- BE AMAZED IN TOKYO
- DISCOVER DELIGHTFUL ISE
- EXPLORE HISTORIC KAMAKURA & ISE
- ADMIRE MAJESTIC KYOTO
- EXPERIENCE THE BULLET TRAIN
- TASTE SAKE AT A BREWERY
- PRECIOUS ONE NIGHT CRUISE
DAY 1｜ARRIVE TO TOKYO
Your English-speaking guide will meet you at the airport, and you will be taken by private coach to Tokyo city centre. Once you’ve enjoyed your welcome lunch of Japanese cuisine and gotten to know your guide and the rest of the people on your tour, your tour will begin with a guided tour of three important Tokyo landmarks: Asakusa Sensoji Temple, Meiji Jingu Shrine, and the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The Asakusa Sensoji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, dating back to the 7th century AD. Leading to the entrance of the temple is the Nakamisedori – a busy marketplace where you can buy traditional Japanese goods, souvenirs, and snacks. The Meiji Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine, was completed in 1920, and is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, and his wife, Empress Shoken, who were important figures in the opening up of Japan to the rest of the world in the 19th century. Although it is located next to the busy Harajuku streets of Tokyo, it is an oasis of calm. Located right in the middle of Tokyo, encircled by a moat, a beautiful park built atop stone walls, the Tokyo Imperial Palace, formerly the seat of the Tokugawa shogunate, is today the residence of the Emperor and his family. Once you have finished your guided tour, your private coach will take you to your hotel.
Dinner is not included as standard on this evening of the tour, however, there is an option this evening to enjoy a “yakata-bune” style dinner, served on a river cruise ship – strongly recommended!
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Tokyo 4*
Hotel Tokyo 4*
DAY 2｜FREE DAY IN TOKYO
This day has been kept clear so that you can explore Tokyo by yourself.
If you like, however, there is an optional tour to Nikko, a beautiful town nestled in the mountains about 2 hours north of Tokyo. It is particularly famous for its shrine, Toshogu, which was built to house the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Breakfast is provided by your hotel, however, lunch and dinner are not included as standard. There is an optional shabu-shabu dinner at Moh Moh Paradise in Shinjuku. “Shabu-shabu” is a style of eating, whereby you are served thin slices of raw pork and vegetables, which you boil quickly by dipping into a boiling broth. This meal is a rare luxury in Japan, and truly delicious.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Tokyo 4*
Hotel Tokyo 4*
DAY 3｜KAMAKURA & LAKE ASHI
At 8:00am, after breakfast, your private coach will pick you up and take you to Kamakura, a charming town by the seaside. Accompanied by your guide, you will visit the Great Buddha of Kamakura, which dates from 1252. Originally, the statue was housed inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed several times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since 1495, the Buddha has sat in the open air.
After Kamakura, you will go by private coach to Lake Ashi. There, at Motohakone Port, you will embark on a cruise ship which will take you on a leisurely tour of the beautiful crystalline lake, which has marvellous views of Mount Fuji. You will disembark at Kojiri Port, and then walk to a local restaurant for a delicious lunch. Having eaten, you will walk a short distance to the Togendai Ropeway station, where you will climb aboard a funicular which will take you to Owakudani (which means “Great Boiling Valley”) a mysterious crater filling with gaseous sulphur and hot springs. There is lots of explore, and you can enjoy the local specialty, black eggs, which are boiled and blackened in the sulphurous hot springs. Once you’ve had a bit of to explore, you will take the funicular down again, and your private coach will take you to your hotel. You should arrive at about 4pm, so why not enjoy a nice hot spring bath before dinner?
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Fuji 4*
Hotel Fuji 4*
After breakfast, your private coach will take you to the Hamamatsu Flower Park, a botanical garden which borders Lake Hamana. The park is about 30,000 square meters, and has 3,000 different species of plants. Here, seasonal flowers and greenery can be enjoyed throughout the year. The red, white and pink plum blossoms come into bloom at the middle of February and remain until mid-March. In early April the tulips blossom in many vibrant colours. In Spring of course there are lots of cherry blossoms as well. From June, the cherry tree avenues transform into hydrangea-lined paths, and in October, the vibrant blooms of amethyst, sage and roses fill the park with their brilliant colours. November is the season of chrysanthemums, and December is given over to Christmas decorations. Throughout the year, there are more exotic plants displayed in greenhouses.
After the tranquillity of the flower park, your private coach will take you to the Aeon Hamamatsu Shitoro Shopping Centre. This busy mall is a great place to buy souvenirs, and there are also a wide variety of restaurants where you can go for lunch (price of lunch not included in tour). Afterwards, you will travel to your hotel by private coach. Part of your journey will be by ferry, which crosses the Ise Bay. You should arrive at your hotel before 6pm. Why not enjoy a nice another pleasant hot spring bath before dinner?
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Toba 4*
Hotel Toba 4*
DAY5｜ISE GRAND SHRINE
In the morning, after breakfast, you will be taken by private coach to Futami Okitama Shrine, accompanied by your English-speaking guide. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to the prosperity of married couples, and is especially famous for its veneration of two rocks, which jut out from the sea, are festooned together with magical Shinto rope, and upon one of which sits a solitary torii gate. The view of these rocks is remarkable, and is in fact well-known throughout Japan. Your private coach will then take you to see Ise Shrine, which is only 20 minutes away. On arrival you will have a quick lunch at a local restaurant, and then your guide will take you to see Ise Shrine, where the mythical sun goddess and ancestor of all Japan’s emperors, Amaterasu, is worshipped. To enter the shrine precincts, you have to cross the wooden Uji Bridge, passing under the torii gates on each bank of the river. This purifies visitors prior to their entering. Nearby the shrine is the Okage Yokocho, a traditional shopping district which sells local handcrafted goods, and all kinds of tasty snacks.
Finally, partly by train and partly by private coach, you will make your way to your hotel in Kyoto.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Kyoto 4*
Hotel Kyoto 4*
DAY6｜THREE TEMPLES IN KYOTO
After breakfast, your guide will take you to see perhaps the three most significant temples in Kyoto, all of them World Heritage sites: the Golden Temple, Ryoanji Temple, and Kiyomizu Temple. You will travel to and from each temple by private coach. As the name suggests, the Golden Temple is covered in gold leaf. On clear days, the shimmering temple is perfectly reflected in the lake next to which it sits. The temple was in the 14th century owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, though after his death he requested that it become a zen temple, which it is today. Ryoanji temple has the most famous rock garden in Japan. An interesting feature of the garden’s design is that from no horizontal vantage point can all of the rocks be seen. It is not agreed what the garden symbolises. Some think it represents a map of islands in the sea, some think a tiger carrying cubs across a stream, and others that the garden represents infinity. Kiyomizu Temple (literally, “pure water temple”) in the foothills to the east of Kyoto offers a magnificent panoramic view of Kyoto city and the Gion district. At the base of Kiyomizu Temple’s main hall is the Otawa waterfall, from which the temple derives its name. Its waters are divided into three streams, and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream’s water is said to have a different benefit: longevity, academic success, and finding love. However, drinking from all three streams is considered greedy.
After your morning tour, you will have the afternoon to yourself to spend how you wish. There is lots to see and do in Kyoto, so you won’t have any problems filling the time.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Kyoto 4*
Hotel Kyoto 4*
DAY7｜FREE DAY IN KYOTO
This day has been kept clear so that you can explore Kyoto by yourself.
If you would like for us to plan your day, we can offer an optional tour to near-by Nara, which was once the ancient capital of Japan (from 710-784), and boasts many UNESCO World Heritage sites, for example, the Todaiji, a Buddhist temple, founded in the 8th century, which houses the World’s largest bronze statue of Buddha, and the Kusaga Grand Shrine, set among the forbidding Kasugayama Primaeval Forest, and surrounded by an thousands of stone lanterns, is possibly one of the most enchanting places in the world. In Nara, deer are venerated as a sacred animal, and they wander about freely. It is popular with tourists to buy special deer treats from local vendors, and the deer will eat from the palm of your hand. On this optional tour lunch is included.
Regarding meals, breakfast is provided by your hotel, however, lunch and dinner are not included as standard. However, if you like, we can arrange for you to enjoy a top-class Japanese dinner at a local restaurant, together with a dance show by Maiko (Maiko are young women training to become Geisha).
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Kyoto 4*
Hotel Kyoto 4*
DAY8｜SAKE & AMANOHASHIDATE
After breakfast, your private coach will pick you up at your hotel and take you to Horoyoi Jokagura, a well-known local sake brewery in Sasayama Town in Hyogo prefecture. You will be able to sample locally brewed sake, as well as visit the museum, which shows you how sake is made, and a gift shop where you can stock up. Your English speaking guide will accompany you throughout. After this, your private coach will take you to the Amanohashidate sandbar. On arrival, you will be treated to a lovely meal at local restaurant. After lunch, your guide will show you the sights of Amanohashidate, considered one of the three most beautiful scenic views in Japan, the name of which translates roughly to “bridge in heaven.”
Finally, your coach will take you to your hotel which is located in Kinosaki, a town known throughout Japan and the world for its amazing hot springs. We strongly recommend you enjoy a nice relaxing visit after your busy day!
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel hotel or ryokan in Kinosaki
Hotel hotel or ryokan in Kinosaki
DAY 9｜HIMEJI & MIYAJIMA
After breakfast, your private coach will take you to visit Himeji Castle, where you will enjoy a guided tour in English. Also known as White Heron Castle owing to its elegant, white appearance. It is widely considered Japan’s most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well preserved grounds. The castle is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. Unlike many other Japanese castles, it has never been destroyed by war, earthquake or fire and is in fact one of Japan’s twelve original castles. After your tour, you will take the bullet train to Hiroshima. Forget the noisy slow trains of the UK – the speed and comfort of Japanese bullet trains are something else and a joy in themselves. Onboard you will enjoy a Japanese style bento lunch box – a rare treat.
At Hiroshima you will change to a local train, which will take you to Miyajima-guchi. There, you will change to a ferry which will take you to the magical island known as Miyajima, famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on the water. The sight (along with Amanohashidate from yesterday) is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views. While on the island, you will enjoy a guided tour of the local shrine, Itsukushima, unique for being built over water, seemingly floating in the sea during high tide. The shrine complex consists of multiple buildings, including a prayer hall, a main hall and even a noh theatre stage, which are all connected by boardwalks and supported by pillars above the sea.
You will return by ferry and private coach to Hiroshima where your hotel is located.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Hiroshima 4*
Hotel Hiroshima 4*
At 9am, after breakfast, your coach will pick you up and take you on a tour of the main sights of Hiroshima: the A-bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Castle, and Shukkeien Garden, all accompanied by your English-speaking guide. The A-bomb Dome sits in the middle of the Hiroshima Peace Park. It was directly underneath the path of atomic bomb when it detonated above Hiroshima in 1945, and it was surprisingly the only structure left standing. There are many striking photographs taken soon after the bomb fell, showing this standing all along in the centre of a field of ash, some of which you can see in the nearby Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (along with many other historical artefacts and accounts from that awful day). It was decided to maintain the dome as a memorial to the horrors of the war, and today it is surrounded by verdant greenery. Rebuilt following its destruction by the bomb, Hiroshima Castle boasts an excellent museum which traces Hiroshima’s history, explains the architectural style and other aspects of castles in Japan, and through videos explains the construction of the castle. You will also have the chance to try on kimono, and wield real Japanese swords! The Shukkeien Garden was established in 1620 by the local daimyo, Asano Nakaakira. There are traditional tea houses, pond filled with koi, and lots of miniature sceneries, as you might have seen in Edo times. It is a very peaceful and beautiful park, and very popular with photographers. After working up an appetite in the park, we will take you to a local restaurant where you can enjoy a local favourite, Hiroshima style Okonomi-yaki. We’re sure you will love it! After lunch, your private coach will take you to Kintai-kyo Bridge in Iwakuni. This distinguished landmark has been a subject of admiration for hundreds of years, since 1673, in fact. The elegant, wooden bridge makes five bold arches sitting atop four massive stone pillars as it crosses over the Nishiki River. Finally, your coach will take you to your hotel in Fukuoka.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Fukuoka 4*
Hotel Fukuoka 4*
DAY11｜NANATSUGAMA CAVES, HAMANOURA RICE PADDIES, IMARI PORCELAIN
After breakfast your private coach till take you to Yobuko, which is the starting point for boat tours of the Nanatsugama Caves – boat being the best way to see these incredible caves and the striking blue ocean. They are composed of many detailed geometric patterns and shapes, and almost appear manmade, but they are in fact a natural wonder, the work of thousands of years of erosion by the waves on an ancient lava flow. The largest of the seven caves has an entrance of 3 meters width and a depth of 110 meters. After the tour of the caves, when you’ve returned to port, your coach will then take you to nearby the famous Hamanoura rice paddy terraces. Here you will find a valley completely covered in many tiers of rice paddies looking out over the Genkai Sea. These breath-taking rice paddies are preserved by the Ministry of Agriculture as the embodiment of traditional Japan. Following this, you will be taken by coach to Imari, where the world famous Imari porcelain originates. On arrival you will have lunch in a local restaurant, and then you will have free time to browse the porcelain shops. Finally, your coach will take you to Aso where your hotel is located.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Aso 4*
Hotel Aso 4*
Bright and early, at 6:00AM before breakfast, you will be taken by private coach to the nearby Aso Nature Land, for a quick ride in a hot air balloon. Early in the morning, the light is crisp and perfect, and this is the perfect way to see the spectacular beauty of the surrounding countryside. Your coach will then take you back to your hotel for breakfast. Afterwards, your coach will take you to Kusasenri prairies, about half an hour away. When you arrive, you’ll have free time to yourself to explore. At the centre of the prairie is a big pond and with horses grazing by the shore – a truly idyllic scene. Visitors can enjoy this place in all four of the seasons from the vivid greens of summer to the beautiful silvery winter. One of the iconic sceneries of the Aso area, its beauty has been written about by many poets. Next, you’ll be taken up close to see the famous Mount Aso, an active volcano whose ancient caldera ranks among the world’s largest, with a diameter of up to 25 km and a circumference of over 100 km. In the centre of the caldera sits Mount Nakadake, whose spectacular crater – in the centre of which lies a bright blue gaseous lake – you will view from a ropeway cable car which will take you right next to it.
After this your coach will take you to Yufuin, where you will have a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, and some free time to explore the art museums, boutiques and cafes of this fairy tale mountain village. Next, you will be taken of a guided tour of the nearby, so-called Hells of Beppu – 7 bubbling hot springs which have fascinated locals since ancient times, and are believed to lead to be paths to the underworld. They are called the Sea Hell, the Tonsure Hell, the White Pond Hell, the Cooking Pot Hell, the Monster Mountain Hell, the Blood Pond Hell, and the Geyser Hell. Finally you will be taken to nearby Beppu Port and board an overnight ferry bound for Osaka. You will have a tasty buffet dinner on-board.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Ferry Sunflower Cruise
Hotel Ferry Sunflower Cruise
The ferry is scheduled to arrive at Osaka port at approximately 6:35am. Breakfast will be on land at 7:00am at the Rihga Royal Hotel, Osaka. After this, you will be taken by private coach to see the main sites of Osaka: Osaka Castle and Nishinomaru Garden, Dotonburi, and the Namba underground shopping area. Osaka Castle is one of the most historically significant castles in Japan, and has as a result been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current castle was rebuilt and completed in 1998. The outside is a faithful reproduction of the castle as it would have looked like in the Edo era, as it was rebuilt by Hidetada Tokugawa in 1630. The inside of the castle however is today a modern museum highlighting the history of the castle throughout the ages. The viewing platform at the top of the castle is particularly well-known for its panoramic views of Osaka. The Nishinomaru Garden has roughly 600 cherry trees, a teahouse overlooking a pond, and the best views of Osaka Castle are from this enchanted place. From the castle, the guided tour will continue to Dotonbori, a popular area in downtown Osaka famous for being covered with large illuminated signboards – a bit like Piccadilly circus or Time Square. Keep an eye out for a giant crab signboard with moving legs, and the Glico Man – the modern emblem of Osaka. Last on the tour is the underground Namba shopping area. If you can think of something, you can probably buy it here – there is a shop for everything, from traditional Japanese souvenirs, to pharmacies and DIY shops. The difficulty is in not getting in this labyrinth. Finally, the coach will then take you to your hotel, and you will have the rest of the day free to explore Osaka by yourself.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel Osaka 4*
Hotel Osaka 4*
After breakfast at your hotel, your English-assistant will escort you to the airport where you will board your return flight back to the UK.
Meal Breakfast Lunch Dinner Hotel