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

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 daunting task of creating the perfect Japan travel itinerary may be the only thing holding you back from traveling to Japan.

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, there are many resources to help with your planning, including this 7-day Japan itinerary.

Let us help you sift through the possibilities and form a great itinerary for your trip that will touch on all the things you want to see and do in Japan. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can see a lot in just 7 days. Of course, if you have longer to spend, you can expand this itinerary to any length you wish.

Or if you will only be visiting Tokyo, check out our shortened 3-day itinerary for Tokyo.

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. Many people dream of visiting Japan for the cherry blossom. While this is considered high season in Japan, the weather tends to be mild and nice from late March to May.

Another great time to visit is in autumn, when the leaves are changing, from September to November. As it can get very hot in summer in Japan, try to avoid traveling between June and August.

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.

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 Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. 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 exceptionally easy to travel around Japan via high-speed train, so organizing your own trip is recommended.

Other best cities to visit in Japan include Hakone, Kamakura, Hiroshima, Nara, Kobe, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Nozawa, Okinawa, and Hokkaido. If you like water sports like scuba diving, check out Iriomote Island. Each has its own special things to see and do.

Department store grocery sushi
Department store grocery sushi (Photo by Savored Journeys)

Top 12 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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. 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.

When planning your Japan itinerary, keep in mind the distance between each destination (for instance, the train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 3:15). 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

Day 1-2:

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. And it couldn’t be in a better location. They have everything you could need there and it’s really convenient. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor or check current prices on Booking.com.

Day 3:

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 located within walking distance of the cable car and offers very nice, classy rooms, with great views. You can’t beat it. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor or check current prices on Booking.com.

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

Day 4:

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.

Where to Stay in Kyoto: For a luxury stay you can’t go wrong with the Hyatt Regency, but it’s not as close to the main sights as we usually like to be. If you’d rather be in walking distance of the main temples, choose the ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto. They also offer free shuttle service to Kyoto Station. Stay in a ryokan guesthouse overnight. ⇒Read reviews on Trip Advisor or check current prices on Booking.com.

Day 5:

Spend the morning in Kyoto. Then 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. Take the JR train onward to Osaka.

Day 6:

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.

Where to Stay in Osaka: We highly recommend the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel. It’s in a convenient location for transportation, it’s right above a mall with lots of restaurants, and it’s got an insane view and really comfortable rooms. ⇒ Read reviews of the Osaka Marriott on Trip Advisor or check current prices on Booking.com.

Day 7:

Take a 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 from Osaka.

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.

14 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

  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. 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.

  7. 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 .

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