Tokyo, Kyoto, Kamakura, Shanghai, Xi’an, Beijing, Suzhou
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
The captivating culture, enriching history, and remarkable modernity will bring the highlights of the East into your view during your custom-tailored best of China and Japan tour. Walk along the iconic Great Wall of China, watch the graceful movements of a geisha in training, meet an entire army made out of clay to protect an emperor’s throne in the afterlife, and embrace the code of the samurai inside the preserved ambiance of former Edo Era capital. Explore the distinctive heritage and delightful...
Tokyo – The Capital of Japan with the Remaining Day at Leisure
Tokyo is a vibrant, modern capital city highlighting a futuristic ambiance with endless attractions crisscrossing through internationally celebrate restaurants, renowned baseball, and soccer games, traditional sumo wrestling, and captivating museums. The combination of lights, movement, and traditional culture creates a dazzling effect as you arrive at Narita Airport, where your private transfer greets you at customs. You pass through the streets ablaze with neon signs and sleek, soaring structures hosting hidden mega-malls, designer boutiques, offices, and the apartments. The modernity of Tokyo adheres to the strict structure of traditional patterns giving way to bars made of wood hidden in quiet alleys and small restaurants lit with lanterns serving chicken cooked over coal-grills.
After settling into the comforts of your luxury accommodations, you will have the remainder of the day for an immersive look into the culture of the city at your leisure. The Tsukiji Outer Market holds packed rows of vendors offering culinary delights and showcasing merchandise ranging from dried fish to seaweed, kitchen knives to crock pots. The scent of boiled freshwater eel dabbed in a sweet, savory sauce fills the air emanating from the small restaurants and cafes. The Ginza shopping district reflects the busiest commercial area in Tokyo while the centuries-old shopping center takes place at the center where the five roads connecting Japan’s major cities all meet.
Tokyo – Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple, Harajuki, and Shibuya Districts
In the morning, the subways fill with locals traveling to work. New coffee bars have become a trend with fashionable and young Edokko. As a country, Japan has become one of the largest coffee consumers in the world apparent in the charming décor, friendly service, and sensational single-origin drip coffee offered. After breakfast, you will begin your guided exploration of the captivating capital city at Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district. The famous shrine hosts a market filled with vendors offering masks, carvings, and kimonos, as well as fantastic paper goods.
The temple was erected in the 7th century AD and retains its original integrity at the end of the long street. The entryway known as the Kaminari-mon Gate hosts a nearly 11 feet tall red paper lander inscribed with the name “Thunder Gate.” A large cauldron filled with incense is positioned at the front of the temple. Visitors inhale the scent of sandalwood and waft the smoke onto their bodies in the belief the smoke will bestow health upon their ills or ailing parts. The temple glows a deep shade of red dating back to the 17th century.
The rare example of the early Edo architecture provides insight into the shifting aesthetic of the culture nearly four centuries ago. The greater precinct contains a maze of lanes spanning 50 acres. After visiting the Harajuku district, you will reach the infamous Shibuya Crossing, known as one of the busiest intersections in the world. The ambiance pulses with activity, and when the street lights change to red, up to 1,000 people during rush hour will traverse the street at the same time crossing from all directions in a practiced, indifferent alertness.
Tokyo – The First Streets of Japan’s Feudal Capital at Kamakura
Many Edokko start their day with a traditional breakfast, which can include boiled white rice mixed with raw egg accompanied by green tea or white rice, miso soup with Chinese cabbage accompanied by fruit juice. After your own breakfast, your guide will escort you to the Kamakura Prefecture, the former capital of Japan and the nation’s most populated city between the 12th and 14th centuries AD. Kamakura acted as the seat of the shogun reflected in the preservation of stunning temples. The relaxed ambiance welcomes you to the city blending the coastal breeze and mountain slopes to the alluring scenic beauty while the 13th-century monastery of Kenchoji remains Japan’s oldest active Zen monastery.
In the 17th century, the central hall was moved piece by piece from Tokyo until it was rebuilt to the same exact specifications as on the monastery grounds. The juniper grove fills the complex with an earthy aroma and the Jizo Bosatsu statue consoles the lost souls around the temple, representing a time when the surrounding valley acted as an execution ground. You can continue to the iconic site of the Amida Buddha, a bronze statue standing over 37 feet tall. The remarkable artistic venture was accomplished in the mid-13th century and housed inside a large wooden hall, but the statue has stood outdoors since a tsunami washed away the original structure in 1489.
Tokyo – The Popular Tokyo Edo Museum and Relish a Free Afternoon
Tokyo returns to an absorbing bustle in the morning when locals venture to work for the day. While the city’s movement sweeps through the streets and along the metro, you can visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which offers a sweeping history of the city during the Edo period that took place between 17th and 19th centuries. The museum opened in 1993 with exhibits showcasing scale models of towns and buildings from Edo inside the distinctive elevated shape of the structure modeled after an old kurazukuri warehouse. Entering the galleries demonstrates the shift in Tokyo’s past as the countryside turned from tidal flats to the feudal capital, eventually becoming the modern metropolis for which it is known today. Scales of townscapes, villas, and tenement homes lead to the marvelous life-size Nihonbashi replica.
The bridge was originally constructed in the 17th century to link the banks of the Nihonbashi River. The first wood edifice was erected in 1603 and was later replaced by a bridge of stone over a steel frame in 1911. The Nakamuraza Theater replica represents one of the three main kabuki theaters of the Edo period initially founded in 1624. After exploring the fascinating history on display inside the museum, the remainder of the day is yours to discover the side of Tokyo you have yet experienced taking you through the beauty of the Hamarikyu Gardens or the hushed gallery of the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art, which hosts sensational woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e.
Kyoto – Scenic Train Ride before Discovering Historic Kyoto
You will board your train to Kyoto early in the morning to travel along one of Japan’s most iconic images, a bullet train speeding at up to 155 miles per hour on the tracks. You will sit on the right side of the train for a view of Mount Fuji and its enchanting snowcapped cone rising in the distance a few minutes after passing Yokohama Station. You will continue near Nagoya where the hills support tranquil rural villages and quiet tea plantations spread across the slopes.
Your transfer will greet you at the platform at Kyoto Station and escort you to the luxuries of your hotel in the heart of the historical city when staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn updated to include numerous high-end comforts. Stepping out into Kyoto offers a distinctive contrast to the fast-paced streets lit with neon lights in Tokyo. Instead, Kyoto has an uplifting ambiance deriving from Zen gardens, tranquil Buddhist temples, and vibrant Shinto shrines. The city represents the heart of the country and the preserved culture of historical Japan with locals embracing the heritage shops, traditional restaurants, and the grace of the geisha, as well as hosting over 2,000 temples and shrines collectively.
Chefs attempt to create perfect dishes and craft beers while artisans prepare antique arts and crafts passed down through the generations from making to textiles to tofu, handmade paper known as washito handcrafted copper tea canisters called chazutsu. Kiyomizu-dera remains one of Kyoto’s most significant Buddhist temples and is located on the 33-temple Pilgrimage Route through western Japan. The structure was established in the 8th century on a hill overlooking the Kyoto basin and represents the Hosso school of Buddhism.
The current iteration of the temple was crafted during the 17th century and quickly became one of the most famous landmarks in the city, partly due to the large veranda that offers stunning views over the hillside and valley. A waterfall trickles below the main hall where visitors and pilgrims drink the sacred waters popular for the promises of health and longevity to those who sip from the rushing cascade. In the small shrine above the main hall, visitors can close their eyes and step approximately 60 feet between a pair of stones hoping to touch one of the two stones as a guarantee for future fulfillment in love.
In the evening, you can visit the Gion Corner Theater to view a Maiko performance. A Maiko is an apprentice to a Geiko, meaning “arts child,” the preferred nomenclature of a geisha from Kyoto. The Geikoapprentices present a dance and music recital showcasing their talents in the arts and reflecting a rich history of celebrating the intellectual beauty of Japan in the grace and dignity placed in every movement.
Day 6 - 7
Kyoto – Nijo Castle and the Golden Pavilion before Free Time
In the morning, locals of Kyoto prefer to eat dishes like fresh tofu, small fry fish, sansho pepper, and semi-dried barracuda with a seasoned egg accompanied by a glass of rich, fresh soy milk. After breakfast, your guide will lead you to the Nijo Castle for an introduction into the home of Japan’s former royal family and the great warlord generals known as the Tokugawa shoguns. The stone walls and dramatic ramparts bring the epic ambiance found along the edges of Northwest Kyoto hiding the splendor of the palace and gardens.
The castle grounds were built in the early 17th century with a style meant to demonstrate the prestige of the Ieyasu family, as well as the demise of the once powerful emperor. The shogun ensured that the floors squeaked, assuring no one could sneak through the corridors at night. In addition to concealed chambers where bodyguards could protect the family from in secret. The palace is divided into five buildings with the Great Hall at the center of the palace hosting four separate chambers. The fourth chamber boasts remarkable screen paintings decorating the walls and sliding doors crafted by artists of the Kano school.
Continue to the famous Golden Pavilion known as Kinkakuji and named for the breathtaking main hall shimmering with gold leaf. The original structure was erected in 1397 and fully reconstructed in 1955 with the gold-foil extending from the original compartment on the ceiling to cover the lower floors. The impressive glisten of gold reflects in the ripples of the central pond resulting in an ethereal glow.
Shanghai – Travel to China from Osaka Airport with the Day at Leisure
After breakfast, your private transfer will escort you to Kansai International Airport in Osaka for your flight to China. The brief flight brings you to Shanghai Pudong International Airport where the fascinating skyline of the city greets you before landing. The majestic reach of Shanghai Tower soars above the surrounding streets at more 2,074 feet tall, followed by the distinctive top of Shanghai World Financial Center at 1,615 feet tall. Your private escort greets you at customs and welcomes you to China’s largest city with a population of approximately 24 million people.
Despite the large populace, the bustling city possesses secret corners that feel more like quiet villages, and self-contained neighborhoods absent of the vibrant pace of along the mouth of the Yangtze River. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy the marvels of Shanghai at your preferred pace, stopping in the world-class museums, enjoying the fantastic art galleries, or wandering through the charismatic gardens and parks, in addition to the “New World” pedestrian area lined with luxury boutique shops.
A great introduction to the city stems from a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple, one of the few active Buddhist monasteries in Shanghai. The temple was erected in the early 20th century and contains a remarkable collection of statues depicting the Four Heavenly Kings, each looking upon the four cardinal points of North, South, East, and West. The main focus for visitors is the handmade Buddha image crafted from pure jade. The centerpiece has a pale green hue and stands over six feet tall carved from a single precious stone.
Shanghai –Tour of Shanghai’s Historic and Modern Beauties
The locals of Shanghai indulge in what they have deemed the four warriors of breakfast, consisting of a sesame pancake, fried dough, soy milk, and sticky rice stuffed with fried dough and picked vegetables or pork. After some time to enjoy breakfast, you will meet your guide in the hotel lobby for an adventure into the fast-paced world of Shanghai beginning with bustling Bund, the famous promenade along the Huangpu River. The neighborhood has retained a European ambiance deriving from the former English and French settlements, whose buildings maintain a sense of colonial charm filled with restaurants, boutique stores, and art galleries. Your guide points to the distinct array of architectural styles adorning the buildings constructed during the development of the neighborhood resulting in a mixture of European Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Renaissance aesthetics, in addition to an impressive series of Art Deco buildings.
The gorgeous greenery of Huangpu Park adds a sense of the countryside along the banks of the river opening firs in 1886 becoming China’s oldest public park. The relaxed ambiance feeds into the collection of historical artifacts displayed in the museum tracking the Bund’s history. Board a luxury boat at the banks and set off onto the waters for a different view of the tremendous skyline of Shanghai and the rushing confluence of the Huangpu and Yangtze rivers. Pass beneath the stunning Yangpu Bridge, which stands at the height of 732 feet above the water with a tremendous length of 2,7408 feet.
Xi’an – Suzhou’s Gorgeous Canals and Classic Ming Dynasty Garden
The city of Suzhou in China has been associated with high culture and elegance for generations drawing artists and scholars from across the former kingdom and encouraging writers and associations with high society. The exquisite gardens and delicate canals continue to fill serene pockets in the modernized city returning a graceful balance between the modern movement and classic harmony. You will arrive in Suzhou with your guide leading you into the tranquil district of the Pán Gate Scenic Area straddling the outer moat along the southwestern corner of Suzhou. The original coiled design of Pán Gate dates back to 1355 and provides a stunning view of the humpbacked Wúmén Bridge arching over the moat to reach the 11th century Ruìguang Pagoda.
The city was founded in the 6th century BC accounting for the unique characteristics of the design encompassing the streets and rivers. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is one of the most impressive scenic destinations in the city drawing crowds for its history and scale. The 13-acre garden was erected in the 16th century with fascinating water features, zigzagging bridges, a bamboo grove, and a serene teahouse. The aroma of lotus blossoms fills the air, and the teahouse provides brief wisps of fragrant freshly brewed teas sweeping through the air. Boats linger in the waterway running parallel to the streets for a unique view of the wealth and prestige of the classic destination.
Xi’an – Explore Xi’an’s Architecture and Famous City Wall
The fascinating city of Xian has an illustrious history acting as the capital of 13 different dynasties over the course of 3,000 years before declining in the 10th century. The city acted as the start and end of the infamous Silk Road where cultures and religions melted into a single space amidst emperors, poets, merchants, warriors, courtesans, and monks. The modern city bustles with activity casting the remains of the former empire in its shadow with vendors winding along the narrow warrens slipping into the former Muslim Quarter.
The city wall was erected in the 14th century with segments of the massive fortifications reaching upwards of 40 feet tall and represents one of the few urban fortifications still in existence in China. The Big Goose Pagoda is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and was erected within the city wall protecting the Tang Dynasty. The religious complex embodies the style of a Tang-era architecture completed in the 7th century. The pagoda was erected to house a Buddhist scripture brought from India.
Beijing – The Renowned Terracotta Warriors and a Clay Workshop
A traditional breakfast dish in Xian symbolizes the history and traditions carried over into the modern-day city embodied in the dish known as zenggao. The mixture of rice, dates, and kidneys beans are sealed overnight in an ancient earthen urn resulting in a layered cake with a fruity, sweet aroma. After breakfast and trying it all of yourself, your guide will lead you to the den of one of the most incredible archeological discoveries in the world. The subterranean life-size army known as the Terracotta Warriors were unearthed in 1974 by local farmers who found an entire brigade of statues and funerary art buried with the emperor in the 3rd century AD.
The figures catch your attention due to their noticeable distinctive characteristics varying in height, weight, and dress according to their role in the army accounting for 8,000 soldiers, as well as 150 cavalry, and 520 horses. The theater onsite explains how the artisans crafted the features of the figures ensuring now two faces were alike. The smallest excavated pit contains 72 warriors and horses. Archeologists believe the section of housed the army headquarters hosting high-ranking officers and sacrificial offerings set before the battle. However, the largest pit could fill an entire aircraft hangar with the 6,000 warriors and 35 chariots uncovered through the ages. Three rows of archers and a select force of foot-soldiers who once held weapons like spears and dagger-axes face east.
After witnessing the majesty of the Terracotta Soldier’s individual characteristics, you will enter an artisan studio for a demonstration in creating clay figurines like the massive display of Emperor Qin Shi Huang but on a much smaller scale. Mythology, history, culture, and beauty combine during your demonstration and shaping workshop for an unparalleled introduction into the attention needed in crafting such an elaborate collection of figures. You can invent your own identity through your creation to build a miniature terracotta warrior. You will first place your clay into a cast, bake the molds, and engrave the five sensory organs before painting the entire figurine white. After the workshop, you will travel to the airport for your brief flight to Beijing and then settle into the unique pace of China’s modern capital city.
Beijing – The Remarkable Highlights of Beijing on a Guided Tour
The modernity and fast-pace of Beijing overflow onto the streets in the form of soaring skyscrapers and juxtaposes with the vibrant history that emanates from the walls of the Forbidden City. Your guide will greet you at your hotel eager to introduce you to the staggering contrasts of Beijing’s beauty beginning at the world’s largest inner-city plaza, Tiananmen Square.
The concrete public space was erected in 1958 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Republic. The importance of the square began in the 15th century during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. A giant obelisk made from 17,000 pieces of granite and marble reaches 125 feet tall representing Monument to the People’s Heroes, while the Gate of Heavenly Peace was originally erected in 1417 acting as the main entrance to the Imperial City before the arrival of the British and French in the 19th century.
Mao Zedong rests inside the Mausoleum within a crystal sarcophagus cementing his place as the legendary leader of the People’s Republic of China who cemented the country’s place in international history and global politics. You can continue to the Forbidden City, home to the Imperial Palace whose origins date back to the 13th century Yuan Dynasty. The surrounding defensive walls reach nearly 33 feet tall and rounding the complex encompassing 7,750,015 square feet. The Imperial Throne glistens with gilded adornments inside the lavish Hall of Supreme Harmony, remains the oldest surviving wooden building in China.
Beijing – The Famous Great Wall to Walk along a Selected Route
The Great Wall of China stretches for over 3,728 miles crossing mountainous terrain, arid desert, and barren hills. Erected over the course of two millennia, the triumph of engineering and ingenuity remains one of the most robust examples of architecture while utilizing the natural contours of the landscape to defend China without further bastions. The Mutianyu section of the wall maintains Ming-era guard towers stretching across a nearly two-mile length of the wall northeast of Beijing.
The 26 watchtowers strike an impressive image and distinctive skyline along the mountainous terrain topping more than 4,000 steps leading from the base of the mountain to the pathway along the wall. A gondola leads from the foothills to level with the wall for an easy alternative to the nearly hour-long hike, as well as a fantastic view over the rugged countryside. The portion of the wall was first erected in the mid-6th century and enlarged by the 16th century, and the tremendous panorama highlights the movement of the wall along the winding mountain range leading into the distance.
Beijing – Depart for Home
Your morning can begin with a quiet walk in Beihai Park, the oldest surviving imperial garden in the city. The public space offers a serene slice of the countryside within the energetic pace and infamous congestion of the capital city with enchanting quiet reflected in the waters of Lake Beihai. Pilgrims visit the 17th-century Hall of Enlightenment to view the nearly five-foot tall Buddha image carved from a single block of white jade. Take it all in, and then after a delicious breakfast, your private transfer will meet you in your hotel lobby ready to escort you to Beijing Capital International Airport for your flight home.
- Wander the myriad of streets in Japan’s feudal capital at Kamakura leading to stunning monasteries, Zen Buddhist gardens, and a fascinating classic castle
- View the exceptional collection of Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China housing over 8,000 soldiers crafted with unique facial characteristics for Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb
- Ride the scenic bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto for a breathtaking view of Mount Fuji decorating the landscape outside of Yokohama Station
- Walk a section of the remarkable pathway winding over the mountains defending China for over 1,700 years at the Great Wall of China
- Witness the elegant drama of the gilded halls of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto with the ceiling reflected in the stoic waters of the mystical pond
- Explore the gorgeous scenery in the tranquil canals parallel to the quiet streets of Suzhou accompanied by preserved serene gardens
- Enjoy the comforts and customs of staying in a refurbished a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn in the historic city of Kyoto
- Join the seemingly endless crowd crossing the street at one of the world’s busiest intersections at Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
- Experience the elegance and sophistication of a traditional artistic performance of a Maiko recital, apprentices to true geiko or geisha
- View a captivating acrobatic performance in Beijing for surprising aerial visions and fluid movements of the entertainers
Embrace the timelessness of preserved customs as ancient traditions blend seamlessly with the evolving architecture and pace of the modern world during your 14-day tour of China and Japan. On the surface, the countries seem to push the edge of modernity with soaring high-rises and technological advances, but the heart of the past shines through in unexpected ways, from boutique hotels to restaurants maintaining ancient recipes, preserved scenic spaces and dynamic antique temples hosting relics, statues, and countless legends. Travel Tokyo to Kyoto, Shanghai to Beijing to uncover the great charms and extravagant artifacts combining contemporary luxuries with the bold developments of human history.
Your adventure begins in Japan with four nights in Tokyo. Using the capital city as a base to showcase the modern, natural, and historical marvels in and around the city provides a comfortable way to discover the sensational prefectures of Tokyo at your preferred pace. Visit temples, wander through fashionable shops, pay your respects at historic shrines, and wander across one of the busiest intersections in the world. Step back in time into the Edo Period at Kamakura for deeper insight into the workings of the Feudal system in Japan and linger in the fascinating galleries of the Edo Museum for a view of the collections bringing the past back to life in the modern capital city. Two nights in Kyoto create a different view of Japan, including a stunning view of the famous peak of Mount Fuji. The historic city immerses you in the past through traditional architecture and the maintained customs of geisha performances, Zen gardens, and the lavish decorations of the Golden Pavilion.
Your grand exploration continues with your arrival in China and begins with two nights in Shanghai. The bustling port city offers a fascinating combination of modern architecture and antique design along the banks of the Huangpu River with fashionable shopping districts and marvelous colonial aesthetics. Enjoy a day wandering along the streets, canals, and gardens of Suzhou for a glimpse into the classical ambiance of the Ming Dynasty ranging from silk studios to picturesque walkways. Two nights in Xian allow the fascinating history of the Qin Dynasty develop around the Bild Wild Goose Pagoda, preserved city walls, and vibrant Muslim Quarter. Allow the enchantment of viewing the Terracotta Warriors in person to overtake you when visiting the different areas unearthed since the 1970s before visiting a clay workshop to learn more about crafting the renowned figures.
Your last stop is in Beijing for three nights, bringing an end to your time exploring the enrapturing wonders of China and Japan. Before your trip ends, the capital city, like Tokyo, represents a unique balance of the past and present cultures of the country juxtaposed between the elegant skyline and the conserved grandeur of the Forbidden City. Visit Tiananmen Square and enjoy the remarkable tricks of a Chinese acrobat performance. The most iconic image of China crowns your ultimate exploration when visiting the Great Wall at the Mutianyu section for a fantastic panorama over the countryside and a view of how the wall winds along the upper contours of the meandering mountain range. Looking for the best France and Italy vacation ideas? Consider browsing our France and Italy travel reviews page.
$4,675 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.83 stars based on 12 reviews
"We had a wonderful experience coordinated by our travel...
Reviewed By Sara M.
"Our trip was incredible and the travel company was superb."
Reviewed By sharon h.
"The trip was fabulous. The guides and activities were on...
Reviewed By Fred S.
"We visited Japan and China, and the guides secured by this...
Reviewed By Peter O.
"Our travel agent did a great job finalizing all the details...
Reviewed By Duane G.
"They were relatively affordable, imminently flexible, and...
Reviewed By Ryan P.
Get Weekly Inspiration and Expert Advice on Travel
during the COVID and post-COVID era