Explore Japan's historic spots as you travel in a loop from Tokyo to Nagano. Start by discovering Tokyo's sights, then head to Nikko for some hiking. Visit Kyoto, Japan's historic capital, to see temples, meet geisha and participate in a traditional tea ceremony. See Himeji Castle, wander the quaint streets of Takayama, and explore UNESCO-listed Shirakawa-go. Transfer to Kanazawa for sightseeing, art, and a gold leaf workshop, ending with a lesson about ninjas and samurai in Nagano.


  • Discover beautiful Kegon Falls in Nikko
  • Visit Himeji Castle, Japan's most famous castle
  • Enjoy sightseeing, a geisha photoshoot, and a tea ceremony in Kyoto
  • See modern art and participate in a gold leaf workshop in Kanazawa

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the West of Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Day Trip to Nikko Tokyo
Day 3 Train to Kyoto, Discover Kyoto & Optional Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 4 Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike, Geisha Photoshoot  Kyoto
Day 5 Visit Japan's Most Famous Castle in Himeji Kyoto
Day 6 Train to Takayama, Explore Traditional Takayama Takayama
Day 7 Bus to Shirakawa, Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-Go Shirakawa
Day 8 Bus to Kanazawa, Day Out in Kanazawa Kanazawa
Day 9 Discover Kanazawa, Japan's City of Art Kanazawa
Day 10 Train to Nagano, Samurai History in Nagano Nagano
Day 11 Train to Tokyo & Depart Japan  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Explore the West of Tokyo

Tokyo city
Welcome to Tokyo

Welcome to Japan! At Tokyo Haneda Airport, a guide will be waiting for you to take you to your hotel via private transfer. Tokyo is an incredible, vibrant metropolis with so much to offer. Today, you'll explore the city's west on a full-day tour of the Harajuku and Shibuya areas. You'll visit Tsukiji Market, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Takeshita shopping street, and Shibuya Crossing as your guide introduces you to Tokyo's top spots.  

Day 2: Day Trip to Nikko

Kegon Falls
Kegon Falls

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 far 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'll have the option of taking a sightseeing boat, hiking along the charming but hilly paths in the forest, or following the lake's shores to discover Chuzen-ji Temple.

You'll also find Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a lavishly decorated shrine of more than a dozen buildings in the lush forest. And don't miss Kegon Falls. With the water plunging 318 feet (97 m), it's thrilling to see its might up close. You can view the waterfall well from an upper observation platform. Enjoy the spectacular sight and snap photos, then return to Tokyo in the evening. 

Day 3: Train to Kyoto, Explore & Optional Tea Ceremony

Arrival in Kyoto
Welcome to Kyoto

Travel, approximately two hours west from Tokyo to Kyoto, on a bullet train. Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and is famous for its imperial palaces, classical Buddhist temples and gardens, traditional wooden houses, and Shinto shrines. It's also known for its geisha (female entertainers) and formal traditions such as kaiseki dining, a multicourse meal of small dishes. Once you arrive, check in to your accommodation and relax, then use the rest of the morning to explore the city at your leisure.

In the afternoon, you can participate in a traditional tea ceremony. In a machiya (wooden house) in Ninenzaka in the Higashiyama district, learn the process of making and serving tea and sweets. An expert will guide you and explain the significance of the different ceremony and tea preparation steps. After the tea ceremony, visit the nearby temples of Kiyomizu-dera, Kodai-ji, and Chion-in. Then take a walk in Maruyama Park, through Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and to the geisha district, Gion. 186 US per night

Day 4: Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike, Geisha Photoshoot 

Hiking at Fushimi Inari Shrine
Hiking at Fushimi Inari Shrine

After breakfast, head out to explore eastern Kyoto. Start your day with a hike at the famous and beautiful Fushimi Inari Shrine, popularized by the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha" and features 10,000 red gates. If you wish to hike the whole trail, it will take around 2-3 hours. Afterward, wander to Nishiki Market for a taste of Kyoto's time-honored foods. Go with an empty stomach since this is the perfect place to try excellent food, from traditional snacks to sweets!

Finish your day with a visit to Nijo Castle to learn a bit about the history of this former capital, or enjoy visiting Kiyomizu-dera temple and taking in the beautiful views of Kyoto. You can also enjoy an entertaining photoshoot in traditional geisha clothing, where a maiko (a trainee geisha) will host you during your visit to the photo studio. As you are served green tea, she will talk about geisha practices and pose with you in pictures. You'll come away with stunning professional photos and a deeper knowledge of Japanese culture.

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

Day 5: Visit Japan's Most Famous Castle in Himeji

Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle
Use today to discover the city of Himeji on a day trip from Kyoto. Himeji is a popular place to visit, especially during the cherry blossom season. Here, you'll find Himeji Castle, one of Japan's most famous and historic castles and a cultural property of great national importance. After your visit, continue to Kokoen Garden, located next door and made up of nine separate, walled gardens designed in various Edo-period styles. Once you've finished your explorations, return to Kyoto for the evening. 

Day 6: Train to Takayama, Explore Traditional Takayama

Old street of Takayama
Historic street of Takayama
Take a train from Kyoto to Takayama, a quaint little city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu prefecture. Relish the calmness in the air and the touch of authentic Japanese heritage in every shop, house, street, and handicraft. Be sure to visit attractions like the Miyagawa Morning Market, Takayama Jinya, the historic, restaurant-filled Sanmachi-Suji District, and the Kusakabe Heritage House. You could also tour Onoya, Harada, and Kawashiri sake breweries.

Day 7: Bus to Shirakawa, Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-Go village
Take the bus from Takayama to Shirakawa, a town which is the site of the traditional village of Shirakawa-go. When you arrive, stroll around Myozenji Temple, founded in 1748, and its museum. These are located on the north side of Shirakawa-go village. Shirakawa-go was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The village's main attraction lies in its gassho-zukuri farmhouses, built in a classic style.

Day 8: Bus to Kanazawa, Day Out in Kanazawa

Day Out in Kanazawa
View in Kanazawa

In the morning, take a bus from Shirakawa to Kanazawa, a journey of approximately one hour and 15 minutes. Then, use the rest of the day to discover Kanazawa, a charming city on the west coast of Japan.

Upon arrival, you can leave your luggage directly at your accommodation. Afterward, head out to explore the city's beautiful gardens, including its castle park, which is a stunning spot during cherry blossom season. Bring your camera and enjoy your day exploring Kanazawa Castle, once the headquarters of the Kaga Domain. The castle was built by Sakuma Morimasa and was in use from 1580 to 1945. 

Day 9: Discover Kanazawa, Japan's City of Art

Discover Kanazawa, Japan's City of Art
Kanazawa is known as Japan's City of Art

Spend today wandering through Kanazawa's many districts and art museums. Be sure not to miss the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which features several modern art galleries and a library.

Kanazawa is also famous for its gold leaf production, and you can join one of the many workshops in the city to learn to create golden objects. Choose between making your own chopsticks or gold leaf pin, and take your creations home as a souvenir. Your knowledgeable sensei (teacher) will talk you through the history of gold leaf production in Kanazawa and assist you as you create your craft. Continue your day with a stroll through the Kenrokuen Garden, considered one of Japan's most beautiful gardens. Or take some time to rest and walk around the places near your accommodation.

Day 10: Train to Nagano, Samurai History in Nagano

Samurai History in Nagano
Zenko-ji Temple in Nagano
Take the train from Kanazawa to Nagano, a journey of approximately an hour and a half. Nagano is home to Zenko-ji, one of Japan's most famous temples, where you can learn about Buddhist religious practices. Later, stop by the Togakushi Ninpo Museum to discover the history of ninjitsu, the unconventional warfare and espionage strategies originally practiced by ninjas. In the evening, experience the Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) as you stay at a traditional ryokan inn and soak in a time-honored hot spring bath (onsen). 

Day 11: Train to Tokyo, Depart Japan

Say goodbye to Tokyo and Japan
Take the train from Nagano to Tokyo, which takes approximately one hour and 47 minutes. When you reach Tokyo, enjoy your last day in Japan with a quick walk and some last-minute souvenir shopping before catching a private transfer to Narita International Airport (NRT). Have a safe journey home or to your next destination!

More Great Japan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Japan? Check out these other Japan itineraries, explore different ways to spend 11 days in Japan, or 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 Historic Japan: Tokyo to Nagano - 11 Days
Map of Historic Japan: Tokyo to Nagano - 11 Days