* See Tokyo from a different perspective as you cruise down the Sumida River
* Meet a trainee geisha in Kyoto's Gion district
* Visit Kamikochi, one of Japan's most beautiful regions
* If all this sounds great and makes you want to see even more, why not extend your stay in Japan!
* Explore Kyoto the 'city of a thousand temples'
* Sip green tea in the peace of Tokyo's Hamarikyu Gardens
* Get an introduction to feudal history at the magnificent Osaka Castle
Imagine basking in a hot spring bath at the foot of Mount Fuji, drinking sake with an apprentice geisha in Kyoto or seeing Tokyo from the water as you cruise down the Sumida River. This tour collects the best of Japan's classic cultural and natural locations.
Discover some of the locations that have given Japan its reputation as a land of mysterious spirituality and exquisite aesthetics, as you ride cross-country on the world-famous bullet train and stay in some lovely traditional accommodations.
Your journey will be gastronomic too - sample local specialities from melt-in-the-mouth Hida beef in the alpine regions to super-fresh sushi in Tokyo, quick bites from street vendors in Osaka and multi-course kaiseki feasts in Kyoto.
In each destination you'll enjoy an expertly planned range of experiences, from learning about the history of the magnificent Osaka Castle to the wandering through the thatched farmhouses of Takayama's Hida no Sato Folk Village.
Take a tour of Kyoto, with fabulous views from Kiyomizu Shrine and an exclusive audience with a trainee geisha, and drink tea at the beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens, hidden in the heart of Tokyo's skyscraper district.
Along the way you'll visit two stunning national parks: Chubu Sangaku and Fuji-Hakone-Izu. The former is home to Japan's most magnificent mountain scenery and a thriving population of Japanese macaque monkeys, whilst the latter offers a pirate ship ride across Lake Ashi and the chance to boil eggs in volcanic hot springs.
If you choose to travel in July or August, you will also have the option to scale one of the most famous peaks in the world: Mount Fuji.
Accompanying you throughout will be your tour leader, who will introduce history and culture, guide you on excursions, demystify the local etiquette and generally make sure you get the best from your Classic Japan tour.
If this sounds good and makes you want to see even more,
Important Practical Information
Max Group Size: 14
Mt. Fuji Climb: Our July and August departures offer an optional Mt. Fuji climb. You will need to be fit and determined but it is a fantastic experience. The tour leader will lead the climb; those of you not climbing will have a guide at their service for their full day in Hakone. Please ask us for more details.
Single Supplement: This tour has a single supplement. This guarantees a single room throughout the tour except for the 2 nights in Kamikochi where single travellers might be asked to share with another group member of the same sex.
Transport: Please note that most transfers are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network.
Luggage: We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A small case or bag with wheels or a rucksack are most appropriate for this tour as you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators or elevators/lifts. You will also need a small overnight back-pack (for up to two nights) for use when we forward our main bags to the next location.
Accommodation: All accommodation has full en-suite facilities except for in Kamikochi (2 nights).International Flights: This tour starts and finishes in Tokyo for arrivals and departures at Tokyo Narita Airport or Tokyo Haneda Airport.
Check-in: Please note that rooms at the Tokyo hotel are only available from 3pm. (You can, however, securely leave your luggage at the front desk at any time).Fitness: Even when not using public transport, sightseeing in Japan often involves walking between sights, climbing up steps in temples and being 'on the go' for much of the day. To enjoy any of our Small Group Tours you should be of moderate fitness, able to walk and climb stairs without difficulty and able to maintain a pace that is comfortable for the majority of the group.
➕ Day 1-2
Explore Japan's capital city, from the serenity of Hamarikyu Gardens to the high energy of the Shibuya district.
Today you will touch down in Tokyo, Japan's capital and the tenth most populous city in the world. On arrival you will be met at the airport by your driver and travel by shared shuttle bus to your hotel in the Asakusa district of the city, where your tour leader will be waiting to meet you in the lobby. This evening you will convene with your group for a welcome meeting before heading out to a local restaurant for an introductory meal ' the perfect way to begin getting to know your group. Tokyo is an international byword for hyper-modernity, so you may be surprised to find that there are still little pockets of history left for those who look. Asakusa is one of these pockets, where bustling low-rise market stalls line the approach to Senso-ji ' Tokyo's oldest temple. After exploring this area, on day two your tour leader will take you on a guided tour of some of the city's other famous sites ' from the madness of Shibuya's scramble crossing to the towering neon arcades of Akihabara and plenty in between. The highlight of today is likely to be a ride on the Sumida River, concluding with a cup of green tea in the beautiful oasis of Hamarikyu Gardens.
Overnight: Asakusa Via Inn
➕ Day 3-4
Admire Mount Fuji and explore the open-air museum in Hakone, one of Japan's most popular national parks.
Just a short ride on the bullet train will bring you to Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and one of Japan's most popular hot spring towns. Here you'll be staying in a large Japanese-style hotel very close to the Hakone Open-Air Museum, which you'll be visiting with your group today. With works by Picasso, Miro, Rodin and Henry Moore set amid stunning mountain scenery, this is sure to be a real highlight for any art fans. Besides art, Hakone has a wealth of attractions to offer. Quaint traditional buildings, a pirate ship cruise across Lake Ashi ' not to mention spectacular views of Mount Fuji when the weather is clear! You'll have the chance to do all this and more on day four as your tour leader shows you some of the area's finest spots. Dinner will be included on both nights of your stay in Hakone ' a lovely kaiseki-style spread featuring a multitude of dishes made from local and seasonal ingredients. Don't forget to try out the hot spring baths, too ' this is an integral and very enjoyable part of Japanese culture, and Hakone boasts some great bathhouses.
Overnight: Resorpia Hakone
➕ Day 5-6
Sample superb street food in Osaka and make a day trip to one of the many fantastic destinations just a train ride away from the city.
Today you will make your way by local train and Shinkansen bullet train to Osaka, an exciting, modern city known for its superb street food (takoyaki octopus balls and okonomiyaki savoury pancake are firm favourites ' trust us!) and the down-to-earth attitude of its inhabitants. This afternoon you will begin your exploration of the city by visiting Osaka Castle, a huge reconstruction of the original building, housing a great museum about the castle's origins. Later on you will be free to do your own thing, or to head out with your tour leader to explore the vibrant Dotonbori district (famous for the giant, neon "Glico running man" and huge animatronic crab) and sample a bit of the local street food. On day six you will have a free day to do whatever you choose. Hiroshima, Himeji Castle and the ancient imperial capital of Nara all make excellent day trips from Osaka ' your tour leader will be heading to one of these great destinations, but will also be able to advise you should you decide to branch off somewhere else.
Overnight: Cross Hotel Osaka
➕ Day 7-8
Explore Kyoto, "City of Ten Thousand Temples" and capital of Japan for over a millennium.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over one thousand years between 794 and 1869, an illustrious history that has left it with an incredible collection of historical landmarks. It's not for nothing that Kyoto is known as the "City of Ten Thousand Temples", and whilst here you'll have the chance to visit the hilltop temple of Kiyomizu, the ten thousand red gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine, the 1001 life-sized statues in the Sanjusangendo and perhaps Ryoan-ji Zen Temple with its famous dry rock garden. In the evening of day seven you'll head to Gion, Kyoto's traditional wood-panelled geisha district, for a private afternoon tea with a Maiko. Later on you will join your tour leader and group for an included meal at one of the city's many fantastic restaurants. On day eight we will have a private coach available for today's sightseeing. You will be joined by an expert local guide in addition to your tour leader and will visit some of the temples and shrines mentioned above ' as well as other highlights such as the bamboo groves of Arashiyama, Yasaka Shrine or the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji.
Overnight: Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto
➕ Day 9-10
Admire thatched-roof farmhouses, eat succulent Hida beef, wander traditional streets and pop into sake breweries in the alpine craft town of Takayama.
On day nine you will make the journey from Kyoto high into the Japanese Alps to the mountain town of Takayama, historically renowned for producing exceptional craftsmen. You will have the afternoon to begin exploring the area, perhaps making time to visit the craft shops and sake breweries of the old town district. Dinner this evening will be included at your Japanese-style inn. Day ten offers a full day in Takayama, and there is plenty to see and do to keep you busy. Begin the day by visiting the riverside morning market, then we will head to the Hida no Sato folk village, an open-air museum showcasing the region's traditional thatched farmhouses. Those looking for an unusual alternative to the traditional sights can also choose to visit the world headquarters of the Sukyo Mahikari cult, a vast shrine that dominates the Takayama skyline and features a giant fish tank at its altar! Dinner is not included this evening, so we recommend heading out for a taste of Hida beef ' just as tasty as its famous Kobe cousin!
Overnight: Tanabe Ryokan
➕ Day 11-12
Hike along the Azusa River and marvel at the spectacular views in Kamikochi, one of Japan's most beautiful national parks.
Next you will continue your adventure through the Japanese Alps as you board a private coach to Kamikochi, in our opinion one of the most beautiful locations in the whole of Japan. The Kamikochi plateau is about 1,500 m (4,920 ft) above sea level, so the weather here will be notably cooler than in other destinations in Japan ' even in summer. On the afternoon of your arrival you'll drop your luggage at the ryokan and have the option of taking a hike along the Azusa River ' which boasts clear water and stunning views. Later you will return to your inn to relax, take a soak in the onsen and enjoy a delicious Japanese-style dinner with your group. On day twelve you will have the option of another walk, this time heading in the opposite direction along the river or perhaps up the Dakesawa route for beautiful views over the valley. Later on you will have more time to relax and enjoy one or two of the area's superb onsen baths before another included dinner at your ryokan.
➕ Day 13-14
Visit Matsumoto's "Black Crow" castle and toast the end of a great trip with a final night meal in Tokyo's vibrant Shinjuku district.
Today you will return to Tokyo by bus and train, stopping on the way to visit the impressive "Black Crow" samurai castle of Matsumoto ' one of the best original castles in Japan. You will arrive in Tokyo's buzzing Shinjuku skyscraper district in the afternoon, allowing a little time for some last-minute souvenir shopping or to fit in one last sightseeing stop. As your tour comes to an end we hope that you might join your tour leader and travel companions for a farewell meal in the evening: a chance for one last night of good food and drink before heading home. On the morning of day 14 it's time to say goodbye to your travelling companions and board your flight home. We hope that Classic Japan will have inspired you to come back and visit Japan in the future!
Overnight: Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku