Japan is a temperate island nation with four stunning seasons and mountains covering the majority of its islands.
Exploring Japan via road trip is as much about the journeys as the destinations. Travel through Japan’s main island, visiting both its most popular cities as well as its natural wonders. Drive, for what will be remembered as fleeting moments, along its coastlines and experience its land meeting the sea.
This is a once and lifetime bucket-list road trip around Honshu Japan. The only regret you’ll have is that it will end.
Day 1 - Tokyo
There’s so much to do in Tokyo but you only have part of one day so choose what’s important for you. Find yourself a small hole-in-the-wall bar, snap some photos of skyscrapers, or perhaps simply be a foodie and find yourself some delicious Japanese cuisine.
- Den (2 Michelin stars) - $$$$, 2-3-18 Jingumae Kenchikuka Kaikan JIA Bldg., Shibuya 150-0001 Tokyo Prefecture
- Afuri Ebisu - $-$$, 1-1-7 117 Bldg.1F, Ebisu, Shibuya 150-0013 Tokyo Prefecture
- Sushi Tou - $$, 2-24-8, Nishiazabu, Minato 106-0031 Tokyo Prefecture
Day 2 - Fukushima
Less than three percent of the area is blocked off because of the nuclear disaster so it is perfectly safe to still visit this beautiful and naturally aesthetic part of Japan. While here you might want to explore Hanamiyama Park or the crater of Azuma Kofuji. Both places offer an easily accessible and stunning nature experience.
- Travel Distance - 256 km, 3 hours 25 minutes from Tokyo
Day 3 - Mt. Zaō
Follow the trail to the top of this 45 minute to an hour hike and enjoy the view of the sea and the surrounding landscape. There are also ice cream vendors and restrooms at the top so you will be able to refresh after the brief hike. There are also highly regarded restaurants nearby that are worth visiting once you descend from Mt. Zaō
- Travel Distance - 155 km, 2 hours 36 minutes from Fukushima
- Chaen - 6-12 Nishiyamaguchi Taharacho, Tahara 441-3421 Aichi Prefecture
- Grill Hana - 5-11 Kurata Tawaramachi, Tahara Aichi Prefecture
Day 4 - Aomori
This is another scenic and natural destination but with a few more indoor activities to enjoy such as the Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse, Aomori Museum of Art, and Aomori Asamushi Aquarium. For outdoor activities visiting the Sannai-Maruyama Site offers a look at Japan’s past.
- Travel Distance - 435, 5 hours 56 minutes from Mt. Zaō
- Oshokujidokoro Osanai - $$-$$$, 1-1-17 Shimmachi 1F, Aomori 030-0801 Aomori Prefecture
- Sushidokoro Asuka Shimmachi - $-$$, 1-11-22 Shimmachi Alaska Hall 1F, Aomori 030-0801 Aomori Prefecture
Day 5 - Niigata
The drive down to Niigata is long but is a major part of this day’s experience. The coastal road offers scenic views of the Sea of Japan that are worth covering this distance for. Niigata itself is a fun city with a few attractions to check out. The Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery, Cave D'occi Winery, and Hakusan Shrine amongst others.
- Travel Distance - 466 km, 7 hours 2 minutes from Aomori
- Kaisenya Negibozu - $$-$$$, 1-10-1 Sasaguchi Chuo-Ku, Niigata 950-0911 Niigata Prefecture
- Ikanosumi - $$-$$$, 1-5-24 Higashiodori Chuo-Ku, Niigata 950-0087 Niigata Prefecture
Day 6 -The Noto Peninsula
To the Southwest of Niigata is the Noto peninsula, this coastal landscape is stunning and will make for memorable photographs. While here, you may want to visit the Noto Railway, Shiosai no Michi, or the Bessyodake Sky Deck Noto Yume Terrace.
- Travel Distance - 382 km, 5 hours 20 minutes from Niigata
Day 7 - Lake Biwa
Lake Biwa offers much in terms of outdoor activities and has multiple cities nearby as well. A bike tour will probably be your best bet after the past few days of long drives. The Farm to Table Local Cooking and Cycling Tour: Lake Biwa and Rice Terraces is a fun option that covers many bases, but the Sailing Experience in the biggest lake in Japan with BBQ Option also offers a similar arrangement with a different flavor.
- Travel Distance - 287 km, 3 hours 57 minutes
Day 8 - Kyoto
Japan’s former capital, Kyoto is always popular with travelers. The short drive from Lake Biwa also offers an opportunity to spend some time in this city. Sanjusangendo Temple and Gio-ji Temple amongst other old sites offer a look and a connection to this city's past. While in Kyoto, it's recommended to engage in some gastro tourism as well.
- Travel Distance - 94 km, 1 hour 25 minutes
- Steak House Pound Shijo Kawaramachi - $$-$$$, 81 Shincho Shijo-Dori Kobashi Nishi-Iru, Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto 600-8001 Kyoto Prefecture
- Saishuan Shiraki - $$-$$$, Funayacho Takeyamachi 420-3, Nakagyo-Ku, Kyoto 604-0985 Kyoto Prefecture
- Menbaka - Fire Ramen Kyoto Ramen Restaurant - $$-$$$, 757-2 Minami Iseyacho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8153 Kyoto Prefecture
Day 9 - Matsue
Matsue has an old city feel with its well-maintained Japanese architecture. The city itself is full of sites from old Japan that are worth visiting and exploring. Matsue Castle, Yuushien Garden, and Kumano Taisha Shrine are three locations out of many more that are worth visiting.
- Travel Distance - 320 km, 4 hours 22 minutes
- Teien Saryo Minami - $$$$, 14 Suetsugu Hommachi Minami-Kan 1F, Matsue 690-0843 Shimane Prefecture
- Yakumoan - $$-$$$, 308 Kitahoricho, Matsue Shimane Prefecture
Day 10 - Hiroshima
Your visit to Hiroshima can start in a variety of ways. For those with a mind for history and the fortitude for it, visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a good way to understand the recent devastation this city has emerged from. Hiroshima Castle and Shukkei-en Garden are also highly recommended.
- Travel Distance - 179km, 2 hours 35 minutes from Matsue
- Guttsuri-an - $$-$$$, 1-36 Tannacho, Minami-ku, Hiroshima 734-0034 Hiroshima Prefecture
- Okkundo Otemachi Honten - $$-$$$, 3-3-3 Otemachi, Naka-Ku Sansan Bldg., Hiroshima 730-0051 Hiroshima Prefecture
- Roopali Honten - $$-$$$, 14-32 Wakakusacho, Higashi-ku, Hiroshima 732-0053 Hiroshima Prefecture
Day 11 - Shikoku
Shikoku is an island accessible by the bridge just off of the Honshu. The site of Buddhist pilgrimages, natural wonders, and coastline are the primary draws of this island. Locations you should visit are Matsuyama Castle, Mt. Bizan, and Ritsurin Garden.
- Travel Distance - 262 km, 3 hours 51 minutes from Hiroshima
Day 12 - Osaka
Popularly known as the food capital of Japan, Osaka is home to stylish shopping centers, renowned restaurants, and entertaining nightlife. Asides from food and shopping, Osaka Castle Park, Dotombori District, and Sunset Owl Cafe are engaging locations to spend your time.
- Travel Distance - 263 km, 3 hours 42 minutes from Shikoku
- Okonomiyaki Chitose - $, 1-11-10 Taishi, Nishinari-ku, Osaka 557-0002 Osaka Prefecture
- Yakumido - $, 2-2-10 Haginochaya, Nishinari-Ku, Osaka 557-0004 Osaka Prefecture
- GYOZAOH! Dotonbori Store - $$-$$$, 2-4-14, Dotombori, Chuo, Osaka 542-0071 Osaka Prefecture
Day 13 - Izu Peninsula
A large ad mountainous peninsula, Izu has a deeply indented coastline with much nature to enjoy. It is known as a resort destination with hot springs, aesthetic coastlines, and beaches. The top locations for outdoor adventure are Cape Irozaki and Jogasaki Coast. For a relaxed hot spring experience, Shuzenji Onsen is your choice.
- Travel Distance - 466 km, 6 hours 25 minutes from Osaka
Day 14 - Return to Tokyo
- Travel Distance - 201 km, 3 hours 19 minutes from Izu Peninsula
- Total Travel Distance - 3,766 km
- Total Travel Time - 53 hours 55 minutes