Best of Japan
Best of Japan
Best of Japan
Best of Japan
Best of Japan

Best of Japan

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Small Group Tour.

This Small Group Tour allows you to experience all the very best Japan has to offer with a group of travelling companions to share the journey with. From the serene beauty of Miyajima Island and Mt Fuji to the action of Tokyo and Osaka, through to the historic castles and temples, this itinerary covers all of the best attractions in Japan.


  • Experience an authentic tea ceremony.
  • Optional climb to the top of Mt Fuji.
  • Soak up the beauty and ambience of Miyajima Island.

Departure dates for 2019 are:

10/06/19 – 10/20/19
10/13/19 – 10/27/19
11/03/19 – 11/17/19
11/10/19 – 11/24/19
12/01/19 – 12/15/19

Departure dates for 2020 are:

01/12/20 - 01/26/20
01/19/20 - 02/02/20
02/09/20 - 02/23/20
03/15/20 - 03/29/20 (cherry blossom)
03/22/20 - 04/05/20 (cherry blossom)
03/29/20 - 04/12/20 (cherry blossom)
04/05/20 - 04/19/20 (cherry blossom)
05/10/20 - 05/24/20
05/17/20 - 05/31/20
06/07/20 - 06/21/20
06/14/20 - 06/28/20
06/28/20 - 07/12/20
07/07/20 - 07/21/20 (Olympics)
07/12/20 - 07/26/20 (Olympics)
08/11/20 - 08/25/20 (Olympics)
08/13/20 - 08/27/20 (Olympics)
08/16/20 - 08/30/20 (Olympics)
09/13/20 - 09/27/20
10/04/20 - 10/18/20
10/11/20 - 10/25/20
11/01/20 - 11/15/20 (Fall foliage)
11/08/20 - 11/22/20 (Fall foliage)
11/29/20 - 12/13/20

  • Itinerary
  • Accommodation

Day 1: Tokyo

After clearing customs and immigration (which can take up to an hour and a half due to increased tourism to Japan) you will be met at Tokyo’s Narita Airport by a Samurai Tours guide. The guide will then purchase a limousine bus ticket for you and help you board the bus to the hotel. After checking in the evening is free.

Day 2: Tokyo (BL)

After breakfast you will start the day with a Welcome/Orientation meeting. Next the licensed English-speaking guide will escort you to the Tokyo Tower. The Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower in the centre of Tokyo. At 332.9 metres (1092 ft) it is the second-tallest structure in Japan. The structure is an Eiffel Tower-inspired lattice tower with a main observatory at 150 meters that is reached via elevator or a 600-step staircase. Thanks to the tower’s central location the observatory offers an interesting view of the city despite being only at a relatively moderate height. Afterwards we will travel to the famous Ginza district.

Ginza is recognized by many as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world attracting visitors from across the globe. Before continuing we will stop for a lunch of Kushiage (fried meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers). Next we will travel to the nearby Asakusa area. Here we will tour the Nakamise-dori Senso-ji Buddhist Temple and the Asakusa Shrine where you will learn about Buddhist and Shinto Japanese religious practices. We will return to the hotel where we will go through the train tickets for the rest of the tour.

Day 3: Tokyo (B)

We will start the day by traveling to Tsukiji Market the world’s largest fish market. It is estimated that 20% of all the fish caught in the world passes through this market. There are two parts to the Tsukiji Market- the inner market and the outer market. The inner market is for wholesale business and the outer market is for retail. Since groups are not allowed to walk together in the inner market you will be given some time to wander around the inner market on your own. We will then take some time to walk around the outer market as a group. After this we will go to a restaurant near the market that is popular with locals and owned by the self-proclaimed “tuna king” for a sushi lunch (lunch at your cost).

After lunch the afternoon is free to explore Tokyo on your own. Go shopping for that perfect souvenir visit the Meiji Shrine dedicated to the Japanese emperor of the 19th century or wander through the trendy Shibuya or Harajuku districts where you will more than likely see interesting and far-out fashions. It is a short walk to the Kabukiza theatre. There you can attend one act of a Kabuki play if a play is scheduled on that day. Admittance is first-come first-served and you will have to wait in line to get in. Ask the guide for availability admittance procedures and the schedule for that day if you are interested.

The Tsukiji Fish Market is relocating in Oct 2018. All tours after that date will not be visiting the fish market until the new location can be assessed.

Optional Food Tour – Afternoon Kappabashi Tour and Cooking Class
From Tsukiji we will first travel to Kappabashi. Kappabashi is lined with dozens of stores specializing in restaurant supplies. Here you will find specialized stores for dishes pots pans cooking utensils and more. There are also a few stores that sell plastic and wax food samples used by many restaurants in their front windows. If you want to take home something to cook Japanese food with home this is place to buy it. After Kappabashi we will continue with a cooking class. Here you will learn the basics of Japanese cooking and best of all you will get to eat what you cook. You have the choice of the following classes (fees for the cooking class are an additional charge and vary depending on your choice of class):

  • Okonomiyaki
  • Tempura
  • Sushi
  • Rolled sushi and sushi mille-feuilles class
  • Wagyu Sukiyaki

(Cooking ingredients spices recipe apron rental fee and complimentary sake aperitif or tea is included with the cooking classes.)

Optional Tour – Mt. Fuji Climb (Late July Tour Only)
This will take place during the free day on Day 3 in Tokyo and Day 4 so you would miss Kamakura. This optional tour will rejoin the tour group in Hakone on Day 4. You will leave for Mt Fuji on the morning of Day 3 with the guide who will be escorting you to the top of Mt Fuji and then to Hakone. Before leaving in the morning you will transfer your main luggage to Hakone and will be going to Mt Fuji with only what you will need for the climb. We will travel by bus (2 hours) to the Kawaguchi 5th station arriving around lunch time where lunch will be on your own. After lunch we will begin the climb and will be staying overnight at a climbing hut near the 8th station (4-6 Hours). (Dinner and breakfast at the hut will be included.) Early the next morning (around 2AM) we will begin the final ascent to the top of Mt Fuji (1-2 Hours) and will hopefully be on the top before sunrise. After the sunrise and view from the top we will descend back down to the 5th station and travel to Hakone (4 Hours).

(PLEASE NOTE: Although no special technical climbing ability is required to climb Mt Fuji it is a very strenuous hike at high altitudes with some sections of the trail being very steep and very rocky. Only those in excellent physical condition should consider the climb.

Day 4: Tokyo – Kamakura – Hakone (BL)

Before leaving Tokyo you will prepare your luggage to be transferred to Takayama and will be traveling to Hakone and Takayama with an overnight bag only. You will prepare your overnight bag for 2 days and 1 night. We board a subway and an express train to the ancient city of Kamakura the former capital of Japan in the 13th century. Hase-dera Temple originally established in the 8th century houses a famous Kannon statue made from wood and gold leaf and also has a commanding view of the nearby ocean. Next we will visit Kotokuin the home of the famous Kamakura Great Buddha. This 40-foot tall bronze statue of Buddha built in the 13th century is an icon of Japan.
After a noodle lunch we continue by taxi to Hokokuin Temple also known as the Bamboo Temple. Here you will be able to take in the serene atmosphere of the bamboo garden while savouring tea and sweets. Late in the afternoon we will travel to Hakone Yumoto Onsen where we will stay overnight. Here you can soak in the thermally-heated mineral baths at the ryokan. A local licensed English-speaking Japanese guide will be joining us for the day.

Day 5: Hakone – Takayama (BD)

After checking out of the ryokan we will tour Hakone. Hakone is famous for its natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji (weather permitting). We will be taking many different forms of transportation (electric train funicular gondola and bus) around Hakone including the Hakone Sightseeing Boats on Lake Ashi. In good weather you can get a fine view of Mount Fuji and take in Hakone’s rich scenery reflected on the lake’s calm surface.

After returning to Hakone Yumoto and picking up our overnight bags we will continue on to Takayama. Takayama in the middle of the Japan Alps with its traditional inns shops and sake breweries has managed to retain its traditional charm. Breakfast is reimbursed and a Kaiseki-style dinner will be served at the ryokan in the evening.

PLEASE NOTE: High winds and/or heavy rain can and will often cause cessation of services on the Sightseeing Boat cruise. Should this occur we will not be able to operate the itinerary as listed above and will replace it with the best possible alternative given the weather conditions. Also in the case of bad weather even if the boats are still operating we may alter the itinerary for your comfort and safety as Mt. Fuji will not be visible anyway.

Day 6: Takayama (B)

This morning we stroll through the farmers’ market sampling the numerous options from vegetable stands and stalls selling herbs pickles and souvenirs. After that we tour the Takayama-jinya which was the governing office of Takayama and the surrounding area since the early 17th century. The guide will take you to the San-machi-suji district consisting of merchant homes dating back to the 16th century. From here the rest of the day is free to roam and explore Takayama. Visit the many temples shrines and museums rummage through antique shops or relax at one of the sake breweries. The evening is free to visit one of the many nearby Hida Beef restaurants. (Hida Beef is the same thing as the more famous Kobe Beef.)

Optional Tour – Takayama
After finishing the scheduled tour of Takayama at the Takayama Jinya the guide will take you on a tour of the San-machi-suji District. Lined with merchant homes sake breweries and craftsmen’s workshops it was the center of the old town and today it still retains its quaint atmosphere. After a ramen lunch we will continue to the Hida-no-Sato Open Air Museum. With more than 30 traditional farmhouses and other buildings from the surrounding area its main attractions are the “gassho-zukuri” style farmhouses. These massive farmhouses with their steep thatched roofs which look like praying hands (gassho-zukuri translates to praying hand style) were built without a single nail.


Day 7: Takayama - Koya-san Buddhist Temple (BD)

We will travel to Koya-san with overnight bags only. The rest of the luggage will be delivered to our ryokan in Osaka where we will be staying the following night. You will need to prepare your overnight bags for 2 days and 1 night. We board an express train and Shinkansen bound for Osaka and continue to Koya-san by subway train and funicular. Koya-san is the world headquarters of the Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism. Kobo Daishi considered by many to be the most influential religious person in Japanese history established a religious community here in the year 816.

After checking into our shukubo (Buddhist temple lodging) you are free to roam and visit one of the 110 temples in the area or just rest in the garden at the shukubo. Your dinner of shojin-ryori (traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine – no meat fish onions or garlic) will be served by the Buddhist Monks from the temple.

Day 8: Koya-san – Osaka (BL)

Very early in the morning we attend o-inori (Buddhist prayer service). Afterwards a shojin-ryori breakfast is served. Following this meal we wander through the huge cemetery leading up to the Okuno-in temple. Kobo Daishi is buried at this temple and many Japanese still believe that Kobo Daishi is not dead but merely in a very advanced state of meditation waiting to awaken at the appropriate time. After touring the Garan Temple complex we will stop for a Shojin-ryori lunch.
After lunch we will return to the Namba Station the same way we came to Koyasan. After returning to Osaka picking up our luggage and checking into our ryokan the evening is free to visit the Dotombori-dori and the Namba Districts (South Osaka) the nearby nightlife and restaurant district. While there you can visit the Ebisu-bashi Bridge which will make you feel like you stepped into the movie “Blade Runner.” Shojin-ryori breakfast at the temple and Shojin-ryori lunch at a local restaurant are included.
Optional Tour – Osaka
While there are not a lot of sightseeing options in Osaka the best way to experience Osaka is to simply explore the city on foot. And the best time to enjoy Osaka is at night when the South Osaka area of the Dotombori and Namba Districts come into its own. At this time the numerous large neon signs and the hawkers and pachinko parlours of the area combine to create an audio-visual overload. The tour will include Doguyasuji a street in the Namba District lined with restaurant supply stores (including stores selling the plastic food models you see everywhere in Japan). In the Dotombori District you will visit the Hozenji Temple and Yokocho an area that retains an old-time atmosphere and where so many locals come to pour water over the temple’s statues they are now covered in moss. In contrast you will also visit the Ebisubashi Bridge next to the Dotombori Street. With its towering neon signs a visit to the Ebisubashi Bridge is like stepping into the movie “Bladerunner”. The tour will begin with a dinner at a local kaitenzushi restaurant (conveyor belt sushi) where you select whatever looks good as it passes by on the conveyor belt.

Day 9: Osaka - Himeji Castle - Miyajima Island (BLD)

Before leaving in the morning you will need to prepare your overnight bag for 3 days/2 nights and bring it with you. We will then travel by subway and Shinkansen to the city of Himeji. Here we will visit Himeji Castle. Built about 400 years ago Himeji Castle is one of the largest and oldest original castles and is one of only four castles designated as a national treasure and also as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will continue on to Hiroshima by Shinkansen where you will eat your bento box lunch previously purchased and then a local train to the harbor where we will board a ferry for Miyajima Island. Miyajima Island is said by the Japanese to be one of the top three scenic sights in Japan. The evening is free to experience the solitude and ambiance of the island after all of the day-trippers head back to the mainland.

Day 10: Miyajima Island (BD)

The entire day is free to relax in the beauty and ambiance of Miyajima Island: ride the cable car to the top of the mountain on Miyajima Island or visit the Itsukushima-jinja shrine which was built in its present form in 1168. Or just stroll around the island while sampling grilled oysters and momiji manju (a popular Japanese confection) the island’s specialty.

Day 11: Miyajima Island – Hiroshima – Kyoto (B)

After taking the ferry and local train back to Hiroshima we tour the Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park which are both sobering monuments to the tragic events on August 6 1945. Afterwards we are off to Kyoto via the Shinkansen. Once in Kyoto we pick up our luggage and check into our ryokan where we stay for the remainder of the tour.

Day 12: Kyoto (BL)

After breakfast we will start the day at the Nijo Castle. Built in 1603 it was the Kyoto home of Tokugawa Ieayasu the first Tokugawa Shogun. The ostentatious style of construction was intended as a demonstration of Ieyasu’s prestige and to signal the demise of the emperor’s power. The finest artists of the day filled the castle with delicate transom woodcarvings and paintings by the Kano School on sliding doors. One of the castle’s most intriguing features is the so-called “nightingale” floors. To protect the Shogun from real or imagined enemies these floorboards creak when stepped on.

Next we will visit Kinkaku-ji. Kinkaku-ji also known as the Golden Pavilion is one of Kyoto’s as well as Japan’s most recognizable attractions. The gleaming building covered in gold leaf seems to float on the aptly named Mirror Pond especially on a sunny day. After lunch you will have some free time at Nishiki Koji. Nishiki Koji is a narrow five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” this lively retail market specializes in all things food related like fresh seafood produce knives and cookware and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties such as Japanese sweets pickles dried seafood and sushi.

Following this free time we will participate in an authentic tea ceremony. The regimented discipline of the tea ceremony has been practiced for more than 400 years and at one time was considered mandatory for Samurai as an aid to train the mind. After the tea ceremony we will return to the ryokan.

Day 13: Kyoto - Fushimi – Kyoto (BL)

Before leaving for the day you will need to prepare your main luggage to be sent forward to the airport. If you would prefer to keep your luggage you can do so. If you will be sending the luggage you will need to keep enough items for three days/two nights. The luggage transfer forms will have been provided to you prior to this day and you are responsible for paying for this transfer. After breakfast we are off by train to the nearby city of Fushimi one of the largest sake producing regions of Japan. Here we will visit the Fushimi Inari shrine. This Shinto Shrine established in the 8th century is famous for the long tunnels of vermilion torii gates straddling a network of trails leading to the top of the heavily forested Mt. Inari.

We will then travel to the Higashiyama District. This area of narrow cobblestone alleys with its temples shrines numerous shops and restaurants is truly remarkable and relaxing. We will stop for lunch in the Higashiyama District. We will then visit the Yasaka Shrine also known as the Gion Shrine. This shrine built over 1350 years ago is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. The shrine’s main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building.

Next we will walk to the famous Gion Geisha District. Here you will see where the Geiko (in Kyoto they call themselves Geiko not Geisha) and Maiko live and work. You may even see one on their way to one of their appointments. You will have free time for shopping or roaming around the Gion District before returning to the hotel.

Day 14: Kyoto (BL)

The morning and afternoon are free. In the afternoon we will meet back at the ryokan and travel to the Gion Geisha district. Here in a teahouse we will attend a Meet a Maiko session. (A Maiko is a Geisha in training.) She will perform a short dance answer any of your questions and pose for pictures with you. Later we will have our Sayonara Dinner.

Optional Tour – Nara
We will begin the day traveling by train to the nearby city of Nara. Nara was the original capital of Japan in the 8th century before it was moved to Kyoto. We will start our tour of Nara by walking through the heavily forested Nara Park. Here we will find numerous temples and shrines hidden among the trees. Along the way you can also fee the famous Nara deer. They have been in the park since the 7th century and roam freely protected by Buddhist traditions. At the far end of Nara Park we will find Todaiji. Originally built in 752 the main hall is the world’s largest wooden building despite the fact that the current building built in 1692 is only two-thirds the size of the original building. Inside the building is Japan’s largest bronze statue of Buddha (it is almost 50 feet tall). After a lunch break we will continue our tour at Kofukuji temple. Kofukuji temple was the family temple of the Fujiwara family one of the most powerful families in Japan during the Heian period. This temple was created in 710 the same year Nara was made the capital of Japan. At its height during the reign of the Fujiwara family there were more than 150 buildings on the temple grounds.

Day 15: Kyoto (B)

It’s time to say “sayonara” (Goodbye). The group will depart at 8:00 am unless we have determined you need to leave earlier. You will be escorted to the Kyoto train station where you will return on your own to Tokyo’s Narita airport or Osaka’s Kansai airport by train. (If you are flying out of Narita Airport be sure to schedule a flight after 15:00 to allow yourself enough time to catch your flight.)

If you sent your luggage ahead you will need to retrieve the luggage in the Departure lobby of the airport.


  • Local licensed English-speaking Japanese guides
  • 14-Day Ordinary Car Japan Rail Pass (allows unlimited train travel.)
  • Meeting service at Tokyo’s Narita Airport and transfer to the ryokan in Tokyo (6am – 9pm only)
  • Sending service to the Kyoto train station and transfer to Tokyo’s Narita Airport or Osaka’s Kansai Airport.
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary
  • Transfers and transport as listed in the itinerary
  • Admission fees to destinations and activities as listed in the itinerary


  • International airfares
  • Optional tours and excursions
  • Port Taxes and fuel surcharges
  • Porterage
  • Tipping/Gratuities (please refer to tour notes for a recommended guideline)
  • Personal Expenses
  • Departure taxes
  • Local Tourism Dirham tax (for Dubai only)
  • Hotel charges for minibar or any extra charges
  • Visas (unless specified)
  • Any other services not clearly mentioned in the inclusions above

Accommodation is in Japanese-style Ryokan or Western-style hotels.

Trip prices and dates are correct at the time of the website going live, however all offers are subject to reconfirmation at the time of booking. Note prices usually display available discounted rates if any, (eg. Early Bird Deals if applicable). All featured tour itineraries and offers maybe subject to change due to seasonal variations without notice, or due to local conditions or other conditions. Please confirm all details at time of booking. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Innovative Travel bookings. All passports must be valid for 6 months prior to your return to your home country. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller. Special VIP meet and assist offers are valid for New Zealand passport holders, for other nationalities please check at the time of booking. For full terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Conditions page.

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