If you are planning to travel Japan for one week, and Tokyo is definitely on your list, then which city should you visit for the rest of the time? Kyoto or Osaka?
- If you're keen on the most traditional aspects of Japan, Kyoto comes to the forefront. Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and has a history of over 1,000 years. With a great number of old shrines and temples remaining, its unique Geisha culture, classical tea ceremonies…, it’s a historical haven!
- If you're more interested in modern and vibrant highlights of a trade city, Osaka wins the contest. Osaka was an ancient transport hub and is now the second-largest bustling commercial city in Japan. Its lively downtown, modern skyscrapers, Universal Studios, and Osaka Aquarium are popular attractions for families or couples.
Still hard to make a choice? You could visit both in one week, after Tokyo, with 3 days in Kyoto and 1 day in Osaka. The Shinkansen (bullet train) takes less than 30 minutes between Kyoto and Osaka, and it is quite convenient and doable.
Top Experiences: Kyoto vs Osaka — Tradition vs Progress
Both Kyoto and Osaka have many high-quality attractions and interesting things to do.
Top Things to Do in Kyoto
Kyoto is an amazing city featuring shrines, geishas, ryokans (traditional inns), tea ceremonies... It’s a city worth visiting at a slow pace.
Stay at a ryokan to experience traditional Japanese accommodation.
See geishas in Gion District and watch them performance or have an afternoon tea with them.
Try on Japanese clothing: kimono wearing is perfect for couples and families with kids.
Feed the friendly deer in Nara.
Experience a traditional tea ceremony at a tea house.
Go to the Samurai Museum and try on the armor for a samurai photo.
Sample a local variety of sake at a brewery.
Top Things to Do in Osaka
In Osaka, the bustling trade city, you can feel a friendly atmosphere and authentic Japanese style.
Visit historic Osaka Castle, the center of Japanese unity in the 16th century.
Taste authentic street food at lively Dotonbori.
Enjoy the bustling night views from Umeda Sky Building.
Admire famed Ukiyo-e artwork at Kamigata Ukiyo-e Museum, and have the chance to make your own woodblock print.
Make cup noodles with your kids at the Cup Noodle Museum.
Enjoy family fun at Universal Studios or Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
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
Accommodation: Kyoto vs Osaka — Traditional Japanese Inns vs Luxury Modern Hotels
Service in Japan is well-known around the world for being attentive and courteous. Whether you stay in a star-rated hotel or a ryokan in Japan, you can enjoy excellent service.
Staying in a ryokan is a worthwhile thing to do in Japan. Kyoto is the best place for you to experience a traditional Japanese-style inn with your family. In a ryokan you can sleep on a tatami bed, try on yukata robes, and sample a high-class kaiseki feast. Some ryokans also have onsens (hot springs), which are simply the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing family time.
However, a good ryokan easily becomes fully-booked, we recommend booking at least 6 months in advance. Contact us and we can arrange a ryokan for you according to your preferences.
You enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to Asia Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒).
Osaka offers a range of modern choices, from 5-star luxury hotels to 3-star affordable hotels. No matter what hotel you choose, you can enjoy spotlessly-clean accommodation, comfortable beds, and perfect service.
We suggest you to stay at a hotel near a station or favorite attraction so that you can get around easily.
Both cities are quite family-friendly destinations, you can learn more about How to Plan an Incredible Family Trip to Japan >>>
Food: Kyoto vs Osaka — Kaiseki vs Street Snacks
Japanese cuisine is famous all over the world — sushi, ramen, tempura, etc. Many people come to Japan just to eat authentic Japanese food.
More than other cities, food in Kyoto reflects the exquisiteness of Japanese food.
- Kaiseki generally uses seasonal ingredients. This traditional feast has small portions and is well-displayed. Kaiseki is a famous high-class cuisine that’s elegant and luxurious. Experiencing the pinnacle of classical Japanese food culture through Kaiseki promises to be a fond memory of your trip.
- Tofu soup (yu-dofu) is a typical food of Kyoto. It is mild in taste with kelp being the main additional ingredient, but as such you can really taste the sweetness of the tofu. You could add a little soy sauce or use a dipping sauce to add flavor.
- Matcha: Don’t miss matcha tea in Uji in Kyoto, because it is the famous birthplace of matcha. You can also enjoy a variety of rich matcha desserts there, like ice cream, cakes, and jelly.
On the streets of Osaka, you can find many delicious and affordable specialty snacks. Dotonbori is the cuisine center of Osaka, where you can satisfy your taste buds.
- Okonomiyaki (Osaka yaki) is a Japanese vegetable pancake with vegetables, sliced pork, seafood, and seasonings grilled on a plate. Also known as Japanese-style pizza, it’s so tasty that you should definitely try it when you in Osaka.
- Takoyaki (octopus dumplings): Octopus tentacles and vegetables are mixed in a batter and baked together to form spheres. Mayonnaise is often used to add flavor while eating. It’s not only popular in Osaka, but also all over Japan … even around the world.
Transport: Kyoto vs Osaka — Ease of Getting Around
Japan has a very developed transportation network. The Shinkansen (bullet train network) is a well-known travel highlight, which most travelers want to try when they go to Japan. Whether you're in Kyoto or Osaka, it's a convenient way to get to the attractions or nearby places you want to visit.
Kansai International Airport, Japan’s third busiest, is located in Osaka. You could spend the last half a day or day in Osaka and then depart Japan from Kansai. Of course, it's also easy to get to Osaka’s airport from Kyoto: it’s only 75 minutes away.
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.