Japan: Another World
Dine with a trainee geisha in Kyoto, spend the night at a temple with Buddhist monks & meet an atomic bomb survivor
Japan: Another World
About your trip
Prepare to be disoriented by a sensory world, where ancient customs meet futuristic cities and quirky trends. But once in Japan, where to begin?
Enter Flash Pack. Let us show you – in just 12 days – the Japan we know you’ll love.
On this adventure, you’ll take in iconic sights, like Tokyo’s neon-lit Shibuya and Kyoto’s bamboo forest, but it’s those can’t-do-by-yourself encounters that will leave the deepest impression. Like staying overnight at a Buddhist temple and joining the monks for prayers, experiencing an authentic kaiseki meal hosted by an apprentice geisha, and meeting an atomic bomb survivor to hear their extraordinary stories.
Together with your group, you’ll master the art of making steaming fresh ramen – so much more delicious than you’ll ever find at home. You’ll experience the meditative beauty of a matcha tea ceremony steeped in centuries-old tradition. You’ll even dine with a sumo wrestler and feel the raw power of these giant athletes demonstrating their moves a few feet before your eyes.
Along the way, there’ll be sushi, sake, kimonos and karaoke, and, as always, some beautiful places to stay. In just under two weeks, you‘ll experience the true essence of this highly addictive destination. Are you ready for another world?
- Max 14 travellers per group
- Exclusively for people in their 30s & 40s
- All activities mentioned on the itinerary
- 11 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 4 dinners
- Hand-picked 3-4 star hotels & traditional ryokan
- 11 nights' accommodation in twin rooms
- Local trains, bullet train & minibus
- We offset your carbon emissions
- Tips for your Pack Leader & driver
- Experienced Pack Leader with you throughout the trip
Flashpackers are required to produce proof of COVID-19 vaccination 30 days before departure OR proof of a negative test within 72 hours of their adventure starting. Flashpackers must also provide evidence that they have purchased travel insurance for the duration of their adventure. Remember, flights aren't included and prices are based on sharing a twin room. If you'd like to upgrade to a single room, you can add this during the booking process or by contacting our Customer Experience team.
Day 01 Find Osaka's best food
Welcome to the bright lights and bustling streets of Osaka – Japan’s street food capital and a perfect introduction to the country. On arrival, you’ll transfer to the eclectic Moxy hotel, where you’ll have time to freshen up before meeting your group and getting excited about the adventures to come. To celebrate your first evening together, you’ll be heading out on an immersive food tour in the company of a local food expert. Visiting small restaurants and food carts alike – trying everything from authentic okonomiyaki to wagyu beef – you’ll be in foodie heaven as you learn to eat and drink like a true Osakan. The city really comes to life after dark, so if you’re not too jet lagged you might be tempted to stay out and soak up the buzzing nightlife. Your guide will be able to advise on the best places to go to party the night away.
Day 02 Hiroshima history
After breakfast, you’ll experience your first ride on Japan’s futuristic bullet train, which will speed you cross-country to Hiroshima in a little under two hours. Once reduced to ashes by the world’s first atomic bomb, today you’ll arrive at a cosmopolitan city of wide leafy boulevards, modern high rise buildings and a vibrant nightlife scene. But memories of the past are never far away. At the tranquil Peace Memorial Park, you’ll learn about the impact of this unprecedented tragedy through sculptures, monuments and an incredibly moving museum. You’ll even meet with an atomic bomb survivor to hear first-hand their personal stories and powerful messages of peace to people around the world. Later, you’ll be free to explore Hiroshima’s lively restaurants, shops and bars. Don’t miss trying an okonomiyaki savory pancake – the soul food of the city.
Day 03 Oysters & a floating shrine
It’s a short hop by train and ferry to the small island of Miyajima, where you’ll be treated to an indulgent tasting of fresh locally farmed oysters washed down with a glass of cold, premiere cru Chablis – a match made in heaven. Suitably sated, it’s time to explore the World Heritage Itsukushima Shrine – one of the most photogenic structures in Japan. Dating back to the 12th century, the giant vermilion torii gate rises grandly out of the sea against a backdrop of forested mountains. Connected to the main complex by boardwalks and pillars, which disappear at high tide, the shrine gives the impression that it’s floating above the water. You’ll have time to explore the quaint town before returning to Hiroshima for a relaxed afternoon.
Day 04 Sacred temple icons
Back on the bullet train, you’ll be whisked away to Japan’s cultural capital: Kyoto. Famed for its plethora of Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, traditional wooden townhouses and sublime Zen gardens, it’s an incredibly atmospheric city. Once settled into your new hotel, you’ll be free to spend some time at Fushimi Inari, perhaps Japan’s most iconic Shinto shrine, where you’ll find thousands of vermilion torii gates winding a path over a wooded mountain. Climbing to the top of this sacred complex can take around three hours (well worth it, and you’ll leave the larger groups of tourists behind) but if you’d prefer to dip in and out, there is a quaint shopping street selling traditional sweets and lots of tofu.
Day 05 Temple stay & hot water bathing
Today, you’ll be swapping fast-paced city life for the peaceful beauty of Koyasan’s forested mountains. With its endless Buddhist temples and monasteries, Koyasan is one of the holiest sites in the country and an ancient place of pilgrimage. Journeying through narrow valleys and undulating woodlands is like stepping into another world. You’ll be spending the night here in a temple, sleeping on traditional tatami mats, joining the monks for prayers and experiencing their unique dining practices. Through back-to-basics living surrounded by nature, you’ll be encouraged to reflect on life’s simple pleasures. Soaking in a shukubo communal hot water bath (if you’re willing… each bath is single-sex but nakedness is mandatory) is a quintessential Japanese experience.
Day 06 Tea ceremony & geisha dinner
Wake early for dawn meditation and to learn more about the life of your generous hosts. Then, it’s back to Kyoto to experience a softer side to the city: one of traditional teahouses in lamp-lit alleyways and glimpses of geishas disappearing into hidden doorways. You’ll gain an insight into this mysterious world by taking part in a formal tea ceremony. Following on from your stay in Koyasan, the whole experience feels mindful and meditative as the tea is prepared according to centuries-old tradition. Later, you’ll sit down to a private meal at the atmospheric Ganko Nijoen. This former townhouse, looking out over a beautiful Zen garden, is the perfect place to experience an authentic kaiseki (multi-course dinner). While you enjoy the small, intricate dishes, you’ll be entertained by your own maiko (trainee geisha) who will dance, sing and play music for your group.
Day 07 Boat tour & a ramen masterclass
After breakfast, you’ll head to the outskirts of Kyoto to the base of the western mountains. Against a backdrop of gorgeous natural scenery (think cherry blossoms in spring and maple-foliage in autumn), you’ll board a traditional wooden boat for a trip down the Hozugawa River. Expertly steered with long bamboo poles, your boatman will guide your flat-bottomed boat through steep forested canyons before arriving at Arashiyama. Here, you’ll visit the famous bamboo forest – a bright green wonderland of swaying stalks. You’ll wander down lesser-taken paths to avoid the crowds and appreciate the strange quality of light as sunlight filters through the giant stems. Back in Kyoto, it’s time to learn the art of making ramen noodles from scratch. Led by a private chef, you’ll learn the intricacies of this popular dish before enjoying the delicious broth you’ve created. Now for the best way to end a day in Kyoto: karaoke.
Day 08 Railways & ryokans
There’s time to visit one of Kyoto’s most celebrated temples this morning: Ginkakju, the Silver Pavilion. While it’s not actually covered in silver, the elegant 15th-century structure was a retreat for the famous shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Set in immaculate grounds, dotted with ponds, moss gardens and raked sand, it embodies the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi – the art of finding beauty in imperfection. After, you’ll take one final bullet train east to the historic castle town of Odawara. Here, the pace will slow substantially as you zigzag up the mountain on Japan’s oldest mountain railway. Winding your way through narrow densely wooded valleys, over deep ravines and through tunnels, you’ll stop at six quaint local stations en route to the hot springs resort of Gora. You’ll be spending the night here in a hillside ryokan (Japanese inn), sleeping on futons and soaking in a traditional bathhouse.
Day 09 Mt Fuji views & Tokyo calling
You’re finally off to the capital today, but there’s plenty to see along the way. Travelling by private minibus, you’ll stop off at the mountain town of Hakone, famed for its onsen and stunning views of Mount Fuji. On still days, you’ll see the iconic mountain reflected in the cobalt-blue crater lake of Ashinoko as it has done for thousands of years. Enjoy the area and soak up the tranquillity of this national park before moving on to the metropolis. Having checked into your hotel, you’re free to explore the city. We recommend making your way to neon-lit Shibuya for your first taste of Tokyo madness. Take some time to explore at your own pace, perhaps finding dinner at a local izakaya restaurant, joining young locals and office workers as they feast on simple yet delicious fare.
Day 10 Sumo wrestling & lunch
You’re in for a special ‘only in Japan’ experience today, as you enter the world of the country’s sacred national sport: sumo wrestling. The rules are simple – the wrestler who gets the other outside the ring, wins – but the ancient rituals and intense discipline of the fighters, make this a spectacle like no other. Your group will meet with a retired wrestler who will explain the history, etiquette and rigorous training regime required to compete as a professional athlete, before demonstrating some moves and joining you for a traditional (and very high calorie) chanko nabe lunch. For the rest of the day, the time is yours to have an adventure of your own. From fish markets and cat cafes to anime exhibits and Samurai museums, there are endless sights to uncover in this intriguing city of contrasts.
Day 11 Cycling, sake & sushi
On your final day, you’ll be heading off on two wheels to explore the backstreets of one of Tokyo’s trendiest districts: Fukagawa. Together with your expert guide, you’ll cycle through the unassuming residential streets to discover laidback coffee shops and art galleries, small wineries and sake breweries – where you’ll stop off for a tasting. From there, you’ll be off for your private sushi-making class. No trip would be complete without mastering the basic techniques of Japan’s most famous food. With the ingredients laid out before you, you’ll watch your sushi chef prepare, roll and season sushi before having a go yourself. This evening, you and your fellow Flashpackers will enjoy a farewell drink at a rooftop downtown bar. Gazing out across the lights of the city, you’ll toast to new friendships and an incredible 12-day trip.
Day 12 Sayonara, Japan
It’s time to bid farewell to your guide and your group. If you’ve got time, we thoroughly recommend staying a few extra days – we’ll be on hand to give you some tips on where to go, too.
Our Favourite Hotels
Here's a taste of the hotels we sometimes use on this adventure. The hotels you'll stay in for your departure will be shared with you one month before you go.
Aloft Ginza, Tokyo
Inspired by Ginza’s iconic street culture, this tech-savvy downtown hub features an eclectic mix of neon colours, graffiti and urban art. Spacious rooms have an innovative loft-style layout, while the sassy rooftop bar looks out across one of Tokyo’s most vibrant precincts.
Sekishoin Shukubo, Koyasan
Founded 1,100 years ago, Sekishoin Shukubo is a historic Buddhist temple in Mount Koyasan. Rooms are decorated in Japanese style with tatami floors and futon beds, and there’s a beautiful traditional Japanese garden – the perfect place to disconnect.
Setsugetsuka Ryokan, Gora
The open-air bath on your balcony will be the star of the show at this authentic ryokan – though make sure you take time to bathe in the hot springs too. Nestled on the hillside, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and birdsong; an ideal place to slow down the pace.
- Which airport do I need to fly in and out of? Plus airport code
Fly into Osaka International Airport (ITM). Fly out of Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) or Narita International Airport (NRT).
- What time do I need to arrive?
Upon arrival on day one, please arrive at the airport by 3pm or earlier. Your dedicated Pack leader will be there to greet your group and help you arrange your travel tickets to get to the hotel. You will then meet again at 4.30pm in the hotel lobby, ready for your street food tour starting at 5pm.
- Do I need a visa?
Normally, British citizens can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. However, some nationalities will require a visa to enter Japan. To check if you need a visa or not, please check the list on this link.
You can obtain your travel visa through this website.
You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket.
- Special notes about transport & luggage
This itinerary makes extensive use of public transport, as it is the fastest and most reliable way to see Japan. When you travel by bullet train, a minibus takes your luggage, so you will need an overnight bag. This means that on two nights (in Koyasan and Kyoto) you will be without your main luggage. It is best to pack light for this adventure.
- What is the accommodation like?
We stay in beautiful three- to four-star properties throughout, however, we spend one night in a ryokan in Koyasan which is a traditional Japanese inn, and one night at a Buddhist temple.
Flashpackers looking for a truly Japanese experience will love it, but these particular experiences are lacking the facilities of a typical Flash Pack hotel.
Please get in touch with our Sales Team if you would like further information on the above.
- Will this itinerary change?
Please be aware that the itinerary, activities and hotels are subject to change. These changes can happen with little notice due to availability, poor weather, seasonal changes, or other circumstances beyond our control – but we’ll always do our best to ensure it has little impact on your experience. From time to time, we may also make changes to your itinerary to try out new ideas and keep things fresh and exciting.
What Flashpackers say
"I have just completed the 13 day trip to Japan. It was absolutely fantastic! A week back home and I am still pinching myself over the things we saw and did. You really do get to experience every aspect of Japanese life and travel a lot of the country. Our tour guide was amazing! "
"It was a near perfect trip. 4 1/2 stars is more appropriate. Our tour guide, Nao, was hands down the best guide I have ever had (and probably will ever have). She was an angel and made the trip magical and a blast! I fell in love with Japan and am grateful to have happened upon this trip."
"Some of the activities were really memorable and the group got along well. The sumo lunch was my personal highlight and we had some great nights at karaoke. It is a busy schedule but you can always sit something out if you want a little break. Our guide was excellent and she was always eager to help plan transport during free time, recommend food and even acted as our personal translator. She helped make it much easier for us to get around the country and helped everyone figure out how they were all getting to their flights home. "
"The trip was great, really loved all of the curated experiences, but the thing that made the trip special was our guide Nao. She went ABOVE and BEYOND for every single step of our journey, from helping us to understand the culture in unique ways, to providing recommendations that made for an unforgettable experience. I can honestly say that Nao was unmatched in her dedication to our group's experience. "
"I can't imagine packing more stuff into a trip. It was fast paced and exactly what I wanted. I got to see as much of Japan as I could in the time there. The itinerary was a fantastic cross section of Japanese culture. It has a little of everything. Our guide Nao was amazing and just an awesome person."
Joining the Flash Pack comes with a few special guarantees
Our mission to create 1 million friendships so we obsess over the group dynamic. Everyone is aged 30-49, 98% travel solo & 80% stay friends. Want to know more about your group? GET IN TOUCH
We operate using a 3rd party trust bank account meaning we guarantee refunds in 14 days if your trip has to be cancelled BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE
Our trips are made up of ‘can’t-do-by-yourself’ experiences – think staying on your own private island in the Arctic and glamping in Land Rovers on the Serengeti SEE TRIPS
We only work with trusted local guides who know their destinations better than anyone. We include guide and driver tips to make sure that our team are well looked after
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