Explore Japan's natural beauty and intricate rituals on this fascinating 9-day itinerary. In Tokyo, you'll travel back in time by wandering the streets in a kimono. Head to Hakone to cruise on Lake Ashi, enjoy spectacular views of Mount Fuji, and finish the day in soothing natural thermal springs. Continue to Kyoto for Buddhist temples, gardens, palaces, and shrines, then end in Osaka to revel in the city's dynamic "foodie" districts.

Highlights

  • Stroll the streets of Asakusa in a complete traditional kimono
  • Escape to Nikko National Park for hiking in the forest outside Tokyo
  • Take a soak in one of Hakone's many sumptuous natural hot springs
  • Take a walking tour of Arashiyama, where you'll discover its stunning bamboo forest

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the City Tokyo
Day 2 Modernity & Tradition Tour, Tokyo Night Foodie Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Day Trip to Nikko, Self-Guided Hiking Tour Tokyo
Day 4 Day Trip to Kamakura, Temple & Shrine Tour Tokyo
Day 5 Transfer to Hakone, Cruise Lake Ashi Hakone
Day 6 Transfer to Kyoto, Traditional Afternoon Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 7 Arashiyama Bamboo Walking Tour, Kyoto Temple Afternoon Tour Kyoto
Day 8 Transfer to Osaka, Explore the City & Castle Visit Osaka
Day 9 Depart Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the City

Night time in Shibuya district
Night time in the Shibuya district
Welcome to Japan! Your trip begins in Tokyo. While a highly modernized city, history and centuries-old culture are never too far behind in this massive metropolis that overwhelms all senses. You'll discover jaw-dropping skyscrapers, bustling markets, shopping in all forms, and peaceful gardens. Once you've settled in at your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day free.
 
You could head to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden to wander through one of Tokyo's largest parks and 400 cherry blossom trees. Visit 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. Enjoy a complimentary 360-degree panoramic view of the entire city of Tokyo and its surroundings on the 51st floor of Tokyo City Hall. Finally, spend the evening meandering in the world-famous Shibuya district and do a little bar hopping.

Day 2: Modernity & Tradition Tour, Tokyo Night Foodie Tour

Asakusa District
Giant Sacred Red Lantern, Asakusa District
Start the day early with a visit to the Asakusa district, where you'll find Sensoji, a famous Buddhist temple. There is also the option of exploring the neighborhood dressed in a traditional kimono. Visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine, built and dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. Not far from the shrine, explore the Harajuku district, the center for young hip-hop culture. Then have lunch around the chic Omotesando Hills area, where one can find all the high-end brands, shops, and boutiques.
 
As the sun sets, climb the Tokyo Tower to the top deck, where you'll have panoramic views, including the Skytree and Mount Fuji, weather permitting. After experiencing such fabulous views, there is the option to take the "Tokyo Night Foodie Tour" in Shinjuku, where you'll help yourself to copious amounts of succulent wagyu at a traditional Japanese yakiniku restaurant. Considered the best beef in the world, you'll grill your wagyu with a custom-made shichirin (Japanese barbecue grill).

Day 3: Day Trip to Nikko, Self-Guided Hiking Tour

Ryuzu Waterfall near Nikko
Ryuzu Waterfall near Nikko
Today's day trip takes you to Nikko, a beautiful town just two hours by train from Tokyo. The many hiking trails will allow you to breathe fresh air far from the city. Visit Nikko National Park, where you can hike the Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail, which offers excellent views of the marshlands and surrounding mountains. Discover the lovely Lake Chuzenji at the foot of Mount Nantai in the hills just above Nikko. Hop on board a sightseeing boat, hike along the charming but hilly paths in the forest, or you follow the lake's shores to discover Chuzenji Temple.

You'll also find Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a lavishly decorated shrine of more than a dozen buildings in the lush forest. Don't miss Kegon Falls. At over 328 feet (100 m), it is one of the tallest waterfalls in Nikko. You can view it up close from an upper observation platform.
Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Day Trip to Kamakura, Temple & Shrine Tour

The Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura
Take an hour-long train ride to Kamakura. Sometimes dubbed the Kyoto of eastern Japan, this seaside city boasts a history that spans centuries. Visit the city's most significant temples and shrines, such as Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura's main shrine, and Kotoku-in, the Great Buddha of Kamakura. Your local guide will show you around Kamakura and its dynamic past and traditions. Ride in a rickshaw, which is an enjoyable and not to be missed experience while in Japan. 

Downtown Kamakura provides plenty of occasions for trying delicious local food and shopping. Start with Komachi Street, lined with hundreds of shops, cafés, and restaurants. You'll have many opportunities for fantastic snapshots in Kamakura, often ranked as one of the most beautiful towns in Japan.

Day 5: Transfer to Hakone, Cruise Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi with view of Mount Fuji
Lake Ashi with a view of Mount Fuji
Rise early this morning to catch the train to Hakone. Once you've checked in at your hotel, spend the rest of the day exploring. A cable car will take you to Owakudani. At the top of this active volcanic area, you'll find hot thermal steam geysers and volcanic rock. You can also take a short cruise on Lake Ashi, where you'll have stunning views of Mount Fuji. Don't forget to check out the countless hot springs.

Another popular local attraction is the Hakone Shrine. This shrine is famous for its giant red torii (Shinto shrine gates) located on the edge of the forest, which appear to be floating on the lake's water. After much sightseeing, you'll stay overnight in an authentic ryokan, a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast-style lodging. After a long day, you can relax in the establishment's natural thermal waters called an onsen.

Day 6: Transfer to Kyoto, Traditional Afternoon Tea Ceremony

Kyoto
A glimpse of a Geisha strolling the Gion District, Kyoto
A short train ride takes you to Kyoto today. Once the capital of Japan, this city is famous for its many classical Buddhist temples and gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines, and traditional wooden houses. It's also known for formal traditions such as kaiseki dining, a multiple-course dinner composed of small dishes. Once you arrive at your hotel, your morning is free to discover the city.
 
Make your way to the KYOCERA Museum of Art for performing arts shows and weekend markets, or visit the Golden Kinkakuji Temple, a Zen temple wrapped in gold leaf on the edge of a calm lake. In the evening, head to Nishiki Market, where you can buy traditional crafts, ceramics, and textiles. And of course, you can eat! It's a food lover's paradise with countless stalls of local dishes such as fish cakes, yakitori, noodles, and much more, all in a buzzing and vibrant atmosphere.
 
In the afternoon, you can participate in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony. Your instructor will introduce you briefly to the history and cultural importance of this ancient tradition. Then you'll have a small traditional sweet. Following this, you'll make a sparkling matcha dish under the guidance of your instructor.

Day 7: Arashiyama Bamboo Walking Tour, Kyoto Temple Afternoon Tour

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Step back in time with a walking tour of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Stroll through this alluring forest with thousands of tall bamboo plants to reach Tenryu-Ji Temple, where you can immerse yourself in its rich history. Afterward, wander through other well-known spots in Saga-Arashiyama and visit more UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples. Next, explore the iconic Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. Dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, you'll find it at the end of a vermillion-colored walkway made up of thousands of torii gates. Expect incredible Kyoto views as you climb further up this winding passage. 

After lunch, you can take the "Kyoto Temple Afternoon Tour," which allows you to go at your own pace. Delve into Kyoto's intricate temples and serene gardens by exploring some of the imperial city's most important religious and cultural sites. You'll see Sanjusangendo Temple, the most extended wooden structure in Japan and home to 1001 life-size Kannon statues. 

Day 8: Transfer to Osaka, Explore the City & Castle Visit

Nightlife in Osaka
Nightlife in Osaka

Following a quick train ride, you'll arrive in Osaka, the liveliest city in the Kansai area! Start with Osaka Castle, one of the most famous in Japan. Take a pleasant stroll within its park and learn about its history in the informative museum in the castle itself. Next, it's on to Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The carefully preserved sanctuary grounds are a national treasure for their architectural and cultural value. 

It's your final evening in Japan, and what better way to celebrate than to feast on a sumptuous farewell dinner? Experience two of Osaka's most dynamic and popular "foodie" neighborhoods on this small-group guided evening tour. You'll get a real send-off with a multi-course meal and drinks by tasting some local specialties in an authentic atmosphere.

Day 9: Depart Osaka

Depart Osaka
Goodbye, Japan!
Today is your departure from Osaka. At the designated time, transfer to the airport for your departing flight. Have a safe trip! Go-buji de!

More Great Japan Itineraries

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

Map

Map of Explore Nature in Traditional Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto & Osaka - 9 Days
Map of Explore Nature in Traditional Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto & Osaka - 9 Days
Irish
Written by Irish S., updated Aug 3, 2022