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Discover Japan

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Explore the Land of the Rising Sun by rail

13 days From £3,995 per person
Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys
Booking Offer

Save up to £300 per person on selected 2023 Worldwide holidays when you travel before May 2023, when you book by midnight 23rd December 2022.

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2023 Tour code: JAG23

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

Day 1 - To Tokyo

We take an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Tokyo, Japan's dynamic capital.

Day 2 - Tokyo

We arrive in Tokyo and transfer from the airport to our hotel for check in. Then, we head out for our first taste of the city. Tokyo is fascinating to discover, a place where cutting edge technology sits alongside ancient temples, flashing neon lights, and shining skyscrapers that tower above stunning Shinto shrines. We have some time at the observatory deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, where we soak in panoramic views of the iconic Tokyo skyline.

Day 3 - Tokyo

We get to know Tokyo more today as we explore the vibrant metropolis on a full-day guided tour. We begin at the Asakusa Temple. Tokyo's oldest temple and one of its most significant, it was founded in 645 AD and is dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Afterwards, we head to Tokyo Bay for a visit to the attractive Hamarikyu Gardens, where we admire the precise art of Japanese gardening. We continue to Meiji Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine surrounded by peaceful woodland in the heart of the city, 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 where we learn more about this world-famous wonder. The mighty snow-covered peak of Mount Fuji has become an iconic symbol of the country, depicted on many of Japan's postcards and souvenirs, and seeing it in real life is truly unforgettable. Next, we continue to Oishi Park, which boasts unparalleled views of the Japanese mountain. We continue to Matsumoto for an overnight stay.

Day 6 - Miso and Matsumoto Castle

We have an insight in Japanese cuisine as we visit a miso factory, discovering why the ingredient is so important in Japanese cooking on a guided tour, with a tasting. Famously used to make miso soup, a thin traditional soup, miso is a fermented soybean paste with an umami flavour. We continue to Matsumoto Castle, a five-storey pagoda-style fortress known as 'Crow Castle' thanks to its black exterior. We continue to Takayama, pausing at Hida Folk Village, an open-air museum depicting rustic farm dwellings from the Edo Period.

Day 7 – Takayama and the bullet train

We explore Takayama on a guided tour this morning. Set deep in the mountains, Takayama, with its narrow streets and wooden houses, is a beautiful place to discover. We visit 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 poignant embodiments of peace.

Day 8 - Miyajima Island

Travelling by tram and boat to Miyajima Island, we leave modern life behind to soak up the tranquillity of a 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. Partially submerged at high tide, it was built in the 12th century and is an enduring image of Japan. Your afternoon is free in Hiroshima, and there's plenty to discover here. You could visit Hiroshima Castle, which houses traditional Japanese artefacts and artwork, or head to a café or restaurant to sample the city's famous dish, okonomiyaki - a delicious savoury pancake.

Day 9 – Hiroshima and Kyoto

This morning we visit the World Peace Memorial Park and A-Bomb Dome, both emotional reminders of the destruction levelled on Hiroshima in 1945. 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 might catch a glimpse of a real-life Geisha.

Day 10 - Kyoto sightseeing

We discover Kyoto on a full-day's guided tour. First, we enjoy a traditional tea ceremony, enjoying an insight into Japanese culture as we learn how to brew, serve and drink this distinguished beverage in the traditional way. We continue to the Kinkakuji Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple set beside a lake that reflects its golden façade beautifully. We also visit the interesting Railway Museum, which details the history of train travel in Japan, as well as the Kiyomizu Temple, a Buddhist temple and UNESCO World Heritage site that sits high in the surrounding hills of the city.

Day 11 - Nara

We visit Nara, once the short-lived capital of Japan and 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, a Buddhist building founded in the first half of the 8th century. The ornate structure is famous for being the largest wooden building in the world, as well as for its Great Buddha, the world's largest bronze Buddha statue. We also visit a Sake brewery for an insight into this traditional beverage, as well as Nara's serene Deer Park. The animals here roam freely and are so used to humans, they'll even bow in greeting.

Day 12 - Osaka

Leaving Nara, we make our way to Osaka for the night. On the way, we visit the Sagano Bamboo Path, a stunning path grove that cuts through a soaring bamboo grove - a truly magical sight. Osaka is a futuristic port city, known for its excellent street food and lively atmosphere. We head out on a guided city tour that includes the Floating Garden Observatory, found at the top of two soaring skyscrapers joined at the top by a vast garden deck. From this unique vantage point, we enjoy panoramic views over the city and its Dotonbori district. We continue to the Dotonbori District itself. The city's 'entertainment district', Dotonbori is the beating heart of Osaka, built around a canal and famous for its brightly lit neon lights.

Day 13 - Osaka and London

Transferring to the airport, we board our flight back to the UK where 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

Hakone Hotel, Hakone

Hakone Hotel, Hakone

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The Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko, Hakone

The Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko, Hakone

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Hotel Granvia Hiroshima

Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, Hiroshima

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Rihga Royal Hotel

Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto

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Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto

Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto

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Hotel Kagetsu, Matsumoto

Hotel Kagetsu, Matsumoto

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Sheraton Miyako Hotel, Osaka

Sheraton Miyako Hotel, Osaka

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Hotel Associa Takayama, Takayama

Hotel Associa Takayama, Takayama

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Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo

Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo

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Ashleigh Howe
Ashleigh
Simon Laverack
Simon
Lynne Broadley
Lynne