Discover The Real Japan

| Japan | Tokyo | Kyoto | Kanazawa |
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Summary

Japan offers unparalleled luxury journeys not only those visiting Japan for the first-time, but also for discerning travellers who wish to explore the country in depth. Take a glimpse into the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, combining the past & present, help you discover the heritage of Kanazawa, a historic city where Samurai, Geisha and feudal Lords imposed their mark and introduce you to the legendary Japanese hospitality in a peaceful Ryokan of Yamashiro Onsen thermal resort, before moving to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan filled with serene Temples, peaceful gardens and remnants of a glorious past.

Itinerary

Day 1 - 2
Excursion starts:

Fly to Tokyo. After arriving at Narita International Airport and completing immigration formalities, you will be welcomed by your private English speaking driver and transferred in a luxury vehicle to your hotel.

If you arrive early, you can leave your luggage and enjoy strolling around Tokyo's Nihonbashi area on your own. You may visit the Nihonbashi meaning “Japan Bridge”, which was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, in 1603. Also worth a visit are the several high-end Department Stores, such as Mitsukoshi, Coredo and Takashimaya, featuring trendy shops, cafes and restaurants, including gourmet food courts in the basement.

After check-in, enjoy time at leisure. It is recommended to visit the hotel's acclaimed spa to relax from your long journey with a rejuvenating massage (advance booking recommended). Upon arrival at your hotel (Mandarin Oriental Tokyo), you will be overwhelmed by the dramatic first impression. The extraordinary lobby surrounded by glass has been voted the best in the world by first class travellers. The futuristic luxury of the interiors illustrates the hotel’s defining style; extreme comfort whilst reflecting Japan’s characteristics. An extraordinary sense of space in the rooms and suites is the predominant feel throughout the hotel. Not only are they some of the largest in Japan, the boundaries of the rooms dissolve with the expanse of glass walls and endless views across the city.

Accommodation: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Day 2 - 3
Excursion starts:

This morning, meet your private guide at 09.00 am and leave by chartered vehicle to Tsukiji morning market, the largest wholesale fish markets of the world, importing a diversity of seafood from 60 countries on six continents. Start strolling around the outer-market before entering the actual wholesale market, where you will see fish & seafood being prepared & sold (no auction). You may also sample the freshest sushi at a nearby restaurant.

After this early gastronomic experience, take a pleasant and peaceful stroll in Hamarikyu Garden, a vast landscaped park characterized by its tranquility in the middle of Tokyo and reach the pier, before boarding a cruise boat the Sumida River to Asakusa.

Discover Tokyo’s skyline and bridges from a different perspective on the way to Asakusa one of Tokyo oldest and well preserved districts. Walk along the Nakamise dori merchant street, dating back to the Edo period when the temple’s neighbours were given special right to open their shops in the approach to the temple and arrive at the Sensoji Temple, with its huge lantern. Your guide will show you the small streets where you can still feel the presence of Ancient Japan.

After Lunch, you will be introduced to a private Japanese cultural experience, in the intimate setting of a modern Traditional Japanese Arts school, usually catering to Japanese adults who wish to learn the traditional arts. You can choose between:

- Calligraphy (Shodo). More than an art form, Shodo cultivates the inner self. Particular emphasis is placed on the combination of the strokes, the movement of the brush and the shades of the ink. Witness a demonstration by a master calligraphist and write your chosen “Kanji” (the Chinese characters on which the Japanese writing system is based). Each kanji is a symbol for a concept and reflects a historical connecting to the word’s meaning.
Tea ceremony (Chado). One of Japan's traditional cultural practices, it is the name given to a synthetic art that encompasses not only the making of tea, but also tea-room architecture, the appreciation of tea utensils and bowls and Zen Buddhism.

After this peaceful & inspiring experience, continue your visit onto Ginza district, known for having the most expensive real estate on earth and home to some of the country’s most prestigious companies, numerous brand shops, department stores, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Here, architects rival in imagination with fashion designers from all over the world, including the Swatch & the Hermes buildings. Also take some time to visit some of Ginza’s famous department stores, especially their basement floors, with high-end food courts, where Tokyoites buy their delicacies.

Accommodation: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Day 3 - 4
Excursion starts:

At 09.00 am, you will be met by your private guide and transferred by chartered vehicle to another side of Tokyo. Start with a pleasurable stroll in the Yoyogi park of Meiji Jingu Shrine, which was constructed in 1920 by more than 100,000 volunteers to honor Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. The Shrine is located in a 700,000 square-meters evergreen forest of 120,000 trees, donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established.

Explore the nearby Harajuku to see the best of Tokyo’s sub-culture, where so-called “Harajuku Girls” gather on Sunday, dressed up in “Cosplay”, imitating their favorite Fantasy Heroes. In recent years, Harajuku has also become another major fashion and shopping corner of Japan with numerous famous and lesser known yet very creative designer shops. Also take a dive into “Takeshita Dori” a small street packed with both fashion shops and shoppers. Real “fashion victims”, should allow at least two hours.

Transfer to Roppongi Hills, a sleek and modern shopping and entertainment complex with many great options for lunch in the area, depending on your tastes. After lunch visit the Mori Art Museum established in 2003 as a cultural complex on the upper floors of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, designed by Richard Gluckman. The Mori Art museum takes an open attitude in introducing the newest art forms from all over the world, with its key emphasis placed on being “contemporary” and “international” and the belief that each of the world’s diverse cultures must be accorded equal importance. Then climb up to the Roppongi Hills observation deck located on the 52nd floor of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, where you can enjoy 360 degree view of Tokyo. There are two relaxed “cafés” where you can take a break enjoying the sweeping sight over the metropolis.

Alternative museum visits (a visit to another museum of your choice in the same area is also possible):
- The Suntory Museum of Arts for traditional Japanese arts under the theme "Beauty in Everyday Life, with an emphasize on ceramics & glass works
- The National Arts Center interesting both for its amazing interior architecture as for its exhibits of contemporary & modern arts
- 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, by Issey Miyake, focusing on design & modern arts

Come back to your hotel around 17.00 pm and enjoy time at leisure.

Accommodation: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Day 4 - 5
Excursion starts:

Today is at leisure, to relax and enjoy discovering Tokyo on your own. However, if you wish, you can enjoy an additional excursion to Nikko.

Meet your private guide at 08:00 am and leave for Nikko in a chartered vehicle (1.5 to 2 hours). Start from the Toshogu, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. See fabulous carvings of the mausoleum in beautiful mountain setting.

After Lunch go to Lake Chuzenji, situated at an elevation of 1,269 meters, a beautiful lake with forested shores at the foot of the sacred volcano Mt. Nantai. The lake is said to have been formed by lava flows of the presently dormant volcano several thousand years ago.

View the magnificent Kegon Falls, 97 meter-high, one of Japan’s three highest waterfalls, with smaller waterfalls situated behind and to the sides of Kegon Waterfalls, leaking through the many cracks between the mountain and the lava flows.

Leave the area around 16.00 pm by private chartered vehicle and reach Tokyo and your hotel by 18:00 pm.

Accommodation: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Day 5 - 6
Excursion starts:

This morning, check-out of the hotel by 09.00 am and meet your English speaking chauffeur for transfer to Tokyo Station. Board a direct “Shinkansen” (Bullet Train) and reach Kanazawa shortly after noon. You will be met by your private English-speaking guide and start your excursion by private chartered vehicle.

Start with a visit to the Omicho Market, which local people regard as the “Kitchen of all Kanazawa People” for a short visit before lunch. The atmosphere is very different from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo and you can see the difference in food offered from the Sea of Japan. See, smell and taste the freshest seafood with a “Kaisendon” lunch, made of Sashimi (raw fish) on top of rice.

Move on to the ancient Samurai district of Nagamachi. Walking through this traditional part of Kanazawa will show tangible evidence of Kanazawa’s prosperous past. In a tranquil setting, the narrow, rock-laid street bordered by earthen walls and decorative gates exude an ambience of feudal times. A visit to Nomurake, a former Samurai House, gives a great insight into Traditional Architecture.

Finally, discover the magnificent Kenrokuen garden, reputedly one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan. Admire the harmonious coexistence of six Chinese attributes of perfection, evolving as seasons unfold. Kenrokuen Garden is beautiful in all seasons.

Transfer by private chartered vehicle to Yamashiro Onsen (about 45-60 minutes). Situated in Ishikawa Prefecture far west of Tokyo, the town of Yamashiro Onsen is surrounded by forested mountains and renowned for its hot springs, natural settings and sophisticated craftsmanship, including ceramics.

Upon arrival, check in at Araya Totoan and enjoy time in a peaceful & luxurious environment, enjoying your own private hot spring baths as well as the communal indoor & outdoor baths.

In the evening, enjoy a gourmet Kaiseki dinner of 12-15 delicate dishes, which will be served either in the comfort of your suite or in the main dining room. Reserve ample time to relish the delicacies of the region: it takes between 1,5 to 2 hours to complete a Kaiseki dinner.

In the Edo Period, Lord Maeda’s minister Araya Gen’emon ordered this ryokan to be the hot spring bathing place for his lord. Since then, 18th generations of the same family have been taking care of this Ryokan and its guests. Abundant hot water gushes out of the natural hot springs into the several baths, either shared or private in the comfort of your room. Here you will enjoy the hospitality that only a small ryokan can offer, the cuisine, with beautiful tableware which a long tradition has developed, as well as pure relaxation in tranquil settings.

Accommodation: Araya Totoan (Japanese Tatami room with private hot-spring bath)

Day 6 - 7
Excursion starts:

This morning, enjoy a relaxed morning and a hearty breakfast at the ryokan, before meeting your private English speaking guide and your driver at 10.00 am and transferring to Kanazawa (45-60 minutes depending on traffic).

Start your visit in the ancient district of Higashiyama Geisha District. Built in 1820, it still preserves Kanazawa’s feudal heritage with wooden lattice fronts of old geisha houses. Many buildings have been converted into shops, selling Kanazawa’s sophisticated craft heritage: ceramics, lacquer ware and gold-leaf decorated items.

Well worth a visit is Kaikaro, to discover a traditional teahouse, where Geisha still entertain their clients. Enjoy the privileged opportunity (upon availability) to meet and discuss freely with the “Okami-san” around a cup of tea and get a better understanding of the world of Geisha. Your guide will act as a translator for an exciting conversation.

Early afternoon, visit the D.T. Suzuki Museum, dedicated to the prominent Buddhist philosopher Daisetsu Suzuki. Information is mostly in Japanese, but the architecture and atmosphere, favorable to contemplation, make it worth a visit.

Continue to the nearby Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, an architecturally striking building and one of the most successfully-run museums in Japan. The museum focuses on integrating the design of its space with the program and features many up-coming Japanese artists, as well as permanent installations by renowned international artists, such as Leandro Ehrlich or Anish Kapoor.

Around 16:00 PM proceed back by private chartered car to your Ryokan and enjoy another yet different kind of Kaiseki dinner, as well as the hot-spring bath.

Accommodation: Araya Totoan (Japanese Tatami room with private hot-spring bath)

Day 7 - 8
Excursion starts:

Around 09:30 am, check out of your Ryokan, transfer by private chartered vehicle with Japanese-speaking driver to Kaga Onsen Station (20 minutes drive) and board a direct express train to Kyoto arriving shortly after noon. Meet your private English-speaking guide and start a half-day excursion in chartered vehicle.

Start at Nijo Castle, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo shogunate. Particularly interesting are the Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors and wooden floors that squeak like when walking on them – a revolutionary security measure against intruders.

Transfer to the Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) Temple, built in 1397 to serve as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, whose grandson actually used as the inspiration for the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) temple.

Continue to the serene Ryoan-ji Temple, prominent for its rock garden comprised of nothing but clay walls, raked sand and fifteen rocks. It is intriguing to interpret the garden’s mysterious arrangement based on intuition. Compare the stark differences between magnificence of Kinkakuji and the simplicity of Ryoanji temples./


Around 17.00 pm, transfer to The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto and check in. Enjoy time at leisure.Very centrally located close to Kyoto’s famous downtown districts such as Gion, Kawaramachi and Pontocho streets, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto sits serenely on the banks of the Kamogawa river and offers expansive views to the river and the Higashiyama mountain in the distance.
A discreet entrance from the street leads through a covered walkway surrounded by water, to the heart of the hotel where artworks and F&B outlets create a sense of “living space”. The 134 rooms are among the largest in town and incorporate traditional elements of Kyoto. Some suites have either balconies overlooking the river or outdoor gardens modeled after traditional Japanese tsukimidai “moon-viewing decks.” In addition to the expansive Spa, the hotel also features a swimming pool and a gym equipped with state of the art technology

Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

Day 8 - 9
Excursion starts:

This morning at 9:00 am, meet your private guide, and leave for Kyoto excursion by chartered vehicle. Start your visit at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple originally founded in 798. Its magnificent views of the city from its main hall attract visitors throughout Japan. The common Japanese idiom “jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu Temple” means that someone is about to undertake some particularly bold or daring adventure.

A nice and relaxing stroll will take you through the old neighbourhood of “Sannenzaka” (Three year slope), which used to be the favored route of pilgrims before reaching Kiyomizudera. It is now lined with little shops and cafés. Take your time to try delicious delicacies on the way.

Along the 'Higashiyama Path, which connects the Yasaka Shrine with the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kodaiji Temple is a temple of the Rinzai (Pure Land) school of Zen Buddhism and was founded during the Momoyama-period, by the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the powerful general who unified Japan at the end of the 16th century. Kodaiji is interesting, not only for its formal gardens, including “artificial mountains’ garden and dry rock garden, but also a bamboo grove leading to two famous teahouses and the splendid Maki-e, which give this temple its nickname as “Maki-e Temple.

Reach Yasakajinja Shrine which is one of Kyoto’s most famous Shrine, particularly for travellers and funds the annual Gion Matsuri Festival. Enter the peaceful grounds and witness the multiple offerings made by local people & businesses. You may also witness or even experience a ceremony performed by the Shrine’s maidens (advance notice is required). The Shrine is also very pretty at night, when its numerous lanterns are lit.

You are now approaching Gion, where the choice of restaurant makes it a great place for lunch. The Geisha district of Gion is famed for the preservation of its traditional architecture and traditional entertainment presented by graceful “Geiko”, which literally means “women of art.” During its golden age in the first half of 19th century, more than 3000 Geikos worked in some 700 teahouses in Gion. If you are lucky, you may encounter one of them in the late afternoon, on the way to an assignment.

On the way back, stop at the Sanjusangendo Hall founded in 1164 and Famed for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess mercy. Entering the main hall, guests can notice a centrally located large Kannon, flanked on each side by 500 smaller statues, standing in neat rows side by side, each as tall as a human being.

Come back to your hotel around 17.00 pm and enjoy time at leisure.

Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

Day 9 - 10
Excursion starts:

Today is a day at leisure, to relax and enjoy discovering Kyoto on your own. However, if you wish, you can enjoy private cultural experiences or additional excursions:

Option 1. Day trip to Nara
This morning at 9:00am you will meet your private guide and your chauffeur to Nara, the ancient capital of Japan in the 8th Century. Start your visit from Nara Park; a large pleasant park in the center of the city, commonly known as “Deer Park,” home to hundreds of freely roaming deers, regarded in Shinto religion as messengers of the gods and symbol of the city. A large numbers of historical sites in Nara are located in and around this park.

Visit Kasugataisha Shrine, originally established in 768A.D. as the shrine of the powerful Fujiwara Family. See the magnificent interior famous for its numerous bronze hanging lanterns, as well as the many stone lanterns that lead up to the shrine. Move on to the gigantic Todaiji temple, reputedly the largest wooden buildings in the world and one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples to be overwhelmed by the giant statue of Buddha Virocana.

Finish your Nara tour in Naramachi, the former merchant district of Nara, which was not affected by bombings during the Second World War. The district features several traditional warehouses and residential buildings including the Naramachi Koshi-no-ie, an old residence open to the public for free. Small boutiques, shops, cafes and restaurants can also be found along the narrow lanes in the district. Back to the hotel by 17:00pm and enjoy time at leisure.

Option 2. Full day visit in Arashiyama
This morning at 9:00am, meet your English speaking guide and your driver for a visit of Arashiyama, surrounded by nature and providing a welcome break from the city’s hustle. Start at the Tenryu-ji Temple. This famous Zen Buddhist temple is the head temple of the Tenryu-ji branch of Rinzai Zen sect and part of World Cultural Heritage monuments. It has an excellent garden with a pond stroll that was laid out by a garden designer of genius.

From here, take a relaxing stroll around the Bamboo Forests, designated as one of the three most beautiful bamboo forests in Japan. Here, the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind is nice to listen to and gives a peaceful atmosphere. Arrive at Okochi Sanso, a splendid mountain retreat, previously occupied by Ōkōchi Denjirō, a silent screen actor. Take a leisurely walk through the villa's beautiful gardens in each season and savor the fine views of Kyoto city in a distance.

Continue to the Adashino Nembutsuji temple where you will find 8,000 stone Buddha and pagodas. The area was originally a cremation ground, with stone grave makers dating from Heian period. Adashino means fragile, expressing the fragility of human lives.

A few minutes’ walk from here is the unique and quiet Otagi-Nenbutsuji Temple. The interest of this Tendai-shu sect Buddhist temple lies in the 1200 Rakan figures, carved by worshipers from 1981 to 1991 to pray for the prosperity of the temple. Very different from other Buddhist figures, these statues have been sculpted with much humor and will provide interesting photo opportunities & enlighten your last visit. Back to the hotel by 17:00pm and time at leisure.

Accommodation: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

Day 10 -
Excursion starts:

Check out the hotel depending on your departure time and transfer in a chartered vehicle with an English speaking driver to Osaka-Kansai International Airport. An airport assistant (English or Spanish) can be arranged upon request to assist you with check-in & luggage. Board your international flight for your journey back home & depart Japan.

- This is a guide itinerary and can be modified to suit. It is subject to availability and price at the time of booking. Other conditions may apply -

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