This short-yet-sweet five-day trip to Japan is packed with experiences to make the most out of your time. Covering two of the major cities–Tokyo and Kyoto–this trip has all you need to experience two completely different, yet equally beautiful, sides of Japan. In Tokyo, you’ll experience progressive technology in Odaiba and dine at a Robot Restaurant. In Kyoto, you’ll learn about Japanese traditions, including geisha culture and the arts. Enjoy sushi making, and tour the most famous shrines and temples along the way.

Highlights

  • Explore the lively and colorful culture of the Harajuku area
  • Make your own fresh sushi with a trained chef in Tokyo
  • Visit the Fushimi Inari, the most famous temple in Japan
  • Experience a traditional art show with geishas and more in Kyoto

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo - Technology Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Tokyo - Sushi Class and Tour Harajuku Tokyo
Day 4 Kyoto - Temple and Culture Tour  Kyoto
Day 5 Visit Arashiyama and Depart from Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo

Welcome to Japan!
Welcome to Japan!

Welcome to Tokyo! When you arrive at the airport, you can request to have a driver pick-up take you to your hotel. Then, you will meet your travel representative, who will get you acquainted with your trip, and organize your train passes and any tickets needed for the duration of your stay.

Depending on your time of arrival, your trip representative will arrange for you to explore Tokyo, the largest city in the world!

First, you can visit the Tokyo Skytree to get the big picture of Tokyo from more than 2,000 feet high. Take advantage of the 360° observation deck. On a clear day, you may even get a glimpse of the famed Mt. Fuji at a distance. 

Next, take a stroll through the grounds of the city’s oldest and most historically significant temple, Sensoji. Said to have incepted when two brothers fished a statue of the goddess Kannon out of the Sumida River, this is a great way to learn about the Buddhist culture in Japan. The neighboring Asakusa shrine also highlights the differences between Shinto and Buddhist belief systems.

For dinner, head to Shibuya, where you will have your pick of restaurants and can try some of the city’s best cuisine. End the night at the Golden Gai, where you can bar-hop between the hundreds of Izakaya pubs and taste different kinds of Japanese spirits, including shochu, sake, and umeshu.

Day 2: Tokyo - Technology tour

A room full of lanterns
A room full of lanterns

Today, you will visit the manmade island of Odaiba, which has so many amazing and futuristic things to see and do. Even traveling to the island, itself, is fun, since you can take a stunning cruise through Tokyo Bay to get there.

To start, TeamLab has a new permanent interactive art exhibition on the island that provides an absolutely mind-blowing visit. It gives new meaning to the term 'modern art.' Be prepared to color, follow art along the walls, gasp in awe, and take loads of photos here.

All of Japan’s major corporations have their concept technology housed around the island, and the Toyota City Showcase is the perfect place to visit–if you're a car enthusiast. Check out all of the latest innovations in the technology zone. Then, reminisce about the old days as you wander the vintage car collection rooms at the history garage. You can also test-drive your favorite car on their private track (an international driving license needed, however).  Even the little ones can get behind the wheel of go-karts and mini-hybrids, which they’ll learn to assemble before driving.

In the evening, get ready to experience one of Tokyo's wackiest shows at the Robot Restaurant. Less of a culinary experience and more of a theatrical one, this 90-minute show is jam-packed with neon lights, vibrant music, and gives you a glimpse into the crazy technological culture in Japan.

Day 3: Tokyo - Sushi class and tour Harajuku

Make your own sushi
Make your own sushi

Today, you’ll get acquainted with Japan’s most popular delicacy: sushi! Tokyo has been home to the largest fish market in the world for the better part of a century. Tsukiji fish market was constructed just after the devastating 1923 earthquake, and quickly became the biggest wholesaler dealer of fish in the country. Although this portion of the market has now been moved to Toyosu, the Outer Tsukiji Market still remains as lively as ever, and is a must for anyone who loves sushi! Today, you’ll experience a guided tour of both Tsukiji and Toyosu fish markets, and, after selecting your own fresh cuts of fish, make your own sushi under the guidance of a trained chef. 

In the afternoon, you’ll head to the very trendy fashion mecca of Harajuku. As you walk through the famous Takeshita Street, be sure to stop by the rainbow candyfloss and crepe stands, as well as the oh-so-fascinating costume galleries and animal and character cafés. A visit to the world-famous Kawaii Monster Café is also a great way to get a glimpse of Japan's Kawaii culture. The brightly colored food, live performances from waitresses dressed like cartoon characters, and vibrant decor make it a unique and memorable experience.

For a brief respite from the lights and action, Meiji Jingu shrine, one of Tokyo's most spiritually significant religious structures in the area, is a fitting interlude. Take a leisurely stroll through its forested grounds and personally witness the contrast of these two areas–both modern and traditional–coexisting so close together. It is a perfect representation of the sheer diversity of Tokyo. 

You'll then walk across to Shibuya to enjoy another one of the country's most famous sights–Shibuya Crossing. Featured in several films, like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift or Lost in Translation, there can be as many as 2,500 people crossing at one time! The area is also packed with dozens of great restaurants where you can eat your fill of both international and Japanese cuisine.

For those not ready to end the night, Shibuya is packed with some of the best nightclubs in the country. Dance and socialize in this suburb that never sleeps!

Day 4: Kyoto - Temple and culture tour 

A 'maiko' walking the streets of Kyoto
A 'maiko' walking the streets of Kyoto

Today, you will travel to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Overflowing with history and a lot more traditional than its Tokyo counterpart, things here move at a much slower pace, and the people tend to be a lot more laid-back. While here, a visit to what is arguably the most famous shrine in Japan–Fushimi Inari–is an absolute must. Featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, this shrine has more than 10,000 picturesque red torii gates donated by people and various businesses from all over Japan as a sign of appreciation to the god Inari for blessings received. 

Your visit to Inari perfectly sets the tone for your next stop: a traditional Japanese arts show. As well as offering a chance to see a performance by a maiko (geisha in training), this hourlong theatrical experience also introduces you to various skilled artists, including ikebana (flower arrangers), puppeteers, koto (Japanese harp players), and court musicians.

In the evening, talk a walk through the bustling streets of Pontocho. Right next to the Kamogawa River, this area is packed with restaurants and bars offering mouthwatering fare and beverages. If you prefer, you can also request a private dinner/tea ceremony with a geisha, for a more catered, authentic experience.

Day 5: Visit Arashiyama and depart from Osaka

Arashiyama bamboo grove
Arashiyama bamboo grove

Good Morning! On your last day, you will travel to the tranquil area of Arashiyama. You will start your day with a ride on a stunning, open-air train that provides amazing views of both the river and the surrounding forest. (Note: This train does not operate in the winter months.) You’ll then travel down the Hozugawa River on a traditional, three-manned Japanese boat. This activity is often the highlight of many trips and depending on the season, you’ll be floating past banks lined with white and pink cherry blossoms in March, the deep green leaves of a warm summer in July, or the brilliant and fiery colors of autumn trees in November.

Upon arrival to this beautiful district, you will embark on a tour of some of its more well-known sites. Tenryuji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and houses one of the most picturesque and ancient landscape gardens in the entire country. Behind it, you will find its world-famous bamboo grove, which transports visitors into another realm–or at least appears to. Also in the area, you will find Nonomiya shrine, and the Iwatayama monkey park, where macaques roam freely. 

If you're up for a walk, there is a special temple which houses hundreds of statues–all carved by different individuals. If you look closely, you'll find some of these Buddhist statues sporting glasses and carrying cellphones, a reflection of how modern life has also affected spiritual practices!

As an optional add-on, there also just so happens to be a place in Arashiyama where you can not only witness a swordsmith forging Japanese steel, but actually forge your own kogatana, which is essentially like a mini samurai sword! This activity can easily replace the open-air train for those who definitely want this hands-on experience.

As you board your flight in the evening at Osaka International Airport, reflect on all of the fantastic memories you've made in Japan over the course of the past few days.

Map

Map of Explore Japan: Tokyo & Kyoto - 5 Days
Map of Explore Japan: Tokyo & Kyoto - 5 Days