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Spiritual Japan

9 Days from $4,253 per person

Style: First Class | Pace: Active

Retrace the steps of the ancients—a spiritual interlude with some of Japan's most sacred places and the extraordinary rituals performed throughout millennia. Visit the birthplace of Shingon Buddism, the elegantly painted sliding doors of Kongobunji Temple and delight in vegetarian dishes served by local monks at their monastery lodgings.

Travel to Asia often requires an overnight flight. Please arrange for flights to arrive on or before Day 1.

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Overview

Retrace the steps of the ancients—a spiritual interlude with some of Japan's most sacred places and the extraordinary rituals performed throughout millennia. Visit the birthplace of Shingon Buddism, the elegantly painted sliding doors of Kongobunji Temple and delight in vegetarian dishes served by local monks at their monastery lodgings.

Travel to Asia often requires an overnight flight. Please arrange for flights to arrive on or before Day 1.

  1. The pulsating cityscape of Osaka sets the pace for your soulful sojourn through some of Japan's most cherished landmarks. On arrival, you'll be transferred by pre-booked airport shuttle service to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day relaxing before meeting your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Welcome Reception drink with appetizers.

    meal(s):Welcome Reception
    hotel:Rihga Royal Osaka
  2. Celebrate old and new on your city tour that begins at Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. Regarded as the symbol of the city, Osaka Castle was rebuilt in 1931 and provides a magnificent backdrop for cherry blossom viewing during the springtime. Touch the clouds during your visit to the Abeno Harukas Observatory in Japan's tallest skyscraper at 985 feet. Admire the panoramic views of Osaka from its glass-lined observation deck, then enjoy some retail therapy in downtown Umeda before an afternoon at leisure or perhaps a recommended Optional Experience.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast
  3. Immerse yourself in Japan's spiritual splendor, starting your day with a trip to the UNESCO-listed Mt. Koya, where the Shingon Buddism sect was introduced in 805 by Kobo Daishi. Visit the Kongobunji Temple with its elegantly painted sliding doors, the Danjo Garan Temple and granite Banryu-tei—its dragons rising boldly up from the clouds to protect their sanctuary. Dive into culture and indulge in a Japanese-style vegetarian lunch at a traditional shukubo (monastery inn), served by local monks. Then, continue to Okunoin, Japan's largest cemetery and the site of Kobo Daishi's mausoleum, set in an enchanted forest of towering ancient cedar trees. Your final stop today is the Pacific resort town of Shirahama where you'll enjoy dinner at an authentic Japanese izakaya.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    hotel:Nanki Shirahama Marriott
  4. Tread in the footsteps of pilgrims today as you discover the UNESCO-listed Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route. Ascend Daimonzaka Hill on foot or by coach to admire the Nachi Taisha Shrine, Seiganotoji Temple and impressive Nachi waterfall, the tallest in Japan. Continue your journey to Hayatama Taisha, an important place of worship since the 3rd century and home to a small museum with an impressive collection of national treasures. Arriving in Shima, you'll check in to your hotel.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast, Dinner
    hotel:Prime Resort Kashikojima
  5. A leisurely start to the morning will see you travel to the traditional town of Ise to visit the Ise Jingu Shrine, which is rebuilt from scratch every 20 years according to ancient Shinto tradition. Later, meet the white-clad Ama free divers, made famous in the James Bond movie 'You Only Live Twice.' These brave women dive into the sea without any diving equipment to catch fresh seafood, which you will have an opportunity to enjoy later while listening to their captivating stories. Your next stop is Mikimoto Pearl Island, where pearls were first successfully cultured, before boarding a Sunset Cruise around Agowan Bay, followed by dinner.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast, Dinner
  6. Don't get caught in the trapdoors and secret passages of Iga's Ninja Museum, dedicated to the history of ninja and ninjutsu, an original form of warfare developed in the region. Try your hand at age-old ninja techniques and see the collection of ancient ninjutsu writings before continuing to the 16th-century Ueno Castle which served as the seat of the local lords during the Edo Period. Connect with locals next, enjoying a Be My Guest lunch with a local family and gain insights into the history and traditions of the region. After lunch, travel to the cultural capital of Kyoto for your overnight stay.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast, Lunch
    hotel:New Miyako
  7. Indulge in a late start this morning followed by a visit to Arashiyama where you'll embark on a leisurely walk through its towering Bamboo groves unlike any other forest in the world. Connect with nature in the Zen gardens of Tenryuji Temple and admire magnificent mountain views before a lunch of okonomiyaki, a savory grilled pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles and meat, seafood or cheese. Your next stop is the UNESCO-listed Kinkakuji Temple, whose Golden Pavillion seems to rise up from the adjoining pond. The delicate flavors of tea are yours to enjoy next, during a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in a Machiya townhouse before returning to your hotel.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast, Lunch
  8. Soothe heart and mind during your morning visit to Shorinji Temple, joining a Zen master for his Zazen practice surrounded by the tranquil temple grounds. Continue to Sanjusangendo Hall next, admiring its 1,001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, before returning to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure. Consider joining a recommended Optional Experience or revel in the freedom to explore Kyoto's soul-stirring surrounds. Our spiritual encounter with Japan at its end, enjoy a Farewell Dinner and Geisha show with your fellow companions and Travel Director at a local restaurant.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast, Farewell Dinner
  9. Say a fond sayonara to newfound friends and take a transfer by airport shuttle to Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Airport for your onward flight.

    meal(s):Buffet Breakfast
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  • 30 Day Refund Guarantee

    We promise you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience from the minute you start your vacation planning or we’ll refund your deposit. Make your reservation with a $350 deposit. If you change your mind for any reason within 30 days of booking, we’ll offer you a full refund.

  • Add air to your reservation

    Let our Air Specialists handle your air reservations. We have direct access to the most current airfare routes and prices, so you’ll get the best value available when we book your flights. We never charge a booking fee and you’ll enjoy the flexibility to pay for air 60-90 days prior to departure.

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  • Definite Departure
Start Date Return Date Price Discount Availability Price
17 Mar 19 25 Mar 19 $4,775$4,298pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
7 Apr 19 15 Apr 19 $4,795$4,316pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
14 Apr 19 22 Apr 19 $4,795$4,316pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
5 May 19 13 May 19 $4,775$4,298pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
2 Jun 19 10 Jun 19 $4,725$4,253pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
23 Jun 19 1 Jul 19 $4,725$4,253pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
14 Jul 19 22 Jul 19 $4,725$4,253pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
1 Sep 19 9 Sep 19 $4,795$4,316pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
29 Sep 19 7 Oct 19 $4,795$4,316pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now
13 Oct 19 21 Oct 19 $4,795$4,316pp Early PaymentPay by Jan 17 Request Quote Book Now

Price is per person and is based on two people sharing a twin bedded room. Single rooms are available at a supplement.

Cherry Blossom Season varies between different regions of Japan and is dependent on weather conditions. Late March to mid April are the most likely times to experience it on this trip, but this is not guaranteed.

Single Room Supplement: from $1,000.

AARP Members are entitled to an exclusive Member Benefit Discount on all Grand European Travel vacations. Plus receive a free travel gift!  Call Toll Free: 1-866-847-3858 for details.

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  • Professional Travel Director Professional Travel Director
  • Sightseeing with Local Experts Sightseeing with Local Experts
  • VIP Access VIP Access
  • WIFI on Coach and in Hotels WIFI on Coach and in Hotels
  • Cultural Enrichment Cultural Enrichment
  • Expertly Selected Hotels Expertly Selected Hotels
  • Hotel Tips Hotel Tips
  • Most Meals Most Meals
  • Personal Flight Options Personal Flight Options

Meal Summary

8 buffet breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners.

Included Highlights

Connect with Locals

  • Lunch with a local family

Dive into Culture

  • Enjoy a Japanese-style vegetarian lunch at a monastery inn served by the local monks and a traditional tea ceremony in a Machiya townhouse.

Make a Difference

  • Learn about the Ama, professional women shellfish divers.

Sightseeing Highlights

  • City Tour of Osaka, Kyoto
  • Visit Osaka Castle, the Abeno Harukas Observatory in Osaka, the Kongobuji Temple, the Danjo Garan Temple in Mt. Koya, the Ise Jingu Shrine, Mikimoto Pearl Island in Shima, the Ninja Museum, Ueno Castle in Iga, Bamboo Forest, Kinkakuji Temple, Sanjusangendo Hall in Kyoto
  • View the Nachi waterfall in Kumano
Request a Quote
  • 30 Day Refund Guarantee

    We promise you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience from the minute you start your vacation planning or we’ll refund your deposit. Make your reservation with a $350 deposit. If you change your mind for any reason within 30 days of booking, we’ll offer you a full refund.

  • Add air to your reservation

    Let our Air Specialists handle your air reservations. We have direct access to the most current airfare routes and prices, so you’ll get the best value available when we book your flights. We never charge a booking fee and you’ll enjoy the flexibility to pay for air 60-90 days prior to departure.

Print Itinerary

Reviews

Trip not yet reviewed
Request a Quote
  • 30 Day Refund Guarantee

    We promise you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience from the minute you start your vacation planning or we’ll refund your deposit. Make your reservation with a $350 deposit. If you change your mind for any reason within 30 days of booking, we’ll offer you a full refund.

  • Add air to your reservation

    Let our Air Specialists handle your air reservations. We have direct access to the most current airfare routes and prices, so you’ll get the best value available when we book your flights. We never charge a booking fee and you’ll enjoy the flexibility to pay for air 60-90 days prior to departure.

Optional Experiences are subject to change. Your Travel Director will supply you with a final list of Optional Experiences available on your trip. Optional Experiences cannot be booked online; they can be purchased during your trip through your Travel Director.

Kyoto

Gion Corner, Kyoto

Adult Price: ¥3900

The Gion corner is a unique experience where you can observe seven of Kyoto’s traditional performing arts, all on one stage. See a Bunraku puppet play; A UNESCO listed traditional Japanese puppet performance. Listen to the wonderful harmonies of Koto Music, as a master plays an ancient six stringed zither using ivory plectrums worn on their fingers. Watch Kyo-Mai, an elegant and dazzling dance performed by Maiko dancers in beautiful and ornate dress. Enjoy a performance of Kyogen Theater, a comical play portraying humorous stories of daily life. Experience Gagaku (court music), the indigenous Japanese music performed at imperial court shrines and temples. During the evening observe the art of creating flower arrangements and a traditional ‘Ryurei style’ tea ceremony. There is also a Maiko Gallery, displaying costumes, hair decorations and videos of Maiko Dancers. NB. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Experience

Adult Price: ¥3500

Experience the ambience of a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with a professional Tea Master who will have spent many years leaning his craft which is often presented in a ceremony influenced by Zen Buddhism. Learn about the history and culture of tea making in Japan and observe how the powdered green tea (matcha) is prepared by adding boiling water and mixing it with a bamboo whisk. There will also be an explanation on the Japanese way of making and drinking tea. Take the opportunity to try some Japanese sweets and afterwards, having observed the skill involved in making the tea, have a go at making your own! The price shown is in Japanese Yen.

Request a Quote
  • 30 Day Refund Guarantee

    We promise you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience from the minute you start your vacation planning or we’ll refund your deposit. Make your reservation with a $350 deposit. If you change your mind for any reason within 30 days of booking, we’ll offer you a full refund.

  • Add air to your reservation

    Let our Air Specialists handle your air reservations. We have direct access to the most current airfare routes and prices, so you’ll get the best value available when we book your flights. We never charge a booking fee and you’ll enjoy the flexibility to pay for air 60-90 days prior to departure.

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  • U.S. citizens traveling to Japan must have a current passport that is valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip. You can find information on how to apply for a passport here, and how to renew a passport here. No visa is required for U.S. citizens entering Japan.

  • The currency in Japan is the Yen. We recommend bringing a combination of debit and credit cards on your trip. It is important that you inform your financial institutions of your travel plans before leaving the country.  You can pay by card at larger stores but small shops and markets will only accept cash. The most convenient way to obtain yen is by using your debit or ATM card to withdraw cash at local banks in Japan.  

  • One of the most enjoyable parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine.  Japanese food offers an abundance of delights with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and regional traditions.  Rice, noodles, and miso soup are common staples.  You’ll find a variety of fish, which is often grilled, but also served raw in sushi or sashimi. Seafood and vegetables are also deep-fried as tempura.

  • We suggest bringing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that can be layered. Sturdy walking shoes are important for sightseeing excursions; a hat, lightweight jacket, and shawl or scarf could also come in handy. Keep in mind that your shoulders and knees should be covered while visiting religious sites. For more helpful information please refer to our Packing Tips & Packing List.

  • There is no custom of tipping at restaurants in Japan.  If you attempt leave a tip for your waiter it could very well be refused – or even perceived as an insult.  As such, it’s best to follow the local customs by not tipping on top of your bill. 

    It is, however, customary to offer your motor coach driver and Travel Director a gratuity.  We recommend the equivalent of $4 per person/per day for your driver and $6 per person/per day for your Travel Director.  Recommended gratuity for a Local Host and Local Specialist is the equivalent of 1-2 dollars per person, paid at the conclusion of each guided visit.  A convenient option is to prepay your tips before your departure.

  • Baggage on our trips is restricted to one large suitcase per person with dimensions not exceeding 30x19x10 inches and a maximum weight of 50 pounds. You are also permitted one piece of hand luggage, which should be small enough to fit under your coach seat or on the small overhead shelf compartment. Please note that luggage with an adjustable handle and wheels will not fit in the overhead compartment of the coach. Hotel porterage is included in your vacation.

  • You will need to be comfortable on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours in various weather conditions.  All of our vacations involve walking, often on cobblestone and uneven surfaces in historic city centers.  In order to get the most out of your vacation you need to be able to comfortably walk 1-3 miles unassisted in one day, be in good condition and be able to keep pace with the group. 

    If you need any medications, it is important that you bring enough to last you the whole trip and keep them in your carry-on bag while you travel.

  • We highly recommend our optional Travel Protection Plan, which allows you to cancel for any reason up to 24 hours before departure. The plan also includes trip interruption, baggage loss or delay, and medical and emergency assistance. Click here for a summary of coverage details, terms and conditions.

Request a Quote
  • 30 Day Refund Guarantee

    We promise you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience from the minute you start your vacation planning or we’ll refund your deposit. Make your reservation with a $350 deposit. If you change your mind for any reason within 30 days of booking, we’ll offer you a full refund.

  • Add air to your reservation

    Let our Air Specialists handle your air reservations. We have direct access to the most current airfare routes and prices, so you’ll get the best value available when we book your flights. We never charge a booking fee and you’ll enjoy the flexibility to pay for air 60-90 days prior to departure.

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