14 days from £4,590 per person
Japan is a top world economy, so luxury accommodation with private guides and drivers throughout the trip can blow the budget. This itinerary is designed for those who have cultural experiences rather than accommodation as their focus, and like to find their feet with a few guides but explore independently after that. This is particularly achievable since the advent of MiFi, portable WiFi routers which we can arrange so that the Ampersand itinerary, guidebook and maps are all at one’s fingertips on a smartphone.
Make the most of your time and money in Tokyo with a stylish apartment-hotel at the heart of downtown that strips out the extra overheads of more conventional ventures. By day the Shinjuku, Shibuya and Harajuku areas are people-watching and window shopping heaven, as kids dress as Manga characters and Japan re-imagines western trends. By night, dine for considerably less than London prices in late-night 'izakaya' bar-restaurants, sing your heart out at hi-tech karaoke clubs and seek out Ampersand's favourite haunts with the Guide to Japan we provide.
After the buzz of the city the jet-lag does kick in but don't worry, it's time for a luxurious Japanese-style spa break at a heritage 'ryokan' in Mt Fuji national park. Sumptuous 'kaiseki' food, unforgettable views, hot spring baths and Japan's delicate 'omotenashi' personal service have all earned rave reviews from Ampersand's Japan specialists and clients.
No trip to Japan would be complete without a few days in Kyoto, a treasure trove of historic streets, shrines, temples and gardens that was fortunately spared bombing in the war. Explore independently using Ampersand's guidebook, maps and transport advice, or splash out on the services of our favourite driver-guide Mr T. See the Gion district come alive in early evening with the occasional Geisha gliding by, and dine in style along the narrow lamplit alley of Pontocho.
It's just 15 minutes on to Japan's second biggest city, Osaka. Hit it on a Saturday and see tsome of the loudest clothes and the biggest hairstyles in Japan on hyper-colourful Dotonburi street. As night falls, shake a maraca to the excellent 5-piece band on the Jazz boat that plies the canal beneath video screens the height of buildings. And did we mention the food?
Even the most avid city kids will have their heads in a whirl by now, so change the pace and spend a day strolling the willow-lined and neon-free canal in Kurashiki's historical quarter. The Ohara museum here is one of the finest in Japan with several wings devoted to Western and Japanese art across the ages. Entrance is courtesy of Nakamura-san, manager of the town's best ryokan and no small part of its refined yet homely charm.
Last stop on this itinerary is Hiroshima, a vibrant and cosmpolitan city with a tram system giving it a European feel. Your guide here will illuminate the city's wartime history in the Peace Park, then take you back to pre-modern Japan on picturesque Miyajima island with one of the country's most revered shrines and famous 'floating' gate in the sea.
There's time for one last blast in Tokyo, staying on the east side of the city this time for the best shopping, Michelin-starred dining and the mighty Imperial Palace at its heart. There are excellent day excursion options too, particularly the ornate Chinese-influenced temples and mausoleum at Nikko, and the seaside shrines of the old Edo-period capital Kamakura. Thanks to our great local contacts, expertise and sightseeing entrance costs being a fraction of those in the UK, Japan can blow the mind without blowing the budget.
14 days from £4,590 per person
- Day 1 - In Transit
Night flight from London to Tokyo.
- Day 2 - Citadines Shinjuku - Tokyo
Afternoon arrival, private transfer then at leisure to explore Tokyo nightlife.
- Day 3 - Citadines Shinjuku - Tokyo
Privately guided tour of Japan's high fashion, teen fashion and Meiji shrine areas.
- Day 4 - Citadines Shinjuku - Tokyo
At leisure with optional day excursion to Nikko.
- Day 5 - Yoshimatsu - Hakone
Mt Fuji national park and luxury 'ryokan' traditional spa break experience.
- Day 6 - Royal Park Hotel - Kyoto
Morning bullet train to kyoto, afternoon in Arashiyama bamboo grove and temple grounds.
- Day 7 - Royal Park Hotel - Kyoto
Full day exploration of Kyoto with optional driver-guide.
- Day 8 - Royal Park Hotel - Kyoto
Optional Excursions to Nara, or Enryaku-ji hillside temple complex.
- Day 9 - Hotel Vista Grande Osaka - Osaka
Shopping, dining, drinking and clubbing in Osaka.
- Day 10 - Ryokan Kurashiki - Kurashiki
Explore Kurashiki's historical quarter and experience another luxury ryokan.
- Day 11 - Sheraton - Hiroshima and Miyajima
Privately guide tour of Hiroshima & Miyajima.
- Day 12 - Millennium Mitsui Garden Ginza - Tokyo
Bullet train back to Tokyo and stay in the upmarket Ginza area.
- Day 13 - Millennium Mitsui Garden Ginza - Tokyo
Optional day excursion to Kamakura.
- Day 14 - In Transit
Same day flight back to London.
- Susan Ford, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka