The number of days you need in Japan varies depending on how many cities you plan to visit, but generally, 10-14 days is enough to visit the most popular destinations.
Particularly if you are visiting Japan from the Americas, Europe, or Africa, the flight is long and the timezone difference is significant, so budgeting at least a week and a half to two weeks for the trip will help make the journey most worthwhile.
I lived in Japan for several years, travelled extensively throughout the country, and wrote detailed itineraries for many of its major destinations. Based on this experience, I will recommend how many days you need in Japan and in each of its major cities.
Ready to start planning a trip to Japan? Check out my detailed 14 days in Japan itinerary for inspiration.
How many days do you need in Japan?
Between 10 to 14 days is the ideal length of time to visit Japan, especially if you would like to visit multiple cities. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the major cities that most first-timers try to see during their trip and each city requires at least 2-3 full days to explore.
I have in-depth itineraries for 7 days in Japan and 14 days in Japan, but recommend a 14 day trip if you’d like to discover mid-size cities and see a bit of the countryside in Japan in addition to the major cities.
My 14 days in Japan itinerary takes you to Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Nikko.
How many days do you need in Tokyo?
Between 3 to 5 days is the perfect amount of time to explore Tokyo. The metropolis has a mix of traditional temples and ultra modern city life that take at least a few days to scratch the surface of.
You can spend decades in Tokyo and still have new places to explore. However, realistically for most people, a few days will need to suffice. In my 5 days in Tokyo itinerary, I recommend visiting Shibuya, Harajuku, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo Tower, and Sensō-ji, to name just a few places.
How many days do you need in Kyoto?
As the cultural heart and former capital of Japan, Kyoto has over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. A curated selection of Kyoto’s highlights can be explored in 3 days.
I cover the main attractions in Kyoto in greater detail in my 3 days in Kyoto itinerary, but over a 3 day visit, you can expect to see sights such as Kiyomizudera, Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and several more historic temples and shrines.
Kyoto is also one of the best places in Japan to try traditional Japanese cuisine. The city was the capital of the country from 794 to 1868, so it carries a lot of history and tradition.
How many days do you need in Nara?
Nara’s main attractions can be visited in 1 day. Within a few hours, it’s possible to see hundreds of deer and visit Tobihino Park, Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, and Yoshikien Garden.
Nara was the first capital of Japan from 710 to 794 and as a result, is arguably the best city in the country to experience ancient Japanese culture. In my 1 day itinerary for Nara, I suggest visiting Tobihino Park, Tōdai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, and Yoshikien Garden.
If you stay an extra night and have a car, drive about an hour south to visit the stunning Hasedera Temple. Hasadera Temple is my favorite temple in Japan because of how it’s nestled in the mountains and surrounded by forest.
How many days do you need in Osaka?
Allocate 2-3 full days to explore Osaka, Japan’s third largest city lovingly nicknamed the “kitchen of Japan”. Visit Dotonbori street, Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, and more.
Although Osaka is also a major Japanese city, it has a distinct atmosphere and culture compared with Tokyo. If Tokyo is the refined, organized capital of Japan, Osaka is its energetic and spunky little sister.
In my 3 days in Osaka guide, I recommend visiting Osaka Castle, Shitennoji, and Dotonbori on the first day, Katsuo-ji and Shinsekai on the second day, and Universal Studios Japan on the third day. Over the three days, you’ll experience a blend of Osaka’s traditional temples and shrines alongside the eclectic and brightly lit streets of the modern city.
Be sure to try Osaka’s famous street food dishes during your trip, including okonomiyaki and takoyaki.
How many days do you need in Kobe?
2 days in Kobe is enough time to visit the city’s main sights, including Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens, Ikuta-jinja, Kobe Chinatown, Motomachidori, and Meriken Park.
Due to its history as an international trading port, Kobe has one of the most globally influenced cultures in Japan. One of the ways this is reflected is through the incredible international cuisine in the city, most famously in Kobe’s Chinatown.
A highlight of my trip to Kobe was walking through Chinatown and sampling different dumplings and noodles from the restaurants and street vendors. It was such a fun and slightly chaotic lunch experience that felt very different from other food markets in Japan.
You can find more details in my detailed guide to Kobe, but other favorite memories included visiting the stunning Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Meriken Park at sunset.
How many days do you need in Kanazawa?
Kanazawa’s main attractions can be explored in 2 days. Popular sights include Kanazawa Castle Park, Kenroku-en, Higashi Chaya District, Ōmichō Market, and Naga-machi District.
Kanazawa is a mid-size, historical city on the coast of the Japan Sea. The city has some of the best seafood in Japan, stunning gardens, and Edo Period architecture.
I visited Kanazawa as part of a solo trip across a few cities in Japan and it was one of my favorite destinations due to its walkability, incredible sushi, and many former samurai residences and artifacts.
Discover more ideas for what to do, see, and eat in my guide to Kanazawa.