Japanese girl dressed up as a geisha, with Matsumoto Castle castle in the background
Under the Gaze of the Geisha
If you love adventure you’ll love this trip! Full of culture, local food, history and once in a lifetime experiences, this trip to Japan is action-packed with memory making moments.
Explore the neon lights of Tokyo, wander the merchant house lined streets of Matsumoto, sample delicious foods and beer with the locals, get to know Hiroshima and discover the ancient trade routes of Tsumago. All this, and you get access to a once in a lifetime opportunity - to visit a private Geisha teahouse. You’ll be surprised at how much Japan has to uncover.
Visit a private Geisha teahouse - a rare experience!
Explore the beautiful sights of Hakone National Park
Discover the backstreets of Kyoto by bike
Try Hiroshima's version of Japanese pizza
Take the Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima
Walk the ancient trading route of Nakasendo Highway
Sample local food and beer in Tokyo
This exciting trip to Japan includes transfers, accommodation, selected excursions, breakfasts and some dinners.
From the first conversation until you arrive home from your holiday, you’ll be looked after by one of our Travel Designers who has travelled extensively in the region and will give advice from their personal experience on how to make the most out of your trip. All of our trips are entirely bespoke and we will continually refine your itinerary until it’s perfect.
After an overnight flight you will arrive in the capital city of Japan, Tokyo, full of dazzling bright lights and sleek, futuristic looking buildings. Our representative will greet you at the airport and help you get a smooth shared transfer into the city. They’ll assist you to validate your Japan Rail Pass, and give you a welcome pack and a PASMO card, leaving you free to explore Japan’s epic transport system. Spend the rest of the day exploring what this passionate and traditional city has to offer or relax in your hotel ready for a fresh start on your adventures tomorrow.
The following day, wake up and enjoy a half-day tour of Tokyo by public transport. Visit the beautiful gardens of the impressive Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan, then head to the areas of Asakusa to explore the Sensoji Temple and the iconic Nakamise shopping street. Once you’ve had your fill of the shops and temples, head across town by subway to find some peace and quiet at the Meiji Shrine and gardens. Wander around the temples to get a sense of the tranquil atmosphere and witness the locals coming to pray. You may even spot a traditional wedding ceremony when you’re there! Then, with a sense of calm, spend the rest of the day at ease exploring in your own time.
Wake up at your leisure the next day and spend your time getting to know the city in your own way. You could indulge in some culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art or experience the Tokyo Skytree, at an impressive 634 meters high. If you’re looking for a respite from the city, why not take a day trip to the quaint seaside town of Kamakura and seek some quiet between the Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. In the evening, give your taste buds a treat with a traditional walking food tour, to sample some delicious foods. You start the tour by socialising with the ‘salarymen’ enjoying a beer and Yakitori meat skewers after work at the Yurakucho. Then you’ll head to a lavish retro restaurant at Tsukishima, a shitamachi neighbourhood across from Tsukiji fish market. Appetite at the ready as you delve into a ‘monjayaki’ - a famous dish prepared fresh in front of you with fried vegetables served with a variety of toppings. With a full belly, you can retire to a traditional Japanese pub called an ‘izakaya’, where drinks are on you and you can stay as late as you wish - of course, your guide will show you how to get home.
Things to do
After finishing in Tokyo on a high, make your way to Shinjuku and jump on the Japanese rail with your Japan Rail Pass ticket and head to Matsumoto. Here you have a day and night to explore this mountainous city, with streets lined with old merchants houses and the Japanese Alps looming overhead. Wander the grounds and examine the distinctive black walls of the ‘Crow Castle’, the 16th century Matsumoto Castle, then retired to your hotel ready to start afresh the next day.
Activity & Adventure
In the morning, get back on the train and head to the quaint area of Tsumago with the backdrop of the distant mountains. You can head straight to your hotel and check in if you like, and then spend the day exploring at your own pace - there’s plenty to do. Many enjoy a walk along the ancient trading route of the Nakasendo Highway, where you’ll be able to soak up the spectacular views. Tonight, you’ll get to experience the real traditions of Japan as you sleep in a traditional Japanese Inn on the floor and take a dip in the communal baths. Don’t forget to put on your yukata.
You can spend your day exploring more of Tsumago at your own pace, perhaps even hiking the full four-hour route from Magome to Tsumago via the Nakasendo Way, if you weren’t brave enough the day before.
Today will be a more subdued day, as you hop on a train from Nagoya to catch the Shinkansen bullet train all the way to Hiroshima. Discover the city at your leisure and read up about the well-known history of the city of Hiroshima. Then rest your tired legs and stop by a Japanese pizza place to sample Hiroshima's version of Okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza).
General Tour / City
Waking up in Hiroshima, you will soak up some more history and culture. Feel humbled as you visit the Peace Park and the A-Bomb Dome to help build a clearer picture of what life has been like for the residents of Hiroshima. If you’re craving some rest from the city, hop on a boat to Miyajima Island where you’ll be able to see the famous floating Torii Gate, soak up the colourful marketplace and make friends with the amicable deer who are yearning to say hello to you. If you’re feeling brave - and you should, because the rewards are massive - you can take a ropeway to the very top of the mountain for the breath-taking views of the sea and the cityscape of Hiroshima. End your day by returning to Hiroshima and taking a trip on the Shinkansen bullet train back to Kyoto.
The following day, you can discover the Miyagawacho and Gion geisha districts along the Shirakawa canal by bike. Kyoto’s back streets are fascinating and exploring by bike lets you really get up close and soak up the city. The afternoon is yours to do as you choose and, if you’re a fan of the book Memoirs of a Geisha, you may want to pay a visit to the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine with its Thousand Torii Gates and many statues of foxes or see Kyomizu-dera Temple - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a moment to enjoy the views of the city as these impressive wooden structures perch on the edge of a hill which overlooks all that surrounds it.
Take your time to wake up today or head back to the Gion district to continue your exploration - you may even spot a Geisha. In the afternoon you’ll be welcomed into the home of an instructor of Japan's Traditional Arts for a delve into Japanese culture and tradition. You will be shown how to conduct the most valued traditions in Japanese culture - a traditional tea ceremony. Now here’s for the really exciting bit: in the evening you will get a once in a lifetime visit to a private Geisha teahouse, accompanied by a geisha culture expert who is married to an ex-geisha. Experience what it’s like to have a private audience with a Geisha or Maiko, as they show you traditional songs, dance and games. This is definitely an exclusive experience, and you’ll want to take advantage of this rare photo opportunity. Retire for the night feeling super lucky that you’re one of the few people who has got access to this experience.
Things to do
General Tour / Activity & Adventure
Wake still full of excitement and let the adventure continue with a trip on the bullet train to Hakone. Here you will get spectacular views over Mount Fuji and be able to slink into one of its famous hot springs. You’ll be staying at an impressive traditional Japanese Ryokan with tatami mat floors. Refresh yourself with a dip in another shared bathing pool, ready for a day of walking and exploring. You can spend the day at your leisure discovering what’s inside the Hakone National Park. For more views take the cable car to the top of Mount Owakudani for a sight that will really blow your mind. Black egg cooked in the hot springs anyone? Why not! Some may laugh, but you can also get a ride on a replica pirate ship across the waters of Lake Ashi under the watchful gaze of Fuji-san.
You’ll be used to the Japanese public transport by now, as you take the train back to Tokyo for one final afternoon in the bright neon lights of the city and sample some more of the delicious Japanese food.
On your final day, you will wake and begin your journey home – hopefully with a tummy full of delicious local food and a head full of new experiences.