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.
Luxury in Japan
Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Ise Shima National Park, Osaka
Best for: Honeymoon, Luxury, Spectacular scenery
Staying in beautiful hotels and indulgent Ryokans, this fantastic route takes in the neon lights of Tokyo, historical Kanazawa, remote Ago Bay and the refined gardens and temples of Kyoto. Make it extra special with unique and very private experiences.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This wonderfully luxurious itinerary is an exploration of Japan’s highlights, visiting the urban centres of Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as the charming city of Kanazawa, the culinary epicentre of Osaka and the sublimely beautiful Ise Shima National Park. Enjoy each of these destinations from an indulgent base, widely considered as a collection of Japan’s best hotels and ryokans. Beginning in Tokyo, there are plenty of immersive and wonderful experiences to be had. After discovering the city’s iconic sites, you my want to hop on board a helicopter for a magical flight over Tokyo, or have dinner at a Michelin star restaurant, followed by sophisticated cocktails at a city hotspot. Alternatively explore with your private guide or simply spend your time at your own leisire. 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. Kyoto is the next point of call on this deluxe itinerary, where you can immerse yourself in the charming atmosphere of a private tea ceremony, or have dinner with a geisha, which is a highly exclusive experience. Travelling to Ise Shima National Park, you will spend two nights staying in one of Japan’s most stylish contemporary ryokan style hotels, where you can relax, admiring the glorious countryside and enjoying rejuvenating spa treatments. Here you'll also find the Ama divers, a community of female freedivers who sell pears and seafood at local markets. The final stop before flying home is Osaka, Japan’s culinary capital. Try some delicious local food and drink in the downtown Dontonbori area, or head to one of the trendy department stores or markets to pick up some souvenirs.
Days 1 - 4 : Tokyo, Japan
Stay at Palace Hotel for 3 nights
This luxurious itinerary begins in Tokyo, where you have 3 days to leisurely explore the very best the city has to offer. Tokyo has a world-famous culinary scene, with more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, so you can spend your evenings in terrific restaurants, sipping sake and eating fresh sushi and gourmet dishes, overlooking the illuminated city. Taking a helicopter ride over the city is a wonderful way to see the famous landmarks from the sky.
From Tokyo take a direct bullet train to Kanazawa which is approximately a 3 hour journey.
Days 4 - 6 : Kanazawa, Japan
Stay at Araya Totoan 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. Spend a full day on a tour exploring the highlights of the city, such as the spectacular castle and the Shima Teahouse.
Depart from Kanazawa and take a direct bullet train to Kyoto which is a journey of about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Days 6 - 9 : Kyoto, Japan
Stay at Ritz Carlton Kyoto for 3 nights
The next stop on this stylish itinerary is Kyoto, Japan’s ‘cultural capital’, where you will spend 3 days travelling around the city in style, soaking up its authentic yet fashionable atmosphere. From bamboo forests to glass and steel futuristic architecture, there is so much to see here. Visiting someone’s home for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, immersing yourself in etiquette and local culture.
Depart from Kyoto and take the Express line to Yamatoyagi which is a journey of about 1 hour and 10 minutes. From here you will have time to change trains and platforms before taking the onward train to Kashikojima.
Days 9 - 11 : Mie Prefecture, Japan
Stay at Amanemu for 2 nights
Next, you will travel to Ise Shima National Park, a serenely beautiful and tranquil part of Japan, with spectacular views of Ago Bay that is famous for its abundant pearls. Staying in a stunning contemporary ryokan, you can while away the time in the peaceful countryside, enjoying spa treatments, walks and boat trips on the bay.
Depart from Kashikojima and take the Express line to Yamatoyagi which is a journey of about 2 hours. From here you will have time to change trains and platforms before taking the onward train to Kyoto which is a journey of 50 minutes. From Kyoto take the short journey to Osaka through Shin-Osaka station.
Day 11 - 12 : Osaka, Japan
Stay at Intercontinental Osaka for 1 night
This luxurious itinerary ends in Osaka, where you have a day to explore the city. That evening embark on a gourmet food tour in Dontonbori, famous for its delicious local food and drink. Purchase some gifts and souvenirs to take home with you, and soak up your final taste of Japan.
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
A visit to the churches of Lalibela
The churches of Lalibela are incredible structures which have been carved out of rock. The intricate carving, structure and history of these churches make this a fascinating stop on any tour of Ethiopia. Definitely one not to be missed!
Fish Market and Sushi Making Class
Explore a outer Tsukiji fish market, packed with weird and wonderful seafood, before trying your own hand at sushi making.
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.
Private Geisha Evening Experience
The Geisha are one of the most interesting facets of Japanese culture, and often most misunderstood. You will join an acclaimed expert in Geisha culture to explore the streets of Kyoto before meeting a Geisha for drinks and entertainment.
Tea Ceremony in Kanazawa
One of the most fascinating of Japanese customs, the tea ceremony has a rich history and is still an important part of contemporary Japanese life. This experience allows you to practise the ceremony yourself in a teahouse hosted by a tea-master.
Evening Osaka Gourmet Tour
A tour around Dontonbori in Osaka to experience the culinary pleasures of this famous buzzing city. Foodies will love this tour as there are two authentic dishes and a delicious drink included.
Visit Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa
Just over an hour from Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go is a wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site, taking you back in time with its iconic triangular farmhouses. This full-day tour explores the village and its scenic highlights, including a delicious lunch.
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.
Full Day Kanazwawa Highlights Tour
Famed for its excellently preserved heritage, Kanazawa is a wonderful and manageable city to explore and this full-day guided tour will take you through some of the highlights of the city using the brilliant public transport network.
Kanazawa 21st Century Museum
Unique in its architecture and exhibits, Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum offers a dramatic change to traditional city highlights. With temporary and permanent displays from Japanese and international artists it is one of Japan’s most popular museums.
Kanazawa Craft Experience
Kanazawa is home to many fine gardens and architectural marvels, but is also the birthplace of several fine art and craft techniques, which are highly treasured across Japan. On this half-day tour, you will get to try your hand at two of them.
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!
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 $8685 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.