Japan- Land of the Rising Sun
Japan - an ancient culture of emperors, fierce shoguns, samurais and brutal martial arts. Yet it’s also a place of gentle geishas, colourful kimonos, exquisite garden design and Zen Buddhism. How did a country so deeply rooted in such diverse heritage become one of the most modern and advanced economies on the planet? Pondering such questions is what makes a trip to Japan so incredibly rewarding. Having travelled there once, you’ll feel almost hypnotically drawn back to this truly enigmatic country.
- See the famous sights of Tokyo - the Meiji shrine, Omotesando Street, fashion-setting Harajuku and the Akihabara electronic town
- Visit the stunning Nikko National Park, with its outstanding Shogun-era architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site
- Take a scenic boat trip from Tokyo’s traditional Asakusa district to the luxury shops of Ginza
- Enjoy astonishing views of Mt. Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi and the hot-spring mountain spa resort of Hakone
- See the volcanic Owakudani 'Boiling Valley' by aerial gondola
- Travel at 189 mph on the incomparable bullet trains Reflect on the horrors of war at Hiroshima's Peace Park and museum
- Experience the spectacular 300-foot Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, stunning examples of Japan’s world-renowned natural beauty
- Tour Kyoto, former Imperial capital and essence of traditional Japan with wooden houses, geishas, stunning temples and Zen gardens
- Guided tour of Nara, Japan’s first capital with its huge bronze Buddha
- Opportunity to stay the night in a ‘Ryokan’, a traditional Japanese Inn
- Opportunity to learn origami, traditional flower arranging or Japanese cooking
- Return direct flights from London Heathrow
- Stay in hand-picked four-star hotels, with daily breakfast and three meals
- Escorted by our experienced tour manager
You arrive at the airport for your overnight direct flight to Narita airport.
We transfer to our hotel, the excellent four-star New Otani, for four nights including breakfast. Located centrally close to the Japanese parliament, it’s a few minutes' walk from the nearest metro stop. The hotel has a wide variety of restaurants and a charming Japanese garden, with the air-conditioned rooms having bath/shower, hairdryer, TV, safe and minibar. In the afternoon we take a walking tour of the immediate area to get our first taste of Tokyo, with the rest of the day free to relax after your flight.
Today we start our exploration of Japan's largest city, Tokyo. First stop is the famous Shinto Meiji shrine, dedicated to one of its past emperors. Set in lush parkland, this is a religious site where you may see a typical Japanese marriage underway. Next it’s on to some of Tokyo's most renowned neighbourhoods, including Omotesando Street, the 'Rodeo Drive' of the city, full of luxury brand shops, the Akihabara ‘electronic town’ and the Harajuku area, with the latest outrageous fashions. We sample some Japanese yakitori (grilled) cuisine on our included lunch.
We drive north through delightful farmland and towns, towards the mountains that run down the middle of Honshu and arrive at Nikko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site with some of the best 17th century Shogun-era architecture in the country. The unique Toshogu shrine is made up of a complex of wonderful shrines, gates and pagodas, full of intricate woodcarvings and rich paintings. After an included lunch we continue up the valley, visiting the 300-foot Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, formed after a volcanic eruption 20,000 years ago. We return to Tokyo in the late afternoon.
Today we visit the Asakusa district, full of traditional small houses and shops, a unique insight into the Tokyo of the last century. A boat trip takes us down the Arakawa River to Ginza - one of the most luxurious shopping destinations in the world, brimming with ultra-modern department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffee houses. Your afternoon is free to shop, explore, or enjoy some people-watching!
Today we drive west towards Mt. Fuji. Fringed by thick forests and a ring of lakes, it is one of the world’s greatest and most spectacular views. We visit two of these beautiful lakes to enjoy the stunning panoramas from different angles and then continue to explore the fascinating mountain resort of Hakone. We go by aerial gondola to see the Owakudani 'Boiling Valley', with a myriad of hot, steaming volcanic vents. Descending to the dark blue waters of Lake Ashi, we take a cruise on an unusual Japanese version of a pirate ship. We stay one night at the four-star Hakone Hotel, including breakfast.
Today we head towards Hiroshima on a gleaming white bullet train. With reclining seats, plenty of legroom and speeds up to 189 mph, this is an incomparable way to travel. We arrive at lunchtime to visit one of the most distinctive views in Japan, on the small island of Miyajima; where a huge red 'Torii' gate sits just offshore, appearing to float between the sea and sky. The island has a relaxed, holiday atmosphere, with interesting shops and a covered market, and is easy to explore on foot. Later we go to our hotel, the four-star ANA Crowne Plaza, with breakfast. This evening we enjoy a typical Hiroshima dinner.
Today is a stark reminder of the horrors of war as we visit Hiroshima's Peace Park and museum and see the remains of the only building to survive the atomic bomb blast of August 1945. The city has been completely rebuilt with no signs left of the devastation of that fateful day, but a small counter in the museum shows the days since the last atomic test. Leaving Hiroshima we head towards the old imperial capital of Kyoto, en route visiting the superb Korakuen garden at Okayama. Our hotel for the next four nights is the centrally located four-star Royal Hotel and Spa, with breakfast.
This morning is spent exploring Kyoto’s treasures. First the beautiful Golden Pavilion, overlooking its extraordinary lake and garden. Nearby is the Ryoan-ji temple, the Temple of The Dragon at Peace, home to Japan's most famous Zen garden, with fifteen rocks surrounded by white gravel. We then move on to the amazing Arashiyama bamboo forest - an incredible ‘other-worldly’ experience. Another iconic 17th century Kyoto monument is Nijo Castle, famous for its wooden floors - designed to creak, they warned its occupants of any attack! In the afternoon we take a walking tour through Kyoto's Gion district, renowned for its old wooden houses and Japanese restaurants.
Capital city before Kyoto, Nara is a few miles south. En route we stop at one of the country's most iconic shrines, made up of thousands of red Torii gates creating two extraordinary wooden tunnels up the hillside. On arrival in Nara you'll be greeted by dozens of tame deer seeking out the food that the locals have ready to sell to you! The main sight is the amazing Todai-ji temple, the largest wooden structure in the world. This houses a huge bronze statue of Buddha – a truly inspiring sight and just one of several UNESCO World Heritage sites in Nara.