Our private 8-day Japan Essentials: Tokyo, Kyoto & Hakone trip is perfect if you want to experience the very best of the Tokyo metropolis, the ancient capital Kyoto, and the beautiful Hakone National Park in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Unlike typical Japan tours, our trip includes the perfect combination of essential highlights with unique, non-touristy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.


LengthPriceDates
8 DaysPrices for a trip like this start at about US $700 per person per day and up (read more about pricing for our bespoke trips)Based on your preferred travel dates

Trip Highlights

  • Tokyo, one of the world’s most exciting cities
  • Kyoto, the ancient capital and home to world-class UNESCO sites
  • Hakone National Park in the shadow of Mount Fuji
  • Foodie experiences in Tokyo, including izakaya & Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Private tours of Kyoto’s Gion geisha district & Fushimi Inari Shrine
  • The chance to ride the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train)
  • A night at a luxurious traditional ryokan with onsen (hot springs)
  • And more!

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine Kyoto Japan

Trip Itinerary Details

Day 1Welcome to Tokyo, Japan!

Welcome to Japan!

On arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be met in the arrivals hall. Our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it, and you’ll be escorted to your private vehicle for the comfortable transfer to your accommodations.

You can fly into Tokyo’s Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND) airport; this itinerary can also be adjusted to begin in Osaka/Kyoto.

Enjoy your first night in Japan and get ready for your adventure ahead!

Your Hotel in Tokyo: Hotel Niwa Tokyo or CLASKA or similar (Including Breakfast)

Day 2Private orientation tour of Tokyo & evening izakaya outing

Today you’ll have a full day to enjoy Tokyo, starting with a morning tour and ending with an exciting evening out.

This morning your private guide will meet you at your hotel for a private half-day tour introducing you to Tokyo.

Tokyo is one of the world’s most exciting and eclectic cities. You’ll find everything in Tokyo – history, food, art, architecture, gardens, fashion and more – which is what makes it endlessly fascinating to explore.

tokyo imperial palace bridge marunouchi japan
The Imperial Palace, Tokyo

You’ll start in Shibuya, one of modern Tokyo’s most colorful neighborhoods. Shibuya is home to the famous Shibuya scramble crossing, as well as shopping, nightlife, restaurants and the latest fashions. A stroll in this pulsating neighborhood is a great way to immediately immerse yourself in modern Tokyo.

From here you’ll continue to one of Tokyo’s most charming old neighborhoods for a complete contrast. Kagurazaka is an old geisha neighborhood, and its back alleys reveal a Tokyo from another era. Old geisha teahouses remain, many of which have now been converted into elegant restaurants and charming boutiques.

shibuya crossing scramble hachiko tokyo japan
Shibuya, Tokyo

To conclude the private tour you’ll visit Shinjuku. Home to the world’s busiest train station, Shinjuku is one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods, and you’ll find everything from ramen shops and high-end dining, tiny bars and karaoke rooms, to skyscrapers and elegant department stores (with delicious depachika food halls).

Afterwards your guide will help instruct you on how to most easily return to your hotel, or direct you to elsewhere in the city if you prefer to keep exploring.

Unless otherwise specified, for all tours you will be traveling around by public transport, making use of Japan’s clean and efficient transport systems. In some cases walking will be the best way to explore, and at other times you may want to take a taxi to save time (your guides can advise on where it will make the most sense). Please note that taxi fares are not pre-included (simply pay on the day).

To make getting around Tokyo as easy as possible, you will have electronic transport cards, known as IC cards, pre-filled with 1,500 yen (about US $15) of credit. You can use your IC cards to pay for trains and subways, and even at most vending machines and convenience stores. The cards are valid throughout Tokyo, and also in some other Japanese cities.

Panoramic view of Shinjuku skyline in Tokyo Japan
Panoramic views over Tokyo’s Shinjuku district on a crisp autumn day

After an afternoon at leisure, this evening you’ll be meeting up with a local Tokyo resident who will be taking you out to a locals-only izakaya (Japanese-style gastropub), where you’ll get an introduction to tapas-style Japanese cuisine.

During dinner you’ll not only learn about Japanese food but also have the chance to ask any questions you have about life in Tokyo, and Japan in general. This will be a very unique opportunity to enjoy great food and drink while immersing yourself in the inimitable atmosphere of an authentic Japanese izakaya.

Afterwards your guide will help instruct you on how to most easily return to your hotel, or direct you to elsewhere nearby if you prefer to go for a nightcap.

shochu chuhai japan izakaya
Sashimi at an izakaya
Day 3Private tour of Tsukiji Market & afternoon tour of Tokyo

This morning your guide will meet you at your hotel and together you will travel to nearby Tsukiji Fish Market.

Tsukiji is the world’s largest fish market, but despite its huge scale and incredible busyness, it is a model of efficiency. Take time to wander through the enormous market, exploring both the vegetable and fruit areas, and of course the impressive seafood section. You may also have the chance to see a complete tuna being cut and filleted.

If you’re a home cook, Tsukiji is a fantastic place to buy top-quality Japanese knives, and stock up on Japanese ingredients for your pantry. Make sure to bring cash as few shops accept credit cards.

tsukiji fish market tokyo japan
Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market

After your morning tour you’ll have some free time to keep exploring or rest before your afternoon tour.

This afternoon your guide will meet you at your hotel for a private half-day tour of Old Tokyo. Your walking tour will begin in Yanaka, one of Tokyo’s most charming historical districts. The Yanaka neighborhood was miraculously spared the carnage of the bombings during the second world war, and best preserves the old feeling of what Tokyo was like in the early 20th century.

Yanaka is full of temples and shrines, one of Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist cemeteries, and a plethora of traditional shops selling Japanese sweets, rice crackers, paper, and other goods. Yanaka is also home to galleries, such as the renowned SCAI the Bathhouse.

traditional tea ceremony green tea mattcha japan
Mattcha, tea ceremony

From Yanaka you will walk to nearby Ueno, another traditional district well known for Ueno Park, which is home to various museums, including the excellent Tokyo National Museum.

From Ueno Park, you’ll continue the stroll to nearby Ameyoko-cho, a colorful outdoor marketplace located directly beneath the tracks, where you can find a variety of goods from seafood and fruit, to tea and noodles, video games, bags and more. Originally the site of a black market after the second world war, this bustling market is the last of its kind in Tokyo.

Afterwards your guide will help instruct you on how to most easily return to your hotel, or direct you to elsewhere in the city if you prefer.

japanese food barbecued fish Ueno Park tokyo japan
Barbecued fish in Ueno
Day 4Travel to Hakone National Park & luxurious ryokan (inn) with onsen (hot springs) & kaiseki dinner

Today you will leave Tokyo behind and travel to nearby Hakone, which is famous for its onsen (hot springs), and – on clear days – stunning views of Mount Fuji.

You will travel to Hakone on the scenic Romance Car train. The Romance Car makes the trip from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station directly into the heart of Hakone. The scenic train features wide windows, and if you’re lucky with the weather you may even catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the way. It’s a comfortable ride and takes about 85 minutes.

torii hakone lake ashinoko japan
Torii Gate in Hakone

Upon arrival at Hakone-Yumoto Station you’ll be transferred to your ryokan by private vehicle.

Hakone is the perfect place to escape and unwind, but in addition to relaxing Hakone offers plenty to do.

One of the best ways to enjoy Hakone is with a hike along the Old Tokaido Road, which takes you from the shores of Lake Ashi through the historic Cedar Avenue.

For art lovers, there is the Hakone Open-Air Museum. With Hakone’s natural beauty as its backdrop, the museum features over 100 sculptures by artists such as Rodin, Miro and Picasso.

hike hiking hakone national park japan

Or take in the beautiful landscapes from Hakone’s famous sightseeing loop, which takes you around the Hakone region via a charming variety of modes of transport including:

  • The Hakone Tozan Railway, a scenic mountain train
  • The Hakone Tozan Cable Car, a funicular railway
  • The Hakone Ropeway, a gondola offering panoramic views
  • A cruise across beautiful Lake Ashinoko

To make getting around Hakone as easy as possible, you will have local transport cards known as Hakone Freepasses. The Freepasses, valid for the duration of your time in Hakone, give you unlimited access to the trains and mountain buses that criss-cross Hakone, as well as the entire sightseeing loop.

Dinner will be a kaiseki feast of exquisitely-presented courses, including local specialties such as mackerel sashimi, yuzu citrus and matsutake mushrooms.

Your Ryokan in Hakone: Yamanochaya or Gora Sounkaku or similar (Including Dinner & Breakfast)

Day 5Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto & private evening tour of Gion geisha district

Spend the morning relaxing with a soak in the onsen and a delicious traditional Japanese breakfast.

At check-out time you’ll be met at your ryokan and transferred by private vehicle to Odawara Station, where you will catch the shinkansen (bullet train) for the approximately 2-hour ride to Kyoto.

Kyoto, one of the most culturally rich cities in the world, is what most travelers dream of when envisioning Japan. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years and remains the heart and soul of traditional Japan.

Today it is a large modern city of over a million residents, and at first glance looks almost like any other Japanese city. But the city retains many of its long-established traditions, and despite the neon and concrete prevalent in many parts of the city, it is teeming with beautiful and well-preserved pockets where time seems to move more slowly.

Kyoto Japan Gion Wooden House
Kyoto, Japan

You’ll have the afternoon free to settle in, and this evening begin your immersion into the city on a private walking tour of the famous Gion geisha district.

As you slowly meander your way through the narrow lanes and hidden alleys of this enigmatic district, your private guide will teach you about the history and reality of Kyoto’s geiko (as geisha are called in Kyoto).

Chances are quite good, though it’s not guaranteed, that during your walking tour you will come across geiko and maiko on their way to evening appointments. The walking tour lasts about 90 minutes and is one of the best ways to learn about Japan’s best known – and misunderstood – traditional professions.

Your Hotel in Kyoto: Royal Park Hotel THE Kyoto or Noku Roxy or similar (Including Breakfast)

geisha geiko maiko kyoto japan
Maiko (apprentice geisha) stroll in Kyoto
Day 6Private orientation tour of Kyoto including Kiyomizu-dera Temple & more

This morning your guide will meet you at your hotel for a private half-day tour further introducing you to Kyoto.

Begin the day with a visit to the iconic Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits atop Kyoto’s traditional Higashiyama District, with spectacular views over Kyoto. The walk up to the temple is steep but lined with colorful shops selling souvenirs and delicious local snacks, and the walk is well worthwhile.

If you are concerned about the walk we can offer alternative options.

Sunset from Kiyomizudera Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple UNESCO world heritage site Kyoto Japan
The sun sets over Kyoto, from Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Afterwards walk through the Higashiyama district and through Gion before reaching the colorful shopping district of Teramachi, where you will enter Nishiki Market.

In addition to its countless temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is also a culinary center. The best place to immerse yourself in Kyoto’s cuisine is at Nishiki Market. In addition to a colorful variety of fresh produce and seafood, you’ll find incredibly photogenic seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, including tsukemono (Japanese pickles), white miso, Kyoto-style sushi, Japanese sweets and much more.

Afterwards your guide will help instruct you on how to most easily return to your hotel, or direct you to elsewhere in the city if you prefer.

Kyoto Nishiki Market Pickles Tsukemono Japan
Tsukemono (Japanese pickles) at Nishiki Market
Day 7Private tour to Fushimi Inari Shrine

This morning your guide will meet you at your hotel and together you’ll travel to nearby Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Just 15 minutes south of Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is one of the most important Shinto shrines in all of Japan, famous for its thousands of vermillion torii gates, which lead you up into the beautiful forest of sacred Mount Inari. These days it’s also known for having appeared in the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

The narrow streets leading up to the shrine are packed with stalls selling the local specialty, grilled quail, and shops offering local souvenirs. Fushimi Inari’s principal shrine buildings sit at the base of the mountain, but to really experience it you must walk up the hill for at least 5-10 minutes, where you’ll begin to enter seemingly-endless tunnels of vibrant torii gates.

Afterwards your guide will help instruct you on how to most easily return to your hotel in Kyoto, or direct you to elsewhere in the area if you prefer. You may want to stay in Fushimi a while longer, as it is also one of Japan’s most important sake-producing areas, with several breweries where you can sample the local offerings.

Fushimi Inari taisha shrine Kyoto Japan red orange torii gates
The beautiful torii of Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Day 8Departure from Osaka, Japan

We hope you have had an amazing trip.

You’ll be free until departure, and depending on your flight schedule you may have time for some last-minute exploration (and eating)!

In good time for your flight, you’ll be picked up at your accommodations for your private transfer to the airport.

You can depart from Osaka’s Kansai (KIX) or Itami (ITM) airport; this itinerary can also be adjusted to end in Tokyo.

Come back to Japan soon!

What’s Included?

  • Your tailor-made itinerary crafted on a bespoke basis, based on our in-depth Japan expertise, relationships & firsthand experience
  • A Japan specialist to answer your questions & help you organize your thoughts
  • Accommodations as outlined, in properties to match your taste
  • Daily breakfast at your accommodations
  • Deluxe multi-course kaiseki dinner at your ryokan
  • Unique private tours & experiences, with a mix of freedom, support & structure to match your travel style
  • Private half-day orientation tour of Tokyo
  • Evening izakaya outing in Tokyo
  • Private tour of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo
  • Private half-day orientation tour of Tokyo
  • Private evening tour of Kyoto’s Gion geisha district
  • Private half-day orientation tour of Kyoto
  • Private tour of Fushimi Inari
  • Meet-and-greet on arrival in Tokyo, and airport transfer by private vehicle
  • IC cards with 1,500 JPY (about US $15) of initial credit on each
  • Limited Express train from Tokyo to Hakone
  • Private transfer from Hakone-Yumoto Station to your ryokan
  • Hakone FreePasses to help you get around Hakone
  • Private transfer from your ryokan to Odawara Station
  • Shinkansen (bullet train) from Odawara Station to Kyoto
  • Departure airport transfer by private vehicle
  • Expertly-planned transport & logistics for peace of mind & convenience
  • Extensive Japan-specific pre-departure information, including advice on money, packing, etiquette, tipping, Wi-Fi, language, food, and much more
  • Thoughtful customer service & 24/7 emergency assistance during your trip

Not Included

  • International flights
  • Tours, experiences, meals, or any other services other than those specified
  • Entrance fees or local transport at each destination, except as specified
  • Visa fees and services
  • Personal expenses and other incidentals such as baggage handling, pocket Wi-Fi, mobile phone, laundry, etc.
  • Travel insurance (we provide recommendations)
  • Any other services not specified

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Is this a group tour?

No, this is a private travel experience for you and your fellow traveler(s).


Are the dates flexible?

Yes, we can typically plan around your ideal travel dates.


When is the best time of year to visit Japan?

We usually recommend taking advantage of any chance to visit, since each of Japan’s seasons is great in its own way.

For more on the seasons and weather, read our post, When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Japan?


What is it like to stay in a ryokan?

Staying in a ryokan is a great way to fully immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture, but it’s not for everyone.

Take our virtual ryokan tour to see if it’s right for you! Even if not, in most parts of Japan there are non-ryokan hotel alternatives.


Are trip extensions possible?

Yes, this is a sample itinerary and we can customize it to best match your priorities and interests.

For example, you can extend your stay in Tokyo or Kyoto, replace these destinations with others, or add on additional places in Japan.


Is Japan good for families?

Yes, Japan is an amazing family destination.

For more about family travel in Japan, read Is Japan Good For Families?


What’s included in the cost?

Please see the list above for details of what’s included in the cost.


When do I have to pay?

In most cases, a 30% deposit is required at the time of booking, with the balance due 90 days before your trip.

If your trip is coming up within 90 days, full payment will be required to secure your bookings.


What should I pack (and what about Wi-Fi, train times, dietary restrictions, the time difference, passports, visas, etc.)?

Not to worry! We make sure all of our clients are prepared with extensive pre-departure information.

Japan National Tourist Organizaton JNTO Japan Endless Discovery