Japan Cherry Blossom Dreams Tour
Departs Sunday, 31st March 2019 – Bookings Closed –
Departs Friday, 5th April 2019 – Guaranteed Departure –
A deluxe tour along the Golden Route. 15 days in Japan visiting vibrant Tokyo, majestic Mt. Fuji and scenic Lake Kawaguchi, the traditional capital Kyoto with its famous temples and gardens, historic Hiroshima and the floating shrine of Miyajima. Stay in the stunning Iya Valley, one of the most secluded regions in Japan. Visit Ritsurin park, and Kenrokuen Gardens, two of the most beautiful in Japan and the picturesque historic canal town of Kurashiki. Visit the historic Samurai residential district of Kanazawa. Stroll through Shirakawago and Gokayama villages with their delightful traditional thatched cottages. Stay at the centuries old Nozawa onsen hot spring resort and visit the Nagano snow monkey park. Stay at a Japanese Inn and experience local home-style cooking.
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.
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.
Just an hour’s drive from Nagano city, Nozawa Onsen is a charming hot spring village at the foot of Kenashi-yama Mountain. People have been making the pilgrimage to Nozawa for its therapeutic hot springs for 700 years and it is now home to around 4,000 people and renowned also for its traditional inns and in more recent times, its ski terrain. Nozawa offers a rich experience of culture, food, architecture, public onsens and traditional ryokan. The nearby Snow Monkeys of Japan are a highlight for most travellers. Japanese Macaque bath in natural hot springs and spend their time in the snow covered forest.
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.
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. In springtime its 4000 cherry trees make it a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing.
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.
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 coach 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. After an afternoon exploring and shopping, get to know your fellow travellers at our welcome dinner at the hotel tonight.
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. After lunch at a lakeside restaurant we return to Tokyo. You may have a little time for some souvenir hunting.
This morning we travel by bullet train to Kyoto, home to the finest art, crafts and culture in Japan. We will be making Kyoto our hub for the next few days, so we check in for 4 nights to deluxe accommodation in central Kyoto. The rest of the afternoon is free at leisure and you might like to stroll to the arcades, department stores, restaurants and shops.
Day 5 we start the day with a visit by local trains to Fushimi Inari, where we explore the array of almost 10,000 vermilion torii gates wending their way through the hills behind Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. In the afternoon we visit UNESCO World Heritage Listed Kiyomizu temple, an impressive wooden structure built into the mountainside and overlooking the city from the east. Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizu temple is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama district as we join pilgrims and locals as they climb towards the temple. Like many Japanese Temples, Kiyomizu temple has quite a garden and the cherry blossoms in Spring can be beautiful. 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 will be at a local restaurant.
Day 6 Day is at your leisure. We are happy to assist you to organise your day and have created two optional activities for your choice.
Day 6 Optional Morning 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 per person.
Day 6 Optional Geisha Dinner (evening activity): Traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner with Geisha accompaniment & traditional dance performances. The opportunity of a lifetime. $220 per person.
The following day (Day 7) we visit Ohara, a rural town up in the mountains of northern Kyoto, famous among Japanese travellers not only for the nearby Sanzenin temple gardens, but also its charming string of tiny shops lining the path from the town to the temple. It feels like a haven from the big cities of Tokyo and downtown Kyoto.
Leaving Kyoto, we now head off to visit Shikoku Island’s Iya Valley which is one of Japan’s three hidden valleys. Its tall peaks and deep gorges were historically a safe haven for the Heike Clan after their defeat by the rival Genji Clan during civil wars of the 12th century. Check in at Iya Onsen (hot spring) Resort. Enjoy Spring views of the Iya Valley and perhaps a short trip by cable car to a natural hot spring in the valley. Like many of Japan’s volcanic landforms, these gorges can be quite spectacular. A special dinner is provided tonight by the resort.
Day 9 This morning we travel to see more of Shikoku’s beauty in Takamatsu and visit Ritsurin Park which is the largest National Special Scenic Beauty Garden in Japan. The park is made up of 6 ponds and 13 hills beautifully arranged against the green pine trees as well as many stone arrangements that evolve into the wonderful style of the early Edo era. We then Travel on to Okayama, where we check in to our hotel for 2 nights.
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.
Today 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. We will visit Nomura–ke, a restored samurai residence displaying the lifestyle and artefacts of the era when samurai were prosperous. Visit also Kenrokuen garden, one of Japan’s 3 most famous. We then check in at our hotel in Korinbou, in central Kanazawa for 3 nights.
Day 12 we travel on to Shirakawago Ogimachi, a small world heritage listed village, nestled in the mountains beside a pristine mountain river. Marvel at these thick thatched roofs and the historical exhibits of village life of years ago. After a stroll through this bucolic village we move on to another old town, Takayama whose isolation has allowed Edo period streets, lined with tiny shops, museums and eating places, to survive to this day.
It continues to be a popular Japanese family and company pastime to visit hot spring Onsen resorts. These natural volcanic hot springs are thought to have medicinal or healing properties and this morning we will take a train across the country to Nozawa, a 370 year old authentic hot spring town with a quaint village atmosphere. Enjoy a dip yourself in the Onsen if you like, before our traditional Ryokan dinner tonight.
This morning we travel back to Tokyo by Hokuriku Bullet Train line, arriving around midday. Upon arrival we transfer to our hotel and check in for 1 night. The remainder of the day is free at leisure, so you may wish to do some strategic shopping or perhaps visit a museum or art gallery. Tonight we enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel and share our experiences with our travelling companions.
Enjoy your last day in Japan with some last minute souvenir hunting or perhaps an optional half day activity. Our journey concludes and we travel home to Australia.
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 (2) and Dinner (5)
- All tours specified
Available with English speaking guides:
- Day 5 Kyoto Geisha Dinner $220: Japanese Dinner with Geisha accompaniment & traditional dance performances.
- Day 6 Kyoto Sagano Tour $60: Half day tour of Kyoto countryside Sagano Bamboo Grove region by local trains. Famous for its bamboo groves and specialty handcraft shops including pottery, Japanese rice paper, bamboo craft and handmade clay bell shops.
Package tour price: $8,200 pp twin share. Single room from $9,690