Take a minute train ride to Furutakamatsu Minami and a minute taxi, before being escorted through the intimately scattered abstract artworks. Do some last-minute shopping in the department stores or stroll through Shinjuku Gyoen park. From December, temperatures drop — making it a good time to head to a northern ski resort or south for some Okinawan winter sunshine. Here, at a communal wooden table or on low sofas, staff serve onigiri rice balls, coffee, tea or seasonal sakes. In the evening, drink beer with locals in an izakaya-style pub and — for the brave — join in a karaoke session.
Day 11 Naoshima is the nucleus of a growing art project that includes around a dozen fishing islands in the area. From December, temperatures drop — making it a good time to head to a northern ski resort or south for some Okinawan winter sunshine. Not far away is Teshima. Over a breakfast of dried fish, rice and miso soup after my first night in a ryokan, our delightful host, a trained Noh actor, gave us a riveting solo performance of a traditional Japanese folk tale, complete with imaginary drums, pipes and chorus. Back at the temple, tuck into a vegetarian Buddhist dinner. Afterwards, for dinner, head to Kyubey in Ginza kyubey. It was in the tiny village of Mure that the sculptor built his home and studio, both painstakingly preserved — in a beautiful natural setting an advance appointment is essential. Spring brings the iconic cherry blossom season. Staying in one of these eye-catching, instantly Instagrammable properties is imbued with something extra: July and August are uncomfortably hot and humid — making it a good time to escape to the cooler green mountains of northern Japan. Have an afternoon bath, slip into a yukata gown and enjoy a kaiseki feast in your room. Japanese pagoda and old house in Kyoto at twilight Credit: Upon arrival, check into Fudo-in , one of countless local temples that take in guests. Stroll through its cherry tree-filled cemetery a highlight is the big Buddha at Tennoji Temple. Others, such as Japanese ryokans, make a very different alternative from staying in a conventional hotel and a wonderful shorthand way of understanding a complex culture at first hand. We may no longer have time for lingering journeys of discovery, but if we choose a home-grown hotel — whether originally created for travellers, such as a pousada, ryokan or parador, or converted, such as a Portuguese quinta, we can feel so much more part of the warp and woof of the place. The city is a historic gem in Ishikawa prefecture, famed for its wooden architecture and quality craftsmanship. Kinmata is a small, family-run inn near Nishiki Market. Here, at a communal wooden table or on low sofas, staff serve onigiri rice balls, coffee, tea or seasonal sakes. Do some last-minute shopping in the department stores or stroll through Shinjuku Gyoen park. Day 7 This morning, hire a bicycle Kyo No Raku Chari in Higashiyama has electric ones and pick up some crafts at Nishiki Market; wander through the elegant Imperial Palace park; or take part in a tea-making class at Ippodo on Teramachi Street. Fly from London overnight. Soak up the rainbow-bright crowds of teenagers strolling down Takeshita Dori. A stay in a ryokan is a must for any Japan trip. Day 5 In the morning, visit the 21st-Century Museum of Contemporary Art , housed in a curved glass building by Japanese architects Sanaa.
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