(Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Arashiyama)
Imagine a day spent in the company of the Geisha expert who was the cultural consultant for the blockbuster film Memoirs of a Geisha, followed by a night in the elegant rykan of bygone aristocracy.
An exclusive tea ceremony in the shadows of the Emperor’s palace in Tokyo. A day with larger-than-life sumo wrestling greats in the heyas of Hakone. A rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into temple life led by a monk in Kyoto. These are just a few of the elite experiences on this VIP tour of Japan. Delve into the “Land of The Rising Sun” where art influences everything and age-old Japanese traditions mix seamlessly into a futuristic modern day life led by expert private guide. Indulge at the onsen hot springs at the former summer retreat of the Imperial family. Cruise to the elite island of Naoshima where contemporary art reigns supreme and you’ll be met by works from Pollock, Basquiat, and Monet at your hotel. Be immersed in culture with private lessons in aikido, Japanese calligraphy, sushi making, tastings at a sake distillery, and a blessing at an ancient shrine.
Dine at impossible-to-access Michelin starred restaurants, celebrity hotspots, and spend an evening with Jiro Ono, one of Japan’s finest sushi chefs whose talents were brought to the attention of the world in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
One of the many highlights of this elite adventure is sure to be a day with Peter MacIntosh, world renowned Geisha expert, documentary filmmaker, and photographer. Celebrated for his work as a cultural consultant on blockbuster hit Memoirs of a Geisha and with organizations such as the BBC, National Geographic, A&E, and more, his insights on Geisha are second to none. Go behind the scenes of this mysterious time-honored Japanese tradition as you explore the Hanamachis (Geisha Districts) of Kyoto before voyaging to a historic ryotei for a special evening of traditional games, cuisine, shamisen, and classical geisha entertainment!
Filled to the brim with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, expert private guides, and some of Japan’s most regal five-star hotels, this is the Japan you’ve been dreaming of.
Naoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea that is known for its modern art museums, architecture, and sculptures. Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches, and sunny weather, combined with a laid back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan's large urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka. Much of Naoshima's art was installed by the Benesse Corporation, which oversees art museums, installations and sculptures both on Naoshima and on neighbouring islands. Benesse's museums were designed by the well-known Japanese architect Ando Tadao and include the Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, and all the buildings of the Benesse House. In addition, Naoshima's municipal buildings and schools were designed by the modern architect Ishii Kazuhiro. Naoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea that is known for its modern art museums, architecture, and sculptures. Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches, and sunny weather, combined with a laid back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan's large urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka. Much of Naoshima's art was installed by the Benesse Corporation, which oversees art museums, installations and sculptures both on Naoshima and on neighbouring islands. Benesse's museums were designed by the well-known Japanese architect Ando Tadao and include the Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, and all the buildings of the Benesse House. In addition, Naoshima's municipal buildings and schools were designed by the modern architect Ishii Kazuhiro. Naoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea that is known for its modern art museums, architecture and sculptures. Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches and sunny weather, combined with a laid back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan's large urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka. Much of Naoshima's art was installed by the Benesse Corporation, which oversees art museums, installations and sculptures both on Naoshima and on neighboring islands. Benesse's museums were designed by the well-known Japanese architect Ando Tadao and include the Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum and all the buildings of the Benesse House. In addition, Naoshima's municipal buildings and schools were designed by the modern architect Ishii Kazuhiro.
An English speaking assistant will meet and assist you upon arrival at the airport and take you to meet your driver.
Meet your driver for an airport transfer with a private vehicle.
Enjoy a full day privately guided tour today of Tokyo with a chauffeur driven vehicle at your disposal. The Imperial Palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, and the residence of Japan's Imperial Family. Although the Palace is not open to the public, from Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, you can view the Nijubashi, two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) for its looks.
Participate in an authentic tea ceremony and sample freshly made green tea while listening to the trickle of a nearby fountain and gazing out upon a garden. The tea masters are always willing to instruct newcomers on the finer points of enjoying tea.
Sample some great cuisine over lunch before making your way to Meiji Shrine -Tokyo’s most famous shrine, dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. The park that surrounds the shrine is a forest of some 120,000 trees of 365 different species. The shrine is a popular site for Japanese Weddings and if you are lucky you may see a bride and groom dressed in traditional Shinto wedding attire.
From old to new Tokyo as you take a stroll through Harajuku – Tokyo’s youth fashion mecca. Whether you are a goth, punk or anything in between, there is a shop in Harajuku that caters for you. Neighboring Harajuku is Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree lined avenue features a multitude of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects within a short distance of each other.
End the day at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. It is one of Tokyo’s tallest and most distinctive skyscrapers. The 243 meter tall building has two towers, and each houses an observatory at a height of 202 meters, which provides panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. With favorable weather conditions, famous landmarks such as Mount Fuji, the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Dome can be seen from here. Having seen lots of great sights throughout the day, your guide and driver will drop you off at your hotel at days end.
Today your guide will take you to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Take a few hours to wander through this enormous market, exploring both the vegetable and fruit areas plus the impressive seafood section. On offer in the seafood section are more than 480 different kinds of seafood ranging from fresh fish to shellfish and prawns. There may also be an opportunity to see a complete tuna being cut and filleted. After buying various ingredients you will have the opportunity to visit a typical Japanese home. Your guide will answer any and all questions about Japanese culture and everyday life in Tokyo during the transfer by public transportation. Learn to prepare “maki sushi” (rolled sushi), "gunkan maki" (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and "nigiri sushi" (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish). You will then get to enjoy your homemade sushi for lunch. End the tour in central Tokyo. Please note that with this tour you will have a private guide, but rather than travelling by private vehicle, you will make use of Tokyo’s efficient local transit system.
Consider taking in some relaxation time at the fabulous spa at the Mandarin Oriental. A serenely luxurious retreat, the Spa not only has the some of the best facilities in the city, but also some of the most relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. Each appointment begins with a foot ritual, symbolically washing away the material world. Following this, a personal therapist offers clients in-depth consultation and from this recommends treatments devised from both Asian and Western-inspired traditions, specially suited to you and your needs. What better way to spend a couple of hours of down time?
A comprehensive immersion into Japan’s rich art and cultural heritage. Today will start with a lesson in Ninjutsu, the martial art practiced by the ninja, in a real ninja training hall. You will learn the art of the shinobi (ninja’s Japanese name) and practice one of their traditional weapons such as the ninja stars. Next, we have a lesson in shuji, Japanese calligraphy. Whilst kanji (Japanese pictographs) may look like a bunch of nice looking squiggles to the untrained eye, each stroke has a proper way to begin and end and there is a correct order and path to follow. The slightest lapse in concentration will show in one’s work. Time to put down the pen and take up the sword as we head to a sword museum in Shibuya. Japanese katana swords are world famous and no good samurai would go out without his. They were considered extensions of a samurai’s soul, and were often given names. Last but certainly not least we will visit Akihabara, Tokyo’s pop culture mecca where we can visit toy shops and anime stores. Please note that this evening you will have a private guide, but rather than travelling by private vehicle, you will make use of Tokyo’s efficient local transit system.
If you are a dedicated foodie, you will most likely have seen "Jiro Dreams of Sushi". While in Tokyo, you may like to consider dining at either Jiro's restaurant located in the Ginza, or at his youngest son's establishment in Roppongi HIlls. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the story of Jiro Ono, who is considered the world's greatest sushi chef, and his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. Jiro's restaurant is an unassuming 10-seat sushi bar located deep in a Tokyo subway station. It is the first restaurant of its kind to win a 3-star Michelin review and has become so popular that Jiro is now taking reservations months in advance. Another option would be to go to Jiro's son's restaurant in Roppongi Hills where you are also guaranteed to have phenomenal sushi. Please note, this is not included and must be paid locally.
Your driver and guide for the morning will meet you at your hotel and take you to the Ryogoku, the center of Japan’s sumo world. As well as the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium, Ryogoku is home to most of Tokyo’s sumo heyas. All rikishi (wrestlers) belong to heyas, or sumo stables, where they live, train and eat. Visit one of these heya to get up close and personal with these giant men and watch their asa geiko (morning training).
The day begins in the early morning, when the lowest ranked men wake up and put in some practice before going about their assigned duties, which include cleaning the building and preparing the food for the main meal of the day. Higher ranked sekitori appear at a more reasonable hour, and they begin a practice session that runs from about 7am until about 10am. After several hours of warm up and technique practice, the wrestlers play an exciting "King of the Castle" game where one wrestler stays in the ring fighting bouts without any rest until he is defeated.
Late morning, relax on the drive between Tokyo and Hakone (approximately 2.5hrs) and upon arrival you will be brought to a local restaurant for lunch.
Spend the afternoon on sightseeing tour of the city (approx. 4 hours) before being dropped off at your hotel.
Transfer from your hotel in Hakone to the Odawara train station with a private vehicle and driver.
Transfer by train from Odawara to Kyoto. The train ride is approximately 2 hours.
Meet your guide at the train station platform for a transfer to your hotel by taxi.
Arashiyama, is a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Okochi Mountain Villa is the former villa of the popular samurai film star Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), and consists of several beautiful gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and a zen meditation hall. Here you will enjoy some matcha green tea with a snack. Next, take a walk through Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves, which are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries. Nonomiya shrine is a Shinto shrine where in ancient times, unmarried imperial princesses stayed for a year or more to purify themselves. Ranked among Kyoto's five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama. Founded in 1339 at the beginning of the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), the temple is one of Kyoto's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to its temple buildings, there are attractive gardens with walking paths. *Rickshaws are available once inside the bamboo forest.
Your host of this evening will be Peter Macintosh. Peter has lived in Kyoto almost 20 years, and is considered to be the foremost western expert on geisha. He was married to an ex-geisha, studies Japanese arts, and is a lecturer on Geisha Studies at a Kansai University. The evening will begin with a walking lecture through some of Kyoto’s geisha districts. Peter will explain about the geisha’s world - past, present, and future. If you are lucky you will have the chance to see a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) as they head to the first appointment of the evening. After the walk, you will enjoy a sumptuous Japanese dinner in a private room of a traditional restaurant with free flow drinks. Enjoy dinner and drinks with an hour of private maiko or geisha entertainment consisting of conversation and dancing accompanied by the shamisen (Japanese stringed instrument). You will also have a chance to ask questions about the geisha and their world (translated into English by Peter), as well as play traditional drinking games. This is a special night of food, drink, traditional entertainment, and great photo opportunities. The tour ends at the restaurant.
Transfer from Kyoto to Arashiyama with a private vehicle and English speaking guide. En route, you will visit the Higashiyama district, one of the city's best preserved historic districts, with a visit to Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple. From the 13 meter high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall you can enjoy amazing views of Kyoto. Founded in 1164, Sanjusangendo is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. After, you will head west to the Arashiyama district, a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. Okochi Mountain Villa is the former villa of the popular samurai film star Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), and consists of several beautiful gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses, and a zen meditation hall. Here you will enjoy some matcha green tea with a snack. Next, take a walk through Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves. Nonomiya shrine is a Shinto shrine where in ancient times, unmarried imperial princesses stayed for a year or more to purify themselves. Ranked among Kyoto's five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama. In a traditional building inside the temple grounds overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden, enjoy a beautiful vegetarian shojin-ryori (traditional Buddhist cuisine) lunch built around yuba, tofu, and seasonal vegetables.
Stay close to home during your stay at Hoshinoya and enjoy the culinary artistry at the Michelin three-star restaurant. The chef is proud to introduce a new Kyoto cuisine, an authentic Japanese cuisine with modern interpretation. The Kyoto cuisine has always combined mainstream Japanese cooking with Kyoto’s imperial tradition and selected local ingredients, always prepared with full respect for the seasons. Seasonal Kyoto cuisine using ingredients prepared in a variety of cooking techniques as well as a selection of aged wines and sake awaits. Please note, this is not included and must be paid locally.
Enjoy a day at leisure at Hoshinoya. Choose to relax within the grounds of the property, possibly relaxing in stunning modern Japanese garden and take in the fabulous views, or curl up and read a book in the library lounge or tatami public room. Should you feel like a treatment today, the Hoshinoya Spa offers a new style of Toji, a traditional form of Japanese therapeutic bath designed to relieve stress and promote relaxation in a beautiful, natural environment. Of course if you would like to add another day of private guided touring this is also an option.
Transfer from Arashiyama to Kyoto with a private vehicle and driiver.
This morning make the 150 minute journey by train to Okayama with your guide. You will be met in Okayama by a car that will take you to Uno port, where you will ride the ferry to Naoshima.
Spend the day exploring the island. Honmura, a small port town on Naoshima's eastern coast, is home to the Art House Project, a collection of abandoned houses, workshops, a temple and a shrine that have been converted into art installations and venues for contemporary art by artists and architects from Japan and abroad. The art houses are scattered throughout town, and most of them are unassuming from the street, blending into the surrounding traditional Japanese neighborhood. The interior of each, however, has been given over to artists to convert into whatever suits their artistic vision.
The Chichu Art Museum is a unique modern art museum built into a hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. The museum building, designed by Ando Tadao and itself a work of art, is mostly located underground and solely utilizes natural light to illuminate the artwork. This creates a viewing experience that is heavily influenced by the surrounding natural environment. There are many other smaller art installations and museums around the museum which your guide will be happy to show you.
Enjoy the morning at leisure to continue your exploration of the island with your guide.
You will be then escorted by ferry back to Uno and by car to Okayama, where you will catch the train back to Kyoto.
Conveniently located in the heart of the city, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo enjoys a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking city skyline. Surrounded by the chic shops and offices of Nihonbashi, the hotel exudes crisp, cutting-edge style with state-of-the-art technology, a renowned spa, award-winning restaurants and impeccable service. The guestrooms are a blending futuristic luxury with a sense of space, capture the essence of Japanese style and design.
A stay in Gora Kadan, a former holiday retreat for the imperial family in the National Park Hakone, is an invitation to bring your five senses to life by submerging yourself in Japan’s most ancient way of life. In these calm and pleasurable settings, located in an area of springs heated by volcanic sources, you may move from your suite with its minimalist design, to a swimming pool or spa while wearing a Yukata cotton kimono. Treat yourself to a well-earned retreat in the natural beauty of Hakone National Park.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto is a stylish design hotel located in the traditional and historic area of Higashiyama Shichijo, in the heart of Kyoto. Located just a few minutes away from JR Kyoto Train Station, this Kyoto hotel features spacious rooms and luxury suites suitable for business and leisure travelers alike. The Hyatt Regency Kyoto hosts the Grill serving French cuisine, casual Italian restaurant Trattoria Sette, and Touzan Japanese Restaurant & Bar. RIRAKU Spa offers body and facial treatments based on Eastern and Western traditional techniques which give relaxation in body and soul. The Hyatt is close to the main city landmarks including the National Museum, Chishakuin, Sanjusangendo and Yogenin Temples. Gion district, a traditional neighborhood famous for geisha's has numerous shopping and entertainment options, with Shijo Street and Nishiki market within a short distance.
Hoshinoya is an embodiment of the vision “Discover the Ultimate Japan Experience”, a new class of Japanese resorts infused with contemporary style, and is dedicated to upholding the standard of Japanese hospitality. Take a private boat ride to this picturesque retreat, which sits by a river in Arashiyama, the most beautiful hideaway in Kyoto and experience full relaxation at the spa which features an extensive treatment menu.
Benesse House is a unique facility that combines the functions of both museum and hotel. Four hotel facilities make up the accommodation, all of which were designed by Tadao Ando - Museum, Oval, Park and Beach. Park offers views of a verdant green lawn and the sparkling sea, with the mountains of Shikoku rising up in the distance against a bright blue sky. The Park building contains a restaurant, lounge, and shops, as well as art spaces throughout the facility.
Maynard Fossum ,
December 12, 2014
"My trip to China proved to be an outstanding experience. Each location provided excellent learning and entertainment opportunities. The country was very impressive both in its deep history and in the huge modernization that has taken place in recent decades. The tour guides at each location were well informed and able to answer questions while also offering detailed information at all sites. It was a pleasure to be so well taken care of. The guides and drivers were always helpful. The meals on the tour were delicious and varied. I was pleased with the choice of restaurants. The hotels were comfortable and well located. I will recommend Kensington Tours. "
December 12, 2014
"I was a bit nervous about visiting Myanmar. Thanks to the outstanding help and planning via Kensington Tours, everything went off without a hitch!! It was a fantastic experience, that I would recommend to anyone with a spirit of adventure. "
Craig Gelman ,
December 12, 2014
"Fabulous trip. Every aspect from the planning to execution was excellent. "
Ruth Reinhard ,
December 12, 2014
"The trip was fantastic!!!Each guide and driver gave us so much information and were so helpful. They made sure that they took good care of our well being and requests. My husband, who we all call "the reluctant traveler" said, halfway through the trip, where are we going next? He said if he can go with Kensington then he will go anyplace. Thanks for making our trip to China a memorable experience."
SixtoCastenada Jr. ,
December 12, 2014
"100% satisfied! We had a wonderful trip. Our travel adviser, Tony Newman put together a tour that included everywhere we wanted to visit and within our very limited time frame. Conrad, who booked our transportation was very professional. The tour guides, hotel accommodations and transportation arrangements were all excellent. We will be using Kensington Tours again!"
December 12, 2014
"We were so impressed with all aspects of the trip that Kensington arranged for us - even at short notice. The itinerary was perfectly planned, full of extra activities like riding an elephant and a water buffalo cart ride. The guides were wonderful in all the places we went and the travel was easy between locations. Vietnam is a wonderful destination and Angkor Wat is amazing too. We loved the overnight on the boat in Halong Bay and the train ride to Sapa. The day we spent trekking between indigenous villages in the mountains of Sapa was one of the most interesting days of my life! We have travelled a lot and this was one of the best trips we have ever taken."
Olive Ramchand ,
June 03, 2014
"I have to admit, this was the BEST vacation I ever had. The tour was nothing less than Fantastic! The hotels were great, the guides were great, the transportation was great, the places were great, the people were great, the food was great and last but not least China, itself was out of this world. I'm so glad I booked this tour and would recommend this to anyone. Thanks so much for all your help, your interest and your recommendations. Steve in China was so attentive, he called constantly to make sure everything was fine. We really had a fabulous time and even my jaded husband who normally only seems to care about where the nearest golf course is, was impressed and had a wonderful time.
Thanks again, and unto the next vacation (although I don't know how we would top this one!!)
Jeanne Tarvin ,
April 21, 2014
"The tour was absolutely fabulous. It all started with the planning. Kathryn graciously accommodated our tight schedule and multiple needs, including a mid-trip change in plans. The tour guides and drivers were all great and extremely knowledgeable. The accommodations and meals were fantastic. I was apprehensive about going to China not knowing the language but it worked out great!"
January 15, 2014
"We just returned on Monday from our wonderful trip to South Korea, Bangkok and Phuket. I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work in planning our tours and adventures. Everything was spot on, from our arrivals at the airports, to the guides and the tours. I would not hesitate to recommend you and your company. It was truly a wonderful vacation. Thank you again.
Bob Feldman ,
November 19, 2013
"I wanted to let you know that our trip to China was great! Everybody enjoyed themselves. When planning a trip I am always concerned about the itinerary, the vehicles and the guides. All 3 of these were great. The guides were particularly good and in this case really made the trip a pleasure. Overall a great trip. Thanks for all you did."
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