If you can think of somewhere else you can tour ancient Buddhist temples and watch a robot cabaret show in under 24 hours, please let us know. Like stepping off a plane on another planet, this trip is a crash course in Japan’s wonderfully-unique culture.
Planning a trip with a group? Rally a crew of friends and you could travel for free. Find out more
Uncovering centuries of Buddhist tradition at ancient temples
Coming face to face with the sacred deer of Miyajima Island
Frolicking amongst the famous cherry blossoms of Tokyo
Spending an evening gawking at the Robot Cabaret
Time traveling to old-world Japan in Kyoto
What you'll get
Round-trip flights & airport transfers
12 nights in handpicked accommodations
Expert Tour Director
2 insider tours with a local guide
Entrance to shrines, temples, and other local attractions
- Day 1: Overnight Flight
Board your overnight flight to Tokyo, the capital of Japan, and the most populated metropolitan area in the world. Which means, that at any given time, chances are you’re not alone. (Cue spooky music.)
- Day 2: Arrive in Tokyo + Welcome Dinner
Welcome to Tokyo, where there are vending machines for everything, bright neon lights everywhere, and more Michelin-starred restaurants than the entire rest of the world combined. Soak it all in as you enjoy a tour of the city led by your Tour Director.
In the evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner of local cuisine and drinks with fellow travelers at an authentic local spot. Afterwards, you’re free to take the party elsewhere!
- Meet an EF representative at the airport.
- Transfer to your accommodations and check in.
- Receive the latest schedule from your Tour Director.
- Meet the other travelers as they arrive.
- Day 3: Explore Tokyo
As you take a bus tour of the city—with some walking sprinkled in—it might feel like Tokyo is New York City on steroids. Because it is. But this concrete jungle is more than your typical office space and apartment buildings. You can still find relics of ancient Tokyo sprinkled throughout the city, and a pop culture community that’s off the charts. (The giant plushie standing in the street should be a clear giveaway.) And today, you get to explore it all.
- Check out the latest fashion trends as you walk through the Harajuku neighborhood.
- Keep pure thoughts as you enter the Sensoji Temple and Shrine.
- Buy your way through the Nakamise shopping street.
- Make a pit stop at the Imperial Palace Plaza.
- Visit the Meiji Shinto Shrine, with its elaborate wooded Inner Garden.
- Day 4: Enjoy a Free Day in Tokyo + Optional Sushi Making Experience
Today is your day to do as you wish. And if that includes being on the lookout for the unique Kit Kat flavors Japan is known for—from sweet potato to cinnamon to soy sauce to pancake—so be it.
- Use your time to explore the various districts of Tokyo.
- Hit up some of the same spots that Shoshana did in Girls.
- Keep a lookout for mochi ice cream, delicious little balls of ice cream wrapped in gummy rice. It tastes better than it sounds.
- Eat all the ramen. All of it.
Free time suggestions
Time for Tokyo: When it comes to all things Tokyo, the Tokyo National Museum has you covered. Japanese art. Antiques. History. (It’s the oldest museum in the country after all.) This is the place for you.
Park it here: The Shinjuku Gyoen park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks, and is very popular with Japanese families on a day out. It’s also a great day to see the cherry blossoms (when in season).
Tokyo Sushi Experience (extra cost)
Visit the the world's largest fish market to see firsthand how sushi chefs select their ingredients. Learn how to assemble three types of traditional sushi (Nigiri, Temari, and Maki) before washing it down with a Sake tasting.
This excursion is pre-book only**; if your trip is less than 30 days away, please call 800-766-2645 to purchase.**
- Day 5: Travel to Hakone via Mt. Fuji
Today is Mt. Fuji—times three. As you make your escape to Hakone, stop at Mt. Fuji for a quick photo. Genius idea: You can call it…Fuji Film! The real photo op, though, comes at Mt. Komagatake. There you’ll see sweeping views of Mt. Fuji, Ohshima Island, Sagami Bay, and more. Round off your Mt. Fuji three-way (SFW addition) with a cruise around Lake Ashi where you’ll see Mt. Fuji and all its volcanic glory from the water. At night, enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner.
- Take a cable car up, up, up to Mt. Komagatake, 1,327 meters above sea level.
- Cruise around on the waters of Lake Ashi, also known as “lake of reeds.”
- Enjoy views of Mt. Fuji by land, foot, and camera.
- Feast on Kaiseki Ryori, a traditional Japanese meal served in numerous courses.
- Day 6: Free Day in Hakone
Today is your free day in Hakone. This city is known as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities. Take a page out of the Japanese’s book and do the same.
- Relax in Hakone and enjoy the beautiful views.
- Listen to the quiet sounds of the woods.
- Spend your free time exploring some of the things Hakone is known for.
- Use our time to visit one of Hakone’s famous hot springs. No need for a bathing suit though. Your birthday suit will be just fine. More than fine actually—mandatory.
Free time suggestions
Drop it like it's hot: The Hakone region provides hundreds of onsen (re: Japanese hot springs) at hotels, ryokan and public bathhouses. Visit any one of them in and get the full Hakonian experience.
Embrace Mother Nature: Take a guided tour through one of the country's most-loved parks and connect with mother nature. The quietness of the park will be a nice change of pace from Tokyo. Or, is it a little too quiet?
- Day 7: Travel to Hiroshima via Bullet Train
Continue on to Hiroshima, the largest city in western Honshu (Japan’s biggest island). You’ll get there in a blink of an eye thanks to the bullet train and its 200 MPH speed. While Hiroshima will always be associated with the atomic bomb attack in 1945, today it’s a vibrant, culturally-rich city. There’s a lot to do and plenty of fun to be had.
- Travel at 200MPH as you make your way to Hiroshima.
- Spend the evening exploring the city on your own.
- Learn more about the city before the 1945 atomic bombing.
- Get acquainted with the city as you enjoy the evening on your own.
- Day 8: Explore Hiroshima
Today takes you back to the events of 1945, toward the end of WWII, when Hiroshima was hit with the first-ever atomic bomb. While this once-leveled city has rebounded to become the “City of Peace” that it is today, the remnants of the past are on full display for you to discover.
- Explore the amazing Miyajima, or Shrine Island and its floating torii (re: gate).
- Discover the Itsukushima Shrine (you’ve definitely seen it on your Instagram feed), which protects the island against sea disasters and war.
- Spot a deer, or several hundred, a five-story pagoda dating from 1407, and many Shinto temples.
- See the Atomic Bomb Dome, all that remains of the Industrial Promotion Hall after the near-direct hit by the bomb.
- Enter the Peace Memorial Museum, which focuses on the devastation of the nuclear attack and its toll on the community.
- Day 9: Travel to Kyoto
Your trip continues to Kyoto. For you Japanese purists, Kyoto is traditional Japan, with the kimonos, tea ceremonies, geishas, and Zen temples to prove it. Learn all about Kyoto's past and present with a local guide. There are castles, shrines, temples, and one famous zen garden waiting for you.
Please Note: You booked an Ultimate Plus tour which means you are guaranteed twin-based accommodations. There is one instance on your trip to Japan where this may vary. In every accommodation in Japan the rooms have a private toilet and bathroom, but there is once instance on your tour where this doesn’t happen in Koya-san: this overnight is a temple-stay, and the bathroom facilities may be shared and not private. You also may have to share your ryokan-style accommodation rooming experience with 4-5 other people, however the rooms are large and the experience is one you will never forget!
- Travel to Kyoto, this is old-world Japan as you imagine in your head.
- Walk two steps, stop, take a picture, and repeat as you walk through the ancient city.
- Watch a geisha performing at one the many teahouses in Kyoto.
- Visit the Kiyomizu Temple, dating back to 798 (and you thought things in the U.S. were old).
- Day 10: Free Day in Kyoto + Optional Explore Nishiki Market
The day is yours to continue getting to know Kyoto on your own. If you’re feeling like you’ve stepped back in time, it’s because you basically have (don’t worry, you won’t run into any of your exes from back in the day…unless they also happen to be exploring Kyoto). This is one of the best-preserved cities in Japan—prepare for a truly authentic experience.
- Put your sense of direction to the test as you wander the quaint streets of Kyoto.
- Sample traditional Kyoto cuisine, and don’t be afraid to eat adventurously.
- Explore the many bathhouses in Kyoto.
- Wander through the four geisha districts and spot geisha women running to and from work (which is not prostitution contrary to popular belief).
Free time suggestions
Made in Japan: Head to the Kyoto Handicraft Center and check out paper, pottery, glass, wood and more at this gallery exhibiting products of more than 100 workshops. The craftsmanship is unreal. The products, on the other hand, are available for purchase.
Nishiki-köji market sweep: Browse the vast array of strange and often delicious foods used in Kyoto cuisine. This narrow, five-block long shopping street has more than one hundred shops and restaurants with lots of samples for you to try.
Kyoto Clubbin’: Party like it’s the 6th century (because that’s how old this city is). Let loose at a local bar or club in the city ranked 4th in nightlife for all of Japan. Make sure you’re well rested, because the party doesn’t stop till the early morning.
Explore Nishiki Market (extra cost)
Blink and 400 years goes by like THAT. That’s how long vendors have been perfecting delicacies for hungry customers in Nishiki Market. Take a guided deep dive into local treats and see why chefs call it Kyoto’s Kitchen.
Why wait? Save money by booking this optional excursion before your trip departs.
- Day 11: Travel to Mount Koya via Nara
As you make your way to Mount Koya spend the night in a traditional ryokan (re: Traditional Japanese inn with reed mats, low tables, and sliding doors…not featuring Gwyneth Paltrow). Here, you’ll learn more about the Buddhist way of life and release any stress in the spa/sauna. You won’t find any massage areas though. Just lots of steam.
- Take a tour of Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital.
- Practice the art of zen in the morning (without needing a cup of coffee).
- Enjoy a spa evening, where you’ll clear your mind and open your pores.
- Sleep on the floor in a traditional ryokan—it’s more comfortable than it sounds.
- Day 12: Travel to Osaka via Mount Koya
Take a tour of Mount Koya with your Tour Director. Hauntingly beautiful, religiously important, and primarily known as the headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Mount Koya also has eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Great Buddha (probably best not to rub its belly). Afterwards you’re off to Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan.
- Take a funicular up to Mount Koya.
- Feel the warmth as you see thousands of eternally-lit lanterns hang in Torodo Hall.
- Hunt for the mummified “mermaid” rumored to be at one of the nearby temples.
- Explore the area on foot to feel the magic of this sacred place.
- Head to Osaka, where your Tour Director will take you on a tour of the city.
- Day 13: Free Day in Osaka + Farewell Dinner
Today is yours to explore Osaka on your own before one last dinner with the group (cue sad violin music). Osaka is known for its dynamic food scene, lively drinking culture, and incredibly friendly citizens. If you could date a city, and we were single and on a dating app that connected people with cities, we’d definitely swipe right.
- Eat your way through the “Kitchen of Japan” and try some fresh, authentic cuisines. If you’ve been holding out on adventurous eating, this is your time to go big.
- Fill your camera roll as you walk through the neon lined streets of Osaka.
- Take a break from the bright lights for the historic castles and temples hidden within the city.
- Enjoy an included farewell dinner with your fellow travelers and go out with a bang.
Free time suggestions
Hit the road: Wander down Dotonbori, the road cutting directly through the city. This place is teeming with bars, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Think neon signs, bright lights, and octo-pops (a well-known street food that is exactly what it sounds like).
Share some last laughs (and maybe shed a few tears) at an included farewell dinner with the group.
- Day 14: Fly home
Translation: Goodbye, friends. Your next destination awaits—home. Before you head to the airport, enjoy your last few moments together. Take one more group photo. Grab that final drink. (Fine, maybe a couple of drinks.) But this isn’t goodbye. It’s “See you later.” The only question is, where?
EXTEND YOUR TRIP 2 WAYS
1. Double the fun
A lot of our trips line up back to back! Give us a call—we can help you add another and save big while you're at it.
2. Go ahead or stay behind
Extending your trip is easy! During checkout, you'll have the option to fly to (or from) the gateway of your choice for an additional fee. We'll adjust your flights accordingly, but you'll be responsible to take care of your transportation, hotels, and other logistics outside of tour.
Note: Depending on your desired gateways, additional fees may apply.
Traveling with us helps the EF community plant trees, at no extra cost to you.
Overall rating: 4.8 out of 5
Based on 25 authentic traveler reviews
Best experience everPaola, traveled Sep.. 2022
First off, Yu-San with the Japan highlights trip is AMAZING! He is the sweetest most caring tour guide ever! He was so attentive to us and make us feel so welcomed! Like if he knew us for years! Secondly, this trip taught me so much and made me grow so much appreciation for Japan! All the people we meet were friendly, country is super super clean, food was ... See more
JUST DO ITNicole, traveled Sep.. 2019
The best decision I ever made was going on this trip! I met so many new friends
- Tracy, traveled Jul.. 2019
Had the most amazing trip! Amazing guide, amazin g hotels, and memories I will never forget!
- Clementine, traveled Jul.. 2019
I loved this trip and had such an awesome experience! You get a good mix of city and small town experiences. You will learn a lot about the ancient and modern culture. Maki was amazing and always helped accommodate us whenever we had questions. You also will have plenty of free time.