See geisha in Kyoto.
Walk the Nakasendo Highway.
Stay in a traditional inn or 'ryokan'.
Learn the art of the green tea ceremony.
Travel by super-fast bullet train.
What our specialists say...
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.
We recommend this trip for:
Itinerary idea in detail
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
Arriving in Tokyo, you're met by an airport representative then shown to the correct limousine bus to take you to your city centre hotel. Spend the rest of the day resting after your journey or exploring at leisure. A good way to spend your first few hours in Tokyo is to visit the Imperial Palace Gardens or the futuristic man-made island of Odaiba.
Day 3 Tokyo
A day at leisure in Tokyo. We recommend starting with an early morning trip to the Tsukiji fish market, Asia's largest. Another 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.
Day 4 Tokyo
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, using your Japan Rail Pass, 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. After checking into your hotel, you have the afternoon at leisure. 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.
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. 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
On your final morning in Kyoto, take part in a shared cultural activity. Make your way to the Women's Association headquarters in Kyoto where you can learn about the craft of calligraphy (shodo), origami, or the traditional tea ceremony. All activities last for around an hour. In the afternoon, catch the bullet train to Tokyo (which takes around two and a half hours) for your final night in Japan.
Day 11 International return flight
Tokyo , International return flight
Contact a specialist
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. Your dedicated specialist will take the time to understand your preferences and build them into an itinerary to match, working to your budget. He or she will keep perfecting it until you’re completely happy and ready to book.Watch our tailor-made process ›
When to go
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