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

The Golden Route

By Malcolm Holcroft
Japan Travel Expert for Alfred&

Take a shortcut to the heart of Japanese culture with a streamlined itinerary that carries you effortlessly through the country’s essential highlights in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone and Nara, with a few pauses to dive deeper into your destination thanks to some memorable hands-on experiences.

Places

Length
9 days
Best months to go
March, April, October, November
Guide price range
£4,530 - £5,555pp
including international flights.

Top Experiences
Itinerary Highlights

Tokyo

The lost art of sugar sculpting

Learning the basics of a traditional craft - in this case amezaiku, or Japanese sugarcraft - is an intriguing way to explore the 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...

Hakone

Susukinohara Ichinoyu, a hot-spring hideaway in Hakone

If you want a relaxing introduction to Japanese bathing culture in a beautiful setting, Susukinohara Ichinoyu is the place to come...

Day by day
Itinerary in detail

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 at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

2

Tokyo

You’ll spend the day exploring the Japanese capital with a local guide, starting in one of its most atmospheric districts, Asakusa, which retains the feel of an older Tokyo. Its main sight is Sensoji, an ancient Buddhist temple dating from the seventh century. From here, you’ll hop on the Tokyo Water Bus, a memorable way to reach Hamarikyu garden, an oasis of calm in the midst of gleaming skyscrapers, for matcha and sweets in its charming teahouse. After lunch, your day continues with a tour of Meiji shrine, followed by window shopping on glitzy Omotesando avenue on the way back to your hotel. Overnight at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

3

Tokyo

Get privileged behind-the-scenes access to Tokyo’s famous wholesale fish market, the largest in the world. Since it moved to new premises in 2018 most visitors have had to stay behind glass viewing screens, but you’ll get into the thick of the action with your guide, who’s also a licence holder. From there, you’ll head to the old Tsukiji market to learn more about preparing fish before travelling to a sushi restaurant to make your own fresher-than-fresh nigiri and – best of all – eat them for lunch. Spend the afternoon how you choose, whether that’s visiting an ancient shrine or shopping for souvenirs at a glossy department store. Overnight at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

4

Tokyo & Hakone

Today you’ll use your Japan Rail Pass to take the bullet train from Tokyo to Hakone, which takes two hours. Hakone is known for mountains, lakes and hot springs, and on clear days there are superb views of Mount Fuji as well. Explore at your own pace armed with a Hakone Free Pass that covers the area’s varied transport network – from cable cars to pirate ships – before checking in to a traditional inn such as Susukinohara Ichinoyu, where you can enjoy a restorative soak in a thermal bath and an authentic Japanese evening meal. Overnight at Susukinohara Ichinoyu.

Things to do:

5

Hakone & Kyoto

Using your transport passes, you’ll head to Kyoto on the bullet train, a journey of around two hours. This was once the imperial capital, and its abundance of temples, shrines and palaces makes it an essential stop on any trip around Japan. It’s also a perfect place to gain an insight into Japan’s traditions with, for instance, an afternoon visit to the city’s geisha districts with a leading expert in geisha culture which includes a stop at a private teahouse for songs, dance, games and, of course, tea. Overnight at Hotel Granvia Kyoto.

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 the world-famous Fushimi Inari shrine, a visually stunning experience where thousands of bright red torii gates line a mountain trail to the shrine. Next stop is Kiyomizu-dera temple, a celebrated UNESCO site that is older than Kyoto itself. It is famous for its massive platform stage, the Kiyomizu Butai, constructed entirely from wood and joints without the use of nails. In the afternoon you’ll visit Kinkaku-ji temple, covered in real gold leaf and set into the northern hills this photogenic jewel is one of the most visited sites in Japan. Last stop is the remarkable Kitano-Temanngu shrine, built to appease the spirit of an angry ghost. After a fire in 1444, a large section of the temple was rebuilt and the remaining timber was used to construct 7 tea houses that became Kyoto’s first Geisha district - Kamishichiken. 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 at Hotel Granvia Kyoto.

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 at Hotel Granvia Kyoto.

Things to do:

8

Kyoto & Tokyo

From Kyoto you take the two-and-a-half-hour journey by bullet train back to Tokyo, where you have the rest of the day to explore by yourself or take an optional guided experience – an evening tour of the Shinjuku nightlife district, perhaps – or just enjoy a last leisurely Japanese evening meal. Overnight at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

9

Tokyo & Departure

Enjoy a final few hours at leisure in Tokyo until your scheduled shared transfer to Narita International Airport in time for your return flight.

Holiday Budget
Guide price information

Low Season

1 Jan – 28 Feb, 1 Jun – 30 Jun & 1 Dec – 31 Dec

£4,530

Mid Season

1 May - 31 May, 1 Aug - 31 Aug & 1 Sep - 30 Sep

£4,840

High Season

1 Mar - 30 Apr, 1 Jul - 31 Jul & 1 Oct – 30 Nov

£5,555

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.

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