Two Weeks In Japan: The Definitive Guide

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Two weeks in japan

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Planning for two weeks in Japan is no easy task. The more you research, the more overwhelming it becomes…

Should you focus on the major tourist sites or step off the beaten path? How long should you spend in Tokyo? What about Kyoto?

2weeks in Japan

This guide will make these decisions much easier for you.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Essential information for choosing where to go and how to get there
  • Common challenges to be aware of and how to prevent them
  • Help personalizing your two weeks in Japan based on your interests

Let’s get started!

1. Introduction: Is two weeks in Japan long enough?

If you time it right, you can see beautiful foliage during your two weeks in Japan
Fall foliage is gorgeous all over Japan, but Kyoto’s temples are especially beautiful.

If it’s your first time, we consider two weeks in Japan to be the minimum—assuming you want to explore more than 1-2 cities. More time is better, but with a two-week trip, you can get a fantastic introduction to the country—IF you plan it right.

Planning is essential because Japan can be overwhelming. Despite being a small country, there’s an overwhelming number of things to see and do.

As a traveler, this is kind of a catch-22. The distinctive culture that’s so exciting to explore is also challenging to navigate. Many things work differently than you expect them to and some aspects of the culture are difficult to understand.

Choosing your route

The first thing you’ll want to do is choose the best route for your trip. The most common way is to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) along the golden route, which goes from Tokyo all the way down to Hiroshima. It usually includes a visit to Kyoto along the way.

We recommend a modified version of this route that will show you many of the major tourist sites, but also some more unique parts of Japan.

Japan has a fast, efficient train system, so most visitors get around using the bullet train. The golden route is popular because it’s easy to take by train and you can buy a JR rail pass for unlimited travel while you’re there. However, while the rail pass is great for many people, it’s not the only option and may not be worth it for you.

Low cost airlines are a faster and cheaper way to travel. Plus, there are buses, which are slower, but cheaper. Overnight buses, while still slow, can be a great way to maximize your time if you schedule it right.

Of course, you can also mix in match. For example, you could get a 7-day rail pass to use from Tokyo to Kyoto and Fukuoka. Then, you could fly from Fukuoka back to Tokyo or opt for an overnight bus.

2. Creating Your Itinerary for two weeks in Japan

Creating the perfect itinerary is a very personal process. So, in order to help you make the Japan travel itinerary of your dreams, we’ll give you basic advice, complemented with suggestions on alternatives to look into.

For this itinerary, we’re assuming that you’re flying into Tokyo since that’s where most international flights go. We recommend you start and end with Tokyo or whatever city you fly into. After Tokyo, we break down the itinerary into two other sections. The first one focuses on common tourist places, while the second one emphasizes less common destinations.

Our recommended route

This is an iconic sight to see in Osaka. It’s kind of a touristy area, but there’s lots of food to try.

The standard route is based around Tokyo and Kyoto, with short trips to Hakone, Nara, and Hiroshima. While these are all great places to visit, and you can certainly squeeze them all into a two-week trip, we’ve modified our recommendations a little bit from this standard.

We consider Tokyo and Kyoto to be must see’s for first time visitors, but we want to introduce you to more of the Kansai region—home to both Kyoto and Osaka—then take you farther south to Fukuoka and the surrounding region of Kyushu. This way you can see a number of the best tourist attractions, but also get a feel for the local culture in different parts of Japan. Plus, you’ll see some of the best food destinations.

Our recommended route will give you a well-balanced introduction to the culture while making sure you have enough time to absorb as much of what you see as possible. We will narrow down the main tourist attractions to what we consider the most unique and also introduce more of the local culture than most other guides do.

Two weeks in Japan: Your starter itinerary

2weekstravelplan(c)EatTalkTravel

We recommend you start with a few days in Tokyo to get a feel for what this gigantic city is all about. You could easily spend your entire trip in Tokyo and barely scratch the surface, but we recommend you go for a basic introduction for your first trip. If you love it, you can return again and spend more time exploring the city.

After Tokyo, we recommend 4-6 days between Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. All three cities are very close together, so it’s best to see them around the same time.

Next, we recommend you venture south to Fukuoka for two days and take a nearby day trip if you’re up for it. Fukuoka is not on most first time itineraries, but its Japan’s best city for ramen and a great overall food city. It’s also near fantastic hot springs and is much less touristy than other parts of the country.

Finally, we recommend you spend your last day in Tokyo before flying back. This general outline will introduce you to modern Japan, historical Japan, and let you experience some of the country’s best food and nature.

3. Japanese Food

Ramens not the only noodle to try during your two weeks in Japan. Udon noodles are fantastic, too
Don’t overlook udon noodles.

Since food is one of the main components of ETT Japan, we created a pretty food oriented itinerary. So, prepare to eat well during your two weeks in Japan. We’ll help you understand Japanese food culture and find the best local spots to eat.

To understand Japanese food—and even Japanese culture—you need to understand the role of specialization. Rather than focusing on variety, Japan tends to focus on perfecting one thing. This is especially true with food.

While it is possible to find restaurants that offer a variety of dishes, the best places offer just one. For example, while many restaurants offer Udon and Soba noodles, the best restaurants will specialize in one or the other. You’ll find the best soba noodles at a soba noodle restaurant and the best udon noodles at an udon restaurant.

With that in mind, we’ve divided this introduction to Japanese food into simple categories. Some of them are based around a single type of food, like noodles, for example, while others around types of restaurants. This will give you some general food recommendations to go along with the specific restaurants we recommend later in the guide.

What food should you try during your two weeks in Japan?

ramen(c)EatTalkTravelJapan
You probably know how good ramen is already, but once you try it in Japan you’ll be amazed.

Ramen and sushi are the two Japanese foods that everyone knows about, but these two dishes are just the tip of the iceberg. We will offer more specific recommendations in the cities featured in this guide, but here are some different types of food to be on the lookout for during your trip.

This general list will give you an idea of which foods are worth going out of your way to try while you’re in Japan. If you ever find yourself wondering where to eat, they can serve as general guidelines.

Fish

If you're a fish eater, be sure to try some Sashimi during your two weeks in Japan
It’s not easy to find saba (mackerel) sashimi because it has to be extremely fresh to be served raw. But, if you can find it, it’s amazing.

Part of the reason why sushi is so popular is that Japan has lots of fish and has mastered serving it fresh. But sushi isn’t the only type of fish in Japan.

Two of our favorite cooked fish are Saba (mackerel) and Buri (yellowtail). You can try them grilled at home-cooking types of restaurants. There are also restaurants that specialize in single fish, like the Saba restaurant we discovered in Fukuoka.

Noodles

Also, try some soba noodles during your two weeks in Japan
Be sure to try soba noodles, which are made out of buckwheat or a blend of wheat and buckwheat. This duck soba is one of our favorites.

Like we mentioned earlier, both Udon and Soba noodles are fantastic and worth seeking out at specialty restaurants. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat, but many restaurants blend it with wheat flour. Buckwheat has a strong flavor and wheat can balance it out. Udon also has a lot of variety, depending on where in the country you try it.

Yes, you should also try ramen, but go for the regional varieties. While ramen has gotten popular around the world, ramen in Japan takes this dish to a whole other level. Ramen shops will specialize in a particular type of broth, style of noodles, plus each region has its own specialties.

Tofu

Fresh tofu will amaze you. Be sure to try some during your two weeks in Japan
This beautiful dish right here is tofu. It’s all tofu and it’s really fresh.

While you may think you know tofu, you’ve probably never tried anything like what you’ll find at a good Japanese tofu restaurant. It’s incredibly fresh, flavorful and comes in a variety of textures. It can even be made into dessert!

You should consider trying a specialty tofu restaurant to really understand what good tofu tastes like. Some of the best restaurants will have full, multi-course meals that combine a number of small tofu dishes with fresh, seasonal vegetables. While we wouldn’t recommend it if you only had a few days, since you’ll have two weeks in Japan, you should definitely try good tofu.

Bar food

Be sure to try yakitori during your two weeks in Japan
One of the most popular bar foods is Yakitori, which is grilled and skewered meat and vegetables. The best ones will serve a wide range of cuts, some of which you’d never imagine. But everything will be so fresh that you won’t want to stop eating.

Japan is also known for small bars called Izakaya, which feature both alcohol and light food. Often, these places will be tiny little hole-in-the-wall types of places, but they can serve spectacular food.

One of our favorite things to try is Yakitori (skewered and grilled meat and vegetables). While it’s great at Izakaya, if you really want to try the best, go for a specialty chicken restaurant. Chicken will be a specific breed, freshly prepared, and cooked to perfection. You’ll be blown away by how good chicken can be.

Heavier dishes

tonkatsu(c)EatTalkTravelJapan
This right here is a pretty serious dish… tonkatsu is a fried pork cutlet served with shredded cabbage. If you’re up for a heavier dish, it’s one of the best.

Japan has a reputation for small portions of light food. While that may be true with tofu and sushi, there are plenty of options at the other end of the spectrum. Fried and grilled Japanese food can be just as good as lighter dishes.

For fried food, Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) and Tempura (battered and fried meat, seafood, and vegetables) are two of our favorites. When prepared at a specialty restaurant, both are unbelievably good. Fresh, top notch ingredients will be battered and fried to order, often right in front of you.

Another one of our favorite heavier Japanese foods may surprise you: curry. Although many people don’t realize it, Japanese curry is fantastic. CoCo Ichibanya is a popular curry chain that’s expanded all over the world, but we recommend you go for a local place in Osaka. If you do, you’ll quickly discover that Osaka is one of the best curry cities in Japan.

4. Tokyo Region

First on your Japan travel itinerary: Three days in Tokyo

Shinjuku2(c)EatTalkTravelJapan
A look Shinjuku at night.

For two weeks in Japan, we recommend you stick to three days in Tokyo. While that’s a short amount of time for such an amazing city, if you spend too much of your time there, you’ll get a very biased view of Japan.

Tokyo is a huge city with a lot to see and do, so three days will really just scratch the surface, but you can get a nice introduction to what the city is all about. Hopefully, it will make you want to return to see more in the future.

One thing to keep in mind is that Tokyo is not only big, but also very spread out, which makes it less dense than many people imagine. If you’re expecting a city that resembles NYC or Hong Kong, you’ll be surprised to find how different it is.

What to see?

Since Tokyo is a huge city and you’ll have limited time there, we’ve broken down the city into two categories: modern and traditional.

To make the most of your time, we recommend you stay somewhere along the JR Yamanote train line. It runs in a circle around the central city and makes it easy to get around. It’s also included in the JR Rail pass if you decide to get one.

Modern Tokyo: Shibuya and Shinjuku

Another look at Shinjuku.

The most famous sites are probably the massive Shibuya Crossing and the bright neon lights of Shinjuku. These two districts are two of Tokyo’s biggest and densest, but they are just a small section of the city.

Shinjuku is more of a business district and by far the most crowded place in Tokyo. In fact, Shinjuku station is the largest train station in the world!

Shibuya is younger, trendier, and only slightly less crowded. This is the place to go for nightlife and different aspects of youth culture.

Top 5 sites to see in Modern Tokyo

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya crossing should definitely be a stop during your two weeks in Japan
Believe it or not, that crowd is in the middle of the street. No, the streets not closed… this is Shibuya crossing, where people cross the street in every direction.

This crossing is one of Tokyo’s most iconic sites. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s basically a large intersection known for the pedestrian crossing that goes in every direction. When the walk sign comes on the street is completely full of people. It’s shocking that it actually functions, but somehow it does…

Meiji Shrine/Yoyogi Park

Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine right in the middle of Yoyogi Park, which is one of the biggest in Tokyo. You can easily spend an afternoon here if you like parks. Afterward, be sure to visit Harajuku.

Harajuku

Harajuku is another place you should visit during your two weeks in Japan
This is a look at Harjuku… Tokyo’s famous fashion district.

Have you ever seen pictures of Japanese teenagers who are obsessed with cuteness? They often wear colorful, frilly dresses, elaborate makeup and have stuffed animal-related things. Well, this is the center of it all. It’s not like it used to be, but it’s still worth visiting at least once.

Metropolitan building

Check out the view from the Tokyo Metropolitan building during your two weeks in Japan
If you want one of the best views of Tokyo, stop by the Tokyo Metropolitan building.

While Skytree offers one of the best views in Tokyo, so does this government building. Right in the heart of Shinjuku is the Tokyo Metropolitan building, which offers another great view and also happens to be free.

Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the only private gardens in Tokyo, but it’s totally worth the small entrance fee…

Another top place to visit in Shinjuku is the Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the city’s most beautiful gardens. It’s privately owned, so entrance isn’t free, but it’s immaculately maintained and well worth, the few hundred yen to enter.

Where to eat?

Shin

Remember when we mentioned specialty noodle shops? Well, this is the place to try fantastic Udon!

2-20-16 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Golden Gai

This has become a really touristy area, but it’s still worth a visit. Tiny alleyways, with tiny bars and restaurants that come alive at night! This is a great place to try Japanese bars and small restaurants.

1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Sushino Midori

This is a small, but inexpensive sushi restaurant. It’s a great place for your first bite of sushi in Japan.

1-12-3, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Mark city East 4F

Sorano Shibuya

This is a great place to try Japanese tofu that’s neither too formal or very expensive.

Cherry Garden 1F, 4-17, Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Traditional Tokyo: Ueno and Asakusa

Be sure to stop by Senso-Ji temple during your two weeks in Japan
This is Asakusa at night.

Historical Tokyo is heavily concentrated around the Ueno and Asakusa neighborhoods. You’ll find many of the city’s museums concentrated near Ueno park and the famous Senso-Ji temple is in Asakusa.

Both areas will also give you a chance to get a glimpse at what Tokyo used to be like. The historical vibe will be a sharp contrast to the craziness of Shinjuku and Shibuya.

Top 5 sites to see in Traditional Tokyo

Ueno Park

Ueno park should definitely be a part of your two weeks in Japan
Ueno park is surrounded by museums, plus it’s a beautiful place to walk around or relax.

Not only is this one of Tokyo’s most popular parks, it’s also surrounded by a number of museums. If you’re interested in art, be sure to check out the Tokyo National Museum or one of the other art museums. If you’re into zoos, there’s one of those, too. Even if you’re not interested in any of those things, it’s still a great park to explore.

5-20 Uenokoen, Taitō, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan

Senso-Ji temple

If you can make your two weeks in Japan coincide with Sakura season, you won't be disappointed
This is what Senso-Ji Temple looks like during Sakura season.

Senso-Ji Temple is definitely one of Tokyo’s must see places. It’s often crowded, but the temple is beautiful and surrounded by a number of small places to try many different styles of Japanese food or pick up some souvenirs.

2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan

Yanaka

Visit Yanka, to experience classic Tokyo during your two weeks in Japan
This classic house is actually a cafe. Be sure to stop by when you visit the Yanaka neighborhood.

This is a small, historical neighborhood that’s great to just explore on foot. The local cemetery is the most popular stop and there are plenty of small eateries around the neighborhood. It will give you a feel for what Tokyo used to be like…

A great starting point is Yanaka Cemetary.

7 Chome-5-24 Yanaka, Taitō, Tokyo 110-0001, Japan

Edo-Tokyo museum

If you only visit one museum in Tokyo, we recommend you go here. This massive museum will teach you about the history of the city and it’s right in the middle of Tokyo’s Sumo neighborhood.

1 Chome-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0015, Japan

Tokyo Skytree

Another great view is from Tokyo Skytree… the pointy building in the middle.

Every city has a tall building with a killer view and this is Tokyo’s. It also happens to be one of the tallest structures in the world. You can go to the top for a 360 degree view of Tokyo, but the view is great from inside the main building, too. Beyond the view, it’s a giant shopping mall with food, clothing, souvenirs, etc.

1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045, Japan

Where to eat?

Tonkatsu Yamaba

This classic pork cutlet shop will serve you mind-blowing Tonkatsu for under $10.

4-5-1 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Imahan

If you want to try classic Japanese beef, check out this Sukiyaki restaurant. There are a few different locations, but this one in Asakusa is a good choice.

3-1-12 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Yabusoba

This is a great place to try Tokyo-style Soba noodles.

6-9-16 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Usagiya

Have you tried Japanese sweets before? This is a great place to try Dorayaki, which is basically two small pancakes with a sweet bean filling in the middle.

1-10-10 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Daytrip to Kamakura

Kamakura's famous Buddha statue is worth visiting during your two weeks in Japan
Kamakura’s giant Buddha is one of the biggest in the world.

Since you only have two weeks in Japan, we recommend you stick to a single daytrip in the Tokyo region. While there are other potential trips nearby, like Hakone or a hike up Mount Fuji, we think they are better to do over 2-3 days. However, Kamakura is perfect for a short trip.

Kamakura briefly served as the capital of Japan and has a lot of history to it. You can see many historical temples and one of the world’s largest Buddha statues.

It’s also near the beach, so it’s popular for surfing, too.

Enoshima Sea Candle

We recommend you end your day by taking a trip to the Enoshima Sea Candle.

This tower sits on a small island and you get fantastic views from the observation deck. There’s an old school train that takes you to the island and you’ll have the option of getting a pass to use for the day.

What to eat?

Tako Senbei

Tako means Octopus in Japanese and Enoshima is known for their Tako Senbei, which is a large cracker made out of octopus. It sounds weird, but it’s a nice snack before or after the observation deck. You’ll see a little shop selling them.

Giant pancake from Iwata

You probably don’t think of pancakes as a Japanese food, but, never-the-less, Iwata is known for them. This old school cafe makes them extremely thick. They roast their own coffee, too. (FYI it’s a long wait and you should get there early).

1 Chome-5- Komachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0006, Japan

5. Kansai Region

Next on your travel itinerary: Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara

We grouped these three cities together because they are all within the Kansai region and relatively close to each other. So, where to stay will depend on a few factors.

The first thing is the season. Everywhere will be more crowded in the summer, but Kyoto will be unbelievably crowded. Kyoto is so overwhelmed by tourists that it’s difficult to find a place to stay during peak seasons. If you do find a place, it will probably be very overpriced. So, where to stay will depend on the season and your budget.

One option is to find a centrally located place in Osaka and take many trips from there. Another option is to stay in Nara instead of Kyoto. We recommend you explore each of these options to find the one that works best for you.

Don’t ignore Osaka

A lot of people spend all their time in Kyoto or pass through Osaka for a day.

This is a mistake.

While we wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a must-see, Osaka is one of Japan’s best food cities and has a totally different vibe than Tokyo.

Where in Osaka?

While Osaka is another big city with a lot to see and do, it’s primarily divided between north and south. These two parts of the city have very different vibes and people generally prefer one or the other.

Northern Osaka

Gotta love the bear outside Osaka Station…

Northern Osaka is centered around Osaka station and the surrounding neighborhoods. There’s a very modern vibe to this area and it has a lot of similarities to Tokyo, which is why some people don’t like it.

Where to eat?

Hanadako for Takoyaki

One bite and you’ll realize why Osaka is known for Takoyaki…

Takoyaki is little balls of dough with a piece of octopus in the middle… While this may sound weird, it’s fantastic and comes from Osaka.

While there are an overwhelming number of great places to try this famous dish, Hanadako is near the top of our list. Plus, it’s right by Osaka Station!

9-26 Kakudacho, Kita, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0017

Ramen at Human Beings Everybody Noodles

This is one of the heartiest bowls of ramen you’ll ever try and it’s oh so good…

Fantastic ramen joint along the side of the railroad tracks with different soup broth options, plus fantastic pork and bamboo slices. Expect a long line but it’s worth the wait.

1-12-15 Nishinakajima, Yodogawa-ku, Osaka

Wagyu Yakiniku Taizan

Osaka is known for Horumonyaki, which is grilled offal meat. If you’re up for it, this is a great place to try it, but even if you’re not you can try fantastic Japanese Wagyu.

2 Chome-1-22 Minamimorimachi, Kita, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0054

Southern Osaka: Namba

Be sure to visit Osaka during your two weeks in Japan
This is Osaka’s iconic Glico sign along the river

The southern part of Osaka mostly revolves around Namba station. You’ll definitely feel more of the Osaka vibe in the south. It’s more laid back, older, and smaller.

There’s lots of street food and nightlife around Namba station. If you go further south, you can also explore some classic Osaka food in the Shinsekai area.

Where to eat?

Fukutaro for Okonomiyaki

okonomiyaki(c)EatTalkTravelJapan
While we love the standard Okonomiyaki, this is Negiyaki, which has a ridiculous amount of scallions.

While Okonomiyaki has become famous all over Japan, it is originally from Osaka. Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake filled with ingredients that you choose. Here, we love the Negiyaki, which has a slightly thinner batter and a ridiculous amount of scallions.

2 Chome-3-17 Sennichimae, Chuo, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0074

Kuromon Ichiba Market

Kuromon Ichiba Market is a great place to try lots of food.

Fair warning, this market is very touristy and usually crowded, but it’s a great place to try a variety of Japanese food in one location. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you want to try a lot of different foods in one location.

2-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka

Tengu for Kushikatsu

If go a little farther south than Namba, you’ll find Shin-Sekai, a popular food district. You can find most anything here, but Kushikatsu (skewered and fried vegetables) is what Shin-Sekai is known for. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time as you check these old school restaurants.

Your Kyoto, Japan travel itinerary

Kyoto along the river…

Most people love Kyoto for the historical atmosphere and we think that almost everyone spending two weeks in Japan should visit. There are an unbelievable number of temples and shrines, along with a very traditional feel to the city which you need to experience for yourself.

Your main challenge in Kyoto is that it’s really spread out, making it difficult to do very much in one day. So, it’s best to break things up into sections and focus on one section of the city each day.

Also, it deserves another mention that there are an overwhelming number of tourists—especially on weekends and during summer. This makes it really difficult to get around and virtually impossible to get good photos at major attractions unless you go at the crack of dawn…

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

kyoto(c)EatTalkTravelJapan
Fair warning, the bamboo forest is really crowded unless you get there at the crack of dawn. That being said, it’s an amazing place to visit.

We think the bamboo forest is one of the must-sees in Kyoto. The towering trees and the surrounding area are a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. Get there early, though, because it does get crowded. Really, really, crowded.

There’s also the monkey forest nearby, but we don’t consider it essential.

Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8385, Japan

Kinkakuji Temple

The golden temple in Kyoto is another must see for your two weeks in Japan
The golden temple is amazing to see up close. The deep golden color reflecting off the water is incredible.

This may be Kyoto’s most popular attraction, but it really is incredible to experience in person. The golden temple reflecting off the water is an amazing sight to see!

As always, expect large crowds of tourists unless you go really early. It works well to combine your visit with the bamboo forest, but if you do both in the same day, you’ll only get to see one without the crowds…

1 Kinkakujicho, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361, Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine

This is Fushimi Inari Temple, a must see during your two weeks in Japan
Fushimi Inari is another super popular attraction, but we’ve learned that the farther you walk, the fewer tourists there are. Despite the crowds it’s a worth a visit during your two weeks in Japan

This is another extremely popular attraction that’s still worth visiting. It’s a little away from the central city, so plan to spend a number of hours if you really want to explore the area.

The beautifully maintained pillars lining the pathway that takes you up into the mountains are what make this shrine unique. There’s a very calm, spiritual atmosphere that you should really experience for yourself. There are also fantastic city views from some of the higher points.

It’s also extremely crowded with tourists, so it’s best to get there early. However, the farther you go, the less crowded it gets since most people just go for the selfie…

68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882, Japan

Tofuku-ji Temple

If you get to Fushimi Inari early, there should be plenty of time to visit Tofuku-ji Temple, which is just a couple of train stops away. It’s a huge complex with beautiful gardens that are definitely worth visiting. FYI, it’s also extremely popular with tourists. But, you can’t go everywhere outside of peak hours, so we recommend you prioritize Fushimi Inari when it comes to avoiding crowds.

778 Honmachi 15-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0981, Japan

Sennyu-ji Temple

Just a short walk from Tofuku-ji is a small and less crowded area called Sennyu-ji.

27 Sennyuji Yamanouchicho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0977, Japan

Gion

Gion is the famous Geisha district in Kyoto, known for women wearing Kimono’s and elaborate make-up. You may see some walking around the area, but they will be quickly going someplace. Please don’t bother them or ask for a photo.

A good starting point is the Minami-za theater.

605-0075 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, 大和大路西入る中之町 198 Shijo Dori

Nishiki Market

This is a popular market to explore on foot and try different foods at. It’s fairly touristy, though, so keep that in mind. Just like the Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, it’s a nice place to try many different foods in one place.

604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward

Your Nara, Japan travel itinerary

two weeks in Japan: these are the famous deer in Nara
Megumi posing with the famous deer of Nara.

A lot of people think Nara just takes half a day, but we think 1-2 days is better. Unlike Kyoto, Nara’s main attractions are concentrated together, but everything also closes really early.

If you spend a night in Nara, you can either see the historical sites without feeling rushed, or add a day trip nearby.

Nara Park and the famous deer

This should give you an idea of how close you can get to the deer… They’re very mellow and friendly as long as you don’t taunt them with food.

Despite the fact that Nara is one of the most historical cities in Japan, the biggest draw is probably the deer. A special breed of Japanese deer basically roam wild all over the city because they are considered sacred.

While you will see them all over town, you’ll see the most inside Nara Park, where hoards of visitors go to feed them. Vendors sell special deer crackers all around the park and many deer will even bow to you before you feed them…

Zōshichō, Nara, 630-8211, Japan

Todai-Ji temple

As far as Buddhist temples, this is one is a must visit in Nara. Inside, you will find the world’s largest Bronze Buddha statue. It’s also an official World Heritage site, as one of the seven monuments that make up ancient Nara.

406-1 Zōshichō, Nara, 630-8211, Japan

Kofuku-Ji

Just like Todai-Ji, this is considered one of the seven great temples of Nara. As far as sightseeing goes, this temple also stands out for it’s distinctive design.

48 Noboriōjichō, Nara, 630-8213, Japan

Nara National Museum

If you visit only one museum in Nara, we recommend the National Museum, which houses an outstanding collection of Buddhist art.

50 Noboriōjichō, Nara, 630-8213, Japan

6. Southern Japan

Your Fukuoka, Japan travel itinerary

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Fukuoka, a small city in southern Japan that is best known for Ramen. If you’re familiar with Ichiran and Ippudo—two of Japan’s most famous ramen shops—then you should know that they are from Fukuoka. While they offer some of the best ramen outside of Japan, in Fukuoka, they’re just two of many great options.

Beyond ramen, Fukuoka just has a cool vibe to to it and is worth a visit during your two weeks in Japan. It’s a small city with great food and an emerging startup culture. All these unique factors are why we think the area is perfect for the end of your two weeks in Japan. You can step off the tourist path, try some great Japanese food, and experience natural hot springs over a few days.

Ramen, ramen, ramen

There are two Japanese ramen chains that are now huge, with locations all over the world—Ichiran and Ippudo—and both are from Fukuoka. So, if you’re at all interested in ramen, you’ll love this city because there is fantastic ramen everywhere.

The mighty Yatai

Fukuoka is also known for their Yatai, which are one of the earliest versions of food carts. You’ll see the owners carrying these massive carts around town and offering various types of food.

Sometimes, you’ll see one on a random street corner completely filled with people eating. This is a good sign that you’ve stumbled upon a local favorite…

Otherwise, there’s an area along the water where many Yatai serve many different foods at night. It’s more of a tourist attraction, but local people go there, too.

Tenjin

Fukuoka’s trendiest neighborhood is Tenjin. You will find shops and restaurants along tiny streets and little alleyways. It’s a fun area to explore on foot and of course there’s plenty of food nearby, too.

What to eat?

Udon Taira

Fukuoka makes their Udon noodles differently than the rest of Japan. Rather than firm noodles, people in Fukuoka eat them soft. Our favorite dish is Niku Gobo, which beef and udon topped with deep fried burdock root. We recommend you try it here, but there’s usually a long line so you should expect to wait.

3-chōme-17-10 Hakata Ekimae, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, 812-0011, Japan

Shin Shin Ramen

This is a great place for your first bowl of Fukuoka ramen. They serve classic Tonkotsu ramen that’s neither too light or too strong.

1F, 3-chōme-2-19 Tenjin, Chūō-ku, Fukuoka, 810-0001, Japan

Hakata Issou… if you dare

This will probably be the most intense ramen you’ve ever tried… I mean just look at that broth…

If you can handle a strong, intense, in-your-face bowl of tonkotsu ramen, try it here. But just so you know, we are not exaggerating. You can smell the heavy pork broth from a block away. If you can handle it, it’s fantastic.

3-chōme-1- Hakataekihigashi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, 812-0013, Japan

Motsunabe

Fukuoka also makes some of Japan’s best Motsunabe, a hot pot that combines tripe or offal meat with vegetables and tofu. You will share a large hot pot in the middle of the table and the waiter will bring you fresh ingredients to cook.

Daytrip to Beppu

This is one of the hotsprings around the Beppu area. The mineral content gives it it’s color and the steam rising up gives you an idea how hot the water is. See the little basket in the bottom right corner? It’s filled with eggs being cooked in the water.

If you really want to step off the beaten path of most tourists, we recommend a 1-2 day trip to Beppu. This is one of the most popular hot spring areas for Japanese people. It’s a relaxing place to visit with lots of beautiful views, relaxing hot springs, and some cool attractions to visit.

The blue hot spring pictured above is just one of several in the area that are lots of different colors. It has to do with sulfur and other minerals in the hot springs. Different mineral create different colors.

7. Final Days of your two weeks in Japan

Last day in Tokyo

two weeks in Japan: this is a look at the Ginza neighborhood in Tokyo

Since you’ve already seen Tokyo, the last day of your two weeks in Japan is a perfect opportunity to get to know the city a little better. If you fell in love with a particular neighborhood, you can see more of it, but if you’re ready for something new, we recommend Ginza.

The ideal is to find a place near Tokyo Station, so it’s easy to get to the airport when you leave. There are direct trains and buses, plus, you could store your luggage here if you need to.

It’s also very close to Ginza, which is Tokyo’s top food and shopping destination. If you’re looking for a fantastic meal for your last night or want to shop for souvenirs, Ginza is the place to do it. Even if you don’t, it’s a great area to just explore on foot.