By Eleanor Kania Far East & Australasia Specialist

Onsen bathing, an introduction to kaiseiki cuisine and the chance to stay in a stunning ryokan – exploring Japan’s must-see sites in serious style.

Travel through time from futuristic skyscrapers to ancient Shinto shrines on this cultural holiday to Japan that unveils the country’s contradictions and mysteries. Beginning in Tokyo, take the bullet train to rural Hakone where a stylish inn offers hot-spring relaxation and exquisite cuisine. Then, in Kyoto, enter a medieval Japan of ancient tea ceremonies, Zen temple gardens and geisha rituals. You’ll next hop on to the historic samurai city of Kanazawa before exploring the UNESCO-listed village of Shirakawago.

Ginkakuji temple Kyoto, Japan

Ginkakuji temple, Kyoto

Kaiseki ryokan dining

Kaiseki ryokan dining

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle, Japan

Begin your cultural odyssey from the sleek Palace Hotel in Tokyo and we’ll take you exploring from the Imperial Palace to cutting-edge fashion houses, Meiji-era shrines and sumo stables where wrestlers still live and train. Of course, there’s plenty of time to enjoy some of the best restaurants you’ll ever eat at – including locals-only sushi counters. Let us know what interests you and we’ll arrange it.

The Shinkansen bullet train will then whisk you through the Japanese countryside to Hakone, where you’ll stay in a traditional ryokan inn. Immerse yourself in an onsen hot tub and enjoy sensational kaiseki cuisine before exploring the national park beneath Mt. Fuji. Come in April for a riot of cherry blossom.

Continue to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital. Among its tea ceremonies, Zen temple gardens and graceful geisha, there are some truly extraordinary experiences: learn the art of calligraphy, ikebana or origami from a master practitioner, or how to prepare dishes from a top chef. What’s more, the galleries and boutiques of Teramachi-dori Street will entice even the most incurious shopper.

We’d then suggest slowing things down with a couple of days in Miyajima. Staying at a wonderful ryokan, you’ll enjoy perfect sukiyaki dining and aged sake interspersed with gentle island strolls, cycle rides to white-sand beaches and cable car rides carry you past hillside temples to stunning panoramas.

Finish up by discovering the samurai of Kanazawa and such still-practised crafts as gold-leaf work, lacquerware and dyeing, which recall all the romance of feudal Japan. You’ll then spend a few days in Takayama to explore the narrow streets of this 16th-century castle town, enjoying the graceful Edo teahouses and Buddhist temples here. It’s all framed beautifully by the Hida Mountains.

Click here for a full day-by-day breakdown and pricing