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  • Trees, Shakusuien garden around pond under Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto building

Kyoto: The Shakusui-en Pond Garden

The Shakusui-en pond garden is long and narrow, extending from west to east where the Higashiyama Mountains come in to view. It is divided into two parts: Oike (large pond) and Koike (small pond). A stone bridge separates the two, with remnants of an old stone waterfall visible on the small pond side. The large pond features an Oshima (large island) to the east and a Koshima (small island) in the centre.

Otemachi: Japanese Ceramics

With a history going back 13,000 years, traditional Japanese ceramics make ideal souvenirs: they’re beautiful and meaningful, while also being useful in everyday life. Each of Japan’s 47 prefectures produces its own unique ceramic ware, giving you an array of choices. My personal favourite is Kutani-yaki, pottery with overglaze painting in vivid colours, made in Ishikawa Prefecture. Head to Antique Mall Ginza for vintage designs, or to Akomeya for modern interpretations of this classical craft. Located on a side street in Ginza, this shop curates Kutani-yaki with bright pops of colour and fresh patterns – a perfect piece of Japan to take home.
  • Shinkansen bullet train arrives at the station at sunset

Marunouchi: Shinkansen Bullet Train

A ride on the Shinkansen bullet train is an adventure in itself. Famed for their smoothness and punctuality, these sleek marvels of Japanese engineering clock speeds of up to 322 kilometres (200 miles) per hour. Experience train travel like never before in the Gran Class, an exclusive car with ultra-spacious seating, gourmet meals and a dedicated host. Other luxury trains offer the feeling of a boutique hotel on wheels. Take in the majestic beauty of northern Japan from aboard the Royal Express by Tokyu Dentetsu, featuring observation decks, wood-panelled interiors and menus by a Michelin-distinguished chef.
  • Nijubashi stone bridges over moat by house, sunny garden

Otemachi: The Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan, is built on the site of Edo Castle and had been home to the shogun before 1868. The area is surrounded by thick walls, wide moats and meticulously kept gardens. In the city, you can feel each season through the breeze, but once you’re on the Imperial Palace grounds, you are entirely secluded. The route around the palace has become Tokyo’s best-known track for jogging too, so put on your shoes and go for a run.