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Explore the Land of the Rising Sun by rail

13 days From £4,195 per person
Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2022 Tour code: JAG22

About the tour

Ancient ceremonies meet 21st century technology in this astonishing country of contrasts. This fascinating tour helps us uncover the mysteries of Japan as we travel on high-speed bullet trains, experiencing the peace of the countryside as well as the buzz of its busy cities.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Days 1-3 - London and Tokyo

We take an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Tokyo, arriving on Day 2 and transferring straight to our hotel. We get our first taste of the city with some time at the observatory deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. Here we can soak in the panoramic views of the iconic Tokyo skyline.

We further explore this vibrant metropolis on Day 3, taking a full-day tour by coach, beginning at the 1,400-year-old Asakusa Temple, dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Afterwards, we visit the Hamarikyu Garden within Tokyo Bay to admire the precise art of Japanese gardening, continuing to Meiji Jingu Shrine before experiencing the famous Shibuya crossing, the busiest intersection in the world.

Day 4 - Hakone

After a free morning, we travel to Hakone by train for the night. Lying in the foothills of Mount Fuji, Hakone is a stunning destination of crystal-clear lakes, dense forests, and bubbling thermal pools. We transfer to Owakudani, known for its sulphurous hot springs, then ride the cable car along the Hakone Ropeway, enjoying panoramic views of Mount Fuji as we go. On reaching Togendai, we descend to Ashi, a lake at the caldera of Mount Hakone, for a short cruise against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains.

Day 5 - Mount Fuji

We travel by coach to Mount Fuji, arguably Japan's most distinctive landmark. Driving along the base of the mountain, we arrive at the Mount Fuji Visitor Centre to learn more about this world-famous wonder. Next we continue to Oishi Park, which boasts unparalleled views of this iconic Japanese mountain. From Mount Fuji, we continue to Matsumoto for an overnight stay

Day 6 - Miso and Matsumoto Castle

We make a visit to a Miso factory today, discovering why this thin soup is so important in Japanese cooking on a guided tour, before tasting the distinctive flavours created by mixing fermented soya beans with salt and other umami-based ingredients for ourselves. We continue to Matsumoto Castle, an impressive five-storey pagoda-style fortress known as 'Crow Castle' thanks to its unusual black exterior. After time to look around, we begin our journey to Takayama, visiting the Hida Folk Village, an open-air museum depicting more than 30 rustic farm dwellings from the Edo Period, on the way. Set deep in the mountains, Takayama is a fascinating town of narrow streets and wooden houses, a beautiful place to spend the night.

Day 7 – Takayama and the bullet train

We explore Takayama on a guided tour this morning, taking in the traditional Kami Sannomachi Street and Jinya Old House. Our next stop is the Miyagawa Morning Market where we see a neat array of stalls selling local farm products and handicrafts. Afterwards, we journey on the Hida Train to Nagoya before continuing by bullet train to Hiroshima for two nights. Having seen unprecedented devastation in WWII, Hiroshima's parks and museums now stand as embodiments of peace.

Day 8 - Miyajima Island

Travelling by tram and boat to Miyajima Island today, we leave modern life behind to soak up the tranquillity of this secluded destination known for its age-old temples and fairytale forests. We enjoy a walking tour which includes a visit to Itsukushima Shrine and the iconic Great Torii Gate that guards its entrance. Partially submerged at high tide, it was built in the 12th century and is an enduring image of traditional Japan. Your afternoon is free back in Hiroshima.

Day 9 – Hiroshima and Kyoto

This morning we visit the World Peace Memorial Park and A-Bomb Dome, both poignant reminders of the destruction levelled on Hiroshima in 1945. We also listen to a talk from either a Hiroshima survivor or a relation of one for a personal insight into what it's like to live through an atom bomb drop. Later, we take the renowned bullet train to Kyoto for three nights, a city that's a living museum of the country's artistic heritage and boasts an impressive 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. We enjoy a walking tour of the Gion district, after which we indulge in a Japanese dinner in Ponto-chō Alley, a lantern-lit street filled with authentic restaurants and shops. This traffic-free alleyway is one of the few places where you may catch a glimpse of a real-life Geisha.

Day 10 - Kyoto sightseeing

A full-day's guided tour of Kyoto takes us firstly to the Kinkakuji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple set beside a lake that reflects its golden façade beautifully, the interesting Railway Museum, detailing the history of train travel in Japan, and the Kiyomizu Temple which sits high in the surrounding hills of the city. In the afternoon we enjoy a traditional tea ceremony, learning how to brew, serve and drink this distinguished beverage the traditional Japanese way.

Days 11-12 - Nara and Osaka

We visit Nara by coach, an attractive, compact city of narrow streets set against a backdrop of wooded hills. Here we enjoy a walking tour, taking in the beautiful Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world, and its Great Buddha. We also visit Nara's serene deer park where the animals roam freely and are so used to humans, they'll even bow in greeting.

On Day 12 we make our way to Osaka for the night, a futuristic city we learn about on a guided tour that includes the floating observatory. From this unique vantage point, we can enjoy panoramic views over the city and its lively Dotonbori district.

Day 13 - Osaka and London

Transferring to the airport, we board our flight back to London Heathrow and our holiday comes to an end.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Some hotels may vary. All alternative hotels are of a comparable standard.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hotel Granvia Hiroshima

Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, Hiroshima

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Rihga Royal Hotel

Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto

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