Hit the highlights of Japan on this eight-day adventure that takes you west from Tokyo to Osaka. After getting to know the massive metropolis of Tokyo, head to Kyoto to witness the contrast between traditional versus modern culture in its markets, temples, and palaces. Spend some downtime among the peaceful shrines and friendly deer of Nara, then finish your trip in vibrant Osaka, sampling regional specialties on a food tour and bar-hopping through neon-lit neighborhoods to your heart's content.


  • Explore Tokyo's significant sites and get lost in the crowds of this metropolis
  • Discover Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine as you walk under its 10,000 red gates
  • Visit Todai-ji Temple and enjoy its gardens as you feed deer from your hands
  • Immerse yourself in Osaka's nightlife and enjoy all the local street food

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo Customized Private Tour Tokyo
Day 3 Transfer to Kyoto, Visit Nishiki Market Kyoto
Day 4 Discover Fushimi Inari Shrine, Explore Kyoto Kyoto
Day 5 Transfer to Nara, Explore its Temples & Gardens Nara
Day 6 Transfer to Osaka, Evening Foodie Tour & Tombori River Cruise Osaka
Day 7 Explore Osaka: Castles, Museums & Nightlife Osaka
Day 8 Depart Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Welcome to Japan!
Night view of Tokyo

Welcome to Japan! Upon arrival at Narita Airport, your greeter will be waiting to give you a train pass and a helpful WiFi pocket device you can use during your trip. You'll then make your way to your hotel in Tokyo by private transfer. Once you've checked in at your hotel, get out and explore the city. In Shinjuku, visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where you can enjoy fabulous panoramic city views. There's access to two observatory decks, so it's an excellent place to get a sense of this massive metropolis.

In the evening, head to Shinjuku Golden Gai made up of six tightly-packed alleys, and wander this maze for food and drinks. If you'd like to mingle with the locals and visit small-owned bars, this is the place. Looking for karaoke? Tokyo's favorite pastime is always on offer, with some of the best options in the Kabukicho area. 

Day 2: Tokyo Customized Private Tour

Tokyo Customized Private Tour
View of Shibuya Crossing from above

Enjoy a full-day tour of Tokyo today and explore the city with a knowledgeable local guide. With so much to offer, it can be challenging to pick and choose which of the capital's many sights to focus on. On today's customizable tour, your knowledgeable guide will prepare an itinerary tailored to your wishes, so you can pick the specific highlights and landmarks on your bucket list, as well as some local's favorites and can't-miss hidden corners.

Why not start at Tsukiji Market in Toyosu, one of the country's best places to buy and try seafood and get a taste of local life? Then, move on to the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the first emperor of modern Japan. For a head-turning look at Japanese youth fashion, Harajuku is the place. Afterward, explore the iconic Shibuya district, the site of the world's most trafficked pedestrian crossing. Shibuya Scramble Square, a 755-foot (230 m) tower, is a great place to people-watch on the crossing below. To finish your day, take in the panoramic cityscape from the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills.

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

Day 3: Transfer to Kyoto, Visit Nishiki Market

Visit Nishiki Market
Kinkaku-ji Temple

Make a short trip to the train station on your own this morning, where you'll catch the three-hour bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. Known for its ancient streets and traditional Japanese culture, you'll see a clear difference between a modern city like Tokyo and a more preserved traditional city like Kyoto as soon as you arrive. Once checked in at your hotel, meet your guide for a visit to the Nishiki Market to try some authentic Kyoto food. Nishiki Market is a must-see to experience traditional shopping in Kyoto because most shops are locally-owned.

Later, see some of Kyoto's most beautiful and historic temples and shrines. Spend time in the district of Higashiyama. Experience the Gion district to observe colorful geisha wearing kimonos as they walk to their next appointment, or head north to Kinkaku-ji, a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf. If you're looking to shop for souvenirs, Kyoto is famous for its crafts, including distinctive textiles, kimonos, and pottery.

Day 4: Discover Fushimi Inari Shrine, Explore Kyoto

Hiking at Fushimi Inari Shrine and exploring Kyoto
Stroll under the torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine

With a guide, start your day early this morning by visiting the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. Dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, you'll find it at the end of a vermillion-colored walkway composed of 10,000 torii (gates). Expect incredible Kyoto views as you climb farther up this winding passage. If you wish to walk the whole trail, it will take around three hours. Going as early as possible is recommended to get the best photos without tourists.

Finish your day visiting Nijo Castle for a bit of history about this former capital of Japan. Once an imperial palace, it has the best-preserved castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era. Or, you could head to Kiyomizudera Temple ("Pure Water Temple"), a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site and one of Japan's most celebrated temples. Constructed on the site of the Otowa Waterfall, you'll enjoy splendid views of the numerous cherry and maple trees and Kyoto below.

Day 5: Transfer to Nara, Explore its Temples & Gardens

Shinkansen (bullet train)
The shrine of Kasuga-taisha and its lanterns

Head to the train station, where you'll catch the bullet train from Kyoto to Nara. After you've checked in at your hotel, meet your guide for a six-hour tour of Nara and Uji. Start with a visit to meet the roaming deer which can be found around Nara Park. After a peaceful experience feeding the deer, head to Todai-ji Temple and be impressed by the world's largest bronze statue of Buddha. Another must-see is Isui-en ("A Garden Found on Water"). It's a beautiful landscape with tea houses and a museum with Korean and Chinese collections.

Finally, explore Kasuga-taisha Shrine, where you can admire the inside of the temple. It's also known for its donated lanterns around the building, offered by worshippers. After finishing your tour of Nara, head to Uji, 40 minutes away by train, where you'll visit Byodoin Temple and the Grand Phoenix Hall. Uji is known for its green tea, and near Byodin Temple, you'll find many traditional stores offering green tea ice cream, noodles, and many sweets. Swing by the Byodo-in Omotesando area for shops, restaurants, and matcha before returning to Nara.

Day 6: Transfer to Osaka, Evening Foodie Tour & Tombori River Cruise

Transfer from Nara to Osaka
Get plenty of neon in Osaka

Your journey continues today as you take the train to Osaka. Once settled at your hotel, go out and experience two of Osaka's most dynamic and delicious foodie neighborhoods. Osaka gives Tokyo a run for its money when it comes to 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 with toppings. The tour includes two drinks, but feel free to get a few more rounds in afterward!

In one of the liveliest districts of Osaka, Dotonbori (pronounced Dotombori) is located on the Tombori River. Cap off your evening by heading to the Tazaemonbashi Bridge boat dock to enjoy a 20-minute cruise along the river. As you float along the waterway, learn about hidden highlights and the backstory to famous spots from your guide. While it's one of the more touristy things to do, it's also a great way to experience the neon city lights from a different angle. After the cruise, wander nearby to discover bars, restaurants, and clubs at every turn.

Day 7: Explore Osaka: Castles, Museums & Nightlife

Nightlife in Osaka
Cherry blossoms surround Osaka Castle

It's your last full day in Japan so take this free time to explore Osaka at your own pace, or choose to see more with a private guide. Start with Osaka Castle, one of the most famous in Japan. Enjoy a pleasant stroll within its park and learn about its history in the informative museum in the castle itself. See Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The carefully preserved sanctuary grounds are a national treasure for their architectural and cultural value. Don't miss the Osaka Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in Japan. Located by Osaka Bay, its eight floors house all marine life imaginable.

If you want to learn more about traditional art in Osaka, visit the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum, and learn about the art of ukiyo-e, a type of Japanese print. For your final evening, you must take full advantage of Osaka's unforgettable nightlife. Going bar hopping or "foodie" touring has never been easier as you can organize night tours in many famous districts of the city, such as Dontonburi, Umeda, Amerikamura, and Shinsaibashi.

Day 8: Depart Osaka

Depart Osaka
Goodbye Osaka!

Today is your departure from Osaka. Your private driver will pick you up from the hotel lobby to take you to Kansai International Airport for your departing flight. Safe travels!

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


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Map of Japan's Highlights: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara & Osaka  - 8 Days
Map of Japan's Highlights: Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara & Osaka - 8 Days