Grandeur of Japan’s Springtime

hilltop view of the villages and area surrounding mount fuji

Inland Sea, Alps, and Cherry Blossoms Tour

From an erstwhile castle garden to a canal-side path, thereu2019s a perfect trip to where you can experience Japanu2019s springtime majesty and famed cherry blossoms. Get a glimpse of ancient cultural traditions including the graceful artistry of Geishas, the quiet reverence of Tea Ceremony rituals, and the patience of Bonsai masters. Discover the art of Sake brewing and sample several excellent varieties at Gekkeikan, a Kyoto brewery that dates back to 1637.

Discover Japan’s rich history, including a Samurai residence in Takayama and its first Buddhist temples in Nara. Amidst the stunning scenery of Hakone National Park, you can enjoy a private, en suite Onsen bath in a traditional Ryokan hotel.

Day One & Two | Kyoto

Ancient Kyoto has survived the World War II bombings that devastated so many other Japanese cities, and is full of important architectural landmarks, both cultural and historical. Stroll through the soaring and lush green columns of the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, demonstrating Japanenese reverence for nature. Led by an engaging local expert, an in-depth sightseeing can include a specially-arranged tour of Saihu014d-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple rarely visited by other Americans.

Add-On Activities
  • Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion | Surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees, this stone-paved path follows a canal, giving you a wonderful view of Kyoto’s springtime beauty.

  • Dinner + Geisha Performance | Feast in an elegant fine dining experience and take a fascinating look into one of Japanu2019s oldest and perhaps least understood traditions.

  • Arashiyama District Walking Tour | Take a morning walk of the districtu2019s scenic streets including the magnificent Zen temple, Tenryu-ji Temple, home to one of Kyoto’s loveliest gardens and surrounded by forested mountain views.

  • Bento Box Cooking Class | Experience the art of authentic Japanese cuisine as local instructors teach you how to create a traditional bento box with fresh, local ingredients.

  • Hozugawa River Boat Ride | Enjoy an exhilarating 2 hour river boat ride from Kameoka to Kyoto along the scenic Hozugawa River, which includes exciting rapids, stunning rock formations, gorgeous flowers and trees.

Day Three | Miyajima Island + Hiroshiman

Delight in the ethereal beauty of one of Japanu2019s most picturesque regions as you voyage to Miyajima Island for an expertly guided tour of Itsukushima Shrine. This revered site is perhaps best known for its magnificent red Torii gate that floats above the ocean during high tide, as well as its mountain backdrop and 12th-century architecture.

Returning to the main island of Honshu, the day continues with a guided tour of Hiroshima. In the Meiji Period, Hiroshima developed into a thriving port from a growing castle town dating back to the 16th century. It was Hiroshima, with a population of over a quarter-million, that entered the annals of history as the first city to be destroyed by an atomic bomb. What remains of its walls and dome are located in Peace Memorial Park near the Museum of Peace and Memorial Cenotaph. It is a reminder of war’s devastating effects and humanity’s remarkable resilience that these sites will leave you sobering and inspired.

Add-On Activities
  • Hiroshima Museum | Discover the history and the horrors of Hiroshima and its role in World War II. The museum houses many exhibits and information, plus substantial memorabilia and images from the bombing.

  • Origami Crane Workshop | The origin of this activity can be traced to an ancient legend that anyone who folds a thousand cranes will be granted a wish by the gods.

Day Four | Fushimi Inari Shrine + Nara

Foray into the ancient chapters of Japanu2019s history and culture by beginning the morning at Fushimi Inari Shrineu2014dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The shrine dates back to the 8th century, and is known for its thousands of vermilion-hued torii gates that straddle its forested trails.Explore the ancient capital of Nara, where Buddhism was introduced to Japan nearly 1,500 years ago.

Add On Activities
  • Sake Tasting | Gekkeikan, one of Japanu2019s largest breweries, offers a sake tasting as well as lessons about the ancient traditions of this popular beverage.

  • Stroll Narra Park | Home to hundreds of freely roaming deer, the park also holds the 8th century Todaiji Temple; inside you can marvel at Daibutsu; this enormous bronze image of a seated Buddha towers nearly 50 feet.

Day Five | Kanazawa

Travel by train to Kanazawa, a bustling and historically rich city on the Sea of Japan coast in the heart of the Hokuriku region. In the 1400, Kanazawa was home to the Maeda Clan, a powerful family second only to the Tokugawa Clan. The clan devoted much of their wealth to developing local artisans; there you will discover one aspect of this cultural legacy as we watch skilled artisans at work in the Kutani Pottery Kiln. In addition to its picturesque vistas of ponds, streams, bridges, teahouses and flowers, the town is home to myriad cherry trees that we expect to see in their full springtime glory!

Add-On Activities

  • Stroll Kenrokuen Garden | regarded as one of the three finest gardens in all of Japan, these beautifully landscaped grounds were once a part of the outer gardens of Kanazawa Castle

    Visit Nagamachi | This well-preserved district, once home to some of the city’s most important families, offers a glimpse into Samurai life at the splendidly restored Nomura Samurai Residence.

Day Six & Seven | Across the Alps to Shirakawago + Takayama

On the scenic overland journey in the morning, you will experience the bucolic mountain landscapes of the Japan Alps. An alpine viewing deck at Shiroyama Observatory offers breathtaking views of Shirakawag, a pastoral region known for its centuries-old farmhouses and forested mountains. Stroll through the riverside village of Ogimachi. We’ll find traditional thatch-roofed farmhouses constructed to withstand the heavy alpine snows that blanket the region in winter. Located amid the Japan Alps, Takayama is hailed as the crown jewel of Gifu Prefecture, as it is culturally rich, historically rich and absolutely charming! Learn about Takayamau2019s seasonal festivals and traditions that date back 400 years, as well as its famed sake breweries.

Add-On Activities

  • Tour Gassho-zukuri Farmhouses | This visit will provide an insight into life here when mulberry trees and silkworms were the main sources of livelihood.

  • Takayama Morning Markets | Join city residents as they engage with vendors selling fresh produce, ready-to-eat snacks, and local crafts.

  • Traditional Japanese Lunch | Savor Hida beefu2014a variety of Wagyu beef raised here in Gifu Prefecture and renowned for its intense marbling and delicious flavor. Indulge in a menu featuring fresh vegetables and edible wild plants picked in the surrounding villages of Gokayama, Hida and Shirakawa-go.

Day Eight | Onward to Hakone National Park

Take a scenic rail journey via Nagoya to Mishima, an inviting town situated at the base of the Izu Peninsula. A Japanese-style inn with spectacular mountain views awaits you at Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu, on your arrival. The breathtaking views of Lake Ashi can be enjoyed on a relaxing cruise. With clear weather, you can even get first glimpses of Mt. Fuji! Afterward, you will ascend Hakone’s highest peak via Mt. Komagatake Ropeway, a mountain which has been revered for centuries by Shinto followers.

Add-On Activities

  • Mt. Komagatake Ropeway | The view from the top is simply breathtaking on a clear-day with views of Mt. Fuji and the Pacific Ocean.

Day Nine | Mt. Fuji + Onward to Tokyo

Over the centuries, Japanese wood-block prints have captured the nearly-perfect conical silhouette of Japan’s highest mountain. Mount Fuji has long been a religious pilgrimage site, and the lower reaches are filled with shrines that attest to its spiritual significance. The 5th Station of Mt. Fuji is situated at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet, about halfway to the summit, making it a popular starting point for adventurous trekkers.

Add-On Activities

  • Dinner at Gonpachi – Tokyo | Known for its fun and lively atmosphere, this popular destination is popular with tourists and locals alike; The restaurant is also known for its buzzy atmosphere and signature cuisine that pushes traditional Japanese favorites in multiple new directions.

  • Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony | In contrast to some tea ceremonies, which can last hours and follow strict guidelines, the Happo-en tea house offers a more informal ceremony in a serene setting where you can follow the ritual while remaining immersed in the culture.

Day Ten-Twelve | City Sights + Cherry Blossoms

Explore the world-famous Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, where many chefs and city residents visit daily to purchase fresh seafood. Experience the timeless art of preparing sushi during a workshop with a skilled chef; sample fresh, homemade sushi at the end of this culinary experience. Continue your Tokyo sightseeing at Asakusa Kannon Temple, founded nearly 1,400 years ago and dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. The 1,000-year-old Thunder Gate welcomes us into the temple grounds, where we’ll find a vibrant arcade of shops selling traditional sweets, savory snacks, and colorful handcrafts.

twilight skies in tokyo japan overlooking the river surrounding with cherry blossoms

Add-On Activities

  • Stroll Nakameguro Canal | Tokyo’s most sophisticated and vibrant district is home to cool cafes, trendy interior design shops, hip boutiques and popular restaurants. In Spring, it’s best known for its Sakura – the delicate pink cherry blossoms that line both sides of the canal.

  • Ginza Walking Tour | In this premier shopping and entertainment district, you can find sophisticated boutiques, trendy cocktail bars, and upscale department stores.

  • Shunkaen Bonsai Museum | Learn how these miniature, ancient trees are cultivated and shaped by Kunio Kobayashi, a Bonsai Master who has won the distinguished Prime Minister’s Award four times.

  • Panoramic Tour of Central Tokyo & Shibuya Crossing | On a nighttime tour of Tokyo, experience one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cities in all its neon glory. Additionally, you’ll walk Shibuya Crossing, allegedly the busiest intersection in the world, with more than 1,000 people crossing each light in all directions!

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