Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £5200 per person
Places Visited: Tokyo, Tsumago, Kyoto, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Osaka
Emphasizing the twin facets of Japan, the pivotal points on this 2-week trip are stays in ‘modern’ Tokyo and ‘traditional’ Kyoto. As a stepping stone between the two, you’ll spend the night in the idyllic rural village of Tsumago, famed for its Edo-period houses and shops. Four nights in Kyoto allows you to venture well off the beaten track and experience more secluded aspects of this most Japanese of cities: hidden Zen gardens and ridgetop temples; old-style tea shops; and cherry tree-lined canals. Afterwards, a night in the wonderfully old-fashioned ryokan on Miyajima Island enables you to sidestep the crowds again and experience the essential serenity of one of Japan’s most revered Shinto shrines. Rounding off the tour is a night in Osaka, from where you fly home.
Fly from overnight from the UK to Tokyo.
Arrive in Tokyo and transfer by airport bus to your hotel for a four-night stay in the Japanese capital. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your flight, perhaps with a visit to the Old Quarter of Asakusa in the afternoon.
For a quick, jet-lag busting fix of old Tokyo, we recommend the eastern Asakusa district, home of the venerable Sensoji temple. Watch worshippers light incense and bow before the city’s oldest shrine, then enjoy the Japanese atmosphere of the surrounding streets, with their antique kimono boutiques and traditional kitchen utensil shops. For dinner, we recommend main Ginza branch of the famous Kyubey chain, where you’ll find out what real sushi should taste like. As with most high-end sushiyas, each piece is made in front of you and served one at a time. The flavours are nothing short of a revelation!
Today you’ll explore Tokyo by public transport with a private guide. The first suggested stop will be the Meiji Jingu temple, followed by Omotesando, Japan’s own ‘Champs-Elysees’, with a cruise on the Sumida Gawa river to round off the afternoon.
The capital’s most famous Shinto shrine, Meiji Jingu, is a popular venue for Japanese weddings and if you are lucky, you may see a bride and groom in traditional attire. Next, walk with your guide down Omotesando, enjoying the bustle and glamour of Tokyo’s ritziest shopping street. In the afternoon, you’ll experience the city from a totally different perspective as you take a cruise down the Sumida Gawa to Hamarikyu-Teien, and exquisite Edo-period garden encircled by skyscrapers, where you can pause for a green tea and a traditional sweet in the delightful lakeside teahouse.
Take a day trip north by coach to visit Nikko today.
Set amid beautiful surroundings in the mountains, UNESCO World Heritage listed Nikko is like a Japanese ink painting brought to life, complete with lines of moss-covered Jizo Buddhas sporting knitted crimson caps, stone lanterns backed by towering cedars, and a red-lacquer bridge framed by snowy white mountains. The oldest monuments date from 766AD, but the place really blossomed in the 1600s after the great Tokugawa Shogun who first unified Japan (and later provided the subject for James Clavell’s hit novel, ‘Shogun’) was enshrined here. One of the standout sights is burnished copper pagoda roof of the 8th-century Futarasan shrine.
Enjoy a coach trip to Kamakura today, returning to Tokyo in the evening.
Kamakura, a peaceful, breezy seaside resort, offers a pleasant respite from the bustle of Tokyo. In addition to the pounding surf of Sagami Bay, its main attraction are the dozens of Shinto and Buddhist shrines scattered across the wooded hills enfolding the town, some of which date back 1,200 years. A network of azalea-lined pathways winds through the woods separating the various monuments, the most famous of which houses a huge, bronze Buddha known as ‘Daibutsu’, cast in the 13th century.
It’s time to leave the capital’s skyscrapers and traffic, and head for the hills with a night in the atmospheric rural town of Tsumago.
Set amid spectacular mountain scenery, Tsumago is a wonderfully well preserved vestige of the old post road between Tokyo and Kyoto, with numerous Edo-period buildings to admire. Keen walkers will relish the chance to hike along the old imperial road from nearby Magome, which has been designated as a traffic-free trekking route and passes through delightful countryside and farmsteads.
Travel onwards by train to Kyoto in the morning. Enjoy your first sightseeing foray in the afternoon.
You should have enough time in the afternoon to squeeze a spot of sightseeing. A good option would be the trip up to the Fushimi Inari shrine on a hillside overlooking the city – one of the most romantic spots in the region, where lines of inscribed, red-lacquer archways form beautiful covered walkways. After, stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk, a pleasant waterfront path lined with cherry trees, before dinner at Tako Nyudo, which specializes in Kyoto’s home-style of cooking, known as ‘obanzai’. We recommend the more-ish house speciality, ‘akashi yaki’ – pieces of delicately flavoured octopus fried in crispy egg batter.
Today you’ll explore this fabulous city in greater depth on a full-day guided tour. Must-sees include the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji and the Kiyomizu temple.
Kyoto is the Japan of the imagination – a city of cherry trees, pagoda-roofed temples, geishas and tea ceremonies, all set against a backdrop of lush green hills and fine traditional architecture. An unparalleled wealth of period buildings survive here, from Edo-era wood-fronted houses to glittering medieval shrines crammed with sumptuous art. You’ll also have the opportunity to experience the art forms associated with them, from Japanese flower arrangement to rock gardening and the arcane costumes of Noh drama – all in their traditional contexts. And of course, there’s Kyoto’s sumptuous ‘kaiseki’ – the epitome of Japan’s uber-refined cuisine.
In the morning, attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Later, take a coach tour to Nara to visit the splendid Todaiji Temple and its resident Buddha, the 16-metre-tall ‘Daibutsu’.
Nara ranks among the most charismatic cities in Asia, thanks to its extraordinary collection of antique buildings, many of which are more than a thousand years old. Its UNESCO-listed centrepiece is the spectacular Todai-ji Temple, home to a 500-tonne, 16-metre-tall, bronze-cast Daibutsu Buddha. The world’s largest wooden building, the shrine now resides in a leafy park where sacred sika deer roam free, scrounging titbits off visitors. The nearby museum holds a hoard of precious antiquities from the 7th century Shosoin Treasury, a selection of which are exhibited for just a fortnight each autumn.
Today you’re free to explore the city and its gardens at a more leisurely pace. Anyone interested in gardens will be spoiled for choice. Top of any hit list should be the Ryoanji, Japan’s most famous rock garden.
Secluded behind a mud wall and row of trees, Ryonaji epitomises a perfect Japanese balance of mass and void: only fifteen stones and very few plants have been deployed in the harmonious ensemble. Equally intriguing and subtle is Saihoji ‘moss garden’, which you have to apply to see a month in advance (your TransIndus consultant will be able to facilitate this) and ‘earn the right to enter’ by copying Zen verses for half an hour – all part of the experience! For a pick-me-up, head for Tsuruya-Yoshinobu's handmade sweet shop at the junction of Horikawa and Imadagewa streets, whose traditional red-bean confectionery perfectly complements the frothy green house-tea. Nearby is Nishijin-Ori where beautiful kimonos are still made on old-style hand-looms.
The vision of the Itsukushima shrine’s vermillion-coloured Otorii gateway rising serenely from the waters of the Seto Inland Sea is almost as iconic of Japan as Mount Fuji, and today you’ll see it for yourself as you head for Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay.
Miyajima is home to one of Japan’s most revered Shinto complexes, whose pagoda roofs take shape above the treeline as you approach the island. Once you’ve explored the shrine, follow the pilgrims’ pathway behind it up the wooded slopes of Mount Misen to a sacred summit. The boulder-studded peak affords a wonderful view across the ocean and surrounding islets. You can catch a cable-car ride to within half an hour’s walk of the top, or climb all the way through dense forests of maple, cherry and conifers. You’ll spend the night in a particularly lovely ryokan inn on the island.
Explore the city of Hiroshima under your own steam today. We suggest visiting the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum, and restored castle – a particularly fine specimen of medieval Japanese architecture.
The horrors of August 6th, 1945, when the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, still cast a shadow of this impressive Japanese city. A museum in the Peace Memorial complex, close to the epicentre of the explosion, displays the few photographs taken in its aftermath, along with testimonies from survivors. Despite the fact that an entirely new, vibrant centre has since been built over the radioactive ashes, visiting the site tends to evoke strong emotions. Only by coming to Hiroshima, however, is it possible to fully comprehend the scale of the tragedy – and astonishing resilience of those who survived it.
After breakfast, return to Hiroshima station to catch the bullet train to Osaka.
Osaka is Japan's second city, but possesses a more down-to-earth feel than Tokyo. There are lots of great shops and restaurants, as well as a castle and fabulous aquarium. While in the city, don’t pass up the chance to sample its gastronomic speciality, ‘okonomiyaki’ – savoury griddle cakes prepared with a variety of delicious fillings.
It’s time to bid farewell to Japan as you transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £5200 per person
✓ International flights from the UK
✓ 12 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers, predominantly using public transport
✓ English-speaking guides as listed in the tour itinerary
✓ Breakfast daily, lunch on days 3, 4 & 8, dinner on days 11 & 12
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in the tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
As the epicentre of the world’s largest and most cutting-edge conurbation, Tokyo is where the nation’s heart beats fastest. If there’s a new gadget or fashion accessory out, you’l...
Kyoto is the Japan of the imagination – a city of cherry trees, pagoda-roofed temples, geishas and tea ceremonies, all set against a backdrop of lush green hills and fine traditio...
The vision of the Itsukushima shrine’s vermillion-coloured torii gateway rising serenely from the waters of the Seto Inland Sea is almost as iconic of Japan as Mount Fuji. Carved ...
Stay in a Ryokan
One of the highlights of traveling in Japan is the chance to experience the traditional hospitality of a Ryokan. These quintessentially Japanese inns have no real equivalent in th...
Every year at 8:15 am on August 6th, a minute of silent prayer attended by thousands of people in the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial, marks the moment when, in 1945, an atomic ...
Osaka city, situated in the Kansai region, is famous for its hearty cuisine and down to earth locals. Full of charm, the city springs in to life mostly at night, when neon lights ...
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