Start your Japanese cultural trail by tasting your way through Tokyo’s noodle bars, sake joints and Michelin-starred restaurants, before spending a day making your own soba noodles in Matsumoto. Experience a traditional teahouse and sip sake in rural Takayama, before heading to Kyoto’s 2,000 temples to immerse yourself in Japan’s religious and cultural traditions. Next stop is Takamatsu, where you can experience one of the country’s most beautiful gardens before seeing modern art on Naoshima Island. End your trip in Osaka, exploring its live music scene and buzzing bars.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, Matsumoto, Takamatsu, Osaka
Activity Activity Luxury, Culture, Culinary
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Explore Tokyo’s food scene

Explore Tokyo’s food scene

Day 1–3 in Tokyo

Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, but it’s not just about famous restaurants and high prices. Tokyo is filled with excellent places to eat, from neighbourhood noodle joints to high-end sushi. Get out and explore.

Don't miss

Waterfalls and wildlife near Tokyo

Waterfalls and wildlife near Tokyo

Explore Nikko’s temples, shrines and waterfalls just a two-hour train ride from Tokyo – a perfect day trip for those will some extra time to spare after seeing Tokyo.

Make soba noodles in Matsumoto

Make soba noodles in Matsumoto

Day 4 in Matsumoto

The alpine city of Matsumoto is famous for many things – it’s renowned for producing incredible art and artists, its beautiful setting in the northern Japanese Alps and for being the birthplace of soba (buckwheat) noodles, a Japanese delicacy. Try super-fresh soba noodles in one of Matsumoto’s restaurants – some even offer the chance to make your own.

Head for the hills in atmospheric Takayama

Head for the hills in atmospheric Takayama

Day 5–6 in Takayama

Little Takayama in Central Honshu is famous for its taste of rural Japan. Set on Miyagawa River and nestled into the Hida mountains, Takayama is the perfect place to explore traditional Meiji-era inns, teahouses and sake breweries.

Don't miss

Take a cycling tour of Hida Satoyama

Take a cycling tour of Hida Satoyama

The countryside around Hida Satoyama is full of rice fields, mountain springs and cherry blossoms. Join a guided cycle tour to experience the sights of the Hida mountain area.

Visit Kyoto’s 2,000 temples

Visit Kyoto’s 2,000 temples

Day 7–9 in Kyoto

Kyoto is home to more than 2,000 atmospheric temples and shrines. Look for robed monks, hear prayer chants and meditate in zen gardens – Kyoto is the place to immerse yourself in Japan’s culture, traditions and religion.

Don't miss

Feed the deer in Nara

Feed the deer in Nara

Once the capital of Japan, Nara is known for its many temples and beautiful gardens that make it a perfect day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. However, it is the town’s resident 1,400 odd deer – seen as messengers from god after the myth of Kasuga Shrine, who came to Nara on the back of a deer – which are Nara’s quirky attraction.

Relax in Takamatsu and ferry to Naoshima Island

Relax in Takamatsu and ferry to Naoshima Island

Day 10–11 in Takamatsu

The gardens of Ritsurin Park are one of Takamatsu main attractions and are the perfect place to relax. Originally built for the Sanuki warlords, look for the Engetsu-kyo bridge and the lotus pond.

Don't miss

Get arty on Naoshima Island

Get arty on Naoshima Island

Naoshima Island is home to several modern art museums, open-air sculptures and interesting architecture. Explore the Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum and look out for the Setouchi Triennale festival – the next is scheduled for 2022.

Explore Osaka’s live music scene

Explore Osaka’s live music scene

Day 12–15 in Osaka

Japan’s third-largest city might not be its prettiest, but it is one of its most welcoming. Osakan’s are known for their humour and the city has an extensive live music and comedy scene. A must-try local dish is takoyaki (grilled octopus dumplings), which is sold on most street corners.

Don't miss

Explore a mountaintop Buddhist community

Explore a mountaintop Buddhist community

Mount Koya is the centre of Shingon Buddhism, first established in 819. The town at the top is home to many temples and pagodas where you can say prayers, but for a peaceful — if slightly eerie experience — take a walk through the town’s silent cemetery surrounded by thick Japanese cedars in the snow.

Where to stay

Classic

Iwaso Ryokan

Located on the small island of Miyajima in the tranquil Seto Inland Sea, Iwaso is a luxury ryokan offering Japanese-style rooms, hot-spring baths and traditional kaiseki-style meals.

Superior

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon (also called The Gate Hotel Asakusa Kaminarimon by Hulic) is located in the heart of Tokyo, directly opposite the dramatic Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate) at the entrance of Sensoji Temple - the city’s oldest temple and one of Asakusa’s most famous landmarks.

This modern and sleek hotel, set in a 14-storey former office block, has 136 rooms all of which offer incredible views of either Sensoji Temple or Tokyo Skytree.

Deluxe

Hyatt Regency

The Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a luxury hotel tucked away in the east of Kyoto, in the quiet and green district of Higashiyama Shichijo. This area was once home to the ancient capital’s imperial court, but today it’s a great base for sightseeing.

Décor is contemporary and chic with traditional details, such as antique kimono wall hangings and headboards, as well as the gentle glow from paper lamps.

Book this itinerary

This route booked with one of our specialist tour operators would cost from £3,900pp. Pricing varies by accommodation class, and can be tailored to suit your budget.

Pricing is typically inclusive of hotels, transfers, meals, and all guided excursions and activities.

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