Sado Island | Japan
FROM: €10,395 pp

Travel the path less trodden on Japan's main island of Honshu with this 15-day escorted group tour. Enjoy guided sightseeing in the capital before heading to Nikko, a UNESCO-listed site known as the burial site of one of Japan's most formidable rulers. Discover Nikko National Park, see the ancient temples of Hiraizumi, and stay in several traditional Japanese ryokans. Relax in hot springs, learn about the devastating 2011 tsunami in Ishinomaki (or Kesennuma) and take in the picturesque setting of Matsushima Bay. Explore Sendai at leisure, visit Niigata and spend two days on Sado Island before returning to Tokyo.

Inclusions
Itinerary
Prices & Dates
Hotels

Trip Highlights

Tokyo - See highlights including Harajuku, Hamarikyu Gardens, Akihabara and the busy Shibuya crossing on a guided tour
Hiraizumi - Admire the golden temple at Chuson-ji and enjoy an included visit to the impressive Yugendo Caves
Matsushima Bay - Cruise this picturesque ocean inlet, known as Nihon San-Kei, or one of the "Three Great Sights of Japan"
Niigata - Visit the elegant Saito Family Summer Villa, wander around Hakusan Park and browse through the Honcho Market
Nikko - Take in the highlights of this lesser-visited town including a cable car ride, and explore scenic Nikko National Park
Ishinomaki - Learn about the devastating tsunami that struck this area in 2011 and the resilience of the local people who built it back up
Sendai - Enjoy free time in this picturesque and green city, an unintended consequence of the devastation caused by bombing during WWII
Sado Island - Join a two-day excursion to this cultural island, a former colony of exiles and a once-crucial gold mining hub

Included

14 breakfasts, 1 lunch & 9 dinners
Escorted by a tour leader
All relevant transportation and transfers including by minibus, private coach and train
Loop bus pass for transport in Hiraizumi
Full day private guide service in Nikko
Day trip to the Yugendo Caves, including boat trip & paper-making workshop
Entrance fees to Kesennuma City Memorial Museum and Rias Ark Museum of Art (2025+ departures)
Dairy visit & ice cream making in Zao Onsen
Entrance fees for two days' sightseeing on Sado Island
Luggage forwarding from Tokyo to Hiraizumi, Niigata to Tokyo and Ishinomaki/Kesennuma to Sendai
Shared portable Wi-Fi access throughout trip
14 nights 3-4 star hotels & traditional ryokans
Arrival airport transfer on day 1 and departure transfer on day 15 by shared shuttle bus
Transport card with 2,500 yen (USD $16) credit for city transport
Entrance to Hamarikyu Gardens in Tokyo
Entrance fees for temples and shrines in Nikko
Kokeshi doll painting workshop and a visit to the doll museum (2024 departures) or Excursion to Izu Numa town and mochi rice cake making experience (2025+ departures)
Sightseeing tour of Matsushima Bay
Two full days' private guide service on Sado Island
Taiko drumming experience on Sado Island
Information pack on arrival

Not Included

International flights
Entrance fees (including those for temples, shrines and museums) unless otherwise specified
Any local transport (subways, taxis, buses) unless covered by the included transport passes
Baggage handling and luggage forwarding unless otherwise specified

Itinerary

Days 1-2

Discover Tokyo

Welcome to Tokyo! Upon landing at Tokyo's Narita Airport, you will be transported via shared shuttle bus to our accommodation in Asakusa, a traditional district in Tokyo. Here, you will meet your tour guide and have the opportunity to start acquainting yourself with your fellow travellers. Asakusa is a captivating and easily accessible part of Tokyo, renowned for the striking Senso-ji Temple, bustling market stalls, and Kappabashi-dori (Kitchen Street). It serves as an excellent starting point for our adventure in Japan. Tonight, we head out for an included welcome dinner at one of the district's fine dining establishments.

On day 2, after a restful night's sleep, our tour leader will lead us on a city tour using public transportation, visiting famous locales like the Shibuya scramble crossing, the lively shopping streets of Harajuku, and Akihabara - known as 'electric town'. We also explore the peaceful Hamarikyu Gardens, a tranquil retreat amidst the city's hustle and bustle.

Accommodation: Gracery Asakusa Hotel or similar
Overnight: Tokyo (2)  |  Breakfast x 1, Dinner x 1

Days 3-4

Historic Nikko & Nikko National Park

Tokyo - Nikko. On day 3, we take a direct train from Asakusa to Nikko, a short distance from Tokyo but rich in unique character. Nikko is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the burial place of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of Japan's most powerful shogunate (military dictatorship), which lasted from 1603 - 1868! On arrival at our traditional ryokan accommodation, we join a local guide for a comprehensive tour of the area's highlights, including Tokugawa's mausoleum, the iconic "three wise monkeys" carving, and a scenic cable car ride.

Day 4 is spent exploring Nikko National Park, home to lush forests, serene lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and rejuvenating hot springs. We have a private bus at our disposal to visit picturesque locations like the Akechidaira Plateau and Kegon Falls. Alternatively, if you prefer a leisure day in Nikko, you are free to venture out independently.

Accommodation: Kanaya Hotel or similar
Overnight: Nikko (2) (ryokan)  |  Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2

Days 5-6

Hiraizumi

Nikko - Hiraizumi. The next two days are spent in Hiraizumi, where we explore its stunning temples and shrines, testament to its former glory as the seat of the powerful Fujiwara clan during the 12th century Heian Period. These impressive structures are considered some of the most beautiful in the Tohoku region and have been designated as a World Heritage Site.

During our stay in Hiraizumi, we visit Chuson-ji, the town's most famous temple, which is surrounded by picturesque woodland. This temple complex, once extensive, now consists of two buildings, including Konjikido, which is completely covered in gold similar to Kyoto's famous pavilion. After our visit, you can enjoy an optional cycle ride to Genbikei Gorge or a traditional lantern-painting workshop.

On day 6, we further explore the Hiraizumi region. Activities include a boat ride through Geibikei Gorge, a visit to Yugendo Caves, and participation in a paper-making workshop.

In Hiraizumi, we stay at a traditional Japanese-style hotel, where you can enjoy a traditional multi-course meal on both nights of our stay.

Accommodation: Musashibo or similar
Overnight: Hiraizumi (2)  |  Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2

Day 7

Hot springs, geysers & ryokan stay

Hiraizumi - Naruko Onsen. This morning we transfer by private coach from Hiraizumi to Naruko Onsen, a quaint town known for its nine different hot springs, each with unique mineral compositions and health benefits. We embark on a day tour to Naruko Gorge, Naruko Dam, a nearby geyser, and there's an optional rowing boat trip on Katanuma Pond. We also have the opportunity to visit a wooden kokeshi doll museum and participate in a doll-painting workshop to learn about Naruko's famous traditional craft. Spend the night at a traditional ryokan inn, where a delicious kaiseki dinner will be served.

Please note: 2025 departures will visit lakeside Izu Numa town to enjoy a mochi rice cake making experience instead of the kokeshi doll painting workshop/museum.

Accommodation: Kameya or similar
Overnight: Naruko Onsen  |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8

Legacy of the 2011 tsunami

Naruko Onsen - Ishinomaki. March 11, 2011, marked the day when Japan's Tohoku region was struck by the most powerful earthquake in the country's history, leading to a destructive tsunami along the eastern coastline. Ishinomaki bore the brunt of the devastation, with the town almost entirely engulfed by the powerful wave.

The remnants of the tsunami may have been cleared away, but the scars of the disaster still linger in Ishinomaki, a reminder of the tragedy that unfolded. Today, a local volunteer guide will share their firsthand account of the events of 2011 and highlight key locations in the town. Despite the somber subject matter, the kindness and hospitality of the Ishinomaki residents will make our visit a memorable experience.

Please note: For 2025 departures, today's itinerary is different. We will visit the two tsunami hit towns of Minamisanriku and Kesennuma, with a stay in Kesennuma, instead of Ishinomaki. Visits will include the Minamisanriku Memorial Park, Kesennuma City Memorial Museum, and the Rias Ark Museum of Art.

Accommodation: Ishinomaki Grand Hotel (2024 departures) Kesennuma Plaza Hotel (2025 departures)
Overnight: Ishinomaki  |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9

Matsushima Bay & Sendai

Ishinomaki - Matsushima Bay - Sendai. Leaving Ishinomaki, we make the short train journey to Matsushima Bay this morning. This ocean inlet is adorned with lush islands, recognized as one of the Nihon San-Kei, or "Three Great Sights of Japan". Explore the bay with an included boat tour, stopping at scenic piers, islands, and the beautiful Entsuin Temple Gardens. Following our exploration, we board a train to Sendai for the evening.

Known as the "city of trees" by locals, Sendai boasts tree-lined streets and spacious parks, an unexpected consequence of the destruction it faced during WWII. As the capital of northern Japan, it offers a vibrant restaurant scene, lively nightlife, and a variety of shops and galleries to enjoy. Spend the remainder of the day immersing yourself in all that Sendai has to offer.

Accommodation: Hotel Vista Sendai or similar
Overnight: Sendai  |  Breakfast

Days 10-11

Eastwards to Niigata

Sendai - Zao Onsen - Togatta Onsen - Niigata. Day 10 begins with a trip to the Sendai morning market before we embark on our coach journey east. Stopping at Zao Onsen, we visit a local dairy farm, interact with the cows, and indulge in making and tasting ice cream. We also stop at Togatta Onsen for a relaxing foot bath in the ashiyu hot spring. Travel along the scenic Zao Echo Line road, passing by stunning waterfalls and mountains, until we reach Kattadake Peak, offering panoramic vistas of the mysterious Okama Crater Lake with its colour-changing waters. Our day concludes in Niigata, a prominent city on Japan's western coast.

On day 11, we continue our exploration of the west coast with a full day of sightseeing in and around Niigata. Visit the elegant Saito Family Summer Villa, showcasing turn-of-the-century Japanese architecture. Explore the picturesque Hakusan Park and browse through the Honcho Market for shopping opportunities. Enjoy some leisure time in the afternoon, with suggestions from your tour leader on how best to utilize your free time.

Accommodation: Hotel Sunroute or similar
Overnight: Niigata (2)  |  Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 1

Days 12-13

Sado Island

Niigata - Sado Island. On the morning of day 12, we take a taxi to the port and board a Jetfoil to Sado Island. Historically, Sado served as a place of exile for dissenting individuals, including poets, artists, and political figures.

Upon arrival on Sado, we meet a local guide who will be with us throughout our stay here. On a private minibus tour, we visit the Old Fishing Street, experience a tub boat ride, and participate in a taiko drumming lesson with Kodo, one of Japan's most famous taiko groups. Enjoy dinner at our traditional ryokan accommodation.

Day 13 sees us learning about Sado's gold mining history at the gold mine museum and the former magistrate's office. Explore other attractions on the island, such as the Ibis Sanctuary and a local sake brewery, before returning to our accommodation to relax in the hot spring bath.

Accommodation: Yoshidaya Ryokan or similar
Overnight: Sado Island (2) (ryokan)  |  Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 1

Days 14-15

Return to Tokyo

Sado Island - Niigata - Tokyo. On day 14, we take the ferry back to Niigata and travel on to Tokyo by bullet train. For our last night, we will be staying in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's liveliest entertainment districts, filled with skyscrapers housing a variety of bars, shops, restaurants, and karaoke booths. Take advantage of this bustling area to make the most of your remaining time in Japan. Shinjuku is easily accessible to all parts of the city, allowing you to visit any final attractions or grab a special souvenir. A farewell dinner is included this evening.

On day 15, our adventure comes to an end after breakfast, with an included shared shuttle bus transfer to the airport. Safe onward travels!

Accommodation: JR Kyushu Blossom Shinjuku or similar
Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 1

Prices & Dates

Departure dates marked with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departures are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. 'Twin Share' prices are per person when there are 2 people sharing a room. 'Single Room' prices are applicable to those who don’t have anyone to share a room with or anyone wanting the privacy of a single room.

Guaranteed Departure
2024
Twin Share
Single Room
€10,395
€11,205
2025
Twin Share
Single Room
€11,295
€12,695
€11,295
€12,695
€11,295
€12,695
€10,985
€12,385
€10,985
€12,385
€10,985
€12,385
€10,985
€12,385
€11,295
€12,695
€11,295
€12,695
€11,295
€12,695

Hotels

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.

Gracery Asakusa Hotel, Tokyo

Our Category: Standard   |   Regional Category: 3 Star Hotel

Hotel Gracery Asakusa offers a prime location just 800 meters from the iconic Sensoji Temple. Each unit in the hotel is thoughtfully equipped with a kettle for added convenience, and the rooms feature private bathrooms with baths. For guest comfort, Hotel Gracery Asakusa provides air conditioning and flat-screen TVs in every room. The multilingual staff at the reception are proficient in both English and Japanese, ensuring a smooth and pleasant stay experience.

At a Glance

Range
Trip Type
Starts
Tokyo
Ends
Tokyo
Departs
Wednesdays
Group Size
Min 4 / Max 14
Hotel Rating
3-4 star hotels & traditional ryokans
Tour Guide
Yes - escorted by a tour leader
Meals
Breakfast: 14, Lunch: 1, Dinner: 9
Countries
Minimum Age
6 yrs, accompanied by an adult
Arr. Transfer
Yes
Dep. Transfer
Yes
Rainbow Bridge, stretching across the water in Tokyo, lit up at night
Nikko Highlight 1
Rainbow Bridge, stretching across the water in Tokyo, lit up at night
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