Tailored from £4,000 per person excl. flights
14 days Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Takayama, Hida
14 days Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Takayama, Hida
Japan is a country of futuristic skylines, neon lights and high-powered technology. Yet, Japan is also a country of contemplative tranquillity, preserved traditions and rich cultural experiences.
The archipelago has so much to offer and is so far removed from Western culture, that the best way to experience the country is through an organised tour of Japan, especially if you’re a first-timer.
You’ll start your Japan tour in the bright lights of Tokyo, home of eclectic fashion and sense-obliterating arcades; a big contrast against the Emperor’s Imperial Gardens and the historic district of Asakusa. Then, you’ll head south to explore Hakone National Park for views of majestic Mount Fuji.
Next, take a bullet train up to the ancient capital of Kyoto, home of the geisha, to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, before sampling Japanese cuisine at a cooking course in Kanazawa. Finally, you’ll take the road less travelled into rural Japan and the picturesque mountain villages of Hida.
Our luxury travel specialists ensure that your party makes the most of your tour of Japan, planning each step to avoid miscommunications or cultural barriers (although, if we’re honest, isn’t that also part of the adventure?).
Japan is a paradox of competing personalities, overwhelming to Western visitors with sights, sounds, smells and tastes, which constantly keep you guessing.
Peel back the layers of this fascinating country and you’ll realise just how rich Japanese culture is and how much more there is to discover.
You’ll be greeted at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport by your own private driver, who will transfer you to your Tokyo hotel, only half an hour away. Watch Tokyo’s electric skyline pass by out of the window, as you get your first glimpses of neon lights and your luxury Japan tour truly begins.
You’ll be staying at The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, a boutique hotel in Tokyo’s historic Asakusa district (breakfast included). The hotel is located opposite the iconic Kaminarimon Gate (“Thunder God” Gate), which leads up to Senso-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo.
Sample your first Japanese dishes at one of the many local restaurants on your doorstep in Asakusa, take the subway via the nearby Asakusa, Oedo and Ginza lines to start exploring Tokyo immediately, or head up to the hotel’s roof terrace and restaurant for glittering views of city lights.
Japan’s public transport is one of the cleanest and most reliable on the planet, so we’ll supply you with Manaca Cards (also known as IC Cards) to get around efficiently.
These all-purpose travel cards are a must for navigating Japan and can be used throughout your trip on buses, trains, the underground, as well as with vending machines and in some shops. We’ll start you off with 2,500 yen credit and the card can be topped up at machines in any station.
You’ll be joined by a professional guide, fluent in English, who will meet you at your hotel from 9am for a private day tour of Tokyo, ending at 5pm. Learn about the city’s history and culture through the eyes of a local, then climb the Tokyo Skytree for amazing city scenes (time-slot tickets provided).
The 634-metre Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world and only beaten to the tallest structure in the world by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The observation decks offer incredible views of Tokyo’s cityscapes and on clear days, the omniscient Mount Fuji can be seen on the horizon.
Although Tokyo may be known for limitless skyscrapers and crowds of commuters (a quarter of all Japanese live in the capital, bringing the population to around 12 million), the city is not lacking in charm or colour.
Venture across the hectic and mindboggling Shibuya crossing, experience sensual overload at an Akirhabara arcade, or bask in the tranquil oasis of the Emperor’s Imperial Gardens. Each district has a distinct personality and a unique set of sights, so no two days in Tokyo are the same.
*Please note that transport is covered by your Manaca Card, but lunch and entrance fees to sites is not included in the private city tour.
As part of your Japan tour, you will also be provided with a 14-Day Japan Rail Pass (ordinary class), which covers all train travel on the Japan Railways (JR) network, including world-renowned bullet trains.
With the JR Pass available to you, you may wish to spend your final full day in Tokyo taking a day trip out of the city. We recommend the peaceful forests and stunning architecture of Nikko, the seaside town of Kamakura with its Great Buddha statue, or a Mount Takao hike up to serene hilltop temples.
Alternatively, if you have any special interests, let our team know and we can arrange or suggest a unique day trip, tailor-made to your requests.
From Tokyo’s Ueno Station, you’ll take the JR Yamanote Line to Tokyo Station, followed by a speedy one-hour trip on the Shinansen bullet train to Odawara, near the Fuji-Hakone National Park.
At Odawara Station, you’ll take a 50-minute private transfer to your hotel in Hakone. Now that you’re outside of the capital, it’s likely that your driver may not speak English, but he’ll ensure you’re transferred quickly and comfortably – plus, it’s a chance to try out a few Japanese words or phrases!
You’ll spend two nights at Yamanochaya, a ryokan guesthouse with a name that translates aptly as “mountain teahouse.” Leave your shoes at the door and experience true Japanese hospitality: a kimono-wearing hostess, futon bedding unrolled at bedtime and communal hot spring baths.
Breakfast and dinner is included, with the latter consisting of a traditional kaiseki banquet of local delicacies. Try mackerel sashimi, matsutake mushrooms and yuzu citrus, then finish your meal with a cup of sake in the bar, gazing out at the bubbling waters of the Hayakawa River.
Just south of Mount Fuji, the natural landscapes of Hakone are punctuated by tiny villages and hamlets, which are connected by buses, a mountain railway and one of the longest cable car rides in Japan and a mountain railway.
A 3-Day Hakone Freepass is included in your tour of Japan, which provides unlimited transport in the Hakone region and discounts for many local attractions.
Activities include boiling eggs in the volcanic hot springs (or indeed, soak yourself in the invigorating baths, as the locals do), cruising across Lake Ashi and exploring the outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery.
Shy Fuji-san loves to hide behind the clouds, so keep your camera on-hand for when the snowy peaks appear.
From your accommodation in Hakone, your private driver will transfer you back to Odawara Station, where you will travel onwards to Kyoto via Shinkansen bullet train, which takes just over two hours.
Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto is home to an astounding 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, making this city a treasure-trove of historical and cultural wonders.
Your accommodation will be Celestine Kyoto Gion Hotel (breakfast included). One of the most traditional districts of Kyoto, Gion is famous for being the home of Japan’s last geisha. The hotel features Japanese-style communal baths and a restaurant with over a hundred years of history.
In the evening, you’ll meet an English-speaking guide who will take you on a 90-minute private tour around Gion. Your guide will help you navigate the quaint alleys of this district, introducing you to the history of the city and the secret lives of geiko and maiko, of the geisha profession.
Kyoto has so much to see and do, so the best way to experience all the cultural riches the city has to offer is with a private tour guide.
After breakfast (included at your hotel), your guide can meet you from 9am and you’ll travel together around Kyoto by public transport or via taxis until 5pm, taking in the famous sights as well as local spots often missed by tourists.
Highlights of Kyoto include the ethereal Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, the ostentatious majesty of the Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion and the thousands of red torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
However, don’t miss the smaller details tucked away within the city itself; sacred shrines, traditional teahouses, delicate Japanese dishes and charming gardens coloured by the changes of the season.
*Please note that transport, lunch and entrance fees are not included in the private tour.
There’s more than enough to see and do in Kyoto to fill another day, but you may also like to explore another area of Japan, using your JR Pass. We would recommend the following day trips from Kyoto:
The train journey north from Kyoto to Kanazawa takes a couple of hours, with striking views of Japanese countryside, as well as Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa.
The historical city of Kanazawa features a samurai quarter, geisha district and one of the best landscape gardens in the country. Learn about traditional Japanese crafts such as indigo dying, lacquerware, weaving and gold leaf, at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
Your next two nights will be at Tokyu Hotel Kanazawa (breakfast included), a stone’s throw from the historic Nagamachi Buke Yashiki district. Rooms feature a Japanese tea set and yukata robes, while the hotel’s Marais D’or restaurant, bar and lounge are the perfect places to try local Kaga cuisine.
Learn how to make maki sushi, Japanese-style omelette and jibuni, a Kanazawa delicacy, in a three-hour cooking experience at a traditional machiya townhouse.
Instruction is in English and includes explanations about Japan’s food culture, such as use of the ingredient koji (found in miso, soy sauce and even sake).
Getting to know a culture through its food is a great education and allows you to take a piece of Japan back with you, by replicating the dishes once you’re back home. This cooking course can also be customised for vegetarians, vegans and any other dietary requirements, upon requested.
From Kanazawa, the next leg of your luxury Japan tour will be an-hour-and-a-half highway bus to Shirakawago, a peaceful mountain village in the Honshu region, located next to the Shokawa River and surrounded by pines.
According to Japanese legend, the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi trio of mountain ranges were home to sacred spirits. This divine intervention may explain why the area is considered to be one of most beautiful places in the whole country.
The “praying hands” of Shirakawago’s thatched-roof farmhouses are both charming and practical, as they have long been built to deflect the heavy snow that falls on the village every winter. Nearby Ogimachi is another popular village to visit, as it boasts World Culture and Heritage Site status.
Quaint Takayama lies in the Hida mountains and sits on the rolling waters of the Miyagawa River. The town is famous for narrow lanes of inns, teahouses, markets and sake micro-breweries.
You’ll stay at the Tanabe Ryokan in Takayama (breakfast and dinner included), a traditional inn run by Mr and Mrs Tanabe. The ryokan’s large communal baths are the best way to relax after a long day of exploring, before reclining on the thick futons rolled out onto tatami mats on the floor.
Just 16 minutes from Takayama lies the small town of Hida Furukawa. With a notable lack of tourists, this charming village also features an historic town centre along the banks of a river, the Seto, where koi carp can be seen swimming the waters.
You’ll head even further into Japan’s rural landscapes with a guided cycling tour through Hida’s rice fields and farming villages.
The 22-kilometre route is a three-and-a-half-hour ride through epic rural scenery and your English-speaking tour guide will be stopping to point out areas of interest along the way, including a natural spring, a local temple and a lush orchard.
*Please note that bike hire, helmet, insurance and guide services are included. Also, be aware that there are a few inclines on this route and no opportunities for short-cuts!
You’ll leave Takayama via an express train to Nagoya, followed by a Shinkansen bullet train east to Tokyo. The total transfer time is around four and a half hours.
Your last night in Japan will be spent at Park Hotel Tokyo (breakfast included), located on the ten highest floors of the Shiodome Media Tower. The hotel is noted for contemporary style and artwork, as well as seven eateries and bars, which serve everything from French to local Japanese cuisine.
Architecture enthusiasts will be impressed by the hollow centre of the building, which creates a sunlight atrium and ensures all rooms face out to stunning views of the city. Furthermore, each of the 16 exclusive Standard Queen rooms have been designed by a different Japanese artist.
Your luxury tour of Japan comes to an end. Depending on your flight time, you may wish to do a bit of exploring earlier in the day, pick up some souvenirs or enjoy a last meal in the capital. We’ll arrange a private taxi transfer to Haneda Airport, which is around 30 minutes from your hotel.
We hope this tour of Japan will succeed in providing a truly diverse travel experience, showcasing just a few of the country’s many faces; from the high-octane personality of Tokyo, to the cultural treasures of Kyoto, to the stunning natural scenery of rural Japan.
You’ll leave full of happy memories, funny travel anecdotes and thoughts about when you’ll next return to this fascinating country. What will you discover next time?