(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.
Welcome to Japan!
Meet your driver for an airport transfer with a private vehicle.
Lying high above the city of Tokyo, the stunning Mandarin Oriental (5*) hotel is quite simply one of "the" places to stay in the city! Located in the great Nihonbashi district, the hotel boasts 360 degree views of the city, mountains and harbour and all rooms are located at least 34 floors above ground. The hotel showcases crisp, cutting-edge style with state-of-the-art technology, a renowned spa, award-winning restaurants and impeccable service.
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 home made sushi for lunch. 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?
Today’s tour will start with a lesson in Aikido. More than just a martial art, Aikido also blends philosophy and religious principles. Aikido is not about the use of force, but of using your opponent’s force and momentum against them, thus one does not have to necessarily be physically strong to be adept in the art. Next, you will have a lesson in shuji, Japanese calligraphy. While 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. Afterwards you will head to a sword museum in Shibuya. Japanese katana swords are world famous. They were considered extensions of a samurai’s soul, and were often given names. Continue on to test Japan’s top tipple as you head to a sake brewery. Last but not least you will visit Akihabara, Tokyo’s pop culture mecca where you can visit toy shops and anime stores.
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.
The gentle swoosh of a sliding wall made of rice paper, the fragrance of flower incense, the taste of traditional Kaiseki cuisine and the touch of silk... A stay in Gôra Kadan(5*), 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.
Transfer from your hotel in Hakone to the Odawara train station with a private vehicle and driver.
Transfer by train from Odawara to Kyoto.
Meet your driver for a train station transfer with a private vehicle.
Hyatt Regency (5*) Kyoto Hotel is one of the newest luxury hotels in Kyoto. It is located just minutes from JR Kyoto Station, in the Higashiyama Shichijo district, the traditional and cultural heart of Kyoto. Choose from the five different dining options onsite and consider having a treatment at the Riraku spa. Nearby places of interest include Kyoto's National Museum, and Chishakuin, Sanjusangendo and Yogenin Temples.
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.
Gain an insiders' perspective of the spiritual side of Japan by spending an hour with a monk at one of the temples for a private tour. This is very special and not something that is readily available as they tend to be very private and not accessible to the general public. You'll come away with a better understanding of the temples history as well as the particular sect of Buddhism that they follow and the everyday rituals that they follow.
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.
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 metre 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. The temple hall measures 120 metres in length – Japan’s longest wooden structure. In the centre of the main hall sits a large, wooden statue of a 1000-armed Kannon (Senju Kannon) that is flanked on each side by 500 human sized statues. After, you will head west to the Arashiyama district, a district in the 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. 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy lunch in a traditional building inside the temple grounds overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden, where you can feast on a 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.
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.
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.
It is recommended that you leave your bags in the hotel in Kyoto and take small overnight bags with you to the island, as there are quite a few forms of transport involved and large bags can be an inconvenience. If you stay in Osaka after visiting Naoshima, you can forward your bags by overnight courier from Kyoto to Osaka so they are at your hotel when you arrive.
You will have a private guide with you for the day today to help with logistics as well as to give you an overview of the art installations on the island.
This morning make the 150 minute journey by train from Kyoto to Uno via Okayama and then take a ferry to Naoshima which should take approximately 20 minutes.
Spend the day in the company of your private guide exploring the island of Naoshima. 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. The island is quite small and very easily accessible by foot and there is also a complimentary hop on hop off bus provided by Benesse Hotel that circles around the island, visiting all the sites – which you may like to avail of.
Retrace your steps today and take the ferry back to the mainland and then a train to Kyoto.
A transfer from your hotel in Kyoto to the Kansai International Airport in Osaka with a private vehicle and driver is provided.
Benesse House is a unique facility that combines the functions of both museum and hotel. Four hotel facilities make up the accommodation offer on the island, all of which were designed by Tadao Ando - Museum, Oval, Park and Beach. This Museum hotel lets you stay as close to the artworks as possible. The guestrooms, available in four distinct styles, are decorated with drawings, paintings, and prints created by the artists whose works the museum collects. Restaurants, a café, and a shop are also available.
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."
Gloria DeWeese ,
October 10, 2013
"A wonderful trip and everything went like clockwork. Thank you so very much for all your assistance. I hope I will have a chance to work with you again."
Wayne Gavioli ,
September 04, 2013
"We just returned from our thailand/cambodia trip. It was fantastic. You did a great job. The guides were excellent as was the drivers. We loved the Victoria Hotel you selected in Siem. Wish we had more time. Thailand met our expectations but our expectations for Cambodia were low and they exceeded them. Loved the places selected for the included lunches. Certainly would use Kensington again"
Santo Filice ,
August 30, 2013
"Thank you for arranging our guided trip to Thailand - Vietnam. It was a memorable, and pleasant trip - a 1st for us with Kensington tours and a most enjoyable one. We found that we were able to maximize our visit of the the area without the concern of booking hotels, airline, finding parking and understanding the local language. "
Tim Mesarch ,
August 02, 2013
"Alexis helped us fit in all of the sites we wanted to see on our trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and suggested some more. It was valuable talking with someone who had been there and done that. The planning went pretty smoothly, and so did the trip. The local guides were all top-notch! "
July 25, 2013
"I highly recommend Kesington Tours. The planning of our trip to Cambodia was outstanding. Our advisor Alexis Mayer was unbelievably patient, knowledgeable and responsive. We planned the trip in every possible detail and Alexis was extraordinary during the whole process. Once we were in Cambodia, we had a tiny issue with the car. I was able to get in contact with Alexis right away and the problem was instantly solved. The trip itself was fantastic. Everything was very well planned and perfectly organized. The local guides and drivers were great. The hotels were very well chosen.
Great trip. I would definitely travel again with Kensington Tours."
Pennie Quintana ,
August 07, 2013
"Thank you so much for the amazing trip we enjoyed!! All our guides were fantasy. Joseph in Jakarta, July in Jojakarta and Deon in Borneo!! Wow!! Bless you for all your attention to detail and the outstanding communication to all my questions. You made me feel so taken care of and tended too!! "
Denise Abadi ,
June 21, 2013
"We have just returned from our trip to Malaysia and wanted you to know how much we enjoyed the itinerary you put together for us. Our guides were personable and very knowledgeable about the various places we visited. We were amazed by the sights, sounds and friendliness of the people we encountered. Needless to say, it was a most memorable trip and one of the
highlights of our traveling careers!
July 11, 2013
"Sunita, my wife and I had a wonderful time in China. The hotels were superb. Our guides were excellent. They spoke good English, were knowledgeable, and flexible. It was a wonderful trip. We particularly enjoyed the Yangtze River cruise. We will certainly consider your firm for international travel in the future."
Debbie Selden ,
June 14, 2013
"We had a great time and our guide in Bejing was fantastic! Thanks much for all your help."
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