Japan Express, 9 Days
Only on 23 November and 21 December 2019
9 Days tour departing Tokyo.
8 nights accommodation in a Hotel/Ryokan.
Transport by Public Bus, Metro, Train, Bullet Train.
Tokyo - Yoyogi-koen, Meiji-jingu Shrine, Shibuya walking tour, Metro day pass, Harajuku street, Akihabara walking tour, Tsukiji Outer Market.
Nikko - Public bus area pass, Hiking.
Kyoto - Fushimi Inari-Taisha, Public bus day pass, Gion District walk.
WAS $2580*, NOW $1806*, SAVE $774*.
Day 1 Tokyo. Konnichiwa Welcome to Japan. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, there are many sides of Tokyo to explore, from fascinating museums and world-class shopping, to neighbourhood backstreets lined with restaurants and karaoke bars. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm tonight. Afterwards, head out for an optional dinner to try some local Tokyo food and experience the nightlife in this amazing city. You might like to finish the night with a drink at a traditional Japanese izakaya.
Day 2 Tokyo. This morning, venture out with your tour leader on the Tokyo metro to explore the buzzing Shibuya area. Check out one of the busiest intersections in the world before heading into a depachika (underground food hall) for a mouth-watering array of tempting Japanese treats, perhaps grab some snacks for a picnic lunch in Yoyogi Park. Next, visit Meiji Shrine - enter via a massive Torii (gate) and witness the sights and sounds of the busy city being replaced by a tranquil forest. Lastly, explore the Harajuku district, the home of quirky youth pop culture. In your free time this afternoon, perhaps take in the historic Asakusa area - one of the older and more traditional parts of Tokyo. Here you can stop by Senso-ji, the city's oldest temple - founded almost 1,400 years ago when Tokyo was nothing more than a fishing village. This evening, there's an incredible array of options for dinner - a hearty bowl of ramen, crispy tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried cutlet), or snacks and beer at an izakaya.
Day 3 Tokyo. Enjoy a morning walk around the famous Tsukiji Outer Market, where fresh seafood from Tokyo's wholesale fish market (recently relocated to a shiny new site at Toyosu) is delivered daily. Wander through the narrow isles to find all sorts of amazing food then perhaps pop in to one of the sushi restaurants for the freshest breakfast you could ever eat. Afterwards head to the famous Akihabara District - the centre of Japan's otaku culture. Many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. This afternoon is free for you to explore, why not spend some time in the city's green spaces like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or create your own entertainment with a memorable turn in a sky-high karaoke glass box. If the season's right, you might even get to experience the theatre of a sumo bout.
Day 4 Nikko. Say goodbye to Tokyo and take the train to Nikko (approximately 2 hours) where you'll have a free day to explore. Nikko has been a sacred city since the middle of the 8th century and is overflowing with beautiful shrines and temples. Perhaps visit the Toshu-gu Shrine, a resting place of a Tokugawa shogun who was one of the most powerful rulers of the country - every corner of this monument is covered in intricate gold leaf, lacquer work, paintings and patterns. Here you can also visit the Museum of Art at the back of the temple complex, this 1920s mansion has one of the country's most beautiful collections of sliding doors and screens decorated by the best Japanese painters of the day. You can also pay a visit to the Shin-kyo bridge, one of the town's most famous landmarks, and the Buddhist temple of Rinno-ji, home to fearsome statues and an elegant garden. Perhaps join with your fellow travellers this evening for a group dinner before spending the night in Nikko.
Day 5 Nikko. For those feeling energetic, join your leader for a hike around the Nikko area. Depending on the time of the year, you can climb up to the Senjogahara Plateau, where the gods of Mt Nantai and Mt Akagi are said to have battled for possession of Chuzenji Lake. You can take a 6-kilometre walk following the course of the plateau or explore the various hiking trails that spread off from the lake itself. The lake area is also home to the Kegon Waterfall, and you can get the Akechidaira Ropeway (cable car) over the falls and lake. A little further on is Lake Yunoko and Yumoto, where you can soak in the natural hot springs - a great place to experience one of Japans well-loved public onsens. In the town itself you can explore the shops along Hippari Dako, maybe tasting yuba, the skin that forms on top when making tofu - a delicious treat
Day 6 Kyoto. Enjoy your last free morning in Nikko before making the long journey to Kyoto. Take the local train (around 2 hours) and then jump onboard the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto for approximately 3 hours. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (tranquillity and peace capital) by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years, and with over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in. On arrival, head to one of the most photogenic spots in Kyoto - Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine - famous for the thousands of vermillion-coloured torii (gates) which straddle the paths and trails in the area. Afterwards, enjoy some free time to get acquainted with Kyoto by walking through the historic streets.
Day 7 Kyoto. Today is free for you to explore. With its many landmarks and historical sites, and the abundance of traditional arts and literature, Kyoto is regarded as the cultural heart of Japan. Kyoto is also a city that lends itself to walking, and there are plenty of paths available - ask your leader for their recommendations. Perhaps visit the extravagantly decorated Kinkakuji temple, also known as 'The Golden Pavilion', or if you're visiting in Spring, head to the theatre for a presentation of Miyako Odori (the Cherry Blossom Dance) performed by elaborately dressed maiko (apprentice geisha). In the evening, enjoy a guided walk through the Pontocho and Gion areas - the famous Geisha districts. Even today you can observe the age-old tradition of geisha visiting members of the wealthy elite - this unfolds in small teahouses tucked away in tiny back streets. For those who are keen, you can also choose to attend the Gion Corner cultural centre where you can enjoy some Japanese performing arts, from flower arranging to the Lion Dance.
Day 8 Kyoto. Make the most of your last day in Kyoto. If you haven't done so already, you may like to see Japan's largest pagoda at Toji, or you could visit the imposing and opulent Nijo Castle, home to the Tokugawa Shoguns who had power over the country during the Edo period. You can also check out the 'nightingale floors' of Ninomaru Palace, which squeak to warn of intruders. From the Castle it's a short bus ride to Ryoan-ji, perhaps Japan's most famous Zen garden, where carefully placed rocks sit in an immaculately raked sea of gravel. For some last-minute shopping there's Kyoto's handicraft centre, a perfect place to pick up some souvenirs with a fine selection of woodblock prints, yukata (light cotton robes), jewellery and pottery. On your final evening you could enjoy karaoke with your new friends, or maybe splash out on a kaiseki meal in a ryotei (small restaurants serving traditional multi-course cuisine).
Day 9 Kyoto. There are no activities planned for today and you can depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10 am, however if you're departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
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