We've put together a guidebook with everything you need to know about Japan. Written by our specialists, it details destination information, some suggested itineraries and plenty more to inspire your holiday. Fill in the form below and if you live in UK, your guidebook will arrive by post within the next couple of days. For those who live abroad, we will send you a link by email which will allow you to download your own copy.
Found across Japan, ryokans are traditional Japanese guesthouses which offer the perfect glimpse into Japanese history and culture. Most predominantly located near onsen towns, they are the perfect place to rest travel weary legs along the Nakasendo Way or as an addition to your itinerary on a tour of Japan’s highlights.
Japanese cuisine has taken the world by storm. And whilst sushi bars revolve their way around eateries in cities across the globe, the original home of this deliciously fresh and seasonal delicacy is a culinary force to be reckoned with. With its humble beginnings in street food, sushi has earned its stripes in haute cuisine and now claims many a Michelin star in decadent eateries across Japan and further afield. You only have to watch a sushi master chef in action in Japan to see why. Japanese food is an art form, it is an intrinsic part of the country’s cultural identity and motivation enough to visit.
Japan is abundant in unique experiences. From learning the art of the samurai sword, sushi or sumo, to dressing up as a geisha, discovering the world of anime, visiting a sake brewery or trying your hand at calligraphy, there are so many activities to squeeze into your Japan itinerary.
With its stunning and varied landscapes, Japan is a walker’s paradise. From a self-guided trek along the Nakasendo Highway to tackling the imposing peak of Mount Fuji, there are endless opportunities to get out and about on foot. Here are a few of our favourites...
The secret world of the geisha has long been lived out behind the sliding doors of exclusive teahouses across Japan. For generations, kimono clad women have been an enduring image of Japanese tradition, culture and sophistication with their elaborate dress, striking appearance and towering wooden platforms. The geisha has become an icon of Japan’s fascinating past, a stark contrast to the country’s sleek, shiny and futuristic present.
Beyond the neon lights, soaring skyscrapers and high-speed travel of Tokyo, Japan is a country where natural wonder knows no bounds. Outside of its cosmopolitan hubs, the country is a patchwork of meticulously landscaped gardens, historic castles, ornate temples and vast national parks. There, ancient walking trails connect forgotten villages, whilst its higgledy-piggledy coastline remains all but explored. Steeped in tradition and with both feet firmly planted in the past, this is a Japan almost unrecognisable from its glorious, glittering cities. Hike along the Nakasendo Way, stay in a traditional ryokan or soak in a natural onsen for the perfect antidote to a city escape in Japan.
Time is precious, but we are convinced that even with ten days to spare, you can really get under the skin of a complex and captivating destination like Japan. Acquaint yourself with its ancient traditions, otherworldly cities and extraordinary landscapes for the perfect introduction to Japan and its fascinating culture.
Whilst ticking off everything Japan has to offer in fourteen days is a near-impossible feat, this curated selection of itineraries showcases the astonishing diversity of Japan. For first time visitors or those returning time after time, these itineraries are just the start when it comes to planning your next adventure to Japenese shores.
Gliding into the forefront of train travel in 1964, the bullet train, or Shinkansen, has continued to wow the world with its blistering speed and soundless stealth ever since. Now linking the very north to the south, the Bullet Train has become the reliable backbone of Japan, joining the rural to the cosmopolitan in the blink of an eye. Snaking its way across Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago, the bullet train rattles up and down the country at a staggering speed of up to 320km an hour. As synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun as Mount Fuji, sumo or sushi, the bullet train is arguably the only way to travel in Japan.
Japan is a place of contradictions – visitors often describe it as both comfortably familiar and endlessly surprising at the same time. It’s an intricate blend of East and West, and past and present. The delights on offer range from Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, tea ceremonies, sumo tournaments, and beautifully clad Geisha, to sleek, modern shopping malls, high-tech gadgetry and delectable cuisine – not to mention the raft of intricate customs, etiquette and traditions. We spoke to Pete, our Imagine Asia specialist, who recently returned from this intriguing country.
Think of the Japanese Alps and world class skiing, traditional ryokans and steaming onsens spring to mind. Yet few places are as unique to the area as the Jigokudani Monkey Park, located between the onsen towns of Shibu and Yudanaka and home to Japan’s indigenous primate, the Japanese macaque. Otherwise known as snow monkeys, these playful creatures have frolicked and bathed in the natural hot springs of Jigokudani for centuries, continuing to fascinate locals and visitors alike. A favourite for families, but also amongst active and adventurous travellers, visiting the park is best paired with a stay in a nearby ryokan.
Art in Japan
Tokyo, Kyoto, Naoshima, Miyajima, Osaka
Best for: Culture History, Honeymoon, Specialist
For those with a passion for art, this itinerary brilliantly combines some of the best of Japan such as Tokyo and Kyoto with the artistic island of Naoshima. Visit classic and contemporary art galleries, explore gardens and learn ancient crafts.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This unique itinerary is the perfect choice for those interested in both ancient and modern art, as Japan manages to beautifully blend the two. Taking in both Tokyo and Kyoto, you will be able to experience the best that each city has to offer artistically, from Animation Museums and contemporary art galleries and from calligraphy to pottery making. The highlight for art lovers is Naoshima, Japan’s famous destination and island dedicated to contemporary art. This island in the Seto Inland Sea is filled with galleries, sculpture and architecture, and is wonder for those interested in installation art, boasting world-famous pieces set right on the edge of the sea. Your creative journey continues in Miyajima, where you will discover famous shrines, beautiful temples and spectacular scenery. The last stop is Osaka, renowned for its culinary scene, where you will spend a night before heading home. Marvel at the neon lights of the downtown Dontonbori area and try some celebrated dishes from street vendors.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo for 3 nights
Your artistic itinerary begins in Japan’s ever-moving vibrant capital, where you will have 3 days to explore how traditional and modern art forms co-exist in Tokyo. There are plenty of experiences to be had here, such as making your own anime at the Suginami Animation Museum, and a contemporary art tour, visiting galleries and modern architecture along the way. You'll also have plenty of time to explore at leisure and we can give you lots of ideas for your free time.
From Tokyo you will take a direct bullet train to Kyoto which will take approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Days 4 - 7 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at The Screen for 3 nights
Your next stop is Kyoto, where you will spend 3 nights in the ‘thousand-year capital’. Home to thousands of Buddhist temples and shrines, as well as abundant ancient crafts, this is a great place for artistic travellers to learn about ancient Japanese art. In fact, there are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto alone. Visit a local home to learn about calligraphy, or try your hand at pottery making and kimono dyeing. You'll also have plenty of time to explore Kyoto's ethereal gardens.
From Kyoto you will take the bullet train to Okayama which will take approximately 60 minutes. Here you will have time to change trains and platforms to board your onward local JR train to Chayamachi which is a short journey of 20 minutes. At Chayamachi you have another change on the JR line to Uno which again is a quick 20 minute journey. At Uno you will board the ferry to Miyanoura which is your gateway to Naoshima Island.
Days 7 - 9 : Naoshima, Japan
Stay at Benesse House for 2 nights
Naoshima is Japan’s iconic contemporary art destination, and you will spend 2 days here surrounded by sculpture and architecture guaranteed to capture your creative imagination. As well as many galleries, visit the Art House Project, and explore abandoned houses, workshops, shrines and temples, that have been turned into modern art installations.
On departure from Benesse House you will retrace your steps back to Miyanoura Port where you will take the ferry to Uno. From here you will travel back through to Chayamachi where you will change for your train to Okayama. At Okayama you will take the bullet train to Hiroshima which is a journey of 35 minutes. You will then hop on the JR local line to Miyajimaguchi where you will board the quick 10 minute ferry to Miyajima Island.
Days 9 - 11 : Miyajima, Japan
Stay at Kurayado Iroha Ryokan for 2 nights
Your next 2 days will be spent on the magical island of Miyajima, just an hour away from Hiroshima, famed for the Itsukushima Shrine, an enormous torri gate that appears to float on the water. There’s plenty to do here, from watching the charming and incredibly tame local deer, trying some celebrated sizzling grilled oysters, and visiting a few of the beautiful temples. We also recommend visiting Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial, which is just 20 minutes away.
On departure from Miyajima Island you will retrace your route back to Hiroshima station where you will take the bullet train to Shin-Osaka station which will take approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes and from here you can take the local line into Osaka.
Day 11 - 12 : Osaka, Japan
Stay at Intercontinental Osaka for 1 night
The final stop on your Art in Japan itinerary is Osaka, where you will stay for just 1 night before heading home. This amazingly friendly city is home to some of Japan’s best cuisine, so make sure you walk into the illuminated streets to try some delicious Okonomiyaki or the famous grilled octopus dish found in the downtown Dontonbori area, under a neon glow.
When to go
As Japan is made up of a series of islands, the weather varies greatly across the country. The best time to visit is generally in the spring; which takes place in March and April, or in the autumn; which is in October and November. The spring is characterised by the famous cherry blossom, and the autumn by the spectacular colours of the leaves. Both seasons are warm, often sunny with little rain.
November to December is fairly quiet but can get a little chilly. January to March is also cold in Japan, but little rainfall makes it a good time to see Mount Fuji clearly. During the colder months expect snow in Japan’s mountain ranges and in some cities. In May and June, the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists, so we feel this is a very good time to visit. Between July and October, the weather can be very hot and humid.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
Kyoto Home Visit - Private Calligraphy Class
Writing and calligraphy in Japan is an art form in its own right. With roots in china, the characters came to Japan well over a thousand years ago. This lesson will teach you the complex skills of calligraphy and let you try some writing yourself.
Kyoto Home Visit – Origami
Origami is has been associated with Japanese culture for centuries and is often used today as dedications or gifts, especially weddings. You will be welcomed into a Kyoto townhouse to learn the history and basics of this wonderful art form.
Tokyo Contemporary Art Tour
While internationally known for its classical art, Japan has a thriving modern art scene and no city showcases this as much as Tokyo. This full-day tour will take you through Tokyo’s contemporary architecture and galleries.
Kyoto Gardens Tour
Japan is a paradise for those with green fingers, and Kyoto brings together some of the finest gardens in the country. Strolling gardens, zen rock gardens, ponds and lakes are all features you will see on this full day tour.
From $4546 per person
International economy class flights and airport taxes from the UK
All accommodation and breakfast
Selected transport and some guided experiences
Ask our specialists for prices excluding flights from the UK. This price is as a guide only. The actual price is influenced by fluctuations in exchange rate, time of year, travel class of flights and the use of private versus shared excursions. Single supplements are likely to apply.