Thrilling sumo in the morning and gentle ikebana in the afternoon, Japanese cooking in Tokyo and a geisha dinner in Kyoto, fashion trend spotting or antique art plotting, Zen meditation, sake appreciation, the tea ceremony, and powerful kanji calligraphy – this and much more awaits you on your fascinating journey to the core of Japan.
JapanQuest Journeys’ unequaled access to insider places and our formidable network of local specialists and connoisseurs lets you experience a real slice of Japan’s highly diverse culture that goes far beyond having seen the sights, is close-up, hands-on and, above all, expert-guided.
Tokyo’s early morning hours present you with a once in a lifetime chance to get as close as you ever may to Japan’s elite sumo wrestlers as you sit but a few meters away from the action at a sumo training stable.
The air is electrified when four hundred pound heavyweights crash into each other full on time and time again. This is the opportunity every sumo fan wishes for, as access is very hard to secure, with contacts in the world of sumo essential to guarantee the chance to get up close to these living links to the past.
Before dawn breaks another spectacle unfolds in the east of the city where hundreds of vendors at tiny stalls loaded to the brim with boxes containing curious and wonderful creatures from the sea herald the start of the day at Tsukiji, Tokyo’s famous fish market.
Go on a private market tour with a seasoned Japanese culinary expert who knows Tsukiji inside out and can tell more than a thing or two about the hundreds of types of fish and forms of seafood stockpiled in front of your very eyes.
This might tempt you to try your hand at Japanese cooking learned one-to-one from an internationally renowned cooking instructor who will take you through the basics as she would a friend in the cozy ambiance of a kitchen at home. With a playful cooking style and creating unique fusion dishes that masterfully mix an array of Japanese ingredients and with flavors personalized to your own tastes and culinary preferences. You take away insider tips and some delicious recipes as an ever-lasting keepsake.
In the early afternoon hours you may stroll through the city with an established trend-spotter on a discovery tour of Tokyo’s forever changing cityscape. Walking with an expert quickly trains your eyes allowing you to decode how Japan’s modern arts and architecture are thoroughly ingrained with a sense of ancient beauty.
People watching with a local fashion expert is a compelling pastime in this capital of fashion that continuously reinvents itself, and churns out high-class street-style trends at breakneck speed to inspire the international haute couture, and teenage fans alike.
You are compensated for the worldly sights and sounds of Tokyo with utterly divine silence at a Shinto shrine where you focus your mind to steadily lead a brush wet with shiny black ink over a blank sheet of white paper, stroke by stroke as you compose powerful kanji characters.
Then, let the profuse impressions of your journey guide your selection of a beautiful vessel and select stems of colorful blooms and evergreen plants to create an astonishing flower arrangement in your very first ikebana lesson. The master-teacher quietly leads your hands in order to aid you in accomplishing beautiful works in just a couple of hours.
The perfectly square sunken hearth in the middle of a small tatami-floored room at Meiji Shrine is just big enough for a heavy iron pot full of piping hot water. The tea master kneeling next to it carefully scoops small portions into large bowls each containing a precise helping of green tea powder, and with some unexpected yet swift moves whisks the bitter brew frothy; explaining the highly ritualistic procedure for receiving and drinking the tea before you do it yourself and experience the very essence of one of Japan’s most profound traditional arts.
At a secluded Kyoto temple the air carries no sounds but is filled with the intoxicating scent of cypress and moss still wet with dew. A Buddhist monk invites you to sit down with him in private meditation on an open terrace gazing together at the meticulously sculptured bushes and the freshly raked gravel of a serenely beautiful Zen garden. Soon you will be sinking into deep contemplation exploring inner worlds invisible to anyone but yourself until the monk gently brings you back to the here and now.
Evenings in Kyoto promise the rare treat of a private dinner with exclusive entertainment by Kyoto’s most accomplished of geisha at an invitation-only Gion tea house. Relish the superb kaiseki cuisine while watching their graceful dancing that very few Japanese ever get the chance to see.
The geisha’s exquisitely trained taste in selecting only the very best of Japan’s premium sake for their esteemed guests might tempt you to visit remote Magome for a very special sake tasting experience of your very own, in a 300-year-old brewery whose brew master expertly guides you through the nuances and subtleties of their exquisite sake range.
Some beautifully handcrafted tableware carrying the signature of their creators draws you to the ancient art of Japanese pottery making with its many regionally varying styles and colors. An acclaimed local master takes pleasure in spending an afternoon personally introducing you to the ancient craft at his own kiln in a picturesque mountain village.
Later in the day the curator of the fabulous Miho Museum takes you on a private tour through the fine collections of Asian and Western antiques perfectly set into scene by an I.M. Pei-designed futuristic palace hidden in the forested hills on the southern outskirts of Kyoto.
This merely tunes you in for the absolute highlight of Japan’s art world – Naoshima – a small island seemingly floating atop the Inland Sea that not only hosts several superb art museums, such as Benesse House designed by Tadao Ando, but also features amazing outdoor works of artistic genius tastefully placed in close communion with nature across the island.
JapanQuest Journeys’ long-standing in-country presence and our first-hand experience of these uniquely Japanese special activities ensure an unparalleled level of insider knowledge and close local relationships which opens doors that are usually tightly shut, and thereby offers you unprecedented access to Japan’s most fascinating places, and its leading experts for an unforgettable holiday that will make you want to come back time and again.