When Russell and I were researching and planning our month long trip to Japan, we knew we wanted to fit in as much as we could in those four weeks. Japan may be a fairly small island country, but there is a ton to do and see. It would take an entire lifetime to explore Tokyo alone. We wanted to hit as many cities as we could, cross off as much as possible, and have the time of our lives while we were at it.
I’m happy to report that all three of those goals were achieved! We managed to travel to 6 cities over a four week period. Those cities were: Yokohama, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Nagano and Tokyo. We didn’t want spend the whole four weeks only exploring the main populous cities. So we decided to break up the major “tourist” places, with some lesser known and more scenic areas around Japan.
So here is our one month Japan itinerary – the Ultimate Guide for a 4 week visit!
Day 1 – 3: Yokohama
We arrived at Haneda Airport at around 6:30am. We were running on pretty much zero sleep (neither Russell or myself can sleep on planes), as we had two 6 hour flights plus a 7 hour layover at Singapore Airport before arriving in Japan! Before we left Australia, we researched the bus we needed to catch, so it was simply a matter of heading in the right direction to find the ticket counter!
Finding our way from YCAT to our hotel in Yokohama was quite overwhelming. Given the fact that we arrived during the morning peak hour rush, it was a pretty intense experience. We struggled to manoeuvre our way through the hundreds of business men and women rushing in every direction, trying not to miss their train. Eventually though, we found the platform we needed and within minutes were on our way to our hotel.
Our first two nights in Japan were spent at the Shin Yokohama Kokusai Hotel. This hotel is fairly close to the Shin-Yokohama Station, however it took us a while to find our bearings, and we definitely took a few wrong turns in the process. (I’m directionally challenged at the best of times. So trying to figure out which way to walk was pretty entertaining!)
Japan has a very strict check-in time policy of 3pm in most hotels around the country, and we arrived at around 10am. Since we had been travelling for such a long time, we didn’t want to wait 5 hours to be able to check in, so we paid the extra money to be let into our room early.
The next day (our first and only full day in Yokohama), we headed to the Cup Noodle Museum. This is a super fun, creative, unique and cheap activity for all ages! Click here to read about our visit to the Cup Noodle Museum. If you love cup noodles, you’ll love this place!
After exploring the area, we did a bit of shopping in a few of the many malls in Yokohama. Queen’s Square and Landmark Plaza are two of the more generic shopping centres that you’ll find. However if you’re after a more unique experience, hit up World Porters. This mall attracts a younger crowd, so you’ll be able to find some bargains if you shop around!
That night, we walked about 5 minutes from our hotel to the Yokohama Ramen Museum. This is a super cool museum filled with everything you didn’t think you needed to know about Ramen. There are also two downstairs floors, designed to replicate streets and houses from an old town in Tokyo. You’ll find a dozen or so different stores selling ramen, available by using the vending machines outside of each individual store. You can also purchase ‘mini ramen’ bowls, if you want to sample more than one!
The atmosphere and design of the Ramen Museum is definitely unique. The ramen is super tasty, but even the ‘small’ bowls are fairly large! It costs 310 yen for admission into the museum and downstairs restaurants, plus whatever you decide to spend on ramen! There’s also a bar with cheap alcohol. I don’t know about you, but that sold me for sure.
Day 3 – 10: Osaka
In my opinion, Osaka is definitely a city that you should add to your itinerary no matter how long you’re visiting Japan. There’s so much to see and do. We stayed in Osaka for 7 days, and even that wasn’t enough time to see everything we had hoped to see.
We did see quite a lot, though. I’ve already published our Osaka itinerary in a seperate post, simply because I had so much to talk about! If you’re a fan of a cats, Harry Potter, bamboo forests, famous shrines, ferris wheels and a ton of other cool stuff, you can read that post here.
Note: Osaka is a great base location to explore nearby cities and prefectures. As you can read about here, Japan’s train system is world class. You can travel to almost anywhere around the country, super quickly and easily. I suggest making the time to visit Kyoto and Nara. We didn’t personally have enough time to make it to Nara, but we did take a couple of day trips to Kyoto and absolutely loved it. You can read all about Kyoto in my Osaka post as well!
Day 10 – 12: Hiroshima
The first thing I’ll say about Hiroshima, is that I wish we stayed longer. After spending such a long time amongst the craziness of Osaka, Hiroshima was a very welcome change of pace. The people are super friendly and there’s a beautifully peaceful vibe about the city.
It took roughly two hours to get from Osaka to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen Bullet Train. Compared to the rest of our Bullet Train journeys, this was fairly quick. When we arrived at Hiroshima Station, we then had to catch a tram to our hotel (Comfort Hotel Hiroshima). The tram ride costs a flat rate of 160 yen for adults, which you drop into a clear container before departing the tram. Super easy!
The day we arrived in Hiroshima, we just walked around and explored a little. Our hotel was very centrally located, within walking distance to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Hondori Shopping Arcade – one of the main shopping streets within the city. There’s a ton of places to eat, an endless amount of pharmacies and lots of places to shop up a storm.
Top Tip: If you’re on a budget and on the lookout for some cheap food, do yourself a favour and eat at Saizeriya on Hondori Shopping Arcade. Their menu is loaded with delicious, cheap meals to cater to anyone’s tastes (trust me, I’m a fairly picky eater). Some of their menu items are:
- Focaccia – 110 yen
- Garlic bread – 170 yen
- Soup – 150 yen
- Various pasta – 399 – 499 yen
- Various pizzas – 399 – 499 yen
- Chicken and steak meals – up to 900 yen
- Desserts – under 400 yen
Other than food, you can also get unlimited soft drinks, juice and iced teas from the drink bar for 190 yen. Water is free. And the best part of all, you can get half a bottle of wine for 200 yen. Yes, I had some with lunch. Yes, it’s cheap house wine but still, 200 yen? Can’t complain about that. It was drinkable, and that’s all that matters!
Our first and only full day in Hiroshima was spent at the Peace Memorial and A-Bomb Dome. It’s pretty difficult to explain the feeling you get while visiting this area of Hiroshima. The park is extremely clean, quiet and relaxing. I highly recommend paying the 200 yen to visit the museum, even if you don’t know anything about the Atomic Bomb that was dropped on the city. I didn’t know a great deal about it, but it’s a surreal experience learning about the devastating events that happened. It will give you a new perspective on why the people of Japan are such friendly, accepting and wonderful people.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum Hours + Pricing
Cost: 200 yen
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 6pm
Closed: The main Museum building will be closed until July 2018.
Hiroshima isn’t a city with a ton of tourist attractions or crazy things to see and do. But if you’re looking for a relaxing and peaceful city to visit to break up the hustle and bustle of big city Japan, I definitely recommend adding Hiroshima to your itinerary. It’s a beautiful city, with lovely people and an inspirational history.
Check back for an entire post all about the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum!
Days 12 – 14: Nagoya
If there’s one thing I regret from our trip to Japan, it’s cutting our time in Hiroshima short to visit Nagoya. Each to their own, but I wasn’t a fan of Nagoya. It’s Japan’s fourth most populated city, but compared to Yokohama, Osaka and Hiroshima, it was pretty dirty and uninspiring. There isn’t a whole lot to see and do, besides the Nagoya City Science Museum and Planetarium and Toyota Museum which were both closed the day we visited.
Top tip: Make sure to check opening hours for main attractions before planning out your day. If you’re a better planner than we were, and successfully manage to experience the Planetarium and Toyota Museum, I’m sure your visit will be much more enjoyable!
If we could do our trip over again, we would have stayed in Hiroshima for a few extra days, and boycotted Nagoya all together. That being said, there are a few things to fill out your days if you ever visit Nagoya. Oasis 21 is a modern shopping complex, with a ton of cool shops and restaurants, and it’s also conveniently a bus terminal! There’s almost always some sort of event held underneath the pretty epic glass roof that’s filled with water. There are also a few larger shopping malls in the area, dozens of restaurants and in true Japanese fashion, an endless amount of convenience stores.
Days 14 – 17: Nagano
Nagano was on our itinerary for one reason: snow! We spent quite a long time during the planning stage of our Japan trip, trying to find an easily accessible way of seeing snow. Eventually, we decided on Nagano.
We arrived in Nagano early afternoon on March 14th, via the Bullet Train from Nagoya. Nagano Station is fairly small – as is the city itself – so finding our hotel wasn’t difficult. It took around 20 minutes to walk from the station to our hotel (Hotel Kokusai 21). We were pretty hungry the day we arrived, as we didn’t have enough time that morning to eat breakfast before leaving Nagoya. So the fact that there was a Japanese style Denny’s a few minutes from our hotel was pretty exciting and convenient! After checking into our hotel, we ate lunch at Denny’s then walked to Family Mart to continue our make-the-most-of-cheap-alcohol mission. I bought my 50th bottle of white wine and Russell bought his 12th bottle of whisky (okay, I’m being dramatic. We don’t drink THAT much). We also stocked up on cheap snacks.
After a brief rest in the hotel room, we headed out to explore the area. There’s a cool shopping area roughly 20 minutes from our hotel, which had a ton of cute boutiques and what felt like never-ending shopping streets.
Our first full day in Nagano was the day I finally crossed ‘see snow’ off my bucket list. Excitement was bubbling over the edge as I added layer after layer of warm clothing and made sure my camera battery was fully charged. It was the moment I had been dreaming about for most of my life. We took a bus from Nagano Station to Hakuba, which you can read about here. We had such an amazing time, that I just had to write a seperate post all about our Japan snow experience.
Our last full day in Nagano was the laziest day we had during our whole Japan adventure. By this stage, we were beginning to run low on money and energy, so we took a much needed ‘rest day’. We walked to Family Mart in the morning, bought more alcohol and snacks, and laid in bed watching Netflix all day. This was also the day I wrote and published my Harry Potter World post! #yayproductivity
Nagano is a great city whether you visit during the warmer or colder months. Like Hiroshima, it’s a nice place to rest and recharge, especially if you’re headed to another big city. Or, like us, the mother of all big cities: TOKYO!
Days 17 – 29: Tokyo
Ahh, Tokyo. Japan’s capital, and the world’s most populated city. With a population of around 13 million people, 47 different prefectures and endless things to do, you’ll need a lifetime to explore the entire city. We spent 12 days in Shinjuku, which is one of Tokyo’s most popular cities. Shinjuku is a great centrally located city to base your trip around, as it’s close to a lot of the main attractions and there are conveniently located train and subway stations.
I decided to write a whole seperate post about Japan’s capital city, simply because otherwise, this article would be far too long. If you’re interested in reading our 12 day itinerary filled with suggestions on things to see, places to visit, food to eat and must-see-and-do attractions, click here!
So there you have it, our one month Japan itinerary!. Like I’ve mentioned, there is a LOT to see in Japan. One month is definitely not long enough to see everything. But it’s still a good amount of time to cross a lot off your Japan bucket list! Use this guide as a starting point to plan an amazing and memorable visit to the wonderful Japan!
Have you been to Japan before? What was your favourite city? Tell me in the comments!