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.
Tokyo, Miyajima, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo
Best for: Culture History, Highlights, Imagine Favourites
This affordable yet wonderful itinerary is fantastic for those on a tighter budget, or for those a little short on time. It takes in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Miyajima, Kyoto as well as Mt Fuji near Hakone. It covers some of the best of Japan.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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For those wanting to discover the best of Japan, the Essential itinerary is a fantastic choice. After experiencing urban life and encroaching modernity in Tokyo and Kyoto, the beautiful island of Miyajima and the stunning scenery of Mt Fuji in Hakone acts as a wonderful contrast. Start in the vibrant capital, Tokyo, soaking up its highlights, from unusual and whacky Japanese pop culture to traditional architecture and leafy parks. After learning about Hiroshima’s tragic past by visiting the Peace Park, jump on a ferry to Miyajima, a beautiful island home to the famous Itsukushima Shrine. Watch the cheeky local deer, try some delicious street food and walk into the hills to enjoy the lovely views from above. Moving back to urban life, you will find yourself in Kyoto, Japan’s ‘cultural capital’, where you can enjoy iconic experiences like the famous bamboo forest, dinner with a geisha and the authentic wooden samurai districts. Next you will journey to Hakone, with its spectacular views of Mt Fuji, where you will once again be surrounded by delightful countryside, staying in an authentic ryokan, one of Japan’s best experiences. End with a night in Tokyo before flying home after the most all-encompassing trip.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo for 3 nights
The first stop on this itinerary is Tokyo, Japan’s mesmerising capital, where you will spend 3 days. There are plenty of experiences here that will help you soak up Japanese culture, even in a short time. Embark on a full day highlights tour of the vibrant capital, visiting the famous Meji Shrine, Hamarikyu Garden and much more. A street food, pop culture, or anime tour could be the perfect insight into Japan’s eclectic modern cultures too. We can completely tailor make your time in Tokyo to your interests. Alternatively you may wish to explore on your own.
Depart from Tokyo and take a direct bullet train to Shin-Osaka which is approximately 3 hours. From here you will take an onward bullet train to Hiroshima which will be 1 hour and 40 minutes approximately. At Hiroshima you will take the local JR line to Miyajimaguchi which will take just 30 minutes before hopping on the ferry to Miyajima, which just a quick 10 minutes.
Days 4 - 6 : Miyajima, Japan
Stay at Iwaso 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. Watch the charming and incredibly tame local deer, try some of the celebrated sizzling grilled oysters, and visit a few of the serenely beautiful temples.
From Miyajima you will retrace your steps back to Hiroshima where you will take a direct bullet train to Shin-Osaka which is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Here you will chnage onto your connecting train to Kyoto which is a short 15 minute journey.
Days 6 - 9 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Celestine Gion Hotel for 3 nights
From Miyajima, head to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto, where you will spend 3 days. This is a fascinating city of ancient shrines, beautiful gardens and a truly rich and proud culture. Enjoy a classic city tour with a local guide or experience something more unique. There are so many experiences on offer, from a private dinner with a geisha to market visits and from private tea ceremonies to sake tasting.
From Kyoto you will take a direct bullet train to Odawara which is a 3 hour journey. Here you will take the local JR line to Hakone Yumato which is just 30 minutes.
Day 9 - 10 : Hakone and Mt Fuji, Japan
Stay at Yama No Chaya for 1 night
Your next stop is Hakone, famous for its beautiful views of the iconic Mt Fuji, where you will spend just 1 night, staying in a charming authentic ryokan. Explore the stunning natural beauty of the Mt Fuji National Park area, visiting hot springs and even take a boat trip on Lake Ashinoko, all tucked away from the bustle of the busy cities.
On departure you will retrace your steps back to Odawara where you will take a bullet train direct to Tokyo. This journey will approximately 40 minutes.
Day 10 - 11 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo for 1 night
Our Essential Japan itinerary comes to an end in Tokyo, where you will spend just 1 night. As the itinerary began here, you can spend your time visiting the markets and shops to buy souvenirs and gifts for your return home the next day.
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
Half Day Miyajima Highlights Tour
A half-day tour to Miyajima Island, the home of the famous floating torri gate. Here you can explore the temples and shrines in the complex and look around the rest of the island before returning to Hiroshima on the ferry.
Classic Kyoto Tour
Zen Temples, lush palace gardens and engaging walks can all be found in Kyoto and refined this full-day tour takes in some of the finest examples in the city. With the help of your guide, you will discover the contemplative side to Japanese culture.
Kyoto by Night - Whisy and Sake
Kyoto is a charismatic city and really comes into its own in the evening. With a local resident, you will explore some of the charming lantern-lit back streets as you discover the food and drink that Kyotoites like to enjoy after the sun goes down.
Half-Day Tokyo Highlights
Using the extensive public transport system, join your guide to explore Japan’s vibrant capital on this half-day tour. This offers a great introduction to Tokyo’s history and key highlights, whilst helping you understand what makes Tokyo tick.
An Afternoon in Old Tokyo
Miraculously escaping damage in the Second World War, several downtown areas of Tokyo have preserved what life in the city used to be like. With your guide, this half day tour uncovers the magic of these hidden gems.
Arashiyama Half Day Tour
Famed for its beautiful bamboo forests, Arashiyama has far more to offer and is a wonderful place to explore, a short distance from Kyoto. This half-day tour takes in the bamboo as well as shrines and temples renowned for their cultural importance.
Kyoto Backstreet Cycling Tour
The backstreets and neighbourhoods of Kyoto are where you can really feel the city’s heritage and while avoiding the landmark sites, means that you can get under its skin. Kyoto’s flat geography make this perfect by bike on this half-day tour.
Half Day Hakone Arts & Crafts Tour
A great half-day tour in Hakone for those interested in both ancient and contemporary art, gardening, and crafts. Visiting the impressive Okada Museum of Art and Gora Park, with a craft activity included.
Full Day Naoshima Excursion from Hiroshima
An experience that contemporary art and architecture enthusiasts should consider, visiting Naoshima Island to explore the Art House Project, Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum, with two exciting journeys on the bullet train.
Full Day Hakone Mt Fuji National Park Highlights Tour
A full day of exploring the Hakone and Mount Fuji National Park area, visiting the sulphuric hot springs of Mount Owakudani, a pirate ship ride and other activities on Lake Ashinoko, and a train that takes you through the green mountains and valleys.
From $3662 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.