Loading
EXO Travel
NEW TRAVEL ENQUIRY
Exo Travel

OVERVIEW

Shirakawa-go / Takayama / Kanazawa / Miyajima / Hiroshima / Osaka / Kyoto / Tokyo

See the iconic sites, cultural heritage and natural wonders that define Japan. Spend two weeks traveling from bustling Tokyo to historic Hiroshima to charming Kyoto and the hidden gems in between. With insightful guided tours, this tour goes beyond what the guidebooks say and steps into the heart of Japan.

Exo Travel

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

Tour Highlights for Highlights of Japan
Experience traditional and modern Japan

Experience traditional and modern Japan

Wander past Tokyo’s impressive skyscrapers and Osaka’s neon-lit streets, then wander through the cities’ historic temples and tranquil, traditional gardens.

See Japan’s UNESCO-heritage sites

See Japan’s UNESCO-heritage sites

Visit Shirakawago’s traditional thatched farmhouses and get an in-depth tour of Kyoto’s historic shrines and temples.

Eat, drink and sleep like a local

Eat, drink and sleep like a local

Partake in a tea ceremony, sip sake, sample sushi and sleep in ryokans for a truly authentic Japanese experience.

Exo Travel

ITINERARY

Highlights of Japan - 14 Days / 13 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’s airport, our representative will be waiting to assist with sorting the appropriate transportation into the city (boarding the right train or selecting the correct shuttle bus).

The remainder of the day is free at leisure to explore Tokyo independently.

Overnight in Tokyo

DAY 2 - TokyoMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelStart (guided tour): 09:00 Duration: 8 h *including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

This morning, meet up with the guide at the hotel and head to Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its wide collection of seasonal flowers makes it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo, but what makes it more attractive is its teahouse called Nakajima-no-Ochaya.

Have a break in the teahouse and enjoy a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about sado (tea ceremony).

From the park, take the scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through.

The tour ends with a visit to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings.

The shrine is also home to around 120,000 trees, making one forget that just outside its grounds are two of the city’s popular shopping districts, Harajuku and Omotesando.

Note: The order of this itinerary may change depending on the location of your hotel.

Overnight in Tokyo

DAY 3 - Tokyo, Optional Day Trip to Kamakura MealsMEALS [B]

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Enjoy the rest of the day exploring this amazing city. Make an early start to visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries.

Alternatively, take an excursion in 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.

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Tokyo Station to Kamakura Station: 50 min

Optional Tour (1): Cool Tokyo Cycling Tour

Today’s tour starts at 10:00, 15:00 or 18:00. Meet the guide, who is sometimes ac companied by his adorable dog “Jack-san,” at Sasazuka Station, and head together to the cycling studio for a bicycle and helmet fitting. On the way, listen to some fascinating insights and entertaining anecdotes about the local neighbourhood, and get some useful explanations from the guide about Tokyo’s cycling etiquette and today’s itinerary.

When everything is ready, depart for today’s cycling tour. Leave Sasazuka with the guide, and cycle to the first location, enjoying the best of Tokyo’s urban design and natural environment on the way. Depending on the season, enjoy the surrounding foliage, which is especially beautiful in the spring when the plum and cherry blossoms bloom, and in the autumn, when the trees are a blaze of colour. There will be several cultural and architectural design stops along the way, where the guide will share interesting information and allow some time for photos.

Bike through Tokyo’s backstreets, local shotengai (small commercial streets) in hip neighbourhoods such as Shimo-Kitazawa, and some little-known parks, seeing the guide’s favourite areas and shops, and stopping for a break at a charming café.

Finally, enjoy the ride back to Sasazuka where the bicycles will be returned to the guide.

Time

Start: 10:00, 15:00, or 18:00.

Duration: 3 h to 4 h

Journey: 10 km (mostly cycling, a bit of walking and light sightseeing also involved).

Optional Tour (2): Tokyo Street Food Tour

Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport, one of our representatives will be waiting to accompany to the hotel by train or shuttle bus. The rest of the day is at leisure, until the scheduled food tour in the evening.

This evening tour will begin at 17:00. Be sure to bring an appetite: This is one Tokyo street food tour that is sure to please the taste buds! Meet with a local, food-loving guide at the train station and set off into the streets for a Japan-style food crawl.

Veer off into the maze of laneways that fill the capital, passing street carts selling exotic snacks and diners perched on small metal stools. Stop to sample some of the items on offer, from barbequed meats to sweet desserts. Then enter an izakaya for a distinctly Japanese experience. These small, Japanese-style pubs are popular gathering places for friends and colleagues to gather after work for a beer. The food on offer is meant to be shared and is thus served almost like tapas. The guide will order up a few traditional izakaya favourites such as fried chicken wings or cold edamame. Sample the dishes and wash them down with a cold, local beer alongside the locals.

While dining, learn more about Japan’s culinary culture by observing the lively surroundings and hearing the guide’s personal stories. During the evening, stop at four or five venues, each with a distinctive style. These venues do not take reservations so the exact routing may change but the guide will ensure there is plenty to eat!

Following an evening of culinary and cultural indulgence, return to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. (D)

Time (Street Food Tour):

Start: 17:00

Duration: approx. 3 h

Overnight in Tokyo

DAY 4 - Tokyo – TakayamaMealsMEALS [B|D]

Exo TravelTokyo Station to Takayama Station: 4 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Get ready for the journey to Takayama, a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture.

The first leg of the trip will be on a bullet train that can reach speeds of up to 260 kph. The next leg is on the limited express train Wide View, which offers one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

We recommend strolling in Takayama’s shitamachi, where the streets are lined with century-old merchants’ homes and sake breweries. Stop by one of the breweries for a taste of the local drop or queue for the famous Hida beef sushi in one of the special food stalls.

In Takayama, experience a stay in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring.

Overnight in Takayama

DAY 5 - Takayama MealsMEALS [B|D]

Today is a self-guided day.

Optional Tour: Food & Culture Walk and Hida Cycling Tour

Explore some of the food shops in Takayama with a knowledgeable guide, learning about the town’s colorful history and familiarizing the taste buds with some local delicacies. The walking tour includes visits to a tofu seller, a rakugan shop (traditional Japanese candies) and even a sake brewery (some stores may close during certain days). Food and sake tastings are also included.

Follow up with a cycling tour in Hida Furukawa, a small, quiet farm village in Gifu Prefecture located 15 minutes away from Takayama.

With an impressive view of the surrounding Japanese Alps, it is also well-known for the traditional architectural design of its old buildings and machiya-style houses built by experienced craftsmen centuries ago.

Like other towns in the Hida Region, Hida Furukawa is also famous for its high-quality sake (rice wine) brought about by its rich rice fields, clean waters and favorable weather.

Today, get a chance to explore the streets and outskirts of Hida Furukawa on a bicycle together with a local guide. Spend half a day cycling around this mountain village, passing by rice paddies and old houses, and have a closer look at the lifestyle in this rural region.

Time:

Start: 09:30

Duration (approximation): 6.5 - 7.5 h

Availability:

April to mid-October: 10:00 – 17:30

Mid-October to December: 10:00 – 16:30

Note: Tour dates, especially right before and after winter, may be altered depending on a number of factors (i.e. snow, weather, sunset times, etc.).

Overnight in Takayama

DAY 6 - Takayama – Kanazawa, Day Trip in Shirakawago MealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelTakayama Bus Terminal to Shirakawago Bus Stop: 1 h Shirakawago Bus Stop to Kanazawa Eki-mae Bus Terminal: 1 - 1.5 h

Today is a self-guided day.

This morning, catch the bus to Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses.

Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer,” which is represented through the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs. This architectural style developed over many generations – the roofs were constructed without any nails and are intricately designed to withstand large amounts of snow.

These houses are private homes of the locals, but some are open to the public, such as Wada House, a legacy left behind by the Wada Family who used to be the richest family and village leader in Ogimachi.

In the afternoon, continue by bus to Kanazawa, the castle town that thrived as the center for culture and the arts in the 17th century.

Overnight in Kanazawa

DAY 7 - KanazawaMealsMEALS [B]

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Start with the pristine Kenroku-en Garden, which is ranked as one of Japan’s top three gardens. Here you will find the oldest water fountain in the country, a couple of teahouses, and a large villa that used to be the retirement home of one of the richest clans in Kanazawa.

Adjacent to the garden is Kanazawa Castle, easily accessed through the Ishikawa-mon Gate, a designated Important National Cultural Asset.

Lunch can be in Omicho Market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi.

Finally, head across town to the old Samurai district of Kanazawa and visit Nomura House, a restored residence of a high ranked samurai family. Freshly made green tea can be enjoyed on the second floor while viewing the small Japanese garden below.

Overnight in Kanazawa

DAY 8 - Kanazawa – HiroshimaMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelKanazawa Station to Hiroshima Station: 4.5 h

Today is a self-guided day.

This morning is at leisure until the departure for Hiroshima. After the long train journey, it’s time to check into the hotel and rest or start exploring this amazing city.

Overnight in Hiroshima

DAY 9 - Hiroshima and MiyajimaMealsMEALS [B]

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

From mainland Hiroshima, a short ferry ride leads to Miyajima, a small sacred island located in the Seto Inland Sea. Explore the island and sample some local delicacies like oysters, saltwater eel, and maple leaf-shaped cakes.

Start with Itsukushima Shrine, declared as one of Japan’s three most beautiful views. The shrine is designed in a pier-like structure and dates back to the 6th century. Its huge vermillion o-torii gate seems to be floating in the water during high tide.

Walk towards the mountain to visit Daisho-in, the most visited Buddhist temple on the island. Along the stairs is a row of spinning sutras that lead up to the main hall. It is believed that anyone who spins these sutras will be blessed.

Early in the afternoon head back to Hiroshima to visit Peace Memorial Park and Museum. There is also the heart-rending A-Bomb Dome and the Children’s Peace Monument.

Note:

  • The base of the iconic torii gate will undergo large-scale repairs from June 2019, expected to last for 14 months. The gate will be surrounded by scaffolding and the view will therefore be obstructed during this time.

Overnight in Hiroshima

DAY 10 - Hiroshima – KyotoMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelHiroshima Station to Kyoto Station: 2 h Start (cultural activity): 09:30 Duration: 2 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Today’s destination is Kyoto, the reigning cultural capital of Japan, home to 2,000 shrines and temples with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In the afternoon, be immersed in Japanese culture with this insightful half day trip in Kyoto. Start with a visit to a machiya, a traditional wooden townhouse found throughout Kyoto. Take a tour of the beautifully restored house, learning about its architecture and history.

Then slip into a kimono, the iconic traditional Japanese garment. These full-length robes are worn by all Japanese when attending important events or formal occasions. Once appropriately dressed, meet with a local tea master for a traditional ceremony. Watch and learn as the master brews and services tea using slow, deliberate movements steeped in spirituality and ritual. Enjoy a cup of the bitter tea along with traditional sweet treats.

After the tea is finished, continue the cultural exploration of Kyoto. Experience an introductory course in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Under the guidance of a local artist, learn the secrets behind creating beautiful decorations and images with simple pieces of paper.

Wrap up the half day trip in Kyoto with new insights and a better understanding of Japanese culture. Return to the hotel or continue to explore Kyoto’s charming streets.

Overnight in Kyoto

DAY 11 - Kyoto MealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelStart (guided tour): 09:00 Duration: 8 h *including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

Today’s tour starts with a visit to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle that was originally built to serve as the private villa of a powerful feudal lord. The main building was completed in early 1600s and has since then been known for its Momoyama-style architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale” floors.

Next on the list is the serene Ryoan-ji Temple, which is famous for its well-maintained rock garden and known to be the home of the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai Buddhist sect.

Just a short distance from Ryoan-ji is the stunning golden pavilion collectively known as Kinkaku-ji Temple. The temple grounds are relatively smaller than that of most temples and shrines in Kyoto, but what is undoubtedly impressive is the pavilion that is completely covered in handmade goldleaf.

A visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple follows later in the day. The view from the 13-meter high building is indeed breathtaking and the fact that this veranda was built without using any nails or joiners is quite unbelievable.

The tour ends with a stroll along the busy streets of Higashiyama district, a collection of narrow alleyways lined with local stores, souvenir shops, small eateries, and even pottery centers.
Note: Kiyomizu-dera is currently undergoing renovations, with proposed completion in 2020

Overnight in Kyoto

DAY 12 - Kyoto MealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelKyoto Station to Nara Station: 45 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary: Nara and Fushimi-Inari

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. It’s also here that one can encounter quite a great number of tame deer. Visit Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building home to Japan’s largest Buddha, or Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine.

In the afternoon get back to Kyoto and head together to Fushimi Inari Taisha. One of the most unusual and iconic Shinto shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari's paths are lined with thousands of vermilion torii gates following trails inside the forests of Mt Inari.

Established in 711AD the shrine, which was also featured in “Memoirs of a Geisha”, is famous for the impressive contrast and mystical atmosphere created by the contrasting colours of the torii and those of the surrounding nature.

The light hike up to the top of the mountain and back will take up to three hours and will grant the visitors numerous photo opportunities in this unique place.

From the top, a beautiful view of the city of Kyoto and the hills surrounding it can be enjoyed.

Overnight in Kyoto

DAY 13 - Kyoto – OsakaMealsMEALS [B]

Today is a self-guided day.

The rest of the day is at leisure. After checking into the hotel, start exploring the lively streets of Osaka, Japan’s culinary capital. Osaka’s flamboyance, fun-loving people, and amazing food make up for what it lacks in tourist attractions.

Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

In Osaka, the following places are recommended:

Dotonbori

Dotonbori is a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district. It is well-known for its bright neon lights, energetic shop owners and food stalls that are filled with some local Osakan delights such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and fugu (poisonous puffer fish).

Umeda

Umeda is where most of the city’s most modern buildings are found. Some of the notable buildings are HEP (Hankyu Entertainment Park), which features a big Ferris wheel and is perfect for some last-minute shopping; Kitashinchi District, housing some of the city’s culinary specialties; and the Umeda Sky Building, a pair of skyscrapers connected in “mid-air”, built in an unusual architectural form rarely seen anywhere in the world. Feel the fresh air and enjoy 360-degree panoramic views at the ‘Floating Garden Observatory’.

Optional Tour: Flavors of Osaka Food Tour

Today’s tour begins at 16:45. Osaka is an epicurean’s delight. Indeed, the motto that the city’s exuberant inhabitants live by is kuiadore– “to eat oneself bankrupt.” 

The first stop will be at a street food stall to get a taste of some traditional Japanese snack food, menchi katsu. Menchi katsu is a breaded and deep-fried patty made of ground meat. Golden and crisp, this is a local favourite.

Next, head to a standing bar to enjoy the ambience and taste a selection of sake and Japanese wine, along with delicious house specialties. Then, head to a restaurant specialising in wagyu beef dishes. Often referred to as the most expensive beef in the world, wagyu beef is of a superb quality, and is on many a gourmet’s wish list. Enjoy the melt-in-the-mouth textures with a refreshing cocktail.

The final stop will be to try a new style of tempura in an eatery tucked away in a small alleyway. Old favourites such as shrimp tempura, and more experimental combinations such as asparagus tempura and cheese can be found on the menu.

Bid farewell to the affable guide, and either return to the hotel or go for a stroll around the neighbourhood to take in the sights.  

Time

Start: 16:45

Duration: approx. 3.5 h

Overnight in Osaka

DAY 14 - Departure from OsakaMealsMEALS [B]

Exo TravelNamba Station to Kansai Airport: 45 min

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

*Japan Rail Pass can be used for transfers using JR trains (with exceptions).

Exo Travel

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
  • 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
  • 14-Day Japan Rail Pass in ordinary class, activated on Day 1
  • PASMO Transport Pass for local transportation in Tokyo with 1,500 JPY worth of credits

(Note: Additional credits will be charged by our guides to cover transportation during guided days. Clients are free to further charge their card should they wish to make use of it during self-guided days).

  • Bus tickets on Day 6 (Takayama to Shirakawago, then Shirakawago to Kanazawa)
  • English-speaking guides for tours on Days 2 and 11 (supplementary charges apply for other languages)
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary on Days 2 and 11
  • Japanese cultural experience in Kyoto on Day 12
  • Self-guide app and customized travel documentation

Our Services Do Not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately)
  • 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
  • Some of the sake breweries in Takayama are closed on some days and the restaurant that sells Hida beef sushi is closed on Tuesdays.
  • The food and cycling tour in Takayama and Hida-Furukawa is a join-in activity and accepts maximum of 8 persons only. Private option can be arranged (supplementary charges apply).
  • Wada House and other gassho-zukuri farmhouses in Shirakawago are closed on some days.
  • Nijo Castle is closed on Tuesdays (or if Tuesday is a National holiday, closed the following day).
  • For safety reasons, some 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.

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.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • 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
Tour

SIMILAR TOURS YOU MAY LIKE

Not quite right or still need some more inspiration? Take a look at the journeys below and discover what other people who liked this tour also looked at!

Exo travel get in touch

GET IN TOUCH

We love to talk travel. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We're here to help!

EXO Travel

LET’S GET SOCIAL

For inspiring experiences, real-time updates, the latest trends or casual conversation, explore our social networks for all things travel.