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12 Days in Japan: Top 4 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

12 Days in Japan: Top 4 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

By Vicky LengUpdated Feb. 21, 2024

A 12-day duration is ideal for you to explore Japan's highlights at a more relaxed pace. It would allow you to visit the top cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka as well as popular nearby places, such as Hakone, Nara, or Mount Fuji. You could also explore traditional villages, such as Takayama and Kanazawa, or other close-by places that interest you.

In this article, we've handpicked four 12-day Japan itineraries to help you plan a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime-special, and stress-free journey. We would customize any itinerary based on your preferences.

12 days in japan

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Itinerary 1: Classic Japan (Grand Cities and Traditional Villages)

12 day itinerary
  • 3 nights in Tokyo
  • 1 night in Takayama
  • 2 nights in Kanazawa
  • 3 nights in Kyoto (side trip to Nara)
  • 2 nights in Osaka

This 12-day itinerary is excellent for a first trip to Japan, with plenty of authentic experiences and activities. Not only could you explore the best of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, but you could also delve into the less-crowded towns of Takayama and Kanazawa to see picturesque rural views and unique farmhouses.

Tokyo is a capital city that combines history and modernity. Wander along the wide stone path lined with tall trees at wooden Meiji Shrine in the downtown area, and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Tokyo's oldest and most spiritual Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, where you could pray for luck. You could also try your hand at making sushi for lunch to discover a prominent element of Japanese culinary tradition.

Take the efficient Shinkansen (bullet train) to explore serene Takayama, Shirakawa, and Kanazawa. These three cities have well-preserved sites and picturesque countryside views.

  • Takayama: Wander around the well-preserved old town to soak up the Edo vibe, hold delicate handicrafts, such as lacquer and ceramics, and sample some representative Hida beef.
  • Shirakawa: Visit the unique gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which have steep thatched roofs that are named after 'praying hands'. These farmhouses are extremely charming when covered in snow and illuminated at night during January and February.
  • Kanazawa: Stroll through one of the three most celebrated Japanese gardens — Kenroku-en — to admire the manicured landscapes, relax and enjoy a cup of matcha at a traditional teahouse, and experience attaching gold leaf to chopsticks.

Kyoto is a traditional Japanese city. Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine to see amazing sight of thousands of orange-red torii gates. Spend a night at a Japanese ryokan for a cozy night sleeping on tatami mats. And feed and enjoy close interactions with the deer in nearby Nara.

In Osaka, you could experience unique ukiyo-e printmaking to immerse yourself in the charm of Japanese culture, sample local snacks like takoyaki (octopus balls) in the Dotonbori district, and watch an impressive Japanese sporting event — a sumo wrestling match.

Our Japan travel expert would tailor-made a private tour for you based on your preferences and requirements.

Itinerary 2: For a Family with Teenagers Including Hands-On Activities

12 day itinerary
  • 3 nights in Tokyo
  • 2 nights in Hakone
  • 3 nights in Kyoto (side trip to Uji and Nara)
  • 3 nights in Osaka

This 12-day Japan itinerary is the perfect choice for families with teenagers. It satiates kids' love for anime and games, offers abundant family-friendly activities that every member of your family could enjoy, and you won't have to change hotels frequently.

Tokyo provides lots of anime and high-tech elements for families. Discover some Japan-exclusive products at the most popular Pokémon Center, enjoy coffee and desserts at an anime café that's themed around your kids' favorite cartoon characters, and immerse yourself in interactive experiences at high-tech museums, such as TeamLab.

Hakone is known for its onsens (hot spring baths) and charming rural views. Don't miss an experience at a traditional ryokan (inn) with a family room (accommodating 3–5 people): sleep on tatamis and relax in an onsen. A ryokan typically has 5–15 rooms, and they easily become fully booked, so you're advised to book at least 3 months in advance to ensure a wider range of options. Our Japan travel advisors would help you to select a family-friendly ryokan based on your preferences.

Take the comfortable Shinkansen to Kyoto. Wear kimonos as you explore the Gion district and take memorable family photos, engage in a matcha-making experience to savor the refreshing taste of tea, and feed the lovely deer in Nara.

In Osaka, your whole family could try on ninja outfits to learn about ninja weapons and techniques from a ninja master. Interact with cute farm animals and participate in hands-on activities, such as cheese-making and horseback riding, at Rokkosan Farm. Alternatively, you could spend a day fully immersed in the magical world of Mario at Super Nintendo World.

Our Japan travel expert would carefully design each private tour to cater to your unique interests and requirements.

Itinerary 3: Classical Japan with Himeji

essence Japan with Himeji
  • 3 nights in Tokyo
  • 1 night in Hakone
  • 4 nights in Kyoto (side trip to Nara)
  • 3 nights in Osaka

With this 12-day itinerary, you would visit the highlights of Japan in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Indulge in the enchanting sights of shrines, experience a traditional tea ceremony or wear a kimono (or both), stay at a ryokan for a memorable night, and feed the deer in Nara.

You would visit the well-preserved castle in Himeji, which is located near Osaka. Himeji Castle is particularly enchanting during the cherry blossom season when it's adorned with beautiful cherry blossoms. The castle's white exterior walls and magnificent structure amaze many at first sight, and you would have the opportunity to explore the castle's interior.

If you have other requirements, contact us and our Japan travel expert can make it happen.

Itinerary 4: Essence of Japan with Beach Time in Okinawa

essence Japan with Okinawa
  • 3 nights in Tokyo
  • 2 nights in Okinawa
  • 3 nights in Osaka
  • 3 nights in Kyoto (side trip to Nara)

With this 12-day itinerary, you would explore the essence of Japan in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. You would immerse yourself in traditional shrines, enjoy delicious cuisine, visit world-class theme parks, stay at a traditional ryokan, and experience authentic activities, such as making cup noodles or creating Kyoto pottery.

Moreover, you could head to Okinawa to delve into the long history of this small island. Okinawa possesses some of the most stunning beaches in Japan and you could enjoy exciting outdoor sports, such as snorkeling, diving, and surfing, and take a leisurely walk on a sandy beach to see a beautiful sunrise or sunset.

Okinawa also boasts its rich and unique Ryukyu culture. Visit Ryukyu Mura to gain insights into the ancient Okinawan culture. You could see a variety of traditional Ryukyu performances, experience the traditional Okinawan musical instrument called a shamisen, taste authentic Ryukyu cuisine, and interact with the local people.

Contact us for more suggestions based on your interests.

How Much Does 12 Days in Japan Cost?

cost of Japan

US$350-500 per person per day is the typical cost for a private tour with 4-star hotels, based on a family of 3–5 people. This includes a private guide, private car, full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, all intercity transport within Japan, and hand-picked 4-star hotels. Thus, the total cost for 12 days in Japan is about US$4,200-6,000 per person (international flights not included).

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