If you take an overnight flight to Tokyo you’ll enjoy more time to explore this fascinating city and its wealth of districts and subcultures.
Tokyo is both modern metropolis and ancient capital rolled into one. Your Japan tour guide will provide an in-depth orientation to help you soak up the neon-bright atmosphere. Afterwards, retreat to the comforts of the Palace Hotel, where many rooms overlook the Imperial Palace and Garden.
You can start by exploring the traditional enclaves and futuristic streets on Tokyo’s excellent public transport. The contrast between the tranquility of the Meiji Shrine and the glitz of Omotesando's fashion stores is pure Tokyo. It’s modern and tradition nestling cheek by jowl. Check out the themed cafes, maids, cats, anime and more , of Akihabara. Then finish in Ginza, Tokyo's most famous upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment district.
A short journey to the mountain town of Hakone feels like a voyage to another world. Mount Fuji looms above the lake and hot springs are dotted amid the hills. A cable car will deliver you to the hot mountain springs where the hard-boiled eggs are said to add seven years to your life. Suitably rejuvenated you’ll sleep like a baby on the comfy futons of a traditional ryokan (inn) with exceptional views.
A final soak in an onsen (hot-spring bath) will set you up for one of Japan's most scenic rail journeys. The train meanders through mountains and gorges to reach the venerable city of Takayama. The Old Town is criss-crossed with narrow streets lined with Edoera merchant houses. Don't miss a visit to one of the many sake breweries. Hiccup!
Take Takayama at your own pace. The Miyagawa morning market is ideal for browsing fresh produce, pickles and crafts. Take a peek inside the heritage houses, many of which are open to the public. Nearby, UNESCO-listed Shirakawago is a real glimpse of the past - a historic silk-farming village of thatched Gassho-style houses.
The views are fantastic as you descend the mountains by train to reach Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial Park was created on land destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. The skeleton of a building provides a poignant reminder of the city's past tragedies and its inspiring regeneration.
A ferry will deliver you to sacred Miyajima, known as Shrine Island. Itsukushima Shrine's torii gate seems to float on water, while the Five Tier Pagoda soars skywards. The slopes here are a riot of colour from cherry trees and maples in spring and autumn. Afterwards, a cable car up Mount Misen affords you magnificent sunset views over the islands of the Inland Sea.
The Shinkansen bullet train will have you in Kyoto in no time. Japan's former capital is arguably its most intoxicating city. This is the place to get to grips with Japan’s unique culture. At the house of a Japanese tea ceremony master you can get to grips with the long history of this ritual, and you can also learn more about Zen Buddhism and the art of wearing a kimono.
Exploring Kyoto you may glimpse a geisha, wander down timeless alleys, peek into the temples, visit castles, admire gardens and rest under pavilions. Njio Castle is a must-see here, surrounded by stunning gardens, and the formal rock gardens of the Daitoku-ji Zen temple complex is perfect for relaxing in.
Between 710 and 784 Nara was Japan’s capital, until it was moved to Kyoto. On your day trip here you’ll see Todaiji Temple which is the world's largest wooden building and home to Japan's largest Buddha. There’s also the delightful Kasuga Taisha, Nara's most celebrated shrine, to visit before you return to Kyoto.
There’s still enough time to take a final stroll to your favourite parts of Kyoto. Perhaps take an atmospheric amble through the back streets or shop for geisha hair accessories in the Gion district. Then it’s back to Tokyo for the final stage of your Japan tour.
It’s time to bid sayonara as you head to the airport for your flight home.