Remarkable natural landscapes, intriguing ancient culture, world-renowned cuisine, eccentric art, futuristic architecture, and refreshing zen gardens are just a taste of what Japan has to offer! Settle in on a sleek bullet train to revel in a life-changing voyage as you jaunt throughout this East Asian country. Inhale fresh air in the Japanese Alps, wander through one of Kyoto’s natural gems, the Arashiyama bamboo forest, or gaze at the iconic Mount Fuji for truly notable views. While here, soak in a traditional onsen bath to rejuvenate the soul in Hakone, get lost in the neon-lit streets while in Tokyo, see thousands of Inari shrines scattered throughout the country, or immerse yourself in the World War II history at Hiroshima.
Home to 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Japan boasts numerous temples, castles, and shrines that are prominent to the country’s culture. With two-thirds of Japan painted by wooded mountains, you will see stunning waterfalls, volcanoes, and lush forests known for ‘forest bathing.’ After an eventful day of exploring, stumble upon a plethora of 3-star Michelin restaurants to eat local favorites such as sushi, Yakiniku, ramen, and tempura, which will all make your mouth water! Partake in a tea ceremony, take a calligraphy class, dabble in poetry, or stroll through distinctive gardens making a note of the ornate sculptures that represent Japan’s ethos.
Japan is the birthplace of sushi, manga, anime, video games, karaoke, and sumo wrestling, to name a few. This country is appealing to all ages! Meander through world-class shopping malls or pick up local handicrafts at traditional markets where you will find something’ kawaii,’ Japanese for cute. Whether you come in the spring to witness the breathtaking cherry blossoms, in the fall when its forests are smattered with blaze red and gold foliage, or in the winter to hit the slopes on the lightest and fluffiest snow you’ll ever find, Japan will be here waiting!
Itinerary 1: 8-Day Adventure
Days 1, 2 & 3: Tokyo
A rich cultural history, delicious authentic cuisine, unique entertainment, and exquisite nature in all its glory await in Tokyo. Begin your journey in the heart of the city at Hirosaki Castle Park and Shinjuku Gyoen, where you will experience the stunning ornamental beauty of the cherry blossom trees that millions flock to each spring. Make your way to the Meiji Shrine, passing through one of its impressive gates to be enveloped in the tranquility of its wooded forest. Catch Godzilla towering over the city near Kabuki Cho, ending your first day atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for an amazing 360-degree view of Japan’s capital.
On your second day, grab a furikake for breakfast and head to Ueno, where various attractions await. Stroll the halls of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum or Tokyo Bunka Kaikan concert hall. Take a relaxing walk through Ueno Park and Zoo or check out the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensoji Temple, next to Asakusa Temple. Pass through the ‘Thunder Gate,’ traveling back in time 300 years to wander among stalls selling ornate souvenirs on Nakamise Street. Later, revel at the Imperial Palace surrounded by stone walls and ancient moats. Walk alongside 300-year old trees in Hamarikyu, tour the Tsukiji Market where fresh fish stalls line the aisles, and make your way to the waterfront district, crossing the Rainbow Bridge with a view of a miniature Statue of Liberty. On the bay, the illuminated water and colorful buildings will mesmerize you at nightfall as you belly up to a sushi stand for dinner!
On your last day in Tokyo visit the ambient temple of Gyokurin-Ji, a national treasure, to see the ancient chinquapin tree on its grounds. After, shop till you drop in Shibuya or Harajuku for world-class shopping and outstanding entertainment. You’ll be right next to the most famous place in Tokyo, Shibuya Crossing, a place to truly feel the intense energy of the city buzzing around you! Check out a classical sumo fight at The Ryogoku Kokugikan arena, eat at Robot Restaurant for a unique dining experience, and stand under the Eiffel Tower replica or head to the top for another fabulous view of the city before you depart!
Day 4: Kamakura
Just an hour away from Tokyo is Kamakura. Here you’ll see the giant bronze Buddha at Kotokuin Temple, the second largest in Japan! This magical place is idyllic—try the local tradition of ‘washing your money’ at Zeniarai Benten Shrine, in hopes that the saying ‘what you wash in the spring will double’ comes true! After a morning of sightseeing, take a rickshaw to the sandy beaches of Kamakura. Partake in marine sports, lounge on the coast, and try the purple potato soft ice cream as the sun sets over Sagami Bay!
Days 5 & 6: Nara
Journey to Nara via train or plane. Once you arrive, explore Nara-Koen Park to see the infamous Todai-Ji Temple, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, and Isuien Garden. In the park, don’t be surprised if you spot sacred deer roaming the area, sniffing around for some crackers! Sip some tea in a tea house within the garden for an authentic Japanese experience, then enter the Nigatsu-do Hall, an essential part of the temple, for a breathtaking view of Nara. Next, visit Nara’s most celebrated shrine, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine, famous for its 3,000 bronze lanterns and end your day at Todai-ji, considered among Japan’s most historically significant temples and home to one of the world’s largest bronze Buddha statues. The Todai-ji Temple has awe-inspiring massive wooden doors, impressive pillars and opulent halls.
Arise early to visit Horyu-ji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest temples. Founded in 607, it contains the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures and was designated a world heritage site in 1993. While in Nara, shop at a myriad of galleries, pick up trinkets for your loved ones, enjoy a picnic by Sarusawa Pond, or stroll through Naramachi, the old merchant district. In Nara, experience ancient Japan at a relaxing pace with authenticity down every path.
Days 7 & 8: Kyoto
Begin in the famous zen garden, Ryoan-ji Temple, to contemplate life and all of its intricacies. Watch the gardener rake lines into the garden and feel the stress melt away. Once entirely relaxed, visit other prominent temples and shrines scattered throughout Kyoto. Walk along Philosopher’s Path to reach Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine, Nanzenji, and Heian Shrine, all located within the Higashiyama District. These beautifully preserved temples have maintained their opulent presence over hundreds of centuries. Meander to Sanjusangendo to admire 1,001 hand-carved statues, eat at the 400-year old Nishiki market, or purchase goods along 300-year old Teramachi street.
Marvel at the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan, The Toji Temple; romp with monkeys in Monkey Park Iwatayama; or snap a photo of the thousands of vermillion torii gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha, where millions pay their respect each year. The Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji, adorned in golden leaves, is a sight to see. Situated nearby is Nijo Castle, representing Japan’s feudal era architecture and Kodaiji Temple, with its marvelous and uniquely Japanese bamboo grove. Take a dip in an outdoor herbal bath, an ancient pastime, at Funaoka Onsen. Just outside of town, head to a magical forest for a romantic walk in Arashiyama Bamboo Grove for a once in a lifetime experience. Rest up and head home the next day out of Osaka International Airport.
Itinerary 2: 14 Day Grand Tour
Days 1 & 2: Osaka
This eclectic city is complete with many attractions from the world’s biggest aquarium, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, to the Lifestyle Museum of Osaka that is on top of a 10-story building that takes you back to Osaka in the 1830s. Shop on Tenjinbashi-suji street or head to the roof of the emblematic Umeda Sky Building to ride 40 stories for a panoramic of the Osaka where the view at nighttime is impeccable with its city illuminated throughout! Explore Osaka Castle, which has an essential stamp in Japan’s history.
Stumble across Dotobori, which is representative of the whole city. This shopping street has ornate shops and numerous tourist attractions. For a luxurious shopping experience, head to HEP Five shopping center where you can ride a Ferris Wheel on its rooftop! Spend a day at Universal Studios Japan to remember what it was like to be a child filled with thrill and excitement. For ancient relics, see Japan’s oldest temple, Shitennoji Temple, founded in 593. Walk on the pebble covered courtyard, see the enshrined statue of Kannon, and gaze at the paintings, scriptures, and valuables in the treasure house.
Days 3 & 4: Hiroshima
Hop on the bullet train to Hiroshima to explore Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima Castle, and the Mitaki-Dera Temple. The park is dedicated to the idea of world peace, which is surrounded by greenery, clear waters, and serenity. Located in the park, you’ll come across the A-Bomb Dome, the only structure left standing after the atomic bomb in World War II and is a symbol of peace for the city. After paying your respects, catch a glimpse at the gorgeous Hiroshima Castle, which will remind you of samurai times. Then head to the city’s temple, known as Hiroshima’s hidden gem, that is surrounded by waterfalls, beauty, and purity.
For a different experience, walk the Kintai bridge where on the other side, you’ll find a store selling 164 flavors of ice cream! Stop at the white snake museum, see the shrines at Kikko, and settle into a down to earth atmosphere of Japan that Hiroshima offers.
Day 5: Miyajima
While on the southwestern side of the country, take a day trip to Miyajima. Miyajima is a picturesque island filled with shrines, stunning views, and lush forests. See the floating shrine at Itsukushima, which is sure to take your breath away. Here the Torii gate floats on the bright blue waters and shows the elegance of Japanese architecture. Take the ropeway and ride to the top of Mount Misen to see into the Hiroshima Bay. Finally, lose time in Momijidani Park to hike in forests, look at giant trees, and picnic in the peace and quiet while dining with a bento box and sake.
Days 6 & 7: Kyoto
Retake the bullet train and head to Kyoto. Begin in the famous zen garden, Ryoan-ji Temple, where you can contemplate life and all its intricacies. Watch the gardener rake lines into the garden and feel the stress melt away. Once you are entirely relaxed, see some other prominent temples and shrines scattered throughout Kyoto. Walk along Philosopher’s Path to get to Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine, Nanzenji, and Heian Shrine, all held within the Higashiyama District. These beautifully persevered temples have maintained their opulent presence over hundreds of centuries. Meander to Sanjusangendo to see 1,001 hand-carved statues, eat at the 400-year old market of Nishiki, or purchase goods at the 300-year old Teramachi street.
Overlook the cherry trees at the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan, The Toji Temple, romp around with monkeys in Monkey Park Iwatayama or take a photo of the thousands of vermillion torii gates at Fushimi Inari-Taisha where millions pay their respect each year. The Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji, is adorned in golden leaves, which are a sight to see. This is situated next to Nijo Castle that represents architecture from Japan’s feudal era. Nearby the Kodaiji Temple hosts a marvelous bamboo grove, which is a uniquely Japanese experience, but for an ancient endeavor, visit Funaoka Onsen to dip in an outdoor herbal bath! Just outside of town head to a magical forest for a romantic walk in Arashiyama Bamboo Grove for a once in a lifetime experience. Rest up and head home the next day out of Osaka International Airport.
Days 8 & 9: Takayama
Drive or take a local train from Kyoto to the mountain town of Takayama. You will find yourself in this gorgeous small town nestled next to the Japanese Alps. Takayama is spoiled with traditional wooden houses, lovely trees, vibrant shrines, and notable bright red bridges that arch over the town’s river. Take a stroll through the morning markets and munch on mitarashi dango from a local street stall, tour sake breweries, shop local shops, and wander around the Takayama Museum of History and Art. A peek at the Festival Floats Exhibition is a must as it is famous for its biannual floats and woodworking.
The Takayama Showa Museum emulates the ‘Showa’ period, which is filled with nostalgia from decades past that will take you back a moment in time. Get lost in the streets that are adorned with original heritage houses, swing past the Sakuayama-Hachimangu Shrine, or cycle amidst the countryside for a soothing experience along its mountainous paths. Take a short bus trip to Shirakawa-go, a world heritage site, and gawk at its steep thatched-roofed houses, historic buildings, and if you go in the winter, it will genuinely feel like a magical wonderland! Head back to your lodging and order Hida beef, a local specialty, from one of the barbeque restaurants in the town.
Days 10 & 11: Hakone
Venture to Hakone to be amazed by not only Mount Fuji but the many sights available within the town. Tour the city by private boat, cable car, bus, train, bike, or foot to see things such as the Hakone Open Air Museum, The Glass Forest, or the Hakone Shrine noted for its beautiful torii gates and abundant history. Try a black egg cooked in hot sulfur, soak in enchanting onsens, and stay in a traditional tatami room inside a ryokan where you’ll be treated with many Japanese luxuries.
Be gifted with amazing views of Mount Fuji over Lake Ashinoko by cable car while you ascend into the sky. Trek into the moss-covered forest along Tokaido road to get a glimpse of the Edo period. It is said historically that this road was used by samurai! Enjoy the fresh air and cool mist from the waterfalls in Hakone, Chisuji Falls, Hiryunotaki Falls, and Tamadare Falls, where you will be a peace with the nature that surrounds you! Smell the infamous hydrangea, sip on tea, and recount the memorable moments from your trip thus far!
Days 12, 13, & 14: Tokyo
Unique entertainment, rich history, delicious cuisine, and beautiful nature are just a few of the things to see while in Tokyo. Begin your journey in the heart of the city at Hirosaki Castle Park and Shinjuku Gyoen, where you will experience the stunning blooming flowers from the cherry blossom trees that millions flock to each year for their ornamental beauty. After, make your way to the Meiji Shrine for tranquility in its wooded forest, glimpse at its towering gate, and become grounded in Japan. Catch Godzilla towering over the city near Kabuki Cho then end your first day atop of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for a 360-degree view of this country’s capital.
On your second day, grab a furikake for breakfast and head to Ueno, where various attractions await. Stroll the halls of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum or Tokyo Bunka Kaikan concert hall. Take a relaxing jaunt through Ueno Park and Zoo or check out the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensoji Temple, next to Asakusa Temple. After, pass through the ‘Thunder Gate’ and go back in time 300 years to see the stalls that sell ornate souvenirs on Nakamise Street. Later, revel at the Imperial Palace surrounded by stone walls and ancient moats. Walk alongside 300-year old trees in Hamarikyu, tour the Tsukiji Market where fresh fish will line the aisles, and then make your way to the waterfront district by crossing the Rainbow Bridge where you’ll see a miniature Statue of Liberty. On the bay, be enamored by the illuminating water and colorful buildings at nightfall and belly up to a sushi stand for dinner!
On your last day in Tokyo, visit the ambient temple of Gyokurin-Ji, which is a treasure in Tokyo, where you’ll spot the ancient chinquapin tree on its grounds. After, shop till you drop in Shibuya or Harajuku for some world-class shopping and outstanding entertainment. You’ll be right next to the most famous place in Tokyo, Shibuya Crossing, where you’ll feel the energy of the city buzzing around you! Check out a classical sumo fight at The Ryogoku Kokugikan arena, eat at Robot Restaurant for a unique dining experience, and stand under the replica of the Eiffel Tower or head to the top for another fantastic view of the city before you depart! Rest up and head home the next day out of Tokyo International Airport.