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. Continue 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. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then 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. Finish your day with a photo stop at the Imperial Palace Plaza. Tonight, join your fellow guests for a welcome dinner.
Tokyo | Life of a Samurai
Today, start 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 for lunch at a local restaurant before proceeding 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. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
Hakone | Traditional Ryokan
Travel to Hakone, among Japan’s most popular hot-spring destinations, and view the forested slopes of Hakone National Park, an area encompassing coastlines, mountains, lakes and more than 1,000 volcanic islands. Board an aerial tram rising above the wooded slopes for inspiring views of Mount Fuji. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before strolling the grassy hillsides of Hakone’s Open Air Museum. Admire the impressive contemporary sculptures and artwork on display, including masterpieces by Henry Moore and Rodin. The museum also features one of the world’s finest Picasso exhibits, presenting visitors with some 300 works by the cubist master. Tonight, enjoy unparalleled service and traditional Japanese cuisine at Gôra Kadan, a top-rated ryokan (traditional inn), which is also your elegant and authentic accommodation for the night.
Osaka | Dotonbori District Delicacies
After breakfast at your ryokan, visit the Okada Museum of Art to view its stunning collection of paintings, ceramics, lacquerware and bronzes from Japan, Korea and China. Then, Ride Like a Local by bullet train to Osaka. Historically known as a merchant city, it is today renowned as Japan’s undisputed culinary 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 evening, set out on a foodie tour in the popular Dotonbori district, sampling dishes from the brilliantly lighted and gastronomically creative restaurants that line the street.
Nara | Insights into a Profoundly Spiritual Heritage
Travel to Nara, Japan’s first capital, to visit Todai-ji, a temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains the largest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. Proceed to Nara Park, home to hundreds of deer, venerated here as divine spirits, which you have the opportunity feed by hand. Complete your Nara excursion with a visit to celebrated Kasuga Taisha Shrine and experience a Shinto ceremony firsthand. Pause for lunch at a local restaurant before proceeding to the Kehaya-za Sumo Pavilion, where you observe a demonstration of this fabled Japanese sport by two sumo wrestlers. Return to your hotel, where you enjoy dinner.
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 moment, and discover the glittering Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion) — covered with gold leaf, surrounded by green gardens and casting its delicate reflection in the tranquil pond beside it. After a traditional bento box lunch, explore the Arashiyama neighborhood, including the garden of Tenryu-ji Temple. Later, bask in the magical atmosphere of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, strolling along a winding path as sunlight filters down through towering bamboo shoots — considered by many a healing experience.
Kyoto | In the Traditional Home of a Beloved Artist
Visit Shogunzaka Temple for stunning views of Kyoto, and then continue to the home and studio of the late Kawai Kanjiro, one of Kyoto’s most famous potters. In Kanjiro’s beautiful home, view his own creations as well as his personal collection of ceramics, sculptures and wood carvings. Proceed to a temple, where you experience the art of the tea ceremony, noting its refined sense of hospitality and etiquette, which date to the time of the samurai. Tonight, savor traditional Japanese cuisine, while an attending geiko (as a geisha is known in Kyoto) and maiko (apprentice geisha) 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 begin a post-tour extension to Hiroshima.