Japan

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To say that Japan is a country of contrasts is an understatement. Ancient temples framed by the confetti-like blossom of cherry trees to ultra-modern skyscrapers and bullet trains are both equally reminiscent of a country which is at once delightfully archaic and mind-bogglingly cutting edge. Japan lays claim to at least 200,000 years of history, yet it has been instrumental –perhaps more so than any other country –in the technological revolution of the last three decades. Tokyo is the best place to experience Japan's famous technological modernity in action –its bright lights, towering skyscrapers and hectic streets need no introduction. Osaka, dubbed 'the kitchen of the nation', is perhaps the best place to sample the country's delicious and varied cuisine. Kyoto –known as the cultural capital –is a city of grand palaces, ornate shrines and wonderful gardens, where geisha shuffle along the streets in brightly coloured kimonos and brighter still makeup. The 6,800 islands which make up the country also offer beautiful countryside, with highlights including famous Mount Fuji and the island paradise of Okinawa. Hiroshima, despite being tarnished by tragedy, is now blooming, having risen phoenix-like from its ashes. You can easily build an itinerary around Japan's incredible restaurants and regional specialities, from the intricate parcels of sushi in Tokyo's high-end establishments to hida beef in mountainous Takayama and one-pot nabe dishes that you'll find all over, where you pile ingredients into a pot and cook at your table. Tasty? Yes. Beguiling? Absolutely.

Japan with A&K
The letters from A&K travellers returning from Japan make it as clear as a Mount Fuji stream: Japan seduces and confuses - often at the same time. Along with serene landscapes and the intoxicating juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern technology, it's the country's trump card. We've heard stories of following onsen etiquette - yes, you really do wear a towel on your head - accidentally dipping food in sake, thinking it was sauce, and eating in a fashionable Tokyo café, only to later discover it was someone's private house. If the best holidays start with stepping outside daily life, then Japan delivers. In every possible way.

Without slicing a slither of excitement off this unique adventure, our highly qualified team in Japan will help you decipher and understand an exotic, mesmerising, often alien culture. A&K has been taking travellers to Japan for three decades, and has highly knowledgeable guides fluent in English.

We can arrange exclusive experiences completely off the tourist radar, including attending a Noh Theatre performance with an acclaimed expert, and joining a Kaiseki banquet cooked by one of the country's many Michelin starred chefs.

Travel to Japan with A&K and you could take part in a traditional tea ceremony at Tokyo's Happo-en Garden or visit Harajuku's cutting-edge fashion boutiques, before bullet training it to Osaka for fine dining in 'the nation's kitchen' and Kyoto for geisha, palaces, shrines and the I.M. Pei's exquisite Miho Museum. Alternatively slow down with a pilgrimage walk on Mount Fuji, recent recipient of UNESCO status; a sobering visit to Hiroshima; or take a relaxing break in the Okinawa archipelago, home to the most beautiful of Japan's 6,800 islands.

A&K can show you the extraordinary ice carvings at the Sapporo snow festival in February or Spring's explosion of cherry blossom. It's all possible, and all amazing. Just ask returning traveller, Guy Canning. After attending a sumo bout, he literally bumped into one of the rikishi wrestlers in a restaurant, who happily agreed to have Guy's wife photographed on his giant knee. It was a perfect simile for our Japanese holidays: highly unusual, incredibly hospitable and absolutely unforgettable.

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