JP1 On Track in East Asia TOUR

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Tokyo • Hakone • Takayama • Kyoto • Hiroshima

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

National Museum; Kamakura: Great Buddha; Bullet Train to Hakone; Hakone Outdoor Museum; Historic Takayama; Kyoto: Temples & shrines; Hiroshima: Peace Memorial Park

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 22 Oct 2015Tue 03 Nov 2015 $4890
Wed 06 Apr 2016Mon 18 Apr 2016 $4890
Thu 20 Oct 2016Tue 01 Nov 2016 $4890

Optional Single Supplement: $832 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


From its humble beginnings as a small, 16th century castle town, Tokyo -- or Edo as it was then known -- soon became one of the planet's most populous cities and has since been holding high prominence in the league of the world's most significant, influential and alluring metropolitan areas. We visit the central wholesale market, which is the largest in the world, and the beautiful Imperial Palace, complete with its mazes of moats, bridges, cul-de-sacs, parks and gardens. In Kamakura, slightly south of the capital, we find grand monuments, shrines and temples nestled snugly amid wooded hillsides and it is here that we can gaze upon the bewitching spectacle of the statue of the Great Buddha, the second-largest bronze image in the country. Come morning, we take to the tracks on the 'bullet train', bound for the forested mountains, deep glens and picturesque ravines of the Hakone region, where we can opt to enjoy stunning vistas from a cable car up Mount Fuji. Our rail experience continues on to Takayama, a region whose geographic features have resulted the unique cultural evolution of its inhabitants, and on through the scenic Hida River Valley. In Kyoto, we see the 1,001 life-size statues of the Buddhist teacher Kannon; in Nara, we get a taste of the pervading air of spirituality and mysticism that envelops the area; and in Hiroshima, we visit the Peace Memorial Park and enjoy the sights and sounds of a bustling city that overcame the devastation of five decades ago to become the most vital city of San-Yo.

Regions visited: Central Asia And Far East
Countries visited: Japan


Testimonials


Enjoyed all the excursions. Local guides were all good. Meals more than met expectations. Our tour leader Stephen did an excellent job of choosing different types of meals each night and made sure our group was separated from smoking and could sit comfortably. Stephen did an excellent job of guiding us everyplace. He's very knowledgeable, caring, and helpful. He really was excellent in every way.

The itinerary was excellent and I enjoyed Stephen Scroggings the primary guide very much-articulate, knowledgeable, thoughtful about our comfort and very good at managing the group dynamics. I was satisfied with the pace of the daily excursions and given that we were seeing some of the top attractions, I was amazed that we managed to be ahead of the crowds on many days. The combinations of transport were excellent.

Spring in Japan is absolutely magical; cherry blossom time is breathtakingly beautiful. The timing of this trip was perfect for cherry blossoms.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in Tokyo
Today we arrive in Tokyo and transfer to our hotel.

Tokyo is Japan's capital and the country's largest city. Prior to 1868, Tokyo was known as Edo. A small castle town in the 16th century, Edo became Japan's political center in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government there. A few decades later, Edo had grown into one of the world's most populous cities.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Tokyo: City Tour
First thing this morning we visit the exciting Tsukiji Fish Market.* Here we are able to witness the bustling activity of the central wholesale market, the largest fish market in the world. Although the market contains stalls selling meats and vegetables, the real product is the two million
kilograms of fish sold here every day. Over 1,500 fishmongers scurry about on motorised fish-mobiles in a cavernous warehouse where huge blocks of ice, all expertly hand-sawed, not only to cool the interior but also to miraculously keep all odour of fish at bey.

We then make our way to the Imperial Palace or Kokyo, built on the site of the Edo-jo Castle, an impregnable fortress that housed the Tokugawa Shogunate for 265 years. Surrounded by moats, the original outer walls extended for over 16 km (10 miles) and were thick enough for a squad of samurai to walk six abreast on top. Even in its original state, it deceptively looked more like an administrative villa than a fortress. Once inside, it was a maze of moats, bridges, dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, all perfect for defense, and now perfect for private and public strolling parks and gardens. Occupied by the shogunate for 265 years until Emperor Meiji moved the court here in 1860's, the buildings survived until they were all but obliterated by the fire bombings of WWII.

After peering into this amazing complex, we continue on to Ginza. We will take a brief walk through the food halls where you will see the amazing variety of beautifully presented foods being sold at unbelievable prices. Seeing where and how the Japanese shop, what they buy, for whom and for what occasion, offers instructive glimpses into a highly sophisticated social strata where conventions of human interaction and presentation are minutely-defined.

We continue from here on to Ueno, home to the National Museum and the finest collection of Japanese art in the country. After our guided tour of the museum we will return to our hotel.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo
This morning we venture to Kamakura, the capital established by the Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo in 1192. He was the first permanent shogun and ruler of Japan. His motivation was to get away from the corrupt imperial court of Kyoto. Within the next century many grand monuments were built, and has 65 Buddhist temples and 19 Shinto shrines located amongst its wooded hills. An easily defendable site, surrounded on three sides by hills and the fourth by the sea, is a dramatic setting for our wanderings through the area. One of the highlights here will be a visit to the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha; the second largest bronze image in Japan. We will also visit a beautiful Zen garden set within a bamboo forest.

We return to Tokyo in the mid-late afternoon.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Tokyo - Hakone
This morning we enjoy our first Shinkansen, or "bullet train," ride as we head towards Hakone (OVERNIGHT BAG ONLY PLEASE; excess baggage will be sent ahead to Takayama). Wedged between Mt Fuji and the Izu Peninsula, Hakone is a large region encircled by several forested mountains with a beauty accented by deep glens and ravines. In the feudal era, Hakone was a very important checkpoint that safeguarded the security of Edo (now Tokyo) as the seat of the Shogunate. This onsen (hotspring) area has been popular since the 1500s, when Hideyoshi Toyotomi came here to relax in an open-air bath after the hard fought Battle of Odawara.

From the castle town of Odawara we board a train that takes us into the National Park. We then board a funicular that takes us to Gora. One of the highlights today will be our visit to the Hakone Outdoor Museum, or Chokoku-no-mori, a beautiful park filled with sculptures by renowned Japanese and international artists such as Rodin, Bourdelle, Moore, Zadkine and Picasso.

Weather permitting, we can enjoy views of Mt Fuji from a cable car. We will be able to see down into the sulphuric springs of Sounzan from which the hotels take water for their hot-spring baths. The entire area of Sounzan smells of sulphurous fumes as these clouds of steam rise from crevasses, and hots-prings bubble out. Later this evening you will be able to enjoy bathing in these therapeutic waters at our hotel.

Tonight we will enjoy a Keiseki-type meal at our hotel. Originally this type of dining was to accompany tea ceremony and is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. You can feel free to wear your yukata, or bathrobe (provided by the hotel) to the dining room tonight as many of the Japanese do when they stay in these types of hotels. It is a perfectly wonderful place to relax after leaving busy Tokyo behind.

We use the rail system quite extensively on this tour, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ONTO / OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. Japanese stations can be large and crowded and may not have escalators or elevators. Packing lightly is essential. If you are unsure about your suitability for this type of trip, please call and speak to one of our sales agents for more information.

Overnight in Hakone.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Hakone - Takayama
Today we travel by local tram and Bullet Train to Takayama. The region known as Hida, which surrounds Takayama, was cut off from the rest of Japan by almost impregnable encircling mountains. Hida lacked good farmland, which made taxpaying from an agricultural livelihood an impossible burden upon the people. Necessity caused them to diversify, so the craftsmen of Takayama honed their tools to a sharpness matched by their skills and became known as the finest woodworkers in the land. The mountains yielded the most coveted lumber in the empire, which Takayama's artisans fashioned into magnificent works worthy to adorn Japan's finest temples, shrines and palaces. During the Nara period, the central government, in lieu of taxes, required ten Takayama craftsmen to relocate to the capital, where their considerable talents were employed. During the Tokugawa era, the ancestral daimyo of Takayama was reassigned to the far north.

Our train journey today takes us through the scenic Hida River Valley. We arrive in the late afternoon and will have time to wander through the lovely town of Takayama and the merchant quarter of San-machi with its historic wooden structures.

Overnight in Takayama.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Takayama: City Tour
This morning we will visit the colourful early morning market before heading to the Hida Folk Village, consisting of over 30 unique houses which had been scattered in the Hida region. The houses are attractively laid out around a small lake and display valuable articles showing the way of life and culture of the past. The style of architecture is called gassho-zukuri, or praying hand houses, because of the steep pitch of the roofs reminiscent of two clasped hands in prayer. This was to protect the occupants from the large amounts of snow that fall here over the winter months. Upon our return to the town centre we will visit the Yatai Kaikan, or Float Museum.

Your afternoon is at leisure. Takayama is a small, interesting and manageable place for those who enjoy easy going, on-foot exploration.

Overnight in Takayama.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Takayama - Kyoto
Our journey continues by train to Kyoto, back through the Hida Valley to connect to a Bullet Train in Nagoya.

Kyoto vibrates with creative energy. For 1,000 years, skilled craftsmen, wise masters, and the nation's most promising fine artists have been lured here. The deep impress of culture and the refinement is indelible; it's in the soul of the city. A long line of Japanese emperors was enthroned here, and the city retains this regal bearing through myriad festivals and commemorative customs preserved from feudal times. In diminutive home workshops along cobblestone alleyways no wider than a footpath, lacquerware, cloisonne, damascene, kimono fabrics, pottery, porcelain, fans, dolls, embroideries, and bamboo ware are still expertly turned out by hand. Kyoto attracts a sophisticated crowd to its vibrant Noh and Kabuki theatres, while the last geisha finishing schools are found in the lantern-lit side streets of the Pontocho and Gion sections of the city.

Thankfully, Kyoto's treasures were spared from bombing during WW II, when American scholars persuaded the military to leave this masterpiece of a city alone. Though Kyoto is now a thoroughly modern city, much of its spirit is intact, with over 200 Shinto shrines; 1,600 temples, 30 of which administer to the major sects of Buddhism throughout Japan; three Imperial palaces; nine major museums; and countless classic gardens.

We arrive in this fascinating city mid-afternoon. Tonight we will venture to the Pontocho District, one of the traditional geisha quarters of Kyoto and next door to its rival Gion. Wandering down the narrow lanes with the Kama River flowing alongside gives a sense to what this city was like long ago.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Kyoto: City Tour
We have a full day sightseeing in Kyoto.

We visit Heian Shrine, built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of the capital. It is a replica to three-fifths of the size of the first imperial palace in the ancient capital Heiankyo. Behind it, there is a beautiful go-round style garden with a total area of 30,000 sq m which is well known for the beauty of its weeping cherry trees, Japanese iris, and waterlilies.

Next is Sanjusangendo, the popular name for Rengeo-in, a temple famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The temple was founded in 1164 and rebuilt a century later after the original structure had been destroyed in a fire. The temple hall is with 120 meters Japan's longest wooden structure. The name Sanjusangendo (literally "33 intervals") derives from the number of intervals between the building's support columns, a traditional method of measuring the size of a building. In the center of the main hall sits a large, wooden statue of a 1000-armed Kannon (Senju Kannon) that is flanked on each side by 500 statues of human sized 1000-armed Kannon standing in ten rows. Together they make for an awesome sight.

We continue to Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavillion, and proceed to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, one of Japan's most famous architectural and historical icons. We also visit Ryoan-ji, the famous raked gravel Zen Garden, for which the Zen Buddhists are renowned. The essential dichotomy and harmony of the universe, which lies at the heart of this belief system, is symbolized in these tranquil gardens.

NOTE: In order maintain a certain spontaneity during our time in Kyoto, the exact sites visited and their order in the itinerary may vary at the discretion of your Tour Leader.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto
Today we travel by local train to Nara.

The crest of every mountain, the slope of every hill, the mute testimony of every rock, the waterfall, rivulet, and the valley of Nara are infused with the intangible spiritual energy that accompanied the birth of the Japanese civilization. Nara, meaning "level land, " occupies the great basin of what was Yamoto, or the Land of Great Peace. Here was the centre of the half-real, half mythical kingdom of Japan before it became a nation. Jimmu Tenno, the first emperor of Japan, was purportedly buried at Nara, the Imperial Japan, the oldest existing dynasty in the world, established its first permanent court within the city in 710. Arts, culture, and literature also bloomed in this fertile valley. The earliest histories of the nation were compiled in Nara by noble court ladies in colloquial Japanese, and from the ancient city Buddhism spread throughout the land.

In its glory days, Nara covered an expansive area linked by palaces, temples, shrines, public buildings, and nobles' villas. The temples were massive and extremely powerful, almost like independent city-states. Numerous fires, the ravages of time, war, and pestilence have reduced many of the ancient structures, but plenty remain in their original states, especially in the eastern sections of the city. Part of this legacy is the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Otera, the largest bronze statue in the world, tipping the scales at over 500 tonnes.

Nara Koen, at over 500 ha (1235 acres), is Japan's largest park and is home to the sacred deer of nearby Kasuga Taisha. This shrine, moss-covered and illuminated by over 3000 stone lanterns, was first erected in 768 and is second in importance only to the Grand shrines of Ise. As we walk through this park dotted with temples and deer wandering about, you will be struck at how the sublime cultural richness of the quiet past lingers on.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Kyoto: Nijo Castle & Leisure time
This morning we visit Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle's palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep. After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site. Its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era, and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.

The balance of the day is yours to explore Kyoto on your own. A good place to start may be the small Japanese garden named Shoseien, located another few street blocks east of Higashi Honganji. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your afternoon.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Kyoto - Hiroshima
Today we take the Shinkansen train to Hiroshima. Passing through Osaka and Kobe, just minutes from Kyoto on this fast train, we will arrive at our destination in just a couple of hours.

Modern Hiroshima rose like a phoenix from its own ashes. Less than five decades since its obliteration, it is once again the most vital city of San-Yo with a population of one million and growing. Hiroshima is referred to as the "River City." In its confines, the Ota-gawa River fans out into six delta tributaries that flow into the immense and very busy bay. In the years just following the A-bomb blast, scientists doubted if Hiroshima could ever live again. Today the streets hum with activity, trees and flowers grow, and birds sing. Nature may not forget, but it does forgive!

On the morning of August 6, 1945, the people of war-torn Japan hurried to begin the day. Then suddenly buildings melted, people evaporated, and humankind lost the first battle of the atomic age. Seventy thousand buildings were flattened and 200,000 people perished, the lucky ones quickly; the unlucky lingered. Hiroshima, fringed by mountains forming a natural amphitheatre, seethed and fumed.

Our visit takes us to the Peace Memorial Park (Heiwa Kinen Koen). Here the Cenotaph, shaped like an ancient tomb, holds the names of the dead. The prayer, the hope, the Japanese reads "Repose ye in peace, for the error shall not be repeated." The skeleton of the Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Domu) turns green with age against a blue sky. Until all nuclear arms are banned and destroyed, the Eternal Flame will flicker. We will visit the Peace Memorial Museum and walk to the A-Bomb Dome, passing the many monuments, memorials, and statues.

Overnight Hiroshima.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Hiroshima - Miyajima - Hiroshima
Today we travel by train and ferry to Miyajima where we spend the day.

Since ancient times, Miyajima has been regarded as one of the "Three Most Beautiful Spots" of Japan and, as part of the Seto Inland Sea National Park, it has received several distinctions, such as a place of extraordinary scenic beauty, exceptional history, and a natural monument. The virgin forests neighbouring Mt. Misen are representative of the lush greenery and abundance of nature which still covers the entire island even now. A surprisingly large number of southwestern Japan native botanical specimens can still be found on Miyajima. The island is like a miniature model of Japan, showing the harmonious ecology of all living things from the ocean depth to the top of mountains.

Our walking tour of the island will include a visit to the famous Itsukushima Shrine, which together with its large wooden tori, stands in the ocean during high tide. You will also have some free time to admire this World Heritage Site before returning to Hiroshima.

Overnight in Hiroshima.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Hiroshima - (OR Osaka) - Departure
Departure for home.

LAND ONLY CLIENTS: You could book your return flight from Osaka instead of Hiroshima, though you would have to make it late enough in the day to allow for your arrival by train from Hiroshima on the same day. Trains are very regular and your Tour Leader will assist. Your flight from Osaka should be no earlier than 4pm. YOU MAY also fly directly from Hiroshima to Tokyo and connect to homeward flights if this is easier / more economical for you (though beware of possible change of airport). Land & Air passengers may be offered this option.

Departure from Hiroshima.

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu


Location: Tokyo
Country: Japan

Right in the city heart, this hotel with its distinctive exterior is perfectly located for business and pleasure, served by
... subway lines and convenient to business, government, fashion and entertainment districts. A shopping arcade runs the length of the block-long building, with a variety of designer labels represented. Features: Satellite TV, telephone, refrigerator, hair dryer.

Read More.

Hotel Kagetsu-en

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Hakone
Country: Japan

Hakone Kagetsu-en is beautifully surrounded by the colorful cypress grove and from your room's window you can enjoy its amazing
... The real draw are the hotel's hot spring baths, the hotel's cuisine and the beautiful scenery of Hakone. This hotel offers an authentic Japanese experience. Hakone Kagetsu-en comprises 70 well-appointed guest rooms with air conditioning, colour TV, hairdryer, IDD telephone, 24 hour room service.


Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (mostly at local restaurants) are included daily. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), international (if applicable) air taxes, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals.

Seasonality and Weather

Our spring tour can expect cool-warm temperatures with moderate humidity. April dates can expect daytime high temperatures of about 18-23 C (66-72 F), with chilly mornings and evenings. Our spring date is set to coincide with cherry blossom season (exact timing and location is reliant on weather conditions and can vary year to year). Our later spring date (May) should showcase azaleas and rhododendrons in some locations.

Rain showers can occur at any time, though their likelihood decreases the later we get into the fall. Our fall date coincides with the beginning of the cooler and drier time of year and should coincide with autumn leaf colour.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Our primary means of transportation throughout Japan is via the very efficient rail system, including the famous Shinkansen, or Bullet Train. Distances are not great and most journeys are only a few hours duration. A combination of buses and taxis will be used elsewhere as part of our local sightseeing programme.

The tour is physical in that it is busy and that YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ONTO / OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. Japanese stations can be large and crowded and may not have escalators or elevators. You must pack VERY lightly, preferably in "wheelie" type, soft-sided baggage or backpacks that you can fit into the overhead luggage compartments in the trains. You must also be steady on your feet and be able to endure some heat and long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces.

Accommodation

All hotels are centrally-located, Western style, air-conditioned, 3-4 star standard with private bath facilities. Laundry service is available at most hotels (except Hakone) for a rather high price. All hotel rooms are well equipped and usually include coffee/tea making facilities. Most hotels have hairdryers and irons. Some hotels have indoor/outdoor swimming pools. NOTE: Specially designated non-smoking rooms are generally not available in Japan (they are unfamiliar with the concept). We automatically request non-smoking rooms wherever they are available, though we cannot promise this. Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. Porters are generally available (see 'Inclusions').

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, local guides at various locations.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)