Discover the cultural heritage of Japan on this exciting journey between Tokyo and Osaka. Visit the tranquil Kenrokuen garden and the castle of Kanazawa, before exploring the imperial city of Kyoto with its many temples and shrines. Experience the sombre modern history of Hiroshima, then visit the picturesque island of Miyajima with its iconic Torii gate, before ending the tour in the city of Osaka.
• Tea ceremony in Kyoto and watch gold leaf production in Kanazawa
• Tour the Hiroshima Peace Park with a talk by an A-bomb attack survivor
• Explore the temples, gardens and shrines of Kyoto and Nara
• Small group size – maximum 26 people
Day 2: Mount Fuji
You will be driven by private coach to Mount Fuji 5th Station. At 12,388 feet above sea level, Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, probably the most famous symbol of Japan, and one of the most beautiful conical volcanoes in the world. The base of Mount Fuji, which forms an almost perfect circle, stretches 22 to 25 miles from east to west and the same distance from north to south. The volcano has not been active for more than 250 years, but apparently there was a time when smoke rising from its crater was a familiar feature of the landscape. Continue to Okuniwa Natural Park for a walking excursion to discover wild flower and plants in the Okuniwa parasite volcano crater. It may also be possible to visit the Okuniwa observation deck for a view of Mount Fuji’s 5th Station. NOTE: In the event of bad weather the road to Mt Fuji 5th Station may be closed, in which case a visit to Mt Fuji visitor center will be arranged.
After lunch, visit Lake Motosuko and Lake Saiko (West Lake), two of the Fuji Five Lakes. Less crowded than Lake Kawaguchiko, where many tourists congregate for views of Mount Fuji, Motosuko and Saiko are surrounded by wooded mountains, including Aokigahara Jukai, an expansive forest south of the lake, with superb views of Mount Fuji. Tokyo Marriott Hotel (B , L)
Day 3: Tokyo
The day begins with a visit to Asakusa Kannon Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Tokyo.
The temple enshrines a golden image of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, said to have been caught in the nearby Sumida river by two fishermen in 628 AD, although the image is not on display to the public. The present temple dates from 1950 and is a popular meeting place on holidays and weekends. Directly in front is the Nakamise-dori shopping street.
Continue to the Tokyo National Museum. You will be taken to the main building where the exhibits include historic costumes such as samurai armour and swords, fine kimonos, antique folding screens, tea ceremony utensils and Japanese paintings.
Eat a traditional kushiage lunch. This consists of skewers of meat, vegetables, cheese and seafood, which are served deep-fried, together with raw vegetables, rice, and miso soup and sorbet. In the afternoon, take a tour of the Imperial East Garden and the Meiji Shrine.
The Imperial East Garden is the only part of the Imperial Palace complex that is open to the public. Entry is through the Ote-mon Gate, which was once the principal gate of the city of Edo, the former name of Tokyo. The garden lies at what was the heart of the old Edo castle. From the gardens there are views of central Tokyo.
End the day with a visit to the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. The grounds in which the shrine is set has approximately 100,000 trees and creates a tranquil setting in the heart of the city. You will have some time at leisure to explore the area. Tokyo Marriott Hotel (B , L)
Day 4: To Kanazawa
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the station.
Travel by Shinkansen (bullet train) between Tokyo and Kanazawa, an approximate journey time of 2 hours 35 minutes.
Lunch today will be a Japanese bento box style, consisting of rice and vegetables with fish or meat, and will be taken onboard.
On arrival in Kanazawa, you will be met and taken on a tour of Kanazawa.
Enjoy an afternoon tour of Kanazawa. Begin with a visit to Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s finest gardens. Created in 1822, Kenroku-en is classified as one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscape gardens. The name ‘Kenroku-en’ literally means ‘Garden of the Six Sublimities’, referring to the six attributes that make up a perfect garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. This garden used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and was constructed over a period of two centuries. It features various ponds, streams, waterfalls, bridges, teahouses, trees, stones and flowers. During the spring, cherry blossoms are wonderful here, followed by irises in the summer. By autumn, Japanese maples colour the garden with rich yellow, red, purple and brown.
Adjacent to the garden is the Kanazawa Castle Park, the site of Kanazawa Castle which was built in the 16th century as the base for the powerful Maeda clan. The original buildings were been burnt down or destroyed many times over the years, but various gates, storehouses and turrets have been rebuilt, including the main Ishikawamon gate that dates from the 18th century.
Continue to the Higashi-Chayamachi district, home to many chaya buildings, that were traditional places of feasts and entertainment where geishas would entertain guests. The chayas are notable for their beautiful lattice work known as ‘kimusuko’, and some have been converted into restaurants, teahouses or souvenir shops.
End the tour at Hakuza, a workshop where you will have the chance to observe the ‘kinpaku’ process of gold leaf production, a craft for which Kanazawa is famous.
After the tour, you will be taken to your hotel Crowne Plaza ANA Kanazawa – 2 Nights (B , L)
Day 5: Gokayama
This morning you will be collected at your hotel and driven south-west towards Gokayama, making a stop at the Omicho market. The market is a maze of covered streets lined by more than 200 shops and stalls, selling a huge range of goods including fresh food, clothing and flowers.
Continue into Gokayama district, an area of high mountains and deep valleys located in the southeastern part of Toyama prefecture.
Gokayama, which means ‘five valleys’, encompasses a number of villages and hamlets, and your visit will focus on Ainokura and Suganuma. Both villages are nationally designated historic sites, important for their ‘gassho-zukuri’ (praying hands) houses. These houses are distinctive for their steep roofs (45-60 degrees), which resemble palms placed together and fingers pointing upward in prayer.
No nails or other metal materials are used in the buildings’ construction. You are free to explore the village at your own pace. Some of the houses are open as small museums or craftshops, for which a small entrance fee must be paid locally.
Continue to the village of Suganama, where you will visit the Minzoku-kan Folk Museum, which displays tools and household items used in traditional daily rural life. Some of the exhibited items include tools used for farming, raising silkworms and making washi paper.
Afterwards, return to your hotel in Kanazawa. Crowne Plaza ANA Kanazawa (B)
Day 6: To Kyoto
This morning your guide will escort you on the 5 minute walk from your hotel to the station. Travel from Kanazawa to Kyoto by express train. The total journey time is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes.
The journey from Kanazawa to Kyoto is by express train and will take you through the beautiful countryside of Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures. As you approach Kyoto, you will travel round the shores of Japan’s largest lake, Biwa-ko. On arrival in Kyoto, you will be met and taken on a tour of the city.
Enjoy an afternoon tour with tea ceremony. Begin with a visit to Nijo Castle, which was built in 1603 and has a rich Shogun history, and the Imperial Palace which was once the centre of the Japanese empire. Then visit a machiya (traditional wooden townhouse), for a Japanese tea ceremony. Afterwards, take a walk through Nishiki Food Market in the heart of Kyoto. The market is a narrow, five-block-long shopping street lined by more than 100 shops and restaurants. It is known as Kyoto’s Kitchen and specialises in all things food related, such as local and seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood, knives and cookware, and Kyoto’s specialities like pickles and dried seafood.
After the tour, you will be taken to your hotel. Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa – 3 Nights (B , L)
Continue to Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion and one of Japan’s most famous sights. Set among well-tended gardens, this glittering temple is covered entirely in gold leaf and is set on a small lake. The original, dating from 1394, was burned down by a student protester 50 years ago, but was immediately restored.
Later, enjoy an afternoon tour of Nara. Drive to Nara, which from 710 to 794 was the heart of Japanese cultural and political life. Today, the city is packed with shrines and temples and is a busy tourist pilgrimage spot.
You will be taken to some of its more notable and attractive shrines and to the Nara Deer Park.
The park covers a finely wooded area of 13 acres and is popularly known as Deer Park for its herd of more than 1,000 gentle deer. These deer are regarded as divine messengers of the Kasugataisha shrine, and locals often feed them special biscuits that are obtainable at the park.
Visit the Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden temple building in the world. The present structure was built in 1709 after a fire destroyed the original. The original building was more than two thirds the size of the current one and in the 17th century it was truly a marvel and a huge landmark. Inside the main hall is a giant Buddha statue and intricate wooden carvings of characters by the sculptor Unkei dating from the 13th century and which have recently been restored.
Continue to the Kasuga-taisha shrine, Nara’s most celebrated shine and dedicated to the deity responsible for protecting the city. The shrine is also famous for its numerous bronze and stone lanterns, which have been donated by worshippers and are lit twice a year on the occasion of the lantern festivals in early February and mid August. Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa (B)
Day 8: Kyoto Morning visit to the Kiyomizu Temple, set on a hill above Kyoto on a sturdy, complex wooden scaffold. The temple dates from 1633 and the main halls sits on hundreds of interconnecting wooden pillars and just below this is a spring of sacred waters that are supposed to have therapeutic qualities. The streets leading up to the temple are lined with souvenir shops, although branching out from these are some interesting quiet lanes with old houses.
Afterwards, continue to the Arashiyama Mountain Park in western Kyoto, an area of natural beauty with wooded hills and bamboo groves which is especially popular in cherry blossom or maple leaf season. Visit the Togetsukyo (moon crossing) bridge, which spans the Hazu-gawa river. This is the main landmark in the area and is surrounded by busy souvenir stalls and shops. Continue to the Tenryu-ji temple, which is one of the major temples of the Rinzai school of Zen. The temple was built in 1339 on the former sight of the emperor Go-Daigo’s villa after a priest had dreamt of a dragon rising from the nearby river: however the main attraction here is the 14th-century Zen garden.
Optional excursion: Evening walking tour in the Gion geisha district Meet at the hotel reception, where your guide will arrange taxis (payable locally) for the transfer to Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district.
Located on the east bank of the Kamo-gawa river, the area has a number of modern buildings, but there are still places where you can wander down quiet lanes flanked by traditional wooden restaurants and teahouses.
On arrival, begin a 45-minute walking tour of the district, with your guide leading you through the backstreets and alleyways, each lined with old wooden houses, where you can sometimes glimpse geishas or maikos on their way to or from appointments.
Afterwards, the guide will again arrange taxis (payable locally) to escort those who want to return to the hotel, or advise directions to local restaurants for those who prefer to remain in town. Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa (B)
Day 9: To Hiroshima
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the station.
Take the bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima. The journey takes 1 hour and 45 minutes. On arrival in Hiroshima, you will be met and taken on a tour of the city.
Enjoy an afternoon tour of Hiroshima. Also known as Rijo (Carp Castle), Hiroshima Castle was originally constructed in 1589 but much of it was dismantled following the Meiji Restoration, leaving only the donjon, main gates and turrets. The remainder was reconstructed as a modern ferro-concrete replica in 1958.
Continue to the A-Bomb Museum & Peace Memorial Park, built by the people of the city to symbolise their wishes for everlasting peace. Of particular interest are the Peace Memorial Museum, the Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace. A short talk by a bomb attack survivor has been arranged (subject to local conditions) who, using your guide as a translator, will give you a unique perspective on the city.
After the tour, you will be taken to your hotel. Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel – 1 Nights (B)
Day 10: Miyajima island – To Osaka
You will be collected at your hotel and driven to Miyajimaguchi, a journey of approximately 12 miles and approximately 30 minutes.
Take a 10-minute ferry ride from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima Island.
After disembarking at the ferry, proceed on foot along the coastline past small shops and cafes towards the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine. Before reaching the shrine you will see the famous red Torii Gate, one of the most photographed views in Japan. This is actually the gate to Itsukushima shrine and, at high tide, appears to be floating on water. Traditionally the island was considered sacred, and consequently people were not allowed to set foot upon it. Therefore both the gate and the shrine were built on the water so that pilgrims could visit without walking on the island.
The main shrine and its many subsidiaries and buildings are all connected by wide corridors and galleries, and have been built on piers on the bay so, like the Torii Gate, appear to float on water at high tide. The original structures are thought to have been built in the 6th century, but damaged and rebuilt many times over the years. Itsukushima Shinto Shrine has been designated a Unesco world heritage site and also one of Japan’s National Treasures.
Take a 10-minute ferry ride from Miyajima Island to Miyajimaguchi.
Drive from Miyajimaguchi to Hiroshima train station, a journey of approximately 12 miles and 30 minutes.
Travel by bullet train from Hiroshima to Shin Osaka Station, which takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then continue by coach to the hotel. Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel – 1 Night (B)
Day 11: Depart Osaka
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport. (B)