Explore Japan like a local, ducking into small izakayas (casual pubs), soaking in hot springs, and speeding from one place to the next on the bullet train. This trip will take you inside the soul of Japan, visiting the local hotspots of Osaka, the cultural city of Kyoto, small towns in the countryside, and the bright lights and big-city buzz of Tokyo.

A distinguished culture and norms unlike any place in the world. An emphasis on perfection and craft. Dedication, respect, and tradition. Technology and pop culture.

Picture yourself strolling the backstreets of Kyoto, enjoying the private performance of the mysterious Maikos (Kyoto’s Geishas-in-training), and exploring the culinary variations of some of the best cuisine in the world - from the freshest seafood to perfectly crafted noodle dishes.


Pricing

11 day - Inside Japan Culture Tour priced from $9,580 per person
Based on double occupancy, single supplement $2,650
Additional upgrades available (see below itinerary for details)
-Ryokan upgrade to Japanese private onsen $295 per room (3 available on first come, first served basis)
-Private transfer upgrade to Haneda Airport (HND) $290 per transfer
-Private transfer upgrade to Narita Airport (NRT) $520 per transfer

Inclusions

○ Boutique accommodations (4-5 star hotels)
○ Airport meet & greet with private transfer upon arrival
○ Limo bus transfer to Tokyo airports upon departure
○ Ground transportation during tour
○ All meals except 2 evenings for dinner at your leisure
○ Entrance fees for all sightseeing
○ English speaking local guides
○ 24/7 wi-fi access*
○ Clean drinking water
○ Basic travel insurance with optional upgrades
○ All taxes & gratuities

Exclusions

○ International airfare
○ 2 dinners at your leisure
○ Trip cancellation protection
○ Hotel room incidentals
○ Premium alcoholic beverages (+taxes & fees on beverages)


Where You'll Go


 
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Days 1-2: Osaka
Days 3-6: Kyoto
Day 7: Kaga
Days 8-11: Tokyo


Sunday, Day 1


Welcome to Japan! Upon arrival at one of Osaka’s Interntional Airports (KIX or ITM), a driver and an English speaking assistant will be waiting for you. They’ll take you into the heart of the city in a private car, approximately 45 minutes - 1 hour. Your tour leader will meet you at the hotel lobby upon arrival to help with check in. After you book your tour we’ll help coordinate your international arrival, early check in if necessary, or extra nights of accommodations if you’d like more time to sleep off the jet lag!

 
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4:00 PM

Welcome Meeting and Walking Progressive Dinner Tour
Meet your tour leader and the rest of your group for the first time in the hotel lobby. We will have a short introduction and welcome before meeting our first local friend. We’ll walk through neighborhoods where the locals live and stop at small izakayas (casual pubs) where you’ll try dishes like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. And in the spirit of eating like a local, you’ll get a quick intro Japanese lesson and do some ordering on your own! Afterward we will walk back to our hotel for a good night of rest.

Included Meal: Dinner


Monday, Day 2


10:00 AM

Walking Tour of Osaka
Meet our tour guide in the lobby of our hotel for a walk around Osaka’s most popular sites on our way to our first cooking class!

11:00 AM

Udon Noodle Class & Lunch
Tie on your apron and prepare for a lesson unlike any other. Learn the trick to making the perfect, chewy udon noodle (hint: it’s not using your hands) and the delicious dashi-based broth for either hot or cold noodles.

After our lesson, we’ll dine on our own preparations before a few hours of free time. You can walk with us back to the hotel (approximately 20 minutes - returning by 2:00 PM) or meander and shop on your own.

4:00 PM

Witness a Tea Whisk Master & Dinner
We’ll have a private driver take us about 1 hour from the center of Osaka to a smaller town. We’ll visit a private property with small houses surrounded by beautiful gardens. In the midst of this stunning landscape, we will witness an artisan at work as he makes a bamboo tea whisk (chasen) before our eyes. This is a real treat as the master is one of only 18 people left in Japan who can properly perform this work from start to finish.

During sunset you’ll have some time to wander the property and gardens before we dip into our own private house for a traditional kaiseki (multi-course) dinner.

Relax on our ride home, arriving back at our hotel approximately 9:30 PM.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Tuesday, Day 3


9:00 AM

Check Out of Osaka Hotel
Your luggage will be picked up from your hotel room, and you’ll meet your group in the hotel lobby to check out and prepare for our journey towards a small tea town outside of Kyoto. We’ll drive about 1-1.5 hours depending on traffic.

10:30 AM

Tea Picking in the Fields
You’ve seen how the tea whisks are made, now you get to see where the tea comes from. We’ll join our friends who own a small and growing tea business in their fields. Prepare to hike uphill about 20 minutes (wear good walking shoes!). The reward at the top is a beautiful view of the surrounding tea farms. You’ll learn how to pick the perfect tea leaves as well as the process for harvesting and producing tea.

Upon our return to the owner’s cafe, we’ll stop for a tasting of the tea, learning the differences in flavor and enjoying a light lunch before jumping back in the van for a 1 hour drive to Kyoto.

3:30 PM

Check in to Kyoto Hotel
We will arrive in Kyoto and check in to our hotel where you can relax or explore on your own for a few hours.

5:30 PM

Gion Walking Tour & Dinner
Meet our local guide in the lobby as we begin to explore the city of Kyoto, full of culture and tradition. We’ll walk through main areas of the city and through the Yasaka Shrine before we walk to dinner.

Settle in for an exquisite dinner - a multi-course tempura tasting. You’ll watch master chefs lightly fry the delicious vegetables, shrimp, and other items right before your eyes - so you’re tasting them as fresh as possible.

We’ll return by private car to our hotel after dinner, approximately 9:00 PM.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Light Lunch, Dinner


Wednesday, Day 4


10:00 AM

Tea Ceremony & Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
We will drive to a local home to have a special, private tea ceremony as many families do at home. First, you’ll pick out your own kimono from a collection of real kimonos, handmade in Japan from silk (beware the impostors in many stores advertising “kimonos”). Many kimonos last for decades and are passed down from generation to generation.

After our tea ceremony, we will visit the Kameyama-kōen park for a shojin ryori (zen vegetarian cuisine) lunch in a private room at a temple-style restaurant. The cuisine reflects Buddhist ideals, creating satisfying, nourishing meals from fresh seasonal vegetables, herbs and plants while depriving no animals of life.

Our relaxing pace continues with a stroll through the Arashiyama bamboo forest toward the scenic Okochi Sanso Villa and surrounding gardens and we will return to our hotel approximately 5:30 PM.

5:30 PM

Leisure Evening in Kyoto
After returning to our hotel, you’ll have the rest of the evening at your leisure to explore the city and have dinner on your own. We’re happy to help coordinate dinner reservations or recommendations.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

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Thursday, Day 5


8:00 AM

Sashimi from Fish to Plate
Today you’ll start the day in a small, boutique restaurant where you’ll learn the proper Japanese way to turn a whole fish into your own sashimi lunch. First and foremost, you have to have the proper knife and - as any good chef can tell you - knowing how to sharpen and maintain it is a critical component of cooking. You’ll learn the importance of the knife, learn how to sharpen it, and even take it home with you (make sure you have a bag to check home!). After watching your chef, you will have help creating your own beautiful lunch presentation with your sashimi.

We will return to our hotel approximately 12:00 PM for a freshen up.

2:00 PM

Fushimi-Inari and Sake Tasting
Meet our local guide at our hotel as we head to the famous Fushimi-Inari Shrine. This Shinto shrine is famous for its thousands of red torii gates. We will walk around the shrine (getting further from the tourists) for about an hour, so be sure to wear good walking shoes.

After our visit to the shrine, we will continue toward the small town of Fushimi, also a prominent place for its sake. Why? Because of the delicious natural water in this area. There we will meet with a sake expert who will show us the details of production and differences in sake before we taste sake with and have a light dinner.

We will return to our hotel approximately 7:00 PM. Still plenty of time for evening shopping - or more sake!

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Light Dinner


Friday, Day 6


10:00 AM

Kimono Dying in a Local Home
You’ve worn kimonos, now see how they are made by a local family that is still dying fabrics in their own home. The fabrics are strung from wall to wall, as they hand paint each and every piece. Peek inside this private home, and see how locals are maintaining the tradition of the precious kimonos.

From this intimate experience we’ll move on to the lunchtime hustle and bustle in the Kyoto station. We’ll go to the famous ramen street where you’ll pick your own ramen style with the vending machine - just like the locals do!

We’ll return to our hotel approximately 2:00 PM

4:00 PM

Private Performance with a Maiko
Continue your extremely ‘local’ day by returning to the neighborhood of Gion. We will duck into a dimly lit machiya (tea house) for a private performance by a Maiko, Kyoto’s Geisha-in-training. You’ll have an opportunity to play games, ask questions, and gain some insight into a life so vastly different from your own.

Return from what feels like a different world to the streets of Kyoto where we will indulge in a walking progressive dinner. We’ll visit small eateries to taste some of Japan’s specialties like the famous wagyu beef and local vegetables, and of course, dessert. Because who can resist a Kyoto dessert?!

We will return to our hotel approximately 8:00 PM.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Saturday, Day 7


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9:00 AM

Check Out of Kyoto Hotel
We’ll check out of our hotel and meet in the lobby. You will pack an overnight bag to take with you to the ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) while the rest of your luggage will be transferred directly to our Tokyo hotel. More information will be provided about what you need a few nights before.

Our driver will take us to the Kyoto Station where we will catch an express train approximately 2 hours to a small hot spring town.

11:30 AM

Soba Lunch and Woodworking
Upon arriving in the small town, we will have a traditional soba noodle lunch.

Then we’ll take a short woodworking class, learning how to make local handmade crafts. You’ll make a small wooden tea bowl which will be perfect to use when you return home with your new matcha skills!

In this small town tucked into the woods, we’ll be dropped off by our driver to walk along the river for about 15 minutes before reaching our quaint, quiet, traditional, tranquil retreat for the night.

5:00 PM

Check in to Ryokan
After arriving at our ryokan, you will have a short introduction about what it’s like to stay in this traditional inn, including how your Japanese rooms with tatami mat floors will be prepared with futons. You’ll also learn about the customs for using the traditional shared bathing facilities at the ryokan. The hot spring baths are divided between men and women.

You’ll have the option to have dinner privately in your own room or join the group for dinner.

Upgrade Option
Please note that this is a small, traditional inn with just a few rooms. As such, not every room is the same. The standard room included with your trip package is for a Japanese style room with a private shower facility. You will have access to the shared hot spring bath facility (no clothing allowed). If you would like to upgrade to a room with a private open air onsen bath, please contact us with your request. There are limited spaces and they will be granted on a first come, first served basis, at $295 per room.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Sunday, Day 8


11:00 AM

Check out of Ryokan
Have a leisurely morning on your own as you relax in the hot spring bath or visit the town again.

We’ll depart the ryokan together by private vehicle for about a one hour drive to the train station.

There you will choose from a variety of bento box options to take with you on the train. Then we’ll board our bullet train and head to Tokyo. The speeding journey lasts about 3 hours.

3:50 PM

Arrive in Tokyo
Upon arrival in Tokyo, we’ll be met by our English speaking assistant and driver who will take us for a short drive to our high-in-the-sky hotel in a quieter part of the city. It has easy access to a subway station in the basement so we can get around like locals!

5:30 PM

Eating Like a Local in Ebisu
After settling in to our hotel, we’ll head to the Ebisu neighborhood to contrast the izakayas in Osaka to those in Tokyo. Indulge in local fare as we taste our way through Tokyo with a local guide.

We’ll return back to our hotel - full and happy - approximately 9:00 PM.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Monday, Day 9


9:00 AM

Inside Tokyo Tour with a Local
We’ll meet our tour guide for a day full of sightseeing like a local - taking the cleanest, fastest, most punctual public transportation in the world to visit small eateries, you’ll get to see Tokyo from the inside perspective. We’ll visit the outer market of the old Tsukiji Fish Market, stopping for a sushi lunch and other snacks before visiting the Hama Rikyu Garden and boarding a small cruise for a half hour toward the popular neighborhood of Asakusa.

3:00 PM

Leisure Evening in Tokyo
We will end our day in Asakusa, where you will have the rest of the evening free. We’ll provide you with a day pass for all public transportation, and you can join us as we go back to our hotel or you can explore Tokyo on your own. We are happy to suggest neighborhoods or restaurants.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

 
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Tuesday, Day 10


9:00 AM

Tokyo Sightseeing Tour
Our tour guide will pick us up from the hotel lobby, and we will venture out for a day of seeing the major sites in Tokyo. We’ll visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine, ‘cause you can’t leave Tokyo without visiting this spectacular Shinto Shrine next to the Yoyogi Park. We’ll also make stops in Harajuku and the Roppongi Hills Observatory Deck, among other places.

We’ll return to our hotel by 5:00 PM for some free time or an opportunity to freshen up.

7:00 PM

Farewell Dinner
Gather with your fellow travelers to drive about 30 minutes to a Tokyo restaurant surrounded by gardens, which feels like a sanctuary within the city. Enjoy our farewell dinner together in a private room with a choice of tasting menus.

We’ll return to our hotel approximately 10:00 PM.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Wednesday, Day 11


On our day of departure, we will have an optional group breakfast at the hotel. Given the distance of the airports in Tokyo, we have arranged for travelers to take the LimoBus shuttle departing from our hotel to either Narita (NRT - approximately 1.5 hours) or Haneda (HND - approximately 1 hour) airport for departures. We will arrange which LimoBus you will depart on given your flight time, and we will escort you to the shuttle.

Optionally, if you would like to upgrade to have a private driver take you to the airport, please let us know. For transfers to Haneda Airport the upgrade fee is $290 per car. For transfers to Narita Airport the upgrade fee is $520 per car.

Included Meal: Breakfast

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Optional Extensions


Custom tour extension
Want to explore more of Japan? What about Hokkaido or Hiroshima? We can create a custom itinerary built specially for you to explore a variety of regions after you part ways with the group.

To book an extension or inquire about pricing on a customized itinerary to extend your vacation in Japan, call us at 425.894.8976 or contact us.


Accommodations



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It was so nice to not have to think about logistics, hotels, money, tips, or any of the normal travel issues. We could trust that everything was taken care of and our focus was on enjoying [the country] and all it had to offer. Which we did!
— Tom H. | Seattle, WA

*Itinerary, hotels, activities, and modes of transportation are subject to change based on availability and/or weather conditions. In the event a hotel is unavailable, another comparable 4-5 star hotel will be substituted.  See Terms & Conditions 2019 for more details.