Day 1 – Tokyo and Senjoji Temple District
Welcome to Japan. On your arrival in Tokyo travel independently into the city to the hostel where you’ll meet your tour leader and the rest of your group. We’ll then take a trip up to the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Building for stunning views over the city. Later, explore the Izakaya pubs and bars of the Shinjuku district and marvel at the life-sized Godzilla standing guard.
This afternoon we’ll visit Sensou-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo. Spend the rest of today exploring the city at leisure – if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s an optional excursion to the local batting cages. Overnight: Tokyo.
Day 2 – Akihabara district
Spend the morning exploring independently before we head to Akihabara – Tokyo’s hub for anime and manga. Browse some of the independent trader’s shops down hidden side streets before you have the evening to spend as you please. Why not try out real life Mariokart in go-karts on the streets of the city, an exhilarating experience? Overnight: Tokyo. (B)
Day 3 – Tokyo- Imperial Palace, Harajuka and Shibuya
This morning we’ll visit the gardens of the ancient Imperial Palace, once the largest fortress in the world. Wander past highlights including the original moats, watch towers and entrance gates and witness the beautiful Nijubashi Bridge – two bridges which form the entrance to the Palace grounds.
Later, we’ll head to the Harajuka fashion district where you can see many interesting and diverse styles on show including punks, goths and lolitas. Finally, walk across the Shibuya Intersection, the most famous intersection in the world, and enjoy a drink in one of the many bars in the area. This evening there is an optional excursion to a local cat café. Overnight: Tokyo. (B)
Day 4 – Tokyo – Sumo District & Edo Tokyo Museum
Today begins with a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum where we’ll learn about the capital’s history. Later we’ll travel to Ryogoku – known as the sumo district. Here we’ll pass the sumo stables where the legendary wrestlers live and train, before we visit the sumo museum to learn the secrets behind Japan’s national sport.
This afternoon we’ll experience the ancient art of samurai and unleash our inner warrior with the help of an expert. Spend the rest of the day exploring the bustling city, or you may opt to watch an entertaining Tokyo robot show. Overnight: Tokyo. (B)
Day 5 – Kamakura
Tokyo – Kamakura. Enjoy the morning at leisure before taking a train to the coastal city of Kamakura, once home to the 12th century dictators of Japan – the Shōgun’s. We’ll explore the Kotoku-in temple and marvel at the famous bronze statue of the Great Buddha, standing at 45ft tall. Later, we’ll hike to the incredible Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine and wash our money in the spring – legend says any money washed in the shrine will double.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring as you please – watch the sunset on the beach or take to the waves and surf into the evening. Overnight: Kamakura.
Day 6 – Ashi Lake and Hakone
Kamakura – Hakone. Today we’ll travel to the beautiful Ashi Lake and board a triple decker pirate ship before we enjoy the fantastic views of Mt Fuji. Work up an appetite as we hike along the ancient Old Tokaido road before stopping for lunch at Moto-Hakone.
Later, we’ll enjoy a sightseeing cruise around Mt Fuji and then take the Hakone Ropeway cable car to Owakudani Valley – a volcanic valley full of active sulfur vents and hot springs. Relax and unwind in one of the onsen hot spring baths before enjoying your evening at leisure in our traditional style ryokan guest house. Overnight: Hakone.
Day 7 – Hakone to Kyoto
Hakone – Kyoto. Board the famous bullet train to Kyoto, Japan’s former imperial capital. We’ll wander through quaint streets to the Kiyomzu Temple and admire the structure of the wooden stage – built without the use of nails, and the eleven faced, thousand-armed Kannon statue. Later, we’ll enjoy a live performance by the famous geisha women before spending the rest of the evening at leisure. Enjoy the atmosphere down the dimly lit Pontocho Alley and relax at a riverside bar. Overnight: Kyoto.
Day 8 – Arashiyama Monkey Park and Tenryu- ji Temple
Experience Kyoto’s beautiful landscape aboard traditional wooden rafts as we sail down the Hozugawa River to the Arashiyama bamboo forest. Hike through this bamboo maze to the monkey park where we’ll be able to feed these incredible animals from our own cage, as they roam free in their natural environment.
Later, we’ll visit the Tenryu-ji Temple – the most important of the city’s zen temples. Stroll through the original, pristine gardens before we enjoy a calligraphy lesson from a local art master. Spend the rest of today exploring Kyoto as you please – perhaps belt out your favourite song at an optional karaoke night. Overnight: Kyoto.
Day 9 – Kyoto at leisure
You’ll have free time today to explore Kyoto at leisure. Visit the temples of the Philosopher’s path, or the city’s Manga Museum. You may wish to catch the train to the Fushimi Inari Taisha – famous for the thousands of red torii gates dedicated to the Shinto god of rice. Make a small offering to the deity before hiking the trails of the wooded forest of Mount Inari. Overnight: Kyoto.
Day 10 – Kyoto to Hiroshima
Kyoto – Hiroshima. We’ll spend our final morning in Kyoto exploring the iconic Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji Temple, where the top two floors are covered in gold leaves. Later, relax during a meditation lesson led by a Buddhist monk in a city temple before we cycle through Kyoto’s Imperial Park in the heart of the city. Stroll through the grounds of the famous Imperial Palace – the former residence of Japan’s imperial family, and marvel at the beauty of the ancient buildings. We’ll then say goodbye to Kyoto and board the bullet train to Hiroshima. Overnight: Hiroshima.
Day 11 – Peace Memorial Museum and Miyajima Island
Learn about the devastation left behind by the world’s first atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War, with a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum. We’ll see the iconic A-bomb Dome – one of the few buildings that survived the blast, and the Children’s Peace Monument.
Later, take a ferry to Miyajima Island where the giant torii gate appears to float on the water. Visit the ancient Itsukushima Shrine which is also built over the water and connected by pillars above the sea. We’ll explore one of the island’s walking trails through the forest, enjoying the scenic landscape and keeping a lookout for the resident deer, before we return to Hiroshima to spend the evening at leisure. Overnight: Hiroshima.
Day 12 – Hiroshima to Osaka
Hiroshima – Osaka. Board the bullet train to Osaka and enjoy some free time by exploring the Namba or Shinsaibashi areas. Enjoy some delicious local takoyaki before we board a train to Osaka Castle, where war and natural disasters have destroyed the original foundations over centuries. Admire the secondary citadels, stone walls and moats of this historical site before we stroll through the picturesque Osaka Castle Park. Spend the evening enjoying the bustle of Shinsaibashi and the Dotonbori riverfront – wander through the covered shopping arcade and sample the area’s vibrant nightlife. Overnight: Osaka.
Day 13 – Mount Koya
Osaka – Mount Koya. Today we’ll travel to Koyasan, a small Buddhist community living atop Mount Koya. Here we’ll explore the sacred Okunoin Cemetery and pay our respects to the 200,000 tombstones housed here, before exploring Torodo Hall – lit by more than 10,000 lanterns. Our accommodation for tonight is the traditional Shykubo Temple where we’ll experience traditional Buddhist monk life and sample the local shojin ryori dish (vegetarian cuisine). Overnight: Mount Koya. (D)
Day 14 – Shirakawago
Mount Koya – Shirakawago. Wake early this morning to witness the Buddhist morning prayer before a traditional breakfast in the temple lodges. We’ll then travel to the historic mountainous village in Shirakawago and arrive at our farmhouse accommodation in time to watch the dazzling sunset over the valley. There will be time to explore the thatched roofs of the old buildings, which resemble the hands of Buddhist monks in prayer, before enjoying local cuisine at the farmhouse. Overnight: Shirakawago and Gokayama. (B/D)
Day 15 – Shirakawago to Kanazawa
Shirakawago – Kanazawa. Today we’ll explore Ogimachi, the largest village in Shirakawago. Visit the local museum to discover the history of this beautiful landscape and rural life before we hike to a local viewpoint for a stunning view of the valley. Later, we’ll travel to Kanazawa where you can spend the evening enjoying the lively Izakaya pubs and local restaurants at leisure. Overnight: Kanazawa. (B)
Day 16 – Kenroku-en Gardens and Kanazawa Castle
Today we’ll tour the famous cherry blossom trees of the beautiful Kenroku-en Gardens and visit Kanazawa Castle, where the ancient Maeda family of the Kaga clan resided until 1871.
Later, we’ll discover the Higashi Chaya and visit a traditional teahouse, where geishas will entertain us with traditional music and dancing. To end the tour, we’ll cycle through the narrow lanes of the former samurai district and you may enjoy an optional excursion to the Ninja Temple, known for its deceptive defences and escape routes. Spend the rest of today at leisure and be sure to pack an overnight bag for tomorrow as luggage will be sent to our next hostel independently. Overnight: Kanazawa.
Day 17 – Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
Kanazawa – Yamanouchi. We’ll spend today crossing the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route – a scenic route through the beautiful Northern Japanese Alps. Take a series of cable cars, buses and ropeways, and admire the view atop the Kurobe Dam, Japan’s highest dam. Later, we’ll get to witness the thundering Shomyo falls, the country’s tallest waterfall before our trip continues to Nagano – host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Our accommodation for the next two nights is in the nearby village of Yamanouchi, where you may choose to visit a 200-year old onsen with an outdoor bathing area. Overnight: Yamanouchi. (B)
Day 18 – Yamanouchi
Enjoy an action-packed morning paddle boarding at a beautiful lake and hiking in the stunning hills nearby before choosing from several optional activities in the afternoon. Perhaps visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park where you can see the wild primates bathing in hot springs. Alternatively, relax and enjoy some local miso and sake or return to Nagano by train to further explore. In the evening we’ll enjoy our final dinner together as a group at a local restaurant. Overnight: Yamanouchi. (B)
Day 19 – Yamanouchi to Tokyo
Yamanouchi – Tokyo. Today marks the end of our adventure. Return to Tokyo by train where we then continue our travels or head home. (B)