- Dive into Japan's delicious cuisine with a guided foodie tour
- Hike to the incredible summit of Mount Fuji's Yoshida Trail
- Experience the tradition and history of a Kimono Tea Ceremony
- Soak in the glorious hot springs of the Otogawa River
|Arrive in Tokyo, Guided Foodie Tour
|Highlights of Tokyo City Tour
|Transfer to Fujikawaguchiko, Overnight Hike of Mount Fuji Yoshida Trail
|Mount Fuji Yoshida Trail, Fujikawaguchiko Onsen Ryokan
|Train to Takayama, Takayama Matsuri Museum & Sannomachi Street Tour
|Bicycling in Takayama, Train to Kyoto
|Kinkaku-ji & Nijo Castle Tour, Guided Temple Hike
|Samurai Ninja Museum & Kimono Tea Ceremony, Cycling at Arashiyama
|Train to Osaka, Osaka Castle Tour, Sky Building & Shinsaibashi Shopping Fun
|Train & Bus to Hongu's Kawayu Onsen, Hot Springs of the Otogawa River
|Kumano Hongu Taisha & Oyunohara Torii Gate Hike, Bus to Yunomine Onsen
|River Cruise & Kumano Hayatama Taisha Tour, Train to Kii Katsuura
|Guided Hike of Daimon-zaka & Nachi Falls
|Depart Kii Katsuura
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Guided Foodie Tour
Welcome to Japan! Your flight lands in Tokyo, Japan's bustling capital city. Here, you'll find the perfect blend of modern and traditional, with neon-lit skyscrapers and dense traffic alongside historic temples and lush gardens. Your driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your hotel. Once you've had a chance to regroup, it's time for a deep dive into Toyko's culture and cuisine with a guided food tour.
Day 2: Highlights of Tokyo City Tour
This morning, meet your guides for a city tour that takes you to some of Tokyo's top sightseeing spots. Start at Meiji Jingu shrine, a popular Shinto temple dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Despite being just minutes from the city center, the shrine's surrounding forest creates a peaceful, tranquil vibe. If you happen to enter from the Yoyogi entrance, you can see a massive torii gate standing in the road leading to the main shrine. Make offerings and prayers at the main shrine just like the locals, or stop at Meiji Jingu Museum to see the treasures from the shrine's collection.
From here, head to Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, where an extensive array of shops trade all sorts of freshly-cooked delicacies and cooking ingredients. If you're in need of some sustenance, you can also enjoy a fresh sushi breakfast from one of the restaurants here! Visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, the only place open to the public in the palace. The garden features seasonal flowers, green lawns, fountains, and teahouses. You can also catch views of the impressive double-arched Nijubashi Bridge.
Continue to Senso-ji, which dates back to the seventh century and is considered one of Tokyo's most significant Buddhist temples. Visit the temple's main hall, and if you like, you can pray to the Kannon enshrined there just like the locals do or pick up an omikuji (fortunes written on strips of paper). The tour ends with a walk along the lively Nakamise-dori, a street adjacent to the temple that's lined with shops and food stands. You can purchase souvenirs for family and friends back home or grab a sweet treat to take back to your hotel.
Day 3: Transfer to Fujikawaguchiko, Overnight Hike of Mount Fuji Yoshida Trail
Today's journey takes you to Fujikawaguchiko, a resort town that sits in the northern foothills of Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san as the locals call it, is the country's highest peak, stretching into the sky at more than 12,000 feet (3,776 m). It's a common pilgrimage site, people come from around the world to hike it, and it's considered one of Japan's three sacred mountains. Your driver will collect you from your Tokyo hotel after check out, and you'll make the 1.5-hour scenic drive. Upon arrival in Fujikawaguchiko, you'll meet with your guides for an overnight adventure on this iconic landmark.
You'll be hiking Yoshida Trail, the choice for many first-time climbers. This trail is around 8.9 miles (14 km) in length, with an elevation gain of 4,880 feet (1,400 m) between the fifth station and the summit. Depending on your physical condition, it could take five to seven hours to finish the whole trail. After a briefing from your guides and getting outfitted with your trekking poles, you'll start from Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. As you ascend, take in the incredible views of mountains, lakes, and high clouds.
There will be ample stops and breaks where you can refill your water and eat, and the mountain huts along the way offer restrooms. After hiking for around four hours, you'll arrive at a mountain hut located between the 7th and 8th Stations. Enjoy a simple dinner and recharge your energy with a night of sound sleep. Visitors should keep in mind that the huts on Mount Fuji are very simple, with bunk bunks and minimal amenities. Only a few offer meals, so make sure you have extra snacks in your backpack!
Day 4: Mount Fuji Yoshida Trail, Fujikawaguchiko Onsen Ryokan
Today starts very early (around 3 am in the morning) as you continue your trek of the Yoshida Trail and to Fuji's summit. The hike takes about three hours, with the reward of an incredible sunrise over the mountains. Walk along the rim of the gigantic Summit Crater, which spans more than 1,600 feet (500 m), then begin your descent back down the mountain.
A private driver will be waiting to transport you to Fujikawaguchiko, where you'll check into your onsen ryokan (accommodations with natural hot springs) and spend the rest of the day resting your aching muscles in the healing thermal waters of the hot springs. Have dinner at your lodgings tonight, or visit a local restaurant for some traditional Japanese cuisine.
Day 5: Train to Takayama, Takayama Matsuri Museum & Sannomachi Street Tour
You're off to the mountainous city of Takayama, located in Japan's Gifu region and known for its Edo-period homes and rural beauty. After departing your hotel, you'll head to the train station and hop on board. The ride takes about four hours, including transfers, and once you've disembarked and gotten checked into your hotel, meet your guides to begin your exploration of this picturesque town.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Start at Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan Museum, where you'll find exhibits of floats featured in the Takayama Matsuri festival, one of Japan's most visually stunning events. Some of the floats are more than 22 feet (7 m) high and are exquisitely decorated with carvings, lanterns, and marionettes, showcasing the brilliant craftsmanship of Japan's artists. Then, walk down Sannomachi Street, located in the Old Town district. See the historic homes, take in the relaxing atmosphere, and stop in at one of the sake breweries that line the narrow street.
Day 6: Bicycling in Takayama, Train to Kyoto
Enjoy an in-depth exploration of Takayama this morning with a cycling tour. Meet your guides in the morning, and after an equipment and safety briefing, start your cruise along the city streets. Stop at Asaichi Market (Morning Market) for snacks and local crafts, and take a minute to observe local residents as they go about their daily lives. You may want to purchase a few souvenirs here or grab a quick bite to eat.
Continue to Kokubun-ji, a Shingon-sect Buddhist temple that was built in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Its hondo (main hall) is the oldest structure in the city, and the temple grounds also house the only three-story pagoda in the region, as well as a ginko tree, said to be more than 1,250 years old.
After your temple tour, your cycling crew will take you back to your hotel, where, after checkout, you'll make your way to the train station and depart for Kyoto, a cultural powerhouse known for its historical traditions, temples, gardens, and palaces. Check in at your Kyoto hotel and rest up in anticipation of exploring the city tomorrow!
Day 7: Kinkaku-ji & Nijo Castle Tour, Guided Temple Hike
Start the day with a guided tour of Kyoto's top UNESCO World Heritage sites. Your guide will collect you from your hotel, and you'll begin at Kinkaku-ji temple, a Zen Buddhist temple with a large golden pavilion. Walk the peaceful grounds, and be sure to visit the temple's top floors, which are completely covered in gold leaf. Then, head to Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the residence of Edo-era shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Take in the grand design and beautiful decor, and roam the lovely garden with its elegant water features and springtime cherry blossoms.
Afterward, you'll have the option of hiking at the famed Fushimi-Inari Taisha. Featured in the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha," this shrine has more than 10,000 picturesque red torii gates, all donated by individuals and businesses as a sign of appreciation to the god Inari for the blessings received. This relatively easy hike takes you through forested hills and quiet residential areas to Tofuku-ji temple, a large Zen temple surrounded by impressive foliage.
Follow the torii-lined route up the mountain, and if you choose, climb a few more steps for mountaintop views. You can also take the trail that leads deep into the forest on well-maintained stone steps and forest trails. Stop at different shrines along the way and be fascinated by the drastic contrast between moss-covered animal statues, age-old stone tablets, and bright-colored torii gates. Walk through neighborhoods and arrive at Tofuku-ji. Built in 1425, the 72-foot (22 m) tall gate is the oldest Zen gate in the country, and many of the buildings in the complex can be traced back to the Muromachi period.
Day 8: Kimono Tea Ceremony & Samurai Ninja Museum, Cycling in Arashiyama
If you want to learn more about the culture and traditions of the region today, head to the Gion district, where you can participate in a traditional kimono tea ceremony. Change into a kimono, learn about the Zen aspects of the ceremony, and try some traditional Japanese sweets during this quintessential Japanese experience. After the ceremony, make the five-minute walk to the Samurai & Ninja Museum. Try on full samurai armor for your souvenir pictures, and get a glimpse of what it was like to be one of the most prestigious ruling classes of old Japan.
This afternoon, visit Arashiyama, a scenic district located in the western outskirts of Kyoto. Your guide will meet you at your hotel, and you'll make the short drive, and upon arrival, you'll strap on your helmet and take a guided bicycle tour through the idyllic beauty of rural Kyoto. Cruise into Sagano Bamboo Grove, a natural bamboo forest that encompasses more than 3,800 acres (1,537 ha) and has paths that take you along the serene greenery of the towering stalks.
Visit the temple gardens of Tenryu-ji, a World Heritage Site considered one of Kyoto's best Zen temples, and keep your eyes peeled for curious Japanese macaques (snow monkeys). Afterward, head back to Kyoto and explore more of the city on your own.
Day 9: Train to Osaka, Osaka Castle Tour, Sky Building & Shinsaibashi Shopping Fun
The next leg of your tour takes you to the city of Osaka. Check out of your hotel this morning and make your way to the train station, where you'll hop on board for the quick 30-minute trip. Osaka is Japan's third-largest city and a major commercial center known for its sleek architecture, street food, and endless shopping opportunities. Once you've arrived and gotten settled at your hotel, meet with a local guide for a tour of Osaka's top sights.
Begin at Osaka Castle Park, which was once the largest of its kind and has withstood both war and lightning strikes throughout history. Inside, you'll find a wealth of information on Japan's history, including dioramas that depict various battles, uniforms, and helmets and a large observation deck that offers excellent city views. Then, it's off to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, dedicated to the history of the city's urban growth and housing. See re-creations of the city's buildings and streets during different time periods, including a replica of an Edo period townscape.
Visit the rooftop Kuchu Teien Observatory of Umeda Sky Building for an unobstructed view of the cityscape, then finish the afternoon with a walk through the Shinsaibashi shopping district, a consumer mecca that stretches to Mido-Suji Avenue and is considered one of the most famous shopping areas in the city. With a history spanning 380 years, it has been an established commercial hub since the Edo period. Wander through shops that cater to all ages and tastes, with everything from traditional kimonos to Western clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and tons of food stalls and restaurants.
Day 10: Train & Bus to Hongu's Kawayu Onsen, Hot Springs of the Otogawa River
You're off to Kawayu Onsen today, a small settlement and UNESCO World Heritage site located in the district of Hongu. After breakfast, check out of your hotel and take the train to Tanabe, where you'll transfer to a bus for the two-hour drive. Kawayu Onsen is unusual in that the Otogawa River, which runs through the town, is actually a hot spring! Once you've settled in at your hotel here, you can take a walk along the riverbank and see this geological thermal phenomenon in action, watching the water bubbling to the surface along its winding path.
Day 11: Kumano Hongu Taisha & Oyunohara Torii Gate Hike, Bus to Yunomine Onsen
Start today with a visit to Kumano Hongu Taisha, the head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano shrines across Japan. A quick bus ride takes you to Hosshinmon-oji, the outermost entrance, where you'll meet with your guides and begin a three-hour hike along the Nakahechi route, which takes you through villages, fields, and tea plantations.
Arrive at the shrine and marvel at the wooden facade and cypress bark roofs that blend in perfectly with the surrounding forest. You'll have time to roam around the complex while you learn more about the religious traditions of this region, then make your way to the nearby Kumano Hongu Heritage Center for detailed information and exhibits about the area, and visit the largest torii gate in the world, which stands in the fields of Oyunohara.
Later today, take another quick bus ride to Yunomine Onsen, a quaint little collection of inns tucked into a small valley and one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. Experience Tsuboyu, the only UNESCO World Heritage-listed hot spring in the world, soaking in the mineral-rich pools. Pilgrims once used these hot springs to purify themselves as they journeyed to holy sites.
Day 12: River Cruise & Kumano Hayatama Taisha Tour, Train to Kii Katsuura
Retrace the paths of history as you take a cruise along the Kumano Kodo water pilgrimage route today. A 40-minute bus ride takes you to the Boat Tour Center, where you'll board a traditional, wooden flat-bottom boat and head out on the Kumano River. Take in the sweeping view of Kumano's towering mountains and turquoise waters from the boat and enjoy the refreshing breeze.
After the boat cruise, visit Kumano Hayatama Taisha, part of the Kumano Sanzan shrines, along with Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. Explore the incredible Shinto architecture, and step into the shrine's Treasure Hall to admire more than a dozen national treasures. End with a climb of more than 530 stone steps to Kamikura-jinja. One of the oldest sacred places in the whole Kumano region, the shrine is said to be where the Kumano deities first descended to earth.
Later, depart for Kii-Katsuura and the fishing port of Katsuura Onsen, just a quick train ride away. Known for its sweeping Pacific coastlines, hot springs, and world-class seafood, this charming district offers peaceful ocean views and a relaxed atmosphere. After hotel check-in, take a leisurely walk along the quiet streets and admire the endless expanse of the ocean, or enjoy a fresh seafood dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 13: Guided Hike of Daimon-zaka & Nachi Falls
The penultimate day of your adventurous trip takes you to the historic Kumano Nachi Taisha and Seiganto-ji temple, starting with a bus ride to Daimon-zaka Slope. Walk the ancient stone paths that wind through towering trees, then arrive at Kumano Nachi Taisha, with incredible views of Japan's tallest single-tiered waterfall, Nachi Falls.
Continue to the nearby Seiganto-ji temple, founded in the early fifth century and considered a sacred site and pilgrimage route, and climb to the top of the three-story pagoda for some truly astonishing views of the forest and waterfall. After savoring this final scenic hike, head back to Kii Katsuura, where you can spend the evening at your leisure.
Day 14: Depart Kii Katsuura
Your epic two-week journey through Japan ends today. After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel and head to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!
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