Get ready to discover the staggering sights and sounds of Japan on this 15-day, self guided adventure. Travel across the country by Shinkansen Bullet Train as you tick off some of the country’s most loved destinations. Take in the bright lights of Tokyo, stay in a traditional Ryokan in the rural town of Takayama, and explore dozens of beautiful temples in Kyoto. Learn about the devastation and rebirth of Hiroshima, taste local delicacies in Osaka, and unwind in the beautiful lake town of Hakone, where you can look forward to hot springs and picture-perfect views of Mount Fuji.
Welcome to Tokyo – a city of contrasts where neon-lit landscapes rub shoulders with candle-lit temples. Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll be transferred to your hotel to spend the rest of the day at your leisure.
On day two, you’ll enjoy a fascinating city tour with a local guide. Soak up the atmosphere of the Tokyo of old at the city’s ancient temple, Sensoki, or travel down the river on Tokyo’s water bus. Stroll around the Hamarikyu garden, stop for matcha tea at a traditional tea house. After an included lunch, you’ll visit the Meiji Shrine and wander the sparkling shopping street of Omotesando.
You can spend day three however you wish. Why not visit Shibuya’s scramble crossing or the man-made island of Odaiba? Alternatively, take a trip to the top of the Tokyo Skytree. The world’s tallest tower offers unbelievable views of the sprawling city.
Overnight: Shiba Park Hotel
Meals: Two breakfasts and one lunch
You’ll depart Tokyo for Takayama, onboard the world-famous Shinkansen Bullet Train – which reaches speeds of up to 300km/h – before changing onto the Limited Express Hida Wideview. It’s one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan, as it winds through mountains and gorges before reaching Takayama.
Often referred to as a “Little Kyoto”, agricultural Takayama is filled with beautiful temples, shrines, bridges and rivers. Many unique traditions have evolved here and you should make sure to stop in one of the many sake breweries for a taste of the local brew.
On day five, you’ll take a guided tour of the beautifully preserved old town of Takayama and the UNESCO-listed Shirakawa-go village. Visit local markets, browse an array of handicrafts, and meet sake brewers to hear about their age-old methods. In the afternoon, you’ll explore the Shirakaw-go region, which is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, whose thatched rooftops resemble hands in prayer.
Overnight: Hidatei Hanaougi
Meals: Two breakfasts and two dinners
Travel by local train and Bullet Train from Takayama to reach Japan’s former capital, Kyoto. This city was home to the Emperor from 794 until 1868, so it’s a fascinating hub of Japanese culture. With literally thousands of shrines, temples and other historic structures like palaces and gardens, it’s no surprise that the city has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
On day seven, you’ll join a full-day tour to tick off some of Kyoto’s most charming spots, including Kinkaku-ji Temple, Nijo Castle and Kyoto’s Imperial Palace. Continuing onto Nara, you’ll visit the famous park where you can see wild deer up close, and marvel at the stunning Todai-ji Temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine.
Day eight is free for you to explore Kyoto at your leisure. Why not stroll through the city’s narrow alleyways, where tea houses thrive and kimono-clad geishas hurry around?
Overnight: Vista Premio Kyoto
Meals: Three breakfasts and one lunch
Once again, you’ll travel by Bullet Train to reach your next destination – Hiroshima. Hiroshima is notorious for its destruction when the first Atomic Bomb was dropped over the city during the Second World War on the 6th August 1945. The bomb obliterated nearly everything within a two-kilometre radius but, from the devastation, a new Hiroshima has emerged as beacon of hope. Many of the city’s monuments have been rebuilt, while the Peace Memorial Park was created to honour the reborn city.
Your guided tour on day 10 gives you the chance to learn more about the city’s tragic past and includes a visit to the Hiroshima museum. You’ll then take a ferry to Miyajima Island. This small, sacred island in the Island Sea is where you’ll find one of Japan’s most photographed scenes – The Floating Torii Gate – and have time to discover the island’s shrines, temples and local delicacies.
Overnight: Vista Hotel Hiroshima
Meals: Two breakfasts
Board the Bullet Train and zoom over to lively Osaka. This city is home to manzai – Japanese comedy – as well as some of the country’s best cuisine. Some of Osaka’s most famous dishes include takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) so make sure to try them if you spot them on the menu. You can spend today however you wish.
Overnight: Hotel Vischio
It’s time to leave Japan’s cities behind you, as you catch the train to Hakone – a natural wonderland famous for its hot springs, outdoor pursuits and stunning views of Mount Fuji. Hakone is the perfect place to slow down and relax. You can admire the surrounding mountains and lakes, soak in the bubbling natural pools, and visit a number of historical sites.
Overnight: Ichinoyu Honkan
Meals: Two breakfasts and two dinners
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