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Day 1: Tokyo, Japan - Explore ancient and modern Japanese culture firsthand. Discover peaceful temples and technological marvels set against unimaginable natural beauty. Welcome to Japan, the “Land of the Rising Sun." Begin in the electrifying city of Tokyo, where pop culture is turned all the way up and traditions are rich and long-kept. Tonight, experience a traditional Japanese-style meal alongside your fellow travellers at a festive welcome dinner.
Day 2: Tokyo - Feel the excitement start to build when you see the magnificent view of the city from above at Tokyo Tower, the iconic symbol of Tokyo. Then, enjoy a morning stroll through the outside grounds of the Imperial Palace, the Kokyo Gaien National Gardens, and see the Niju Bridge and Sakurada Gate, the well-known symbols of the Imperial Palace. Walk through Tsukiji, the world’s largest, busiest fish market and a preamble to a true taste of Japan – a sushi lunch at the market. Later, amid a lush forest outside of Tokyo, visit the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
Day 3: Tokyo - Begin the day exploring Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest Geisha district. Visit the famous Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, the colourful temple famous for the red chochin (lantern) hanging at the entrance gate. Experience the long standing tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony, dating back to the 15th century. During your free time, explore the Nakamise Shopping Arcade and feel the energy of the oldest shopping street in Japan. Luckily, you don’t need a time machine to get to Tokyo’s old town, Yanaka Ginza, where quaint shops and vendors selling local cuisine transport you to a different time altogether. Tonight, dine as the locals do at an Izakaya, a preferred establishment among the Japanese “salary man” (business man), featuring Japanese tapas-style food.
Day 5: Hakone - Matsumoto – Takayama - This breathtaking day begins in Matsumoto at Matsumoto Castle, known as the “Crow Castle” because of its striking black exterior. Enjoy the local cuisine as we stop for lunch at a Soba noodle shop. Later, you’ll step back in time in the rural Edo-period town of Takayama, nestled in the Japanese Alps. Well known to the locals for its connection to sake, this is the perfect place to gather for a visit to one of Japan’s 200-year-old sake breweries. Afterward, experience a true Japanese epicurean treat – traditional rice wine paired with a special Hida beef dinner.
Day 6: Takayama - The ancient cultures of Takayama come alive this morning in the town’s historic district. Take a walk through the past and glimpse the 19th-century Jinya government building. Stroll through the morning market along the Miyagawa River, a 600-year-old open air market with locally grown and produced products. Circuit the winding streets, where the town’s traditional charms are preserved in the inns and houses. This afternoon, relish some free time to continue your exploration of Takayama on your own.
Day 7: Takayama - Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa - Today, embrace the unique charms of Shirakawa-go (UNESCO). Hidden away in the mountain, this harmonious village is famous for its gassho-zukuri-style houses – thatchedrooftops designed to resemble two hands joined in prayer. Journey to Kanazawa, the origin of gold-leaf making since the 16th century. Visit the Samurai district where we’ll enter the former home of the Nomuras, a wealthy samurai family who served the ruling Maeda family. Then, travel to the Geisha quarters of Kanazawa, the Higashi Tea district. Gather in town this evening for dinner.
Day 8: Kanazawa - More than 25 acres of absolute beauty awaits you today at Kenroku-En – Garden of Six Qualities. From the beauty of Japan’s most stunning gardens, dive in to the ancient craft of gold leaf making during a hands-on lesson in decorating your own lacquer box at Kanazawa Katani! In the centre of town, take in the action of the Omicho fish market before venturing out on your own to really immerse yourself in Kanazawa’s dynamic culture.
Day 9: Kanazawa – Kyoto - Kyoto awaits! The former Imperial capital of Japan is now one of the nation’s top cosmopolitan cities. At the same time, Kyoto’s connection with its past is strong; you won’t need to look far to see one of its 2,000 temples and shrines. Visit Kinkakuji (UNESCO), the Golden Pavilion, a zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Then, stroll through the Gion district where you may spot women in traditional dress along the narrow lanes of teahouses. Tonight, dine in the heart of the city at a traditional yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurant.
Day 10: Kyoto - Bullet Train - Hiroshima – Kyoto - All aboard the Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima. Upon arrival, board a ferry for the short trip to Miyajima Island, or “Shrine Island” (UNESCO), where the iconic torii gate and the Itsukushima Shrine appear to float on water. After lunch, head into Hiroshima city to visit the Peace Memorial Park, and pause to see the ruined Atomic Dome (UNESCO). Reflect at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As this moving day comes to a close, return to Kyoto by the Shinkansen bullet train.
Day 11: Kyoto - Explore Fushimi Inari Taisha for a tour of the most revered shrine of Inari. Follow the spectacular rows of orange torii (made famous in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha) that weave through the forest, leading you to the inner shrine. Move on to the home of the first Shogun, Nijo Castle (UNESCO), and see intricate woodcarvings, wall paintings, and the Ninomaru Garden, designed by Kobori Enshu, a landscape architect and tea master. Next, visit Marumasu Nishumuraya for a lesson in the art of stencilling at a traditional Kyoto townhouse.
Day 12: Kyoto - Today, spend some time relaxing or set out to explore Kyoto on your own. Fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture tonight during a special kaiseki farewell dinner and Geisha show.
Day 13: Kyoto - Tour Ends
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