The Perfect 7-Day Japan Itinerary

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Advisor - Greg Ellison
Curated By

Greg Ellison

  • Japan

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Local Food

  • Nightlife

  • Entertainment

pink sunset over amusement park on the water
Curator’s statement

Japan is an ideal destination due to its captivating blend of tradition and modernity. With its rich cultural heritage, ancient temples, serene gardens and exquisite cuisine, travelers can immerse themselves in a fascinating Japan also offers the convenience of excellent public transportation, making it easy to explore its diverse landscapes, from bustling cities like Tokyo to the serene natural sites like Mt. Fuji. The country's renowned hospitality guarantees a warm welcome for tourists, while its safety and cleanliness make it a highly approachable destination and a fantastic introduction to the wonders of Asia.

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Day 1: Tokyo highlights

DisneySea amusement park at night

Shibuya Crossing: Start your day at the iconic Shibuya Crossing, the world's busiest pedestrian scramble. Witness the organized chaos as thousands of people cross the street simultaneously. Pro tip: Head to the second floor Starbucks at that intersection and grab a seat at the window. It's the best place to watch all the action!

Hachiko Statue: Right by Shibuya Crossing, pay a visit to the Hachiko Statue. While the statue itself isn't impressive, the touching story of the dog has become a symbol of loyalty and devotion. In the 1920s, the Akita would wait at Shibuya Station for their owner to arrive back from their daily commute. One day their owner did not return from work, having passed away. This did not deter Hachiko, though, who returned to the same spot to wait for his owner every day for the next nine years.

Shibuya Center Gai: Explore the bustling shopping and entertainment district of Shibuya Center Street, known for its boutiques, cafes and vibrant nightlife.

Meiji Shrine: Head to Meiji Shrine, a tranquil oasis in the heart of Tokyo. Stroll through the forested pathways and witness traditional Shinto ceremonies if you're lucky.

Day 2: Tokyo's cultural and historical sites

Japanese market with streetfood and people.

Tsukiji Outer Market: Begin your day with a visit to the Tsukiji Outer Market for a fresh seafood breakfast or a sushi feast. The best time to visit the market is in the morning, when it's most active.

Asakusa: Explore Asakusa, known for its old school Tokyo vibe, temples, street-food stalls and souvenir shopping.

Senso-ji Temple: Visit Tokyo's oldest temple, Senso-ji, with its imposing Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon) and Nakamise Shopping Street.

Tokyo Skytree: One of the world's tallest towers, with breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

Akihabara: Dive into Tokyo's electric town, Akihabara, known for electronics, anime and manga shops.

Day 3: Modern and traditional Tokyo

People eating at a food stand in Tokyo, Japan.

Odaiba: Start your day at Odaiba, a futuristic entertainment and shopping district.

TeamLab Planets: Explore the digital art museum of teamLab Planets, an immersive and interactive art experience unlike anything else. Kids of all ages and adults alike will love this place.

Ginza: Head to Ginza, Tokyo's upscale shopping district, for high-end boutiques and department stores.

Imperial Palace: Stroll around the Imperial Palace East Gardens. You can also take a guided tour of the grounds.

Golden Gai: For a taste of retro-Tokyo, explore Golden Gai, an area with narrow, winding alleys, tiny bars and izakaya — most of which can only fit about ten people.

Day 4: Travel to Hakone for a relaxing stay at a Japanese Ryokan

outside view

The Hakone Romancecar is a special scenic train from Shinjuku Station to Hakone that seamlessly blends convenience with scenic beauty. It's a comfortable and luxurious experience, complete with spacious seating, large windows, and onboard attendants. If you can, try to reserve seats at the very front of the train for unobstructed views.

As you embark on this picturesque ride, you'll be treated to stunning vistas of the Japanese countryside, passing by lush greenery, charming villages and even glimpses of iconic Mount Fuji on a clear day. The journey is not just a means of transportation; it's a prelude to the natural wonders and relaxing onsen (hot spring) experiences that await you in the mountainous region of Hakone.

Staying in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is an experience that you can't get anywhere else in the world, and I highly recommend staying in one for at least a night. The best ryokans have private hot spring baths inside the room, allowing you to soak and relax in the natural hot spring waters with total privacy. Ryokans also generally include all meals, often times with multiple courses of delicious food. It's worth it to splurge a bit on this experience — after all, it's something that is only found in Japan.

Day 5: Take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto

View of houses on a seaside with yellow lights

Today you'll transition from the tranquil, natural beauty of Hakone to the historical and cultural richness of Kyoto. I recommend taking a taxi to Odawara Station and hopping on a bullet train there. As you speed through the picturesque landscapes of Japan, the train journey offers incredible scenery. Before you know it, you'll arrive at Kyoto Station, where you can check into your hotel and get ready for the timeless beauty that Kyoto has in store.

Day 6: Explore historical Kyoto

People roaming in street at sunset time

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): Start your day with a visit to the stunning Kinkaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf, surrounded by beautiful gardens and a reflective pond. This is one of the most well known and Instagrammable places in all of Japan and for good reason.

Ryoan-ji: Head to Ryoan-ji, a Zen temple famous for its rock garden, which is a masterpiece of minimalist design and tranquility.

Nijo Castle: Explore Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its exquisite architecture, beautiful gardens and "nightingale floors" that chirp when walked upon.

Lunch in Nishiki Market: Savor a traditional Japanese lunch in Nishiki Market, Kyoto's "kitchen." You can sample various local dishes and street foods here.

Gion District: Spend your afternoon in the historic Gion district. Walk along Hanami-koji Street to catch a glimpse of geisha and traditional wooden machiya houses.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple: Visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple and take in the panoramic views of Kyoto. The temple is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season in March/April.

Day 7: Cultural Kyoto and natural beauty

A canal between cherry blossom trees.

Fushimi Inari Taisha: Start your day early at Fushimi Inari Taisha, famous for its thousands of vibrant orange torii gates. Hike up the hill for breathtaking views.

Sagano Bamboo Grove: Visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a magical forest of towering bamboo stalks. It's very popular with tourists, so try to get there early to beat the crowds.

Monkey Park Iwatayama: If you're an animal lover, hike up to Monkey Park Iwatayama, where you can see wild Japanese macaques and enjoy panoramic views of Kyoto.

Lunch in Arashiyama: Grab lunch in the charming Arashiyama district. I recommend Arashiyama Kijurou for out of this world beef and rice bowls.

At this point, you'll likely need to pack your bags for your flight home. Conveniently, Kansai International Airport has lots of flight options worldwide, and is much closer to Kyoto than Narita and Haneda airports in Tokyo. By flying home from here, you won't need to backtrack — which gives you more time to enjoy Kyoto.

Need to Know

Looking for more Japan travel inspo? Check out Travel Advisor Cindy La's guide, Exploring Japan: Things to Do in Osaka, Tokyo & Kyoto.

Advisor - Greg Ellison

Travel Advisor

Greg Ellison

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Japan.