China and Japan appear frequently on Asia bucket lists: they are the top representatives of Eastern culture. Both countries are now open for travel. Experience both for rich and distinctive Oriental culture on a memorable (and romantic) big trip or a wonderful family time.
In China you can visit the well-preserved Forbidden City and Terracotta Warriors, climb the magnificent Great Wall, see the lovely round pandas, and ride a bamboo raft on the Li River... In Japan you can have an afternoon tea dressed in kimonos with beautiful geishas, visit the symbol of Japan — Mount Fuji, and stay at a traditional ryokan (inn) with an onsen (hot spring bath)...
In this article, we are going to look at how to plan your first tour of China and Japan.
Do I need a visa to visit China and Japan?
Japan has restored the visa-waiver system from October 11th, 2022. If your country is in the list of Exemption of Japan Visa like Australia, Canada, USA, UK and almost all European nations, you can visit Japan without applying for a visa in advance.
China has officially announced resumption of all visas including tourist visas (L visas) from March 15th, 2023. If your 10-year China visa, obtained before COVID-19, is still within its expiration date, you can enter China now without applying for a new one.
China has also reinstated its 144-hour visa-free transit policies, which allow you to enjoy a long stopover stay (6 days) in China without a visa. This policy option currently only applies to passengers transiting through China via the following cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Dalian, and Shenyang. This policy is valid for travelers from 53 countries including the US, the UK, Singapore, and Canada.
Book a tour with us and we will provide you with the invitation letter needed to apply for a Tourist Visa.
98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+
Wonderful 10 day trip in Japan!!!
Well planned trip by Alisa . Everything was well scheduled, guides and drivers were excellent!! The cars were extremely comfortable and the hotel she chose for us was beautiful!! Enjoyed planning with her she was very professional and always offered other choices.More
Lianne Stone, May 2023
11 days trip to Japan
I am planning my trip to Japan in November with Sharon's help and she has provided amazing customer service.She is very responsive and put together very quickly an incredible plan for 11 days in Japan. She provided recommendations and made changes based on our interests and budget. She also provided information about visa restrictions and the best way to get tickets for transportation services. Thanks so much Sharon, looking forward to this trip!More
LE, May 2023
Hi Cathy! I just want to thank you for making our Japan trip so much fun & memorable! We loved everything that you had scheduled for us! All the guides and drivers were great & punctual! We love Japan so much that we’re planning to go back next year to different part of Japan! We’ll definitely contact Asia Highlights for our trip again! SereneMore
Serene Storslett, May 2023
Quick, easy and detailed service
Alisa was our advisor from Asia highlights and she prepared for us a wonderful 28 day trip to Japan, taking into consideration our needs and desire not to be traveling everyday and to have a mixture of slow and busy days. We've not yet taken our trip, but very much looking forward to it Thank you Alisa for the quick response and wonderful itineraryMore
Lynette Whittle, Apr 2023
Sharon Huang did an excellent job in planningour 15 day Cherry Blossom Japan tour. Shewas available during our trip to answer our questions and readily agreed to the itinerary changes.Everything was arranged - accommodation,breakfast, guide, car, entrance fees and train tickets. The guides were knowledgeable, and managed the tour very efficiently. The drivers were punctual and very patient. We visited must see places in and near Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. We also got to experience Japanese Tea ceremony, Sushi making, Sake tasting, shopping etc.We highly recommend Asia Highlights for your travel needs.More
Madhu, Apr 2023
I organized a trip to Japan for my
I organized a trip to Japan for my parents who don’t speak English and Alisa was so amazing helping make an itinerary for them. They needed a Spanish guide and she coordinated everything so they wouldn’t have any trouble when they got there. She was so patient changing and adjusting the itinerary to their needs and wants, it’s been a total pleasure working with her and she always responds promptly to any question I have. I definitely recommend this company and if you can ask to work with Alisa.More
Luisa, Apr 2023
Trip to Japan. I have had the pleasure to book with…
For the reasons above, I decided to book again with Asia highlights for our trip to Japan this year in September. Until now it’s been a pleasure dealing with Albee Ning. She was so efficient and pleasant in adjusting our itinerary. Whenever I had any questions I could count on her to answer promptly. I am very lucky to have her as our organiser for our future trip to Japan. I have had the pleasure to book with Asia Highlights when we went to China in 2018. We were extremely satisfied with the exceptional services rendered by our organiser, Robert Hui and private guide William.More
Mrs Cristina Hidalgo Loris, Apr 2023
Albee Ning and Asia Highlights - wonderful to work with.
I and my daughter planned a trip to China and Japan. We worked with Albee Ning who was fantastic in developing a itinerary based on our desires and needs. She was extremely responsive, taking into account all of our requests and worked closely with us, it wasn't just selecting from one of several pre-developed itineraries. We decided to postpone the trip until next year and received the guaranteed refund, minus a small deposit on next years trip. We look forward to working with her again on next years trip and trips in the future. We highly recommend Asia Highlights and Albee NingMore
Nancy K, Apr 2023
Handcrafted tour of Japan by Asia Highlights
My initial inquiry to this company (based in China) was answered in under 10 hours by an amazing travel consultant, named Alisa. She is such a professional in the ways she conducts herself and serves her clients. Alisa is a great communicator and listener. She is very open to requests for additional experiences which require research on her part to arrange. Alisa also provides very detailed information about each experience, location, guides, private car transfers, trains, hotels. This approach is very appealing since detailed communication is so useful and important to me. Alisa also makes the process simple and easy to follow. Answered tons of questions and created the perfect tour for us. We are looking forward to this once in a lifetime visit to Japan and are so grateful we have had the chance to work with Alisa at Asia Highlights!More
Laurie Lee, Feb 2023
Great Overall Experience
Our guide in Tokyo, Fuki, was outstanding. We saw things we would never have otherwise seen, if Fuki had not been there.More
Todd Hankinson, Dec 2022
Plenty of options and personalized tours as needed
Monica Mo was very helpful from the beginning after I enquired about my travel plans to Japan. She listened with understanding and took careful notes and clarified things to make sure she got everything.More
Ginybel Belgira, Sep 2022
Asia Highlights especially Ms. Kanae Chida superb
Asia Highlights and particularly our Tokyo guide, Ms. Kanae Chida, were the best. When Kanae met us, she asked for details of what we wished to see and she constructed an outstanding combination of visits for the day.More
Geoff Rayner-Canham, May 2019
I have arranged a 27 day tour of China, Japan and Hong Kong China
Peggie's English is impeccable and she uses lots of nuances which usually only a native English speaker would know. I have found her very prompt in responding to emails and her knowledge is terrific.More
Ailsa West, Jul 2018
Very professional, great customer service
We travelled to Japan this May (2018). We had contacted Asia Highlights to organise our trip for us. Miss Peggie Lyoo was very helpful, super-friendly, very professional and very prompt with all her replies!More
Tibor Marton, May 2018
Great job!! We had an amazing vacation to Japan. We will use Asian highlights for all of our trips to AsiaMore
Joe, May 2018
In addition, I want to specifically mention the guides provided in certain locations. Rum, in Siem Reap, made the most memorable experience possible. His positivity was contagious - even when it felt like 1000 degrees and we were tired. He brought it all to life, and created a couple days of Ankor Wat, etc. that we will never forget! He heard my daughter's request for specific Cambodian food, and changed our itinerary to go to a village and eat at a locally known shop. He brought the dessert she asked about to us in the car! Overall, he and his driver "Lucky" were a reason to go to Siem Reap. In addition, the other guides (minus one which was switched out immediately) were stupendous. Mon in Bangkok was friendly and provided a great day there; Eak in Chiang Mai gave us a world-class food-tour and day touring the city and its surrounding temples with lots of laughs; Tommy in Hanoi kept us from getting killed in the traffic and gave a stupendous food and architecture/history tour - so very friendly and funny; the fishing village tour in Hoi An, as well as the side-car tour in Saigon, were both unforgettable! Thank you Sharon, and Asia Highlights. Would definitely use again for future trips!More
Teri Simpson, Apr 2023
Cambodia and Vietnam adventure!
Our guide in Cambodia, Meas Darapolaith (Pol), was absolutely amazing. He was knowledgeable, friendly and so helpful. His English was excellent and he shared important insights about history and the magnificent sites we visited. We highly recommend him!More
Jennifer Roth Krieger, Apr 2023
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE…
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE Asia. Being the first in that region, we wanted to use a tour service company. We ended up using Asia Highlights. From the beginning we were impressed with their services. We left home with of mind because all the pre-travel arrangements were taking care and communicate to us efficiently. All our questions were answered promptly. Once in the countries, we were welcome by our excellent tour guides. Everything was taking care for us. We did not have one issue. They selected the right tours guides for us, they were highly knowledgeable and so much attentive to our needs. We had Dhat in Vietnam and Borin in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I highly recommend Asia Highlights. I came back home so much rested, and with plenty of wonderful pictures and memories. I will definitely use Asia Highlights again for my next trip to Asia.More
Isabelle Dessaux, Apr 2023
Fabulous tour and guide in Cambodia
We have been touring Cambodia, guided by Borin ( and driver 007) for the last 2 days. What a fabulous experience! Borin has been a wonderful guide, the best so far in Southeast Asia, explaining the history and culture of Cambodia through his tours of the temples in and around Angkor, as well as the Landmine museum. He has answered all our questions, made sure we were comfortable, and that we have had great food. 007 made sure we always had enough water and cool towels for our face/neck.We highly recommend Borin as a tour guide for Cambodia!!More
Monica, Mar 2023
Best Travel Service for Asia Travel
Alisa Liu was in charge of making the arrangements and she helped us from the start to make all of the arrangements and also helped us when we had questions and requested some adjustments. Her service is of the highest professional level. We are 100% confident that our trip will be perfect. We’re also 100% confident that, if anything comes up during our trip, that Alisa will be there to guide us through and take care of us. We won’t even consider using another agency for travel around Asia and we would like to have Alisa work for us again.More
Leo Pospichal, Mar 2023
What to See in China and Japan?
No matter whether you’re travelling for a family vacation, anniversary, or birthday, China and Japan will not disappoint you.
Top Things to Do in China
- Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an are must-see cities for China first-timers.
1) Maximize your experience of Chinese history and culture in Beijing (3–4 days) with a close-up tour of the Forbidden City where you’d see the best-preserved wooden palaces in China, climb the Great Wall and be a ‘hero’, bike through the hutongs to experience traditional Beijing, and sample Beijing Roast Duck.
2) Appreciate a striking blend of modernity and history in Shanghai (2–3 days): take a leisurely walk in Yu Garden — a classical garden built in 1559, ascend the Oriental Pearl Tower for a full view of Shanghai, and see charming night views on the Bund.
3) Discover ancient and imperial China in Xi’an (2–3 days): visit the amazing Terracotta Army, make your own terracotta warriors at a cave dwelling, and bike on the Ancient City Wall.
4) To extend your tour, maybe supplement the culture and history with some of China’s natural wonders: enjoy attractive idyllic scenery in Guilin (2–3 days), see cute pandas in Chengdu (2–3 days), and visit the Hallelujah Mountains in Zhangjiajie (2–3 days)
Most of China’s cities are connected by a high-speed train ride of 5 hours or less.
Suggested reading: 11-Day China Classic Tours
Top Things to Do in Japan
- Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the top cities for a first-time trip to Japan
1) Experience the highly-modernized and history-filled in Tokyo (3–4 days): sample sushi at famous Tsukiji Market, view the spectacular Mount Fuji, try on samurai armor at Samurai Museum, satisfy your children’s interest in anime, and take a day tour in Hakone for hot springs.
2) Soak in the strongly-traditional atmosphere of Kyoto (3–4 days): have an afternoon tea with beautiful geishas in kimonos, participate in a classical tea ceremony, sleep on a tatami at a traditional ryokan (inn), and have a close encounter with friendly deer in Nara National Park.
3) In the flourishing trade city of Osaka (1–2 days), you can visit outstanding Osaka Castle, sample delicious street food in Dotonbori, and have fun in Universal Studios.
Our travel consultants provide 1-to-1 service. Contact us and we’ll design a fulfilling, personalized trip based on the length of your holiday, preferences, and interests.
How Many Days Are Needed?
An awesome trip full of the main highlights of both China and Japan requires at least 2–3 weeks: 8–11 days in China and 7–10 days in Japan.
China is a big country with a rich culture and attractions that deserve more time to explore. Japan is a medium-sized country that you can visit the essence of at a more relaxed pace. Below are suggested itineraries for your inspiration.
1) An itinerary full of the essence of both countries:
- Days 1–2: Shanghai, China (the Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, Yu Garden)
- Days 3–4: Xi’an (the Terracotta Warriors, biking on the Ancient City Wall)
- Days 5–8: Beijing (the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace, roast duck)
- Days 9–12: Fly to Tokyo, Japan (samurai, anime, Tsukiji Market, Mount Fuji...)
- Days 13–15: Kyoto (geisha, kimonos, ryokan, tea ceremony, feed deer in Nara)
- Day 16: Osaka and departure
If you have more holiday, you can add two or three days in Guilin, Chengdu, and/or Zhangjiajie.
2) A visa-free itinerary (using the 144-hour visa-free policy in China):
- Days 1–2: Osaka, Japan
- Days 3–4: Hiroshima and Miyajima (Peace Memorial Park and Itsukushima Shrine)
- Days 5–7: Kyoto sightseeing
- Days 8–11: Explore Tokyo
- Days 12–14: Fly to Beijing, China
- Day 15: Departure from Beijing
Just let us know your interests and requirements, and we can help make it happen.
How Much Do China and Japan Cost?
A two-week trip to China and Japan costs around US$7,500–9,000.
- Private tour costs in China are about US$200–250 per day per person, and the costs in Japan are US$350–400 per day per person, including 4-star hotels, tickets for attractions, private cars and private guides.
- Prices can double in peak season, especially airfares and hotels. At peak times, we recommend you plan ahead and book flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance.
- Ryokans are a worth a night’s stay to try out traditional Japanese accommodation. They cost around US$300–450 per night.
- Direct flights from Beijing or Shanghai to Tokyo are about 3½ hours and cost US$400–1,000.
Suggested reading: How Much Is a Trip to Japan>>>
Best Times to Travel to China and Japan
China (central and northern) and Japan have similar climates, with distinct seasons.
- The tourism-friendly weather and the peak season in both countries is in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October), when there is less rain, more clear days, and comfortable temperatures. In both countries, spring is the time to appreciate flowers, like cherry blossom, pear flowers, and peach blossoms. Meanwhile, autumn is the time to enjoy red maples and golden ginkgoes. >>> How to Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip
- June to August is hot and rainy in China and Japan, but it won’t affect your journey. China and Japan have plenty of air-conditioned facilities, and the rain usually won’t continue for too long. Summer is the festival season in Japan and there are amazing firework-shows. We recommend coming to China in June, because it is cooler and less crowded than in July and August. Our private tours come with air-conditioned cars and private guides who help to book your tickets in advance and flexibly include meaningful indoor activities to dodge the heat and downpours.
- November to March is winter in much of Japan and China, when it gets cold and dry, and some northern Chinese and Japanese cities will see snow. It’s the perfect time to go skiing and see snowy scenery. Christmas and New Year is the busiest time in both countries: hotels and flights are easily booked up. Thus, we suggest you make reservation at least 6 months in advance. >>> How to Plan a Family Ski Holiday
The weather is good/okay in compromise months November and March, generally speaking, and prices are relatively cheap.
Let us help you plan your trip! Contact us and we will customize a trip based on your available time, budget, interests, and other requirements.
Suggested reading: Best (& Worst) Times to Visit Japan>>>
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
Get Inspired with Our Sample Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.