Cherry blossoms, geisha, tea ceremonies, sake, Shinto and sacred temples; Japan has it all, and when you travel through cities and countryside alike by rail, it is all too easy to fall in love with this unique country. This tour is operated by our sister company Rail Discoveries.
We meet the rest of our group and our Tour Manager at London Heathrow, before boarding our flight to Beijing. Here, we continue with another flight to Tokyo, where we arrive on Day 2. We transfer by coach to our hotel, and on arrival, we have a short orientation tour of the local area on foot.
Begin today with a full-day's guided tour of Tokyo, a city where cutting edge technology sits alongside ancient temples, and shining skyscrapers that tower above stunning Shinto shrines. Included in the sights we see are Tokyo's government building and the Meiji Jingu Shrine, dedicated to deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. There is also free time in Harajuku and Omotesando, one of Tokyo's premier shopping districts. Next, we visit the Hamarikyu Gardens where we enjoy tea and sweets, and view the regal double-bridged entrance to the Imperial Palace Plaza.
We continue our explorations on the morning of Day 4 by visiting the Edo Museum, before travelling by coach to the Senso-ji Buddhist temple, dedicated to the Asakusa Kannon - the goddess of mercy. Afterwards, we take a stroll along Nakamise shopping street, one of the oldest of its kind in the whole of Japan. We also enjoy a group lunch at a local restaurant before a free afternoon and evening.
Today we travel by coach to Mount Fuji, one of the highlights of our holiday and arguably Japan's most distinctive landmark. Driving along the foot of the famous mountain and up its northern slopes, arrive at the Mount Fuji 5th Station, which provides the closest view of Mount Fuji.
If the weather doesn't allow for a safe ascent, we visit the Mount Fuji Visitor Centre. Afterwards, we take the Mount Komagatake ropeway (cable car) to the sulphurous hot springs at Owakudani, after which we descend to Lake Ashi for a short cruise.
This morning, we board the world-famous bullet train for a high-speed journey to Hiroshima, a city that rose to prominence after the dropping of an atomic bomb by the United States Air Force on 6th August 1945. Approximately 90% of the city was levelled, and Hiroshima's busiest commercial district was eradicated - leaving just an open field. This was turned into the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which opened on 1st April 1954.
We also spend time at the A-bomb Dome, the closest building to the hypo-centre of the bomb. It would have been demolished, but was more intact than originally thought, and in 1996 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance is also included to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Just off the coast from Hiroshima, Miyajima Island - otherwise known as Itsukushima - is seen as sacred. Trees cannot be cut here, and some animals, including monkeys and deer, roam freely. To further preserve the apparent purity of the island, children cannot be born here. There are also a number of shrines on the island, but none are more famous than the magnificent 'floating' Itsukushima Shrine, which is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance is included in our tour, after which you have some free time to explore.
On Day 8 we travel again by bullet train, this time to Kyoto - Japan's ancient capital. Here, we embark on a tour that takes us to the Fushimi Inari shrine, dedicated to the God of rice and sake, before making a visit to the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum and enjoying a tasting of this unique national tipple.
Today, we continue sightseeing in and around Kyoto with visits to the secluded Kinkaku-ji temple and Ryoan-ji temple, both built for the practise of Zen Buddhism. Later, we take an excursion to the incredible Arashiyama bamboo forest, which provides a truly magical experience as we walk through the sprawling grove of bamboo trees that tower, seemingly endlessly, above us. Later, we visit Nijo Castle before a walking tour of Gion with a local guide.
This morning, we transfer by coach to ancient Nara, where we make a stop at Nara Deer Park, so named due to the large number of tame deer that roam around it. Originally believed to be messengers of the gods, the deer were seen as sacred. As well as being a vast expanse of beautiful parkland, Nara park is also home to the Todai-ji Temple, a Buddhist building founded in the first half of the 8th century.
Day 11 is free for you to explore Kyoto at your own pace. Perhaps visit one of its many Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces, or Shinto shrines. The city is also known for formal traditions such as kaiseki dining, consisting of multiple courses of precise dishes. You may even spot a Geisha, who are often found in the Gion district.
Today, we travel by coach to the city of Osaka and explore Osaka Castle, a traditional pagoda-style building dating back to the 16th century. Afterwards, experience the dynamic Dotonbori district with its neon signs lining the waterfront. On the morning of Day 13, we transfer to the airport for our flight to London Heathrow via Beijing.
At Great Rail Journeys, they’ve been providing market-leading holidays for 45 years, making them true rail holiday specialists. Their itineraries combine comfortable hotels, exciting excursions, many delicious meals, leisure time, and fantastic rail experiences – from journeys on modern trains to heritage rail adventures.
Alongside their classic escorted rail holidays, they now have more choices than ever. Their European chartered cruises sail on fantastic vessels with sublime dining options and some of the largest cabin sizes in the industry, and their small groups tours give you access to unique destinations and experiences that wouldn’t be possible in a larger group.
The key elements of their holidays are quality and value. Everything you see is included in the price, and their itineraries are carefully crafted to make the most out of each destination. They use professional Tour Managers, informative local guides and convenient transport. On many tours, they include special touches such as opera visits, special meals, or farewell dinners.
As well as being the leading UK provider of escorted rail holidays, they have also won a number of awards, most recently being awarded the gold award for Best Rail Holiday Company at the 2018 British Travel Awards – a testament to their commitment to outstanding holidays.
They ensure the security of currency fluctuation as part of our price guarantee, so you know you’re getting the best value. They are members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators and flight-inclusive holidays are ATOL or ABTOT protected, while non-flight-inclusive holidays are protected by ABTOT.