Spend 12 days exploring the best of Japan, including its most important cities. Start with a visit to Osaka's brightly-lit city center before exploring Kyoto's traditional historic neighborhoods and quiet temples. Learn about World War II history in Hiroshima, then hop on a plane to enjoy Okinawa's stunning beaches. End the trip in the exciting capital of Tokyo, one of the world's busiest and most futuristic cities.


  • Tour Kyoto's Bamboo Grove and the Fushimi Inari Shrine
  • Visit the memorials of A-bomb victims in Hiroshima 
  • Relax in a Japanese onsen in Hakone
  • See sumo wrestlers and enjoy the nightlife in Tokyo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Osaka Osaka
Day 2 Train to Kyoto  Kyoto
Day 3 Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike Kyoto
Day 4 Day Trip to Nara & Uji Kyoto
Day 5 Train to Hiroshima, Memorial Visits Hiroshima
Day 6 Hiroshima or Miyajima Private Tour Hiroshima
Day 7 Fly to Okinawa, Beach Day Okinawa
Day 8 Tokashiki Island Self-Guided Tour  Okinawa
Day 9 Fly to Hakone, Onsen Experience Hakone
Day 10 Train to Tokyo, Free Afternoon Tokyo
Day 11 See a Sumo Training Session & Tokyo Tour Tokyo
Day 12 Depart Tokyo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Osaka

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle with cherry blossoms

Welcome to Japan! Upon landing at Kansai International Airport, a private driver will pick you up and take you to your accommodation. After settling into your hotel in the heart of Osaka, head out to explore the city. Start with a visit to the Tombori Riverwalk, a canal that reflects the neon lights of the busy Namba District. To appreciate the futuristic district, do a fun river cruise.

Later, head to Shinsaibashi-suji to do some shopping. Half arcade, half shopping mall, this building has been around for decades and has the air of a traditional marketplace. Finish your day with a visit to Soemoncho, located on the busiest side of Dotonbori, Osaka's most famous nightlife district. You'll find restaurants, bars, nightclubs, small ramen shops, and karaoke halls.  

Day 2: Train to Kyoto

Path along the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto
A path along the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto

Say goodbye to Osaka and take a 15-minute train ride to the former imperial city of Kyoto. Explore the famous Arashiyama District. Start at the UNESCO-listed Nijo Castle, built in the 1600s. Later, visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and walk among paths lined by tall, swaying bamboo trees. Another must-see attraction in the area is the tranquil Zen Tenryuji Temple, which dates back to 1339. 

As an optional evening activity, you'll have the chance to meet a maiko, or a trainee geisha, who will host you on a visit to a geisha studio. Have warm green tea while discussing the practices of these traditional entertainers and hostesses. Try on a kimono and do a photoshoot. Come away from this unique experience with stunning vacation pictures and a deeper knowledge of Japanese culture.

Day 3: Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Set out early to explore Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. Your first stop is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has 10,000 red torii gates and is one of the country's most recognizable landmarks. Hike some or all of the moderate 3-mile (5 km) forested trail from the temple. From here, walk to Nishiki Market to taste Kyoto's traditional food. If there's time, visit Kiyomizudera Temple for sweeping views of the city.

In the late afternoon, meet your local expert at a machiya (wooden house) in Ninenzaka to learn about the intricate ritual of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. After the ceremony, visit the nearby temples of Kiyomizu-dera, Kodai-ji, and Chion-in. Then, take a walk in Maruyama Park through Yasaka-jinja Shrine and continue to Gion's geisha and entertainment district.

Day 4: Day Trip to Nara & Uji

A lone deer on the grounds of Nara
A lone deer on the grounds of Todai-ji temple in Nara

Accomplish a self-guided day trip to Nara and Uji. Both destinations are known for their gardens, parks, temples, and shrines. First, take a train to Nara and visit Todai-ji temple, home of the world's largest bronze Buddha statue. In the manicured temple grounds, you'll find tea houses, a museum, and the roaming deer of Nara, tame enough to be fed by hand.

Stop at Uji, a national green tea production center, on the train back from Nara to Kyoto. Then visit the Byodo-in Temple, a Buddhist structure depicted on the 10 yen coin, and find traditional stores offering quality green tea products (including green tea ice cream), noodles, and sweets. Next, finish in the Byodo-in Omotesando neighborhood, the best place to go for dinner and souvenir shopping.

Day 5: Train to Hiroshima, Memorial Visits

Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle near Kyoto

Travel west by shinkansen (bullet train) to Himeji, where you can stop to see the famed Himeji Castle. Then, continue to Hiroshima. Take time to visit sites connected to the city's bombing during World War II. At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, you'll find the heartwrenching Atomic Bomb Dome, whose ruins commemorate the lives lost during the raid.

At night, go to the Okonomimura food hall, where multiple vendors sell Hiroshimayaki, a regional version of okonomiyaki. Walk around from shop to shop, enjoying the smell of this savory pancake dish before picking a place and trying it.

Day 6: Hiroshima or Miyajima Private Tour

The Great Torii of Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island
The Great Torii of Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima
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Choose between exploring Hiroshima or the nearby Miyajima island with a local guide. If you choose the former, you can delve more deeply into the city's war memorials, and stroll around Shukkei-en Garden, a popular green space. On a visit to Miyajima, you'll see the vermillion Great Torii Gate, which marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. At high tide, the gate appears to float on the water.

As a third option, you can head to the city of Saijo, one of Japan's leading producers of sake, the national drink. Visitors are treated to an impressive collection of sake breweries, each with their own unique production methods. Wander into many of the brewery's front areas, where you can sample varieties of this drink that has come to represent so much in Japan.

Day 7: Fly to Okinawa, Beach Day

Manzamo Cape in Okinawa Island
Manzamo Cape on Okinawa Island

Early in the morning, head to the airport and board a flight to the island of Okinawa, known for its azure water and sandy beaches. After landing in Naha, the prefecture's capital, head to Kokusai-dori, the city's main street. You'll find souvenir shops, boutiques, cozy cafés, and high-end restaurants. There are also venues for traditional Okinawan music and dance performances.

Make the most of your free day at Araha Park. Loved for its walking trails, sandy beach, kid-friendly swimming zones, and scenic picnic spots, this is one of the island's most popular places. Along the expansive coast, you'll find a variety of fun activities like basketball courts, a jogging track, a walkway, and a pirate ship playground.

Day 8: Tokashiki Island Self-Guided Tour 

Aharen Beach in Tokashiki Island
Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island

Take an early-morning ferry to Tokashiki Island, just south of Okinawa Island. Spend the day at the famous Aharen Beach, considered one of the most beautiful in the country. Bask in the sun while you lie in the soft white sand. Then cool off in the clear powder blue water, which is ideal for swimming.

Coral reefs make the island perfect for snorkeling or diving. During the right time of year, you may see green sea turtles in their natural habitat. Whale-watching tours and sea kayaking are other fun ways to enjoy the water. If you have time, change scenery at the Mihanahara Promenade, where you'll walk through the mountains to get incredible views of the island's coastline and the sea.

Day 9: Fly to Hakone, Onsen Experience

Onsen in Hakone, Japan
Onsen in Hakone, Japan

Fly back to mainland Japan for an onsen experience in Hakone. You'll stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Soaking in a hot spring and reaping the health benefits of the water is the main reason people come to this city, so feel free to spend the day at the onsen doing nothing but relaxing.

If you need a more active day, there is plenty to do here. Visit Odawara Castle, hop on the Hanoke Roapway cable car for a bird's-eye view of the area, or go on a pirate ship sailing tour across Lake Ashi. Other activities include visiting the Modern Art Museum and trying Owakudani black eggs boiled in sulfurous volcanic water. Of course, take time to enjoy the onsen at night.

Day 10: Train to Tokyo, Free Afternoon

View Across the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
View across the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo

Transfer to Tokyo by train and spend a free day taking in the dizzying energy of the Japanese capital. Walk around the Shinjuku Gardens, the oldest of its kind in the country, or go to the Metropolitan Government Observatory for views of Mount Fuji on a clear day. Head to Omoide Yokocho, an alley filled with wooden restaurants adorned with paper lanterns, to try yakitori (chicken skewers).

The neighborhood's tumble of drinking dens, known as Golden Gai bars, are perfect for your first drink in Tokyo. End the night in the Kabukicho District, full of lively spots like hostess bars, robot restaurants, and pachinko parlors (game arcades). 

Day 11: See a Sumo Training Session & Tokyo Tour

Shibuya Scramble, the world's busiest crosswalk
Shibuya Scramble, the world's busiest crosswalk

Begin the day by heading to a morning sumo training session in Ryogoku. Witness the skill and power of these traditional athletes as they perform this ceremonial sport. Afterward, go to Shibuya Station, exiting at the Hachiko Exit, and find a bronze statue of an Akita dog, famous for its loyalty. Continue to tackle the famous Shibuya Scramble, the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.

After lunch, take the train to nearby Harajuku Station. Pause to admire the traditional entrance before making your way to Takeshita-dori. This pedestrian street is thronged with young Japanese people decked out in wild costumes. Then, head to the Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine founded in 1920. From there, visit Yoyogi Park, a popular gathering place for families, street artists, and cosplayers.

Day 12: Depart Tokyo

Cherry blossoms in Chidorigafuchi Park, Tokyo
Cherry blossoms in Chidorigafuchi Park, Tokyo
It's time to say goodbye to Japan. At a designated time, head to your corresponding airport to catch a flight home, carrying memories that will last a lifetime.

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Map of Best of Japan: Osaka to Tokyo - 12 Days
Map of Best of Japan: Osaka to Tokyo - 12 Days