TA5 TAIWAN, SOUTH KOREA & JAPAN-BY-RAIL TOUR

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Vibrant Taipei; Taroko Gorge - scenic highlight of Taiwan; Historical Tainan; Seoul: city tour & the DMZ; Welcome dinner at top of Namsan Seoul Tower; Fast train to Busan - city tour; Unique & beautiful Jeju Island Immersion in Korean culture, ancient & modern; Kamakura: Great Buddha; Bullet Train to Hakone; Hakone Outdoor Museum; 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 (see note below, if applicable) - All pricing reflects twin-sharing, per-person pricing for the TOUR AND INTERNAL FLIGHTS ONLY; however, we can book flights from your home airport to join the tour for an added cost. Contact us for a no obligation quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 05 Oct 2017Tue 31 Oct 2017 $10400 USD FULL: Wait-list Only
Wed 21 Mar 2018Mon 16 Apr 2018 $10400 USD
Thu 04 Oct 2018Tue 30 Oct 2018 $10400 USD

Optional Single Supplement: $2127 USD (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $1064, if twin-sharing accommodation is unavailable.


Tour Overview


Regions visited: Central Asia And Far East
Countries visited: Taiwan; South Korea and Japan


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Taipei
Arrival in Taipei -- welcome to Taiwan!

Lying off the south-eastern coast of mainland Asia, and across the Taiwan Strait from China, Taiwan is an island truly on the edge of the Pacific. One of the most densely-populated places on earth, this is also a natural wonderland with steep mountains, magnificent forests and an array of scenic attractions. Being situated on the western edge of the Pacific "ring of fire", continuous tectonic movements have created majestic peaks, rolling hills and plains, spectacular coastlines, and other natural wonders. 8 national parks and 13 national scenic areas preserve Taiwan's best natural ecological environment and cultural sites.

Overnight in Taipei.

Meal plan: Dinner

Day 2 Taipei: City Tour
We will spend today exploring vibrant Taipei, modern and old, where Taoist temples sit alongside shopping malls. Many have rated Taipei as one of the region's most dynamic, comfortable and liveable cities. Situated at the northern tip of the island, the capital is located on the Tamsui River, about 25 km southwest of the Pacific Ocean. This is the political, economic, and cultural center of Taiwan. Originally founded in the early 18th century, Taiwan quickly became an important center for overseas trade in the 19th century. Today this truly is one of Asia's most dynamic and fascinating cities. Taipei is the thriving heart of Taiwan and the bustling centre of commerce, government and culture.

Our sightseeing will first take us to the world-famous National Palace Museum, the world's largest collection of Chinese artifacts. Here we will see porcelain, paintings, jade, bronze, tapestries and other art objects that once belonged to the emperors of China. This truly is a breathtaking selection of Chinese Imperial Art. In 1949, the collection was brought to Taiwan by Chiang Kai Shek's armies. Nearby is the wonderful Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines. This museum houses exhibits relating to the cultures and histories of the Taiwanese aborigines. These Austronesian peoples are related through blood or linguistic ties to people across precolonial Oceania, as far away as Madagascar. The tribes developed pottery, basketry, woodcarvings, musical instruments and colourful costumes. We will view some fine examples of Taiwanese aboriginal handicrafts and learn about the history of these people.

After a break for lunch we will continue with our tour of the city. A must is a visit to the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, located in the heart of the city. This Memorial Hall (C.K.S. Memorial Hall) was constructed in memory of the former president of R.O.C. During our touring of the city we will pass by the Presidential Buildings Presidential Square. Originally built by the Japanese, it originally served as the governor's mansion.

A must during the tour will of course be a visit to Taipei 101, with its outstanding views over the city. Taipei 101 is a 101-floor landmark skyscraper that claimed the title of world's tallest building when it opened in 2004 (now the world's second tallest building, second to the Burj Kalifa in Dubai).

Overnight in Taipei.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Taipei - Taroko Gorge
This morning we will depart Taipei and travel to the famous Taroko Gorge. Our route will take us to the hilly suburbs of Taipei, and through the Hsuehshan Tunnel ("Snow Mountain" tunnel), the longest tunnel in Taiwan. From the coastal city of Yilan we will continue along the coast via the Suao Highway.

The eastern coast of Taiwan is the least populated region and yet covers more than a fifth of the landscape. In every sense, nature is less tamed on this side of the island. Our drive will take us past the Qingshui Cliffs, located on a section of the highway that provides some of the most spectacular sights on Taiwan's Pacific coast. The cliffs here are more than 1,000 meters high and they drop almost vertically into the sea. The highway snakes along its curving face, with the sheer cliffs rising on one side and a sheer drop to the ocean on the other.

The Taroko Gorge is the undisputed scenic highlight of Taiwan, the jewel of the beautiful national park of the same name. The gorge itself is a marble canyon featuring a rushing white water river, towering cliffs, hiking trails and even the odd hot spring. The most phenomenal aspect of the park is the amazing relief and change in terrain. In a single afternoon we will travel from the rugged coastal cliffs through a maze of subtropical forest. The road is carved into the sheer walls of rock, winding its way past forested peaks and cliffs towering thousands of feet above it, while hundreds of feet below a river roars past gigantic marble boulders.

Many consider this area to be the most attractive region of Taiwan. This steep ravine, with its high marble cliffs, is permeated with a network of tunnels. Shrines, waterfalls and grottoes are found throughout the area. We will spend the afternoon touring the gorge, with plenty of scenic viewpoints and trails to explore.

Overnight at Taroko Gorge.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Taroko Gorge - Sun Moon Lake
This morning we will drive out of the Taroko Gorge region and travel southwest to Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan's most famous and most beautiful vacation spots, situated in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range. Our route will take us from the canyons of gorge through a high elevation sub alpine coniferous forest. We travel via Puli, a town in the heart of Taiwan and surrounded by mountains.

We will have a guided tour of the spectacular Chung Tai Chan Monastery located on the outskirts of Puli. This is massive temple is more than just another modern temple - it is an international centre of Buddhist academic research, culture and the arts.

We continue to the Sun Moon Lake, and will tour the region upon our arrival. In this idyllic environment we will see the deep blue waters of the lake and the mountainous surroundings. We will visit some of the local temples in the surrounding area. This area of Taiwan has a pleasant climate year round, and the surrounding region is dotted with temples and pagodas, which afford plenty of exploration. This region has also been a center of aboriginal life for thousands of years, with aboriginal people involved in its tourist industry since the 1930s.

Overnight at Sun Moon Lake.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Sun Moon Lake - Tainan via Alishan
After breakfast we will enjoy a cruise across the lake before we set out for the city of Tainan on the west coast. Our journey today will take us south via the scenic central region of Taiwan.

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, and was its capital for over 200 years. This city has managed to maintain much of its historical character, and its many historical sites make for some great exploration. Most of the Han migrants who sailed for Taiwan in the 17th and early 18th centuries landed on the islands southwest coastline, an area of flat land suitable for rice cultivation. Often
compared to Kyoto, Tainan is an essential destination for those interested in history, religion and traditional ways of life. Upon arrival in the city we may enjoy some sightseeing this afternoon.

Overnight in Tainan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Tainan Sightseeing
Today we will enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Tainan. This is an enticing city and a true highlight on the west coast of Taiwan. Tainan retains a stronghold of traditional Taiwanese culture, with frequent Buddhist parades and ceremonies. Our exploration will take us to several of Tainan’s historic sites and temples, as well as the Dutch fort of Anping on the coast. We will explore both the Chihkan Cultural Zone and the Confucius Temple Cultural Zone.

The Chihkan Cultural Zone covers the northern part of the old city, and highlights here include several temples and the Chihkan Tower. This was the site of Fort Provintia, built by the Dutch in the 1650’s. Meaning ‘eternity’ in Dutch, the Chihkan Tower has been a significant administration centre of Tainan ever since the Dutch invaded the country. The tower has been through various periods of Chinese rule, such as the Ching and Ming Dynasties, as well as a period of Japanese Colonization. Many of its original architectural features can still be seen today.

Anping is considered to be the cradle of Han Chinese civilization in Taiwan, and the first European base on the island. It took the Dutch nearly 10 years of hard work to construct the impressive Fort Zeelandia (Anping Old Fort) in the town of Anping. This noteworthy fortress is a clear reminder of colonial rule in the country. When constructing the fortress the Dutch selected a sandy peninsula in Tainan, and the strategic location was aimed at providing direct access for various supplies and support from Batavia (now known as Jakarta, Indonesia). Yanping Street is one of the oldest streets in Tainan. Also known as Anping Old Street or Taiwan’s 1st Street, it was the first established merchant street in the area. We will walk along the narrow and winding streets with their little shops and food stalls that cover a full range of souvenirs and handmade products.

As well as these sites we will also explore the southern half of the old city of Tainan where we see the well-preserved Great South Gate and the Confucius Temple. Built in 1665, the Confucius Temple is believed to be the oldest Confucius temple in Taiwan.

Overnight in Tainan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Tainan - High-speed train to Taipei - Taipei Sightseeing
Today we will leave Tainan and travel back to Taipei by high-speed train. This high-speed line opened for service in 2007, using trains with a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). The journey time from Tainan to Taipei will take just over 90 minutes!

This afternoon we will complete our sightseeing of Taipei. A visit to the Taoist Lungshan Temple provides some insight into the local culture. Dedicated to Kuanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, this is one of the city’s most popular and busiest temples. Like most temples in Taiwan, the Temple worships a mixture of Buddhist, Taoist, and folk deities such as Matsu.

We will walk through the Dihua Street Area, where one can get a true feel for the city’s past. The old-town market has dozens of shops selling a variety of traditional goods such as Chinese medicines and herbs, temple icons and incense, spices and dried food, colourful bolts of cloth, and bamboo and wooden crafts. This is a fascinating patch of the past.

Built on a green hillside in 1969, the impressive Taipei Martyrs Shrine was architecturally inspired by the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing's Forbidden City. The shrine is dedicated to the 390,000 soldiers killed in the service of their country during the War of Resistance against Japan and the civil war between the Chinese Republican and communist forces.

Overnight in Taipei.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Taipei, Taiwan - Seoul, South Korea
Today we fly to Seoul / Incheon, South Korea and transfer to our hotel.

Seoul is a city of contrasts. In this rapidly evolving metropolis, the traditional exists with the modern in a state of harmony. For over 500 years the seat of Joseon Dynasty kings, Seoul is now the beating heart of modern Korea, the centre to which all else in the country is drawn.

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Seoul: City Tour
This morning we begin a full day* of Seoul sightseeing, starting with Gyeongbokgung Palace, where we plan to arrive in time for the very colourful changing-of-the-guard ceremony.

Of all the tourist attractions in Seoul, the Joseon Dynasty Palaces and, particularly Gyeongbokgung Palace, are the most tangible link between modern Korea and its not-too-distant monarchical past. Not merely inert relics, they are symbols of a deep history and rich culture. Although substantially reduced in number, the remaining palace buildings provide a glimpse of traditional architecture and the overall organization of a palace grounds.

As part of our visit, we also include the National Folk Museum, contained within the palace. This excellent museum presents historical artifacts that were used in the daily lives of Korean people in the past. Through the displays, visitors can learn about the domestic and agricultural lifestyles, as well as Korea’s cultural beliefs.

From here we proceed to the War Memorial of Korea, an excellent tie-in with what we will experience tomorrow at the DMZ. This huge museum documents the history of the Korean War (1950–53) with documentary footage (with English commentary) of the main battles and events. Along with photos, maps and artefacts, the films give a fascinating insight into what the war was like. There's also plenty of military hardware outside – tanks, helicopters, missiles and planes, plus stirring war memorials.

We finish our day at Namsan Seoul Tower, built in 1969 as Korea's first integrated transmission tower beaming television and radio broadcasts across the capital. Since opening to the public in 1980, it has become a much-loved Seoul landmark. The tower's main attractions include multi-colored digital art projected onto the tower at night, a digital observatory, a roof terrace, and a number of viewing platforms where visitors can enjoy the cityscape. 32 LCD screens recount the 600-year history of Seoul.

This evening we'll have our dinner at the top of the tower and enjoy a typical Korean meal and nighttime views of the city. * Bring everything that you'll need for the day, as we will not be returning to the hotel prior to dinner.

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Seoul & the DMZ
Today we travel along the Jayuro (Freedom Road) to Imjingak, the northernmost point bordering North Korea.* On the way, we will be able to view barbed wire fences and military guards on duty all the way along the river, as well as serene rice paddies and the North Korean propaganda village over the confluence of the Han River and the Imjin River. At Imjingak, we visit the Mangbaedan memorial ritual altar which was established in 1985 for those who were separated from their families or displaced from home during the Korean War. It is a symbolic spot used to hold traditional memorial services for ancestors or to pray for separated family members living in the North and for reunification of the country.

We will see the Freedom Bridge, the very locale where 12,773 Korean War prisoners walked to freedom to South Korea in 1953. We then board a tour bus that will take us to the 3rd infiltration tunnel dug up by North Koreans. On the 20-minute ride to the tunnel, we pass through the check points, military camps and mine fields.

Before going down to the tunnel, we will view a short video presentation and visit exhibition hall for information on the divided Koreas. A seven-minute tram ride (if available) or a walk down a steep access through a narrow and steep interception tunnel, leads us to the lower platform, a point where we are only 170 meters from the Military Demarcation Line.

Our next stop is the Dora Observatory where we can see the whole expanse of the Demilitarized Zone, North Korean propaganda village, Gijeong-dong, where the world's largest flag hangs on a 160 meter-tall flagpole, South Korea's northernmost village of Daeseong-dong and Panmunjom where the armistice that ended Korean War was signed.

Finally, we visit the functioning northernmost railway station Dorasan, located 700 meters from the Southern Limit Line of DMZ. Here, the mile marker "Seoul 56km/Pyeongyang (the North Korean capital) 205km" still stands tall for all to see.

Return to Seoul.

* Due to an ever-changing security situation, our activities today may be altered, re-routed, or curtailed without notice.

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Seoul Sightseeing Continues
This morning's program begins at Bukchon Hanok Village, reflecting 600 years of Seoul history. The village streets are lined with traditional hanok (Korean traditional house). Unlike other hanok villages, Bukchon was not created for tourists and is a residential village inhabited by Seoulites.

In recent years, the charms of traditional hanok have been receiving increased attention. With recently-opened hanok galleries, craft workshops and hanok restaurants, a new kind of hanok culture is developing in Bukchon. Every nook in this village seems to contain traces of history and young Koreans are re-discovery their pride for hanok through visits to Bukchon.

We head to Insadong, a lively district known for it's vast array of restaurants, small museums, and shopping. Insadong was originally two towns whose names ended in the syllables "In" and "Sa". They were divided by a stream which ran along Insadong's current main street. Insadong began 500 years ago as an area of residence for government officials.

Here you'll have plenty of time to find some lunch, wander, and maybe do some souvenir shopping. Insadong has some of the tastiest food vendors in all of Seoul. One of the main attractions in the area is the ‘Kings Dessert’ or the ‘Dragons Beard Candy’, 16,000 strings of honey wrapped multiple times with a flavoring of either almond, peanut or chocolate on the inside. Another popular street food is the corn cookie, which isn’t actually a cookie but a twisty ice cream cone with sweet fillings. There are also gooey pancakes and spicy Korean dumplings to sample.

Also recommended is the Shin Old Tea House, tucked away in an alleyway away from the main hustle and bustle of the area. It's small and only provides floor seating like a traditional Korean tea house. The lighting is dim and provides a very relaxing aura, while the tea list is extensive and boasts some fantastic regional specialities.

Our last stop is Jongmyo, a royal shrine dedicated to the performance of ancestral rites for the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. Being the place where the royal ancestral tablets are enshrined, Jongmyo's atmosphere is solemn and sacred rather than splendid like the royal palaces (a nice change of atmosphere after the bustle of Insadong). The simple and elegant buildings of this shrine have faithfully kept their original forms since the 16th century.

Return to hotel; dinner and overnight. Ask your Tour Leader about an optional excursion to the Banpo Bridge lights water show after dinner (Fall dates only).

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Seoul - Fast Train to Busan: City Touring
Today we travel by KTX, the fast train to Busan (approx 2 hours), arriving around midday.

Korea's second largest city (formerly Pusan), Busan's name derives from two place names: Suwon, which means "water source" -- the land depression that the city occupies was for centuries known for its clear-water wells. High above the city rises P'aldal-san, a tall hill at its height of beauty in the spring, with its slopes awash with the colour of pink cherry blossoms. In the late 1600's the military established a garrison here as one of the five principal fortifications set up to protect the approaches to Seoul. Intending to move the official capital from Seoul to Suwon, King Chongjo the 22nd Joseon Dynasty King, had the fortress wall constructed in 1794. Battlements and palace buildings were erected, but the king died before he could initiate the move. Although there were great plans for this city, they never had the opportunity to mature, as the decision was made to keep the capital at Seoul.

Our tour continues with a visit to the Jagalchi Fish Market where we can have a break for lunch. We will also visit the impressive UN Cemetery and Gamcheon Cultural Village, spread out in a panorama of endless rows of low-rise cubicle homes climbing up the steep hillsides, earning it the nicknames "Santorini of the East" and "Lego Village." The cheerful blue, yellow and pink hues a delight to the eye. Narrow stone and concrete alleyways wind their way through the homes, yielding something new at every turn. The village used to house the city’s poorest people, but during the Korean War, refugees fled their homes for Busan, which was the only area which was free from fighting.

Overnight in Busan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Busan - Jeju Island: Island Touring
This morning we fly the short distance to Jeju Island.

Jeju Island, also known as the "Island of the Gods," is a popular vacation spot for Koreans and foreigners. It remains the top honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds. The island is known for beaches, rugged coastal scenery, volcanic geography, and a unique culture which stands in stark contrast to the mainland (and much of Asia) as being matriarchal. Stemming from this basis, and some odd tax reasons, the role of seafood gathering on the island has been dominated by women. As such, a common sight around Jeju's coastline is that of the "haenyo" or "woman diver", a figure that has become somewhat iconic of the island.

Today we'll visit the O’sulloc Museum, which teaches visitors about Korea’s traditional tea culture. The “o” in “o’sulloc”, means to appreciate and enjoy. We'll then head for the coast where we'll see Jusangjeolli, stone pillars formed when the lava from Hallasan Mountain erupted into the sea of Jungmun. They are rock pillars shaped like cubes or hexagons of various sizes and almost seem as if stone masons had carved them.

We also see Jeongbang Falls, the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean.

Overnight on Jeju Island.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Sunrise Peak, Seopjikoji & Manjanggul Lava Tube - Seoul
Early this morning we head to Sunrise Peak for a spectacular view of/from this unique caldera/mountain and surrounds. We then head to Seopjikoji, located at the eastern shore of Jeju Island. The name came of the place was derived from the dialect of the Jeju, "Seopji" meaning a narrow piece of land, and "koji" for cape or peninsula. The shoreline was striking, showcasing volcanic rocks in different shapes, some of these were preserved and even had an observation deck.

Our last stop on Jeju is Manjanggul Lava Tube. Jeju has an extensive system of lava tubes, natural conduits through which magma once flowed, now empty caves that are some of the largest in the world. The insides of the tube is adorned with multi-coloured carbonate decorations and innumerable cave formations commonly found in lava tubes. They include lava stalactites and lava stalagmites, lava columns, lava flowstone, lava helictites and lava blister, cave corals, benches, lava raft, lava bridges, lava shelves and striations.

We then connect with our flight back to the mainland and transfer to our hotel for our last night in Seoul.

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 15 Seoul, South Korea - Tokyo, Japan
Today we fly from Seoul to Tokyo.

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: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 16 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.

* PLEASE NOTE that after November 2016, this market may be relocating. It is unclear if the new location will be open to visitors, or in a place that makes it practical for our tour. This activity may have to be eliminated from spring 2017 onward.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 17 Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo
This morning we venture (private coach) 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 and Dinner

Day 18 Tokyo - Lake Ashi - Hakone
This morning we take a short metro (train) ride* to Odawara Station where we connect with our private coach towards Lake Ashi near Hakone. Your larger bags (one per person) will be shipped ahead to Takayama, and you will need to pack an overnight bag to carry with you for the the one overnight in Hakone.

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 bus that takes us into the National Park. We then board a lake cruiser on Lake Ashi for scenic views of the surrounding mountains. Weather permitting, we can enjoy views of Mt Fuji. 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.

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. Later this evening you will be able to enjoy bathing in these therapeutic waters at our hotel.

* PLEASE NOTE: 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 and Dinner

Day 19 Hakone - Takayama
Today we travel by 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 and Dinner

Day 20 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 and Dinner

Day 21 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 and Dinner

Day 22 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 and Dinner

Day 23 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 and Dinner

Day 24 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 and Dinner

Day 25 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 and Dinner

Day 26 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 and Dinner

Day 27 Hiroshima - Departure
Departure for home.

LAND ONLY CLIENTS: You could book your return flight from Osaka or Fukuoka instead of Hiroshima, though you would have to make it late enough in the day to allow for your arrival by train on the same day. Trains are very regular and your Tour Leader will assist. Your flight from Fukuoka or 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

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*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.


Landis Taipei Hotel

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Taipei
Country: Taiwan

Landis Taipei Hotel is situated in the business and financial area of Taipei City. It only takes a 15 minute
... to Taipei SongShan Airport and a 40 minute drive from Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport.


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Hotel Silks Place

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Taroko Gorge
Country: Taiwan

Offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding greenery, Silks Place Taroko Hotel is located within the Taroko National Park in Hualien
... It features an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. Guests can relax in the sauna, or enjoy scenic mountain views while exercising in the gym.

Rooms at Silks Place Taroko Hotel have private balconies with mountain or river views. Amenities include a flat-screen TV, a safety deposit box and tea/coffee making facilities.


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Landis Tainan Hotel

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Tainan
Country: Taiwan

Tayih Landis Hotel boasts of 315 spacious and comfortable guest rooms that are equipped with modern amenities such as air
... cable TV, hairdryer, ironing board, mini bar, telephone and a private bathroom.


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Tmark Grand

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Seoul
Country: South Korea

Tmark Grand Hotel Myeongdong is conveniently located in the heart of Seoul with convenient transportation access to Myeongdong, Namdaemun market,
... Nam, Seoul Station, National Theater, Seven Luck Casino, Cheonggye Stream and Insadong…etc.
Read More.

Haeundae Grand Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Pusan
Country: South Korea

Featuring city or sea views, the bright, contemporary rooms include flat-screens and free Wi-Fi, plus sitting areas, and tea and
... Some rooms offer tatami floors and traditional short-legged tables. Suites add living rooms. Club rooms include access to a private lounge offering complimentary breakfast.

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Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
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.

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Palace Hotel Hakone

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

At Palace Hotel Hakone, you can enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature throughout the four seasons. Only an hour-and-a-half
... away from downtown Tokyo, the hotel stands atop a hill in the Sengoku-hara Highlands in Hakone, surrounded by the volcanic crater walls.
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Hotel Associa Takayama Resort

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Takayama
Country: Japan

Overlooking the Northern Japanese Alps, this upscale resort is 2 km from Takayama train station and 3 km from Shiroyama
... />
Read More.

Mitsui Garden Kyoto Sanjo

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

A 3-minute walk from a metro station, this unfussy hotel along a busy street is 17 minutes' walk from 17th-century
... Castle and 2 km from Yasaka Shrine.

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Mitsui Garden Hotel Hiroshima

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

Set in a high-rise tower, this modern hotel is a 5-minute walk from the nearest tram stop, a 12-minute walk
... the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and 2 km from Hiroshima Castle.

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), domestic and 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 autumn tour can expect warm temperatures with moderate humidity. For our fall (Sep/Oct) departures, temperatures range from 20-25C (68-76 F). Rain showers can occur at any time, though their likelihood decreases the later we get into the fall.

Spring will experience slightly cooler temperatures and the same possibility of rainfall. Our spring date may feature annual cherry blossoms at some locations.

Transport and Travel Conditions

TAIWAN & KOREA: Private air-conditioned bus; internal flight via scheduled carrier.

JAPAN: 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 program.

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 long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces.

There is also a very strong culinary element to this trip. Breakfasts feature Asian as well as Western items, but our dinners out at local restaurants will feature a wide range of local specialties. Eating is very much a cultural experience in this part of the world, and this aspect of our program is an integral part of the overall experience. Though individual tastes and requirements will be taken into account by your leader who will be organizing our evening meals on-the-go, if you are strictly a meat-and-potatoes person, or a strict vegan / gluten-free etc, you may find your preferences significantly challenged on this tour.

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 (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

10-18 (plus Tour Leader)