Itinerary – Honeymoon in Japan

Day 1  Depart USA

Day 2  Arrive Tokyo Narita Airport.

Travel via private car to downtown Tokyo and the newly remodeled Palace Hotel, with spectacular views of the city and the Imperial Palace grounds.

Overnight: Palace Hotel Tokyo

Day 3  Tokyo

Tour with your Tokyo-based guide, starting with a walking tour of the Ginza district, ending at the fascinating opening ceremony of one of Japan’s flagship department stores.  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, travel to a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo and visit with a Nihonga Artist.  

Overnight: Palace Hotel Tokyo
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 4  Tokyo

Tour on your own today with Esprit’s suggestions.  This morning, start with a tour of the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market.   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).   Leaving this area, take the subway to Akihabara, the famous electronics and manga district, for a walking tour of the vast offerings on display. 

Overnight: Palace Hotel Tokyo
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 5 Hakone

Today explore the vibrant arts area of Tokyo with time in Roppongi Hills and the musuems in the Midtown area.   In late afternoon, travel via train and private taxi to Hakone, the gateway to the Mt. Fuji National Park and historically important as one of the “checkpoints” during the Edo Period.  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. 

Overnight: Gora Kadan Ryokan
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6 Hakone

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.

Overnight: Gora Kadan Ryokan
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7  Hakone

Today, visit the nearby Hakone Open Air Museum (Chokoku no Mori) which features the works of many international artists such as Alexander Calder, Anthony Caro, Jean Dubuffet, Aiko Miyawaki, Henry Moore, Picasso and Medardo Rosso.  You may choose to also visit the Hakone Art Museum, boasting an excellent collection of Japanese ceramics with works tracking over 2000 years of development or even visit the new Okada Museum, the recently opened private museum housing a superb collection of Asian art in a spacious setting of gardens, streams and hot springs. 

Overnight: Gora Kadan Ryokan
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8 Kyoto

This morning, travel via train, private hire car to Kyoto.  Tour on you own on arrival. We suggest a visit to to Nijo Castle, a huge, 400-year old castle surrounded by moat and gardens and featuring the famous “nightingale floors,” a medieval-era security device of squeaking floor boards that warn of intruders.

Overnight: Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 9  Kyoto

Tour with your Kyoto-based guide, not including transportation and admissions.  Start your day with a tea ceremony where you will be given a basic introduction to the Way of Tea, including the proper etiquette, in a private, authentic setting.  Spend the rest of the morning at nearby Daitoku-ji Zen monastery, including a visit to Zuiho-in.  After a Zen style vegetarian lunch travel to eastern Kyoto to visit a young Rinzai zen priest at Zenge-in in the eastern hills, for a chat about his years cloistered in a classic Zen monastery and his new life as the abbot of a small Zen temple.   End the day with a 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.  For dinner tonight, we might suggest Mishima-tei for a Shabu-shabu dinner of luxurious Wagyu beef and crisp vegetables dipped into bubbling broth tableside and served with traditional condiments and dipping sauces.

Overnight: Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10  Kyoto

Tour with your Kyoto-based guide for the day with private car for the day. We think that you might enjoy meeting a 5th generation master of gold leaf.  In his beautifully preserved, traditional Kyoto-style merchant house, he will introduce you to the world of gold leaf, and show you how his obi designs are transferred to the actual garments.  Then travel to the Miyagawa-cho area for a walking tour of the charming, architecturally preserved geisha district with its 19th century-style wooden buildings, cut granite streets and geisha-related shops. End the walking tour with a private meeting with an authentic maiko (young geisha) over lunch in your own, intimate dining room.  After lunch, travel to Kyoto’s eastern foothills to 700-year old Nanzen-ji Zen Monastery, to stroll amongst the elegant wooden structures and cedar trees, and visit a few of its gardens.  Visit with a maker of Noh masks, a Zen priest at one of Nanzen-ji’s subtemples.  For dinner tonight, we might suggest one of the restaurants located in the 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 100 years ago. 

Overnight: Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 11  Kyoto

Tour 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.  Tonight might be a good night to visit one of our favorite Sake bars in Kyoto, serving premium sakes from micro-breweries throughout the country. The owner can provide you with an education and tastings of a wide range of sakes.

Overnight: Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 12  Kyoto

On today’s out-of-town excursion by private car to Shiga prefecture, visit the Sagawa Museum of Art, a beautiful contemporary architectural site which has devoted a special underground wing to the spectacular work of 15th generation raku potter, Raku Kichizaemon IV.  We suggest enjoying a Japanese bento lunch en route and visit the studios and kilns of a selection of outstanding ceramic artists with commentary provided by our Kyoto-based ceramics expert Rob Yellin.  This evening we will give you directions for a visit to a working dojo for a demonstration of kendo, archery and other arts. 

Overnight: Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 13 Kyoto

Tour on your own this morning.  We suggest starting the day with a visit to Fushimi Inari to see the bright vermillion tori gates in the early light.  Afterwards, visit Sanjusangendo Hall, a 900-year old structure that holds Asia’s most extraordinary collection of statuary in the world’s longest wooden building.   Spend the afternoon and evening exploring Japanese cuisine with your Kyoto-based guide.   Start with a walking tour of Nishiki Food Street, a long, narrow lane lined with shops selling fish, vegetables and a wide variety of prepared foods, known as “Kyoto’s Pantry” for many generations.  In the late afternoon, travel to your guide’s home to learn around Kyoto’s kaiseki cuisine, food presentation and the basic secrets of “umami” flavor.   

Overnight: Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 14 Ise

After your final morning in Kyoto, travel via train to Toba (home of the Mikimoto Pearl factory).  Continue on via hotel shuttle service to Ise National Park for a stay at a contemporary ryokan.  Oyado The Earth is perched in isolated splendor high above the Pacific Ocean with panoramic views of the sea and the waves crashing on the cliffs below.  Have a cocktail on the rooftop terrace to watch the sunset burnish the sea to a deep blue or relax in your room’s private onsen bath.  Enjoy a multi-course kaiseki meal in the Oyado The Earth dining room with its floor to ceiling windows.

Overnight: Oyado The Earth
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 15 Ise

Have a relaxing day of touring today.  Travel via shuttle to Toba to take a short train ride to visit Ise Shrine, the most sacred in Japan.   Ise is the shrine that is rebuilt every 20 years in accordance with Shinto principles of purity and renewal.  Shinto is Japan’s oldest religion and this area dates from around 600. There are many places to eat in the Okage Yokocho district, immediately adjacent to the shrine.  The Okage Yokocho restored, historic district looks much like it did during the Edo period (1600 – 1868).  Return via train and shuttle to the hotel.

Overnight: Oyado the Earth
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 16 Takayama

Travel via train to the mountains to visit a traditional wooden Japanese town in pristine condition.  Explore 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 16 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 18 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 and wonderful museums. 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. The staff from your inn will meet you at the train station to take you to the inn for the evening.

Overnight: Wanosato Ryokan
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 17  Takayama

Continue your self-guided exploration of Takayama today. 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.  In the afternoon you can visit the famous Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village  or take a guided bicycle tour in the Hida Area.

Overnight: Wanosato Ryokan
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 18 Matsumoto

Travel via hire car through the Japanese Alps to Matsumoto and tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions.  Matsumoto Castle, circa 1595, is one of four remaining from Japan’s feudal period in its original condition.  Nakamachi is a pretty neighborhood of historic homes, many of which have been converted to cafes and galleries for crafts and antiques. 

Overnight: Matsumoto Marunouchi
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 19 Nakasendo Road Excursion

Travel via train and taxi this morning to Magome to explore this small town on the Nakasendo Road.  Continue on a short hike to the immaculately preserved hamlet of Tsumago, where highlights include the guest houses for samurai and their retainers, for further exploration before returning via taxi and train to Matsumoto for the evening.

Overnight: Matsumoto Marunouchi
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 20  Tokyo

Depart today via local train to visit the mountain town of Nagano.  The highlight of central Nagano is Zenko-ji, one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Japan.  Enjoy a soba noodle lunch, a local favorite.   Afterwards, continue on via high-speed train to Tokyo.  You will be met by the staff of the Four Seasons to escort you to the hotel.  Tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions.

Overnight: Four Seasons Marunouchi
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 21  Tokyo Day Trip

Today we might suggest an optional day trip from Tokyo for a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nikko to see the unique ornate architecture from Japan’s “baroque” period.  The Toshogu Shrine, located in a Japanese cedar forest, is accessed by way of the famous bright red Shinkyo Bridge.  Right past the main entrance you’ll find the famous Three Monkeys of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” fame.   You could also leave this day open and plan an alternative day trip to Kamakura or see more of Tokyo.

Overnight: Four Seasons Marunouchi
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 22  Depart from Tokyo Narita Airport.

After final touring on your own in Tokyo, escort by the hotel staff to your Narita Express to the airport to catch your flight back to the US.

Meals included: Breakfast

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