By Tesia Smith
August 28, 2018
Prisma by Dukas/Getty Images

Tesia Smith is a member of Travel + Leisure’s A-List, a collection of the top travel advisors in the world, and can help plan your perfect getaway. Below is an example of the type of itineraries she creates. To work with Tesia, you can contact her directly at tesia.smith@audleytravel.com

Day 1

Welcome to Japan! Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport by our meet and greet assistant. The assistant will have a welcome packet for you that will include your tickets and vouchers for your vacation. A private transfer will be waiting to take you to your hotel, Keio Plaza Tokyo.

Day 2

This morning our private guide will meet you for an orientation tour followed by a city highlights tour. The orientation portion will help you understand how to use your travel documents and get you comfortable with the surroundings of your hotel and the public transportation. Continue on to visit the major sites and attractions of Tokyo including the Sensoji Temple of Asakusa and the Imperial Palace. 

As the tour is private, you can go at your own pace. If you need any rests or want to focus on other areas, be sure to tell your guide. You will be transported on public trains, as this is the best way to get around Tokyo and see how the people live!

Day 3

Today your guide will meet you to visit the world's largest fish market, Tsukiji Fish Market. You will visit the inner and outer market before picking up ingredients to make sushi. In the afternoon, I have arranged a private pop culture tour. You will visit the wild areas known for their pop fashion and style like Harajuku and Akihabara, the electric town. End the tour at Harajuku's Kawaii Monster Cafe. 

Day 4

Travel to Hakone National Park today. Hakone is the park from where you can get nice views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day. I have included direct train tickets and a Hakone Pass. The Hakone Pass allows you to ride the local trains, cable car, ropeway and boat. The boat on Lake Ashi is a pirate boat and can be fun. Spend the day exploring the park. There is also an excellent open air sculpture garden.

Next, check in at the Gora Sounkaku Ryokan. You will have your own Japanese style room and get to experience the tatami floors with futon mattresses. Hakone is known for its hot springs, so try the shared hot springs to relax this evening. You can rent your own private bath as well. 

Day 5

Travel to Kanazawa today. Kanazawa is a fabulous city, as there is so much to see and do. One of the top three gardens in Japan is located here, there is a great samurai district, tea area, fish market, beautiful castle, and nice local arts and crafts.

You will stay at the Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel, which is an excellent property and located centrally in the city. The property has integrated local art and style into their design.

Day 6

I have arranged two tours for you today. The first one will focus on the highlights of the garden, castle, and samurai district, and the second will be a hands-on craft tour. This is fun as you will get to chose chopsticks, a plate, or other items to design with gold leaf. 

In Kanazawa, try the gold leaf soft serve ice cream!

Day 7

Today I have provided bus tickets to take you to the UNESCO site, Shirakawago. This is a farm village located in the Kiso Valley. The farm houses have unique thatched roofs. Spend time outdoors exploring the valley, entering the farm houses, and taking a nice walk the up the hill to get a good view of the village. There is also nice local food here, so try some hida beef or dangos. 

Day 8

Travel by bullet train to Miyajima this morning. Miyajima is a really special place. It is one of the top three most scenic destinations in Japan known for the Itsukushima Shrine that appears to be floating at high tide.

I've arranged a stay at a ryokan, Iwaso, on the island for the night. It is really special and tucked in the woods near the cable car. The Emperor and the royal family stay here when they visit Miyajima.While the island is quite touristy, most tourists leave in the evening by ferry and not many people get to stay on the island. At night, walk around, as it is very quite and the shrine is lit up. The island is also known for their maple leaf sweets and oysters.

Day 9 

Today I have arranged for a full tour of Miyajima and Hiroshima. There are often street festivals with food and games and deer roaming free. Take the ropeway to the top of Mt. Misen.

Your tour will start in Miyajima, but your guide will also take you to Hiroshima, where you will visit the Peace Park, Children's Memorial, and the Memorial Museum. Learn about the important history of the city and its focus on peace.

Day 10

Travel by bullet train to the historic capital and cultural heart of Kyoto. If you'd like, you cn also stop off at the Himeiji Castle on the way. While in Kyoto, you will stay right near the train station at the Granvia Hotel. It is a great location for getting to and from Kyoto and exploring the city.

Day 11

Today you will have a private tour of Kyoto. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and take you to impressive sites including the Nijo Castle and the Golden Pavilion. There are many wonderful temples and shrines that you will get to see while in Kyoto.

I have also arranged a special experience on the afternoon — a tea ceremony through the Women's Association of Kyoto. You will go to a local home, where you will get to learn about the history, practice, and how to prepare, serve, and drink the tea. Not only will you get to participate in your private tea ceremony, but everyone will be dressed in kimono. 

Day 12

I have arranged for a shared taiko drumming experience today. It's so fun to hit the big festival drums and try and learn a drum cadence. The afternoon is at your leisure. I recommend going to Arashiyama, the bamboo forest. You can also do a rickshaw ride in Arashiyama or rent bikes in Kyoto. 

Day 13

You will explore the Nara and Fushimi Inari Shrines today. Stop off at Fushimi on the way, it's about a five minute train ride from Kyoto. Enjoy the 10,000 orange tori gates leading to the main shrine. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the main shrine, but you can easily spend hours there.

Continue on to Nara, about another 40 minutes by train, where you will enjoy the Deer Park, the Todaiji Temple, which houses the seated Buddha, and other temples and shrines. Return in the evening, where our best guide will lead you on an evening Geisha walk.

Day 14

Take the bullet train back to Tokyo today. Do any final shopping and exploring on your own these last few days. I recommend leaving Kyoto early and spending the day at Odaiba in Tokyo. I highly recommend the Toyota Megaweb. It's a showroom, and you can ride new cars, play video games, and enjoy many interactive activities. Odaiba also has a theme hot spring, where everyone gets a cotton yukata kimono before enjoying the hot springs.

In the evening, enjoy a family street food walking tour, where you'll indulge in local foods and specialties with your guide. 

Day 15

Attend a small shared group tour to a Sumo Stable in the morning. You will visit the area of Tokyo known as Sumo Town and enter a practice stable. Witness the wrestlers in their morning practice and learn about their lifestyle. 

In the afternoon, I recommend going to Yokohama, which is about an hour from Tokyo. Visit the Ramen museum, where you can make your own ramen and "go back in time" to an old style market place to try small bowls of ramen from around Japan.

Day 16

I have arranged for a private transfer to take you to the airport for your flight home. 

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