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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 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
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