Day 1: Tokyo
- Arrive in Tokyo and meet your Adventure Leader in the lobby of the hostel. Listen to your Japan briefing and hear about the itinerary and introduce yourself to the group. You will be able to drop off your bag at this point as well.
- Take in the cityscape with an incredible view from atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
- After lunching in Shinjuku, the first stop is the Asakusa temple.
- Wander up the shrine and explore the charming streets around it before trying your hand at one of Japan’s national obsessions – baseball, at a local batting cage. (400 JPY)
- Optional: You can either kick back with a drink or relax like a local at nearby bathhouse. (460 JPY)
Day 2: Tokyo
- Breakfast is the freshest sashimi you’ve ever eaten at Tokyo’s iconic Tsukiji fish market. Marvel at the variety of fish and shellfish on offer, and catch a glimpse of the Tokyo fleet’s latest haul of prized blue-fin tuna.
- Discover how to make it all yourself with a lesson from a sushi chef, and then sample your produce.
- In the afternoon, visit Akihabara – Japan’s “electric town” and hub of Anime and Manga, and also home to Japan’s most famous J-pop group, AKB48.
- Have a “Made in Tokyo” experience at one of Akihabara’s maid cafes. The cost of entry and an order of food and drink is likely to be around 2000 JPY.
- Suggested independent activity: Real life Mario Kart! Choose a costume and race through the streets of Tokyo! (6,000 JPY) (PLEASE NOTE: to participate, you must secure an international drivers permit valid in Japan BEFORE the start of the trip.)
Day 3: Tokyo
- First thing in the morning, head to Ryōgoku (sumo district) to discover Tokyo’s fascinating history at Edo-Tokyo Museum.
- While in Ryōgoku and with luck on your side, witness a Sumo wrestling training session in the morning.
- For lunch, enjoy a typical Sumo wrestlers lunch.
- Learn the ancient art of samurai and have the chance to see a sword demonstration in Tokyo’s Samurai Museum.
- Optional: Robot show experience in the evening. (7000 JPY)
Day 4: Tokyo
- Kick off the morning with a trip to the Imperial Palace’s gardens, and marvel at the grandeur on show.
- It’s another afternoon of traditional-modern contrast in the Harajuku area of Tokyo. First stop is the Shinto shrine to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Wander through acres of forest until you reach the shrine to the Emperor who began Japan’s transformation from feudal to modern society in the early 20th century.
- After that, go to Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion district, to see the fruits of the transformation started by Meiji. French maids, punks, goths, lolitas, technicolour hair – anything goes in Harajuku. Stand back and watch or grab some hair dye and get involved!
- Walk to Shibuya just in time for rush hour to see the sheer scale of one the world’s most famous people crossings – featured in Hollywood films like Lost in Translation and Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Day 5: Kamakura
- After brunch in Tokyo, it’s time to say goodbye to the modern capital and hop on a train to Kamakura – Japan’s medieval capital and home to the first shoguns.
- Check out some of the town’s many ancient shrines, and then hike over to Kotoku-in temple to marvel at the Great Buddha statue, which stands at nearly 45ft tall and is made of solid bronze.
- The hostel is moments from the beach and you can relax on the sand or try your hand at surfing. Surf board rental options close by. (3000 JPY for a day)
- There are lots of beachside bars where you can watch the sun go down.
Day 6: Hakone
- Start off by taking the Hakone Ropeway – an epic cable car journey that drops you at Oowakudani. On a clear day, you can gaze at Mount Fuji in all its glory.
- There, you can also sample black eggs – a local delicacy coloured by the sulphuric water they’re boiled in.
- Next up is beautiful Lake Ashi, where you’ll board a pirate ship! From the deck of this triple-decker man-of-war, you’ll cross the lake’s clear-blue waters.
- Spend the evening soaking in the sulphuric water of a traditional Japanese outdoor bath, called an onsen.(Please note: those with tattoos cannot enter the onsen.)
Day 7: Kyoto
- Next stop is the station to board your first bullet train – to Kyoto. You’ll zoom across the country, covering around 440km in little more than two hours, leaving plenty of time to experience Kyoto later in the day and at night.
- In the afternoon, wander the hillside streets to the stunning Kiyomizu temple.
- The city is famous for its history, temples, shrines and – of course – stunning geishas.
- It also has a large student population and thriving music scene… Kawaramuchi is a good place to start. There are bars, jazz clubs and plenty of Izakaya pubs.
- Attend a live geisha performance, which also features a tea ceremony, puppet show, traditional music, flower arranging and more.
- For something quintessentially Kyoto, you can wander through Pontocho alley, full of lanterns and intimate wood-panelled restaurants. Quietly sip on sake and look out for geishas wandering past.
Day 8: Arashiyama, Kyoto
- Start the day with a two-hour boat trip down the Hozugawa River. In your traditional wooden raft, driven by guides, you’ll cruise through rocky ravines and experience the rush of rapids as you meander through the Arashiyama Hills. (weather dependent)
- Hike in the morning through Arashiyama bamboo forest on the western outskirts of Kyoto.
- After getting lost in the maze of bamboo paths and shrines, head across to the Arashiyama Monkey Park. It’s a tough climb up, but at the top you can feed monkeys or simply enjoy the panorama of Kyoto below.
- Then take a look around the Tenryu-ji temple. It’s the most important of the area’s five great zen temples. The temple’s gardens are the real show-stopper. Designed in the 14th century, they have survived the fires and wars that damaged the buildings and have remained in pristine condition for centuries.
- Make sure you also visit the Dharma Hall. Look up at the dragon’s eyes in the mural on the ceiling – they’ll follow you everywhere!
- In the evening, sing your heart out doing one of Japan’s favourite pastimes – karaoke. As part of the price you’re able to drink as much as you like, all night! The karaoke comes with a twist, but you’ll have to come on the tour to find out what it is… (3000 JPY)
Day 9: Kyoto
- Take a breather and relax your vocal cords after the previous night’s exertions – or if you feel you have the energy we would suggest taking a look at the majestic temples that adorn the Philiospher’s path.
- If you want to ensure your morning is truly relaxing, dive into the Eikando and Nanjenzi temples to experience a dose of tranquility.
- Alternatively, you could check out the International Manga Museum.
- In the afternoon, we head over to Fushimi where you will see shrines, shrines and more shrines. This is a truly remarkable place with a whole host of shrine-covered walkways.
- To get onto the beautiful hiking trails at the back of the complex, you’ll pass through corridors of thousands of bright red gates.
- After this, we head over to the sake breweries. A tour is followed by a tasting experience
Day 10: Kyoto
- It’s an early start to see an iconic image of Kyoto: the Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji temple.
- Start the day with a slice of meditation. Discover your inner peace with a Buddhist monk taking you on a journey of tranquility in a city temple.
- Walk around the lake and prepare to be mesmerised by the shimmering golden reflection of the pavilion on the water.
- Jump on bikes to cycle around to the Imperial Palace, before bidding farewell to this most magical of cities.
- Another bullet train will see you venture further west – bound for Hiroshima.
Day 11: Hiroshima
- At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, you will find out how this city came to suffer the consequences of the world’s first atomic bomb, but you will also learn that Hiroshima is now the standard bearer for a peaceful and nuclear-free world.
- After a short ferry trip to Miyajima Island, you’ll reach the Itsukushima shrine.
- To avoid angering the gods on the island, the main temple buildings were built on stilts on the shores of the island. Pass through the corridors and look down at the ocean beneath your feet.
- Just offshore, you will see an enormous torii gate standing in the sea. At low tide you can walk across the sand to take a closer look.
- Get incredible views of the water and city in the background. It is also a lovely walk amidst the forested route atop this visually stunning island.
Day 12: Osaka
- Another bullet train will take you to Osaka, your final destination before heading back to Tokyo.
- You’ll arrive in time for lunch in the Nanba or Shinsaibashi area. After enjoying your fill of yakitori, ramen, sushi or whatever takes your fancy, it’s a short train ride to Osaka Castle.
- Take a stroll around the castle that rises above the enormous moat, and then check out the nine-level donjon
- Shenanigans in Shinsaibashi and the Dotonbori riverfront await next… For the ultimate Japanese shopping experience, dive into the covered shopping arcade at Shinsaibashi.
- See if you can be the Dragon Trip arcade challenge champion, and then walk through Dotonbori and prepare to be blasted by neon.
- The eating, drinking, gaming and clubbing options around Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi are endless – fill your boots! Why not kick-start your night with a beer on us at the city’s famous Kamikaze bar?
- In the evening, you will sleep at a capsule hotel – small, intimate, private and quintessentially Japanese.
Day 13: Osaka
- Say goodbye to your fellow Dragon Trippers over a farewell trip up the Umeda Sky Tower.
- Brunch in Osaka before catching your final bullet train back to Tokyo to finish up or continue on your travels!