(Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto)
Japan is an enchanting destination, and this itinerary covers a diversity of sites, from volcanic lakes to mountain villages. Start in Tokyo, where period Japanese gardens are surrounded by futuristic skyscrapers. Throughout your city touring you will drink a cup of steaming macha in a tea house, visit Asakusa - Tokyo’s old town, and dig deeply into the cities incomparable food scene.
Leave Tokyo behind as you make the 90 minute journey to Hakone, the gateway to Mt Fuji and surrounding national park. While riding a cable car you will pass over sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers in this volcanic area. Take the Tozan ‘switchback train’ which zig zags though the mountains, giving amazing views of the surrounding valleys. Head inland to Takayama, home of many sake breweries, noodle houses, and famous morning markets. It’s old town has been beautifully preserved, with many buildings and whole streets of houses dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868).
En route to Kanazawa you will stop by Shirakawa-go, where farmhouses have traditional steep thatched roofs. Once in destination, you will see one of Japan’s top 3 ranked shrines, and spend time in the Nagamachi Samurai district.
Finally, finish your time in Kyoto, the former imperial capital, and home to innumerable castles, shrines, and zen temples. Side trip to Nara, home to hundreds of freely roaming deer. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara's nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have been designated a natural treasure.
Due to its previously inaccessible location nestled high in the mountainous Hida alpine region, this beautifully preserved old town was cut off from the rest of Japan, allowing it to develop its own unique culture. Takayama is an intimate, leisurely place and even the very centre of the town has a quiet, rustic charm. The region is an agricultural one, and every day the freshest of vegetables and fruit are brought by local farmers to Takayama’s lively morning market. The surrounding forests provide fine timber for building traditional houses and for the simple utensils and lacquer ware that have been made in Takayama for hundreds of years. The skillful carpenters of Hida (as this region is called) are said to have built the Imperial Palace in Kyoto and many temples in that city, as well as in Nara. The district called San-machi Suji, the traditional home of Takayama merchants and sake brewers, has been preserved in almost exactly the same state as 200 or 300 years ago. Here are inns, shops, and taverns which trace their history back many generations. The Takayama Festival, which takes place in spring and autumn, is considered to be one of the three most impressive festivals in Japan.
During the Edo Period, Kanazawa served as the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa in terms of rice production and fief size. Accordingly, Kanazawa grew to become a town of great cultural achievements, rivalling Kyoto and Tokyo. During World War II, Kanazawa was Japan's second largest city to escape destruction by air raids. Consequently, parts of the old castle town, such as the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment districts, have survived in good condition. Today, Kanazawa remains an important city in its region and serves as the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. The city boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. But Kanazawa's unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens" and considered the most beautiful of them all.
An English speaking assistant will meet and assist you on arrival at the airport and give you your documents and take you to meet your driver and waiting car.
Meet your driver for an airport transfer with a private vehicle.
Take a day tour of this fascinating city with a local guide, making use of Tokyo’s comprehensive and user friendly public transport system. The day begins with a visit to Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji and a popular place for traditional Japanese weddings. Take a walk down Omotesando shopping street, a broad tree lined avenue home to the flagship stores of the world’s top fashion brands. Head across town to Asakusa, Tokyo’s old town where you can soak in the atmosphere of old Tokyo. Visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple and wander down Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries. Take a boat cruise on the Sumida River passing under 12 bridges. Disembark in Hamarikyu garden, an Edo Period Japanese garden surrounded by the Shiodome district’s futuristic skyscrapers, a great example of how Japan is the land of contrasts, where you will stop for a cup of steaming matcha and Japanese sweets in a tea house on a small island in the park’s lake. Please note that with this tour you will have a private guide, but rather than travelling by private vehicle, you will make use of Tokyo’s efficient local transit system.
Today leave Tokyo behind as you make the 90 minute journey to Hakone, the gateway to Mt Fuji and surrounding national park. Your local guide for the day will accompany you on the “Romance Car” express train from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station. To explore the National Park, you can take advantage of the numerous forms of transport on offer. Ride the world’s second longest cable car up Mt Owakudani, passing over sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers in this volcanic area, where you can eat an egg hard boiled in the sulfuric hot springs which make Hakone famous. If you do, it will add seven years to your life! A majestic replica pirate ship will sweep you across the Lake Ashinoko, a lake formed by a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago, and the Hakone Tozan ‘switchback train’ zig zags though the mountains, giving amazing views of the surrounding valleys. Throughout the day you will have the chance to get a glimpse of Mt Fuji, however please keep in mind that she is a notoriously shy mountain and it needs to be a clear day.
Meet your driver for a train station transfer with a private vehicle and assistant.
Transfer by train from Tokyo to Takayama via Nagoya.
You will arrive in Takayama at 14:30. This afternoon you can visit one of the town’s many sake breweries with your guide for a taste of the local drop, its high quality due to the area’s clean water sources.
After breakfast your guide will take you up to the Miyagawa morning market, with stalls selling local crafts and produce making it a good opportunity to try some of the region’s delicious fruit and vegetables. Because of its valuable timber resources, the Hida Region around Takayama was put under direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1692. The Takayama Jinya served as the local government office, headed by the officials dispatched from Edo. The present building complex includes various rooms for administrative purposes, offices, kitchens, toilets, bathrooms, residential space, a court room, and storehouses. It was in official use until 1969, and is now open to the public as a museum.Takayama's old town has been beautifully preserved, with many buildings and whole streets of houses dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868), when the city thrived as a wealthy town of merchants. The southern half of the old town, especially Sannomachi Street, survives in a particularly pretty state with many old homes, shops, coffee houses, and sake breweries, some of which have been in business for centuries.
In the afternoon you can visit the Takayama Festival Floats museum, displaying floats from the famous Takayama festival, or simply wander through the beautifully preserved old town. You will end the day at a sake brewery, where you can taste different kinds of sake.
This morning you will travel by private car to Shirakawa-go. The Shirakawa-go and neighbouring Gokayama regions line the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that span from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
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 and is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms. You will also have the chance to experience making washi Japanese paper here.
In the afternoon, you will continue on to Kanazawa.
The highlight of any visit to Kanazawa is Kenroku-en garden. Ranked one of the top three in Japan, its breathtaking beauty shines through in any season. You can also visit the Nagamachi Samurai district, Saihitsuan Yuzen Silk Centre, offering demonstrations of the centuries-old Yuzen silk painting technique, and the Nomura Samurai House, a traditional Japanese home with a tea-ceremony room, an interior courtyard garden, and artifacts from the Edo period.
The tour will end at the Kanazawa train station around 3:00pm. From here you may choose to continue on by train to Kyoto (not included).
Transfer by train from Kanazawa to Kyoto. The train ride is approximately 2 hours.
The Granvia Kyoto is located directly above the Japan Rail train station. After exiting your train, please follow the below instructions to reach your hotel. This is a very short walk, and done easily on your own, so no guide service has been included.
When using the Shinkansen bullet train: Exit via the Shinkansen Main Exit, turn right and walk straight through Nanboku-Jiyu-Tsuro (North-to-South main corridor) until you reach the escalator to the hotel entrance on your right.
When using the Haruka Express from Kansai International Airport: Exit via the JR Chuo Main Exit and take the escalator on your right to the Lobby on the 2nd floor of the hotel.
Today you explore the former imperial capital with a knowledgeable local guide, utilizing Kyoto’s comprehensive bus system to visit some of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You will start your day with a visit to Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), which was 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. Nijo Castle is an ornamental castle and was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The main building was completed in 1603, and is famous for its architecture, decorated sliding doors, and ‘chirping’ nightingale floors. Take a walk down Nishiki Market, a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood, and sushi. Final stop is Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple. From the 13 metre high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto, while pondering the fact that both the Main Hall and Veranda were built without the use of nails or any kind of joiners.
Transfer from your hotel to Nara by train (45min) with a local guide. For 74 years during the 8th century Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. Visit Todaiji temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha. Next stop is Nara’s most celebrated shrine, Kasuga Taisha, established in 768 AD and famous for its hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns donated by worshipers. Shin-Yakushiji Temple was founded during the Nara Period (710-794) by an empress for the sake of the ailing emperor. It’s devoted to Yakushi Buddha, the patron of medicine in Japanese Buddhism. Inside the main hall there are life size statues of 12 guardian deities surrounding a two meter tall statue of a seated Yakushi Buddha, which are the temples main objects of worship. Wander through Nara Park, called Deer Park by locals due to the large population of more than 1,000 tame deer that live there. On the way back from Nara, visit Fushimi Inari Shrine, which was used in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. It is home to over 10,000 red tori gates, which form a path up the mountain behind the temple.
Park Hotel Tokyo is ideally situated in Shiodome, a flourishing new center of business and culture. The hotel offers an extraordinary level of service and coordinated interior designs. The Park Hotel Tokyo also shows respect for local traditions of nature, translated in the hotel's glass-roofed atrium. A soothing haven of trees and greenery, it stretches between the building's 25th and 34th floors, creating a well of warming sunlight that augments the sensation of balance and vitality fostered by the architecture.
Set amidst the southwest of Takayama city in the Takayama highlands, Hotel Associa Takayama Resort soars 640 metres above sea level. All of its 290 spacious rooms and suites command superb and unobstructed views of the northern Japanese Alps. Hotel Associa Takayama Resort prides itself in providing the finest accommodation in the city. The Associa Takayama is also the first hotel in Takayama to have its own hot spring bath.
The Hotel Nikko is luxurious hotel located conveniently near the JR Kanazawa Station, within walking distance of some of the most famous tourist spots in the city. At 130m, it is the tallest hotel in the Hokuriku area, yet its superb service allows it to maintain an intimate 'boutique' feeling.
Hotel Granvia Kyoto is an integral part of the JR Kyoto Station Building, the visually striking architectural masterpiece which also includes a department store, museum, musical theater, and a vast underground shopping mall. From this convenient location, hotel guests have direct and easy access to and from Kansai International Airport and major metropolitan destinations across Japan. With its elegant accommodations, including 535 beautifully appointed guestrooms, there is simply no better place to stay in Kyoto. The inclusion of 12 restaurants and bars and fitness facilities makes Hotel Granvia Kyoto the premier destination for international travelers.
Olive Ramchand ,
June 03, 2014
"I have to admit, this was the BEST vacation I ever had. The tour was nothing less than Fantastic! The hotels were great, the guides were great, the transportation was great, the places were great, the people were great, the food was great and last but not least China, itself was out of this world. I'm so glad I booked this tour and would recommend this to anyone. Thanks so much for all your help, your interest and your recommendations. Steve in China was so attentive, he called constantly to make sure everything was fine. We really had a fabulous time and even my jaded husband who normally only seems to care about where the nearest golf course is, was impressed and had a wonderful time.
Thanks again, and unto the next vacation (although I don't know how we would top this one!!)
Jeanne Tarvin ,
April 21, 2014
"The tour was absolutely fabulous. It all started with the planning. Kathryn graciously accommodated our tight schedule and multiple needs, including a mid-trip change in plans. The tour guides and drivers were all great and extremely knowledgeable. The accommodations and meals were fantastic. I was apprehensive about going to China not knowing the language but it worked out great!"
January 15, 2014
"We just returned on Monday from our wonderful trip to South Korea, Bangkok and Phuket. I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work in planning our tours and adventures. Everything was spot on, from our arrivals at the airports, to the guides and the tours. I would not hesitate to recommend you and your company. It was truly a wonderful vacation. Thank you again.
Bob Feldman ,
November 19, 2013
"I wanted to let you know that our trip to China was great! Everybody enjoyed themselves. When planning a trip I am always concerned about the itinerary, the vehicles and the guides. All 3 of these were great. The guides were particularly good and in this case really made the trip a pleasure. Overall a great trip. Thanks for all you did."
Gloria DeWeese ,
October 10, 2013
"A wonderful trip and everything went like clockwork. Thank you so very much for all your assistance. I hope I will have a chance to work with you again."
Wayne Gavioli ,
September 04, 2013
"We just returned from our thailand/cambodia trip. It was fantastic. You did a great job. The guides were excellent as was the drivers. We loved the Victoria Hotel you selected in Siem. Wish we had more time. Thailand met our expectations but our expectations for Cambodia were low and they exceeded them. Loved the places selected for the included lunches. Certainly would use Kensington again"
Santo Filice ,
August 30, 2013
"Thank you for arranging our guided trip to Thailand - Vietnam. It was a memorable, and pleasant trip - a 1st for us with Kensington tours and a most enjoyable one. We found that we were able to maximize our visit of the the area without the concern of booking hotels, airline, finding parking and understanding the local language. "
Tim Mesarch ,
August 02, 2013
"Alexis helped us fit in all of the sites we wanted to see on our trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and suggested some more. It was valuable talking with someone who had been there and done that. The planning went pretty smoothly, and so did the trip. The local guides were all top-notch! "
July 25, 2013
"I highly recommend Kesington Tours. The planning of our trip to Cambodia was outstanding. Our advisor Alexis Mayer was unbelievably patient, knowledgeable and responsive. We planned the trip in every possible detail and Alexis was extraordinary during the whole process. Once we were in Cambodia, we had a tiny issue with the car. I was able to get in contact with Alexis right away and the problem was instantly solved. The trip itself was fantastic. Everything was very well planned and perfectly organized. The local guides and drivers were great. The hotels were very well chosen.
Great trip. I would definitely travel again with Kensington Tours."
Pennie Quintana ,
August 07, 2013
"Thank you so much for the amazing trip we enjoyed!! All our guides were fantasy. Joseph in Jakarta, July in Jojakarta and Deon in Borneo!! Wow!! Bless you for all your attention to detail and the outstanding communication to all my questions. You made me feel so taken care of and tended too!! "
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