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Itinerary

Onsen, Beach & Culture

Kinosaki Onsen – Kyoto – Taketomi Island (Okinawa) – Tokyo
2 weeks

Japan is the perfect destination for a luxury honeymoon. You’ve got all the elements – ryokan’s can be impossibly romantic with their hots springs and intimate fine dining experiences, Tokyo offers the worlds most sophisticated city break experience possible, Kyoto is both mysterious and inspiring and then, perhaps most surprisingly of all, the tiny subtropical island of Taketomi offers a beach holiday on par with anything found elsewhere in Asia.

Indeed, we first created this itinerary for a honeymoon couple…but then it occurred to us to ask…why should only newlyweds go on the best holidays?! So let’s broaden our scope – would you like an amazing holiday to a very luxurious resort, stay in an atmospheric onsen village in a traditional ryokan, explore Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto and also visit Japan's frenetic capital, where bright neon lights are juxtaposed with quiet gardens, shrines and temples? Yes? All comers welcome. (But if it is your honeymoon – then be assured, we’ll pull out all the stops!)

Content

WHERE WILL YOU STAY & WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?

accommodation & experiences

In Kinoski Onsen, a charming onsen town near the Sea of Japan, you will stay in a ryokan - that's the whole point. If your budget allows, the ryokan of choice would be Nishimuraya Honkan, a newly-designated Relais & Châteaux property founded in 1854. Built in the style of Japanese tea houses, which prioritises simplicity, natural light, warm wood and seamless harmony with nature, the ryokan's room are tucked along a labyrinth of hallways and open onto the ryokan’s lush garden filled with Japanese pines, moss covered rocks and tiny bridges crossing carp-filled ponds. You Japanese Inn will be situated beside the scenic willow-lined Otani-gawa River and in the evening join the locals roaming quaint streets in traditional yukata robes, hopping from one onsen to the next.

 

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.

 

There are many options down in the sub-tropical Okinawan Islands, though many are too large, too high-rise and too 'resorty'. These, somewhat obviously, are the hotels we try avoid - we want something more intimate and characterful, and with immediate access to some of the quieter white sand beaches the archipelago is famous for. And this is why we love the Hoshinoya on Taketomi Island, which keeps to local design aesthetics while merging them with modern luxuries and classic Japanese sensibilities. Gated villas are delicately designed with private gardens, serene living rooms, and oversized tubs. Relax at the on-site spa or around the open-air swimming pool, or take day excursions to the nearby beach, a surrounding island, or on a guided diving trip.

 

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!

 

Itinerary

Day 1
Depart from your local airport, and then fly direct to Japan from Heathrow or wherever is most convenient.
Day 2
Transfer on to a domestic flight to Tajima Airport, where you are met and have a private transfer waiting to take you the 40-minutes on to Kinosaki Onsen. Check in to your authentic Japanese ryokan and relax in the onsen baths before dinner - just about perfect after your long journey to Japan.
Day 3
A full day at leisure in Kinosaki Onsen, exploring the village and enjoying the kaiseki cuisine and hot spring bathing in your ryokan.
Day 4
Morning at leisure in your ryokan, and then catch the early afternoon train the short distance south to Kyoto. You are met in Kyoto Station and transferred directly to your central accommodation.
Days 5 & 6
Two full days to explore Japan’s ancient capital. We can organise a local guide, or leave you to your own devices – it is entirely up to you. Either way we have plenty of ideas for excursions, activities and experiences to make your stay a little more special, beyond the ordinary.
Day 7
Private transfer to Itami Airport and then a domestic flight all the way south to the southern tip of the Okinawa archipelago. From Ishigaki Island you then have a short ferry ride on to Taketomi Island – where you are booked into the Hoshinoya Taketomi Resort. Taketomi is a tiny island without any cars, so the transfer to your room is by water buffalo-drawn cart.
Days 8 to 10
You have several free days at the Hoshinoya Resort to relax on the beach or by the pool. There is also some pretty excellent snorkelling or scuba diving on tap, or you could make the short journey across to the neighbouring Iriomote Islands for…well, more paradise.
Day 11
It is back to Ishigaki Airport for a flight back north to Tokyo Haneda, where are met by your private transfer and taken to your central hotel. An evening at leisure in Tokyo awaits.
Days 12 & 13
Two full days in the world’s craziest, most enthralling, sophisticated and – if you know where to go and what to do – romantic city. We’re all about the dining recommendations (and reservations) and local neighbourhoods.
Day 14
Private transfer to either Haneda or Narita airport, in good time for your direct flight home.

An indication of cost

An indicative per person cost for this two week itinerary would be circa £6,000 to £7,500, which would include luxury accommodationprivate transfers from and to airports, the activities and excursions (with private guide) as shown, domestic flights down to Okinawa, and international flights from the UK in the World Traveller Plus cabin (Premium Economy).

 

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 shoot 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

5 star rating

Our customers rate us 'Excellent'

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.

David  ·  TrustPilot (verified review)

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)

Please visit our TrustPilot page to read the full reviews.

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