A Perfect 4 Weeks Journey through Japan: The Ultimate Travel Guide

japan travel guide 4 weeks

Exploring Japan is like stepping into a whole new world, filled with endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene temples of Kyoto and the charming towns nestled in the Japanese Alps, this unique island nation has so much to offer. If you truly want to immerse yourself in the wonders of Japan, embarking on a one-month journey is the way to go.

This 4-week Japan itinerary is carefully crafted to include both the must-see attractions and the hidden gems that will surprise and delight you. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned explorer, this practical travel guide will take you through the best of Japan, day by day, with insider tips to make the most of your adventures.

Overview of this 4 Week Japan Itinerary

Let’s start with a quick breakdown of the one-month itinerary:

Week 1:

  • Days 1-5: Tokyo
  • Days 5-8: Fuji Five Lakes

Week 2:

  • Days 8-11: Osaka
  • Days 11-12: Koyasan
  • Days 12-14: Osaka (day trips to Nara, Himeji, and Kobe)

Week 3:

  • Days 14-16: Hiroshima & Miyajima
  • Days 16-21: Kyoto

Week 4:

  • Days 21-27: Japanese Alps (Kanazawa, Takayama, and Matsumoto)
  • Days 27-28: Tokyo (one last night)

Best Time to Visit

Japan can be visited all year round, but if you want to make the most of this itinerary, consider planning your trip in either spring or autumn. Spring, particularly late March to early April, is the cherry blossom season, when Tokyo comes alive with beautiful pink flowers. Autumn, from September to October, offers stunning foliage and a pleasant climate. These times, however, can be popular with tourists, so consider visiting in the shoulder months of February/March or September/October for a more off-peak experience.

Avoid visiting Japan in the summer months of June to August, as it can be hot and humid, especially in built-up cities like Osaka and Tokyo.

How to Get Around on this Japan 1 Month Itinerary

To explore the wonders of Japan, you’ll rely on the country’s efficient and straightforward public transportation system. Throughout this one-month itinerary, you’ll use a combination of local subways and trains, the high-speed Shinkansen “bullet train,” and buses. One of my top travel tips for Japan is to get a Suica card, which allows you to easily navigate the subway systems in Tokyo and Osaka. You can even add your Suica card to your smartphone for convenience. Consider getting a 1/2/3-day unlimited subway pass in Tokyo for great value.

Although hiring a car is not necessary or recommended in most towns, it can be worth it if you plan to explore the Fuji Five Lakes area beyond Lake Kawaguchiko. Hiring a car allows you to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden gems.

1 Month in Japan Cost

Now, let’s talk about the cost of spending a month in Japan. Every traveler has different preferences and budget constraints, but I’ve crunched the numbers to give you a general idea. Keep in mind that these costs are based on two people.

For a one-month trip, our total expenses in Japan amounted to AUD $9,898. This translates to approximately $367 per day for two people, or $183 per person per day. At the time of writing, this is roughly USD $120 or €110 per person per day.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs:

  • Accommodation: 40% of the daily cost
  • Food and dining: Reasonably priced, especially when compared to Australia
  • Activities: A mix of free and paid experiences, with dining out being a significant activity
  • Make sure to consider the time of year when planning your budget, as prices may vary.

Week 1: Tokyo

Welcome to Tokyo, the vibrant and bustling capital city of Japan! Over the next five days, you’ll immerse yourself in the neon-lit streets, hidden alleyways, and fascinating attractions that make Tokyo so unique.

Things to Do & See

In Tokyo, there’s an endless array of things to do and see. Here are some of my top recommendations:

  • Shinjuku: Explore the neon-lit streets and play video games at a gaming arcade.
  • Harajuku: Wander through the quirky streets and visit the Meiji Jingu shrine.
  • Shibuya: Witness the famous Shibuya crossing and enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo from Shibuya Sky.
  • Shimokitazawa: Go thrift shopping and discover eclectic shops and local cafes.
  • Tsukiji Fish Market: Sample local food and explore the bustling market. Consider joining a guided foodie walking tour for an immersive experience.
  • TeamLab Planets: Visit the immersive museum for a unique art experience. Remember to purchase tickets in advance.
  • Gotokuji Temple: Marvel at the hundreds of lucky cats that adorn this temple.
  • Akihabara: Explore the pulsing electric town known for its anime and gaming culture.
  • Temples and Shrines: Visit Senso-ji and Hie Shrine for a glimpse into Tokyo’s spiritual side.
  • Don Quijote: Shop for quirky and affordable items at this popular discount store.
  • Disneyland or DisneySea: Spend a fun-filled day at one of Japan’s famous theme parks.

Where to Eat

Tokyo is a food lover’s paradise, offering a wide range of culinary delights. Here are some of my favorite places to eat:

  • Uogashi Nihon-Ichi: A small and popular standing sushi restaurant in Shinjuku.
  • Harajuku Gyozaro: A tasty gyoza restaurant in Harajuku.
  • Fuunji Shinjuku: Try their delicious tsukemen dipping noodles.
  • Ramen Hayshida: Popular ramen joint in Shinjuku.
  • Gyukatsu Motomura: Enjoy the most delicious katsu you’ll ever eat.
  • Darumasakaba Izakaya Kanda: Experience a friendly local izakaya.
  • Uobei Shibuya Dogenzaka: A fun and affordable sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt system.

Where to Stay

For budget travelers, I recommend staying at Kimi Ryokan Ikebukuro. This budget option offers traditional tatami mat rooms with clean shared bathrooms. It’s located a short walk from Ikebukuro Station and provides a comfortable and affordable stay.

For a mid-range option, consider Via Inn Prime Nihonbashi Ningyocho. This modern hotel offers spacious rooms and is within walking distance of two subway lines.

If you’re looking for a luxury stay, indulge in a night at Park Hyatt Tokyo. This renowned hotel offers stunning views of the city and features a rooftop bar and restaurant.

Week 1: Fuji Five Lakes

After a few exciting days in Tokyo, it’s time to leave the city and venture to the beautiful Fuji Five Lakes area. Here, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Mount Fuji and the serene lakes that surround it.

Things to Do & See

The Fuji Five Lakes area comprises five lakes: Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakako, Shojiko, and Motosuko. You can’t visit this region without enjoying the breathtaking views of Mount Fuji. Here are some activities to consider:

  • Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway: Take a cable car ride to an observation deck with sweeping views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi.
  • Lake Kawaguchi: Walk, cycle, or drive around the lake and admire the different viewpoints of Mount Fuji.
  • Oishi Park: Stroll along the picturesque lakeside park and enjoy the stunning scenery.
  • Narusawa Ice Cave and Fugaku Wind Cave: Explore these natural wonders and marvel at their unique formations.
  • Chureito Pagoda: Visit this iconic and picturesque pagoda for breathtaking views of Mount Fuji.
  • Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine: Wander through the forest and immerse yourself in the spiritual atmosphere.
  • Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum: Discover a European-inspired garden with an antique music box museum.
  • Ide Sake Brewery: Sample sake and learn about the brewing process at this local brewery.

Where to Eat

In the Fuji Five Lakes area, make sure to try some local delicacies. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Tanpopo: A family-run izakaya where the wife communicates with guests using a hand-held translator.
  • Kosaku: A busy restaurant serving the regional specialty, Houtou noodles.
  • FabCafe Fuji: A great coffee spot after a visit to Chureito Pagoda.
  • Ramen Kaneyuki: A casual, open-air ramen restaurant that serves meals out of a food truck.
  • Nagasaki Coffee Roaster: Enjoy delicious hand-drip coffee near Kawaguchi Asama Shrine.

Where to Stay

For budget travelers, Hostel Michikusa is a great option. This small, family-run guesthouse offers private tatami mat rooms with a Mount Fuji view. It’s incredible to wake up and see Mount Fuji each morning. The guesthouse has a common area and clean shared bathrooms.

For a mid-range choice, consider Fuji View Hotel. This hotel overlooks Lake Kawaguchi and features Japanese gardens and a public onsen.

For a luxury experience, book a room at La Vista. This hotel offers rooms with clear views of Mount Fuji and provides a sauna, hot tub, and onsen hot spring bath for a relaxing stay.

Week 2: Osaka

Welcome to Osaka, the food capital of Japan! Over the next four days, you’ll immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere and culinary delights that make Osaka a must-visit destination.

Things to Do & See

Osaka offers a unique combination of modern attractions and historical sites. Here are some recommendations for your time in the city:

  • Umeda Sky Building: Admire the metropolitan spread from the top of this iconic building.
  • Osaka Castle: Explore the majestic castle grounds and head to the top for panoramic views of Osaka.
  • Shinsaibashi Suji Shopping Street: Browse the shops and indulge in some retail therapy.
  • Amerikamura: Wander the hip streets of this trendy district and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
  • Nipponbashi DenDen Town: Discover Osaka’s version of Akihabara, known for its electronics and otaku culture.
  • Universal Studios Japan: Spend a fun day at this famous theme park. Make sure to buy your tickets well in advance.

Where to Eat

Osaka is renowned for its incredible street food and local cuisine. Here are some places to satisfy your taste buds:

  • Ajinoya Honten: A popular okonomiyaki restaurant near Dotonbori.
  • Ikkaku Shinsaibashi: Enjoy juicy chicken dishes paired with beers and pickles.
  • Sake Bar Shiki: Sample a range of sakes served by the friendly owner at this tucked-away sake bar.
  • Kuishinbo: Taste authentic local okonomiyaki cooked on a grill in front of you.
  • Nagasaki Coffee Roaster: Savor hand-drip coffee at one of the best spots in the city.

Where to Stay

For budget travelers, Hotel Sobial is a great choice. This modern hotel offers clean and compact rooms near Daikokucho Station, just one stop from Namba station and the Dotonbori area.

A mid-range option is Cross Hotel, located in the heart of the action near Namba Subway Station. The rooms are modern and spacious, offering a comfortable retreat from the bustle of Dotonbori.

For a luxury experience, consider Swissotel Nankai Osaka. This five-star hotel offers spacious and light-filled rooms, a swimming pool, sauna, and hot tub for a truly indulgent stay.

Week 2: Koyasan

Prepare for a unique and spiritual experience as you venture to Koyasan, a sacred mountain and the founding center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to stay in a temple and immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere.

Things to Do & See

Koyasan offers a serene and spiritual escape from the busy cities. Here are some activities to consider:

  • Daimon Gate: Pass through this 11th-century gateway that marks the entrance to Mount Koya.
  • Kongobuji Kompon Daito: Visit the grand central pagoda located in a serene garden.
  • Kongobu-ji: Explore this historic temple, the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism, and marvel at Japan’s largest rock garden.
  • Okunoin Cemetery: Wander through the forest that is home to Japan’s largest cemetery and visit the Torodo Hall.
  • Torodo Lantern Hall: Admire the over 10,000 lit lanterns in the main hall of worship.

Where to Stay

Temple lodging, or shukubo, is a unique and highly recommended experience in Koyasan. Many temples offer this opportunity, providing guests with a morning prayer ritual, traditional tatami mat bedding, and vegan or vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. Some temples even offer a fire show. Here are some recommended temple lodgings:

  • Ekoin Temple
  • Saizenin Temple
  • Yochi-in Temple

If you’re on a budget, there are also non-temple stay accommodations available in the form of simple guesthouses. However, I highly recommend spending one night in a temple to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Week 2: Osaka (day trips to Nara, Himeji, and Kobe)

After your spiritual retreat in Koyasan, head back to Osaka for another couple of nights before continuing your journey to Hiroshima. On these days, you’ll have the opportunity to go on day trips to Nara, Himeji, and Kobe.

Things to Do & See

These cities offer unique attractions and experiences that shouldn’t be missed:

  • Nara: Visit this ancient city known for its free-roaming deer and the bronze Great Buddha in Todai-ji Temple. Explore the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, and stop by the Nara National Museum for insights into Japanese Buddhist art.
  • Himeji: Marvel at the remarkable Himeji Castle, one of Japan’s most famous and beautiful surviving feudal castles. Take your time to explore the castle grounds and enjoy panoramic views from the top floor.
  • Kobe: Visit this city famous for its Kobe Wagyu beef. Explore the Kobe Herb Gardens, take a cable car ride for stunning views, and enjoy delicious Kobe beef for dinner.
  • Kobe Herb Gardens: Take a scenic cable car ride to the top of a mountain and admire panoramic views of Kobe and the harbor. Don’t forget to stop by the picturesque Nunobiki Waterfall on your way down.

Where to Eat

These cities offer delicious local cuisine that shouldn’t be missed. Here are some recommendations:

  • Ajinoya Honten: Try the regional specialty okonomiyaki at this popular restaurant near Dotonbori in Osaka.
  • Ikkaku Shinsaibashi: Enjoy juicy chicken dishes paired with beers and pickles in Osaka.
  • Steakland Kobe: Indulge in the famous Kobe Wagyu beef for dinner in Kobe.

Where to Stay

In Osaka, consider staying near the center of nightlife near Dotonbori for easy access to the city’s attractions. Here are some recommended accommodations:

  • Budget: Hotel Sobial
  • Mid-Range: Cross Hotel
  • Luxury: Swissotel Nankai Osaka

Week 3: Hiroshima & Miyajima

For the next stage of your Japan one-month itinerary, head west of Osaka to explore Hiroshima and the small island of Miyajima.

Things to Do & See

Hiroshima is a significant historical site, and Miyajima is known for its iconic floating torii gate. Here’s what you should do and see:

  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: Spend time exploring this sobering and impactful memorial park. Visit the Atomic Bomb Dome and learn more about the events of World War II at the Peace Memorial Museum.
  • Hiroshima Castle: Explore this beautiful castle and learn about its historical significance.
  • Miyajima Island: Take a ferry to the island and visit the famous Itsukushima Shrine with its iconic “floating” torii gate. Explore the quaint streets and try local street food.
  • Daishoin Temple and Mount Misen: Visit this serene temple and hike up Mount Misen for panoramic views of the island and ocean.

Where to Stay

In Hiroshima, consider staying at WeBase or The Knot for budget and mid-range options, respectively. For a luxury stay, Hilton Hiroshima offers spacious and luxurious rooms.

Week 3: Hiroshima & Miyajima

For the next stage of your Japan one-month itinerary, head west of Osaka to explore Hiroshima and the small island of Miyajima.

Things to Do & See

Hiroshima is a significant historical

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