- Immerse yourself in Japanese culture
- Learn to make sushi, sample samurai, meditation experience
- Calligraphy class
- Epic sites and off-the-beaten-track
- Explore Japan’s beautiful countryside, with its shrines, temples and endless hiking trails
- All transportation within Japan, including all inter-city transfers (night trains, with fully flat beds), and all transportation to and from included activities
- All taxes and charges
- All unmissable activities
- All the hostels are safe, clean and hygienic and have their own unique charm. Standard accommodation is in dorm rooms but upgrading to a single, twin or double room is available on request
- A combination of western and Japanese bilingual tour guides
Day 1: Welcome to Tokyo
Arrive in Tokyo and meet your Adventure Leader in the lobby of the hostel. Listen to your Japan briefing and hear about the itinerary and introduce yourself to the group. You will be able to drop off your bag at this point as well. Take in the cityscape with an incredible view from atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. After lunching in Shinjuku, the first stop is the Asakusa temple. Wander up the shrine and explore the charming streets around it before trying your hand at one of Japan’s national obsessions – baseball, at a local batting cage. (400 JPY) Optional: You can either kick back with a drink or relax like a local at nearby bathhouse. (460 JPY)
Day 2: Tokyo: Sushi and Super Mario
Breakfast is the freshest sashimi you’ve ever eaten at Tokyo’s iconic Tsukiji fish market. Marvel at the variety of fish and shellfish on offer, and catch a glimpse of the Tokyo fleet’s latest haul of prized blue-fin tuna. Discover how to make it all yourself with a lesson from a sushi chef, and then sample your produce. In the afternoon, visit Akihabara – Japan’s “electric town” and hub of Anime and Manga, and also home to Japan’s most famous J-pop group, AKB48. Have a “Made in Tokyo” experience at one of Akihabara’s maid cafes. The cost of entry and an order of food and drink is likely to be around 2000 JPY. Optional: Real-life Mario Kart! Choose a costume and race through the streets of Tokyo! (7,000 JPY) (PLEASE NOTE: to participate, you must secure an international drivers permit valid in Japan BEFORE the start of the trip).
Day 3: Tokyo: Sumo and Samurai
First thing in the morning, head to Ryōgoku to discover Tokyo’s fascinating history at Edo-Tokyo Museum. Ryōgoku is known as Tokyo’s Sumo district; you may have a chance witness a Sumo wrestling training session. If training is not taking place on the day, you will still have a chance to see Japan’s National Sumo Stadium. Optional: For lunch, enjoy cooking a typical Sumo wrestler’s meal, called Chanko Nabe, from raw ingredients. In the afternoon, learn the ancient art of samurai and have the chance to see a live sword demonstration in Tokyo’s Samurai Museum. Optional: Robot Show experience in the evening. (7000 JPY)
Day 4: Tokyo: Anime and Shrines
Kick off the morning with a trip to the Imperial Palace’s gardens, and learn about why Japan’s Imperial Family is so unique. It’s another afternoon of traditional-modern contrast in the Harajuku area of Tokyo. First stop is Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion district. French maids, punks, goths, lolitas, technicolour hair – anything goes in Harajuku. Stand back and watch or grab some hair dye and get involved! After that, go to the Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Wander through the forest until you reach the shrine to the Emperor who began Japan’s transformation from feudal to modern society in the early 20th century. Walk to Shibuya to see the fruits of the transformation started by Meiji Restoration. Witness the sheer scale of one the world’s most famous people crossings – featured in Hollywood films like Lost in Translation and Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Day 5: Kamakura: Surfing and Buddhas
After brunch in Tokyo, it’s time to say goodbye to the modern capital and hop on a train to Kamakura – Japan’s medieval capital and home to the first shoguns. Check out some of the town’s many ancient shrines, and then hike over to Kotoku-in temple to marvel at the Great Buddha statue, which stands at nearly 45ft tall and is made of solid bronze. Optional: The hostel is moments from the beach, and you can relax on the sand or try your hand at surfing. Surfboard rental options nearby. (3000 JPY for a day) There are lots of beachside bars where you can watch the sun go down.
Day 6: Hakone: Fuji views
Take a series of trains and buses to the beautiful Lake Ashi, where you’ll board a pirate ship! From the deck of this triple-decker man-of-war, you’ll cross the lake’s clear blue waters and get an unforgettable view of Mt. Fuji on a cloudless day. Take the Hakone Ropeway – an epic cable car journey that drops you at Oowakudani, an active volcanic zone where you can try black eggs – a local delicacy coloured by the sulphuric water they’re boiled in. Spend the evening soaking in the sulphuric water of a traditional Japanese outdoor bath, called an onsen (please note: those with tattoos may not be able to enter onsen in Japan).
Day 7: Kyoto: Bullet train to Kyoto and Pontocho Alley
Next stop is the station to board your first bullet train – to Kyoto. You’ll zoom across the country, covering around 440km in little more than two hours, leaving plenty of time to experience Kyoto later in the day and at night. In the afternoon, wander the hillside streets to the stunning Kiyomizu Dera temple. The city is famous for its history, temples, shrines and – of course – stunning geishas. It also has a large student population and thriving music scene… Kawaramachi is a good place to start. There are bars, jazz clubs and plenty of Izakaya pubs. Attend a live geisha performance, which also features a tea ceremony, puppet show, traditional music, flower arranging and more. For something quintessentially Kyoto, you can wander through Pontocho alley, full of lanterns and intimate wood-panelled restaurants. Quietly sip on sake and look out for geishas wandering past.
Day 8: Kyoto: Bamboo Forest, Monkeys and Karaoke
Start the day with a two-hour boat trip down the Hozugawa River. In your traditional wooden raft, driven by guides, you’ll cruise through rocky ravines and experience the rush of rapids as you meander through the Arashiyama Hills (weather dependent). Head across to the Arashiyama Monkey Park. It’s a tough climb up, but at the top you can feed monkeys or simply enjoy the panorama of Kyoto below. Visit Tenryu-Ji Temple, one of the most important from the areas five great zen temples. The temple’s gardens, designed in the 14th century, are a real show-stopper. After leaving the temple, hike through Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest. Optional: In the evening, sing your heart out doing one of Japan’s favourite pastimes – karaoke. As part of the price, you’re able to drink as much as you like! The karaoke comes with a twist, but you’ll have to come on the tour to find out what it is… (2100 JPY for 90 minutes)
Day 9: Kyoto: Shrines, sake and calligraphy
Day 10: Kyoto: Cycling and tranquillity
Today we cycle all day around Kyoto like a local! First, we ride over to a zen temple where you can discover your inner peace with meditation led by a Buddhist monk. After your journey of tranquillity, see an iconic image of Kyoto: the Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-Ji. Walk around the mirror pond and prepare to be mesmerised by the shimmering golden reflection of the pavilion on the water. After lunch, jump on your bike and cycle around to the Imperial Palace, before bidding farewell to this most magical of cities. Another bullet train will see you venture further west, bound for Hiroshima.
Day 11: Hiroshima: Peace and Island walks
At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, you will find out how this city came to suffer the consequences of the world’s first atomic bomb, but you will also learn that Hiroshima is now the standard bearer for a peaceful and nuclear-free world. After a train ride and short ferry trip to Miyajima Island, you’ll reach the Itsukushima shrine. To avoid angering the gods on the island, the main temple buildings were built on stilts on the shores of the island. Just offshore, you will see an enormous torii gate standing in the sea. At low tide you can walk across the sand to take a closer look. Take the ropeway and hike to the top of Mt. Misen. The view of the great torii gate standing within the Seto Inland Sea is considered one of the three most beautiful views in all Japan.
Day 12: Osaka: Arcades and Castle
Another bullet train will take you to Osaka, your final destination before heading back to Tokyo. You’ll arrive in time for lunch in the Shinsaibashi area. After enjoying your fill of yakitori, ramen, sushi or whatever takes your fancy, it’s a short subway ride to Osaka Castle. Take a stroll around the castle that rises above the enormous moat, and then check out the nine-level donjon. In the afternoon, explore more of Osaka on your own, have the ultimate Japanese shopping experience in Shinsaibashi or rest up. Shenanigans in Namba await in the evening… Start the night off by seeing if you can be the Dragon Trip Arcade Challenge Champion, and then walk through the Dotonbori riverfront and prepare to be blasted by neon. The eating, drinking, gaming and clubbing options around Dotonbori and Namba are endless – fill your boots! In the evening, you will sleep at a capsule hotel – small, intimate, private and quintessentially Japanese.
Day 13 : Osaka: Farewell
Say goodbye to your fellow Dragon Trippers over brunch in Osaka before catching your final bullet train back to Tokyo to finish up or continue on your travels.
Tokyo, Japan: 1 Chome-12-27 Okubo, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0072, Japan
We meet at 10:00 on the first morning at Tokyo House Inn. This is where we stay the first night and is in Shinjuku- a fun, buzzing central part of Tokyo. We will provide clear instructions on how to get here from the airport. It takes approx 1 hour to get here from the airport. We can deal with late arrivals and you will be back in Tokyo by 4pm or can get a flight out of Osaka at after midday on day 13.