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OVERVIEW

Hakone / Nara / Kyoto / Tokyo

Get a taste of Japan’s rich culture and history on a memorable, self-guided tour. Join local worshippers at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine and spot geishas gracefully strolling through Kyoto’s cobbled streets. Soak in an onsen while gazing at Mount Fuji and wander through Nara’s 8th-century temples. 

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TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

Tour Highlights for Essential Japan
Enjoy Hakone’s natural surroundings

Enjoy Hakone’s natural surroundings

Admire views of Mt Fuji in Hakone while taking light treks, soaking in onsens and cruising Ashinoko lake.

Explore Kyoto’s UNESCO sites

Explore Kyoto’s UNESCO sites

Be immersed in Japanese culture in Kyoto, exploring some of its 17 World Heritage sites and thousands of temples and shrines.

See the old and new capital

See the old and new capital

Wander through shrines in Nara, Japan’s 8th century capital, and explore the vibrant streets of the modern capital, Tokyo.

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ITINERARY

Essential Japan - 9 Days / 8 Nights

DAY 1 - Arrival in Tokyo

Exo TravelNarita International Airport (NRT) to Central Tokyo: 1.5 h Haneda International Airport (HND) to Central Tokyo: 50 min

Upon arrival to Tokyo airport, our representative will be waiting to assist with transport into the city (either helping to board the correct train or finding the appropriate shuttle bus). After arriving to the hotel and checking in, the remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in Tokyo

DAY 2 - Tokyo MealsMEALS [B]

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Spend the morning exploring Tokyo, utilising its 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. The park sits in the midst of some 120,000 trees of 365 different species, making it easy to forget that the world’s largest city surrounds.

Outside of Meiji Shrine sits Harajuku, a shopping haven and popular meeting place for teenagers who are usually donning 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, take the metro to Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most famous upscale shopping, dining and entertainment districts.

From Ginza, head 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. It is here that one can find the ruins of the former Edo Castle and a lovely Japanese garden.

The final 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 NikkoMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelJR Tokyo Station to JR Kamakura Station: 50 min JR Tokyo Station to JR Nikko Station: 2 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Enjoy the entire day exploring Tokyo or its outlying areas. Make an early morning stop to visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries.

Alternatively, take an excursion outside of Tokyo to one of the following places:

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.

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.

Note: Toshogu Shrine is currently undergoing partial renovations.

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

Overnight in Tokyo

DAY 4 - Tokyo - HakoneMealsMEALS [B|D]

Exo TravelShinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station: 1.5 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Start the morning by boarding the train 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.

Accommodation in Hakone will be a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn complete with tatami mats, shoji rice paper sliding doors, and onsen baths.

In the evening, relax in a yukata (lightweight kimono) while having enjoying a dinner of kaiseki ryori, a Japanese multi-course meal. After the meal, take a dip in the onsen before turning in on the traditional futon.

Overnight in Hakone

DAY 5 - HakoneMealsMEALS [B|D]

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

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

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

From the mountain, take the ropeway bound for Togendai, where it’s possible to 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 the most notable is the Hakone Open Air Museum, known for its harmonic balance between nature and art, featuring a sizeable Picasso Collection.

If the weather fully cooperates, there may be sightings of Mt. Fuji off in the distance.

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:

Head to the aforementioned pirate ship for the cruise 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 one of the most photographed places in the area with its iconic “floating” torii gate. Visit the main shrine, sub temples and the training hall for kyudo, traditional Japanese archery.

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

Overnight in Hakone

DAY 6 - Hakone - KyotoMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelHakone-Yumoto Station to JR Kyoto Station: 2.5 h

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-Guided Itinerary:

Spend some time exploring Kyoto independently or take part in one of the many cultural experiences on offer in Kyoto, such as cooking classes, tea ceremonies and visits to a sake brewery.

To finish the night in style, we can arrange a performance by a Maiko or a Geiko in a traditional theatre. 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.

Overnight in Kyoto

DAY 7 - KyotoMealsMEALS [B]

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

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

Start the day with a visit to Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate in 1603 and is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping nightingale floors’.

Head north of the city 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 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, visit Kiyomizu-dera or ‘pure water temple’. From the 13-meter high veranda jutting out from the main hall, 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 NaraMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelKyoto Station to Nara Station: 45 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Head out of town this morning and travel to Nara with the 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 a great number of tame deer can be found. 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

DAY 9 - Departure from KyotoMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelKyoto to Kansai International Airport (KIX): 2 h

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

Exo Travel

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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)
  • English meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport
  • PASMO Transport Pass at a value of 3,500 JPY for Day 2 (Tokyo) and Day 7 (Kyoto) (Note: PASMO can only be used for ordinary trains; seats in special trains such as the limited express and the shinkansen require reserved tickets. The pre-charged credit is enough to visit the places stated in the itinerary for Days 2 and 7 using local trains and/or city buses).
  • 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
  • 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

 

  • The Imperial Palace East Gardens is closed on Mondays, Fridays, New Years, and some other special occasions (if Monday or Friday is a National holiday, closed the following day).
  • Nijo Castle is closed on Tuesdays (or if Tuesday is a National holiday, closed the following day).
  • For safety reasons, Hakone Ropeway, and some other public transport, may stop operating in case of unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Please inform your Travel Consultant of any special dietary requirements and/or physical conditions that you may have.
  • 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. 

 

LUGGAGE FORWARDING:

Baggage handling is not included in the above rates, but Japan has a fabulous luggage forwarding service which you can use to send your luggage to your next destination. It will take between 24 and 72 hours to get the luggage to the next point so we recommend preparing an overnight bag when using this service. Luggage can be sent between any two points in Japan and the bell desks or receptions at your hotel will be happy to assist you with arranging this luggage transfer.

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