This immersive 14-day cultural adventure starts in Osaka, where you'll sample renowned cuisine and stroll through ancient shrines. Take a day trip to Kobe for its coveted beef, then it's off to Mount Koya for quiet hikes and an overnight in a Buddhist temple. Eat your way through bustling Nishiki Market in Kyoto, learn Japanese arts and crafts in Kanazawa, see sweeping views of Mount Fuji, and end with the bright lights of Tokyo, touring the gardens of the Imperial Palace and Senso-ji temple.


  • Enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of Osaka on a walking foodie tour
  • Walk the peaceful greenery of Sagano Bamboo Grove
  • Cycle your way through Takayama's colorful streets and quiet country roads
  • Ascend to breathtaking views of Mount Fuji via its Panoramic Ropeway

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Osaka, Walking Foodie Tour Osaka
Day 2 Osaka City Tour & Dinner in Hozenji Yokocho Osaka
Day 3 Day Trip to Kobe: Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum & Himeji Castle Tour Osaka
Day 4 Train to Mount Koya, Mount Koya Temples & Shukubo Experience Mount Koya
Day 5 Explore Mount Koya, Train to Kyoto, Self-Guided Tour to Nishiki Market  Kyoto
Day 6 Guided Kyoto City Tour: Temples, Castles & Torii Gates  Kyoto
Day 7 Bamboo Grove & Tenryu-ji Temple, Tea Ceremony & Samurai Museum Kyoto
Day 8 Train to Kanazawa, Kenrokuen Garden & Museum of Arts and Crafts Kanazawa
Day 9 Kanazawa Traditional Craft Lesson, Higashi Chayagai & Nagamachi District Kanazawa
Day 10 Bus to Takayama, Tour the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go & Suganuma Takayama
Day 11 Cycling in Takayama, Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan & Sannomachi Street  Takayama
Day 12 Train to Fuji, Bus to Fujikawaguchiko, Self-Guided Tour of Fujikawaguchiko  Fujikawaguchiko
Day 13 Explore Mount Fuji, Train to Tokyo, Imperial Palace Gardens & Senso-ji Tokyo
Day 14 Depart Tokyo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Osaka, Walking Foodie Tour

Explore Osaka's best local restaurants and markets

Welcome to Japan! Your flight lands in the city of Osaka, the country's third-largest city and a top destination for travelers around the globe. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted at the airport and transferred via shuttle to your hotel, where you can check in and relax. Once you have some time to regroup, begin your adventure with a guided tour exploring Osaka's renowned cuisine,

Meet your guide and head out on foot for a fun evening adventure, visiting the izakayas (pubs) and backstreet bars of Namba, Shinsaibashi, Kuromon Ichiba, and the lively Dotonburi Market. Savor dishes like conveyor belt sushi, grilled crabs, takoyaki (balls filled with vegetables and seafood), and taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries) from various street vendors and restaurants as your guide shares insight into the history behind each dish. Amid the bright neon lights and massive advertisements, you'll experience the vibrant atmosphere of Japan's "kitchen." 

Day 2: Osaka City Tour & Dinner in Hozenji Yokocho

Tour the third-century Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine 

Rise and shine for a full-day city tour, meeting with your guide and starting with a visit to the iconic Osaka Castle. Here, you'll find a wealth of information on Japan's rich history, including dioramas that depict various battles, uniforms, and helmets, as well as 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.

Next up is the incredible Sumiyoshi Taisha, the head shrine of all Sumiyoshi Shrines in Japan. Originally founded in the third century, this history-rich site features classic sumiyoshi-zukuri architecture, with straight roofs and forked finials that perfectly depict that era. Get an insight into the shrine's history and religious significance, and capture beautiful shots of the Sorihashi Bridge arching across the water as your guide explains more about the shrine's history.

End in Hozenji Yokocho, a stone-paved alley tucked away in a quiet corner of the buzzy Dotonburi and Namba area and the go-to place for Edo-period atmosphere and local food. Stroll by traditional shops, restaurants, and bars, stop at its namesake temple of Hozen-ji to wish for luck and duck into the restaurants for a delectable meal of grilled beef, deep-fried skewers of meat and veggies, okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), or meoto zenzai (red bean soup with rice cakes).

Day 3: Day Trip to Kobe: Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum & Himeji Castle Tour

Kobe's Himeji Castle is an architectural wonder

See more of Osaka's countryside as you meet your guides and make the two-hour drive to the UNESCO-listed Himeji Castle, a spectacular example of Japanese castle architecture with a network of 83 buildings and advanced defensive systems. You'll have time to explore the castle and grounds, 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. Talk a walk around Kobe Harborland, a waterfront area featuring shopping malls, boutiques, and restaurants, and end 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.

Day 4: Train to Mount Koya, Mount Koya Temples & Shukubo Experience

Tour the temples of Mount Koya and stay in one overnight

Your next destination is Mount Koya, a large settlement just south of Osaka. Mount Koya is considered the center of Shingon Buddhism and is home to one of Japan's main schools of Buddhism. You'll find more than 100 temples and monasteries here, alongside towering cedars lining stone walkways and a peaceful, spiritual vibe. In the morning, you'll head to the train station and hop on board for the 2.5-hour train ride. 

Upon arrival, you'll have time to explore the temples, take a light hike along the quiet trails, or visit Okunoin Cemetery to pay tribute to Kobo Daishi, the person who introduced Shingon Buddhism to Japan. This afternoon, you'll check in for your shukubo (temple lodging) experience. Meet the temple's resident monks, learn more about their lifestyle, and enjoy shojin ryori (traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) for dinner before spending the night at the temple. 

Day 5: Train to Kyoto, Self-Guided Tour to Nishiki Market 

Explore the sights, sounds, and tastes of Nishiki Market 

After morning prayers and a Buddhist vegetarian breakfast at the temple, you'll say goodbye to your new friends and board the train for the city of Kyoto. 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.

Once you've settled at your accommodations and had a chance to relax, step out on the town and explore Kyoto's 400-year-old Nishiki Ichiba market. There are more than 100 stalls and shops crammed into this long, narrow street, selling anything and everything. Try delicious street food such as soy milk doughnuts, skewered baby octopus, sticky rice cake, or homegrown pickles, sating your appetite after your day's travels and immersing yourself into local life. Afterward, make your way back to your hotel for a good night's sleep on a full stomach.

Day 6: Guided Kyoto City Tour: Temples, Castles & Torii Gates 

Walk the historic torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Taisha

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 start at Kinkaku-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple with a large golden pavilion. Walk the peaceful grounds here, and be sure to visit the temple's two top floors, which are completely covered in gold leaf. Then, head to the impressive Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the residence of Edo-era shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Take in the grand design and beautiful decor, and roam the lovely garden with its elegant water features and springtime cherry blossoms.

Visit Kiyomizu-Dera next, trekking the narrow uphill alleys of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka to reach the temple's hilltop location. Featuring the impressive hondo (main hall), Jishu shrine, Okunoin temple, and a few smaller temples and shrines, Kiyomizu-Dera is considered a must-visit in Kyoto.

Your final stop is the captivating 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. Take a light hike along the torii-lined route up the mountain for sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.

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Day 7: Bamboo Grove & Tenryu-ji Temple, Tea Ceremony & Samurai Museum

Enjoy the peaceful greenery of the Sagano Bamboo Grove

Today's tour takes you to Arashiyama, a scenic district located in the western outskirts of Kyoto. Your guide will meet you at your hotel, and you'll make the 25-minute drive to your first stop, Jojakko-ji, a small Buddhist temple that sits in the middle of a quiet forest. If you happen to be here in the fall, you'll get the opportunity to see the gorgeous foliage of the changing maple leaves.

Then, head to 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. Visit the temple gardens of Tenryu-ji, a World Heritage Site considered one of Kyoto's best Zen temples, then finish the day on board a yakatabune, or traditional pleasure boat, which takes you by the beautiful Togetsukyo Bridge, whose name translates to "moon crossing bridge." 

If you want to learn more about the culture and traditions of the region, visit Maikoya Kyoto, a historic townhome in the Gion district where you can participate in a traditional kimono tea ceremony. Change into a kimono, learn about the Zen aspects of the ceremony, and try some traditional Japanese sweets during this quintessential Japanese experience. After the ceremony, make the five-minute walk to the Samurai & Ninja Museum. Try on full samurai armor for your souvenir pictures, and get a glimpse of what it was like to be one of the most prestigious ruling classes of old Japan. 

Day 8: Train to Kanazawa, Kenrokuen Garden & Museum of Arts and Crafts

Visit Kanazawa's scenic Kenrokuen Garden

After checking out of your hotel this morning, make your way to the Kyoto train station for the two-hour train ride to the city of Kanazawa. Located on Honshu Island, Kanazawa is home to historic Edo-era districts, museums, and a wealth of artisan handicrafts. After you've checked in at your hotel, take a guided afternoon tour of some of the city's most important sights.

Meet with your guide and start at Kenrokuen Garden, constructed during the Edo period by the Maeda family, former rulers of the area. This beautifully preserved space features quiet pathways with bridges, fountains and other water features, teahouses, and flowers, all designed to reflect the traditional attributes of the perfect Japanese landscape garden. After your peaceful stroll, visit the adjacent Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts. Kanazawa is famed as the epicenter of traditional Japanese crafts, and this museum showcases more than 36 kinds of art.

See Wajima-nuri lacquerware and wagasa umbrellas (a traditional Japanese umbrella made with a special paper) and learn about the art of kaga yuzen (silk dyeing and gold-leaf-pasting). Prepared to be dazzled by this deep dive into the region's timeless art and the sophisticated skills required to create it! Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant and explore more of the city on your own.

Day 9: Kanazawa Traditional Craft Lesson, Higashi Chayagai & Nagamachi District

Learn to make traditional ceramics in Kanazawa

With its 2009 UNESCO recognition as a City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa's Samurai-inspired arts and unique craftworks make it one of the best places to learn more about Japanese art and enjoy some hands-on fun. Today you'll have the option to choose from a myriad of creative activities, all of which culminate in you bringing home a tangible reminder of your time in Japan. 

Visit NOSAKU Lacquerware, a shop that's been part of Kanazawa since the 1700s and offers lessons in lacquerware. Under the guidance of your instructor, learn how to color your own lacquer tray, choosing from a bright palette of colors and applying delicate gold dust. You can also try your hand at ceramics at Kutani Kosen Kiln, the only Kutani ceramics kiln in the city. With help from a local potter, sit down at a potter's wheel and see your art come to life under your own hands. Alternatively, you can learn how to paste gold leaf, explore the art of coloring silk, or see the intricacies of tying a mizuhiki knot.

Later, take a guided walk through the Higashi Chayagai district, an expansive area lined with cafés, shops, and of course, teahouses. Rent a kimono and roam around the district to soak up the quiet, traditional vibe and snap some photos. Afterward, move on to the Nagamachi district, located near Kanazawa Castle. Once the residential area for samurai and their families, the district includes restored traditional residences with earthen exterior walls and wooden gates. Your guide will fill you in on samurai culture while you walk the narrow stone paths, taking you back to those ancient times and traditions. 

Day 10: Bus to Takayama, Tour the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go & Suganuma

Tour the historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Suganuma

You're off to the mountainous city of Takayama, located in Japan's Gifu region and known for its Edo-period homes and rural beauty. After departing your hotel, you'll head to the bus station for the 2.5-hour journey. Once you've disembarked and gotten checked into your hotel, meet your guides and take a trip to the nearby historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Suganuma, both designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995.

See the traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which are characterized by steep thatched roofs that resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. Some of these charming cottages date back more than 250 years, and you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the community's history and customs as your guides take you through what remains a relatively unspoiled landscape. After the tour, you'll be dropped back at your hotel, where you can rest and regroup or see more of the city on your own.

Day 11: Cycling in Takayama, Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan & Sannomachi Street 

Walk along Takayama's historic Sannomachi Street

Enjoy an in-depth exploration of Takayama with a cycling tour. Meet your guides in the morning, and after an equipment and safety briefing, start your cruise along the city streets. Stop at Asaichi Market (Morning Market) for snacks and local crafts, and take a minute to observe local residents as they go about their daily lives. You may want to purchase a few souvenirs here or grab a quick bite to eat. 

Continue to Kokubun-ji, a Shingon-sect Buddhist temple that was built in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Its main hall is the oldest structure in the city, and the temple grounds also house the only three-story pagoda in the region, as well as a ginko tree, said to be more than 1,250 years old. After your temple tour, your cycling crew will take you back to your hotel.

Later, explore more city sights with a tour of Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan Museum and Sannomachi Street. See the museum's exhibit of floats featured in the Takayama Matsuri festival, one of Japan's most visually stunning events. Some of the floats are more than 22 feet (7 m) high and are exquisitely decorated with carvings, lanterns, and marionettes, showcasing the brilliant craftsmanship of Japan's artists. Finish the day at Sannomachi Street, located in the Old Town district. See the historic homes, take in the relaxing atmosphere, and stop in at one of the sake breweries that line the narrow street. 

Day 12: Train to Fuji, Bus to Fujikawaguchiko, Self-Guided Tour of Fujikawaguchiko 

See views of Mount Fuji in Fujikawaguchiko 

Today's journey takes you to Fujikawaguchiko, a resort town that sits in the northern foothills of Mount Fuji. You'll start by train, transferring to a bus for the final leg, with a total travel time of about five hours. After you've checked in at your hotel, you'll probably want to stretch your legs after the long train ride, so get out and see some of the city. 

Start in Iyashi no Sato, a historic village and open-air museum featuring traditional thatched-roof architecture that houses shops, restaurants, museums, and galleries. Roam around the area and see some of the incredible crafts that locals make here, including pottery, incense, and woven goods. Head to the banks of Lake Kawaguchi and take in the splendid sunset against the backdrop of Mount Fuji, then find a restaurant selling the local specialty, hoto noodles, a hearty miso-based noodle soup with savory broth and fresh veggies.

Day 13: Explore Mount Fuji, Train to Tokyo, Imperial Palace Gardens & Senso-ji

Tour the impressive Senso-ji temple

Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san as the locals call it, is the country's highest peak, stretching to more than 12,000 feet (3,776 m). A common pilgrimage site, Fuji is considered one of Japan's three sacred mountains. Your guide will pick you up from your hotel, and you'll be on your way, making your first stop at Arakurayama Sengen Park, where Mount Fuji views frame a monumental pagoda. Then, continue to Lake Kawaguchiko for the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway. The glass-windowed cabin ascends to more than 1,300 feet (400 m), reaching an observation deck that offers sweeping views of Mount Fuji.

After your tour, it's off to the train station to depart for Tokyo, Japan's capital. Here, you'll find the perfect blend of modern and traditional, with neon-lit skyscrapers alongside historic temples and lush gardens. At your hotel, you'll be met by your guide for a tour of Tokyo's incredible Imperial Palace gardens and Senso-ji temple. Start at the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, the only part of the palace open to the public. The garden features seasonal flowers, green lawns, fountains, and teahouses. You can also catch views of the impressive double-arched Nijubashi Bridge.

Afterward, visit Senso-ji, which dates back to the seventh century and is considered one of Tokyo's most significant Buddhist temples. Pass the giant lanterns on the outer gates, then walk the lively Nakamise-dori, a street lined with shops and food stands. Make your way to 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). Make the most of your last night in Japan with a street food dinner at one of their lively markets or perhaps a sake-tasting at a local bar.

Day 14: Depart Tokyo

Farewell to the wonders of Japan! 

Your two-week cultural journey through Japan ends today. After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel and be transferred to the airport for your journey home or to your next destination. Safe travels! 

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Map of Traditions of Japan: History, Art & Culture - 14 Days
Map of Traditions of Japan: History, Art & Culture - 14 Days