Discover modern and traditional aspects of Japan in 13 days, touching down in skyscraper-studded Tokyo, where ancient temples meet neon shopping districts, and then explore the country by futuristic bullet train. You'll visit sacred shrines in Osaka and grand castles in Kyoto and ride a gondola to the top of Kobe's Mount Rokko. The trip ends with a sailing adventure to Miyajima in Hiroshima Bay, known as the "Island of the Gods" for its mystical forests and shrines.


  • Discover Tokyo's markets, temples, and skyline views
  • Visit Osaka's iconic Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
  • Ride a gondola to Mount Rokko in Kobe
  • Tour Kyoto's bamboo forests, castles, and food markets
  • Sail to Miyajima, the "Island of the Gods"

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Explore Tokyo's Bright Lights Tokyo
Day 3 Experience Traditional Tokyo Tokyo
Day 4 Train to Nagoya, Nagoya Day Tour Nagoya
Day 5 Train to Osaka, Explore Osaka
Day 6 Train to Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike Kyoto
Day 7 Discover Arashiyama Kyoto
Day 8 Nishiki Market Kyoto
Day 9 Train to Kobe, Kobe Day Tour Kobe
Day 10 Free Day in Kobe Kobe
Day 11 Train to Hiroshima, Hiroshima Gardens Tour Hiroshima
Day 12 Miyajima Cruise Hiroshima
Day 13 Train to Osaka, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Experience the world's most populated city, Tokyo

Welcome to Japan! Your driver will be waiting at the airport to take you to your hotel, where you'll receive your 14-day Ordinary JR Pass, which allows unlimited use of the bullet train during your trip. Settle in and then head out to explore vibrant Tokyo. In this neon metropolis, modernity competes with centuries-old culture, ranging from skyscrapers to markets, temples, and soothing gardens.

Take in some history at the Tokyo Edo Open Air Architectural Museum or visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of Tokyo's largest parks with over 400 cherry blossom trees. Spend the evening wandering the streets of the world-famous Shibuya District. This evening, take an optional trip to the Tokyo City Hall for free 360-degree views of the city. Savor the sunset and watch the transition from day to night when twinkling lights illuminate the city.

Day 2: Explore Tokyo's Bright Lights

Tackle the famous Shibuya Scramble

Today you'll explore the Shibuya region of Tokyo via public transport. Start at Tokyo's Shibuya Station, the world's fourth-busiest transport hub. Head out of the Hachiko Exit and stop at the bronze statue of an Akita dog. After snapping a photo, prepare to tackle the famous Shibuya Scramble, considered the world's busiest pedestrian crossing, with around 250,000 people using it daily. Afterward, pop into Village Vanguard, a trendy shop that sells some of Japan's strangest items.

After lunch, take the train one more stop to Harajuku Station and make your way to the Takeshita-dori, which is a magnet for young Japanese people clad in extravagant clothing. On the other side of Harajuku Station, you'll find the Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine founded in 1920. Continue to Yoyogi Park, a popular gathering place for Japanese families, street artists, and cosplayers. If you're there on the weekend, you might catch one of the many cultural festivals hosted here.

Check out Shibuya Sky's observation deck as evening sets in for more supreme skyline views. Shibuya Sky is part of the Shibuya Scramble Square development and sits over 656 feet (200 m) above the ground, showcasing some of the most extraordinary views of Tokyo. The entrance fee gives you access to a deck that spans three floors and features a dazzling digital art display, café, and bar—perfect spot for a leisurely dinner.

Day 3: Experience Traditional Tokyo

Take in the impressive architecture of Senso-ji Temple

Spend today exploring more of Tokyo. Rise early and take a taxi to the Toyosu Fish Market, which opens at 5:30 am. Watch traders and locals barter for the day's catch and continue to nearby Tsukiji, a wholesale market dating to 1935. Browse the restaurants and produce stalls that heave with colorful goods. Next, meet your guide to visit the Emperor of Japan's Imperial Palace, surrounded by landscaped gardens.

Later, you'll head to Asakusa to see the Senso-ji Temple and wander the atmospheric Old Tokyo neighborhood, loved for its craft shops and street-food stalls. The Asakusa Tourist Information Center has impressive views of the city and the Tokyo Sky Tree, the world's tallest tower at 2,080 feet (634 m). Finish the night at Odaiba for views of Tokyo Bay, the Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo's Statue of Liberty attraction.

Day 4: Train to Nagoya, Nagoya Day Tour

Nagoya Castle
Tour Nagoya Castle, one of the city's most-visited landmarks

Take the bullet train west to Nagoya today, a key port in the Chubu region bursting with museums, parks, and history. First, visit the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industrial Technology, which demonstrates the cultural impact and history of one of the region's most influential companies, from its beginnings as a textile machinery manufacturer to its modern-day industrial superpower status.

Next, stroll along historical Shikemichi Street and have lunch at Bejiroka, a local favorite. This afternoon, you'll tour Nagoya Castle, a reconstructed royal home from 1612 and one of the city's most-visited landmarks. Enjoy some more culture at the Tokugawa and Nagoya City Art Museums before relaxing in the neighboring Tokugawa Garden. This peaceful haven is home to Ryusenko Lake, pretty flower displays, and a samurai tea house.

Day 5: Train to Osaka, Explore

Experience Osaka's Dotombori District

Continue farther west, making the hourlong bullet train journey to Osaka, Japan's third-largest city. Explore independently or with a private guide, visiting one of the country's most famous landmarks, Osaka Castle. The castle grounds span 15 acres (6 ha) and provide panoramic views of Osaka. You can get a different perspective of the castle on a boat trip around its moat, then venture inside to learn about its pivotal role in unifying Japan.

Don't miss Sumiyoshi Taisha (also known as Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine). Founded in the third century, this ornate building is the head of Japan's 2,300 Sumiyoshi shrines. Take in views of the iconic red curved bridge and wander the sanctuary grounds. Discover Osaka's modern attractions next with a walk through the Dotombori District. Stop at the futuristic aquarium and visit Abeno Harukas, one of the tallest buildings in Japan.

This evening, delve into Osaka's rich food scene. Often referred to as "the nation's kitchen," Osaka is known for its diverse culinary offerings, ranging from Michelin restaurants to street food stalls. Dine in one of the city's acclaimed eateries and take a trip to the quirky Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda, dedicated to the art of instant ramen. If you're in the mood, visit a rooftop bar or head to the nightclub district to complete your day.

Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Train to Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike

Walk through the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine

Say goodbye to Osaka this morning and take a 15-minute train ride north to Kyoto, Japan's cultural capital, for its temples, palaces, and wooden architecture. Your first stop is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has 10,000 red torii gates and is featured in the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha." Hike a portion of the forested trail from the temple; the hike takes up to three hours and winds through beautiful scenery.

Afterward, walk to Nishiki Market to taste Kyoto's traditional food—go on an empty stomach, as this is the perfect place to try local snacks and sweets. Finish your day with a trip to Nijo Castle, where you'll learn about Kyoto's history as the former capital of Japan. If there's time, visit Kiyomizudera Temple for sweeping views of the city or participate in a tea ceremony performed by a master.

Day 7: Discover Arashiyama

Listen to the calming sound of bamboo swaying in the wind

Today you'll explore Arashiyama in the western region of Kyoto. Start at 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 and eventually donated to the city as a public historic site. Its buildings are some of the best surviving examples of Japan's feudal-era castle architecture.

Later, visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and walk among paths lined by tall, swaying bamboo. Other must-see attractions in this area include the tranquil Zen Tenryuji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to 1339 and is dedicated to the emperor Go-Daigo. Animal lovers will enjoy a trip to Iwatayama Monkey Park, where you can watch a troop of playful macaques roam freely through the forest.

Day 8: Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market
Try some of Kyoto's delicacies at Nishiki Market
Today, you'll take a trip to Nishiki, a popular market in downtown Kyoto with over 100 stalls that sprawl over five blocks. Known as Kyoto's kitchen, the historical market is all about fresh produce, and you'll find everything from seafood to green tea and Kyoto specialties like pickles and sweets. Watch the daily thrum of market life and get in line with the locals to try some of Kyoto's signature dishes, such as yu dofu (boiled tofu) and nishin soba (noodles with dried herring).

Day 9: Train to Kobe, Kobe Day Tour

Take a trip on the Shin-Kobe Ropeway up to Mount Rokko

This morning, take a 30-minute bullet train ride to Kobe, a compact city between the mountains and the sea in Osaka Bay. Once a key port for trade with China, the city is loved for its history, thriving waterfront, and rich cuisine. Take a short walk from downtown to one of Japan's oldest shrines, Ikuta, built over 1,800 years ago. Next, wander Kitano Ijinkan-Gai, a hillside district filled with historic slate houses built by European aristocrats.

Continue your tour with a trip on the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, a gondola that'll take you to the Ninobiki Herb Garden on top of Mount Rokko. Here, you can stroll through European-inspired flower and herb gardens, soak your feet in an outdoor spa and take in the 1,300-foot (400 m) high views of Kobe and the sea beyond. The vista is magnificent when evening falls and the city lights come on. End the day by dining on Kobe beef, which is famed for its marbled texture.

Day 10: Free Day in Kobe

Downtown Kobe
Spend the day exploring Kobe's many offerings
Spend today exploring Kobe as you please. Stroll through its picturesque neighborhoods, shop along the busy waterfront, or grab some food in Chinatown. The Kobe City Museum is perfect for history hounds and features one of the world's largest collections of Namban art. Venture out to Nada Sake District to sample potent rice wine—this is Japan's top region for sake production. If you prefer to get out in nature, take a trip to Nunobiki Falls or hike to Arima Onsen for a soak in its healing hot springs.

Day 11: Train from Kobe to Hiroshima, Hiroshima Gardens Tour

Shukkeien Garden
Make your way around Shukkeien Garden

This morning, take a one-hour train ride to Hiroshima, a city famed for its tragic World War II atomic bomb attack, which is commemorated at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Since then, the city has experienced a rebirth and is loved for its blend of modern and traditional Japanese culture, which you can explore on today's tour.

Begin at Shukkeien Garden, which was established in 1620. The garden's central focus is a large pond with 10 inlets and several bridges that crisscross its winding pathway, making for a peaceful stroll. From the gardens, take a short walk to Hiroshima Castle, then climb to its observation platform for city views. End your day by riding a traditional streetcar, a service that has been operating for more than 150 years, followed by dinner and some of the region's special sake.

Day 12: Miyajima Cruise

Miyajima Cruise
Tour the Island of the Gods and visit Itsukushima Shrine
This morning, board a 45-minute ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima. This small island in Hiroshima Bay is known as the "Island of the Gods," covered in thick forests and ancient temples. When you arrive, you'll tour the island on a private sailboat, stopping to visit elegant Shinto shrines that can only be reached by boat. A highlight is the 12th-century Itsukushima Shrine, with its orange torii gate, partially submerged during high tide. As you sail, your guide will point out Miyajima's history-steeped landmarks.

Day 13: Train to Osaka, Depart

Ride the bullet train back to Osaka for your onward flight
Today your Japan adventure comes to an end. Ride the bullet train back to Kansai Airport Station in Osaka for your onward flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Discover Modern & Traditional Japan - 13 Days
Map of Discover Modern & Traditional Japan - 13 Days
Written by Irish S., updated Jan 10, 2023