If you’ve got about a week to spend and this is your first trip to Japan, this Classic Japan itinerary is for you. You’ll experience modern Japan in Tokyo and traditional Japan in Kyoto.
Tokyo Tower © dnlrx
- Duration: 7 to 10 days
- Perfect for: First time visitors to Japan with limited time.
- Cities visited: Tokyo and Kyoto
- Arrival City/Airport: Most people fly into Tokyo’s Narita or Haneda airports to do this itinerary. You can also fly via Kansai International Airport (KIX), which is the nearest international airport to Kyoto/Osaka.
- Best Season: Any time of year.
- Japan Rail Pass: A one-week Japan Rail Pass will save you a bit of money. For more details, see our Japan Rail Pass: Is It Worth It? page.
Hire A Travel Expert To Plan Your Japan Itinerary
If you would like to hire a travel expert to help you plan your own customised Japan itinerary, please contact my company Japan Travel Consulting to discuss your needs.
How much time should you spend in Tokyo and Kyoto?
A crucial question you must ask yourself is how much time to allot to each city. For most people, the ideal breakdown is 2 full days in Tokyo and 4 full days in Kyoto (travel days are not considered full days). If you are more interested in modern Japan, then you could spend 3 days in Tokyo and 3 in Kyoto. For most people, Kyoto is more relaxing and more manageable, so spending more time in Kyoto results in a more enjoyable vacation.
The Full Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo
You’ll probably arrive at Narita International Airport (NRT), but some flights also go into the more convenient Haneda International Airport (HND). See our Tokyo Airport Transport page for details on getting into Tokyo from the airports.
Day 2: Tokyo: Modern Tokyo
On your first full day in Tokyo, you’ll explore the modern west side of the city. See our full Tokyo Two-Day Itinerary for details.
Day 3: Tokyo: Traditional Tokyo
On your second full day in Tokyo, you’ll explore the traditional east side of the city. See our full Tokyo Two-Day Itinerary for details.
To-ji Temple © sorarium
Day 4: Travel to Kyoto, Explore Downtown Kyoto
Take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. The journey takes around 2.5 hours and costs Y13,080 (you can use a Japan Rail Pass to cover this trip). For details, see our How to Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto page. You’ll probably have some time after arriving in Kyoto to explore. We recommend checking out the downtown area on this day.
Day 5: Kyoto: Southern Higashiyama
On your first full day in Kyoto, you’ll explore the temple-packed Southern Higashiyama area. See our full Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary for details.
Day 6: Kyoto: Arashiyama
On your second full day in Kyoto, travel west to the Arashiyama district, which is home to the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. See our full Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary for details.
Day 7: Kyoto: Kurama and Northern Higashiyama
On your last full day in Kyoto, consider a trip to Kurama and then explore the lovely Northern Higashiyama area. See our full Kyoto Three-Day Itinerary for details. Another option on this day would be a day or half-day trip to Nara. For information on Nara, see our full Nara guide.
Day 8: Travel from Kyoto back to Tokyo
Take the shinkansen back to Tokyo. For details, see our How to Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto page. You’ll probably have some time in the afternoon to do some last-minute shopping or sightseeing. Note, if your flight out of Tokyo leaves after 3pm, you might be able to spend this night in Kyoto (see the note below).
Day 9: Leave Japan
Return to Narita or Haneda airport and fly home. See our Tokyo Airport Transport page for transport details.
Important Note on Leaving Kyoto and Flying Out of Tokyo the Same Day
If your departure from Tokyo is after 3pm, you do not have to spend your last night in Tokyo; you can leave from Kyoto and still make your flight. As a rule, to travel from Kyoto to Narita takes around 4 hours, with transfers. The best way is to take a Hikari or Nozomi shinkansen to Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and transfer to the Narita Express there (if you change at Tokyo Station, you have to walk VERY far to reach the Narita Express platforms).
If you you’re flying out of Haneda Airport, allow about 3.5 hours travel time from Kyoto to Haneda. The best way is a Hikari or Nozomi shinkansen to Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and then the Keikyu Line to Haneda.
- Japan Itineraries Overview
- 1 Week Japan Itinerary: Tokyo and Kyoto
- 10 Day Japan Itinerary: Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa
- 10 Day Japan Itinerary: Tokyo, Kyoto and Takayama
- 2 Week Japan Itinerary: The Grand Tour
- 7 to 10 Day Japan Itinerary: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Hiroshima
- Japan With Children Itinerary
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world