Custom 11 Day Japan Explorer

Begin your journey in Kyoto, the ancient capital and true heart of Japanese history and culture. While Japan rushes to embrace modernization, scratch a little deeper in Kyoto and discover the ancient rituals of Japanese life while visiting Tondaya Machiya. Feed the pesky deer and marvel at the big Buddha during your time in Nara. Continue on to the Japanese Alps, and spend a few days exploring the traditional market town of Takayama, home to folk villages and sake breweries. Travel to the garden city of Kanazawa with a stop at the UNESCO World Heritage village, Shirakawago. In Kanazawa you will have the opportunity to follow the footsteps of geisha and samurai, visit the ninja Temple and witness the pinnacle of Japanese gardens, Kenrokuen. End your adventure in the vibrant city of Osaka to experience what life in modern day urban Japan is really like.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - Kyoto Arrival

Welcome to Japan! We will arrange for you to transfer from Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto using the shared taxi service offered by Yasaka Taxis. After you have been through customs and into the arrivals lobby you will need to make your way to the 'Yasaka Kansai Airport Desk'. You will then be shown to your vehicle for the transfer to your Kyoto accommodation. Journey time will be in the region of 90 minutes depending on traffic. Please note that there will be some other drop-offs as well as your own in Kyoto.

Kyoto is one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, this ancient city showcases the heart and soul of traditional Japan. Kyoto boasts an array of world-class gardens, majestic festivals and delicate cuisine, all of which make much of the rhythms of nature and the changing of the seasons.

Overnight: Hotel Sunroute Kyoto

Day 2 - Kyoto Half Day Tour

Today you will enjoy a half day tour of the city by public transport with a private guide. Your guide will come to the Hotel Sunroute Kyoto at around 9:00 AM and take you on tour that will encompass some of the more famous sights but also some lesser known places of interest. Your guide will give you a call at your hotel the day before to discuss the arrangements. Your guiding will finish at around 1:00 PM with the guide either dropping you back at the Hotel Sunroute Kyoto or anywhere else in the city you wish to spend the rest of the day.

Overnight: Hotel Sunroute Kyoto (Breakfast included)

Day 3 - Tondaya Machiya Visit

While Japan rushes to embrace modernization, scratch a little deeper in Kyoto and the ancient rituals of Japanese life are still to be found. Nowhere is this more so than at Tondaya. Preserved in the same family for 13 generations, Tondaya is a classic example of a Meiji period 'machiya' or town house. Located in Kyoto's Nishijin textile district, the house was built as textiles shop with living quarters stretching far behind. There are three storehouses, six small gardens reflecting the seasons, a tea ceremony room and an annex where Noh performances were once held.

Today you will take a tour of the beautifully preserved 'machiya' and its antiques. As part of your 90 minute tour you will be shown how to dress in kimono. Once in your kimono, you will be instructed in the time-honored techniques of the tea ceremony. Afterwards, a ‘bento’ lunch served on authentic Meiji period dining ware is included.

Overnight: Hotel Sunroute Kyoto (Breakfast and Lunch included)

Day 4 - Day Trip to Nara

Today you can make a day trip to Nara. Nara lies just 40 minutes by local train from Kyoto and is renowned for the wealth of its Buddhist and Shinto heritage. Today Nara retains many dramatic sights as reminders of its former power and influence. The daibutsu or big Buddha is hugely impressive as is the huge wooden structure which houses it, to this day, the world's largest wooden building despite the current structure being a third smaller than the original. Train timetables and sightseeing suggestions for the day will of course be in your Info-Pack. Train tickets for today's journey are included.

Overnight: Hotel Sunroute Kyoto (Breakfast included)

Day 5 - Kyoto - Takayama

A new phase of your Japan adventure begins today as you travel to Takayama in the Japanese Alps. You will first take the world famous Shinkansen ('bullet' train) to Nagoya. There you will need to change to a limited express train to continue up into the mountains to Takayama. The second leg of this journey is particularly beautiful, so do enjoy the scenery! Total travel time is just over 3 hours. You will be provided with reserved seat ordinary class tickets for both trains.

Takayama, in the heart of the Hida Mountains is a delightful town, established in the 16th century as the castle town of the Kanamori family and now famous throughout Japan for its old town area of narrow streets containing many well-preserved inns, tea houses, shops and merchants houses with the latticed windows and overhanging roofs characteristic of the Edo period. In Takayama you will stay at the Tanabe Ryokan. The owners Mr and Mrs Tanabe are gracious hosts and will do their very best to ensure you have a fabulous stay.

Overnight: Tanabe Ryokan (Breakfast and Dinner included)

Day 6 - Takayama Half Day Tour

Today you'll enjoy a 4 hour guide service in Takayama, a great way to see the highlight sights and get some local insight into this lovely small town. Your guide will meet you this morning at 9am. The exact plan is up to you although of course the guide will have lots of suggestions. Visits could include some of the old museums and open houses, the Hida Folk Village and a walk along the temple trail on the fringes of town. Entrance fees and local transport are not included and need to be paid on the day.

Overnight: Tanabe Ryokan (Breakfast included)

Day 7 - Shirakawago - Kanazawa

Today you will travel to the garden city of Kanazawa with a stop at the UNESCO World Heritage village, Shirakawago. Shirakawago is widely regarded as one of the most scenic places in Japan. Surrounded by pine tree covered mountains situated along the picturesque Shokawa River, Shirakawago is to be found in the heart of the Hakusan National Park.

After exploring Shirakawago you will take the express bus from Shirakawago on to Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a lovely small city close to the Japan sea coast. There are several small geisha districts and one where you can go inside an old tea house and see where the clients were entertained and even take tea yourself (sadly no longer served by geisha!). There are also samurai houses, a ninja temple and the city's most famous sight, the beautiful Kenrokuen garden rated as one of the three best stroll gardens in the whole of Japan.

Overnight: APA Hotel Kanazawa Chuo (Breakfast included)

Day 8 - Kanazawa Half Day Tour

Today you will have the services of a private guide at your disposal for 4 hours. The guide will meet you at your accommodation at 9am this morning and then the day's plan is up to you - of course the guide will have lots of suggestions. Highlights in Kanazawa include Kenrokuen gardens, the Ninja temple and the old samurai houses district. Please note that entrance fees and local transport are not included and need to be paid for on the day.

Overnight: APA Hotel Kanazawa Chuo (Breakfast included)

Day 9 - Kanazawa - Osaka

You will take a direct limited express train today from Kanazawa to Osaka Station. The train hugs the coast of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. The journey takes some 2 hours 30 minutes and we will provide reserved seat tickets.

Overnight: Cross Hotel (Breakfast included)

Day 10 - Osaka

A free day to explore Osaka at your leisure. Osaka is Japan's second city and an extremely vibrant and lively place to stay. There may not be any real 'tourist' sights but it is just the life on the streets that makes Osaka such a fascinating city to visit.

Overnight: Cross Hotel (Breakfast included)

Day 11 - Osaka Departure

Sadly your time in Japan must come to an end. From Osaka Nanba Station you will take the bullet shaped Nankai Rapit train. This fast and comfortable service will get you to Osaka Kansai Airport in around 35 minutes. We will provide reserved seat tickets. Have a pleasant flight home. .

Accommodation Information

Hotel Sunroute Kyoto

This hotel has a great location in the center of the city, just a 10-minute walk from Minami-za Theatre and the Gion Geisha district. The hotel has its own restaurant and cafe, free internet is available in the lobby and the staff speak some English. Rooms are of a moderate size but are clean and comfortable. Your stay includes a buffet breakfast (Japanese & Western style foods available) served in the hotel restaurant on the top floor from where there are some lovely views over the city towards the Higashi-yama mountains.

Tanabe Ryokan

In Takayama you will stay at the Tanabe Ryokan. A short walk or even shorter taxi ride from Takayama Station, this is a high quality traditional inn located in the old town area of the city close to the morning markets and within easy walking distance of the temple area and the town museum. You will be sleeping on thick futons placed directly onto the tatami matted floors. The rooms all have attached bathroom facilities but the inn also boasts really nice large communal baths which are great for relaxing in after a day out sightseeing. The owners Mr and Mrs Tanabe are gracious hosts and will do their very best to ensure you have a fabulous stay. You will be staying in a Japanese style room but with twin western style beds.

APA Hotel Kanazawa Chuo

This hotel is situated at the most entertaining spot in Hokuriku area, Kata-machi. On the rooftop, there is a large communal bath/open-air bath filled with natural onsen (hot springs), both free of charge for guests. All guest rooms with free Internet.

Cross Hotel

The Cross Hotel is a smart hotel is located on Dotombori, one of the most famous and lively streets in all of Japan never mind just Osaka. The hotel has been recently refurbished in a sleek, modern design, giving it something of a boutique feel. Rooms follow the same theme and are generously sized. The hotel's great location means you have a plethora of restaurants and bars to choose from in the streets around the hotel, making it a perfect place for indulging in one of Osaka's main attractions; good food and drink. Despite its lively location the hotel itself is a quiet and peaceful place, so should you be looking for an early night you will not be disturbed.

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