Best itinerary for 4 unforgettable weeks in Japan
Are you ready for Japan?
U-erukomu! Are you ready for a modern world in the eastern part of the globe spread out over 6,000 islands? Get ready for an unending journey of temples, pagodas, modern art and high tech. But also neighbourhoods of samurais and geishas, Japanese gardens and a highly organized society? A world of fresh fish, the finest sushi, steaming ramen, tea ceremonies and strong sake? Continue reading about our adventures while travelling the land of the rising sun: Japan!
We spend our honeymoon in Japan, which made this journey extra special for us. This meant: reading many books and watching tons of movies before we dared to visit the country. We wanted to be sure that we were prepared our trip in the best way possible. We hope you can use our information to your advantage!
So, we share our itinerary, made a list of 11 tips for travelling Japan, a blog about food, Tokyo and Kyoto, what to pack, how to prepare and much more…
When to go?
Japan is beautiful in all seasons. Just know that Cherry blossom season is somewhere in March or April depending on the weather and the location. But there are dedicated websites to forecasting when the blossoming will start. But be aware that it will be busier around this time. The same goes for Golden Week, which is a national holiday from the 29th of April to early May. Summers are hot and humid and August is also the time of another public holiday. Autumn colors will start to appear at the end of September in the north, slowly making their way south.
Our Japan itinerary
We had a hard time puzzling the best itinerary for our four weeks in Japan. We wanted to visit as much of Japan as possible. As you know, we love culture, history, art and nature and wanted a perfect combination of this. Since Japan has a lot to offer in all these categories, tough choices had to be made. We like to hear if you have a more efficient itinerary than this one.
We flew to Tokyo to start our trip and spend one long day in this big city, visiting museums of Japanese history and Western art, temples and pagodas. Also, we used Tokyo as our base for two-day trips: one to Kamakura, a coastal town packed with temples and Buddha’s and one to the shrines of Nikko.
Next, we explored and crossed the Japanese Alps. We had a pit-stop Nagano; spent a night in Matsumoto to visit its famous black castle and the birthplace of modern artist Yayoi Kusama. We hiked a day in Kamakochi, a popular resort with spectacular mountain scenery. Then, we crossed the Japanese Alps to the west coast. There, we stayed in Kanazawa, home to one of the best landscape gardens of Japan, an impressive modern art museum and a beautiful castle.
From there our trip continued southwards by bullet train, to visit Osaka a vibrant and modern city; Kyoto, the former Imperial capital of Japan and Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital.
To learn more about the Japanese religion and the art of meditation, we did a tour in the mystical mountains in Koyasan, where we slept in a temple. From Kii-Tanabe we walked the Kumano Kodo, in the footsteps of the pilgrims.
From the heart of those misty Mountains, it was a substantial train ride back to the inhabited world. We joined civilization again in Okayama to visit its garden and castle. Took the boat across the inland sea to Naoshima, an island bursting with modern art. On the way, we also visited the beautiful, white Himeji castle and Hiroshima with its Atomic bomb museum, and the Miyajima shrine. You know that famous shrine that you see on every Japan brochure.
And from here, the always unpredictable nature of Japanese earth’s crust threw a spanner in the works of the last weeks of our trip. We planned to visit Kumamoto and its castle and from there Mount Aso with its active volcano before we would hit Beppu, the onsen heaven of Japan. However, because of an earthquake, Kumamoto’s castle was partially collapsed and the city was isolated from most train traffic. Also, the volcano of Aso was a bit too active, and therefore, tourists were not allowed nearby. That is why we choose to go to Beppu straight away and spent the two days that we saved on an extra Japanese garden in Takamatsu, a temple in Kyoto and a museum, all the way back in Kanazawa. Also, we visited Nagasaki, to another city hit by an atomic bomb, and also check out Dejima, the Dutch trading post from the 17th-19th century.
From Fukuoka, we planned to fly to Iriomote, one of Japan’s tropical islands to finish our trip on the soft and sandy bounty beaches, to snorkel and hike through the jungle of the remote island. However, because of a typhoon, flights and boats were cancelled, which got us stuck on the main island of Okinawa for three days. This gave us all the time to learn the secrets of healthy living from the oldest people in the world, living in Okinawa.
Just before we had to leave Japan, we spent two more days in Tokyo, to make sure we could check all the remaining highlights there and don’t feel too sad to head back to the other side of the world.