- Learn Japanese calligraphy at a shodo workshop in Tokyo
- Go hiking at the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Enjoy a multicourse dinner at a traditional ryokan (inn) in Kyoto
- Spot free-roaming deer in scenic Nara
|Day 1||Arrive in Tokyo, Explore Shinjuku & Visit Memory Lane||Tokyo|
|Day 2||Tokyo City Tour, Optional Shodo Experience||Tokyo|
|Day 3||Train to Hiroshima, Get to Know Hiroshima & Learn About Sake in Saijo||Hiroshima|
|Day 4||Visit the Floating Shrine of Miyajima||Hiroshima|
|Day 5||Train to Kyoto, Sightseeing in Gion||Kyoto|
|Day 6||Hiking at Fushimi Inari Shrine, Optional Tea Ceremony||Kyoto|
|Day 7||See Beautiful Landscapes in Arashiyama, Optional Geisha Photoshoot||Kyoto|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Nara & Uji, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan||Kyoto|
|Day 9||Train to Takayama, See the Old City and Temples of Takayama||Takayama|
|Day 10||Train to Kanazawa, Visit Kanazawa & Optional Gold Leaf Workshop||Kanazawa|
|Day 11||Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go||Kanazawa|
|Day 12||Train to Hakone, Explore Hakone||Hakone|
|Day 13||Train to Tokyo, Explore Akihabara & Optional Kimono Rental||Tokyo|
|Day 14||See the Bright Lights of Tokyo & Optional Nighttime Food Tour||Tokyo|
|Day 15||Depart Tokyo|
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Explore Shinjuku & Visit Memory Lane
Welcome to Japan! At Tokyo's Haneda Airport, a guide will be waiting to take you to your hotel via private transfer. Depending on your arrival time, spend a few hours exploring the Shinjuku area and its gardens, as well as the Metropolitan Government Observatory, one of the city's tallest buildings, which offers views of Mount Fuji on a clear day.
At Omoide Yokocho ("Memory Lane"), walk through an alley filled with wooden restaurants adorned with paper lanterns, and try yakitori (chicken skewers). The traditional restaurants here are small stands where chefs grill skewers on charcoal right in front of hungry customers. Shinjuku Golden Gai is another area worth exploring, with narrow alleys and many bars. End the night in the Kabukicho district, full of lively spots like hostess bars, robot restaurants, pachinko parlors (games arcades), and love hotels. Look for the Godzilla model climbing through the buildings above the Toho Cinema.
Day 2: Tokyo City Tour, Optional Shodo Experience
Your local guide will help you to navigate Tokyo's public transport today as you see some of its most captivating landmarks. In Asakusa, learn about traditional Japanese culture at Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple and a five-story pagoda and shrine, which is so large some consider it a neighborhood of its own. On Nakamise-dori, a shopping street in front of the temple, you can browse shops for traditional knives and katanas (swords).
In the afternoon, you have the option of booking a 90-minute small-group shodo experience. Learn about the ancient art of shodo (calligraphy) and put your artistic skills to the test. At the instructor's house, you'll get an inside look at Japanese daily life while learning to write your name in Japanese on a fan or colored paper, which you can take home as a souvenir. Later on, visit Tokyo SkyTree, one of the world's tallest towers. You can see skyline views from 2,080 feet (853 m) on its observatory decks, one of which has glass floors.
Day 3: Train to Hiroshima, Get to Know Hiroshima & Learn About Sake in Saijo
Take a train from Tokyo to Hiroshima this morning. With the dropping of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, this city became a worldwide symbol of human suffering. Today, it represents peace, remembrance, and hope. Some of the most meaningful sites pertaining to the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II include the A-Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, both located in the Hiroshima Peace Park. For history buffs, Hiroshima Castle will give a good insight into the military defense structures of the pre-Edo era, while Toyokuni Shrine is a peaceful spot for contemplation.
If you'd prefer to use today for a short day trip, a scenic train ride will take you to Saijo, one of Japan's prime producers of the national drink, sake (rice wine). Even if you're not a sake fan, walking through the historic brewery district to the east of JR Saijo Station is absolutely worth doing. Wander into the breweries' front areas, where there will often be sake available to sample and information about the sake-making process. Back in Hiroshima, enjoy one of the city's best-known regional foods: hiroshimayaki, or Japanese pancakes.
Day 4: Visit the Floating Shrine of Miyajima
Today, take the ferry to Miyajima from Hiroshima. Here, you will see Itsukushima Shrine, one of the top sights in Japan. The shrine was designed to appear as if it is floating on the sea. On your way there from the ferry terminal, you'll spot many deer, which roam freely and are very friendly.
Later, visit Mount Misen and get a beautiful view from the top, which is accessible via ropeway. You can also see a beautiful Buddhist temple, the Daisho-in Temple, at the foot of Mount Misen, and take some time to explore Omotesando shopping street. Make it a day trip from Hiroshima, or soak in Miyajima's romantic atmosphere by staying overnight at one of the island's ryokan (traditional Japanese inns).
Day 5: Train to Kyoto, Sightseeing in Gion
From Hiroshima, take the train to the beautiful city of Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Depending on your arrival time, you can explore the ancient streets and jump headfirst into traditional Japanese culture. Explore the Gion neighborhood first. This area is known for its geisha (traditional female performers). As you wander through Gion's streets filled with magical charm, you will find many shops selling sweets, souvenirs, and Japanese crafts, as well as restaurants ideal for your first lunch or dinner in Kyoto.
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.
Day 6: Hiking at Fushimi Inari Shrine, Optional Tea Ceremony
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
After breakfast, head out to explore eastern Kyoto. Start 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. Then visit Nijo Castle, where you'll learn a bit of history about this former capital of Japan, or enjoy visiting Kiyomizudera Temple to take in the beautiful views of Kyoto.
Later, discover one of the most famous traditions of Japan, the tea ceremony. In a machiya (wooden house) in Ninenzaka in the Higashiyama district, learn the process of making and serving tea along with sweets. An expert will guide you and explain the significance of different steps in the ceremony and tea preparation. When the tea ceremony is finished, visit the nearby temples of Kiyomizu-dera, Kodai-ji, and Chion-in. Then, take a walk in Maruyama Park.
Day 7: See Beautiful Landscapes in Arashiyama, Optional Geisha Photoshoot
After having your breakfast, visit Arashiyama, a beautiful location and famous heritage site in the northwestern area of Kyoto. Arashiyama attracts many visitors with its world-renowned bamboo forest and beautiful scenery that changes with each season. Feel the calm brought about by the streams flowing under the Togetsukyo Bridge, then climb the nearby mountain that leads to a monkey park and a bird's-eye view of Kyoto.
Stop by the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove before heading to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. Kinkaku-ji is known for its scenic view, which you can admire throughout the different seasons of the year. In the afternoon, you 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 who will serve you traditional green tea, teach you about traditional geisha practices, and pose with you in pictures.
Day 8: Day Trip to Nara & Uji, Dinner at Hiiragiya Ryokan
Explore the beautiful regions of Nara and Uji, known for their scenic gardens, parks, temples, and shrines, on a day trip from Kyoto. First, take the train from Kyoto Station to Nara and visit the Todai-ji Temple, home to the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha. In the manicured temple grounds, you'll find tea houses, a museum, and the roaming deer of Nara, which are tame enough to be fed by visitors. Walk around the temple's Isui-en Garden ("garden founded on water"). This peaceful, manicured garden features tea houses and a museum with Korean and Chinese collections.
Afterward, take a train to Uji. The Byodo-in Temple here is the one portrayed on the back of 10 yen coins. Nearby, you'll find stores offering quality green tea products (including green tea ice cream), noodles, matcha, and sweets. Once you've had a look around, return to Kyoto, where you have a table reserved for dinner at the Hiiragiya Ryokan, founded in 1818. This inn 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 9: Train to Takayama, See the Old City & Temples of Takayama
Take a train to Takayama, a historical city in the mountainous Hida region, where you'll be spending the day. Start your visit on Sanmachi Street, also known as "Little Kyoto," which will give you a true view of traditional Japan. As you walk around the area, be sure to stop off at some of the many souvenir and traditional craft stores, sake breweries, and restaurants. Then take a trip to the nearby Hida no Sato, an open-air museum with beautiful old houses. Not only can you explore the houses, but you can also enjoy some crafts, such as pottery or creating your own good-luck charms.
You may also want to visit Takayama Jinya, a historic building and museum where you can learn about the life of governors in the Edo Period.
Day 10: Train to Kanazawa, Visit Kanazawa & Optional Gold Leaf Workshop
In the morning, take a train to Kanazawa for a journey into old Japan. Check into your hotel, then meet your private guide to start the tour via public transportation. Begin at Kenrokuen Garden, considered one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. Afterward, visit Kanazawa Castle, found directly across from the gardens. This castle was controlled by the Maeda clan from 1583 onward. For a special lunch, head to Omicho Market, which has been Kanazawa's largest fresh food market since the Edo Period.
Finish your tour with a visit to the samurai district of Nagamachi. This neighborhood's mud-packed walls and tiled roofs evoke the heyday of the Edo period. Then, you'll have the option of participating in a gold leaf workshop. Choose between creating your own chopsticks or your own gold leaf pin, and take your creations home as a souvenir. Your knowledgeable sensei (teacher) will talk you through the history of gold leaf production in Kanazawa and assist you as you create your own craft.
Day 11: Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-goTake a day trip to Shirakawa, a town which is the site of the traditional village of Shirakawa-go. When you arrive, stroll around Myozenji Temple, founded in 1748, and its museum. These are located on the north side of Shirakawa-go village. Shirakawa-go was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The main attraction of the village lies in its gassho-zukuri farmhouses, built in a traditional style.
Day 12: Train to Hakone, Explore Hakone
Say goodbye to Kanazawa and take a train to Hakone. Once there, start your day by taking the cable car up to Owakudani. At the top of this active volcanic area, you'll find hot thermal steam geysers and volcanic rock. You can also take a short cruise on Lake Ashi, where there are stunning views of Mount Fuji. Don't forget to check out the countless hot springs as well. Another unique local attraction you can visit is the Hakone Shrine, famous for its giant red torii (gates) and located on the edge of a forest. The shrine appears to be floating on the lake's water.
Stay overnight in an authentic ryokan. After a long day of sightseeing, you can relax in the establishment's onsen or natural thermal baths.
Day 13: Train to Tokyo, Explore Akihabara & Optional Kimono Rental
It's time to take a train back to Tokyo for the last leg of your journey. If you'd like, you have the option of renting a traditional kimono today. Before starting your sightseeing, head to a kimono house and choose your favorite kimono. You'll have the chance to walk around the city wearing this traditional outfit! Once you're ready, head to Akihabara, the premier shopping area for electronics, animé, computers, and otaku goods in Japan. In this mecca of electronics, you can find shops and department stores that sell anything from specialized electronic components to large-scale appliances.
For animé and manga lovers, Akihabara is home to the Tokyo Anime Center, which holds numerous anime-related exhibitions and events, and the Mandarake, the self-described largest animé and manga shop in the world. Costumed coffee shops, known as maid cafés, can also be found tucked in between the electronic shops. These unique establishments feature wait staff dressed as French maids who not only serve food but also engage their customers in games and conversation. These cafés can only be found in Japan, and they are extremely popular with both women and men.
Day 14: See the Bright Lights of Tokyo & Optional Nighttime Food Tour
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 the strangest items Japan has to offer. Stop for lunch, then make your way to the renowned Takeshita-dori. This pedestrian street is thronged with young Japanese people decked out in a variety of wild costumes.
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. For dinner, you have the option of joining a foodie tour of Shinjuku. The first stop is a restaurant known for its Wagyu beef, cooked on a shichirin (small charcoal barbecue grill). The next restaurant will teach you how to grill the beef yourself. For dessert, wind down with ice cream in a quiet café.
Day 15: Depart TokyoPack your bags and prepare to say goodbye to Japan. Make your way to Narita Airport via public transportation, or opt for a private transfer instead. Have a safe journey home or to your next destination!
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