Custom Independent Tour Sample Itinerary

There are so many exciting activities to do in Japan with your daughters —  watching sacred dances, shopping for uniquely Japanese items, making washi-paper, learning about the tea ceremony, taking calligraphy lessons, visiting a working dojo, exploring beautiful traditional Kyoto textiles, having a private meeting with a maiko (young geisha), learning to cook Japanese food, dressing up in a full kimono and so many more. You can experience all of these activities while exploring Japan and its culture with your girls.
The most difficult part for most travelers 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 girls while still reminding you that you are in Japan – with ryokan stays, gardens, temples and shrines — all delivered with omotenashi, the art of exquisite Japanese hospitality.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Wake! The sky is light!
let us to the road
again . . .
Companion butterfly!

Custom Independent Tour


Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.



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

Accommodations: Western-style Hotel


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls--Ghibli Museum

Tour with your Tokyo-based guide (not including admissions or transportation) Start with an introduction to Shinto at Meiji Shrine and a short experience of sacred kagura dance and court music. Afterwards, take a contemporary architectural walking tour through the exciting Omotesando area and then see the youth culture in Harujuku, where Japanese designs take off and cosplay had its start. After lunch, we will tailor the rest of the day to the special interests of the party. We might suggest a visit to the Ghibli Museum, the animation and art museum of Miyazaki Hayao’s Studio Ghibli, one of Japan’s most famous animation studios.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Day4-Nihonbashi-D34582664

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. While you could spend an entire day exploring everyone on offer, your guide will choose the best floors to show you – the Japanese arts floor, kimono floor, gift foods and the amazing selection of food on the lower levels. Next, head to Nihonbashi, for a private lesson in washi-paper making. Then explore the numerous small shops in this recently renovated area, including a gold leaf store, brush store, pigment store, dashi store and even a French-fry store! You may also enjoy a visit to a private basket gallery, to learn about Japanese basketry.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Asakusa Lanterns

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.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Hakone Ship

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. Afternoon sightseeing with our suggestions. 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. You will be staying at a traditional onsen ryokan, where you will experience a Japanese style room, Japanese onsen baths and a special multi-course kaiseki dinner. Afterwards, go to sleep on futons spread out on the tatami-matted floor of your ryokan room.

Accomodations: Traditional Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Takayama Red Bridge

Travel via private taxi and 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 through the 10,000 foot peaks with the mountain river below. 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 morning market and wonderful specialty museums.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Hida Houses

Tour the town on your own with Esprit’s suggestions or enjoy hiking some of the nearby trails and a visit to the Hida Mura Folk Village where you can learn more about life in ancient Japanese towns through the houses that have all been carefully moved to this location.


Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Kiyomizu

Depart early to travel by 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 one of the five 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

DAY 10

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Caligrapher-

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 kyudo (archery), kendo (wooden swords) and other martial arts.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 11

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Gion Maiko

Continue touring with your guide. 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. Follow this visit in the Nishijin neighborhood with a walking tour of this traditional Kyoto textile area and a stop to see either an indigo dyer or a weaver of contemporary textiles based on ancient designs. 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. Afterwards, your guide will suggest other activities for the rest of the day. You may want to end the day with a private cooking class where the instructor will show you how to prepare some of your favorite Japanese food.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 12

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Moss Garden

Tour on your own today. 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. 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 shopping in downtown Kyoto at some of the many shops featured in Esprit’s exclusive Kyoto shopping guide.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 13

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Sanzen-in Ohara

Tour on your own outside Kyoto today. Ohara is a lovely small, quiet town north of Kyoto where you can experience a taste of rural Japan: enjoy the daily farmers market, take a stroll through the countryside, visit a 1000-year old temple and garden, have lunch cooked by a gourmet chef cook in the open kitchen of a restored farmhouse using food he grows himself, visit a kaki shibu dyer or a natural textile dye studio (you can even make an indigo dyed item for yourself), then visit Sanzen-in Temple and garden, the exquisite gem that you often see in photographs.

Accomodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 14

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Girls-Fushimi Inari

Tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions your final day in Japan. Today we might suggest starting 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. After lunch, you can travel to the private home of one of Esprit’s friends, who will introduce us to the art of kimono, how they are made and how they are worn. You will be able to dress up in a full kimono.  For your final dinner in Japan 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 15

After final touring on your own in Kyoto, travel by shared shuttle service to the airport to catch your flight back to the US.

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


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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