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March 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Journey Through Japan

Japan

Why Japan?

It seems like everywhere you turn lately, you hear someone talking about visiting Japan, whether they just returned, or are just starting to plan their trip. It’s no wonder, since Japan has always had a unique allure, drawing in visitors for everything from their culinary masterpieces to the world of Manga. But why the current uptick? Over the last few years, Japan was one of the most stringently contained countries, and so since it reopened, many travelers have taken advantage of the “re”-welcoming of visitors, especially after the lost time in the early 2020s. 

Whether you’ve always wanted to visit Japan and have been waiting for the right time, or even if you’ve never really considered it, this month’s Inspiring Itinerary will highlight the many reasons why a Journey Through Japan will be unlike any other!

To start, Japan is a land where ancient tradition seamlessly blends with cutting-edge modernity, creating a unique tapestry of culture, innovation, and natural beauty. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene temples of Kyoto, Japan offers travelers an unforgettable experience that captivates the senses and enriches the soul.

One of the primary draws of Japan is its rich cultural heritage. With a history spanning thousands of years, Japan boasts a wealth of traditional arts, customs, and rituals that continue to thrive in the modern era. You can immerse yourself in the elegance of tea ceremonies, witness the graceful movements of kabuki theater, or explore the intricately landscaped gardens that dot the landscape.

Furthermore, Japan’s reputation for innovation and technology is renowned worldwide. From bullet trains that whisk passengers across the country to neon-lit skyscrapers that illuminate the night sky, Japan is at the forefront of technological advancement. You may find that experiencing the juxtaposition of ancient tradition and futuristic innovation is a quintessential part of the Japanese experience.

Beyond its cultural and technological wonders, Japan is also home to breathtaking natural beauty. From the snow-capped peaks of Mount Fuji to the pristine beaches of Okinawa, Japan’s diverse landscape offers something for everyone. Whether hiking through lush forests, soaking in natural hot springs, or admiring the cherry blossoms in full bloom, when you visit Japan, you’re sure to be enchanted by its natural splendor.

In addition to its cultural heritage, technological prowess, and natural beauty, Japan is also renowned for its hospitality and cuisine. From the moment you arrive, you’re greeted with warmth and courtesy, making you feel welcome and at home. And with a cuisine that is as diverse as it is delicious, Japan offers a culinary adventure like no other. From sushi and sashimi to ramen and tempura, Japanese cuisine is celebrated for its freshness, flavor, and artful presentation.

With so much to offer, it’s hard to distill a Journey Through Japan into just one trip, but this month’s Inspiring Itinerary covers so many experiences that truly give you a well-rounded journey in the Land of the Rising Sun!

Let’s Go!

Day 1 

Welcome (or should we say Konnichiwa!) to Kyoto, where ancient tradition meets modern adventure! After touching down at either Kansai International Airport (KIX) or Osaka International Airport (ITM), you’ll be greeted with a warm “Konnichiwa” and then whisked away into your private transfer, during which you can soak in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city on your way to your hotel.

Upon arrival, you’ll be treated to a seamless check-in process, allowing you to kick off your exploration of Kyoto without delay. Dive into the rich culture of this historic city in the tranquil ambiance of the Sanjūsangen-dō Temple, where 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Compassion, await your discovery.

As evening approaches, the city beckons you to indulge in its culinary delights. With a plethora of dining options, your Japanese culinary adventure will begin, whether it’s savoring traditional cuisine or sampling local delicacies. Need recommendations? Your hotel concierge will be more than happy to point you towards a dining experience that suits your palate. And don’t forget to rest up after your day of traveling, since your adventures in Japan have only just begun!

Day 2

Rise and Shine as you begin your first day in the Land of the Rising Sun! To start, you’ll dive into the heart of Kyoto’s history and culture on a traditional rickshaw tour through the picturesque streets of Arashiyama, an historic district on the outskirts of the city, where you’ll soak in the stories of centuries past narrated by your knowledgeable guide.

Your rickshaw tour will even take you into the famed Bamboo Forest where you’ll find yourself surrounded by the ethereal beauty of this natural wonder, and where the rustling leaves create a symphony of tranquility.

After your rickshaw tour, continue your exploration with a leisurely morning stroll through the Arashiyama district. Discover the hidden gems of this scenic area, including the awe-inspiring Tenryu-ji Temple, a Zen sanctuary nestled amidst lush greenery and majestic mountain vistas.

Once the morning winds down, you’ll be treated to lunch at Yoshiya Restaurant, where you’ll indulge in the artistry of Japanese cuisine as you savor traditional dishes crafted with the freshest ingredients, all while surrounded by the timeless charm of Arashiyama.

The afternoon for today is yours to either explore Kyoto on your own, or rest up after your full travel day yesterday and a busy morning tour! A leisurely afternoon will allow you plenty of time to get ready for your official Welcome dinner at the esteemed SODOH restaurant. Indulge in meticulously crafted dishes amidst the elegant ambiance of traditional Japanese hospitality, sharing tales of your day’s adventures with fellow travelers.

Cap off your evening with a mesmerizing Maiko performance, where the vibrant culture and history of Kyoto come to life through the graceful movements and spirited storytelling of a Geisha in training. Immerse yourself in the magic of Kyoto’s cultural heritage, leaving you excited for the adventures that lie ahead.

Day 3 

After breakfast today, you’ll board the iconic Shinkansen bullet train, which will literally whisk you away from Kyoto, to the historic city of Hiroshima and the enchanting Miyajima Island. The Shinkansen is called a bullet train for a reason, so don’t blink as you zoom through the picturesque landscapes of Japan on your super-speed transportation!

Once you reach your destination, your local expert guide will take you on a deep dive into the rich tapestry of Shinto and Buddhist traditions with a captivating tour of Itsukushima Shinto shrine and a nearby Buddhist temple. Here, you’ll uncover the hidden stories and ancient rituals that have shaped these sacred sites for centuries.

Then, enjoy lunch on Miyajima, or the “Island of the Gods,” where you can explore the charming streets and quaint shops, indulging in the island’s treasures, of both the food and souvenir varieties!

Next, pay homage to history at the Hiroshima Peace Park, a memorial dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb that forever changed the course of humanity. Wander through the serene parkland, pausing to reflect on the resilience of the human spirit amidst the remnants of tragedy. Delve deeper into the city’s past with a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where poignant exhibits and artifacts offer a sobering glimpse into the realities of war and the enduring quest for peace.

Sometimes the best way to follow up an emotional museum visit is to change course completely, and indulge in some comfort food. In Hiroshima, that means the beloved delicacy of Okonomiyaki. For dinner tonight, you’ll get to try this traditional savory crepe, customizable to your taste with an array of delicious fillings, and discover why it’s a local favorite with over 2,000 restaurants in the region.

As the sun sets, bid farewell to Hiroshima and board the Shinkansen once more, journeying back to Kyoto at “bullet” speed. 

Day 4

Today you’ll embark on a thrilling aquatic adventure as you journey down the Hozugawa River from Kameoka to Kyoto, immersing yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Japan’s natural landscape. Feel the rush of excitement as you navigate the rushing water of the river, marveling at stunning rock formations, and basking in the vibrant colors of seasonal flowers and trees along the riverbanks. With every twist and turn, discover a new perspective on the beauty of Kyoto’s countryside, from the unique vantage point of the river.

After your exhilarating river ride, dive into the art of Japanese cuisine with a hands-on bento box cooking class led by local instructors. Learn the secrets of crafting a traditional bento box using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and unleash your creativity as you assemble a culinary masterpiece. Indulge in the fruits of your labor as you savor your own deliciously crafted bento box lunch, showcasing your new culinary skills!

Continue your exploration of Kyoto’s cultural treasures with a visit to Honpō-ji Temple, a serene sanctuary dating back to the 15th century. Here, you’ll become immersed in the tranquility of the temple’s magnificent garden, adorned with a picturesque lotus pond and an artful arrangement of rocks evoking the beauty of a waterfall. Feel the rhythmic pulse of Japan’s ancient traditions come alive as you participate in a hands-on demonstration of Taiko drumming, unleashing the powerful beats of Japanese percussion instruments.

After your adventure-filled day, you’ll surely want to wind down your evening with the culinary delights that await you in Kyoto. With its rich culinary heritage and diverse dining scene, Kyoto offers a feast for the senses, from traditional kaiseki dining to local gems that your guides and concierge can recommend. A night on your own in Kyoto is the perfect way to wrap up your stay here, as tomorrow you’ll journey onward towards your next destination!

Day 5

Be sure to enjoy your full breakfast this morning, since you’ll need the energy for your incredible mountain trek. And this won’t be just your average mountain hike; today you’ll traverse the mesmerizing Torii Trail up Mount Inari to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, a sacred path adorned with over ten thousand vibrant orange Torii gates. Each gate, generously donated by businesses, organizations, and individuals, symbolizes gratitude for luck and prosperity, and leads you on your ascent of the revered Mount Inari. The trail and shrine itself are true spiritual sanctuaries, where every step inspires enlightenment and introspection.

After the morning’s spiritual experience, you’ll be treated to one of the most renowned ancient traditions of Japan: a visit to Kehaya-Za Sumo Experience & Museum. Here, you’ll delve into the rich history of Sumo wrestling as you explore exhibits detailing the sport’s origins and evolution. Then, to cap off your Sumo Experience, you’ll get to step into the museum’s dohyo, a sacred sand-filled ring, where you’ll witness a thrilling live Sumo demonstration, gaining first hand insight into the rituals and techniques of this revered martial art.

Continue your day’s adventure with lunch in Nara, known for its exquisite cuisine and vibrant food culture. Discover the delicate flavors of traditional Buddhist temple cuisine at Taima-dera, where each dish is a testament to centuries of culinary mastery.

After another thrilling day, you’ll retreat to the luxurious comforts of your new resort, a haven amidst the scenic beauty of Takayama. Unwind in your tranquil surroundings, as you prepare for dinner, where adults will be treated to an elegant Western-style meal, while kids get a night of karaoke to let loose for the evening!

Day 6

Today will bring you back in time as you explore the historic village of Shirakawa-Go, a hidden gem nestled amidst the rugged mountains of Japan. Led by your knowledgeable expert guides, you’ll be immersed in the village’s rich tapestry of history as you wander through the labyrinthine streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to take pictures of the iconic Gassho-style houses with their steep-pitched thatched roofs, the only houses of their kind throughout Japan.

As lunch rolls around, you’ll enjoy another flavorful meal in Nara, before heading out into the Japanese countryside on a leisurely bike ride through the scenic landscapes surrounding Shirakawa-Go. Pedal at your own pace as you meander through quaint farming villages, where time seems to stand still amidst the rolling rice fields and ancient streets. Along the way, your knowledgeable guide will regale you with tales of Satoyama history and culture, offering insights into a way of life that has endured for generations.

For dinner tonight, you’ll be treated to a culinary adventure at Suzuya, an architecturally authentic restaurant renowned for its tranquil ambiance and mouth watering cuisine. Delight in the succulent flavors of traditional Hida beef, famous for its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, or opt for one of the restaurant’s vegetarian-friendly offerings before retiring to your resort for the night. 

Day 7

Today, your culinary adventure continues with a guided food-tasting-walking-tour through the historic Takayama Market District, a treasure trove of flavors and aromas dating back to the 17th century. Meander through the charming streets of Takayama’s old town, where beautifully preserved buildings transport you to a bygone era. Along the way, indulge your palate with tantalizing samples of local fare, from savory sake and delectable dumplings to creamy tofu and rich miso. 

One of the highlights of your walking tour (that’s not food related) will be a traditional lesson in one of Japan’s oldest art forms. Let your creativity flow as you practice the ancient art of calligraphy with a hands-on lesson, in which you’ll learn the delicate strokes of this timeless craft. Afterwards, you’ll have time for lunch on your own in Takayama at one of the locales from your tour, or your guide can suggest somewhere new to try!

Be sure to savor every bite, as this meal will be your farewell to Takayama, before you board a train for a scenic ride to Tokyo. On board, you’ll pass through the breathtaking landscapes of Yamanashi Prefecture, with majestic mountains and the possibility of catching a glimpse of the iconic Mount Fuji.

Upon your arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be treated to an exceptional culinary experience at Gonpachi, a popular destination beloved by locals and tourists alike. The lively atmosphere of this buzzing restaurant even attracts the occasional celebrity, which adds an exciting possibility for the evening. Here, you’ll indulge in signature cuisine that pushes the boundaries of traditional Japanese favorites with bold flavors and innovative twists.

Finally, retire to your new luxurious hotel in Tokyo, where you’ll spend your final three nights in Japan. 

Day 8

Another day of exciting adventure awaits! First, you’ll ascend to new heights as you make your way up to the pinnacle of Japan’s architectural marvel, the Tokyo SkyTree. Towering over the city at a staggering height of over 2,000 feet (634 meters), this iconic structure offers unparalleled panoramic views of Tokyo’s sprawling cityscape below. 

Next, you’ll explore the historic charm of the Asakusa District, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most beloved neighborhoods. Here you’ll spend the morning strolling the charming streets lined with local craft shops, where traditional artisans showcase their timeless skills. For lunch, you’ll no doubt find a perfect option at one of the many traditional food stalls, where you can savor the flavors of authentic Japanese cuisine amidst the bustling atmosphere of this vibrant district.

After lunch, you’ll visit the Sensō-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo and a revered symbol of the city’s cultural heritage. Discover the sacred rituals and timeless traditions that have been preserved within its hallowed halls for centuries, as you pay homage to the ancient deities that watch over Tokyo.

Then, you’ll have another chance to express your creativity through a transformative Kintsugi experience, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Through this hands-on activity, learn the profound philosophy behind Kintsugi—that imperfections are not flaws, but rather symbols of resilience and beauty. As you mend fractured pottery pieces with gold, silver, or platinum, discover the hidden stories and enduring strength that lie within each fragment.

For dinner tonight, you’ll get to explore the city’s diverse dining scene, where innovative restaurants blend eye-popping entertainment with exquisite Japanese delicacies before resting up for your final full day in Japan. 

Day 9

Begin your day in a place that blends two beautiful Japanese traditions: the art of the garden, and the tea ceremony. Start by enjoying the serene beauty of Happo-en Gardens, where you can meander through lush greenery and next to tranquil ponds, allowing the peaceful ambiance to give you a moment to reflect on everything you’ve experienced on your journey in Japan so far. 

Then, step into the Tea House and discover the artistry of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Unlike the formal ceremonies that can last for hours, this intimate experience offers a more relaxed approach, allowing you to immerse yourself in the ritual while finding joy in the tranquility of your surroundings. 

Afterwards, you’ll visit the Tsukiji Outer Market, a bustling hub of activity where the sights, sounds, and smells of fresh seafood, vibrant produce, and traditional Japanese delicacies come together. For lunch, you’ll get to choose from any of the vendors in the Market, but of course, your guide will be happy to recommend some of their favorites, as well. 

Your final afternoon in Japan will offer you the freedom to explore the dynamic city of Tokyo at your own pace. From the timeless charm of historic neighborhoods to the cutting-edge innovation of modern districts, Tokyo offers a kaleidoscope of experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you choose to wander through ancient temples and shrines or explore the vibrant street culture and bustling shopping districts, Tokyo promises endless adventures around every corner.

As the sun sets on your journey through Japan, gather with your fellow adventurers for a memorable farewell dinner at Shangri-La Tokyo. Raise a toast to the unforgettable experiences and cherished memories that have enriched your travels, bidding farewell to Japan with hearts full of gratitude.

Day 10

As always on the last day of any trip, the final leg of your journey will bring you to your transportation home, in this case, you’ll be transferring to Narita International Airport (NRT) or Haneda International Airport (HND) to fly home. But as you say “Sayonara” to the vibrant streets and rich cultural tapestry of Japan, you’ll carry with you the memories of unforgettable experiences: the wonders explored, the flavors savored, and the sights beheld, knowing that the spirit of Japan will continue to inspire and captivate long after you’ve said goodbye. And who knows, maybe the sun will rise again on yet another journey in the Land of the Rising Sun!

Ready to Plan?

If you are ready to experience the Land of the Rising Sun for yourself, and would like to plan your Perfect Journey through Japan, contact your Love of the Magic Travel Agent today, or email hello@LOTMV.com.  And of course, whether you want to journey to the cities, markets and temples of Japan, or plan your next adventure somewhere totally different, your LOTMV Travel Advisor will work with you to create the unique experience you’re looking for. 

Looking for more of our Inspiring Itinerary series?

You can find links to all of 2023’s Inspiring Itineraries in this Blog: 2023 Inspiring Itineraries Recap and even links to all of 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries here: A Year of Inspired Travel: 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries, Month by Month

So far in 2024, we have:

January 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Christmas River Market Cruise

February 2024 Inspiring Itinerary: The Perfect Myriad of Mexico Vacation

Just like always, a new Inspiring Itinerary will come out each month!

And don’t forget to check out our Friday Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! You can find links to all of Jamie’s 2023 Travel Tips here: Jamie’s 2023 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, A Recap, and to all of Jamie’s 2022 Travel Tips at this Blog: Jamie’s 2022 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: A Recap

Ready to plan The Perfect Journey Through Japan? Contact your Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor today or email hello@LOTMV.com 

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