This 11 days and 10 nights trip is an opportunity to explore the vibrant and dynamic cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and the historic cities of Hiroshima and Miyajima. As an added bonus, you get to see the exquisite Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park where you can experience the serene traditional Japanese lifestyle. This trip is full of art and culture, shopping and dining, history and adventure, palaces and temples. You have enough flexibility in this trip to discover Japan on your own terms.
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Once you arrive at the Tokyo Airport, you will be met by our representative who will direct you to the best transportation option to your hotel - a train or a bus. Once you check in to your hotel, you are free to spend the remaining day as you wish. You will be spending the night in your hotel.
Day 2: Tokyo
Today your guide will take you to the most popular sites in Tokyo using various public transportation options. First you can take the metro to Meiji Shrine. The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife. Construction of the shrine began in 1915, after the Japanese Diet passed a resolution to commemorate the emperor’s role in the Meiji Restoration. The shrine is located in a large forest spanning 70 hectares and containing over 120,000 trees of 365 different species. The Japanese people donated these trees when the shrine was established. The shrine is a favoured place for weddings so you may just happen upon a couple dressed in traditional Shinto wedding attire who are there to pledge themselves to each other.
Close by is Omotesando -- Japan's Avenue des Champs-Élysées -- a beautiful Zelkova tree-lined avenue. It is one of the best architectural showcase streets in the world. There are numerous fashion flagship stores here such as the Louis Vuitton store, the Prada building, Dior and other boutique designer outlets.
Next, you can visit the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city. Outside the temple, there are many shops where you can pick up beautiful handicraft and souvenirs from. Asakusa is the old town area of Tokyo famous for its Geisha performances. As you make your way through the streets of this old town, you will find many treasures at every corner.
Now for some relaxation and a fresh perspective of the city, you will take a cruise along the Sumida river to the delightful Hamarikyu Gardens. These landscaped gardens have the Shioiri Pond, and are surrounded by moat. There is a teahouse located in the middle of the pond where you can sip matcha (green tea) and taste Japanese sweets. Here you will also see a peony garden, plum tree grove and cosmos fields full of blossoms. After that, for a novel experience, you will take a cruise along the river.
At the end of this wonderful day of taking in the beauty of Tokyo, you can head back to your hotel and spend the night there.
Day 3: Tokyo
Early in the morning, your guide will take you to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. Here you will find over 480 varieties of seafood ranging from seaweed and sardines to caviar and massive tuna and whale. After this you will be taken for a cooking class so that you can learn to make different kinds of sushi rolls such as makizushi (rolled sushi), nigirizushi (hand pressed sushi) and gunkanmaki (warship roll). You may take back the equipment used to make sushi so that you can organize your own sushi party back home!
After your lesson, you will be dropped back to your hotel and will be free to do whatever you please for the rest of the day.
Day 4: Tokyo Hakone / Mt. Fuji
Today is a self-guided day.
Today you will check out of your hotel in Tokyo and take a train to Hakone, a geopark that heads to Mt. Fuji. It is in the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park region. You will experience the stark change in the natural landscape of Japan now that you will be completely surrounded by natural beauty and a lack of the maddening rush of the city. You can explore the national park all you want, using your Hakone Transport Pass. You can take the funitel i.e. Hakone Ropeway over Owakudani (meaning 'Great Boiling Valley'). This volcanic valley has active sulphur vents and hot springs that you can sight from the ropeway. It is also famous for its Kuro-tamago — eggs that turn black as they are boiled in the hot springs. Legend has it that if you eat one egg, it adds seven years to your life!
You can then take the ropeway to Togendai and at its pier you can take a cruise in a pirate ship up and down the crater lake Ashinoko. You will be able to see Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
You will enjoy an authentic Japanese residential experience in Hakone as you will be staying tonight in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn offering tatami-matted rooms, communal baths in natural hot springs (onsen), rice paper sliding doors, the option of wearing yukata (casual summer kimono). This day will be completely relaxing and for dinner you will have a traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine (Kaiseki).
Day 5: Hakone
Today, you will head back to modern times on the exciting Japanese bullet train. These trains can go as fast as 320 kmph! You will head to the vibrant city of Kyoto. Kyoto has over 2,000 religious places, 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, and many palaces and gardens. It is one of the best preserved cities in Japan.
Once you check in to your hotel, you are free to do what you desire for the rest of the day.
Today you will explore Kyoto with your guide. You will make use of the efficient public transport options in Kyoto to do so.
You will visit various heritage sites such as Nijo Castle with its unique nightingale floors, awe-inspiring two-concentric rings structure, beautiful gardens and palaces. It has two circles of defense with walls and moats. The Honmaru Palace, the Ninomaru Palace and their beautiful gardens are what attract the tourists.
After the castle, you will visit the Kinkaku-ji Temple (known as the Golden Pavilion because its top two floors are covered in gold leaf), the Ryoan-ji Temple (home to Japan's best rock garden), and the Kiyomizudera Temple (translates to ‘pure water temple’ and is built on the Otowa waterfall). You will enjoy stunning views from the temple's verandah in autumn, when the leaves change colors, and in the cherry blossom season.
To buy some quintessentially Japanese souvenirs and get a feel of old Tokyo, you will then roam around the Higashiyama district, especially between the Kiyomizudera Temple and the Yasaka Shrine.
After your tour, you will return to your hotel to spend the night.
Day 7: Kyoto
Today, you will get a taste of the traditional Japanese life as your guide will take you to a machiya. It is a traditional wooden townhouse usually consisting of a living space with raised timber floors and tatami mats, a serving space that includes a kitchen with a chimney and skylight, a storehouse, residential rooms with sliding doors that can change the shape, size and temperature of a room, a foyer and other smaller residential rooms, a small courtyard garden, and some other interesting features.
You will take a tour of the house and learn about its practical architecture. Then you will change into a kimono and participate in a tea ceremony. You will learn all the steps that make up the ceremony before you enjoy some refreshing Japanese tea. After this, you can take a stroll through the old town and sip some sake in a brewery.
Now you will be free to spend the remaining day as you please, before returning to your hotel to spend the night.
Day8: Kyoto – Hiroshima
Today you will check out of your hotel in Kyoto and head to Hiroshima on a bullet train. You will enjoy the sights from your railway carriage including glimpses of the pristine white Himeji Castle and the Great Seto Bridge that is the world's longest two-tiered bridge.
Once you check in to your hotel in Hiroshima, you are free to do whatever you want for the remaining day.
Day9 : Hiroshima and Miyajima
Today, you guide will take you by train and ferry to Miyajima, an island of Gods, famous for its floating Istukushima shrine that glitters vermillion in the deep blue sea. You can roam about in the old town area where you can try some interesting dishes like saltwater eel or some maple leaf-shaped manju (confectionary whose outside is made from flour, rice powder and buckwheat and inside is a paste made from boiled azuki beans and sugar).
By noon, you will make your way back to Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Park and its Museum. The museum exhibits belongings left by the victims and other material that communicates the horror of the A-bomb catastrophe, with the aim that the world may be rid of all nuclear weapons.
After this, you are free to do as you please before you retire to your hotel for the night.
Day10: Hiroshima – Osaka
Today you will travel to Osaka and check in to a hotel there. Osaka is one of the largest cities of Japan. Historically, Osaka was a merchant city and today it is an economic powerhouse. Its name means 'large hill or large slope' but it is also called the 'nation's kitchen'. Your guide will then take you out for a half day tour of the city.
First, you will go to the Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street which is a specialty market that sells all kinds of cooking equipment. After this, you will head to Dotonbori, a foodie's delight. Earlier on, it was just a theater district but now it is known for its nightlife and entertainment. It is akin to the Times Square in NYC, with its huge illuminated signboards. There are a multitude of eateries here serving tasty Japanese food, both modern and authentic. As you are here, you cannot miss Hozenji Yokocho: the narrow stone-paved street that is filled with restaurants and pubs and gives one the feeling of being transported to the yesteryears. The famous Hozen-ji Temple built in 1637 to honor Fudo Myoo, one of the five Wisdom Kings , is here. Unlike all other temples, coins are not given here to honor the deity. Instead, water is splashed on the statue.
Now, you will board a train to Shinsekai, Osaka's 'New World' district that was modeled after Paris and New York. The Tsutenkaku Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower is here. It was scrapped during WWII but reconstructed again in 1956. It is famus for its LED lighting that changes colors every two months in tune with the season. When in Shinsekai, you must try the local specialty 'kushikatsu' i.e. skewered, battered and deep fried foods which could be vegetables, meat and poultry or even desserts.
After you have had your fill, you will head back to your hotel to spend the night.
Day11: Departure from Osaka
Today you will be transferred by train or bus to the Kansai International Airport. Before that, you are free to do what you please.