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Small Group Tours Self-Guided Adventures Exclusive Private Journeys Experiences & inspiration

Get beneath the surface

Welcome to InsideJapan Tours Take the holiday of a lifetime to Japan with InsideJapan Tours. We are a market-leading Japan travel specialist, offering unique group tours, tailored travel and cultural experiences that few get the chance to discover. Our team have had years of experience living, working and travelling in Japan, and we offer you unrivalled advice and support, whatever your budget or personal interests. Our holidays grant you the chance to experience both the popular and the little-known aspects of Japanese culture, giving you an insight into the diverse character of the country. That’s why many of you travel with us again and again, demonstrating Japan’s lasting appeal and the wealth of sights and experiences on offer. No matter how many times you’ve been – there’s always something new to discover.

©Norman Blaikie


InsideJapan Tours is proud to be a member of AITO - the Association of Independent Tour Operators; the hallmark of superb holidays from specialist tour operators. Land only arrangements are fully bonded with ABTOT (5233), while flight-inclusive packages are protected by our ATOL Licence (9419). Book with confidence knowing your money is always secure.

Get beneath the surface Part of InsideAsia Tours Ltd, an award-winning travel company offering group tours, tailored travel and cultural experiences across Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma.


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About InsideJapan Tours


Introducing Japan


Get beneath the surface


Japan holidays since 2000


Planning your holiday

10 - 11

When to travel

12 - 13

Small Group Tours

14 - 45

Fully Tailored Journeys

46 - 129

Self-Guided Adventures

46 - 79

Exclusive Private Journeys

80 - 87


88 - 93

Experiences & inspiration

94 - 129

Flights & stopovers 132 - 133 Frequently asked questions 134 - 135 Important information


Weather & climate


InsideVietnam Tours & InsideBurma Tours 138 - 139

Brochure design by Salmon Consulting -

About InsideJapan Tours From the directors, Simon and Alastair It was the incredible “otherness” of Japan that inspired us to start a travel company. Following university, we both spent three years living in Toyota City, home of the motor corporation, teaching English in Junior High Schools and discovering the sheer fun of life in Japan. We soaked in onsen baths, sang karaoke, ate in local izakaya pubs, felt the wonder of sunrise from the top of Mount Fuji and fell in love with the buzz you get every time you set foot on the Shinkansen bullet train. It wasn’t Japan as a tourist destination that inspired us; it was the country itself and the people we met whilst living there. Thus, we set out to introduce Japan to our customers by offering them the experiences we had enjoyed so much, hoping that they would fall in love with the country just as we had.

Simon King

Working together with our friend Ayako Koide, who today is in charge of our Nagoya office, we designed group tours and tailored trips that are fun and affordable, creating fabulous memories for everyone who travelled with us. We led the group tours ourselves, taking customers to our favourite places, restaurants and pubs and even introducing them to our Japanese friends along the way. It was a culturally rich and immersive style of travel that was fresh and different – and still is.

r s ’ Br i Inside Japan Tou

s tol


That was back in 2000 – and our “get beneath the surface” ethos was born. Alastair Donnelly

Our Japan specialists

Our offices: Bristol, Boulder and Nagoya

We are very proud of our Japan travel consultants, all of whom have spent at least a year living and working in Japan giving our team an unrivalled depth of knowledge. This approach is unique to InsideJapan, and we believe it is the only way to offer true expertise and a genuinely tailor-made service.

We have three offices with sales teams working in the UK, US and Japan, plus our own in situ operations team in Nagoya, a city handily located on the bullet train line between Tokyo and Kyoto.

Our staff regularly travel back to Japan to revisit our favourite hotels, try out the experiences we offer and keep abreast of Japan tourism developments. But most importantly we return to catch up with our Japanese friends, eat all the Japanese food we miss and tick off our own Japan travel bucket lists – that’s what keeps our Japan passion alive. Between us we have travelled almost every inch of Japan; we’ve meditated with mountain priests, taken part in village festivals, seen sumo wrestlers train, eaten deadly fugu (and survived!), been scuba diving with manta rays, run the Tokyo Marathon and even rubbed shoulders with Emperor Akihito. From your very first phone call or email enquiry, you’ll benefit from our in-depth knowledge and deep understanding - both of the country itself and of what goes into making the best possible travel experience.

Directed by Ayako Koide, the Japan office staff are available should any problem arise during your trip – whether you’ve left your camera in an Osaka restaurant or you need urgent dental treatment in Hokkaido. In such cases you can either call the office or our 24-hour emergency hotline. For Australian clients we have a direct line to our sales consultants based in Japan, conveniently located in a similar time zone.

Inside Japan Tour s’ Nagoya team, operations mee

t ing

InsideVietnam Tours & InsideBurma Tours We have recently added two sister brands to our collection, offering you fantastic Small Group Tours and Fully Tailored Journeys in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. You can be assured that the same passion, expertise and customer focus that we demonstrate in Japan applies to the holidays we now arrange in SouthEast Asia. For more information on our sister brands, please turn to page 138.

Award-winning quality We are committed to providing top-level customer service and attention to detail both before your departure and throughout your holiday. The high quality of our service and care has been recognised with a Best Small Tour Operator award at the Guardian and Observer Travel Awards in 2010 and a silver medal in the British Travel Awards Small Tour Operator of the Year category in 2009. We are also proud to be a member of AITO (the Association of Independent Tour Operators), the hallmark of any top quality specialist tour operator.



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InsideJapan Tours’ Boulder team


Spend a little time in Japan and you’ll soon start thinking: “why don’t we do things that way at home?” The trains run on time to the second, there isn’t a piece of rubbish to be seen, and simple activities such as bathing and drinking tea have been elevated to high culture. Tradition is always revered, from the spiritual and meditative beauty of Japanese gardens to the countless festivals that continue to play out just as they have for centuries. And the people are unfailingly polite – even in Tokyo’s rush hour.

Introducing Japan


Then there’s the food – oh, the food! Who could fail to be impressed by the huge range of dishes on offer? Slices of sashimi served fresh from the sea, steaming winter stews, bento box picnics beneath the cherry blossom and exquisite kaiseki banquets – to name but a few of the culinary highlights.

Just what is it about Japan? Equal parts beguiling and bewildering, Japan’s ancient traditions meet the rush of globalisation head-on to create a country like nowhere else on earth.

The range of geography to be found here is staggering. Comprising some 6,800 islands, Japan stretches over 1,900 miles (3,000 km) from the quasi-Siberian snowscapes of Hokkaido to the sub-tropical beaches and mangrove forests of Okinawa. Of this, over 70% of the terrain is mountainous and contains one tenth of the world’s active volcanoes.



A rugged, untamed wilderness with a mere scattering of people and an abundance of wildlife

Bruised but undefeated by the 2011 tsunami. Samurai legends live on in rural mountain communities and hidden temples

Kanto Home of the Tokyo-Yokohama megalopolis and some 35 million people, each one seeking a quiet place of calm amongst towering skyscrapers, flyovers, zebra crossings and neon lights



In a land of such diversity and volatility, perhaps it’s unsurprising that the Japanese have an extraordinary sense of the power of nature and the fleeting impermanence of things. Consequently, even the tiniest details are cherished – from the exposed skin at the nape of a geisha’s neck to the composition of an ikebana flower arrangement; from the rhythmic beat of a taiko drum to the beautiful irregularities found in handcrafted yakimono pottery.


What’s more, the Japanese themselves are some of the most charming, gracious, hospitable hosts you’ll ever meet, and we can’t wait to introduce them to you. So go on, take a holiday to Japan. The only danger is that it’s sure to draw you back time and time again.



Sado Island

Central Japan

Niigata Nagano Nikko



Spanning the Japanese Alps, many fascinating towns and villages with historic castles, gardens, craft shops, morning markets and sake breweries

A tale of two cities: earthy Osaka, Japan’s economic powerhouse, and Kyoto, the epicentre of tradition, known for its arts, temples, gardens & geisha






White water rivers twist through the dense forest and secluded valleys that characterise this island’s interior, pocketed with tiny hamlets and shrines


Mt. Fuiji





Yamaguchi Takamatsu Tokushima Matsuyama


Matsumoto Takayama


Central Japan








Beppu Nagasaki

Kyushu Kyushu

Chugoku Where modern art meets seaside towns and the fishing islands of the Inland Sea. Also home to infamous Hiroshima and the “floating” torii gate of Miyajima Island

Kyushu is a land of bubbling lava, steaming fumaroles and active volcanoes – plus the fascinating cities of Nagasaki, Fukuoka and Kagoshima

Mt. Aso Kumamoto Miyazaki



Okinawa Yakushima

An archipelago of subtropical islands boasting great beaches, fantastic scuba diving and a distinctive culture

Okinawa “Our trip to Japan met every expectation, and the organisation was superb. The itinerary provided a wonderful mix of urban and rural, traditional and modern, and the recommendations in relation to accommodation, etc, were also excellent. We would not hesitate in recommending InsideJapan to others.”


David & Elizabeth, Aberdeenshire, UK



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Get beneath the surface We are passionate about Japan and consequently care a great deal about the impact our holidays have on the country – socially, environmentally and economically. At the heart of everything we do is a “tread light” philosophy to ensure that Japan retains its wonderful uniqueness for generations to come. During your holiday you’ll travel on Japan’s unrivalled public transport system and stay in Japanese-owned hotels and ryokan inns. You’ll meet local Japanese guides, and can rest safe in the knowledge that our suppliers are always paid a decent price. Our breadth of Japan knowledge means you can travel to off-the-beaten-track destinations, which in turn supports more disadvantaged, rural areas.

We’ll show you where to take your shoes off Japanese society operates according to a complicated web of cultural code and social etiquette that can appear impenetrable to outsiders. We know exactly how that feels – trust us, we’ve made a lot of mistakes ourselves! From forgetting to put on toilet slippers to wearing kimono robes the wrong way round or taking a sip of beer before the official kanpai toast, cultural slip-ups are easy to make. Allow us to guide you through these obstacles by introducing you to our tour leaders and local professional guides who’ll teach you all you need to know about Japanese culture. Our Info-Pack also has a wealth of cultural tips and etiquette information, turning your holiday into an immersive and enlightening experience, as well as enabling you to make plenty of Japanese friends along the way.

Info-Pack 09 Japan - Chopsticks

You will receive a detailed Info-Pack around a month before departure. Written by our team of Japan experts and containing cultural tips, Japanese language hints, our restaurant recommendations and sightseeing guides to every place on your itinerary – your Info-Pack is your essential travel companion.

If you are travelling on a Self-Guided Adventure, the Info-Pack will also contain personalised instructions for each journey you’ll make, and detailed directions to every hotel or ryokan inn.

Top tips

Japan facts & figures

Most Japanese do not use first names casually, so use last names with the honorific suffix “san” in social situations

There is no such thing as being “fashionably late” in Japan. Make sure you are always on time




127.4 million people, the 10th largest population in the world




98.5% Japanese


Buddhism & Shintoism


Yen (¥)


146,000 sqm spread over more than 6,800 islands

Time zone

UTC +9

Dialling code



On the left

Blowing your nose in public is considered rude in Japan. Believe it or not, sniffing is considered more polite!

Bow as many times as you can when meeting an elder person. The deeper the bow, the more respect you are showing

Never stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice as this forms part of a funeral ritual

Never pour your own beer! Pour your friend’s beer first and they will pour yours in return

“ InsideJapan was fundamental to us not getting lost in translation in Japan! ” Khalid & Brett, Johannesburg, South Africa




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© Sara Pretelli

Japan holidays since 2000...

“ We were trying to figure out the ‘bests’ of our holiday and we concluded that the most important ‘best’ was putting you and InsideJapan Tours in charge of our trip. The success of our three week family holiday truly hinged on all the work you did on our behalf “ Gail, NY, USA

Since the year 2000 thousands of people have discovered Japan on an InsideJapan Tours holiday. Whether you want to discover quiet contemplation at a tranquil garden in Kyoto, explore the backstreet eateries of Tokyo, meditate with the monks at Mount Koya or just want to go to Japan and see what it’s all about, we can help make your Japan travel dreams a reality.

“ We found InsideJapan to be extremely professional, well organised and customer focused. Our trip (with quite a lot of travel logistics involved) went without a hitch.” Peter & Trisha Queensland, Australia

InsideJapan Tours in numbers Over 40,000 clients since 2000 97% excellent or good rating for overall satisfaction 3 worldwide offices - Bristol (UK), Boulder (US), Nagoya (Japan) Over £30,000 raised for tsunami relief charities More than 60 staff worldwide 8 languages spoken fluently



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Planning your holiday

Travel considerations

We know that dreaming about travel is almost as fun as the holiday itself. That’s why we make the planning process as enjoyable as possible for you by providing excellent service from the first time you contact us to the day you return home.

Step 1

Step 2

Looking for some help? Call us!

Speak to one of our expert Japan travel consultants in person, over the phone, via Skype or by email. We love sharing our passion for Japan as we help you plan your ideal holiday.

Choose your travel style

Small Group Tours pages 14 - 45

When are you thinking of travelling? How long for?

n n n

What kind of hotels do you like?


Do you have any special interests? Are you into photography, a keen foodie or fascinated by samurai history?


How much money have you set aside for this holiday?

Why are you travelling? Is it a honeymoon, anniversary celebration, family holiday?

Do you like to be active on holiday or do you prefer having plenty of time to relax?

Paul & family, Kent, UK

n Bespoke itineraries

full-time expert tour leader

n Start on any day of the year and travel

n Fixed itineraries, prices & departure dates

wherever you like in Japan

n Different tours for a range of budgets

n Expert planning & on-the-ground support

& special interests

n Detailed, personalised travel instructions

Step 3

Plan your perfect holiday Choose an itinerary exactly as outlined in this brochure, or use the ideas as a springboard to create something unique with the help of our expert travel consultants. Whatever your requirements, they’ll create a detailed proposal and help you refine it until you’re completely happy with the end result.

Choose the perfect Small Group Tour for you Our Small Group Tours cover the length and breadth of Japan. So whether you are a first time visitor looking to catch all the classic sights or a seasoned Japan veteran wanting to get as far off the beaten track as possible, then we have a tour for you. Not sure which tour to choose? Just pick up the phone and speak to one of our travel consultants.

Self-Guided Adventures pages 46 - 79

Check prices, dates & availability

Step 4

All departure dates, prices and tour availability can be found on our website. Alternatively, call us and speak to a travel consultant and they will be happy to provide all the details.

Looking for ideas?

Exclusive Private Journeys pages 80 - 87

n Travel independently

n Travel by yourselves with expert professional

n Options to suit all interests and

n Enjoy the finest hotels, ryokan & restaurants

(not in a group or with a tour leader)

Step 4

“ Because the travel consultant had a wide knowledge, a great deal of personal experience of Japan and took the time to find out about our interests, he was able to put together the ideal bespoke Self-Guided Adventure for us quickly.”

Are you looking forward to the food? Anything you can’t eat?

Fully Tailored Journeys pages 46 - 129

n Travel with a group: maximum 14 guests and a

Step 3

n n

a range of budgets

guides in all locations

n Innovative out-of-the-ordinary experiences

Look no further than our

Experiences & inspiration pages 94 - 129 Read through and let us know what takes your fancy

Step 5

Step 5

Book it! Once you have decided which tour and departure date you wish to take, you can secure your place by paying a small deposit either online or over the phone. And then it’s time to start getting excited about your trip!



Ready to go ahead? Let’s make it a reality! Once you’re happy that the itinerary is perfect for you, pay your deposit and start looking forward to the holiday of a lifetime. Just sit back and relax and we will make all the arrangements for you.

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When to travel Japan is a fantastic holiday destination all year round, with each season offering its own particular appeal.

Winter (December to February)

Spring (March to May)

Visit Japan in winter and you’ll be rewarded with crisp, clear skies and fantastic views of Mount Fuji, which tends to hide behind the clouds for much of the rest of the year.

Take advantage of the spring to do as the Japanese do – admire the transient beauty of the beloved cherry blossom whilst enjoying a picnic party beneath canopies of pink. The cherry blossom opens as a wave, blooming as early as February in Okinawa then slowly climbing north, usually peaking in Tokyo and Kyoto in early April. Following the rush of April comes May, a warm, sunny month of lush greens and iris flowers. Rice paddies are filled with water so you can catch the reflections of mist-covered mountains.

For winter sports enthusiasts, Siberian winds deposit mountains of snow across Hokkaido, northern Tohoku and the Japan Sea Coast, providing Japan with some of the world’s best (and most reliable) powder conditions.

More winter highlights

n n n n n

Top spring experiences

Visit the snow monkeys of Yudanaka Onsen See the January sumo basho in Tokyo Watch tancho cranes in their spectacular mating dance Sip warm sake from the comfort of a hot spring onsen

Peak travel: New Year is the biggest celebration in the Japanese calendar, which means trains, planes and hotels are usually booked solid from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January.

Wander crowd-free World Heritage Sites admiring temples iced with snow.

n n n

Visit Kyoto for the spring geisha dance shows


Follow in the footsteps of samurai at Kumamoto or Hirosaki Castles – both prime cherry blossom picnic spots


Stay overnight at a farm and try your hand at rice planting

Witness the age-old Takayama spring festival Make an early break for subtropical Zamami Island to see humpback whales

Peak travel: April is the busiest time of the year to visit Japan, as well as the first week in May – a series of national holidays known as Golden Week. Our advice is to book early if you plan to travel at these times and to be flexible about budget and accommodation, as hotels and guides get booked up a long time in advance.

Summer (June to September)

Autumn (October & November)

Do you like your holidays hot? Head to the subtropical islands of the Okinawan archipelago to sun yourself on the beach in the 35°C (95°F) heat or cool off by scuba diving with the manta rays.

In autumn, as the temperature drops, indigenous maple trees flame magnificently in vibrant reds; a picturesque backdrop to city temples and country hikes.

All across Japan summer brings evening parties and festivals. Watch cormorant fishing in Gifu, see the elegant parade at Kyoto’s Gion festival or enjoy fireworks over Tokyo’s Sumida River.

Imagine the photos you can take at this time of year; an ordinary shrine looks spectacular against a backdrop of vermillion maple leaves whilst Tokyo streets are transformed by rows of yellow ginkgo trees. We recommend staying in a ryokan inn with a private outdoor hot spring bath overlooking multi-coloured nanakamado shrubbery.

Looking for a challenge? Tackle Mount Fuji – Japan’s tallest mountain at 12,388 ft (3776m) and only open for climbing in July and August. They say only a fool climbs Fuji twice – don’t ask how many times our team have climbed it!

Our favourite summer suggestions

n n n



Go hiking or drive through the lavender fields in Hokkaido Watch one of Japan’s magnificent firework displays Escape the heat and head to the towns and villages of the Japanese Alps


Enjoy doing absolutely nothing on the beaches of Ishigaki Island


Catch lively dance festivals in Tohoku or Shikoku

Further autumn recommendations Peak travel: Japanese schools break for August, making theme parks, beaches and other child-friendly attractions particularly crowded. During Obon Festival (from the 9th to the 17th of August), many Japanese take time off work to return to their home towns, so this is another peak travel season. Rainy season: Japan’s rain is at its heaviest from June to mid-July, although it won’t rain every day and it’s not always torrential. When it does pour, it tends to be in quick, tropical bursts before blue skies are revealed again. Carry an umbrella and invest in sensible footwear and your sightseeing will not be disrupted. Okinawa experiences a rainy season one month earlier (and a typhoon season in the early autumn), from May to mid-June, whilst Hokkaido does not have a rainy season at all.

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See spectacular autumn colours in Kamikochi National Park in October

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Visit Kyoto shrines at dusk lit up by paper lanterns

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Cruise down Kyoto’s Hozu River in a flat-bottomed wooden boat

Eat warming nabe stew with crab, enoki mushrooms, tofu and cabbage

Go maple leaf peeping at Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden Peak travel: Kyoto is particularly popular in November during the autumn leaf-peeping season and it can be wise to avoid the city at weekends.

© Everett Kennedy Brown

Looking for more advice? Still undecided about when to travel? Please give us a call and our travel consultants will be happy to advise you. Do also see the Experiences & inspiration section later in this brochure for more information on festivals and sumo tournament dates.



Small Group Tours

Elisa Ferroni Small Group Tours Manager “ Welcome to our Small Group Tours. “ No matter where you’re from, how old you are - or whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or with family or friends - our group tour clients are united in a desire to see and experience Japan. For me, sharing the privilege of discovery and socialising with fellow travellers is the highlight of group tour travel. “ The very first holidays we arranged in Japan were Small Group Tours led by our directors Simon and Alastair back in 2000. Since then we have continuously improved our tours which cover the length and breadth of Japan to ensure that each and every customer has a truly memorable holiday. “ So go on, join an InsideJapan Small Group Tour with one of our wonderful tour leaders. This is a fantastic way to see and experience the country, you’ll learn about Japan’s history and culture whilst meeting like-minded people and, of course, indulging in some fantastic cuisine.”



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C O N T E N T S Small Group Tour concept

16 - 17

Choose your Small Group Tour style

18 - 19

Luxury Japan

20 - 21


Japan Enchantment

22 - 23


Spirit of Honshu

24 - 25


Spring Elegance

26 - 27


Classic Japan

28 - 29


Hidden Japan

30 - 31


Winter Highlights

32 - 33


Hands On Japan

34 - 35


Kyushu Elements

36 - 37


Diving Japan

38 - 39


Japan Unmasked

40 - 41


Tokaido Trail

42 - 43


Historic Mountain Trails

44 - 45




Our Small Group Tour concept Tour styles to suit you



We have four different tour styles with departure dates throughout the year: Deluxe, Superior, Classic and Essential. Our tour styles ensure there is always something to suit you, whatever your budget and tastes. Some tours visit the famous sights, whilst others cover special interest areas. For example, Winter Highlights is ideal for keen twitchers whilst Kyushu Elements focuses on one particular region.

Are you looking forward to Japanese food? You should be! Your tour leader will introduce you to fantastic local restaurants – many of which would be impossible to find by yourself or intimidating to enter alone. The tour leader will be on hand to translate the menu, order the food, make recommendations and handle any dietary requirements.

You will need to be of moderate fitness to join any of our Small Group Tours. City sightseeing often involves walking between sights and climbing up steps in temples and shrines. As most of our tours use public transport, you will also need to walk between hotels and stations.


Luxury Japan and Spirit of Honshu are less strenuous and more relaxed than our other tours, as many journeys are made by private coach. At the other end of the scale, please only attempt Historic Mountain Trails if you are very fit with experience of hiking up steep mountains at high altitudes.

Your tour leader Your expert InsideJapan tour leader will accompany the group throughout the holiday, staying in the same hotels and taking you to their favourite restaurants. A fluent Japanese speaker who has made their home in Japan, your tour leader will give you personal insights into Japanese culture and society whilst making sure you get the utmost from your holiday.

Your group The maximum group size is 14 people (fewer on certain tours) which means you’ll eat at local restaurants, stay at small hotels and ryokan inns with personal service, travel on Japan’s fantastic public transport system (rather than in a “tour bus bubble”) and have the opportunity to interact with local people along the way. You’ll meet a wide range of people on our group tours: solo travellers, couples and families, ages ranging from six to 80 and nationalities from all over the world.

Whichever tour you pick, you’ll use public transport at some stage. For this reason we recommend that you travel light and bring a suitcase with wheels. On our Classic and Superior tours we take advantage of next-day luggage forwarding and the occasional minibus where expeditious. In these cases you will need a small overnight bag for use when your main suitcase has been forwarded ahead. Extra luggage forwarding can easily be arranged locally. On our Deluxe tour your bags will be handled for you throughout.

Families and children Families with children aged six years or older are welcome on most of our tours. Children under 12 years old can be booked on a tour at a reduced price. Please ask us for details.

11 Japan - origami crane

Solo travellers Travelling solo? You’ll be in good company on a Small Group Tour and we have a fair and transparent pricing policy for singles.

Flexible sightseeing On an InsideJapan Small Group Tour you can spend as much or as little time with the group as you wish. Want to try Kobe beef? Let the tour leader know and he’ll make a dinner reservation just for you. Interested in Zen gardens? Your tour leader will explain which Kyoto bus you’ll need to hop on to reach Ryoan-ji Temple.

• On our Essential tours you’ll have a single room at no extra charge in all Western-style hotel stays, but we’ll ask you to share with another traveller of the same sex at the traditional Japanese inns (between two to five nights maximum). • Classic, Superior and Deluxe tours have a mandatory price supplement for solo travellers, which guarantees a single room throughout the trip.

“ This was my first time travelling to Japan and I’m glad I went with InsideJapan Tours. It felt like I experienced a year’s worth of fun activities in less than two weeks! ” Kathryn, VA, USA

International flights International flights are not included in our tour prices, but we can arrange flights from the UK for you. Please ask us for available options and prices. Do also turn to page 132 for more details regarding flights and stopovers.

Extra nights and extensions We always suggest that an extra night (or even two) at the start of the tour is a good idea to help you settle in and get over any jet lag before the tour gets underway. We can also add extra nights after the tour, or even put together a fully tailored tour extension if you would like to explore the region further after the tour is over. A selection of convenient extension ideas can be found on our website.

Prices and booking To ensure that you never have out-of-date information, we have not included prices, departure dates or availability information in this brochure. For the latest information please contact us directly or speak to your local travel agent. Alternatively you can find pricing information on our website:

As standard on ALL our tours Full-time expert tour leader All transport between destinations in Japan Carefully chosen hotels and traditional Japanese inns Breakfast every day At least one evening meal (most tours have more) Maximum group size of 14 InsideJapan’s Info-Pack



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Choose your Small Group Tour style We have divided our range of Small Group Tours into four categories to help you select the most suitable tour for you.


DELU X E Luxury accommodation, fine dining and exclusive experiences, with a focus on comfort and ease of travel

High-quality accommodation, several meals & entrance fees included, in-depth cultural immersion

• Local professional guides & experts in key destinations (in addition to your tour leader)

• Local professional guides in key destinations (in addition to your tour leader)

• Luxury cars and microbuses

• Some private minibus transfers where beneficial

• First-class bullet train travel

• Four- to five-star accommodation

• The very best five-star accommodation

• En suite rooms in all locations

• En suite rooms in all locations

• Private airport transfers

• Private airport transfers

• Breakfast every day plus several lunches & dinners

• Breakfast every day plus several lunches

• Most entrance fees included

• Spectacular dinners at world-class restaurants

• Selected luggage forwarding included

• Exclusive cultural experiences

• Solo travellers: a single room is available throughout on payment of a mandatory supplement

• All entrance fees included • All luggage handling included • Solo travellers: a single room is available throughout on payment of a mandatory supplement


CL A S SIC Mid-range tours that cover Japan’s classic sights or interestspecific itineraries (e.g. hiking, cultural activities, specific regions)

Flexible, fast-paced tours. Just the basics included, keeping the cost down so you can choose how much you spend

09 Japan - Chopsticks • Three-star accommodation

• Two- to three-star accommodation

• En suite rooms in all locations (except at temple lodgings)

• En suite rooms in Western-style hotels, shared bathroom facilities in Japanese-style inns

• Airport meet-and-greet and transfers • Breakfast every day plus some lunches & dinners • Selected entrance fees included

• No airport transfers (but a city transport pass and detailed airport transfer instructions are provided) • Breakfast every day plus one or two evening meals

• Selected luggage forwarding included • Solo travellers: a single room is available throughout on payment of a mandatory supplement

• Entrance fees not included • Carry your own luggage • Solo travellers: a single room is available for no extra charge at Western-style hotels, but you will need to share with a member of the same sex in the Japanese-style inns



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© Norman Blaikie


Luxury Japan


11 nights, Small Group Tour, Deluxe DELUXE

TOKYO (2) – HAKONE (2) – KYOTO (3) – KANAZAWA (1) – KARUIZAWA (2) – TOKYO (1) Exclusive travel isn’t just about illustrious hotels, first-class transport and fine dining – although it’s a good place to start. What is really special about Luxury Japan is the opportunity it gives you to get beneath the surface of a captivating nation. With a top-quality tour leader, experienced local guides and Japanese culture specialists all working together to provide us with exclusive experiences and a rounded perspective on the locations we visit, this truly is the very best in luxury travel to Japan.

Beginning in Tokyo, we’ll enjoy a tour of the city’s oldest temple, Senso-ji, followed by lunch at a spectacular restaurant at the top of the city’s newest landmark – the 634 m (2,080 ft) Skytree.

Stay in five-star accommodation throughout Sake-tasting experience with an expert sommelier in Tokyo Private meditation session at a Zen temple in Kyoto Eat lunch at the top of the world’s tallest tower Visit Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s most celebrated gardens

In Kyoto, Japan’s cultural heart, we’ll be whisked by rickshaw through enchanting bamboo groves and taken on a walking tour of the geisha district. This is a superb chance to learn about a little-understood aspect of Japanese society that few foreigners ever get to experience, before our private geisha party at a local Zen temple. In Hakone National Park we’ll soak in hot springs and admire the masters at the excellent outdoor art museum, set in the shadow of Mount Fuji. In the traditional city of Kanazawa we’ll make an atmospheric early-morning trip to one of Japan’s most celebrated landscape gardens, whilst in Karuizawa we’ll relax in an exclusive mountain resort.

Dreaming of exploring Japan in style?

© Sara Pretelli

Tour highlights

Let us answer any questions you have about this Small Group Tour. Speak to one of our travel consultants, talk to your local travel agent or visit our website for booking details, pricing, departure dates and availability.

Karuizawa Tokyo

Kanazawa Mt Fuji

Hakone Kyoto

The culinary delights of Japan are endless, and a variety of top-class meals are included. Luxury is taking time to enjoy simple pleasures too; we will learn to make soba noodles at a Karuizawa country house and savour the very freshest sushi in Kanazawa.

“ The only risk with staying in such gorgeous hotels is not wanting to do any sightseeing at all – I’m tempted to just stay in to be pampered!”

Last but not least, each of our accommodations represents the very best that Japan has to offer. From a skyscraper suite in Tokyo to one of the world’s most exclusive retreats in Hakone; a mixture of traditional Japanese accommodation and five-star hotels will undoubtedly prove a highlight of your trip.

Elisa, Group Tours Manager

Sake tasting by Tyler Palma

“ For me, sake tasting with an expert sake sommelier is one of the top experiences on Luxury Japan. Ensconced in a traditional izakaya restaurant, we’ll be introduced to the history of sake, its use in religious ceremonies and how it is brewed. “ As we move on to tasting, your expert sommelier will explain how sake is usually consumed – from the types of cups that



are used to which kinds of sake should be served hot or cold. Then, you’ll learn how to pair sake with certain types of food, and how to appreciate the subtle differences in taste between some of the very finest types of sake (and, of course, how to recognise the not-so-fine!) “ In terms of the range and complexity of flavours available, sake is easily on par with wine. Your sommelier will be happy to answer all your questions, and for the rest of the trip you’ll be able to exercise your newfound expertise in some of the best restaurants in all of Japan.”

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© Gora Kadan

Tyler has been tour leading for more than ten years, travelling all over the world and living in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China before making Tokyo his adopted home.




Japan Enchantment 14 nights, Small Group Tour, Superior SUPERIOR

TOKYO (2) – NIKKO (1) – KARUIZAWA (2) – NAGANO (1) – KANAZAWA (2) – KYOTO (3) – HAKONE (2) – TOKYO (1)

Tour highlights Enjoy a private audience with a trainee geisha Stay at a classic ryokan inn in Hakone

© Norman Blaikie

Encompassing high-tech wonders and ancient temples, coastal cities and alpine resorts, urban giants and national parks; this tour captures the amazing diversity of Japan. With a range of high-end accommodations, superb included meals and your tour leader on hand to make sure everything runs like clockwork, this is the perfect introduction to a fascinating culture often considered impenetrable by the outside world.

Is Japan Enchantment calling you?

We’ll begin and end the trip in Tokyo, icon of high modernity and a city of bewildering size and scope. Our first dinner at a local restaurant will provide you with a relaxed yet invaluable introduction to Japanese food and etiquette, and is the perfect way to get to know the tour leader and group. Kyoto is Japan’s other great city: imperial capital for over a thousand years and packed with architectural treasures. The highlight of our stay here is a private audience with a maiko (trainee geisha). Such experiences are rarely available to foreigners, giving us an exclusive window into this mysterious and captivating profession.

This is an ever-popular Small Group Tour so let’s confirm your place as soon as possible. Speak to our expert travel consultants, talk to your local travel agent or visit our website for online booking, pricing, departure dates and availability.


Nagano Karuizawa Tokyo

Kanazawa Mt Fuji Hakone

onomik ni dlihC - napaJ Kyoto 21

Take part in a soba noodle-making class

Complementing the city stays, we’ll also get a tantalising taste of rural Japan. In Hakone National Park we’ll cruise across Lake Ashi under the watchful gaze of Mount Fuji, explore the outstanding open-air sculpture park and rest our legs in volcanic hot spring baths.

See the onsen-bathing “snow monkeys” of Yudanaka

In thickly forested Nikko we’ll be privy to the most lavish religious architecture in all of Japan, whilst in Karuizawa, one of the country’s favourite mountain escapes, we’ll be making our own lunch at a soba noodle-making class.

Local guides in Tokyo, Nikko, Karuizawa & Kanazawa

The cities of Kanazawa and Nagano, contrasting as they are, offer yet more impressive variety. High in the Japanese Alps, Nagano is our gateway to the famous onsen-bathing snow monkeys of Yudanaka. Kanazawa offers a beautifully preserved samurai house district, one of the very best Japanese gardens and a plethora of traditional craft workshops.

The Shinkansen bullet train by Violet Cloutman Violet has been interested in Japan from an early age. After leaving university, she worked in a hotel in Okinawa before joining first our Nagoya team and then our Bristol office in 2014. “ It wasn’t until I rode the Shinkansen that I realised trains can – and in some places actually do – run on time. Boarding the bullet train today still gives me the same feeling of excitement I felt when I first sped from Tokyo to Hiroshima in 2008. The faultlessly polite staff (who bow every time they leave a carriage), cheery jingles at each station and sparkling clean toilets all add to the experience.



“ Opened in 1964, today the Shinkansen’s top operational speed is 200 mph, and its average annual delay can be as little as 18 seconds. This is despite disruption caused by typhoons, earthquakes and heavy snow – something that it is hard for someone who grew up with British Rail to believe! “ With three extensions underway to Nagasaki, Hokkaido and Kanazawa, and the first Maglev trains planned to rocket between Tokyo and Nagoya at well over 300 mph by 2027, the future of the bullet train can only get better. ”

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“ We were truly immersed in the Japanese experience and we loved it.” Martin & Evelyn, Farnborough, UK




Spirit of Honshu 8 nights, Small Group Tour, Superior SUPERIOR

TOKYO (3) – IZU PENINSULA (2) – KYOTO (3) If you have a limited amount of time and want to get the most out of your visit to Japan, this is the tour for you. In between stays in Japan’s two greatest cities we’ll relax in private hot springs, explore the beautiful Izu Peninsula, and make day trips to the fascinating historical sites of Nikko and Nara. Throughout the tour we’ll stay in superior accommodation, enjoying the very best in Japanese cuisine and travelling by first class rail and private transport.

Tour highlights Take in Tokyo by boat as you cruise down the Sumida River Visit the extravagant woodland temple complex of Nikko Feel dwarfed by Todai-ji’s giant Buddha in Nara See Joren Waterfall on the beautiful Izu Peninsula Enjoy an audience with an apprentice geisha in Kyoto

Captivated by the Spirit of Honshu?

Starting with three nights in the hectic buzz that is Japan’s capital city, your tour leader will help you navigate the whirlwind – accompanying you on a boat trip down the Sumida River, a visit to the serene Hamarikyu Gardens and a night at a traditional izakaya restaurant.


Muse on the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkey carvings in Nikko’s extravagant woodland temple complex. Gaze at the giant Buddha of Todai-ji and feed senbei crackers to the resident deer in the ancient capital of Nara. Stay in a superb ryokan inn with seven varieties of hot spring bath in Shimoda on the stunning Izu Peninsula – a national park whose views of Mount Fuji, sweeping coastlines and forested interior make it the perfect antidote to the bustling crowds of Japan’s cities. These are just some of the wonderful experiences we’ll have on this short tour of Japan’s main island.


“ We had very high expectations and the accommodations met them. Loved the ryokan.”

Mt Fuji

Kathryn & Stephen, Virginia, USA Izu Peninsula Kyoto Nara

This Small Group Tour has a maximum of just ten guests; so do book early to avoid disappointment. Phone us, email us or send an enquiry via our website where you’ll also find departure dates, pricing and availability. Alternatively you can speak to your local travel agent.

04 Japan - Bamboo

Concluding our trip will be three days in Kyoto, Japan’s undisputed cultural heart and a city with a very different character from Tokyo. In Kyoto it seems as though every sliding door conceals a bewitching garden or a lavish temple – but the real treat comes when we meet a maiko, or apprentice geisha. Geisha embody the mystery and refinement that Japanese culture is famous for, and this is a privileged chance to be in the company of these remarkable performers.

Tea with a maiko by Karen Tomney Karen spent three years working as a teacher on the Noto Peninsula before joining InsideJapan Tours’ Bristol team. She recently spent an afternoon with Tomihiku, a maiko (trainee geisha) in Kyoto. “Like most outsiders, I had plenty of preconceptions about the world of geisha before I met Tomihiku. I imagined our meeting would be a formal affair and that Tomihiku would be shy and reserved. Thankfully, my preconceptions couldn’t have been more different from the reality. “Tomihiku was extremely open and easy to talk to, and her ‘mama-san’ (the ‘mother’ of the geisha house) spoke



perfect English. We drank tea, ate snacks, played a drinking game and took photographs together before Tomihiku treated us to a dance performance. “I was able to ask dozens of questions, and learnt all kinds of interesting things about the life of a maiko – her training schedule, her hopes and expectations, and the challenges she faces on the road to becoming a fully fledged geisha. Finally, as I left the teahouse, I felt relaxed, calm and comfortable – a sure sign that Tomihiku had done her job.”

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Spring Elegance 13 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

TOKYO (3) – MATSUMOTO (1) – TAKAYAMA (2) – KANAZAWA (1) – KYOTO (3) – HAKONE (2) – TOKYO (1) Spring is when Japan casts off its winter blanket and really lets its hair down. Every park is packed with revellers gathered to view the cherry blossom, festivals are underway across the country and everyone embraces the party-like atmosphere – this really is a wonderful time to travel. Taking you from neon cityscapes to towering mountains and back, Spring Elegance provides an excellent balance of superb experiences and value for money.

Tour highlights

Inspired by the cherry blossom?

Not far from Tokyo, Hakone National Park is a haven of natural splendour. With stunning views of Mount Fuji across Lake Ashi and a profusion of volcanic hot springs, we’ll stay in traditional Japanese accommodation and visit a world-class sculpture park in an unbeatable setting.

Drink green tea in Tokyo’s beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens Explore traditional thatched farmhouses in the Japanese Alps Admire the worldfamous Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa Wander amongst the sculptures of Hakone’s open-air museum Attend a performance of the spring geisha dances in Kyoto

In the Japanese Alps, the city of Matsumoto and the craft town of Takayama offer a trip to the iconic “Black Crow” and an excursion to Hida no Sato respectively. The former is one of Japan’s most impressive samurai castles, whilst the latter is an open-air museum showcasing the steeply thatched “praying hands” farmhouses typical of the region. No trip to Japan would be complete without seeing something of the big city, and our tour will be bookended by stays amongst the skyscrapers of Tokyo. Here we’ll receive an introduction to Japanese cuisine at a local restaurant and see the city from the waters of the Sumida River.

Kanazawa Matsumoto Takayama Mt Fuji

We run just a handful of Spring Elegance Small Group Tours in late March and April, so make sure you book early to avoid disappointment. Call us directly, speak to your local travel agent or go to our website for dates, pricing and availability.


Hakone Kyoto

Three days in Kyoto, meanwhile, will induct you into Japan’s other great city. The highlights here are meeting a maiko (apprentice geisha) and tickets to the Miyako Odori – annual geisha dances given to celebrate the spring. Kanazawa, meanwhile, offers a glimpse of life in a small, traditional city. This is an active tour packed with opportunities for exploration, good value mid-range accommodation and a variety of meals included. With your tour leader to steer you through the most fascinating aspects of these superb destinations, this tour offers a classic sightseeing experience at a fantastic time of year.

Hanami by Ayako Koide Nagoya office manager Ayako has been a friend of the company directors, Alastair and Simon, since their English teaching days. She is a founding member of InsideJapan Tours and a native of Nagoya. “ Hanami means ‘flower viewing’, and is a seasonal event held throughout March and April which signals the beginning of spring.

and drinks. You can even buy a cherry blossom-flavoured latte at Starbucks. If you’re in Japan at this time I recommend trying some of these seasonal treats, but to be honest I’m not a huge fan of the taste!

“ My favourite hanami spot is at my parents’ house just outside Nagoya. Our family, friends and neighbours all gather by the river to eat and relax under the “ When the sakura, or cherry cherry trees. The blossoms look blossom, appears, people are especially beautiful in the evening, happier, the sakura forecast is all illuminated by paper lanterns and over the news, and the shops are reflected in the water.” filled with sakura-flavoured food 26


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“ The tour leader was friendly, funny, helpful, organised and patient. He really made the trip a memorable one.” Alyson, Würzburg, Germany




Classic Japan “ It was more than we imagined. Mark [the tour leader] took good care of us and was friendly, patient, understanding, and helpful in accommodating our needs. The tour showed Japan as a wonderful destination.”

13 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

TOKYO (2) – HAKONE (2) – OSAKA (2) – KYOTO (2) – TAKAYAMA (2) – KAMIKOCHI (2) – TOKYO (1) Imagine basking in a hot spring bath at the foot of Mount Fuji, drinking sake with an apprentice geisha in Kyoto or seeing Tokyo from the water as we cruise down the Sumida River. This tour collects the best of Japan’s classic cultural and natural locations, from the tatami mats and paper screens of countless woodblock prints to the exquisite gardens and temples you’ve always dreamt of visiting.

Tour highlights

Discover some of the locations that have given Japan its reputation as a land of mysterious spirituality and exquisite aesthetics, as we ride crosscountry on the world-famous bullet train and stay in some lovely traditional accommodations. Our journey will be gastronomic too – we’ll sample local specialties from melt-in-the-mouth Hida beef in the alpine regions to super-fresh sushi in Tokyo, quick bites from street vendors in Osaka and multi-course kaiseki feasts in Kyoto.

Cruise through Tokyo on the Sumida River Get an introduction to feudal history at Osaka Castle Visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple for spectacular views across Kyoto Meet a trainee geisha in Kyoto’s Gion district Experience a charming traditional ryokan in Takayama

In each destination we’ll take in a range of experiences, from learning about the history of the magnificent Osaka Castle to wandering amongst the thatched farmhouses of Takayama’s Hida no Sato Folk Village. We’ll also enjoy an exclusive audience with a trainee geisha in Kyoto, and drink tea at the beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens, hidden in the heart of Tokyo’s skyscraper district.

Eric, HI, USA

Already picturing yourself on this Small Group Tour? Tokyo

Kamikochi Takayama

Mt Fuji


To book or simply find out more, speak to one of our travel consultants, talk to your local travel agent or visit our website for dates, pricing and availability.

Kyoto Osaka

Along the way we’ll visit two stunning national parks: Kamikochi and Hakone. The former is home to some of Japan’s most magnificent mountain scenery and a thriving population of Japanese macaques, whilst the latter offers a pirate ship ride across Lake Ashi and the chance to boil eggs in volcanic hot springs. If you choose to travel in July or August, you will also have the option to scale one of the most famous peaks in the world: Mount Fuji. Accompanying you throughout will be your tour leader, who will introduce you to Japanese history and culture, guide you on excursions, demystify the local etiquette and generally make sure you get the best from our Classic Japan tour.

Kamikochi by David Lovejoy “ A relaxed half-hour walk downstream brings you to the Hotaka and Tashiro bridges, which are joined by a small island. Another twenty minutes or so from there and you’ll reach Taisho Pond, which was formed when nearby Mount Yake erupted in 1915. The ever-present plume curling out of the summit “ Kamikochi can mean ‘high above earth’ or serves as a reminder to be respectful of ‘where the gods descended’ and is apt both nature, especially in its most pristine state. literally and figuratively. High in the Japanese Speaking of which, I always remind my tour Alps, one of the first places you’ll come to in groups to leave only footprints, bringing all Kamikochi is Kappabashi. Spanning the azure trash home with them.” waters of the Azusa River, this is the most famous bridge in the area and the view of the nearby mountains towering above from the bridge is, in a word, stunning. Tour leader David has visited Japan 16 times over the past decade. Having travelled all over Asia and worked in both Japan and South Korea for two years each, he realised that Japan was where he really wanted to be and has now made it his second home.



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Hidden Japan 12 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

KYOTO (2) – MOUNT KOYA (1) – TOKUSHIMA (1) –TAKAMATSU (2) – KOTOHIRA (2) – MATSUYAMA (1) – HIROSHIMA (2) – KYOTO (1) Are you looking for more depth of cultural insight, with experiences that take you away from the tourist trail? This tour gives you both, liberating you from the pressure of ticking off destinations or visiting “must-see” locations and steering you instead towards the road less travelled.

Tour highlights Spend the night in a traditional Buddhist temple lodging Glide to the top of Mount Bizan by cable car Watch a traditional wooden puppet show Visit Ritsurin, one of Japan’s most famous gardens Explore Naoshima “Art Island” with an expert local guide

Intrigued by the secrets of Hidden Japan?

Skipping Tokyo allows us more time to discover Japan’s intriguing south-central regions, which is why this tour begins and ends in Kyoto. Here you’ll get to know your group and meet a trainee geisha before we explore the temples and gardens that seem to lurk behind every sliding screen in this incredible city. Venturing across the Inland Sea to Shikoku, we’ll visit the island’s most famous shrine, Konpira-san, and stay in a wonderful ryokan inn in Kotohira. Mount Koya offers a stay overnight in a shukubo temple lodging, with a meal of vegetarian Buddhist cuisine and the chance to join the monks at their morning prayers. In Tokushima, meanwhile, we’ll ride the ropeway to the top of Mount Bizan and see a traditional bunraku puppet show.

Mt Fuji

Kyoto Takamatsu


What’s more, we’ll also visit Matsuyama, home to the oldest bathhouse in Japan and a magnificent original samurai castle; take a ferry to Hiroshima for a visit to the haunting Peace Park and the “floating” torii gate on Miyajima Island; and walk across breathtaking vine bridges in the fertile Iya Valley. Finally, on a day trip from Takamatsu, we’ll explore Naoshima Island’s Art House Projects with an expert local guide, with lunch at the Benesse House Museum included.

Fantastic, let’s confirm your place on this Small Group Tour. Book via our website booking system, visit your local travel agent or simply call us for full details including pricing, availability and departure dates.

Mount Koya

Kotohira Tokushima


In these little-frequented destinations your full-time tour leader will be worth his weight in gold, making sure the journey runs like clockwork and explaining the finer points of local custom in these fascinating and thoroughly worthwhile locations.

Shikoku udon noodles by William Kayne InsideJapan Tours’ tour leader William Kayne gives his thoughts on the all-important subject of noodles, which in some parts of Japan form as much of a staple in the diet as rice.

an art passed down through generations and requires a lot of skill. The proportion of ingredients required varies according to seasonal changes in climate, and even the quality of water can affect the final result.

“ The most important aspect of goodquality udon is texture – but even that is subjective. Some people prefer theirs harder, some prefer softer; some like them warm and some like them cold. Personally, “ It’s said that in Kotohira, each person I like my udon to be served hot and topped eats around 300 bowls of udon per year with an assortment of tempura – but I also – that’s almost a bowl every day! To make recommend trying it with BBQ braised the noodles you only need water, flour and chicken.” salt. It sounds simple, but making udon is “In Japan, there are two kinds of people: udon lovers and soba lovers. I have always been more of a soba person, but Shikoku udon made me reconsider my position.



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“ The tour has been an eye-opening experience for me. I was in awe of everything and being amid a totally different culture for two weeks has really left a long-lasting impact on me.” Rachel, Ipswich, UK




Winter Highlights 14 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

TOKYO (2) – TSURUI (1) – RAUSU (1) – ABASHIRI (1) – SAPPORO (3) – KYOTO (3) – YUDANAKA (2) – TOKYO (1)

Abashiri Rausu Tsurui Sapporo

Tour highlights

Enjoy a tour of one of Sapporo’s breweries Visit the famous onsen-bathing monkeys of Yudanaka

Meet an apprentice geisha in Kyoto

Do you feel the call of Hokkaido?

Japan in the winter is a magical destination, blanketed in snow and free from the crowds that throng the cultural hotspots in summer.

Take an icebreaker cruise on the Okhotsk Sea

Take a cruise down the Sumida River in Tokyo

© Tim Hutchin

From incredible snow sculptures and rare birds in Hokkaido to snow monkeys and cultural treasures on Honshu; this tour demonstrates the huge range of attractions of the winter season on Japan’s two largest islands. There’s nothing quite like sinking into a natural hot spring bath with snow falling all around you after a long day of sightseeing.

Hokkaido, Japan’s remote, northern outpost, is off the beaten track even for most Japanese. Here we’ll wander vast, windswept plains and wild peninsulas where still-smoking volcanoes provide the backdrop, with a litany of rare birds to be spotted. In Tsurui we’ll receive an introduction to Hokkaido’s avian residents including dancing tancho cranes accompanied by an expert birding guide, whilst in Rausu we’ll take an icebreaker cruise amongst the creaking floes of the Okhotsk Sea. With a bit of luck on our side, the cruise will bring us within range of magnificent Steller’s sea eagles, a fantastic opportunity for keen wildlife photographers.


“ Loved the Sapporo Snow Festival and the ice-breaker cruise. The Steller’s sea eagles were amazing.”

Tokyo Mt Fuji

Gillian, Edinburgh, UK

We run just one Winter Highlights Small Group Tour each February to catch the Sapporo Snow Festival, so make haste and confirm your place as soon as possible. Call us directly, visit your local travel agent or check our website for departure dates, pricing and availability.


Before returning to the mainland we’ll stop for three nights in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital to catch the famous snow festival, during which approximately 400 giant snow sculptures occupy the city’s spaces. Sapporo is famous for beer as well as snow, so in addition to enjoying the festival we’ll take a tour of one of the city’s breweries. Honshu is Japan’s main island and offers a very different experience from Hokkaido. In Tokyo we’ll take a cruise on the Sumida River and warm our hands around bowls of green tea at Hamarikyu Gardens, whilst in Kyoto we might be lucky enough to enjoy the enchanting sight of the Golden Pavilion wreathed in snow. We’ll also have a private audience with a maiko (trainee geisha), which is sure to be a memorable experience. Finally, one of the highlights of our tour comes in Yudanaka – where we’ll witness the Japanese macaques as they stave off the cold in the mountain hot springs.

Rausu ice breaker cruise by Richard Pearce “ You’ll need serious cold-weather gear as it can reach -20°C (-4°F) but it’s worth it to see magnificent Steller’s sea eagles hunting for fish amongst the drift ice. These are the heaviest eagles in the world, weighing from 11-20 pounds (5-9kg) on average and only “ If you love wildlife as much as I do, the found in the coastal regions of North-East Rausu icebreaker cruise is not to be missed. Asia. From Rausu we’ve also seen whiteThis is the lowest latitude on earth where tailed eagles, colourful harlequin ducks and the sea freezes over, creating a unique seals. Don’t forget your camera! ” environment that supports a fascinating array of wildlife.



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© Chris Stanley

Tour leader Richard, a nature lover at heart, has spent six years living in the glorious countryside of Tottori Prefecture on the Japan Sea Coast. He’s also a trained African safari guide and a keen birdwatcher.




Hands On Japan 14 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

TOKYO (3) – TOGARI NOZAWA ONSEN (2) – MATSUMOTO (2) – KYOTO (4) – TAKEFU (2) – TOKYO (1) From soba noodle-making classes to taiko drumming, from boat rides to pottery, and from traditional Japanese ryokan inns to a night in a capsule hotel – this tour is practically overflowing with unforgettable experiences. With your tour leader on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly, you’ll have the chance to mingle with Japanese people and really immerse yourself in this fascinating culture.

Tour highlights Try your hand at a variety of traditional Japanese crafts Explore the ukiyo-e woodblock print museum in Matsumoto Visit a traditional machiya townhouse for lunch in Kyoto See Zenko-ji Temple, one of Japan’s most important temples Take a cruise to the serene Hamarikyu Gardens in Tokyo

Ready for an action-packed cultural holiday?

Japan is famous for its rich traditional heritage, and this tour offers you a window into a wide variety of cultural institutions. In Tokyo we’ll attend a sumo tournament for a glimpse into a strictly regimented world that is much more spiritual than most outsiders realise.

The creative arts are well represented, and as we continue our adventure we’ll test our skills at pottery and roketsu cloth dyeing in Kyoto, traditional papermaking in Takefu and taiko drumming in Tokyo.

You can book on this Small Group Tour by speaking to one of our travel consultants, talking to your local travel agent or simply book via our website which also has full details including pricing, departure dates and availability.

Togari Nozawa Onsen

Matsumoto offers us the chance to climb to the top of the imposing “Black Crow” samurai castle, whilst in Kyoto we’ll try Japanese green tea and be entertained by a maiko (apprentice geisha).

Matsumoto Tokyo Mt Fuji

Takefu Kyoto

Enjoy superb natural scenery as we canoe through valleys and help farmers with their crops in Togari Nozawa Onsen, take a traditional yakatabune boat trip in Tokyo, and hike through the thousands of torii gates at Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine. Food is one of the highlights of any trip to Japan, and this tour is no different. Besides a range of superb included meals, from a breakfast of the freshest sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market to a kaiseki feast in Kyoto, we’ll also learn to make our own. In Takefu this means a soba noodle-making class, whilst at the Daio wasabi farm we’ll make traditional pickles and perhaps try a taste of wasabi ice cream! Even going to bed can be an exciting experience in Japan, and along with western hotels we’ll stay in traditional ryokan inns – with a night in a space pod-style capsule hotel to boot!

Taiko drumming by Mark Johnson Mark spent three years teaching English in rural Yamaguchi Prefecture, where he met his wife Rie. Although now based in our Bristol office, Mark gets back to Japan at least once a year for a tour leading stint. “ My favourite activity on Hands On Japan is the first one – taiko drumming in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. Led by professional drummers in their practice studio, it’s a real group bonding experience. Starting with a very simple don-doku don-doku rhythm



we learn where to strike the drum, slowly building up the speed. The instructor, or sensei, then has us weaving in opposite beats – doku-don doku-don – not to mention adding claps, spins, shouts and dance moves in between. By the end of the 45-minute session the tour group has a five-minute drumming routine down pat. It’s all teamwork and gives a great sense of achievement. We’re all sweating buckets by the time we finish! ”

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“ I thoroughly enjoyed my Hands On Japan tour and InsideJapan Tours provided me with experiences I could not get anywhere else.” Binh, CA, USA




Kyushu Elements 13 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

KYOTO (2) – NAGASAKI (2) – UNZEN (1) – KUMAMOTO (1) – MOUNT ASO (2) – KAGOSHIMA (2) – YAKUSHIMA (2) – KYOTO (1) The third biggest of Japan’s four main islands, Kyushu is a little-visited oasis filled with steaming volcanoes, bubbling hot springs, lush rainforests and sandy beaches. Not only is its countryside some of Japan’s finest, but Kyushu’s cities have plenty of cosmopolitan charm – without the crowds that Tokyo is famous for!

Tour highlights Take a full-day tour of Yakushima Island

For centuries, Kyushu Island was Japan’s only gateway to Asia and the rest of the world, leaving it with a legacy of European influence and architecture that lasts to this day. During this time, the only contact with the outside world was through Dejima – or “exit island” – where Portuguese and Dutch traders were permitted to operate.

Visit Dejima Island, remnant of Nagasaki’s cosmopolitan past

In Nagasaki we’ll visit Dejima and Glover Garden, home to the oldest westernstyle residence in Japan. In Kagoshima city we’ll spend a day with a private local guide and admire the volcano of Sakurajima from across the bay. Finally, in Kumamoto we’ll stop by the impressive Kumamoto Castle and perhaps pick up a “Kumamon” mascot as a souvenir!

Take in the views from the top of Kumamoto Castle Ride the cable car to Mount Aso’s steaming volcanic caldera Bask in hot spring baths at a traditional ryokan inn in Unzen

Kyushu’s cities harbour plenty of appeal, but it is in the lush countryside that this pocket of western Japan really comes into its own. In Unzen we’ll admire Mars-like landscapes swathed in clouds of volcanic gas and soak in wonderful hot spring baths, at Mount Aso we’ll catch a cable car up to a steaming volcanic caldera, and on Yakushima we’ll explore the primeval rainforests that inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece Princess Mononoke.

Enchanted by Kyushu Elements? To book your place on this Small Group Tour, please speak to one of our expert travel consultants, talk to your local travel agent or visit our website where you can find pricing, dates and availability. Mt Fuji


Unzen Kumamoto Mt Aso Nagasaki Kagoshima

Bookending our tour will be stays in Kyoto, the “City of Ten Thousand Temples”. Here, lush bamboo groves, golden temples, ancient palaces, hilltop shrines and a traditional geisha district are just some of the treasures in store.


Kyushu Elements is the perfect tour for those who want to discover Japanese culture in a stunning location away from the crowds.

Mount Aso caldera by Matthew Wilkinson Whilst studying Japanese at Kumamoto University, Matt took a course in volcanology, which led him to the Aso caldera. Matt is now a travel consultant in our Bristol office. “ Mount Aso is the most active volcano in Japan and one of the largest calderas in the world, measuring 15.5 miles (30km) in diameter. It was once one huge mountain until a series of eruptions 300,000 years ago caused the volcanic chamber to collapse. This created the donut-shaped depression you see today with a central crater that still bubbles away.



“ I’ve visited Mount Aso four times in four different seasons, even taking the cable car to the crater rim in knee-deep snow – the locals thought I was mad! But despite all my efforts I’ve never actually seen the crater pool as it’s often hidden in a field of clouds or billowing sulfurous gas. But you go to Aso for the scenery as much as the volcano; the wide rolling farmlands of the caldera are beautiful, great for walking or horse riding, and there’s fantastic hot spring bathing in and around Aso.”

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” The tour leader was great. He has a real passion for Japan, which I appreciated enormously.” Anne-Marie, Luins, Switzerland




Diving Japan 14 nights, Small Group Tour, Classic CLASSIC

” The underwater ruins are truly unique and getting so close to the mantas is amazing.”

TOKYO (2) – AKA (3) – ISHIGAKI (4) – YONAGUNI (4) – TOKYO (1)

Chris, dive instructor and leader of the Diving Japan tour

With its white beaches, subtropical climate and distinctive culture, Okinawa really is worlds apart from mainland Japan. This trip will introduce you to a remarkably rich but little-visited corner of the country whilst giving you the chance to dive in some of the best conditions in the world.

This very special tour of the Okinawa archipelago is led by a qualified Dive Master. Together we’ll visit some of the most beautiful and fascinating of Okinawa’s islands – from tiny Aka Island in the Kerama archipelago to stunning Ishigaki, jungle-clad Iriomote and finally Yonaguni – the remotest and leastdeveloped of all.

Tour highlights Participate in 21 exciting dives around the Okinawa Islands

Ready for the manta rays and hammerhead sharks? Are you an experienced diver? The minimum certification required to join this tour is “Open Water Diver” or equivalent; please contact us for more details. Included in the tour are 21 dives – you can bring your own scuba diving kit or pay locally to hire equipment.

Boasting magnificent coral reefs, visibility of up to 100 ft (30m) and kaleidoscopic marine life – from manta rays to hammerhead sharks and sea turtles – Okinawa has dive conditions to rival anywhere in the world.

Canoe through mangroves on Iriomote Island Swim with manta rays, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles and more Discover the distinctive culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom

Not only this, but during our time on Yonaguni we’ll dive at one of the ocean’s greatest mysteries: the Iseki stones. Thought by some to be a remnant of an unknown ancient civilisation, this would-be Atlantis will mystify you with its pillars, stairways, corridors and vast central plaza.

To secure your place on this Small Group Tour, please call us, speak to your local travel agent or visit our website for online booking and full details including pricing, availability and departure dates. Do also turn to page 102 for further Japan diving inspiration.

We’ll spend several days on each island where we’ll make up to three dives a day – giving us lots of opportunity to see the fantastic marine life, wrecks and ruins in the optimum conditions. Above water, despite a turbulent history of invasion and occupation, Okinawa’s distinctive domestic culture thrives. We’ll hear traditional sanshin music, witness eisa dancing and sample island cuisine – of which staples include Spam stirfry and the ubiquitous “bitter gourd” known as goya We’ll also relax on white sandy beaches, kayak through mangrove forests and trek through jungle to the top of spectacular waterfalls. Nothing could be more antithetical to the peace of Okinawa than Tokyo, where we’ll begin and end your trip. The perfect contrast to our island adventure!


© MirJah

Explore Japan’s very own Atlantis


Ishigaki Yonaguni

Diving with manta rays by James Mundy James spent four years living in mountainous Gunma prefecture and Tokyo, before joining InsideJapan Tours in 2005. James has been scuba diving all across Asia, but says nothing beats diving with manta rays for the first time. “ My dive buddy pointed over my shoulder, so I turned round, looked up and there they were. Eight manta rays swirling above me, each around four metres wide, like giant blankets billowing in the breeze.



“ We were diving off the coast of Ishigaki Island at Manta Scramble. It’s also known as the ‘cleaning station’: an area of coral reef, sub-tropical anemones and sea plants home to thousands of tiny feeder fish who gobble up parasites lurking in the skin and gills of the manta rays. It’s a reasonably easy dive, only 50 to 65 ft (15-20m) deep in water temperatures around 21°C (70°F), always with fantastic visibility. But on my next Japan trip I want to head back to Yonaguni to dive amongst the schools of hammerhead sharks.”

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Japan Unmasked 13 nights, Small Group Tour, Essential ESSENTIAL

TOKYO (2) – NAGANO (1) – MATSUMOTO (1) – TAKAYAMA (2) – KANAZAWA (1) – HIROSHIMA (2) – KURASHIKI (1) – KYOTO (2) – TOKYO (1) Are you looking for a tour with maximum flexibility? Japan Unmasked packs in a huge variety of destinations across Japan, with simple accommodation and fewer inclusions giving you the freedom to choose how you spend your time and money. Whether you see yourself slurping on a quick bowl of noodles or splurging on sushi, with your tour leader’s suggestions you’ll certainly make the most of your holiday.

Tour highlights Explore the old canal district of lovely Kurashiki

A chance for us to see the mischievous snow monkeys soaking in the natural hot spring pools of Yudanaka will be followed by a visit to the “Black Crow”, Matsumoto’s magnificent original samurai castle.

Stay in a Buddhist lodging at Nagano’s Zenko-ji Temple

Delving deeper in the mountains we’ll experience warm Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan inn in Takayama, where the old-town streets hide sake breweries, craft shops and morning markets loaded with fresh produce. Hiroshima

Ride the famous Shinkansen bullet train Explore the traditional craft town of Takayama Visit Matsumoto’s “Black Crow” samurai castle

Dreaming of Japan Unmasked?

The tour begins in Tokyo: the beating, neon heart of Japan. The first of many rides on the Shinkansen bullet train then whisks us into the Japanese Alps, where we’ll spend the night at a shukubo temple lodgings, try vegetarian Buddhist cuisine and search for the key to paradise in the pitch-dark tunnels underneath Zenko-ji – one of Japan’s most important temples. Kanazawa Takayama

Tokyo Matsumoto

Kyoto Kurashiki

Kyoto and Kanazawa offer a glimpse of traditional Japan – one a magnificent former capital with an astounding 17 World Heritage Sites, the other a small but beautifully preserved city with lamp-lit streets and one of the best gardens in Japan. Walking around the Gion district in Kyoto we might be lucky enough to spot a geisha in full regalia.

“ We had a fantastic trip. Japan Unmasked was a perfect introduction to Japan and we can’t wait to go back and explore some more!”

Further west we’ll visit Hiroshima, where the Peace Memorial Park offers a sobering reminder of Japan’s darkest hour. Though haunted by its past, Hiroshima today is a city teeming with life and optimism. We’ll be sure to try the region’s favourite savoury pancake: okonomiyaki. Finally we’ll visit Kurashiki – a real gem of a town that often goes unseen by foreign visitors but whose beautiful merchant canal district, wealth of excellent museums and cosmopolitan atmosphere make it well worth the trip.

We can make this dream a reality! To book this Small Group Tour, please call us directly or talk to your local travel agent. We’ll answer any questions and provide details of pricing, departure dates and availability which you can also find on our website.


Andrew & Stephanie, East Sussex, UK 11 Japan - origami crane

Kanazawa by Richard Farmer A deep interest in Buddhism brought tour leader Richard to Japan and he spent five years living in the garden city of Kanazawa. “ For a smallish town, Kanazawa has a great nightlife; tons of bars and restaurants. I recommend the seafood here, particularly the sushi – and if you want to splash out, the crab is fantastic. You must visit Kenrokuen Gardens and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art – they do a great buffet lunch at the museum’s restaurant, served on an artist’s



palette that you can pile with food as high as you like. “ But I didn’t only eat whilst I was in Kanazawa (honest!) – I also strengthened my appreciation of Buddhism, which I had studied at university. On Sundays I joined a Zazen meditation class at Daijo-ji Temple on the outskirts of Kanazawa. Visiting the temple complex at Eihei-ji in nearby Fukui Prefecture was another of my highlights.”

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Tokaido Trail 9 nights, Small Group Tour, Essential ESSENTIAL

TOKYO (2) – KAMAKURA (1) – HAKONE (2) – KYOTO (3) – TOKYO (1) Travelling with a modest budget and time constraints? For the best value Japan experience look no further than the Tokaido Trail. This tour proves that you can cover the classic “golden route” sights of Japan without breaking the bank or missing out on unforgettable cultural experiences. It is also the perfect building block with which to plan a longer trip.

Tour highlights Stay in a traditional ryokan inn with hot spring baths Take a walking tour of Kyoto’s traditional geisha district Explore hypermodern Tokyo and historical Kyoto Ride the famous Shinkansen bullet train Admire Kamakura’s giant Buddha and temple complexes

Fancy becoming a Tokaido Trailer?

Tokyo and Kyoto are Japan’s two great cities: one an international byword for modernity, the other, Japan’s ancient cultural heartland whose history goes back more than a millennium. This tour gives us ample time to explore both, with the opportunity to take a day trip from Kyoto at no extra cost using the included Japan Rail Pass. With this flexibility you might choose to visit Nara, another ancient capital of Japan; sample the irresistible street food in nearby Osaka; or even take the Shinkansen all the way to Hiroshima and its neighbour, the stunning island of Miyajima. Whichever experience you choose, your tour leader will help make sure your trip runs like clockwork.

Let us book you on this Small Group Tour. Please call us directly, inquire at your local travel agent or book via our website. You can also find the latest availability, pricing and departure dates on our website.

Tokyo Mt Fuji




In between Tokyo and Kyoto we’ll visit Kamakura on the eastern coast, a much smaller city where the famous giant Buddha makes a stupendous impression. We’ll also stop off for two nights in Hakone National Park, an example of the superb natural beauty to be found in Japan. In Hakone we’ll spend the night in a traditional ryokan inn, where the floors are matted with tatami and we’ll be served a delicious kaiseki meal made with fresh local produce. Japanesestyle accommodation is an experience in itself, and this is sure to be a highlight of our trip. Don’t miss the natural onsen hot spring baths, an integral part of Japanese culture and the perfect end to a day of sightseeing. Two nights in this beautiful area will give us plenty of time to explore, and if the weather is favourable we may be honoured with spectacular views of Mount Fuji.

“ It was a fantastic trip, from the beginning to the end. The group was a perfect size and the experience was memorable.” Marie-France, Ottawa, Canada



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Historic Mountain Trails 13 nights, Small Group Tour, Essential ESSENTIAL

TOKYO (2) – TSUMAGO (1) – KAMIKOCHI (3) – MATSUMOTO (1) – KYOTO (3) – HAKONE (2) – TOKYO (1) Watch the sun rise from the summit of Mount Fuji. Walk in the footsteps of samurai on trails that have survived for centuries. Sleep in hikers’ lodges amongst the craggy peaks of the Chubu Sangaku National Park. What better way to discover Japan’s beautiful landscapes than to pull on your hiking boots and get out into the wilds? With plenty of culture thrown in for good measure, this is a physically challenging tour with fantastic rewards.

Tour highlights

Looking for a mountain adventure?

On this hiking tour we’ll follow in the footsteps of samurai and pilgrims as we wind our way along the ancient Nakasendo Highway, cooling off under the glorious Metaki Otaki waterfalls. In the Chubu Sangaku National Park we’ll scale the towering, craggy peaks and stay in lodges high on Mount Hotaka.

Walk the ancient Nakasendo Highway

Most impressive of all, however, we’ll climb one of the most majestic peaks in the world: Mount Fuji. We run our tour to coincide with the Fuji climbing season, and as we reach the mountain hut at sundown we’ll marvel at the giant shadow that Fuji casts across the Kanto plain. Rising early, we’ll complete our final ascent in time to watch the sun rise from the summit.

Visit Kamikochi National Park in the Japanese Alps Watch the sun rise from the summit of Mount Fuji Tackle a challenging circuit hike at stunning Mount Hotaka Take a cycling tour of Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital

Though the focus of this trip is hiking, it wouldn’t be doing justice to this fascinating country without considerable culture interspersed throughout. In Tokyo we’ll find soaring peaks replaced with equally vertiginous architecture, and lush green forest supplanted by eye-popping neon.

Do you have experience of hill walking and excellent personal fitness? If it’s a yes, we’d love to have you onboard this summer’s Historic Mountain Trails Small Group Tour. Contact us directly, drop by your local travel agent or check our website for more details including dates, pricing and availability.

Tokyo Kamikochi





Glimpse Japan’s traditional side in Kyoto as we gaze on grand temples, explore markets packed with delicacies and perhaps even catch sight of a geisha as we walk through the woodpanelled streets of Gion. Even here we’re not too far from nature; Kyoto boasts some lovely forest trails and atmospheric bamboo groves.

For an in-depth experience of rural and urban Japan with an expert tour leader, Historic Mountain Trails can’t be beaten. Be prepared for tough hikes covering distances of up to 12 miles (19 km) with some scrambling. 01 Japan - Sushi Technical mountaineering experience is not a prerequisite, but good fitness and hill walking experience will help!

The Okuhotaka Summit by Steve Parker Steve first came to Japan in 1996 and spent six years working in education. After leaving to work as a tour leader in Cuba, Italy and Spain, he returned to Japan in 2011 and has been there ever since.

hands and feet. It’s a really exciting and very challenging trek, which is why I was so keen to include it on the itinerary for this tour.

“ It’s an intense experience and very hard work, but the feeling of “ I first climbed Hotaka-dake about achievement when you reach the 15 years ago, and since then have top and can look back at all the taken various groups to the summit. obstacles you faced laid out miles below you is just incredible. The On Historic Mountain Trails we views, of course, are absolutely do a great circuit hike, with some stunning, and the sense of beautiful river walking, rugged, camaraderie with the Japanese rocky terrain, snowfields (even in summer!) and some steep sections hikers you meet on the way just where you’ll have to scramble with adds to the experience.”



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“ The Historic Mountain Trails itinerary was fabulous. The Hotaka-dake climb was superb.” Janet & Gordon, Edmonton, Canada



Self-Guided Adventures

Ruth Hubbard Product Manager

“ When I travel, sometimes I just want to do things under my own steam. To take a breather from my busy life at home and at work and simply unwind. I love to explore new places at my own pace and make my own discoveries. Sometimes all I want to do is sit in a café and watch the world go by! But I also want to know that I’ll be staying in good accommodation in great locations and that I won’t have to worry about which train to take, or the best way to get from the airport to my hotel. “ You’ll get exactly that freedom, reassurance and an amazing experience to boot on one of our Self-Guided Adventures, which make it easy to explore Japan by yourself, without a group or a tour leader – but crucially, with support every step of the way. “ Before you travel, one of our expert travel consultants will work with you to select and book tried-and-tested accommodation, to organise and explain all your transport arrangements and to arrange exciting experiences and hands-on activities. And when you’re in Japan, our Nagoya office staff are just a phone call away to offer back-up advice and emergency support. “ If you are like me and love to travel independently, but with the help and inspiration to make it all happen, our Self-Guided Adventures are just the ticket for you.”



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C O N T E N T S Self-Guided Adventure concept

48 - 49

How to tailor your Self-Guided Adventure

50 - 51

Golden Route

52 - 53

Best of Japan

54 - 55

Traditional Japan

56 - 57

World Heritage

58 - 59

Pilgrim’s Paths

60 - 61

Secrets of Shikoku

62 - 63

Island Hopping

64 - 65

Northern Highlights

66 - 67

Kyushu Adventure

68 - 69

Hokkaido Fly-Drive

70 - 71

Japan Arts Trail

72 - 73

Gastronomic Adventure

74 - 75

Manga & Anime

76 - 77

Winter Bird Watching

78 - 79



Self-Guided Adventure concept

Self-Guided essentials Tailor-made itineraries Travel independently (not in a group or with a tour leader)

Fully tailored travel

Start on any day of the year and travel wherever you like in Japan Expert planning & on-the-ground support

A Self-Guided Adventure is a fully tailorable holiday experience. Your trip can start on any day of the year, giving you complete flexibility over itinerary, duration and budget. We’ll use our years of Japan travel experience to put together a bespoke Self-Guided Adventure exactly to suit your interests and wishes. No two people are the same, which is why every trip is different.

Detailed, personalised travel instructions Options for all tastes & budgets

Using this brochure In the next section of this brochure we highlight a selection of example Self-Guided Adventures to showcase the variety of trips we can offer. Some take in Japan’s classic sights, others focus on more remote islands and a handful of itineraries are based on themes – such as Japanese cuisine or pop culture. You may like to choose an itinerary and book it exactly as described in this brochure, but we expect that you’ll want to add experiences and make alterations to suit your personal preferences. Please speak to one of our travel consultants who’ll be happy to discuss your travel plans and start customising an itinerary for you.

Info-Pack Around a month before departure, we’ll send you a tailor-made Info-Pack containing detailed information pertaining to your itinerary. This will include: • Instructions for every journey including relevant train times • Accommodation addresses in English & Japanese • Directions and maps for each hotel

Transport With your Info-Pack to hand, you won’t have any problems getting around Japan by yourselves. These days train stations and bus terminals are well labelled in English. Japan’s public transport is also wonderfully efficient. If your Info-Pack says your train will arrive at 10.15am, you can be sure it’ll be there on the dot!

• Luggage forwarding information • Details of private guiding and any experiences booked

Private guiding

• Transport tickets, accommodation vouchers etc

Although you’ll be travelling by yourselves for most of your trip, we often include a day with a private guide in key destinations such as Tokyo and Kyoto. Local professional guides have a wealth of knowledge to share and will help you get to grips with Japanese culture and history, as well as providing a useful orientation in the big cities. We can include as little or as much private guiding as you’d like.

In addition you’ll receive maps, cultural tips and guides to each destination on your trip written by our Japan experts. Our destination guides are invaluable tools, packed with sightseeing advice and our top restaurant recommendations. You can download an electronic copy of your Info-Pack documents via our online client portal, giving you access to all the necessary information whilst you’re on the move.



International flights

Japan office At any point during your Japan trip, our Nagoya office (staffed by English speakers) is only a phone call away. You can call them for on-the-spot translations, sightseeing advice or to make restaurant recommendations. Should you need medical attention or if the weather disrupts your travel plans, use our 24-hour emergency hotline.

Pricing Because exchange rates change and hotel prices fluctuate, there are no prices printed in this brochure. Instead you can find guideline pricing for sample itineraries on our website: For an exact price, please speak to a travel consultant and we’ll put together a no-obligation, detailed proposal quote.

If you are travelling from the UK, we would be delighted to arrange flights for you. Do ask us for available flight routes and prices. Please also see page 132 for more information regarding flights and stopovers.

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How to tailor your Self-Guided Adventure

There are endless ways we can help you customise your Japan holiday. Here are just a few ideas to get you started: Add extra nights

Upgrade accommodation

Include experiences

Take in a special event

Weave in an extra day for shopping in Tokyo or add on an Okinawa beach break for a relaxing finale to your trip

Staying in moderate hotels throughout your trip? Why not splash out on a finalnight upgrade in a skyscraper hotel or go deluxe with a stay in a rural ryokan inn with a private hot spring bath?

Browse our Experiences & inspiration pages for ideas. A tea ceremony lesson, Kabuki tickets or a cooking class are just a few of the options available

Reorder your itinerary to catch a local festival or see a sumo tournament

Mix and match or chop and change itineraries – you can even invite us to design your trip from scratch. Whatever we have to do, we’ll create the perfect tailor-made holiday for you.

Thinking of booking it all yourself? You want your visit to Japan to be the trip of a lifetime – for all the right reasons. The web makes it possible to do your own research, read forums, make your own bookings – and some people enjoy doing all that work themselves. But, are you completely sure you’re not missing something? Leaving aspects of your dream trip to chance? What’s more – have you got the time to do all this? We hope our brochure will inspire you as much as exploring Japan has always inspired us. Many of the places we visit were found by truly getting beneath the surface of this fascinating country. We’ve done the groundwork so you don’t have to – and discovered Japan experiences you may not find yourself. That’s why we know which train to catch, where to eat the finest tempura and the very best geisha tour to take.



Of course you could spend hours trawling through TripAdvisor to locate the perfect ryokan inn, only to find it’s fully booked – or they email you back in Japanese – if they reply at all. Perhaps you’ll just chance it and book accommodation when you get there – but the Japanese never travel without reservations and in peak season you’ll find many popular destinations are genuinely sold out. And what if you get sick in Japan or an Icelandic volcano stops your plane from flying? If you love organising everything yourself, our service probably isn’t for you. But if all that guesswork is not your idea of fun, why make it hard for yourself? Let InsideJapan Tours take care of the arrangements – after all we’ve been doing this since 2000. We really know Japan. We’ll save you time and money and provide you with a seamless, unforgettable holiday experience.

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Golden Route 9 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – HAKONE (2) – KYOTO (3) – TOKYO (1)

Marvel at the spaceage skyscrapers of Tokyo Ride the worldfamous Shinkansen bullet train Bathe in a hot spring in the foothills of Mount Fuji Admire Kyoto’s World Heritage temples and shrines Experience Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan inn

Has the Golden Route caught your eye?

Your trip begins and ends in Tokyo, a city seemingly drawn straight from the pages of a science fiction novel. In between marvelling at the towering screens and space-age gadgetry of Akihabara’s “electric town”, you’ll discover Tokyo’s traditional heart as you glimpse a Shinto wedding at Meiji Shrine or take part in a traditional tea ceremony at the lakeside teahouse in Hamarikyu Gardens. Rocketing west on the bullet train at speeds of up to 186 mph (300kph), you’ll arrive in Kyoto. Not for nothing is it known as the “City of Ten Thousand Temples”, and whilst here you’ll have the chance to wander the bamboo groves of Arashiyama and visit famous sites such as the red gates of Fushimi Inari and the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji.

This is a Self-Guided Adventure that can start whenever suits you. For details and guideline pricing please visit our website, talk to your local travel agent or speak to one of our fantastic travel consultants. We can tailor the itinerary in any way you like to match your Japan wish list.

Tokyo Mt Fuji



“ Outstanding. Really detailed guidance and support – could not have done it alone!”

Kyoto is a fantastic base from which to make a day trip to nearby Osaka, the great Buddha of Nara, or Hiroshima and its beautiful neighbouring island of Miyajima. Thanks to your included Japan Rail Pass, you can make any of these trips at no extra cost. Connecting your city stays will be a visit to Hakone National Park, where you’ll be greeted by spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Here you’ll experience true Japanese hospitality as you hunker down at a traditional ryokan inn, tuck in to an elaborate kaiseki dinner and soak in a natural volcanic hot spring – all beneath the shadow of Japan’s most iconic landmark: Mount Fuji.

Jason, London, UK

© Everett Kennedy Brown

Trip highlights

Norman Blaikie

Imagine basking in a hot spring in the shadow of Mount Fuji, speeding across country at breakneck speeds on the bullet train, or marvelling at centuries-old temples in Japan’s former imperial capital. You’ll experience this and more as our Golden Route transports you from futuristic Tokyo to the historical capital of Kyoto via one of Japan’s most beautiful national parks.

Fushimi Inari Shrine by Ayako Kiyono A native of Osaka, Ayako is one of our professional guides. Her favourite city to work in is Kyoto, where she particularly loves taking people to Fushimi Inari Shrine. “ Fushimi Inari’s 10,000 torii gates are one of the most famous images of Japan. What the photographs don’t show you is that you can follow these gates along trails that snake through the forest all over Mount Inari. To hike through all of them would take about two to three hours – but thankfully there are shorter routes too! The views from the mountainside are lovely, and there are some



great traditional restaurants where you can stop for a breather on the way. “ The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and its signature red gates are donated by individuals and companies – costing from 400,000 to over one million yen per gate (£2,320–£5,800). “ I first visited Fushimi Inari twenty years ago and was struck by the beauty of its forest setting. It’s a very different experience to most other temples and shrines, and I would recommend visiting at any time of year.”

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Best of Japan 14 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – HAKONE (2) – KYOTO (3) – MIYAJIMA (2) – OSAKA (1) – TAKAYAMA (2) – TOKYO (1) Are you a first-time visitor to Japan and don’t know where to start? This could be the perfect itinerary for you, combining a broad sweep of some of the country’s most exciting and diverse destinations, from the glittering tumult of the cities to mountain craft towns, stunning national parks, ancient temples and a beautiful island on the Seto Inland Sea.

Trip highlights

Already dreaming of the Best of Japan?

Your trip begins in Tokyo: world-famous for its outrageous fashions, cacophonous karaoke booths and towering entertainment arcades. From here you’ll be swept westwards on the bullet train to Kyoto, ancient capital of Japan; indulge in Osakan street food in Dotonbori – known as “Japan’s kitchen”; and visit Hiroshima, a vibrant city with a haunting past.

Sample Osaka’s mouthwatering street food Explore the spectacular scenery of Hakone National Park Admire one of Japan’s most iconic views from Miyajima Island Explore a traditional craft town in the Japanese Alps Visit the haunting Peace Park Memorial in Hiroshima


Japan is not all glaring neon and skyscrapers, and between your city stays you’ll experience a more relaxed pace of life in Hakone National Park, on the island of Miyajima and in the alpine town of Takayama. In these stunning locations you’ll sleep on tatami-mat flooring at traditional ryokan inns, sample the local cuisine, soak in natural onsen hot spring baths and enjoy plenty of old-fashioned Japanese hospitality. The best way to experience Japanese culture is to get stuck in, and this itinerary is packed with exciting activities to help you get the most out of your trip.

You can book this Self-Guided Adventure exactly as described to start on any day of the year, or let our expert travel consultants tailor it to suit your travel style. Please check our website for guideline pricing and read on for hotel ideas and cultural experiences coming up later in this brochure.

Takayama Hakone Kyoto Osaka


Admire Mount Fuji from the deck of a pirate ship as you cruise across Lake Ashi and explore Hakone’s outdoor sculpture park. Visit Miyajima Island’s Itsukushima Shrine, whose “floating” torii gate across the bay provides one of the most iconic views in all Japan. Tour sake breweries and shop for traditional crafts at Takayama’s morning markets, surrounded by the vertiginous peaks of the Japanese Alps. With expert private guides in certain locations, included travel passes and plenty more optional activities on offer – this is sure to be a trip you’ll never forget!

“ The service provided by the guides in Tokyo and Kyoto exceeded our expectations, both being extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Those two days enhanced the trip to a much greater extent than we expected.” Jennifer & family, Hampshire, UK



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Traditional Japan 14 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – KANAZAWA (2) – SHIRAKAWAGO (1) – TAKAYAMA (2) – MATSUMOTO (1) – TSUMAGO (1) – KYOTO (3) – TOKYO (1)

Trip highlights Retrace the steps of samurai on the Nakasendo Highway Spend the night in a traditional alpine farmhouse Discover Kyoto: Japan’s ancient imperial capital Explore Matsumoto’s magnificent “Black Crow” castle Visit one of Japan’s top three landscape gardens in Kanazawa

© Norman Blaikie

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to climb the steps of a samurai castle, or live in a thatched farmhouse in the Japanese Alps? If so, our Traditional Japan itinerary could be for you. Steering you away from high-tech cities and tourist hotspots, this journey introduces a side of Japan preserved in time, from alpine villages to traditional ryokan inns.

You begin your journey in Tokyo: once a small fishing village called Edo; now a glittering metropolis and one of the largest cities in the world. From here, watch the skyscrapers melt away as you travel into rural Japan, where you’ll visit Matsumoto’s magnificent “Black Crow” castle and retrace the steps of the samurai as you walk the Nakasendo Highway to Tsumago in the beautiful Kiso Valley. Continuing your adventure you’ll journey high into the Japanese Alps, where you’ll stay in a steeply thatched “praying hands” farmhouse in the idyllic village of Shirakawago. Next, the craft town of Takayama, set amid alpine scenery, offers the chance to visit sake breweries before indulging in a dinner of succulent Hida beef.

Longing to explore Traditional Japan?






Tsumago Kyoto

“ What amazed us was the way you followed up on our wellbeing during our stay. I have a dietary problem and you went out of your way to help me.”

This is a Self-Guided Adventure, which means you’ll travel independently wherever you want, whenever you want. Visit our website for guideline pricing and call our expert travel consultants who’d love to tailor a detailed itinerary proposal for you.

Michele, Cape Town, South Africa

Descending from the mountains you’ll arrive in Kanazawa, where you’ll wander beautifully preserved, lantern-lit streets and visit the elegant gardens of Kenrokuen. Finally your journey brings you to Kyoto: the undisputed cultural centre of the country. There’s no better place to discover Japan’s traditional heart – and if you’re lucky you may even spot one of the city’s elusive geisha scurrying through the streets of the old Gion district. Included in your journey will be a mixture of traditional accommodation, each boasting onsen hot spring baths and outstanding local cuisine – one of the best ways to experience traditional Japan.

Gassho zukuri farmhouse stay in Shirakawago by John McMillen Travel consultant John first moved to Japan at the age of 11, when he spent four years living on military bases in Nagasaki and Yokohama. Later he would return to Japan to study in Tsukuba, and then to teach English in Fukui Prefecture for two years. “ Staying in a gassho zukuri farmhouse in Shirakawago is an experience you won’t find anywhere else. The distinctive wooden buildings, with their shoji paper sliding doors and central hearth, are just as they have been built in the Japanese Alps for hundreds of years. The facilities are very simple (it’s shared bathing, and you won’t be able to



charge your phone) – but this is what makes the experience so special, and is more than compensated for by the wonderfully warm welcome and fantastic alpine food prepared by your hosts. “ Take the time to wander around the village – especially in the evening when the streets are empty and the atmosphere is at its best. Most important of all, be sure to walk up the hill to look over the valley. The view over all the farmhouses, river and surrounding countryside is unbelievable – for me it really makes the whole experience.”

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© Tim Hutchin


World Heritage


17 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – NIKKO (2) – KYOTO (3) – MOUNT KOYA (2) – HIMEJI (1) – HIROSHIMA (2) – KANAZAWA (2) – SHIRAKAWAGO (1) – TOKYO (1) Discover Japan’s most important cultural and historical monuments as you visit the elaborate temples of Nikko, the haunting Peace Park at Hiroshima, and the incredible Himeji Castle – all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. During your adventure you’ll stay in some excellent traditional accommodations, including a thatched-roof farmhouse in alpine Shirakawago and a temple lodging on atmospheric Mount Koya.

Visit Himeji, Japan’s finest original samurai castle

Just a short journey from Tokyo lies Nikko, home to the mind-bogglingly intricate temple complex that serves as the final resting place of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu: one of the most important figures in Japanese history.

Explore the elaborate temples and shrines of Nikko

Mount Koya provides a link to another celebrated personage, the monk Kobo Daishi, who introduced Shingon Buddhism to Japan. Here you’ll stay in a shukubo temple lodging, eat vegetarian shojin ryori cuisine and watch as monks perform their solemn morning rites.

Test the “nightingale floor” at Kyoto’s Nijo Castle Take time to reflect at Hiroshima’s haunting Peace Park Spend the night in a traditional alpine farmhouse

Already imagining yourself amongst the World Heritage Sites of Japan?

Your adventure begins and ends in Tokyo, a beacon of modernity whose radical architecture and irrepressible pop culture provide a fascinating counterpoint to the rich historical monuments that are the inspiration for this itinerary.

The cities of Kyoto and Hiroshima harbour a diverse array of remarkable historical gems. In Hiroshima you’ll visit the atmospheric Peace Park, where the tragic events of 1945 come hauntingly alive. Kyoto is home to no less than 17 World Heritage Sites, from much-loved Kiyomizu-dera Temple to the “nightingale floor” of Nijo Castle, and offers the chance for a day trip to another World Heritage hotspot: the ancient capital of Nara. Shirakawago, a peaceful village amid the bucolic scenery of the Japanese Alps, offers a very different experience: a stay in a traditional thatched-roof farmhouse with an included meal of locally sourced cuisine. Finally, crowning your World Heritage trip is a visit to Himeji Castle. Recently renovated, Himeji is by far the largest and most spectacular of all Japan’s castles – there really is nothing else like it!

Nikko Kanazawa

Let our travel consultants plan this Self-Guided Adventure for you by speaking to us today. We can arrange the itinerary exactly as described or weave in extra nights, different destinations or more cultural experiences – whatever you’d like to create the dream holiday.



Mt Fuji

Kyoto Himeji Mount Koya Hiroshima

09 Japan - Chopsticks


Trip highlights

Okunoin Cemetery, Mount Koya by Halley Trujillo Travel consultant Halley lived in Osaka as a student, before becoming an English teacher in a tiny town called Kumono in Mie Prefecture. Her interest in ghosts and spirits drew her to Mount Koya’s Okunoin Cemetery. “With over 200,000 tombstones, Okunoin is the largest cemetery in Japan – and it is still expanding today. When my friends and I visited, we stayed overnight in a shukubo temple lodging. Worried that we wouldn’t get up in time for morning prayers, we decided to stay awake all night and visit Okunoin in the dark. As we crept amongst the graves by torchlight we were 58


surprised to come across elderly pilgrims paying their respects – they were very friendly and helped us decipher some of the inscriptions on the graves. As it turns out, quite a few famous names have made this their final resting place. “The next day we returned to the cemetery by daylight. The graveyard and surrounding forest were shrouded in the famous mist that often descends in the mornings, giving it a really spooky atmosphere. Although it was eerie, to me it really felt like a very peaceful place – I don’t think it is haunted by too many restless spirits!”

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“ We contacted the Nagoya office to arrange a last-minute change so we could have an extra night at the next hotel. They arranged this very quickly and it all went smoothly.” Victoria & Ashley, London, UK




Pilgrim’s Paths

Mount Koya and the Kumano Way

14 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – KYOTO (3) – MOUNT KOYA (2) – KAWAYU ONSEN (1) – YUNOMINE ONSEN (1) – KII-KATSUURA (1) – ISE (2) – TOKYO (1)

Trip highlights Stay in a Buddhist temple lodging on sacred Mount Koya Wander the ancient pilgrimage routes of the Kumano Kodo Visit the Great Shrine of Ise, Shinto’s most sacred site

© Kumano Travel

Follow in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims as you stay in a temple lodging on Mount Koya, visit Shinto’s most sacred shrine, and navigate dense forests of towering cedars on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes. This itinerary juxtaposes unspoilt nature with two of Japan’s most iconic cities, offering you an introduction to Japan’s rich spiritual history along the way.

Keen to follow in the footsteps of pilgrims?

The Kumano Kodo has been trodden by pilgrims from diverse religious and social backgrounds for over a millennium, linking the three great shrines of Hongu, Nachi and Hayatama. As you explore these time-honoured pathways you’ll visit all of these shrines as well as walking misty mountain passes, admiring the tallest waterfall in Japan, sleeping in traditional accommodation, soaking in some of the country’s finest natural hot springs and hiking through ancient forests on a section of the Daimonzaka cobblestone stairway. On sacred Mount Koya you’ll spend two nights at a shukubo temple lodging, where you’ll witness morning prayers, eat shojin ryori vegetarian cuisine prepared for you by monks and wander the vast and eerily atmospheric Okunoin graveyard – a truly unearthly experience.

Tokyo Mt Fuji

“ The moment a pilgrim went through the Japanese script prayer book with us at the temple we overnighted in, will stay with us forever.”

Kyoto Ise Mount Koya Yunomine Onsen Kawayu Onsen Kii Katsuura

After your exploration of the Kumano Kodo you’ll stay on a tiny,

Thomas & Sally, Leicester, UK

egdirB - napaJ 80forested island in Katsuura Bay before travelling by scenic coastal Finally, bookending your trip, stays in the great cities of Kyoto and Tokyo provide an arresting contrast to your rural exploration, with towering skyscrapers, glaring neon and clamorous crowds whisking you far away from the seclusion of the Kumano Kodo.

© Kumano Travel

Discover the great cities of Tokyo and Kyoto

train to the great shrines of Ise – Shinto’s most sacred site and the terminus for thousands of pilgrims every year.

© Sara Pretelli

Explore the eerily atmospheric Okunoin cemetery

We can make this Self-Guided Adventure a reality for you. Guideline pricing for these independent travel arrangements can be found on our website, or better still, talk to your local travel agent or call our fantastic team of travel consultants. We’ll create a bespoke itinerary that starts whenever suits you best.



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Secrets of Shikoku “ We had a fantastic trip to beautiful, rural Shikoku. Although everything was planned perfectly it still felt like an adventure. Canoeing down the Shimanto River with herons, cranes and hawks was one of the highlights.”

14 nights, Self-Guided Adventure KYOTO (3) – TAKAMATSU (2) – KOTOHIRA (1) – MATSUYAMA (1) – EKAWASAKI (2) – KOCHI (2) – IYA VALLEY (1) – TOKUSHIMA (1) – OSAKA (1) If you’re drawn to the mysteries of rural Japan, seek out the secrets of Shikoku: the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. A world apart from the crowded pavements and neon-spangled skyscrapers of the big cities; this itinerary promises stunning natural beauty, from hidden valleys and untouched rivers to mountains and jagged coastlines.

Trip highlights Explore original samurai castles in Kochi and Matsuyama Visit one of the most celebrated historical gardens in Japan Canoe down the Shimanto-gawa River Cross the vine bridges of the secluded Iya Valley Soak in the waters of the oldest bathhouse in Japan

Elizabeth, Newcastle, UK

Has rural Shikoku Island captured your heart?

Your adventure starts in traditional Kyoto and ends in vibrant Osaka, taking you on a fascinating journey from Japan’s former imperial capital of over a thousand years to its fun-loving, laid-back neighbour. These cities really showcase the variety that can be found in Japan’s metropolitan centres. Leaving Japan’s main island, your adventure begins in earnest as you step off the well-worn tourist trail and onto Shikoku Island. Follow the steep pilgrimage route up 1,368 stone steps to Kotohira’s famous shrine, Konpira-san, cross heart-stopping vine bridges in the verdant Iya Valley and explore original samurai castles in Kochi and Matsuyama. Enjoy lush green forests, canoe down the Shimanto-gawa River and eat kaiseki cuisine in countryside inns – this is a region overflowing with natural beauty and remarkable cultural experiences. A visit to Ritsurin Garden, one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan, will undoubtedly be a highlight of your visit to Takamatsu – and a day trip to nearby Naoshima “Art Island” is also included. Then, as you move on to the city of Matsuyama, you’ll have the chance to soak in hot spring waters frequented by the Imperial family at Dogo Onsen: Japan’s oldest bathhouse.

The journey described is a Self-Guided Adventure, which means you’ll travel independently around Japan. It also means our team can tailor the arrangements exactly to suit you. Visit our website for guideline pricing and more ideas, or speak to our Shikoku experts today.

Mt Fuji

Kyoto Osaka Takamatsu Tokushima



Iya Valley Kochi Ekawasaki

04 Japan - Bamboo

We always include a range of evening meals to make your trip a culinary treat, and along the way this itinerary introduces you to a variety of regional specialties such as bonito and red snapper. You’ll even have the opportunity to take a lesson in udon noodle-making with an expert chef.

Dogo Onsen by Matt Spiller Agent sales manager Matt Spiller spent three years teaching English in Hagi before joining InsideJapan in 2009. He recalls a trip to Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama.

a labyrinth of wooden corridors and stairways leading to various stone baths, bustling with visitors wearing cotton yukata robes – it’s easy to see why it provided the inspiration for Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece Spirited Away.

“No visitor to Matsuyama should miss a dip in the hot springs of Dogo Onsen – “Over the years the Emperor has been preferably at night when the lantern-lit main building is at its most atmospheric. an occasional visitor to Dogo Onsen. In fact there is a special bath reserved “It’s impossible not to feel an imposing exclusively for him. You can pay a small sense of history here. This is the oldest fee to see the bath – assuming the bathhouse in Japan – a three-storey Emperor is not in residence! For more wooden building constructed in 1894 ordinary visitors like you and me, there in the elaborate architectural style of are two sets of basic stone baths to the Meiji Period, like a small castle in enjoy.” the middle of the city. Inside you’ll find



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Island Hopping 12 nights, Self-Guided Adventure

Tour highlights Spend the day with a private guide in Tokyo Kayak through mangroves on Iriomote Island Take a ride in a water buffalo-drawn cart on tiny Taketomi Trek through jungle to the top of Pinaisara Waterfall Enjoy the white sand beaches of the Kerama Islands

Wherever you head in the Okinawa Islands you’ll find your surroundings rich not only in natural beauty but in Ryukyuan culture – the legacy of an independent kingdom that thrived as a trading nation for hundreds of years before it became part of Japan.

© Hirata Kanko

With white sandy beaches, iridescent seas and dense jungles of mangroves filled with rare wildlife – Okinawa is a true island paradise. Whisking you south to Japan’s only subtropical prefecture, this itinerary gives you the chance to explore the unique culture and natural beauty of the archipelago sometimes known as “Japan’s Hawaii”.

© Hirata Kanko


Already dreaming of clear blue water, gorgeous beaches and relaxed island life?


Your first stop on this Island Hopping adventure is Ishigaki, where you can snorkel and dive with manta rays and admire Kabira Bay: one of Japan’s most picturesque beaches. From Ishigaki you’ll catch a short ferry to tiny Taketomi Island, where you’ll explore traditional red-tiled Ryukyu villages by water buffalo-drawn cart.

“ Our stay on Ishigaki was lovely – a quiet, idyllic spot to relax before heading home.”

The dense jungle of Iriomote Island is your next port of call, where a day of kayaking through mangroves and trekking to the top of waterfalls will introduce you to the outstanding natural beauty to be found in Japan’s southernmost islands. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the elusive Iriomote wildcat!

Steve & Sarah, Ipswich, UK

We don’t blame you! Speak to one of our Japan travel consultants about this Self-Guided Adventure or visit our website for guideline pricing. You could combine cultural sightseeing on Japan’s main islands with a shorter beach break if you’d prefer – just one of the many ways we’ll create a bespoke travel plan to suit you.

Flying back to Okinawa main island you’ll make a brief stop in the prefectural capital: Naha. This vibrant urban centre is certainly an interesting contrast to deserted Iriomote, with its characteristic mélange of ice cream shops, American diners, traditional Okinawan Naha restaurants and outrageously tacky souvenir shops jostling for Zamami space all along the main street. Finally you’ll end your trip with a stop on in the Kerama Islands. These islands offer the quintessential tropical Irimote Ishigaki paradise, and if you visit between January and April Taketomi you may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales.

As a Communications Officer in the US Marine Corps, John was stationed in Japan for three years. Half that time was spent on Okinawa main island, the other half in Shizuoka Prefecture. He now works as a travel consultant in our Boulder office. “ Anyone who makes the trip to Okinawa will be struck by the many little differences between mainland and Okinawan culture. In everything from music to food – the influence of Okinawa’s unique history is evident. “ One of the most notable quirks is the ubiquitous shisa statue. Often appearing in pairs, flanking the entrances to homes and



businesses, the shisa are guardians - one closed-mouthed to hold the good spirits in, and one open-mouthed to ward off the evil. In all my time in Okinawa, I scarcely passed a doorway that was unguarded by a pair of shisa, and it became a comforting and familiar sight after a time.

© Hirata Kanko

The Okinawan shisa by John Kane

“ Shisa folklore varies across the islands, but the sense of guardians and protectors is the common thread - often sealing sacred sites and protecting villages from the influence of a powerful, mythical force. When you are in Okinawa, do make time to seek out these celebrated characters.”

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Northern Highlights 14 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – NIKKO (3) – SENDAI (2) – NYUTO ONSEN (1) – KAKUNODATE (1) – MOUNT HAGURO (1) – SADO ISLAND (2) – TOKYO (1) Venture north and discover a rich and enchanting side of Japan that most visitors never get to see in Japan’s Tohoku region; a vast, wild tract of land stretching 500 miles (800 km) to the north of the capital. In stark contrast to the burnished skyscrapers of Tokyo, this untamed region boasts outstanding natural beauty and well-preserved history – a reminder that traditional ways are still alive and well in Japan.

Nyuto Onsen Kakunodate

Trip highlights Wander the preserved samurai district of Kakunodate Have a lesson in taiko drumming on Sado Island Sample Buddhist cuisine at a shukubo temple lodging Take in one of Japan’s most beautiful views at Matsushima Bay Admire Japan’s most elaborate religious architecture in Nikko

As soon as you start heading north from Tokyo into the Tohoku region you begin leaving the crowds behind. This northern half of Japan’s main island is considered “the back of beyond” even amongst Japanese – a region where the pace of life is slower, the culture richer and the hospitality warmer than in the highly populated south. This itinerary will take you deep into the mountains and along the wild coasts of this beautiful part of Japan, introducing you to the samurai district of Kakunodate and the mountaintop temples of Haguro along the way.

Mount Haguro


Excited to venture to Japan’s Tohoku region?

Sado Island Nikko Tokyo Mt Fuji

From the ornate temples and shrines of Nikko National Park to the rugged seascapes and unique culture of remote Sado Island; from an atmospheric overnight stay at a pilgrims’ lodging to the rustic buildings of Nyuto Onsen; these are some of Japan’s finest rural destinations.

“ We encourage people to visit Nikko and Sendai where we received a very warm welcome. We also saw some fantastic temples in Hiraizumi and Matsushima.”

Drop into your local travel agent or call us today and we’ll create a detailed itinerary proposal for this Self-Guided Adventure starting whenever you like. Book Northern Highlights exactly as described or discuss your Japan travel wish list with us so we can tailor the plans just for you.

Anne & Michael, West Yorkshire, UK

Though primarily focused on small, traditional communities, this itinerary also includes city stays in Sendai and Tokyo, enabling you to experience the striking contrasts between life in the Japanese countryside and life in some of the world’s largest metropolises. From Sendai you’ll visit the cliff-clinging temple complex of Yamadera, and Matsushima Bay – a scenic spread of islets considered to be one of the best three views in Japan.

Yamadera day trip by Ali Muskett Bristol-based travel consultant Ali spent three years teaching English in Nagoya and Hamamatsu. On a recent trip back to Japan, her exploration of the Tohoku region took on her on day trip from Sendai to the temple complex of Yamadera. “ Taking a rinky-dink train from Sendai, I pressed my nose to the window absorbing scenes of rural Japan. I was following in the footsteps of the master poet Matsuo Basho who journeyed through the region in the late 1600s, stopping to encapsulate the tranquillity of Yamadera in a haiku.



“ Literally meaning ‘mountain temple’, Yamadera is made up of dozens of little shrines and temples clinging to the hillside and connected by 1,000 stone steps. Even for a non-hiker like me, it’s a manageable climb to the top. I took lots of breaks to admire the view, chatting to fellow climbers, and rewarded my efforts with a bowl of soba noodles. “ Yamadera is a beautifully preserved place, spectacular in the autumn colours. For once the cliché is true: this is forgotten Japan.”

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Kyushu Adventure 14 nights, Self-Guided Adventure FUKUOKA (2) – NAGASAKI (2) – UNZEN (1) – KUMAMOTO (1) – KUROKAWA ONSEN (2) – KAGOSHIMA (2) – YAKUSHIMA (3) – FUKUOKA (1) Stand in the shade of a thousand-year-old Japanese cedar, visit a Bond villain’s lair on an abandoned island and investigate a volcanic caldera lake on this spectacular exploration of Japan’s rural southwestern region. If you’re an adventurous traveller who wants to discover a side of Japan rarely seen by outsiders, this itinerary is the one for you.

Trip highlights Investigate a volcanic caldera lake on Mount Aso Trek to Jomon Sugi, the oldest tree on Yakushima Take a tour of Gunkanjima “ghost island” Visit the beautiful Suizenji Garden in Kumamoto Experience life in the vibrant cities of Japan’s southwest

Ready for a Kyushu Adventure?

Kyushu is the third-biggest of Japan’s four main islands, lying to the southwest of the country. Kyushu’s cities are excellent proof that there is plenty of outstanding scenery, history and local cuisine to be found outside their famous cousins on Japan’s main island. This is why your adventure will begin in the exciting hub of Fukuoka, not Tokyo, allowing you time to see more of this little-visited region. After fun-loving Fukuoka you’ll visit Kumamoto – home of the ever-popular “Kumamon” mascot, stunning Suizenji Garden and Kumamoto Castle.

Mt Fuji

Nagasaki, infamous as the second location to be hit by an atomic bomb during World War Two, is now a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. During Japan’s long period of isolation it was the only port open to foreign trade, a fact that is still evident in the distinctly European atmosphere and architecture at Glover Gardens and Dejima “Exit Island”.

“ Bathing alone in the open air looking over the caldera towards the smoking volcano is a fantastic memory to take away from Japan.”

Whilst here you’ll take a cruise to the tiny island of Gunkanjima, or Fukuoka “Battleship Island”. Once a densely-populated coal mine; now a Unzen Kurokawa Onsen haunting and dilapidated ghost town – this fascinating island served as the inspiration for the villain’s lair in the 2012 James Nagasaki Kumamoto Bond film Skyfall. Woven between these city stays you’ll be introduced to lush countryside – from the ancient forests of Yakushima Island, the inspiration for Miyazaki’s seminal animated film Princess Mononoke, to the wonderfully evocative traditional hot spring town of Kurokawa Onsen in the shadow of the still-steaming Aso volcano.

This Self-Guided Adventure can start on any day of the year. As you’ll be travelling independently our wonderful travel consultants can tailor this itinerary to suit you. Why not explore Tokyo first, then fly down to Kyushu? Upgrade the ryokan stays or spend longer on Yakushima?

Claire, Somerset, UK



Loggerheadturtles turtleson onYakushima Yakushimaby byVivienne VivienneBoyack Boyack Loggerhead “ My friends and I were there in July, just in time to see the Loggerhead sea turtles – an endangered species which the islanders are working hard to protect. After several hours’ waiting in the torchlight, the conservation guide called us forward in small groups to “ Yakushima is a mecca for wildlife. As see the turtles crawling up the beach to lay we hiked through the cedar forests, deer their eggs in the sand; a magical experience. appeared from nowhere and monkeys swung I’d love to go back at the end of the summer in the trees above us. to see the infant turtles hatching.” Before joining InsideJapan Tours, Vivienne spent two years living in southern Kyushu. The highlight of her time in Japan was a weekend trip to Yakushima Island to see Loggerhead turtles laying their eggs.



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Hokkaido Fly-Drive 15 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (2) – HAKODATE (1) – TOYA ONSEN (2) – SAPPORO (2) – BIEI (3) – LAKE KUSSHARO (2) – TSURUI (2) – TOKYO (1) Imagine driving for miles through a patchwork of vibrant red poppy fields and vast swathes of lavender with a still-smoking volcano as your backdrop. If you have a thirst for adventure and love to travel under your own steam, our Hokkaido Fly-Drive itinerary is the perfect motoring getaway – offering an alternative vision of Japan away from the crush and clamour of the mainland.

Trip highlights Visit Hokkaido, the ancestral home of the Ainu people Drive across the patchwork plains of Biei

Lake Kussharo Biei


Sapporo Toya Onsen Hakodate

Dreaming of Hokkaido’s open roads?

For centuries Hokkaido (or Ezochi as it was formerly known) was almost entirely separate from mainland Japan – home only to the indigenous Ainu people, who have a language and rich culture completely distinct from that of the Japanese. After beginning your trip in teeming Tokyo you’ll fly north to Hakodate, where you’ll be greeted by a spectacular night-time panorama of the city from the nearby mountain.

This Self-Guided Adventure works best in summer when all the roads are open and the scenery’s at its best. For guideline pricing please visit our website, or better yet, talk to our Hokkaido experts who can tailor a driving itinerary to suit you.

Tokyo Mt Fuji

The still-smoking Showa Shinzan volcano provides a dramatic backdrop as you drive from Hakodate to the hot spring resort of Toya Onsen, then on to Sapporo – Hokkaido’s cosmopolitan capital city and home to the country’s finest beer and delicious, buttery ramen noodles.

Sample Japanese beer and buttery ramen noodles in Sapporo Contemplate the mistblanketed lakes in east Hokkaido

In the wilds of central Hokkaido trek through dense forests, conquer one of the 16 volcanic peaks, and admire the 15 mile (24 km) Sounkyo gorge before gazing over rolling meadows and vast patchwork plains in Daisetsuzan National Park. Next continue eastwards, watching the population dwindle as you reach the mist-blanketed lakes by Kawayu Onsen and finally arrive in Tsurui – home to the rare and beautiful red-crowned crane. With a rental car at your disposal and vast, sweeping scenery from coast to coast, this itinerary promises to introduce you to a remote yet captivating area of Japan quite unlike any other region.


Enjoy the night-time panorama from atop Mount Hakodate

Driving in Hokkaido by Tom Weston After spending two years in Tohoku, the northernmost region of Japan’s main island, InsideJapan’s Tom decided to visit Hokkaido after friends enthused about its wide, open spaces and stunning scenery.

“ All across Hokkaido you’ll find amazing hot springs in the middle of nowhere, long coastal drives and even rolling hills reminiscent of Europe – but my favourite destination is the far east of the island. This area is so rugged and remote that it doesn’t even feel like Japan – except



for the occasional reassuring roadside vending machine to remind you that you’re still part of civilisation. “ By car is really the only practical way to explore Hokkaido – at least if you want to visit the beautiful outlying places that trains can’t get to. Luckily Hokkaido’s open and unpopulated plains make for exceptionally easy driving.”

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“ InsideJapan’s recommendations to drive in Eastern Hokkaido (rather than use railways) and to stay in different towns (rather than stay put in one place for six nights) were well-made.” Milind, Leeds, UK




Japan Arts Trail 15 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – HAKONE (2) – NAGOYA (2) – KYOTO (3) – MATSUE (2) – NAOSHIMA (2) – TOKYO (1) Ponder Picasso in Hakone, explore the ground-breaking art projects on Naoshima Island, study ukiyo-e woodblock prints in Tokyo’s National Museum and ruminate over Tokugawa treasures in Nagoya. Japan boasts a huge selection of international and indigenous art, and this itinerary promises to captivate you with an incredible range of museums and galleries throughout the country.

Trip highlights Trace the history of Japanese art in Tokyo and Nagoya Visit small galleries and artisan workshops in Kyoto Marvel at the Zeninspired gardens at the Adachi Museum Stay on Naoshima “Art Island” on the Seto Inland Sea Explore Hakone’s excellent open-air sculpture park

Inspired by Japan’s world-class art scene?

For centuries Japan has placed the utmost value on the visual aesthetic, leaving it with a rich artistic heritage that is renowned the world over. This itinerary will take you on a journey through the ages of Japanese art: from Asuka Period (538–710) pottery and traditional nihonga paintings at Tokyo’s National Museum to the towering contemporary behemoth that is the Mori Art Gallery. Nagoya’s Tokugawa Art Museum will introduce you to the finest arts of the Shogun Era (1603–1868), whilst the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Art presents some of the world’s best contemporary masterpieces – an opportunity to immerse yourself in a very different artistic lineage. Kyoto offers the chance to combine ancient temples and shrines with a number of visits to small galleries and artisan workshops. In Hakone National Park you’ll relax in hot springs and explore the outstanding outdoor sculpture park beneath the watchful eye of Mount Fuji, whilst in Matsue the Zen-inspired gardens at the venerable Adachi Museum are an artwork in themselves.

You can book this Self-Guided Adventure exactly as described on these pages, or ask our travel consultants to tailor it to match your Japan wishlist. Guideline pricing can be found on our website or call our travel consultants to find out more.

Tokyo Mt Fuji

Nagoya Matsue




Each of the destinations on this itinerary offers a superb introduction to aspects of traditional and contemporary Japanese art – but the highlight of this trip has to be Naoshima, a tiny island on the Seto Inland Sea that has garnered a worldwide reputation for its innovative approach to art.

Niki de Saint Phalle Le Banc Photo: Osamu Watanabe

11 Japan - origami crane

“ Although I enjoyed every bit of our itinerary, I must admit I really loved Naoshima. The hotel was fabulous and exploring all the art projects was fascinating.”

Naoshima “Art Island” by Cate Füchter Travel consultant Cate spent a year illuminated solely by skylights living in Okayama. She remembers so the colours seem to change a weekend trip to Naoshima Island. hour by hour, whilst the Art House Project of Honmura Port “ What’s not to love about is installed in wooden merchant Naoshima? Here you don’t just houses, a time-worn shrine and a look at art, but experience it 200 year-old house. I also loved juxtaposed against the backdrop the I Love YU bathhouse (a riot of a rural fishing island. of kitsch) and the iconic yellow pumpkin sculpture by the sea.” “ At the Chichu Art Museum,

Michelle, London, UK

Monet’s famous Water Lilies are



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Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin Photo: Shigeo Anzai




Gastronomic Adventure 13 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – MATSUMOTO (1) – TAKAYAMA (2) – KANAZAWA (1) – KYOTO (3) – MOUNT KOYA (1) – OSAKA (1) – TOKYO (1) If you’ve ever fancied tempura in Tokyo, ogled okonomiyaki in Osaka, yearned for miso in Matsumoto or craved kushikatsu in Kyoto – it’s time to indulge in the ultimate cultural and culinary journey. From the freshest sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market to izakaya pubs and outrageous themed restaurants, our Gastronomic Adventure will tickle your taste buds and leave you hungry for more!

Trip highlights Dine like a salaryman at a traditional izakaya Indulge in succulent Hida beef in alpine Takayama

With tens of thousands of restaurants and more Michelin stars than Paris, Tokyo is a foodie’s dream and the perfect place to begin your trip. An evening in an izakaya (traditional Japanese pub), drinking and eating elbow to elbow with the city’s salarymen provides a superb introduction to Tokyo social life before you head out of the concrete jungle and into the mountains. Here, beneath the imposing shadow of Matsumoto’s “Black Crow” castle, you’ll sample delicate soba buckwheat noodles and perhaps even basashi – raw horse! The alpine craft town of Takayama offers more culinary delights, where the specialties include leaf-cooked hoba-miso and melt-in-the-mouth Hida beef. Next, coastal Kanazawa promises the freshest of seafood amongst traditional lamp-lit streets, whilst the cultural capital of Kyoto demonstrates its very own culinary art: elaborate kaiseki cuisine.

Sample Buddhist cuisine on Mount Koya Take a street food tour of Osaka, famous as “Japan’s kitchen” Enjoy Kyoto’s finest tempura

Already feeling hungry?

Kanazawa Matsumoto Takayama Mt Fuji

This is a Self-Guided Adventure and we can book it for you exactly as described in this brochure. Visit our website for guideline pricing, speak to your local travel agent or call us today. Alternatively we can create a bespoke foodie itinerary to suit you – or weave culinary experiences into any Japan holiday.


Kyoto Osaka Mount Koya

Spending the night at a temple on atmospheric Koya, deep in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, is sure to be a highlight of your stay. Here you’ll sample traditional temple fare – a vegetarian feast known as shojin ryori – and witness Buddhist morning prayers. You’ll be tucking into a very different food experience when you head to the hubbub of Osaka’s Dotonbori district, however, as you are introduced to some of the local favourites – such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancake). Not for nothing is this area known as “Japan’s kitchen”! 01 Japan - Sushi

Izakaya by Akiko Imaizumi “ Whether you just want to stop in for a quick bite or take your time over a few beers, visiting an izakaya is a great way to get a feeling for what life is really like in Japan – and to see that we don’t just eat sushi and noodles! Thanks to the casual “ An izakaya is often described as the atmosphere, you may get the chance Japanese version of a British pub, but to chat to staff and other customers, the atmosphere and experience are and there are often picture menus actually quite different. For example, so it’s easy to choose what you want izakaya have a much wider selection to eat. I usually go for edamame soy of food served in small portions, so beans, gyoza dumplings and a lemon it’s the perfect opportunity to try or grapefruit chu-hai - an alcoholic something adventurous like deep cocktail made with the Japanese fried chicken cartilage or natto spirit shochu.” (fermented beans). Akiko is part of our Nagoya office operations team. She has travelled all over the world – including six months living in Canada and two years in Australia. Like most Japanese, she is a big fan of izakaya.



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“ The food was excellent. I am a big fan of Japanese cuisine, and all the food I tried, expensive and inexpensive, was great. I particularly enjoyed the food at the ryokan.” Olga, Athens, Greece




Manga & Anime 10 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – KYOTO (3) – OSAKA (2) – TOKYO (2)

© Sara Pretelli

When you think of Japan today, the chances are that Pikachu and maid cafés are just as likely to spring to mind as Zen gardens and geisha. Our Manga & Anime itinerary provides you with an insight into the kaleidoscopic world of Japanese pop culture – from Akihabara “electric town” to Studio Ghibli and everything in between.

Trip highlights Pay homage to anime legends at the Studio Ghibli Museum Mingle with otaku as you lunch at an Akihabara maid café Visit samurai movie sets in Kyoto See the giant Gundam Wing statue at Odaiba Wander amongst Ferris wheels and animatronic crabs in Osaka

Obsessed with Japanese manga?

Tokyo is the pop culture hub of Japan, so it’s only fitting that you’ll begin and end your trip here in the capital. With a Tokyo guide for a day you’ll stand in the shadow of a Gundam Wing Suit, mingle with otaku in towering department stores, play master of the house at a maid café in Akihabara “electric town”, and visit the magical Studio Ghibli Museum where you’ll wander through the imagination of Japan’s greatest animator. In Kyoto you’ll find the International Manga Museum rubbing shoulders with ancient temples and age-old shrines – the perfect juxtaposition of distinguished tradition and vibrant modernity. Don’t miss the Toei Movie Park, where you can dress as a geisha, samurai or ninja and explore authentic Japanese film sets.

Tokyo Mt Fuji

Kyoto Osaka

In Osaka, meanwhile, you’ll be catapulted back into the tumult of one of Japan’s most exciting cities as you wander beneath the giant animatronic crabs, Ferris wheels and the looming neon “Glico running man” of the Dotonbori district. We recommend visiting the city’s outstanding aquarium, or perhaps even a day at Universal Studios. Whilst in Osaka, you could also make a half day trip to Takarazuka, where the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum commemorates the creator of the famous Astro Boy comics.

“ Meeting my idol RinRin Doll, getting my nails done, getting a tattoo, my tours in Tokyo and Kyoto, visiting shrines and temples, my tea ceremony, my kimono fitting – it was all magical!”

So are we! Speak to one of our in-house otaku (geeks) who’d love to arrange this Self-Guided Adventure to start whenever suits you. For guideline pricing please visit our website, but we can tailor the travel arrangements to meet (almost) any budget. For more inspiration do see the Pop Culture pages later in this brochure.

Dametria, Chicago, USA

Manga by Nanao Carey



Boulder office assistant Nanao grew up in Kamakura. She discovered manga at the age of seven, and she still hasn’t stopped – although with a collection of “only 500” manga, she feels she cannot call herself a “big fan” just yet.

it’s ancient Egypt, central Asia, the French Revolution or 19th- century England. Another difference is that American comics are usually about a clash between good and evil, whilst Japanese manga are much less clear-cut.

“ My first Japanese manga was about an American girl who travelled back in time to ancient Egypt – I was immediately hooked. This is a great illustration of the differences between Japanese and American comic books: whereas American comics are generally set in America, Japanese manga take you all over the world – whether

“ Manga is enjoyed by people of all ages in Japan, and my current favourite, Attack on Titan, is something of a social phenomenon – popular with readers from elementary school students to businessmen in their fifties. You should download some manga to read on your tablet – it’s perfect light reading for the plane! ”

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Winter Bird Watching 10 nights, Self-Guided Adventure TOKYO (3) – TSURUI (2) – RAUSU (2) – NEMURO (1) – KUSHIRO (1) – TOKYO (1)

Rausu Nemuro Tsurui Kushiro

Trip highlights Spot waterfowl and reed birds just a short hop from Tokyo Watch the mating dance of the redcrowned cranes See Steller’s sea eagles on the ice floes of the Okhotsk Sea Stay in traditional Japanese accommodation Soak in Hokkaido’s superb natural hot spring baths

© Tim Hutchin

Steller’s sea eagles congregating on the creaking ice floes of the Okhotsk Sea; red-crowned cranes dipping and weaving as they perform their mating dance; rare Blakiston’s fish owls soaring through the crisp winter air. These are just a few of the many spectacular sights to be spotted in Japan during Hokkaido’s winter season, and with expert birding guides and the best lodging locations this itinerary is a real twitcher’s ream.

Enchanted by dreams of a winter wildlife safari?

Tokyo isn’t known for its wildlife, but you’d be surprised by the wonderful array of birding opportunities to be found right on the doorstep of the skyscraper forest. As well as wild waterfowl in Ueno Park and migratory birds on Tokyo Bay, a local expert guide will take you on a day trip to admire the reed bed birds at nearby Ukishima Marsh and Choshi Port. With three nights in the city you’ll also have plenty of time to explore Tokyo’s other attractions, from the towering Skytree to the sushi bars of Tsukiji.


“ InsideJapan Tours’ way of doing things is perfect for us. We like to explore on our own, but feel secure in our lodging and travelling arrangements.”

Mt Fuji

Although Tokyo provides a sterling introduction to Japan’s bird life, the real adventure begins as you head north to the windswept northern island of Hokkaido. Your first stop is Tsurui, where you’ll watch red-crowned cranes performing their mating dance amid the silent snow fields, accompanied by an expert guide. Until recently these magnificent birds were believed to be extinct in Japan having been widely eaten as a delicacy. But thanks to the ongoing conservation efforts of a dedicated team, this magnificent spectacle can still be seen today.

We’d love to arrange this Self-Guided Adventure for you so you can see Hokkaido’s spectacular winter wildlife. Our expert travel consultants can create a bespoke bird watching itinerary for you, tailored to suit your travel dates and interests.

Bennett & Misty, Georgia, USA

Later you’ll visit the untamed Shiretoko Peninsula, one of Japan’s last remaining wilderness areas. Here you’ll take an icebreaker cruise into the Sea of Okhotsk, where magnificent Steller’s sea eagles gather on the ice floes. Besides these highlights you’ll spot Blakiston’s fish owls and wading birds, stay in traditional Japanese inns geared specifically towards birding enthusiasts, soak in natural hot spring baths, and take in the remarkable mountain scenery of this remote and spectacular northern island.

Alastair co-founded InsideJapan Tours after his time spent teaching English in Toyota City. He first saw the mating dance of the red-crowned crane whilst leading our Winter Highlights tour in 2008. “ Formerly on the brink of extinction, there is now a small but thriving colony of these impressive birds found in the tiny village of Tsurui in the far east of Hokkaido. With my group we crunched ten minutes through the



packed snow to the nature reserve just as the winter sun began to set over the horizon to the west, the fields illuminated with a pale red-and-gold glow. The cranes are oblivious to the collection of photographers with their impressively long zoom lenses and our small group of tourists. The dance is balletic: wings and legs raised, leaping together, beaks brushing. It is strangely emotive and as darkness falls this scene is etched into my memory. A true winter highlight.”

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© Chris Stanley

Tancho red-crowned cranes by Alastair Donnelly



Exclusive Private Journeys

Alastair Donnelly Director

“What makes the perfect holiday? Since our first tailored journey landed in Japan in 2001, I have been pondering this constantly. “I have come to realise that it is the simple things that form the basis of your experience with us. This is why we are always friendly, polite, thoughtful and considerate. We listen to you; we want to know who you are and what your ideal trip looks like. After all, it is your holiday, not ours, and we want you to return saying that it was the best trip you’ve ever taken. These things may seem basic but in my experience, they’re hard to find.

Exclusive Private Journeys concept

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Guides and experts

84 - 85

Innovative cultural experiences

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“Our new Exclusive Private Journeys concept is the culmination of everything we have learnt since founding the company. Since then the range of services and experiences we can arrange for you has grown dramatically. No longer are you restricted to the tourist tea ceremony experience - instead you can take tea with the head monk of a private temple. “We have extended our network of contacts far and wide so you can assist a master sword-maker in forging a blade, get your hands dirty with a fourth-generation master potter, take a tour with a leading photographer, visit galleries with an academic, discover a local market with a renowned food writer and enjoy a cookery class with a Michelin-starred chef. “We open closed doors for you. We allow you to really get beneath the surface, giving you an insight into this fascinating country through interactions with its most interesting residents. “Allowing complete flexibility and with every trip intelligently designed just for you, our Exclusive Private Journeys provide you with the finest experience of Japan available anywhere.”



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Exclusive Private Journeys concept

Exclusive service Unique, bespoke itineraries created just for you

“ When I plan my own annual holiday, it’s the logistics I dislike organising the most. I have come to understand that you don’t want to be bored with the nuts and bolts of travel either. That’s why I’ve designed our Exclusive Private Journeys concept to guarantee you a seamless trip.”

Top-level guides in every destination The finest hotels, restaurants and exclusive experiences

Alastair Donnelly Director

Private car & driver for all transfers and sightseeing Elite-level service and concierge support

Hoshinoya Resort, Karuizawa

Lamp no Yado, Suzu

From the moment your driver greets you at the airport, through each day of touring, transfers to and from stations, first-class rail tickets (on the 01 Japan - Sushi right side of the Shinkansen bullet train for that Mount Fuji view), to your departure transfer back to the airport, your trip will run like clockwork. Behind the scenes we are in constant contact with your guides, drivers and hotel concierge teams to ensure that everything is just so.

The finest hotels and ryokan

Fine dining

On an InsideJapan Exclusive Private Journey, Japan’s finest hotels and traditional inns are available to you. Tokyo, of course, offers top-end international chains including the exceptional Park Hyatt, and the Peninsula is also a firm favourite. In addition to this we will introduce you to the stand-out Japanese-owned and managed properties – the wonderful Palace Hotel with balconies overlooking the grounds of the Imperial Palace, and the Imperial Hotel, the grandfather of Japan’s luxury hotels.

Then there is food. Japan is a foodie’s dream and we guarantee that you’ll go home with tales of some of the best dining experiences you have ever had. We will make sure you have a table at a sprinkling of the most famous places in town, but it isn’t all Michelin stars. Only a local knows where the best, most authentic eateries are hidden, so allow your guide to take you “off-piste” to tiny ramen stalls beloved by salarymen or venture into hidden bars on a safari through the city nightlife.

Mura ta

Ryo kan ,

Yu fui n

Step out of the capital and the options diversify even further. We’ll have you soaking in hot springs overlooking a steep-sided, forested mountain range; eating multi-course banquet meals unlike anything you have tasted or seen before; sipping tea served by impossibly graceful, kimono-wearing attendants; and waking in the morning to the sight of a perfectly manicured Japanese garden as you relax in an elegant ryokan inn. This is the Japan of romantic imagination; it is the total immersion and dream-like escape that will have you asking yourself “did that really happen?”



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Asaba Ryokan, Shuzenji



Guides and experts Hand-picked guides

Experts & artisans

You will be accompanied by knowledgeable, English-speaking guides at every stage of your trip who will provide a deep insight into the history and culture of every destination on your itinerary.

Accompanied by your guide, we’ll also connect you with the right expert to match your interests. We have a far-reaching network of artisans and experts with whom we can plan innovative bespoke itineraries. These are talented individuals with a wealth of insight to share. Our network extends from head priests in Kyoto and Mount Koya, through to an eighth-generation potter, sword makers, geisha, nihon-ga artists and even one of Japan’s remaining falconers.

Masa Hattori Professional guide Masa is one of InsideJapan’s full-time professional guides who looks after guests during their Exclusive Private Journey.

InsideJapan has been working with Everett Brown for many years. If you are a keen photographer, you will have an inspirational trip under Everett’s expert tutelage.

“ I’m originally from Iga Ueno, a small rural town famous for its ninja training

“ A photographer working in Japan for the past 25 years, my work has appeared in most major global media, including National Geographic, Geo, Time, Newsweek, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Times, and the New York Times. I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively throughout the Japanese archipelago, with many opportunities to meet uniquely remarkable people and hear their stories. Amazing doors have opened allowing me to view things rarely accessible to the public eye. In my photography and teaching I wish to share these experiences with you as much as I can.

I have enschools. arc imaIn girfact o-n apaJ a11famous ancestor: the samurai Hanzo Hattori. I now live in Tokyo with my wife and daughters. Before I became a professional guide, I spent 43 years working in sales and management for Kintetsu, a Japanese logistics firm. 21 of those years were stationed in North America – I have lived in Toronto, Houston, Boston, LA and New York. “ As a guide I most enjoy enabling clients to uncover the ‘mysteries’ of Japanese culture. Japan has achieved economic success in a relatively short time whilst keeping our unique traditions – something that I hope fascinates you as much as it does me.”


Everett Kennedy Brown Photographer


“ Excellent guides are a key feature of our Exclusive Private Journeys. It has not been easy to bring together the talented team we now have in place, but it is enormously satisfying for me as a company director when clients tell me that their guide was the best they’ve ever had. “ Our guides are experienced, charismatic and thoroughly knowledgeable, and their efforts will bring alive each place you visit. After all, it is the people you meet, not just the things you see, that help make a great trip so memorable and special.” Alastair Donnelly Director

“ For me, life in Japan is a long and ever-deepening love affair with place and culture. Through my imagery, honouring the use of Japanese classical techniques and traditional materials, I hope to share my vision of the deep currents of Japanese culture that I encounter in my journeys.”

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© Norman Blaikie

The guides are also experienced travel facilitators, able to accommodate lastminute requests. They’ll coordinate with drivers, call ahead to inform hotel staff of your imminent arrival, and make advance reservations for garden visits and temple appointments. That’s in addition to coordinating out-of-theordinary experiences to heighten your holiday enjoyment.



Innovative cultural experiences “ There is no limit to the carefully curated experiences we can arrange in Japan. Let us know which aspects of Japanese culture appeal to you and we will craft a bespoke itinerary just for you. “ For our team, Japan is an endless discovery, and we are passionate about research to create unique, highly sought-after cultural encounters.” Alastair Donnelly Director

Hunt for rare vinyl in Tokyo Passionate about vinyl? We’ll connect you with a Tokyo resident who is himself an avid vinyl music collector. Whether you’re into jazz, The Beatles, Japanese folk or looking for bootlegs, we’ll help you find it amongst Tokyo’s fantastic record shops, jampacked with rare vinyl.

Encounter kyudo archery practitioners Let us introduce you to leading practitioners of martial arts at the Tokyo Budokan, the capital’s premier training facility for kendo, judo, karate and kyudo archery. With a translator on hand you can sit down with martial artists to discuss training routines, mental discipline and Tokyo’s hopes for the 2020 Olympics.

Meditate under the guidance of a head priest

Meet one of Japan’s few remaining swordsmiths

Stay in gorgeous private quarters at Sanbo-in, one of the oldest temples on Mount Koya. Here you’ll meet the chief abbot who will explain the temple’s history and the founding of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. In the early morning the abbot will guide you through a meditation practice after a special purification ritual.

Katana samurai swords have been made by hand in Japan since the 10th century using techniques impossible to replicate by machine. Sadly there are only a handful of people keeping the art alive, but we can arrange for you to visit a swordsmith in his workshop an hour outside Tokyo. Ask any questions you have about samurai culture and watch the swordsmith in action as he welds layers of steel in a hot furnace before hammering the metal into a curved blade.

Photograph geisha on location Searching for an exceptional photo opportunity? Thanks to our strong connections in the geisha world, let us arrange for you to photograph geisha on location around Kyoto. You’ll be accompanied by an esteemed photographer who can provide guidance to help you take the most enviable pictures – a truly rare window into a world few foreigners ever see.

Discover the secrets of Bizen pottery Meet a fourth-generation ceramist at his workshop in the Bizen pottery district near Okayama. With the help of your guide, the ceramist will show you how reddish-brown Bizenware is fired in a wood-burning kiln to create the pottery’s distinctive markings. Get the inside track on the artistic debate going on in Bizen, as some potters promote individual self-expression whilst others fight for the preservation of tradition.

Learn the secrets of kaiseki cuisine from a Michelin-starred chef To learn from a Michelin-starred chef is an extraordinary privilege. Accompanied by your guide to translate, you’ll begin with a trip to a local market to buy ingredients before returning to a professional training kitchen. Here the chef will teach you how to prepare a selection of kaiseki dishes of your choice in a private, hands-on lesson.



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© Everett Kennedy Brown




The most expensive component of any Japan trip is often the accommodation, the quality of which can make or break your holiday. That’s why at InsideJapan Tours we have an ever-evolving list of hundreds of Western-style hotels and traditional Japanese inns all across the country. Each of these has been tried and tested by our team, who have slept in the beds, eaten the breakfasts and quizzed the hotel staff. The next few pages showcase a handful of our favourite properties. Some are exciting, brand-new hotels; others we have maintained close ties with for years. Hiiragiya Ryokan, Kyoto




Western-style hotels

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Traditional Japanese inns

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The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto


Western-style hotels Feeling inspired?

From budget accommodation for the business traveller, through family-run B&Bs to phenomenal five-star properties, Japan has a huge range of Western-style hotels. When we talk about “Western-style hotels” in Japan, we mean your room will be carpeted with raised Western beds and an en-suite bathroom. But no matter your price range, all the hotels we choose are in good locations – either handy for sightseeing, close to train stations or both. Budget hotels, usually designed for businessmen, are clean, comfortable and reliable. Rooms may be on the small side, but will be well equipped with air-conditioning, TVs and hairdryers, whilst the hotel will also have vending machines in the corridors and coin laundry machines.

Let us know which hotels sound like your cup of tea and we can weave them into any Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.

At the opposite end of the scale, Japan has world-class five-star properties that ooze luxury. As a rule of thumb: the more you pay, the larger the guest room, the more facilities (restaurants, bar, pool, gym, spa etc) and the better the English level and service of the staff.

Travelling on a Small Group Tour? You can find out which accommodation each tour uses on our website, or call us for details.

Although known as “Western-style”, many hotels do feel very Japanese – making use of traditional textiles, paper screens, fans, scrolls and flowers in their interior design. Breakfast buffets can be a bit of a hybrid and may include sausage, egg and toast, but also salad, miso soup and pickles – take your pick. The Japanese love their tea, so green tea and kettles are usually provided in hotel rooms with many also offering complementary coffee.

Park Hyatt, Tokyo


For fans of boutique chic

For movie buffs

For beach lovers

For luxury seekers

For shopaholics

For urban adventurers

The Screen Kyoto, superior hotel

Park Hyatt Tokyo, deluxe hotel

Kabira Club Med Ishigaki, deluxe hotel

The Palace Tokyo, deluxe hotel

Cross Hotel Osaka, moderate hotel

9 Hours Kyoto, budget capsule hotel

We love The Screen. Choose one of just 13 gorgeous suites, each designed by a different artist and inspired by local influences: Nijo Castle’s famous screen doors, provincial lacquerware, Nishijin textiles, the wooden architecture of nearby Shimogoryo Shrine or the lush forests of rural Kyoto Prefecture. The hotel’s sky terrace boasts great views across the city from its position on a tiny backstreet close to the Imperial Palace.

Have your very own Lost in Translation experience at the Tokyo Park Hyatt, immortalised on the silver screen by Sofia Coppola. Fall in love with Tokyo as Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson did: drink Suntory whiskey at the New York Bar, take a swim in the pool on the 47th floor or simply enjoy gazing down on the streets of Shinjuku.

Okinawa’s finest all-inclusive resort has its own private sandy beach, so once you’re here, there’s simply no reason to leave. Optional activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, tennis and windsurfing, but we wouldn’t blame you for just relaxing with a good book and a cocktail by gorgeous Kabira Bay.

In a city as vertical as Tokyo, the view is everything. So picture yourself at Tokyo’s most prestigious hotel, standing on your guest room balcony as you gaze down on the green space of the Imperial Palace grounds. Later, take dinner at one the Palace Hotel’s excellent restaurants with a choice of Japanese, Chinese, French or Italian cuisine.

The Cross is a good hotel in a great spot amid the drama of Osaka’s neon Nanba district. The hotel is moderately priced with small yet stylish monochrome rooms, leaving you more yen to spend in the nearby Dotonbori shopping arcades. Hotel staff speak good English so can point you in the right direction for bargain hunting.

Fancy something really Japanese? Try a space-age capsule hotel in downtown Kyoto. This is the epitome of genius space-saving design: each pod has just enough space for a single mattress and an ambient control alarm clock system, whilst elsewhere in the building are luggage lockers and showers.


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Traditional Japanese inns Looking for more ideas?

In our opinion every Japan holiday should include at least one stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). But what can you expect from a stay of this kind? Slide back the wooden door to any ryokan and leave your shoes in the genkan (entrance way). Here you’ll be greeted by your host, who’ll lead the way to your guest room for a welcoming cup of green tea.

Ryokan rooms look pretty minimalist at first glance. Tatami-mat flooring, shoji paper screens, a low table, possibly a scroll or ikebana flower display… and little else. But the beauty’s in the simplicity. Floor-to-ceiling cupboards offer a space to put your luggage and contain the futon mattresses, duvets and blankets that your maid will lay on the floor for you after dinner. In your room you’ll also find yukata robes which you can wear like a dressing gown around the inn.

In Japan the best chefs work in ryokan and therefore the evening meal is the highlight of the day. Expect dozens of tiny dishes, exquisitely presented, featuring a set menu of regional specialities made from seasonal ingredients. With slivers of raw fish, steaming hotpots, tempura vegetables, soups, pickles, grilled fish, rice and more, you certainly won’t go hungry.

Or ask our expert travel consultants for their recommendations. We’ve all got our favourites.

Like Western-style hotels, ryokan range from budget to deluxe. In a budget inn, bathing facilities will be communal (men and women separate) whilst en suite bathrooms or even private outdoor hot springs are only available at higher grade properties. The Japanese love their communal bathing and the nicest ryokan have a huge range of shared hot spring baths or onsen. Trust us; soaking in a hot tub under the stars is the perfect way to rest after a long day of sightseeing.

For arty types

For eco warriors

For gourmands

For onsen enthusiasts

For independent types

Daikichi Tsumago, moderate ryokan

Kifu no Sato, Yunogo, superior ryokan

Brown’s Field Boso Peninsula, budget ryokan

Yoshikawa Tempura Ryokan Kyoto, deluxe ryokan

Hanafubuki Izu Peninsula, deluxe ryokan

Machiya Residence Kyoto, moderate ryokan

In the picturesque hamlet of Tsumago, allow yourself to be mothered by the always charming Mrs Daikichi, who runs a five-room minshuku with her family in a little wooden house overlooking the tea fields. Dinners are homemade by the host herself – just look out for the fried grasshopper!

You don’t want to just see Japan; you want to experience the culture hands-on. Whilst staying at the Kifu no Sato you can try on an exquisite kimono, study under the tutelage of an ikebana master, witness the forging of samurai swords, visit Bizen potters and learn the art of Japanese calligraphy. Kifu no Sato is much more than your average ryokan, offering a huge range of experiences led by local artisans and craftsmen from the surrounding villages.

Want to disconnect from modern life and escape to the farm? Head to Brown’s Field where you can sleep in a treehouse, help out in the rice paddies and eat fantastic organic food all grown on-site. Run by the macrobiotic cooking expert Deco Nakajima and her photojournalist husband Everett Kennedy Brown, this farm stay allows you to tune in to the age-old Japanese sensibility of lives led in harmony with nature.

Any Kyotoite will tell you that the city’s best tempura is to be found at the Yoshikawa, a quintessential ryokan with a 120-year history. Sitting at wooden counter seats, you’ll watch the head chef prepare delicately battered vegetables and seafood. He’ll serve the tempura at the exact second it’s ready for you to dunk in hot dipping sauce, salt, or grated radish, then savour the melt-in-the-mouth flavour.

At the Hanafubuki ryokan you can soak in hot spring baths to your heart’s content. All seven baths are open 24 hours a day and are for private use only – so you needn’t feel shy about getting naked. We recommend taking an afternoon to try each outdoor bath at least once; in some you can inhale the scent of cypress or kuromoji trees, whilst others are beautifully decorated with yakimono ceramics.

Don’t you just love pretending that you’re not on holiday, but actually living there like a local? A stay in a self-catering machiya townhouse in Kyoto grants you this illusion. Shop in local supermarkets, cook in the machiya kitchen, throw yourselves a little dinner party then climb the stairs to the tatami-mat bedrooms in your own Kyoto house.

For traditionalists


Our website is full of information about fantastic hotels and ryokan to suit all budgets and tastes.


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Experiences & inspiration C O N T E N T S

We don’t just want you to see Japan, but to experience it yourself, hands-on. How else can you best get to grips with the country’s fascinating culture, landscape and history? Are you planning the perfect honeymoon or looking for the ultimate family holiday? Perhaps you love being outdoors - hiking the mountains, exploring by bike or kayaking the rivers. Or are you more of an arts and crafter - in which case tea ceremony, ikebana flower arranging or a pottery class might be for you. There are endless ways we can create memorable Japan experiences to suit you. Whatever your interests, abilities and budget, we hope the ideas outlined in this section of the brochure will inspire you to contact us and find out more.



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96 - 97


98 - 99

Winter sports

100 - 101


102 - 103

Walking & hiking

104 - 105


106 - 107

Sumo & sport

108 - 109

Buddhism & Shintoism

110 - 111


112 - 113

Traditional arts & crafts

114 - 115

Japanese history

116 - 117


118 - 119

Pop culture

120 - 121

Culinary Japan

122 - 123


124 - 125


126 - 127


128 - 129



Honeymoons Shinto wedding ceremonies Japan is a dream honeymoon destination. Where else could you experience ancient traditions, impeccable hospitality, world-class cuisine and fantastic accommodation – ranging from exquisite ryokan with private hot spring baths to super-deluxe hotels at the top of towering city skyscrapers? And that’s not to mention the romantic scenery from quaint rural villages to impeccable gardens filled with cherry blossom. Whether your ideal honeymoon includes visiting a Zen-inspired spa at an exclusive mountain retreat, taking a sunset helicopter cruise over Tokyo’s dramatic skyline, or relaxing with a cocktail on a subtropical island – our expertly planned packages and on-the-ground support

For the ultimate Japan honeymoon, why not celebrate your marriage with a Shinto wedding ceremony at a Kyoto shrine? Kimono hire, professional hair styling & make-up for the bride are included, as is a wedding photographer and a kaiseki feast after the ceremony.

ensure that no hiccup can get in the way of your experience. Some of our staff have even honeymooned in Japan themselves, so you can rest assured that we know how to make your trip extra-special.

Kimono photo shoot Simpler than a full Shinto ceremony, we can arrange a photo shoot of you and your partner dressed in formal wedding kimono. The bride wears an elegant white shiromuku kimono made up of multiple layers, whilst in contrast the groom wears wear a formal black montsuki kimono.

Champagne & flowers Treating your partner? Or perhaps you’re the best man or bridesmaid and you want to make sure your friends’ honeymoon gets off to the very best start. We can arrange for surprise champagne or flowers to be delivered to the first hotel.

Sunset helicopter cruise Imagine a romantic twilight helicopter cruise over the Tokyo skyline. See the neon lights of Shinjuku glittering below as you sweep past the 2,080 ft (634 m) Skytree and admire the gleaming Ginza skyscrapers. Alternatively you could take a daytime flight to delight in the mountains beyond Tokyo – including majestic Fuji-san, which may be visible on a clear day.

My honeymoon in Japan by Harry Sargant Sales Manager Harry and his wife Sveta lived in Japan until 2005. When they decided to get married in 2008, they could think of no better place to spend their honeymoon than Japan – the country where they first met. “ When planning our honeymoon, we knew we wanted a mix of our favourite spots and new locations, with some sightseeing days and plenty of time to relax. For us, Japan has it all – offering incredible historical locations, an interactive experience, and that all-important element of relaxation and luxury.



“ As well as visiting Niigata, our adopted home, we saw the sights of Tokyo and Kyoto and spent a few nights on the tiny island of Miyajima. With beautiful nature, deer wandering the streets, a tiny, traditional community and the lamp-lit Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima was undoubtedly the highlight of our stay. It’s the perfect place to slow down, don a yukata, indulge in traditional local food and just watch the world go by. We enjoyed it so much that I’ve been sending honeymooners to Miyajima ever since.”

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Ready to start planning your honeymoon? Or looking for more information? Try our website. We have a comprehensive honeymoon section with example itineraries and prices, diverse accommodation ideas and many more experiences. Better still, talk to one of our expert travel consultants who’d love to tailor a bespoke Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey. Fancy a Small Group Tour instead? No problem, honeymooners have joined our tours before and are always very welcome.



Families Roketsu Cloth Dyeing If adults come away from Japan enthralled – just imagine visiting Japan as a child. Utterly fascinating yet accessible, a trip to Japan is a mind-opening experience for the whole family. Japan’s cities are a flashing, whirring paradise for kids of all ages. In Tokyo alone, your family can enjoy the imaginative flights of anime masters at The Studio Ghibli Museum, take a masterclass in manga drawing, meet Hello Kitty at Sanrio Puroland and get lost in the endless amusement arcades of Akihabara “electric town”. Out in the countryside, your family can cycle through rural villages, kayak across to Miyajima Island or feed the friendly deer in Nara Park. There are also endless hands-on activities to try, from martial arts to origami or taiko drumming – inspiring, educational experiences for any age.

What’s more, dining options encompass everything from all-you-can-eat ice cream parlours to fishing restaurants where you can reel in your own meal – so if your child doesn’t take to kaiseki, you needn’t worry.

Create your own tie-dye-style creations and get a little messy in the process. This fun activity is available at a studio in Kyoto overseen by craftspeople with over 50 years of experience. Roketsu dyeing is unique to Kyoto: wax is used to block dyes in an area finely drawn by hand onto the cloth. You can choose to create a handkerchief, bandanna, t-shirt, or noren curtain. And of course the best bit for you and the whole family is that everyone gets to take their creation home with them.

Accommodation is an important part of any holiday, especially when travelling as a family. Whether you are looking for family rooms with three or four beds, connecting rooms, large Japanese-style rooms or a family-sized apartment, we have something to suit. Our consultants will be happy to arrange experiences to match your family’s ages and interests, so please get in touch to find out more.

One of the safest and cleanest countries in the world, Japan boasts superb amenities and efficient public transport, making travelling with children wonderfully stress-free.

Osaka Aquarium If you like marine wildlife, Osaka’s aquarium is a must-see. The main central tank is 30 ft (9 m) deep and houses a beautiful whale shark, whilst 15 other tanks represent different areas of the Pacific Rim, also known as the “Ring of Fire”. Highlights are the penguins, sealions, dolphins and incredibly cute sea otters.

Kayaking & river rafting Fancy splashing about in the water? We love the three-hour sea kayaking experience from the Hiroshima mainland across the bay to Miyajima Island. At high tide you’ll even be able to kayak through Itsukushima Shrine’s famous “floating” torii gate. On Shikoku Island, rafting and canyoning is available on the Yoshino River in the Iya Valley.

“A liberal sprinkling of fun cultural activities for our teenage sons included kayaking, bike riding through the local villages, samurai sword fighting and drumming – all went down very well.”

Taiko drumming Got energy to burn? A taiko drumming class is sure to exhaust even the most energetic youngster. The instructor will soon have you leaping around in a choreographed rhythmic performance banging massive wooden drums. We can arrange taiko drumming lessons in Tokyo and Kyoto, but to visit the spiritual home of taiko you must head for magnificent Sado Island.

James & family, London, UK

Japan with a toddler by Simon King In May 2013, InsideJapan Tours’ director Simon and his wife Bethan took their daughter, Florence, on her first holiday to Japan. “ Despite having lived in Japan for several years, I still had some worries before the trip. Would Florence (aged just under two years) eat the food? How much should we pack for her? What would we do in the evenings after she had gone to sleep? “ I had expected the long plane journey to be the most difficult hurdle, but it was much better than anticipated. We brought along games and some little presents for



Florence to keep her busy, which is a tactic I highly recommend. We also brought a baby carrier and a pushchair; both of which were invaluable and meant that Florence could nap on the go. “ Often it was just the regular sightseeing that Florence enjoyed the most – riding on the train, letting off steam in the Imperial Palace Gardens, and of course getting lots of attention from us – and the locals! My top advice would be not to try and pack too much in, to avoid having one-night stays, and to bring some baby food from home as a backup.”

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Planning a family adventure? We have a dedicated family section on our website with example itineraries and pricing, accommodation recommendations, destination suggestions and tons of family-friendly cultural experience ideas. Alternatively, speak to one of our experienced travel consultants. Let them know which of the ideas on these pages has caught your eye, and they’d be delighted to start designing a Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey to suit your family. If you’d prefer a Small Group Tour, families with children aged six or older are welcome on the majority of our tours.



Winter sports With freezing temperatures and a surfeit of mountainous terrain, Japan provides an exhilarating platform for winter sports. From the vast, windswept island of Hokkaido to the Japanese Alps, superb powder conditions and a staggering 600 ski resorts mean that there’s no better place to hit the slopes. Thanks to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and several occasions of the Winter Asian Games, Japan’s top mountain resorts boast excellent infrastructure, buzzing nightlife and comprehensive tourist facilities. Not only this, but its snowfall is amongst the most reliable in the world, so you won’t be left fretting over that all-important weather forecast before your holiday.



Rusutsu Niseko

Skiing & snowboarding Bring your own equipment or rent on arrival. Both Niseko and Hakuba (our favourite Japan resorts) have a wide range of slopes for skiers and boarders of all abilities, with tons of fresh powder snow. Are you a complete beginner? Let us organise ski school lessons for you.

Don’t forget the snow monkeys! Japan’s most famous primates are the “snow monkeys” of the Jigokudani hot springs in Yudanaka Onsen near Hakuba. To escape the chill of winter, the monkeys love to play in the natural hot spring baths. You’ll see whole families of monkeys eat, wash, splash around and even have snowball fights.

Yudanaka Hakuba

Japan in the winter is also a wonderful place for sightseeing, and as the crowds die back you’ll have spectacular locations almost to yourself. Then, to cap it all off, the après-ski is gloriously Japanese: sit back in an outdoor hot spring bath surrounded by snow, with a cup of sake to ease away any aches and pains.

Backcountry guides Do you love the thrill of off-piste skiing? Let us book a backcountry guide to take you to the best spots in the safest, most enjoyable way to suit your ability as well as the weather conditions. Tackle the back bowls of Niseko, or try the gladed slopes of Rusutsu and Kokusai – also on Hokkaido Island.

Heli-skiing Take a helicopter to Mount Tsugiake’s ridgeline to reach virgin powder snow in Hakuba, some 7,300 ft (2,225 m) above sea level. A fantastic thrill-seeking experience for advanced skiers and boarders.

Snowshoeing Strap on some snowshoes and explore winter scenery at a tranquil pace. Instead of hurtling through busy ski resorts at speed, a guided snowshoe tour in the mountains around Sapporo will have you admiring frozen lakes and Hokkaido’s snowy wilderness.

Après-ski, Japan-style by Katharina Held Growing up in Germany, InsideJapan’s Katharina has been skiing since the age of three. She first hit Japan’s slopes with her classmates during her time at Utsunomiya University north of Tokyo. “ Après-ski is one of my favourite parts of any ski trip, but in Japan it really is something special. Knowing there would be a fantastic dinner waiting for me at my ryokan – followed by the chance to relax in a hot spring bath – was the perfect way to conclude a day out on the mountain. Outdoor



onsen are even better, giving you the chance to soak your aching muscles with snowflakes falling all around you. “ If you’re not eating at your ryokan or hotel, I highly recommend heading out for a big bowl of nabe hotpot – the ultimate comfort food. You could also sample some excellent Japanese beers at one of the local craft beer bars – or even finish the night with a karaoke session before you hit the slopes again the next day.”

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Inspired by this talk of fresh powder snow? Do check out our website. We have a special section dedicated to winter sports holidays in Japan, including example itineraries and pricing, and information on lesser-known ski destinations across the country. Alternatively, talk to one of the winter sports enthusiasts on our team who can work time on the slopes into any tailor-made wintertime Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.



Diving Manta Scramble Boasting thousands of islands with a combined coastline of 21,000 miles (34,000 km), Japan just might be the diving world’s best-kept secret. Join hammerhead sharks and lionfish as you investigate the reefs and wrecks of the Izu Peninsula, a thickly forested outcrop of land not far from Tokyo. For a bit of adventure, make the long journey to the Ogasawara Islands to explore World War Two wrecks and meet rare marine life in the “Galapagos of the Orient”. The jewel in Japan’s diving crown is Okinawa. With white sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, dense jungle and a rich and distinctive local culture, Japan’s southernmost prefecture is a true island paradise.

Dive off the coast of Ishigaki Island to see huge Pacific manta rays. Watching them swirling above the coral reef is like witnessing a magnificent water ballet. Spring through to autumn is the best time to see the manta rays.

Under the waves of this stunning archipelago you’ll experience some of the best diving conditions in the world as you visit kaleidoscopic coral reefs, explore caves and pinnacles, and come face to face with sea turtles, manta rays and perhaps even migrating humpback whales. To top it all off, at the remote island of Yonaguni you can even visit the remains of what some believe to be a real-life Atlantis. Whether you’re a serious diver or a first-timer, diving in Japan is an opportunity not to be missed.

Hammerhead sharks Izu Peninsula

Fancy swimming amid a school of hammerhead sharks? From November to May hundreds of shark teem in the waters around Yonaguni Island. Attacks on humans by hammerhead sharks are almost unheard of, instead they prefer to hunt stingray, which they pin to the ocean floor with their huge rectangular heads – an amazing spectacle.

© MirJah


“Lost stones of Iseki” Could this be the remains of a long-lost civilisation? We’ll let you decide! Discovered in 1987, these strange rock formations – with clean, geometric lines and smooth, flat surfaces – lie on the ocean floor off the coast of Yonaguni Island. If the rocks are indeed man-made, not simply a result of erosion, they would pre-date the pyramids. Either way, this site makes for a fascinating dive.

Kerama Islands


© Kerama


Sea turtles Beautiful, placid sea turtles are one of the earth’s oldest creatures. In fact they’ve been around for 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. The gorgeous Kerama Islands are home to five species of sea turtle which are easy to spot even when snorkeling. 248 kinds of coral can also be seen in the waters here.

A beginner’s dive on Ishigaki by Ben Morrow Ben spent two years studying and working in Tokyo “ Before long I was underwater with my instructor close behind, amazed at just how clear the water before joining InsideJapan. On a recent trip to was. We explored the coral reef admiring the Ishigaki he tried scuba diving for the first time. array of multi-coloured tropical fish. I saw clown “ Having never dived before, I was a little fish playing amongst sea anemones, and one daunted about the idea of plunging 12 metres inquisitive little creature even took a nibble of my below the sea. What if my ears can’t cope with finger! I loved every minute of my first dive and it? Will there be sharks? Luckily my instructor can’t wait to try it again.” was able to answer all of my silly questions and explain the whole diving process in perfect English. 102


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Excited to take the plunge? Consider our Diving Small Group Tour, featured on page 38-39. Or visit our website, which has a fantastic diving section including example itineraries and pricing. Alternatively, pick up the phone and talk to one of our travel consultants who can weave diving into any Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.


Walking & hiking Asahidake

An extraordinarily varied range of landscapes, from the untamed wastes of Hokkaido to the subtropical jungles of Okinawa, combine to make Japan a walkers’ paradise.

© Kumano Travel


Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails Tackle the spiritual paths of the Kumano Kodo region, a great place for several days’ walking between rustic ryokan inns. For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have trodden these trails en route to pray at the sacred Shinto shrines in the heart of the Kii Mountains.

The vast majority of Japan’s population is squeezed into towns and cities that occupy less than 30% of the country’s total area, leaving huge swathes of mountainous and undeveloped terrain ripe for exploration. With steaming volcanoes, vast forests and abundant nature occupying the length and breadth of the country, it couldn’t be easier to incorporate a bit of hiking into your itinerary. Wander the ancient pilgrimage routes of the Kumano Kodo, scramble up the rocky scree to the top of Mount Fuji, walk in the footsteps of samurai as you trace your way along the Nakasendo Highway or trek through mangroves on jungleclad Iriomote – we can arrange short day walks or multi-day hiking itineraries of all lengths and difficulties. The Japanese engage in walking with enthusiasm, and even on the most challenging routes you’ll find yourself sharing the trail with plenty of friendly pilgrims – and every so often being overtaken by elderly Japanese hikers! Mingling with fellow ramblers is one of the joys of walking in Japan, and we would be delighted to help you get out into the countryside as part of your holiday.


Gunma Prefecture Mt Fuji Tsumago


Mountain guides

The Nakasendo Highway Follow in the footsteps of samurai on the Nakasendo Highway, which once linked Kyoto with Edo (Tokyo). The section through the Kiso Valley is the prettiest, particularly between the preserved villages of Magome and Tsumago where you’ll pass through tea fields, farmlands and cypress forests.

Kumano Kodo

A decent mountain hike is about knowing where to go, what equipment to take and how to asses the weather conditions to make your adventure as safe as possible. We can arrange for you to be accompanied by a qualified mountain guide in various locations across Japan, including: • Asahidake, Hokkaido

• Kumano Kodo

• The mountains of Gunma Prefecture

• Mount Fuji

Kamikochi National Park

• Yakushima Island, Kyushu

Yakushima Island

Explore alpine Kamikochi, a nine mile (14 km) river plateau some 5,000 ft (1,524m) above sea level. It’s a fantastic area for walking with easy, flat trails along the bottom of the valley from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge, or adventurous hiking up the mountain peaks in summer. October brings spectacular autumn colours, but whatever the season you’re sure to see macaque monkeys.

“I accomplished my dream of climbing Mount Fuji. That was exhilarating!” Norah, London, UK

Climbing Mount Fuji by Nathaniel Saito They say only a fool climbs Fuji twice – which must make InsideJapan’s Nathaniel a double fool, as he’s done it three times! Nathaniel has been in Japan since leaving college in 2005, living in Yamagata and Matsumoto before moving to Nagoya. “I have climbed Fuji three times, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Each time I had a completely different experience, but the best was definitely the first. As we reached the summit



Kibune to Kurama A rinky-dink train from central Kyoto will soon bring you to the mountain village of Kibune. From here, it’s a scenic three-hour hike up over a mountain pass to Kurama, where you can reward you efforts with a soak in a lovely outdoor onsen. According to local folklore this area is home to tengu – red-faced goblins with long noses who are believed to have trained the local samurai hero, Minamoto Yoshitsune. See if you can spot a tengu on your walk!

of the mountain, we got to see the sunrise and witness Fuji’s perfect triangular shadow stretching across the Kanto plain. “If you can climb your local hill, you can climb Fuji – as long as you take your time. Pack lots of layers because it’s always freezing at the top, and be sure to bring plenty of food and water. When you get to the summit I recommend buying a hot chocolate or a miso soup – the oxygen deprivation makes it taste awesome!”

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Ready to pull on your hiking boots? If you’re looking for serious mountain trekking, why not join our Historic Mountain Trails Small Group Tour described on page 44-45? Or walk the ancient Kumano Kodo trails on our Pilgrim’s Path Self-Guided Adventure (page 60-61)? Let us know if any of these walking options appeal to you and one of our travel consultants will be happy to weave a walking module into your tailor-made Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.



Cycling City sightseeing by bike What better way to discover a new and exciting country than on your own two wheels? Take advantage of the chance meetings and opportunities that travelling by bicycle affords and explore a side of Japan away from the regular tourist trail. Whether you’re a determined cyclist with the thighs of a demi-god or you just fancy wheeling down backstreets and past city sights, we can arrange a cycling option to suit you. Guided cycling tours are available in many Japanese cities, promising a leisurely ride and much better views than the subway. At the other end of the scale, challenging routes through mountainous rural regions offer 3,300 ft (1,005 m) climbs, long sweeping descents and spectacular scenery to satisfy even the most indomitable cyclist.

Get out in the fresh air on a cycling tour of Tokyo or Kyoto. Both are relatively flat cities with wide pavements (yes, you can ride on the pavements in Japan), making bike exploration easy. Don’t miss the opportunity to venture off the tourist trail and bike down side streets and back alleys to see scenes of everyday city life.

You’ll find plenty more options in between, meaning that anybody can hop on their bike and enjoy the fresh air and fantastic views. With good-quality bicycle hire easy to arrange throughout Japan, there’s simply no excuse not to jump in the saddle. Noto Peninsula



Kyoto Shimanami Kaido

Hida Satoyama farmland The market town of Takayama in the Japanese Alps is surrounded by enchanting rural farmland. Take a guided cycle for 14 miles (23 km) through rice paddies and the mountain villages of the Hida region. En route you can visit a natural spring, a local temple, minka wooden farmhouses and an orchard.


The Noto Peninsula

“The travel consultant added activities to suit my son, including a kayaking trip, a cycling tour, and a karate lesson in a dojo which my son loved.”

Pedal north from Kanazawa and you’ll reach the rugged wilderness of the Noto Peninsula, a great region for a multi-day bike ride. Keeping the Sea of Japan to your left, follow the coastal road along Chirihama Beach, through Ganmon National Park and on to the cape. Then turn down the jagged outback of the east coast past oyster farms and tiny fishing villages.

Doris, Bangor, UK

Shimanami Kaido by Jocelyn Knightly Brown Bristol travel consultant Jocelyn spent two years in Japan living by the sea in Shizuoka Prefecture. A keen cyclist, on recent trips back Jocelyn has tackled the Shimanami Kaido twice. “ The Shimanami Kaido is a great 44 mile (70 km) cycle ride, clearly signposted with gentle elevation and spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea. You don’t need any specialist clothing or equipment for it, just rent a bike and go. “ We detoured from the main cycleway to explore Ikuchijima Island, a rural fishing community with some pretty little beaches and temples, locals waving at us as we cycled past. We spent the night on Ikuchijima; the ryokan host knew who we were as soon as we walked in – we were quite clearly the only non-Japanese guests staying that night. Dinner was a feast of seafood which helped us continue the cycle across to Shikoku the next day.”



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Shikoku multi-day mountain ride Take an eight-day bike ride from Kyoto to Hiroshima traversing the rural interior of Shikoku Island past vine bridges, white water rivers and dramatic gorges. You’ll need a “King of the mountains“ jersey, as you’ll be tackling some steep climbs – a challenging, but ultimately rewarding adventure.

Keen on cycling? Fancy some city sightseeing by bike? Or are you a keen road cyclist looking to clock up some serious mileage? Speak to one of our travel consultants who can add cycle tours or bike hire to any Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey. Please also visit our website where you can find Discover Japan by Bike. This Self-Guided Adventure involves cycling 30–60 miles (50-100 km) each day across rural Shikoku, and can be booked exactly as described online to start on any day of the year – or tailored to suit you.



Sumo & sport Aikido From school teams to the world stage, the Japanese are mad about sport. You can join the fray by attending a sports event in Japan – a fantastic addition to any trip. Whether you fancy soaking up the electric atmosphere at a baseball game or taking ringside seats within spitting distance of a sumo bout, we can arrange tickets and provide you with the necessary information to understand all that’s going on.

Take part in an aikido class at a popular martial arts school in Osaka. Literally “the way of the harmonious spirit”, aikido is a means of overpowering an opponent simply and effectively, but without injuring either party.

What’s more, there’s plenty you can get involved in if you’d like to have a go yourself. Japan is home to a broad array of martial arts and other traditional sports, so why not become the next Karate Kid with a lesson in Okinawa’s famous export; swing like a master swordsman with classes in iaido and tatedo; or visit the Suzuka Circuit to witness the Grand Prix?


Morning sumo stable training

Tokyo marathon

What could be more Japanese than the indigenous ancient sport of sumo? If you’re lucky enough to make it to a sumo basho tournament, you’ll be in for a dramatic day. Watch gargantuan wrestlers engage in a ritual face-off before each bout begins. Then, in just a few dramatic seconds, it’s all over as one wrestler hauls his opponent over the straw bales out of the ring, or thrusts him to the ground.

If you can’t get to one of the sumo tournaments, get up early instead to see the wrestlers in training in Tokyo. To become a sumo wrestler requires years of strict training at a sumobeya, or “stable”, where the wrestlers eat, sleep and train. We’ll arrange an English-speaking guide to accompany you to the training session and explain the strict etiquette for spectators so you’ll avoid making a faux pas!

Follow in the footsteps of our very own Harry Sargant, who ran the Tokyo marathon in 2008. The Tokyo marathon attracts around 36,000 runners each February; ask us to bypass the lottery application system with a guaranteed registration and accommodation package.

2015 Sumo tournament dates

2016 Sumo tournament dates


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8th March

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13th March

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8th May

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12th July

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10th July

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13th September

27th September


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27th November

Baseball by Tetsuko Furusawa Tetsuko is a member of the InsideJapan operations team in Nagoya. She is an avid fan of the Hanshin Tigers, a baseball team based near Kobe. “ Over the past 18 years I guess I’ve been to see the Hanshin Tigers at least 30 times, but I’ll never forget the first time I saw them play at their home ground when I was a university student in Kobe. “ Japanese baseball games are quite different from baseball games elsewhere. Even the cheering is different – fans bang on megaphones to make noise, and each club has a

registered cheering group. Every player has his own song called a ‘hitting march’, which the fans sing as he steps into the batter’s box. The food is also different from at games in the US, and after the seventh innings we fly colourful balloons over the stadium. “ I think Hanshin Tigers fans are the most enthusiastic of all the baseball fans in Japan. I feel that cheering on our favourite team together brings a sense of unity – and that’s what I really love about baseball – you don’t even need to have a good understanding of the game to enjoy it.”

Interested in Japanese sport? Speak to one of our expert travel consultants who can advise on dates and pricing, then book tickets for you to see a sporting event during your Self-Guided Adventure, Exclusive Private Journey or even as part of a Small Group Tour.



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Buddhism & Shintoism Stay in shukubo temple lodgings The saying goes that in Japan people are born Shinto and die Buddhist. This is Japan’s syncretic belief system in a nutshell: two different religions practised side-by-side as a single system rather than as competing doctrines. Until Buddhism arrived in Japan in the sixth century by way of China, Shintoism didn’t have a specific name. It was simply Japan’s indigenous spirituality in which every living thing – trees, flowers, animals, rocks, even sounds – contains a kami god. This belief in nature is reflected throughout Japanese culture; it’s in the cherishing of the changing seasons, and in arts such as ikebana flower arranging and garden design. Today Shinto ceremonies at birth are balanced by Buddhist rituals at death. This entwining of religions runs so deep that establishing a firm boundary between the two is all but impossible.

Get the inside view of Buddhism with a stay in temple lodgings on Mount Koya. In keeping with Buddhist tradition, meals are strictly vegetarian, and in the early morning guests are invited to join the temple priests for their morning meditation service before the temple altar.

A great example of this is the fact that Shinto torii gates and Buddhist prayer halls can often be found on the same religious site. Japan’s rich and fascinating religious history has bestowed a legacy of superb art and architecture, from the thousands of red gates at Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine to the giant Buddha of Kamakura and the treasures of ancient Nara. We hope that paying attention to Japan’s spirituality will enrich your travel experience.

The Ise grand shrines Eihei-ji


The grand shrines of Ise are the most sacred site in Shintoism. In accordance with an ancient Shinto tradition the outer and inner shrines are rebuilt every 20 years – most recently in October 2013. Unlike most religious sites in Japan, Ise is pure Shintoism. The simple, minimalist architecture is classically Japanese, showing minimal influence from the Asian mainland.

Ise Mount Koya

Nara’s great Buddha Nara marks the end of Asia’s Silk Road and the starting point of Buddhism’s introduction to Japan. The most impressive site here is the huge bronze Buddha statue inside Todai-ji Temple, constructed in 752 AD.

Boulder travel consultant Emily studied in Osaka in 2009, and then spent two years teaching English in Nagoya.

“ Understanding fully the true nature of your own mind is equal to understanding everything.”

“ My main study of philosophy at university was existentialism, which is very close to Zen Buddhism. Both are about finding meaning in your existence through the little details in life – and since Zen predates existentialism by many centuries that makes it a very progressive philosophy!

From the Dainichi-kyo, Shingon Buddhist sutras

“ Zazen is a form of meditation, and is crucial to Zen Buddhism. In the Zen tradition, it is believed that everybody is already enlightened – that they have Buddha nature already within them – and it is zazen that helps them to realise this enlightenment. I like to think of it as a kind of philosophical detox, allowing you to push all the little things out of your mind and take a moment just to exist. “ Everyone can find their own meaning in Zen, and I certainly recommend participating in a session of zazen meditation as part of your holiday. You’re only in Japan for a couple of weeks, so giving yourself a chance to clear your mind and appreciate the moment will help you to really make a memory out of your time. ”



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© Norman Blaikie

Zazen mediation by Emily Johnson

Eihei-ji temple complex Literally “the temple of eternal peace”, Eihei-ji is the headquarters of the Soto sect founded by the Buddhist priest Dogen in the 13th century. The vast temple complex is a beautiful, tranquil place, home to 200 monks whom you can see going about their strict ascetic practices with spiritual devotion.

Captivated by Japan’s spiritual side? Intrigued to know more? Have a look at the Pilgrim’s Paths Self-Guided Adventure described on page 60-61, which includes a Mount Koya temple stay, and visits to Ise and the sacred Kumano Kodo shrines. Alternatively, speak to one of our fantastic travel consultants and let us know what appeals to you. We can weave a spiritual element into any tailor-made Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.



Geisha Private audience with a geisha The image of a geisha – bedecked in an exquisite kimono and teetering on wooden sandals, with an elaborate black wig, ivory make-up and scarlet lips – is one of the most iconic and easily recognisable images of Japan. Yet this is a profession that remains mysterious and little understood by outsiders. Geisha are performing artists who entertain their patrons in ochaya teahouses with dance, music and conversation. Although the first geisha emerged from the pleasure quarters of the Imperial court around the turn of the 18th century, geisha are not courtesans – carving out instead a separate niche as artists and highly skilled entertainers.

The lives of geisha are so secretive that they are said to inhabit a separate reality, known as karyukai – “the flower and willow world”. Not just anyone can enter an ochaya; in traditional Japanese society, hierarchy and social connections are everything and most Japanese will never have the honour of an official invitation.

Geisha training is a lifelong commitment to the arts, keeping alive the traditions of fan dancing, flute and shamisen music, tea ceremony, calligraphy and poetry. Even geisha who have been performing for decades are expected to practise their skills every day.

Fortunately, thanks to our connections in the geisha world, we are delighted to offer a brief window into their realm through a number of exclusive experiences in Kyoto.

We can arrange an exclusive evening hosted by a maiko (apprentice geisha). Over dinner and drinks, the maiko will entertain you with dances, a shamisen performance and no doubt a few drinking games. With a translator on hand to help, this experience grants you a unique opportunity to gain deeper understanding of the geisha world.

Geisha dance performances Take a trip to the theatre to see a geisha dance show. Kyoto’s four geisha districts stage beautifully choreographed performances every April, May and November. The dances tell stories of love and loss, life and death, accompanied by shamisen music and a backdrop reflecting the changing of the seasons.

Gion evening walking tour Don’t miss a guided tour of Gion for a glimpse into the history and traditions of Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. With a bit of luck you’ll spot a geisha hurrying between teahouse appointments so be sure to take your camera.

Maiko makeover

© Peter MacIntosh

Do you fancy getting the geisha look? We can arrange a full maiko makeover, dressing you in an ornate kimono with full make-up and hair ornaments. Afterwards you’ll have a studio photo-shoot in all the geisha regalia or head out on location to have your photo taken amid Kyoto’s temples and gardens.

© Norman Blaikie

Enchanted by the mysterious world of Kyoto’s geisha?



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Almost all of our Small Group Tours feature a geisha experience, whilst our travel consultants can tailor a SelfGuided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey to include any of the experiences on this page. Please pick up the phone and let us know what appeals to you.



Traditional arts & crafts Woodblock print-making

Despite its dramatic modernisation, Japan guards its culture and traditions fiercely. Whether it’s donning a traditional kimono, attending a Kabuki performance or finding time to practice the art of ikebana flower arranging – the Japanese take the responsibility of preserving their cultural heritage very seriously. There are plenty of opportunities for you to participate in and learn about the traditional arts. Create your own woodblock print, indigo-dye noren curtains using time-honoured techniques or throw a clay pot with an expert. What’s more, you can also try your hand at the art of calligraphy, take part in a tea ceremony, learn a kimono fan dance, or catch a bunraku puppet show.

Inspired by Edo Period ukiyo-e woodblock prints? Create your own images using pre-cut woodblock prints and a choice of ink during a three-hour workshop in Kyoto. Choose from beautiful landscapes, scenes of samurai battles and tableaux of Imperial court life.

Cultural experiences are easily worked into any trip to Japan and will enhance your experience and understanding of this fascinating culture. Most importantly, your participation helps keep these ancient customs alive, so do let us know which traditional arts and crafts interest you.

Calligraphy Shodo or “the way of writing” is the art of Japanese calligraphy. Just as good handwriting is prized in the West, being skillful with a calligraphy brush to produce beautiful kanji characters is an important attribute that Japanese children begin learning in primary school. Grind your own ink in a shodo lesson and learn to paint kanji characters in the correct order of strokes.

Ikebana flower arranging Study the 600-year-old art of Japanese flower arranging, which evolved from the Buddhist tradition of offering flowers to the spirits of the ancestors. Following strict rules governing shape, colours and form, let an ikebana expert guide you through a hands-on flower arranging experience that we hope you can recreate at home.

Kabuki Dating back to the Edo Period (1603–1867), this is one of Japan’s classical theatrical arts – a great spectacle involving elaborate costumes and outlandish make-up, live music and creative sets with trapdoors and revolving platforms. Performances use old forms of Japanese, so Kabuki actors make stylised, exaggerated movements to convey meaning. English head-sets are also available to help you understand the story.

Yakimono pottery Have you got what it takes to throw a ceramic pot? Learn from yakimono ceramicists at a wellknown Kyoto pottery studio who’ll help you master the basic techniques in a half-day lesson. Finished items can be glazed and shipped home if you wish.

Tea ceremony Could there be anything more Japanese than sliding back a shoji screen door, kneeling on a tatami-mat floor and learning the revered art of the tea ceremony? The ancient rituals surrounding the presentation of green tea date back to 12th-century Buddhist ceremonies and are an integral part of traditional Japanese culture. You can take part in your own meditative tea ceremony in a gorgeous Kyoto teahouse.

Origami Learn how to fold an origami paper crane – it’s a great party trick! According to Japanese folklore, cranes symbolise longevity and peace, which is why you’ll see strings of thousands of cranes at the Hiroshima Peace Park. Whilst an hour’s origami lesson won’t give you time to make a thousand, you will perfect one little paper bird to take home with you.

Interested in Japanese traditional arts? If you’d like to try your hand at one of these traditional arts, or have further craft ideas of your own, please let us know. Check out the Hands On Japan Small Group Tour featured on page 34-35, which is packed full of artistic lessons and experiences. Alternatively we can mesh arts and crafts activities into any bespoke Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.



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Japanese history Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site, Aomori The history of Japan is simply fascinating. Long periods of isolation and the fact that Japan has never been successfully invaded or colonised have created one of the world’s richest and most intriguing cultures.

Jomon Period (13,000–300 BC)


In its early history, Japan received a great deal of influence from China, adopting Chinese culture, religion and governing policies. The Nara and Heian Periods (710–1185) saw the establishment of the nation’s first permanent capitals at Nara and Kyoto, heralding a long period of cultural flowering often looked to as a golden age of Japanese history. The feudal period that followed (1185–c1600) was the age of shogun warlords. This was a time characterised by powerful clans jostling for power, during which Japan also survived two nearcatastrophic invasions by Mongol forces. The Edo Period (1603–1868) saw power rest in the hands of the Tokugawa family, Japan’s last and most celebrated shogunate, which brought peace to the country and established Japan’s period of isolation, or sakoku. Instituted out of fear of invasion, sakoku lasted until 1853, when American Commodore Matthew

Perry forced Japan to reopen trade. Shortly after this, the Meiji Restoration restored the Japanese Imperial family to power, ending the rule of the shogun. The twentieth century saw disaster and destruction on an unprecedented level during World War Two, before a rapid and remarkable recovery – fuelled by astonishing economic growth – propelled modern Japan forward to become the incredibly advanced and complex society it is today.

Venture to Aomori on the northern tip of Honshu to uncover the secrets of a Jomon-Period village. This is Japan’s best-preserved archaeological site, where excavations of the village – thought to have contained over 700 buildings including long houses, roads, burial pits and storage huts – is still ongoing. The neighbouring museum explains more about life in this early period of Japan’s history.

Ancient burial tombs, Nara Asuka Period (538–710 AD)

If you are as captivated by history as we are, Japan has a wealth of wonderful historical sites that we’d be delighted to incorporate into any itinerary.

Nagoya Nara

The small district of Asuka in Nara Prefecture was once the site of Japan’s first capital city as Buddhism took root changing the cultural and religious landscape. Only a few ruins remain from that time, but the huge stone tombs of the ruling Soga clan have survived intact. Nearby Asuka-dera is thought to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan.



Dejima “Exit Island”, Nagasaki Edo Period (1603–1867) Dejima is an artificial island built in the bay of Nagasaki in 1634. Measuring just 390 by 250 ft (118 m by 76 m), for two centuries it was home to Dutch traders, who were forbidden from trading on the mainland due to Japan’s self-imposed isolationist policy during the Edo era. Whilst Dejima is no longer an island – the surrounding area has been reclaimed for development – some historical structures remain, including Dutch residences, warehouses, walls and gates, offering a fascinating insight to the period.

Want to delve deeper? Whether you’re a bona fide history buff or just feel inspired by something you’ve seen here, our World Heritage (page 58-59) and Traditional Japan (page 5657) Self-Guided Adventures are a great place to start. If a Small Group Tour is more up your street, Kyushu Elements (page 36-37) incorporates a visit to Dejima Island, and Hidden Japan stops by Hiroshima’s Peace Park.

Meiji Mura, Nagoya Meiji Period (1868–1912) The opening of Japan’s borders during the Meiji Period saw the country change dramatically as Western thinking influenced architecture, industry and society. Meiji Mura is an open-air museum showcasing the styles of those heady days. Some 60 historical buildings have been moved and reconstructed in the 247-acre park, the most significant of which is the main entrance and lobby of Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Imperial Hotel.

Hiroshima Peace Park World War Two (1945) To attempt to understand the modern Japanese psyche, you must first visit Hiroshima. Hiroshima’s Peace Park is a memorial to the atomic bombing of the 6th of August 1945 and is the city’s biggest draw for visitors. Comprising a Peace Museum recounting the build-up to and fallout from the bombing, several memorials and the shell of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (now known as the A-Bomb Dome), the Peace Park presents an even-handed and thoroughly moving look at Japan’s darkest hour.



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Samurai Nijo Castle, Kyoto Who could fail to be impressed by the mighty samurai and their long-standing philosophies? Rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour and loyalty are the seven virtues of the samurai bushido code – traits that many Japanese strive to live by even today. During the long peace of the Edo Period (1603–1868), samurai gradually lost their military function and expanded their roles as courtiers, bureaucrats and administrators.


The samurai class was eventually abolished in the Meiji Reforms of the 19th century, after hundreds of years of power and influence.

As soldiers, the samurai were fierce fighters who followed strict codes of honour and combat. They employed bows and arrows, spears and guns, but their main weapon and symbol was the sword.

Kakunodate samurai district




© Everett Kennedy Brown

Samurai (usually called bushi or buke in Japanese) were the military nobility of Japan, first emerging in the mid-Heian Period (794–1185). Their skills as warriors were most in demand during the 15th and 16th centuries – a time of landowning clans and feudal wars, when Japan splintered into dozens of independent states.

Imagine filing through the defensive rings of Kyoto’s Nijo Castle for a top-secret meeting with Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period. Nijo is Japan’s best-preserved palace castle and a fascinating place to explore. Particularly amazing are the famous “nightingale floors”, which whistle like birds underfoot to warn the shogun of an intruder – perhaps the earliest form of burglar alarm.

Kakunodate in northern Tohoku has a beautifully preserved samurai district. Wide boulevards lined with willow and cherry blossom trees are home to former samurai villas – six of which are open for you to see inside. Museum exhibits explain samurai traditions and lifestyle. Don’t miss the collection of samurai armour – people were tiny back then!

Myoryu-ji Temple, Kanazawa The garden city of Kanazawa has many interesting samurai sights in and around Kanazawa Castle, including Myoryu-ji. The temple hid a military outpost with an intricate defence system, including a labyrinth of hidden tunnels, secret rooms and traps so defenders could escape to the castle to warn of an imminent attack.

Tokugawa Art Museum, Nagoya Nagoya, once ruled by the Owari branch of the Tokugawa shogunate, is a great place to see the finest art and artifacts of the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). Located on the site of the Owari clan’s feudal residence, the Tokugawa Art Museum exhibits samurai treasures from this period including armour and swords, tea ceremony utensils, scrolls and maps.

Iaido by Hajime Saito A native of Tokyo, operations assistant Hajime moved to Nagoya eight years ago, around the same time as he started learning iaido. Today he is a 5th Dan – which means he’s pretty good! “ Iaido (or iai), is a modern Japanese martial art that draws on traditional Japanese swordsmanship techniques, like those once used by the samurai. Students of iai use imitation swords in their practice, but more experienced practitioners sometimes use real swords. These are very dangerous and can cost over one million yen (£5,800), so I probably won’t be investing in one any time soon!



“ I began learning iai because I am interested in Japanese swords and traditions, and after having practiced karate and shorinji kempo, I wanted to learn a weapon-based martial art. The particular sect that I follow (called Eishinryu) is non-contact, focusing on ‘kata’, which are choreographed sets of movements closer to dancing than fighting. “ I definitely recommend taking a lesson in iai on your trip to Japan. But don’t imagine that you’ll be slashing at straw dolls – real iai focuses on slow movements like t’ai chi, it’s not at all like you see in the movies! ”

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Intrigued by samurai culture? Next step Keen to delve into Japan’s feudal past? Any of our Self-Guided Adventures can be tailored to include an element of samurai history – just let us know what interests you. If you’re planning to join a Small Group Tour, why not consider Spring Elegance (page 26-27), which takes you to Matsumoto’s “Black Crow” castle and the preserved samurai district of Kanazawa?



Pop Culture Manga drawing class Think of Japan today and you’re probably as likely to think of robots and Hello Kitty as you are geisha and samurai. Ever since the boom years of the 1980s, Japanese pop culture has been an unstoppable powerhouse, and its ever-growing popularity abroad shows no sign of abating. Manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) are inarguably Japan’s most ubiquitous pop culture export. In Japan it is perfectly normal to see grown adults poring over their favourite comic books in the subway on their way to work, and you’d have to look quite hard to find someone anywhere in the world who hadn’t heard of Pikachu or Studio Ghibli.

own brand of sparkling, upbeat tunes – and we have kawaii (or “cute”) culture to thank for Hello Kitty and yuru-kyara – the armies of cuddly cartoon mascots currently flooding Japan. Whatever your perspective on Japanese pop culture, it’s impossible to avoid – and Japan wouldn’t be the exciting and vibrant place it is today without it.

Meanwhile, Japanese street fashion (typified by the famed “Harajuku girls” of Tokyo) has firmly established styles such as “gothic Lolita” as stock images of modern Japan. Japanese pop music, or J-Pop, offers its

J-Pop by Amy Tadehara Boulder-based travel consultant Amy spent four years teaching English in Sendai. Her favourite J-Pop band is Arashi, but more recently she’s become a big fan of Greeeen – a band made up entirely of Japanese dentists.

Visit Tokyo’s most famous animation school for a three-hour private lesson in manga drawing – a must for any wannabe comic artist. Learn the manga basics including dip-pen, screen-tone and colour drawing techniques, then make multiple frames to create your own manga story.

Robot restaurant Shinjuku’s robot restaurant obliterates the rest of Tokyo in the weirdness stakes. Forget the food - you’re here for the hour-long show: a “robot cabaret” accompanied by a garish kaleidoscope of strobe lights, lasers, techno music and dancers in glittery bikinis. If you’re looking for Japan’s otherworldly kooky side, prepare yourself for the shock of this relentless sensory bombardment. You have been warned!

“I loved the contrast between traditional Japan (temples, shrines, gardens, geisha) with the contemporary craziness of Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku.” Leigh, Virginia, USA

“ I first became interested in J-Pop as a way of bonding with my junior high school students. Instead of asking them ‘do you like baseball?’ I’d ask ‘do you prefer Arashi or KAT-TUN?’ I found it was a great way to get them to speak in English about something they loved. “ I think pop music in Japan is a much more pervasive phenomenon than anywhere else. You can’t walk ten feet without seeing an advertisement featuring one of the current ‘idols’: they have their own TV shows, feature heavily on game shows, and their fans follow their lives in incredible detail. “ For a taste of J-Pop culture, take a walk through the Harajuku or Shibuya districts of Tokyo, or turn on the TV in your hotel room to catch a music or game show. Even if you can’t understand what’s going on, you’ll get a glimpse of what J-Pop means to people in Japan.”

Tokyo fairs & conventions Time your trip to Tokyo to catch an otaku (geek) convention such as the Tokyo Game Show (September), AnimeJapan (March) or Comiket (December) and we’ll include tickets in your holiday package. See the very latest developments in the worlds of gaming, anime and manga comics. Dates may vary for these events – please ask us for the latest listings.

Studio Ghibli Museum If you’re a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful animated masterpieces, don’t miss the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo which shows exclusive Ghibli short pieces in a small cinema. The gift shop is fantastic for all sorts of Ghibli goodies and the children’s play area boasts a climbaboard cat bus. Let us know if you’d like to include a visit on your trip, as tickets must be booked in advance.

Intrigued by Japanese pop culture? Turn to page 76-77 for our Manga & Anime Self-Guided Adventure, which might be just what you’re looking for. Otherwise give us a call today and we can start tailoring a quirky pop culture Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey for you. Please also keep an eye on our website as we often run pop culture-themed Small Group Tours.



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Culinary Japan Home cooking class When it comes to food, Japan deserves every accolade it gets. Besides its best-known exports - sushi, tempura, teriyaki, Kobe beef, sake... the list of specialty and regional cuisines is truly staggering. During any Japan holiday you can try hot and spicy ramen noodles, delicately battered tempura pumpkin and melt-in-the-mouth morsels of sashimi to name just a few examples. What’s more, each meal in Japan is a real experience – whether its grilling your own yakiniku beef on a tabletop hot-plate, having your maki sushi rolls delivered by a toy bullet train at a conveyor belt sushi bar, or indulging in a kaiseki banquet served by a kimono-wearing host in the privacy of your ryokan room. Kaiseki cuisine comprises a multitude of small dishes made from seasonal ingredients, each exquisitely presented on ceramics and lacquerware chosen to enhance the meal’s aesthetics.

Step into a real Japanese house for a lesson in home cooking. Using easy-to-identify ingredients that you’ll be able to find back home, you’ll learn to make tasty dishes such as maki sushi rolls, tempura vegetables, miso soup and teriyaki chicken.

The izakaya, after-work haunt of the suited salary man, is a very different dining experience – but one that’s certainly not to be missed. Here Japanese and western food is served tapas-style, washed down in high spirits with plenty of beer. Some of the best comfort food in Japan is not elaborate at all, but can be found at street stalls and tiny restaurants with room for only a couple of customers. Be sure to try takoyaki octopus dumplings in Osaka and discover the delights of okonomiyaki savoury pancakes in Hiroshima. Food is a highlight of all our trips to Japan, and we’ll make sure that you leave with an appetite for more.

Izakaya experience Let us accompany you to one of our favourite izakaya, Japan’s version of the humble public house. We’ll arrange a local ex-pat to talk you through this mainstay of Japanese eating-out, translate the menu, do the ordering and help you identify everything on your plate. Whilst most Japanese restaurants usually specialise in just one food type, izakaya offer a wide range of hearty Japanese and Asian-Western fusion dishes, washed down with excellent Japanese beer of course.

Osaka street food tour Experience down-to-earth Osaka’s motto: kuiadore – “eat, drink and enjoy life” on an evening tour of Dotonbori’s best street food. With your local guide, you’ll take a boat ride down the city canal, before hopping from street food stall to snack bar to izakaya restaurant. Don’t miss the freshlybattered takoyaki octopus dumplings dripping in barbecue sauce, or the kushikatsu meat skewers.

Kobe beef Dine at a wagyu beef restaurant in Kobe to enjoy one of Japan’s most famous regional dishes. This is beef of the absolute highest quality – tender and full of flavour – served as steaks, shabu shabu slices dipped in broth or in a sukiyaki hotpot.

Culinary tour of Tsukiji Fish Market by Naomi Rogalska Our financial controller Naomi took her first trip to Japan in July “Tsukiji is a working market, not a tourist attraction. 2014. Accompanied by her husband Seb, a professional chef, This also means you’re liable to get your feet dirty – they were very keen to taste the best of Japan’s famous cuisine. and you’ll have to jump out of the way of an electric cart or two. But this is all part of the experience. “ We were met at our hotel by a professional chef and “ We continued on to one of the finest sushi restaurants sommelier who took us to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. She in Tokyo. This was our last meal in Japan, and we were a was incredibly knowledgeable, explaining the difference between the different grades of tuna, how they are cut, what bit apprehensive about having yet more fish – but we can tools are used and why frozen fish can be fresher than ‘fresh’! honestly say that it was worth it. The staff were extremely friendly and the sushi was simply superb – fresh, sweet and melt-in-the mouth delicious .”



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Feeling hungry? For further inspiration have a look at the Gastronomic Adventure Self-Guided Adventure on page 74-75 of this brochure. Many of our Small Group Tours include cooking lessons and wonderful meals; give us a call and we can talk you through what you’ll eat and where. Alternatively let us know which of the experiences on this page tickle your taste buds and we can add this to any Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.



Onsen Hakone If stripping down to your birthday suit for a bath with a bunch of complete strangers doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, prepare to change your mind. Onsen, or geothermal hot spring baths, are an integral part of Japanese life and something that we believe every visitor to Japan should try. Hadaka no tsukiai, or “naked companionship”, refers to the deep friendships formed in an onsen. It’s a great leveler, as social barriers fall away into the hot steamy water. Okay, we admit it – being naked in public does feel pretty weird at first, but you really do get used to it quickly. In fact there is something very liberating about all ages, shapes, sizes, classes and races naked together in a hot spring bath.

The ultimate Japanese spa town – historically frequented by samurai and just a short hop from Tokyo, with great views of Mount Fuji to boot. There are more than a dozen naturally occurring hot springs here, which supply the indoor and outdoor onsen at numerous bathhouses and ryokan around the national park.

There are even gigantic onsen theme parks where you can while away a whole day in endless saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzis and baths of salts and minerals, green tea and red wine. We kid you not – it’s in Hakone.

Nyuto Onsen

The best baths are out in the open air and nothing could be more relaxing than feeling the breeze on your face and the mineral water on your skin whilst you soak up views of open skies, rivers and mountains. For many, onsen are the first thing you’ll miss when you return home from Japan.

Kinosaki Onsen Hakone

Thanks to all that volcanic activity, there is a profusion of wonderful baths in enchanting locations across Japan – from steaming pools surrounded by thick snow in Hokkaido to cypress-scented ryokan hot tubs.

Kinosaki Onsen Osaka

This is onsen bathing at its most traditional. Kinosaki is a pretty little town of canals lined with willow trees and time-worn wooden buildings. If you stay overnight at a Kinosaki ryokan, you can take a sotoyu meguri (bath stroll) dressed in a light cotton kimono and geta sandals as you wander between seven public bathhouses.



Nyuto Onsen Nyuto Onsen literally means “nipple hot springs”: a name inspired by the shape of nearby Mount Nyuto apparently – not for any other reason! This is a rustic collection of outdoor hot spring baths in glorious isolation deep in the Tohoku countryside.

Sand baths Whilst there are fantastic volcanic hot springs across Kyushu Island, Beppu and Ibusuki are known for a different experience: sand baths. On a beach or in a bathhouse, you’ll put on a cotton robe and lie down in the sand whilst assistants pour on more warm sand, burying you up to your neck. Have a nice nap for 15 minutes or so and enjoy the benefits to your complexion and circulation!

Osaka Spa World by Claire Brothers During her five years spent teaching English in Kyoto, travel consultant Claire visited Spa World no less than 15 times. She confidently declares it to be her favourite place in Japan. “ Spa World is massive: packed with restaurants, beauty treatments, swimming pools and more – but my highlight is the baths. Organised by theme and segregated by sex, here you’ll have to leave your bikini at the door! Once within, you’ll find a Grecian bath complete with columns, fountains and



a salt sauna; a mud bath; an Italian-themed bath in a cave with water like milk and honey; a bath with giant fish tanks in the walls; and even a Finnish sauna with model wolves on the roof! Of course, there are also some lovely Japanese-style outdoor baths too. “ Such is my enthusiasm for Spa World that when my five years in Japan came to a close, I could think of no better place to spend my last day. I would certainly urge anyone visiting Osaka to give it a try.”

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Fancy onsen bathing? Already imagining soaking in a beautiful hot spring bath after a long day of sightseeing? All of the Small Group Tours or Self-Guided Adventures included in this brochure include a ryokan stay where hot spring bathing is part of the experience. But if any of the traditional spas described on these pages capture your imagination, let us know and we’ll weave them into a bespoke Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey.



Gardens Bonsai Village, Omiya

A red bridge across a lily pond; weeping willow trees, autumn leaves and tunnels of cherry blossom; meticulously raked gravel and glistening moss in a hundred varieties of green. What could be more peaceful than spending an afternoon exploring one of Japan’s beautiful gardens? Strolling gardens lead the visitor on a journey through a series of carefully thought-out landscapes; “borrowed scenery” gardens use components such as a mountain or a nearby castle to enhance the view. Zen gardens, meanwhile, are calculated to inspire contemplation with their white, raked sand and judiciously placed rocks. Regardless of the particular style, no aspect of a Japanese garden is ever left to chance, and each choice represents principles that have been developed over centuries. When selecting rocks, great attention is paid to the colour, positioning and size. Plants are chosen according to their season

Put your green fingers to the test in a hands-on lesson at the Omiya Bonsai Village. An expert instructor will introduce you to classic bonsai care techniques that you can try for yourself on a few practice trees. Afterwards you’ll have a chance to appreciate the many fine bonsai exhibits in the renowned bonsai museum and garden.

of flowering, colour and religious symbolism, and their growth is controlled to create carefully planned effects – such as intricate shadows on the surface of a pond. From the famous rock garden of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto to the spectacular Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, there is sure to be a horticultural wonder hidden just around the corner no matter what your itinerary.

Kanazawa Omiya


Kokedera moss garden, Kyoto Particularly exquisite in rainy June, the garden surrounding Saiho-ji Temple is home to 120 varieties of moss – a velvety carpet in every shade of green. Entrance is by appointment only, which we can arrange for you in advance of your trip. As part of the visit, you’ll be invited to participate in Buddhist chanting and the copying of sutra scriptures; a meditative experience designed to enhance your appreciation of the gardens.

Ryoan-ji rock garden, Kyoto Ready to contemplate the true essence of nature? Visit Japan’s finest dry landscape garden at Ryoan-ji Temple to see 15 rock islands cast adrift in a sea of meticulously raked gravel. Karesansui rock gardens date back to the Muromachi Period (1336 -1573) as an aid to meditation at Zen temples - so it’s left to the visitor to ponder the meaning of it all.

Kenrokuen strolling garden, Kanazawa Once part of the outer grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Kenrokuen is the quintessential Japanese garden. Think lily ponds and stone pagodas, wooden bridges and teahouses, streams with koi carp, waterfalls, flowers, Japanese pine trees and delicately placed stones.

Enchanted by Japanese gardens? Beautiful gardens can be found in and around every major city in Japan, so can easily be incorporated on any Small Group Tour or Self-Guided Adventure. If a particular garden inspires you, let us know and our travel consultants can make sure to include it on a tailor-made Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey. We can even make Japanese gardens the main theme of your holiday; the choice is yours.



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Festivals Fuji Rock (July) The Japanese absolutely love their festivals, whether they’re entering the Guinness World Record book with the biggest tug-of-war in the world in Naha, or setting an entire mountain on fire for the Wakakusayama Matsuri in Nara. From tiny local celebrations to huge, nationwide holidays – some estimates place the number of festivals in Japan as high as a staggering 200,000 per year. With this many events in the calendar, the chances are your trip will coincide with a Japanese festival – and we’ll be sure to let you know if there is anything exciting going on that fits in with your travel plans. Whether you’d like to marvel at Sapporo festival’s enormous snow sculptures, throw beans to drive out evil spirits during Setsubun in spring, see spectacular summer fireworks displays, or even run semi-naked through the streets at Okayama’s Naked Man festival – we highly recommend getting involved.


Japanese festivals boast a cornucopia of yatai food stalls selling all kinds of delicious snacks - plenty of fun for all ages. This is a fantastic opportunity to mingle with the locals, who will be more than happy to welcome you into the celebrations.


We love Fuji Rock, Japan’s number one music festival held in Naeba in the mountains of Niigata Prefecture. A world-class line up, alpine scenery, woodland walkways adorned with glitter balls – not to mention an immaculate campsite complete with hot spring baths: this is a music festival to rival the best of them.

Aomori Nebuta festival (August) Kamakura

Venture to the northern town of Aomori for the Nebuta Matsuri, one of Japan’s most famous festivals. As darkness falls, you’ll see a parade of huge illuminated floats crafted from coloured rice paper. Think huge demons, samurai, birds and Kabuki scenes – all up to 33 ft (10 m) wide – followed by hundreds of dancers.


Annual Festival Calendar Yabusame Kamakura (September) January


Archery contest at Sanjusangendo Temple



Snow festival


Naked man festival

Don’t miss this spectacle: galloping archers who control the horses with their knees whilst firing a bow and arrow at targets along a 837 ft (255 m) track. Dating back to the 12th century, the contest developed as a way to entertain the Shinto gods and thus secure their blessings and prosperity – as well as fulfilling a dual function as a military training exercise.



Omizutori water-drawing festival



Spring festival



Aoi hollyhock festival


Asakusa sanja festival



Hyakumangoku annual festival



Gion Festival

Saijo sake festival (October)


Fuji Rock

Where can you taste over 900 types of sake from across Japan all in one place? At October’s sake festival held in the Saijo district on the outskirts of Hiroshima. Ten family breweries have been producing sake here since 1650 and the annual festival is a whole lot of fun.


Tenjin fireworks display


Nebuta festival


Sendai tanabata star festival


Awa-odori folk dance festival



Horseback archery contest



Kunchi festival


Saijo sake festival


Autumn festival


Jidai festival of the ages



Feudal lord’s procession



Chichibu night festival


Fancy timing your trip to catch one of Japan’s major festivals? Speak to one of our expert travel consultants who can advise you. Some Small Group Tours such as Winter Highlights are deliberately timed to catch a certain festival, whilst a Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey can start on any day of the year so it’s easy to work a festival into your itinerary. During some festivals accommodation gets booked up very fast, so we advise planning your trip as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.



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Flights & stopovers

Stopovers You may like to break your journey en-route to or from Japan. We can arrange short stopovers including accommodation, airport transfers, guided tours & excursions in many Asian cities. Here are some ideas:

We’d be delighted to arrange international flights if you are travelling from the UK. Please ask us for available options and prices. Booking flights through us means that your money is financially protected by our ATOL Licence (9419). This means that in the event of a flight cancellation, airline bankruptcy, a strike or an ash cloud your money is safe.

Hong Kong Compare Tokyo with Hong Kong, a similarly vertical city, surrounded by mountains with a spectacular water front from which high-tech skyscrapers rise like a glittering bar chart. Join a dawn t’ai chi class or explore crowded Chinese markets. Taste the food on offer at a dai pai dong street-side stall or take afternoon tea in a five-star hotel. Go hiking in the mountains or sail the harbour in a traditional junk boat. But don’t forget to take the tram to the top of Victoria Peak for that million-dollar view!

Even if you prefer to book your flights separately, we are more than happy to provide advice and can make suggestions for where you might find the best fares. If you are joining a Small Group Tour, your flights will need to match the tour dates. For a Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey, you can of course travel whenever you like and we will arrange flights and land arrangements to fit. Tokyo Narita Airport Tokyo Haneda Airport

Tokyo airports

Nagoya Airport Osaka Kansai Airport

Tokyo has two major airports: n Tokyo Narita: one hour from the city centre. The majority of international flights arrive here.

Bangkok Turn a blind eye to the slapdash city planning, poor infrastructure and chaotic congestion – Japan this is not. Instead, Thailand’s capital is all about the allure of the haphazard. Imagine taking a boat trip along the city’s canals for a seafood lunch at Taling Chan floating market. Explore a different branch of Buddhism at Wat Arun and Wat Pho temples, visit the Grand Palace’s sacred Emerald Buddha, or relive your youth in the madness of Khaosan Road. And don’t forget the food! You’ll eat like a king in Bangkok. Oh how we dream of pad thai and spicy papaya salad.

Fukuoka Airport

n Tokyo Haneda: Close to the city centre, but international arrival and departures can be very early in the morning. We are proud to be an appointed operator for British Airways. British Airways operate daily non-stop flights from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita or Haneda. Flight time is around twelve hours. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways also offer nonstop flights from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita or Haneda. If you don’t mind changing planes en-route from the UK, we can also book flights with Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Air France, KLM and many other airlines.

Other international airports n Osaka: Kansai International

Flights from Australia Qantas and Jetstar offer the following non-stop flights: n Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Brisbane to Tokyo Narita n Cairns and Sydney to Osaka Kansai Japan Airlines also offer non-stop flights from Sydney to Tokyo Narita.

n Nagoya: Chubu International n Fukuoka: Fukuoka International Taking an indirect flight means you are not limited to starting and finishing your trip in Tokyo. Instead indirect flights are available into or out of Nagoya and Osaka Kansai airports. The latter serves the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Alternatively it may be more suitable for you to fly in and out of Fukuoka Airport which offers handy access to Kyushu Island and southern Japan.

Many Australian clients also choose to fly with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong which offers lots of routes:

Adelaide Brisbane Cairns Melbourne Perth Sydney

via Hong Kong

Tokyo Narita Tokyo Haneda Nagoya Osaka Kansai Fukuoka Sapporo Okinawa Naha

We can also book “open jaw” flights (i.e. into one airport and out of another).



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Frequently asked questions Where are the prices?

What about visas?

You won’t find prices in this brochure, simply because exchange rates fluctuate and we are constantly making improvements to our itineraries to make each trip better and better. Instead, please visit our website for fixed prices for Small Group Tours and guideline pricing for our Self-Guided Adventures and Exclusive Private Journeys. Alternatively, our sales consultants would be happy to provide prices over the phone.

If you come from the UK, US, Australia, Canada or New Zealand (as well as many European countries), you will not need a visa to visit Japan. Please consult your local Japanese embassy if you are unsure about your visa requirements.

Please note that we do not surcharge. You can rest assured that prices are guaranteed once a deposit has been paid.

You’ve heard the myth! This is the legacy of Japan’s bubble economy in the 1980s. Fortunately prices have stabilised since then and you’ll find that day-to-day expenses for travelling in Japan are no higher than in Europe, Australia, or North America. In fact it’s possible to get an excellent meal for £10 and to take the subway across Tokyo for less than £1.50.

Small Group Tours, Self-Guided, Exclusive Private Journeys – I’m confused! Help! • Small Group Tours: you will be part of a group of maximum 14 guests, travelling around Japan together with the full-time services of a tour leader. These trips have set start dates throughout the year. • Self-Guided Adventure: you will travel independently, not as part of a group and without a tour leader. We do usually include a day or two (or more) with a private guide in key destinations. Itineraries are very flexible and you can travel on any day of the year. • Exclusive Private Journeys are an elite-level service and you’ll have professional guides in each destination. We will tailor an itinerary for you including Japan’s very best hotels and ryokan inns. We’ll also make advance restaurant reservations and arrange exclusive experiences with local artisans and experts.

I can’t speak any Japanese! English is not as widely spoken in Japan as in many other Asian countries, however all Japanese people do study English at school – to varying levels of success, of course! As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find better English spoken (and written on signs and menus) in the big cities. Accordingly, the further away from Tokyo and Kyoto you travel, the harder it may be to find someone who can understand you (but that’s all part of the fun for the adventurous traveller).

Isn’t it difficult to travel by public transport in Japan? Not at all! You’ll soon notice that stations are well labelled in English and the public transport is clean, efficient and ruthlessly punctual; the average annual delay on the Shinkansen bullet train can be as little as 18 seconds.



Isn’t Japan really expensive?

How fit do I need to be? For the majority of our trips, you will need a moderate level of fitness as city sightseeing is best done on foot, may involve climbing stairs and requires walking between hotels and train stations. Of course if you are happy to pay on the day for taxis, this can make travelling in Japan much easier. Any Self-Guided Adventure or Exclusive Private Journey can be tailored to suit your fitness ability, but on our Small Group Tours you will need to move around at a pace that is comfortable for the majority of the group; you should be able to manage everyday walking and stair-climbing without difficulty. Our most comfortable Small Group Tours are Luxury Japan and Spirit of Honshu as most transfers are by private buses. At the other end of the scale, please only attempt Historic Mountain Trails if you are very fit; experience of hiking up steep mountains at high altitudes is strongly recommended.

How about luggage? Even if baggage handling is not included in your trip, it doesn’t mean you need to carry heavy bags around with you. Japan has a fabulous luggage forwarding service known as takkuhaibin. For around 1,500 yen (£9) you can forward a bag by next-day delivery between pretty much any two points in Japan. Nearly all hotels will be happy to help and your Info-Pack will tell you where we suggest making use of this service. If you plan on using this service, you should bring a small overnight bag for use on the nights when your luggage is in transit.

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Important information Holiday descriptions and inclusions Full details of the inclusions, accommodation and day-by-day itineraries for the holidays described in this brochure can be found on our website or by contacting us. Prices Due to the volatility of currency exchange rates and the flexibility of our itineraries we have not printed any prices in our brochure. For the latest prices please call us, contact your local travel agent or check our website: When planning your trip please keep in mind that during certain Japanese holiday periods, prices can be a lot higher than usual. The main holiday periods are as follows: New Year - 29th December to 4th January Golden Week - 29th April to 5th May Obon Festival - 9th August to 17th August Financial protection The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT) provides financial protection under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 for InsideJapan Tours, and in the event of our insolvency, protection is provided for the following: 1. Non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK; 2. Non-flight packages commencing and returning to a country other than the UK; and 3. Flight inclusive packages that commence outside of the UK, which are sold to customers outside of the UK. Clauses 1, 2 and 3 provide for a refund in the event that you have not yet travelled. Clauses 1 and 3 provide for repatriation. Please note that bookings made outside the UK are only protected by ABTOT when purchased directly with InsideJapan Tours. The air holiday packages in this brochure are ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 9419. Please see our booking conditions for more information. ATOL Protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services in this brochure. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. Booking, payment & travel documents You can book by contacting InsideJapan Tours directly or by talking to your local travel agent. If you are booking through a travel agency, all subsequent correspondence should be made through that agency. For all bookings, you will be required to accept our terms and conditions on behalf of all of those in your party. InsideJapan Tours asks for a non-refundable deposit upon booking and then full payment two months prior to your package start date. Please check with your travel agent for their payment terms as these vary from agent to agent. After we have processed your booking, we will issue you or your travel agent with a confirmation document, which will show exactly what is included in your holiday. Please check all the details carefully and advise your booking agent if there are any mistakes or if there is anything you do not understand. Your Info-Pack and final travel documents will be sent to you approximately four weeks before departure. Some tickets may be sent to your first hotel in Japan for collection on arrival. Full details of which tickets and documents will be sent when and where will be in your final documentation. Meals A number of meals are included in most packages. Please advise your booking agent or travel consultant of any dietary requirements and we will do our best to accommodate them.



Late bookings Bookings made fewer than four weeks before your planned departure date will be accepted on a case-by-case basis. In most situations we will be able to confirm your holiday at the current price (as shown on our website or available by contacting your travel agent), however there may be situations where we will have to change the prices, inclusions or itinerary. For later bookings we will endeavour to confirm your holiday arrangements and the price within three working days. Passports, visas and health advice It is your responsibility to ensure that you and all members of your party have the correct passports and, if appropriate, visas to enter Japan. At the time of printing, citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand and many European countries do not need a visa to visit Japan. If you are unsure, please ask the Japanese Embassy in your home country. You can find a full list of embassies at: Vaccinations are generally not needed for visiting Japan, but if you suffer from any health problems please consult your doctor before booking. Healthcare in Japan is usually very good but can be expensive. Please note that some medications are not permitted in Japan. Your own government will be able to supply the latest health advice regarding your visit. You may also want to contact the Japan National Tourist Organisation (JNTO) for advice. UK: JNTO UK: JNTO AUS: JNTO Worldwide: Travel insurance It is a condition of booking with InsideJapan Tours that you and all members of your party have adequate travel insurance to cover medical costs and repatriation. You will be asked to sign a booking form to show that you have, or will have, this insurance in place for the duration of your trip. Although not compulsory, we recommend that you also take out cancellation insurance. Money & debit / credit cards Japan is still a cash society and many shops and restaurants do not accept debit or credit cards. Therefore, you will need to carry Japanese yen in cash whilst in Japan. You can get Japanese yen in advance of your trip or you can exchange US dollar, GB pound or Euro cash, as well as cash in most other currencies, on arrival at any airport. You can do the same at some banks and post offices during your trip. Please note that bank and post office opening hours are often shorter than in the UK or the US and that they are closed on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and national holidays. You can also use Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus or Maestro branded credit and debit cards to take money out of ATMs at Japan Post Office branches, Citi Bank branches and Seven Eleven convenience stores; you will need a four-digit PIN number to do this. Please inform your card issuer before departure that you will be using your card abroad, take the card issuer’s contact telephone number with you and have a back-up in case of any problems. Children Children aged 12 or older are treated as adults in terms of accommodation and transport costs. For younger children we can offer discounts; please ask your booking agent for further details. Any children aged 17 years or younger at the time of travel must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or another adult who will assume legal responsibility for them for the duration of the trip. We are happy for children aged six years or older at the time of travel to join most of our Small Group Tours.

Weather & climate When to go Rooms & check-in Check-in and check-out times vary from hotel to hotel. Check-in can be any time from 1pm to 4pm and check-out from 9am to 12 noon. Please note that in Japan check-in times are strictly adhered to and early check-in requests may well be refused. You can, however, always leave your suitcase with the front desk before check-in time. Please advise your booking agent as to whether you wish to have smoking or non-smoking rooms and we will do our best to accommodate your wishes. Triple or quad-share rooms may be available upon request; please ask for further details. Car hire If your package includes a rental car, the named driver must be in possession of a full and valid driving licence from their home country as well as a full and valid International Driving Permit (issued in accordance with the Geneva Convention 1949). Cars drive on the left and most roads signs are in English as well as Japanese. Swiss and German driving licence holders need to obtain a Japanese translation of their home country driving licence before departure and cannot use an International Driving Permit. Luggage Porterage is not included as standard in any of our packages although the top hotels in Japan will provide porterage between the front desk and your guest room at their discretion. For all packages you are responsible for carrying your own luggage from place to place. Most train stations have escalators but a few do not. Some trains only have limited luggage space. Please pack as light as possible and make sure that you are able to handle your own luggage comfortably. We recommend packing a small, light suitcase with good wheels. Japan does have an excellent luggage forwarding service, called takkuhaibin, which is available from the front desk of most hotels. You can send your luggage from hotel to hotel on an overnight basis. This service is included at pertinent times on some of our Small Group Tours. For our Self-Guided Adventures you can use this service at a small additional cost (payable in yen at the time of forwarding) and full instructions will be in your Info-Pack. For those travelling on an Exclusive Private Journey these arrangements will be handled by the guide. If you plan to take advantage of this service, it will be useful to have an overnight bag as well as your main bag. If you have any questions or queries please contact us or ask your travel agent. To speak to a travel consultant at InsideJapan Tours please contact us on:

Japan is a fantastic holiday destination all year round regardless of which season you choose. Spring (March & April): Warm weather, not too humid. Very popular during cherry blossom season. Summer (May to September): Hot and humid in the cities, but great for exploring the mountains or beaches. Autumn (October & November): Mild to warm weather and autumn leaves visible throughout this period depending on the altitude. Winter (December to February): Cool, crisp, clear days with heavy snowfall in the mountains. Excellent powder snow for skiing.

Average High

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

-1°C / 30°F 10°C / 50°F 9°C / 48°F 10°C / 50°F 19°C / 66°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

0°C / 32°F 10°C / 50°F 9°C / 48°F 11°C / 52°F 19°C / 66°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

4°C / 39°F 13°C / 55°F 13°C / 55°F 14°C / 57°F 21°C / 70°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

11°C / 52°F 18°C / 64°F 20°C / 68°F 19°C / 66°F 24°C / 65°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

17°C / 63°F 23°C / 73°F 24°C / 75°F 24°C / 75°F 26°C / 79°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

21°C / 70°F 25°C / 77°F 27°C / 81°F 27°C / 81°F 29°C / 84°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

25°C / 77°F 29°C / 84°F 31°C / 88°F 31°C / 88°F 31°C / 88°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

26°C / 79°F 31°C / 88°F 33°C / 91°F 32°C / 90°F 31°C / 88°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

22°C / 72°F 27°C / 81°F 29°C / 84°F 28°C / 82°F 30°C / 86°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

16°C / 62°F 22°C / 72°F 23°C / 73°F 23°C / 73°F 28°C / 82°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

8°C / 46°F 17°C / 63°F 17°C / 63°F 18°C / 64°F 24°C / 75°F

Sapporo Tokyo Kyoto Fukuoka Ishigaki

2°C / 36°F 12°C / 54°F 12°C / 54°F 13°C / 55°F 21°C / 70°F

Cherry blossom Spring is a wonderful time to be in Japan to catch the transient beauty of the beloved cherry blossom season. Japan really lets its hair down at this time of year as the whole population enjoys sake-fuelled picnics beneath canopies of pink. Be warned though that this is a very busy time of year to visit Japan; trains, temples, restaurants and hotels will be full to capacity. Our advice is to book early and be flexible about budget and accommodation as hotels and guides get booked up a long time in advance. The cherry blossom usually lasts around two weeks with the average full bloom dates shown below. Please note that the cherry blossom is as unpredictable as the weather and timings can vary widely from year to year. City

Average full bloom


8th May


7th May


18th April


5th April


21st April


11th April


7th April


5th April


6th April


5th April


2nd April


3rd April


4th February

Autumn leaves Lasting longer than the cherry blossom, the koyo leaf-viewing season is arguably more spectacular. On average you can see the autumn colours at their best as shown below. Be warned: in Tokyo and Kyoto the leaves turn much later than you might expect! Region

UK: 0117 270 9730 AUS: 028 011 322

“Booking agent” refers to your InsideJapan Tours travel consultant or your local travel agent.

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Autumn leaves


Mid-September to mid-October


Mid-October to early November

Japanese Alps

Early October to mid-November


Late November to early December


Late November to early December


Mid- to late November


Late October to mid-November

Rainy season Whilst it can rain in Japan at any time all year round, the rain is at its heaviest from June to mid-July. However even during this rainy season, it won’t rain every day and it’s not always torrential. When it does pour, it tends to be in quick, tropical bursts before blue skies are revealed again. Travelling in Japan is still possible at this time of year; you’ll just need to carry an umbrella and invest in sensible footwear. Okinawa experiences a rainy season one month from May to mid-June, as well as occasional typhoons later in the summer and autumn. Hokkaido does not have a rainy season at all.

Average Low January -8°C / 18°F 2°C / 36°F 3°C / 37°F 3°C / 37°F 14°C / 57°F February -7°C / 19°F 2°C / 36°F 3°C / 37°F 4°C / 39°F 14°C / 57°F March -4°C / 25°F 5°C / 41°F 5°C / 41°F 6°C / 43°F 16°C / 61°F April 3°C / 37°F 11°C / 52°F 11°C / 52°F 11°C / 52°F 19°C / 66°F May 8°C / 46°F 15°C / 59°F 15°C / 59°F 15°C / 59°F 22°C / 72°F June 12°C / 54°F 19°C / 66°F 20°C / 68°F 19°C / 66°F 25°C / 77°F July 17°C / 63°F 23°C / 73°F 24°C / 75°F 24°C / 75°F 26°C / 79°F August 19°C / 66°F 24°C / 75°F 25°C / 77°F 25°C / 77°F 26°C / 79°F September 14°C / 57°F 21°C / 70°F 21°C / 70°F 21°C / 70°F 25°C / 77°F October 7°C / 45°F 15°C / 59°F 15°C / 59°F 15°C / 59°F 23°C / 73°F November 1°C / 34°F 10°C / 50°F 10°C / 50°F 10°C / 50°F 20°C / 68°F December -4°C / 25°F 5°C / 41°F 5°C / 41°F 5°C / 41°F 16°C / 61°F

Rainy Days

Sunny Days

60% 15% 20% 25% 35%

40% 75% 60% 40% 35%

55% 15% 15% 25% 35%

45% 70% 60% 55% 30%

50% 25% 30% 35% 35%

55% 60% 60% 50% 40%

30% 35% 35% 35% 40%

55% 55% 60% 55% 35%

30% 30% 35% 30% 30%

55% 50% 60% 55% 45%

25% 35% 30% 25% 45%

55% 45% 55% 55% 40%

25% 35% 40% 40% 25%

40% 30% 45% 40% 80%

25% 25% 20% 25% 40%

50% 55% 70% 65% 70%

30% 35% 30% 35% 35%

50% 40% 60% 55% 70%

35% 35% 30% 20% 25%

60% 40% 55% 60% 65%

45% 25% 20% 30% 25%

40% 55% 60% 55% 55%

50% 15% 20% 30% 25%

35% 65% 65% 45% 45%



InsideVietnam Tours & InsideBurma Tours Ready to explore more of Asia? We are proud to introduce you to our sister brands: InsideVietnam Tours and InsideBurma Tours. We offer small group tours, tailored travel and cultural experiences in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and in the emerging destination of Burma – a country that until recently has remained largely unknown and inaccessible. You can expect the same passion, expertise and commitment to providing the best possible service that we offer in Japan all across Southeast Asia. Our first-hand inside knowledge of this region enables us to offer memorable holidays that consistently exceed our customers’ expectations, as proven by the client feedback on our websites.

Vietnam Vietnam is a country on the move. The American-Vietnamese War ended almost forty years ago and, whilst not forgotten, it no longer defines today’s Vietnamese, who are young, optimistic and dynamic; ready to welcome the world. There is a real buzz on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, contrasting with and complementing the more traditional aspects of the country to be found beyond the urban sprawl. Whether you are hiking through the rice terraces of the north, cruising through the magical scenery of Halong Bay and the Mekong Delta, relaxing on Phu Quoc’s palm-lined beaches or sipping coffee on a colonial boulevard, there’s plenty to discover in this beautiful country.

Cambodia idir serugiF soaLPlease & aidocall bmaus C 9on 0 0117 244 3370 to discuss your Southeast Asia

travel plans or to request an InsideVietnam Tours / InsideBurma Tours brochure.

Cambodia is the Southeast Asia of countless postcards: a land of smiling people and orangerobed monks, tropical fruit, hidden Khmer temples, lush rice paddies, tuk tuks and delicious coconut curries served on banana leaves. Although best known for the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, Cambodia has much more to offer: teetering stilt villages on Tonle Sap Lake; palaces and colonial villas in Phnom Penh; golden beaches, jungletreks and river cruises - not to mention fantastic Khmer cuisine and artisan craftwork.

Laos Laos, “the Land of a Million Elephants”, remains one of Asia’s least-visited and most underrated destinations – and is all the better for it. In Luang Prabang, a former capital brimming with ornate palaces and temples, Laos boasts one of Southeast Asia’s most atmospheric towns. Beyond the cities, rugged jungle-clad mountains, bisected by great rivers, cover much of the country, pocketed with vast caves, archaeological sites and laid-back riverside resorts.

Burma Arriving in Burma is akin to travelling back through time to a Southeast Asia of the 1980s, when international influence was just beginning to gain a foothold and the sense of the mysterious and exotic was still pervasive. Remnants of Burmese colonial era architecture are still evident across the country, whilst beyond the cities you’ll find a dramatic variety of scenery and topography: semi-desert plains, lush jungle, snow-capped Himalayan peaks and idyllic beaches that stretch from Bangladesh to the Thai border.



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Get beneath the surface Part of InsideAsia Tours Ltd, an award-winning travel company offering group tours, tailored travel and cultural experiences across Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma.

The mark of responsible forestry

Inside Japan 2016 tailor made options  

Japan is brimming with exciting, inspiring hands-on activities whether you're interested in arts and crafts, history, sport, gardens, festiv...

Inside Japan 2016 tailor made options  

Japan is brimming with exciting, inspiring hands-on activities whether you're interested in arts and crafts, history, sport, gardens, festiv...