- Embrace Tokyo's blend of old and new, from timeless tradition to modern technology
- Make your own fresh sushi with a chef in Tokyo
- Visit Fushimi Inari, the most famous shrine in Japan
- Experience a traditional art show with geishas in Kyoto
- Walk through vibrant Shibuya Crossing, one of the world's busiest intersections, at night
|Arrive in Tokyo & Sightsee
|Explore Futuristic Odaiba
|Take a Sushi Class & Tour Harajuku
|Visit Kyoto's Shrines & Temples
|Depart Japan - End of Trip
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo & Sightsee
Welcome to Japan! Get oriented in Tokyo with a visit to the world’s tallest tower. At 2,080 feet (634 meters), the Tokyo Skytree offers spectacular views as far as Mount Fuji from its 360-degree observation deck. Afterward, take a walk through the grounds of Sensoji, the city's oldest and most historically significant temple. Legends say it was founded when two brothers fished a statue of the goddess Kannon out of the Sumida River. The neighboring Asakusa Shrine also highlights the stark differences between Shinto and Buddhist belief systems. As night falls, make your way to Shibuya, home to the vibrant Shibuya Crossing. The area is packed with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, perfect for a night out on the town.
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Day 2: Explore Futuristic Odaiba
Today you'll explore the artificial island of Odaiba, a hot spot for futuristic fun. The trip to this shopping and entertainment district is enjoyable, whether you arrive by taking a cruise through Tokyo Bay or by crossing the colorful Rainbow Bridge. Start at TeamLab, a permanent interactive art exhibition on the island that gives new meaning to the term "modern art" — be prepared to follow art as it moves along the walls. Car enthusiasts can also visit the nearby Toyota City Showcase. Check out the latest innovations in the technology zone, reminisce about the old days in the vintage car collection rooms, or test-drive a favorite car on their private track (an international driving license is required).
In the evening, experience one of Tokyo's wackiest shows at the Robot Restaurant. Less of a culinary adventure and more of a theatrical experience, this 90-minute show is jam-packed with neon lights and vibrant music and is a great way to experience Japan's techno culture. Afterward, weave in and out of the alleys of the famous Golden Gai district, stopping in some of the area's hundreds of bars.
Day 3: Take a Sushi Class & Tour Harajuku
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 fish dealer in the country. Although that 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, you'll learn how to make your own sushi under the guidance of a trained chef.
In the afternoon, head to the 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 fascinating costume galleries and animal and character cafés. A visit to the world-famous Kawaii Monster Café is 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, stop into Meiji Jingu shrine, one of Tokyo's most spiritually significant religious structures. Take a leisurely stroll through its forested grounds and witness the contrast of these two areas —modern and traditional —located so close together. It's a perfect representation of the diversity of Tokyo. You'll then walk 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 and Lost in Translation, there can be as many as 2,500 people crossing at one time! Shibuya is also packed with some of the best nightclubs in the country. After dinner, dance and socialize in this suburb that never sleeps!
Day 4: Visit Kyoto's Shrines & Temples
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 slower pace and the people tend to be 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. They were all donated by Japanese individuals and businesses 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 home to a wide range of restaurants and bars. If you prefer, you can also request a private dinner or tea ceremony with a geisha. It's a special way to spend the last night of the trip.
Day 5: Depart Japan - End of Trip
On your last day, travel to the tranquil area of Arashiyama. You will start your day with a ride on an open-air train that offers amazing views of 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 Japanese boat. This activity is often the highlight of the trip, and depending on the season, you’ll be floating past 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).
Then you will embark on a tour of some of the area's 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 the Nonomiya shrine and the Iwatayama Monkey Park where macaques roam freely. If you're up for a walk, there's a lovely temple that houses hundreds of statues. 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 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. Safe travels!
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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other Japan itineraries, with walking tours, cultural journeys, and best-of trips to hit the highlights.
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