Dash around Japan by bullet train to discover the archipelago's tastes, ceremonies, and exciting nightlife. Learn how to make sushi in Tokyo and explore its oldest temple Senso-ji. In Kyoto's Gion district, discover the world of becoming a geisha. Warm yourself up by sipping sakes at a brewery outside of Hiroshima and soaking in an onsen in Hakone. Take time to relax and feel the pulse of Japan's cities on this 12-day tour.


  • Learn how to cook like a local in Tokyo
  • Sip on matcha during a tea ceremony in Kyoto
  • Taste sake at a brewery in Saijo
  • Soak in a mineral bath at an onsen in Hakone

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo City Tour & Cooking Class Tokyo
Day 3 Nakameguro Food Tour Tokyo
Day 4 Train to Kyoto, Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 5 Kyoto History & Culture, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan Kyoto
Day 6 Nishiki Market Tour & Sushi Class, Train to Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 7 Hiroshima Gardens & Saijo Sake Brewery Tour Hiroshima
Day 8 Miyajima Cruise, Train to Osaka & Osaka Food Tour Osaka
Day 9 Osaka & Nara Tour, Evening Osaka Food Tour Osaka
Day 10 Train to Hakone, Hakone Free Day Hakone
Day 11 Train to Kamakura, Free Day Kamakura
Day 12 Train to Tokyo, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Discover sprawling Tokyo by night

Welcome to Japan! At Tokyo Haneda Airport, a driver will be waiting for you for a private transfer to your hotel. Settle in and depending on your arrival time in Tokyo, get out and see some of the city. Spend a few hours exploring Shinjuku's gardens and the Metropolitan Government Observatory (one of the city's tallest buildings), where you'll have Mount Fuji views on a clear day.

At Omoide Yokocho, walk through an alley with wooden buildings adorned with paper lanterns. Shinjuku Golden Gai is another area to discover and navigate its narrow alleys. End the night in the Kabukicho district, full of lively hostess bars, robot restaurants, pachinko parlors (games arcades), and love hotels. Look for the Godzilla model climbing through the buildings above the Toho Cinema. For dinner, you can also dine yokocho, which translates to "alley," but also refers to izakaya, restaurants serving drinks and snacks. Try yakitori (meat skewers), gyoza (dumplings), sushi, or smoked foods paired with whisky. 

Day 2: Tokyo City Tour & Cooking Class

Senso-ji is Tokyo's oldest temple and a five-story pagoda and shrine

Today you'll navigate Tokyo's public transportation system along with your guide as you see some of the city's most captivating landmarks. In Asakusa, visit Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple and a five-story pagoda and shrine, which is so large some consider it a neighborhood of its own. On Nakamise-dori—a street in front of the temple—browse shops selling traditional knives and katanas (swords). For lunch, step into a local's home to learn how to make ramen, gyoza, sushi, and miso soup. Round out the meal with a steaming cup of matcha or glass of sake. 

After a morning exploring, spend the afternoon resting at your hotel or seeing more of the city on your own. At night, visit Tokyo SkyTree, one of the world's tallest towers, where you can see skyline views from 2,080 feet (853 m) on the tower's observatory decks, some with glass floors.

Day 3: Nakameguro Food Tour

See the Nakameguro riverside neighborhood, take a walk, and see its boutiques and restaurants

Meet your guide in the morning for a tour of Nakameguro, a neighborhood known for its Meguro River, lined with cherry blossoms, and its boutiques, galleries, and gastropubs. Some of the foods you'll try are sweet, such as taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), fruit sandwiches, and black sesame ice cream. For lunch, take a seat in a shabu-shabu (hotpot) restaurant or ramen shop. 

In the evening, join an optional food tour in Shinjuku. Some of the stops could be a restaurant known for its Wagyu beef cooked on a shichirin (charcoal barbecue grill), where you'll also learn about this cooking technique. Or, study the art of sushi in a class where you'll create basic rolls. Follow the important steps of preparing rice, soup stock, and slicing fish and other fillings, and then eat the rolls you create along with spicy wasabi, miso soup, and green tea.

Day 4: Train to Kyoto, Tea Ceremony

Learn the ceremonies to prepare and drink tea in Kyoto

Today, travel approximately two hours west from Tokyo to Kyoto on a bullet train using your included rail pass. In Kyoto and across Japan, tea ceremonies are central to social gatherings. In a machiya (wooden house) in Ninenzaka in Kyoto's Higashiyama district, learn the process of making and serving tea along with sweets. After the tea ceremony, visit nearby temples, Kiyomizu-dera, Kodai-ji, and Chion-in. Then walk in Maruyama Park, through Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and to the geisha district, Gion.

By night, enter the world of geishas who specialize in music, dance, and even conversation at banquets, tea ceremonies, and other parties. Watch a geisha performance during dinner in a tatami room and then speak with a maiko (apprentice geisha) to learn about their process of studying and practicing dance and other arts. At the end of a full day, return to your Kyoto hotel. 

Day 5: Kyoto History & Culture Tour, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan

Kyoto's Golden Pavilion
Explore the grounds of Kyoto's Golden Pavilion

Learn about Kyoto's history and culture today on a walking tour with your local guide. Stroll among towering bamboo at exquisite Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, then visit the temples of Kinkaku-ji ("Golden Pavilion"), and Ryoan-ji—known for its Zen garden. You'll also walk into Gion, a geisha district where you may spot ladies in beautifully patterned kimonos.

For dinner, take a seat at the Hiiragiya ryokan (inn), founded in 1818, hosting artists, politicians, and members of the imperial family. Here dinner is served artfully in several courses. Savor each course and then make your way back to your hotel or return to Gion to explore the area at night. 

Day 6: Nishiki Market Tour & Sushi Class, Train to Hiroshima

Taste local dishes and fresh produce at Nishiki Market

Follow your guide today to learn about Kyoto's best-known dishes. Nishiki Market, which spans five blocks, is also known as "Kyoto's Kitchen," with fresh produce, seafood, teas, herbs, spices, pickled vegetables, and sweets. Get in line with the locals to try yu dofu (boiled tofu) and nishin soba (noodles with dried herring).

In the afternoon, perfect your sushi-making technique in a class with a local expert, and be sure to ask your teacher about specific fish cuts. Your teacher will also suggest Japanese spirits to pair with your creations. At the end of the class, you'll leave Kyoto for your next destination, Hiroshima, traveling about two hours southwest. Check into your Hiroshima hotel and prepare to explore the city tomorrow.

Day 7: Hiroshima Gardens & Saijo Sake Brewery Tour

Learn about sake making and taste different types in Saijo

Today is open to explore Hiroshima and its many gardens. Start with 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 walk. From the gardens, take a short stroll to Hiroshima Castle and then climb to its observation platform for panoramic city views. To travel around the city, ride on a streetcar—a service operating for more than 150 years.

Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
End your day of exploration with dinner and the region's special sake at Sake Brewery Street in Saijo, just outside of Hiroshima, one of Japan's largest sake-producing areas. A local guide will show you tasting rooms where you can try different types of sake and blends and learn about the process of brewing Japan's signature fermented alcohol. 

Day 8: Miyajima Cruise, Train to Osaka & Osaka Food Tour

Miyajima Cruise
On a cruise to Miyajima, visit shrines floating on the water

Today you'll get a better picture of Japan as an archipelago when you travel by ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima for approximately 45 minutes. Miyajima is known as the "Island of the Gods," and once you arrive, a private sailing tour will show you some of the island. Visit Shinto shrines—some of which are only reachable by boat—such as Itsukushima, with its floating torii gate. Your guide will highlight some of the area's most notable landmarks and explain the island's history. After the boat tour, return to Hiroshima to travel to Osaka, about 47 miles (77 km) south.

Spend your evening in Osaka weaving your way through its side streets on a food tour to try dishes from the Kansai region. Osaka is also called "Kuidaore City," meaning to ruin oneself with food, and it has a reputation as Japan's gastronomic capital. Try Kobe beef—best served grilled or cooked with the tecchiri method (meat and vegetables boiled in seaweed stock). For dessert, try rice cakes, rainbow-colored pancakes, or matcha-flavored ice cream. At the end of the night, go back to your hotel to rest after a full day of cultural and food adventures.

Day 9: Osaka & Nara Tour, Evening Osaka Food Tour

In Nara Park, deer roam free

Take a break in nature today as you explore more of Osaka and its surrounding areas. Start with a visit to Nara, traveling approximately 19 miles (32 km) east, where a guide will show you to deer-dotted Nara Park, Todai-ji temple, and other sites to see the area's natural landscape. Back in Osaka, see Osaka Castle and learn about its role in the unification of Japan during the Azuchi-Momoyama period in the sixteenth century. Then visit the Sky Umeda Building—two linked 40-story towers, one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. 

By night, join a food tour of restaurants in the neighborhoods of Tenma and Kyobashi, visiting local hole-in-the-wall spots away from tourist crowds. Learn about different small-plate dishes and drinks as your guide explains how and when to order them. See Osaka's nightlife after dinner in Dotonbori, a popular entertainment area with bars, restaurants, and clubs. 

Day 10: Train to Hakone, Hakone Free Day

Soak in warm water and relax at a Hakone onsen

In the morning, check out of your hotel and take a train about three hours east to Hakone, one of the most popular areas in Japan for onsen (hot springs with baths). In Hakone, stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and then spend the day soaking in an onsen. After relaxing, see some of Hakone, visit Odawara Castle, and cross Lake Ashi on a pirate boat. 

Spend the evening trying some of Hakone's craft beers at a brewery such as Gora Brewery & Grill. The restaurant, like other breweries, is known for pairing dishes with locally-produced craft beer. Some items on the menu are burdock chips, Wagyu beef, gyoza, and fried fish and chicken.

Day 11: Train to Kamakura, Free Day

Marvel at the towering Great Buddha in Kamakura

Spend your last full day in Japan on the seaside, taking a train from Hakone to Kamakura and traveling about 1.5 hours east. Explore on your own, or ask a local guide to show you the most popular sites if you want to learn more about the city and its history.

Aside from its location facing Sagami Bay, Kamakura also has many Zen Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, such as Zeniarai Benzaiten, to explore. Be sure not to miss one of its most prominent landmarks, the Kotoku-in temple's Great Buddha, a 42-foot (13 m) bronze statue from the 13th century. Depending on the season, you may also want to spend some time relaxing on the beach. At the end of the day, try local dishes for dinner, such as fish cakes or shrimp dumplings. 

Day 12: Train to Tokyo, Depart

Enjoy your last morning and afternoon in Japan until next time

Spend your last morning in Japan visiting a temple or drinking steaming matcha tea in Kamakura. A driver will pick you up from your hotel for a private transfer to the airport in Tokyo to travel home or to your next destination. 

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A note on diacritical markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of From Tokyo to Kyoto: Japan's Flavors & Ceremonies - 12 Days
Map of From Tokyo to Kyoto: Japan's Flavors & Ceremonies - 12 Days