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.
Sharon has been very helpful since the…
Sharon has been very helpful since the beginning coordinating our itinerary in order to accommodate everything we want to see, it been great working with herMore
May, Jul 2023
When I first book I was scared of what…
When I first book I was scared of what to expect, but oh my God! What an amazing experience this has been, from Sharon to all the guides Shawn and Mr. Ho, such amazing people! Their work is excellentMore
Saul Velez, Jul 2023
Albee was very helpful and responsive…
Albee was very helpful and responsive in helping me make plans for their 10 day Japanese tour.More
Bhavini Patel, Jul 2023
Alisa was a perfect tour consultant
Alisa responded to my numerous questions with efficiency and accuracy. She was constantly suggesting options to make the trip more enjoyableMore
Matha Goram, Jul 2023
I highly Recommend Asia Highlights
For our first guide Jun, he was amazing. Very accommodating. Kept in good communication & kept us on time for our activities. Reached out to me the night before to confirm meet times and locations. Our driver for this time was also so kind & driver was always on time. For our second Guide , Ho. He went above and beyond. He stayed in great communication. Stayed later with us on one of the days because we were worried about riding the train back alone but wanted to visit at the shopping center a littler longer, so he stayed with us and made sure we got off on the right stop! During our time with him he took pictures of us and sent them to us! He was very knowledgeable about every place we visited. He was kind and patient with our large group. He made our trip easy & memorable. The driver we had for this timeframe was also kind & always on time! We felt a bond with both guides given to us! If you want an easy going, stress free trip book with “Asia Highlights”!!!More
Jessalynn Flores, Jul 2023
Working to put together a custom trip…
Working to put together a custom trip with Alissa has been a great experienceMore
Marc, Jul 2023
Wonderful Service from Sharon!
Sharon at Asia Highlights has been a HUGE help in planning our trip to Japan later this year. From her initial contact to finalization of the plan, she has been very responsive, professional, patient, and knowledgeable. She was able to quickly propose an amazing itinerary and helped us customize it for our interests. She also made many great recommendations and gave us tips for the trip. I wasn’t familiar with Asia Highlights before I reached out, but after Sharon’s wonderful service, I have full confidence in them. I can’t wait for the trip and I hope it’s as awesome as Sharon’s service!!!More
Ali Tahir, Jul 2023
We had a wonderful time in Japan with guides Moni and Kazuko and with Jan in Singapore. Will always remember this trip!More
Happy Customer, Jun 2023
Just got to say
Just got to say, Monica was great in every way! So sweet and helpful with planning, itineraries, answering questions… would love to meet her in person! Thank you Monica!More
Teri, Jun 2023
Monica is fantastic
Monica is fantastic. She understood our needs, was very responsive and planned a perfect vacation for us. Highly recommend.More
Philip Sheldon, Jun 2023
Me and my son are traveling to Japan
Me and my son are traveling to Japan. Albee is magnificent. Extremely efficient, helpful, trustworthy. I am very happy she is helping us with my son's dreaming trip.More
Ana Letícia Urbanin, Jun 2023
A great way to plan a dream vacation
Due to circumstances, we had to delay our trip to Japan so this review is only about the process of designing the trip. Albee was always available, responsive to our goals, and competent. Based on how involved he was with our family trip, we know we will be back next year and resuming the plan he built. Really impressed with the quality and extent of resources we found through Albee and KimKim.More
KC, May 2023
Yeliz - Asia Highlights
Yeliz was extremely helpful and patient during our Japan trip planning and answered all my various questions. Really looking forward to our upcoming trip to Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka!More
Cyndie, May 2023
Sharon’s was very patient and helpful…
Sharon’s was very patient and helpful when navigating me through the trip planning process. She helped me plan a very exciting and extravagant trip.More
Jonny Abad, May 2023
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
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$350–500 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.
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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.