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.
Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto
Best for: Highlights, Spectacular scenery, Family
Designed for those short on time, this unique little itinerary takes in the epic city of Tokyo, Mt Fuji and the glorious city of Kyoto. Travel in between by bullet train, making this one of the quickest and easiest journeys in Japan.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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The perfect choice for those longing to visit Japan, but tight for time, the Simply Japan itinerary offers three days in both Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as a day in Hakone, with breathtaking views of Mt Fuji, set in lovely Japanese countryside. Starting in Tokyo, you will have plenty of time to discover the highlights of the capital, from ancient shrines and temples, to soaring skyscrapers and unusual pop culture, such as robot and ninja restaurants. Treat yourself to a meal in one of the city’s numerous Michelin star establishments, or stroll through the smaller districts, picking up some delicious sizzling street food on your way. Travelling to Hakone on the iconic bullet train, soak up the stunning views of Mt Fuji, spending a day in the fresh air discovering the hills and valleys by cable car, and even board a pirate ship on Lake Ashinoko. Here you'll stay in a local onsen ryokan, a truly authentic experience. Your itinerary ends in cultural Kyoto, the home of the geisha. Japan’s Imperial Capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto offers ancient shrines, rock gardens and glistening temples that are beyond compare. You will also have a chance to explore Kyoto’s modern side, visiting contemporary art galleries and chic cafes.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Hotel Niwa Tokyo for 3 nights
Your Japanese itinerary begins in Tokyo, one of the most entralling cities on the planet, filled with soaring skyscrapers, leafy parks and cosmopolitan restaurants. Tokyo also boasts incredible traditional and authentic quarters that you can easily explore. There is plenty to experience during your 3 days here, including sushi making, pop culture walks, contemporary art tours, and all the famous landmarks such as the Shinjuku crossing, the Tsukiji Fish Markets and Meiji Shrine. Spend time with one of our local guides to get you used to Japan, and then simply explore at your own leisure.
From Tokyo take a direct bullet train to Odawara station which will take approximately 30 minutes. From here jump onto the local JR line to Hakone-Yumoto which will bring you to Gora and take just 20 minutes.
Day 4 - 5 : Hakone and Mt Fuji, Japan
Stay at Gora Hanaougi Sounkaku for 1 night
Your next stop is Hakone, where you will stay for 1 day, giving you a chance to tour around the Mt Fuji National Park, with its spectacular views of the snow-capped mountain, experiencing the lovely Japanese countryside. Hike through the verdant valleys and hills of the park, and embark on a boat trip on the calm Lake Ashinoko, staying overnight in a serenely relaxing ryokan. This area is also famed for some of the country's best contemporary art.
From Hakone make your way back to Odawara station where you will board your bullet train direct to Kyoto. This train journey will take approximately 2 hours.
Days 5 - 8 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Royal Park Hotel Kyoto for 3 nights
Your simple yet fantastic itinerary ends in Kyoto, Japan’s ‘cultural capital’, where you will have 3 days to soak up the authentic atmosphere of the city, visiting teahouses, exploring geisha houses, cycling around the lovely canals, and visiting landmarks such as the 14th century UNESCO protected Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle, and even Nishiki Market. Choose how much time you would like with a specialist guide or simply explore at your own leisure. We have lots of recommendations that we can give you.
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
Kyoto Traditional Crafts
Kyoto has a rich history in crafts and today you will get to try your hand at both pottery making and also the intricacies of kimono dyeing. This full-day tour also includes stop-offs at several landmarks before ending in the city’s Geisha district.
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.
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.
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 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 $2014 per person
All accommodation and breakfast
Selected transport and guides during sightseeing