cooked by master chefs right infront of your eyes.

Without doubt, it will be the most memorable meal of your trip!

Be amazed at TeamLab Borderless

A triumph of art and technology, TeamLab Borderless is a favourite amongst tourists and for good reason – it is incredible!

TeamLab Borderless is divided into five different sections; Borderless World, Future Park, Forest of Lamps, Athletics Forest and the En Tea house.  Each and every part of this must-see attraction is mind-blowing.

To avoid the crowds, we suggest pre-purchasing your ticket and aiming to arrive as TeamLab Borderless is opening.

Even if you can’t be amongst the first to enter for the day, we still highly recommend popping along – crowds or not, you’ll have an incredible experience.

… and again at TeamLab Planets!

Another amazing light and art installation, TeamLab Planets is different enough to Borderless that it’s still more than worth a visit.

More physically immersive, you’ll even take your shoes and socks off to stand in knee deep water, amazed as projected fish swim right past you.

Both of these museums blew our minds! They’re a must-see on any Japan itinerary 14 days.

What is the difference between TeamLab Plants and TeamLab Borderless?  Owned by the same company, these two locations have similarities but also very distinct differences.  Both combine art, technology and immersive experiences, just in different ways.  TeamLab Planets follows one clear path – this means that  you can move through the exhibits at any speed you like whilst being guaranteed to see everything.  Walking through, many of the exhibits were physically interactive, requiring you to wade or climb through them.  In all, it took approximately an hour to complete.  By comparison, TeamLab Borderless is a maze of rooms and hallways, without a map or specific order.  This means that there is the possibility of missing out on some installations – we think we saw everything but really can’t be certain!  Though the rooms in Borderless were less physically immersive than Planets, the light shows were far more impressive.  We spent approximately two hours there and could have spent longer.  Though we loved both locations, TeamLab Borderless would be our recommendation if you only have time to visit one of the TeamLab installations.  Definitely try to squeeze both in if possible though!
Don your Disney ears and hit DisneySea

Widely recognised as the most extravagantly themed park in the world, DisneySea is a sight to behold.  This is the most unique of all the Disney theme parks, so for us, it was a must-see whilst we were in Tokyo.  The park, however, can be crazy busy so it’s important to plan appropriately so you don’t spend more than you need to and to avoid spending all day in line.

To help organise our visit to DisneySea, we used two different booking planners to find the quietest possible day to visit and went ahead and pre-purchased our tickets at a discounted price.  Instead of picking up our tickets at the gate, we met a travel agent at the final train station (where you’ll get off to transfer to either Disneyland or DisneySea) and got our tickets from him.  Our tickets were original tickets (exactly the same as we’ve received when visiting the original Disneyland and Disneyland Paris) and were accepted at the front gate without any problem at all; they are genuine tickets just offered at a lower price.

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Visit the Shibuya Crossing

The one crossing in the world that really needs no introduction, the Shibuya Crossing is absolutely frantic.

Though it’s awesome any time of the day, we recommend visiting around sunset and people-watching before heading off to dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Check out Gōtokuji Temple – The Cat Temple

Located outside of central Tokyo, you’ll find Gōtokuji Temple.  Though you’ll find incredible traditional Japanese gardens there, there’s one more unique feature that people visit for – the thousands of lucky cats on display!

Known in Japanese as maneki-neko (which means beckoning cat), these good luck charms are left by locals and tourists alike.

Not only do these gorgeous little cats bring luck to those that leave them behind, they also provide a great photo-op and free afternoon’s entertainment.

Visit some of Tokyo’s most exciting districts!
Harajuku; Home to pop culture and Cosplay in Japan

If there’s one place in Japan where you’ll can expect to see all things cute and colourful, Harajuku is it!

I must admit though, I went expecting to see people dressed in costumes, but realised pretty quickly that this isn’t the Harajuku of old.

Instead, we were greeted by countless crêpe shops, souvenir stands and the odd whacky-dessert vendor.

Was it bright and colourful? Absolutely.

Was it as amazing as I’d hoped for? To be honest, no.

Though I’d always considered Harajuku a must-see part of Tokyo, having now visited, I wouldn’t hurry back, nor would I miss seeing something else in favour of a visit to this district.

Be wowed as you visit Akihabara

Home to manga, Japanese anime and gaming, Akihabara buzzes with energy.  This vibrant shopping hub is where you’ll want to head if you’re keen to pick up electrical gear to take home.  Even if you’re not actively shopping, it’s worth a visit though.

Looking for the centre of Akihabara?  Head along to Radio Kaikan where you’ll find 10 floors, filled to the brim with trading cards, collectibles and toys (for all ages!)

Additional Things to Do in Tokyo

Visit the Happiest Place on Earth; Disneyland Tokyo

A perpetual favourite, Tokyo has its very own Disneyland (which just happens to be right beside DisneySea).  Modelled after the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California (which we have visited a number of times), we decided to check out DisneySea instead. If you’re never been to Disneyland though, we’d definitely encourage you to pop along.  As an added bonus, Disneyland Tokyo has significantly less crowding than DisneySea!

Check out the best views in Tokyo

Whilst visiting the Shibuya crossing, why not head to the top of Shibuya Scramble Square, where you’ll find Shibuya Sky.  230 metres above the city below, this open-air observation deck offers incredible 360° views.

As you’d expect though, be warned if you’re afraid of heights!

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Hotel Park Side Ueno.  Located right in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Hotel Park Side is nearby fantastic restaurants, bars, shops, whilst enjoying the calm of its neighbouring park.  With a selection of options, including traditional Japanese rooms and their beautiful sakura rooms (cherry blossom themed), there’s something to make everyone in this hotel.  Our personal recommendation is the sakura room – with a beautiful cherry blossom decal blooming right across the walls, it’s distinctly Japanese (without the need to sleep on the floor).  Hotel Park Side also offers a delicious cooked breakfast each morning – it was easily the best Western breakfast that we had on our 2 week visit in Japan!

Henn Na Hotel Tokyo Asakusabashi.  If you’re looking for a techy hotel in Japan, look no further! The Henn Na Hotels are known for innovative use of technology, both in improving guest experiences and in making their stay a lot more fun.  From your check-in with an android (available in a number of languages), through to freshening up your gear with the LG Clothes Styler, Henn Na manages to combine technology with convenience and service.  As an added bonus, their Asakusabashi hotel is literally minutes walk from the train station (but we never once heard a train from our room).  They’ve also got a restaurant downstairs that caters to all tastes, offering a Western, Indian (my personal recommendation there – yum) and Japanese breakfast.


And there you have it, your action-packed Japan itinerary 14 Days, ready to go!

Japan is an incredible hive of energy and a powerhouse of juxtaposition.  Whether you visit for the shopping, food, activities, pop-culture, history, religious sites or the outdoors, this incredible country is widely recognised as one of the most desirable travel destinations in the world for good reason!

What is it about Japan that will inspire your visit? And most importantly, how soon can you get there?


Pin this post to return to this Japan winter itinerary…

Plan an incredible 2 week vacation in Japan using our itinerary.  It includes 14 days of fun, adventure, culture, nature and much, much more.  From Hiroshima to Tokyo, Shiga Kogen to Matsumoto, and everywhere in between...

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