Custom Independent Tour Sample Itinerary

Teens can be a bundle of unbounded energy, but keeping them occupied and engaged on a tour of Japan is easy! There are so many exciting activities to do in Japan, from the traditional to the contemporary. You can have an introduction to the tea ceremony with a bit of Zen Buddhism as a foundation, visit traditional Japanese temples and gardens, visit to a calligrapher for a demonstration of his “giant brush” technique, see a working dojo, and stroll through a bamboo forest.  For hands on, there are private cooking lessons, sword classes and taiko drum sessions. Along the way you can visit see the famous floating torii gate, enjoy farmers markets, hike through thousands of bright red torii gates and climb to the top of Matsumoto castle. For your shoppers, there are teen fashions from the hotbed of youth fashion, Tokyo, as well as manga, anime, new electronic wonders, only-in-Japan goods from their ¥100 shops and, of course, traditional souvenirs such as kimono obi, fans and washi paper.

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 teenagers 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.

TAKAYAMA Chogyu (1871-1902)

Sky with stars,
Ground with flowers,
And people with love.

Custom Independent Tour


Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Nijo Castle

Transfer via reserved shuttle service to Kyoto and your hotel.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel

Day 3

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Day3-Zuiho-in-D Sand

Tour with your Kyoto-based guide, not including transportation and admissions. Start your day at Daitoku-ji Zen monastery, for a special meeting with the abbot of Zuiho-in sub-temple for a discussion on Zen Buddhism, an introduction to the tea ceremony and a visit to some of the traditional Japanese temple gardens in the complex. After a Zen-style vegetarian lunch, visit the studio of a performance calligrapher for a demonstration of his “giant brush” technique. End the day with a private taiko drum lesson. 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, Lunch


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Bamboo Forest

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. Next, visit Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple) and Ryoan-ji, the famous rock garden. End the touring day at the small restaurant of a friend of Esprit, where you will have a private cooking lesson and learn how to make your favorite Japanese food.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Day5-Miyajima-D11499963

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 to Kyoto for dinner on your own or have dinner on the train, as the Japanese often do.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Day6-Ohara Fields-Meg Feemster

You might want to take a short day trip out of Kyoto. 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 prepared by a gourmet chef in the open kitchen of a restored farmhouse using food he grows himself or visit a kaki shibu dyer or a natural textile dye studio. 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.

Accomodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Gion Maiko

Tour on your own your final day in Kyoto. We suggest starting the day with a visit to Fushimi Inari to see the bright vermillion torii gates in the early light. Return to the central city for a visit to Nishiki Market. After lunch, visit 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. End the day with shopping in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade for youth-oriented fashions and fun Japanese souvenirs. 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


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Wanosato

Travel by train this morning to the mountains to visit a 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. 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. The entire town is full of character which begs to be explored. Take your time and enjoy the lovely shops, outdoor market, wonderful museums. The staff from your inn will meet you at the train station to take you to the ryokan for the evening where you will sleep on futons spread out on the tatami floor of your own private gassho (cottage).

Accommodations: Traditional Japanese Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Furukawa

Continue your self-guided exploration of Takayama today. Start with the morning markets, then head out to the famous Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village to see traditional houses that have been moved from all over the area and to learn about some of the ancient ways of rural Japan. This afternoon, take a private, guided bicycle tour in the Hida Satoyama area from the nearby town of Furukawa and learn about how the Japanese living in more rural areas farm and grow rice and other staples and visit a local market.

Accommodations: Traditional Japanese Ryokan
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 10

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Day10-Matsumoto Castle-D41124683

Depart this morning by private van to travel through the mountains to Matsumoto. Visit a wasabi farm en route. On arrival, visit Matsumoto Castle, circa 1595, 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.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 11

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Day11-Nakasendo Sign-C Miller

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

Day 12

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Nagano-Zenkoji Pilgrim Shoes

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. After arrival, head out to the exciting Shibuya district to see the most famous (and crowded!) street crossing in the world and the glitz and glitter of nighttime Tokyo.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 13

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Meiji Entrance Gate

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 and then see the youth culture in Harujuku. After lunch, we will tailor the rest of the day to the special interests of the party. One idea is to visit the Shimokitazawa, considered one of the coolest neighborhoods in Tokyo and home to vintage shops, unusual specialty stores and small boutiques stocked with items from young artists and artisans.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 14

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Asakusa-Sensoji Temple Decorations

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) and also visit the Sumo Museum. 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

Day 15

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Teens-Visit - Sword Lesson

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, you could visit 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. Also in the area is Joyapolis, a large, virtual reality theme park featuring the Sega’s latest products.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 16

Depart from Tokyo Narita Airport or Haneda Airport

After final touring on your own in Tokyo, transfer via private van 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.

Let`s Work Together