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How to Plan a Trip to China and Japan

How to Plan a Trip to China and Japan

By Vicky LengUpdated Aug. 22, 2023

China and Japan appear frequently on Asia bucket lists: they are the top representatives of Eastern culture. Both countries are now open for travel. Experience both for rich and distinctive Oriental culture on a memorable (and romantic) big trip or a wonderful family time.

In China you can visit the well-preserved Forbidden City and Terracotta Warriors, climb the magnificent Great Wall, see the lovely round pandas, and ride a bamboo raft on the Li River... In Japan you can have an afternoon tea dressed in kimonos with beautiful geishas, visit the symbol of Japan — Mount Fuji, and stay at a traditional ryokan (inn) with an onsen (hot spring bath)...

In this article, we are going to look at how to plan your first tour of China and Japan.

Do I need a visa to visit China and Japan?

Our clients in the Great Wall, Beijing Our clients in the Great Wall, Beijing

Japan has restored the visa-waiver system from October 11th, 2022. If your country is in the list of Exemption of Japan Visa like Australia, Canada, USA, UK and almost all European nations, you can visit Japan without applying for a visa in advance.

China has officially announced resumption of all visas including tourist visas (L visas) from March 15th, 2023. If your 10-year China visa, obtained before COVID-19, is still within its expiration date, you can enter China now without applying for a new one.

China has also reinstated its 144-hour visa-free transit policies, which allow you to enjoy a long stopover stay (6 days) in China without a visa. This policy option currently only applies to passengers transiting through China via the following cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Dalian, and Shenyang. This policy is valid for travelers from 53 countries including the US, the UK, Singapore, and Canada.

Book a tour with us and we will provide you with the invitation letter needed to apply for a Tourist Visa.

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What to See in China and Japan?

No matter whether you're travelling for a family vacation, anniversary, or birthday, China and Japan will not disappoint you.

Top Things to Do in China

  • Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an are must-see cities for China first-timers.

1) Maximize your experience of Chinese history and culture in Beijing (3–4 days) with a close-up tour of the Forbidden City where you'd see the best-preserved wooden palaces in China, climb the Great Wall and be a 'hero', bike through the hutongs to experience traditional Beijing, and sample Beijing Roast Duck.

the Great Wall, Beijing The Great Wall,Beijing

2) Appreciate a striking blend of modernity and history in Shanghai (2–3 days): take a leisurely walk in Yu Garden — a classical garden built in 1559, ascend the Oriental Pearl Tower for a full view of Shanghai, and see charming night views on the Bund.

the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai The Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai

3) Discover ancient and imperial China in Xi'an (2–3 days): visit the amazing Terracotta Army, make your own terracotta warriors at a cave dwelling, and bike on the Ancient City Wall.

Terracotta Army, Xi'an Terracotta Army, Xi'an

4) To extend your tour, maybe supplement the culture and history with some of China's natural wonders: enjoy attractive idyllic scenery in Guilin (2–3 days), see cute pandas in Chengdu (2–3 days), and visit the Hallelujah Mountains in Zhangjiajie (2–3 days)

Li River, Guilin Li River, Guilin

Most of China's cities are connected by a high-speed train ride of 5 hours or less.

Suggested reading: 11-Day China Classic Tours

Top Things to Do in Japan

  • Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the top cities for a first-time trip to Japan

1) Experience the highly-modernized and history-filled in Tokyo (3–4 days): sample sushi at famous Tsukiji Market, view the spectacular Mount Fuji, try on samurai armor at Samurai Museum, satisfy your children's interest in anime, and take a day tour in Hakone for hot springs.

Pokemon Center in Tokyo, Japan Pokemon Center in Tokyo

2) Soak in the strongly-traditional atmosphere of Kyoto (3–4 days): have an afternoon tea with beautiful geishas in kimonos, participate in a classical tea ceremony, sleep on a tatami at a traditional ryokan (inn), and have a close encounter with friendly deer in Nara National Park.

geishas in kimonos, Kyoto Geishas in kimonos, Kyoto

3) In the flourishing trade city of Osaka (1–2 days), you can visit outstanding Osaka Castle, sample delicious street food in Dotonbori, and have fun in Universal Studios.

night view of Dotonbori, Osaka Night view of Dotonbori, Osaka

Our travel consultants provide 1-to-1 service. Contact us and we'll design a fulfilling, personalized trip based on the length of your holiday, preferences, and interests.

Recommended Itinerary

How Many Days Are Needed?

pandas in Chengdu Cute pandas in Chengdu

An awesome trip full of the main highlights of both China and Japan requires at least 2–3 weeks: 8–11 days in China and 7–10 days in Japan.

China is a big country with a rich culture and attractions that deserve more time to explore. Japan is a medium-sized country that you can visit the essence of at a more relaxed pace. Below are suggested itineraries for your inspiration.

1) An itinerary full of the essence of both countries:

  • Days 1–2: Shanghai, China (the Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, Yu Garden)
  • Days 3–4: Xi'an (the Terracotta Warriors, biking on the Ancient City Wall)
  • Days 5–8: Beijing (the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace, roast duck)
  • Days 9–12: Fly to Tokyo, Japan (samurai, anime, Tsukiji Market, Mount Fuji...)
  • Days 13–15: Kyoto (geisha, kimonos, ryokan, tea ceremony, feed deer in Nara)
  • Day 16: Osaka and departure

If you have more holiday, you can add two or three days in Guilin, Chengdu, and/or Zhangjiajie.

Click here to plan your tailor-made tour now. Your 1:1 travel consultant will reply within 1 working day.

2) A visa-free itinerary (using the 144-hour visa-free policy in China):

  • Days 1–2: Osaka, Japan
  • Days 3–4: Hiroshima and Miyajima (Peace Memorial Park and Itsukushima Shrine)
  • Days 5–7: Kyoto sightseeing
  • Days 8–11: Explore Tokyo
  • Days 12–14: Fly to Beijing, China
  • Day 15: Departure from Beijing

Just let us know your interests and requirements, and we can help make it happen.

Recommended Itinerary

How Much Do China and Japan Cost?

Ryokan is traditional Japanese accommodation Ryokan is traditional Japanese accommodation

A two-week trip to China and Japan costs around US$7,500–9,000.

  • Private tour costs in China are about US$200–250 per day per person, and the costs in Japan are US$350–400 per day per person, including 4-star hotels, tickets for attractions, private cars and private guides.
  • Prices can double in peak season, especially airfares and hotels. At peak times, we recommend you plan ahead and book flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance.
  • Ryokans are a worth a night's stay to try out traditional Japanese accommodation. They cost around US$300–450 per night.
  • Direct flights from Beijing or Shanghai to Tokyo are about 3½ hours and cost US$400–1,000.

Suggested reading: How Much Is a Trip to Japan>>>

Get your family to the heart of Japan's beauty:

Best Times to Travel to China and Japan

cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan Cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan

China (central and northern) and Japan have similar climates, with distinct seasons.

  • The tourism-friendly weather and the peak season in both countries is in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October), when there is less rain, more clear days, and comfortable temperatures. In both countries, spring is the time to appreciate flowers, like cherry blossom, pear flowers, and peach blossoms. Meanwhile, autumn is the time to enjoy red maples and golden ginkgoes. >>> How to Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip
  • June to August is hot and rainy in China and Japan, but it won't affect your journey. China and Japan have plenty of air-conditioned facilities, and the rain usually won't continue for too long. Summer is the festival season in Japan and there are amazing firework-shows. We recommend coming to China in June, because it is cooler and less crowded than in July and August. Our private tours come with air-conditioned cars and private guides who help to book your tickets in advance and flexibly include meaningful indoor activities to dodge the heat and downpours.
  • November to March is winter in much of Japan and China, when it gets cold and dry, and some northern Chinese and Japanese cities will see snow. It's the perfect time to go skiing and see snowy scenery. Christmas and New Year is the busiest time in both countries: hotels and flights are easily booked up. Thus, we suggest you make reservation at least 6 months in advance. >>> How to Plan a Family Ski Holiday

The weather is good/okay in compromise months November and March, generally speaking, and prices are relatively cheap.

Let us help you plan your trip! Contact us and we will customize a trip based on your available time, budget, interests, and other requirements.

Suggested reading: Best (& Worst) Times to Visit Japan>>>

Check out the summer bestseller for Japan

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.
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