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Grand Tour of Japan

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A Journey through Ancient History and Timeless Traditions

16 days From £5,795 per person
Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2022 Tour code: JTG22

About the tour

Absorb ancient history and timeless traditions as we travel through the 'Land of the Rising Sun' by futuristic bullet train. Sample Japanese whiskey, see magical Mount Fuji, attend an authentic tea ceremony and explore bustling Tokyo and Hiroshima as you experience the highlights of Japan.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Days 1-3 - London and Sapporo

We meet at London Heathrow and fly to Sapporo, travelling via Tokyo and arriving on Day 2 to settle into our hotel for two nights. Sapporo is famed for its 19th-century architecture and pretty public spaces, which we explore on Day 3's guided tour. We discover Otaru, Sapporo's romantic port, and the Otaru Music Box Museum before heading to the Nikka Whisky Distillery. Founded in 1934, Nikka's malts blend high-quality Japanese whiskey with traditional Scottish techniques, which we sample before returning to Sapporo.

Days 4-5 - Hakodate

We leave Sapporo behind this morning, travelling to Hakodate for the night aboard the Super Hokuto limited express train. This afternoon, we take a sightseeing tour of the local sights by coach, including Goryokaku, a star-shaped fortress that dates back 150 years. This evening, we ascend Mount Hakodate via a ropeway cable car for fabulous views across the city.

On Day 5, we visit Hakodate's fish market, where fresh produce is bought and sold in a lively atmosphere. We explore the vivid array of stalls which boast fresh seafood, local vegetables, fruit and even sweets. Afterwards, we travel by bullet train to Tokyo, Japan's futuristic capital and home for the next two nights.

Days 6-7 - Tokyo and Hakone

Enjoying a full-day tour of Tokyo, one of the world's most contemporary cities, we get an insight into a high-tech, modern world that's still rooted in ancient traditions. We visit the Asakusa Kannon Temple, a Buddhist temple built in pagoda style that's the oldest of its kind in the city, the imposing Imperial Plaza, and Shibuya crossing - the busiest intersection on the planet.

On Day 7, we walk to the station, boarding a train to Hakone for the night. On arrival, we set out on a sightseeing tour that includes a cruise across peaceful Lake Ashi.

Day 8 – Mount Fuji

We visit iconic Mount Fuji today, arguably Japan's most distinctive landmark. Travelling by coach, we drive along the foot of the mountain before arriving at the Visitor Centre, where we learn more about this world-famous peak. Later we continue to Matsumoto Castle, an impressive fortress completed in 1593. Built on a lake, this five-storey fortification is a celebrated National Treasure of Japan and its interiors are made up of an extensive complex of walls, moats and gatehouses. We spend tonight in Matsumoto.

Days 9-10 Takayama

Before travelling to Takayama for the night, this morning we stop off at Matsumoto's Ishii Miso factory for an insight into the production of this traditional Japanese dish alongside a tasting of its unique umami flavours. Next, we visit Hida Folk Village, an open-air museum of rustic farm dwellings in the mountains that shows us what traditional rural like was like in Japan. Continuing to Takayama, a town of narrow streets and wooden houses set deep in the mountains, we marvel at landscapes that seem almost untouched by the passage of time.

Embarking on a guided tour on Day 10, we call at the Miyagawa Open Air Market for a taste of local life through the ages. Afterwards, we take the train to Nagoya and board the bullet train to Kyoto.

Day 11 - Kyoto

With two nights in the ancient Japanese capital, we discover the delights of historic Kyoto, taking in the attractions of this ageless city from its charming temples to the fascinating Kyoto Railway Museum. We also enjoy a traditional tea ceremony, learning how this iconic drink should be brewed, poured and drunk, before an evening stroll through the historic Gion area of the city. As we wander the lantern-adorned streets, keep your eyes open for one of Japan's last-remaining geishas.

Day 12 – Nara

We enjoy an excursion to Nara, another former ancient capital and home to an impressive eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. A tour of the city includes the Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world and home to an imposing Great Buddha that dates from the 13th century Built from solid bronze, it boasts an impressive 37-foot frame. We continue to Nara Park, a delightful deer sanctuary spread over almost 1,300 acres and home to deer that are so tame, they even bow in greeting to humans. Next, we transfer to Osaka, catching another bullet train to Hiroshima, our base for two nights.

Day 13 – Hiroshima and Miyajima Island

A tour of Hiroshima, famous as one of the sites of an atom bomb drop towards the end of the Second world War, reveals a now a peaceful and thriving city. Attractions here include the Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome, dedicated to the victims of the tragic devastation of WWII. We also hear from a Hiroshima survivor or descendant, whose moving account of the events of August 6th 1945 brings greater context and understanding of the powerful history that helped shape modern-day Japan. Afterwards, we delve into the city's more ancient past with a boat ride out to Miyajima Island. This tranquil wooded island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famed for its bright red Shinto shrine.

Day 14 - Hakata

Travelling by bullet train once again, we make our way to Hakata. On arrival, we enjoy a sightseeing tour, taking in the Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of literature, Komyozenji Temple, a Zen temple and rare 'karesansui', or Japanese rock garden that dates back to the 13th century, and the Kyushu National Museum. The first national museum opened in Japan for over 100 years, its displays show us the history of Japanese culture via an impressive collection of artefacts and modern exhibitions. This evening, we head to a local restaurant for a farewell dinner to celebrate the end of our adventures in the 'Land of the Rising Sun.'

Days 15-16 - Fukuoka and London

We transfer to Fukuoka airport for our flight to London Heathrow. Travelling via Tokyo, we arrive back in the UK on Day 16.

Additional information

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.

Hotel

Rihga Royal Hotel

Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto

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Train

Bullet Train

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Grand Tour of Japan

A Journey through Ancient History and Timeless Traditions

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Luke Simpson
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Helen Laverack
Helen
Lynne Broadley
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