5 recommendations for a luxury tour of Japan

If you’re a traveller with a sense of adventure then the Far East is a part of the world you absolutely must see. Japan is a particular jewel of East Asia and a remarkable place to visit. Culture shock is the phrase perhaps most often used by visitors to this intriguing island, but this is no bad thing. Japan is a different world to most other countries in many ways, but it is this difference that makes it special, and which makes trips to the land of ancient samurai and geisha girls impossible to wipe from the memory. History, a fascinating culture, amazing food and drink and eye-popping modern countryside and cityscapes make Japan stand apart from other travel destinations. And if you want to experience the country in the most comfortable way possible, you’ll be pleased to know that Japan is no stranger to luxury. So here are a few tips and things you need to know for a fabulous luxury tour of Japan.

Tokyo is the only place to start

Tokyo is the beating heart of Japan and the only place to start a luxury tour in the land of the rising sun. Shinjuku is the place to go, where you can stroll along bustling streets, take in the neon sights of the city and the astounding architecture, including the Prada building and the Dior building. This district is great for shopping, but there are also art galleries and museums to explore. Top hotels in this part of the city include the Park Hyatt, made famous in the movie Lost In Translation.

Tokyo

Mount Fuji is a must

Once you have experienced the city you may want a change of scene, and a trip out to the foothills of Mount Fuji is a great way to get some fresh air and see some mind-blowing sights. An up-close view of the iconic mountain is worth the trip alone, but the experience can be improved still with a trip to the Hakone open-air sculpture museum. The local Fujiya restaurant has hosted stars from Charlie Chaplin to John Lennon and is still the best place to eat in that locale.

Mount Fuji

Take the bullet train to Kyoto

The bullet train is a fantastic Japanese experience and the best way to travel to Kyoto, the cultural centre of Japan. There are 17 World Heritage sites to visit in Kyoto, from gorgeous gardens to grand temples. The Geisha Quarter is well worth exploring and Pontocho Street is the place to find the best eateries in Kyoto.

Kyoto bullet train

See a feat of Japanese art on Naoshima

When you have had enough of Kyoto – and this could take days or weeks – a trip to the island of Naoshima comes highly recommended. An array of art and history is hosted here, with galleries and museums to visit, and sculpture installations covering three islands.

Naoshima

Finish in style at the Mandarin Oriental or the Peninsula

You can head all the way back to Tokyo on the bullet train and if you want to finish your luxury tour in style, the Mandarin Oriental and the Peninsula hotel will serve very well. Both venues offer truly amazing views of the city and are within easy reach of excellent shops and restaurants.

Mandarin Oriental

James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel.

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Comments (3)

  1. Lash says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing your suggestions for a luxury trip to Japan. Good ones!

    I lived in Kyoto for 6 years, immersing myself in the traditional cultural arts and traveling extensively around the country.

    I certainly agree with you about your great suggestions. Tokyo is a mind-blowing city for 1st time visitors to Japan. Mt Fuji and riding the bullet train should also not be missed.

    To your list I’d personally add a few other ‘not to be missed’ experiences, if I may:

    1. Stay at a traditional Japanese Ryokan (traditional luxury Inn) with an onsen (outdoor hot springs) preferably in the mountains.

    2. Try as many different types of Japanese cuisine as possible. Only a select few Japanese dishes such as sushi, teriyaki beef and udon are known in most western countries. Those are delicious, to be sure, but Japan has so many more incredible foods that you’ll rarely find outside the country. Try them!

    3. Visit Nikko, one of the most highly revered temple complexes in the country. It’s jam-packed with gilded temples, mausoleums and tombs, all set in a striking forest.

    4. Attend a traditional Japanese theater performance – either Noh, Bunraku or Kabuki. Of the 3 Kabuki is probably most interesting since it’s the most lively and fastest paced (which is still quite slow!)

    5. Attend New Year’s Eve in Kyoto. A whole different ball game!

    As far as that goes, as you hint at in your article, visitors could easily spend many weeks -even months – exploring Kyoto with its thousands of temples, royal palaces, annual festivals & parades, traditional restaurants.. on and on.

    Of course, I’m partial to Kyoto, which I specifically selected as my home for 6 years, because of its plethora of culture & arts. :))

    In any event, thanks for sharing your great suggestions. You are most correct to point out that Japan abounds in luxuries of all sorts!

    Best regards, Lash

  2. Francois says:

    I agree with starting by Tokyo, the most representative and a very friendly city. Then Mont Fuji is a must-do as well as Kyoto and its amazing temples!

  3. Jonathan says:

    Great Read, and would agree Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mt Fuji are all a must. Having lived for 7 years in Tokyo, 1 year in in Fuji Shi (waking every morning to a beautiful -cloud permitting view of Fuji-san) and a short stint Kyoto but many trips to adventure around temples or in the search for a new and exciting place to eat along the river.

    I would add some more adventurous travels (but still geared to the luxury side) of visits to Atami (and the historic Ryokans there) also the Izu peninsula for its beautiful Philippine feed sea and famous hide out of the TV and film stars.

    A trip up to the mountains either in Nigata, Nagano, or even up to Hokkaido is also worth a visit if in Winter for the pure perfect snow Japan seems to have with a beautiful off piste environment to explore.

    Surfing in Chiba (or Izu) with perfect rolling waves to mix with the many Tokyo CEO’s and Executives who seem to favor the past time of the Hawaiians over the Western obsession with Golf – Although a short skip and a hop from Tokyo are some beautiful courses, however not so much in the height of summer in 36 degrees C!

    I have advised to various people on trips to Japan, both of an adventurous nature (GB Olympic rowing team) and also on a trip to find the best in Japanese tailoring, and Bespoke footwear and eye wear. So if anyone reading this would like a trip overview or bespoke advise sheet creating for them, I would be happy to help!

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