One Week in Japan
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
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
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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Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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