Top Japan Tours & Vacations 2024/2025 [reviews & photos]

Japan Tours & Travel Packages 2024/2025

124 Japan trips. Compare tour itineraries from 24 tour companies. 634 reviews. 4.5/5 avg rating.

Small Group Japan Tours

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Top Japan Attractions & Experiences

Top Japan Experiences

  • Visiting the museum and Japanese gardens in Tokyo's Imperial Palace that exhibit traditional Japanese art and history
  • Seeing the shrines in Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple
  • Visit to Kinkaki-ji also known as the Temple of Golden Pavilion
  • Enjoying a Japanese tea ceremony (or chado), appreciating the unique way that green matcha tea is prepared and served
  • Climbing Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain
  • Hiking in the Yakushima forest or the Sagano bamboo forest
  • Paying respects at Hiroshima Peace Park and museum, a tribute to the victims of Hiroshima bombing
  • Seeing to Himeji Castle, built during medieval period for defense purpose
  • Chanting with Buddhist monks in the early hours of the morning at a Monestary in Koyasan
  • Soaking in a traditional onsen, sans clothes, as per the Japanese custom
  • Walking among the many zen temples and gardens in Kyoto
  • Visiting one of the may popular themed cafes, from animal to anime
  • Admiring the cherry blossoms of spring, an annual ritual known as hanami
  • Indulging in sushi and kobe beef, soba noodles, ramen and sake to your heart’s content
  • Wandering through Kyoto’s Gion district to see geishas in traditional kimonos
  • Watching a sumo match, a sport that dates back at least 2,000 years to the Edo period

Japan Tours & Travel Guide

Japan Attractions & Landmarks Guide

A tour of Japan can swing wildly between the dazzling lights of Tokyo and the pastoral pleasures of a rural ryokan (traditional inn), the exquisite temples of Kyoto and a trip to towering Mt. Fuji. Whether it's the always intriguing Japanese culture that draws you in, or the chance to hike or sample hot springs in memorable countryside, Japan is sure to charm and surprise you at every turn. 

Who Will Enjoy Traveling in Japan?

From solo travelers to history buffs, Japan is a multi-faceted destination, making it an ideal place for a small-group tour. Look for tours according to your personal interests, whether that’s snow sports or hiking in the north, fitting in as many temples and shrines as you can in a week or opting for a shopping and dining tour of Tokyo. See if you recognize your travel personality in any of the descriptions below, then get searching for the perfect Japan tour for you. 

1. Wildlife Lover 

Perhaps surprisingly, Japan is a fantastic tour destination for wildlife fans. Where else will you see snow monkeys bathing in steaming hot springs? Or, more than 1,200 deer roaming freely in their own park in Nara.

There are cats galore on Aoshima Island and rabbits for days on Okunoshima. If you prefer your animals a bit more domesticated, seek out one of the ubiquitous animal cafes in Japan, from cats and dogs to hedgehogs and pot-bellied pigs. 

2. Shutterbug 

If you pack your camera equipment in its own suitcase, Japan is an awesome destination for your photography habit. Visit in the winter to capture snow animals, like the red-crowned cranes, Steller’s sea eagles, white-tailed eagles, whooper swans, Ezo deer and northern red fox in eastern Hokkaido.

Other photographer-friendly Japan destinations include the landscapes of Kawaguchiko, the floating Torii gate at Miyajima Island in Hiroshima, Dotonbori Street in Osaka and the streets of Kyoto. 

3. Solo Traveler

Japan is one of the world’s safest destinations for solo travelers. Get the best of both worlds by signing up for a singles group tour, so you’ll have the backup knowledge and framework provided by your tour operator, but also the freedom to explore at will.

Free time? Visit Ueno Park and Ueno Zoo for its vast creature collection and serene surroundings. Or, while away a few hours at one of the many museums in Ueno. Regardless of your exact Japan destination, you’ll find welcoming, friendly faces. 

4. Open-Minded

Want to try something new on your travels? Japan is the place. Look for a Japan trip that includes the chance to overnight in a pod hotel. The teeny tiny rooms are adorably cute, but many come with first-rate amenities, from luxury toiletries to spa treatments. 

5. Zen-Seeker

When we think of Japan, we often think of peaceful rock gardens and quiet temples and shrines. You’ll find them in spades on your small-group tour, so relax and lose yourself in the moment. Look for a Japan tour that includes a visit to Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, where you’re invited to sit and contemplate life amidst the stones, watching as a gardener carefully rakes lines into the garden.

6. Outdoors Enthusiast 

Don’t overlook Japan for active travel tours. There are beautiful landscapes, world-class slopes and verdant forests for hiking, biking, boating and more. Take a day trip from Tokyo to Nikko for its forests, rivers and waterfalls, making a stop at Toshogu Shrine to meet the three wise monkeys.

For incredible foliage while you hike, take your Japan tour during the fall. Go hiking and boating in Shiretoko in Hokkaido or stay along one of the five lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji. Come winter, there is snowboarding, skiing, sledding, ice skating and more. 

7. Foodies

If you’re one to document your pretty plates of global cuisine on Instagram while you travel, Japan is a foodie dream-come-true. Not only are the tastes and textures out of this world, the presentation is lovely. Many regions you’ll visit during your small-group Japan tour feature their own special dishes, so you’ll have ample opportunity to taste truly local flavors.

The fine-dining scene is legit throughout Japan, with more than 200 Michelin-starred restaurants. Street food is on point, as well, particularly in Ueno, on Takeshita Street in Harajuku, or Dotonbori Street in Osaka.

If Osaka is part of your Japan tour, be sure to try kushikatsu (deep-fried meat or vegetables on skewers) and okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza). Plus, there’s all the fish, noodles, sushi, tempura … that you could possibly eat. 

8. History Buff

If you love a nation that tells a story, look for a history-based small-group tour of Japan. You’ll be immersed in the culture and traditions of Japanese society, from its very beginnings until present day.

There are more than 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan, from Kyoto’s shrines and temples to Himeji Castle to the tiny island of Okinoshima. Bone up on Japan history at the Tokyo National Museum, the Edo Tokyo Museum, the Hakone Open Air Museum and the Samurai Museum.

9. Art Lover

It seems that just about everything in Japan is artistic, intricate and meaningful, making an art-based small-group tour a particularly good choice for the art aficionado. Visit the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo or the Ghibli museum, showcasing modern Japanese art.

Look for traditional ukiyo-e paintings, wood block prints, sculpture, origami, kimono fabric-dying, manga drawing lessons, pottery, ceramics, Japanese calligraphy and bonsai tree shearing.

What to Expect from a Japan Cultural Tour

Traveling in Japan you are welcomed into the fold of their ancient culture; a calm, peaceful, and minimalistic approach permeates everyday life throughout Japan. Your Japan tour guide will provide historical context and local insights throughout your tour.

Japanese people are very welcoming, if reserved by western standards. They take hospitality seriously, and are among the more open and friendly people when it comes to offering a beverage or meal. Homestays are a very popular accommodation type on cultural tours of Japan - as they let visitors to the country learn about the Japanese culture of hospitality on a much deeper level.

Along with their reverence for hospitality, Japanese people also place heavy importance on politeness. The country is regularly listed as one of the most polite countries in the world. It’s important to remember this as you travel in Japan.

How to be a polite traveler in Japan

1. Use the correct side of the escalator!

(Really this politeness rule really should apply around the world). But in Japan it’s a particularly funny and potentially confusing expectation. Because different sides of the escalator are used depending on what city you’re traveling in. In Tokyo, stand on the left, with the right open for passing. In Osaka and Kyoto, stand on the right side.

2. Wash before entering an onsen

This counter-intuitive rule must be adhered to if you don’t want to appear extremely rude and dirty! Going to an Onsen is a highlight for many travelers wishing to partake in this traditional bathing ritual. But be very cognisant that you rinse yourself off with soap before entering the Onsen waters. This is an important step and you’ll feel a much more amiable atmosphere from others in the Onsen.

3. Remove shoes inside

It is expected that you remove your shoes before entering homes and sometimes other establishments as well. This is a cultural expectation throughout Japan, and you’ll get used to it very quickly. Also note that slippers are not to be worn for walking over traditional Tatami mats - these should be tread on with socks only.

Food in Japan

Many people have a unique reverence for certain Japanese foods, which have obtained near cult status around the world. Ramen and sushi both hail from Japan originally and are adored by foodies.

While there is certainly a never ending supply of ramen and sushi to enjoy while you travel in Japan, there are also many other foods to try.

Especially as you travel through the Japanese countryside and smaller towns, you’ll have the opportunity to sample traditional Japanese food beyond the comfort zone of ramen and sushi.

Japanese food is full of interesting flavors and textures. When traveling in Japan, you’ll sample a lot of vegetable based dishes, broth based dishes, noodles, and fish. Don’t expect a lot of heavy meat dishes.

It can be difficult to adapt to Japanese food if you’re not used to it. And particularly difficult given the cultures emphasis on politeness - if you don’t want to finish your meal, it can be an uncomfortable situation. The best thing to do is approach each meal with an open mind, and try and be welcoming to new flavors.

Top dishes to sample in Japan - beyond Ramen and Sushi

1. Okonomiyaki - these savory fried pancakes are best enjoyed after you’ve watched them prepared right in front of you! The exacting timing and knife skills, are a joy to watch and it’s a great activity for being out with your new friends in your tour group. Okonomiyaki usually come with cabbage and beyond that several varieties of topping are available.

2. Udon - Wheat flour noodles that can be served warm or cold. Udon noodles are very versatile and are delicious with with vegetables, in soups, or served with meat. They are also tasty on their own with just a little bit of seasoning!

3. Gyoza Dumplings - If you travel almost anywhere in Japan, you will see a variation of Gyoza. These bright white dumplings, usually decorated on the top with brown character markings are filled with either pork, beef, chicken, beans, or vegetables. They are a great grab n go snack, often found for sale in train stations.

4. Yakiniku - Japanese barbeque at its finest! A very popular dish in Japan, Yakiniku is small chunks of chicken served on skewers. Beware! Traditional Yakiniku is designed to use the entire chicken; comb, heart, liver, you name it.

5. Japanese sweets - Japanese people love sweet foods and you’ll never have any trouble finding something to satisfy a sweet tooth. A lot of Japanese sweets are made with bean paste which can be a surprising taste for westerners. Green tea is also a common flavor.

Can't Miss Attractions in Japan

1. Tokyo

There are some main attractions that are must sees when in Tokyo including the Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine, Shibuya shopping, the Royal Palace. At Shibuya Station there is a statue of a dog named Hachikoa famous meeting spot in the city. Oriental Bazarre is the one stop shop for all souvenirs and gifts from chopsticks to furniture.

Japan also has some great department stores, and Tokyo Hands is one of the best. There are beautiful parks throughout the city, one near the Royal Palace another called Arisugawa Park, and the Ueno Zoo is also a fun activity for families. And don't miss a chance to walk across the largest crosswalk in the world!

2. Hakkaido & Sapporo

Mostly known for their Sapporo beer, Sapporo is the main city on the northern island of Hokkaido. The Sapporo Ice Festival is a large winter festival with massive ice and snow sculptures, sculpted in formations of cartoon characters, pagoda buildings, and fun ice slides. Hokkaido is a great place for winter activities including skiing and snowboarding and ice drifting.

3. Kyoto

Kyoto has the iconic Japanese pagodas, including the Golden Palace. It is a beautiful, large park area with dozens of temples and pagodas to visit. The sites here are gorgeous especially during fall and cherry blossom season.

4. Hiroshima

Hiroshima is infamous for being the site of bombings by America in WWII. In the center of the city is a memorial, peace bell, and one building still standing with damage. It is a place for remembrance, and for the history buffs.

Souvenirs from Japan

Return from your expert-led, guided tour of Japan with a few meaningful souvenirs, beyond the standard fridge magnet and coaster. Ask about the significance behind the piece you’re about to buy so you can tell the story later, at home. Here are our favorite items to seek out and stash in our suitcase after a Japanese vacation. 

1. Tsuko-Tegata: Look for these wooden passports at shrines, temples and hot springs you visit as part of your guided Japan tour. They are reminiscent of the passports that were required during the Edo period as people moved between areas of the country. The ones you can buy today as a souvenir from your Japan trip have a braid and bell attached and typically lovely calligraphy. 

2. Omamori lucky charms: With their attached bells, omamori are intended to ward off evil spirits. There are charms for just about anything you can think of, from health and happiness to safe driving. 

3. Chopsticks: Look for traditional chopsticks adorned with beautiful artwork. They’ll be sure to elevate your next Japanese takeout meal once you’re returned from your vacation. High-quality, lacquered chopsticks can be found at stores such as Tokyo Hands and Loft. 

4. Yukatas: These light summer kimonos are a favorite item to buy as a Japan souvenir. Look for them in specialty kimono shops or, in the summer, at large supermarkets. 

5. Okiagari Koboshi: These charming little Japanese dolls, made of papier-mache, are a tiny, easily packed souvenir. They stay standing upright even when pushed down, which is meant to symbolize resilience. 

6. Ukiyo-e woodblock art: Popular during the Edo period, ukiyo-e artwork often includes likenesses of Mt. Fuji, life in the Edo period and famous Kabuki actors. 

7. Bento boxes: Look for wappa bento boxes crafted in the odate magewappa method. This ancient method takes thin sheets of hinoki cypress and cedarwood and weaves them together into boxes and other containers. The craft originated in northern Japan during the Edo period. 

8. Inkan stamps: Also called hanko stamps, these are name stamps used in Japan instead of signatures. Pick up an inexpensive one at a 100-yen shop or make your own, higher-quality one at a specialty store.

Winter Travel in Japan

Is winter a good time to visit Japan? Yes, if you want to beat the crowds, see a snow monkey, enjoy some of the world’s best skiing and really earn that delicious warm onsen soak.

See a different side of Japan when you visit in the winter, avoiding the crowds of spring and fall.

Here are a few of our favorite reasons why you should consider a guided tour of Japan during the winter:

1. Japan’s Skiing is Amazing

Tackle the Japanese Alps by ski or snowboard by visiting the northern island of Hokkaido. The resorts of Hokkaido routinely boast fresh powder and are some of the best in the world. In Honshu, there are several ski resorts within an easy train ride of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. 

2. Winter is the Best Time for an Onsen Soak

Who doesn’t crave a warm onsen bath after a day on the slopes or ice skating. It’s even more delightful if it’s an outdoor onsen on a snowy day - definitely a magical moment during your trip to Japan. Among the most popular Japanese onsens are Ginzan Onsen in the Yamagata Prefecture, Kusatsu Onsen in the Gunma Prefecture and the Kurokawa Onsen in Kyushu, near Mt. Aso volcano. 

3. You’ll Have the Chance to Attend a Snow Festival

Visit the winter wonderland of Sapporo during your tour of Hokkaido and attend the Yuki Matsuri snow festival. Held each February, the festival is famous for its incredible snow sculptures, skating, illuminations and games. Visit the Yamagata Prefecture and see the snow-covered trees at Zao Onsen that become works of art as the inches of snow pile up on their branches.

The trees take on an almost human-like shape - known as “snow monsters,” they make for a unique place to visit as part of your winter Japan tour. Another fun festival to include in your Japan guided tour is the Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival held at Yunishigawa Onsen Town in the Tochigi Prefecture.

Hundreds of Kamakura dome-shaped snow sculptures are lit up each night, making for a stunning snowscape. Finally, if you like a good light show, Tokyo and Osaka will fit the bill during your winter vacation in Japan. These, as well as other good-sized cities, are known for their amazing outdoor illuminations. 

4. Winter is the Time to See Snow Monkeys (and Other Wildlife) in Japan

Visit the Snow Monkey Park, or Jigokudani Yaen-koen, and come face to face with the red-faced monkeys lounging in the park’s onsen. If you’re on Hokkaido, stop by the Tsuri-Ito Tancho Sanctuary to see the red-crowned cranes. 

5. See a Picture-Perfect Traditional Japanese Village in All Its Glory

The traditional village of Shirakawa-go in the Gifu Prefecture flaunts its pointed roofs in gasshō-zukuri style best during the winter months. Ask the guide of your Japan tour to show you the way to the observation point above town for the best vantage point. 

6. Ring in the New Year in a Temple or Shrine

Pray for good fortune in the coming year when you celebrate the first day of the year at a Japanese temple or shrine. Among the favorite shrines to visit on New Year’s Day are Kyoto’s huge Heian-jingu Shrine and Fushimi Inari Taisha, famous for its thousands of orange torii gates. If you’re visiting Tokyo on New Year’s during your tour, visit the Meiji-jingu Shrine, or in Osaka, visit the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine.

Japan Reviews & Ratings

4.5/5  Excellent
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E

Emma

Oct 2015

Written on

Extremely well organised, great mixture between organised

Extremely well organised, great mixture between organised and free time. Great travelling by train

J

John

Oct 2015

Written on

The format of the trip enabled two

The format of the trip enabled two significant factors to coincide to make the entire experience overwhelmingly positive. 1. Our trip guide - Yuri Awanohara, made th...

F

Fenella

Oct 2015

Written on

Great introduction to the country. Variety of

Great introduction to the country. Variety of activities and all well planned by guide Yuri

P

Paul

Sep 2015

Written on

well organised_x000D_ we appreciated not going to the

well organised_x000D_ we appreciated not going to the expensive, flashy and touristy restaurants, which gave us a good varied eating experience_x000D_ good mix of or...

A

Anonymous

Jan 2018

Provided byExodus Travels

Wonderful Experience

A wonderful insight to this facinating country. Seeing the country by bike is certainly the best way to do it, giving the opportunity to get an insight into the r...

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