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Welcome to Japan. Upon arrival at Osaka Itami or Kansai International Airport, transfer by pre-booked airport shuttle service to your hotel. This evening join your Travel Director and fellow travelers for a Welcome Reception drink with appetizers.
After breakfast start your city tour with a visit to Osaka Castle, one of Japan's most famous landmarks which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. General Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the original castle in 1583 as a display of power, using, it's said, the labor of 100,000 workers. Although the present structure is a 1931 reconstruction, it's nonetheless quite a sight, looming dramatically over the surrounding park, which has the bonus of being a great place to view cherry blossom in the springtime. Next visit the Abeno Harukas Observatory which standing at 984 ft is the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The building stands on top of Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station and it houses a department store, an art museum, a hotel and the observation deck which occupies the buildings top three floors. With large floor-to-ceiling glass panels all around, the 60th floor offers 360 degree panoramic views of Osaka. Later enjoy some free time for shopping in the Umeda district before returning to the hotel. This afternoon is yours at leisure or choose to join an Optional Experience.
This morning travel to Mt. Koya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where the Shingon Buddhism sect was introduced in 805 by the priest Kukai, who posthumously became known as Kobo Daishi. Here visit the Kongobuji Temple with its elegantly painted sliding doors and the Danjo Garan Temple, one of the first complexes built by Kobo Daishi in Mt. Koya. Later enjoy a Japanese style vegetarian lunch at a delightful monastery inn (shukubo) served by local monks, a Cultural Insight. 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. Travel to Shirahama and later enjoy dinner in a local authentic Japanese izakaya.
Today visit the Kumano area, the spiritual heartland of Japan and discover the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Choose to ascend Daimonzaka Hill either on foot or by coach to admire the Nachi Taisha Shrine, Seiganotoji Temple and the impressive Nachi waterfall which at approximately 425 ft high is the tallest waterfall in Japan. Continue your journey by visiting Hayatama Taisha one of Kumano's most important shrines that holds an important place in Japanese mythology. The collection housed in this small museum is impressive, with more national treasures than some major museums. Continue to your hotel which for the next two nights is the Shima Kanko The Classic; famous for hosting the 42nd G7 summit in 2016 which was attended by many top politicians including President Barack Obama. This evening enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Enjoy a later start this morning before travelling to Ise to visit the Ise Jingu Shrine the most revered Shinto sanctuary of great spiritual and historical significance. It consists of an inner and outer shrine and both are rebuilt from scratch every 20 years according to ancient Shinto tradition. Later meet some traditional free divers known as 'Ama', as seen in the James Bond movie 'You Only Live Twice'. They are working women of the region who dressed all in white, dive into the sea without any diving equipment to catch shellfish and seaweed. Enjoy the fine flavor of the char-grilled local fresh seafood while listening to the stories told by the friendly and cheerful divers, a Cultural Insight. Later visit Mikimoto Pearl Island which is the place where, for the first time in the world, pearls were successfully cultured. Then enjoy some free time at a local mall for shopping and dinner at one of the many local and international restaurants.
Travel to Iga and start the day with a visit to the Ninja Museum, dedicated to the history of ninja and ninjutsu, an original form of warfare developed mainly in the region. The museum's collection includes very old ninjutsu writings analyzed scientifically along with ancient weapons. Continue by exploring Ueno Castle constructed in the late 16th century served as the seat of the local lords during the Edo Period. The castle tower was destroyed in a storm less than 50 years later and not rebuilt until 1935 when a local resident provided funding for the tower's reconstruction. Then enjoy a special Be My Guest lunch with a monk at Shorenji Temple in Nabari while learning about the history and traditions of the region. After lunch continue to Kyoto for your overnight stay.
Enjoy a late start this morning followed by a visit to Kinkakuji Temple; a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its Golden Pavilion reflecting beautifully in the water of the adjoining pond. Lunch today is okonomiyaki; similar to a savory pancake and made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles and meat, seafood or cheese and grilled in layers on a hot plate in front of you. This afternoon visit Arashiyama, a district on the outskirts of Kyoto. Visit the breath-taking Bamboo Forest and walk along the paths that cut through the bamboo groves. Standing amid these soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world! Continue on with a visit to Tenryuji Temple which has one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and wonderful mountain views.
This morning visit the Kiyomizu-dera Temple; a buzzing hive of activity perched on a hill overlooking the city. It is one of Kyoto's most popular and most enjoyable temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then head to Sanjusangendo Hall, a temple famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Return to the hotel for a leisurely afternoon or choose to take part in an Optional Experience. This evening have a delightful Farewell dinner with your fellow companions and Travel Director at a local restaurant.
This morning travel to Tokyo by high speed bullet train. On arrival check in to your centrally located hotel.
On your City Tour this morning visit the observation deck at the Tokyo Tower which opened in 1958 as a broadcasting mast and at the time was the tallest building in Tokyo. Make a stop at the Imperial Palace Plaza, a large park area in the center of Tokyo from where the two bridges that form the entrance to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace can be viewed. It is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and built on the former site of Edo Castle. Continue to Asakusa and visit the Sensoji Buddhist temple. It is one of Tokyo's most colorful and popular temples and has been rebuilt countless times since it was founded in 628, making it Tokyo's oldest temple site. Visit Nakamise, a shopping street over 650 ft long that stretches from the outer gate to the temple's second interior gate. Next drive through Akihabara which began its evolution into 'Electric Town' post WWII when the area became a black market for radio parts. Later make a stop at Ginza and take some free time for shopping and lunch.
After breakfast depart Tokyo for the Five Lakes District, dominated by majestic UNESCO listed Mt. Fuji. At 12,388 ft it is Japan's highest mountain and most recognizable icon. Ascend by road to 7,546 ft at the 5th Station before taking a ride on the Kachikachiyama Ropeway, (both weather permitting) a cable car ride offering spectacular views on a clear day of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. Later return to your hotel for a relaxing evening.
Transfer by airport shuttle service to Tokyo Narita or Haneda International Airport for your onward flight.
11 buffet breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners.
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.
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan and specializes in ‘bokusho’ the art of ink-making. The ink sticks are delicately crafted by artisans and the meticulous process involves kneading soot with glue, adding fragrances and carefully molding the mixture into the desired shape before slowly drying it into its finished form. Handcrafted ink sticks are more than just everyday utensils used by calligraphers and artists – their inspired quality and shapes also make them works of art. Observe the artisans at work and have a go at making your own ink stick which you are welcome to keep as a souvenir. Later visit Todaji Temple which is one of Japan's most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. It houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha at 49 feet tall. Afterward, visit Nara Park, home to hundreds of freely roaming deer before returning to Osaka by coach. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥5500
From cotton summer yukatas to silk kimonos, these pieces of wearable art are icons of Japanese style. Visit a specialist kimono hiring shop and have fun getting dressed up in traditional Japanese style with the assistance of an expert ‘kimono dresser’ who will show you the tricks to make it easy. Choose your preferred color of kimono which will come with a matching bag and shoes. A professional stylist will dress you in the kimono and afterward enjoy some free time to stroll through streets wearing your kimono! Strike a pose for camera carrying visitors or just simply act like a local and take a relaxing stroll through the streets. Great fun for both ladies and gentlemen. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥5300
Join your Travel Director for a different kind of Japanese dining experience! An ‘izakaya’ is a type of informal Japanese pub where the food is shared by everyone at the table (similar to Spanish tapas). The menu changes according to the season but generally includes a Japanese appetizer, two kinds of seasonal sashimi, Japanese salad, Grilled Fish, Pork Shabu-Shabu, Rice Porridge Soup and dessert. During dinner enjoy 2 hours of included drinks including Japanese sake, wine, beer and soft drinks. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥5500
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