Japan… Land of the Rising Sun… this archipelago is a haven of magnificent wonders from the skyscrapers of Tokyo illuminated by neon to the serenity of steaming hot springs…a place where modern minimalism meets ancient teak temples… from tea ceremonies to sushi – cherry blossoms to Zen gardens - this guided tour won’t disappoint.
Day 1 - Depart for Tokyo, Japan
Arrive at your departure airport and check-in for the flight to Japan.
Day 2 - Arrive Tokyo
Upon arrival in Tokyo, we transfer to our hotel and check-in. There is some free-time to explore Tokyo before our welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Contemporary Tokyo is one of the most fascinating cities on the planet. Known for juxtaposing ancient traditions and modern culture, Tokyo provides an incredible introduction to Japan. (D)
Day 3 - Tokyo
After breakfast this morning, we embark on our city tour of Tokyo. We visit sights like the famous Asakusa Jinka Shrine and Sensoji Temple, a paragon of tradition surrounded by modernity. Then later, we will visit the informative Edo Tokyo Museum, for an in depth introduction to the city of Tokyo and its history.
After lunch (own arrangements), we will head over to the Hamarikyu Gardens for a cup of green tea. Then, explore world famous Ginza known for its high-end fashion and iconic Japanese department stores – some of the largest in the world!
We return to our hotel and have the evening at leisure. Your Tour Director can provide some great local dining options such as a Geisha Show or Kobe beef experience. (B)
Day 4 - Tokyo
We begin today with a visit to the Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. The shrine is a popular site for Japanese weddings, and if we are lucky, we might see a bride and groom dressed in traditional Shinto wedding attire.
Then, travel through time, from the “old” Tokyo to “new” Tokyo, as you walk to Omotesando. Commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees, this broad, tree-lined avenue features a multitude of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects. Here, there is some free-time for lunch and shopping
In the afternoon, we enjoy a hands-on Ikebana workshop. This traditional craft of flower arrangement is a crucial part of Japanese culture holding an important place in the workplace, tea ceremony and social engagements. Dinner tonight is at a local Izakaya restaurant. (B,D)
Day 5 - Tokyo - Hakone - Osaka
Enjoy breakfast*** at the hotel before we travel to the national park and hot spring resort of Hakone. On a clear day, you can see the magnificent Mt Fuji, the true symbol of Japan. We begin our adventure in Hakone with a visit to the open air museum. This sculpture park houses amazing sculptures from domestic and international artists who use the surrounding scenery to enhance their artwork.
After, take a ropeway above the smoking Owakudani valley, where Sulphur and steam are constantly bubbling out of the active volcano (this volcano is active and sightseeing is adjusted according to weather conditions and seismic activity of the day). Our day time here ends with a beautiful cruise on Lake Ashi with Mt. Fuji as the backdrop.
We then continue to Osaka by bullet-train and upon arrival, check-in to our hotel. Once settled and after some relaxation, we have dinner at a local restaurant in true Japanese fashion.
Our Osaka hotel is located in Dotombori, one of Osaka’s most popular destinations. This street runs parallel to the Dotonbori canal and is a popular shopping, entertainment and food district. At night, it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanized signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign. (B,D)
*** Your luggage will be transferred to Hiroshima separately. Please leave your luggage, one per person, at the reception of your hotel before 8am and take the necessary personal items for the one night in Osaka using your carry-on luggage. ***
Day 6 - Osaka - Nara - Hiroshima
After breakfast, we depart on our full day tour of Nara. For 74 years during the 8th Century, Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. We visit Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest sitting Buddha statue. Then, continue to Kasuga Taisha; Nara’s most celebrated shrine.
Enjoy some lunch and free-time before venturing on to discover Isuien Garden, an attractive Japanese garden with a variety of features such as: Todaiji Temple’s Nandaimon Gate and Mount. Isuien means “garden founded on water”, and the garden’s name is derived from the fact that its ponds are fed by the small adjacent Yoshikigawa River. After, we transfer to the train station for our bullet-train to Hiroshima. Upon arrival, we check-in to our hotel and have dinner at a nearby restaurant. (B,D)
Day 7 - Hiroshima - Kyoto
Our historical day begins after breakfast***. Our first stop is the Peace Memorial Park, Museum and Bomb Dome. Consisting of two buildings, the museum surveys the history of Hiroshima and the advent of the nuclear bomb. Its main focus is on the events of August 6: the dropping of the bomb and its outcome in Japan. When the bomb exploded, it was one of the few buildings to remain standing, and remains so today. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the A-Bomb Dome is a tangible link to Hiroshima’s unique past.
Following the Peace Memorial Park, we visit a local restaurant for a hands-on Okonomiyaki workshop. The savory pancake is a symbol of Hiroshima, and quite easy to make (as we will find out!).
Our afternoon begins with a quick ferry to Miyajima. Here, we will visit Itsukushima Shrine; with the famous red Torii Gate rising from the harbor designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then, continue to Daisho-in which features a variety of buildings, statues and other religious objects for visitors to admire. These include the Kannon-do Hall, the Maniden Hall, a sand mandala made by visiting monks from Tibet, a tea room and a cave filled with 88 icons representing the temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
Later, we transfer to the train station for the bullet-train to Kyoto. Upon arrival in Kyoto, we check-in to our hotel. After some time at leisure, we get together for dinner near our hotel. (B,L,D)
*** Your luggage will be transferred to Kyoto separately. Please leave your luggage, one per person, at the reception of your hotel before 8am and take the necessary personal items with you on the bullet-train to Kyoto. ***
Day 8 - Kyoto
The day begins with breakfast and then we journey to visit Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate in 1603 and is famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping nightingale floors’. Then, head north of the city and visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, it became a Buddhist Temple at his request after his death and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples.
The final stop is Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden. Originally serving as an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period, the site was later converted to a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450. Enjoy time at leisure in Kyoto’s downtown before returning to the hotel. (B)
Day 9 - Kyoto
Today, we explore the eastern side of Kyoto. We begin with a morning tea ceremony held at a local tea school. The tea master will explain the importance of the movements, the utensils, and the tea before serving each of us our own cup that will be paired with a Wagashi sweet. Following the ceremony, we have the opportunity to make a bowl ourselves.
In the afternoon, we enjoy a walking tour around Kyoto’s Higashiyama District to admire the picture-perfect streets with their gently sloped stone stairways lined with tea houses and artisan shops. We stop by Kiyomizu Temple for a short tour. Feel free to climb to its 13-metre high balcony for an impressive view of Kyoto.
We wrap-up our day in Gion – one of the best known geisha neighborhoods in Japan. Gion Kobu has about 80 tea houses where maikos and geishas work day after day. It is in this enchanting area we have our farewell dinner. (B,D)
Day 10 - Depart Kyoto
After breakfast, if time allows, we will visit the Fushimi Shrine (featured in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’) en route to the airport for your flight home. The tour may be over, but the memories of all the beautiful places we have visited on this trip will stay with you forever. (B)