Your in-depth exploration of Japan begins in Tokyo. Take a shuttle bus transfer to your centrally located hotel, where you'll join your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Welcome Reception drink and local appetisers.
We launch our City Tour in the old-time entertainment centre of Asakusa, where we'll encounter the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. One of Tokyo's most colourful and popular temples, Sensoji has been rebuilt countless times since it was founded in 628, making it Tokyo's oldest temple site. Strolling down Nakamise next, we immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds of shitamachi (downtown Tokyo), admiring the wooden dolls, colourful chiyogami (origami paper) and traditional Japanese sweets. We'll ascend Tokyo Skytree, the world's highest free-standing broadcasting tower for panoramic views of the city, then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure or on an Optional Experience.
Our first stop today is the Imperial Palace Plaza from where the two bridges that form the entrance to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace can be viewed. We'll have the opportunity to explore the leafy Imperial Palace East Gardens before continuing our City Tour. At the Edo-Tokyo Museum, we delve into the history and culture of Tokyo's Edo era, then continue to the Ginza district where we'll learn how to make sushi with a 'Local Specialist'. We venture to the Five Lakes District next, keeping a keen eye out for the UNESCO listed Mt. Fuji which dominates the landscape.
Visit Oshino Hakkai, a small rural village in the Fuji Five Lakes district, renowned for eight natural spring water ponds that are fed by melted snow from Mt. Fuji. Admire the reflections of the sky and landscapes in its clear waters, then ascend Mt. Fuji by road to 2,300 metres at the 5th station. Ride up Mt. Tenjo on the Kachikachiyama Ropeway next, for jaw-dropping views (weather permitting) of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. Then, journey through the Japanese Alps to the beautiful hillside town of Takayama, before enjoying dinner at the hotel.
Immerse yourself in tradition as you walk through the Edo-style streets of Takayama's Old Town. Indulge a lunch of Japanese Hida-gyu - beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed, renowned as one of the finest quality varieties of beef. Journey back in time this afternoon during a visit to the peaceful UNESCO-listed Gokayama, a mountain village set amidst five valleys. Admire the unique construction of the local Gassho-zukuri wooden houses that have been built without the use of nails with steeply sloped thatched roofs to prevent snow from building up on them. Next, meet a local family in one of these houses, then 'Dive into Culture' observing local artisans making washi paper and trying your hand at making your own. 'Make a Difference' to the sustainability of this small business during your visit. Stay overnight in Kanazawa.
Join a 'Local Specialist' this morning to learn the secrets of painting gold leaf, a delicate craft the Japanese have been perfecting since the 16th century. Continue to the tranquil gardens of Kenroku-en, shaped over a hundred years to emerge as one of Japan's most beautiful gardens. Connecting with your exquisite natural surrounds, you'll stroll through ornate landscapes and past ponds and temples. Take a short walk through the Omicho market next to see the local fish catch and enjoy an insider's view of everyday life in a busy coastal town. Then, visit the Nagamachi District with its beautifully preserved samurai houses that line the traditional stone streets. Here you will gain first-hand insights into samurai life during a visit to the Nomura house, an elegant samurai mansion.
We board an Express train this morning to Kyoto, where we'll 'Connect with Locals' at a traditional ryokan, built in 1932 to serve as the second residence of Emperor Akihito's uncle. We'll enjoy a Be My Guest lunch and learn about local Japanese customs as our hosts welcome us into their beautiful home. After lunch, we visit the UNESCO-listed Kinkakuji Temple with its famous Kinkaku (Golden Pavilion), the proud symbol of Kyoto and a Zen temple, which has its origins as a 14th century villa.
The blazing orange torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine guide our path through the forest, up into the mountains and to a sacred site that has heard prayers for prosperity and happiness since the 8th century. We continue to Sanjusangen-do Hall and admire the minute detail of each of its 1,001 "thousand-handed" goddesses of mercy, then enjoy a walking tour of the Gion area. This evening, we indulge in a festive Farewell Dinner with your Travel Director and fellow guests.
Our encounter with Japan's age-old traditions and modern cityscapes at its end, we take a transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Airport for our onward flight. Alternatively, continue to Hiroshima by choosing the 13 day itinerary.
2020 departures are subject to change of itinerary, price, discount and hotels. These will be confirmed in June 2019.
The Imperial Palace East Gardens are closed on Fridays so trips starting in Tokyo on Wednesdays will visit the Hamarikyu Japanese Garden instead.
Takayama Festival is considered one of Japan's best festivals to see the traditional floats in the streets of Takayama. Please see our special Takayama Festival departures.
Extend your stay in Kyoto and take the opportunity to absorb genuine Japanese hospitality while staying in Authentic Accommodation in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn). The ryokan features traditional rooms with tatami mats, communal segregated gender bathing areas and provides guests with a yukata (cotton kimono) to wear. Breakfast and dinner are included and consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki. Prices from A$xxx.
One highlight would be Gokayama, where we can see Gassho-style houses. The village is a part of the World Heritage Site, registered in 1994. Most houses are 400 years-old, with the roofs being rethatched every 20 years. Inside the house, the first floor is used for living; the second and third floors are for sericulture and the basement for gunpowder production. Under the enormously shaped roof, the house is more like a factory. The houses are designed like this in order to withstand the heavy snow. They are a great invention, born of human ingenuity.Keiko, Japan Travel Director
Cherry Blossom season varies between different regions of Japan and is dependent on weather conditions so can also vary slightly each year. Late March to mid April are the most likely times to experience it on this trip but this is not guaranteed.
Gion Festival: Takes place annually in Kyoto and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. Events and parades are held for the entire month of July.
Visas are generally not required for Japan for many nationalities. Please contact the consulate/embassy for further information.