This itinerary exposes you to various essential aspects of Japan from cities, culture, history, and more! Visits include Tokyo, Hakone (Mt. Fuji area), Osaka, Hiroshima and Kyoto. Begin your journey in the fascinating city of Tokyo and enjoy the myriad of sights, sounds, and tastes it has to offer. If Tokyo's concrete and neon is getting to you then you might like to head north to Nikko or south to Kamakura, both easily accessible from the capital as day trips. Continue on to Hakone, where you can spend your time taking in the sights or simply relaxing in one of the superb natural hot spring baths. Continue on to the vibrant modern city of Osaka where you'll enjoy a unique Izakaya experience - allowing you the opportunity to take in the Osaka philosophy of 'kuiadore' - eat, drink and enjoy life! Next your off to Hiroshima where you'll have time to explore the city and nearby Miyajima independently. End your journey in Kyoto, the ancient capital and true heart of Japanese history and culture.
Welcome to Japan! Upon arrival at Narita Airport today, you will be met by a local representative and taken by shuttle bus to your hotel in Tokyo. Please note that as other people will be in the same bus, there may be a few stops before you arrive at your hotel (maximum of 3 other stops). Journey time is around 2 hours, depending on traffic. Enjoy the ride, as this is a comfortable and easy way to make today's transfer. Look out for some great views along the elevated highways into town. Upon arrival at your hotel, check in and enjoy your first night in this bustling and vibrant city at your leisure! (This service is on a group basis.)
You will be provided with Manaca cards today, Nagoya’s version of the IC card. You will be able to use this throughout your time in Japan for traveling on buses, subways, overground railways and in some places you will even be able to pay for taxis, buy drinks from vending machines and pay for your bento in a convenience store! Your card comes with 2,500 yen of credit and can be topped up in any major city at the automatic ticket machines at any station. And don't worry - instructions in English are provided! We are sure you will get great use out of this during your trip and can have that satisfying feeling of travelling like a local! All in all, an essential accessory for any visit to Japan.
One quarter of all Japanese live in Tokyo or the near vicinity and with a population of over 12 million inhabitants, Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. With its huge skyscrapers, underpasses, overpasses and crowds of pedestrians, Tokyo may not seem the most attractive city on the surface, but the city has a vibrant charm all of its own. The street level detail is what makes Tokyo such an incredibly interesting place to explore and at every turn you will be met with an array of sights, sounds and smells to enliven the senses. The city has many major sights to visit such as Senso-ji Temple in the old downtown area of Asakusa or the fashion hub of Shibuya from where all new trends are said to emanate. All in all a stay in Tokyo is to experience one of the world's most vibrant and interesting cities; a capital hurtling headlong into the future while maintaining its links with the traditions of ancient Japan.
Today, you will be taken on a full day private tour of the city with a local guide. In order to get a real feel for Japan's capital, you will travel by public transport, just like the locals. On this fascinating introduction to Tokyo, you will have the chance to explore the classic highlights and best kept secrets. Following in the footsteps of your expert guide, you will discover the exclusive features of Tokyo, known only to locals. You are free to set the pace of the day to be as busy or relaxed as you want, as you get to grips with the excellent transport network.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM this morning, or any other time you may prefer. Rather than making a fixed itinerary in advance, you will have full flexibility to select the attractions and activities that interest you. This means that you will need to pay for any entrance fees on the day of your tour, in addition to your transport costs. In order to make the most of this experience, please let us know if you have any specific areas of interest, and we will pass that on to your guide in advance. Around 5:00 PM, your tour will end either back to your hotel, or anywhere else in the city that you may wish to spend the evening. (This service is on a private basis.)
In your package, we have included the 14 Day Rail Pass (Ordinary Car). This pass entitles you to unlimited travel on any trains in the extensive Japan Railways (JR) Network. This includes all of the famous Shinkansen "Bullet" Trains, with the exception of the Nozomi Shinkansen. You will receive an exchange voucher, which must be exchanged for the pass itself, once you have arrived in Japan. Full details of when and how to do this will be provided with your travel documents. You can also use your Rail Pass to make seat reservations for no extra charge. However, this cannot be done until you have exchanged the voucher.
Today, you will have the opportunity to make an excursion from Tokyo, using your included Japan Rail Pass. The charming town of Kamakura is located just 1 hour to the west of Tokyo and can be reached by direct train from Tokyo Station. Kamakura was formally the capital of Japan for a short period in the 12th century. At that time, it was possibly the world's largest city, with a population of over one million. Today however, it is a sleepy coastal town, which attracts large numbers of day trippers to spend time exploring the beautiful shrines and temples. The most famous site is the impressive bronze dai-butsu (Big Buddha), which is certainly a must-see for any trip to Kamakura!
Today, you will take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Odawara Station, the gateway city for the Hakone National Park. You will use your Japan Rail Pass for this journey, which will take just 40 minutes.
From Odawara Station, you will use your Hakone Freepass to take the bus up into the mountains of Hakone. Admire the charming scenery, as the road winds through several small mountain villages towards your hotel.
For your time in Hakone, you will be provided with the 2 Day Hakone Freepass. This pass is valid for two days from today and entitles you to unlimited use of 6 different forms of transport in the Hakone region. These include the mountain buses and railway, one of the longest cable cars in Japan, a funicular railway and even a pirate ship that cruises across Lake Ashi. Between all of these different options, you will be able to easily explore the entire region and make the most of your stay. The pass also offers small discounts at many attractions in the area, so be sure to show your pass when purchasing any tickets.
Hakone is a beautiful National Park region nestled beside Mount Fuji, Japan's most sacred peak. The area showcases a handful of small villages and hamlets, all connected by a variety of local transport routes that wind through the charming hillsides and valleys. Hakone offers plenty to see and do, from tasting eggs boiled in volcanic waters, to boarding a boat cruise across Lake Ashi. The outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery is a great place to spend a unique afternoon. An enticing dip in one of the famous therapeutic hot spring baths is always a good idea as well! However, it is Hakone's close proximity to the iconic Mount Fuji, that truly makes this destination so popular. With its near perfect symmetrical form, soaring through the sky above the surrounding hills, it is an attraction that makes a trip to Japan complete. From Hakone, you have one of the best chances to admire Mount Fuji's epic beauty, although she is a notoriously shy mountain!
Following a lovely stay in Hakone, you will use your Hakone Freepass to make the journey by bus down from the mountains to Odawara Station.
From Odawara, you will use your Japan Rail Pass to take the Shinkansen to Osaka. This journey will take you racing down Japan's eastern seaboard by Shinkansen and will take a little over 2 hours.
This evening, you will join an English-speaking guide on a street food safari of Osaka’s famous Dotonbori area! Running alongside the beautiful canal, this brightly lit street is packed with restaurants and food stalls, serving up some of Osaka’s tastiest cuisine. This foodie’s paradise makes for the perfect culinary adventure for the senses!
Dotonbori is typically crowded with visitors and locals vying for entry to the city's best restaurants. On this 3 hour tour, you will venture off the beaten path, to uncover hidden izakayas and bars, known only to locals. Enjoy a sample of Osaka's finest specialties, including octopus dumplings and kushikatsu fried skewers. This tour offers the chance to experience Osaka’s nightlife as a true, fun loving local, rather than as a tourist. At the end of your excursion, you can either continue to explore the vibrant Dotonbori and Nanba areas on your own, or return to your hotel. Please note that your tour includes street food, sit down restaurant food, a drink and dessert. You are welcome to order more of anything that you wish, however it will be on your own account. Your tour group will consist of no more than 10 people, promising an intimate and personalized experience. (This service is on a group basis.)
Osaka is an extremely vibrant and lively place to stay in Japan. There may not be any real 'tourist' sights but it is just the life on the streets that makes Osaka such a fascinating city to visit. Osaka people work hard and play hard and it really shows with the vast number of restaurants, bars and all round entertainment available. The city aquarium is world class and you cannot stay in Osaka without taking a ride on one of the city's several giant big wheels, perhaps the most dramatic of which is perched on top of the Hep 5 department store in the Umeda district of the city - just don't look down if you are afraid of heights!
Osaka Castle is well worth a visit, despite being a reconstruction, as the original was burnt down during the firebombing at the end of World War II and you will find a variety of very interesting museums scattered throughout the city. After dark, Osaka really comes alive, and a walk through the bright lights of the Namba district is a great way to take in the atmosphere, with some great people-watching opportunities. With literally thousands of restaurants, bars and entertainment spots to choose from, Osaka is perfect for a big night out, some hearty local food and the chance to let your hair down. Osaka really is one of Japan's truly all action cities and a stay here is a chance to experience what life in modern day urban Japan is really like.
This morning, you will embark on a half day tour of the city by public transport. Around 9:00 AM, your private guide will meet you at the hotel for an exploration of Osaka's classic highlights and best kept secrets. With a knowledgeable local by your side, you can look forward to an in depth discovery of attractions and information, you would have never otherwise known about. Please let us know in advance if there is anything in particular that you would like to see, or any specific areas of interest you have, and we can pass that information on to your guide. Your tour will finish around 1:00 PM, either back at your accommodation or anywhere else in the city that you wish to spend the afternoon. (This service is on a private basis.)
You will use your Japan Rail Pass for the journey from Osaka Station to Kyoto. All seats are unreserved so you can travel on any train. There are frequent departures and journey time is between 25 and 45 minutes depending on which train you take.
In the early evening you will head to Gion, Kyoto's famous Geisha district, to join a group tour with a professional English-speaking guide who will be introducing you to the sights, sounds and culture of this most traditional and elegant of Kyoto's districts. As you slowly make your way through the narrow lanes and hidden alleys, your guide will provide you with those insights into the history and traditions of Kyoto that will help bring alive the secret life of Geisha and Maiko. This tour is a fantastic way for you to get an inside look at one of Japan's best known, yet least understood, traditional professions.
During the tour you will usually come across some Geisha going between their appointments so be sure to take your camera! The walking tour takes about 90 minutes and commences from the Kita-za Theater in central Kyoto from 6 pm. We'll be providing instructions on how to get there and a map so you won't have any difficulties.
(This service is on a group basis.)
Kyoto is one of the most culturally rich cities in all of Asia. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, this ancient city showcases the heart and soul of traditional Japan. Kyoto boasts a variety of world class gardens, majestic festivals and delicate cuisine, which collaborate into something truly beautiful. The colorful changing seasons, feature a different adventure in itself, during every time of year. At first glance, Kyoto appears to have its fair share of neon and concrete, typical of large Japanese cities. However, you will quickly be able to pick out Kyoto’s charming treasures - sacred shrines tucked between shopping arcades, time-honored tea houses nestled amidst modern businesses and mysterious geishas scuttling down backstreets between tourists.
Today, you will be taken on a full day tour of Kyoto by public transport. Learning through the eyes of a local guide offers the best way to discover this city, that is so rich in UNESCO World Heritage sites, it can be hard to know where to begin! Your guide can offer the insight of a local's perspective, to truly reveal the city's authentic culture, iconic highlights and best kept secrets.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM, or any other time you choose this morning, from where you will begin your tour by public transport. Although Kyoto does offer an extensive bus route, we recommend taking a few taxis along the way as well, in order to speed things up and make the most of this experience. Please note that you will need to pay for your own lunch, transport costs and entrance fees on the day of your tour. It will be time to say goodbye to your guide around 5:00 PM, either back at your hotel, or anywhere else in the city you may wish to spend the evening. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, you may be interested in taking a day trip to Nara. This city lies just 40 minutes by local train from Kyoto and is renowned for the wealth of its Buddhist and Shinto heritage. Formerly, Nara was the end of the Silk Road, making it the first area to see Buddhist teaching transition across the ocean from China and into Japan. In 710, Nara became the first permanent capital of Japan, during which time the large monasteries rapidly gained in political power and influence. This resulted in frequent bloodshed, as the different sects fought for supremacy and power. It was because of this, that in 784 the capital was moved away from Nara, in order to protect the position of the Emperor and the central government.
Today, Nara retains many dramatic attractions as reminders of its former power and influence. The huge wooden structure that houses the Big Buddha, is the world's largest wooden building, despite the current structure being even a third smaller than the original! The myriad of shrines and temples are set against a beautiful backdrop of low lying mountains. In the midst of the Nara Park, which is famously home to a vast population of pesky deer, you will find these furry friends wandering about town, completely unfazed by tourists. Although given the chance, they will gladly munch on anything can get their noses into, so beware! Trains run regularly between Kyoto and Nara starting shortly after 5:00 AM and continuing until late in the evening.
Today, you will embark on a unique private tour, which will teach you the basics of Japanese ingredients and shopping, as well as some special cooking techniques. You will meet your guide at the north entrance of the Daimaru department store, from where you will first take a guided walk of the famous mile-long Nishiki covered food market. As you stroll through the stalls, your guide will explain all about the various market stands and shops and the numerous ingredients on sale. They will also help you to pick out and purchase food to use later in the day. Please note that there is a small extra cost for these ingredients, which will need to be paid for on the day.
After the market walk, you will be taken on an exploration of the less crowded back streets of Kyoto. These are still lined with many shops, that offer the very best local ingredients. Along the way, you will stop at a former sake brewery, where you will take a tour and enjoy some sake tasting. For the end of this excursion, you will head to a traditional machiya (wooden town house) to use the kitchen. This is where you will learn to cook up some basic Japanese dishes from the ingredients you purchased today. (This service is on a private basis.)
Hiroshima is a city that needs little introduction. It is, of course, notorious as the site of one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Despite its tragic past, Hiroshima is now a bustling and vibrant city, which has risen from the ashes. The Peace Park and Museum are a poignant reminder of the reason for Hiroshima's fame and everyone should spend an afternoon in this part of town. Other attractions in Hiroshima include the charming Hiroshima Castle, the pristine Shukkei-en Gardens and the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art. Make sure to sample the popular local food, "okonomiyaki", which literally means, "what you like". You select your own ingredients and cook the cabbage-based pancake-style dish yourself, over a hot plate at your table.
From Kyoto today, you will head down the eastern seaboard by Shinkansen en route to Hiroshima. This 400 kilometer journey will take around 2 hours, during which time the train passes through several major cities along the coast, including Kobe, famous for its top grade beef!
We will arrange for a private English speaking guide to meet you today, and be at your disposal for 8 hours to help you explore Hiroshima and the nearby Miyajima Island. We have included entrance fees to the famous Peace Park and Museum, which you will visit first. There you will meet with a Hibakusha, a survivor of the Atomic bombing. These survivors work for the 'Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace' and will tell their story for what is sure to be an informative and moving experience.
There will then be a break for an included lunch, with a chance to try out the city's famous savory pancake, okonomiyaki! After lunch you will head out to Miyajima Island by local train and ferry. Here we have included entrance fees to the island's principle attraction, the Itsukushima Shrine. You will have the chance to explore the shrine and soak up the atmosphere of the island, before heading back to Hiroshima in the late afternoon. Please note that while transport between Hiroshima and Miyajima is included, there may be some small extra transport costs to pay on the day in Hiroshima, depending on your exact itinerary. You will also need to cover any entrance fees not mentioned above. (This service is on a private basis.)
You will board a Shinkansen train at Hiroshima Station and head east to Kyoto. Journey time is around 2 hours.
Today, you will board a train from Kyoto to Kanazawa, using your Japan Rail Pass. This two hour scenic journey takes you directly north, through some of the area's most beautiful landscapes and along the shores of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake.
Kanazawa is a lovely city close to the Japan sea coast. Until the turn of the century, it was the 4th biggest city in Japan. However, its wealth was built on rice production and traditional crafts such as weaving and gold leaf, but with the full scale industrialization of the country, Kanazawa was somewhat left behind. Today, the city is flourishing again and still maintains much of its old charms. There are several small geisha districts and one where you can go inside an old tea house and see where the clients were entertained and even take tea yourself (sadly no longer served by geisha!). There are also samurai houses, a ninja temple and the city's most famous sight, the beautiful Kenrokuen garden rated as one of the three best stroll gardens in all of Japan. The city is easy to get around by public transport or by using taxis, which are plentiful and affordable for the journey between major sights.
Today, you will be taken on a full day tour of Kanazawa in the company of a private guide. The best way to discover the fascination behind Kanazawa is through the eyes of a knowledgeable local guide. Rather than creating a fixed itinerary in advance, you can spend the day as you desire. Of course, your guide will have plenty of suggestions for the classic highlights and best kept secrets of the city. Popular attractions in Kanazawa include the breathtaking Kenrokuen Gardens, the Ninja temple and the old samurai house district.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM this morning, or any other time you may prefer. Please note that you will need to pay for transport costs and entrance fees to any sites visited on the day of your tour. Around 5:00 PM, your guide can either drop you back off at the hotel, or anywhere else in the city where you want to continue your own exploration. (This service is on a private basis.)
Sadly your adventures in Japan must come to an end today. You will travel to Tokyo via Kagayaki Shinkansen in just under 2.5 hours. From Tokyo, you will continue on to the airport on the Narita Express train which makes the transfer in exactly 1 hour. The Narita Express trains offer a very comfortable journey with reclining seats and on board TVs. You will use your Japan Rail Pass for this journey. We wish you a pleasant flight home.
The Gate Tokyo is a superior design hotel located in the capital's upmarket shopping district Ginza. Guest rooms are stylishly decorated and have Simmons mattresses, raindance showers and Nespresso coffee machines. The ground floor restaurant and lobby is in a large leafy atrium, while the best place to relax in the evening is the rooftop terrace - a rarity in Tokyo. The hotel is a 3 minute walk from Yurakucho Station where you'll also find some of the best casual dining and ramen joints under the railway tracks.
Setsugetsuka is a modern ryokan-hotel located directly in front of Gora Station, overlooking the Hakone mountain range. All 158 guest rooms are equipped with a private open-air bath. Setsugetsuka also has communal indoor and outdoor hot spring baths (separated by gender). Breakfast and dinner are included in your stay.
The Cross Hotel is a smart hotel is located on Dotombori, one of the most famous and lively streets in all of Japan never mind just Osaka. The hotel has been recently refurbished in a sleek, modern design, giving it something of a boutique feel. Rooms follow the same theme and are generously sized. The hotel's great location means you have a plethora of restaurants and bars to choose from in the streets around the hotel, making it a perfect place for indulging in one of Osaka's main attractions; good food and drink. Despite its lively location the hotel itself is a quiet and peaceful place, so should you be looking for an early night you will not be disturbed.
This large hotel owned by Japan Railways West is located within the Kyoto Station building - itself a fantastic piece of futuristic architecture designed by Hiroshi Hara. The hotel offers convenient transport links for sightseeing anywhere in the city. Front desk staff speak English and the concierge desk can provide sightseeing advice and recommendations. Guest rooms are well sized, with large comfortable beds, en-suite bathrooms and great views across the city. There are many top quality restaurants at the Granvia offering Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian food, and there are also three bar lounges. Hotel facilities include a swimming pool, gym, sauna, and Jacuzzi - all for adults over 20 only. High speed wired and Wi-Fi internet access is complimentary in all the guest rooms.
The ANA Crowne Plaza is a superior grade hotel located just 1 minute on foot from the elaborate wooden and glass Tsuzumi Gate of Kanazawa Station. Shaped to represent a traditional drum, the gate reflects the harmony of modern life and old Kanazawa, a concept you will see reflected throughout the city. The rooms are clean and comfortable and equipped with flat-screen TVs, functional desks, and free tea and coffee. The buffet breakfast is served in the Cascade Dining restaurant, and the other three restaurants serve Chinese and Japanese cuisine, including a tempura counter. If you fancy great views of Kanazawa, you can head up to La Briller sky bar on the 19th floor for drinks followed by a meal either in one of the hotel restaurants or in one of the many excellent places in the city.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.
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