Japan Trip of a Lifetime

Countries
Best time to visit
March, April, May, June, September, October, November

It appears unlikely that Japan will be open to tourists until 2021 at the earliest. But in this time of disrupted travel you can still dream of what is possible. And Japan really is a trip of a lifetime destination.

Explore what’s possible and dream of visiting Japan, with three weeks of exclusive and extraordinary travel moments. This experience is an example of what you can do, a starting point that will help you customise a once in a lifetime trip to Japan. It may not be possible to visit Japan now, but one day you may travel to this incredible country.

Day 1 - Kyoto

Tawaraya Ryokan

Tawaraya Ryokan Kyoto

Japan

Step back in time as you enter the secret world of the best ryokan in Kyoto. Tawaraya has been welcoming guests for three centuries. It is the go-to address for politicians, celebrities, moguls and VIPs. Located right in the heart of Kyoto, yet hidden from most of the public, it is almost impossible to make a reservation here. Your stay at this traditional ryokan will be an authentic experience that opens your eyes to Japan’s wabi-sabi philosophy. You will become a part of living history, and that is the epitome of true luxury.

Sushi Set on black stone slate. sushi on a plate in the hands of a waiter

Michelin Dinner With a Geisha in Kyoto

Japan

Grace, beauty, and charm. The essence of a geisha developed over years of apprenticeship and dedication, can only be fully comprehended through authentic interaction. Seize the opportunity to meet a geisha over a private Michelin dinner and step into the world of flower and willow. Accompanied by an expert guide, the language barrier is removed. You can take part in traditional games, watch a geisha perform just for you, and be free to dive into a heart-to-heart conversation with Japan’s most fascinating cultural icon.

Days 2 & 3 - Kyoto

Beautiful street in old town of Higashiyama district, Kyoto City, Japan. The Higashiyama District is preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto culture.

Classic Kyoto Day Tour

Japan

Explore Kyoto with a private driver-guide to see the city’s highlights and hidden jewels.Immerse in a rich history spanning centuries as you visit an ancient castle, spiritual temples, and a famous local food market. Stroll down the tiny lanes of Gion, a storied district lined with traditional merchant stores and old wooden tea houses. End your day with gastronomic kaiseki fare at a former Michelin star restaurant, coupled with performances and games. With a geisha by your side, delve into the intoxicating art of entertainment, and share an honest conversation about the muti-facted Japanese culture.

JApanese Butoh Performance

Noh and Buton Contrasting Dances Performance in Kyoto

Japan

See two worlds collide in the form of dance. Watch as two luminary performers bring forth the ancient noh and the hyper-expressive butoh, one after another.From pensive to provocative, measured to deliberate, your senses will be heightened as you behold a sublime performance carried by the celebrated dancers. After that, hear the stories of the artists’ individual pursuit of perfection in the world of dance. Compare the different theatrical art forms, and learn about their respective histories. You will not only experience the dance on this private tour, but discover culture and people behind the performance.

Kiyomizu-Dera, Kyoto

Visit to Kiyomizudera Temple

Japan

Plan a private visit to one of the most revered temples in Kyoto, the Kiyomizu-Dera. You can bypass the crowd and take your time to admire the stunning architecture of the temple, before or after tour bus masses descend. Marvel at the towering pillars supporting the building, and be amazed by the fact that not a single nail was used in the construction of this ancient holy site. Stop at the Edo-period veranda where pilgrims used to jump off from, and enjoy a panorama that reveals a breathtaking side of Kyoto.

Two Japanese women wearing a kimono drinking tea indoors, in tea room. They are talking and having fun.

Kyoto Tea Ceremony

Japan

Cultivate your appreciation of Japanese tea and culture through a private, traditional tea ceremony.Be steeped in the rituals hosted by a tea master. Step by step, watch the processes unfold, and ponder about the connection between tea and religion.  As you are being served a fresh cup of matcha, sip slowly. Let the clean, aromatic flavor warm up your body and refresh your soul. Focus on the moment as you contemplate the beauty of life, and give thanks for this unique experience.

Day 4 - More of Kyoto

Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji

Gardening Workshop With Master Kyoto Designer

Japan

Follow a revered custodian of Kyoto’s most alluring gardens and discover the secrets to caring for a peaceful Kyoto garden.From renowned temples and notable palaces to hidden gems unknown to many, the gardens are all works of art maintained by a maestro who hails from a long line of gardeners. Get to learn the centuries-old knowledge that had inspired the city’s most famous garden designer. Then together create a miniature garden that sums up the quintessence of Japanese beauty.

Scenery of the Saihoji Temple, Kyoto

Visit Saihoji Moss Garden in Kyoto

Japan

The only way to visit the Saihoji temple in Kyoto is by sending a handwritten request to the monks who live there. Let the gates of this revered site be opened just for you, and step into a hushed sanctuary that is cloistered from the secular world. Follow the lead of the monks, who will first invite you to participate in one of their routines, before they grant you entrance to the pristine moss garden.Take your time to immerse in the tranquility of the quiet green space. Enjoy an exclusive moment only a select few in the world have access to.

Meditating Budhist Monk, Japan

Zazen Meditation in Kyoto

Japan

Declutter your mind through the practice of Zazen meditation, led by monks who will personally teach you how to sit still and seek peace. During your one-to-one session with the monks, take the time to gain a deeper understanding of their lives, routines, and beliefs. Proceed to see if Zazen meditation will indeed guide you towards compassion and enlightenment. Calm your senses and go beyond conscious thoughts. Focus on the rhythm of your breath, and gradually experience life slowing down to a standstill.

Day 5 - Nara

Yoshinoyama, Nara, Japan in spring season.

Sakura Sky Cruise of Kyoto and Nara From Kobe

Japan

The sakura season is one of the most magical moments in Japan. For a VIP experience, board your private aircraft and go on a cherry blossom appreciation trip from the sky. Take off from Kobe and fly towards a destination of your choice. Opt for poetic Nara, where you will find glorious cherry blossom trees scattered across awe-inspiring mountains. Fly to Kyoto if you enjoy spotting historical landmarks interspersed among the alluring sea of pink. Relish in the whimsical aerial view of rivers and canals dyed pink by the sakura petals. While many see the sakura from the ground, very few ever witness it from the air.

Days 6 & 7 - Yakushima

Ancient Forest, Yakushima island

Yakushima Old Forest Hiking Tour

Japan

The sight, scent, and sound of the cedar forest sprawling across Yakushima island will evoke imagination and spur inspiration from within. Hike through this national park, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Go in search of ancient trees, some of which are over 1000 years old. Get up-close with the flora and fauna of Japan’s Kyushu region, then venture towards the tea plantations. Meet the friendly locals who will regale you with tales of the island, along with providing an insider look into the trade of tea cultivation.

Japanese, Nature Inspired Pottery

Yakushima Craftspeople Workshop and Studio Tour

Japan

Meet the local craftspeople who are drawn to the remote natural environment of Yakushima. Residing on the emerald island, these creatives have positioned themselves and their works close to the forests and the sea. Visit pottery studios for souvenirs made from shells and rocks sourced from the shore. Get acquainted with the wood artisans who use cedar trees that have fallen to revive them into high-end Yakusugi ornaments. Sit down to a chat to get to know the struggles and success stories of the artists in their fight to keep their art alive.

Sankara Hotel _ Spa, Yakushima

Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima

Japan

Nestled deep in the fabled island of Yakushima, where cedar tree forests unfurl across the land, you are warmly welcomed to the luxe Sankara Hotel. You can spend your days relaxing by the panoramic sea-facing pool, or sit down for meditation in your premium suite, alone with your thoughts and birdsongs.Yield to the call of wilderness echoing through the island. Go in search of majestic waterfalls as you hike through the national park. Head towards the coast for some adrenaline-pumping water activities. This getaway is all about slowing down and savoring pleasure.

Days 8 & 9 - Osaka

Food Tour, Osaka

Osaka at Night Food Tour

Japan

Osaka has cultivated a reputation for being Japan’s gastronomical gem. So go deep into the city’s belly to explore a vibrant food scene.On this nighttime private tour, be guided by gourmands who live to eat. Start in the city’s southern end, well known for its Showa-era splendor and historical remains.Savor the comfort food and traditional dishes, and be educated on the street snacks that have besotted foodies from around the world. As the sun sets, watch Osaka’s night scene come to life. Under a cacophony of neon lights, venture to eateries hidden in the downtown area, known only to true locals.

Aikido Masters At Work

Aikido Martial Arts Workshop in Osaka

Japan

Familiarize yourself with the essence of Aikido and move in a harmonious spirit.Be mentored by an Aikido master through a morning of practice at a private dojo, to fully understand why this noble martial art promotes peace. Using swift, seamless steps of motion, study the classic Aikido movements of twists and throws. Try out some iconic moves, and see if you can defend yourself without injuring your opponent.

Day 10 - Naoshima

Akakabocha, Naoshima Art Island

Naoshima Art Island Visit

Japan

Go on a journey to the famous art island nestled in the enthralling region of the Seto Inland sea. Discover how a sleepy fishing village is converted into a venue for contemporary art installations. Go underground to an intriguing museum illuminated by only sunlight.You can further explore how art and architecture come together in a luxurious hotel on the island, where you will stay for a night. Soak away the fatigue of travel at a local bathhouse filled with quirky art that will bring a smile to your face.

Benesse Suite, Naoshima

Benesse House Naoshima

Japan

Relish in an island getaway that blends together art, nature, and architecture. At the avant-garde Benesse House Hotel, you have the freedom to stay in the art museum, park, or at the beach. No matter what you choose, there is art in every space to evoke new emotions, and precipitate inspiration. The remoteness of Naoshima island suggests an Elysian paradise, unspoiled by mass tourism. Explore shrines embedded within rice fields, or sit by the sandy beach for contemplation, watching waves crash to shore. Your stay at the hotel will guarantee a physical rejuvenation. You will also embark on an artistic journey that will renew all your senses. This is breezy island-living at its best.

Day 11 - Teshima

Teshima Island, Japan

Teshima Art Island Visit From Naoshima

Japan

Embark on an excursion that is filled with art and wonderment on a rural island cast far away from urban life.Bike leisurely around the island in search of the various gems of art. Look out for a stunning museum planted in the middle of a rice field, shaped like a drop of water. Experience a collection of heartbeats housed in a hut by the sea.  For more sensory stimulation, enter a traditional house and step into a tempest that summons a storm. Then seek your own interpretation as you wander through an outdoor installation that has piqued the curiosity of many.

Day 12 - Kanazawa

Kenroku-en Garden, Kanazawa

Kanazawa Culture and History Tour

Japan

Kanazawa is the fabled seat of a powerful clan reaching back to the Edo era. Sojourn to this historical city, rich in heritage, and renowned for its landscape gardens. Take time to stroll through the well-preserved samurai district where the warriors resided with their families. Mingle with the locals at a fresh seafood market, and have a taste of the sweetest sashimi. To get close to nature, enjoy some time in a picturesque garden that used to belong to a feudal lord. Depending on your preference, you can also visit shrines and temples, or pop by the stately museums for a dose of modern art. There is indeed something for every intrepid traveler in Kanazawa.

Wagashi Sweets

Wagashi Japanese Sweets Making Workshop in Kanazawa

Japan

Give in to the calling of exquisite Wagashi sweets and learn how this traditional Japanese confectionery has fascinated fans all around the world.Discover the story of Wagashi sweets, and its connection to the four seasons. Explore the local ingredients favored in the making of these delicately ornate delights, with a history dating back to the Edo era.Become a Wagashi expert by sculpting your sweets with colorful mochi. Experience a facet of Japanese tea ceremony that is entwined with this specialty dessert. For the perfect end to this creative session, savor the pairing between small sweet bites and fine matcha green tea.

Day 13 - Kanazawa

Young woman in Kimono experiencing gold leaf workshop

Kanazawa Gold Lead Workshop

Japan

Take an in-depth look at Kanazawa gold leaf craftsmanship and walk away with glistening memories.Kanazawa is reputably the City of Gold. Be schooled in the precision and skills required for artists to embellish ornaments with sheets of gold. Learn about the temples and shrines that have been gilded and glorified.  Seal this riveting session with an experience of your own, by decorating a pair of chopsticks. These will be finalised here then sent home, the finished chopsticks delivered right to your doorstep.

Sanmachi Suji, Takayama

Shirakawago Full-Day Visit

Japan

Make your way to Takayama with a personal guide. Travel in the comfort of your private transfer, and soak in the bucolic atmosphere of rural Japan. Takayama is a city perched deep in the mountains, holding on to traditions that have been forgotten by many. Go deep into the well-preserved old town and imagine a city that stood still in time. Visit the morning market and merchant streets, then set foot in the old governor's house for vestiges of a fascinating feudal era. For a local highlight, experience the sophistication of the Takayama Festival by admiring magnificent festival floats in an exhibition hall.

Day 14 - Tokyo

Street Food Tour, Tokyo

Tokyo By Night Food Tour

Japan

Bypass Tokyo’s haute cuisine and newfangled molecular gastronomy. Instead, jump right into the core of hearty local fare that makes up the lifeblood of Japanese culture. Under the lead of your private gourmet guide you will go off the beaten food trail. Seek out the true taste of the city by exploring street food and traditional flavors. Step right into the tantalizing world of authentic Japanese cooking. Visit small restaurants and family-owned eateries that have been feeding Tokyo locals for generations. Soak in a convivial vibe that will warm your heart while satisfying your appetite.

Days 15 - Tokyo Art

Tokyo Art Tour

Tokyo Art Tour

Japan

Let an art connoisseur introduce you to Tokyo’s dynamic art scene on a private tour.Customized to your preference and taste, go on an art-centric exploration through the city. From the avant-garde to the voguish, your senses will be awakened. Gain insight into the aesthetics du jour, as well as take inspiration from artworks that will evoke unexpected emotions in you.   Venture to galleries which are the hidden gems in Tokyo’s art world, and get to know up-and-coming artists who are well on their way to greatness.

Manga Drawing Class

Manga Drawing Class in Tokyo

Japan

Japan is the cradle of manga art. Pick up the specialized skill of drawing manga comics through a private class with a manga maven. From sketching details to creating engaging storylines, learn the tricks of the trade from your personal art instructor. Exchange techniques and ideas, while elevating your artistic style. Share your favorite comics and anime, while getting to know new manga series that are worth exploring.

Day 16 - Tokyo History

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

Tsukiji Fish Market Tour With a Chef Guide

Japan

Join a veteran chef from one of Tokyo’s most established restaurants on his daily morning visit around the Tsukiji market. You will visit the market at a time when only businesses have exclusive access. Observe the camaraderie and professionalism evident throughout the market. Rub shoulders with wholesalers, chefs and shop owners, who are all vying for the best catch of the day. For a taste to remember, you will get the chance to savor tuna sliced out from a fish about to be auctioned.Later in the evening, be invited to the chef’s restaurant where he will personally serve you some of the best sushi in the world!

Learning the Art of Kendo

Participate in a Kendo Practice in Tokyo

Japan

Experience the beauty of Kendo, which is a form of Japanese fencing. This is a traditional martial art that glorifies the way of the sword.Be armored in protective gear, and practice with veteran fencers using the iconic bamboo sword, all at your very own dojo. Watch skilled swordsmen battle each other, and absorb the techniques popularized by ancient samurais. Summoning your inner strength, channel the energy to strike your opponent with a force you never knew you have.

the city skyline shoot from the tokyo tower,showing the contrast of new building and the Zojoji Temple.

Classic Tokyo Sightseeing Tour

Japan

Tokyo is the core of Japan, where the past, present, and future cross paths. Go on a private guided tour to experience the splendor of a traditional stroll garden built during the Meiji period. Then proceed to a museum that will transport you back to Japan in the Edo era. Witness a Buddhist fire ritual set in a prominent temple, before spending time in a local neighborhood to discover an old fashioned shopping street with a nostalgic vibe. As evening draws close, feel the pace of the city quicken at Akihabara, where electronics stores, maid cafes and manga bookshops coexist. To round up your day, head to the Tokyo Skytree for a 360-degree moonview that will stay eternally etched in your memory.

Day 17 - Culinary Tokyo

Red carved tomato on background of sushi in sous. Restaurant delicious dish decorated in fancy style. Beautiful food decoration. Vegetable flower. Holyday table setting.

Decorated Sushi Making Class in Tokyo

Japan

Sushi making is a craft that takes years to hone. To elevate tiny morsels of rice, seaweed, and fish into kawaii shapes and patterns takes real skills, one which you can also acquire from a sushi master. With insider tips and precise techniques, transform the humble-looking sushi into cartoon characters like Hello Kitty, and dainty flowers that appeal to the true romantic at heart. Indulge in a creative session where you will produce edible pieces of art that are too beautiful to eat.

Japanese Ramen Chef

Ramen Cooking Experience in Tokyo

Japan

Set foot in the kitchen of an authentic ramen restaurant and customize a bowl of ramen that will tickle your taste buds. Noodle aficionados all know that a scrumptious soup base is the crux of good ramen. With the help of a rockstar ramen chef, you can learn the fundamentals of making authentic ramen, discover how to cook the springy noodles, and concoct your own soup. To top off this mouthwatering experience, you will also get to sample the original ramen dish specially prepared for you by the chef.

Day 18 - Mt Fuji

Helicopter Flight, Tokyo

Tokyo Helicopter Charter to Mt. Fuji

Japan

Discover Japan from high above on an exclusive helicopter ride. Relax and soar towards the blue sky. Let the pilot take you around Tokyo and beyond. See the magnificent urban sprawl of the capital city. Then cross Tokyo Bay and glide towards the tip of Boso Peninsula, where land meets sea. Take in the beauty of Mount Fuji, with its snow-capped peak emerging through the clouds. Be captivated by meandering rivers and serene lakes, along with a colorful landscape that changes with each season’s passing.

Day 19 - Departure

This experience was created by
Stephen John
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