Itinerary Highlights
    • See the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto with local residents
    • Bathe in the healing waters of Bessho Onsen
    • Stay in a traditional ryokan
    • Spend the night in a 1,000-year-old temple

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From the pulsating frenzy of Tokyo to the peaceful sanctuary of Mount Koya, this trip immerses you in every aspect of Japanese culture. It begins in vibrant Tokyo, where a relaxed meeting with a local resident will help you to tune into the city and learn what makes Tokyoites tick. You’ll then move on to Bessho Onsen, known for its healing natural pools surrounded by rolling hills dotted with three Zen temples. A night in a traditional ryokan is an opportunity to experience omotenashi (Japenese hospitality), along with delicious kaiseki cuisine. Matsumoto is your next stop; this land of the samurai is home to a striking castle whose five-story keep is the oldest in the country.
In the village of Tsumago, you’ll find a steep cobbled street lined with old wooden houses from the end of the 18th century. Between forests of pines, maples and bamboo, Tsumago’s bucolic atmosphere is yours to enjoy before a night in a small traditional hotel. It’s then time to head back to the city. The former imperial capital of Kyoto offers both spiritual heritage and contemporary culture in the form of temples, Zen gardens and trendy shops that showcase Japan’s traditional craftsmanship. You’ll then travel into the peaks of Mount Koya, carpeted with forests of cedars, maples and cypresses. Here, 100 monasteries preach the teachings of Kobo-Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism. While you’re here, you’ll stay in temple lodgings run by a community of monks. Your final stop is Osaka, bringing you the buzz of the city one final time before you return home. Throughout your trip, you’ll travel from location to location by shinkansen, Japanese high-speed rail that offers punctuality, comfort and views across the country along the way.


Everything is 100% tailored to you
DAYS 1 & 2


Your 13-day adventure to Japan begins with an overnight flight to Tokyo, which takes around 14 hours, so you’ll arrive in Japan the following morning. When you land, take the train from Haneda Airport to Tokyo using your handy Japan Rail Pass, which is valid for one week. You’ll be spending your first three nights in a stylish contemporary hotel with windows that look out onto this spectacular city. Spend the rest of today relaxing in your comfortable room, then head to your hotel’s restaurant to enjoy some traditional teppanyaki, or take a seat on the terrace of the lounge bar for a cocktail to kick off your trip.



Today you’ll spend the morning in the company of a Tokyo expert. Your guide has lived in this vibrant city for years, and they’ll help you to navigate the Japanese capital on a route tailored specifically to you. As you walk, you can chat about life in Tokyo, learn more about Japanese culture, and get insider recommendations for the rest of your trip. Afterwards, you’ll have the rest of the day to spend at your leisure.



Capital of the East and home of urban modernity, this dynamic city is unlike anywhere else, and it’s yours to explore today. If you’re looking to experience the more eccentric parts of Japanese culture, head to Harajuku, where cosplayers and fashion-conscious locals showcase their most fabulous outfits while browsing trendy shops and boutiques. The Akihabara district is famed for its electronics retailers, while the winding alleyways of Shinjuku Golden Gai are home to some 200 pubs and taverns where you can cosy up with a beer or some sake. Museums can be found in swathes in Tokyo, and some of the most original include the Daimyo Clock Museum, the Tokyo Toy Museum and the Tabi Museum. While this city is certainly brimming with modernity, there’s plenty of traditional culture to be found here too: buy a ticket for a kabuki or noh show; see a sumo competition; take a walk in the old district of Yanaka; visit the Meiji Jingu shrine; or head to the Fukugawa Edo Museum, which houses a replica of a Tokyo shitamachi neighbourhood from the 1800s. If you have 15 minutes to spare, the Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel in Odaiba gives you a view across the city from 377ft high. And if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the city, head to one of its pockets of peace such as Rikugi-en or Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens.



Today, you’ll take the train to Bessho Onsen in Nagano Prefecture, which takes just over one-and-a-half hours. The sulphurous waters of this small spa town have long been renowned for their healing and cosmetic properties. After settling in, spend the rest of the day taking a reviving soak, or visit the beautiful pagoda of the Anraku-ji temple, which was built during the Kamakura period (1192-1333).

You’ll spend tonight in a ryokan, a traditional inn filled with low furniture that really immerses you in Japanese culture. While there is a private bath in your room, don’t miss the opportunity to try out the traditional public pool on the upper floor. As you soak, you can enjoy a view of Bessho and the mountains. This evening, tuck into a traditional kaiseki dinner of fine regional ingredients prepared with skill in the ryokan’s restaurant.



It’s time for another train trip, this time to the charming city of Matsumoto. Matsumoto is most famous for its grand ‘Raven Castle,’ so-called because of its black walls. Built in the 16th century, this prestigious building has never had any function other than to act as a deterrent. This is the first and most popular reason to visit the city, though the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is also located here and well worth a visit. The themes of its ukiyo-e prints and paintings are linked to the world of bourgeois pleasures: courtesans, theatre, sumo and famous landscapes. Tonight, you’ll stay just south of the castle grounds in a modern hotel with a large dining room that’s perfect for a relaxed evening meal.



You’ll move on to Tsumago by train today, which takes just over an hour. Tsumago-juku was one of the post towns of the Nakasendo, one of two routes that linked Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto during the Edo period (1603-1868). Between the roar of the river and the songs of cicadas, today this trail is an excellent place to hike. In the 1960s, Tsumago’s inhabitants decided to restore the village’s historic wooden buildings, so your trip here is a real step back in time to the Japan of the 18th and 19th centuries. Accordingly, you’ll spend the night in a cosy traditional inn. The seasonal kitchen immerses you further in the traditional Japanese way of life, and there’s also a relaxing bath.



Kyoto is the next stop on your train journey through Japan, and can be reached in around three hours. You’ll spend three nights here in the gastronomy district in an international hotel that’s big on beer. On arrival, get settled into your new surroundings, then head to the hotel restaurant to enjoy Mediterranean and European-inspired cuisine.



Much like in Tokyo, you’ll spend this morning with a local who will take you on a relaxed tour around the city as they fill you in on Kyoto’s history and culture. Although it’s one of the oldest cities in Japan, Kyoto is today a mix of traditional and contemporary, and your guide can introduce you to both sides of the city, according to what interests you most. Kyoto is also known for its artistry and traditional craftwork, so after your tour, be sure to hit the shops to pick up some ceramics, kimonos or artwork to remember your trip by.

DAY 10


The magic of Kyoto weaves its way into every part of the city. From the traditional machiya townhouses of Gion and the mineral garden of the Ryoan-ji temple, to the scenic terrace of the modern station and that of the 17th-century Kiyomizu-dera temple, Kyoto combines poetry, art, tradition and modernity in a way that makes you marvel at the past, admire the present and look forward to the future. Today is about experiencing the city at your own pace, but if you need recommendations about what to do or where to eat, just ask our local Concierge. If you like, we can arrange for a trip to a serene Zen Buddhist temple complete with a meeting with a monk.

DAY 11


This morning, you’ll board the one-and-a-half-hour train to Gokurakubashi, then take the funicular and bus to the temples. Mount Koya is the centre of Shingon Buddhism, which was founded in the eighth century by Kobo Daishi. There are around 100 temples here, and accordingly this sacred site attracts pilgrims from all over the country. Meanwhile, under the foliage of hundred-year-old cryptomerias with endless trunks, some 200,000 mossy graves rise in tiers according to the lay of the land, housing the tombs of emperors, samurai, scholars and regular people. As you wander from one sanctuary to another along forest paths between cypresses and azaleas, take a moment to stop and soak up the spirituality so intrinsic to this area. You’ll spend the night in the shukubo (temple lodgings) of a 1,000-year-old temple. For dinner, enjoy simple yet sophisticated shojin dishes, a vegetarian Buddhist cuisine.

DAY 12


From tranquil mountains to a pulsating city, today you’ll take the train to Osaka and spend the night in Shinsaibashi, the city’s bustling commercial district. This is a final opportunity to experience the globalised Japan of today, not only as you explore Osaka but as you enjoy the modern comforts of your cosmopolitan hotel. In the restaurant, tuck into a meal of European and American-inspired cuisine, but don’t leave without tasting Takoyaki: Osaka’s famous fried octopus balls.

DAY 13


Today you’ll say goodbye to Japan and return to the airport by train. You’ll board a morning flight with a short layover and arrive home that afternoon.

A la carte


This former political and cultural capital developed during medieval times, when it acted as both the stronghold of the samurai and a breeding ground of Zen Buddhism. Today, it’s a chic residential suburb that you can reach in one hour by train from Tokyo. Famous primarily for its large Buddha, Kamakura is home to around 100 ancient buildings and temples. During this day trip, you’ll visit the sanctuaries of Kita-Kamakura in the early morning, and watch the surfers in Sagami Bay.


This city of 1,000 temples is home to some of the most beautiful Zen Buddhist buildings in Japan. During this trip, you’ll immerse yourselves in this world as you experience the daily life and practices in one of these incredible sanctuaries. After a welcome from one of the temple monks, you’ll take part in sutra chanting in the hall of the tutelary Buddha, traditional ink and brush calligraphy, sharing a monastic meal and guided meditation, finishing with a discussion about Zen Buddhism and a look at temple scriptures.


A bucolic atmosphere, some of the oldest buildings in the country, 1,200 deer roaming free – Nara’s charms speak for themselves. This is the cradle of Japanese civilisation, the first capital of the kingdom which is located just a 40-minute train from Kyoto. It is here, at the end of the Silk Road, that Buddhism found its roots, as evidenced by the colossal Buddha which is the largest bronze statue in the world. Take a day or two to walk the streets lined with ancient wooden houses, explore the famous 3,657-acre Nara Park with its pagodas and monasteries, and see deer walking majestically alongside their fawns as you trace the history of this seminal place.

A Rough Idea of Price

Dependent on season, accommodation and activities
The estimated cost for this trip starts from £3,285 to £4,865 per person. The final cost of the trip depends on the way we tailor it especially for you. The final cost varies according to several factors, which include the level of service, length of trip and advance booking time. The exact price will be provided on your personalised quote. The average starting price for this trip is £4,170 per person.
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