Japan is one of the most enigmatic countries we’ve thus far visited. Our 7 days in Japan were spent visiting Tokyo and Kyoto, seeing incredible attractions, eating delicious food and immerse ourselves in the ancient Japanese culture.
Even after several visits, Japan remains our favourite place in the world. So much so, that we decided to move to Tokyo and live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. We understand planning 7 days in Japan could be overwhelming, and this is why we put together a comprehensive guide on how to plan your first Japan itinerary. Grab a cup of tea and let’s start planning the best 7 days in Japan.
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7 days in Japan itinerary
Your 7 days in Japan itinerary should be split between Tokyo and Kyoto. Tokyo is the capital of Japan and one of the most vibrant places on the planet. Kyoto is the old capital, a more spiritual place. In a way, Kyoto is the perfect zen pill to the Tokyo madness.
Day 1 in Tokyo - Asakusa - Harajuku - Ginza - Shibuya
Senso-Ji Buddhist Temple
Start the day with an early morning visit to Senso-Ji, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo. Senso-Ji is open 24 hours and there is no entrance fee. Because of its popularity, the site gets crowded pretty quickly, hence the very early morning visit. In front of the temple, you will find a long street called Nakamise. During business hour the street is dotted with stalls open for food and souvenirs. Next, to the temple, there is also a large market-like full of intricate, narrow streets, which have even more eateries and shops.
Address: Japan, 〒111-0032 Tokyo, Taito, Asakusa, 2 Chome−３−１
Opening Hours: 24/7
Did you know: Sensoji Temple is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion.
Next, stroll around Asakusa and enjoy the many stores full of Japanese goodies. It was here that we found plenty of gifts for our friends and family, including Japanese chopsticks, beautiful lanterns and kitchen utensils, including Japanese knives.
Make your way to the youthful and forever crazy Takeshita Street. If you want to talk about unconventional Japanese fashion, this is the place to be. Harajuku is the mecca for kawaii, and it's the best place for fun shopping. You will see many hot pink hair styles, lolita costumes, vampire attire and what not. If it's weird and you thought it's impossible, then probably you will find it in a shop in Harajuku.
To get to Takeshita Street from Asakusa, you will need to take the subway. Take the Ginza line from Asakusa station all the way to Shibuya. Change for the Yamanote line which will take you to Harajuku station. The journey takes roughly 45 minutes, but add a little extra if you need to find your way around the big Tokyo stations.
Take the subway (45 minutes) or walk (1 hour and 30 minutes) to Ginza, the most exquisite shopping neighbourhood in Tokyo. If you are lucky enough to visit during the weekend, then very likely the main Ginza artery will be closed to cars and open for pedestrians only. This is one of the best ways to enjoy a shopping spree in Japan. Ginza is essentially a luxurious neighbourhood with a network of expensive shops. You will find boutiques as well well-known brands. Ginza really looks absolutely outstanding during night time, when all the shops look bright and colourful. Don't forget your passport, you will need it so you can enjoy tax-free shopping. Note that Ginza is expensive. So if budget travel is your target, maybe leave the credit card at home, but bring your camera, as you will find many photo opportunities.
I kept the best for last: the amazing Shibuya Crossing. Featured in so many movies, there is no denying that the Shibuya pedestrian scramble fascinates us all. It's difficult to find a spot to properly photograph it from above and as you might already know, drones are not legal in the cities, in Japan. You have a few options... First, I would suggest you cross Shibuya a few times yourself. It's actually a lot of fun to be in the middle of it all and I promise, it won't get too overwhelming but will be rather fun.
Once you experienced Shibuya as a pedestrian, it's time to experience it as a photographer: head over to the Starbucks right in front of the crossing and wait for your turn in front of the window where you can definitely take a lot of photos and videos. Alternatively, in the train station, there is a viewing point as you cross from one side to another. That also offers a great vista point.
Day 2 in Tokyo - Yoyogi - Shinjuku - Tokyo from Above
Yoyogi Park is a large park in Shibuya, located right next to Harajuku Station. It is well known for its Meiji Shrine and large Torri gate. It is a great place for photographers and nature lovers. Yoyogi Park is not known for its cherry blossoms, but for its ginko trees which turn yellow during Autumn time.
Address: Japan, 〒151-0052 Tokyo, Shibuya, Yoyogikamizonocho, ２−1
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
A 20-minute walk from Yoyogi will take you to Shinjuku Gyoen. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a large park and garden in the heart of Tokyo. This is an incredibly relaxing place and a wonderful spot for nature lovers. You will find many photo opportunities around the park. It is also a great Sakura spot during the Spring. The garden has more than 20,000 trees and over 1500 cherry trees.
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Admission: 200 yen
Hours 9:00 to 16:30 (entry until 16:00)
A short 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Gyoen will take you to the Shinjuku Station. Perhaps the most colourful and vibrant district of them all, Shinjuku is one of the best places to explore Tokyo for what it is. It is here that you will get to understand the character of the city, with jumbo ads, illuminated shops, myriad colours. Exploring Shinjuku is perhaps one of the best parts about visiting Japan. Take one hour, or five, and simply meander around Shinjuku. Towards the evening, visit Kabukicho, Asia's largest Tokyo district. However, I recommend to watch but not touch. Unless you are fluent in Japanese and always aware of your surroundings, note that many tourists can get in trouble in Kabukicho. If you just walk around and take pictures, nobody will bother, of course. If you want something a little spicier, check out 18+ activities you can do in Tokyo whilst staying totally safe.
Still, want to have some fun? Here is what to expect from a Tokyo pub crawl.
Tokyo Metropolitan Building
Why not visit the skyscraper district located in Shinjuku, where you can admire Tokyo in all its splendour. The best place to admire Tokyo from above is also the cheapest. Walk for 20 minutes from Kabukicho to The Tokyo Metropolitan Building. In fact, it's entirely FREE to go to the top. Tokyo is gigantic and seeing it unfold like an endless sea of lights, streets and buildings it's pretty special.
Day 3 in Tokyo - Tsukiji - Chiyoda - Ueno - Akihabara
Tsukiji Fish Market
Start your day as early as possible and head over to the Tsukiji Fish Market. If you want something even more exciting, why not attend the tuna auction? There is no reservation and they allow people on the first come first served basis. You might want to consider being there as early as 4 AM in the morning. Whether you attend the tuna auction or not, Tsukiji is the best place for Tokyo's freshest seafood. You will be able to find all sort of sea creatures here. The sushi here is great and the sashimi is as fresh as it gets. It can be a little odd to enjoy raw fish first thing in the morning, but if you like Japanese food, then I promise you will love this side of Tokyo.
Address: Japan, 〒104-0045 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Tsukiji, 5 Chome−２−１
Outer Market: varies by shop, typically 5:00 to 14:00
Wholesale Area: open to visitors after10:00am
Tuna Auction: open to visitors from5:25am to 6:15am (restricted to 120 visitors/day)
Chiyoda is one of my favourite parts of Tokyo. Unlike the rather manic sides of the city, Chiyoda is peaceful and almost entirely quiet. During evening especially, there is this incredible silence in the heart of the city. To me, this is rather astonishing. I learned to love Chiyoda so much, that I tend to use it as my hub when I visit Tokyo. The most interesting thing to do in this neighbourhood is to take a walk in the gardens of the Imperial Palace. It is free to do so. I also like the Hibiya Park which is next door. For epic shopping, visit the Shin-Marunouchi Building. You will probably get lost around here as this is an inconspicuous shopping mall.
Address: Japan, 〒100-8111 Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda-ku, Chiyoda, 1−１
Opening Times:9AM - 5PM (Monday Closed)
There are so many things to do in Ueno Park. You can stroll around the park and pond, or visit the myriad museums nearby. Ueno is a major neighbourhood with lots of shops and eateries. You can visit the Tokyo National Museum, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the Tokyo Zoo.
Address: 5-20 Uenokōen, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0007, Japan
As the night comes, it's time for the final Tokyo stop during your 7 day Japan itinerary: Akihabara. Many, myself included, have a love-hate relationship with Akihabara. Also known as the electric town, Akihabara is an incredible place for anime and manga lovers. You can find anything and everything around here, from Sailor Moon costumes to mini figurines. It is also a great place to visit maid cafes, one of the main tourist attractions in the neighbourhood. There is also a shop called Don Quijote around which is a discount Japanese store. You shouldn't miss it, as you are guaranteed to find something awesome around.
Address: 1 Chome Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 101-0028, Japan
Don Quijote Akihabara address: 4 Chome-3-3 Sotokanda, 千代田区 Tokyo 101-0021, Japan
Accommodation in Tokyo
Shinjuku tends to be the prefered accommodation option for most first time travellers in Tokyo. I tend to agree, although I personally prefer the quieter quarters of Chiyoda. As long as you are close to a subway station, it's rather difficult to get it wrong in Tokyo. Whether you are a budget, midrange or luxury traveller, we curated our favourite accommodation in Tokyo to make sure you are comfortable and enjoy your stay. Alternatively, please check where to stay in Tokyo for more options in other, quieter neighbourhoods.
Day 4 in Kyoto - Gion - Shijo Dori
To get to Kyoto from Tokyo, you will need to take the Shinkansen. You can buy the ticket on the day, or you can buy your Japan Rail Pass before your trip, to ensure you benefit from discounts. You can read all about the Japan Rail Pass here in order to make a decision.
The journey from Tokyo to Kyoto will take roughly 3 hours.
Once you arrive in Kyoto and leave your luggage, it's time to explore.
Yasaka Shrine was the first spiritual site I ever saw in Kyoto. I couldn't wait to visit Kyoto and Kyoto didn't just live to my expectation, but it greatly exceeded it. The Yasaka Shrine was once called the Gion Shrine. Here, you can attend many matsuri (festivals) and you will find various street food vendors.
Address: Japan, 〒605-0073 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Gionmachi Kitagawa
Maruyama Park is right behind the Yasaka Shrine. It features a beautiful still pond and several forested paths which lead to many other temples around. There are a few restaurants and a snack shop, but better wait until you finish walking around the park...because the awesome food is coming.
Address: Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0071, Japan
Shijo Dori is without a doubt one of the best places in Kyoto to sample lots of free Japanese specialities. Try rice crackers, matcha sweets, biscuits and sour plums. One of the best things I bought here, was a tea called kombucha. It means plum seaweed tea and it's one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. Sijo Dori is a long street dotted with shops and it starts right in front of the Yasaka Shrine.
Address: Shijo Dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu, Japan
No trip to Kyoto is complete without spending an evening meandering around Gion, the old entertainment quarters. This is the best place for geisha spotting. But if you don't want to take any chances, best to book tickets in advance to see a Geisha performance or better yet, to attend a Japanese tea ceremony. Gion is home to some fantastic old Japanese wooden houses, an absolute wonder to photograph.
Address: Gionmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0001, Kyoto Prefecture
Day 5 in Kyoto - Nijō - Nishiki - Fushimi
Start the day by visiting Nijō Castle, a 1603 wooden castle with fantastic gardens. Nijō Castle was the residence of the first Shogun of the Edo Period. The castle is now a UNESCO heritage site and a fantastic place for Sakura lovers.
Address: Japan, 〒604-8301 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Nijojocho
Opening Times: 8:45 to 17:00 (admission until 16:00), entry to Ninomaru from 9:00 to 16:00
Admission: 600 yen
Nishiki Market has been nicknamed Kyoto's kitchen and for a good reason. You can find many stalls selling fresh food and delicious snacks. For something out of the ordinary, I recommend trying an octopus on a stick which has an egg in its head. A little bizarre? Perhaps, but also rather yummy. When in Japan, expect to sample many matcha sweets. Nishiki Market is a great place for it. Why not hunt for Japanese pancakes filled with custard?
Rengeoin Sanjusangendo is a temple in Kyoto, famed for its 1001 statues of Kannoin, the goddess of mercy. Note that you won't be able to take photos inside the temple, but it's too impressive to miss.
Address: Japan, 〒605-0941 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Sanjusangendomawari
Admission: 600 yen
Opening Times: 8:00 to 17:00 (9:00 to 16:00 from November 16 to March 31), admission ends 30 minutes before closing time.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
I recommend walking from the Rengeoin Sanjusangendo temple to the Fushimi Inari Taisha. It's best to visit the Fushimi Inari during the evening. The place gets pretty crowded, especially during the sakura season. I recommend to keep on going up the mountain before stopping to take pictures. Eventually, it will get pretty quiet. You can take the left or right path up. It's a loop hike so as long as you stick to the main road, you won't get lost. As you go up, you will find several smaller shrines along the way. You can stop and catch your breath. Don't forget to stop at the intersection, up the mountain, to admire the sunset over the city. You can read more about it here.
Address: Japan, 〒612-0882 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Fushimi Ward, Fukakusa Yabunouchicho
Opening Times: 24/7
Admission Fee: FREE
Day 6 in Kyoto - Arashiyama - Spiritual Temple Walk
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Start the day by taking the train to the Arashiyama station. A short walk from the station will take you to the Arashiyama bamboo forest, a beautiful side of wild Japan. The Arashiyama bamboo forest really is one of a kind, and it looks most alluring on a windy day when the tips of the long stalks rock gently back and forth.
Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Admission Fee: FREE
From Arashiyama I suggest making your way to the following temples. You can essentially temple hop, and you can walk as the distances are between 5-20 minutes between each temple.
Okochi Sanso Villa
This is the former villa of the popular actor Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), located in the back of Arashiyama's bamboo groves.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Admission: 1000 yen
This mountainside temple was founded in 1596. With small, attractive buildings and gates, the temple has a quiet and understated atmosphere.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Admission: 400 yen
Nisonin Temple is a hillside temple with slightly larger and imposing buildings
Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Admission: 500 yen
It is known for its moss garden that is punctuated with tall maple trees.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Admission: 300 yen
Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street
A lovely preserved street from the Meiji Period. Many of the buildings here are traditional Japanese townhouses. You can find many shops and restaurants along the way.
Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple is famous for its 1200 stone statues of rakan, devoted followers of Buddhism, each with a different facial expression. This is by far my favourite temple in the whole of Kyoto. It's not as impressive or well known as others, but somehow, I felt most connected at the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple.
Hours: 8:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:45)
Admission: 300 yen
From Arashiyama make your way to a Zen temple which will indulge your imagination. It is well known for its rock landscape garden. Its gardens are also superb, and pretty wonderful for a long walk.
Address: Japan, 〒616-8001 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Ryoanji Goryonoshitacho, １３
Hours: 8:00 to 17:00 (March to November) 8:30 to 16:30 (December to February)
Admission: 500 yen
Kinkaku-ji is the final stop of the day. This temple is known for its golden pavilion with its impressive reflection shimmering across the rippled surface of the pond before it.
Address: 〒603-8361 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Kita Ward, Kinkakujicho, １
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Admission: 400 yen
Day 7 - Airport
If you wanted a 7 days Japan itinerary, then today is the day you need to make your way back to the airport. I cried on my last day in Japan, I loved the country so much, I vouched to come back (and I did). Japan, to me, remains the best place on the planet and my favourite travel destination. Depending on when your flight is, you have some options.
Option one is to spend some time in the Kyoto train station. This is a 14+ story building with lots of shops and eateries. It's a great place to pass the time and get lost in all those amazing Japanese products. They offer tax-free, so if you didn't buy any souvenirs, this is the place to find some great stuff. I also recommend having a look in the basement where there is a supermarket which sells lots of fresh food, including lovely bento boxes and really nice sushi.
Option two is to make your way back to Tokyo as early as possible. Once you arrived at the Tokyo station, you can spend a lot of time around, again, with all those shops to keep you entertained.
Did you enjoy our comprehensive guide on how to spend 7 days in Japan? Do you have any suggestions on how to improve our one week in Japan itinerary? Please let us know in the comments section below.