So, you’re just getting started with planning your trip to Japan and you’re not sure where to start when it comes to places to visit in Japan?!
The so-called “Golden Route” of Japan is a good place to start!
These are among the most popular cities for tourists, but don’t let the crowds stop you from considering these places.
They are popular for a reason!
And after you’ve finished up the classic golden route, a trip to Japan’s tropical islands of Okinawa can be a perfect place to end!
Also have a look to the best guidebooks for Japan (including PDF).
And if you haven’t confirmed your trip yet, also have a look to some months you may want to avoid a trip to Japan and the best ways to find a flight to Japan. If you’re traveling alone and are looking for cheaper accommodation, there are hostels in Japan too.
Quick tips for getting around Japan
- Japan has a good public transportation system, and it’s a good way to get around
- The Google Maps app is also a reliable way to figure out how to get around locally by bus and train
- The Japan Travel Navitime app can be good if you’re trying to figure out the best way to get around with a JR pass (or to help you decide if it’s better to get around without your JR pass)
- The Google Translate app has a feature where you can take a picture of Japanese writing and it will translate it for you
- An IC card is SO worth it to get if you’ll be taking the bus or train to get around locally. No cost savings, but it’s highly convenient so you won’t have to go through the hassle of buying individual tickets! They are basically recharge cards. Examples of IC cards are icoca, suica, and passmo.
Classic Japan itinerary: Best places to visit on the golden route for your first trip to Japan
2. Mt Fuji
Climbing Mt Fuji as a 2-day hike
This is what my 2 days of climbing Mt Fuji looked like:
- Bus from Tokyo to Mt Fuji 5th station (“base” of the trail)
- Hike from 5th station to 7th station
- Overnight stay at mountain hut
- Reach the highest point in all of Japan! …and hike back down
- Bus from 5th station to Kawaguchiko
- Overnight stay at a Kawaguchiko hostel
3. Fuji Five Lakes (Kawaguchiko or Hakone)
How to spend one day in Fuji Five Lakes area
Being in the Fuji Five Lakes area is all about Mt Fuji views! This is what I did with one day in Kawaguchiko:
- Mt Tenjo hike
- Mt Kachi Kachi ropeway
- Lake boat ride
Use this Kyoto tourist map to plan out your 5 days in Kyoto!
- Day 1: Top tourist spots with one day bus pass
- Day 2: Fushimi Inari Shrine hike through 1,000 torii gates
- Day 3: Philosopher’s Path walk
- Day 4: Arashiyama and Sagano
- Day 5: Kurama Kibune Ohara with one day pass
Kyoto used to be a capital of Japan, and there are a number of UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto.
How to spend one day in Nara
This is a popular day trip from Kyoto, and these are places to visit with one day in Nara:
- Nara Park
- Kasuga Taisha Shrine
- Todaiji Temple with Great Buddha
- Nigatsudo Temple and Sangatsudo Temple
Nara also used to be a capital of Japan long ago, and there are also a number of UNESCO world heritage sites in Nara.
Day trip to Osaka and Himeji from Kyoto
Himeji is another city with a grand castle, and you can make it a castle day with both Osaka and Himeji:
- Himeji Castle
- Koko-en Garden (Himeji)
- Osaka Castle
- Dotonbori (Osaka)
Visit Hiroshima’s main attraction
You’ll want to give yourself 2 hours minimum, although you could easily spend a full day here.
Day trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima
- Walk to the torii gate at low tide
- See the torii gate at high tide
- Mt Misen hike
- Mt Misen ropeway
- Visit to Daisho-in Temple
Where are all these cities located?!
The golden route of Japan map
Click the little icon in the top left corner of the map to see the list of what you’ll find on this map.
This map may not work very well on this page on mobile, sorry!
In that case, have a look at this Japan map in Google Maps.
HAPPY GOLDEN ROUTE TRIP IN JAPAN!
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
Shoes for JapanFor summer travel, hiking sandals can be perfect for walking around cities and for many of the short day hikes! See travel sandals like these for women and these for men.
Japan is a mountain country so be sure to get in some hikes!
See trail running shoes too (for women - for men) for other solid hikes including climbing Mt Fuji.
Speaking of hiking, I love this daypack.
The super fast train in JapanIn general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure.
See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.
Natural disasters in JapanUnfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.
My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon.
See how much insurance costs for your trip.
Best travel guides for JapanIf you're at step 1 in your planning process, have a look at this Discover Japan book.
For "books" that won't take up space in your suitcase, see the best PDF guides.
See more of the best books for Japan trip planning.
Cheap(er) flights to JapanI used this website to find the cheapest flight and to book my recent flight to Japan.
Sometimes it makes sense to book direct - my preferred way!
But this booking site will search a combination of airlines, including those who aren't partner airlines, which means that they can help you find cheaper flights by booking individual flights for you as part of one flight itinerary. This can be especially helpful if you're not flying out of a major hub with direct flights to Japan.
I've missed a flight booked through them and it was taken care of with hotel and new flight.
See more tips for finding cheap flights to Japan.