Explore the best of Japan's world-famous highlights. Begin by wandering through Tokyo's parks, museums, temples, and neon-lit shopping areas. Then head to Hakone, where you'll stay in a traditional ryokan inn, and experience a multicourse kaiseki dinner and hot spring. Move on to Kyoto to explore markets, temples, and castles, then take a day trip to Nara to see its famed deer park before returning to Kyoto for one last day of sightseeing.


  • Go shopping in Tokyo's bustling, futuristic malls
  • Enjoy a hot spring experience and views of Mount Fuji in Hakone
  • Participate in a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto 
  • Visit historic castles and temples in Kyoto and Nara 

Brief Itinerary

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  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the City

View of Tokyo
View of Tokyo with iconic Mount Fuji in the background

Welcome to Tokyo! Upon landing at the airport, collect your bullet train pass and meet your private driver. Once you've settled into your hotel, head out to explore. While Tokyo is a large and highly-modernized metropolis, history and centuries-old culture are never too far away. As you explore the city, you'll discover jaw-dropping skyscrapers, bustling markets, and peaceful gardens where you can escape the urban buzz.

Use today to wander through Tokyo at your own pace. For a relaxing activity, visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of Tokyo's largest parks, most famous for its 400 cherry blossom trees. Then explore the Tokyo Edo Open Air Architectural Museum, which exhibits a range of ancient buildings that were relocated or reconstructed here to preserve national architectural history. And if you're up for it, spend the evening wandering the streets of the world-famous Shibuya district and do a little bar-hopping.

Day 2: Explore Asakusa & Akihabara

The Asakusa district of Tokyo
The bustling Asakusa district of Tokyo

Imagine a place you can go to experience old-world Tokyo, shop in quaint markets, or visit a monumental shrine. Located in Taitō-ku special ward, Asakusa is an easy jaunt from anywhere in central Tokyo. Enjoy exploring this neighborhood as you visit Sensō-ji Temple, one of Tokyo's oldest and most significant sites. Then wander down Nakamise Shopping Street, where you can enjoy a street food snack and pick up some traditional souvenirs.

Later, head to Akihabara, Japan's premier shopping area for electronics, anime, computers, and otaku goods. Akihabara is home to the Tokyo Anime Center, which holds numerous anime-related exhibitions and events, and the Mandarake, the self-described largest anime and manga shop in the world. Costumed coffee shops, known as "maid cafés," can also be found tucked in between the electronic shops. These unique establishments feature wait staff dressed as French maids who serve food and engage their customers in games and conversation.  

Day 3: Tour the West of Tokyo & Odaiba 

Sunset in Odaiba
Sunset in Odaiba

Today, you'll join a guided tour to explore a few spots in the west of Tokyo and the artificial island of Odaiba. In the Harajuku neighborhood, visit the Meiji Shrine (dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife). Afterward, wander down the bustling Takeshita-dōri shopping street, and take a walk through Yoyogi Park.

Next, head to Odaiba, a high-tech entertainment hub filled with futuristic attractions. Start by getting to know the imposing Fuji Broadcasting Center and its 25th-floor Hachitama Spherical Observation Room, which offers an excellent view of the city. Next, head to the sprawling malls of Diver City, Aqua City, and DECKS for an unforgettable shopping trip. 

Day 4: Train to Hakone, Enjoy an Onsen, Ryokan & Mt. Fuji Experience

Hot springs in Hakone
Hot springs in Hakone

Take a train from Tokyo in the direction of Hakone, a trip which takes about two hours. Once you arrive, head out to see what this picturesque onsen (hot spring) town has to offer. Hakone is known for its stunning beauty, volcanic terrain, rich nature, and famous views of Mount Fuji.

While here, you'll experience the Hakone Ropeway aerial lift, marvel at the Owakudani Valley, enjoy a Lake Ashi cruise and sightseeing tour and visit the Hakone Shrine. You may also choose to visit the Hakone Sekisho historic checkpoint, the ancient and picturesque Cedar Avenue, and the Hakone Open-Air Museum outdoor sculpture gallery. Stay overnight at a traditional ryokan (an inn), where you'll enjoy a multicourse kaiseki dinner and onsen experience.  

Day 5: Train to Kyoto, Visit Nishiki Market & Nijo Castle, Optional Tea Ceremony

Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle

Take the bullet train from Hakone to Kyoto, often considered Japan's cultural capital. After settling into your hotel, head to the Nishiki Market for a taste of Kyoto's soul foods. Go with an empty stomach since this is the perfect place to try a great variety of food, from traditional snacks to sweets.

If you'd like, you can follow this up with a tea ceremony, where you'll experience one of Japan's most famous traditions. Step inside the refined world of matcha by entering a traditional machiya. Guided by an expert, you'll discover the intricacies and delicate process of the tea ceremony and tea making while enjoying seasonal sweets. Finish your day with a visit to Nijo Castle to learn about the history of this former capital of Japan, or enjoy visiting Kiyomizudera Temple and taking in the beautiful views of Kyoto.

Day 6: Day Trip to Nara

View of Nara with deer
Nara is famous for its deer

Nara is perfect for a day trip from Kyoto, and today you'll explore this ancient, dynamic Japanese city on a full-day guided walking tour. Start with a visit to Tōdai-ji Temple, a Buddhist complex that hosts a number of awe-inspiring structures. The temple's Great Buddha Hall is famous for being the largest wooden structure in the world. It was burned down several times and reconstructed in the Edo Period. This temple hosts the Kegon school of Buddhism. It is also one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another of Nara's iconic spots is Nara Park, a famous deer haven. Hundreds of deer roam freely throughout the park. You can buy rice crackers at one of the many stalls selling paper-tied packs and feed them to the deer. If you're looking for the perfect souvenir, head to the Nandaimon Gate, where you'll find many little omiyage (gift/souvenir) shops. Here, you can shop for deer-themed omiyage while picking up some tasty snacks.

Day 7: Day Trip to Arashiyama

See Magnificent Views in Arashiyama
View of Kinkaku-ji in Arashiyama in Kyoto

Today, you'll be heading to Arashiyama, the western part of Kyoto. Start by visiting the UNESCO-listed Nijo Castle, built in the 1600s as the residence of the first Edo-era shogun. After the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867, the structure was used as an imperial palace before it was donated to the city and opened to the public as a historic site. Its buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of Japan's feudal-era castle architecture.

Later, immerse yourself in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and enjoy a quiet walk along its famous forest trails. Among the many must-see attractions in the area, you can also visit the Zen Tenryuji Temple, a tranquil and peaceful UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the Monkey Park, where you can see playful monkeys roaming freely. Afterward, head to the beautiful Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), which offers different natural scenery depending on the season.

Day 8: Depart Kyoto via Osaka

Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
View of Kyoto in springtime
Say goodbye to Kyoto
Meet your private driver and head to Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Have a safe and comfortable journey home or to your next destination!

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other Japan itineraries, explore different ways to spend eight days in Japan, or discover the best time to visit Japan.


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Map of Best of Tokyo, Hakone & Kyoto - 8 Days
Map of Best of Tokyo, Hakone & Kyoto - 8 Days
Written by Irish S., updated Jan 4, 2023