Highlights of Japan
Duration: 13 nights part-escorted tour
Price from: £3699pp
Tokyo 3 nights
Takayama 2 nights
Kanazawa 2 nights
Hiroshima 2 nights
Kyoto 3 nights
Osaka 1 nights
Day 1: Fly to Tokyo.
Day 2 Tokyo: Transfer to your hotel on arrival. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 3 Tokyo: Today's guided tour starts at Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa during the Edo period. After a break in the teahouse take a scenic river cruise to Asakusa, part of Tokyo's old town, and home to its oldest Buddhist temple, Sensoji, as well as Tokyo's oldest Geisha district. The tour ends with a visit to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo's most famous shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings.
Day 4 Tokyo: At leisure to explore. Perhaps visit some of the city's world-class museums and art galleries, the electronics district of Akihabara or see the world-famous Tsukji Fish Market. Alternatively, venture out of Tokyo and explore the delightful seaside town of Kamakura.
Day 5 Tokyo/Takayama: Travel by Shinkansen bullet train before changing onto the Limited Express Hida Wideview for a scenic journey through tall mountains and stunning gorges to Takayama. Nestled high in the Hida alpine region, this beautifully preserved old town was cut off from the rest of Japan, allowing it to develop its own unique culture. We recommend at stroll in Takayama's shitamachi, where the streets are lined with century-old merchants' homes and sake breweries. Stay overnight in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors and tatami flooring.
Day 6 Takayama: At leisure to continue exploring independently. An optional food and culture walk and Hida cycling tour is available (additional expense), during which you'll explore some of Takayama's food shops with a knowledgeable guide, before a cycling tour in Hida Furukawa, a small, quiet farm village.
Day 7 Takayama/Kanazawa: For today's self-guided tour, we suggest you rise early and travel by bus to Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses. These houses are private homes but some are open to the public, such as Wada House. In the afternoon, continue by bus to Kanazawa, a beautifully preserved castle town and now a thriving centre for culture and arts.
Day 8 Kanazawa: During today's self-guided tour we suggest you start with pristine Kenroku-en Garden, ranked as one of Japan's top three gardens. Adjacent is Kanzawa Castle, a designated Important National Cultural Asset. Finally, visit the old Samurai district and visit Nomura House, a restored residence of a high ranked samurai family.
Day 9 Kanazawa/Hiroshima: Travel by train to Hiroshima, famous as the first target of an atomic bomb. The city has risen phoenix-like from the ashes and rebuilt itself as one of Japan's most laid back, vibrant cities, full of wide boulevards and art museums, great food and welcoming people.
Day 10 Hiroshima: Travel by ferry to Miyajima Island where you will find perhaps the most photographed site in Japan, The Floating Torii Gate, which dates back to the 6th century. Be sure to visit the Peace Park and Museum for a sobering reminder of the events of 1945; far from being a depressing experience, the overriding theme is one of hope and peace.
Day 11 Hiroshima/Kyoto: Board the Shinkansen for the journey to Kyoto. On arrival the rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 12 Kyoto: Join a local guide and explore some of Kyoto's World Heritage Sites using the city's comprehensive bus system. Start with a visit to ornamental Nijo Castle, which was completed in 1603 and is surrounded by stunning gardens. Continue on to the serene Ryoan-ji Temple to see its well-maintained rock garden and then visit Kinkaku-ji Temple. Later, visit Kiyomizudera (Pure Water) Temple for amazing views before visiting the atmospheric Higashiyama district.
Day 13 Kyoto/Nara/Kyoto: This morning visit a Machiya, a beautifully restored wooden town house typical of Kyoto, before an induction to the Tea Ceremony, a quintessential part of Japanese culture and then walk through the old neighbourhood to visit a nearby Sake brewery. In the afternoon you have the option to take the short journey by train to Nara where we recommend you visit the Todaiji Temple, the world's largest wooden building and home to Japan's largest Buddha. Alternatively, continue to explore Kyoto.
Day 14 Kyoto/Osaka: A day at leisure to explore the lively streets of Osaka. Don't miss Doguyasuji market and then see Sennichimae, a lane filled with small eateries.
Day 15 Oasaka: Your tour concludes with a transfer to the airport for your onward journey.
Meals: Breakfast. Dinner also included on day 6.
Tour prices: The price shown is based on the best value travel dates in low season and includes return international flights from the UK, 3* accommodation, PASMO Tokyo transport pass, Hakone Free Pass, 7 day Japan Rail Pass for Ordinary Class to use from days 5-11, one way bus travel to Shirakawago and Kanazawa, two day bus and subway pass in Kyoto, English speaking local guide in Tokyo (day 3) and Kyoto (day 12), all entrance fees and transport (days 3 and 12) and cultural experience in Kyoto on day 13.