4 Day Itinerary: Japan's Golden Route

· itinerary,Tokyo,Kyoto,Hakone,bullet train

Where do I even start in planning my trip to Japan? Below is a 4 day itinerary covering the highlights of Japan - all within a couple hours of Tokyo's main airports! Want a fully customized itinerary for your next trip to Japan? We can help!

Day 1: Tokyo

Start your off morning bright and early with a visit to Tsukiji Fish Market to see freshly caught tuna being auctioned off to local restaurants. End your tour with a selection of the freshest sushi.

With your belly full, you'll head off to explore Tokyo. You might choose to visit Hamarikyu Gardens, a serene oasis in the center of the bustling city. Or perhaps you'll indulge in a bit of retail therapy in the fashionable Ginza district.

Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

In the evening, your private guide will meet you at your hotel to take you to Golden Gai - a warren of tiny alleyways in Shinjuku's Kabukicho neighborhood full of tiny bars and restaurants. You'll have a chance to immerse yourself in Tokyo nightlife while sampling some of Japan's finest sake.

Day 2: Hakone

You're up bright and early to take the bullet train, or shinkansen, to Hakone. This hot springs region is famous for the views of Mt. Fuji which can be seen on a clear day across Lake Ashi.

After dropping off your luggage at your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore Hakone. Our recommendation is the Hakone Ropeway - a series of gondolas which will bring you over the steam of the natural hot springs to the shores of Lake Ashi. On the way back down, try the region's famous food - black eggs boiled in the sulfurous waters of Owakudani Valley.

Your accommodation tonight is a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan. A multi-course dinner is included in your stay, as well as access to the inn's hot spring baths.

fish course at a ryokan

Day 3: Kyoto

This morning you'll be whisked away yet again by bullet train. Your destination: Japan's ancient imperial capital, Kyoto.

First on the list: a private guided tour of some of Kyoto's most famous sights, as well as some hidden gems. You'll see the gold-covered Kinkaku-ji, explore the mystical bamaboo forest of Arashiyama, and spot a geisha or two in the Gion district.

At the end of the day, your guide will drop you off at Nishiki Market where you'll be able to grab a bite (or 3!) of fresh local food for dinner before turning in early, ready for your day tomorrow.

Day 4: Kyoto

After a hearty breakfast of steamed rice, fish, and miso soup, you'll head to your tea ceremony class. You'll be met by your instructor who, after helping you into your kimono, will walk you through the steps of a traditional tea ceremony. You'll have a chance to try whisking the matcha yourself before sipping the foamy brew. A selection of traditional Japanese sweets perfectly complement the bitter matcha.

matcha at a tea ceremony

In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to explore. You might want to hop on a local train to nearby Nara, home to beautiful temples (and some very friendly local deer). Or you might head to Osaka, a city with a thriving food and nightlife scene.

Happy trails!