Tour begins: The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, 6:30 PM. A transfer is included from Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport to the five-star Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, conveniently located in the Nihonbashi district in the heart of the city. This evening join us for a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel.
Tokyo -Today and Yesterday
A sightseeing tour gives you an overview of one of the world's most dynamic capital cities, touching on both history and modern life. Your discoveries continue at a sushi-making experience followed by lunch. This afternoon explore the Edo-Tokyo Museum, focused on Tokyo's development from its roots as a fishing village called Edo, and see an exhilarating taiko drumming performance; rhythm, melody, and movement combine to create an extraordinary musical experience. The rest of the day and evening are free for further exploring on your own. Your hotel is near many good restaurants, and your Tauck Director can make suggestions for places to try.
Hakone, a lake cruise & Mt. Fuji
This morning board a bullet train (shinkansen) for a short ride south to Odawara and continue on to the scenic hot springs resort town of Hakone known for its open-air sculpture park surrounded by mountains; the sculptures, many by famous artists including Rodin and Picasso, are thoughtfully juxtaposed against nature's everchanging landscape. Following your guided visit at the sculpture park, have lunch on the shore of Lake Ashi in advance of your boat cruise on the lake, an opportunity, weather permitting, for viewing Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain and a sacred Shinto site that for many is an enduring symbol of Japan. This afternoon settle into your hotel, where dinner, with your choice of Japanese or French cuisine, is served this evening at your leisure.
Exploring Traditions in Hakone
Today begins with a visit to the Itchiku Kubota Museum, where you'll enjoy magnificent views of majestic Mt. Fuji and serene Lake Kawaguchi. Itchiku Kubota, (1917-2003) is considered one of the most important Japanese textile artists of the 20th century; he rediscovered, revived and subsequently modernized a traditional Japanese kimono dyeing technique, which was lost since the 15th century, creating exceptional artistic kimonos; the museum celebrates his art and legacy. Following lunch, return to the hotel where you have a choice. Join us for an excursion to the Hakone Open Air Museum, the first open-air museum in Japan, renowned for its outdoor sculpture park with beautiful views of the mountain. The grounds are the permanent home of approximately 120 works by well-known modern and sculptors including Rodin, Bourdelle, Miro, and Moore. Or, you might indulge in some pampering at your hotel's spa, perhaps taking a dip in the healing hot springs (onsen). Later this afternoon you have an opportunity to learn ikebana - Japanese flower arranging - with a teacher who gives a class and demonstration. Dine in the French restaurant of the hotel this evening.
The Japanese Alps and Matsumoto
Travel north through the forested mountain landscapes of the "Japanese Alps," through winding valleys dotted with rice farms, lakes, rushing rivers, and small villages. In Kawaguchi, visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, where a display of exquisite kimonos is housed in a building made of coral and limestone. Continue inland to the hot springs town of Matsumoto, where you'll visit 400-hundred-year-old Matsumoto Castle, Japan's oldest castle and a national treasure, also known as the "Crow Castle" because of its black exterior. For dinner this evening at leisure at your hotel, you have a choice of French or Japanese cuisine.
Old Takayama and a Sake brewery
Early this morning, head for Takayama, a mountain city long famed for its artisans and woodworkers. Do some sightseeing along the narrow lanes of its historic center followed by a lesson in sake making and a tasting at a local brewery. After lunch at a local restaurant known for its Hida beef, depart Takayama and continue on to Kanazawa, just inland from the Sea of Japan. Arriving here marks your having crossed all the way from one side of Japan's main island of Honshu to the other.
Gardens, Art & a Samurai home
A full day's sightseeing in Kanazawa begins with a guided stroll through celebrated Kenroku-en Garden, considered among the country's top three landscaped gardens. You'll have lunch and free time for exploring the museum at your own pace. Then it's on to the historic Samurai District, where samurai homes are tucked among narrow lanes and canals behind earthen walls and private entrance gates. Go inside the restored Nomura Samurai Family Residence for a look at the lifestyle of the samurai during feudal times, when they were prosperous. The rest of your day and evening are free.
A train ride to beautiful Kyoto
Depart Kanazawa by train for Kyoto, arriving midday for a four-night stay at Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto; small group departures will stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. Have lunch and begin your exploration of the city considered one of Japan's most beautiful. On your introductory sightseeing tour, discover a city center of glass and steel skyscrapers ringed by hidden temples, shrines, and gardens that exude the tranquility and charm of Japan's ancient culture. You may choose to dine at our selected local restaurant either tonight or tomorrow.
A castle, a temple & a Kyoto Geisha District
Sightseeing begins at Nijo Castle, surrounded by stone walls and a moat; tour this 17th-century shogun's residence and UNESCO World Heritage Site - and discover the secret of its "nightingale" floors. Next visit the famous golden-topped Kinkaku-ji Temple, set in an ancient garden on the edge of a lake - a position symbolizing its place "between heaven and Earth." Hear the story of how this 14th-century temple was burned to the ground by a young monk and then completely reconstructed. After lunch at a local restaurant, meet up with a geisha expert who leads an exploration of the back streets of one of Kyoto's geisha districts, and shares insights on the "flower and willow" world of the geishas, past and present.
A private home visit in Kyoto
Begin your day with a prayer at the Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple) established in 778; the current buildings were rebuilt in the 17th century. Drink the water here in long-handled cups as you wish for longevity, success or love. Kyoto is known as the craft capital of Japan, and many traditional arts have been passed down through the generations. You'll have an opportunity to visit a private home here; take your shoes off, come in, and your gracious hostess will demonstrate the rituals of a tea ceremony and the paper art of Origami.
Kyoto as you please
Continue exploring Kyoto as you pursue your own interests today. The city's classic cultural gems span the centuries, and your Tauck Director will have suggestions for places to visit. Join us for a special dinner tonight at a local restaurant.
Traditions in Tokyo
Travel by rail from Kyoto back to Tokyo, arriving for lunch at the celebrated restaurant Nobu. Afterward visit Meiji Shrine and take in a live performance of traditional Shinto music and Kagura dancing. This evening our farewell reception and dinner take place at a local restaurant, where you'll witness a larger-than-life demonstration by sumo wrestlers.
Tour ends: Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport. Fly home anytime. An airport transfer is included from Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo to Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport. Please allow a minimum of 3 hours for flight check-in at the airport.