Have you been eagerly anticipating your trip to Japan and can’t wait to get your itinerary sorted? Feeling a tad overwhelmed by the plethora of information available online and unsure of where to begin? Planning a trip to Japan can indeed be daunting, particularly considering the vast differences in culture, language, practices, and traditions compared to elsewhere in the world.

Fret not! We’re here to assist you in planning your trip to Japan in the most straightforward and stress-free manner possible. Simply follow the step-by-step guide provided here, and you’ll breeze through the planning process without a worry!

Planning a trip to Japan

Step 1: Figuring Out Your Trip’s ‘Why’

Planning a Trip to Japan: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s begin by considering why you’re interested in visiting Japan. With its diverse range of attractions and experiences, planning a trip to Japan can feel a bit overwhelming at first. But understanding your motivations for visiting can make the process much smoother. Here are some common reasons people choose to visit Japan.

Reason: Japanese Food and Drinks

Step by step for planning Japanese Food and drinks

Let’s commence with food and beverages. While Japan is renowned for its classic sushi, ramen, and nihonshu, commonly known as “sake”, let’s delve deeper. A culinary experience in Japan transcends mere sustenance; it’s an immersive journey. Japanese cuisine boasts an array of delights, spanning from sweet to savoury, from noodles to rice, from traditional to fusion.

At every juncture, Japanese food has the potential to surprise. Each region in Japan boasts its own signature dishes, fruits, and vegetables. Additionally, alongside nihonshu, one can explore shochu, umeshu, and more. Breweries and distilleries are scattered across the country, each offering a unique regional variation of the same beverage.

Reason: Japan Nightlife

Step by step for planning Japan Nightlife

Many entertainment venues, eateries, and even stores in Japan remain open until the early hours, and occasionally operate 24 hours a day. Tokyo’s nightlife is often spontaneous and exhilarating, where one moment you may find yourself in a bar, the next bowling or belting out karaoke with newfound acquaintances, and perhaps, as the sun rises, enjoying drinks in Yoyogi Park, which remains open throughout the night.

In Japan, your evenings can be spent sipping drinks in a local bar, clubbing, crooning in karaoke bars, or browsing convenience stores or Don Quijote, catering to diverse preferences.

Reason: Japanese Traditions and Culture

Step by step for planning Japanese traditions and culture

Japanese traditions and culture diverge from those found elsewhere in the world. From the serene temples and shrines to engaging in cultural activities such as tea ceremonies and Ikebana (flower arranging), there is much to discover.

In Japan, one can immerse themselves in traditional practices through visits to temples, shrines, palaces, and castles; stroll through Japanese gardens to connect with nature; explore numerous museums to gain insights into Japanese culture and history; or partake in cultural experiences, delving into realms such as sumo wrestling, geisha culture, ninja traditions, samurai heritage, and more.

Reason: Pop Culture

Step by step for planning Pop Culture

For many, the allure of Japanese pop culture serves as a primary draw. Anime and manga, video games, arcades, Japanese idols, and kawaii culture offer a plethora of exploration opportunities. Days or weeks can be spent traversing various areas, each offering its own unique pop culture phenomena. Even if initially unfamiliar, delving into Japanese pop culture promises an intriguing and distinctive experience.

Reason: Shopping

Step by step for planning Shopping

If shopping is your passion, Japan boasts an array of options. Beyond the famed Harajuku fashion and avant-garde trends, you’ll discover fashion brands and boutiques from around the globe. With most stores offering tax-free shopping, there are ample opportunities for fantastic deals.

Thrift stores, shopping malls, and outlet malls abound across Japan. Additionally, beyond clothing, Japan is renowned for its beauty products, which are esteemed for their quality and affordability. Many visitors indulge in bulk purchases of beauty products from Japanese pharmacies to resell back home.

Reason: Weird Things

Step by step for planning Weird things

If you’ve encountered memes, gifs, videos, or clickbait articles about Japan, you may have encountered some of the peculiar and intriguing aspects of Japanese culture. Without revealing too much, peculiar advertisements adorn trains and streets, and evenings are punctuated by entertaining TV programmes. Simply wandering through town promises encounters with a plethora of entertainment.

Step 2. Deciding When to Go to Japan

Step by step for planning When to go to Japan 1

Determining the ideal time for your trip to Japan is essential when kick-starting your planning process. You may have certain constraints, such as school holidays or public holidays, but rest assured, Japan has something to offer year-round. With its distinct and captivating seasons, Japan boasts a plethora of seasonal events and activities for you to enjoy during your trip.

March, April, and May stand out as ideal months to experience springtime in Japan during your trip. June signals the onset of the rainy season, a period many travellers tend to avoid, though accommodation and flight prices typically dip, offering budget-friendly options for your trip to Japan. July through September marks summer in Japan, characterised by sweltering heat and humidity, ideal for those seeking a summer adventure during their trip to Japan.

Towards the end of September and into early October, typhoon season poses a consideration for your trip to Japan. As November approaches, the snow season begins, attracting visitors to ski resorts from November through to March for a memorable trip to Japan.

Step by step for planning When to go to Japan 2

Traditionally, many opt to explore Japan during spring for the renowned cherry blossom season, yet each season holds its own allure for a trip to Japan. During spring, the weather remains cool, providing the perfect backdrop to admire cherry blossoms and indulge in all the seasonal pink delights on offer.

In summer, vibrant matsuri (Japanese festivals) take place almost daily, complemented by splendid beaches and summer pursuits, making it an ideal time for your trip to Japan. Come autumn, you can relish the gentle breezes while immersing yourself in the hues of red leaves and partaking in seasonal fruit picking during your trip to Japan. And in winter, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts can revel in the powdery snow and seasonal festivities, adding excitement to your trip to Japan.

Step 3. Factoring in the Length of Your Stay in Japan

Step by step for planning How long do you have

The next aspect to consider is the duration of your trip to Japan. Depending on your departure location, travel time can vary significantly. It’s important to factor in both the flight duration and the additional time required for airport transfers.

If Japan is the sole destination for your vacation, you may have the flexibility to extend your stay and explore more extensively. However, if you plan to visit other countries as well, your available time in Japan may be more limited.

A trip solely to Tokyo can be condensed to just a few days to gain a good overview of the city. However, to fully explore neighbouring cities and other regions within the country, you may require at least a week.

For those with ample time and a desire to delve deeper into Japan, rest assured that there’s no shortage of activities. The country boasts numerous distinct regions, each offering a wealth of local experiences to enrich your trip to Japan.

Step 4. Making Sure You Stick to Your Budget

Step by step for planning What’s your budget

Determining your budget is crucial for planning your trip to Japan, as it will influence various aspects such as accommodation, transportation, and overall expenditure.

Many individuals perceive Japan to be an expensive destination, given its abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants, impressive skyscrapers, and top-notch services. It’s understandable to assume that travelling in Japan could come with a hefty price tag.

However, it’s worth noting that while there are certainly high-cost options available, there are also numerous affordable alternatives. Whether it’s dining, transportation, accommodation, or shopping, there are plenty of ways to economise. For detailed insights on saving money, refer to our resources.

Calculate the budget you anticipate needing for your trip and consider allocating a little extra for unforeseen expenses. Utilising apps like TravelSpend can assist you in managing your budget effectively throughout your travels.

Step 5. Focusing on Areas You Want to Visit

Step by step for planning Which areas 1

Determining which cities you want to visit in Japan is the next step in planning your trip.

Typically, most travellers fly into Tokyo, landing at either Narita or Haneda airport. As the capital of Japan, Tokyo offers a multitude of attractions. Additionally, Tokyo’s neighbouring areas, such as Yokohama, Izu, and Chiba, are popular spots for day trips.

Apart from Tokyo, other sought-after destinations include Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima are ideal for those keen to explore Japanese culture, history, and nature. Osaka, another bustling metropolis, boasts abundant entertainment and vibrant nightlife.

Other notable areas in Japan frequently visited by tourists include Hakuba, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, and Okinawa.

Step by step for planning Which areas 2

Hakuba is renowned for its skiing opportunities, particularly favoured by international visitors. Here, you can indulge in winter sports during the day and vibrant nightlife after sunset.

Hokkaido, located in the northern part of Japan, offers incredible ski resorts and snow festivals in winter, while summer unveils stunning flower fields and seasonal fruit-picking activities.

Fukuoka is famed for its street food, lively nightlife, and rejuvenating hot springs. Meanwhile, Okinawa is celebrated for its picturesque beaches, natural beauty, and diverse water sports and activities.

Step 6. Booking Flights and Accommodations

Step by step for planning Reservations and Bookings 1

Let’s delve into the enjoyable aspect of planning: booking your flights and accommodation for your trip to Japan!

At this stage, you should have determined your intended travel dates to Japan and identified the areas you’ll be visiting. If you’re keen on saving money on flights and don’t mind the possibility of a layover, consider exploring various low-budget flight options. Check out our preferred flight booking platform here to secure the best deals for your trip to Japan!

When it comes to accommodation, I recommend utilising platforms like booking.com or Agoda. They offer an extensive selection of properties across Japan at competitive prices. If you’re uncertain about where to stay, take a look at our recommended accommodation options here:

If you’re planning to travel extensively within Japan, I highly recommend acquiring the JR Pass. This pass functions as a rail pass, granting unlimited rides on most JR trains for a specified period upon a one-time fee. Even if you’re only venturing beyond Tokyo to one other city, the JR Pass can yield significant savings in both money and time!

Step 7. Finalizing Reservations and Bookings

Step by step for planning Reservations and Bookings 2

Now that you’ve sorted your flights, accommodation, and plans for your trip to Japan, it’s time to finalise your reservations and bookings.

Many popular attractions require advance bookings, and certain sought-after restaurants and bars also insist on reservations. While some places offer tickets on the day, making reservations ahead of time can save you both time and, occasionally, money.

Key attractions that necessitate or benefit from advance reservations include Disneyland and Disneysea, TeamLab Borderless, Ghibli Museum, Yayoi Kusama Museum, and SkyTree observatory.

Ensure you arrange your reservations and bookings well in advance to avoid missing out on these experiences during your travels in Japan.

Additional travel add-ons

Step by step for planning Additional travel add-ons

When planning your trip to Japan, you’ll find a range of apps and tools available to assist you with your travel needs, including transportation cards and SIM cards. Our FLIP Japan Starter Pack is specially curated to provide everything you need, eliminating the need for hours of research and arrangement. The best part? You can acquire everything upon your arrival at the airport!

Additionally, there are other considerations you may wish to explore, such as travel insurance, luggage transfer services, pickup services, travel gear, VPNs, and more. While not essential, these amenities can significantly enhance the ease and comfort of your travel experience.

Step by step for planning Additional travel add-ons (2)

Here are some of our preferred tools that may prove beneficial for your travels:

  • Welcome Pickups offers a comprehensive luggage transfer service, ensuring seamless assistance throughout your journey, from arrival to departure.
  • Wise is our preferred online money transfer service, providing convenient and straightforward money transfers without the complexities of traditional currency exchanges.
  • Allianz Travel provides comprehensive travel insurance coverage, safeguarding you, your family, and your belongings throughout your trip abroad.
  • World Nomads offers travel insurance tailored to the needs of travellers and families, covering essential aspects of your trip even in unforeseen circumstances.
  • NordVPN is a VPN service offering enhanced security for all your devices, including computers, phones, and TVs.

Explore these tools further to determine how they can enhance your travel experience.

Step 8. Arranging Tours and Experiences

Step by step for planning Tours and experiences

There’s no finer way to delve into Japan than with the guidance of local experts. Japan boasts an array of tours and experiences awaiting exploration during your trip.

Immerse yourself in cultural activities such as tea ceremonies, Japanese cooking classes, kimono dressing, geisha encounters, and sumo wrestler interactions. Alternatively, indulge in walking tours, culinary adventures, pub crawls, and ramen tastings. Many of these experiences can be found on Viator.

We offer a unique bar-hopping adventure that transports you to four underground venues across various Tokyo districts, complete with complimentary shots and discounted drinks. If this piques your interest, you can discover more about it here!

Step 9. Refining Your Itinerary

Step by step for planning Itinerary

Now that you have arranged all your major travels, reservations, and experiences, it’s time to fill in the gaps and decide where to go during your trip to Japan. Some people prefer detailed itineraries listing everything, while others prefer to go with the flow.

Planning your trip to Japan is an enjoyable process, but it can also be time-consuming. To assist you in planning without stress or worry, and to ensure you can focus all your energy on enjoying your time, here are multiple Flip Japan Guide-crafted itineraries to help you make the most of your time in Japan.

Step 10. Arriving to Japan

If you’re embarking on a trip to Japan, particularly if it’s your first visit to the country, you’ll likely fly into Haneda airport or Narita airport.

At both airports, you have the option of taking a bus. This eliminates the need to lug around heavy luggage while navigating Tokyo’s extensive train lines. The airport limousine bus operates throughout the day and makes stops at hotels all over Tokyo. A ticket typically costs around ¥2,900 ($27).

Alternatively, if you’re seeking a more budget-friendly option and have minimal luggage, regular trains are a viable choice.

Starting Your Trip: Geting to Know Tokyo

Step by step for planning Itinerary

Now that you are well-rested, it’s time to explore Tokyo! There’s no better way to start your trip than by visiting all the major sights in Tokyo. We suggest embarking on a comprehensive one-day trip to immerse yourself in the culture and discover places you might want to revisit later during your trip to Japan.

Step by step for planning Arriving to Japan

We recommend starting your day by visiting Skytree and Sensoji temple in the Asakusa area. Then, head to Akihabara to explore the anime and manga culture, as well as the electronics in the vicinity. While this might not appeal to everyone, there are plenty of other attractions in the area.

Next, venture to Harajuku to experience Takeshita Street, sample some delicious street food, soak in the kawaii culture, and explore Meiji Jingu Shrine and Yoyogi Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can visit the famous Shibuya for its Shibuya crossing, various shopping malls, and viewpoints. Finally, conclude your day by heading to Shinjuku, where you can explore the small bar streets, the red-light district Kabukicho, and indulge in the plethora of food options available.

Getting to Know Tokyo Even Better

Now that you’ve had the chance to visit the major sights of Tokyo, is there a place you’d like to revisit? Depending on whether you fancy trying out some Japanese food, going shopping, visiting museums, or exploring some natural spots, Tokyo offers a plethora of activities during your trip to Japan.

If you’ve been to Tokyo before or seek something more off the beaten path, you might consider exploring some of Tokyo’s local areas or trying out these day trip ideas from Tokyo.

Visiting other cities

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities Nara

Nara is renowned for Nara Park, where wild deer roam freely. Within Nara Park, you’ll discover numerous temples and museums, including Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji.

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities

Osaka is a vibrant city boasting countless restaurants, shops, and street food stalls in Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi. Namba, located close to these areas, offers a vibrant nightlife scene. If you’re keen on amusement parks, consider visiting Universal Studios here. Additionally, popular skyscrapers with viewpoints include Abeno Harukas, Tsutenkaku, and Umeda Sky Building.

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities Kyoto

Kyoto boasts an abundance of temples and shrines, offering a genuine cultural experience of Japan. Don’t miss the famous Kinkaku-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Arashiyama, and Fushimi Inari Taisha, among others. Explore the Gion area and visit other famous spots such as Shōren-in Monzeki, Chion-in, and Yasaka Shrine within Maruyama Park.

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities Hiroshima

Hiroshima holds significant historical importance, and you can delve deeper into its history at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall, Hiroshima Castle, and Hiroshima Prefectural Museum.

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities Fukuoka

Fukuoka, situated in Kyushu, offers not only a bustling city centre but also neighbouring towns and cities with stunning natural beauty. Sample the delicious Fukuoka cuisine and street food, and explore attractions like Hakozaki Shrine, Waka Hachimangu Shrine, Chikuzen Sumiyoshi, Maizuru Park, and Tochoji Temple.

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities Hokkaido

Hokkaido, the northern prefecture of Japan, is a popular destination, particularly in winter for its pristine powder snow. Explore the capital Sapporo, nearby cities Otaru and Hakodate, the renowned ski resort Niseko, and numerous other stunning natural sites.

Step by step for planning Visiting other cities Okinawa

For those who relish summer and warm weather, Okinawa beckons. Located in the southern prefecture of Japan, Naha serves as the capital of Okinawa, offering a variety of local food and historical structures. Dive into Okinawan culture at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum, and explore the various islands, each with its own unique offerings, ideal for immersing in nature and relaxation.

Read, Set, Travel!

Venturing into Japan for the first time is an exhilarating journey of discovery and cultural immersion. From the vibrant cityscapes of Tokyo to the tranquil temples of Kyoto, Japan offers a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be unravelled.

Whether you’re indulging in Osaka’s gastronomic delights, exploring Hiroshima’s poignant historical sites, or embracing Hokkaido’s natural wonders, each destination presents a unique facet of Japan’s diverse landscape.

While planning may initially seem daunting, meticulous research and preparation will ensure a tailored itinerary that caters to your interests and preferences. Embrace the spirit of adventure, keep an open mind, and immerse yourself in the warmth of Japanese hospitality and tradition.

So, with bags packed and curiosity ablaze, embark on this transformative voyage through the Land of the Rising Sun. Your inaugural trip to Japan promises to be an unforgettable odyssey, brimming with cherished memories and enriching experiences.