Japan Autumn Dreams Tour 2020
Departs Wednesday, 28th October 2020
A deluxe tour along the “golden route.” Enjoy the cool Autumn ambiance of Japan while strolling through rustic villages, majestic castles and beautiful temples and speeding between cities on the famous bullet train.
15 days in Japan visiting vibrant Tokyo, majestic Mt. Fuji and scenic Hakone, the traditional capital Kyoto with its famous temples and gardens, historic Hiroshima and the floating shrine of Miyajima. Visit the historic Samurai residential district of Kanazawa and see one of Japan’s most beautifully designed gardens, Kenrokuen. Stroll through the tranquil village of Shirakawago with its delightful traditional thatched cottages. Travel to Arita & Imari pottery villages and visit the national treasure and world heritage site of Himeji Castle. See the giant statue of Buddha at Todaiji Temple in Nara and the colourful city of Osaka where our tour will end.This package is designed for the experienced traveller with a limited timeframe or on a budget, without compromising on quality.
It is difficult to believe that the thronging city of Tokyo, grew from what had been a small, little-known fishing village in 1457 into the largest metropolis in the world with an estimated population of 1,000,000 by 1721. It was the centre of the Shogun regime from the 17th century until Japan was opened up to the west in the late 19th century. No other place in Japan shows the contrast between the historical culture of the samurai period and the modern technical miracle better than bustling Tokyo, with everything from high tech shopping and outrageous fashion districts to the traditional Imperial Palace.
Kyoto is the spiritual heart of Japan and is home some 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the stunning Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) and Nijo Castle. It was the main centre for the evolution of religious and secular architecture and of garden design for almost a thousand years. Famous for its classical Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, Zen gardens and traditional wooden houses, it the cultural centre of Japan and with its 2,000 religious places – 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact – it is also one of the best preserved cities in Japan.
Hiroshima’s 1500 year history as a trading port and centre of shogunate power has largely been usurped by the devastating atomic bomb dropped on the city during the final months of the 2nd World War. The city, once a centre of Imperial power is now dedicated to teaching humanity about the folly of nuclear war. The poignant Hiroshima Peace museum showing the impact of the bomb on the victims is not to be missed. Not far from Hiroshima city lies Miyajima Island in The Inland Sea, where you can find the Sacred Goddess Miyajima Floating Shrine and the world famous Torii gate.
The samurai town of Kanazawa or ‘little Kyoto’ is known for its well-preserved streets and buildings that evoke the ambiance of the Edo Period centuries ago. It has a long history of traditional arts and culture and historical city streets lined with preserved geisha houses that once formed the entertainment district coexist with modernistic buildings. It is home to the beautiful gardens of Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenroku-en Garden, museums, gold leaf workshop and the Nagamachi Samurai District located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle.
Japan’s second largest city after Tokyo, Osaka with its 42 municipalities has a population of more than 8.8 million – around 7% of all of Japan. With 1400 years of history, this port city has long been a centre of commerce. Situated in the heart of Osaka is Osaka Castle which towers over the city and whose public park grounds cover 60,000 square meters. Osaka is also famous with foodies and many a tasty morsel is to be found among the vivid neon lights of the Dotonbori area.
Arrive in Tokyo and check in at The Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa. The hotel will be our home for the next 3 nights and is located close to Shinagawa Station, which is a great staging point for exploring Tokyo or getting to those famous Tokyo shopping areas by train. We begin our first full day in Tokyo with a sightseeing tour of Tokyo including panoramic views of Tokyo from an observation deck some 200 meters above ground level, visiting the famous Asakusa Buddhist temple Sensoji well known for the large red lantern at the Kaminari mon (Gate of Thunder and Lightning) and strolling down the colourful Nakamise shopping arcade lined with tiny stalls and thronging with enchanted shoppers and temple visitors.
This morning we travel to Mount Fuji and Hakone National Park. It is difficult to really get a feel for the massive mountain from pictures alone. Today (weather permitting) you will see Mt. Fuji from far enough away to appreciate its amazing symmetry and close enough to experience the awe its presence has instilled in the Japanese people and begin to understand its place in their culture. On our way to view the mountain from another vantage point, we will take a cruise across Lake Ashi in the Hakone National park and then board the ropeway (gondola) up the side of Mt Komagatake. Get to know your fellow travellers at our welcome dinner at the hotel this evening whilst enjoying a fabulous view of Mt Fuji.
This morning we travel to the Samurai town of Kanazawa. Upon arrival we will enjoy sightseeing of the Nagamachi Samurai District located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle. Well preserved streets and buildings evoke the ambiance of the Edo Period before Japan was opened to the western world. We will visit Nomura–ke, a restored samurai residence displaying the lifestyle and artefacts of the era when samurai were prosperous. We will also visit Kenrokuen one of Japan’s 3 most famous gardens. Late afternoon, we check in at our hotel in Kanazawa for 2 nights.
We make an early morning start today to travel to the Noto peninsula, north of Kanazawa. We will experience the famous Wajima Morning Market notable for its traditional lacquer ware. The lacquer is derived from the sap of the Urushi tree and the traditional intricate lacquer process is perhaps the Eastern equivalent of French Polishing. We will also visit the colourful Kiriko Museum which houses ornate floats which carry huge lanterns in local festivals. Such floats are characteristic of local festivals across Japan but those in the Noto peninsula are especially colourful and reflect a thousand year tradition in these ornate lanterns.
Not too far from Kanazawa are the ancient village and town of Shirakawago and Takayama. We will travel to Shirakawago, a small world heritage listed village, nestled in the mountains beside a pristine mountain river. We stroll around this fascinating village with its famous thatched roofs for a while before heading to Takayama, whose isolation has allowed Edo period streets, lined with tiny shops, museums and eating places, to survive to this day. We will take lunch at a local fine dining restaurant in Takayama and after spending some time taking in the local sights we will hop on a train to travel on to the enchanting Kiso Valley where we will visit two historic and picturesque post towns, Magome & Tsumago. Magome is a quaint village meandering down the side of a mountain, providing beautiful views as we wander through the town. Tsumago is another small town seldom visited by group tours and where cars are banned and signs of modernity such as power lines are hidden to maintain the old style ambiance.
This morning we travel by express train to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and home to the finest art, crafts and culture in the country. We will be making Kyoto our hub for the next few days, so we check in for 3 nights of Deluxe accommodation in central Kyoto.
In the afternoon, we will enjoy a walking tour of the Kiyomizu Temple, nestled in a mountain on the east of the city and overlooking the city. Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizu temple is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of Kyoto’s old atmospheric Higashiyama district, as you share the winding and narrow lanes with pilgrims and local Japanese tourists.
Day 8 we take a Kyoto sightseeing tour, this morning visiting the UNESCO world heritage sites, the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) and Nijo Castle. Kinkakuji is a beautiful Zen temple once the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga in northern Kyoto, and whose top two storeys are completely covered in gold leaf. Nijo castle (built in 1603) was the Kyoto residence of the first Shogun, Tokugawa, and is one of the best surviving examples of feudal Japan’s castle palace architecture. Afternoon is at leisure.
Optional tour of Sagano Bamboo Forest: The Kyoto countryside area of Sagano is famous for its iconic bamboo groves and specialty handcraft shops including pottery, Japanese rice paper, bamboo craft and handmade clay bell shops. Afternoon activity. $60 per person
Optional Geisha Dinner: Traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner with Geisha accompaniment & traditional dance performances. The opportunity of a lifetime. Evening activity. $160 per person
Day 9 One of the most iconic images of Kyoto is that of the vermillion torii gates of Fushimi Inari and we start the day with a visit there by local trains, where we explore the array of almost 10,000 vermilion torii gates wending their way through the hills behind Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.We then head back down to the city, to visit historic Nishiki Arcade where you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of this market whose owners have been provedores to Kyoto’s leading restaurants for centuries. Dinner this evening is at Irifune Japanese restaurant.
We start our day by travelling to Hiroshima by bullet train. We will visit Miyajima Island in The Inland Sea, to enjoy sightseeing around the Sacred Goddess Miyajima Floating Shrine and the world famous Torii gate (officially one of Japan’s “Top 3 Views”). The shrine itself is build over the water on pylons, to give the impression of floating on the water. As with many other structures in Japan it has been rebuilt after storm or fire damage many times and in fact this constant renewal is characteristic of the Japanese psyche. The image of the large bright vermillion Torii gate at high tide against the mountain behind is one of the best known in Japan. We then return to Hiroshima, for a guided tour of the Peace Memorial Park and visit the poignant Hiroshima Peace Museum. The museum is dedicated to those who lost their lives or loved ones and has displays on life before and after the atomic bomb.
Day 11. After a morning at leisure in Hiroshima, we travel on in the afternoon to Kyushu Island and check in to our hotel in Hakata/Fukuoka where we stay for the next 2 nights.
Day 12 Today we visit the picturesque Arita & Imari pottery villages. Centuries ago, a potter from Korea discovered a fine-quality white porcelain mineral nearby in Mt. Arita-Izumi-yama leading to the development of the pottery village, Arita. Now the cradle of porcelain manufacturing in Japan, Arita is a quiet town hidden away in the mountains. We will visit a master potter’s workshop for an insight into this delicate craft.
Today, we travel to Himeji by Bullet Train and then on to Osaka. On the way, we will visit the famous majestic Himeji Castle, considered Japan’s most spectacular. Unlike many other Japanese castles, Himeji Castle was never destroyed in wars or fires and survives in its original form. It is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. We then travel on to Osaka and check in to our hotel for 2 nights. Enjoy an evening walk around the colourful and famous Dotonbori area.
Even before Kyoto, the town of Nara was the seat of power in Japan in the 8th Century. We visit Nara today which is more famous now for Todaiji Temple, its giant Buddha statue and the nearby Nara deer park. We will visit Nigatsu-do temple on the hillside of Mt. Wakakusa before returning to Osaka and the afternoon is free at leisure.
We will gather again this evening for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant, where you can share memories and compare tall stories with your newfound travelling companions.
Day 15 Enjoy your last day in Japan with some last minute souvenir hunting or perhaps an optional half day activity. Our journey together concludes at midday.
Day 16 We arrive home.
Dreams Series Tours
Enjoy the cool Autumn ambiance and gentle Spring air as you wander through rustic villages, majestic castles and ancient temples. Wonder at the majesty of Mt Fuji and the beautiful Cherry Blossom trees. Follow the Golden Route and visit places off the beaten track, from the Northern island of Hokkaido to the Southern islands of Okinawa and Kyushu. Our Dreams Series of tours are fully escorted and offer a deluxe service that’s great value for money.
Your Japan Autumn Dreams Tour package includes:
- Fully escorted tour by experienced English speaking tour escorts
- Pre-reserved Japan Rail tickets by ordinary class
- All transfers and admissions for sightseeing as specified
- Baggage porterage – one piece/person
- Deluxe quality accommodation with private facilities
- Total of 21 meals included – Breakfast (14), Lunch (3) and Dinner (4)
- All tours specified
Available with English speaking guides:
- Day 8 Optional Afternoon Tour of Sagano Bamboo Forest: The Kyoto countryside area of Sagano is famous for its iconic bamboo groves and specialty handcraft shops including pottery, Japanese rice paper, bamboo craft and handmade clay bell shops. $60 pp
- Day 8 Kyoto Geisha Dinner (evening activity): Traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner with Geisha accompaniment & traditional dance performances. The opportunity of a lifetime. $160 pp
Package tour price: $7,420 pp twin share, land only.
Single room from $9,300 pp land only