When you visit Japan for the first time, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka are probably the cities on your itinerary. For your second trip, consider flying into the Kansai region and out of Fukuoka this time!
Kansai (関西) or the Kinki region (近畿) lies in the southern-central of Japan’s main island, Honshū. Apart from the usual Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka, it includes Mie, Wakayama, Hyōgo, and Shiga Prefectures. While 14 days are definitely not enough to explore all the awesome attractions between Kansai and Kyūshū (the island immediately under Honshū), it is just enough to visit all the most popular ones.
Below is what your 2 weeks can look like. This was actually our itinerary when we went to Japan in 2017. For the scenic spots in this article, we focus on those famous for the fall foliage, which mostly peaks from mid to late November. So if you can, plan your visit around that time of the year.
For most places, there is also a link to the city/town where that particular attraction is located. You can refer to it for more ideas of where else to visit for those who have the luxury of staying in Japan longer! On the other hand, if you don’t have 14 days, take away a few spots that appeal to you less.
Also, the below itinerary assumes you are taking public transport at all times. We, therefore, recommend you using the below 2 passes.
- Kansai WIDE Area Pass from day 2 to day 6 because it will save you at least 1,000 yen.
- Sanyo-San’in Northern Kyushu Pass from day 7 to day 13 because it will save you at least 10,000 yen, assuming you take the bullet train whenever possible.
With the passes, whenever you are traveling on the bullet train, remember to reserve your seats in advance at the JR ticket center – Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口) as there is no guarantee that you will get a seat in the non-reserve carriages. And when we say in advance, it is better to do so at least the night before.
Summary of the 14-Day Itinerary
|Himeji Castle, Kōkōen Garden, Mt. Shosha
|Kaze-no Michi, Kojima Gakuseifuku Museum, Shōshūhō
|Bitchū Matsuyama Castle, Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
Assuming you are flying into Osaka, depending on when your flight arrives in Japan, you may or may not have time for sightseeing. If your flight is long-haul, you might need another relaxing day to recover from jetlag. This is why we have purposely left the itinerary for the first day blank.
Day 2 – Amanohashidate
Osaka/Kyoto ⇒ Aamnohashidate ⇒ Ine Bay
Day 2 is the day to visit one of Japan’s Three View, Amanohashidate. If you stayed in Osaka on Day 1, take the Kounotori-Go (こうのとり号) from Osaka or Shin-Osaka Station to Fukuchiyama Station. From there, change for the limited express, Hashidate-Gō (はしだて号) to Amanohashidate.
If you stayed in Kyoto on Day 1, take the limited express, Hashidate-gō (はしだて号) from Kyoto Station to Amanohashidate.
Living up to the name of one of Japan’s Three Views, Amanohashidate is stunning throughout the year. The famous 3.6-km sandbar with 5,000 pine trees growing on top is best adored from one of the observatories in the area.
In addition, there are a couple more attractions to explore and you can enjoy SUP and kayaking here!
For more information about Amanohashidate, refer to our Amanohashidate article.
When the sun starts to set, take a bus to Ine Bay for a relaxing night in the unique Funaya on the bay shore!
Day 3 – Ine Bay
Ine Bay ⇒ Kinosaki Onsen
Day 3 is all about enjoying the unique townscape of Ine Bay. The fishermen’s houses on the shore is what have been attracting tourists to the quiet fishing town. Nowadays, many of these houses, called Funaya, have been transformed into BnB, cafes, and shops!
For more information, refer to our Ine Bay article!
Then after you have your fill at Ine Bay, take a bus back to Amanohashidate Station. From there, take Kyoto Tango’s train to Toyooka Station and change for a JR train to Kinosaki Onsen.
Note that the hotel and Ryokan rates in Kinosaki Onsen are expensive in autumn. As an alternative, you can stay around Toyooka Station for the night and head to Kinosaki Onsen on Day 4. Toyooka Station is just 10 minutes away by train.
The hot spring town has 7 public bathhouses for you to enjoy the onsen. So you don’t necessary need to stay in Kinosaki Onsen for the nice hot spring.
Day 4 – Kinosaki Onsen
Kinosaki Onsen in northern Hyōgo Prefecture has become more and more popular among tourists both locally and overseas. And it won’t be hard to understand the reason at all once you have seen the Michelin two-star rated scenery from Mt. Daishi (大師山) and other historical and cultural charms of the hot spring resort that has prospered for more than 1,300 years!
For more information, refer to our article on Kinosaki Onsen.
For Day 4’s accommodation, stay in the same hotel as Day 3.
Day 5 – Izushi
Kinosaki Onsen ⇒ Izushi ⇒ Osaka/Kyoto
After breakfast, take a bus to Izushi, a quaint town close to Kinosaki Onsen with traces of the vibe from the Edo period. The castle town was so prosperous that it was known as Tajima Provice’s Little Kyoto a few hundred years ago!
Besides the historica vibe, the town is best known for the Izushi Soba. While you might think how special can soba noodles be, we are sure you will be pleasantly surprised by how the noodles are served (^_-)-☆.
For more information, refer to our Izushi article.
Day 6 – Mt. Shosha, Himeji Castle, and Kōkōen Garden
Osaka/Kyoto ⇒ JR Himeji Station ⇒ Mt. Shosha ⇒ Himeji Castle ⇒ Kōkōen Garden
The schedule for day 6 is quite tight as we tried to pack all the best spots in Himeji into one day.
Osaka to JR Himeji Station (姫路駅)
From Osaka to Himeji, the fastest way is to take the bullet train, so you can be at JR Himeji Station in 30 minutes from JR Shin-Osaka Station (新大阪駅). The Mt. Shosha Ropeway’s first departure is at 8:30 am. Ideally, catching that one will be the best. But, as the ropeway departs every 15 minutes, we would say catching any of the first four services of the day will give you enough time at all three attractions listed below.
To catch one of the first four ropeway services, you can catch buses depart from JR Himeji Station for Mt. Shosha. For weekdays, buses depart at 8:05 or 8:40. For Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays, buses depart at a 20 minutes interval from 8:15.
We recommend booking your accommodation close to JR Himeji Station. This is so you can drop off your bags with your accommodation provider before you head to Mt. Shosha.
Mt. Shosha (書写山)
Mt. Shosha is a hidden gem in Himeji City. A lot of tourists come to Himeji for just the Himeji Castle and remain unaware of the mountain’s natural beauty. Especially in autumn, the autumn foliage scenery combined with the worship halls of the Engyōji Temple (圓教寺) is just stunning. And, from the lookouts in the mountain, you will get a wide view of Himeji City.
For more information, please refer to our article on Mt. Shosha!
It takes around two to three hours to explore the top of the mountain at a relaxing pace. You can also have lunch at the temple. If you are vegan or vegetarian, please refer to our article on Mt. Shosha’s Unique Vegan Cuisine Experience for more information.
Himeji Castle, your next stop for the day, is located close to JR Himeji Station. So after you have your fill at Mt. Shosha, head to the bus stop where you got off the bus in the morning and take the same bus service to get to Himeji Castle. This time, instead of heading all the way back to the station, please get off at Himejijō Ōte Mae (姫路城大手門前).
If you choose not to have lunch at Mt. Shosha, there are many restaurants and cafés that you can choose from before you head to the castle.
Himeji Castle (姫路城)
With its elegant white appearance, not only has Himeji Castle been chosen to be the best castle among hundreds of castles in Japan, but it is also Japan’s first spot to be registered on UNESCO World Heritage List!
For more information, please refer to our article on Himeji Castle.
Kōkōen Garden (好古園)
Next to the famous Himeji Castle is the castle’s not-so-famous garden – Kōkōen. It is one of our favorite gardens in Japan because although the garden was built relatively recently, it is where you get to experience many different Japanese gardening styles in one garden! Plus, it has an authentic Japanese tea room that serves freshly whisked matcha and a traditional Japanese sweet for anyone up for an afternoon tea!
For more information, please refer to our article on Kōkōen.
Day 7 – Kaze-no Michi, Kojima Gakuseifuku Museum, Shōshūhō
JR Himeji Station ⇒ JR Kurashiki Station ⇒ JR Kojima Station ⇒ Kaze-no Michi ⇒ Kojima Students Uniform Museum ⇒ Betty Smith Jeans Museum ⇒ Shōshūhō
Before going to bed on day 6, pack your things as you will be staying in Kurashiki from day 7 to day 9!
After you drop your bags at your hotel close to JR Kurashiki Station (倉敷駅), let’s head to Kojima, a town famous for its denim industry and the spectacular view of the Seto Inland Sea and the Seto Ōhashi Bridge (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
If your day 7 happens to be a Friday, a Japanese public holiday, or on the weekends, instead of catching the train, catch the Jeans Bus! It is a bus that is decorated with jeans and denim elements that is too special to not travel with it!
And once you reach Kojima, even if you aren’t interested in shopping, stop by the Kojima Jeans Street to see how the locals promote their denim products (^_-)-☆.
For those who are interested in Japanese gardens and traditional houses, don’t forget to drop by the Old Nozaki Family Residence (旧野崎家住宅), which is just a 5-minute walk from Kojima Jeans Street!
For more information about the bus, Kojima Jeans Street, and Old Nozaki Family Residence (旧野崎家住宅), please refer to our Kojima District article.
Kaze-no Michi (風の道)
If you enjoy cycling, make sure you rent one out from one of the two rental facilities close to JR Kojima Station (児島駅).
Kaze-no Michi is a 6.3 km well-maintained track that will lead you to many scenic spots in Kojima District. And for other attractions that aren’t on the track, you can always make a detour to save on transportation costs!
For those who love trekking, you can also walk on the same track but just be careful with the bikes that may be coming from behind you. A one-way journey will take around 2 hours to complete.
Please refer to Kojima Cycling Map for a visual idea of this trip. The red line on the map marked the abandoned Shimotsui Dentetsu train line. And instead of heading back to JR Kojima Station the same way you came from, follow the blue line to enjoy the view of the Seto Inland Sea!
For more information about bike rental, please refer to our Kojima District article.
Depending on how you plan to explore Kojima, you might want to keep your rental bike until you are ready to head to Shōshūhō, the summit of Mt. Washu.
And after you are done with Kazu-no Michi, it is time to find a restaurant for some delicious lunch!
Kojima Students Uniform Museum (児島学生服資料館)
The afternoon starts with the history of the iconic Japanese school uniform. The museum’s ground floor will give you a big picture of how the uniforms have evolved over the last couple of decades.
When you head upstairs, it is time for a photo session to dress up in uniforms of different styles!
For more information about the museum, please refer to our Kojima District article.
Betty Smith Jeans Museum (ベティスミス ジーンズミュージアム＆ヴィレッジ)
Less than a 10-minute walk away from Kojima Students Uniform Museum, there is another museum about jeans. You will find out how the denim used to be made back then before machines took everything over.
Although not from scratch, it is also a place where you can design your pair of jeans!
For more information, please refer to our Kurashiki City article.
The last stop of the day is Shōshūhō (鐘秀峰), the summit of Mt. Washu or Washuzan (鷲羽山) in the Seto Island Inland Sea National Park. It is the perfect place to get a panoramic view of 50 islands, together with the famous Seto Ōhashi Bridge!
The sunset from Mt. Washu was chosen as one of the 100 Best Sunsets In Japan. This is why we left this spot till the last.
If your Day 7 falls on a Friday or a Saturday or the next day is going to be a Japanese public holiday, there will be a sunset bus tour departing from JR Kojima Station at 3:30 pm.
But even if the bus tour isn’t running, regular buses still operate during the day. The only thing you need to watch out for is don’t miss out on the last bus that departs for JR Kojima Station from the bus stop at Mt. Washu.
To find out more on how to get there as well as the best time to be there, please refer to our Shōshūhō article (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Day 8 – Bitchū Matsuyama Castle, Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
JR Kurashiki Station ⇒ JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station ⇒ Bitchū Matsuyama Castle ⇒ Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
A large part of today’s schedule is at the famous Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. But before that, let’s discover the castle in the sky – Bitchū Matsuyama Castle!
Bitchū Matsuyama Castle (備中松山城)
In this itinerary, you have visited two Japanese castles already. So you might be reluctant to go for a third one. But we guarantee you that this is the castle that you will regret later on if you give it a miss, especially in November as it is the best time to see the castle floating in the sky!
To see this special scenery, reserve your spot for a sightseeing taxi that will fetch you to the Sea of Clouds Observatory (雲海展望台) at 7:30 am or 8 am from JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station (備中高梁駅).
So wake up early and head to JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station (備中高梁駅), which is 25 – 35 minutes away depending on what train you catch.
Taking the sightseeing taxi, you will be back at JR Bitchū-Takahashi Station (備中高梁駅) at 9:10 am at the latest. From then, you can decide whether you want to head up to the castle to meet the castle’s lord – Sanjūrō.
For more information, please refer to our article about Bitchū Matsuyama Castle!
Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (倉敷美観地区)
The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is also known as Japan’s “Little Venice”. It is a historical area comprising classical Japanese architecture and a gorgeous canal. With the canal surrounded by unique traditional Japanese housing, it isn’t just one of the main attractions for tourists visiting Okayama Prefecture, but also a popular Japanese drama/movie shooting location!
With a variety of shops, eateries, and galleries in the area, you can easily spend a whole day here without getting bored (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
For more information about where to go and what to do here, please refer to our article about Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter!
Also, for the samurai sword fans out there, there is another sword museum where you might be able to actually hold one in your hand close to Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. Please refer to the part of the Kurashiki City article that talks about Kurashiki Art Sword Museum (倉敷刀剣美術館) for more information.
Day 9 and Day 10 – Miyajima
JR Kurashiki Station ⇒ JR Miyajimaguchi Station ⇒ Miyajima ⇒ JR Hakata Station
After you check out from your hotel on the morning of day 9, head straight to JR Kurashiki Station. If you are holding a JR pass that covers the section between Okayama and Hiroshima, the fastest way to get to JR Miyajimaguchi Station (宮島口駅), which is the station closest to the pier, is to catch a bullet train to JR Hiroshima Station (広島駅).
As JR Kurashiki Station isn’t a stop that the bullet train will stop at, it will take more than one train service to get to Hiroshima. From JR Hiroshima Station, change for the local train line to get to JR Miyajimaguchi Station (宮島口駅). From there, catch one of the ferry services, and you will be at Miyajima in 10 minutes!
Miyajima has become more and more well-known partially due to its World Heritage Status and potentially due to those friendly and cheeky deer on the island.
So if you haven’t been to this sacred island, you are missing out! And the island is a lot more than just the Ikutsushima Shrine and the Great Torii Gate in the sea. To find out why we allocate a day and a half for this spot, check out our article about Miyajima!
After you have your fill about the island on day 10, hop back onto the ferry, and let’s head to JR Hakata Station (博多駅) in Kyūshū! Depending on what time you leave Miyajima, you may or may not have time to stroll around the city of Hakata.
Tip: As you will be back in Hakata on the night of day 13, we recommend you book the same hotel for day 10 and day 13. So you can leave everything that you won’t be needing on day 11 and day 12 at the hotel in Hakata to light up yourself. And even if your hotel for day 10 and day 13 is different, you can always check with either of the hotels to see if they can hold your bags, as both of the hotels that we stayed at were happy to do so (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Day 11 – Beppu
JR Hakata Station ⇒ JR Okura Station ⇒ JR Beppu Station ⇒ The Hell of Beppu
Get up early on day 11 because it takes around an hour and 45 minutes to get to JR Beppu Station (別府駅) from JR Hakata Station. Ideally, you want to be at Beppu by 10 in the morning, which means you should leave Hakata between 8 and 8:30 am. For this part of the journey, we won’t recommend taking the sightseeing train – Yufuin-no-Mori. Because the train will take longer to get to Beppu compared to the normal limited express train. Instead, please take the limited express sonic (特急ソニック) from JR Okura Station (小倉駅), which you can get to by taking a bullet train from JR Hakata Station.
So why are we in such a hurry? Because the most popular destination in Beppu – The Hell of Beppu takes around 6 hours to explore! Obviously, you can explore some on day 12, but that means you will have less time in Yufuin. So as soon as you drop off your luggage at your accommodation in Beppu, head straight back to the bus stop in front of the station!
For more information about why the hells are so awesome, please refer to our article about The Hell of Beppu!
For lunch or dinner on the day, give the Jigoku Mushi Kōbō Kannawa a go. Although it is a self-service restaurant, you will have so much fun there! And honestly, we probably wouldn’t be bothered to visit if they cooked the food on our behalf. As the restaurant is quite popular, having an early or late lunch/dinner will cut down your waiting time.
Day 12 and Day 13 – Yufuin
JR Beppu Station ⇒ JR Yufuin Station ⇒ JR Hakata Station
From JR Beppu Station, take the sightseeing train Yufuin no Mori, and you will be at the onsen resort – Yufuin in around an hour! As a reservation is essential to board this train, please refer to our article about Yufuin no Mori for more useful information.
As always, once you reach JR Yufuin Station, head to your accommodation to drop off your bags.
In Yufuin, there are many hotels, ryokans, and even hostels for you to choose from. If you arent’ sure where to stay and have a bit of budget to splash, we had a great time at Yufunogo Saigakukan (柚富の郷 彩岳館). Follow the link to find out about our experience at this onsen ryokan!
And for information about where to go and when to visit Lake Kinrinko, please refer to our article about Yufuin.
After you had enough of this gorgeous onsen town on day 13, it is now time to head back to Hataka for some last-minute souvenir shopping!
Day 14 – Hakata
Assuming you are flying off from Fukuoka Airport (福岡空港), you should have a bit of time before you have to head to the airport to enjoy the delicious food in restaurants in Hakata. Just make sure that you have plenty of time to get to the airport.
Unlike airports in Tokyo and Osaka, the Fukuoka Airport subway stop isn’t located just at the airport. You have to take a connecting bus from the subway station to the actual airport, which you want to allow an extra 15 to 30 minutes. We weren’t aware of this and were a bit stressed out toward the end of our trip…
Hopefully, this itinerary has helped you plan out at least parts of your next Japan visit. If you have any questions about this itinerary, you can contact us HERE and we will get back to you!
More Japan Itinerary
If Kansai and Kyūshū aren’t the areas that you want to visit, check out other Japan itineraries HERE!