This trip takes you to Japan's highlights, from fast-paced Tokyo to the quiet temples of Kyoto, along with a couple of other worthwhile destinations. It's designed for first-timers, so if you've already been to Japan and seen all the must-sees, refer to the other itineraries to create your own 1-week itinerary.
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo
After your arrival at Narita Airport, head to your Tokyo hotel (about a 2-hr. trip). Recuperate from your flight, settle in, and get a feel for the city, take a walk through a nearby neighborhood and top off the day with a meal in a traditional restaurant. Stay up as late as you can to adjust to the new time zone.
Day 2: Exploring Tokyo
Because of the difference in time zones, you'll probably be wide awake in the wee hours of the morning, so get up and head for Tsukiji Fish Market. After a breakfast of fresh sushi, head to Hama Rikyu, one of Tokyo's oldest Japanese gardens (open at 9am), from which you can board a ferry for a cruise up the Sumida River to Asakusa, where you can visit Sensoji Temple and shop for souvenirs along Nakamise Dori. Afterward, see the Tokyo National Museum, the world's finest repository of Japanese art and crafts. Toward evening, head to Ginza for a stroll through a department store, and then try to attend a kabuki play.
Day 3: More of Tokyo
Visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum for a colorful portrayal of the city's tumultuous history, followed by a stroll through Akihabara, with store after store offering the latest computers, cellphones, cameras, and more. Next, go to Harajuku to see Meiji Shrine, Tokyo's most popular shrine, followed by shopping at Oriental Bazaar, great for Japanese souvenirs. End the day with eye-popping views from the 45th-floor observatory in Shinjuku's Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, followed by a stroll through Japan's most notorious and craziest nightlife district, Kabuki-cho.
Day 4: Hakone
Take an early train to Hakone Yumoto, gateway to the wonderful Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (if possible, leave your luggage at Odawara or Hakone Yumoto Station and travel overnight only with a small bag). Here you can travel through some of Japan's most scenic countryside via a circuitous route that includes a three-car streetcar, a cable car, ropeway, and a boat, while seeing such sights as the wonderful Hakone Open-Air Museum and, if you're lucky, the elusive Mount Fuji. Be sure to schedule some time for a dip in a hot-spring bath, and spend the night in the Fujiya Hotel, one of my favorites in all of Japan, or in a Japanese inn.
Day 5: Hakone to Kyoto
Complete your trip through Hakone, returning to pick up your luggage and then transferring in Odawara for the 3-hour Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. End the day with a stroll through Kyoto's central shopping area, topped with a stroll through the Pontocho nightlife area. Spend the night in one of Kyoto's many Japanese-style inns.
Days 6 & 7: Exploring Kyoto
Start Day 6 with a self-guided walk through eastern Kyoto, seeing Sanjusangendo Hall with its 1,001 wooden statues, Kiyomizu Temple, and Heian Shrine with its garden, followed by shopping at the Kyoto Handicraft Center.
On Day 7, visit Kyoto's other main attractions -- Nijo Castle, former home of the shogun; Kyoto Imperial Palace; Ryoanji Temple with its famous Zen rock garden; and the Golden Pavilion. In the evening, head for Gion, Japan's most famous geisha quarters, followed by an evening performance at Gion Corner with its cultural demonstrations.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.