14 day Cultural Japan

The ultimate taste of Japan

with 14 packed days of culture, colour, and scenery

Japan is country of history, contrasts and deep pride. It’s colourful, beautiful, contrasting and full of traditions and soul. The food is spectacular, the sights amazing and the cities high energy. The locals are kind and generous and are keen to share their unique lives us.

In this hand crafted 14 day tour you will experience the very best of Japan – temples and shrines, colourful landscapes and moving histories. You’ll stay with Buddhist monks in their timeless monastery, learn to prepare sushi from a skilled “itamae” – chef, and take lessons in swordsmanship from a genuine Samurai descendant, sword master and sensei. This is an ‘all in’ tour that showcases the very best of Japan.

At a glance

From: $2,841

Tokyo to bathing Monkey - crazy Japan!

In this first part of your Japanese adventure we explore the vibrancy of the nations capitol Tokyo, to the gentle ‘onsen’ hot springs of Shiga Kogen National Park. You’ll visit millennia old temples and beautiful shrines, walk the quirky colourful avenues of the Harajuku shopping district and experience Tokyo after dark in the Shinjuku district. Our exceptionally talented chef will teach you to roll Sushi like a master before we speed out to Nagano and Shiga Kogen National Park at over 200km/h on the bullet train. Hot springs and Snow Monkeys are our backdrop for this part of your journey as we hike amongst the lushness of the UNESCO Shiga Highland Biosphere Reserve

  • Visit the Tsukiji Markets – renowed for it’s fish produce and local eateries.
  • Walk the shopping districts and eclectic streets of colourful Akihabara and Harajuku shopping district.
  • Be dazzled by the beauty of Senso-ji Temple
  • Experience the contrast of fast bullet trains and slow biosphere reserves
Mt Fuji, Hiroshima and Osaka - beautiful Japan

You experience the full cultural impact of Japan over these next 6 days as we sail on a pirate ship to a cable car that will take us above the clouds for spectacular views of Mt Fuji and the national park beyond. We take a step into the heartbreaking city of Hiroshima and discover a city regenerated after mass destruction before heading out to witness sunset over the iconic floating Torii gate which guards the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine. Castles and Canals await us in Osaka while the ancient capitol of Nara is known for its wooden dwellings and traditional architecture.

  • Experience the serenity of Mt Fuji and the surrounding national parks
  • Immerse yourself in the city of Hiroshima, learn and share, so this may never happen again.
  • Learn more of Japanese history as we explore the centuries old Osaka Castle.
  • Party under the neon lights which line the Dotonbori canals
Koyasan, Arashiyama & Mt Inar - spiritual Japan

This week you have the rare opportunity to stay in a 1200 year old monastery with Buddhist Monks in the mountains of Koyasan and observe their morning prayer ritual and unique fire ceremony. We have more shrines and temples to wander through, the famous bamboo forest of Arashiyama to experience, the thousands of orange vermilion Torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine on the summit of Mt Inar to photograph, and a relaxed exploration of the traditional Gion district, home to the Geisha.

  • Learn bout Buddhism from local monks as we sleep side by side in their 1200 year old monastery.
  • Take the insta worthy pictures in the Arashiyama bamboo forest and the Fushimi Inari shrine and Torii gates
  • Learn to fence like a real Samurai!

こんにちは、いらっしゃい (Kon’nichiwa, irasshai)! Aſter arriving into the sprawling capital of Japan, we’ll getyou settled in your centrally located accommodation and grab the opportunity to meet your guide and travelcompanions.  Tonight you can head into Tokyo for your first taste of urban Japan with a feast of Japanesecuisine and then as the mad crowds die down, we’ll explore the iconic Senso-Ji Temple.

This Buddhist temple is the oldest of its kind in Tokyo, the origins of which date back to 628 CE, and is a livinglink to Japan’s incredible historical past. Around the beautiful temple itself, there are authentic Japanesemarkets for you to discover.

Activities: Welcome Dinner, Senso-Ji Temple
Meals: Dinner

Day 1: The unique journey through historic Japan begins

Tokyo is a vibrant city of over 36 million inhabitants that harmoniously balances the old and new worlds. Ultra-modern architecture meets imperial palaces, towering skyscrapers meet blossom-lined avenues. It’s anincredible journey into the heart of this amazing country.

Today we’ll start your big journey with a run-down on Japanese culture and etiquette. Your guide will introduce you to some common Japanese customs and phrases, i.e – ビール2本お願いします。 (bīru 2 hon onegai shimasu), meaning two beers please… which will help you integrate into the local culturesas you journey across Japan!

You will then head out into the craziness of Tokyo to explore the modern Harajuku culture with a visit to the Harajuku shopping district, known for its colourful street art, youth fashion and cosplay shops. Be prepared to be amazed by the full-on teen pop culture and real-life cosplay characters. You then move to the famous Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōkon.

The lively electronic shopping district of Akihabara is where we’ll spend our aſternoon. Nic-named ‘ElectronicCity’, it’s jam-packed with everything and anything modern; inexpensive gaming & gadget stores, arcades, &Otaku anime shops. It’s a vibrant district with colourful cafes, busy street life, and fun photo booths! Checkout the famous Maid Cafes or just wander around the area.

Activities: Japan Orientation, Tokyo Districts
Meals: Breakfast

Day 2: Pop culture in Harajuku and Video Games in Akihabara

We start the day with our “itamae” – a skilled sushi chef – who will teach you the art of creating traditional and not so traditional sushi platters.  Time to roll up your sleeves and get immersed! You will learn how to make Miso soup, three types of sushi and the secrets behind Teriyaki!

Tonight you’ll experience Tokyo aſter dark in the luxurious Shinjuku district. Upmarket boutique stores are interlaced with vintage shops sprawled over small trendy lanes. Are you brave enough to attempt the world busiest crossing – the infamous Shibuya ‘Scramble’ Crossing? For dinner we can check out the famous Omoide Yokocho alley and attempt to squeeze into a typical ‘Japanese bar’!

Activities: Sushi Making Class, Shibuya Crossing

Meals: Breakfast and lunch

Day 3: Sushi Rolling, Old Meets New in Shinjuku

Next stop – Hakone. Hop aboard the aptly named “Romance Car” to this stunning mountain town. Situated in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park the area is known for its stunning seasonal landscape, its bubbling thermal hot springs and the stunning views back over the iconic volcano Mt Fuji.

Aſter a day of exploring the surrounding area using all sorts of different local transport and taking endless ‘Insta worthy’ shots of Japan’s most famous mountain you’ll have the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese Family Nabe dinner in our guesthouse and relax with a few traditional Japanese games. Let the fun begin!

Included Activities: Mt Fuji Viewing, Romance Car
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 4: Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Hop aboard the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train and in 1hr 20mins you would have travelled approx. 250 km northwest, reaching speeds of up to 260 kmph, to arrive at the home of the UNESCO World Heritage town of Takayama.

Don’t blink or you will miss the amazing views of Mt Fuji as we whizz by. Tonight is an incredible experience staying in the Zenkoji Temple, but first you’ll sample sake in a local brewery. If you are feeling keen, you’ll have the chance to treat yourself to the world famous Hida beef, before ending your day with an optional traditional Onsen – a very traditional Japanese public bath house.

Included Activities: Sake Tasting, Temple Stay, Takayama Old Town Tour
Free Time Suggestions: Onsen/Public Bath House

Day 5: Staying in the Traditional Zenkoji Temple in Takayama

You start the morning with a walk around the beautiful old town and village of Takayama and a visit to the vibrant local morning markets on the banks of the Miyagawa River.

Then you are back on the bullet train heading to the metropolis city of Kyoto. Considered the cultura centre of Japan, Kyoto was the nations capitol between 794 to 1868 – over 1000 years! Also referred to as the “Capital of Peace and Tranquillity”, its Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, are now listed as a collective UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tonight we explore the world of Japan’s mysterious and alluring Geisha culture with a visit to the Iconic Gion District accompanied by a local guide. We’ll walk Hanamikoji street, one of the oldest streets in Kyoto and stroll along Shirakawa Canal. Current laws, in respect of the Geisha culture, restrict photography in and around the historic centre, so put the cameras away and sink into the moment of truly being present – it’s timeto experience traditional Japan without the aid of technology.

Included Activities: Morning Market Walk, Gion District Walking Tour
Free Time Suggestions: Geisha Performance

Day 6: The Alluring Geisha of Kyoto

It’s an iconic start to the day with a visit to the Torii Gates of the Fushimi-Inari Shrine. Winding up to the Fushimi-Inari Shrine on Mt Inari, the thousands of orange vermilion Torii gates are one of the most photographed sights in Japan. We arrive early to escape the hoards of tourists and make the trek up, pausing to appreciate the craſtsmanship and learn of the construction toils and their deeply religious significance.

Aſter quite an emotional experience you will continue your deep dive into traditional Japanese culture with a visit to the Kiyomizu-dera temple, one of Japan’s most famous temples. Visitors come to pay their respects to Kannon, a deity of great mercy and compassion in this stunning bamboo and wooden complex sitting high in the Higashiyama mountain side. We finish up with a meaningful traditional Tea Ceremony, learning the nuances fo this timeless tradition. We recommend renting a kimono and getting involved at a truely local level – it’s such an experience of fun and laughter and moments of quite contemplation!

We start our day in the Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama, grabbing those incredible instagram worthy photos, before visiting the incredible Golden Pavilion – a Buddhist Zen temple with two floors sheafed in gold.

Included activities: Kiyomizu-Dera, Fushimi-Inari, Tea Ceremony
Optional Extras: Kimono Hire

Day 7: Torii Gates of the Fushimi-Inari Shrine

We’re really starting to immerse ourselves into the Japanese culture now; amazing food – epic sleeps on futons or tatami mats, and an explosion of cultural experiences – each so different. Today we continue on this journey of discovery, heading to the iconic Zen Buddhist Temple Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), literally the “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”, with two floors sheafed in gold, nestled on the Kyōko-chi Pond, before making your way to Daitoku-ji, a quiet, leafy complex of old temples.
Our aſternoon takes an exciting and somewhat adventurous turn – you’ll have the very unique opportunity towield a traditional Katana, Wakizashi or Tanto sword – your final transcendence to true samurai! U. are proud to offer this experience, delivered by our own authentic Bushido instructor – a Samurai descendant, sword master and sensei.

We suggest visiting the Nishiki Food markets during your free time later today as the authentic Japanese
street food is an experience not to be missed.

Included activities: Golden Pavilion, Zen Garden, Kendo Class

Day 8: Your Transcendence into Samurai

We start our day with a train ride to the Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama, grabbing those incredible instagram worthy photos. Don’t put the camera’s away though, as you can climb the aptly named Monkey Mountain before heading off on a traditional and scenic Japanese boat ride over waterways and through local valleys.

Stay hungry because this aſternoon you head to Japan’s street food capital! The port city of Osaka is
affectionately known the “kitchen of Japan”, and tonight we’ll explore the delicious cuisine of the Dotonbori area aſter dark. We strongly suggest you try Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki, both local traditional foods, as we meander along the canals bathed in the touristy neon lights and extravagant signage which make this district truely unique. The fun doesn’t stop though as your guide offers you a chance to join the locals and belt out some tunes at a traditional karaoke bar this evening!

Included activities: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Monkey Mountain, Boat Tour, Dotonbori, Food Tour,
Karaoke
Optional Extras: Extended Karaoke
Free Time Suggestions: Osaka Canal Boat Tour
Meals: Dinner

Day 9: Arguably the Greatest Food on the Planet

Experience tells us there is a high possibility that you’ll start today with a sore head and a pocket full of happy regret – “I wish I had not sung Back Street Boys ‘I want it that way’ ”… hmmm. But don’t be lazy, get out of bed and make the most of the day to explore Osaka at your own leisure. We recommend you visit the incredibly trendy AmericaTown, visit the Kuromon Markets which specialise in street food and souvenirs, visit the observation deck of Tsutenkaku tower for magnificent city views, wonder through the quirky streets of Shinsekai or experience high density shopping in Shinsaibashi. Maybe wash away that regret with a welldeserved rest in Spa World or browse the wonderful world of electronics in Den-Den Town. If you are feeling particularly adventurous it is a short trip to nearby Kobe City where you can experience the famous marbled meat their cuisine is based on!

This evening we reconnect as a group and go castle hunting! The 16th-century Shogunate Osaka Castle was first constructed during an unsettled period in Japan’s history, peppered with war and unrest. It has been razed to the ground and rebuilt numerous times in the last 450 years and today, in times of peace, stands tall and sentinel with 5 stories of traditional Japanese architecture and landscaping. The castle and its’ grounds tells tales of legends and Samurai warriors, with moments of victory but many more defeats.

The sunset from here over to Dotonbori’s little brother, Shinsekai, is magnificent so let’s stop and take a moment to appreciate that we are here, in Japan, and soak up the amazingness that is ‘Japanese’, a culture so very different from our own, before finding a local restaurant for dinner.

Included activities: Osaka Castle Gardens, Shinsekai Tour
Meals: Breakfast

Day 10: Shogunate Osaka Castle

Today we change pace and head to the ancient capital Nara, previously Heijō-kyō, which held the seat of power in Japan from 710 to 784. Today Nara is a beautiful city of ancient dwellings and traditional
architecture. It celebrates Buddhism through its many temples, including the ‘Seven Great Temples of Nara’.We explore this open and welcoming city stopping to spend time at the Tōdai-ji temple in Nara Park which houses the famous 15m-high bronze Buddha Daibatsu.

Aſter exploring the beautiful town of Nara with it’s friendly locals we head to our unique overnight stay in an1200 year old monastery. In a lush basin surrounded by towering 1000 metre peaks, a monk named Kukai founded Shingon Buddhism and built the Koyasan monastery complex and temples which are still present today. It has been, and continues to be, a significant religious site and we are fortunate to be hosted by local monks who will share their traditional meals with us, teach us the art and beliefs of meditation and accompany us on an informative tour around Japan’s largest cemetery. Dinner tonight is a very special vegetarian meal made from ingredients cultivated locally by our hosts.

Included activities: Nara Park, Koyasan Temple Stay
Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 11: Nara Village and Overnight at Koyasan Monastery

We wake early to observe the morning prayer ritual and unique fire ceremony of our hosts, unique to Esoteric Buddhism, and dedicated to Fudō Myō-ō, the Buddha of Compassionate Fire. Wooden sticks on which prayers and wishes have been written, are burnt while the Buddhist monks chant mantras. It’s an intensely personal experience, unique to this part of Japan so be prepared to be open minded and respectful of thisbeautiful morning ritual.

Just before lunch we jump on the bullet train again for a speedy 90 minute journey to Hiroshima. We are loving this fast travel – no sitting on buses and regional trains for hours!!

We believe strongly at U. that travel makes us better versions of ourselves, and so once in Hiroshima we’ll take a deep breath to face the history of Aug 6th 1945. On this day an estimated 80,000 people, mostly civilians, died instantly at Hiroshima when an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb. An estimated 55,000 more died a slower death from radiation poisoning. Today Hiroshima is rebuilt, a modern version of its previous self and we’ll explore the port township, visiting the humbling Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the iconic Atomic Dome, ring the peace bell and say a prayer at the eternal flame. Our hope is that we learn from history and move forward more educated, tolerant and understanding.
We finish our day with a walk around the museum.

Activities: Morning Danjo Garan Complex Tour, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Guided Tour

Day 12: Emotion in Hiroshima

Today is our last fully guided day in this magnificent country. We might even argue we have saved the best for last as we travel by ferry to the island of Itsukushima, also known as Miyajimi, and where ‘god’ is believed to dwell. In order to approach the famous Itsukushima Shrine, travellers were first made to pass through the iconic Torii gate which appears to be floating at high tide. Have your camera’s at the ready – this is one photograph you really don’t want to miss. Spend the aſternoon exploring the serenity of the rest of this island paradise before we head out for our final night as a group and a celebratory dinner.

Included activities: Miyajima Island, Itsukushima Shrine, Hall of 1,000 Mats
Meals: Breakfast

Day 13: The Island of the Gods

What an amazing 13 days of immersive travel we have done. Temples and shrines, villages and cities, islands and mountains. And gloriously spectacular cuisine. For most Japan has been a sensory overload. For those that can drag themselves out of bed we head out for a sunrise run/walk/crawl along the river in the beautiful of city of Hiroshima.

If you are leaving Japan today, your guide will direct you to the airport, or onward towards another adventure.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 14: Departure

We can help you!

This itinerary is a guide only. Given the spontaneous nature of our trips, our lack of control over the weather,
and many other factors that can effect a group, where we go and what we do each day may vary.

Always included:

  • Covered by the Travel Guarantee Fund in Denmark
  • 100% climate-neutral travel
  • Professional travel experts and local guides
  • We do all the planning for you
  • Personalized meetings before departure
  • 24/7 emergency telephone
  • Your own personal travel profile with program, add-ons, flight tickets etc.
  • Packing list and advice
  • Certification of participation
  • Advice and assistance with booking flights
  • Possibility of purchasing cancellation and travel insurance
  • All entrances and fees for experiences
  • All tour accommodation

 

Transport:

  • Bullet train
  • Transfer from airport
  • Train
  • Cable car
  • Bus

 

Experiences:

  • Local guides for a local experience!
  • Visit one of Japan’s most significant temples – Senso-ji Temple
  • Visit the Shinto Shrine Meiji Jingu
  • Go ‘Japanese’ and shop for the eclectic in Akihabara
  • Learn to make Japanese soba noodles
  • Sleep on a traditional mat in a classic “Royokan”
  • Experience some of the most wonderful nature in Shiga Kogen National Park
  • Visit the beautiful city, Hakone
  • Get the best photos for your collection overlooking Mt Fuji
  • Sail in a pirate ship over a large river with an amazing view
  • Learn about the events in Hiroshima and walk through the still amazing city
  • See the famous “Atomic Dome” that was preserved after the horrible incident
  • Get to know the past at the Peace Museum
  • Visit the incredibly beautiful Osaka Castle
  • Eat delicious food by the well-lit area around the Dotonbori canals
  • Take a trip to the cultural city of Nara around Osaka
  • Witness the magnificent Buddhist temple, Todai-ji
  • See “The Great Buddha” – a statue in the famous temple, Todai-ji
  • Relax and enjoy the surroundings in a beautiful Zen garden
  • Visit the cozy mountain town of Koyasan
  • Sleep in a temple in the traditional way
  • Eat local food at the temple
  • Learn to meditate from the skilled monks
  • See a unique and exciting fire ceremony
  • Visit the largest cemetery in all of Japan
  • Come to the city of Kyoto and meet one of the wonderful Geishas
  • Walk through the world famous bamboo forest with more than 100 bamboo plants
  • See the Golden Pavilion where two of the floors are covered in gold
  • Visit the Gion district with its many beautiful streets
  • See the many red gates in the shrine of Fushimi Inari
  • Learn from a Sensi how to use a sword like a real samurai

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KNOWLEDGE IS POWER WHEN USED WELL

Your expected footprint on this trip: 0.96 tons of CO2

(not including flights). Find out more about our commitment to net-zero travel and how you can lower your footprint.

Accommodation: 629kgs Approx. 17 nights at 37kgs per night Transport: 197kgs Approx. 800km at 25kgs per 100km Optional activities: 30kgs Approx. average (2 activities) Food & drinks: 13kgs Approx. 700g per day

Your local investment on this trip: ¥313,300

The average expected amount our U.Traveller’s spend that goes directly into the local economy.

Find out more about our love for supporting local businesses

Why Choose a U. Trip

  • The only tour company carbon calculating and offsetting every part of your U.Trip, as part of your cost! From the flights, to all carbon costs associated with your accommodation, activities, meals and transport.  This means you are choosing to travel responsibly with a company dedicated to putting People + Planet first!  U. have simplified the decision making so you can focus on just choosing the best trip for your adventures!
  • More inclusions, head to head, than other trips meaning you get more value for your spend, you see more and you experience more!
  • Invest in yourself and your future with a U.Trip that seamlessly combines the fun, excitement and adventure of gap year and backpacker travel with Impact Experiences that add value to your ‘self’ and your CV.
  • U. creates the opportunity for you to challenge your own understanding of the world with first hand experiences of local communities and the challenges facing them.
  • A team with over 100 years collective travel experience

Would you like one of our U.Team to give you a call?

Let us know when and we will make it happen.

We can help you!

Would you like one of our U.Team to give you a call?

Let us know when and we will make it happen.

We can help you!

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