Unforgettable 7 Day Japan Itinerary (2024)

Ready to dive into a whirlwind 7 day Japan itinerary that promises a blend of tradition, modernity, and breathtaking landscapes? From the electrifying streets of Tokyo to the serene temples of Kyoto and the gastronomic delights of Osaka, I have crafted a journey based on my personal experience that packs the essence of Japan into one unforgettable week.

Unforgettable 7 Day Itinerary in Japan - Kids Are A Trip

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Your 7 Day Japan Itinerary

This itinerary isn’t just about ticking off the sights. It’s about immersing yourself in the rhythm of Japanese life. From samurai stories to the future of technology, and yes, lots of sushi, get ready for a truly unique adventure.

Day 1: Tokyo – Urban Exploration and Neon Lights

How to travel to Tokyo

Your 7 day Japan itinerary will likely start at Narita International Airport. From the airport, the quickest way to central Tokyo is the Narita Express train (N’EX), which takes about an hour. Just ask anyone at the airport train station for directions.

Another easy option is the Limousine Bus service that runs both to and from Narita and Haneda airports.

Best places to stay in Tokyo

Choosing where to stay in Tokyo offers a glimpse into the city’s diverse character. Shibuya and Shinjuku offer vibrant nightlife and bustling streets, making them perfect for those looking to dive into Tokyo’s dynamic energy.

Ueno Park Tokyo

For a more serene atmosphere with a touch of traditional charm, Asakusa hosts cozy stays near historical sites. Alternatively, Roppongi stands out for art lovers and night owls, offering upscale accommodations and a lively scene. Here are some of our favorite Tokyo hotels for families.

Things to do in Tokyo on Day 1

  • Visit Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa: Start your exploration in the tranquil surroundings of Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji. Walking through the iconic Kaminarimon Gate and browsing the stalls of Nakamise Street is a wonderful introduction to Japanese culture.
  • Cross Shibuya Crossing: Witness the organized chaos of Shibuya Crossing, one of the most photographed spots in Tokyo. The nearby statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog, adds a bit of nostalgia to this bustling area.
  • Explore Harajuku: Dive into the heart of Tokyo’s youth and fashion culture in Harajuku. Takeshita Street is a kaleidoscope of trendy shops, cafes, and colorful street food. It reflects the vibrant and eccentric styles that define the area.
  • Enjoy the Views from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: Head to Shinjuku to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Its observation decks offer stunning panoramic views of the city. This is a perfect spot to watch the sunset over Tokyo. (This is a great option if you don’t want to pay for Shibuya Sky, Tokyo Tower, or Tokyo Skytree).
  • Dine in Omoide Yokocho: Conclude your day in the nostalgic alleys of Omoide Yokocho. This cozy corner of Shinjuku is famous for its tiny yakitori stalls and izakayas. These offer a taste of Tokyo’s culinary traditions in an intimate setting.

Day 2: Tokyo – Cultural Dive and Tech Wonders

On Day 2, we delve deeper into Tokyo’s fascinating blend of tradition and futuristic innovation. This day is about experiencing the culture and technology that defines this city.

Meiji Shrine Tokyo
Meiji Shrine

Things to do in Tokyo on Day 2

  • Meiji Shrine Morning Visit: Start with a peaceful visit to the Meiji Shrine, nestled in a lush forest. This shrine offers a tranquil contrast to Tokyo’s urban energy, perfect for a reflective morning.
  • Harajuku’s Takeshita Street: After the shrine, head back to Harajuku to explore Takeshita Street more leisurely. This street buzzes with youthful fashion, unique shops, and colorful treats, showcasing Tokyo’s vibrant pop culture.
  • Imperial Palace East Gardens: Midday, visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens. These gardens offer a quiet retreat with well-kept lawns, scenic paths, and historical sites, in the city center.
  • Akihabara’s Tech and Anime Hub: Spend your afternoon in Akihabara, Tokyo’s electric town. Here you can immerse yourself in its world of electronics, anime, and manga. This is one of the best things to do in Tokyo with kids. It’s a must-visit for tech lovers and fans of Japanese pop culture.
  • Evening in Odaiba: Conclude your day in Odaiba, enjoying its futuristic vibe, entertainment options, and bay views. The island is a perfect spot for an evening stroll, dining, and enjoying panoramic views of Tokyo’s skyline.

Day 3: Hakone and Mount Fuji – Nature’s Majesty

How to get to Hakone

No 7 day Japan itinerary is complete without seeing Mt Fuji! While it is a popular day trip from Tokyo, we recommend making time for an overnight in the area. Your gateway to Hakone begins aboard the Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar” from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. This comfortable and direct route takes you to Hakone-Yumoto in approximately 85 minutes, offering picturesque views along the way. 

Investing in the Hakone Free Pass is recommended for those planning extensive exploration. This pass not only covers your round trip between Tokyo and Hakone but also grants unlimited access to various forms of transportation within Hakone. It includes buses, ropeways, and boats, making your travels within this scenic area both easy and cost-effective.

Best places to stay in Hakone

Choosing to stay in Hakone will allow you more time to explore this enchanting region. Hakone Yumoto, serving as the gateway to the area, is renowned for its welcoming hot spring hotels and ease of access. This makes it a popular choice for many visitors. 

Hakone 7 Day Japan itinerary

For a touch of luxury nestled in nature, Gora offers upscale ryokan with private onsen and breathtaking mountain vistas.

Alternatively, the area around Lake Ashi is a peaceful getaway. Some accommodations boast views of Mount Fuji, making for a picturesque retreat. 

Things to do in Hakone and Mount Fuji

  • Visit Owakudani Valley to see its active sulfur vents and enjoy the unique experience of eating eggs boiled in its naturally hot waters, said to extend one’s life.
  • Take the Hakone Ropeway for stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and a chance to see Mount Fuji on clear days.
  • Enjoy a Lake Ashi Cruise aboard a pirate ship, offering a unique perspective of Hakone’s natural beauty and, weather permitting, views of Mount Fuji.
  • Explore the Hakone Shrine, nestled on the shores of Lake Ashi. Its iconic torii gate offers one of Hakone’s most picturesque scenes, seemingly floating on the water.
  • If time allows, visit the Hakone Open Air Museum, where art and nature merge beautifully, featuring impressive sculptures and artwork in an outdoor setting that highlights the area’s scenic landscapes.
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Our Favorite

Mt Fuji and Hakone Tours

Day 4: Kyoto – Time Travel to Ancient Japan

How to get to Kyoto

The journey from Hakone to Kyoto can be seamlessly made by Shinkansen (bullet train). First, take a train from Hakone-Yumoto to Odawara Station, and from there, board the Shinkansen to Kyoto.

The total travel time is approximately 2 to 3 hours, allowing you to transition smoothly from the natural landscapes of Hakone to the historic ambiance of Kyoto.

Best Places To Stay in Kyoto

Gion, the city’s geisha district, offers a stay right in the heart of traditional Japan, where the evening streets are lit by paper lanterns and wooden machiya houses.

Kyoto temple

For those who prefer the hustle and bustle of the city with a modern twist, the Downtown Kyoto area around Shijo-Kawaramachi is perfect, with its convenient access to shops, restaurants, and major sightseeing spots. 

Alternatively, Arashiyama in the western part of the city is a haven for nature lovers. This area offers a more secluded stay close to the famous Bamboo Grove and other natural sites. 

Things To Do in Kyoto on the First Day

  • Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that trail through the mountain, creating a mesmerizing path that’s both spiritual and photogenic.
  • Explore Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), a Zen Buddhist temple that is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights, with its top two floors covered in gold leaf shining over a reflecting pond.
  • Stroll through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, an otherworldly forest that offers a tranquil and awe-inspiring walking experience. (Arashiyama was one of our favorite places to visit in Kyoto with teens).
  • Experience the tranquility of Ryoan-ji, known for its karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, which embodies the essence of Zen Buddhism.
  • Wander around Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district, in the evening. The area’s traditional wooden machiya houses and exclusive ochaya (teahouses) provide a glimpse into the old Kyoto lifestyle.

Day 5: Kyoto – The Heart of Tradition

Kiyomizu-dera temple Kyoto japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Things To Do in Kyoto on your second day

  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple: Start your day with a visit to this historic temple, famous for its wooden stage that offers stunning views of the cherry and maple trees below, as well as the city of Kyoto.
  • Nijo Castle: Explore the opulent Nijo Castle, renowned for its beautiful architecture, intricate interiors, and the Nightingale Floors designed to sing at the slightest touch to warn of intruders.
  • Philosopher’s Path: Take a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path, a cherry tree-lined canal that provides a peaceful setting for reflection and is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season.
  • Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion): Visit Ginkaku-ji, a Zen temple that, despite its name, is not adorned in silver but is renowned for its beautiful sand gardens and moss-covered grounds.
  • Pontocho Alley: Conclude your day with an evening wander through Pontocho Alley, one of Kyoto’s most atmospheric dining areas. This narrow lane is filled with traditional tea houses, restaurants, and bars offering a glimpse into Kyoto’s vibrant nightlife. A must do for any 7 day Japan itinerary.

Day 6: Nara – Amongst Deer and Temples

How to get to Nara

You can take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station directly to Nara Station, with the journey taking about 45 minutes to an hour.

Nara Deer Park Japan

Alternatively, the Kintetsu Kyoto Line offers a slightly faster route from Kyoto to Kintetsu Nara Station, taking about 35 to 50 minutes. Both options drop you near Nara’s main attractions.

Best Places To Stay in Nara

Nara’s accommodations provide traditional and modern options, primarily located around Nara Station and Naramachi, the old merchant district.

Staying near Nara Park offers easy access to many of the city’s historical sites and the chance to wake up close to the serene natural beauty and the deer that call it home.

Things To Do in Nara

  • Todai-ji Temple: Visit this iconic temple, home to the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), one of the largest bronze statues in the world. The temple complex and its massive gate are impressive sights that showcase the grandeur of ancient Nara.
  • Nara Park: Wander through Nara Park, famous for its hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered messengers of the gods in Shinto religion, these deer have become a symbol of the city and a must-see for visitors.
  • Kasuga-taisha Shrine: Explore the serene Kasuga-taisha Shrine, known for its thousands of stone lanterns that line the path to the shrine, as well as the hundreds of bronze lanterns within. The shrine is a beautiful example of Shinto architecture and tradition.
  • Naramachi: Stroll through the historic Naramachi district, where you can explore traditional merchant houses, quaint shops, and cafes. This area provides a glimpse into old Nara’s daily life and culture.
  • Isuien Garden: End your day with a visit to Isuien Garden, a beautiful example of Japanese landscape gardening. With its carefully designed ponds, bridges, and tea houses, Isuien offers a peaceful retreat and a perfect spot for contemplation and relaxation.
Japan travel guide WC

Day 7: Osaka – Culinary Adventure and Urban Excitement

How to get to Osaka

From Nara, you can take the JR Yamatoji Line directly from JR Nara Station to JR Osaka Station, with the journey taking about 50 minutes to an hour.

Shinsekai District Osaka with kids

Alternatively, the Kintetsu Nara Line offers service from Kintetsu Nara Station to Osaka’s Namba Station, a trip that also takes around 40 minutes. Both routes provide a seamless transition to the lively atmosphere of Osaka.

Best Places To Stay in Osaka

  • Namba/Dotonbori: For those looking to dive straight into the heart of Osaka’s renowned food scene and nightlife, staying in the Namba or Dotonbori area is ideal. This district is bustling with energy, offering easy access to street food, restaurants, and entertainment options.
  • Umeda: Situated around Osaka Station, Umeda is another great area to stay, known for its shopping, dining, and modern architecture. It’s conveniently located for exploring the city and offers a range of accommodation options.
  • Shin-Osaka: For travelers needing quick access to the Shinkansen for day trips or onward travel, Shin-Osaka is practical. It provides efficient connections without sacrificing the convenience of city amenities.

Things To Do in Osaka

  • Osaka Castle: Start your day with a visit to Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. The castle park is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season, and it is sure to be a hit if you’re visiting Osaka with kids. The museum inside offers a deep dive into Osaka’s history.
  • Dotonbori: This vibrant area is famous for its neon lights, extravagant signage, and diverse street food options, including takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes).
  • Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade: Explore the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade, a covered shopping street that stretches for several blocks and offers everything from high-end fashion to unique souvenirs.
  • Umeda Sky Building: For panoramic views of Osaka, visit the Umeda Sky Building. The floating garden observatory on the 39th floor offers a 360-degree view of the city, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.
  • Kuromon Ichiba Market: End your day at the Kuromon Ichiba Market, where you can sample fresh seafood, street food, and local specialties. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the flavors of Osaka and pick up some last-minute gifts or souvenirs.

The Quickest And Cheapest Way To Travel In Japan: The Bullet Train

Japan’s Shinkansen, or bullet train, is the epitome of fast and efficient travel, offering an unmatched combination of speed, economy, and comfort. It is even faster and more cost-effective than flying. The network stretches across the country, linking major cities and tourist destinations with speed. 

With trains departing frequently and stations centrally located, the Shinkansen is an ideal choice for transportation during your 7 day Japan itinerary.

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The JR Pass

The Japan Rail (JR) Pass is a powerful tool for tourists, offering unlimited travel on most Shinkansen trains and other JR services for a fixed period (7, 14, or 21 days). This pass not only simplifies travel across Japan but also significantly reduces costs for those looking to explore multiple regions. 

Shinkansen train

Purchasable exclusively by foreign tourists BEFORE arriving in Japan, the JR Pass is an investment that pays dividends in both convenience and savings.

Its benefits extend beyond the Shinkansen, covering local trains, buses, and even some ferries, ensuring a comprehensive travel solution across Japan’s diverse landscapes.

Best Time Book Your 7 Day Japan Itinerary

The ideal times to embark on your 7 day Japan adventure are during the spring (March to May) for the cherry blossoms and autumn (September to November) for the vibrant fall colors. These seasons offer stunning natural backdrops and pleasant weather, enhancing your travel experience.

  • Spring is famous for its cherry blossoms, creating picturesque scenes across cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Due to its popularity, it’s wise to book accommodations and travel arrangements well in advance.
  • Autumn impresses with its cool weather and colorful foliage, perfect for outdoor activities and temple visits.

For fewer crowds and potential savings, consider late spring or early autumn. Planning your trip 3-6 months ahead can secure better deals and ensure a smoother experience, regardless of the season you choose.

Tips For Traveling In Japan

  • Public Transportation Mastery: Japan’s public transport system is world-class, punctual, and extensive. Familiarize yourself with local train and bus schedules, and consider purchasing a PASMO or SUICA card for convenient tap-and-go travel in major cities. You can find more information about this in our Japan travel tips.
  • Respect Local Customs: Japanese culture values etiquette highly. Simple gestures like removing your shoes before entering someone’s home or a temple, bowing as a greeting, and being mindful of noise levels on trains can go a long way in showing respect.
  • Language Barrier: While major cities often have English signs and speakers, venturing off the beaten path might present language challenges. Learning a few basic Japanese phrases or having a translation app can enhance your experience and interactions.
  • Connectivity: Stay connected with a portable Wi-Fi router or a Japanese SIM card, especially useful for navigating, translating, and accessing timetables on the go.
  • Mind the Seasons: Weather can significantly impact your travel experience. From the humid summers to the snowy winters, pack accordingly. Be aware of seasonal variations that might affect your plans, such as typhoon season in late summer and early autumn.
  • Exploration Beyond the Cities: While cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are must-visits, Japan’s charm also lies in its rural landscapes, onsen towns, and mountain retreats. Allow time to explore beyond the urban environments.
  • Cash is King: Despite its high-tech reputation, many places in Japan still prefer cash transactions. This is especially common in rural areas, smaller establishments, and temples. Always carry a sufficient amount of yen to cover your expenses.

Budget For Your 7 Day Japan Itinerary

Planning your budget for a 7-day trip to Japan will involve considering various expenses to ensure an enjoyable yet affordable experience. Here’s a brief overview:

Accommodation: Choose from a range of budget-friendly options, including hostels, guesthouses, and capsule hotels. Prices typically range from ¥3,000 to ¥8,000 per night.

Transportation: Consider investing in a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) for unlimited travel between cities. A JR Pass will cost about ¥50,000 for 7 days of unlimited travel.

Food: Enjoy affordable meals at local eateries like izakayas and noodle shops. We recommend budgeting around ¥3,000 to ¥6,000 per day for food.

Japanese food
Try all the food!

Activities: Budget for additional expenses such as entrance fees to attractions and cultural experiences based on your interests.

Miscellaneous: Allocate funds for souvenirs, snacks, and unforeseen expenses to ensure a stress-free journey.

Total Spend:
Depending on your preferences and travel style, budgeting approximately ¥90,000 to ¥150,000 per person for the entire 7-day itinerary should cover accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and miscellaneous expenses. Adjustments may be needed based on individual preferences and priorities.

FAQs: 7 Day Japan Itinerary

Is 7 days enough for Japan?

While 7 days may seem short, it’s sufficient to experience the highlights of Japan, especially if you focus on specific regions or cities. Consider prioritizing your must-see attractions to make the most of your time.

What is better, Osaka or Kyoto?

Both Osaka and Kyoto offer unique experiences. Osaka is known for its lively food scene, modern architecture, and vibrant nightlife. Kyoto is renowned for its historical temples, traditional tea houses, and serene gardens. Consider visiting both cities to enjoy the contrast between modernity and tradition.

Can I get around without speaking Japanese?

It is possible to navigate Japan without speaking Japanese, especially in major tourist areas and transportation hubs. Here you will find English signage and English-speaking staff are common.

Learning a few basic Japanese phrases such as greetings and polite expressions can enhance your travel experience and interactions with locals.

Is Japan very expensive to visit?

Japan can be relatively expensive, especially in major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. However, there are plenty of budget-friendly options available, including affordable accommodations, inexpensive dining options like ramen shops and convenience stores, and economical transportation passes such as the Japan Rail Pass. With careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy Japan without breaking the bank.

Do I need a visa to enter Japan?

Citizens of many countries can enter Japan for tourism purposes without a visa for short stays (usually up to 90 days). However, visa requirements vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit.

Check the visa requirements for your country on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan before traveling to Japan.

What are the best seasons to visit Japan?

The best seasons to visit Japan are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). Spring offers cherry blossoms (sakura) in full bloom, mild temperatures, and vibrant festivals such as hanami (flower viewing) celebrations.

Kyoto spring cherry blossom season

Autumn boasts stunning fall foliage (koyo), pleasant temperatures, and fewer crowds, making it ideal for outdoor activities and scenic hikes.

What are the top 5 things to do in Japan?

  1. Explore the historic temples, shrines, and gardens of Kyoto, including Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha.
  2. Experience the bustling streets and lively markets of Tokyo, including Shibuya Crossing, Tsukiji Outer Market, and Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.
  3. Visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum to learn about the city’s tragic history and promote peace and reconciliation.
  4. Discover the natural beauty of Hakone and soak in an onsen (hot spring) while enjoying views of Mount Fuji.
  5. Indulge in Osaka’s culinary delights, including okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), takoyaki (octopus balls), and street food in Dotonbori.

Conclusion: 7 Day Japan Itinerary

Crafting this 7 day Japan itinerary reminded me of how amazing it was to experience the country’s rich culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether we were exploring Tokyo’s streets, immersing in Kyoto’s ancient traditions, or savoring Osaka’s culinary delights, each day brought new unbelievable adventures.

Embrace the serene moments in temples, marvel at Mount Fuji’s beauty, and indulge in urban energy. With 7 days, create lasting memories amid cherry blossoms in spring, fiery autumn foliage, or unique festivals.

As you bid farewell, carry Japan’s warmth, traditions, and unforgettable experiences with you. You will find yourself planning your second trip to Japan not long after, just like we did!