1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map

1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map

Truth be told, it was my husband who really wanted to visit Japan. Not that I didn’t want to, but I had never really considered it. So when I started planning our 1 month trip around Japan, I knew very little about the country. However, the more I read, the more fascinated I was by this truly unique nation. And the more difficult it became to create a manageable itinerary…

Because, wow, there is so much to see in Japan! And not just ancient and interesting cultural highlights, amazing nature as well! I never realized 85% of Japan is mountainous, and not just regular mountains, volcanos! Lots of volcanos. And forest. And lakes.

Akan National Park Lake Onneto Hokkaido JapanKamikochi top of Yakedake Japan
Miyajima island Mount Misen JapanBlue pools Hokkaido Japan Furano

You can see more pictures of the beautiful nature of Japan in this post. But I digress, the purpose of this post is to give you an overview of the itinerary of our 1-month trip around Honshu and Hokkaido.


Our Japan itinerary

In this Japan guide you can find:

  • A map of our one month Japan itinerary
  • Facts and figures of our one month trip to Japan
  • Where to stay in Japan on a budget
  • Our Japan itinerary including all the best places to visit in Japan
  • How to travel in Japan

Japan Koyasan a magical place - things you can't miss in Japan


Map of our one month Japan itinerary

In the map you can find our Japan itinerary, accommodation and highlights we visited during our one month trip.

Summary of our Japan itinerary:

  • Day 1-3: Tokyo
  • Day 4-13: Hokkaido
  • Day 14-16: Hiroshima and Miyajima
  • Day 17-19: Nara and Koyasan
  • Day 20-22: Kyoto
  • Day 23-28: Japanese Alps (Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Kamikochi and Matsumoto)

Kinkakuji temple Golden Pavilion Kyoto Japan


Our Japan travel itinerary: facts and figures

• I traveled around Japan for a month, together with my husband.

• We started and ended our trip in Tokyo. We spent 10 days on Hokkaido and 19 days on Honshu.

• On Hokkaido we traveled by car, on Honshu we used public transportation (trains and buses).

• If you want to know more about the costs of our Japan trip, check my Japan budget breakdown.

• I have written detailed guides for pretty much every each place we visited in Japan, containing information about our exact day-to-day activities, transportation and accommodation. You can find the links to those posts in the itinerary below.

• If you want to read more about which delicious dishes to eat in Japan, check this post.

1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map


Where to stay in Japan on a budget

I have to admit I was slightly worried about finding affordable accommodation before traveling to Japan, country of the rising sun. Which is why I searched Agoda, Booking and Airbnb meticulously to find the best possible options. I am happy to say that I did and that it’s definitely possible to find cheap places to stay in Japan!

Budget accommodation in Japan

I calculated that our average accommodation costs per night were €25/$29 (for both of us together)! Curious how we managed to keep our accommodation costs so low? The key is to go camping and/or sleep in your car!

During my month in Japan, I have stayed at 4 different campsites and while a night in a hotel or Airbnb will set you back between €25 and €50, camping only costs €7-€13. Also, you get to wake up with views like the one in the picture below…

Don’t know what to pack for your camping trip in Japan? No worries, check out my downloadable packing list here!

Camping in Japan Hokkaido

Here is a list of all the places we stayed during our 1 month trip around Japan. The accommodation is listed in visited order, further along in the post you can find more detailed information of all the places we stayed at.

TokyoNicky’s Place€38/$42Airbnb
Lake ShikotsuCampsite Morappu€12,80/$14Website
Lake ToyaNakatoya Camping Ground€7,20/$8Website
HakodateHotel Yunokawa€46/$50Agoda
FukushimaSlept in our car (at park place)free
Toyako OnsenSlept in our car (at park place)free
FuranoLog Yukari Guesthouse€24/$26AgodaBooking
SōunkyōSlept in our car (at park place)free
Akanko OnsenSlept in our car (at park place)free
SapporoHotel Areaone Chitose€48/$53AgodaBooking
HiroshimaHiroshima Pacific Hotel€40/$45AgodaBooking
MiyajimaCampground Tsutsumigaura€8/$9Website
NaraBaek’s place€38/$42Airbnb
KoyasanKoyasan Guesthouse€56/$61Website
KyotoMi’s place€28/$31Airbnb
KanazawaAPA Hotel Katamachi€40/$45AgodaBooking
TakayamaHida Guesthouse Gekka€50/$55AgodaBooking
KamikochiKonashi-daira campsite€13/$14,50Website
Narita airportNarita Gateway Hotel€63/$69AgodaBooking

Altogether my accommodation was quite varied: I spent 4 nights at campsites and 4 nights we slept in our car. I stayed at 3 Airbnb places, 4 hostels and 5 hotels.

I provided links to the hotels on Agoda and Booking and also added links to the places listed on Airbnb and the campsites I stayed at. If you have any questions about an accommodation, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

—> Accommodation discount <—

If you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get a discount on your first Airbnb stay with this link!

By using this link you will not only receive a discount, you will also be helping me to stay on the road and create more content for this blog. I really appreciate your support!

Golden Week

Golden Week is the period from the 29th of April to early May and includes a number of Japanese holidays. During this week many Japanese people go on holiday and accommodation can be extremely difficult to find. Therefore, if you are traveling in peak season and Golden Week in particular: book your accommodation ahead!

During our trip I was looking for accommodation for a night during Golden Week. I have never seen Agoda and Booking come up with only 2 available hotels in an entire city, the cheapest one was €400 a night… I was very happy to have our tent and car as a backup option!


Our Japan itinerary including all the best places to visit in Japan

Day 1 – 3: Tokyo

After a long flight Frank and I landed in Tokyo, the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While Tokyo can be extremely busy (like Tokyo Station and Shibuya Crossing) there are also much more quiet areas (such as Ueno Park and the neighborhood Kotake-mukaihara where I stayed in a lovely Airbnb.

I spent 3 days exploring Tokyo, strolling around the charming area Kagurazaka, marveling at the size of this vast city from the Tokyo Sky Tree and enjoying Japanese food. It’s safe to say that 3 days in Tokyo isn’t nearly enough, there is so much more to see and do!

Check out my Tokyo travel guide

1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map

Where to stay in Tokyo ⇒ Nicky’s Place (3 nights)

What I loved

+ Niki is a great host and made us feel welcome from the moment I booked the room. She provided excellent directions to the house and put up notes in the apartment which made finding everything very easy. Tea and coffee are complimentary, the shower is good and everything is clean.

Most importantly, Niki is so nice and it was great to meet her and her mother. The apartment is 5-10 minutes walking from a metro station, in a nice green suburb. 7-11 and Family Mart are found between the metro station and the apartment.

What I didn’t like

The walls are thin and the apartment is therefore rather noisy.

Accommodation information

Airbnb rating: 4,5 stars | Price paid for a night: €38/$42.


Day 4 – 13: Hokkaido

I was already sold on Hokkaido when I was still on the plane. Looking from my window I could see nothing but nature. And nature is what I love the most. Sure, cities are nice, but nature is the best…

Jigokudani Hell Valley Hokkaido Japan

Which is why I absolutely loved my time on Hokkaido… The island is wild, untamed and blew me away with its natural beauty. I felt so tiny compared to the massive volcanoes and vast lakes. Also, it was cold! And I mean cold…

Cold Hokkaido Japan dam

Hokkaido showed me once again the power of nature, the wind was fierce and freezing, there was snow and hail, but also sunshine and sakura.

Farm Tomita Hokkaido JapanMatsumae Hokkaido Hakodate

We explored Hokkaido by car and I truly love the freedom of having my own wheels. We discovered places we wouldn’t have been able to visit if we didn’t have a car and each of those places was absolutely incredible.

Check out my Hokkaido road trip guide


Day 14 – 16: Hiroshima and Miyajima

We went from the cold of Hokkaido to the humidity of Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Hiroshima

Visiting Hiroshima was a very moving experience. It felt strange to wander streets you knew were completely vaporized when the A-bomb was dropped. An entire city lost… I couldn’t, and still can’t, grasp the enormity of that tragedy.

Check out my Hiroshima city guide.

Hiroshima peace park Japan

Where to stay in Hiroshima ⇒ Hiroshima Pacific Hotel (1 night)

What I loved

+ Great location (within walking distance or the JR station, the Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Castle), free tea and coffee and free luggage storage after we checked out.

What I didn’t like

The room is quite small (I didn’t mind. Again, I slept in my car, any place where I could stand up straight seemed spacious to me;-). But anyway, if you have lots of luggage this may not be the hotel for you.

Accommodation information

Agoda rating: 7,9 | Booking rating: 7,6 | Price paid for a night: €40/$45.

Miyajima

Miyajima island floating Torii gate in the water Japan

From Hiroshima we traveled to Miyajima Island where we climbed Mount Misen, went camping surrounded by deer and admired the famous floating Torii gate.

Check out my Miyajima camping and hiking guide.

Where to stay on Miyajima ⇒ Campground Tsutsumigaura (2 nights)

Miyajima Campground Tsutsumigaura Japan

What I loved

+ The weather and night temperature at Miyajima was a nice change from the freezing cold at Hokkaido. The sun was shining, deer grazed beside our tent (if you look closely you can spot one in the picture!) and I was happy…

What I didn’t like

No shower and no onsen either! Which is why we left after two days, we were in desperate need of a shower;-).

Accommodation information

Website | Price paid for a night: €8/$9.


Day 17 – 19: Nara and Koyasan

Looking back on our itinerary around Japan it struck me that it had a consistent sequence of city – nature – city – nature. Which was also the case for Nara and Koyasan.

Nara

1 Month In Japan: A Complete Itinerary And Travel Map

Nara, while far from a big city, is home to about 400.000 people and most well-known for its temples and deer. And we saw plenty of both during our one day visit to Nara.

Where to stay in Nara ⇒ Baek’s place (1 night)

Where to Stay in Japan On A Budget 1 Month Accommodation Guide

What I loved

+ Such a lovely place in Nara! A tiny but complete apartment with a bathroom and a tiny kitchen with a hotplate. The location is great, the appartment is next to Nara park and very close to the old town. Comfy beds and overall great stay.

We didn’t meet Baek but she send detailed instructions how to reach the place and responded quickly to my questions before arriving. Highly recommended!

What I didn’t like

Nothing, I would love to stay here again!

Accommodation information

Airbnb rating: 4,5 stars | Price paid for a night: €38/$42.

Koyasan

Choishi Michi Pilgrimage trail KoyasanKoyasan chōishi-michi pilgrimage trail

From Nara we went back to nature, to Koyasan (or Mount Koya) to be exact. We hiked the 24km Koyasan chōishi-michi pilgrimage trail, definitely a highlight of our trip. The fog drifting through the forest made the entire experience magical and mysterious…

Vermillion Kongobu-ji temple Mount Koya Japan

And if our trip to Koyasan wasn’t perfect enough already, the next day the sky was clear and blue. We explored the many temples enjoying the sunshine and pleasant temperature.

Check out my Koyasan chōishi-michi hiking guide.

Where to stay in Koyasan ⇒ Koyasan Guesthouse (1 night)

Guesthouse Mount Koya backpacker budget accommodation Koyasanbudget accommodation japan

What I loved

+ I loved everything about this place, but mostly the philosophy of the wonderful owners Ryochi and Yuri who are running this place. They want magical Koyasan to be affordable for every traveler, which is why they started Koyasan Guesthouse. You can read all about it on their website.

Besides the inspirational story that led to the creation of the guesthouse, it’s such a lovely place to stay. The design is beautiful, lots of wood, white and artsy items. Also, the food on the menu is delicious and home cooked by Yuri. For dinner we had an amazing Thai curry and breakfast included freshly baked bread.

The capsule is clean, white and spacious, each one has its own socket and the bed is very comfortable. Though I have to admit I was pretty tired from hiking the 24-km long Choishi Michi trail and probably would have slept anywhere…

What I didn’t like

Nothing, I just didn’t want to leave!

Accommodation information

Website | Price paid for a night: €56/$61.


Day 20 – 22: Kyoto

Kyoto with its many temples and other highlights was a great place to visit. We strolled around the busy streets for three days and still didn’t run out of places to see. Arashiyama, the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine and Kinkaku-ji are absolute musts on your Kyoto itinerary!

Arashiyama bamboo forest Kyoto JapanTorii gates Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine

I liked the vibe of the city and the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt either. And again, the food… Oh Japanese food, I would travel back to Japan today for a bowl of aburasoba or ramen!

Check out my Kyoto travel guide.

Delicious Food To Eat In Japan - My 10 Favorite Dishes

Where to stay in Kyoto ⇒ Mi’s place (3 nights)

What I liked

+ What you see is what you get! Yes, the apartment is old and basic, but that’s clearly indicated in the advertisement and it’s excellent value for money. The apartment is close to Kinkakuji tempel (the Golden Pavilion) and there are a bus stop and a Lawson convenience store within 100 meters. Also, communication with Mi was super, he responded to all my messages very quickly and he was flexible about our travel dates. I would stay here again in the future, budget accommodation in Kyoto is hard to find!

What I didn’t like

It’s not fancy, I didn’t mind but if you are looking for something classy for your stay in Kyoto, this place is not for you!

Accommodation information

Airbnb rating: 4 stars | Price paid for a night: €28/$31.


Day 23 – 28: The Japanese Alps

Though the entire trip around Japan was amazing, the Japanese Alps were definitely one of my favorite areas. I love mountains, perhaps because we don’t have any in the Netherlands (why do we always want what we don’t have;-).

I also love hiking and this is something I did a lot in the Alps. And as I mentioned earlier in this post, I love nature and nature was all around me…

Lowa Lady Light GTX hiking shoes

We started our journey through the Alps in Kanazawa to stroll around the lovely Kenruko-en garden.

Kenruko-en garden Kanazawa - Japan itinerary

The next day we got on a bus to Shirakawa-go, famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old!

Shirakawa-go (白川郷, Shirakawagō) village in Japanese Alps

On to Takayama we went and from there to Kamikochi, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I spent three days in Kamikochi, surrounded by mountains, climbing volcanoes and sleeping in our little tent at a very well-managed campsite. Suffice to say, I was completely and utterly happy.

Japan backpacking route - Kamikochi valley view from Dakesawa hike in the Japanese Alps

Last but not least we visited the beautiful castle in Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most famous and well-preserved historic castles.

Check out my travel guide for the Japanese Alps. Also read my Kamikochi camping and hiking guide.

One month Japan itinerary - Matsumoto Castle


Day 29: Goodbye Japan…

From Matsumoto we traveled back to Tokyo to catch our flight back home. I was a little sad to leave because we had such an amazing month in Japan…

From the wilds of Hokkaido with its hauntingly beautiful nature and it’s bitter cold to the tragic and terrible history of Hiroshima.

From the floating Tori gate of Miyajima to the peaks of Kamikochi, the temples in Kyoto and the mysterious forest of Koyasan, it was a wonderful trip. And that’s not even taking into account all the delicious food!

I would love to do more backpacking in Japan and hike a multi-day trail on Hokkaido, climb Mount Fuji and go diving at Okinawa… Next trip!

Hokkaido 10 day road trip itinerary


How to travel in Japan

During our Japan trip  we mostly traveled by public transport. Only on Hokkaido we traveled by car, but on Honshu we traveled by train, bus, MRT and ferry. You can read more detailed information how we traveled from A to B in Japan in my location specific posts for Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Koyasan and the Japanese Alps.

Japan has great public transport and is famous for the ‘shin-kansen’, also known as bullet train. We only traveled on the shin-kansen from Osaka to Hiroshima, for our other train trips in Japan we took local trains which are much cheaper (and slower) than the shin-kansen.

However, if you plan on covering large distances in a short period of time, it’s interesting to look into the Japan rail pass. This pass gives you unlimited trips on all JR trains, JR buses and several other lines. You can choose a pass valid for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. Know that the Japan rail pass costs a substantial amount of money and is not always the most economical option. It’s worth calculating the costs of your Japan itinerary with and without the rail pass when planning your Japan trip to see which option is best for you.

Shinkansen Japan Shin Osaka station


Japan itinerary: in conclusion

I hope this post has given you an idea what to see in Japan, you can download the map our our Japan itinerary below.

Looking for more travel planning resources? Check out the Phenomenal Globe Travel Planning Library and my Travel Resource page!

The perfect itinerary for Japan including Tokyo, Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara, Koyasan, Kyoto, the Japanese Alps (Kamikochi) and Matsumoto. Read about the best things to do in Japan and check the included map to see where to find all the highlights. #Japan #Asia #Travel #ItineraryThere is so much to see in Japan! Not just ancient and interesting cultural highlights, amazing nature as well! Check out this 1 month itinerary around Japan including Tokyo, Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara, Koyasan, Kyoto, the Japanese Alps (Kamikochi) and Matsumoto.
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16 Comments

  1. October 31, 2016 / 3:42 pm

    For some reason I always think of busy compact cities and quiet blossom gardens when I think of Japan, but it’s great to see a mountainous side to it too. A very useful guide which I’m pinning for later!

    • Lotte
      Author
      October 31, 2016 / 10:17 pm

      Both can be found in Japan (the busy cities and beautiful gardens) but amazing nature as well! I am happy could show you another side of Japan, thanks for pinning:-)

  2. November 13, 2016 / 3:43 am

    Hi Lotte,

    Hope you are well! I wrote a post how you can download your Google map itinerary to your phone => belaroundtheworld.com/how-to-export-google-map-itinerary-phone-offline/.

    x,
    Bel

    • Lotte
      Author
      November 14, 2016 / 3:34 pm

      Thanks Isabel, really helpful 🙂

  3. Ella
    March 21, 2017 / 11:54 pm

    Hi Lotte!

    Thank you for such a DETAILED and awesome post about Japan. We are also going for 1 month, and we’re excited to more or less follow your footsteps! We’re going in August though, and are expecting everywhere (including Hokkaido) to be quite hot. What month did you guys go in?

    Cheers

    • Lotte
      Author
      March 22, 2017 / 9:18 am

      Hey Ella, so nice to hear from you and I am really happy to hear you like the Japan itinerary:-). I’m sure you’ll have a great time, Japan is awesome! I think July and August on Hokkaido are very hot and humid (though Hokkaido should be a nice temperature according to the locals). We went at the end of April/start of May, freezing at night and about 12 degrees during the day. Have a wonderful trip and let me know if you have any questions! Lotte

  4. Olaf
    November 16, 2017 / 10:22 am

    My family visited Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto a summer ago. Your right, it was a trip I will not forget! We had the chance to see many of the sights you discussed. It is wise when planning an itinerary, do so by neighborhoods. This ensures you get a lot of sights in. Be prepared to be exhausted every night.

    Thankfully we will return next year for my daughter’s semester abroad. I book marked this post to help set our itinerary. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

    • Lotte
      Author
      November 19, 2017 / 8:19 am

      Hi Olaf,

      Japan is definitely a country you will never forget, so unique both in culture, food and architecture… Lucky you that you’ll be going back next year, I hope you have another unforgettable trip in Japan!

      Lotte

  5. Carolina
    January 30, 2018 / 7:34 pm

    Hi!! i’m so happy i found this blog, i’m travelling in April to Japan for 1 month with my boyfriend, and i we love hiking and nature too, and we were thinking about a roadtrip by car too in Hokkaido, so it is perfect! it was very very useful! thank you !! and if you love mountains and nature, you would love my country (Chile), specially Patagonia.

    • Lotte
      Author
      January 31, 2018 / 8:52 am

      Thank you so much Carolina! I hope you have a wonderful trip in Japan and Hokkaido:-) Let me know if you have any questions.

      I would love love love to visit Chile, it’s on my bucket list… I’ve seen so many pictures of Patagonia and it looks absolutely spectacular!
      Enjoy your trip,
      Lotte

  6. Anna
    November 1, 2018 / 10:02 pm

    Hello Lotte, how much apx. did you spent per months per person (flight tickets excluded), please?
    Thank You Anna

    • Lotte
      Author
      November 6, 2018 / 2:22 pm

      Hi Anna,

      You can find a detailed budge breakdown of our Japan trip here: https://www.phenomenalglobe.com/japan-travel-budget/. We spent €107/$122 as a couple (so for the two of us together). Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Lotte

  7. Deric Thai
    November 15, 2018 / 7:43 am

    Hey, I tried downloading your 1 month itinerary powerpoint but I dont think its fully uploaded properly? Is it possible to get a fully detailed itinerary to your trip? also I have questions about the JR Pass, once I get it, do I need to reserve seats on trains ahead of time or do I just show up and I get to get on the train?

    • Lotte
      Author
      November 16, 2018 / 12:43 pm

      Hi Deric,

      Sorry to dissapoint you but yes, this is it. This map is to give people an overview of Japan and how much of the country you can explore in a month. All the detailed information on how to get to a certain place is mentioned in the posts about those places (e.g. the Japanese Alps), let me know if you have any questions after reading those!

      About the JR Pass, you don’t have to make a reservation (we never did) as all trains have both reserved as unreserved seats. Reservations can be made at a JR ticket office (found on larger stations). Have a great trip!

      Lotte

  8. Scott Jordan
    December 22, 2018 / 11:07 pm

    Hello Lottie!

    this is an incredible post, found it very helpful!

    I am planning a rather ambitious cycle trip during august/sept summer 2019. My intention is to cycle around Tohoku over a month period or so staying at hostels and airBnB along the way. However i am finding that there doesn’t appear to be many hostels in the north of Honshu. I noticed you didn’t stay anywhere in Tohoku i was wondering was that because of a similar reason?

    How far in advance would you advise booking rooms to stay?

    Thanks for your help
    Scott

    • Lotte
      Author
      December 24, 2018 / 1:10 pm

      Hello Scott,

      Thank you for your kind comment! Your cycle trip sounds amazing:-) I actually didn’t research that area, Japan is such a large country and there is so much to see, there was only so much we could visit in one month. The Tohoku area didn’t make the cut… I checked http://www.hatinosu.net/ and there are some campsites but you are right about Airbnb and Booking showing very few options! Perhaps you can try finding a Japanese hotel booking site or you can consider carrying a small tent.

      We didn’t book that far ahead, I think only a couple of weeks and on Hokkaido only 1 or 2 days.
      I hope this helps! Have a great trip:-)

      Lotte

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