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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Highlights of Japan

By Malcolm Holcroft
Japan Travel Expert for Alfred&

Veer off the tourist trail and venture into lesser-known Japan on this 14-day small-group tour that combines the country’s big-hitters with remote, rarely visited spots. Witness the neon lights of Tokyo, see geishas in Kyoto and learn more about Hiroshima’s moving past, then top it off with off-the-beaten-track explorations in Shizuoka, Takayama, Kanazawa and beyond.

Places

Length
14 days
Best months to go
March to November
Guide price range
£6,280 - £7,210pp
Small Group Tour including international flights

Top Experiences
Itinerary Highlights

Japan

Get under the skin of Japan on an escorted group tour

On our curated itineraries, you’ll go beneath the skin of the big-hitting cities while uncovering lesser-known areas too...

Hiroshima

Visit a floating shrine on Miyajima Island

There are deer everywhere on Miyajama, and they get quite close. If you have something coming out of your pocket, they'll want it...

Shizuoka

From steam trains to tea farms: a day in lesser-known Shizuoka

Shizuoka is full of surprises. It's underrated - it's not on visitors’ radars, but there’s so much to see...

Day by day
Itinerary in detail

1

Arrival in Tokyo

Welcome to Japan. On arrival into Tokyo, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel by coach. The rest of the day is free to enjoy. Overnight at Park Hotel Tokyo (or similar).

2

Tokyo

Embark on a guided tour of Tokyo today to explore the highlights of this frenetic, tech-loving city. Visit the Meiji Shrine before wandering through Shibuya, famous for its eclectic shopping and home of the Shibuya Scramble – a ten-lane crossing surrounded by neon signs and giant billboards. Afterwards, visit the Imperial Palace, the home of Japanese emperors since 1868. Later, head to the peaceful Asakusa District to explore the city’s oldest temple, Sensoji. Finish your day with a visit to Tokyo Skytree, the tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the world at 634m high. Ascend the tower for panoramic views over the twinkling city skyline to round off a memorable day. Overnight at Park Hotel Tokyo (or similar).

Things to do:

3

Tokyo

Today is free to explore at your leisure. Head to Harajuku for all things kitsch – think colourful boutiques, candy-floss stores and quirky fashion – or visit Tsukiji to see the world’s largest fish market. For something a little calmer, wander round the serene ponds of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, or get cultural at the museums around Ueno Park. Alternatively, choose an optional excursion; visit Mount Fuji and explore a historic ninja village, join a sushi-making class or learn how to swing a real samurai sword. Overnight at Park Hotel Tokyo (or similar).

Things to do:

4

Tokyo & Shizuoka

Wave goodbye to Tokyo today as you board the Shinkansen bullet train to Shizuoka. This picturesque region calls itself the home of Mount Fuji, offering views over the peak from the quieter side. On arrival, you’ll be met by your guide and transferred to the local station to board the Oigawa Railway – a historic steam train that follows the Oi River, with scenic landscapes and tea plantations along the way. After disembarking at Senzu, you’ll be driven to the picturesque Okuoikojo Station, set on a cliff in the middle of a lake. You’ll travel further into the mountains on another train ride to reach Nagashima Dam Station, before visiting a local green tea farm to learn more about the region’s tea heritage. Overnight at Hotel Associa Shizuoka (or similar).

Things to do:

5

Shizuoka & Takayama

This morning you’ll be driven to Matsumoto with your guide to take in the city’s famous castle, one of the best-preserved medieval forts in Japan. Afterwards, head to Takayama, a charming castle town in the mountainous Hida region. Here quaint shops, Edo-era buildings and tea houses line narrow streets. Enjoy a Hida beef dinner at the traditional Hoshokaku ryokan, your home for the next two nights. Overnight at Hoshokaku Ryokan (or similar).

Things to do:

6

Takayama

Wander over to the Miyagawa Morning Market after breakfast to browse local produce and artisanal wares. Afterwards, visit Takayama Jinya, an atmospheric government building dating back to the Edo period. From here you’ll head to the Takayama Museum of History and Art to learn more about the history of this merchant town, before ending the day with sake tasting at a local brewery. Overnight at Hoshokaku (or similar).

Things to do:

7

Takayama & Kanazawa

Head to the Unesco-listed mountain town of Shirakawa-go this morning to see centuries-old farmhouses scattered across rolling hills. From here you’ll be driven to the city of Kanazawa, affectionately known as little Kyoto thanks to its well-preserved cultural heritage. Expect geisha tea houses, historic architecture and quaint craft shops as you’re taken on a tour of its highlights. Visit Kenrokuen Garden, considered one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, before stopping at Nomura Family Samurai House to learn more about these medieval warriors. Overnight at Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel (or similar).

8

Kanazawa & Kyoto

This morning you’ll be driven to Higashi Chaya for a tour through Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Visit the atmospheric Shima Geisha House to learn more about these famous performers, before wandering over to Omicho Market. This has been the city’s largest fresh food market since the Edo Period, with hundreds of stalls, shops and restaurants lining a network of streets. In the afternoon, you’ll be transferred to the station to board a two-hour train to Kyoto. A local representative will meet you at the other end to walk you to your hotel. Overnight at Noku Kyoto (or similar).

Things to do:

9

Kyoto

Japan’s ancient imperial capital, Kyoto combines Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and imperial palaces with rustic teahouses and sleepy backstreets. You’ll get to experience many of its highlights on a full-day tour today, starting at Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a Unesco World Heritage Site set on the side of a mountain. From here you’ll head to Nishiki Market, known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’ thanks to its array of local delicacies. Afterwards, explore Nijo Castle, built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate. Later on, stop by a local tea house for a traditional tea ceremony, then end the day with a Maiko performance in the historic Gion district, famous for its geisha culture. Overnight at Noku Kyoto (or similar).

Things to do:

10

Kyoto

Continue your Kyoto adventures today with a private coach tour. You’ll start in the serene Arashiyama neighbourhood, visiting the Okochi Mountain Villa, former home of Japanese film star Okochi Denjiro. Then head to the Bamboo Grove – one of the most photographed spots in the city thanks to its towering bamboo trees, which glow luminescent green above a paved walkway. Afterwards, you’ll be driven south to see the Sanjusagen-do Temple, home to a thousand life-size statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The statues are all hand-carved from Japanese cypress trees and covered in gold leaf, making for an awe-inspiring sight. Your final stop will be the Fushimi Inari Shrine, another oft-photographed spot famous for its bright-red torii gates and columned orange tunnels. Overnight at Noku Kyoto (or similar).

Things to do:

11

Kyoto & Hiroshima

Depart Kyoto this morning as you make your way to Hiroshima, taking the Nozomi Shinkansen – one of Japan’s fastest trains, reaching speeds of up to 186mph. On arrival at the station, you’ll be met by your guide and driven to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. You’ll visit the Peace Memorial Museum, see the Cenotaph and witness the A-Bomb Dome to learn more about the city’s moving history. In the evening, visit a local restaurant to try Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki – a Japanese savoury pancake. Overnight at Hotel Granvia Hiroshima (or similar).

Things to do:

12

Hiroshima & Kyoto

Combine cultural explorations with scenic coastal landscapes today as you venture over to Miyajima Island, located just outside Hiroshima. Take the train from the city before hopping on a ferry to reach the island, glimpsing the famous ‘floating’ torii gate along the way. Visit the 10th-century Itsukushima Shrine before exploring the island’s other highlights. Look out for the island’s colourful five-storey pagoda, as well as traditional craft workshops and stores selling local maple-leaf-shaped treats. The island is also known for its wild deer, and is an excellent spot for sampling fresh oysters. After returning to Hiroshima, board the Shinkansen back to Kyoto for the last leg of your trip. Overnight at Noku Kyoto (or similar).

Things to do:

13

Kyoto

Your final full day is free to enjoy at leisure. Spend the day exploring Kyoto independently, or if you’re in the mood for something active, opt for a cycling tour around the city’s backstreets. If it’s more sake that sways, head out on a guided tasting excursion around the breweries of the Fushimi district. Alternatively, take a half-day tour to Nara Park. Located in what was once Japan’s imperial capital, this scenic spot is famous for its tame deer and home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha. Back in the city, visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum, home to thousands of Japanese comic books, or wander the Philosopher’s Path to see colourful cherry blossoms (in spring) lining a peaceful stone path. Enjoy a farewell dinner with the group at a local restaurant in the evening as you toast the end of your trip. Overnight at Noku Kyoto (or similar).

Things to do:

14

Kyoto & Departure

Your tour ends today. You’ll be transferred by coach to Kansai International Airport (Osaka) for your flight home or onward travel.

Holiday Budget
Guide price information

Low Season

Small Group Tour:
2023: 16 Apr, 7 May

£6,280

High Season

Small Group Tour:
2023: 12 Mar, 19 Mar, 26 Mar, 8 Oct, 15 Oct, 29 Oct, 5 Nov

£7,210

Private Itinerary

This itinerary is also available as a private departure, on the dates of your choice. This option is ideal for families or groups of friends, as the price per person reduces as the size of your group increases.

£10,890

Alfred & Malcolm Holcroft

Seasoned Far East traveller Malcolm Holcroft is fascinated by Japan’s distinctive culture, its full-on neon-lit megacities and its less intense corners. Among the latter, he fell for Nara, the history-laden former capital where ancient temples and shrines are dotted around a deer park – and where they make some of the best sake in the country.

Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in Japan. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the tea devotee who'll introduce you to the ceremony surrounding Japan's national drink, the noodle guru who'll teach you how to make the perfect bowl of soba and the ryokan owner who'll tutor you in the relaxing art of the onsen.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656