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Japan: Land of the Rising Sun

13 Days
Prices From:
US$ 4,750

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$ 4,750

Itinerary View Trip Map

Day 1


Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. You can arrive at the joining-point hotel at any time as there are no planned activities aside from a group meeting on the evening of day 1, followed by dinner. Your leader will leave a note for you at reception informing you of what time and where this important meeting will take place. If it is likely that you will be arriving after 6pm on day 1, please inform us at time of booking.

Tokyo is a dynamic, modern hub, the thriving capital of an ancient land. Contradictions are everywhere, as hi-tech gadgetry and neon lights play an integral part in the lives of a population steeped in tradition. As we only spend one night in Tokyo, we strongly recommend that you arrive a few days prior to this trip in order to explore the city. Ueno Park, with its many galleries and museums, is a great place to spend a day, the Sensoji Temple is a serene way to pass an afternoon and the sumo stables are a must-see.

Day 2

Tokyo to Nikko

On day 2, the morning is free for you to stroll the outer grounds of the Imperial Palace, heading to the famous shopping district of Ginza. Then it's time to catch a train out of Tokyo, a chance to appreciate the countryside that makes Japan one of the world's most beautiful destinations. From Toyko we take an express train (approx. 1 hr) and then a local train (approx. 1 hr) to Nikko. Trains in Japan are fantastic and the best you'll ever experience. They are clean, fast, punctual, and have plenty of recycling bins for paper, bottles and cans. There are non-smoking and smoking carriages (we use the former) and a trolley cart comes around regularly, bearing all kinds of yummy things for purchase. Be sure to buy a bento box for lunch - these are compact trays containing tempura, sushi, etc., as well as a popular Japanese drink such as cold green tea or Asahi.

Day 3


Nikko has been a sacred site since the middle of the 8th century and the shrines and temples dotted throughout the area are inspiring evidence of the city's glory. We'll visit Toshu-gu Shrine, a resting place of a Tokugawa shogun. The mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the war Lord who controlled all of Japan and whose shogunate lasted 250 years, the shrine contrasts with the traditional minimalist style commonly used throughout Japan. Instead, every corner of this monument is covered in intricate gold-leaf and lacquer work, paintings and patterns.

Our charming accommodation in Nikko has private facilities, a shared onsen and is located next to the river.

Day 4


Leaving Nikko, we hop aboard a local train (approx 1 hr), a bullet train (approx 1 hr), another bullet train (1 hr) and finally a bus (approx 30 mins) to reach Hakone. In the hot spring region of Hakone, we take a boat across Ashino-ko followed by a picturesque cable car journey over the surrounding mountains. On the way, we may be lucky to get a glimpse of Mt Fuji looming in the distance - a shy mountain, getting a glimpse is not guaranteed. However, the lake and its surroundings offer plenty of stunning panoramas.

Day 5


For those who are adventurous, a bath in an outdoor onsen (hot spring bath) is a real highlight. Although there are separate baths for males and females, remember that no clothes or swimming costumes are allowed in the hot springs - so it's time to shed those inhibitions! Our family run guesthouse in Hakone is located in a quiet part of town and has shared facilities and a lovely outdoor onsen.

Day 6


Travelling by Shinkansen (bullet train) is an absolute buzz as we reach speeds of up to 270 km per hour! Needless to say, after we descend from the mountains of Hakone by bus and get on the bullet train, we get to Takayama very quickly (approx. 2 hrs by bullet train and 2 hrs by express train). Takayama is famous for its traditional inns, sake breweries and the Hida Folk Village. We visit the outdoor museum of the Hida Folk Village which aims to preserve the traditional architecture of the area and has a collection of farmhouses we can explore. Our stunning ryokan in Takayama has an irori hearth, included meals and is located within walking distance of the old town. Please note that during the Takayama Festival (14-15 April, 9-10 October), accommodation in Takayama may be multi share. Depending on rooming configurations, couples may sometimes have to be split up for these nights.

Day 7


There is free time here to explore the many folk art galleries, local markets, museums or just wander the streets of this delightful little town nestled amongst the Japanese Alps as well as to pop in to one of the many sake breweries to taste their products. We visit the 600-year-old morning market as well, to try out some of the unusual local specialties that farm women put out on sale from 6:00am every morning.

Day 8


Hiroshima is a bustling metropolis with a tragic history (approx. 5 hrs from Takayama by train). We have free time here to visit the ruins of the A-Bomb Dome building, one of 11 structures left partially standing after the nuclear bomb blast on 6 August 1945, left as a horrifying reminder of the destruction of nuclear war. Around its perimeter is the peace park with monuments and a museum dedicated to Hiroshima and international peace.

Day 9


Alternatively, you can spend an afternoon at the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous 'floating' Torii Gate and the grand Itsukushima-jinja Shrine - be sure to watch out for inquisitive and eternally hungry deer that roam the streets of the island.

Day 10


Another day to explore at leisure or participate in an optional activity.

Day 11


We travel on to Kyoto via Himeji-jo Castle, a sight to behold. Built in 1580, this 5-storey castle is not only a fantastic example of amazing architecture, but a great insight into ancient life in Japan. From Hiroshima to Himeji-jo, the journey takes approx. 1 hr, and then it's a further 1 hr on to Kyoto. Once in Kyoto there is just so much to do - this ancient city boasts over 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens!

Day 12


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. Visit some of the best temples in the town suggested by our leader in the morning. Then enjoy a free afternoon for more exploration.
Recommended is 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. 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 towards 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 Kinakakuji 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, perhaps 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 tea houses tucked away in tiny back streets.

Duration1 Night
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 12.00pm. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

Other Information


Selected Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays


  • 12 nights' accommodation, consisting of;
      • 5 nights' Guesthouse
      • 1 night hotel
      • 6 nights' Ryokan
  • 2 breakfasts and 2 dinners
  • 14 day Japan Rail Pass
  • Sightseeing and activities as per the itinerary

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.

29 Sep 2018
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