Two most popular spots in 7 days! Sample itinerary Kyoto and Hokkaido 7 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days pass

Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto ©Akira Okada/©JNTO7 to 9 days
Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto ©Akira Okada/©JNTO
Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

I have received some inquiries about trip to Kyoto and Hokkaido in only 7 days. It is packed but it is not impossible. I would like to share the sample itinerary which covers Kyoto and Hokkaido.


This itinerary starts from Tokyo but you can start from Osaka too. The first destination is Kyoto. Osaka is much closer than Tokyo.

And this itinerary does not include airport to/from downtown Tokyo. JR Pass 7 days is required for this itinerary but you have to use other deal for airport (Narita or Haneda) to Tokyo. Please see the links below to find the deals:

Haneda airport access guide and the list of deals

The list of deals for Tokyo to/from Narita airport

Day 1 Tokyo – Kyoto

06:26 Depart from Tokyo station by Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 501.
09:16 Arrive at Kyoto station

After arrival, enjoy exploring in Kyoto. You can use JR pass to take a local train and JR bus in Kyoto.

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

But you have to take city bus to visit most of places in Kyoto. City bus is not covered by JR Pass. You can purchase one day bus pass at 500 yen. You may get the worth by only 3 rides.

How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Kyoto

*Hikari departs at Tokyo station every 30 minutes. Of course you can take later Hikari. Please see the link below to find the timetable. You can take Hikari which is shown by “H”. Nozomi (“N”) is not covered. Kodama (“K”) is covered but it is slow.

Shinkansen timetable (westbound) to Osaka/Kyoto

Start from Kansai airport
*You can start this itinerary from Osaka or Kansai airport. If you arrive in Kansai airport early morning, you can take Haruka to get Kyoto directly. Trip time is 1.5 hours.

Direct access to Shin Osaka, Kyoto from Kansai airport, Kansai Airport Limited Express Haruka

(Overnight in Kyoto)

Day 2 Kyoto

Yasaka shrine in Kyoto Higashiyama area. ©JNTO

Enjoy sightseeing in Kyoto

(Overnight in Kyoto)

Day 3 Kyoto – Tokyo

You have one whole day until you take the train to Tokyo in the evening. You can spend the as you like. I have a few suggestions to spend this one day.

Option 1 More Kyoto

If you fall in love with Kyoto, stick around Kyoto. Kyoto has huge number of places to see.

Option 2 Visiting Osaka

Dotonbori is very popular place to eat and shop near Namba. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Osaka is just 30 minutes away from Kyoto by rapid train. It’s easy day trip from Kyoto. JR Pass covers many local trains in downtown Osaka.

Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Option 3 Visiting Nara

Nara is another old city in Kyoto. Nara was the capital city before Kyoto. There are many old temples and shrines. It is similar but Nara offers a bit different atmosphere.

How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient.

Option 4 Drop by Hakone

Owakudani is one of most popular spots in Hakone.

Hakone is very well known onsen town. It is located on the way to Tokyo from Kyoto. You can drop by Odawara and visit Hakone. Please see the link below to find more information:

How to build the trip plan to Hakone. Various sample itineraries of Hakone

Option 5 Drop by Kanazawa and Shirakawago

You can take a train to Kanazawa from Kyoto and visit world heritage site, Shirakawago. After visiting Shirakawago, take Hokuriku Shinkansen to get Tokyo. I have two day trip sample itineraries either from Tokyo and from Osaka/Kyoto. You can combine these two itineraries and make Kyoto-Kanazawa-Tokyo one day trip plan.

Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto

Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Tokyo

Option 6 Going through Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

You will take very similar route to Kanazawa and Shirakawago. You will access to Toyama via Kanazawa, and then start Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. After that, access to Nagano and take Hokuriku Shinkansen to Tokyo. I have two sample itineraries either from Tokyo and from Osaka/Kyoto. It is same way as Kanazawa and Shirakawago. Just combine two plans and make one day trip plan.

Sample itinerary of day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Nagoya and Osaka / Kyoto

Sample itinerary of day trip to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route from Tokyo

(Overnight in Tokyo)

Day 4 Tokyo – Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto – Hakodate

Night view form Mt.Hakodate ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO

Night view form Hakodate mountain (C) Hokkaido Tourism Organization / JNTO

06:32 Depart from Tokyo by Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen Hayabusa 1
10:57 Arrive at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto
11:10 Depart from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto by Rapid train Hakodate Liner
11:25 Arrive at Hakodate
After arrival at Hakodate, enjoy sightseeing.

(Overnight in Hakodate)

Day 5 Hakodate to Sapporo

Downtown Sapporo © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO

Downtown Sapporo © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO

07:37 Depart from Hakodate for Sapporo by Limited Express Super Hokuto 3
11:27 Arrive at Sapporo
After arrive at Sapporo, enjoy sightseeing in Sapporo
If you are okay with the packed schedule, you may squeeze Otaru on this day. Otaru is only 45 minutes away from Sapporo by rapid train. It is very easy to access. If you plan to visit Otaru, please expect to spend at least 4 hours for return trip from Sapporo and sightseeing in Otaru. If you want to save your time in Sapporo, Otaru do not suit to your plan.

(Overnight in Sapporo)

Day 6 Sapporo to Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu Jigokudani means hell valley (C) Noboribetsu Tourist Association / JNTO

Stay in Sapporo until lunch time and then move to Noboribetsu.

13:32 Depart for Noboribetsu by Limited Express Super Hokuto 14
14:43 Arrive at Noboribetsu
15:05 Leave Noboribetsu by Donan bus
15:19 Arrive at Noboribetsu Onsen

Enjoy sightseeing and onsen bath in Noboribetsu

(Overnight in Noboribetsu)

Day 7 Noboribetsu – Lake Toya – Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto – Tokyo

Lake Toya (C)Toyako Tourist Association

Lake Toya (C)Toyako Tourist Association

09:00 Take Express Bus “Iburi” from Noboribetsu Onsen
Bus fare is 1,700 yen. This is not covered by any rail passes.
10:13 Arrive at Toyako Onsen

13:35 Leave Toyako Onsen by Donan Bus local bus
13:56 Arrive at Toya station
14:07 Depart from Toya by Limited Express Super Hokuto 12
15:49 Arrive at Shin-Hakodate-hokuto and transfer to Hokkaido Shinkansen
16:17 Leave Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto by Hokkaido Shinkansen Hayabusa 34
20:32 Arrive at Tokyo

*You may skip Lake Toya and go back to Tokyo earlier if you like.
**If you start this trip from Osaka, you have to leave Lake Toya about two hours earlier. Otherwise you cannot catch the train to Osaka.


  1. Horison says:

    is there any tourist spot in Akita? Would you mind to write about it? Honestly, I would like to visit Akita Prefecture for its nature.
    And how many days would you recommend? I’m planning to visit in March next year. Thankyou

  2. Penny says:

    Dear Takeshi;
    We will be arriving Kansai airport on 22/12 afternoon( 1:30pm).
    We will be staying in an apartment near Namba station till 25/12.Leaving early morning on 26/12.
    Our itinerary as below;
    22/12-check in noon & free n easy
    23/12-day trip to Kyoto.
    24/12-Visit Osaka Aquarium
    25/12-Shopping (Rinku outlet)
    26/12-check out .
    I need your opinion on the Kansai Thru Pass.
    Its worth n convenient for my journey?
    Or any other train pass that worth for tourist during this period?


  3. Linda Silvana says:

    Hi (again) Takeshi…

    Need your opinion of my itinerary, please…
    We’ll be in Japan 3 – 16 Januari 2015
    3 – 4 Jan : Kyoto (Nara)
    5 Jan : Hiroshima
    6 -7 Jan : Osaka (Kobe, Himeji, USJ)
    8 Jan : Kanazawa
    9 Jan : Shirakawago – Takayama
    10 Jan : Nagoya
    11- 16 Jan : Tokyo (Gala Yuzawa, Hakone, Disney Resort, Yokohama, Odaiba, etc) as planned before.
    Recently, it cross my mind to see Hakodate/Sapporo too…so, the itinerary in Tokyo should be adjusted. Is it possible to visit those to cities in between 11-15 Jan ?
    For the train, we plan to buy 7 day JR pass for 5 – 11 Jan… If Hakodate/Sapporo include in this itinerary can you suggest the alternative transportation plan?

    Thanks a lot…

    • Hi Linda,

      Yes, you can. But it’s a long way to get Sapporo. You will spend at least 2.5 days for Hakodate and Sapporo. Please find more info at the link below:

      I showed the way to use overnight train to Sapporo. But in these days, this train is super busy because it will be discontinued in March and many local tourists want to take this train. So don’t use this way. Only daytime train is your choice.

      If you add Sapporo and Hakodate, you can use 14 days JR pass.


      Takeshi /

  4. Elaine says:

    Dear Takashi,

    Reading your articles has been enlightening. However, now, I find my mind all tied up in knots. Here are a few ques I wonder if you can clarify about the trains:

    1) How early does the train stations open? Can I reach the station by bus or subway if the train arrives as early as 5am?

    2) If I miss my train, can I stay until the next train comes? How do I find out about the next train from the station?

    3) Are the names of the trains you mentioned generic? “Hokucho” goes to Hakodate, “Hokuto” goes to Sapporo, “Hikari” goes to Tyoko, etc.? So, all I need to do is to look for these words on the signage at the station? I am all confused.

    4) How do I tell which track is the train arriving? Is it indicated in English at all the stations? Can anybody help me at the platform next to the tracks?

    5) If the route requires transfers at certain stations, how much time do I need as buffer so that I won’t be late to hop onto the next train with luggage in toll?

    Takashi sen, I hope these are not too tedious for you to answer.


    • Hi Elaine,

      1) It depends on the station. Most of stations open from 5:00 to midnight. And you cannot stay in the station after midnight. But some stations open late. Can you tell me which station and the detailed plan?

      2) As long as the station open, you can stay. But as I mentioned above, you cannot stay in late night to early morning in most of cases.

      3) There are lots of signage at the ticket gate, platform and beside the door of trains in both Japanese and English. Don’t worry. You cannot miss it. Please watch the movies below. You can find the signage in Tokyo station.

      4) Signage shows you the platform where you need to go. No worries!

      5) It depends on which station and what kinds of train. I can say 20 minutes is okay for any cases. But even 5 minutes is okay is some small stations.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Elaine says:

        Wow, Takashi Sen,

        Awesome! The trains are like the Transformer Ride at Universal Studios.

        I can read Chinese so I am reassured about getting on the right train now. I will confirm with the uniformed staff at the platforms.

        The signage seems to show the next few trains coming into the tracks but what happens when the train I want comes hours later. Is it possible to check at the station? Must I go online to check?

        If the train coming onto the track has no Non-Reserved Seats and I haven’t reserved any, can I still get on and pay any extra above the JR Pass that I hold? So, I should reserve my seats always just to be save?

        Sorry to trouble you.

        • Hi Elaine,

          In case of train delayed, it will be shown on signage too. Actually even 3 minutes delayed is shown. Most of trains run very punctual.
          You can take non reserved seat even if there is no seats available. Sometimes passengers are on non reserved seat car as standee. But if you use JR Pass, you can reserve a seat any time, even 5 minuted before departure time. In case of train delayed, you can change earlier or later train if you want. I recommend you to book your seat always. I usually complete all bookings and getting seat ticket upon arrival.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Elaine says:

        Dear Takeshi Sen,

        Thanks so much. Will remember to reserve my seats on the trains. Fingers crossed!


  5. Florence says:

    Hi there,
    I’m interested in the itinerary that you plan up there. Is all the train connectivity and fare cover by jr passes? I heard that Aomori line to Hokkaido need to pay additional, is it true? I’m planning to go to Hokkaido from Tokyo with jr pass, would you be able to suggest a line that I can skip the additional fare? Thanks!

    • Hi Florence,

      All trains in my itinerary are covered by JR Pass fully. But I used overnight train Sunrise Seto on day 3. Only “Nobi Nobi seat” is covered by JR pass fully. But if you use other classes, extra charge is required. Please see the link below to get more info:

      And also there is no online book available. So you need to book after you arrive in Japan. If you cannot book this train, you have to find an accommodation after you arrive in Japan. If you don’t want to take any risks, avoid to use this train and stay Osaka or Tokyo.

      Train to Hokkaido from Aomori is covered by JR pass fully too.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Kolaxiong says:

    Hi takeshi san ,
    Just like to check with you for my trip from Tokyo-Osaka-kobe-osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Nagoya-Tokyo-Hakodate. I am on 14 days JR green pass ( fyi )
    1) tokyo to Shin Osaka – Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari
    2) Shin-Osaka to Kobe – Shinkansen or rapid service ? as my hotel is in Shin-Osaka
    — ( I might take Tokyo to Kobe for 1/2 day then from kobe back to hotel in Shin Osaka instead but i understand that shin-kobe and Sannomiya is a distance away , what would you recommend , rapid service to Osaka station then to shin-osaka by subway or Sannomiya to shin-kobe then shinkansen to shin-osaka ?)
    3)Shin-Osaka to Nara – using Yamatoji rapid to Nara from Osaka Station
    4)Nara to Kyoto – take nara line to kyoto ( stop at the fushimi inari stn then back to kyoto )
    5) Kyoto to Nagoya – shinkansen ? ( cos going to nabana no sato , think this is the nearest station )
    6)Nagoya to Tokyo – shinkansen ( should I take to tokyo or shinagawa if i sans to transfer to shin-amoric – hakodate )
    7) Tokyo to Shin Amori
    8) Shin Amori to Hakodate – niseko-hakodate-tokyo-haneda.
    * can i take train and stop at lake Onuma area before going kuchan?
    All reverse train back to same area after that.

    thanks you very much

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Kolaxiong,

      1. If you go straight to Kobe and can catch Hikari that takes you Shin-Kobe directly, Shin-Kobe by Hikari is easier and better. If you need to change the train at Shin-Osaka, Special Rapid is more convenient. I think you need to store your luggage somewhere. If you store it at Shin-Osaka, you should change Special Rapid at Shin-Osaka.

      2. Nagoya is the nearest station to get Nabana-no-sato as you think, Shinkansen is the best choice.

      3. Tokyo station is better to get Tohoku Shinkansen. Shinagawa is away from the departure point of Tohoku Shinkansen.

      4. You can stop at Onuma area on the way to Kucchan. But train is limited to stop at Onuma koen. Please check the timetable.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

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