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3-Week Japan Itineraries: The 2 Smart Options

3-Week Japan Itineraries: The 2 Smart Options

By Vicky LengUpdated Aug. 23, 2023

If you're considering traveling to Japan for the first time, it's worth knowing that a 3-week trip is long enough for you to experience the highlights of Japan in more depth and not in a rushed way. This tour length is especially suited to retired couples who have lots of time to explore exotic Japan.

You could see geishas in kimonos, visit the spectacular Mt. Fuji, sample delicious Japanese food, stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), relax in an onsen (hot spring), experience Japanese rural life with attractive natural scenery, 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-Week Japan Itineraries: The Perfect 2 Options

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Option 1: The Classic Itinerary (Tokyo–Nagano–Kanazawa – Takayama and Shirakawa-go – Kyoto–Osaka)

For those who want to see major cities in Japan, but also some slower pace for outdoor activities in the countryside. This itinerary should be perfect for you.

Here is an itinerary outline for your inspiration:

Japan tour map
  • 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
Recommended Itinerary

Days 1–4: Tokyo

Tokyo Tower, Japan Tokyo Tower

As the largest city in Japan, Tokyo is its cultural, economic, and political center. Spend a morning at Tsukiji Market watching tuna auctions and tasting freshly prepared sashimi, meander around the Asakusa district, where vibes of the Edo Period (1603–1868) linger, in the afternoon. Take a day to experience traditional Japanese culture: enjoy a steaming tea at a teahouse in a Japanese garden, watch a traditional Japanese sport — sumo wrestling.

Days 5–6: Hakone

Mount Fuji in Hakone Mount Fuji, Hakone

Hakone is a wonderful place, where you can soak in hot springs in any season, while staying at a ryokan and viewing spectacular Mount Fuji .

Suggested reading: The Top 6 Day Trips from Tokyo>>>

Days 7–8: Nagano

snow monkey soak in the onsen Snow monkey soak in the hot spring

It only takes one and a half hours to get out of metropolitan Tokyo and into Nagano, a city surrounded by mountains. Watching snow monkeys soak in the hot springs is a new and unforgettable experience.

Days 9–12: Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go

Wintry lighting in Shirakawa-go Wintry lighting in Shirakawa-go

These three picturesque rural places offer views of buildings dating back to the Edo period as well as Japan's most famous farmhouses.

  • Kanazawa: appreciate local gold-leaf products, sample sake at a brewery
  • Takayama: Visit well-preserved townhouses, stay at a ryokan with an onsen, taste delicious Hida beef.
  • Shirakawa-go: View traditional and stylish gassho-zukuri farmhouses. If you go in January or February, you can see their beautiful wintry lighting.

Days 13–17: Kyoto

geishas in kimonos Geishas in kimonos, Kyoto

Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and you can experience various cultural activities there.

One day, you could see geisha in kimonos and watch them perform in Gion District, and sample more local sake at a brewery. On another day, experience a handicraft like pottery making or yuzen dying. Take a day to immerse yourself in a tea ceremony and enjoy the city highlights — for example, walking through Nishiki Food Market and sampling traditional Japanese food. Stay at a ryokan and taste a high-class Kaiseki feast.

  • Take a day trip to Nara, feed the cute deer at Nara Park.
  • Take a day trip to Arashiyama, walk through the lush bamboo groves, visit Tenryu-ji, the most impressive temple in Arashiyama, and have an enjoyable vegetarian meal at the temple.

Days 18–19: Hiroshima

Itsushima Shrine, Miyajima Itsushima Shrine, Miyajima

Visit the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, and take a short ferry ride to Miyajima to see the famous "Floating Torii Gate".

Day 20 Osaka

Dotonbori, Osaka Dotonbori, Osaka

Explore the lively downtown of Namba and visit one of Japan's most famous castles, the outstanding Osaka Castle.

Maybe you have other preferred cities or attractions… You can always contact us, and we will create your ideal itinerary based on your preferences, group size, budget, and other needs.

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Option 2: 3 Weeks in 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!

Days 1–7: Japan

traditional Japanese tea ceremony Japanese tea ceremony

Suggested Japan itinerary:

  • Tokyo (3 days)
  • Kyoto (3 days)
  • Osaka (1 day)

Explore the most popular three cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Try some Japanese-style activities, like making sushi, enjoying a traditional tea ceremony, stay at a ryokan with onsens. Also visit all the main attractions: Mt. Fuji, Meiji Shrine, Fumi Inari Shrine, Dotonbori,…

Recommended Itinerary

Days 8–14: China

Forbidden City in Beijing Forbidden City in Beijing

Suggested China itinerary:

  • Beijing (3 days)
  • Xi'an (2 days)
  • Chengdu (2 days)

China is an extremely large country. Visit the world-famous Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the Summer Palace, get on a rickshaw and journey into the Hutongs of Dongcheng District. Discover the mysterious underground army at the Terracotta Army Museum, and walk along the Ancient City Wall, or rent a bike for a wall-top exploration. See the cute pandas in Chengdu.

Day 15: Singapore

Singapore 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 Clark Quay.

Days 16–19: Bali

beach in Bali Beach in Bali

Bali is a romantic tropical beach destination, where you can have wonderful memories with your partner.

Day 20: Bali Departure

You are warmly welcomed to have us customize your trip based on your group size, interests, and other needs. Sit back and use our Create My Trip service.

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).

Suggested reading:

How Much Does 3 Weeks in Japan Cost?

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 350–400 USD per day per person. Thus, the total cost is around 7,350–8,400 USD for 3 weeks.

The same with 5-star hotels costs around 500 USD per day per person, and the total cost is around 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!

You enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to Asia Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒).

Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)

  • Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
  • Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.

Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.

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