Squeezing the best of Japan into eight days is a challenge that Boutique JTB has risen to with this experience-packed tour of Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara and Fushimi. This is a limited edition tour with a maximum group size of eight guests.
Start with a bang at Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a luxury hotel superbly located in the capital’s bustling downtown district. With the hotel as your base, discover Tokyo’s highlights, from the serenity of Meiji Jingu shrine to the frenetic pace of the famous Shibuya Crossing, while immersing yourself in the city’s food culture through a hands-on sushi workshop, scrumptious street food, celebrated tonkatsu and dinner on a yakatabune pleasure boat.
Stay a night in the spa town of Hakone and experience the ultimate in Japanese hospitality at the foot of Mount Fuji. Visit the active volcanic area of Owakudani, take a cruise across the tranquil Ashi crater lake, see sculptural masterpieces at an open-air museum and try your hand at Yosegi Zaiku marquetry.
Spend two days in Kyoto discovering the old capital’s UNESCO World Heritage gems, including the great Zen temples of Tenryuji and Kinkakuji. Savor the ethereal beauty of the Arashiyama bamboo grove from the back of a hand-pulled rickshaw, lunch on Buddhist cuisine and spend an evening dining with an authentic Kyoto geisha.
No visit to Nara, another former capital and center of Buddhist grandeur, would be complete without seeing the huge bronze Buddha at Todaiji and feeding the tame deer that roam Nara Park.
The tour culminates in Fushimi, a Kyoto district known mostly for its iconic Inari shrine, but one that also has a wide following among sake aficionados. Visit the shrine and then stroll through the sake district, dropping by a celebrated brewery to taste some local brews. On your final evening, relish pairing choice sakes with delicious Italian cuisine.
Sep 9 - Sep 16 SOLD OUT
Oct 28 - Nov 4
Nov 11 - Nov 18
Nov 25 - Dec 2
Dec 9 - Dec 16
Jan 13 - Jan 20
Jan 27 - Feb 3
Feb 10 - Feb 17
Feb 24 - Mar 2
Mar 9 - Mar 16
Meet your English-speaking assistant at Narita or Haneda Airport and head to the Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a five-star travel experience with an unrivaled view of central Tokyo. The hotel is superbly located in Tokyo's bustling downtown, a stone’s throw away from the National Diet Building and a short distance from the Imperial Palace. The hotel’s soaring Sky Lobby, with its abundant natural light, is something to marvel at, as are the immaculately designed guestrooms. The hotel spa, indoor pool and heated public bath offer a restorative retreat, while the numerous restaurants and bars serve a range of inimitable delights.
Spend your first full day in Tokyo visiting some of the city’s most iconic destinations. Begin at Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine that is both a spiritual center and a Tokyo oasis. Next up are Takeshita-dori, the teenager mecca in the heart of Harajuku, and the famous Shibuya Crossing, the sprawling scramble intersection made famous in movies such as Lost in Translation and The Fast and the Furious. Towering above is Shibuya Sky, an outdoor observatory with an indoor section that incorporates dazzling digital art displays. See more amazing art at the celebrated Mori Art Museum before enjoying a short lesson on how to play the traditional taiko drum. Lunch is at Maisen Honten, famous for its tonkatsu, and dinner is on a yakatabune pleasure boat.
Begin a day discovering Tokyo’s eastern districts at Hamarikyu, a serene landscape garden renowned for its peony and canola, as well as the remains of an old moat. Not far away is Tsukiji Outer Market, a foodie mecca in the heart of the capital that boasts fresh fish, dried goods, seasonings and street food. Be sure to leave some room for sushi, as lunchtime is spent learning from your very own sushi master how to make and eat Japan’s national dish. After lunch, spend time at TeamLab Planets, a museum comprising four large-scale artwork spaces and two stylized gardens, before heading to Imperial Palace Plaza. The former site of Edo Castle and the current residence of the Imperial Family, the palace is surrounded by moats and imposing stone walls. End the day visiting Sensoji, one of Tokyo’s grandest temples, and the adjacent Nakamise shopping arcade.
Leave Tokyo for Hakone, a popular mountain spa town. Begin your day at Mount Fuji, Japan's highest and most iconic mountain. Visit the mountain’s fifth station, some 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) above sea level. Continue on to picturesque Oishi Park, which is visited for its pink moss phlox, mustard blossom and stunning views of Mt. Fuji. Proceed by ropeway to Lake Ashi, a picturesque crater lake formed 3,000 years ago. Enjoy a boat cruise across the lake and take in the spectacular mountain scenery. The ropeway passes over Owakudani, a deep valley pockmarked with sulfur vents steaming with volcanic activity. Marvel at the remarkable views. Spend the night at Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu, a ryokan offering authentic Japanese hospitality amid lush nature. All guestrooms have their own private open-air bath.
Visit Hakone Open-Air Museum, home to hundreds of modern and contemporary masterpieces, including sculptures by Rodin, Miro and Moore. Try your hand at Yosegi Zaiku marquetry, a celebrated Hakone handicraft, before leaving for Kyoto by Shinkansen bullet train. Begin your tour of Kyoto at the imposing Nijo Castle, arguably Japan’s finest example of feudal-era castle architecture. Venture beyond the massive walls and sprawling grounds to discover the ornately embellished Ninomaru Palace. Continue on to Nishiki Market, which has been in the food business since the early 17th century. The market is something of a street food mecca, so expect to discover that Kyoto-style corndogs and deep-fried pufferfish are surprisingly tasty. The day ends with geisha at a “geimai” dinner in the old pleasure quarter of Kyoto. Accommodation is at the inimitable The Thousand Kyoto.
Spend a whole day visiting Kyoto’s top sights. Begin at the famed Zen temple of Kinkakuji, one of 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to be found in the city. Next, head to the magnificent bamboo grove at Arashiyama, where you board a hand-pulled rickshaw to tour the area. Listen for the inimitable creaking of the swaying bamboo, now listed among Japan’s 100 soundscapes. Visit nearby Tenryuji, ranked among Kyoto’s five great Zen temples and yet another World Heritage Site. As well as appreciating the beautiful gardens here, participate in a traditional tea ceremony. Continue your discovery of Japan’s old capital at the superb Kiyomizu temple, a World Heritage Site set in the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto. Note that both the main hall and the veranda were built without nails or joiners. In keeping with Kyoto tradition, lunch is shojin ryori Buddhist cuisine.
Spend the first half of the day on a tour of Nara, another of Japan’s old capitals. The city is home to Todaiji, an iconic temple that houses a 15-meter-high (49 feet) bronze Buddha, or Daibutsu. It is also home to herds of tame deer that roam Nara Park in search of tourists with food to offer. From Nara, it’s not far to Fushimi Inari, the most significant of 30,000 shrines dedicated to Inari, a Shinto god worshipped for bountiful harvests. Present a small offering to the resident deity then make your way to the rear of the shrine to find the first of hundreds of vermilion torii gates. The Fushimi district is also renowned for its sake. Stroll along the willow-lined Hori River, admiring the traditional earthen walls of the many sake breweries, before following your English-speaking guide into a local sake maker. End the day pairing choice sake varieties with fine Italian cuisine.
Leave by private vehicle to Kansai International Airport, where you say goodbye to Japan.