Snow Monkey Explorer - 13 Days
From 2020-01-05 to 2020-02-02
12 breakfasts, 1 Japanese dinner at the ryokan.
12 nights 3 star accommodation - including 1 night at a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn).
Guided sightseeing and walking tours in Tokyo, Kamakura, Lake Kawaguchi, Kyoto, Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island and Yudanaka Onsen.
Tea at Hokouji Temple; Lake Kawaguchi & Mt Fuji - Kachikachi-yama Ropeway and observatory.
Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park).
Ferry to Miyajima Island and cable car to the top of Mt Misen.
Escorted by licensed English speaking Japanese tour guides.
Two guides are used on this trip - 1 for east Japan and another in the west, with unescorted train travel between.
Arrival transfer (escorted)- by train from Narita or Haneda International Airport.
Unescorted departure transfer.
All transportation - buses, trains and rail tickets (including ICOCA Swipe Card and Japan Rail tickets).
Baggage forwarding service from Tokyo to Kyoto, Kyoto to Hiroshima and from Hiroshima to Tokyo (one bag per person).
Maximum Group size: 18 persons.
Entrance Fees to all included sightseeing.
Day 1 - Tokyo Sunday. Arrive into either Narita or Haneda International Airport in Tokyo where, after clearing immigration you will be met by your guide. Travel by train into the city centre and check into your hotel in Shinjuku, one of the most modern districts in the city. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore the sights.
Day 2 - Toyko - Sensoji Temple district, Harajuki & Shibuya Good Morning Tokyo!! Today we explore this iconic city. First stop is Asakusa which is home to the ancient Buddhist temple and being built in the 7th century, Tokyo's oldest - Sensoji. Nearby is the Nakamise Shopping Street famous for it's large variety of traditional souvenirs and interesting craft stalls which we have time to explore before lunch.
After which we find out where the finest of Tokyo's young and hip like to hangout when we head to Harajuku, with its on-trend shops and cafes. Take a snap next to the street sign and keep your eyes peeled for the 'best of the best' in young urban fashion before we head to the important Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined.
Our final stop is the Shibuya crossing perhaps the busiest intersections in the world. The famed intersection is a junction of no less than 7 pedestrian crossings and when the lights turn red, all 7 turn red simultaneously. The traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides. Known as 'the scramble' its an amazing spectacle which we'll watch from the second floor Starbucks located directly opposite. Total walking distance today: Approx 8 - 10km. This evening offers free time to independently explore.
Day 3 - Kamakura Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo. This seaside city is the former seat of the Shogunate, though in modern day Japan, it is also renowned for its beautiful Zen temples and pristine coastline and in contrast to Tokyo, provides a quaint village life feel. Here we’ll visit the iconic bronze Big Buddha and the Zen Temple of Hokokuji with its beautiful bamboo garden. We also drink tea and enjoy the laid back atmosphere before walking the cobbled streets of the shopping district of Komachi- ideal for locally made crafts, before returning to Japan’s bustling capital for the night.
Tonight, why not opt to enjoy a Shabu Shabu dinner - a traditional Japanese hot pot meal (booked/paid locally).
Day 4 - Tokyo Taking in the Tokyo Edo Museum, this morning we are guided through the lifestyle and culture experienced by Tokyoites over the city’s 400-year history. The museum houses some of the city’s best original artefacts and replicas of Edo-era buildings and landmarks, along with several large-scale models. The remainder of the day offers free time for you further explore the city.
Day 5 - Mt Fuji & Lake Kawaguchi Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. After breakfast we travel by highway bus to the stunning Lake Kawaguchi, located in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park (with luggage forwarding). Our base is the hot spring resort town of Lake Kawaguchi which boasts both beautiful scenery and unparalleled views of Mt Fuji. Whilst in the area we'll ascend the Kachikachi-yama Ropeway some 400m to the observation deck near the peak of Mount Tenjo and if the weather is clear enjoy unsurpassed views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi.
Tonight we stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan where we will be served a traditional Japanese dinner and there is also the opportunity to dip in the natural hot spring baths for which the town is famous for.
Note: As of June 2019 the Hakone Ropeway has been temporarily suspended – please see the Trip Notes for further details.
Day 6 - Kyoto Lake Kawaguchi – Kyoto. Early this morning and prior to breakfast you may wish to hike along the forshore lake and take in its frozen mid-winter beauty. Later we travel by bus to Mishima, then by bullet train to Kyoto - Japan’s ancient and cultural capital.
As one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is home to an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. This afternoon we head to Gion, for a walking tour of this famous Geisha district. After you may wish to watch a cultural performance at Gion Corner Theatre where you'll have the opportunity to watch a Maiko (apprentice Geisha) performing.
Day 7 - Kyoto - Sanjusangendo Temple, Golden Pavilion & free time Up first we offer a guided tour of Sanjusagen-do Temple famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon are made of Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf. They stand in 10 rows of 50, each hand crafted and slightly different from the next. Set upon a small lake with landscaped gardens the large completely gilt structure is impressive as it is beautiful Temple. Kinkakuji Temple continues to be one of Japan's most visited temples.
This afternoon offers free time for you to relax or to further discover the many sights of Kyoto your own way. Consider visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its winding path lined by thousands of bright red torii gates. Just a short train ride away from the main Kyoto station, this must-see sight is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day. You might also wish to hire a Kimono and walk the streets as many Japanese do or take part in a cooking lesson.
Day 8 - Himeji Kyoto - Himeji - Hiroshima. We travel by bullet train to Hiroshima today, stopping en route at Himeji to visit the UNESCO Listed Himeji Castle. It was constructed of wood in 1346 and is renowned for its elegant shape, painted white exterior, together with a highly developed maze-like system of defence. Himej dates from the beginning of the Shogun period and is Japan’s best preserved and largest castle. After taking in the panoramic views from the top of its 6 story watch tower we take the bullet train to Hiroshima.
Tonight, take time to explore the city, try the local oysters which are said to be the best in all Japan or perhaps take to the steets and the laneways in search of an Izakaya (a tapas style bar) for a true Japanese experience.
Day 9 - Miyajima Located off the coast of Hiroshima and said to be one of Japan's most scenic location we spend this morning exploring Miyajima Island. We take in the revered Itsukushima-jinja Shrine and the renowned 12 metres high red 'floating' Torii Gate, a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site which appears to float on water. If it is low tide there may also be the opportunity to walk to the gate by foot. As we continue to explore the island we'll see further Shinto shrines, towering pagodas and pavilions before soaking up the incredible views of the Seto Inland Sea, dozens of nearby islands and Hiroshima city from our cable car ride to the top of Mount Misen, the highest point of the island.
After lunch we depart Miyajima and take time out to reflect at the more sobering side of Hiroshima's past when two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of World War II and Hiroshima was the first place to be hit. We visit Peace Park, Peace Park Museum both poignant reminders of this tragic past and see the iconic A-Bomb Dome one of the very few buildings left standing after the blast.
Tonight, we'll make a reservation for Okonomiyaki - a mix between a savoury pancake and omelette a local speciality of Hiroshima. Okonomiyaki is always a fun night, its inexpensive and is washed down perfectly with a Asahi beer.
Note: From June 2019 the floating Torii Gate is undergoing renovations – please see the Trip Notes for further details.
Day 10 - Nagano Hiroshima - Nagano. Departing after breakfast and travelling by bullet train via Tokyo (as its the fastest route) we arrive in Nagano mid-afternoon. Nagano is our base for the next two nights which serves as the ideal location for setting off to see the Snow Monkeys in the nearby onsen towns. The remainder of the day remains free time.
Day 11 - Nagano Setting off straight after breakfast we spend the day exploring the Yudanko Onsen area - surrounded by mountains and famous for Snow Monkey Park. Over 200 monkeys live in the park, play and keep warm during the winter months by bathing in the local hot springs (onsens). In addition to seeing these amazing creatures there is opportunity to further explore the park, indulge in a foot spa or visit a traditional Japanese village located nearby.
We return to our hotel in time for dinner and this evening is free for you to relax.
Day 12 - Matsumoto Nagano - Matsumoto - Tokyo. This morning we explore one of Japan's premier and oldest historic castle - Matsumoto Castle. Built in 1593, when covered in snow, this beautiful wooden structure allows us to imagine we have returned to the pre-modern world of the Samurai.
With a reputation of having some of the best Soba in Japan, we recommend these noodles for lunch before we continue on Tokyo which we reach later this afternoon.
Day 13 - Tokyo Friday. Your Japan adventure comes to an end today. Unescorted transfer to Narita or Hanada Airport to meet your onward flight.
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