Best of Japan
More than any other country, the Japanese have managed to integrate ancient traditions and bleeding-edge technology harmoniously into their daily lives. With the perfect mix of new and old, and our most popular itinerary, this well-rounded tour has something for everyone.
You lose a day flying to Japan due to crossing the International Dateline, and gain the day back when you fly home. You will be welcomed at Tokyo’s Narita airport by a representative who will help you with your rail pass exchange, obtain your train ticket into Tokyo and assist with boarding the correct train.
The day is free.
Kamakura, Hakone Yumoto Onsen
Before checking out, you will transfer your main luggage to Takayama, and will be traveling to Hakone and Takayama with overnight bags only. You will travel by local trains to the ancient city of Kamakura, the former capital of Japan in the 13th century. You can visit Hase-dera temple, originally established in the 8th century which houses a famous Kannon statue made from wood and gold leaf, and also has a commanding view of the nearby ocean. Next you can visit Kotokuin, the home of the famous Kamakura Great Buddha. This 40-foot tall bronze statue of Buddha, built in the 13th century is an icon of Japan. Later in the afternoon, you will travel by local trains to Hakone Yumoto onsen. Here you can rest and relax the in thermally-heated mineral waters of the bath at the ryokan.
After checking out, you will tour the Hakone area. Hakone is famous for its natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji (weather permitting). Be sure to stop at the Owakudani. Owakudani offers magnificent views of Mount Fuji in what is still an active volcanic region. Here at Owakudani, you will have free time to explore the thermally-heated pools and mud pots. You can try one of the `black eggs`, which are eggs hard-boiled in the thermally-heated mineral waters. It is said if you eat one of these eggs, it will add seven years to your life. (It is probably said by the people who sell the eggs.). Late in the afternoon, you will leave Tokyo by bullet train and express train to Takayama. Takayama, in the middle of the Japan Alps, with its traditional inns, shops, and sake breweries, has managed to retain its traditional charm. After checking in, you can enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants specializing in Hida Beef. Hida Beef is the same thing as the more famous Kobe Beef. You can retrieve your main luggage from your accommodation when you check in.
Start the morning at the farmer’s market strolling past the vegetable stands and stalls selling herbs, pickles, and souvenirs, sampling the numerous options as you go. Or visit the Takayama Jinya, the governing office of this area since the 17th century. In the afternoon, the choices for what to do are abundant. You can roam and explore Takayama, visit the many temples, shrines and museums, rummage through antique shops, or relax at one of sake breweries. Take the bus to the Hida-no-Sato Open Air Museum with its traditional, thatched-roof homes from the surrounding area. Or visit the Yatai Kaikan, a museum chronicling the famous festival held every April and October in Takayama.
Koya – san
You will board an express train and Shinkansen bound for Osaka, and continue on to Koya-san by train and funicular. Koya-san is the world headquarters of the Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism. Kobo Daishi, considered by many to be the most influential religious person in Japanese history, established a religious community here in the year 816. After checking into your shukubo (Buddhist temple lodging), you are free to roam and visit one of the 110 temples in the area, wander through the nearby ghostly cemetery at the famous Okuno-in temple, or just rest in the garden at the shukubo. Your dinner of shojin-ryori (traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine – no meat, fish, onions or garlic) will be served. Before leaving the hotel in Takayama, you will prepare your main suitcase to be sent ahead to Osaka. You will be traveling to Osaka with an overnight bag only.
Very early in the morning, you will attend o-inori (Buddhist prayer services). After the prayer service, a shojin-ryori breakfast is served. Following breakfast you can tour the Garan and Kongobu-ji Temples. Or wander through the huge cemetery leading up to the Okuno-in temple, where Kobo Daishi is buried. Many Japanese still believe that Kobo Daishi is not dead, but merely in a very advanced state of meditation, waiting to awaken at the appropriate time. In the afternoon, you will travel by funicular and train back to the city of Osaka. In the evening, you can enjoy the famous South Osaka entertainment districts of Dotombori, Shin-Sekai and Namba. You can retrieve your main luggage from the accommodation when you check in.
Before leaving in the morning, you will transfer your main luggage to Kyoto. You will be traveling to Kyoto with an overnight bag only. Before leaving Osaka in the afternoon, you can tour the Osaka Castle, the center of Japan in the late 16th century. In the afternoon, you will travel by Shinkansen to Hiroshima.
Today you can visit Miyajima Island using your included rail pass, considered by the Japanese to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan. You can ride the cable car to the top of the mountain on Miyajima Island. Visit the Itsukushima-jinja shrine, which was built in its present form in 1168, or just take in the beauty and ambiance of Miyajima Island while enjoying grilled oysters, the island’s specialty.
Hiroshima – Kyoto
Tour the Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park, both sobering testaments to the dropping of the A-bomb on August 6, 1945. In the afternoon, you will travel by Shinkansen (bullet train) to the city of Kyoto. For many, just the name of Kyoto conjures up the classic images of Japan: streets of traditional wooden houses, the click-clack of geta (wooden sandals) on the paving stones, geisha in a flourish of brightly colored silks, and a tea master deliberately warming water and making tea.
This day is free.
This day is free.
It’s time to say “sayonara” (goodbye) to Japan. You will take the express train to the Kansai International Airport, just outside Osaka, or return to Narita Airport by Shinkansen and Narita express train on your own for your flight back home. (If you are flying out of Narita Airport, be sure to schedule a flight after 15:00)