Making decisions on your Japan trip

Once you start planning your Japan trip, you may find there are so many places you’d like to see and not enough time. You may feel overwhelmed with accommodation options, and wonder how you’re going to choose. Many people try to solve this problem by seeking advice from friends, a travel agent, social media, or an online forum such as TripAdvisor. This does not necessarily produce good results that will make the trip into a great experience for you. In this post, I’ll talk about some ways to make up your mind and find the right solution for you.

A while back, I wrote about what a dream trip to Japan might look like. If you haven’t thought about this already, now is a good time to do this. After thinking about what your dream trip would be like, the right choice might be immediately obvious. Sometimes though, people get stuck on several options which all seem appealing. There are some ways of getting unstuck which I outline below. Using them will be more effective if you can rate the options according to how well they match your hopes for the trip.

There are two other things to do.

The first is, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not necessary to choose what restaurant you’re going to eat at every day.

The second is to set a time limit for deciding, because it’s unproductive to rehash possible options or postpone the decision while you seek even more information. You might give yourself a deadline, or allow a certain number of hours or days to get it done. Whatever you decide, it will motivate you to act, and then you can move on to practical matters such as making bookings.

There may be no perfect decision, but you can make the best possible decision for you at this time. Knowing this will help you accept it, and not dwell on “what if” or be tempted to cram too much onto your trip.

The decision-making process

To start with, make sure you have the information you need to inform decision-making.. Verify factual information such as costs, travel time and accommodation facilities, and scan reviews of accommodation and sights. Remember reviews are opinion, so don’t assume that something that’s rated no. 1 on Google or TripAdvisor will be better for you than something rated no. 2.

Once you have this, move on to one of the decision-making methods below.

Pros and cons

This is useful for the big decisions, where you have maybe two or three options that you are trying to decide on. It could be whether to go in spring or summer, choosing between three possible hotels, or choosing between two cities to go to.

For each of the items you’re considering, draw two columns and label them “pros” and “cons”. Under each column write whatever the pros and cons are for each of these. Consider costs, location, travel time, how much it will contribute to the experience you hoped for, sightseeing options available etc.

Writing down the pros and cons helps clarify your thoughts, and helps the best option emerge. There will be one option that has more pros, or less cons, possibly both. This is the best choice for you.

Decision matrix

This is useful when there’s a range of options that you are considering for destinations, accommodation, or sightseeing. These options can be scored against a range of factors, and then the option with the highest score wins. To show you what it looks like, I’ve done an example showing deciding on one more destination for a Japan trip that already includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Hakone, and uses a JR Pass.

Low travel cost Minimal extra travel time Different from other destinations History and culture Total
Nagoya 5 5 1 2 13
Kanazawa 5 5 3 4 17
Takayama 5 3 5 5 18
Naoshima 3 3 5 4 15
Sapporo 1 2 4 2 9


The way it works is, the options being considered are rows and the factors are columns. I’ve scored each option on a 1 to 5 scale against each factor. Make the factors things that are important to you – the ones above are just suggestions.

Some people (and you may be one of them!) might argue my scores. That’s fine. We all have individual tastes, and this is a way of measuring options against what is best for the person actually taking the trip.

Once you’ve made your decision, stick to it and move on to the practical aspects of organising your holiday. Well-meaning people may suggest something else, or question your decision, but remember this is your holiday.

Finally, this might seem like a lot of work to plan for your holiday. Using tools like this for decision-making does take a bit of time, and I recommend only using them when you are stuck on major decisions that impact budget, time or experience in a big way. If you have thought about what you want your trip to Japan to be like, most decisions will be very simple to make.

Do you have any questions about working out your itinerary? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.