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Japan: Land of the Rising Sun

13 Days
Prices From:
US$ 4,980

MODERATE | SMALL GROUP: Experience the traditional and contemporary on this journey through Japan. From the excitement of Tokyo to serenity of Nikko; from the moving Hiroshima to the beauty of Hakone.

The first thing that will strike the visitor will be the intertwining of the traditional and the modern which is the very essence of Japanese culture. Long lasting traditions pervade all aspects of life here and will fascinate the North American. Contemporary high rise buildings contrast with an abundance of serene temples and shrines. The many beautiful ornamental gardens and ancient castles will bring to life a different era.

High speed Bullet trains will transport you from city to city through interesting and scenic countryside and on arrival, you will be able to immerse yourself in a traditional culture through attending age old tea ceremonies or perhaps attending a performance of Kabuki, the ancient form of drama,

Start in Tokyo, the capital since the late 1800’s. During your time here, visit the Tokyo Tower with wonderful views of the city, the beautiful and imposing Imperial Palace Gardens and the old quarter of Asakusa with its functioning KannonTemple and colourful street markets. Continue to the district of Ueno which shows the more traditional side of the city. Ueno Park is a complex that includes shrines, temples, the Art Academy, Tokyo University of Arts, National Science Museum, the Museum of Western Art and a zoo. Later, you will have time, if desired, to visit the lively shopping and entertainment areas of the Ginza and Harajuku.

The next day, travel by road to Nikko, the former home of the Shoguns and a UNSECO world heritage site. See the Toshogu Shrine, the burial place of a Shogun Dynasty founder and the Yomei-mon Gate with its attractive 400 carvings.

Travel next by road to Hakone Spa. At nearby Hakone National Park, you will have a cruise on LakeAshi and take a Ropeway Cable Car for a view of the picturesque Owakudani Valley.

Then it’s on to Takayama, a charming old town with much history and culture. Visit the Yatai Kaikan Hall, home to the exhibits from the Takayama Festival, one of the most important in Japan, The exhibits are mainly the floats used. Afterwards, stroll through the atmospheric old town, known as Kamisannomachi District.

Travelling by train, arrive eventually in Hiroshima, known as the city destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945. After the bombing, Hiroshima was reconstructed as a large modern city. A visit to the Peace Memorial Park, A-Bomb Museum and Museum is a must for anybody wanting to understand the effects of nuclear weapons. The A-Bomb Dome is what most visitors see first and it has become a legendary building that all associate with Hiroshima. It is supposedly the sight of where the bomb directly exploded above the earth. It is the only surviving building from the blast and exists only in ruin, although one can still see the structure of the original dome upon the roof. Also visit the extremely impressive UNESCO protected Itsukushina Shinto Shrine on MiyajimaIsland dating back to the 6th Century but rebuilt in exactly the same style in the mid 16th Century.  It is fronted by a lake in which the renowned and much photographed dramatic Tori (or gate) is situated.  

Depart from Hiroshima once again travelling by train, this time to Kyoto. Kyoto was the ancient capital of Japan until 1869. Historic Kyoto has over 1600 temples and 400 shrines and is one of the best preserved cities in Japan which is somewhat mind-boggling especially as it is also a functioning contemporary city as well. However, there are many neighbourhoods consist of labyrinths of narrow streets where you may well see a Geisha hurrying on to her destination. In Kyoto, time seems to stand still. Some of the most important sites to be visited are the Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavillion, breathtaking in its beauty. It is superbly reflected in a mirror pond; the Imperial Palace built in 1869; the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre where you will have lunch and time to shop; the Heian Shrine with its beautiful Japanese-style sculpted garden; the Kiyomizu Temple complex, Kyoto’s most visited temple situated on a hillside with amazing views of the surrounding area and totally made of wood and the Sanjusangendo Temple, the longest wooden building in the world.

Here your Land of the Rising tour ends.

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13 Days
Prices From:
US$ 4,980

Itinerary View Trip Map

Day 1


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. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. If you're going to be late, please call our local emergency number if you can to inform our local team. Have your insurance and next of kin details on hand as we'll be collecting them at this meeting. Afterwards, you'll have some free time to explore Tokyo's exhilarating nightlife. Perhaps take a walk down Shinjuku's Memory Lane. This crowded alley of busy restaurants and bar stalls started in the 1940s and quickly gained infamy as a black market drinking quarter. Today, it is still one of the best spots to try some of Tokyo's famed 'fast food' dishes.
Accommodation: Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included: None

Day 2

Tokyo to Nikko

Enjoy a couple of free hours this morning. Perhaps see the historic Asakusa area. This is one of the older and more traditional parts of Tokyo, and is often called the temple district. 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. Next, catch an express train (approximately 1 hour) and then a local train (approximately 1 hour) out of Tokyo towards Nikko. You'll enjoy a pleasant ride, with beautiful views of the countryside. Japanese trains also have trolley carts with snacks such as bento boxes (Japanese lunch boxes), green tea and beer. Once you arrive in Nikko you'll have free time to spend as you wish.
Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day.

Day 3


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. The shrine contrasts with the traditional minimalist style commonly used throughout Japan. Instead, 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 red-lacquered 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. Optional Activities (additional cost per person to be paid in destination): Nikko - Bus to Chuzenji Lake (return) - JPY2200 / Nikko - Imperial Villa - JPY510
Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day.

Day 4


Leaving Nikko, you'll board a local train followed by two bullet trains and finally a bus on your way to Hakone. Total travel time can vary depending on the connections, but we will usually arrive by mid afternoon. Once in Hakone, take a boat across Ashinoko Lake and then ride a cable car over the surrounding mountains. The area around the lake offers plenty of stunning views, and you may even catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji in the distance if weather conditions are clear. Depending on arrival time and weather, you may do these activities today or on Day 5. You'll be staying at a family run guesthouse with shared facilities and a lovely outdoor onsen. Men and women always enter separate baths and no clothing or swimming costumes are allowed.
Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day.

Day 5


Today is a free day in the lake, mountain and onsen area of Hakone. Perhaps visit the boiling sulphur springs, or the Hakone Jinja - the red-gated Shinto shrine. There's hiking trails in the national park, such as from Togendai to Owakudani, and from there to Mt Komagatake, passing the peaks of Mt Kanmurigatake and Mt Kami. There's also the great collection of art at the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Pola Museum of Art, an eclectic mix that includes work by the likes of Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Gallé. Ask your leader for some suggestions and tips about what to do in this famous onsen region. Optional Activities (additional cost per person to be paid in destination): Hakone - Open Air Museum - JPY1600 / Hakone - Checkpoint Museum - JPY500 / Hakone - Onsen (hot spring bath) - JPY1200.
Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day.

Day 6


Travel by shinkansen (bullet train) towards Takayama. You'll reach speeds of 270 kilometres per hour and it will take around 4 hours to get there. Takayama is a charming Edo period town located in the Japan Alps, famous for its traditional inns, sake breweries and the museum of Hida Folk Village. The latter is your first stop, an outdoor museum where the traditional thatched-roof architecture unique to the area has been relocated in a delightful mountain setting as an effort to preserve traditional Japanese culture. Discover the techniques used to build farmhouses that could withstand fierce winters and long periods of isolation due to snow-closed roads. The thick thatching kept in warmth and the roofs were angled so as to minimise snow build-up. Each house is like its own self-contained museum, with displays of personal items and traditional tools. You'll then have free time to explore the many art galleries, local markets and museums, or simply wander the streets of this delightful little town.
You will stay in a delightful local Ryokan where your dinner is prepared by your host and you'll get to try a variety of Japanese food that's both beautiful to look at and to taste. Optional Activities: (additional cost per person to be paid in destination) Takayama - Bike hire (per day) - JPY800 / Takayama - Merchant House - JPY700 / Takayama - Festival Float Museum - JPY820
Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: Dinner

Meal Plan Dinner
Day 7


The Gifu prefecture is known to produce many fine altitude vegetables, and today you'll visit morning markets that date back over 600 years. Browse the stalls of seasonal vegetables brought in from the surrounding countryside, set up by local farm women from 6am every morning. While browsing the food markets look out for the unique local style of pickles, the bags of miso wrapped in leaves, Genkotsu ame (soy bean candy), preserved fish, spices, and the delicious marshmallow treat of owara tamaten. The rest of the day will be free to spend as you wish. The alpine climate and crystal clear mountain waters are perfect for creating sake, so why not visit a local brewery for a taste of the region's prized signature drop. Takayama is also very famous for hida beef. Don't forget to take the chance to try some A5 level marbled beef while you are in town!

Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Day 8


Travel by train for approximately 5 hours to Hiroshima. Visit the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome in the Peace Memorial Park and Museum (admission not included), both of which emotionally stand testament to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima was chosen as target for the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb. The dome was just metres from where the bomb detonated so it was able to retain its shape; the fact that it looks almost exactly as it did after the bombing means it serves as a reminder and symbol of peace. The memorial park serves the same purpose, and has museums, memorials and monuments dedicated to the memory of victims, education on what lead to the bomb's use, as well as advocating world peace.
In the evening, maybe try one of the city's signature dishes for dinner - okonomiyaki, a kind savoury pancake of egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat or seafood. Optional Activities: (additional cost per person to be paid in destination) Hiroshima - Miyajima Island - JPY450 / Miyajima - Itsukushima Shrine - JPY300 / Hiroshima - Peace Museum - JPY200
Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: Breakfast

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 9


If you haven't done it yesterday, visit the Peace Memorial Park and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the morning. Then make your way to the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous 'floating' Torii Gate and the grand Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. Keep your eyes out for inquisitive and hungry deer that roam the streets.
In your free time, with so much to do in the area, you'll be spoilt for choice. Why not visit the sprawling city-centre green space of Chuo Park, or the serene Shukkeien Gardens. You could stop by the magnificent Hiroshima Castle, which originally dates from the 1590s. It was destroyed by the bomb but reconstructed in all its glory in the 1950s, and now holds an informative museum in its five stories. There are numerous other museums scattered about the city, and the wonderful Shukkeien garden is the perfect place to decompress on a break from sightseeing. Winding across the stone bridges past graceful teahouses and waterfalls can make you feel like you're in another world. For something a bit louder, there's the local baseball and soccer teams (if the day is right), or endless shopping choices. Ask your leader for tips, suggestions and directions.

Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day.

Day 10


Leave Hiroshima today and head to Japan's most impressive samurai castle at Himeji by train (approximately 1 hour). The building, which has survived earthquakes and war since the mid-16th century, was restored to its full glory in 2015. The moats, baileys, towers and walled alleyways were ingeniously designed to trick attackers - perhaps so intimidatingly that they were never in fact tested. Explore the castle that was once home to over 10,000 samurai families and look out over the castle grounds and the city below from the seventh floor.
Continue on a 1 hour train ride to Kyoto. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally "tranquillity and peace capital") by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (the name means "Capital City") but the emperor and government are now located in Tokyo. With over 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in. Spend some free time getting acquainted with Kyoto and walking through the historical streets.
In the evening, head out to Gion, the famous Geisha district. Even today you can observe the age-old tradition of geisha girls visiting members of the wealthy elite. This unfolds in small teahouses tucked away in tiny back streets, or hit up the city's izakayas (traditional Japanese pubs), live music venues, theatres or nightclubs.

Accommodation: Ryokan (1 night)
Meals Included: There are no meals included on this day.

Duration3 Nights
Day 11


With its many cultural landmarks and historical sites, and the abundance of traditional arts and literature, Kyoto is regarded as the cultural heart of Japan. Kyoto is a city that lends itself to walking, and there are a number of walks available. Your tour leader will take you to visit two of the best temples depending on the season this morning.
Afterwards, it's your free time to explore this charming ancient capital. You will have almost one and half free days here to explore, which is a decent amount of time for Kyoto as there are a lot to see and experience here. Your tour leader will be able to help you with making the most out of your time here.
Fushimi Inari is definitely one of the most photographed temples in Japan. For the more active, going up the mountain following the red Tori gates is a great way to enjoy the shrine and it also offers a great view of Kyoto city. Otherwise, maybe go to Arashiyama and enjoying wondering through the bamboo forest, or cycling along Kamon River.

A gentle stroll through the nearby eastern hills along the 'Path of Philosophy' that links Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, with Nanzen-ji Temple is recommended. This walk can be extended south through well-preserved 'old town' areas to Kiyamizu-dera (Temple of Clear Water) from where there is a justifiably famous view across a wooded gorge toward Kyoto. Also recommended, for those visiting in spring, is a visit to the theatre for a presentation of Miyako Odori (the Cherry Blossom Dance) performed by elaborately dressed maiko (apprentice geisha), or a visit to the extravagantly decorated Kinkakuji temple, immortalised in Yukio Mishima's novel "The Golden Pavilion". Another great stop is the architecturally impressive Higashi Honganji temple and the almost surreal Sanjusangendo, home to 1,001 statues of Kannon. In the evening, head out to Gion, the famous Geisha district. Even today you can observe the age-old tradition of geisha girls visiting members of the wealthy elite. This unfolds in small teahouses tucked away in tiny back streets. Nishiki market is a great covered food street for you to sample.

Optional Activities: (additional cost per person to be paid in destination) Kyoto - Bike hire (per day) - JPY800 / Kyoto - Sanjusangendo Temple - JPY600 / Kyoto - Obanzai Cooking Class - JPY3800 / Kyoto - Kiyomizu Temple - JPY500 / Kyoto - Tea Ceremony with Maiko - JPY2000 / Kyoto - Kinkakuji Temple - JPY500

Day 12


You have another day to explore Kyoto and enjoy the various optional activities.

Day 13


There are no activities planned for the day and you're able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10 am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

Other Information


2022:  May 8, 10, 12, 15, 22; Jun 5, 12, 19; Jul 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; Aug 7, 14, 21, 28; Sep 4, 11, 18, 20, 25, 27; Oct 2, 11, 16, 18, 23, 30; Nov 6, 13


  • 1 night moderate hotel accommodations in Tokyo
  • 2 nights moderate ryokan accommodations in Nikko
  • 1 night moderate ryokan accommodations in Hakone
  • 2 nights moderate ryokan accommodations in Takayama
  • 2 nights moderate ryokan accommodations in Hiroshima
  • 2 nights moderate ryokan accommodations in Kyoto
  • Transportation: Boat, Public bus, Cable Car, Ferry, Metro, Bullet train, local train as per itinerary
  • Activities:
    • Nikko - Toshogu Shrine
    • Hakone - Cable car/Ropeway, Lake Ashinoko boat cruise
    • Takayama - Hida Folk Village, Market visit, Sake brewery tasting
    • Hiroshima - Peace Park & A - Bomb Dome, Peace Museum, Miyajima Island
    • Himeji - Himeji Castle
    • Kyoto - Temple/Shrine entrance (2), Gion District walk
  • 14 day Japan Rail Pass
  • 2 breakfasts & 2 dinners

JAPAN RAIL PASS: A 14 day Standard/Ordinary Japan Rail Pass is included in the price of your trip. For those wishing to stay and travel longer in Japan, a Japan Rail Pass extension (total 21 days) is available.

The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.


  • Travel insurance
  • International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes
  • Visa fees if applicable
  • Meals and beverages not specifically indicated
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Gratuities


Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite. Japanese style inns (Ryokans) involve sleeping on comfortable futons at floor height. Please note in winter months Ryokans can be quite cold, heating systems in Japan (which is quite different to western countries) is reliant on oil heaters. As such, most open social spaces would not be as warm as closed spaces/rooms. Extra blankets and additional bedding can be requested at some locations, please have a chat to your Leader if your sleeping arrangements are uncomfortable.


Occasionally these itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and research. Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so being flexible is key. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time


Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please inquire.

6 Nov 2022
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