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Essential Japan - 9 Days / 8 Nights
Essential Japan - 9 Days / 8 Nights

Essential Japan - 9 Days / 8 Nights

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Tokyo - Hakone/Mt Fuji - Kyoto - Nara

Explore the very best Japan has to offer from the majestic shrines and pioneering shopping malls of Tokyo to the stunning Mt Fuji and heritage rich Kyoto. Experience the quintessential hot onsen baths in Hakone, at the gateway to Mt Fuji. Stay in traditional Japanese-style ryokan accommodation complete with tatami mats and shoji rice paper sliding doors. Take a cooking class in Kyoto or even visit a sake brewery before watching a mesmerizing Geisha performance in this memorable tour of Japan.

Day 1 - Arrival in Tokyo


Upon your arrival at Tokyo Airport, one of our representatives will meet you and assist you with boarding the right train or shared shuttle to your hotel.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Tokyo

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Narita International Airport (NRT) to Central Tokyo: 1.5 h

Haneda International Airport (HND) to Central Tokyo: 50 min

Day 2 - Tokyo (B)


Today is a self-guided day.


Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

This morning, explore the city utilizing Tokyo’s efficient metro system.

We recommend starting the day with an early morning visit to Meiji Shrine to avoid the crowds. Tokyo’s most famous shrine is dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji while the park that surrounds the shrine is a forest of some 120,000 trees of 365 different species, making you forget that you are in the world’s largest city.

Outside of Meiji Shrine you will find Harajuku, the shopping haven for all fashionistas and the popular meeting place for teenagers who are usually in eccentric clothing. The landmark of Harajuku is Takeshita Street, a 400-meter long alley filled with boutiques, shops, and cafes.

Neighboring Harajuku is Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree-lined avenue features a number of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects like TOD’s Omotesando, designed by Toyo Ito.

From Omotesando, you can take the metro to Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most famous upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment districts.

From Ginza, you can go to the Imperial Palace near Otemachi Station. Whilst the Palace itself is not open to the public, the Palace East Gardens are readily accessible to all visitors. Here you will find the ruins of the former Edo Castle and a lovely Japanese garden.

Your last stop can be in Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest Geisha district and home to Senso-ji Temple which is the city’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through.

Note: The order of this itinerary may change according to the location of your hotel.

Overnight in Tokyo

Day 3 - Tokyo, Optional Day Trip to Kamakura or Nikko (B)


Today is a self-guided day.


Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

You have the rest of the day to explore this amazing city. You can choose to make an early start to visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries.

Alternatively, you can make an excursion outside of Tokyo to one of the following places:



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):

JR Tokyo Station to JR Kamakura Station: 50 min



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.

Note: Toshogu Shrine is currently undergoing partial renovations.

Distance and journey time (approximation):

JR Tokyo Station to JR Nikko Station: 2 h


Note: Roundtrip train tickets to Kamakura or to Nikko can be arranged at an additional cost

Overnight in Tokyo

Day 4 - Tokyo - Hakone (B,D)


Today is a self-guided day.


This morning you will take the train to go to Hakone, the gateway to Mt. Fuji and its surrounding national park. This small town is famous for its onsen, or natural hot springs, and has natural beauty in abundance.

In Hakone you will stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style accommodation complete with tatami mats, shoji rice paper sliding doors, and onsen baths.

In the evening, you can relax in your yukata or lightweight kimono while having your dinner of kaiseki ryori, a Japanese multi-course meal. After your meal, you can dip in the onsen before you bed down on your futon.

Overnight in Hakone


Distance and journey time (approximation):

Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station: 1.5 h

Day 5 - Hakone (B,D)


Today is a self-guided day.


Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

Spend the whole day exploring Hakone with your included transport pass, which serves as your ticket to the numerous forms of transportation in the area.

You can take the Hakone Tozan switchback train that zigzags through the mountains and offers views of the surrounding valleys. Afterwards, you can ride the Guinness World Record-holder ropeway all the way up to Mt. Owakudani, passing over sulfurous fumes,  and hotspring.

From the mountain you can take the ropeway bound for Togendai, where you can ride a replica of a pirate ship that cruises along Ashinoko, a body of water that was formed after a volcanic eruption that occurred more than 3,000 years ago.

Aside from the diverse transportation system and a number of natural tourist spots, Hakone is also home to many museums and parks. One of these is the Hakone Open Air Museum that features a harmonic balance between nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its spacious grounds in combination with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. It also features various indoor galleries such as the sizable Picasso Collection that displays some of his paintings, prints, sculptures, and ceramic creations.

Throughout the day, you might have a chance to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. However, please keep in mind that it needs to be a clear day for you to see her splendor.

Note: Mt. Owakudani has been temporarily closed due to volcanic activities.

Note: The ropeway that goes to Mt. Owakudani has resumed operations but for safety reasons, hiking on the mountain is still prohibited.

Suggested Alternative Itinerary:

We suggest heading to Togendai, where you will climb aboard a replica of a pirate ship that will take you across Ashinoko, a lake that was formed after a volcanic eruption that took place more than 3,000 years ago.

After the cruise, get off at Hakone-machi port and walk towards Hakone Shrine, passing by Hakone Checkpoint and the cedar avenue. This shrine is probably the most photographed place in the area with its iconic “floating” torii gate. Going to the main shrine buildings will require a bit of hiking as they are located on top of the ninety-or-so- step staircase. Aside from the sub-temples, you can also see the training hall for kyudo, the traditional Japanese archery, and the water basin with figures of nine dragon heads.

From the shrine, you can continue your trek along the Preserved Old Tokaido Walking Trail, of which the most popular track stretches around 8km long. The next 40 minutes or so will take you to Amazake Chaya, a traditional house serving Japanese style snacks accompanied by sweet rice wine (amazake).

Throughout the day you will have the chance to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, however please keep in mind that she is a notoriously shy mountain and it needs to be a clear day for you to see her splendor. 

Overnight in Hakone

Day 6 - Hakone - Kyoto (B)


Today is a self-guided day.


Take one last soak in the onsen before traveling via the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train) to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto. Kyoto is home to around 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The rest of the day is at leisure.


Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

You can start exploring this magnificent city by yourself or take part in one of the many cultural experiences we offer in Kyoto such as cooking classes, tea ceremonies, and even visits to a sake brewery.

To finish the night in style, we can also arrange a performance by a Maiko or a Geiko in a traditional theatre. Here you can witness the arts and music that the Geisha have been passing on through generations.

Note: The cultural experiences and the Maiko performance need to be arranged in advance at an additional cost.

Note: The cultural experiences and the Maiko performance need to be arranged in advance at an additional cost.

Overnight in Kyoto


Distance and journey time (approximation):

Hakone-Yumoto Station to JR Kyoto Station: 2.5 h

Day 7 - Kyoto (B)


Today is a self-guided day.


Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

Explore the former imperial capital and visit some of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites utilizing Kyoto’s comprehensive bus and subway systems.

You can start your day with a visit to Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The main building was completed in 1603 and is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping nightingale floors’.

You can head up north and visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples.

The final stop of the morning can be in Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan's most famous rock garden. Originally served as an aristocrat's villa during the Heian Period, the site was later on converted into a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450. Now it belongs to the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

In the afternoon, you can visit Kiyomizu-dera or ‘pure water temple’. From the 13-meter high veranda jutting out from the main hall, you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto whilst pondering the fact that both the main hall and the veranda were built without the use of nails.

Finish off the day with a stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama district, where busy lanes lead up to Kiyomizu and are filled with quaint shops selling souvenirs such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, and pickles.

Note: Kiyomizu Temple is currently undergoing partial renovations.

Overnight in Kyoto

Day 8 - Kyoto, Day Trip to Nara (B)


Today is a self-guided day.


Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

This morning you will have the chance to go out of town and travel to Nara with your included train tickets. 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 around Nara Park, where you can encounter quite a great number of tamed deer. You can visit Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha, and Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine.

Note: Roundtrip train tickets to Nara can be arranged at an additional cost.

Overnight in Kyoto


Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kyoto Station to Nara Station: 45 min

Day 9 - Departure from Kyoto (B)

The rest of the day is at leisure until your scheduled transfer via shared shuttle to Kansai International Airport.


Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kyoto to Kansai International Airport (KIX): 2 h

Tour Duration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
Tour Operates: Year Round / On Demand
Tour Price: Available upon Request

Rates vary frequently. Please contact us to get the best possible price based upon your travel period and specific touring needs.

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation in twin room with daily breakfast (for ryokan, minshuku, and other traditional accommodation, rooms are Japanese-style with futon and meals are half board).
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).
  • Meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport.
  • PASMO Tokyo transport pass for Day 2 at a value of 1,500 JPY.
  • 3-Day Hakone Free Pass from Day 4.
  • One-way limited express train ticket from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station on Day 4.
  • One-way bullet train ticket from Odawara Station to Kyoto Station in Ordinary Class on Day 6.
  • 1-Day Kyoto Bus and Subway Pass for Day 7.
  • Roundtrip limited express train tickets from Kyoto Station to Nara Station on Day 8.
  • Information Pack.

Our Services Do Not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately).
  • Local tour guides and entrance fees.
  • Some local transport.
  • Meals other than mentioned above.
  • Personal expenses (e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone, and other expenditures of a personal nature).
  • Travel insurance (please see below).
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.



  • We strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance (covering emergency medical evacuation).
  • Rooms at hotels are available only from 15:00 on arrival day till 10:00 on departure date. A supplement will be added if early check-in or late check-out is desired.
  • Please note that all of the above services and tours have yet to be booked. They are proposed for your information only and we will not make any reservations before we receive your confirmation to do so.
  • If one or some proposed service(s) is (are) not available at the time of booking, we will try to find other possibilities/options or other similar service(s) in order to avoid changes to the program.


Creating Unique Touring Experiences
All the touring itineraries on this website have been carefully crafted by our in-country management teams and represent a series of experiences we can certainly recommend. However, we understand that every travel experience should be as unique and individual as each traveler. Our consultants are waiting to hear from you so that we can tailor or custom design a Japan tour to your individual specifications.

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EXO Travel Blog


icon-quote-l  Oh wow! We had an amazing time in Japan. Our only regret was that we had such a short time to visit. Each and every one of our local guides was wonderful.  icon-quote-r

Teresa Mac

Exo Foundation