Begin an unforgettable journey through the soul of Japan on the Golden Route exploring the vibrant cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. When it comes to city experiences, no places better represent the core of Japanese culture than Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka – from their UNESCO-recognised shrines and temples to their neon cityscapes and Michelin-starred cuisine. Perfect for first-time visitors to Japan and seasoned travellers alike, the route runs from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka and passes through modern cities, centuries-old historic sites, incredible scenery and much more. If you are looking to further explore Japan, read our Top Places To Visit in Japan.
Where Does The Golden Route Go?
The route follows the old Tokaido road which runs between Tokyo and Kyoto, the Golden Route has been used for centuries by merchants, samurais and pilgrims to get from one city to the other. Today, it is a classic, and beloved route that many new and old travelers embark on traversing all the iconic sights of Japan lining the way, a perfect route to uncover Japan’s most impressive cities, sceneries and landmarks in one go. The start and end location depends on your preference and interest. Read on for the must-see places and its highlights.
From towering skyscrapers and futuristic neon-lit buildings lie side-by-side with ancient Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Highlights:
- Walk the world’s busiest intersection at Shibuya Crossing
- Go up the Tokyo Skytree and soak in the stunning views of the city
- Tantalise your tastebuds to the most Michelin star restaurants in the world, sampling Tokyo’s exquisite cuisine
- Go temple hopping including Asakusa, The Imperial Palace and the Meji Shrine
- Venture on a walking adventure on the Best Walks & Hikes Around Tokyo including the cultural walk through old Japan on the Nakasendo Way, stretching from Tokyo to Kyoto
- Step back in time into an older Tokyo at Asakusa exploring the iconic Sensoji Temple and Namakmise shopping street
Read more: Best Luxury Hotels in Tokyo
An easy daytrip from Tokyo, embark on a walking holiday to Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights:
- Cycle Mount Fuji and Fuji Lakes
- Walk, cycle and canoe Lake Kawaguchiko
- Climb Mount Fuji at dawn and soak in the spectualr sunrise views
- Visit Fujisan World Hiertage Centre
Hakone is iconic for offering sweeping views of Mount Fuji and is home to the pristine Lake Ashi and the Great Boiling Valley lined with hot springs which make a perfect spot to unwind. Highlights:
- Embark on a cruise on Lake Ashi
- Hike to the summit of Mount Komagatake to an impressive Shinto shrine
- Soak in Hakone’s iconic hot springs at one of the traditional resorts
Escape to the quaint and tranquil city of Nara iconic for its friendly deers and an array of temples. Hightlights:
- Get up close and feed friendly deers at Nara Park
- Marvel at Todai-Ji Temple and its 16 meter Buddha statue
- Immerse into a cultural experience at the Shinto temple of Kasuga Taisha
The third largest city, Osaka is known to be the ‘Food Capital’ of Japan featuring the best places to eat and drink; a food lovers paradise! Highlights:
- Explore Namba and get lost in its entertainment district offering an array of dining and shopping choices from Dotonbori to Amerikamura
- Admire Osaka Castle, a perfect spot to see cherry blossoms
- Go to the top of Umeda Sky Building for stunning panoramic views of the city from its floating garden observatory
Kyoto is one of Japan’s ancient capitals, it is the quintessential Japanese city with breathtaking shrines, charming neighbourhoods and lush bamboo forests boasting historical and cultural sites. Highlights:
- Explore the geisha district of Gion filled with picturesque canals, enchanting streets and historic tea houses
- Marvel at the impressive Kinkakuji temple and its Golden Pavilion
- Stroll the peaceful gardens at Imperial Palace
- Discover the iconic vivid red Torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Wander the serene Arashiyama bamboo groves
- Venture on a walking adventure on the Best Walks & Hikes Around Kyoto including the UNESCO World Heritage listed pilgrimage trails of Kumano Kudo
Read more: Best Luxury Hotels in Kyoto
How Long Does The Golden Route Take?
You can spend weeks or even months uncovering the endless sights of Japan’s Golden Route and everything is has to offer to its hidden gems. We recommend 10 days to 14 weeks to explore comfortably and at a decent pace to cover all the best sights and destinations. If your time is short, The Golden Route can be completed in 7 days covering only the must-see attractions however your days will be packed.
How To Get Around On The Golden Route?
Although expensive, the quickest and the most efficient way to get around these cities is on a Shinkansen bullet train which shoots around the country at a speed of up to 320 kilometres per hour. If you’re traveling on a budget, you may want to consider investing in a Japan Rail Pass which covers the bullet trains and also buses, ferries and normal trains throughout the country. The pass is valid for 7,14 or 21 days and you’ll need to apply before arriving in the country.
When is The Best Time To Visit Japan?
The great thing about The Golden Route is that it is great to travel all year round as each season has its own highlights. Spring is iconic for its cherry blossom, Summer is perfect for hiking the mountains, Fall is magical with its autumn foliage amongst serene landscapes and Winter offers incredible hot springs and the best powder in the world for skiing and snowboarding. Read more: Best Time To Visit Japan.