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.
Celestine Gion Hotel
Best for: Culture History
Well-located in central Kyoto, the Celestine Gion is a modern hotel which offers good value rooms close to the Kamo River’s cultural and entertainment highlights, making an excellent base for exploring the city.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
The areas of Gion and the Kamo River that surrounds the Celestine Gion Hotel are the heart of the Kyoto, areas fame for its geisha districts and wooden machiya townhouses. Nijo Castle, the Imperial Palace and Sanjusangendo Temple are all within a 45 minute walk but there are some charming streets in the immediate vicinity of the hotel as well as transport links to more regional areas of Kyoto.
The hotel features 157 guest rooms, each decorated in a contemporary, modern style where natural colours and pale woods compliment hints of Japanese design. The Celestine Gion benefits from some of the largest entry-level rooms in Kyoto, though the Yasaka ‘Tea Room’ is also a great option, offering the chance of a Japanese tea experience prepared in your room to really help you feel welcome in Kyoto.
Food at the Celestine Gion is lovingly prepared in the Yasaka Kenzo restaurant which is beautifully set around a small bamboo garden and includes both tempura and sushi counters as well as occasional performances by Maiko from the Gion Area. The restaurant is run by the legendary Endo Yasaka, one of Kyoto’s most renowned tempura restaurants and is perfectly complimented by the Omi Sakae bar which adds to the clean cut, modern feel of the hotel and is perfect for an after-dinner cocktail
When to go
The best and most popular times to visit Kyoto are the climatically stable seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (late September to November). The highlight of spring is the cherry-blossom season, which usually arrives in Kyoto in early April. Bear in mind, though, that the blossoms are notoriously fickle, blooming any time from late March to mid-April. Autumn is an equally good time to travel, with pleasant temperatures and soothing autumn colours, which usually peak between late October and mid-November. Be warned that Kyoto is crowded with domestic and international tourists during the cherry-blossom and autumn-foliage seasons.
Of course, you can visit Kyoto at any time of year, although the summer, from June to August, can be very hot and humid, and winter can be a little chilly for some people’s taste.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kyoto by Night - Whisy and Sake
Kyoto is a charismatic city and really comes into its own in the evening. With a local resident, you will explore some of the charming lantern-lit back streets as you discover the food and drink that Kyotoites like to enjoy after the sun goes down.
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.
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 Cooking Lesson with Professional Chef
Japanese cuisine is so culturally significant, that it has gained UNESCO Intangible World Heritage Status. Learning the craft can take decades, so a lesson from a profession chef is an invaluable and enlightening experience.
Holiday ideas including a stay in this property
Tokyo, Miyajima, Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo
This affordable yet wonderful itinerary is fantastic for those on a tighter budget, or for those a little short on time. It takes in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Miyajima, Kyoto as well as Mt Fuji near Hakone. It covers some of the best of Japan.