How To See The Best Of Japan In 1 Week: Ultimate JAPAN Travel Guide
The Ultimate Japan Travel Guide
Japan has been on my travel bucket list for years, so we finally went for my birthday in March. It was truly unforgettable and changed my life. Japan is one of the most high tech, beautiful, clean, safe, and interesting countries I’ve ever experienced. However, when I first started planning, it was a bit overwhelming because there’s so much to do and see. I didn’t know where to start. So, I made a Japan travel guide that only has the best things to do if you’re spending one week in Japan. This Japan travel guide makes planning your trip super easy. I go over the absolute best things to do, what to avoid, how to get around, and how to prepare for your trip.
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How To See The Best Of Japan In 1 Week: Japan Travel Guide
Things to know before your Japan Travels
- Get the JR Narita Express Pass before you leave. You can purchase them online here. This train ticket / pass for 7 days makes getting around Japan stress free and seamlessly.
- Get your International license if you want to do the Mario Kart adventure. You can read about out experience here – and let me tell you, it is totally worth it.
- Get a pocket WiFi or SIM card as soon as you land. You don’t have to do this before your trip, but look into it and decide what you’re going to do because you should definitely have WiFi when traveling for directions, translations, emergencies, etc. My recommendation is to just buy it once you land at the airport. We waited until we got off the train in Shinjuku, but not every mini mart had SIM cards, so next time I know to just get it at the train station. Keep scrolling for the ultimate JAPAN travel guide and more important tips.
Ultimate JAPAN Travel Guide For 1 Week
Day 1-3: Tokyo
Day 1: Check in & rest up
I don’t suggest you plan a ton the first day because you’ll most likely be too tired from your travels and landing in the evening anyways. We flew from LA so the flight wasn’t too bad, but we were definitely tired by the time we checked in. Hellooo jet lag.
I was way too optimistic and thought we’d be up for dinner at the Park Hyatt which we really could have skipped tbh. We went to Kozue, the Japanese restaurant there, located on the 41st floor, for the view, but honestly, I think you should skip this. The food was a huge let down (and I’m not a picky eater), the vibe was weird and eerie, and dinner was like $350 for 2 people. The view was great though.
So day 1, I recommend you just check into your hotel, get some food at a local restaurant, and rest up for your adventures the next day. We stayed in Shinjuku which I really liked because we could walk to so much and it was conveniently located by the train station.
Shinjuku is a super convenient area to stay in. I chose a hotel that was close to the train station so we could easily get around Japan. The trains in Japan are SO clean, on time, and easy. I used to dread trains because of some previous experiences in other countries, but Japan’s train system is really the best I’ve ever experienced. I actually prefer the train there because it’s so efficient and clean. Keep scrolling for the ultimate Japan travel guide.
Day 2: Akihabara, Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku
This might seem like a lot, but you can really do so much in a day in Tokyo.
10-12 AM: Mario Karts in Akihabara
Mari Car in Akihabara was one of the highlights of this trip. You get to see so much of Tokyo this way as they take you all around Ginza, Asakusa, Ryogoku, and even the Tokyo Skytree. I did a full blog post & video which you can read & watch.
12-1 PM: Eat at a convenience store in Akihabara
Okay so… I didn’t believe that the convenience stores in Japan had great food even though literally all the online forums a Japan travel guide I read said they did, but… they really do. The snacks, salads, ramen, and Vitamin C & B12 drinks at the convenience stores were, dare I say… convenient. We became regulars at all the major convenience stores – Family Mart, Lawson, and Seven Eleven. There’s one on your walk from the Mari Car office to the owl cafe, so just pop in there for some snacks and food.
1-2 PM: Owl Cafe Akiba Fukurou in Akihabara
Akiba Fukurou is the best owl cafe is Japan. I did a ton of research on this ahead of time because I don’t support any organization that hurt animals. The owners of Akiba Fukurou are extremely kind, knowledgeable, and really take great care of their owls. I wrote a whole blog post you can read here and made a video you can watch here.
2-3 PM Shibuya Crossing
We took an Uber from Akihabara to Shibuya but you can also take the train. Once you’re in Shibuya, you have to experience Shibuya crossing at least once. You can get a good view of Shibuya Crossing from the Starbucks in the square. After that, start heading towards Harajuku, and make sure to stop, shop & snack along the way. We found a lot of random cool stores on this walk.
Also make sure to check out the famous Tokyu Plaza Omotesando & Omotesando Street for shopping.
3-5 PM Harajuku
Okay so first, you must experience Takeshita Street. What. A. Name. On Takeshita Street, you’ll find so many hidden gems. We went to Totti Candy Factory for the iconic rainbow cotton candy the size of Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball and it was awesome to see how they made it.
This street has so many random stores that are great places to buy your family & friends gifts & also obvi treat yourself. You really get a feel for Japanese culture here. It’s so lively and fun.
After you’re all shopped out, take the train or an Uber back to your hotel and get ready for the night.
9:00-11:30 PM Robot Restaurant
You don’t have to be at the Robot Restaurant until 9:45 for the 10 PM show, but I recommend you head over to the Kabukicho District around 7 PM. It’s fun to just walk around and experience the vibe of the city. Take some photos and videos to look at later. I highly recommend you eat dinner before the Robot Restaurant, because the food is…well, you can read about our experience here.
The Robot Restaurant is really more of a show than a dinner, so find a restaurant in Kabukicho to eat at before. The Robot Restaurant is a must though so make sure not to miss this experience because there is nothing like it.
10 AM-2 PM: teamLab Borderless museum in Koto
Take the train from your hotel to the teamLab Borderless museum in Koto. This was the coolest interactive museum I’ve ever been to. EVER. I could have spent 5 hours here easily. The area around the museum is really cool too. Make sure to check out the mall, car museum, and maybe even the ferris wheel if you love heights. Every Japan travel guide will have this recommendation on it so make sure you go!
2 PM-5 PM: Take train from Tokyo to Kyoto
We stored our luggage in the lockers at the Koto station so that we didn’t have to go back to the hotel to get them later. The lockers at the train stations are so convenient.
After you get your luggage, get on the train and on your way to Kyoto Station. The ride is beautiful and about 2.5 hours on the Hikari train which is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Sit on the right side of the train if you can to get a view of Mt Fuji 🙂
5 PM: Check into hotel – Hotel Granvia & eat at Musashi Sushi – the best conveyor belt sushi spot in Kyoto Station.
Hotel Granvia is the most convenient hotel to stay at in Kyoto because it is literally attached to the train station. The rooms have great views, the buffet breakfast has so many delicious dishes, and the rooms are really good size for Japan. I’ll most likely stay here every time I go to Kyoto.
Besides the hotel, Kyoto Station is so cool and has everything you need. There was a huge mall, food courts, and art installations. It felt so high tech, safe, and fun.
After you’re all checked in, it’s time to eat some authentic sushi! I know, you might be hesitant to eat in a train station, but trust me, this place is a MUST. I mean, just read the reviews online. It’s famous for a reason. Musashi Sushi is delicious, authentic, and has a cool atmosphere. They make the rolls and sashimi right in front of you which is fun.
*Japan Travel Guide Tip*
In Japan, restaurants with long lines outside them mean that the place is really good and has a good reputation. The wait here was about 20-30 minutes, and it was totally worth it.
Day 4-7: Kyoto, Gion, Osaka, Nara
10 AM-2 PM: Nara Deer Park
Wake up, eat at the breakfast buffet at Hotel Granvia, load up on some emergency – aka hangry preventative – snacks at the convenience stores, then head down the escalators to the train station. Take the train to Nara, get off and then take the quick bus to Nara Deer Park. This was my favorite experience in Japan and I cannot wait to go back! It’s the most unique experience on any Japan travel guide.
The deer were so cute!!! Make sure to buy at least 5 batches of cookies from the lady who sells them otherwise the deer won’t really care about you, understandably. I could have spent a full day here, but we kept moving after a few hours because there’s so much to see around this area. You can read more about our experience here and see a funny video here.
Go back to the train station and head over to Osaka Station.
2-6 PM: Osaka
There’s so much shopping and eating to do in Osaka so just roam around, get lost, and soak it all in. We went to the HEP Five Mall which has the huge HEP Five ferris wheel. I’m scared of heights, but this was so fun and totally worth it for the view.
Once we got off, we shopped around the huge mall and ate at a few places, then made our way to the underground malls for more shopping.
Lastly, we went to the Pokemon store at the Osaka train station because I’ve been obsessed since grade school. PIKACHUUU! Had to add this to the Japan travel guide, of course.
There’s a ton more shopping in Osaka, so if you aren’t tired yet, keep shopping. If you’re ready to head back, hop on the train to Kyoto.
6-7 PM: Take train from Osaka to Kyoto
Head back to your hotel and relax. You probably did a lot of walking and need to rest up for the next couple days.
10 AM-12 PM: Fushimi Inari Shrine
Take the train from Kyoto Station to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is the most famous shrine in Kyoto and I get why. It’s bold and beautiful. It’s hard to get good photos here since it’s such a popular tourist spot, but if you hike a little farther back you might get lucky. There’s not much to do here besides see it and take some photos, so you don’t have to spend 2 hours here, I just factored in travel time. You could honestly see and experience the shrine in an hour.
12 PM-4 PM: Gion District
Take the train from Fushimi Inari Shrine to Gion. Gion was unexpectedly my favorite place for food. I had the best sushi and dairy free match ice cream I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly.
The two places you MUST go to in Gion are Izuju Sushi and Gion Kinana for soybean matcha ice cream. The sushi at Izuju is so good they don’t even have soy sauce. Each bite has so much flavor, and they even have options for vegetarians which is rare in Japan. Joe and I still talk about how it was the best sushi of our lives. These restaurants are the best from this Japan travel guide, in my opinion.
Gion Kinana is the only place in Gion that has dairy-free ice cream. I’m obsessed with matcha, but also lactose intolerant, so this place was a serious highlight! I literally said “mmmmm” every single bite because I was craving matcha ice cream and was seeing it everywhere. I couldn’t have been happier. The dessert house is a sit down restaurant, so make sure to sit and enjoy the whole experience.
After you eat at the best two spots in Gion, walk the streets. You’ll most likely see some geishas which is always a cool cultural experience. I bought some random stuff out of some vending machines, like a hat for my sister’s cat. Once you’re done shopping, head back to the train station and back to Kyoto.
4-7 PM: Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market is a cool cultural experience. Located in downtown Kyoto, a block away from Shijo Street, Nishiki is a famous place known for selling Kyoto’s famous foods and goods. This is a great place to shop, eat, and soak in the culture. The culture is so different is each part of Japan, so it was fun to experience each one and I can’t wait to go back and see more towns and cities in Japan. Make sure to buy some desserts and snacks for when you have the late night munchies. Can you tell I’m obsessed with snacks yet?
9 AM-1 PM: Arashiyama
Head over to Arashiyama to see the beautiful Bamboo Forest. This place gets pretty packed so I recommend going in the morning to beat the crowds.
After the Bamboo Forest, head over to Kinkaku-ji aka the Gold Pavillion Temple. This was originally built in 1397!! How crazy cool is that?! There’s so much history in Japan and they do such a beautiful job balancing tradition with modern technology.
1 PM – 6 PM: Higashiyama
Make your way to the Higashiyama district. This is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and the Yasaka Shrine. The narrow streets, wooden buildings, and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city.
Walk around, shop at the small shops, eat authentic food, and experience a traditional tea house ceremony at Toraya Ichijo or En Teahouse.
Walk the Philsophers Path, and check out some temples. There’s the Ginkaku-ji Temple aka the Silver Temple, the Imperial Palace, Kiyomizu Dera Temple, and the Yasaka Shrine. Honestly, I don’t think you need to see all the temples, those are just suggestions, but you should definitely walk Philosophers Path and see at least one temple and Maruyama Park which is next to the Yasaka Shrine.
Some other cool streets to walk down are Matsubara-dori Street, Ishibe Koji Alley, and Shimbashi Street. And another beautiful garden is Hashimoto Kansetu Garden.
MORE RESTAURANTS & CAFES
Some other good places to check out in this area are Ippudo for dinner, Morpho Cafe, Honke Owariya – a famous noodle place that’s over 500 years old, Ippodo Tea House, %Arabica for almond lattes and coffee, and Ramen Muraji.
10 AM: Airport
I’m that person that has an irrational fear of missing flights so I like to get to the airport early just to be safe. You never know if you’re going to get lost or if traffic is going to be horrendous, ya know? The great thing about Japan is that they have top notch airports that are the most convenient for travelers. Not only do they have capsule hotels where you can take naps, but they also have nice lounges with free snacks and luggage storage you can pay to hang out in. The airports in Japan also have a ton of food options, shopping, and fun vending machines.
Ultimate JAPAN Travel Guide continued…
More things to do in Tokyo:
- Chiku Chiku Hedgehog Cafe in Harajuku
- Memory Lane, also known as Piss Alley, also known as Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku for food stalls and beer
- Golden Gai in Shinjuku for nightlife
- VR Zone Arcade in Shinjuku
- Club Sega in Shinjuku
- Maruhan or Espace Pachinko Parlor
- Game Bar A Button in Akihabara
- Taito Hey Arcade in Akihabara
- Ochanomizu area for music shopping & unique instruments
- ECHIYOGA Music at the entrance of Takeshita Street in Harajuku
- 5G Store
- Chuo Dori Street in Ginza for shopping – go on the weekend when there’s no cars on the street here.
- Gundam Cafe in Chiyoda
- Karaoke Kan Shibuya – the karaoke bar from Lost In Translation
- Yoyogi Park in Shibuya
- Meiji Jingu Shrine in Shibuya
- HMV Records store in Shibuya
- Heian Shrine – also from Lost In Translation
- Gonpachi restaurant – Kill Bill theme
- Tokyo Imperial Palace
- Turret Coffee
- Tsukiji Fish Market
- Michelin restaurants – Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima
- Gluten free restaurant – Cafe Littlebird
More things to do in Osaka:
- Shinsaibashi for shopping & arcades
- Dotonbori to see the famous Glico Man
- Namba Parks – shopping & gardens area
- Shinsekai – the old town district that has a small Eiffel Tower
- Tempozan ferris wheel
- Tokyu Hands Store
- Osaka Marriott Harukas for view
- Osaka Castle
- Izakaya Alley
- ROR Comedy
- Osaka Mint for cherry blossoms
- Kuromon Market for food
- Ichiran Dotonbori Main
- Cafe10g for best coffee
- Ramen Makotoya Shinsaibashi
- Shunsaiten Tsuchiya restaurant,
- Michelin Restaurants – Asai, Kitamura, Koyru
Vegan restaurants in Tokyo: Loving Hut, Citron, T’s Tan Tan, Balloon
Vegan restaurant in Kyoto: Itadakizen and Arashiyama-kan
Vegan restaurants in Osaka: Curry Yakumido, Hajime
You can find more vegan restaurants on Happy Cow
JAPAN Travel Guide
Things to skip:
- Dinner at Park Hyatt 41st floor Kozue
- Airport ramen – the sodium is a bad idea before flying – I learned the hard way
One week is a good amount of time to experience Japan for your first time, but you can easily spend a month traveling to all the different cities and towns. Hope this Japan travel guide helps make planning your trip to Japan easy! Would love you guys to share any of your favorite spots or experiences in Japan:) Until next time. xo
The Ultimate JAPAN Travel Guide
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