Travel along Japan's "Golden Route," starting in Tokyo. Soak up the city as you enjoy food tours, art exhibits, a calligraphy workshop, and watching a sumo wrestling practice. Then head to Kyoto to visit shrines and castles, meet geisha, and savor a traditional multicourse meal. Spot deer in Nara, then move on to Osaka for a food tour and river cruise and explore Hiroshima and Miyajima. Back in Tokyo, learn about Japanese sword-making, see the city's high-tech attractions, and visit Kamakura.


  • Learn Japanese calligraphy in a guided workshop
  • See sumo wrestlers at a morning practice in Tokyo
  • Enjoy a traditional multicourse dinner in Kyoto
  • Cruise down the Dotombori River in Osaka

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo, Optional Nighttime Food Tour Tokyo
Day 2 Explore Tokyo, Optional Visit to TeamLab Planets Tokyo Tokyo
Day 3 Explore Ginza, Akihabara & Asakusa, Enjoy a Shodo Experience Tokyo
Day 4 See a Sumo Practice & Nakameguro Food Tour, Optional Memory Lane Visit Tokyo
Day 5 Train to Kyoto & Explore, Optional Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 6 Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike, Optional Geisha Photoshoot  Kyoto
Day 7 Day Trip to Japan's Famous Castle in Himeji, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan Kyoto
Day 8 Explore Arashiyama, Optional Samurai & Ninja Experience Kyoto
Day 9 Nara Day Tour from Kyoto Kyoto
Day 10 Train to Osaka, Explore Osaka & Optional Night Food Tour Osaka
Day 11 Full Day Bus Tour of Hiroshima & Miyajima, Optional Tombori River Cruise Osaka
Day 12 Explore the Sacred Forest of Mount Koya (Koyasan) Osaka
Day 13 Train to Tokyo & Technology Tour, Optional Japanese Sword Museum Visit  Tokyo
Day 14 Day Trip to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, Optional Sword Shop Visit Tokyo
Day 15 Depart Tokyo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Optional Nighttime Food Tour

Tokyo's Shinjuku District
Tokyo's Shinjuku District

Welcome to Tokyo! At Tokyo Haneda Airport, a guide will be waiting for you to take you to your hotel. Once you've arrived and settled in, head out to explore the city. While Tokyo is a large and highly-modernized metropolis, history and centuries-old culture are never too far away. As you explore the city, you'll discover towering skyscrapers, bustling markets, and peaceful gardens where you can escape the urban buzz.

For a relaxing activity, visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of Tokyo's largest parks, most famous for its 400 cherry blossom trees. Then explore the Tokyo Edo Open Air Architectural Museum, which exhibits a range of ancient buildings that were relocated or reconstructed here to preserve national architectural history. For dinner, you can join a foodie tour of Shinjuku. The first stop is a restaurant known for its Wagyu beef, cooked on a shichirin (charcoal barbecue grill). The next restaurant will teach you how to grill the meat yourself. For dessert, wind down with ice cream in a quiet café.

Day 2: Explore Tokyo, Optional Visit to TeamLab Planets Tokyo

Tokyo's Shibuya Scramble, considered the world's busiest pedestrian crossing
The Shibuya Scramble is considered the world's busiest pedestrian crossing

Explore the Shibuya region of Tokyo via public transportation. Start at Tokyo's famous Shibuya Station and prepare to tackle the infamous Shibuya Scramble, the world's busiest pedestrian crossing. Afterward, visit the Village Vanguard, a trendy shop selling Japan's strangest items. Stop for lunch, then make your way to the renowned Takeshita-dori. This pedestrian street is crowded with young Japanese people decked out in wild costumes.

In the afternoon, you can visit TeamLab Planets Tokyo, a massive space consisting of immersive light installations. This digital art exhibit is based on three main concepts: continuous movement, distinct colors, and constant changes. Later, head over to the Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine, and Yoyogi Park, a popular gathering place for Japanese families, street artists, and cosplayers. As the evening sets in, make your way back to Shibuya to check out the Shibuya Sky, an observation deck that sits over 656 feet (200 m) above the ground.

Day 3: Explore Ginza, Akihabara & Asakusa, Enjoy a Shodo Experience

The Neon Streets of Akihabara
The neon streets of Akihabara

This morning, visit Ginza, one of Tokyo's most popular shopping areas, which features many bustling shops, department stores, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés. Next, head to Akihabara, one of Tokyo's most modern and technological neighborhoods. Take the train, then dive into this hub of Japanese electronics and manga stores. While in Akihabara, visit Yodobashi Camera, the largest electronics store in Tokyo.

Once you've finished browsing, make your way to the neighborhood of Asakusa and explore Senso-ji Temple, one of Tokyo's oldest and most significant sites. Then visit Nakamise Shopping Street, where you can enjoy a street food snack and pick up some traditional souvenirs. You'll also have the opportunity today to book a 90-minute shodo (calligraphy) experience and put your artistic skills to the test. At the instructor's home, you'll learn how to write certain characters and your name in Japanese on a fan or colored paper, which you can take home as a souvenir. 

Day 4: See a Sumo Practice & Nakameguro Food Tour, Optional Memory Lane Visit

Morning Sumo Practice Viewing in Tokyo
See sumo wrestlers in action in Tokyo

Japan is famous for its sumo wrestlers, and today you'll get to sit in on a morning practice and watch these athletes train. You'll be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds as you watch the wrestlers charging at each other head-on. Once the practice is finished, head off on a food tour and visit several unique dining spots in the hip Nakameguro district. You'll stop at quaint eateries, tiny bars, and coffee shops, as well as a classic old candy shop, an award-winning chocolate shop, a sake store, and even a vintage kimono store.

In the evening, make an optional visit to Omoide Yokocho, also known as "Memory Lane." Walk through this alley filled with wooden restaurants adorned with paper lanterns, and try some yakitori (chicken skewers). The traditional yakitori-ya restaurants are essentially small stands where chefs grill skewers on charcoal right in front of hungry customers. Many young adults and office workers like to unwind here with a cold beer or sake after a long day.

Day 5: Train to Kyoto & Explore, Optional Tea Ceremony

Welcome to Beautiful Kyoto
Welcome to beautiful Kyoto

Travel approximately two hours west from Tokyo to Kyoto on a bullet train. This beautiful historic city is the former capital of Japan. Head to the Gion neighborhood first. As you wander through its charming streets, alone or on a private tour, you'll find many shops selling sweets, souvenirs, and Japanese crafts, as well as restaurants ideal for your first lunch or dinner in the city. Another good option is to visit the Yasaka Pagoda for a beautiful view. Near this shrine, you can enjoy a traditional geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) performance.

In the afternoon, 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 alongside 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.

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

Day 6: Fushimi Inari Shrine Hike, Optional 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 to taste Kyoto's traditional 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 about the history of Kyoto, or enjoy visiting Kiyomizudera Temple and taking in the beautiful views. You also have the option of enjoying an entertaining photoshoot in customary geisha clothing. During your visit to the photo studio, you'll be hosted by a maiko. As you are served traditional 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.

Day 7: Day Trip to Japan's Famous Castle in Himeji, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan

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 period. 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 right next to the castle. It comprises nine separate, walled gardens designed in various Edo-period styles.

Once you've finished your explorations, return to Kyoto, where you have a table reserved for dinner at the Hiiragiya Ryokan. This inn was founded in 1818 and has hosted artists, politicians, and members of the Imperial Family. During dinner, a woman in a kimono will serve you a series of artfully-prepared dishes in traditional Japanese fashion.

Day 8: Explore Arashiyama, Optional Samurai & Ninja Experience

See Magnificent Views in Arashiyama
View of the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavillion) Buddhist temple in Kyoto

Today you'll head to Arashiyama, the western part of Kyoto. Start by visiting the UNESCO-listed Nijo Castle, the best surviving example of Japan's feudal-era castle architecture.

Later, visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and walk among the famous forest trails. Other must-see attractions in this area are the tranquil Zen Tenryuji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Monkey Park, where you can see playful monkeys roaming freely. If you're a fan of samurai history, you could also opt for a guided tour of the Samurai and Ninja Museum. After your museum visit, get a hands-on taste of what it was like to be a samurai as you don traditional armor, wield a katana (Japanese sword) and ninja stars, and pose with replica swords.

Day 9: Day Trip to Nara

Deer in Nara
Nara is famous for its deer

Nara is perfect for a day trip from Kyoto, and today you'll explore this ancient, dynamic Japanese city on a full-day guided walking tour. Start with a visit to Todai-ji temple, a Buddhist complex that hosts a number of awe-inspiring structures. The temple's Great Buddha Hall is known for being the largest wooden structure in the world. It was burned down several times and reconstructed in the Edo Period. This temple hosts the Kegon school of Buddhism. It is also one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another of Nara's iconic spots is Nara Park, a famous deer haven. Hundreds of deer roam freely throughout the park. You can buy rice crackers at one of the many stalls selling paper-tied packs and feed them to the deer. If you're looking for the perfect souvenir, head to the Nandaimon Gate, where you'll find many little omiyage (gift/souvenir) shops. Here, you can shop for deer-themed omiyage while picking up some tasty snacks.

Day 10: Train to Osaka, Explore & Optional Night Food Tour

Transfer from Kyoto to Osaka
Osaka waterfront

Take the train to Osaka today and prepare to visit some of the city's famous sights, such as Osaka Castle, the Umeda Sky Building, and Shin-Sekai. At night, head to the bustling area of Dotonbori, where the lights are bright, and the neon signs make for a whimsical panorama.

Osaka gives Tokyo a run for its money on delicious cuisine, and this evening you can experience its culinary delights on a three-hour street food tour. You'll sample the most unique dishes in Osaka, focusing on regional foods from Kansai. Try takoyaki, ball-shaped octopus bites, and okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake topped with whatever you like. The tour includes two drinks, but feel free to get a few more rounds in afterward!

Day 11: Full Day Bus Tour of Hiroshima & Miyajima, Optional Tombori River Cruise

Torii Gate in Miyajima
Torii Gate in Miyajima

With an English-speaking guide (or audio guide available in eight languages), pop between historic landmarks with magnificent views as you travel by air-conditioned coach. Begin in Hiroshima, where you'll visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, Atomic Bomb Dome, and Hiroshima Castle. Then stop for lunch and try hiroshimayaki, a local variation on okonomiyaki. Afterward, move on to Miyajima and the Itsukushima Shrine. This scenic shrine is one of the top sights in Japan and was designed to appear as if floating on the sea.

Back in Osaka in the evening, you can embark on a Tombori River Cruise. Experience the neon city lights as you ride in a boat along the Dotonburi River. This is particularly scenic during Christmas when holiday decorations are strung across the bridges, and the cruise guide may dress up as Santa Claus! Keep an eye out for the famous Glico running man billboard, which you can see as the boat pauses under the Ebisubashi Bridge. 

Day 12: Explore the Sacred Forest of Mount Koya (Koyasan)

Explore the Sacred Forest of Mount Kōya (Kōyasan)
The sacred forest of Koyasan

Make the most of the morning and enjoy the atmosphere of Mount Koya, also known as Koyasan. Walk along the pilgrimage route that reaches the Okunoin Temple. At the temple, you'll find the mausoleum of a famous monk known as Kukai. This area is considered one of the most sacred places in Japan, and the long path through the middle of the forest also leads to some secular tombs of famous people and important families in Japanese history.

Day 13: Train to Tokyo & Technology Tour, Optional Japanese Sword Museum Visit 

 Discover Technology in Tokyo
Tokyo is known for its high-tech attractions

Return to Tokyo by train, then kick off your day with a tour of the city's best high-tech attractions. One must-visit place is Odaiba, an artificial island home to the Fuji Television Building, the Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation), Tokyo Big Sight (or Tokyo International Exhibition Center), Aqua City, the Panasonic Center, and the Museum of Maritime Science. While here, enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk, and try to see the Odaiba Statue of Liberty and the impressive Gundam Statue.

There's also the Toshiba Science Museum, where you can learn about Toshiba technology through workshops and exhibits. For lunch, try one of the conveyor-belt style sushi restaurants in the area, or head to Curry Station Niagara—a railway-themed restaurant where your order is delivered via a model train. Later, you can visit the Japanese Sword Museum, established in the 1960s, which preserves and exhibits Japanese swords. It also presents exhibitions of modern and antique blades and related cultural artifacts.

Day 14: Day Trip to the Great Buddha of Kamakura, Optional Sword Shop Visit

Great Buddha of Kamakura
Great Buddha of Kamakura

After breakfast, start your day trip to the beautiful seaside city of Kamakura, an ancient capital of Japan. Although this city is small, it has an important place in Japanese history. In Kamakura, you'll find a variety of impressive monuments, such as a 43-foot (13 m) high Buddha statue entirely made of bronze, and the historic Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, which is the largest and most important Shinto site in the prefecture. On the nearby island of Enoshima, connected to the mainland by a bridge, you can have lunch in a small restaurant with a magnificent view.

Once you've finished your sightseeing, return to Tokyo. If you'd like, visit Japanese Sword Hataya, a sword shop in Shinjuku where you can take home a piece of history: a real handmade sword. Of course, these precious items command a price—if you don't want to buy anything, you can enter the store to appreciate the beauty of the swords on display. 

Day 15: Depart Tokyo

Tokyo skyline
Tokyo skyline

Enjoy your last day in Japan with a walk and some last-minute shopping in Shibuya before heading to the airport. A private car will pick you up from your hotel. Have a safe journey home or to your next destination!

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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 Japan's Golden Route: Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka - 15 Days
Map of Japan's Golden Route: Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka - 15 Days