Culture By Dayna Engberg

Quintessential Japan: 7 Days in Tokyo and Kyoto

Of all the diverse countries you could visit, Japan might be home to the boldest contrasts of them all. From ancient temples to towering skyscrapers, secluded landscapes to jam-packed city crosswalks, geishas to international business tycoons - Japan is an emblematic playground of old and new. To experience the full scope of its variety, we recommend experiencing both Tokyo and Kyoto. With so much to see in a limited time, planning a multi-stop vacation may seem daunting. Cue the victory music: we've found an itinerary that includes some of the best attractions in both Tokyo and Kyoto. The best part? You'll safely enjoy the abundance of attractions while maintaining distance from the crowds with your own private car and driver.

people in the city


There are few things that feel as luxurious as unwinding from your flight with the services of a private chauffeur to deliver you to your hotel. Except maybe when the hotel is an institution like The Imperial Hotel, a legendary Tokyo landmark that has welcomed royalty, celebrities and international leaders for over a century. Upon arriving in Tokyo, you'll spend three nights here while exploring the foremost attractions of the city.

Tokyo is known for its metropolitan allure. Venture through some of the city's most famed shopping and entertainment districts, including Harajuku's Takeshita Street and Omotesando Avenue. Discover the neon-drenched Shibuya District with its sky-high LED screens, flashing neon advertisements and extravagant street fashion, tour the mind-bending Mori Building Digital Art Museum in Odaibo and soak in the 360-degree view atop the observation deck at the Roppongi Hills complex.

In addition to the many city attractions, you'll also have the opportunity to explore some of Tokyo's more traditional areas, such as Asakusa and the Sensoji Temple, the East Garden of the Imperial Palace and the lovely wooded grounds of Meiji Shrine, a perfect example of pure Shinto architecture with its huge torii gates marking the entrance. You'll even enjoy a hands-on sushi lesson and lunch at the famed Tsukiji market.

beautiful structure

After experiencing Tokyo's most iconic sites, continue to the stunning setting of Hakone, a popular resort village since the great warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi discovered natural hot springs in this beautiful mountainous area in the 16th century. From here, appreciate some of Japan's most stunning natural landscapes with a cable car ride with spectacular views of Mount Fuji, a boat ride across picturesque Lake Ashi and the world-renowned outdoor sculpture garden at the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

Enjoy the unique experience of spending a night in a ryokan, or Japanese inn. Staying in a ryokan is as much a part of the Japanese experience as the sites and places visited by day. Combining classical Japanese design with modern amenities and technology, Gora Kadan ryokan is in a class of its own. Located within Hakone National Park, this former residence of the imperial Kaninnomiya clan not only displays priceless ceramics and scrolls, it also houses some of Japan's best onsen hot springs. Settle into your room, unwind in the hot spring spa and relax by donning an airy cotton yukata robe before enjoying a traditional Japanese meal prepared especially for you by your ryokan host.

a lone geisha
more architecture


A vacation to Japan is not complete unless you ride the famous bullet train to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan for over a millennium. A repository for the best Japanese art, culture, religion and philosophy, Kyoto boasts no less than 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the greatest concentration of any city in the world. Upon arriving, it quickly becomes evident just how different this city is from populous Tokyo. Visit some of the city's most atmospheric shrines, such as Kiyomizudera, the temple of "pure water," Heian Shrine, flanked by a painted sea of flowers and Fushimi-Inari Taisha, a fascinating complex of more than 2,000 blaze orange torii gates stretching nearly two miles up the picturesque wooded hillside leading to the main shrine. Travel to Kyoto's western Arashiyama Mountains to visit the magnificent Tenryuji Temple with its 14th-century Zen garden, one of the oldest in the country and marvel at the stunning Kinkakuji, a three-storied pavilion wrapped entirely in real gold foil.

bamboo forest

Discover what makes Kyoto so unique, hiking through a bamboo forest to Okochi-Sanso villa or with a visit to Monkey Park Iwatayama, where hundreds of wild monkeys live and roam freely in the wooded mountains. Learn about the ancient art of Japanese sake brewing with a tour and tasting at the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, stroll the pottery and handicraft shops of Chawanzaka and Teramachi and sample Kyoto specialties at Nishiki market.

Spend an evening in Gion, Kyoto's traditional entertainment district. Take a walking tour at Yasakajinja Shrine before plunging into Gion's magical backstreets. Your visit to Kyoto culminates at a local ochiya teahouse where you have an appointment with a geisha, learning about her life and role in Japanese society. By night, unwind at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which sits serenely on the banks of the Kamogawa River in a prime location overlooking the famous Higashiyama Sanju-Roppo mountain range.

To experience this astonishing itinerary for yourself - personalized for your specific tastes - simply contact our agency. Not only can we work closely with our Internova In-Country Partner Asia Transpacific Journeys, but also we can secure you VIP bonus amenities along the way.