If you’re planning a short trip and have 5 days in Japan, here are some travel tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your visit.
While most people who travel to the country tend to spend a longer amount of time here, the good news is that you can actually see and do quite a bit even with just 5 days in Japan.
If you’re the super active and “ambitious” type of traveler, you could be tempted to try and fit everything in. But for a 5-day trip, we recommend focusing on either Tokyo or Kyoto for a slower-paced and more immersive experience.
To some it may look small on the map, but in fact the country is surprisingly large (bigger than Italy, for example), and you could easily devote years to exploring Japan’s best destinations.
Originally written in 2014, this post was updated and republished on September 25, 2020.
Option 1: Kanto Region (Tokyo and the Countryside)
You could easily spend all 5 days in Tokyo and barely scratch the surface, but for a more well-rounded experience consider allotting 1 or 2 nights to a ryokan stay in the countryside nearby.
You’ll want at minimum 2 or 3 full days to explore the city of Tokyo itself. For a taste of just how much this rich and layered city offers see our guide to 1 day in Tokyo, our introduction to Tokyo’s best neighborhoods, and this list of 15 unique things to do in Tokyo.
To complement your time in the city, spend 1 or 2 nights at a luxurious traditional ryokan in Hakone, the Izu Peninsula, or Nikko (all within 1-2 hours of Tokyo). This will be the perfect change of pace and a chance to enjoy nature, traditional Japanese hospitality, soothing onsen (hot springs), and incredible kaiseki cuisine featuring local and seasonal specialties.
These are some of our favorite luxury ryokans within easy reach of Tokyo.
This would make for a great 5-day Japan itinerary if you love cities, but also want to experience nature and tradition.
Option 2: Kansai Region (Kyoto and Osaka)
If you’re more interested in history and “old Japan,” you may want to focus your 5-day trip on the ancient capital Kyoto. In this case, to minimize in-country traveling, consider if possible flying into nearby Osaka (Kyoto has no airport).
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. You could spend weeks here and never see it all, but 3 or 4 days here will give you a great introduction to the city. For a sense of how much the ancient capital offers see our comprehensive guide to Kyoto, our introduction to Kyoto’s temples and shrines, our sample 3-day Kyoto itinerary, and this list of foods to try in Kyoto.
If you have time, consider taking a day trip to nearby Nara, or for a contrast head to the lively modern city of Osaka. Nara is ideal for history lovers, while Osaka is arguably a must-visit for travelers passionate about food (Osaka’s cuisine is legendary in Japan).
Wherever you choose to go, even a 5-day trip will enable you to get a memorable taste of Japan – and chances are you’re going to want to come back for a second visit!