Over the last 10 years, we’ve taken multiple trips to Japan, each with a different focus and a different itinerary. Although we tend to have more flexibility in our schedule, we understand that many people are limited to only one week in Japan. We want to help travelers to Japan who love food and drink as much as we do to put together the perfect 7 day Japan itinerary. One where they have unique food experiences and make the most of their time in this amazing country.
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A Japan 7 Day Itinerary For People Who Love Food
Most suggested itineraries for a one week trip to Japan focus on the holy trinity of Tokyo, Kyoto, and then Osaka or Kobe, or Nara. This is because each of these cities is easily reachable from Tokyo, particularly by high-speed rail using the Japan Rail Pass. Most of these itineraries focus on culture and temples, which are a must-see in Japan.
This itinerary focuses on food and drink experiences. These experiences involve learning about Japanese culture through food and drink or organizing temple experiences involving food. Sure, I will include some of the other top things to do in a particular city, but will always come back to share how to eat and drink well in each recommended destination.
Helpful Tips With Planning Your Japan Travel Itinerary
Insurance: We recommend using World Nomads for travel insurance for every international trip you take. You never know and it is better to be safe than sorry. They offer immediate quotes so you know the cost and coverage immediately. Check out World Nomads here.
Luggage: We used our Eagle Creek Gear Warrior luggage for this trip. I always recommend packing light. If using the trains in Japan this is particularly important. Escalators and elevators are not readily available. And, most hotel rooms in Japan are pretty small. It can be hard to find space for large luggage!
Rental cars: If you decide to rent a car in Japan, we recommend RentalCars.com. They compare prices at the top rental car companies to get you the best deal.
Rail Passes: Train travel is really efficient in Japan, particularly between our recommended cities. Check out the 7 Day Japan Rail Pass to help get you around. A rail pass must be purchased ahead of time before your arrival in Japan and is best purchased from Japan Rail Pass.
Eating sushi in Japan
Best Places To Visit In Japan For Food Travelers
Tokyo – Many travelers arrive or depart from Tokyo so it’s understandably on everyone’s itinerary. It’s a big city, with bright lights, and Japan to the extreme.
Osaka – The destination for food travelers in Japan. Known as Japan’s kitchen, Osaka is known for “kuidaore,” which essentially translates to eat until you drop or eat until you bankrupt yourself. This is why it’s one of our favorite cities.
Kyoto – The city of culture and temples, Kyoto is also one of the top sake producing regions in the country.
Wakayama – Just south of Osaka and Kyoto, Wakayama is often overlooked by travelers. It’s an easy addition to any Japan trip itinerary. It’s a destination with a focus on fresh fish and seafood, ramen, and Buddhist Monastery lodgings.
Visiting Japanese temples
Guided Tours Of Japan
We will provide tips on how to plan your own 7 day trip to Japan, but if you are looking for something or someone to just do it all for you, here are some recommendations.
For adventurous travelers, we recommend Intrepid Travel for organized tours. With only a week, Intrepid’s Japan Highlights focuses on Tokyo and Kyoto, with a focus on street food, sake, and other traditional Japanese dishes. They also visit Kamakura, a coastal town with views of Mt Fuji.
Another alternative is G Adventures 9 day Japan Express Tour. This tour covers Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Koyosan in Wakayama, Osaka, and even adds on Hiroshima. It packs a lot into a little more than a week itinerary.
If you have a little more time, Intrepid Travel also offers a 12 day Real Food Adventure In Japan. It hits some of our favorite food cities in the Kansai region of Japan. That includes Osaka, Kyoto, and Koyosan in Wakayama. Along the way, travelers learn to make sushi, eat street food, and stay the night in a Buddhist monastery. These are all food experiences we’ve had in Japan and would totally recommend. We took an Intrepid Real Food Adventure in Morocco and learned a lot about the food culture.
Food And Drink Experiences In Japan
There are loads of interesting and unique things to do in Japan. Some of these experiences relate to food and drink and others focus on culture and history. This is a great place to start your own Japan trip planner for a week in Japan.
- Exploring traditional local markets including Kuromon in Osaka and Nishiki Market in Kyoto
- Tracking down the top street food in Dotonbori, Osaka’s food street
- Book a food tour in Osaka or Kyoto to learn more about Japanese food culture on a half-day or full-day tour
- Eat some of the best sushi of your life, by visiting a conveyor belt sushi restaurant or a traditional sushi-ya
- Track down the perfect bowl of ramen in one of the official or unofficial ramen streets.
- Go craft beer bar hopping and learn about Japanese craft beer trends
- Enjoy a kaiseki meal at a traditional Japanese ryokan
- Spend the night at a Buddhist monastery and learn about shojin ryori, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine
- Soak in a traditional onsen, a Japanese hot spring
- Tour a Japanese sake brewery and learn how to order sake
- Spend the evening at an izakaya, a Japanese tavern, toasting over local beer and whiskey highballs
How To Spend 7 Days In Japan
If planning your own self-guided tour of Japan, here are our recommended destinations. I include a recommended amount of time and a few bonus cities if you have a little more time or want to go a little more off the beaten path.
For each city, I recommend some of the top attractions or experiences, with a focus on food and drink. I also provide recommendations on what and where to eat and some recommended hotels. There are also links to some of our other posts for more information on some of these activities and travel tips.
Day 1-2 Tokyo
Most people start or end their trip to Japan in Tokyo. We prefer the smaller cities for more unique experiences. If you feel comfortable doing one day in Tokyo and spreading out your time in other cities, go for it!
Top Attractions In Tokyo
Definitely check out the Shibuya district, one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Tokyo. If you’ve seen photos of Tokyo with loads of people crossing at a major intersection with neon lights and skyscrapers in the background – that’s Shibuya. Stop for a katsu curry at Katsuya or hit one of the ramen or soba shops.
For a bit of culture, visit the Imperial Palace or at least wander the gardens. At night, head to the Shinjuku district, perhaps for a little karaoke and nightlife. Shinjuku is where the neon lights explode at night. There’s theater, food, bars, and plenty of people watching.
Tours And Tickets For Tokyo
There are a few tours and attractions that we recommend booking ahead of time. Grab tickets for the Tokyo Robot Restaurant, one of the most popular and unique attractions in Tokyo. To make the most of your time in Tokyo, book a food tour. This Food And Drink Tour includes a tour of the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market.
Where To Stay In Tokyo
Park Hyatt Tokyo: One of the most luxurious hotels in the city and known for its role in the movie Lost in Translation. Check for rates here.
Pullman Tokyo Tamachi: A contemporary option in the center of Tokyo with a sun terrace. Check for rates here.
Nine Hours Shinjuku: On more of a budget, or looking for a uniquely Japanese experience, this capsule hotel is the perfect option. It’s also in the nightlife center of the city. Check for rates here.
Help With Transit
There are a few options for traveling from the airport into the city center. Learn more here about Shared Transfers via a minivan, the Airport Limousine Bus, or the Tokyo Skyliner, which is the train that connects the Narita airport to the city center.
Tokyo is massive but the subway system is relatively, and surprisingly, easy to navigate. Pick up a transit card for either 24 or 48 hours before leaving home to make hopping on the subway easy. Learn more here.
Day 3-4 Osaka
From Tokyo, use the JR Rail Pass to hop the Shinkansen high-speed train to Osaka, Japan’s kitchen. This is our favorite city in Japan for food. It’s a much more manageable city than Tokyo as well.
Top Attractions In Osaka
All of the top main attractions in Osaka are located within the city center and are accessible by train. Take a walk through the gardens of Osaka Castle or catch the view from a boat tour of the Dotonbori Canal. Explore Kuromon Market for street eats and hit Dotonbori, Osaka’s famous food street at night. At night, just wander through one of the many shopping and eating districts, including Namba, and Shinsaibashi.
Tours And Tickets For Osaka
If you want to make the most of your time in Osaka and want to experience all the main sights, pick up the Osaka Amazing Pass. It offers free admission to loads of different sites including Osaka Castle, plus offers unlimited train and bus rides as well. Learn more here.
Osaka is also the perfect place to take a food tour or cooking class. See our recommendations for the Best Food Tours In Osaka.
What To Eat And Drink In Osaka
Between traditional Japanese dishes and Osakan specialties, there is no shortage of foods to eat in Osaka. From street food to craft beer, the city has it all. Check out these posts for more details and where and what to eat and drink in Osaka.
Where To Stay In Osaka
When we visit Osaka we tend to stay a while and normally rent an Airbnb apartment. We’ve also stayed at the Sheraton Miyako. Here are some other recommended hotels in Osaka. If short on time, we recommend staying near Namba or in an adjacent neighborhood so that you are centrally located to all of the best foods.
Swissotel Nankai Osaka: Luxury, 5-star hotel, with views over the city. It’s located above the Namba station making it super convenient. Check current rates here.
Hotel Nikko Osaka: The Hotel Nikko is located in the Shinsaibashi shopping area and near the pedestrian shopping arcade that leads to Dotonbori. We’ve stayed near this neighborhood before and there are some great bars and restaurants nearby. Check current rates here.
Hotel Ichiei: For a more ryokan style experience, Hotel Ichiei is also near Namba Station and offers tatami style rooms. Check current rates here.
Help With Transit
Although Osaka is more manageable than Tokyo in order to make the most of your time a transit pass is helpful. Pick up a one or two day unlimited transit pass before you arrive here.
Day 5-6 Kyoto
One of the most popular cities for travelers to Japan, Kyoto is one of the best places to learn about Japanese culture. We tend to prefer the culinary scene in Osaka more, but there is still loads of good food in Kyoto.
Top Attractions In Kyoto
Gion is one of the most popular neighborhoods to visit. It’s known for the Geisha culture and temples. It is also one of the most touristy parts of the city, so be prepared. Also, check out the Imperial Palace, which is free for travelers to wander through and take in all of the splendor of an ancient way of life in Japan.
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is another popular destination and is just a short ride from Kyoto Station by train. After visiting the temples continue to a little further south to the Fushimi Sake District, the sake producing district of Kyoto. There is a brewery tour and plenty of shops selling sake and offering tastings. It makes a great afternoon out of the center of Kyoto.
Tours And Tickets For Kyoto
Looking for the perfect Japanese Instagrammable moment? Book a Kimono rental for a day and then head to the temples or the narrow alleys of Gion for photos. Book a rental here.
What To Eat And Drink In Kyoto
Kyoto is known for its kaiseki and Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. There is also a great ramen scene. Check out these related posts:
Where To Stay In Kyoto
Like Osaka, Kyoto is also pretty easy to travel around. We stayed at the Westin Miyako Kyoto, which is lovely, with views over the mountains and the city. We’ve also stayed at a very simple guest house near the Imperial Palace. Here are some other recommended hotels in Kyoto.
Luxury Hotel Sowaka: Located at the southern edge of Gion, this is the epitome of Japanese luxury, with well-appointed rooms in a ryokan style. Check the best rates here.
Park Hyatt Kyoto: For luxury accommodations of a more western standard, Park Hyatt Kyoto is one of the top hotels in the city. Check the best rates here.
Mimaru Kyoto Horikawarokkaku: A four-star hotel in the center of some of the best eating in Kyoto and close to the Nishiki Market. Check the best rates here.
Help With Transit
If Kyoto is your last destination, then it is possible to fly out of Kansai Airport. Kansai is actually closer to Osaka, but still easy to access by train from Kyoto. Or, you can book a limousine bus from Kyoto here.
Also, consider picking up a transit pass for Kyoto. This pass can be purchased for one or two days and can be used in both Kyoto and Osaka. Learn more here.
Visiting Temples In Wakayama
Bonus Day – Kyosan In Wakayama
If you have one more day available when putting together your 7 day Japan itinerary, consider Wakayama.
The Kii Peninsula in Kansai includes Kyoto, Osaka, and Wakayama. Across the Peninsula are a series of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes, much like the Camino de Santiago in Spain. UNESCO recognized the region as a World Heritage Site. This makes Wakayama a perfect spot to spend the day hiking or exploring temples.
One of the top spots to visit for food and drink travelers includes Koyasan. It is a center for Buddhism that is located in Wakayama Prefecture. There are over 100 temples in Koyasan, about half of which provide temple lodging as well. One of the most interesting food experiences includes staying at a temple lodging in order to try their famous Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine, known as Shojin Ryori.
How To Visit Koyasan And Wakayama
Koyasan can be reached by train from Osaka or Kyoto. We stayed overnight at a Buddhist Monastery, which was entirely unique experience. We enjoyed a Buddhist vegetarian dinner, bathed in a traditional Japanese bath, and slept in a tatami room. Learn more here.
Or, book a day tour from Osaka to visit the temples and have the day planned for you.
Kyoto in the autumn
When Is The Best Time To Visit Japan
Japan is a year-round destination. Being a long country, there are a variety of climates. In the north, in Hokkaido, you have some of the top ski destinations in the winter. In the south, in Okinawa, there is a more tropical climate where it is warm in the winter.
This one week in Japan itinerary focuses on Tokyo and the Kansai region, in the center of the country. Expect warm to hot summers, and brisk to cold winters, perhaps with a bit of snow. We experienced snow in Osaka in February and were warm and practically sweating in Kyoto in November.
Top tourist sites in the summer can be crowded and hotels are more expensive. Winter is relatively mild, even when it snows. Tourist sites are less crowded and hotels are less expensive. The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are probably the best times to visit Japan, with one major exception. Cherry blossom season is in the spring, normally in April, and can be beautiful, but is considered the high season.
Japan Itinerary Pro Tip
A note about Kyoto. Around the third week of November, the fall colors are often at their peak. This makes it a lovely time to visit Kyoto. But, it is also the busiest time of year when hotels are more expensive and temples are packed. It’s when locals dress in their best kimonos and head to the temples to take photos. It can be an interesting time to visit but also very crowded. We visited Kyoto the last time during this weekend, entirely accidentally. Just be prepared.
Getting To Japan
Many airlines fly directly to Japan. There are two airports in Tokyo. Narita is the largest but is farther from the city. Haneda is smaller, and closer to the city, but offers fewer international flights. Kansai Airport serves both Osaka and Kyoto. All of these airports are accessible by bus and train.
There are two primary Japanese airlines that service these airports: ANA (All Nippon) and Japan Airlines (JAL). We’ve flown them both and they are reputable airlines. Other international airlines also service Japan.
Because train travel is so easy in Japan, it might help and it might save time, to fly into Tokyo and out of Kansai in Osaka. This will help maximize your time on the ground, particularly if you are only limited to a one week trip.
How to Get Around in Japan
We’ve never rented a car in Japan. We’ve never found a reason to, particularly with this itinerary. There is so much to do, see, and eat within the cities or during day trips from the big cities. If you decide to rent a car in Japan, though, we recommend RentalCars.com. They scour the rates at the top car rental companies to find the best price.
Really, the best way to get around in Japan is by rail. Japan Rail offers a few different rail passes for either 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days. The rail pass is valid on all Japan Rail trains, including the high-speed trains (Shinkansen) between Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. This makes planning a 7 Day JR Pass itinerary easy.
The most important thing about the Japan Rail Pass is that you much be a resident of a country other than Japan. And you must purchase the rail pass before arriving in the country. They will actually mail you a rail pass so be sure to purchase it early. Learn more about the Japan Rail Pass .
FAQs – PLANNING A JAPAN 7 DAY ITINERARY
This is a question we get about almost every destination. If you are American it is hard NOT to tip because it is so customary and even expected at restaurants and bars. Tipping is not customary in Japan. In fact, during early trips to Japan, we left a bit of change behind and the server chased us to return it. It can even be considered inconsiderate to leave a tip. It’s just better not to.
When choosing your flight and when heading to the airport for departure, remember that Tokyo has two airports (NRT and HAN) and the Osaka and Kyoto areas are served by two airports as well (KIX and ITM). Be sure to confirm which airport you are flying in and out of when arranging transport for your Japan itinerary.
Japan is absolutely safe. Crime can happen anywhere, including Japan but overall Japan is safe. Tourists always need to be on guard for petty crimes and scams targeting them. This is even true in Japan. But when it comes to crime and safety, tourists should feel very comfortable traveling to Japan.