Ancient rituals & modern lives
Beginning in vibrant, cacophonous Tokyo, this very special tour of Japan takes in Hakone National Park and hoped-for views of majestic Mount Fuji. Picturesque Takayama and Shirakawa-go's traditional thatched gassho-zukuri houses then lead on to Kanazawa's breathtaking gardens, sombre Hiroshima, Miyajima's famous torii gate and Himeji's awe-inspiring castle. Ancient Kyoto, where kimono-wearing geishas still shuffle their way along ancient streets, and 6th-century capital Nara, complete this fascinating journey.
WHAT DOES THE PRICE INCLUDE?
Day One: Fly overnight to Tokyo
Fly overnight from the UK to Tokyo, travelling via Dubai.
Day Two: Transfer to your hotel
Upon arrival, meet your English-speaking Tour Manager and transfer to your hotel in Tokyo, for a three-night stay in the extraordinary Japanese capital.
Day Three: Included visit to the Imperial Palace gardens
Join your guide for a fascinating day of exploration. You'll visit the gardens of the Imperial Palace - home to the emperor - and the ancient Buddhist Senso-ji temple, before enjoying the chance to learn about the traditional art of sushi-making. After an included lunch, spend the afternoon discovering Ginza, Tokyo's equivalent to 'Fifth Avenue'.
Day Four: Included tour of Tokyo
A second morning of sightseeing includes a bird's eye view of the city from the observation floor of Shinjuku's government buildings, and visits to the Yoyogi park and shrine and trendy Harajuku. Perhaps visit one of Omotesando's Parisian-style cafes and join the throng at world-famous Shibuya Crossing.
Day Five: Indluded visit to Hakone National Park
Travel to beautiful Hakone National Park, and hope for a view of Mount Fuji as you cruise beautiful Lake Ashi and take a cable car ride above the Owakudani Valley. Continue to the Five Lakes region and stay close to the sacred mountain. On arrival, visit stunningly beautiful, flower-decked Oishi Park, on the shore of Lake Kawaguchiko.
Day Six: Journey to the Japanese Alps
This morning, make the scenic journey into the Japanese Alps, passing Matsumoto's ancient castle and pausing for lunch at the Daio Wasabi plantation, where you'll learn about one of the world's most expensive vegetables. Journey on, and enjoy a two-night stay in beautiful Takayama, at the gateway to the Alps.
Day Seven: Included visit to Takayama
Spend the day in Takayama, with its preserved Sanmachi area of streets lined with traditional buildings and sake breweries, one of which you'll visit with your guide for a tasting. Take in the historic buildings of the Takayama-Jinya, and visit the fascinating folk museum, which gives a wonderful insight into Japanese rural life through the ages.
Day Eight: Included visits to Samurai House and Higashi Chaya-Gai
Journey through mountains to the UNESCO-listed Shirakawa village of Gokayama, and its beautifully preserved, thatched gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Visit a washi - a traditional Japanese papermaking centre - before continuing on to Kanazawa, home to the exquisite Kenroku-en Garden, one of the world's greatest horticultural treasures. The day concludes with visits to the Samurai House at Nagamachi and the Higashi Chaya-Gai geisha district.
Day Nine: Travel to Hiroshima
After breakfast, travel to Himeji via Tamba Sasayama, most famous for its eco-tourism and home grown products such as black beans and soya beans. Later, transfer to Himeji to see its impressive castle (entrance to the fortress and its surrounding gardens are included), before boarding a famous bullet train to Hiroshima, the site of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, on 6th August 1945.
Day 10: Included visits to Miyajima and Hiroshima
Catch a ferry from Hatsukaichi to the tiny island of Miyajima, where one of Japan's most famous sights, the 'floating' torii gate, crowns the inland sea offshore. Return to the mainland to Hiroshima and visit the Peace Memorial Park, where the startling ruins of the UNESCO-listed A-Bomb Dome and the Cenotaph, under which the names of over 220,000 victims are stated, serve as poignant reminders of the destruction of the now-rebuilt city.
Later, take another bullet train to Kyoto, for a final two-night stay in Japan's former imperial capital.
Day 11: Included tour of Kyoto
A guided tour will introduce Kyoto's treasures, including UNESCO-listed Nijo Castle and its stunning gardens, the famed Kinkaku-ji 'Golden Pavilion', the Zen Buddhist garden of Ryoan-ji and the colourful Nishiki market. Visit the spectacular Kiyomizu-dera temple, offering breathtaking views of the whole city, stroll lovingly restored Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka streets, and take part in a traditional tea ceremony - a perfect end to a memorable day. The evening is free, perhaps to explore the ancient Gion district, where you might catch sight of geishas hurrying along.
Day 12: Fly back to the UK
After breakfast at the hotel, make the short journey to Nara, Japan's original 6th-century capital, where sights will include the Great Buddha at the Todai-ji temples, the sacred deer of Nara Koen Park and Kasuga, another of Japan's most important Shinto shrines.
Transfer this afternoon to Osaka's Kansai International Airport, enjoying a final highlight as you pass Osaka's extraordinary castle, then bid 'sayonara' to your Japanese hosts and board the return overnight flight, travelling via Dubai.
Day 13: Arrive back in the UK
Arrive back in the UK, at the end of a truly unforgettable holiday in Japan.
Hotel transfer times
The transfer time from Tokyo airport to your hotel is approximately 60 minutes, and from your Kyoto hotel to the airport is approximately 90 minutes.
You are permitted to take one suitcase per person on the aircraft, which should not exceed 23kg.
Passports and visas
British citizens require passports when travelling overseas and this must be valid for six months beyond the date you return. If you are not a British citizen, you may need a visa for the country/countries you are visiting (please contact the respective embassies to check and to apply).
If you have notified us of any special requirements, please check that they have been noted and acknowledged. This is especially important with any dietary needs you may have.
The majority of our tours involve a certain amount of walking, including a short walk from the coach stop to the town, attraction or venue you're visiting. If you are bringing a wheelchair, please let us know at the time of booking so that appropriate arrangements can be made. In many developing countries access is sometimes not as easy as at home. Should you have walking difficulties, getting around monuments and attractions may be harder and, in some cases, impossible. Should you have any concerns whatsoever please do contact us prior to travel.
Requirements and advice can vary over time, and from person to person, so please contact your GP about eight weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or any other preventive measures.
Occasionally, for operational reasons, we may have to change the order of the excursions on your holiday. The final day-by-day itinerary will be confirmed on your Final Travel Documents, which you will receive approximately three weeks prior to your departure.
Changes to your hotels
Should circumstances require, we reserve the right to accommodate you in alternative hotels, of a similar standard, nearby. Full details of your hotels will be sent with your Final Travel Documents.
In developing countries road networks are continually being improved and expanded, which can mean that, from time to time, roadworks and rough road surfaces can extend journey times. Some journeys are made on winding mountain roads and passes, which may also make for slow travelling - although the scenery is usually worth it! Many roads do not have separate pavements or safety barriers, and great care should be taken when crossing or walking alongside roads.