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.
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.
Hiking in Japan is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Whether its paving the way from village to village in the Japanese Alps, traversing the Big Snow Mountain of Hokkaido, climbing the volcanoes of Kyushu or simply walking in the hills of Kyoto, there is something for everyone to enjoy. We’ve compiled our favourite walking destinations in Japan, ideal for seasoned walkers and wanderers alike.
Japanese Cherry Blossoms
Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo
Best for: Culture History, Specialist, Spectacular scenery
This classic itinerary takes in Japan's major highlights, such as Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo and Hakone (Mt Fuji), but is designed with Japan's cherry blossom season in mind as it really makes the most of Japan's beautiful gardens and outdoors.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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Japan’s magical cherry blossoms appear in the spring time each year and are truly iconic around the world. The Japanese believe that the blooming of the blossoms, sakura, represent human life and nobleness, and they even have flower-watching parties called hanami. This tailor-made itinerary will take you on a journey through Japan, giving you the opportunity to witness one of Japan’s most cherished symbols, which provide a beautiful natural setting for castles, shrines, and views of Mt Fuji. Get lost in stunning Japanese Gardens and parks that remove you from the bustle of the major cities, as well as visiting Hakone National Park, which comes alive with colour during the cherry blossom season. This trip has been created to mirror the north to south route that the blossoms take through Japan, taking you to some of the best spots for experiencing the incredible colours.
Day 1 - 2 : Osaka, Japan
Stay at Hilton Osaka for 1 night
The first stop on your Japanese Cherry Blossoms itinerary is Osaka, where you will spend 1 night. Use your time here to explore some of the city’s highlights, such as the magnificent Osaka Castle, which looks rather magical with the pink backdrop of the blossoms. The Floating Garden Observatory is a great place to enjoy stunning views of the city and the bay beyond. Osaka is famous for its delicious street food, so make sure you stop off in Dontonbori to try some before you leave.
From Osaka you will take a short train journey on the local JR line to Kyoto which is just a 30 minute journey.
Days 2 - 6 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Royal Park Hotel Kyoto for 4 nights
The next 4 nights will be spent in Japan’s cultural centre, Kyoto. Explore the city by bicycle, visiting the top places to see the cherry blossoms, such as Philosopher’s Path and Maruyama Park, where you can witness hanami parties that take place around the amazing central cherry tree. Foodies should visit Nishiki Market, also known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, and is a narrow street lined with more than 100 shops, selling fresh seafood, vegetables, sushi and much more.
Depart Kyoto and take a direct bullet train to Odawara which is approximately a 3 hour journey. Here you will meet the local train line up to Hakone-Yumoto which will take just 20 minutes to reach Hakone.
Day 6 - 7 : Hakone, Japan
Stay at Hotel Kajikaso for 1 night
From Kyoto, head to Hakone National Park, where you can explore the stunning natural beauty using your Hakone Free Pass, staying for 1 night. The area boasts spectacular views of Mt Fuji, which you can experience surrounded by the blossoms. There are many natural hot springs to visit, as well as Lake Ashinoko, which you can journey across on a pirate ship.
Depart Hakone and make your way to Odawara where you will take a direct bullet train to Tokyo. This journey takes just 30 minutes.
Days 7 - 10 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo for 3 nights
The last stop on this spring time itinerary is Tokyo, where you will spend 3 nights in the eclectic capital. The city is brimming with historic gardens and temples, many of which provide excellent cherry blossom viewing. You may wish to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in a quaint garden, visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, and head to Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park, each of which has over 1000 cherry trees.
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
Tokyo Garden and Fire Ceremony Tour
Away from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo, this half-day tour takes you slightly off the tourist trail to explore one of the city’s finest gardens and then on to a residential Buddhist Temple to witness a traditional fire ceremony.
Half Day Fushimi Inari Shrine with Sake Tasting
One of Japan’s mist iconic and photogenic highlights, Fushimi Inari Shrine’s 10,000 bright orange Torii Gates are simply a must-see. This half-day tour lets you explore the hills around the temple before an introduction to Sake at a nearby brewery.
Tokyo Art and Culture Tour
Japan’s art and distinct cultures are two of its most famous traditions. On this full-day tour, discover two of the most iconic, calligraphy and swordsmanship, as you get to try both first hand and learn about their origins.
Hiking Mount Takao
Less than an hour from Tokyo, the sacred mountain of Takaosan offers a network of beautiful walking trails. Your guide will help lead you to the 599 metre high summit, which can offer spectacular views over Tokyo and Mt Fuji.
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.
The Philosopher’s Path
Once the commute of an acclaimed Japanese philosopher, this pretty walk through Kyoto’s Higashiyama District passes many small temples and shrines. During this half-day tour, your guide will lead you along the path, exploring sights along the way.
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.
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.
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 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 $4445 per person
All accommodation and breakfast
Selected transport and guides during sightseeing