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.
Best for: Luxury, Off the beaten track, Spa
With over 800 years of history, Araya Totoan is a traditional Japanese ryokan providing guests with luxurious accommodation and first-class Japanese hospitality. Enjoy authentic ryokan experiences, including a private onsen and a Kaiseki dinner.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Located in the quiet hot spring village of Yamashiro Onsen amidst stunning mountain scenery, Araya Totoan is the ideal authentic yet highly luxurious Japanese retreat. The surrounding area is largely untouched by tourism, so there are plenty of local treasures just waiting to be discovered, using this tranquil ryokan as your base.
Each room at Araya Totoan has a terrace, a garden and a private steamy onsen, in which you can relax and sooth your mind and body. There are also three public onsen at the property, each beautifully set in wood or stone with views of the verdant landscape outside. The ryokan strives to provide its guests with a realistic Japanese living experience, so there are traditional futons on the floor for sleeping, a no shoes policy, and guests are encouraged to wear yukata kimonos provided by the ryokan throughout their stay. Some rooms are available with western-style beds, for those seeking some extra familiar comfort whilst sleeping.
Dinner is an unforgettable two-hour affair, served in a typical kaiseki style with multiple courses of seasonal cuisine, such as tasty sashimi, sushi, wagyu beef, tofu, vegetables and much more. The ryokan has a separate wooden cottage called Arisugawa-Sanso, where you can wander down the beautiful and romantically lit corridors to a lounge bar to enjoy a selection of fine wines. Arayan Totoan is a truly wonderful Japanese property steeped in history and tradition, perfect for those looking to venture off the beaten track and experience genuine Japanese culture and fine hospitality in a luxurious natural setting.
When to go
Spring and autumn are the best times to travel, with the delicate cherry blossom or turning leaves adding a gorgeous hue to the scenery. The cherry blossom begins its journey northward in mid-March, reaching Kyoto and Tokyo by early April, and finally arriving in Sapporo by early May. The autumn leaves reverse the pattern, touching the high peaks of Hokkaido in mid-October and marching steadily south to Kyoto by mid-November.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
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.
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.
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.
Holiday ideas including a stay in this property
Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Ise Shima National Park, Osaka
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.