7-Day Japan Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

By Annika Hotta
Updated: March 28, 2024

Planning your very first trip to Japan but don’t know where to start? With so many places to go (and even more things to eat), how does one choose what to do in Japan over the course of just one week?

That’s where we come in with our 7-day itinerary for people visiting Japan for the first time. But, if this is your second or third time around, no worries! This itinerary will be chock-full of ideas for both Japan novices and pros.

Day 1

Have a Midnight Diners experience in Tokyo 

The vibrant walkthrough of a classic Yokocho in Tokyo, with small bars and izakaya.

Since you’ll likely be feeling a little jetlagged when you first arrive, we’ll leave more strenuous activities for later in the trip. For starters, take a leisurely stroll through the eclectic bars of Kichijoji and Harmonica Yokocho, picked out by expert tour guides. No thinking, no planning — simply sit back, relax, and chat with fellow travelers on your first night in Japan! 

Book this nighttime experience in Tokyo. It's one of our most popular tours!

Enjoy a drunken dessert at the konbini

The exterior of a 7-11 in Japan at night, neon lights glowing.

For a classic Japan experience, soak up the alcohol you’ve consumed throughout the night with dessert from your local konbini (convenience store). I recommend melon pan, purin (pudding), or strawberry ice cream mochi. Consume in front of the store with all the other partygoers for a communal nightlife rite of passage! 

Day 2

Fill up on sushi — or make it yourself!

A group of ladies are learning how to make sushi in a sushi-making class.

Whether you choose affordable conveyor belt sushi or a luxury sushi course menu, there’s no denying that sushi is a must-try food in Japan. And you came to the right place because we have all kinds of recommendations when it comes to sushi restaurants in Japan. Simply select one that fits your budget and tastes. 

And if you want to make the sushi yourself, try out a sushi-making workshop in Tokyo for a hands-on experience you’ll never forget! 

Shop ‘til you drop in Harajuku

The entrance to Harajuku's popular Takeshita Street.

If you’re into goth, lolita, or any other unique kind of fashion, Harajuku has it. Spend the afternoon strolling through the bustling neighborhood in search of clothes and souvenirs you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. While you’re there, don’t forget to try one of the iconic Harajuku crepes — after all, you did come all this way. 

Day 3 

Take a day trip to Kamakura

Looking at the ocean over the houses of Kamakura, a coastal town near Tokyo.

On the coast of Kanagawa prefecture lies Kamakura, a fun coastal town with fantastic street food. In fact, we have a whole video about Kamakuura’s must-try food, but my personal recommendation is the mentai (Pollack fish eggs) mayo cheese egg sandwich — it’s a savory take on French toast that hits the spot every time.

Been to Kamakura before? Don’t worry, we have a full selection of the 10 best day trips from Tokyo, so you’ve still got 9 other trips to take!

Get wealthy at Zeniarai Benten Shrine

The moss-covered tunnel leading from the road and into Zeniarai Benten Shrine.

Although Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is arguably more recognizable, Zeniarai Benten Shrine offers a unique chance to increase your money — by washing it! Pay for a small bundle of incense to burn at the entry, then wash your coins (or bills) in water to give you good financial luck. 

Zeniarai Benten Shrine is a 20-minute walk from Kamakura Station, but there are many small craftsman shops along the way to catch your breath, and the beautiful Genjiyama Park is right next door. 

This shrine is one of the stops included in this new Kamakura walking tour! Definetly worth it if you want a fully-planned escape.

Day 4 

Head on over to Kyoto

A cruise along a river in Kyoto as the sun sets. Framing the photograph are blooming cherry blossoms.

Now that we’ve experienced Tokyo to its fullest, it’s time to head south from the current capital to the former one, Kyoto. 

Dine with geisha in Gion

A geisha walks through the streets of Gion. Her hair is up, neck painted, and her golden obi is tied behind her.

Starting in the Gion district, have lunch and a traditional show with a real-life geisha. Enjoy an authentic Japanese meal of tempura, sushi, or karaage (fried chicken) with miso soup, rice, and a side dish, then join the walking tour of Kyoto’s famous entertainment district! 

Have afternoon pick-me-ups in Nishiki market

Two girls stand at a shop in Nishiki Market, deciding what to buy.

If you’re feeling peckish after walking around Gion, be sure to stop by Nishiki Market for some snacks. Skip the overpriced matcha and go for grilled octopus skewers and whatever else looks good! There’s sure to be plenty of options trying to catch your eye.

Let a local foodie lead the way. For a full experience of Kyoto's Nishiki Market, sign up for a Nishiki Market tour!

Day 5

Stroll through Arashiyama Bamboo Forest 

Two people are pulled through Arashiyama Bamboo Forest on a red rickshaw.

In my humble opinion, you can’t come to Kyoto without going to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Head out early to beat the crowds and save the main street for last. Don’t forget to hit Tenryuji temple for beautiful lakeside views. 

Snack on dango and yuba skin

There are several small cafes in Arashiyama where you can enjoy a duet of matcha and dango. Especially if it’s chilly or rainy, I recommend tucking into a cafe to warm up. Once you’re finished, try out Yuba skin soup or Yuba skin ice cream—a specialty in Arashiyama, made by boiling soy milk and drying it out to create layered tofu—depending on whether you need to warm up or cool down! 

Day 6 

End your trip in Osaka 

The streets of downtown Osaka, looking up at Tsutenkaku Tower against a blue sky.

To round out your trip to Japan, it’s time to head to the culinary capital, Osaka. With its vibrant culture and flavorful cuisine, Osaka is the perfect note to leave your trip on. 

Take a daytime tour through Dotonbori

Osaka's famous Dotonbori at night, with the lights of the nearby signs reflecting on the river.

Dotonbori is a neighborhood renowned for its street food and culture. Overwhelmed with what to eat or where to go? Why not take this guided Dotonbori street food tour and leave the planning to us? Want to hit a few more Osaka spots, including Osaka Castle? Book this tour of Osaka’s must-see places

Immerse yourself in 3-D art at teamLab's Botanical Garden Osaka 

An art installation at teamLab's Botanical Garden in Osaka, lighting up trees with egg-shaped art.

Open from 6:15pm, teamLab’s Botanical Garden is an invigorating nighttime activity for those who aren’t big on drinking. But, be sure to book tickets ahead of time so you don’t miss out, as each art installation is seasonal and may not be possible to see again. 

Day 7

Become a child again at Universal Studios Japan

A shot of Universal Studios Japan on a sunny day, showing multiple rollercoasters and buildings in the background.

Now that our trip is coming to a close, let’s spend our last day in just one location: Universal Studios Japan. Home to Super Nintendo World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Minion Park, guests of all ages can easily spend the entire day here. Check out this list of the 13 best things to eat at Universal Studios Japan for dining inspiration and thank us later! 

Rainy day option: Visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Japan's largest aquarium

A whale shark swims through the water at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, the largest aquarium in Japan.

If the weather isn’t cooperating for a visit to Universal Studios, opt for a visit to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Japan's largest aquarium is right here in Osaka. Open until 8pm, this aquarium is a fun way to observe the marine life of Japan without getting wet yourself. 

Whether you’re staying in Japan for a week or more, it’s likely to be an unforgettable trip with unlimited memories of Japan’s unique culture and delicious food. 

Are you planning on going solo? Check out this guide to traveling solo in Japan. Looking for ideas on what to eat? Browse this list of traditional foods in Japan.

Explore our food experiences in Japan and check out our YouTube channel for more travel inspiration!

7-Day Japan itinerary FAQs

Osaka Glico Man

How much is a trip to Japan?

The price of airfare will vary depending on your destination, so be sure to compare the prices of different connecting flights. For those in the U.S., for example, the cheapest route will likely be a connecting flight to LAX or Honolulu. 

Airfare will likely take up the majority of your travel budget, but rest assured that travel (and eating) within Japan is affordable if you know where to look! Here is a list of tips on how to save money in Japan.

When is the best time to travel to Japan?

When choosing which time of year to travel to Japan, it’s important to keep in mind the peak travel months (April and October) and monsoon season (early June to mid-July). Outside of these periods will be an ideal time to go, but we’d also recommend avoiding the summer if you don’t do well in heat or humidity. Japan is famous for both.

What do I need to pack for a trip to Japan?

Depending on the time of year, you’ll need to pack different things. A general rule of thumb is to pack more modest clothing as Japanese people tend to dress more conservatively. Also, it’s not going to be a problem if you arrive and you’ve forgotten something—convenience stores are everywhere in Japan, so you can pick up not just snacks and drinks, but smaller items like socks, umbrellas, toothbrushes, and anything else you might need on your trip!

How to get from Tokyo to Kyoto?

From Tokyo station, there’s the shinkansen (bullet train) and it will take around 2 hours and 15 mins, costing approximately ¥13,080 for a non-reserved seat.

There’s also the Kyoto Tokyo Midnight Express, a night bus that takes about 9 hours and 15 mins, priced between ¥5,980 and ¥10,500, depending on the season. Expect to leave Tokyo at around 10pm and arrive in Kyoto at around 7:30am.

How to get from Kyoto to Osaka?

The shinkansen will get you from Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station in about 12 minutes for ¥1420, but you could also get the Special Rapid train from Kyoto Station to Osaka station, taking about 30 minutes and costing approximately ¥580, if you want to save a bit of money without adding much travel time to your journey. 

How to get from Osaka to Tokyo?

If you’re flying back home from Tokyo, you’ll want to get the shinkansen back from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo Station, taking around 2 hours, 45 minutes and costing approximately ¥14,520. Just enough time to enjoy an ekiben (train station bento box) and reminisce about the most perfect week in Japan.

With all this traveling around, you might also want to check our article about whether it’s still worth getting the JR Pass to save money.

Can I find vegan food in Japan?

Yes! Not only can you find vegan food in Japan, but it’s growing in popularity and convenience every year. For a few vegan restaurants in Japan that we can’t recommend enough, take a look through our ultimate Japan vegan guide.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Annika Hotta
After studying abroad in Shiga prefecture in 2019, Annika moved to Japan in 2021. In her writing, she highlights the best dishes and places to eat in Japan for both the picky and the adventurous.
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