Japan is a big country with a lot to see and do, depending on what time of the year you go and what are your interests you can do a variety of things, from skiing in the winter to visiting the tropical island of Okinawa and go surfing. This guide is a basic 2-week trip around the main island, Honshu that includes the big cities and day trips to their surroundings, perfect for first time travelers to get a glimpse of Japan! Hopefully it will come in handy when you plan your trip but don’t forget, the other islands have many sights and exciting adventures so do look around for different alternatives!

Tokyo, 6 days

Tokyo is a great place to start your journey. You can spend the first 6 days in the capital of Japan and experience the vibrant mixture of high-tech life and traditional Edo era. To find out more what kind of activities you can enjoy in Tokyo look up our guides: Why Is Tokyo worth visiting?

From Tokyo you can go and admire the beauty of Mount Fuji, or if you have 2 days you can even climb it! Guided hiking tours are available with a night spent on the mountain so you arrive on time in the dawn to see the sun rise from the top of Japan.

Mount Fuji is one of the most famous sights of Japan

Mount Fuji is one of the most famous sights of Japan. From Flickr

If you would like to enjoy a relaxing getaway from the busy city, you can visit Hakone, a beautiful town in the mountains best known for its hot springs, onsen in Japanese.

Kyoto and Osaka, 5 days

After visiting the capital you can take a high-speed train, Shinkansen to Kyoto. Kyoto is well-known for its Edo era architecture and cultural heritage; you can visit the Kinkaku-ji temple with its beautiful garden, and take a stroll at the Gion district. You can eat delicious Japanese haute cuisine, Kaiseki Ryori and try great traditional sweets, wagashi.

Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto. From Flickr

Kyoto is very close to Osaka, so you can choose to stay over night in either city. Osaka is a large city with a distinct culture and dialect, many great dishes and sites to visit. 

Osaka castle

Osaka castle. From Flickr

You can spend 3-4 days in this area exploring the cities, going on a day trip to Nara where you can visit a beautiful park with 1,200 deers. You can go on a day trip to visit one of the natural wonders of Japan and explore rural areas in Amanohashidate, which is a 2-hour train ride from both Osaka and Kyoto.

Hiroshima, 3 days

From Osaka it’s best to head south and visit another beautiful city with interesting historical heritage, Hiroshima. Hiroshima is best known as the city, which suffered the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. The city not only has been rebuilt but also became a booming cultural hub with a different vibe than any other town. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum telling about the atomic bomb and the history of the city is located in the Peace Memorial Park where the tragic event is commemorated each year in August. Across the park on the other side of the canal you find the most famous sites of the city, the A-Bomb Dome, the remains of a building that was the closest of the epicenter of the bomb.

Floating lanterns on the canal at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Floating lanterns on the canal at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. From Flickr

Okonomiyaki, which literally translates to as-you-like-grill is the famous dish of the area, unlike the Osaka version, the Hiroshima-style dish is the same savory pancake, but layered with noodles, pork and plenty of cabbage, while the Osaka-style is mixed-up, don’t forget to add the topping as-you-like!

A train ride away from the center of Hiroshima you can reach Hatsukaiachi-shi the town, which Miyajima belongs to. Miyajima is a sacred island with the beautiful shrine and red torii gate placed in the ocean. The island is a great spot for hiking, with a beautiful view on the top.

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine. From Flickr

If you visit don’t forget to taste Momiji manju, a small cake filled with sweet bean paste, or custard.

Momiji Manju is the specialty sweet of Miyajima

Momiji Manju is the specialty sweet of Miyajima. From Flickr

There are many routes you can spend 2 weeks in Japan but on this route you will see many interesting spots and encounter great adventures to get a glimpse of the Japanese culture, perfect for fist time travelers!

Thumbnail image is from Flickr.