One of the World’s most cutting-edge capitals, Tokyo is a city of contrasts. Famous for its cutting-edge modernity, neon-lit landscape and towering skyscrapers, it is also home to sprawling parkland, peaceful shrines and temples and lovingly tended gardens. Despite its love affair with manga pop culture, fashion, high-tech trends and conspicuous consumption, below the surface it’s a city that has its roots in an ancient heritage. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples stand close to skyscrapers as a reminder of a more contemplative time and at the heart of the hyperactive center lies the serene Imperial Palace, the home of the ruling emperor that provides a tangible link to the city’s historical past. Behind the shopping, entertainment and commercial emporia can be found quaint wooden houses, private gardens with meticulously clipped bonsai trees and the Zen-like calm of the Hamarikyu Gardens. The city’s reputation as a mega-expensive metropolis is ill conceived and visitors can take advantage of inexpensive Izakaya bars and neighborhood cafes that serve delicious noodles and rice dishes.
Option  - Dinner at Gonpachi
Day 2: Tokyo
For today we have arranged a private car and local guide to take you on a day tour of this fascinating city. The day begins with a visit to Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji and a popular place for traditional Japanese weddings. Take a walk down Omotesando shopping street, a broad tree-lined avenue and home to the flagship stores of the world’s top fashion brands. Then, head across town to Asakusa, Tokyo’s old town, where you can soak in the atmosphere of the Tokyo of old. Visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple and wander down Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries. Take a boat cruise on the Sumida River passing under 12 bridges. Disembark at Edo Period Japanese garden Hamarikyu, surrounded by the Shiodome district’s futuristic skyscrapers, a great example of how Japan is the land of contrasts. Stop for a cup of steaming matcha (Japanese tea) and Japanese sweets in a tea house on a small island in the park’s lake. Overnight in Tokyo. [B]
Day 3: Tokyo
The world’s largest fish market, Tsukiji Market handles about 2,900 tons of marine products a day, worth about 3 billion yen ($28 million). Some 450 kinds of fish are received; from penny-per-piece sardines to golden brown dried sea slug caviar, a bargain at $500 a pound. Some of the giant tuna go for well over 1,000,000 yen each ($8,000). Take time to wander through this enormous market, exploring both the vegetable and fruit areas plus the impressive seafood section. There may also be an opportunity to see a complete tuna being cut and filleted. You will then visit a typical Japanese home. Your guide will answer all your questions about Japanese culture and everyday life in Tokyo during the transfer by public transportation. Learn to prepare maki sushi (rolled sushi), gunkan maki (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and nigiri sushi (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish). Then enjoy your home-made sushi for lunch. The afternoon is at leisure. Transfers from-to the hotel and between locations will be operated by private car. Overnight in Tokyo. [B/L]
Day 4: Tokyo, Hakone, Mt Fuji National Park
Explore the Fuji/Hakone National Park, located only 90 minutes from Tokyo, by private car with guide.
Hakone is a natural nature wonderland and is famous for its hot springs, outdoor pursuits and the view of the nearby Mount Fuji. It is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, about 62 miles from Tokyo, thereby providing a popular weekend destination for city residents keen to escape the frenzy of the capital. Beautiful Hakone has about everything a vacationer could wish for. Besides the towering mountains, lakes and views of Mount Fuji, it is also blessed with interesting historical sites.
A majestic replica of a pirate ship will sweep you across the Lake Ashinoko, a lake formed by a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago. Hakone used to be an important checkpoint to control traffic along the Tokaido highway, which linked Tokyo with Kyoto during the feudal Edo Period.
Visit the Hakone Checkpoint to see the gates, fence, housing for officers and foot soldiers, a prison chamber and a lookout tower. Last stop of the day is the Hakone Open Air Museum, which successfully attempts to create a harmonic balance of nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its spacious grounds in combination with beautiful views of the surrounding valley and mountains. Besides the sculptures, the Hakone Open Air Museum features various indoor galleries, including a sizable Picasso Collection, consisting of paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramic creations. You can also relax your tired feet with a soak in the hot spring footbath! Throughout the day you will have the chance to get a glimpse of Mt Fuji, however please keep in mind that she is a notoriously shy mountain and it needs to be a clear day. Tonight, you will stay in a Japanese traditional ryokan, sleeping on futons laid out on tatami mats and tasting delicious meals and piping hot onsen (hot spring) baths. Overnight in Hakone. [B/D]
Day 5: Hakone, Kyoto
Today you will be transferred privately to the station to ride Japan’s world-famous Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Capable of speeds of up to 185mph (360km/h), the Shinkansen takes 2 hours to reach Kyoto. You will then be transferred to your hotel.
This is a must-see destination in Japan. Kyoto is the nation’s former capital and was the residence of the emperor from 794 until 1868. It is Japan’s seventh largest metropolis with a population of around 1.4 million and a city of culture that offers a plethora of temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures that still survive today. With 2,000 religious buildings, including 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and associated architecture, it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan and has been awarded UNESCO’s World Heritage status. Kyoto represents the “Japan of old” and beyond the high-rise skyscrapers built as a monument to progress, the real monument to Japan’s historical and cultural past can be found in the city’s narrow alleyways where teahouses abound and kimono-clad geisha hurry from elegant function to elegant function. This is a place to go back in time to Japan’s mysterious past where echoes of the court nobility resonate at the Imperial Palace and the search for contemplation can be found in Ryoanji’s Zen rock gardens.
This afternoon you will have the opportunity to experience Japanese culture hands-on with a lesson of Japanese Cooking in Machiya Townhouse. Japanese cuisine has such high reputation that it was declared UNESCO Intangible World Heritage. In this tour you will try your hand at making some of the dishes that made this cuisine so popular in the world and in particular learn about Kyoto’s typical kappo cuisine. In Japanese, “kappo” means to cut ingredients with a knife and cook them over a fire. At a kappo style restaurant, fine seasonal cuisine is served over a counter where you sit face to face with a chef. In this class you will be the chef! Return to the hotel for overnight. [B/D]
Day 6: Kyoto
Today you explore the former imperial capital by private car with a knowledgeable local guide to visit some of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites. You will start your day with a visit to Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun. After his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. Nijo Castle is an ornamental castle built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is beautified by stunning surrounding gardens. The main building was completed in 1603, and is famous for its architecture, decorated sliding doors and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors. Take a walk down to Nijo Castle, a narrow, five-block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. The final stop today is Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple. From the 43-foot high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto, whilst pondering the fact that both the Main Hall and Veranda were built without the use of nails or any kind of joiners. Return to the hotel for overnight. [B]
Option  - Lunch at Itoh Dining
Day 7: Kyoto (Nara)
Transfer from your hotel to Nara by car (45 min) with a local guide. For 74 years during the 8th century Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. Visit the Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha. Next stop is Nara’s most celebrated shrine, Kasuga Taisha, established in 768 AD and famous for its hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns which have been donated by worshipers. Take a walk through Nara Park, called Deer park by locals due to the large population of more than 1,000 tame deer living there. On the way back from Nara, visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, which was used in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. It is home to over 10,000 red tori gates, which form a path up the mountain behind the temple. Overnight in Kyoto. [B]
Day 8: Kyoto, Tokyo
Today, make the return trip to Tokyo (2.5 hours) at any time you want, so you can either spend your day sightseeing in Kyoto, or head back early to see more of Tokyo (please inform us at the time of booking). Private transfers between the hotel and station in both cities are included. Overnight in Tokyo. [B]
Day 9: Tokyo, USA
Your day is free until your private transfer to Narita or Haneda Airport (60-90 minutes) to board you flight back home. [B]
[B] = Breakfast | [B/L] = Breakfast and Lunch | [B/D] = Breakfast and Dinner