Home to sumo wrestling, sake, geishas, karaoke and onsens, Japan is an extraordinary land. Here you can expect a frenetic pace one day and a tranquil experience the next. Take in the neon nightlife of Tokyo, relax in the manicured gardens of Nikko and discover thousands of years of culture and history in Kyoto. From world-class sushi to legendary samurai, this enigmatic nation is a traveller’s delight. Get back to basics and see the best of Japan without busting your budget.
Your tour to Japan includes:
- Japan is full of the contrasts of ultra modern (robot restaurant anyone?) and ancient tradition (just step into any of Kyoto’s stunning temples). While brief, this trip will introduce you to all facets of this fascinating country.
- With a leader to show you around, a new group of friends to explore with and plenty of free time to do exactly what interests you most about the country, you will definitely be able to make the most of each day on this trip.
- The little town of Nikko is one of our favourite destinations, packed with World Heritage listed temples, picture perfect hiking trails, and one of the best places to experience an onsen – hot springs bath.
- Eat your way from Tokyo to Kyoto with chances to try all kinds of sumptuous street food, sake, snacks and surprises, including the best sushi of course! Some tips on all the very best to eat and drink are here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/eat-and-drink-like-a-local-in-japan/
- Even getting from A to B is fun in Japan! Ride the shinkasen bullet train and make use of day passes for local public transport to get to and from the activities you choose in each destination. Here's why train travel in Japan is something we just don't want you to miss: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/japan-trains/
- Hotel/Ryokan (8 nts)
- Public Bus,Metro,Train,Bullet Train
- Age: min 15
- Group Size: 1 - 16
- Tokyo - welcome meeting and orientation walk
- Tokyo - Yoyogi Park
- Tokyo - Meiji Shrine
- Tokyo - Shibuya walking tour
- Tokyo - metro day pass
- Tokyo - Tsukiji Fish Market
- Tokyo - Akihabara District walking tour
- Nikko - public bus area pass
- Nikko - trekking
- Kyoto - Gion District walk
- Kyoto - Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Kyoto - bus day pass
Day 1 Tokyo
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, there are many sides of Tokyo to explore, from fascinating museums and world-class shopping, to neighbourhood backstreets lined with restaurants and karaoke bars. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. Have your insurance and next of kin details on hand as we'll be collecting them at this meeting. Afterwards, we will be heading out for an optional dinner to try some local Tokyo food and experience the nightlife in this amazing city. You might like to finish the night with a drink at a traditional Japanese izakaya.
Day 2 Tokyo
This morning, venture out with your tour leader on the tokyo metro to the buzzling Shibuya area and explore the well known and secret gems of Tokyo. Stop at Shibuya station where we look down on one of the busiest intersections in the world and visit the statue of Hachikō the famous loyal dog. Next we head into a depachika for a mouth-watering array of tempting Japanese treats. Depachika are dazzling food halls that lurk beneath major department stores, where vendors sell everything from bento boxes for lunch to formal gifts and everyday groceries. Grab a picnic lunch (optional) as we are heading to Yoyogi Park, home to many events from the first Japan Olympics.
Afterwards we visit Meiji Shrine. Enter via a massive Torii (gate) and the sights and sounds of the busy city are replaced by a tranquil forest. Approximately 100,000 trees were planted during the shrine's construction and were donated from regions across the entire country. Meiji is a popular location for weddings and the traditional Shinto service can often be observed there.
Then we finish our our journey with a visit to Harajuku, the home of quirky youth pop culture.
In your free time afterwards, you can maybe take in the historic Asakusa area. This is one of the older and more traditional parts of Tokyo, and is often called the temple district. Here you can stop by Senso-ji, the city’s oldest temple – founded almost 1,400 years ago when Tokyo was nothing more than a fishing village.
If you’re pressed for choice or feeling a little lost in this enormous new city, consider doing an Urban Adventures tour, such as 'Tokyo After 5'. Speak to your leader for more information. In the evening, there’s an incredible array of options for dinner – a hearty bowl of ramen, crispy tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried cutlet), or snacks and beer at an izakaya – the list goes on!
Day 3 Tokyo
Enjoy another day exploring Tokyo. If you would like to your tour leader will take you for a morning walk around Tsukji Fish market dodge bargain hunters, fishmongers, and market trolleys piled high with crates of stock as you wander the narrow aisles of spectacular creatures. Afterwards, you could pop in to one of the sushi restaurants that surround the market for the freshest sushi breakfast you could ever eat.
Then head to the famous Akihabara District. Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku culture. Many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district.
The afternoon is free for your own exploration. Take in history at the Imperial Palace or the treasures at the National Museum, and see the grand shrine dedicated to the 19th-century Emperor. Spend some time in the city’s green spaces like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, or see the city from a different angle with a short cruise down the Sumida River. Head up the observation deck of the Metropolitan Government Building for a stunning view across the skyline of the world’s largest metropolis. You could always create your own entertainment with a memorable turn in a sky-high karaoke glass box. If the season’s right you might even get to experience the theatre of a sumo bout.
Day 4 Nikko
Say goodbye to Tokyo and hop on our first train to Nikko. The whole journey takes about two hours. Along the way, you’ll see spectacular countryside scenery and enjoy some snacks on the train.
Once you arrive in Nikko you’ll have free time to spend as you wish. Nikko has been a sacred city since the middle of the 8th century, and is overflowing with beautiful shrines and temples. Perhaps visit the Toshu-gu Shrine, a resting place of a Tokugawa shogun who was one of the most powerful rulers of the country. The shrine contrasts with the traditional minimalist style commonly used throughout Japan. Instead, every corner of this monument is covered in intricate gold leaf, lacquer work, paintings and patterns. Here you can also visit the Museum of Art at the back of the temple complex. This 1920s mansion has one of the country’s most beautiful collections of sliding doors and screens decorated by the best Japanese painters of the day. You can also pay a visit to the red-lacquered Shin-kyō bridge, one of the town’s most famous landmarks, and the Buddhist temple of Rinnō-ji, home to fearsome statues and an elegant garden. Alternatively, follow the path up the river to the other worldly Kanmangafuchi Abyss, where over 70 statues of Jizo buddha wearing red bib watch over the kids and travellers.
Day 5 Nikko
For those feeling energetic, join your leader for a trek in the area. Depending on the time of the year, you can relax by Chuzenji Lake or climb up to the Senjogahara Plateau, where the gods of Mt Nantai and Mt Akagi are said to have battled for possession of the lake. You can take a 6 kilometre walk following the course of the plateau, or explore the various hiking trails that spread off from the lake itself. The lake area is also home to the Kegon Waterfall, and you can get the Akechi Daira Rope Way cable car over the falls and lake. A little further on is Lake Yunoko and Yumoto, where you can soak in the natural hot springs – a great place to experience one of Japans well-loved public onsens.
In the town itself you can explore the shops along Hippari Dako, maybe tasting yuba, the skin that forms on top when making tofu - a delicious treat!
Day 6 Kyoto
Enjoy your last free morning in Nikko and then say goodbye to Nikko for our long journey to Kyoto. Take the local train (around 2 hours) and then jump on board the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto for approximately three hours. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally “tranquillity and peace capital”) by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (the name means “Capital City”) but the emperor and government are now located in Tokyo. With over 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in. Spend some free time getting acquainted with Kyoto and walking through the historical streets. In the evening, your leader will take you on a walk through Pondocho and Gion area, the famous Geisha district. Even today you can observe the age-old tradition of geisha girls visiting members of the wealthy elite. This unfolds in small teahouses tucked away in tiny back streets. For those who are keen, you can also choose to attend the Gion Corner cultural centre where to enjoy some Japanese performing arts, from flower arranging to the lion dance.
Day 7 Kyoto
Today, let's head to one of the most photogenic spots in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Famous for the thousands of vermillion-coloured torii (gates) which straddle the paths and trails in the area this shrine is dedicated to Inari the Shinto God of rice. Foxes are the messengers of Inari and so the shrine has many fox statues which line the path. If you have the energy the number of visitors thins out the higher up the hill you walk and the view from the top over Kyoto is well-worth the climb.
The rest of the day is free for you to explore. With its many cultural landmarks and historical sites, and the abundance of traditional arts and literature, Kyoto is regarded as the cultural heart of Japan. Kyoto is also a city that lends itself to walking, and there are a number of paths available. Recommended is a gentle stroll through the nearby eastern hills along the ‘Path of Philosophy’ that links Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, with Nanzen-ji Temple. This walk can be extended south through well-preserved ‘old town’ areas to Kiyamizu-dera (Temple of Clear Water) from where there is a justifiably famous view across a wooded gorge toward Kyoto. Also recommended, for those visiting in spring, is a visit to the theatre for a presentation of Miyako Odori (the Cherry Blossom Dance) performed by elaborately dressed maiko (apprentice geisha), or a visit to the extravagantly decorated Kinkakuji temple, immortalised in Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Golden Pavilion”. Another great stop is the architecturally impressive Higashi Honganji temple and the almost surreal Sanjusangendo, home to 1,001 statues of Kannon.
Day 8 Kyoto
Make the most of your last day in Kyoto. If you haven’t done so already, you may like to see Japan’s largest pagoda at Toji. Consider doing one of our Urban Adventure tours, such as the cycling tour of the Path of Philosophy (see urbanadventures.com for more information). You could visit the imposing and opulent Nijo Castle, home to the Tokugawa Shoguns who had power over the country during the Edo period. Check out the ‘nightingale floors’ of Ninomaru Palace, which squeak to warn of intruders (like otherwise-silent ninjas). From the Castle it’s a short bus ride to Ryoan-ji, perhaps Japan’s most famous Zen garden, where carefully placed rocks sit in an immaculately raked sea of gravel. For some last minute shopping there’s Kyoto’s handicraft centre, a perfect place to pick up some souvenirs with a fine selection of woodblock prints, yukata (light cotton robes), jewellery and pottery. On your final evening you could enjoy karaoke with your new friends, or maybe splash out on a kaiseki meal in a ryotei (small restaurants serving traditional multi-course cuisine).
Day 9 Kyoto
There are no activities planned for today and you can depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
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