Best of Japan - 8 days
Discover the best of Japan in just 8 days. Travelling from the modern metropolis of Tokyo to enchanting Kyoto, with its age-old temples, shrines and colourful Geisha district. See the bronze Buddha and bamboo forest at Kamakura the breathtaking beauty of Mt Fuji at Hakone Izu National Park en route.
Toyko Sightseeing - Senjoji Temple district, Harajuki & Shibuya
Today we explore the capital. Taking the subway to Asakusa we visit the lively Sensoji Temple district, which is home to Tokyo’s first temple and scores of interesting souvenir and craft stalls. In the afternoon we head to Harajuku, which is a magnet for young and fashionable Tokyoites with its hip shops and cafes. Here we’ll visit the impressive Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined. Yoyogi Park beside the shrine is a popular hangout for locals and there is always a lot going on especially on Sundays with bands playing, drum circles, dancers and busking.
The last stop of the day is the Shibuya crossing - regarded as one of the busiest intersections in the world. The famed junction has no less than 7 pedestrian crossings and when the traffic lights turn red a wave of pedestrians, up to a 1000, converge onto the intersection from every direction. Known as 'the scramble', it's a well practised art to duck and weave with sportsman like agility to avoid collision, which we'll watch from the second floor Starbucks located directly opposite the crossing. This evening offers free time though if travelling in January, May and September you might like spend the evening watching a Sumo tournament. See our trip notes for more info.
Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo. This morning we board a train for a day trip to Kamakura, Japan’s first feudal capital, which is just an hour from Tokyo. Kamakura is a popular seaside location with a quaint village life feel and some stunning Zen temples. Here we’ll visit the iconic bronze Big Buddha and the Zen Temple of Hokokuji with its beautiful bamboo garden. Here you can drink tea and learn about the tea ceremony before walking the cobbled shopping district - adorned with lovely locally made items and returning to Japan’s bustling capital for the night. Tonight, we organise a Shabu Shubu (a traditional Japanese hot pot meal) if the majority of the group are interested.
Today offers 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.For tours departing after 01 Oct 2017 a visit to The National Museum replaces our visit to the Tokyo Edo Museum as it is closed for renovation.
Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. This morning we travel by highway bus (with luggage forwarding) 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 Kachikachi-yama 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. No trip to Japan would be complete without sampling authentic Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan (a Japanese inn), which is where we’ll bed down tonight. At the ryokan, sample tasty local cuisine and take a relaxing dip in the natural hot spring baths.
Overnight: Lake Kawaguchi | Dinner
Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto. The area has some great hiking trails and early this morning you might like to opt for a hike along the foreshores of the lake. Travel by bus to Mishima, then bullet train to Kyoto - Japan’s ancient and cultural capital.
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 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 afternoon we head to Gion, for a walking tour of this 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.
Overnight: Kyoto | Breakfast
Kyoto - Nijo Castle, Golden Pavilion & free time
This morning we offer a guided tour of 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 Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) a stunning Zen Buddhist temple, part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The top two floors of the monument are completely covered in gold leaf. Set upon a small lake with landscaped gardens the large completely gilt structure is impressive as it is beautiful Temple. Kinkakuji Temple continues to be one of Japan's most visited temples.
This afternoon offers free time for you to relax or to further discover the many sights of Kyoto your own way. Consider visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its winding path lined by thousands of bright 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.
Overnight: Kyoto | Breakfast
Saturday. On day 8 our tour comes to an end after hotel check out.
Prices & Dates
Prices shown are per person travelling. 'Twin/Double' prices per person apply when there are 2 people travelling, sharing a room. The 'Single supplement' applies for single travellers who require their own room and needs to be added to the 'Twin/Double' price. If you are happy to be paired up with another single traveller of the same sex on your tour, this can be arranged, thus avoiding the single person supplement.Read More
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard when necessary.
Yaesu Terminal Hotel, Tokyo
Enjoying an enviable location on a cherry-blossom lined street in the centre of Tokyo, Yaesu Terminal Hotel is just a short jaunt away from the city’s main railroad station giving travellers easy access to locations across the city. A comfortable 3-star hotel with a natural theme, a permanent art exhibit in the hotel lobby and an in-house restaurant serving freshly prepared local cuisine; it is a soothing place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing. Hotel guests can make use of the free Wi-Fi, benefit from complimentary bathrobes and slippers and enjoy entertainment on a flat-screen TV.
Yamagishi Ryokan, Lake Kawaguchi
With stunning views over Lake Kawaguchi, which is located just one minute away, the Yamagishi Ryokan is a gorgeous accommodation and an excellent base for exploring the area around the lake. Rooms are designed according to traditional Japanese styles with low furniture and lots of natural light. Breakfast and dinner are both included with the room and are served in the hotel's dining room. After dinner, guests can take a dip in one of the hotel's baths or relax with a coffee in the lounge. The hotel is located just an 8 minute walk from Kawaguchiko Station.
Daiwa Roynet Shijo Karasuma Hotel, Kyoto
Opened in spring 2012, the brand new Daiwa Roynet Shijo Karasuma is a modern superior business hotel located in the centre of Kyoto. Guest rooms are well furnished with all mod-cons and complimentary Wi-Fi is available. The onsite Motonokura Restaurant serves up a delicious array of local traditional Japanese meals. Well located just a few steps walk from Shijo subway station and within walking distance of numerous shops and restaurants, this is a great base for your stay in Japan's cultural capital.
Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto, Kyoto
Located just a short walk from Kyoto Station and the lofty Kyoto Tower, you really cannot get more central than this! Combining convenience with comfort, this contemporary hotel boasts modern guest rooms with flat screen televisions, complimentary WiFi, refrigerators and a private toilet – though washing facilities are shared. Buffet breakfast is available, with a choice of local and western dishes on offer. The hotel is surrounded by a wide choice of shops and restaurants, adn there are plenty of cultural landmarks just a short stroll away. After a day of sightseeing guests can relax with a soak in the hotel’s natural hot spring baths or opt for a sauna and massage.
Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto , Kyoto
Situated in the Shimogyo Ward, this modern property enjoys an enviable location in the heart of Kyoto. Guest rooms are contemporary in design and benefit from en suite facilities, air-conditioning, flat screen televisions and refrigerators. Complimentary WiFi is also accessible throughout the property. While breakfast is served buffet style in the mornings, the hotel does not serve lunch or dinner meaning guests can head out to explore the culinary delights of Kyoto’s many dining establishments. The busy shopping district of Shijo is just a 15-minute walk away, and here travellers will find an array of shops, restaurants and bars. Alternatively, the hotel offers a bike rental service for exploring the city on two wheels. The hotel also has a public bath and sauna, which are available free of charge to guests.
Extra Tour Info
Tour guides were friendly and attentive and helpful which made the experience enjoyable. The flexibility to explore at our own pace was also very good and a nice balance between planned activities and free time. In Kyoto, may have been useful to have a coach bus as we spent a lot of time waiting for public transport which meant less time at sites.”