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Your in-depth exploration of Japan begins in Tokyo. Take a shuttle bus transfer to your centrally located hotel, where you'll join your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Welcome Reception drink and local appetisers.
We launch our City Tour in the old-time entertainment centre of Asakusa, where we'll encounter the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. One of Tokyo's most colourful and popular temples, Sensoji has been rebuilt countless times since it was founded in 628, making it Tokyo's oldest temple site. Strolling down Nakamise next, we immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds of shitamachi (downtown Tokyo), admiring the wooden dolls, colourful chiyogami (origami paper) and traditional Japanese sweets. We'll ascend Tokyo Skytree, the world's highest free-standing broadcasting tower for panoramic views of the city, then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure or on an Optional Experience.
Our first stop today is the Imperial Palace Plaza from where the two bridges that form the entrance to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace can be viewed. We'll have the opportunity to explore the leafy Imperial Palace East Gardens before continuing our City Tour. At the Edo-Tokyo Museum, we delve into the history and culture of Tokyo's Edo era, then continue to the Ginza district where we'll learn how to make sushi with a 'Local Specialist'. We venture to the Five Lakes District next, keeping a keen eye out for the UNESCO listed Mt. Fuji which dominates the landscape.
Visit Oshino Hakkai, a small rural village in the Fuji Five Lakes district, renowned for eight natural spring water ponds that are fed by melted snow from Mt. Fuji. Admire the reflections of the sky and landscapes in its clear waters, then ascend Mt. Fuji by road to 2,300 metres at the 5th station. Ride up Mt. Tenjo on the Kachikachiyama Ropeway next, for jaw-dropping views (weather permitting) of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. Then, journey through the Japanese Alps to the beautiful hillside town of Takayama, before enjoying dinner at the hotel.
Immerse yourself in tradition as you walk through the Edo-style streets of Takayama's Old Town. Indulge a lunch of Japanese Hida-gyu - beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed, renowned as one of the finest quality varieties of beef. Journey back in time this afternoon during a visit to the peaceful UNESCO-listed Gokayama, a mountain village set amidst five valleys. Admire the unique construction of the local Gassho-zukuri wooden houses that have been built without the use of nails with steeply sloped thatched roofs to prevent snow from building up on them. Next, meet a local family in one of these houses, then 'Dive into Culture' observing local artisans making washi paper and trying your hand at making your own. 'Make a Difference' to the sustainability of this small business during your visit. Stay overnight in Kanazawa.
Join a 'Local Specialist' this morning to learn the secrets of painting gold leaf, a delicate craft the Japanese have been perfecting since the 16th century. Continue to the tranquil gardens of Kenroku-en, shaped over a hundred years to emerge as one of Japan's most beautiful gardens. Connecting with your exquisite natural surrounds, you'll stroll through ornate landscapes and past ponds and temples. Take a short walk through the Omicho market next to see the local fish catch and enjoy an insider's view of everyday life in a busy coastal town. Then, visit the Nagamachi District with its beautifully preserved samurai houses that line the traditional stone streets. Here you will gain first-hand insights into samurai life during a visit to the Nomura house, an elegant samurai mansion.
We board an Express train this morning to Kyoto, where we'll 'Connect with Locals' at a traditional ryokan, built in 1932 to serve as the second residence of Emperor Akihito's uncle. We'll enjoy a Be My Guest lunch and learn about local Japanese customs as our hosts welcome us into their beautiful home. After lunch, we visit the UNESCO-listed Kinkakuji Temple with its famous Kinkaku (Golden Pavilion), the proud symbol of Kyoto and a Zen temple, which has its origins as a 14th century villa.
The blazing orange torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine guide our path through the forest, up into the mountains and to a sacred site that has heard prayers for prosperity and happiness since the 8th century. We continue to Sanjusangen-do Hall and admire the minute detail of each of its 1,001 "thousand-handed" goddesses of mercy, then enjoy a walking tour of the Gion area. This evening, we indulge in a festive Farewell Dinner with your Travel Director and fellow guests.
We leave Honshu behind, crossing the world's largest suspension bridge over the Seto Inland Sea to Awaji Island. Enjoy free time for lunch, then walk around Yumebutai, with its '100 Stepped Garden' - a group of 100 square gardens with flowers that bloom during each of the four seasons. Visit the Water Temple and admire the reflection of the surrounding mountains, rice paddies and bamboo groves as you descend the steps to the Buddhist temple beneath its still waters. Journey to the small mountain hot springs village of Kotohira where we'll stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan. We'll have some time this evening to climb the steps adjacent to the hotel to visit Kotohira-gu Shrine or take a relaxing soak in the onsen (hot spring) bath at our hotel.
Our morning begins with a visit the Zentsuji Temple, birthplace of the high priest Kobo Daishi who was said to have founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. We'll continue to Omishima Island and make a stop at a local restaurant for lunch. Driving to Hiroshima via the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway, we'll cross the individual bridges that link the islands of the Seto Inland Sea.
We travel by ferry to the sacred Miyajima Island, where we'll see the famous UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine and elaborate torii gate that stand majestically in the sea. After some free time for lunch and to explore the island's spiritual sanctuaries, we return to Hiroshima for a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Imagine the devastation and horror that followed the world's first atomic explosion in 1945 as you see the UNESCO-listed Peace Memorial, the only structure left standing in the area and an expression of hope for world peace. This evening, we'll indulge in Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat, seafood or cheese, grilled in layers on a hot plate.
Board the high-speed bullet train to Osaka this morning and enjoy some free time for lunch and shopping in the Dotonbori Street area. Visit Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. This evening, join your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
Our encounter with Japan's centuries-old traditions and modern cityscapes at its end, we take a transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport, or Osaka Itami Airport for your onward flight.
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.
Join your Travel Director for a different kind of Japanese dining experience at an ‘izakaya.’ It is a type of informal Japanese pub where the food is shared by everyone at the table (similar to Spanish tapas). These are popular with the local office workers who tend to frequent them at the end of their working day. The menu changes according to the season but generally includes small Japanese appetizers, seasonal sashimi, tempura, grilled chicken, yakisoba, yakitori, boiled rice and dessert. Three drinks are also included with a choice of wine, beer or soft drinks. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥5500
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 small Japanese appetizer, sashimi, Japanese salad, grilled prawns, yakisoba, tofu yaki and chicken yakitori. The main dish is Japanese style dumplings known as ‘Gyoza’ which are very popular in Japan and featured on the menu at many izakaya establishments. The price also includes vanilla ice cream and two glasses of wine, beer or soft drinks per person. Vegetarian options are available for non-meat eaters. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥4500
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 Theatre, 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. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥3900
Experience the ambiance of a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with a professional Tea Master who will have spent many years learning 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 of the Japanese way of making and drinking tea. Take the opportunity to try some Japanese sweets and afterward, having observed the skill involved in making the tea, have a go at making your own! The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥3500
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