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Arrive in Tokyo and check in to your hotel at the top of the second-highest building in the city. Your private tour, complete with an expert guide, takes you onto the fabulous public transport system – in true Tokyo fashion – to diverse attractions that include the old downtown area with its history and ancient Senso-ji Temple.
Or – for something completely different – the fashion hub of Shibuya with its leading-edge styles. Quarters like Roppongi and Shinjuku (Kabukicho) specialise in contemporary and traditional entertainment, whilst the Sony Building in Ginza is the place to be if you’re interested in the latest hi-tech devices. Arrive early at Tsukiji fish market and you’ll be able to sample sushi for breakfast, but for a taste of old Edo you should make your way to the atmospheric Asakusa district.
Stay: Three nights in a Bayview Room at Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills – bed & breakfast
A visit to a geisha house is a must for visitors to Japan, and the perfect place to learn more about this ancient art is in the old city of Kanazawa. From Tokyo, you’ll travel by high-speed railway to this preserved historical city where, as well as several geisha districts, you’ll find a samurai quarter, a ninja temple and the outstanding Kenrokuen Gardens, rated amongst the best landscape gardens in Japan. You’ll be accompanied by a private guide whose knowledge and insights will help you appreciate the true wonder of Kanazawa.
Stay: Two nights in a Queen Room at Hotel Nikko Kanazawa – bed & breakfast
Today you’ll take the bus to Takayama via the traditional village of Shirakawago. This small city, surrounded by the Hia, Kiso and Akaishi Mountains, was once regarded as sacred and its ancient inns, historic tea houses, merchant’s mansions and overhanging roofs will take you straight back to the Edo period. Takayama also features many shrines, temples and the Hida Folk Village just outside town. Don’t miss the chance to sample the local sake.
Stay: Two nights in a Japanese-style room at Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama – breakfast & dinner
No trip to Japan would be complete without an exploration of Kyoto. You’ll reach the city by train from Takayama via Nagoya, and check in to your luxury hotel in the Higashiyama Shichijo district. Immersed in the traditional cultural heart of Kyoto, you’ll find yourself within easy reach of the Sanjusangendo Temple, the Kyoto National Museum and countless shrines and landmarks.
Alongside a private guide, you’ll be able to lose yourself in the busy lanes and hidden alleyways that characterise old Kyoto and come to appreciate the mysteries of the geiko and maiko, not to mention fan dancing, shamisen playing, Japanese wordplay and social etiquette.
Stay: Three nights in a Standard Room at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto
Journey by bullet train through extraordinary countryside to Hiroshima. Out of the horrific disaster that ended the Second World War, Hiroshima has risen like a phoenix and is now a bustling, charming town gathered around a poignant Peace Park and Museum. Your private guide will take you to visit Hiroshima Castle, Shukkei-en Garden with its quaint tea houses and the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art containing fabulous paintings by both Japanese and international artists.
You’ll also pay a visit to the much-loved Miyajima Island just off the coast of Hiroshima. You’ll take a local train and a ferry past the floating torii gate to land on the island famed for the Itsukushima Shrine. After wandering around the shrine, a cable car will take you to the summit of Mount Misen, offering breath-taking views across the Inland Sea. Walking is also a great way to discover Miyajima’s many temples, bustling shopping street and time-untouched local village. The island’s sacred deer roam freely, but the resident monkey population is more circumspect about showing itself.
Stay: Two nights in a Deluxe Room at Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel – bed & breakfast
From Hiroshima, you’ll catch another bullet train to Osaka where you’ll be staying at the Marriott Miyako in the Tennoji District. The city, known as the food capital of Japan, is particularly famed for its street food, with delicacies like okonomiyaki, takoyaki and kushikatsu ready to sample from bustling stalls.
At the centre of this ancient trading town you’ll find the beautifully restored Osaka Castle, complete with turrets, gates, moats and stone walls. Built by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the castle played an important role in the unification of Japan back in the 16th century.
Stay: One night in a Deluxe Room at Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel – bed & breakfast
Today your Japan adventure comes to an end. A private car will transfer you to Kansai Airport to check for your flight back to London. You’ll arrive at London Heathrow the same day.
It was a great experience and now I have dipped my toes in the Ultimate waters I shall be back for more.- JE, October