Gliding into the forefront of train travel in 1964, the bullet train, or Shinkansen, has continued to wow the world with its blistering speed and soundless stealth ever since. Now linking the very north to the south, the Bullet Train has become the reliable backbone of Japan, joining the rural to the cosmopolitan in the blink of an eye. Snaking its way across Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago, the bullet train rattles up and down the country at a staggering speed of up to 320km an hour. As synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun as Mount Fuji, sumo or sushi, the bullet train is arguably the only way to travel in Japan.
Found across Japan, ryokans are traditional Japanese guesthouses which offer the perfect glimpse into Japanese history and culture. Most predominantly located near onsen towns, they are the perfect place to rest travel weary legs along the Nakasendo Way or as an addition to your itinerary on a tour of Japan’s highlights.
Japanese cuisine has taken the world by storm. And whilst sushi bars revolve their way around eateries in cities across the globe, the original home of this deliciously fresh and seasonal delicacy is a culinary force to be reckoned with. With its humble beginnings in street food, sushi has earned its stripes in haute cuisine and now claims many a Michelin star in decadent eateries across Japan and further afield. You only have to watch a sushi master chef in action in Japan to see why. Japanese food is an art form, it is an intrinsic part of the country’s cultural identity and motivation enough to visit.
Japan is abundant in unique experiences. From learning the art of the samurai sword, sushi or sumo, to dressing up as a geisha, discovering the world of anime, visiting a sake brewery or trying your hand at calligraphy, there are so many activities to squeeze into your Japan itinerary.
Hiking in Japan is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Whether its paving the way from village to village in the Japanese Alps, traversing the Big Snow Mountain of Hokkaido, climbing the volcanoes of Kyushu or simply walking in the hills of Kyoto, there is something for everyone to enjoy. We’ve compiled our favourite walking destinations in Japan, ideal for seasoned walkers and wanderers alike.
Highlights of Japan
Tokyo, Hakone, Miyajima, Kyoto
Best for: First time, Highlights, Imagine Favourites
This is a great itinerary for those wanting to simply experience Japan's major highlights. Taking in the neon lights of Tokyo, the ethereal gardens of Kyoto, views of Mt Fuji as well as Hiroshima/Miyajima, this is a fantastic first time visit to Japan.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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The ultimate choice for first time visitors to Japan, this fantastic itinerary will take you to the country’s most iconic sites, combining the urban hubs of Tokyo and Kyoto, with the stunning views and lovely countryside of Miyajima and Hakone. Starting in Tokyo, one of the most exciting cities on earth, you can use the famous transport system to travel to the best spots, such as the Imperial Palace, Meiji Shrine and Tokyo Skytre. Try delicious sushi and meaty dumplings along the way. Hakone and the Mt Fuji National Park provides some rejuvenating fresh air accompanied by spectacular views. Spend a few days here exploring the walking trails, cable cars and sulfuric hot springs. Next travel by train and then hop on a ferry and travel to the charming island of Miyajima, famous for the enormous red torii gate that is said to float on water. Spot some of the iconic and friendly deer that roam the beach and streets. The last stop on this quintessential Japanese itinerary is Kyoto, Japan’s ‘cultural capital’, where you can spend your time soaking up the highlights, such as the bamboo forest, the tranquil Zen gardens, and numerous shrines and temples, before flying home.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Palace Hotel for 3 nights
This wonderful itinerary begins in Tokyo, where you will spend 3 days soaking up the varying Japanese cultures of the capital. Thanks to one of the world’s most seamless transport systems, you can travel around Tokyo with total ease, visiting a range of iconic landmarks. A tour of the city will take you to the Imperial Palace, Meiji Shrine, the famous Shinjuku crossing, and much more.
Depart Tokyo and take a direct bullet train to Odawara which is a journey time of just 30 minutes. Here you will take the local line to Hakone-Yumoto which is about a 20 minute journey.
Days 4 - 6 : Hakone, Japan
Stay at Hyatt Regency Hakone for 2 nights
Your next stop is verdant Hakone, where you will stay for 2 days, giving you plenty of time to discover its spectacular natural beauty. With excellent views of Mt Fuji in the background, you can explore the sulfuric hot springs, walking trails, lakes, and cable cars of the national park.
From Hakone you will journey back to Odawara where you will take the bullet train to Shin-Osaka which is a journey time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. You will have time to change trains and platforms for your onward journey to Hisoshima which is a journey time of 1 hour and 30 minutes approximately. From Hiroshima you will take the local JR line to Miyajimaguchi which is approximately 30 minutes and here you will take the short 10 minute ferry journey over to Miyajima Island.
Days 6 - 8 : Miyajima, Japan
Stay at Kurayado Iroha Ryokan for 2 nights
Your next 2 days will be spent on the magical island of Miyajima, just an hour away from Hiroshima, famed for the Itsukushima Shrine, an enormous torri gate that appears to float on the water. There’s plenty to do here, from feeding the charming and incredibly tame local deer, trying some celebrated sizzling grilled oysters, and visiting a few of the beautiful temples.
From Miyajima Island you will return to Hiroshima where you will again take a bullet train to Shin-Osaka and continue on to Kyoto which is a short 15 minute journey away.
Days 8 - 11 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Hyatt Regency Kyoto for 3 nights
The Highlights of Japan itinerary ends in Kyoto, where you will spend 3 days in the ‘cultural capital’, embarking on tours to the highlights that make the city famous. Have a private dinner with a geisha, visit beautiful gardens with miniature ponds and bridges, cycle around the city soaking up the atmosphere, and even visit a local home to learn the ancient art of origami.
When to go
As Japan is made up of a series of islands, the weather varies greatly across the country. The best time to visit is generally in the spring; which takes place in March and April, or in the autumn; which is in October and November. The spring is characterised by the famous cherry blossom, and the autumn by the spectacular colours of the leaves. Both seasons are warm, often sunny with little rain.
November to December is fairly quiet but can get a little chilly. January to March is also cold in Japan, but little rainfall makes it a good time to see Mount Fuji clearly. During the colder months expect snow in Japan’s mountain ranges and in some cities. In May and June, the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists, so we feel this is a very good time to visit. Between July and October, the weather can be very hot and humid.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
Half Day Miyajima Highlights Tour
A half-day tour to Miyajima Island, the home of the famous floating torri gate. Here you can explore the temples and shrines in the complex and look around the rest of the island before returning to Hiroshima on the ferry.
East Kyoto Cycling
A flat city laid out on a grid system with plenty of back streets to explore, Kyoto is perfectly suited to exploring by bicycle. This guided full-day tour combines off the beaten track exploration with some of the city’s most interesting landmarks.
Tokyo Evening Gourmet Food Tour
Street food is an essential part of the Tokyo way of life and this evening you will enjoy two small areas of the city famous for a particular speciality. A local guide will accompany you and help you tell your Yakitori from your Monjayaki.
Tsukiji Fish Market and Sushi Making at a Local Home
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a sprawling indoor and outdoor complex handling far more than just the fish it gets its name from. Your guide will help you explore the market before taking you to a local home for a lesson in sushi making.
Traditional Tokyo Tour
With its distinctive blend of ultra-modern skylines and ancient traditions and spiritualism, Tokyo is a city of contrasts. On this full-day tour, you will be able to see both its historic buildings, gardens and customs as well as the modern day city.
Classic Kyoto Tour
Zen Temples, lush palace gardens and engaging walks can all be found in Kyoto and refined this full-day tour takes in some of the finest examples in the city. With the help of your guide, you will discover the contemplative side to Japanese culture.
Kyoto Gardens Tour
Japan is a paradise for those with green fingers, and Kyoto brings together some of the finest gardens in the country. Strolling gardens, zen rock gardens, ponds and lakes are all features you will see on this full day tour.
An Afternoon in Old Tokyo
Miraculously escaping damage in the Second World War, several downtown areas of Tokyo have preserved what life in the city used to be like. With your guide, this half day tour uncovers the magic of these hidden gems.
Arashiyama Half Day Tour
Famed for its beautiful bamboo forests, Arashiyama has far more to offer and is a wonderful place to explore, a short distance from Kyoto. This half-day tour takes in the bamboo as well as shrines and temples renowned for their cultural importance.
Half Day Hakone Arts & Crafts Tour
A great half-day tour in Hakone for those interested in both ancient and contemporary art, gardening, and crafts. Visiting the impressive Okada Museum of Art and Gora Park, with a craft activity included.
Full Day Naoshima Excursion from Hiroshima
An experience that contemporary art and architecture enthusiasts should consider, visiting Naoshima Island to explore the Art House Project, Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum, with two exciting journeys on the bullet train.
Taiko Drum Lesson
The Taiko drums have a long history in Japanese culture and folklore from religious ceremonies, Geisha performances and even wars. This private, hour-long lesson will teach you the origins and rhythms of the Taiko, complete with battle cries!
Full Day Hiroshima and Sake Village Tour
This full day tour of Hiroshima and Saijo takes you to the delightful Shukkeien Garden with its tiny landscape scenes, before heading to atmospheric Saijo to learn about all things sake.
Full Day Hakone Mt Fuji National Park Highlights Tour
A full day of exploring the Hakone and Mount Fuji National Park area, visiting the sulphuric hot springs of Mount Owakudani, a pirate ship ride and other activities on Lake Ashinoko, and a train that takes you through the green mountains and valleys.
From $4514 per person
All accommodation and breakfast
Selected transport and guides during sightseeing