14 Days Highlights of Japan

Summary

See the iconic sites, cultural heritage and natural wonders that define Japan. Spend two weeks travelling from bustling Tokyo to historic Hiroshima to charming Kyoto and the hidden gems in between. With insightful guided tours, this tour goes beyond what the guidebooks say and steps into the heart of Japan.

Tour Includes:

  • Flights & Accommodation
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary
  • English meet & greet at the airport and return transfers
  • 14-Day Japan Rail Pass
  • PASMO Transport Pass & Bus tickets (as per itinerary)
  • English-speaking guides for tours on Days 2 and 11 
  • Entrance fees & public transportation fees as per itinerary
  • Japanese cultural experience in Kyoto

Price

From £5,379 per person based on 2 people sharing

Best time to go

Japan is a year round destination, however Spring and Autumn enjoy the most mild weather and allow you to view the trees blossom and leaves change colour respectively. 

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the skyscrapers and the temples in Tokyo
  • Sip sake in Takayama
  • Explore Hiroshima’s highlights
  • Experience traditional tea culture in Kyoto

Day 1: Arrival

Depart London Heathrow on an overnight flight to Tokyo, Haneda International Airport.

Day 2: Tokyo

Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport, a local representative will be waiting to assist with sorting the appropriate transportation into the city (boarding the right train or selecting the correct shuttle bus). The remainder of the day is free at leisure to explore Tokyo independently.

Overnight: Palace Hotel [Breakfast]

Day 3: Tokyo

This morning, meet up with the guide at the hotel and head to Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its wide collection of seasonal flowers makes it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo, but what makes it more attractive is its tea house called Nakajima-no-Ochaya. Have a break in the teahouse and enjoy a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about chado (tea ceremony).

From the park, take the scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through. The tour ends with a visit to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings. The shrine is also home to around 120,000 trees, making one forget that just outside its grounds are two of the city’s popular shopping districts, Harajuku and Omotesando.

Overnight: Palace Hotel [Breakfast]

14 day highlights of Japan tour Senso-Ji temple

Day 4: Tokyo, Optional Day Trip to Kamakura or Nikko

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Enjoy a full day of exploring this amazing city. Visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover some of Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries. Alternatively, use the included Japan Rail Pass for a day trip outside Tokyo to one of the following:

Kamakura

One of Japan’s former capitals, Kamakura is a delightful seaside town home to many ancient shrines, temples, and other structures like the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha that stands at 13-meter tall. Distance and journey time (approximation) - Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station: 50 min

Nikko

Located north of Tokyo, Nikko is a city that lies in the mountainous area of Tochigi Prefecture well-known for its national park. Some of the popular places in the park include the Toshogu Shrine complex and the Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

Overnight: Palace Hotel [Breakfast]

14 day Japan highlights itinerary Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

Day 5: Tokyo – Takayama

Today is a self-guided day. Get ready for the journey to Takayama, a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture. The first leg of the trip will be on a bullet train that can reach speeds of up to 260 kph. The next leg is on the limited express train Wide View, which offers one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

We recommend strolling in Takayama’s shitamachi, where the streets are lined with century-old merchants’ homes and sake breweries. Stop by one of the breweries for a taste of the local drop or queue for the famous Hida beef sushi in one of the special food stalls.

In Takayama, experience a stay in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring.

Overnight Hidatei Hanaougi in a Japanese-Style Room [Breakfast]

Day 6: Takayama

Today is a self-guided day. 

Optional Tour: Food & Culture Walk and Hida Cycling Tour

Explore some of the food shops in Takayama with a knowledgeable guide, learning about the town’s colourful history and familiarizing the taste buds with some local delicacies. The walking tour includes visits to a tofu seller, a Rakugan shop (traditional Japanese candies) and even a sake brewery (some stores may close during certain days). Food and sake tastings are also included.

Follow up with a cycling tour in Hida Furukawa, a small, quiet farm village in Gifu Prefecture located 15 minutes away from Takayama. With an impressive view of the surrounding Japanese Alps, it is also well-known for the traditional architectural design of its old buildings and Machiya-style houses built by experienced craftsmen centuries ago.

Like other towns in the Hida Region, Hida Furukawa is also famous for its high-quality sake (rice wine) brought about by its rich rice fields, clean waters and favourable weather. Today, get a chance to explore the streets and outskirts of Hida Furukawa on a bicycle together with a local guide. Spend half a day cycling around this mountain village, passing by rice paddies and old houses, and have a closer look at the lifestyle in this rural region.

Overnight: Hidatei Hanaougi in a Japanese-Style Room [Breakfast]

Hidatei Hanaougi ryokan in Japan

Day 7: Takayama – Kanazawa, Day Trip in Shirakawago

Today is a self-guided day.

This morning, catch the bus to Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer," which is represented through the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs. This architectural style developed over many generations – the roofs were constructed without any nails and are intricately designed to withstand large amounts of snow.

These houses are private homes of the locals, but some are open to the public, such as Wada House, a legacy left behind by the Wada Family who used to be the richest family and village leader in Ogimachi. In the afternoon, continue by bus to Kanazawa, the castle town that thrived as the center for culture and the arts in the 17th century.

Overnight: Hotel Nikko [Breakfast]

Day 8: Kanazawa

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Start with the pristine Kenroku-en Garden, which is ranked as one of Japan’s top three gardens. Here you will find the oldest water fountain in the country, a couple of teahouses, and a large villa that used to be the retirement home of one of the richest clans in Kanazawa. Adjacent to the garden is Kanazawa Castle, easily accessed through the Ishikawa-mon Gate, a designated Important National Cultural Asset. Lunch can be in Omicho Market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi.

Finally, head across town to the old Samurai district of Kanazawa and visit Nomura House, a restored residence of a high ranked samurai family. Freshly made green tea can be enjoyed on the second floor while viewing the small Japanese garden below.

Overnight: Hotel Nikko [Breakfast]

Day 9: Kanazawa – Hiroshima

Today is a self-guided day. This morning is at leisure until the departure for Hiroshima. After the long train journey, it’s time to check into the hotel and rest or start exploring this amazing city.

Overnight: Sheraton Hotel [Breakfast]

Day 10: Hiroshima and Miyajima

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

From mainland Hiroshima, a short ferry ride leads to Miyajima, a small sacred island located in the Seto Inland Sea. Explore the island and sample some local delicacies like oysters, saltwater eel, and maple leaf-shaped cakes. Start with Itsukushima Shrine, declared as one of Japan’s three most beautiful views. The shrine is designed in a pier-like structure and dates back to the 6th century. Its huge vermillion o-torii gate seems to be floating in the water during high tide.

Walk towards the mountain to visit Daisho-in, the most visited Buddhist temple on the island. Along the stairs is a row of spinning sutras that lead up to the main hall. It is believed that anyone who spins these sutras will be blessed. Early in the afternoon head back to Hiroshima to visit Peace Memorial Park. There is also the heart-rending A-Bomb Dome and the Children’s Peace Monument.

Overnight: Sheraton Hotel [Breakfast]

Day 11: Hiroshima – Kyoto

Today is a self-guided day. Today’s destination is Kyoto, the reigning cultural capital of Japan, home to 2,000 shrines and temples with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency [Breakfast]

Day 12: Kyoto

Today’s tour starts with a visit to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle that was originally built to serve as the private villa of a powerful feudal lord. The main building was completed in the early 1600s and has since been known for its Momoyama-style architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale” floors. Next in the list is the serene Ryoan-Ji Temple, which is famous for its well-maintained rock garden and known to be the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai Buddhist sect.

Just a short distance from Ryoan-ji is the stunning golden pavilion collectively known as Kinkaku-Ji Temple. The temple grounds are relatively smaller than that of most temples and shrines in Kyoto but what is undoubtedly impressive is the pavilion that is completely covered in handmade gold leaves. A visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple follows later in the day. The view from the 13-meter high building is indeed breathtaking and the fact that this veranda was built without using any nails or joiners is quite unbelievable. The tour ends with a stroll along the busy streets of Higashiyama district, a collection of narrow alleyways lined with local stores, souvenir shops, small eateries, and even pottery centres.

Note: Kiyomizu-dera Temple is currently undergoing partial renovations.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency [Breakfast]

Day 13: Kyoto, Cultural Experience, Optional Afternoon Trip to Nara

This half-day tour offers a unique and unforgettable chance to learn about Japanese culture in a Machiya – a traditional Kyoto-style wooden townhouse which has been beautifully restored. First, embark on a short tour of the house and obtain some insight into its architecture before being able to try on a traditional kimono, the iconic Japanese garment. While in a kimono, take part in a tea ceremony led by a tea master, a quintessential part of Japanese culture. This allows some insight into the unique aspect of the Japanese tea culture, from making the tea to the movements involved in serving it. A short introduction to origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

In the afternoon, there is an option to go out of town and travel to Nara using the Japan Rail Pass. For 74 years during the 8th century, Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. Nara is just a small town, with most of its main tourist spots located in Nara Park. It’s also here that one can encounter quite a great number of tame deer. Visit Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building home to Japan’s largest Buddha, or Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency [Breakfast]

Day 14: Kyoto – Osaka

Today is a self-guided day. The rest of the day is at leisure. After checking into the hotel, start exploring the lively streets of Osaka.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

From Namba Station, walk through Osaka’s liveliest and most colourful shopping and dining streets, starting with Doguyasuji, a unique market that sells anything related to food, from pots and other kitchenware to the lifelike plastic food models widely used by restaurants. Right across it is Sennichimae, a lane filled with small eateries that serve all the Osakan delicacies such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and the famed fugu (blowfish). Aside from the local restaurants,

Sennichimae also hosts a couple of game centres and the vibrant Namba Grand Kagetsu Theater, the headquarters of the nationwide Japanese comedy brand, Yoshimoto. Before reaching the end of Sennichimae, make a quick left turn in one of the narrow alleys to see Hozen-ji Temple, a small village temple dedicated to one of the Five Wisdom Buddha's. After offering coins, worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity before praying as a sign of respect.

Right outside the temple grounds and just across the humble yet historical Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum is Hozenji Yokocho, a short, narrow lane lined with expensive restaurants. From here, emerge to the very busy Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s former entertainment and pleasure district. A short walk from this street leads to the touristy Ebisubashi with the famous billboard of the Glico Running Man and a view of Dotonbori River.

Overnight: St. Regis [Breakfast]

Day 15: Departure

The rest of the day is at leisure until the scheduled transfer to Kansai International Airport. Depart on a daylight flight via Tokyo to London Heathrow.


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