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 in the arrivals lobby, holding a sign with your name on it. They will transfer you by private vehicle to your accommodation in Tokyo, making for a smooth and comfortable start to your trip. Narita Airport is located 40 miles to the east of Tokyo, so the drive into the city will take around 90 minutes, depending on traffic. Sit back, relax and enjoy the views of Tokyo's skyscrapers as you approach your destination. (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 be taken on a full day private tour of the city with a local guide. In order to get a real feel for Japan's capital, you will travel by public transport, just like the locals. On this fascinating introduction to Tokyo, you will have the chance to explore the classic highlights and best kept hidden secrets. Following in the footsteps of your expert guide, you will discover the exclusive features of Tokyo, known only to locals. You are free to set the pace of the day to be as busy or relaxed as you want, as you get to grips with the excellent transport network.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM this morning, or any other time you may prefer. Rather than making a fixed itinerary in advance, you will have full flexibility to select the attractions and activities that interest you. This means that you will need to pay for any entrance fees on the day of your tour, in addition to the transport costs for you and your guide. In order to make the most of this experience, please let us know if you have any specific areas of interest, and we will pass that on to your guide in advance. Around 5:00 PM, your tour will end either back to your hotel, or anywhere else in the city that you may wish to spend the evening. (This service is on a private basis.)
This evening, you are invited to hit the town with a fun and friendly local by your side! Your guide lives in Tokyo and knows the city like the back of their hand, so this exclusive experience focuses on the hidden treasures of Tokyo's night life. Your tour leader will meet you at the hotel at 7:00 PM, from where you will be taken to a delicious dinner at an izakaya. At this tapas style restaurant, you will have the chance to sample a variety of traditional dishes, while learning more about the Japanese culture from a true expert. Food and your first couple of drinks are on us, but if you want a few extra rounds with dinner, you are welcome to settle that part of the bill on your own.
After dinner, you can stay out for a few more drinks or take a walk to admire the vibrant neon lit nighttime scenes of Tokyo. Whatever you decide to do, the evening can be tailored to suit your style. So, if you want to move on to a more exclusive establishment for drinks, or do a bit of back street bar hopping, just let your tour leader know and he will lead the way. Make sure to keep an eye on the time though, because they will need to leave you by 11:00 PM. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to go home too! Before saying goodbye, your guide will make sure you are situated wherever you want to spend the rest of the night. (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. The Alpine town of Takayama is best explored under the wing of a knowledgeable local guide. Your guide will help you avoid the tourist crowds while revealing the secrets of the beautifully preserved Old Town. Visit Takayama Jinya, the town’s former Edo Period government office and walk the temple trail on the fringes of town. If crafts are your thing, the guide can show you their favorite souvenir shops, or you could opt to stop by one of the sake breweries for a tasting.
Your guide will meet you at your hotel at 9:00 AM (or any time you choose). Takayama’s Old Town is best navigated on foot, although you may wish to take a taxi or two if you choose to explore further afield. Please note you will need to pay for lunch, transport and any entrance fees on the day. The guiding will finish at 5:00 PM with the guide either dropping you back at your hotel or anywhere else in the city you wish to continue exploring. (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 be taken on a full day tour of Kyoto by public transport. Learning through the eyes of a local guide offers the best way to discover this city, that is so rich in UNESCO World Heritage sites, it can be hard to know where to begin! Your guide can offer the insight of a local's perspective, to truly reveal the city's authentic culture, iconic highlights and best kept hidden secrets.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM, or any other time you choose this morning, from where you will begin your tour by public transport. Although Kyoto does offer an extensive bus route, we recommend taking a few taxis along the way as well, in order to speed things up and make the most of this experience. Please note that you will need to pay for your own lunch, transport costs and entrance fees on the day of your tour. It will be time to say goodbye to your guide around 5:00 PM, either back at your hotel, or anywhere else in the city you may 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, located in the foothills of Mount Fuji. You will take the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Odawara Station, which is the gateway to the National Park. Journey time is about 2 hours and 10 minutes in total and you will be provided with Ordinary Reserved seat tickets.
Upon arrival at Odawara station, you will be greeted by a private taxi driver, who will be holding a sign with your name on it. Although your driver will probably not speak that much English, they will make sure you are transferred to your accommodation in Hakone safely and comfortably. This ride will take between 40-60 minutes. (This service is on a private basis.)
For your time in Hakone, you will be provided with the 2 Day Hakone Freepass. This 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, a funicular railway and even a pirate ship that cruises across Lake Ashi! Between all of these different options, you will be able to easily explore the entire region and make the most of your stay. The pass also offers small discounts at many attractions in the area, so be sure to show your pass when purchasing any tickets!
Hakone is a beautiful National Park region nestled beside Mount Fuji, Japan's most sacred peak. The area showcases a handful of small villages and hamlets, all connected by a variety of local transport routes that wind through the charming hillsides and valleys. Hakone offers plenty to see and do, from tasting eggs boiled in volcanic waters, to boarding a boat cruise across Lake Ashi. The outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery is a great place to spend a unique afternoon. An enticing dip in one of the famous therapeutic hot spring baths is always a good idea as well! However, it is Hakone's close proximity to the iconic Mount Fuji, that truly makes this destination so popular. With its near perfect symmetrical form, soaring through the sky above the surrounding hills, it is an attraction that makes a trip to Japan complete. From Hakone, you have one of the best chances to admire Mount Fuji's epic beauty, although she is a notoriously shy mountain!
After an enchanting experience in Hakone, you will be driven by private car from your hotel to Odawara Station. This transfer will take 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 the highlights and hidden treasures of 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 off right at the door of the departures lobby, making for a smooth and enjoyable end to your trip.
We hope you had an amazing 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.
The luxurious Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a unique property that has successfully blended creative artwork and quality amenities, into a contemporary Japanese concept. Conveniently located just minutes from JR Kyoto Train Station, in the traditional and cultural district of the city, this property features idyllic rooms & suites to meet the needs of any traveler. Those seeking wellness and relaxation, will be lured by the elegant RIRAKU Spa treatments and those ready to explore, will love the hotel's close proximity to a variety city landmarks and attractions.
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.