Japan - an ancient culture of emperors, fierce shoguns, samurais and brutal martial arts. Yet it’s also a place of gentle geishas, colourful kimonos, exquisite garden design and Zen Buddhism. How did a country so deeply rooted in such diverse heritage become one of the most modern and advanced economies on the planet? Pondering such questions is what makes a trip to Japan so incredibly rewarding. Having travelled there once, you’ll feel almost hypnotically drawn back to this truly enigmatic country.
Japan’s roots lie in an ancient feudal culture, with many customs from these times still pervading modern society. The Portuguese and Jesuit missionaries arrived in the 16th century and by all accounts, they were initially treated well, mainly because the Japanese were impressed with their new technology – firearms. Despite trading together successfully for nearly a century, Christianity and western ideas were deemed to be undermining the social order and the Portuguese were expelled. All contact with outsiders was banned for over 200 years. The only country on earth to have been so completely isolated from all external influences, Japanese art and culture developed in its own unique way, until pressure from the US finally broke down the barriers in the 1850’s.
You arrive at the airport for your overnight direct flight to Tokyo.
On our arrival, we transfer to our hotel, the excellent four-star superior New Otani Garden Tower, for three nights with breakfast.
This afternoon we have our first taste of Tokyo with a short orientation walk in the surrounding area, with the rest of your first day to relax after the flight.
This morning we commence the exploration of Japan's capital and largest city visiting the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum set up by the famous Bonsai Master Kkunio Kobayashi. Upon entering there is a 1000 year old pine tree in front of the house. We then visit one of Tokyo's most iconic locations the Imperial Palace East Gardens. At first glance, Tokyo might seem similar to other great Asian cities like Singapore or Shanghai, with its gleaming glass skyscrapers and busy, fashionable shops. But you'll soon begin to notice some of the many fascinating differences – like the spotlessly clean and surprisingly quiet streets. There's no beeping of horns here, that would be far too impolite!
After we savour some Japanese cuisine at our included lunch, we experience the famous Shinto Meiji shrine, dedicated to one of its past emperors. Set in outstandingly lush parkland, this is a working religious site where you may be lucky enough to see a typical Japanese marriage underway.
This morning we embrace the modern Akihabara Electronic Town, followed by the Asakusa district giving an insight into the Tokyo of a hundred years ago.
We take a short transfer by boat down the Sumida River to the area of Ginza (widely recognised as one of the world's most luxurious shopping destinations) where we discover the peaceful and tranquil Hama-rikyu Gardens. Your afternoon is free to explore, shop or perhaps indulge in some fascinating people-watching. Alternatively for more exploring take the included one way ticket monorail from Shimbashi.
Another option is to head to the Tokyo National Museum, just a few stops on the metro. Here you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Japanese art, with pottery, painting and prints, textiles, fashion and oriental antiquities.
Saying goodbye to Tokyo we drive towards Mount Fuji, probably Japan’s most instantly recognisable sight. Fringed by thick forests and a crescent-shaped ring of shimmering lakes, we are presented with one of the world’s greatest and most spectacular views. We visit two of these beautiful lakes to give you the best chance of appreciating and enjoying the stunning panorama from two different angles with some of life’s most amazing photo opportunities.
Our first stop is the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway followed by Ichiku Kubota Art Museum located on Lake Kawaguchi. The lake is well known to the Japanese but as yet undiscovered by most foreign visitors. On a clear day, the views of Mt Fuji are one of the world's greatest panoramas. Then we head south to explore the fascinating mountain resort of Hakone to discover the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetland featuring more than a thousand species of woody and wild herbaceous plants within a designed eco-system of steams, ponds, rockeries, man-made hills including several types of marsh moors with natural plant species to Hakone.
Arriving at the four-star Hakone Hotel, we stay for one night with breakfast and dinner. The entire area here is geo-thermally active, and provides the perfect opportunity to try one of Japan's unmissable experiences – bathing in an 'onsen', a hot spring at our very own hotel.
This morning we travel to Hiroshima on Japan's iconic gleaming white bullet train. With reclining seats, plenty of legroom, air conditioned comfort and speeds up to 189 mph, this is an incomparable way to travel. Arriving at lunchtime, we’re on our way to one of the country’s most distinctive views on the nearby small island of Miyajima.
A huge red 'Torii' gate sits just offshore; widely celebrated, at high tide it appears to float between the sea and sky. This popular little island is easy to explore on foot. It has a relaxed holiday atmosphere, lots of interesting shops and a covered market. Returning to Hiroshima, we stay for two nights at the Rihga Royal Hotel Hiroshima, with breakfast.
There’s a sobering reminder of the horrors of war this morning as we visit Hiroshima's Peace Park and museum, displaying the remains of the only building to survive the atomic bomb blast of August 1945. The city has been completely rebuilt and there are no signs left of the devastation of that fateful day. Yet you may notice a small digital counter indicating the number of days since the last atomic test – it's surprisingly recent.
After an included buffet lunch at the hotel, we venture to the historic scenic Shukkeien Japanese Garden of which original garden construction dates back to 1620. This garden park features small bridges, lakes and circular features capturing flora of the Japanese countryside. Take the rest of the afternoon at leisure in this charming city.
Leaving Hiroshima by coach, we head towards the old imperial capital of Kyoto. En route we’ll visit the superb Korakuen Japanese garden at Okayama – built in 1700 and renowned as one of Japan’s most exquisite gardens, with lawns, lakes, wooden bridges and shrines and teahouses! Our hotel for four nights in Kyoto is the centrally located four-star Kyoto Century Hotel, with breakfast.
Today we see the amazing Sagano Bamboo Grove located in the gorgeous Arashiyama district of wester Kyoto – experiencing an almost other-worldly feel as the light streams through the tall green columns of bamboo, up to 30 feet high!
Laid nearly 700 years ago the Sogenchi Garden (the Sogen Pond Garden) is fascinating located at the Tenryu-ji Temple. Going from traditional classic pond garden we then see a masterpiece example of a modern Japanese Garden, Murin-an, which was designated as a National Place of Scenic Beauty in 1951. As a complete change, the Ryoan-ji Temple or the Temple of the Dragon of Peace is home to Japan’s most famous Zen Garden, consisting of fifteen rocks surrounded by white gravel carefully raked by monks daily. Within today we experience a Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Capital city before Kyoto, Nara is just a few miles south. Firstly we see one of the country's most iconic shrines, Fushimi Inari, made from thousands of red Torii gates forming two extraordinary vermilion-coloured wooden tunnels up a hillside.
Arriving at Nara you'll be greeted by the dozens of tame deer considered for centuries to be messengers of the gods. The main sight though is the amazing Todai-ji temple, astonishingly the world’s largest wooden structure. Housing a huge bronze Buddha, this is a truly inspiring sight and just one of Nara’s several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Nestled in an area between these temples is the Isuien Japanese Garden where the aura brings a feel of quiet and seclusion from the outside world.
This morning we visit another iconic Kyoto monument - Nijo Castle. Set at the heart of the city and built in the 17th century, it's famous for its wooden floors remarkably designed to creak like a nightingale's song, thus warning its occupants of any impending stealthy attack!
We also take an orientation walking tour through Kyoto's Gion district. Here is the classic image of Japan; streets of wooden houses, the unmistakable sound of wooden sandals reverberating on the pavements, bright, silk-clad geishas, cherry trees and a host of traditional restaurants. We enjoy the charming garden of Heian Jingu Shrine, made to celebrate the eleven hundredth anniversary of the founding of Kyoto. There are four sections, the west, south, middle and east gardens.
Tonight you also have the option of staying in a ryokan, a typical Japanese inn. You’ll sleep on a rolled out futon with tatami matting on the floor. You’ll also enjoy a traditional 'kaiseki' multi-course dinner. Beautifully prepared and served, it’s just as stunning to look at as it is to eat. This is subject to availability and needs to be pre-booked, please mention at time of booking.
After a last free morning at leisure, we take our bullet train to Tokyo staying overnight at the four-star Excel Tokyu near the airport.
We fly directly back to the UK, arriving later the same day, with memories of an incomparable tour full of the most extraordinary insights and experiences that Japan has to offer.
The price for this holiday is based on two people sharing a twin bedded room with single rooms available at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Visit 10 traditional and historic gardens:
Specialist Japanese gardener at four gardens.
For a traditional experience, stay in a wonderful ryokan, where you’ll sleep on a Japanese-style futon and enjoy a beautifully prepared kaiseki dinner. Single supplements apply. For more details of the Ryokan, please click here.
Please call us to book or for more information.
UK Citizens do not require a visa to enter Japan however must have a valid passport. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
There is a fair amount of walking involved throughout this tour, and as many places we visit as part of this itinerary are in national parks and historical areas, we cannot expect or guarantee the terrain to be flat and even. Whilst this should not pose any difficulty for clients who are in good health, please consider any mobility requirements personal to yourself. If you would like to discuss mobility related queries, please contact our reservations department.
There is currently no official health advice nor inoculations required to travel to Japan, however, this is dependent on your personal medical history and previous travel destinations. Please contact your GP at least one month prior to travel to discuss any travel and health information.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Tokyo - Haneda Airport||Tokyo||1 hr||Tokyo||Tokyo - Haneda Airport||10 mins|
Harold and Jane Collin
We have just returned from your Sicily Tour. We had a wonderful time visiting many truly amazing sites and interesting towns. It was tiring and involved a lot of travelling but we would not have wanted to have missed anything. The...
Fantastic tour.Our tour guide Pauline was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and entertaining. Stayed in Europa in Rive , good trips to Venice and Verona. My favourite trip was the Dolomites and I really enjoyed the cable car -the views ...