Soak in the peaceful atmosphere of Kyoto’s famous temples at night. Image by Xperisus.

Japan is well-loved for a multitude of reasons including its delicious cuisine, pleasant natives, picturesque landscape and, perhaps most of all, its fascinating culture. On a holiday there, a discovery of the customs and destinations that have shaped the country’s distinctive appeal is not to be missed!

To fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture and gain a greater understanding of local history and traditions, opt for one of these luxury private experiences. From getting the rare chance to speak one-on-one with esteemed practitioners of their fields to participating in these top cultural activities yourself, an in-depth exploration will surely further elevate your love for Japan!

Experience Kyoto’s famous temples in privacy

Kyoto’s historic temples simply swarm with crowds no matter the time of day, which can compromise the entire visiting experience. If you’d like to fully soak up the serene atmosphere of these remarkable monuments, exclusive night tours are the way to go. Explore the private grounds of famous temples accompanied by a learned guide, who will not only take you to places that are inaccessible to the general public but will also share about the temple’s rich history with you. Depending on which temple you choose to visit, you can also partake in zen meditation with a priest, traditional tea ceremonies and dinner with a Maiko. In the autumn, you can even walk around a temple’s grounds as it is illuminated by moving lights, creating a magical scene.

Learn about the fascinating lives of sumos when you visit their living quarters.

Interact with sumo wrestlers

The art of sumo goes beyond mere wrestling. It’s not only Japan’s oldest national sport but is also a festival ritual and a strength contest. If you’re curious about the lives of sumo wrestlers, seize the chance to experience their daily routines when you visit their living quarters. Once in the sumo stables, you’ll be able to see the wrestlers’ painstaking training as they prepare for the official sumo tournament and interact with them over a meal of chanko nabe, a traditional stew consumed by the athletes.

Put on formal wear that’s typically reserved for royalty. Image by Xperisus.

Dress up in royal garb

Kimonos and yutakas are already plenty stunning but the junihitoe takes traditional Japanese dressing to a whole other level. Consisting of twelve different layers, the formal wear is only donned by the imperial family on special ceremonial occasions. As an expert dresses you in the garb, you’ll also learn about the history behind the costume that was first introduced over a century ago. The activity culminates in a photo-taking session at a reserved Noh theatre where you can proudly display the intricate wear. This rare opportunity is one that even native Japanese hardly come by!

Marvel at some of Japan’s best art at an island. Photo by Jean-Marie Hullot / CC BY 2.0

Learn all about a famous art destination from an expert

On Japan’s preeminent island for art-lovers, you’ll discover modern and traditional art in the most unexpected places. From a painting in your hotel room to the iconic polka-dotted pumpkin sculpture created by Yayoi Kusama on a seemingly random pier, you’ll find yourself surrounded by art; there’s even a public bathhouse that doubles as an art installation! With the guidance of a renowned curator, you’ll not only be able to locate the must-see pieces in the destination but will also get to understand more about what each work represents. Don’t forget to stop by the museums where works by artists such as Claude Monet can be found!  

Watch a master swordsmith at work.

Witness ancient swords being crafted

The Japanese katana has been one of the country’s preeminent symbols since the era of the samurais. When one is in ownership of a katana, one is said to possess the spirit of the bushido, which consists of virtues such as honesty and honour. At the workshop of a renowned swordsmith, you’ll get to witness the behind-the-scenes crafting process of a sword from forging the metal to shaping and sharpening the edges. If you so happen to be mesmerised by the ancient swords after your visit, you can even make a custom order for your personal katana.

Swordsmith image by TOKI.

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