Highlights of Japan11 days
85.7% of reviewers recommend this tourRead Reviews 
About This Experience
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is the embodiment of Japanese hospitality, representing harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. You’ll experience this Zen aesthetic on every day of your Japanese tour—and not only while drinking tea. Discover how centuries-old traditions and temples coexist with cutting-edge culture and futuristic cityscapes. And witness how Japan’s art, architecture and day-to-day culture continue to reflect its time-honored philosophies.
Your Tour Includes
Round-trip airfare & transfers
9 nights in handpicked hotels
Breakfast daily, 1 lunch, 4 three-course dinners with beer or wine
Multilingual Tour Director
Private deluxe motor coach
Select entrance fees
Why You'll Love It
Sushi & sake
Kyoto’s long-standing shrines & temples
Ancient art & modern architecture at the Miho Museum
Marvelous Mount Fuji
Tokyo’s bright lights & non-stop nightlife
The meeting of past & future
Overnight Flight1 night
Osaka1 night - hotel info
Kyoto4 nights - hotel info
Encounter sacred deer in Nara and explore the shrines they protect
Osaka Castle, Osaka Museum of History, Todaiji Shrine
Although it’s now an industrial powerhouse, Osaka was also the birthplace of many of Japan’s most well-known arts, such as Kabuki theater and the tea ceremony. Today’s guided tour offers a look inside the city’s historic sights, including the massive Osaka Castle. Once the mightiest castle in Japan, it houses a museum dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the legendary leader who built the castle. After an included lunch, travel to Kyoto. En route, stop in Nara, Japan’s first real capital, where it’s common to see white deer freely roaming the streets. There, tour the local Buddhist and Shinto shrines, including the Todaiji Shrine, home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. Later this evening, get to know Kyoto.
Discover 11 centuries of history in Kyoto’s holy places
Nijo Castle, Golden Pavilion, Ryoanji Temple, Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, Fushimi Inari shrine
Kyoto served as the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years and is still considered its spiritual capital. Uncover Kyoto’s past on a morning tour through the 17th-century Nijo Castle with its intricate architecture and unique alarm system— floors that sound like a nightingale when walked on. You’ll also see one of Japan’s most famous temples, the Golden Pavilion, whose three stories glitter with gold leaf. Then, travel on to Ryoanji Temple, which houses the country’s finest Zen gardens. This afternoon, head outside Kyoto to sample another of Japan’s sacred arts at the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, where you’ll learn the history of sake brewing and taste some local varieties. Next, explore temples built to honor the Inari gods of sake and rice at the Fushimi Inari complex. Notice the stone foxes throughout the grounds, considered to be messengers to the Shinto spirits. Back in Kyoto, relax with fellow travelers at tonight’s traditional shabu-shabu (hot pot) dinner.
Peruse Japanese and Egyptian art at the cavernous Miho Museum
Optional Excursion - Geisha Tour & Dinner
Discover Japan’s lush countryside as you wind your way to the Koga, home of the Miho Museum, which boasts an excellent collection of Japanese art and an extensive Egyptian collection. Designed by I.M. Pei, the Miho façade seemingly melts into the mountainside. (Please note: if the Miho Museum is closed, it may be replaced with the Kyoto Museum and Sanjusangendo Hall.) In the evening, opt to tour Kyoto’s Gion district, home to the country’s iconic geishas. There, you’ll settle in for a performance of traditional Japanese theater before making your way to a local restaurant for okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style crepe.
Geisha Tour & Dinner $135* pp
Spend an evening in Gion, the Kyoto district made famous by its traditional teahouses, theaters and geisha artists. Stroll through the area’s gallery and shop-lined streets on a guided walk before making your way to a traditional Japanese performing arts show at Gion Corner. Watch as the elegantly dressed maiko or geishas perform the famed geisha dance. Listen to the harmonies of the ancient Japanese six-stringed zither. And laugh along to kyogen, the country’s historic brand of comic theater. After the show, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant to savor some okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style crepe oozing with fresh vegetables and seafood.
Remember the war and celebrate the peace in Hiroshima
Optional Excursion - Hiroshima
Spend a free day exploring Kyoto. Visit the Kiyomizu Temple with its famous waterfall and spectacular city views. Stroll down the Philosopher’s Walk, a cherry tree-lined path to the tranquil gardens of the Silver Pavilion. Or, choose to join a trip to Hiroshima, bombed by the Allies in 1945 to end World War II. You’ll see many moving reminders of that day, including the A-Bomb Dome, a building that partially survived the blast; Peace Park with its Centotaph for the victims; and the Peace Memorial Museum. The excursion also includes a visit to the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima.
Must be booked 20 days before departure
Hiroshima $549* pp
Destroyed by an atomic bomb dropped by American forces in 1945 to end World War II, Hiroshima has since rebuilt itself into a revitalized, modern metropolis. This full-day excursion to the historic city offers countless moving reminders of that fateful day. Drive along tree-lined boulevards to Peace Memorial Park at the city’s center. Here, you’ll visit the A-Bomb Dome, the remains of a building that partially survived the atomic blast. You’ll also see the Peace Memorial Museum, a two-building museum featuring displays of Hiroshima before the bomb, after the bomb, and on the day the bomb dropped. Afterward, pay a visit to Miyajima, a beautiful island in the Seto Inland Sea. View the dazzling Itsukushima Shrine, whose colossal red torii (entry gate) appears to float in the ocean during high tide.
Hakone1 night - hotel info
Cruise mountain lakes, admire art in the open air, soak in hot springs
Lake Ashi mini-cruise, Hakone Open-Air Museum
Board a high-speed bullet train to Hakone, a resort town in the Owakudani Valley. Soak up the valley’s tranquility during your cruise of Lake Ashi, formed after Mount Hakone erupted 3,000 years ago. Throughout the ride, you’ll take in surreal views of Mount Fuji looming in the background. Then, weather permitting, visit the Boiling Valley to see the “Black Eggs” cooked in the hot springs. Following your cruise, pay a visit to the Hakone Open-Air Museum, featuring endless sculptures over its 17 acres and a Picasso gallery with more than 700 of his works. Afterwards, wind down in Hakone’s famous thermal hot springs and enjoy an included dinner. (Please note: You will need to pack a small overnight bag for your stay in Hakone, as the bulk of your luggage will be transported directly to your hotel in Tokyo.)
Tokyo3 nights - hotel info
Ascend Mount Fuji for magnificent views of the surrounding countryside
This morning, make your way to Mount Fuji, standing an imposing 12,388 feet high. The peak has long been a popular subject for artists, seen in Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. After taking in panoramic views of nearby lakes and villages from the midway-point observatory, it’s on to Tokyo. Upon arrival, embark on a tour of Japan’s bustling capital. Start with a visit to the Meiji Shinto Shrine, final resting place of Emperor Meiji, and wander through its Inner Garden. Then, head to the top of the Metropolitan Building to get a bird’s-eye view of the city.
From ancient temples to colorful markets, uncover Tokyo’s oldest sites
Optional Excursion - Japanese Traditions: Tea Ceremony & Tempura
Sumida river cruise
Cruise down the Sumida River before exploring Tokyo’s old town, including the ancient Asakusa Kannon Temple. Built in 645, Asakusa is Tokyo’s oldest, most sacred temple. You’ll also view the Imperial Palace and its impressive grounds. Continue your journey to the centuries-old Nakamise Shopping Arcade. Extending from the temple gate, the open-air market offers a vibrant variety of local crafts and fare. This afternoon, opt for a tour of Japanese traditions, including a tea ceremony and tempura dinner.
Japanese Traditions: Tea Ceremony & Tempura $169* pp
The Way of Tea, also known as the tea ceremony, has long been a staple of Japanese culture. About much more than just tea, the ceremony is one of hospitality and purification; in fact, the Japanese characters that express “tea ceremony” individually represent harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Assemble with your group to participate in the long-honored ceremony. Afterwards, head to Ginza, one of the world’s most luxurious shopping districts. Marvel at the modern and upscale department stores and boutiques as your make your way along the bustling shopping promenade. Cap off your excursion with a traditional tempura (battered vegetables or seafood) dinner at one of Tokyo’s local restaurants.
Pay your respects to the Great Buddha of Kamakura
Optional Excursion - Kamakura
Get to know Tokyo with a day to explore on your own. Head to Ueno Park and its 17th-century pagoda, the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Western Art. Or, join an outing to Kamakura, where you’ll visit the famed Great Buddha and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, as well as shop along Komachi Shopping Street. This evening, meet up with the group for a farewell dinner.
Kamakura $149* pp
Explore the countryside, temples and shrines outside Tokyo on a tour of Kamakura. This guided excursion takes you to Kamakura’s famous Great Buddha and Hase Kannon Temples. During your visit, you'll also enjoy time to peruse the arts and crafts for sale along Komachi Shopping Street.
Extend Your Stay
Add Seoul $699*
In South Korea, ancient tradition blends seamlessly with contemporary optimism, which you will discover as you travel from lush rice paddies to modern metropolises, from palatial pagodas to towering skyscrapers. Get to know the capital of South Korea—Seoul, a vibrant 600-year-old city the locals call the “miracle on the Han.”
Seoul3 nights - hotel info
Witness the changing of the guard at Gyeongbok Palace
Optional Excursion - Evening on the Han River
Gyeongbok Palace, National Museum of Korea , Jogyesa Temple
On a guided tour, step inside Seoul’s royal palace, National Museum and largest Buddhist temple, with its giant Buddha statues. This evening, opt to cruise the Han river at sunset.
Evening on the Han River $149* pp
Before sailing along the Han, pick up your chopsticks and try your hand at an authentic Korean dinner. Savor delicious Korean barbecue and mixed rice dishes such as bibimbap while sipping on sweet sikhye (rice punch). After dinner, embark on your cruise, winding your way through the heart of Seoul. As the sun sets over the water, you’ll see some of the city’s most beautiful and historic sites in a whole new light.
Journey through history from hidden gardens to mighty fortresses
Optional Excursion - Shrines, Palaces & Secret Gardens of South Korea
Explore the city or opt to visit South Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage sites before your farewell dinner.
Shrines, Palaces & Secret Gardens of South Korea $149* pp
Set off on a tour of the Far East’s most outstanding architectural sites, protected by the UNESCO World Heritage committee. Start with a visit to the Changdeokgung Palace complex, known for its sprawling secret garden. Spanning over 78 acres, the gardens are comprised of immaculately landscaped pavilions, ponds and wooded areas. Next, head to the Jongmyo Royal Shrine, a Confucian site that held the memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Starting in the 14th century, such ritual ceremonies still held at the shrine to this day. Afterwards, enjoy an included lunch and some free time to explore before ending the day at the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, a Joseon Dynasty site known for its scientific design.
Passport & Visa
In order to enter Japan, U.S. citizens need a valid passport. The expiration date must extend at least six months beyond the date of your return to the United States. No visa is required for U.S. and Canadian citizens. If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact the Japanese consulate for your specific entry requirements.
There are no health risks associated with traveling in Japan. Sushi and sashimi is not a risk, although eating kuma (raw bear) and botan (raw wild boar) is not recommended. No vaccinations are required for entry into Japan, but it is a good idea to check with your doctor or health official at least six weeks before
Transportation / Walking on tour
Transportation on the Highlights of Japan is conducted by private motor coach and train. When traveling by train there may be times when you will have to handle your own luggage, and you’ll find that lightweight luggage provides a distinct advantage.
For some included visits and optional excursions, be prepared for some more walking through elaborate monuments and museums, with steps.
Clothing & Packing Tips
We recommend wearing light, loose-fitting casual attire. It’s a good idea to bring a sweater, as it will be helpful in an overly air-conditioned building in the summer. Comfortable footwear that is easily removed is a good idea, as you will be required to remove shoes frequently.
Be sure to visit www.travelsmith.com, official outfitter for Go Ahead Tours. Please enter JY9220 in the field for Catalog Key Code when creating your account!
The yen is the currency you will be use on tour. Normal banking hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, although currency is generally exchanged after 10 a.m. Better rates of exchange are usually available in Japan, but it is worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. As ATMs are not always readily available, we advise that you take a combination of U.S. currency and traveler’s checks, which can be exchanged for cash at local banks or at your hotel. Credit cards can be used at larger stores and restaurants, but many shops and markets will only accept cash. We suggest that you inform your credit card company of your plans, so that your international purchases won’t be mistaken for fraudulent charges.
At the conclusion of your tour, it is customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalent of $2USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
Water available in the restaurants is absolutely safe. However, for precautionary measures, it is advised that one carries mineral water.
During Japan’s cherry blossom season, “Hanami,” attend one of the many cherry-blossom viewing parties to see the beautiful white and pink flowers up close.
85.7% of reviewers recommend this tourRead Reviews 
A most enjoyable tour
This was a most enjoyable trip, even in the heat of early July; we traveled through a lengthy section of southern Honshu, from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Our tour group of 19, 20 including our entertaining and never-tiring tour guide, Micky-san, seemed just the right number of people. Apparently the tour just before ours had over forty people, and while such a size is due to Go Ahead's priorities, from what I read on this website, it is too large a group to travel together. I had a slight reservation about signing up for the tour for fear of being part of too large a group of tourists. I live in Manhattan and near a number of tourist sites, and I know what an obstacle course it can be sometimes for the locals to be walking past a popular site just as a full bus unloads its people all at once. Our group seemed to avoid this situation. Plus I wonder how difficult it must be for a single tour guide to maneuver so many people around for 10 days. That said, Japan is an attractive country, with a nice mix of old and modern culture. We saw temples nearing 1000 years old and a simply dazzling outdoor museum of modern sculpture and art nestled in the hills around Hakone. It is educating to see how the country's major religions mingle with one another, the various strands of Buddhism with their temples full of deities, some of gigantic proportions like the Buddhas at Nara and Kamakura, or the Sanjusangendo hall in Kyoto with its 1001 statues of the boddhisatva Kannon, and then see the more stark and, from what I could see, the icon-less Shinto shrines, with their decorated altars, torii gates and multiple stone lanterns. Then we add in a few castles, from the imposing and tall, [rebuilt] Osaka castle to the low-lying shogun's palace in Kyoto. And of course, in a number of these sites, are the gardens, whether flora and water, or rock and crushed stone, for which Japanese culture is so famous. The natural sites are attractive, although our one trip to the country to see Mt. Fuji and the Hakone attractions, except for the outdoor museum, mostly got rained or fogged out. On the other hand, there was some entertainment in braving the hurricane winds at the viewing site halfway up the mountain. As to the modern, we rode the bullet train, the Shinkansen, a few times; such a smooth ride cruising along at 120 miles per hours, considered the past and future at the Hiroshima Peace Museum and surrounding park, and encountered the strange architectural maze of walkways and art pieces sitting atop the Kyoto train station. There is a wrap-around view of Tokyo you get to see from the 45th-story observatory of the city's metropolitan building that can leave even a New Yorker with his mouth a bit agape. Western companies seem to dominate the shopping malls, with the local shops tucked inbetween, and probably every American fast-food chain is there, from Starbucks to McDonalds. And if you love Japanese food, well, you've come to the right place. Restaurants, and not just those serving Japanese food, abound in the cities, many tucked away in narrow, pedestrian side streets. It is common for restaurants to have pictures or models of their menu items, each numbered, so that you can point to, or say the number of your preferred dish. For those perhaps a bit nervous about sightseeing on your own during free times, there is a considerable amount of English used in the cities; it's not just spoken in the major hotels where you would normally expect a multilingual staff. Most signs in the cities are also in English, not merely in Western script, and public announcements are made in Japanese and English. Plus, I found many local people quite helpful in guiding you on the street as best they could, and as such you can maybe with only a minimal trepidation strike out on your own or with your friends to see the sights by taking the subway. If there is a negative to the trip, it is one often shared by tour groups in general, and that is the pace. In 10 days we saw an amazing number of places; perhaps too many. There was some free time in which we could set our schedule, but the toured parts had something of a rushed feeling to them. Again, I would say this is Go Ahead setting priorities as to what we should see; our tour guide really did a great job of passing on as much information as she could and keeping us on schedule. It would have been preferable, I think, to spend more time at a smaller number of places to see and not make the tour a test of how many sights we can visit in 10 days. Some attractions, such as the Hakone outdoor museum, for instance, really require that you spend several hours taking it in. And, to me, sights have a cultural context to absorb in order to appreciate it fully. It really helps to be able to watch a place for a while, see how it and the people who live and tour it interact with it. Sometimes, you could get a small bit of that, such as in watching people enjoy feeding [and being pestered by] the hundreds of deer at Nara that walk about freely while on your way to see the temple. Some of the Shinto shrines encompassed a large amount of open space within their walls which practically begged for at least some contemplation, and rushing through a Japanese garden sort of defeats the purpose of seeing it. It was a great experience; on the positive side for Go Ahead, the planning and execution of the trip went off without a hitch. Airplane flights, hotel reservations, buses, trains, meals, all were handled with a meticulous care and we had no delays or problems moving about the country whatsoever. Hats off to Go Ahead for that. And thanks again to our tour guide, Micky; when all is said and done, no matter how well planned and executed the trip may be as to its details, your pleasure in the tour ultimately rests on your guide's personality and hers was a pleasant company for those 10 days. It would be nice if Go Ahead sometime in the future would look into touring the other Japanese islands; Hokkaido looks beautifully rugged and from what I have read, Shikoku has its own set of charms.
Good tour, excursions slightly misleading
Overall, it was a good tour. 44 people with only 1 tour guide is too much. Certain people on a tour this large need more attention than the others from the tour guide. This makes it hard for the tour guide to get to everybody when needed. Miyuki (tour guide) did a great job with what she had to work with. The most wonderful dinner we had with the group was the first night's dinner in Osaka! Kyoto was an absolutely beautiful town, Mt Fuji was great, and Tokyo was immense! Not enough time in Tokyo. I think we needed another 2 days to do everything we wanted there. Hiroshima was the best optional excursion. The bullet train was amazing and Hiroshima was very touching. Some of the tour excursions are misleading: 1) Giesha Tour in Kyoto - We did not get to see a Geisha. We saw a "Geisha in training" show. Also, don't be fooled: Dinner was not in the Ginza District (where all the Geisha's are), it was a walk out of the beautiful area to a congested part of town. We would recommend foregoing this option and going to Ginza on your own instead. It was only a 15 minute walk from our hotel. 2) Tempura Dinner and Tea Ceremony - Please be advised that the Tempura is all seafood. If you do not like fried seafood, this optional excursion is not for you.
too many people
way too many people-restuarant quality went down to accommodate that many people!!!! originally 13 days went to 11. United airlines sucks!!! will never use them!!!!! overall i don't feel i got my moneys worth.
It was great experience I liked it very much it was well organized kept the schedule on time I loved it I already planning another trip
I would recommend to my friend & my family this company. Go ahead tours. This was well organized,the accommodation Hotle was very good & was good choice. Tours are managed timely manner. I would recommend traveling bus tour need more comfortable seating, and spacious I loved Bullet train experience. I am looking forward to travel with Goaheadtours again Snehalatha. Somareddy
Japan, land of the rising sun, at last!
I am very happy to say the trip to Japan was greaaaaaat! My husband and I were supposed to take the trip last April, 2011 but was cancelled because of the earthquake and tsunami. We decided to go for the Sept. 20, 2012 tour to make sure everything was okay in Japan. You can imagine how eager we were to visit since our younger son was in Japan and we have not seen him in person for almost 4 years. We did book a land tour for him with Go Ahead for the same tour. He met us in Osaka after a bit of miscommunication on his part but with the help of our tour guide, Naoko Takahashi, we finally had our reunion at the Osaka Castle! We found the trip was well balanced with culture (tea ceremmony), activities (bullet train ride), art (Miho Museum, the incredible Hakone Open Air Museum) natural beauty of the country with Nikko, Mt Fuji and Kamakura and time for our own side trips. it was a challenging trip but well worth it. The weather was hot and humid than we wanted and not the right time to see the Japanese maples change color yet but we dodged a couple of typhoons. The hotels were great. We loved the Nikko Princess in Kyoto. The Grand Pacifica in Tokyo is huge and very modern. After the second typhoon went through Tokyo, the air cleared up so we could see Mt. Fuji for breakfast at the 30th floor of the Grand Pacifica Hotel in Tokyo. Cuisine wise , Japanese food is not for everyone unless you happen to like sushi (which I do), but we did not have that on the tour. We were surprised with the stop at the Osatsu Fishermen's village and our time with the AMA divers even though the brochure described it. We thought it would be like the pearl divers, mostly advertisement to make you buy pearls. This stop with the AMA divers was an insight into the culture and family life of these unusual women, who dove into the ocean to provide food for their village even at the age of eighty one. It was sad to hear that they numbers are dwindling as none of the younger generation of women wanted to continue the tradition. The other nice activity was going to a tea ceremony and having everything explained in English by the Japanese hostess. The side trips to Nikko and Kamakura were fantastic, as the Hakone Open Air Museum (better than the Rodin Museum in Paris) and the way into the Miho Museum was incredible. The bus rides were interesting as Naoko took the time to explain a lot: currency, food, how to do the hot spring baths, explained employment in Japan, retirement, medical care, Japanese restrooms, Japanese history. She even shared her family with us with a slide show on the bus and taught us how to make origami cranes. My husband and I truly appreciated her and this is our fourth Go Ahead tour. All the guides we've had were good but she is exceptional. She was particularly pleased we were able to see Mt. Fuji all the time we were traveling in Hakone. She said we were very lucky as Mt. Fuji is seen clearly only 20% of the time. If I had known better about the weather I might have booked the November tour, with more chances of seeing autumn colors and not so hot and humid weather. Naoko said she was booked for that tour too by Go Ahead. I say those people are lucky to have her for a guide. We are looking forward to another tour with Go Ahead maybe Spain, Portugal and Morrocco. From now on I will be gauging the guides by Naoko's standard.
it is picture perfect ; clean ; everyone is well dressed; extremely courteous . nature is lush . beautiful temples .
trip to Japan
Overall, this was our best trip. We were not sure how we would like this different type of culture, Our Tour Director took us through the transition so gracefully we felt very comfortable. Explaining what we were going to experience at each location., answering questions and keeping a happy perspective during the whole trip with everyone.
An Interesting - Informative Trip
The Japan trip was interesting with cultural experiences, historical sites, and informative background on today's Japan.
Best Trip Ever
This trip exceeded my expectations. The tour group was kind and friendly. The tour guide was nice, knowledgeable and friendly. There was so much to do and see and it was all wrapped up nicely. It felt a lot more than 12 days with the amount of scenery and sites we visited. Glad I went and I'll be going again in the near future.
Intense tour of Japan - great county to view and
Tour director did a great job . Really loved the portions of the tour that covered Kyoto and Tokyo - and especially the optional excusion to Niko from the latter . I would downplay the time spent in Osaka and Kobe - not of the same magnitude of importance as the rest of the tour - perhaps stay only one night in Osaka and then spend the rest of the time elsewhere . With adjustment to pacing in this manner - this could have been a five start tour throughout . As is - a really enjoyable experience - with emphasis on the abilities and heat of the tour director , "Mickey" .