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Essence of Japan

13 days with Tauck   Rating: Deluxe

Tauck Offers for this Trip

  • Receive $200 to $600 per person off the single supplement price of select trips. Click here for eligible departures.

Offers subject to change or withdrawal, availability is limited. Some offers are not combinable.

Click for Dates and Prices Day 1 Arrive Tokyo
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. (D)

Day 2 Tokyo - Today and Yesterday
A drive through Tokyo this morning gives you an overview of one of the world's most dynamic capital cities, touching on both history and modern life. Begin today's sightseeing in Japan's capital city with a visit to the Meiji Shrine - honoring the deified spirits of Japan's Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, who died in 1912 and 1914, respectively - and take in a live performance of traditional Shinto music and Kagura dancing. Visit central Tokyo's renowned Tsukiji Market, the largest fish and seafood market in the world, for a walk around the outer market before heading to a local restaurant for a traditional yakitori (skewered chicken) lunch. This afternoon, visit the Asakusa Temple (also known as Senso-ji or Asakusa Kannon), dating back to the 7th century AD, and take a walk through the Nakamise shopping street. The rest of the day and evening are free for further exploring on your own. Many good restaurants can be found in the vicinity of your hotel, and your Tauck Director can make suggestions for places to try. (B, L)

Day 3 A lake cruise & Okada Museum of Art, and Japanese traditions
This morning board the legendary bullet train (shinkansen) for a short ride south to Odawara and continue on to the scenic hot springs resort town of Hakone. Enjoy a cruise on Lake Ashi; weather permitting, see views of Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain, looming over the landscape. Have lunch, followed by a visit to the Okada Museum of Art; the exhibits include Japanese, Chinese and Korean works of art, dating from ancient times to the present day. This afternoon, get your hands around an authentic Japanese tradition during a sushi and miso making demonstration, followed by a "homey" dinner at your hotel, ideally located in Hakone. (B, L, D)

Day 4 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. (B, L, D)

Day 5 The Japanese Alps and Matsumoto
As your Japan trip continues, travel north through the forested mountain landscapes of the "Japanese Alps," through winding valleys dotted with rice farms, lakes, rushing rivers, and small villages to the hot springs town of Matsumoto, where, after lunch you'll see 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. Continue to your hotel, combining the authenticity of a traditional Japanese ryokan with the comforts of a contemporary hotel, including western-style and Japanese rooms. Dinner tonight is Japanese style, yukatas and slippers on, in a private room with musical entertainment. (B, L, D)

Day 6 Takayama, Sake & on to Kanazawa
Depart Matsumoto this morning and head for Takayama, a mountain city long famed for its artisans and woodworkers. Do some sightseeing along the narrow lanes of its historic center, and have lunch at a local restaurant known for its Hida beef. Following a lesson in sake making and a tasting at a local brewery in Takayama, 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. Enjoy an included dinner at your choice of your hotel's restaurants either tonight or tomorrow. (B, L, D)

Day 7 Gardens, art & more in Kanazawa
A full day's sightseeing in Kanazawa includes: a guided stroll through celebrated Kenroku-en Gardens, considered among the country's top three landscaped gardens; time exploring the historic Samurai District, where samurai homes are tucked among narrow lanes and canals behind earthen walls and private entrance gates, with a visit to the restored Nomura Samurai Family Residence for a look at the lifestyle of the samurai during feudal times, when they were prosperous; lunch at a Paul Bocuse restaurant; and an afternoon visit to Higashi Chaya, the city's geisha district. Join us early this evening for a Tauck Exclusive, private Samurai Show, then spend the rest of the evening as you please at your hotel or exploring on your own in Kanazawa. (B, L)

Day 8 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. (B, L, D)

Day 9 A castle, a temple & a Kyoto Geisha District
Kyoto sightseeing today begins with a visit to the famous golden-topped Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), 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. Continue on to 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. 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. (B, L)

Day 10 Temples & 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. Experience the revered customs of Japanese culture firsthand during a visit to a private home here; take your shoes off, come in, and your gracious hostess will demonstrate the very specific rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony, followed by a lesson in the paper art of Origami. Return to your hotel where the afternoon is free for you to enjoy Kyoto's charms as you like. Join us for a special dinner tonight at a local restaurant. (B, D)

Day 11 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. (B)

Day 12 Traditions in Tokyo
Travel by rail from Kyoto back to Tokyo, arriving in time for lunch at the celebrated restaurant Nobu. After lunch, attend a hands-on demonstration and performance of the traditional Japanese drumming known as taiko, where you can try your hand at this ancient musical form. Following a free afternoon at the hotel, please join us for tonight's farewell reception and dinner at a local restaurant, where you'll witness a larger-than-life demonstration by sumo wrestlers. (B, L, D)

Day 13 Journey home
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. (B)
All This Included
Inspirational, innovative and intriguing, Japan has always been a favorite Tauck destination, where gilded temples and glittering skyscrapers reign over streets steeped in history and tradition. Discover the revered customs and unique sense of beauty that infuse life here... On the main island of Honshu, from Tokyo to the hot springs resort town of Hakone and on through the "Japanese Alps" to Kanazawa and the cultural treasure trove of Kyoto, visit a private home, shoes off, for a tea ceremony and Origami... explore castles, temples, shrines, a samurai home, and world-class gardens... spend a night at a ryokan with traditional Japanese cultural experiences... make sushi, taste sake, cruise Lake Ashi to see Mt. Fuji... enjoy a taiko performance, Shinto music, Kagura dancing, a sumo wrestling demonstration... and meet a geisha expert. Join us for a Japan trip to remember.

  • Multiple-night stays in premier hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanazawa & at a hot springs resort & spa in Hakone
  • Small group departures stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto nights 8 - 11
  • Overnight stay in a traditional ryokan in Matasumoto
  • Tokyo's Edo-Tokyo Museum, Shinto music, Kagura dancing, taiko drums & sumo wrestling
  • In Kyoto, a private home visit with tea ceremony & Origami demonstration, explorations with a local Geisha expert, visits to Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji Temple & Pure Water Temple (Kiyomizu Temple)
  • A cruise on Lake Ashi beneath Mt. Fuji
  • Attend a flower arranging class in Hakone
  • A lesson on sake brewing & a tasting at a local brewery in Takayama
  • A guided tour of Kanazawa's Kenroku-en Garden, one of Japan's most revered landscaped gardens
  • Airport transfers upon arrival and departure as noted
  • 29 meals (12 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 8 dinners); gratuities to local guides, service charges, admission fees, taxes and porterage
  • Edo-Tokyo Museum
  • Shinto music
  • Kagura dancing
  • Taiko drums & sumo wrestling in Tokyo
  • Overnight stay in a traditional ryokan in Matasumoto
  • private home visit with tea ceremony & Origami demonstration explorations with a local Geisha expert
  • Visits to Nijo Castle
  • Kinkaku-ji Temple & Pure Water Temple in Kyoto
  • Cruise on Lake Ashi beneath Mt. Fuji
  • Sake tasting in Takayama
  • Guided tour of Kanazawa's Kenroku-en Garden
Tokyo: Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Hakone: Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa
Matsumoto: Tobira Onsen Myojinkan
Kanazawa: Hotel Nikko Kanazawa
Kyoto: Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto or the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (small group departures)
Tokyo: Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
  • Small Group Departures will stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto on nights 8 – 11. 
  • The following dates are small group departures averaging 24 Tauck guests: March 16 and August 24, 2018. 
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Tauck terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.