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If you’re planning a trip to Japan, the new good news is you have a whole lot of amazing places and experiences to choose from. There are so many unique and interesting things to do in Japan, that you certainly won’t be bored! Although 7 days in Japan isn’t enough to see more than a handful of Japan’s best bits, it’s more than enough time to get a taste for Japanese culture and all of its quirks. You’ll also probably be able to fit in more than you think because Japan is one of the easiest countries to travel around.
Planning a trip to Japan
If you only have 1 week in Japan, using your time wisely is going to be crucial. There’s simply too much to see and do in Japan to fit it all into one week. But you might be surprised by just how much you can do in Japan in 7 days.
I’d recommend trying to fly in to Tokyo and out of Osaka (or vice versa), but it’s not the end of the world if that isn’t possible. After all, you’ll want to take the most convenient (or best value!) flight to Japan.
Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi. This handy little device will give you unlimited data for your trip to Japan, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
The high-speed bullet trains – or Shinkansen – mean you can travel between Tokyo and Osaka in less than three hours, so the extra journey won’t steal too much of your time in Japan.
With that in mind, I’ve planned this Japan travel itinerary to start in Tokyo and end in Osaka, but you could easily reverse the order and do it the other way around. Or, you could tag the journey back to Tokyo on to the end to suit your own flights and preferences.
Travel tip: If you want to make the most of your week in Japan, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself a little with Japanese culture and customs. Etiquette is an important part of life in Japan, so knowing a few tips before your first trip to Japan will help you get around and feel at home while you’re there (without offending anyone!).
Japan Itinerary: 7 Days in Japan
About this Japan itinerary
This Japan travel itinerary by no means covers all of the best things to do and see during your trip, but it’s a good start for your first time in Japan (or even your second, if you didn’t get to see much the first time around!).
It covers a fair amount of distance while wasting as little time as possible travelling. Whether you spend one week in Japan or one year, it’s the kind of country where there will always be more to see. My advice would be to not worry about missing things and enjoy the things you do see!
How much can you see during one week in Japan?
This 7 day Japan itinerary doesn’t include some of the most famous places in Japan, such as Hiroshima, Hakone or Kobe. But it should be easy enough to switch one or two of the days if you do wish to visit any of these cities.
If you plan on venturing further afield or visiting the Hokkaido area, I’d recommend spending longer than one week in Japan. In fact, I’d always recommend spending more than 7 days in Japan (if you can). But if that’s all you have, you’ll still be able to see the highlights.
How to spend 7 days in Japan
This Japan itinerary fits in a lot of the best things in Japan in 7 days. But don’t worry – there’s still a little time for spontaneity, flexibility or some much-needed downtime!
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo.
Book a hotel in either the Shinjuku or Shibuya district. Both neighbourhoods are centrally located, full or things to see and have great connections both within and out of Tokyo. The Narita Express stops at both and is the best way to get from Narita International Airport to downtown Tokyo.
Once you’ve checked in and freshened up, head to Harajuku. Nestled between Shinjuku and Shibuya, it should be no more than a 30-minute walk from your hotel. If you don’t fancy the walk, you can also take the metro to Harajuku station. Takeshita Street is right next to Harajuku station, so immerse yourself in the brightest, boldest part of Tokyo. Tuck into an oversized, rainbow-coloured crepe or simply stare in awe as girls in brightly coloured outfits stroll pass, a candyfloss bigger than their heads in hand.
If you need a break from the crowds and colourful shops, take a caffeine break in Reissue Café. The only thing to order is a 3D latte. This cute little bunny-loving café takes coffee art to a whole new level and you can order any picture you like as 2D or 3D coffee art – just show the waiter a photo on your phone. Yen ($10) may sounds like a lot for a coffee, but once you see the coffee artist work his magic, it’ll feel like a great deal (even if it is too pretty to drink!).
Harajuku is a great place to stop for food, too. One of the best things about Japan is that the quality of everything is very high, so you never have to worry about looking for a good restaurant. Nearly every restaurant is a good restaurant! There are lots of amazing Japanese foods, but the two you’ll probably eat most often are sushi and ramen – and Tokyo has plenty of both.
Once you’ve had your first taste of Japanese food, head to Shinjuku to unwind with a drink. Golden Gai is a small area of even smaller bars, most of which can hold fewer than eight people. It’s a really intimate way to relax and enjoy a local whiskey or beer, so step into a bar and get to know your waiter or your fellow patrons. You never know who you might meet!
Find a Tokyo hotel:
Day 2: Take a day trip from Tokyo.
There are loads of easy day trips from Tokyo with the JR pass, so make the most of it! Japan is one of the easiest countries to travel around and, even though somewhere may look kind of far on the map, you can bet it’s surprisingly easy to get to.
Hitachi Seaside Park is one of the easiest day trips from Tokyo as it’s just a short ride away. It’s a uniquely beautiful park where the flowers change with the seasons. A bit like a changing piece of natural art.
If you don’t mind getting up a little earlier and travelling a little further, my number recommendation would be to go and see the Japanese snow monkeys bathing in hot springs.
Make sure you buy your 7-day Japan Rail pass before you arrive in Japan to save time, money and a whole lot of hassle at the station.
And if you’re still suffering from jet lag or just want to spend more time in Tokyo, there was plenty of things to do there in two days.
Day 3: Transfer to Mount Fuji.
Mount Fuji is on almost every visitor’s list when they travel to Japan and for good reason. And if the 3,776 metre-high volcano isn’t enough of a draw, don’t worry. The number of things you can tick off your Japan bucket list while you’re there should be.
Jump on a bus from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station and you’ll be there in around two hours. The journey will cost around 1,750 Yen (just under $16) and is the best way to get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. It is possible to take a JR train to Hakone and Lake Ashi, but the bus is easiest and the most direct route if you only have 7 days in Japan.
Mount Fuji is a great place to experience staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Stay in a multi-purpose room with sliding doors, have an amazing night’s sleep on a floor mattress (way more comfy than it sounds, I promise!). Then, wake up to a view of the famous active volcano. Staying in a ryokan can be a little pricey but it was definitely one of my highlights from my trip to Japan. For me, it’s an absolute must if you only have one week in Japan.
At Mount Fuji, you can also experience a traditional Japanese onsesn (hot spring). These natural baths are swimsuit-free zones open to the public, and are still very common all over Japan.
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Day 4: Transfer to Kyoto.
After enjoying a relaxing onsen restful night, wake up bright and early to watch the sun rise on Mount Fuji. Make sure you pack a camera so you can capture some beautiful photos, too!
After breakfast, it’s time to use the Japan Rail pass again. Take a bullet train to Kyoto and check in to a hotel in the Nijo area of town. Kyoto is a fairly large city but a lot of the best bits are within walking distance of the centre.
Spend the day exploring some of Kyoto’s temples and parks. You’ll also want to try some of the local sushi and ramen houses. Some of the best things to see in Kyoto include Toji temple, Kinkaku-ji temple, Maruyama Park and Nijojocho Park. If you want to make the most of your day in Kyoto, sign up for a tour. A walking tour or other guided tour of the city will teach you about the former Japanese capital’s rich history.
Day 5: Fushimi Inari Shrine.
If there’s one photo you’ve seen of Kyoto, it’s almost definitely the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine of orange torii gates stretches 4km across Kyoto’s mountainside and has become a popular Instagram spot for tourists.
Despite its popularity on social media, however, it’s not as crowded – or hard to get your own shot – as you might think. And that’s mostly due to the sheer size of it.
Walking directly to the peak of the mountain will take you two hours. You might want to double that, though, to factor in some extra time for photo opps and stops. You’ll probably want to spend some time taking in the views of Kyoto along the way, too. I could have spent all day here – and next time I go back to Japan, I plan to.
Day 6: Get up early for Arashiyama bamboo forest.
The other classic Instagram shot from Kyoto is the Arashiyama bamboo forest. Unlike the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which was much larger than we had anticipated, the bamboo forest is tiny. It’s nothing more than a single path surrounded by towering bamboo. That said, it’s still more than impressive enough to warrant a visit.
And an early visit, at that. If you really want to make the most of a visit to the Arashiyama bamboo forest, get there as early as possible. It’s open 24 hours, after all. I’d recommend hopping on the first train and getting there as close to sunset as possible. Not only will you have more chance of having it to yourself (yes, it is possible!) but you’ll be able to get some amazing photos.
After getting up early for the bamboo forest, you’ll have plenty of time left to explore for the rest of the day. After a couple of days based in Kyoto, pack your bags, check out of your Kyoto hotel and hop back on the JR train.
Related Read: Check out this list of exciting things to do in Kyoto if you want to extend your stay.
This time you’ll want to take the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen to Himeji, a journey which takes just under two hours. When you arrive at Himeji station, leave your suitcases in one of the lockers at the station and head directly out. You won’t be able to miss the castle in the distance and you’ll be at its gates after a 15-20 walk.
Before you jump on the bullet train, stop for some bullet train sushi at a restaurant called Rikimaru. You’ll find it tucked away just outside Himeji station. Here, the sushi is delivered on a real train – a Shinkansen train! Prices are very reasonable, too.
After enjoying the bullet train sushi, it’s time to ride the bullet train yourself. Shin-Osaka station is just a 30-minute ride from Himeji. Check into a hotel nearby. If you have an early morning flight tomorrow, check into a pod hotel and enjoy yet another unique Japanese experience.
End the night with a trip to the Umeda Sky Building, where you can take the sky escalator. Enjoy an amazing panoramic view of Osaka’s bustling streets and lights from 173m above.
Day 7: Explore Osaka or head back to Tokyo.
Depending on when – and where! – your flight departs, spend some time exploring Osaka or head back to Tokyo in time for take-off. The Nozomi train takes just 2 hours and 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. There are also regular bullet trains between the two cities. It’s best to book in advance to be safe.
If you have a whole day left to explore Osaka, why not try one of these easy day trips out of the city?
Tips for one week in Japan
If you only have 7 days in Japan, you’ll want to make the most of them. These tips will help you arrive prepared so you can enjoy your week in Japan to the full, but check out my post packed with 37 tips for your first trip to Japan for even more tips.
While in Tokyo, stay in Shinjuku or Shibuya.
These are two of the best areas in Tokyo for tourists, with lots of restaurants, shops and things to see. They’re also both centrally located within easy access of the JR train lines. They’re also near the Narita Express train that runs between the airport and downtown Tokyo.
Buy a 7-day JR rail pass
I know it might seem pricey, but I promise it will be worth. Unless you want to spend the whole week in Tokyo, it will makes any day trips or travel to Kyoto, Osaka and beyond much cheaper. Buy your Japan Rail pass before you go to save even more money.
The weather in Japan can vary just as much as it can in the UK. Locals tend to dress in layers and it’s wise to do the same. Pack a mix of loose-fitting but tailored trousers, smart jeans and tops/jumpers than you can layer. And don’t forget a waterproof jacket and a scarf!
Carry an umbrella
It rained for about 4 of our 9 days while we were in Tokyo. Pack an umbrella if you can. Most locals will carry a dome-shaped clear umbrella.
Stay near stations to save time
When you only have 7 days in Japan, you don’t want to waste time travelling. Japan’s cities are well-connected but large, and it can take a long time to travel between areas. Staying somewhere central or near to a JR line station will help a lot, even if it does cost a little bit more.