Japan is a huge country for travel and even with well over a month, you won’t be able to explore it all.I was lucky enough to spend a month in this amazing country and wanted to write a post to help people with a Japan itinerary. I travelled to long list of places by catching the stupidly early trains. This enabled me to visit many places that only needed a day or two. However, this was tiring, so if you are a slow traveller, I recommend to knock a few places off the list and relax the pace.
In summary, the best places are Hokkaido and I would recommend you focus much of your time there. It’s tranquil and beautifully surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.
Let’s get straight into it:
1 Month Japan Itinerary
- Day 1 – Day 7 – Tokyo
- Day 8 – Day 9 – Sapporo & Toya
- Day 10 – Furano
- Day 11 – Asahidake
- Day 12 – Day 13 – Sapporo
- Day 14 – Biei & Abashiri
- Day 15 – Day 16 – Shiretoko
- Day 17 – Day 18 – Mashu
- Day 19 – Sapporo
- Day 20 – Day 21 – Nagano
- Day 22 – Kanazawa
- Day 23 – Day 24 – Hiroshima
- Day 25 –Day 26 – Kyoto
- Day 27 – Osaka
- Day 28 – Nara
I won’t go into great detail in this itinerary post (I will leave it for another Japan post), but will offer some advice on the best places, how to get around and price points of travelling in the country.
Japan Price Point
This refers to a budget conscious travellers price.
- Meal – 700 to 1000 yen
- Metro – 170 yen to 300 yen
- Hostel – 3000 yen – 3500 yen
- Train transport – definitely got to buy a 21 day JR Pass
Top Tip – JR Pass
This is critical if you want to do Japan as cheap as possible. The pass allows you to use almost any train through the country excluding 2 forms of the bullet trains. It essentially enables you to travel anywhere in Japan without having to worry about the cost, as you have paid it all upfront for around $570.
By the end of my trip I had done over 4000 miles on trains and the cost would have racked up to over $1000. Without the JR Pass, i wouldn’t have been able to afford everything on my Japan itinerary.
Use the JR Pass on your first long distance trip in the country. It activates after your first use, so don’t use it as soon as you arrive on internal metro trains e.g. if you arrive in Tokyo first, there would be little point using it for little rides around the city. I activated mine after a week in Tokyo, that way I had it for the remaining 3 weeks of my trip.
When you arrive in the country, go to your local JR railway station and redeem your JR Pass there. It’s extremely easy to travel through Japan by rail, simply show them your JR Pass and they will allow you through the barrier.
The train network is so extensive you can get to even the furthest points of the country with ease and on the luxury of Japanese trains.
Top things to do in Japan
There is literally too many amazing places I could write about for Japan. I think I will split out places in more detail on another post, but here is a taster:
Shibuya – Tokyo
This is the world’s most busy pedestrian intersection and no Japan itinerary is complete without Shibuya. This is the first place i went to i Tokyo. It is in movies and photos, and the reason it is so iconic. Every 30 seconds or so, the lights turn green and people swarm to the other side. Another 30 seconds later, the hoards are replenished and the cycle repeats. Top Tip – Get a drink from the Starbucks there, from upstairs you can watch the traffic of people in its full glory. Space/seating is limited, so you must be patient and wait for that opening.. I probably sat there for an hour myself, watching the world go by.
Kabukicho – Tokyo
This is the red light district in Tokyo, but don’t let that put you off. It is a big tourist attraction and not as seedy as the districts of South East Asia. In my opinion the bright lights of Kabukicho are more concentrated that Akihabara and for those who like photography, this place is a dream.
Nakasendo Way – Nagano
This is one of Japan’s ancient roads and a route that connected Edo (modern day Tokyo) to Kyoto. Traditional Japanese buildings line the highway. Even though many have been restored, it is still what you think of when you imagine Japanese ancient architecture. Unfortunately this is something which has largely disappeared from Tokyo. You can relax in this perfect place, which has a serenity and zen about it.
I really wanted to include this in my Japan itinerary because not many will come here, however in my opinion, the architecture and atmosphere here is quintessentially Japanese and why i think it’s one of the best places in Japan.
Furano – Hokkaido
Furano is one of the most beautiful places I have been. It is famous for the Tomita Flower farm. My top tip is to hire a bike and ride in this area. The peace and mountain landscapes towards Nakafurano will blow you away. Ride your bike there to experience the amazing countryside. You can also ride to Tomita farm, where they grow the lavender fields, but note that the fields are seasonal. Lavender only grows a few months of the year.
Daisetsuzan National Park – Hokkaido
Come here to see Mt Asahidake, Hokkaido’s highest mountain. It has unrivalled views from the top with only a handful of visitors during my time there. A fantastic guesthouse is near the entrance of the park. I recommend you stay there. From there you can take the rope way to the starting point of the trek, or you can walk all the way. The walk is through thick woods and can take a long time. Make sure you plan your timing if you intend to do this.
A boardwalk has been set up around the base area, so complete this and relax or go onto climb the top. I recommend the climb, but in bad weather, it becomes extremely windy and cloudy, to the point where visibility becomes zero. Regardless, you should climb to the top. Don’t miss this place in Hokkaido.
Shiretoko – Hokkaido
Shiretoko National Park is in my top places in Asia. Not only would it rank in my Japan itinerary but my world itinerary. Read this post to see more about Shiretoko and other insane places. It lies in the most eastern region of Japan and home to the highest concentration of Brown Bears in the world. Before entering, you must watch a safety instruction on how to deal with Brown Bears.
Five Lakes Park is within Shiretoko and accessible via a walking trail. It is one of the best places in Japan where along the way you encounter 5 exhilarating lakes, each more fascinating than the next. Be careful of Bears. On sighting of a bear, the park will be notified and shut until further notice.
Ensure you hire a car to Shiretoko, as many of the areas around here are unreachable by foot or public transport.
Fushimi Inari – Kyoto
This site sits at the base of a mountain and a trail leads up to the top, with shrine after shrine urging you to the top. Inscribed in the wood is different writing, elegantly and skillfully painted on each shrine. It’s hypnotizing to walk up with the path lined with similar looking shrines, following one another. The walk takes around 1.5-2 hours and can be quite gruelling for the best of us. On my way up, I was amazed to witness an old granny, going up the trail lugging her shop merchandise, like it was nothing.
Eventually you will reach the top, however I must admit, hat the summit is not spectacular. In contrast, the walk up is not to be missed.
Need more time…
There is too many places to list in my Japan itinerary, and with so many more places to explore, this list could be endless. I’ll leave you with this list of best things to do in Japan and hopefully write another blog post soon. Please leave me a comment on your favourite places. If you enjoyed this post, please hit the share button below.