SEMI INDEPENDENT TOUR: Take your family on a Japanese adventure travelling from Tokyo to Osaka. Take in the must-see sights of the neon-lit capital, marvel at the breath-taking beauty of Mt Fuji at Hakone Izu National Park, feed mischievous monkeys at a monkey park, discover the famous island of Miyajima and unleash your inner gamer in Osaka on this 12-day journey offering experiences for all ages.
We meet our tour leader and the rest of the group this morning and travel to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of Tokyo’s most popular parks. Here we have the opportunity to stroll through the traditional Japanese and Western designed gardens and drown out the noise and hustle and bustle of the city.
This afternoon we take in the cityscape with incredible views from the Metropolitan Government Building. Later, we visit the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa where we learn about Buddhism in Japan and witness worshippers making offerings to Kannon, the goddess of compassion. We then have time to walk through the charming streets of Asakusa before returning to our hotel for an evening at leisure. For those looking to test out some of the local activities, there is an opportunity to visit one of the batting cages and try your hand at one of the nation's favourite sports!
Our morning begins with a visit to the Ghibli Museum, which showcases original sketches and memorabilia left by Master animator Miyazaki Hayao. Don’t forget to enjoy the short-animated performance!
The afternoon finds us discovering the traditional-modern contrast of the Harajuku area of Tokyo. We wander through the forest of Yoyogi Park until we reach the Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shokun who began Japans transformation from a feudal into a modern society. Our afternoon finishes watching the chaos of the famous Shibuya crossing, rumoured to be one of the busiest intersections in the world, with over 1000 people crossing at one time. The rest of the evening is at leisure to continue to explore the shopping district or for those looking to try one of Tokyos quirky cafés.
We have some free time to further explore the fascinating capital. Why not start the day with a visit to the chaotic Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the largest fish markets in the world and try fresh fish from this morning's catch. Later, visit the flashy Ginza shopping area, or Akihabara, Japan’s funky “electric town”, home to Japans famous J-pop group AKB48 and hub of anime and manga stores. Be sure to visit one of the famous maid cafes in the area and watch out for people in cosplay walking the streets.
For the afternoon, we enjoy a sushi-making class with a sushi chef and eat the fruits of our labour for dinner. To finish the day there is the optional visit to the Samurai museum to learn the fine art of samurai, as well as doing your best samurai cosplay when trying on armour.
Tokyo - Hakone. After breakfast we take a quick train journey from Tokyo to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, home of the world-renowned Mt Fuji, Izu Peninsula and Izu Islands. On arrival we have some free time to explore or there is an optional visit to Owakuandi valley for spectacular views of Mt Fuji. This volcanic valley is awash with active sulfur vents and hot springs and boasts the local delicacy of black eggs boiled in the sulphuric water. Later, take a series of cable cars down the valley for a boat trip on Lake Ashi.
No trip to Japan would be complete without sampling authentic Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan (a Japanese inn), which is where we’ll lay our heads down tonight. At the ryokan, sample tasty local cuisine (at your own expense) and take a relaxing dip in the natural hot spring baths.
Note: As of Oct 2019 the Hakone Ropeway has been reopened after been temporarily suspended, although some restrictions remain in place – please see the Trip Notes for further details.
Hakone – Hiroshima. This morning we have some free time to enjoy our final hours in Hakone before making our way to Odawara station to board our first bullet train to Hiroshima! On arrival at Hiroshima, we independently make our way to our hotel for a day at leisure to wander the streets. Perhaps enjoy an all you can eat Okonomiyaki – a savory pancake that both the people of Hiroshima and Osaka claim is best in their home city!
This morning we meet our guide to learn about Hiroshima’s tragic past. Our first port of call is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum - a reminder of when the city became the target of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in 1945. We learn about how the city recovered from this devastating event and its continued commitment to a peaceful, nuclear-free world.
In the afternoon we take a short ferry trip to the small island of Miyajima, one of Japan’s most visited spots and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is famous for its iconic ‘floating’ Torii Gate at the well-respected Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, which appears to float on water. The shrine stands 16 meters high but can be reached by foot during the low tide. We have time to walk along the many walking trails to the amazing shrines, beaches and waterfalls accompanied by the resident deer. We then return to Hiroshima for an evening at leisure. For dinner we recommend trying the sushi or sashimi at the Sushi Tai restaurant.
Note: From June 2019 the floating Torii Gate is undergoing renovations – please see the Trip Notes for further details.
Hiroshima – Kyoto. Depart Hiroshima early today on our next bullet train bound for Kyoto. On arrival we make our way to Daisen-In Temple to channel your inner zen this morning and start the day with a meditation lesson with a Buddhist Monk followed by an informal tea ceremony. Spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Perhaps head to the Golden Pavilion and walk around the shimmering lake or cycle to the Imperial Palace Gardens.
This evening, head to Gion corner for an evening of traditional Japanese performances. From geishas performing their traditional arts to comedy performances, this show is a must see whilst in Kyoto.
We spend the morning walking through the quaint Kyoto streets to the 1200-year-old Kiyomizu Dera Temple, one of the most celebrated temples of Japan, where we enjoy spectacular views of Kyoto.
Our afternoon finds us discovering the district of Arashiyama, on the outskirts of Kyoto. We manoeuvre through lush bamboo forest to start our 30-minute climb to the Monkey Park, where we'll see panoramic views of Kyoto and feed the cheeky monkeys who live there. Our last stop of the day is to one of the most important zen temples, the Tenryu-Ji Temple, to explore the pristine gardens and famous dragons’ eye on the mural in the Dharma Hall. The rest of the evening is free to relax or explore Nishiki Market, known as Kyoto’s kitchen for all kinds of local delicacies.
Our final morning in Kyoto begins mastering the art of calligraphy with a lesson on the traditional artform from a master. Then we have the opportunity to dress in traditional Kimono and Yukata outfits and stroll around the city to get some iconic shots.
Our afternoon finds us visiting the world-famous International Manga Museum, home to over 300,00 publications. Take some time to sit back, relax and enter the new world of Japanese Manga, or watch one of the artists, deep in concentration as they create their art. We then spend time in the wooded hills visiting the Fushimi Inari Shrine, an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. The shrine is famous for its thousands of red vermilion torii gates, forming a corridor that leads you into the surrounding woodland. In the evening wander through Pontocho Alley and enjoy a meal at one of the lovely wood-panelled restaurants, or sip on sake and look out for geishas as they walk past in their traditional clothing.
Kyoto - Osaka. We bid farewell to Kyoto this morning and independently make our way to the train station, where we board our bullet train to Osaka. On arrival, we meet our guide and make our way to Osaka Castle, a famous landmark which represented a unified Japan. Take time to explore the grounds and to uncover a turbulent history of sieges and destruction, leading to its being restored to its original glory. Nowadays the interior of the castle is a museum dedicated to the original founder, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, housing artefacts such as armour, and thousands of shrines. Be sure to visit the nine storey keep or donjon.
Later, we trade old for new and release our inner child with a visit to a nine-storey arcade in the heart of Osaka. With games from the old school NES favourites to the newest Super Smash Brothers, there’s something for the whole family. We end our day with a stroll around the Shinsaibashi shopping district for any last-minute souvenirs and along the Dotonbori Riverfront, one of the most famous waterways in Osaka. The rest of the evening is at leisure. Osaka is known for its culinary delights so be sure to try some of the renowned takoyaki on your last night in Osaka.
Our adventure comes to an end after hotel check out today. Use your JR pass to return to Tokyo. An airport departure transfer is not included but can be booked upon request. Additional nights accommodation can also be arranged if you're not ready to go back home.