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.
Hotel Niwa Tokyo
Best for: Culture History, Highlights
Well located in a quiet neighbourhood of Tokyo with convenient metro access, Hotel Niwa is an elegant property well suited for guests who value traditional Japanese style over big city vistas, but still appreciate some home comforts.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Within walking distance of the Imperial Palace and the Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, Hotel Niwa is an intimate hotel set in one of the quieter parts of the city, helping guests connect with day-to-day Tokyo life, while proximity to the metro network aids further exploration.
Brimming with Japanese features such as sliding ‘washi’ paper screens and finely manicured gardens, Hotel Niwa adds character to a typical city hotel, something that can be a rarity in Tokyo. Although it feels much smaller, Hotel Niwa boast 238 bright and airy rooms. All are finished in neutral tones that encourage relaxation, with the Superior Rooms offering added space and comfort.
The hotel’s Japanese restaurant, Yukuri, is well-known in the local area for serving delicious Japanese Kaiseki next to a traditional garden courtyard, whilst the Grill & Bar Lieu specialises in French inspired cuisine and fine wines, which is also where guests can enjoy breakfast and afternoon tea during the day.
When to go
Tokyo kicks off its year with cold winter days and the odd snowfall. Although temperatures occasionally drop below freezing, winter (December to February) is usually reasonable. Spring (March to May) brings pleasant, warm days, and, of course, cherry blossoms – early April is probably the best time to view the blooms. Summer (June to August) is hot and muggy. Late June can see torrential rains. The temperature and humidity are at their worst in August. Apart from spring, autumn (September to November) is the most pleasant season as temperatures cool down to a cosy level and days are often clear and fine. Autumn also means the return of the dramatic foliage season, when the parks and green areas of the city mellow into varying hues of orange and red.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
Harajuku Backstreet Gourmet Tour
Just a few steps from one of Tokyo’s centres for alternative trends and pop culture sits one of it’s most stylish and up-and-coming areas. Your guide will introduce you to the boutique bars and eateries of Tokyo’s young elite on this evening tour.
Half Day Tokyo Make Your Own Anime Tour
This half-day tour offers a great insight to the history of anime in Japan before giving you the opportunity to produce your very own anime clip at the Suginami Animation Museum, a great experience for both young and old.
Sushi Making at a Local Home
During this half-day lesson, your guide will take you to a local home to learn the traditional art of sushi making, one of Japan's most famous exports.
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.
Tokyo Evening Gourmet Food Tour
Street food is an essential part of the Tokyo way of life and this evening you will enjoy two small areas of the city famous for a particular speciality. A local guide will accompany you and help you tell your Yakitori from your Monjayaki.
Evening Tokyo Depachika and Yakitori Alley
Enjoy two takes on street food as your guide takes you from the underground food courts of one of the world’s most famous department stores, to the winding, smoky street vendors of nearby Yakitori Alley, famous for its grilled chicken skewers.
Kamakura Day Tour
Just an hour from Tokyo lies one of Japan’s former political centres. Often compared to Kyoto, Kamakura thrived until the 14th Century and is now home to a wealth of historical highlights which you will visit on this full-day tour.
Local's Tour of Tokyo by Night
Join a Tokyo resident and guide as you explore a selection of some of the hundreds of tiny bars and restaurants in Shinjuku, the hub of Tokyo nightlife and home to some of its finest delicacies and local characters.
Kawagoe Excursion from Tokyo
The perfect blend of history, exploration and some tasty street food, this full-day tour takes you outside of Tokyo to an enchanting small city called Kawagoe to see what the city would have been like in its infancy as a minor trading town.
Tsukiji Fish Market and Sushi Making at a Local Home
The Tsukiji Fish Market is a sprawling indoor and outdoor complex handling far more than just the fish it gets its name from. Your guide will help you explore the market before taking you to a local home for a lesson in sushi making.
Traditional Tokyo Tour
With its distinctive blend of ultra-modern skylines and ancient traditions and spiritualism, Tokyo is a city of contrasts. On this full-day tour, you will be able to see both its historic buildings, gardens and customs as well as the modern day city.
Countryside Sake and Gourmet Food Excursion
Explore the Tokyo's countryside on this full day tour. You will be guided by a French expert in Japanese food and drink to learn about organic locally produced food and traditional sake production before finishing up with fine dining.
Helicopter Over Tokyo
The Tokyo skyline is one of the world’s most famous and there are few better ways to experience it than at the window of a helicopter as you take in the city streets from an utterly unique perspective.
Tokyo East Tour
Explore eastern Tokyo from its origins to modern day, including museums, districts and from above. On this half-day tour, your guide will introduce you to Tokyo’s past, formation and into its exciting future.
Akihabara Tour with Cosplay Experience
Step into Tokyo’s pop-culture on this half-day tour. Your guide will introduce you to Akihabara, a hub of anime and manga in Japan, before taking you to experience the quirky world of costume play as you have a photo session dressed as an anime character.
Tea Ceremony in a Japanese Garden
This half day tour will introduce you to one of Japan's most enchanting traditions, the tea ceremony, helping you understand its importance in past and present Japan whilst also allowing you to experience the ceremony in a beautifully landscaped garden.
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.
Be it $10 cups of coffee or the most valuable real estate in the world, Tokyo carries a reputation of style and extravagance. This half-day tour will help you get acquainted to some of the city’s most upmarket districts.
Visit a Sword Master from Tokyo
The Japanese sword is one of the most iconic images of the country and its Samurai-era past. On this full-day tour, you will learn the basics of the sword-making process and the importance of swords in Japanese culture.
Full Day Tokyo Highlights Tour
Using the extensive public transport system, explore Japan’s vibrant capital as you join your guide to uncover past and present Tokyo. Discover ancient shrines, lush gardens, bustling shopping streets and learn the art of tea drinking.
Nikko National Park
Just outside of Tokyo, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to national cultural treasures and fine gardens that transcend important periods of Japanese history. This full-day tour will introduce you to these in a beautiful forest setting.
Kimono Wearing and Tea Ceremony
This half-day tour introduces you to the history and customs of two of Japan's most symbolic cultures, also allowing you have a hands-on experience in a beautiful landscaped garden.
Tokyo Contemporary Art Tour
While internationally known for its classical art, Japan has a thriving modern art scene and no city showcases this as much as Tokyo. This full-day tour will take you through Tokyo’s contemporary architecture and galleries.
Half-Day Tokyo Highlights
Using the extensive public transport system, join your guide to explore Japan’s vibrant capital on this half-day tour. This offers a great introduction to Tokyo’s history and key highlights, whilst helping you understand what makes Tokyo tick.
Tokyo Sake Brewery Tour
As iconic as geishas and sushi, sake has been an important part of Japanese culture and traditions for centuries. This half-day tour takes you to one of Tokyo’s oldest breweries to explore the process of making this much-loved drink.
An Afternoon in Old Tokyo
Miraculously escaping damage in the Second World War, several downtown areas of Tokyo have preserved what life in the city used to be like. With your guide, this half day tour uncovers the magic of these hidden gems.
Tokyo Full Day Anime Tour
Anime is considered just as important culturally in Japan as traditional arts, with this full day tour offering a fantastic insight. Accompanied by a private guide, visit cafes, amusement parks and stores all dedicated to animation.
Ghibli Museum and Nakano Walking Tour
In this full day tour, your guide will introduce you to Japan’s fascination with Anime and Manga with a visit to the museum of the famed Ghibli animation studios and a walking tour of Nakano, a hub for pop culture and all things alternative.
Tokyo Red Lantern Food Tour
With street food experiences in Japan rarely consisting of just one dish, this guided evening tour will take you to five different restaurants and Japanese pubs to sample five delicacies in one of Tokyo’s trendiest yet friendliest night-time spots.
Sumo Training Experience
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.
Holiday ideas including a stay in this property
This itinerary is designed for those looking to discover rural and urban Japan. It combines the well-known locations of Kyoto and Tokyo with more authentic and historical rural towns and villages, such as Matsumoto and The Nakasendo Walking Trail.
Designed for those short on time, this unique little itinerary takes in the epic city of Tokyo, Mt Fuji and the glorious city of Kyoto. Travel in between by bullet train, making this one of the quickest and easiest journeys in Japan.