Highlights of Japan with Back-Roads Touring

Duration: 10 nights escorted tour

Price from: £4399pp

Tokyo 2 nights
Tsumago 1 night
Kyoto 2 nights
Takamatsu 1 night
Iya Valley 1 night
Hiroshima 2 nights
Osaka 1 night

Day 1: Fly to Tokyo.

Day 2 Tokyo: On arrival transfer to your centrally located hotel. This evening, get to know your fellow travellers over a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 3 Tokyo: Begin with a half-day guided tour of Tokyo’s must-sees, by way of the city’s user-friendly public transport system. First up is the fascinating Edo-Tokyo Museum, which documents the Japanese capital’s transformation from a small fishing village to one of the world’s largest metropolises. Continue to the Kokyo Gaien National Garden – the beautifully maintained outer gardens of the Imperial Palace (the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan) before returning to the hotel for time at leisure or to explore under your own steam.

Day 4 Tokyo/Tsumago: Grand, breathtaking and utterly iconic, Matsumoto Castle is the first historic destination on today’s itinerary. This towering black-and-white structure holds 400 years’ worth of history – and rewards those who scale its steep, narrow stairs with magnificent views over the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City and the moat below. After pausing for a photo opportunity or two, move on to Tsumago: one of the best preserved ‘post towns’ in the country, which still retains its traditional Edo Period appearance and ambience. To round off a busy day, enjoy dinner at the hotel.

Day 5 Tsumago/Kyoto: Today it’s all aboard the world-famous Shinkansen (‘bullet train’) for the journey to Kyoto – Japan’s spiritual heart. After transferring to the hotel for check-in, embark on your own exploration of the city’s traditional teahouses, food markets and Zen gardens  – or to spend some time enjoying the hotel facilities.

Day 6 Kyoto: Travel to the western outskirts of the city where a tour of the famed Arashiyama area awaits. Begin at the tranquil Gio-Ji Temple, a monument known for its luxuriant moss garden and dense tangle of maple trees, before moving on to Okochi-Sanso Villa: one of the finest examples of traditional Japanese residential architecture in the country. While here, take the chance to savour a complimentary matcha green tea and Japanese sweets in the charming gardens. Continue to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, for a stroll amidst the high-reaching stalks.

Day 7 Kyoto/Takamatsu: This morning, take a short Shinkansen train journey to the historic city of Kurashiki: a former rice distribution centre that remains remarkably unspoiled by the passage of time. After exploring the romantic canal-side laneways, stop off at the Ohashi House, a one-of-a-kind property complete with beautiful tatami floors and paper sliding doors. The final stop of the day will be the port city of Takamatsu, where the afternoon is yours to spend as you please.

Day 8 Takamatsu/Iya Valley: Built by feudal lords during the Edo Period, the Ritsurin Garden is one of the most famous gardens in Japan, and it’s here today’s explorations begin. With plenty of masterfully kept ponds, bridges, and footpaths to explore, there’s no better place to relax and feel at one with nature. Later, move on to the mountain slopes and deep gorges of the remote Iya Valley, and settle into your traditional Japanese-style hotel accommodation. Why not take a dip in the open-aironsen (hot spring baths) and soak up the beauty of your stunning surroundings before meeting fellow travellers for dinner?

Day 9 Iya Valley/Hiroshima: After leaving the mountains behind, stop off to purchase authentic Japanese bento boxes to eat during the bullet train journey from Okayama to Hiroshima: the infamous site of the 1945 atomic bombing. On arrival, pay a moving visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, ticking off the UNESCO World Heritage-listed A-Bomb Dome: the tragic remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (one of the few buildings to remain standing after the catastrophic explosion).

Day 10 Hiroshima: Today’s scenic destination? Miyajima Island, where a combination of mountains, sea and a world-famous ‘floating’ Torii gate* make for mystical views (and excellent photo opportunities). First on the agenda is the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Shrine, an attractive example of 12th-century Shinto architecture. Afterwards, move on to Momijidani Park, a delightful public garden filled with maple trees, where you have the opportunity to climb Mt Misen via ropeway. Although the surrounding area is renowned for its colourful autumn foliage, the vistas from the mountaintop are undeniably beautiful at any time of year!

Day 11 Hiroshima/Osaka: Move on to the gastronomic haven of Osaka and on arrival this morning, take some time to explore the city’s famous 16th-century castle and its surrounding park. Five storeys high and decorated with lavish gold motifs, the castle is filled with fascinating artefacts detailing Osaka’s history. After paying an afternoon visit to the striking Umeda Sky Building’s observatory, you’ll be free to hunt down some delicious cuisine on Takimi-Koji Street (a renowned foodie haunt).

Day 12 Osaka: Your tour concludes as you make your own way to the airport for your onward journey.

Departures: Tour operates on fixed departure dates between 03 Apr-16 Nov 20.

Accommodation: 3* hotels throughout.

Meals: Breakfast. Dinner is also included on days 2, 4 & 7.

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 passengers. Luggage is restricted to one suitcase (up to 20kg) and one small carry-on per person.*Please note, renovations have been underway on Miyajima’s famous Torii gate since June 19 and are expected to last until at least June 20. During the works, the gate will be covered in scaffolding.

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