Get a deeper understanding of this extraordinary country by tucking into Tokyo's streetfood, visiting a samurai fortress, exploring shrines and trekking through jawdropping scenery on our Essential Japan holiday.
Our tailor-made service costs you no extra
This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...
- Walk Tokyo’s most historic streets
- Soak in Hakone’s hot springs
- Ride the ropeway up volcanic Mt Owakudani
- Marvel at the shrines of Kyoto on a cycling tour
- Participate in a tea ceremony
- Feel inspired by Hiroshima’s Peace Park
- Visit the 1,500 year old shrine of Miyajima
- Indulge in Osaka’s streetfood scene
Tokyo - Kanazawa - Hiroshima - Kyoto - Tsumago
On arrival in Japan, you'll be met by our representative, who will accompany you to your hotel. Once you’ve checked in to your hotel, your time will be at leisure until 5pm, when you’ll meet your guide for a tour of Tokyo’s vibrant culinary scene. Over the course of the evening you’ll visit a variety of venues, from tiny izakaya pubs to street-side stalls, each distinctive in their atmosphere and food offerings.
Meet your guide and set off for a walking tour of Tokyo’s historic Shitamachi district, which boomed during the Edo era (1603 - 1868). You'll wander through the city’s oldest Geisha district, visit a drum museum to have a bash at playing some traditional instruments, and stroll down Kappabashi-dori - the well-known street that sells nothing but kitchenware and the famous life-sized replicas of food which Japanese restaurants often display instead of menus. Explore shops selling kimono, traditional sweets and crafts, and take in stunning views of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Drop in to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Craft Museum, before paying your respects at Senso-ji (‘Asakusa Kannon’), which - at nearly 1,400 years old - is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist site. Stop to enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before being driven to Ueno, which was the wealthiest district in Japan during the Edo period. This afternoon's walk will take in Jomyo-in, a temple containing 84,000 Jizo (Bodhisattva) statues, and the historic Kane-ji temple, along with some of Tokyo’s most famous museums in Ueno Park. Finish your tour at Ameyoko-cho, which was a black market after World War II and is now one of Japan’s few remaining outdoor markets. It's the ideal spot for tea and yakitori, and possibly a cold beer - the first round is on us!
Your day will be at leisure to explore Tokyo at your own pace. Alternatively, you can venture beyond Tokyo to explore the popular seaside city of Kamakura or head into the mountains of Nikko National Park.
Ride the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kanazawa, where you’ll be welcomed into a local home for an exceptional introduction to everyday life in Japan. Enjoy a tour of the house, and take part in a tea ceremony - a social event where you’ll drink matcha or leaf tea, eat a few delicacies, and share a pause in an otherwise busy day. After this you’ll try your hand at some traditional skills - anything from calligraphy to bonsai - with step-by-step guidance through the basics. Please note that this is not a homestay; you’ll be staying at a hotel in Kanazawa.
Meet your guide to visit one of Japan's most famous gardens, Kenroku-en - ‘Six Attributes Garden’. A perfect Japanese garden should balance six factors: spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, water-courses and panoramas. Continue to Kanazawa Castle to learn about daily life under the samurai, followed by lunch at nearby Omicho market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi. Your guide will help you find somewhere suitable for lunch, after which your afternoon will be at leisure to explore under your own steam.
There’ll be more time to explore Kanazawa this morning, perhaps stopping to explore its samurai fortress or Museum of Contemporary Art, before taking the train to Hiroshima where the rest of your day will be at leisure to begin exploring this inspiring city.
Your day will be at leisure, with time to visit the Peace Park and Museum for a sobering reminder of the events of 1945 and Hiroshima Castle. Or jump on the ferry to Miyajima island.
Ride the bullet train along the coast to Kyoto, where you’ll meet your knowledgeable local guide for a string of hands-on cultural experiences, each carefully designed to introduce all your senses to some of Japan’s most refined and rarified traditions. You’ll get a tour of a beautifully restored wooden townhouse, spend time learning how to put on and wear a kimono, before - suitably dressed - joining a tea master for a deeper insight into the tea ceremony and the meaning behind its ritual gestures. Afterwards you can either stroll to a nearby sake brewery for a tasting session, or enjoy a short introduction to origami
Join your guide for a tour of some Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites. Start with Nijo Castle, an ornamental structure surrounded by stunning gardens, built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate. The main building was completed in 1603 and is known for its distinctive architecture and chirping ‘nightingale’ floors. Continue to Ryoan-ji, the site of Japan's most famous Zen garden, and home to the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Stop to admire two of Kyoto’s best-known temples before finishing with a stroll through the city’s best-preserved historic district.
Explore Kyoto on two wheels, cycling with your guide through the Miyagawacho and Gion geisha districts, hoping to see a geisha or apprentice as they dash between appointments. Continue along the Shirakawa canal, which is lined with weeping willows, pass traditional Kyoto style tea houses, and pause at the Imperial Palace Park for some time relaxing amongst its wide avenues, abundant trees and beautiful lawns, before cycling back along the Kamo River bank. After the tour has ended you can keep you bike for a while longer if you wish to explore at leisure.
Take the train through the Central Japanese Alps to stunning Kiso Valley, where you'll follow in the footsteps of samurai lords on a five mile hike along the Nakasendo Way. You'll be walking along the actual old stone road which connected Edo to Kyoto - one of five trails that crossed central Honshu during the Edo era. This well maintained section of the trail is beautiful, and truly evocative of historic Japan. Walk at a leisurely pace through the countryside, passing local houses, waterfalls, forest and farmland, before arriving at another post town to rest and enjoy the mountain views before being driven to Tsumago, hopefully having built up a good appetite for the traditional multi-course kaseiki feast which will be served by your ryokan hosts.
Return to Tokyo for a final night at leisure in the city.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
English speaking, local guide
All accommodation listed
All train tickets and rail passes as listed
Luggage forwarding service as listed
4G Wi-Fi To Go Package
Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
All meals listed
International airport departure taxes
Any meals not listed in the itinerary
Drinks, other than water on activity days
Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
All other services not listed in 'inclusive'