Japan luxury travel map & highlights

To discover Japan in style, most people want to take in the urban greats such as Tokyo and Kyoto. Both are bursting with juxtaposed culture: ancient temples alongside spectacular modern architecture, Buddhist shrines beside beautiful hotels. The coastal areas are some of Japan’s most stunning secrets, however, and taking a small ship cruise to Maizuru or volcanic island of Kyushu is a very luxurious way to see Japan. If you want to escape the tourist throngs around Mount Fuji, remember that there are many more mountains to marvel at. Hakone National Park and the Nakasendo Trail are hiking perfection, especially on a tailor made vacation where experts can find the most magnificent inns along the way.

1. Hakone

Hakone is the mountainous region west of Tokyo, accessible by bullet train to Odawara. From here, you enter a world of gorgeous ryokan inns, hot spring baths and mountain air. Natural heritage such as the Owakudani volcanic crater, Lake Ashi and beyond that, Mount Fuji, are all protected by Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. On a very clear day you can see the great Fuji from Hakone.
Hiroshima & Miyajima island

2. Hiroshima & Miyajima island

With its horrific past, Hiroshima is now a center of peace as well as being a modern urban utopia. Important memorial sites and must visits are the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum. The nearby island of Miyajima is a perfect place to go afterwards, enjoying the sacred solace of its forests and ancient temples. Its giant orange Great Torii Gate in Hiroshima Bay is a very uplifting sight.

3. Kyoto

Famous for being the ancient capital, and falling down with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it is also building up and up into a contemporary, chic metropolis. But it is this contrast of temples and tea houses, wooden buildings emanating incense alongside high tech Japan that is what makes Kyoto so fascinating. Get a guided trip here to really get the benefit of sacred sites such as the Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple.
Nakasendo Trail

4. Nakasendo Trail

The main stop on this 500km ancient walking trail is Tsumago, one of 69 post towns which hosted feudal lords, samurai and merchants en route between Kyoto and Edo – which is now Tokyo. On a tailor made trip you can stay here and take daily trips on the trail out of Tsumago, or adapt your itinerary to include a few more days of hiking, bathing in hot springs and being treated royally at ryokan inns.

5. Osaka

This city is the new hot place to hang out, especially for foodies. However, it has actually been known as the ‘Kitchen of Japan’ since the Edo period, with a plethora of markets and suppliers coming to sell their fine produce. Kuromon Market and a series of arcades selling sublime sushi and sashimi, straight from Osaka Bay, are the places to feast. The night life here is very vibrant too.
Small ship cruises

6. Small ship cruises

Given that Japan is a collection of islands, taking a small ship cruise around the Sea of Japan on board a state of the art yacht, is a pretty idyllic way to see it. Start in Osaka and end in Maizuru for a circuit that takes in both historic sites of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, natural highlights such as the volcanic island of Kyushu, and the temples and mountainous landscapes of Shikoku Island.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Japan luxury or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Japan luxury trip travel advice

Traveling by train

Traveling by train

Simon Richards, from our leading luxury vacations in Japan supplier, Audley Travel, shares his top tips for vacationing here in style:
“Get a Green class Japan rail pass. Standard class on trains in Japan is great, but green class is like traveling premium economy when flying.”
Where to stay

Where to stay

“Stay in a high end, traditional ryokan at a hot spring resort. Hakone is a great place for this.”

Where to go

“The ‘not to be missed’ place would definitely be Kyoto. There is a huge number of incredible temples and shrines and it is fantastic during the cherry blossom and autumn leaves periods. You can also have tea with a Maiko (trainee geisha) here.”
Best time to go

Best time to go

“The cherry blossom and autumn leaves tend to attract huge crowds so I personally prefer May or October when the weather is slightly warmer and there are not so many crowds.”

tips from our travelers in japan

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.
We have selected some of the most useful Japan luxury travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation.
Learn some basic Japanese... In all honesty it is very hard to pin point one defining moment. It was all brilliant.
- Alan Brownlow
“Take a car and balance ryokans with western style beds and chairs. The most memorable part was the Noto Peninsula, except for Wakura, and the villages in the various parts of the countryside.” – Geraldine Hickey

“Thoroughly research exactly what you want to do before you go. We squeezed in some additional visits to places that we didn't think were possible e.g. by getting up early and making use of our Japan Rail Pass. If you want to upgrade your flight class then try to do this at the time of booking as additional fuel surcharges may make this very expensive. If you are going on your honeymoon, it may be worth finding out if there are additional people traveling at the same time as you and staying at the same places. This may make you change your itinerary so it remains a private vacation for just the two of you. Don't bother with the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, its over-rated and very expensive for fairly average food. If you stay at the Mitsui Garden hotel in Tokyo then you still get amazing views from here (and they’ve got a good cocktail bar).” – Katherine Windibank

Unless you have a particular interest in comparing and contrasting temples and shrines of different types and ages it is probably enough to focus on a few or you may get templed-out!
- Helena Akerlund
“We made a few business cards with our names in Kanji and Katakana on the reverse. These proved extremely useful, especially with introductions to people with very limited English. If you can't find anyone to help with the Kanji, at least have cards with your name in English. If you do take business cards, be sure to keep them in pristine condition. Take the time to try and learn a few basic words - such as thank you and excuse me! The Japanese appreciate the effort even though the conversation will continue in English. I also bought a book on Japanese etiquette, fearful of making a terrible social blunder. At least you will know what to expect! Finally - don't be afraid to try Japanese food!” – Janet Turnbull

Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christian Joudrey] [map intro: Guilhem Vellut] [Hakone: Tianshu] [Hiroshima & Miyajima island: Freedom II Andres] [Kyoto: Daniel Tseng] [Nakasendo Trail: Daderot] [Osaka: chee.hong] [Small ship cruises: George N] [Traveling by train: OiMax] [Where to stay: SupportPDX] [Where to go : Arnie Papp] [Best time to go: Ajari] [Tips intro: Faustino Garcia] [Learn the language: PriscillaDuPreez] [Temples: Gilles Messian]