Japan is a place of incredible art, wonderful ceremony and a unique culture that owes much to a vibrant and multi-cultural past. To delve into these things – perhaps the most important features of this wondrous country – is to delve into the real Japan. To dive head-first into a journey of discovery that takes a long hard look at the elements that make the country what it is today. Calling all historians and culture vultures – this one’s for you.
TAKE OFF IN TOKYO
You’ll begin your ten night cultural immersion in Tokyo, a thriving subwaypolis known for its ability to render travelers speechless with its crowds (think Shibuya Crossing), its lights, its architecture and culinary prowess. With four nights here, you’ve got plenty of time to uncover Tokyo’s more historic and traditional side. With a private driver to hand, we’ll first have you taken to the Tokyo National Museum. Why? Well, it’s got the world’s largest collection of Japanese art for one. It’s also home to real samurai swords, Buddhist sculptures and traditional kimonos. For a full introduction to Japan’s past, there’s no better place to start.
The Meiji Shrine is another must-see. The serenity you’ll find here will feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo. Wash your hands and mouth at the water station before offering up a prayer, or write a wish on a piece of paper and tie it to the prayer wall. You’ll quickly get the feeling that this is not a temple to cater to the tourist crowd, so take time to appreciate its authenticity. Visit on a Sunday and you may even be lucky enough to stumble across a traditional wedding ceremony.
Depending on where your passions lie, we’ll be able to arrange a Tokyo itinerary to suit your needs. Always wanted to try the freshest sushi? We’ll have a guide collect you for an early morning tour and sushi breakfast at Tokyo’s famous fish market. More interested in Japanese architecture? We’ll fit in a day for you to explore each of the districts of Tokyo, including its beautiful traditional gardens that offer an escape from the city’s well known freneticism.
The next four nights you’ll spend in Kyoto, which you’ll reach via bullet train from Tokyo. It’s here that you’ll get a taste of Japan’s most ancient traditions and art forms, starting with a ceramics tour. You see, Japanese pottery is one of the country’s oldest forms of art, so if you’re looking to gain a better understanding of Japan’s artistic history, pottery is the best place to begin. Different styles of this art form developed in different regions of the island, with Kyoto pottery growing in popularity along with the tea ceremony in the 14th century. Lead by a ceramics expert, you’ll enjoy a private visit to a ceramics studio and be given a tour of the surrounding area of Kyoto. A beautiful destination of temples, markets, tasty cuisine and elegant tea ceremonies, you’ll find it hard to wave goodbye as you embark on the final leg of your trip.
In Takayama you’ll spend time exploring Sanno-Machi Historic District, one of the most magical places in Japan. A preserved collection of old merchants’ houses; the dark wood architecture and sake breweries will transport you back hundreds of years. For a lesser known attraction, the Hida Folk Village is an open air museum of around 30 traditional farmhouses that are also sure to inspire your imagination. A quietly beautiful place of huge historic significance; Takayama will be the last stop on your cultural tour before your flight home from Tokyo