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On Location in Japan

Pawel Sewera of JTB, USA is back to tell us about the Luxury Escapes program in Japan. Immerse yourself in Japanese culture on a vacation designed exclusively for you!

Q: Tell us about the Luxury Escapes program you offer in Japan.

The LUXURY ESCAPES division specializes in designing unique, custom-made itineraries and in providing behind-the-scenes access. We are proud to offer our valued clients access to a wide range of special cultural and culinary experiences that will make their trip a very unique one. We cover the entire country of Japan.

Q: Tell us about the Exclusive Programs that are available and what they are designed for?

Each of the exclusive cultural experiences we offer is designed to bring our clients into direct contact with Japan’s rich cultural legacy. We offer a variety of special Exclusive Programs and Experiences. Some examples include:

  • an exclusive Tea Ceremony and Zen meditation
  • Japanese kimono wearing experience
  • Japanese cooking lessons
  • private Kabuki Make-up demonstration
  • special dinner experience with Geiko and Maiko entertainment
  • Japanese calligraphy.

Q: What are your personal favorite Exclusive Programs?

One of the most unique programs we offer, and my personal favorite, is the Kabuki Make-up demonstration. This program offers a sneak peek at Kabuki’s behind-the-scenes action as well as an exclusive performance that showcases the beauty of this traditional theatre. It is a very rare opportunity to interact with a real Kabuki actor.

Q: What unique dining experiences are available?

Elaborate dinners at ryokans are typically kaiseki ryori - Japanese haute cuisine comprised of a multi-course meal that feature local specialties and seasonal ingredients. They can consist of anywhere from 6 to 15 different kinds of food. The kind of food served will change according to the seasons, and available fresh ingredients.

Q: Tell us about other special interest itineraries you have created for Japan.

Most of our itineraries are tailor-made. We’ve created memorable trips for families, clients interested in Japanese history & culture, pottery, Bonsai lovers and so on. We even arranged a special private lecture with a former sumo champion turned politician and entrepreneur for one of our small luxury groups.

Q: Can you describe the features that make hotels in Japan so luxurious?

The Japanese have a world-renowned tradition of hospitality which they refer to as "omotenashi". It doesn’t just mean hospitality in the usual sense, but something related to an elevated politeness that makes customers valued and respected. Impeccable service is one thing that all top-notch properties in Japan have in common. Other hallmarks include: special attention paid to preparing the physical setting, elegant simplicity and subtle refinement.

Q: What are some of the hotels you feature across Japan in the Luxury Escapes program?

We work with all major Japanese and international hotels across Japan, including some top 5-star properties. We also have access to some unique, highest-rated ryokans (Japanese Inns).

Q: Describe the experience of staying at a Ryokan Inn while in Japan.

Ryokans offer a great opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality. They provide a special and relaxing experience that everyone should try. They vary greatly in terms of size, cost and style. Some, like The Kayotei Ryokan featured in Ensemble’s 2016 "Off-the-Beaten-Path" Hotel & Resort Collection, are small with just a few rooms, while others are larger, offering hotel-like facilities.

Great emphasis is put on guest’s arrival into the ryokan. Staff aim to ensure that guests feel welcomed and relaxed from the moment they step onto the property. Upon entering the ryokan, guests will remove their shoes and will slip on the slippers that will be provided. They will also change into very comfortable cotton robes called yukatas that they will be wearing for the duration of their stay. Most ryokans offer Japanese-style bedding, but some high-end establishments may also offer a limited number of rooms with western-style beds.

One of the most popular things to do at a ryokan is to indulge in hot springs called onsen (not all ryokans have natural hot springs). Ryokans take great pride in their beautiful bathing facilities and spas. The baths are usually gender segregated communal facilities, but some upscale ryokans also offer guest rooms with private baths. Together with hot spring baths, elaborate dinner is the highlight of a ryokan stay (Ryokan stays usually include a dinner in the evening, followed by breakfast the next morning).

Q: Where are they located?

Ryokans can be found throughout the country, especially near hot spring resorts and in scenic areas. They can also be found in larger cities. Kyoto, for instance, is home to some of the finest traditional ryokans in the country.

Onsen, Outdoor hotspring at ryokan. | Japan
 

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