- Travel across Japan by train and at a flexible pace, and from age-old sites to modern marvels
- Capturing the soul of the country: a few nights in ryokans (traditional inns) and a few at contemporary properties, the pleasures of the onsen, the initiation into the culture of a tea ceremony
- Tokyo and Kyoto with expat guides: included
- Japan Rail pass, our local Concierge, nice accommodations, our usual additional services
Contact one of our Japan specialists + 44 (0) 20 3958 6120
YOUR FIRST TIME IN JAPAN
YOUR STAGESTokyo - the capital and the workshop of urban modernity, Tokyo turns heads with its dynamism, taste for innovation, imagination, excesses, and boldness. The trends are there, the cuisine, the technologies and the entertainment of tomorrow.
Hakone - The region of Mt. Fuji. The volcano Hakone is named after also ensures its prosperity. It's the volcanic activity that sustains the many hot springs, the onsen, long appreciated for their healing and relaxing power. The onsens, popular since the Heian period (more than 1,000 years ago), are therapeutic institutions for ritual purification, as well as meeting places, places for socialising and a real antidote to the rigours of everyday life. Whether in a rustic onsen (hoshi onsen) or a more modern onsen (shuzenji onsen), these baths (outdoors or indoors) offer a memorable feeling of well-being and a real insight into Japanese life.
Kyoto - the hometown of every Japanese heart, the capital of all fantasies, where one moves seamlessly between the 18th and 21st centuries. From the traditional machiya (wooden townhouses) of the beautiful Gion district to the mineral garden of Ryoan-ji Temple, to the terrace of the impressive modern train station or the wonderful Kyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto is magic in action, combining perfection with poetry, art, and modernity.
Flight to Tokyo
Overnight flight, arriving the next day.
Take the Japan Rail train to Shibuya and stay four nights in an understated contemporary hotel. The beautifully crafted rooms are spread between the ninth and thirteenth floors of a new tower - ideal for enjoying a panoramic view of the city. A storey or so below, two restaurants offer traditional Japanese as well as French cuisine. The surrounding neighbourhood embodies Tokyo's vibe: students rush for coffee or a drink, buzzing restaurants and designer label shops abound. Shibuya is the capital's fashion mecca, and you can see every look imaginable paraded around the district.
In your itinerary - Tokyo with a local. To take the pulse of the capital, there's nothing better than walking around with an expat. Your guide will take you to Shimokita or reveal Shibuya's secrets. It's a day of wandering and sharing experiences, with the opportunity to discuss everyday life in Japan and to glean valuable information for the rest of your trip.
What to see, what to do - Visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa - admire the style of the punkettes of Shinjuku, the lolitas of Harajuku, and the hipsters of Naka-Meguro - get up a little earlier to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, where fishmongers carve up gigantic tuna - savour fresh sushi in front of the turtle stalls - admire the works of contemporary Asian artists at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills; it's also your chance to get a birds-eye view of the city from the 51st floor of Tokyo Sky View - stroll through the garden of the Meiji-jingu Shinto shrine - enjoy a 'manga' portrait at a purikura photomaton - eat ramen with chopsticks from a neighbourhood haunt - shop in the Omotesando district - lounge on a sofa and drink tea surrounded by dozens of cats in a Neko Cafe - celebrate the energy of Shibuya by night, exploring the famous karaoke bars and basement rock clubs... Optional - A trip to Kamakura, a former political and cultural capital situated between the sea and the hills, now a chic residential suburb of Tokyo, one-hour away by train. Two small pleasures: a visit to the Kita-Kamakura shrines, a real delight, and watching the surfers in Sagami Bay.
Tokyo - Kanazawa
Train to Kanazawa (two-and-a-half-hours). Overnight stay in a well located contemporary hotel a few steps from the Kutani Porcelain Museum. A hidden pearl on the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa, a UNESCO 'Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts,' competes with Kyoto for the beauty of its gardens and temples. It offers a unique glimpse into the history of feudal Japan, from the samurai residences of the Nagamachi district to the geisha houses in Higashiyama. In the itinerary - A tea ceremony in a chaya, a traditional teahouse. Tea was imported from China in the ninth century by Japanese monks returning from visits to the great Chinese monasteries. The history of the tea ceremony began in the 12th century. It's not just about preparing matcha green tea powder, it's about achieving peace of mind. Over time, the ceremony - reserved for aristocrats - became a strict, solemn affair. In the 16th century, the great tea master Sen no Rikyu revisited and democratised the ceremony into its current simple, immutable form, which the Japanese people fervently adopted. It is celebrated in a small pavilion with modest utensils: it's the entire spirit of Zen put into action. Things to see and do in Kanazawa - Visit the ancient samurai schools in Nagamachi - observe craftsmen at work at the silk dyeing house - stroll to Kenroku-en, the 'Garden of the Six Beauties' which, with its 12,000 trees from 150 species and its rivers, hills and stone bridges, is one of the three most renowned in the country - eat lunch in a seafood restaurant at the Omicho Market.
Kanazawa - Hida Furukawa
Don't miss in Kanazawa - The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art : a futuristic and transparent building designed by Japanese architects Kazuko Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa from the firm of SANAA, who are also the creators of the Louvre-Lens in Lens, France, and winners of the prestigious Pritzker Prize. The glass facade of the circular museum blurs the border between indoors and out. Bus to Shirakawa-go (one-hour and 15 minutes), where you can appreciate a traditional village set against a backdrop of rice fields and mountains, with its steep thatched-roof farmhouses in Gassho-zukuri style... Then another bus to Takayama (50 minutes) and a train or bus to Hida Furukawa (15-30 minutes). There, stay two nights in a traditional ryokan. With views of the river and the Shinshuji temple, the scenery is serene.
The charming city of Hida Furukawa fans out along slender old lanes into a landscape of rice fields and cattle farms - the beef is famous here. Wander among the ryokan and the wooden houses, and it also makes a for a lovely bike ride. Don't miss the path along the Setogawa River, where carp swim, parallel to Shirakabe Dozogai street. Picturesque Hida Furukawa has its fair share of culinary and artisanal festivals (the famous matsuris), including the candle festival. Optional - One morning of cycling in the countryside.
Hida Furukawa - Kyoto
Train to Kyoto via Nagoya (about three hours). Four nights in a centrally-located hotel, a few steps from the Imperial Palace. The hotel is comfortable, with spacious, contemporary rooms decorated in minimalist Japanese style and incorporating local artwork. It's also renowned for its quality of service and attentive staff, who always offer good advice.
In the itinerary - Kyoto with a local. A day with an expat living in Japan. In the itinerary: discovering the hidden 'don't miss' gems of Kyoto through the eyes of an expat guide. With no set itinerary, they adapt the tour to each person's interests and wishes.
What to see, what to do - At dawn, journey along the Philosophers Path - visit Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion - get lost in the Buddhist garden paradise of Kinkakuji, the Gold Pavilion - stroll through the former residential districts and admire the simple architecture of the machiya (wooden townhouses) of the Gion district - saunter through the Shinto Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine; its hundreds of torii (elegant vermillion wooden gateways) lining your path - shop for tea at Ippo-cho and tofu at Iriyama-Tofu - take part in a tea ceremony - take an afternoon detour through the Nishiki market, nicknamed 'Kyoto's kitchen', past eel and octopus stalls - eat steaming tempura: a great show - attend an Ikebana flower ceremony - lunch at the Kawamichi-ya soba restaurant - meditate in the mineral garden of the Ryoan-ji Temple - visit the Hosomi Art Museum for shinto and Buddhist art, and the Nomura Museum for its beautiful ceramics and tea ceremony utensils. Optional - A day in Nara, the former imperial capital, one of the cradles of Japanese civilisation.
Kyoto - Miyajima
Trains and ferry to Miyajima (approximately two-and-a-half-hours). In the 17th century, when the philosopher Hayashi Doshun listed the 'three most famous views of Japan', he put Miyajima at the top. Since then, this sacred place of Shintoism has been a national emblem. The large Itsukushima-jinja shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its vermilion camphor wood torii (sacred wooden gateways), gracing the blue waters of Hiroshima Bay, is as iconic as Stonehenge in Japan. A night in a 100-plus-year-old ryokan with a contemporary aesthetic.
Miyajima - Osaka
Ferry and trains to Osaka (approximately two hours and 15 minutes). Overnight in lively and contemporary Shinsaibashi, in the heart of Osaka. The rooms in the hotel rooms are bright and neat, with clean lines. The attentive service deserves a special mention.
Osaka - Return flight
Train to Kansai Airport (45 minutes) and return international flight.
A la carte
AROUND TOKYO - KAMAKURA This
ancient political and cultural capital developed during the medieval period and was both the stronghold of the samurai (warrior caste) and for Zen Buddhism. Today, the historic city is a stylish residential suburb an hour south of Tokyo by train. Famous for its great Buddha, it still has about 100 ancient buildings and temples. Two small pleasures: a visit to the Kita-Kamakura shrines in the early morning hours - a real delight - and watching the surfers in Sagami Bay.
THE HIDA REGION - CYCLING THE JAPANESE COUNTRYSIDE
In the heart of the Japanese Alps, the Hida wilderness region has mountains that reach almost 1,000 feet above sea level and is home to a number of towns and villages, rice paddies and farmland. This area between the mountains and the farmland is called Satoyama. The inhabitants of this Japanese countryside nestled at the foot of the mountains consider it very important to preserve their natural heritage. They protect the site by renovating old farms and traditional houses, ensuring a delicate balance between man and nature.
Outside Kyoto - Nara
A bucolic atmosphere, the oldest buildings in the country and 1,200 free-ranging deer: just some of the reasons why you should visit Nara, the birthplace of Japanese civilisation. The kingdom's first capital is just 40 minutes from Kyoto by train. It was here, at the end of the Silk Road, that Buddhism took root, as evidenced by the great Buddha, the largest bronze statue in the world. One or two days allow you to browse through this stunning living history book, to walk the streets lined with ancestral wooden houses so old you'll wonder how they're still standing, and especially to explore the famous Nara Park, 1500 acres of abundant nature dotted with pagodas and monasteries, populated by adorable deer with their fawns.
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