Arrive after your overnight flight into Tokyo, one of the world's most energetic, vibrant cities.
Check-in to Hoshinoyo Tokyo set in the city's economic center, a short walk from Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. The striking Japanese-style inn, or ryokan, appears as a tall black monolith that blends in with its surroundings, but the dark exterior is actually an elegant lattice of leaf-like patterns, or komon, that veils the ryokan. From your room, gaze upon the multi-colored glow of the city leading straight to the horizon.
Reset after your long flight with a stroll through the Imperial Palace East Gardens, where you can explore the beautiful grounds, watch koi carp in the ponds and enjoy some time outdoors.
After, stop for lunch at a Kawaii cafe, then explore nearby Harajuku. The Harajuku neighborhood and its main artery, Omotesando Boulevard, are a haven for shoppers. Here, tidy alleyways filled with cafes and boutiques lend a European feel. On Sunday afternoons, the famed Harajuku girls (and boys) come here to strut their stuff.
Take a short train south to Yokohama for a tasty day trip. Enjoy the international food, art scene, walkable streets and breezy air and take a stroll along the seaside, through the largest Chinatown in the country, along the botanical park or experience the stunning view from the Landmark tower.
Be sure to stop at the Cup Noodle Museum dedicated to the iconic instant noodles. Visitors can assemble their own personal cup noodles from pre-made ingredients, choosing their own soup base and toppings, and also designing the cup.
This morning, leave the city for Hakone, home to the beautiful caldera lake of Ashinoko and the iconic Mount Fuji. Famous for its hot springs, outdoor activities, views of nearby Mount Fuji, and overall natural beauty, Hakone has long been a favorite rural retreat from Tokyo for Japanese and foreign visitors alike.
Tonight, stay in a modern, boutique-influenced ryokan. Each room comes with its own soothing, spring-fed onsen bath and perfectly framed panoramic views.
Play at Japan’s first open air museum, the Hakone Open Air Museum that opened in 1969. The museum has a collection of over a thousand sculptures and works of art made by artists such as Picasso, Henry Moore and many others.
Take a cruise around the placid Ashi Lake for more scenic views of the tranquil landscape and Mount Fuji, followed by a relaxing walk along the ancient Edo-era Tokaido trail in the forest.
Hop on board the Shinkansen bullet train for a ride to Kyoto. The Kyoto landscape is sprinkled with ancient Buddhist temples, centuries-old Shinto shrines, plus-sized places, and impressive imperial villas.
While in Kyoto, stay at the Park Hyatt. In harmony with iconic landmarks and temples, spiritual gardens and nature's four seasons,this hillside retreat is an architectural gem, designed as the quintessential guesthouse illuminated by the mist and the moon, offering a unique blend of modern heritage and hospitality.
Explore the calm western side of Kyoto, where charming temples and backstreets are tucked along the base of Arashiyama Mountain. Cross the grand Togetsukyo Bridge and visit the famous bamboo groves and monkey park, as well as the sacred Tenryuji Temple.
Have lunch at Honke Owariya, Kyoto’s oldest noodle restaurant (nearly 550 years old). During the Edo period (1603-1868), it served its famous dishes inside the Imperial Palace itself, and it continues to tout its status as the Imperial family’s noodle purveyor of choice in Kyoto.
Explore the Gion district of Kyoto, famous for colorfully dressed geisha who shuffle down the quiet, cobblestoned streets on their way to entertain patrons of one of Gion's many teahouses and restaurants.
Have tea with a real Maiko and learn about her fascinating life story as she strives to become a Geisha. Geisha, iconic of Kyoto, are few in number in modern times. Geisha are known for their wit, beauty, and well-rounded high-caliber skills in traditional Japanese arts.
This morning take a short trip south to Nara. En route, stop at the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine, one the most mysterious and haunting Shinto shrines in all of Japan. The shrine grounds are home to tens of thousands of vermilion torii which create tunnels that run for miles up through the forest of Mount Inari.
Next visit Nara Park, where you will see hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered messengers of the gods in Shinto, they have become a symbol of the city. Vendors in the park sell small packets of rice crackers that you can use to feed the deer.
After breakfast, take one last ride on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo for your flight onward in the evening.
Deep dive into Japanese culture with a private lesson or ceremony in traditional Japanese arts, such as ikebana (flower arrangement), calligraphy, sushi-making, tea ceremony, sword-fighting, or even a kimono fitting.
I love the regional diversity of Japan, where you can experience bright lights in the cities, and the next day explore secluded forests and mountain lakes.
Don’t miss traveling by Shinkansen, and make sure to maximize on food tours. You don’t want to miss all the incredible and quirky cuisine!