18 day Cultural Japan

The ultimate taste of Japan

with 18 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 with us.

In this hand crafted 18 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: £2,650

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!

The unique journey through historic Japan begins

こんにちは、いらっしゃい (Kon’nichiwa, irasshai)! After arriving into the sprawling capital of Japan, we’ll get you settled in your centrally located accommodation and grab the opportunity to meet your guide and travel companions. Tonight you can head into Tokyo for your first taste of urban Japan.


Explore Tokyo

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 an incredible journey into the heart of this amazing country.

Today you can explore Tokyo at your own leisure. Disneyland, Ueno Park, robot restaurants, museums, bustling streets and incredible food – we suggest you get a good start on the day and be prepared to be exhausted at the end of it!

Breakfast and dinner included


Old Meets New – Temples, Markets and Harajuku

The colourful and popular ancient Senso-ji Temple is your first stop today. This Buddhist temple is in fact the oldest of its kind in Tokyo, the origins of which date back to 628 CE and is a living link to Japan’s incredible historical past. Around the beautiful temple itself, there are authentic Japanese markets for you to discover. We then move onto Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōkon

This afternoon we explore the more modern Harajuku culture with a visit to the Harajuku shopping district, known for its colourful street art, youth fashion and cosplay shops. Upmarket boutique stores are interlaced with vintage shops sprawled over small trendy lanes. We’ll even attempt the world busiest crossing – the infamous Shibuya ‘Scramble’ Crossing!

And to end this wonderful day, we’ll experience Tokyo after dark in the luxurious Shinjuku district as we squeeze into a typical ‘Japanese bar’!

Breakfast included

Tokyo Tour

Sushi Rolling & 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!

The lively electronic shopping district of Akihabara is where we’ll spend our afternoon. Nic-named ‘Electronic City’, 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!

Breakfast and lunch included


Bullet Trains & Tatami Mats

Next stop – Nagano. 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 1998 Winter Olympics – Nagano.

We rest and recover at an authentic Ryokan styled hostel, a type of Japanese inn found alongside major Japanese roads. Tonight we sleep on tatami mats, known for long term health and postural well being or a traditional futon bed.

Breakfast included


Noodles, snow Monkeys & Shiga Kogen National Park

We start this morning by learning how to make our own soba noodles – a traditional Japanese food. We will then seek out the intelligent and clever red faced Japanese Macaques, or more commonly known as Snow Monkeys! Abundantly found in the UNESCO Shiga Highland Biosphere Reserve, we’ll take an easy hike into the lush forest and past picture perfect lakes and hot springs on our quest to photograph and even interact with these terrestrial old world indigenous monkey’s. It’s just an excuse really, the nature around you is stunning and worth exploring on it’s own.

Breakfast and lunch included


Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Today we continue our adventure via bullet train to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and the mountainous town of Hakone, which sits on the famous Tokaido Road connecting Tokyo and Kyoto. Known for its stunning seasonal landscape, its bubbling thermal hot springs and the stunning views back over the iconic volcano Mt Fiji, we’ll rest for the evening at our trendy hotel.

Breakfast included


Sailing, Cable Cars, Mt Fuji and Hiroshima

True to our philosophy of exploring the unique, we sail to the base of Mt Fuiji on a ‘Lake Ashi Replica Pirate Ship’ before exploring closer via cable car!

After we take in the beautiful vistas of the snow capped mountain and Lake Kawaguchi, we’ll head to the historic city of Hiroshima for a venture into history and a peek into the painful past of the dropping of the atomic bomb, and learn of it’s devastating and tragic effects, and the subsequent regrowth of a region.

Hakone & Hiroshima

Memorials and Moments of Reflective Thinking

We believe strongly at U. that travel makes us better versions of ourselves, and so today 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 monuments, museums and the iconic Atomic Dome. Our hope is that we learn from history and move forward more educated, tolerant and understanding.

In the afternoon, 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.

Breakfast included

Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

Osaka Castle and Dotonbori’s Canals

Welcome to Japan’s street food capital! This morning you can explore the port city of Osaka at your own leisure before we reconnect with our group and go castle hunting! The 16th-century Shogunate Osaka Castle was first constructed during an unsettled period in Japanese history which was 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. Our guide will take us on a personalised tour of the castle and grounds and tell tales of legends and Samurai warriors.

And tonight we’ll explore the delicious cuisine of the Dotonbori area after dark.  We strongly suggest you try Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki, traditional foods, as we meander along the canals bathed in the touristy neon lights and extravagant signage which make this district unique.

Breakfast and dinner included


Explore Osaka at your own leisure 

We take time to pause in this vibrant city. It’s an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in Japanese city life and explore the local sights. Have a fun day at Universal Studios, 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. Or why not venture afield to Kobe City and experience the famous marbled meat their cuisine is based on?

Explore Osaka and Further Afield

Temples, Traditional Architecture, and Bronze Buddhas

Leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind, we change the pace and head to the ancient capital Nara, previously Heijō-kyō, which held the seat of power in Japan from 710 to 784. Still 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.


Cultural Temple Stay

It is our pleasure to host you for a cultural overnight stay in a 1200 year old monastery. In a lush basin surrounded by towering 1000 mt peaks, a monk named Kukai founded Shingon Buddhism and built the 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 included


Rituals and Fire Ceremony

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 this beautiful morning ritual.

After another shared meal with our hosts, we head to Kyoto, our base for the next few nights. After arriving, the evening is yours to start exploring before another unique cultural immersion day tomorrow.

Breakfast included

Koyasan and Kyoto

Bamboo Forests, the Golden Pavilion, and alluring Geisha

Considered the cultural centre of Japan, Kyoto held the role of being 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.
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.

And tonight we explore the world of Japan’s mysterious and alluring Geisha with a visit to the Iconic Gion District. We’ll walk Hanamikoji street, one of the oldest streets in Kyoto and stroll along Shirakawa Canal. Current laws, in respect of the Geiusha culture, restrict photography in and around the historic centre, so put the cameras away and pay attention – it’s time to experience traditional Japan without the aid of technology.

Breakfast included


Explore at Your Leisure

Kyoto is the most visited tourist destination in Japan for a reason. We leave you to explore the city and refine what you’d like to see, visit and experience. Try the centuries old Nishiki Food Market for great street food; visit the Kiyomizu-dera – or the “Pure Water Temple”; wander around the Higashiyama district – traditional wooden streets lined with eclectic and eccentric shops; or visit Kiyomizu-dera – one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Japan. Tonight we suggest a visit to Yasaka Pagoda for beautiful photo worthy night scenes.

Breakfast included


Fushimi Inari, Samurai Sword Classes

We round out our incredible 18 days exploring Japan with a visit to the iconic Torii gates of Fushimi-Inari Shrine and a sword lesson with a Samurai descendant and sensei sword master.

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 make the trek up, pausing to appreciate the craftsmanship and learn of the construction toils and their religious significance.

When we descend, be prepared for our last cultural immersion into traditional Japanese life – learning to wield a traditional Katana, Wakizashi or Tanto sword like a Samurai. We are fortunate to be taught by a Samurai descendant, sword master and sensei.

Breakfast and dinner included


Depart, Extend Your Stay or Link with Another Adventure

What an amazing 18 days of immersive touring we have done. Temples and shrines, villages and cities, islands and mountains. And gloriously spectacular cuisine. If you are leaving Japan today, your guide will direct you to the airport, or onward towards another adventure.

While you are in Asia, why not consider touring Vietnam, Bali, Sri Lanka Thailand or even further afield to Australia and New Zealand? Speak to your guide or U. Crew member for more information on making your southern hemisphere travels full of crazy U. Adventures!

Breakfast included


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.


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


  • 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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Your expected footprint: 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: ¥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

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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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