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Explore Tokyo's neon-lit streets, discover Kyoto's tranquil temples and visit the site of the world's first atomic attack in Hiroshima. Travel away from the tourist trail to uncover the country's rural charm with a stay in a traditional ryokan on the beautiful island of Hirado.
- Return Flights
- Breakfast: 11
- Lunch: 2
- Dinner: 3
- Explore Tour Leader
- Bus, Boat, Train Transport
- 8 nights standard hotel
- 3 nights simple ryokan
TRIP PACE: Moderate
GROUP SIZE: 10 - 16
- Tokyo - Explore the city's lively neon-lit streets and visit Hakone National Park for a spectacular view of Mount Fuji
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Reflect at the sites of the world's first atomic bomb attacks
- Tea with a geisha - Enjoy Japanese tea with a geisha and learn about her art and her life
DAY 1 - Join tour in Tokyo
Your tour starts in Tokyo, the modern-day capital of Japan. After checking in to your conveniently-located hotel which will be your base for the next two nights, you will enjoy an included dinner with the rest of the group and your Tour Leader.
DAY 2 - Walking tour through Tokyo's shrines and gardens
Over one-quarter of the Japanese population live within a 50 km radius of the centre of Tokyo, making it the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The result is a bustling and exciting city - the economic powerhouse of Asia. However, scratching its neon-clad surface reveals a city bursting with history and tradition.
A morning stroll to Tokyo's oldest temple, Senso-ji, in Asakusa, will introduce us to Tokyo's unique culture. you then board a boat for a short journey along the Sumida River. Gaining a totally different perspective of the city, you drift past high rise apartments, secluded gardens and busy warehouses. After arriving in the heart of the city near Hamarikyu Gardens, you may later wish to visit the Meiji shrine and Shinjuku area, where the latest electronic gadgets dazzle from glowing shop-fronts.
DAY 3 - Boat ride on Lake Ashi; transfer to Hakone
Today, you spend the day exploring the Hakone National Park - home to the towering Mount Fuji. Although distances are short, you use a variety of forms of transport including bus, funicular rail and cable car as you make your way initially to the hot, bubbling sulphur springs at Owakudani. From here, on a clear day, there are magnificent views of the snow-capped mountain that is so synonymous with Japan. Whilst at the springs, you may wish to join the locals in eating an egg boiled in the sulphur pools - just one is reputed to increase life expectancy by seven years!
Your next stop is Lake Ashi, a magnificent lake created from the eruption of the Hakone Volcano over 3000 years ago. A short boat ride takes us to Moto Hakone where you may choose to relax in one of the lakeside restaurants.
In Hakone, you are accommodated in a traditional inn, known as a ryokan, where you sleep on comfortable, folding futon mattresses. During your stay, you learn about local etiquette, such as when to take off your shoes and the pleasures of taking a Japanese bath, all of which helps enhance your stay in this traditional establishment.
DAY 4 - Bullet train to Kyoto; explore the Geisha district
Leaving the mountains behind us, you take the world-famous 'Bullet Train', or Shinkansen, to Kyoto - the cradle of all things uniquely Japanese. This imperial capital was at the heart of events that shaped Japan's destiny for more than 1000 years. As the only major Japanese city to remain unscathed by World War II bombings, signs of the past are in its grand temples and palaces, and also in the many quaint shops selling traditional wares. This afternoon, you head to the famous geisha district of Gion. Here, you hope to catch a glimpse of these enigmatic entertainers as they scuttle to work in the teahouses or high-class restaurants, and you'll meet with one for tea.
DAY 5 - Explore Kyoto's temples and zen gardens
Kyoto is regarded as Japan's loveliest city, with more than 2000 temples and shrines, many set in manicured landscaped gardens.You start with the Ryoan-ji Temple with its beautiful Zen gardens and famous rock garden. The exact history of the gardens is uncertain but the temple was converted from an aristocrat's villa in 1450. Whilst in the gardens try testing out the theory that at least one of the rocks is hidden from every vantage point. You then explore the famous Golden Pavilion. The temple is a three storey building with the top two tiers covered in gold leaf. Set in a lake the building appears to float on the water and the reflections, coupled with the background of forest make it worthy of its place on many Japanese postcards. There is also time to stroll along Kyoto's charming streets and tree-lined canals, simply soaking up its unique atmosphere and your local guide will take you to some of their own favourite sites while exploring Japan's former capital.
DAY 6 - Continue to explore traditional Kyoto
Today you continue your exploration of Kyoto. You will start with a visit to Nijo Castle. Built in 1603 as a Shogun palace, it is a great example of the sumptuous setting in which the Shogun would have held audiences with his samurai warriors. The grounds and gates are impressive but the real highlights are the nightingale floors and the extensive gardens. It is also possible to take an optional trip to nearby Nara, a journey of 45 minutes each way by train. Nara is one of Japan's greenest cities and is home to the Todai-ji Temple, until very recently the world's largest wooden building, it is also home to a giant bronze Buddha statue. All of Nara's highlights can be explored by foot so it makes for an easy day's exploration.
DAY 7 - Reflect at Hiroshima Peace Park; train to Nagasaki
An early morning train takes us to Hiroshima, where you will spend the morning exploring this thought-provoking city in your own time. Completely destroyed on 6th August 1945, when it was the target of the first atomic bomb to be used in wartime, Hiroshima has literally risen from the ashes, and is now a thriving, friendly city.
You may choose to visit The Peace Memorial Park and the well-presented museum on the site of the 1945 A-bomb hypocentre. Whilst serving as poignant reminders of the nuclear holocaust, their over-whelming message is of hope that such horrors will never reoccur. Travel around the city is easy, thanks to the provision of colourful street trams, brought in from all over Japan after the war.
This afternoon, you regroup to take the train to Nagasaki, where you will spend the next two nights. This is a city with an eventful history and was, of course, the target of the second atomic bomb attack on Japan. In a cruel twist of fate, the city bore the unimaginable brunt of a last-minute change of plan, when the preferred target of Kokura was obscured by cloud.
DAY 8 - Take a walk though Dejima, Nagasaki's Dutch quarter
This morning you are given a tour of Nagasaki, which, for long periods in its history, has served as Japan's main contact with the outside world. In the 16th century, the city became established as the main trade point with the Portuguese. As well as providing wealth from trade, the Portuguese introduced Christianity. After almost a century of turmoil, the religion was banned, foreign traders were expelled, and Japan closed its doors to the West.
The one exception was the artificial island in Nagasaki harbour, Dejima. This small, closely guarded enclave was the site of the Dutch Trading Mission, which remained Japan's only contact with the outside world for almost 200 years. During your visit here, you can see that some of the original features remain, as well as some excellent reconstructions of the 18th century buildings. Continuing your tour in the Glover Gardens, you will see fine foreign residences of the Meiji period and enjoy impressive views over Nagasaki Harbour, perhaps the most scenic harbour view in Japan.
The afternoon has been left free to explore this historic city in your own time.
DAY 9 - Drive through scenic tea plantations and ferry ride to Hirado Island
This morning you travel light, sending your main luggage on to your final destination of Fukuoka and packing your rucksacks for your stay on the island of Hirado. Your route takes us along a scenic road through tea plantations. You'll stop at a picturesque terraced area and walk through the fields to the tea farmer's house. There'll be an opportunity to sample some of the brew including green 'Sencha' and roasted 'Hojicha' teas before enjoying a traditional style lunch with the local tea farmers. After lunch you continue your journey to the seaside city of Sasebo. Here you board your ferry to the charming harbour quayside in Hirado. Yur accommodation for the next two nights is a classic ryokan, furnished in the traditional Japanese style with futon mattresses on the tatami mat floors.
DAY 10 - Full day to explore Hirado and Ikitsuki Islands
Today, you will explore the pristine and unspoiled islands of Hirado and Ikitsuki, connected by an impressive 400 metre-long bridge which happens to be the longest truss bridge in the world. Accompanied by a local expert on a day-long minibus tour, you will discover rural Japan and take in the remote countryside of the 'Hidden Christians\ . Along the islands\ shores, fishing remains one of the main occupations, but you also have the opportunity to learn about traditional industries along the way. Plan to visit a museum dedicated to the whaling industry, which played a vital role in the history of this region. On your journey, you will gain views of the islands\ spectacular coastlines and towering cliffs.
DAY 11 - Sail among the '99 Islands' then travel to Fukuoka
- This morning will be spent soaking up the charms of Hirado, a city which has prospered as a castle town for almost 500 years. Its excellent port enabled it to become the central stage for trade with China, Holland and Portugal from the 17th century. Your walking tour will offer fascinating insights into the way things were here in the early 1600s. You will discover the wonderful Matsura museum, housed in the former residence of the Matsura family who ruled the area from the 13th Century. You will also take in the church commemorating Saint Francis Xavier who preached here in the 1500s; the sites of the old trading houses and the foreigners' cemetery. Later you will enjoy spectacular views on a relaxing cruise through the fabled 'Ninety Nine Islands'. In actual fact, 170 islands, mostly uninhabited, lie alongside the indented saw-toothed coastline.
This afternoon, you travel to your accommodation near the airport in Fukuoka, for your final afternoon.
DAY 12 - Tour ends in Fukuoka
Your tour ends after breakfast this morning, although some flights may depart before this.
Please note, prices listed are guide prices only and are based on 2 people sharing and don't include any additional supplements. Holiday prices are fluid and dynamic and may be changed at a moment's notice, prior to booking, at which point they are confirmed. Please call the team free on 0800 707 6229 for more departure dates available and a quote.
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