On arrival at Narita Airport or Haneda Airport, you will be met in the arrival hall by your driver who will assist you to your hotel in Tokyo.
One of the World's most cutting-edge capitals, Tokyo is a city of contrasts. Famous for its cutting edge modernity, neon-lit landscape and towering skyscrapers, it is also home to sprawling parkland, peaceful shrines and temples and lovingly tended gardens. Despite its love affair with manga pop culture, fashion, high-tech trends and conspicuous consumption, below the surface is a city that has its roots in an ancient heritage. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples stand close to skyscrapers as a reminder of a more contemplative time and at the heart of the hyperactive center lies the serene Imperial Palace, the home of the ruling emperor that provides a tangible link to the city's historical past. Behind the shopping, entertainment and commercial emporia can be found quaint wooden houses, private gardens with meticulously clipped bonsai trees and the Zen-like calm of the Hamarikyu Gardens. The city's reputation as a mega-expensive metropolis is ill conceived and visitors can take advantage of inexpensive izakaya bars and neighborhood cafes that serve delicious noodles and rice dishes.
The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Today you will have the option to take a free day at leisure or explore more optional tours with us.
For sushi lovers, you'll have the opportunity to prepare this delicacy with a visit to a typical Japanese home from our Private Sushi Making at Local Home. Traveling via the subway, your guide will answer all your questions about Japanese culture and everyday life in Tokyo. After meeting your hosts, learn to prepare maki sushi (rolled sushi), gunkan maki (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and nigiri sushi (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish). When finished, you'll then get to enjoy your homemade sushi for lunch*.
The afternoon is free for exploring on your own, and you'll return to the hotel via the subway or taxi.
The second option is Private Tokyo by Night Tour where your guide will take you to the popular night spot, Shinjuku. Shinjuku is full of endless number of bars, restaurants, and clubs! Tonight, your local guide will walk you through Shinjuku's entertainment district of Kakuki-cho. You'll stop for a drink in a local bar that normally only fit 4-5 people and have a chance to interact with the local Tokyoites that are relaxing after a hard day in the office. At the end of the night, you'll also finish the evening as how the Japanese do by singing in a karaoke booth for an hour!
After breakfast and checking out of your hotel*, you'll leave Tokyo behind to make the 90 minute journey to Hakone, the gateway to Mt Fuji and surrounding national park. Your local guide for the day will accompany you on the Romance Car Express train from Tokyo's Shinjuku station. To explore the National Park, they'll be numerous forms of transport to offer. We will ride the world's second longest cable car up Mt Owakudani, passing over sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers in this volcanic area. You can even eat an egg, hard boiled in the sulfuric hot springs which make Hakone famous, and if you do, legend has it that seven years will be added to your life!
A majestic replica pirate ship will then sweep you across the Lake Ashinoko, a lake formed by a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago. Don't miss a ride on the spectacular Hakone Tozan. These small trains wind through a narrow, densely wooded valley over many bridges and tunnels, changing directions at three switchbacks, and giving amazing views of the surrounding valleys. Throughout the day if the weather cooperates, you will have the chance to get a glimpse of Mt Fuji in all her splendor. You'll end a full, yet rewarding day at your Hakone accommodation**, and enjoy Kaiseiki dinner at your ryokan.
*We recommend using luggage forwarding service to send your checked-in size luggage after check out at hotel to the destination after Hakone since local trains and buses have limited luggage storage space.
**Inclusion based on a ryokan accommodation with breakfast and dinner included and subject to change based on selected accommodation.
Please meet your driver that will accompany you to the train station.
From Hakone, take the world famous Shinkansen bullet train, which reaches speeds of up to 300km/h. You will then change onto the Limited Express Hida Wideview for the one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan, winding your way through tall mountains and stunning gorges to Takayama. Your driver will meet you where your train exits and take you to your accommodation.
With its plethora of temples, shrines, festivals, rivers and bridges the mountain town of Takayama has been called a "little Kyoto". The region is an agricultural one, and every day the freshest of vegetables and fruit are brought by local farmers to Takayama's lively morning market. Many unique traditions have evolved here, and due to the town's previously inaccessible location high in the Hida alpine region, a remarkable number of them have been preserved. The district called San-machi Suji, the traditional home of Takayama merchants and sake brewers, has been preserved in almost exactly the same state as 200 or 300 years ago. Here, are inns, shops and taverns which trace their history back many generations.
This afternoon is at leisure.
Today you will take a Private Takayama Highlights Tour with a local guide. Start with a visit to the Takayama Festival Float Museum, where the magnificent floats from the famous Takayama Festival are preserved. Your guide will explain about the traditions and symbolism related to this festival, one of the most important in Japan. Next, head to Higashiyama Temple Area, a peaceful group of temples on a slightly elevated hill area in the eastern part of town. Not only are all of these historical temples, they are also an array of cultural assets as designated by the prefecture and the city. The walk around the temples is a pleasant stroll that will give you the chance to enjoy both the historical sites and the beautiful nature and clean air that surrounds them.
After breakfast, please meet your driver for a transfer to the Bus Station.
Travel by bus from Takayama to Shirakawago.
Shirakawago is located in the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that span from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer", as the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations and is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.
Note: You will travel from Takayama to Shirakawago via bus. Please take note that this is a self-guided tour. Your luggage will be stored at the bus station, or will be waiting for you at Kanazawa if you opted to have your luggage delivered. You will have time to explore the beautiful town of Shirakawago by yourself before continuing by coach to Kanazawa in the afternoon.
Your driver will be waiting for you at the Bus Station in Kanazawa and take you to check in at the hotel.
A full day to explore Kanazawa Highlights Tour, by public transport with a local guide.
During the Edo Period, Kanazawa served as the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa in terms of rice production and fief size. Accordingly, Kanazawa grew to become a town of great cultural achievements, rivaling Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). The highlight of any visit to Kanazawa is Kenroku-en garden. Ranked one of the top three in Japan, its breathtaking beauty shines through in any season. You will also visiting imposing Kanazawa castle, located next to the garden. Nearby Kagayuzen Kaikan is also of interest, offering demonstrations of the centuries-old Yuzen silk painting technique. During World War Two, Kanazawa was Japan's second largest city (after Kyoto) to escape destruction by air raids. Consequently, parts of the old castle town, such as the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment districts, have survived. Today, the city boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. But Kanazawa's unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens" and by many considered the most beautiful of them all.
After lunch, Visit the Nagamachi Samurai district, where you can enter the the Nomura Samurai House, a traditional Japanese home with tea-ceremony room, an interior courtyard garden and artifacts from the Edo period. The Higashi Chaya District is the largest and by far the most interesting of Kanazawa's Geisha Districts. Many of the buildings along the central street now house cafes and shops. One of the shops, Hakuza, sells gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, and displays a tea ceremony room which is completely covered in gold leaf; you will also have a chance to visit the Kaikaro Chaya, which is still an operating tea house, but opens its doors to the public. You can enjoy a cup of green tea here to finish the day.
Your driver will be waiting for you at the lobby for a transfer to the train station.
Travel by train to Hiroshima before meeting at a driver in Hiroshima for a transfer to your hotel.
Hiroshima is notorious for its destruction when the first atomic bomb was dropped over the city during the Second World War in August 1945. The destructive power of the bomb obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometre radius. From this absolute annihilation, Hiroshima has emerged phoenix-like, and become a beacon of hope and peace for the rest of mankind. Destroyed monuments of the city's historical heritage, such as the Shukkeien Garden and the Hiroshima Castle, have been rebuilt. The city centre boasts a large recreational area named Peace Memorial Park that reflects the aspirations of this re-born city. It is ironic that the city's past tragedy has become its biggest tourism attraction and visitors from around the world now come to see the Peace Memorial Park and its haunting museum. It is now the principal city of the Chugoku region and is home to over a million inhabitants who live in a municipality that boasts wide tree-lined boulevards and rivers. Besides excellent museums, Hiroshima is also the most popular gateway for trips to nearby Miyajima, an island considered to be one of Japan's most scenic spots. Your afternoon is at leisure.
Today you will take a Hiroshima Highlights Tour with a local guide, starting with a visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The area where the park now lies was ground zero for the Atomic Bomb on 6th August 1945. After the bombing the Memorial Park was created and dedicated to those who lost their lives in the attack. Stroll through the park and discover the many memorials, monuments and statues in the park before heading into the Museum itself.
Later make a trip to Shukkeien Garden that showcases the beautiful Japanese gardens but in a miniature size!
Meet your driver for a transfer to the train station before back on the Shinkansen as you travel to Kyoto.
The driver in Kyoto will be waiting for you at the train platform.
This is a must see destination in Japan. Kyoto is the nation's former capital and was the residence of the emperor from 794 until 1868. It is Japan's seventh largest metropolis with a population of around 1.4 million and a city of culture that offers a plethora of temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures that still survive today. With 2,000 religious buildings, including 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and associated architecture, it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan and has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Kyoto represents the "Japan of old" and beyond the high rise skyscrapers built as a monument to progress, the real monument to Japan's historical and cultural past can be found in the city's narrow alleyways where tea houses abound and kimono-clad geisha hurry from elegant function to function. This is a place to go back in time to Japan's mysterious past where echoes of the court nobility resonate at the Imperial Palace and the search for contemplation can be found in Ryoanji's Zen rock gardens.
Spend an afternoon at leisure, or enjoy this optional tour:
Private Cooking in Machiya Experience*
Japanese cuisine has such high reputation that it was declared UNESCO Intangible World Heritage. In this tour you will try your hand at making some of the dishes that made this cuisine so popular in the world and in particular learn about Kyoto's typical kappo cuisine. In Japanese, "kappo" means to cut ingredients with a knife and cook them over a fire. At a kappo style restaurant, fine seasonal cuisine is served over a counter where you sit face to face with a chef. In this class you will be the chef! (Transfers to and from the cooking school are not included)
Within the Kyoto Highlights Tour, you'll get to explore the former imperial capital with a knowledgeable local guide, utilizing Kyoto's comprehensive bus system to visit some of Kyoto's World Heritage Sites. You will start your day with a visit to Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun. After his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto's most famous temples. Nijo Castle is an ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning surrounding gardens. The main building was completed in 1603, and is famous for its architecture, decorated sliding doors and chirping' nightingale floors.
Take a walk down Nishiki Market, a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. Final stop today is Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple. From the 13m high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto, whilst pondering the fact that both the Main Hall and Veranda were built without the use of nails or any kind of joiners.
After breakfast, your day is free to explore Kyoto or you can pick one of the optional tours with us:
First option is a private full day tour to Nara and Fushimi Tour where the guide will take you on a 45-minute train ride to Nara. The tour includes a visit to Todaiji temple, the world's largest wooden building and home to Japan's largest Buddha. Next stop is Kasuga Taisha where you can find magnificent hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns before a stroll along the Nara Deer Park. Continue your journey in Nara to sake brewery and sample different types of their sake before heading to Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Second option is a Private Afternoon Tea with Geisha via taxi. Explore the back streets of Kyoto's geisha districts with our expert who has spent half of his life living in Kyoto. Our guide has married an ex-geisha and very knowledgeable through his study at Kansai University. On this private tour, you'll get to discuss the history before a stop at a private, members only ochaya (geisha teahouse) where you'll have a matcha green tea and Japanese sweets in the company of a maiko or geiko. There will be traditional song, dance and games along with great photo opportunities.