- Learn to make sushi, ramen, and more in a Japanese cooking class
- Ascend to breathtaking views on the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway
- Walk the peaceful greenery of Sagano Bamboo Grove
- Swim, surf, and snorkel in the turquoise waters of Okinawa Island
|Arrive in Tokyo, Self-Guided City Exploration
|Highlights of Tokyo Guided Tour
|Visit the Futuristic Odaiba District, Japanese Cooking Class
|Transfer to Hakone, Discover Hakone's Art, Nature & Museums
|Explore the Realm of Mount Fuji, Gotemba Distillery Tasting
|Train to Kyoto, Gion District & Traditional Tea Ceremony
|Temples of Kyoto, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
|Train to Osaka, Sightseeing Fun in Osaka City
|Day Trip to Kobe, Tour Himeji Castle, Kobe Beef & Sake Tasting
|Cup Noodles Museum, Kimono Tea Ceremony, Evening Foodie Tour
|Fly to Okinawa, Explore Naha City
|Ocean Expo Park Experience
|Free Day to Explore Okinawa Islands
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Self-Guided City Exploration
Welcome to Japan! Your flight lands in Tokyo, Japan's bustling capital city. Here, you'll find the perfect blend of modern and traditional, with neon-lit skyscrapers and dense traffic alongside historic temples and lush gardens. Your driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your hotel. Once you've had a chance to regroup, head out to see more of this fascinating urban metropolis!
You can start your self-guided exploration with a visit to the Tokyo Tower, an Eiffel Tower-inspired communications and observation tower that ascends 1,092 feet (333 m). As Japan's second-highest structure, this sky-high architectural wonder can be seen from several spots around the city. Take the elevator to the main deck, which sits at the midway point of the tower and offers gorgeous panoramic views of the brightly lit cityscapes—if the visibility is good, you may even see Mount Fuji in the distance!
You won't want to miss a walk through the trendy Harajuku district, known for its vibrant street art and edgy youth fashion. Check out some of the vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops, then finish in Ryogoku, the home and heart of sumo wrestling. See Ryogoku Kokugikan Arena, which hosts sumo and boxing, then stop at Edo Noren, a street that replicates an Edo-period village and where the staple soup of wrestlers is served—chankonabe, or Sumo hot pot. A dinner of this hearty stew is a great way to end your first day in Japan.
Day 2: Highlights of Tokyo Guided Tour
This morning, meet your guides for a city tour that takes you to some of Tokyo's top sightseeing spots. You'll start at Meiji Jingu, a popular Shinto temple dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Then, head to Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, where an extensive array of shops trade all sorts of freshly-cooked delicacies and cooking ingredients. If you're in need of some sustenance, you can also enjoy a fresh sushi breakfast from one of the restaurants here.
Next, visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, the part of the palace open to the public. The garden features seasonal flowers, green lawns, fountains, and teahouses, and you can also catch views of the impressive double-arched Nijubashi Bridge. Walk to the historic Asakusa district next, a neighborhood that retains an old Tokyo vibe, with traditional craft shops and street foods.
Continue to Senso-ji, which dates back to the seventh century and is considered one of Tokyo's most significant Buddhist temples. Visit the temple's main hall, and if you like, you can pray to the goddess Kannon enshrined there just like the locals do or pick up an omikuji (fortunes written on strips of paper). The tour ends with a walk along the lively Nakamise-dori, a street adjacent to the temple that's lined with shops and food stands. You can purchase souvenirs for family and friends back home or grab a sweet treat to take back to your hotel.
Day 3: Visit the Futuristic Odaiba District, Japanese Cooking Class
Today's excursion takes you to Odaiba, a colorful shopping and entertainment district known as a hotspot for futuristic fun. This human-made island started as a small group of fort islands built during the Edo period to protect the country against attacks by sea. Today, it's a high-tech hub where visitors can explore new technology, art, and food. The island can be reached via the sleek Yurikamome train, a cruise through Tokyo Bay, or by crossing the neon lights of the Rainbow Bridge.
Start at Team Lab, an interactive art exhibition on the island that gives new meaning to the term "modern art"—be prepared to follow art as it moves along the walls. The nearby Miraikan Museum (officially the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) is a fantastic place to learn about everything in future tech in a fun and interactive way. You can also stroll along the beach at Seaside Park, ride the Daikanransha Ferris wheel for views of Mount Fuji, or have a bite to eat at one of the many sushi bars along the waterfront.
Later today, learn more about Japanese cuisine with a cooking lesson. Meet with a local chef and make some of the country's most famous dishes from scratch. Discover the secrets of the perfect sushi roll, make soba noodles or ramen, or try your hand at assembling delicious gyoza (potstickers). Your instructors will share insight into the traditions and history associated with each dish, and you'll get to enjoy a meal of your own creation.
Day 4: Transfer to Hakone, Discover Hakone's Art, Nature & Museums
Your next destination is the city of Hakone, a mountainous resort town located in Japan's Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Your driver will collect you in the morning for the 1.5-hour scenic drive, and once you've gotten settled at your accommodations, you're off to tour some of Hakone's top sights.
Meet with your guide and set out, starting at the Hakone Open Air Museum, which has various outdoor exhibits and an expansive collection of works by artists from around the world. The museum blends the beauty of nature with art, showcasing various sculptures and other pieces against the backdrop of the surrounding valley and mountains. Next, visit the Hakone Museum of Art, where you'll find displays of Japanese ceramics from prehistoric times through the Edo Period, as well as a pretty moss garden with stone paths that wind through shady maple trees.
Head to the shores of Lake Ashinoko and visit Hakone Shrine, a peaceful, tucked-away Shinto shrine with large lakefront torii gates, and then end your tour in the Owaku-dani Valley, where you can see the hot springs and rivers this region is so known for, alongside excellent views of Mount Fuji. Tonight, relax at one of Hakone's famous hot spring resort areas, most of which have multiple pools, restaurants, and other amenities.
Day 5: Explore the Realm of Mount Fuji, Gotemba Distillery Tasting
Today's excursions revolve around the iconic Mount Fuji, an active volcano located approximately 1.5 hours from Hakone. Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san as the locals call it, is the country's highest peak, stretching into the sky at more than 12,000 feet (3,776 m). It's a common pilgrimage site, with people coming from around the world to hike it, and it's considered one of Japan's three sacred mountains.
Your guide will pick you up from your hotel, and you'll make your first stop at Arakurayama Sengen Park, where Mount Fuji views frame a monumental pagoda. See Oshino Hakkai, a set of eight ponds fed by snow melt from Fuji's slopes, and stop in at Hannoki Bayashi Shiryokan, a small museum at Oshino Hakkai's largest pond with a thatched-roof farmhouse and exhibits of farming tools, household items, samurai armor, and weapons.
Board a small boat for a cruise across Lake Kawaguchi or head for the sky on the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway, reaching an observation deck for panoramic lake and mountain views. The day's adventure closes with a stop at the Fuji Gotemba Distillery, where whisky and sake are produced using water sourced from Fuji's snow melt. Learn about their sake-making process, and see the pot stills, distillation equipment, and wooden vat fermentation tanks that produce various types of sake. Enjoy a tasting of the different spirits, then return to Hakone for the evening.
Day 6: Train to Kyoto, Gion District & Traditional Tea Ceremony
You're off to the city of Kyoto today! This cultural powerhouse of a city is known for its historic traditions, such as kaiseki dining and geisha entertainers, as well as its numerous temples, gardens, and palaces. Make your way to the train station in the morning and board a Shinkansen bullet train for the 2.5-hour ride. Upon arrival, you'll be met by a driver and escorted to your hotel for check-in.
This afternoon, take a guided tour of Kyoto's captivating Gion district, admiring the traditional wooden houses that are such a part of the city's charm. If you're lucky, you may even spot a geisha(female Japanese performing artist) strolling along Hanami-koji Street. Afterward, experience a tea ceremony, otherwise known as known as chanoyu or sado, a highly ritualized tradition that was born and curated in Kyoto. You'll visit a local tea house where, after your hosts explain the ceremony and what to expect, you'll enjoy a formal introduction to the history of the ceremonies while sipping fragrant and flavorful tea.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Temples of Kyoto, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Start the day with a guided tour of Kyoto's top UNESCO World Heritage sites. Your guide will collect you from your hotel, and you'll begin at the majestic Fushimi-Inari Taisha. Featured in the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha," this shrine has more than 10,000 picturesque red torii gates, all donated by individuals and businesses as a sign of appreciation to the god Inari for the blessings received. From here, you'll continue to Kinkaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple with a large golden pavilion. Walk the peaceful grounds, and be sure to visit the temple's top floors, which are completely covered in gold leaf.
The tour continues with a drive to the scenic district of Arashiyama, located on the outskirts of Kyoto. Visit Sagano Bamboo Grove, a natural bamboo forest that encompasses more than 3,800 acres (1,537 ha) and has walking paths and trails that take you through the serene greenery of the towering stalks. See the popular Togetsukyo Bridge, whose name translates to "moon crossing bridge," and ends at Iwatayama Monkey Park, home to a troop of more than 100 Japanese macaques. Watch these curious creatures at play, and you may even have an opportunity to feed them.
Day 8: Train to Osaka, Sightseeing Fun in Osaka City
It's time to depart Kyoto and continue to the next leg of your tour in Osaka. Check out of your hotel this morning and take your private transfer to the train station, where you'll hop on board for the quick 30-minute trip. Osaka is Japan's third-largest city and a major commercial center known for its sleek architecture, street food, and endless shopping opportunities. Once you've arrived and gotten settled at your hotel, meet with a local guide for a tour of Osaka's top sights.
Begin at the iconic Osaka Castle Park, which was once the largest of its kind and has withstood both war and lightning strikes throughout history. Inside, you'll find a wealth of information on Japan's history, including dioramas that depict various battles, uniforms, and helmets and a large observation deck that offers excellent city views. Then, it's off to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, dedicated to the history of the city's urban growth and housing. See re-creations of the city's buildings and streets during different time periods, including a replica of an Edo period townscape.
Finish the afternoon with a walk through the Shinsaibashi shopping district, a consumer mecca that stretches to Mido-Suji Avenue and is considered one of the most famous shopping areas in the city. With a history spanning 380 years, it has been an established commercial hub since the Edo period. Wander through shops that cater to all ages and tastes, with everything from traditional kimonos to Western clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and tons of food stalls and restaurants.
Day 9: Day Trip to Kobe, Tour Himeji Castle, Kobe Beef & Sake Tasting
See more of Osaka's countryside as you meet with your guides and make the two-hour drive to the UNESCO-listed Himeji Castle. The castle, often referred to as Hakuro-jo or Shirasagi-jo because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight, is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture. You'll have a chance to see the incredible network of 83 buildings and advanced defensive systems from the feudal period, then it's off to Kobe, home to the savory marbled beef of the same name.
Visit a local restaurant and enjoy a meal of this delicious meat alongside other delicacies; then, if you'd like, your guide will take you to the Sake Brewery Museum for a tasting of different types of sake. The tour ends with a cable car ride up Mount Nunobiki, which takes you to the Nunobiki Herb Garden, a botanical garden and Japan's largest herb garden, with themed areas, a restaurant, and a gift shop.
Day 10: Cup Noodles Museum, Kimono Tea Ceremony, Evening Foodie Tour
Celebrate all things ramen with a visit to Osaka's Cup Noodles Museum. This fun and whimsical interactive space showcases the origins of instant ramen, with exhibits that include a reproduction of the research shed where instant ramen was born, a cup-noodle-shaped theater, and a ramen "tunnel." The museum also features a cup noodle workshop, where you'll be able to make your own cup of ramen noodles from selected soup flavors.
Later today, experience a more serious tradition with a kimono tea ceremony. Choose from one of the many intricately designed kimonos, get your hair and makeup done to match if you'd like, and learn about the Zen aspects of the tea ceremony. You'll watch the tea-making process, and with help from a local tea master, make your own cup of green matcha while also enjoying some traditional Japanese sweets.
Tonight, eat your way through the lively Shinsekai district on a guided foodie tour. Designed to imitate worldwide destinations such as Paris and New York's Coney Island, Shinsekai is a food-lovers paradise. Your guide will take you to some of the best food stands and restaurants here, and you'll have a chance to try dishes such as kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), takoyaki (dumplings with octopus), and other specialties.
Day 11: Fly to Okinawa, Explore Naha City
After breakfast, your driver will take you to the airport, where you'll catch a two-hour flight to the island of Okinawa, part of the group of islands known as the Okinawa Prefecture. Here you'll find a relaxed, beachy feel, with blue ocean waters, coral reefs, and a wealth of history and culture. You'll arrive in the capital city of Naha, and after you check in at your accommodations, take a guided tour around the island.
Begin at Shuri Castle, a historic site dating back to the 14th century. Walk the grounds and make note of the incredible blend of Japanese and Ryukyuan architecture while your guide shares stories and insight into the significance of this important landmark. Make your way to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum, where you'll find a thoughtfully curated collection of Okinawan art that spans ancient to contemporary times.
Finish the tour by exploring the covered halls of Makishi Public Market, a busy local space where you'll see residents shopping for freshly caught fish, local produce, and all manner of dried and preserved delicacies. Head up to the top-floor food court to dine at one of a dozen or so tiny restaurants serving udon (thick wheat noodles in broth), sushi, grilled seafood, and other specialties.
Day 12: Ocean Expo Park Experience
Gain a deeper understanding of the intersection between Okinawa's past and present with a visit to the Ocean Expo Park, located in northern Okinawa and considered an essential destination for anyone wanting to learn more about these beautiful islands.
Visit the park's Oceanic Culture Museum, which has ship replicas and informative displays about the ocean-based cultures of Asia and the South Pacific, then stop in at the Native Okinawan Village, a small open-air museum with over 20 residences and other buildings from different periods and regions of Okinawa. And don't miss the Tropical Dream Center, a botanical garden with a wide range of tropical trees, colorful plants, and an observatory tower built to resemble the Tower of Babel.
The park's main attraction is the Churaumi Aquarium, which is widely considered Japan's best aquarium. You'll see the massive Kuroshio Tank inside, named for the warm Kuroshio current, which has helped facilitate the wide variety of marine life in Okinawa. One of the largest tanks in the world, you'll see a huge range of fish and other sea life here, including giant whale sharks and manta rays.
Day 13: Free Day to Explore the Okinawa Islands
Make the most of your last day in Japan with some beach time! Okinawa is known for its pristine beaches, and you can start with a visit to Mibaru Beach, where you can take a glass-bottomed boat tour of the shallow offshore reef, soak up some sun, or enjoy a relaxed picnic among local beachgoers. With white sand, turquoise waters, and greenery-topped karst rock formations mushrooming out of the water, picturesque Mibaru offers an idyllic setting for relaxing.
You can also take a ferry from Naha and see some of the Kerama Islands. Visit Zamami Island, where you can rent a cruising bike and ride along flat roads to Ama Beach, a haven for grazing sea turtles. There are boat dives and other underwater exploration available here as well, and depending on the season, you can even go on whale watching tour. If you want a truly remote feel, stop by Aka Island, a small, quiet island with shallow waters that make for excellent snorkeling. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Naha tonight before you rest up for your flight home tomorrow.
Day 14: Depart Okinawa
Sadly, your fantastic journey through Japan ends today. After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel and be transferred to the Okinawa airport for your journey home or to your next destination. Safe travels!
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