Cherry blossoms at the Hirosaki Castle Park in Japan

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About Japan

Japan delights its visitors with artistic originality and effortless elegance. Rich illustrations set a veridical scene, before interwoven narratives take on surrealistic tones. It’s all encased in a vibrant cover, compelling each visitor to turn the pages and explore Japan’s sublime mix of ancient tradition and the ultra modern.

Whisky library at Yamazaki Distillery. Photo by yukink on Flickr.

Spirits of Japan Tour

13 days in Japan

Spirit and spirits blend seamlessly on this journey through the best of Japan, celebrating the Japanese culture for its quest for continuous improvement and the pursuit of... Read more...

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Best of Tokyo & Kyoto Tour: A Tale of Two Capitals

7 days in Japan

A capital city is the center through which a nation’s power and influence flow. On this Tokyo and Kyoto tour, you’ll explore Japan’s most famous capitals: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara.... Read more...

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Off the Beaten Track Tour of Japan

13 days in Japan

The relationship between man and nature is one the Japanese hold in highest regard, from outdoor art installations which seamlessly connect nature and art to forest therapy, a... Read more...

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A Family Friendly Japan Tour: A Lifetime of Memories

14 days in Japan

Taking a family vacation to Japan has never been easier or more enjoyable. On this 14-day Japan tour, immerse yourself in Japan’s natural beauty, customs, and culture as you... Read more...

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Japan Tour of a Lifetime: Tradition, Landscape & People

14 days in Japan

Adventure deep into Japan’s past to witness firsthand the events and eras that forged its landscape and people. Come face to face with the cataclysmic forces that birthed the... Read more...

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Discovering the Past and Present of Japan Tour

14 days in Japan

In Japan, traveling through time is as easy as boarding a train. On this 14-day luxury Japan tour, not only are you a student of Japan’s history, culture, and religion, but an... Read more...

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Exploring the Japanese Alps Tour

10 days in Japan

Japan is a country with many faces, fascinating for first-time and return visitors alike. On this 10-day tour, see Japan’s past, present and future as you travel between the ultra... Read more...

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Best of Kyoto Tour 2018–2019: Culture, Tradition & Treasures

9 days in Japan

From the resonance of a bamboo flute to the redolence of a 12th century garden, Kyoto effortlessly pulls you into her serenity. A cultural spell floats through the city,... Read more...

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Nakasendo Trail Walk: A Classic Japan Tour

14 days in Japan

Japan has a long and fascinating history composed of many complex layers. On this 14-day tour, you see both ultra-modern cities and sleepy villages that were key resting points on... Read more...

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Essence of Japan Tour: An Expertly Guided Experience

15 days in Japan

21st-century Japan still embraces the traditions and customs that define its past. On this 15-day tour, see the best of Japan as your expert guides take you across the country on... Read more...

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Discover Japan Tour: Culture, Traditions and Food

11 days in Japan

Japan is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. With millions of people visiting each year, finding a unique experience while avoiding the crowds is quite the... Read more...

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Discovering Sacred Sites & Preserved Traditions of Japan Tour

14 days in Japan

No matter how many times you travel to Japan, the country always delivers a whole new set of treasures for your enjoyment and enlightenment. On this 14-day tour, travel between... Read more...

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Japan Through the Eras Tour: Iconic Traditions to Neon Lights

12 days in Japan

This tour is designed to take you on a journey through the different eras of Japan, giving you introductions to the historic land of old capitals, natural beauty, quaint villages... Read more...

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Japan Photography Tour: Cities, Castles, Landscapes, Nature &...

12 days in Japan

Japan is a photographer’s dream. On this 12-day tour, travel deep into Japan where you and your camera capture past, present, and future as you travel between the big cities and... Read more...

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Highlights of Hokkaido Tour: A Paradise in All Seasons

11 days in Japan

Millions of travelers journey to Japan each year, but very few venture to Hokkaido. While touring this amazing prefecture over 11 days, reconnect with nature on the ski slopes,... Read more...

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Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Tour: Japan’s Big 3

9 days in Japan

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are not only some of Japan’s largest cities, but also centers of culture, history, and fine dining known around the world. On this 9-day tour, get to know... Read more...

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Highlights of Kyushu Island: Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Nagasaki Tour

9 days in Japan

Kyushu is Japan’s most southern main island; it is also the least visited by foreign tourists. On this 9-day tour, get to know a rarely seen side of Japan as you experience Kyushu... Read more...

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Kyoto Spring Garden Tour 2018

9 days in Japan

Kyoto's treasure chest of heritage combines sublime enchantment with indulgent serenity. As the lush tones of spring douse the city in fresh bloom, you'll experience the Land of... Read more...

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VIP Japan Winter Tour: A Journey Into Beauty & Indulgence

15 days in Japan

Japan in winter is a magical time, when the gently falling snow is an excellent complement to the country’s already stunning natural beauty. On this 15-day tour, travel throughout... Read more...

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Essential Japan Tour: Kyoto, Mount Fuji, Tokyo

6 days in Japan

Even if you can only spend a few days in Japan, it is still possible to gain a deep appreciation for the country’s culture, history, people, and cuisine. In this 6-day tour,... Read more...

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A Seven Days Japan Itinerary: Kyoto, Hakone, Tokyo

7 days in Japan

At home and work, a week flies by in an instant. Our lives get caught up in a seemingly never-ending routine. Redefine what can happen in seven days, as you tour Japan’s largest... Read more...

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Japan Culinary Tour: Sushi Class, Kobe Beef, Fine Whiskey, Ramen

9 days in Japan

Japan is a foodie paradise, home to many of the world’s finest cuisines and beverages. On this 9-day culinary tour, your expert guides reveal to you the secrets behind the best... Read more...

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A Custom Japan Tour for Solo Travelers

10 days in Japan

Because of its long history, Japan has so much to offer the modern traveler. On this 10-day tour, discover the best of Japan with the help of expert guides and a specially... Read more...

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Japan’s Magnificent North Central: A Sublime Tour of Art, History...

13 days in Japan

Japan has so much more to offer than its famous big cities. On this 13-day tour, get to known the real Japan as you explore the country’s majestic north and central mountain... Read more...

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  • Introduction
  • Top Destinations
  • Unique Experiences
  • Weather and When to Go
  • Getting Around
  • Where to Stay
  • Before You Go
  • Health and Safety
  • Customs and Etiquette

Because Japan has always been dedicated to the unique, it’s fitting that the country has a dazzling group of volcanic islands forming its own culture in the Pacific. Nothing is copied. Whether it’s ancient Buddhist temples, ebullient fish markets, or neighborhoods flashing with neon, the country screams of originality at every turn. Almost every city street is an attraction, the ethereal concoction of sights and sounds providing endless entertainment. But contrast iconic cities with snow-capped Mount Fuji or white Okinawa beaches that make tropical postcards look dull. Even the forests are inimitable, flickering between immense stretches of green bamboo, coy carp filled rivers, and delightful blossoms. Like the classic Manga comic, you have an effervescent collection of stories to discover, each radiating a commitment to showcasing local culture. 

Even transportation exudes originality. Bullet trains speed across the country and connect distant lands in astonishingly punctual luxury. You may even travel around in a yet-to-be exported model from one of the huge automobile companies. The world’s most sophisticated transportation infrastructure is just another smooth edge that makes traveling through Japan wonderfully easy.

Every Japan journey is a riveting ride through glorious tradition and contemporary elegance, with hypnotic stops at the futuristic brilliance and natural splendor. Just like the classic Manga comic or the Murakami novel, your journey is infused with a radiant array of narratives, each oscillating from the sublime to the surreal. Strange juxtapositions envelope the country, often unfathomable to the Western mind, yet infused with absolute normality. For example, take a speeding elevator to the 40th floor, and then open a cute sliding wooden door and sit on a tatami floor mat to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony while gazing out over a hundred skyscrapers. 


Japan’s immense capital shines with lights and bursts with colors, offering an insatiable feast of fresh experiences. Distinct neighborhoods unveil an elaborate array of novel superlatives, from the flashing neon of Akihabara to the famous pedestrian crossing in Shibuya. From the painted faces of sub-cultured Harajuku to ancient temples hidden from urbanity. Not only is there something for everyone, but there’s also something at every turn; immense fish markets where tuna is auctioned, rooftop restaurants with fabulous panoramas, skyscrapers in Shinjuku or tradition in Asakusa. Tokyo isn’t merely a sightseeing experience; it’s a fully immersive jump into one of the planet’s most iconic and original cities. 


Perfectly preserved and dancing with enchantment, Kyoto serves up a sublime blend of ancient Japan in all its nuances. No fewer than 17 World Heritage sites dot the city, epitomizing Kyoto’s regal history and showcasing the center of a mesmeric cultural heartbeat. A pervasive atmosphere of tranquility accompanies the sights, with the serene Buddhist undercurrent bringing indelible spirituality to the architectural eminence. Then add in sculpted gardens and delightful flower blossoms and it’s hard to imagine a Japan itinerary without Kyoto.


Hiroshima will be forever etched in world history, yet this blossoming city is far from a mournful ode to an unfortunate past. While the poignant A-Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park are essential stops, Hiroshima is engulfed in enthusiasm and vibrancy, epitomized by food stalls that line quaint, wide boulevards. Like most of Japan, your local itinerary can head into the future (like visiting the Mazda car factory) or revel in a glorious past (the seemingly floating red shrine gate of Grand Torii).


While nearby Kyoto laps up the fame, 8th century Nara prefers its role in the metaphorical shadows. In Nara, you’ll find the world’s largest wooden building, Japan’s biggest collection of national treasures, the tallest pagoda, and the largest Buddha statue. However, Nara’s greatest appeal is the hypnotic harmony and preservation of these ancient wonders, and the serene capital never relinquishes its evocative deliverance of charm.


Japan isn’t the first country that springs to mind when it comes to white sand and turquoise ocean. But let’s remember, these are Pacific Islands, as unforgettably imbued by tropical beauty as any other in the world’s largest ocean. Okinawa epitomizes the idyllic beauty, mile after mile of pristine island beaches fulfilling the most demanding of getaway dreams. There’s a different rhythm out here, one of swaying palm trees, lush jungle clad retreats, and irresistible marine adventures.


Ever since the 7th century, Osaka has been a land of conspicuous consumption and elaborate luxury. It’s a city of indulgence, one of the finest on the planet for eating like royalty and thoroughly treating yourself. While the flashy city lights are integral to the city’s attraction, it’s easy to escape into millennia old shrines, endless spring cherry blossom, and intricate puppet theaters.

Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama

Nestled on forested mountain slopes and swimming with charm, the historic villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama take you into another brilliantly original Japanese narrative. Thatched roof gasshō-zukuri homes fill the villages, indicative of a longstanding dedication to tradition and a harmonious adaptation to an isolated environment. Recognized as World Heritage sites, and dazzling amongst a white blanket in winter, they provide the intermediate stop between Japan’s ancient traditions and modern wonders.

While the omnipresent Japanese culture and style are an unforgettable highlight, the country is far from being one-dimensional. Few countries can serve up such an eclectic mix of experiences. Here are just a few iconic ideas to have you turning the pages.

Spring Cherry Blossom and Fall Colors

Seasonal changes bring new blankets of artistic brilliance to the whole of Japan. Opening cherry blossoms provide a spring covering of delight, and many city streets are briefly dominated by a captivating full bloom. Fast forward to after the fall season and a magical transformation brings a new palate of color with the country flickering through a kaleidoscopic blend of profound reds and fading oranges as the maple trees explode into life.

Quaint Mountain Retreats and Famous Hot Springs

In rural Japan, taking a bath isn’t merely about getting clean. Naturally heated water fills outdoor tubs, the steam gently rising towards a landscape of jagged peaks and forests of pine, cedar, and bamboo. These traditional “onsens” - or hot springs - punctuate the mountain revelry, mingling with cute old-fashioned towns and shimmering Japanese gardens. With the irrefutably efficient local transportation, escaping from city lights to mountain solitude can take less than an hour.

Rich Immersion in Buddhist Culture

Japan’s commitment to the original can be traced back to its spiritual leaders, a myriad of indigenous religions epitomizing the country’s hallowed harmony. It should come as no surprise that “zen” entered the English dictionary from Japanese Buddhism. Insights into ancient temples and beliefs are easily sprinkled into any Japan itinerary while intimate journeys can also delve into the heart of this spiritual heritage. The origins of Japanese mythology are revealed in destinations like Shimane and Kumano.

Exploring a White Wonderland

Wintery Japan provides a provocative white blanket packed with classic adventures and inimitable festivals. Exquisite powder in Nagoya makes for some of the planet’s best skiing and snowboarding while fabled snow monkeys tumble through the cute forests of Jigokudani in search of hot springs. When winter arrives, Japan offers just as many innovative itinerary options. Epic ice sculptures cover former Winter Olympic host city Sapporo, snow festivals bring out artistic brilliance, and boat cruises take you through thick drifting sea ice in Abashiri.

Sensual Japanese Cuisine

A trip into Japanese gastronomy is far more sensual than your local sushi restaurant. Culinary delights come alive in their native land with world-class chefs blending innovation, tradition, and organic freshness with exuberant panache. Tailored journeys seek out the very finest examples of authentic local cuisine, but a delightful buffet of unique flavors is an omnipresent narrative on every Japan vacation. From atmospheric food markets to sumptuous fine dining, the country leaves an unforgettable impression with every meal.

Japan changes dramatically through the seasons, from endless blankets of white snow to blooming cherry blossoms, tropical summer beaches to forest journeys across fallen leaves. Likewise, there are vast disparities between the northern mountains of Hokkaido and the Pacific Ocean tropics of Okinawa. The following seasons typically follow similar months as the US seasons:


Despite the regular inclement rain, spring is one of the best seasons for visiting Japan. Cherry blossoms douse the streets in color, the temperatures are pleasant (mostly in the 60’s and low 70’s), and there’s an opportunity to explore all of Japan’s diversity. Snow may just be clinging to the northern mountains while tropical beaches are more than hot enough.


A humid summer is ushered in by June’s tsuyu (rainy season) bringing occasional typhoons and flash storms. It’s not overbearingly hot, although the climate has a distinctively tropical feel and sultry atmosphere. The mountains, however, aren’t as warm, so it’s a great place to cool off.


After another shower of rain in September, fall is perhaps Japan’s most beautiful season. The forests explode with color and like spring, most of the country will be pleasant and easy to visit.


Winter varies across Japan, with the Pacific coastline delivering dry, clear days and the Sea of Japan bringing snow and cold winds. Mountain retreats and ski conditions are magical this time of year. However, remember that winter brings significantly fewer hours of daylight.

Japan rules the world when it comes to efficient transportation. In most countries, train punctuality is measured in percentage terms, and anything above 90% is considered good. In Japan, a briefly delayed commuter train ends up in the next day’s newspaper. Famous bullet trains speed across the country at 200 miles per hour, crossing immense bridges as they connect the length of the country. Even second-class seats are wonderfully luxuriant when compared to trains in the West. Trains are part of the Japanese experience, while also dramatically reducing travel time to next to nothing. Even when you transfer onto “local” trains, you’re still traveling with remarkable speed and comfort.

A network of local flights help catapult you to far destinations, and no fewer than nine Japanese car brands provide the luxury on the road. New models are released in Japan before they are exported, so expect an insight into the future of the automobile industry. 

Befitting Japan’s cultural juxtapositions, accommodation options range from the ultra-modern skyscraper suites to a wooden ryokan in the mountains. The cities are heavily business orientated, and there are thousands of modern hotels covering almost every district. All of the big international names are found here, but the less common Japanese ones can be equally luxuriant.

Far more traditional, a ryokan imbues a real sense of Japanese intimacy and authenticity. A stack of tatami mats is brought into minimalistic rooms when you want to sleep. Green tea and meals are served around low tables, and you’ll usually sit on cushions on the floor. They’re more common in rural destinations, although anywhere with an ancient heritage will feature a choice of ryokans. Most have elegant gardens fluttering with bird song, and opening the sliding doors reveals charming vistas. Note that it’s rare that ryokan rooms are en-suite. You’ll probably be bathing in the traditional style, having a hot bath and then getting wrapped up in a cotton kimono.

Japan features a myriad of unique choices, from capsule hotels to sleeping in Buddhist temples, and houses that blur the distinction between guesthouse and homestay; trying it all out is part of the experience. Like everything in the country, expect impeccable cleanliness and service.

Visa and Passport Requirements

Citizens of the U.S., Canada, and most EU countries do not need a visa for tourist visits up to 90 days. Technically, you may be required to prove that you’re visiting for non-remunerative activities. A copy of your travel itinerary is sufficient.

Japan has some very strict laws on what constitutes illegal pharmaceuticals. Many over the counter medications are prohibited, such as pseudoephedrines like Sudafed or Vicks inhalers. Even with a prescription, strong painkillers and things like EpiPens are likely to be confiscated by customs, and you could even end up being deported. This medication can be brought into Japan by applying for a Yakkan Shoumei, or import certificate that you then declare to customs. 

Japan easily ranks as one of the world’s safest countries. Leave your expensive DSLR camera on a train and there’s a very strong possibility that you’ll get it back within a couple of hours. Destinations like Tokyo are remarkably free of the opportunist crime found in most world cities, and locks are rarely required in rural areas. An overarching culture of honesty pervades throughout the culture and people. Even the old Samurai warriors lived by a very strict moral code.

It’s also one of the world’s healthiest nations, with a strong commitment to balanced diets and staying fit at all ages. You’ll see pensioners taking tai-chi group sessions in the park and little pre-frozen food in the store. The Japanese obsession with cleanliness is almost overbearing, and anyone with a cold will wear a mask to prevent transmission to others. Tap water is always drinkable, and food hygiene couldn’t be of a higher standard. The only negative is the propensity of public smoking.

Physicians and international heath organizations generally recommend no additional immunizations for travel in Japan. There is no malaria risk. Japan has an outstanding infrastructure of cutting-edge medical facilities, although English speaking staff and doctors will not be omnipresent. Going with a local guide is always recommended. Make sure your travel and health insurance are up to date; otherwise the costs will be astronomical. 

The Japanese obsequiousness can be too much to take in for some. Repeated thanks and eager bowing is something you’ll come across on an hourly basis. Present an entrance ticket and you’ll get excessively thanked for coming, even as you protest that you should be thanking them for allowing you to visit. The locals enthusiastically aim to please, whether it’s in a restaurant, shrine, onsen, train, or hotel. On the surface, it results in exceptional service and personal attentiveness. At its heart, there is a rich culture of welcoming strangers and impressing visitors.

Japan does induce a strange culture shock, one that isn’t always immediately apparent. As you journey through the country, you’ll start to pick up on more unique everyday customs. This continual portrayal of local life is part of what makes Japan so fascinating. Many unwritten social norms form the backbone of Japanese culture. However, the locals are extremely understanding and don’t expect foreigners to conform. A few simple things will ensure you’re never offensive: follow the dedication to cleanliness, recycle and never drop garbage, and also take the time to express gratitude.

A large number of Japanese establishments maintain the traditional style of sitting on tatami mats on the floor, including hotels, restaurants, bars, and local homes. The biggest cultural faux pas is to walk on the floor with your shoes on. There is a transitional area for removing and leaving your footwear.

ATMs are ubiquitous, and the majority of them accept Visa, Mastercard, and Amex. It’s rare that you’ll go somewhere and not be able to pay by card. Currency exchange can be found in all major cities and destinations.

It’s almost impossible to blend into the local dress. You’ll see millions of sharply tailored suits, and young females dressing relatively provocatively, given the overarching cultural conservatism. Just stick to wearing what’s most comfortable for you.

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