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Kyoto, Japan

Japan

Ancient customs amid high technology

Japan tailor-made holidays

Introduction

In a country where electric car charge points now outnumber petrol stations, Japan wears its conflict on its kimono sleeve. One moment you could be following in the graceful wake of a geisha past feudal era castles, and the next taking a Shinkansen bullet to the heart of Tokyo’s skyscraper jumble.

And, it’s not difficult to read between the lines of Kyoto’s grid system to discover golden lakeside pavilions and moss covered temples. Japan’s ancient capital is home to no fewer than 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But remember, when it comes to exploring cities, don’t forget to look up. Many a dinner date has been missed despite neon signs covering the entire fifth floor restaurant. And, from Michelin-starred subway station sushi counters to holes in the wall serving steaming gyoza dumplings, Japan is a gastronomic delight. However, step outside the bustle to discover the country’s best kept secret – its natural world. Southern islands feature palm tree fringed sands while northern Hokkaido’s lakes, mountains and coasts are home to sea eagles and iconic Japanese cranes. And, after a day spent on the trails and in the teahouses of the Japanese Alps, return to a ryokan inn where onsen (hot spring) baths, tatami mats and traditional gardens are as welcoming as when they first hosted travelling shoguns. Throughout, you’ll be greeted by that quintessentially Japanese architecture style that favours bold reds and graceful arcs. It’s one that’s lasted from 7th century Nara temples to 18th century Edo period residences. 

Honshu

Main island Honshu forms the insular and cultural backbone of the Japanese archipelago. In Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshima, it’s home to city superpowers but don’t be blinded by the lights. Kyoto and Nara’s ancient capital heritage, Miyajima’s floating island iconography and its idyllic alpine retreats prove that there’s much more to Japan than skyscraping glamour.  

Shikoku

A chance to head off the tourist trail, Shikoku – the smallest of Japan’s four main islands – rewards with hidden valley hot springs, artist island retreats and grand Edo period castle towns. Don’t miss out on its most sacred shrine whose hilltop perch offers views out over pristine farmland to gently sloping mountains beyond. 

Kyushu

Japan’s southernmost main island has endured an explosive past. However, volcanoes that once formed its imposing ridges now fuel bubbling onsen baths and timber castles that fought off mercenary samurai today welcome visitors with cherry blossom blushes. Nagasaki has similarly shrugged off its difficult history with picturesque memorial gardens and a thriving food scene. 

Hokkaido

Swap southern subtropical islands for Japan’s northern borderlands where well-heeled Tokyoites come to get away from it all in vast national park wildernesses. In winter, warm up in lakeside resorts after witnessing crashing ice floes off the coast and, come summer, enjoy walks that take you through patchwork lavender fields and up forested mountains. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a Japanese crane or perhaps a sea eagle, perched on a freshly calved iceberg.

At a glance

Flying time from UK
12 hours

Time zone
GMT +9

Currency
Yen (¥)

Language
Japanese

Travel advice
Check the FCO for latest visa & travel advice

See Japan travel guide

Special offers in Japan

Best of Japan

16-day tailor-made journey from £4,490 pp incl. flights

Special
offer

Flight offer – Save up to £265 pp
Book by: 30 November 2018

Experience the best Japan has to offer on this 16-day tour, meandering through the modern hi-tech, natural beauty, and the ancient and traditional. Start your tour off in one of the most modern, efficient and largest cities in the world - Tokyo.

Japan’s Cultural & Coastal Discovery

17 night expedition voyage from £13,495 pp

Special
cruise offer

Crystal Endeavor Launch Fares
Book by: 31 January 2019

Voyage highlights: Immersive exploration of some of Japan’s most treasured temples, gardens and heritage sites including Kenroku-en Garden, Matsue Castle, South Korea’s Gyeongju Historic Site, Mikimoto Pearl Island and Mount Fuji.

Island Explorations of Japan

16 night expedition voyage from £12,690 pp

Special
cruise offer

Crystal Endeavor Launch Fares
Book by: 31 January 2019

Voyage highlights: Cultural and natural marvels, including Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine, Doro-kyo Gorge, Kyoto & Nara, Himeji Castle Mt. Sakurajima, Yakusugi Land & Waterfall, Zamami-Jima, Tsuki-ga-hama, Urauchi River.

Russian Far East Maiden Expedition

17 night expedition voyage from £18,150 pp

Special
cruise offer

Crystal Endeavor Launch Fares
Book by: 31 January 2019

Voyage highlights: Far Eastern Russia’s dramatic Kamchatka Peninsula & the wildlife-rich Kuril Islands plus Japan’s northern islands of Hokkaido and Rishiri; optional exploration of the Valley of the Geysers and other Zodiac expeditions and nature hikes.

See all offers

Top itineraries in Japan

Essential Japan

11-day tailor-made journey from £2,585 pp incl. flights

Get a taste of all that this spectacular multi-faceted country has to offer, with private tours of Tokyo, traditional ryokan stays, trips on Japan's 200mph bullet train and visits to world famous temples.

Best of Japan

16-day tailor-made journey from £4,490 pp incl. flights

Special
offer

Flight offer – Save up to £265 pp
Book by: 30 November 2018

Experience the best Japan has to offer on this 16-day tour, meandering through the modern hi-tech, natural beauty, and the ancient and traditional. Start your tour off in one of the most modern, efficient and largest cities in the world - Tokyo.

Tokyo, Hakone and the Japanese Alps

17-day tailor-made journey from £5,195 pp incl. flights

Step out of Japan's capital and explore an alpine world of shrines and samurai frozen in time. Board the mighty bullet train, sleep in timber ryokan inns, stay in hot onsen springs and more on this tailor-made journey.

Cultural Highlights of Japan by Rail

17-day tailor-made rail-journey from £5,190 pp incl. flights

This curated rail journey brings you on bullet-train sprints between Japan’s rich past, taking in ancient castle towns and tea ceremonies in Kyoto. You’ll also enjoy private, tailor-made tours everywhere from Tokyo to Hiroshima as you stay in luxury hotels and traditional ryokan inns.

See all itinerary ideas

What our clients say about our Japan holidays

  • A wonderful trip. The accommodations and itinerary we planned with Alex and the subsequent help and advice from Hannah and people at Inside Japan all made this an unforgettable experience. Like the trains, everything ran like clockwork. Our only regret is that we did not spend longer in Japan - we will have to return!

    Peter P

  • Tim Tan has been excellent in every way to organize our travel to New Zealand and Japan. All arrangements regarding travel tickets on trains and buses were clear and easily followed. The guides that were arranged for us in various places in Japan were knowledgeable ,friendly and punctual.

    Peter P

  • Great service from Debbie Mayger and your contacts in Japan. The guides we had in Japan were first class

    R A R

  • Very timely and appropriate responses to any questions we had prior to booking.

    Kamalnayan K

Top places to stay in Japan

Park Hyatt, Tokyo

Contemporary hotel

This ‘Lost in Translation’ centrepiece towers over Shinjuku’s contagious energy and makes for luxury stays in the city centre.

Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Contemporary hotel

Despite being the first luxury international hotel in Kyoto, fine Japanese dining and clean lines complemented by bonsai trees and tatami mats give this deluxe hotel a real sense of place.

Palace Hotel, Tokyo

Contemporary hotel

This is modern luxury set on the moat-shores of an imperial dynasty in central Tokyo.

Hakone Ginyu, Hakone

Accommodation

Spacious rooms with private baths and sweeping mountain views set the scene for this traditional Hakone ryokan

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Customise Your Own Brochure:
Featuring Japan & beyond…

Japan cover

Where to go in Japan

Japan’s volcanic archipelago offers mountains, island getaways, and the fast pace of some of the world’s most technologically advanced cities. Explore from the northern island of Hokkaido to epic Mt. Fuji, the outdoor haven of Kyushu and subtropical Okinawa.

Tokyo & Surrounds

You needn't travel far from Tokyo's neon-hazed streets to escape the world's ultimate metropolis and uncover a softer side to Japan. The quiet mountain town of Nikko, the seaside setting of tranquil Kamakura and the springtime blossoms of Mito's many plum trees are just some of the highlights.

Hokkaido

Japan’s northern frontier and second largest island hosts just five percent of the country’s population, despite featuring 30,000 square miles of volcanic peaks, glassy lakes and icy coastline. It’s a world away from main island Honshu’s cram.

Hakone (Mt Fuji)

Hakone is well loved for two attractions in particular - the iconic view of sacred, symmetrical Mount Fuji seen across Lake Ashi, and its high concentration of bubbling onsen (hot springs).

Kyoto

As the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years, Kyoto is filled with a wealth of cultural treasures - among them 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines.

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What to do in Japan

Perhaps it’s the rich culture of Japan that entices you to visit, or the promise of soft blooms capping rows of cherry blossom trees in springtime, or the opportunity to zoom through the countryside on a shinkansen, or bullet train.

History and culture

Visit temples and walk through vermilion tori gates, meet geisha for a tea ceremony or learn the intricacies of a tea ceremony on a cultural tour of Japan’s most beloved traditions.

Nature Holidays

A famous appreciation for nature makes Japan a top spot for outdoorsy holidays. Catch the cherry blossom season, witness the colours of an autumn foliage tour, explore volcanoes on a guided trek, or soak in a mineral bath at an onsen—wherever you go, Japan’s natural beauty is impossible to ignore.

Great railway journeys

Zoom along on the Shinkansen bullet train, or take in the countryside from a luxury cabin on Kyushu Seven Stars, where your train journey is punctuated by scenic and educational stops to make the most of your travel time.

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When to go to Japan

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The best times to visit Japan are the mild, climatically stable seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). Spring is when Japan’s famous cherry trees bloom. Starting from Kyūshū in March, the sakura zensen (cherry tree blossom line) advances northward, usually passing the main cities of Honshū and Hokkaidō from early April. The autumn foliage line reverses the advance of the cherry blossom, starting in the north in October and peaking across Honshū in November. Midwinter (December to February) can be cold, particularly on the Sea of Japan coasts of Honshū and on Hokkaidō, while …

See regional weather

Japan articles

  • British Airways announces new route to Osaka, Japan

    It’s been more than 20 years since the UK had a direct route to Japan’s second city, Osaka. But now, it's set to be easier than ever to reach as British Airways open up this route once again.

  • Just back from: Japan

    Wexas specialist Stav Banks has just returned from an unforgettable trip through Japan, enjoying hot spring soaks, historic hikes and excellent cuisine. Read her in-depth review to learn more.

  • Holidays you need to book now for 2019

    From New Zealand’s boutique lodges to wilderness getaways in Canada’s Rocky Mountains and Chile’s national-park wonders, these are the destinations you’ll need to book now for travel in early 2019.

  • The ultimate Japanese rail journey

    It's not just the ruthless efficiency that makes the Japanese rail network so appealing. On Shikoku, express trains pass hilltop shrines and ancient burial grounds, while main-island Honshu sees routes skirt dramatic coastlines, wind through the Japanese Alps and circumnavigate great lakes.

See all articles

Meet our Japan experts

Speak to a tailor-made specialist on 020 7590 0689

Meet the team

Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0689 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

Learn why Wexas is the leader in creating luxury holidays. What is tailor-made travel?

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