This 16-day adventure is planned with nature lovers in mind, who also want a touch of Japan's urban highlights. You'll traverse the well-worn paths of the mountain monks, breathe in the history of temples which have endured for centuries, take a boat ride down Takachiho Gorge and test your endurance as you hike Mount Misen, off the coast of Hiroshima. This tour offers a nice balance of remote destinations rarely seen by tourists, combined with museum visits and culinary experiences in Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima.


  • Learn how to make traditional Japanese sweets
  • Stay in a Buddhist temple on Mount Koya
  • Visit the smallest island village in Tokyo
  • Explore the deer-filled island of Miyajima
  • Ride in a boat down the Takachiho Gorge

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Japan! Tokyo
Day 2 Time Travel to Edo-Era Japan Tokyo
Day 3 From Sweet-Making to a Sake Brewery Tokyo
Day 4 An Unforgettable Experience in Digital Art Tokyo
Days 5-6 Tokyo's Hidden Islands Izu Islands
Day 7 Night Out in Osaka Osaka
Day 8 Osaka From all Angles Osaka
Day 9 Explore the Kansai Region Osaka
Days 10-11 Enter Into the World of the Monks on Mount Koya Koyasan
Day 12 Discover the Reborn City of Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 13 A Day on Miyajima Island Hiroshima
Day 14 Magical Town of the Gods Takachiho
Day 15 Taking in Takachiho's Beauty Kumamoto
Day 16 Saying Farewell in the Shadow of Mount Fuji  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Japan!

A steaming bowl of ramen noodles
A steaming bowl of ramen noodles

Our first day starts with orientation and an introduction to the world’s biggest city. Expect to hit the ground running—literally—with a trip to Chiba as you prepare to take on Japan’s largest obstacle course. We then hop on a train to visit one of Yokohama’s more eccentric oddities—the Cup Noodle Museum—where you create your own custom ramen with all of the trimmings you desire. We'll have time to peruse the noodle bazaar, which boasts noodle dishes from all over the world. And for those who are feeling especially brave, why not try the ramen-flavored ice-cream?

Day 2: Time Travel to Edo-Era Japan

The intricate carvings of Toshogu
The intricate carvings of Toshogu

Today you make your way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Toshogu Shrine. This is—in your opinion—the most ornate and beautiful shrine in all of Japan. This historically significant structure also serves as a mausoleum that deifies the man who unified Japan, making it an extremely sacred place for the Shinto religion. Toshogu is set against a stunning backdrop of forested mountains, which is an attraction in and of itself.

Then, slip back into time and experience life as it was in 17th century Japan with a visit to Edo Wonderland. This cultural theme-park/open-air museum is a must-stop place for some light-hearted enjoyment! Bring out the fun in you and dress up in traditional Edo attire. Choose from a variety of activities like hariko-doll painting, makeup artistry, samurai sword fighting, and archery to name but a few. We also highly recommend the fantastic ninja and magic shows, mazes, and ninja trickhouse.

Day 3: From Sweet-Making to a Sake Brewery

Barrels of sake
Barrels of sake

Start your day with a wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) workshop. Witness and emulate your teacher's meticulous attention to detail as you create your own sweets. We give you fair warning though—you may find them too pretty to eat!

Then hop on a train to a sake brewery just outside of the city, where you will enjoy a guided tour of the brewery grounds. Sake is more than a beverage in Japan—it carries a vast amount of meaning and spiritual significance. Here you will learn all about the intricate process behind the creation of this rice wine, as well as tantalize your taste buds with samples from the brewery's store. 

On your return to Tokyo, you can look forward to a free evening to explore the city.

Day 4: An Unforgettable Experience in Digital Art

Sunset in Tokyo Bay

One of Tokyo's most unique and special attributes is its ability to combine technology with innovation to provide the most amazing experience. One example is an interactive and sensory art exhibition, requiring visitors to expend a bit of energy with activities, such as wading through moving art displays projected onto water, crawling through rooms lined with massive cushions, and using apps to control LED light-art displays. It truly gives new meaning to the term 'modern art' and is an experience you're likely to remember for a long time!

Then spend some time in the Tokyo Bay area. All of Japan’s major corporations have their concept technology housed around here and it's an area brimming with innovation and futuristic experiences. One of these is the Toyota City Showcase. Car enthusiasts won't want to miss this. Check out the latest innovations in the technology zone, reminisce about the old days as you wander through the vintage car collection rooms in the history garage, or test-drive your favorite car on their private track (an international driving license is necessary).

For those not partial to automobiles, this is the perfect opportunity to get in some shopping or check out the nearby museums before you bid farewell to Tokyo.

In the evening, you'll swap the city for island life and board the overnight ferry to your first island destination.

Days 5-6: Tokyo's Hidden Islands

The volcanic island of Aogashima
The volcanic island of Aogashima

Did you know that Tokyo has islands? It does. We start your day by visiting one of the islands that also happens to be the smallest village in Japan. With a population of just over 100 people, the entire island is also a small, lush dormant volcano out in the Pacific Ocean. You'll arrive by ferry. Here you'll have some of the best stargazing in Japan. Allow the ocean waves to soothe you, as you let time slow down and experience the island lifestyle, culture, and a unique Shochu (Japanse distilled drink) that can only be tasted there.

The island experience continues the next day as you move onto Hachijojima. For those wanting to travel in style, why not go by helicopter? The views on this short trip from Aogashima to Hachijojima are fantastic. Upon arrival, you get to enjoy the hot springs of Miharashi onsen (Japanese hot spring) while taking in the pristine ocean views. The onsen is also equipped with a routenburo (an open air bath). Our day ends with a BBQ on Sokodo beach—famous for its beautiful, black sands. During the summer months, Hachijojima is home to bioluminescent mushrooms, and you may catch a glimpse of them.

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Day 7: Night Out in Osaka

Night lights in Osaka
Night lights in Osaka

A large part of the day will be spent traveling as you exchange island vibes for city life on your journey south to Osaka. Upon arrival in the Kansai region's largest city, you’ll check-in to your accommodation, freshen up, and then head for a night out.

Day 8: Osaka From all Angles

Night out in Osaka

Say hello to one of Japan’s most vibrant cities as you visit one of country’s most famous landmarks, Osaka Castle. The castle grounds span 15-acres and provides a panoramic view of Osaka. We begin by getting a good outside view of the castle on a boat trip around the moat that encircles the castle. From there, you’ll journey inward to learn about the pivotal role that Osaka castle played in unifying the nation of Japan.

The rest of the day will be catered to your interest as you explore Osaka with the assistance of your guide. At night, you’ll meet up again to experience the nightlife by starting off with a river cruise through the Tombori area. Next, you’ll hit the streets of the city’s nightclub district, before calling it a night.

Day 9: Explore the Kansai Region

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto
The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

Today the Kansai region is your oyster! After a few days of intense travel, this will be the perfect opportunity to relax and explore places that interest you. Not only is Osaka packed with tons of great activities and places, but is in a prime position for easy day-trips to multiple nearby areas.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Breakfast and shopping in Nishiki Market. This expansive area of shops and food stalls in nearby Kyoto is a great place to stock up on souvenirs and immerse yourself in a seemingly never-ending selection of delicious foods and aromas. 
  • Day trip to Kobe: This port city has various attractions, including the world's longest suspension bridge, an earthquake museum, several sake breweries, and dozens of restaurants where you can enjoy the famous A5 quality Wagyu beef. 
  • Walk the gardens of the Kyoto Imperial Palace: Before Tokyo took its place, Kyoto was where the imperial family resided. Although you cannot enter the buildings, the outside grounds give you perspective on how large the palace is. There are also tours taking place on most days. 
  • Head to Himeji: A city famous for its castle, which is said to be the most spectacular in all of Japan. The gardens are brilliantly pink and white with cherry blossoms in spring. 
  • Visit the Wazuka Tea Plantation: A small town producing almost half of the country's matcha tea and offers visitors the opportunity to pick leaves and experience a tea ceremony. 
  • Enjoy a whiskey tasting at the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery (this requires advance booking) or get your fill of sake as you spend time in a tasting cellar in Osaka. 

Days 10-11: Enter Into the World of the Monks on Mount Koya

Slow down in Okunoin Cemetary

The next two days will be an immersive experience into Japan's Buddhist culture, as you stay in a Buddhist temple lodging. Here you will eat their vegetarian cuisine, shojin ryouri. You'll attend their meditation classes, and take some time to slow down and relax. We'll witness the morning offering at Okunoin Cemetary before wandering through the Torodo Hall of Lamps. Then, you'll spend some time in nature as you sample the variety of stunning hiking trails during your stay. Some trails include waterfalls and ancient temples that are still being used today.

Day 12: Discover the Reborn City of Hiroshima

A monument at Hiroshima Peace Park
A monument at Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima is such a special place in Japan for many reasons. Aside from offering an important and sobering learning opportunity for each generation, it also serves as a place of inspiration. Visitors are able to witness how the city has rebuilt itself after the events of WW2. Today, while visiting Hiroshima, you will learn all about this at the Atomic Dome Museum and Hiroshima Peace Park. The park gardens are an attraction in and of themselves with several sculptures and works of art scattered about the grounds. 

Hiroshima has other attractions, besides those related to the war. Hiroshima Castle used to be an important seat of power in this part of Japan. Like much of the city, it was destroyed during war. However, visitors can see a rebuilt version based on the architecture of the original design. You'll have the option of paying a visit to this castle, which is an interesting comparison to those of Osaka and Himeji

In the evening, you'll head out for a meal of okonomiyaki, a cross between an omelette and savory pancake. This is Hiroshima's most popular dish and is a must-try while in the area!

Day 13: A Day on Miyajima Island

Red torii in the waters of Miyajima
Red torii in the waters of Miyajima

Today, you'll visit the island of Miyajima. This picturesque location is a rarity in Japan, as its never experienced a major earthquake or fire like so much of the mainland. Therefore, many of the temples and shrines are in their original form and centuries old!

From there, travel there via a short ferry ride. Be sure to stand on the deck to get a good view of the giant red torii gate rising out of the sea. During your time on the island, you will visit Daisho Temple, Itsukushima Shrine, and Mount Misen via a scenic hike. The view from the top of the mountain—across the inland sea dotted with islands, is superb! The island is populated with dozens of friendly deer, adding to its charm.

Day 14: Magical Town of the Gods

Farms in Takachiho

From the ancient island of Miyajima to the mythical town of Takachiho, you head to the place that is the setting for multiple Shinto legends and holds a lot of spiritual significance in the Shinto belief system. It is home to the spot where the goddess Amaterasu is said to have hid inside a cave, and caused the world to fall into darkness. Takachiho is also considered to be the place where Niniginomikoto, grandson of Amaterasu and great-grandfather of Japan’s first emperor, descended to govern the world.

There is plenty to learn and experience at this mystical spot and you begin your time here with a show at Takachiho’s Kagura Hall, where performers play the role of the gods to tell us their story.

*Due to tsunami damages, the train to Takachiho has been indefinitely suspended. Reaching this remote location will have to be made by bus, which will take time.

Day 15: Taking in Takachiho's Beauty

Row boats in Takachiho Gorge

Today, you'll explore the town by bike. We start the day at the Amanoiwato Shrine, where Amaterasu is said to have hid herself, and her light from the world. When Amaterasu sent her grandson to Earth to govern, one of his missions was to plant rice. We’ll make your way through the picturesque Tochimata terraced rice fields before moving on to the Amaterasu Railway Station where you’ll board an open-air, roofless train to get a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.

After this, you’ll revisit the Takachiho Shrine. The daytime light will provide us with a chance to see the shrine in all its glory as well as the monolithic wedded cedars in front of the shrine.

From there you’ll make your way down to the famous Takachiho Gorge and—if you are interested— you can rent row boats to explore an area of the river. Before saying goodbye to the town of legends, you take a short hike from the Mihashi bridge to the visit both Kihachi’s strength rock and the Sandan-Bashi (series of arch bridges) of the gorge.

Spend your last night in Kumamoto city, eating, and drinking to celebrate your time together and the memories you’ve created.

Day 16: Saying Farewell in the Shadow of Mount Fuji

The iconic Mt Fuji
The iconic Mt Fuji

Finish up the tour with a visit to Hatsushima, which boasts pristine views of Mount Fuji. This island is the fourth and last island on your trip back to Tokyo, and is near Atami. Positioned in the shadow of the iconic Mount Fuji, Hatsushima houses many different activities, including a canopy walk and zip-line facility that you'll have the option to enjoy.

Spend your day here before saying your goodbyes back in Tokyo.


Map of Road Less Traveled Japan: Tokyo, Izu Islands, Osaka, Koyasan, Hiroshima, Takachiho, Kumamoto  - 16 Days
Map of Road Less Traveled Japan: Tokyo, Izu Islands, Osaka, Koyasan, Hiroshima, Takachiho, Kumamoto - 16 Days