Capture a glimpse of Japan’s stylish side with a fascinating journey from Tokyo to Hakone and Kyoto. Enjoy exclusive private tours that bring local culture to life and visit lesser-known monuments that exemplify Japan’s sophisticated architectural taste. Relax in the evenings at stylish properties from East-meets-West hotels to charming ryokans and traditional Japanese inns.
Your journey starts in Tokyo, a city that is both bizarre and beautiful, famous for its pioneering culture, towering skyscrapers and neon lights. However, it is also home to urban parklands, peaceful shrines, lovingly tendered gardens and revered temples. In a city that has a love affair with manga pop culture and high tech trends – there is a profound underlying heritage whose roots spread deep. Enjoy every aspect of this beguiling, fashionable, historic and endearingly quirky capital.
You will enjoy a full day city tour of Tokyo alongside with your personal local expert guide. Among the stops of the day will be Asakusa, part of Tokyo’s shitamachi (old town), which is both the city’s oldest Geisha district and is also home to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. Afterwards, pay a visit to Meiji Shrine, Tokyo’s most famous shrine, taking part in a traditional Shinto purification dance and receiving a blessing from a Shinto Priest. While cruising around these iconic quarters of Japan, take note of the passing Ginza area, Imperial Palace and Shibuya ‘scramble’ crossing.
Hakone, Mount Fuji, & Matsumoto
Next, you’ll you travel to Hakone, a peaceful place to escape to when Tokyo gets too much. Hakone is home to spectacular mountain scenery with Mount Fuji the jewel in its crown. Traditional inns and pleasantly relaxing onsen are the staple attractions here. It’s a great destination for hiking, with spectacular views at every turn and plenty of hot springs to soothe any aching muscles after a day of exploring.
The adventure begins with a ride on the Guinness World Record-holder ropeway, heading to the peak of Mt. Owakudani, the source of the hot water in Hakone’s hot springs. Continue onwards to Togendai, where a majestic replica pirate ship will sweep across Ashinoko, a lake that was formed by a volcanic eruption 3,000 years ago. After the cruise, the next stop will be the Hakone Open Air Museum, which creates a harmonic balance of nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its spacious grounds in combination with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.
After a memorable stay in Hakone you’ll head to Matsumoto in the Japanese Alps.
Matsumoto has flourished as a castle town since the 16th century. In addition to its historical and cultural heritage, Matsumoto is surrounded by mountains and is acclaimed for its beautiful views. To the west the Japan Alps rise to heights of 3000m and are known as “The Roof of Japan”. You’ll explore Matsumoto Castle, one of the most complete and beautiful among Japan’s original castles. It is a good example of a so called “hirajiro”, a castle built on the plain rather than on a hill or mountain. The castle is also called Crow Castle because of its black walls and spreading wings.
Kyoto & Nara
Next you’ll visit historical city of Kyoto. Kyoto is a city of deep philosophical cultural traits with an abundance of temples and shrines for the traveler to explore – more than 2,000 religious buildings in total. Kyoto is one of the best preserved cities in Japan and contains no less than 17 spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
You’ll enjoy a visit to Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle, surrounded by stunning gardens, was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence. The main building was completed in 1603 and is well-known for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors.
Continue on to Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun and is today one of Kyoto’s most famous Buddhist temples.
You’ll enjoy a day trip to Nara, Japan’s former capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. You’ll start your visit with a trip to Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha. Next will be Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine.
Finally, enjoy exclusive look at Japan’s Geisha culture in Kyoto. Late this afternoon join a guide for a walking tour of Gion, Kyoto’s Geisha district, followed by a truly special dinner with a Maiko (a geisha’s apprentice). You’ll dine on a traditional multi-course meal called “kaiseki ryori”. Interact with the Maiko, learning about her craft and the world of Geisha. During dinner, the Maiko will entertain by performing traditional dances and teaching popular Japanese drinking games. Pose for photos with the Maiko, capturing memories to share with friends and family back home.