You’ll catch the flight from your local Airport and begin to unwind with your in-flight meal. Simply check in and leave your worries on the ground.
You’ll arrive at Haneda Airport’s international terminal early on the second day, swiftly crossing to the domestic terminal for the final leg of your journey. It’s a short hop to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, delivering you to our staff in the arrival lobby for a warm welcome to Hokkaido and its delights. A private car will take you to the spa town of Jozankei, your resting spot for the night, with a couple of hours for a relaxed tour of the gorgeous Lake Shikotsu en route. The serene, crystal-clear waters and majestic mountain views will set the tone for a restorative first day on Hokkaido.
Jozankei is hidden away in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, and your luxury hotel for the night is Chalet Ivy, an SLH member hotel, and an oasis nestled amid thick forests and the Toyohira River. Guest suites are decorated in a natural, refined manner, and each room includes a private hot spring bath with restful views of the river.
You’ll have free time to explore and unwind this afternoon, but we recommend a visit to the hotel’s top- class spa for a 60-minute massage at the hands of the in- house relaxation specialists. Using the concept of "Tea, Zen, and Incense", trained spa staff will use local medicinal herbs, aromatherapy and natural oils to ease your tired muscles and reinvigorate your senses.
Dinner at the hotel’s ZUI restaurant is a sumptuous exploration of locally grown produce and carefully selected Hokkaido ingredients served as traditional Japanese cuisine and occasional western ingredients prepared as modern dishes. There's also a well-appointed wine cellar, and a fine selection of premium Japanese sake.
After a nourishing set breakfast, featuring steaming bowlfuls of Rankoshi’s award-winning “yumepirika” rice, you’ll enjoy a relaxing morning at the hotel and its spas. Soak in your private baths, or sink into the hotel’s open-air hot springs, and let Jozankei’s famously mineral-rich waters shake off the last little bit of travel-weariness.
You’ll meet your first English-speaking guide later that morning, who will escort you through the next few days of exploration. A private car will whisk you, rested and revitalised, to Kin Sushi, a fixture of Sapporo’s fine dining scene, for a spectacular selection of sushi hand-crafted by skilled chefs in the traditional Edo style. Why not pair it with a refreshing oolong tea, or even investigate the traditional shochu or local beers on offer?
Your tastebuds will soon be buzzing in an altogether different fashion with a trip to the nearby Chitosetsuru Sake Museum. You’ll take a wonderfully dynamic tour of Sapporo’s original sake brewery, which has been perfecting Japan’s favourite alcoholic drink since the mid- 1800s. You’ll discover how Chitosetsuru has refined, expanded and developed its traditional brewing methods - and then you can sample an array of sake styles with an experienced sommelier at the tasting counter.
In suitably high spirits you’ll stop next at the Sapporo Beer Museum, the only museum of its kind in Japan. A guide will introduce you to the history of Sapporo beer, a source of much pride - and enjoyment - for the people of Hokkaido. The city is a mecca for beer lovers and this premium tour will help you to understand how beer became so popular in Japan so quickly, bringing with it early prosperity to the city of Sapporo. It’s a fun way to discover a major part of Japan’s epicurean history - and of course you’ll get to taste a few beers at the end of it!
You’ll then be driven to Hoshino Resorts RISONARE Tomamu, which is just over two hours away. This contemporary hotel only has suites, all with a private sauna and jet bath, with enormous windows for fantastic views of the dramatic local mountains. You’ll check in and relax in style before a dinner of delicious, aged Hokkaido wagyu beef, vegetables and fresh seafood served in classic “shabu-shabu” (hotpot) style, using a special broth made from flying fish, at the hotel’s classic Japanese restaurant, SORA.
If you like, you can end your day with an incredible 100-minute hands-on lymphatic massage at the Hoshino resort’s wonderful spa. This is a full-body pampering experience at the hands of expert masseurs, soothing the day’s excesses away and making for a blissful night’s sleep.
You’ll wake up to wonderful views of Tomamu, and fortify yourself with an early buffet breakfast at Risonare’s Forest Restaurant; try the seafood rice bowl topped with salmon roe for a traditional local taste. You’ll be eating in the thick of a white birch forest - a splendid start to a day spent revelling in the natural beauty of Hokkaido.
The first stop today is deep in the mountains, the splendour of Shirogane Blue Pond, an exquisite cobalt-blue lake coloured by unusual local mineral deposits. Let the peaceful beauty of the birch-lined waters wash over you before a startling contrast - the wild curtains of foaming white water at Shirahige Waterfall that plunge into the cool waters of the Biei River below.
Next you’ll visit the panoramic flower gardens at Shikisai-no-oka, a colourful excursion that surrounds you with a magical palette of vast flower fields designed to delight. And at the edge sits a farm with fuzzy alpacas - a treat for animal-lovers!
This central region of Hokkaido is home to many other celebrations of sustainable agriculture, and no visit would be complete without lunch at Domaine Raison, a progressive vineyard in the Hokkaido hills, followed by a tour. The focus is on a symbiotic relationship between the land and the producers - a respectful approach that supports the natural habitat in which the vines are planted. There’s also a goat farm on the land, to provide nourishment to the vines and encourage a diverse, supportive ecosystem. The volcanic soil and cool local climate make for elegant, lively wines, several of which you will be tasting during the winery tour. Lunch is meanwhile all about local meat and vegetables. Dine on ribeye steak, soft-serve goat milk ice cream made on site, and quaff a good few glasses of the very best Japanese wine.
More glorious blooms follow at Farm Tomita, a tourist favourite famed for its fields of purple lavender swaying in the breeze.
The gentle slopes here are a carpet of rich colour, sown with up to 80 kinds of seasonal flower. With a lavender oil souvenir from the gift shop, you can take the rich scents of Tomita with you.
As dusk falls you’ll return to the hotel to freshen up before your culinary journey of Japan continues at Otto Sette Tomamu, a modern Italian restaurant within the hotel. The chefs gracefully translate Hokkaido’s natural bounty into classic, vibrant dishes from the Liguria and Piedmont regions, and there’s an expansive wine list if you wish to continue the day’s wine- tasting exploits.
Early risers can greet the day with a magnificent view of the sea of clouds with a free gondola ride up to Tomamu’s best viewpoint, the Cloud Walk, disembarking at over 1,000 metres above sea level. Here you’ll stroll above the clouds in the earliest morning hours along the suspended deck at Unkai Terrace and gaze over the stately Hidaka mountain range as they spear through the thick morning fog.
Your buffet breakfast is served at a leisurely pace this morning in the hotel’s ‘hal’ dining room - try the delicious fresh horseradish on rice*, a Hokkaido speciality, or perhaps some fluffy French toast served with pools of fresh local cream. You have a few hours to yourself this morning to explore, or perhaps take a dip in the hotel’s enormous window-lined pool. You could visit the animals on the resort’s working farm or simply squeeze in another satisfying hot soak at the open-air bath with its lush forest views.
After selecting one of the many local restaurants for lunch, you’ll find yourself on nearby Lake Sahoro, gliding over gleaming waters for an afternoon canoe trip. There are unrivalled views of sky and trees from the water, a refreshing change of pace as you enjoy the soft lake breeze and clean mountain air.
Your last dinner on Hokkaido is up to you this evening. You might choose to indulge at your luxury hotel, or perhaps you’ll step out for a drink at Tomamu Wine House, before sampling a rich soup curry at GARAKU, or the very best regional seafood at Kanemaru Goto Shoten.
Rise early for a lavish buffet breakfast before you pack your bags - you’re heading to the mainland for the next leg of your tour. Your guide will escort you to New Chitose Airport for a short flight to Chubu Centrair International Airport. We recommend grabbing a packed lunch there to eat on the road, because it’ll soon be time to set off with your new English-speaking guide as you explore the island of Honshu.
It begins at the regal Nagoya Castle, one of the last of its kind to survive in Japan, which is set amongst manicured green gardens and decorated with gleaming gold detail. Built in 1615, during the Edo Period, and commissioned by the Shogun himself, this fine castle was once a vital military facility for the high-ranking warriors of medieval Japan. These days, it's one of Japan’s foremost National Treasures. You’ll be guided through the central Honmaru Palace and the gorgeous, shimmering original artworks that decorate the interior walls.
You’ll then stroll with your guide to the vibrant Yoshinao and Muneharu districts, heading for the new Kinshachi Yokocho Gourmet Town, a hub of shops and restaurants in the lee of the castle, built to look like a bustling Edo Period town centre. It’s a true celebration of Nagoya’s cultural and culinary history, and the perfect place to sample traditionally made Japanese snacks and sweets.
After an afternoon of history, it’s time to head south to indulge in the famous hospitality of the four-star Toba View Hotel Hanashinju on the eastern coast of the Ise Shima National Park. Famed for its wonderful “okami” - a proprietress in residence - you’ll receive the warmest of welcomes at this tranquil “ryokan”, a traditional Japanese travellers’ inn overlooking the bay.
Dinner is an indulgent round of "kaiseki" - a traditional Japanese multi-course meal - consisting of seasonal fare with deliberate emphasis on the sea’s harvest, prepared with precision by the hotel’s award-winning chef. Cap off your evening with a deeply satisfying hour or two in the inn’s natural open-air hot spring baths with their panoramic view of Toba Bay, or perhaps take a heady rose bath that’s been carefully prepared to reinvigorate tired bodies.
Today’s breakfast is fresh dishes made from the best produce that the local farms and fisheries have to offer. You’ll be whisked away for a cruise of Toba Bay, putting in at the famous Mikimoto Islands. Along the way you’ll stop at Dolphin Island to watch delightful sea lion and dolphin shows. Once energised by that fresh, salty sea air, you’ll be driven to the shrine at Ise Jingu.
Ise Grand Shrine is Japan's most important Shinto shrine, dating back to the third century. This is the spiritual home of the ancient gods of Japan and its national religion Shinto, attracting up to six million pilgrims and tourists each year. You will be shown the secrets of this sacred place by one of the Ise Shrine guides, who will teach you about the site itself and about the mysteries of Shinto.
Lunch is once again up to you today, but there’s a selection of tiny, authentic restaurants right next to the shrine in the ancient Okage Yokocho district, serving simple meals such as oysters, ramen or fragrant grilled meats. This is an opportunity to travel back in time for a few hours and enjoy a wander around a fine collection of original and rebuilt architecture dating back to the Edo and Meiji periods.
Your home for the night is further inland, the four-star Nipponia Hotel Iga Ueno. Iga Ueno is a historic town famous for its ninja clans, and the restored buildings of the hotel retain the classic architecture of the old lodging houses. Here you can unwind with an elaborate menu of Iga beef and tasty local ingredients, before an untroubled night’s sleep in the Nipponia’s spacious guest rooms.
After a satisfying breakfast at the hotel, there’s a packed morning of sightseeing starting at Iga Ueno Castle and the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum. Dating back to the early 17th Century, this elegantly restored white castle was once the seat of local lords, but it’s now a base to promote the culture of the region.
The Ninja Museum is an exciting journey through ninja culture, telling the story of how the people of Iga came to shape the history of Japan during its war-torn centuries - including weaponry demonstrations! Lunch is up to you, but there are many excellent local eateries, then by early afternoon you’ll be driven to the sprawling Nara Park. This huge and historic complex contains many treasures from Japan’s earliest days, including the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple, home to the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world! As you stroll the park, you’ll pop into the deep vermillion Kasuga Taisha Shrine, and greet or even feed the deer who roam free here, and who are believed to be the messengers of the gods.
Then it’s off to Kyoto, the busy cultural capital of Japan, and its foremost luxury hotel, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. This grand old city, once the Imperial capital of Japan, is home to no fewer than 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including many truly stunning castles, palaces and religious sites. The Regency is in the heart of the action downtown, the perfect rest-stop for exploring Kyoto’s treasures. Tonight you’ll dine at Higashiyama Touzan, the hotel’s in-house gourmet restaurant, which serves exquisite classical Japanese cuisine.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel lobby after breakfast, and then it’s onto a nearby kimono store to browse a wide selection of these traditional robes. If the mood strikes you, you can take a further step into Japanese culture by renting one of their elegant designs to wear as you explore the area’s historic temples and shrines.
First up is the Buddhist temple at Kiyomizu-dera, dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, the goddess of gratitude, mercy and great compassion. The temple is built halfway up Mt Otowa, one of the peaks in Kyoto’s Higashiyama mountain range, offering breathtaking views from its lofty verandah suspended on wooden poles that stretch down the cliffside.
It’s a short drive to Kibune, where you’ll find the Kifune Shrine. This is dedicated to the Shinto spirits of water and rain, who protect sailors at sea. You can even have your fortune told here, by buying a paper slip called an “omikuji” and dipping it in the waters of the shrine. At Beniya, a riverside restaurant in Kibune, you’ll enjoy a lunch of wilderness-inspired culinary creativity. Beniya exemplifies traditional Kawadoko cuisine with a menu of wild vegetables, river fish and foraged ingredients - the natural riches of the land.
Next it’s on to Kinkaku-ji, the so-called Golden Pavilion, a 14th century Zen temple whose top two storeys are completely covered in gold leaf. Originally the retirement villa of the local lord, Kinkaku-ji was gifted to the Rinzai Buddhist sect at the turn of the 15th century, and remains a glittering symbol of Kyoto.
You’ll also visit Arashiyama, one of the most famous sightseeing districts in Kyoto. It’s filled with picturesque temples and shrines, but we love the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which is so thick the sky can barely be seen. You’ll also visit Tenryu-ji Zen temple, the head temple of the Rinzai sect, which was built an astonishing seven centuries ago.
Relinquishing your kimono back at the store after a long day’s exploration, there’s an evening of exceptional luxury in store for you at the Hyatt Regency. You can either eat in again tonight, or ask the hotel staff for dinner recommendations if you’d like to explore what the city has to offer. As a centre of Buddhism, Kyoto is especially famous for its vegetarian fare, and especially its tofu.
You’ll say goodbye to Kyoto after breakfast, travelling in First Class style on the Bullet Train all the way to Japan’s sprawling capital city. Racing at speeds of over 200mph, the Bullet Train is famously punctual, and upon arrival your guide will take you to Shibuya City in downtown Tokyo. Lunch is up to you - and you won’t be spoiled for choice - before a sightseeing tour in the afternoon that takes you to Shibuya Scramble Square, a hub of shopping and activity, with a trip to Shibuya Sky, the top-floor observation deck, for incomparable views of this enormous city.
There’s time to experience the tea ceremony, an expression of traditional Japanese hospitality in which you’ll learn the simple, calming protocols of an age-old custom.
Your Tokyo hotel is the four-star Hyatt Regency in the thriving Shinjuku district. This deluxe hotel has exceptional views of the Tokyo skyline and generous spa facilities offering award-winning services, including signature facials and hot aroma therapy treatments. Dinner is once again up to you, and you can either choose to dine at one of the Regency’s in-house restaurants, or venture out into a city that’s renowned for its culinary scene.
Taste a little of everything at the Hyatt’s buffet breakfast before a full day immersed in the delights of Tokyo. You’ll be guided to the Nijubashi Bridge at the Imperial Palace, the 1,300-year-old Senso-ji Temple, and one of Japan’s oldest shopping streets, Nakamise-dori. Take a moment for lunch as you go, before a serene cruise along the winding Sumida River for a different perspective on the buzzing metropolis which unfolds before you. You’ll finish the day’s explorations with a contemplative walk around the Hamarikyu Gardens, a classically landscaped green space with a seawater moat fed by Tokyo Bay.
On your last night here you can take your pick from a cosy evening at the Hyatt or an adventure out on the town.
The concierge is brimming with advice if you wish to make your way out into the dazzling Tokyo nightlife.
After a generous farewell breakfast at the hotel, it’s sadly time to leave Japan. A private car will take you to Haneda Airport for a late morning flight to London Heathrow where you’ll disembark revived after a pampered voyage of self-care and adventure.
Alternative flights and destinations can be arranged upon request.
4 to 5 star hotels as mentioned in the itinerary, subject to availability.
This is the ultimate restorative and rewarding holiday. Indulge in 12 luxurious days of Japanese hospitality and wellness retreats. Relax amid the riches of Hokkaido’s high mountains, before journeying to Japan’s historic heartland with its ancient temples and traditions.
DURATION 12 days / 10 nights
ARRIVAL Fly into New Chitose Airport on Hokkaido
DEPARTURE Depart from Tokyo Haneda Airport
PERFECT FOR Lovers of luxury and top-end hospitality
WHEN T O VISIT April to September
Throughout this tour you’ll be introduced to the Japanese approach to holistic wellbeing. We’ve selected luxurious hotels which focus on health and wellbeing, with a focus on traditional onsen bathing, a clarifying and healing ritual that leaves the mind soothed and the body relaxed. You’ll have the option to partake in specialist treatments at each hotel, using long-established eastern methods of relaxation and revitalisation. Comfort is provided to an exceptional level throughout, with exquisite rooms and facilities on each step of the way.
Japan is renowned for its stunning produce, and the reverence with which every meal is served. This trip is a feast for the senses, and your tastebuds will be thrilled by the bounty of fresh-grown local ingredients and world-class seafood. We’ve arranged tours of a sustainable winery, a sake brewery, and even Hokkaido’s favourite beer producer, alongside trips to a selection of sumptuous restaurants.
Japan is a place of deep spirituality, and you’ll visit several of its most revered shrines and temples. You’ll learn the history of Buddhism at austere Zen temples, and tour centuries-old shrines to Japan’s indigenous Shinto religion. And along the way you’ll stay in the historic ninja homeland of Iga Ueno, and discover the secrets of feudal Japan. You’ll have the opportunity to tour the beautiful former capital of Kyoto in a traditional kimono, while in Tokyo you’ll attend the tea ceremony, the zenith of eastern hospitality.
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