Tailor-Made Holiday

Japan in Style - Tokyo, Kyoto & Kanazawa

14 days

from £8,270pp (excluding flights)

Travel in style through Japan, exploring historic and vibrant cities, rustic villages, Zen gardens and ancient pagodas. This itinerary idea combines ultra-modern Tokyo, the cultural capital of Kyoto, the creative hub of Kanazawa and the exceptional landscapes and hot springs of Yamanaka. All the while you stay in luxurious hotels and ryokan (Japanese inn). Exceptional insider experiences are included at each destination. 

  • Explore Tokyo's art scene with an expert guide, visiting Tokyo's galleries, studios and backrooms
  • Let one of our local experts show you Tokyo's nightlife and get under the skin of the city
  • Experience a performance from a Geisha in the traditional and beautiful city of Kyoto
  • Meet a local artisan in Kanazawa and learn about many of the traditional crafts that thrive in this city

Tokyo

Tokyo is the example of modern Japan testing the boundaries of tradition. One of the largest and busiest cities in the world finds buildings constructed in every available space and raised expressways winding across the urban landscapes high above crowded walkways. At dusk, neon lighting brings a surreal glow to the city. Interesting sights in the city include the current Imperial Palace, located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the centre of Tokyo. Today it is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family. The Senso-ji Temple, popularly known as Asakusa Kannon, is Tokyo's most sacred and spectacular temple. A shopping street of over 200 metres, called Nakamise, leads from the outer gate to the temple's second gate and is a treasure trove of traditional wares. It has a history of several centuries. Visit Tsukiji Fish Market, the world’s biggest seafood market where giant tuna can be sold for thousands of pounds.

Kyoto

Kyoto offers the classic image of Japan, traditional wooden houses, weeping cherry and the sound of geta (wooden soled shoes) on the paving stones. The capital of Japan for over a thousand years Kyoto has an overwhelming number of ancient Buddhist Temples, majestic palaces and gardens of every size and description, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is also one of the only places in Japan where it is possible to cross paths with a real Geisha, a magical experience.

Kanazawa

Kanazawa’s array of cultural attractions makes it the drawcard of the Hokuriku region. Best known for Kenroku-en, a castle garden dating from the 17th century, it also boasts beautifully preserved samurai and geisha districts, attractive temples and a wealth of museums.  Kanazawa is one of the great centres of Japanese refinement. The production of lacquers, silk, decorative gold leaf and pottery can be admired at the prefectural museum of traditional crafts. Furthermore, Kanazawa is a centre for artisans specialising in traditional Japanese crafts. Private studios and galleries are well worth visiting in order to meet these incredible artists.

The curious can visit the remains of the historical old samurai quarters, including the residence of the Takada family. The modern will in turn be delighted by the huge art museum, whose activity stimulates artistic creation around the entire country.

Yamanaka Onsen

Yamanaka Onsen, a small resort town along the Kakusenkei Gorge, is one of the four hot spring towns that make up Kaga Onsen. The town's hot springs were discovered over 1300 years ago by the monk Gyoki, and have since been known to produce some of the best waters in the region. Yamanaka Onsen's hot spring waters are said to ease muscle and joint pain, speed up recovery from disease and improve one's health in general.

Ryokan (Japanese Inn)

During your visit to Japan you can stay in a Japanese Inn or what is known as a Ryokan. There are many different types or styles of ryokan. No two ryokan are the same, and the quality of ryokan varies dramatically. Standard ryokan are quite basic with no-frills. Luxury ryokan offer an exceptional ryokan experience with wonderful food, a gorgeous room, a Japanese cypress bath, a view of a Japanese garden and first-class service. It is well worth staying in a ryokan during your visit to Japan and paying a little extra to stay in the more special ones. 

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights £Flight cost from 
£ 8270 £ 725

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Tokyo


Japan is an intriguing blend of the resolutely traditional and the restlessly innovative - and nowhere typifies this more so than Tokyo. Look beyond its futuristic façade and you will discover a different Tokyo, where ancient traditions and customs are quietly maintained. An enthralling and captivating city of many layers, it is an essential place to visit for any keen traveller.

Day 2

Day at leisure in Tokyo


You will be staying at Mandarin Oriental, Bed & Breakfast

Day 3

Ghibli Museum - Animation Studios
Travel by public transport with a guide to the Ghibli Museum, the animation and art museum of Miyazaki Hayao's Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most famous animation studios. They have produced many feature-length films, such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.

Located in Mitaka, just outside central Tokyo, the museum is whimsically designed in the distinct style of the studio's films, and many of their famous characters are there, including a life-sized robot from Castle in the Sky on the rooftop garden. The first floor of the museum exhibits the history and techniques of animation and has as a small theatre, which shows short films by Studio Ghibli that are exclusive to the museum and are rotated monthly. The second floor, houses special temporary exhibitions.


Explore Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is a shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. In Shinto, it is not uncommon to enshrine the deified spirits of important personalities. Emperor Meiji was the first emperor of modern Japan. He was born in 1852 and ascended to the throne in 1868 at the peak of the Meiji Restauration when the power was switched from the feudal Tokugawa government to the emperor. During the Meiji Period, Japan modernized and westernized herself to join the world’s major powers by the time Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912.


Omotesando Street and Station
Omotesando Street is lined with elegant boutiques and restaurants, and a stroll down here will take you to the Omotesando Station.


Sushi Making at Local Home
Visit a typical Japanese home and learn how to prepare making sushi (rolled sushi), gunkan maki (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and nigiri sushi (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish).


You will be staying at Mandarin Oriental, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

Edo-Tokyo Museum
The Edo-Tokyo Museum was opened in March 1993, as a facility to preserve the historical heritage of Edo-Tokyo. At the Special exhibition gallery, view selected exhibits on subjects related to Tokyo’s history and culture.


Shopping and culture in the Harajuku
Harajuku refers to the area around Tokyo’s Harajuku Station and is the centre of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. More shopping will be found in Omotesando Street, which served as the main access to Meiji Jingu Shrine from Aoyama Street. In recent years, a number of stylish new stores have opened, such as the fashion building Omotesando Hills and famous brand name stores from around the world. The Shibuya shopping area is noted for clothes and accessories and in the Shinjuku area, where amongst many other shops, you will find Kinokuniya, which is one of Tokyo’s largest bookshops.


You will be staying at Mandarin Oriental, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Travel from Tokyo to Nagoya (Rail Journey)

Drive from Nagoya to Iga Ueno (Road Journey)


Iga Ueno is most famous for ninja. The Iga school of ninjutsu (art of stealth), based in the former Ueno City, used to be one of Japan's two leading ninja schools during the feudal era (the Koka school in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture was the other). Today, Iga Ueno attracts visitors with its fine ninja museum.

Iga Ueno is also the birthplace of one of Japan's greatest poets, Basho Matsuo, who lived during the early Edo Period. A memorial museum, his birth home and a former hermitage are some of the city's Basho related sites.


Tour of Iga Ueno
Built entirely of wood, the outer stone walls of Ueno Castle stand 30 metres high and are the tallest in Japan. The Iga school of Ninjutsu (the art of stealth) was based in Iga Ueno, home to one of Japan's leading ninja schools. At the excellent Iga Ninja Museum, you can see a reconstructed ninja residence, complete with revolving walls, trap doors, and hidden compartments. The entertaining ninja show features authentic ninja skills and real weapons. Also of note in Iga Ueno is the Basho Memorial Museum, located near the castle.

Drive from Iga Ueno to Wakayama (Road Journey)


Wakayama is a Japanese prefecture in the Kansai region, on Honshu island's Kii Peninsula. Its namesake capital is home to Wakayama Castle, an Edo-period replica set in a hilltop park with city views. Pilgrimage routes connect a trio of Shinto shrines collectively known as Kumano Sanzan. Over 100 temples rest among the peaks of Mount Koya, where Shingon Buddhism is headquartered.


You will be staying at Hotel Granvia Wakayama, Bed & Breakfast

Day 6

Day Tour
Overshadowed by the neighbouring city of Osaka, this humble Japanese prefecture is home to arguably Japan's most delicious ramen, a 1,700-year-old fire festival and a giant open-air bath fed by a hot spring.

Ever since Ide Shoten’s Wakayama ramen was voted "Japan's most delicious" by a Japanese food show, this humble noodle shop has become sacred ground for ramen lovers. Wakayama ramen has a unique soup base, made with an extremely savory pork bone and soy sauce broth.

Wakayama’s fish markets may not share the fame of their Tokyo counterpart, the Tsukiji fish market, but they’re just as noteworthy. Kuroshio-Ichiba Market hosts three entertaining tuna cutting shows daily. Porto Europa, a Europe-themed amusement park, is another attraction right next door. The Katsuura Port fish market in the southeast corner of the prefecture is also worth a visit, if only because it's famous for hauling in the biggest tuna in Japan. After viewing the daily tuna auction from the observation area, visitors can sample the goods, seared tataki, sushi or sashimi, in Katsuura town.

Japan’s best unknown hike, Kumano Kodo is the perfect Kii Mountain getaway. Made up of seven routes of various difficulties through the south of Wakayama prefecture, the hike was originally an ancient pilgrimage leading to three major Japanese shrines: Hongu Taisha, Nachi Taisha and Hayatama Taisha. The easily navigable routes are dotted with numerous onsen (hot spring) towns, scenic valleys and restaurants serving rustic Japanese cuisine.

Wakayama has plenty of ancient onsen spots. Saki-no-yu in Shirahama, south of Wakayama, is a public bath right on the shore of the Pacific. Sennin-buro in Kawayu, southeast of Wakayama city, is a giant 73-degree Celsius pool right in the river. It’s also Japan’s biggest open-air bath. The city of Katsuura has a few onsens with amazing views. For a less-exposed onsen experience, you can soak your feet in hot spring water while you dine at Ashiyu-Yokocho, a Japanese restaurant/feet onsen in Shirahama.

You will find the best view of Wakayama Castle from the hotels across the road. Explore the peaceful castle gardens and the panoramic views from the top.


You will be staying at Hotel Granvia Wakayama, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

Drive from Wakayama to Kyoto (Road Journey)


Kyoto is quintessentially Japan. Peaceful temples, lavish gardens, and majestic palaces combine to create a slice of Japan at its purest and most distilled. Witness Geishas darting from one liaison to the next, or amble through one of the famous bamboo thickets. The home of Japanese cuisine and wearing its rich culture on its sleeve, Kyoto is a truly magical city.


Explore the Arashiyama District
Arashiyama is a pleasant district at the outskirts of Kyoto. Its landmark is the wooden (now partially concrete) Togetsukyo Bridge with forested Mount Arashiyama as backdrop. Located here is the Tenryuji Temple, a Zen Temple, that was established in 1339 and like many other temples burnt down several times. The current buildings date from the Meiji Period. Muso Soseki, the temple’s founding abbot and famous garden designer, created Tenryuji’s landscape garden which, unlike the temple buildings, survived the many fires and is considered one of the oldest of its kind. Tenryuji was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995 and is also famous for it's bamboo forest.


Half Day Visit to the Zen Temples and Gardens
Also see the Ryoanji Temple, a Zen temple whose main attraction is its rock garden, the most famous of its kind in Japan. The simple Zen garden consists of nothing but rocks, moss and neatly raked gravel. Finally, see the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji). This is also a Zen temple formally known as Rokuonji. In 1397 construction started on the Golden Pavilion as part of a new residence for the retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Kinkakuji was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimitsu’s death in 1408. The Golden Pavilion functions as shariden, housing sacred relics of the Buddha and is covered in gold leaf. The present building dates from 1955 as the pavilion was burnt by a fanatic monk in 1950.


You will be staying at Ritz Carlton, Bed & Breakfast

Day 8

Full Day City Tour
This morning your private guide will meet you in the hotel lobby at 9am.

Start the day with a visit to Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun. After his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples.

Nijo Castle is an ornamental castle, built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The main building was completed in 1603, and is famous for its architecture, decorated sliding doors and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors.


Take a walk down Nishiki Market, a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail market specialises in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.

Final stop today is Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple. From the 13m high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto, whilst pondering the fact that both the Main Hall and Veranda were built without the use of nails or any kind of joiners.


You will be staying at Ritz Carlton, Bed & Breakfast

Day 9

Gion District and Geisha
Take in Gion’s unique atmosphere by taking a stroll down its preserved back streets famous for Geisha. At the Gion Corner, watch tea ceremonies, traditional dancing, music, and performances.


Participate in a Sake tasting session and visit Robert Yellins Pottery Gallery


You will be staying at Ritz Carlton, Bed & Breakfast

Day 10

Travel from Kyoto to Yamanaka Onsen (Rail Journey)


With a history of more than 1,300 years, Yamanaka Onsen boasts a vibrant and beautiful blend of nature and traditional culture. All year round, the streets bustle with tourists visiting the many shops and ryokans (Japanese-style inn) clustered around the onsen district. Just outside of the central Yamanaka Onsen area lies the area known as Oku-Yamanaka, a tourist zone that offers diverse outdoor activities. Many visitors come here to hike, camp, and see the cherry blossoms in the spring, the flowers and trees in the summer, and the colourful foliage of the autumn. It is also a great place to go for a drive with friends and family.


You will be staying at Kayoutei, Breakfast

Day 11

Drive from Yamanaka Onsen to Kanazawa (Road Journey)


During the Edo Period, Kanazawa served as the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa in terms of rice production and fief size. Accordingly, Kanazawa grew to become a town of great cultural achievements, rivaling Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).

During World War Two, Kanazawa was Japan's second largest city (after Kyoto) to escape destruction by air raids. Consequently, parts of the old castle town, such as the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment districts, have survived in pretty good condition.

Today, Kanazawa remains an important city in its region and serves as the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. The city boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. But Kanazawa's unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens" and by many considered the most beautiful of them all.


Tour of Kanazawa
Visit Kenrokuen, the definitive example of an Edo-period garden, and counted as one of Japan's three most beautiful gardens. Within the park grounds sits the spectacular Seisonkaku Villa. Kanazawa Castle is located adjacent to Kenrokeun, the sections now standing have been restored down to the last detail, including the white lead roof tiles. Higashichayagai Geisha District consists of buildings preserved from the mid-to-late 1800s, the perfect place to experience a traditional machiya (townhouse) district, have some homemade ice cream and try your hand at playing a shamisen. The Samurai District was once home to many wealthy samurai families. The historic atmosphere is well preserved, with some former samurai homes remaining practically untouched.

For those with a sense of adventure, suit up in uniforms and experence Kendo and Iaido (swordplay) in a local dojo. For the artist, private lessons with calligraphy and ikebana (Japanese flower arrangment) are possible.

Head to Kanazawa Port for the evening fish auction.

Drive from Kanazawa to Yamanaka Onsen (Road Journey)


You will be staying at Kayoutei, Breakfast

Day 12

Drive from Yamanaka Onsen to Kanazawa (Road Journey)


Yasue Gold Leaf Museum
Visit Yasue Gold Leaf Museum, which offers a full explanation of gold leaf technology and exhibitions of a gold leaf, some dating back to the Momoyama-era at the end of the 16th century.


Local experts will take you to visit private studios to meet the artisans

Drive from Kanazawa to Yamanaka Onsen (Road Journey)


You will be staying at Kayoutei, Breakfast

Day 13

Travel from Yamanaka Onsen to Tokyo (Rail Journey)


You will be staying at Mandarin Oriental, Breakfast

Day 14

Fly Tokyo to London

Accommodation

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

Mandarin Oriental

Mandarin Oriental

Mandarin Oriental is situated overlooking the city of Tokyo, a five-star luxury hotel with views to take your breath away....

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Destination Experts

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Paul Craven, Travel Expert

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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