Upon arriving in Tokyo, you will take the Airport Limousine bus to your hotel: the serene new Aman, a haven of tranquillity on the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower. Your room is a Deluxe double with a balcony. For the remainder of the day, explore the city; dinner is at your leisure.
Note: Breakfast is included throughout the trip, as are transfers, guides, and activities specified. However, all other meals and alcoholic drinks, unless otherwise noted, are at an additional cost.
After breakfast, you will be picked up at 8:30 and taken by taxi to Tsukiji, Tokyo’s legendary, bustling fish market. This guided tour includes a special sushi-making session, where you will be able to make your own sushi lunch (included) under the tutelage of a top chef.
In the afternoon, your guide will bring you to the nearby Hama Rikyū Garden, a beautiful public park. From there, you’ll take a boat up the Sumida River to the Asakusa area and visit Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temple. Explore the streets around the temple, which are home to a fascinating mix of souvenir shops and traditional stores. The evening and dinner are at your leisure.
This morning, Black Tomato has arranged for a special VIP visit to the sumo stables in the Ryokgoku district. You’ll be able to watch the wrestlers go through a morning training session, and even take photos with them. *Note, the tour availability depends upon the season and cannot be guaranteed until after booking.
The rest of the afternoon and evening, lunch, and dinner, are at your leisure. Suggested stops include Meiji-jingū, Tokyo’s most important shrine. You could also stroll through the trendy nearby districts of Harajuku, Omotesando, and Shibuya for a taste of modern Tokyo. Or, spend the afternoon at the quiet Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens before venturing into the bustling Shinjuku Station area. Famous for shopping and nightlife as well as unparalleled people-watching, Shinjuku Station is the busiest station in the world and is surrounded by department stores, restaurants, and izakayas.
Hand over your luggage to the hotel reception; you will meet up with it again in Hakone, your next destination. After breakfast, a guide will meet you and escort you on the train to Kamakura, a seaside town southwest of Tokyo, to see its famed giant bronze Buddha.
Move on to Hakone, a town located in the southwestern part of Kanagawa. Hakone is world-famous for its spas, hot springs, and views of Mount Fuji. Visit the Open Air Museum, which holds an impressive collection of international art, including 300 works by Picasso.
At the end of the day, you’ll check in to a Japanese-style “Hoshi” room at Hakone Ginyu, a traditional ryokan (inn). Here, you can enjoy the onsen baths, peaceful views of the forested hills and Haya-Kawa River, and spectacular kaiseki, or multicourse cuisine, one of the hallmarks of ryokan accommodation. Dinner is included in your rate.
Have a day at leisure. You could take the traditional “circular” tour around Hakone by mountain train, funicular railway, cable car, and boat. The train switchbacks up forested hills to the resort town of Gora; the cable car whisks you over treetops to the Great Boiling Valley, where, if the weather is clear, you have unparalleled views of Mount Fuji; yet another cable car or bus (depending on the weather) ride takes you on to Lake Ashi. If you’re feeling energetic, the cobblestoned Tōkaidō Road to Hakone-Yumoto can be walked in full in an afternoon. You can also choose to cross Lake Ashi on the kitschy but charming “pirate ships,” or ferries, that are docked there. Lunch is at your leisure; dinner at the ryokan is included.
After breakfast you will make your way to Odawara Station by mountain train. From there, you will take the bullet train to Kyoto. (Leave your luggage at Ginyu’s reception; it will be sent to your hotel in Kyoto to arrive the same day.) Once you’ve checked in to a standard king room at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, you will then enjoy a half-day guided tour of the northwest sector of the city.
Visit the famous Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) and then move on to Ryōan-ji, Japan’s most famous Zen garden. Time permitting, you’ll head to the nearby Ninna-ji Temple, which houses another of Kyoto’s loveliest gardens. Lunch and dinner are at your leisure.
Enjoy a full day of guided sightseeing around eastern Kyoto. Start the day in Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. From there, head on to Yasaka-jinja Shrine and into Maruyama Park, where the path will lead you past Kōdai-ji Temple and on to Kiyomizu Temple. The latter looks out over the city from the hillside. Lunch is at your leisure.
Optional, at an additional cost: Black Tomato can arrange a private dinner with performing geishas.
Today you will be met by your guide and taken for a half-day tour of central Kyoto in the morning and then spend the afternoon at leisure. Start at the centuries-old Nishiki Market, sometimes called Kyoto’s kitchen, which is a great place to learn about Japanese food and sample local delicacies, everything from sake to oysters, and possibly pick up some unique cookware as an interesting souvenir. Next head to nearby Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the residence of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. It features elaborate architecture and beautiful gardens.
In the afternoon, Black Tomato suggests visiting Arashiyama, a district on the western outskirts of the city. Most famous for its bamboo groves and Togetsukyo Bridge, it has been a popular retreat from the city for centuries. While walking is an excellent option, you can also hire bicycles and explore farther afield: Sagano, an area that is more rural, is particularly lovely. Lunch and dinner are at your leisure.
Activities today are your choice. Black Tomato recommends taking the local train to Nara, the capital of Japan from A.D. 710–794, for the day. Here, you can start with the impressive giant bronze Buddha (the largest in the world), housed in the famous all-wood Tōdai-ji temple. Walk through Nara-kōen Park, which is home to very friendly sacred deer—they’ll follow you hoping you have food for them. The Kasuga Taisha Shrine, which dates from Nara’s time as the capital, is also worth a visit.
On your way back to Kyoto, you might like to stop off at Fushimi Inari Shrine, noted for its “tunnels” of red torii gates leading up the hill behind the main shrine. This is the perfect place to stretch your legs and work up an appetite for Kyoto’s famous cuisine.
Optional, at an additional cost: Enjoy a fully guided day trip out of Kyoto by private car, starting with sightseeing in Nara and then moving on to a nearby tea farm for an in-depth tour. Learn about the production and appreciation of fine Japanese green tea, with a guide to explain everything in detail. The tour will include a special lunch box with local tea used as an ingredient in the food.
Make your way to Kyoto Station for the bullet train back to Tokyo. Spend your final afternoon in Japan at leisure.
Black Tomato suggests exploring the Imperial Palace East Gardens, adjacent to your home for the night, the Palace Hotel. The nearby Ginza has wonderful department stores and art galleries to visit as well as a few excellent upmarket cafés and restaurants. Do some last-minute shopping: Ginza is ideal for unique souvenirs, Akihabara for great electrical gadgets, and Kappa-bashi for all the kitchen goods you could want.
After breakfast, check out from the Palace Hotel and take the Airport Limousine bus to Narita for your flight home.
Tipping is neither required nor expected in Japan.