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This tour includes the best of everything Japan has to offer. It is designed for newcomers to Japan who want first class hotels and follows a leisurely pace. Into Japan keep the groups small, which allows you to have some very personal experiences and see life in Japan first hand. You will have your own tour escort throughout as well as the very best local guides each day. The tour is timed to include the stunning cherry blossoms as well as the Spring Geisha Dances festival.
This 5-star superior class modern hotel is located in the upper levels of Kyoto's recently rebuilt railway station, and it is the most convenient as well as one of the most luxurious of Kyoto's hotels. The Granvia offers excellent service, impeccably comfortable rooms, and a desirable selection of restaurants and bars from which to enjoy the city lights at the thoroughly modern heart of the old capital. Despite the location, the Granvia Kyoto's cozy rooms are perfectly quiet, and seem a world away from the fascinating, busy station building. Within the hotel, the chic dcor blends traditional and contemporary styles and there is a wide variety of restaurants, cafs, bars and lounges to choose from, in addition to an indoor swimming pool.
Staying here also makes it convenient and simple for those who enjoy venturing out independently. Hotel Granvia Kyoto features 535 tastefully decorated rooms, including suites and two exclusive Granvia floors. Non-smoking floors and rooms for the physically challenged are also available on advance request. The hotel offers standard twin and double rooms, superior twin and king rooms, triple and family rooms, universal rooms and Choraku suites. Guest rooms are located on the 7th to 15th floors of the building of which the top two floors (14th and 15th) are the exclusive Granvia floors and feature Granvia lounge.
Saigakukan is a traditional Ryokan inn nestling on the hillside on one side of Yufuin village, with superb views across the plateau to Mount Yukudake. With only 24 rooms, there is an intimate feel enhanced by the authentic architecture and rural setting. Your room has tatami mats and sliding doors and also beds for maximum comfort. If you prefer futons, Into Japan is very happy to prepare those for you. Staying at a ryokan allows you to enjoy the very best of Japanese hospitality in surroundings little changed in the past century.
As you enter your room, the distinctive rice-straw scent of tatami floors and paper and wood doors set the scene. Leaving your slippers at the door, the yukata (casual cotton kimono) are neatly folded, ready for you to change and head to the onsen baths. After dinner you can relax in the bar area and relax with your view onto the subtly lit Japanese garden. Into Japan has planned an easy schedule here so you can make the most of the facilities.
This 5-star superior class modern hotel opened its doors during the spring of 2011 and quickly became established as the best place to stay in Hiroshima. It is conveniently located next to Hiroshima Station which makes it perfect for a smooth tour. From here it is a 15-minute tram ride to the Peace Park and a 25-minute train ride to the ferry across to Miyajima Island. This very modern hotel offers excellent facilities with a swimming pool, spa and fitness center.
The 238 spacious guest rooms, including five suites, are designed with your needs in mind. There are 29 Sheraton club rooms on the club floor, where you can experience more personalized service. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast, soft drinks, and cocktails at the Sheraton club lounge, featuring views of our historic city. With just the touch of a button, you are connected to our 24-hour guest service. The employees are on-hand to assist you with anything you may require.
This 5-star deluxe class modern hotel enjoys one of Tokyos most prestigious addresses, right next to the Imperial Palace. Since the hotel was rebuilt in May 2012, it could certainly be described as fit for a king. Initially founded in 1947 it soon became a city landmark and is now once again, one of the very best hotels in Tokyo. Your 45-square meter rooms ooze luxury throughout with state of the art amenities.
The selection of restaurants here is particularly good; the managements ambition is to collect as many Michelin stars as possible! Japans first Evian spa is worth a visit too. With leafy carpet motifs and earthy color palettes throughout, the luxuriously cozy and contemporary interiors of our 278 rooms and 12 suites take inspiration from their proximity to the capitals much loved natural splendor - the Imperial Palace gardens. Whether its floor-to-ceiling views, a private balcony or club lounge privileges that suit your fancy, guestrooms and suites are the perfect living spaces in which to work and play when in Tokyo.
This 4-star, superior first class modern hotel is nestled on the shores of Lake Ashi with superb views of Mount Fuji from the extensive gardens. Mount Fuji is one of those iconic images but regular visitors to Japan will tell you that it often becomes shrouded in cloud. The clearest views are usually had in the early morning hence they have chosen this hotel to make sure you will have the best chance to see this majestic sight during your stay in Hakone.
It is very quiet here and a stroll by the lake or to the nearby shrine is highly recommended. You are away from the touristy areas but it is just a pleasant 15-minute walk to the small town of Moto Hakone. For your comfort, Into Japan offers dinner at the hotel in one of their excellent restaurants. This is also a good chance to try some natural hot spring baths. The hotel has 89 rooms all with private bathrooms. There are 76 standard twin rooms, for corner deluxe twin rooms, one deluxe twin room, four premium twin rooms, one premium quad, and three combination Japanese and western-style rooms.
Flight to Tokyo.
You are met on arrival in Japan and assisted with your transfer to the hotel in Tokyo. The group will get together in the early evening for a dinner together.
Your first day in Japan begins with a visit to Tsukiji and the worlds largest fish market. Your group will be divided into small groups with personal guides to experience the vast logistical process of supplying Tokyos restaurants with their daily seafood needs. The afternoon begins with a stroll through Hamarikyu gardens, an oasis of traditional Japan amongst the skyscrapers. You continue by boat on the Sumida River to Tokyos oldest temple, Asakusa Kannon. The day ends with a walking tour of the Imperial Palace Gardens in the home of the Japanese royal family.
You begin the day at the Tokyo National Museum, home to a vast collection of Japanese art and antiquities. Then, continue on to Akihabara, Tokyos famous high-tech shopping district and recently the home to a number of maid cafs. The rest of the day is at your leisure.
You depart the capital and make the first stop at the Taya Caves. The modest entrance belies an astonishing maze of tunnels and carved Buddhist images, all created by hand over a 500-year period. Its a short trip to Kamakura where you visit the Great Buddha and Tsuruoka Hachiman Shrine whilst enjoying views out to the Pacific Ocean. Todays destination is Hakone and a lakeside hotel with fabulous views across Lake Ashi to Mount Fuji. Due to the rural location, Into Japan offers dinner at the hotel.
You have a day to enjoy the views of Mount Fuji as you explore the local area by cable car, mountain train, and pleasure boat. Mount Fuji is a volcano and you can see the evidence of the local thermal activity at the Great Boiling Valley which is full of sulphurous springs and steaming vents.
The day continues with a visit to the Hakone Open-Air Museum, featuring about 120 exhibits from well-known sculptors in a park setting and an extensive collection of Picasso works in the Pavilion. On your way back to the hotel you will visit the Yosegi parquetry studio where you will have special access to their workshop to see this very traditional form of inlaid woodcraft. You can enjoy a stroll by the lake or to the nearby Hakone Shrine before dinner.
You leave Hakone and experience your first bullet train speeding west. The smooth ride in these spotless carriages makes it a very relaxing way to get from one point to another. You stop in Okayama to see Korakuen, one of Japans three famous walking gardens. From here, you take a short bullet train journey to Hiroshima where you stay for two nights.
A local train takes you to the ferry across to Miyajima for a leisurely day on the island. You will visit Itsukushima shrine in its serene setting over the tidal waters opposite the iconic tori gate. It is common to see Japanese style weddings taking place on this sacred island.
You start the day with a short tram ride to visit the Atomic Dome and Peace Park. It is a moving experience to see the museum exhibition and the thousands of peace origami cranes sent daily to the park. You leave Hiroshima on the bullet train and connect to an express train following the coast down to Beppu. You see the devils (thermal) pools and try a sand bath in Japans most famous hot spring town. You then take a coach up into the mountain town of Yufuin where you will have two nights to experience the hospitality, hot spring baths, and fantastic traditional food in the Japanese inn.
You travel by coach towards the vast caldera that encircles Mount Aso, stopping first to see the superb panoramic views from the northern edge. The road steeply descends a few hundred meters to the base of the caldera before continuing to the foot of Mount Aso and then climbing around 1,000 meters to the open summit of the volcano.
You will venture to the moonscape and smoking crater (if conditions allow).On your return, you visit the remarkable pottery village of Onta. You can see how a small group of families continue to produce pottery with traditional methods dating back hundreds of years.
You have another opportunity to enjoy a traditional breakfast before the train journey back east towards Kyoto. You follow the inland route through the green landscapes of northern Kyushu before rejoining the bullet train one final time. You will reach Kyoto in the early afternoon. You can relax in your hotel or explore the adjoining modern station complex with its myriad of shops and stunning architecture. Into Japan would also be happy to assist those who would like to visit the nearby Sanjusangendo, which dates back to the 13th century and houses 1001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy.
You travel to the ancient capital of Nara to see the picturesque park, home to temples and deer in beautiful landscaped gardens. From the huge sitting Buddha in Todaiji Temple you gently walk up to Nigatsu-do Temple. You have sweeping views across the park and town beyond. You head into the nearby mountains to a Japanese tea farm. This special experience includes picking the tea leaves, processing them by hand, tasting the fresh tea and taking some home. You also grind green tea and learn about all the different varieties of Japanese tea. Enjoy the breathtaking views of rolling tea fields and a traditional bento lunch including specialties made from the local tea leaves.
This morning starts at the Golden Pavilion, so called because the glittering temple is overlaid with glittering gold leaf. Nearby is the stone garden in Ryoan-ji Temple, a representation of Zen philosophy, consisting of fifteen stones placed in white sand representing islands in an expanding sea. You return to the hotel with a couple of hours of free time to relax or visit Nijo Castle if you wish. Towards the end of the afternoon you visit Gion with its traditional wooden buildings, cobbled streets and renowned geisha.
This evening, you are treated to a special private dinner with dancing and music performed by two geishas. You will hear about this mysterious world and ask your own questions with the help of an interpreter. Keen photographers can also snap some truly memorable shots. After dinner, you take a late evening stroll around the lit-up Kodaiji Temple and gardens which is particularly atmospheric after dark.
This morning starts in the foothills on the east side of Kyoto as you head up to Kiyomizu Temple. From here, there are fantastic views over the whole city. You return to central Kyoto and visit the bustling Nishiki Market, a great place to find some unusual presents.
In the afternoon you have tickets to watch the Miyako Odori, the annual Geisha Spring dances at the Gion Theatre. You are free for the rest of the day, and you would be delighted to guide you around the shops or help you visit somewhere of personal interest.
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight home or follow your onward arrangements.
Also known colloquially as Akiba, Akihabara is the heart of Tokyos electronic district, and is something of a Mecca for otaku of all stripes. Which shops to visit depend very much on what youre looking for, as some specialize in one thing only, while others have nearly every electronic device imaginable.
Some of the best bargains are to be had off the main Ch-dri street - tough be aware that some of the smaller shops are less prepared to deal with non-Japanese speakers.The arcades have some of the best variety in Tokyo as well, with good selections of both modern and classic games. Akihabara is also famous for maid cafes, and @home caf, on Kanda-myojin street, is where you can take refreshment in a unique environment.
Asakusa is as close to the old shitamachi downtown atmosphere as its possible to get in modern day Tokyo. Centring on Sens-ji Temple, Asakusa is vibrant, festive, and somewhat nostalgic; very little has changed from the 1950s when the area was re-constructed.
Sens-ji Temple, red, and pleasantly crowded with pigeons and sight-seers, is the oldest and most important Buddhist site in Tokyo, home to a small golden statue of the goddess Kannon which is so sacred that it cannot be viewed. The main entrance is marked by an impressively large lantern that hangs suspended below the kaminari-mon gate. The temple also boasts a lovely five-storied pagoda, and is a popular spot for Tokyoites and visitors alike.
Asakusas streets are busy and festive, lined with stalls selling freshly grilled rice crackers, Buddhist charms, and paper fans. The buildings in the area mainly date back to the years immediately post-war, though some are older, and the local cinemas play old films, catering to nostalgic elderly Japanese tourists and pilgrims who remember when much of Tokyo looked very similar.Behind the temple lies Tokyos most famous geisha quarter, where you can see the outsides of famous tea houses and occasionally catch a glimpse of the geisha on their way to work in the evenings.
Beppu is Japans onsen (hot spring) capital, containing nine major pools sometimes referred to as the "nine hells of Beppu". It is a beautiful setting; the sea to one side and mountains on the other with onsen always evident by their columns of rising steam. Most people walking around Beppu wear traditional yukata (kimono style cotton robes) provided by their Ryokan. For the really ambitious there is usually time to try hot sand baths at Takegawara Spa.
Generally known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji was built in 1398 by Shogun Ashikaga, and served as a flourishing center of the arts before becoming a Rinzai Zen temple in 1419. Though the gardens are superb, featuring a large pond with islands representing the landscape of the Buddhist creation myth, it is the Golden Pavilion itself that people come to see - gold plated and startling against the backdrop of trees. The pavilion, reflecting in the mirror lake, is justifiably one of the best known images of Japan, although the building itself is a recent but faithful reproduction of the 15th century original.
The Boiling Valley itself is a fascinating place to see the steaming vents and explore the geothermic area on foot. The black-shelled onsen-cooked eggs, reputedly give long life - at a rate of seven years per egg apparently. They also make a tasty snack!
Properly known as Tsurugaoka Hachiman-g, this imposing shrine is Kamakuras most important Shinto shrine, and on holidays and festivals this is made apparent by the happy crowds of visitors. The shrine grounds are particularly lovely, including as they do a pond (the lotus blossom in midsummer) and Japanese-style bridges, and the wide steps leading up to the main building give the shrine a stately air. The shrine is opened from 07:00 to 21:00 and entrance is free. The shrine can be reached on foot from Kamakura Stations east entrance in about ten minutes and from the Enoden Station in about the same amount of time.
The most famous of the 53 stations on the old Tkaid Road from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyos ancient name), Hakone is most famous for its peaceful lake, steaming hot springs, and above all, for its views of Mount Fuji. A popular holiday spot, Hakone has a number of museums and sights are linked by ropeways, cable-cars and funicular or cliff railways.Lake Ashi (Ashinoko) marks the center of a large national park, and the mountains around, as well as old sections of the cobbled Tkaid Road provide excellent walking trails, with Mount Fuji making a memorable backdrop. The area is still volcanically active, and the Great Boiling Valley is full of strange sulphurous springs.
Chkoku-no-mori, (the sculpture forest), an intriguingly-named station on the Hakone Tozan railway line, is home to the Hakone Open-Air Museum. The museum houses over 300 works by Picasso alone, as well as sculptures by many other famous artists, including Henry Moore, Rodin, and Miro. You are highly recommended taking advantage of the hot spring foot bath to rejuvenate your tired feet (youll want to take a handkerchief or a small towel to dry off with). Simply shed your shoes and socks, roll up your trousers, and lower your feet in to soak. Keep in mind that every foot bath has a hot end, closer to where the water flows in, and that further towards the other end the water will be somewhat cooler.
Backed by skyscrapers and cloaked in green, Hama Riky Teien Garden is a peaceful oasis within Tokyo's metropolis. Once a Shogun's villa, where feudal lords hunted ducks in the tidal waterways, the garden was opened to the public in 1948 and features tidal ponds, plum groves, and a peony garden. You are highly recommended stopping for a reviving cup of bitter, whipped green matcha tea at the garden's traditional Nakajima teahouse, especially if you've been up early for the fish markets at nearby Tsukiji.
Rebuilt after the Second World War, Hiroshima is a modern city. Nevertheless, the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Park are poignant reminders of the citys tragic past, as are the swarms of origami cranes made by school children as symbols of peace.The Peace Memorial Museum documents the bomb and its aftermath, with exhibits demonstrating the destruction of the city, its people and the events leading up to it.
Visiting Hiroshimas Peace Memorial Park and Museum is likely to be most moving part of your holiday to Japan. The spacious park is full of memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives on August 6, 1945, as well as those who later succumbed to diseases, and is also home to the famous Atomic Bomb Dome. The paper cranes found everywhere represent solidarity with these victims and an on-going prayer for world peace. The Peace Memorial Museum is in two buildings within the park, and while visiting it can be an upsetting and unsettling experience for many, it should not be missed.
It (Ikutsushima-jinja) is built out over the water, as a spiritual threshold that separates the sacred island from the profane outer world. With its large torii gate standing nearby, it forms the iconic image of Miyajima. The shrine itself was first built in the 6th century, and took its present form in the 12th century, though typhoons have caused periodic reconstruction over the years, most recently in 2004. The shrines buildings are best visited at high tide, when the water sweeps in below and the whole complex appears to float on the waves. At low tide you can explore the structures from below.
Immaculately manicured, the Imperial Palace (Kkyo) Gardens house Edo castles impressive ruined keep, and are a wonderfully calm place within the hustle and bustle of the capital. The east gardens, the only part of the palace generally open to the public, is both large and varied, and, being famous for cherry blossoms, azalea, irises and pine, is lovely at any season. Leave yourself enough time to explore both the castle ruins and the Japanese style garden.
About 50 kilometers south west of Tokyo, the lovely seaside town of Kamakura is known for its large variety of shrines and temples, as well as a giant bronze Buddha. The Buddha, the second largest in Japan, was once housed in a grand temple, but a tsunami tore down the building in the 15th century, and the statue has since weathered the elements from a quiet clearing in the trees. The peaceful holiday feel of the town belies the power once wielded here: from 1192 to 1333 Kamakura was the seat of the shoguns government. Many of the areas great temples date from the Kamakura Shogunate, or bakufu, and there is no shortage of interesting historic sights.
Overlooking Kyoto from the base of the eastern mountains, Kiyomizu Temple takes its name from the pure water of the cascade which runs down the hill behind the complex. Founded in 780, this temple of the Buddhist Hoss sect is older than Kyoto itself, though Kiyomizu-dera has been rebuilt many times over the years, most recently in 1633. The temple is renowned for its construction, which uses no nails to support the elaborate wooden structure of the main hall. In addition to the three streams of clear water, believed to promote health, longevity, and scholastic success, the temple precincts house Shinto shrines dedicated to love, and many hopefuls come to try to walk, eyes closed, between the love stones.
One of the three most famous gardens in Japan (the others being Kairaku-en in Mito and Kenroku-en in Kanazawa), Kraku-en looks very much now as it did on its completion in 1700. Open to the public since 1884, Kraku-en is full of gorgeous views, green lawns (a surprising and unusual feature in traditional Japanese gardens), and architectural treasures, including the unusual Ryuten Pavilion which houses a running stream. Visit the Nishiki-ga-oka Hill, where many wild birds visit the lush cypress woods. There is an excellent view of the Kaya-no-ike pond from the Renchi-ken Teahouse, and the tea fields (which are a more bitter variety of tea than that commonly drunk today) are well worth visiting.
Across a narrow stretch of the Seto Inland Sea from Hiroshima is the small island shrine of Ikutsushima. Commonly known as Miyajima (shrine island) for its principal Ikutsushima Shrine, the whole island has long been considered sacred by association.
Miyajima is best recognized for its iconic red torii gate, an element of what is said to be one of the three best views in Japan. The spectacular torii, built on tidal sands, faces the majestic Itsukushima shrine at the foot of Mount Misen. As the tide comes, sweeping under and around the ancient shrine, the torii appears to float on the sea. The shrine itself extends on stilts over the water, and at high tide the whole shrine appears to be floating on the waves.
Historically, to avoid spiritual contamination, stepping foot on the island itself was allowed for devout men only, with women banned completely. Common men could approach the shrine (built specially out over the water rather than on the land), but only by passing through the largetori gate in the sea by boat first. Nowadays customs are more relaxed, but births and deaths are kept on the mainland as much as possible, and burial on the island is still legally forbidden.
The local deer are not subject to any such restrictions, or indeed any interference at all, according to the Shinto religion, they are the messengers of the gods. They wander the island freely, and they will happily approach anybody they think might have food for them.
The geisha of Gion are perhaps the most famous, having appeared countless times in literature, and most recently in Arthur Golden's fictional Memoirs of a Geisha and the subsequent film. The Miyako Odori (Dance of the Capital) has been held every April in Kyoto since 1872, and the geiko (geisha) and maiko (apprentice geisha) still carry out their traditional annual dances during the height of the cherry blossom season throughout the month of April. The most popular of these dances are the Miyako Odori "Cherry Blossom Dances" and "Dances of the Old Capital." Spectators flock from all across Japan and the world to attend the event.
Peaking at some 1500 meters above sea level, Mount Aso is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. The present caldera was formed as a result of eruptions occurring over 90,000 - 300,000 years ago, and is now home to city Aso as well as other towns and villages. Its rising fumes remind visitors of the awesome natural forces at work below ground, while its green-blue bubbling waters are a sight to see. The views are incredible and have a host of myths legends attached.
Mount Asos main attraction is the impressively active Nakadake, up which you can drive, walk, or take a cable car. The crater contains a steaming lake of bubbling sulphuric acid, which, if the winds are right, you can peer into. The poisonous gasses are closely monitored and the viewing areas are sometimes closed to visitors, and should not be visited at all by those with asthma or any respiratory problems.
Reaching its conical summit 3776 meters above the Pacific, Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest mountain, and one of the country's most impressive symbols. The dormant volcano last erupted three centuries ago, but still demands respect in a country where Shinto gods, or kami, are believed to inhabit the natural features of the landscape. Legend relates that Fuji-san, as the mountain is called in Japanese, is home to the goddess Konohana Sakuya Hime, and there are shrines in her honor at both the base and the peak.
Rendered most famously in Hokusai's wood-block prints, Mount Fuji tends to be coy, and unless the sky is very clear youll need to be up early or lucky with the weather in order to see the mountain in all its splendor. Although you can catch glimpses of Mount Fuji from parts of Gra, the best views are to be had from the Great Boiling Valley and from Lake Ashi.
The market consists of a long, narrow covered street packed with shops selling local specialties; it is sometimes called Kyotos kitchen, and its easy to see why. Barrels of fresh and pickled vegetables spill out into the street, and the air is fragrant with the savory smell of grilling sembei crackers and steaming fish dumplings. Many of the shops offer free samples, and the Nishiki Market is a wonderful way to stock up on very Japanese picnic supplies for lunch, although there are plenty of restaurants as well if your appetite has been whet by the tastings.
Tea is the most commonly drunk beverage in Japan and plays an important part in Japanese food culture. Although various types of tea are widely available, green tea is the most common and is also the central element of the tea ceremony. A tour to the Obubu tea farm will give you a unique insight into the world of tea and offers an authentic tea picking and making experience. Not only there is an opportunity to try traditional locally made teas and visit beautiful tea fields in the surrounding mountains, but also a chance to pick your own tea leaves and make them into tea. A truly unique experience to see tea travel from leaf to cup.
A broad, straight street lined with an avenue of zelkova trees, Omotesando Dri is where sub culture meets high fashion, and should you need to pick up any high-end brand goods, this is the place to do it. Omotesando also offers wonderful people-watching, any number of excellent cafes and restaurants, and there are a few architectural gems in the area too - in particular Diors glass tower, or Tods Omotesando building, which echoes the shape of the local zelkova trees in its structure.
Since the opening of the original kiln over 300 years ago, Onta-yaki pottery has established its simple yet tasteful style. In the villages hidden in the mountains surrounding Hita City, ten kilns still operate using the same traditional techniques and produce pottery pieces which are mostly used in casual, everyday settings. The ten families that live today in Onta can trace their lineage to the three original founders of the Onta kiln in 1705.
Each family passed their pottery knowledge and skills from fathers to sons and this patrilineal practice has helped to preserve Ontas original pottery-making techniques in its purest form despite three centuries of generational succession. The traditional way of making Onta-yaki, and the skills passed on to the younger generation all helped it to become listed in Japan's important intangible cultural assets in 1993.
From roughly between the years 1200 to 1700, Shingon Buddhist monks excavated an underground maze of tunnels near Kamakura as a site for spiritual training. Damp, silent corridors lead to small, domed meditation chambers with walls and ceilings carved with fantastic creatures and Buddhist images, and on down to the spring room with a great turtle and birds carved on the walls. Taking a small flashlight will be helpful to see those carvings that the light from the candle you are provided with does not reach.
Kamakuras great Buddha, or Daibutsu, is undoubtedly the towns most famous sight. The 13th century statue dominates the grounds of Ktoku-in temple. The temple is most easily reached from Hase Station on the Enoden line or from the Daibutsu-mae bus stop from stops 1 through 6 at Kamakura Station.
Tokyo offers possibilities that no other city rivals: Karaoke in glass-walled rooms, more Michelin stars than Paris, and the world's busiest fish market and train station. Japan's capital is a truly mesmerizing place, and giant TV screens, flashing neon, and cutting edge technology make Tokyo one of the most futuristic and thrilling places on earth.
The old downtown (shitamachi) still exists alongside the modern city. Tiny station eateries, ancient temples, geisha districts and traditional shopping streets seemingly unchanged in the last century, rub shoulders with super-luxury hotels, sleek skyscrapers and high-tech shops.
Tucked in amongst the concrete and the tangled though massively efficient train and metro lines, there are also pockets of tranquility to be found in Tokyo's abundant parks and gardens, which provide a welcome respite from the fast pace of the metropolis.
The Tokyo National Museum was established in 1872, and is the oldest Japanese national museum and the largest art museum in Japan. The museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing on Japan. It holds over 110,000 objects, which includes 87 Japanese national treasures and 610 important cultural properties.
Located inside Ueno Park, the facilities consist of the Honkan (Japanese Gallery), Tykan (Asian Gallery), Hykeikan, Heiseikan, Hry-ji Hmotsukan (Gallery of Hry-ji Treasures), as well as Shirykan (the Research and Information Center), and other facilities. There are restaurants and shops within the museum's premises, as well as outdoor exhibitions and a garden where visitors can enjoy seasonal views.
Tsukiji is one of the most fascinating markets in the world, and though its popularity as a tourist destination is well deserved, the frenetic workings of the market remain a mystery to the majority of visitors. With its roots in the Edo Era, Tsukiji is one of the worlds biggest wholesale markets, handling nearly ninety percent of the citys impressive seafood needs. Tsukiji is famous for its pre-daybreak tuna auctions, where the giant fish trade for huge sums in the blink of an eye, but the daily life of the market warrants nearly as much attention.
Your tour will allow you to experience the market, and to learn about this remarkable place first-hand with expert explanation from your guide, one of only a handful of guides with in depth knowledge of Tokyos central wholesale markets. In the Outer Markets you will see specialist Japanese knife and lacquer ware makers, and the market shrine, complete with rock shrines dedicated to shrimp and other fish. Your guide will also take you through to the Inner Market, where youll be able to see the workers cutting up the huge tuna and learn about the variety of wholesalers who work there.
Yufuin is a delightful hot springs town, where you can enjoy the relaxation of a ryokan stay. In this little onsen town you can admire the picturesque views of Mount Yufudake, and rivers flow down and across the valley. In your luxurious ryokan, you can experience the high standard of Japanese hospitality. After taking a bath in your ryokans hot spring, or onsen, enjoy a traditional Japanese kaiseki meal.
This retreat will take place in Hakone, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, and Tokyo, Japan.
You will be having daily breakfast, one lunch, and five dinners as part of the program. The rest of the meals are at your own expense.There is a huge variety of food available in Japan including European and other world cuisines. Most visitors enjoy traditional Japanese food but strict vegetarian dishes are not always easily available.Breakfast is included at all accommodation during the tour with hotels usually offering a breakfast buffet including English, continental and Japanese dishes.
Ryokan accommodation offers a traditional Japanese breakfast and dinner comprising lots of small, immaculately presented dishes. Most meals will include sushi or sashimi, a grilled dish, a fried dish, and a simmered dish, among others, and your waitress will help you navigate any self-cooking dishes and sauces. You may not recognize some of them, but you should certainly try them all. With meticulous attention to aesthetics and detail, this is as much a feast for the eyes as for the stomach.
For other meals during the tour, Into Japan can offer guidance on the best local restaurants and delicacies if you would like to explore on your own. Alternatively, they can usually join you for dinner if you are unsure and need help deciphering the menu. They can also recommend local European, American or Asian restaurants if you prefer something more familiar.
Food is very good value in Japan, despite what you may have heard. You can easily find good quality lunches for 5 GBP and dinner for just 10 GBP.Dining in hotels or more exclusive restaurants can be much more expensive, but in general, you will get much better quality for your money than in the United Kingdom.
Sukiyaki is prepared at your table in a bubbling pot by cooking thinly sliced beef with vegetables, tofu and noodles. Tempura is fish, seafood and vegetables coated in a very light and crisp batter, deep fried in vegetable oil. Sushi is exquisitely prepared fish or seafood placed on a ball of specially seasoned, sticky rice. Sashimi is super fresh, delicately sliced fish eaten raw with soy sauce and fiery wasabi. A few non-seafood options are usually available.
Kaiseki Ryori is regarded as the most exquisite culinary refinement in Japan. The dishes are mainly composed of vegetables, fish, seaweed, and mushroom flavors and the presentation is truly a work of art. Yakitori is small pieces of seasoned chicken or other meat and vegetables, cooked on skewers over a charcoal grill. Tonkatsu is a crispy crumbed pork cutlet, fried and usually served with a distinctive, fragrant sauce and salad.
Shabu-shabu is a communal dining experience; using your chopsticks, fine slices of beef and vegetables are swirled in a pot of bubbling water, then dipped in a special sauce.Soba and Udon are two kinds of Japanese noodle. Soba is made from buckwheat flour and Udon from wheat flour. They are served either in a soup or a sauce and are available inhundreds of delicious variations.
On your doorstop you also have hundreds of themed restaurants, boutique shops, cafs and a department store, all set within the same station building. It is worth exploring to get the views over Kyoto and look down over the station from the suspended walkway. Kyoto, the most traditional of all Japans major cities, has a phenomenal collection of temples and shrines, dating back to its days as the capital city and before. There are about 2000 temples in total, many having national significance, which give the city a relaxed and traditional atmosphere.
Kyoto is where Japanese people go to see Japan, and overseas it is well known for its lovely Zen gardens, the most famous of which is the raked gravel and fifteen stones at Ryan-ji, as well as its iconic geisha, best glimpsed in the early evenings in the Gion district. Kyoto is also renowned for its elegant kaiseki cuisine, and is the original home of the tea ceremony. Like nearly all of Japans cities, modernization has left its share of concrete in Kyoto, and often the most beautiful of the traditional buildings rub shoulders with less elegant post-war constructions or modern skyscrapers.
Tokyos largest shrine, Meiji-jing, covers 175 acres and houses over 100,000 trees, making it a lush escape from the hard angles of the city. The shrine itself is austere and built using cypress and copper in the nagare-zukuri style, and though often busy with tourists and pilgrims is still extremely popular for weddings, which are a treat to see.The inner garden pre-dates the shrine itself and is said to have been designed by the Meiji Emperor for his wife. Particularly beautiful when the masses of irises, much loved by the Meiji Empress, are in bloom, it is a tranquil spot during the remainder of the year and boasts a pond with large colorful koi and an interesting well.
At high tide, the Itsukushima tori appears to float above the waves, and the ocean sweeps in under the shrine. If you have time, boat trips out to the gate can be arranged when the water is in, or when the tide is out you can walk out and explore the shrine gate or the buildings from below, though be sure to wear shoes you dont mind getting muddy. On April 2, 2016, low tide should be at 14:40 and high tide at 08:30.
The forested peak which rises up behind Miyajimas striking tori gate, Mount Misen is 535-metre high, which makes for a short if strenuous climb, though theres also a cable car to near the top if youre not feeling energetic. In addition to the striking views of the island-dotted Seto Inland Sea that can be had from its peak, Mount Misen is home to the not-so-timid sacred deer, who may well follow you a little way along the hiking trails hoping for food. If you are lucky you might also spot the local troupe of Japanese macaques.
Nara is another ex-capital of Japan; the Imperial family ruled the country from here between 710 and 794, and its legacy is a varied collection of ancient temples spread throughout a vast park. The most famous of these is Tdai-ji, evidence to the strong Chinese influence during the Nara Period, home to a giant bronze statue of the Buddha, and thought to be the largest free-standing wooden structure in the world. From here, you can take the meandering paths through park dotted with temples and longer rambles up into the foothills of the neighboring mountains.
Completed in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Nij Castle is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The architecture was ostentatious for its day, designed to illuminate the Shoguns growing strength in contrast to the emperor's dwindling power. Dont miss the "nightingale floors", made to creak on purpose to give away any intruding assassins. The castles famous garden, adjoining the Ninomaru Palace, is attributed to the renowned landscape architect Kobori Enshu. The garden features islands in a pond, and is said to be typical of the excessive designs of the Edo period.
A volcanic archipelago with a high rainfall, Japan is a land of abundant natural hot water, and onsen are popular throughout the country. Nothing is as intensely soothing as a soak in geothermic onsen pools, and many of the minerals in the water are thought to have healing properties. Onsen bathing has its own etiquette, which is easy enough to follow: men and women enter separate pools, leaving their clothes in wicker baskets in separate changing areas (often marked by a red curtain with the character for women and a blue curtain with the character for men).
The bathing experience is almost a ritual: bathers scrub themselves from head to toe and rinse thoroughly before stepping gently into the piping hot pool.Bathing naked with strangers with only a small towel for cover can be a daunting experience, but once in the steaming water, concerns about modesty melt away. Calming, cleansing, relaxing and nearly meditative, its a liberating experience thats well worth the initial trepidation.
Evian Spa Tokyos design is a metaphorical reflection of the journey Evian natural mineral water takes through the Alps, from the loose stone garden at reception signifying the waters source on a mountaintop to the ceiling of the treatment rooms reflecting ripples in a pond. Each treatment room is aptly named after a peak in the Alps.
Complemented by wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on to the citys most compelling vistas, the 1,200-square-meter (12,916-square-foot) Alpine-inspired space is beautifully juxtaposed with its natural setting. On a clear day, a majestic, snow-capped Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance. The menu of facials, body scrubs, therapies, journeys and rituals focus on celestial restoration, mineral enrichment, precious nourishment and renewed vitality.
Foot and body massage are available.
Kakenagashi onsen is pure, fresh hot-spring water that rejuvenates your body. The inn draws hot water from two fountain heads each with its own unique qualities. The first type moisturizes the skin while the other, said to be the water of beauty, is a hydrogen carbonate onsen. The therapeutic effects of these waters can be enjoyed separately, either in the large indoor hot spring or outdoor hot spring.
The water is fresh, clean 100% natural hot spring water. In addition to the large indoor hot spring, there are two private hot springs, each also offering the lavish choice of indoor or outdoor hot spring. The health benefits of a simple onsen are believed to release nerve pain, muscle soreness, arthritic pain, paralysis, stiff shoulders, stiffness, bruises, poor circulation, sprains, chronic digestive problems, hemorrhoids, post-illness recovery, fatigue, and the general promotion of health.
The spa is designed to address the fundamental need to recharge while traveling, in a comfortable setting that is both upscale and approachable. A pool and fitness center are also located in the hotel.
Please book your flight to arrive at Tokyo International Airport (HND). Into Japan will pick you up from the airport. The pick-up is included in the price.