Shogun Trail

Great Buddha of Kamakura
Castle at Hirado / Vic Johnson
Friendly children in Kyoto / Vic Johnson
Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo / Vic Johnson
Colourful Kimonos, Gion district, Kyoto / Vic Johnson
  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Dates
  • Explore!

In the Shadow of Mount Fuji
In the exciting city of Tokyo, we contrast 21st century technology with the ancient palaces and temples that lie side by side. The charming town of Hakone is our base from where we take a ride by funicular and cable car for views of magnificent Mount Fuji. Descending to serene Lake Ashi, a boat ride takes us to the Tokaido Trail, an ancient route following in the footsteps of the Shogun warriors. In Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, our time is spent marvelling at some of the 2000 temples in this wonderful city. One day is left free to travel further; perhaps to ancient Nara, Osaka or Himeji Castle.


Hiroshima & Nagasaki
The 'Shinkansen' or Bullet train takes us to one of the most inspirational places in Japan, Hiroshima. Completely devastated when it became the target for the first atomic bomb, it has literally risen from the ashes to become once more a vibrant city with a moving memorial park and incredible museum. Continuing by train we head for Nagasaki, a trading port which for over 200 years remained Japan's only contact with the outside world. Much of the Dutch and Portuguese influence can still be seen today in the Meiji Period Residences that overlook what is perhaps the most scenic harbour in Japan.


'Ninety Nine Islands'
Leaving Nagasaki we travel by boat to the charming harbour at Hirado. We spend time discovering an unspoilt natural environment with towering cliffs and basalt columns and cruising through the fabled 'Ninety Nine Islands'. There is a museum dedicated to the traditional whaling community and local lifestyle, whilst in the evening we have an opportunity to take part in one of the great Japanese traditions, the hot spring bath!

Destinations
  • Hiroshima
  • Hakone
  • Asia
  • Osaka
  • Japan
  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Nagasaki
  • Mount Fuji
Tour Types
  • Active
  • Small Group
  • Rail
  • Scenic
  • Cruise
  • Cultural
  • Adventure
Day 1: Join tour in Tokyo
Our tour starts in Tokyo, the modern-day capital of Japan. After checking in to our conveniently-located hotel which will be our base for the next three nights, we will enjoy an included dinner with the rest of the group and our Tour Leader.

Day 2: Walking tour through Tokyo's shrines and gardens
Over one-quarter of the Japanese population live within a 50 km radius of the centre of Tokyo, making it the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The result is a bustling and exciting city - the economic powerhouse of Asia. However, scratching its neon-clad surface reveals a city bursting with history and tradition.

A morning stroll to Tokyo’s oldest temple, Asakusa, will introduce us to Tokyo’s unique culture. We then board a boat for a short journey along the Sumida River. Gaining a totally different perspective of the city, we drift past high rise apartments, secluded gardens and busy warehouses. Arriving in the heart of the city near Hamarikyu Gardens, you may wish to visit the Meiji shrine and Shinjuku area, where the latest electronic gadgets dazzle from glowing shop-fronts.

Day 3: Free day in Tokyo or optional excursion to Kamakura
Today you have the option of either spending more time in Tokyo, or enjoying an optional excursion to the historic town of Kamakura. The former capital is home to over 60 Buddhist temples and many Shinto shrines. Here, we take a woodland walk along ancient footpaths leading to some of the most mysterious, yet uniquely Japanese temples and shrines in this historic town. Our 90-minute hike ends with a visit to the famous giant Buddha statue. The wooden temple that surrounded this 10-metre bronze figure was washed away by a huge tidal wave that swept inland in the 13th century.

Day 4: Boat ride on Lake Ashi; transfer to Hakone
Today, we spend the day exploring the Hakone National Park – home to the towering Mount Fuji. Although distances are short, we use a variety of forms of transport including bus, funicular rail and cable car as we make our way initially to the hot, bubbling sulphur springs at Owakudani. From here, on a clear day, there are magnificent views of the snow-capped mountain that is so synonymous with Japan. Whilst at the springs, you may wish to join the locals in eating an egg boiled in the sulphur pools - just one is reputed to increase life expectancy by seven years!

Our next stop is Lake Ashi, a magnificent lake created from the eruption of the Hakone Volcano over 3000 years ago. A short boat ride takes us to Moto Hakone. Here, you may choose to relax in one of the lakeside restaurants, or enjoy a one-hour trek along a section of the old Tokaido Highway, following in the footsteps of the shogun warriors. Passing through a stately avenue of ancient Japanese cedar trees lining the old route, we walk on some of the original paving stones. This ancient trail was mainly for the use of the nobility and shoguns as they travelled with huge retinues between the feudal court in Edo (Tokyo) and their own regional castles.

In Hakone, we are accommodated in a traditional inn, known as a ryokan, where we sleep on comfortable, folding futon mattresses. During our stay, we learn about local etiquette, such as when to take off our shoes and the pleasures of taking a Japanese bath, all of which helps enhance our stay in this traditional establishment.

Day 5: Bullet train to Kyoto; explore the Geisha district
Leaving the mountains behind us, we take the world-famous 'Bullet Train', or Shinkansen, to Kyoto - the cradle of all things uniquely Japanese. This Imperial capital was at the heart of events that shaped Japan's destiny for more than 1000 years. As the only major Japanese city to remain unscathed by World War II bombings, signs of the past are in its grand temples and palaces, and also in the many quaint shops selling traditional wares. This afternoon, we head to the famous geisha district of Gion. Here, we hope to catch a glimpse of these enigmatic entertainers, as they scuttle to work in the teahouses or high-class restaurants.

This evening, after settling in to our well-positioned hotel where we will spend the next three nights, we can look forward to an included dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 6: Explore Kyoto's temples and zen gardens
Kyoto is regarded as Japan's loveliest city, with more than 2000 temples and shrines, many set in manicured landscaped gardens. We spend the next two days exploring the city. We begin by visiting the famous Golden Pavilion. The temple is a three storey building with the top two tiers covered in gold leaf. Set in a lake the building appears to float on the water and the reflections, coupled with the background of forest make it worthy of its place on many Japanese postcards. There is also time to stroll along Kyoto's charming streets and tree-lined canal, simply soaking up its unique atmosphere.

Day 7: Continue to explore traditional Kyoto
We spend today visiting some of the cities many temples. We start with the Ryonji Temple with its beautiful zen gardens and famous rock garden. The exact history of the gardens is unknown but it is thought the temple was converted from an aristocrats villa in 1450. Whilst in the gardens try testing out the theory that at least one of the rocks is hidden from every vantage point. We also plan to visit Nijo Castle. Built in 1603 as a Shogun palace, it is a great example of the sumptuous setting in which the Shogun would have held audiences with his samurai warriors. It is possible to take an optional trip to nearby Nara, a journey of 45 minutes each way by train. Nara is one of Japan's greenest cities and is home to the Todai-ji Temple, the world's largest wooden building which is also home to a giant bronze Buddha statue.

Day 8: Reflect at Hiroshima Peace Park; train to Nagasaki
An early morning train takes us to Hiroshima, where we will spend the morning exploring this thought–provoking city in our own time. Completely destroyed on 6th August 1945, when it was the target of the first atomic bomb to be used in wartime, Hiroshima has literally risen from the ashes, and is now a thriving, friendly city.

You may choose to visit The Peace Memorial Park and the well-presented museum on the site of the 1945 A-bomb hypocentre. Whilst serving as poignant reminders of the nuclear holocaust, their over-whelming message is of hope that such horrors will never reoccur. Travel around the city is easy, thanks to the provision of colourful street trams, brought in from all over Japan after the war.

This afternoon, we regroup to take the train to Nagasaki, where we will spend the next two nights. This is a city with an eventful history and was, of course, the target of the second atomic bomb attack on Japan. In a cruel twist of fate, the city bore the unimaginable brunt of a last-minute change of plan, when the preferred target of Kokura was obscured by cloud.

Day 9: Take a walk though Dejima, Nagasaki's Dutch quarter
This morning we are given a tour of Nagasaki, which, for long periods in its history, has served as Japan’s main contact with the outside world. In the 16th century, the city became established as the main trade point with the Portuguese. As well as providing wealth from trade, the Portuguese introduced Christianity. After almost a century of turmoil, the religion was banned, foreign traders were expelled, and Japan closed its doors to the West.

The one exception was the artificial island in Nagasaki harbour, Dejima. This small, closely guarded enclave was the site of the Dutch Trading Mission, which remained Japan's only contact with the outside world for almost 200 years. During our visit here, we can see that some of the original features remain, as well as some excellent reconstructions of the 18th century buildings. Continuing our tour in the Glover Gardens, we will see fine foreign residences of the Meiji period and enjoy impressive views over Nagasaki Harbour, perhaps the most scenic harbour view in Japan.

The afternoon has been left free to explore this historic city in your own time.

Day 10: Drive through scenic tea plantations and ferry ride to Hirado Island
This morning we travel light, sending our main luggage on to our final destination of Fukuoka and packing our rucksacks for our stay on the island of Hirado. Our route takes us along a scenic road through tea plantations. We'll stop at a picturesque terraced area and walk through the fields to the tea farmer's house. There'll be an opportunity to sample some of the brew including green 'Sencha' and roasted 'Hojicha' teas before enjoying a traditional style lunch with the local tea farmers. After lunch we continue our journey to the seaside city of Sasebo. Here we board our ferry to the charming harbour quayside in Hirado. Our accommodation for the next two nights is a classic ryokan, furnished in the traditional Japanese style with futon mattresses on the tatami mat floors.

Day 11: Full day to explore Hirado and Ikitsuki Islands
Today, we will explore the pristine and unspoiled islands of Hirado and Ikitsuki, connected by an impressive 400 metre-long bridge which happens to be the longest truss bridge in the world. Accompanied by a local expert on a day-long minibus tour, we will discover rural Japan and take in the remote countryside of the 'Hidden Christians’. Along the islands’ shores, fishing remains one of the main occupations, but we also have the opportunity to learn about traditional industries along the way. We plan to visit a museum dedicated to the whaling industry, which played a vital role in the history of this region. On our journey, we will gain views of the islands’ spectacular coastlines and towering cliffs.

Day 12: Sail among the '99 Islands' then travel to Fukuoka
This morning will be spent soaking up the charms of Hirado. The city has prospered as a castle town for almost 500 years. Its excellent port enabled it to become the central stage for trade with China, Holland and Portugal from the 17th century. Our walking tour will offer fascinating insights into the way things were here in the early 1600s. As well as visiting the castle, we will take in the church commemorating Saint Francis Xavier who preached here in the 16th century; the sites of the old trading houses and the foreigners' cemetery.

This afternoon, we will enjoy spectacular views on a relaxing cruise through the fabled 'Ninety Nine Islands'. In actual fact, 170 islands, mostly uninhabited, lie alongside the indented saw-toothed coastline.

Later this afternoon, we travel to our accommodation near the airport in Fukuoka, for our final evening.

Day 13: Tour ends in Fukuoka
Our tour ends after breakfast this morning, although some flights may depart before this.

You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.

Dates Price Single Availability
20-Oct-2019 for 11 Nights Visit Website

Offer

20-Oct-2019 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website

Offer

15-Mar-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
15-Mar-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
22-Mar-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
22-Mar-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
29-Mar-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
29-Mar-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
05-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
05-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
12-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
12-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
19-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
19-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
26-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
26-Apr-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
03-May-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
03-May-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
13-Sep-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
13-Sep-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
04-Oct-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
04-Oct-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
11-Oct-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
11-Oct-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
18-Oct-2020 for 11 Nights Visit Website
18-Oct-2020 for 11 Nights Flight Included Visit Website

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tour details

This tour is operated by Explore!

11 nights from pp exc.flights; per Night
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Group Size:0 - 16
Suitable For: Adult
Accommodation:Standard
Difficulty:Moderate
Meals:Breakfast: 11 Lunch: 2 Dinner: 3
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