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.
Japan in Depth
Tokyo, Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Kyoto
Best for: Highlights, Honeymoon, Imagine Favourites
For those wanting to get under the skin of Japan and explore the country in a bit of depth, this journey takes in the best of both urban and rural Japan without rushing. Explore Tokyo, Kyoto and Mt Fuji, as well as coastal Kanazawa and historic Takayama.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This is the perfect itinerary for those seeking a really in-depth exploration of Japanese culture, landscape, architecture, and much more, with plenty of time to discover each destination. From the urban centres of Tokyo and Kyoto, and the charming historic cities of Takayama and Kanazawa, to the luscious countryside of Mt Fuji National Park and Miyajima, this itinerary includes a lot of what Japan has to offer. Beginning in Tokyo, travel to many corners of the capital, witnessing how old and new come together in the form of ancient shrines and soaring skyscrapers. Travelling to Hakone, with its stunning views of Mt Fuji, spend a day in the fresh air discovering the hills and valleys by cable car, and even board a pirate ship on Lake Ashinoko. The green luscious mountain city of Takayama is your next stop; famous for its Matsuri no Mori festival, quaint traditional wooden districts, and the nearby Shirakawa-go village, this area definitely offers a slice or rural Japan. From here you will spend two nights in Kanazawa, one of Japan's most beautiful cities that has a reputation for art, sushi and local crafts; it also has its very own beautiful samurai and geisha districts. Soak up the charming atmosphere and famous sites on Miyajima island, walking around the Shinto temple complex’s and watching the iconic deer that roam the tiny streets. Your last stop before flying home is Kyoto, where you will spend time exploring the wonderfully varied city sites, from the bamboo forest and tranquil Zen gardens, to geisha districts and contemporary art galleries.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Conrad Tokyo for 3 nights
This action-packed itinerary begins in Tokyo, where you will spend 3 days, giving you plenty of time to visit its highlights, as well as journeying deeper into the eclectic modern cultures that sit along side ancient tradition in the capital. Embark on an anime or pop culture tour, spend an afternoon exploring Old Tokyo, with its tiny cobbled streets and preserved ancient shrines, and even visit the backstreets of Harajuku to try some delicious gourmet food in the hotspots where the young Edokko kids hang out. Tokyo is a real highlight so we've given you plenty of time to explore here.
Depart Tokyo and take a direct bullet train to Odawara which will take just 30 minutes. From here take the local line Hakone-Yumoto which will be a short 20 minute journey.
Day 4 - 5 : Hakone and Mt Fuji, Japan
Stay at Gora Hanaougi Sounkaku for 1 night
From Tokyo, you will travel to Hakone and Mt Fuji national park, with its green hills and spectacular views of the iconic snow-capped mountain. You will spend 1 day here, giving you the chance to go to the top of Mt Owakudani on the cable car, visiting sulfuric hot springs along the way, as well as Lake Ashinoko, which you can sail across on a pirate ship.
From Hakone make your way back to Odawara where you will take your bullet train to Takayama changing in Nagoya. The train from Odawara to Nagoya will be just over an hour and from Nagoya to Takayama it will be just over 2 hours.
Days 5 - 7 : Takayama, Japan
Stay at Hotel Associa Takayama for 2 nights
Your next 2 days will be spent in Takayama, a city nestled in the verdant mountains, famous for puppet shows and the colourful Takayama festival. Explore the wonderfully preserved old town, visit the iconic village of Shirikawa-go, sip sake at a local brewery, and see the spectacularly designed floats at the Matsuri no Mori museum.
From Takayama you will take a direct coach to Kanazawa which will be a beautiful drive and just over 2 hours.
Days 7 - 9 : Kanazawa, Japan
Stay at Hotel Nikko Kanazawa for 2 nights
For the next 2 nights you will stay in Kanazawa on Honshu’s northern coast, otherwise known as ‘little Kyoto’. Famed for sushi, the exquisite Kenrokuen garden, its beautiful geisha and samurai districts, and a distinct arts and craft scene, Kanazawa is one of our favourite cities in Japan.
From Kanazawa you will take a bullet train directly to Kyoto which will take 2 hours and 20 minutes. In Kyoto you will change platform and trains to take your onward 30 minute train to Shin-Kobe. Here you will have one more change in order to take your onward train to Hiroshima which will be just over an hour. From Hiroshima you will take the local JR line to Miyajimaguchi where you will take a short ferry ride over to Miyajima Island.
Days 9 - 11 : 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 watching the charming and incredibly tame local deer, trying some celebrated sizzling grilled oysters, and visiting a few of the beautiful temples. You can even go kayaking or climb the local mountain.
From Miyajima you will make your way back to Hiroshima where you will take your bullet train to Shin-Osaka which will be an approximate 1 hour and 30 minute journey. Here you will meet your train for your quick hop of 15 minutes to Kyoto.
Days 11 - 14 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Hyatt Regency Kyoto for 3 nights
This all-encompassing itinerary ends with 3 days in Japan’s ‘cultural capital’, Kyoto. Visit the city’s highlights, such as the 14th century UNESCO Golden Pavilion, and the buzzing Nishiki Market, or go on a walking tour of Higashiyama, soaking up the atmosphere of old Kyoto.
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
Full Day Takayama & Shirakawa-go Tour
This full day tour is led by a local guide who will take you to the beautifully preserved ancient town of Takayama, and the spellbinding UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go village, before returning to Takayama.
Full Day Takayama Highlights Tour
A full day tour of Takayama, visiting the eclectic Miyagawa Market, the historical and charming San-machi Suji district, the old Takayama Jinya, and the Matsuri no Mori museum, with some sake tasting at a brewery.
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.
Private Temple Tea Ceremony
The tea ceremony is one of Japan’s most sacred rituals and far more than simply the act of drinking tea. This experience will teach you the importance and symbolism of the practice in the unique setting of a 17th century temple teahouse.
Tea Ceremony in Kanazawa
One of the most fascinating of Japanese customs, the tea ceremony has a rich history and is still an important part of contemporary Japanese life. This experience allows you to practise the ceremony yourself in a teahouse hosted by a tea-master.
Nishiki Market, Sake Tasting and Cooking Lesson
Three important features of Japanese society come together in this half-day tour. Experiencing Street markets, Sake and Japanese cooking with a private guide make for a fantastic take on modern Japanese life.
Sword Wielding Experience
A symbol of Japan, the history of the country is intertwined with that of its iconic swords. Today on this full-day tour, you will get the chance to wield a sword and learn some traditional techniques before visiting some of the key temples of Nara.
Visit Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa
Just over an hour from Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go is a wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site, taking you back in time with its iconic triangular farmhouses. This full-day tour explores the village and its scenic highlights, including a delicious lunch.
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.
Full Day Kanazwawa Highlights Tour
Famed for its excellently preserved heritage, Kanazawa is a wonderful and manageable city to explore and this full-day guided tour will take you through some of the highlights of the city using the brilliant public transport network.
Samurai Dance Experience
Fabled warriors, the Samurai are synonymous with Japan. While romanticised in battle with their katana swords, a Samurai’s discipline was built around etiquette and stylised dance. This private lesson will teach you some exciting Samurai movements.
Kanazawa 21st Century Museum
Unique in its architecture and exhibits, Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum offers a dramatic change to traditional city highlights. With temporary and permanent displays from Japanese and international artists it is one of Japan’s most popular museums.
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.
Kyoto Golden Route Cycling Tour
Like many Japanese cities, Kyoto sits perfectly flat between stunning mountain scenery, making it perfect for cycling. This half-day guided tour takes you on a scenic historical road between Kyoto and Arashiyama, taking in sights along the way.
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.
Half Day Takayama Highlights
A half day tour of Takayama visiting the wonderful Matsuri no Mori museum to see the vibrant preserved floats, followed by a visit to the Higashiyama Temple area to explore the peaceful grounds.
Kanazawa Craft Experience
Kanazawa is home to many fine gardens and architectural marvels, but is also the birthplace of several fine art and craft techniques, which are highly treasured across Japan. On this half-day tour, you will get to try your hand at two of them.
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 $5487 per person
All accommodation and breakfast
Selected transport and guides during sightseeing