A BETTER WAY TO TOUR: To us, 'value' means making a better way to tour. We love to surprise our guests with unique experiences, top-notch service, hidden local delights, & memories of a lifetime. Our tours are designed to balance sightseeing & free time while avoiding crowds and tourist traps.
Rickshaw through the ancient historical town of Kamakura
Overnight Hot Spring Hotel in Fuji Five Lakes
Mt. Fuji is usually shy, but our specially-arranged itinerary of the Kawaguchi area gives us ample time and more opportunity to get a good view of this majestic UNESCO landmark while escaping the crowds.
Iyashi no Sato Village. See Mt. Fuji against a beautiful backdrop of traditional thatched roof houses. Dress in a simple Kimono or Samurai Armor for a fun and unique photo op!
Visit the Kubota collection, a 3-star Michelin art museum, highly rated for its unique painted kimono on display.
3 nights in Tokyo: a more relaxed pace to take in the sights, cuisine, & culture of this world-class city.
Sail the Sumida River on a water bus and experience local waterfront scenery.
Explore Tokyo’s most vibrant neighborhoods: Shibuya, Asakusa, Harajuku, Ginza and the Imperial Palace East Garden.
Ride the high speed Shinkansen (Bullet Train). See the beautiful countryside from the comfort of your seat as we travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in just 2.5 hours.
3 nights in Kyoto (2 city - 1 ryokan): Enjoy its timeless antiquity and the beautiful distinction of each of the four seasons with our carefully-designed itinerary.
Kyoto is an intimate city best explored on foot! We've created the perfect walking tour to share the hidden alleyways and local neighborhoods with you.
Avoid the crowds of Kiyomizudera with our specially-arranged itinerary.
Take a historic tour of Japan’s first capital in Nara.
Feast in Osaka's Dotonbori restaurant district, known as the “Kitchen of Japan"
|3/30-4/8 cherry blossom viewing along Sumida River on Water Bus in Tokyo and Maruyama park in Kyoto
4/15-4/20 enjoy the Lake Kawaguchi Cherry Tree Festival
4/20-5/15 we visit “Mt. Fuji Shiba-Sakura (moss blossom) Festival” instead of Imperial Palace East Garden
*Please note hotels in Kansai are seeing unprecedented demand. For some departures during busier seasons, we may use alternate hotels, and we will let you know in advance.
Health & Safety
2018 Schedule Adjustments
Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes) refers to the five lakes around the northern foot of Mt. Fuji: Yamanaka-ko, Kawaguchi-ko, Sai-ko, Shoji-ko, and Motosu-ko. In ancient times, lava flow from volcanic eruption of Mt. Fuji spread across the area, damming up rivers and resulting in the formation of these lakes.
Of the Five Lakes, Saiko Lake is the most quiet and remains the most unspoiled and is considered one of the best areas to observe Mt. Fuji.
Once a small farming village, Iyashi no Sato Healing Village was destroyed by natural disaster in 1966. Reconstructed with techniques to preserve the original atmosphere, the village now stands as a living exhibition of edo period Japan.
Today, more than twenty thatch-roofed houses have been converted into art gallerys, mini museums, and handicraft shops and give visitors a chance to have a fun way of experiencing traditional artforms. You can even try on a kimono or samurai armor for a fun and unique photo op!
Itchiku Kubota Museum is a small gallery dedicated to the intricate works of the textile artist of the same name. At an early age, Kubota was deeply inspired by the ancient tsujigahana (1300-1600AD) style of textile decoration and made it his life's mission to recreate this lost artform.
The "Symphony of Light" kimono display is not to be missed, but even the building and gardens are attractions themselves. Enjoying a refreshing afternoon tea in the beautiful setting is a great way to rejuvenate your mind and body.
Itchiku Kubota Museum has been honored with a 3-star Michelin award
Harajuku is known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. Shopping and dining options include quaint cafes and independent boutiques. The area is also home to Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu Shrine.
A center for youth fashion and culture, Shibuya's streets are the birthplace to many of Japan's fashion and entertainment trends. Over a dozen major department store branches can be found around the area catering to all types of shoppers. If you're in this district of Tokyo, make sure not to miss famous & exciting landmarks such as the Hachiko Dog Statue and the intensely busy Shibuya Crossing.
Shinjuku is an area otherwise known as Tokyo’s playground where we can explore the nightlife of the magical city. This district exemplifies modern Tokyo and boasts countless movie theaters, department stores, fashion boutiques, shopping plazas, neon signs, restaurants, and a dizzying array of most everything Tokyo has to offer. At Shinjuku Station, Tokyo’s busiest station, an estimated 3.3 million people pass by per day, making it the busiest station in the world.
The Imperial Palace is the current home to the Emperor and his family. Surrounded by public parks, the palace is immersed within a sea of majestic bonsai trees, creating a quintessential oasis engulfed within the city. Though public entrance is only permitted twice a year, the castle itself is a relevant cultural symbol and regarded as a must-see site for visitors.
We make our way to Asakusa by a scenic cruise boat on the Sumida River. Down at water level, the short cruise not only gives you fresh air, but also great views of Asakusa and the Tokyo Skytree and brings you closer to Tokyo’s riverborne heritage.
Asakusa is the well-preserved and still vivacious old Edo district. It is best known for the Sensoji Temple, the oldest and most popular temple in the city where yearly festivals are held. Thousands of locals celebrate here every year to commemorate the life of Buddha. Through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) leading to the temple is the famous Nakamise Dori, an area that has won itself a festive reputation, attracting many local specialists who sell unique Japanese delicacies within its crowded streets.
In Ginza, set your soles on some of the most expensive real estate on our planet. This part of Tokyo is the quintessential, high-end shopping mecca for people to see and be seen. In Ginza not everything (or anything) is affordable, but for the same reason people visit Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles or Fifth Avenue in New York, the intrigue is the essence of the surroundings. So whether you’re browsing the extravagant department stores and towering, glossy retail shops or simply lounging with a cup of coffee, relax and enjoy as you watch Tokyo’s high society pass by.
Enclosed by mountainous terrain on three sides and the crescent-shaped Osaka Bay to its west, the Osaka region is located in the outskirts of Japan’s Midwest. The area was fueled by a network of transportation channels by land and sea and also its close proximity to two ancient capitals, Kyoto and Nara. Consequently, by the 9th century, Osaka had grown into the largest commercial center in Japan and is still well-known for its savvy merchants today.
Built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583, the current Osaka castle, five stories on the outside and eight stories on the inside, is the result of a privately-financed renovation completed in 1931. The first seven stories are devoted to museum display while the eighth floor serves as the observation deck. The Osaka Castle is not only the largest castle in Japan, but also the trademark of Osaka tourism.
Inside the Todai-ji is Nara Daibutsu, one of Japan's largest bronze Buddha statues. Visitors come from around the world to visit this humbling and immaculate figure in hopes of attaining a little extra luck.
The park not only showcases many important historical monuments of Nara (such as the Todaiji, the Kofukuji, the Nara Public Museum, and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine), but also keeps a number of spotted deer for the enjoyment of visitors. If you're feeling adventurous, you may purchase some crackers and treat the deer to some snacks!
Standing 14.98 meters tall, weighing 380 tons, with a face that stretches 5.33 meters and a 2.56 meter long hand, the Nara Daibutsu is one of the largest bronze statue Buddhas in Japan. Rumor has it that you will get astounding results from your fortune telling drawings in the presence of this kind-faced Buddha. Try it and see for yourself!
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts is dedicated to preserving a variety of handicraft industries which has been passed down for over 1,000 years. The museum displays about 500 artifacts, all created by traditional craftsmen, including luxurious kimono, obi sashes, lacquerware and ceramics, allowing visitors to discover the traditional beauty and culture of ancient Kyoto. Our guests can enjoy a traditional Yuzen dyeing experience.
This hidden treasure is off the beaten path and seldom included in most tour itineraries, but the beauty and serenity makes the trip worthwhile. Designed by famed Chinese architect I.M Pei (Louvre Reception Hall in France, JFK Library in Mass., and Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong), the building houses the private collection of patron Mihoko Koyama which includes over two thousand pieces of painstakingly curated Asian and Western antiques.
Built in 1603, the Nijo Castle in Kyoto was the personal residence of the great Shogun Tokugawa. Apart from its splendid architecture, the castle has witnessed two major historical events within the last 400 years. The first when Toyotomi Hideyori formally surrendered to Tokugawa Ieyasu inside the castle, officially ending the civil war and the second when Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced inside this castle the return of sovereignty to the Meiji Emperor, officially ending Shogunate governance in Japan.
Kyoto was the nation’s capitol for a period of 1075 years (from 794 to 1869 A.D.) and is now considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city draws its beauty from its sophisticated, unique art culture and its rich, glorious history. It is no surprise that Kyoto lays claim to 17 of the world’s landmarks which have been inducted into UNESCO’s World Heritage list (Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Nijo Castle, Tenryuji Temple, etc.).
Kiyomizudera is a historic Buddhist temple established in 778. As a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, an UNESCO World Heritage site, the temple is one of the most celebrated and iconic temples in Japan. The wooden stage affords visitors a spectacular view of the Kyoto city center. Twelve meters above the ground, the stage is supported by high keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) pillars assembled without a single nail. The temple is also the home of Otowa Waterfall. Spring water has been flowing here since the temple was built. The water flows down into three separate streams and visitors may drink the water for longevity, prosperity, and love.
Designated by Japan as an important historical architectural preservation district. The age of the district is evident where well-preserved streets emanate an air of the distant past. The shops that fill these streets sell local specialty goods of Kyoto such as Kiyomizu (pottery ware), Yusen-Zome (colorful and artisan tapestry), shichimiya (seven aromatic spices), otabe (sweet snack made of dough), tsukemono (pickled products), Kyogashi (assortment of sweets), traditional hand-held fans, incense, green tea, and more.
Built in 1397, the Golden Pavilion was originally a country chateau for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, later named Rokuonji and converted into a Buddhist temple. Because it is covered with gold foil, the temple is also known as Kinkakuji. Mishima Yukio, the Japanese novelist and political radical, used this place as a setting for his widely celebrated novel, “Kinkakuji”, making this scenic spot internationally known.
Gion was a red light district during the Edo period. Today, apart from the presence of many traditional shops, still hidden within the streets and alleys are many of the classic up-scale tea houses and restaurants. The art of Geishas entertaining guests with their dances still exists in this area. If you are lucky, you may run into a genuine, fully-costumed Geisha of Kyoto while roaming these streets.
Sagano was a retreat destination used by ancient nobility for pleasure excursions. The scenery is sublime, especially when cherry blossoms surface in the spring and when maple leaves turn bright red in the fall. Thus, the area has been known for ages as a prime location for observing these wonders of nature. Meanwhile, old town Arashiyama has kept intact many of its antiquated dwellings and temples. All of its residents maintain cherry trees and maple trees in their yards so this old town can express even more of its irresistible charm during the spring and autumn seasons.
Serving as the center of the Arashiyama scenic area, the bridge of a timber surface stretches over the Oi-gawa River with its frame resting on steel pillars. Its antiquated beauty complements the pristine natural surroundings of Arashiyama.
A flourishing bamboo forest lies near the Arashiyama train station. The walking path runs between bamboo trees of cloud-reaching heights which sway with alluring beauty at the passing of a breeze. Take a stroll on a forest trail to discover hidden poetry within the engulfing serenity.
Figuratively regarded as the first of five magnificent “mountains” in Kyoto (“mountain” in Japanese also means Buddhist sect). The temple's garden, designed by Musō Soseki, features a circular promenade around the Sōgen Pond, creating a perfect blend of the elegance of nobility and profound tranquility of Zen Buddhism. Tenryuji's garden is one of the most famous gardens in Kyoto and is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Landmark.
Here in the largest and most significant shopping district in Osaka, you will find a gathering of giant shopping malls, more traditional stores, and an endless array of tiny shops owned and run by the locals. There are also numerous eateries, among which you will not only find a wide variety of Japanese food, but also cuisines from all over the world.
Assembled within an area no more than 200 meters wide and 700 meters long, are the most popular restaurants of Osaka. The area also has the highest concentration of eateries serving Japanese delicacies. Osaka is reputed as “the kitchen of Japan” with Dotonbori as its culinary center.
Founded in 1936, this traditional Japanese inn is in a class of its own. The hotel offers unrestricted views of Mt. Fuji and boasts a vast garden area with over 300 cherry blossom trees. The hot spring waters can be enjoyed in both indoor and open air settings.
The choice of world leaders, diplomats, and foreign dignitaries, this iconic and prestigious five-star hotel features an impressive setting overlooking the lush Imperial Palace Gardens and walking distance to Tokyo’s most affluent Ginza and Marunouchi neighborhoods. This hotel has been awarded the Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for luxury and service several years in a row.
A sleek upscale hotel enveloped by skyscrapers and the vibrant Shinjuku district. Find yourself just a short walk from the world’s busiest rail hub, densely dotted with depachikas, underground shopping arcades, and the most popular restaurants, shops, and attractions in the heart of Tokyo.
Surrounded by tranquil mountains, the Yumoto Kan is a ryokan (Japanese-style hotel) featuring hot spring baths and stunning views of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Ogoto Onsen, the local hot spring for the hotel, has been supplying natural mineral-rich water for 1200 years.
The Hanakaido Ryokan embodies the elegance Kyoto is so famous for. Featuring hot spring baths and lakeside views of Lake Biwa. Enjoy their indoor bath, outdoor onsen and a beautiful Kaiseki dinner in traditional Kyoto style.
This hot spring hotel is known for its comfortable fusion-style rooms, each offering a private lakeside balcony view of Lake Biwa. Enjoy an expertly-prepared Kyoto-style banquet dinner and fabulous service.
Near Shijo-karasuma, in the heart of Kyoto, this luxury hotel is conveniently situated for sightseeing and shopping activities. In addition, all hotel rooms and banquet rooms feature Free Broadband Internet Access.
Centrally-located in Kyoto city, the Okura is within walking distance from Gion, popular restaurants, and exciting shopping areas. The Kyoto Okura is a Kyoto icon and has long been regarded by locals as one of the best places to stay in the city.
Known as one of Osaka's best luxury hotels, the Imperial is located near Osaka Castle on the cherry tree-lined Okawa River in a relaxing, resort-like setting. Free shuttle service to Osaka Station is available as well as complimentary bikes to explore the area (10-min. ride to Osaka Castle).
The name of this dish translates to 'kettle rice'. The dish consists of rice directly cooked in a kettle, served alongside a garnish of fish, meat, and vegetables. The ingredients cook at the same time as the rice, thus infusing their flavor into the rice itself.
Shabu Shabu is thinly sliced beef cooked quickly in pot of boiling water along with vegetables, served with a variety of dipping sauces. The onomatopoeic name comes from the sizzling sound of dipping beef twice into the hot water: "shabu shabu~"
Sashimi is a traditional Japanese method for preparing and serving fresh fish. Sliced into bite-sized pieces and served raw, sashimi is the best way to experience Japan’s bounty of incredible fresh seafood
Traditionally only served to royalty, a Kaiseki banquet is a multi course dinner of many small plates. The banquet is considered an art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.
Yakiniku literally means ‘grilled meat. This style of preparation allows the eater to cook small pieces of meat individually on a small grill in the center of their table, in order to ensure that every single bite is as fresh as possible, and cooked to perfection.
Since its introduction into Japan by Portuguese traders in the 19th century, Tonkatsu has been transformed into a uniquely Japanese dish. Good Tonkatsu must be prepared with a perfectly crispy crust while keeping the meat juicy and moist on the inside.