A tale of four iconic cities and two former capitals - your epic journey through Japan blends old and new, with soul-stirring visits to ancient centres and modern cities.
CITY TOUR of Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka
CRUISE along the Sumida River in Tokyo and the Okawa River in Osaka
SEE the Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama
VISIT Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Mt. Fuji 5th Station, Gion District and Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto, the bamboo groves in Arashiyama, Nara Park and Todaiji Temple in Nara, Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, Tusyunoten Shrine and Umeda Sky Building in Osaka
CONNECT WITH LOCALS Lunch with a local farmer's family who own a traditional tea plantation in the Nara area. (Day 6)
DIVE INTO CULTURE Visit Ameyoko Street Market. (Day 2) Take a Taiko Drumming Lesson. (Day 2) Enjoy dinner in a Sumo-themed izakaya restaurant. (Day 2) Learn how to make Okonomiyaki and Momiji Manjyu. (Day 7)
LOCAL SPECIALIST Taiko drumming lesson. (Day 2) Okonomiyaki making experience. (Day 7)
MAKE A DIFFERENCE Help support the work of the Kiyomizu pottery craftsmen with your visit to their workshop. (Day 6)
First Class Travel Highlights:
Audio Headsets for flexible sightseeing
Daily breakfast and an average of 50% of evening meals
Luxury air-conditioned coach or alternative transportation (such as rail journeys)
Cherry-picked hotels, all tried and trusted
Optional Experiences and free time
All porterage and restaurant gratuities
Must-see sightseeing and surprise extras
An expert Travel Director and separate Driver
All hotel tips, charges and local taxes
Airport transfers on the first and last day of your guided holiday
KONNICHIWA TOKYO (3 NIGHTS)
Tokyo's futuristic cityscape launches your journey through Japan's modern centres and ancient capitals. On arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda Airport, you'll be transferred by airport shuttle to your hotel. This evening, meet your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a Welcome Reception drink with appetisers.
EXPLORE VIBRANT TOKYO
Rub shoulders with the locals this morning as you 'Dive Into Culture' and wander through Ameyoko Street Market, once a black market selling American goods after World War II. Continue to the old-time entertainment centre of Asakusa to visit the Sensoji Buddhist Temple, which has been rebuilt countless times since its founding in 628, making it Tokyo's oldest temple site. Take a stroll down Nakamise shopping street with some free time for lunch, then join a 'Local Specialist' and learn the mesmerising rhythmic art of Taiko drumming, one of Japan's most popular cultural icons. Board a cruise along the Sumida River to admire Tokyo's modern skyline, the traditional neighbourhoods of old Edo and beautiful Hamarikyu Garden. Later, return to your hotel for time at leisure and dinner at a Sumo-themed izakaya restaurant.
MAJESTIC MT. FUJI AND OWAKUDANI
The towering slopes of snow-capped Mt. Fuji loom in the distance as we journey from Tokyo to this celebrated UNESCO-listed site. Admire spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from its 5th station, a magnificent vantage point at 2,300 metres (weather permitting). After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll continue to Owakudani to see the volcanic activity. Consider sampling the local black eggs boiled in geysers, then head back to the hotel for an evening at leisure.
CONTINUE TO KYOTO (3 NIGHTS)
We leave Tokyo, travelling by high-speed bullet train to Kyoto, another former capital of Japan and the centre of Japanese culture for centuries. On arrival, we'll embark on a walking tour of the Gion District, embracing the energy of Kawaramachi street. Enjoy some free time before we head to the UNESCO-listed Kinkakuji Temple, whose glittering golden pavilion is widely regarded as the symbol of Kyoto.
DISCOVER ENCHANTING KYOTO
After a late start this morning, we'll visit one of Kyoto's highlights - the historic and scenic district of Arashiyama, renowned for its cherry blossom trees which bloom in the springtime and its beautiful landscapes that change dramatically from season to season. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the towering Bamboo groves and see its iconic Togetsukyo Bridge. Connect with nature in the Zen gardens of Tenryuji Temple, then return to Kyoto for some free time at Nishiki market, a traditional food market known by locals as "Kyoto's Pantry". Return to your hotel or consider joining an optional Japanese tea ceremony experience.
ADMIRE ANCIENT NARA
Start the day off with a visit to Sumiyama Village and discover the stunning Kiyomizu Pottery which originated about 500 years ago in central Kyoto. Learn about the work of the craftsmen and about how they had to move out of the city and into a more rural area due to concerns from the local citizens about air pollution. Next 'Connect With Locals' over a 'Be My Guest' lunch with a local farmer at his home. Gain insights into the life of his family while sampling fresh tea and indulging in a delicious home-made meal, then visit his tea plantation. This afternoon delve into the ancient history of Nara, the first permanent capital city of Japan. Here you'll visit the landmark Todaiji Temple, one of the powerful Seven Great Temples and home to one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha. Take a stroll around Nara Park, home to hundreds of freely roaming tame deer before returning to Kyoto for an evening at leisure.
BULLET TRAIN TO HIROSHIMA (2 NIGHTS)
This morning, we board a high-speed bullet train to Hiroshima, a lively city that celebrates peace in the shadow of the previous century's devastation. Our first stop is to a local restaurant where we'll join our 'Local Specialist' for an Okonomiyaki Making experience. Mix your ingredients to make your own savoury pancake and cook it on a hot plate before enjoying your creation for lunch. This afternoon, take the ferry to Miyajima Island to visit the famous UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine and elaborate torii gate rising majestically out of the sea. Learn how to make Momiji Manjyu, one of the local specialities, shaping your steamed bun in the shape of a maple leaf and filling it with sweet red bean paste. You'll have an opportunity to sample your work before returning to Hiroshima by ferry.
SET SAIL FOR MIYAJIMA ISLAND
This morning, we head to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum and see the UNESCO-listed Peace Memorial, the only structure left standing when the first atomic bomb exploded in 1945. Take a moment to contemplate its symbolic expression of hope for world peace. Spend the afternoon at leisure or consider joining an Optional Experience.
ONWARDS TO OSAKA (2 NIGHTS)
Today take the high speed bullet train to Osaka. On arrival embark on an orientation drive of the city before checking in to your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure.
SEE THE SIGHTS OF OSAKA
Gain a different perspective of Osaka's landmark city sights, starting your day with a cruise on the 'aqua-bus' along Okawa River. Sail past the Japan Mint, City Hall, Nakanoshima and Osaka Castle, one of Japan's most famous landmarks. Visit the downtown district of Shinsekai to see the Tsutenkaku Tower, then continue to the Dotonbori Street area for some time at leisure. Delve into the star-crossed love story of Ohatsu and Tokubei during your visit to the Tusyunoten Shrine in Umeda, associated with the Edo-period play 'The Love Suicides of Sonezaki, which tells of the tragic double suicide that took place at the shrine in 1703. To this day, visitors write their prayers for success in love on special wooden plaques called ema, many of which bear the image of Ohatsu and Tokubei. Admire the panoramic views of Osaka from the Floating Garden Observatory - an open-air viewing platform that straddles the two towers of the Umeda Sky Building. Later join your fellow guests and Travel Director for a Farewell Dinner in a local restaurant.
Your journey revealing Japan's past and present is at its end, take a transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Airport for your onward flight.