Tokyo to Osaka

12 D/ 11 N - 3999*

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Visiting 1 country: Japan

Japan blends a mix of traditional and ultra-modern in Tokyo, temples and geishas in Kyoto, and culinary capital Osaka. Robot bars, a Kyoto day trip, too-big-for-the-bowl udon, a Buddhist prayer service, the Hiroshima Peace Museum and a folk village visit (with cat cafes for good measure) will introduce you to the land known for its down-to-the-second precision.

Bucket List Inclusions

  • Hida No Sato folk village
  • Sake brewery tour
  • Hiroshima Peace Museum
  • Traditional Buddhist prayer service

More Inclusions

  • 11 breakfasts, 2 dinners
  • 8 nights in hotels, 2 nights in a ryokan, 1 night in a guest house
  • Awesome driver/local guide
  • Smaller group size
  • Modern air-conditioned vehicles

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Day 1: Tokyo, Japan

Get an early start in the sprawling metropolis. Tokyo mixes traditional with ultra-modern – neon skyscrapers in Shibuya and anime shops to temples. Everything is 10x more epic (and executed with painstaking precision) in Japan than its western counterparts. Sushi trains, karaoke, temples, architecture and cafes here will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Get excited, get very excited. Need more proof: Tokyo is home to 39 cat cafes. We’ll just leave that there.

Day 2: Tokyo

Ninja-roll out of bed and start with a visit to Tokyo’s old girl – the Sensoji temple, dance under its giant red lantern and wander along nearby 500 year old Nakamise street selling mochi (sticky rice cakes) and geta (wooden shoes). Slot yourself into the Shibuya scramble, where four hordes of people cross the intersection in a miraculous feat of choreography and avoid running into each other. Tick off a sumo wrestling match at National Sumo Hall Ryogoku Kokugikan, try the high-speed sushi at Uobei in Shibuya or forget Paris and try a Japanese crepe. Selfie with a Harajuku girl (or boy) in the afternoon and find the knitted park benches for an extra layer of cute.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 3: Tokyo

Hit the ground running for your last day in Tokyo drift. Head over to Odaiba, the man-made island in Tokyo Bay or check out Akihabara, where stores scream for the attention of anime fans and gamers. Visit the Tsukiji fish market and discover the meaning of fresh sushi. For a history fix, visit the Tokyo Edo Museum. Branch out for dinner and try sashimi or oko-nom-nom-nom-iyaki. As the Japanese say, dumplings rather than flowers, i.e. something useful rather than something pretty.

Meals: Breakfast.

Day 4: Tokyo to Takayama

This morning get a bullet train (they travel at 320km/h) to Nagoya. Then board a much slower train for the breathtaking Japanese Alps (it’s not only the European ones that exist). Tonight stay in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn.

Meals: Breakfast.

Day 5: Takayama

Day plan: start with the morning riverside markets before a visit to the Takayama Jinya – the last remaining government building from Samurai and Shogun times. Try a perfectly packaged bento box for lunch for maximum Instagrammable cuteness, wash it down with a sake brewery tour before an afternoon visit to the open air Hida No Sato folk village.

Included today:
-Takayama Jinya tour
-Sake brewery tour
-Hida No Sato folk village

Meals: Breakfast.

Day 6: Takayama to Kyoto

Drop anchor in Kyoto for three days. First up, corridors of torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Japan’s proud nerd, Kyoto is the centre of IT and electronics (housing the Nintendo office), as well as the prime kimono manufacturing hub – a good place to pick up some new threads. In the afternoon Gion district is where it’s at to spot and snap photos of geishas, usually on their way to work, then catch the optional show at Gion Corner.

Meals: Breakfast.

Day 7: Kyoto

Find your zen place at the Kinkakuji and Ryoan-ji temples all before lunch. Get your udon fill at the place that makes their noodles so thick, only one fits in the bowl. This afternoon you’re off to Nijo Castle for your samurai fix and Heian Shrine, a scaled down reproduction of the Imperial Palace. Japanese quote of the day: Fall seven times and stand up eight. You’re welcome.

Meals: Breakfast.

Day 8: Kyoto

A free day to frolic. Get out of town and visit the lush Arashiyama bamboo forest, or go on a day trip to Nara for invisible udon (crazier than the lone noodle saga of Kyoto). Do the optional and dress up like a Geisha, or catch up on your Japanese beer education in an izakaya.

Meals: Breakfast.

-Geisha photoshoot

Day 9: Kyoto to Hiroshima

First up in Hiroshima: the Peace Museum to pay respects to the victims of WWII. Free time for lunch (i.e. you pick the place) before ferrying it to Miyajima, a unicorn of an island with wild deer, cherry blossoms and shrines galore. End your island jaunt watching the sunset behind the floating Torii Gate.

Included today:
-Hiroshima Peace Museum

Meals: Breakfast.

Day 10: Hiroshima to Koyasan

Make your way to Mount Koya, one of the world’s most sacred mountains (with 117 temples atop it) and the headquarters of the Koyasan sect of Japanese Buddhism. Stay in a local guesthouse and participate in a traditional Buddhist meal.

Included today:
-Guesthouse stay

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.

Day 11: Koyasan to Osaka

Start with a Buddhist prayer service, then explore the cobblestone walkway lined with Shinto torii gates to the Okunoin mausoleum and it’s 10,000 lantern Torodo Hall. Bet all your days don’t start like this. Head to food capital Osaka in the afternoon – think sleek and efficient skylines resembling video games, oshizushi (pressed sushi) and the finest sake. Dinner is in the vibrant Dotonbori district. If the word Kuidaore – “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food” is associated with Dotonbori, you know you’re in for a good night.

Included today:
-Buddhist prayer service

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.

Day 12: Osaka

After breakfast it’s sayonara Osaka, say kampai to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Meals: Breakfast.