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.
Join our exclusive Small Group Tour, fully escorted by an expert Tour Leader to experience the Land of the Rising Sun. Travel around the country by world-famous bullet train and uncover Japan’s unique culture as you discover its ancient traditions fused with modern life including Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and beautifully-clad geisha. There is plenty of opportunity to sample Japan’s world-renowned cuisine too. Some departures coincide with the iconic cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
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.
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.
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo
Best for: Culture History, Family, Spa
Just a short walk from the upmarket Ginza shopping area and Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, The Mandarin Oriental Tokyo is an elegant luxury hotel boasting three Michelin star restaurants and matchless views over the city from its towering skyscraper position.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Occupying the top seven floors of the Mitsui Tower, guests are greeted with spectacular city views as soon as they enter the Lobby on the 38th floor, views that are consistently amplified through the hotel’s public areas right into the guest rooms. Located in Nihonbashi above one of the city’s key metro lines, Mandarin Oriental is within walking distance of Tokyo’s fames Imperial Gardens and, fittingly, close to the upmarket Ginza shopping area, home to some of Japan’s best boutiques and high-end shops.
Each of the hotel’s 179 guest rooms and suites offers a unique sense of space. Not only are they some of the largest in Japan, but the boundaries of the rooms dissolve with floor to ceiling windows offering endless views across the city of Tokyo. Rooms are finished to the standards many expect of the Mandarin Oriental brand, including warming tones, fine linen and luxurious en-suite bathrooms.
Those with an appreciation of fine food are particularly well looked after at the Mandarin Oriental, with three Michelin Star restaurants to choose from, including Tapas Molecular Bar, Sense and Signature. Other options including Japanese at Sushi Sora, fine Italian flavours and K’shiki, Mediterranean delights at Ventaglio and delicious pizzas at The Pizza Bar on 38th as well as a number or bars and lounges.
Located on the 36th floor, the Spa is the perfect place to relax where guests can enjoy a number of luxurious treatments far removed from the hustle and bustle of people and traffic below.
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.
Fish Market and Sushi Making at a Local Home
Explore a fish market before visiting 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.
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.