We’ve taken several trips to Japan over the last decade, each time staying a bit longer and exploring a bit more than the last. I know many travelers don’t have the same flexibility in their schedules as we do. If you have the opportunity to spend two weeks in Japan, though, we want to ensure you eat well and drink well. Because Japan is one of the top culinary travel destinations in the world. In this post, I share our tips on how to plan a trip to Japan with a 14 day itinerary.
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A 14 Day Trip To Japan For People Who Travel For Food
Most itineraries focus on the top Japan destinations, including Tokyo and Kyoto. There is always a focus on the “top things to see” and always includes plenty of visits to museums and temples. We include some of those activities in this guide.
But our real focus in this Japan travel blog is to focus on unique food experiences, those experiences that make Japan unique. This includes food tours, sake tastings, and plenty of recommendations on where and what to eat in Japan.
Another way this itinerary is different from others is that it goes beyond Tokyo and Kansai, which includes Kyoto and Osaka. Sure we include those cities as well. But our suggestions go a little bit beyond for a more authentic experience in Japan.
Only Have A Week In Japan? Check Out Our 7 Day Japan Itinerary
Help With Planning Your Japan Two Week Itinerary
Luggage: We used our Eagle Creek Load Warrior luggage for this trip. I always recommend packing light and if using the trains in Japan this is particularly important. Escalators and elevators are not readily available. And, most hotel rooms in Japan are pretty small. It can be hard to find space for large luggage! Even for a 2 week trip in Japan, it is possible to do laundry at least once or twice during your trip so it’s possible to pack light.
Rental cars: If you decide to rent a car in Japan, we recommend RentalCars.com. They compare prices at the top rental car companies to get you the best deal.
Rail Passes: Train travel is really efficient in Japan, particularly between our recommended cities. Check out the 14 Day Japan Rail Pass to help get you around. A rail pass must be purchased ahead of time before your arrival in Japan and is best purchased from Japan Rail Pass.
Eating at an izakaya in Kyoto
Best Japan Destinations For Food Travelers
Tokyo – Many travelers arrive or depart from Tokyo so it’s understandably on everyone’s itinerary. It’s a big city, with bright lights, and Japan to the extreme.
Osaka – The destination for food travelers in Japan. Known as Japan’s kitchen, Osaka is known for “kuidaore,” which essentially translates to eat until you drop or eat until you bankrupt yourself. This is why it’s one of our favorite cities.
Kyoto – The city of culture and temples, Kyoto is also one of the top sake producing regions in the country.
Wakayama – Just south of Osaka and Kyoto, Wakayama is often overlooked by travelers. It’s an easy addition to any Japan trip itinerary. It’s a destination with a focus on fresh fish and seafood, ramen, and Buddhist Monastery lodgings.
Kobe – The home of world-famous Kobe beef and easily visited as a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.
Sapporo – The great white north of Japan and the city that is one of the snowiest in the world. It’s also home to its own unique cuisine unlike elsewhere in Japan.
Visiting a sake brewery in Kyoto
Guided Tours Of Japan
We will provide tips on how to plan your own Japan 2 week itinerary, but I understand that Japan can be difficult to manage on your own. We have some recommendations for guided tours that included between 12 and 14 day itineraries.
Intrepid Travel offers a 12 day Real Food Adventure In Japan. It hits some of our favorite food cities in the Kansai region of Japan. That includes Osaka, Kyoto, and Kyosan in Wakayama. Along the way, travelers learn to make sushi, eat street food, and stay the night in a Buddhist monastery. These are all food experiences we’ve had in Japan and would totally recommend. We took an Intrepid Real Food Adventure in Morocco and learned a lot about the food culture. Learn more about Intrepid’s Japan tour.
As an alternative, G Adventures offers a small group tour for 14 days in Japan that departs from and returns to Tokyo. The Discover Japan Tour visits Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and other interesting cities. There is more of a focus on culture and history than the Intrepid Tour but includes interesting food experiences. This includes visiting a sake brewery and dining in kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto. Learn more about the G Adventures Discover Japan Tour.
Eating ramen in Sapporo in Winter
Tips For Traveling to Japan For The First Time
Planning a trip to Japan for the first time can be entirely intimidating. That’s why booking a group tour can help. But, there are ways to plan an independent journey as well. We have a few key tips for first-timers to help make things easier.
Picture Menus Are Your Friend
When it comes to selecting restaurants in most touristy cities, we always recommend avoiding places with picture menus. This advice goes out the door in Japan. Many restaurants have picture menus, for both travelers and locals. The picture menus are your friend.
Almost every place we ate in Japan included picture menus with English descriptions. A few did not. Where they didn’t we relied on Google Translate to take pictures of the menu or to do an instant translation. But, this only works when you are online.
Japan Travel Guide Pro Tip
We use KeepGo for international data. It’s an international sim card that works in over 120 countries without setting up service in each country you visit. It doesn’t make a difference what kind of mobile service you have at home. You just register the sim before leaving home. It works on arrival in Japan. We had 4G access in Japan with KeepGo.
Japan Is A Cash-Based Society
Cash is still king in Japan. We were able to charge some meals, but most of the time we paid cash. This is particularly true in smaller places. We used ATMs to withdraw cash as we went. ATMs are not as easily found as in other cities. Look for them in the convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, or Family Mart.
Don’t Try To Fit Too Much Into Your Itinerary
Imagine someone trying to see all of the US in a two week trip, impossible, right? Japan may be a smaller country, but there is so much to see and do. Even within a single city, there are loads of great activities, neighborhoods to explore, and food to eat. Don’t rush it and don’t try to cram everything into a short amount of time.
Our recommendations in this post make a great first time in Japan itinerary. In two weeks you can experience a lot of Japan, but I wouldn’t recommend visiting more than 4 cities. The movement in between, even with high speed trains, can be exhausting.
Also, consider basing yourself in a city like Osaka and taking day trips to Kyoto, Koyasan, Nara, and Kobe, to see a lot without the constant checking-in and checking-out of hotels and packing and repacking. You can access each of these cities in less than an hour from Osaka.
Visiting Temples In Wakayama
Food And Drink Experiences In Japan
There are loads of interesting and unique things to do in Japan. Some of these experiences relate to food and drink and others focus on culture and history. This is a great place to start your own Japan trip planner for how to spend 2 weeks in Japan.
- Visit a Robot Restaurant in Tokyo for one of the most unique dining experiences in the world
- Exploring traditional local markets including Kuromon in Osaka and Nishiki Market in Kyoto
- Tracking down the top street food in Dotonbori, Osaka’s food street
- Book a food tour in Osaka or a Kyoto cooking class to learn more about Japanese food culture on a half-day or full-day tour
- Eat some of the best Japanese sushi of your life, by visiting a conveyor belt sushi restaurant or a traditional sushi-ya
- Track down the best bowl of ramen in one of the official or unofficial ramen streets.
- Go Japanese craft beer bar hopping and learn about Japanese craft beer trends
- Enjoy a kaiseki meal at a traditional Japanese ryokan
- Spend the night at a Buddhist monastery and learn about shojin ryori, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine
- Eat some of the best beef in the world – Kobe beef
- Tour a Japanese sake brewery and learn how to order sake
- Spend the evening at an izakaya, a Japanese tavern, toasting over local beer and whiskey highballs
- Dine on Japanese giant crab and local seafood in the great white north of Japan
- Tour the famous Sapporo Brewery and dine on Genghis Khan
Eating sushi at a market in Osaka
How To Spend 14 Days In Japan When You Love Food
If planning your own self-guided tour of Japan, here are our recommended destinations. With a full two weeks in Japan, you can see a lot. There are two primary options here. We recommend about a half dozen cities to visit. It’s possible to visit each of them, spending approximately two nights in each.
Or, I would recommend staying in only about three cities and doing day trips. For example, you can stay in Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo and manage to have all of the experiences mentioned in this post over two weeks.
For each city, I recommend some of the top attractions or experiences, with a focus on food and drink. I also provide recommendations on what and where to eat and some recommended hotels. There are also links to some of our other posts for more information on some of these activities and travel tips.
Day 1-3 Tokyo
Most people start or end their trip to Japan in Tokyo. We prefer the smaller cities for more unique experiences and recommend spending more time there. At least give yourself enough time in Tokyo to beat the jet lag.
Top Attractions In Tokyo
Definitely check out the Shibuya district, one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Tokyo. If you’ve seen photos of Tokyo with loads of people crossing at a major intersection with neon lights and skyscrapers in the background – that’s Shibuya. It’s supposedly the busiest pedestrian crosswalk in the world. Stop for a katsu curry at Katsuya or hit one of the ramen or soba shops.
At night, head to the Shinjuku district, perhaps for a little karaoke and nightlife. Shinjuku is where the neon lights explode at night. There’s theater, food, bars, and plenty of people watching.
There are also two well-known bar and restaurant alleys in Shinjuku that are must-visits: Golden Gai and Memory Lane. It’s almost like stepping back in time considering much of Tokyo is covered in high-rises. Within this area is also Harajuku. This is where young people like to show off their fashion and old people like me are left to wonder why.
For a bit of culture, visit the Imperial Palace or at least wander the gardens. Or, check out the art museums and galleries in the Roppongi neighborhood. This is also where the Tokyo Tower can provide you with a birds-eye view of the city.
Tours And Tickets For Tokyo
There are a few tours and attractions that we recommend booking ahead of time. Grab tickets for the Tokyo Robot Restaurant, one of the most popular and unique attractions in Tokyo. To make the most of your time in Tokyo, book a food tour. This Japanese Food And Drink Tour includes a tour of the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market.
Where To Eat In Tokyo
In Golden Gai and Memory Lane sniff out late-night ramen and plenty of yakitori bars. In addition to Golden Gai and Memory Lane, there are a few other areas where you are guaranteed to eat well in Tokyo. Be sure to add a visit to Ginza for Michelin Star dining, including some of the most famous sushi restaurants in the world. Look for monjayaki in the Tsukishima district for Tokyo’s answer to okonomiyaki.
Where To Stay In Tokyo
We stayed at the Sheraton Miyako during our visit to Tokyo, but there are other options as well depending on your budget.
Park Hyatt Tokyo: One of the most luxurious hotels in the city and known for its role in the movie Lost in Translation. Check for rates here.
Pullman Tokyo Tamachi: A contemporary option in the center of Tokyo with a sun terrace. Check for rates here.
Nine Hours Shinjuku: On more of a budget, or looking for a uniquely Japanese experience, this capsule hotel is the perfect option. It’s also in the nightlife center of the city. Check for rates here.
Day 4-5 Osaka
I’m amazed to see how many sample Japan two week itineraries skip Osaka altogether. Sure, it doesn’t have the same concentration of temples and palaces as Tokyo or Kyoto, but you can only see so many temples on a trip before you get “templed out.”
Osaka is one of the best cities to visit if you love food and drink! From Tokyo, use the JR Rail Pass to hop the Shinkansen high-speed train to Osaka, Japan’s kitchen.
Top Attractions In Osaka
All of the top main attractions in Osaka are located within the city center and are accessible by train. Take a walk through the gardens of Osaka Castle or catch the view from a boat tour of the Dotonbori Canal. Explore Kuromon Market for street eats and hit Dotonbori, Osaka’s famous food street at night. At night, just wander through one of the many shopping and eating districts, including Namba, and Shinsaibashi.
Tours And Tickets For Osaka
If you want to make the most of your time in Osaka and want to experience all the main sights, pick up the Osaka Amazing Pass. It offers free admission to loads of different sites including Osaka Castle, plus offers unlimited train and bus rides as well.
Osaka is also the perfect place to take a food tour or cooking class. See our recommendations for the Best Food Tours In Osaka.
Or book tickets for Gotta. Gotta is pure Japanese-style entertainment. It’s a Japanese musical review show, which tells the story of the Dotonbori area through food and legend. Buy tickets ahead of time here. They offer three shows a day, with the last show being at 3:00 pm. The show is only 40 minutes, so it’s not a big time commitment. It’s just something quirky and unique to do in Dotonbori.
Where And What To Eat In Osaka
Between traditional Japanese dishes and Osakan specialties, there is no shortage of foods to eat in Osaka. From street food to craft beer, the city has it all. One of our favorite things to do in Osaka is to visit Daruma for kushikatsu, which is fried stuff on a stick.
Start any day eating in Dotonbori, near the canal. Then head north down the Shinsaibashi shopping street. At the top, in the Chuo Ward and near the Honmachi subway station, there are loads of great, non-touristy restaurants. On another night, head south from Dotonbori into the Namba area for plenty of standing bars and yakitori spots.
Check out these posts for more details and where and what to eat and drink in Osaka.
Osaka Food Guide – What To Eat In Osaka Japan
Dotonbori Food Guide – 15+ Must-Eat Dishes In Dotonbori Osaka
Osaka Craft Beer Guide – Drinking The Best Craft Beer In Osaka
Where To Stay In Osaka
When we visit Osaka we tend to stay a while and normally rent an Airbnb apartment. We’ve also stayed at the Sheraton Miyako. Here are some other recommended hotels in Osaka. If short on time, we recommend staying near Namba or in an adjacent neighborhood so that you are centrally located to all of the best foods.
Swissotel Nankai Osaka: Luxury, 5-star hotel, with views over the city. It’s located above the Namba station making it super convenient. Check current rates here.
Hotel Nikko Osaka: The Hotel Nikko is located in the Shinsaibashi shopping area and near the pedestrian shopping arcade that leads to Dotonbori. We’ve stayed near this neighborhood before and there are some great bars and restaurants nearby. Check current rates here.
Hotel Ichiei: For a more ryokan style experience, Hotel Ichiei is also near Namba Station and offers tatami style rooms. Check current rates here.
How Many Days In Osaka – Pro Tip
This is a question we often get. For any of our recommended Japan destinations, it’s up to you how much time you spend in each city. People often overlook Osaka, though, in favor of Kyoto. Kyoto is famous for its temples. Osaka is famous for its food and nightlife. We recommend spending more time in Osaka than in Kyoto if you love eating. Or, base yourself in Osaka for five or seven nights and visit Kyoto, Kobe, and even Nara from there. See the sites but enjoy the Osaka nightlife.
Day 6 Koyasan, Wakayama
If you can fit an overnight into your 14 day itinerary that will offer a totally unique experience, this is it. The Kii Peninsula in Kansai includes Kyoto, Osaka, and Wakayama.
Across the Peninsula are a series of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes, much like the Camino de Santiago in Spain. UNESCO recognized the region as a World Heritage Site. This makes Wakayama a perfect spot to spend the day hiking or exploring temples.
Wakayama is also a great destination for food travelers too. Koyosan is the center of Buddhism in Japan and is located within Wakayama. There are over 100 temples in Koyasan, about half of which provide temple lodging. One of the most interesting food experiences includes staying at a temple lodge in order to try their famous Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine, known as Shojin Ryori.
Planning A Trip To Koyasan
You can train from either Osaka or Kyoto to Koyasan using the Japan Rail Pass. Once there, spend the afternoon exploring some of the famous temples. Also, take a walk through Okunoin, a famous Buddhis Cemetery. There are over 200,000 gravestones. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place to explore. (Please don’t take photos within the cemetery). There are a handful of restaurants that are known for vegetarian cuisine, which was even enough to fill Eric’s belly.
Spending The Night In Koyasan
Spending a night in the Mount Koya area is almost like an all-inclusive stay. Book at one of the temple lodgings. These are mostly simple places to stay for the night, normally with tatami-style rooms with futons on the ground. A shojin ryori vegetarian dinner is included. They do serve beer and sake, but we used it as a night to detox.
After dinner, head back to the temples to see them lit up at night. It’s quite peaceful. Then, it is time for bathing. Some of the temple lodges have private, western-style bathrooms. Others offer traditional Japanese bathing, which is sex separated, public, and nude. That alone is an experience.
It’s an early-to-bed experience. There is the option of observing a dawn ritual where the monks offer a service to practicing Buddhists. We stayed in a traditional lodge where we were the only foreigners. The entire proceeding was in a combination of Japanese and Sanskrit. As much as we didn’t understand a word, observing was fascinating.
Where To Stay In Koyasan
We recommend Jokiin, which offers all of the above experiences. They have a traditional Japanese public bath, but also offer some rooms with a private bath. All rooms are tatami-style, with futons on the floor. Book here.
Day 7-8 Kobe
Kobe City is located in the west end of central Japan. It’s a port town and hosts the 6th largest population in Japan. What most people know about Kobe is its namesake beef. It is also one of the top sake producers in the country as well. This makes it an interesting city to add to your two week itinerary.
Top Attractions In Kobe
Did you know that the Nada-Gogo, or the Five Regions of Nada, produces one-quarter of the sake in Japan. The Nada region includes Kobe, which makes Kobe the perfect place to learn about sake. They started producing sake in Nada over seven centuries ago. Try visiting the Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan Brewery, which is on the train line between Osaka and Kobe.
What To Eat In Kobe
Kobe beef is unique to Japan. The beef comes from a particular breed of cattle called Tajima-gyu. The cattle must be born and raised in the Hyogo Prefecture to be considered Kobe beef.
Eating Kobe beef in Japan is a bit of a ritual. Normally you sit at a counter and order the beef by weight and variety. The chef will often show it to you, sort of for approval, but really so that you can look and confirm the quality. The beef is cooked on a flat top grill, to rare or medium rare temperature. Organize your Kobe experience ahead of time, whether you stay in Kobe or visit as a day trip. Learn more here.
Where To Stay In Kobe
Check out the ANA Crown Plaza Kobe, which is part of the IHG hotel group. It’s close to the train station making it easy to explore the city and the surrounding area. Check rates here.
Eating Kitsune Udon In Kyoto
Day 8-10 Kyoto
One of the most popular cities for travelers to Japan, Kyoto is one of the best places to learn about Japanese culture. Kyoto means “capital city” because it once was the capital of Japan before it was moved to Tokyo. We tend to prefer the culinary scene in Osaka more, but there is still loads of good food in Kyoto.
Top Attractions In Kyoto
There are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto alone. There are hundreds of Shinto Shrines, loads of Buddhist temples, and Japanese gardens. Check out the Imperial Palace, which is free for travelers to wander through and take in all of the splendor of an ancient way of life in Japan.
Gion is one of the most popular neighborhoods to visit. It’s known for its Geiko, or geisha, culture. It’s one of the most well-preserved parts of the city with ancient houses and adorable alleyways. It is also one of the most touristy parts of the city, so be prepared.
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is another popular destination and is just a short ride from Kyoto Station by train. After visiting the temples continue a little further south to the Fushimi Sake District, the sake producing area of Kyoto. There is a brewery tour and plenty of shops selling sake and offering tastings. It makes a great afternoon out of the center of Kyoto.
Tours And Tickets For Kyoto
Looking for the perfect Japanese Instagrammable moment? Book a Kimono rental for a day and then head to the temples or the narrow alleys of Gion for photos. Book a rental here.
If you love sake and want to learn more about it, check out this Sake Brewery Tour and Tasting.
Or, book an evening Food Tour in Gion and Pontchoco. See all of our recommended Kyoto Food Tours here.
What To Eat And Drink In Kyoto
Kyoto is known for its kaiseki and Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. There is also a great ramen scene. For food travelers, there’s Nishiki Market and the surrounding neighborhoods and alleyways near Shoji Jori, the main shopping street.
At night, head to Pontocho Alley, which runs along the river, west of Gion, for some of the best restaurants in the city. For someone on a budget, check out Kyoto Ramen Alley, which is actually on the 10th floor of the Kyoto train station.
Check out these related posts:
Kyoto Food Guide – What To Eat In Kyoto
How To Find The Best Ramen In Kyoto
Where To Stay In Kyoto
Like Osaka, Kyoto is also pretty easy to travel around. We stayed at the Westin Miyako Kyoto, which is lovely, with views over the mountains and the city. We’ve also stayed at a very simple guest house near the Imperial Palace. Here are some other recommended hotels in Kyoto.
Luxury Hotel Sowaka: Located at the southern edge of Gion, this is the epitome of Japanese luxury, with well-appointed rooms in a ryokan style. Check the best rates here.
Park Hyatt Kyoto: For luxury accommodations of a more western standard, Park Hyatt Kyoto is one of the top hotels in the city. Check the best rates here.
Mimaru Kyoto Horikawarokkaku: A four-star hotel in the center of some of the best eating in Kyoto and close to the Nishiki Market. Check the best rates here.
Help With Transit
If Kyoto is your last destination, then it is possible to fly out of Kansai Airport. Kansai is actually closer to Osaka, but still easy to access by train from Kyoto. Or, you can book a limousine bus from Kyoto here.
Also, consider picking up a transit pass for Kyoto. This pass can be purchased for one or two days and can be used in both Kyoto and Osaka. Learn more here.
Day Trips From Osaka (Or Kyoto)
We are not huge fans of checking in and out of hotels every couple of days. It gets exhausting. It also gets in the way of our eating. One way to be more efficient when planning a Japan travel itinerary for 14 days is to pick either Osaka or Kyoto as a home base and to see several sites and cities.
For food travelers, we definitely recommend Osaka as a home base. You can take a day trip to Kyoto to visit Gion, Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, and other spots all in one day. The fast train takes 14 minutes between the cities. The cheaper rapid train takes 24 minutes. Both are included in the Japan Rail Pass.
You can be back to Osaka in order to take advantage of the nightlife there. Accommodations in Osaka also tend to be less expensive.
Other Side Trips
Regardless of which city you base yourself in, you can spend four, five, or even six nights over a two week stay in Japan in either city and see a lot. Here are a few of the cities you can explore as a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. If you don’t want to spend two nights in Kobe, it is also possible to do as a day trip from either Osaka or Kyoto.
Nara is located just between Osaka and Kyoto. There are a good number of ancient temples, but it is most known for the deer that roam the city. It’s also home to Tōdai-j, a Buddhist temple complex with one of the largest Buddha statues in Japan.
Another side trip is to Himeji Castle and then to Miyajima. Miyajima, or Itsukushima, is a famous temple located on an island in Hiroshima Bay. There is the famous Great Torii Gate, which is an orange gate surrounded by water.
Eating ramen in Sapporo in Hokkaido
Day 11-14 Sapporo
We just made our first trip to Sapporo and it was in the winter. Yes, it snowed. Even though we don’t like the cold, we loved our time in Sapporo and would definitely recommend adding to a 14 day Japan itinerary. Yes, you need to take a domestic flight there, but you can also book international flights from Sapporo to head home.
If heading to Sapporo in winter, be prepared for cold and snow. But that also means fun snow sports and skiing. The summers are warm, but not as hot as down south. The most important thing, the Hokkaido region is entirely unique within Japan and worth a visit.
Top Attractions In Sapporo
Many of the top things to do in Sapporo are located within the city center. This includes all of the best places to eat. It’s possible to walk to many of them. If heading a little further afield, the train is easily accessible. Just at the edge of the city is a town filled with onsen, the traditional Japanese hot springs. Learn more here.
Tours And Tickets For Sapporo
There are a couple of interesting activities for food travelers to Sapporo. First, check out the Sapporo Beer Factory and the Beer Garden. After a tour of the factory, enjoy a meal of the famous Genghis Khan in the garden. Learn more here. If looking to try Hokkaido’s world-famous crab, book a crab eating experience in Sapporo. Learn more here.
What To Eat And Drink In Sapporo
The main reason why we think Sapporo is worth a flight up north is that the food is so different and so great! Hokkaido is known for crab and other seafood. There are also a handful of dishes that are unique to the region. This includes ramen made with corn and butter, Genghis Khan, which is a lamb BBQ, and soup curry. Read more about all the great food in Sapporo here:
Sapporo Food Guide – What To Eat In Sapporo Japan
Finding The Best Ramen In Sapporo – Ramen Yokocho And More
Where To Stay In Sapporo
I recommend staying in the Susukino neighborhood of Sapporo. We stayed at the Mercure Sapporo in Susukino and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. The Mercure Sapporo is a 15-story contemporary high-rise hotel with French influences and is part of the Accor family of hotels.
The Mercure Sapporo is close to all of the best places to eat in Sapporo. It’s right in the heart of Susukino and only a few blocks away from ramen alley and Nijo Market. This was perfect for us, and really anyone who visits Sapporo. You can eat all of the best foods in Sapporo without traveling more than a few blocks from the hotel.
Book the Mercure Sapporo here.
Hokkaido in winter
When Is The Best Time To Visit Japan
Japan is a year-round destination. Being a long country, there are a variety of climates. In the north, in Hokkaido, you have some of the top ski destinations in the winter. In the south, in Okinawa, there is a more tropical climate where it is warm in the winter.
This 14 day Japan itinerary focuses on Tokyo and the Kansai region, in the center of the country. But it also includes Hokkaido in the north. In the center of the country, expect warm summers and cold winters.
Top tourist sites in the summer can be crowded and hotels are more expensive. Winter is relatively mild, even when it snows. Tourist sites are less crowded and hotels are less expensive. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are probably the best times to visit Japan, with one major exception. Cherry blossom season is in the spring, normally in April, and can be beautiful, but is considered the high season.
Winter In Japan
We’ve been to Japan twice when it was snowing and we don’t like the cold. But, it can be peaceful and beautiful visiting Japan in winter.
They do get some snow in the center of the country, but we’ve visited in Japan in both autumn and winter and found it warmer than expected for several days. The temperatures can change dramatically where it is warm one day and cold the next.
Hokkaido, in the north, has cooler summers but the snowiest winters in the world. If you love the cold and snow, definitely consider Hokkaido. If traveling to Japan in the winter, and you don’t like the snow, perhaps stay longer in the center of the country.
To better understand what it’s like to travel in Japan in the winter, check out these posts:
Top Things To Do In Sapporo In Winter
Getting To Japan
Many airlines fly directly to Japan. There are two airports in Tokyo. Narita is the largest but is farther from the city. Haneda is smaller, and closer to the city, but offers fewer international flights. Kansai Airport serves both Osaka and Kyoto. All of these airports are accessible by bus and train. Sapporo also has an international airport with plenty of flights.
There are two primary Japanese airlines that service these airports: ANA (All Nippon) and Japan Airlines (JAL). We’ve flown them both and they are reputable airlines. Other international airlines also service Japan.
Because train travel is so easy in Japan, it might help and it might save time, to fly into Tokyo and out of Kansai in Osaka or Sapporo in Hokkaido. This will help maximize your time on the ground, particularly if you are only limited to a two week trip.
Choosing An Airport In Japan Pro Tip
Sapporo only has one airport. Tokyo has two airports (NRT and HAN). The area around Osaka and Kyoto is also served by two airports (KIX and ITM). Just be sure to pay attention to which one you are booking. In each case, one is farther out from the city than the other. It’s most important when you are transferring back to the airport so you choose the right one. Trust us. We chose the wrong one in Osaka! Luckily we still made our flight in time.
How to Get Around in Japan
We’ve never rented a car in Japan. We’ve never found a reason to, particularly with this itinerary. There is so much to do, see, and eat within the cities or during day trips from the big cities. If you decide to rent a car in Japan, though, we recommend RentalCars.com. They scour the rates at the top car rental companies to find the best price.
Really, the best way to get around in Japan is by rail. Japan Rail offers a few different rail passes for either 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days. The rail pass is valid on all Japan Rail trains, including the high-speed trains (Shinkansen) between Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
The most important thing about the Japan Rail Pass is that you much be a resident of a country other than Japan. And you must purchase the rail pass before arriving in the country. They will actually mail you a rail pass so be sure to purchase it early.
If heading to Sapporo, it’s best to fly. Both ANA and JAL fly between Kansai near Osaka and Sapporo. It’s not all that expensive if you book ahead.
Learn more about Japanese food in our post about the Best Japanese Snacks To Try.
FAQs – PLANNING A JAPAN 14 DAY ITINERARY
This is a question we get about almost every destination. If you are American it is hard NOT to tip because it is so customary and even expected at restaurants and bars. Tipping is not customary in Japan. It can even actually be considered inconsiderate to leave a tip. It’s just better not to. In this case, it’s best to abide by the local culture and norms.
This is a hard question to answer because we understand a lot of people, particularly Americans, don’t have a lot of vacation time. Being able to spend a full two weeks in Japan gives you an opportunity to really experience the country. If you only have a week, see this post on how to make the most of your time.
It is no secret that Japan is an expensive country, but there are ways to spend money. It’s certainly possible to find accommodations is most cities for less than $100 a night. Meals can be expensive, but it is also possible to eat many meals for about $10-15 a person, even sushi! It is possible for two people to travel to Japan for between $100-150 a person and travel quite well.
Despite being a relatively small country, Japan is a highly diverse country. This makes it a year-round destination. In Winter, there’s skiing around Sapporo. Okinawa and the southern islands are great for a summer beach getaway. The Spring and Fall offer nature lovers stunning natural beauty.