Japan has a wealth of sights but if your time is limited, this short itinerary taking in key destinations will give you a great overview of the country. Cosmopolitan Tokyo is contrasted with the quiet enclaves of Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps and a countryside walk on the Nakasendo Highway. You’ll travel mostly by train – including several trips on efficient bullet trains – and take part in guided activities in Kyoto: an evening walk, where your expert bilingual guide will help you spot enigmatic geisha, and workshops where you can learn traditional Japanese arts such as the tea ceremony or origami.
See geisha in Kyoto.
Walk the Nakasendo Highway.
Stay in a traditional inn or 'ryokan'.
Learn to prepare a bento box.
Travel by super-fast bullet train.
Contact a specialist
Treat this trip purely as a starting point for your own tour to Japan. Your specialist will ask you what you want and then shape your itinerary to match.
- Your trip will be unique
- We work to your interests and budget
- Advice from first-hand expertise
Itinerary idea in detailOpen all Close all
Includes international flights from a choice of UK airports, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Day 1 International outbound flight
International outbound flight
Today you begin your journey by boarding your international outbound flight to Tokyo.
Day 2 Tokyo
After passing through customs and luggage collection, you're met by an airport guide who will give you your trip documents and direct you to the shared shuttle service which takes you to your hotel. After checking in, spend the rest of the day at leisure, resting and relaxing after your flight. If you do feel like starting exploring, you may wish to walk around the Imperial Gardens.
Day 3 Tokyo
Your guide will meet you today in the hotel lobby for a day of guiding. Firstly they will run through your trip and offer any local advice to you so you can enjoy the country with confidence. In the first section the guide will explain your itinerary in more detail and answer any questions you might have. They can also assist with validating your Japan rail pass if you require. This can take up to two hours so afterwards head out with your guide to see some of the highlights of the city. A good way of getting a different perspective of the capital is by taking the ferry from Hamarikyu Gardens - beautiful traditional landscaped gardens with a teahouse - up to the district of Asakusa to see the Buddhist temple of Sensoji.
Another day at leisure in Tokyo. We suggest actually using this day to get out of the city and make a day trip to the seaside town of Kamakura. The train journey takes an hour and a quarter and trains leave regularly. At Kamakura, visit the temples and shrines speckled throughout the town, perhaps hiking up to see the 'daibutsu' (Great Buddha) via an intriguing shrine where locals come to wash money.
Day 5 Matsumoto
Leave Tokyo and make the two and a half to three hour journey to Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps. Here you can explore independently the famous 'Crow Castle' with its black and white exterior, and wander around the city's characterful old merchant district. There's also the excellent Ukiyo-e Museum housing thousands of woodblock print work belonging to the wealthy Sakai family.
Day 6 Tsumago
Make your way to the train station to catch a train to Tsumago, a traditional post town. The journey lasts one to two hours. After arriving in Tsumago, we recommend you go for a hike on the Nakasendo Highway, an ancient route that tradesmen and samurai used to take in the 8th century. Pass sleepy villages, cedar forests and paddy fields. The walk can be done unaccompanied and lasts around four hours.
Day 7 Kyoto
Travel by local bus then bullet train to Kyoto, Japan's cultural heart. The journey takes around three and a half hours. In the afternoon, we can arrange for you to take part in a private cultural activity at Kyoto's Women's Association. With the help of experienced English-speaking practitioners, you can have an introduction to Japanese culture by trying origami, a tea ceremony and wearing a traditional Japanese kimono. After the class, spend the afternoon at leisure in Kyoto.
Day 8 Kyoto
A full day at leisure to explore more of Kyoto's highlights. You could visit Nishiki market with its hundreds of artisan shops and restaurants. We recommend that you set out to visit some of the sights in the northwest of the city, including the Golden Pavilion or 'Kinkakuji' as well as 'Ryoanji', famed for its beautiful zen gardens. In the evening your local private guide and Geisha expert, Duncan, will collect you for a tour of the Geisha district of Gion. As you walk around this traditional entertainment district, your guide will help you spot these elusive ladies.
Day 9 Kyoto
A day at leisure. Our recommendation is to take the train to nearby Nara, Japan's ancient capital, celebrated for the Giant Buddha and Todaiji Temple. The journey takes just under an hour. Return to Kyoto via Fushimi Inari Shrine for its stunning 'tunnels' of red torii gates that dot the hillside. Try to visit this shrine in the evening - it's quieter and more atmospheric.
Day 10 Tokyo
After a leisurely morning return to Tokyo (a one and a quarter hour train journey) for a final night in the capital. We suggest using your last few hours in the city to explore a new corner of it. Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens, the man-made island of Odaiba, trendy Shinjuku or the peaceful landscaped Hamarikyu Gardens.
Day 11 International return flight
Tokyo , International return flight
Get in touch with our specialist and we'll plan your perfect holiday
The specialist who designs your trip to Japan will have explored the country many times and, in some cases, lived there. Their first-hand knowledge gives us the belief that no other travel company can match our expertise in helping you plan your trip.Request a quote Watch our tailor-made process ›
When to go
Drag the slider to see monthly temperature and rainfall for this itinerary
|Place||Daily Max Temperature||Monthly Rainfall|