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It’s a myth that Japan isn’t for backpackers or budget travelers! Although you shouldn’t expect $2 dorm beds like in Southeast Asia, it’s entirely possible to travel three weeks in Japan on a budget. 

If it’s your first time backpacking in Japan, I recommend this three weeks in Japan itinerary. It combines the traditional, the flashy, the delicious, the kawaii, exciting, cultural… everything that Japan has to offer! 

Spend time in  the classic Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima while backpacking three weeks in Japan, plus see some hidden gems like Naoshima and Okunoshima (Rabbit Island!). You’re sure to have a memorable experience that’ll make you want to book a second trip to Japan. 

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Kamakura Buddha - Backpacking Japan Three Week Itinerary

Backpacking Three Weeks in Japan Itinerary

Start: Fly in to Tokyo

End: Fly out of Osaka

Total = Three weeks backpacking in Japan on a budget!

Top things to do in Tokyo viewpoint asakusa ginza akihabara shibuya shinjuku best things to do in tokyo for all budgets, meiji jingu and yoyogi park, skytree, studio ghibli museum, watch sumo

Getting To and From Your Japan Three-Week Itinerary

To save money on your Japan backpacking trip, I recommend checking flight prices to/from Tokyo and Osaka airports. Narita, Haneda, and Kansai International Airports all have competitive flight prices, especially one-way flights to/from other Asian destinations. 

I like to use Google Flights to compare flight prices, because I can input more than one airport to fly into or out of. See my Travel Resources page for more tips. 

The good news about picking Japan as your travel destination: every month of the year there are amazing sights to see and experiences to be had. Japan can be visited year-round, so don’t stress about when the best time is to make a trip! 

 

How To Get Around During Your 3-Week Japan Itinerary

A common transportation method for tourists coming to Japan is the JR Pass. It gives you unlimited JR line rides (including bullet trains) for a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day time frame. For its hefty price-tag, you save a lot of time getting around Japan. If you have money but not a lot of time in Japan, check out JR Passes for cheap from Klook.

For this backpacking in Japan and this 3-weeks Japan itinerary, the JR Pass is not cost-effective. The JR Pass in general is not something I recommend for backpacking in Japan on a budget.  

Get around Japan on a budget by using highway busses, or the local trains with the Seishun 18 Kippu

Check out Japan Bus Online, which is a database of different highway busses operating across Japan. I normally travel with Willer Express, which operates both overnight busses and daytime long-distance busses. For non-Japanese passport holders, Willer has a Japan Bus Pass you can purchase, that lets you take their busses on 3-, 5-, or 7- different days within a two month period. Perfect for backpacking in Japan! 

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Somewhere outside of Hiroshima - Backpacking Japan

Backpacking in Japan Three Week Itinerary

Start: Tokyo - 7 Days

7 days might seem like a long time to be in Tokyo, but if you plan your 3-week Japan itinerary this way, it’s easier on your backpacking Japan budget! Tokyo has many amazing day-trip destinations, so stay in one hostel for 7 days, while exploring Tokyo, and its surrounding towns! 

Where to stay in Tokyo to start three weeks in Japan

Tokyo is filled with amazing neighborhoods, so it’s hard to go wrong when picking accommodation in Tokyo. To make getting around easier, I recommend staying in Tokyo near the Yamanote line, which is the circle line within Tokyo that connects to most of the top things to do in Tokyo.

Check out the following places to stay in Tokyo for your three weeks in Japan itinerary: 
How to Get Around Tokyo:

Whether you’ve invested in a JR pass or not, it’s convenient to have a Suica card, a transit card that works on all transportation in Tokyo. The JR pass doesn’t allow you to take non-JR trains, such as Odakyu lines for example, which take you to Kamakura

Suica cards can also be used anywhere IC Cards are accepted around Japan. Transport in Kyoto and Osaka all accept Suica cards too, although their regional IC card is the ICOCA card. They’re the perfect backpacking in Japan companion. 

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How To Spend Three Days in Tokyo

As part of your 3-week Japan itinerary, I suggest dedicating at least three full days to Tokyo. With many weird & wonderful things to do, and more quiet off-the-beaten-path Tokyo experiences, you’ll never get bored backpacking Tokyo. 

Here’s an outline of things to do during three days in Tokyo:

Tokyo Day 1 
  • Fire up your taste buds by touring around Tsukiji Market. Though the tuna auction doesn’t happen here anymore, there are countless street food stores selling seafood samples. 
  • Stroll through the Ginza neighborhood, the 5th Avenue of Tokyo and a great place for shopping
  • Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens for a nice break from the crowds. Have lunch at Tokyo Station’s underground Ramen Street and check out its quirky Character Street shops. 
  • Head to the anime and electronics neighborhood of Akihabara to surround yourself with modern Japanese culture
  • Last stop: Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple is one of the most iconic sights in Tokyo. Take part in Japanese temple traditions here.  
Three days in Tokyo itinerary Asakusa Shoenji Temple and Nakamise street, three day Tokyo itnerary, cherry blossoms
Tokyo Day 2
  • Head to ritzy Roppongi and the MORI Art Museum for a great city view overlooking Tokyo
  • Immerse yourself in trendy Shibuya, a favorite neighborhood for young Tokyo-ites. See the Hachiko dog statue and the famous Shibuya crossing. A new viewpoint over Tokyo, Shibuya Sky recently opened for more great views over Tokyo. 
  •  Explore the Meiji Jingu grounds, one of the most important shrines in all of Japan dedicated to the first Emperor and Empress. 
  • Hop over to Harajuku and Takeshita Street, home to countless wacky Tokyo activities including eating rainbow food and dining at the Kawaii Monster Cafe. 
  • Head to Shinjuku, one of the liveliest Tokyo neighborhoods at any time of the day. Have a drink (or just walk through) Shinjuku Gai, a grid of alleyways filled with tiny bars and izakaya. 
Finding a Sharehouse in Tokyo, how to find the best Sharehouse in Tokyo for you, including tips on where to search, location, budget, and sharehouse characteristics in Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Day 3:
  • Go to Teamlab Borderless or Teamlab Planets, which are two incredible museums filled with immersive digital art exhibits. 
  • Head to the Yanaka Ginza neighborhood to get a feel for old Tokyo. 
  • Walk through a row of vermillion torii gates (smaller than the ones at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto but much less crowded) at the Nezu Shrine
Find more inspiration for Backpacking in Tokyo: 
Experience Digital Art at Teamlab Borderless Museum in Odaiba, Tokyo Japan, tips on visiting. Forest of Resonating Lamps
The Forest of Resonating Lamps at Teamlab Borderless in Tokyo

Tokyo Day-Trips

Be sure to include a few amazing day-trips from Tokyo on your Japan itinerary. Whether you enjoy hiking, temples, shopping, or Disney, there is a day-trip for everyone. 

The three day-trips I recommend for backpackers in Japan are Yokohama, Kamakura & Enoshima (combined), and one day-trip to the mountains east of Tokyo. 

1. Yokohama Day-Trip

One of the most popular day-trips from Tokyo for locals is to Yokohama. It’s the second largest city in Japan, located just 30 minutes by train south of Tokyo. It’s a large port city famous for its sprawling Chinatown, shopping scene, and two Ramen Noodle museums

Yokohama is cheap to reach from Tokyo (¥450 from Shinjuku). Being close to the water gives you a break from being surrounded by tall buildings all the time in Tokyo. 

Read about making a Yokohama day-trip here
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2. Kamakura and Enoshima Day-Trip

Kamakura and Enoshima are separately two beautiful places to day-trip from Tokyo. Because they are close in proximity, it will save you time and money by combining the two into one day-trip.  Purchase a Odakyu one-day freepass (¥1520) to take unlimited rides between Kamakura and Enoshima, plus a round-trip ride from Shinjuku Station. 

Highlights of Kamakura include its bronze Great Buddha statue, many traditional temples and shrines, and its beaches. Exploring off-the-beaten-path Kamakura will give you a great feel for rural Japanese life. 

Enoshima is a tiny island off the coast of Kamakura. It’s famous for its ancient shrines and its geography of rugged cliffs and water-formed caves. Enoshima is home to a lighthouse and viewpoint, a local shopping street, and a great shoreline to wander around for sunset.

Read my comprehensive Kamakura-Enoshima Day-Trip Itinerary
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3. Mountains & Nature Day-Trip: Mt. Takao, Mt. Jinba, or Mt. Mitake

Just west of Tokyo city are sprawling mountain ranges. If spending time in nature is high on your priority list during two weeks in Japan, head to one of these mountains. 

  • Mt. Takao is the most crowded mountain day-trip, because it’s easily accessible from the city center (¥390 directly from Shinjuku). You can take a cable car or chair lift to the summit, and be greeted by a view of Mt. Fuji on clear days! Mt. Takao is home to some mountain monkeys, several temples, and restaurants serving Japanese hikers comfort food. 
  • Mt. Jinba, which can be combined with a hike to Mt. Takao, is a popular mountain with hikers and trail runners. The summit of Mt. Jinba is wide and grassy, with a handful of restaurants and many benches perfect for picnics. See Mt. Fuji and the Kanto plain from the summit of Mt. Jinba too! 
  • Mt. Mitake is another holy mountain located a bit further from Tokyo. It used to be a pilgrimage site, where monks would stay at the summit in temple accommodation. Today, it’s still possible to stay in a temple on Mt. Mitake. For day-trips to Mt. Mitake, you can have a meal with a view at the many restaurants, do some souvenir shopping, and enjoy the small mountain village life. 
Hiking Mt. Jinba to Mt. Takao, how to get to Mt. Jinba start of the trek from Mt. Jinba to to Takao-san. Trekking from Jinbakōgenshita to Takaosanguchi station, Fureai no Michi bird trail
The summit of Mt. Jinba, with views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day!

4. Disneyland or DisneySea

Of course, if you’re a big fan of Disney, switch out one of these day-trips for an all-day excursion to Tokyo’s renowned Disneyland. If traveling Japan with kids, visiting Tokyo Disney is a must, and it’s highly recommended to buy tickets in advance. Purchase tickets to skip the line here.

If you’re looking for a different Disney experience, try Disney Sea. The crowd here is a bit older so it’s perfect for an adult-only Disney experience. The rides at Disney Sea are more thrilling and… they sell alcohol here! 

5. Kawagoe Day-Trip

Not traveling with Disney fans during your three weeks in Japan? Check out this day-trip alternative from Tokyo: Kawagoe. Kawagoe is a short train ride north-west from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro station (¥480 from Ikebukuro), located in the neighboring Saitama prefecture.

Nicknamed “Little Edo”, you’ll find local tourists dressing up in kimono to walk through the old-Japan streets here. Highlights include “Candy Alley”, a historical alleyway filled with candy shops, an old clocktower, and a temple where you’re sure to get rich from visiting!

Read more about making a day-trip to Kawagoe here
Kawagoe Saitama Day Trip from Tokyo, how to get there from Ikebukuro, see the clock tower, candy alley, kane no toki, and Little Edo in Kawagoe, a half day or full day trip from Tokyo

Nagoya - 2 Days

Continue backpacking down the coast of Japan to Nagoya, your first stop on this 3-week Japan itinerary after Tokyo! From Tokyo, it’s possible to take a highway bus to Nagoya in just a few hours. 

Nagoya is one of Japan’s most underrated cities, and sadly, often skipped on Japan itineraries. 

Nagoya is a busy industrial city, but offers a lot more than just tall buildings! The Nagoya castle is a royal place to visit, plus there are plenty of museums and other activities around town. Nagoya is also a great place to take a day trip to Shirakawago, where you can experience historic, rural Japan. 

How To Spend One Day In Nagoya

Nagoya has something for everyone backpacking in Japan:

  • If you have yet to see a Japanese castle, be sure to stop by the Nagoya Castle, a grand building with adjoining quarters than can be entered.
  • Interested in cars and machinery? Check out the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology where you can learn about the start of Toyota (they didn’t start off by making cars!) Plenty of old machinery and cars through the decades are on display here, as are new Toyota inventions like a violin-playing robot!
  • For those interested in art and history, check out the Tokugawa Art Museum, where several old Japanese relics are preserved. Over 10,000 works of art that have been passed down from the shogunate era are on display here. 
  • Shoppers will love the Osu Shopping District with its quirky stores, international cafes, and antique shops. The main shopping street ends at the front of Osu Kannon, a shrine where you can hand-feed the many resident pigeons. 
  • Lastly, if traveling with kids, be sure to add Nagoya’s Legoland to your Japan travel itinerary. Purchase tickets to Nagoya Legoland here! 
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Shirakawago Day-Trip

You can easily spend more than one day exploring Nagoya, but you can also consider taking a day-trip tour to Shirakawago and Takayama. Both of these villages are tucked away in the Japanese mountains, in the neighboring Gifu prefecture. Shirakawago and Takayama are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, where traditional villages can be explored. The most famous sights here are of the slanted thatched-roof buildings, historically owned by farmers, artisans, and merchants in Japan. 

Tours to this region cost about $80 USD, which is a good deal. Like all backpackers in Japan, I considered visiting Shirakawago by navigating the busses myself… but the price comes out to about the same, plus it’s a lot more of a hassle. 

shirakawago

Image Source

Kyoto - 4 Days

After Tokyo and Nagoya, it’s time to head south to the Kansai region during your backpacking Japan three weeks itinerary!

Kansai is home to two more famous cities not to be missed during three weeks in Japan: Osaka and Kyoto. To start, I suggest staying 4 days in Kyoto. Give yourself 3 days in Kyoto, and save one day for a day-trip to Nara, a historic city just south of Kyoto, famous for its domesticated deer.

Getting from Nagoya to Kyoto

Search for busses that run between Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kyoto at Japan Bus Online and Willer Express.

Getting Around Kyoto

If you purchased a Suica Card in Tokyo, this same card works on all public transit within Kyoto,  and Osaka too. The Kansai version of the Suica is the ICOCA card, which you can also collect at any station (besides being a souvenir, there’s no point in having both). 

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How to Spend Three Days in Kyoto

Kyoto deserves at least three full days when backpacking three weeks in Japan. Kyoto is the cultural and historic capital of Japan, and is covered in beautiful, unique temples and shrines. 

The top things to do in Kyoto all happen to be a bit spread out around the edges of the city. Because of this, it is near impossible to see all of Kyoto’s highlights in less than three days. 

Kyoto Day 1:
  • Head to Kiyomizudera before the swarms of tour and school groups accumulate in the morning. This temple built into the side of a mountain is a great introduction to the grand temples of Kyoto. There’s a great view looking down over the city too!
  • Admire Sanneizaka the long, winding shopping street that leads up to Kiyomizudera temple. Shops sell all types of souvenirs includes teas, foldable fans, keychains, and traditional Japanese treats.
  • Visit smaller local temples in the area including colorful Kongoji Temple and Yasui Konpiragu, home to a large stone you can crawl through to make a wish come true.
  • Walk through the historic Gion neighborhood, which is filled with old homes and restaurants, and is a perfect spot to grab a meal. 
  • Check out Nishiki Market, a large street food and souvenir street famous for its interesting snacks. 
  • Visit Yasaka Shrine in the evening to see its famous lanterns lit up.
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Kyoto Day 2:
  • EARLY in the morning again, head to Fushimi Inari shrine, home to the famous rows of torii gates. The shrine becomes painfully crowded very quickly, so I recommend going at 6-7am. 
  • Check out the off-the-radar, serene Komyō-in Temple and Tofukuji Temple, both located walking distance from Fushimi Inari.
  •  Transit north to Higashiyama Jisho-ji, also known as Ginkakuji. Here you will also find the Philosopher’s Path that runs along a trickling river
  • Walking distance from Ginkakuji is a quieter Hōnen-in Temple.
  • Head back towards Kyoto City Center and stop by the massive Heian Shrine.
  • By now you’re probably all templed-out, so do some window-shopping along the bustling Teramachi-dori shopping neighborhood.
Three weeks in japan itinerary, three weeks backpacking japan itinerary kyoto
Kyoto Day 3:
  • Head to western Kyoto, where Arashiyama or the Bamboo Forest is located. 
  • Unfortunately for budget travelers, taking a taxi is the best way to get from Arashiyama to its neighbor to the north, Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavillion. You can also try to navigate the Kyoto public busses. 
  • Visit nearby Ryōan-ji, which is another temple famous for its rock garden.
  • Head to Kyoto Station to get some shopping done for souvenirs, or just grab a bite to eat at one of its hundreds of restaurants. Go at night to enjoy the stairs lit up with different seasonal light shows. 
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Nara Day-Trip

Nara is a must-visit for a 3-week Japan itinerary. Not only is Nara filled with beautiful old temples, it’s home to hundreds of domesticated deer that come up to you for food! Historically, deer were seen as messengers of the gods, so they were treated as holy animals. Now, visitors to Nara can purchase deer cookies to feed to the deer. It’s a favorite destination and activity for backpacking in Japan. 

Tip: Hide the deer cookies as soon as you buy them, and feed the deer in a quieter spot. Deer in Nara hoard around vendors who sell the cookies and may bite for food. 

Another Tip: Being surrounded by hungry large deer can be traumatizing for small kids. Crying children running away from overly-enthusiastic deer is a common sign in Nara. Carry your little ones or help them when they feed the deer. 

Things to do during one day in Nara:
  • Visit Tōdai-ji Temple, which was first built in the 700’s and houses Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statue within it. 
  • Explore the lesser-known temples that are scattered around Nara’s main temple area. 
  • Of course: Feed the deer
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Osaka – 3 Days

Osaka is Kansai’s answer to Tokyo. Known as “Japan’s Kitchen” Osaka is also a city famous for its delicious Japanese food. Another city that never sleeps, Osaka is home to the famous Glico Sign as well as a historic castle, Universal Studios, an “American village”, and Dotonbori food street.

I recommend spending three nights in Osaka, while taking two day-trips from here to the surrounding Kansai sites. I think it’s possible to see most of Osaka’s highlights in just one full day, plus a few evenings after you return from the day-trips. 

In one day in Osaka, you can visit:
  • Osaka Castle – an impressive structure built in the center of large gardens and moats. Enter the castle and head to the top for a view over Osaka!
  •  Shinsaibashi street – this is a favorite shopping and dining area for Osaka visitors. This street opens in to a shopping grid that is home to the jiggly Rikuro’s Cheesecakes
  • Snap a picture with the Glico sign. Don’t be shy, everyone is posing with their arms up in front of it. 
  • Dotonbori is the street that Osaka is most famous for. Several street food stalls line the walkways for a quick bite, but the restaurants are the real stars here. They have massive moving figurines of their specialties above their storefronts. Find enormous crabs, pufferfish, octopus, gyoza, and more above your head! Tip: Try takoyaki, octopus dough balls famous in Osaka.
  • America-mura – Literally “American village”, this neighborhood is home to many hip-hop style stores and has a small skate park in the center of it.
  • Umeda Sky Building – Near Osaka Station, get a great view over the city here.
Three weeks in japan itinerary, three weeks backpacking japan itinerary osaka

Osaka Day-Trips

Day-trip options from Osaka are plentiful, especially if you want to visit theme parks in the area. 

Kobe, Koyasan, and Universal Studios are day-trips from Osaka that cover all the bases for different types of travelers in Japan. 

Kobe is a large port city great for those interested in shopping, dining, and history. Koyasan is a holy mountain south of Osaka perfect for travelers interested in culture and temples. Universal Studios Japan is a dream come true for fans of Harry Potter, Minions, and in 2020, Super Mario and Nintendo. 

1. Kobe

Things to do in Kobe:
  • Explore its Chinatown, one of the largest in Japan and a street-food heaven. 
  • Eat some Kobe Beef, a delicacy that originates from this region and one of many foods that Japan is world-famous for. 
  • Check out Kitano-cho, a neighborhood with dozens of elaborate Western buildings that look like they were transported straight out of Europe. Houses here include the Vienna House, the Dutch House, the English House, and more. 
  • Go to the Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park, where you can see remnants of a devastating earthquake that hit Kobe in 1995
  • Shop and dine at the Harbor Walk, a commercial area in Kobe with many malls and restaurants. 
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A view of Kobe from the Kitano-cho neighborhood

2. Koyasan

Koyasan, or Mt. Koya, is a holy mountain located a 1.5-hour train ride south of Osaka. For visitors to Japan interested in culture and tradition, Koyasan is a must-visit day trip, or even overnight trip, during your three weeks in Japan itinerary. Many visitors to Koyasan stay overnight in a high-end ryokan, or traditional Japanese lodging traditionally available for pilgrims. Examples of beautiful Koyasan ryokan include Jokiin and Shukubo Ekoin.

For a budget Japan itinerary, it’s best to just visit Koyasan as a day-trip. At the summit of Koyasan are several temples you can visit, as well as a large graveyard filled with hauntingly beautiful moss-covered stones and statues. 

Read more about making a pilgrimage to Koyasan here.
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3. Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan, or USJ as it’s called by the locals, is nearly as popular of a destination as Tokyo Disneyland for a three-week Japan itinerary. Explore the world-famous Wizarding World of Harry Potter with your own magic wand, say hello to the Minions in Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and more. 

Buy tickets for USJ in advance, and consider purchasing an express pass for guaranteed entry to the top 4 USJ attractions. 

Naoshima + Teshima Art Islands - 2 Days

Here are some recommendations for stops on your three weeks in Japan itinerary that aren’t on every other list! Between Osaka and Hiroshima lies the Seto Inland Sea, home to several islands where you can experience a slower pace of life. Here, you’ll feel like you’re truly backpacking in Japan instead of just following Japan’s tourist trail. 

Historically, many of the Seto Inland Sea islands were suffering from a loss in population like many parts of rural Japan. To combat this, the these islands started transforming their old abandoned homes in to art installations and museums. Three times per year, the Setouchi Triennale Art festival draws thousands of visitors to the islands, boosting tourism income and revitalizing what was a dying community. 

Naoshima and Teshima are the two most-visited, and easy accessible, of the Art Islands. If you are going to spend the night on one while backpacking in Japan, I recommend Naoshima because it has more accommodation and dining options. 

Naoshima - 1 Day

Naoshima is the best starting point for two days in the Seto Inland Sea area. It’s easily reached by ferry from the Uno Port, which connects to the rest of Japan mainland’s JR railway system. 

Once on Naoshima, rent a bicycle to circle the small island while stopping at the many art exhibits and museums. The most popular ones to visit are:

  • Chichu Art Museum – This museum was designed by Tadao Ando to blend in to the surrounding Naoshima nature. It’s home to some of Monet’s Water Lilies Series (must reserve tickets in advance).
  • Benesse House – Part contemporary art museum part hotel, this facility is built into the side of a hill overlooking the beautiful sea. 
  • Art House Projects – In the Honmura port side of Naoshima are seven previously abandoned homes or buildings that have been transformed in to art installations. Visit six out of seven for ¥1050. Entry to one art house, Kinza, must be reserved separately in advance
  • Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkins – One yellow and one red, these two iconic pumpkins can be found on different parts of Naoshima’s coastline
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Teshima - 1 Day

Teshima is Naoshima’s neighbor to the East, and can be reached by ferry from either of Naoshima’s ports early in the morning. Your three weeks in Japan itinerary continues south after Teshima. 

Start your one day in Teshima early, and rent a bicycle to see the highlights of the island:

  • Teshima Art Museum (book tickets in advance during the high season) – a contemporary art museum built in to the side of the Teshima’s hills. 
  • Teshima Yokoo House – a renovated old Japanese home turned in to an art space
  • “Nobody Wins” basketball hoops (below) where you can blow off some steam! 
  • Shima Kitchen – an art space and small restaurant with a large, open-air patio

Spend the night in Teshima or back in Naoshima, before heading down to Hiroshima to continue this backpacking three weeks in Japan itinerary. 

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Okunosima Rabbit Island (between Naoshima and Hiroshima)

Another long transfer here during your three weeks Japan itinerary: the Art Islands to Hiroshima. Luckily, day-tripping to Okunoshima is an amazing way to break up the transit. It’s a favorite island to visit for backpackers in Japan. 

Okunoshima, also known as Rabbit Island, is famous for its hundreds of furry residents. No one knows exactly why there are so many rabbits on Okunoshima, but they’re all tame and love coming up to visitors for food.

Interestingly, there’s a dark side of Okunoshima as well, because it’s home to an abandoned chemical weapons factory and storehouse. You could spend anywhere from a few hours here, to a whole day walking, biking, or hanging out on the beach. It’s an island with something for everyone!  

Tip: Purchase some rabbit food at the Tadanoumi Port before boarding the Okunoshima Ferry, so you can feed the rabbits (no rabbit food is sold on the island itself). 

Okunoshima rabbits, Rabbit Island. How to visit Rabbit Island, things to know before visiting Rabbit Island and Rabbit island hotel. Feeding rabbits, poison Gas museum on Okunoshima rabbit island, Japan from Hiroshima

Hiroshima + Miyajima - 2 Days

The last two stops on your three weeks in Japan itinerary are Hiroshima and Miyajima. These two unmissable stops in your Japan itinerary are located only 30 minutes away from each other. 

Often, Japan itineraries combine Hiroshima and Miyajima in to one day, but doing this is a travesty!! Hiroshima and Miyajima both deserve a whole day to themselves. 

Tip: If you’re traveling to Japan in August, try to reach Hiroshima on August 6th. This is the anniversary of the atomic bomb dropping on the city, and many beautiful memorials are held around the city. 

HIroshima peace memorial museum visit, August 6th 1945 Hiroshima peace memorial ceremony 2019 Cenotaph victims memorial. Atomic dome lantern floating ceremony
Hiroshima on August 6th, during their annual lantern floating ceremony to remember the atomic bombing victims

Hiroshima - 1 Day

Hiroshima is most known for its dark history. In World War II, the city was decimated by an atomic bomb. Civilians were killed indiscriminately in an instant, and those that survived the bomb lived in agony for years to come. 

During one day in Hiroshima, be sure to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to memorializing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the chaos and suffering that ensued. It’s a heart-wrenching and humbling reminder of the horrors of war. Around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park are several more memorials, statues, and fountains where atomic bombing victims are remembered.

Hiroshima has more to its history than the just the war however. Head to the Hiroshima Castle to learn about samurais in Japan and climb to the top for a great view over the city. For lunch or dinner, don’t miss Okonomiyaki-mura, a building filled with dozens of small okonomiyaki (savory pancake) restaurants. 

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Miyajima - 1 Day

Miyajima island is reachable by tram and ferry from Hiroshima (¥600 with an IC card). I recommend spending one day in Miyajima to admire its many beautiful shrines and temples, and to summit Mt. Misen for views of the whole coastline. 

Miyajima is most famous for its floating torii gate, and the bright red Itsukushima Shrine built over the water. Visit here at high tide so you can see the water below the shrine, then come back for low tide so you can walk out to the base of the torii gate. Don’t miss the Daishoin Temple either, which is a 9th century Buddhist temple. 

Take the ropeway or hike up to the summit of Mt. Misen, the highest point on Miyajima. Many more small temples are located at the top, as are great views over the surrounding islands and Japan’s coastline. With all of these attractions plus a sprawling shopping and dining street, you’ll definitely need a whole day to spend on Miyajima. 

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Return to Osaka - 1 Day

Spend your last day backpacking in Japan heading back to Osaka, before flying out from Kansai International Airport. 

This concludes my backpacking three weeks in Japan itinerary: from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and the Art Islands, you’ll see countless highlights of Japan. While many travelers stay on a similar track, flying in to Tokyo and out of Osaka allows you to spend more time in each location, and not waste time backtracking. Using Tokyo and Kyoto as home bases also allows you to slowly explore the region, on a backpacker-friendly budget, instead of rushing around Japan. 

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Three weeks in japan itinerary, three weeks backpacking japan itinerary pinterest
Three weeks in japan itinerary, three weeks backpacking japan itinerary pinterest
Are You Prepared For Your Trip To Japan?
  • Book Your Flights – To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is key. I use both Google Flights for their low fare calendar, and Skiplagged, which uses airfare loopholes to get the lowest prices. For a trip to Japan, check flights to both Tokyo airports (Haneda, Narita) and to Osaka (Kansai). 
  • Getting Around Japan: Prepare your JR Pass and Suica transit card before you depart.
  • Book Your Accommodation – Check out Booking.com for the largest selection of accommodation in Japan. 
  • Book Local Excursions – Don’t miss out on world-class experiences, like Teamlab Borderless or Tokyo Disneyland, by booking tickets online now. Check GetYourGuide and Voyagin for fun experiences all around Japan. 
  • Stay Connected: Order a pocket WiFi for airport pickup if you’re traveling with family or with a large group. Solo traveling to Japan? Order a SIM card just for you. 
  • Buy Travel Insurance – It’s better to protect yourself from mishaps when traveling. Get a quote from World Nomads to see how much it’ll cost to get you covered! 
  • Pack Your Essentials – Check out my posts about Long Term Travel Gear, and Carry-On Luggage Packing Essentials
  • Read more on my Travel Resources page!