Adventure on Ancient Trails

Walk ancient pilgrim paths, immerse yourself in spectacular mountain scenery, and indulge in some of Japan’s finest food on our Adventure on Ancient Trails, a unique opportunity to step beyond the classic sights and explore the rural side of this fascinating country.

At a glance
  • Explore Tokyo’s most historic streets
  • Taste Japan on expertly led food tours
  • Wander in the stunning mountains of Kamikochi
  • Hike the scenic old Nakasendo Way
  • Tour Kyoto’s traditional geisha districts
  • Visit an Imperial Palace
  • Walk the UNESCO Kumano Kodo pilgrim trails
  • Relax at traditional hot spring onsens
  • Cycle in a remote rural landscape
  • Admire historic wooden architecture in Takayama
  • Dine on fresh seafood in a fishing village
  • Indulge in Osaka’s streetfood scene
Itinerary
Price & Hotels

Tokyo - 3 nights

Tokyo is one of the world's most captivating cities, and has seen revolutionary changes over the last few centuries. The shogun’s castle has transformed into the Emperor’s Palace, the samurai dwellings have exploded upwards into gleaming skyscrapers, and millions of people have poured in from all over the country, animating their capital into a vast energising urban sprawl. You’ll be guided around the city’s mouth-watering food scene, and its historic Shitamachi district, home to the city's oldest temple and some of its most respected museums.

Day 1 - Arrive Tokyo

On arrival in Japan, you'll be met by our representative, who will accompany you to your hotel. Excellent public transport is part of the Japan travel experience, so we'll be making the most of this throughout your trip.

Day 2 - Historic Tokyo walking tour

Includes:

Meet your guide and set off for a walking tour of Tokyo’s historic Shitamachi district, which boomed during the Edo era (1603 - 1868). You'll wander through the city’s oldest Geisha district, visit a drum museum to have a bash at playing some traditional instruments, and stroll down Kappabashi-dori - the well-known street that sells nothing but kitchenware and the famous life-sized replicas of food which Japanese restaurants often display instead of menus. Explore shops selling kimono, traditional sweets and crafts, and take in stunning views of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Drop in to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Craft Museum, before paying your respects at Senso-ji (‘Asakusa Kannon’), which - at nearly 1,400 years old - is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist site. Stop to enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before being driven to Ueno, which was the wealthiest district in Japan during the Edo period. This afternoon's walk will take in Jomyo-in, a temple containing 84,000 Jizo (Bodhisattva) statues, and the historic Kane-ji temple, along with some of Tokyo’s most famous museums in Ueno Park. Finish your tour at Ameyoko-cho, which was a black market after World War II and is now one of Japan’s few remaining outdoor markets. It's the ideal spot for tea and yakitori, and possibly a cold beer - the first round is on us!

Day 3 - Explore independently, evening food tour

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure until 5pm, when you’ll meet your guide for a tour of Tokyo’s vibrant culinary scene. Over the course of the evening you’ll visit a variety of venues, from tiny izakaya pubs to street-side stalls, each distinctive in their atmosphere and food offerings.

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Kamikochi - 2 nights

Part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, Kamikochi is a plateau set in the pristine Azusa-gawa River Valley, and surrounded by some of Japan’s highest peaks. A trip here offers the chance to enjoy some of Japan’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Well sign-posted walking trails criss-cross a forested plateau in the Azusa-gawa River Valley, which is surrounded by mountains and over 1500 metres above sea level, making for clean fresh air even in the height of summer! Remember to pack a sweater - night time temperatures here average around 5°C less than in Tokyo. This is also a great place for stargazing, thanks to the clear skies and lack of light pollution. Private cars are banned here, so access is only permitted by bus or taxi.

Day 4 - Train to Kamikochi

Includes:

Travel to Kamikochi for a trek through some of Japan's most beautiful mountain scenery.

Day 5 - Kamikochi hiking

Includes:

We recommend starting your walk from Taisho-ike Pond, which reflects the Hotaka Mountain Range and Mt. Yakedake, an active volcano which stands at around 2,455 meters above sea level. Admire the extremely picturesque views from Kappa-bashi Bridge, before taking the trail to Myojin-bashi Bridge, the gateway to Hotaka-jinja Shrine and Myojin-ike Pond. There is also a small restaurant here where you may wish to have lunch.

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Kiso-Fukushima - 2 nights

Sitting in the Kiso Valley surrounded by beautiful forest scenery, Kiso Fukushima remains a quiet and traditional town. Prior to the Edo Period the area was important in producing Japanese cypress - the main building material for shrines and temples. It then became a key post-station and major checkpoint on the 500km Nakasendo trade route that ran between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo) between the 17th-19th centuries. The town still retains the traditional architecture of the period and is a great base from which to walk part of the scenic old Nakasendo Way.

Day 6 - Train through Japanese Alps

Includes:

Take the train through the Central Japanese Alps to Kiso-Fukushima. Tonight you’ll stay in traditional Japanese-style ryokan accommodation, complete with tatami mats and onsen baths. Spend the evening relaxing in your yukata (lightweight kimono), and dine on a sumptuous kaiseki multi-course feast. An onsen after dinner is highly recommended before you bed down on your futon.

Day 7 - Walk the Nakasendo trail

Includes:

Follow in the footsteps of Samurai warriors and Shogun lords as you hike part of the Nakasendo Way from the post town of Magome to Tsumago today. The Nakasendo is the old stone road that connected Edo (modern day Tokyo) to Kyoto - one of five trails that crossed central Honshu during the Edo period. This well-maintained section of the trail is beautiful and truly evocative of historic Japan. Walk at a leisurely pace through the countryside, passing local houses, waterfalls, forest and farmland, arriving at Tsumago, another beautifully preserved post town, to rest and enjoy the mountain views before returning to Kiso-Fukushima.

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Takayama - 2 nights

Takayama - ‘tall mountain’ - is a beautifully preserved old town which used to be entirely cut off from the rest of Japan, due to its location high in the Japanese Alps. The town is a must-visit for hill-walkers, and a huge treat for those who love to feast their eyes on mountain scenery and traditional wooden architecture! Ancient Japan has been preserved more effectively here than anywhere else, largely because of the area’s remoteness and masterful historic carpentry, which is visible in many of the city’s buildings, some of which date back to the 1400s. You’ll explore the town by foot and bike, and with your tastebuds, on a tour of its thriving food scene.

Day 8 - Train to Takayama

Includes:

Catch a train through the scenic landscape to Takayama, where you will be staying in a traditional Japanese-style ryokan - an inn with tatami mat flooring, futon beds, and hot spring onsen baths. For dinner, a traditional multi-course kaiseki will be served, and will feature some of Takayama’s famous cuisine, including local vegetables, miso, and last but not the least, Hida beef, which rivals the better-known Kobe beef.

Day 9 - Food tour, countryside cycling

Includes:

Meet your guide for a walking tour of the Sanmachi Suji district in Takayama's old town. The area is particularly well preserved, its streets lined with traditional houses, shops and restaurants. Some of the old merchant’s homes are open to the public, and will give you an insight into Takayama’s rich history and culture. Takayama also has a thriving food scene with unique local dishes that are not found elsewhere in Japan. You will visit several food shops, some of which have been in business for generations, to taste these local delicacies. Another speciality of the region is sake, and several old sake breweries can be found in the old town, recognized by balls made of cedar branches hung over their entrances. Sake sampling will also be included during the morning. After your walk, you'll be driven out of Takayama for an afternoon of cycling through the region’s stunning landscape, along trails past waterfalls and the typical thatch-roofed houses that make this area so famous. There will be plenty of opportunities to get off the bikes, hike the trails, and photograph the impressive scenery.

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Kyoto - 3 nights

Kyoto has long played a graceful historic counterpoint to Tokyo’s unrelenting urban buzz. This is a city of ancient Shinto shrines and immaculate Zen temples, professional geisha and Noh theatre, and the evocative wooden architecture of ‘old’ Japan. It's home to an astonishing 2,000 shrines and temples, including seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The oldest was established in the 6th century AD, and for miles around you can find soaring pagodas, along with the superbly decorated shogunate Nijo Castle, and markets selling well-made traditional crafts and decent antiques. Aside from its historic architecture and deep cultural connections, Kyoto is renowned for its cuisine, and the city boasts some of the best restaurants in Japan, several of which enjoy Michelin-star ratings. You’ll explore picturesque geisha districts and visit the Imperial Palace Park, and cycle around a UNESCO wetlands lake to visit a family farm for lunch.

Day 10 - Bullet train to Kyoto

Includes:

Step aboard the shinkansen for the journey from Takayama to Kyoto, where the remainder of your day will be at leisure to begin exploring the city.

Day 11 - Cycle tour of geisha districts & Imperial Palace

Includes:

Explore Kyoto on two wheels, cycling with your guide through the Miyagawacho and Gion geisha districts, hoping to see a geisha or apprentice as they dash between appointments. Continue along the Shirakawa canal, which is lined with weeping willows, pass traditional Kyoto style tea houses, and pause at the Imperial Palace Park for some time relaxing amongst its wide avenues, abundant trees and beautiful lawns, before cycling back along the Kamo River bank. After the tour has ended you can keep you bike for a while longer if you wish to explore at leisure.

Day 12 - Cycle around Lake Biwa, family farm visit

Includes:

Take a quick train journey out of town to huge Lake Biwa, a UNESCO wetland site which is a crucial habitat for fish and birds. Experience the Japanese agricultural lifestyle as you pedal your electric bike along beautiful lakeside tracks, through ancient villages, and past the rice fields, to meet the people who farm this landscape. After you’ve met the farmers and helped them with a little planting or harvesting, you’ll get the rare opportunity to visit a local Biwan family for a delicious home-grown, home-cooked lunch. Having had your fill of lunch, cycle gently back with a lake breeze to keep you cool, and the impressive Hira mountain range in the background.

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Kumano Kodo - 3 nights

Kumano Kodo is a UNESCO World Heritage network of ancient pilgrimage paths, situated in the Kii Mountain Range on the peninsula south of Osaka. The region has drawn pilgrims for over a thousand years, with spectacular pilgrimage foot paths that wind along the coast through the forested mountains, connecting sacred sites. The act of walking them is integral to Shinto rites of worship, meditation and purification. The region is notable for a harmonious fusion between Shinto and Buddhism; at the heart of the network lie three Shinto shrines, collectively known as the Kumano Sanzan, all deeply important within the Shinto practice, with significant Buddhist sites alongside them. There's natural majesty here too, including Japan's tallest waterfall and miles of gorgeous wooded countryside. It’s a great way to spend a couple of days enjoying the countryside and the rural villages you’ll pass through, and the trails offer different lengths of treks for those in search of a shorter or more challenging route.

Day 13 - Train to Kii-Tanabe Station, Yunomine Onsen

Includes:

Catch the train to Kii-Tanabe Station, where you'll meet your guide for a brief orientation on Kumano Kodo, its history, and a more detailed explanation of the pilgrimage trails. You may wish to pause for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before hopping on the bus to Yunomine Onsen, one of the oldest and most historical hot spring resorts in Japan, built around springs discovered almost 2,000 years ago. It's said that pilgrims of yore stopped here for cleansing before praying at the Hongu Taisha shrine. Your accommodation tonight will be in one of the traditional inns of Tsubo-yu, a small hot spring enclosure built along the river, and one of the oldest in the country. Legend has it that Tsubo-yu's waters healed and revived one of Japan’s legendary warriors when he was brought, wounded, to Yunomine for refuge. There's certainly nothing like a hot spring bath after a tough samurai adventure...

Day 14 - Kumano Kodo hike to Kawayu Onsen

Includes:

Catch the bus to Hosshinmon-oji, the starting point of the trail that leads to Kumano Hongu Taisha (one of those three significant shrines). This 4 mile trail passes through a scenic landscape of forested hills and small farming villages, with stunning views from a couple of observation points. End your hike at Kumano Hongu Taisha, which is dedicated to the worship of the forests in Hongu. It is also the head shrine of the 3,000 Kumano shrines throughout Japan. Descend from the shrine’s stone steps and walk to Oyunohara, the site of the largest torii gate in Japan, and the original location of Hongu Taisha. Catch the bus to Kawayu Onsen, a unique hot spring where geothermal waters collect beneath the cool Ota River and bubble up through it and the surrounding river bed, meaning you can dig your own hot bath by the river!

Day 15 - River boat trip, grand shrine, Katsuura

Includes:

Take a trip along Kumano-gawa River on a traditional boat. For over a millennium, pilgrims have been crossing this river to visit Hayatama Taisha in Shingu. The 90 minute boat ride lets you experience the more sedentary side of Kumano Kodo, which can be refreshing after a day of hiking through the mountains. While in Shingu, visit Hayatama Taisha, another Kumano Sanzan grand shrine. Catch the bus from Shingu Station to Katsuura, a small yet popular fishing village on the Pacific coast, where you can - if you wish - spend the evening discovering the somewhat less spiritual pursuits of excellent seafood dining, bars and karaoke.

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Osaka - 1 night

Osaka is defined by its flamboyance, its fun-loving people, and fantastic food and drink; this is a place to indulge yourself and allow people to entertain you, rather than potter around temples. The city's food and sake are world-renowned, thanks to plentiful supplies of high quality ingredients, and long-established merchants with preferential connections. Dotonbori is the best known district for food and nightlife, but you'll enjoy a mouth-watering tour of the city’s best streetfood experience in a more authentic local atmosphere.

Day 16 - Train to Osaka, local food tour

Includes:

Catch the train to Osaka, where your day will be at leisure until late afternoon when you’ll meet your guide in the Tenma district for this evening’s food tour. A lively, unpretentious neighbourhood steeped in history, Tenma is home to Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street which claims to be the longest covered arcade in Japan, stretching more than 2.5 kilometres. The area’s maze of narrow streets and alleys come to life at night when locals flock to dine and relax in the many tiny bars and hole-in-the-wall eateries that open up. Forget Dotonburi - this is the place to get real local soul food, and your guide will show you where to find the classics.

Day 17 - Depart Osaka

Includes:

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.

Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.

Hotel class Price per person (based on total # travelling)
2 persons 3 - 4 5 - 6
First Class £5,938US$7,742 £5,537US$7,219 £5,279US$6,884

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku

A brand new hotel addition in the heart of the up-and-coming, lively Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, the Hotel Gracery has the advantage of a wide and varied range of shops, bars and restaurants on its doorstep.… See more

Taisyoike Hotel

Overlooking the misty surface of Taisho-ike Pond (modestly named, as it is actually a rather impressive lake!) The Taisyoike Hotel offers comfortable accommodation, good food and dependable service in remote, scenic surroundings… See more

Nukumorino-yado Komanoyu

In a small valley just outside the town of Kiso-Fukushima, this beautiful ryokan in peaceful surroundings has an excellent onsen and serves superb Japanese food in its atmospheric restaurants...

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Ryokan Asunaro

Centrally located in downtown Takayama, within 10 minutes’ walk of the train station and a short stroll from the Sanmachi Suji quarter, the Ryokan Asunaro follows the traditional Japanese inn style, with considered modern touches... See more

Noku Kyoto

Contemporary Japanese style, friendly service and its good location near many key sights make Noku Kyoto a great choice for anyone seeking a modern bolt hole in this ancient city...

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Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen

The Ryoken Adumaya is a charming onsen hostel with a rich history where you can enjoy the ancient traditions and customs of hot-spring bathing… See more

Fujiya Ryokan, Kawayu Onsen

The Fujiya Ryokan, sheltered by forested hillside, is a peaceful hotel where you can relax in warm onsen baths and enjoy the stillness of your natural surroundings... See more

Hotel Nakanoshima

’Getting away from it all’ is taken to another level at Hotel Nakanoshima, a charming ryokan-style hotel on a tiny, secluded island just off the coast of Katsuura… See more

Cross Hotel Osaka

This modern urban property sits plum in the centre of Osaka, making it perfect for exploring Japan’s second largest city, with popular locations like Dotonbori and Osaka Castle within very easy reach... See more
Superior £6,667US$8,693 £6,197US$8,080 £5,894US$7,686

Park Hotel

As much of an art gallery as a hotel, the Park Hotel is a ‘Design Hotel’. Thought-provoking design and architecture are an essential element of the property.… See more

Kamikochi Onsen

Kamikochi Onsen is a charming hotel which combines ryokan elements with Western-style hotel features… See more

Nukumorino-yado Komanoyu

In a small valley just outside the town of Kiso-Fukushima, this beautiful ryokan in peaceful surroundings has an excellent onsen and serves superb Japanese food in its atmospheric restaurants...

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Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan Ryokan

This modern Japanese ryokan combines the main elements of a traditional Japanese inn – personalised service, hot-spring bathing facilities and multi-course dinner feasts - with the polished, up-market ambiance of a luxury hotel... See more

The Celestine

Located in the Gion district of Kyoto, the Celestine is a modern boutique hotel which combines chic interiors, well-designed facilities and high traditional service standards… See more

Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen

The Ryoken Adumaya is a charming onsen hostel with a rich history where you can enjoy the ancient traditions and customs of hot-spring bathing… See more

Fujiya Ryokan, Kawayu Onsen

The Fujiya Ryokan, sheltered by forested hillside, is a peaceful hotel where you can relax in warm onsen baths and enjoy the stillness of your natural surroundings... See more

Hotel Nakanoshima

’Getting away from it all’ is taken to another level at Hotel Nakanoshima, a charming ryokan-style hotel on a tiny, secluded island just off the coast of Katsuura… See more

Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

Located on the top floors of Japan’s tallest building, the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel has a convenient central location, great facilities and absolutely jaw-dropping views over the city and beyond to Osaka Bay...

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Deluxe £7,966US$10,387 £7,538US$9,829 £6,673US$8,701

Palace Hotel

Originally built in the early 1960’s and an iconic property of the time, the Palace Hotel was razed to the ground in 2009 and completely rebuilt, re-opening in 2012 with a more up-to-date look... See more

Kamikochi Imperial Hotel

Tucked away below the Hotaka Mountain Range, the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel is a modest alpine inn that focuses on providing hikers with some homely comfort… See more

Urara Tsutaya

A beautiful and traditionally designed Ryokan, the Urara Tsutaya is ideally located in Kiso Fukushima and offers hot spring baths.

Hidatei Hanaougi Takayama

Hidatel Hanaougi is located in a nature rich area with stunning seasonal views offering exceptional Japanese hospitality... See more

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

Situated in a secluded old district in central Kyoto, the stylish Hyatt Regency is conveniently close to several important temples and the National Museum, as well as key transport hubs for exploring the city and beyond... See more

Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen

The Ryoken Adumaya is a charming onsen hostel with a rich history where you can enjoy the ancient traditions and customs of hot-spring bathing… See more

Fujiya Ryokan, Kawayu Onsen

The Fujiya Ryokan, sheltered by forested hillside, is a peaceful hotel where you can relax in warm onsen baths and enjoy the stillness of your natural surroundings... See more

Hotel Nakanoshima

’Getting away from it all’ is taken to another level at Hotel Nakanoshima, a charming ryokan-style hotel on a tiny, secluded island just off the coast of Katsuura… See more

Conrad Osaka

Occupying the top floors of the Nakanoshima Festival West Tower in the heart of the city, the Conrad Osaka is a sleek luxury hotel with sweeping views from all its guest rooms and public spaces…

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Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.

These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).

Itinerary additions

  • Extend your holiday with a few days exploring the Mie Peninsula, climbing Mount Fuji, or visiting the fascinating and welcoming city of Hiroshima.

At Selective Asia we specialise in creating unique, tailor-made experiences. The holiday itineraries provided on this website are intended to help you visualise what is achievable in your destinations of choice, over a given period of time and at an intended budget.

While many clients are happy with of our recommended itineraries in the current form (and at the price quoted), there are those that wish to personalise their holiday in some way, whether it be a change of hotel, an additional destination or even start from scratch. This is when our tailor-made specialists come into their own; with many years of experience both living and working in the region they are ideally equipped to advise on alternatives and to facilitate any necessary changes.

The important stuff

Please note: Japanese hotel contracts are extremely seasonal in comparison to most of their Asian counterparts and therefore you should expect surcharges at various times of the year, including weekends, not just during peak seasons such as Christmas, New Year and Cherry Blossom. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.


Inclusive:

  • English speaking, local guide
  • All accommodation listed
  • All train tickets and rail passes as listed
  • Luggage forwarding service as listed
  • 4G Wi-Fi To Go Package
  • Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals listed
  • International flight reconfirmation.

Exclusive:

  • Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights from the UK
  • Entry visas
  • International airport departure taxes
  • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Drinks, other than water on activity days
  • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
  • Travel insurance
  • All other services not listed in 'inclusive'

Please note

All prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.

 

Extras

Flights

We will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.

Visa

You will not require a visa to enter Japan. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.

Passport

Please ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.

Insurance

You will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.

Vaccinations and Malaria Prevention

You will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.

Booking Procedure

Only once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.

Travelling Responsibly

We care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Stephen – Japan tailor-made specialist

‘This trip brilliantly showcases Japan old and new and would suit both first-time visitors and those returning to explore this majestic country for a second or even third time!'

StephenJapan tailor-made specialist

Speak to Stephen on 01273 670 001

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Our tailor-made service costs you no extra

This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...

Your own private guides & drivers

You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.