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Enchanting Japan

By Claire Ross
General manager for Alfred&

Discover the rich variety of sights and experiences that Japan’s main island has to offer, from dazzling cityscapes and chic seaside retreats to cultural hotspots – some famous, some not so well known – and holy islands, before rounding it all off with a final blast of metropolitan life.

Places

Length
12 days
Best months to go
March, April, October & November
Guide price range
£5,299 - £6,199
excluding international flights.

Top Experiences
Itinerary Highlights

Tokyo

Tokyo’s welcoming residential neighbourhoods by bicycle

Exploring one of Tokyo’s old residential districts with someone who lives there is a great way to gain an insight into Japanese culture...

Kyoto

The not-so-simple cup of tea

It’s only when you try the Japanese tea ceremony for yourself that you realise how complex and sophisticated it is...

Miyajima

The inn with a World Heritage view

My favourite aspect of our ryokan, Kurayado Iroha, is the view of the great torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine...

Day by day
Itinerary in details

1

Arrive in Tokyo

On your arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be met at the airport for a shared transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day will be at leisure. Overnight Queen City Room at Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

2

Tokyo

Discover one of Tokyo’s residential districts today with someone who lives there. You’ll visit your guide’s house to learn about the Japanese art of ikebana – flower arranging – and have a lesson in doing it for yourself. From here you’ll visit the oldest Inari shrine in Tokyo, where the priest will give you a blessing for safe travel, before hopping on a bicycle to explore further, including seeing a street filled with shops selling Buddhist altar decorations. The tour ends with lunch in a restaurant that only the locals know about. If you wish, you can extend your exploration with a short tea ceremony at a local tea shop or a rickshaw ride to Asakusa, or spend the rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure. Overnight Queen City Room at Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

3

Tokyo

Explore Tokyo on your own today or take an optional tour that focuses on one or two aspects of Japanese culture. If you’ve heard of bonsai and would like to know more about this traditional botanical art, you could pay a visit to the Bonsai Museum in Omiya to admire its extensive collection of diminutive trees, before having an in-depth lesson at the nearby Seikoen Bonsai School. Another possibility is to head to the Fukagawa district in eastern Tokyo for a guided walk in the Kiyosumi Teien gardens, which date back to 1721, and then on to Fukagawa Fudo-do temple to witness its spectacular goma-kito ‘fire’ ceremony. Overnight Queen City Room at Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

4

Tokyo & Izu Peninsula

Today you leave the city and take a limited express train to Izu-Kogen station on the picturesque Izu Peninsula, known for its seaside resorts, white sand beaches and hot springs; there will be some dramatic coastal scenery to enjoy on the two-hour journey. On arrival, you’ll be picked up by taxi and transferred to your accommodation, where you’ll have a chance to relax before a delicious Japanese-style evening meal featuring plenty of locally caught seafood. Overnight in Japanese Room at Hanafubuki.

Things to do:

5

Izu Peninsula & Kyoto

After a taxi transfer back to Izu-Kogen station you’ll board the train to Odawara, where you will change to the bullet train for Kyoto, a total journey of around three hours. In the afternoon, you’ll be met by your guide for a special cultural experience: learning about the traditional tea ceremony in the home of an expert. You will discover all about the different types of tea and the instruments used to prepare it, gain an understanding of how each precise step has a meaning, and gain an appreciation of the importance of the ceremony in Japanese life. Overnight in a Standard Room at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.

Things to do:

6

Kyoto

The former imperial capital has such a wealth of impressive sites that it helps to have a local guide to steer you toward the highlights. One of those is Kinkaku-ji temple, whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf – it’s quite a sight, even on a cloudy day. Another must-see is 400-year-old Nijo-jo, one of the best-preserved castles from this era, which is surrounded by beautiful Japanese-style gardens. For a complete change of pace, you then head to lively Nishiki market, where you’ll discover local foodie specialities, before rounding off the day with a choice of temples. It’s a full day, so if you want to treat yourself it’s worth doing the trip by private car rather than public transport. Overnight in a Standard Room at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.

Things to do:

7

Kyoto & Nara

Your guide will meet you at your hotel for the 45-minute train journey to Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital in the eighth century. Many of the shrines and temples built at that time still exist, including the magnificent wooden Todai-ji, which houses a vast bronze statue of Buddha, and Kasuga Taisha, known for its array of bronze and stone lanterns. There’ll be time to wander through Nara park to see the semi-tame sika deer that live there before pausing at a sake brewery to learn how it’s made and, of course, have a taste. On the way back to Kyoto, stop at Fushimi Inari shrine with its spectacular tunnel of red torii gates. Overnight in a Standard Room at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.

Things to do:

8

Okayama

This morning you’ll take the one-hour bullet train trip to Okayama, home of one of Japan’s loveliest gardens. After leaving your luggage at your hotel, you’ll make the short journey to Kurashiki, where you have the rest of the day to explore the enchanting Bikan historical quarter. Kurashiki was once an important hub of the rice trade, the legacy of which is a network of canals lined with storehouses and weeping willows and crisscrossed by stone bridges. Many of the old buildings have been converted into galleries, small shops and cafés, making it a delightful place to wander. Overnight in a Standard Room at Granvia Okayama.

9

Okayama & Hiroshima

After breakfast you’ll travel by bullet train to Hiroshima, a journey of around an hour. You’ll have the rest of the day to relax in this pleasant coastal city, ready to learn more about its tragic history as the first city to be hit by an atomic bomb – which completely obliterated almost everything and everyone within a mile of the impact – on a guided tour tomorrow. Overnight in a Deluxe King Room at the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima.

Things to do:

10

Hiroshima & Miyajima

Today you will take a day tour of Hiroshima with a local guide, starting at the Peace Memorial Park, located in what was one of Hiroshima’s busiest central districts before 6 August 1945. The park is dedicated to those who lost their lives to the atomic bomb, and contains memorials – including the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome – statues and an affecting museum. From Hiroshima, it’s a short ferry ride to Miyajima, otherwise known as the ‘Island of the Gods’. It’s been a holy place for centuries and is home to an array of beautiful temples and shrines; the atmosphere is particularly soothing in the evening, so it’s well worth spending the night here in one of the island’s ryokans such as Kurayado Iroha.

Things to do:

11

Miyajima, Hiroshima & Tokyo

Overnight in a Queen City Room at Park Hotel Tokyo.

12

Tokyo & Departure

Your day is free until your scheduled shared transfer to Narita Airport in time for your return flight.

Holiday Budget
Guide price information

Low Season

4 Jan – 28 Feb, 21 May – 30 Jun & 21 Nov – 10 Dec

£5,299

Mid Season

1 Mar – 19 Mar, 7 May – 20 May, 1 Jul - 22 Jul, 11 Aug – 30 Sep & 11 Dec – 28 Dec

£5,599

High Season

20 Mar – 19 Apr & 1 Oct – 20 Nov

£6,199

Alfred & Claire Ross

Claire has been with Kuoni for 12 years, most recently as head of the company’s specialist products, but her love of travel dates back much further, to the slideshows her globetrotting grandparents used to inspire her with. She has visited many countries in South East Asia and never tires of learning new things about their unique cultures.

Alfred & our Japan holiday experts

Freephone an expert

01306 744 656