You can incorporate a cultural highlights tour by seeing geisha and tucking into Japanese cuisine or experience the best of Tokyo and Kyoto in eight days, with additional day trips to Hakone, Nara, and Arashiyama. Alternatively, chase cherry blossoms and spot the iconic Mount Fuji as you travel from Osaka to the capital. Discover the world-famous Senso-ji Shrine and the Yasaka Pagoda in Higashiyama. Or don your winter gear and set off on the Naksendo Trail, sleeping in a different ancient village each night.

Itinerary #1: Japan's Highlights: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara & Osaka

Ideal for first-time visitors looking to participate in as many Japanese experiences as possible, you'll cover numerous top sights in central Japan on this fast-paced highlights tour from Tokyo to Osaka. Wander through Shinjuku Golden Gai, observe colorful geisha in Kyoto, visit shrines and temples in Nara, and taste many signature Japanese dishes in each city.

Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Nishiki-Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo Customized Private Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Transfer to Kyoto, Visit Nishiki Market Kyoto
Day 4 Discover Fushimi Inari Shrine, Explore Kyoto Kyoto
Day 5 Transfer to Nara, Explore its Temples & Gardens Nara
Day 6 Transfer to Osaka, Evening Foodie Tour & Tombori River Cruise Osaka
Day 7 Explore Osaka: Castles, Museums & Nightlife Osaka
Day 8 Depart Osaka  

You'll head straight out and explore the city upon arrival in Tokyo. See the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, then head to Shinjuku Golden Gai to wander its labyrinthine alleyways at night before partaking in one of the most famous Japanese pastimes, karaoke, in Kabukicho. On a customizable tour, choose to visit Tsukiji Market in Toyosu or the Harajuku and Roppongi Hills neighborhoods, then climb to the top of Shibuya Scramble Square to see the world's most trafficked pedestrian crossing below. Catch the bullet train to Kyoto and graze local cuisine at Nishiki Market.

Explore the districts of Higashiyama, Gion, and Kinkaku-ji, then head to the sacred sights of Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kiyomizudera Temple ("Pure Water Temple"). Journey to Nara for a six-hour tour of Nara Park, Todai-ji Temple, and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Venture west to Osaka for your final two nights in Japan. Experience the delights of Japanese cuisine on a three-hour street food tour and conclude the day with a river cruise. Spend a full day exploring Osaka at your own pace on Day 7, checking out Osaka Castle, the Osaka Aquarium, and Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of the oldest shrines in the country, before departing. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Best of Tokyo, Hakone & Kyoto

An excellent introduction to Japan, this eight-day best-of tour covers Tokyo, Hakone, and Kyoto. You'll experience Japan's bustling capital city of Tokyo, soak in relaxing onsen pools while enjoying views of Mount Fuji in Hakone, and spend three nights in Kyoto, with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and a day trip to charming Nara on the agenda.

Cruise Lake Ashi and snap pics of Mount Fuji
Cruise Lake Ashi and snap pics of Mount Fuji
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the City Tokyo
Day 2 Explore Asakusa & Akihabara Tokyo
Day 3 Tour the West of Tokyo & Odaiba  Tokyo
Day 4 Train to Hakone, Enjoy an Onsen, Ryokan & Mt. Fuji Experience Hakone
Day 5 Train to Kyoto, Visit Nishiki Market & Nijo Castle, Optional Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 6 Day Trip to Nara Kyoto
Day 7 Day Trip to Arashiyama Kyoto
Day 8 Depart Kyoto via Osaka  

Begin in Japan's thriving capital city, Tokyo, for a whirlwind three days. Visit one of the city's largest parks, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, discover the Tokyo Edo Open Air Architectural Museum, and be amazed at the skyscrapers, lights, and crowds in the Shibuya district. Experience the Senso-ji Temple, go shopping in Akihabara, and admire the Meiji Shrine in the Harajuku neighborhood. Take the train to Hakone for one night and relish in a soak in an onsen (hot spring) before riding the Hakone Ropeway aerial lift and taking in impressive views of the world-famous Mount Fuji.

Board the bullet train to Kyoto, where you'll be based for the remainder of your trip. Indulge in Japanese culinary delights at Nishiki Market, then partake in a traditional tea ceremony while sampling seasonal sweet treats. Head to Nijo Castle and explore Kiyomizudera Temple as you enjoy lovely views of the city. On a day trip to Nara, see the Great Buddha Hall at Todai-ji Temple and while away the afternoon at Nara Park, home to more than 1,300 deer. Before leaving Japan, spend your last full day exploring Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Monkey Park, and Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

An itinerary that's sure to be on any photographer's bucket list, this eight-day cherry blossom tour in Japan showcases the best spots in the country to see the world-famous trees. This itinerary also includes a food tour in Osaka, a visit to the many temples in Kyoto, and two days of exploring the sights in Tokyo.

Cherry blossoms and view of Mount Fuji
Cherry blossoms and views of Mount Fuji
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Osaka, Explore Osaka
Day 2 Sightseeing in Osaka, Nighttime Foodie Tour Osaka
Day 3 Train to Kyoto, Explore Kyoto
Day 4 See Magnificent Views in Arashiyama Kyoto
Day 5 Train to Hakone, Ryokan Experience in Hakone Hakone
Day 6 Train to Tokyo, See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 7 Spot Cherry Blossoms Around Mount Fuji Tokyo
Day 8 Depart Tokyo  

Commence your time in Osaka with a stroll along the Tombori Riverwalk or, better yet, a Tombori River Cruise. Go shopping in Shinsaibashi-suji, and if jet lag permits, conclude your first day in Soemoncho, renowned for being the busiest nightlife district in Osaka. See the famous sights of Osaka Castle, Shin-Sekai, and the Umeda Sky Building, then embark on a nighttime food tour, sampling local delicacies such as takoyaki (a ball-shaped snack) and okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake). Then hop aboard a train to Kyoto for two nights.

Explore the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and navigate your way around Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji Temple, and Fushimi Inari Shrine. Stay in a ryokan (traditional inn) in Hakone and indulge in some goro-goro (relaxation) in one of the area's famed onsens. Jump on another train to Tokyo for three days of leaf-peeping in Nakameguro, Chiyoda, Chidorigafuchi Green Way, and Rikugien Garden. Appreciate views of Mount Fuji from Shiogama Shrine and Chureito Pagoda, and pay a visit to Yamataka Jindai Sakura to see the oldest cherry tree in Japan. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Traditional Japan: Tokyo, Kanazawa & Kyoto

This traditional Japan itinerary is perfect for travelers seeking a more authentic and local experience. You'll explore the Asakusa District to see the historic Senso-ji Shrine in Tokyo, visit the charming west coast city of Kanazawa and wander its classic Kenroku-en garden, admire the villages in Shirakawa-go, and see geisha and maiko in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo Modernity & Tradition Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Transfer to Kanazawa, Explore the City Kanazawa
Day 4 Day Trip to Shirakawa-go Kanazawa
Day 5 Transfer to Kyoto, Historic Neighborhoods & Temples Kyoto
Day 6 Discover Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
Day 7 Day Trip to the Bamboo Forests of Arashiyama Kyoto
Day 8 Transfer to Osaka, Depart  

Your first two days in Japan are spent on a fast-paced tour of some of Tokyo's most notable highlights. Meander through the alleyways of Shinjuku Golden Gai, see the city's oldest temple, Senso-ji, wander down the historic Kappabashi Street, and conclude with a visit to Tokyo SkyTree for panoramic views of the city at night. Jump on a train to Kanazawa to discover the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and stroll through the Kenroku-en traditional gardens. On a day trip to Shirakawa-go, you'll admire the Hida Mountains and the Myozen-ji Temple Museum.

Transfer to Kyoto to see the city's most prestigious shrines and temples in the Higashiyama district, with the Sanjusangen-do Temple, the Yasaka Pagoda, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine being some of the most celebrated sites. Located in northwestern Kyoto, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove cannot be missed as you trail through the towering bamboo plants to see the Tenryu-ji Temple. In Saga-Arashiyama, cross the Togetsukyo Bridge, then traverse to the nearby monkey park to get a brilliant view of Kyoto. Return to the city for one final evening before leaving Japan. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Winter on the Nakasendo Trail: Kyoto, Kiso Valley & Tokyo

Intrepid travelers seeking a unique way of exploring Japan will love this eight-day winter itinerary on the Naksendo Trail. Wrap up warm and head to snowy Kiso Valley, where you'll spend a week making your way along the trail, overnighting in Magome, Tsumago, Narai, and Matsumoto, and concluding with a night in the vibrant city of Tokyo.

A dusting of snow along the Nakasendo Trail leading into Magome.
A dusting of snow along the Nakasendo Trail leads into Magome.
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kyoto Kyoto
Day 2 Trek from Nakatsugawa to Magome Magome
Day 3 Magome to Tsumago Tsumago
Day 4 Tsumago, Nagiso & Kiso-Fukushima Kiso-Fukushima
Day 5 Kiso-Fukushima to Narai Narai
Day 6 Narai, Kiso-Hirasawa & Asama Onsen Matsumoto
Day 7 Train to Tokyo Tokyo
Day 8 Depart Japan  

Land in Kyoto, the official starting point of the Nakasendo Trail, and make your way to Nakatsugawa on Day 2 as you begin to traverse the trail. Passing through the village of Ochiai, you'll finish the day's hike in Magome. With breathtaking views of the frozen forests over the Magome Pass, the 5.2 miles (8.3 km) walk on Day 3 will take around three hours until you reach your inn for the night in Tsumago. Visit the Wakihonjin Museum first thing in the morning, then continue to Nagiso, where you'll board a train to Kiso-Fukushima for a relaxing evening in a traditional ryokan.

Embark on a short train journey to Yabuhara, then resume your place on the hiking trail as you hike your way along the Torii Pass to the quaint village of Narai. Day 6 marks the final day on the Nakasendo Trail as you stroll to Kiso-Hirasawa to jump on another train to Matsumoto to see the 17th-century castle and the Asama Onsen. Say goodbye to the Kiso Valley before returning to Tokyo for one final night. If you're feeling up to it after a busy week of hiking, spend the afternoon on a walking tour of the Hama-Rikyu Gardens. Learn more

More Great Japan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other Japan itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


A note on diacritical markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of 8 Days in Japan - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 8 Days in Japan - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas