Explore family-friendly Japan, a place where the ancient and the ultra-modern stand side by side
Gather up the family and embark on an adventure through Japan, surely one of the world’s most intriguing countries. From ancient emperors to technological gizmos, it’s a flurry of contradiction and excitement. Learn an age-old style of calligraphy, feast on sushi and Japanese pancake, gaze across Tokyo from the heights of the city, soak your bones in steaming onsens, sleep on a traditional tatami, and explore some of the most amazing temples and forestlands in the country. With local expertise to draw on at every step of the way, this is a family holiday that’s sure to yield lifelong memories.
Discover Tokyo, where dazzling neon lights are only the beginning. Feast on market-fresh sushi, try your hand at calligraphy, and cook your own okonomiyaki on a Tokyo Bay boat cruise
Bask in the soothing waters of an onsen in Hakone. These Japanese hot-spring baths are the perfect antidote to a couple of days of walking around the big city
Food lovers rejoice! From the depachika of Tokyo to the shotengai of Kyoto, your leader will help you navigate Japan's dizzying cuisine options
Visit Hiroshima to learn about an important, though confronting, chapter of Japan’s history
Kyoto is like stepping into another world. Walk through the amazing bamboo forest and gaze at some of Japan’s finest temples
Is this trip right for you?
From boat to bicycle to cable car, this trip combines many forms of transport. There is still quite a bit of walking involved, so you'll need a good level of fitness. Comfortable walking shoes are essential.
Sleeping on a tatami (traditional mat) in Hakone is great fun, but keep in mind there are no luxury conveniences during your stay in this location. Unless you count the private Japanese baths!
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Tokyo, Japan's dynamic capital. Make your way to your first night's accommodation and check in. Your adventure begins with an important welcome meeting at 6pm in the hotel lobby. You'll meet your leader and your group at this meeting.
Asakusa Sunroute Hotel or similar (1 night)
There are no meals included on this day.
Check the hotel reception or noticeboards for the location of the welcome meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Kick things off with a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The free observation decks of this 243-metre-tall building (797 feet) offer awesome panoramas of the city and beyond. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji, the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and Tokyo Dome from this supreme vantage point. Afterwards, visit the Sensoji in Asakusa, a key Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Located on the banks of the Sumida River, it features a shopping street in its approach – a good place to find a quirky Japanese souvenir. While you're in Tokyo, you'll also be treated to a traditional calligraphy lesson. There also might be the chance to visit a manga (Japanese comic and cartoon) market, located out in Akihabara.
Visit the Tsukiji Fish Market for an eye-opening experience. This is the biggest wholesale seafood market in the world, with more than 400 seafood varieties on offer. Wander through the narrow aisles, witness the heated negotiations between merchants and buyers, and watch out for speeding market trolleys piled high with crates of fresh stock. Your market visit concludes with a delicious sushi breakfast – this is as fresh as it gets!
We head to the market area around 9am for some brunch before the main market opens at 10am.
Later, take a walk through a Tokyo depachika, a food-specific department store with a mind-boggling array of traditional and non-traditional Japanese foods. For lunch, head to Yoyogi park and join the locals. Dinner (on one of your nights here) will be a fun self-cooked 'okonomiyaki' (hotplate pancake) on a boat on Tokyo Bay, surrounded by the city lights.
Note: The Tsukiji Fish Markets are closed every national holiday and every Sunday and some Wednesdays. Tuna auctions may be closed to the public during busy times.
The market itself is scheduled to relocate to new premises at Toyosu sometime in 2018, however the timing of the move is still uncertain and has been postponed several times.
We no longer recommend attending the early morning fish market auctions. Due to the high number of travellers seeking to view them it is now necessary to arrive at the market just after 2am and queue up to 3-4 hours in advance to be one of the 120 viewers permitted entry. Even then, this does not automatically ensure entry
Asakusa Sunroute Hotel or similar (1 night)
Tokyo - Seafood Market & Sushi Breakfast
Tokyo - Monja dinner
Tokyo - Depachika visit
Tokyo - Sony Showroom
The Tsukiji Fish Markets are closed every national holiday, every Sunday and some Wednesdays. Tuna auctions may be closed to the public during busy times.
Bid farewell to Tokyo and board your train to Hakone. You will see that it's astonishingly easy to travel by train in Japan. Trains operate with amazing precision, and the sight of a white-gloved guard bowing to a carriage full of travellers is something you're sure to remember. Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is a place of staggering natural beauty. It's also a veritable playground with a long list of holiday activities on offer – soaking in hot springs, going on bush walks, chilling out by peaceful lakes, taking in beautiful views of Mt Fuji, even exploring an open-air modern art museum.
NOTE: You will have the option to send your bags on to Hiroshima. This is an optional service for all families that your leader will discuss with you on the trip. The cost is YEN 15,000-20,000 per bag paid locally.
Fuji Hakone Guesthouse or Mitake Ryokan (or similar) (1 night)
Renowned as an excellent resort area since the Meiji period, Hakone and its onsens (hot spring baths) make a great place to relax and unwind with the family. Pay a visit to the Karakuri secret box museum – try to open the boxes to find a unique Japanese gift to take home. Then enjoy a walk around the scenic lake area. Your accommodation here is in a cosy, family-run guesthouse with Japanese baths for you to enjoy. Spend the night in traditional Japanese style, sleeping on a tatami mat in an authentically decked-out room.
Fuji Hakone Guesthouse or Mitake Ryokan (or similar) (1 night)
A visit to Hiroshima is sobering, but the tragedy that happened here is an important part of history to confront. You’ll learn more about the aftermath of the atomic bombing of the city in World War II. Later, in the afternoon, consider an optional walk to learn more at the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome and the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, both of which stand as an emotional testament to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima became the first target for nuclear attack. The dome was just metres from where the bomb detonated and managed to retain its shape, eerily standing exactly how it was prior to the attack. These days it stands as both a symbolic reminder and a monument to peace.
This morning we head for the beautiful island of Miyajima, just a short ferry ride across the Inland Sea. The island is home to the venerable Shinto shrine of Itsukushima, famous for its huge bright orange gate (tori) which is absolutely stunning when the tide is high. Maybe take a stroll through the lovely Momaji Park (known as Maple Valley), or consider a walk or the cable car up to the top of Mt Misen (keeping an eye out for the hungry deer that roam the streets).
Back in the city of Hiroshima you are free to explore at leisure. You may choose to see more of the extensive exhibitions at the Peace Memorial Park and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Travel to Kyoto, arguably the most stunning city in Japan. On the way there, make a stop at Himeji Castle The charms of Kyoto, the former Imperial capital, are subtle and profound. While you're here, you'll see some of the finest temples, shrines, palaces and gardens in the country, with a nice mix of included activities and free time. Spend the evening wandering the Gion district with your leader, seeing if you can spot geikos (geishas) or maikos (apprentice geishas) with their elaborate dresses and make-up. Afterwards, travel to a food market and learn all about the local ingredients and how to best use them. A good option here is to buy some supplies for an evening meal by the riverside.
Kyoto was originally founded as Heian-kyo in 794 and enjoyed a golden age during the imperial court’s heyday up until 1185. The city’s current name literally means ‘Capital City’, even though the Emperor and the government now reside in Tokyo. In saying that, the city still boasts some of the country’s best landmarks, historic sites, traditional arts and literature, and is often regarded as the cultural heart of Japan.
Today we’ll head to Kyoto’s famed Fushimi Inari Shrine – known throughout the world as the ‘Path of the Red Gates.’ If we are feeling fit we’ll walk further than most visitors, allowing us to experience both the well-known part of the shrine, as well as taking time to appreciate the quieter corners and stunning city views from the shrine’s ‘half-way point.’ We’ll also take in one of Kyoto’s many beautiful temples.
Explore more of this delightful city. This morning you'll enjoy a boat cruise down the Hozu River - look along the banks for Japanese maples. At the end of the ride you will visit the Tenryu-ji Temple which is right near an incredible bamboo grove. This bamboo forest is one of the most photographed sights in the city, and you'll see why. It's like stepping into another dimension.
In your free time today perhaps check out the Arashiyama area, a pleasant district on the outskirts of Kyoto.
Today is yours to enjoy Kyoto however you please. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from. Perhaps head out with the family and explore on a bike. This is definitely one of the best ways to navigate the city. Kyoto is regularly voted one of the best bicycle cities in Asia, and for good reason.
The city is largely flat, roads are well maintained and there are lots of areas to park your bike. Or you can try your hand at the ancient art of Samurai sword dancing!
Daiwa Roynet Hotel or similar (1 night)
Kyoto - Cooking lesson - JPY6500
Kyoto - Kyoto By Bike Urban Adventure - JPY8000
Nara - Day trip from Kyoto - JPY3000
Osaka - Universal Studios Day Trip from Kyoto - JPY10000
Please note that these trips are for adults and children travelling together and there must be at least one child under 18 with you.
Minimum age for children on this trip is 5 years old.
A discount of 10% applies on this trip to children 17 years and under at time of travel.
A single supplement is available on this trip with exception of Day 4 & 5 (Hakone) and Days 6 & 7 (Hiroshima)
Due to the rapid increase in tourism in Japan and in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it has been necessary to go outside our traditional tour leader sources. As a result our passionate, professional and trained tour leaders may be local Japanese or long term foreign residents in Japan.
JR RAIL PASS:
A JR Rail Pass is included in the price of this trip. Please see the transport section of your Essential Trip Information for more details.
Accommodation in Japan can be difficult to secure at short notice. If you are travelling in Japan before or after your trip, we recommend booking accommodation at least 1 month in advance of travel, especially in high season (March to May, September to November).
For families wanting to book a triple room we can request these for all destinations except Tokyo and Kyoto where triple rooms are not available. In which case we will book you a twin share room + single room
Most of our families find the diversity of Japanese food surprising. Trying different foods is great fun and an opportunity to understand a little about Japanese culture. Some of the different meals you can enjoy include: sushi, soba noodles, ramen noodles, monjaki and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), takoyaki (ball-shaped Japanese fried snack – a bit like the Japanese equivalent of fish fingers), yakitori (skewered chicken). There are also great treats to try including green tea kit kats and ice-creams, pounded-rice desserts such as mochi and dango, and lots of types of sweet red bean cakes. Yum! For anyone in search of food for a picnic the majority of department stores have food halls (depachika) with an eyepopping selection of different types of food. Also, convenience stores (combini) are around nearly every corner and have snacks to tempt the fussiest eater. If in doubt and needing a little taste from home the Japanese chain Moss Burgers have great hamburgers, and in the major cities there are more western options such as pasta and pizza as well as great bakeries.
Breakfast in Japan
Some of our families are surprised by the traditional Japanese breakfast foods and the western variations that our accommodation provides. Rice or noodles with fish or meat are common breakfast foods in Japan. Typical western foods available generally include toast, eggs, tea and coffee, and sometimes cereals.
Essential trip information
Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.