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Early Autumn in Japan

Tours
Early Autumn in Japan
DATES

19 Oct 2019 - 01 NOV 2019


RATES

Hover over rates for other currencies.

*Rates are per person based on Twin Share & Single Room.
*Prices are subject to change until paid in full.
*A 'Willing to Share' for Single Travellers may be possible on this tour.
*International Airfares are not included. PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE.


Early Autumn in Japan Early Autumn in Japan Early Autumn in Japan Early Autumn in Japan Early Autumn in Japan
Early Autumn in Japan

EARLY AUTUMN IN JAPAN 

 

Japan is a land of vast cultural diversity with ultra-modern cities, Buddhist mountain sanctuaries, hidden hot springs and cultural arts. It will mesmerise you with its culture, age-old traditions and elegant sophistication.

This boutique tour explores Japanese art, food, history and culture in its most iconic cities. Beginning in Tokyo, we’ll visit unforgettable sites such as the Meiji Shrine and the colorful shopping streets of Harajuku, before traveling on bullet trains to our next stop. We take in Kanazawa, Takayama and Kyoto. You will meet Geishas; visit the famous *Tsukiji Fish Market; be involved in a Tea Ceremony and enjoy sake tasting. And there is of course, the exquisite cuisine. 

Ancient townships, majestic temples, art galleries and royal gardens are all part of this fantastic journey through Japanese culture and heritage. Architecture, fashion, and design are also on the agenda.

You will stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese Inn) guesthouse, dine on world-renowned kaiseki cuisine and be mesemerised by Japans harmonious mix of ancient and hyper-modern. 

This is an enchanting journey that immerses you into the culture, the art and the cuisine of Japan - a perplexing but fascinating country.

Tour Overview
Duration
14 DAYS - OCTOBER 2019
Start Point
Tokyo
Finish Point
Osaka
Tour Style
Escorted Tour
Accommodation
Premium Hotels, Boutique Hotels, Ryokan
Meals
As per itinerary
Transport
Private Coach / Van, Bullet Train, Boat
Max Group Size
Min 6, Max 10 guests
Tour Inclusions
  • Arrival & departure transfers
  • x3 nights Hotel Niwa in Tokyo
  • x2 nights Hotel Nikko in Kanazawa
  • x2 nights Ryokan Asunaro in Takayama
  • x5 nights Kyoto Royal Park Hotel 
  • x1 night Granvia Hotel in Osaka
  • Luggage Handling & Transfers x2
  • All breakfasts on tour
  • x6 Lunches
  • x4 Dinners
  • Entrances to all sites as per itinerary
  • City Tour of Tokyo, Kanazawa, Takayama, Kyoto
  • Food Tour of Tokyo, Takayama, Kyoto
  • Tsukiji Fishi Market
  • Cruise on Sumida River
  • Shirakawago - UNESCO World Heritage site
  • UNESCO Gardens
  • Shrines & Temples & Galleries
  • Ryokan stay with Kaiseki Dinner
  • Kimino morning in Kyoto
  • Tea Ceremony in a Machiya house in Kyoto
  • Dinner with a Maiko in Kyoto
  • Cooking Class in Kyoto
  • Sake Brewery Tour & Tasting 
  • Artisan visits
  • Mai Journeys Host throughout
  • National English Speaking Guide(s)
  • Private air-conditioned vehicles for transfers
  • All private transfers as per itinerary
  • Bullet Train tickets - Tourist Class, Reserved Seating
  • Luggage forwarding: Tokyo / Kanazawa & Takayama / Kyoto
Tour Highlights
  • Tokyo, one of the world’s most exciting cities
  • Tour Tokyo by night with an expert guide
  • The Shinkansen (the Bullet Train) 
  • Temple & Castle visits throughout the tour
  • Visit amazing UNESCO Gardens
  • Tea Ceremony in Kyoto
  • Sample exotic foods & fresh fish at the world’s largest fish market - Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish market
  • okyo’s most unique districts ie Roppongi, Harajuku & Ginza
  • Glimpse into the fascinating Samurai culture in Kanazawa
  • Kyoto, the ancient capital and home to world-class UNESCO sites
  • Shirakawa-go Historic Village
  • Onsen in Takayama
  • Kyoto’s Gion geisha district
  • Once-in-a-lifetime experience with a Geisha/Maiko Dinner 
  • Arashiyama's Bamboo Forest
  • Traditional Ryokan stay & Kaiseke dinner
  • Culinary experiences including sake tasting, traditional cooking class & kaiseki dining

Tour Itinerary

Open all
Day 1 - Arrive Tokyo
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Arrive at Tokyo, pass through immigration; collect your luggage and clear customs.
Our assistant will meet you just outside of the secure area and they will take you to the hotel by private mini-bus transfer. The journey from Narita, on the far outskirts of Tokyo, into the city center takes about 90 minutes or more, depending on traffic. Check into our hotel and relax.

For those that have the energy - we will meet this evening in the bar for a Welcome Drink & snacks.

Overnight Niwa Hotel. (Welcome Drink / Snacks)

Day 2 - Tokyo
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Today, after breakfast we will explore Tokyo with our guide.

We visit to the Imperial Palace East Garden, the former site of Edo Castle, now home to a beautiful Japanese style garden. We continue on to the Imperial Palace Plaza, from where you will be able to enjoy the iconic view of the famous Nijubashi Bridge.

We will then visit and enjoy free time in Ginza district. Ginza is Tokyo’s most famous up-market shopping, dining and entertainment district. Ginza is the best place to shop in Japan, and is also of interest for its architecture, dining, tea rooms, entertainment and attractions. We carry on to Yanaka Ginza, a narrow street lined with food stalls, specialty shops, and teahouses. 

Then we visit Tennoji Temple. The temple has a peaceful decor and atmosphere, and a big bronze Buddha statue sits on the left of its main building.

We then visit Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine, dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. Next to Meiji Shrine is Harajuku, Tokyo’s youth fashion mecca. Whether you are a Goth, a punk or somewhere in between, there is a shop in Harajuku that caters for you. If you're a photography enthusiast, the area is photogenic at night.

Overnight Niwa Hotel, or similar. (B / L / *Dinner if on Optional Tour)

OPTION: Tokyo by Night Tour (6pm - 10pm)
Tonight you can enjoy a walk around some of the brightest and liveliest districts in the city of Tokyo together with a Guide who will make sure you experience the more local and hidden neighborhoods. First head to Ebisu, where modern and western-style nightlife meets Japanese tradition. Bright neon lights will lead you to the most fashionable restaurants and bars, while the more traditional lanterns will take you to the many izakayas (Japanese style pubs). We will go to Ebisu Yokocho, one of the most traditional areas of Ebisu, where narrow streets are filled with traditional Japanese-style taverns selling finger food, traditional appetizers, Japanese-made beer, and other traditional drinks. (First drink included). Our Guide explains the history and the characteristics of the area. A 20-minute walk will take us to Shibuya, one of the hearts of Tokyo’s nightlife. Here we will find the world-famous Shibuya crossing, considered the world’s busiest intersection with more than a thousand people crossing every time the traffic lights change. This is one of the most renowned sights in Japan and definitely one of the best spots to take a picture. Next, a quick train ride will take us to Shinjuku, the world’s busiest railway station and a very popular entertainment and shopping district. From the station, you will head to Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, a network of small alleys and narrow passageways famous for its unique atmosphere and tiny bars. (Must be booked/confirmed 4 weeks pre departure. Approx NZD$150 -NZD$250 per person depending on size of Group. Rate valid at November 2017)

Day 3 - Tokyo
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After breakfast, approx 0930am, we meet our English-speaking guide in the lobby of our hotel for a Taste of Tokyo tour.

First stop is the famous **Tsukiji Fish Outer Market. Tsukiji Fish Market (Tsukiji Shijo) is one of the most exciting markets in the world, whether you arrive early in the morning for the tuna auctions, or later in the morning for a look around and a sushi breakfast. It is the world’s largest fish market; an amazing place if you’re a foodie, love markets, or are a photographer – or simply someone who enjoys visiting unique places.

From the market we head to Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo Period lord. After strolling around the garden, we take a break in the tea house known as ‘Nakajima No Chaya’ which stands elegantly in the park’s lake. We will have the chance to get a taste of matcha, or Japanese green tea, paired with a Japanese sweet.

Afterwards, it’s time to see Tokyo from a different angle - aboard the boat cruise along Sumida River. We will cruise towards Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also the home to Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through. Asakusa is also famous for tempura, so we will stop by one of the area’s local restaurants for a set course lunch.

From Asakusa, a short walk will take us to Kappabashi, also known as the ‘Kitchenware Town’. Lined with dozens of stores selling everything that restaurateurs need, we will find specialized stores for dishes, pots, pans, cooking utensils, stoves, tables, chairs, signs, lanterns, and much more. Last stop for the day is Ueno’s Ameyoko-cho, a busy market street underneath the train lines. Formerly the site of a black market after World War II, this bustling market is now filled with shops and stalls selling various products such as fresh fish, dried food and spices, and is a great place to try some local snacks. We end out tour at approx 5.30pm, and the rest of the evening is *free at your leisure.

Overnight Park Hotel. (B / L / D* TBC)

**This evening we have the fabulous opportunity of a very special 'Women's Dinner'. We will dine in a Tokyo restuarant (TBC) and meet local women - both Japanese and ex-pat - and spend the evening eating, drinking & chatting. There is no better way to immerse than to share food with local women and hear their stories and backgrounds.

Day 4 - Kanazawa
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This morning we depart for Kanazawa by Bullet Train.

After breakfast we will have final free time in Tokyo - for last minute shopping perhaps - before we are transferred to the Tokyo Station to board our first bullet train. We will buy ourselves a Bento Box for the journey, and board the train.

The 2.5 hour journey to Kanazawa passes through the Hokuriku Region along the Sea of Japan coast and offers pleasant countryside and spectacular natural scenery. 

In the 17th century, the beautifully preserved castle town of Kanazawa used to be Japan's wealthiest area and a thriving center for culture and the arts. And with its proximity to the sea and surrounded by fertile farmland, Kanazawa holds a reputation throughout the country as a gourmet paradise. Although Kyoto is generally the first city associated with kaiseki, or multi-course cuisine, Kanazawa also has a long and heralded history of this Japanese treat, and there are a number of excellent restaurants to choose from - such as Suruko, Zeniya, or Jugatsu-ya. Regardless of where you go, prepare to spend at least two and a half to three hours in order to savor each distinct course and the superb sake served alongside. Each course arrives like a work of art, the colors, textures, and flavors all flawlessly balanced. As you eat your way through the freshest seasonal ingredients, try to enjoy each mouthful as a unique and fleeting experience of perfection.

We are met at the station and transferred to our hotel. This evening you are free, or we can eat together at a favourite local restaurant.

Overnight Hotel Nikko Kanazawa. (B)

Day 5 - Kanazawa
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After breakfast we meet with our guide and depart for Kanazawa sightseeing.
This morning, we visit to Kenroku-en Gardens - ranked as one of Japan’s top 3 gardens. The gardens are mesmerising to wander through. Plants in this lovingly cared for garden includes azaleas and traditional Japanese Trees.

Located adjacent to Kenroku-en is Kanazawa Castle, which can be easily accessed through Ishikawa Gate, one of the major gates of the castle.

We then walk to the nearby Omicho market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi. Our guide will introduce us to a local restaurant where we can sample the local wares.

After lunch, we visit a Sake Brewery and continue to Nagamachi, the old samurai district of Kanazawa. Here we find Nomura-ke, a restored samurai house that showcases the artifacts during the golden era of the Japanese warriors. We then make our way to the Higashi Chaya District, one of the three, well-preserved chaya districts in Kanazawa. A cha-ya, which means ‘tea house’ in Japanese, was where geisha used to entertain her guests with a song or a dance. Here we find Hakuza, the shop that sells Kanazawa’s specialty – gold leaf products. The tearoom inside the shop is totally covered with gold!

Overnight Hotel Nikko Kanazawa. (B / L)

Day 6 - Shirakawa-go, Takayama
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Today we explore Shirakawa-go Historic Village with our guide. Shirakawago, and its neighboring Gokayama region, lines the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that stretch from Gifu all the way to Toyama Prefecture. Both of these prefectures are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. They were also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer," as the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations, intricately designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, which were constructed without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms. 

We will visit a private 300-year-old family home  and explore the historic village of Ogimachi, the largest village with 59 intact gassho houses.

We have lunch in a local restuarant before we continue to Takayama and check into our Ryokan.

This evening we will eat traditionl Japanese Kaiseki cuisine with Hida Beef at the Ryokan.

Overnight Ryokan Asunaro. (B / L / D)

Day 7 - Takayama
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After breakfast, our luggage will be transfered to our Kyoto hotel. We will keep only an overnight bag with enough clothing to see us through this evening & one more night. 

This morning after breakfast, approx 930am, our Guide will collect us for a Food & Culture Walk around Takayama’s old town and market, an area full of traditional houses, shops and restaurants, all of which have maintained their strong traditional touch.

Our guide will lead us to some of the most famous spots in town and provide many chances to savor some of the most famous products of the region, such as miso (Japanese paste made from soybeans, salt and rice), Takayama’s typical rice dumplings dipped in soy sauce, and some Japanese style home made sweets and confectionery. There will also be a possibility to taste the locally produced sake. A tasty way to expand your knowledge about Takayama’s delicious cuisine and unique traditions..

This afternoon is free time or you can join in on a short walk to Takayama Jinya, also known as the Historical Government House - the only surviving government office building from the Edo period. Now it serves as a museum, featuring some well-preserved meeting and conference rooms, a collection of century-old artifacts and office supplies, and a 400-year-old rice storage room. Then visit the Takayama Festival Floats Museum to see the colorful floats that parade through the town during the famous Takayama Festivals in spring and autumn.)

This evening you are free. You can dine again this evening in the Ryokan or we can eat together at a favourite local restaurant.

Overnight Ryokan Asunaro. (B / Tasting Snacks)

Day 8 - Kyoto
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This morning we have free time before we need to board our train so we can visit the Miyagawa Morning Market where locals sell their handmade crafts and local produce (depending on the season, the markets open as early as 6:00 a.m.). This is also the perfect place to purchase some souvenirs such as chopsticks, Ichii Itto-bori (wood carvings) and the iconic Sarubobo

We then walk to the train station with our Guide - we can buy a Bento Box for our lunch - where we board our Express Train for Kyoto. On arrival, we are met at the station and transferred to our hotel.

*Our train departs Takayama, we change at Nagoya, and arrive at Kyoto. The total duration of this train journey is approximately 4.5 hours. We will be carrying only our overnight bags.

This evening we can dine in the hotel restaurant or grab a snack from one of the surrounding restaurants/cafes.

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B)

Day 9 - Kyoto
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This morning after breakfast - approx 0915am - we discover Kyoto by *bike on a cycling tour that takes in this historic city's best known sights. We will visit temples, castles and Japan's most famous Zen rock garden before riding through pristine bamboo forests. Kyoto's lack of hills and quiet streets make this the perfect way to take in the best the city has to offer.

We meet our tour guide at Kyoto Station and pick up your bike for the day. We start off with a visit to the Nishi-Hongaji Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in Kyoto just located near the Kyoto Station area.  

Later we will be cycling to Nijo Castle, famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors.

After lunch, we bike to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. Next, we head further north and visit Ryoanji and its famous Zen rock garden, then explore the Arashiyama district with its bamboo forests district before returning to Kyoto Station. 

This evening we can dine along the Pontocho area.

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B / L)

*Cycling is very popular in Kyoto and is very easy as the city is relatively flat. It is also a quicker and easier way to see the sights. We will go as slow as necessary, and stop when needed. There is no rush. There will be an alternative for those who doe not wish to bike. 

Day 10 - Kyoto
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DAY: Today, what we have in store for you is a truly amazing Japanese Cultural experience.
Blessed with one of the most distinct cultures on the planet, Japan is home to a number of unique and defining arts. We will visit a traditional Kyoto style wooden house where we will partake in a Tea Ceremony with expert instructors. 

We will be taken on a short tour of the machiya house and provided with insight into its architecture, before donning a traditional kimono, the iconic Japanese garment.

Dressed in our kimono, we will now take part in a tea ceremony, a quintessential part of Japanese culture, in the company of a tea master. This allows us to learn about every aspect of Japanese tea culture, from making the tea to the movements involved in serving it. Then a walk through the old neighborhood to visit to a nearby sake brewery, where we will have a chance to try the local brew.

Our Guide will then take us to the Silver Pavilion in the Higashiyama District, where they will end their tour. We can then stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama area, whose busy lanes lead up to Kiyomizu and are filled with quaint shops selling souvenirs including Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles. From the Silver Pavilion, we will begin our walk on the Philosphers Path. On return to the hotel, we will have free time until late afternoon. 

EVENING: One of the many unique aspects of Japanese culture is its Geisha. When hearing the word “Japan,” one’s mind immediately conjures up images of these elegant and mysterious ladies, with their elaborate hairstyles, white-painted faces and bright red lips, wrapped in an elegant kimono. 

Kyoto is considered the home of the Geisha, & this evening, together with our Guide, we will explore the streets of Gion, known as Kyoto’s Geisha district, with a unique opportunity to have dinner with a “Maiko”, an apprentice Geisha, dressed in a colourful kimono.

Late afternoon, our Guide will escort us to the Gion District. A captivating walking tour of Gion begins in front of Minami-za Theatre and continues past local shops and restaurants, before reaching the Yasaka Shrine. A quick detour leads through the streets of Hanami-koji, the most popular street in Gion where lavish teahouses are lined up. 

From the Yasaka Shrine, we cross the Tatsumibashi Bridge and pass Tatsumi Daimyojin (a small street shrine), Gion Komori (a once dignified teahouse) and the Shirakawa Canal. 

After the walking tour, dinner will be enjoyed in a local restaurant serving kaiseki ryori (traditional multi-course dinner) in the company of a Maiko. During the dinner, there is ample opportunity to interact with the hostess and ask questions about her craft and the world of Geisha. During dinner, the Maiko will perform traditional dances and even invite guests to play Japanese drinking games. The Maiko will stay with us for about 1.5 hours, giving us time to talk to them and ask any questions we may have.

After this unforgettable experience, it is time to return to the hotel and wind down from the day’s events. 

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B / D)

Day 11 - Kyoto
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After breakfast we can walk the mile-long Nishiki market, passing by some interesting food stalls and learning about the local Japanese produce.

We may then go into to the backstreets to visit a former sake brewery and have the chance to sample the local brew before heading back to the hotel for rest.

This afternoon we have a traditional cooking class in a machiya, a well-restored wooden house that is typical for Kyoto. We will be taught how to prepare the typical dishes served in an izakaya. 'Izakaya' is loosely translated to a Japanese-style pub, where friends or co-workers gather together to drink. Your home chef will share with us the techniques in preparing some authentic Japanese dishes such as steamed egg custard and steamed rice with fish broth. After our class, we will have the chance to sit down and share the meal with our teacher. 

We return to the hotel (approximately 6pm) and the rest of our evening is free.

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B / D)

Day 12 - Kyoto
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Today is a free day to explore more of Kyoto at your pleasure. 

OPTIONAL DAY TOUR: Nara.
Your Guide will meet you at the Hotel, and you will be transferred to Nara. Arrive at Nara, where you visit at Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest sitting Buddha statue. Continue to Kasuga Taisha. Nara’s most celebrated shrine. You will also have time to wander through Nara Park, called Deer Park by locals due to the large population of tame deer living there. Lunch at local restaurant (Included). After lunch, transfer back to Kyoto to your hotel. This is approximately NZD$150.00 per person inclusive of guide, transfers, admission fees and lunch. (Rate valid at November 2017)

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B)

**NOTE: This evening we will have the option of having a guide on hand to take us where we can experience izakaya, tachinomiya and Japan’s street food. Dinner and food will be at our own expense, but our guide will translate for us, heighten the experience and take us to hard-to-find / hidden establishments. This is an OPTIONAL evening activity, and must be booked/confirmed 4 weeks before departure. This will be approximately $100.00 per person. (Rate valid at November 2017)

Day 11 - Osaka
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This morning after a leisurely breakfast we check out and transfer onto Osaka in our Private Coach. 

En-route, we visit a well established Sake Brewery. Upon arrival at Daimon Brewery, Sake Master Yasutaka DAIMON gives a 30 minutes tour of sake brewery where he grew up and lives today. We will learn the detailed process of how rice turns to sake. After the tour, we are invited to taste 3-4 types of sake and learn the differences from Mr. Daimon, followed by lunch in which they coordinate the ‘marriage’ of western cuisine & sake to prove that sake goes well with western cuisine as well.

 

We then check into our hotel. The rest of the day is free at leisure until our afternoon tour.

This afternoon, approximately 4pm, we embark on an Osaka Street Food Tour. We will meet our guide and depart by private coach.

First we will go to Doguyasuji shopping arcade, a unique market where you can find anything related to the food industry including the plastic food models you find outside Japanese restaurants. After seeing so much plastic food, it's time to have some snacks. So our next stop will be in Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district and former “pleasure district.” We will see a wide array of food stalls and restaurants - & we can choose to have either an order of takoyaki (octopus balls) or okonomiyaki (“Japanese pancake” with cabbage, pork, ginger, nori, and a special sauce).

While in Dotonbori, we may want to spare some time and pose in front of Kani Doraku, the huge crab with moving legs, or stand on Ebisubashi with the photo of the running Glico man as our backdrop. After taking some photos, we continue on, passing by Hozenji Yokocho, an area with narrow alleys filled with more than 60 traditional restaurants and izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs). At the end of one of these alleys, we find Hozenji Temple, where worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity instead of tossing coins.

We then take the train to Shinsekai, a small, old town in Tennoji area that was designed after New York and Paris. Despite the post WWII economic impact, Shinsekai still remains to be one of the favourite places in Osaka for food lovers.

But before sampling some of the local delicacies, we first go to Tsutenkaku, the tower modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and one of Osaka’s top icons. The tower is famous for its seasonal lights. We go to the fifth floor where we will find not just the observatory but also a replica of the statue of Billiken, the god of happiness.

Now it’s time to discover the delicious wonders of Shinsekai. For dinner, we recommend kushikatsu, a skewer of meat and vegetables dipped in batter, rolled on bread crumbs, and then deep fried.

Our guide will deliver us back to the hotel where we can have a final drink together in the hotel bar.

Overnight Cross Hotel - (B / Evening Snacks at Dotonbori) 

Day 14 - Depart
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This morning our tour ends.
We are transferred to Kansai Airport for our onward flights. 

About this tour

Hotel Niwa, Tokyo - Hotel Niwa Tokyo is a comfort boutique hotel situated in the central area of Tokyo. Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Hotel Niwa Tokyo is close to several convenient train stations - within walking distance - and there are many local restaurants near the hotel. Some rooms come with a seating area and spacious spa bath in the bathroom where you can relax. Rooms are equipped with necessary amenities such as private safe with AC outlet to charge your lap top and mobile devices etc, a spacious bathroom, a large flat-screen TV, custom made furniture & include luxury hotel quality beds. Staff are always ready to be at service on the 24-hour Front Desk. The setting is beautiful with the Japanese restaurant looking out to a serene and tranquil traditional Japanese garden. The waitresses all wear kimono. The decor is modern and simplistic; ambient, quiet and cozy. This is a great hidden gem in Tokyo.

Hotel Nikko, Kanazawa - Hotel Nikko Kanazawa is conveniently located in front of JR Kanazawa Station and within walking distance of some of the most famous tourist spots in Kanazawa. Featuring panoramic views, 8 dining options and shops, all rooms are located all above the 17th floor, offering beautiful views. Concierge services are available and free WiFi is provided throughout the property. The spacious air-conditioned rooms at Nikko Kanazawa Hotel include a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bathtub and shower. Free toiletries and a hairdryer are provided. Guests can try on the yukata robe and enjoy a pay-per-view movie. A Japanese/Western buffet breakfast is available. La Plage offers 30th-floor views and French cuisine, while Benkei serves sushi beside a Japanese garden. A Chinese restaurant and a bar are also available.

Ryokan Asunaro, Takayama - Ryokan Asunaro is conveniently located near Takayama's famous Miyagawa Morning Market. Originally a wealthy farmer's house, Asunaro is over 150 years old. In the lobby, guests are served coffee while gathered around the original farmhouse hearth. There are a total of 19 Japanese-style guest rooms at Asunaro. The minimalist rooms feature calligraphy artwork, tatami floors, futons and chabudai dining tables. All have free Wi-Fi and mini-fridges, along with tea making equipment and flat-screen TV's. Asunaro has indoor rock baths for both women and men, and in the women's bath guests can try the ryokan's own homemade skin softeners. All meals are taken the privacy of the guest rooms, and Hida beef and fresh Takayama style seasonal dishes are served for dinner. Cooked breakfast is served in a laid-back restaurant, and a cozy lounge features timber-framed walls and antique-style decor. There's also a veranda and a communal bathhouse.

Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto, Kyoto - Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO is located in Kawaramachi-Sanjo. in the heart of Kyoto. This specialty hotel weaves tradition with art in expert fashion. A 4-minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae subway station and 3 km from both the Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple and Niji Castle. The subdued rooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, mini fridges, and tea and coffee makers. There's a floor reserved for female guests only. A chic restaurant serves Western cuisine, and there's also a swanky bar and a bakery.

Cross Hotel, Osaka - Cross Hotel Osaka is just a 5-minute walk from the Dotonbori area and JR Namba Train Station. The stylish rooms include free WiFi, a complimentary bottle of water and private bathrooms. Relax in the modern furnishings and enjoy watching the flat-screen TV. Each air-conditioned room has a fridge and air purifier. Bar Seagull pours drinks in a simple yet sophisticated decor. Lime restaurant is open as well, and sweets can be purchased at the Cafe. Glamorous-X restaurant serves an original buffet lunch and breakfast. Chuo Ward – a favourite part of Osaka - is a great choice for travelers interested in shopping, gourmet food and food.

Japanese Cuisine - There’s no question that one of Japan’s biggest attractions for many visitors is the food, and more specifically, the sushi. While Japan is regarded as a food-lover’s paradise, some regions are definitely more worthy of the accolade than other. In December 2013, Japanese cuisine is officially recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, an accolade shared by just four other cultures. ‘Washoku’, as it’s known locally, is traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese. (The others are the Gastronomy Art of France, Mediterranean Cuisine, traditional dishes of Mexico, and traditional kashkak of Turkey). Note: The “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills—as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces associated therewith—that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

Practicalities

Autumn Travel in Japan: While the Japanese celebrate every season, Autumn/Fall (aki), holds a special place in many hearts for the beauty of changing leaves, the return of favorite culinary treats, and some of the year’s most vibrant festivals. Autumn brings an array of mushrooms, chestnuts, squid and shellfish, and the first waves of the return of fatty fish. Autumn is perhaps the most popular time to visit Japan as the weather has cooled and the leaves are boasting their full spectrum of color.

What happens in October:
- Foliage viewing. As with the cherry blossoms, there are gorgeous leaves to be found both around Kanazawa and throughout Japan.
- Apple and nashi (Asian pear) picking in local orchards.
- Kurama Fire Festival, Kyoto. One of Kyoto’s three most spectacular festivals. 3rd week October. Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Tochigi Prefecture, a registered World Heritage Site. A grand procession of men dressed in samurai costumes known as the Parade of 1,000 Samurai Warriors.
- Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto. A grand ancient-costume procession where the long history of Japan unfolds before the spectators. 3rd week of October.
- Kenrokuen Fall Light Up, Kanazawa. Annual autumn light-up. The illuminated maple leaves are truly remarkable this time of year.

Autumn/Fall Cuisine - It’s mushroom season! Featuring matsutake and a slew of other, equally mouth-watering varieties. Also chestnuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, persimmons, katsuo (bonito), kohada (shad), saba (Japanese mackerel), ikura (salmon roe), the opening of crab season, and of course, the fall opening of the sake casks!

Shoes & Clothing - Be sure to bring comfortable shoes that are easy to take on & off as most temples, shrines, many restaurants, and all ryokan will require shoe removal. Best to always wear or at least carry socks or peds as barefoot is considered rude. Layers are best in fall, winter, and spring; light breathable, wicking materials best in summer. A light, waterproof jacket is a must.

Ryokan - Ryokan will require all visitors to remove their shoes upon entering. Slippers will be provided to all guests, and shoes will be kept safe until you are ready to go out again. If you plan to wear different shoes on your next excursion than those you originally entered in, these should be carried to the entrance at the time of departure. Shoes should NEVER be worn inside the ryokan under any circumstances.While at the ryokan, it is not only acceptable but preferred if you wear the special robes (yukata) provided by the inn. You will see most other guests wearing these. It is part of the entire experience of staying in a ryokan, leaving all worldly things behind and entering into the private world of the inn. As a rule, a ryokan stay means sleeping on traditional futons on tatami mat (woven straw) floors. There are a few ryokan that have added platforms and even a few with Western style beds to better serve non-Japanese guests. In cases where only futons are available, it is possible for to request extra layers ahead of time for more cushioning. Meals at ryokan may be served privately in the guests’ rooms, or at times, in a common dining room. Sometimes, guests have a choice. Many ryokan have “public” baths or hot springs. In this case, “public” means only for staying guests. These are always segregated by gender, although some places may also have a separate “family bath” which can be reserved in advance, usually for 30 – 60 minutes of private bathing time for couples or families.

Luggage - We always encourage guests to travel as lightly as they feel comfortable for Japan. We will always opt to have our luggage sent ahead, but this does require planning to be sure the bags are awaiting the guests. Traveling with bags on trains is of course possible, although special handlers can be also be dispatched to assist with transfers at each point. 

Language - Every day there is more and more English on signs, especially in airports and train stations, but throughout many cities as well. As we edge closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this will only increase, making independent travel days easier to navigate and Japan as a whole a bit less inscrutable. Most Japanese people have large English vocabularies but little confidence in speaking the language. If you speak slowly and clearly, they will probably understand you and are very helpful when it comes to directions and assistance.

The facts

Currency:  The Japanese unit of currency is the Yen (JPY). There are 6 different denomination coins in circulation - 500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 - and 4 different denomination notes - 10000, 5000, 2000 and 1000. Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at most major banks, larger hotels and some duty free shops. You may avoid some commission by using yen-denominated Travellers Cheques. Credit cards and debit cards of the major issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diners) are becoming increasingly accepted in the major cities. However they are not used as much as in western countries. International ATMS found at Post Offices and 7-11 convenience stores only - you will be able to take out money using Visa cards, Mastercard, Cirrus or Maestro. You can change your money at the airport, at most banks and at post offices. You can get a cash advance on a Visa card at Sumitomo banks but these will not always be convenient and are not found outside of the major cities. You can use Visa and Mastercard cards to withdraw money at Post Office and 7-11 ATMs.

Tipping: As a rule there is no tipping in Japan; there is certainly no requirement to leave a tip in Japan and it is not expected. At hotels there is no need to tip the bellboy for helping you with your luggage. This is all part of the service and no tip is required. Re services of a guide - you are not expected to tip at the end of the day. If you would like to tip a guide you particularly enjoyed, ¥5000 ~ ¥10,000 ($50-100) in an envelope is traditional. However, a small gift from your home country is very much appreciated as a thank you. This should be no more than a token present - anything from your local town or city will be very well received. There are some occasions when it is appropriate to tip. The first is when you stay at a high-end ryokan. This only applies when meals are served in your room and the tip should only be a small amount left for the maids who will be serving your meals and laying out / putting away your futons. Unlike in the West where tips are given after the service is provided, you should tip your maid at the beginning of your stay. A suitable tip would be 1,000 yen per night of your stay and this needs to be left inside an envelope on the table in your room. Never hand a cash tip to anyone in Japan as this is considered rather uncouth. The money should always be hidden from view in an envelope.

Electricity:  Unusually Japan does not have a single national grid, but instead has separate grids in the east and west of the country. The standard voltage is 100V across the country, but the frequencies vary: 60Hz in Western Japan and 50HZ in Tokyo and the east. Plugs are the flat 2-pin kind similar to the US. If you have a US plug converter, this will work fine in Japan.

Visas: Nationals of many countries including almost all Western countries are eligible to enter Japan for short-term stays (usually 90 days) without a visa for purposes of sightseeing and for business trips. Nationals that do not have “Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements” with Japan must obtain a visa.

Not Included:

  • Airfares - PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Travel insurance - PLESE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Transfers unless stated in the itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Phone calls
  • Passport and visas
  • Laundry unless stated
  • Tips at meals and bars 
  • Excess baggage
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Beverages unless specifically described. 
  • Optional excursions or activities that may be offered
Travel advice / FCO

We constantly monitor the advice posted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings.

At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any of the places visited on this tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns.

You should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.

DATES

19 Oct 2019 - 01 NOV 2019


RATES

Hover over rates for other currencies.

*Rates are per person based on Twin Share & Single Room.
*Prices are subject to change until paid in full.
*A 'Willing to Share' for Single Travellers may be possible on this tour.
*International Airfares are not included. PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE.


Tour Itinerary
Day 1 - Arrive Tokyo

Arrive at Tokyo, pass through immigration; collect your luggage and clear customs.
Our assistant will meet you just outside of the secure area and they will take you to the hotel by private mini-bus transfer. The journey from Narita, on the far outskirts of Tokyo, into the city center takes about 90 minutes or more, depending on traffic. Check into our hotel and relax.

For those that have the energy - we will meet this evening in the bar for a Welcome Drink & snacks.

Overnight Niwa Hotel. (Welcome Drink / Snacks)

Day 2 - Tokyo

Today, after breakfast we will explore Tokyo with our guide.

We visit to the Imperial Palace East Garden, the former site of Edo Castle, now home to a beautiful Japanese style garden. We continue on to the Imperial Palace Plaza, from where you will be able to enjoy the iconic view of the famous Nijubashi Bridge.

We will then visit and enjoy free time in Ginza district. Ginza is Tokyo’s most famous up-market shopping, dining and entertainment district. Ginza is the best place to shop in Japan, and is also of interest for its architecture, dining, tea rooms, entertainment and attractions. We carry on to Yanaka Ginza, a narrow street lined with food stalls, specialty shops, and teahouses. 

Then we visit Tennoji Temple. The temple has a peaceful decor and atmosphere, and a big bronze Buddha statue sits on the left of its main building.

We then visit Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine, dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji. Next to Meiji Shrine is Harajuku, Tokyo’s youth fashion mecca. Whether you are a Goth, a punk or somewhere in between, there is a shop in Harajuku that caters for you. If you're a photography enthusiast, the area is photogenic at night.

Overnight Niwa Hotel, or similar. (B / L / *Dinner if on Optional Tour)

OPTION: Tokyo by Night Tour (6pm - 10pm)
Tonight you can enjoy a walk around some of the brightest and liveliest districts in the city of Tokyo together with a Guide who will make sure you experience the more local and hidden neighborhoods. First head to Ebisu, where modern and western-style nightlife meets Japanese tradition. Bright neon lights will lead you to the most fashionable restaurants and bars, while the more traditional lanterns will take you to the many izakayas (Japanese style pubs). We will go to Ebisu Yokocho, one of the most traditional areas of Ebisu, where narrow streets are filled with traditional Japanese-style taverns selling finger food, traditional appetizers, Japanese-made beer, and other traditional drinks. (First drink included). Our Guide explains the history and the characteristics of the area. A 20-minute walk will take us to Shibuya, one of the hearts of Tokyo’s nightlife. Here we will find the world-famous Shibuya crossing, considered the world’s busiest intersection with more than a thousand people crossing every time the traffic lights change. This is one of the most renowned sights in Japan and definitely one of the best spots to take a picture. Next, a quick train ride will take us to Shinjuku, the world’s busiest railway station and a very popular entertainment and shopping district. From the station, you will head to Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, a network of small alleys and narrow passageways famous for its unique atmosphere and tiny bars. (Must be booked/confirmed 4 weeks pre departure. Approx NZD$150 -NZD$250 per person depending on size of Group. Rate valid at November 2017)

Day 3 - Tokyo

After breakfast, approx 0930am, we meet our English-speaking guide in the lobby of our hotel for a Taste of Tokyo tour.

First stop is the famous **Tsukiji Fish Outer Market. Tsukiji Fish Market (Tsukiji Shijo) is one of the most exciting markets in the world, whether you arrive early in the morning for the tuna auctions, or later in the morning for a look around and a sushi breakfast. It is the world’s largest fish market; an amazing place if you’re a foodie, love markets, or are a photographer – or simply someone who enjoys visiting unique places.

From the market we head to Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo Period lord. After strolling around the garden, we take a break in the tea house known as ‘Nakajima No Chaya’ which stands elegantly in the park’s lake. We will have the chance to get a taste of matcha, or Japanese green tea, paired with a Japanese sweet.

Afterwards, it’s time to see Tokyo from a different angle - aboard the boat cruise along Sumida River. We will cruise towards Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also the home to Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through. Asakusa is also famous for tempura, so we will stop by one of the area’s local restaurants for a set course lunch.

From Asakusa, a short walk will take us to Kappabashi, also known as the ‘Kitchenware Town’. Lined with dozens of stores selling everything that restaurateurs need, we will find specialized stores for dishes, pots, pans, cooking utensils, stoves, tables, chairs, signs, lanterns, and much more. Last stop for the day is Ueno’s Ameyoko-cho, a busy market street underneath the train lines. Formerly the site of a black market after World War II, this bustling market is now filled with shops and stalls selling various products such as fresh fish, dried food and spices, and is a great place to try some local snacks. We end out tour at approx 5.30pm, and the rest of the evening is *free at your leisure.

Overnight Park Hotel. (B / L / D* TBC)

**This evening we have the fabulous opportunity of a very special 'Women's Dinner'. We will dine in a Tokyo restuarant (TBC) and meet local women - both Japanese and ex-pat - and spend the evening eating, drinking & chatting. There is no better way to immerse than to share food with local women and hear their stories and backgrounds.

Day 4 - Kanazawa

This morning we depart for Kanazawa by Bullet Train.

After breakfast we will have final free time in Tokyo - for last minute shopping perhaps - before we are transferred to the Tokyo Station to board our first bullet train. We will buy ourselves a Bento Box for the journey, and board the train.

The 2.5 hour journey to Kanazawa passes through the Hokuriku Region along the Sea of Japan coast and offers pleasant countryside and spectacular natural scenery. 

In the 17th century, the beautifully preserved castle town of Kanazawa used to be Japan's wealthiest area and a thriving center for culture and the arts. And with its proximity to the sea and surrounded by fertile farmland, Kanazawa holds a reputation throughout the country as a gourmet paradise. Although Kyoto is generally the first city associated with kaiseki, or multi-course cuisine, Kanazawa also has a long and heralded history of this Japanese treat, and there are a number of excellent restaurants to choose from - such as Suruko, Zeniya, or Jugatsu-ya. Regardless of where you go, prepare to spend at least two and a half to three hours in order to savor each distinct course and the superb sake served alongside. Each course arrives like a work of art, the colors, textures, and flavors all flawlessly balanced. As you eat your way through the freshest seasonal ingredients, try to enjoy each mouthful as a unique and fleeting experience of perfection.

We are met at the station and transferred to our hotel. This evening you are free, or we can eat together at a favourite local restaurant.

Overnight Hotel Nikko Kanazawa. (B)

Day 5 - Kanazawa

After breakfast we meet with our guide and depart for Kanazawa sightseeing.
This morning, we visit to Kenroku-en Gardens - ranked as one of Japan’s top 3 gardens. The gardens are mesmerising to wander through. Plants in this lovingly cared for garden includes azaleas and traditional Japanese Trees.

Located adjacent to Kenroku-en is Kanazawa Castle, which can be easily accessed through Ishikawa Gate, one of the major gates of the castle.

We then walk to the nearby Omicho market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi. Our guide will introduce us to a local restaurant where we can sample the local wares.

After lunch, we visit a Sake Brewery and continue to Nagamachi, the old samurai district of Kanazawa. Here we find Nomura-ke, a restored samurai house that showcases the artifacts during the golden era of the Japanese warriors. We then make our way to the Higashi Chaya District, one of the three, well-preserved chaya districts in Kanazawa. A cha-ya, which means ‘tea house’ in Japanese, was where geisha used to entertain her guests with a song or a dance. Here we find Hakuza, the shop that sells Kanazawa’s specialty – gold leaf products. The tearoom inside the shop is totally covered with gold!

Overnight Hotel Nikko Kanazawa. (B / L)

Day 6 - Shirakawa-go, Takayama

Today we explore Shirakawa-go Historic Village with our guide. Shirakawago, and its neighboring Gokayama region, lines the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that stretch from Gifu all the way to Toyama Prefecture. Both of these prefectures are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. They were also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer," as the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations, intricately designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, which were constructed without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms. 

We will visit a private 300-year-old family home  and explore the historic village of Ogimachi, the largest village with 59 intact gassho houses.

We have lunch in a local restuarant before we continue to Takayama and check into our Ryokan.

This evening we will eat traditionl Japanese Kaiseki cuisine with Hida Beef at the Ryokan.

Overnight Ryokan Asunaro. (B / L / D)

Day 7 - Takayama

After breakfast, our luggage will be transfered to our Kyoto hotel. We will keep only an overnight bag with enough clothing to see us through this evening & one more night. 

This morning after breakfast, approx 930am, our Guide will collect us for a Food & Culture Walk around Takayama’s old town and market, an area full of traditional houses, shops and restaurants, all of which have maintained their strong traditional touch.

Our guide will lead us to some of the most famous spots in town and provide many chances to savor some of the most famous products of the region, such as miso (Japanese paste made from soybeans, salt and rice), Takayama’s typical rice dumplings dipped in soy sauce, and some Japanese style home made sweets and confectionery. There will also be a possibility to taste the locally produced sake. A tasty way to expand your knowledge about Takayama’s delicious cuisine and unique traditions..

This afternoon is free time or you can join in on a short walk to Takayama Jinya, also known as the Historical Government House - the only surviving government office building from the Edo period. Now it serves as a museum, featuring some well-preserved meeting and conference rooms, a collection of century-old artifacts and office supplies, and a 400-year-old rice storage room. Then visit the Takayama Festival Floats Museum to see the colorful floats that parade through the town during the famous Takayama Festivals in spring and autumn.)

This evening you are free. You can dine again this evening in the Ryokan or we can eat together at a favourite local restaurant.

Overnight Ryokan Asunaro. (B / Tasting Snacks)

Day 8 - Kyoto

This morning we have free time before we need to board our train so we can visit the Miyagawa Morning Market where locals sell their handmade crafts and local produce (depending on the season, the markets open as early as 6:00 a.m.). This is also the perfect place to purchase some souvenirs such as chopsticks, Ichii Itto-bori (wood carvings) and the iconic Sarubobo

We then walk to the train station with our Guide - we can buy a Bento Box for our lunch - where we board our Express Train for Kyoto. On arrival, we are met at the station and transferred to our hotel.

*Our train departs Takayama, we change at Nagoya, and arrive at Kyoto. The total duration of this train journey is approximately 4.5 hours. We will be carrying only our overnight bags.

This evening we can dine in the hotel restaurant or grab a snack from one of the surrounding restaurants/cafes.

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B)

Day 9 - Kyoto

This morning after breakfast - approx 0915am - we discover Kyoto by *bike on a cycling tour that takes in this historic city's best known sights. We will visit temples, castles and Japan's most famous Zen rock garden before riding through pristine bamboo forests. Kyoto's lack of hills and quiet streets make this the perfect way to take in the best the city has to offer.

We meet our tour guide at Kyoto Station and pick up your bike for the day. We start off with a visit to the Nishi-Hongaji Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in Kyoto just located near the Kyoto Station area.  

Later we will be cycling to Nijo Castle, famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors.

After lunch, we bike to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. Next, we head further north and visit Ryoanji and its famous Zen rock garden, then explore the Arashiyama district with its bamboo forests district before returning to Kyoto Station. 

This evening we can dine along the Pontocho area.

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B / L)

*Cycling is very popular in Kyoto and is very easy as the city is relatively flat. It is also a quicker and easier way to see the sights. We will go as slow as necessary, and stop when needed. There is no rush. There will be an alternative for those who doe not wish to bike. 

Day 10 - Kyoto

DAY: Today, what we have in store for you is a truly amazing Japanese Cultural experience.
Blessed with one of the most distinct cultures on the planet, Japan is home to a number of unique and defining arts. We will visit a traditional Kyoto style wooden house where we will partake in a Tea Ceremony with expert instructors. 

We will be taken on a short tour of the machiya house and provided with insight into its architecture, before donning a traditional kimono, the iconic Japanese garment.

Dressed in our kimono, we will now take part in a tea ceremony, a quintessential part of Japanese culture, in the company of a tea master. This allows us to learn about every aspect of Japanese tea culture, from making the tea to the movements involved in serving it. Then a walk through the old neighborhood to visit to a nearby sake brewery, where we will have a chance to try the local brew.

Our Guide will then take us to the Silver Pavilion in the Higashiyama District, where they will end their tour. We can then stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama area, whose busy lanes lead up to Kiyomizu and are filled with quaint shops selling souvenirs including Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles. From the Silver Pavilion, we will begin our walk on the Philosphers Path. On return to the hotel, we will have free time until late afternoon. 

EVENING: One of the many unique aspects of Japanese culture is its Geisha. When hearing the word “Japan,” one’s mind immediately conjures up images of these elegant and mysterious ladies, with their elaborate hairstyles, white-painted faces and bright red lips, wrapped in an elegant kimono. 

Kyoto is considered the home of the Geisha, & this evening, together with our Guide, we will explore the streets of Gion, known as Kyoto’s Geisha district, with a unique opportunity to have dinner with a “Maiko”, an apprentice Geisha, dressed in a colourful kimono.

Late afternoon, our Guide will escort us to the Gion District. A captivating walking tour of Gion begins in front of Minami-za Theatre and continues past local shops and restaurants, before reaching the Yasaka Shrine. A quick detour leads through the streets of Hanami-koji, the most popular street in Gion where lavish teahouses are lined up. 

From the Yasaka Shrine, we cross the Tatsumibashi Bridge and pass Tatsumi Daimyojin (a small street shrine), Gion Komori (a once dignified teahouse) and the Shirakawa Canal. 

After the walking tour, dinner will be enjoyed in a local restaurant serving kaiseki ryori (traditional multi-course dinner) in the company of a Maiko. During the dinner, there is ample opportunity to interact with the hostess and ask questions about her craft and the world of Geisha. During dinner, the Maiko will perform traditional dances and even invite guests to play Japanese drinking games. The Maiko will stay with us for about 1.5 hours, giving us time to talk to them and ask any questions we may have.

After this unforgettable experience, it is time to return to the hotel and wind down from the day’s events. 

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B / D)

Day 11 - Kyoto

After breakfast we can walk the mile-long Nishiki market, passing by some interesting food stalls and learning about the local Japanese produce.

We may then go into to the backstreets to visit a former sake brewery and have the chance to sample the local brew before heading back to the hotel for rest.

This afternoon we have a traditional cooking class in a machiya, a well-restored wooden house that is typical for Kyoto. We will be taught how to prepare the typical dishes served in an izakaya. 'Izakaya' is loosely translated to a Japanese-style pub, where friends or co-workers gather together to drink. Your home chef will share with us the techniques in preparing some authentic Japanese dishes such as steamed egg custard and steamed rice with fish broth. After our class, we will have the chance to sit down and share the meal with our teacher. 

We return to the hotel (approximately 6pm) and the rest of our evening is free.

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B / D)

Day 12 - Kyoto

Today is a free day to explore more of Kyoto at your pleasure. 

OPTIONAL DAY TOUR: Nara.
Your Guide will meet you at the Hotel, and you will be transferred to Nara. Arrive at Nara, where you visit at Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest sitting Buddha statue. Continue to Kasuga Taisha. Nara’s most celebrated shrine. You will also have time to wander through Nara Park, called Deer Park by locals due to the large population of tame deer living there. Lunch at local restaurant (Included). After lunch, transfer back to Kyoto to your hotel. This is approximately NZD$150.00 per person inclusive of guide, transfers, admission fees and lunch. (Rate valid at November 2017)

Overnight Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO: (B)

**NOTE: This evening we will have the option of having a guide on hand to take us where we can experience izakaya, tachinomiya and Japan’s street food. Dinner and food will be at our own expense, but our guide will translate for us, heighten the experience and take us to hard-to-find / hidden establishments. This is an OPTIONAL evening activity, and must be booked/confirmed 4 weeks before departure. This will be approximately $100.00 per person. (Rate valid at November 2017)

Day 11 - Osaka

This morning after a leisurely breakfast we check out and transfer onto Osaka in our Private Coach. 

En-route, we visit a well established Sake Brewery. Upon arrival at Daimon Brewery, Sake Master Yasutaka DAIMON gives a 30 minutes tour of sake brewery where he grew up and lives today. We will learn the detailed process of how rice turns to sake. After the tour, we are invited to taste 3-4 types of sake and learn the differences from Mr. Daimon, followed by lunch in which they coordinate the ‘marriage’ of western cuisine & sake to prove that sake goes well with western cuisine as well.

 

We then check into our hotel. The rest of the day is free at leisure until our afternoon tour.

This afternoon, approximately 4pm, we embark on an Osaka Street Food Tour. We will meet our guide and depart by private coach.

First we will go to Doguyasuji shopping arcade, a unique market where you can find anything related to the food industry including the plastic food models you find outside Japanese restaurants. After seeing so much plastic food, it's time to have some snacks. So our next stop will be in Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district and former “pleasure district.” We will see a wide array of food stalls and restaurants - & we can choose to have either an order of takoyaki (octopus balls) or okonomiyaki (“Japanese pancake” with cabbage, pork, ginger, nori, and a special sauce).

While in Dotonbori, we may want to spare some time and pose in front of Kani Doraku, the huge crab with moving legs, or stand on Ebisubashi with the photo of the running Glico man as our backdrop. After taking some photos, we continue on, passing by Hozenji Yokocho, an area with narrow alleys filled with more than 60 traditional restaurants and izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs). At the end of one of these alleys, we find Hozenji Temple, where worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity instead of tossing coins.

We then take the train to Shinsekai, a small, old town in Tennoji area that was designed after New York and Paris. Despite the post WWII economic impact, Shinsekai still remains to be one of the favourite places in Osaka for food lovers.

But before sampling some of the local delicacies, we first go to Tsutenkaku, the tower modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and one of Osaka’s top icons. The tower is famous for its seasonal lights. We go to the fifth floor where we will find not just the observatory but also a replica of the statue of Billiken, the god of happiness.

Now it’s time to discover the delicious wonders of Shinsekai. For dinner, we recommend kushikatsu, a skewer of meat and vegetables dipped in batter, rolled on bread crumbs, and then deep fried.

Our guide will deliver us back to the hotel where we can have a final drink together in the hotel bar.

Overnight Cross Hotel - (B / Evening Snacks at Dotonbori) 

Day 14 - Depart

This morning our tour ends.
We are transferred to Kansai Airport for our onward flights. 

About this tour

Hotel Niwa, Tokyo - Hotel Niwa Tokyo is a comfort boutique hotel situated in the central area of Tokyo. Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Hotel Niwa Tokyo is close to several convenient train stations - within walking distance - and there are many local restaurants near the hotel. Some rooms come with a seating area and spacious spa bath in the bathroom where you can relax. Rooms are equipped with necessary amenities such as private safe with AC outlet to charge your lap top and mobile devices etc, a spacious bathroom, a large flat-screen TV, custom made furniture & include luxury hotel quality beds. Staff are always ready to be at service on the 24-hour Front Desk. The setting is beautiful with the Japanese restaurant looking out to a serene and tranquil traditional Japanese garden. The waitresses all wear kimono. The decor is modern and simplistic; ambient, quiet and cozy. This is a great hidden gem in Tokyo.

Hotel Nikko, Kanazawa - Hotel Nikko Kanazawa is conveniently located in front of JR Kanazawa Station and within walking distance of some of the most famous tourist spots in Kanazawa. Featuring panoramic views, 8 dining options and shops, all rooms are located all above the 17th floor, offering beautiful views. Concierge services are available and free WiFi is provided throughout the property. The spacious air-conditioned rooms at Nikko Kanazawa Hotel include a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bathtub and shower. Free toiletries and a hairdryer are provided. Guests can try on the yukata robe and enjoy a pay-per-view movie. A Japanese/Western buffet breakfast is available. La Plage offers 30th-floor views and French cuisine, while Benkei serves sushi beside a Japanese garden. A Chinese restaurant and a bar are also available.

Ryokan Asunaro, Takayama - Ryokan Asunaro is conveniently located near Takayama's famous Miyagawa Morning Market. Originally a wealthy farmer's house, Asunaro is over 150 years old. In the lobby, guests are served coffee while gathered around the original farmhouse hearth. There are a total of 19 Japanese-style guest rooms at Asunaro. The minimalist rooms feature calligraphy artwork, tatami floors, futons and chabudai dining tables. All have free Wi-Fi and mini-fridges, along with tea making equipment and flat-screen TV's. Asunaro has indoor rock baths for both women and men, and in the women's bath guests can try the ryokan's own homemade skin softeners. All meals are taken the privacy of the guest rooms, and Hida beef and fresh Takayama style seasonal dishes are served for dinner. Cooked breakfast is served in a laid-back restaurant, and a cozy lounge features timber-framed walls and antique-style decor. There's also a veranda and a communal bathhouse.

Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto, Kyoto - Royal Park Hotel THE KYOTO is located in Kawaramachi-Sanjo. in the heart of Kyoto. This specialty hotel weaves tradition with art in expert fashion. A 4-minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae subway station and 3 km from both the Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple and Niji Castle. The subdued rooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, mini fridges, and tea and coffee makers. There's a floor reserved for female guests only. A chic restaurant serves Western cuisine, and there's also a swanky bar and a bakery.

Cross Hotel, Osaka - Cross Hotel Osaka is just a 5-minute walk from the Dotonbori area and JR Namba Train Station. The stylish rooms include free WiFi, a complimentary bottle of water and private bathrooms. Relax in the modern furnishings and enjoy watching the flat-screen TV. Each air-conditioned room has a fridge and air purifier. Bar Seagull pours drinks in a simple yet sophisticated decor. Lime restaurant is open as well, and sweets can be purchased at the Cafe. Glamorous-X restaurant serves an original buffet lunch and breakfast. Chuo Ward – a favourite part of Osaka - is a great choice for travelers interested in shopping, gourmet food and food.

Japanese Cuisine - There’s no question that one of Japan’s biggest attractions for many visitors is the food, and more specifically, the sushi. While Japan is regarded as a food-lover’s paradise, some regions are definitely more worthy of the accolade than other. In December 2013, Japanese cuisine is officially recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, an accolade shared by just four other cultures. ‘Washoku’, as it’s known locally, is traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese. (The others are the Gastronomy Art of France, Mediterranean Cuisine, traditional dishes of Mexico, and traditional kashkak of Turkey). Note: The “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills—as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces associated therewith—that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

Practicalities

Autumn Travel in Japan: While the Japanese celebrate every season, Autumn/Fall (aki), holds a special place in many hearts for the beauty of changing leaves, the return of favorite culinary treats, and some of the year’s most vibrant festivals. Autumn brings an array of mushrooms, chestnuts, squid and shellfish, and the first waves of the return of fatty fish. Autumn is perhaps the most popular time to visit Japan as the weather has cooled and the leaves are boasting their full spectrum of color.

What happens in October:
- Foliage viewing. As with the cherry blossoms, there are gorgeous leaves to be found both around Kanazawa and throughout Japan.
- Apple and nashi (Asian pear) picking in local orchards.
- Kurama Fire Festival, Kyoto. One of Kyoto’s three most spectacular festivals. 3rd week October. Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Tochigi Prefecture, a registered World Heritage Site. A grand procession of men dressed in samurai costumes known as the Parade of 1,000 Samurai Warriors.
- Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto. A grand ancient-costume procession where the long history of Japan unfolds before the spectators. 3rd week of October.
- Kenrokuen Fall Light Up, Kanazawa. Annual autumn light-up. The illuminated maple leaves are truly remarkable this time of year.

Autumn/Fall Cuisine - It’s mushroom season! Featuring matsutake and a slew of other, equally mouth-watering varieties. Also chestnuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, persimmons, katsuo (bonito), kohada (shad), saba (Japanese mackerel), ikura (salmon roe), the opening of crab season, and of course, the fall opening of the sake casks!

Shoes & Clothing - Be sure to bring comfortable shoes that are easy to take on & off as most temples, shrines, many restaurants, and all ryokan will require shoe removal. Best to always wear or at least carry socks or peds as barefoot is considered rude. Layers are best in fall, winter, and spring; light breathable, wicking materials best in summer. A light, waterproof jacket is a must.

Ryokan - Ryokan will require all visitors to remove their shoes upon entering. Slippers will be provided to all guests, and shoes will be kept safe until you are ready to go out again. If you plan to wear different shoes on your next excursion than those you originally entered in, these should be carried to the entrance at the time of departure. Shoes should NEVER be worn inside the ryokan under any circumstances.While at the ryokan, it is not only acceptable but preferred if you wear the special robes (yukata) provided by the inn. You will see most other guests wearing these. It is part of the entire experience of staying in a ryokan, leaving all worldly things behind and entering into the private world of the inn. As a rule, a ryokan stay means sleeping on traditional futons on tatami mat (woven straw) floors. There are a few ryokan that have added platforms and even a few with Western style beds to better serve non-Japanese guests. In cases where only futons are available, it is possible for to request extra layers ahead of time for more cushioning. Meals at ryokan may be served privately in the guests’ rooms, or at times, in a common dining room. Sometimes, guests have a choice. Many ryokan have “public” baths or hot springs. In this case, “public” means only for staying guests. These are always segregated by gender, although some places may also have a separate “family bath” which can be reserved in advance, usually for 30 – 60 minutes of private bathing time for couples or families.

Luggage - We always encourage guests to travel as lightly as they feel comfortable for Japan. We will always opt to have our luggage sent ahead, but this does require planning to be sure the bags are awaiting the guests. Traveling with bags on trains is of course possible, although special handlers can be also be dispatched to assist with transfers at each point. 

Language - Every day there is more and more English on signs, especially in airports and train stations, but throughout many cities as well. As we edge closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this will only increase, making independent travel days easier to navigate and Japan as a whole a bit less inscrutable. Most Japanese people have large English vocabularies but little confidence in speaking the language. If you speak slowly and clearly, they will probably understand you and are very helpful when it comes to directions and assistance.

The facts

Currency:  The Japanese unit of currency is the Yen (JPY). There are 6 different denomination coins in circulation - 500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 - and 4 different denomination notes - 10000, 5000, 2000 and 1000. Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at most major banks, larger hotels and some duty free shops. You may avoid some commission by using yen-denominated Travellers Cheques. Credit cards and debit cards of the major issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diners) are becoming increasingly accepted in the major cities. However they are not used as much as in western countries. International ATMS found at Post Offices and 7-11 convenience stores only - you will be able to take out money using Visa cards, Mastercard, Cirrus or Maestro. You can change your money at the airport, at most banks and at post offices. You can get a cash advance on a Visa card at Sumitomo banks but these will not always be convenient and are not found outside of the major cities. You can use Visa and Mastercard cards to withdraw money at Post Office and 7-11 ATMs.

Tipping: As a rule there is no tipping in Japan; there is certainly no requirement to leave a tip in Japan and it is not expected. At hotels there is no need to tip the bellboy for helping you with your luggage. This is all part of the service and no tip is required. Re services of a guide - you are not expected to tip at the end of the day. If you would like to tip a guide you particularly enjoyed, ¥5000 ~ ¥10,000 ($50-100) in an envelope is traditional. However, a small gift from your home country is very much appreciated as a thank you. This should be no more than a token present - anything from your local town or city will be very well received. There are some occasions when it is appropriate to tip. The first is when you stay at a high-end ryokan. This only applies when meals are served in your room and the tip should only be a small amount left for the maids who will be serving your meals and laying out / putting away your futons. Unlike in the West where tips are given after the service is provided, you should tip your maid at the beginning of your stay. A suitable tip would be 1,000 yen per night of your stay and this needs to be left inside an envelope on the table in your room. Never hand a cash tip to anyone in Japan as this is considered rather uncouth. The money should always be hidden from view in an envelope.

Electricity:  Unusually Japan does not have a single national grid, but instead has separate grids in the east and west of the country. The standard voltage is 100V across the country, but the frequencies vary: 60Hz in Western Japan and 50HZ in Tokyo and the east. Plugs are the flat 2-pin kind similar to the US. If you have a US plug converter, this will work fine in Japan.

Visas: Nationals of many countries including almost all Western countries are eligible to enter Japan for short-term stays (usually 90 days) without a visa for purposes of sightseeing and for business trips. Nationals that do not have “Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements” with Japan must obtain a visa.

Not Included:

  • Airfares - PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Travel insurance - PLESE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Transfers unless stated in the itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Phone calls
  • Passport and visas
  • Laundry unless stated
  • Tips at meals and bars 
  • Excess baggage
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Beverages unless specifically described. 
  • Optional excursions or activities that may be offered
Travel advice / FCO

We constantly monitor the advice posted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings.

At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any of the places visited on this tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns.

You should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.