(Tokyo, Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Kyoto)
Experience all that Japan has to offer, from frenetic Tokyo, to culturally rich Kyoto, in this 2 week all-encompassing adventure. Visit garden oasis, observe ancient traditions, and try your hand at making the most iconic of all Japanese foods, sushi. From the base of Mt Fuji you will enjoy natural onsen or hot springs, and cruise the serene waters of Lake Ashinoko. Drink sake with the masters, and stroll the beautifully preserved old town of Takayama. Head to the UNESCO heritage site of Kanazawa, rich with samurai history, and finally make your way to Hiroshima. Finish your trip in the former imperial capital of Kyoto, where no shortage of wonders awaits. Enjoy Japan with the luxury of a private guide, and gain hard-to-find insight into this unique and enigmatic culture.
An English speaking assistant will meet and assist you on arrival at the airport 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 your guide will take you to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Take a few hours to wander through this enormous market, exploring both the vegetable and fruit areas plus the impressive seafood section. On offer in the seafood section are more than 480 different kinds of seafood ranging from fresh fish to shellfish and prawns. There may also be an opportunity to see a complete tuna being cut and filleted. After buying various ingredients you will have the opportunity to visit a typical Japanese home. Your guide will answer any and all questions about Japanese culture and everyday life in Tokyo during the transfer by public transportation. Learn to prepare “maki sushi” (rolled sushi), "gunkan maki" (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and "nigiri sushi" (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish). You will then get to enjoy your homemade sushi for lunch. End the tour in central Tokyo. 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.
Enjoy a transfer from Tokyo to Hakone, via Kamakura with a private vehicle and driver. Kamakura is the former de facto capital of Japan as the seat of the Shogunate during the Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333). At that time Kamakura was the largest city in the world, however the Kamakura of today is a small, sleepy seaside town with numerous temples, shrines, and other attractions. With your local guide, you will visit Kotokuin Temple, home to the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha that stands 13.35m high. Dating from the 12th century, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is the spiritual heart of Kamakura and one of its most popular attractions. The shrine was originally founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063, then enlarged and moved to its present site by Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura government, in 1180. The shrine was dedicated to Hachiman, the Shinto god of war and patron of the Minamoto family. Hasedera Temple is a temple of the Jodo sect, which is most famous for its statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The statue shows Kannon with eleven heads, each representing a characteristic of the goddess. The 9.18 metre tall, gilded wooden statue is regarded as one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan.
Explore the Fuji/Hakone National Park, located only 90 minutes from Tokyo, by private car with guide. 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. 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. Hakone used to be an important checkpoint to control traffic along the Tokaido highway which linked Tokyo with Kyoto during the feudal Edo Period. You can visit the Hakone Checkpoint to see the gates, fence, housing for officers and foot soldiers, a prison chamber and a lookout tower. Last stop of the day is the Hakone Open Air Museum, which successfully attempts to create a harmonic balance of nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its spacious grounds in combination with beautiful views of the surrounding valley and mountains. Throughout the day you will have the chance to get a glimpse of Mt Fuji.
Meet your driver for a train station transfer with a private vehicle.
Transfer by train from Odawara 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.
Transfer by train from Kyoto to Hiroshima. The train ride is approximately 1.5 hours.
The Hiroshima Sheraton is located directly opposite the Japan Rail train station. After exiting your train, please follow the Sheraton signage to reach your hotel. This is a very short walk, and done easily on your own, so no guide service has been included.
Your guide will meet you at your hotel to take you on a tour of Hiroshima and Miyajima by street car, train, and ferry. Start the day with a visit to the Peace Memorial Park. The area where the park now lies was ground zero for the Atomic Bomb on August 6th, 1945. After the bombing, the park was created and dedicated to those who lost their lives in the attack. Stroll through the park and discover the many memorials, monuments, and statues before heading into the museum itself. From Hiroshima, a short ferry ride will take you to Miyajima Island. A small sacred island located in the Inland Sea, it has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times. Here you will find perhaps the most photographed site in Japan - the floating Torii Gate. The harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill, and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mere 'commoners' were not allowed to set foot on this holy place, and even now it is forbidden to give birth or die on the island. You will have time to explore the island and its many shrines and temples and sample local goodies like maple leaf shaped cakes before heading back to your hotel.
The Sheraton Hiroshima is located directly across from the Japan Rail train station, and so departing by train is easily done independently. Simply make your way by foot to the appropriate platform as listed on your train tickets. No assistance is required, or included.
Transfer by train from Hiroshima 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 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.
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.
Sounkaku is a traditional Japanese-style inn located near the top of Mt. Soun. Guests can enjoy splendid landscape overlooking the mountains of Hakone. The popular tourist spots are easily accessible from the nearest station, Sounzan. Sounkaku has been in business for over 80 years and was fully renovated in April 2010. It now offers the spirit of traditional Japanese aesthetics with elegant scent of Japanese cypress wood while retaining a classical atmosphere.
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.
Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel is conveniently located in the city next to JR Hiroshima Station, with direct access to the bullet train and bus terminals. The 238 guests rooms of the hotel are decorated with contemporary western furnishings, they include the celebrated Sheraton Sweet Sleepe Bed, a 37” Flat Screen Television, DVD player, and High Speed Internet Access. The hotel's Miyabi Tei restaurant offers the finest and freshest cuisine such as teppanyaki, sushi, and other Japanese meals. At the same time, The Bridge Restaurant offers International cuisine. Shine Spa for Sheraton is designed to address guests' needs. A pool and fitness center are also located in the hotel.
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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