An Insider's Japan

Our Insider’s Japan holiday shows you sides of this extraordinary country that visitors don’t normally see, from inside a sumo ‘stable’, to lunch with a farming family, and an insight into Japan's flourishing art scene on Naoshima.

At a glance
  • Indulge in Osaka’s streetfood scene
  • Feel inspired on Naoshima art island
  • Cycle around UNESCO Lake Biwa
  • Have lunch with a Japanese farming family
  • Learn to wear a kimono with style
  • Participate in a Kyoto tea ceremony
  • Explore a historic neighbourhood
  • Spend time in a sumo training ‘stable’
  • Pay your respects at the Meiji Jingu shrine
  • Admire the cosplayers in Harajuku
Itinerary
Price & Hotels

Osaka - 2 nights

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. 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 1 - Arrive Osaka

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 - Explore independently, local food tour

Includes:

Your day is at leisure until late afternoon, when you’ll meet your guide in 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.

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Naoshima - 2 nights

Formerly a struggling fishing community in Japan’s Inland Sea, the island’s fortune was transformed in the early 1990s by the establishment of Benesse Art Site, which showcases the best up-and-coming Japanese artists and architects, alongside international talent such as Warhol, Monet and Hockney. Amongst the island’s museums, galleries and outdoor sculptures, you’ll find a handful of empty traditional buildings which have been restored for use as creative installations by contemporary artists. The work here changes on a regular basis, and it’s easy to stroll between the ‘houses’. This unique project also offers an insight into local life, since the buildings are scattered between the islanders’ homes.

Day 3 - Train to Uno & ferry to Naoshima art island

Includes:

Take the train to Uno, where you’ll board the local ferry to Naoshima. On arrival, the rest of your day will be at leisure to explore your art-focused surroundings.

Day 4 - Explore Naoshima independently

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure to explore the art work dotted around the island under your own steam.

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Kyoto - 4 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 find yourself dressed in a kimono and participating in a tea ceremony in a traditional Kyoto townhouse, cycling around a UNESCO wetlands lake, and visiting a family farm for lunch.

Day 5 - Ferry to Uno & train to Kyoto

Includes:

Spend the morning taking a final look around before it’s time to catch the ferry back to Uno for your train journey to Kyoto.

Day 6 - Kimono wearing & tea ceremony

Includes:

After a morning at leisure to explore Kyoto, meet your knowledgeable local guide for a string of hands-on cultural experiences, each carefully designed to introduce all your senses to some of Japan’s most refined and rarified traditions. Your experience will take place in a beautifully restored wooden townhouse, where you’ll spend time learning how to put on and wear a kimono, before - suitably dressed - joining a tea master for a deeper insight into the tea ceremony and the meaning behind its ritual gestures. Afterwards you can either stroll through the local historic neighbourhood, or enjoy a short introduction to origami.

Day 7 - 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.

Day 8 - Explore independently

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure to explore Kyoto.

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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. Your stay here will include a morning at a sumo ‘stable’, a stroll around an ancient woodland shrine, and time in some of Tokyo’s trendiest districts.

Day 9 - Train to Tokyo

Includes:

Catch the train to Tokyo, where the rest of your day will be at leisure to begin exploring this incredible city.

Day 10 - Spend time with Sumo wrestlers, explore Shibuya

Includes:

Meet your guide and head to the traditional sumo district of Ryogoku, for a fascinating insight into this extraordinary ancient sport. Ryogoku contains most of the city’s 'heya' (sumo stables), where the professional wrestlers live, train and eat, along with the arena used for sumo tournaments. Life in the heya is fairly strict, but not without rewards: yokozuna (grand champions) can earn a basic salary of up to US$17,000 per month. Your morning will be spent at a heya, witnessing the wrestlers at their morning training session. This training culminates in a ‘King of the Castle’ trial, in which the strongest fighter stays in the ring to take on a string of opponents, until he is defeated. As the wrestlers head off for a bath and a protein-rich lunch, you'll take your leave and visit Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine. When you walk in the tranquil woodland that surrounds the shrine, it's easy to forget that you’re in one of the world’s largest cities! Take a stroll through Yoyogi Park, site of the Tokyo Olympic Village in 1964, pausing to admire Yoyogi National Gymnasium, a world-renowned architectural masterpiece. Nearby, visit Harajuku, the famous meeting place for teenagers in cosplay and eccentric outfits. Its cluster of lively boutiques and cafes are a shopping haven, and if you’re after easily carried souvenirs, it’s a great place to buy interesting socks that you definitely won’t find at home! Stop for coffee in Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree-lined avenue features flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects, alongside many stylish cafes.

Day 11 - Explore independently

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure to explore Tokyo at your own pace. Alternatively, you can venture beyond Tokyo to explore the popular seaside city of Kamakura or head into the mountains of Nikko National Park.

Day 12 - Depart Tokyo

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 £2,751US$3,587 £2,638US$3,440 £2,549US$3,324

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

Hotel Wright Style

Built in 2018, Hotel Wright Style was inspired by modern American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s elegant buildings – hence the name – and staying in this small, unique hotel, close to the art museums and Honmura District brings a fittingly artistic feel to time spent on Naoshima.

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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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
Superior £3,730US$4,863 £3,617US$4,716 £3,528US$4,600

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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Benesse House Hotel

There’s a privileged pleasure in experiencing good art without crowds of people, and a stay at Benesse House Hotel is a private view with great big bells on...

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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

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
Deluxe £5,289US$6,897 £5,177US$6,750 £5,088US$6,634

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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Benesse House Hotel

There’s a privileged pleasure in experiencing good art without crowds of people, and a stay at Benesse House Hotel is a private view with great big bells on...

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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

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

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 on the coast, climbing Mount Fuji, or a hike along the Edo-era track that once connected Tokyo and Kyoto.
  • From Kyoto, you can take very special trip up the mountain for an overnight stay in the seat of Shingon Buddhism.

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 for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
  • 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

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...

What to expect from us in Japan

Japan's excellent public transport & exceptional safety allow us to offer a more self-guided experience than we do elsewhere. It's a famously expensive country, so we often suggest more independent exploration, with our exclusive self-guide app on hand to help you unearth our hidden gems. This helps to keep your costs down, and the data is on us.