Japan might not be a huge country, but it sure is vibrant, exciting, and absolutely full of unique things to do and see! So my advice is this: If you can spend more than 7 days in Japan, absolutely do it! Not only to make the most of it and see as much as you can, but because of the fact that Japan is so fast-paced and high-energy. Having enough time there that you could take a much-needed rest day without feeling guilty is a really good idea.
In saying all that though, I understand that a lot of people are on limited schedules, and just want to do all they can in the shortest amount of time possible. This happened to be the case for us on our trip to Japan earlier this year. We feel that we were still able to do a lot and have nice experiences in different parts of the country. So even though the trip was short, it was totally worth it. 7 days in Japan IS do-able and enjoyable. So here is my Japan 7-day itinerary for anyone else looking to do the same.
Snapshot of your Japan 7-day itinerary:
Here is an overview of what your 7 days in Japan will look like if you follow my advice. If it looks like what you’re after, keep scrolling for more detail on how to spend your time in each of these destinations.
Days 1-2: Tokyo
Day 3: Mt Fuji
Day 4: Osaka
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: Hiroshima
Day 7: return to departing city
The best way to get around during your 7 days in Japan: JR Pass
Getting the JR Pass was the best decision we could have made considering we only had 7 days in Japan and wanted to see a lot of the country. The JR Pass means you have unlimited access to any Japan Rail trains for the duration of your pass. It is great because this includes the fast bullet trains, so you can get between cities really quickly, much faster even than driving. If you are going to use it often, then it is worth the money as it works out cheaper than purchasing all of those train tickets individually. Since the JR Pass offer a 7-day option, then it works out perfectly for those who are wanting to spend 7 days in Japan. If you are staying longer, they also have 14-day and 21-day options.
Days 1-2 – Tokyo
It wouldn’t be a Japan itinerary without Tokyo! On this trip, I went to Tokyo for the first time and I found it to be such a vibrant city – so bustling and full of life. Even if you spend the whole day just walking around the streets, you could never get bored. For this reason, most of what I have got recommended for you in Tokyo are just areas to explore on your own, rather than specific things to do. Tokyo is absolutely huge and so full of things to see and do. If you haven’t been here before than it definitely deserves at least two days out of your 7 days in Japan.
Recommended districts to visit in tokyo
- Ginza (upmarket area with a lot of influence from the days of American occupation)
- Shibuya (nightlife area and home of the famous crossing)
- Akihabara (electronics, anime, arcade, and nerdy area)
- Ueno (cultural area)
- Tokyo (central area with good restaurants)
Recommended activities in tokyo
Free Walking Tour
The Tokyo free walking tour is a great way to see some of the sites of Tokyo and learn about the history, as well as gaining some first-hand insight on where some good places to visit are, and where you might like to explore on your own.
If you haven’t done a free walking tour before, basically how it works is a guide will walk you through some famous spots in the city and stop at certain points to explain their significance. The tour lasts a few hours and you will have the chance to stop for a snack along the way. At the end, you simply pay the guide how much you thought the tour was worth (or how much you can afford!)
I would recommend doing this tour first, as you get a glimpse of a few places, and then you can decide where you would like to return to spend more time for your remaining time in Tokyo.
Recommended sites in Tokyo
This is a great place to get some quality goods for good prices. It has everything you can think of – from sports gear to souvenirs. It also has a bunch of international food stalls from many places around the world, so it’s a great place to stop and have a cheap eat.
A place to see monuments, pandas, museums, and shrines all in one place? That’s Ueno Park. Apart from having a lot of cool things to see like everywhere in Japan, Ueno Park is a huge green area with a pond, so it is a good place to escape a bit from the busy city hustle, relax and actually sit down!
Tokyo Skytree is a huge tower which you can go up to see a view of the whole city. It was really cool to see Tokyo from so high up, to get a better perspective of the entire city. There are two levels of observation, and you can choose whether you go for the lower one or both. Honestly, there is not much difference in the view you get, so if you want to save a bit of money just go for the lower one. I would suggest going here last, and then trying to spot all the places you have been in your view of the city!
The only warnings I have about this place are that it can get very crowded, so you have to make sure you go at a good time, maybe getting there as early as possible is best. Also, it is quite expensive to get up there, and if you want anything to eat at the top, the price is even crazier. Make sure you’ve had something to eat before you go so you don’t feel the need to spend over $5 on a bag of chips.
If you go to the Shibuya district to experience the food and nightlife, be sure to pass by this famous intersection. Shibuya crossing, the busiest pedestrian crossing in Tokyo, withstands on average 2,500 people crossing in all directions with every light change. Of course, crowded places should come as no surprise in Tokyo. But it is still fascinating and mesmerising to see all these people crossing by each other at once. Also, amazing how no-one bumps into each other!
Tokyo is full of weird and wonderful things, and one example of this is their themed or “kawaii” cafes. They seem to have a cafe about literally anything you can think of – from the more traditional maid cafes to monsters, to hello kitty, to gaming, to every animal you can think of. Most of them can be found either around Shibuya or Akihabara districts. These cafes are a cool experience, but just be aware that they do charge a premium price – for entry as well as menu items. So maybe do some research on the best themed cafes (you can see some ideas here) and choose the one you want to visit most in your 7 days in Japan.
Where to eat in Tokyo: Ameyoko market, themed cafes
Day 3 – Mt Fuji
As I explain in my post about how to go from Tokyo to Mt Fuji, it is very important to check the weather forecast and make sure you are setting out on a fine day to visit Mt Fuji. For this reason, I would say to make your first 3 days flexible. Go to Mt Fuji on the day which looks like it will have the best/clearest weather, and spend the other 2 days exploring Tokyo. Don’t set any plans in stone until you can see what the weather will be like.
Since I’ve already banged on about Mt Fuji enough on this blog, I won’t go into detail about it here. If you want to know more about how to spend a day at and around Mt Fuji, I have written a full Mt Fuji day trip itinerary.
Where to stay near Mt Fuji: This is an easy day trip from Tokyo, but it does make for a long day. If you’d rather stay the night in the area, here you can find accommodation near Mt Fuji.
Day 4 – Osaka
For days 4-6, you can visit Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima in any order. My recommendation would be to see them in the order that makes the most sense depending on where your accommodation is. You do not have to spend one night in each of these cities. What we did, for example, was stay 3 nights in Osaka. We spent one day in Osaka and used the other two days to take day trips to the other two places. This was the easiest option because it meant we didn’t have to constantly move our luggage and check in and out of different hotels. We stayed in Osaka because it had the best range of options for affordable accommodation.
Recommended sites in osaka:
This castle is a beautiful site. Not only is the castle itself spectacular but the surrounding landscape is just breathtaking as well. It is surrounded by a mote with a lovely path and bridge which are lined with cherry blossom trees when in season. The castle looks great from all angles and makes for some great photos. There is also a lot to do right near it, with a lot of restaurants, including a rooftop bar, and souvenir shops close to the castle entry.
One of our favourite nights we spent in Japan was the one we spent in Dotonbori. is such a cool place to explore. It is full of restaurants and street food. In this area alone in one night, we had yakisoba, tempura, fried cheese sticks and waffles. All of it was amazing! This area is situated right along the river and looks really cool at night with all the billboards lighting up. There are also some fun attractions like ferris wheels and arcades. This area is huge for nightlife and is full of bars and clubs as well.
Where to stay in Osaka: Osaka has more listings on Booking.com than any other place in the country, including Tokyo. So it’s good to check out if you’re after variety – or if you’re searching in peak season and there aren’t many options left in other places!
Day 5 – Kyoto
Kyoto is a charming little city which has retained many of its older buildings, making the architecture unique to anywhere else in Japan. I also found that the culture is a bit different than the big cities. People are in less of a rush in Kyoto than they are in Tokyo, and bicycles are much more common. One thing to note about Kyoto is that the public transport is not that great, and most of the areas are not covered by JR pass. So, plan some extra time for that.
Recommended sites in kyoto:
Arashiyama bamboo forest
Arashiyama is one of the most popular areas in all of Kyoto, so it can get really crowded. For this reason, I recommend coming here as early as possible. It gets hard to even take a decent picture when it’s full. Truth be told, there is a lot more to do here than just the bamboo forest, and this area boasts both beautiful natural landscapes and famous shrines and temples. There is also a hiking trail which is supposed to take about an hour each way. If you have more time, you could easily spend a whole day exploring this area alone.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari is a hugely important shrine for Kyoto. This is where you will find the famous steps lined with red torii gates with inscriptions on them. This place is absolutely huge – way bigger than expected. Unfortunately, we got there too late and rushed to the top to get there in time for the sunset. We did see the sunset, but we missed exploring a lot of the surrounding areas while there was still daylight.
So, for this 7-day Japan itinerary I would put arriving here at around 1pm – just after you’ve had your lunch. This will give you enough time to experience the shrine properly as you can spend the rest of the day here. Climbing up all the stairs alone takes about an hour, but there are multiple different paths you can take which lead to different areas. Before you start walking, make sure you have some water with you. And wear good walking shoes on this day – you will need them!
If you’ve got some time in the evening or midday, this is a great place to get a bite to eat. Keep in mind that this is mainly just a food market – you won’t find many souvenirs or artisan creations here. Also, the food is quite expensive, and it is mainly fish and meat on sale. As vegetarians it took a while to find something to eat here.
Day 6 – Hiroshima
Of all of the places mentioned in this itinerary, Hiroshima is the most skippable if you don’t want to rush around too much. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very interesting city with plenty to do that will fill up a day. But it is a lot further away than the other places, so you will have a higher travel time. It’s also not really on the “main” tourist route. So if you would rather take this day to spend more time in either Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, I totally wouldn’t judge you!
If you do decide to go to Hiroshima for the day, make sure you leave early in the morning to allow time to make the most of your day there.
Recommended sites in Hiroshima
A-Bomb dome & A-bomb museum
The A-Bomb dome and Peace Memorial park are fascinating yet, of course, very sobering places. Note that the museum can get crazy long queues so the earlier you can arrive there, the better. If you are particularly interested in history, war, or this event, allow for a lot of time because there is a lot to see – not only in the museum but the park has a lot of monuments dedicated to different things/different groups of people, and each of them provide more information about the history and the event.
This garden is a recreation of scenery that was seen in Hangzhou, China in the 1600’s. So basically, it is spectacular landscape scaled down to a tiny land area, so you can see it all in a shorter time frame. How cool is that! It really is a beautiful garden, with a mini bamboo forest, as well as a lake, greenery and cute bridges.
This castle is similar to the Osaka castle, but there is less to do right in the area. The main attraction is obviously the castle, which is pay-to-enter, but other than that there is not much to see here. There was a small museum which was free to enter nearby. That was cool but unfortunately I couldn’t understand a lot of the information they had provided because it was all in Japanese. Other than that, there are some beautiful pink shrubs near the entry which can make it worth the visit.
Psst: Want to learn some Japanese before your trip to Japan? Check out my review of Pimsleur for learning travel Japanese to see if it’s a good option for you.
Where to eat in Hiroshima: Hiroshima downtown area is a vibrant area full of restaurants and shops, so you’ll be sure to find somewhere good to eat.
Day 7 – travel to departing city
Depending where your flight is departing from, you will need to allow time on your last day to get back to there and prepare for heading to the airport. If you have extra time, like your flight isn’t until later, you’ll be able to spend another day exploring the place of your choice – yay!
I hope this 7-day Japan itinerary has been useful for you and has helped you plan out your 7 days in Japan! As always, if you have any other tips or recommendations, or questions about my suggested route, feel free to leave a comment below. Otherwise, happy travel planning!
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