Your 10-day exclusive Japan tour will reveal the different eras and preserved culture from millennia-old shrines to opulent skyscrapers. You will discover the enticing secrets of sumo and the elegant traditions of sake during custom-tailored excursions with specialist guides. Custom will take center stage in charming ryokans and authenticity will emanate from artisan studios as you explore and experience the hidden perspectives of Tokyo, Hokuriku, and Kyoto.
Tokyo – Lunch in the Sky and Old-Town Tokyo
Japan is a paradoxical country, where the old and the new sit comfortably side by side, and the sense of tradition mingles with the exuberance of fast-paced 21st-century life. After landing in Tokyo and an airport transfer, two contrasting experiences will put the paradox to the test. Begin with the glass and the lights of the skyscrapers and the sights. Zoom up Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest freestanding tower. From the observation deck, you can watch how the city unfolds with clusters of towers interspersed with more low-cut neighborhoods. A spiral glass-enclosed skywalk takes you to the highest viewpoint as a complete city stretches out before you.
High up in the 634-meter tower, you can sit down for lunch with the fine French-Japanese fusion cuisine far from traditional, but an excellent introduction to the variety of flavors you will encounter in the country. Come down to earth again, and you will explore a neighborhood where very little is higher than four stories. Shitamachi literally means “downtown” and it provides a great taste of how Tokyo was before the economic boom. Wander to a temple guarded by giant red lanterns, find wooden houses and surreal calligraphy, and feel how the pace of life remains slow here. To complete your first-day experience, you can get an omikuji fortune at the temple to explore how Buddhism and Shinto are different.
Tokyo – Kaiseki Cooking and Kiriko Glass Cutting
Tokyo – Inside a Sumo Studio and Taiko Drumming Lesson
Kanazawa – Old Japan: Castle, Garden, and Market
Kaga – Soto Buddhism Before a Private Onsen Springs Bath and Ryokan
Kyoto – Kyoto Temple Impressions and Fushimi Sake
Kyoto – Kyoto Ceramics and an Afternoon in Nara
Kyoto – Arashiyama by Rickshaw and Closed-Door Gardens
Miyama – Ending the Tour in Rural Japan
Miyama – Depart for Home
- Learn kaiseki cooking in a Michelin-starred Tokyo restaurant
- Travel through Arashiyama by rickshaw, stopping to explore temples, gardens and bamboo forest
- Visit the spiritual headquarters of Soto Buddhism and meet local priests in a moving experience in Eihei-ji
- Experience rural Japan by spending your final night in Miyama, an authentic hamlet with old thatched roofs
- Spend time inside a sumo stable to experience Japan’s national sport
- Enjoy a private ceramics workshop in Kyoto and learn Kiriko glass cutting in Tokyo
- Explore the highlights of Kanazawa, including a food-centered tour of its Edo-period market
- Stand in awe of the world’s largest wooden building over an afternoon in Nara
- Start your vacation with lunch in Japan’s tallest building, and then explore Tokyo’s old downtown
- Discover Taiko drumming, Fushimi sake, and the nuance of Kyoto’s temples
- Divide your exploration with a quiet night in the hot spring village of Kaga, where a ryokan and private bath are yours to indulge in
Japan is not a country that can be summarized in a few words, and nor is it a place that you can come to understand without some local guidance. Japan is probably the most paradoxical nation there is, stuffed full of complications and contradictions. Nothing is clear cut, and much is kept behind closed doors. This handcrafted 10-day tour will take you on a journey behind the scenes. Through an insider’s perspective, you will take a deep dive below the surface. This itinerary is a tour for the curious traveler that wants to experience local culture and tradition fully.
This tour is split across three destinations. Tokyo is the obvious place to start, although unknown and exclusive experiences will dominate your three-day stay. Spend 90 minutes in a Sumo stable, learn kaiseki cooking in a Michelin-starred restaurant, take a Taiko drumming lesson and try your own Kiriko glass cutting. On the first day in the city, you will compare lunch in Japan’s tallest building with dinner in the city’s old downtown. Hokuriku is 2 ½ hours away by Shinkansen bullet train, and here you will explore old-world Japan with a day in Kanazawa, including a food tour of a 400-year-old market, meet with priests at the temple where Soto Buddhism is headquartered, and relax in private onsen hot springs in Kaga.
Continue to Kyoto, the famous home of temples. Explore some of the most important before an evening of sake in Fushimi. Take a ceramics workshop the next day and discover why Kyoto has always been so central to the international ceramics industry. Spend your next afternoon in Nara, travel around Arashiyama by rickshaw, and visit Zen gardens usually closed to the public. Your final night will be spent in Miyama, a small village of thatched roofs that is yet to gain international fame, in comparison to the architecturally similar Shirakawa-go. It is remote and traditional here, without television or Wi-Fi, so you will continue to connect with the Japanese people before a half a day in contemporary Osaka and your flight home.
Everywhere has its own distinct era and style in Japan, something that is visible even in Central Tokyo. An old downtown of squat houses juxtaposes with a maze of skyscrapers, which is all completely different from places like Kanazawa or Nara. Visit Japan, and you will see the eras. Travel with the country’s best guides, and you will begin to understand as you learn why they developed in such a way. It will be the insider experiences that really show off the country, as few travelers get to glimpse inside a sumo stable, and hardly any understand kaiseki.
Over these ten days, you will see the sights as well. Tokyo’s different neighborhoods impress with their lights and surprises, Shinjuku and Shibuya just two to visit. Kanazawa’s castle and the Kenrokuen garden are the finest of their kind in the country. Kyoto has sights to last for months, but your guide will help to pick out a representative selection, so you can appreciate how architecture changed over the centuries and avoid the tour group crowds. But you will soon find that it is the experiences you most take away, whether that’s a ryokan and onsen evening, or the tap-tap of drums in a small Tokyo studio. Consider learning more about our travelers’ favorite Japan travel experiences by reading their Japan travel reviews.
$5 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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