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. This will be a fantastic introduction to Tokyo, with the chance to see not only the classic highlights, but also many of the more unusual and unique features of the city. With the expertise of your guide, you can discover aspects of Tokyo you would never otherwise know about, as you get to grips with the city's excellent transport network. You are free to set the pace of the day to be as busy or relaxed as you want.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM, or any time you choose this morning, and your day will proceed from there. Rather than making a fixed itinerary in advance, you will have full flexibility to pick whatever attractions and activities interest you. This means that you will need to pay for your entrance fees on the day of the tour, and will also need to cover your local transport costs and that of your guide. We want you to get the most out of this experience as possible, so please let us know if you have any specific areas of interest, so we can pass that on to your guide before the tour. Around 5:00 PM, your guide can either bring you 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 stay in Hakone, we have included 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 area that lies around 50 miles west of Tokyo and just to the south of Mount Fuji, Japan's most sacred peak. The area consists of a handful of small villages and hamlets all connected by a variety of local transport that winds itself through the region's hills and valleys. Hakone has plenty to see and do, from tasting eggs boiled in volcanic waters to taking a boat trip across beautiful Lake Ashi. The outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery is a great place to wander around for an afternoon. Or maybe you will just sit back and relax while soaking in one of the many therapeutic hot spring baths that Hakone is so famous for.
The other main draw to this area is the proximity to Japan's most sacred and iconic mountain, Fuji-san (Mount Fuji) with its near perfect symmetrical form soaring skywards and towering over the surrounding hills. From Hakone you have one of the best chances of getting a view of Mount Fuji from the various view points to be found throughout the area. However, be sure to have your camera at the ready; Fuji-san is notoriously shy and you do not want to miss that precious photo opportunity!
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, a private tea ceremony experience has been arranged for you at the En tea ceremony house in central Kyoto. This ceremony will take place in a lovely Japanese style room complete with ikebana (Japanese flowers) and calligraphy. Your English teacher will be able to inform you about the history and philosophy of the tea ceremony as well as its relationship with Zen Buddhism before conducting a traditional ceremony in front of you. You can then have a try yourself if you wish, taste the tea and traditional sweets and of course ask any questions that you may have. The experience lasts for 45 minutes. (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 an array of world-class gardens, majestic festivals and delicate cuisine, all of which make much of the rhythms of nature and the changing of the seasons. On first glance however, visitors will see that like any large Japanese city, grid-like Kyoto has its fair share of neon and concrete. But the discerning eye will soon pick out Kyoto’s treasures: sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades, time-honored tea houses nestled among modern businesses and mysterious geisha scuttling down backstreets among the tourists and souvenirs. Kyoto’s charm lies in these details and whether you’re here for three days or three years, the closer you look, the more you’ll discover.
Today, you will be taken on a full day tour of Kyoto by public transport. Exploring beside your very own local guide is the best way to discover this city, that is so rich in UNESCO World Heritage sites, it can be hard to know where to start! Your guide can offer the insight of a local's perspective, to truly reveal the area's authentic culture, iconic highlights and hidden secrets.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel around 9:00 AM, or any other time you choose this morning. From there, you will embark on the tour by public transport. Although Kyoto does offer an extensive bus route, we recommend taking a few taxis along the way as well, to speed things up. Please note that you will need to pay for lunch, transport 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.