Our fast-paced 7-day itinerary for Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka & more

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In this post, I wanted to share with you our fast-paced 7-day itinerary for Japan in November when we visited Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Osaka, Nagoya and even Inuyama. I understand that this itinerary might not be for everyone because it’s pretty tiring and requires a lot of travelling between cities, but if you only have a few vacation days and you want to see as much as possible in Japan in 7 days, I hope you will find this post useful.

We went to Japan in November for the Momiji season – to see the famous red coloured trees in beautiful parks, however, the itinerary is not dependant on the season and you can use it during any time of the year. 

So, our fast-paced 7-day itinerary for Japan looked like this:

2.5 days in Tokyo -> 1 day in Hakone -> 1 day in Kyoto -> 1 day in Osaka + Miyajima -> 1 day in Nagoya + Inuyama

In order to move between cities, we used the Japan Rail Pass. We bought it from the Japan Specialist (UK). If you’re in the USA you can get your Japan Rail pass voucher here

Let me tell you a bit more about our one-week itinerary for Japan & why we picked all these places I mentioned above.

1 week in Japan: super fast itinerary

1 week in Japan: super fast itinerary (CAUTION! intense travel required):

Trip days: Friday evening to next Sunday evening (Saturday in Seoul)

Days 1-3 of our 7-day trip to Japan: Tokyo

We flew to Japan from London via Seoul with Asiana Airlines and stayed in Seoul for 1 day to see a bit of South Korea (if you have an option of flying through Seoul and some time to spend there, I would totally suggest you choose this option). I really liked Seoul – it’s a modern and friendly city with a lot of history and absolutely amazing shopping and I wrote a post about the layover in Seoul – you can read it HERE ).

Getting to Tokyo city centre from the airport

Due to the layover in Seoul and time difference, we only arrived in Tokyo on Sunday evening. Getting from Tokyo airport to Park Hotel Tokyo (which we booked for 3 nights) took us about 3 hours. In the Tokyo Narita airport, we exchanged our Japan rail pass voucher for the actual rail pass (the exchange office is located just next to the Airport express tracks) – it took us about 25 min because of the queue, which later got longer and the express took about 1 hour to the Tokyo station (add to that 35 min waiting for the train – it departs every hour). From Tokyo station, we took a JR line to the Shimbashi station and walked to the hotel (< 20 min in total). 

Where we stayed in Tokyo: Park Hotel Tokyo

I loved the location of the Park Hotel Tokyo in the Shiodome Media tower and it had the most beautiful view of the Tokyo Tower (especially great during the sunset or sunrise). It is located just 17 min walking to Ginza and 30 min walking to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. We picked one of the artist rooms and got the most popular one (Mount Fuji) because of our Expedia Gold status (for that you need to book more than 15 nights a year will Expedia, all over £50 or $50). However, you can request the room you like in advance. 

Instagrammable spots in Tokyo
Sunrise in Tokyo

Things we did in Tokyo:

In Tokyo, we tried to cover the most touristic and photogenic spots. I already wrote an article about the most Instagrammable places / photo locations in Tokyo, make sure to take a look at it if you’re taking photography seriously or just want to know the trendiest locations. 
One the first night, we simply had a dinner in Shimbashi and walked around the area for the bit of time. There’s not much to do in Shimbashi besides eating and we were too tired to walk to Ginza. 

On the second & third day in Tokyo, we tried to cover some of the main highlights: the Hie Shrine in Akasaka (resembles the shrines in Kyoto, however, not as crowded), people watching at the Shibuya crossing, Asakusa, attending some arcades in Akihabara, Harajuku including trying rainbow cotton candy, dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant Fushikino (traditional kaiseki meal), visiting Ginza, the famous Piss Alley, trying fluffy Japanese pancakes and more. I will cover the highlights of Tokyo in a separate post not to clutter this post, as it’s already seriously long.

Most Instagrammable places in Tokyo, Japan - Tokyo photo locations
Most Instagrammable places in Tokyo, Japan - Tokyo photo locations

On the third day, we woke up very early to visit the Imperial palace gardens, had breakfast at our hotel and headed to Hakone. 

If you’re interested in some tours to take in Tokyo, I would recommend checking out the Robot show @ Robot restaurant, Akihabara Go-Kart tour, Tokyo tour by a local

Day 4 of our 7 days in Japan: Hakone & Gora

How to get to Gora / Hakone from Tokyo

Around 9:30 am we grabbed a train to the Tokyo station to catch our first Shinkansen train to Odawara. There are two ways you can get to Hakone / Gora: either from the Shinjuku station to Odawara with the Odakyu Line and then to Hakone or Gora via local Tozan trains or buses or from Tokyo station (or any other station on the way) to Odawara (make sure to take the Kodama train that stops at every stop) and then via the same local Tozan train to Gora. There’s also a bus from Odawara directly to Gora, and it costs around 1000 Yen to get there. In Shinjuku and Odawara you can buy a Hakone Free Pass. With the Hakone Free Pass, you can travel using Hakone Tozan buses and use all the ropeways, special trams and even go on a cruise in Lake Ashi. 

Hakone circle mount Fuji

The Hakone free pass costs around 4000 Yen per person at the Odawara station and a bit more expensive in Tokyo (5000 Yen) because it includes a train to Odawara from Tokyo Station. I was sceptical about the pass, but then I realised that completing a full circle in Hakone / Gora wishing 3 hours is feasible and decided to go for it.

We left our bags at the Gora station (there is a manned storage room) and went on the circle.  We completed the full circle before 4 pm (a couple of trains, ropeways, the cruise in lake Ashi and a bus back to Gora Station) and got back to the Gora station, where we had a pick up from our hotel.

Taking the cruise in lake Ashi

A night in a ryokan with a private room onsen

In Gora, we decided to treat ourselves a bit and splurge on a hotel. We spent a night in GORA HANAOUGI MADOKA NO MORI and it was one of the best experiences in our lives. From the moment we stepped on the floor of the ryokan to the moment when we left the hotel, we were in a dream. We had the nicest welcome with a tea and a desert, amazing room with a private onsen, a separate dining room downstairs with a 12-course meal including a whole lobster, sea urchin and wagyu beef, amazing public onsen and a massive Japanese breakfast. Our room was also absolutely beautiful and we were provided with pyjamas set and a set of kimonos to walk around the onsen. The ryokan was proper luxurious and was worth every penny spent on it. We left the ryokan at 8:30 am the next day and headed to Kyoto.

Staying in Gora Hanaougi
Our private onsen in Hakone

Day 5 of our 7-day itinerary for Japan: Kyoto

The entire day 5 we spent in Kyoto. We managed to get to the city around 12 pm, bought a Kyoto 1-day travel pass (not worth it because there are plenty of private transport companies in Kyoto and it’s not valid on any of those) left our bags at our hotel Grand Bach Kyoto. We really liked the hotel because it was modern, included a breakfast and was in a prime location just 10 min walk to Gion. 

We only had about 3.5-4 hours in Kyoto before it would get dark, so we had to rush a bit. Our first stop was Gion, which was impressive and then we went to two shrines: Tofikuji and Yasaka. Later on, we went to the famous Kiyomizu-Dera through the gorgous streets on the Old Kyoto.

The streets of Kyoto
our fast-paced 7-day itinerary for Japan
[vc_message style=”round” message_box_color=”success” icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-check”]If you’re interested, what camera do I use to take photos, I have two: Sony A7 III with Samyang 35 mm prime lens (super flat and tiny) and Sony A6000.[/vc_message]

After that, we hopped on a bus and went to the famous Fushimi Inari shrine and watched the sunset over Kyoto. We only made it half-way up, as the shrine is enormous and part of it is on the top of the mountain.

If you want to go on a tour in Kyoto to learn more about the history of the city, I would recommend you these tours: Full-day UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour of Kyoto, a Night walk through Gion and The Traditional Tea Ceremony.

We returned to Gion and had a tasty Shabu-Shabu meal (basically same as Chinese Hot Pot meal) there before walking around for a while and exploring the nightlife of Kyoto. 

our fast-paced 7-day itinerary for Japan

Day 6: Kyoto, Miyajima island and Osaka

The 6th day of our 7-day itinerary for Japan was one of the most tiring days of the entire trip. We woke up at 6 am and by 7:45, we were in the Arashiyama Bamboo forest. We were hoping to find it empty, but at that time it was actually already pretty crowded.

Our 7-day express itinerary for Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Osaka (Rdy)

Later on, we went to the famous Unesco Heritage shrine nearby – Tenryuji Temple and its garden.

We returned to our hotel, grabbed our suitcases and hopped on a train to Osaka, where we booked Mariott Courtyard at the Shin-Osaka station (perfect for commuting from/to Osaka). Japan has a massive problem with lockers – out of 8000 lockers, there were no available at the Kyoto station and I suspected it would be the same in Osaka. Luckily, Osaka was just 15 min away by a Shinkansen and our hotel was literally at the station, so we didn’t lose much time before hopping on a Shinkansen to Hiroshima and changing to a local train to Miyajima-guchi to visit the famous Miyajima island.

Miyajima – the island full of deer

I was recommended to go to Miyajima Island (or Itsukushima – it’s another name of the island) by a friend who was amused by it. Getting there from Shin-Osaka station took around 2 hours 30 minutes, but it was worth it. Despite the huge crowds (Japan is quite overcrowded), visiting Miyajima was a great experience. There is a lot of street food, excellent restaurants and even a cookie factory. Also, the island is full of adorable deer, who can steal your food (be careful, as feeding them is not allowed – they shouldn’t eat biscuits and fish cakes). The deer are cute though, so you won’t leave the island without taking 500 shots of the deer. 

In Miyajima, you can also visit a couple of beautiful shrines and even go on top of a mountain via a ropeway. You can easily spend 2-3 hours on the island, but make sure to start queueing for a ferry before it gets dark, as it gets very crowded.

7-day itinerary for Japan Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka
7-day itinerary for Japan Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka
Our 7-day fast-paced itinerary for Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Osaka

1 day in Osaka: 7 days in Japan

We returned to Shin-Osaka around , and went to the main station (Osaka) to see the famous shopping district – Osaka really has an insane amount of shops. I fell for it.. besides it was Black Friday, so I didn’t leave the shopping mall without the new lens for my camera. I got the Sony FE 85mm 1.8 lens and I couldn’t have been happier. 

Later on, we went to the Grand Front shopping mall for some kaizen sushi (belt sushi) on the 13th floor – it was very easy to find and were amused by the quality of the fish, tuna, especially.  

Day 7: Osaka Castle, Nagoya and Inuyama

The last day of our weeklong trip to Japan in November was the most disappointing one, as we couldn’t do what we planned to do. We woke up early and went to the Osaka castle – it was stunning in the lights of the sunshine, but we didn’t go in, as we had a lot planned for Nagoya.

7-day itinerary for Japan Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka

When we got to Nagoya around 1 pm, there were no available lockers no matter how many times we looked and the bag storage was also full with a massive queue of people just waiting for someone to take out the baggage.  

The Oldest Castle in Japan 

Due to the huge amount of people on the streets, we just couldn’t walk around with our suitcases, so we went to the shopping mall and had some lunch and headed to Inuyama around 3pm. Initially, we wanted to explore Nagoya castle, visit the Toyota museum and do some souvenir shopping, but instead we visited the Inuyama castle, which is the oldest castle in Japan. We got there just before the closing time (4:30 pm) and were lucky to see Inuyama in the rays of the declining sun. There were not many food options in Inuyama and everything was closed (except for a couple nice souvenir shops), so we tried a local Izakaya (which I wholeheartedly don’t recommend) and went back to the Airbnb. 

The oldest castle in Japan

On the day 8 we flew back to London (there was an Express train from Inuyama directly to Nagoya Chubu airport, so it was very convenient to stay in Inuyama – keep it in mind, if all the hotels in Nagoya are sold out or too expensive). 

Summary of our 7-day fast-paced itinerary fo Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Osaka and Inuyama in one trip

To summarise, I must say that I was pretty happy with our fast-paced itinerary for Japan (except for the last day in Nagoya), however, I would probably spend less time in Tokyo and add an extra day to Kyoto simply because Kyoto is incredibly beautiful and much more impressive than Tokyo.

However, if you want to visit some unique shops or stores, Tokyo would probably be a better option. On day 7, you can also visit either Kobe or Nara (both close to Osaka), so you can see even more of Japan. If you have luggage – don’t rely on the lockers, as you can see from our example, finding one is almost impossible!

Should you have any questions about a 7-day trip to Japan, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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