This leisurely-paced tour takes you on a captivating journey across Japan. Discover iconic sights, scenery and the country’s unique fusion of age-old traditions and ultra-modern cities. Soak up the history, culture and scenery as you discover everything from the futuristic city of Tokyo and Hiroshima’s haunting history to snow-capped Mount Fuji and Kyoto’s ancient temples, tea houses and geishas.

• Tokyo: 3 nights

• Hakone: 1 night

• Takayama: 1 night

• Kanazawa: 1 night

• Hiroshima: 1 night

• Kyoto: 4 nights

12nights Escorted Small Group Tour
NATURE
CULTURE
ACTIVE

This introductory small group tour takes you on a captivating journey across Japan. Discover iconic sights, scenery and the country’s unique fusion of age-old traditions and ultra-modern cities. Great for first time visitors to the country, see Tokyo’s futuristic skyline and uncover Hiroshima’s haunting history, marvel at the majesty of snow-capped Mount Fuji and experience Kyoto’s ancient temples, tea houses and geishas.

• Tokyo: 3 nights

• Kyoto: 4 nights

8nights Escorted Small Group Tour
NATURE
CULTURE
ACTIVE
 
 
ITINERARY

Day 1: UK to Tokyo Depart from the UK on your overnight flight to Tokyo.

Day 2: Tokyo On arrival in the capital you’ll be met and then transferred to your hotel by airport shuttle bus. You’ll be given a pre-loaded IC Card which enables you to travel locally by bus, rail and subway. You'll also receive a 7-day Japan Rail Pass which offers the most efficient way of travelling throughout the country. Stay: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (or similar).

Day 3: Tokyo Today begins with a guided tour that makes good use of Tokyo’s efficient public transport. Visit the Meiji Shrine which has a serene forested setting by Yoyogi Park, right in the heart of the city. Follow a pretty tree-lined walkway and pass through the giant torii (a traditional gate) to the shrine which is dedicated to the first emperor of modern Japan. It’s a popular spot for weddings so you may see a traditional Shinto wedding procession.

Take a stroll down Omotesando, a popular shopping street that’s known as ‘Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees’. After a welcome lunch, continue to the historic Asakusa district which served as Tokyo’s leading entertainment district during the Edo Period and offers a glimpse into old Tokyo. Soak up the atmosphere and wander along Nakamise to visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Stay: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (or similar). B, L.

Day 4: Tokyo Travel by public transport (approx. 1 hour) to the sleepy coastal town of Kamakura, referred to as ‘the Kyoto of Eastern Japan’ because of its many temples and shrines which are scattered in forested hills. Visit the Kotokuin Temple which is home to the 13-metre-high Great Buddha (Daibutsu), and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu – Kamakura’s most important shrine, which is set in beautiful gardens dotted with lotus ponds. You’ll also visit Hasedera Temple to see the 11-headed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy and one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan.

You’ll have time this afternoon to shop for some bargains on Komachi Street. Pick up some souvenirs such as lacquer-works, hand-made paper and ceramics, or treat yourself to traditional snacks such as octopus crackers and the local speciality, sweet potato ice-cream. Return to Tokyo for an evening at leisure. Stay: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (or similar). B, L.

Day 5: Tokyo to Hakone Board the iconic Shinkansen bullet train from Shinagawa to Odawara, then transfer on a local train to the serene town of Hakone, renowned for its onsen, or hot springs, and incredible mountain scenery – on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji! Transfer to your guesthouse which is located in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and offers a taste of traditional Japanese life – stay in a Japanese-style room, enjoy local cuisine and relax in an onsen.

Towering at 12,388 feet, snow-capped Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain and a tribute to its beauty. Ride the scenic Hakone Ropeway before boarding a replica pirate ship for a cruise on stunning Lake Ashi, which offers views of the iconic red torii of the Hakone Shrine. This evening make the most of your guesthouse’s thermal hot springs with a soak in the mineral-rich waters. Stay: Hakone PAX Yoshino (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 6: Hakone to Takayama This morning you'll travel by train – including the bullet train – through the Japanese Alps to the mountain town of Takayama (approx. 5½ hours). When you change trains in Nagoya grab a bento box and enjoy lunch like a local. This scenic route takes you on a winding journey through striking gorges and mountains. On arrival, enjoy a leisurely stroll through this Edo-period merchant town while learning about the Takayama’s history and distinctive culture. Enjoy wagyu beef – a delicious local speciality for dinner, and visit a local sake brewer to learn how the nation’s famous drink is made, and sample a glass or two. Stay: Takayama Ouan. B, D.

Day 7: Takayama to Kanazawa Journey by train to Kanazawa which is known as ‘Little Kyoto’ (approx. 2 hours). Visit beautiful Kenroku-en Garden – deemed one of the ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’ – and the grounds of Kanazawa Castle. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Stay: Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel (or similar); for Apr 12 & May 05 departures: Hotel Vista Kanazawa. B, D.

Day 8: Kanazawa to Hiroshima Travel by train to Kyoto (approx. 2 hours) and connect with the bullet train to Hiroshima (approx. 1½ hours). Six rivers flow through this vibrant ‘City of Water’, which has a haunting past. Spend the afternoon in the thought-provoking Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum and read moving first-hand accounts of the fateful nuclear attack at the Atomic Bomb Dome. Stay: Mitsui Garden Hotel Hiroshima (or similar). B, D.

Day 9: Hiroshima to Kyoto Take the ferry to the island of Miyajima, which is home to the UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine and its red torii gate which appears to float at high tide. This historic site is a peaceful retreat with stunning mountain scenery and red shrines. Stroll through Momiji-dani Park, which translates as ‘maple valley’, and is home to almost 200 colourful trees as well as a number of white-tailed deer. Take the Miyajima Ropeway up to the top of Mount Misen for breathtaking views over forest and the Seto Inland Sea. Return to Hiroshima and ride the bullet train to the imperial city of Kyoto. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo (or similar); for Apr 12 & May 05 departures: Royal Park Kyoto Shijo. B, L, D.

Day 10: Kyoto Today make use of your IC Card with a full day exploring the city. Start with a visit to the Arashiyama area which lies at the foot of the Arashiyama Mountains, west of Kyoto. Visit the 14th-Century zen garden of Tenryuji-Temple – one of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto, before continuing to Sanjusangendo. This afternoon visit the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine, which featured in Memoirs of a Geisha and is a dream for photographers. Ten thousand vermillion torii gates form a path up the mountain and contrast beautifully with the surrounding forest. You'll also spend some time exploring the shops and restaurants in Kyoto’s futuristic railway station, which is located in one of Japan’s largest buildings. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo (or similar). B, L.

Day 11: Kyoto Today embark on a full-day private coach tour, beginning with a visit to the 15th-Century Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), which is set in tranquil gardens. Stroll along the scenic Philosopher’s Path, which follows a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees and is even more beautiful in spring with candyfloss pink blossom, and autumn with deep red and orange leaves. Continue to the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) which is coated in gold leaf and lies on the shores of a lake.

You’ll also visit the popular 8th-Century Kyomizu-dera Temple which lies at the top of a steep hill that’s buzzing with activity – shop for souvenirs, handicrafts and snacks, hire a kimono for some unique photos and enjoy fantastic views over Kyoto. If time permits you can visit the Jishu Shrine which is dedicated to love. End your day by experiencing Chado, or Sado, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, before heading to the historic Gion district to watch an authentic Maiko performance. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo (or similar). B, L.

Day 12: Kyoto Visit Nijo Castle and discover magnificent audience halls that were built for the Tokugawa Shoguns during the Edo Period. Make your way to Nishiki, a bustling market known as ‘Kyoto’s kitchen’, which features over a hundred vendors selling local delicacies, from octopus skewers to tofu doughnuts. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore independently. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Sanjo (or similar). B, D.

Day 13: Kyoto Transfer to Osaka airport by coach for your return flight to the UK. B.


Stay longer

Essential Japan can be easily combined with our Highlights of South Korea tour, an itinerary which explores this fascinating country that's somewhat off the beaten tourist track.

Day 1: UK to Tokyo Depart from the UK on your overnight flight to Tokyo.

Day 2: Tokyo
On arrival, you’ll be met and then transferred to your hotel by shared airport shuttle bus. The rest of the day is free to spend at leisure. Stay: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (or similar).

Day 3: Tokyo
Join a guided city tour by private coach, starting at the Meiji Shrine, which has a serene forested setting by Yoyogi Park, right in the heart of the city. Follow a pretty tree-lined walkway and pass through the giant torii to the shrine which is dedicated to the first emperor of modern Japan. Next, head into the city’s wonderfully chaotic Shibuya shopping district. See the wackiest and wildest fashions and take in the hectic pace of the city as you attempt to cross the world-famous Shibuya crossing; one of the world’s busiest intersections where hundreds of people swarm from all directions at once. Visit the city’s Imperial Palace and the serene East Gardens before you head to the Asakusa District – one of Tokyo’s oldest and most traditional neighourhoods. Once the leading entertainment district during the Edo Period, today this area offers a glimpse into Old Tokyo. Take in the atmosphere and wander along Nakamise Street to see Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. End the day at the Tokyo Skytree where you’ll take in an incredible panorama of the city’s futuristic skyline. Stay: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (or similar). B, L, D. 

Day 4: Tokyo
Today your luggage will be sent ahead to Kyoto so you’ll need to pack an overnight bag with enough clothes for an extra day. It’s a full day out of the city as you depart by coach (8.30am) for the serene mountain town of Hakone. Your first stop is Mount Fuji’s 5th Station; the official entrance to the highest peak in Japan and a popular sightseeing spot that overlooks incredible views. Continue towards Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park where you’ll ride the scenic Hakone Ropeway, a cable car that looks over Owakudani Valley. On reaching the top of Mount Owakudani, bask in the views of the active hot springs below and try a hard-boiled egg that’s been cooked in the sulphuric springs. Later, you’ll join a scenic cruise across Lake Ashi, which offers views of the iconic red torii of the Hakone Shrine. Board the coach and head back to the city where the rest of the evening will be at leisure. Stay: Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa (or similar). B, L.

Day 5: Tokyo to Kyoto
After breakfast, check out and transfer to the station where you’ll board the iconic Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Travelling at speeds of up to 300km per hour, you’ll cover the huge 500km distance in just over 2½ hours. Kyoto is one of the most culturally-rich cities in Asia, home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites and more than 1600 temples and 400 Shinto shrines. Arrive into the imperial city and head to the Sanjusangendo Temple, famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. End the day at the Fushimi Inari Shrine – a complete dream for photographers, ten thousand vermillion torii gates form a path up the mountain and contrast beautifully with the surrounding forest. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Shijo (or similar). B, D.

Day 6: Kyoto
It’s a full day exploring Kyoto’s classic, cultural and natural treasures today. Begin at the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), which is coated in gold leaf and lies on the shores of a lake, and visit the historic Ryoanji Temple – home to Japan’s most famous rock garden. Carry on to the tranquil Arashiyama District, which lies at the foot of the Arashiyama Mountains, west of Kyoto. Make a stop at the Okochi-Sanso Villa, a former estate of the Japanese film star Denjiro Okochi, and head into the gorgeous gardens which look over stunning views of the city. Continue with a visit into the dense forest of Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves. Rest your legs with a rickshaw ride alongside the Katsura River and head to the beautiful 14th-Century zen garden of Tenryuji Temple – considered one of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Shijo (or similar), B, L, D.

Day 7: Kyoto
Early this morning (8am), transfer by train to Hiroshima, Japan’s haunting city with a tragic past. It’s a full day of sightseeing, starting with a visit to the thought-provoking Peace Memorial Park and Museum; a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site and a moving dedication to the city’s legacy of being the first in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack. Read first-hand accounts of the attack and visit the famous A-Bomb Dome – also known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and what remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Later, catch a ferry over to Miyajima Island, a peaceful retreat with stunning mountain scenery and ancient Shinto shrines. This tiny island is a sacred national treasure and is home to the UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine; one of the most photographed sites in Japan thanks to its iconic red torii gate which appears to float at high tide. Return to the mainland and travel back by train to Kyoto where you’ll arrive at your hotel later this evening (approx. 9pm). Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Shijo (or similar). B, L.

Day 8: Kyoto
Today embark on a full day tour of Kyoto, starting with a visit to the popular 8th-Century Kiyomizu-dera Temple. One of Japan’s most celebrated temples, enjoy fantastic views of Kyoto from the temple’s unique wooden cliffside platform. Leave the temple behind as you wander down to the streets of the Higashiyama District; a historic neighbourhood found on the lower mountain slopes, spend some time shopping for souvenirs and delicious snacks. Join a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and experience Chado or Sado – translated as ‘the way of tea’ – before making your way to Nishiki, a bustling market street known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’. Over a hundred vendors sell local delicacies here, with specialities including the likes of octopus skewers, dried seafood and tofu doughnuts. Continue to Nijo Castle and discover its magnificent audience halls that were built for the Tokugawa Shoguns during the Edo Period. As you walk the castle’s corridors, listen out for the squeak of the ‘nightingale floors’; so-called for their chirping sound that warned against potential intruders. End your day in the city’s historic Gion district, one of the most famous Geisha neighbourhoods in Kyoto. Watch an authentic Maiko performance before sitting down for a farewell group dinner at a nearby restaurant. Stay: The Royal Park Hotel Kyoto Shijo (or similar). B, L. D.

Day 9: Kyoto
Transfer to Osaka airport by shared airport shuttle bus for your return flight to the UK. B.


Stay longer

Essential Japan can be easily combined with our Highlights of South Korea tour, an itinerary which explores this fascinating country that's somewhat off the beaten tourist track.

ABOUT THIS TOUR

Is this for you?

Ideal for first-time visitors as it covers some of Japan’s most iconic attractions and includes a number of cultural experiences.

Good to know

• For guests aged 16 and over (unless travelling on a private journey)

• Average group size of 14 guests

• A maximum of 18 guests

• A good level of fitness is required

• Tipping is not expected in Japan

• Mount Fuji is often shrouded in cloud and visibility may be limited so views cannot be guaranteed

• In instances of volcanic activity at Owakudani on Day 5 the Hakone Ropeway will not operate and the Komagatake Ropeway will be used instead

• Renovation work is taking place at Kiyomizu-dera Temple and is expected to finish in 2020 Visitors can currently still visit the Main Hall

• During this tour you will be required to carry your own luggage between destinations on and off trains and other forms of public transport. To make this easier on a couple of occasions during the tour your luggage will be forwarded on to your next destination. You therefore may be required to pack one or two nights essentials into a small day bag to carry with you as you will be parted with your luggage. You will be reunited with your bags at your next hotel.

What to expect

• An overnight bag is required for parts of the tour

• This tour is unsuitable for those less mobile

• We recommend packing light as you will be required to carry your own luggage on and off public transport throughout the tour (there are no porters in Japan) and luggage space can be limited

• Hotel rooms can be quite small

• Meals are traditionally Japanese style and usually include raw and cooked fish, meat and vegetables

• Special diets including vegetarian and gluten free are not widely understood or catered for and choices can be limited, please call for further details.

Accommodation on tour

Japan is renowned for its hospitality and throughout your stay you’ll experience consistently high standards and superb service. We have chosen modern westernised hotels in most destinations with the exception of Hakone. Here you can experience a taste of local life with a stay in a Japanese-style hotel with rooftop onsen, or hot springs.

Single travellers

Single room supplement from £1370

Is this for you?

This tour is perfect for first time visitors interested in seeing the main sights of Japan without too much travelling around.

Good to know

• For guests over 16 (unless travelling on a private journey, where the minimum age is 12)

• Average group size of 14 guests

• A maximum of 18 guests

• Journey times do not take into account stops or local traffic conditions

• We recommend travelling with no more than one suitcase and one day bag

• A good level of fitness is required

• Tipping is not expected in Japan

What to expect

• This tour is not suitable for those less mobile - sightseeing mainly takes place on foot and many miles will be covered each day

• The Hakone Ropeway may be closed in bad weather

• You will need to pack an overnight bag for your last night in Tokyo

• Areas of the Kiyomizu-dera Temple are currently undergoing renovations

• Japanese hotel rooms can be small in comparison to other countries

• Travelling around Japan is unlike travelling in any other destination; you should arrive with an open mind and flexible approach

• Mount Fuji is often shrouded in cloud so visibility may be limited

• The order of the itinerary may change depending on traffic and weather conditions.

Accommodation on tour

Japan is renowned for its hospitality and throughout your stay you’ll experience consistently high standards and superb service. We have chosen just two modern and westernised hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto so you can set up a comfortable base without having to move around too much. Both the hotels are centrally located, with great facilities and nearby to restaurants, bars and shops if you’re keen to get out and explore.

Single travellers

Sole use room from £4864

DATES AND INCLUSIONS

Tour dates

2019 Mar 21, 28; Apr 04, 12, 18; May 05, 09; Sep 12, 26; Oct 10, 31; Nov 07

Included in price

• Quality accommodation

• Insightful local tour leaders

• Hand-picked itineraries

• Flexible arrival times

• Small groups and a relaxed approach

• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner), or the freedom to explore local restaurants independently

• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice for a supplement from £3235 per person.

Tour dates

2020 Mar 27; Apr 03; May 08; Sep 25; Oct 02, 30

Included in price

• Quality accommodation

• Insightful local tour leaders

• Hand-picked itineraries

• Flexible arrival times

• Small groups

• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice from £7237 per person.

Kuoni highlights

This tour is a fantastic introduction to Japan as it visits the must-see attractions and includes plenty of traditional experiences. You’ll get to ride the iconic bullet train and experience travelling like a local, soak in thermal hot springs in Hakone, learn how to make sake and enjoy a tasting, and watch an authentic Maiko performance in Kyoto.

Kuoni highlights

This tour is a fantastic introduction for first time visitors to Japan, visiting many of its must-see attractions and including plenty of special experiences. You’ll get to ride the iconic bullet train to Kyoto and try a hard-boiled egg cooked in the sulphuric hot springs in Hakone, join a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and watch an authentic Maiko performance in Kyoto’s historic Gion district.