Toyko - Senjoji Temple district, Harajuki & Shibuya
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.
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 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. See our trip notes for more info.
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 the tea ceremony before walking the cobbled pedestrian alleys - adorned with 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) for those who 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.
Our accommodation for the next two nights is at a Japanese Inn (a 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.
Mt Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi
Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. This morning we travel by train 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, where the landscape is covered in a vibrant, hot pink moss with Fuji as the backdrop. Our accommodation for the next two nights is at a Japanese Inn (a 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.
Overnight: Lake Kawaguchi | Dinner
Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto. Opt for an early morning hike along the lake foreshores before travelling by bus, 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. Upon arrival we'll tour Sanjusagen-do Temple famous for its statues of Kannon. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon, made of Japanese cypress and covered in gold leaf are impressive. Standing in rows of 10 each hand carved so that no two are alike.
Later in the day we'll make our way to Gion, the famous Geisha district filled with all things quintessentially Japan for a guided walking tour. 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's Nijo Castle
Today we discover 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. Later 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. Nearly completely covered in gold, the shimmering temple sits beside a small lake that reflects it beauty in the calm waters. This afternoon offers free time for you to relax or to further discover the many sights of Kyoto your own way.
Overnight: Kyoto | Breakfast
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.
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.
Overnight: Hiroshima | Breakfast
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.
Overnight: Hiroshima | Breakfast
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 and Children's Peace Monument a memorial to the children killed, where schools from around the world donate paper origami cranes, signifying hope and peace.
This afternoon we take the bullet train to Nagoya, followed by another scenic train journey up the mountains to Takayama.
Overnight: Takayama | Breakfast
Takayama is 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 stalls where you can wander around the shops and market stalls which sell everything from vegetables and pickles to craft, ceramics and tools. After there's a visit a sake distillery to sample the town’s famous and potent sake.
The afternoon we take a trip into the countryside 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. You can opt to miss the Hida Village and enjoy free time in Takayama if you would prefer. For dinner tonight we recommend sampling Takayama’s delicious Hida beef at one of the many restaurants or Beef Burger cafes.
Overnight: Takayama | Breakfast
Takayama – Tokyo. This morning we embark on the scenic Higashiyama walk (the 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.
Overnight: Tokyo | Breakfast
Thursday. Our tour comes to an end today. Travel (unescorted) back to Narita International Airport on board the Narita Express train.
Prices & Dates
For all our tours and tailor-made holidays we provide you with a clear categorisation of all hotels we use. The REGIONAL CATEGORY indicates the local rating of each hotel in each respective country. We have also rated each hotel using OUR CATEGORY, which will be in line with generally accepted western hotel grading standards.
Basic hotels and simple accommodation is a no frills option with an adventurous authentic feel.
Standard accommodation equates to a Western 3-star standard, always featuring en-suite rooms and usually a restaurant.
Superior accommodation equates to a Western 4-star standard, featuring en-suite rooms and usually a restaurant and often a swimming pool and/or a fitness centre.
Deluxe accommodation equates to a Western 5-star standard, usually featuring spacious, en-suite rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness centre and an array of amenities, excellent service and customer care.
Lavish accommodation equates to a Western 5-star plus standard - the creme de la creme. Featuring spacious, en-suite rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness centre and an array of amenities, this accommodation is a cut above the rest. Sheer opulence!
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.
Daiwa Roynet, Hiroshima
The Daiwa Roynet is a great launching pad for exploring Hiroshima with a prime location and reliable service. The smart guestrooms feature free WiFi access and all the mod-cons needed for a comfortable stay. Dine on Japanese dishes at the hotel's restaurant. Conveniently located in Hiroshima's main commercial district, just a 1-minute walk from Chudenmae Tram Station and a 10-minute walk from the Peace Memorial Museum.
Best Western Takayama, Takayama
The Best Western is a great option in Takayama with a handy central location and good selection of facilities. The comfortable soundproofed guestrooms feature sophisticated decor and free WiFi. Enjoy local specialities at the stylish Sho Restaurant or relax in the Spa Replus sauna where massage services are also available. Bicycles can be rented from the hotel in order to explore Takayama at your own leisure. Best Western Hotel Takayama is conveniently located just a 1-minute walk from JR Takayama Train Station and Hida Kokubunji Temple.
Found the tour to be more strenuous than expected. A little too much 'free time' for my liking (I'm not a shopper!). Guides were both very good.”