Tokyo to Takayama - 13 days
This 13 day adventure takes in the must-see sites of Tokyo and Kyoto as well as visiting 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.
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. Total walking distance today: Approx 8 - 10km. 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.
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.
Mt Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi
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 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. 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.
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 discover 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. After we 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
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Extra Tour Info
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.”