Our People
  • Amy snow biking Our Team

    Steppes Travel is made by the people who work here. Incredible holidays are made possible because of their vast travel experience and the great enthusiasm they bring to their work.

  • Chris Packham Our Tour Experts

    We carefully select our experts based on their knowledge, companionship and influence, ensuring that you can travel with the most knowledgeable leaders in the field.

Maiko geisha walking on a street of Gion in Kyoto Japan

Japan

Japan – the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ – and a nation where rich history and progressive thinking intertwine beautifully. The cherry blossom festivals – one of our favourite events – is a startling and rare visual feast.

Japan is a country where modernity connects with ancient history, where kimono-clad geisha hurry between traditional houses and robots serve customers in restaurants. It has a distinctive, original identity and is instantly endearing.

Made up of five main islands – plus, some 6,000 smaller ones – there are few places where one can feel so safe, rely on everything to work like clockwork, and yet be in a country so culturally distinct from our own.

Lanterns, Japan
Japanese lanterns

Why Japan?

In many ways, Japan is very similar to Britain – an island race, its people have slightly odd idiosyncratic tendencies and are very reserved, and it has never been conquered (well, at least not for a thousand years). Perhaps that is why we find the country so interesting and appreciate its values. Where else in the world do so many iconic images spring to mind – from trees covered in pink blossom to exquisite plates of sushi, or the snowy peak of Mt Fuji to the white-painted faces of geisha? Whether you seek culture, world-class cuisine, ancient sites or natural beauty, Japan has it all.

Zen Garden, Japan
Japan

Why Japan with Steppes Travel?

Our experts have explored much of Japan and have tried and tested the transport, accommodation, food and sites. To make the most out of any trip, you really need to engage with the culture; whether that means visiting a sumo stable, meeting a geisha or visiting a quirky themed cafe. Local guides are costly, so we will work with you to reduce costs elsewhere without compromising on the experience. However, train travel is efficient and easy to use, and so self-guiding becomes a natural, and exciting, part of exploring Japan.

Explore Japan

  • Kyoto
  • Tokyo
  • Mount Fuji
  • Japanese Alps
  • Hiroshima
  • Shikoku Island
  • Hokkaido
  • Okinawa
  • Izu Peninsula

Experiences

Make the most of every moment in Japan. Create an itinerary brimming with these truly unforgettable moments.

Sumo Wrestling

Visit a Sumo wrestling match at a Sumo stable.

Kenroku-en Gardens

Visit Kenroku-en gardens in Kanazawa, ranked as one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Quirky Tokyo

Experience some of Tokyo’s quirkier sites from cat café’s to pachinko parlours and capsule hotels.

Bullet Train

Travel on the world famous Shinkansen bullet train reaching speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.

Island Hopping

Discover some of the 160 islands in this southern area of Japan.

Kyoto by Bike

Explore the back streets of Kyoto by bicycle.

Ryokan Experience

Stay in a traditional Japanese Inn with rooms featuring tatami mats, rice paper screens and futon beds, some with private hot spring baths and all serving multi course kaiseki meals.

Walk the Nakasendo Trail

Follow in the footsteps of samurais and lords as you hike the old Nakasendo trail in the Japanese Alps.

Geisha Experience

Spend an evening with Geisha and gain an insight into this ancient and fascinating world.

Accommodation

Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Andaz Tokyo £££££

  • Japan
  • City

Andaz Tokyo offers a sophisticated experience, starting from the moment you walk through the door to be greeted and checked in using the height of technology. Elegance and style extend throughout the hotel with a contemporary, urban style woven with Japanese touches. Located on floors 47-50 the 164 spacious rooms all make the most of the panoramic views, as do the swimming pool and hot tubs.

View Property

Four Seasons Kyoto £££££

  • Japan

The Four Seasons Kyoto offers spacious and contemporary rooms overlooking tranquil gardens and Japanese rooftops. An 800-year-old ikeniwa or pond garden lies at the heart of the grounds, surrounded by Japanese stone bridges and delicate maple and blossom trees. A pretty tea house completes the scene. The spacious terrace area allows picturesque waterside dining.

View Property

Amanemu £££££

  • Japan
  • Boutique

Inspired by a traditional Japanese village, each of the 24 elegant suites at Amanemu has a private onsen and spacious terrace. Positioned on a hillside above the picturesque islets of Ago Bay the hotel embraces the ancient Japanese tradition of onsen (mineral hot springs) and the culinary traditions of this gourmet region. The hotel also has a heated swimming pool.

View Property

Karate Lesson, Japan
Karate lesson in Japan

Japan for Families

Legendary Samurai swordsmen, Karate lessons, origami and ancient temples blend seamlessly with modern tech museums, bullet trains and bright manga images. A two-week family holiday to Japan can include the bright lights of Tokyo, the rolling rural mountains of the Japanese Alps and ancient castles in Kyoto. Using public transport is key to a holiday in Japan, so build in plenty for time for this and take advantage of some of the quirky ideas on offer – the kids will love it.

Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Clare Higginson

It was my passion for languages that first encouraged me to leave the UK behind and grab my rucksack. Since then, it’s been a mixture of intriguing cultures, jaw-dropping landscapes and the wonder of seeing animals in their natural habitat that sees me continuously extending my travel wish list. I also seek adventure; exploring the deep blue or hiking a peak often winning favour. Although it’s my time horse herding in Mongolia that I regularly want to relive.
Talk with our experts
  • 01285 601 784

Paul Craven

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz. Later, my father’s postings took us to Nepal where we had to transit Delhi and Kathmandu where we were sometimes stranded for days and Hong Kong from where I travelled in 1983 through China for two months.
Talk with our experts
  • 01285 601 784

Let’s chat

Speak to our experts

Our team is waiting to help you tailor a trip that will leave you with stories for a lifetime. Call us on

01285 601 784

Send us an enquiry

Or send us a quick email below and start your next journey.

Call us

Exceptional organisation. Absolutely nothing was left to chance and help was always a quick email away. I have no areas of complaint at all. I thought it was superb throughout.

Japan

Frequently asked questions about Japan

What is the food like in Japan and do they cater for vegetarians?

Japanese curry, ramen, sushi and tempura are just a few of the traditional dishes worth trying whilst in Japan. Although fish and seafood is a staple in many dishes there are plenty of vegetarian options and the Japanese people have one of the healthiest diets in the world.

What wildlife could I see in Japan?

Although not necessarily easy to see, there is plenty of wildlife throughout Japan. Wild boar can be found across the country and other mammals include squirrel, bear, red fox, deer and wild cat. One of the most iconic animals is the Japanese macaque or snow monkey, often photographed in the steaming hot pools of the Japanese Alps, against a snowy background. Much of the wildlife resides on the northern island of Hokkaido including the endangered red-crowned crane and other birdlife including white-tailed eagles and whooper swans. Join our small group winter wildlife photographic tour with Sue Flood.

When can I see the cherry blossom in Japan?

Spring is the best time to see the cherry blossom in Japan, normally between the months of March and April. The blossom is incredibly fragile so there is normally a two-week window when the trees are in full bloom which is hard to predict with exact precision.

When is the best time to visit Japan?

The weather varies from region to region making Japan a year-round destination, however below is a brief guide as to the highlights of each season:

Spring (March to May) offers lovely temperatures and the chance to see the cherry blossom in bloom.

Summer (June to August) can be hot and humid in parts but lovely in the mountainsAutumn (September to November) is another great time to travel with pleasant temperatures and the vibrant colours of autumn.

Winter (December to February) offers a different experience with some excellent skiing and fun festivals such as Harbin ice festival in the north of the country.

Will I have a private guide and driver throughout my holiday to Japan?

You can certainly have a guide and driver throughout your holiday to Japan if you wish, however, it will come at a price. Most clients decide to ‘self-guide’ during their stay. This means that when transferring between different places, you will make your own way to the bus or train station, board the train or bus yourself and then make your own way to your hotel on arrival.

Some hotels and ryokans do offer a complimentary shuttle service though.Travelling independently is easy in Japan as taxis are easily accessible plus addresses in Japanese are always provided in your final documentation, in case they are needed. As mentioned previously, train and bus stations are also easy to navigate with many signs now being in English.Most clients then book a guide for some day tours. Many of these tours also use public transport to keep costs down. Booking a guide for one of your first few days in Japan is a great way to gain confidence with the public transport and orientate yourself with the culture and surroundings.

What is the currency in Japan?

The Japanese currency is the Yen. Up to date currency rates can be found on xe.com or any other currency exchange site. Currency exchange in Japan can sometimes be a lengthy process so allow for up to 30 minutes at most banks. Travellers’ cheques are also becoming increasingly difficult to change and be sure to have your passport with you if exchanging them. Japan is still a country that uses cash in its everyday transactions.

You may have difficulty using credit and debit cards issued outside Japan and should not rely on them as your only source of income. ATM machines are the easiest way to withdraw cash and are located in many convenient locations including convenience shops. ATM’s may charge a small fee for each transaction, and it is advisable to check withdrawal amounts before leaving as some machines dispense cash in two lots. Your bank may also charge a foreign currency transaction fee, but again please check with your bank.

Are there any nice beaches in Japan?

Japan is not known as a beach destination, however being a long thin country made up of four main islands and over 2,000 smaller ones, there is plenty of coastline and many beaches. The best beaches for swimming and sunbathing are probably on and around the island of Okinawa, a region located in the East China Sea to the south of the country. Made up of over 150 islands the beaches here are known for their white sand and turquoise waters with temperatures rarely falling below 15 degrees.

Can I travel by bullet train in Japan?

Definitely. Bullet train, otherwise known as shinkansen operate on various routes throughout Japan with one of the most popular being between the cities of Tokyo and Osaka via Kyoto. Travelling at speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour it is a fun and efficient way to travel.

Do I need a visa for travel to Japan?

British passport holders can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa, although you may need to provide evidence of your return date or onward travel.

How far in advance do I need to book a holiday to Japan from the UK?

Japan is a very popular country to visit so once you have decided to go, it is always worth reserving your flights, hotels and tours. In this way, you will have the best chance of securing availability and having access to the best airfares. Spring is the most popular time, so it is best to book around nine months in advance if you can.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?


VISIT OUR FAQ PAGE

Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise sets us apart. So too our curiosity. A curiosity of the world and of you, and your passions. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you.

Are you ready to discover extraordinary?


Why Steppes