We're getting a lot of calls recently for Japan. There's lots of interesting ways to "do" Japan so we thought we'd describe some:
Probably the most interesting new approach is a Japan intensive cruise. These are port intensive and are generally Tokyo round trip. One example is from Azamara which offers a 15 night circle Japan cruise in April. The cruise features 3 late night port stays as well as 2 overnights to make sure you maximize your Japanese experience.
Another example is from Oceania which has a "Japan in Bloom" cruise, also in April. This is not quite a circle the island cruise like Azamara, but it offers six different Japanese ports (along with one in Korea).
Windstar does a similar itinerary as Oceania. Their "Grand Japan" cruise is a 10 day cruise from Osaka to Tokyo. But the Windstar ship only has about 210 guest aboard, much smaller than the 800 - 1200 passenger ships that Oceania and Amazara uses.
Eating and staying in Japan is very expensive when paying in US dollars. So the advantage of cruising is that you get to experience Japanese culture with reasonable price food and cabin pricing. Plus, on the ship, you travel while eating and sleeping so you don't waste awake time on intercity travel. It's a great combination perfect for the islands of Japan. There's many more cruise lines that go to Japan - these are just a few examples.
Japan by land
There's plenty of land tours as well. The Splendours of Japan trip by Trafalgar is highly rated and spends 9 days in 5 cities including Tokyo and Kyoto. While the cruises offer more diversity since they go around the island, this Trafalgar tour allows some in depth time in the cities. It also includes some immersion including lunch at a traditional Japanese home.
Tauck offers both a cruise and traditional land tours. Their Cruising the Land of the Rising Sun offers small ship (about 250 guests) luxury tour with plenty of local immersion opportunities. Tauck's Essence of Japan land tour is a 13 Day land tour featuring Kiroshima, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji and Tokyo. We love selling Tauck because our customers rave about their quality for years to come.
Collette offers a Cultural Treasures of Japan tour that has a similar itinerary as the Tauck tour. And while Collette offers a great high end product, it's priced below Tauck and so provides a really good value.
On your own
Of course you could simply get arrange a tour yourself. The transportation network is very good in Japan and relatively easy to understand for those that only speak English. Having said that, it is highly recommended to have guides escort you for any touring otherwise you'll likely miss a lot due to the language. You can either stay in large western style and branded hotel or get a little more adventurous and stay in local hotels. when we went, we stayed in a Marriott and two of our three days we hired a guide. It was even when out and about to have an English speaking guide to get lunch at a local restaurant. Read about what we did for a few days in Tokyo on our own.
Japan - a must go to destination
There's a reason Japan has become such a hot destination. Even though it's highly industrialized and modern, it retains a strong local culture. It's a very diverse country both in customs and geology. Cruising is especially popular since you can see so much of that diversity, it's relatively inexpensive and you only have to pack and unpack once.
An excellent travel agent or advisor can help you decide which travel style is best suited for you. And then, help pick a cruise line or tour best suited to your budget and tastes. Finally, we can determine what's available and the best times to travel. The circle Japan type cruises have been selling out way in advance for example.