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Seemingly hyper morden yet tucked away in traditions, Japan lures every curious heart. Climb up the most sublime castle in Himeji, ride on the sleek Shinkansen, marvel at Toyota wonder in Nagoya, walk in the garden of Kanazawa and spend a night at a traditional Japanese Ryokan before you travel to Mt.Fuji and get lost in the streets of Tokyo. This tour is especially good for culture and history buffs with strong support by local tour guides and efficient public transportation.
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Welcome to Japan! As you land in Osaka, you will get a private transfer (without tour guide) to your hotel in downtown Osaka.
Japan is proud to run one of the world's fastest and most efficient public transportation. In your visit to Japan, you will get a taste. For airport transfer, you will have a private driver and car while for sightseeing and city connection, we will choose public transportation for you, eg. trains, tramcars and buses. If you prefer private transportation for all times, please let us know in your inquiry.Accommodation:
1 night at Cross Hotel Osaka (Handpicked Comfort) / Imperial Hotel Osaka (Luxury)
Most every ancient city in Japan own its castle, which was the supreme symbol of regime and military stronghold. Himeji Castle is without a doubt the most elegant and visited one in Japan.
After a smooth train ride of 64 minutes, you will start climbing up this five-storied (twon underground) castle with each level offering interesting details that were designed for defense.
Take a relaxing walk in the attached garden Kokoen Garden and have some local specialty for lunch. Take a ropeway car ride up Mt.Shosha and get a beautiful view of the temple located on the mountain in dense woods.
Travel to Hiroshima by train.
Highlight of Today: the Legends and Myths
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Himeji Castle has a lot of stories to tell. The complicated and saddening life of Princess Sen, mysterious ghost known as Okiku, how it survived earthquakes and postwar boomings. It is the perfect set for the movie Last Samurai and You Only Live Twice.
As you enter the castle, you will remove your shoes and walk the stairways up. Your tour guide will show the details around the castle inside and out, which were delicately designed and crafted for military use. You will see the chamber for weapon storage, hidden closet for samurai guards and the suicide quarter where the lords commite suicide when they were about to lose the battle.
Soba noodles, specialty food of Himeji, would also make a highlight for your trip to this lovely city. Enjoy your soba lunch at a time-honored restaurant while your tour guide introduces the stories.
What makes it special for me?
- The MUST-VISIT castle: There are so many castles in Japan that you are bound to get castle fatigue. However, if you'd like to visit at least one, make it Himeji as it is the most "original" one without too much renovation (unlike the Osaka Castle in Osaka).
- Better with a guide: A guided visit to the sublime castle offers unparalleled experience as interesting anecdotes will be brought to live. Your curiosity will be satisfied by your guide's knowledge, which is noway to be done by audio guiding device.
- Adventure for family with kids: It is a good place where your kids can climb up and down and discover secret places while learning something. (* Important note: staris are not suitable for children under 4 and people with mobility restrictions.)
1 night at RIHGA Royal Hotel Hiroshima
Himeji Castle at purple dusk
Start today with a boat trip to Miyajima Island, which is famous its giant torii gate that seems to be floating on the lake surface at high tide. Visit the island's key shrine Itsukushima Shrine, with its main buildings built over water.
After a simple lunch, you will pay your respect at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima Peace Museum and Atomic Bomb Dome.
Travel to Kyoto by Shinkanshen.
3 nights at Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa (Handpicked Comfort) / Kyoto Brighton Hotel (Luxury)
Giant torii gate in Mijiyama Island of Hiroshima
Famous for its thousands of orange torii gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine is your first stop in the morning. The best time for great photos is before 1000am when the sun casts light gentle on the paint without being dazzlingly over-exposed. Get on the train to Nara and have some simple lunch upon arrival.
Walk your way up to the sublime Todaiji Temple, the world's largest wooden building and home to Japan's biggest Buddha image. If you are traveling with children, they will like what's coming up: a visit to Nara Deer Park. Deer is believed to be diety's messengers and they can roam freely all over Nara. Feed them some deer crackers before we get to a Sake Brewery for a short visit.
If lucky enough, you will witness a traditional wedding at Fushimi Inari Shrine
After breakfast, start today with the famous Nijo Castle, later visit Golden Pavilion Temple and bustling Nishiki Market. Get up to Kiyomizu Temple (Pure Water Temple) and finish today with a leisure walk at Gion District.
Take a morning train ride to Uji, the birthplace for Japanese macha tea. Here you will have an interesting experience of making tea on your own. Enjoy a cup of tea afterwards whilst your tour guide explains more about Uji and its history.
Stroll along the lovely streets of Uji and go for a simple lunch. Hop on the train back to Kyoto, from where you will continue to Hakone.
Arrive in Hakone and enjoy an onsen bath to ease your body and soul.
Enter a local worshop that has been in the tea industry for over a century. Here you will have a comprehensive introduction about Japanese chado (Way of Tea) and learn about all kinds of tools that are used during the tea-making process and tea ceremony.
Roll up your sleeves and follow the instruction of an old local tea master, who will share his unique scoop during decades of practice. The whole tea-making experience will last about one hour, after which you will have a chance to learn how to make a cup of tea with boiled water. It takes some slow and delicated motion around your wrist to find the right angle. A nice cup of tea is worth the wait.
You will have a bag of dried tea leaves as souvenir after the experience.
What makes it special for me?
- Back to the origin: No better place than the birthplace of Chado that is Uji. Uji offers the most authentic touch while tea-related experiences in other destinations might be down to the minimalist.
- Smaller group and better experience: This hands-on experience is only available for group of less than 10 people, which ensures you will have more attention from the master and better chances to get your questions answered.
- Keep the old traditions alive: Big machines have marched into more and more tea factories while the local tea masters try hard to keep the old traditions alive. Be a part of help to support the beautiful and tactful traditions.
2 nights at Royal Park Hotel The Nagoya (Handpicked Comfort) / Hilton Nagoya (Luxury)
Has been living the shadow of its brother cities Tokyo and Kyoto, Nagoya itself has a lot to offer.
Firstly visit Hiyoshi Shrine and Kiyosu Castle. At the castle you will learn more about samurai cultures and maybe you will have a chance to try on samurai armor and be given a samurai certificate. Meet with a samurai armor maker and learn about his daily life. Try out samurai outfit and get a certificate.
Nagoya is Japan's biggest powerhouse and the birthplace of Toyota and other important indurstries. Today you will head to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry & Technology. This interesting museum sits on the original plant of Toyota weaving factory, where you can visit two major parts as the Textile Machinery Pavilion and Automobile Pavilion, where you can see the old weaving machinese and car-crafting machinery and learn about how the technologies envolved.
Highlights of Today: Hands-on Nagoya
Not just another ancient castle, Kiyosu Castle holds important meanings in Japan’s history as the starting point for the great Oda Nobunaga's unification of Japan. The birthplace of Oda Nobunaga, Kiyosu boasts for unadulterated samurai life philosophy. Your visit at the castle will guide you to an experienced samurai armor maker who will answer all your questions about these warriors and their life. What's more, you get to try out a set of armor if you like.
Toyota Commeorative Museum of Industry & Technology is definitely the best playground for kids. Not only can they learn about the old-fashion car craftsmanship but they can also gaze into the future as there are some robots wroking inside the hall; they can also try some crafting machinery (* under adult's supervision).
What makes it special for me?
- Important origin: Birthplace for both the greatest samurai and Toyota, you get to dig up fascinating facts that can only be told by a knowledgeable tour guide.
- Good time for family: Put on a samurai helmet, watch the entire production of cars and even try to handle the machine yourself? Sounds like you are going to have a blast here!
Traditional samurai armor on display in nagoya
Travel to Takayama and check in at a special Japanese-style accommodation.
Meet with your private tour guide at the hotel and start your exploration in the city of Takayama. During this 3-hour walking trip, you will learn and enjoy a variety of local cuisines and sake.
Your tour guide will explain details about local culinary cultures while you visit at shops such as sake stall, miso workshop and a morning market. Take a short break at a local restaurant and sample some delicacies.
Tips for staying at a ryokan:
1. Shoes: Shoes must be taken off before entering the ryokan. There will be a locker or shoe shelf for you.
2. Yukata: You will likely find a set of yukata (cotton kimono for bath and sleeping), which is only lent temporarily during your stay in the ryokan.
3. Room: Rooms of Japanese ryokans are relatively smaller, and you will lay out futons and quilt on the tatami floor as bed. We will choose the ryokan with stead beds if you prefer sort bed.
4. Bathroom: The ryokan that we choose for you is designed for family stay and there will be private bathroom for you. As for taking hot spring bath, you can either use its public onsen bath or charter it to your own.
1 night at Ryokan Murayama
Try some local cuisine in Takayama
Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, Shirakawa-go and its neighbor Gokayama are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Today you will check out the well-preserved farmhouses.
Have some simple lunch and get to the view point at Shiroyama Observatory where you will get a good view of the entire Shirakawa-go area. Visit Matsuri no Mori, where you can find artifacts such as Taiko drums, floats ad Karakuri dolls used from the Takayama Festival.
Transfer to Kanazawa and check in your hotel.
2 nights at Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (Handpicked Comfort) / ANA Crowne Plaza Kanazawa (Luxury)
Farmhouses in Shirakawa-go have been forgotten by time
During the Edo Period, Kanazawa served as the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan.
Kanazawa grew to become a town of great cultural achievements, rivaling Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).During World War Two, Kanazawa was Japan's second largest city (after Kyoto) to escape destruction by air raids.
The highlight of any visit to Kanazawa is Kenroku-en Garden. Ranked one of the top three in Japan, its beauty shines through in any season. Nearby Kagayuzen Kaikan offers demonstrations of the centuries-old Yuzen silk painting technique.
Have lunch at a local restaurant.
Kanazawa is also known for the delicate art of gold leaf crafting. Today you will learn how the artists create thin foil of gold that is far too delicate to touch. And you will also have a chance to visit the Shima Teahouse, 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.
Have some free time in the morning before traveling to Tokyo. Free at leisure in the afternoon.Accommodation:
4 nights at Hotel Gracery Shinjuku (Handpicked Comfort) / Imperial Hotel Tokyo (Luxury)
Enjoy the speed of Shinkansen Bullet Train
Being hyper morden yet the intriguing traditions still linger, Tokyo greets you with its beautiful cityscape and fascinating lifestyles. Today you will take in Tokyo's highlights including Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Meiji Shrine.
With a Water Bus Boat Trip along the Sumida River, you will whizz alongside with Tokyo's skyline brimmed with skycrappers. Have some lunch and take a short break. Later, take a rickshaw ride at Asakusa; this old-time man-driven ride gets you to some major sites in the old town of Asakusa without being jostled by the crowds.
In the afternoon, get to Shibuya Streets where a 2-hour walking experience weaves you into the most bustling neighborhood of Tokyo. Sip a cup of good coffee at a Cat Cafe (or Maid Cafe) to learn about Tokyo's funky fashion.
Highlights of Today: Lost in Tokyo Shibuya Walking Tour
The neon-lit Shibuya Scramble Crossing is the stage for the movie "Lost in Translation" featuring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johnanson, Takashita Street, Harajuku Street and Cat Street. When you are walking here, feel the vibe of Tokyo's passion for fashion, comics and colorful street cultures.
Take a break at a Cat Cafe (or Maid Cafe based on your own interest) and your tour guide will teach you something about the Kawaii cultures (cute cultures). Wrap up the trip with a simple soba noodle for dinner at a local chain.
What makes it special for me?
- Not on the hot list: Get to the corners of the streets and a local sushi parlor where you meet more locals and few tourists.
- Interesting talk with an interesting person: Your tour guide, a local insider, sits you down with a cup of coffee and entertain you with amusing introduction of Japan's cute cultures.
You need to wash your hands and mouth before entering a Shinto shrine
No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to Mt.Fuji. Today, ride on the famous Romance Car to Hakone within 1 hour.
At Mt Fuji National Park, you can take advantage of the numerous forms of transport on offer. Ride the world's second longest cable car up Mt Owakudani, passing over sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers in this volcanic area, where you can eat an egg hard boiled in the sulfuric hot springs which make Hakone famous. If you do, it will add seven years to your life!
Have some simple lunch at a local restaurant.
A majestic replica pirate ship will sweep you across the Lake Ashinoko, a lake formed by a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago, and the Hakone Tozan 'switchback train' zig zags through the mountains, giving amazing views of the surrounding valleys.
Get back to Tokyo before the evening.
Enjoy a free day in Tokyo.
Say goodbye to Japan and we hope to see you again soon!
Asia Highlights chooses hotels with a balanced mixture of traditional style and modern comfort, easy access to everything yet quiet enough for a good night's sleep.
- Ranked 10/321 of hotels on TripAdvisor, Certificate of Excellence.
- Close to Nambo Station and many shops and restaurants around.
- Room on Cross Floor on higher floor, 24sqm with city view.
- Ranked #2/121 and Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor .
- Hiroshima Station 10min taxi ride, walking distance to major sites.
- 38sqm Standard Room accommodates up to 3 people with city view.
- Ranked 86/367 on TripAdvisor, great value.
- Subway, train stations within walking distance, near Gion.
- 22sqm Superior Room accommodates up to 3 people, soft bed.
- Winner of Certificate of Excellence and #5/171 on TripAdvisor.
- 5 minutes of walking to Nagoya Station, close to everything.
- Quiet room on higher floor, Deluxe Room takes up to 3 guests.
- Ranked #23/175 on TripAdvisor, great value.
- 15 minutes by taxi from Takayama Station, free onsen and nice food.
- Superior Room with Private Bathroom is spacious and quiet.
- #2/103 on TripAdvisor, Certificate of Excellence.
- 400m by Kanazawa Station, rooms are all above 17th floor, great views.
- 31sqm Stylish Room takes up to 3 guests, quiet sleep.
- Winner of Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor, #5/83 in Shinjuku.
- 5-minute walk from Shinjuku Station, newly open in 2015.
- Deluxe Room of 32sqm with a sofa for relaxing time.
Note: Your comfort counts! It's totally possible to change hotels based on your interests and budget. Just let us know your preferences and we will help you choose.