Begin your journey in the metropolis of Tokyo. With its huge skyscrapers, underpasses, overpasses and crowds of pedestrians, this city has a vibrant charm all of its own. Continue on to Hakone, and explore the beautiful national park boasting excellent views of Mt. Fuji in clear weather. From there venture on to Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan, and a fascinating historical city. Highlights include a full day private guided tour of Tokyo, Kyoto and a traditional tea ceremony. An itinerary blending Japan's super-modern & fascinating traditional aspects - all in 8 days.
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 the transport costs for you and your guide. 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.)
Tokyo is a fascinating city and today you have another full day to enjoy the myriad of sights, sounds and tastes it has to offer. However, you may like to use this free day to take a day trip to one of the many places of interest, easily accessible from the capital.
The charming town of Kamakura lies just 1 hour to the west of Tokyo and can be reached by direct train from Tokyo Station for a fare of 840 yen each way. Kamakura was formally the capital of Japan for a short period in the 12th century and at that time 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 if the impressive bronze dai-butsu (Big Buddha) which is certainly a must-see for any trip to Kamakura.
An alternative trip is to Nikko, located 2 hours to the North of Tokyo. Nikko is not only surrounded by stunning scenery that makes up the national park, but is also home to the World Heritage site of the Tosho-Gu Shrine. Nikko has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries and contains many important Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples, but the most impressive and most famous is definitely Tosho-Gu, with its vivid colors and many ornate carvings.
Another nearby National Park is the Chichibu-Tama National Park, home to the sacred Mt Takao, with its range of hiking trails and mountain-top temple complex, virtually untouched by foreign visitors. The clearly marked hiking trails (or a journey by cable car!) wind their way up to the summit, where you are rewarded with stunning views.
From Shinjuku station, you will take the Odakyu Railways "Romance Car" train all the way to Hakone Yumoto Station, in the heart of the Hakone National Park. It's a comfortable ride and the wide windows afford a great view. The journey takes around 85 minutes.
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!
After you arrive at Yumoto Station, you will use your Hakone Freepass to make the journey by bus to the stop nearest your your ryokan.
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.
Today you will travel to Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital and the cultural center of the nation. From Odawara, the journey to Kyoto will see you racing down Japan's eastern seaboard by Shinkansen and takes approximately 2 hours.
Today, you are invited to enjoy a private tea ceremony at the En Tea House in central Kyoto. This ceremony will take place in a lovely Japanese style room, decorated with authentic Japanese flowers and calligraphy. Before conducting the traditional ceremony for you to watch, your English teacher will teach you about the ceremony's history, philosophy and relationship with Zen Buddhism. Afterwards, you will have the opportunity to try the ceremony on your own. Sample the tea, enjoy some traditional sweets and ask your guide any questions you may have. This enchanting 45 minute experience will has been arranged on an exclusive private basis. (This service is on a private 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.)
Gesshin-in is a sub temple Kodai-ji, which is located north east of Yasaka Hokanji Temple and at the foot of the stunning Higashiyama Mountains in the east of the city. It is a beautifully tranquil spot and a great place to take part in a traditional Zazen meditation. The chief priest, Teramae Join will instruct you on how to sit, breath and focus, before initiating a short 10 minute session of meditation. After sounding a bell to break you from your trance, he will give a further explanation of the ways of Zen, before beginning another short period of contemplation. He is then able to answer any questions you have about this form of meditation, Buddhism, or life in general!
For today I have scheduled in a half day guide to accompany you by public transport to and from your meditation experience. Your guide will come to your accommodation at around 9:00 AM and take you to the activity, and perhaps a few more places nearby if there is extra time at the end. Your guiding will finish at around 1:00 PM either back at your accommodation or anywhere else in the city you wish.(This service is on a private basis.)
The journey between Kyoto and Kansai Airport will be on the Haruka Express. Journey time is in the region of 76 minutes. You will be supplied with Ordinary Class reserved seat tickets for this journey.
Located just a 5 minute walk from Shinjuku Station, the lovely Hotel Century Southern Tower makes for the perfect base from which to explore not only Shinjuku, but the whole of central Tokyo and beyond. The hotel lobby, which sits on the 20th floor, features spectacular views of the city and on clear days, you may even be able to spot Mount Fuji towering in the distance! All rooms are stylishly decorated with quality amenities and the bathrooms offer a range of beauty products for your convenience. In the evenings, you can enjoy a variety of dining options in the hotel, from Chinese and French influences, to even a superb Teppanyaki restaurant.
The Yamanochaya Ryokan provides an authentic Ryokan experience, perfect for those looking to truly live like a local. This luxurious Japanese Onsen Ryokan features lovely outdoor natural hot spring baths, one of which can be used privately. The meals served at the property include fresh seasonal ingredients and local specialties, brought to you in your room by Kimono-clad staff. Yamanochaya is located in a beautiful riverside setting surrounded by lush greenery, located across its own private bridge. Hakone Yumoto Station is just a 5 minute in a taxi ride away and the Tonosawa Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway (Mountain Railway) is just a 10 minute walk away, providing easy access to all of Hakone.
Opened in autumn of 2011, the Royal Park Hotel is a modern and stylish property in a great location of central Kyoto. The guest rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the hotel features it own restaurant and bakery cafe, as well as a useful concierge service, for your convenience. Your stay here includes having all the amenities and necessities of a pleasant visit, right at your fingertips. Just a short walk from the City Hall subway stop, it makes for a great platform to explore the city. Come and enjoy the ideal blend of tradition, art and fashion, here at the Royal Park Hotel.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.