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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.
Our encounter with Japan's age-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 our onward flight. Alternatively, continue to Hiroshima by choosing the 13 day itinerary.
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.
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: ¥4500
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
Leave the hotel by coach to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its tunnel of thousands of bright orange torii gates guiding the path through the sacred site and up into the mountains. Continue to the Gekkeikan Okura Museum to learn about the history of sake and the process of making it followed by a sake tasting. The family-run sake brewery, which is next door to the museum, was founded in 1637 by Jiemen Okura and has been passed down through 14 generations to the current President of Gekkeikan, Haruhiko Okura. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥4500
Visit the Ninja-themed restaurant for a truly unique dining experience. You will be welcomed by a Ninja guide who will guide you through the labyrinth-like caves into the underground restaurant and to your table. The Ninja theme is carried on in incredible detail; the menus are ninja scrolls and while you are waiting for your meal there are crackers shaped like throwing stars to keep you going. Even the food itself is themed with dishes having names like ‘Ninja Teleportation Chicken Steak’ for example. If you’re lucky you might even meet one of the Ninja masters who’ll show you some of their magic tricks at your table. Also included are 60 minutes of unlimited drinks with a choice of wine, beer or soft drinks. The price shown is in Japanese Yen.
Adult Price: ¥7000
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