For the experienced traveler seeking to get off the beaten path we present our 13-day Luxury Ryokans & The Japanese Countryside trip. You’ll visit some of Japan’s most stunning locations, enjoy once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences and cuisine, and stay at some of the country’s most unique and luxurious hotels and ryokans. Unlike typical Japan tours, our trip includes the perfect combination of essential highlights with unique, non-touristy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

13 DaysExpect pricing around US ~$1,200-$1,500 per person per day based on 2 or more travelers (read more about pricing for a trip with us).Based on your preferred travel dates

Trip Highlights

  • The chance to visit beautiful off-the-beaten-path locations in Japan
  • Luxury ryokan experiences including impeccable kaiseki cuisine and rejuvenating onsen (hot springs)
  • Kyoto, the ancient capital
  • Naoshima’s art & architecture, including a stay at Benesse House
  • Tokyo, one of the world’s most exciting cities
  • Impeccable culinary experiences throughout your journey
  • Exclusive experiences including dinner with a geisha, sumo and sake tasting
  • And more!

Kaiseki Cuisine at Ryokan Kurashiki Japan

Trip Itinerary Details

Day 1Welcome to Kyoto, Japan!

Welcome to Japan!

On arrival in Osaka, you’ll be met in the arrivals hall. Our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it, and you’ll be escorted to your private vehicle for the comfortable transfer to your accommodations.

You can fly into Osaka’s Kansai (KIX) or Itami (ITM) airport; this itinerary can also be adjusted to begin in Tokyo.

Enjoy your first night in Japan and get ready for your adventure ahead!

Your Hotel in Kyoto: The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, Hotel Kanra Kyoto, or similar (Including Breakfast)

Day 2Private half-day tour of Kyoto & private maiko dinner

This morning you’ll have a private tour of Kyoto to give you an introduction to this fascinating city.

Kyoto is what most travelers dream of when envisioning Japan. It was the capital for over one thousand years, and remains the cultural and traditional heart of Japan. Begin exploring Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and also pay a visit to the colorful Nishiki Market.

Sunset from Kiyomizudera Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple UNESCO world heritage site Kyoto Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple

The afternoon is free to explore or relax.

This evening you will have the rare opportunity to enjoy dinner in the company of a private geisha or maiko, along with an expert interpreter. All over a sumptuous dinner at a traditional restaurant, you’ll learn about the life of a geisha in present-day Kyoto, and have the chance to ask questions via your interpreter.

geisha geiko maiko kyoto japan
Maiko (apprentice geisha) in Kyoto
Day 3Travel from Kyoto to charming Kurashiki

This morning you’ll be transferred from your hotel to Kyoto Station, where you will board the shinkansen (bullet train) for the first time. You’ll be traveling from Kyoto to Okayama in the first class Green Car, a trip of about 1 hour by shinkansen. On arrival in Okayama you’ll be met and transferred by private car to Kurashiki, about 20 minutes away.

In Kurashiki you’ll stay at the wonderful Ryokan Kurashiki, one of Japan’s most beautiful ryokans. Located on the canal in the center of Kurashiki’s famous Bikan historical district, it’s well known for its extraordinary Japanese hospitality and fantastic traditional kaiseki cuisine.

Your Ryokan in Kurashiki: Ryokan Kurashiki (Including Breakfast & Dinner)

ryokan kurashiki japan
Ryokan Kurashiki
Day 4Private half-day tour of Kurashiki

Enjoy a half-day walking tour of this charming and well-preserved city. The Bikan historical district is full of photogenic old buildings, many of which have been converted into attractive galleries and boutiques. In addition to a collection of Western art, the Ohara Museum features beautiful examples of the local Bizen pottery.

Kurashiki is also famous for the quality of its textiles, so make sure to stop by a local crafts shop for some top-quality gifts for home.

Kaiseki japanese food ryokan kurashiki
Kaiseki cuisine at Ryokan Kurashiki
Day 5Travel to Naoshima & private afternoon tour

Today you will travel to the art island, Naoshima. In the morning you will be picked up at your ryokan and transferred by private vehicle to Uno Port, located about one hour away. From Uno you will take the short ferry, about 20 minutes, over to Naoshima.

Naoshima is a small island famous for being home to a large collection of contemporary art museums, galleries, exhibits and installations. A stay here also offers the chance to stay in a wonderful museum-hotel – truly a unique experience.

As part of your private tour this afternoon, you’ll visit the gorgeous Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House and the Naoshima Art House Project, including the Ando Museum.

On Naoshima Island you will stay at Benesse House, a museum and hotel designed by renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The complex, which overlooks the Inland Sea, artfully fuses a museum with boutique accommodations, so you can leisurely enjoy art amid the natural beauty and gentle pace of Naoshima.

Your Hotel in Naoshima: Benesse House (Including Breakfast)

Pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama at Benesse House Naoshima Island Japan
Yayoi Kusama’s famous and whimsical Pumpkin sculpture on Naoshima Island
Day 6Private half-day tour of Teshima

After a day of exploring Naoshima itself, today you will make the short day trip by ferry to the neighboring island of Teshima.

Teshima is a quiet, pretty island with three major sites that form part of the greater Benesse Art Site Naoshima. At the heart of the island is the magnificent Teshima Art Museum, a stunning architectural work shaped like a drop of water. You’ll also find the impressive “Les Archives du Cœur” and Teshima Yokoo House.

You’ll have the afternoon free to see more art, enjoy art books at the hotel, or visit the spa. We recommend a visit to Naoshima’s kitschy Naoshima Bath “I♥YU” art bathhouse.

Naoshima Bath "I♥YU" japan
Naoshima Bath “I♥YU”
Day 7From Naoshima to the remote Ise Shima

Today you’ll travel from Naoshima to the remote Shima Peninsula. The journey today – by ferry, private car, bullet train and local train – is long, but at the end you’ll be rewarded with luxurious accommodations, rejuvenating private onsen (hot spring) baths, and impeccable cuisine.

This afternoon enjoy a relaxing soak in your private onsen before a luxuriant meal this evening.

Your Accommodations in Ise: Amanemu or Oyado The Earth or similar (Including Breakfast & Dinner)

Day 8Enjoy a day of onsen surrounded by forest & sea

You’ll have a full day to relax at the ryokan. Soak in your private onsen, or head out to explore the natural beauty of the surrounding area.

Day 9Travel from Ise to quaint Shuzenji

Today you will travel to the quaint onsen village of Shuzenji, famed for its hot springs and wonderful ryokans. The journey will once more be a combination including the ryokan shuttle, train and bullet train, and finally a private transfer.

In Shuzenji you’ll stay in traditional luxury ryokan renowned for its kaiseki cuisine and onsen baths.

Your Ryokan in Shuzenji: Asaba or Yagyu no Sho or similar (Including Breakfast & Dinner)

Day 10Enjoy your luxurious culinary onsen ryokan

Enjoy a day of onsen and relaxation amid serene traditional surroundings.

Day 11Travel to Tokyo & evening izakaya outing with sake tasting

After breakfast at your ryokan you’ll be picked up and transferred to Mishima Station, where you will board the shinkansen bound for Tokyo. As with all your shinkansen journeys, you will be in the Green Car (first class). On arrival at Tokyo Station you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel.

tokyo imperial palace bridge marunouchi japan
The Imperial Palace, Tokyo

After an afternoon to settle in, this evening you’ll meet up with a Tokyo-based sake expert who will introduce you to the fascinating world of sake, called nihonshu in Japanese. Your guide will be taking you to a wonderful locals-only izakaya (Japanese-style gastropub), where you will get a basic introduction to sake, as well as being guided through a tasting of some of the best, and hardest to acquire, premium sake in the country.

Your Hotel in Tokyo: Aman Tokyo, Palace Hotel Tokyo, Andaz Tokyo, or similar (Including Breakfast)

sake tasting izakaya tokyo japan
Sake tasting at an izakaya in Tokyo
Day 12Morning sumo practice & private afternoon tour of Tokyo

This morning you’ll have the unique opportunity to visit a sumobeya. Sumo is the ancient traditional sport of Japan, and the chance to visit a heya – where wrestlers live and practice – offers unique insight into a fascinating part of Japanese culture.

This afternoon you’ll have a private guide for an immersive walking tour through two distinct Tokyo neighborhoods, Omotesando and Yanaka. Omotesando is Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées, an elegant tree-lined avenue full of outstanding contemporary architecture, fashionable boutiques and brand shops, exclusive restaurants and charming cafes. Yanaka is Tokyo’s most charming historical district, full of temples and old-fashioned shops.

Enjoy your final evening in Tokyo!

Evening skyline Tokyo Japan
Evening blue skies over Tokyo’s glittering skyline
Day 13Departure from Tokyo, Japan

We hope you have had an amazing trip.

You’ll be free until departure, and depending on your flight schedule you may have time for some last-minute exploration (and eating)!

In good time for your flight, you’ll be picked up at your accommodations for your private transfer to the airport.

You can depart from Tokyo’s Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND) airport; this itinerary can also be adjusted to end in Osaka/Kyoto.

Come back to Japan soon!

What’s Included?

  • Your tailor-made itinerary crafted on a bespoke basis, based on our in-depth Japan expertise, relationships & firsthand experience
  • A Japan specialist to answer your questions & help you organize your thoughts
  • Accommodations as outlined, in properties to match your taste
  • Daily breakfast at your accommodations
  • Deluxe multi-course kaiseki dinner at your ryokans
  • Unique private tours & experiences, with a mix of freedom, support & structure to match your travel style
  • Private half-day orientation tour of Kyoto
  • Private dinner with maiko in Kyoto’s Gion geisha district
  • Private half-day orientation tour of Kurashiki
  • Private half-day tour of Naoshima art island
  • Private half-day tour of Teshima art island
  • Private evening izakaya outing & sake tasting in Tokyo
  • Sumobeya visit in Tokyo
  • Private half-day tour of Tokyo
  • Meet-and-greet on arrival in Osaka, and airport transfer by private vehicle
  • IC cards with 1,500 JPY (about US $15) of initial credit on each
  • Private transfer from your hotel to Kyoto Station
  • Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kyoto to Okayama in the first-class Green Car
  • Private transfer from Okayama Station to your ryokan
  • Private transfer from your ryokan to Uno Port and ferry to Naoshima Island
  • Roundtrip ferry from Naoshima to Teshima
  • Travels to Toba by ferry, train and private transfer
  • Travels to Shuzenji by train and private transfer
  • Travels to Tokyo by private transfer and shinkansen in Green Car
  • Private transfer from Tokyo Station to your hotel
  • Departure airport transfer by private vehicle
  • Expertly-planned transport & logistics for peace of mind & convenience
  • Extensive Japan-specific pre-departure information, including advice on money, packing, etiquette, tipping, Wi-Fi, language, food, and much more
  • Thoughtful customer service & 24/7 emergency assistance during your trip

Not Included

  • International flights
  • Tours, experiences, meals, or any other services other than those specified
  • Entrance fees or local transport at each destination, except as specified
  • Visa fees and services
  • Personal expenses and other incidentals such as baggage handling, pocket Wi-Fi, mobile phone, laundry, etc.
  • Travel insurance (we provide recommendations)
  • Any other services not specified

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is this a group tour?

No, this is a private travel experience for you and your fellow traveler(s).

Are the dates flexible?

Yes, we can typically plan around your ideal travel dates.

When is the best time of year to visit Japan?

We usually recommend taking advantage of any chance to visit, since each of Japan’s seasons is great in its own way.

For more on the seasons and weather, read our post, When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Japan?

What is it like to stay in a ryokan?

Staying in a ryokan is a great way to fully immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture, but it’s not for everyone.

Take our virtual ryokan tour to see if it’s right for you! Even if not, in most parts of Japan there are non-ryokan hotel alternatives.

Are trip extensions possible?

Yes, this is a sample itinerary and we can customize it to best match your priorities and interests.

For example, you can extend your stay in Tokyo or Kyoto, replace these destinations with others, or add on additional places in Japan.

Is Japan good for families?

Yes, Japan is an amazing family destination.

For more about family travel in Japan, read Is Japan Good For Families?

What’s included in the cost?

Please see the list above for details of what’s included in the cost.

When do I have to pay?

In most cases, a 30% deposit is required at the time of booking, with the balance due 90 days before your trip.

If your trip is coming up within 90 days, full payment will be required to secure your bookings.

What should I pack (and what about Wi-Fi, train times, dietary restrictions, the time difference, passports, visas, etc.)?

Not to worry! We make sure all of our clients are prepared with extensive pre-departure information.

Japan National Tourist Organizaton JNTO Japan Endless Discovery