Cherry Blossom Season or Sakura Matsuri is by far the most popular time to visit Japan. Tourists from all over the world converge on Japan during the months of March, April and May to hopefully get a glimpse of the magnificent beauty. Whilst everyone has their own ideas of how to experience Japanese Cherry Blossoms, we can tell you the best way is with an organised tour.
Why is an organised tour the best way?
Simply because everything is arranged for you. You don’t need to worry about bookings, researching where to go, trying to find restaurants etc. But by far the biggest advantage is knowing the organsied tour is first and foremost about providing guests with the opportunity to see cherry blossoms.
When future guests are making plans to go on a Cherry Blossom Tour they often find it hard to visualise what they will get for their investment. To help with all this we have decided to share with you what it is like to go on one of our Cherry Blossom Tours.
“Our 2019 Luxury Japan Travel tour featured spectacular meals, fascinating cultural learnings and eye-poppingly beautiful cherry blossoms (Sakura.) We loved the various food styles, from fusion dishes created by celebrity chefs in upmarket and exclusive restaurants to authentic local experiences with lots of sake. Our time at the Bessho Sasa Ryokan near Mt Fuji was unforgettable, with Japanese culture on full display. This was a truly remarkable tour.”
The first day of a tour is exciting for all involved. The anticipation of the enjoyment to come always makes for a great start to the tour. We meet the group in Tokyo Station where we make the final arrangements, including organising a delicious lunch (ekiben) for our journey to Osaka. We all board the first-class carriage of the shinkansen (bullet-train) which is glamorous to say the least. Everyone settles into their comfortable chairs and relaxes as we rocket towards Osaka at high-speed. The shinkansen experience is unique to Japan and is something everyone can’t stop talking about after trying for the first time.
En route we pass the beautiful Japanese countryside, catching numerous glimpses of cherry blossoms along the way. The highlight of the journey however, are the spectacular views of Mt Fuji in all its glory. Plenty of photos are taken by our guests as this is a bucket-list sight.
We arrive in Osaka at a perfect time to check into our exquisite accommodation for the next three nights. All guests enjoy the best suites in the hotel to ensure they have a relaxing experience. As the hotel is equipped with a hotspring bath we suggest guests give it a try; Japanese culture at its finest.
For our first night we head out to Dotonbori, Osaka’s most famous night spot, for some local specialties and culture. After a private vehicle transfer we arrive in the middle of the bustling location ready to check out all that Osaka is famous for. After a few hours exploring the night life and sampling all the delicious treats we return to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.
The group wakes early and has their first experience of a Japanese breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast is amazing in Japan and offers almost countless dishes to choose from. The city hotels we select always have a variety of Japanese and Western choices so there are options for everyone. Our guests are always impressed and take the opportunity to try many new things. Our Tour Director is always on hand to explain all the different dishes.
After breakfast we head to Kyoto by train, purposely arriving before the morning tourist rush. Kyoto station itself is beautiful and certainly exudes class and distinction. Once we arrive we get on board a special bus that takes us directly to Kinkaku-ji or The Goldern Pavillion. This is probably the most famous site in all of Kyoto and definitely the most photographed. We take our guests on an up close and personal tour and explain the history behind Kinkaku-ji. Guests are then given some time to explore the grounds themselves before we reconvene.
We next take our guest to a local’s only spot a short walk from Kinkaku-ji. Here guests experience a traditional Kyoto-style meal of soba. This secluded spot is wonderful and displays the real Japan to our guests. The food is delicious and the hospitality is amazing. After lunch we take private vehicles to the Philospher’s Walk, a famous place to view Cherry Blossom trees. This is always popular with guests. Next we head to the Gion district and Yasaka Shrine. It is here where we see plenty of Kyoto culture on full display. There are many kimono and yukata dressed ladies walking the streets and paths, countless cherry blossoms of pink and white, traditional cherry blossom food for sale and an opportunity to get a blessing at the shrine.
Guests are able to enjoy plenty of free exploration of the local shops and area and can take everything in at their own pace. We recommend guests check out the back streets of Gion where they find secluded streams lined with magnificent cherry blossoms.
As the sun goes down we return via train to our hotel in Osaka. Although this night is free for guests to choose what they want; we often take them out to a local eatery for a few delicious local treats and cold drinks. Kyoto is a big day, but a fun-filled on that leaves everyone with a big smile.
After another beautiful breakfast and perhaps a morning soak in the hotsprings we head to Osaka-jo (castle) for a cultural experience. The Osaka-jo grounds are very extensive and are located in the heart of the city. It is easy to spend the entire day at Osaka-jo as there is literally so much to see and do.
We take our guests through the main gate and ensure plenty of photos are taken of the iconic wall and moat surrounding the castle. Once we get inside the walls we are bombarded with views of the spectacular cherry blossoms. Osaka-jo has an estimated 4000 Cherry Blossom trees in the grounds, so the sight really has to be seen to be believed. There are plenty of buildings, beautiful trees, photo opportunities and cultural information to take in before we even get into the inner castle compound. A Japanese castle is simply a must see!
Once we enter the inner compound we walk up to the castle and travel up through the levels. Each level is a museum detailing all the history of Osaka-jo and Osaka itself. This is a fantastic insight into how life was in days gone by. The highlight however is the top floor which offers unimpeded views of the grounds and the city. From the top floor you can see all of the magnificent cherry blossoms below offering their whites and pinks, highlighting the scene. This is a must see!
Once back down on the ground we enjoy lunch with by far the best choice a BBQ on the roof of a nearby building. Up on the roof you can enjoy a cold drink and a local style BBQ all while being in the middle of the Osaka-jo compound… divine!
After a relaxed lunch we head for Osaka station where we catch the fast train to nearby Kobe. We have two amazing experiences planned for our guests in Kobe. First of all we visit a famous Sake Brewery that supplies the Nobel Prize ceremonies. We take a tour of the facilities, learn how the special sake and made and even have a few samples. This is a popular activity with our guests and many purchase a bottle or two as a souvenir.
Next we head to the culinary highlight of the day, the world famous and ultra-luxurious Kobe Wagyu. We take our guests to an exclusive top floor restaurant to experience teppanyaki. In our own private dining room, our specially selected personal chef prepares and serves our incredible meal. This experience is one of a kind and is definitely a meal that will be remember for years to come.
After a nightcap we head back to our hotel for the night.
We say goodbye to Osaka as we travel via Shinkansen to Mt Fuji, Yamanashi for a couple of days of supreme relaxation. After arriving at the station we board the private hotel bus for our drive to one of the best hotels in the world. As we get closer and closer to Mt Fuji the sheer size and beauty of the mountain becomes apparent. We make a couple of strategic stops along the way to take some up close and personal photos of the majestic landmark.
Once we arrive it is nothing but 5 Star, First-class luxury. Kimono dressed ladies great our bus and whisk away our luggage to our luxury suites. The sheer beauty of the hotel leaves guests mesmerised. The next two days are all about relaxation. Guests enter their rooms to notice that Mt Fuji is right next to the hotel. Guests also notice they have their own private, natural hotspring bath on their balcony. This is supreme luxury.
After enjoying the bath and views for a couple of hours, including some champagne, we all rendevouz for an ultra-luxurious kaiseki banquet in our honor. We take our meal in a tatami room that is adorned with stunning artwork and antique ceramics. We even have our own personal attendant dressed in the most beautiful kimono. This meal is in a word, stunning. Our guests have never experienced anything like this before. Dining on abalone, wagyu, tuna belly, matsutake mushrooms, salmon roe, uni (sea urchin) and much more, this is a very special meal.
After dinner we all enjoy a cultural drum show before retiring to the piano lounge for a nightcap. Heaven on earth.
Guests wake the next morning to Mt Fuji bathing in the early morning light. A relaxing soak in the private hotspring is on the cards before heading to breakfast. Guest get to experience a wonderous collection of the finest foods for breakfast…. superb!
Today is a free day designed as a relaxation and rejuvenation event. Guests take walks in the extensive hotel gardens, soak in their hotspring baths and enjoy beauty treatments and massages. There are some beautiful cherry blossoms in the grounds to get up close and personal with as well.
Dinner is a second night of kaiseki extravagance. Same as the night before in every way, except for a whole new set of luxurious foods that have taken in some cases days to prepare. For this meal we all wear our hotel provided robes, known as Yukata. This allows everyone to be fully emerged in the Japanese culture and hospitality.
After returning to the rooms there is enough time for a late night soak in the private bath.
We spend the final morning at our Mt Fuji Ryokan enjoying an in-room breakfast experience. Each guest is served by a kimono dressed attendant in their room. The meal is enormous and contains luxury food items that aren’t readily available anywhere else. There is even special tofu that has been purposely made in the shape of Mt Fuji, this is a really special experience. Guests take a final soak and pictures of Mt Fuji before we bid farewell to one amazing hotel.
We travel to the nearby station where we board the first-class carriage of the Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. Once we arrive we check into our exclusive Nihonbashi hotel, perfectly located in the heart of Tokyo. Guests get themselves settled in before we head out for our exclusive activity, Hanami.
Guests travel with us to Ueno Koen (Ueno Park), which is known by locals as one of the best places in all of Japan to experience a Hanami party. Hanami is cherry blossom viewing and a Hanami Party is even better. We arrange a special place within the park and set up a picnic style party beneath the gorgeous cherry blossoms. This activity is a true local experience that never fails to disappoint. The picnic is complete with special Cherry Blossom Season foods and drinks and makes for an enjoyable evening.
We start our seventh day with a special kaiseki style breakfast at our magnificent hotel. Guests who are early risers are able to relax in the hotel’s hotspring baths. After an early breakfast we make for the Tsukiji fish markets, where we meet the Sushi Master, Yoshi-san.
Yoshi-san operates a 118 year old restaurant that has been in his family since the beginning. His restaurant is private and therefore is not open to the public. We have special permission to bring our guests to the restaurant as we are exclusive members. Yoshi has refused Michelin Stars as they have chosen to keep their restaurant private and exclusive.
Before we go to the restaurant, Yoshi-san gives us an exclusive behind the scenes tour of Tsukiji fish market. Yoshi-san takes us to his choice vendors and allows us access to see how fish as selected and prepared for his restaurant. This is a hands on tour that is not available to the general public…. very special. After a couple of hours we head via private vehicle to his secluded restaurant in an old part of Tokyo; here is where the magic happens.
Guests enjoy a sushi performance, which is the name given to a high class meal of this kind. Yoshi-san, assisted by a small team behind the scenes, crafts each individual morsel of sushi for each guest in turn. We guarantee this is the greatest sushi you will ever experience. The sushi lunch, complete with uni chawan mushi, house pickled vegetables, clam miso soup, sake, tea and beer runs for two hours and is wonderful. The smiles across our guests’ faces says it all.
We return to the hotel for some rest before we head out again for a special event. We travel to the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world. Here we ascend a special building where we are the special invited guests of Chef Hitoshi. The meal is an ultra-luxurious Japanese-Italian fusion with a million dollar view of Tokyo below.
The meal is a feast of at least 9 courses, matched with wine, and its a supreme example of a master chef. Guests soak up the view from our elevated location and enjoy the wonderful Japanese hospitality.
After a slower start to the day we journey to nearby Yokohama for Mt Fuji views, a bay tour and plenty of self-discovery. Yokohama is Japan’s major port and simply beautiful. We take guests up Landmark tower where we can see Mt Fuji in one direction and Tokyo in the other. The sheer size of the bay area is evident from this position.
Guests are given some free time to explore the extensive shopping, souvenir and culinary options available. We also journey outside along the boardwalk to experience the avenues of cherry blossoms decorating the bay. Yokohama, although part of the Tokyo area, is a very different city. There are many examples of western influence and the streets are much wider than that of Tokyo.
After lunch we take guest to a famous Yokohama company where they get to experience Japan’s favourite drink, beer. This is a wonderful experience and is enjoyed by beer lovers and non-beer lovers alike. By this stage of the tour all our guests are great friends and this is yet another opportunity to enjoy the Japanese culture together. There is always plenty of laughter during this experience. As it is cherry blossom season the grounds have a number of trees in full bloom that can be enjoyed.
We head back in the early evening to Tokyo where we have a special izakaya exeperience. Dinner is a local experience and something you won’t find on any other tour. We take guests to a secret location where they feast on amazing seafood and other delectable dishes. A fantastic experience.
After yet another wonderful breakfast, we head out to discover our favourite parts of Tokyo, taking in the beautiful cherry blossoms now in full bloom. We take guests to a few secret locations demonstrating the hidden secrets of this amazing city. We also visit the iconic parts of Tokyo including, Asakusa, Kappa-bashi and Yoyogi-koen and even the Imperial Palace.
For lunch we travel to Shibuya to witness the most famous crossing in the world and have some free time exploring the side streets. We enjoy a wonderful lunch in a local restaurant before checking out some more cherry blossoms.
This is a big day; however, it is all made possible by Tokyo’s tremendous train network, allowing us easy access to all the select locations. We return to the hotel to dress up before heading out for yet another world-class dinner. Dinner is at a Three Michelin Star restaurant operated by a local celebrity chef. The cuisine is French-Japanese fusion and is made up of 9 courses with matching wine. The skill on display and the flavours leave everyone in awe once again.
We head back to the hotel for our last night in Tokyo. Guests usually want to have a nightcap in the lobby bar, taking in the Tokyo experience before retiring for the night.
“My wife and I have traveled to Europe many times and taken part in many river cruises. We can both safely say that travelling to Japan with Luxury Japan Travel was the best thing we have ever done. No request was too big, we were looked after so, so well. If you are having doubts ask the team at Luxury Japan Travel to give you my number, I will tell you how good they really are. Great experience, will go again!”
After the final kaiseki breakfast we journey to Sendai, via first-class Shinkansen. Sendai, the major city of Northern Japan is our home for the next two nights. After arriving we head to our centrally located hotel and check in. Guests are now given the option of taking a rest or joining the tour of Sendai Castle and other local landmarks.
We give guests an orientation of the local area so they are free to venture out on their own for plenty of shopping and discovery. Our hotel has a prime location, complete with a fantastic restaurant and a hotspring bath on the roof. Sendai is not as glamorous as Tokyo, however, it is a beautiful city with wide streets and amazing trees. The local Sendai people are very friendly and down to earth.
After a welcome drink we take our guests for a very, very special dinner, Crab Kaiseki. This meal is a favourite of all our guests. The meal is an epic crab feast that contains no fewer than 15 courses. What a welcome to Sendai.
For our second last day we travel to nearby Matsushima, one of the top three views in all of Japan. Matsushima is so incredibly beautiful and has to be seen to be believed. Once we arrive we head straight for the water where we board a ship and take a cruise around the bay. We travel over the pristine waters where we see the hundreds of tiny islands and their unique shapes and sizes.
After we return to land we have the opportunity to explore the local area and sample the world’s best oysters. We guarantee you will never have better oysters anywhere. We explore the local gardens and cherry trees before we head to our nearby lunch location.
Lunch is an exclusive Kaiseki meal overlooking the magnificent bay. In the gardens outside the restaurant are a few cherry blossoms that just make the whole experience even more delightful. Guests enjoy the lunch feast and relax taking in all the views.
After lunch we have some more opportunities to explore the local souvenir shops and take in the picturesque waters. We return to Sendai late afternoon with some free time to explore Aoba-dori, the famous Sendai shopping street. Guests have a free night to relax, or if they wish can join an informal party out on the town.
Our last day on tour is often a bit sad for all involved, as after spending twelve days exploring the best of Japan we want the show to go on. After enjoying a final breakfast together we head towards Sendai station where we have the opportunity to do some last minute exploring and shopping. We all board the first-class carriage of the shinkansen for the last time and rocket towards Tokyo.
After arriving in Tokyo we have the chance for a group farewell drink before we instigate the pre-organised arrangements for all of our guests. Some of our guests choose to stay on with us for a couple of days and some return to their home country. We ensure everyone is looked after right to the end and thank them for sharing the wonderful Cherry Blossom Classic Tour with Luxury Japan Travel.