The Best of Japan in One Month

tour japan 30 days

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, I have one crucial tip for you: spend as much time here as possible. Trust me, one month in Japan is the ideal amount of time to fully immerse yourself in this incredible country. While it’s true that the trains are efficient and the cities are well-organized, there are just so many destinations to explore. As someone who has visited Japan multiple times, I can confidently say that even after a dozen trips, I have only scratched the surface of what this amazing country has to offer. So, get ready to be inspired and book your flight to Japan after reading this article!

Where to Stay With One Month in Japan

With a one-month itinerary in Japan, you’ll have the opportunity to stay at a variety of accommodations, catering to different levels of luxury and comfort. For instance, you might choose to treat yourself to a high-end stay at the Tokyo Station Hotel in Japan’s current capital. However, in Kyoto, which served as the seat of Japan’s Imperial government for much of the last millennium, a simple Ryokan Uemura might be the best choice for a traditional and authentic experience. As you venture to less popular destinations during your one-month journey, you’ll find an array of options, from city hotels like Hotel Forza Nagasaki to unique properties such as Takaragawa Onsen, which is literally built into the bottom of a ravine in the Japanese Alps. No matter where you choose to stay, variety will be the name of the game on your long trip through Japan.

How to Get Around During One Month in Japan

Now, you might be concerned about the Japan Rail Pass, which is valid for a maximum of 21 days. However, if you plan to spend a month in Japan, there is a simple workaround that won’t break the bank. The JR pass doesn’t cover transportation within Tokyo, so you can save five days from your pass by exploring the city using other modes of transportation. Additionally, if you’re not planning to extensively travel within Hokkaido and the Japanese Alps, you can order the three-week JR pass and consider getting a Hokkaido Rail Pass for further convenience. This way, you can make the most of your transportation options without spending a fortune.

Where to Go With One Month in Japan

Tokyo and Kanto

While my two-week itinerary recommended spending three days in Tokyo, with a month in Japan, you have the luxury of extending your stay to five to seven days. Tokyo offers a perfect blend of traditional attractions and avant-garde experiences. From exploring temples and shrines to visiting the futuristic “Museum of Emerging Science” (known as the Miraikan), there is so much to see and do in this vibrant metropolis. Additionally, you can take day trips to nearby destinations like Nikko, known for its UNESCO World Heritage shogun shrine, and Kamakura, a historical city famous for its giant Buddha. Pairing Kamakura with underrated Yokohama, home to Sakei-en Garden and the Cup Noodle Museum, will provide you with a well-rounded experience.

Kyoto, Osaka and Kansai

Kyoto is a must-visit destination for any Japan itinerary, and with a month to spare, you can truly immerse yourself in its beauty. Two or three days in the city-proper will allow you to explore its temples, shrines, forests, and traditional ryokan guest houses. However, don’t limit yourself to just Kyoto. With a month in Japan, you can also explore the surrounding Kansai region. Osaka, known for its delectable food and quirky vibe, deserves more than just a day trip. Dedicate at least a full day, if not two, to fully experience this vibrant city. A day trip to Nara, famous for its friendly deer and ancient wooden structures, is also highly recommended. And don’t miss the chance to visit Himeji Castle in Hyogo prefecture, Japan’s most picturesque castle.

Shikoku or Hokuriku

If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, consider visiting Shikoku or the Hokuriku region. Shikoku, often overlooked by travelers, is a mysterious island with pristine nature and beautiful cities. Spend five days exploring Tokushima, Naruto Whirlpools, Iya Valley, Kochi, Matsuyama, Dogo Onsen, Kotohira-gu Shrine, Takamatsu, and Marugame. Alternatively, you can hop on the Thunderbird Limited Express and visit Kanazawa in the Hokuriku region. Explore the legendary Kenroku-en garden, the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Toyama, and the picturesque coastal towns of Noto Peninsula. The Sea of Japan coast has endless breathtaking sights to offer.

Hiroshima, Chugoku and San’in

After exploring Shikoku, make your way to Hiroshima, the largest city in Chugoku, the westernmost region of Honshu island. Spend time at the Hiroshima Peace Park and take a day trip to the breathtaking Miyajima island, known for its floating torii gate. Extend your stay in Chugoku by visiting Okunoshima, also known as “rabbit island,” or venture further into the San’in region. The Tottori Sand Dunes, Izumo Shrine, Tsuwano, and Shimonoseki are just a few of the incredible places waiting to be discovered along the Sea of Japan coast.

Kyushu or Tohoku

At this point, you’ll need to make a decision based on your preferences. If you enjoyed the urban vibe of Hiroshima and the scenery of Shikoku, head south to Kyushu island. From the bustling city of Fukuoka to the historical sites in Nagasaki, Kyushu offers a diverse range of experiences. You can also indulge in the relaxing hot springs of Beppu and Yakushima Island, known for its lush forests and unique wildlife. Alternatively, if you’re more drawn to rugged northern Japan, head back towards Tokyo and explore the Tohoku region. Start your journey in Sendai and visit Zao Onsen, Hirosaki Castle, and Aomori. Tohoku’s natural beauty and cultural heritage will captivate you.

Hokkaido or Okinawa

As you approach the end of your month in Japan, it’s time to make another important decision. From Tohoku, you can continue northward and spend 3-5 days on Hokkaido island. Whether you’re interested in skiing during the winter or exploring the beautiful city of Hakodate year-round, Hokkaido has something for everyone. Alternatively, if you prefer a tropical paradise, head southeast to the Okinawa archipelago. Experience the vibrant culture of Naha city or relax on the stunning beaches of Ishigaki island. Whichever destination you choose, it will be hard to say goodbye to Japan.

When Should You Spend a Month in Japan?

The best time to spend a month in Japan is during April, when the cherry blossoms create a breathtaking spectacle across the country. However, autumn is also a great time to visit, as you can witness the stunning fall colors known as koyo. If you’re not too concerned about timing your trip with specific events, it’s best to focus on where you want to go and what you want to experience. Each season in Japan has its own unique charm, so whether you visit in winter, spring, summer, or autumn, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable adventure.

FAQ About Spending a Month in Japan

How much money do you need for a month in Japan?

The minimum you can expect to spend during a one-month trip to Japan, excluding flights, is around $3,000 per person. However, most travelers in the low- to mid-range budget range spend closer to $5,000. Luxury travelers can spend even more. It’s essential to budget wisely and prioritize the experiences that matter most to you.

How long should you spend in Japan?

While I highly recommend spending a month in Japan for a comprehensive and immersive experience, two or three weeks can also provide a fulfilling journey. Even a week in Japan can be rewarding if you don’t have the luxury of an extended period. The key is to plan your itinerary carefully and prioritize the places that resonate with you the most.

What month is the cheapest to fly to Japan?

The cost of flights to Japan can vary depending on the time of year. Months like April and November, which coincide with the cherry blossom and fall color seasons, tend to be more expensive. For the best combination of good weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices, consider traveling during the “shoulder” months of May and September. These months offer ideal conditions, especially if you’re planning a month-long itinerary or longer.

The Bottom Line

Spending a month in Japan allows you to delve deep into the country’s rich culture, stunning landscapes, and vibrant cities. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the tranquil temples of Kyoto, there is so much to see and experience. Whether you choose to explore Hiroshima and Shikoku, immerse yourself in the mountains of Hokkaido, or relax on the tropical beaches of Okinawa, your one-month Japan itinerary will be the beginning or continuation of a great love affair with this captivating country. So, start planning your trip and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

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