Luxtripper Travel Editor
The best way to make the most of your visit to Japan? Be sure to add on day trips to nearby towns and cities for more unique experiences.
Kyoto is easily one of Japan's most well known and loved cities, so why not fly into Kansai International Airport and begin your holiday here? It's home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, and offers travellers a chance to step back in time and witness the Japan of the past; where Maiko apprentices practice the ancient art of becoming a Geisha, traditional arts and skills are still preserved, and dining becomes more of a beautiful ritual than a necessity - a Japanese tea ceremony perfectly reflects this.
As we mentioned above, there's thousands of temples and shrines scattered across Kyoto's forests, parks and streets - so where does one start?
There's so much to see and do in Kyoto, we recommend visiting Kiyomizu-dera's beautiful temple, heading to Aman Kyoto's restaurant 'Taka An' for their incredible Kaiseki lunch menu (more on this below), and walking through Gion's historic quarter; we strongly advise booking a seat at an intimate Maiko show with dinner for a unique and unforgettable experience.
With all of this in mind, a visit to Kyoto is incomplete without seeing what we would consider the 'top three'. Fushimi Inari's 10,000 tori gate tunnel weaves through hidden shrines and beautiful nature to a mountain summit, and is one of the most famous places in Japan. Arashiyama's Bamboo Grove is a stunning path lined with lucid green bamboo trees that seem to touch the clouds - be sure to stick around afterwards and explore the area. Finally, Kinkaku-ji's Golden Pavilion is a Kyoto icon. Nestled in the north-west edge of the city next to forested mountains, this beautifully photogenic temple is considered one of Japan's 'best views', and can be easily accessed from our favourite Kyoto hotel; Aman Kyoto.
Tip: Visit the 'top three' at sunrise or towards the end of the day to avoid the large crowds.
If you're looking for a secluded, luxurious and one of a kind place to stay whilst you soak up the best of Kyoto, you will adore Aman Kyoto. This incredibly beautiful retreat is nestled within a once-forgotten secret garden on the fringes of the city, offering guests respite from the outside world and welcoming them to a sanctuary soaked in zen-like peace, and with just 26 guest rooms and villas spread across 80 acres - it's clear that Aman's team are dedicated to offering it's guests truly tailored service and experiences.
Every inch of this hotel is sublime, and our favourite features include Aman's thoughtful and elegant design (every aspect of the villas, facilities and garden itself tell a story), the spa's blissful natural onsen hot spring, it's close proximity to the aforementioned golden pavilion Kinkaku-ji, and it's remarkable dining experiences. We strongly advise reserving a seat along the bar of Taka An's traditional kaiseki restaurant; watching the chef masterfully create each delicate dish one after another was akin to watching an artist, and every dish was absolutely delicious.
Travellers who are drawn to Kyoto's temples will love the nearby UNESCO city of Nara; this tranquil destination is home to a huge national park dotted with ancient shrines, one of Japan's largest seated Buddha statues and hundreds of deer - get some deer biscuits to feed them but be careful, they're quite confident!
Those looking for a stark contrast to Kyoto's calmness will love the bustle of Osaka; the 'nation's kitchen' really lives up to it's name, with incredible food waiting around every corner. Try local dishes such as okonomiyaki savoury pancakes fresh from the hot plate, and takoyaki octopus balls! It's also home to the beautiful Osaka Castle, world-class shopping malls around Umeda Station, and Shinsekai - a neighbourhood known for it's 'Old World' feel and delicious kushi-katsu deep fried skewer dishes.
If you fancy venturing further afield, why not opt an overnight stay at Amanemu in Ise Shima National Park?
This beautiful luxury escape is home to natural hot springs, UNESCO pilgrim trails and a dazzling coastline. It's perfect for couples seeking a chance to reconnect with nature and experience a slower, more meaningful pace of life that only rural Japan can offer. We love this resort's gorgeous ryokan-inspired design (each suite features it's own onsen bath), it's incredible award-winning dining, and the sacred untouched-feeling forests that this treasured property call home.
Hop on a shinkansen bullet train and ride just 2hr 40mins east and you'll reach Tokyo. We think of Tokyo and what comes to mind is the clear dichotomy of the past and the future. Tokyo is a wonderful fusion of Japan's treasured history and it's vision for what lies ahead; secluded shrines sit within the alleys of high-rises, century-old sushi bars and noodle stands share neighbourhoods with youthful coffee shops and dynamic galleries, and of course; there are robots.
We love making Tokyo the final stop on a Japan holiday as the city is incredibly well connected, making it easy to navigate - it's also perfect for last-minute shopping and souvenir hunting! Let us share with you the best things to do in Tokyo.
Asakusa is famed for it's traditional vibe; it's the perfect place to explore and you'll find lots of antique shops, cosy restaurants and Tokyo's oldest and most significant temple; Sensō-ji. In contrast are Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku, three neighbouring areas known for their street-style fashion, that famous scramble crossing, Meiji Shrine's beautiful forest dwelling and hidden alleys filled with tiny izakaya bars serving up delicious yakitori grilled skewers. Head to Omoide Yokocho just outside Shinjuku station after 6pm to see it all in action!
Looking for a more chilled out vibe? Visit Daikanyama, an area full of hip clothing stores, Meguro River's famous cherry blossom path and the world's second largest Starbucks. Luxury shoppers should make a beeline to Ginza district's world-class shopping malls (Mitsokoshi and Matsuya to name a few), and be sure to stop for lunch or dinner - for some of the finest sushi in the world, visit Kyubey's intimate restaurant.
Just a stone's throw from Tokyo Station sits one of the finest luxury escapes in the city. Aman Tokyo is a beautiful 5-star retreat that'll feel world's away from the bustle of Tokyo; the perfect fusion of Japanese tradition and modernity, and with just 84 rooms and suite dotted throughout it's high-rise floors, this beautiful hotel is the epitome of thoughtful space and Japanese minimalism.
Why is it our favourite? We love Aman Tokyo's sleek and zen-like design, the spectacular views that can be enjoyed from each of the hotel's generously-sized windows, the blissful city-facing bathtubs (Aman Tokyo is home to largest entry-level guest rooms in the city) and it's location - it's close proximity to Tokyo Station make's it a great base to reach the rest of the city and for must-do day trips beyond the urban sprawl. Throw in sublime service, exquisite dining and a blissful spa with a swimming pool overlooking the skyline; and you've got the top hotel in Tokyo.
As we touched on above, staying at Aman Tokyo will put you in a prime position for exploring the destinations that surround the city.
At the top of our list is Kamakura, an area south of Tokyo that's brimming with nature, an abundance of temples and shrines, and access to the coastline - be sure to visit the Great Buddha at Kōtoku-in first. Another great choice that can be reached in less than one hour from Tokyo is Yokohama, a fun port city that's home to Japan's most famous Chinatown, a dazzling waterfront and a 1960's-influenced Ramen Museum - perfect for foodies! Lastly, if you're visiting in autumn then Nikko is a must-do - it can be explored in a day but we advise staying overnight to fully enjoy this beautiful national park. Nature-lovers can enjoy hiking through forests, discovering waterfalls and seeing some of the region's most uniquely adorned temples.
Japan is a year-round destination with four distinct seasons, with that in mind though we think the best time to go to Japan is during it's milder months.
Cherry blossom season is naturally the most popular time to visit, and this falls between March and May, while the weather is mild and pleasant. Another excellent time to visit is during the autumnal months of late September to November as the leaves turn gorgeous shades of orange and red. Come during the summer months if you love hot weather, but be aware of a short rainy season that falls between late June and July, and come during the winter for the chance of seeing snow in the cities and to celebrate New Year in Japan!
If you're ready to plan your holiday to Japan with a stay at each of the Aman hotels, simply get in touch with our Luxury Travel Specialists and we will take care of the rest.