On this two-week journey to the four corners of Japan's main island, Honshu, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy its unmissable attractions. You'll visit sacred temples and shrines, go bike riding through the countryside, and roam around the capital's most famous neighborhoods. From the modern cities of Tokyo and Hiroshima to the island of Miyajima, the wonders of ancient Kyoto and beyond, there is so much to see, taste, and discover.

Highlights

  • Enjoy private guided tours of Tokyo and Kyoto
  • Stay at a traditional ryokan inn on the sacred island of Miyajima
  • Explore the countryside by bicycle near Takayama
  • Sleep in a historic thatched roof farmhouse in Shirakawa-go

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo  Tokyo
Day 2 Guided Tour of Tokyo  Tokyo
Day 3 Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 4 Miyajima Island Miyajima
Day 5 Kyoto  Kyoto
Day 6 Guided Tour of Kyoto  Kyoto
Day 7 Kyoto Kyoto
Day 8 Day Trip to Nara Kyoto
Day 9 Takayama Takayama
Day 10 Takayama - Cycling in Rural Japan Takayama
Day 11 Shirakawa-go  Shirakawa
Day 12 Kanazawa Kanazawa
Day 13 Tokyo Tokyo
Day 14 Depart Tokyo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Akihabara, Tokyo
Akihabara, Tokyo

Welcome to the Land of the Rising Sun! Your guide will escort you to your hotel on the train and provide a pocket Wifi device for you to use throughout your trip. After you settle in, take to the streets and explore at your own pace.  The city's bright lights are a feast for the eyes, and several of its skyscrapers offer top floor restaurants for dinner with a view. If you're in the mood for a more low-key meal, head to the Asakusa neighborhood for some of Tokyo's best street food.

Day 2: Guided Tour of Tokyo 

Tokyo
The Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo

Your private local guide will meet you in the morning for a tour of the capital.  The tour is customizable based on your interests, but you're likely to visit the neighborhoods of buzzing Shinjuku, quirky Harajuku, and traditional Asakusa. You'll see some of the main sights, such as the ancient Senso-ji Temple, the famous Shibuya Crossing, the Tsukiji Fish Market (where you'll find fresh sushi!), the Meiji Shrine, and more. 

The evening is yours to spend as you like. Perhaps head back to Shinjuku to party the night away, or sing your heart out at karaoke. Or maybe chat with the locals in an izakaya, or pub, or try one of Tokyo's trendy themed restaurants.

Day 3: Hiroshima

The remnants of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima 
The remnants of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima 

You'll take the bullet train west today to the coastal city of Hiroshima, which was decimated by the first atomic bomb in 1945. The city has since been rebuilt and is packed with charm and historical significance. It has also gained a reputation as a food destination and is famous for its okonomiyaki, or savory pancakes.

As you explore this welcoming city, visit the Peace Memorial Museum and walk through the surrounding park to learn how the destruction affected the people of Hiroshima. You'll also see the only building that survived the bomb, preserved in its crooked state as a monument. If you're in the mood for shopping, take a stroll down Hondori Street, a pedestrian shopping arcade for endless stores and cafes of all kinds.

Then go back in time as you wander through the tranquil Shukkeien Garden, where you're likely to stumble upon more than a few teahouses. Stop in at the nearby Hiroshima Castle, which was originally built in the 1500s and reconstructed after the war. It's one of the best spots to see the cherry blossoms when they're in season! 

Transfer time: 4.5 to 5.5 hours

Day 4: Miyajima Island

Torii gate  at the entrance of the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima
Torii gate  at the entrance of the Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima

Today, you'll take a train and a ferry to reach sacred Miyajima, a small island in Hiroshima Bay. This special place is an excellent example of man-made structures built to blend seamlessly with their natural surroundings. Its most recognizable landmark is the floating torii gate marking the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine.

Deer and monkeys roam freely on Miyajima, and are particularly abundant on Mt. Misen. Take the ropeway or hike to the top for fabulous views of the untouched forest and the sea below. You'll spend the night at a ryokan, or traditional inn, where you'll dine on a gourmet multi-course meal, known as kaiseki, featuring locally-sourced oysters.

Transfer time: 45 minutes

Day 5: Kyoto - Japan's Ancient Imperial Capital

Temple Gardens in Kyoto
Temple Gardens in Kyoto

Head back east today to the enchanting former imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto. This lovely city was the center of Japanese high arts, such as tea ceremonies, calligraphy, poetry, philosophy, and religion. It's also famous for handicrafts like textiles, kimono, and pottery. You'll be transported back in time as you stroll down the narrow streets full of old wooden houses and countless temples and shrines.

Take the day to explore on your own. 

Transfer time: 3.5 hours

Day 6: Guided Tour of Kyoto 

Fushimi Inari Temple in Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Temple in Kyoto

Meet your private guide in the hotel lobby this morning and set out on a walking tour of the city's ancient streets. You'll go to the historic district of Higashiyama to visit Kiyomizudera, the celebrated Buddhist temple. Wander the lanes of the geisha district of Gion, where you'll see the entertainers walking to their next appointment in their colorful kimono. Next, visit the gold-covered Zen temple of Kinkakuji for an excellent photo op.  Your tour can be tailored to include any other specific sights you want to see.

Day 7: Kyoto

Geisha
Traditional geishas walking in Kyoto

Explore Kyoto on your own today. This would be an excellent time to try a formal tea ceremony, take a class in Japanese calligraphy, flower arranging, or ninja training, or watch a samurai demonstration. You can even become a geisha or samurai for the day with a special makeover before taking a stroll in Gion.

Alternatively, take a day trip to the peaceful bamboo grove of Arashiyama on the outskirts of the city. Walk among the towering stalks before visiting the Tenryui-ji temple. Then perhaps take a boat cruise down the Hozugawa River to see the area's natural beauty in all its glory.

Day 8: Day Trip to Nara

Nara, Japan
Nara, Japan

Ancient Nara was the imperial capital of Japan throughout most of the 8th century and contains dozens of shrines and temples built by the imperial family and aristocrats. Visit the Todaiji temple to see the massive bronze Buddha statue and the Horyuji temple, which is considered to be one of the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world.

Wander through the enchanting Kasuga Taisha shrine and the surrounding sacred primeval forest. Here you'll find stone and bronze lanterns over 1,000 years old and free-roaming deer. If you'd like to see more wild deer, head to Nara Park where you can get up close and even feed them. Then head to Naramachi, the city's former merchant district, to see and visit traditional homes and buildings preserved from as far back as the early 1600s. 

Transfer time: 45 minutes each way on the train 

Day 9: Takayama

Takayama
Old Town Takayama

Make your way to Takayama today for a change of pace. This mountain city is sometimes called "Little Kyoto" for its well-preserved historic buildings. You'll explore the Old Town and Sannomachi Street, where you'll find traditional homes, as well as shops, restaurants, and sake breweries, some of which have been in operation for centuries. Some of the buildings have been turned into museums so you can see how merchants lived in this remote part of Japan during the Edo Period (1603 to 1868).

Transfer time: about 3 hours

Day 10: Takayama - Cycling in Rural Japan

Cycling in Rural Takayama
Cycling in Rural Takayama

This morning you'll take the train out to the town of Hida Furukawa to join a small, guided group for a bicycle tour of the countryside. You'll pedal through rice fields and villages with excellent views of the surrounding mountain landscape. The pace will be relaxed and you'll have plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos along the way.

Cycling time: 3.5 hours
Cycling distance: 13.6 miles (22 km)

Day 11: Thatched Roof Farmhouse Stay in Shirakawa-go 

Shirakawa
Thatched roof farmhouses in Shirakawa-go

Head to the remote village of Shirakawa-go to see its famous gassho-zukuri,or steep thatched roof farmhouses. This Edo-era building style was designed to withstand the heavy snow that falls in the area each winter. Enjoy the peace and quiet, with rice fields and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. You'll spend the night in one of these preserved farmhouses and dine on a home-cooked meal.

Transfer time: 45 mins to an hour

Day 12: Kanazawa

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa
Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Grab a seat on Japan's newest bullet train to the city of Kanazawa in Japan's Hida Mountains. Historically considered to be one of Japan's great cultural centers, the city is most famous for its Kenrokuen Garden, thought by many to be the most beautiful in the country.

Take some time to explore Kanazawa's geisha district and samurai neighborhood, before visiting one of the city's many sake breweries to sample Japan's national drink.

Transfer time: 1 hour

Day 13: Tokyo

Shibuya
Tokyo's busy Shibuya Crossing

Spend the morning exploring Kanazawa, stopping in at sites like the Ninjadera temple, which is equipped with secret doors, tunnels, and traps, or the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art for a more modern activity.

Then take the bullet train back to Tokyo for the evening, passing the magnificent Mt. Fuji on the way. It's your last night in Japan, so perhaps indulge in a special dinner at one of the capital's famous restaurants. 

Day 14: Depart Tokyo

Narita International Airport
Narita International Airport

After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to lovely Japan. Make your way by public transportation to one of Tokyo's international airports for your flight home. Otsukaresama desu!

Map

Map of Classic Highlights of Japan - 14 Days
Map of Classic Highlights of Japan - 14 Days