Steeped in history while forging a high-tech future, the Japanese people enjoy a lifestyle of harmonious contrasts. Not quite East, not quite West, Japan’s myriad islands offer everything from Alpine skiing to tropical beaches, supersonic bullet trains to hypnotic, unhurried tea ceremonies.
Nowhere sweeps you off your feet in quite the same way as Japan. Its irrepressible tide of progress, invention and efficiency flows against a reservoir of cherished ancient tradition, deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. The juxtaposition of age-old and cutting edge is at its most apparent in Toyko. Witness the future being shaped around you in a hyper-modern metropolis of unparalleled gastronomic delights, unending shopping opportunities and labyrinthine covered alleyways lit by the glow of paper lanterns. The antithesis of its futuristic features, Shinto temples, geisha culture, and meditative traditional practices are an elegant reminder of Tokyo’s ancient roots. Dig a little deeper and you’ll unearth everything from sumo tournaments to baseball games, kabuki dances to origami cafés, anime conventions to oriental gardens.
Leaving behind the neon, discover Japan's wealth of serene rurality. Iconic, snow-capped and perfectly conical, Mount Fuji steals the plaudits, governing over peaceful lakes and forests that are punctually pierced by the fleeting passing of bullet trains. Subtropical Okinawa boasts sun-baked white sands and swaying palms, while up north Hokkaido’s multicoloured landscapes and placid lakes and are home to sea eagles and Japanese cranes. Trek, cycle or ski from the world-class resorts of the Japanese Alps, where quaint teahouses, ryokan inns and onsen hot spring baths transport you to an ancient world. And, from February to May, swathes of the country are blanketed in beautiful pink cherry blossom, bedecking even the most imposing of castles with the flowery finery of season’s change. Let us plan your luxury holiday to Japan, tailoring your itinerary to ensure an exploration deep into this compelling culture.
Have a local architect lead a tour of Tokyo’s sci-fi landscape. Right-time your trip to catch the famous cherry-blossoms of Maruyama-koen. Awaken your senses with a trip to Tsukiji Fish Market, guided by a master-chef, followed by a cookery lesson in his private kitchen. Explore the artistry of Japan’s exquisite gastronomy at the finest restaurants and gain an insight into kaiseiki cuisine. Take part in a traditional tea ceremony. Soak in a private onsen bath at a leading ryokan. Ride the bullet train to Kyoto. Meet textile makers and watch artisans design and crate kimonos. Be introduced to sumo wrestlers and see how they prepare for their sport then watch them do battle. Watch a Kill Bill actor wield a samurai sword and take a lesson from an expert. See the spectacular gardens of Kyoto. Meet a geisha and dress in stunning kimono costumes. Look for red-crowned cranes amid the marshes of Hokkaido
Base yourself in cutting-edge design hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto, futuristic pads and urban spa retreats. Off-set this with a step back in time at luxurious centuries-old ryokans like Gora Kadan and Yamanochaya. Or seek out mountainside eyries like Hakone Ginyu, clifftop hideaways like Amanemu, secluded and romantic stays at Hanaougi Bettei Liyama or a coastal property with a rooftop onsen at Kurayado Iroha.
A personal favourite of an erstwhile emperor, this is Hakone’s – and possibly Japan’s – most prestigious accommodation. From its flawless dining experience and faultless staff to its idyllic setting and beautifully appointed rooms, it’s the closest thing to perfection.
Hakone Ginyu takes full advantage of its mountainside setting, with private balconies, traditional rooms and hot spring onsen baths featuring some of the region’s best views.
Disappear into a world of teahouses, riverside pavilions and onsen soaks as you explore the Japanese Alps in style.
Experience rural Japan at its finest, with one of the country’s most luxurious properties, hosting stunning bay views from private villas.
Palace Hotel, Tokyo
With balconies, moat-side restaurants and designer rooms that look out over the Imperial Palace, this luxury offering enjoys a privileged setting. The stateliness continues in everything from spa treatments to 'kaiseki' feasts.
Hyatt Regency, Hakone
For a slice of modernity among Hakone’s traditional ryokan inns, The Hyatt Regency presents designer rooms, international dining and daily complimentary champagne.
Once the Kyoto retreat of the imperial family, Hoshinoya’s rich heritage is manifested in riverside timber rooms, secret teahouses and dining from a chef with a triple-Michelin-starred CV.
Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama
Luxurious and homely in equal measure, this is a traditional welcoming ryokan with genuine hot spring baths and exceptional kaiseki cuisine in tranquil surroundings.
This coastal property is unique not only for its views over Miyajima’s famous floating shrine, but its rooftop 'onsen' pool too – the ideal end to a day spent exploring the island’s ancient heritage and dining on 'kaiseki' banquets in the comfort of your room.
Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Rest your eyes from Kyoto’s dazzling array of golden temples and vermillion shrines with the Ritz Carlton’s designer sensibilities. Here, en suites are marble, the views spectacular and the service second to none.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto
Discover Japan’s ancient heritage in the Hyatt’s traditional ornamentation – a reflection of Kyoto’s centuries-old Buddhist temples – before uncovering the country’s more contemporary delights in spa treatments and your room’s delightful minimalist design.
Japan’s network of ryokan inns has hosted travellers for centuries – a tradition that Yamanochaya continues with multi-course dining, rice-paper rooms and the country’s famous omotenashi hospitality.
A peaceful retreat set in an enchanting garden, Aman Kyoto blends ancient traditions with contemporary design.
Travel to Japan over the spring months from March to May and follow the cherry blossom from north to south or come in autumn from September to November and experience the corresponding Fall colours at their best. Hit the perfect powder snow at the start of the year from January to March, when you will also get the best snow monkey viewing.
Highlights of Japan
10 days from £5,320 pp incl. flights
We've included personalised tours, a trip up the iconic Tokyo Skytree, stylish city stays, luxurious ryokan inn accommodation and kaiseki feasts, a ride aboard a bullet train – and more – on this excellent introduction to Japan
Imperial Palaces & the Japanese Alps
16 days from £10,590 pp incl. flights
A more in-depth insight into Japan: ryokan inns, be led by a geisha around Kyoto, and ride the bullet train to learn about Hiroshima. From samurai cities to scenic farmhouse villages, this holiday showcases Japan's finest sights