A whistle-stop 1o-day itinerary from Tokyo to Kyoto
With its futuristic cityscapes and tranquil temples, ancient traditions and cutting-edge luxury hotels, Japan is a country that must be seen to be believed. And, thanks to its legendary Shinkansen (also known as the Bullet Train), travel is all part of the experience. In this itinerary, we whisk you from Tokyo to the country's ancient capital, Kyoto, taking in some of the country's must-see sights en route. Prepare to be swept off your feet.
AT A GLANCE
- 10-day independent itinerary for Japan, based on flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka
- Travel by the world-famous Shinkansen
- Highlights include luxury hotels, tranquil temples and shrines, glimpses of Mount Fuji and the historic cities of Nara and Kyoto
START IN STYLE: TOKYO
Tokyo is a city that never stands still; a sprawling mishmash of neighbourhoods each with their own distinct identity. Before embarking on your Shinkansen adventure, pause at the Toyko Station Hotel a gorgeous red-hued building that dates back to 1915. Start your stay as the locals do, with a jog to the Imperial Palace. Then spend a day or two exploring the city: the shopping district of Ginza, the grand Gyoko-dori street, the new Godzilla statue in Tokyo's Hibiya, and the many restaurants of Tokyo Station are all on your doorstep.
To get a feel for Tokyo's many sides, go twin-centre and book a night or two at Hotel Gajoen Tokyo. Located in the hip Meguro district, from here you can seek out trendy shops and craft cafes. And, if you're visiting in the spring, don't miss the annual cherry-blossom festival as these iconic trees drop their confetti-like petals.
WHERE TO STAY
At times, Tokyo can feel a little overwhelming, so we highly recommend choosing hotels in a great location, but with a sense of space and calm. Tokyo Station Hotel puts the capital's highlights at your feet, while Hotel Gajoen Tokyo feels like a city-centre retreat: tranquil, elegant, yet moments from the trend-setting Meguro district. Suggested stay 3-5 days.
ALL ABOARD THE SHINKANSEN
Catching the Shinkansen is an effortless experience. Trains leave from both Tokyo station and Shinagawa station with surprising regularity – and typical Japanese efficiency. The average delay is just 36 seconds. And shortly after boarding you're off: rocketing along at up to 320 kilometres per hour. Order some refreshments and take in the views as you whiz past Mount Fuji.
If time is tight, you could make the full journey to Kyoto in two hours, 20 minutes. But we'd highly recommend making the detour to Nara. To reach this spellbinding city, you'll need to change trains at Kyoto and board the Kintetsu Kyoto line to Kintetsu Nara Station. Kyoto's been around since the 7th century, so it can wait just a day or two more.
After the bustle of Tokyo, Nara is a breath of fresh air. Wander through the serene Isui-en Garden, be inspired by the world-famous Todai-ji Temple, lose yourself in the pathways that surround the Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. Along the way, you'll encounter the sacred deer that roam free across the city. To really soak up the atmosphere of Nara, we recommend staying overnight at Noborioji Hotel Nara. This boutique hotel is right at the foot of the Kofuku-Ji temple and renowned for its exceptional service and French-influenced fine dining. Suggested stay 1-2 nights.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: KYOTO
With more than 1,000 temples and countless tea houses, Kyoto is the heart and soul of ancient Japan. And, while the best way to experience the city is to step out and lose yourself in it, there are some sights every traveller should see. Fushimi-Inari Taisha is an awe-inspiring shrine made up of hundreds of vermillion gates that form a tunnel up the mountainside. And, in the evening, the softly-lit Geisha district of Gion has an enchanting, secretive atmosphere.
The sleek, luxury hotel Enso Ango Fuya II perfectly complements this historic city. Harmoniously designed, across five Zen-inspired buildings, the hotel and gardens have an air calm and serenity. Find a moment of utter tranquillity in the meditation room. Take lessons in traditional cooking and crafts. Walk, run or cycle between the 'dispersed' buildings of this ground-breaking hotel. It's all designed to create that Kyoto-state-of-mind. Suggested stay 4-5 nights.
Make sure you choose the correct category of Shinkansen for your journey. On the Tokaido Shinkansen, from Tokyo to Osaka, the most frequent and fastest option is the Nozomi. If you'd like to use the Japan Rail Pass, your best choice is the Hikari which takes two hours 40 minutes.
BOOK YOUR BOUTIQUE HOTELS
To book the hotels on this independent itinerary, get in touch with our Voice Reservation Team on 0800 0482 314 (UK) & 1-877-234-7033 (US). You can find a full list of our dedicated toll-free numbers here. We're ready and waiting to plan luxury adventures 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So whenever inspiration strikes, just get in touch.