Welcome to Tokyo! Make your own way to our joining hostel this morning before meeting the rest of the group for a trip up to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Building for breathtaking views of the city. We then make our way to the buzzing Shinjuku district, full of Izakaya-style pubs, karaoke bars and a life-sized Godzilla standing guard. In the afternoon enjoy a dose of zen at Sensou-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. The rest of the day is at leisure to continue exploring Tokyo your own way. Overnight Tokyo.
This morning wander through Akihabara, Japan’s “electric town” and the hub for anime and manga. Take some time to geek out and visit some of the many electric shops on offer, selling all sorts of electrical and manga goods. The rest of the evening is free to continue shopping or for those looking for something a little different, there’s an optional excursion to one of Akihabara’s famous maid cafés before dressing up as your favourite Super Mario character and driving through Tokyo’s streets in your very own Mariokart! Overnight Tokyo.
No trip to Tokyo would be complete without a stroll through the sumo district. Pass the sumo stables where wrestlers live and train, and visit the sumo museum to learn the secrets behind Japan’s national sport. For lunch try Chanko nabe, a hot pot dish consumed by the fighters. There’s plenty of restaurants in the area managed by former wrestlers.
After lunch visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum for an insight into the capital’s evolution since 1869. Next, watch a sword demonstration before trying the ancient art for yourself with the help of an expert – time to unleash your inner samurai! The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to continue exploring or opt to watch a spectacular Tokyo robot show. Overnight Tokyo.
This morning visit Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, once the largest fortress in the world, before enjoying a walk through the beautiful Yoyogi Park to reach the famous Shinto shrine of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Later, we head to the Harajuku fashion district and witness the many diverse fashion styles from French maids, to punks, goths and lolitas – grab some hair dye and get involved! Our day finishes walking across the world’s most famous intersection – the Shibuya crossing. Overnight Tokyo.
Today we travel by train to Kamakura, Japan’s first feudal capital. We’ll visit some of the many ancient shrines before heading to the Kotoku-in temple to marvel at the iconic bronze Great Buddha, which stands 45ft tall. The rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy this popular seaside city at leisure – watch the sunset from a beach bar or grab a surfboard and ride the waves. Overnight Kamakura.
This morning we take public transport to the mountain town of Hakone, situated Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. When we arrive we’ll take the cable car to the volcanic Owakudani valley where we’ll see active sulfur vents, hot springs and (if we’re lucky!) spectacular views of Mt. Fuji. There’ll also be the chance to sample black eggs – a local delicacy that’s boiled in sulfur water to give the eggs their unusual colour.
There’s no better way to cross the stunning clear-blue waters of Lake Ashi than on a triple-decker pirate ship – and that’s what we have planned this afternoon before heading into a nearby forest for an authentic local experience in one of the onsen hot spring baths. It’s the ideal way to unwind before spending the night in a traditional ryokan. Overnight Hakone.
Experience Japan’s famous bullet trains today as we make our way to Kyoto where the afternoon is spent exploring Kiyomzu Temple, one of the most celebrated temples in the country. Here you’ll find a thousand-armed statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Kyoto is famous for its geisha and this evening we’ll attend a live geisha performance in the famous Gion district. The rest of the evening is free – perhaps visit atmospheric Pontocho alley for a little sake in one of the bars overlooking the river. Overnight Kyoto.
Start the day with a boat trip in traditional wooden rafts along the Hozugawa River, cruising along the ravines of the Arashiyama Hills and experiencing the rush of the rapids. We then hike through a maze of bamboo paths in the Arashiyama bamboo forest to reach monkey park. Here we’ll have a chance to feed monkeys in their natural environment.
In the afternoon we visit the Tenryu-ji Temple, the most important of the city’s five zen temples. We’ll have plenty of time to walk around the pristine gardens and central pond, and visit the Dharma Hall to see the ceiling mural of a dragon. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to continue exploring Kyoto, there is also an optional karaoke night. Overnight Kyoto.
Our final morning in Kyoto is spent at the iconic Golden Pavillion at Kinkaku-ji Temple, whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf and perfectly reflected in the lake that surrounds the temple. Afterwards we’ll visit a second city temple, this time accompanied by a Buddhist monk for a spot of meditation. We’ll then hop onto bikes for a ride through Kyoto’s Imperial Park to reach the Imperial Palace for a stroll through the grounds with its beautiful buildings. Later we continue our journey west and catch the bullet train to Hiroshima. Overnight Hiroshima.
We spend the morning in Hiroshima, starting with the Peace Memorial Museum where we learn about the devastation of the world’s first atomic bomb. We’ll see the iconic A-Bomb Dome, one of the very few buildings left standing after the blast, and the Children’s Peace Monument where schools from around the world donate origami cranes signifying hope and peace.
This afternoon we take a short ferry trip to Miyajima Island, famous for the giant torii gate that appears to float on water. When the tide is low it’s possible to reach the gate on foot. While on Miyajima, we visit the centuries-old Itsukushima Shrine, which is built over water and connected by pillars above the sea, and follow one of the many forest walking trails for stunning views at a lookout point. We return to Hiroshima for the evening. Overnight Hiroshima.
This morning we board the bullet train to our final destination – Osaka. There’s some free time to fill up on ramen, sushi, or yakitori before a short train journey to Osaka Castle. Here we’ll wander through the secondary citadels, gates, stone walls and moats before heading to the lush Osaka Castle Park. This evening we have some free time to walk around Shinsaibashi and the Dotonbori riverfront, which offers amazing nightlife options. Tonight we’ll be sleeping in a capsule hotel! Overnight Osaka.
Our adventure comes to an end this morning. Take the train to Osaka airport or take the bullet train back to Tokyo using your JR pass.