Home >> Japan Travel >> Itinerary for 7-Days Trip to Japan with Japan Rail Pass (May 2004) – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Miyajima

I made my very first trip to Japan in May 2004.  We were there for 7 days, using the Japan Rail Pass throughout.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Narita Airport – Tokyo via Narita Express (N’EX)

Day 2: Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka -> Click here for details

Kiyomizudera:

Heian Shrine:

Nishijin Textile Centre:

Dotonburi:

Day 3: Osaka – Miyajima – Tokyo -> Click here for details

Osaka Castle:

Miyajima:

Day 4: Tokyo – Yokohama – Tokyo -> Click here for details

Yokohama Chinatown:

Minato Mirai 21:

Shinjuku:

Day 5: Tokyo – Nikko – Tokyo -> Click here for details

Nikko:

Asakusa Kannon Temple:

Ameyoko:

Ikebukuro:

Day 6: Tokyo Disneyland

Day 7: Tokyo – Narita Airport  -> Click here for details

Imperial Palace:

Trip Reflection:

For this trip, we stayed at Tokyo except for the 2nd night where we stayed at Osaka. We stayed in the same hotel before and after that so that we could leave our big luggage at the hotel, bringing only a small bag when we travelled West. Being our first trip to Japan, it was much easier to navigate the many (confusing) train stations and shinkansen rides without having a big luggage case to lug around.

However on hindsight, I felt that we did not make good use of our Japan Rail Pass.  The last 2 days spent in Tokyo was a waste of the pass.  We should have spent more time at Kyoto and Osaka and returned to Tokyo on the 6th day and used the pass to visit Nikko on the 7th day.  Then for the last 2 days in Tokyo, we could have just bought single-trip train tickets for Disneyland and used the cheap Keisei Line to get back to Narita Airport.

Visit this post for my second trip using the Japan Rail Pass, where we managed to cover a much larger area with the pass.

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the author

Supposed to be a stay-home mom, but hates staying home. Definition of parenting is bringing the boys out for 'experiential learning' in Singapore, Japan and wherever else in the world her husband can afford to pay for.

18Comments

  1. Kimlong Lim says:

    Hi, I am planning a free n easy trip to Japan on early June, for about 8 days with my wife. We plan to from KL ->Tokyo (3days)> Kyoto(2 days)->Osaka(2 days)->KL. Please suggest a leisure itinerary. Within Japan, we plan to use rail as much as possible. As for hotel, a comfortable, value for money one will do.
    Thank you very much for the help

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 1: Tokyo. Visit Asakusa & Tokyo Sky Tree.
      Day 2: Tokyo – Kyoto. Explore Higashiyama and Gion districts in Kyoto.
      Day 3: Kyoto. Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nara.
      Day 4: Visit Osaka castle, Umeda Sky Building and Dotonburi.
      Day 5: Take a side trip to Himeji Castle or Kobe.
      Day 6: Kyoto – Hakone. Experience a ryokan stay in Hakone.
      Day 7: Hakone – Tokyo. Visit Shibuya / Harajuku / Shinjuku district.

      For Day 2 to 5, you can base yourself in Kyoto. Just use any hotel booking website to find a hotel within your budget. I would go for somewhere near Kyoto station if I am using the rail. Something like Kyoto Century Hotel looks good. But if I want something even cheaper, I would go for the chains like Toyoko Inn, Super Hotel, Dormy Inn, APA, Smile Hotel etc.

  2. Wei Nee says:

    Hi! Need some much needed help on our itinerary. We’re a group of 7(5 adults, of which 2 are elderly & my MIL still recovering from knee surgery from last year, and 2 teens) going for our 1st trip to Japan come end of May for 10D9N (30May-8June).
    Background info: Flying in/back from Narita Airport. Already booked 1st 3 nights & final night at Tokyo + 1night Osaka + 4 nights Kyoto ( OR 2N Kyoto +1N Osaka + 2N Kyoto, dunno which combo better!).

    Hotel choices:
    a) Tokyo (all in Shinjuku) – Keio Plaza / JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Shinjuku / Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku
    b) Osaka – Cross Hotel Osaka / Namba Oriental Hotel / Hotel Hankyu International / Hotel Vista Grande Osaka
    c) Kyoto – Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto / MS Gran Kyoto / New Miyako Hotel / Aranvert Hotel Kyoto / Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Sanjo
    Transport: Plan to purchase 7 day JR pass to be activated on Day 3 + airport limo bus plus tokyo subway day pass combo & Kyoto day passes. No idea yet for transport in Osaka =)

    Roughly, our plan would be:
    Sample Itinerary #1 (Tokyo -Osaka – Kyoto -Tokyo)
    Day 1: Narita-Tokyo
    Day 2: Tokyo – Tsukiji – Asakusa area
    Day 3: Tokyo
    Day 4: Tokyo – Kyoto (leave big luggage at hotel near Kyoto Station), depart for Osaka
    Day 5: Osaka
    Day 6: Kyoto
    Day 7: Kyoto
    Day 8: Kyoto
    Day 9: Kyoto – Tokyo
    Day 10: Tokyo – Narita

    Sample Itinerary #2 (Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo)
    Day 1: Tokyo – Shinjuku
    Day 2: Tokyo
    Day 3: Tokyo
    Day 4: Tokyo-Kyoto
    Day 5: Kyoto
    Day 6: Osaka
    Day 7: Osaka – Kyoto
    Day 8: Kyoto
    Day 9: Kyoto – Tokyo
    Day 10: Tokyo – Narita

    Must see places are :
    Tokyo -> Tsukiji / Asakusa / Ninja Restaurant / Shinjuku / Harajuku / Shibuya / Imperial Palace / Pokemon Centre
    Osaka -> Umeda Sky Building / Hep 5 /Shinsaibashi / Dotonburi / Kaiyukan or Osaka Castle (if time permits)
    Kyoto -> Ryoanji temple / Kinkakuji / Ginkakuji /Kodaiji /Arashiyama / Kiyomizudera / Higashiyama / Nishiki Market / Fushimi Inari Shrine / Nijo castle / Gion / Kyoto Gosho / day trip to Uji / day trip to Nara
    Have no idea on which day to go where as not sure which sequence of places to go will be most time+cost effective to utilise our JR pass.
    Please help!
    p/s: some advise on which hotels out of the ones I shortlisted will be much appreciated!! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If I were you, I would stay in Kyoto or Osaka and not both. With a large group like yours, I would minimise the change of hotel. Osaka and Kyoto and near enough to be done as day trips from either cities. From the places you want to visit, it seems you are more interested in Kyoto than Osaka, so I would recommend you spend 5 nights at Kyoto and do Osaka as day trips. I don’t see the point in changing hotel just for 1 night in Osaka. The shinkansen gets you from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka in 15 min – it probably takes more time for your entire group to pack and unpack your luggage to change hotel.

      I will probably do something like this:

      Day 1: Tokyo (dinner at Ninja Restaurant)
      Day 2: Tokyo (Tsukiji, Imperial Palace, Asakusa)
      Day 3: Tokyo (Shinjuku, Harajuku, Pokemon Centre)
      Day 4 (Activate JR Pass): Tokyo-Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kyoto station area)
      Day 5: Kyoto (Gion and Higashiyama distrcit)
      Day 6: Kyoto (day trip to Uji / Nara)
      Day 7: Osaka day trip from Kyoto (Kaiyukan / Umeda Sky Building / Hep 5 /Shinsaibashi / Dotonburi)
      Day 8: Kyoto (day trip to Arashiyama)
      Day 9: Kyoto – Tokyo
      Day 10 (last day of JR Pass): Tokyo – Narita using Narita Express

      If you want to maximise your JR Pass, I recommend visiting Himeji Castle which is about 50 min shinkansen ride from Kyoto. You can fit it into Day 9. If your hotel is near Kyoto station, you can leave your luggage at the hotel after checking out. From Kyoto station, take the shinkansen to Himeji and back, pick up your luggage and continue back to Tokyo. If you want to save time, you can bring your luggage with you and leave it in a locker at Himeji station. Then from Himeji, you can take the shinkansen all the way back to Tokyo without stopping at Kyoto again.

  3. JFmummy says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, I’m planning a free n easy trip with hubby and 2 kids (5 and 8 years old) in Dec 2016 for about 13 days. We hope to cover both Kansai region (Osaka/Kyoto/Nara/Kobe etc) and Tokyo/Hakone. We would fly in to Osaka and fly out of Tokyo and prefer to spend more time in Kansai region. Based on your experience, could you advise on places to visit and whether we need to get JR pass? Saw your self-drive trip but i think it might be too challenging for us….Greatly appreciate your input and thanks in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For one-way travel, I don’t think the Japan Rail Pass is necessary.

      If it’s your first trip, just hit the tourist hot-spots. You can start with japan-guide.com and pick out the spots with 2-3 red dots.

      Also, since you are going in Dec, keep a look out for illuminations along the way:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/11/10/japan-largest-most-popular-illumination-events/

      When visiting Kobe, try to go between 2 to 11 Dec to catch the Kobe Luminarie:
      http://www.kobe-luminarie.jp/

      I also recommend you stop at Nagoya to catch the illumination at Nabana No Sato since it’s along your way. We were there last December and it was amazing!
      http://www.nagashima-onsen.co.jp/nabana/illumination/index.html/

      Roughly, I would do something like this:

      Day 1: Osaka (Aquarium + Abeno Tennoji Illuminage)
      Day 2: Osaka (USJ)
      Day 3: Osaka (Himeji Castle + Namba)
      Day 4: Osaka (day trip to Kobe)
      Day 5: Osaka – Kyoto (Higashiyama District, Gion, Kiyomizudera)
      Day 6: Kyoto (day trip to Nara)
      Day 7: Kyoto – Nagoya (Visit Nabana no Sato Illumination)
      Day 8: Nagoya – Hakone
      Day 9: Hakone
      Day 10: Hakone – Tokyo
      Day 11: Tokyo Disney
      Day 12: Tokyo Disney
      Day 13: Flight back

      • JFmummy says:

        Dear Bumblebeemum, it’s not our 1st trip (we went on package tour long time ago) but it will be the 1st time for the kids. We will be flying on 13 Dec. Will we miss the illumination?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          You will miss Kobe Luminarie. But most of the other large illuminations will be on while you are there. I highly recommend the one near Nagoya (Nabana no Sato). If you only visit one, make it that one. Which means you should plan a stop at Nagoya along the way.

          Not sure where you have visited before on your package tour. With kids, I would try not to visit too many shrines in Kyoto and find more kids-friendly stuff like USJ and Osaka Aquarium. Nagoya has some interesting stuff for kids, like SCMaglev & Railway Park and Nagoya Anpanman Museum.

          • JFMUMMY says:

            Dear bumblebeemum, time is running out and I have yet to pen down my itinerary….work has been too hectic!

            We will have 12 days 11 nights, flying into Osaka at about 6.30 a.m on 15 Dec. Therefore, I think we could go straight to Kyoto from Kansai Airport.

            My plan is something like:

            3N Kyoto
            4N Osaka (2N at Universal Port, assuming we will spend 2 days in USJ)
            1N Hakone
            3N Tokyo

            1. Do you think this is ok? or 3N in Kyoto is too long? Is it better to stay near Kyoto Station or Gion area?

            2. Do you think I can squeeze in Nagoya without staying overnight?

            3. Do you have any recommendation for lodging in Kyoto, Osaka and Hakone?

            • JFMUMMY says:

              And we are flying out from Tokyo. What kind of pass would we need for the trip? As there are too many shrines in Japan, can you highlight a few must-visit ones in Kyoto/Osaka?

              Thank you for your help!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              I think 1 night in Hakone is kind of rushed.

              1. You should start with Osaka and move East to Kyoto, Hakone and Tokyo in that order. Anyway Osaka and Kyoto are close enough to each other to just stay at one of the cities and visit the other from there. So you can just stay at Osaka for one week rather than to change hotel. That way, you also have more flexibility in how you want to spend your days.

              2. It is possible. If you use the shinkansen from Kyoto to Odawara (Hakone), you can drop off at Nagoya in between. You can leave your luggage in the locker in the train station to go and explore, then come back and pick up the luggage and continue the train ride to Odawara. However, if your aim of going to Nagoya is to visit the illumination, then I think you should spend the night in Nagoya because it will be very late by the time you reach Hakone. Maybe you can shift one of the nights in Kyoto / Osaka to Nagoya.

              3. The last time I stayed in a traditional house in Kyoto:
              http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/01/28/kyoto-traditional-japanese-house-vacation-rental/

              In Osaka, I stayed in Shin-Osaka Station Hotel many many years back when I was using the shinkansen a lot because it was located near Shin-Osaka station.
              http://www.st-hotel.jp/honkan/english/

              As for Hakone, if you are using public transport, you can try Kappa Tengoku which is next to Hakone-Yumoto station (though you need to climb up a flight of stairs to get there).
              http://www.kappa1059.co.jp/

  4. ErinG says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    My boyfriend and I are planning our Japan trip in the 2nd week of August. Our rough itinerary so far is:

    Day 1-3: Tokyo
    Day 4: Hakone
    Day 5-6: Reach Kyoto around noon
    Day 7: Depart for Nara in the morning, reach Osaka by evening
    Day 8: Osaka (USJ)
    Day 9: Day trips to Kobe and Himeji
    Day 10: Osaka + fly home

    We were thinking of getting the West Kansai Pass from day 7-9 (4 days inclusive). Would this be the most economical way? Or should we just buy single way tickets?

    Thank you for your help!

  5. Susan Galvin says:

    Nice photography! Wish to travel Japan. Thank you.

  6. What a great itinerary! With such lovely photos to boot, thanks for sharing!

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