This post was updated in June 2019.
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.
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And while we also visited the most popular places in Japan like Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara, we made a point of visiting more off the beaten path Japan destinations as well.
This post give you an overview of the itinerary of our 1-month trip around Honshu and Hokkaido, including all our stops and accommodation.
Our Japan itinerary
In this Japan guide you can find:
- What is the best time to visit Japan
- 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
When is the best time to visit Japan
While Japan is a year-round destination, the best (and most popular times) to visit are Spring (March, April and May) and Autumn (September, October and November).
Sakura (cherry blossom season) is very important in Japan and there is even a daily Cherry Blossom report with information where the flowers are at their most beautiful.
The changing color of the leaves in Autumn is almost equally popular, there is a daily report for this as well.
Besides these natural phenomena the temperatures in Japan are most comfortable in Spring and Autumn when it’s neither too hot or too cold. Especially in the Japanese Alps and on Hokkaido, winter can be extreme. Summer is hot and humid and definitely not the most comfortable time to visit Tokyo or Kyoto.
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)
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.
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!
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.
|Lake Shikotsu||Campsite Morappu||€12,80/$14||Website|
|Lake Toya||Nakatoya Camping Ground||€7,20/$8||Website|
|Fukushima||Slept in our car (at park place)||free|
|Toyako Onsen||Slept in our car (at park place)||free|
|Furano||Log Yukari Guesthouse||€24/$26||Agoda||Booking|
|Sōunkyō||Slept in our car (at park place)||free|
|Akanko Onsen||Slept in our car (at park place)||free|
|Sapporo||Hotel Areaone Chitose||€48/$53||Agoda||Booking|
|Hiroshima||Hiroshima Pacific Hotel||€40/$45||Agoda||Booking|
|Kanazawa||APA Hotel Katamachi||€40/$45||Agoda||Booking|
|Takayama||Hida Guesthouse Gekka||€50/$55||Agoda||Booking|
|Narita airport||Narita Gateway Hotel||€63/$69||Agoda||Booking|
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 €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!
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
Of course no visit to Japan is complete without exploring Tokyo. This magnificent city of flashing neon, hidden alleys, ancient temples, the famous Tokyo Sky Tree and the most Michelin stars of any city in the world offers days (or should I say months) of activities.
Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world and while Tokyo can be extremely busy at places like Tokyo Station and Shibuya Crossing, there are also much more quiet areas, like lovely Ueno Park.
While we managed to see quite a lot in our three days in Tokyo, there is so much more to see and do in this unique capital mixing ultramodern and century old traditions!
Check out my Tokyo itinerary.
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.
Check the room on 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…
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…
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.
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.
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 itinerary.
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.
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 Island guide.
Where to stay on Miyajima ⇒ Campground Tsutsumigaura (2 nights)
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;-).
Check the website for more information | 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, 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.
Check out this great guide to Nara for more details!
Where to stay in Nara ⇒ Baek’s place (1 night)
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!
Check the room on Airbnb | Rrating: 4,5 stars | Price paid for a night: €38/$42.
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…
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)
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!
Check the Koyasan Guesthouse website to book | 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!
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 itinerary.
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!
Check the room on 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…
We started our journey through the Alps in Kanazawa to stroll around the lovely Kenruko-en garden.
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!
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.
Last but not least we visited the beautiful castle in Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most famous and well-preserved historic castles.
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!
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.
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.