From sprawling Tokyo to peaceful Mount Koya, experience the full spectrum of Japanese culture on this 11-day tour by train, car, foot, and bicycle. Eat your way through Tokyo and Osaka's lively food markets and glimpse Mount Fuji while cycling around Lake Kawaguchiko. Walk through Fushimi Inari's unforgettable 10,000 torii gates and stroll among geisha in Kyoto's Gion District. End your discovery immersed in Buddhist rituals as you spend the night in a temple on Mount Koya.


  • Join locals in their daily shopping at Tsukiji Outer Fish Market in Tokyo
  • Take in Mount Fuji views as you cycle around Lake Kawaguchiko
  • Walk through Fushimi Inari's 10,000 torii gates in Kyoto
  • Hike a 1,200-year-old pilgrimage path and sleep in a temple in Mount Koya

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo City Tour & Senso-ji Temple Tokyo
Day 3 Day Trip to Kamakura & Jochi-ji Temple Hike Tokyo
Day 4 Transfer to Fujikawaguchiko, Cycle at Lake Kawaguchiko Fujikawaguchiko
Day 5 Train to Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji Temple & Gion Kyoto
Day 6 Fushimi Inari Taisha & Hike to Kiyomizu-dera Temples Kyoto
Day 7 Cycle Through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Explore Nishiki Market  Kyoto
Day 8 Train to Osaka, Free Afternoon Osaka
Day 9 Train to Mount Koya, Choishi-Michi Trail & Temple Stay  Mount Koya
Day 10 Mount Koya Morning Meditation, Return to Osaka Osaka
Day 11 Depart Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

View Across the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
In Tokyo, see some of the city's captivating sites, such as Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple
Welcome to Tokyo, Japan's sprawling capital that covers more than 5,194 square miles (13,452 sq km) and is home to over 13 million residents. Meet your driver at the airport for a private transfer to your hotel for an easy transition, then settle into your hotel or get out for your first look at the city.
Satisfy your hunger after a day of traveling by joining an optional food tour to taste some of Tokyo's best-known street food dishes in Yanesen in the northeast part of the city. Follow your local guide to vendors selling onigiri (rice balls), korokee (croquettes), and kakigori (shaved ice). Stop for a drink at an izakaya (pub) and then visit a shrine with a tunnel of torii gates. At the end of tour rest at your hotel as you'll have a full-day touring Tokyo tomorrow.

Day 2: Tokyo City Tour & Senso-ji Temple

Explore the Asakusa District for a look at Tokyo's past
In the morning, meet your guide for an all-day city tour, getting around via the Tokyo metro and on foot for a local's-eye experience. Start at the Meiji Jingu shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Afterward, head to Tsukiji Outer Fish Market to join crowds shopping for produce and fish, sampling sushi, onigiri, or whatever else intrigues you for a light lunch or snack.
From the busy market, take a relaxing walk in the 1.3-square-mile (3.3 sq km) Imperial Palace East Gardens. There, see the moats, walls, gates, and guardhouses of the grounds of the former Edo Castle. From the gardens, your next stop is north in Asakusa District, a central entertainment area dating to the Edo period that is now known for its craft shops and food stalls on the main Nakamise Shopping Street. Follow the street to reach Tokyo's oldest temple, Senso-ji, which is dedicated to the goddess of mercy in Buddhism. After the tour, return to your hotel to rest or continue exploring Tokyo by night. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Kamakura & Jochi-ji Temple Hike

The Great Buddha of Kamakura
In Kamakura, south of Tokyo, the Great Buddha has had its place since the 15th century
Today, take a day trip outside of Tokyo, traveling either by car or train about 28 miles (46 km) south to Kamakura. This coastal town offers a chance to escape the busy city and is known for its ocean views and plentiful hiking trails to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. At the temple of Kotoku-in, get your camera ready for the 37-foot (11.4 m) statue of the Great Buddha, which dates from the 15th century. Stop for lunch and explore the town, and then take the Kamakura Daibutsu Hiking Trail headed north toward the Jochi-ji temple for an easy one-hour hike along stone steps and forest paths.

Halfway through your hike, take a break at Genjiyama Park for a snack and to refill your water. Then, continue your hike to the shrine of Kuzuharaoka, known by locals as a spot for good luck, on your way to the 13th-century Jochi-ji. Explore Kamakura's eastern hills arriving at Hokoku-ji, where you'll find a bamboo forest behind the temple's walls and a small tea house. Stop for a cup of matcha tea among the peaceful forest, then return to Tokyo, where you can head out to dinner or rest up for tomorrow's adventure.

Day 4: Transfer to Fujikawaguchiko, Cycle at Lake Kawaguchiko

Hop on a bike to see views of Mount Fuji from the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko
Meet your driver in the morning for a private 1.5-hour transfer west to Fujikawaguchiko and Lake Kawaguchiko, with Mount Fuji views along the way. Then you'll switch to a bike to follow a lakeside trail, making your way through the countryside via flower fields and paths dotted with shrines. Ride across Ohashi Bridge and through a tunnel of maple tree branches, and then stop for a stroll in Oishi and Yagizaki Parks with their serene floating shrines.

Continue on your bike tour for a stop at Fuji Omuro Sengen, the oldest among the 2,000 Japanese shrines dedicated to Mount Fuji. Walk through the towering gates set off by pink cherry blossoms in spring and fiery maple leaves in autumn. At the end of your bike tour, you'll continue to your Fujikawaguchiko hotel to settle in, then explore the town or go out for dinner.

Day 5: Train to Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji Temple & Gion

Geisha in Gion District
Walk among geishas in Kyoto's creative Gion District
Today takes you to Kyoto, starting with a one-hour transfer to Mishima Station, then a two-hour train ride west to Japan's cultural capital. Hit the ground running upon arrival as you join your guide for a visit to the gold-leaf-covered temple of Kinkaku-ji, surrounded by a pond and verdant hills. Then, tour Nijo Castle, built as the Kyoto residence of the first Edo period shogun. You'll also discover Ninomaru Palace on the castle grounds, walking across bridges, over small ponds, and through cherry blossom groves.

After the tour, spend the rest of your afternoon exploring Gion, known as the "Geisha District". Follow stone paths on Hanami-koji Street with wooden houses that are now art galleries, antique shops, and boutiques selling kimonos. Spot geisha in their elaborate clothes as you meander around the area and reach the corner of Shijo and Hanamikoji Streets at Ichiriki Ochaya. Take a photo of the outside of this invitation-only tea house, which is famous for its role in Japanese literature, then eat dinner in this atmospheric neighborhood before heading back to your hotel.
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Day 6: Fushimi Inari Taisha & Hike to Kiyomizu-dera Temples

The 10,000 Red Gates of Fushimi Inari
Follow Fushimi Inari's 10,000 torii gates to a path of forests, temples and shrines
Today is dedicated to visiting Kyoto's splendid temples and shrines on foot. Follow an approximately four-hour trail from Fushimi-Inari (Kyoto's most famous shrine), passing through the iconic 10,000 torii gates as you set off through forested hills and residential areas to reach the Tofuku-ji temple. Built in 1425, this is one of the oldest Zen gates in the country. Continue on to Sanjusangendo, one of the longest wooden structures in Japan, measuring 393 feet (120 m) and with more than 1,000 cypress and gold leaf-covered statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.

Your next stop at Kiyomizu-dera is reached by walking through the narrow alleys of stone-paved pedestrian roads of Ninenzaka, Sannenzaka, or Gojozaka, depending on the path you choose to reach the hilltop. At the temple, explore its hondo (main hall), shrines, and smaller temples. Take a moment to step onto the impressive veranda outside the main hall, standing 42 feet (13 m) above ground and built without nails, to see views of the surrounding forest. Afterward, you'll make your way back down to Kyoto where the rest of the evening is at your leisure.

Day 7: Cycle Through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Explore Nishiki Market

Feel the cool air of Arashiyama's bamboo groves on the western outskirts of Kyoto
Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama's dense bamboo groves, lively macaques, forested hills, and temple-lined roads make it an ideal area to discover by bike. Join your guide as you cycle through this rural part of Kyoto, starting in the morning and ending right before lunch.
After working up an appetite, you'll return to Kyoto and head to the busy Nishiki Ichiba, known as "Kyoto's Kitchen" for its more than 100 food shops selling everything from skewered seafood and locally-grown pickled vegetables to ceramics and cookware. Browse the stalls and select your favorites to eat for lunch as you mingle with locals shopping for their daily groceries. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your Kyoto hotel and enjoy your last night in the city however you please.

Day 8: Train to Osaka, Free Afternoon

Walk around Osaka to shop and eat the city's street food at any time of day or night
An hour's train ride takes you on to Osaka today, where you'll have the rest of the day free to get settled in and then explore the city at your own pace—picking major sites, street food, shopping, or all three. At Osaka Castle, see a reconstruction of a castle built in the 1500s and walk around the lush grounds. Learn more about the city's history at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, where exhibits explain the Edo period and other significant points in Osaka's history.

In the afternoon, take the elevator at the Umeda Sky Building to Kuchu Teien Observatory for sweeping city views. Back at ground level, explore Shinsaibashi—dating back to the Edo period, today its 1,698-foot (600 m) long arcade is filled with tailors, clothing and shoe stores, restaurants, and jewelry boutiques. Spend the rest of the evening tasting some of the city's renowned street food such as okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) and takoyaki (octopus fritters), before getting an early night in anticipation of tomorrow's hiking adventure.

Day 9: Train to Mount Koya, Choishi-Michi Trail & Temple Stay

Follow a route that Shingon Buddhist devotees have followed for 1,200 years on Mount Koya

Start today's adventure with an hour's train ride to Kami-Kosawa Station, where you'll set off on foot along the Choishi-Michi Pilgrimage Trail, a 14-mile long (24 km) path lined with 180 stone choishi (statues) leading the way to 100 temples and monasteries. The journey is all around the focal point of Koyasan or Mount Koya, a center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan for more than 1,200 years. This easy-to-moderate hike takes five hours to Daimon Gate or seven hours for the full trail.

At Daimon Gate you'll find a two-story, crimson gate that marks the traditional entrance to Koyasan. At the end of your hike, and before it gets dark, arrive at a shukubo (temple lodging), where you'll eat a shojin ryori (vegetarian Buddhist) dinner with resident monks and then settle into your simple but comfortable room among the silence of the temple.

Day 10: Mount Koya Morning Meditation, Return to Osaka

Rise early for meditation and more walking on serene Mount Koya
Wake up before sunrise this morning to join monks in their morning meditation and services, followed by a simple breakfast at your temple stay. From the temple, take a walk around Mount Koya and then ride a cable car from Koyasan Station to Gokurakubashi Station to catch the train back to Osaka.
Spend the rest of the afternoon savoring your final day in Japan. Explore Kuromon Ichiba Market to taste more of Osaka's famous street food, browse kimono shops for souvenirs to take home with you, and mark the end of your trip with a celebratory dinner in a lively restaurant.

Day 11: Depart Osaka

Sunset over Osaka Castle
Your 11-day adventure in Japan draws to a close today. When the time comes, meet your driver at your Osaka hotel for a transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Active Tour of Japan's Cities & Temples  - 11 Days
Map of Active Tour of Japan's Cities & Temples - 11 Days
Written by Kelly Lu, updated May 3, 2023