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21-Day Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Naoshima, Matsue, Hiroshima, Beppu and Fukuoka Tour

21-Day Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Naoshima, Matsue, Hiroshima, Beppu and Fukuoka Tour

By Mike HoUpdated Jan. 4, 2024
A Trip to Explore Cultural Marvels and Natural Beauty of Japan

Begin in Tokyo, a bustling metropolis, and explore the historic charm of Kanazawa. Delve into Kyoto's timeless traditions and visit the serene town of Nara. Enjoy the vibrant energy of Osaka and experience the art-filled island of Naoshima. Discover the historic treasures of Matsue, pay your respects in Hiroshima, and unwind in the tranquil hot springs of Beppu. Conclude your adventure in Fukuoka, a modern city with a strong connection to its heritage. This well-crafted itinerary offers the perfect blend of history, culture, and relaxation, making it an ideal choice for travelers seeking a comprehensive exploration of Japan.

We can customize this trip by adding anything you're interested in and scheduling days to fit your pace. We would happily organize a unique theme or activities for birthdays, young children, anniversaries, etc.

  • Days:21±
  • Best For:Experienced Travelers
  • Departure date: Up to you
  • Sample Price:From US$9,499 p/p, (2 per room)*

*The price is based on a private tour for 2 people.

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Tour Route

Japan tour map

Tour Highlights

Here are the fantastic attractions, the most must-do activities selected by Asia Highlights (AH Hand-Picked), and exclusive cultural experiences offered by Asia Highlights (Only With AH) included in this tour:

Learn about Japanese emperors by visiting the Imperial Palace and the Meiji Shrine.

the Imperial Palace of Japan

Enjoy the breathtaking views in Kenroku-en garden, one of the top three gardens in Japan.

colorful Kenroku-en garden

Walk around Higashi District and see a variety of gold-leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa.

the backstreet of Higashi District

Take a walk through Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves and visit a great Zen temple, Tenryuji temple, one of Kyoto's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

bamboo groves at Arashiyama

Suggested Itinerary for Inspiration

The itinerary serves as a mere example of a personalized tour, designed exclusively for you.
Your preferences will shape the authentic journey. We are fully prepared to craft an tailor-made tour that fulfills your desires.

Day 1
Tokyo Arrival

Your private guide will be ready to meet and greet you at the arrival hall in Tokyo. A comfortable private car with an experienced driver will transfer you directly to your hotel. Your guide will help you to check-in.

Day 2
Tokyo Discovery | Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji Jingu Shrine: Embrace the serenity of Meiji Jingu Shrine as you wander its tranquil forested grounds. Engage in traditional Shinto activities like making offerings at the main hall, purchasing charms and amulets, or inscribing your wishes on an ema. On Sunday mornings, you might witness a captivating traditional wedding procession, where the bride dons a white kimono, the groom wears a formal black robe, and Shinto priests lead the way. Festive days at shrines, both big and small, offer a unique cultural experience.

Sensoji Asakusa: Step back in time at Sensoji, Tokyo's oldest temple, which houses a sacred statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Admire its grand gates, a five-story pagoda, and the lively stalls of Nakamise Dori. This iconic temple is a must-visit destination for your Japanese journey, offering a bustling marketplace, rituals like holy smoke, and the chance to uncover your fortune.

Tokyo Skytree: Rise above Tokyo's skyline with a visit to Tokyo Skytree, a towering structure reaching 634 meters high. Revel in panoramic vistas of Tokyo's urban expanse. On a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of majestic Mt. Fuji, creating a breathtaking backdrop to your exploration.

Day 3
Tokyo Discovery | Hama-rikyu Gardens

Omotesando: For a sophisticated and upscale experience, venture to Omotesando, which contrasts with the youthful energy of Harajuku. This area boasts high-end fashion boutiques, avant-garde design houses, and some of Japan's most exquisite cafes. If you're inclined to indulge in retail therapy and savor a cup of coffee in style, Omotesando is your destination of choice.

Hama-rikyu Gardens: Nestled in the heart of bustling downtown Tokyo, Hama-rikyu Gardens offer an oasis of serenity amidst the towering high-rises of Shiodome. Once an exclusive retreat for the Imperial family, these scenic gardens opened their doors to the public in 1946. Take a leisurely stroll through the lush greenery and, for a quintessential Japanese experience, be sure to make time for traditional refreshments in the enchanting floating teahouse.

Day 4
Tokyo Discovery | Nikko World Heritage

Nikko World Heritage Expedition from Tokyo: Explore the historic wonders of Nikko National Park on this full-day excursion, departing early from Tokyo. Your local guide will accompany you on a 2-hour journey to this captivating destination, known for its cultural significance and natural beauty.

Toshogu Shrine Complex: Discover the awe-inspiring Toshogu Shrine, a mausoleum honoring Tokugawa Ieyasu, the visionary leader of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years. Wander through the lavish complex, where over a dozen Shinto and Buddhist structures stand in harmony with the lush forest surroundings. This site has rightfully earned its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you explore Toshogu, your guide will regale you with captivating tales of Nikko's history and religious significance, detailing the shrine's origins, meticulous maintenance, and more.

Tamozawa Imperial Villa: Your adventure continues with a visit to the Tamozawa Imperial Villa, a National Cultural Treasure that offers a remarkable architectural journey through the Edo, Meiji, and Taisho periods. The villa's picturesque garden completes the experience, providing a delightful contrast to the shrine's grandeur.

Day 5
Tokyo Discovery | Fuji Five Lakes

Experience the stunning Fuji Five Lakes region with a private guide and car for a day filled with nature and culture.

Kawaguchiko Lake Cruise: Begin your journey with a serene cruise on Kawaguchiko, the largest of the five lakes, surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery.

Itchiku Kubota Museum: Explore the museum dedicated to Kubota Itchiku, a master of kimono design. Admire his intricate kimono creations inspired by nature and the cosmos, and see parts of his unfinished masterpiece, the "Symphony of Light."

Lake Saiko and Lake Shojiko Drive: Take a scenic drive around Lake Saiko and Lake Shojiko, with views of the mysterious Aokigahara Sea of Trees Forest.

Day 6
Tokyo to Kanazawa | The Sengen Shrine

Sengen Shrine: Our day begins with a visit to the Sengen Shrine, nestled in the lush cedar forest at the base of Mount Fuji. This historical shrine, constructed in 788 AD, plays a vital role in Japan's reverence for its sacred mountain. It once served as the epicenter of Mount Fuji's worship and pilgrimage, and today it marks the entrance to the revered Yoshidaguchi climbing trail.

Day 7
Kanazawa Discovery | Kagayuzen Kaikan

Embark on a full-day exploration of Kanazawa with a knowledgeable local guide. The pinnacle of your visit to Kanazawa is the awe-inspiring Kenroku-en Garden, consistently ranked among Japan's top three gardens, enchanting visitors with its year-round beauty. Adjacent to this natural wonder lies the formidable Kanazawa Castle, a historical icon you won't want to miss.

Kagayuzen Kaikan: Immerse yourself in the artistry of Yuzen silk painting, a centuries-old technique, showcased at Kagayuzen Kaikan.

Nagamachi Samurai District: Step back in time as you visit the Nagamachi Samurai District. Explore the Nomura Samurai House, a beautifully preserved Japanese residence from the Edo period, complete with a tea-ceremony room and serene courtyard garden.

Higashi Chaya District: Venture into the largest and most captivating of Kanazawa's Geisha Districts, the Higashi Chaya District. Stroll along its central street lined with charming cafes and shops.

Golden Delights: Discover the essence of Kanazawa at Hakuza, a shop renowned for its gold leaf products. You'll also witness a unique kura-style warehouse room entirely adorned with gold leaf. Conclude your day at the Shima Teahouse, a working teahouse that opens its doors to the public. Savor a cup of green tea, the perfect ending to your Kanazawa adventure.

Day 8
Kanazawa to Kyoto | Afternoon Tea with a Maiko

Travel from Kanazawa to Kyoto by Thunderbird Train. Duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Afternoon Tea with a Maiko (Geisha Experience): Delight in a genuine Japanese cultural experience by savoring afternoon tea with a Kyoto geisha, known as a geiko, or their apprentice, a maiko. This rare opportunity provides an immersive glimpse into authentic Japanese traditions, creating lasting memories during your visit to Japan.

Day 9
Kyoto Discovery | Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle: Delve into history at UNESCO World Heritage Site Nijo Castle. This vast site features two protective rings of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the remnants of the Honmaru Palace, and exquisite gardens.

Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion): Explore the stunning Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple in northern Kyoto. Admire its top two floors, adorned with brilliant gold leaf. Once a shogun's retirement villa, it was later transformed into a Zen temple.

Sanjusangendo: Sanjusangendo, also known as Rengeo-in, is a revered temple famous for housing 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The temple's history dates back to 1164, and its main hall boasts a breathtaking display of 1000-armed Kannon statues.

Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple): Perched on an eastern Kyoto hill, Kiyomizudera offers panoramic city views. Its iconic stage, supported by massive pillars, is an image synonymous with Japan. Your journey to the temple is an experience in itself.

Samurai and Ninja Museum with Experiences: Immerse yourself in Japanese culture at this family-friendly museum. Delight in guided tours and engaging activities, including trying on samurai armor, testing your ninja skills with shuriken throwing, and mastering the art of a ninja blowgun. Uncover the secrets of Japan's rich history.

Day 10
Kyoto Discovery | Okochi Mountain Villa

Arashiyama: Immerse yourself in the picturesque Arashiyama district, a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. This charming area boasts stunning autumnal beauty, offering diverse experiences. Hop on the Sagano train, embark on a Hozugawa River Boat Ride, or take a leisurely stroll through the enchanting bamboo grove. Nearby, you'll discover the serene Tenryuji and Jojakukoji temples, where tranquility meets beauty.

Monkey Park Iwatayama: Ascend Mt. Arashiyama and explore the captivating Iwatayama Monkey Park. Unlike traditional zoos, these monkeys roam freely in the surrounding forest, creating a unique and heartwarming experience. Enjoy the scenic setting, complete with a koi pond, telescopes for gazing at Kyoto, and a play area for children.

Okochi Mountain Villa: Don't miss the chance to visit the historic home and gardens of Danjiro Okochi, a renowned silent film star of samurai movies. This five-acre estate, nestled beside a bamboo forest on Mt. Ogura-yama, offers a captivating concept of "borrowed scenery," seamlessly merging the garden with a panoramic view of northern Kyoto, Mount Hiei, and the Higashiyama hill range.

Bamboo Grove: The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an iconic Kyoto attraction. A brief walk through this enchanting grove will leave an indelible impression. As the sunlight filters through the dense bamboo, you'll feel a sense of magic in the air.

Tenryuji Temple: Established in 1339, Tenryuji Temple's garden is a harmonious blend of aristocratic tradition and Zen culture. Although only a few structures remain from its extensive past, the temple's garden is a masterpiece of traditional Japanese design. Explore this tranquil haven and absorb the essence of Japanese aesthetics.

Day 11
Kyoto to Nara | Nara Park

Nara Park: Nestled at the base of Mt. Wakakusa, Nara Park is a vast, enchanting expanse teeming with playful and friendly deer. Set against an idyllic backdrop of unspoiled woodlands and a serene lake inhabited by turtles and carp, Nara Park offers a unique natural setting. Its collection of ancient temples and shrines, each steeped in rich history, adds to the park's allure.

Todaiji Temple: Revered as one of Japan's most iconic and historically significant temples, Todaiji Temple is a defining landmark of Nara. Constructed in 752, it once held the prestigious position as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples in Japan, to the extent that the capital was relocated from Nara in 784 to curtail its political influence. The awe-inspiring Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall), which was reconstructed in 1692, remains one of the world's largest wooden buildings, housing a monumental 15-meter seated Buddha, a representation of Vairocana, flanked by two Bodhisattvas.

Kasuga Taisha Shrine: Embark on a spiritual journey at Kasuga Taisha, renowned as one of Japan's holiest sites. Enshrining numerous deities, the shrine beckons both devotees and curious tourists seeking an authentic Shinto experience. Its striking vermilion hues, pristine white walls, and cypress wood roofs offer a captivating visual contrast that has captivated photographers for generations. With a tradition of biennial reconstruction that continued until the Edo period, Kasuga Taisha Shrine embodies both spiritual and architectural significance.

Day 12
Kyoto to Osaka | Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle Park: Osaka Castle stands as a testament to the city's rich history, tracing its origins back to 1583. The iconic main tower, reconstructed in 1931, serves as a symbol of Osaka's resilience. Adjacent, the history museum delves deep into the castle's storied past, offering a captivating journey through time. Meanwhile, the expansive park surrounding the castle serves as a serene oasis for Osakans to jog, cycle, and unwind amidst nature.

Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum: A treasure trove of artistic heritage, this museum stands as the only one of its kind worldwide. It is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Kamigata Ukiyoe, or Kamigata woodblock prints. These prints, hailing from the Osaka-Kyoto region during the Edo Period (1603-1868), distinguish themselves by their lifelike portrayal of subjects, particularly renowned Kabuki actors. With around 50 exquisite works on permanent display, it's a journey into a unique art form deeply rooted in regional culture.

Umeda Sky Building: As a contemporary architectural marvel that emerged at the end of Japan's economic bubble in 1993, the Umeda Sky Building offers a striking contrast to Osaka's historical landmarks. Head to its uniquely designed observation deck for an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the expansive cityscape. It's a fusion of the modern and the traditional, a testament to Osaka's ever-evolving identity.

Shinsekai & Tsutenkaku Tower: Step into the past by exploring Shinsekai, a neighborhood that embodies the essence of old Osaka. Its defining landmark is the Tsutenkaku Tower, which has become an enduring symbol of the area. Shinsekai buzzes with vibrant energy, unique architecture, and a plethora of mouthwatering local cuisine. The streets are lined with street food stalls offering delectable treats like kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered meat and vegetables), takoyaki (octopus balls), and even the daring fugu (pufferfish).

Day 13
From Osaka to Naoshima | Benesse House

Artful Island Escape: Embark on a unique journey with our expert guide as you make your way from Osaka to the captivating island of Naoshima. This artsy escapade promises a feast for your senses:

Explore Benesse House: Begin your day with a visit to the iconic Benesse House, a fusion of museum and hotel. Marvel at the extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, housed both indoors and amid breathtaking outdoor installations. Take your time to soak in the artistic wonders and the stunning architectural marvels.

Stroll through Honmura District: A short walk takes you to Honmura, a traditional village reborn as an art district. The Art House Project awaits, where centuries-old Japanese houses have been reborn as contemporary art installations. It's a perfect blend of history and artistic innovation.

Visit the Chichu Art Museum: Your next stop is the renowned Chichu Art Museum, a masterpiece of design by the acclaimed architect Tadao Ando. Here, art, architecture, and nature harmoniously coexist. The museum is home to works by renowned artists like Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria. Get ready to be inspired.

Enjoy the Outdoor Installations: Naoshima is a canvas of outdoor art, and you'll have time to explore the island's artistic treasures. Don't miss the iconic Yellow Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, among other sculptures and installations that dot the landscape.

Day 14
Naoshima Discovery | The island of Teshima

Escape to the charming island of Teshima, an artistic gem that beckons you to explore its wonders. Please note that cars are not allowed on the island, but that only adds to the adventure. Your journey unfolds as follows:

Morning Ferry to Teshima: Begin your day with a scenic 25-minute ferry ride from Naoshima to Teshima. Let the refreshing sea breeze set the mood for your island adventure.

Choose Your Mode of Exploration: Once you reach Teshima, the island is yours to discover. You can choose to leisurely stroll, rent a bike for a breezy ride, or even hop on a public bus, all while guided by our expert.

Teshima Art Museum: Your first stop is the enigmatic Teshima Art Museum. Nestled amid terraced rice fields, this minimalist concrete structure mesmerizes visitors with its unique water drop display on a serene concrete canvas. It's an artistic experience like no other.

Day 15
Naoshima to Matsue | Teshima Yokoo House

Explore the Island's Art: As you wander through Teshima's charming fishing villages, you'll encounter more contemporary artworks, each with its own story to tell.

Teshima Yokoo House: Next, venture to the Teshima Yokoo House, a one-of-a-kind art installation and museum designed by the renowned artist Tadanori Yokoo. Inside, you'll encounter Yokoo's iconic works and delve into the artistic depths of his creativity.

Nature's Beauty: Take a moment to soak in the island's natural beauty. Teshima offers breathtaking views of the sea, serene landscapes, and a peaceful ambiance that's perfect for relaxation.

Day 16
Matsue to Izumo | Izumo Taisha Shrine

Begin your day in Matsue, and with a private car and expert guide, embark on an enriching day trip to Izumo. Here's how your adventure unfolds:

Early Departure from Matsue: An early start ensures you have ample time to savor the wonders of Izumo. We'll provide a comfortable private car and an insightful guide to make your journey memorable.

Izumo Taisha Shrine: Your first stop is Izumo Taisha, one of Japan's oldest and most significant Shinto shrines. The main shrine venerates Okuninushi, the deity of relationships. The complex exudes a sacred aura and boasts magnificent architecture. Immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance, witness sacred rituals, and uncover the legends and history surrounding Izumo Taisha.

Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse: Head to the Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse, perched on the edge of the picturesque Hinomisaki Peninsula. Here, you'll behold sweeping vistas of the Sea of Japan and the rugged coastal landscape. Take a leisurely stroll around the lighthouse, soaking in the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Optional: Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo: If you're drawn to Japanese mythology, consider a visit to the nearby Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo. This intriguing museum houses a rich collection of artifacts and exhibits that shed light on Izumo's ancient history and mythological heritage.

Day 17
Matsue to Hiroshima | Peace Memorial Park

Embark on a poignant journey with your private guide as you explore two remarkable destinations, Hiroshima and Miyajima, each holding a unique place in Japan's history and culture.

Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima: Your day begins in Hiroshima, where you'll visit the Peace Memorial Park. This park, established on the very ground where the atomic bomb struck on August 6, 1945, is a powerful tribute to the lives lost during that fateful event. As you stroll through the park, you'll encounter poignant memorials, monuments, and statues. Be sure to explore the Peace Memorial Museum, although please note that it's currently undergoing renovations until Spring 2019, with one of its wings partially closed.

Miyajima Island: Following your visit to Hiroshima, a short ferry ride transports you to Miyajima Island. This small yet sacred island in the Inland Sea has been a revered Shinto site for centuries. It is most renowned for the enchanting Floating Torii Gate, one of Japan's most photographed landmarks. The shrine complex on the island boasts a rich history dating back to the 6th century, with the current structures originating in the 12th century. It's no wonder they've earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

At the end of the day, your guide will accompany you back to your hotel, leaving you with lasting memories of your experience in these culturally significant and captivating locations.

Day 18
Hiroshima to Beppu | Miyajima

Discover Miyajima: You'll have ample time to explore the island's charming shrines, temples, and natural beauty. Don't miss the opportunity to savor local delights, including delightful maple leaf-shaped cakes. On Miyajima, it's intriguing to note that traditionally, "commoners" were forbidden to set foot on this sacred ground. Even today, the island maintains some of its ancient taboos, like prohibitions on giving birth or dying on its premises.

Day 19
Beppu Discovery | Unique Thermal Adventure

A Unique Thermal Adventure: Beppu, renowned for its abundant hot springs, offers an extraordinary experience known as the Jigoku Meguri, or Hell Tour. This tour introduces you to a series of captivating and surreal hot springs, which, due to their scorching temperatures, are not intended for bathing. However, these otherworldly hot springs showcase remarkable features. From bubbling mud pools to erupting geysers and vividly colored waters, each one is a fascinating spectacle. Capture these moments with your camera to remember your visit.

Unforgettable Photo Opportunities: Get your camera ready as you embark on this tour. The unique and vibrant landscapes of these hot springs make for memorable photographs that you'll cherish.

Exploration with a Guide: Your knowledgeable guide will accompany you throughout the Jigoku Meguri, providing insights into the history, geology, and cultural significance of these remarkable natural wonders.

Day 20
Beppu to Fukuoka at Tokyo | Airport Transfer

Private Hotel-to-Haneda Airport Transfer: Enjoy a hassle-free journey from your hotel to Haneda Airport with our convenient one-way private transfer. You'll be greeted by a professional driver who will ensure your comfortable and timely arrival at the airport.

Day 21
Tokyo Departure

Our guide will help you transfer from your hotel to Tokyo Airport for departure with independentcar/van and guide.

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Our Service Includes:

21 days from
US$9,499 p/p
Private tour for 2 people in low seasons. Price varies based on program, travel date, number of people, chosen hotel. We accept payments in multiple currencies (GBP, AUD, CAD, EUR...).
  • Private transfers and English-speaking tour guide
  • All guided sightseeing as detailed in the itinerary
  • Hand-picked star-rating accommodations
  • Breakfasts at hotels and lunches for every guided day
  • Governmental taxes

Tour code: ah-jp-cx-2

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