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Revisiting Japan: Our top 20 highlights

Revisiting Japan: Our top 20 highlights

After moving back home to England after studying in Tokyo for a year, I was longing to go back to immerse myself in Japan’s incredible culture, scenery and food. I’d missed the fantastically smooth order in which everything runs and the generous people that make everyday interactions a pleasure… I was especially excited to be returning in autumn, for the renowned multi-coloured leaves that set the country alight with their vivid hues!

On this research trip, I managed to re-visit some of my favourite places – the scenic Hakone, the cultural capital of Kyoto, the unique art island of Naoshima and the phoenix city of Hiroshima – but what thrilled me most was discovering the more offbeat locations I hadn’t had a chance to visit before.

There were many memorable moments – seeing the snow monkeys in Yudanaka, feeling as though I’d gone back in time in the traditional Bikan canal area of Kurashiki and walking the historic streets of Takayama – but the most striking experiences for me were visiting Miyajima and Nikko. Miyajima’s floating torii gate is rightfully recognised as a UNESCO landmark, and is well worth the short ferry ride across from Hiroshima, as it is extraordinary, especially during sunset.

Nikko makes for an ideal day trip from Tokyo – I couldn’t believe that I’d missed it before! As soon as I stepped out of the station to be greeted by a mountain view, I was bowled over by the completely unspoiled nature. Such untouched surroundings add to the beauty of the historic temples that lie scattered around this small city, and Lake Chuzenji is particularly pretty, with its remarkably still, shimmering water. Up here in the alpine air, the impressive Kegon waterfall is a short walk away and Futarasan shrine is a real highlight – I was lucky enough to visit just as the monks were paying their respects by performing a morning bowing ritual.

Returning to Japan exceeded my expectations; I am constantly surprised by this unique and enigmatic island nation, which is why it captures my spirit and keeps me wanting to go back for more. Read on for my top 40 highlights…


1. Waking up to Tokyo’s endless and impressive skyline

2. Exploring ‘Yakitori’ alley under the train tracks in the fashionable district of Ginza

3Browsing through the hidden and ancient gems in Oedo Antique Market

4Witnessing a Shinto wedding procession at Meiji shrine


5Flying over Mount Fuji for a breathtaking bird’s eye view

6. Miyajima’s floating torii gate, just across from Hiroshima, standing in all its glory


7. Gliding down the picturesque Bikan canal, just outside an Ampersand favourite: Ryokan Kurashiki


8. Yayoi Kusama’s iconic Pumpkin at sunrise on Naoshima Island


9. Admiring the iconic Daigo-ji Temple, an important temple of Japanese Buddhism, and a designated world heritage site

10Glimpsing geisha flitting down the atmospheric alley of Ponto-cho

11Exploring the bustling and lively Nishiki Market, also known as 'Kyoto's Kitchen' specialising in all things food

12. The Ritz-Carlton's rooms have some of the most incredible views in town

13Enjoying a cup of matcha tea in the beautiful Okochi Sanso Garden tea house


14Travelling back in time to Nagamachi, a former samurai district located at the foot of Kanazawa Castle


15. With Mrs Tanabe, owner of the wonderfully traditional ryokan, Tanabe Ryokan


16. Braving pufferfish (‘fugu’) at Gora Kadan

17. One of Gora Kadan’s many beautifully crafted private bathtubs with a scenic view

18. Pablo Picasso at Hakone Open-Air Museum


19. A beautifully snow covered shrine on the way to see the snow monkeys


20. Monks performing their morning bowing ritual at Futarasan Shrine

For more information or to start planning your tailor-made holiday to Japan please contact us: // +44 (0) 207 819 9770

Client Testimonials

We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka

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