9 days, 8 nights
Duration

For a true insiders experience, join us on this once in a life time journey to Japan during the spectacular ‘hanami’ season. Hanami, also known as cherry blossom viewing, is a uniquely Japanese tradition celebrated during the spring. This tour incorporates some of the many highlights of Japan along with bespoke cultural experiences such as staying in traditional ryokan style accommodation and attending a tea ceremony.

The tour starts in Tokyo, one of the world’s truly mesmerising cities. Our local insider guide will ensure that you not only see the ultra-modern city buzzing with technology; but that you also catch a glimpse of the ancient city known as Edo which remains steeped in timeless traditions. We’ll take in districts known for their local artisans and cultural curiosities as well as visit some of Tokyo’s most significant Buddhist sanctuaries and Shinto shrines.

We will then journey to Hakone, famed for its hot springs, cherry blossoms and stunning views of Mt. Fuji. We will spend a night in Japanese-style ryokan accommodation and explore some of the rural towns of the Japanese Alps.

Next we will travel to historical Kyoto, full of shrines and temples against the stunning backdrop of the cherry blossoms. This former imperial capital of Japan is home to some of the country’s best-preserved cultural practices and traditions. ‘The City of Ten Thousand Shrines’ certainly lives up to the hype: Kyoto truly dazzles with its temples, shrines, gardens, cherry blossoms and tea houses. Enjoy immersing yourself in Japanese culture as we walk amongst Geisha, Maiko, and Zen Buddhist monks while exploring everything from nature to night markets.

Our journey will conclude with a visit to Nara (the first permanent capital of Japan), full of historic treasures and scenic wonders – including some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples. Finally we will enjoy our last hanami at the spectacular Osaka Castle before celebrating with a sayonara dinner.

Want to see even more? Why not stay a few days longer with one of our add on tours – contact us to find out more.

 

TOUR DATES

27 March – 4 April 2020

TOUR COST

A$4500 per person twin share

Mt. Koyasan add on Cost – $800 per person twin share, single supplement $375

DURATION

9 days, 8 nights

Mt. Koyasan add on tour duration: 3 days, 2 nights

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • View beautiful cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Osaka
  • Explore the thriving metropolis of Tokyo
  • Catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from a hot spring resort
  • Get off the beaten track and visit the rural towns of the Japanese Alps
  • Relax with an traditional Japanese onsen experience and stay in a ryokan
  • Visit the historically significant cities of Kyoto and Nara
  • Experience a traditional green tea ceremony

Mt. Koyasan add on tour highlights:

  • Stay in traditional temple lodgings and participate in monastic life with the monks
  • Trek the Women’s Pilgrimage Trail of Mt. Koya (optional)
  • Take the scenic train and cable car journey through the mountainous Kii Peninsular
  • Immerse yourself in the Gomataki Fire Ritual

TOUR ROUTE

Tokyo – Hakone – Mt Fuji – Yatsugatake – Matsumoto – Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kyoto – Nara –  Osaka

MAP

 Japan

 

Day 1

27 Mar 2020

Arrive Tokyo

Welcome to Tokyo! A representative from Ekno Travels will meet you at the arrival gate and transfer you to the hotel. No activities are planned but perhaps you’d like to soak up some of Tokyo’s vibrant night life and enjoy some traditional Japanese cuisine at an Izakaya (Japanese style pub) before retiring for the night.

Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo

Day 2

28 March 2020

 Tokyo

After breakfast, we will set off to see the many sights of this fascinating metropolis with our local guide. Our first stop will be  the Asakusa Kannon Temple, the most famous temple in Tokyo and home of the iconic red paper lantern – the largest one in Japan. Whilst there we will also explore the Nakamise Market, which leads up to the main entrance of the temple. Enjoy shopping for traditional snacks and souvenirs in this Edo (old Tokyo) style shopping street. We will then explore Ueno Park, one of the best places to view the springtime cherry blossoms in Tokyo, known as ‘hanami’ in Japan. With more than 1000 cherry trees as well as water lilly filled ponds and numerous shrines, this is truly a beautiful retreat from the bustling city.

After lunch we will visit the current residence of Japan’s Imperial Family and former grounds of Edo Castle – the Imperial Palace. It is surrounded by moats and stone fortifications, located right in the heart of Tokyo. We will then explore several of Tokyo’s unique districts – Akihabara, Japan’s unique pop cultural centre full of anime and comic figure shops; Ameyoko market, a casual shopping area known for its local ambience; and the residential area of Yanaka, which has retained its old Japanese atmosphere. Finally we will visit the Shinjuku and Harajuku districts, which include Kabukicho – “the biggest” downtown area as well as busy Takesita street filled with teenagers in Lolita fashion. This evening we will also enjoy our welcome dinner in one of Tokyo’s many fantastic restaurants.

Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo

Day 3

29 March 2020

Tokyo – Hakone – Mt Fuji – Yatsugatake

After breakfast we will leave Tokyo and head for Hakone by train (1 and a half hours). Hakone is one of the most popular mountain resorts in Japan due to the hot springs and stunning mountain views that can be found there. The area is also known for its variety of cherry blossom trees and there are several parks in which to enjoy this beautiful sight. Once there you can enjoy the view as you take the ropeway ride from Togendai to Owakudani. Owakudani is an active volcanic zone and is an ideal spot to enjoy Japan’s famed hot springs and bubbling pools. Whilst there you might like to sample one of the local delicacies – boiled hot black eggs.

After our relaxing break we will take the scenic journey to Mt. Fuji, and will stop along the way to admire Japan’s iconic peak. We will arrive at our accommodation for the night, a traditional Japanese onsen at Yatsugatake, where you can soak in a soothing spa bath and savour a traditional Japanese Kaiseki banquet dinner.

Overnight: Onsen, Yatsugatake

Day 4

30 March 2020

Matsumoto –Takayama

This morning we will head to Matsumoto to visit the 400 year old Matsumoto Castle (Black Crow Castle). After exploring the photogenic castle we will head to the Japanese Alps, and the town of Takayama. This town has well very preserved historical structures and a unique traditional atmosphere, due to its remote position in the mountains. The town is also famous for its sake breweries, so you may enjoy the opportunity to sample some of the local flavours.

Overnight: Hotel, Takayama

Day 5

31 March 2020

Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kyoto

After breakfast we will visit the local markets before heading to the rural area of Shirakawa-go. Explore this UNESCO designated destination and take in the stunning views. On our way to the train station in Maibara we will visit the Kenrokuen Garden, one of three most beautiful landscape gardens of Japan. In the afternoon we will enjoy the comfort and speed of the bullet train in order to travel to Kyoto. After we arrive, we will check into our hotel and explore Kyoto – Japan’s former capital and cultural centre. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.

Overnight: Hotel, Kyoto

Day 6

1 April 2020

Kyoto

We will spend the day exploring everything that Kyoto has to offer. Our first stop will be the Philosopher’s Walk, one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in Kyoto. This pedestrianised path follows a beautiful tree lined canal which passes by several temples and shrines, and is an excellent place to wander around and soak up the unique atmosphere of this traditional city. We will then visit Arashiyama, taking in a traditional Zen garden at Tenryuji Temple and enjoying a stroll through the Sagano Bamboo Forest. We will also visit Maruyama Park, known for its excellent cherry blossom viewing.

In the afternoon we will take a 3-hour private walking tour of Kyoto with a local guide. This ancient Japanese city, home to countless temples and centuries of religious practice, is the perfect setting for an excursion to check out the historic neighbourhood of Gion, where you’ll see Yasaka Shrine and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu-dera Temple, learning about the symbols and practices of these two Japanese religions along the way. The highlight of this walk are the many magnificent shrines and temples and the stories surrounding them. This area is also the city’s most well known geisha district, where you can catch a fascinating glimpse into their lives. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.

Overnight: Hotel, Kyoto

Day 7

2 April 2020

Kyoto

We’ll meet our guide then take a train together to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, world famous for the Senbon Torii, or thousand torii gates. This temple is one of the most popular sightseeing spots of Kyoto, and it’s not hard to see why. This shrine is part of a bamboo wilderness that includes mountains, streams, and scenic ponds. We will return to Kyoto in time for lunch and some souvenir shopping.

In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to experience an authentic green tea ceremony at a traditional Japanese-style tea house in the Gion district. The tea ceremony is one of Japan’s main cultural practices; and involves learning about, preparing and tasting delicious powdered green tea. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.
Overnight: Hotel, Kyoto

Day 8

3 April 2020

 Kyoto – Nara – Osaka

This morning we will head to Nara and spend some time exploring this fascinating historical city. A walk through Nara Park (popularly known as ‘Deer Park’) will take us to the Todai-ji Temple – its Daibutsu-den is the largest wooden building in the world, housing a spectacular 16-metre tall image of the Rushana Buddha in bronze and gold. Outside the temple grounds is the Nara Deer Park, filled with over 1,000 Sika deer. We will finish with a visit to the Shinto shrine of Kasuga, a peaceful site that features a collection of more than 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns.

In the afternoon we will travel to Osaka to visit the beautiful Osaka Castle and yet more cherry blossoms. Enjoy our last ‘hanami’ as we view the blossoms against the spectacular backdrop this impressive castle. Our last visit for the day is Dotonbori – Osaka’s vibrant neon shopping, entertaining and dining district. Tonight we will also celebrate with a ‘sayonara’ (farewell) dinner in one of the area’s many Japanese restaurants

Overnight: Hotel, Osaka

Day 9

4 April 2020

 Tour Ends

After breakfast, our tour officially ends. You will be transferred to the airport in time for your departure flight. Thank you for travelling with us!

If you would like to stay longer in Japan, please contact us to book hotel accommodation and transportation. We also offer an exciting range of extensions that can be added to your tour.

INCLUDE

7 nights’ Western style and 1 night Japanese style accommodation

Meet and greet upon arrival at Narita or Hadena Airport

Airport transfers on arrival and departure

Train travel between destinations as per the itinerary

English speaking guide for the duration of the tour

Traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto

Breakfast everyday and 3 dinners

Admission fees and activities as per the itinerary

Each tour member also receives an electronic copy of our tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan travel experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts and ryokan customs

2 ‘Meet your Insider’ sessions prior to departure

EXCLUDE:

International Flights

Admission fees to any destinations and activities not listed in the itinerary

Personal expenses (laundry, drinks, shopping)

Meals unless otherwise specified in the itinerary

Passport & visa costs

Travel insurance (compulsory)

Tips & gratuities

OPTIONAL EXTRAS:

  • Sushi making experience, Tokyo or Kyoto
  • Kimono fashion show at the Nishijin Textile Centre, Kyoto
Day 1

4 April 2020

Osaka – Mt. Koya
After checking out of the hotel in Osaka you will take the scenic journey by train and cable car to Mt. Koya, located high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. A place of religious devotion since the 9th century and the centre of Shingon Buddhism, Mount Koya is a wonderfully spiritual place to explore and a highlight of your time here includes the chance to participate in morning prayers as well as eating dinner with the monks. It is also a special time for reflection and personal contemplation.
Overnight: Shukubo (temple lodging), Mt. Koya (Breakfast, dinner)
Day 2

5 April 2020

M. Koya
Rise early for the Buddhist morning ceremony and Gomataki Fire Ritual which takes place in the main worship hall. The rich colours, smell of the incense and rhythmical chants of the monks are enchanting. The Gomataki fire ritual is performed daily, in which a sacrificial fire is kindled and consecrated before the divinities are invoked with offerings of prayers on wooden tablets. You will be invited to make offerings of incense, allowing for an otherworldly, immersive experience.
You will have the rest of the day to take a short hike around Mt. Koya (approximately 7.5 kms). Choose from the Choishi Stupa Route, Koya Sanzen Route and the Women’s Pilgrim’s route, all of which are easy to follow. Alternatively you may opt to explore the inner sanctuary of the Okunoin cemetery, home to thousands of graves, believed to be housing the spirits of past feudal lords and luminaries. You will also have the option of spending the day relaxing or taking part in the activities planned around the monastery.
Overnight: Shukubo (temple lodging), Mt. Koya (Breakfast, dinner)
Day 3

6 April 2020

Mt. Koya – Osaka
After breakfast you will catch your train back to Osaka Airport in time to for your flight home (if you are booking flights today, please book a late evening flight).

INCLUDE

2 nights’ accommodation in traditional Japanese temple style accommodation
Transportation from Osaka to Mt. Koya by train
Meals as per the itinerary
Admission fees to destinations listed in the itinerary

EXCLUDE:
International Flights
Admission fees to any destinations and activities not listed in the itinerary
Personal expenses (laundry, drinks, shopping)
Passport & visa costs
Travel insurance (compulsory)
Tips & gratuities

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