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: Culture History, Highlights, Imagine Favourites
Benesse House on Naoshima Island is both a hotel and a museum, combining contemporary art and guest rooms in the same spaces. With stylish rooms alongside fine cuisine and plenty to explore in the grounds, Benesse House is a must for art enthusiasts.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Benesse Art Site Naoshima is a group of artistic activities and exhibitions coordinated by Benesse Holdings and the Fukutake Foundation, located on the islands of Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima. The organisation strives to create artistically important spaces by blending modern art and architecture with the ancient immaculate nature of the Seto Inland Sea, as well as helping local communities to flourish.
The stunningly modern building is made of stone and metal and there are four room areas available – Museum, Park, Beach and Oval. The Beach suites are spacious and perfect for families, with a soft beach house style with wood and neutral colours. The rooms in the Park are slightly warmer and less contemporary but still very smart with artistic details such as exposed beams. The rooms and suites in the Museum and Oval areas are beautifully sleek with clean white linens, wooden furniture and internal concrete walls in keeping with the contemporary art on the island. These chic spaces have shiny wooden floors, mirrors and panoramic views from the balconies. All of the rooms are wonderfully light and airy.
The cuisine at Benesse House consists of delicious and artistically presented dishes. The Terrace Restaurant offers a seafood and breakfast buffet. The Museum Restaurant Issen uses seasonal ingredients from Setouchi to make its traditional kaiseki cuisine, and breakfast and lunch are also available here. The Museum Café is filled with natural light and has great views of the sculptures on the lawn outside. Here guests can enjoy light meals and drinks throughout the day. There is a wide range of art books and self-service tea and coffee in the Park Lounge, and alcoholic drinks are served here after dinner, as well as cocktails in the Oval Lounge. There are two shops on site, selling art goods and sweets.
When to go
The best and most popular times to visit Naoshima are the climatically stable seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (late September to November).
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
Imagine Asia Suggests: Ideas for your free time in Arashiyama
Arashiyama is a beautiful and very green district in Kyoto, and home to the famous bamboo foest, located at the base of Kyoto's western mountains. A comprehensive guide is provided before you travel about what to do in Kyoto and Arashiyama.
Kyoto Cooking Lesson in Machiya Townhouse
When a nation’s cuisine gains UNESCO Intangible Word Heritage status, it is definitely worth learning more about. On either a morning or afternoon lesson, you be invited into a local townhouse to try your hand at one of two essential dishes.
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.
Full Day Kyoto Highlights
Taking advantage of Kyoto’s transport network, this full-day guided tour showases some of Kyoto’s architectural and cultural wonders. The city is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and you will discover castles, temples and an historic market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Holiday ideas including a stay in this property
Tokyo, Kyoto, Naoshima, Miyajima, Osaka
For those with a passion for art, this itinerary brilliantly combines some of the best of Japan such as Tokyo and Kyoto with the artistic island of Naoshima. Visit classic and contemporary art galleries, explore gardens and learn ancient crafts.