Arrive Tokyo, Japan
Arrive in Tokyo, Japan’s exciting and modern capital. Transfer to your hotel and enjoy the expansive views over Tokyo’s Skyline.
Tokyo | Tsukiji Fish Market & Asakusa Kannon Temple
After your welcome briefing, proceed to Tsukiji Fish Market, a bustling hub of Japanese daily life and the source of most Tokyo inhabitants’ seafood. Next, visit the Imperial Palace Plaza before continuing to the Shitamachi Museum to view historical reproductions of the living spaces of artisans and merchants who once occupied Tokyo’s lowlands, and learn about their remarkable culture. Afterward, visit Asakusa Kannon Temple, pausing in the tiny shops of Nakamise-dori. The colorful pagoda-style temple was completed in 645 and is dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy in several East Asian spiritual traditions. Tonight, join your fellow guests for a welcome dinner.
Tokyo | Life of a Samurai
Today, increase your understanding of Japan’s past and present, starting at the Samurai Museum, where you learn about the customs of this elite-warrior class and get an up-close look at an authentic collection of their exotic armor and weaponry. Then, pass by Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo’s answer to Times Square, to watch the downright mesmerizing multi-directional foot traffic. Stop at the Nezu Museum to view the exquisite porcelain, ceramics, textiles, calligraphy and paintings on display, and stroll its tranquil gardens. Proceed to Tokyo’s vibrant Harajuku district, where the city’s youth gather to see and be seen, sporting colorful, eclectic fashions. Also visit Omotesando Street, an elegant row of upscale shops offering chic ambience and dazzling façades.
Hakone | Traditional Ryokan
Travel to Hakone, among Japan’s most popular hot-spring resorts, and view the forested slopes of Hakone National Park, an area encompassing coastlines, mountains, lakes and more than 1,000 volcanic islands. Embark on a scenic cruise of Lake Ashi, gliding past the wooded mountain slopes that enclose it. Then, board the Hakone Komagatake Ropeway and soar through the clouds on this inspiring aerial tramway, taking in spectacular views of Mount Fuji. Next, stroll the grassy hillsides of Hakone’s Open Air Museum, admiring sculptures and artwork from the likes of Picasso and Henry Moore. Tonight, enjoy unparalleled service and traditional Japanese cuisine at Gôra Kadan, a top-rated ryokan (traditional inn).
Osaka | Bullet Train Ride & Medieval Castle
After breakfast at your ryokan and a morning at leisure, Ride Like a Local by bullet train to Osaka. Historically known as a merchant city, today this center of commerce is renowned as Japan’s undisputed foodie capital, where diners indulge in everything from octopus dumplings to Okonomi-yaki — a battered, grilled concoction of chopped cabbage, meat or seafood, and seaweed, topped with mayonnaise. This afternoon, stroll through the lovely grounds of Osaka Castle, which played a key role in the unification of Japan in the 16th century. This evening, enjoy a wonderful foodie tour in the Dotonbori district, sampling dishes from the brilliantly lighted and culinarily creative restaurants that line the street. Later, check in to your hotel.
Nara | Gardens & Temples
Travel early this morning to visit ancient Nara, Japan’s first capital. En route, stop at the Kehaya-za Sumo Pavilion, where you observe a demonstration of this fabled Japanese sport that culminates in a match between two professional sumo wrestlers. Continue to Nara Park, home to over a thousand tame deer, and stop at Todai-ji, a temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Complete your excursion with a visit to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Nara’s most celebrated shrine, it is dedicated to the deity tasked with protection of the city. Afterward, return to your hotel in Osaka.
Kyoto | The Golden Pavilion & Bamboo Grove
Travel early this morning to contemplate the iconic Zen rock garden at Ryoan-ji, the perfect spot for a meditative walk, and discover the glittering Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion) — covered with gold leaf, surrounded by green gardens and set on a lovely, tranquil pond. Later, bask in the magical atmosphere of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, strolling along a winding path as sunlight filters down through towering bamboo shoots gently swaying in the breeze.
Kyoto | Japanese Mingei Folk Art
This morning, begin at a temple, where you experience the art of the tea ceremony, noting its refined sense of hospitality and etiquette that date to the time of the samurai. Next, visit Kiyomizu Temple and stand on its massive veranda for stunning city views. Then, stroll through Gojozaka Hills, an area known for its many pottery studios, on your way to the home and studio of the late Kawai Kanjiro, one of Kyoto’s most famous potters. Kanjiro’s beautiful, unusual home — redesigned to resemble a country house — is filled with his own creations and his personal collection, including ceramics, sculptures and wood carvings. Tonight, toast your journey with a Scenic Sundowner followed by an exquisite kaiseki banquet, where an attending geiko (as a geisha is known in Kyoto) and maiko dance, sing, pour sake and converse about their fascinating lives.
After breakfast, transfer to Kansai International Airport or Itami Airport, both located just outside of Osaka, for your flight home or to begin a post-tour extension in Hiroshima.