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.
Eagerly anticipated and celebrated with a carnival atmosphere, Japan’s cherry blossom season (hanami) sees the country bathed in soft pink hues. Bursting like silent fireworks blooming around raging waterfalls, scattered over wooden shrines and vermillion temples, Japan’s cherry trees bestow the annual gift of spellbinding pink on just about every landscape across the country.
Bewildering, mouth-watering, ultra-modern and frankly gigantic, Tokyo is a marvel of human activity, an engineering triumph and showcase for Japan’s can-do optimism. Ascend the Sky Tree for jaw-dropping views of this buzzing metropolis, or search in the shadows of skyscrapers for countless hidden monuments.
Japan’s quintessentially minimalist answer to the spa break, in scenic areas far from the stresses of city life, ryokans are traditional Japanese inns dedicated to pure indulgence and relaxation. With tatami-matted floors, shoji-panelled walls, private terraces and futon beds, guest rooms have access to luxurious geothermal heated springs or onsen that steam invitingly on freezing mountainsides or in enchanting forests.
Literally ‘shrine island’, Miyajima’s torii gate floats gracefully above the sea, providing one of the most photographed attractions in Japan. A sacred flame has burned for 1,160 years on holy Mount Misen, where centuries-old wooden temples afford spectacular views over forests teeming with inquisitive deer and monkeys.
Geisha girls in flamboyant robes, hulk-like sumo wrestlers, prolonged and soothing tea ceremonies, karaoke bars, sushi schools, kabuki stages, ancient wooden temples, mesmerising martial arts, and oriental gardens designed with the delicacy of fine art. One of Japan’s most endearing qualities is that, despite its rapid development, it ritually performs its ancient customs with a warmth and devotion rarely seen elsewhere today.
The sleek, futuristic bullet train is symbolic of everything ambitious, accurate and meticulous about Japan. Useful for smash-and-grab day excursions but worth the ticket price just to experience the impeccably smooth ride and colourful blur of passing towns, you’ll sometimes catch sight of these 200mph masterpieces sweeping silently through Japan’s landscapes, dragging a white mist in their wake.
Highlights of Japan
11 days from £4,410 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
17 days from £10,200 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