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.
- We also have a 10-14-day Japan itinerary that might suit you better if you a bit longer to spend.
- If you will only be visiting Tokyo, check out our shortened 3-day itinerary for Tokyo.
- How about Kyoto? Here’s your 3-day itinerary.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Day 3: Hakone/Mt. Fuji
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.
Day 4: Kyoto
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.
Day 5: Kyoto
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
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.
Day 7: Kobe
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.
There are many ways to experience and enjoy your Japan vacation. 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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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.