Perfect introduction for first time visitors with limited time.
If you have never been to Japan before, have limited time, or just want to see the highlights, we highly recommend the “The Golden Route” tour. It is our most sought-after tour because it gives you a sampling of all that Japan has to offer. This includes unique locales to “must see” tourist attractions in Tokyo & Kyoto.
This is our reverse itinerary, beginning in Nara, where you will get to admire the intricate architecture of Japan’s largest wooden building and gaze at a 15-meter-high Great Buddha statue. Located at the Todaiji Temple, you will understand why this city is considered the birthplace of Buddhism in Japan. Spend two days in the historic city of Kyoto, where you will have exclusive access to the city’s most well-known gardens, temples, shrines, and specialty shops. You will also have the opportunity to observe a kimono fashion show and enjoy a green tea ceremony with an apprentice geisha (maiko).
Visit Miho Museum, known for its contemporary architectural design that integrates natural lighting and the surrounding nature. Designed by the renowned architect, I. M. Pei, the museum exhibits various works from ancient civilizations. It has also been listed as one of the “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. From there, make your way to Hikone Castle, an original standing castle and national treasure of Japan. It is also considered an excellent example of what a compete feudal castle looks like. Visit the Genkyuen Garden, a beautiful Japanese landscape garden located on the castle grounds. Next, take a Shinkansen bullet train ride for experience before transferring to Hamanako Kanzanji Onsen. There you will stay the night in a Japanese style room, where you can unwind in a hot springs (onsen) and dine on a gourmet kaiseki cuisine.
Spend a day at Hakone and experience a ropeway ride over its volcanic area before visiting the renowned Mt. Fuji. Continue your adventures in Tokyo, Japan’s most populous and famous city. Enjoy a guided tour through Tokyo’s cultural landmarks, fashionable neighborhoods, and diverse shopping districts. Learn how to make your own sushi with a professional sushi chef and savor your delicious creations. Explore attractions like the bustling streets of Shibuya, Asakusa district with an atmosphere of old Tokyo, Japan’s largest and busiest fish market, the historical Imperial Palace, and the record-breaking Tokyo Tower.
Osaka Kansai Airport
Welcome to Osaka! You will be met at the arrival gate by an AJT representative holding an “All Japan Tours” sign.
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport or similar class
Hotel Elsereine Osaka or similar class (NOTE 1 & 2)
NOTE 1: If you wish to stay in the center of Osaka for the first night instead of Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport, we can arrange for you to stay at Hotel Elsereine Osaka (or similar class). In this case, airport transfer is not included, but we will provide you directions to get to your hotel in advance.
NOTE 2: If you will be flying into Itami Airport (ITM) instead of Kansai International Airport (KIX), we can arrange for you to stay in the center of Osaka (Hotel Elsereine Osaka or similar class) instead of Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport. In this case, airport transfer and meet- and-greet are not included, but we will provide with full instructions to get to the hotel in advance.
NOTE 3: The meet and greet is ONLY available for flights arriving in Terminal 1 after 11:00 AM. For guests arriving in Terminal 2, airport pickup is not included, but and we will provide you with directions to get to your hotel in advance.
NOTE 4: If you wish to stay extra nights before the tour starts, please contact us to book hotel accommodations.
Nara (Todaiji Temple / Deer Park), Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine / Green Tea Ceremony with a Maiko)
In the morning, travel by private coach to Nara — Japan’s oldest capital city. We will first visit Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden building in Japan. The temple also houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, which measures over 49 feet (15 m) high. Venture into the surrounding park, which is filled with over 1,000 Sika deer. Then, make your way to historic Kyoto and the lovely vermillion-colored Fushimi Inari Shrine, home to an almost 2.5-mile-long (4 km) tunnel of scarlet torii gates that were part of the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. The shrine complex wraps around a bamboo forest that features a backdrop of picturesque mountains, streams, and ponds. You will then take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience – tea with a Geisha in training, known as a Maiko. The Maiko will prepare your tea and show you the Japanese art of the tea ceremony. After, she will be happy to converse, answer questions, and tell tales about local life. (You’ll stay two nights in Kyoto).
Breakfast / Lunch
Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto or similar class
Kyoto (Arashiyama – Tenryu-ji Temple Zen Garden – Sagano Bamboo Forest – Togetsukyo Bridge / Golden Pavilion / Nishijin Kimono Show / Kiyomizu Temple / Gion Geisha District)
Today, we will continue our tour of Kyoto, which once served as Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. First, we will visit Arashiyama to see the Tenryuji Temple, where you can have a glimpse of a traditional Zen landscape garden design. Then, proceed through a dense bamboo forest, pass several small shrines, tea shops, and private houses before arriving at the Togetsukyo Bridge over Hozu River. Continue on to the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) covered with 18- karat gold leaf. This three-story structure was originally built by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397. At the Nishijin Textile Center, you can view displays of kimonos, watch an elegant kimono fashion show, and learn how they are made. Our group will tour the Kiyomizu Temple, best known for its large wooden stage that sits 13 meters (42.6 ft) above a hillside. Visitors are granted with a charming view of numerous cherry and maple trees that are particularly beautiful during the spring and fall, as well as a beautiful scene of Kyoto City in the distance. Lastly, we will tour Gion, a famous geisha district in Kyoto lined with many restaurants and ochaya (teahouses).
Breakfast / Dinner
Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto or similar class
Koka (Miho Museum), Hikone (Hikone Castle – Genkyuen Garden), Shinkansen Bullet Train Ride
This morning, we will visit the Miho Museum, which is distinguished for its fascinating architecture designed by I. M. Pei. The museum exhibits various collections from different ancient civilizations. It is named after Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan and the founder of the museum. Miho Museum is also listed as one of the “1000 Places to See Before You Die”. The group will continue to Hikone to visit Hikone Castle, an original castle that has survived the post feudal era without undergoing severe damages or reconstruction. It is considered an excellent impression of what a complete feudal castle looks like, and is a national treasure itself. Afterwards, visit the tranquil Genkyuen Garden, located on the grounds of Hikone Castle. Next, our group will experience a Shinkansen bullet train ride, which can reach speeds of up to 320 km/hr. (200mph). Tonight, you will stay at the Onsen Hotel at Hamanako Kanzaiji Onsen, where you can soak in the therapeutic waters of a spa bath (onsen) and feast on a traditional Japanese Kaiseki banquet dinner.
Breakfast / Dinner
The Hamanako or similar class
Note: If Miho Museum is close, we will visit Kyoto National Museum or Sagawa Art Museum instead.
Hakone (Hakone Ropeway / Owakudani), Mt Fuji, Tokyo (Shibuya – Shibuya Crossing – Hachiko Statue)
After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we will travel to Hakone and take a 20 minute ropeway from Togendai to Owakudani. Much of the area here is considered an active volcanic zone since its creation from the eruption of Mount Hakone some 3,000 years ago. There, you can experience hot springs and hot rivers, where sulfurous fumes still linger. During clear skies, Owakudani also grants great views of Mount Fuji. From Hakone, we will proceed to the famous Mt. Fuji on our private coach. Along the way, enjoy the changing scenery, from thick vegetation to lowlands and rolling clouds. We will stop at Mt. Fuji 5th station (depending on weather) to admire the distinguished peak. In the afternoon, our group will travel to Tokyo. Our last stop of the day is in Shibuya. You will have to chance to see the famed Shibuya Crossing in action and cross the street with the crowd. Afterwards, you will get take photos with the Hachiko Statue, a monument dedicated to Japan’s most loyal dog and his heart- touching story.
Breakfast / Lunch
Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo or similar class
Tokyo (Asakusa Sensoji Temple / Sushi Making Experience / Tsukiji Outer Market / Imperial Palace / Tokyo Tower)
Today, you will be taken to the Asakusa Kannon Temple, an active place of worship where you can see the largest paper lantern in Japan. You will also be able to explore the Nakamise Market, which is located right after the temple’s outer gates. It is a traditional-style shopping street with centuries of history. Next, you will have the chance to enjoy a sushi making experience with a professional sushi chef. Whatever you prepare, you will get to eat! Afterwards, we will proceed to the Tsukiji Outer Market, where various restaurants and shops line the streets. Then, pay a visit to the Imperial Palace, the former site of Edo Castle and current residence of Japan’s Imperial Family. In the afternoon, we will visit the world’s tallest self supporting steel tower. At 333 meters (1092.5 feet) high, Tokyo Tower is 9 meters taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower. You will be able to sightsee 150 meters (492 feet) up at the main observatory deck and get a bird’s eye view of the city.
Note: For Sushi Making Experience, if you are vegetarian, on gluten-free diets, have seafood allergy, or don’t eat raw fish, please contact us for other ingredient options.
Breakfast / Lunch
Hotel Mystays Premier Narita or similar class
Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo or similar class (NOTE 5 & 6)
NOTE 5: If you wish to stay in the center of Tokyo for the last night instead of Hotel Mystays Premier Narita, we can arrange for you to stay at Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo (or similar class). In this case, airport transfer is not included, but we will provide full instructions for you to get to the airport in advance.
NOTE 6: If you will be flying out from Haneda Airport (HND) instead of Narita Airport (NRT), we can arrange for you to stay at Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo (or similar class) instead of Hotel Mystays Premier Narita. In this case, airport transfer is not included but we will provide full instructions for you to get to the airport in advance.
After breakfast, our tour officially ends. Checkout time is 11 am and Narita Airport can be reached by hotel shuttle bus.
NOTE 7: If you would like to stay longer in Japan, please contact us to book hotel accommodations.