Modern and Traditional Japan Itinerary

15 Days 14 Nights

Itinerary Overview

This 14 – night itinerary explores both modern and traditional Japan while staying in both luxury hotels and ryokans. You will discover not only the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but also lesser known Takayama, Shirakawago and Kanazawa.

Day 1 Tokyo

After clearing immigration, you will be met by a member of our staff and escorted to your private car. Transfer to your hotel.

In order for your holiday to be as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, we have included a private and personalized orientation session, where you will be given everything you need to travel confidently in Japan.

One of our English-speaking staff members will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and will go through your itinerary with you, day by day, and answer any questions you may have. You’ll also receive your “welcome pack” of additional information, such as tourist maps of each destination, suggested walking routes, and detailed information on any special activities you may have booked, as well as a Japanese phrase sheet, which should help you travel in Japan more easily!

Your hotel, the Peninsula Tokyo, is located in the prestigious business district of Marunouchi, opposite the Imperial Palace and Hibiya Park and within a few minutes’ walk of the shopping capital of Ginza. The hotel has 314 spacious guestrooms, including 47 suites. Guestrooms are among the largest in Tokyo and have stunning views of the city and all the rooms and suites blend traditional Peninsula standards of comfort and innovative technology with elements of Japanese heritage and culture.

Hotel: Peninsula Hotel
Day 2 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend today exploring some of Tokyo’s highlights with your guide.

Start your day at Hamarikyu Garden. Located right by Tokyo Bay, it features tidal seawater ponds, as well as a tea house on an island, where visitors can take a rest and enjoy the scenery. The traditionally styled garden stands in stark contrast to the skyscrapers of the next door Shiodome district. From there you can take a boat along the Sumida River to Asakusa to see Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple.

From Asakusa head to Kappabashi, Tokyo’s restaurant-supply district, a wonderful area for souvenir shopping for all things cooking-related. Convincingly realistic plastic replicas of Japanese foods, the likes of which you may have seen displayed in restaurant windows, can also be found here.

If you are still feeling energetic this evening, we suggest a visit to Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest structures in the world. From the top you can enjoy stunning views of the metropolis below as the day turns into night.

Hotel: Peninsula Hotel
Day 3 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend this morning exploring more of Tokyo with your guide.

Start your day at Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most important shrine, situated in a large, forest area amongst the bustling city. From here venture over to the trendy nearby districts of Harajuku and Omotesando. The former is the center of Japanese teen culture, bursting with life, and the latter boasts more buildings by great modern architects than anywhere else.

In the afternoon, perhaps explore Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s busiest, most colorful districts, and home to the famous ‘Shibuya Crossing.’ The area has many great arcades where you can try Japanese-style games and make some memories in the amazing ‘purikura’ photo booths.

Famous for shopping and nightlife as well as unparalleled people watching, Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world and is surrounded by department stores, restaurants, and izakaya. You could then end the day trying out one of the most famous Japanese pastimes, karaoke. There is no shortage of karaoke venues in the city, and it’s easy to simply walk in and request a private room to sing the night away.

Hotel: Peninsula Hotel
Day 4 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend the day at leisure in Tokyo with a visit to the fun-filled Odaiba island to see Tokyo at its most modern. Built on reclaimed land, the area is ultra-modern, boasting wonderful shopping and entertainment, including the famous ferris wheel and numerous indoor amusement parks.

Here you can visit the excellent Museum of Science & Emerging Technology, where you can meet Asimo the robot. Also, of note is the Panasonic Center, and Sega Joypolis, one of Japan’s largest game centers, where you can try all the latest arcade games. Don’t miss a ride on the giant ferris wheel at 115m. It’s one of the world’s highest and offers great views across the Tokyo skyline.

We also recommend Oedo Onsen Monogatari. At this hot spring (onsen) themed amusement park, visitors pick their favorite yukata (cotton kimono) and enjoy all manner of indoor and outdoor baths, the water of which comes from a natural hot spring 1,400 meters below. You can even be buried up to your neck in warm volcanic sand as is the tradition on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. Also, of interest, Edo period streets have been recreated within the complex, offering plenty of old-timey shopping and dining options.

In the afternoon, head over to trendy Roppongi. Known as a party area, Roppongi lives a double life as an art hub. There’s an impressive range of museums and smaller galleries. We recommend checking out the Mori Art Museum, which has fantastic views over the city as well as a great range of artwork, or the Complex665 building, which is home to three separate galleries. The nearby National Art Center Tokyo’s impressive shimmering structure is one of the largest exhibition spaces in the country. With no permanent collection, there’s always something new and exciting to see. Roppongi is also a great area for experiencing Tokyo’s nightlife.

Hotel: Peninsula Hotel
Day 5 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Today you will enjoy a workshop in Ninjutsu with members of a genuine ninja clan who can trace their roots back to 1583. During the session you will learn about some of the history of Ninjas and also the spiritual side of Ninjas, including meditation and ancestor veneration. You will also have the chance to study and handle a variety of distinctive Ninja weapons, and practice Ninja techniques such as stealthy steps.

Then, change into your Hakama outfit for the Samurai session, in which you will have a sword experience, and learn about the concept of the ‘inner eye.’

Spend the rest of the day at leisure.

Begin by enjoying a stroll around the Imperial Palace Gardens. The East Gardens, the only part of the palace generally open to the public, is both large and varied. As it is famous for cherry blossoms, azalea, irises and pine, it is lovely at any season.

Then head to the next – door Ginza area, renowned for its upmarket shopping and dining, as well as for being an entertainment district. Here you’ll find numerous department stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes. There are many notable stores in the area. For department stores, we recommend Matsuya, which also houses an exhibition floor; or Mitsukoshi, whose history dates back to 1673. Tokyu Plaza Ginza offers tourists tax-free shopping, and also boasts an open-air roof top, which offers great views over the city.

As the day turns into evening, head to nearby Akihabara, also known as Akiba, a district that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan’s otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. In the evening, the area is buzzing with people and many of the stores are open well into the late hours. Here is a great place to grab some food as there are plenty of options to choose from!

Hotel: Peninsula Hotel
Day 6 Tokyo - Takayama

Breakfast is at the hotel.

To allow you to travel comfortably, your luggage will be sent from Tokyo to Takayama overnight. We suggest packing a small overnight bag as you will be without the bulk of your luggage for your first evening in Takayama.

Make your way to the train station which is an eight – minute walk. Take the bullet train, Japan Rail Shinkansen, to Nagoya Station and change to a limited express train bound for Takayama.

This afternoon your guide and driver will meet you at the station for your half-day private tour.

Head to the Hida Folk Village Open-Air Museum. See over 30 traditional houses from the Hida region, the mountainous district of Gifu Prefecture around Takayama. The houses were built during the Edo Period (1603 – 1867) and were relocated from their original locations to create the museum in 1971. In a village-like atmosphere, the museum features buildings such as the former village head’s house, logging huts, storehouses and a number of gassho-zukuri farmhouses.

Afterwards, perhaps head to the Hida Takayama Crafts Experience Center and enjoy a workshop on local crafts such as sarubobo dolls (a popular local doll), wind chimes and ceramic cups.

Your ryokan is the Hidatei Hanaougi, a beautifully designed ryokan in the heart of Takayama. The Hanaougi’s wooden interior is a tribute to Takayama’s most famous craft, carpentry. Kaiseki meals make the most of seasonal mountain produce with mountain vegetables, mushrooms, and char caught in mountain streams complimenting the area’s pride: mouth-watering Hida-gyu beef. Large communal hot springs baths are available both indoors and outdoors, and a private outdoor bath can be reserved by the hour. Some of the more luxurious rooms have private outdoor baths, perfect for moon viewing.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Hidatei Hanaougi Ryokan
Day 7 Takayama

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

Accompanied by your guide, spend the day exploring Takayama. Start early at the vibrant morning markets, which have an interesting mix of crafts and produce for sale, and make a great place to try local foods, people-watch, and shop for souvenirs.

There are two markets to visit: the Jinya-mae Market in front of the Takayama Jinya and the Miya-gawa Market on the east bank of Miya River, between Kaji-Bashi Bridge and Yayoi-Bashi Bridge. The latter is more attractive and larger, but both have farmer’s stalls with local vegetables, old women selling pickles, and an interesting assortment of local handicrafts.

Head on to Teramachi, the temple district, which is home to over a dozen temples and shrines; exploring the buildings and precincts, and the pleasant walk between them is a good way to get to know one of Takayama’s important districts.

Start the afternoon at Takayama Jinya, before visiting the San-machi Suji area of wooden merchant houses, many of which are now museums. The old town is full of sake breweries, which can be identified by the cedar balls hanging outside.

End the day with a visit to the Yatai Kaikan, where the huge, majestic and ornate floats used in the famous Takayama Festival are stored when not in use. Some of the floats date back to the 17th century and are decorated with intricate carvings of gilded wood, and detailed metal-work, rich design, similar in style to art from Kyoto during the Momoyama period, and blended with elements from the early Edo period. Detailed carving, lacquering and beautiful decorative metal-works is found not only on the outside of the floats, but inside as well, under the roof and behind the panels, where the work is amazingly detailed.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Hidatei Hanaougi Ryokan
Day 8 Takayama - Kanazawa.

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

This morning leave Takayama for Kanazawa.

En route, enjoy a trip to visit the beautifully preserved area of Shirakawa-go, famous for steeply thatched gassho-zukuri houses. The largest village in the area is Ogimachi, which has a good look-out over the town. Many of the houses are open to the public as museums.

Depending on how much time you would like to spend in Shirakawago, you may have some time available for sightseeing upon arrival in Kanazawa. Your guide will be able to let you know what options are available and will be able to show you around some local highlights.

Your ryokan, Kanazawa Maki No Oto, opened in 2017. This tiny but charming ryokan hotel has only four rooms. Located in the Higashi Chaya Gai geisha district, a stay here puts you right in the heart of Kanazawa.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Kanazawa Maki No Oto Ryokan
Day 9 Kanazawa

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

To allow you to travel comfortably your luggage will be sent from Kanazawa to Kyoto overnight. We suggest packing a small overnight bag as you will be without the bulk of your luggage for your final evening in Kanazawa.

Enjoy a full day tour of Kanazawa by private car.

Start with a visit to the well-preserved samurai district of Nagamachi, where many of the houses are now museums giving a glimpse into Kanazawa’s feudal past.

Continue on to Higashi Chaya-gai, one of Japan’s best – preserved geisha districts, and the old wooden buildings are a wonderful place to feel transported back centuries. Some of the traditional buildings are open as museums, and it is also here that you can visit the gold-leaf workshop which produces so much of Kanazawa’s most famous product.

Visit the covered arcade of the Omicho Ichiba Markets the heart of Kanazawa’s impressive food culture and an excellent sport for lunching, snacking, or people watching.

Later, visit Teramachi, a collection of temples, the most famous of which is the Ninja Temple, which we are happy to make you a reservation to join the guided tours of. Nearby, the Kutani Kosen Gama Kiln still makes highly decorated functional pottery, and you can visit the workshop and see how the traditional ceramics are made here.

End the day with a visit to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which contrasts impressively with Kanazawa’s traditional feel, but the art housed there and the frequently rotating exhibits make it a must-see for those interested in contemporary art and culture.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Kanazawa Maki No Oto Ryokan
Day 10 Kanazawa – Kyoto

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

Private car transfer to the Kanazawa station to take the Limited Express Thunderbird Train to Kyoto.

Your guide will meet you at the station when you arrive.

Begin your afternoon at Kiyomizu Temple, which looks out over the city from the hillside. From there, continue down the slope, past Kodai-ji Temple to Yasaka-jinja Shrine and into Maruyama Park. Finish your tour in Gion where you can often catch a glimpse of Kyoto’s apprentice Geisha on their way to their evening appointments.

Your hotel is the Ritz – Carlton, one of Kyoto’s newest and most luxurious hotels. The Ritz-Carlton opened in early 2014. Just 15 minutes from JR Kyoto Station, it is located in the heart of the city alongside the Kamogawa River and is well placed for sightseeing.

Hotel: Ritz – Carlton Kyoto Hotel
Day 11 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Enjoy a full-day private tour of some of Kyoto’s highlights.

Start the day by visiting some of the iconic sights in the north west of the city. You’ll be seeing the stunning Golden Pavilion and Ryoan-ji Zen Garden before visiting the nearby Ninna-ji Temple, which houses one of Kyoto’s loveliest gardens.

Spend the afternoon exploring Arashiyama, an area in the west of the city. The famous bridge here has been depicted for centuries in woodblock paintings. The area has an old-timey atmosphere, and is a popular spot for kimono wearing in the spring and autumn.

The area is also famous for its bamboo grove, located right by the stunning UNESCO Tenryu-ji Temple. It is here that you can see the picture-postcard view of the green towers of bamboo swaying in the breeze.

Also, of interest here is Jojakko-ji Temple, founded in 1596, and the Okochi Sanso Villa.

Hotel: Ritz – Carlton Kyoto Hotel
Day 12 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend the day exploring independently at leisure.

We suggest visiting Nara, a great place to escape from modern Japan. See the impressive giant bronze Buddha, Japan’s largest, housed in the famous all-wood Todai-ji Temple. Then enjoy a walk in Nara-Koen Park, which is home to very friendly local deer who will follow you hoping for tasty treats! The Kasuga Taisha Shrine, which dates from Nara’s time as the capital of Japan, is also located in the park and is well worth a visit.

You may wish to make time to visit the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha on your way back into Kyoto. This shrine is well-known for its thousands of red torii gates leading up the mountainside and is an extremely sacred place. A walk around this shrine is the perfect way to work up an appetite for Kyoto’s wonderful cuisine!

Hotel: Ritz – Carlton Kyoto Hotel
Day 13 Kyoto - Osaka - Kyoto

Spend the day exploring Osaka with your guide. Osaka is Japan’s second largest city and can be reached from Kyoto in under 15 minutes by bullet train. First, visit Osaka Castle: the imposing castle structure spans five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, and is built on a tall stone foundation. Equally attractive are the expansive grounds.

Following this, you’ll stop off at Shitennoji, one of Japan’s oldest temples and the first ever to be built by the state. Nearby you’ll find the Gokuraku-jodo Garden, designed based on descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha. The temple complex offers many items of historical interest. You’ll visit the treasure house which displays paintings, scriptures and other valuable belongings of the temple in periodic, themed exhibitions.

Towards late afternoon, head on to the Dotonbori entertainment district, where you can experience Osaka’s famous food and entertainment culture.

Return to Kyoto for dinner.

Hotel: Ritz – Carlton Kyoto Hotel
Day 14 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Make your way to a traditional machiya townhouse, where you will first have a tour of the machiya before being dressed in kimono for your Tea Ceremony, perhaps the most enigmatic of the traditional arts. This will be followed by a light, Kyoto style lunch.

Spend the afternoon exploring independently at leisure.

We suggest a visit to nearby Nishiki Market, a long, narrow covered street packed with shops selling local specialties which is sometimes referred to as Kyoto’s kitchen. Barrels of fresh and pickled vegetables spill out into the street, and the air is fragrant with the savory smell of grilling sembei crackers and steaming fish dumplings. Many of the shops offer free samples, and the Nishiki Market is a wonderful way to stock up on very Japanese picnic supplies for lunch.

Next, we recommend heading to Nishijin Textile Center, where you can learn about the fascinating process behind the manufacturing of the kimono. In addition, there are daily kimono shows, displaying the beauty and potential of this beautiful garment.

Perhaps finish your day with a visit to the nearby Nijo Castle, UNESCO Site and former home of the Shogun. On exploring the beautifully decorated interior, you can walk on the ‘nightingale floors’, so-called because the design of the floorboards causes them to squeak when stepped upon – almost like a chirp. End your visit with a stroll around the lush gardens.

Hotel: Ritz – Carlton Kyoto Hotel
Day 15 Kyoto – Kansai International Airport

Breakfast is at the hotel.

You will be transferred to the airport in good time for your flight home.