Current as of: April 24, 2024 - 23:50

Ancient & Modern Japan

Ancient & Modern Japan Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: Japan
  • Programmes: Culture
  • Activity Level:

    3 out of 7 - Moderate

  • 16 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 14 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: AOP
  • Carbon Footprint: 13kg CO2e

Trip Overview

Discover the temples, lively cities and tranquil mountains of Japan

Ancient wooden temples, raked-gravel Zen gardens and chanting Buddhist monks juxtaposed with space-age towers, neon lights and bullet trains; the blend of old and new in Japan is captivating. As we explore the southern and western stretches of Honshu, the largest island in Japan, we discover unique culture among the serene shrines and gardens of Nara and Kyoto and the rarely visited mountainous heartland of castles and spas. Our last stop is the vast and futuristic capital city of Tokyo: sprawling, inimitably busy, welcoming and extraordinary.

At a Glance

  • 10 nights in hotels and three nights in ryokans/minshukus (traditional Japanese guesthouses)
  • Sightseeing on foot and two short day walks
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Minimum age: 16
  • Travel by train, bus, metro, ferry and private minibus
  • Special cherry blossom and autumn colours departures


  • Spot geishas in the Gion district of Kyoto
  • Experience cherry blossom season or beautiful autumn colours
  • Take the incredible high-speed bullet train
  • Explore temples in Kyoto and discover futuristic Tokyo

Is This Trip for You?

This trip has been rated Activity Level 3 (Moderate). For more on our trip gradings, visit our Activity Level Guidelines page.

Walking profile: We mostly walk in cities and towns; although not strenuous, the amount of walking each day is considerable and fast-paced (we recommend comfortable walking shoes). We also visit a lot of temples and shrines, most of which are built on hillsides. This means ascending and descending lots of steps, so good fitness levels are essential.

Transport: We travel on public transport and mainly trains, which are extremely efficient. Therefore, it is essential all group members are punctual to ensure we do not miss any of the services. Some of the distances covered are long, but trains are very comfortable making the journey pleasant. As Japanese trains usually have little room for storing bags, we only carry our backpack for the day/overnight bag for the two nights in Takayama and one night in Yudanaka. A courier service transfers one piece of baggage per person from Kyoto to Matsumoto and then to Tokyo.

Itinerary flexibility: The order of activities may change depending on the weather conditions and other factors. Your tour leader will provide full details of the schedule during the welcome briefing.


We use a mixture of local and international leaders who are all experienced in leading international groups and have an in-depth knowledge of the country.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 4

Max group size: 16



Land Only

  • Start City: Kyoto
  • End City: Tokyo

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Kyoto

The trip starts in Kyoto, an atmospheric city amid beautiful hills. We gather for the first time at the hotel and enjoy a welcome briefing this evening,  a good chance to ask any questions you may have about the adventure ahead.

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)


Day 2
Visit Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji temple

With more than 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japanese heritage and undoubtedly one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. Unlike many other Japanese towns, it escaped the ravages of both the Second World War and modern urban development, keeping intact much of the spirit and architecture of traditional Japan.

Today, we have an introductory tour of the city. Starting with a visit to the impressive Nijo castle, built in 1603 as a residence for the Tokugawa shoguns, before moving onto the Golden Temple of Kinkaku-ji, built in 1397 as a summer villa for the shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga and immortalised in Mishima Yukio’s novel, The Golden Pavilion. We then visit the Ryoan-ji temple, home to the most famous rock garden in Japan.

Afterwards, we head back to central Kyoto. Those who wish may opt to take a leisurely late lunch at one of the local restaurants in the area, relax back at the hotel or discover Kyoto at your own leisure. You may like to take a stroll around Nishiki Market, known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, which specialises in all things food related and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)

Day 3
Day trip to Nara, ancient capital of Japan. Visit impressive Unesco temples including Todai-ji. Return to Kyoto; visit Fushimi Inari Taisha and visit historic Gion

Today we make a day trip to the ancient capital of Japan, Nara (approximately one hour each way). With eight Unesco World Heritage sites, it’s second only to Kyoto as a repository of Japan’s cultural legacy. Our walking tour includes a visit to the best known temples and shrines, including the Todai-ji Great Buddha temple. Built in 752 by Emperor Shomu, this 49ft (15m) tall bronze Buddha is housed in what is reputed to be the largest wooden building in the world. We also spend time in the Nara Koen Park, home to large numbers of overfed and slightly unruly deer, and visit the attractive Kasuga Shinto shrine.

Later in the afternoon, we travel back to Kyoto and stop at the Fushimi Inari Taisha with its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds.

As we head towards early evening, we can walk around Gion, the most famous geisha district in Kyoto. Packed with bars, restaurants and traditional teahouses, Gion is most atmospheric in the early evening, when the lanterns are lit. At this time, we may also see an apprentice geisha on the way to an appointment, though it’s rare to see one.

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)

Day 4
Free day in Kyoto; relax in one of the many Zen gardens, walk the popular Philosopher’s Path or experience a traditional tea ceremony

Today is a free day for individual sightseeing. With so much to see and do in Kyoto it can be difficult to know where to begin.

A free day could be spent exploring one of the several well-established and easy-to-follow walking tours that take in many interesting sights. The eastern part of Kyoto is particularly rich in temples and gardens, and one can spend the day in this area, perhaps strolling along the tree-lined canal known as the Philosopher’s Path and taking time for contemplation in one of the many Zen gardens that dot the hillsides.

Another day trip to consider is Arashiyama, a pleasant tourist district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy the natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and autumn colour seasons.

If you are interested in Japanese arts and cultural activities, there is also the option of visiting a cultural show to see ancient traditions, including a tea ceremony and Japanese theatre (these can be arranged locally by your tour leader and are subject to availability).

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)

Day 5
Day trip to Hiroshima; visit Peace Memorial Park and the pretty island of Miyajima

Today is our first experience of the shinkansen (bullet train) as we speed to Hiroshima for the day (approximately two hours each way). Once in Hiroshima, we spend time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, both monuments to the fateful day in August 1945 when the city was struck by the first wartime use of the atomic bomb. In the park, there’s a symbolic flame that will only be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon on Earth has been destroyed.

In the afternoon, we make a short excursion by local tram and ferry to the beautiful island of Miyajima; home to the floating torii (Shinto gate) of the Itsukushima Shrine. At high tide, when set against the backdrop of Mount Misen, this torii makes one of the most beautiful and photogenic sights in Japan. Please note, the floating torii is currently undergoing renovation works, but we still recommend a visit to this enchanting island as part of the day trip to Hiroshima. We depart Hiroshima late afternoon, arriving at our Kyoto hotel in the evening.

Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)

Day 6
Travel from Kyoto to Takayama, a traditional old town set amid the Japanese Alps; visit the Hida Folk Village

Travelling by train through forested valleys, we make our way this morning to the peaceful and attractive old town of Takayama (approximately four hours) in the centre of the majestic Hida Mountains. We spend two nights here and have plenty of time to appreciate the charm and ambience of this delightful place. In the afternoon, we visit Hida Folk Village, an interesting outdoor museum of traditional rural architecture in pleasant, landscaped gardens, a short walk from our accommodation. We stay in a traditional Japanese accommodation where we can experience the Japanese lifestyle and hospitality (please refer to the accommodation section for more information).

Accommodation: We use a variety of ryokans in Takayama

Meals included: Dinner

Day 7
Orientation tour in Takayama and free day to explore the peaceful shrines and temples

With more than a dozen museums and galleries, and several well-kept temples and parks, there are plenty of ways to spend a relaxing day in Takayama. We start with a short orientation tour around the morning market, held daily along the banks of the Miyagawa River in the centre of town. Here, amid friendly farmers with their familiar (and not so familiar) agricultural produce, it is possible to find interesting souvenirs. Not so far away, and of particular interest, is the well-preserved collection of streets known as Sannomachi, where wooden-built shops, restaurants and sake breweries give the area a medieval feel. For an insight into the life of medieval Japanese officials and the way they dealt (often not so compassionately) with those in their charge, visit the old Government House of Takayama-jinya. The remainder of the day is free to explore the town at your own pace: we recommend a stroll along the temple-lined path called the Higashiyama Walkway and visit the several temples and attractions created by the medieval warlord, Kanamori Nagachika (1524-1600), who longed for Kyoto.

Accommodation: We use a variety of ryokans in Takayama

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8
On to the medieval village of Tsumago; short leisurely walk on the Nakasendo trail; train to Matsumoto

Today we travel by express and local trains to the historic castle town of Matsumoto (approximately four hours). En route, we visit the medieval village of Tsumago, which has changed little from its heyday as a post town in the Edo period. This is the best preserved of the many staging posts along the old Nakasendo Way, which fulfils the same role it did in centuries past: offering food and refuge to travellers. Those who wish can join the leader for a one-hour walk through peaceful forest trails, starting by the Odaki and Medaki waterfalls and finishing in Tsumago. We reach Matsumoto late afternoon, where we have time to relax and perhaps take a leisurely stroll after dinner to see the impressive castle by night.

Accommodation: Dormy Inn Matsumoto (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9
Visit Matsumoto Castle and travel by train to the spa town of Yudanaka; soak in a hot spring

This morning we visit the impressive Matsumoto Castle. Founded in 1504, this castle, otherwise known as Crow Castle due to its black colour, is one of the two best preserved in Japan, most others having been destroyed following the Meiji Restoration. Its imposing six-storey tower has been designated a national treasure. Please note, the castle preserves its original interior and structure, with very tall steps and steep staircases, which some might find difficult to ascend and descend. We return to Matsumoto train station for our afternoon journey (approximately three hours) to the spa town of Yudanaka, which has some fantastic natural hot springs, where we spend a night in another Japanese-style accommodation.

Accommodation: Biyu no Yado (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10
See the much-loved snow monkeys before travelling by train to Tokyo; evening orientation tour

As well as being home to some of the best hot springs in Japan, the small spa-town of Yudanaka is mainly famous for being the gateway to the Jigokudani Onsen or Snow Monkey Park. Here, the indigenous macaque monkeys have discovered the benefits of descending from the hills to soak and play in hot baths. The sight is most spectacular in winter, when snow covers the grounds and the hot steam creates amazing visual effects but (despite the name) the snow monkeys actually inhabit the area year-round. To reach the park, we walk for approximately 25 minutes on an easy forest trail and we have approximately one-hour to admire and photograph these entertaining creatures.

No visit to Japan would be complete without a trip to Tokyo. This afternoon, we travel from Yudanaka to the capital by bullet train (approximately four hours), arriving in the early evening. On arrival in Tokyo, we’ll transfer to our hotel and start exploring the bright lights of the big city at night.

Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 11
Optional trip to Hakone or to the lovely seaside town of Kamakura

If you wish to see more of this wonderful country, today is the last day of your Japan Rail Pass, entitling you to free train journeys to many destinations. A popular daytrip from Tokyo is Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 1hr 30min away by train. Home to hot springs, natural beauty and Mount Fuji views, Hakone also encompasses Lake Ashi, which can be toured by boat.

Another blissful escape is the coastal town of Kamakura, offering numerous temples, shrines, historical monuments and panoramic hiking trails.

If you don’t want to leave Tokyo, soak up the atmosphere of this truly astounding city. While being perhaps the most energetic and futuristic capital in the world, Tokyo remains a remarkably friendly, safe, manageable and delightful place to visit.

Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 12
A full-day city tour of Tokyo, including the Senso-ji Temple

Today we have a guided tour of Tokyo. Making use of the highly efficient tube system, we can visit some of the main attractions including the lively Senso-ji Temple in the old entertainment district of Asakusa and Ueno (depending on season). We will also visit a park or garden, which become especially spectacular during cherry blossom and autumn season. There is also free time to discover other attractions at your own pace. For those with a head for heights, we recommend an optional visit to the Skytree Tower for views of the city. At 2,080ft (634m), it is the tallest building in Japan and the one of the tallest structures in the world. In the evening, the possibilities for entertainment are almost limitless with the Tokyo nightlife as exciting as anywhere in Asia.

Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 13
Free day for further exploration; optional karaoke farewell night

Today has been left free for further individual exploration of Tokyo. We recommend visiting the Meiji Shrine; surrounded by tranquil forest, this Shinto shrine is one of the most popular in Japan and combines traditional Japanese architecture with love for nature. For those interested in culture or shopping, there are limitless opportunities with districts such as Ginza, Harajuku and Shinjuku catering for all tastes and needs. Your leader can advise how best to maximise your free day in Tokyo.

Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14
End Tokyo

Our Japanese adventure comes to end. Alternatively, if you’d like a bit more time to explore this energetic city, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.

Meals included: Breakfast


Hotels and Ryokans

In Kyoto, Matsumoto and Tokyo, our hotels are centrally located and of a comfortable standard with excellent modern facilities and English-speaking staff. Please note, room sizes in Western hotels in Japan are generally smaller. If requesting a double bed, these can be smaller than Western double bed sizes, so couples may prefer twin beds.

For three nights, we stay in traditional ryokans and minshukus; traditional inns/guesthouses where we can experience the rhythms and customs of the Japanese countryside. Ryokans and minshukus, while comfortable and full of local character, do not run along the same lines as Western hotels and all have their own unique style. Some are more like Japanese B&Bs (minshukus) with a homestay/guesthouse feel – guests make their own Japanese style beds up, while others are managed more like a standard hotel (ryokans) with bedding made up for guests. Rooms do not generally have private facilities and bedding is usually in the Japanese style with thick futons placed on tatami mats on the floor. Rooms are always doubles or twin-share but bathrooms and showers are generally communal. Please be advised, while females and males will have access to separate gender-specific bathrooms, inside showering and bathing facilities can lack the level of privacy of a Western-style shared bathroom.

Please note, free wifi is available at every hotel.

Single supplements

Single supplements can be pre-booked for 10 nights at the hotel accommodation in Kyoto (five nights), Matsumoto (one night) and Tokyo (four nights) only.

In Takayama (two nights) and Yudanaka (one night), 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, payable at the time of booking, and subject to availability. In Japan, single supplements are often accommodated in either an actual single and/or double for sole use.

2024 departures

Please be advised that the below accommodations are just a list of the standard hotels used for 2024 departures. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at similar hotels of the same standard and quality.

  • Kyoto (five nights): Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo
  • Takayama (two nights): Groups stay at one of a small selection of traditional guesthouses used by Exodus.
  • Matsumoto (one night): Dormy Inn Matsumoto
  • Yudanaka (one night): Biyu no Yado
  • Tokyo (four nights): Shinjuku Washington Hotel

Onsen (Japanese public bath)
For many visitors to Japan, the onsen is 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 whirlpool baths 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. We can try an onsen in Takayama, and some hot springs in Yudanaka. Please be aware, you may be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos. Some accommodations may have private baths available for reservation.

Single supplement from £ 750

Food & Drink

Eight breakfasts and three dinners are included.

Japanese cuisine is usually a highlight of any Japan trip. It is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes usually prepared with seasonal ingredients. Seafood is common, and usually comes grilled or deep fried. Sushi and sashimi aside, other staple dishes include soba or udon noodles, sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and yakiniku (grilled meat).

The included dinners are usually taken at traditional guesthouses, which will serve a kaiseki-style dinner, a multi-course meal including a dozen tiny dishes prepared with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. When food is not included, your leader can always recommend the best local eateries and arrange group meals for a full immersion in the varied and excellent local cuisine.

Please note, in Japan the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets (eg gluten-free, vegetarian 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, several vegan restaurants are available in Kyoto and Tokyo. It may be a good idea to bring some foodstuffs with you that you normally consume, or to supplement meals with snacks purchased in the local convenience stores.

Please advise us at time of booking you have any specific dietary requirements.


Transport will be by public train, metro, bus, tram and occasionally private minibus. The trains in Japan are both highly efficient and very comfortable and we use public transport around Kyoto and Tokyo to experience the Japanese urban life.

Japan Rail Pass

The tour makes use of a seven-day Japan Rail Pass, the cost of which is included in the price and is purchased by Exodus before departure. If you are planning to extend your trip and wish to extend or purchase an additional pass, please contact our Customer Operations team for more information and costs.

If you hold a Japan Business or Residence visa, please note that you will not be eligible to use the Japan Rail Pass. Please contact us if this applies to you.

Weather & Seasonality

Japan has four very distinct seasons. We 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 26C (79F) and minimum 12C (54F). 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 7C (45F) with a high of 17C (63F). 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.

Joining Instructions

Key information

Start hotel: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo, 491 Zaimokucho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8146, Japan
Phone: +81 75-365-5489

Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today, by late afternoon is recommended. Check in time at the start hotel in Kyoto is 15:00. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening at 19:00 at the hotel (location ground floor, next to the check in area), but if you miss it the leader will update you separately.
Airport: Kansai Airport (KIX)

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Kyoto
Location end: Tokyo

Transfer Details

2024 departures

From 2024, group flights and transfers will no longer be available on this trip.

Japan’s public transport system is excellent, efficient and is the expected mode of transport for both locals and visitors to the country. The public transport systems have become increasingly easier to use, and everywhere you will find signage is provided in English.

Arriving Osaka Kansai (KIX) International Airport:

Kansai International Airport is situated on a man‐made island in Osaka Bay about 40 km from central Osaka. The easiest and fastest option when traveling between Kansai International Airport and Kyoto independently is the train. The Limited Express Haruka operated by JR West is the only rail service between Kyoto Station and Kansai International Airport. It covers the distance in about 75-80 minutes and it runs regularly approximately every 30 mins. Train tickets range from approximately 2850 YEN (15 GBP) to 3500 YEN (19 GBP) per person, depending on reserved/unreserved seating) and can be purchased at JR Kansai- airport Station. This takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to arrive at Kyoto station.

Private transfers are not available on this trip.

Further information will be provided in the final joining instructions which will be sent to you 2 to 3 weeks before departure.


What To Take

Essential Equipment

  • Casual clothing
  • Jumper, gloves and/or warm jacket and warm trousers for spring and autumn departures
  • Comfortable pair of walking shoes (ideally these should be easy to put on and take off for the regular occasions when shoes must be removed before entering homes or temples). In the minshuku and ryokan, slippers, towels and yukata, a Japanese-style dressing gown, are provided.
  • Strong holdall or suitcase (ideally with wheels) for your main luggage, plus a reasonably sized, easy-to-carry daypack or overnight bag. As Japanese trains usually have little room for storing bags, we will be carrying only our daypack/overnight bag for the two nights in Takayama and one night in Yudanaka. One piece of baggage per person will be transferred by courier service from Kyoto to Matsumoto and then on to Tokyo. As well as providing for ease of travel on the train system, this will make us more flexible and mobile for our time in Takayama and Yudanaka. This should not prove a problem as effectively your daypack/ overnight bag need only be big enough to cope with you being two nights away from your main bag, ie a change of clothes, washing gear, camera etc.
  • Large refillable water bottle. Tap water in Japan is safe to drink and taking a refillable water bottle will help reduce waste.

Bringing medication into Japan for personal use

It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in other countries, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers), or codeine are prohibited. For more information, please contact the Japanese Embassy in your country of residence.

Practical Information


Remember to check the expiration date of your passport if travelling internationally. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the date of your scheduled return.



Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally do not need a visa to enter Japan. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

Vaccinations and Health


There are no required vaccinations. However, recommended vaccinations include hepatitis B, tetanus, Japanese encephalitis, rabies (bat lyssavirus) and tick-borne encephalitis. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic.

Local Time

Japan's time zone: Asia/Tokyo (UTC +09:00)


Japan's electricity: Plug types A (two flat pins) and B (three pins: two flat, one round) – 100V, 50Hz/60Hz. Most battery chargers function at this voltage, but do check their documentation.

Ancient & Modern Japan


Japan's currency: Japanese yen (JPY)

ATM Availability

We recommend obtaining some Japanese yen before travelling to Japan, although you should check the exchange rate carefully. Japan is a very safe country and locals often carry large amounts without problems. If you decided to travel with US dollars or pound sterling exchange facilities are fairly widely available, including at the airport on arrival, and it is also possible to change money in Kyoto, Hiroshima, Takayama, Matsumoto and Tokyo.

ATMs are widely available at all convenience stores within Japan. This is the easiest and recommended option for international travellers wishing to withdraw cash whilst in Japan using their debit or credit cards.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Apart from eight breakfasts and three dinners included, all other meals are at your own expense. You should allow around 90,000-110,000 yen (US$630-US$770) to cover the cost of food and drink throughout the tour. It is possible to eat more cheaply than this or to spend considerably more, depending on the standard of restaurant chosen.

A certain amount should be allowed for optional entrance fees and bus/taxi fares not included in the itinerary. The cost of these will vary according to individual preferences but a figure of around 15,500 yen (US$110) is reasonable.

Optional Excursions

Different optional cultural experiences can be arranged by your leader locally (subject to availability) including a traditional tea ceremony plus theatre shows of traditional performing arts such as Kabuki.

Please note, you can only watch sumo during the official annual tournaments. In Tokyo, these take place in January, May and September. Tickets sell out months in advance, so we recommend that clients try to secure these tickets directly online and as far in advance as possible. If you are visiting Tokyo when the tournaments are held and would like to go, to secure tickets, please check out the information on prices and dates at

All the below optional activities are subject to availability during your tour:

  • Gion Corner: Theatre show (Kyoto) approximately 3,800 yen (US$27)
  • Zen gardens (Kyoto): Approximately 335-840 yen (US$2.40-US$5.90)
  • Tea ceremony (Kyoto): Approximately 5,880-6,700 yen (US$42-US$47)
  • Kabuki show: Approximately 1,180-2,500 yen (US$8-US$18)


Tipping locals for services is not expected or required in Japan, so you do not need to budget for tipping in restaurants or hotels – don’t be surprised if your money is returned if you do try to leave a tip.

However, if you feel that your leader has performed well over the course of your trip, you may want to show your appreciation of their services – the amount you give is entirely personal, but 335-500 yen (US$2.30-US$3.50) per day (per client) is a good starting point.

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 guesthouses (ryokans/minshukus) for 3 nights of the tour in Takayama & Yudanaka, 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 predominantly 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. Tap water in Japan is safe for drinking, hence we strongly encourage clients to bring their own reusable water bottles for this purpose and minimise our usage of single use plastic bottles.
  • 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.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How To Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.


Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.