Welcome to Japan! You’ll be provided with a Manaca transport card that you will use to take a train to central Tokyo. You will be staying in Ueno, one of Tokyo’s older districts. Take the time to stroll in Ueno Park and visit one of the museums in the area.
Close by is the bustling historic quarter of Asakusa, home to Tokyo’s oldest temple, from where you might like to take a cruise on the Sumida River to visit Hamarikyu gardens or the organised chaos of Shinjuku.
Join one expert and some fellow InsideJapan Tours travellers for a sightseeing tour of the capital, including city hotspots and some lesser-known locations.
A day trip is a great remedy for those needing a break from the big city, and for your third day, you have some great options just a couple of hours from Tokyo. Nikko is the final resting place for members of the Tokugawa clan, Japan’s most powerful historical family, and the architecture to be found here is unlike anything else in Japan. Some excellent choices include Kamakura, a laid-back, coastal town with numerous temples and a fascinating history; Yokohama, a city with a portside promenade and famously extensive China Town; or, for the more energetic amongst you, a hike up Mount Takao.
The Shinkansen bullet train will whiz you on to Odawara, from which point you will make your way to your guesthouse for two days in Hakone, where you will have the chance to take the pace down a few notches and enjoy some traditional Japanese pastimes in a beautiful natural setting.
There are plenty of museums to explore throughout located throughout the area, along with volcanic landscapes, hot spring bathhouses, and – if you’re lucky – views of Mount Fuji (get up early for the best chance!).
Your Hakone Free Pass will allow you to traverse the park by numerous modes of transport – including funicular, cable car and even pirate ship!
Sit back and relax as you travel at speeds of up to 190mph to Kyoto, often lauded as Japan’s most beautiful city.
Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for over a thousand years before the accolade was transferred to Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in 1868, and this long tenure has left it with an unparalleled cultural and historical heritage.
Despite this, visitors are often surprised by the modernity of central Kyoto – the huge, futuristic Kyoto Station is virtually a city within itself.
After a restful night’s sleep you will spend the morning with a professional guide, with whom you’ll discover some of the most famous – and the more obscure – areas of the city using the extensive bus and subway system.
In the afternoon you will head to a teahouse in the historic Gion district, where you’ll take part in the ancient ritual of tea ceremony under the guidance of an expert in the art.
You have a free day in which to either spend more time exploring Kyoto or to use your Rail Pass to make a day trip to nearby Nara or Hikone. If you should choose to stay in Kyoto there are a multitude of places to visit –go food shopping at Nishiki Market, have a picnic in the Imperial Palace grounds, test the Shogun’s anti-ninja security measures at Nijo Castle, have a Zen moment at Ryoan-ji Temple, or wind your way through the sacred torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine.
From Kyoto you will once again hop on the Shinkansen for the journey to Hiroshima. After your arrival, spend the afternoon at the Peace Park and Museum, a thoroughly moving experience and a reminder of Japan’s role in the catastrophic events of the mid-twentieth century.
In the evening be sure to try the local speciality, okonomiyaki, a type of cabbage-based, pancake-style dish that you cook yourself on a hot plate at your table.
After your night in Hiroshima, you will have the opportunity to spend either a half-day or full-day on the scenic island of Miyajima just fifteen minutes’ ferry ride from the city.
Miyajima is famous for its “floating” torii gate at Itsukushima shrine, which is officially ranked as one of Japan’s “top three sights.” Other highlights include taking the scenic cable car to the top of Mount Misen for sweeping views of the Seto Inland Sea – as well as the chance to encounter some of the native monkeys and deer!
Once back on the mainland it’s time to head east, back to the port city of Osaka: bright, brash and bold – that goes for the people and the city itself!
Osaka is known for the quality of its food as well as the vivacity of its inhabitants, and you will find a plethora of fantastic eating establishments here – especially around the areas of Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi.
Pay a visit Osaka Castle, marvel at the enormous aquarium, catch a baseball game and then explore the neon-soaked canals after the sun has set. This city’s buzz will keep you stimulated throughout your stay!
On day twelve you will head away from the coast and into the hills for two nights in the rural town of Takayama.
This Edo Period merchant town set against the spectacular backdrop of the Northern Alps is the perfect place to try delicious Hida beef (just as good as Kobe’s!) and sample some local sake in one of the town’s small breweries.
You have free time to explore, and there is plenty to see and do. A short bus ride will take you to the Hida no Sato folk village, a fascinating outdoor museum featuring traditional thatched-roof dwellings, store houses and a mill – all brought from the surrounding countryside.
Just opposite you’ll find the world headquarters of the Sukyo Mahikari cult – probably the only shrine in Japan to feature a giant fish tank! Back in town there is a diverse range of museums, and the morning markets are a delight to wander around.
After the peace and quiet of the mountains, it’s back to Tokyo for your last full day in Japan.
This time you’ll be staying close to the bright neon lights of Shibuya, another of Tokyo’s main districts located to the west of the city. This is a great place for any last-minute souvenir shopping or an opportunity to fit in those sights you missed at the beginning of the trip!
With endless restaurants, bars and karaoke joints on your doorstep, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to entertainment for your final night in the capital.
On your final morning you will make your way to Shibuya Station to take the train back to Narita Airport. Have a safe flight home!
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