Tokyo and Tsukiji
Afternoon/Evening Arrival. Upon arrival in Narita, you’ll be greeted and assisted with the transit to your hotel in Tokyo. The evening is free for you to refresh or explore as you please.
We’ll be up early, putting your jet lag to good use. First your guide will meet you at your hotel for a brief orientation including how to expertly ride what is arguably the best public transportation system in the world, followed by a full day guided journey of Tokyo. We strongly recommend you start by exploring the vast array of seafood at the largest fish market in the world – Tsujiki and maybe sample the produce at a nearby sushi restaurant for an early lunch. You can work off lunch exploring some hidden gardens nearby and then cruise the fabled Sumida River on your way to Asakusa, Tokyo’s old town visiting Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple on our way to “kitchen street” which supplies specialty cooking wares to restaurants across Japan – a true treat for foodies. Your private guide is flexible to focus your Tokyo experience to suit you and the season. If in season (January, May, September) a short journey to Ryogoku, the center of Japan’s sumo world, is a fascinatingly fun experience, full of majesty, excitement and ritual befitting the world’s longest continuing sport. Afterwards you can continue the Sumo themed experience and dine at one of our favorite Chanko-nabe restaurants, run by an ex-sumo wrestler where you can eat and drink like a Sumo wrestler. If Sumo isn’t your cup of tea, try a tea ceremony or focus on the multitude of artistic treasures, gardens, and museums the city has to offer. It’s really up to you.
Today you’ll explore Tokyo – the largest city in the world – like a local as you start with a morning stroll around the Imperial Palace. In the afternoon we recommend making your way to Shibuya, Tokyo’s main center for youth fashion and culture, whose streets are the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion and entertainment trends. It is also home to the famous 5 way “scramble crossing”. Next door is Harajuku and the famous Takeshita dori. Whether you are a goth, punk or anything in between, there is a shop in Harajuku that caters for you. Nearby is the Meiji Shrine, a wonderful respite from the city hustle and bustle. Walk down Omotesando-dori, a broad tree lined avenue often referred to as the Champs Elyse of Japan, and surrounded by a maze of wonderful small alleyways and smart stores and cafes. Here you can enjoy a leisurely afternoon meal leaving you to explore the lovely honeycomb of small streets in and around Omotesando and if you’re inclined experience the dynamic nightlife of Shibuya and just a few trains stops away, Shinjuku home to Japan’s largest entertainment district.
Kamakura or Nikko and Hakone
Today, we’ve arranged for the hotel to send your bags ahead so you can escape the city unencumbered for the short trip to the Kamakura area, once the world’s largest city and capital of Japan and seat of the Shogunate (1185 – 1333). The Kamakura of today is a small, sleepy seaside town with numerous quaint shops and excellent restaurants set amid the temples and shrines that give it an other-worldly aura. See the great bronze Buddha that stands (or rather, sits) 13.35m high and is a great example of the fusion of Buddhist and Shinto religions unique to Japan. Alternatively, though a longer journey requiring a much earlier start, you can instead make a trip to the World Heritage site of Nikko, a stunning national park and resting place for members of the most powerful clan in Japanese history, the Tokugawas with Toshogu Shrine a truly amazing architectural achievement.
From either area, you’ll continue on to Hakone, the gateway to the Mt Fuji region where you will relax and restore with a stay in a Japanese traditional ryokan, sleeping on futons laid out on tatami mats, bathing in piping hot onsen for which the area is renowned, and dining on delicious traditional meals (dinner and breakfast the following morning) painstakingly prepared.
Kyoto and Kaiseki
Today ride in style on Japan’s world famous Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Once there, your private guide will take you on a tour of the city, including how to master the city’s public transit. You’ll visit some of the cultural gems of Kyoto, including a visit to Kiyomizu temple, a World Heritage Site, as well as Yasaka Pagoda and the Sanmon Gate. A very special evening will begin with a walk through some of Kyoto’s geisha districts where you’ll learn about the geisha’s world – past, present and future. After the walk, you will enjoy a sumptuous Japanese kaiseki dinner in a traditional restaurant and if you’re lucky a geisha may grace the restaurant.
Today explore some of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites, including Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun. See the Nijo Castle and then regain your strength from a meal at a specially chosen teppanyaki restaurant, where you can enjoy one of Japan’s unique and almost unbelievable dishes – its Wagyu beef. From there walk down Nishiki Market, another foodie fantasy. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties. Your final stop today is a traditional teahouse where you will enjoy a genuine tea ceremony before enjoying a dinner of acclaimed local street food and fare of Kyoto.
Tokyo and Sayonara
Today you return to Tokyo by Shinkansen. A quick taxi or train ride will whisk you to your lovely and final accommodations of this trip. In the afternoon you can explore the Imperial Palace or Ginza or Omotesando for some last minute shopping and nibbles, or explore a few new places. We have restaurant and experience options in several areas to recommend to you based on what you’d like to eat, what you’d like to do, and what part of Tokyo you’d like to (re)explore.
Your day is free to explore Tokyo on your own with our recommendations in the morning until your transport to Narita Airport.