Planning a Japan Vacation? Try this 7-day Japan Itinerary

Are you planning a trip to Japan? Most people want to take a Japan vacation at some point in their life. It’s an intriguing destination, full of sumptuous foods, mesmerizing landscapes, and incredible sights. The only thing holding you back from traveling to Japan is probably the daunting task of creating the perfect Japan travel itinerary.

We understand. That’s why we’ve taken the fear out of it for you by creating a perfect 7-day Japan itinerary that you can follow or use to plan your own trip.

You’re probably wondering when is the best time to go to Japan, what destinations to visit while you’re there, and how to get around. It can all be very overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, this 7-day Japan itinerary and guide will answer all your questions.

The itinerary includes many of the top things you’ll want to see and do in Japan. You can see a lot in just 7 days in Japan, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you have longer to spend, you can expand this itinerary to any length you wish.

Osaka Japan skyline
Osaka Japan skyline

How to Plan a Vacation in Japan

Best Time to Go to Japan

The first step in planning a Japan vacation is deciding when to go. As with most places, there is a “best” time to go to Japan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go whenever the mood strikes you. Japan really is a year-round travel destination.

Late spring (March to May) and late autumn (September to November) are generally the best times to visit Japan. During these months, there is very little rainfall and there are many sunny days, but the temperatures are mild.

  • Spring is cherry blossom season. While this is considered high season in Japan, the weather tends to be mild and nice from late March to May.
  • In autumn, the leaves are changing color and the resulting scenery is nothing short of amazing.
  • In summer in Japan it gets very hot and humid. It’s also a very busy high season for Japan, so you’ll constantly be fighting crowds and you’ll pay more for accommodations. Try to avoid traveling in July and August.
  • In winter, December to February, there will be less tourists so the prices are lower and it’s easier to get in to top attractions. Japan can also be very beautiful in the snow.

Getting to Japan

Many top airlines have direct flights into Japan. You can check the status of flights into Japan from your home airport, to see which route and airline is best for you. Top Japan airlines include ANA and Japan Airlines, but you can fly to Japan with most U.S. airlines that fly internationally, like United and American.

Something to consider, which will help maximize your time in the country, is to fly into one city and out of another, such as flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka. Doing this will save time and money.

Once you arrive at the airport, there is a convenient train that takes you into the city center.

  • In Tokyo, that train is called the JR Narita Express. A one-way journey takes about an hour and costs approx. 3000 yen. You can use the Japan Rail Pass for this train.
  • In Osaka, rapid trains take you from airport to Tennoji Station within50 minutes for appox. 1060 yen. and to Osaka Station within 70 minutes for approx. 1190 yen.
  • In Kyoto, the Limited Express Haruka train will take you to the Osaka airport in about 75 minutes.

Tipping in Japan

If you’re from the United States, Canada, or another country where tipping is customary, you should be aware that tipping in Japan is not customary. If you do try to tip, in a restaurant or a hotel for instance, it might even be refused or considered rude. To avoid awkwardness, follow the Japanese custom and do not tip.

Gold Temple in Kyoto
Gold Temple in Kyoto (Image: CC0 Public Domain)
 

Top Japan Destinations

There are many unique and interesting places to visit in Japan. While it’s not possible to visit them all in just seven days, if you have a bit more time, you can include more of these top Japan destinations in your itinerary.

The three top places to visit in Japan are:

If you’re not keen to travel on your own, there are many tour agencies that provide tours to these three cities. However, it is very easy to travel around Japan via high-speed Shinkansen bullet train, so organizing your own trip is recommended.

Other top destinations to visit in Japan are listed below. Each has its own special things to see and do.

Want help planning?
Want to plan your own Japan trip, but need a bit of help? ViaHero helps travelers plan independent trips in Japan. A local expert will help you plan your perfect trip and it’s very reasonably priced! You can even use our coupon code SAVOREDJAPAN for a 5% discount at checkout.
Department store grocery sushi
Department store grocery sushi (Photo by Savored Journeys)
 

Top Things to Do in Japan

  • Seeing the temples in Kyoto, including the famous orange gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Temple).
  • Staying the night in a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan.
  • Soaking in a communal onsen (traditional hot springs). Hakone is known for its many onsens and its fantastic views of Mount Fuji. Also try Nozawa onsens.
  • Exploring the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
  • Eating sushi, ramen, gyoza and many other delicious things in Tokyo.
  • Touring Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park & Museum.
  • Trying real Kobe beef in Kobe.
  • Seeing the cherry blossoms.
  • Trying Japanese sake at a brewery.
  • Walking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
  • Catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji.
  • Visit the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Nagano.
  • Feeding the deer at Nara Park.
  • Hiking to the Great Buddha of Kamakura.
  • Try izakayas (Japanese taverns) – a truly local experience. (Pro Tip: If you want to enjoy Japanese hidden Izakaya food and drinks, Magical Trip will help you navigate through their favorite izakaya bars on Tokyo Bar Hopping Night Tour with an awesome local guide.
 

How to Get Around in Japan

The best way to travel around Japan in by train. You’ll want to purchase a 7-day Japan Rail Pass. The pass allows you to travel on all JR trains throughout Japan, including the high-speed Shinkansen bullet trains, for either 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. It’s the most economical and worry-free way to travel, if you’ll be making multiple stops along the way. Travel in Japan is not cheap and the cost of buying individual tickets will far exceed the cost of the Japan Rail Pass.

Just remember, you have to purchase it before entering the country and give time for it to be delivered to you. Read our guide on where to buy a Japan Rail Pass and if it’s worth it.

When planning your Japan itinerary, you’ll need to be sure to leave plenty of time between destinations for travel. The trains in Japan are fast, but travel still eats up a lot of time. Keep in mind the distance between each destination when making your itinerary; for instance, the train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 3 hours, 15 minutes.

As long as there is a train linking each of your chosen cities, you’ll be able to easily travel around the country.

Mt. Fuji, one of the top sights in Japan
Mt. Fuji, one of the top sights in Japan
 

How to Spend One Week in Japan

Option One: Go on a Guided Japan Tour

While you can plan your own trip to Japan, sometimes it’s easier to go on a guided tour instead. Guided tours are a great way to experience a country you’re not completely comfortable in. The language barrier in Japan can be quite daunting. If you think you’d feel more comfortable in the hands of an experienced guide, you might want to check out one of the tours operated by Japan and More.

The company is run by Japan travel specialists, Becki and Shawn, who have over 20 years of experience living, working, and traveling in Japan. They know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. They are Americans who know Japan, understand Japanese culture, and speak the language. They take care of every detail.
 
The tours book fast! There is limited availability, so it’s best to secure your place as soon as possible.

Japan and More offers fully escorted 10-day Intro to Japan trips to explore Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, plus a few others like Nagoya and Takayama, depending on which itinerary and date you choose. They also have longer trip itineraries:

For more information, check out Japan and More’s website. You’ll get $100 off the cost of your tour by using our coupon code. Not sure about a guide tour? Read this review by someone who’s taken the trip.

Use coupon code: SAJN for $100 off

Option Two: Plan Your Own Self-Guided Trip

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll have no problem planning your own Japan travel itinerary and getting around on your own. Sure, there is often a language barrier to deal with, but it’s nothing a savvy traveler can’t handle.

If you’d like to put together your own self-guided trip, we’ve got a 7-day itinerary that ticks all the boxes you’re probably looking to do with a week in Japan. It includes Tokyo, Hakone/Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka.

Day 1-2: Tokyo

Arrive in Tokyo. While you could easily spend 7 or more days just in Tokyo, you’ll have to do the abbreviated version in order to see more of the country. Follow this 3-day Tokyo itinerary for food lovers.

Where to Stay in Tokyo: We recommend the Intercontinental The Strings Tokyo Hotel. It’s a really large hotel with nice rooms, located in Shinagawa, which is really close to shopping, eating and transportation. You can catch the bullet train to your next location at Shinagawa station, which is just a quick walk away. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor.

Day 3: Hakone/Mt. Fuji

Transfer to Hakone. This is the place to go if you want to experience a traditional onsen (hot springs). The onsens are separated by gender and are a “no bathing suit” style traditional bath. You can also take the cable car to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.

Where to Stay in Hakone:
Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa is within walking distance of the cable car that takes you toward Mt. Fuji. The hotel has very nice, classy rooms, with great views. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor.

We also recommend Hakone Mount View for a traditional Japanese ryokan experience with nice accommodations and good food. They have a rare volcanic hot spring called Nigori-yu – a fun and unique experience, especially for couples. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor.

 

Day 4: Kyoto

Transfer to Kyoto. You’ll want to see the temples of Kyoto, including the Fushimi Inari Shrine and Golden Temple, visit Nishiki Market, see the geishas walking around the city center, and go to a traditional kaiseki dinner.

Here’s a 3-day Kyoto itinerary that will get you to all the major sights in the city. When you’re done with those, you can expand your trip with these day trips from Kyoto.

Where to Stay in Kyoto: 
We recommend the Hyatt Regency, because it has a reliable standard for Western accommodations, however it’s not as close to the main sights as we’d like to be. We found it more convenient to stay near Kyoto Station, since everywhere we visited we needed to go in and out of there. Our preferred hotel is the Hotel Granvia Kyoto.Have a look at all Kyoto hotels for comparison.

Day 5: Kyoto

If you’re happy to keep hanging out in Kyoto, you can spend the full day. Another option is to take a midday JR train to Nara Park to feed the roaming deer, see the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, and one of the tallest pagodas in Japan.

In the evening, whether you’re in Kyoto still or in Nara, take the JR train onward to Osaka.

Day 6: Osaka

In Osaka, be sure to visit Dotonbori Street to try all the Japanese specialties, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Visit Osaka Castle and Park, and check out the Instant Ramen Museum. If you have time, visit the food-focused Kuromon Ichiba Market.

Here’s a 2-day itinerary for Osaka that you can mine for ideas of how to spend your time in this fun city.

Where to Stay in Osaka: One of my favorite hotels is the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel. It is conveniently located for transportation, so you can easily get around to the top sights in Osaka and beyond. It’s got an insane view and really comfortable rooms. ⇒ Read reviews of the Osaka Marriott on Trip Advisor.

Day 7: Kobe

You may have to fly or take the train back to Tokyo on your 7th day in order to fly back home, but if you have one more day to spend, we recommend taking the 30-minute train ride to Kobe to try the famous Kobe beef, then stop off in Kobe’s Nada district for a tasting at a few sake breweries.

Fly out or take the train from Osaka.

 

CONCLUSION

There are many ways to experience and enjoy Japan. Building your own itinerary is the only way to ensure you see and do the things you’ve always wanted to do in Japan. But if the task overwhelms you, rest assured that this 7-day Japan itinerary will take you to some of the top places to visit in Japan, and will prepare you for a second visit.

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Planning a Japan Vacation? Try this 7-day Japan Itinerary
Planning a Japan Vacation? Try this 7-day Japan Itinerary
Planning a Japan Vacation? Try this 7-day Japan Itinerary

36 thoughts on “Planning a Japan Vacation? Try this 7-day Japan Itinerary

  1. Chrysoula says:

    Very good tips. I have been to Japan in the past for 8 days. I spent most of my time in Tokyo, Kamakura and Kyoto. I would definitely come back to experience an Onsen and go to Osaka

    • Yanina Cabrera says:

      Hi..
      Trying to go in November. I will be there for 7 days or so. My question is how many days did you stay in each city? 🙂
      I appreciate your answer

  2. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie says:

    Love this detailed, straightforward guide for planning. I haven’t been to Japan yet, but this is the exact kind of guide I look for to help get my travel planning off the ground regardless of location. I’d love to see Japan in different seasons. The cherry blossoms are so iconic, but the fall colors must be amazing.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Thanks Jackie! I often find it so difficult to get all the basic info in one place, without having to visit 9 blogs to piece it all together. I hope its useful for just that reason.

  3. Drew says:

    Great tips. With our impending move to China (we’ll get over there eventually…looking like first week of May now. Visa paperwork is a nightmare!), we can’t wait to have easy access to Japan, a country we have yet to visit! It is a culture I find fascinating and a food scene that I have yet to explore in person. Can’t wait!

    • Laura Lynch says:

      You’ll have ample opportunity to explore Japan, once you’re in China. Jealous! I hope your paperworking is over soon and you can get to the fun part!

  4. Rosemary says:

    I just recently spent a couple of hours on a layover in Japan and was blown away by the beauty of the place. I promised myself to go back very soon. This 7-day itinerary sounds like perfect especially the food. Fresh seafood, kobe beef, and more. Great guide and will keep it in mind for an upcoming trip.

  5. Carol Perehudoff says:

    I have no idea why my comment was erased and an address popped in, so I’ll try this again. (Weird.) What I said originally was that I’ve been to Tokyo a couple of times but hadn’t had a chance to explore beyond that. Hot springs, Kyoto and Mt Fuji would be top on my list. Thanks for the travel ideas.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      I’ve noticed this happening, Carol. Thanks for typing out your comment a second time. It’s definitely worth it to go back again and explore a little beyond Tokyo.

  6. Trisha Velarmino says:

    I’m deeply impressed not only with the beauty of Japan but also with the well-mannered locals it has! Beautiful! Xx

  7. Veronika says:

    Thanks for this Japan itinerary – this amazing country has been on my list for ages. Now the spring is coming, so I am sure all the blossoms bust be amazing around there. Is it true that Tokyo is much more amazing than Tokyo?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hey Veronika. This week (end of March, beginning of April) is usually the best time to see the blossoms in Japan. I’m sure you meant another city in that last question, but I’m not sure which one. I personally love Tokyo, but each city has its own unique charm.

  8. nish says:

    Nice and compact itinerary , this one. The tips are really useful for people like who are yet to go to Japan. Especially the one about not tipping. During travels we are so used to tipping everywhere .

  9. Nina says:

    Just wondering if you have a ballpark estimate on how much this 7 day itinerary would end up costing if followed exactly? Like hotels and rail passes and such?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Nina, I’d say the full itinerary would cost somewhere in the range of $3500, but it really depends on which hotels you choose and where you’re eating.

  10. Nelly S says:

    The itinerary sounds perfect! My only worry is transportation. Is it common for hotels to offer shuttle rides to airports and vice vera? I also noticed that JR Train offers different passes based on regions, which do you recommend for this itinerary? Is there an extra charge to bring luggage? Do taxi cabs have set rates or is easier to get around by foot near the hotels you suggested?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Nelly, it’s always best to take public transport where you’re going throughout Japan. While it’s possible to take a taxi (if you have trouble walking), it’s best to just take the train or walk. There are local trains everywhere that will take you to the airport. If you stay in a central hotel (the ones I’ve listed) you won’t have to walk far to catch the train to the airport. If you’re traveling throughout Japan, you want the main JR pass, so it can be used everywhere (though there are a few trains it doesn’t cover – none of the ones I mention). There isn’t an extra charge for luggage on the train (unless you have a LOT of luggage).

  11. Mario says:

    How could I arrange this to land and depart from Tokyo? I’m also a backpacker so luxury hotels aren’t my thing but getting some sleep and showering is. Is there a link to the 10 day itinerary? Do these trains run overnight as well?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Mario, here is the link for the 10-14 day itinerary: https://www.savoredjourneys.com/destinations/italy-travel-guide/ You will see in that itinerary how you can circle back to Tokyo. And yes, some of the trains run overnight. You just have to check the schedule.

  12. Prakash says:

    Hi ..we are planning to visit OSaka and Kyto during golden week. Is it advisable? or should we move the dates?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Prakash. I think it depends on your tolerance for crowds. Prices will be higher and it can be difficult to get reservations, but mostly everything will still be open, just possibly super busy and crowded. If it’s possible to move your dates, I would consider doing it. Why contend with the crowds if you can choose not to.

  13. Sharon says:

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for this website. You have lots of useful information. We will be traveling to Japan on the 27th of October this year and I cannot wait. We will be bringing my MIL and FIL. They are up in age. Late 70’s. Do you think an all day trip to Kyoto would be too much for them?

    Thank you,
    Sharon
    Texas

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Sharon. I don’t think a day trip to Kyoto would be too much for them – but it does require a bit of walking. Would depend if they’re still able to get around easily. I’m sure you’ll all love Kyoto.

  14. honey says:

    can you help me for the itinerary travelling with kids ages 7 and 8. we plan to travel on april 2019. our main attraction is universal studio..we only have limited time 7 nights 6 days to be in exact. highly appreciated if you can help me. thanks in advance

  15. JouJou says:

    Wow! This itinerary blows me away. I’m planning to go in autumn this year (2019), and I’m contemplating which month is best. In any case, I think I will definitely try out this itinerary when I go. However, I have a question. If you had to guess, how much would one need to save or have to complete this itinerary of yours, not including the flight to and from Japan? I’m thinking about the price of the trains, hotel, the cultural landmarks, and more.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Costs depend a lot on what level of comfort you’re seeking. A rail pass starts at around $250 for 7 days and you can get everywhere in the itinerary with it. Hotels or hostels can be as low as $20/day. Many of the cultural landmarks are free to see. Some have small entrance fees, so maybe $100 total for that.

  16. Patti says:

    Hi. We are planning a 8 days/9 nights trip to japan mid April this year for a family of 5 (kids 9,12,15). After much thinking I came with this itinerary. Do you think is doable or too much?
    2 nights Tokyo, 2 nights Takayama, 3 nights kyoto (with day visit to Osaka), 1 night Hakone, last night at Tokyo to flight back the following afternoon. Not sure if Takayama is too ambitious but it looks lovely. Any advice would be much appreciated!! Thank you

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Patti. Takayama does add quite a bit of train travel to your itinerary, it takes about 5 hours. If you already know what you want to do there and it’s of importance to you, I don’t think it’s too much. But if you’re ambivalent at all, I would spend an extra day in Tokyo and an extra day in Kyoto (for a visit to Nara).

  17. Daniel says:

    Hi Laura, great to read all the comments. We’re planning a trip to Japan in May 2019 starting and finishing in Tokyo for 8 nights. The planned itinerary is: 1 night Tokyo, 2 nights Hiroshima, 2 nights Kyoto and back for 3 nights in Tokyo buying a JR pass. Is this doable in the short period time frame? Any suggestions?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Daniel. That plan is definitely doable. It’ll give you some time to see each location, you’ll just have to be judicious about how you spend your time at each. Be sure to go in with a planned itinerary.

  18. Amanda Tran says:

    Hi, thank you so much so all the great insights. We are planning to go to Japan end of June/July 2019 for 9 days 8 nights. In/out of Tokyo. Our wish list would be Tokyo, Mt. Fuji (climbing would be amazing), Kyoto and Sapporo lavender visit. Please advise how best we can do all this with our limited time or should be cut something out. Sincerely appreciate your help. Thanks so much.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Amanda, I definitely think you can do all of those places in 9 days. You can follow our itinerary, but you’d want to start in Sapporo, then Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and Kyoto. You can save time by flying between Sapporo and Tokyo.

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