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I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong, travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.
- from $6,681 PP
- 14 Nights
- Mar - May & Sep - Oct
- 12 hrs from London / 14 hrs from NYC
The complete first-time trip to Japan. This 14-night trip covers modern and ancient capitals Tokyo and Kyoto, the contrasts of Hiroshima and neighboring Miyajima, cuisine and nightlife in Osaka, and the stunning scenery of the Japanese Alps in Hakone National Park and Takayama. Using Japan’s iconic bullet train to cover ground in speed and comfort, the itinerary blends history, tradition, culture, buzzing cities, alluring scenery, and mouth-watering cuisine. All the key sightseeing included, as well as plenty of time to discover hidden treasures with skilled local guides, and to enjoy a plethora of memorable cultural immersion activities.
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- 14 nights in 4 or 5 star accommodation
- Daily breakfast plus other meals as per itinerary
- Airport departure and arrival transfers
- Train tickets, rail passes, transport cards, and taxi transfers as described
- Private guided tours in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Takayama as described
- 24/7 support from our dedicated staff
- Flexible, personalized itinerary based on your interests
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Tokyo: Transfer from Narita or Haneda Airport
Welcome to Japan! Upon your arrival you will be welcomed to Japan by our local representative who will assist you to the appropriate shuttle bus transfer to your hotel. If you take an overnight flight, you’ll have much of the day left to explore. Just a few ideas include strolling through Ueno Park and perhaps taking in one of many nearby museums; heading to Asakusa, a lively historic quarter where you’ll find the ancient temple of Sensō-ji, the oldest in the city; or embarking on a relaxing river cruise along the Sumida River to picturesque Hamarikyu Gardens.
Day 2 Tokyo: Insider City Tour
This morning you will set out to discover the Japanese capital with your private guide. Using public transport to get around, you will get an insider’s look at the city – focusing on Tokyo’s lesser-known gems and offbeat neighborhoods. Start in the traditional district of Yanaka where you can still feel the old Shitamachi atmosphere; stroll along to elegant Rikugien Gardens, and then later along to buzzing downtown Shibuya and the chic shopping street of Omotesando. The afternoon will be at leisure for you to continue exploring independently.
Day 3 Optional day trip to Nikko, Kamakura, Yokohama, or Mount Takao
If you want to escape the big city and discover some of the delights nearby, there are several great day trips to consider within a couple hours of Tokyo. Have energy to burn? Head to the western outskirts of the city to hike Mount Takao, an easy trek that rewards with spectacular views. Or head to Nikko, the final resting place for the country’s most powerful historical family, the Tokugawas, home to some of the most unique architecture in Japan. Another option is the coastal town of Kamakura with its many temples, or Yokohama, which hosts a lovely promenade and a famous Chinatown.
Day 4 Hakone: Transfer to Hakone National Park
Say farewell to Tokyo, hopping on the Shinkansen bullet train to Odawara. From there you’ll be transferred by taxi up into Hakone National Park, your destination for the next two nights. It’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy stunning natural beauty along with traditional Japanese pastimes. Opportunities here include soaking in onsen (hot spring) baths, hiking, exploring museums, and trying to catch a view of elusive Mount Fuji. Dinner tonight and tomorrow will be served at your ryokan accommodation.
Day 5 Hakone: Day to explore Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes
You’ll have a full day to spend as you choose in Hakone. A few suggestions including taking Hakone Ropeway (cable car) to Owakudani, known as the “Valley of Hell” during the Edo period. Formed by 3,000-year-old volcanic eruptions, the crater is still active today, with white smoke billowing out across the landscape. While you’re here, try one of the sulphur-blackened hard-boiled eggs, which are said to prolong life by seven years. Alternatively, take a pirate-themed sightseeing cruise across Lake Ashi, visit Gora’s Open Air Sculpture Park or Venetian Glass Museum, or hike one of the many scenic trails which crisscross the park.
Day 6 Kyoto: Transfer to Kyoto by bullet train
This morning you’ll depart Hakone by bullet train, traveling at up to 190 mph to Kyoto, Japan’s former capital for more than a thousand years. After checking in the remainder of the day is yours to explore this culturally rich city, which is home to over 2,000 shrines and temples, four geisha districts, an Imperial palace and castle, magnificent gardens, famous bamboo groves, and a multitude of cultural activities.
Day 7 Kyoto: City Tour and Tea Ceremony
Today will be spent in the company of a private guide, using public transport and taxis to discover Kyoto’s rich array of cultural treasures. The itinerary is flexible and can be catered to your interest, with your guide helping to cover many of the top sights – such as Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple), Ryoan-ji with its renowned Zen rock garden, or Kiyomizu-dera with it’s fabulous views across the city – as well taking time to cover the backstreets and lesser-known highlights of the city.
In the late afternoon you’ll learn about the revered art of the ancient tea ceremony. Venture to a beautiful teahouse in the historic Gion district to take part in this centuries-old ritual, which is based on four principles: tranquility, harmony, purity and respect, under the guidance of a kimono-wearing expert.
Day 8 Kyoto: Day at leisure to explore Kyoto or surrounding cities
Enjoy a day of leisure, with lots of options when it comes to things to do. You might spend more time exploring Kyoto, perhaps heading out early to shop Nishiki Market for the freshest produce, picnicking in the Imperial Palace grounds and visiting Nino Castle with its famous nightingale floors, an anti-ninja security measure designed to make chirping sounds when walked upon.
You could also make a day trip out of the city. The closest is Nara, where you can walk among the over 1,000 free-roaming deer in Nara Park and visit some of the best temples and shrines in the country along with fine museums and gardens. Travel to Himeji, Kobe, or Osaka is also possible.
Day 9 Miyajima: Transfer by bullet train and ferry to Miyajima
Leaving Kyoto today, you’ll hop on the bullet train again for a 95-minute run down to Hiroshima. At Hiroshima you will make an easy change to a local train and then ferry service across to the neighboring island of Miyajima. Miyajima, or “Shrine Island,” is just a 15-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima, home to one of the country’s top three sights, the famous red torii gate, which appears to be floating on the water. After getting settled into your accommodation you have the rest of the day to explore independently. Dinner tonight and tomorrow will be included at your ryokan accommodation.
Day 10 Miyajima: Self-guided tour of Hiroshima and Miyajima
Today is yours to explore Hiroshima and Miyajima. Taking the ferry back across to the city, we recommend visiting the Peace Park and Museum. The main building showcases a collection of items that were salvaged in the aftermath of the atomic bomb that largely destroyed the city. Rather sobering, it includes a watch that stopped at 8:15 a.m. and a child’s melted lunchbox. The large, leafy park is dotted with tranquil spaces for reflection, memorials and the tree-lined Pond of Peace which leads to the cenotaph monument that holds the names of the bomb’s known victims.
Hiroshima is also well-known for its cuisine. For lunch we heartily recommend sampling okonomiyaki, a multi-ingredient savory pancake that you cook yourself on a hot plate. Returning to Miyajima, enjoy highlights like a scenic cable car ride to the summit of Mount Misen, hikes around the island for sweeping views of Seto Inland Sea and the opportunity to spot native monkeys and deer, or relaxing in onsen at ryokan.
Day 11 Osaka: Train to Osaka; afternoon self-guided tour
After returning to the mainland, head back on the shinkansen east to Osaka. Japan’s second largest metro area after Tokyo, Osaka is renowned for its outstanding food scene and lively nightlife. You can’t do it all in a day, but we suggest taking a street food tour and visiting Osaka Castle, surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees. You might want to shop Shinsaibashi Shotengai, a merchant district here for four centuries, home to 180 stores selling just about everything you could ever want. After dark, stroll the canals of Dotonbori to soak up the neon lights in the beating heart of the city’s nightlife.
Day 12 Takayama: Train to Takayama; afternoon guided tour
This morning you will take the shinkansen to Nagoya, then change to the scenic Hida Line up into the Alps to rural Takayama. Located in Gifu Prefecture, this Edo-era merchant town boasts a magnificent setting with a backdrop of the Northern Alps. In the afternoon a private guide will escort you around its maze of narrow streets lined with historic homes and wooden buildings that are two to three hundred years old. They’re are fun to wander – by venturing south in Old Town, you’ll run into Sannomachi Street, one of the loveliest in the area, lined with shops, restaurants, gorgeous homes and sake breweries where you can enjoy a free sample. This is also the ideal place to try Hida beef, comparable to Kobe beef.
Day 13 Takayama: cycling tour around Hida village
This morning you will take delve into Japan’s traditional culture with a guided cycling tour of nearby Hida. This gentle cycling trip takes you around the quiet village streets and along the banks of the Seto River. Stop to take a closer look at Hida’s machiya houses, Japanese traditional dwellings built centuries ago, then cross into rural Hida-Furukawa and ride along quiet trails surrounded by rice fields and farms. There are also plenty of chances to take photos of the Alps and the small villages that dot the landscape.
After dropping off your bikes you have the rest of the day at leisure. Spend more time exploring charming Hida, or head back to Takayama. There are multiple museums to explore, including Takayama Jinya which hosts a Japanese garden as well as a torture chamber and rice warehouse housed inside old wooden buildings. The Fujii Folkcraft Museum is a preserved merchant’s store house with Japanese ceramics, furniture, yuzen and lacquerware.
Day 14 Tokyo: return to Tokyo
After enjoying the peace and tranquil of the Alps, it’s time to return to Tokyo where you’ll have the rest of the day to fit in anything you missed at the start of your trip. There are countless shops to pick up last-minute souvenirs and gifts along with restaurants, bars, and karaoke joints. If you haven’t experienced the unique café culture, this is a perfect time to discover some of the maid, Pokemon, cat or one of a long list of many other quirky, themed cafes. Be sure to immerse yourself in Shibuya’s neon lights, one of the most energetic districts in the city.
Day 15 Tokyo: Departure day
After two full weeks in Japan, it is sadly now time to say sayonara. You’ll be transferred back to the airport by express train, shuttle bus, or taxi in time for your flight home.
What's not Included
- As we have clients from all over the world. Our itineraries do not include flights. If you would like us to include flights in your trip, we are happy to do so. Please speak to your travel specialist at the planning stage to include them.
- Gratuities for local guides
- We strongly advise all guests purchase comprehensive travel insurance
- Visas if required
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The Best Guides
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From the moment you book your trip, we are on hand 24/7 to assist you throughout your journey. With regional offices around the world, we have ground logistics teams on hand to help you every step of the way.
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