Land of the Samurai - 12 Days
From 2020-03-21 to 2021-11-13
7 breakfasts and 1 Japanese dinner at the Lake Kawaguchi ryokan.
11 nights 3 star accommodation (including 1 night at a traditional ryokan (Japanese Inn).
Guided sightseeing and walking tours in Tokyo, Kamakura, Lake Kawaguchi, Kyoto, Himeji, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.
Lake Kawaguchi & Mt Fuji - Kachikachi-yama Ropeway and observatory.
For tours staying at Lake Kawaguchi between 14 Apr – 28 May each year we'll visit to the Fuji Shibazakura (Moss Phlox) Festival with Mt Fuji in the distance.
Ferry to Miyajima Island and cable car to the top of Mt Misen.
Escorted by a licensed English speaking Japanese tour guide.
Airport arrival transfer to tour hotel on day 1 - by train from Narita or Haneda International Airport.
Departure transfer on day 12 (unescorted) - by train or bus from Kyoto Station to Osaka Airports (ITM & KIX).
All transportation - buses, trains and rail passes (including Suica swipe Card and Japan Rail Pass).
Baggage forwarding service from Tokyo to Kyoto (one bag per person).
Maximum Group size: 16 persons.
Itinerary / more information
Day 1 - Tokyo Saturday. Arrive into either Narita or Haneda International Airport in Tokyo where you will be met by your guide. Travel by train into the city centre and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore the sights.
Day 2 - Toyko - Senjoji Temple district, Harajuki & Shibuya Today we explore the capital. First stop is Asakusa which is home to Sensoji, Tokyo's first temple which was built in the 7th century. Around the temple, in the lively Sensoji District, there are lots of interesting souvenir and craft stalls for us explore. We head to Harajuku in the afternoon, which is where the young and fashionable Tokyoites hangout, with its trendy shops and cafes. Here we’ll visit the important Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined.
Our final stop of the day is the Shibuya crossing regarded as one of the busiest intersections in the world. The famed intersection has no less than 7 pedestrian crossings and when the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same time in every direction. Traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides. Known as 'the scramble' its an amazing spectacle which we'll watch from the second floor Starbucks located directly opposite.
This evening offers free time though if travelling in January, May and September you might like spend the evening watching a Sumo tournament (bookings must be made in advance). See our trip notes for more info.
Day 3 - Kamakura Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo. Today we visit Kamakura, which is just an hour from Tokyo by train. Kamakura was Japan’s first feudal capital and is renowned for its beautiful Zen temples and pristine coastline. We visit the iconic bronze Big Buddha and the Hokokuji Zen Temple which has a picturesque bamboo garden where 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.
Day 4 - Tokyo 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 you further explore the city.
Day 5 - Mt Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. This morning we travel by highway to Lake Kawaguchi, located in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. Our base is Lake Kawaguchi which boasts breathtaking scenery and unparalleled views of a snow-capped Mt Fuji most of the year. Whilst in the area we'll travel on the Mount Fuji Panoramic 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 we stay in a traditional Japanese 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.
Day 6 - Kyoto 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.
Day 7 - 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.
Day 8 - Himeji Kyoto - Himeji - Hiroshima. We travel by bullet train to Hiroshima today, stopping en route at Himeji to visit the UNESCO Listed Himeji Castle, nicknamed the White Egret due to its colour and elegant shape. Himeji is Japan’s best preserved and largest castle, known for its maze-like defences. After taking in the panoramic views from the top of its 6 story watch tower there is time to stroll the local Saturday market which often takes place here before taking the bullet train to Hiroshima. The later part of the afternoon and evening offer free time.
Tonight, 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.
Day 9 - Miyajima Located off the coast of Hiroshima is Miyajima Island, one of Japan's most picturesque destinations. Today we take the ferry out to the island and see the dramatic red 'floating' Torii Gate at the revered Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site. 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. As we explore the island we'll see further Shinto shrines, towering pagodas and pavilions before soaking up the incredible views of the Seto Inland Sea, dozens of nearby islands and Hiroshima city from our cable car ride to the top of Mount Misen, the highest point of the island. 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.
Note: From June 2019 the floating Torii Gate is undergoing renovations – please see the Trip Notes for further details.
Day 10 - Hiroshima Hiroshima - Kyoto. Two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II and Hiroshima was the first place to be hit. This morning we visit Peace Park, Peace Park Museum which are a poignant 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 travel by bullet train back to Kyoto. Here we say goodbye to our guide and friends who are travelling onward.
Day 11 - Kyoto A free day to spend a leisure in Kyoto. Independently exploring this enchanting city you'll find sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades, time‐honoured teahouses nestling among modern businesses and geisha in the historic Gion District. Alternatively consider using your Japan Rail Pass for a day trip to Nara which has a myriad of shrines and temples, all set against the backdrop of the low lying mountains in the midst of Nara Park.
Day 12 - Osaka Wednesday. Kyoto - Osaka. Your Japan adventure comes to an end today. Take the train (un-escorted) from Kyoto Station to Osaka Airport for your onward flight. Please ensure you book your departing flight after 10am.
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