This photogenic 7-day tour of Japan offers an unbeatable mix of popular attractions and off-the-beaten-path gems. You'll experience the country's beauty, starting in vibrant Tokyo and continuing to the temples, shines, and gorgeously landscaped gardens of Kanazawa. Side-trip to Shirakawago, where charming wooden farmhouses were built to withstand heavy snow in winter — if you're lucky, you'll see the village under a blanket of white! Then end with a couple of days in Kyoto, learning about geisha culture and traditional arts like flower arranging. From start to finish, this colorful itinerary is a visual extravaganza.

Highlights

  • Explore the neon-lit streets of Tokyo and the quiet lanes of Kyoto
  • Learn about geisha culture and Japanese traditions at a fine arts show
  • Stroll through one of Japan's most beautiful gardens in Kanazawa
  • See traditional architecture designed for snowy weather in scenic Shirakawago

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Tokyo & Get Oriented Tokyo
Day 2 Sightsee in Tokyo Tokyo
Day 3 View Art in Kanazawa Kanazawa
Day 4 Day-trip to Historic Shirakawago Kanazawa
Day 5 Learn About Geisha Culture in Kyoto Kyoto
Day 6 Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
Day 7 Depart Japan - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo & Get Oriented

Looking out over the glittering skyline of Tokyo

Welcome to Japan! Get oriented in Tokyo with a visit to the world’s tallest tower. At 2,080 feet (634 meters), the Tokyo Skytree offers spectacular views as far as Mount Fuji from its 360-degree observation deck. Afterward, take a walk through the grounds of Sensoji, the city's oldest and most historically significant temple. Legends say it was founded when two brothers fished a statue of the goddess Kannon out of the Sumida River. The neighboring Asakusa Shrine also highlights the stark differences between Shinto and Buddhist belief systems. As night falls, make your way to Shibuya, home to the vibrant Shibuya Crossing. The area is packed with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, perfect for a night out on the town.

Day 2: Sightsee in Tokyo

Tourists outside a temple in Tokyo

There's so much to see and do in Tokyo — you have many options today! Explore the artificial island of Odaiba, a hot spot for futuristic fun. The trip to this shopping and entertainment district is enjoyable, whether you arrive by taking a cruise through Tokyo Bay or by crossing the colorful Rainbow Bridge. Start at TeamLab, a permanent 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.

Then head to the trendy fashion mecca of Harajuku. As you walk through the famous Takeshita Street, be sure to stop by the rainbow candyfloss and crepe stands, as well as the fascinating costume galleries and animal and character cafés. A visit to the world-famous Kawaii Monster Café is a great way to get a glimpse of Japan's Kawaii culture. The brightly colored food, live performances from waitresses dressed like cartoon characters, and vibrant decor make it a unique and memorable experience. For a brief respite from the lights and action, stop into Meiji Jingu shrine, one of Tokyo's most spiritually significant religious structures. Take a leisurely stroll through its forested grounds and witness the contrast of these two areas —modern and traditional —located so close together. 

Day 3: View Art in Kanazawa

Picturesque scenery in Kanazawa

Today, after breakfast, you'll head to Kanazawa. A center of art and culture that's famous for gold leaf production, the city — nicknamed "Little Kyoto" — is home to a range of museums and monuments. Don't miss the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and a stroll through the lovely Kenroku-en Garden, considered one of the most beautiful in all of Japan. Later, take a break at Omicho Market for fresh sushi and sashimi. You'll check into your hotel in the city, where you'll spend the next two nights, and get some rest.

Day 4: Day-trip to Historic Shirakawago

Shirakawago dusted in snow

Shirakawago, located in the Ono district of Gifu prefecture, is easily accessible from Kanazawa — perfect for a day trip! Shirakawago was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The village's main attraction is its collection of gassho-zukuri (traditional farmhouses). The houses' steeply angled and thatched roofs were designed to weather heavy snow that falls in the region every winter. Some of these farmhouses offer overnight accommodations. Wander through the streets of the village and stop into the Myozenji Temple Museum. The Buddhist temple at the heart of the site dates back more than 200 years. Today, you can tour the monk's residence, bell tower gate, and main hall. You'll return to Kanazawa for dinner and another overnight.

Day 4: Learn About Geisha Culture in Kyoto

A temple overlooking the lake in Kyoto

Transfer today to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Overflowing with history and a lot more traditional than its Tokyo counterpart, things here move at a slower pace and the people tend to be more laid-back. Start by exploring the charming Gion neighborhood, then visit the Yasaka Pagoda before attending a traditional Japanese arts show. As well as offering a chance to see a performance by a maiko (geisha in training), this hourlong theatrical experience also introduces you to various skilled artists, including ikebana (flower arrangers), puppeteers, koto (Japanese harp players), and court musicians. In the evening, talk a walk through the bustling streets of Pontocho. Right next to the Kamogawa River, this area is home to a wide range of restaurants and bars. If you prefer, you can also request a private dinner or tea ceremony with a geisha.

Day 6: Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine

Mesmerizing red torii gates at Fushimi Inari

While In Kyoto, a visit to what is arguably the most famous shrine in Japan – Fushimi Inari – is an absolute must. Featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, this shrine has more than 10,000 picturesque red torii gates. They were all donated by Japanese individuals and businesses as a sign of appreciation to the god Inari for blessings received. Afterward, head to the Nishiki Market for a taste of Kyoto's traditional snacks and sweets. Finish your day by visiting Nijo Castle or Kiyomizudera Temple, where you'll take in beautiful views of Kyoto at sunset.

Day 7: Depart Japan - End of Trip

Waiting for the bullet train in Tokyo

You'll have some free time in the morning before transferring to Tokyo via bullet train. It's time to say goodbye to Japan. Safe travels!

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