If you have a 7-day Japan Rail Pass, you can avail yourself of unlimited rides on the JR train lines around Japan and reserve seats for free in a span of 7 days. The following is a suggested itinerary to make good use of your 7-day JR pass:
Day 1: Narita Airport to Tokyo
Upon arriving at Narita Airport, you can exchange your Japan Rail Pass voucher at the JR East Travel Service offices found at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of the airport. Ask for the Pass to be activated on that day so that you can use it to board the JR Narita Express to Tokyo. The trip takes about 1 hour.
Day 2: Tokyo
Start your Tokyo sightseeing with a visit to Tsukiji Market early in the morning. To go there using your JR Pass, take the JR Yamanote line to Shinbashi Station and walk 20 minutes to the market.
Next stop is the Imperial Palace, which can be accessed via the JR Yamanote and the JR Keihin-Tohoku Lines. Disembark at Tokyo Station and take a 10-minute walk to the palace grounds.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the electronic and otaku district of Akihabara (only two stops away from Tokyo Station) and/or the Ueno area, which has a spacious park with temples (Kaneji and Kiyomizu Kannon), shrines (Toshogu), museums (Tokyo National Museum, National Science Museum and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum) and a zoo (Ueno Zoo).
Day 3: Tokyo to Kyoto
With a JR Pass, you can take a Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station. The one-way journey takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Upon arriving in Kyoto, you can immediately begin your sightseeing, particularly around the train station, where attractions such as the Nijo Castle, Nishiki Market, Kyoto Manga Museum and Kyoto Aquarium can be found.
Day 4: Kyoto
In the morning, hike up to the Fushimi Inari Shrine (a round trip takes between 2 and 3 hours), and then spend the rest of the day in Eastern Kyoto visiting the Kiyomizudera, Ginkakuji, Nanzenji, Kodaiji, Eikando, and other world heritage temples and shrines in the area. If you have more time, allow a few hours for Northern Kyoto, where you can see more cultural sites, such as the Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and Hieizan temples.
Day 5: Kyoto – Day trip to Nara
Because Nara is only about a 1-hour train ride from Kyoto, you can make it a day trip and visit the Todaiji Temple, Heijo Palace, Yakushiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, Nara Park, and several other historical and cultural sites in the city. Your 7-day JR Pass will come in handy as it is valid on the JR Nara Local and Rapid Service trains that directly link the two cities.
Day 6: Kyoto – Day trip to Osaka
From Kyoto, taking the train to Osaka only takes about half an hour via the JR network using your 7-day JR Pass. Depending on your interests, you can spend the entire day in Osaka either at theme parks (Universal Studios and Osaka Aquarium); the city’s historical landmarks (Osaka Castle, Sumiyoshi Taisha, Shitennoji Temple and Tenmangu Shrine); the museums (Museum of History, Science Museum and National Art Museum); or the shopping districts (Shinsaibashi, Namba, Den Den Town and Grand Front Osaka).
Day 7: Kyoto to Narita Airport:
On your final day in Japan, you can use your JR Pass to make your way back to Narita Airport. From Kyoto Station, board a Shinkansen to Shinagawa Station and then transfer to the Narita Express Line. The entire trip takes around 4 hours.