Cherry Blossom Festival - 13 Days
Breakfast daily and 5 dinners.
12 nights 3 - 4 star accommodation (including 2 nights in a traditional Japanese Inn in Takayama).
Airport arrival and departure transfers to tour hotel on day 1 and day 13 by shared public shuttle bus transfers from either Narita or Haneda Airports.
Guided sightseeing and walking tours in Tokyo, Matsumoto, Kanazawa, Takayama, Kyoto and Hakone.
Day trip to Hiroshima with visits to Peace Park, Peace Park Museum, various memorials and the A-Bomb site.
All relevant transfers and transportation - private buses and rail passes - individual or other (including Tokyo Transport Pass and 2 day Hakone Free Pass), and luggage forwarding on day 7,10 and 12.
Sumida River boat cruise in Tokyo.
Fuji Hakone National Park, with lake cruise, cable cars, ropeways and switchback trains.
Ticket to the Spring Geisha Dances (Miyako Odori performance - TBC, please see Trip Notes) and guided tour of the Gion Geisha District in Kyoto.
Escorted by a licensed English speaking Japanese tour guide.
Entrance fees to all included sightseeing.
Maximum group size: 18 persons.
Itinerary / more information
Day 1 - Welcome to Japan Upon arrival in Tokyo (Narita or Haneda Airport) you will be met by our transfer representative who will give you your Tokyo Transport Card (referred to as an IC Card) which will allow you to move freely around the city on the subways and train systems and assist you to transfer to your hotel in Shinjuku, one of the most modern districts in the city. A flight arriving to Tokyo before 16:00 would be ideal if you intend to join our Welcome Meeting commencing this evening at 18:30.
Day 2 - Tokyo Today we embark on a full day tour of the city by public transport. We start with a cruise down the Sumida River, followed by a walk through Hamarikyu tei-en, a tranquil garden that is just a few minutes’ walk from the lively Ginza Shopping District, where we will be able to see cherry blossom trees. Later, we visit the revered Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined.
The last stop of the day is the Shibuya Crossing - regarded as one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world. It is said that up to a 1000 people converge onto the intersection with every light change. Known as 'the scramble' we'll give it a go then you can purchase a coffee at the second floor Starbucks located directly above and leisurely take in the spectacle from our vantage point. The remainder of the afternoon offers free time for you to further discover this exciting city independently, before our group welcome dinner at a local restaurant this evening.
Day 3 - Matsumoto Tokyo – Matsumoto. This morning we drive to Matsumoto, and upon arrival visit the incredibly beautiful Matsumoto Castle, which is one of the original and most complete of the handful of medieval castles that exist in Japan today. The towering black and white structure holds some 400 years of history, is a National Treasure (1 of only 4 castles) and is the most iconic landmark in the city. The reward for climbing the narrow stairs to the top are the stunning views of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City and the swans circling in the moat below, that can be seen from the slim wooden windows (used for archers and gunmen). This evening offers free time where you might wish to try the local specialty – soba noodles.
Day 4 - Takayama Matsumoto – Takayama. From Matsumoto we drive to Takayama, a charming town in the heart of the Hida Mountains. Established in the 16th century as the castle town of the Kanamori family, the town is famous throughout Japan for its old town area of narrow streets filled with well-preserved inns, tea houses, shops and merchants houses with latticed windows and overhanging roofs that are characteristic of the Edo period.
On our way to Takayama we will stop at the picturesque Daio Wasabi Farm, one of Japan’s largest wasabi farms. There is free time to take in the beautiful gardens and fields. The shop on site offers many different options to try of this unique product - wasabi chocolate, wasabi beer, wasabi ice-cream, wasabi juice and much more. Upon arrival to Takayama and we’ll drive to the outskirts of the town to visit the fascinating Hida Folk Village, an outdoor museum comprising 30 or so traditional farm houses from around the Hida region, re-built here on the hillside overlooking the town. Tonight, we enjoy a classic Japanese ryokan meal at the inn where we are staying.
Day 5 - Takayama This morning we will explore the town's market stalls, overflowing with fresh produce brought in daily from the surrounding fields. Later, we explore Takayama’s Old Quarter, where you can enjoy free time to wander around the shops and perhaps visit a sake distillery to sample the town’s famous sake.
Tonight, we recommend you head out for dinner to sample some of Takayama’s delicious Hida beef at one of the many restaurants or beef burger cafes.
Day 6 - Kanazawa Takayama – Kanazawa. Today we travel to Kanazawa, home to one of Japan’s most impressive gardens, Kenroku-en, located opposite Kanazawa Castle. Once part of the feudal lord's garden, Kenroku-en is regarded as one of the best places to see the country's famous cherry blossoms - hopefully in full bloom. In Kanazawa the cherry blossom trees are due to bloom in late March/early April. When in bloom, these delicate soft pink flowers can be seen lining the streets and filling the parks and gardens all over the city.
We then head to Nagamachi District located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle – known for its old samurai houses. Upon arrival we will visit the Nomura Family Samurai House. And after lunch, we explore the lively Omicho Ichiba Market, a food market and restaurant area. Our last stop of the day is Kenroku-en, here we enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and free time to sit, relax and admire the beautiful blossoms as the sun sets.
Day 7 - Kyoto Kanazawa – Kyoto. A morning express train takes us to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient and cultural capital, where we will spend the next three nights. As one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over 1,600 Buddhist Temples and 400 Shinto Shrines.
Upon arrival we tour Sanjusagen-do Temple, famous for its statues of Kannon. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon are made of Japanese cypress and are completely covered in gold-leaf. Standing in rows of 10 and each hand carved, so that no two are alike. Our last stop today is the enchanted Fushimi Inari Shrine with its torii gates and picturesque tunnels.
Day 8 - Hiroshima Kyoto - Hiroshima - Kyoto. This morning we depart for a full day sightseeing excursion to Hiroshima, taking one of the fastest trains in Japan (the Nozomi Shinkansen) which reaches speeds of up to 300km on the route. Arriving to Hiroshima we visit the iconic A-Bomb Dome - one of the very few buildings left standing after the blast, the Peace Park and Peace Park Museum, which are a sobering reminder of Hiroshima’s devastating past.
We’ll also visit the Children's Peace Monument, a memorial to the children killed, and where school children from around the globe donate paper origami cranes, signifying hope and peace. We return to Kyoto just after sundown.
Day 9 - Kyoto This morning we visit the stunning Zen Buddhist Temple of Kinkaku-ji, known as the Golden Temple which forms part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto's World Heritage Site. The top floor of the two-story structure is completely covered in gold and sits beside a small lake where its beauty is reflected in the calm waters. After, we embark on a guided walking tour of UNESCO Listed Nijo Castle, which was built by the first Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603, the exquisite castle is a wonderful example of Momoyama architecture. The later part of the afternoon offers free time for you to explore more of Kyoto's beautiful sites.
Later today we make our way to Gion for a guided walk through the famed Geisha District. This evening, we have tickets to witness the Miyako Odari geisha dances at the Minami-za Theatre. Dinner tonight is at SODOH Higashiyama - keep a look out, as it's very possible to see Maiko (apprentice Geisha) dressed in beautiful kimono walking to and from their lessons.
NOTE: Due to the pandemic, the Miyako Odori reopening date and venue is yet to be confirmed. This informatation will be further updated once we have received confirmation.
Day 10-11 - Hakone Kyoto - Hakone National Park. Today a bullet train takes us to Fuji Hakone National Park, at the foot of iconic Mount Fuji, where we will spend the next two days exploring the local area. Arrival to our hotel after lunch and this afternoon is at leisure.
During our stay, we have access to unlimited travel on nearly all the local modes of transport thanks to our Hakone Freepass Card - from mountain buses, trams and switchback rail, to lofty cable cars. We'll also take a cruise across picturesque Lake Ashi to Moto-Hakone to visit the Shinto Shrine of Hakone-jinja, where we are rewarded with the best views of Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi and the Red Torii Gate of Hakone.
Day 12 - Tokyo Hakone - Tokyo. Heading back to Tokyo, rather than staying in modern Shinjuku, this time we will be staying in old-town Akakusa, a pretty district famous for its historic Sensoji Buddhist Temple and its abundance of interesting souvenir and craft stalls. After a guided visit of Senso-ji Temple, the rest of the afternoon offers the opportunity to do any last minute sightseeing or shopping. You may also wish to head up to the Tokyo Sky Tree for some final dazzling views of the city.
Day 13 - Tokyo Today our holiday concludes. We offer post-tour accommodation for those interested in staying in Tokyo a little longer, please enquire. Included transfer to Narita or Haneda International Airports by shared shuttle bus.
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