Travel Guide

How to Plan a Trip to Japan? Travel Guide 2023

Thinking of visiting Japan? Have you already planned your whole trip? Planning a trip to Japan can be a real daunting task if you have not done something like this before.

Click here to see latest Japan travel news and how to plan your trip by following the rules of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Whenever I plan to visit a country, the first thing I do really care about is how effectively I could organize my trip from A to Z. That should be your major concern.

Flying to Japan is easier than what actually you are going to do right after you go through the immigration process at the airport in Japan. And yes, you have to decide yourself!

Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi in Autumn. Photo Credit: skyseeker at Flickr.

If you don’t know where to begin your trip, you are in real danger. It won’t just kill your time, may also cost you a lot money. That can hurt you a lot as well! But if you have a perfect travel plan for a trip to a specific destination across the country, everything seems to you working on its way.

So imagine how important this is! My advice here is that make your trip plan beforehand. How to successfully plan a trip to Japan depends on many things. In fact, you have to do a little research.

The culture you experience in Japan is totally different the one that you belong to. Therefore, there is something to be learned from, and I would guide you here with pleasure to make your trip free from any troubles.

1) Ask Yourself – What Activities do you prefer the Most?

It is early spring in Japan and snow-capped mountains are still visible. Photo Credit: Go Uryu at Flickr.

There is nothing to be feeling dizzy as it is a straight forward question that would ease you to move onto the next step.

In fact, this is not about choosing your exact destination in the land of the rising sun. At this stage the most needed stamina is your passion, and hobbies or your special attention to any festivals and events.

You must keep in mind that not every destination is suited to every sort of activity. Though, the activities that Japan offers you depend on its four seasons. And please don’t limit yourself to one activity.

Japan itself does not suit to this belief as it is one of the world’s famous four season destinations offering you countless seasonal activities.

2) Now Decide Where You Want to Go

Lavender field in Furano. Hokkaido’s summer beauty! Photo Credit: sii_side at Flickr.

I hope you have decided what actually you are going to do in Japan. Now it is the time to decide where you want to go.

If you are a biker or hiking is in your blood, depending on the season this hobby could leads you to choose your right destination.

For example, hiking in Hokkaido’s fascinating mountains in autumn is absolutely an awesome experience; the weather there is great so is the trails as you hardly see any snow on the grounds.

Words fail to convey the essence of Hokkaido’s hiking trails, so classy! Also the region offers you the most delicious fresh seafood dishes including ski resorts to do fun outdoor recreation activity in winter.

Kofukuji temple’s five story pagoda in Nara. Photo Credit: Roy Chan at Flickr.

If you have special interest in archeology and want to explore the country’s most famous temples and shrines, head to Kyoto.

Meanwhile, if you want your soul to be lost in nature, exploring traditional Japanese gardens and parks in Tokyo would be the right choice.

I have already shared my ideas on what to do and see both in spring and autumn. Oh summer activities are shared right here!

And one little secrete that I must reveal here is that every biker have a great opportunity to enjoy a ride throughout Japan.

In fact, Japan has abundant cycling roads to impress bike enthusiasts. Contact me here right away if you are not yet sure about “where to go?”

3) How long are you going to stay?

Four Maiko in Kyoto. Photo Credit: Norio NAKAYAMA at Flickr.

Everyone looks for an ideal cost saving travel plan on a budget. And yes, it is all about the time and your travel budget. These two things are very important before you plan on traveling somewhere around the world, not just in Japan!

If you are a millionaire and money is not the issue, you can rest assured that you are going to have a great trip though.

The more you stay in Japan, the more you can explore its top tourist destinations, culture, local cuisines, people, nature, and history.

Mt Bandai and Lake Inawashiro in winter, Fukushima. Photo Credit: This-is-Fukushima at Flickr.

You should write down all your possible future expenses that are supposed to happen during your trip to Japan.

If you think that you still have 5 to 6 months to go before the trip then it is the right time to start saving money. However, decide the length of your stay and this would surly help you calculate your entire trip budget.

No idea how to do it? You can read how to travel the world on a budget here. Also Google it and see how backpackers have already dealt with it, in fact their Japan travel budget ideas could save you some money. With the amount that you save could buy some great souvenirs, no doubt.

4) Apply for Japan Travel Visa

Cherry Blossoms in Hama-Rikyu garden, Tokyo. Photo Credit: Wenjie, Zhang at Flickr.

If you are a foreign tourist who wants to enter Japan, make sure you have a valid passport and it remains valid during the period of your stay.

On a short term stay, there are countries and regions that do not require a travel visa. I will not share the list here, instead you should find it out yourself to see if your country is listed there, please visit here:

Countries and territories whose citizens are out of visa exemptions and need a visa to travel to Japan must apply for it.

You must provide all the required documents and information that are accurate with your visa application. Then wait for your visa to be issued by Japan embassy in your home country. Good luck to you!

If you are issued a visa, proceed to the next step. You may require showing flight booking slip and hotel booking documents when applying for travel visa.

5) It is good to have a Simple Itinerary

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Casey Yee at Flickr.

We provide you useful suggested itineraries based on the four seasons we have throughout the year. See how to organize a trip to Hokkaido during summer. Is not it great?

I kept the itinerary as simple as possible covering most of the famous summer attractions of Hokkaido.

According to my Japan travel experiences, I could tell you one simple truth that you don’t rely on those itineraries that comes in Topic like “7 Day Itinerary for Japan, 7 Day Itinerary for Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and One Week in Kyoto Itinerary.”

These itineraries fail to appeal to you at the same time they are not concentrated on the goal you want to achieve.

Viewing irises in Koishikawa Korakuen (a traditional Japanese garden in Tokyo) is one of the must things to do during summer. Photo Credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA at Flickr.

Probably they are good when your activities are out of the seasonal treat. As Japan is a four season destination, your itinerary should be made considering each seasonal activity.

I know viewing plum blossom in Tokyo is incredibly breathtaking than doing it in Nagoya. Do you understand why this is so important now?

You will only head to Okinawa in winter if you are not guided properly. Yes there is not much awe-inspiring thing to do in winter but endless discoveries are waiting for you in Northern Japan, especially if you a huge fan of various winter activities.

To be honest with you, your itinerary decides whether or not you should buy a Japan Rail Pass. So don’t buy it before you are all set with your itinerary.

6) Book Your Flight, Rental Car, Accommodation

Yamagata Shinkansen. Photo Credit: Yamaguchi Yoshiaki at Flickr.

Congratulations! I hope you have a perfect itinerary now that you have created on your own or found elsewhere. The next step would be booking your flight, rental car, and hotel room plus buying a Japan Rail Pass.

Remember, don’t buy JR pass if you are going to stay less than 7 days. Even though if you stay 7 days or more in Japan and with intention of traveling long distance then stay away from it.

Before you book your flight, would you please check out the last minute flight deals? It is a great way to saving money for your trip. Besides, you have many deals to choose from.

When it comes to booking your hotel room in Japan, the first thing you should consider is advance booking and cancellation policy.

It is always better if you book your room in a hotel located nearby train station, so that you could easily get there on foot. It saves money!

Japan Airlines. Photo Credit: byeangel at Flickr.

Spring is a busy season in Japan. Every year a lot of foreign visitors arrive to participate on Hanami (cherry blossom viewing).

In some major cities around Japan such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sendai, and Nagoya get busy receiving a large volume of tourists both local and international, therefore sometimes getting a room is quite difficult at the time! To get rid of this, book your room 3 to 2 months in advance and stay away from this hassle.

There are places with abundant outdoor natural beauties. Public transport system there might be poor but it does not mean you should give up your dream. In that case, you need a rental car.

Often it is said that Japan’s real beauty lies in its inaccessibility and remoteness. Hokkaido, for example, is a wonderful place to discover.

It is wild with unspoiled nature everywhere. In order to enjoy Hokkaido’s real beauty you should embark on a self-drive trip that takes you through many remote areas.

7) Buy Travel Insurance

Little cute statue in Kamakura. Photo Credit: saeru at Flickr.

If you travel a lot, you know how important it is to have travel insurance. Before you are on the road, please make sure you have it as it covers your medical expenses, flight cancellation, camera breaks, lost luggage, and etc.

We can’t predict what’s going to be next, so unexpected things may happen. You better always buy it and make yourself not to be a fool.

For international backpackers to Japan, World Nomads provides the best insurance policies.

8) Pack Your Things

Shinkyo Bridge over the Daiya River, Nikko. Photo Credit: Hardo Müller at Flickr.

Packing for a trip to Japan could be daunting but I could make it easy for you. These 10 useful packing tips for a trip to Japan would definitely help you get some ideas on “what to pack for a trip to Japan?”

If you are going to visit Japan in winter, especially in northern Japan: Tohoku and Hokkaido regions, read this comprehensive packing list guide. Don’t you forget that it terribly cold in winter there!

Summer in Japan is hot and humid, except the Hokkaido region and some cities located far north in the Tohoku region. During the rainy season, it rains a lot here! So have some space in your luggage for an umbrella.

I think you know the ways of how to survive the summer there, don’t you? If not then here are some practical travel tips, especially crafted for you, they are very useful ones that you must know before visiting Japan in the summer.

Early spring and late autumn could be chilly but there is nothing to be worried about. Bring a light jacket that is waterproofed. You don’t need to wear a jacket when spring is in full swing.

Bring all the necessary travel gears including CASH, don’t depend on your credit card, I mean not for this trip but use elsewhere!

9) Search for Japan Travel Info

Koto-in temple – sub temple of Daitoku-ji, Kyoto. Photo Credit: Francesco Giordano at Flickr.

Reading travel bloggers experiences through their blog posts and useful articles published by Japan travel magazines help you understand how to deal with everything else you encounter during the period of your stay.

You can read our exclusive Japan travel guides that consist of up-to-date travel tips, places of interest, Japan etiquette guides, seasonal festivals, and more.

If it is your very first trip to Japan, read Japan travel related articles as much as possible. Learn some basic Japanese phrases and words.

In addition, you must have to have a travel guide. You can check out our most recommended travel guidebooks here. Pick the best one that you think would suit your needs.

10) Don’t Just Travel but Experience Everything you Encounter

Osaka street filled with restaurants and shopping stores. Photo Credit: Harald Johnsen at Flickr.

Make yourself at home when you are in Japan showing your modesty and respect to others. Do I have to tell you how to enjoy your trip in Japan?

I don’t think I have to because your passion and hobbies will do that for you. Though, if you don’t mind then I could share few things here.

Taste the local specialties, for a little bit of history head to museums, have awesome shopping experience, be relaxed in the hot springs bath, experience seasonal outdoor activities such as autumn leaves viewing, cherry blossom viewing, watching firework displays at night in summer, playing with snow in winter and many more.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. If you still have any questions, please free to contact us or leave a comment before you leave this page.

Thank you very much. I wish you have a great trip to Japan.