This trip was designed to experience Japan's highlights in style as it includes some of the country's finest hotels and ryokans. Explore the urban landscape of Tokyo and enjoy the serenity of Takayama before continuing onto the cultural capital of Kyoto and mountainside town of Hakone. Enjoy the balance of personal exploration along with expertly guided private tours and experiences that suit your tastes and needs. In a country renowned for its delicate beauty and intrinsic grace, Japan's diverse landscape offers opportunities for adventure that are excitingly unique and wildly entertaining.
Welcome to Japan! Your adventure begins upon arrival at Tokyo's Narita Airport. Your driver will be waiting for you as you enter into the arrivals lobby, holding a sign with your name on it. You will be transferred by private vehicle to your accommodation in Tokyo, making for a smooth and relaxing start to your trip. Narita Airport is located 40 miles to the east of Tokyo, so this journey will be in the region of 90 minutes, dependent upon traffic. Sit back, relax and enjoy the views of Tokyo's skyscrapers as you approach the city. (This service is on a private basis.)
One quarter of all Japanese live in Tokyo or the near vicinity and with a population of over 12 million inhabitants, Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. With its huge skyscrapers, underpasses, overpasses and crowds of pedestrians, Tokyo may not seem the most attractive city on the surface, but the city has a vibrant charm all of its own. The street level detail is what makes Tokyo such an incredibly interesting place to explore and at every turn you will be met with an array of sights, sounds and smells to enliven the senses. The city has many major sights to visit such as Senso-ji Temple in the old downtown area of Asakusa or the fashion hub of Shibuya from where all new trends are said to emanate. All in all a stay in Tokyo is to experience one of the world's most vibrant and interesting cities; a capital hurtling headlong into the future while maintaining its links with the traditions of ancient Japan.
Today, you will take a full day private tour of the city with a local guide, traveling by public transport, as Tokyoites do, in order to help you to get a real feel for the Japan's capital. This will be a fantastic introduction to Tokyo and the chance to get a personal insight not only into the classic sights, but also into some more unusual and unique features of the city. With a guide at your disposal, you are free to set the pace of the day to be as busy or relaxed as you choose. The guide can help you discover aspects of Tokyo that you would not find by yourself and can also help you get to grips with the city's excellent transport network.
Your guide will come to your hotel at around 9:00 AM (or any time you choose) to meet you and your day will proceed from there. Rather than fix an itinerary in advance, we like to give you the flexibility to see and do what takes your fancy. This means you will need to pay for your entrance fees on the day. You will also need to cover your local transport and that of the guide. We are eager to help you get the most out of today, so if you have any specific areas of interest please let us know in advance, so we can pass this on to the guide. Your day of guiding will finish at around 5:00 PM, with the guide either dropping you back at your hotel or anywhere else in the city you wish to spend the evening. (This service is on a private basis.)
This evening, you will be in for a fabulous night on the town in Tokyo with a great local guide! These guys live in Tokyo and really know where all the best places are, so you can be sure to see a side of Tokyo that is indecipherable to first time visitors. You will be met at your hotel at 7:00 PM this evening by one of our tour leaders, who will then take you for dinner at an izakaya. At one of these tapas style restaurants you will have the chance to try some delicious and traditional dishes, while also gaining local knowledge about eating out in Japan from a real expert. Food and the first couple of drinks are on us, but if you feel like a few extra rounds with dinner, you can always settle the bill on the night.
After dinner, you're welcome to stay out for a few more drinks with your tour leader or take a walk to check out some neon-lit scenes of night time Tokyo. Whatever you choose, the night can be tailored to suit your style, so if you want to move on to a more exclusive establishment for some post-dinner drinks, or do a bit of back street bar-hopping, just ask your tour leader and he will lead the way! Please note that your guide will need to leave you by 11:00 PM, although will be sure to get you situated where you are happiest and most comfortable...whether that's at the next bar, back at your hotel, or an entirely new spot, the choice is yours! (This service is on a private basis.)
Today the Shinkansen will speed you north-west to Toyama at around 300km/hr. You'll then need to change to a limited express train to make your way south to Takayama in the Japanese Alps. Total journey time is around 4 hours, and full details will be in your handy Info-Pack. We will provide reserved seat tickets for both legs of this journey.
The Hida, Kiso and Akaishi ranges of mountains, known collectively as the Japan Alps, rise majestically in northern Honshu. Mountains in Japan were once believed to be the sacred dwelling places of divine spirits. Takayama, in the heart of the Hida Mountains is a delightful town, established in the 16th century as the castle town of the Kanamori family and now famous throughout Japan for its old town area of narrow streets containing many well-preserved inns, tea houses, shops and merchants houses with the latticed windows and overhanging roofs characteristic of the Edo period. The town was also renowned throughout the Edo era (1603-1868) for the very high quality of its craftsmen and many of the temples in Kyoto were built by workers from Takayama. The town has many shrines and temples of its own giving rise to the title of 'Little Kyoto'.
Just on the outskirts of the town, is the fascinating Hida folk village where old farm houses from across the region have been brought together and rebuilt (beam by beam) on a hillside overlooking the town. Takayama's morning market on the bank of the Miyagawa River is famous and well worth a visit to see the stands selling local farm produce, flowers and crafts. There are also some great micro sake breweries affording the chance to sample the wares of Takayama's most famous product! A stay in Takayama is a chance to get a feel for a way of life that really has all but disappeared from modern Japan.
Today, you will take a full day tour of Takayama with a private guide. This is a great way to see the highlights of the small town and receive some local insight into this lovely area. Your guide will meet you this morning at 9:00 AM. The exact plan is up to you, although the guide will have plenty of suggestions. Visits could include some of the old museums and open houses, the Hida Folk Village and a walk along the temple trail on the fringes of town. Please note that your entrance fees, meals and local transport are not included and need to be paid on the day of your tour. (This service is on a private basis.)
To make this journey it's a two and a half hour ride on the Limited Express from Takayama south to Nagoya, then just another 37 minutes further by Shinkansen west to Kyoto.
For many people, the quintessential image of Japan is a graceful geisha in an exquisite kimono, darting through a sliding screen door into a traditional tea house. It’s a scene that embodies both the geisha’s beauty and mystery, as the geisha and their maiko apprentices move almost in secret, through a world largely hidden behind closed doors. Often misunderstood in the West, geisha are essentially artists, highly skilled in traditional arts such as fan dancing and shamisen playing and are masters of wordplay and social etiquette. Although geisha numbers have dropped dramatically since their heyday in the 1920's, in today’s Japan, they are also the caretakers of these traditions, making sure time-honored Japanese arts and crafts are not lost.
The majority of geisha live and work in Kyoto and are known as geiko in the local dialect. Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district with a large concentration of ochaya tea houses, where the geiko entertain guests most evenings. Not just anyone can enter an ochaya however; in traditional Japanese society, hierarchy and social connections are everything, and most Japanese will never have the honor of an official invitation.
Fortunately, we have solidified a strong link with one ochaya run by a very hospitable hostess, who speaks good English. We will arrange a 45 minute visit for you, to receive a fascinating glimpse into the geisha world. Over a cup of green tea and a Japanese cake, you'll be entertained by a geisha or maiko, who will perform a traditional dance for you. An introduction to the life of a Geisha in Kyoto will be given in English, and you will also be able to take photos and ask any questions you may have. Please note that a visit to such a special tea house is subject to availability, and cannot be arranged at short notice. Date or time changes are also unlikely to be accommodated.
A local private guide will accompany you to your experience with the apprentice geisha. Your guide will come to your accommodation at around 9:00 AM. If there is extra time afterward, you will be able to see a few more nearby sights with your guide. Your guiding will finish at around 1:00 PM either back at your accommodation or anywhere else in the city you wish. Any entrance fees and transport will be included.(This service is on a private basis.)
Kyoto is one of the most culturally rich cities in all of Asia. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, this ancient city showcases the heart and soul of traditional Japan. Kyoto boasts an array of world-class gardens, majestic festivals and delicate cuisine, all of which make much of the rhythms of nature and the changing of the seasons. On first glance however, visitors will see that like any large Japanese city, grid-like Kyoto has its fair share of neon and concrete. But the discerning eye will soon pick out Kyoto’s treasures: sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades, time-honored tea houses nestled among modern businesses and mysterious geisha scuttling down backstreets among the tourists and souvenirs. Kyoto’s charm lies in these details and whether you’re here for three days or three years, the closer you look, the more you’ll discover.
Today, you will take a full day tour of the city by public transport with a private guide. Your guide will come to your accommodation around 9:00 AM and take you on a tour that will encompass some of the more famous sights, but also some lesser known places of interest. As there will be no fixed itinerary, your entrance fees and transport will need to be paid on the day, and you will also have to cover the guide's transportation costs. This is to give you the maximum flexibility to enjoy each place in your own time.
With a knowledgeable local by your side, you will be set for a great day in this amazing city and are sure to discover things that you might otherwise miss. Please let us know in advance if there are any sights you particularly wish to see, or areas of interest you have, as we can pass this information on to the guide for you. Your day of guiding will finish at around 5:00 PM, either back at your accommodation or anywhere else in the city you wish to spend the evening. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, you will be taken on a guided tour of the wonderful Fushimi Inari shrine. Here, thousands of red shrine gates line the maze-like paths all over Mount Inari. This shrine and its stone fox guardians are dedicated to the rice Gods. After visiting and admiring the shrine (with plenty of photo opportunities!), you will be taken to a nearby sake brewery. There, you will get to see where the local rice production is put to good use! You will learn all about the sake brewing process and explore a local liquor shop. There are more than 80 types of sake on sale there and you will be able to sample three different types. This whole sake experience lasts 4 hours. Cheers! (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, you will travel to Hakone National Park in the foothills of Mount Fuji. You will take the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Odawara Station, the gateway to the national park. Journey time is 2 hours 10 minutes. We are supplying you with Ordinary reserved seat tickets.
You will be picked up from Odawara station and transferred to your accommodation in Hakone by private vehicle. The driver will be holding a name board, waiting for you upon arrival. They will probably not speak that much English, but will ensure you get to your accommodation safely and comfortably. Travel time is in the region of 40-60 minutes. (This service is on a private basis.)
We have included the 2 Day Hakone Freepass in your package. The pass is valid for two days from today and entitles you to unlimited use of 6 different forms of transport in the Hakone region. These include the mountain buses and railway, one of the longest cable cars in Japan and a funicular railway as well as a pirate ship which cruises across Lake Ashi! These all criss-cross the region making it easy to explore and enjoy the surroundings as well as some of the many top quality art museums. The pass also gives you small discounts at many attractions in the area so be sure to show your pass when purchasing tickets. And of course, if you are lucky with the weather, you will be rewarded with stunning views of Mount Fuji.
Hakone is a beautiful national park area that lies around 50 miles west of Tokyo and just to the south of Mount Fuji, Japan's most sacred peak. The area consists of a handful of small villages and hamlets all connected by a variety of local transport that winds itself through the region's hills and valleys. Hakone has plenty to see and do, from tasting eggs boiled in volcanic waters to taking a boat trip across beautiful Lake Ashi. The outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery is a great place to wander around for an afternoon. Or maybe you will just sit back and relax while soaking in one of the many therapeutic hot spring baths that Hakone is so famous for.
The other main draw to this area is the proximity to Japan's most sacred and iconic mountain, Fuji-san (Mount Fuji) with its near perfect symmetrical form soaring skywards and towering over the surrounding hills. From Hakone you have one of the best chances of getting a view of Mount Fuji from the various view points to be found throughout the area. However, be sure to have your camera at the ready; Fuji-san is notoriously shy and you do not want to miss that precious photo opportunity!
Today, you will be taken by a private car from your Hakone accommodations to Odawara Station. Transfer time for this journey is between 35 and 45 minutes. (This service is on a private basis.)
The journey between Odawara and Tokyo will be by Shinkansen and takes in the region of 40 minutes. We will be supplying you with Ordinary Shinkansen Super Express tickets for this journey.
You will be met today at Shinagawa station and will transfer by private vehicle to your accommodation in Tokyo, making for a smooth and relaxing transfer. (This service is on a private basis.)
Sadly, your journey through Japan must come to an end today. A private taxi has been arranged to pick you up from your hotel, and take you in comfort to the Tokyo Narita Airport. This ride will take around 90 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. At the airport, you will be dropped right at the door of the departures lobby, making for a smooth end to your trip. We hope you had an incredible adventure and we wish you safe and pleasant travels onward! (This service is on a private basis.)
Widely considered to be one of the World's finest modern luxury hotels, the Park Hyatt is everything one could hope for and more. With attention to detail and service unrivalled anywhere from the moment of your arrival to the moment of departure you will be treated as royalty! The New York Grill Bar is a must visit with cocktails mixed by their expert bar staff and phenomenal views of the Tokyo skyline. The Park Hyatt also boasts some of the most spacious rooms in Tokyo, each exquisitely decorated and fitted to the highest specification. Free of charge use of the exclusive "Club On The Park" (swimming pool, gymnasium and aerobic studio) is included in your stay.
The Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama is one of the highest grade ryokans in Takayama, housed in a beautiful traditional building built with local cypress wood. The inn has a great number of natural hot spring baths and the higher grade guest rooms have private gardens and patios with outdoor hot spring baths; a real treat. The food is a highlight of a stay here and dinner will feature many seasonal specialities from Takayama and the wider Hida region including wild mushrooms, river fish and the famous Hida beef. The ryokan has a big lobby lounge, ramen shop for casual dining, bar and small souvenir shop. The location is a little out of the town center, but the ryokan offers a free shuttle bus service for the 7 minute drive to and from Takayama Station.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a luxury hotel in Kyoto incorporating creative artwork and top-notch amenities in a contemporary Japanese concept. Located just minutes from JR Kyoto Train Station, in the Higashiyama Shichijo - the traditional and cultural district - this Kyoto hotel features luxury rooms & suites perfect for leisure and business travelers alike. Guests seeking wellness and pampering will be lured by the RIRAKU Spa treatments based on Eastern and Western traditions. In addition, the hotel is close to city landmarks including Kyoto's National Museum and Chishakuin, Sanjusangendo and Yogenin Temples. The Gion district nearby abounds in shopping and entertainment options, with Shijo street and Nishiki market within short distance.
Gora Kadan exemplifies a fusion of tradition and personalization with captivating oriental charm. A perfect union of past and present, this magnificent property is set in the stunning context of the National Park of Hakone. Once a retreat for the Kaninnomiya Imperial family, this noble estate can be considered one of the area's most coveted treasures. This ancient Japanese hideaway offers a truly exquisite and unforgettable experience. The rooms at Gora Kadan are Japanese tradition at its best. As you walk around and through many of the passages, staircases, external and internal walkways, you begin to uncover a rich and detailed architecture and a rich interplay of solids and voids. Gora Kadan also offers a full service spa, offering an international menu of aromatherapy, thalasso therapy, Italian foot and leg treatments and Dead Sea salt therapy.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.