Planning a Trip to Japan for the First Time: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Last Updated on 12/12/2023 by secretmoona

A trip to Japan cannot be improvised, especially when it comes to your first-ever trip. Because the destination is so far and often expensive, planning a trip to Japan for the first time is essential and should not be a last-minute exercise. Preparing your itinerary, booking a reasonably cheap flight and accommodation, and, most importantly, agreeing to a budget is not always easy to do.

Rural town - planning a trip to Japan for the first time

On my first trip to Japan, although I spent lots of time creating “the perfect itinerary”, there were still some things I hasn’t expected. So, for my second trip, since I had first-hand experience, I avoided the mistakes I made on my first trip and put together a more organised itinerary, which turned out to be fantastic.   

Preparing your first trip to Japan

When planning your trip to Japan for the first time, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Japan is a country with a varied landscape and countless cities/towns waiting to be discovered. During my first trip, I just went along and explored the main touristy cities. However, during the planning of my second trip, I thought about whether I wanted to discover the newest “in” destinations like Kanazawa or travel to a lesser-known area.

When to travel to Japan

When it comes to choosing the right time to visit Japan, you have obviously several choices. Japan has distinctive seasons, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Spring is the most popular time to travel to Japan because it is associated with the cherry blossoms, which offer a beautiful spectacle. Hanami (meaning cherry blossom viewing) is a popular activity for Japanese people who flock to parks to have parties (families, friends, and colleagues) to see the blooming flowers. This means that this period is the busiest and most expensive since the Japanese people also take their holidays then.  
  • Summer in Japan is hot and humid. The season is when the country offers much of its “matsuri” festivals and cultural events (mostly in July/August). June is a little wet, but flight fares are cheap.
Kinugawa river surrounded by trees - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
  • Autumn is the second most popular time to visit Japan, thanks to “koyo & Momiji” (autumn-coloured foliage). The changing of the leaves is a breathtaking sight to see. The weather is pleasant, and temperatures are mild. I took my second trip to Japan in November and spent most days in a light jacket. Bonus: flight fares were the cheapest!
  • Winter is said to be cold but beautiful (according to my Japanese friends). I hope to return and visit the Sapporo Snow Festival one day!

Choosing the right time will depend on what you would like to do, see or your budget. In any case, no matter the season, the first trip to Japan will be a great experience.

Getting around in Japan

Should you Get the JR Rail Pass or not?

JR Pass - planning a trip to Japan for the first time

Deciding whether to get the JR Rail Pass it all depends on your travel arrangements and frequency. It depends not only on the amount of travelling you are planning to do but also places you are planning on visiting. JR Rail Pass is an excellent pass for visitors travelling to longer distances; for example, from Tokyo to Hiroshima via Kyoto. If you are going only in and around Tokyo, then it will not be cost-effective. In any case, please bear in mind that you should purchase the JR Rail Pass before arriving in Japan.

Hyperdia

When in Japan, you will definitely have to take the train or metro at some point. The train and metro networks are so extensive and complex that they can appear like a labyrinth. Trying to understand them when planning your journey can be difficult. This is where Hyperdia comes in. It is a great tool for finding the best transport route and making your trip a little more stress-free. It provides you with the best route options, fare information, and platform details.

Tobu Revaty Express - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
Revaty train

Tokyo Metro

The metro system is essential for getting around, especially in Tokyo. What impressed me at first was the efficiency of the transport. For someone who grew up in Paris and now lives in London, I know how unreliable the transport can be. Not in Japan though, all the metro lines are super clean, and the trains are on time. Although convenient, the metro system can be very intimidating, but it remains an experience to have.

Tip: Some Tokyo stations have dedicated staff to help tourists to get to their destinations. They can assist with anything from directions to sightseeing.

The bus is the most convenient means of transportation in smaller cities. Similar to trains and metro, buses in Japan are efficient and always on time. Tickets can be bought on the bus or via Passmo/Suica cards.  Entry is at the back of the bus, and exit is at the front.

Coaches are also a good option for cheap travel within Japan. For example, a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto costs around 5,000 Yen.

Taxi

Even though taking the tube is part of the Japanese experience as a tourist, sometimes it’s just easier to take the taxi. They have a reputation for being expensive, but sometimes they are more convenient to use, for example when you have too much luggage and need to get from the tube station to your accommodation, or when you miss the last public transport. Rates are by the meter, and most taxis (in Tokyo) have a starting price of 730 Yen for the first 2 km. Taxis in Japan may be expensive, but I believe the service is great – at least I didn’t feel cheated like I have been countless times in Europe!

Safety in Japan

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, but like any country, crime does happen. You should always stay aware of your surroundings. For example, the Tokyo metro has “Women Only” carriages during rush hours to combat groping on crowded trains.

Women Only carriage sign -  planning a trip to Japan for the first time

Having said that, Japanese people are honest and respectful, making Japan a great destination for female travellers. I have seen several times people reserving their seats in restaurants by leaving their bags in the seats. This is definitely something that you can’t do in Europe.

In terms of disasters, Japan is extremely prepared, and they have measures in place in case of earthquakes. Apps like Japan Official Travel App have a notification function.

Trip to Japan Cost

The budget is often the reason most people abandon travelling to Japan. It costs, on average, £1,500 to £2,000 per person, including the return fare. This is the average price I paid for each of my trips. However, the cost may vary depending on the period of departure, length of stay, type of accommodation, travel within Japan and activities. Cost may vary if you are travelling with someone as some costs can be halved. I often hear people say that Japan is expensive, but I don’t think it is more expensive than Paris or London, for example. As with every destination, you can make the trip more affordable by planning wisely.

Looking at flights a good six months in advance helps. If you are not too bothered with a stopover, you might save a good £100. For example, for my June trip, I paid £530 with Qatar Airways (stop at Doha), and my trip in November was £440 with Air France and a stop in Paris. Food is more affordable, and you can eat well for less than £15 with a mixture of restaurant and convenience store food.

Plane flying over Ehime - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
Flying over Matsuyama

Transport in Japan

Transport in Japan is excellent but can be very expensive. A ride on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto can cost as little as 13,080 Yen. By buying a Japan Rail Pass, you can have unlimited travel for up to 21 days. You will save time and money. A single journey on the metro will cost between 100 to 450 Yen. Luckily, to appeal to tourists, most cities offer day passes, which give you a 24-hour unlimited ride. Tokyo offers one for 800 Yen. If you are planning to make lots of underground journeys, ensure you get yourself either a PASMO or a SUICA card. They are life-saving cards that enable you to swipe to pay for nearly everything from metro bus journeys to snacks at vending machines.

Book your flight – Skyscanner and Momondo are my favourite tools for finding cheap flights.

Accommodation in Japan

Japan offers a wide variety of accommodations to choose from. From guesthouses where you can experience living with a Japanese family and Western style hotels to hostels and ryokan or Japanese-style ins. The search for accommodation is the second most important element of your trip planning after the flight booking. Therefore, it shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Contrary to Europe, where you can walk into a hotel and book a room. However, this practice is to be avoided in Japan. In Japanese culture, it is frowned upon not being able to respond favourably, therefore, hotel staff will feel bad if they cannot offer a room to you on the spot. You will need to book way in advance, especially during the busy period.

Capsule hotel - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
MyCube Capsule hotel

If you are tight on money, look out for hostels. For a different and unique experience, try a capsule hotel (around 2,000 to 5,000 Yen)  or a stay in a ryokan or temple lodging if you prefer a Japanese style accommodation. Ryokans are quite pricey, especially in famous onsen locations. Budget-friendly business hotels are good options, but rooms can sometimes be very small. I stayed in one in Kyoto for 3,500 Yen per night, which was a bargain. The good part is that all accommodations offer amenities, which include toiletries, pyjamas, slippers and WI-FI.

During my visits, I have had the chance to try out all accommodation types: hostel, capsule hotel, budget hotel, minshuku (bed & breakfast), luxury hotel, and staying at my Japanese friends’ houses.

For your hotel/hostels and ryokan bookings, use Booking.com.

Japanese Food

Unlike transport, food is relatively cheap in Japan. For the second country with the most Michelin star restaurants, you can find lots of inexpensive to reasonably priced restaurants. You can get a good meal for 500 Yen to 2,000 Yen. Some of the best options for travellers on a budget are, of course, restaurants that serve dishes like curry rice, donburi or noodles (soba, ramen or udon). The food there is low-priced, delicious and filling. Conveyor belt sushi restaurants and standing restaurants are often cheap too. These types of restaurants can be found in or near big train stations, business districts, or food courts in a shopping mall.

Menu set - planning a trip to Japan for the first time

Lunchtime is the perfect moment to have a full meal as most restaurants offer set menus (teishoku) at around 1,000 to 1,500 Yen. Convenience stores (7-Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart) are also a good place to find cheap food. You can get anything from sushi, lunch boxes, sandwiches, onigiri (rice balls), fried chicken, noodles etc…I have to say, I became quite addicted to salmon onigiri and FamilyMart’s fried chicken!

Activities

Travelling to Japan is all about experiencing the country’s uniqueness. So, as well as discovering new cities, you should consider adding a few experiences to your itinerary to make your trip more memorable. As enjoyable as they are, not all of the attractions are free. Actually, most temples, gardens and museums charge an entry fee. Some activities to consider: eating sushi at Tsukiji fish market, people watching at Shibuya crossing, attending a tea ceremony,

Yet, there are a variety of discounts that can decrease your sightseeing expenses a little bit.

If you’re planning to visit any of the following cities, here are some free sightseeing options that you can consider exploring:

Tokyo

The capital city of Japan has a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing opportunities. You can visit the Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Government Building Observation Deck, Toyosu Fish Market (new Tsukiji), Imperial Palace, and explore Tokyo’s neighborhoods like Ginza, Shibuya, Harajuku, and more.

Kyoto

Known for its beautiful temples and gardens, Kyoto is a must-visit destination in Japan. You can visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Nishiki Market, wander in the Philosopher’s Path, and stroll around Gion, which is famous for its traditional architecture and geisha culture.

Nara

Nara is a small city that is located near Kyoto and is famous for its deer park. You can visit the Nara Park, Yoshikien, and Naramachi, which is a historic district with traditional Japanese houses and shops.

Yokohama

This city is located south of Tokyo and is known for its beautiful port area. You can visit the Minato Mirai, Chinatown, Kirin Beer Village, Osanbashi Pier, and Yamashita Park, which is a great place for a leisurely walk.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a city that is known for its tragic past but has now become a symbol of peace. You can visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, Daishoin Temple, and Miyajima, which is an island located near Hiroshima and is famous for its Itsukushima Shrine.

Kamakura

Kamakura is a small coastal town located south of Tokyo and is famous for its temples and hiking trails. You can visit the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and walk the hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the sea and the town.

Hakone

Hakone is a mountainous town located near Tokyo and is known for its hot springs and scenic views. You can visit the Hakone Shrine, which is located on the shore of Lake Ashi, and take a cable car ride to enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Where to go to Japan for the first-time? – Travel itinerary

There are so many beautiful towns in Japan that it will be impossible to cover even 1% on your first trip there. The country is full of contrasts; even the big cities are unlike one another. My recommendation to experience some of the best things is to spend a full two weeks or three if you can. I would like to suggest 2 itineraries for your Japan trip.

Itinerary 1 – Unmissable Japan

Tokyo – Hakone – Kyoto – Osaka – Kobe – Nara

Tokyo

Tokyo, the bustling capital city of Japan, is a fascinating metropolis that truly embodies the spirit of modernity. It is a city that has something for everyone, making it a mandatory stop on any visit to Japan. Tokyo is a city of contrasts, where traditional Japanese culture is seamlessly blended with modern architecture and technology.

The city is home to a diverse collection of neighbourhoods, each with its own unique character and charm. From the upscale shopping district of Ginza to the trendy Shibuya district, there is no shortage of places to explore and discover.

Tokyo is also renowned for its array of temples and shrines, many of which are centuries old and steeped in history and tradition. Visitors can stroll through the peaceful gardens of the Imperial Palace, marvel at the stunning architecture of the Senso-ji Temple, or witness the serene beauty of the Meiji Shrine.

Foodies will find themselves in paradise in Tokyo, as the city is renowned for its mouth-watering cuisine. From sushi and ramen to yakitori and tempura, there is no shortage of delicious dishes to sample. The city is also famous for its street food scene, where visitors can try everything from takoyaki (octopus balls) to taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes filled with sweet red bean paste). For those seeking a more offbeat experience, Tokyo has plenty to offer. Visitors can check out a robot show, sing karaoke in a private booth, or even visit a cat cafe. The city truly offers a unique blend of traditional and modern experiences that cannot be found anywhere else.

Asakusa Sensoji temple - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
Asakusa

Hakone

Have you ever heard of Hakone? This town in Japan is famous for its stunning natural beauty, particularly the views of Mount Fuji, which is one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks. If you’re a fan of Japanese art, you’re probably familiar with “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” by Hokusai. The scenery that inspired the famous print is located in the Hakone area. Hakone is not only beautiful but also offers a unique cultural experience. One of the must-do activities in Hakone is visiting an onsen, which is a traditional Japanese hot spring. There are many different onsen options in the area, from large public baths to smaller private ones. Soaking in an onsen is not only relaxing but it’s also said to have many health benefits. If you’re staying in Tokyo and want to take a break from the bustling city, Hakone is an ideal day trip option. It’s located only about an hour and a half away by train, making it easily accessible. Once you arrive in Hakone, you can take advantage of the town’s many attractions, such as the Hakone Open-Air Museum, which features a collection of contemporary sculptures set amidst beautiful natural surroundings. You can also take a boat cruise on Lake Ashi or ride the Hakone Ropeway, which offers stunning views of Mount Fuji and the surrounding area.

Kyoto

Kyoto, which was once the capital of Japan, is a city that is steeped in rich history and culture. It is famous for its traditional Japanese architecture, serene Zen gardens, and beautiful geishas, making it one of the most popular destinations for tourists visiting Japan.

The city boasts numerous landmarks such as the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a magnificent shrine that features thousands of vermilion torii gates, the Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion, a stunning temple that is covered in gold, and the Kiyomizu-dera, an ancient temple that overlooks the city and offers a breathtaking view. Additionally, Kyoto is also renowned for its tea ceremonies, traditional Japanese cuisine, and local crafts. Like Tokyo, Kyoto should be on the bucket list of every traveller who wants to explore the best of Japan’s culture and heritage.

Osaka

Located in the heart of Japan’s Kansai region, Osaka is a bustling city that boasts a unique blend of modernity and tradition. With a rich cultural heritage dating back centuries, the city is home to some of Japan’s most stunning landmarks, including the majestic Osaka Castle, which stands as a testament to the country’s rich history and architectural prowess. Aside from its historical landmarks, Osaka is also renowned for its vibrant food scene, with an abundance of culinary delights on offer to suit every taste and budget.

From street food to Michelin-starred restaurants, Osaka’s culinary offerings are sure to delight even the most discerning foodies. But Osaka isn’t just about food and history – it’s a city that’s brimming with life and energy, with a vibrant nightlife scene, lively shopping districts, and plenty of opportunities for entertainment and recreation. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene, indulging in some retail therapy, or simply soaking up the local atmosphere, Osaka has something for everyone.

Osaka Dotonbori - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
Osaka Dotonbori

Nara

Nara, a charming city located in the Kansai region of Japan, is an essential destination for tourists seeking to immerse themselves in the country’s rich cultural heritage. Home to some of Japan’s most significant historical landmarks, such as the Todai-ji temple, Kasuga-Taisha shrine, and the Nara National Museum, the city offers a fascinating glimpse into Japanese history and art.

Visitors can also enjoy a leisurely stroll through Nara Park, where friendly deer roam freely, or explore the quaint streets of Naramachi, a historic district with traditional wooden houses and shops. Overall, Nara is a delightful destination that combines history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a must-see for anyone visiting Japan.

Kobe

Kobe is a nice coastal city located on the southern side of Honshu Island in Japan. It is famous for its bustling port and the world-renowned Kobe beef, known for its unmatched quality, tenderness, and rich marbling. The city’s cattle are fed a special diet, which includes beer and massaging to ensure the meat’s superior tenderness and flavour.

In addition to its culinary delights, Kobe is also a popular tourist destination, offering breathtaking views of the sea and the nearby Rokko Mountains. Visitors can explore the city’s historic landmarks, such as the Kitano Ijinkan district, which features beautifully preserved Western-style houses from the late 19th century. The city’s vibrant nightlife, shopping districts, and hot springs also draw many visitors from around the world.

Hiroshima

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, visiting Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Park should be on your must-see list. This is an important location to understand the atrocities of the atomic bombing that occurred during World War II. The Peace Memorial Park is a large park located in the centre of Hiroshima City, which was built to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing. It includes various monuments, including the Children’s Peace Monument, the Atomic Bomb Dome, and the Memorial Cenotaph. These monuments are meant to symbolize the importance of peace and the need to abolish nuclear weapons.

Once you have finished your tour of the Peace Memorial Park, we highly recommend taking a short ferry ride to the beautiful island of Miyajima, located just off the coast of Hiroshima. Miyajima is famous for its stunning natural beauty, including its iconic “floating” torii gate, which appears to be floating on water during high tide. You can also visit the Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and explore the island’s many hiking trails and picturesque temples. A visit to Miyajima is the perfect way to end your trip to Hiroshima and reflect on the importance of peace and the need for international cooperation. Visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is crucial to understanding atomic bombing atrocities. End with a Miyajima island visit.

Google map of Japan trip itinerary - planning a trip to Japan for the first time

Itinerary 2 – Off the Beaten Track Japan

Tokyo – Yokohama – Nikko – Kawagoe – Kamakura – Ehime prefecture

Daibutsu, the Great Buddha of Kamakura - Kamakura day trip
Kamakura’s Great Buddha

Tokyo – All Japan trips should included a full Tokyo itinerary. There are so many things to do in the capital like watching a sumo tournament or going on a shopping spree.

Yokohama

Yokohama, located less than an hour from Tokyo, is the second largest city in Japan, with a population of over 3.7 million people. This vibrant port city has a lot to offer to tourists and locals alike.

Minato Mirai is a popular waterfront area that boasts a variety of attractions, such as the Landmark Tower, which was once the tallest building in Japan, the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel, and the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, a historic building that now houses restaurants, shops, and event spaces.

Sankeien Garden, a spacious Japanese-style garden, is another must-visit destination in Yokohama. This garden features a pond, numerous walking paths, and many traditional Japanese buildings, including a tea house and a three-story pagoda.

For those interested in Chinese culture, Yokohama’s Chinatown is a great place to explore. This vibrant neighbourhood is home to over 500 shops and restaurants, offering a wide range of Chinese cuisine and goods.

Coasts of Kanagawa

Enoshima and Kamakura are two charming towns situated on the Shōnan coast of Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan. These towns are known for their stunning beaches and picturesque views. Enoshima is just an hour away from Tokyo, making it an ideal location for a day trip away from the busy city life.

Enoshima and Kamakura are two charming coastal towns situated on the picturesque Shōnan coast of Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. Enoshima, in particular, is a beautiful destination that offers a perfect blend of scenic beauty, religious sites, and local culture. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beach, take a dip in the ocean, or explore the Enoshima Shrine, which is perched on a hilltop and offers stunning views of the town and the surrounding sea.

Kamakura, on the other hand, is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to numerous temples and shrines, including the famous Great Buddha of Kamakura. Both towns are easily accessible from Tokyo, and Enoshima, in particular, is an ideal destination for a day trip, providing a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Nikko

Nikko is a charming town located at the entrance of Nikko National Park, a natural reserve that boasts breathtaking landscapes and is a popular destination for nature lovers. The town is particularly renowned for its historical and cultural significance, as it is home to the magnificent Toshogu Shrine, one of Japan’s most important shrines. The shrine is a complex of ancient buildings, gates, and beautiful gardens that reflect the intricate and delicate craftsmanship of Japanese culture. Visitors can marvel at the intricate carvings and decorations, including the famous three wise monkeys, and learn about the history and traditions of the shrine. Additionally, the town offers various other attractions, such as hot springs, staying in a ryokan, hiking trails, and scenic spots, making it an ideal destination for a memorable trip.

Kawagoe

Kawagoe, famously known as Little Edo, is a picturesque city located a mere 30-minute train ride away from Tokyo. The city’s rich cultural heritage and well-preserved architecture provide visitors with a glimpse into the Edo period. The streets of Kawagoe are lined with traditional wooden buildings and shops, giving visitors a unique experience of Japan’s historical architecture. With its charming atmosphere and historical significance, Kawagoe is an excellent option for a day trip outside of Tokyo.

Matsuyama

Matsuyama is a vibrant city located in the heart of Ehime prefecture, which is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and authentic Japanese countryside experience. The city boasts a rich cultural heritage and is home to Dogo Onsen, a historic hot spring that has been in operation for over a thousand years and is widely regarded as Japan’s oldest onsen.

Visitors to Matsuyama can explore the city’s many attractions, such as the stunning Matsuyama Castle, which offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. They can also take a stroll through the charming streets of the city’s historic district, where they can experience the traditional Japanese way of life, taste local delicacies, and shop for souvenirs.

For those looking to relax and unwind, Dogo Onsen is a must-visit destination. The onsen’s elegant and timeless architecture is a testament to its long history, and its rejuvenating waters are said to have healing properties. Visitors can indulge in a variety of spa treatments, enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or simply soak in the warm waters and take in the serene surroundings.

Dogo Onsen - planning a trip to Japan for the first time
Gogo Onsen

Good to know before you go

  • Luggage – Japanese trains don’t always have big compartments for bulky items of luggage. Luckily, there are lots of companies that offer luggage delivery services (takuhaibin), allowing you to travel hands-free.
  • Electricity – The supply in Japan is 100 volts, unlike the rest of the world (110-120V in North America or 230V in Europe). Check out here for Amazon’s travel adaptors.
  • Using mobile phones & Internet – Having access to the internet while in Japan, it is essential to keep in touch with family or social media. However, using your phone can be costly, especially while using data. Thankfully, there are several options to get continuous access to complimentary WiFi. Most hotels, airports, big stations, convenience stores and cafes have free WiFi. However, for a more reliable service on the go, I recommend renting a Pocket WiFi from Japan Wireless. I used them during my last trip and have no complaints whatsoever. Their coverage was great. You can get a 1,000 Yen discount by using this offer code – JWSECRETMOONA.
  • Tipping – There is no tipping in Japan; you pay what’s on the receipt. Taxis, hotel staff, and guides will not accept tips either. On my last trip, since I booked a guide in Tokyo, I brought her a pack of assorted English teas as a gift. It was well received! One occasion when it is appropriate to tip is when you stay in a luxury ryokan. My friend left an envelope containing 1,000 Yen for the person who served our meals and prepared our futons.

Here you have it – a list of all the things you should consider while planning your trip to Japan for the first time.

Happy travel!


Travel Tips and Resources

Here are some of my favourite travel tips and resources.

  • Flights: I’m all about snapping the best deals when it comes to booking flights. Therefore, I use Google Flights and Skyscanner to get the best deals each time. I use AirHelp to receive compensation for delayed and cancelled flights.
  • Trains: I love using Trainline to book trains within Europe.
  • Accommodations: Booking.com and Agoda are my favourite sites for great hotels and private home deals. They both offer a wide range of hotels, including luxury accommodations and private homes.
  • Car Rentals: When it comes to travelling to remote destinations, renting a car is ideal. For these, I love renting cars through Discover Cars. They offer some great options for affordable rentals, and their customer service is one the best.
  • Tours and Experiences: Visiting a new place also means getting to experience and do many things. I usually book tours via GetYourGuide or TripAdvisor. If you like doing things solo, WeGoTrip offers audio tours and excursions.
  • Travel Insurance: Travelling without proper travel insurance is not recommended. I always travel with one. Use VisitorsCoverage to compare and get the best travel insurance policy for you.

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

25 thoughts on “Planning a Trip to Japan for the First Time: The Ultimate Travel Guide

  1. This is the most thorough Japan guide I have read to date. A-mazing! My son’s been bugging me forever to visit Japan. I’m saving this guide for when we finally go. Hopefully soon!

  2. I love Japan so much, especially the food! 🙂
    This is a brilliant guide for any first-time visitor and I really love your photos. Great post!

    1. Thank you so much Valerie. Yup, Japanese food is divine. They really know how to plate their food too!

  3. Brilliant guide – so much useful information and now I really want to go to Japan!!!! I went for the first time last year and loved it – wish I had of read your guide then but it will come in handy for next time!

    1. Thank you. I see you had a great time considering you want to go back! Haha. I would go every if I could.

  4. Very helpful! You’re right, a trip to Japan requires appropriate planning. The train system is indeed great, and the rail pass helped me alot. I visited in August and it was excruciatingly hot, especially in Kyoto, so I’d advise a different time of year if possible.

    1. Thank you Shannon! I have not been to Japan in August but I was told by my Japanese friends to avoid it too. Autumn is for me the best time to appreciate the country!

  5. Japan is one of my favorite countries to explore. There is so much to do and see, and I think you could return multiple times and still not see everything you’d want to. Great round up for first-time visitors!

  6. Great post! I did the Tokyo to Hiroshima on a one-week railpass on my second trip to Japan (the first one was just Tokyo on a cheap fare) and it does offer a lot of variety as well as major tourist sights. Now I just returned form a study/ work trip to Kyushu, and if you want to learn about Japan, spending some time in “secondary” cities and the countryside is definitely worthwile.

    1. Totally garee with you. I spent some time in Shikoku island on my second trip to Japan and plan on exploring the norther side of Japan next time I visit. Spending time in the countryside is so much better!

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