This 13 day adventure takes in the must-see sites of Tokyo and Kyoto as well as exploring the mountainous town of Takayama, impressive Himeji Castle and of course well-known Hiroshima and the famed Torri Gate of Miyajima Island. For an authentic Japanese experience ride a bullet train, stay in a ryokan and take a dip in natural hot springs.
Saturday. Welcome to Japan! You will be met at either Narita or Haneda International Airport in Tokyo by your guide. Travel by train into the heart of the city and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore the capital.
This morning we take the subway to Asakusa, a lively district of Tokyo which is famous for its historic Sensoji Buddhist temple. After visiting the temple we'll have time to explore the area which has an abundance of interesting souvenir and craft stalls. This afternoon we head to Harajuku, which is a mecca for young and fashionable Tokyoites who flock to the trendy shops and cafes on Takeshita Street. Here, we’ll visit the revered Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined. <br/><br/> Our last stop of the day is the famed Shibuya Crossing - regarded as one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. 'The Scramble' as it's known is an amazing spectacle as people come from all directions at once – sometimes over a thousand with every light change – yet they still manage to duck and weave without causing collision. Here, we’ll grab a coffee and perch ourselves on a barstool at Starbucks to watch the spectacle. This evening offers free time, though if travelling in January, May and September you might like spend the evening watching a Sumo tournament (bookings must be made in advance). See our Trip Notes for more information.
Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo. Today we head out of the city to Kamakura, Japan’s first feudal capital, which is just an hour from Tokyo. Here, we’ll visit the iconic bronze Big Buddha and the Zen Temple of Hokokuji with its towering bamboo garden where you can drink tea and learn about tea ceremony’s, before walking the cobbled pedestrian alleys - adorned with locally made items. Return to Japan’s bustling capital for the night and tonight we’ll organise a Shabu Shubu (a traditional Japanese hot pot meal) for those who are interested.
Today we enjoy a guided tour of the Tokyo Edo Museum which focuses on the lifestyle and culture experienced by Tokyoites over the city’s 400-year history. The museum houses some of the city’s best original artefacts and replicas of Edo-era buildings and landmarks, along with several large-scale models. The remainder of the day offers free time to independently explore.
Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. This morning we travel by highway bus to Lake Kawaguchi, located at the foot of Mt Fuji in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. The scenery is stunning with panoramic views of a snow-capped Fuji most of the year. Upon arrival, we’ll travel along the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway and visit the observatory. For tours staying at Lake Kawaguchi between 15 Apr – 28 May each year, we’ll visit the Springtime Fuji Shibazakura (Phlox Moss) Festival, held at Motosu Lake, where the landscape is covered in a vibrant, hot pink moss with Fuji as the backdrop. Tonight you'll bed down in a traditional Japanese Inn (ryokan). At the ryokan, we'll be served a traditional Japanese dinner and you can take a relaxing dip in the natural hot spring baths.
Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto. Lake Kawaguchi has some great hiking trails and early this morning you might like to opt for a hike along the foreshores of the lake. We travel by bus to Mishima, then bullet train to Kyoto - Japan’s ancient and cultural capital. <br/><br/> As one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is home to an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Here, we’ll enjoy a guided tour of Sanjusagen-do Temple famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon are made of Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf. They stand in 10 rows of 50, each hand crafted and slightly different from the next. Late this afternoon we head to Gion, for a walking tour of the famous Geisha District. After, you may wish to watch a cultural performance at Gion Corner Theatre where you'll have the opportunity to watch a Maiko (apprentice Geisha) performing.
Today we tour Nijo Castle, one of the city’s most impressive UNESCO sites. Built by the first Tokugawa shogun in 1603, the exquisite Nijo Castle is a wonderful example of Momoyama architecture. After, we visit the stunning Zen Buddhist temple of Kinkakuji (or commonly referred as the Golden Pavilion) which forms part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. Almost completely covered in gold, the shimmering temple sits beside a small lake that reflects it beauty in the calm waters. <br/><br/> This afternoon offers free time for you to relax or to further discover the many sights of Kyoto your own way. Consider visiting iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its winding path lined by thousands of red torii gates. Just a short train ride away from the main Kyoto Station, this must-see sight is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day. You might also wish to hire a Kimono and walk the streets as many Japanese do or take part in a cooking lesson.
Kyoto - Himeji - Hiroshima. This morning we take the bullet train to Himeji to visit the impressive UNESCO Listed Himeji Castle, perched high on a hill top. The castle is known as the White Egret due to its white walls and elegant shape and it has impressive maze-like defences. After taking in the panoramic views from the top of its 6 story watch tower we take another bullet train to Hiroshima. <br/><br/> If you like baseball consider booking tickets to watch the Carp play. The Carp, Hiroshima beloved professional baseball, play games at home between May - Oct at Mazda Stadium.
A local train and ferry takes us to the island of Miyajima today, which is famous for its iconic ‘floating’ Torii Gate at the revered Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. The iconic gate seems to float on the water but at low tide can reached by foot. It stands 16 metres high and is made from camphor wood. Miyajima is a beautiful island with UNESCO Listed primeval forests and inquisitive, tame deer. As we explore the island we'll see further Shinto shrines, pretty pagodas and pavilions before taking in the magical views offered from our cable car ride to the top of Mount Misen. Free time is offered before we return to Hiroshima for the night. Tonight, we'll make a reservation for Okonomiyaki - a mix between a savoury pancake and omelette a local speciality of Hiroshima. Okonomiyaki is always a fun night, its inexpensive and is washed down perfectly with a Asahi beer. <br/><br/> Note: From June 2019 the floating Torii Gate is undergoing renovations – please see the Trip Notes for further details.
Hiroshima - Takayama. Hiroshima is a city that needs little introduction, it is of course infamous for being the first site where one of two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. This morning we visit Peace Park and Peace Park Museum which are a moving reminder of Hiroshima’s tragic past. We’ll see the iconic A-Bomb Dome one of the very few buildings left standing after the blast and visit the Children's Peace Monument, a memorial to the children killed, and where schools from around the world donate paper origami cranes, signifying hope and peace. <br/><br/> This afternoon we take the bullet train to Nagoya, followed by another scenic train journey up the mountains to Takayama.
Takayama is a delightful town in the heart of the Hida Mountains. Established in the 16th century as the castle town of the Kanamori family, Takayama is now famous throughout Japan for its beautifully preserved old-quarter, which has a series of streets lined with Edo style wooden buildings. The town also has many shrines and temples, giving rise to the title of ‘Little Kyoto’. This morning, we explore Takayama’s Old Quarter, where you can wander around the shops and market which sells everything from vegetables and pickles to craft, ceramics and tools. After, there's a visit to a sake distillery to sample the town’s famous sake. <br/><br/> This afternoon you can opt to see the fascinating Hida Folk Village where more than 30 houses from across the Hida region have been rebuilt on a hillside overlooking the town. Alternatively, enjoy free time in Takayama independently exploring. For dinner tonight we recommend sampling Takayama’s delicious Hida beef at one of the many restaurants or beef burger cafes.
Takayama – Tokyo. This morning we embark on the scenic Higashiyama walk (Eastern Mountain Walk) which takes in a number of temples set into the hillside and offers wonderful views over the city. Later, we take the train back down the mountains to Nagoya to catch the bullet train to Tokyo.
Thursday. Our tour comes to an end today. Travel (unescorted) back to Narita International Airport onboard the Narita Express train. We offer post-tour accommodation for those interested in staying in Tokyo a little longer, please enquire. <br/><br/> For information about visas, top travel tips and much more, take a look through our travel guide.
From a first foray into Egypt in 1998, On The Go Tours have expanded their operations to more than 60 countries, offering award-winning small group tours to destinations around the world. Their Middle East and North Africa portfolio now includes Jordan, Israel and Morocco, whilst other regions include Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Indian Subcontinent. From Machu Picchu in Peru to the extravagant Taj Mahal in India, On The Go Tours get you to the main sights of whichever destination you choose to visit. There’s also a range of special festival tours, Christmas and New Year adventures and much more, from overland adventures to luxury cruises. They always uncover some hidden gems too, be it canoeing to a local home for lunch in Sri Lanka or riding a rickshaw around the maze of Hutongs in Beijing, China.
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