Highlights of Japan

8 days
Activity level:
Activity Rating - Moderate
Trip code: 
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Cultural Wonders
Group size:

Discover the iconic and cultural highlights of Japan

Commencing in electrifying Tokyo, this cultural highlights adventure is the ideal way to experience some of Japan's most iconic cities and sites in just 8 days! Visit atmospheric Kyoto to delve into the heart of Japan's cultural heritage, taste the amazing and diverse cuisine, uncover the beautiful Japanese nature and UNESCO world heritage sites of magical Nikko before discovering historic Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park and Museum and captivating Miyajima. This rich journey through the land of the rising sun ends in vibrant and lively Osaka before heading home with memories that will last a lifetime!


  • Discover iconic cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka!
  • 8 day trip covering Japan's cultural highlights
  • Enjoy Nikko's natural beauty and UNESCO sites
  • Experience cherry blossom season or beautiful autumn colours
  • Take the high speed Shinkansen- 'bullet train'
  • Taste a variety of Japanese cuisine

Key information

  • 6 nights hotels and 1 night traditional guesthouse
  • 8 days land only/ 9 days flight inclusive
  • Sightseeing on foot and public transport
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by train, local bus, metro and ferry
  • Cherry blossom and Autumn colour departures
  • Countries visited: Asia, Japan

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 1 dinner
  • All accommodation
  • All transport (including 7 day Japan Rail Pass) and listed activities
  • Flights from London (if booking flight inclusive)
  • Free shared shuttle arrival transfer (for group flight and Land only clients- must be booked in advance before trip commences if you wish to utilise this service)
  • Group departure transfer (for group flight)


What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (limited availability & on request). Only available for 6 nights, not available 1 night in Nikko.
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 3885 9103
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips which improve life for the people and places we visit, and look after the planet we explore. Find out more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here, and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:


How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • The use of a local guide means our customers will be well informed about local traditions, and cultural and social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally-owned hotels and restaurants, the emphasis on eating locally produced food and support of other local enterprise.
  • Guests will have the opportunity to stay in traditional Japanese guesthouse (ryokans/minshukus) for a night in Nikko, where they will eat delicious home cooked, traditional Japanese meals prepared by locals.
  • With a strong emphasis on culture and history, this trip provides plenty of opportunities to visit various museums and cultural sites. Our visits to the museums and sites will benefit the locals and contributes to the preservation of their cultural assets through the money spent on entrance fees and other purchases made within the area. 


How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • By travelling in a small group, led by a local guide, we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment.
  • Our trips adhere to ABTA’s industry-leading animal welfare guidelines to ensure the best possible practices with regard to working animals and wildlife viewing. Our animal welfare policy can be found here.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively eliminate or reduce waste. For example, we encourage eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles and instead encourage clients to drink the tap water, which is safe to drink in Japan. We encourage all clients to take a refillable water bottle with them on the tour.
  • During the tour, our guides educate guests on how to appropriately separate and dispose of any waste, as well as encouraging clients to use reusable chopsticks and canvas tote bags for shopping.


How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Read about Exodus Travels’ Planet Promise here, including our rewilding and carbon compensation commitments for every customer who travels.
  • We choose to travel by train and public transport through-out this trip as opposed to private transport or taking domestic flights.
  • Accommodation and restaurants in the itinerary mostly use locally-sourced food which has not been transported long distances.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options are available at majority of accommodation and restaurants.
  • Most accommodations used on this trip adhere to strict environmental policies in order to save water and energy and lower their carbon footprint.

 Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: We do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish behind in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, we’d ask you to consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: Please bring your own re-usable water bottle on this trip; filtered water will be provided where tap water is not drinkable.
  • Cultural respect:
    • Shoes are never worn in someone's home or on Japanese tatami flooring (mats). There will always be a place to put your shoes. In addition, you will be given slippers to wear. There are often different slippers for the bathroom.
    • It is highly inappropriate to stick chopsticks into food, especially into a bowl of rice. This practice of placing chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is a funerary practice known as ‘tsukitate-bashi’. 
    • When eating soup or rice, it is acceptable to lift the bowl closer to your mouth to avoid spilling food. Generally, miso soup (which accompanies many meals) is drunk directly from the bowl, while larger soups are usually consumed by using a soup spoon.


Expand all
  • Day 1

    Start Tokyo

    The trip starts this afternoon in the futuristic capital of Tokyo. 

    Later this afternoon, there will be a group welcome meeting with your tour leader followed by an optional group dinner in the evening and casual tour around Shinjuku, the famous nightlife district of Tokyo!

  • Day 2

    A full day Tokyo city tour by metro including Senso-ji Temple

    Today we utilise Tokyo's efficient metro system and enjoy a full day tour of the city. 

    We start the day with an early morning visit to Meiji Shrine. Tokyo’s most famous shrine is dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji while the park that surrounds the shrine is a forest of some 120,000 trees of 365 different species, making you forget that you are in the world’s largest city.

    Outside of Meiji Shrine is Harajuku, the shopping haven for all fashionistas and the popular meeting place for teenagers who are usually in 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-Elysee. 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.

    From Omotesando, we can take the metro to Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most famous upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment districts. It is said that 1sqm of land in Ginza is worth over 10 million yen (€ 90,000)!

    Our last stop Asakusa, is Tokyo’s oldest Geisha district and home to Senso-ji Temple which is the city’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through.

    Please note that the order of activities and areas visited today in Tokyo may change depending on the weather conditions and other factors. Your tour leader will provide full details of the schedule during the initial trip briefing.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Travel by train to Nikko; enjoy the town's nature and UNESCO sites; overnight in traditional style guesthouse

    After breakfast we bid farewell to Tokyo and travel by train (approx. 2 hours) to beautiful Nikko, famous for its towering cedar trees and the UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Toshogu Shrine.

    Upon arrival we set out to visit a few of Nikko's most popular sites. 

    The Shinkyo Bridge is one of the most iconic sights and landmarks of Nikko. This bright, vermillion bridge spans a river on the outskirts of the main shrine complex, and is, aside from Toshogu Shrine, the most photographed attraction in Nikko. Often featured in traditional Japanese art prints known as ukiyoe, it is considered to be one of Japan’s top three most beautiful bridges, and is photogenic in all seasons.

    No visit to Nikko would be complete without a visit the Toshogu Shrine, which was built as a mausoleum for Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate who ruled Japan for over 250 years. This lavishly decorated shrine complex consists of more than a dozen Shinto and Buddhist buildings located in a beautiful forest setting.

    We spend the night in Nikko in a traditional style guesthouse. 

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Train to Kyoto; delight your senses in Nishiki market; explore traditional Gion district

    Today we set out on a longer journey (approx. 4.5 hours) west to the historical former capital of Japan, Kyoto by local train and shinkansen. As we will arrive in Kyoto after 14:00, we can enjoy a bento lunch on the train.

    After checking into our hotel, we visit the Nishiki Market, where we embark on a tour that will delight your senses. Here we walk the narrow, mile-long Nishiki covered food markets, where you’ll find many interesting food shops to explore. This is a great opportunity to learn about local Japanese produce and snap some photos of goods you won’t find back home. Some of the shops give out or sell samples, so make sure to keep some space in your stomach!

    The late afternoon is the best time to visit the Gion District – also known as the “Geisha District” for being one of the city’s hanamachi (flower towns) where Geisha live and work. The highlight of the area is Hanami-koji, the most popular street in Gion where lavish teahouses and machiya (old houses) are lined up. Usually in the early evening you may have a chance to catch a glimpse of a Geiko or Maiko in the streets on the way to her engagement, if you are lucky!

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Experience some of Kyoto's highlights by foot and public transport

    Today, along with your tour leader, enjoy an exploration of the highlights of Kyoto whilst using the comprehensive bus and metro systems to visit some of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites.

    The tour starts with an early morning visit to one of the most unusual Shinto shrines in Japan. Fushimi Inari is composed of thousands of vermilion torii gates following trails inside the forests of Mt Inari. The Shrine, also featured in “Memoirs of a Geisha”, is very famous for the impressive contrast and mystical atmosphere created by the colours of the Torii and those of the surrounding nature.

    Next on our schedule is Arashiyama, one of Kyoto’s richest areas for sightseeing, Arashiyama contains some of the area’s most stunning scenery. Starting at Togetsukyo Bridge, one of Arashiyama’s most recognizable landmarks, we make our way to the bamboo forest path on the west side of the river before stopping at Nonomiya Shrine.

    After a lunch break we continue to the serene Ryoan-ji Temple, which is famous for its well-maintained rock garden and known to be 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 found in Kyoto but what is undoubtedly impressive is the pavilion that is completely covered in handmade gold leaves.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    On to historic Hiroshima to visit the peace park and museum; discover the beautiful Himeji Castle enroute

    Following breakfast, we move further west by shinkansen (bullet train) to the city of Hiroshima (approx. 3 hours). Along the way we will break our journey for a visit to one of the most beautiful and most famous castles of Japan, Himeji Castle. Also called “Shirasagi-jo” (the White Heron Castle) or “Hakuro-jo” (the White Egret Castle) by some of the locals, Himeji Castle resembles a white bird in flight due to its white exterior and distinctive roof design.

    After visiting the castle, we pick up lunch to enjoy on the train and continue our way to Hiroshima.

    Perhaps more than any city in the world, Hiroshima is famous for one moment in history; on 6 August 1945, it became the first target of an atomic bomb. However, Hiroshima has risen phoenix-like from its ashes, and rebuilt itself as one of Japan's most laid back and vibrant cities, full of wide boulevards and museums and famous for its great food and friendly, welcoming people.

    This afternoon we visit the Peace Memorial Museum for a sobering reminder of the events of 1945 before experiencing the surrounding Peace Park, where the atmosphere is one of hope and peace.

    Tonight we spend the night in Hiroshima.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Morning trip by ferry to Miyajima: bullet train to Osaka for final evening

    This morning, we take a short trip by ferry to Miyajima, a famous wooded island located in the Inland Sea near Hiroshima. Here you will find perhaps the most photographed site in Japan - The Floating Torii Gate. Please note, whilst the ‘floating’ tori of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine is currently undergoing renovation works, we still recommend a visit to this enchanting island. Deer are roaming freely on this lovely island where we spend some time at leisure before we make our way by shinkansen (approx. 2.5 hours) to our final destination on our tour of Japan, Osaka.

    The 2nd largest metropolitan area in Japan, Osaka has a very distinct and vibrant character, the locals are colourful and lively and are known to work hard and play hard. Osaka is also known as the shopping, dining and nightlife capital of Japan. A good place to buy some last souvenirs and enjoy a last dinner together with your fellow travellers or sing a song in a karaoke box before heading home!

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    End Osaka

    The tour ends this morning after breakfast for land only clients. 

    If you have a late flight or are staying longer, you tour leader will be happy to give suggestions for your sightseeing plans.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info



Most nationalities do not require a visa to visit Japan. South African passport holders do require a visa; but it is worth all nationalities verifying visa requirements directly at your embassy before travel.



There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 1 dinner included.

Japanese cuisine is usually one of the main highlights of any trip to Japan. It is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes which are usually prepared with seasonal ingredients. Seafood is very is common, and it usually comes grilled or deep fried. Sushi and sashimi aside, other staple dishes include Soba, Ramen or Udon noodles, Sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and Yakiniku (grilled meat).

When food is not included, your leader will always be on hand to recommend the best local eateries and arrange some group meals for a full immersion in Japan's varied and excellent cuisine. 

Please note that in Japan the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free, strict vegetarian (no fish/seafood) or vegan is minimal or non-existent. The group meals arranged by the tour leader will be in traditional eateries where the choices of vegan dishes may be limited to simple salads or boiled rice. However in Kyoto and Tokyo a number of vegan restaurants are available.  It may also be a good idea to bring with you some foodstuffs that you normally consume, or to supplement meals with snacks purchased in the local convenience stores.


Japan has four very distinct seasons. Our aim has been to avoid the extremely cold winters and humid summers and settle for the more pleasant climes of spring and autumn. In Tokyo, September and October are warm, maximum temperatures are 26ºC and minimum 12ºC. September is likely to be the warmer of the two and there is a likelihood of rain. April is cooler with temperatures possibly going as low as 7ºC with a high of 17ºC. Kyoto is very similar climatically to Tokyo but the higher up into the mountains we venture, the colder it will become with nights being especially cold, particularly in March and November.

Is this trip for you?

Activity Level 3- Moderate

This is an 8 day cultural trip, which attempts to encompass the main cultural and iconic highlights of Japan.

You will walk mostly in cities and towns and although not strenuous, the amount of walking each day is considerable and fast-paced (good comfortable walking shoes are required). Some temples and shrines will be visited during the trip, most of which are built on hillsides. This will mean ascending and descending lots of steps so a good level of fitness in essential.

All transport will be by public transport and mainly trains which are extremely efficient. Therefore, it is essential that all group members are punctual to ensure we do not miss any of the scheduled services.

Some of the distances covered are long but trains are very comfortable making the journey pleasant. Please be aware that we will be carrying our luggage with us on the trains when moving locations, so please be prepared for this. There may be a possibility to organise a luggage courier service (additional cost) to have your main luggage transferred between locations which your leader can advise locally at the start of the tour.

Please note that the order of activities in Tokyo and Kyoto may change depending on the weather conditions and other factors. Your tour leader will provide full details of the schedule during the initial trip briefing.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 3885 9103
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


AOQ: Hotels and traditional style guesthouse

In Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, our hotels are centrally located with excellent modern facilities and English speaking staff. Please note, in Japan, western hotel room sizes in standard hotels are normally smaller in size and if requesting a double bed, please be advised that these can be smaller in size than western double bed sizes so couples may prefer twin beds.

For one night during the trip in Nikko, we stay in a traditional inn/guesthouse where we are able to get a close feel for the timeless rhythms and customs of the Japanese countryside. Ryokans and minshukus, whilst comfortable and full of local character, do not run along the same lines as western hotels and do all have their own unique style; some are more like Japanese B&B's (minshukus) with a homestay/guesthouse feel and guests make their own Japanese style beds up, whilst others are managed more like a standard hotel (typical ryokans) with bedding made up for guests. Rooms do not generally have private facilities and bedding is usually in the Japanese style with thick futon mattresses placed on tatami mats on the floor. Rooms are always doubles or twin-share but bathrooms and showers are generally communal. Please be advised, whilst females and males will have access to separate gender specific bathrooms, inside showering and bathing facilities can lack the level of privacy you would be used to in a western style shared bathroom.

Please note that free Wi-Fi is available at every hotel.

2022 departures

Please be advised that the below accommodations are just a list of the standard hotels used for 2021 departures. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at different hotels of a similar standard and quality.

Tokyo (2 nights): Dormy Inn Kodenmacho

Nikko (1 night): Nikko Green Hotel Natsukashiya Fuwari or Turtle Inn Nikko

Kyoto (2 nights): Resol Kyoto Shijo Muromachi

Hiroshima (1 night): Daiwa Roynet Hotel Hiroshima Ekimae

Osaka (1 night): Karaksa Hotel Osaka Namba

Onsen (Japanese public bath)
For many visitors to Japan the onsen is a somewhat unfamiliar territory. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them. The combination of a strict bathing etiquette, that nudity is involved and compulsory, and that the water temperature is often hotter than most Jacuzzis can cause some reluctance for first timers. However, once the courage is mustered, you may discover that a dip in an onsen is likely to become one of the highlights of your visit to Japan. You may have the opportunity to try a public onsen throughout the trip. Please be aware you may be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos. 

Single supplements

Single supplements can be pre-booked for 6 nights only (not available 1 night in Nikko).

In Nikko single supplements are not available and rooming is based on twin share (sharing with another group member of the same sex).

Please be advised single supplements are limited and is payable at the time of booking and subject to availability. In Japan, often single supplements can be accommodated in either an actual single and/or double for sole use room in hotels. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 3885 9103
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 3885 9103
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Have you been on this adventure? Tell others what it’s like by writing a review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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