Visit Japan, Land of the Samurai

On this wonderful 12-day group tour of Japan, you’ll not only take in the highlights of Tokyo and Kyoto, but you’ll also have the opportunity to visit historic Hiroshima, Miyajima Island with its iconic Torii Gate and the towering Himeji Castle. What’s more, you’ll sample Japanese hospitality at a ryokan where you can bathe in natural hot springs.

Day 1: Tokyo

Saturday. Arrive at either Narita or Haneda International Airport in Tokyo where you will be met by your guide. Travel by train into the city centre and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore the sights. Overnight - Tokyo

Day 2 : Toyko - Senjoji Temple District, Harajuki & Shibuya

Today we explore the capital. The first stop is Asakusa which is home to Sensoji, Tokyo's first temple which was built in the 7th century. Around the temple, in the lively Sensoji District, there are lots of interesting souvenirs and craft stalls for us to explore. We head to Harajuku in the afternoon, which is where the young and fashionable Tokyoites hang out, with its trendy shops and cafes. Here we’ll visit the important Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined. Our final stop today is Shibuya The crossing is regarded as one of the busiest intersections in the world. The famed intersection has no less than 7 pedestrian crossings and when the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides. Known as 'the scramble' it’s an amazing spectacle which we'll watch from the second floor of Starbucks, located directly opposite. This evening offers free time, though if travelling during May or September you might like to spend the evening watching a Sumo tournament. Overnight - Tokyo

Day 3: Kamakura - Big Buddha

Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo. Today we visit Kamakura, which is just an hour from Tokyo by train. Kamakura was Japan’s first feudal capital and is renowned for its beautiful Zen temples and pristine coastline. We’ll visit the iconic bronze Big Buddha and the Hokokuji Zen Temple which has a picturesque bamboo garden where you can drink tea and learn about tea ceremonies, before walking the cobbled shopping district - adorned with lovely locally made items, before returning to Japan’s bustling capital for the night. Tonight, we organise a Shabu Shubu (a traditional Japanese hot pot meal) if the majority of the group is interested. Overnight - Tokyo

Day 4: Tokyo National Museum & time to explore

Today offers a guided tour of the Tokyo National Museum, housing a number of exhibitions from galleries to Japanese archaeology. The Tokyo National Museum is located in Ueno Park, a large public park in central Tokyo and famous for a number of museums held within its grounds. The remainder of the day offers free time to independently explore. Overnight - Tokyo

Day 5: Mt Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi

Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. This morning we travel by highway to Lake Kawaguchi is located in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. Our base is Lake Kawaguchi which boasts breathtaking scenery and unparalleled views of a snow-capped Mt Fuji most of the year. Whilst in the area we'll travel on the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway and visit the observatory. For tours staying at Lake Kawaguchi between 15 Apr – 28 May each year, we’ll visit the Springtime Fuji Shibazakura (Phlox Moss) Festival, held at Motosu Lake, where the landscape is covered in a vibrant, hot pink moss with Fuji as the backdrop. Tonight, we stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan. At the ryokan, we'll be served a traditional Japanese dinner and you can take a relaxing dip in the natural hot spring baths. Overnight - Lake Kawaguchi

Day 6: Kyoto - 1000 statues of Kannon & the Geisha District

Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto. The area has some great hiking trails and early this morning you might like to opt for a hike along the foreshores of the lake. Travel by bus to Mishima, then bullet train to Kyoto - Japan’s ancient and cultural capital. As one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is home to an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Here, we enjoy a guided tour of Sanjusagen-do Temple famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon are made of Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf. They stand in 10 rows of 50, each hand-crafted and slightly different from the next. Late this afternoon we head to Gion, for a walking tour of this famous Geisha District. After, you may wish to watch a cultural performance at Gion Corner Theatre where you'll have the opportunity to watch a Maiko (apprentice Geisha) performing. Overnight - Kyoto

Day 7: Kyoto - Nijo Castle, Golden Pavilion & free time

This morning we offer a guided tour of Nijo Castle, one of the city’s most impressive UNESCO sites. Built by the first Tokugawa shogun in 1603, the exquisite Nijo Castle is a wonderful example of Momoyama architecture. After, we visit Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
a stunning Zen Buddhist temple, part of the Historic Monuments of the Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The top two floors of the monument are completely covered in gold leaf. Set upon a small lake with landscaped gardens the large completely gilt structure is as impressive, as it is beautiful. Kinkakuji Temple continues to be one of Japan's most visited temples. This afternoon offers free time for you to relax or to further discover the many sights of Kyoto your own way. Consider visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its winding path lined by thousands of bright red torii gates. Just a short train ride away from the main Kyoto Station, this must-see sight is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day. You might also wish to hire a Kimono and walk the streets as many Japanese do or take
part in a cooking lesson. Overnight - Kyoto

Day 8: Himeji Castle & Hiroshima

Kyoto - Himeji - Hiroshima. We travel by bullet train to Hiroshima today, stopping en route at Himeji to visit the UNESCO Listed Himeji Castle, nicknamed the White Egret due to its colour and elegant shape. Himeji is Japan’s best preserved and largest castle, known for its maze-like defences. After taking in the panoramic views from the top of its 6-story watch tower there is time to stroll the local Saturday market which often takes place here, before taking the bullet train to Hiroshima. The later part of this afternoon and evening offers free time. Tonight, if you like baseball consider booking tickets to watch the Carp play. The Carp, Hiroshima’s beloved professional baseball players, play games at home between May-Oct at
Mazda Stadium.

Day 9 : Miyajima Island & Red Torii Gate

Located off the coast of Hiroshima is Miyajima Island, one of Japan's most picturesque destinations. Today we take the ferry out to the island and see the dramatic red 'floating' Torii Gate at the revered Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Site. The iconic gate seems to float on the water but at low tide can be reached by foot. It stands 16 metres high and is made from camphor wood. As we explore the island we'll see further Shinto shrines, towering pagodas and pavilions before soaking up the incredible views of the Seto Inland Sea, dozens of nearby islands and Hiroshima city from our cable car ride to the top of Mount Misen, the highest point of the island. Free time is offered before we return to Hiroshima for the night. Tonight, we'll make a  reservation for Okonomiyaki - a mix between a savoury pancake and omelette, a local speciality of Hiroshima. Okonomiyaki is always a fun night, it's inexpensive and is washed down perfectly with an Asahi beer. Overnight - Hiroshima

Day 10: Hiroshima Peace Park, Museum & Memorials

Hiroshima - Kyoto. Hiroshima is of course infamous for being the first site where one of two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. This morning we visit Peace Park and Peace Park Museum which are a poignant reminder of Hiroshima’s tragic past. We’ll see the iconic A-Bomb Dome, one of the very few buildings left standing after the blast and visit the Children's Peace Monument a memorial to the children killed, where schools from around the world donate paper origami cranes, signifying hope
and peace. This afternoon we take the bullet train to Kyoto. On the train, we bid farewell to travellers on our 13-day tour who will continue with your guide to Takayama. Overnight - Kyoto

Day 11: Free time in Kyoto

A free day to spend leisurely in Kyoto. Independently exploring this enchanting city you'll find sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades and a time-honoured teahouse nestling among modern businesses and geisha in the historic Gion District. Alternatively, consider using your Japan Rail Pass for a day trip to Nara which has a myriad of shrines and temples, all set against the backdrop of the low-lying mountains in the midst of Nara Park. Overnight - Kyoto

Day 12: Kyoto to Osaka

Wednesday. Kyoto - Osaka. Your Japan adventure comes to an end today. Take the train (un-escorted) from Kyoto Station to Osaka Airport for your onward flight. 

To find out more or for a quote and/or to book your Japnese Adventure, call me today.


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