Current as of: February 25, 2024 - 18:29
3 out of 7 - Moderate
Commencing in electric Tokyo, this cultural highlights adventure is the ideal way to experience some of Japan’s most iconic cities and sites in just eight days. Visit atmospheric Kyoto to delve into the heart of the nation’s cultural heritage, taste the amazing and diverse cuisine, uncover beautiful nature and Unesco World Heritage sites in Nikko, discover the historic Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima and visit captivating Miyajima. This rich journey through the Land of the Rising Sun ends in lively Osaka before we head home with memories to last a lifetime.
This trip is rated Activity Level 3 (Moderate) and encompasses the main cultural highlights of Japan. For more on our trip gradings, visit our Activity Level Guidelines page.
We walk mostly in cities and towns; although not strenuous, the amount of walking each day is considerable and fast paced (good comfortable walking shoes are required). We visit some temples and shrines, most of which are built on hillsides. This will mean ascending and descending lots of steps, so a good level of fitness is essential.
All transport is by public transport, mainly using the extremely efficient train system. Therefore, it is essential 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, which makes the journey pleasant. We carry our luggage with us on the trains, 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 on locally at the start of the tour.
Please note, 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.
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: 6
Max group size: 16
There will be a group welcome meeting this evening, followed by an optional group dinner and casual tour around Shinjuku, the famous nightlife district of Tokyo.
Accommodation: Dormy Inn Kodenmacho (or similar)
The trip begins this afternoon in Tokyo, the futuristic capital of Japan. Later this afternoon, we have a group welcome meeting with the tour leader followed by an optional group dinner and casual tour around Shinjuku, the nightlife district of Tokyo.
Accommodation: Dormy Inn Kodenmacho (or similar)
Today we utilise the efficient Tokyo metro system and enjoy a full-day city tour. We start with an early morning visit to Meiji Shrine, the most famous in the city and dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. The surrounding park is a forest of some 120,000 trees of 365 different species, making you forget you are in the most populated city in the world.
Outside of Meiji Shrine is Harajuku, a shopping haven for fashionistas and the popular meeting place for teenagers who are usually in eccentric clothing. The landmark of Harajuku is Takeshita Street, a long alley filled with boutiques, shops and cafes.
Neighbouring Harajuku is Omotesando, commonly referred to as the Champs-Elysée of Tokyo. This broad, tree-lined avenue features several flagship fashion stores designed by internationally renowned architects.
From Omotesando, we can take the metro to Ginza, one of the most famous upscale shopping, dining and entertainment districts in the city. It is said that 11sqft (1sqm) of land in Ginza is worth more than 10m yen (US$71,540).
Our last stop Asakusa, the oldest Geisha district in Tokyo and home to Senso-ji Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in the city. The streets around Senso-ji have many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs – a delight to wander through.
Please note, the order of activities and areas visited today 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.
Accommodation: Dormy Inn Kodenmacho (or similar)
After breakfast, we bid farewell to Tokyo and travel by train (approximately two hours) to beautiful Nikko, known for towering cedar trees and Unesco World Heritage sites, such as the Toshogu Shrine.
Upon arrival, we visit a few of the most popular sites. The Shinkyo Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in 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 one of the most beautiful bridges in Japan 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 more than 250 years. This lavishly decorated shrine complex consists of more than a dozen Shinto and Buddhist buildings in a beautiful forest setting.
We spend the night in Nikko in a traditional-style guesthouse.
Accommodation: Turtle Inn Nikko/Annex Turtle Hotorian (or similar)
Today we set out on a longer journey (approximately 4hr 30min) west to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, by local train and shinkansen. As we arrive in Kyoto after 2pm, we can enjoy a bento lunch on the train.
After checking into our hotel, we visit Nishiki Market, where we embark on a tour that will delight our senses. We walk through the narrow, covered food markets, where there are many interesting food shops to explore. This is a great opportunity to learn about Japanese produce and snap some photos of goods you won’t find back home. Some of the shops give out or sell samples, so leave 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 hanamachi (flower towns) where Geisha live and work. The highlight is Hanami-koji, the most popular street in Gion where lavish teahouses and machiya (old houses) are lined up. In the early evening, you may see a Geiko or Maiko on the way to her engagement.
Accommodation: Resol Kyoto Shijo Muromachi (or similar)
Today, along with your tour leader, enjoy an exploration of the Kyoto highlights while using the comprehensive bus and metro systems.
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 Mount Inari. The Shrine, which was featured in Memoirs of a Geisha, is famous for the impressive contrast and mystical atmosphere created by the colours of the torii gates and the surrounding nature.
Next on our schedule is Arashiyama, one of the richest areas in Kyoto for sightseeing, which contains some of the most stunning scenery in the area. Starting at Togetsukyo Bridge, a local landmark, 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 has a well-maintained rock garden. Nearby 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 completely covered in handmade gold leaves.
Accommodation: Resol Kyoto Shijo Muromachi (or similar)
Following breakfast, we move further west by Shinkansen to Hiroshima (approximately three hours). Along the way, we break our journey to visit one of the most beautiful castles in Japan, Himeji Castle. Also called Shirasagi-jo (the White Heron Castle) or Hakuro-jo (the White Egret Castle), it resembles a white bird in flight with a white exterior and distinctive roof design.
After, we pick up lunch to enjoy on the train and continue 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 the most laid back and vibrant cities in Japan, full of wide boulevards and museums and famous for great food and 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.
We spend the night in Hiroshima.
Accommodation: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Hiroshima Ekimae (or similar)
This morning, we take a short ferry trip to Miyajima, a wooded island in the Inland Sea near Hiroshima. Here is, perhaps, the most photographed site in Japan: the Floating Torii Gate. Please note, while the floating tori of Itsukushima-jinja Shrine is currently undergoing renovation works, we still recommend a visit to this enchanting island. Deer roam freely and we spend time at leisure before we make our way by Shinkansen (approximately 2hr 30min) to our final destination, Osaka.
The second-largest metropolitan area in Japan, Osaka has a distinct, vibrant character. The residents are lively and known to work hard and play hard. Osaka is also known as the shopping, dining and nightlife capital of Japan. It’s a good place to buy souvenirs and enjoy our last dinner together or sing in a karaoke box before heading home.
Accommodation: Karaksa Hotel Osaka Namba (or similar)
The tour ends this morning after breakfast. If you have a late flight or are staying longer, your tour leader will happily give suggestions for your sightseeing plans.
In Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, our hotels are centrally located with excellent, modern facilities and English-speaking staff. Please note, room sizes in standard Japanese hotels are normally smaller than in Europe or North America. If you request a double bed, these can be smaller than Western double beds so couples may prefer twin beds.
For the one night in Nikko, we stay in a traditional inn/guesthouse where we can feel the timeless 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 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, while females and males 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.
The below accommodations are the standard hotels used for 2024 departures. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at different hotels of a similar standard and quality.
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 compulsory, and that the water temperature is often hotter than most hot tubs can cause some reluctance for first timers. However, once the courage is mustered, you may discover that an onsen dip is likely to be a trip highlight. You may have the opportunity to try a public onsen. Please be aware, you may be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos.
Single supplements can be pre-booked for six nights only. In Nikko, single supplements are not available and rooming is based on twin share (sharing with another group member of the same gender).
Please be advised, single supplements are limited and payable at the time of booking. In Japan, often single supplements can be accommodated in either an actual single and/or double for sole-use room.
Single supplement from £ 460
All breakfasts and one dinner are included.
The 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, ramen or udon noodles, sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and yakiniku (grilled meat).
When food is not included, your leader is always available to recommend the best local eateries and arrange group meals for a full immersion in the varied and excellent cuisine of Japan.
Please note, the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, eg gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, is minimal or non-existent in Japan. The group meals arranged by the tour leader are in traditional eateries where the choices of vegan dishes may be limited to simple salads or boiled rice. However, there are several vegan restaurants in Kyoto and Tokyo. It may also be a good idea to bring some foodstuffs with you or to supplement meals with snacks purchased in local convenience stores.
Transport will be by train, metro, local bus and ferry. It is worth mentioning that the trains in Japan are both highly efficient and very comfortable.
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 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 rain is likely. 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.
Start hotel: Hotel Dormy Inn Premium Kodenmacho, 2-3 Nihonbashikodenmacho, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-0001, Japan
Phone: +81 3 5614 5489
Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today during the day. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately.
Airport: Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) or Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)
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: Tokyo
Location end: Osaka
As advice about luggage allowances for both hand and hold luggage is subject to change, we suggest you check the airline’s website for the latest information prior to your departure. The usual, standard check-in baggage weight allowance is 20-23kg.
In the unlikely event of any of your luggage being misplaced or damaged, a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) must be filed with the appropriate airline if you subsequently wish to make a claim against the airline or on your travel insurance. This must be done at the airport where your baggage arrived, or should have arrived.
From 2024, group flights and transfers will no longer be available on this trip.
Private transfers are not 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 English signage.
Start hotel: Dormy Inn Kodenmacho
Arriving into Tokyo Narita (NRT) Airport:
The start hotel for this tour from Tokyo Narita Airport requires a total transfer time from the airport of approximately 60-90 minutes.
Upon arrival into Narita, follow signs to Narita Airport train station. From here, take the Keisei Skyliner train (duration 45 minutes/departs every 30 minutes) to Keisei-Ueno station. Disembark at Keisei-Ueno station and follow the signage to Ueno station (no more than a five-minute walk). Upon arrival at Ueno station, take the Hibiya Line on the Tokyo Metro (duration six minutes/departs every 10 minutes) three stops to Kodemmacho where you need to get off.
The Dormy Inn Kodenmacho is a couple of minutes’ walk from Kodemmacho metro station. Train tickets can be purchased at the stations before boarding and the journey costs approximately 2,800 yen (US$20).
Arriving into Tokyo Haneda (HND) Airport:
The start hotel for this tour from Tokyo Haneda Airport requires a total transfer time of approximately 45 minutes.
Upon arrival into Haneda, follow signs to the Haneda Airport monorail station. From here, take the Tokyo Monorail (duration 23 minutes/departs every 10 minutes) to Hamamatsucho station.
Disembark at Hamamatsucho station and change to either the JY (Towards Inner Loop ⟲) or JK Line (Towards (Local) Minami-Urawa) to travel a few stops to Kanda station where you need to get off.
The Dormy Inn Kodenmacho is a 10-minute walk from Hamamatsucho station. Tickets can be purchased at the stations before boarding the trains. The journey should cost under 1,000 yen (US$7).
Bringing medication into Japan for personal use
It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in Western 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 your nearest Japan embassy.
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.
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.
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.
Japan's currency: Japanese yen (JPY)
ATMs are widely available at all convenience stores in Japan. This is the easiest and recommended option for international travellers wishing to withdraw cash in Japan.
We also recommend obtaining some Japanese yen before arrival – check the exchange rate carefully. Japan is a very safe country and local people often carry large amounts without problems. Exchange facilities are fairly widely available, including at the airport on arrival, and it is also possible to change money in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka.
Breakfasts and one dinner are included. Allow around 5,300-6,300 yen (US$38-US$45) a day to cover food and drink not included. 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 10,750 yen (US$75) is reasonable.
Tipping is not expected or required in Japan – don’t be surprised if your money is returned if you try to leave a tip.
However, if you feel 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 around 545 yen (US$3.90) per day, per person is a good guide.
We work hard to create trips that 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.
How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.
How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.
Tips for sustainable travel on this trip
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.
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.
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.