Japan – An amazing first time trip!

In January of 2024 I was provided with an amazing opportunity by the Japan National Tourism Organization and the Virtuoso luxury network to experience the best of Japan with a group of eight travel advisors. 

From Boston, Japan may seem a world away, but it’s more easily accessible than most think. For starters, Boston has a daily non-stop flight to Tokyo. Alternatively, there are a variety of west coast cities that make for great stop over locations to spend a night or two. 

Before our tour officially began, I opted to fly into Tokyo a couple days early to get acclimated and to do some sightseeing. My initial impressions were that of wonder and awe. In addition, for a large city, Tokyo is amazingly CLEAN!

My hotel for the first few nights was the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, a fantastic option offering tremendous value. I’m privileged to be a Virtuoso advisor, and therefore I’m able to provide my clients with complimentary benefits at the Andaz including breakfast, resort credit, upgrade upon arrival (based on availability), and more. The hotel is located on floors 47 – 52 which results in spectacular views from every angle.  The view from my room certainly didn’t disappoint…

On my first full day I toured a number of sites around Tokyo with a guide. I had a private tour and was able to customize the entire day. We visited the historic Hamarikyu Gardens, went on a food tour through the famous Tsukiji Market, and had a delicious ramen lunch at Tokyo Station.  The weather was beautiful and I couldn’t have asked for a better first day.

After two days it was time to meet up with my group. For our first night we stayed at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi Hills, another great hotel in which I can get clients additional complimentary amenities. This location features 200 high-end shops, restaurants, and also the Tokyo City View Observatory. 

After a wonderful night and a morning tour of our hotel, we set off for Osaka on a bullet train which travels at up to 200mph. It was a very comfortable experience and we had fantastic views of Mt. Fuji (pictured below). For the best views make sure to sit on the right side of the train when traveling south and the left side when traveling north.

Upon arrival we checked into one of my favorite hotels from the entire trip, the Conrad Osaka. This hotel was absolutely stunning and the views were incredible. 

Later in the day we toured Osaka Castle which dates back to the 16th century and we explored Dotonbori district – a neon-lit paradise of street food, theaters, and shopping.  After sampling several delicacies we tested our skills at making Okonomiyaki – a traditional savory pancake dish.

The next day we continued our adventure with a soba noodle making class and a sake tasting from a 14th generation sake maker. We also toured picturesque Izushi Castle Town which transports you back to old Japan. 

Later that afternoon we continued on to the quaint onsen town of Kinosaki where you can stay in an authentic ryokan, such as Nishimuraya Honkan.  Kinosaki is home to seven public onsens and lots of ryokans, which are tattoo friendly making them popular for tourists. Kinosake has maintained its serene atmosphere and authentic old Japan allure for over 1300 years with its well-preserved architecture and onsen culture. In the evening we were treated to a delicious Kaiseki dinner – a traditional Japanese multi-course dining experience that showcases meticulous preparation, artful presentation, and seasonal ingredients. A picture from Kinosaki…

Over the next couple of days we explored Kyoto with some absolutely amazing experiences including a kaiseki dinner with Maiko and Geiko. In Kyoto these performers are not referred to as Geisha, instead Geiko. The Maiko is essentially an apprentice in training to become a Geiko.  In addition, we enjoyed a private tea ceremony, visited the Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, Nijo Castle, the bamboo forest, and Nishiki Market (a centuries-old marketplace renowned for its fresh seafood, produce, and traditional Japanese delicacies).

During our time in Kyoto we stayed at the fabulous Ritz Carlton Kyoto which is in close proximity to Kyoto’s popular downtown districts including Gion, Pontocho, and the city’s retail and entertainment. A highlight of our time at the Ritz Carlton was the Kimono Experience which we took part in on our final evening at the hotel. 

We wrapped up our trip with a final night in Tokyo at the Shangri-La, located in central Tokyo just a ten minute walk to the Imperial Palace and world-famous Ginza shopping district.  Prior to checking into the hotel we were able to tour the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, we took part in a fun Taiko drum experience, and spent time at the Sensō-ji Temple – a Buddhist temple in Asakusa dating back to the 7th century. Leading up to the temple on Nakamise Street you’ll find a vibrant street filled with stalls offering an array of souvenirs, snacks, and cultural treasures. 

Finally, on our departure day we had a few free hours and headed over to Akihabara, Tokyo’s tech hub with state of the art game centers, collectible figurine shops, and more.

For me, my first visit to Japan turned out to be an absolute feast for the senses with hospitality and cultural experiences that are second to none. In addition to the many experiences I’ve shared here, we also had the opportunity to tour a variety of additional hotels including the Four Seasons Kyoto and The Peninsula Tokyo, both which were absolutely exquisite. I am able to get my clients complimentary amenities at all of the hotels I stayed at and toured. I can’t wait for a return visit to Japan and I’m even more excited to help you plan your dream trip to this amazing country.


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