Note regarding meals: For an additional $400 you may elect to include six lunches and seven dinners, giving an excellent exposure to Japanese cuisine. These meals are identified as "[optional]" in the itinerary.
Departure from US (or other originating point), usually scheduled for midday.
Arrive Narita Airport, usually late in the afternoon; met by Steve or one of our associates as you exit Customs. Train ride into Tokyo; check in to Hotel; included light Welcome Dinner.
Visit Honganji Temple, Tsukiji market, Hama Rikyu Garden, ride the Waterbus to Asakusa, see Nakamise-dori shopping street and Senso-ji Temple. We'll rest briefly at our Hotel after Lunch [optional] (Unagi) in Asakusa. Then we are off to the Ginza for a walking tour, including time for Dinner [optional] (Yakitori).
We will have a relaxed morning before heading over to quaint Yanaka Ginza for some browsing and noshing. Then it is time to examine "Electric City" – Akihabara. A train ride across town brings us to legendary Shinjuku throbbing with its wide variety of modern Japanese energies. From the observation deck of the Metropolitan Government Building through the neon jungle and pricey department stores to the tiny back alleys of Kabuki-cho, we will observe the gamut. Then it is time for Dinner [optional] (Tempura).
We begin the day with views of the Imperial Palace grounds, including a walk through the East Garden. Two shrines – Yasukuni and Yushima – will reveal their contrasting emphases. Then we discover many facets of Ueno Park before entering the bustling mazes of Ameyoko marketplace.
We will spend the morning steeped in history at Edo-Tokyo Museum and Tokyo Reconstruction Museum; then we head over to Ebisu, allowing time for Lunch [optional] before riding the Yurikamome Line to explore the unique range of entertainment on Odaiba.
We will visit Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, & Harajuku. After Lunch [optional] (Tonkatsu) we will continue exploring Omotesando-dori, including the Oriental Bazaar, and Aoyama-dori. This will bring us to Shibuya, starting our walking tour at the famous statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog. Dinner [optional] (Osaka-style Okonomiyaki), then back to our Hotel.
A train takes us to ancient Kamakura where we see the Great Buddha, plus Hase-dera, with its unique nooks and crannies, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It's not too far to Yokohama to visit Chinatown and the Moto-machi District. Back in Tokyo we will enjoy Dinner [optional] "Under the Tracks."
The day starts with riding the Bullet Train (Shinkansen) north to historic Nikko, nestled in the mountains. We will see the mausoleum where Ieyasu Tokugawa, the most famous Shogun, is buried. Also included are many other noteworthy sights – colorful temples untypical for Japan, the "sleeping cat," and "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." Lunch [optional] in Nikko will be Yuba, once reserved exclusively for the Imperial Family.
Leaving Tokyo, we head to Hakone near Mt. Fuji. Various forms of transportation will carry us through this area famous for hot springs and steaming vents. After a boat ride across Lake Ashi we will take trains, including the Bullet Train, to Nagoya and then up into the mountains to quaint Takayama. We will check into our traditional Japanese Inn in time to savor their exquisite included Dinner served in our rooms.
Breakfast in our Ryokan will be a treat, preparing us for a day of sightseeing in this beautiful mountain village. Included Dinner at our Inn will again be memorable.
Descending from the mountains we will head to Nara, the ancient home of the Imperial Family. Todai-ji Temple is the world's largest wooden structure, housing the largest bronze Buddha in Japan. Other sights will give us insight into the roots of Japanese culture. After Lunch [optional] a train will carry us to Kyoto, home to some of Japan's greatest treasures.
Our day of sightseeing will include the Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu Temple on the mountainside, and several other important sights before we pass through Gion and Pontocho on our way to a fabulous Kaiseki Dinner [optional].
By late morning we will be in Hiroshima via the Shinkansen. After dropping our luggage at our hotel we will catch Lunch [optional] (Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki) before taking a ferry to Miyajima, passing the famous Floating Torii Gate on the way. There is much to see; the literal high point of our visit will be atop Mt. Misen, reached by cable car. Then back in town we will walk through the Peace Park on our way to Dinner [optional] (Shabu Shabu).
The Peace Museum offers much to consider. Then the Shinkansen and other trains will take us to the Island of Shikoku. It's not too far from our Matsuyama hotel to Dogo Onsen (hot spring). We should sleep well!
Our day will begin at Matsuyama Castle, a national treasure. Then each person will decide to either a) enjoy a free day or b) join a day trip to an interesting city about eighty minutes away by train.
We will head east by train to explore the remote and peaceful Iya Valley. Our final night on Shikoku will be in Tokushima, where we will enjoy a sumptuous Dinner [optional].
The open-air market, Nakasu Ichiba, is a great place to explore local food specialties, especially seafood. A train will carry us back to the main island, Honshu. Kurashiki will be our first stop, allowing us a chance to explore rice storage buildings from the feudal era, now housing museums. Then we head to Okayama to spend the night.
Koraku-en is considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Once we finish exploring its charms it is time to turn back to Tokyo for our final night. After settling back into our Tokyo hotel we will go out for a lovely included Farewell Dinner (Tempura).
Free morning; return to Narita Airport to catch late afternoon flights back home.
*Please note: this is a Land-only tour; you are responsible for getting to and from Japan. Steve (or one of his associates) will meet you as you emerge from Customs at Narita Airport in Tokyo on the Tour Commencement Date. Flights from North America always depart a day earlier, since you "lose a day" crossing the International Date Line.
If you are considering arriving at Haneda Airport, or have other plans for arriving in Tokyo, please discuss this with Steve as early as possible. Some flights into Haneda arrive at very inconvenient times (which is probably one reason they are usually cheaper)