Experience Japan's culture through its food, architecture, sports, and art on this 11-day tour from Tokyo to Osaka. Start by learning about sushi-making and sumo in Tokyo, and then join locals in their daily shopping at Tsukiji Outer Fish Market. Next, soak in the hot springs of Hakone and sail across Lake Kawaguchi for Mount Fuji views. From here, walk among geishas and stroll through Fushimi Inari's red torii gates in Kyoto. Finish the adventure by sampling street food in the culinary hotspot of Osaka.


  • Join Sumo wrestlers for lunch and practice in Tokyo
  • Soak in the tranquil hot springs of Hakone
  • Walk through the impressive red torii gates of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto
  • Taste sake and street food in Osaka

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Visit Tokyo Tower & Kawaii Monster Café Tokyo
Day 2 Full-Day Tokyo City Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Sumo Demonstration & Sushi Cooking Class Tokyo
Day 4 Transfer to Hakone, Free Afternoon Hakone
Day 5 Visit Mount Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi, Whisky Tasting Hakone
Day 6 Train to Kyoto, Visit the Gion District, Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 7 Visit Fushimi Inari & the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove Kyoto
Day 8 Kameoka Katana Sword Workshop, Train to Osaka Osaka
Day 9 Visit Osaka Castle & the Umeda Sky Building, Explore Shinsaibashi Osaka
Day 10 Visit Himeji Castle, Kobe & Mount Nunobiki Osaka
Day 11 Depart Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Visit Tokyo Tower & Kawaii Monster Café

Feel the energy of vibrant Tokyo with its 26 cities, five towns, and eight villages
Welcome to Tokyo, Japan's sprawling capital that covers more than 5,194 square miles (13,452 sq km) and is home to over 13 million residents. Meet your driver at the airport for a private transfer to your hotel for an easy transition, then settle into your hotel after your flight, or get out and explore your neighborhood. 
Taste some of Tokyo's best-known street food dishes in Yanesen in the northeast part of the city, trying onigiri (rice balls), korokee (croquettes), and kakigori (shaved ice). Or, stop for a drink and small plates at an izakaya (pub). To get a sense of the city's unfathomable size, make your way up to Tokyo Tower with its elevator to an observation deck reaching 492 feet (150 m). Then return to your hotel to rest up for a full-day tour of Tokyo tomorrow.

Day 2: Full-Day Tokyo City Tour

At Senso-Ji, walk through the city's oldest temple dedicated to the goddess of Mercy
In the morning, meet your guide for an all-day city tour, getting around via the Tokyo metro and on foot for a local experience. Start at the Meiji Jingu shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Afterward, head to Tsukiji Outer Fish Market to join crowds shopping for produce and fish, sampling sushi, onigiri, or whatever else intrigues you for a light lunch or snack.
From here, take a relaxing walk in the Imperial Palace East Gardens. There, see the moats, walls, gates, and guardhouses of the grounds of the former Edo Castle and the home of the Tokugawa shogun and Emperor Meiji. From the gardens, head to the Asakusa District, a central entertainment area dating to the Edo period that is now known for its craft shops and food stalls on the main Nakamise Shopping Street. Follow the street to reach Tokyo's oldest temple, Senso-ji, dedicated to the goddess of mercy in Buddhism. After the tour, rest at your hotel or continue exploring Tokyo at night. 

Day 3: Sumo Demonstration & Sushi Cooking Class

Sumo Wrestler
Learn about Sumo and the techniques of this ancient sport
The sport of sumo was first recorded in Japan as early as the eighth century CE, with the main characteristics of the wrestling sport still present in today's sumo matches. Today you'll enter the world of sumo by learning about the daily habits of wrestlers, including their diets and practice routines. Meet retired sumo wrestlers and even learn a few techniques from this ancient sport. For lunch, join the wrestlers for a meal of chanko nabe (soup with vegetables and meat in broth), a typical dish eaten in the sumo world to maintain weight and strength. 

Try to save some room after lunch because your next stop is a sushi-making class. Learn about the preparation for rice and fish as you experiment with making different types of sushi, which might include nigiri (hand-molded), maki (wrapped in seaweed), and hosomaki (thin rolls). After a full day learning about Japanese culture, return to your Tokyo hotel and get ready for tomorrow's drive to Hakone. 

Day 4: Transfer to Hakone, Free Afternoon

Hot springs in Hakone
Take a relaxing break in Hakone's hot springs
In the morning, you'll say your goodbyes to Tokyo and transfer an hour south to Hakone. Here you can spend the rest of the day relaxing at your traditional ryokan (inn) accommodations and soaking in onsen (hot springs), or head out to explore the town's cultural influences with a local guide.
At the Open Air Museum, walk among gardens and sculptures with views of the surrounding valley and mountains. Then stroll through Owaku-dani Valley to take a dip in hot springs with Mount Fuji views on clear days. For more art, visit the Hakone Museum of Art to see Japanese ceramics from prehistoric times through the Edo Period (1600-1868) and wander among a moss garden with stone paths winding through the shade of maple trees. At the end of your tour, try some of Hakone's local dishes, such as black eggs (hard-boiled eggs cooked in natural sulfur water), kamaboko fish cakes, and soba noodles.
Plan your trip to Japan
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Visit Mount Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi, Whisky Tasting

Take a boat cruise across tranquil Lake Kawaguchi
In the morning, meet your guide for a one-hour drive north to Arakurayama Sengen Park, where a monumental pagoda is framed by Mount Fuji views. Soak up the tranquility of Oshino Hakkai, a set of eight ponds fed by snow melt from Fuji's slopes. Visit Hannoki Bayashi Shiryokan, a small museum at Oshino Hakkai's largest pond with a thatched-roof farmhouse showing farming tools, household items, samurai armor, and weapons.

In the afternoon, 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 near the summit of Mount Tenjo for panoramic lake and mountain views. On the way back to your guest house in Hakone, stop at Fuji Gotemba Distillery, where grain whisky and sake are produced using water sourced from Fuji's snow melt. Learn about the process of distilling these spirits and taste different types as you learn about their distinct flavors. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your Hakone hotel. 

Day 6: Train to Kyoto, Visit the Gion District, Tea Ceremony

Geisha in Gion District
Explore Kyoto's Gion District, known for its lavishly-dressed geisha
Board a high-speed bullet train headed for Kyoto today, traveling about two hours west from Hakone. Then drop your bags off at your hotel to start exploring Kyoto and the Gion District, known for its traditional architecture and elaborately dressed geishas strolling Hanami-koji Street.

Spend the afternoon in a tea room, learning about the traditional chanoyu (tea ceremony). Take a seat on a tatami mat as hot water steams to brew green tea. Sip on tea and eat Japanese sweets as the symbolism of the items and practice are explained. Spend the rest of the evening exploring more of Kyoto on your own. 

Day 7: Visit Fushimi Inari & the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Walk through one of Japan's most photographed sites at Fushimi Inari 
Get your camera ready, as today you'll be visiting some of Kyoto's most well-known sites as you travel across the city on a guided tour. Fushimi Inari's thousands of red torii gates were donated by worshippers in appreciation for the good fortune they received from the deity enshrined here—Inari, the protector of rice in Japanese mythology. After spending your morning at this iconic shrine, travel to the temple of Kinkaku-ji, recognized by its top two floors covered in gold leaf. 

Later on, leave the city for the western outskirts of Kyoto, where Arashiyama's dense bamboo groves, lively macaques, forested hills, and temples lining well-maintained roads make it an ideal area to take a break in nature. Spend some time walking in the park, then cross the cypress wood Togetsukyo Bridge over the Oigawa River, which was first built in the 800s and reconstructed in the 1930s. Cross the bridge to Iwatayama Monkey Park, where you can see Japanese macaques roam freely. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Kyoto for a free evening. 

Day 8: Kameoka Katana Sword Workshop, Train to Osaka

Osaka is known as the street food capital of Japan
With well-preserved temples, shrines, and the stately ruins of the 13th-century Kameyama Castle, Kameoka, a 25-minute drive from central Kyoto, is a place to travel back in time and learn about Japanese traditions. Meet your guide in the morning for the drive and start with a workshop on katana crafting. Watch as tamahagane (steel) is used to forge sword-shaped blades known as tousugata katana and learn how to stretch the steel with your hands to form the blades. After the workshop, take a dip in the town's hot springs, eat lunch at a restaurant, or explore the area's temples. 

In the afternoon, transfer back to Kyoto to catch a 15-minute bullet train to Osaka. The night is free to check out the city's famed izakaya (local bars) and street food vendors or rest at your hotel after a full day. 

Day 9: Visit Osaka Castle & the Umeda Sky Building, Explore Shinsaibashi

Osaka's lively streets offer much to explore 

Today see Osaka at your own pace, picking major sites, street food, shopping, or all three. At Osaka Castle, see a reconstruction of a castle built in the 1500s and walk around the lush grounds. Learn about Osaka's history at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, where exhibits explain the Edo period and other significant points in Osaka's history.

In the afternoon, take the elevator at the Umeda Sky Building to Kuchu Teien Observatory for sweeping city views. Back at ground level, explore Shinsaibashi—known as a shopping area in the Edo period, today, its 1,698-foot (600 m) long arcade is filled with tailors, clothing and shoe stores, restaurants, and jewelry boutiques. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring Osaka and tasting some of the city's renowned street food, such as okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) and takoyaki (octopus fritters).

Day 10: Visit Himeji Castle, Kobe & Mount Nunobiki

Himeji Castle is known as White Heron Castle because of its resemblance to a bird in flight

Himeji Castle's network of 82 buildings and defense systems is also known as Shirasagi-jo (White Heron Castle) because of its white facade, which resembles a bird in flight. Travel with your guide about two hours west by car from Osaka to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and learn about its role in Japanese history after its construction in the 17th century and use by the Shogun until 1868. 

From the castle, make your way back to Osaka, stopping halfway at Kobe for lunch to taste the city's famous beef at a restaurant that's popular with locals. Ride a cable car to the summit of Mount Nunobiki, walk through its herb gardens, and take photos of the panoramic vista of Osaka Bay. Make another stop at the Sake Brewery Museum to watch the sake brewing process and taste different types, and then return to Osaka for free time on the last night of your trip.

Day 11: Depart Osaka

End your trip in Japan by picking up some memorable souvenirs
Your Japanese adventure draws to a close this morning. When the time comes, you'll meet your driver at your Osaka hotel for a transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels! 

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Map of Japan Cultural Discovery:  Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto & Osaka - 11 Days
Map of Japan Cultural Discovery: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto & Osaka - 11 Days
Written by Fei He, updated Oct 17, 2023