This 10-day itinerary follows the path of Japan's ancient Tokaido Highway (the Golden Route) from the skyscrapers of ultra-modern Tokyo to the cultural heart of Kyoto. In between the two cities, you'll stop in the beautiful town of Hakone to soak up Mount Fuji views, hot springs, and excellent museums. Traveling by bullet train, your flexible Japan Rail Pass offers plenty of day-trips for a truly customizable adventure.

Highlights

  • Explore Tokyo's quaint shops and eateries in the historic Asakusa district
  • Rise early for a sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market (the largest in the world)
  • Stay two nights at a traditional Japanese inn with mountains, lakes, and hot springs
  • Marvel at the sunset behind the floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine
  • Head to the top of a Tokyo skyscraper and toast to your last night of the trip

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight  
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo            Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo City Tour              Tokyo
Day 3 Tokyo Free Day Tokyo
Day 4 Train to Odawara - Explore Hakone Hakone
Day 5 Hakone Free Day Hakone
Day 6 Train to Kyoto Kyoto
Day 7 Kyoto City Tour Kyoto
Day 8 Kyoto Free Day Kyoto
Day 9 Train to Tokyo  Tokyo
Day 10 Depart Tokyo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Tokyo's skyline with the "Skytree" tower

Welcome to Japan! Upon arrival at Tokyo's Narita Airport, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your hotel in the historic Asakusa District.

This is a great location as you'll be well-situated to explore this bustling, low-rise area of the city—home to both Tokyo's oldest temple and its newest landmark: the 2080 foot (634 m) Skytree! Depending on the time you arrive, you could spend both the afternoon and evening exploring Asakusa's quaint shops and amazing food outlets on foot for a taste of the local cuisine. Also, make sure to visit Asakusa's main attraction of Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple built in the 7th century. 

Day 2: Tokyo City Tour

Entrance to Harajuku's Yoyogi Park

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll embark on a city tour of one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world. A private guide will meet you at your hotel and help you discover the major sights and lesser-known locales of Tokyo. Armed with many years of experience, he or she will have lots of recommendations to ensure that you maximize your time here. 

The itinerary is very flexible based on preferences and can be decided on the day of—just mention any specific requests in person. Some popular activities include enjoying a tea ceremony at Hamarikyu Gardens, browsing the electronics shops in Akihabara, or wandering around Harajuku's Yoyogi Park. Before parting ways with your guide, make sure to ask for dinner suggestions!

Day 3: Tokyo Free Day

Great Buddha of Kamakura

Today is a free day where you can explore more of the city on your own or take a day-trip to one of Tokyo's scenic surrounding areas.

Perhaps you'll want to up early for a sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest in the world. The market consists of a few blocks of wholesale and retail shops, as well as restaurants crowded along narrow lanes. Here you can find fresh seafood and produce alongside food-related goods that might make for some nice souvenirs.

You could also head to ritzy Ginza for some shopping. This is one of the city’s top shopping districts where you'll find upmarket boutiques, as well as high-end cocktail and sushi bars. On the weekends, check out the main drag of Chuo Dori, which becomes a stylish pedestrian promenade.

You could also ride to the top of the Skytree for stunning vistas of the city. For a fun day-trip, consider a visit to Kamakura's giant Buddha or a hike up Mount Takao—the possibilities are endless!

Day 4: Train to Odawara - Explore Hakone

Japan's tallest peak: Mount Fuji

This morning, it's time to head onwards! Leaving the capital behind, you will set off on the bullet train from Tokyo station to Odawara using your first-class Japan Rail Pass. Odawara is the gateway to the Fuji-Hakone National Park, expanding 762 square miles (1,227 km), which combines Mount Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, the Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands, so there is plenty to explore. 

Famed for its hot springs and beautiful mountain scenery, staying two nights here will give you a fantastic break from city life and a glimpse of another side of Japan. With so many ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) in the area, Hakone is the perfect place to relax and enjoy an authentic experience with exquisite food, superb service, and hot spring baths included in your stay.

Day 5: Hakone Free Day

The volcanic valley of Owakudani

After a relaxing night at your ryokan, you will have a full day to continue exploring Hakone, equipped with your Hakone Free Pass. This pass allows you to make use of the park's variety of buses, trains, cable cars, funicular railways—and even a pirate ship—to get around the area.

Despite not having experienced an eruption for 3,000 years, Hakone is full of volcanic activity, so be sure to visit Owakudani to see the plumes of sulfur rising from the crater and, perhaps, eat one of the black eggs boiled in the hot spring water.

Aside from the fantastic views, there is a wide range of excellent museums to visit including a superb open-air sculpture park.

After a long day of sightseeing, you will return to your accommodations for another delicious kaiseki (a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) and a reviving hot soak before getting ready for the next leg of the journey. 

Day 6: Train to Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji's Golden Pavilion

This morning, you'll hop aboard the bullet train once again as you speed westwards to Kyoto, again using your first-class Japan Rail Pass. The 267-mile (429 km) journey takes just over two hours, so you will have the afternoon free to start exploring Kyoto.

The former capital of Japan is famous for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines, and traditional wooden houses. With so many options in Kyoto it can be difficult to know where to start, but visiting the zen garden at Ryoan-ji Temple, sipping a cup of green tea at Kinkaku-ji's Golden Pavilion, or wandering around the Nijo castle grounds are excellent choices.

Day 7: Kyoto City Tour

Kyoto's Gion district

Today is your first full day in Kyoto! After breakfast, you will have a full day with a private local guide to explore some of Japan's most well-known temples and shrines, such as the exquisite hilltop Kiyomizu-dera or the iconic red gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine

There are cultural treasures hiding around every corner in Kyoto and your guide will be able to recommend some of the more famous destinations as well as some lesser-known unusual spots. If you have any particular preferences, make sure to mention them to your guide in advance in order to help them tailor the activities to your personal interests.

Day 8: Kyoto Free Day

The open-air halls of Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island

Today's itinerary is wide open and completely up to you! After breakfast, you can choose to spend another day exploring the panoply of sights in Kyoto or, alternatively, make a day-trip to one of the many amazing destinations within reach of the bullet train.

The city of Hiroshima, for example, is a poignant reminder of the barbarities of war but also a powerful symbol of the resilience of the human spirit. Meanwhile, Miyajima Island is a haven of tranquillity where you can survey stunning views of the inland sea and marvel at the sunset behind the floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine.

Closer to Kyoto lies Nara, home to thousands of deer and the giant Buddha at Todaiji Temple, as well as Uji, known for green tea and Byodo-in—the temple that appears on a Japanese yen coin.

Day 9: Train to Tokyo

Shinjuku District

After breakfast, you'll get to decide how to spend the day. Your final trip on the bullet train brings your experience full circle as you return to Tokyo—either in the morning to allow you more time in the capital or in the afternoon if you prefer to spend the day in Kyoto.

For your final night in this sprawling city, you will be staying in the vibrant Shinjuku district with thousands of shops, bars, and restaurants at your doorstep, as well as leading hotels such as the Keio Plaza, Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Park Hyatt (featured in Lost in Translation). Several of the skyscrapers have shops and restaurants on their ground floors and more restaurants overlooking the city on their top floors. Enjoy the views!

Day 10: Depart Tokyo

Goodbye, Tokyo!

It's time to say goodbye to Japan! At the designated time, you'll be met at your hotel by a private driver who will transfer you to Tokyo's Narita Airport in time for your departure flight home. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Japan Golden Route - 10 Days
Map of Japan Golden Route - 10 Days