Essential Japan

Get a deeper understanding of this extraordinary country by tucking into Tokyo's streetfood, catching a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, exploring shrines in Kyoto and taking in Osaka's urban buzz on our Essential Japan holiday.

At a glance
  • Walk Tokyo’s most historic streets
  • Soak in Hakone’s hot springs
  • Ride the ropeway up volcanic Mt Owakudani
  • Marvel at the shrines of Kyoto on a cycling tour
  • Participate in a tea ceremony
  • Feel inspired by Hiroshima’s Peace Park
  • Visit the 1,500 year old shrine of Miyajima
  • Indulge in Osaka’s streetfood scene
Price & Hotels

Tokyo - 3 nights

Tokyo is one of the world's most captivating cities, and has seen revolutionary changes over the last few centuries. The shogun’s castle has transformed into the Emperor’s Palace, the samurai dwellings have exploded upwards into gleaming skyscrapers, and millions of people have poured in from all over the country, animating their capital into a vast energising urban sprawl. You’ll be guided around the city’s mouth-watering food scene, and its historic Shitamachi district, home to the city's oldest temple and some of its most respected museums.

Day 1 - Arrive Tokyo, street food tour


On arrival in Japan, you'll be met by our representative, who will accompany you to your hotel. Excellent public transport is part of the Japan travel experience, so we'll be making the most of this throughout your trip. Once you’ve checked in to your hotel, your time will be at leisure until 5pm, when you’ll meet your guide for a tour of Tokyo’s vibrant culinary scene. Over the course of the evening you’ll visit a variety of venues, from tiny izakaya pubs to street-side stalls, each distinctive in their atmosphere and food offerings.

Day 2 - Walking tour of historic Tokyo


Meet your guide and set off for a walking tour of Tokyo’s historic Shitamachi district, which boomed during the Edo era (1603 - 1868). You'll wander through the city’s oldest Geisha district, visit a drum museum to have a bash at playing some traditional instruments, and stroll down Kappabashi-dori - the well-known street that sells nothing but kitchenware and the famous life-sized replicas of food which Japanese restaurants often display instead of menus. Explore shops selling kimono, traditional sweets and crafts, and take in stunning views of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Drop in to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Craft Museum, before paying your respects at Senso-ji (‘Asakusa Kannon’), which - at nearly 1,400 years old - is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist site. Stop to enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before being driven to Ueno, which was the wealthiest district in Japan during the Edo period. This afternoon's walk will take in Jomyo-in, a temple containing 84,000 Jizo (Bodhisattva) statues, and the historic Kane-ji temple, along with some of Tokyo’s most famous museums in Ueno Park. Finish your tour at Ameyoko-cho, which was a black market after World War II and is now one of Japan’s few remaining outdoor markets. It's the ideal spot for tea and yakitori, and possibly a cold beer - the first round is on us!

Day 3 - Explore independently


Your day will be at leisure to explore Tokyo at your own pace. Alternatively, you can venture beyond Tokyo to explore the popular seaside city of Kamakura or head into the mountains of Nikko National Park.

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Hakone - 2 nights

Hakone's volcanic hot springs and delightful scenery (not to mention its convenient location, within easy reach of both Tokyo and Mount Fuji) have led to the region's popularity as an onsen spa resort, and won it UNESCO Geopark status. Cable cars and ropeways sway across the green volcanic slopes, and Fuji steams away beyond the densely wooded shores of Lake Ashi, which boasts a fleet of painted wooden ships, each a detailed replica of a famous historic vessel. Your time here will be at leisure, using your included Hakone Transport Pass to explore, using various fun ways to get around. Ride the Hakone Tozan ‘switchback train’, which zigzags through the mountains, giving superb views of the surrounding valleys, take a voyage in one of the sweet little wooden ships on the lake, and sway all the way up Mount Owakudani on the Guinness World Record-setting ropeway to see the sulphur springs.You might like to taste the local delicacy - eggs hard-boiled in the sulfuric water, and reputed to add seven years to your life!

Day 4 - Train to Hakone, ryokan stay


Starting early, make your way (via Tokyo's easy-to-use public transit network) to Tokyo Station for the two hour train trip along the coast to Hakone. On arrival, check in to your ryokan before enjoying the remainder of the day at leisure. You might like to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum this afternoon. Tonight you’ll stay in traditional Japanese-style ryokan accommodation, complete with tatami mats and onsen baths. Spend the evening relaxing in your yukata (lightweight kimono), and dine on a sumptuous kaiseki multi-course feast. An onsen after dinner is highly recommended before you bed down on your futon.

Day 5 - Explore independently


Your day will be at leisure to see Hakone and its surrounds at your own pace. Head out to explore the National Park, perhaps riding the Guinness World Record-setting ropeway all the way up Mount Owakudani. If the weather is clear, you should be able to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, although clouds frequently obscure the peak. At 3776 metres it’s the highest mountain in Japan and is an active volcano, last erupting in 1708.

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Kyoto - 3 nights

Kyoto has long played a graceful historic counterpoint to Tokyo’s unrelenting urban buzz. This is a city of ancient Shinto shrines and immaculate Zen temples, professional geisha and Noh theatre, and the evocative wooden architecture of ‘old’ Japan. It's home to an astonishing 2,000 shrines and temples, including seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The oldest was established in the 6th century AD, and for miles around you can find soaring pagodas, along with the superbly decorated shogunate Nijo Castle, and markets selling well-made traditional crafts and decent antiques. Aside from its historic architecture and deep cultural connections, Kyoto is renowned for its cuisine, and the city boasts some of the best restaurants in Japan, several of which enjoy Michelin-star ratings. You’ll spend time in a traditional Kyoto townhouse learning historic arts, explore some of the city’s heritage sites by bicycle with a knowledgeable local guide, and take a foodie tour in the infamous geisha district.

Day 6 - Train to Kyoto, kimono wearing & tea ceremony


Ride the bullet train along the coast to Kyoto, where you’ll meet your knowledgeable local guide for a string of hands-on cultural experiences, each carefully designed to introduce all your senses to some of Japan’s most refined and rarified traditions. You’ll get a tour of a beautifully restored wooden townhouse, spend time learning how to put on and wear a kimono, before - suitably dressed - joining a tea master for a deeper insight into the tea ceremony and the meaning behind its ritual gestures. Afterwards you can enjoy a short introduction to origami.

Day 7 - City highlights cycle tour


Explore Kyoto on two wheels, cycling with your guide to visit some of Kyoto’s World Heritage sites. Start by pedalling the short distance to Nishi Hongan-ji Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in the city. Then continue to Nijo Castle, an ornamental structure surrounded by stunning gardens, built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate. The main building was completed in 1603 and is known for its distinctive architecture and chirping ‘nightingale’ floors. After a break for lunch ride to Kinkaku-ji Temple, known as the Golden Pavilion, and Ryoan-ji, the site of Japan's most famous Zen garden, and home to the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Finish with a visit to scenic Arashiyama, an area famous for its bamboo forest, huge temples and vibrant alleyways, before returning to central Kyoto.

Day 8 - Explore independently, Gion food tour


Your day is at leisure until early this evening, when you’ll meet your guide for a gastronomic adventure in Kyoto’s infamous Gion district. Kyoto lays claim to some of the most exquisitely prepared, refined cuisine in Japan. Begin with a drink and bar snacks at an izakaya, before taking a leisurely stroll around Gion for a chance to see elegantly attired geisha darting along the winding streets to their evening engagements. Enjoy dinner at a cozy restaurant, where dishes are prepared using the finest seasonal ingredients, and chat with the chef, with your guide as interpreter. Your gourmet journey will conclude at a hidden sake bar with a chance to taste the different varieties.

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Hiroshima - 2 nights

Perhaps more than any city in the world, Hiroshima is famous for one moment in history: on 6 August 1945, an atomic bomb was detonated above it, instantly destroying everything within a 2km radius. Since this infamous act, the city has rebuilt itself as one of Japan's most laid back, vibrant cities, full of wide boulevards and art museums, great restaurants and friendly, welcoming people. Your stay here will be at leisure to discover the city at your own pace, but we recommend a visit to the Peace Park and Museum for a sobering reminder of the events of 1945. Far from being a depressing experience, the theme of the Museum and surrounding park is one of hope and peace. Nearby Hiroshima Castle is also interesting, albeit largely reconstructed; it was still being used as a Japanese military HQ in the 1940s, and its wooden structure and proximity to ground zero meant that all but the basement offices were obliterated in the blast. The castle houses an exhibition of regional life in the Edo era, and there's a good view across the city from its keep. In Hiroshima Bay, an hour from the city centre, sits Miyajima - 'shrine island'. Its 1,500 year old Shinto shrine sits embedded in the sand, so the huge red torii gate appears to 'float' on the water at high tide. The island is home to some very chilled out deer, and has a number of relaxing walking trails.

Day 9 - Train to Hiroshima, explore independently


Catch the train to Hiroshima where the rest of your day will be at leisure to begin exploring this inspiring city. Take time to visit the Peace Park and Museum for a sobering reminder of the events of 1945, and explore Hiroshima Castle.

Day 10 - Explore independently


Your day will be at leisure, with time to hop on the ferry over to Miyajima island, a small sacred island located in the Seto Inland Sea. Begin with Itsukushima Shrine and take in the beautiful views of the island’s ‘floating’ Torii gate. Then walk towards the mountain to visit Daisho-in, the most visited Buddhist temple on the island, spinning sutras to gain a blessing as you climb the stairs to the main hall.

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Osaka - 2 nights

Osaka is defined by its flamboyance, its fun-loving people, and fantastic food and drink; this is a place to indulge yourself and allow people to entertain you, rather than potter around temples. The city's food and sake are world-renowned, thanks to plentiful supplies of high quality ingredients, and long-established merchants with preferential connections. Dotonbori is the best known district for food and nightlife, but you'll enjoy a mouth-watering tour of the city’s best streetfood experience in a more authentic local atmosphere.

Day 11 - Bullet train to Osaka, local food tour


Jump on the shinkansen, which will whisk you from Hiroshima to Osaka, where your day will be at leisure until late afternoon, when you’ll meet your guide in the Tenma district for this evening’s food tour. A lively, unpretentious neighbourhood steeped in history, Tenma is home to Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street which claims to be the longest covered arcade in Japan, stretching more than 2.5 kilometres. The area’s maze of narrow streets and alleys come to life at night when locals flock to dine and relax in the many tiny bars and hole-in-the-wall eateries that open up. Forget Dotonburi - this is the place to get real local soul food, and your guide will show you where to find the classics.

Day 12 - City tour


Explore the best of Osaka’s sights today with your local guide, beginning with Osaka Castle, arguably the city’s most famous landmark. Originally built in the late 1500s, the pretty wooden structure was largely rebuilt in 1931, and the views from the top floor of the surrounding gardens and city beyond are stunning. Then take a scenic cruise along the Okawa River, its banks lined with cherry trees, for fine views of Nakanoshima Park and the red-bricked Mint Museum, before returning to the Namba district for a true feel of the ‘Osakan vibe’. In the afternoon walk through Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca that has long been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district and former 'pleasure district'. Here you will encounter a tantalising array of food stalls and restaurants, and the backstreets hold a few hidden gems including the Kamigata Ukiyo-e Museum displaying woodblock-printed books and paintings and Hozenji Temple, where worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity, instead of tossing coins. Before saying farewell to your guide this evening, try one of Osaka’s famous local dishes such as okonomiyaki (pancake with cabbage, pork, ginger, nori, and sauce).

Day 13 - Depart Osaka


Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.

Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.

Hotel class Price per person (based on total # travelling)
2 persons 3-4 5-6
First Class £4,087US$5,329 £3,737US$4,873 £3,480US$4,537

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku

A brand new hotel addition in the heart of the up-and-coming, lively Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, the Hotel Gracery has the advantage of a wide and varied range of shops, bars and restaurants on its doorstep.… See more

Hakone Pax Yoshino

Against a backdrop of densely forested hills, the Hakone Pax Yoshino combines the best of Japanese and Western hotel traditions to create a modern ryokan-style experience… See more

Noku Kyoto

Contemporary Japanese style, friendly service and its good location near many key sights make Noku Kyoto a great choice for anyone seeking a modern bolt hole in this ancient city...

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Hotel Vista Hiroshima

A stylish, good value hotel in the centre of Hiroshima, the Hotel Vista is within walking distance of the Peace Park and well located for access to other important must-sees, as well as a good range of restaurants…

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Cross Hotel Osaka

This modern urban property sits plum in the centre of Osaka, making it perfect for exploring Japan’s second largest city, with popular locations like Dotonbori and Osaka Castle within very easy reach... See more
Superior £4,807US$6,267 £4,457US$5,812 £4,200US$5,476

Park Hotel

As much of an art gallery as a hotel, the Park Hotel is a ‘Design Hotel’. Thought-provoking design and architecture are an essential element of the property.… See more

Aura Tachibana

Nestled in the hills above Hakone (15 minutes uphill walk from the station), this contemporary ryokan boasts amazing views over the surrounding forest clad mountains: views that can be enjoyed from the rooms and the open-air onsen... See more

The Celestine

Located in the Gion district of Kyoto, the Celestine is a modern boutique hotel which combines chic interiors, well-designed facilities and high traditional service standards… See more

Sheraton Grand Hiroshima

When it comes to location you really can’t get more convenient than the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima. Occupying a prime spot next to the train station, with direct access to the bullet train, bus terminals and the city’s tram lines... See more

Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

Located on the top floors of Japan’s tallest building, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel has a convenient central location, great facilities and absolutely jaw-dropping views over the city and beyond to Osaka Bay...

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Deluxe £6,785US$8,847 £6,210US$8,097 £6,125US$7,986

Palace Hotel

Originally built in the early 1960’s and an iconic property of the time, the Palace Hotel was razed to the ground in 2009 and completely rebuilt, re-opening in 2012 with a more up-to-date look... See more

Gora Kadan

Enjoying an idyllic setting in harmony with the natural surroundings of Hakone National Park, Gora Kadan was formerly the summer residence of the Kaninnomiya Imperial family and it’s easy to see why they chose this picturesque spot... See more

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

Situated in a secluded old district in central Kyoto, the stylish Hyatt Regency is conveniently close to several important temples and the National Museum, as well as key transport hubs for exploring the city and beyond... See more

Sheraton Grand Hiroshima

When it comes to location you really can’t get more convenient than the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima. Occupying a prime spot next to the train station, with direct access to the bullet train, bus terminals and the city’s tram lines... See more

Conrad Osaka

Occupying the top floors of the Nakanoshima Festival West Tower in the heart of the city, the Conrad Osaka is a sleek luxury hotel with sweeping views from all its guest rooms and public spaces…

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Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.

These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).

Itinerary additions

  • Extend your holiday with a few days relaxing in one of Japan's excellent hot spring resorts, where you can soak in volcanic waters and enjoy some leisure time in a truly Japanese style.

At Selective Asia we specialise in creating unique, tailor-made experiences. The holiday itineraries provided on this website are intended to help you visualise what is achievable in your destinations of choice, over a given period of time and at an intended budget.

While many clients are happy with of our recommended itineraries in the current form (and at the price quoted), there are those that wish to personalise their holiday in some way, whether it be a change of hotel, an additional destination or even start from scratch. This is when our tailor-made specialists come into their own; with many years of experience both living and working in the region they are ideally equipped to advise on alternatives and to facilitate any necessary changes.

The important stuff

Please note: Japanese hotel contracts are extremely seasonal in comparison to most of their Asian counterparts and therefore you should expect surcharges at various times of the year, including weekends, not just during peak seasons such as Christmas, New Year and Cherry Blossom. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.


  • English speaking, local guide
  • All accommodation listed
  • All train tickets and rail passes as listed
  • Luggage forwarding service as listed
  • 4G Wi-Fi To Go Package
  • Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals listed
  • International flight reconfirmation.


  • Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
  • Entry visas
  • International airport departure taxes
  • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Drinks, other than water on activity days
  • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
  • Travel insurance
  • All other services not listed in 'inclusive'

Please note

All prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.




We will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.


You will not require a visa to enter Japan. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.


Please ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.


You will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.

Vaccinations and Malaria Prevention

You will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.

Booking Procedure

Only once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.

Travelling Responsibly

We care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Stephen – Japan tailor-made specialist

‘A perfectly balanced two week holiday that explores both ancient and modern Japan.'

StephenJapan tailor-made specialist

Speak to Stephen on 01273 670 001

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Our tailor-made service costs you no extra

This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...

What to expect from us in Japan

Japan's excellent public transport & exceptional safety allow us to offer a more self-guided experience than we do elsewhere. It's a famously expensive country, so we often suggest more independent exploration, with our exclusive self-guide app on hand to help you unearth our hidden gems. This helps to keep your costs down, and the data is on us.

Book With Confidence

For peace of mind when booking your future holiday to Asia, we have introduced flexible booking conditions & full financial clarity.