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, Food Drink, Spectacular scenery
Established in 1901, Jinpyokaku Honten has been a functioning onsen ryokan for over 110 years. This homely, welcoming guesthouse lies just behind the Kambayashi Onsen, close to the famous Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
This quiet ryokan has only six rooms, adding to its homelike atmosphere, and the staff provide excellent hospitality, creating an intimate and sophisticated experience for their guests. As this is a traditional ryokan, there are limited facilities, but the property can provide transfers between Yudanaka station, making sightseeing in the area accessible. Each room is housed in a private building, called a Hanare, sleekly designed with traditional features such as sliding paper doors and low seating areas with cushions. Despite providing an authentic Japanese ryokan experience, the rooms also have a contemporary feel. Relax in a hot spring bath made from cypress wood and enjoy modern comforts, such as Wi-Fi in every room.
Fresh spring water runs through the ryokan’s hot springs. Single travellers can relax in separate men and women’s indoor baths, and families or couples can enjoy the bonus of a mixed-gender indoor bath and a mixed-gender outdoor bath. Cuisine here is served in a communal dining room, simple yet enjoyable fare cooked by the owner’s wife, who uses the freshest local ingredients available. As well as Shinshu-gyu beef dishes and sake made at a local brewery, this ryokan serves delicious and rare ‘phantom rice’, so called as so little of it is produced each year.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
Full Day Takayama & Shirakawa-go Tour
This full day tour is led by a local guide who will take you to the beautifully preserved ancient town of Takayama, and the spellbinding UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go village, before returning to Takayama.
Full Day Takayama Highlights Tour
A full day tour of Takayama, visiting the eclectic Miyagawa Market, the historical and charming San-machi Suji district, the old Takayama Jinya, and the Matsuri no Mori museum, with some sake tasting at a brewery.
Ideas for your free time - Yudanaka and Obuse
Yudanaka is an onsen town surrounded by the Shiga Kogan mountain range. This region is fantastic for walking, hiking, cycling, visiting the famous 'snow monkeys' as well as Obuse, a charming town full or art, museums and small boutiques.
Day 2 - Nakasendo Highway (Tsumago to Nojiri)
Today's trek is beautiful and varied and includes a hike from Tsumago to Nojiri. The trail traces small valleys and moves into forests, often bamboo or cedar. Some of this is the least developed scenery on the trail.
Day 3 - Nakasendo Highway (Yabuhara to Narai)
This morning you'll be driven back to Kiso Fukushima where you will catch the train to Yabuhara for your final day of trekking. You'll trek over the Torii pass to Narai, an atmospheric village before continuing onto your next destination by train.
Day 1 - Nakasendo Highway (Magome to Tsmago)
Your first day trekking along the Nakasendo Highway, an old postal route between Tokyo and Kyoto. Firstly arrive in Nakatsugawa before catching a local buy to Magome. From here trek one of the most beautiful routes of the Nakasendo, from Magome to Tsmago.
Takayama Sake Brewery Visit and Japanese Tapas Cooking Experience
A fun and distinctive tour in Takayama’s old historical hub, visiting a sake brewery, followed by a Japanese tapas class, where you can eat what you have made and enjoy delicious sake afterwards.
Takayama Rural Cooking Class Experience
An unforgettable day cooking with an experienced home chef, learning about the local culture and traditions and enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings of this little town.
Half Day Takayama Highlights
A half day tour of Takayama visiting the wonderful Matsuri no Mori museum to see the vibrant preserved floats, followed by a visit to the Higashiyama Temple area to explore the peaceful grounds.
Holiday ideas including a stay in this property
Tokyo, Yudanaka, Kyoto, Mt Koya, Osaka
Brilliantly varied and at times getting truly off the beaten track, this journey is a wonderful option for those wanting to see a the more authentic and Buddhist side to Japan, without missing out on Japan's highlights such as Kyoto and Tokyo.