There’s no denying Japan’s global appeal—just ask the 24 million international travelers who visited the island nation last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). And if you’re wondering about Americans’ appetite for the Land of the Rising Sun, as Japan is sometimes referred to, keep in mind that in recent years U.S. visits have surpassed the 1 million mark.
Japan’s unique ability to balance its ultra-modern culture with ancient traditions is just one reason your clients should be planning their next or return trip to this Far East destination. Another motivator is the convenience of 70+ daily departures from the U.S., and the list goes on. And while Japan may be smaller in area than California, the JNTO recommends setting aside at least seven to 10 days for a more in-depth vacation. Many tour operators are offering enticing Japan itineraries for 2017 covering the Golden Route and beyond, and we’ve picked just a few standouts to highlight in this roundup.
Artisans of Leisure Luxury tour operator Artisans of Leisure has announced two new tours designed for travelers interested in traditional Japanese art, craft and design. The 13-day The Art of Japan itinerary delves into Japan’s centuries-old arts and crafts traditions and cutting-edge novelties in some of Japan’s top destinations for art, architecture, design and crafts—Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kyoto. While touring these cities, guests will have the opportunity to meet artisans in their studios, visit ceramics villages, browse top craft boutiques, and participate in hands-on classes in traditional crafts such as pottery, gold leaf, calligraphy, flower arranging (ikebana), tea ceremony, indigo dyeing and papermaking. Rates start at $24,530 pp dbl, and include luxury hotel accommodations, ground transportation, private tours, (and the convenience of skipping lines during touring whenever possible), restaurant and spa reservations, performance tickets, and private airport transfers. Daily departures are available on a private basis.
Meanwhile, the 15-day Ceramics Tour of Japan visiting Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Imari and Arita, Yufuin and Fukuoka features trips to studios and kilns to learn about different types of Japanese ceramics and for interactions with local artists. Rates start at $30,900 pp dbl, and includes private touring with a personal guide and driver, accommodations in luxury hotels and a ryokan, private airport transfers, internal flights, First-Class train travel, and activities listed in the itinerary. Daily departures are available on a private basis. For more information, call (800) 214-8144 or visit artisansofleisure.com.
Avanti Destinations Visitors can experience Japan Essentials: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Osaka on Avanti Destinations’ 9-day itinerary of the same name. The tour encompasses Japan’s Golden Route from the bright lights and futuristic sites of Tokyo and the iconic Mt. Fuji in Hakone National Park to Kyoto, Japan’s spiritual and cultural capital boasting some 2,000 temples, shrines, and 17 UNESCO sites, and Osaka, the culinary capital of Japan. Offering a variety of in-depth tours, in Osaka alone the Japan Essentials: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Osaka itinerary features visits to Osaka Castle, a restored landmark that played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century; the Dotonbori district, a restaurant mecca home to Osaka’s most famous street food, octopus dumpling (takoyaki); the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum, where guests have the chance to make their own woodblock print; and the open-air Floating Garden Observatory built on top of the highest building in Osaka. Land-only rates start at $3,979 pp dbl, and include accommodations and meals and tours listed in the itinerary. For more information, call (800) 422-5053 or visit avantidestinations.com.
Trafalgar Visitors can cruise the Okawa River and stroll through a floating garden high above the city, among other activities, on Trafalgar’s leisurely itinerary from Osaka to Hiroshima. The 13-day Leisurely Japan with Tokyo 2017 tour also features insider moments such as mastering the art of making udon noodles with an expert in Kotohira and sinking into a hot spring onsen bath in Matsuyama, Shikoku’s largest city, before settling down for the night in an authentic Japanese ryokan. In addition, the tour is sprinkled with visits to several of Japan’s UNESCO sites, including Kinkakuji Temple, a Kyoto landmark famous for its Golden Pavilion; Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial, the only structure left standing in the area when the first atomic bomb exploded in 1945; and the towering Mt. Fuji in the Five Lakes District, Japan’s highest mountain standing at 12,388 ft. tall; not to mention a taste of traditional Japanese cuisine (washoku), which has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Rates for the Leisurely Japan with Tokyo 2017 itinerary start at $9,850 pp, and includes accommodations, ground transportation, 19 meals, and sightseeing as per itinerary. Departures are available through October. For more information, call (866) 809-8426 or visit trafalgar.com.
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