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Experience Japan's complex and fascinating cultures with a luxury tour through five destinations

Personalised journeys from start to finish

Save an acre of rainforest each time you travel

Every detail taken care of

What's Included

  • Completely private tours of Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Hakone
  • Take part in exclusive, traditional Japanese experiences
  • Tours of Japan's most exciting art museums
  • Visit beautiful temples and ornate shrines
  • Stay on Naoshima, the "Art Island"
  • Luxury accommodation throughout including ryokans with onsens and kaiseki dinners
  • Bullet Train journeys
  • Meet and greet airport service
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

Few countries can match Japan in terms of the variety of its culture. Although steeped in ancient traditions such as geisha and samurai, zen-inducing gardens, ornate temples and tea ceremonies, modern Japanese society is in a state of constant flux and renewal resulting in sci-fi cityscapes, avant-garde fashion, ultra-modern technology and cutting-edge art and design. We’ll show you all sides of this fascinating country with an in-depth luxury cultural tour, especially designed for aficionados of the arts.

We begin in cosmopolitan Tokyo to visit internationally acclaimed museums and destinations, tour the capital’s most fashionable districts, visit ancient shrines and Imperial Gardens and take part in traditional activities such as a tea ceremony or a calligraphy class. We then move onto the hidden gem of Kanazawa to explore ancient samurai and geisha districts, the wonderful Kerokuen Garden and modern art in the acclaimed Kanazawa 21st Century Museum. You’ll stay at a fine ryokan in the countryside, indulging in the hot spring onsen and a traditional multi-course kaiseki dinner.

The imperial jewel of Kyoto is next, where we get a feel for the ancient past with tours of the numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites before being brought back to the present at the National Museum of Modern Art. A couple of captivating days on Naoshima, Japan‘s “Art Island” follow, living alongside modern art from world-famous architects and artists such as Tadao Ando, Lee Ufan and Yayoi Kusama. There’s just time for a quick stop in Hakone to see the expansive open-air Museum and another onsen stay before your international flight home.

You’ll stay at luxury accommodation in each city with expert guides on hand and our insider recommendations to ensure that you get the most out of each destination.

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-4

Tokyo

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Meet and greet at Tokyo airport

Accommodation in Tokyo

Three days in Tokyo Three days in Tokyo

Enjoy your time exploring the incredible metropolis of Tokyo, a city with an infectious energy that is like no other.

Morning excursion to Tokyo National Museum and Asakusa District Morning excursion to Tokyo National Museum and Asakusa District

Early this morning, you'll meet your guide who will drive you in a private vehicle to the Tokyo National Museum (TNM), located inside Ueno Park. It is the oldest and largest museum in Japan, holding over 110,000 pieces of art, of which 87 are recognised as Japanese National Treasures and 610 as Important Cultural Properties. The collections are divided into thematic galleries and your guide will show you a selection of the best pieces in several galleries, including the gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures.

After your visit, transfer to Asakusa District, one of Tokyo oldest and best-preserved districts. Take a brief stop at Sensoji Temple, with its huge lantern and the Nakamise, dating back to the Edo period when the temple’s neighbours were given special permission to open their shops in the approach to the temple. Your guide will show you the small streets of Asakusa where you can still feel the presence of Ancient Japan.

Calligraphy workshop or tea ceremony with walk in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace Calligraphy workshop or tea ceremony with walk in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

After lunch, you will have the opportunity to take part in your choice of either a calligraphy workshop or a traditional tea ceremony.

More than just an art form, calligraphy ("shodo" in Japanese) is thought to cultivate your inner self. Particular emphasis is placed on the combination of the strokes, the movement of the brush and the shades of the ink, as you write your chosen “Kanji”, the Chinese characters on which the Japanese writing system is based. Each kanji is a symbol for a concept and reflects a historical connecting to the word’s meaning. Tea ceremonies are one of Japan's traditional cultural practices and encompass not only the making of tea, but also tea-room architecture, the appreciation of tea utensils and bowls and Zen Buddhism.

After this peaceful experience, enjoy a walk in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, a verdant oasis covering 115 hectares in all and home to one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo. After entering from the Otemon Gate, which once served as the main gate to Edo Castle, you will be within the Sannomaru grounds where the Sannomaru Shozokan, a very small museum, displays various items that were gifted to the Imperial Family. Continue to the Ninomaru Garden another beautiful area with a coy pond and a small waterfall.

Morning contemporary Tokyo excursions with National Art Center tour and visit to Omotesando, Harajuku, Aoyama and Shibuya Morning contemporary Tokyo excursions with National Art Center tour and visit to Omotesando, Harajuku, Aoyama and Shibuya

This morning, you will meet your private guide in the hotel lobby and leave in a chartered vehicle to discover a very different side of Tokyo.

First, we visit the “National Art Center”, interesting both for its architectural design and its exhibits. Rather than maintaining a permanent collection, it offers fresh angles by showing a great variety of art expressions in the 14,000 square meters of exhibition space available. The museum is also worth the visit simply to enjoy the amazing interior architecture. Alternatively, you can choose to visit the 21_21 Design Sight musuem by Issey Miyake which focuses on design and modern arts.

Next we move onto the busy streets of Omotesando, Harajuku and Aoyama followed by Shibuya, lined with fashionable shops and architectural wonders. We'll discover international brands, countless smaller boutiques and designer shops tucked away in smaller streets. Alternatively, your guide can also take you to some of Tokyo’s most interesting art galleries. We'll enjoy lunch in the Shibuya area.

Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art

At the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art you'll get the chance to see ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings. This genre of art flourished in Japan from the 17th through to the 19th century and was aimed at the prosperous merchant class in the urbanising Edo period. Amongst the popular themes were depictions of beautiful women, kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers, scenes from history and folk tales, travel scenes and landscapes, flora and fauna and erotica. Its exotic two dimensional style has attracted many European painters, especially impressionists including Van Gogh. What makes the Ota collection especially remarkable is its depth, with representative masterpieces from the birth of the ukiyo-e tradition to its height. The colours and materials of the originals have been perfectly preserved at the museum.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Tokyo station

Transfer

Train from Tokyo to Kanazawa

Days 4-5

Kanazawa & Yamashiro and Yamanaka

Kanazawa tour with Omichi Market, Samurai District and Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa tour with Omichi Market, Samurai District and Kenrokuen Garden

You will be met by your private English speaking guide from your bullet train. Start your excursion by private chartered vehicle to the Omicho Market, which local people regard as the “Kitchen of all Kanazawa”, for a short visit before lunch.

Move on to the ancient Samurai district of Nagamachi. Walking through this traditional part of Kanazawa, you'll see tangible evidence of Kanazawa’s prosperous past. In a tranquil setting, the narrow, rock-laid street bordered by earthen walls and decorative gates exude an ambience of feudal times. A visit to Nomurake, a former Samurai House, gives a great insight into Traditional Architecture.

Finally, stroll the magnificent Kenrokuen Garden, reputedly one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan. Admire the harmonious coexistence of six Chinese attributes of perfection, evolving as seasons unfold.

Private transfer to your hotel in Yamanaka Private transfer to your hotel in Yamanaka

[:zh]You'll be transferred in a private vehicle to your hotel in Yamanaka and Yamashiro.[:]

Accommodation in Yamashiro and Yamanaka

Relax in the onsen before dinner Relax in the onsen before dinner

Spend the remainder of the day relaxing in your ryokan's onsen, soaking up the benefits of the mineral-rich waters. Once you've built up an appetite, you'll be served a traditional kaiseki dinner consisting of between 12 and 15 dishes made with fresh seasonal ingredients and carefully presented on beautiful plates.

Days in Kanazawa Days in Kanazawa

Spend your time in the historical centre of Kanazawa discovering the Nagamachi samurai district and the Chaya geisha entertainment quarter. There's also the 17th century castle to explore alongside a horde of other cultural attractions such as the Ishikawa Gate, the Sanjikken Longhouse and the celebrated Kenroku-en Garden. Your travel designer can help you to experience the city at its best with private guided tours and excursions.

Full day excursion in Kanazawa including Kerokuen Garden, Museum and Geisha District Full day excursion in Kanazawa including Kerokuen Garden, Museum and Geisha District

This morning your private English speaking guide and your driver will meet you at your onsen in Yamashiro and Yamanaka and transfer you to Kanazawa. First, discover the magnificent Kenrokuen garden, reputedly one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan. The garden was designed to reflect the harmonious co-existence of six Chinese attributes of perfection which evolve as the seasons unfold. Then visit the D.T. Suzuki Museum, dedicated to the prominent Buddhist philosopher Daisetsu Suzuki.

After lunch, visit the ancient Higashiyama Geisha District. Built in 1820, it still preserves Kanazawa’s feudal heritage with wooden lattice fronts of old geisha houses. Many buildings have been converted into shops, showcasing Kanazawa’s sophisticated craft heritage: ceramics, lacquer ware and gold-leaf decorated items.

Well worth a visit is Kaikaro, where you'll discover a traditional teahouse in which Geisha still entertain their clients. Enjoy the privileged opportunity (upon availability) to meet and discuss freely with the “Okami-san” around a cup of tea and get a better understanding of the world of Geisha. (Your guide will translate).

Enjoy strolling around the old streets in the Geisha district before transferring to Kanazawa station with your private chartered vehicle.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Shinkansen "Bullet Train" from Kanazawa to Kyoto

Days 5-9

Kyoto

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer from Kyoto Station to your chosen hotel

Accommodation in Kyoto

Four days in Kyoto Four days in Kyoto

Spend your time in Kyoto admiring the impressive imperial beauty of the city, evident in the abundance of prewar buildings such as grand palaces, traditional "machiya" townhouses and ornate shrines. See kimono-clad geisha on their way to engagements and stroll in the celebrated Ryoan-ji rock garden. Make sure you visit the magnificent wooden Kiyomizu-dera and the Golden and Silver Pavilion Temples. Your travel designer can help you to experience the city at its best with private guided tours and excursions.

Half day tour of Kyoto including Sanjusangendo, Kodaiji Temple and Yasakajinja Shrine Half day tour of Kyoto including Sanjusangendo, Kodaiji Temple and Yasakajinja Shrine

This morning your private guide will meet you at your hotel and transfer you by chartered vehicle for your first day of Kyoto excursions. Start your visit at Sanjusangendo which was founded in 1164 and is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess mercy. Entering the main hall, guests can notice a centrally located large Kannon, flanked on each side by 500 smaller statues standing in neat rows side by side.

Next we move onto to Kodaiji Temple, a temple of the Rinzai (Pure Land) school of Zen Buddhism which was founded during the Momoyama-period by the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful general who unified Japan at the end of the 16th century. Kodaiji is interesting for both its formal gardens which include “artificial mountains" and a dry rock garden but also for its bamboo grove that leads to two famous teahouses and the splendid Maki-e, which give this temple its nickname as “Maki-e Temple.

We then reach Yasakajinja shrine which is one of Kyoto’s most famous shrines and funds the annual Gion Matsuri Festival. Enter the peaceful grounds to see the offerings made by local people and businesses. If time permits, we'll also see a ceremony performed by the shrine’s maidens (advance notice is required). The shrine is also very pretty at night when its numerous lanterns are lit.

Full-day Kyoto excursion with visit to National Museum of Modern Art, Teramachi Street and Nishiki Market Full-day Kyoto excursion with visit to National Museum of Modern Art, Teramachi Street and Nishiki Market

After lunch, we visit the National Museum of Modern Art, a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. The permanent collection has several galleries, displaying selected works of nihonga (Japanese-style painting), yoga (Western-style painting), prints, sculpture, crafts (ceramics, textiles, metalworks, wood and bamboo works, lacquers and jewellery) and photography from the museum's collection. Also shown are works of Japanese modern art as well as modern and contemporary European and American art.

Then take a stroll in Teramachi, a quiet and relaxing district, offering great shopping opportunities. Seikado (traditional Japanese metal craft) and Ippodo (exclusive Japanese tea) and other time-honoured shops have long made Teramachi Street a popular yet distinctive area.

If time allows, we will end with a visit to Nishiki Market, a narrow shopping arcade only 400m in length with over 100 vendors. Here, guests can discover Kyoto’s distinctive culinary delicacies. “Aritsugu” which features a variety of excellent kitchen tools, is a recommended shop to visit.

Visit to Miho Museum Visit to Miho Museum

Meet your guide in your hotel lobby and be transferred in a private chartered vehicle to the Miho Museum (1.5 hour drive from Kyoto). Although not a contemporary art museum, it is well worth a visit, both for its architecture and its exhibitions. The museum was designed by I. M. Pei who also designed the glass pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre. More than 80% of the museum's structure is beneath the earth so as to preserve its natural environment and the surrounding scenery.

The museum comprises of two wings: the South Wing focuses on the Silk Road and contains a collection of treasures from the old-world civilizations of Egypt and Eurasia, such as a Statue of Queen Arsinoe II (Egyptian) and a standing Buddha from Gandhara, one of the largest in the world. The North Wing periodically hosts various exhibits and displays of Buddhist art, tea-making utensils, maki-e and other lacquer works.

Kinkaku-ji and Ryoan-ji Temples tour Kinkaku-ji and Ryoan-ji Temples tour

Visit the Kinkaku-ji 'Golden Pavilion' temple. Built in 1397 to serve as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, Kinkaku-ji served as the inspiration for the Ginkaku-ji the Silver Pavilion which was built by the Shogun's grandson.

We then continue to the serene Ryoan-ji Temple which is celebrated for its rock garden, comprised of nothing but clay walls, raked sand and 15 rocks.

Day of leisure in Kyoto Day of leisure in Kyoto

Today is yours to spend at your leisure. Relax at your hotel or venture out to the western outskirts of Kyoto to see the natural beauty of the Arashiyama district and its famous bamboo groves. Stroll in the gardens of the Ginkakuji Silver Pavilion temple or visit the Nanzenji Temple. Your travel designer can help you to experience the city at its best with private guided tours and excursions.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Kyoto Station

Transfer

Shinkansen "Bullet Train" from Kyoto to Okayama

Days 9-12

Naoshima Island

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel on Naoshima Island

Accommodation in Naoshima Island

Three days on Naoshima Island Three days on Naoshima Island

Spend your time on Naoshima Island visiting the numerous, internationally acclaimed contemporary museums. Designed by world famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, Benesse House is the island's original museum and features works by Andy Warhol, Richard Long and Bruce Nauman. The Art Project is also a fascinating exhibition, comprised of old village houses that have been converted into art spaces showcasing Japanese and international artists. Naoshima is also a beautiful beach and mountain destination so make sure to leave some time to enjoy the island's golden sands, warm water and enjoyable hikes.

Day at leisure on Naoshima Island Day at leisure on Naoshima Island

Today, enjoy a full day at leisure on Naoshima Island. Visit the island's numerous museums and art installations which are mostly accessible on foot or with your hotel's shuttle bus service. Recommended visits include ?Benesse House which is both a luxurious hotel and a contemporary art museum housing site-specific works and a permanent collection. Outdoor artworks and a temporary exhibition can be seen at the Ping Pong Gallery in Honmura.

Chichu Museum is similarly a must see and like Benesse House, was also designed by Tadao Ando. It is mostly buried underground except for apertures that let in natural light. The Lee Ufan Museum which offers a harmony between nature, architecture and art is a pleasant option, and the Art House Project is a very interesting work where artists have transformed vacant houses into artworks while taking into consideration space, history and memory accumulated at the site. Please note that many exhibitions must be booked in advance. Speak to your travel designer to find out more.

Day at leisure in Naoshima with trip to Teshima Day at leisure in Naoshima with trip to Teshima

Today is yours to spend as you wish. We recommend that you discover the nearby island of Teshima. Take a courtesy shuttle bus from Benesse House to Miyanoura port and board the ferry to Leura Port. A bus will then take you to Les Archives du Coeur. This exhibition by Christian Boltanski compiles recordings of heartbeats from around the world. The project consists of three elements: an installation using recordings of heartbeats, a listening room where visitors can listen to archived recordings and a room where your own heartbeats can be recorded.

Then take a bus or a taxi to Teshima Art Museum which is located on a hill overlooking the Inland Sea. Shaped like a drop of water, the museum lies in a corner of the spacious grounds surrounded by once-fallow rice terraces that have been restored with help from local residents.

We recommend lunch at Shima Kitchen, a semi-outdoor space with an open and welcoming atmosphere, where Island women collaborate with chefs from Marunouchi Hotel to make delicious cuisine from local fish and products. After lunch, visit the Pipilotti Rist installation house. This small storehouse in the yard of Shima Kitchen exhibits Video Art that focuses on nature.

Next, Stroll around the area and visit Particles in the AIR by Noe Aoki, which consists of rust-covered shafts of Corten steel straddling a water tank that's been embedded in the ground. Circular hoops hover in the air above like dancing particles.

Afterwards you can visit Storm House. This experiential work employs light, water and sound to recreate an approaching storm. Then, take a bus or a taxi to Leurako Port to see Il Vento restaurant which was renovated and designed by Tobias Rehberger. Teshima Yokoo House is your final visit. This museum is dedicated to artist Tadanori Yokoo and consists of 11 paintings, including a series of three large works entitled “The Primitive Universe”, as well as installations in a circular tower and garden. Return by ferry and shuttle bus to Naoshima and Benesse House.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer from Naoshima Island to Okayama Station

Transfer

Shinkansen "Bullet Train" from Okayama Station to Odawara in Hakone

Days 12-13

Hakone

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel or ryokan in Hakone

 
Relax in the onsen before dinner Relax in the onsen before dinner

Spend the remainder of the day relaxing in your ryokan's onsen, soaking up the benefits of the mineral-rich waters. Once you've built up an appetite, you'll be served a traditional kaiseki dinner consisting of between 12 and 15 dishes made with fresh seasonal ingredients and carefully presented on beautiful plates.

Overnight in your ryokan with kaiseki dinner Overnight in your ryokan with kaiseki dinner

This evening, you'll enjoy a delicious a traditional kaiseki dinner consisting of between 12 and 15 dishes made with fresh seasonal ingredients and carefully presented on beautiful plates. Spend the rest of the evening relaxing at your comfortable ryokan. You'll have our recommendation for the best things to see and do during your time.

Half day visit to Hakone Open Air Museum with transfer to Tokyo Half day visit to Hakone Open Air Museum with transfer to Tokyo

This morning, meet your English-speaking guide and visit the unique Hakone Open Air Museum where we can enjoy the balance of nature and art through a variety of sculptures in perfect harmony with picturesque views of the surrounding valley and mountains. We'll also take a look at the indoor galleries, including works from world famous artists including Rodin, Bourdelle and Miro and one of the largest collections of British sculptor Henry Moore. There is also a Picasso Pavilion with a collection of over 300 pieces. Then, we take a cable car and ropeway ride to Owakudani Valley which formed around a crater created in the last eruption of Mount Hakone 3,000 year ago. Experience the views of sulphurous fumes, hot springs and rivers while walking around the area. On arrival on the other side of the mountain, board a boat for a lake cruise while enjoying the magnificent views of Mount Fuji in the background. Look for reflections of the surrounding mountains in Lake Ashi, formed in the caldera of Mount Hakone after the volcano’s last eruption.

Alternatively, we can arrange for you to visit Hakone's many museums, including the POLA Museum, the Hakone Museum of Arts and the Lalique Museum.
You will then be driven in a private vehicle to Tokyo where you will check-in and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.

Days 13-14

Tokyo

Accommodation in Tokyo

Overnight in Tokyo Overnight in Tokyo

Enjoy your last evening exploring the incredible metropolis of Tokyo, a city with an infectious energy that is like no other.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private Transfer from your Tokyo hotel to the airport

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Art, Gardens and Temples: A Luxury Cultural Tour of Japan

14-Day Example Trip
 
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    We create fully personalised trips from start to finish, working with you to pick locations, accommodation and guides that suit you.

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    From in-depth private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your journey.