Nothing could have made this three-week, first time trip to Japan better. Andres and Piper's planning made it perfect. The level of thought and attention to detail they put into curating our experience in Japan was something I'd never experienced in many years of travel. I'm smitten, with Japan and Boutique Japan.
Paula Alsher, Marietta, Georgia
Boutique Japan did a fantastic job of planning an itinerary that completely matched our vision. Our group of 4 came away feeling that for 2 weeks, we had the opportunity to become immersed in the daily life of the Japanese. The guides, the hotels, and the experiences were all expertly planned. The app they provided… Read More
Emily Choate, Atlanta
We worked with Boutique Japan for a 12-day whirlwind trip to Japan in November for my husband and myself. I am actually someone who loves to research and plan trips, but knew I didn't have the time to do it as thoroughly as this once-in-a-lifetime warranted. They helped us create an incredible trip that revolved… Read More
Andra Smith, Connecticut
We absolutely loved our trip. I fell in love with Tokyo and am secretly hoping I can convince my sister or friend to visit soon so I can go with them to see more of the neighborhoods we missed this time around. Each guide was very, very well-matched with the type of tour they gave.… Read More
An immersive private itinerary, crafted with love by Boutique Japan
Depart from either of Osaka’s airports, or customize this trip to end with departure from Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan.
Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, Japan
Welcome to Japan! On arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be met and transferred by private vehicle to your lovely accommodations.
Depending on your flight’s scheduled arrival time we typically recommend keeping your first evening free, both in case of unexpected flight delays, and also to account for possible fatigue from the long journey.
Settle in, adjust to your exciting new surroundings, and get ready for your adventure ahead!
Day 2: Modern Tokyo Highlights & Evening Izakaya Outing
Ohayou gozaimasu (good morning)!
Today is your first full day to begin taking in the Tokyo metropolis. You’ll begin with an immersive half-day tour introducing you to the city, and end with an exciting evening out at a lively izakaya.
After a delicious breakfast at your hotel, you’ll be met by your insightful private guide. While Tokyo can certainly be enjoyed without a guide, exploring with a fun and knowledgeable expert by your side will dramatically enhance your experience.
At Boutique Japan, we have exceedingly high standards when it comes to private guides, and carefully design each private tour to cater to your unique priorities and interests.
Tokyo is one of the world’s liveliest cities, full of amazing restaurants, beautiful gardens, stunning modern architecture, charming backstreets, and a glittering neon-filled cityscape. Beyond the city lights and crowds, Tokyo is also full of quiet neighborhoods where you’ll find locals going about their daily lives, and countless hidden gems in the form of unsung yet wonderful little shops and restaurants.
Explore charming neighborhoods such as (for example) Aoyama, Daikanyama, Naka-Meguro, and Shimokitazawa; along with one or more peaceful museums, shrines, or gardens such as the Nezu Museum, Meiji Jingu Shrine, and Hamarikyu Garden (explore more of our favorite Tokyo neighborhoods).
Following your fascinating tour, you’ll have some time to relax at your hotel and recover from any remaining jet lag you may have, or continue exploring independently. For your free time, you’ll be able to take advantage of the pre-departure materials we provide to each of our travelers.
This evening you’ll drink and dine with a private guide who will take you to a casual and authentic izakaya (Japanese-style gastropub), where you can enjoy a truly Japanese-style atmosphere, and sample a delicious and eclectic variety of Japanese foods. This is a quintessential Japanese experience and one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and mingle with locals.
Day 3: Tsukiji Market & Old Tokyo Stroll
Begin the day at Tokyo’s legendary Tsukiji Market. Yes, the wholesale section of the fish market moved to Toyosu in 2018, but Tsukiji’s lively outer market remains an incredible place to immerse yourself in Japanese cuisine.
You’ll find historic lanes and alleys packed with a colorful array of shops and small restaurants — not to mention atmosphere and charm to spare. After a stroll to nearby Ginza, proceed to the historic shitamachi districts of Tokyo.
Begin in Yanaka, one of Tokyo’s most well-preserved historical districts, and an up-and-coming area for young creatives. It was largely spared during World War II, and today is home to quaint streets, small temples and shrines, and a plethora of traditional shops selling Japanese sweets, rice crackers, paper, and other goods. Yanaka is also home to galleries, such as the renowned SCAI the Bathhouse.
From Yanaka, walk to nearby Ueno, a bustling yet old-fashioned district best known for Ueno Park, which is home to various museums including the excellent Tokyo National Museum. You’ll come upon Ameyoko-cho, a boisterous outdoor marketplace where you can find everything from groceries and clothing shops to open-air yakitori stalls and more.
Day 4: Luxurious Ryokan Stay in Hakone with Onsen (Hot Springs) & Kaiseki Dinner
Today you will leave Tokyo behind and travel to nearby Hakone National Park. Hakone is a mountainous area just outside of Tokyo, best known for its luxury ryokans, soothing onsen (hot springs), and — on clear days — stunning views of the iconic Fujisan (Mount Fuji).
Hakone is one of our favorite places to experience a luxury ryokan in Japan.
This evening you’ll have a sublime ryokan experience, but your adventures begin with the pleasant trip to Hakone on Japan’s remarkable trains.
For Tokyoites, Hakone is synonymous with escape and relaxation, but in addition to ryokan-style rejuvenation Hakone offers plenty to see and do. Make sure to spend some time admiring art and nature at The Hakone Open-Air Museum, which features sculptures by Rodin, Miró, and Noguchi (among many others) set against the region’s beautiful landscape.
A fun and lighthearted way to explore Hakone is along its famous sightseeing loop, which traverses the beautiful region via the Hakone Tozan Railway (a scenic mountain train), a funicular railway, the Hakone Ropeway (a gondola offering panoramic views), and a touristy but scenic cruise across Ashinoko (Lake Ashi).
Following an active day out, retreat to your relaxing Japanese-style surroundings.
Day 5: Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto & Private Walking Tour of Gion Geisha District
Early morning at leisure to relax in your calming Japanese-style surroundings. Have a soak in the onsen, followed by a beautiful Japanese breakfast.
Then it’s time to depart. You’ll be speeding west through central Japan via Japan’s iconic shinkansen (bullet train), a wonderfully pleasant way to travel. Eating and drinking on long-distance trains is a Japanese tradition: make sure to pick up a seasonal bento box (and some sake) for the journey.
Kyoto is one of the most culturally rich cities in the world, and the place most travelers dream of when envisioning Japan. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years and remains the heart and soul of traditional Japan.
Today it is a large modern city of over a million residents, and at first glance looks almost like any other Japanese town. But the city retains many of its long-established traditions, and despite the neon and concrete prevalent in many parts of town, Kyoto is teeming with beautiful and well-preserved pockets where time seems to move more slowly.
You’ll have part of the afternoon free to settle in and adjust to your new surroundings.
In the early evening, you’ll head out on a fascinating private walking tour through the backstreets of Kyoto’s best-known geisha district, Gion. As you slowly meander your way through the narrow lanes and hidden alleys of this enigmatic district, your expert guide will teach you about the history and reality of Kyoto’s geiko (as geisha are called in Kyoto) and maiko (apprentice geisha).
This is a great way to learn about Japan’s most misunderstood traditional profession, and it’s likely you’ll come across geiko or maiko en route to their evening appointments. Following your immersive stroll, your guide will leave you at a great local restaurant. Kanpai!
Day 6: Unique Highlights of Kyoto (On & Off The Beaten Path)
Kyoto is full of famous sights, but to experience the city on a deeper level it’s also essential to spend time wandering off the beaten path.
No trip to Kyoto would be complete without visiting some of its remarkable temples, shrines, and gardens. For your time in the ancient capital, you will have the chance to take in an exceptional selection of Kyoto’s gems, carefully curated around your unique priorities and interests.
Explore Kyoto highlights such as (for example) the historic Higashiyama district, the charming Philosopher’s Path, and the picturesque Arashiyama district, along with off-the-beaten-path strolls through lesser-known Kyoto areas with your expert guide.
Kyoto is also rightly renowned for its cuisine and artisans. The colorful Nishiki Market is crowded but a must-visit for food and market lovers. For travelers interested in the arts and traditional crafts, the chance to visit with a shokunin (master craftsperson) in their private workshop is an unforgettable experience.
Beyond the extraordinary sights and wealth of traditional culture, Kyoto is also home to a booming creative scene, and throughout the ancient capital you’ll also find stunning modern design in museums and galleries, along with shops and cafes.
Following your private tour you’ll have the remainder of your day to relax at your lovely hotel, or continue exploring independently making use of the pre-departure materials we provide to each of our travelers.
Day 7: Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and Fushimi Sake District
Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of Japan’s most famous places, and it’s worth visiting even for people who generally avoid “touristy” places. The easiest way to avoid crowds at Fushimi Inari is by arriving early. Even by midmorning it’s typically full of admirers.
The shrine’s main buildings sit at the base of Mount Inari, with vermillion torii (gates) framing the walking path up the slope. While the lower areas are usually filled with people taking selfies, you’ll find thinner crowds higher up on Inari-san — so if you’re up for a great hike, it’s well worthwhile! (If you love hiking, you’ll be pleased to know that the Kyoto area is home to several fantastic day hikes.)
After taking in Fushimi Inari, you’ll meet up with a local sake expert to explore the nearby Fushimi sake district, one of Japan’s most important sake-producing areas. As you walk Fushimi’s historic streets, you’ll learn about sake (nihonshu), with delicious samples along the way.
Enjoy your final evening in Kyoto!
Day 8: Depart Japan
You’ll be free until departure. Depending on your flight time, you may have time for some last-minute explorations (and eating!).
In good time for your departure flight, you’ll be picked up at your accommodations for the comfortable private transfer to your departure airport.