The Splendors of Japan
Discover the essence of Japan on a journey of discovery from iconic Tokyo to Takayama and Kyoto. Embrace the timeless tradition and modern spirit of Japan’s iconic sites, from the neon skyline of Tokyo to the foodie hotspot of Osaka. Relax in the soothing hot springs of Kotohira, spend the night in a traditional ryokan and contemplate world peace at the final remnants of Hiroshima’s atomic blast.
Trip type: Country Explorer
8 Nights’ Accommodation on the 9-day Itinerary / 12 Nights on the 13-day Itinerary
15 Meals – 9-day Itinerary / 23 Meals – 13-day Itinerary
On-trip Transport and Portage
Arrive Tokyo (2 Nights)
Hotel: New Otani
Welcome to Japan. Upon arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda International Airport, transfer by airport shuttle service to your centrally located hotel. This evening join your Travel Director and fellow travelers for a Welcome Reception drink and local appetizers.
After breakfast, this morning your City Tour begins with a stop in Asakusa and a visit to the Sensoji Buddhist temple. It is one of Tokyo’s most colorful and popular temples and has been rebuilt countless times since it was founded in 628, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple site. Visit Nakamise, a shopping street over 200 metres long that stretches from the outer gate to the temple’s second interior gate. Visit the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s highest free-standing broadcasting tower. Later choose to either return to the hotel at leisure or take part in an Optional Experience (see below)
Optional Experience: KIMONO DRESSING EXPERIENCE
From cotton summer yukatas to silk kimonos, these pieces of wearable art are icons of Japanese style. Visit a specialist kimono hiring shop and have fun getting dressed up in traditional Japanese style with the assistance of an expert ‘kimono dresser’ who will show you the tricks to make it easy. Choose your preferred color of kimono which will come with a matching bag and shoes. A professional stylist will dress you in the kimono and afterwards enjoy some free time to stroll through streets wearing your kimono! Strike a pose for camera carrying visitors or just simply act like a local and take a relaxing stroll through the streets. Great fun for both ladies and gentlemen. Adult Price: $45.00
Tokyo – Lake Yamanakako
Hotel: Fuji Marriott Yamanakako
After breakfast, start the day by heading to the Imperial Palace Plaza, a large park area in the centre of Tokyo from where the two bridges that form the entrance to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace can be viewed. It is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and built on the former site of Edo Castle. Take a stroll around the Imperial Palace East Gardens before continuing your City Tour with a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This fascinating museum displays artifacts and architecture that tell a tale of Tokyo’s history and culture during the Edo period. Next head to the famous Ginza district for a hands-on cooking class. Learn how to make sushi with a Local Specialist and afterwards enjoy your sushi creations for lunch. Then depart Tokyo for the Five Lakes District, dominated by majestic UNESCO listed Mt. Fuji. At 3,776 metres it is Japan’s highest mountain and most recognizable icon. Join in a wonderful dinner at the hotel.
Lake Yamanakako – Mt. Fuji – Takayama (2 Nights)
Hotel: Associa Takayama Resort
After breakfast visit Oshino Hakkai, a small rural village in the Fuji Five Lakes district; a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oshino Village boasts a beautiful park with 8 natural spring water ponds that are fed by melted snow from Mt. Fuji. The reflections of the sky and landscapes on the clear and pure water provide picturesque scenes which make stunning photographs. Then ascend Mt. Fuji by road to 2,300 metres at the 5th station before taking a ride on the Kachikachiyama Ropeway, (both weather permitting) a cable car ride offering spectacular views on a clear day of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. Later travel through the breath-taking Japanese Alps to the beautiful hillside town of Takayama before enjoying dinner at the hotel.
Takayama -Gokayama – Takayama
After breakfast, this morning take a step back in time during a visit to the peaceful mountain village and UNESCO designated site of Gokayama. See the unique Gassho-zukuri wooden houses; the steeply sloped thatched roofs resemble two hands together in prayer. Visit one of the houses and meet the family. Later observe local artisans making washi paper and try your hand at making your own, a Cultural Insight. Lunch today is a Regional Meal of Japanese Hida beef at a local restaurant. Hida beef (Hida-gyu) is the specific name given to beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed, it is known as one of the finest quality varieties of beef. This afternoon begin your walking tour in the Edo style streets of the Old Town, shopping en route to sample Japanese sake, a Cultural Insight.
Takayama – Kanazawa
Hotel: Kanazawa Tokyu
After breakfast, this morning travel to Kanazawa to discover the secrets of gold leaf painting during a visit with a Local Specialist. The production of gold leaf started at the end of the 16th century and now 99% of Japan’s high-quality gold leaf is produced in the area. Next visit the gardens of Kenrokuen, rated as one of the top three most beautiful gardens in Japan and a great place to see Cherry Blossom in the springtime. Take your time to relax and explore the ornate landscapes, temples and ponds. Afterwards take a short walk through the Omicho market to see the local fish catch and enjoy an insider’s view of everyday life in a busy coastal town. Later visit the Nagamachi District with its old and beautifully preserved samurai houses. Visit the Nomura house, an elegant samurai mansion with beautiful small gardens belonging to a high-ranked samurai family. Participate in the Optional Experience (see below)
Optional Experience: Izakaya Dining Experience
Join your Travel Director for a different kind of Japanese dining experience! An ‘izakaya’ is a type of informal Japanese pub where the food is shared by everyone at the table (similar to Spanish tapas). The menu changes according to the season but generally includes a small Japanese appetizer, sashimi, Japanese salad, grilled prawns, yakisoba, tofu yaki and chicken yakitori. The main dish is Japanese style dumplings known as ‘Gyoza’ which are very popular in Japan and featured on the menu at many izakaya establishments. The price also includes vanilla ice cream and two glasses of wine, beer or soft drinks per person. Vegetarian options are available for non-meat eaters. Adult Price: $45.00
Kanazawa – Kyoto (2 Nights)
Hotel: Nikko Princess Kyoto
After breakfast, this morning leave Kanazawa for Kyoto by Express train. On arrival enjoy a special Be My Guest lunch at a traditional ryokan nestled in the peace and quiet of Mt. Yoshida. The ryokan was built in 1932 by master craftsmen to serve as the second residence of the uncle of the current Japanese Emperor, Akihito. Learn more about local Japanese customs as your hosts welcome you into their beautiful home. Enjoy the pleasures of a truly flavorful and unique dining experience of Kaiseki cuisine, crafted from the very freshest of seasonal delicacies. After lunch visit Kinkakuji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Golden Pavilion. The Kinkakuji history dates back to 1397, when the villa was purchased by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. When Yoshimitsu died, the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son. Later check in to your hotel for a relaxing evening – or participate in the Optional Experiences (see below).
Optional Experience: Gion Corner, Kyoto
The Gion corner is a unique experience where you can observe seven of Kyoto’s traditional performing arts, all on one stage. See a Bunraku puppet play; A UNESCO listed traditional Japanese puppet performance. Listen to the wonderful harmonies of Koto Music, as a master plays an ancient six stringed zither using ivory plectrums worn on their fingers. Watch Kyo-Mai, an elegant and dazzling dance performed by Maiko dancers in beautiful and ornate dress. Enjoy a performance of Kyogen Theatre, a comical play portraying humorous stories of daily life. Experience Gagaku (court music), the indigenous Japanese music performed at imperial court shrines and temples. During the evening observe the art of creating flower arrangements and a traditional ‘Ryurei style’ tea ceremony. There is also a Maiko Gallery, displaying costumes, hair decorations and videos of Maiko Dancers. Adult Price: $39.00
After breakfast, this morning visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine and see the tunnel of thousands of bright orange torii gates that snake through the forest up into the mountains. Then head to the Sanjusangen-do Hall, a temple famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy and afterwards enjoy a walking tour of the Gion area. Choose to remain in Gion to explore further or return to the hotel. This evening join your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Farewell Dinner at the Ninja Kyoto restaurant. Venture into the mysterious labyrinth and secret fortress of the Ninjas, the traditional Japanese heroes and enjoy the creative Ninja-style food, a perfect ending to your holiday in Japan. Join in the Optional Experience (see below).
Optional Experience: Japanese Tea Ceremony Experience
Experience the ambience of a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with a professional Tea Master who will have spent many years leaning his craft which is often presented in a ceremony influenced by Zen Buddhism. Learn about the history and culture of tea making in Japan and observe how the powdered green tea (matcha) is prepared by adding boiling water and mixing it with a bamboo whisk. There will also be an explanation on the Japanese way of making and drinking tea. Take the opportunity to try some Japanese sweets and afterwards, having observed the skill involved in making the tea, have a go at making your own!
Adult Price: $35.00
After breakfast, transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Airport for your onward flight. Alternatively, continue to Hiroshima by choosing the 13-day itinerary, Splendors of Japan with Hiroshima.
Kyoto – Kotohira
Hotel: Kotohira Grand Sakuranosho (ryokan) Authentic Accommodation
Continue this morning by staying in Japan and choosing the 13-day itinerary. You’ll leave Japan’s main island Honshu behind as you cross the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge, over the Seto Inland Sea to Awaji Island. Later have some free time for lunch and take a walk around Yumebutai, a complex of buildings built on the side of the mountain. One of the most striking features in the complex is the ‘100 Stepped Garden’ – a group of 100 flowerbeds in small square gardens on an incline and arranged in grids spread over several levels. Visit the Water Temple, designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando to be a sensory experience. The mountains, sky, rice paddies and bamboo groves are reflected in the stillness of the water, which has a meditative effect as you descend the steps to the Buddhist Temple below the water. Continue to the small mountain hot springs village of Kotohira for your overnight stay in your Authentic Accommodation, a Japanese ryokan. Before dinner, if you wish, climb the steps adjacent to the hotel to visit Kotohira-gu Shrine and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. This evening perhaps have a relaxing soak in the hot spring (onsen) bath at the hotel.
Kotohira – Hiroshima (2 Nights)
Hotel: Rihga Royal
After breakfast, this morning visit the Zentsuji Temple, birthplace of one of the most revered figures of Japanese Buddhism, the high priest Kobo Daishi. It is the 75th temple on the 88 temple Shikoku Pilgrimage, which covers approximately 1,200 kilometres and was traditionally done on foot taking up to 60 days to complete. It is still done by many people today although modern pilgrims use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles or motorcycles. Continue to Omishima Island and make a stop at a local restaurant for lunch. Drive to Hiroshima via the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway, a 60-kilometre highway that links the islands of the Seto Inland Sea with nine individual bridges. Check into your hotel for a relaxing evening.
After breakfast, this morning catch a ferry over to Miyajima Island, otherwise known as Itsukushima, or Divine Island. On arrival visit the Itsukushima Shrine and admire the elaborate torii gate rising majestically out of the sea. Have some free time for lunch, strolling around and browsing in the small shops of this peaceful island. This afternoon return to Hiroshima and visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. See the UNESCO listed Peace Memorial, the only structure left standing in the area when the first atomic bomb exploded in 1945. Through the efforts of many people, including those of the city of Hiroshima, this ruin has been preserved in the same state as immediately after the bombing as an expression of hope for world peace. This evening experience the famous Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, a Cultural Insight. Okonamiyaki is similar to a savory pancake and is made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat, seafood or cheese and grilled in layers on a hot plate – dinner in front of you.
Hiroshima – Osaka
Hotel: Sheraton Miyako Osaka
After breakfast you’ll take the high-speed bullet train to Osaka and on arrival have some free time for lunch and shopping in the Dotonbori Street area. Then stop for a visit to Osaka Castle; one of Japan’s most famous landmarks which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. Later check-in at your hotel and this evening enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant with your Travel Director and fellow guests.
After breakfast you’ll transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport, or Osaka Itami Airport for your home-bound flight.
Call TravelKatz at 352-277-7300 if Japan is on Your Wish List of International Destinations. We will be more than happy to help you with your plans.