See some of Japan's most famous sites while exploring the country by bullet train on this 13-day tour. After learning about Tokyo's history and culture, visit Nikko for a rejuvenating hike, Kamakura to explore its shrines and temples, and Hakone, where you can relax in its thermal waters. Then, it's on to Kyoto to admire the beautiful gates of Fushimi Inari and Hiroshima to reflect on the tragic events there before ending your adventure in Osaka to look around its famous castle.


  • Explore Tokyo's most captivating attractions 
  • Cruise on Lake Ashi and enjoy views of Mount Fuji
  • Visit the Fushimi Inari shrine with its 10,000 red gates
  • Learn more about the historic atrocities at Hiroshima 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo City Tour: From Traditional to Modern Tokyo
Day 3 Day Trip to Nikko Tokyo
Day 4 Day Trip to Kamakura Tokyo
Day 5 Train to Hakone, Explore Hakone
Day 6 Train to Kyoto, Hiking at Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
Day 7 Deer, Temples & Tea in Nara & Uji Kyoto
Day 8 Explore the Beautiful Landscapes in Arashiyama Kyoto
Day 9 Train to Hiroshima, Explore Hiroshima
Day 10 Visit the Hiroshima Gardens Hiroshima
Day 11 Day Trip to Miyajima island Hiroshima
Day 12 Train to Osaka, Visit the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, Evening Food Tour Osaka
Day 13 Depart Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Explore

 Shinjuku, Tokyo
Kabukicho is full of lively spots such as robot restaurants and pachinko 

Welcome to Japan! After landing at either Tokyo's Haneda or Narita Airports, you will need to collect your JR Pass at the JR ticket counter, which will allow unlimited use of the Shinkansen (bullet train) during your trip. An English-speaking driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, you may wish to head straight out to explore the city. You could start by looking at some of Shinjuku's gardens or the Observation Deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Headquarters (one of the city's tallest buildings), with views of Mount Fuji.

Alternatively, walk through Omoide Yokocho, an alley filled with restaurants and colorful paper lanterns. Try yakitori (chicken skewers). Shinjuku Golden Gai is another great area to explore, with narrow alleys and many bars. End the night in the Kabukicho red-light district, full of lively spots such as robot restaurants and pachinko (arcade games). Look out for the Godzilla reproduction climbing through the buildings. Another option is to watch the sunset from the Observation Deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Headquarters for a free 360-degree panoramic view of the city.

Day 2: Tokyo City Tour: From Traditional to Modern

Visit Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple

Today, your local guide will help you to navigate Tokyo's public transport as you see some of the city's most captivating landmarks. In Asakusa, learn about traditional Japanese culture and see Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple and a five-story pagoda and shrine, which is so large that some consider it a neighborhood of its own. On Nakamise-dori, a shopping street in front of the temple, browse shops selling traditional knives and katanas (swords). After a morning of exploring, spend the afternoon relaxing at your hotel or venture back out to see more of the city on your own.

To add a unique element to your day, you can explore Tokyo wearing a traditional kimono. If you decide to do this, before starting your tour, you will head up to a traditional kimono store to choose the best kimono for you. You will be able to look around while wearing this to fit in with the traditional environment of Tokyo. In the evening, visit Tokyo SkyTree, one of the world's tallest towers, where you can see skyline views from 2,080 feet (634 m) on its observatory decks, one with a glass floor. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Nikko

Lake Chuzenji Nikko
Discover the lovely Lake Chuzenji at the foot of Mount Nantai

Nikko is a beautiful town located just two hours by train from Tokyo. The many hiking trails here will allow you to breathe fresh air as an escape from the city. On this day trip, visit Nikko National Park, where you can hike the Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail, which offers excellent views of the marshlands and surrounding mountains. You'll discover the lovely Lake Chuzenji at the foot of Mount Nantai in the hills just above Nikko. You can choose between taking a sightseeing boat, hiking along the charming but hilly paths in the forest, or following the lake's shores to discover the temple of Chuzen-ji.

You'll also find Nikko Toshogu, a lavishly decorated shrine of more than a dozen buildings in the lush forest. Don't miss Kegon Falls, either. At more than 328 feet (100 m) tall, it is one of the tallest waterfalls in Nikko. You can view it up close from an upper observation platform.

Day 4: Day Trip to Kamakura

Great Buddha of Kamakura
The Great Buddha of Kamakura

In the morning, take an hour-long train journey to Kamakura. Sometimes called the Kyoto of eastern Japan, this seaside city has a rich history that spans centuries. Visit the city's most significant temples and shrines, such as Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, Kamakura's main shrine, and Kotoku-in, where you'll see the Great Buddha of Kamakura, a bronze statue of Amida Buddha. Your local guide will show you around Kamakura, detailing its dynamic past and traditions. While in the city, you will ride in a rickshaw, which is an enjoyable and not to be missed experience while in Japan. 

If you'd like to sample delicious local food and go shopping, head to downtown Kamakura. Start on Komachi Street, which is lined with hundreds of shops, cafés, and restaurants. You'll have many opportunities to take fantastic photographs in Kamakura, too, as it's often ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in Japan.

Day 5: Transfer to Hakone, Explore

Lake Ashi with view of Mount Fuji
Lake Ashi with a view of Mount Fuji

Take a train from Tokyo to Hakone, which should take around two hours. Check in to your hotel on arrival, then head out to explore. Start by taking a cable car to Owakudani, a volcanic valley. Here you'll find hot thermal steam geysers and volcanic rock. You can also take a short cruise on Lake Ashi, where you'll enjoy knockout views of Mount Fuji. Don't forget to check out the countless hot springs here, too.

Another local attraction to visit is the town's distinctive lakeside shrine. This shrine is famous for its giant red torii (gate) located on the edge of the forest, which appears to be floating on the lake. After a busy day sightseeing, stay overnight in an authentic ryokan, a traditional Japanese bed, and breakfast-style lodging. Unwind before bed by relaxing in its onsen, natural thermal waters.

Day 6: Train to Kyoto, Hike at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Shinkansen (bullet train)
Take the bullet train to Kyoto

Today, take the bullet train to Kyoto. Start your day by visiting the beautiful shrine of Fushimi Inari, where you will find 10,000 red gates made famous by the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha." If you'd like to hike the trail here, allow around two to three hours. Or simply go as far as you'd like and then head back to the beginning. The route is mainly on steps, so it can be tiring, but you'll be able to capture scenic shots throughout the trail. A good tip is to start your hike as early as possible to avoid crowds. But, if you do the whole trail, you'll find fewer people the farther you go.

Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
You'll also have the option of learning about tea ceremonies today, with an expert guiding you through the process, explaining the significance of different steps and tea preparation. Tea ceremonies are central to Japanese culture, and you'll learn the process of making and serving tea along with sweets in a machiya (wooden townhouse) in Ninenzaka in the Higashiyama district. After the tea ceremony, visit the nearby temples of Kiyomizu-dera, Kodai-ji, and Chion-in. Then, take a walk in Maruyama Park, past the Yasaka-jinja shrine, and to the geisha and entertainment district, Gion.

Day 7: Day Trip to Nara & Uji

Nara Deer
See the roaming deer of Nara

Explore the beautiful cities of Nara and Uji at your own pace on a day trip from Kyoto. Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 CE and is known for its scenic gardens, parks, temples, and shrines. Take the train from Kyoto Station and begin at Nara's Todai-ji temple, home to the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha. In the manicured temple grounds, you'll find the roaming deer of Nara, tame enough to be fed by visitors. Walk around the temple's Isui-en ("garden founded on water"). This peaceful, manicured garden features tea houses and a museum with Korean and Chinese collections. 

Finally, visit the Kasuga-Taisha Shinto shrine. Its offering hall can be seen for free, with a charge for entering the inner area. It's known for its lanterns that worshipers have offered. Then head to Uji, between Kyoto and Nara, and 40-50 minutes away by train. The Byodo-in temple here is the one portrayed on the back of 10 yen coins. Nearby, you'll find traditional stores offering quality green tea (try green tea ice cream), as well as noodles, matcha, and sweets. The Byodo-in Omotesando neighborhood is the best place for dinner and souvenir shopping before returning to Kyoto.

Day 8: Explore the Beautiful Landscapes in Arashiyama

See Beautiful Landscapes in Arashiyama
See beautiful landscapes in Arashiyama

Today, head to Arashiyama, a captivating district and famous heritage site in western Kyoto. It has a world-renowned bamboo grove and beautiful scenery that changes with the seasons and is popular with visitors. Walk over the Togetsukyo Bridge, feeling calm as the stream flows underneath, then climb Iwatayama Mountain, which leads to Iwatayama Monkey Park and enjoy a bird's eye view of Kyoto.

Afterward, visit Arashiyama's famous bamboo forests before heading to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, which is one of the top sights in Kyoto. This temple, known for its scenic view, is covered in gold leaf on its top two floors. You can admire it and the surrounding lake throughout the different seasons of the year, whether covered with snow, colorful autumn leaves, or clear skies in summer.

Day 9: Train to Hiroshima, Explore

Hiroshima's Atomic Bomb Dome

In Hiroshima, you can choose whether you'd like to be shown around by a guide on a four-hour tour or to explore at your own pace. Either way, head to sites with a connection to the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, including the Atomic Bomb Dome, the former Industrial Promotion Hall whose shell has been left as a memorial, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where you can stand and reflect on the atrocities; and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where you can see items collected after the bomb. Prepare yourself, as it can be upsetting.

At night, enjoy some of Hiroshima's famous and delicious regional food, Hiroshimayaki, or Japanese pancake, slightly different from okonomiyaki from Osaka.

Day 10: Visit the Hiroshima Gardens

Shukkeien Garden
Shukkeien Garden, which was established in 1620

Use today to appreciate the beauty of Hiroshima and its many gardens. Start in Shukkeien Garden, near the station, 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. It was destroyed by the bomb but has since been restored.

From the gardens, take a short walk to Hiroshima Castle, also known as Hiroshima-jo, and climb to its observation platform for panoramic city views. Streetcars are a good way to travel around the city, a service that has been operating for more than 150 years. End your day of exploring with dinner and treat yourself to a glass of the region's special sake.

Day 11: Day Trip to Miyajima Island

Sacred Deer on Miyajima
Sacred deer on Miyajima

Head to Miyajima today, a small island less than an hour outside Hiroshima. The island is officially called Itsukushima but is more commonly referred to as Miyajima, which is Japanese for "shrine island." Start by walking to the Itsukushima shrine, famous for its giant torii gate, which seems to float on the water at high tide. Its Shinto shrine is built over water too. As you walk here from the ferry terminal, you'll spot plenty of deer who roam freely and are super friendly.

Afterward, explore the peaceful Daisho-in temple at the foot of Mount Misen, a 10-minute walk from the Itsukushima shrine. If you walk up to the summit of Mount Misen from the temple, you can then go to the Miyajima Ropeway Station (cable car). From here, choose to go farther on foot or take the ropeway back down. You could even take the ropeway to the temple instead of walking. Change ropeways at Kayadani Station to arrive at the Shishi-iwa Observatory for fabulous views. Head to Omotesando Street for souvenirs before you go home.

Day 12: Train to Osaka, Visit the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, Evening Food Tour

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the most famous in Japan

Spend your last full day exploring Osaka solo or with a private guide. The transfer by train from Hiroshima will take two hours. Start at Osaka Castle, one of the most famous castles in Japan, where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll in its park and learn about its history in the informative castle museum. Next, go 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.

Make your final evening special by booking an optional night food tour in Osaka. Osaka gives Tokyo a run for its money when it comes to delicious cuisine, and you can experience its culinary delights on a three-hour street food tour. You'll sample unique dishes focusing on regional foods from the Kansai region. Try takoyaki, ball-shaped octopus bites, and okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake with your choice of topping. You'll also be given two drinks as part of the tour.

Day 13: Depart Osaka

Transfer from Osaka to Kansai International Airport
Transfer from Osaka to Kansai International Airport

Today is your departure day. Your private driver will pick you up from your hotel's lobby to take you to Kansai International Airport for your flight to your onward destination. We hope that you enjoyed your visit and will come back to Japan soon!

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other Japan itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in Japan, and discover the best time to visit Japan.

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 Highlights & History of Japan by Train - 13 Days
Map of Highlights & History of Japan by Train - 13 Days
Written by Irish S., updated Oct 18, 2023