Japan Itinerary

Day 1
ARRIVAL IN OSAKA

Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport, our representative will be waiting to assist with transportation into the city (helping to board the right train or finding the appropriate shuttle van). After reaching the hotel and checking in, the remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Osaka Soul Food Tour

There is no better place in the country to experience the flamboyant and colorful world of Japan’s street food and nightlife scene than in Osaka. The city’s motto is ‘kuidaore’ or eat-till-you-drop, and just one visit shows that it’s not very difficult to do this! Locals are particularly proud of their famous soul-food offerings, such as Okonomiyaki (savory cabbage pancake with pork), Takoyaki (savory ball-shaped pancakes with octopus), and other local delicacies. Osaka also offers one of the most authentic experiences when it comes to spending a night out, thanks to the city’s warm-hearted and curious inhabitants.

Meet the food expert at a designated meeting point in Dotonbori and enjoy about 4 different venues during the tour.Start the experience by discovering Osaka’s best-loved dishes in one of the liveliest areas in town, with innumerable little shops, restaurants and tiny taverns and bars. Alongside our local English-speaking food expert, enjoy the bright neon lights of one of the main entertainment areas in town before diving into some narrow, hidden alleyways to discover all the local delicacies Osaka has to offer.With the help of the guide, taste some of the staples of Osaka’s soul-food such as fresh Okonomiyaki, prepared on the spot, and Takoyaki, which have been featured in the Michelin guide. Continue the gourmet journey with fresh sushi and a local brew, plus the opportunity to interact with the sushi chef. To conclude the tour, stroll through the neighborhood with its uncountable tiny bars, each with their very own distinctive style.

Time:

Start: 17:30, Duration: 3 h

Overnight in Osaka

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Central Osaka: 1 h

Services included:

Meet and Greet Assistant at the airport

Arrival Transfer by shared shuttle bus/ train

PASMO Pass worth JPY 3,500

Osaka Soul Food Tour (Shared Activity)

Day 2 
OSAKA TO KOYASAN

Today is a self-guided day.

Home to over 100 temples, Koyasan has been the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect, for over 1,200 years. Koyasan, and its vicinity, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The journey to Koyasan is one of the highlights of the visit, with the final ascent being on a cable car, which offers one of the most scenic journeys in Japan, as it winds its way up to the mountains. Spend the afternoon exploring a couple of popular sites that give an insight to Japanese Buddhism.

Visit Kongobu-ji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism and home to Japan’s largest rock garden. On rare occasions, guests might witness a small group of worshippers led by a monk chanting some scripts in front of the temple.

Continue on to Okuno-in, Japan’s largest cemetery that holds the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. The classic approach starts from Ichinohashi Bridge and stretches up to 2km, filled with more than 200,000 tombstones that belong to feudal lords, prominent monks, and even well-known Japanese companies. Gokusho Offering Hall, Torodo Hall of Lanterns, and Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum are located at the end of the trail.

Afterwards, guests are escorted to their shukubo (temple lodge), where the famous Buddhist cuisine is served.

Overnight at Koyasan

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kyoto Station to Gokurakubashi Station: 3 h

Services included:

Transfer from Namba Station to Koyasan Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)

Day 3 
KOYASAN TO KUMANO KODO

Upon arrival to Kii-Tanabe Station, our guide will provide a welcome and escort to the tourist information center for a brief orientation on Kumano Kodo –, its history and a more detailed explanation of its pilgrimage trails.

Feel free to stop by one of the local restaurants before catching the bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest and most historical hot spring resorts in Japan discovered almost 2,000 years ago. It is said that ancient pilgrims frequented this place for cleansing before praying at Kumano Hongu Taisha.

Accommodation will to be in one of the traditional inns that surround Tsuboyu, a small enclosed hot spring built along the river. It was said that its waters healed and revived one of Japan’s legendary warriors when he went to Yunomine to seek refuge.

Overnight in Yunomine Onsen

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Shin-Osaka Sta. / Kyoto Sta. to Kii-Tanabe Sta.: 2-2.5 h

Kii-Tanabe Sta. to Yunomine Onsen Bus Stop: 1 h 50 min

Services included:

Train transfer from Koyasan Station to Namba Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)

Train transfer from Namba Station to Kii Tanabe Station (Local Train, One-way)

4D3N Kumano Kobo Package (1)

Day 4 
KUMANO KODO

After an early breakfast, get on the bus to Hosshinmon-oji, the starting point of the trail that leads to Kumano Hongu Taisha. This 7-kilometer road passes through a mixture of forested paths and small farm villages and promises stunning views from a couple of observation points.

End the hike at Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the three grand shrines in Kumano Kodo dedicated to the worship of the forests in Hongu. It is also the head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano shrines spread out in the country. Descend from the shrine’s stone steps and walk to Oyunohara, the site of the largest torii gate in Japan and the original location of Hongu Taisha.

Catch the bus to Kawayu Onsen, a one-of-a-kind hot spring that has its geothermal waters stored beneath the cool Ota River.

In this hot spring resort, ready-to-use outdoor onsen baths are prepared for guests, but it’s quite an experience to dig a separate bath and witness the rush of onsen waters from the ground. During the colder months of December, January, and February, a 600-sqm hot spring bath called Sennin-buro (bath for a thousand people) is built along the river.

Overnight in Kawayu Onsen

Trekking information (approximation):

Hosshinmon-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha: 6.9 km; 3 h

Elevation change (approximation):

Hosshinmon-oji: at 314 m

Kumano Hongu Taisha: at 93 m

 

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Yunomine Onsen Bus Stop to Hosshinmon-oji Bus Stop: 30 min

Hongu Taisha-mae Bus Stop to Kawayu Onsen Bus Stop: 10 min

Services included:

4D3N Kumano Kobo Package (2)

Day 5 
KUMANO KODO

After breakfast, start the day early for the cruise along Kumano-gawa River on a traditional boat. For over a millennium, pilgrims have been crossing this river to visit Hayatama Taisha in Shingu. The 90-minute boat ride features the other side of Kumano Kodo, which can be refreshing after a day of hiking through the mountains.

While in Shingu, visit Hayatama Taisha, another Kumano Sanzan grand shrine dedicated to one of the gods that was believed to have discovered Japan. Within walking distance from the shrine are Kamikura-jinja Shrine and Gotobiki-wa Rock which can be visited before catching the train or bus from Shingu Station to Katsuura, a small yet popular fishing village in the Pacific Ocean.

Note: The boat pilgrimage is available from March to November (10:00, 1.5 h). Guests are requested to arrive 30 minutes earlier for the orientation.

Overnight in Katsuura

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kawayu Onsen to Hitari Bus Stop: 25 min

Shingu to Katsuura: 15-40 min (bus/train)

Services included:

4D3N Kumano Kobo Package (3)

Day 6 
KUMANO KODO TO KYOTO

Before leaving Kumano Kodo, travel to Daimon-zaka and walk along the 600-meter long cobblestone staircase situated at the foot of Mt. Nachi. Along the road is a small shop called Daimon-zaka Chaya, where traditional Heian clothes can be rented. Right at the entrance to the slope is a pair of 800-year-old cedar trees called “Meoto-sugi.” Emerge from the slope and take the stairs to Kumano Nachi Taisha situated halfway through the mountains (350 meters above sea level). This shrine is one of the main pilgrimage destinations in Japan, with its religious foundation originating from the ancient worship of Nachi Falls, the tallest waterfall in the country.

Get on a local bus to Kii-Katsuura Station for the train to Kyoto, the reigning cultural capital of Japan, home to 2,000 shrines and temples with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Start exploring this magnificent city or take part in one of the many cultural experiences on offer such as cooking classes, tea ceremonies, and visits to sake breweries.

To end the evening in style, we can also arrange a Geisha performance in a traditional theater. Witness the arts and music that the Geishas 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

Trekking information (approximation):

Daimon-zaka entrance to Mt. Nachi parking lot: 900 m; 25 min

Mt. Nachi parking lot to Nachi Taisha Shrine: 400 m; 10 min

Nachi Taisha to viewing point for Nachi Falls: 900 m; 15 min

Viewing point to Taki-mae Bus Stop: 300 m; 5 min

 

Elevation change (approximation):

Entrance to Daimon-zaka: at 100 m

Mt. Nachi parking lot: at 250 m

Nachi Taisha Shrine: at 390 m

Viewing point: at 210 m

Taki-mae Bus Stop: at 215 m

 

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kii-Katsuura Station to Daimonzaka Chushajo-mae Bus Stop: 20 min

Taki-mae Bus Stop to Kii-Katsuura Station: approx. 25 mins (bus)

Kii-Katsuura Station to Kyoto Station: 4 h 50 min

Services included:

4D3N Kumano Kobo Package (4)

Train from Kii-Katsuura Station to Kyoto Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)

Day 7 
KYOTO

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 gold-leaf.

Time:

Start (guided tour): 09:00

Duration: 4 h

*including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

In the afternoon, experience Japanese culture in style! An expert makeup artist will help you transform into a pretty maiko (apprentice geisha) or a geiko (geisha in Kyoto) and the kimono that you will try on is definitely one of Kyoto’s finest as it’s only made from Kyoto silk.

After your makeover, enjoy a photoshoot led by one of Higashiyama’s best photographers and 60 minute-walk in the legendary Gion quarter.

Time:

Maiko makeover: 3 h (not including transfers)

Overnight in Kyoto

Services included:

Half Day English-speaking guide (4h)

All Entrance Fees & Public Transportation Fees

Maiko or Geiko Transformation Walking Plan (Private Activity)

Day 8
KYOTO

Self-Guided Itinerary:

In the afternoon, there is an option to go out of town and travel to Nara using the Japan Rail Pass. 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.

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kyoto Station to Nara Station: 45 min

Overnight in Kyoto

Services included:

Train transfer from Kyoto Station to Nara Station (Local Train, Roundtrip)

Day 9 
KYOTO TO HAKONE

Today is a self-guided day.

Travel by train to Hakone, a popular hot spring destination frequented by most tourists who wish to get a sight of Mt. Fuji.

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.

Ride 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 and ride the replica 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.

Hakone is also home to many museums and parks. One of these is the Hakone Open Air Museum. The museum is famous for its harmonic balance between nature and art, featuring a sizable Picasso Collection.

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:

Begin by heading towards Togendai to board the aforementioned pirate ship, crossing the volcanically formed Ashinoko lake.

Disembark at Hakone-machi and walk towards Hakone Shrine, the most photographed spot in Hakone for its iconic “floating” torii gate.

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

In Hakone, experience a stay in a ryokan, a classic Japanese-style accommodation furnished with futon beds, tatami flooring, paper sliding doors, and hot spring baths.

Enjoy a traditional multi-course meal for dinner, which usually includes small servings of sushi, sashimi, and tempura.

Overnight in Hakone

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kyoto Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station: 2 h

Services included:

Train transfer from Kyoto Station to Odawara Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)

2-Day Hakone Free Pass (Valid from Shinjuku)

Day 10 
HAKONE TO TOKYO

Take one last soak in the onsen before continuing your journey to Tokyo. 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.

Neighbouring Harajuku is Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysées. 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.

Overnight in Tokyo

Time:

Start (guided tour): 13:00

Duration: 4 h

*including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

Services included:

2-Day Hakone Free Pass (Valid from Shinjuku)

Train Transfer from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Shinjuku Station (Romance Car, One-way)

Full Day English-speaking guide (4h)

All Entrance Fees & Public Transportation Fees

Day 11 
TOKYO CYCLING TOUR

Tokyo Cycling Tour

Today’s tour starts at 13:45.Meet the guide, who is sometimes accompanied 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.

Next, head back to Sasazuka where bicycles will be returned to the guide, and either freely keep exploring Tokyo independently, head back to the accommodation to freshen up, or join the guide and the rest of the group for a local meal such as gyoza (pan-fried dumplings).

Time:

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

Duration: 3h

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

Services included:

Tokyo Cycling Tour (Private Activity)

Day 12 
DEPARTURE DAY

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure until the scheduled transfer via shared shuttle back to Narita International Airport (NRT) for your onward flight.

Services included:

Departure Transfer by shared shuttle bus

Inclusions

INCLUDED WITH THIS TRIP

  • Accommodation which showcases Japanese culture and hospitality, experiencing traditional lifestyles
  • Meet and greet service at the airport and transfer to your hotel by shared shuttle on Day 1
  • Departure transfer by shared shuttle
  • Meals as mentioned in itinerary with (B,L,D)
  • Services of local English speaking guides as detailed in itinerary
  • Entrance fees and transportation fees as detailed in itinerary
  • Osaka Soul Food Tour (Shared Activity)
  • 4D3N Kumano Kobo Package
  • Maiko or Geiko Transformation Walking Plan (Private Activity)
  • Tokyo Cycling Tour (Private Activity)
  • Transfer from Namba Station to Koyasan Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)
  • Train transfer from Koyasan Station to Namba Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)
  • Train transfer from Namba Station to Kii Tanabe Station (Local Train, One-way)
  • Train from Kii-Katsuura Station to Kyoto Station (Ordinary Class, One-way)
  • Train transfer from Kyoto Station to Nara Station (Local Train, Roundtrip)
  • 2-Day Hakone Free Pass, valid from Shinjuku
  • Train Transfer from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Shinjuku Station (Romance Car, One-way)
  • PASMO Card (rechargeable contactless smart card ticketing system for Tokyo public transport) with JPY 3,500 credit
  • Information pack

NOT INCLUDED WITH THIS TRIP

  • All items not detailed in inclusions
  • Meals not listed on the itinerary
  • Tips, personal telephone charges
  • Items of a personal nature; postage, drinks and souvenirs
  • Tickets for museums/monuments
  • Additional optional activities
  • All transfers other than to the local train station
  • International Airfare
  • Visa fees – each member of the group must carry a valid passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the duration of your trip) and have obtained the appropriate visas
  • Medical Advice – Please refer to your GP or local travel clinic for up to date travel health advice for the area(s) you are visiting.