Japan, for all its cutting edge, still wears its uniquely insular culture on its kimono sleeve. We've put together this tour as an ideal introduction to the nation. You’ll visit Nara’s tiered temples formed entirely from 17th-century timber, tour shrine-filled Kyoto’s UNESCO-listed spread that ranges from immaculate Zen gardens to grand imperial grounds, and you’ll even stay in ryokan inns whose onsen hot springs and tatami rice mats would have hosted itinerant samurais. Compare it all to Tokyo’s look-at-me neon, trips aboard Shinkansen bullet trains and cable cars that rise to possible glimpses of Mt. Fuji. Private, tailor-made tours and included transport passes bring it all to life.
Start your holiday in style with premium UK airport lounge access before you board your overnight flight to Tokyo.
Watch Tokyo’s skyline loom larger and larger on the horizon as your private transfer brings you to your five-star hotel, tucked away in the centre of Tokyo’s glass-and-steel hubbub with its very own Michelin-starred restaurant. Take it all in on an included tour up the world’s tallest freestanding tower, the Skytree broadcasting hub. You’ll also have the use of an included IC Transport Pass to explore the city further with a private guide, who will tailor a personalised tour to your specific interests.
Perhaps you’ll want to trace the city’s rich past by passing under the vermillion-lacquered torii gates leading to seventh-century Buddhist temples, or indulge at hole-in-the-wall ramen counters tucked inside the neighbourhood of Akihabara’s neon maze.
While the famous Tsukiji Fish Market or Meiji-era shrines of Yoyogi Park might tempt you to remain in Tokyo, we recommend taking a day trip out of the city to see more of the region. You may decide to summit sacred Mt. Takao for views over Tokyo, passing historic temples and religious statues on a gentle hike or scenic cable car ride. Alternatively, visit Kamakura; once the 12th-century capital of Japan, today it’s a sleepy coastal town, home to a stunning collection of shrines and temples.
Lastly, there’s Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine. Surrounded by gurgling rivers, tumbling waterfalls and indigenous monkeys, its grand, sweeping tiers exemplify the calm organisation of Shinto architecture.
A short train hop will escort you out of Tokyo and into Hakone, a favourite retreat of the capital's well-heeled elite. Here you can use your included Freepass to explore verdant village hamlets, shrine-ringed lakes and old-growth forests with transport options including everything from boat cruises to cable cars and mountain railways.
Stay in a luxurious ryokan inn, where floors are lined with tatami rice-straw mats and hot-spring onsen offer relaxing, meditative soaks. Enjoy traditional kaiseki feasts featuring delicate flavours balanced over multiple courses.
Stay: KAI Hakone
Breakfast & Dinner included
Following a sprint aboard the Shinkansen bullet train, you’ll begin exploring Japan’s cultural heartland. Kyoto is home to no fewer than 17 UNESCO-listed sites, 400 Shinto shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples, making it a destination for all who want to understand better Japan's long history and deeply religious background. A local expert guide will tailor a personalised private tour to suit your interests, whether on a guided walk through the Imperial Palace gardens, a trip to the time-honoured teahouses of the geisha district or a stroll through bright-green bamboo groves.
You’ll stay in the sleek Hyatt Regency for sophisticated sake bars and superb levels of service, with in-room iPads making it easy to contact the front desk.
Take a quick 40-minute train today from Kyoto to explore another side of Japan. Nara, in Kansai Prefecture, marks the end of the Silk Road and is where Buddhist teaching first gained a foothold in Japan when it arrived in the sixth century from the Himalayas via China. It’s unsurprising, then, that it features some of the country’s oldest monasteries and temples, including Todaiji – the world’s largest wooden building, with sweeping curves that house myriad carvings and revered icons, such as a colossal bronze statue of a seated Buddha.
Compare the temple's man-made beauty to the city’s pretty Japanese gardens and central park, where skittish deer roam free.
Your last train journey and a private transfer will bring you to Osaka's international airport where you’ll board your flight home.
"I devised this itinerary to help you explore some of the best spots without the need to move from hotel to hotel every day. The private touring in Tokyo is quite simply the best way to understand what makes the city tick, while you’ll also get to ride on the legendary bullet trains and visit the tea-houses of Kyoto. It's a great introduction to Japan, but if you're interested in heading for the Alps or beyond, our consultants will be happy to advise."
Low Season from: £6,440 pp
High Season from: £9,185 pp