One Week in Japan

Advisor - Ryan Sterzinger
Curated By

Ryan Sterzinger

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  • Japan

  • Kyoto

  • Tokyo

  • Arts & Culture

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Foodie

  • Multi-Destination

  • Year-round

japan orange spiritual gate in water with mountains in the background
Curator’s statement

Japan is so unique – even within other destinations on the Asian continent, there’s just no place quite like it. They have such unique fashion, media and entertainment. The history is fascinating and complex, as Japan is an island and was historically quite an isolated country. Modern Japan is a mixture of old and new and ignites all of your senses in every single way.

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Where to stay

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Villa Sanjo Muromachi

Intimate 12-room villa in downtown Kyoto.

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Located in a Kyoto mall with stores, a museum, and a musical theater. Great tower views.

Fraser Suites Akasaka

Tokyo luxe apartment stays larger than your average Tokyo hotel room.

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Advisor - Ryan Sterzinger

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Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo

Japanese street and shops with colorful signs and characters bicycles out front

Kick-off your trip with an experiential dinner 

Arrive in Tokyo and check in to your hotel. Head out to dinner at Kagaya Restaurant where you’ll be dining during a performance art piece. The guy who owns the place comes out and he does this whole spiel in which he dresses up in about 10 different outfits (including a dinosaur and a samurai soldier). He talks to all of the guests that are seated at the restaurant in character in Japanese. Even if you don’t understand, it’s an enjoyable experience to have as you eat ramen.

Sing your heart out

Beat jet lag after dinner and go do some karaoke at Karaoke Kan. It’s the karaoke bar they went to in Lost in Translation and you can sing here all night into the early hours of the morning.

Day 2: Hit up the must-dos in Tokyo

tokyo japan crosswalk city view

Immerse yourself in art

Grab breakfast at your hotel and head over to your reservation at the teamLab Borderless Museum for an immersive light experience. Each room has a different VR light experience of various colors and shapes and designs. 

Check out Tokyo’s most famous intersection

Head to the Shibuya Crossing, also known as the Times Square of Tokyo. Some tourists will try to intermix themselves amongst the mayhem of the actual crossing, but if you want to get the best pictures, go to the top of the Starbucks for an amazing view from the top floor. It’s a lot less hectic than trying to walk through it.

Pay your respects 

Go to the Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo. It's not the biggest temple in Tokyo, but it's one of the prettiest.

Get dinner at a Maid Cafe

The Maid Cafes in Tokyo is a uniquely Japanese experience as well. Some people may find it to be a little off-putting; not everyone sees it as very feminist, but there's nothing sexual about it at all. It's more an anime dining experience. The women dress up as fancy anime maids and clean around you as you eat. It’s a very immersive experience for your senses.

Day 3: Immerse yourself in Tokyo’s unique culture

city view of Japan

Dress up like a video game character

If you’ve always wanted to be Mario or Luigi, you’ll love going go-kart racing on the street dressed in borrowed costumes of Mario Brothers characters. Have a blast, take some pics and let your inner child play.

Barbeque for lunch surrounded by kittens

Go to Calico Cat Cafe to enjoy a lunch of grilled meats Japanese BBQ style while surrounded by loads of cats.

Enjoy the show at Robot Restaurant Shinjuku

Robot Restaurant Shinjuku is where you’ll have bento boxes for dinner but you’ll want to show up early around 4 pm, as it’s quite a lot to experience.

Experience Tokyo nightlife

Check out the Tokyo Tower at night in all its glory from Shiba Park and then go to Lockup Bar to have drinks from a prison cell.

Day 4: Immerse yourself in nature in Hokuto City

Japanese temple with mount fuji at sunrise city view

Frolic in sunflowers

Have breakfast at your hotel before checking out and picking up your rental car in Tokyo. Your first stop will be the Akeno Sunflower Fields in Hokuto City. There are more than 600,000 sunflowers planted here, and you can even enjoy sunflower-flavored ice cream topped with sunflower seeds. 

Explore Kawaguchiko Lake

About an hour's drive from the sunflower field is Kawaguchiko Lake, a spot which is the most accessible of the five lakes that surround Mount Fuji. 

Visit Oishi Park on the lake’s shore where you can see incredible flowers and the famous mountain looming in the background. 

Grab a scoop of ice cream before walking up to the Arakurayama Sengen Shrine where you can get incredible views of Mount Fuji.

Check in to a traditional Ryokan

Hakone is a hot spring resort town so you’ll be spending the night at a traditional Ryokan inn spa hotel. Sleep on Japanese-style tatami mats and futon beds.

Day 5: Enjoy the hot springs and lake

white temple sitting on green hills in Japan with a lake in front and low white clouds

Japanese hot springs

Visit the hot spring, called an onsen, on-site at your ryokans.

Spend your morning at the hot springs relaxing and soaking up your time in Japan. 

Sightseeing cruise 

Go on a tourist sightseeing cruise around Lake Ashi, another one of Mount Fuji’s five lakes. Visit the Hakone Shrine which is over 1,000 years old.

Return to Tokyo

The drive back to Tokyo should take less than an hour. Drop your rental car off at the Tokyo Train Station and take a late-night two hour bullet train to Kyoto. Eat sushi boxes on the train for dinner. When you arrive in Kyoto, check in to your hotel.

Day 6: Exploring Kyoto’s temples

tall green bamboo forest in Japan with path in the center and tall tan grass

Temple hopping

Start your day at the Kodai-ji Temple Bamboo Forest. This is one of the most photographed spots, so get there early as it’s magnificent to see the bamboo temple before the crowds arrive. 

From there, head to the Fushimi Inari Gates that dates back to the 18th century and have a mesmerizing cascading effect. You’re sure to recognize the yellow-hues at The Golden Temple Kinkaku-ji. 

Don’t skip the Nanzen-ji Temple, it’s sleek but speculator and located centrally in the old town. 

At the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, make prayers for your ancestors and at the Monkey Park Iwatayama enjoy watching the primates play. 

To-Ji Temple is near geisha schools, so you may see a few geishas walking around the temples. During the day, grab lunch whenever you’re hungry from sushi food stands around town.

Have dinner while you spin

For a memorable dining experience, head to the Kyoto tower rotating restaurant for dinner. Top of Kyoto is the revolving restaurant at the top of the Rihga Royal Hotel on the 14th floor. Enjoy fine dining with French cuisine as you look out over the incredible city. You’ll have 360-degree views as you slowly spin throughout your meal.

Day 7: Day trip to Nara

deer in front of red and white Japanese temple with black and golf roof

Visit the largest Buddha image in Japan

Grab breakfast at your Kyoto hotel and take the bullet train to Nara in less than an hour. Go to see the Giant Buddha at Tōdai-ji Shrine. The statue here is the largest Buddha in Japan.

See Japan’s famous deer

At the Nara-Koen Deer Park, the deer, which are considered to be messengers of God, come right up to you and eat out of your hand.

Dine in a garden

Have a late lunch (or early dinner) at the beautiful Isui-en Garden. You’ll eat while seated on the floor with views of the gardens. The menu is only in Japanese and the staff doesn’t speak English, so you’ll have to be a bit flexible and adventurous with your order. Return to Kyoto on the bullet train after your meal.

Day 8: Day Trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island

Japanese temple in lake at sunrise with mountains

Pay your respects at Hiroshima 

Grab breakfast at your Kyoto hotel, and hop on the bullet train to Hiroshima (a journey that takes under two hours). 

In Hiroshima, you can visit the memorial museum to learn about the U.S. terrorist attack on this Japanese town when an atomic bomb was dropped after WWII ended. You can visit the only building that survived. Be sure to be respectful here, more than 140,000 people were killed by the American bomb and its after-mass. 

Go to Miyajima Island

Grab lunch-to-go from a vending machine before taking the hour-long ferry over to Miyajima Island. Here, you’ll find the gorgeous torii gate structure that appears to jut out of the water during high tide. 

You can take a ferry around the island to visit the different temples and Japanese pavilions. Take the ferry back to Hiroshima when you’re finished and hop on the bullet train back to Kyoto.

Advisor - Ryan Sterzinger

Travel Advisor

Ryan Sterzinger

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