History and Culture in Japan

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Curated By

Adeline Kuroki

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  • Kyoto

  • Tokyo

  • Japan

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Entertainment

A picture of two women in purple and pink kimono.
Curator’s statement

There is so much to learn about the history and culture in Japan. I recommend starting with Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa. All three cities are easily accessible by high-speed trains and all three offer so much for a traveler to explore and learn.

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Where to stay

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Hip hot spring hotel with sleek rooms featuring tatami floors and soaking tubs.

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Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi

A luxury hotel located in the heart of Tokyo, offering panoramic views of the city and impeccable service. Combining modern elegance with traditional Japanese aesthetics, it provides guests with a serene oasis amidst the urban hustle.

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Luxury Hotel SOWAKA

Immerse yourself in a world of elegance and tranquility at this luxury hotel, where traditional Japanese architecture harmoniously blends with contemporary design, creating a serene sanctuary for guests to indulge in refined comfort and exceptional service.

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  • $50-100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Day 1: Tokyo

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Wake up bright and early on your first morning in Tokyo (thanks jet lag), and head to the Tsukiji outer market. Formerly the home of the early-morning tuna auction, Tsukiji is still the perfect place for a traditional breakfast of rice and freshly caught fish!

From here, hop on the subway to pop-culture-centric Akihabara for a bit of shopping and to visit a pet cafe. Pet cafes are incredibly popular in Japan, as most apartment dwellers are not allowed to have pets. Choose from a cat cafe, bunny cafe, or my personal favorite, a micro pig cafe. Sit and enjoy a tea or coffee while playing with some adorable cuddly animals!

In the evening, I recommend exploring Golden Gai - a warren of alleyways full of tiny restaurants and bars. There is something here for every palate, but I recommend trying something new. Takoyaki (octopus balls) and sake infused cocktails are a great place to start!

Day 2: Kyoto

An aerial view of a red and black temple during daytime.

Today, you'll hop on the shinkansen, or bullet train, for the two-hour ride from Tokyo to Kyoto. Keep an eye out for views of Mt Fuji as you go past! After checking into your hotel, head out for some sightseeing. We recommend Nijo Castle, or the hillside shrine Kiyomizu-dera. In the evening, head to the Gion district for a geisha show and dinner!

Day 3: Kyoto (Northwest Side)

A woman sitting on the floor making traditional tea.

I recommend getting an early start on your sightseeing this morning to beat the crowds. Today you'll head to the northwest side of the city to explore Arashiyama: home to the iconic bamboo groves and dozens of beautiful temples and shrines.
In the afternoon, you'll learn the art of the Japanese tea ceremony from a maiko, or geisha in training. Your foamy cups of matcha will be accompanied by mochi and other traditional Japanese sweets.

Day 4: Kanazawa

A group of people standing in front of trees and a statue

This morning, you'll take an express train north to the city of Kanazawa, famous for its handicrafts and ancient culture.

After checking into to your ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, I recommend visiting Kenroku-en, one of the top three gardens in all of Japan. In the afternoon you'll learn about the ancient art of silk dyeing, which is traditionally used to make kimonos. You'll even have a chance to practice kaga yuzen silk dyeing yourself!
Head back to your accommodation for dinner, where you will be able to enjoy a traditional multi-course meal. Also included at your ryokan is access to private hot spring baths!

Day 5: Tokyo

A picture of brown trees near river under blue sky during the daytime

Today you'll be making your way back to Tokyo. Your bullet train ride through the Japan Alps will be about two and a half hours.

For your final afternoon in Japan, you might like to visit the Ginza shopping district for some souvenirs, or perhaps take a walk around the grounds of the Imperial Palace.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor David Rosenberg's guide, Off-the-Beaten-Path Guide to Kyoto, Japan.

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Travel Advisor

Adeline Kuroki

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Japan.