Gardens of Japan with Back-Roads Touring

Duration: 8 nights escorted tour

Price from: £4799pp

Osaka 1 night
Kurashiki 1 night
Matsue 2 nights
Kyoto 2 nights
Kanazawa 1 night
Tokyo 1 night

Day 1: Fly to Osaka.

Day 2 Osaka: On arrival transfer to your hotel. This evening, meet your fellow travellers over a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 3 Osaka/Kurashiki: Depart this morning to beautiful Himeji Castle, Japan’s biggest and best-preserved feudal-era castle. Here, there’s time to stroll around the 400-year old complex and learn more about its fascinating history. Travel onward to Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s most famous landscape gardens with expansive lawns broken up by large, glinting ponds and groves of trees. Continue by road to Kurashiki, where your evening is at leisure to stroll the historic laneways and lamp-lit canals.

Day 4 Kurashiki/Matsue: Spend the morning exploring the well-preserved canal area where you’ll see wooden storehouses-turned-museums and old willow-edged canals. Next, visit the opulent Ohashi House and stroll through the tatami-floored rooms and admire the samurai-style architecture that reflects the Ohashi family’s wealth and importance. Later, move on to the ‘Water City’ of Matsue, and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 5 Matsue: This morning visit Matsue Castle, one of only 12 original castles left in Japan. Perched atop a network of pine-lined waterways and charming bridges, the 16th century keep is something to behold! During the afternoon wander the beautifully landscaped gardens and admire the carefully curated art collection at the Adachi Museum of Art where you’ll also have lunch. Later, travel on to mythological Izumo to visit the country’s oldest and most sacred Shinto shrine: Izumo Taisha. Return to Matsue for an evening at leisure.

Day 6 Matsue/Kyoto: Travel by bullet train to Kyoto, regarded as Japan’s spiritual heart. First stop is Nishiki Market where you’ll have time to browse the stalls and sample delicious sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. Later, discover Kyoto’s atmospheric dining district of Pontocho. Best explored at night, this narrow pedestrianised walkway is lined with old wooden facades, glowing lanterns and buzzing restaurants serving up tantalising dishes. Explore at your leisure, keeping your eyes peeled for the occasional geisha making their way between appointments.

Day 7 Kyoto: Nestled at the base of Kyoto’s western mountains, the tranquil district of Arashiyama is best known for its scenic temples and peaceful bamboo grove. Begin with a visit to Gio-Ji Temple, which is known for its mossy gardens, simple thatched hall and tall maple trees. Next, wander the awe-inspiring gardens of Okochi Mountain Villa, before a serene stroll through Arashiyama’s dense bamboo grove and then a visit t the Tenryuji Temple. Later, make tracks to Higashiyama to partake in a traditional chanayu tea ceremony before returning to Kyoto where you have free time to explore the gently sloping lanes and traditional shophouses of the Ninenzaka district.

Day 8 Kyoto/Kanazawa: Travel by express train to the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa where you’ll embark on a guided tour of the historic Omicho Market. Enjoy time to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of buzzing restaurants and market stalls filled with fresh local seafood and colourful produce. Next stop is tranquil Kenrokuen Garden, which draws inspiration from the six attributes of perfection (seclusion, spaciousness, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views) and is regarded as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Round off the day in the Higashi Chaya District, where you’ll stop in a local store to learn the art of gold leaf decorating.

Day 9 Kanazawa/Tokyo: Ride the bullet train to Tokyo and on arrival visit the Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, the largest fish and seafood market in the world. There’s time to browse some of the 400 shops selling fresh ingredients and cooking utensils before making tracks to the famous Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace – the official residence of Japan’s Imperial Family. Here, you can wander the large grounds, moats and imposing stone walls before transferring to your hotel where, this evening, you’ll clink glasses over a farewell dinner.

Day 10 Tokyo: Your tour concludes as you make your own way to the airport for your onward journey.

Departures: Tour operates on fixed departure dates between 28 Mar-04 Oct 20.

Accommodation: 3* hotels throughout.

Meals: Breakfast. Lunch is also included on days 3 & 5 and dinner is also included on days 2, 4, 7 & 9.

Tour price: The price shown for this escorted small group tour with Back-Roads Touring includes international flights, travel by air-conditioned mini-coach, travel by bullet train as highlighted, guided sightseeing tours as stated, entrance fees and services of an experienced Back-Roads driver and tour leader.

Note: The tour operates with maximum 18. Luggage is restricted to one suitcase (up to 20kg) and one small carry-on per person.

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