Golden Route Japan Itinerary

15 Days 14 Nights

Itinerary Overview

This 14 – night Golden Route Itinerary is a good itinerary for the first – time traveler to Japan. You will visit cities plus Hakone and Miyajima Island, stay in a combination of hotels and ryokans and will see and experience both the traditional and modern Japan. Not only will you see the sites, gardens, temples, museums and shrines but will participate in a tea ceremony and enjoy a ramen cooking lesson and lunch.

Day 1 Arrive Tokyo

After clearing immigration, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

In order for your holiday to be as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, we have included a private and personalized orientation session, where you will be given everything you need to travel confidently in Japan.

One of our English-speaking staff members will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and will go through your itinerary with you, day by day, and answer any questions you may have. You’ll also receive your “welcome pack” of additional information, such as tourist maps of each destination, suggested walking routes, and detailed information on any special activities you may have booked, as well as a Japanese phrase sheet, which should help you travel in Japan more easily.

Your hotel is located in Kioicho, a town embraced in luscious greenery and a rich history, where Japanese traditions and western culture intertwine. It’s here, in Tokyo’s most dignified neighborhood, that The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho welcomes guests. It is a hotel that marries lush nature and artistic designs with cutting-edge functions in a sophisticated manner, accompanied by the top floor views as magnificent as paintings. The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho offers a personalized environment like never before, delivering comfort that’s customized to the needs of each guest in an exquisite atmosphere via the latest and seamless services.

Hotel: Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho Hotel
Day 2 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend the day exploring some of Tokyo’s highlights with your guide.

Start your day at the Hamarikyu Garden. Located right by Tokyo Bay, it features tidal seawater ponds, as well as a tea house on an island, where you can take a rest and enjoy the scenery. The traditionally styled garden stands in stark contrast to the skyscrapers of the next door Shiodome district. From there you can take a boat along the Sumida River to Asakusa to see Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple.

From Asakusa, we recommend heading to Kappabashi, Tokyo’s restaurant-supply district, a wonderful area for souvenir shopping for all things cooking-related. Convincingly realistic plastic replicas of Japanese foods, the likes of which you may have seen displayed in restaurant windows, can also be found here.

If you are still feeling energetic this evening, we suggest a visit to Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest structures in the world. From the top you can enjoy stunning views of the metropolis below as the day turns into night.

Hotel: Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho Hotel
Day 3 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend this morning exploring Tokyo with your guide.

Start your day at Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most important shrine, situated in a large, forest area amongst the bustling city. From here you’ll venture over to the trendy nearby districts of Harajuku and Omotesando: the former is the center of Japanese teen culture, bursting with life, and the latter boasts more buildings by great modern architects than anywhere else.

Spend the afternoon at leisure.

Perhaps explore Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s busiest, most colorful districts, and home to the famous ‘Shibuya Crossing.’ The area has many great arcades where you can try Japanese-style games and make some memories in the amazing ‘purikura’ photo booths.

Famous for shopping and nightlife as well as unparalleled people watching, Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world and is surrounded by department stores, restaurants, and izakayas. You could then end the day trying out one of the most famous Japanese pastimes, karaoke. There is no shortage of karaoke venues in the city, and it’s easy to simply walk in and request a private room to sing the night away!

Hotel: Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho Hotel
Day 4 Tokyo

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Morning to explore on your own.

Begin by enjoying a stroll around the Imperial Palace Gardens. The East Gardens, the only part of the palace generally open to the public, is both large and varied. As it is famous for cherry blossoms, azalea, irises and pine, it is lovely at any season.

Then head to the next – door Ginza area, renowned for its upmarket shopping and dining, as well as for being an entertainment district. Here you’ll find numerous department stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes. There are many notable stores in the area. For department stores, we recommend Matsuya, which also houses an exhibition floor; or Mitsukoshi, whose history dates back to 1673. Tokyo Plaza Ginza offers tourists tax-free shopping, and also boasts an open-air roof top, which offers great views over the city.

In the afternoon, enjoy a Ramen Kitchen Experience with a ramen specialist. During this one-of-a-kind experience, you’ll get to make delicious ramen in an actual ramen shop’s kitchen. This award-winning ramen shop has kindly offered us exclusive access to something normally not available!

In the ramen shop’s kitchen take in all the sights and sounds and feel just like a ramen chef, using the proper cooking equipment and techniques, you’ll learn all about ramen prep and the ingredients used including each of their purposes and where they come from.

Like a pro, you’ll ladle the broth (seasoning and soup), massage the noodles (“temomi”), and then comes the most fun part, shaking the water out of the ramen noodles in a “tebo”. From here, you’ll place the noodles into the broth and then add toppings and arrange as you like.

Finally, it’s all about eating your ramen creation!

As the day turns into evening, head to nearby Akihabara, also known as Akiba, a district that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan’s otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. In the evening the area is buzzing with people and many of the stores are open well into the late hours. Here is a great place to grab some food as there are plenty of options to choose from!

Hotel: Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho Hotel
Day 5 Tokyo – Hakone

Breakfast is at the hotel.

To allow you to travel comfortably, your luggage will be sent on to Hakone ahead of you. Take your luggage to the hotel reception by 7:30 this morning, and it will be delivered to your next hotel by 7 in the evening.

This morning you will be transferred by private car to the station to board your train to Hakone.

Take the bullet train to Odawara Station in Hakone from Tokyo station on Japan Rail Shinkansen.

Your guide for the afternoon will meet you on arrival at the station. First, head to the Open – Air Museum, which houses an impressive array of international art and sculpture, including over 300 works by Picasso alone. Hakone offers more for art lovers and the Pola Museum of Art in nearby Sengokuhara features a wide range of artworks by both Japanese and Western artists, set in a forest of 300 – year – old beech trees and is housed in a glass and concrete construction designed to blend in with the surrounding nature.

Your accommodation will be the Byakudan Ryokan which is the embodiment of beautiful Japanese tradition. Byakudan lives up to its name, enticing and inspiring guests with the use and delicate scent of byakudan (which translates as “white sandalwood”).

Enjoy this stylish and serene hot-spring ryokan with fine Japanese cuisine which uses freshly sourced seasonal ingredients. The ryokan has 16 rooms, all featuring private baths, and stunning views over the mountains, and is conveniently located only 2km from Kowakidani station and 3km from the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

Enjoy dinner at the ryokan.

Hotel: Byakudan Ryokan
Day 6 Hakone

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

Spend today exploring with your guide. Set out on the circular tour of the Hakone area by mountain train, funicular railway, cable car, and boat. Weather permitting, there are great views of Mount Fuji from the cable car and from Lake Ashi. If you’re feeling energetic, the old cobbled Tokaido Road to Hakone-Yumoto can be walked in full in an afternoon, or you can choose to return by boat across the lake.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Byakudan Ryokan
Day 7 Hakone – Kyoto

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

To allow you to travel comfortably, your luggage will be sent on to Kyoto ahead of you. Take your luggage to the hotel reception by 7:30 this morning, and it will be delivered to your next hotel by 7 in the evening.

This morning you will be transferred back to Odawara Station ready to board your bullet train to Kyoto on Japan Rail Shinkansen.

Half-day private tour of Kyoto with local transport.

Accompanied by your guide, who will meet you on arrival, begin your afternoon at Kiyomizu Temple, which looks out over the city from the hillside. From there, continue down the slope, past Kodai-ji Temple to Yasaka-jinja Shrine and into Maruyama Park. Finish your tour in Gion where you can often catch a glimpse of Kyoto’s apprentice Geisha on their way to their evening appointments.

Opened in late 2016 in the scenic temple district of eastern Kyoto, the Four Seasons Kyoto is one of the city’s most luxurious hotels. Centered around an 800-year old ikeniwa (pool garden), the hotel offers guests a tranquil atmosphere in which to relax.

Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel
Day 8 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

With your guide, spend the day seeing some of the highlights of Kyoto.

Start the day by visiting some of the iconic sights north west of the city. You’ll be seeing the stunning Golden Pavilion and Ryoan-ji Zen Garden before visiting the nearby Ninna-ji Temple, which houses one of Kyoto’s loveliest gardens.

Spend the afternoon exploring Arashiyama, an area in the west of the city. The famous bridge here has been depicted for centuries in woodblock paintings. The area has an old-timey atmosphere, and is a popular spot for kimono wearing in the spring and autumn.

The area is also famous for its bamboo grove, located right by the stunning UNESCO Tenryu-ji Temple. It is here that you can see the picture-postcard view of the green towers of bamboo swaying in the breeze.

Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel
Day 9 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Make your way to a traditional machiya (townhouse), where you will first have a tour of the machiya before being dressed in a kimono for your tea ceremony, perhaps the most enigmatic of the traditional arts. This will be followed by a light, Kyoto style lunch.

Spend the afternoon exploring independently at leisure. We suggest a visit to nearby Nishiki Market, a long, narrow covered street packed with shops selling local specialties which is sometimes referred to as Kyoto’s kitchen. Barrels of fresh and pickled vegetables spill out into the street, and the air is fragrant with the savory smell of grilling sembei crackers and steaming fish dumplings. Many of the shops offer free samples, and the Nishiki Market is a wonderful way to stock up on very Japanese picnic supplies for lunch.

Next, we recommend heading to Nishijin Textile Center, where you can learn about the fascinating process behind the manufacturing of the kimono. In addition, there are daily kimono shows, displaying the beauty and potential of this beautiful garment.

Perhaps finish your day with a visit to the nearby Nijo Castle, a UNESCO Site and former home of the Shogun. On exploring the beautifully decorated interior, you can walk on the ‘nightingale floors’, so-called because the design of the floorboards causes them to squeak when stepped upon – almost like a chirp. End your visit with a stroll around the lush gardens.

Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel
Day 10 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend the day exploring independently at leisure. We suggest visiting Nara, a great place to escape from modern Japan. See the impressive giant bronze Buddha, Japan’s largest, housed in the famous all-wood Todai-ji Temple. Then enjoy a walk in Nara-koen Park, which is home to very friendly local deer who will follow you hoping for tasty treats! The Kasuga Taisha Shrine, which dates from Nara’s time as the capital of Japan, is also located in the park and is well worth a visit. Spend the afternoon enjoying the particularly beautiful Isuien, a very pretty Japanese garden close to Todai-ji Temple which dates back to the mid 17th century.

Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel
Day 11 Kyoto

Breakfast is at the hotel.

Spend the day exploring independently at leisure.

We recommend enjoying a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path which follows a tree-lined canal for two miles between two of Kyoto’s most significant temples, Ginkaku-ji and Nanzenji Temples. There are many other lovely (and less frequented) temples and peaceful Zen gardens just off the path, ready for you to discover.

End the day with a visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine, most noted for its ‘tunnels’ of red torii gates leading up the hill behind the main shrine. This is a perfect place to stretch your legs and work up an appetite for Kyoto’s famous cuisine!

Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel
Day 12 Kyoto - Hiroshima - Miyajima Island

Breakfast is at the hotel.

To allow you to travel comfortably your luggage will be sent from Kyoto to Osaka overnight. We suggest packing a small overnight bag as you will be without the bulk of your luggage for your stay in Hiroshima.

This morning you will be transferred to Kyoto Station by private car to take the bullet train, Japan Rail Shinkansen to Hiroshima station.

Your guide and driver will meet you on arrival and take you for your half-day private tour.

Visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum. This is likely to be most moving part of your holiday in Japan. The spacious park is full of memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives on August 6, 1945, as well as those who later succumbed to diseases, and is also home to the famous atomic bomb dome. The paper cranes found everywhere represent solidarity with these victims and an on-going prayer for world peace. The Peace Memorial Museum is in two buildings within the park, and while visiting it can be an upsetting and unsettling experience for many, it should not be missed.

At the end of your visit, you will be transferred to your accommodation on the island of Miyajima. This journey will involve a short ferry crossing.

Kurayado Iroha Ryokan faces the Seto Inland Sea. The charming ryokan offers superb ocean views from its large windows, and the spacious rooms (a mix of Japanese and contemporary styles) give a sense of calm and coziness. There is an open – air bath located on the roof of the building from where you can enjoy a panoramic view over the sea and the Island of Honshu.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Kurayado Iroha Ryokan
Day 13 Miyajima Island

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

Today spend some time exploring the sacred island of Miyajima, which is lovely to visit at any season.

See Itsukushima Shrine and its famous ‘Floating’ Torii, the 5 Tier Pagoda and Daisho-in Temple. Cable car to the peak of Mt Misen for stunning views across the island studded Inland Sea. Deer are traditionally believed to be messengers of the gods and wander the island freely.

Dinner is at the ryokan.

Hotel: Kurayado Iroha Ryokan
Day 14 Miyajima Island – Hiroshima - Osaka

Breakfast is at the ryokan.

This morning you will be transferred back to Hiroshima Station by private car. This journey involves a ferry crossing. Take the Japan Rail Shinkansen from Hiroshima Station to Shin-Osaka Station. Upon arrival in Osaka, your driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel.

Spend the afternoon exploring Osaka at leisure. We suggest strolling around the Kita area, where we recommend seeing the city from above by visiting the observatory at the Shin Umeda City Building, and below, in the underground shopping malls and arcades.

Later on, head on to the Dotonbori entertainment district, where you can experience Osaka’s famous food and entertainment culture. Osaka is particularly famous for okonomiyaki, often referred to as a savory Japanese pancake, which is definitely worth trying! Make sure to snap some pictures of the neon signs and huge adornments decorating the restaurants along the street, as well as the famous Glico Man sign.

Your stay is at Conrad Osaka is located in the West tower of the Nakanoshima Festival complex which also houses an art museum, a concert hall and a plethora of shopping and dining options. Nested from 33rd to 40th floor, Conrad Osaka offers magnificent city views with stylish design and easy access for both business and leisure guests.

Hotel: Conrad Osaka Hotel
Day 15 Osaka - Kansai International Airport

Breakfast is at the hotel.

You will be transferred to Kansai International Airport by private car in time for your flight home.