Essentials of Japan

This itinerary exposes you to various essential aspects of Japan, from cities, culture, history, and more! Visits include Tokyo, Hakone (Mt. Fuji area), Kyoto, Mt. Koya, and Hiroshima. Begin your journey in the fascinating city of Tokyo, and enjoy the myriad of sights, sounds and tastes it has to offer. If Tokyo's concrete and neon is getting to you then you might like to head north to Nikko or south to Kamakura, both easily accessible from the capital as day trips. Continue your journey on to Hakone, where you can spend your time taking in the sights or simply relaxing in one of the superb natural hot spring baths. You’ll then race down Japan's eastern seaboard by Shinkansen to Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital and the cultural center of the nation. Next, make your way to Mount Koya, one of the holiest mountains in all of Japan, home to more than 100 temples and monasteries. End your journey exploring Hiroshima and Miyajima independently, before returning back to Tokyo for your final departure. Enjoy the perfect mix of sightseeing and relaxation, while experiencing Japan.




Detailed Itinerary



Day 1 - Tokyo Arrival

Tokyo has a public transport system unrivalled anywhere in the world for efficiency, cleanliness and coverage of the city. To make things as straightforward as possible, included in your package are Tokyo Transport passes (Pasmo Card). The passes are valid for all over ground railways and subways in the greater Tokyo region. The pass we supply will have 2500yen of credit on it but when you run out you can just top up at the automatic ticket machines at any station. Instructions are all provided at the machines in English. The pass is the best way to travel around Tokyo and means you will never have to worry about purchasing a ticket.


You will first of all use the included Tokyo Transport Card to make your way into Tokyo by a Keisei line limited express train. The 1hr 15min journey takes you to Keisei Ueno station, from where your hotel is a 5 minute taxi ride away (1000yen) or a short transfer by subway (use the transport card). Full instructions for this initial transfer and all other journeys you are making will be provided in your tailor-made Info-Pack.



Overnight: Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno



Day 2 - Tokyo Sightseeing (optional)

Tokyo is one of the world's most vibrant cities and today you will have a full day available to explore the sights, shops and restaurants! Although initially a little overwhelming, Tokyo's first class public transport system makes getting around quick and easy and with careful planning you can see a lot in a short space of time. Tokyo has so much to offer any visitor and just wandering the streets of this megalopolis is a fascinating experience with new sights, sounds and tastes to be had around every corner. Armed with a good map and your complimentary Info-Pack you will be fully equipped to discover Tokyo. Your Info-Pack will be full of information, ideas and advice to help you get the most out of all your destinations.


Overnight: Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno (Breakfast included)



Day 3 - Tokyo Excursion Day (optional)

Tokyo is a fascinating city and you will have a full day to enjoy the myriad of sights, sounds and tastes it has to offer. However, you may like to take the opportunity of this free day to take a day trip to one of the many places of interest easily accessible from the capital. The two most popular options are the towns of Nikko (to the north of Tokyo) Kamakura (to the south). Nikko is famous for its ornate religious architecture, some of the most important in all of Japan, in a beautiful woodland setting. Kamakura is a sleepy coastal town that served briefly as capital of Japan in the 1100s, leaving a rich cultural legacy. The town and surrounding hillsides are dotted with attractive temples and shrines, along with one of Japan largest Great Buddha statues. If Tokyo's concrete and neon is getting to you then you might like to head west to sacred Mt Takao, with its range of hiking trails and mountain-top temple complex, virtually untouched by foreign visitors.


There are plenty of more unusual day trip options as well, including the modern port city of Yokohama and the quirky 120m tall 'Bubble Buddha' (built 1985!) at Ushiku. Let us know if one of more of these day trip options appeal; we can include instructions for making these day trips in your tailor-made Info-Pack.


Overnight: Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno (Breakfast included)



Day 4 - Tokyo - Hakone

From Shinjuku station you will take the Odakyu Railways "Romance Car" train all the way to Hakone Yumoto station in the heart of the Hakone National Park. It's a comfortable ride and the wide windows afford a great view. The journey takes around 85 minutes.


Upon arrival at Hakone Yumoto you will start using your 3-Day Hakone Free Pass. The pass is valid for three days from today and entitles you to unlimited use of 6 different forms of transport in the Hakone region. These include the mountain buses and railway, one of the longest cable cars in Japan and a funicular railway as well as a pirate ship which cruises across Lake Ashi! These all criss-cross the region making it easy to explore and enjoy the surroundings as well as some of the many top quality art museums. The pass also gives you small discounts at many attractions in the area so be sure to show your pass when purchasing tickets. And of course, if you are lucky with the weather, you will be rewarded with stunning views of Mt. Fuji.


Overnight: Fuji Hakone Guest House (Breakfast included)



Day 5 - Hakone

A full day to explore Hakone at your leisure. Hakone is a beautiful national park area around 50 miles west of Tokyo and just to the south of Mount Fuji, Japan's most sacred peak. The area consists of a handful of small villages and hamlets all connected by a variety of local transport, including buses, cable cars and a mountain railway that winds itself through the region's hills and valleys. Hakone has plenty to see and do, from tasting eggs boiled in volcanic waters to taking a boat trip across beautiful Lake Ashi. The outdoor sculpture park and Picasso gallery is a great place to wander around for an afternoon. Or maybe you will just sit back and relax whilst soaking in one of the many therapeutic hot spring baths that Hakone is so famous for. The other main draw to this area is the proximity to Japan's most sacred and iconic mountain, Fuji-san (Mount Fuji) with its near perfect symmetrical form soaring skywards and towering over the surrounding hills. From Hakone you have one of the best chances of getting a view of Mount Fuji from the various view points to be found throughout the area. However, be sure to have your camera at the ready; Fuji-san is notoriously shy and you do not want to miss that precious photo opportunity!


Overnight: Fuji Hakone Guest House (Breakfast included)



Day 6 - Hakone - Kyoto

Your package includes the 7 Day Rail Pass (Ordinary Car). The pass entitles you to unlimited travel on any trains in the extensive Japan Railways (JR) network. This includes all of the famous Shinkansen 'Bullet' Trains (with the exception of the Nozomi Shinkansen). You will receive an exchange voucher which must be exchanged for the pass itself after you arrive in Japan. Full details of when and how to do this will be provided with your documents. You can use your rail pass to make seat reservations for no extra charge. However, this cannot be done before you have exchanged the voucher.


Today you will travel to Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital and the cultural center of the nation. From Odawara the journey to Kyoto will see you racing down Japan's eastern seaboard by Shinkansen and takes 2 hours 10 minutes.



Overnight: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto (Breakfast included)



Day 7 - Kyoto Sightseeing - Miyako Odori Geisha Dances

Today you have a free day in Kyoto. This is an opportunity to further explore the city. Kyoto has a tremendous amount to offer whether you wish to discover some of the smaller temples and shrines dotted around the city or stroll through the bustling Nishiki Shijo market.


More than just the month of cherry blossoms, April is also when Kyoto's geisha quarters stage special, breathtakingly beautiful song and dance performances. This unforgettable spring extravaganza attracts admirers from all over the world. The dances, with their richly decorated costumes and spectacular stage sets, are perfect, living examples of Kyoto-style grace and elegance. Included in your package are the tickets for the dances which are held at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre in the heart of Gion.


Overnight: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto (Breakfast included)



Day 8 - Kyoto - Mount Koya

Valid for 2 days, your package includes the Kansai Thru Pass which covers all the non-JR transport in the Kansai area. This includes subways, buses and several private railway lines covering the entire region.


Today's journey will get underway from Kawaramachi Station. This is conveniently located just a few of minutes walk up the road from your hotel. You will start using your Kansai Thru Pass with this journey on the Hankyu Line to Umeda Station in Osaka. You will then need to make the short transfer by subway across town to Nanba Station from where all trains to Mt. Koya depart. The transfer is well sign posted and your Info-Pack will contain all the details.


The journey on from Nanba to Mt. Koya will see you riding the Nankai Line express train. As this journey is covered by the Kansai Passes you can travel on any train. We will be providing recommended departures for you though. There is also a reserved seat express train for which a small supplement (760 yen) is payable on the train. The train takes you out through the suburbs of Osaka into the countryside of Wakayama before you finally roll into Gokurakubashi Station; the very end of the line.


The final stage of your journey will see you taking the Koya Cable Car, a funicular pull-up railway which will haul you up to the mountain top plateau. Total travel time from Kyoto will be in the region of 3h30 including transfer time in Umeda and at Nanba. To get to your accommodation in the main village you can either use your Thru Pass and take the bus or alternatively hop in a taxi for the 7 minute ride.



Overnight: Muryoko-in (Breakfast and Dinner included)



Day 9 - Mount Koya - Osaka - Hiroshima

A morning at the temple typically starts at 06:00am, when a daily fire meditation ceremony is conducted. At 17:00pm each day readings of Buddhist scriptures are also held. In the fire meditation ceremony, which is performed in a dim candlelit room, a priest sits in front of a crackling fire, ritually stoking up the flames, while in another part of the room other priests sit facing each other, rhythmically chanting from a Buddhist text. Outside, the chanting can be heard ringing through the corridor.


From Koya-san you'll take the Nankai line to Osaka Nanba station (Kansai Thru Pass), the journey takes about 2 hours. From there you will take the subway to Shin Osaka (not included). At Shin-Osaka station you will board the Shinkansen for Hiroshima, a 340km trip. En-route look out for the Seto Ohashi bridge and Himeji Castle. Journey time is around 90 minutes.


Overnight: Hotel Active Hiroshima (Breakfast included)



Day 10 - Hiroshima & Miyajima (optional)

You have a full free day to explore Hiroshima or make the trip to Miyajima. Hiroshima is a city that needs little introduction. It is of course infamous for being the site of one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Despite it's tragic past, Hiroshima is now a bustling and vibrant city which has risen phoenix-like from the ashes. The Peace Park and Museum are a poignant reminder of the reason for Hiroshima's fame and everyone should spend an afternoon in this part of town.


From Hiroshima you can easily make a half day excursion to the scenic island of Miyajima, set in the Inland Sea National Park. Miyajima is famous for its 'floating' torii gate at Itsukushijima which is ranked as one of Japan's 'top three sights' and is a World Heritage site. You'll get your first glimpse of this as you take the ferry to the island. Other highlights include taking the scenic cable car to the top of Mount Misen for sweeping views of the whole area as well as the chance to encounter some of the native monkeys! There are a number of nice shops near the port. From Hiroshima (city center or train station) you can take a tram or train to Miyajima-Guchi Station and pick up a ferry there. Details will be provided with your Info-Pack.


Overnight: Hotel Active Hiroshima (Breakfast included)



Day 11 - Hiroshima - Tokyo

From Hiroshima it will take around 5 hours back to Tokyo and requires you to change trains. A great idea is to break up this journey by turning this transfer into a half day side trip. One option is to change trains at Okayama, where you can visit Korakuen, one of Japan's top three gardens. Another idea is to change trains at Shin-Osaka, where you can sample some of Osaka's famous shopping and food. A short train ride out to Osaka Port will bring you to the famous Osaka Aquarium, one of the largest in the world.


Overnight: Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno (Breakfast included)



Day 12 - Tokyo Departure

Sadly your adventures in Japan must come to an end. We are providing you with vouchers for the airport limousine bus service from Shinjuku Station. Staff will be on hand to load and unload your luggage and the journey makes for a fantastic finale to your time in Tokyo, with some great vistas as the bus speeds its way out of the city on the elevated expressway. Journey time is around 70-90 minutes. The bus drops you off right at the door of the departures floor of the airport, so check-in is just a few steps away. We wish you a pleasant flight home.



Accommodation Information



Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno

Located in the bustling Ueno district and close to historic Asakusa, Hotel Villa Fontaine Ueno is a modern hotel with a boutique feel. Rooms, although moderately sized, are chic and classy, bathrooms are full-sized and luxurious. Air conditioning and flat screen TVs are standard. The hotel is a short walk from both JR and subway lines, giving you access to all areas of Tokyo. A complimentary breakfast service is on offer in the lobby each morning, where you will also find free internet access.



Fuji Hakone Guest House

Located in the Sengokuhara area of Hakone, the Fuji Hakone Guest House is one of the most popular inns for foreign visitors in the area. The owners, Mr and Mrs Takahashi have been welcoming visitors from all round the World to their inn since the early 1980s and to date have guests from nearly 100 different countries in their guestbook. The rooms are basic Japanese style and do not have attached bathroom facilities or toilets. However, the Guest House boasts some superb natural hot spring baths - indoors and outdoors - both of which can be booked for private use. A soak in these restorative creamy white onsen waters will leave you feeling extremely relaxed and your skin silky soft. The staff all speak excellent English and the warm welcome you will receive is sure to be a highlight of your trip.



Capsule Ryokan Kyoto

'Old Japanese charm with modern convenience' Tatami floors and traditional style doors blend with modern fittings and sleek shower and toilet facilities in a way that can only happen in Japan. The 10 square meters rooms are simple and tasteful with a bed, toilet, sleek shower and storage chests. The walls are also double insulated to ensure privacy.





Muryoko-in

Muryoko-in is one of the many temple lodgings available to pilgrims and tourists visiting Koya-san. The traditional buildings are complemented by a lovely Japanese style garden and a traditional Japanese bath is also available. If you are lucky then you may get to meet the resident Swiss monk, Kurt Genso during your stay.


The food served at Muryoko-in is traditional shojin ryori, food consisting entirely of vegetables in accordance with Buddhist restrictions on the diet. Among the common dishes are Koya-tofu and goma-tofu, two types of tofu, along with miso soup and seaweed dishes. The dishes are usually served together on low trays, with visitors seated on cushions on the floor in front of them.



Hotel Active Hiroshima

Hotel Active is a great value hotel located in central Hiroshima making it an excellent place to be based for sightseeing in the the city. All rooms are en-suite and are modern and chic featuring widescreen TVs. The hotel has its own handy coin laundry. A complimentary Japanese and Western style buffet breakfast is served in each morning from 7-9am. The hotel is a short distance from the Peace Park and Museum and is also convenient for Hiroshima Station.



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