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3 Weeks in Japan: Top 3 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

3 Weeks in Japan: Top 3 Itineraries for First Visit 2024/2025

By Vicky LengUpdated Jan. 10, 2024

If you're considering traveling to Japan for the first time, it's worth considering that a 3-week trip would be long enough for you to experience the highlights of Japan in more depth and not in a rushed way. It would also give you some free time to enjoy yourself.

You could see geishas in kimonos, visit the spectacular Mount Fuji, stay in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), relax in an onsen (a hot spring), immerse yourself in an authentic ninja experience, and take part in a traditional tea ceremony.

Where to Spend 3 Weeks in Japan

Osaka Castle in cherry blossom season Osaka Castle in cherry blossom season

Here are the most popular destinations in Japan. We hope this will help you to choose according to your interests and preferences.

  • Tokyo is Japan's most famous and popular city with its sophisticated fusion of sushi, samurai, animation, sumo, high-tech modernity, and traditional history.
  • Kyoto is an ancient city where you can see various shrines, geishas in kimonos, traditional tea ceremonies, and stay at a ryokan to experience classic Japanese accommodation.
  • Osaka, "the kitchen of Japan", is a great place to sample authentic Japanese food and to visit the brilliant Ukiyo-e (Japanese print art) Museum.
  • Hakone: What makes Hakone so famous is its onsens and Mount Fuji. Stay at a ryokan with an onsen and a spectacular Fuji view.
  • Takayama and Shirakawa-go: A trip to Takayama and Shirakawa-go would allow you to experience Japan's rural life and see unique gassho-zukuri (steep wood and thatch) farmhouses.
  • Hiroshima, where the world's first atomic bomb was dropped during World War II, calls on everyone to love peace.
  • Hokkaido has the best ski resorts and the freshest seafood.

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3 Weeks in Japan: 3 Perfect Itinerary Ideas

Below are three well-selected 3-week Japan itinerary ideas for you, each offering you various experiences. Itinerary 1 covers the major highlights of Japan, itinerary 2 offers you a Japan far-reaching exploration of both big cities and lesser-known cities, and itinerary 3 allows you to have a cross-border trip.

Itinerary 1: Classic Japan — the Most Chosen Historical Places

  • Tokyo–Nagano–Kanazawa–Takayama–Shirakawa–Kyoto–Osaka

With this itinerary, you could cover the major highlights of Japan's popular cities, experience authentic hands-on activities, and explore Japanese history and tranquil rural life at a slow pace.

Here is an itinerary outline for your inspiration:

3 weeks in Japan
  • Days 1–4: Tokyo
  • Days 5–6: Hakone
  • Days 7–8: Nagano
  • Days 9–12: Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go
  • Days 13–17: Kyoto (daytrips to Nara and Arashiyama)
  • Days 18–19: Hiroshima
  • Days 20–21: Osaka, depart from Kansai International Airport

Tokyo is the top city for entering Japan as its international flights offer the most options. Meander around the Asakusa district to experience the Edo vibe of Japan's 1603–1868 final shogunate, dress up like a ninja to learn about the ninja culture and techniques, and make sushi with the help of a sushi master.

Continue your trip to Hakone to relax at a Japanese-style ryokan with an onsen and enjoy serene rural life. Nagano offers you a unique and unforgettable experience, where you could witness snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs.

Next, you could head to Kanazawa to see the Edo period buildings, making you feel like you've stepped back in time, as well as enjoy a steaming cup of tea in a Japanese teahouse. Go to Takayama and Shirakawa to admire their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses and picturesque countryside views.

Head to Kyoto to experience various cultural activities. Wander through the Gion district to see geishas wearing kimonos, immerse yourself in the art of making unique Kyoto pottery, stay at a cozy ryokan to experience Japanese accommodation, and feed friendly deer in Nara.

Hiroshima was the site of the first atomic bombing during World War II. Visit the Peace Memorial Park to cherish the post-war peace and take a short ferry ride to Miyajima to see the famous "floating" torii gate.

Complete your trip in Osaka. Experience traditional ukiyo-e printmaking to deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and enjoy some free time.

Itinerary 2: Japan Adventure and Far-Reaching Exploration

  • Tokyo–Kanazawa–Kyoto–Osaka–Naoshima–Matsue–Beppu–Fukuoka–Tokyo

If you're looking for a comprehensive exploration of Japan that covers both well-known cities and hidden gems, this itinerary is perfect for you. You would have the chance to delve deeper into Japan's early history, admire its pristine hot springs, and experience authentic hands-on activities.

Here's the suggested itinerary, for inspiration:

3 weeks in Japan
  • Days 1–5: Tokyo
  • Days 6–7: Kanazawa
  • Days 8–11: Kyoto
  • Day 12: Osaka
  • Days 13–14: Naoshima
  • Days 15–16: Matsue
  • Days 17–18: Beppu
  • Day 19: Fukuoka
  • Day 20: Depart from Tokyo

Tokyo is the must-see city in Japan that perfectly combines history and modernity. Walk around Meiji Shrine downtown, which is surrounded by forests, make a delicious bowl of ramen with the help of experienced chefs, and take a day trip to Kawaguchiko to view the iconic Mount Fuji.

Next, head to Kanazawa to explore its well-preserved Edo-period Japanese samurai house, and experience attaching gold leaf to your favorite objects as a unique souvenir.

Continue your trip to Kyoto to experience some authentic Japanese activities. Have afternoon tea with geishas, stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan, take a rickshaw ride to admire the bamboo groves in Arashiyama, and feed lovely deer in Nara.

Head to Osaka to wear a ninja outfit and learn techniques from a ninja master. Then try unique ukiyo-e printmaking to get more insights into Japanese culture.

The remaining days would be spent exploring some lesser-known cities in western Japan.

  • Naoshima is a small island that is full of art and boasts a spectacular coastline. There, you could explore museums and galleries brimming with art.
  • Matsue is considered to be the birthplace of Japanese mythology and ancient culture. Gain a deeper understanding of Japan's past by witnessing two of the oldest buildings, Matsue Castle and Izumo Taisha.
  • Beppu is a city that hosts over 2,000 hot springs. It's amazing to witness the heat emanating from the hot spring areas in the city. You could admire hot springs of different colors, such as red, gray, and blue, and also enjoy an onsen at a hot spring resort.

Finish your trip in Fukuoka and take some free time to explore this charming modern city on your own.

Itinerary 3: Trip to Japan, China, Singapore, and Bali

This tour will allow you to experience the history and culture of Japan and China, experience the rapid development of Singapore, and relax on the beaches of Bali!

Asia Tour Travel Guide

Days 1–7 in Japan: Explore the most popular three cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Try some Japanese-style activities, such as making sushi, dressing up like a ninja to learn the techniques, and staying at a ryokan with an onsen. Also visit all of Japan's main attractions, including Mount Fuji, Senso-ji, and the Gion district.

Days 8–14 in China: Discover China's top three cities for tourism — Beijing, Xi'an, and Chengdu. Visit the world-famous Forbidden City and the Great Wall in Beijing, explore the mysterious underground army at the Terracotta Army Museum in Xi'an, and see the cute pandas in Chengdu.

Days 15–16 in Singapore: Discover the charming city of Singapore. Its main attractions include Merlion Park, Gardens by the Bay, Little India, Kampong Glam, Arab Street, and a boat trip from Clarke Quay.

Days 17–19 in Bali: Enjoy some relaxing beach time in a tropical island paradise with your partner to create lifetime memories.

Best Times to Travel to Japan

cherry blossoms in Tokyo Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Japan is a great place to visit all year round. No matter when you come, you can find stunning views: cherry blossom in spring (March to May), festival celebrations and fireworks in summer (July to August), red maple and yellow ginkgo in autumn (September to November), and snow and skiing in winter (December to February).

How Much Does 3 Weeks in Japan Cost?

cost of Japan

Japan is more expensive than other countries in Asia, but is one of the cheapest developed-country destinations. It offers high-quality accommodation, food, service, and attractions.

Generally, 4-star hotels, private guide, private car and other transport in Japan, and tickets for attractions costs 350–500 USD per day per person for a family of 3-5 people. Thus, the total cost is around 7,400–10,500 USD for 3 weeks.

We recommend you take private cars if you'd have any difficulty in taking public transportation. It may save you more than 20,000 steps a day!

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