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Japan's Cultural Treasures

Japan's Cultural Treasures

11 days & 10 nights, Escorted Discovery Group

Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto & Hiroshima

Discover the cultural heritage of Japan on this exciting journey through the country's main island of Honshu. Visit the tranquil Kenroku-en garden and the castle of Kanazawa before exploring the imperial city of Kyoto with its many temples and shrines. Experience the somber modern history of Hiroshima, then visit the picturesque island of Miyajima with its iconic Torii gate before finishing back in Tokyo.

  • Day 1
    Arrive Tokyo

    You will be met by a representative who will escort you to a private car with English speaking driver to take you directly to the hotel.

    Tokyo Marriott Hotel - 3 Nights
  • Day 2
    Mount Fuji

    This morning you will be driven out to the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the home of legendary Mount Fuji. At 12,388 feet above sea level, Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, probably the most famous symbol of Japan, and one of the most beautiful conical volcanoes in the world. The base of Mount Fuji, which forms an almost perfect circle, stretches 22 to 25 miles from east to west and the same distance from north to south. The volcano has not been active for more than 250 years, but apparently there was a time when smoke rising from its crater was a familiar feature of the landscape.

    You will be taken to the shores of Lake Ashi, a lake created from a volcanic crater, which is surrounded by wooded slopes that are dotted with small shrines. Board a cruise boat to travel across Lake Ashi to Hakone-en garden. From the garden, take the ropeway (cable car) up Mount Komagatake for a panoramic view of Mount Fuji and the valley below. Return to Tokyo.

    Tokyo Marriott Hotel (B, L)
  • Day 3
    Tokyo

    Note: Today your main luggage will be couriered to your hotel in Kanazawa, so please pack an overnight bag for your last night in Tokyo. You may only send 1 large suitcase or bag as your main luggage - any additional bags will incur extra fees, payable locally.

    The day begins with a visit to Asakusa Kannon temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The temple enshrines a golden image of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, said to have been caught in the nearby Sumida river by two fishermen in 628 AD, although the image is not on display to the public. The present temple dates from 1950 and is a popular meeting place on holidays and weekends. Directly in front is the Nakamise-dori shopping street.

    Continue to the Tokyo National Museum. You will be taken to the main building where the exhibits include historic costumes such as samurai armor and swords, fine kimonos, antique folding screens, tea ceremony utensils and Japanese paintings.

    Eat a traditional kushiage lunch. This consists of skewers of meat, vegetables, cheese, fish and seafood, which are served deep-fried, together with miso soup and other condiments.

    In the afternoon, take a tour of the Imperial East Garden and the Meiji Shrine.

    The Imperial East Garden is the only part of the Imperial Palace complex that is open to the public. Entry is through the Ote-mon Gate, which was once the principal gate of the city of Edo, the former name of Tokyo. The garden lies at what was the heart of the old Edo castle. From the gardens there are views of central Tokyo.

    End the day with a visit to the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of modern Japan. The grounds in which the shrine is set has approximately 100,000 trees and creates a tranquil setting in the heart of the city. You will have some time at leisure to explore the area.

    Note: The order of the sightseeing above is subject to change depending on local conditions.

    Tokyo Marriott Hotel (B, L)
  • Day 4
    To Kanazawa

    This morning, you will be collected at your hotel and taken to the station.

    On arrival at the station, you will be provided a Japanese bento box lunch. These bento boxes have a number of small compartments typically holding small portions of rice, fish or meat and pickled or cooked vegetables.

    Travel by Shinkansen (bullet train) between Tokyo and Kanazawa, an approximate journey time of 2 hours 35 minutes.

    On arrival at Kanazawa, you will be met and taken to your hotel.

    Enjoy an afternoon tour of Kanazawa. Begin with a visit to Kenroku-en, one of Japan's finest gardens. Created in 1822, Kenroku-en is classified as one of Japan's three most beautiful landscape gardens. The name 'Kenroku-en' literally means 'Garden of the Six Sublimities', referring to the six attributes that make up a perfect garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. This garden used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and was constructed over a period of two centuries. It features various ponds, streams, waterfalls, bridges, teahouses, trees, stones and flowers. During the spring, cherry blossoms are wonderful here, followed by irises in the summer. By autumn, Japanese maples color the garden with rich yellow, red, purple and brown.

    Adjacent to the garden is the Kanazawa Castle Park, the site of Kanazawa Castle which was built in the 16th century as the base for the powerful Maeda clan. The original buildings were been burnt down or destroyed many times over the years, but various gates, storehouses and turrets have been rebuilt, including the main Ishikawa-mon gate that dates from the 18th century.

    ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Kanazawa - 2 Nights (B, L)
  • Day 5
    Kanazawa

    This morning, proceed on a tour of Kanazawa. You will be collected from your hotel and driven south-west towards Gokayama, making a stop at the Omicho market. The market is a maze of covered streets lined by more than 200 shops and stalls, selling a huge range of goods including fresh food, clothing and flowers.

    Continue to the Higashi-Chayamachi district, home to many chaya buildings, which were traditional places of feasting and where geishas would entertain guests. The chayas are notable for their beautiful lattice work known as 'kimusuko'. Some have been converted into restaurants, teahouses or souvenir shops. End the day at Hakuza, a workshop where you will have the chance to observe the 'kinpaku' process of gold leaf production, a craft that Kanazawa is famous for.

    In the afternoon, visit to Shirakawago. Drive through the mountainous Shokawa valley region for approximately one hour, then stop at the small settlement of Shirakawago, known for its charming village atmosphere that reflects traditional Japanese rural life. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is characterized by its houses constructed in the traditional architectural style known as gassho-zukuri, meaning 'prayer hands construction' named after the steep slanting roofs that resemble praying hands. Built in this way, the roofs are resistant to heavy snowfall as the steep sides prevent the weight of the snow from collapsing the roof.

    Note: Today your main luggage will be couriered to your hotel in Kyoto, so please pack an overnight bag for your last night in Kanazawa. You may only send 1 large suitcase or bag as your main luggage - any additional bags will incur extra fees, payable locally.

    ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Kanazawa (B)
  • Day 6
    To Kyoto

    Travel from Kanazawa to Kyoto by express train. The total journey time is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes.

    The journey from Kanazawa to Kyoto is by express train and will take you through the beautiful countryside of Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures. As you approach Kyoto, you will travel round the shores of Japan's largest lake, Biwa-ko.

    You will be met and taken to a local restaurant for lunch, then continue with the afternoon tour with tea ceremony.

    Begin with a visit to Nijo Castle, which was built in 1603 and has a rich Shogun history, and the Imperial Palace which was once the center of the Japanese empire. Then visit a machiya (traditional wooden townhouse), for a Japanese tea ceremony. Afterwards, take a walk through Nishiki Food Market in the heart of Kyoto. The market is a narrow, five-block-long shopping street lined by more than 100 shops and restaurants. It is known as Kyoto's Kitchen and specializes in all things food related, such as local and seasonal vegetables, fresh seafood, knives and cookware, and Kyoto's specialities like pickles and dried seafood. After the excursion, continue to your hotel.

    Kyoto Tokyu Hotel - 3 Nights (B, L)
  • Day 7
    Kyoto

    The tour starts at Ryoanji Temple. This temple belongs to the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism and was founded in 1450. The adjoining garden is an austere collection of 15 rocks adrift in a sea of sand. This is known as the 'kare-sansui' style, the interpretation is left to the individual, with some saying it is like islands on the sea, others like peaks above the clouds. The rest of the temple's gardens are also attractive.

    Continue to Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion and one of Japan's most famous sights. Set among well-tended gardens, this glittering temple is covered entirely in gold leaf and is set on a small lake. The original, dating from 1394, was burned down by a student protester over 50 years ago, but was immediately restored.

    This afternoon, enjoy a tour of Nara. Drive to Nara, which from 710 to 794AD was the heart of Japanese cultural and political life. Today, the city is packed with shrines and temples and is a busy tourist pilgrimage spot.

    You will be taken to some of its more notable and attractive shrines and to the Nara Deer Park. The park covers a finely wooded area of 5.25 hectares and is popularly known as Deer Park for its herd of more than 1,000 gentle deer. These deer are regarded as divine messengers of the Kasuga-taisha shrine, and locals often feed them special biscuits that are obtainable at the park.

    Visit the Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden temple building in the world. The present structure was built in 1709 after a fire destroyed the original. The original building was more than two thirds the size of the current one and in the 17th century it was truly a marvel and a huge landmark. Inside the main hall is a giant buddha statue and intricate wooden carvings of characters by the sculptor Unkei dating from the 13th century and which have recently been restored.

    Continue to the Kasuga-taisha shrine, Nara's most celebrated shrine and dedicated to the deity responsible for protecting the city. The shrine is also famous for its numerous bronze and stone lanterns, which have been donated by worshippers and are lit twice a year on the occasion of the lantern festivals in early February and mid August.

    Note: The order of the sightseeing above is subject to change depending on local conditions.

    Optional excursion: Evening walking tour of Gion geisha district.

    Meet at the hotel reception, where your guide will arrange taxis (payable locally) for the transfer to Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district. Located on the east bank of the Kamo-gawa river, the area has a number of modern buildings, but there are still places where you can wander down quiet lanes flanked by traditional wooden restaurants and teahouses.

    On arrival, begin a 45-minute walking tour of the district, with your guide leading you through the backstreets and alleyways, each lined with old wooden houses, where you can sometimes glimpse geishas or maikos on their way to or from appointments.

    Afterwards, the guide will again arrange taxis (payable locally) to escort those who want to return to the hotel, or advise directions to local restaurants for those who prefer to remain in town.

    Kyoto Tokyu Hotel (B, L)
  • Day 8
    Kyoto

    The day is at leisure to explore the city on your own.

    Kyoto Tokyu Hotel (B)
  • Day 9
    To Hiroshima

    Note: Today your main luggage will be couriered to your hotel in Tokyo, so please pack an overnight bag for your stay in Hiroshima. You may only send 1 large suitcase or bag as your main luggage - any additional bags will incur extra fees, payable locally.

    Today, you will be collected at your hotel and taken to the station to board the bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima. The journey takes 1 hour and 43 minutes.

    On arrival at Hiroshima, you will be collected at the station and taken to your hotel for lunch.

    This afternoon, embark on a tour of Hiroshima. Also known as Rijo (Carp Castle), Hiroshima Castle was originally constructed in 1589 but much of it was dismantled following the Meiji Restoration, leaving only the donjon, main gates and turrets. The remainder was reconstructed as a modern ferro-concrete replica in 1958.

    Continue to the A-Bomb Museum & Peace Memorial Park, built by the people of the city to symbolize their wishes for everlasting peace. Of particular interest are the Peace Memorial Museum, the Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace. You will be escorted in the park by a bomb attack survivor, or one of their relatives, who, using your guide as a translator, will give you a unique perspective on the city.

    Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel - 1 Night (B, L)
  • Day 10
    To Tokyo

    Drive from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi, a journey of approximately 12 miles and approximately 30 minutes. Take a 10-minute ferry ride from Miyajimaguchi to Miyajima Island.

    Enjoy an afternoon tour of Miyajima Island. After disembarking at the ferry proceed on foot along the coastline past small shops and cafes towards the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine. Before reaching the shrine you will see the famous red Torii Gate, one of the most photographed views in Japan. This is actually the gate to Itsukushima shrine and, at high tide, appears to be floating on water. Traditionally the island was considered sacred, and consequently people were not allowed to set foot upon it. Therefore, both the gate and the shrine were built on the water so that pilgrims could visit without walking on the island.

    The main shrine and its many subsidiaries and buildings are all connected by wide corridors and galleries, and have been built on piers on the bay so, like the Torii Gate, appear to float on water at high tide. The original structures are thought to have been built in the 6th century, but damaged and rebuilt many times over the years. Itsukushima Shinto Shrine has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also one of Japan's National Treasures.

    Take a 10-minute ferry ride from Miyajima Island to Miyajimaguchi.

    Take a local train from Miyajimaguchi to Hiroshima, a journey of approximately 27 minutes. Travel from Hiroshima to Tokyo by Shinkansen train, a journey of 4 hours.

    On arrival in Tokyo, you will be met at the station and taken to your hotel.

    Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu - 1 Night (B)
  • Day 11
    Depart Tokyo

    After breakfast, you will leave the hotel and, escorted by the guide, catch the free airport shuttle bus from the bus stop outside the hotel to the international terminal. The journey takes approximately 10 minutes.

    (B)
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