Showcase the best of Japan by rail, from neon megacities to ancient castle towns
- Explore Japan’s highlights with rail and transport passes
- Compare samurai quarters to bullet-train modernism
- Enjoy little extras, from Kyoto tea ceremonies to the Tokyo Skytree
- Take it all in with private, tailor-made tours
- Stay in luxury hotels and traditional ryokans for hot-spring soaks
- 2 Nights Tokyo
- 3 Nights Kyoto
- 2 Nights Matsue
- 2 Nights Hagi
- 2 Nights Hiroshima
- 2 Nights Kurashiki
- 1 Night Osaka
Escorted tour | History & culture | Rail journey
Between scenic bullet-train trips, this curated itinerary showcases everything from samurai strongholds and Kyoto’s ancient heritage to the bright lights of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka. Along the way, you’ll enjoy private, tailor-made tours along with stays in luxury hotels and historic inns, complemented by traditional kaiseki feasts. You’ll even take a tea ceremony and summit the Tokyo Skytree. However, there’s plenty of flexibility to explore on your own, with your included rail and transport pass bringing you to the likes of Miyajima’s floating shrines and Nara’s millennia-old monasteries.
Day by day itinerary
Begin your trip in style with complimentary airport lounge access before your overnight flight.
Upon arrival, a private transfer will see you to your central hotel, darting over elevated expressways to views of the Tokyo skyline. While both of our accommodation options are set next to historic gardens, you might want to make use of your included transport card to explore the capital’s neighbourhoods further; highlights include electronic Akihabara, Shinjuku’s skyscrapers and upmarket Ginza. However, the next day, a private guide will tailor-make a tour of the city to your interests. There’s everything from hole-in-the-wall ramen joints to the Shinto shrines of Yoyogi Park to take in. You’ll also enjoy entrance to the world’s tallest tower – the Tokyo Skytree – for truly citywide views.
Your first bullet-train sprint will whip you between Mt. Fuji and the coast to arrive at Kyoto. Here, you’ll be greeted by a private tea ceremony, your guide educating you on the tradition’s ancient Buddhist principles. The next day, you’ll contrast the sleek style of your luxury hotel with Kyoto’s rich heritage, enjoying a personalised private tour. Choose from 17 UNESCO-listed treasures, 400 Shinto shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples as you dip between bamboo groves and Imperial-Palace gardens. Your last day is then at leisure. Perhaps make use of your rail pass to explore next-door Nara; it’s where Buddhism first made land in Japan, something evidenced by grand monasteries and terraced temples.
Stay: Granvia Kyoto (Superior) or Hyatt Regency (Deluxe)
Back on the Shinkansen, you’ll skirt Honshu’s southern coast to Okayama where you’ll change onto an express train, heading inland to Matsue. Set between twin lagoons and a maze of waterways, this prefectural capital welcomes with spectacular sunsets and an imposingly tiered 17th-century castle – one of just 12 to survive from the feudal era. And, you’ll have two days to explore, taking in the modern masterpieces of Adachi Museum of Art, along with one of the country’s finest gardens, all spindly bonsais and raked gravel swathes. Then, at day’s end you’ll retire to your traditional ryokan inn where timber rooms, onsen hot-spring soaks and included dinners of local delicacies recall Japan’s quieter past.
Meals: B D
On a scenic train ride you’ll follow the coast down to Hagi. A quiet seaside town, its old castle centre has changed little since the feudal era; it’s said that you can still navigate its white walled streets and orange-tree-dotted gardens using Edo-Period maps. Many of its samurai residences and merchant houses are open to the public, as is the now-ruined castle’s carp-filled moat. You’ll also have a chance to taste the region’s culinary heritage, with a pair of included dinners at your contemporary ryokan accommodation.
Stay: Hagi Honjin (Superior)/Hagi Sannomaru Hokumon Yashiki (Deluxe)
Meals: B D
After a private car transfer to the station, your train hop will see you swap coasts to Hiroshima. A city that needs little introduction, the events of 6 August 1945 are memorialised in hauntingly beautiful dome ruins and the superb Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Yet, in spite of its tragic past, the city’s wide, leafy avenues are built anew, vibrant with art museums and teahouse-dotted gardens. It’s all showcased on your private guided tour the next day, again tailor-made to your interests. There’s also the opportunity to head out to Miyajima, the island of floating shrines whose temple-capped mountain offers stunning archipelago views. The floor-to-ceiling panoramas of Hiroshima from your hotel aren’t bad, either.
Stay: Sheraton Hiroshima, Honshu (Deluxe)
From Hiroshima, head east on the Shinkansen to Okayama where you’ll change to a local line to reach Kurashiki. A key intermediary in the Edo-Period rice trade, its canals are lined with 18th-century storehouses presented in iconic black and white – one of which will be your ryokan home for the next two nights. Here, you’ll enjoy kaiseki multi-course feasts and long soaks in onsen baths. And, stepping out of your front door, you’ll follow the willow-lined waterways to merchant houses that have been converted into everything from archaeological museums to art galleries. We also highly recommend a trip to Okayama’s gardens and jet-black castle.
Stay: Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki (Superior)
Meals: B D
Retrace your railway route through Okayama to spend your last day in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city. Here, neon signs cover whole building sides and giant Ferris wheels perch on top of department stores. But, the excess doesn’t end with the architecture, with the city often known as the country’s gastronomic capital, famed for its okonomiyaki – savoury pancakes. Remember to take some time to navigate the grounds and moats of Osaka Castle and summit one of the city’s skyscraper views. You’ll also find a world-class aquarium and a bustling downtown district bisected by a pretty canal, which, after dark, comes alive with bars and bright lights.
Stay: Marriott Miyako, Osaka (Deluxe) or St Regis Hotel, Osaka, Honshu (Deluxe)
Depart for UK
After breakfast, you’ll be met by a private driver who’ll see you to the airport for your overnight flight home.
Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.
Flight offer: Save up to £325 pp.
Book by: 31 October 2019
from £5,410 pp. incl. flights
from £6,590 pp. incl. flights
- Complimentary UK airport lounge access
- Return flights from London to Narita and Kansai
- Private airport transfers
- 14 day rail pass for travel between Tokyo to Kyoto, Kyoto to Matsue, Matsue to Hagi, Yamaguchi to Hiroshima with a taxi from Hagi to Yamaguchi, Hiroshima to Kurashiki, Kurashiki to Okayama & Okayama to Osaka
- IC transport card
- 14 nights staying in 4* (Superior) hotels on a mix of B&B and half-board basis
- 8 hour private guide service in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima
- Entrance fee to Tokyo Skytree & Tea ceremony experience Kyoto
Terms & Conditions
Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.
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