Japan: A Cultural Feast

  • Luxuriate in Hakone’s mountain onsens (natural hot springs)
  • Visit Tsukiji fish market, auction house to one-third of the world’s daily fish supply
  • Experience modernity alongside tradition in Tokyo and Kyoto
Trip Type: Sample Itinerary
Trip Length: 12 Days
Activity type(s): Cultural Tour
Trip Extensions: Call 888-570-7108 for custom extension options

In 1880 the great traveler Isabella Bird wrote, “Japan offers as much novelty perhaps as an excursion to another planet.” 130-odd years later her insight still resonates. And we, always eager for extraterrestrial or interesting terrestrial experiences, are smitten (or, as the Japanese say, otaku, merrily obsessed) with Japan, especially by its talent for integrating its proud, ancient culture with its equally fervent embrace of the modern.

We’ll hit Tokyo’s cultural highspots, such as the Meiji Shrine and Asakusa, and make a morning visit to its gargantuan fish market. We’ll see exquisite kimono-clad women and children en route to ceremonies and make jolly forays into the city’s fabulously graceful restaurants. And here, as elsewhere throughout our trip, we’ll carve out time for some cultural experiences giving sushi and wagashi making, origami, and calligraphy expertly guided tries.

After taking a train into the mountains to Hakone, we’ll luxuriate in its famed onsens (hot springs), walk contemplatively in the wonderful Outdoor Sculpture Garden, boat across lovely Lake Ashi, and visit the Owakudani Crater, from which Fuji—symbol of Japan old and new—may be visible. Next on to Takayama, ideally tucked beautifully into the Japan Alps, wandering its old streets, dropping into its woodworking shops and inns, soaking up the flavor of the old Nakasendo Road. We end with Kyoto, the distilled essence of Japanese culture, where, Fosco Maraini wrote, “the people stroll aimlessly, cheerfully, as if intoxicated by their surroundings.”

Japan vacation map

Itinerary at a Glance

  • Day 1: arrive in Tokyo
  • Day 2: visit Meiji shrine and the trendy neighborhoods of Harajuku and Ropponogi Hills
  • Day 3: morning visit to Hamarikyu Gardens, river-boat ride on Sumida to Asakusa, later visit Akiba and Ginza
  • Day 4: Tsukiji Sushi School and lunch, train to Hakone to stay at Gora Kadan
  • Day 5: Outdoor Sculpture Garden, Owakudani Crater, cruise on Lake Ashi
  • Day 6: bullet train to Takayama via Nagoya
  • Day 7: morning market along the Miya-gawa River, folk Art Museum showcasing the local craftsmanship
  • Day 8: to Kyoto, afternoon tea ceremony in private home, visit Gion geisha district
  • Days 9 & 10: Kyoto's many sites and neighborhoods
  • Day 11: excursion to Arashiyama
  • Day 12: depart Osaka.