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The Excellent 7-Day Japan Itinerary (Up to date 2024)


A narrow path lined by beautiful cherry blossoms in Japan
Posted: 4/17/2024 | April Seventeenth, 2024

Japan captured my coronary heart from the second I firs visited. The scrumptious meals, the wealthy tradition, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant historical past, and the very pleasant and well mannered folks – all of it blew my thoughts.

However Japan usually feels impenetrable, particularly to first-time guests. Whereas I feel Japan deserves a minimal of 10 days, I get that some folks may solely have per week, so I needed to put in writing this, my very best seven-day itinerary for Japan for a first-time customer.

With solely per week, there’s not a lot you may see until you actually rush it. And I don’t suppose you need to do this.

So this itinerary solely focuses on Tokyo and Kyoto (the most well-liked locations) in addition to some day journeys from every. Should you needed to hurry issues a bit, you can add in Osaka (extra on that on the finish).

(Be aware: Should you bought a Japan Rail Move, activate it on arrival. That manner, you may benefit from the free JR trains all through town.)

 

Japan Itinerary Day 1: Tokyo

The popular and colorful Asakusa Temple in bustling Tokyo, JapanThe popular and colorful Asakusa Temple in bustling Tokyo, Japan
With all of the beautiful shrines, palaces, and temples; distinctive cocktail bars; and plentiful buying, you can simply spend a whole week in Tokyo. However, with solely a few days, you’ll need to hit the highlights:

Tsukiji and Toyosu Fish Markets
Remedy your jet lag with some meals! In 2018, Tokyo’s most important fish market moved to Toyosu. It’s now twice the scale of Tsukiji (the outdated one), making it the most important such market on this planet. Right here you may eat contemporary sushi for breakfast, only a few toes from the place it was hauled in from the ocean, whereas marveling on the chaotic ambiance.

You possibly can nonetheless head to the outdated market in Tsukiji to eat, store, and wander as properly. I prefer it quite a bit, as a result of there are extra meals choices! Foods and drinks excursions of the Tsukiji Outer Market can be found for round 15,000 JPY.

Toyosu Fish Market is open Monday-Saturday 5am-5pm, although most outlets don’t open till 7am. Admission is free, however it’s a must to decide up a customer’s cross whenever you enter. Tsukiji Fish Market’s hours range by store (often 5am-2pm). Admission is free.

teamLab Planets
This digital artwork set up is a multi-sensory and immersive expertise through which you turn into a part of the art work, strolling barefoot by the 4 exhibition areas and gardens as you work together with the installations’ components in distinctive methods. It’s actually enjoyable! TeamLab is usually sells out upfront, so I like to recommend getting your tickets on-line forward of time.

Take a strolling tour
Strolling excursions are a good way to get the lay of the land whereas connecting with an area information. I at all times go on one or two once I arrive someplace. Tokyo Localized affords many free excursions, together with a basic overview and ones of each the famed Harajuku and Shinjuku neighborhoods. Its Imperial Palace tour could be probably the most handy one after teamLab.

The Imperial Palace
Previously Edo Fortress, the Imperial Palace was constructed within the fifteenth century, and a few of the partitions and moats from that point are nonetheless in use to this present day. When the emperor moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1869, he took Edo for his new palace and renamed it. When you can’t go inside, it’s surrounded by lovely grounds, a moat, and a park value wandering by. You may as well see the changing-of-the-guard ceremony (although it’s comparatively low-key and unassuming). Admission to the grounds is free.

Shinjuku Gyoen Nationwide Backyard
This park is over 144 acres and residential to some 20,000 bushes. A lot of the authentic park was destroyed in World Struggle II however was rebuilt and reopened in 1949. Throughout spring, it is likely one of the greatest locations to see cherry blossoms. My favourite space is the panorama backyard, which has a number of ponds with bridges and islands. It’s a peaceable oasis away from the city hustle and bustle.

Relying on how you’re feeling relative to your jetlag, you can match a number of extra actions earlier than you finish your day. Take a look at this put up for strategies.

Japan Itinerary Day 2: Tokyo

A bright and bustling street lit up at night with neon signs in Tokyo, JapanA bright and bustling street lit up at night with neon signs in Tokyo, Japan
I’d begin your second day by trying out Asakusa. You possibly can discover the realm on a guided strolling tour or by yourself. Go early to keep away from the crowds and see the 2 most important temples:

  • Senso-ji – That is Tokyo’s hottest and well-known temple. Superbly painted, it sits in a scenic spot close to a pagoda and the beautiful Kaminari Gate. There’s an enormous statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, inside the principle corridor. It’s very busy in the course of the day, so perhaps take a look at the grounds within the night.
  • Asakusa Shrine – This close by Shinto shrine is way more peaceable, with fewer guests, however with folks praying, meditating, or performing conventional rituals. It was constructed in the course of the Edo interval (1603–1868) and survived the air raids of World Struggle II.

Afterward, head to Ueno Park. Spanning over 133 acres, Ueno Park was established in 1873 on land previously owned by a Seventeenth-century Buddhist temple. It will get tremendous busy in cherry blossom season, as there are over a thousand bushes right here. All through, you’ll discover varied stalls and distributors promoting snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. On weekends, there are often cultural occasions or festivals showcasing conventional arts, music, and dance. 4 of Tokyo’s most important museums are right here:

  • Tokyo Nationwide Museum – Established in 1872 on the north finish, this huge constructing is the oldest and largest artwork museum in Japan. It homes one of many world’s largest collections of artwork and artifacts from Asia, notably Japan.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Artwork Museum – This museum showcases rotating exhibitions of latest and conventional Japanese artwork.
  • Nationwide Museum of Nature and Science – This museum options a variety of everlasting and non permanent exhibitions overlaying pure science and historical past.
  • Tosho-gu Shrine – This lovely Seventeenth-century Shinto shrine has carved gold doorways and different ornate carvings. It’s value seeing up shut!

Afterward, stroll all the way down to Akihabara to discover the online game parlors, arcades, and anime outlets. This very buzzy space is floor zero for all issues digital, and it’s enjoyable to play most of the video games. That is the place you’ll discover the well-known maid cafés, the place servers costume up as maids and serve you meals and drinks. These vary from huge touristy ones to holes-in-the-wall (the ladies on the road are selling the latter, that are much more culturally enjoyable). They aren’t low cost, although, as it’s a must to purchase drink packages and pay a price, however they’re kitschy and enjoyable.

Within the night, go to Shinjuku after which drink in Golden Gai. In Shinjuku, you’ll discover a plethora of cool bars, vivid lights, and tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries. Remember to wander down Reminiscence Lane (aka Piss Alley) for tiny izakaya joints and bars. Afterward, head over to Golden Gai, a warren of slim alleyways with a little bit of a red-light-district really feel, flanked by diminutive backstreet bars. It’s fairly touristy but additionally numerous enjoyable. I’ve had some wild nights right here!

With Arigato Excursions, you’ll be taught in regards to the neighborhood whereas stopping to pattern Japanese classics like sushi, yakitori, and ramen. The 23,900 JPY value features a drink and dishes at 4 stops.
 

Japan Itinerary Day 3: Tokyo

The sprawling skyline of Tokyo, Japan with the famous Tokyo Tower in viewThe sprawling skyline of Tokyo, Japan with the famous Tokyo Tower in view
There’s quite a bit to see and do in Tokyo (I cowl all of it right here and right here)! However contemplate taking a day journey out of city to see some non-urban sights:

Kamakura
Right here you may see a 13-meter (43-foot) bronze statue of Buddha that was inbuilt 1252. It was initially constructed inside Kotoku-in Temple, however that has since been washed away by a number of storms, so it now sits within the open air. Admission to enter the temple grounds is 300 JPY, whereas it’s 20 JPY to go contained in the statue. The journey there — round an hour — is free with a Japan Rail Move.

Tokyo Disneyland
I’m a sucker for Disney. You’ll discover most of the similar basic rides from Disney World right here, like Splash Mountain, Huge Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, and everybody’s favourite teacup experience, The Mad Tea Social gathering. However there are a number of distinctive points of interest as properly, like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Journey to the Heart of the Earth.

Ticket costs range relying on the day and time, however full-day admission begins at 7,900 JPY for adults and 4,400-6,200 JPY for kids. It’s greatest to e book upfront.

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is positioned an hour exterior of Tokyo. An lively stratovolcano (which final erupted in 1708) and lined in snow for nearly half of the yr, it stands a formidable 3,776 meters (12,389 toes) and offers one of the iconic views within the nation. One of many Three Holy Mountains of Japan, Mount Fuji is each a Particular Place of Scenic Magnificence and a UNESCO Cultural Website. In the summertime, the mountain is open to hikers, who take 5-12 hours to achieve the summit (historically, they depart at evening to reach on the prime for the dawn).

Should you don’t need to hike, you may merely go to on a day journey. There are buses that may take you partway up, the place you’ll be supplied sweeping vistas of the encompassing space. Guided day excursions from town value round 12,000 JPY.
 

 

Japan Itinerary Day 4: Kyoto

A quiet path through the famous bamboo forest in beautiful Kyoto, JapanA quiet path through the famous bamboo forest in beautiful Kyoto, Japan
Residence to 1.5 million folks and nestled within the mountains, Kyoto is likely one of the most lovely cities in Japan. It’s full of traditional-style buildings, bamboo forests, numerous Zen gardens, and historic Buddhist and Shinto temples. It’s greatest to divide town into half, as points of interest are type of clumped collectively and getting throughout city takes a very long time. At present, you need to do the western half:

Wander the Bamboo Forest
For a soothing break, head to Arashiyama and let the dense and towering stands of bamboo envelop you. Situated close to the well-known Tenryu-ji temple, it’s one of the lovely locations in the whole nation. It’s not that huge, however there are some hidden areas to discover. Simply be sure to reach early if you wish to take pleasure in it with out the crowds (it fills up quick after dawn).

Whereas there, I’d additionally advocate visiting the Okochi Sanso Backyard, which (together with the house) belonged to the well-known Japanese actor Denjir? ?okay?chi (1898–1962). It’s not free (it’s 1,000 JPY), however it’s very nice and has some fantastic views.

Go to the Golden Pavilion
Initially constructed within the late 14th century as a retirement villa for the shogun (navy governor), this iconic construction was later transformed right into a Zen Buddhist temple. The current-day edifice dates solely to the Nineteen Fifties, nevertheless, when a monk trying to kill himself burned the historic authentic to the bottom. The rebuilt temple is roofed in sensible gold leaf, symbolizing purity and enlightenment. Every of the three tales displays a distinct architectural fashion. Finishing the scene are the serene reflecting pool and conventional Japanese gardens that comprise lush foliage, manicured bushes, and scenic strolling paths.

1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, +81 075-461-0013, shokoku-ji.jp. Open day by day 9am-5pm. Admission is 500 JPY.

Admire Ryoan-ji Temple
That is my favourite temple in Kyoto. Initially established in 1450 as a residence for a high-ranking samurai, it was quickly transformed right into a Zen temple and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Website, with a mausoleum that homes the stays of seven emperors. Its conventional rock and sand backyard is taken into account probably the greatest within the nation. There’s additionally a teahouse the place you may expertise the normal Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu) as you overlook the Kyoyochi reflecting pool.

There are different temples within the space to take a look at as properly:

  • Daitoku-ji Temple – This huge advanced courting again to 1315 covers nearly 60 acres. It comprises a number of dozen temples and is an efficient place to see quite a lot of Zen gardens and architectural types. It’s additionally deeply linked to the Japanese tea ceremony, as a number of of the nation’s most noteworthy masters studied right here.
  • Toji Temple – That is dwelling to Japan’s tallest pagoda (5 tales excessive). Based in 796, simply after Kyoto turned the capital, it was considered one of solely three Buddhist temples allowed within the metropolis.

Go on a sake brewery tour
Kyoto has a sake (rice wine) brewing custom going again 400 years and is thought for a few of the greatest on this planet, as a result of utilizing the realm’s pure pure spring water within the brewing course of. Arigato Excursions affords a superb three-hour tour of Fushimi (the brewing district) for 23,320 JPY, together with stops at a number of breweries, a guided tour of the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, and tastings.
 

Japan Itinerary Day 5: Kyoto

A winding, narrow street in historic Kyoto, JapanA winding, narrow street in historic Kyoto, Japan
At present, you’ll do the japanese a part of city:

See the Fushimi Inari Shrine
This mountainside Shinto shrine, courting again to 711, is devoted to Inari, the god of rice and prosperity. It’s recognized for its hundreds of vibrant orange torii gates that type a community of trails main up Mount Inari. You possibly can hike the paths by yourself whereas having fun with panoramic views of Kyoto beneath or be part of a guided climbing tour, on which you’ll get off the paved paths and into hidden bamboo groves. Get right here as early as attainable to keep away from the crowds.

68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, +81756417331, inari.jp. Open 24/7. Admission is free.

Stroll round Higashiyama
Spend a day strolling alongside the slim streets of one of many oldest and greatest preserved districts by yourself or on a strolling tour. The standard machiya buildings (conventional picket townhouses) are full of small outlets promoting native specialties and handicrafts, in addition to eating places and teahouses. It’s a well-liked space through which to take part in a tea ceremony. One other good place to walk on this neighborhood is the Thinker’s Path, which follows a cherry-tree-lined canal that’s lovely and meditative even when the blossoms aren’t in season.

Go to Kiyomizu-dera
One among quite a few UNESCO websites in historic Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera (that means “pure water temple”) is positioned within the foothills of Mount Otowa within the japanese a part of town. It’s one of the well-known temples in all of Japan. It was established in 778, however many of the current buildings date to the Seventeenth century. There’s not a single nail used within the building, which turns into all of the extra spectacular when you see how giant the temple is, which is greatest recognized for its picket terrace that juts out over the hillside. The temple’s identify comes from the close by waterfall whose waters (from which you’ll nonetheless drink as we speak) are stated to have wish-granting and therapeutic powers.

1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, +81 75-551-1234, kiyomizudera.or.jp. Open day by day 6am-6pm. Admission is 400 JPY.

Discover Shorin-ji Temple
This small temple dates again to the sixteenth century. What makes it value visiting is its meditation lessons. You’ll get to tour the temple after which be instructed in zazen, the Japanese fashion of meditation. It’s a really distinctive expertise and one thing that I feel will add numerous depth and nuance to your go to (particularly when you’ve seen numerous temples). Simply be sure to decorate comfortably.

15 Chome-795 Honmachi, +81 75-561-4311, shourin-ji.org. Open day by day 10am-4pm. Admission is 800 JPY.

Wander the Nishiki Market
Nishiki Ichiba is now one of many greatest indoor markets on the town. Often known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” and spanning over 5 blocks, it is stuffed with distributors promoting conventional dishes from the area, basic Kyoto souvenirs, and actually absolutely anything else. There are over 100 stalls right here, lots of which have been in the identical household for generations. Opening hours rely upon the store however are usually from 9am to 6pm.

To dive deeper into Japanese meals tradition, you may take a meals tour of the market. It’s the easiest way to study all of the meals you’ll see, in addition to the market’s historical past.

Discover Gion
Gion, the historic geisha district, is famend as being one of the iconic and atmospheric areas of city. It’s recognized for its conventional picket machiya homes, slim alleyways, cobblestone streets, and preservation of geisha (recognized regionally as geiko) tradition. Lining the principle avenue are ochayas (teahouses the place geishas entertain), small outlets, and plenty of eating places, starting from upscale kaiseki eating places serving conventional Kyoto delicacies to informal eateries.

To essentially be taught extra about this wonderful celebration of city and its previous, take a strolling tour of Gion. You’ll be taught a ton and get numerous context. They value round 1,800 JPY.

At evening, go to the Pontocho Row, a slim avenue lined with eating places, hole-in-the-wall bars, and jazz golf equipment. It’s one of many extra full of life areas in Kyoto.
 

Japan Itinerary Day 6: Nara

A small deer eating grass in a park in Nara, Japan, with cherry trees blossoming in the backgroundA small deer eating grass in a park in Nara, Japan, with cherry trees blossoming in the background
Many vacationers go to Nara on a day journey from Kyoto. Whereas that’s completely fantastic, I like to recommend spending an evening. After the vacationers head again to the massive metropolis within the late afternoon, you’ll see this small, charming vacation spot empty out and really feel like you’ve got it a bit to your self, together with the locals.

Nara was the capital of Japan within the eighth century, so there are many buildings and temples right here which can be upwards of a thousand years outdated (which is uncommon in Japan, as a result of prevalence of fires and earthquakes, in addition to World Struggle II). Some issues to do:

  • Frolic with deer – The actual attract Nara are the deer. Because the Seventeenth century, these in and across the metropolis have been thought of sacred. You should buy crackers to feed them or simply watch them stroll round carefree.
  • See the Buddha – Don’t miss a go to to Todai-ji, the world’s largest picket constructing, dwelling to a 16-meter (52-foot) Buddha statue. It was inbuilt 738 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Website.
  • Take a strolling tourThis guided half-day strolling tour for 11,500 JPY consists of all of Nara’s highlights in addition to a conventional lunch.

 

Japan Itinerary Day 7: Tokyo

The sprawling skyline of Tokyo, Japan lit up at night with Mount Fuji in the distanceThe sprawling skyline of Tokyo, Japan lit up at night with Mount Fuji in the distance
It’s time to wrap issues up and head again to Tokyo in your flight dwelling (or onward). You probably have extra time to spend, this put up right here will checklist tons of issues to see and do in your final. Nonetheless, one factor I’d actually advocate making an attempt to do is watch a Sumo match.

Ryogoku Kokugikan, Japan’s most well-known sumo wrestling area, hosts tournaments thrice annually, in January, Might, and September. Tickets promote out rapidly, so e book on-line upfront. Costs range however begin round 3,200 JPY for area seats. You possibly can e book a ticket on-line right here (you’ll be accompanied by a information too, so you may be taught extra in regards to the custom because it unfolds earlier than your eyes).

To be taught extra in regards to the sport in within the low season, e book a tour of a sumo steady.
 

An Various Itinerary

the historic Osaka Castle in Osaka Japan towering over the city on a sunny summer daythe historic Osaka Castle in Osaka Japan towering over the city on a sunny summer dayThe above itinerary, whereas quick, isn’t rushed. It does match quite a bit in however at a tempo that’s slower than numerous guests desire. Whereas I at all times counsel touring slowly and specializing in high quality over amount, some folks desire to cram extra into their journey.

So, if you wish to add one other metropolis to this itinerary you may comply with this breakdown:

  • Days 1 & 2: Tokyo
  • Days 3 & 4: Kyoto
  • Day 5: Nara
  • Days 6 & 7: Osaka

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara are all lined above. As for Osaka, a few of my favourite issues to see and do:

Take a meals tour
Often known as “the Kitchen of Japan,” Osaka boasts a various culinary scene. Mouthwatering sushi and sashimi, Kobe beef and Japanese BBQ, and flavorful ramen can all be discovered right here in abundance. Plus, there are native specialties like okonomiyaki (a savory pancake with egg and greens) and kushikatsu (kebab skewers). You possibly can take a meals tour for round 13,000 JPY, a ramen and gyoza cooking class for 9,500 JPY, or simply wander and eat.

Osaka Fortress
One of the vital well-known landmarks within the nation, the fort was initially constructed within the late sixteenth century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and performed a pivotal function within the unification of Japan in the course of the Sengoku interval (1467-1615). Over the centuries, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of instances as a result of wars, fires, and pure disasters. The present model dates to 1931. The fort is located amid sprawling grounds and surrounded by a moat. It’s additionally dwelling to a small however insightful museum and an statement deck that gives some picturesque city views.

Dotonbori
That is arguably Osaka’s most iconic district, recognized for its vibrant nightlife (bars, golf equipment, theaters, and music venues), colourful signage, and scrumptious meals. It’s greatest seen at evening as a result of plethora of big neon lights and indicators lining each the canal and streets, which have turn into symbols of Osaka’s nightlife. A guided strolling tour that features Dotonbori as properly adjoining neighborhoods is 6,500 JPY.

Shitennoji Temple
This temple is likely one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan, based in 593. The structure is a mix of conventional Japanese and East Asian types, that includes spectacular pagodas, gates, and shrines set amid serene gardens. Stroll by the tranquil grounds, admire the gorgeous structure, and be taught in regards to the temple’s historic and cultural significance on the museum. The temple is 300 JPY to enter, the backyard is 300 JPY, and the museum is 500 JPY.
 

 

***

Japan is considered one of my favourite nations. Whereas it’s comparatively small, it affords a tremendous array of issues to see and do (in addition to a few of the greatest meals on this planet). With seven days, you may simply see a great variety of the principle highlights and get a style for the unimaginable historical past and tradition. Will probably be a busy week, however this itinerary ensures you’ll nonetheless have a while to decelerate, chill out, and take within the native tempo of life.

Simply be sure you get a Japan Rail Move earlier than you go. Whereas it’s not as low cost because it was, it would probably prevent money and time!

Ebook Your Journey to Japan: Logistical Ideas and Tips

Ebook Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight through the use of Skyscanner. They’re my two favourite serps, as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe, so that you at all times know no stone is being left unturned!

Ebook Your Lodging
You possibly can e book your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve probably the most complete stock so they’re greatest for reserving a hostel. If you wish to keep in a resort or guesthouse in Japan, use Reserving.com because it constantly returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and resorts.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you towards sickness, damage, theft, and cancelations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it, as I’ve had to make use of it many instances up to now. My favourite corporations that provide the most effective service and worth are:

Searching for the Greatest Corporations to Save Cash With?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective corporations to make use of whenever you journey! I checklist all those I exploit to economize once I journey — and I feel they are going to make it easier to too!

Remember to take a look at the Japan Rail Move when you’ll be touring across the nation. It is available in 7-, 14-, and 21-day passes and might prevent a ton of cash!

Searching for Extra Journey Ideas for Japan?
Take a look at my in-depth Japan journey information for extra methods to economize, info on prices, recommendations on what to see and do, prompt itineraries and studying and packing lists, and far, way more!



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