Essential Japan

Discover the very best of Japan on a compact but fascinating highlights journey. Delve into Tokyo’s urban energy, marvel at the stunning views of Mt. Fuji in Hakone, wind through the sleepy countryside en route to Kyoto where you’ll discover the iconic sights of Edo period Japan.

Please note on hotels in Japan:

Check-in time is 3.00PM and check-out time is 11.00AM. Early or late service is subject to availability with surcharge.

Destinations included:
Tokyo – Hakone – Kyoto

We pride ourselves in creating personalised travel experiences that suit all your preferences and needs.

With this tour you can:

  • Choose your own departure date
  • Select the comfort level of accommodation
  • Adjust activities to cater to special interests
  • Modify any aspect of the tour as needed
JOURNEY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Discovering the eclectic sights of Tokyo, from the ancient temples to the buzzing shopping districts
  • Soaking in the onsen hot springs at an old-fashioned ryokan inn, in the shadow of Mount Fuji
  • Exploring the former imperial capital, Kyoto, visiting some of the 17 UNESCO sites there and entertainment district, marveling at the Edo period architecture
TOUR INCLUSIONS
  • Carefully selected accommodation with breakfast
  • Other meals listed in the itinerary
  • Expert English-speaking local guide
  • Tours as mentioned and air-conditioned transfers
  • Sightseeing and permit fees during guided times
  • Boat cruises and rides while on tour
  • Service charges and government VAT tax
TOUR MAP
ITINERARY BY DAY

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo

Welcome to Japan!  Transfer to your accommodation in Tokyo's historical Asakusa District, on the banks of the Sumida River. With its colourful carnival of market stalls, food vendors and traditional ryokan inns, Asakusa's down-to-earth atmosphere offers a glimpse of what Tokyo life might have been like before the neon-spangled skyscrapers arrived!

With your first night at your leisure, take a quick stroll from your hotel to Senso-ji, the oldest and best-loved temple in the city. From there, take in the view from across the river, where Tokyo's newest landmark towers, the 634 meters high Tokyo Skytree. Savour the unique juxtaposition as you explore this incredible city.

Day 2: Tokyo Full Day Tour

On your second day in Tokyo, explore with a knowledgeable local guide for eight hours, connecting the dots between sights of the capital. Your guide can provide insight into the city’s eccentricities that you may otherwise have missed! 

Venture over to Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. A popular location for Shinto weddings, venture through the impressive grounds of the park that surrounds the shrine.

Then, watch the city transform before your eyes as you take a walk down Omotesando. This broad, tree lined avenue features a multitude of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects and is symbolic of modern Tokyo, located in the fashionable Harajuku district.

Next, head back to Asakusa to visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple and wander down Nakamise, a centuries old shopping street, home to a variety of traditional, local snacks and souvenirs. Then, cruise along the Sumida River passing under 12 bridges before disembarking at Hamarikyu garden, an Edo Period Japanese garden starkly surrounded by the Shiodome district's futuristic skyscrapers.  Admiring the striking contrasts of Tokyo as you stop for a cup of steaming matcha and Japanese sweets in a tea house on a small island in the park's lake before returning to your hotel.

Day 3: Free Day in Tokyo

Today you’re free to peel back the layers of Tokyo, and can do whatever suits your fancy.

If you’re a food lover, wake up early and head to Tsukiji Fish Market to explore the bustling stalls with a wide array of fresh seafood.

For the urban explorer, head to the famously busy scramble crossing at Shibuya, before venturing to the Maid Cafés and comic book stores of Akihabara “electric town”.

Need a break from the bustle? Why not take a leisurely stroll around the Imperial Palace grounds for some quiet serenity.

Tonight, to see the city in full swing, spend the evening in Shinjuku to take advantage of some of the country's best restaurants, bars, clubs and karaoke boxes.

Day 4: Tokyo to Hakone

Now, it’s time to enjoy the healing powers of Hakone’s natural hot springs and magnificent panoramic views of Mount Fuji at Hakone National Park.

You’ll be following in the footsteps of the samurai as you journey along the old Tokaido post road en route to Hakone National Park. From Tokyo you will hop aboard the Express train from Shinjuku for a short ride to Hakone-Yumoto, the gateway to this majestic National Park.

Set in mountainous countryside, the region boasts superb natural beauty and, on a clear day, the near-perfect symmetry of Mount Fuji looming over Lake Ashi is truly a sight to behold.

After taking in the natural spendours of the park, spend the night at an authentic Japanese ryokan inn, and be transported to the samurai era. Amongst sliding doors, and tatami mats, you can relax in the hot spring baths and feast on a delicious traditional Japanese dinner.

Day 5: Hakone to Kyoto

Bid farewell to Hakone, as the bullet train whisks you down the eastern seaboard to Kyoto - that's 267 miles in just two hours and ten minutes! Your arrival in this modern city will be heralded by Kyoto Station, one of the largest buildings in Japan and a triumph of futuristic architecture.

Today you will have a free afternoon to begin exploring some of Japan's finest cultural sites in this "City of Ten Thousand Temples." Drink a cup of green tea at the picturesque Golden Pavilion, contemplate Zen at Ryoan-ji's rock garden and wander through the thousands of vermillion shrine gates that line the paths of Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Day 6: Kyoto Full Day Tour

Delve deeper into the former imperial capital of Japan with a knowledgeable local guide, utilizing Kyoto’s comprehensive bus system to visit some of the city’s famous World Heritage Sites. Start your day with a visit to Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun but, at his request, became a Buddhist Temple after his death.

Next, make your way to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate and surrounded by stunning gardens. Relax as you gaze upon the lush architecture, decorated sliding doors and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors.

Then, head to Heian Shrine, built on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of the capital's foundation in Kyoto. This magnificent shrine is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from this city, Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei.

Finally, make a visit to Kiyomizu Temple (Pure Water Temple) and enjoy the panoramic views of Kyoto from the 13 metre high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall. Learn about the interesting history of the building and how both the Main Hall and Veranda were built without the use of nails or any kind of joiners.

Day 7: Kyoto Half Day Tour

Today, your guide will escort you from the to the stunning Sanjusangendo temple. Famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, it’s truly a sight to behold. In the center of the main hall, which is also Japan’s longest wooden structure, sits a large, wooden statue of a 1000-armed Kannon flanked by 500 statues of human sized Kannon. Spreading through the room in ten orderly rows, awe at this impressive craftsmanship.

Saunter down a quick 3 minute walk from the temple to the Kyoto National Museum where you will find a collection of Buddhist paintings and sculptures from the Heian and Kamakura Periods. Buddhism and Taoism were significant influences in the Heian period, while the Kamakura period saw the introduction of the Samurai warrior, profoundly effecting arts and culture at these times.

After the museum take another brief stroll to Chishakuin Temple, which sits at the edge of the Higashiyama mountains in a dense forest. Wander around the 20 temple halls, nestled between the trees, and discover the long history of this beautiful 16th century complex.

The temple storage houses the National Treasure murals, claimed to be the best in Japan. Painted by Tohaku Hasegawa and his disciples in the Momoyama period, they depict Japan’s stunning natural landscape and flora. The paintings were originally displayed in the Daihoin room which faces the temple’s Zen garden, and the view from the room is spectacular. Soak up the serenity of the temple and its lush gardens before heading back to your hotel with your guide.

Day 8: Kyoto Free Day

Take advantage of a free day to explore the former imperial capital of Japan, utilizing Kyoto’s comprehensive bus system to visit more of the city’s famous World Heritage Sites.

You will also be provided with a sightseeing pass that can be used to travel and visit off of Keihan Railways, taking you from Kyoto to Osaka and back again!

Why not venture to Gion, the home of Kyoto's elusive Geisha? Wander the old style streets and be transported to the Kyoto of old.  Or, consider taking a walk to Nishiki Market, a narrow shopping street lined with over 100 shops and restaurants. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, and is a great place to find seasonal cuisine and specialties of the region, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.

If you head to Osaka for the day, be sure to visit Osaka Castel, before digging into the fantastic food and colourful culture the city’s famous for.

Day 9: Kyoto to Tokyo

Time to hop back on the Shinkansen, as you zip along the 514km distance to Tokyo in just over 2 hours! Upon arrival in Tokyo, round off your trip with a stay in the vibrant Shinjuku district, packed with enough food, drink and distraction to keep you busy for a lifetime. Enjoy the contrast of this ultra-modern neighbourhood, and to say goodbye to Japan in style. Make sure to squeeze in anything else you wanted to see in this bustling metropolis, enjoying dinner in one of Shinjuku’s ultra-chic restaurants or singing your heart out at a karaoke box!

Day 10: Depart Tokyo

Sadly all good things must come to an end, so bid farewell before taking the fast and comfortable airport limousine bus service to Narita Airport for your departure flight.

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