Custom Independent Tour Sample Itinerary

There are so many exciting activities to do in Japan with your sons — sword classes, castle visits, hikes, anime and manga, deer and monkey parks, baseball games, sumo stables, samurai museums and more!  The most difficult part is figuring out how to fit it all in while still maintaining the right pace for the entire family.  Let’s not forget that the parents want some fun too! This itinerary is designed to incorporate a lot of activities of interest to younger boys while still reminding you that you are in Japan – with ryokan stays, some temples and shrines and lots of robust Japanese hospitality.

Tanada Santoka (1882-1940)

Going further into them
And further into the
Still more green mountains
The moon ship disappearing
As it is rowed into the forest of stars

Custom Independent Tour


Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Comprehensive - Palace Hotel View

After arrival, met by private driver and transferred to your hotel in downtown Tokyo.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel


Japan Custom Travel Sample - Classic Japan

Tour with your Tokyo-based guide (not including admissions or transportation), 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, we will tailor the rest of the day to the special interests of the party. We might suggest tickets to the Ghibli Museum if they obtained. An early morning visit to a sumo stable is also an option, depending on season and availability.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast



Start today with a sword class. Enjoy a private lesson at a traditional kendo dojo that includes a brief explanation of Bushi-do, the philosophy of samurai and its spirit, an experience of iaido (a form of swordsmanship), how to treat a sword, and swordplay. Afterwards, tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Today’s other suggested activity will be the baseball game at one of Tokyo’s four stadiums (seasonally dependent).

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan-Custom-Travel-Sample-Boys-Edo-Tokyo Bridge

Tour on your own today with Esprit’s suggestions. 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. This evening you might want to try a chankonabe dinner; the special meal eaten by sumo wrestlers, at a restaurant where you can see a ringside demonstration.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast



Travel via train from Tokyo to Nagano, about 1 hour by rail to the west of Tokyo. The highlight of central Nagano is Zenko-ji, one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Japan. Enjoy the local soba noodles in a quaint restaurant along the avenue leading up to the temple. Afterwards, go on to Matsumoto.

Accomodations: Western-style Hotel
Meals: Breakfast



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 for further exploration before returning via taxi and train to Matsumoto for the evening.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Boys-Matsumoto-Castle

This morning tour the city. 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. In mid-afternoon, travel via private hire car through the mountains to visit a traditional wooden Japanese town in pristine condition. You will be staying at your first ryokan, where you will experience a Japanese style room, Japanese onsen baths, a special multi-course kaiseki dinner and sleep on futons spread out on your tatami-matted floor.

Accommodations: Japanese Traditional Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner



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 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.

Accommodations: Japanese Traditional Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 10

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Boys-Rooftop-Closeup

Travel via early train to Inuyama. Take the treacherous climb up Inuyama castle. This castle, located high atop a hill overlooking the Kiso river, is one of Japan’s oldest surviving castles, dating to 1140. Visit other interesting sights upon arrival. End that day in Nagoya.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 11

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Boys-Kyoto-Gion

Depart early to travel by train and private hire car to Toyota to take the factory tour of this famous auto plant (day of week specific). After the tour, travel on via train to Kyoto where you can tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. 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, lunch

Day 12

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Boys-Zuiho-in-Abbott

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 with a performance calligrapher who creates a “masterpiece in the moment” using giant calligraphy brushes and to have a short calligraphy lesson. End the day with a visit to the International Manga museum in downtown Kyoto. This evening we will give you directions for a visit to a working dojo for a demonstration of kendo, archery and other arts.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 13

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Boys-Miyajima-floating-tori gate

Early today depart for a day trip to western Japan. Travel first via train and ferry to Miyajima, where you will see the famous floating torii gate (water entrance to Itsukushima Shrine), deer wandering freely on the island and the shrine itself. Depending on the tides, you can walk out to the gate or take a hand-rowed long boat for an excursion to and under the gate. Head back to Hiroshima via ferry and train for a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome. Return via train (1.5 hrs) to Kyoto for dinner on your own or have dinner on the train, as the Japanese often do.

Accomodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 14


Tour today with your jumbo-van and English-speaking driver. Head to western Kyoto and the Arashiyama area. Stop into Tenryu-ji, 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. Follow with a walk through the charming Sagano strolling area starting at the preserved area of Sagano Toriimoto (bamboo forest). In this same area, you can include a hike to see the Iwatayama Monkey Park and a stunning view of Kyoto. 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 (this depends on availability). End the afternoon with additional touring, including a visit to Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple) and Ryoan-ji, the famous rock garden. Or you may prefer to visit the samurai movie land this afternoon.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 15


Tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Today we might suggest starting the day with a visit to Fushimi Inari to see the bright vermillion torii gates in the early light, then continue to the central city for a visit to Nishiki Market then on 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. For dinner tonight, we might suggest a shabu-shabu dinner of luxurious Wagyu beef and crisp vegetables dipped into bubbling broth tableside and served with traditional condiments and dipping sauces.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 16

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.

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Boys-Odaiba-Gundam-Front

This morning, travel via Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. On arrival, tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Travel to the Odaiba River District. Travel over the Rainbow Bridge on a high-tech light rail train. You can start your visit at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, a highly interactive and bilingual, children-friendly science museum including exhibits about environmental issues, robots (starring Asimo among others), information technology, biology and space exploration. Next see Toyota MEGA WEB, a Toyota car technology showcase, where you can view and touch Toyota’s newest models and car accessories, and test drive new models. Also in the area is Joypolis, a large, virtual reality theme park featuring the Sega’s latest products.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 17

After final touring on your own in Tokyo, travel by private car to the airport to catch your flight back to the US.

Meals: 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


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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