Travel to Japan - Custom Tours

maple leaves Cleansing cups at Buddist temple Zen gardens at night in Kyoto

At Japan Custom Tours we do not do other destinations, just Japan.  We deliver a personal service for our guests that is matched to their requirements.  This could be a simple tour covering the high points of Tokyo and Kyoto, or a more complex schedule taking in particular events, sights and cities.  We can lead you along the well worn paths, or off the beaten track to more rural and remote areas, depending on what you want.

By working with you we can tailor your visit to Japan so that you get more of what you want.  This includes drawing on our experience travelling extensively across the country and helping identify top activities, unique experiences and steering you away from the over-rated tourist spots that sometimes make it into guidebooks.  We work on understanding what you like and focus on the elements that will provide you with an amazing and memorable trip to Japan.

Our speciality is customized tours, putting together the necessary elements that often start with a vague plan or a list of destinations.  We organise your accommodation, transport and things to do each day according to your interests.  Operating a flexible schedule allows you to add in or substitute different things depending on the opportunities that present themselves.  The pre-planning and on-the ground personal service saves you time and money, allowing you to get more out of your vacation in Japan.

What are escorted custom tours?

Our simple philosophy is to share with our guests the aspects, sights and experiences of Japan that we love.  To achieve that, we created Japan Custom Tours to help you experience the uniqueness of the country without many of the hurdles that separate the average tourist from the rich experiences that are available.   

Either as part of a small group, or with the option to make your trip a private escorted tour, we can help you with where to go when you decide to go to Japan.  We are passionate about Japan and the experiences and opportunities that it provides.  To enable English speaking visitors to experience the country up close and personal, we keep our groups deliberately small (ten people maximum) as this allows everyone the time they want to take their time to enjoy their journey.  Because we travel with you our role is to help you get the most out of your vacation.  This includes taking care of many time consuming items, often small things, saving you time and pre-arranging activities, transport and more.  We also take time to learn what you like and are interested in, sometimes adjusting the schedule so you get to experience something special or find an elusive souvenir for you. 

The core functions that we do are:

Because our tours are designed for small groups, we have flexibility to add in activities or you can take a break from the planned schedule.  You can have time to explore on your own, or spend the day and evening finding out what makes Japan such a fun place to visit.  We do not leave you to fend for yourselves at the end of the day, as food and dinner options can be one of the highlights of the trip (and the occasional late nights too).

One way to illustrate our approach to Japan is to view a JCT tour through the eyes of our guests.  For one of our customised trips (in May 2017) we were fortunate to have a keen people that made a video diary of their journey across their three week trip.  They kindly provided a copy and you can view a copy by clicking on one of the two following icons.

Guest video JCT Guest video JCT

Benefits to you

While every group and guest is different there are some common themes that emerge that we help most people with.  Typical examples of what we do, we:

Future Tour Dates

Not ready to plan your own action packed adventure? Have a look at the pre-prepared itineraries or the schedule of our next tours for some inspiration and ideas of how you could make the most of your time in Japan. 

Introduction to Japan

We have developed this short Japan travel package covering seven days and six nights to provide a quick introduction covering selected major sights in Tokyo and Kyoto.  The schedule allows flexibility to add additional days either side of the tour to include extra features or places that you want to explore.  We can provide this tour to suit your dates (minimum four people).

For a more detailed itinerary, please click here.

Best of Japan

For those with a bit more time to visit Japan, this two week escorted tour of Japan provides a range of highlights and experiences.  The schedule allows flexibility to include different locations, sights and activities depending on your interests or places that you want to explore.   We can provide this tour to suit your dates.

For a more detailed itinerary, please click here.

Cherry blossom viewing - March and April 2021

Hanami (literally "flower see") is the Japanese word for cherry blossom viewing.  People enjoy looking at and photographing the blooms during the daytime and also the evenings, and blossom viewing outdoor picnics are held, regardless of the weather (and spring can produce some cold days/evenings,) 

Many people consider the peak viewing season as the first week of April for places like Tokyo and Kyoto, but we take pride in finding tranquil and uncrowded spots for our guests to enjoy the blossom season across the full March and April season. We also target locations south and north of Tokyo to capture blossom many times during our trips, even when the seasons are earlier or later than expected.

Japan cherry blossom tours are very popular some of our cherry blossom tours sold-out several months in advance.  For 2021 we are running several tours chasing the cherry blossom across Japan. 

For more information on the tours see our 2021 Sakura tours page for an indication of what you can expect for 2021.  A copy of the Spring 2021 brochure can be downloaded here.

Japan in May 

For May the weather starts to warm up and it is a nice time of the year to travel before the heat of the summer kicks in.  We have hosted several interesting custom trips during May and into June, and we often re-run tours similar to the tours we have offered during May in the past. 

Those schedules included the many of the beautiful gardens of Japan as well as an excursion to the historic areas or Kurashiki and Naoshima Island.  Other locations include the historic cultural capital Kyoto, Hiroshima, Takayama in the Japanese Alps and of course the huge modern metropolis that is Tokyo. Check our May'21 Tour page for more details and inspiration if you would like to experience the milder weather of late spring.

Autumn Leaf Viewing - Nov 2020

Autumn is the second most popular season to visit Japan.  With the weather more settled and warmer than early spring, the leaf viewing season (koyo) lasts a little longer and presents more vibrant colours across the parks, hillsides and mountains. We are in the process of designing our 2020 edition based on our experiences of five weeks during the brilliant season that was 2018 and the later season from 2019.  Check out our current schedule for November 2020.

Christmas in Japan, New year in Tokyo - December

We have operated Christmas tours previously covering destinations such as Takayama, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Matsumoto , Nagoya before heading back to Tokyo for New Year itself.  The midnight hatsumode (first shine visit of the year) at Meiji Shrine and some enthusiastic karaoke in Shinjuku were just a couple of highlights from an earlier trip that also included some excellent food and scenery. 

As this is an extremely busy time in Japan for travel and accommodation, we need to secure accommodation well in advance of year end.  The schedule from our 2015 tour can be found here .

Remote Japan - Off the beaten track

The concept behind the Remote Japan tours is to head to the non-touristy places, away from the crowds and to some of the less travelled parts of the country.  Our the feedback from our guests is that these experiences provide a more intimate and genuine window into the country, culture and scenic beauty.  

For a more information, please click here.

A Japan Grand Tour - longer trips

During 2017 we organised a "Grand Tour" covering the 30 days of September and repeated a similar course in 2018 covering 35 days.  We have designed our "Grand Tours" to include an interesting mix of locations ranging from traditional experiences through to the modern, industrial Japan of today.  This allows guests to enjoy a range of famous, historic and noteworthy sights that showcase the variety and beauty of the country. 

These extensive tours allow you to experience a wide variety of what Japan has to offer.  Customisation remains an important element for these trips so discuss with us what you would like to do.  We run our Grand Tour on request (schedule permitting) and can be a good option for a couple looking to explore more of Japan.  Contact us for options.

Plum Blossom Luxury Feb/March 

Building from a custom inquiry we designed a luxury tour for up to six guests starting late February to take in the beautiful plum blossom, ahead of the cherry blossom season.  This trip utilised many of the famous sights and sites of Japan. Check our Feb'18 Tour page for more details or inspiration.

Previous Tours and Feedback

We have a sample of earlier tours and what people had to say about their experiences.  You can also check our reviews on TripAdvisor.