My first, small-group hosted adventure to Japan was so much fun. After escorting tours to Mexico and Italy, I turned to the land of the rising sun for my next tailored group travel experience.
Day one – We check into or home for three nights, the wonderfully sexy Hoshinoya Tokyo – I chose this property for its contemporary take on the traditional ryokan. Tea ceremonies and traditional Japanese breakfasts delivered to your room at precisely the time you ordered them is part of the charm. This is discreet Japanese hospitality and surprisingly, the hotel lies in the city’s economic center, a short walk from Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace.
Our first dinner – a sushi extravaganza with a sky high view at Hinokizaka – Ritz-Carlton Tokyo’s Japanese restaurant, chosen for its One Michelin Star take on contemporary Japanese cuisine and its spectacular night time view of Tokyo Tower.
Day two -it’s up early for a tea ceremony at Hoshinoya, a whirl around the chicest craft museum you will ever see, a Tonkatsu lunch at a favourite spot in Aoyama and a little taste of Kengo Kuma’s brilliance at the Nezu Museum. After all this excitement we flop at the Anjin Lounge atop Daikanyama T-Site. This book shop is like a private club, housed in Tokyo’s Klein Dytham architecture. It’s all so wonderfully fabulous and we finished the night with dinner at Higashi-Yama in Meguro.
Day three – I let the group sleep in today – the beauty of designing our own days (and the luxury of a guide and translator 24/7) is that I can amend and tailor every day’s activities depending on weather and how we are feeling.
After a coffee kick start (fabulous cafes abound in this city) we explore our inner creative with a personal ink mixing colour experience and then visit a secret brocante, hidden in the streets of Taito-ku for a Japanese antiques and ceramic plate haul.
Day four – off we pop in our black limousine bus (our driver where’s white gloves) towards Kamakura where our lunch reservation is at Bill’s but first we stop by teamLab Borderless for an immersive art experience like no other. After lunch we motor onto our next home – KAI Hakone in time to onsen the day away and meet up for a pretty Keiseiki dinner wearing our full yakutas!
Day five – early mornings come with their rewards – first we visit the amazing Hakone Shrine with its insta-worthy red Toshi gate that seems to float in Lake Ashi and our diver takes us to a well known lake location to take that “THE” shot of Mt. Fuji. Then it was on to Enoura Observatory at Odawara – the most spectacular art gallery and architectural marvel by the sea.
Day six – So after a two night sojourn in the mountains, we Shinkansen’d our way to Kyoto. After a smooth check in at the very fabulous Ritz Carlton Kyoto it was time to meet for lunch at the hotels’ Italian restaurant La Locanda. I chose this hotel for it’s proximity to great shopping so after a delicious lunch the afternoon was spent combing my curated collection of hidden shopping gems nearby. The day ends with dinner at the wonderful farm to table delight that is Monk restaurant (and one of my favourite meals of the entire trip)
Day seven – A visit to a private ceramics atelier then my other favourite meal of the entire trip at a 3 Michelin starred restaurant that serves a bento version of their menu for lunch – a beautiful presentation matched with the most delicate flavours. Superb. And what would a trip to Kyoto be without a visit to a few temples (the Gold Temple was a winner) and (another!) Michelin starred Tempura Restaurant to end the trip.
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