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This 5-day itinerary will give you a quick overview of Tokyo, along with an easy day-trip from the city to one of its nearby cultural and scenic destinations: either Kamakura, Nikko, Mt Takao or Hakone.
Expect moments of carefully choreographed beauty and tranquility, with people still finding time to observe Shinto rituals and stand in silent worship, engage in tea ceremonies and enjoy a cup of tea, and contemplate the glaze of cut glass.
Tokyo is one of the liveliest places on the planet. Contrary to its popular image, it is not simply a city of neon signs — it is also rooted deeply in traditional culture.
This truly enchanting metropolis has something for everyone, whether experiencing traditional Japanese craftsmanship or tea ceremonies, being surrounded by lively streets with a mix of trendy boutiques and fashionable department stores, or exploring other facets of local culture. Tokyo is a must-see when passing through Japan.
Welcome to Tokyo, one of the world’s most thriving, exciting and energizing cities.
In 1603, as the fishing village of Edo, it became the shogunate’s center of power, and in 1868 it was renamed Tokyo and made the country’s capital. On the surface, it is a mix of digital trends and conspicuous consumption, but dig deeper and you will find a city rooted deeply in traditional culture.
You will be met on arrival at Narita International Airport and share a transfer to your accommodation. The rest of the day is free for you to spend at your leisure.
A late-afternoon stroll as the neon starts to light up will take in both sides of this fascinating, bustling area. Shinjuku has several huge department stores, music stores, and electronics stores, along with hundreds of bars and restaurants catering to every taste.
Hotels in Tokyo
We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.
We recommend business hotels conveniently located in Shinjuku, arguably one of the liveliest districts of Tokyo, offering convenient access to Shinjuku station, one of the busiest train- and subway-hubs in the city, serving more than two million people every day.
East Shinjuku and West Shinjuku
East Shinjuku is the district where Tokyo is at play. It has been a bustling center for nightlife ever since Edo times (1603-1868). Kabukicho, Japan’s wildest night entertainment district, is here. By day, attractions like art galleries, and some of the city’s best department stores, are good for just hanging out.
West Shinjuku is where most of Tokyo’s skyscraper blocks are clustered, including Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices and leading hotels such as Keio Plaza, Hilton and Park Hyatt. Many hotels and some office blocks have top floors or observation decks with great views of the city.
Take a day-tour with a local guide to explore Tokyo. The day begins with a visit to the Imperial Palace, where the emperor and his family still live in the western part of the grounds.
The palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle, with a large park area bounded by moats and massive stone walls. Although the palace itself is not open to the public, you can view its most famous landmark, Nijubashi, a double-arched stone bridge, from Kokyo Gaien.
Public access to the palace is only permitted twice a year, at New Year and on the emperor’s birthday.
Next, you will have the unforgettable opportunity to participate in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony. Sample freshly made green tea in a Japanese-style tearoom. The tea masters are always willing to instruct newcomers on the finer points of tea-drinking.
A wide graveled road under a huge torii gate and shaded by cedars leads into the grounds of the Meiji Shrine, where Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken are enshrined. During New Year’s holidays, the shrine is the most-visited place in Japan, with millions of people worshiping and buying good-luck charms there. It’s also a popular site for Japanese weddings.
Take a walk through Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees. This broad, tree-lined avenue features within a short distance a multitude of fashion flagship stores, designed by internationally renowned architects.
End the day in Shinjuku at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, one of Tokyo’s tallest and most distinctive skyscrapers.
The Tea Ceremony
The tea ceremony is a series of events, most of which are symbolic.
The ritual involves greeting your fellow guests, washing your hands to purify yourself, waiting for your host’s summons, entering the tea room and sitting on the tatami, admiring the room and tea utensils, watching the tea being prepared, bowing, drinking the tea, and then complimenting the host.
The last part of the ceremony is more informal; guests chat casually and drink weak tea. When the ceremony is over, the host cleans everything and shows guests the utensils.
Many traditional crafts in Tokyo have been passed down from generation to generation, ever since the Edo Shogunate period (1603-1868). The spirit of Edo culture and craftsmanship lives on. Today you will learn how to make traditional Japanese handicrafts.
Cutting Edo ‘Kiriko’ glass is one of the original Japanese crafts founded during the Edo period. The geometric patterns of Edo Kiriko cut glass are renowned for their beauty. Today you will etch some such strikingly beautiful, traditional patterns on glass, in a color of your choice.
In the afternoon, transfer with your guide to Asakusa, to learn more about the old Edo craft culture via a visit to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Craft Museum. Stroll through Asakusa town, where remnants of Edo culture are still visible, though surrounded by modernity.
Visit the workshop of Mr. Tanaka, a craftsman of Edo-style bamboo blinds. Here, you will learn how to make your own table mat.
Please note that craft experiences are subject to artisans’ availability and the order of the itinerary might change depending on the artisans’ schedules. Each craft experience will take 1.5 to 2 hours.
If you are more interested in food, cooking and lively local markets, we recommend a visit to Tsukiji Outer Market and a sushi-making lesson at a local home instead.
This alternative tour starts in the early morning with a visit to the lively outer market, packed with many restaurants and shops. You will see many unusual varieties of freshly caught fish, vegetables and other foods, and might sample some delicious finger foods — sushi, tempura and even curry.
You will then visit a typical Japanese home. As you transfer by public transport, your guide will answer any questions you have about Japanese culture or everyday life in Tokyo.
Learn to prepare maki sushi (rolled sushi), gunkan maki (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and nigiri sushi (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish). You will then get to enjoy your homemade sushi for lunch.
The whole experience will last about 4-5 hours and finishes at the station closest to your Japanese host’s home.
Today you will make a day-trip to Kamakura (1 hour away), the former seat of the Shogunate during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) and the then de facto capital of Japan.
At that time Kamakura was the largest city in the world. Today, however, Kamakura is a small, sleepy seaside town with numerous temples, shrines and other attractions.
With your local guide, you will visit Kotokuin Temple, home to the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha that stands (or rather, sits) 13.4 meters tall.
Hasedera Temple is a temple of the Jodo sect, which is best-known for its statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The statue depicts Kannon with eleven heads, each representing a characteristic of the goddess. The 9.2-meter-tall, gilded wooden statue is one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, dating from the 12th century, is the spiritual heart of Kamakura and one of its most popular attractions. It was dedicated to Hachiman, the Shinto god of war and patron of the Minamoto family.
Your day will end with shopping for local souvenirs and delicacies in Komachi Street.
We offer another three options on this day. Please let us know if you prefer any of them.
Option 1: Full-Day Nikko World Heritage Excursion from Tokyo
Option 2: Full-Day Mount Takao Hiking Excursion from Tokyo
Option 3: Full-Day Hakone Mount Fuji National Park Excursion from Tokyo
Meet at your hotel for a shared transfer to Narita International Airport. Have a safe flight home.
We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.
We recommend business hotels conveniently located near a major subway station, or a short walk away to some famous sites, in the larger cities such as Tokyo.
A newly-built, next-generation hotel focused on providing convenience, efficiency, and comfort opened on the side of the old Shinjuku Koma Theater, the heart of the area around Shinjuku Station’s East Exit.
Hotel Villa Fontaine Shiodome provides convenient access to the subway as well as the monorail to Odaiba, the large artificial island in Tokyo Bay. The hotel is close to Hamarikyu Gardens and Tsukiji Fish Market.
Located just a stone's throw away from the iconic Tokyo Tower, this hotel is perfect for those who are looking for a relaxing stay in area away from the crowds yet offering convenient access to public transportation.
Japan can be visited year-round, though there are benefits and drawbacks of every season. There are also some events such as the blooming of the cherry blossoms that can be only experienced during certain times of year.
Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Japan because of the beautiful, comfortable weather and the arrival of the cherry blossoms. The blooming of cherry blossoms or sakura has been a major part of Japanese culture for over 1,000 years and can only be experienced in the spring.
Because of the opportunity to witness sakura and the beautiful weather throughout the country, spring is high season in Japan, the time of year with most crowds and highest cost. If traveling to Japan in spring, it will be important to book flights and hotels well in advance.
Summer is the festival season in Japan, offering visitors an opportunity to experience multiple holidays and firework-shows in another country. Crowds are smaller in Japan in the summer, which means that standard prices for accommodation and flights are often lower.
Although not as busy as spring, fall is the second most popular time to travel to Japan. In the fall, the weather cools down and the lower humidity allows for more comfortable traveling outdoors.
Many people choose to visit Japan in the fall due to the changing colors of the leaves, turning brilliant orange and red, in the countryside near Kyoto and Tokyo.
During winter, especially at the north of the Japanese islands, there are icy winds from Siberia often accompanied by heavy snows. This makes for great opportunities to participate in winter sports, such as skiing, in some of the many famous resorts and mountains.
Japan offers a wide range of accommodation in both Japanese and western styles. Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that offer a glimpse into a more traditional way of life. A ryokan room usually has tatami (traditionally rice-straw, today sometimes polystyrene foam or compressed wood chip) mat flooring, a futon (mattress), tables and chairs. Guests sleep on a futon laid out on the tatami.
While ryokans are the perfect places to stay in Hakone and other scenic and rural areas of Japan, when staying in the larger cities such as Tokyo or Kyoto, it's often best to choose hotels according to comfort, combined with location and convenience.
Business hotels, catering to budget-conscious business travelers, are generally located in city centers near train stations. They are very convenient, especially for tourists with a half-independent, half-guided itinerary. Most hotels provide two room categories — standard twin and standard double. Rooms are western-style, small (usually 16-22 square meters) and clean.
Let us know your style preferences, and our travel consultant will find the most suitable hotel room for you.
Meals are not included. During a full day tour, your guide will take you to a budget or mid-range restaurant for a quick lunch. These restaurants are often near the train stations, or in malls. You will need to pay on the spot in cash when finished with your meal.
Japan’s cuisine is based on combining staple foods, typically rice or noodles, with a soup and okazu — dishes made from fish, meat or vegetables, to add flavor to the staple food. These are typically flavored with dashi, miso and soy sauce.
The most famous Japanese food is sushi. This is cooked vinegared rice (shari) combined with other ingredients (neta).
Other prominent foods are: sashimi, fresh raw meat, most commonly fish, sliced into thin pieces; tempura, seafood or vegetables covered in batter and deep fried; and sukiyaki, a popular dish of thinly sliced beef, served with vegetables, tofu and vermicelli, and usually cooked on a sizzling iron skillet at the table.
If you have special dietary requirements, simply tell your travel agent at the time of booking. Come with an open mind and open mouth, and you won’t be disappointed.
Public transport services in Japan are admirable. Most major cities are connected by shinkansen bullet trains, which speed along at an incredible 300 km/hour. Many famous sightseeing areas lie on or near the bullet train lines between Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, making it convenient to visit places such as Kyoto, Himeji Castle and Hiroshima.
Flying is probably best when travelling from the country’s main hubs to some of the more far-flung destinations, such as Okinawa and Hokkaido. Ferries are surprisingly uncommon, as all the major islands are linked by bridges and tunnels.
The Japan Rail Pass offers overseas visitors unlimited travel on a vast network of trains. You can choose a 7-day, 14-day or 21-day pass, first or standard class. It must be purchased before a trip.
Local transport systems in major cities are efficient, safe and clean. For example, Tokyo has an extensive metro and over ground rail system, and it is best to use a pre-loaded transport card, such as Suica, to get around. Hold your card against the barriers at the station entrance to access the platform.
Kyoto’s bus system is quite convenient for getting around the city and is the best way to reach many of the main attractions. The ICOCA electronic card or a 1-day pass are valid on most forms of city transport.
Taxis can be useful over short distances but they are very expensive during peak travel hours. Not only is public transport typically very convenient in Japan, it is also much cheaper than the average $1,000 a day needed to rent a private car with driver.
Private cars can be arranged, only at a higher price. We recommend using private car services for travelers in family groups, or groups of about 5 people, seeking a more intimate experience.
We recommend packing light and smart for your trip, as you will be required to carry your own luggage between train stations and hotels. This will involve climbing stairs and slopes. Light luggage is also better for bullet trains, which often provide little space for luggage larger than a carry-on suitcase.
For travelers with heavy baggage, it can be difficult to find a particular train or exit during rush hour. But again, Japan’s travel infrastructure is among the most advanced in the world, and railway staff and local people generally try to be helpful to foreigners.
We always advise booking as early as possible when making travel arrangements in Japan, especially when travelling during the peak periods of March-May or October-November.
Closure of tourist sites can occur at short notice on public holidays. Please be advised that many long-distance trains, ferries, and airlines will be fully booked, as well as hotels and guest houses, during the following peak periods:
New Year holiday season (December 29 to January 3, plus adjacent weekends); “Golden Week” holiday season (April 29 to May 5, and adjacent weekends); “Bon” Festival season (one week around August 15).