Learn the art of sumo, dine with a mysterious trainee geisha & meditate in a temple with monks
About your trip
Loud, quiet. Built-up, untouched. Spectacularly modern, yet imbued with the magic of ancient history. Japan has many faces – so, where to start?
Enter Flash Pack. Let us show you – in just eight days – the Japan we know you’ll love.
On this immersive adventure, you’ll get to see the iconic sights, like neon-lit Shibuya and the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, but it’ll be those hard-to-find experiences that leave the biggest impression. Like access to a secretive Sumo stable, where you’ll watch fighters in training before eating lunch with a real wrestler. Or staying overnight at a Buddhist temple, being cooked for by the monks that live there.
In a little over a week, you’ll master the art of ramen and sushi making. You’ll find yourself at a private dinner in Kyoto, being entertained by a trainee-Geisha, and you’ll experience the quiet, meditative beauty of a Japanese tea ceremony. There’ll be sake, kimonos and karaoke, and, as always, a series of beautiful hotels.
The best of Japan in eight days? Let’s do this.
- Max 14 travellers per group
- Exclusively for people in their 30s & 40s
- Carbon footprint
- Local guide tips
- All activities mentioned on the itinerary
- 8 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 6 dinners
- Hand-picked 3-4 star hotels & traditional ryokan
- Your own room in Tokyo. Other accommodation in twin rooms.
- Bullet Train & Minibus (for luggage)
- We offset your carbon emissions
- Tips for the guide
- Experienced Pack Leader with you throughout the trip
Flashpackers are required to produce proof of COVID-19 vaccination 30 days before departure. 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 Osaka – Japan’s foodie capital and a city that feels quintessentially Japanese thanks to its bright lights and bustling streets. Landing in the afternoon, you’ll transfer to the eclectic Moxy hotel in the heart of the city. Having met and gotten to know your group here, with each of you buzzing on that ‘first day in Japan’ adrenaline (it’s a thing, trust us…) you’ll then be taken on a real under-the-skin food tour. Led by a local who knows exactly where to find authentic, age-old dishes, you’ll visit small restaurants and food carts alike – trying everything from okonomiyaki to wagyu beef. Osaka is a city that really comes to life at night, so you might be tempted to stay out exploring once your immersive tour is over. Your personal guide will be on hand to let you know exactly where the locals are going to party the night away.
Day 02 A night in a temple & hot water bathing
Today, the extent of Japan’s multifariousness will come to life as you swap the loud, brash modernity of Osaka for quiet natural beauty in Koyasan. Forested and mountainous, Koyasan is considered one of the holiest sites in the country thanks to its endless temples and monasteries. You’ll be spending the night here at a temple, dining and praying with the temple’s resident monks, as well as bathing in a Shukubo communal hot water bath (if you’re willing…nakedness is mandatory, and each bath is single-sex). Your time here will be back to basics in that you’ll be sleeping on a traditional tatami mat and encouraged to seek out the simple pleasures to be found in nature and prayer. Expect simple yet delicious vegetarian food, cooked for you by the monks, with all ingredients changing with the seasons.
Day 03 A meditative tea ceremony & Geisha dinner
Wake early and join your generous hosts at their morning prayers, learning how to meditate properly and all about their way of life. Then, it’ll be on to Kyoto. Kyoto is a world of its own, where lamp-lit alleyways offer glimpses of geisha disappearing into hidden doorways and ancient townhouses open onto carefully curated gardens. Your first experience here will be a beautiful private tea ceremony. Enchanting and meditative, the whole experience feels very mindful, a perfect continuation of your stay in Koyasan. Later, you’ll sit down to your private kaiseki (traditional multi-course dinner) at the atmospheric Ganko Nijoen. An old house turned restaurant with huge windows overlooking a zen garden, Ganko Nijoen feels deeply authentic. As course after course come out, be entertained by your own Maiko (trainee geisha), who will play games with your group, dance, and perform music.
Day 04 Private boats & ramen making
Today you’ll spend some time west of Kyoto in the stunning countryside district of Arashiyama. First up, the famous bamboo forest, but you’ll arrive early and wander down lesser-taken paths to avoid the crowds and appreciate the quiet beauty of this natural wonder. From the Bamboo Forest, you’ll board a traditional wooden boat on the Hozugawa River. Your private boat would have once been used for log haulage and is now captained by expert boatmen who will guide you past quiet and picturesque natural scenes with bamboo poles. Back in Kyoto, it’ll be time for your private Ramen masterclass. Led by an expert chef, you’ll be guided through the intricacies of this iconic dish, learning how you make the perfect noodle and broth, before getting to eat the deliciousness you’ve created. Now for the best way to end a day in Kyoto: karaoke.
Day 05 Temple icons & Tokyo calling
This morning you’ll 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. Afterward, you’ll be boarding the bullet train to Tokyo. Having checked into your hotel, you’ll make your way to neon-lit Shibuya for your first taste of Tokyo madness. Take some time to explore at your own pace before dinner at a local izakaya restaurant, joining young locals and salarymen as they feast on simple yet delicious fare.
Day 06 Exclusive sumo experience
Today is a special one. Your group will be granted entry to a secretive sumo stable, where you’ll watch a series of sumo wrestlers in their morning training. So exclusive is this experience, your guide won’t know until the very day which stable is willing to open its doors to the group – meaning no two trips will ever be the same. Having watched these giant athletes at practice, it’ll then be time to sit down with one of them over a traditional, very rich (very high calorie) Chanko sumo lunch. For the rest of the day, you’ll enjoy some much-needed free time to explore. From cat cafes to giant arcades; temples and shrines to Samurai museums, there are endless sights to uncover in this city of contrasts.
Day 07 East Tokyo cycling & sushi making
On your last day, you’ll forgo Tokyo’s best-known areas in exchange for the undeniably trendy East Tokyo neighborhood of Fukagawa. Laid-back and artistic, you’ll get deep into the recesses of the area on a backstreet cycling tour with an expert local guide. Discover coffee shops and art galleries hidden in garages down unassuming residential streets, as well as small wineries, breweries, and craft workshops. From there, you’ll be off for your private lesson in sushi making. With every ingredient you could need laid out before you, watch as your sushi chef shows you the art of preparing, rolling, and seasoning your sushi. Finally, it’s time for a farewell drink on a rooftop downtown. With sweeping views across the endless lights of the city – make a toast with your new friends to eight ultimate days in Japan.
Day 08 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 Favorite Hotels
Browse a selection of our favorite hotels, for a flavor of where you may stay on this trip.
Park Hotel Tokyo
Starting from the 25th floor of the Shiodome Media Tower, this art-centric hotel promises unbeatable views from every room, and beautiful art at every turn. You’ll have your own room here, so make the most of this city-central slice of luxury.
The General Kyoto
In keeping with the enchanting beauty of Kyoto, The General hotel is decorated in a very zen, very Japanese style. Simple, minimalist and peaceful, your room will be clean and modern; the ideal retreat to recuperate in.
Located at the heart of Osaka’s action in the business district, Moxy is eclectic and modern with an artistic Japanese flair – think neon paintings, naked light bulbs and comfortable bedrooms with all the amenities.
- 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 3 pm 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 4.30 pm in the hotel lobby, ready for your street food tour starting at 5 pm.
- Do I need a visa?
Normally, citizens of the USA 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 & 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 3 – 4 star properties throughout, however, we spend one night in a ryokan in Koyasan which is a traditional Japanese inn.
Flashpackers looking for a truly Japanese experience will love it, but it is lacking the facilities of a typical Flash Pack hotel.
When staying at the 4* Park Hotel in Tokyo for the last three nights, you will have your own room. Each room has its own unique piece of art, making for a truly special stay.
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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