Small group trip to Japan with true experts – cultural, active and intellectually stimulating.
|Japan Tour Testimonials & Video|
Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Kanazawa – Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kyoto – Nara – Osaka – Tokyo
Focusing on history and culture, this extraordinary Japan tour showcases the best of the Land of the Rising Sun. From the present capital of Tokyo to the former imperial seat of Kyoto, Japan’s perfect blend of ancient traditions with super modernity is on full display.
Optional day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka is available on request. See itinerary for details.
- Small group size – 20 maximum.
- Expert guide(s).
- Premium/first-class accommodations.
- Quality meals – Japanese & Western.
- No forced shopping stops.
- Sushi making lesson.
- Cultural show in Kyoto.
- 12 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 4 dinners.
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Scroll down for dates, prices, hotel list and documentation requirements.
Japan Tour Itinerary
Day 1/Mon: Departing Home City
Your trip to Japan begins with transpacific flight departing from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Tue: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo!
Please make your way to the hotel on your own. From Narita Airport the Airport Limousine Bus costs 3,100 Japanese Yen (JPY) per adult. Taxi fare is fixed at US$250 but tipping is not needed. You may also consider taking JR N’EX Airport Express Train (JPY3,020 for Ordinary Class to Tokyo Station and from there using taxi (about JPY1,500 or US$14) to get to the hotel. From Haneda Airport the airport limousine bus costs JPY1500 (US$14) per adult. Going by train is a bit tricky. Taxi fare from the airport direct to the hotel should be around US$75.
You can pay for the train or bus ticket by any major credit card. The first thing you should do on arrival is to obtain some local cash, which can be done with a bank-owned currency dealer at the airport or from one of the ATMs located throughout the arrival hall. Please don’t attempt to pay the Japanese with any currency other than the Japanese Yen.
You’ll check in at the hotel on arrival under your own name in reference to Laurus Travel. The meeting time in the hotel lobby the next morning is 07:30.
Day 3/Wed: Tokyo (B/L/D)
We’ll gather in the lobby at 07:30 and depart from the hotel at 08:00.
Tokyo, literally meaning Eastern Capital and officially known as Tokyo Metropolis, is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and one of the most populous mega-cities in the world with 13.5 million living in the prefecture and close to 38 million in the Tokyo-Yokohama region. Formerly known as Edo, the city has been the de facto seat of government since 1603 when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarter – Shoguns, although appointed by the emperor, were the de facto rulers of Japan during the shogunate period from 1192 to 1867. The city was renamed Tokyo after Emperor Meiji moved his seat here from Kyoto in 1868. Covering an area of 2, 188 square kilometres, Tokyo Metropolis was formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo.
Our full-day sightseeing begins with a stroll through the plaza outside the Imperial Palace (the palace itself is not open to tourists). This is followed by a visit to tranquil Meiji Jingu – a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife.
We then drive through ritzy Ginza shopping district on our way to Nakamise-Dori in Asakusa. Nakamise-Dori is a vibrant promenade lined with food stands and souvenir shops. The street connects the famous Asakusa sightseeing spots of Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and Asakusa Kannon Temple (also known as Senso-ji Temple), the oldest temple in Tokyo dating back to 628 AD.
We spend the rest of the day exploring the history of Tokyo at Edo-Tokyo Museum. The main features of the permanent exhibitions are the life-size replica of the Nihonbashi bridge, the Nakamuraza theatre and scale models of towns and buildings from the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods.
If time allows, we will also go up to Tokyo Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city.
Day 4/Thur: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Tokyo (B/L)
We depart at 7:30 AM to embark on a full-day excursion to Mt Fuji and Hakone.
Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain (3,776 m) in Japan, is a two-hour drive from Tokyo. We stop by the Fujisan World Heritage Center to view the summit as well as learn the history, formation and ecology of Mt. Fuji through exhibits and films. It is a matter of luck whether the summit is visible as Mt. Fuji is often shrouded in clouds. In case you wonder, our schedule does not include hiking the mountain not only because it opens to hikers only from July to early September but also because it takes at least six hours to complete the hike even if you start from the highest station – the Fifth Station located at 2,305 metres above sea level.
We then proceed to Lake Ashi in Hakone for a short cruise across the lake. This is followed by a breathtaking ride of the Hakone Ropeway, which, on a clear day, offers stunning views of Mt. Fuji and surrounding mountain slopes dotted with lakes. At the end of the ride is the Owakudani Geothermal Valley where we spend about half an hour before returning to Tokyo.
Day 5/Fri: Tokyo – Kanazawa (B/D)
Free morning to explore on your own. We would recommend Ueno Park and Tokyo National Museum adjacent to the park. Feel free to ask your guide for more options in advance.
This afternoon we ride the bullet train to Kanazawa. The 2.5-hour journey is a perfect way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Japan. On arrival, we walk across the station to our centrally located hotel. In Japan, a train station is generally located in the heart of a city.
Kanazawa is a jewel of Japanese tourism often bypassed by foreign tourists due to its relatively remote location. However, Japanese themselves come here in droves. Travellers visiting here are richly rewarded with a best preserved Edo-period city where the Samurai, merchants, Geisha and the Daimyo (lords) all left their marks. Kanazawa is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Crafts and Folk Art. Its cuisine is famous throughout Japan.
Day 6/Sat: Kanazawa (B/L)
Morning sightseeing begins at Kenroku-en Garden. One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan (Koraku-en in Okayama and Kairaku-en in Mito being the other two), Kenroku-en was developed from the 1620s to the 1840s by the Maeda clan, the daimyo who ruled the former Kaga Domain. Kenroku-en means “garden which combines six characteristics” – the six aspects considered important in the notion of an ideal garden: spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness.
From the garden we walk across the road to Kanazawa Castle, to which Kenroku-en Garden used to be part of. The restored castle was first built in 1580 for Maeda Toshiie, the fourth son of a minor samurai family who entered the service of a powerful daimyo at the age of 15 and quickly rose through the ranks. The castle was reconstructed multiple times mostly due to fire damages. The last time the castle was destroyed by fire was in 1881. The Hishi Yagura turret, Gojikken Nagaya warehouse, and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura turret were faithfully restored in 2001 to their 1809 form, using traditional construction methods. Today’s pillars are Japanese Hinoki Cypress with massive American cypress as ceiling beams. The castle’s distinctive, whitish roof tiles are made of lead.
Our first stop after lunch is Nomura Samurai Residence located in a historical preservation area where people actually live and go about their daily lives. A highlight of the restored house is the small but supremely exquisite traditional garden.
Afterwards, we visit a preserved district called Higashi Chaya Street. Higashi and chaya respectively mean eastern and tea house. During the Edo Period, chaya was found in designated entertainment districts where geisha entertained male patrons with dance and music. Today, like Kyoto’s Gion district, Higashi Chaya Street is a popular attraction with almost all of the businesses here serving the needs of tourists (souvenirs, refreshments etc).
Day 7/Sun: Kanazawa – Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa (B/L)
Today we embark on a full-day excursion by coach to Takayama and Shirakawa-go.
Famous for its inns, sake breweries, food festivals and local folk art, Takayama, 118 km southeast of Kanazawa, is a delightful town nestled among the Japanese Alps. Our sightseeing takes in an open-air market, Sanno-machi Historic District and a sake brewery.
We return to Kanazawa in the afternoon and visit Shirakawa-go en route. Sitting at 400 meters above sea level, Shirakawa-go is part of the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama – a World Heritage Site inscribed by UNESCO in 1995. Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The Gassho-style large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs here are the only examples of their kind in Japan.
Day 8/Mon: Kanazawa – Kyoto (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we walk across the street to the train station and board the high-speed train (Thunderbird 12, 07:47/11:01) to Kyoto. We tour Kyoto Imperial Palace before lunch.
We begin our afternoon sightseeing at Kiyomizu Temple, whose massive veranda provides stunning views of the city. We spend the rest of the day exploring a traditional entertainment district known named Gion.
Day 9/Tue: Kyoto (B/L)
Nicknamed City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Kyoto (literally: capital city) served as Japan’s capital for more than one thousand years before the imperial court moved to Tokyo in 1868 AD, at the beginning of Meiji Restoration (1868 to 1912 – a historical period responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modernized nation in the early 20th century). Kyoto is a scaled replica of China’s Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), Chinese capital during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). With a population of 1.5 million, Kyoto forms a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area.
We begin the day with a tour of historical Nijo Castle, the site that saw the beginning and ending of the Tokugawa shogunate (1600-1868).
We then embark on an excursion to Arashiyama (Storm Mountain), a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Sites to visit here include the Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Forest.
Afternoon schedule takes in Ryoanji Temple and Kinkakuji Temple. Ryoanji literally means temple of dragon at peace. The garden inside is considered one of the finest surviving examples of kare-sansui or dry landscape, a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations arranged amidst a sweep of smooth pebbles raked into linear patterns that facilitate meditation. The temple and its gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kinkaku-ji, meaning Temple of Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the 17 locations comprising the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The official name of the temple is actually Rokuon-ji (Deer Garden Temple) but is widely known as Golden Pavilion Temple because of the three-story building on the grounds of the temple. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf.
Day 10/Wed: Kyoto (B)
Today is set aside for you to explore on your own. It is not difficult to move around Kyoto by public transportation. We recommend Kyoto National Museum, Fushimi Inari Shrine (hiking) and a leisurely stroll along the photogenic Kano River. Please feel free to ask if you need additional recommendations.
Day 11/Thur: Kyoto – Nara – Osaka (B/L)
After breakfast we drive to Nara where we visit Nara Park (where 1,200 wild sika deer roam free) and Todai-ji Temple (Great Eastern Temple). Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture and a former capital of Japan (710-794). With a population of roughly 370,000 and an area of 280 square kilometers, the city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture. Eight temples, shrines and ruins together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest collectively form “the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After lunch we continue on to Osaka. Situated at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is Japan’s third largest city by population after Tokyo and Yokohama, and serves as a major economic hub. Osaka was once known as the “nation’s kitchen” because of its role as Japan’s rice trading centre during the Edo period. Our schedule in Osaka includes Osaka Castle and a short river cruise through the busy Dotonbori District.
Day 12/Fri: Osaka (B)
Free day to explore on your own.
Optional Day Tour to Miyajima and Hiroshima
If enough guests show interest, we may offer an optional day tour to Miyajima Island and Hiroshima using a combination of Shinkansen bullet train (Sakura), local commuter train, ferry, public bus and taxi. The departure time from the hotel is 07:20 and we’ll get back to the hotel around 18:30.
Miyajima, whose official name is Itsukushima, is a small island （30 sq km, pop. 1,760) in Hiroshima Bay famous for its forests and ancient temples. Its Number One attraction is the giant orange-colored floating torii gate which marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. And this is main reason for our visit to the island. After we arrive at Hiroshima Station by bullet train (2 hours), we transfer to a local commuter train (30 minutes) to arrive at the ferry terminal. The ferry ride takes another 15 minutes. We’ll spend about 40 to 60 minutes on the island before returning to the ferry terminal to retrace our way back to Hiroshima Station, from which we travel to the Peace Memorial Park. We’ll spend about two hours at the complex with 1 hour for outdoor sightseeing (Atomic Bomb Dome etc) and 1 hour inside the museum onsite.
Hiroshima, literally meaning “broad island”, is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture and the largest city in the Chugoku region with a population of 1.2 million (2016). Hiroshima is best known as the first city in history to be targeted by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on the city (and later on Nagasaki) at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, near the end of World War II.
The highlight in Hiroshima, understandably but sadly, is the Peace Memorial Park which includes the Peace Memorial Museum, and the Atomic Bomb Dome that once served as the industrial promotion hall for the local prefect.
Day 13/Sat: Osaka – Tokyo (B/D)
We return to Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train reaching Tokyo in less than 3 hours. Free afternoon to explore on your own. Please ask your guide for recommendations.
Day 14/Sun: Tokyo – Return Home (B)
Your unforgettable Japan tour ends this morning. Transfer to Narita or Haneda airport on your own by express train or airport limousine shuttle bus. The shuttle bus costs JPY3,100 (US$28) for Narita airport and JYP1500 (US$14) per adult.
|Tokyo – first stay||3||Tokyo Dome Hotel||first class|
|Kanazawa||3||ANA Crowne Plaza Kanazawa||first class|
|Kyoto||3||ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto||first class|
|Osaka||2||ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka||first class|
|Tokyo – second stay||1||Tokyo Dome Hotel or similar||first class|
Dates and Prices
|16-Sep (sold out)||29-Sep||$6500/$5000||$2580/$1999|
|23-Sep (sold out)||06-Oct||$7420/$5500||$2580/$1999|
|28-Oct (sold out)||10-Nov||$7690/$5700||$2770/$2150|
* Land Only price does not include international air. Contact us for a competitive fare quote.
** The single supplement can be dramatically reduced if you accept a single room truly intended for singles (18 square meters or smaller with a single or double bed).
|Tour price includes:
||Tour price does NOT include:
Visa is not required of visitors from Western countries.
Budget a few hundred dollars for tips, incidentals and meals not included in the tour price.
See Terms & Conditions for more information.
Trip to Japan – Passport & Visa
A passport with at least one (1) blank visa page and six (6) months validity at the end of the tour is required.
Japan Tourist Visa is not required of nationals from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and a host of Western countries if the stay is within 90 days.
You are not required of any inoculation certificate to enter Japan. However, we do suggest you visit your family physician or a travel medicine clinic to determine what precautions you should take. We recommend inoculation shots for hepatitis A and suggest that you check out advice provided by the US CDC and Health Canada.