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Japan: Experience (12 days)

JapanAncient traditions and rituals contrast vividly with modern day living in Japan. Experience this on our Japan experiencel.

In Tokyo, the neon lights shine over contrasted with the peace and tranquility of little visited rural regions. This tour affords the opportunity to visit the major highlights, but then to uncover the unexpected charm and beauty of one of these rural areas, Hirado, offering a real insight into this fascinating country.


2017 - 2018 Departure Dates & Costs

Tour cost: $ 3,400 USD from Tokyo
Daily based on 2 persons
Customized trips also available on a daily basis


ItineraryJapan

Day 1   TOKYO Arrival
On arrival into Tokyo/Narita airport you will be met outside the exit of the customs area to assist you in boarding an Airport Bus for your transfer to your hotel for 3 nights.

Day 2 TOKYO
Full day walking tour.  It is recommended that you wear casual clothing and comfortable walking shoes. You will be taking local transportation. The Shidome Area is the site where the first steam locomotive train began to run from here to Yokyhama in 1872.  You will walk to the Hama-Rikyu Garden, the only surviving seaside garden of the Edo Period (17th- 19th century). The garden was constructed as a residence for a Japanese feudal lord in the 17th century and later was an official duck hunting grounds for the Tokugawa Shogunate. It then went into the hands of the Imperial family during the Meiji Period. Ponds in the garden are fed by seawater, thus scenery changes with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Tsukiji Outer Fish Market and Nami-Yoke Inare Shrine: The fish market is known world over for its size and is famous for its fresh fish. Its 500 year old history is ongoing today in its early morning auction. The market provides millions of Tokyo residents with fresh produce, meat and fish.

Edo Tokyo Museum: The museum shows how the 15th century village of “Edo” (old Tokyo) grew to be what Tokyo is today, through life-size replicas and detailed scale models. There are life-size reconstructions of Edo Castle and Nihonbashi Bridge.

Day 3 TOKYONikko day trip
Nikko has been a center of Shinto and Buddhist worship for centuries.  Enjoy its famous shrines, mountain landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails on a full day tour.

Day 4 TOKYOMT.FUJI – HAKONE
Train to view Mt. Fuji and continue to Hakone with sightseeing.  Overnight Hakone Kowaki-en (hot springs resort)

Day 5              HAKONE – TAKAYAMA
Train to Takayama. You will be met and transferred to the Hida Hotel Plaza for check in after which you will take a guided walk to the Yatai Kaikan Hall, Kusabe Folkcraft Museum and Kami Sannomachi Street + the Hida Cultural Village.

Yatai Kaikan Hall – this is the Festival Floats exhibition hall featuring the huge floats decorated with intricate carving, gilded wood and detailed metalwork. The floats are paraded through the streets during the Kakayama Festival in autumn. The float styles hint of a style of art represented in Kyoto during the Momoyama Period (1573 - 1593).

Kusabe Folkcraft Museum – the museum has many aspects of Edo architecture.

Kami Sannomachi Street – called “Sanmachi” (three towns); Kami-ichino-machi, Kami-nino-machi, and Kami-sanno-machi. This area is located on the east side of River Miyagawa flowing in Takayama’s city center. It used to be the castle town under direct control of Tokugawa shogunate – the remaining traditional houses will envelope you in an atmosphere of Samurai society. Overnight at Hida Hotel Plaza or similar.

Takayama is a city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, which has retained a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities, especially in its beautifully preserved old town.  Takayama gained importance as a source of high quality timber and highly skilled carpenters during the feudal ages. The Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn, is considered one of Japan's best festivals. The old town has been beautifully preserved, with many buildings and whole streets of houses dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868), when the city thrived as a wealthy town of merchants.  The southern half of the old town, especially the Sannomachi Street, survives in a particularly pretty state with many old homes, shops, coffee houses and sake breweries, some of which have been in business for centuries.  A few old private homes in the old town have been converted into museums and are accessible to the public. They exhibit local crafts and arts and provide a glimpse behind the facade into the former living quarters of the local merchants.

Day 6              TAKAYAMA/SHIRAKAWAGO/KANAZAWA
8:30 am departure to visit Takayama’s morning market, followed by a drive through Lake Mibora area to the former Toyama Family Residence which was built in 1827 by a carpenter from Noto. It is representative of the “Gassho” style, with a ground floor and 3 upper levels. The first floor was used as living space and the second to fourth floors most typically for sericulture (silk worm farming). Visit the Shirakawago/Gassho-Zukuri area that features houses built in the “Gassho-zukuri” style, constructed with steep thatched roofs to prevent snow from accumulating. A folklore park offers insight into how people lived in centuries past. The folklore park also serves as an artist colony with artisans engaged in traditional handicrafts such as woodworking, pottery, weaving, ink drawing and straw basket and hat making. Try your hand at traditional Japanese paper making at Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hand made paper is made from mulberry. Onward travel to Kanazawa.

Day 7              KANAZAWA/KYOTO
9:00 am departure from the hotel for Kenrokuen Garden. Located in the center of Kanazawa City, the garden is considered to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. It was originally a private garden of Lord Maeda’s mansion next to Kanazawa Castle. The Maeda Family continued to renovate the garden for their ruling period from the 1620’s to the 1840’s. You will also visit the Kutaniyaki Pottery Kiln located in Kaga spa. The pottery is characterized by a billiant colored design on white glaze. A visit to Highashi-chaya Street and the former guest house “Shima”.  Here you will be bathed in the atmosphere of old homes with Indian red colored lattices and the sound of the “Shamisen”, a three stringed musical instrument. The district was originally one of three great “night pleasure” spots in Kanazawa district, established by the town magistrate in the 16th century and survived until 1956. You will board the limited express train Raicho for your trip to Kyoto.

Shogun Trial

Day 8              KYOTO (B,L)
Full day guided tour. Nijo Castle – built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo government. Mian Court burned down in 1788, so only Second Court remains from the original structure. The castle has many cultural treasures including Chinese Gate and Second Court buildings dating from Momoyama Era (16th century). It has been designated a national treasure for its splendid architecture and interior decoration. You will also visit the Golden Pavilion and the Kyoto Imperial Palace before stopping for a buffet lunch. Lunch is included in your tour.

Golden Pavilion – a famous structure of the Muromachi period (14th – 16th century), originally designed as the villa of a court noble. Built in 1394 it was changed into a Buddhist temple, burned down in 1950 and reconstructed in 1955.

Kyoto Imperial Palace – famous for its elegant simplicity, it served as the Emperor’s palace until the capital was moved to Tokyo (1867).  Time should be included to visit the areas of the Geisha and Meikosan.

Day 9 KYOTO RYOKAN EXPERIENCE (B,D)
Ryokan experience with traditional Japanese Course Dinner and breakfast.

Day 10            KYOTO/NARA (B,L)
Traditional breakfast at the Ryokan and morning at leisure.  Afternoon visit to Nara where you will visit the Todaiji Temple, Nara Park and Kasuga Shrine.

Todaiji Temple – completed in 752. Home to one of the largest bronze statues in the world. Houses the Great Buddha, a national treasure.

Nara Park – the “deer park”, a natural woodland including Japanese cedar, Wisteria, Japanese Andromeda and Japanese yew trees. 1,100 tame deer roam the park. They are regarded as divine messengers of the Kasuga Shrine.

Kasuga Shrine – dating from 710, the shrine has been identically reconstructed every 20 years. Featuring the Kasuga style of architecture, 3,000 lanterns line the road through the torii gate.

Day 11            KYOTO/FUSHIMI (B)
Morning at leisure.  Afternoon Fushimi Walking Tour where you can stroll the streets and have the opportunity to learn about and taste saki. Fushimi is one of the eleven wards in the city of Kyoto, in Kyoto Prefecture. Famous places in Fushimi include the Fushimi Inari Shrine, with thousands of torii lining the paths up and down a mountain; Fushimi, originally built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, with its rebuilt towers and gold-lined tea-room; and Teradaya, a boat-lodging at which  Sakamoto Ryoma was attacked and injured. Also of note is the Gok?gu shrine, which houses a stone used in the construction of Fushimi Castle. The water in the shrine is particularly famous and it is recorded as one of Japan's 100 best clear water spots. Although written with different characters now, the name Fushimi (which used to be its own "to

wn") originally comes from fusu + mizu, meaning "hidden water" or "underground water". In other words, the location was known for good spring water. The water of Fushimi has particularly soft characteristics, making it an essential component to the particular type of sake brewed in Fushimi. This also explains why the area developed as a sake-brewing center in Kyoto. Today, Fushimi is the second largest area in Japan in terms of sake production.

Day 12  Departure
Return to Tokyo for a departure home.

Options can be added to visit Hiroshima, Osaka or other areas of Japan.


Testimonials:

" I loved everything about Japan.  As far as I was concerned, everything went very well.  The itinerary had lots of variety and I was out of my comfort zone enough to know that I was experiencing something special and different. Thank you for arranging this special tour for us. " - Anne W.

thank you for  planning our wonderful trip. I loved every minute of it , well almost every minute;  I’ve decided  tofu and raw fish is not really  on my list of good things to eat. A minor detail however there were so many  highlights – Mount Koya,  the Geisha concert , the wonderful gardens, I could go on and on. Thanks again Catherine. " -  Bev A.