After experiencing the bright lights and ceaseless energy of Tokyo, a super-efficient express train or a world famous bullet train will zip you through countryside that looks like it has been painted by an 18th century master – to arrive at Takayama, an ancient city rich in heritage and history. Kanazawa offers ninja houses and temples. Hiroshima is the phoenix city, whilst Miyajima is an island of utter beauty. Kyoto will introduce you to geishas and tea ceremonies, before you return by bullet train for one last look at marvellous Tokyo.
London – Tokyo
Your flight leaves London Heathrow early in the afternoon, arriving at Tokyo Narita Airport the following morning. A 90 minute drive gives you your first glimpse of the energetic, stylish city and takes you to your luxury hotel.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at the Palace Hotel.
As you’ll be staying in an ultra-luxurious central hotel, you’ll be ideally placed to explore Japan’s exciting capital city. You can relax in the hotel spa and wonder at the Tokyo skyline, before venturing out and about. Your private tour, complete with 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 unmissable Asakusa.
Other excursions could include the former capital of Kamakura, Chichibu-Tama National Park, the sacred Mount Takao or the world’s second tallest statue known as the Bubble Buddha.
Tokyo – Takayama
Obviously you can’t visit Japan without taking a trip on one of the legendary bullet trains. From Tokyo station you’ll head north to the mountains. The countryside is phenomenal, so the four hour trip will pass in a flash, and you’ll find yourself in Takayama. This small city, surrounded by the Hia, Kiso and Akaishi Mountains, was once regarded as sacred and its ancient inns, historic tea houses, merchants 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 the Hanaougi Bettei.
A visit to an iconic geisha house is a must for all visitors to Japan, and the perfect place to learn more about this ancient art is in the old city of Kanazawa. As well as several geisha districts there is also the opportunity to visit samurai houses, a ninja temple and the outstanding Kenrokuen Gardens, rated amongst the best 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 luxe floor room at the Hotel Nikko Kanazawa.
Journey by train from Kanazawa, change at Osaka onto another bullet train and you’ll travel through some extraordinary countryside on the way 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 round a poignant Peace Park and Museum. Your private guide will take you to visit Hiroshima Castle, baseball stadium, Shukkei-en Garden with its quaint tea houses and the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art containing fabulous paintings by both Japanese and international artists.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at the Sheraton Hotel Hiroshima.
Today your guide will reveal the picturesque Miyajima Island. You’ll take a local train and a ferry past the floating Torii Gate to land on an island that is 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 Mirayjima’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 Japanese room at the Iwaso Ryokan.
From Miyajima you’re driven to Hiroshima for your bullet train to Kyoto. A private evening tour will show you the famous geisha district as well as presenting you with an insight into the history and culture of this fascinating city. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the busy lanes and hidden alleyways that characterise old Kyoto and come to appreciate the mysteries of Geiko and Maiko, not to mention fan dancing, shamisen playing, Japanese wordplay and social etiquette.
You’ll also have an unforgettable opportunity to visit Nara with your local guide. Here you’ll unearth a wealth of ancient Buddhist and Shinto traditions as well as visiting the fabled Kofukuji temple, and a tranquil park featuring numerous pagodas. You cannot fail to be impressed by the huge wooden buildings. Nara Machi in Nara’s old town, meanwhile, has also retained many of its older buildings, whilst numerous World Heritage Sites, the Todaiji Museum and the Nigatsudo Pavilion will add to your knowledge of the region’s history.
Stay: Three nights in a standard room at the Kyoto Hyatt Regency.
Kyoto – Tokyo – London
From Kyoto Station you’ll be whisked by bullet train back to Tokyo, giving you another chance to be thrilled by the sights, sounds, shops and restaurants of this high energy city. The following morning you’ll be chauffeured to Tokyo Narita Airport to meet your flight back to the UK, departing just after midday and arriving in London Heathrow later in the afternoon.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at the Palace Hotel.