From historic castle towns to the dazzle of downtown Tokyo, experience the essence of Japan past and present, delving into art, cuisine, and spiritual traditions in great cities and stunning rural areas.

Starting at: $7,784 * Includes airfare, taxes & all fees Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Monk at Buddhist shrine in Kyoto  The Higashiyama District in Kyoto  Evening panorama of Tokyo  The Tokyo-Edo Museum   The Shinto Meiji Shrine, Tokyo  Asakusa Kannon, or Sensoji Temple, Tokyo  Tokyo's Ginza district  Mt. Fuji and Ashi Lake  The iconic Mt. Fuji  Old Town, Takayama  The historic houses of Shirakawa-go  The art of gold leaf, Kanazawa. Credit: Courtesy Japan Tourism Bureau  The art of calligraphy  The art of the Japanese tea ceremony  Traditional sushi platter  Sushi-making lesson  Traditional kimonos  Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto  Entrance to Nijo Castle (detail), Kyoto  Nijo Castle Garden, Kyoto  Ryoan-ji Zen Garden, Kyoto  Kofuku-ji Temple, Nara  Todai-ji Temple, Nara  Buddha at Todai-ji Temple, Nara

Eternal Japan

13 days from $7,784 | includes airfare, taxes and all fees

From historic castle towns to the dazzle of downtown Tokyo, experience the essence of Japan past and present, delving into art, cuisine, and spiritual traditions in great cities and stunning rural areas.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

Hard to top this trip! It was well planned and the opportunity to see smaller cities such as Takayama made this trip very special. There was no way could we have seen, experienced and learned so very much about this country on our own … especially over a limited number of days! Very good value. This was our second Smithsonian journey and, as we experienced with our first, excellent arrangements, enrichment program, and educational impact. This was simply an outstanding introduction to Japanese culture; it topped our expectations.

- Suzanne and Peter C.

This was a top quality tour! Fabulous rooms, and delicious meals. The best part though is the exceptional tour guides and experts that took us on this amazing journey through Japan. I learned so much and felt completely cared for from them as we traveled from one city to the next. I would recommend traveling with Smithsonian to all my friends and family without hesitation!

- Carol M.

This tour really gave us insights into the culture and language of Japan we couldn't have gotten any other way. 

- Nicky S.

This Smithsonian Journeys trip exceeded my expectations. The quality of leadership and their narratives, the hotels, and local guides make my trip rich beyond words. Thank you Smithsonian for a special life experience.

- Cheryl B.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

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SPECIAL VALUE

This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.

Overview

From the neon lights of Tokyo to the misty peak of Mt. Fuji, and from the winding lanes of Kanazawa to the shimmering temples of Kyoto, delve into the essence of Japan. Step into spectacular temples and stroll world-renowned gardens, explore the palaces of shoguns and thatched homes of remote farmers, and encounter artisans of gold leaf and ceramics. Along the way, meet local people, stay in a ryokan (traditional inn), and experience age-old traditions, including a tea ceremony and a sake tasting.

Highlights Include

  • Tokyo: Visit the Shinto Meiji Shrine, stroll the gardens of the Imperial Palace, and venture into Tokyo’s oldest temple, the Asakusa Kannon, or Senso-ji.
  • Mt. Fuji: Take in majestic views of Mt. Fuji, learn about local conservation efforts, and enjoy a relaxing cruise on nearby Ashi Lake.
  • Japanese Alps: Go off the beaten path in lovely Takayama, nestled among high mountain peaks. Spend a day exploring the World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, where farming families in thatched-roof villages maintain a unique lifestyle adapted to their remote setting.
  • Kanazawa: Tour the breathtaking Kenrokuen Garden, visit a museum celebrating the art and craft of gold leaf technology; and meander through the Edo-period Higashi Chayagai tea house and geisha area.
  • Kyoto and Nara: Enjoy two days to explore Kyoto’s many temples, shrines, gardens, and well-preserved architecture. Highlights include visits to the gold-covered Kinkaku-ji temple and Nijo-jo Castle, the lavish seat of the shoguns. During a day trip to nearby Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, take a walking tour that features Todai-ji temple, the Kasuga Taisha shrine, Nara National Museum, and the treasures of the 8th-century Kofuku-ji temple.

Hard to top this trip! It was well planned and the opportunity to see smaller cities such as Takayama made this trip very special. There was no way could we have seen, experienced and learned so very much about this country on our own … especially over a limited number of days! Very good value. This was our second Smithsonian journey and, as we experienced with our first, excellent arrangements, enrichment program, and educational impact. This was simply an outstanding introduction to Japanese culture; it topped our expectations.

- Suzanne and Peter C.

This was a top quality tour! Fabulous rooms, and delicious meals. The best part though is the exceptional tour guides and experts that took us on this amazing journey through Japan. I learned so much and felt completely cared for from them as we traveled from one city to the next. I would recommend traveling with Smithsonian to all my friends and family without hesitation!

- Carol M.

This tour really gave us insights into the culture and language of Japan we couldn't have gotten any other way. 

- Nicky S.

This Smithsonian Journeys trip exceeded my expectations. The quality of leadership and their narratives, the hotels, and local guides make my trip rich beyond words. Thank you Smithsonian for a special life experience.

- Cheryl B.

Itinerary

Days 1 and 2 — Depart the U.S. for Tokyo, Japan

Fly overnight to Tokyo, arriving on the evening of Day 2. Transfer to your hotel.

Day 3 — Tokyo

Set out to discover this sprawling city, where stunning, peaceful sites are hidden amid the high-energy bustle of modern life. Step into the Shinto Meiji Shrine, a serene enclave of temples and gardens, and visit the gallery of preeminent calligrapher Koshun Masunaga to learn about this ancient art and browse the collection. In Ginza, Tokyo’s dazzling shopping, dining, and entertainment district, enjoy free time to explore. Gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant tonight. (B,D)

Day 4 — Tokyo

Continue your tour of Tokyo at the Imperial Palace, the home of Japan’s emperors since 1888. Take in views of the mouts and turrets surrounding the palace, and visit the East Gardens, part of the innermost circle of defense of the historic Edo Castle that once stood here. Then visit the Buddhist Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, also known as the Asakusa Kannon. Stroll past colorful curiosities on the lively Nakamise shopping street.  Finally, tour the Tokyo National Museum, which houses an extensive collection of art and antiquities from Japan and across Asia. This afternoon is at leisure. (B)  

Day 5 — Mt. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and Hakone

Depart Tokyo this morning for Mt. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The symmetrical volcanic cone of Mt. Fuji—which last erupted in 1707—rises majestically 12,388 feet above the surrounding landscape.  Visit the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Center to learn about efforts to conserve the mountain’s habitats, then set sail on Ashi Lake for beautiful views of the iconic peak.  Travel to the town of Hakone, where you’ll spend the night at a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. Take off your shoes upon entering and enjoy the tranquility of its minimalist Japanese design. (B,D) 

Day 6 — Takayama

Journey to lovely Takayama in the Japanese Alps, a town surrounded by high peaks and filled with 16th-century architecture. Meander down the narrow streets of the San-machi-suji district where, in feudal times, merchants lived in wooden houses built by the town’s renowned carpenters. Today, the lanes are lined with charming inns, teahouses, and sake breweries. Attend a traditional tea ceremony this afternoon, and learn about the symbolism and spirituality that imbue this graceful ritual. (B,D) 

Day 7 — Takayama

Begin the day at the Miyagawa Morning Market, where local merchants preside over stalls of handicrafts, flowers, and colorful produce. Meet a local chef to gather ingredients and then enjoy a cooking lesson, as you prepare your lunch together. After sampling the fruits of your labor,  take a walking tour of town, visiting Takayama Jinya, a historic government house; the local sake brewery; and Takayama’s old town, whose well-preserved buildings and homes date to the Edo Period (1600–1868). (B,L) 

Day 8 — Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa

Travel west from Takayama this morning to the World Heritage-listed region of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, where residents of remote farming villages developed a unique way of life adapted to their isolated mountain setting. As you tour the villages of Shirakawa-go, learn about these timeless communities and their traditional thatched-roof architecture, known as gassho-zukuri. In Gokayama, see how handmade Japanese washi paper is made using local fibers. Continue west to the coast, arriving in the historic town of Kanazawa in the late afternoon. (B,L) 

Day 9 — Kanazawa

A culturally rich city with many centuries of historical relevance, Kanazawa was one of the few large Japanese cities to be spared the ravages of World War II. On a guided tour, explore the world-renowned Kenrokuen Garden, a national landmark that dates back to 1676. See Ishikawa Gate, the only remaining section of the town’s original castle. At the Hakukokan Gold Leaf Center, get a closer look at the art and craft of gold leaf, one of the specialties of Kanazawa. Then stroll past wooden facades in Higashi Chayagai, an Edo-period geisha district, and visit a local teahouse. Your last stop is the Kutani Kosen Kiln, where artists craft intricately decorated ceramics. (B,D)

Day 10 — Kyoto

Board the train train for Kyoto, Japan’s imperial capital for well over 1,000 years and now a capital of culture and the arts. Visit the celebrated Kinkaku-ji, the lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion, and Ryoan-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple known for its 15th-century  Zen rock garden. (B)

Day 11 — Kyoto and Nara

Take an excursion to Nara, Japan’s 8th-century capital, renowned for its shrines and temples. Venture into Todai-ji a vast wooden temple originally built in the 700s that is home to a 50-foot bronze Buddha—Japan’s largest.  Visit two ancient shrines: the Kasuga Taisha, a Shinto shrine and World Heritage site surrounded by parklands where deer roam free, and Kofuku-ji, a Buddhist temple with a five-story pagoda. Return to Kyoto this afternoon and enjoy an evening at leisure. (B, D) 

Day 12 — Kyoto

Step back in time at Nijo-jo Castle, the extravagant 17th-century residence of the shoguns who ruled Japan for more than 250 years.  At Sanjyusangendo Hall, an important Buddhist temple, see some of the 1,000 wooden statues of the thousand-armed Kannon deity. From here venture to Nishiki Market, "Kyoto's Kitchen" of restaurants, stores, and stalls selling everything food-related. Tonight enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)

Day 13 — Depart Kyoto for home

Travel by coach to Osaka to board return flights to the U.S. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)