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.
Family Friendly Japan
Tokyo, Yudanaka, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Hakone
Best for: Family, Highlights, Imagine Favourites
Brilliantly designed with families in mind, this journey really keeps the kids entertained. From Snow Monkeys to Anime and from cycling adventures to dressing like a geisha, this trip really packs a punch and is sure to impress.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This great itinerary is the perfect choice for those wanting to see Japan with their children and can be tailor made to suit both younger and older families, with fantastic experiences from Disney Land to throwing ninja stars. Beginning in Tokyo, families will be dazzled by the neon lights and whacky culture, filled with robots and anime as well as the shrines and temples. The next stop is Yudanaka, ideal for active and nature-loving families, as here you can spot the snow monkeys relaxing in the steaming mountain onsens. This beautiful mountainous region is a wonderful place for fun and fresh air and you can easily take bikes out to explore the authentic countryside. From here you will spend two nights in Kanazawa, one of Japan's most beautiful cities that has a reputation for art, sushi and local crafts; it also has its very own beautiful samurai and geisha districts. The next stop is Kyoto, where family activities are plentiful. Enjoy strolling around the safe and clean streets, explore on a family bicycle ride, and immerse the children in arts and crafts, like origami. Travelling to Hakone and Mt Fuji National Park, you will have a day to spend in glorious countryside. Surrounded by verdant mountains and valleys, there are plenty of activities on offer, including boiling an egg in a sulfuric hot spring and heading out by pirate shop on the Lake Ashi. At the end of this itinerary you will spend one more night in Tokyo, before flying home.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo for 3 nights
This family friendly itinerary begins in Tokyo, Japan’s exciting capital, where you will spend 3 days exploring the highlights of the city and embarking on tours that the whole family will love. Why not try your hand at Japan’s national sport on a sumo training experience, visit a sword master to learn about how swords are made, or even head to Disney Land? There's loads to offer the whole family in Tokyo and we can tailor make your itinerary to suit your interests.
Depart from Tokyo and take the direct bullet train to Nagano which will be a journey of approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Here you will have time to change trains and platforms for your onward journey to Yudanaka again in bullet train. This journey will take approximately 50 minutes.
Days 4 - 6 : Yudanaka, Japan
Stay at Aburaya Tousen for 2 nights
For your next stop, travel through mountains and valleys by train until you reach the hot spring resort of Yudanaka, famous for being the home of the iconic Japanese Macaques (Snow Monkeys). Spend a few days here exploring the traditional highland villages and rejuvenating onsens, as well as visiting the comical snow monkeys to watch them relax in the steaming water. You can see the monkeys year round, but if you want to see them bathing in the onesen water, we recommend going in winter.
Depart from Yudanaka and head back to Nagano by Express train. Here you will have time to change trains and platforms in order to connect to your onward train to Kanazawa. This journey time will be 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Days 6 - 8 : Kanazawa, Japan
Stay at Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel for 2 nights
For the next 2 nights you will stay in Kanazawa on Honshu’s northern coast, otherwise known as ‘little Kyoto’. Famed for sushi, the exquisite Kenrokuen garden, its beautiful geisha and samurai districts, and a distinct arts and craft scene, Kanazawa is one of our favourite cities in Japan. There’s plenty to do here that children will love, such as a craft experience where you can decorate a pair of chopsticks or a plate in local golf leaf. You can even dye your own handkerchief using an ancient technique. We also love the geisha and samurai district, which kids normally love exploring.
From Kanazawa you will move onto to Kyoto which you will reach by direct bullet train. The journey will be 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Days 8 - 11 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Hyatt Regency Kyoto for 3 nights
From Kanazawa, head to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto, where you will spend 3 days. Children will love cycling around this safe and clean city, as well as cooking lessons, origami making, and traditional arts and crafts. Older families may enjoy exploring the city in the evening with a guide, who will take you to the best eateries, exploring the back streets as they come alive at night.
Depart Kyoto and take a direct bullet train to Odawara which is a journey time of just over 2 hours. Here you will take the local line to Hakone-Yumoto which is about a 20 minute journey.
Day 11 - 12 : Hakone, Japan
Stay at Hotel Kajikaso for 1 night
The next night will be spent in Hakone, where families love discovering the natural beauty of Mt Fuji National Park. Take a cable car to the top of Mt Owakudani, visiting sulfuric hot springs on the way, journey across Lake Ashinoko on a pirate ship, and travel around the mountains on a train that winds through the landscape.
On departure you will take the local line back to Odawara where you will take the bullet train directly back to Tokyo which will be a journey of 30 minutes.
Day 12 - 13 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo for 1 night
At the end of this family itinerary, you will spend one last night in Tokyo before flying home. Experience the city by night, trying some delicious street food, and maybe even dinner and a show at a robot or ninja restaurant, which will provide endless entertainment for older children.
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.
A really fun opportunity to take in some Japanese culture, play dress up and get some great photos. This experience lets you see what it takes for a Geisha or apprentice Maiko to prepare for their work with a photographer on hand to capture it.
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.
Kyoto Home Visit - Tea Ceremony
One of the most captivating of Japanese customs, the tea ceremony has a rich history and importance in both past and present Japan. This experience allows you to practise the ceremony yourself in the home of a Kyoto tea-master.
Private Temple Tea Ceremony
The tea ceremony is one of Japan’s most sacred rituals and far more than simply the act of drinking tea. This experience will teach you the importance and symbolism of the practice in the unique setting of a 17th century temple teahouse.
Sumo Experience from Kyoto
Sumo has been central to Japanese culture since ancient times and far more than just a wrestling match. This full-day tour takes in the ceremony, tradition and also the combat of Sumo alongside some of neighbouring Nara’s finest temples.
Sword Wielding Experience
A symbol of Japan, the history of the country is intertwined with that of its iconic swords. Today on this afternoon experienc you will get the chance to wield a sword and learn some traditional techniques.
Visit Nara from Kyoto
The capital of Japan in ancient times, Nara is within easy reach of Kyoto and home to several majestic temples, which collectively form the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which this half-day tour will explore.
Samurai Dance Experience
Fabled warriors, the Samurai are synonymous with Japan. While romanticised in battle with their katana swords, a Samurai’s discipline was built around etiquette and stylised dance. This group lesson will teach you some exciting Samurai movements.
Iga Ninja Experience
Along with ‘geisha’ and ‘samurai’, one of the words most closely associated with historical Japan is ‘ninja’, the black-clad masters of espionage who were especially active during the 15th-17th centuries in feudal Japan.
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.
Taiko Drum Lesson
The Taiko drums have a long history in Japanese culture and folklore from religious ceremonies, Geisha performances and even wars. This private, hour-long lesson will teach you the origins and rhythms of the Taiko, complete with battle cries!
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.
Sumo Training Experience and Local Lunch
An essential part of Japanese culture, Sumo wrestling is an ancient tradition steeped in ceremony. This morning tour will enable you to enter the inner sanctum of a Sumo stable and view the wrestlers in training in a very authentic environment.
From $4169 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.