Top 5 Treasures of Ancient Japan
Japan has a unique fusion of ancient spirituality, otherworldly sites and sleek modern marvels that has stimulated the minds and stirred the souls of travelers for centuries. The Land of the Rising Sun is made up of over 3,000 islands, many of which are covered in pristine forests and peaceful mountains. Though the country’s unexpectedly beautiful landscapes, warm hospitality, world-class city shopping and sublime culinary finesse never fail to dazzle first-time visitors, it’s Japan’s enigmatic ancient traditions, mystical sacred places and mind-expanding cultural treasures that keep many people coming back for more.
On a Kensington private guided Japan tour you’ll gain hard-to-find insight into this unique and enigmatic nation. Delve into the complex history of one of the world’s greatest civilizations and get lost in its dreamlike ancient sites.
Eat Sushi At Tsukiji Fish Market
No Japan tour is complete without a trip to the unforgettable Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. The world’s largest tuna market sells fruit, vegetables, flowers and meat, but it’s the 2000 tonnes of seafood that are traded daily here that make Tsukiji Fish Market one of the world’s biggest. Soak up the frenetic atmosphere of the enormous market and eat just-caught sushi for breakfast. Take a few hours to wander through hundreds of fresh food stalls and restaurants. If you’re feeling adventurous, get up early to catch the frenzied buying and selling of tuna at the world’s largest tuna auction. The market is featured in the award-winning 2011 documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The market, which began its operations in 1935, is slated to relocate in fall 2016 to make room for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Attend a Traditional Tea Ceremony
Developed in the 16th century as a means to achieve inner harmony with nature, the highly ritualized Japanese tea ceremony is carried out in tranquil teahouses throughout the country. With a Kensington private guide, you’ll learn how the ancient ceremony aims to purify the mind and attain oneness with nature. Renowned tea masters will instruct you on the finer points of enjoying matcha – traditional powdered green tea – in a fascinating tradition that dates back to the 1500s.
Make a Pilgrimage to an Ancient Temple
Some of Japan’s most treasured ancient structures are its gorgeous shrines and intricate temples. From Tokyo to Kyoto to Nara, countless alluring temples serve as iconic remnants of Japan’s imperial past. Led by private guide, discover these spiritual wonders at your own pace. Kyoto alone has over 2,000 temples and shrines scattered across the city. Visit the city’s 15th-century mountain temples and discover the ornately gilded Kinkakuji, a World Heritage site that was once a shogun’s retirement villa and is now a mystical Zen Buddhist temple.
Stroll Through Japanese Gardens
Shinto, Japan’s oldest religion, considers certain natural elements – rocks, trees and mountains – to be sacred. In the shadows of the futuristic skyscrapers, visitors can explore exquisite Edo period gardens with an expert private guide. Japan’s most famous gardens are idyllic relics of the Edo Period, when the shogun, feudal lords, imperial family, and even samurai and Buddhist priests developed private gardens for their own viewing pleasure. A haven of peace and tranquility, the otherworldly gardens are a Japanese art form that has been carefully refined for more than 1000 years.
Watch Snow Monkeys Frolic in Hot Springs
In the ancient natural baths of Jigokudani Yaen Koen – known as ‘Hell’s Valley’ – steam and boiling water bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground. Here, a famous group of wild Japanese Macaques warm themselves in winter and frolic in the natural hot springs. Witness the furry snow monkeys as they live and play in large social groups – you might even catch them having a mischievous snowball fight. It’s a fantastic spectacle.
Stay in a Ryokan
Ryokans are traditional Japanese style hotels, historically developed to serve members of the imperial court and feudal lords as they traveled Japan’s highways. You’ll be pampered in a manner befitting an emperor when staying at one of these traditional Japanese inns. Upon entering you’ll surrender your shoes, put on slippers and surrender to the soothing environment. Relax in nearby hot spring waters known as onsen, traditionally used to to relax and heal for centuries. Indulge in Japanese breakfast and dinner consisting of between 10 and 20 delectable dishes. Enjoy the ryokan’s impeccable service, stroll through miniature landscaped gardens and take in glorious views outside your traditional ‘tatami’ room.
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