Bella Vista Spa & Marina overlooking the Seto Inland Sea

The Shimanami Kaido in Onomichi Prefecture

Tokyo from above

Cycling views on the Noto Peninsula

Cycling through the Onomichi Prefecture


Famous for its temples, technology, sushi, geishas, cherry blossoms, mountains and rugged landscapes, Japan’s ultramodernity and ancient traditions coexist in harmony. The country stretches across four main islands surrounded by thousands of smaller isles, offering plenty of space and diversity for Gray & Co.’s private active trips.

Full and fabulous days might find you hiking ancient samurai routes, skiing snowy mountains, sea kayaking through archipelagos, biking among pagodas and rice paddies and swimming in volcanic hot springs.

Start off in the vibrant metropolis of Tokyo, where skyscrapers and neon lights mingle with pristine gardens. The myriad curated experiences Gray & Co. arranges here include sampling the freshest fish at Toyosu Fish Market with a private chef, learning how to safely walk through Shibuya Crossing (the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection), dining on ramen at a local hideout and shopping with local Japanese fashion designers. There’s no shortage of excellent accommodations, from the new contemporary Four Seasons Otemachi to the Mount Fuji–view Peninsula to the chicly minimalist Aman.

Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan, is a 2.5-hour high-speed train journey or a short flight from Tokyo. Bask in the serenity of the city’s crimson and gold-colored temples, cherry blossoms in springtime and Kimono-clad geishas. In addition to discovering some of the UNESCO-protected city’s 1,500 temples on walks guided by local experts/tastemakers/art historians, Gray & Co. travelers can partake in additional bespoke experience. Examples include a traditional tea ceremony, a lesson in geisha etiquette and dressing, a meditation with Buddhist monks, samurai sword-fighting instruction, centuries-old Taiko drums sessions and so much more. The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and Aman are tops for larger hotel options, and the city’s many ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) offer smaller and more local-feeling options.

Two of the best Japanese regions to bike — most easily combined by private jet — are the Noto Peninsula and the area around the port city of Onomichi.  Home to some of Japan’s finest seafood, the former offers plenty of unspoiled scenery: tiny fishing villages, rugged coastline, coniferous forests, fertile countryside, temples and shrines. Its Lamp no Yado and Hyakurakuso ryokans offer up zen-feeling rooms and exquisite dining. The Onomichi region, meanwhile, is often referred to as the “Mediterranean of Japan,” with its archipelago of stunning islands connected by dramatic bridges. Dotted with white-sand beaches and citrus groves, the scenic well-paved coastline is a dream for cyclists. To help travelers further soak up the beauty of the area, Gray & Co. can arrange early morning canoe/kayak paddles and evening private sunset cruises. These are the perfect complement to the views of the Seto Inland Sea you can enjoy from your onsen — traditional Japanese bath — at Bella Vista Spa & Marina.

Some of the country’s other highlights include climbing snow-capped Mount Fuji, snorkeling the warm waters of Okinawa, custom hiking along any number of the country’s many long-distance trails, skiing one of Japan’s oldest ski resorts in Hokkaido and paying respect at the Hiroshima memorial, all seamlessly weaved throughout custom itineraries with the perfect balance of action and relaxation.