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A Japanese Trilogy

Kyoto – Hakone or Amanemu – Tokyo
10 days

For those with less time, but with also a burning desire to see and experience the best of Japan…then the itinerary somewhat creates itself. Kyoto – Japan’s ancient capital – is the perennial ‘must’ for any visit to Japan and you have plenty of time to explore and experience the beating heart of Japan. And then, by juxtaposition, you have two and a half full days in Tokyo, the futuristic, frenzied and funky capital. What’s missing? Staying in a ryokan in Japan’s countryside, enjoy the onsens and fine kaiseki dining, under the shadow of Mount Fuji. Tick.

For the Aman junkies out there, then this itinerary can be subverted to follow the classic loop and experience their three diverse and amazing properties. Aman Kyoto is new, breath-taking, totally in sync with the ancient capital and sets the new standard for all Aman’s, anywhere. You then head to the Shima Peninsula (as opposed to Hakone) for a couple of nights in Amanemu, the ultimate destination-spa experience in a rural, off-the-beaten track setting. Finally, Aman Tokyo – the original ‘city’ Aman and, if truth be told, still our pick of the bunch; urbane, sophisticated, sumptuous and ever-so-chic.   For the Aman purists? Then soon to open is a new Aman resorts in Moiwa (near the ski resort of Niseko) up on Hokkaido Island – again offering a totally different wilderness experience, and adding a new dimension to this Aman pilgrimage.



accommodation & activities

The first thing to say is that is, potentially, the ultimate Aman-junkies itinerary. We've planned it as thus previously and we will many times again - because it works perfectly. You obviously stay in the new AMAN KYOTO, and then instead of heading on to Hakone you instead head to remote AMANEMU is remote Ise Shimo National Park. This resort operates more like a destination-spa, though the Amanemu's location on the hills above Ago Bay is also close to the holy Shinto site of Ise Grand Shrine. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails can also be visited, along with the Ama female freedivers of Ago Bay who collect shellfish, seaweed and sea urchins. You would then head to the AMAN TOKYO - their only truly urban resort and, quite possibly, the best hotel in the world (so say 'me').


The layout of Kyoto is most unusual for Japan, because in this instance the main railway station is not the hub around which everything revolves. Instead, a couple of miles further north are the districts of Gion, Shijo, Higashiyama, Karasuma and this is where we prefer to base our clients - neighbourhoods in which you can walk out the door and soak up the atmosphere of old Japan, close to the temples, shrines, geisha districts and markets. However, there are many hotels down by the station, indeed most, and tour operators without a clue would have you stay here. In Kyoto - not a high-rise city - you can stay in either in a ryokan, and Kyoto is home to Japan's most historic and finest, or in a stylish hotel, often with its own landscaped gardens. Or both. All that we insist on is that where you stay has a relationship with its surroundings - in style, in decor, in its sense of hospitality. This is Kyoto after all and every hotel or ryokan ought to have its essential character running through its veins.


However many days we have allocated to Kyoto in your itinerary, it won't be enough. There is simply so much to see and do in Kyoto and the more time to have to linger, the more will be revealed. And because there are so many 'must-see' temples, shrines and gardens we strongly suggest that we throw away the rule book and instead commit to explore at your own pace, not worrying unduly about missing any one 'big ticket' sight. Consider turning left when everyone else turns right and our local guides know where, when and why you should do this. In Kyoto, they add so much. Here more than anywhere else in Japan does local insight, knowledge and personal relationships pay more dividend.  And your sightseeing should not be limited to only Kyoto - use the city as a base from which to explore the region. Arashiyama, Nara, Hikone and even Osaka itself and all with day-tripable distance.


Hakone, and nearby Lake Kawaguchiko are in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park - an area of outstanding natural beauty bubbling with thermal activity. Therefore, these are places in which to stay in an ryokan - you've got very little choice really, as this is what 90% of the accommodation consists of. But there are large and small ryokans, modern and traditional, basic and uber-luxury, full board and room only...etc. However, we have a handful of favourites, chosen for their location, intimacy, onsen baths and kaiseki cuisine. Through the day(s) you spend in Hakone you can, and should, simply relax in your ryokan, but can also explore the area by scenic railway, lake boat, funicular railway, cable car and walking trails - all under the shadow of Mount Fuji. We would recommend that you spend one afternoon at Chōkoku No Mori Bijutsukan - the Hakone Open Air Museum, which offers a harmonic balance of nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its grounds (Henry Moores) in combination with views of the surrounding valley and mountains.


Tokyo is not the place for traditional ryokans or even boutique hotels - we'll tick these boxes elsewhere on your travels in Japan. This is a high-rise city and many of the luxury hotels occupy the top floors of imposing skyscrapers,  with amazing views across the urban sprawl. Therefore, the most important decision we need to consider is 'where?' - which district of Tokyo you choose to base yourself in making all the difference. We often prefer to base our guests over in the west of the city, Shinjuku or Shibuya, because these are the main entertainment districts, full of restaurants, bars and the neon-drenched nightlife synonymous with the capital. Alternatively, the hotels closer to Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace in east Tokyo  - Nihombashi - are well-located in an upmarket district, with some amazing shopping streets and many of the city's major sights close by. There are many luxury hotels in Shinagawa and Shiodome - several of them very nice - be we do tend to avoid these properties because...well, they are 'nothing' neighbourhoods, very business-orientated and lacking in character. 


It is perfectly possible to explore Tokyo by yourself - most of the signs are now in English, the overground and subway rail system is second-to-none and a decent guide book will tell you much of what you need to know. We also publish our own pragmatic self-touring notes, which also include many personal recommendations. But to have a local guide accompany you undoubtedly elevates the experience, at the very least getting you between the 'must-see' sights more efficiently or - more importantly -  explaining, adding context and showing you lesser-visited neighbourhoods which will no doubt form your most cherished memories of the capital. We can hire commuter bikes to explore the backstreets or head out of the city for day trips to Nikko, Hakone, Mount Fuji or Kamakura. Or perhaps you'd prefer that we weight the itinerary with 'experiences' as opposed to 'sights', such as cookery classes, sunset helicopter rides or visiting a sumo stable? In the evenings, head out with your guide to a buzzing 'locals' izakaya or yakitori stand, or to see show in the kabuki theatre...or robot café. It's Tokyo - the world's most exciting city and the possibilities are limitless!


Day 1
Depart from your local airport, and then fly direct to Japan from Heathrow or wherever is most convenient.
Day 2
Arrive in Kansai Airport, where you are met and welcomed by our local representative. Direct transfer to your hotel in Kyoto, quite possibly the outstanding new Kyoto Aman?
Days 3 & 4
Two full days in Kyoto. We can arrange guides, excursions and experiences – but it is also essential to build time in for self-exploration as well, as Kyoto is all about those little pockets which you discover for yourself.
Day 5
Direct bullet-train from Kyoto to either Odawara Station, from which you head to a ryokan in the Hakone / Fuji National Park region, or alternatively you instead head to Amanemu in the Ise Shima National Park if you are planning on doing the trilogy of Aman hotels.
Day 6
A full day at leisure to enjoy the Hakone region (and your ryokan) or enjoy the many spa treatments of Amanemu.
Day 7
After a leisurely morning in the onsen, continue on by bullet-train to the capital. You are met in Tokyo station and transferred to your hotel…unless you are staying in the Tokyo Aman. Which is quite literally next door to Tokyo Station.
Days 8 & 9
Time to enjoy the world’s most exciting, frenetic, quirky and futuristic city. Your guide – if indeed you want to spend time with a guide? – will reveal hidden districts and quieter neighbourhoods, as well as taking you to see the main, ‘must-see’ sights.
Day 10
Private transfer to either Haneda or Narita airport, in plenty of time for your direct flight home.

An indication of cost

An indicative per person cost for this 10-day itinerary would be circa £5,590 to £6,900, which would include luxury accommodation, private transfers from and to airports, bullet-train tickets in Green Car (first class), and international flights from the UK in the World Traveller Plus cabin (Premium Economy). If, however, you wanted do it all in AMAN luxury (i.e. stay in the three Aman resort hotels for the duration) then costs would more likely be circa £12,000 per person mark.


Obviously, the price you pay depends on the accommodation you choose (and room category), for how many days you would prefer to book a private guide, which cabin you like to fly in (if you'd like for us to include the international flights)...etc. Because all of our holidays are tailor-made, by altering the itinerary, changing the accommodation selections and/or taking another look at the inclusions we can usually adjust the total price – either down to match your budget or enhancing it further with upgrades.


If you were to move the dates in to peak periods (Cherry Blossom Season, Golden Week, New Year and the such), then the cost could potentially rise. And, of course, if you wanting the absolute finest, most prestigious accommodation - the Aman in Tokyo, or the Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto by way of example - then costs will once again head north.


We don't have to include international flights. However, by keeping it all within one package, your arrangements are protected by our ATOL licence which offers financial peace-of-mind for you.


Different Japan strive to offer the most competitive prices in all instances - just because you may have a larger budget at your disposal, this does not then mean that 'value' assumes any lower priority. We will always keep a keen eye on cost by using any promotions available and seeking the best value with every airline, hotel and/or service provider we use. We explore all the available options and monitor our costs against what you would be able to buy direct, ensuring we are always the better option.


However, we pride ourselves first and foremost on quality - we are an independent specialist tour operator and, therefore, are not beholden to any supplier. We make our decisions based only on who's best in each and every instance.

What our customers say

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Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

Very happy honeymooners...

Wonderful experience from start to finish. The binder they send you is like your Bible when you are out there. It has everything in you will need, from hotel addresses to train times, to advice about what to do whilst you're there. Trust the binder! Definitely will be using them for my next Japan trip.

Ashleigh  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

I can’t rate Different Snow highly enough...

Different Snow put together a well thought out and carefully researched tailored three week trip. Their recommendations for hotels, sightseeing, entertainment and dining were spot on.

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Begin your journey
How to book

It's pretty straight forward. You simply need to take the first step by getting in contact with us...


Give us a call, or fill in the enquiry form, or send us an email. We’ll listen, give advice and make suggestions.


We create a tailor-made itinerary proposal and email this to you. Together, we then refine it until it is just as you want.


A 20% deposit secures the booking. The balance payment is not due until 10 weeks before departure.


We post out your comprehensive travel pack, and then you travel in Japan under the care of our various local partners.