Classic Japan

Custom Independent Tour Sample Itinerary

For those looking not just for a tour of Japan, but a genuine experience of its people and ways, traditions and rhythms, style and culture, arts and crafts, this journey could be the perfect choice. By strolling through neighborhoods, taking local trains, walking ancient pathways, boarding the subway, and experiencing the Shinkansen (bullet train) we will enter into the day-to-day life of Japan and its people. From the gardens and temples of Kyoto to ancient samurai homes in Kanazawa and ultra-modern neighborhoods in Tokyo, we will explore all of Japan’s many moods and styles firsthand.

Along the way, we’ll meet artists and abbots, see the Geisha of Gion and the glitz of Ginza, stroll gardens and bamboo forests, and most of all, let the beauty of Japan reveal itself. From a perfectly sunlit maple tree to tea leaves drifting to the bottom of a handcrafted cup, each moment will offer up an experience for those walking the paths of Japan on this special journey.

Otomo Yakamochi (718-785)

On the sea of heaven
The waves of clouds rise,
And I can see
The moon ship disappearing
As it is rowed into the forest of stars.
The moon ship disappearing
As it is rowed into the forest of stars

Daily Itinerary

Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanAfter arrival, met by private driver and transferred to your hotel in downtown Tokyo.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanTour with Esprit’s locally based guide, starting with a tour of the inner and outer markets of the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market. This is followed by an introduction to Shinto at Meiji Shrine with an experience of sacred kagura dance and music. Afterwards, take a contemporary architectural walking tour through the exciting Omotesando area or see the youth culture in Harujuku. After lunch, we suggest a visit to one of Tokyo’s quieter neighborhoods, Yanaka, where your guide can show you local life and you can meet with a Nihonga artist. The day is customized totally to your interests.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanTour on your own today with Esprit’s suggestions. This morning, start with a walking tour of the Ginza district, ending at the fascinating opening ceremony of one of Japan’s flagship department stores. You might board a boat for the Sumida River cruise to Asakusa, the historic “shitamachi” (Japanese for Downtown) district that still retains much of the flavor of old Tokyo, although it’s been rebuilt many times over the centuries (including post-WWII). The centerpiece of this neighborhood is Sensoji Temple, dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy. From there, travel to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which was founded to preserve the historical heritage of Edo-Tokyo and in which you can experience the atmosphere of Edo (old Tokyo).

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanAfter your final exploration of Tokyo this morning, travel via train to the mountains to visit a small city and traditional wooden Japanese town in pristine condition. The train ride from Nagoya to Takayama is a truly stunning journey as the train winds its way up the 10,000 foot peaks with the mountain river below. You will be staying at your first onsen, where you will experience a Japanese-style room, Japanese baths and a special multi-course Kaiseki dinner.

Accommodations: Traditional Japanese Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanExplore this delightful town on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Hida Takayama (or simply “Takayama”) is located high in the Hida Mountains in Gifu Prefecture. Founded in the 16th century, Takayama borrowed from the cultural centers of Kyoto and Tokyo and developed its own arts and crafts, cuisine, and architecture. San-Machi Suji is the historical district of Takayama, and strolling through this area is like taking a journey in time to 18th century Japan. Indeed, the entire town is full of character which begs to be explored. Take your time and enjoy the lovely shops, outdoor market, wonderful museums, and the famous Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village. The staff from your inn will meet you at the train station to take you to the inn for the evening.

Accommodations: Traditional Japanese Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanTravel via private car from Takayama to Kanazawa. You will have a stop en route at Shirakawa-go, the UNESCO World Heritage site of gassho thatched-roof houses. These structures are built of wooden beams at a steep angle to help withstand the heavy winter snowfalls in the region. Wander around the small town as the bottom of a deep valley and learn about village life. Travel on via the circuit of long tunnels through the mountains to Kanazawa, a castle town with many splendid examples of well-preserved Edo style architecture.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanOur Kanazawa-based guide will show you a personal side of this special provincial city where he was born and raised, including a walking tour of older districts. Kanazawa was ruled by the Maeda family for three centuries after the first lord Toshiie Maeda entered Kanazawa Castle in 1583. Since the Kaga Clan invited many artists and craftsmen to this area, it achieved a high level of craftsmanship that continues to flourish to this day. Today it is a bustling small city. There are a number of places to visit in the area, including Kanazawa castle, the Nagamachi Samurai quarter and Kenroku-en gardens, a large municipal park containing a very famous strolling garden that also dates back to the feudal era. We also suggest the famous “Ninja Temple”, Myoryu-ji, with its trapped doors, hidden passages and history of stealth and intrigue. End the day with a two-hour train ride to Kyoto, enjoying a bento-dinner en route, as the Japanese do.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanTour with staff guide, not including transportation and admissions. Spend the morning at Daitoku-ji Zen monastery, for a private experience of the Way of Tea with the abbot of Zuiho-in subtemple and visits on foot to some of the lovely gardens there. After a Zen style vegetarian lunch, visit the studio of a contemporary artist who has chosen Kyoto as her home and works primarily with washi paper or visit the studio of performance calligrapher for a demonstration of his “giant brush” technique.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanTour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Head to western Kyoto and the Arashiyama area. Start a walk through the charming Sagano strolling area (village) ending at the preserved area of Sagano Toriimoto (bamboo forest). Stop into Tenryuji, one of the oldest gardens in Kyoto, dating from the early 14th century for an in-depth exploration. The garden was the design work of Muso Kokushi, a renowned priest, diplomat, meditation teacher and garden designer of the 1300’s. After a light lunch, head to Saiho-ji Moss Garden Temple), which provides an experience of a completely different type of garden, known as a natural strolling garden. After a brief chanting ceremony by the resident monks, try your hand at an optional calligraphy exercise before taking a leisurely stroll through the mystical 1300-year-old site.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanTour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Today we might would suggest starting the day with a visit to Fushimi Inari to see the bright vermillion tori gates in the early light, Enjoy a visit to Nijo Castle, a huge, 400-year old castle surrounded by moat and gardens which features the famous “nightingale floors,” a medieval-era security device of squeaking floor boards that warn of intruders. Other suggestions will be tailored to your interests. For dinner tonight, we might suggest one of the many restaurants located in lovely old sukiya-style houses in the Ponto Cho Geisha District. In addition to Ponto-cho, the old Gion district is home to another one of the four communities of Geisha in Kyoto. This beautifully preserved area is a fine place to stroll on your own and see Kyoto the way it looked up to 150 years ago.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanThis morning. travel to Hakone via Shinkansen (bullet) train and private hire car. Hakone, the gateway to the Mt. Fuji National Park and historically important as one of the “checkpoints” during the Edo Period. Afternoon sightseeing with our suggestions on arrival. You can complete the Hakone “circuit”, which includes riding on a switchback train, cable car, gondola (where you can see Mt. Fuji peak through the clouds on a good day), ship ride across Lake Ashi and ends with exploration of the town of Hakone at the end and a stop at a reconstructed checkpoint from the Tokaido Road.

Accommodations: Japanese traditional Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast

Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic JapanThis morning, visit the Hakone Open Air Museum with it’s fine collection of outdoor and installation art. Afterwards, travel via private taxi and Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo. Tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Tonight we might suggest dining on local sushi at a restaurant with a city view or strolling around the Ginza area on your own.

 

Accomodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

After a morning of touring, travel via private hire car to the airport for your departure.

Meals included: Breakfast

Note: The itinerary(s) will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure.  Artist visits are subject to availability and the schedules of our Japanese colleagues.  A final itinerary will be sent to you about two weeks prior to departure.   The itinerary and visits are subject to change at any time.

Sample Itinerary Destinations and Visits

Pricing

For more information about current pricing for an itinerary like this, please contact us directly.

During an initial phone call or exchange by email we try to get a feel for what kind of trip and services you are looking for, your dates, your style of travel, your budget and any special needs and interests which we can accommodate. Based on that initial information, we give you a Sketch Itinerary outlining a route, types of accommodations, and other services we can provide. After getting your feedback, the Sketch Itinerary is revised if necessary and we are now able to give you a ballpark price.

The estimated price that you will be quoted will include the actual cost of the services: hotels, transportation, guides, tours etc, plus a tour planning fee. This fee includes all the expenses involved in making the arrangements (e.g., phone, fax, FedEx and currency transfer fees) and our time in making your arrangements. Please note that all trips are quoted and sold a package basis. We cannot provide detailed cost breakdowns.

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