A luxurious 11-day itinerary featuring several of Japan’s most worthwhile destinations including the Tokyo metropolis, historic Hiroshima and Miyajima, the art island Naoshima, the ancient capital Kyoto, and the beautiful Hakone National Park in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
Let us create your trip completely from scratch.
Our sample itineraries are here to inspire, but this is not a fixed itinerary and is designed to be customized around you.
We are very experienced, independent, international travelers but we found trying to plan and book a personalised holiday in Japan in late 2015 to be very challenging. That is until we discovered the wonderful team at Boutique Japan. After describing our areas of particular interest in art, architecture, culture and fitness, Andres and his team… Read More
Susan & Frank, New York City
My experience with Boutique Japan couldn’t have been any better. From my initial conversation with Andres, through the back-and-forth about the itinerary with Piper, to the last-minute changes because of a typhoon hitting Japan, they were well-informed, thorough and responded quickly to questions and requests. They really listened when my husband and I described the… Read More
Eric K., Washington, DC
We had a terrific trip and are thankful to you and the team for a fantastic job. We loved your approach to everything, the attention to details, the responsiveness to our requests and the excellent trip that resulted from all of that. We’ll be very happy to refer friends to you, as we have several… Read More
Gary & Shiona, Australia
We are just settling back after a truly wonderful trip during which every aspect was quite special. The itinerary was full of highlights, superbly structured and finely organized – even down to the ‘comfortable’ 4-minute train change in Nagoya. Boutique Japan brought the team's deep knowledge of Japan to bear to develop a range of… Read More
An immersive private itinerary, crafted with love by Boutique Japan
Depart from either of Tokyo’s airports, or customize this trip to end with departure from Osaka 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 luxurious 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 Sake Tasting
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 a fun and fascinating sake tasting.
After a delicious breakfast at your luxurious 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 notable districts such as (for example) Omotesando, Aoyama, Ginza, Daikanyama, and Shinjuku; along with one or more peaceful museums, shrines, or gardens such as the Nezu Museum, Meiji Jingu Shrine, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (explore more of our favorite Tokyo neighborhoods).
Following your private tour, you’ll have some time to relax at your beautiful 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 Tokyo-based sake expert, who will immerse you in the fascinating world of sake (nihonshu in Japanese). Your guide will take you to a small, authentic restaurant specializing in cuisine that pairs perfectly with sake. As you enjoy a selection of small plates, you’ll be guided through a tasting of some of the best and most unique sake in the country.
If Japanese whisky is more your thing, we can arrange a private tour of incredible Tokyo whisky bars instead.
Day 3: Sushi-Making Master Class & Old Tokyo Stroll
Begin the day with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn how to make sushi from a true expert. Your private teacher this morning is a master sushi chef who will give you an introduction to the basics of making traditional Edo-style (Tokyo-style) sushi.
As part of this behind-the-scenes experience, you’ll spend an unforgettable morning at your chef’s authentic sushi-ya (sushi shop), working with wonderful ingredients. Along with everything you’ll learn, your morning concludes with a beautiful sushi lunch prepared by you and your chef.
After some time at leisure, this afternoon you’ll venture 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.
End with an early evening stroll through the backstreets of Asakusa, Tokyo’s best-known historical district. After taking in Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous temple, wander with your expert guide into the area’s off-the-beaten-path side streets, which remain full of atmosphere and hidden gems.
Day 4: Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Hiroshima & Private Peace Memorial Park & Museum Tour
Enjoy a final morning free in Tokyo with the chance to visit Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market if you wish. While the wholesale section of the fish market moved to Toyosu in 2018, Tsukiji’s lively outer market remains an incredible place to immerse yourself in Japanese cuisine.
When it’s time to depart, you’ll be picked up at your hotel for your private transfer to Tokyo Station. Before leading you to your train, your guide will help you find beautiful bento box lunches to enjoy on the journey (major train stations in Japan offer an astounding variety of delicious seasonal bentos).
Then you’ll be escorted right to your departure platform for your first experience on Japan’s remarkable trains. Today you’ll be speeding west through central Japan via Japan’s iconic shinkansen (bullet train), a wonderfully pleasant way to travel. For all long-distance trains during your trip, you’ll be in the first class “Green Car.”
On arrival in Hiroshima, you’ll be met by your expert local guide.
Hiroshima is most famous as the site of one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan by the USA at the end of the Second World War. The Peace Memorial Park, in the very heart of the city, is the best place to learn about Hiroshima’s devastating yet inspiring story. A short walk across the lovely park from the sobering sight of the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome, you’ll come to the excellent and informative Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
After reliving the horrors of 1945 you’ll see that Hiroshima’s present is much brighter. Despite its tragic past, Hiroshima today is a lively and appealing city, with wonderful food and friendly, outgoing people.
While in Hiroshima, you can choose to stay in the city of Hiroshima itself, or in the neighboring island of Miyajima.
Today you’ll have the chance to explore the scenic Miyajima Island, easily accessible from Hiroshima by ferry, tram, and train.
Miyajima is best known for its iconic Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that appears to be floating in the sea at high tide. At low tide, you can walk right up to the imposing torii gate for a fascinating up-close perspective.
Along with the impressive and photogenic shrine, Miyajima has plenty to offer, including the beautiful Daisho-in Temple, and Mount Misen with its various hiking trails. The quaint central lanes of Miyajima are lined with old-fashioned shops and stalls selling souvenirs and local specialties including oysters (best in winter) and sake.
Enjoy an evening at leisure and dinner at one of Hiroshima’s many lively izakayas.
Day 6: Visit Naoshima, Japan’s Renowned Art Island
Today you’ll travel to the art island, Naoshima, a must-visit destination for art and architecture lovers. The island offers a truly beguiling combination of beautiful natural scenery, charming fishing villages, and cutting-edge modern art and architecture that blend into the coastal landscape.
The journey to Naoshima is rather easy, with a smooth ride on the shinkansen, an effortless private transfer to the tiny Uno Port, and a short ferry across to the island. As a guest of the one-of-a-kind Benesse House, which doubles as a hotel and museum, you’ll have access to the convenient hotel shuttle making the rounds of the island’s various art sites.
Enjoy the full afternoon taking in the island’s museums, galleries, and installations. Among Naoshima’s many highlights are the stunning Chichu Art Museum, the Art House Project, the Lee Ufan Museum, and Benesse House itself (fans of Japanese architect Tadao Ando will be particularly delighted).
You’ll spend the night at the Ando-designed Benesse House, which overlooks the Seto Inland Sea. Guest rooms in each of the hotel’s unique buildings (Museum, Oval, Beach, and Park) feature different works of art, and — among other perks — guests of the hotel enjoy special after-hours access to Benesse House Museum.
Enjoy a peaceful evening in the laid-back Setouchi region of Japan.
You’ll have a full morning on Naoshima before making the easy trip to Kyoto this afternoon.
If you have the flexibility to add a day to your trip, we recommend an extra night on Naoshima to continue exploring the island and consider a side trip to nearby Teshima Island, home to the incredible Teshima Art Museum.
This afternoon you’ll retrace your steps by ferry and private transfer, followed by a pleasant ride on the shinkansen to Kyoto. On arrival at Kyoto Station, you’ll be met and escorted to your luxurious hotel.
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.
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.
Day 8: 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 9: Fushimi Inari Shrine & Luxurious Ryokan Stay in Hakone
This evening you’ll have a sublime ryokan experience, but before leaving for Hakone you’ll have one last adventure in Kyoto.
An early start is necessary, as you’ll be visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha, one of Japan’s most famous sightseeing spots. Fushimi Inari is worth visiting even for people who generally avoid “touristy” places, and the easiest way to avoid crowds is by arriving early!
In the early afternoon you will leave Kyoto behind and travel to 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.
Following the easy trip from Kyoto via shinkansen, you’ll be met on arrival and transferred by private vehicle to your ryokan for a chance to settle into your relaxing Japanese-style surroundings.
Day 10: Morning in Hakone & Afternoon Sumo Basho (Tournament)
Early morning at leisure to relax in your calming Japanese-style surroundings. Have a soak in the onsen, followed by a beautiful Japanese breakfast.
Alternatively, spend the morning exploring Hakone. In addition to ryokan-style rejuvenation, Hakone offers plenty to see and do. A fun and lighthearted way to explore the area is along Hakone’s famous sightseeing loop, which traverses the region via scenic mountain train, funicular railway, gondola, and a cruise across Lake Ashi. Another Hakone highlight is The Hakone Open-Air Museum, which features sculptures by Rodin, Miró, and Noguchi (among many others) set against the region’s beautiful landscape.
In the early afternoon you’ll return to Tokyo just in time to attend sumo. From Hakone it’s an easy trip to nearby Tokyo via rail and private transfer.
The chance to attend a sumo basho is both exciting and a fascinating cultural experience. In the late afternoon when the highest-ranked sumo wrestlers begin facing off, the atmosphere in Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena is electric.
If your travel dates don’t overlap with a sumo basho, not to worry! Attending a morning sumo practice can also be a fun and fascinating option.
Following your sumo experience, you’ll have the evening free. Enjoy your final night in Tokyo!