How to Plan an Incredible Family Trip to Japan in 2023/2024. Learn more.
How to Plan Your Trip to Japan 2023/2024

How to Plan Your Trip to Japan 2023/2024

By Ruby ZhaoUpdated Sep. 5, 2023

Japan, being a bucketlist trip destination for many travelers, especially attracts families with teenagers and retired couple. Besides nature, history, and modernity, Japan's unique and lively culture of sumo, samurai, anime, and sushi continues to draw curious visitors from all over the world.

In this article, we'll explain everything you need to know for planning a trip to Japan, including how to budget, when you should visit, top places to go, how to get around, and more.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit Japan?

Nationals of many countries are exempt from needing a visa to enter Japan, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Most travelers can stay in Japan without a visa for 90 days.

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Best Time to Visit Japan

cherry blossoms in Tokyo Cherry blossoms in spring in Tokyo

Japan can be visited year-round, though there are benefits and drawbacks of every season.

  • For the most comfortable weather, March to May are the best months to travel. Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Japan because of the beautiful, comfortable weather and the arrival of the cherry blossoms.
  • For the lowest prices and less crowds, visit Japan from June to August. Many people choose not to visit Japan during these months due to the high heat (average 32℃ (90℉) and humidity, which means that standard prices for accommodation and flights are often lower. Summer is the festival season in Japan, offering you an opportunity to experience multiple holidays and firework-shows in another country. Get more ideas about planning a summer trip to Japan.
  • For cool and dry weather and less crowds, September to November is a wise travel season. Visit Japan during this period to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves, turning brilliant orange and red, in the countryside near Kyoto and Tokyo. Autumn is also the best time to visit some of Japan's best national parks, such as Mount Fuji and the Five Lakes.
  • For snow scenery and skiing, come to Japan from December to February. Winter in Japan is the best time to stay in a ryokan, with a natural hot spring. Nothing beats bathing in the hot pools surrounded by snow and quiet forests. Christmas/New Year holiday is one of the busiest times. Hotels and flights are easily booked up. Be sure to plan ahead and make reservations in advance. Let us know your interests and requirements, and we'll take care of everything.

For more weather info, you could read Best (& Worst) Times to Visit Japan>>>

Cherry Blossom Tour to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka at US$3,699 Per Person

How Much Does a Japanese Vacation Cost?

How Much Does a Trip to Japan Cost

Japan keeps up with Europe both in livelihood and service standards, which means travel in Japan costs more than in China or in southeast Asia countries. US$400 (and above) per person per day is the typical cost for a private tour with 4 star hotels based on a group of 2-4 people. This includes a private guide, private car, full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, and a local 4-star hotel. Extra USD $100 or more per day is required if looking to stay in a local 5-star hotel.

March to May are the busiest travel months in Japan, which means higher cost for travel and more crowds than the rest of the whole year. Booking flights and hotels in advance are necessary. To reserve a professional tour guide for your dream trip in Japan, you're suggested booking a Japan tour at least 6 months ahead of your departure date.

Some Japan tour packages come with public transport (mainly subway) to save some cost. This is an option for travelers willing to walk 20,000+ steps per day. For a family group or a retired couple, a private tour with a private vehicle is highly recommended for a more hassle-free experience to maximize the enjoyment.

Contact us to create a memorable Japan tour with good value of money. With Asia Highlights, you enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to Asia Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒).

Check more details about How Much Is a Trip to Japan>>>

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7 Top Places to Visit in Japan

With our experience traveling in Japan, we know it can be difficult to narrow down where you want to visit, in a place that has so many incredible destinations. Below are some of our favorite destinations according to our experience of traveling and planning holidays in Japan.

1) Tokyo: Modernity & Japanese Anime

Pokemon Center in Tokyo Pokemon Center in Tokyo

As the booming and modern capital city, Tokyo has a lot to offer by way of foods, shopping malls, temples, museums, and skybars, as well as the iconic Mount Fuji.

Beyond the representative attractions, we can arrange a variety hand-picked activities for you to enrich your experiences. For example, you can make sushi at a local home and enjoy it as your lunch and learn about the legendary samurai warriors by wearing a samurai costume.

Many people come to Japan because their children, especially teenagers, love it. Tokyo is a great place to meet your children's interests in anime with a variety of theme parks such as J World, the Pokemon Center, and Tokyo Disneyland, sure to captivate their attention.

2) Kyoto: Ancient Temples & Geisha

geishas in Kyoto Geishas in Kyoto

Kyoto has a lot of prominent ancient and historical sites to explore. This city has some special and authentic experiences you should not miss.

Kyoto is home to the striking Fushimi Inari Shrine, which featured in the film Memoirs of a Geisha and is famous for its countless vermilion torii gates. Stay at a cozy ryokan with old-style tatami bedrooms to experience tradition Japanese accommodation.

Walking around the Gion District with kimonos, along lantern-lined cobblestone streets, will make you feel like you are on a trip back in time.

In Kyoto, you are never too far from the natural side of Japan. Meander through the lush bamboo groves in Arashiyama or admire cherry blossoms in lots of famous places.

3) Hakone: Ryokans & Hot Springs

Accommodation in Japan - Ryokan Traditional Japanese guest room of ryokan

Known all over the country for its picturesque beauty and natural hot springs, Hakone is one of the most popular destinations in Japan.

The Hakone region has more than a dozen springs that provide natural hot water. These springs are surrounded by ryokans where you can stay, eat delicious kaiseki meals, and bathe in the healing waters.

When not luxuriating in the relaxing hot springs, you can explore this sleepy undeveloped town located on the shores of Lake Ashinoko, with Mount Fuji in the background.

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4) Nara: Deer Park

feed deer in Nara Feed deer in Nara

Nara is an ancient Japanese city less than an hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Most travelers come to Nara because of the Nara Park (often referred to by locals as Deer Park). It is home to over a thousand free-roaming deer which can be seen throughout the park and even fed in some areas.

5) Takayama and Shirakawa-go: Rural Countryside

Takayama View of Takayama's Countryside

Takayama is a city in the mountainous Hida region of the country, a great place for escaping from the country's larger cities and relaxing for a few days in the rural countryside. You can enjoy exploring the well-preserved townhouses, savoring delicious Hida beef, and visiting local sake brewery for a mellow sake.

After exploring Takayama, many visitors like to go to Shirakawa-go to see its near-perfectly preserved Old Town. It is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. In the winter months from January to February, the farmhouses are illuminated at night, creating a charming and attractive wintry lighting scene that draws in lots of travelers.

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6) Kanazawa: Ancient City During the Edo Period

Kanazawa Castle Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa is an ancient Japanese city that during the Edo period used to be home to one of the most powerful clans in the country. Today, Kanazawa is a great place to visit for anyone interested in the ancient culture of the country.

Because Kanazawa wasn't destroyed by air raids during WWII, it's one of the few areas left with so many surviving ancient districts.

Kanazawa is also a good place for a close look into the life of samurais and geishas.

7) Sapporo: Snow Scenery and Winter Sports

Sapporo Beer Museum Sapporo Beer Museum

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido province and is Japan's fifth largest city, as well as one of its youngest. It is well known for its wonderful weather and snowfall in winter, making it the perfect place for winter sports. In fact, the 1972 Winter Olympics were hosted here.

Besides the incredible winter scenery and numerous sporting resorts, one thing that draws people to Sapporo is the annual Snow Festival. This is normally a week-long event in February. It attracts more than two million visitors every year and is famous around the world for its incredible ice sculptures.

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How Many Days to Stay in Japan?

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

We suggest you take at least a week for your first trip to see a spectrum of the highlights in the top two cities.

  • 3 days in Tokyo
  • 3 days in Kyoto
  • 1 day in Osaka

To discover more of Japan and popular destinations, like picturesque Hakone and Takayama, you will need two or three more days.

Suggested itinerary ideas for you:

Here are three well-organized Japan itineraries ideal for holidays of three popular lengths (9, 14, and 17 days), each offering plenty of fun hands-on activities. We could customize the itinerary based on your requests, and we could also reserve some free days for you to rest and relax or do some exploring on your own.

1) 9-Day Classic Route: Major Highlights of Japan and a Ryokan Experience

Tokyo Tower Tokyo Tower
  • Tokyo - Hakone - Kyoto - Osaka

This itinerary covers the main highlights of Japan: experience its old-vibe in Asakusa, visit the samurai museum in Tokyo, try on kimonos for a memorable photo and participate in a classical tea ceremony in Kyoto, relax in a ryokan with onsen in Hakone, and sample street food in Osaka.

Here is a hand-picked itinerary of classics for you to consider:

  • Days 1–3: Tokyo (sushi-making, discover samurai, Meiji Shrine, anime, and Disneyland)
  • Days 4–5: Hakone (stay at a ryokan with an onsen)
  • Days 6–8: Kyoto (geishas, Fushimi Inari Shrine, sample sake and Kaiseki, and feed deer in Nara)
  • Day 9: Osaka (Dotonbori district and Osaka Castle)
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2) 14-Day Private Family Route: Learning Through Fun

Try on kimonos with your family Try on kimonos with your family
  • Tokyo – Takayama – Hiroshima – Kyoto

With this itinerary, you could visit the major attractions of Japan's cities and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Experience anime elements and have a full view of the city at Tokyo Tower in Tokyo, enter a traditional folk village in Takayama, cherish peace at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, stay at a cozy ryokan, stroll through the bamboo groves in Kyoto, and have fun at Universal Studios in Osaka.

Here is the summary itinerary for you:

  • Days 1–3: Tokyo (Meiji Shrine, Tsukiji Market, Pokemon Center, and Akihabara)
  • Days 4–5: Takayama (Hida Folk Village, sample sake and Hida beef)
  • Days 6–7: Hiroshima and Miyajima (Peace Memorial Park and the ‘Floating Torii Gate')
  • Days 8–11: Kyoto (geisha, ryokan, Nijo Castle, and feed deer in Nara)
  • Days 12–14: Osaka (Cup Noodle Museum, Super Nintendo World, and Universal Studios)
Get your family to the heart of Japan's beauty:

3) 17-Day Japan Itinerary: Hands-on Experiences and Outdoor Activities

biking ride along Lake Kawaguchiko Biking ride along Lake Kawaguchiko
  • Tokyo – Kawaguchiko – Karuizawa – Nagoya – Kyoto – Osaka

To have an unforgettable Japan journey, you and your family or partner can take a wonderful trip with the following experiences: immerse yourself in a samurai experience in Tokyo, take a light hike close to nature in Karuizawa, and have fun in lovely Ghibli Park or full-of-technology Nagoya City Science Museum in Nagoya, have a geisha dinner andspend a cozy night at a ryokan in Kyoto, and visit outstanding Osaka Castle and have fun in Universal Studios in Osaka.

Here is the itinerary for your inspiration:

  • Days 1–4: Tokyo (Meiji Shrine, sushi-making, ninja experience, samurai and Tokyo Tower)
  • Days 5–6: Lake Kawaguchi ( Mount Fuji and biking)
  • Days 7–8 Karuizawa (national park and light hiking)
  • Days 9–11: Nagoya (Ghibli Park and Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology)
  • Days 12–14: Kyoto (geisha, ryokan, Kinkakuji Temple, Arashiyama, and feed deer in Nara)
  • Days 15–17: Osaka (Cup Noodle Museum, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios and Super Nintendo World theme park)
Check out the summer bestseller for Japan

Accommodation in Japan - Ryokan

Accommodation in Japan - Ryokan Traditional Japanese guest room of ryokan
Accommodation in Japan - Ryokan Stay in Ryokan in Japan

While there is plenty of accommodation available in Japan, with different standards, our favorite is the ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that will make you feel simultaneously comfortable and relaxed. Its floors are usually made of rice- or bamboo-straw. You sleep on traditional mattresses on the floor, and eat fresh kaiseki-style dinners.

Ryokans are the essence of comfort. Members of staff are often dressed in kimonos, they provide excellent service, the food is top-tier, and many ryokans are located on natural hot springs that have waters with healing properties.

The ryokans with hot springs in Hakone are particularly famous, with their Japanese western-style rooms and atmosphere of total peace and harmony.

Cannot decide which ryokan to choose? Submit an inquiry for a best suitable choice for your family. You could also get more ideas about How to Plan a First-Time Family Trip to Japan>>>

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How to Get to and Around Japan?

Shinkansen Shinkansen

Getting to Japan

Most flights from international starting points such as Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, land at Narita International Airport in Tokyo or Kansai International Airport in Osaka. These airports are conveniently close to their corresponding cities and are international hubs for some of Japan's leading airlines.

For the best prices, we advise buying tickets at least 6 weeks in advance. You can contact us for the best suitable travel route recommendation.

Getting Around Japan

The famous Japanese bullet train, or Shinkansen, provides an easy and quick way to travel across the whole country, without the risk of delays or the hassle of getting to an airport. Most cities are conveniently connected by Shinkansen bullet trains, such as the two and a half-hour journey from Tokyo to Kyoto. Each shinkansen line has different types of train, which customers can choose from.

The one downside of traveling by train is that there is often little space for luggage larger than a carry-on suitcase. Many hotels do, however, provide the service of sending your luggage on to your next hotel.

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  • Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
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  • Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.

Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

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