Immerse yourself in the ancient and modern cultures of Japan. Learn the art of the tea ceremony, and stand before the famous Senso-ji Buddhist temple. Tour Matsumoto Castle, known as the “Crow Castle” for its black exterior. Taste legendary Hida beef and sip sake at a local brewery. Delve into Kyoto, the marvelous cultural capital of Japan. Absorb the beauty of the Golden Pavilion and the majesty of Nijo Castle. Board the Shinkansen “bullet” train to travel to Hiroshima to visit Shrine Island and the Peace Memorial Museum. Japan slowly draws you into its eclectic culture and charm, revealing incredible moments every step of the way.
- Itinerary Type : Standard
- Activity Level : 4
- Number of Days:14
- Number of Meals:19
- Hotels:Odakyu Hotel de Yama (Hakone), Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel (Kanazawa), Takayama Green Hotel (Takayama), Kyoto Tokyu Hotel (Kyoto), Grand Nikko Daiba (Tokyo)
- Experiences:Try your hand at the centuries-old art of the Japanese tea ceremony, gold leaf decorating and stenciling.
Travel by the famous Shinkansen bullet train.
Explore the famous Ginza district, the first Western-style shopping district in Japan where modern and history blends.
- Must Sees:Take in magnificent views of Mt. Fuji from the Hakone Ropeway.
Visit multiple UNESCO sites including Shirakawa-go, Nijo Castle, Itsukushima Shinto Shrine and Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
- Culinaries:Enjoy a sake tasting at a local sake brewery followed by a Hida beef dinner.
Experience a traditional kaiseki dinner with Geisha show in Kyoto.
Participate in a sushi-making class given by a professional sushi chef.
Itinerary (13 days)
Tokyo, Japan - Tour Begins
Welcome to Japan, the “Land of the Rising Sun." Begin in the electrifying city of Tokyo, where pop culture is turned all the way up and traditions are rich and long-kept. Tonight, meet your fellow travelers at a festive welcome dinner.
Feel the excitement start to build as you pass by the grounds of the Imperial Palace and see the Niju Bridge and Sakurada Gate, the well-known symbols of the Imperial Palace. Walk through Ginza, one of the most elegant and luxurious streets in the world, where modern landscape meets rich history. Enjoy shopping at some of the most renowned "department stores" in Japan. Later, amid a lush forest outside of Tokyo, visit the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
Begin the day exploring Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest Geisha district. Visit the famous Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, the colorful temple famous for the red chochin (lantern) hanging at the entrance gate. Experience the long standing tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony, dating back to the 15th century. During your free time, explore the Nakamise Shopping Arcade and feel the energy of the oldest shopping street in Japan. Then, head to Edo Tokyo Museum to learn about the fascinating history and culture of Tokyo. The museum displays life-size and model scale replicas of towns and buildings of old Tokyo.
Tokyo - Hakone
Journey to the lakeside resort of Hakone, renowned for its hot springs. In the shadow of Mt. Fuji (UNESCO), this scenic town hugs the shorelines of Lake Ashi. Make a stop at Owakudani, located in an active volcanic zone. The Owakudani crater was created some 3,000 years ago, when Mt. Hakone erupted. Climb aboard the Hakone Ropeway, an aerial cable car descending from Owakudani for a breathtaking view* of Mt. Fuji. Next, take to the deep-blue waters of Lake Ashi on a cruise where you’ll see epic views of the local mountains before stopping in the charming town of Moto-Hakone.
Hakone - Matsumoto - Takayama
This breathtaking day begins in Matsumoto at Matsumoto Castle, known as the “Crow Castle” because of its striking black exterior. Enjoy the local cuisine as we stop for lunch at a Soba noodle shop. Later, you’ll step back in time in the rural Edo-period town of Takayama, nestled in the Japanese Alps. Well known to the locals for its connection to sake, this is the perfect place to gather for a visit to one of Japan’s 200-year-old sake breweries. Afterward, experience a true Japanese epicurean treat – traditional rice wine paired with a special Hida beef dinner.
The ancient cultures of Takayama come alive this morning in the town’s historic district. Take a walk through the past and glimpse the 19th-century Jinya government building. Stroll through the morning market, a 600-year-old open air market with locally grown and produced products, located along the Miyagawa River. Circuit the winding streets, where the town’s traditional charms are preserved in the inns and houses. This afternoon, relish some free time to continue your exploration of Takayama on your own.
Takayama - Shirakawa-go - Kanazawa
Today, embrace the unique charms of Shirakawa-go (UNESCO). Hidden away in the mountain, this harmonious village is famous for its gassho-zukuri-style houses – thatched-rooftops designed to resemble two hands joined in prayer. Journey to Kanazawa, the origin of gold-leaf making since the 16th century. Visit the Samurai district where we will enter the former home of the Nomuras, a wealthy samurai family who served the ruling Maeda family. Then, travel to the Geisha quarters of Kanazawa, the Higashi Tea district.
More than 25 acres of absolute beauty await you today at Kenroku-En – Garden of Six Qualities. From the beauty of Japan’s most stunning gardens, dive into the ancient craft of gold leaf making during a hands-on lesson in decorating your own lacquer box at Kanazawa Katani! In the center of town, take in the action of the Omicho fish market before venturing out on your own to really immerse yourself in Kanazawa’s dynamic culture.
Kanazawa - Kyoto
Kyoto awaits! The former Imperial capital of Japan is now one of the nation’s top cosmopolitan cities. At the same time, Kyoto’s connection with its past is strong; you won’t need to look far to see one of its 2,000 temples and shrines. For lunch, participate in a sushi making class – given by a professional sushi chef – and master the art of sushi making. This afternoon, visit Kinkakuji (UNESCO), the Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf.
Kyoto - Bullet Train - Hiroshima - Kyoto
All aboard the Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima. Upon arrival, board a ferry for the short trip to Miyajima Island, or “Shrine Island” (UNESCO), where the iconic torii gate and the Itsukushima Shrine appear to float on water. Afterwards, head into Hiroshima city to visit the Peace Memorial Park, and pause to see the ruined Atomic Dome (UNESCO). Reflect at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As this moving day comes to a close, return to Kyoto by the Shinkansen bullet train.
This morning, explore Fushimi Inari Taisha for a tour of the most revered shrine of Inari. Follow the spectacular rows of orange torii (made famous in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha) that weave through the forest, leading you to the inner shrine. Move on to the home of the first Shogun, Nijo Castle (UNESCO), and see intricate woodcarvings, wall paintings, and the Ninomaru Garden, designed by Kobori Enshu, a landscape architect and tea master. Next, visit Marumasu Nishumuraya for a lesson in the art of stenciling at a traditional Kyoto townhouse.
Today, spend some time relaxing or set out to explore Kyoto on your own. Fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture tonight during a special kaiseki farewell dinner and Geisha show.
Kyoto - Tour Ends
Your tour comes to a close in this fascinating land. As you depart, reflect on its beauty and all you have learned about its rich history and culture.
As the capital of Japan, Tokyo is also the most populous city with over 13 million people and is the cultural and financial center of Japan. Originally known as Edo prior to the move of the empire in 1868 from Kyoto, Tokyo is a sprawling metropolis with over 23 city sections all connected by an excellent public transit system. While most of ancient Tokyo was destroyed by bombing in WWII, today’s Tokyo is a mix of architectural styles and eclectic structures.
Asakusa and Ginza
Asakusa is one of Tokyo's oldest geisha districts. Here, you'll also find the famous Buddhist temple, Senso-ji. This colorful temple is known for the red chochin (lantern) hanging at the entrance gate. Spend time in Ginza, one of the most elegant and luxurious streets in the world. Here you can enjoy shopping at some of the most renowned "department stores" in Japan. You’ll also find art galleries, historic cafes, museums, and Michelin-starred restaurants.
Formality and attention to culture and respect are important in Japan and are present in all aspects of the tea ceremony. From the formal bows, to the placement of the cups and utensils, all aspects of the ceremony are critical to the enjoyment. A part of Buddhist beliefs, it is more about the appreciation of the placement, structure and enjoyment than it is the actual drinking of the tea. Typically accompanied by delicately crafted sugary sweets, the tea itself is a green, frothy mixture and only plays a small role in the process.
With views of Mt. Fuji visible on clear days, Hakone is a city located outside of Tokyo and part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. A popular destination for locals and tourists looking for a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Hakone is famous for hot springs, an open-air sculpture museum and wetland gardens.
Lake Ashi Cruise
Valued for its hot springs and spas, the scenic resort town of Hakone sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Ashi. Mt. Fuji rises in the distance as you cruise the deep-blue waters on a voyage that features incredible views of the mountain and stops at lakeside towns.
Sometimes the best views are seen from above. On board an aerial cable car, sail through the air on the Hakone Ropeway. High above Hakone, find yourself surrounded by many of Japan’s most incredible sites, including Lake Ashi’s crystal-blue waters and Owakudani’s volcanic fumes. But from your cable car, experience no site more incredible than the magnificent face of Mt. Fuji.
This 400-year-old castle is known as the “Crow Castle” because of its stunning black interior. It’s Japan’s oldest and most important historic castle, and as such, it is considered a National Treasure and an absolute must-see.
Catch a glimpse of the past in Takayama’s historic district that reveals its ancient culture. Explore the winding streets lined with traditional inns and houses. The well-preserved old town provides you with a great example of what rural Japan is like. The bustling open air markets where you can find lots of local food and handicrafts date back over 600 years.
Sake Tasting and Hida Beef Dinner
Visit one of Japan’s oldest and last family-owned sake breweries. Enjoy a tasting of traditional rice wine and learn how it’s made and its significance in Japanese food culture. Pair your sake with the legendarily delicious Hida beef, only found in the Gifu Prefecture.
Discover the unique fairy tale charm of this enchanting rural village and see why tourists from all over the world are drawn to this very place. Learn about the long history and unique architectural character of the centuries old wooden farmhouses that were built without the use of a single nail.
As a former home to the Meada feudal lords, Kanazawa today is one of two cities spared from the destruction of WWII. Because of this preservation, many of the original castles and buildings remain today, including the Ninja Temple and Kanazawa Castle. Another highlight is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kenroku-en.
Once the imperial capital for over 1,000 years, Kyoto is also known as the city of 10,000 shrines. From Buddhist temples to Shinto shrines, Kyoto remains a treasure of Japan with the wide range of historic buildings and gardens protected during the bombings of WWII. Also the center of the Geisha culture, today's visitors can stroll through the former Geisha quarters or try their hand at being a "Geisha for a day" with the locals.
In Japan, high speed trains (bullet trains) are called “Shinkansen.” They run at speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour and are known to depart on time right to the second. Board the train to take you to Hiroshima extra quick.
A modern Japanese city, Hiroshima is most known for being one of two cities hit with an atomic bomb, helping to end the Second World War. Though reclaimed as a cosmopolitan center, the city is never far from its past; amongst the electric neon of its bustling streets, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is a historical time capsule right in the city center that’s both a dedication to the victims of the bombing and to world peace. The park’s main site, the A-Bomb Dome is the mark of the ruined remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The nearby Peace Memorial Museum gives you the opportunity to learn about life in Hiroshima before, during, and after WWII. For those interested in world history, Hiroshima is a must-see.
Geisha undergo very strict training in the traditional Japanese arts for many years to become the perfect entertainers. Kyoto is the heart of Japan’s geisha world and is the perfect place to witness a show demonstrating the enchanting ways of the geisha.