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.
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.
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.
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.
How to Spend One Week in Japan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.