(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.
Welcome to Japan!
An English speaking assistant will meet and assist you upon arrival at the airport and take you to meet your driver.
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 the Tokyo of old. 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. The train ride is approximately 3 hours.
Upon arrival in Takayama, the afternoon is yours to spend at leisure. Perhaps you may opt to visit one of the town’s many sake breweries for a taste of the local drop, its high quality due to the area’s clean water sources.
After breakfast you will depart your hotel by foot and on public transport with your own private guide for today's walking tour. You will go 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 (payable on spot). 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.
You will end the day at a sake brewery, where you can taste different kinds of sake.
In the morning, visit the Takayama Festival Floats museum, displaying floats from the famous Takayama festival.
Afterwards you will travel by private car to Shirakawa-go (1.5 hrs). The Shirakawa-go and neighboring 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. In the afternoon, your guide will bid you farewell as you continue on with your private driver to your hotel in Kanazawa (1.5 hrs).
Meet your guide this morning and depart from your hotel for your tour today (on foot, and by taxi). 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 will also visit the Nagamachi Samurai district, Saihitsuan Yuzen Silk Center, 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.
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 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 was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning surrounding 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 meters high veranda jutting out from the Main Hall you can enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto, whilst 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 (45 minutes) 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 which have been donated by worshipers. Take a wander through Nara Park, called Deer park by locals due to the large population of more than 1,000 tame deer living 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. After visiting the shrine, quench your thirst at a sake brewery. During a tour of the brewery you will learn about the traditional brewing process, and then sample the different types of their sake.
Park Hotel Tokyo is ideally situated in Shiodome, a flourishing center of business and culture. This luxury business hotel in Tokyo provides a superior level of service to satisfy the needs of all international clientele. A member of the design hotels TM group, Park Hotel Tokyo offers an extraordinary level of service and coordinated interior designs. Each room at Park Hotel Tokyo is decorated with Monique Le Houelleur's natural artwork and features color coordinated curtains and bedcovers. With its Atrium, Restaurants and Travel concept, art, the hotel is also unique in not only offering traditional Japanese hospitality throughout the year, but also stimulating the aesthetic senses of its guests.
Set amidst the southwest of Takayama city in the Takayama highlands, Hotel Associa Takayama Resort soars 640 meters 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 130 meters, 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 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.
Maynard Fossum ,
December 12, 2014
"My trip to China proved to be an outstanding experience. Each location provided excellent learning and entertainment opportunities. The country was very impressive both in its deep history and in the huge modernization that has taken place in recent decades. The tour guides at each location were well informed and able to answer questions while also offering detailed information at all sites. It was a pleasure to be so well taken care of. The guides and drivers were always helpful. The meals on the tour were delicious and varied. I was pleased with the choice of restaurants. The hotels were comfortable and well located. I will recommend Kensington Tours. "
December 12, 2014
"I was a bit nervous about visiting Myanmar. Thanks to the outstanding help and planning via Kensington Tours, everything went off without a hitch!! It was a fantastic experience, that I would recommend to anyone with a spirit of adventure. "
Craig Gelman ,
December 12, 2014
"Fabulous trip. Every aspect from the planning to execution was excellent. "
Ruth Reinhard ,
December 12, 2014
"The trip was fantastic!!!Each guide and driver gave us so much information and were so helpful. They made sure that they took good care of our well being and requests. My husband, who we all call "the reluctant traveler" said, halfway through the trip, where are we going next? He said if he can go with Kensington then he will go anyplace. Thanks for making our trip to China a memorable experience."
SixtoCastenada Jr. ,
December 12, 2014
"100% satisfied! We had a wonderful trip. Our travel adviser, Tony Newman put together a tour that included everywhere we wanted to visit and within our very limited time frame. Conrad, who booked our transportation was very professional. The tour guides, hotel accommodations and transportation arrangements were all excellent. We will be using Kensington Tours again!"
December 12, 2014
"We were so impressed with all aspects of the trip that Kensington arranged for us - even at short notice. The itinerary was perfectly planned, full of extra activities like riding an elephant and a water buffalo cart ride. The guides were wonderful in all the places we went and the travel was easy between locations. Vietnam is a wonderful destination and Angkor Wat is amazing too. We loved the overnight on the boat in Halong Bay and the train ride to Sapa. The day we spent trekking between indigenous villages in the mountains of Sapa was one of the most interesting days of my life! We have travelled a lot and this was one of the best trips we have ever taken."
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."
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