How to Spend One Week in Japan

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Let’s be realistic, one week in Japan is not enough to see the country, but it’s enough to give you a taste for the first time. Some may think that spending just 7 days in the Land of the Rising Sun is not worth it but trust me, you won’t regret making a trip to Japan.

If you’re only spending one week in Japan, that means you’ll be limited to just Tokyo and Kyoto. Day trips are tempting and possible, but I wouldn’t recommend them since you’ll be cramming in too much stuff. A 7-day JR pass will likely be worth it, so be sure to pick one up before you depart. Here’s how to spend one week in Japan.

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Shinjuku

Things can be a bit tricky during your first day in Tokyo since what you see and do depend on what time you arrive. If you’re arriving from Narita, it’ll take you at about 90 minutes to get into the city while those landing at Haneda will need to budget 30 minutes to get to Shinjuku.

Once you’re settled at your hotel in Tokyo, make your way to Shinjuku where most of the action takes place in the city. Head straight for the observation decks at the  Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings since they’re free. If the day is clear, you’ll even be able to see Mt. Fuji. After taking in the view, head to the heart of Shinjuku where you’ll find some of the best shops, arcades, and restaurants in the city. It’s best to just wander the streets with no real plan in mind to absorb the culture

As night falls, take a stroll through the alleys of Golden Gai where many local bars attract visitors or head to “Piss Alley” which is a laneway full of restaurants that runs under the train tracks. Alternatively, head to Harajuku where you can embrace the youth culture or people watch. Takeshita street has some interesting shopping options as well as some delicious crepe shops which are always open late.

Check out my Tokyo hostel guide and cheap hotels in Tokyo posts now.

Day 2 – Tsukiji, Shibuya, Roppongi

If you’re suffering from jetlag, a trip to Tsukiji fish market may be tempting, but you need to arrive at 3 am if you want to catch the tuna auction. Just head there whenever you’re awake and stroll through the stalls. The outer market is full of sushi restaurants with the most famous one being Sushi Dai. The waits are very long there, so I recommend just picking a random sushi restaurant instead. Trust me, it’ll still be the best sushi you ever had. Keep in mind that Tsukiji will eventually be moving to a new site.

Once you’ve had your sushi fix, head to Shibuya for the famous crossing. After taking too many photos, you can wander the streets and the various malls here. There’s really not much else going on around here, but again, the fun in Japan is just exploring.

In the afternoon you can head to Roppongi where there’s a thriving arts scene. This is also the area for nightlife if that’s your thing. You should also treat day 2 as your “event day.” If there’s something you’ve planned such as the robot restaurant, cat cafes, or the Mario Kart experience, today is a good day to do it.

Day 3 – Asakusa, Ueno, Akihabara, Ginza

With your last full day in Tokyo, it’s time to explore some of the other sites the city has to offer. Asakusa is a good place to start your day since there tend to be fewer crowds at Sensoji Temple. Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest temple and is absolutely stunning. Leading up to the temple is a shopping street called Nakamise that offers every souvenir you could possibly imagine. For an aerial view of Sensoji, head across the street to the top of the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center. The Tokyo Skytree is also nearby on the other side of the Sumida River, but since you’ve already had two free views of the city, there’s really no point in paying to go up. Note that Asakusa has some of the cheapest hostels in Tokyo.

You’ll likely have to make your way to Ueno from Asakusa since it’s the closest connection to the JR line. Ueno has a giant park full of various attractions including the zoo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and Gojoten Shrine. Before getting on the train, explore the streets of the Ameya Yokocho market where many locals shop for their daily goods.

Just south of Ueno is Akihabara which is more commonly known as electronics town. As the name implies, this is an area that has many electronics and anime stores. The area is also famous for maid cafes if you’re into that kind of thing. Kanda Myojin and the Holy Resurrection Cathedral are two religious sites in the area that both have amazing architectural features.

As for Ginza, it’s mainly a high-end shopping area, but it’s worth going to all the different department stores since the shopping experience is very different compared to North America. Each floor feels like a mini-mall so it’s quite fun seeing what they have to offer. The closest JR station to Ginza is Yūrakuchō which also has restaurants and food stalls under the train tracks that are popular with the locals.

Day 4 – Arrive in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama

Kyoto is just 2.5 hours away from Tokyo, but you still shouldn’t pack your first day in the former capital. Once you arrive in Kyoto, have a meal in one of the food courts in Kyoto station. This station is massive and feels like a mini city. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, buy a Raku bus pass and head to Kinkaku-ji (the golden temple) which is one of the most stunning buildings you’ll see in all of Japan.

In the afternoon, you should make your way to the bamboo forest of Arashiyama. Note that the temples here close around 5 p.m. so if you wanted to see those, you may want to swap your days around. The main street of Arashiyama has plenty of shops, but head south to the Togetsukyō Bridge for excellent views of the surrounding area. If you have the energy (and if it’s still open), head for the Arashiyama Monkey Park.

At night, you can wander the streets of Gion or Pontocho for a traditional Japanese experience but be warned that the restaurants here are expensive. 

Day 5 – Eastern Kyoto

Japan Guide has an excellent Eastern Kyoto full day itinerary, but after visiting Japan, I don’t know how it’s possible to see everything they’ve listed in a day. I recommend picking just a few places on their list and using the Raku bus to get you to each place within a reasonable time. Renting bikes and exploring is another option, but you’ll need to budget some extra time.

My favourite spots in the itinerary are Kiyomizudera, Higashiyama streets, Heian Shrine, Philosopher’s Path, and Ginkakuji. It’s a good mix of temples, shopping, and nature. One spot that’s not listed but I recommend is Chion-in which is a rather impressive temple.

At night, you can explore Kyoto station (It’s a mini-city remember?). You could also head to Fushimi Inari-taisha with their 1000’s of torii gates since it’s open 24-hours, but it might be a better idea to hold this until tomorrow.

Day 6 – Day trip to Nara, Osaka, or Hiroshima and Miyajima

I know I advised against day trips, but this is the one day you’ll have time during your one week in Japan trip. Two out of the following three cities are close to Kyoto so doing a day trip is possible. If you decide to stay in Kyoto, you can just explore other temples and shrines you missed the day before.

Osaka is just 45mins away by train from Kyoto and is famous for its street food down by Dotonbori. The giant signs make it pretty clear what each restaurant serves, but it’s probably more fun to just snack on all the food served outside. Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street is fun, but there are better shopping options in Tokyo. Attractions in the city include the Osaka Aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Castle, the Umeda Sky Building, and Hep 5. You obviously won’t be able to see everything so just prioritize the things that interest you.

Nara is famous for the deer that roam the streets and come right up to you if you’re offering them food. Nara takes just 1 hour to get to from Kyoto and then another 10-minute bus ride to get to the temple area. In Nara, you’ll find Tōdai-ji which is the largest wooden Buddhist temple in the world. There are many other temples in the area, but if you already explored Kyoto, you might be tired of temples by now.

The final day trip option is Hiroshima and the island of Miyajima. It takes 3 hours to get to Hiroshima from Kyoto so if you plan on making this trip, do it early. To be honest, heading here is a bit time consuming, but it’s well worth it. The island of Miyajima is quite serene and a welcome break from the cities while the peace park in Hiroshima is a look back at one of the darkest times in history. 

Day 7 – Tokyo – See what you missed and something new

I’m assuming you’re backtracking to Tokyo for your last day, but some people fly out of Kansai International Airport which serves both Osaka and Kyoto. If this is you, spend your last day in Osaka and just explore.

If you’re headed back to Tokyo, you may want to return to areas you enjoyed earlier and pick up any souvenirs for family. There’s also a good chance that you came across someone in Kyoto who recommended you see something in Tokyo that you missed earlier so check it go check it now!

You may also want to explore some of the lesser-known areas of Tokyo. Kagurazaka is known as the ‘French’ area of town and is situated on a slight incline surrounded by trees. There are many international restaurants here and don’t forget to explore the back streets. Close to Shibuya station is an area called Daikanyama which is often compared to Brooklyn since it’s trendy with hipsters and has a lot of fun coffee shops and stores to hang around.

By the end of this trip, you’ll absolutely be exhausted, but it’ll be worth it. Japan has so many things to see and you’ve only seen two cities. The good thing is Japan on a budget is possible.

One week in Japan may not seem very long, but don’t worry, you’ll be back. If you’re wondering how much a two-week trip will cost you, check out my detailed guide now. If you haven’t booked your hotels yet, check out my guides on 10 cheap hotels in Tokyo, Tokyo hostels, the best apartments in Tokyo and the best capsule hotels in Tokyo.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Rose on August 15, 2017 at 4:38 PM

    I want to sign up foryour newsletter.Having problems with this

    • Barry Choi on August 15, 2017 at 4:43 PM

      Hi Rose,

      I’ll manually add you to my mailing list.

    • Megha on May 7, 2019 at 2:49 AM

      Hi Barry, I am planning for seven days trip to japan in early june..Its my first time to Japan with my husband nd a yr old baby.. we both r nature’s lover so want to explore town side also including the city hep…pls advice me to plan my itenary

      • Barry Choi on May 7, 2019 at 8:05 AM


        It really depends on where you’re visiting in Japan. Most people head to Tokyo which does have some green spaces but it’s mainly a city. Kyoto has more of a nature feel to it.

        I would personally just pick one or the other and then do day trips. With a one year old and only one week to see Japan, it’s likely not worth trying to see a bunch of different cities.

  2. Adriani on September 24, 2017 at 4:01 PM


    What affordable hotel did you stay at?

    • Barry Choi on September 24, 2017 at 4:06 PM

      Hi Adriani,

      I actually stayed at an Airbnb in the Ebisu area. You should be able to find reasonably priced hotels in the Nishi-Shinjuku area which is a little northwest of Shinjuku station.

  3. Karen on June 30, 2018 at 4:18 AM


    I found your website just today and find it very helpful—thank you.

    I plan to go to Japan in November with my hubby and 17-year-old son for the autumn foliage. We will fly in to and out of Narita and stay for 9D 8N. At the moment, our itinerary is this:

    Day 1: 1040 ETA in TKY (Activate 7-day JR Rail Pass from Narita)
    Day 2: AM in Hakone, PM in Kiso Valley
    Day 3: AM in Kiso Valley, PM in Takayama
    Day 4: AM in Shirakawago, PM in Kyoto
    Days 5-6: Kyoto
    Day 7: Hiroshima and Miyajima
    Day 8: AM travel to TKY
    Day 9: TKY, 2030 ETD (bus to Narita)

    My question is: If we activate the JR pass by, say, 1130 on Day 1, does this mean we can still use it for our Hiroshima>Tokyo trip on Day 8 if we start our travel by, say, 0800? It takes 5h3m to Tokyo, but I read somewhere that as long as we are on the train and don’t go out (of the station, I assume), we will not pay anything.

    Please advise. Thank you.


  4. Karen on June 30, 2018 at 4:26 AM

    Hi, again.

    I forgot to ask how to use the ordinary JR Rail Pass: When we use the rail pass to go to the places I mentioned above, do we just choose the train schedule when we get to the station, show the pass to the attendant at the platform, and hope that our chosen train can accommodate us? And if the train is full, then we have to wait for the next one(s)?

    Thank you again.


    • Barry Choi on June 30, 2018 at 6:13 AM

      Hi Karen,

      The JR Pass goes by calendar days, NOT 24-hours so you need to be back in Tokyo by day 7.

      In my opinion, your schedule is a bit crazy packed. There’s A LOT of travelling you’ll be doing. I personally would consider dropping the Kiso Valley, Takayama, and Shirakawago. I would take those days saved and allocate more time to Tokyo and Kyoto.

      As for seats. With the JR Pass, you can make your seat reservations any time after you activate the card. So if you know your schedule, just pop into a JR office and have them reserve seats. If all the seats are taken, you can still get on and just ride in one of the non-reserved cars. It might be standing room only, but you can still get on.

      You do indeed just show your pass to the attendant to get in and out of stations. This applies to all lines operated by JR.

      • Naghmeh on April 17, 2019 at 5:22 PM

        We wanna travel to Japan on 22, we arrive to Tokyo and we will be stay for 21 days there.

        22_24 Tokyo
        25 kakunodate
        26_27 towadako
        28 mastsushima
        29_01may my Fuji
        02_04 Kyoto
        05_06 Nara
        07_09 Hakone
        10 kamakura
        11_12 Tokyo

        I wonder what you advice, is it better we buy 14 days Jrp or 21 days? And in general is it worth to buy it ?

        • Barry Choi on April 19, 2019 at 7:33 AM


          It’s unlikely a 21 day pass will be worth it. You’d have to run your route through to compare the cost of one-way tickets vs. a pass to find out if you’re getting value out of the 14-day pass.

          • Naghmeh Ahmadi Naghedi on April 19, 2019 at 7:47 AM

            Thanks for your reply.
            umfortunetly now we have a bigger problem, the companey that we bought our JRL called us and told us because of Esther holiday they cannot send us the pass 🙁
            Do you know any trustable company that we buy our JRP from it and they deliver us their in Japan…
            we have flight on 22 april ( in some days) from munich.

            thank you

          • Barry Choi on April 19, 2019 at 8:58 AM


   has a list of authorized resellers but I believe they all take 48 hours to deliver so you may be out of luck. Have you run your itinerary through Hyperdia to see if a pass is worth it?

  5. Karen Luna on July 1, 2018 at 10:27 PM

    Thanks very much, Barry!

    1. That info on the JR rail pass being applicable to calendar days and not to hours is very important. I will have to revise our itinerary if that’s the case. I couldn’t find it on the JR website.
    2. Because we’re taking the ordinary rail pass (no reservation), may I confirm that it is possible to be standing for the entire journey, for example, from Hakone to Kyoto, if all seats are taken and we don’t want to wait for the next train?

    Again, Barry, thanks very much.


    • Barry Choi on July 2, 2018 at 6:48 AM

      Hi Karen,

      The ordinary JR pass still allows you to make reservations (just not in the green cars). Think of the green cars as premium economy on a flight and the other cars as economy. That being said, ALL seats on JR trains are VERY comfortable.

      Another way to “fix” your schedule is to simply depart Tokyo on day 3 and arrive back in Tokyo the PM of day 8. You would likely have to shift your trip to Hiroshima to day 5 or 6 and then spend day 7 in Kyoto before returning to Tokyo. Again, I still think you’re travelling too much in 9 days, but that’s just a personal opinion.

      Here are some additional stories I wrote that may help you.

  6. Karen Luna on July 2, 2018 at 9:47 PM

    Thanks very much, Barry, for answering my queries and giving advice on the JR pass and itinerary.

    My November trip will actually be my fourth trip to Japan. But all my previous trips were organized for me (and other people), so for this one, I will be doing all the initial planning before hubby and I decide on the final “program of action.” =P


  7. Declan Largent on August 15, 2018 at 7:57 PM

    Hi Barry,

    Rough estimate, money wise you spent on the above trip?

  8. Wan Zawawi on December 23, 2018 at 11:24 AM

    Hi Barry, I just bought 2 ticket to Tokyo on the 31st Jan and return to Malaysia on the 12th Feb. In between, I also bought return tickets from Tokyo to Sapporo from the 3rd Feb to 8th Feb. What would be the best itenary for the whole trip you would recommend? And where to stay.
    Dr Wan

    • Barry Choi on December 23, 2018 at 1:34 PM

      Hi Wan,

      So basically you’re in Tokyo from the 31st until you depart on the 3rd and then the 8th when you return until the 12th when you depart.

      You’re likely just better off staying in Tokyo and exploring with a few sides trips e.g. Yokohama, Nikko, Kamakura, and Hakone. Your time in Sapporo is likely going to be spent skiing I imagine.

  9. Joseph Ferrerosa on January 5, 2019 at 2:00 AM

    What about an intinerary for Tokyo (from HAN) and Hakone/Izu Oshima? I’ll be traveling from Hong Kong, so by this time, I don’t expect much jet lag.

    • Barry Choi on January 5, 2019 at 1:45 PM

      Hi Joseph,

      I’m not familiar with Oshima so I can’t really comment there but if you’re going to add that and Hakone to TOkyo in one week, that’s A LOT of travel. Doing just Hakone and Tokyo in a week should be easy since you won’t spend more than a day and a half in Hakone.

    • Michelle on September 9, 2019 at 12:23 PM

      Hi Barry,

      What’s your take on driving? We are travelling with children (12,7,4 and 1) and are wondering if it’ll be more cost effective and less of a hassle if we were to drive vs getting the JR pass. This is our itinerary thus far:
      1. Arrive Tokyo
      2. Disneyland
      3. DisneySea
      4. Kyoto (Car rental from Tokyo)
      5. Kyoto
      6. Osaka
      7. Osaka (Day trip out- Nara/Hiroshima etc)
      8. Osaka
      9. Osaka
      10. Hakone
      11. Hakone
      12.Tokyo (Return Car)
      13. Tokyo
      14. Tokyo
      15. Flight out

      Would appreciate your inputs. Thanks!

  10. Hung Tran on January 5, 2019 at 12:17 PM

    Hi Barry
    Can you recommend an easy-going itinerary a a couple with a 3-4 yo child. We still want to see the sights, savor the foods, explore & people watch, but slightly more upscale, slightly less crowded (if possible), and more easy-going. We can probably do 8-9 days. Do we need a local tour guide at any of the location?
    Thank you!

    • Barry Choi on January 5, 2019 at 1:43 PM

      Hi Hung,

      If you have a 3-4 year old with you. You could honestly just stay in Tokyo and be entertained for 8-9 days. You could opt to do some day trips to Nikko or Kamakura, but that may tire out your little one.

      Jet lag will likely take your kid longer to adjust to and there are plenty of things to do in Tokyo that are kid friendly which is why I recommend just staying there. You won’t need a guide, just a data plan so you have access to maps.

    • Melafrique on March 13, 2019 at 6:36 PM

      Useful information thank you

  11. Nashaly on January 8, 2019 at 5:24 PM

    Hello Barry,

    I will be traveling to Japan from April 27th of this year to May 6th. I am a little lost on what to do or places to see but I would love to see some of the shrines or temples but also explore Tokyo.

    • Nashaly on January 8, 2019 at 5:28 PM

      Hello Barry,

      I will be traveling to Japan from April 27th of this year to May 6th. I am a little lost on what to do or places to see but I would love to see some of the shrines or temples but also explore Tokyo. I will be with my partner but also be 2 or 3 days with a group of students. What do you recomend for those days which I wont be with a group. I figure I cant do much traveling since my partner and I will probably have around 5 days for us to explore.

      • Barry Choi on January 8, 2019 at 5:36 PM


        How is your schedule broken up? E.g. are the days you’re with your students in the middle of your trip? With just 5 days, you might as well just stay in Tokyo and explore, there are more than enough things to do (as outlined in this post). If you want to see areas with more traditional temples, you could take a day trip to Kamakura or Nikko, but there’s honestly enough to keep you busy in Tokyo alone.

  12. Anne on January 14, 2019 at 7:32 AM

    Hi! I am planning a trip to Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka (damn harry potter fan ) so that means 1 days is spent in USJ. I am thinking of spending 3days in Tokyo, 2 days in Kyoto and 2 days in Osaka. Booking a multi city plane travel to save more time.

    Any suggestions on a good itinerary?

    • Barry Choi on January 14, 2019 at 7:43 AM

      Hi Anne,

      In Tokyo, just go to the main areas e.g. Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Sensoji, Akihabara, Ueno. Walk around and enjoy the food.

      For Kyoto, I wrote a 3 day itinerary so just pick what appeals to you –

      For Osaka, one day will be at USJ, the other just spend it doing the main attractions in the city.

  13. Muzz on January 17, 2019 at 4:30 AM

    Hello Barry,

    Thank you for all these information. i’m planning a trip to japan and found the information you provided very helpful.
    i just have 1 question, the picture just above the article for Day 6 is very beautiful. can you tell please me where it is?



  14. Sophia on January 30, 2019 at 6:51 PM

    Hello Barry, I plan to travel to Japan, with my husband (60 yr olds), in the coming months, it seems very difficult to get around by ourselves We would like to see Tokyo through to Hiroshima. Which company would you suggest to go with as a group with a tour guide, it can get quite expensive. 10 -15 days would be fine, thankyou

    • Barry Choi on January 30, 2019 at 8:08 PM

      Hi Sophia,

      If you want a tour you could consider the following

      There are many different tour operators so you just need to find one that fits your travel style.

    • Chints on August 15, 2019 at 4:36 AM

      Hi, were goin to fly in japan in january 2nd week which is winter season. What can you recommend for our itinery? im goin with my parents wc both senior citizen around 60’s.. its our first time to travel there.. hope u can help me
      Thank u

      • Barry Choi on August 15, 2019 at 8:37 AM


        The itinerary listed here is pretty standard. You can simply add days and locations based on how long you’ll be in the country.

  15. Sophia on January 31, 2019 at 4:49 PM

    Thankyou Barry for your help

  16. lawrence on March 19, 2019 at 8:09 AM


    I’m trying to plan my trip for the World Cup. I’m planning on leaving for Tokyo on 27th Sept and staying in Tokyo until 6th October. I do have free days from 30/9 -4/10 to do a trip. I need to head down towards Oita Prefecture and need to be there for 9/10, so I could take between 6/60 – 8/10 to get there, doing various things enroute? After 10/10, I have 8 days to fill before I watch my final game on 19&20/ 10 and leaving on 21/10.

    Any help would be gratefully received as I don’t just want to watch rugby but also take in as much as I can.

    Regards Lawrence

    • Barry Choi on March 19, 2019 at 9:04 AM

      Hi Lawrence,

      Where are you flying out from on the 21st.

      Looking at your schedule, things are a bit tricky. from Sept. 30 – Oct. 4th, you could likely make a run to Kyoto/Osaka/Nara or say Hakone/Kyoto.

      On your way to Oita, you could stop in Himeji, Hiroshima/Miyajima, Fukukoa.

      The only real issue is that you’d have to backtrack to Tokyo so you need to figure out if getting a 14-day or 21-day JR pass is worth it compared to individual tickets.

  17. lawrence dovey on March 19, 2019 at 10:06 AM

    Hi. Leaving UK on 27th Sept and I can do day trips from Tokyo during my 7 days there (what trips would be a must do?). I will leave Tokyo on 6/10 to get to Oita for 9/10, so what would you recommend on the way there and actually how to get there (bus, train etc). Once in Oita I have 10 days to kill before the next game, so need to know what to do. I can fly out of one of the airports in this area (as I haven’t booked flights yet). Thanks

    • Barry Choi on March 19, 2019 at 3:08 PM


      There are so many different things to do so it’s really just a personal preference. I haven’t been to the Oita area, but Kyoto is obviously a must. I personally really enjoyed Hiroshima/Miyajima. I also went up to Koyasan which is close to Osaka.

      Check out the website Japan Guide for more inspiration.

  18. lawrence dovey on March 19, 2019 at 3:23 PM

    Ok thanks, Barry

  19. fahmida on June 7, 2019 at 12:04 AM

    Hi Barry,
    what is the cheapest accommodation in Kyoto for the couple?
    i am flying to Tokyo on 19th June and will fly back on 26th of June evening.
    what will be the best itinerary for these 7 days.

    kind regards

    • Barry Choi on June 7, 2019 at 7:50 AM


      There are plenty of budget hotels in Kyoto. I recommend using and searching by price.

  20. julia on June 11, 2019 at 6:26 PM

    hi barry me and boyfriend fly to Tokyo in November for a week staying at the rose garden were not sure how much money we need,we dont want to have to budget we want to do as much as much as we can unsure on how much we need what do you recommend please to be comfortable thankyou

    • Barry Choi on June 11, 2019 at 7:58 PM

      Hi Julia,

      How much money depends on what you want to do and how much you plan on eating. Generally speaking, you want to budget about $10USD per person for local transportation. A decent meal e.g. ramen, quick sushi, tempura will cost you about $10USD, but if you want to get fancy or you eat a lot, you could end up spending more.

      Most attractions within Tokyo are free but Tokyo Disney and Disneysea is about $75USD per person, per day. Instead of paying to go up the SkyTree, go up the Metropolitan buildings which are free.

      If you like to shop, budget more.

  21. Matt Chrisitan on June 15, 2019 at 10:25 PM

    Hi Barry,

    Very insightful and thanks for the information.

    Quick question. When it comes to luggage did you carry it on the bullet train when going to Kyoto from Tokyo? I heard there isnt much space on it, but it much easier for my friends and I carry it with us.

    I just feel it might be hard to have it shipped back from Kyoto to Tokyo if I come back the last day to head home on the airport. Appreciate any guidance

    • Barry Choi on June 16, 2019 at 8:51 AM


      It sort of depends. I brought big backpacks to Japan so it was easy just store things on top of the seats where there’s space.

      If you have traditional luggage, things could get tight, but I wouldn’t worry too much. That being said, Japan has luggage forwarding services which can be quite convenient.

  22. Rodrigo Pereira on July 7, 2019 at 9:02 AM

    What would you recommend if I found a visit to spot the Mt Fuji losely is a need?

    • Barry Choi on July 7, 2019 at 1:39 PM

      Mt. Fuji can be done as a side trip from Tokyo. Some people prefer just to go to Hakone where they can see Mt. Fuji as opposed to climbing the mountain.

  23. J.T. on August 7, 2019 at 5:45 PM

    Hey Barry,

    Great info on your blog! I’m planning to go to Japan (from California) for my first time and I’m going solo. Can you take a look at my rough Itinerary and see if it all makes sense and tradeoffs you would make (i.e. less Tokyo more Kyoto, etc)?

    9/14 Arrive 2pm Haneda, check in to hotel, explore Tokyo
    9/15 Explore Tokyo
    9/16 Explore Tokyo
    9/17 Morning Train to Kyoto, explore Kyoto
    9/18 Explore Kyoto
    9/19 Day trip to Osaka
    9/20 Day trip to Nara
    9/21 Morning Train to Hakone, Buy Hokone FreePass, explore Hokone
    9/22 Explore Hakone, Night Train to Tokyo
    9/23 Fly out of Haneda 3:45pm

    Will activate 7 day JR pass on either 16th or 17th
    So 3 Nights Tokyo, 4 Nights Kyoto, 2 Days / 1 Night Hakone, 1 Night Tokyo

    • Barry Choi on August 7, 2019 at 8:18 PM

      Hey J.T.,

      I don’t think your itinerary is unreasonable. My only concern is that there’s a lot of travel. If you had to drop something, Hakone or Osaka would be my picks.

      That said, as a solo traveller, you’re not waiting on anyone so you can go on your own pace.

  24. Mark Thomas on August 18, 2019 at 5:30 PM

    Hi Barry
    I love your articles, which have been very helpful for us planning our trip to Japan. We arrive in Tokyo on the 27th September 2019 and have 1 week there before moving on to Kyoto for 4 nights. Your trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island was very helpful. I want to do a day trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo. Do you have any recommendations on such a trip?
    After we leave Kyoto we have 6 nights in Fukuoka and will be visiting Oita and Kumamoto for the rugby. Do you have any other recommendations on places to visit on Kyushu?
    Thank you

    • Barry Choi on August 18, 2019 at 8:16 PM

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reaching out. Most people who want to see Mt. Fuji usually go to Hakone since you can see it from there. Hakone is easily accessible from Tokyo, but if you’re coming from the west, the closest JR station is Odawara station. Most people buy the Hakone free pass –

      If you want to hike Fuji, then you need to make your way to Gotemba.

      I haven’t been to Kyushu so I really can’t comment there.

  25. Michelle on September 9, 2019 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Barry,

    What’s your take on driving? We are travelling with children (12,7,4 and 1) and are wondering if it’ll be more cost effective and less of a hassle if we were to drive vs getting the JR pass. This is our itinerary thus far:
    1. Arrive Tokyo
    2. Disneyland
    3. DisneySea
    4. Kyoto (Car rental from Tokyo)
    5. Kyoto
    6. Osaka
    7. Osaka (Day trip out- Nara/Hiroshima etc)
    8. Osaka
    9. Osaka
    10. Hakone
    11. Hakone
    12.Tokyo (Return Car)
    13. Tokyo
    14. Tokyo
    15. Flight out

    Would appreciate your inputs. Thanks!

    • Barry Choi on September 10, 2019 at 8:15 AM


      I’ve never driven in Japan so I can’t really comment on that. Considering you’ll be in a group of 6, renting a car would likely make sense since it would reduce your transit costs quite a bit.

  26. Grace on September 13, 2019 at 6:38 PM

    Hi Barry!
    Does this seem too rushed? It’s close to what you suggest, but I wanted to slow it down just a smidge:

    1. Arrive in Kansai airport (targeting a morning arrival), spend the day in Osaka, head to Kyoto and stay in Kyoto for the evening
    2. Spend the day in Kyoto
    3. Spend the day in Kyoto, overnight in Tokyo
    Days 4-8 Tokyo
    Would it be better to take one night away from Tokyo and stay in Kyoto an extra night instead? What would you recommend?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Barry Choi on September 13, 2019 at 8:16 PM


      I think an extra day in Kyoto is worth it as there’s a lot to see. Even if you get to all the things you want to in the first two days, you could always do a day trip to Nara.

      • Grace Shih on September 14, 2019 at 2:05 PM

        Thanks for your input, this helps! 🙂

      • Ivor on September 29, 2019 at 7:17 PM

        Hi Barry,

        Thanks for all the information. I’d really like your opinion on my itinerary. I’ll be in Japan from 10.10 until 10.16 (six full days) and it’s my first trip to Japan.

        Day 1. Land at Narita around 3 pm and take a Shinkansen to Kyoto, arrive in Kyoto around 10 pm
        Day 2. Spend half a day in either Osaka or Kyoto and then go to Shizuoka for a Rugby World Cup game in the afternoon, come back to Kyoto later that night
        Day 3. Explore Kyoto (maybe go to Nara to see the deer), catch the last train to Tokyo later that night
        Day 4 – 7. Follow your guide and explore Tokyo

        Do you think I should stay an extra day in Kyoto/Osaka or just stick with my original plan? I’m torn because it seems like Tokyo has some great temples and I will have a JR pass so I’ll try to pack in as much as I can but I’m aware that I won’t be spending a lot of time in Kyoto. I don’t think I’ll have time to see the bowing deer in Nara given my schedule.

        Also, I’m planning on staying around Shinjuku Station. Any other area to recommend? Roppongi? Ginza? What is your favorite area to stay?

        Thanks in advance! Any help is greatly appreciated.

        • Barry Choi on September 29, 2019 at 8:12 PM


          Is there a reason you’re going to Kyoto right away if you need to be in Shizuoka the next day? That seems like you would be backtracking no? You might be better off spending your first day in Tokyo. The second day, ship your luggage to your hotel in Kyoto while you enjoy another half day in Tokyo before heading to Shizuoka for your match. Alternatively, you can bring your luggage with you to Shizuoka and put it in a locker there. Once your match finishes, go to Kyoto to spend the night (or get a hotel in Shizuoka) and head to Kyoto early in the morning). Spend 1-3 days there doing whatever before heading back to Tokyo.

          Kyoto has MANY MANY more temples than Tokyo. Nara is an easy side trip if you’ve seen enough of Kyoto and can be done at any moment.

          As for Tokyo, Shinjuku is the best to be near everything. Ginza is nice, but it’s really just high end shopping. Roppongi is also nice, but not on a JR line so I would prioritize Shinjuku or Ginza over those. If you just want a cheap place to stay, consider other locations on the JR Yamanote line.

  27. Ivor on September 30, 2019 at 12:46 AM

    That makes sense. I’m not familiar with luggage shipping, so I thought that since I would probably be tired coming off a plane I’d get some sleep on the train to Kyoto. I thought that staying in Tokyo that night would be a waste due to jet lag. Then again the excitement will be high and jet lag might not be an issue. But your suggestion makes a lot of sense. I’ll have to revisit the plan because there is some backtracking involved. I’m assuming most stations have lockers to rent.

    • Barry Choi on September 30, 2019 at 7:48 AM


      Since you’re coming from Narita and then going to Shizuoka the next day, you might be better off staying near TOkyo station the first night as the Shinkansen will drop you off there and you need to depart from there the following day.

      I haven’t used the luggage shipping service before, but it’s quite common – There are indeed lockers in just about every station, but if you’re going for Rugy, others are likely thinking the same way as you. Lockers are first come, first serve.

      I’m not sure where you’re coming from, but there’s a good chance when you land you’ll be super excited. For example, I live in Toronto which is a 12 hour time difference, but I still stayed up til about 10 pm local time due to excitement. I was up for like 32 hours before I fell asleep. Even from Tokyo station, it doesn’t take long to get to any of the other areas. Also note that Sensoji is open 24 hours (but not the stores leading up to it).

      You basically want to minimize your time on the trains since you only have a short time in Japan.

  28. Ivor on September 30, 2019 at 5:41 PM


    Thank you for your insight. It helped me rework my trip and save 4-5 hours of train travel that I’ll spend sightseeing instead.

    Keep posting this great content.

  29. Lulu on October 3, 2019 at 5:30 PM

    Hi Barry,
    Thank you so much for sharing this article. Very beneficial!
    We are going to Japan in November and below is our itinerary.
    1st Nov – 3rd Nov Tokyo
    3rd – 4th Hakone
    4th – 8th Kyoto
    8th – 9th Tokyo

    I was wondering if staying in Kyoto for 4 nights would be too much or should we add another night in Tokyo. Do you have any suggestion as to where to visit in Japan?

    Thanks and looking forward to hear from you.

    • Barry Choi on October 3, 2019 at 7:23 PM


      I think 4 days is fine since the odds are you’ll likely make a day trip to Osaka or Nara one of those days.

      That said, you could catch a late train your day in Kyoto and sleep in Tokyo. This way you can hit the ground running.

  30. John Maltry on October 9, 2019 at 9:34 PM

    Going over for the Tokyo Marathon on Feb 2/27. Will tour Tokyo on 28, rest day on 29 and Marathon on March 1. Will stay an extra week to rest up and see some of Japan. Don’t have a problem in staying in one place and taking it easy. Is there one or two places that we must visit?

    • Barry Choi on October 10, 2019 at 7:55 AM


      It sort of depends. Tokyo is pretty massive, you could spend a week there and not see everything. That said, I would probably dedicate 3-4 days in Kyoto (with a day trip to Nara or Osaka). If you prefer to just stay in Tokyo, you can take a day trips to Yokohama, Nikko, and Kamakura.

  31. Anje on October 11, 2019 at 8:06 PM


    We’re a family of 4, with a 6 year old and a 2 year old kids.
    We are hoping to visit Disney Tokyo as well.
    What is the best time to visit Tokyo?

    Thank you!


    • Barry Choi on October 11, 2019 at 8:09 PM


      Many people say late march when the cherry blossom season is happening is the best time to visit. April and May are also great months because it’s not too hot yet.

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