To be perfectly honest, I don’t think 1 week in Japan is enough. I’d recommend more like 14 days or even 21 days in Japan, but sometimes we don’t always have the ability to travel for such an extended period of time. Sometimes, 1 week is all we get, because, I mean, you still have a full-time job or school, family, etc. Even if you only have a week, go anyway! Check out this 7 day Japan itinerary for all the best things to do in Japan with a limited amount of time!
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- Before You Go
- 7 Day Japan itinerary
- How Much Should I Budget?
- Additional Information
Before You Begin
If this is your first time traveling to Japan, I highly recommend doing some research into the country’s transportation system, customs, etc. I believe you’ll find it much easier to put together a Japan itinerary if you sort of know what you are getting yourself into.
- Top Japanese Phrases for Travel
- Best Japan Travel Apps – Directions, Food, & More
- Navigating Japan’s Train System: Tips for Traveling Japan by Train
- Is the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) Worth It?
7 Day Japan itinerary
Day 1: Travel Day / Chiba
When you first land in Japan, chances are you are going to be super excited to dive right into Tokyo. However, if you have a flight that lands in the morning or early afternoon, I suggest taking a minute to check out the area around the airport before heading into town. Chiba prefecture has some of its own sights worth seeing, such as Naritasan Temple.
Day 2: Tokyo
Morning: Senso-ji, Nakamise-dori
Senso-ji is Tokyo’s oldest temple, making it a great way to kick off your 7 day Japan itinerary. At the main hall, you can “purify yourself” by washing your hands in the nearby fountain with the ladle, as well as cover yourself in the smoke of the incense, which is believed to have a healing effect.
Just outside of Senso-ji is Nakamise-dori, a popular shopping street. Here you can try all sorts of traditional Japanese food as well as find lots of cool souvenirs based off of Japanese culture and history. The souvenirs here are likely a little more expensive than other places, but nowhere else will you find such a great selection of souvenirs in one location, so the convenience might be worth it.
Akihabara is the place to be for techies and geeks. Home to much of Japan’s pop culture, the many signs, lights, and sounds can be a little overwhelming at first, but is a great place to just wander around and get lost in its many electronics and anime shops. Here, you’ll find many of Japan’s famous pop culture locations such as Radio Kaikan, Gundam Cafe, AKB48 Cafe and Shop, and more.
Evening: Omoide Yokocho
Omoide Yokocho literally translates to “Memory Lane,” but more Omoide Yokocho is more often referred to as “Piss Alley.” Despite it’s charming name, this series of small alleys is a great place to spend an evening due to the sheer number of restaurants and bars located here. Aside from the great food, it has a very picturesque feel, created a great atmosphere.
Day 3: Tokyo
Morning: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku Gyoen, Shibuya Crossing
There are several different observatories that give good views of the city. However, why pay an expensive fee for an observatory when you can go to the top floors of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free? They actually have two different observation decks: the North Observatory and the South Observatory.
Shinjuku Gyoen easily topped my list of best parks and gardens in Tokyo. You have to pay to enter, but it is 100% worth the admission price. It’s beautiful all times of the year, but its especially spectacular during autumn and cherry blossom season.
Considered one of the busiest intersections in the world, Shibuya Crossing (also called the Shibuya Scramble), is a must see. You can be one of the several people walking through the intersection, or you can get a top down view of the scramble from some of the nearby stores.
Afternoon: Harajuku, Meiji Jingu
Harajuku is well known for its street fashion and art and an icon of Japanese pop culture. Along the main street, Takeshita-dori, you’ll find everything from quirky clothing stores to luxurious boutiques. The shops are a bit expensive, but even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s worth exploring the area, if only for just the street fashion. Especially on the weekends, you’ll see everything from super girly and pink to punk goth.
Considered one of the top shrines in Tokyo, Meiji Jingu is a shrine dedicated to souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Here, you can dive into Japanese culture by getting English versions of omikuji (Japanese fortune telling strips) and ema, a votive tablet where you write down your prayers and gratitude.
Dinner shows are a great way to enjoy some delicious Japanese food while still getting immersed in the culture of Japan. There are a couple of different shows you could see depending on your interests.
Probably one of the most popular dinner shows is at Robot Restaurant. As you can guess by the name, it has a robotic theme and known for its crazy lights, extravagant costumes, and loud noises.
For more traditional Japanese theater, you can catch a Kabuki dinner show. This particular dinner show is catered towards first timers, giving explanations of Kabuki and its history in English.
Day 4: Day Trip of Your Choice
There are so many different places in Japan that make for great day trips from either Kyoto (the next destination on this one week Japan itinerary) or Tokyo. Which one you should do will largely depend on your interests.
Day Trips from Tokyo
- Nikko: Visit the lavishly decorated temples set back in the mountains and forest
- Kamakura: Go back in history at the previous capital visit some local shrines and temples
- Mt Fuji & Kawaguchiko: stroll around Lake Kawaguchiko and enjoy beautiful views of Mt. Fuji
- Hakone: Take a dip in some of the most unique hot springs
- Sendai: Experience rural Japan while getting sometime fantastic views
Day Trips from Kyoto
- Osaka: Second largest metropolitan city in Japan, good mix of traditional culture and modern city
- Nara: See the largest bronze buddha statues in Japan and have some friendly deer bow to you
- Himeji: Tour one of the most famous castles in Japan
- Hiroshima: Visit the Atomic Bomb Memorial and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Day 5: Kyoto
Morning: Kimono Rental, Arashiyama
There has been some debate of late as to whether or not foreigners should wear Japanese kimonos, especially given the recent social issues of cultural appropriation, white-washing, and similar. However, after several discussions with some Japanese friends of mine, we’d more or less come to the conclusion that most Japanese welcome foreigners wearing kimonos, so long as they are doing it out of respect for and interest in Japanese culture. They’re excited that others are interested in learning about and being apart of their culture.
With that being said, I think it’s worth renting kimono in Kyoto for a day. It’s probably the most “hands-on” you can get with Japanese culture. If nothing else, you’ll gain a strong appreciation for the people who actually walk around in kimono all-day every-day (especially the women).
After you’ve donned your kimono, heading over to Arashiyama and take a nice, relaxing stroll through the bamboo forest.
Afternoon: Sagano Scenic Railway, Kinkakuji
If you decided to rent kimono for the day, you may find that your feet are a little tired from the traditional sandals, however, that doesn’t have to stop you from seeing the city.
The Sagano Line was actually replaced more the more efficient JR Sanin Rail Line, but the Sagano Line was preserved and outfitted to become the Sagano Scenic Railway. On this line, you can sit next to one of the many large windows and relax as the mountains and rivers roll by.
After the nice, relaxing train ride, I recommend stopping by Kinkakuji. It’s one of Kyoto’s most famous temples, due to the fact that the entire exterior is plated in gold.
Evening: Kyoto Tower
Across the street from Kyoto Station is Kyoto Tower, Kyoto’s tallest structure. If it’s height isn’t enough to ensure you don’t miss it, it’s also lit up at night. You can head to the top of the observatory to get some beautiful views of the city. Then, once you return to the bottom floor, you can find all sorts of unique souvenir stalls and Japanese snacks.
Day 6: Kyoto
Morning: Fushimi Inari
Fushimi Inari easily topped my list as my favorite shrine in all of Japan. I have this fascination with torii, that gates typically found at the entrances of shrines. It’s no surprise then that Fushimi Inari was my favorite, because it’s literally filled with 1,000+ bright red torii. The shrine is located at the base of Mount Inari, and several hiking trails lead into the forest up the side of the mountain. The view at the top of the mountain isn’t the most breathtaking (too many trees in the way), but its an enjoyable hike nonetheless.
Afternoon: Kiyomizu-dera, Shoren-in
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu-dera is another incredibly popular temple. Built on the site of the Otowa Waterfall, visitors can drink from the streams of water known to grant various benefits such as luck in school, health, or love. Another notable portion of the temple is the wooden porch located around the main buildings that give you spectacular views of the city below.
Shoren-in is a more unique temple is design compared to other temples. It has a beautiful drawing room, complete with the taditional tatami mats and shoji (paper) sliding doors. On the engawa (wooden walkway along the exterior of the buidling), you can sit and enjoy the beautiful garden.
Evening: Samurai Kembu Theater
While the shows at Samurai Kembu Theater are mostly geared towards tourists, its still a fantastic way for visitors to learn about the history and culture of the ancient samurai, as well as see performances with a katana (Japanese longsword) and fan. Depending on what package you choose, you can even take a lesson in the traditional art of Kembu after the show.
Day 7: Travel Day
If you choose to fly out of Tokyo, chances are you’ll lose most of your last day in Japan to traveling. Between catching the bullet train back to Tokyo from Kyoto, and having to arrive at the airport a few hours before your flight, you likely won’t get a whole lot of time to do any last minute exploring. If you get a minute to do some sightseeing, definitely go for it, but don’t miss your plane either!
How Much Should I Budget?
NOTE: Conversion Rate at time of writing: $1 USD = ¥110.99 JPY
Transportation & Discount Passes
For this 7 day japan itinerary, you’ll likely spend about ¥35,500 ($320 USD) on train and bus rides, depending on the route you take, and assuming you do not purchase any discount passes (see below). This estimate includes not only getting around within Tokyo and Kyoto, but also getting between Tokyo and Narita airport as well as the bullet train ride between Kyoto and Tokyo.
For this particular itinerary, I recommend NOT purchasing the Japan Rail Pass. The bullet train ride to Kyoto as well as the return ride back to Tokyo would total about ¥26,160. Even if you solely used JR trains in Tokyo, the Japan Rail Pass would only cover about ¥27,360 of the ¥35,500 you’ll spend on transportation. A 7 day Japan Rail Pass costs ¥29,110, so it’s not quite worth the cost.
I do, however, recommend purchasing the Kyoto City Bus Pass and an IC Card. if you plan on using day 4 of this itinerary to take a day trip to Osaka, you may also want to buy the Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass. Lastly, you can also purchase a Tokyo Subway Pass, but the savings from the subway pass are minuscule, so it’s up to you.
The IC Card is a re-loadable card that you can use to pay for the train and bus. It is not a discount pass, although paying by IC Card is generally 2 – 9 yen cheaper than a ticket. Having one is more for convenience, so you don’t have to get in line to buy a ticket every time you want to ride the train or bus.
The Kyoto City Bus Pass is good for one day (so you’ll need to buy two of them for this itinerary) and allows you to ride the local buses an unlimited number of times. The local bus costs ¥230 ($2.08 USD) per ride, regardless of how far you are going. Over the course of your two days in Kyoto, you would spend about ¥1,840 ($16.60 USD) on bus rides. However, the price of two Kyoto City Bus Passes is only ¥1,200 ($10.83 USD), meaning you would save ¥640 ($5.77 USD).
The Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass covers train rides on the Keihan rail line. A 1-day pass costs ¥800 and a 2-day pass costs ¥1,200. Depending on what you do in Osaka and your route, this pass may save you some money on the train rides.
The Tokyo Subway Pass allows you to ride the subway an unlimited number of times within a certain time range, all for a flat fee. There are three different options for the Tokyo Subway Pass: 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours. For this 7 day Japan itinerary, you would likely want the 48 hour pass for ¥1,200 ($10.83 USD). However, without the pass, you would likely spend about ¥1,240 ($11.19 USD) on the train and subway, so you would really only be saving ¥40 ($0.36 USD).
Unless you’re looking for the ultimate fine dining or sushi experience, you’ll likely pay about ¥1,000 ($9.01 USD) for a breakfast or lunch meal, and closer to ¥2,000 ($18.02 USD) for dinner. If you’re a nightlife person, I’d add an extra ¥2,000 – ¥3,000 ($18.02 – $27.03 USD) for drinks at an izakaya (Japanese pub).
For 7 days in Japan, a food budget of ¥30,000 – ¥40,000 ($270 – $360 USD) should be plenty.
Hotel prices vary greatly depending on the time of year that you visit and how far/close in advance you make your reservations, and where in the city you stay. It also depends on whether you a budget, luxury, or middle-of-the-road type of traveler.
Capsule hotels and hostels in Tokyo can run as cheap as $20 USD a night during the off season and slightly away from downtown. If you go during more popular times of the year and stay closer to downtown, it will likely cost closer to $50 – $70 USD a night.
More middle-of-the-road hotels in Tokyo are likely to be in the $120 – $150 USD range for the downtown area. If you get a few miles outside of downtown, you may find 3-star hotels more in the $70 – $100 USD range.
Luxury 5-star hotels can range anywhere from $230 – $920 USD per night. Top name hotels like Park Hyatt Tokyo will be around $700 per night and the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is about $900 per night. Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo (which has a beautiful garden you should visit regardless of whether or not you stay at the hotel) is closer to $300 USD a night.
While in Kyoto, I recommend staying in a Ryokan (a traditional Japanese Inn). Prices of Ryokan usually vary between $70 – $200 USD per night depending on how fancy of a Ryokan you wish to stay at. Otherwise, Kyoto hotel prices are relatively similar to the ones in Tokyo.
Thankfully, most of the activities and sightseeing in this 7 day japan itinerary are free. However, there are a few that require an admission fee or tickets. If you plan on doing all of the activities on this itinerary, you can expect to spend about ¥7,544 – ¥16,784 ($68.10 – $151.51 USD).
The large price range is due to the different packages and plans available for some of the different activities. How cheap or expensive the Japan trip is totally up to you. You can see a breakdown of activity prices below.
Prices as of February 13th, 2019:
- Shinjuku Gyoen: ¥500
- Kinkakuji: ¥400
- Kimono Rental: ¥3,024 – ¥6,264
- Samurai Kembu Theater: ¥3,000 – ¥9,000
- Sagano Scenic Railway: ¥620
Souvenirs & Shopping
Chances are, you’re going to want at least one souvenir from Japan, especially if this is your first time. Thankfully, souvenir shopping is naturally built into this Japan 7 day itinerary. Districts like Akihabara, Shibuya, and Shinjuku are fantastic places to do some souvenir shopping.
A few other places to keep in mind for souvenir shopping while you make your way through Japan are Nakamise-dori (just outside Senso-ji), Takeshita-dori (Harajuku), and Kyoto Tower.
Like food, budgeting for souvenirs comes down to personal preference. I am obsessed with Japanese wall scrolls, so suffice to say I bought a lot those — most of which ranged from ¥1,000 – ¥2,000 ($9.01 – $18.02 USD) per scroll. Most smaller souvenirs like Japanese fans, chopsticks, maneki-neko (beckoning cats), Japanese towels, and such will likely be about ¥1,000 ($9.01 USD) or less per item.
As a general rule of thumb, I typically budget about $100 USD for souvenirs for every trip that I take, unless I know ahead of time what souvenirs I intend on buying.
The Total Budget
At the end of the day, how expensive your Japan trip comes down to how you like to spend your money. If you go for the cheaper hotel options and don’t go to fancy restaurants, you could probably get away with only spending about ¥120,000 ($1,100 USD) on this trip. However, if you prefer a little bit comfier hotels and want to do the more expensive packages for the activities, you will likely spend closer to ¥200,000 ($1,800 USD).
Figuring out where to go, what to do, and how much it all will cost is a big part of planning a trip to Japan. Unfortunately though, it’s not everything. Here are a few more articles that can provide even more helpful information when planning a 7 day trip to Japan.
If you’re looking for some alternatives to the activities listed above, you can check out my in-depth itineraries.