Ancient & Modern Japan

14 days
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$5,979 USD
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Trip code: 
AOP
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture
Group size:
6–18
Min age:
16

Discover Japan's temples, lively cities and tranquil mountains

Ancient wooden temples, raked-pebble Zen gardens and chanting Buddhist monks juxtaposed with space-age towers, neon lights and bullet trains; Japan’s captivating blend of old and new is legendary. As we explore the southern and western stretches of Honshu, Japan's largest island, we discover the country's unique culture amongst the serene shrines and gardens of Nara and Kyoto and the rarely visited mountainous heartland of castles and spas. Our last stop is the vast and futuristic capital city of Tokyo: sprawling, inimitably busy, welcoming and extraordinary.

Highlights

  • Spot mysterious geishas in Kyoto's Gion district
  • Experience cherry blossom season or beautiful autumn colours
  • Watch the famous snow monkeys bathing in hot springs
  • Take the incredible high speed 'bullet train'
  • Explore temples in Kyoto and discover futuristic Tokyo

Key information

  • 10 nights hotels and 3 nights ryokans/minshukus (traditional Japanese guesthouses) 
  • 14 days land only / 16 days flight inclusive
  • Sightseeing on foot and 2 short daywalks 
  • Group normally 6 to 18, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by train, bus, metro, ferry and private minibus
  • Special cherry blossom and autumn colours departures
  • Countries visited: Japan

What's included

  • 3 breakfasts and 3 dinners
  • All accommodation 
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Group arrival transfer (for group flight)
  • Free departure transfer by shuttle service (must be booked in advance before trip commences with Exodus before departure if you wish to take utilise this service)
  • Japan Rail Pass

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation in 2019- limited availability on request 10 nights only at hotels in Kyoto, Matsumoto and Tokyo
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Autumn arrives in the temple gardens, Japan

Responsible Travel

Tourism can be a real help to local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchanges and a financial incentive to protect their natural environment. Ours is a 'total approach' to responsible tourism, covering everything from the way we plan and operate our trips to the practices of Exodus as a company. 

Wherever possible, we try to use accommodations that are locally owned or at least employs local staff and uses local produce. On this trip, we have the opportunity to stay in traditional style ‘ryokans’ (local inns or guesthouses) to experience the traditional way of life of the Japanese. Additionally, most accommodations used on this trip adhere to strict environmental policies in order to save water and energy.

With a strong emphasis on culture and history, this trip provides plenty of opportunities to visit various museums and cultural sites. Our visits to the museums and sites will benefit the locals and contributes to the preservation of their cultural assets through the money spent on entrance fees and other purchases made within the area. Tap water in Japan is safe for drinking, hence we strongly encourage clients to bring their own reusable water bottles for this purpose and minimise our usage of single use plastic bottles.

In March 2019, Exodus Travels launched the Exodus Travels Foundation where we support initiatives all around the world. But it cannot exist without travellers who care. Get involved or learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus here

Itinerary

Kyoto
to
Tokyo
  • Day 1

    Start Kyoto

    The trip starts in Kyoto, an atmospheric city set amidst beautiful hills. 

  • Day 2

    Morning visit to Ninjo castle and Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion); afternoon guided walk through beautiful shrines and temples

    With over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japan's cultural heritage and remains undoubtedly one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. Unlike many other Japanese towns it escaped the ravages of both the Second World War and modern urban development thereby keeping intact much of the spirit and architecture of traditional Japan.

    Today we have an introductory tour of the city, starting with a visit to the impressive Nijo castle, built in 1603 as a residence for the Tokugawa shoguns, and the famous Golden Temple of Kinkakuji, built in 1397 as a summer villa for the shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga and immortalised in Mishima Yukio's novel, 'The Golden Pavilion'.

    At lunch we will head back to central Kyoto for a stroll at the famous Nishiki Market, known as 'Kyoto's Kitchen', which specialises in all things food related and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. Those who wish may opt to take a leisurely lunch at one of the local restaurants in the area or rest at the hotel.

    Later in the afternoon, we will have the opportunity to visit the stunning Kiyomiduzera temple and walk around historic Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district. Packed with bars, restaurants and traditional teahouses, Gion is at its most atmospheric in the early evening, when the lanterns are lit and apprentice geisha will flit about the back streets on their way to their appointments.

  • Day 3

    Day trip to Nara, ancient capital of Japan. Visit impressive UNESCO temples including Toda-ji, housing the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha

    Today we make a day trip to Japan's ancient capital, Nara (approx. 1hr each way). With eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it's second only to Kyoto as a repository of Japan's cultural legacy. Our walking tour includes a visit to the most iconic temples and shrines, including the Todaiji Great Buddha temple. Built in 752 by the Emperor Shomu this enormous 15 meter tall bronze Buddha is housed in what is reputed to be the largest wooden building in the world. We also spend time in the Nara Koen park, famous for its large numbers of overfed and slightly unruly deer, and visit the attractive Kasuga Shinto shrine, before returning to Kyoto in the late afternoon.

  • Day 4

    Free day in Kyoto; relax in one of the many zen gardens, walk the popular Philospher Path or experience a traditional tea ceremony

    Today is a free day for individual sightseeing. With so much to see and do in Kyoto it can be difficult to know where to begin. Our advice is to start with a very early visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto's most important Shinto shrine and famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. Getting there before the crowds at sunrise is the secret for a magical experience.

    The rest of the day could be spent exploring one of the several well established and easy-to-follow walking tours that take in many interesting sights. The eastern part of Kyoto is particularly rich in temples and gardens, and one can spend the day in this area, perhaps strolling along the tree-lined canal known as the Philosophers' Path and taking time out for contemplation in one of the many intriguing Zen gardens that dot the hillsides.

    Another day-trip to consider would be to Arashiyama, a pleasant tourist district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and autumn colour seasons.

    If you are interested in Japanese arts and cultural activities, there is also the option of visiting a cultural show to see some of Japan's ancient traditions such as the tea ceremony and Japanese theatre (these can be arranged locally by your tour leader and subject to availability).

  • Day 5

    Day trip to Hiroshima; visit Peace Memorial Park and the pretty island of Miyajima

    Today is our first experience of Japan's shinkansen (bullet train) as we speed our way to Hiroshima for the day (approx. 2hrs each way). Once in Hiroshima, we make a short excursion by local tram and ferry to the beautiful island of Miyajima; famous for the 'floating' tori (Shinto gate) of the Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. At high tide, when set against the backdrop of Mt Misen, this tori makes for one of the most beautiful and photogenic sights in Japan.

    In the afternoon we spend time at the A-Bomb museum and the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, both monuments to the fateful day in August 1945 when the city was selected as the target for the world's first wartime use of the atomic bomb. In the park burns a symbolic flame that will only be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed. We depart Hiroshima late afternoon arriving back at our hotel in Kyoto in the evening.

  • Day 6

    Travel from Kyoto to Takayama, a traditional old town set amid the 'Japanese Alps'; visit the Hida Folk Village

    Travelling by train through forested valleys we make our way this morning to the peaceful and attractive old town of Takayama (approx. 4 hrs) nestling sleepily in the centre of the majestic Hida Mountains. We spend two nights here and have plenty of time to appreciate the charm and ambience of this delightful place. In the afternoon we visit the Hida Folk Village, an interesting outdoor museum of traditional rural architecture set in pleasant landscaped gardens, located a short walk from our accommodation. We stay in a traditional Japanese style accommodation where we have the opportunity to experience the Japanese lifestyle and hospitality (please refer to the accommodation section for more information).

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 7

    Orientation tour in Takayama and free day to explore its peaceful shrines and temples

    With over a dozen museums and galleries to suit all interests and several well-kept temples and parks, there are plenty of ways to spend a relaxing day in Takayama. We start with a short orientation tour around the morning market held daily along the banks of the Miyagawa River in the centre of town. Here amidst the friendly farmers with their familiar, and not so familiar, agricultural produce it is also possible to find some interesting souvenirs. Not so far away and of particular interest is the well-preserved collection of streets known as Sannomachi, where the many wooden built shops, restaurants and sake breweries give the area a mediaeval feel. For an insight into the life of medieval Japanese officials and the way they dealt (often not so compassionately) with those in their charge, a visit to the old Government House of Takayama-jinya is recommended. The remainder of the day is free to explore the town at your own pace: we recommend taking a stroll along the temple-line path called the Higashiyama Walkway and visit the several temples and attractions created by the mediaeval warlord, Kanamori Nagachika (1524-1600), who longed for Kyoto.

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 8

    On to the mediaeval village of Tsumago; short leisurely walk on the Nakasendo trail; train to Matsumoto

    Today we travel by express and local trains to the historic castle town of Matsumoto (approx. 4hrs). Enroute, we visit the mediaeval village of Tsumago that has changed little from its heyday as a post town in the Edo period. This is the best preserved of the many staging posts along the old Nakasendo Way, which fulfils the same role it did in centuries past - offering food and refuge to travellers. Those who wish can join the leader for an optional 1hr walk through peaceful forest trails, starting by the Odaki and Medaki waterfalls and finishing in Tsumago. We reach Matsumoto late afternoon where we have time to relax and perhaps take a leisurely stroll after dinner to see the impressive castle by night.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Visit the famous Matsumoto Castle and travel by train to spa town of Yudanaka; soak in a hot spring

    This morning we visit the impressive Matsumoto castle. Founded in 1504, this castle, otherwise known as Crow Castle due to its black colour, is one of the two best preserved in Japan, most others having been destroyed following the Meiji Restoration. Its imposing six story donjon has been designated a national treasure. Please note that the castle preserves its original interior and structure, with very tall steps and steep staircases which some might find difficult to ascend and descend. We return to Matsumoto train station for our afternoon journey (approx. 3hrs) to the relaxing spa town of Yudanaka, which boasts some fantastic natural hot springs, where we spend a night in another Japanese-style accommodation.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 10

    See the famous Snow Monkeys before travelling by train to Tokyo; evening orientation tour

    As well as being home to some of Japan's best hot springs, the small spa-town of Yudanaka is mainly famous for being the gateaway to the famous Jigokudani Onsen or 'Snow Monkey Park'. Here, the indigenous macaque monkeys have discovered the benefits of descending from the hills to soak and play in hot baths - observing their behaviour up close is fascinating! This is the only tribe of monkeys anywhere in the world to bath in hot springs for warmth. The sight is most spectacular in winter, when snow covers the grounds and the hot steam creates some amazing visual effects but despite the name, the so called 'snow monkeys' actually inhabit the area year-round. To reach the park we walk for approx. 20-25 mins on an easy forest trail and we will have approx. 1hr free to admire and photograph these entertaining creatures.

    No visit to Japan would be complete without a trip to Tokyo. This afternoon, we travel from Yudanaka to the capital by bullet train (approx. 4hrs), arriving in the early evening. On arrival in Tokyo we'll transfer to our hotel and start exploring the bright lights of the big city at night.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Optional trip to Hakone or to the lovely seaside town of Kamakura

    For those wishing to see still more of this wonderful country, today is the last day of your Japan Rail Pass, entitling you to free train journeys to many destinations. One popular day-trip amongst tourists and Japanese alike looking for a break from Tokyo is Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 1hr and 30 mins by train. Famous for hot springs, natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji, Hakone area also encompasses Lake Ashi, which can be toured by boat.

    Another alternative blissful escape from the city is the coastal town of Kamakura, offering numerous temples, shrines, historical monuments as well as panoramic hiking trails.

    For those not wishing to leave Tokyo, this day is free to soak up the atmosphere of this truly astounding city. Whilst being perhaps the most  energetic and futuristic city in the world, for a capital, Tokyo still remains a remarkably friendly, safe, manageable and delightful place to visit.

  • Day 12

    A full day city tour of Tokyo including the Senso-ji Temple

    Today we have a guided tour of Tokyo. Making use of the city's highly efficient tube system we can visit some of Tokyo's main attractions including Ueno (depending on season) and the lively Senso-ji Temple in the old entertainment district of Asakusa. We will also visit one of the city's parks or gardens which become especially spectacular during cherry blossom and autumn season. There is also some free time to discover other attractions at your own pace. For those with a head for heights we recommend an optional visit to the iconic Skytree Tower for breathtaking views of the city. With a height of 634 meters, it is the tallest building in Japan and the second tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion. In the evening, the possibilities for entertainment are almost limitless with Tokyo's nightlife as exciting as anywhere in Asia.

  • Day 13

    Free day for further exploration; optional karaoke farewell night

    Today has been left free for further individual exploration of Tokyo. Worth visiting is the Meiji Shrine; sourrounded by tranquil forest, this Shinto shrine is one of the most popular in Japan and combines traditional Japanese architecture with love for the nature. Or for those interested in culture or shopping, there are limitless opportunities with districts like Ginza, Harajuku and Shinjuku catering for all tastes and needs! Your leader will be on hand to advise how best to maximise your free day in Tokyo.

     



  • Day 14

    End Tokyo

    The tour ends this morning for land only client.

     Clients who are booked on the group flights to London will be transferred to Tokyo Narita Airport in the evening. If you are not travelling on the group flight, it is possible to have a free shuttle service departure transfer to Narita or Haneda Airports. Please contact our Operations team for more information or to request this.

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Japan

Most nationalities do not require a visa to visit Japan. South African passport holders do require a visa; but it is worth all nationalities verifying visa requirements directly at your embassy before travel.

Vaccinations

Japan

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

3 breakfasts and 3 dinners included.

Japanese cuisine is usually one of the main highlights of any trip to Japan. It is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes which are usually prepared with seasonal ingredients. Seafood is very is common, and it usually comes grilled or deep fried. Sushi and sashimi aside, other staple dishes include Soba or Udon noodles, Sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and Yakiniku (grilled meat).

The included dinners are usually taken at ryokans (traditional guesthouses) which will serve a kaiseki style dinner, a multi-course meal including a dozen of tiny dishes prepared with locally-sourced seasonal ingredients. When food is not included, your leader will always be on hand to recommend the best local eateries and arrange some group meals for a full immersion in Japan's varied and excellent cuisine. 

Please note that in Japan the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free, strict vegetarian (no fish/seafood) or vegan is minimal or non-existent. The group meals arranged by the tour leader will be in traditional eateries where the choices of vegan dishes may be limited to simple salads or boiled rice. However in Kyoto and Tokyo a number of vegan restaurants are available.  It may also be a good idea to bring with you some foodstuffs that you normally consume, or to supplement meals with snacks purchased in the local convenience stores.

Please advise us at time of booking you have any specific dietary requirements.

Weather

Japan has four very distinct seasons. Our aim has been to avoid the extremely cold winters and humid summers and settle for the more pleasant climes of spring and autumn. In Tokyo, September and October are warm, maximum temperatures are 26ºC and minimum 12ºC. September is likely to be the warmer of the two and there is a likelihood of rain. April is cooler with temperatures possibly going as low as 7ºC with a high of 17ºC. Kyoto is very similar climatically to Tokyo but the higher up into the mountains we venture, the colder it will become with nights being especially cold, particularly in March and November.

Is this trip for you?

Activity Level 2- Leisurely/Moderate

This is very much a cultural trip which attempts to encompass the varying aspects of Japan, from the serenity and history of Kyoto to the electrifying and modern Tokyo. You will walk mostly in cities and towns and although not strenuous, the amount of walking each day is considerable and fast-paced (good comfortable walking shoes are recommended). A lot of temples and shrines will be visited during the trip, most of which are built on hillsides. This will mean ascending and descending lots of steps.

All transport will be by public transport and mainly trains which are extremely efficient. Therefore, it is essential that all group members are punctual to ensure we do not miss any of the scheduled services. Some of the distances covered are long but trains are very comfortable making the journey pleasant. As Japanese trains usually have little room for storing bags, we will be carrying only our daypack/overnight bag for the two nights in Takayama and one night in Yudanaka. One piece of baggage per person, will be transferred by courier service from Kyoto to Matsumoto and then on to Tokyo.

Please note that the the order of activities in Kyoto and Tokyo may change depending on the weather conditions and other factors. Your tour leader will provide full details of the schedule during the initial trip briefing.

 

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels and Ryokans

In Kyoto, Matsumoto and Tokyo, our hotels are centrally located and of a high standard with excellent modern facilities and English speaking staff. Please note, in Japan, western hotel room sizes in standard hotels are normally smaller in size and if requesting a double bed, please be advised that these can be smaller in size than western double bed sizes so couples may prefer twin beds.

For three nights during the trip we stay in traditional ryokans and minshukus; comfortable traditional inns where we are able to get a close feel for the timeless rhythms and customs of the Japanese countryside. Ryokans and minshukus, whilst comfortable and full of local character, do not run along the same lines as western hotels and do all have their own unique style; some are more like Japanese B&B's (minshukus) with a homestay feel and guests make their own Japanense style beds up, whilst others are managed more like a standard hotel (typical ryokans) with bedding made up for guests. Rooms do not generally have private facilities and bedding is usually in the Japanese style with thick futon mattresses placed on tatami mats on the floor. Rooms are always doubles or twin-share but bathrooms and showers are generally communal. Please be advised, whilst females and males will be have access to seperate gender specific bathrooms, inside showering and bathing facilities can lack the level of privacy you would be used to in a western style shared bathroom.

Please note that free Wi-Fi is available at every hotel.

Single supplements

For 2019 departures, single supplement can be pre-booked for 10 nights hotel accommodation in Kyoto (5 nights), Matsumoto (1 night) and Tokyo (4 nights) only. 

In Takayama (2 nights) and Yudanaka (1 night), single supplements are not available and rooming is based on twin share (sharing with another group member of the same sex).

Please be advised single supplements are limited and is payable at the time of booking and subject to availability. In Japan, often single supplements can be accommodated in either an actual single and/or double for sole use room in hotels. 

2019 departures

Please be advised that the below accommodation listed in each location are just a list of the standard hotels used for 2019 departures. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at similar hotels of the same standard and quality.

Kyoto (5 nights): Hotel Resol Kyoto Shijo Muromachi

Takayama (2 nights):  Chogoro House

Matsumoto (1 night): Dormy Inn

Yudanaka (1 night): Yorozuya Annex Yurakuan

Tokyo (4 nights): Citadines Shinjuku

Onsen (Japanese public bath)
For many visitors to Japan the onsen is a somewhat unfamiliar territory. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them. The combination of a strict bathing etiquette, that nudity is involved and compulsory, and that the water temperature is often hotter than most Jacuzzis can cause some reluctance for first timers. However, once the courage is mustered, you may discover that a dip in an onsen is likely to become one of the highlights of your visit to Japan. We will have the opportunity to try an onsen in Takayama, and some hot springs in Yudanaka. Please be aware you may be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos. Some accommodations may have private baths available for reservation.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Experts

Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailormade trips:
1 800 267 3347
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

  • Reviewed May 2019
    Sasha Heriot

    Excellent taster of Japan

    This trip was an excellent way to experience many different aspects of Japan, although I feel like I have only touched the surface, and I want to go back! Japan, the people, and the food are all truly wonderful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I loved being out of the cities and experiencing more of the countryside and mountainous regions. One of the highlights was seeing Mount Fuji appear over the hillside whilst ascending in a cable car. We did this on one of our "free" days. This day trip was suggested by our tour leader who also accompanied us for the whole day. Another highlight for me was the thermal baths experience.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our first leader, although very pleasant, was very inexperienced. I was grateful to Exodus that they changed our leader on day 3. The new leader was excellent and ensured that we all had an enjoyable holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not expect a relaxing holiday. The days are very long and you will do lots of standing on very crowded public transport and a huge amount of walking almost every day. Although it is very popular in blossom season, I would have much preferred to go when the weather was warmer. We have blossom in the UK after all! Knowing now how easy it is to get around Japan on public transport, I would be very happy visiting there independently. I flew with KLM (connected in Amsterdam both ways), which seemed a much better choice than the group flight - no long mid-night connections, more "direct" route and shorter flight time.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The country is very easy to get around using public transport, however it would have been much better to have had a minibus/coach to get around the sights in the cities, as the local public transport "experience" made the days very hectic, somewhat stressful, and much longer than they needed to be. I feel that if local public transport is used, the trip should be graded higher than a 2 as some people on the trip did struggle with the long days. and the huge amounts of standing and walking.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Beverley Evans

    Amazing country, trip felt rushed though

    This trip gives the opportunity to see a lot... which is great BUT I have to say it felt like we were running from place to place. Public transport is efficient but a little constricting. It would have been good to have a minibus in Kyoto as the traffic did not seem bad there. This then relieves the feeling of missing out on things as you are made to choose between things to do due to timings of buses/trains etc.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing Mt. Fuji was AMAZING... such a shame this is not part of the itinerary! We went to Lake Kawaguchi, instead of the suggested Hakone and it was the best day of the entire trip. The friendliness of the people and the general feeling of safety. Japan is a wonderful place.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Decky was fantastic and had a very hard job keeping everyone happy. He encountered some difficulties but always found a solution. He was very kind and knowledgeable and was great to talk to.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack an umbrella. Make the most of the ample convenience stores (7Eleven and Family Mart) as they are great for picking up breakfast items and snacks for the day. Also they do excellent sushi etc. Wear really comfortable shoes as there is a LOT of walking... 7-12 miles a day. Some of the temples have a lot of steps. Don't be afraid of the Tokyo underground... it's busy and looks confusing but it's easy to use once you get the hang of it... and ask for help. The people are really friendly and will go out of their way to assist you. Make sure you have handy pockets for the train/bus passes. You'll need them all the time. Be prepared to sit on the floor when up in the mountains. Also, maybe pack wetwipes for the Ryokan unless you enjoy communal showering!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I felt the trip was a little over priced. The first Ryokan we stayed in was VERY basic. Zero privacy to wash and one toilet per floor.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Eric Watts

    A hectic agenda with some nice moments

    The first problem was sleep deprivation, 18 hours in the air with a gap at Dubai and the time difference of eight hours means you need time to recover. We did not have adequate time the departure was 8am the next morning which meant getting up at 6.30 to get organised and have breakfast. A better option would have been to fly the day before and spend the first night in a hotel in Osaka. The sleep deprivation has knock-on effects such as the difficulty in arranging the lights and blind switches in the Kyoto hotel. They were simple to use once you got used to them but caught me out as I was unfamiliar -there was an opaque blind behind the translucent blind and it was not possible to tell this until the daylight woke me up at 5 AM. It would have been useful to have the hotel staff demonstrate how to use all the controls as it meant I had a second night of poor sleeping. There were too many sites to see in Kyoto and Tokyo meaning very early starts and late finishes with inadequate time to recover before going for meal and then having little time to digest before going to bed which also impairs sleep.. Most days we stopped for lunch and apart from the sushi lunch meals were mediocre and usually in soulless shopping malls. A long break for lunch is unnecessary and simply prolongs the day. Taking a snack and a brief lunch break would mean an earlier finish and some time to relax in the evening. The traditional meals were good but too often we went out in the evening to very crowded and uncomfortable restaurants on occasion sitting on stools at the counter which is a very poor substitute for a comfortable meal to celebrate the end of a busy day. On one occasion in Kyoto and two in Tokyo it was hard to find a comfortable restaurant other than going for a pizza which is not what we intended in visiting Japan. Although the express trains were good local trains are often too crowded for comfort and judicious use of a minibus would have been very helpful: for example New Year’s Day there was hardly any traffic on the road but we were in dreadfully crowded trains and given the option I would far sooner stay in a coach than trudge along a dreary the street market in the rain. There are too many boring markets and too many visits to shopping dreary shopping centres. It was a major mistake to try and see all sides Tokyo in one day. If the morning consisted of the shrine, sky Tower and the Imperial Palace that would have been sufficient and then we could choose extras for ourselves such as the art museum. Visiting the shopping area to see the equivalent of Oxford Street and then to visit the street market which have nothing of interest, all in the pouring rain was a sad waste of the afternoon. Finally although your information included average rainfall figures it did not adequately explain that we could be out all day in prolonged rain so that on the last Wednesday everyone was soaked through. My waterproof clothes were too heavy to be worn in hot weather and I do not normally take an umbrella when going walking but it was the best way of dealing with warm rain and it would be helpful to make that point prominently in your info. Japanese art and culture is interesting and I really enjoyed what we saw but unfortunately there was far too little and too much time spent travelling.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was no single inspirational moment. Many of the shrines were impressive, Mount Fuji is spectacular and the cruise on the nearby Lake was delightful. The Zen gardens were impressive. The Hiroshima visit was very educational and presented some unpleasant truths in a very powerful way.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He worked very hard, was very energetic and very helpful. He had the unenviable task of trying to keep everybody happy all the time and he tried to his utmost to do this, this meant that most of us joined in with trying to see everything, which in retrospect, was not the best idea. It would have been more helpful to have a range of options so that there were alternatives e.g. for those with the limited interest in shops and markets. I enjoyed the visits to the snow monkeys and would have preferred to have spent more time walking in the surrounding countryside

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do your homework thoroughly so that you know what you want to see and what you don't want to. Prepare for the rain, an umbrella is more useful than an anorak because of the usually warm whether. Don't be swept along to see sites that don't interest you, street markets may be interesting for some but in Tokyo the goods on sale were incredibly tacky the market so severely congested that it's hard to move and the novelty value soon wears off

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Given that Japan is a mountainous area would have much preferred more opportunities to walk in the countryside. The visit to the beach resort of Tokyo, in the rain was a dreadful waste of time so travellers should prepare options as alternatives to pointless activities. The travel notes gave too rosy a picture of Japanese public transport, although the express trains are good local and suburban trains that we used were often packed and we had to stand for long periods. It would have been better to have seen fewer sites but have been able to spend more time there to enjoy them
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Fiona Hodge

    Japan. Ancient and Modern

    A superb trip, exploring a wide variety of destinations and experiences. Very stimulating. Wonderful to travel on public transport. I never expected to see and do so much. I loved the traditional wooden buildings / hotels we stayed in in the mountain areas. All the accommodation was excellent.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The beautiful blossom , temples and the gardens. Mount Fuji. Japanese hotels and hospitality. The pace and excitement of the trip. The variety of experience

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Decky is a beautiful and wonderful man. He was so kind, professional and good humoured. Knowledgable and entertaining. Outstanding group leader. Nearly broke down in tears to say goodbye. He was very supportive to members of the group with mobility problems. Gave everyone full and equal attention. Totally trustworthy and reliable. You had better keep him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Only go on this trip if you have sufficient energy to walk long distances , maybe up to 9 miles. Try and go in April when the blossom is out. It is breathtaking.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Great trip for energetic enthusiastic and curious travellers
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Neil & Carole Bowman-Mahoney

    Konichiwa and arigato!

    This trip exceeded expectations in many ways - incredibly well-organised with a good balance between group activities and private exploration. The breadth of Japanese culture, both ancient and modern, was well covered, the accommodations were excellent, the food was extraordinary and the transport system very impressive. And the Japanese we met were always polite, respectful, friendly and calm. We came home with the feeling that the UK has a lot to learn!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to choose - seeing Mt Fuji floating on a bed of cloud, Matsumoto Castle floodlit, a Kabuki performance, exquisitely presented and tasty food in the ryokans, onsen, standing on a station as a shinkansen raced through at 160+mph, the tragedy of Hiroshima, the architecture of the Shinto shrines, temples and gardens, and more. Phew!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mayuko Terao was superb, and couldn't do enough for us. Her ability to keep 17 disparate adults in order while negotiating the often crowded and complex transport system was remarkable. Her knowledge, communication skills and sense of fun were second to none. She gave up much of her own free time to ensure that we got the most out of our visit.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for a lot of walking, often in crowded tourist sites and on the transport system. There are many convenience stores near the hotels to buy food if you don't want to pay for the expensive hotel buffet breakfasts (ryokans excluded). Our camera broke down towards the end of the trip, and it was SO liberating! So, don't view everything you see through a camera lens all the time. Japan is so visually engaging.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable experience.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Liz Hartley

    Fascinating experience!

    You really couldn’t pack any more into 2 weeks! We walked round cities (lot of walking), visited temples, shrines, markets, gardens and castles and saw beautiful scenery from the trains. Our guide was very helpful and knowledgeable and always available for advice on what to do, where to go and where to eat in our free time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The cherry blossom, scenery and the beautiful gardens. The unique Japanese experiences - onsen hot baths, tea ceremony and kubuki theatre - were unforgettable.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ayaka was so helpful and informative and didn’t lose anyone in the Tokyo subway!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You need to be pretty fit as on some days there was a lot of walking with only a break for lunch although we were given free time to look round places on our own. You don’t need to take shampoo, conditioner or shower gel as all the accommodation provided it. The hotels in Kyoto and Tokyo had washing machines and dryers. Be prepared for all types of weather - an umbrella can come in handy. Take binoculars if you are going to the kabuki theatre or are interested in birds.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Sarah Kerhoat

    Fabulous, well paced trip to see the best of ancient and modern Japan

    This was a bucket list trip for me and I was really pleased with the pace and the amount we covered in two weeks. The travel dates that I chose were specifically to see the blossoms and although they were late this year, we were lucky to see them and experience their serenity in Tokyo. The trip has lots of other amazing things in it too.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were loads of great moments on this trip! Seeing the blossoms in Tokyo illuminated at night as well as in the day, seeing the Snow Monkeys eat and play, experiencing a traditional ryokan and an onsen (having plucked up the courage), getting up at 4am to Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of vermillion tori gates (I can't recommend enough getting up early to see it, you avoid the crowds and experience an amazing peaceful atmosphere (if you do go, watch out for the kind elderly couple who feed the cats)), having some delicious wagyu beef yakatori in Takayama.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Shin was really good at getting us where we needed to be when we needed to be there which is essential when using public transport in Japan as everything is so orderly! He was also extremely helpful when we were trying to find things or place to see and spending extra time with us when he could.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a deep breath and try the onsen. Once you get your head around it, it is a lovely experience, albeit very hot. In the hotels we stayed in, there were laundry facilities so it is relatively easy to wash and dry clothes. Try an okonomiyaki japanese egg pancake. You cook them yourself at hot plates at the table in a restaurant or sometimes you can get them at a food market. If you want to try some of the food at the markets, confirm with your guide what time of day you will be there and eat less the mealtime before so you have room to try the food.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I'm so pleased I have visited this amazing country and would love to go back and see more of it, especially the northern region and the south island. This trip is fantastic at giving you an really good experience of Japan. If you are hesitating, just do it!
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Vivien and Paul Newrick

    Fast paced and exhausting tour of Japan - certainly not a leisurely holiday!

    It was great touring using public transport including bullet trains but it meant deadlines to catch trains. Because of this we sometimes felt rushed with not enough time to fully enjoy the sights we were visiting. But we certainly saw a slice of Japanese life.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We loved the trees - the cherry blossom and perfectly sculptured conifers. We loved the bamboo forest and gardens nearby. We loved the traditional architecture of sliding panels and tatami mats. We loved the politeness and cleanliness of Japan with train guards bowing as they entered and left carriages. We loved the gardens sitting in nests of skyscrapers in Tokyo. We will miss the quirky Japanese toilets and the onsens.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We liked Shin - he organised tickets and reservations perfectly and with assiduous counting managed to keep the group together at very crowded stations during complex journeys.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Prepare for crowds everywhere and standing in trains and buses. Prepare to walk fast. Do your research before the trip to help use your free time. There are great food outlets at the stations where you can grab a picnic.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Edo Museum in Tokyo was first class.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Angus Walker

    Full On Japan

    A trip that enabled an effective, varied view of key parts of Japan

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    No single inspirational moment - the experience of aspects of Japanese culture [old and new] was best. The National Museum in Tokyo was good for providing a comprehensive historic picture of diverse elements - power, religion, creativity.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The replacement leader [on day 3] was very experienced in all aspects of Japan. All were very happy with his performance.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There is a lot to pack in and it can be very tiring

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    In budgeting the holiday you have to remember that you have to pay for most breakfasts, lunches and evening meals. The Hotel rooms in Kyoto were small; a very uncomfortable 5 nights. The Hotel in Tokyo was excellent
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Hely Collie

    Deers, monkeys, cherry blossoms and saunas in clean Japan with nicely behaved Japans.

    Wild deers, snow monkeys, cherry blossoms, temple cats, bullet trains, metros, lovely and friendly Japans in clean Japan.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Feeding wild deers at Nara Koen Park, seeing snow monkeys in the mountain, admiring cherry blossoms (due to cold weather these blossoms were late and lucky for us!), seeing wild temple cats, travelling in bullet trains (trains do not turn but seatings do!) - just few of many more...it was also interesting to see how Japans que for metros and how nicely their behave in them (phones on silent and no talking or eating) and how clean Tokyo is (no rubbish & no rubbish bins!).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ayaka Tsukamoto had excellent admin skills (arranged all entrance / travel tickets for us in advance with no problems), was patient (answered all questions several times - even after just explaining them to us), was enthusiastic on all planned trips (transferring her enthusiasm to us), was responsible (managed all 18 of us through rush hour using various local transports), was caring (directed one in our group, who used walking sticks, to escalators / lift when ever these were available) always explained our daily plans and associated timings in advance (organisation skills) and told us relevant informations regarding the destinations (excellent historical knowledge!).

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to walk briskly and be always on time to avoid delays - and have sauna every evening (as I did).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Kyoto was beautiful. I enjoyed japanese western toilets (you can wash and dry yourself while sitting on a warm toilet seat) - although, it does waste energy! I had plenty of excellent (& cheap) sushis and loved beautiful flower arrangements in various places.

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