Essential Japan

Japan is a destination that is simply enthralling, offering an entrancing mix of ancient tradition and the ultra-modern.

Journey Overview

Japan is an entrancing mix of ancient tradition and the ultra-modern. Tea ceremonies, tatami mats, zen gardens and the time-honoured geisha tradition co-exist with high speed bullet trains, minimalistic eateries and glittering skyscrapers. Add in the natural beauty of the Mt. Fuji area, poignant Hiroshima and Osaka’s vibrant food scene and you have a destination that is simply enthralling.

Journey Highlights

  • Go behind the ring of Japan’s national sport in a leading Tokyo sumo stable
  • Admire venerated Shinto shrines, Zen temples and perfectly manicured gardens
  • Take part in a traditional taiko drumming class
  • Appreciate Japan’s rich culinary heritage with authentic kaiseki dining, street food staples, ocean-fresh sushi and traditional sweet treats
  • Ride like a local on high-speed bullet trains and rickshaws
  • Pay your respects at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park

Journey Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo.

Arrive into the Japanese capital and transfer privately to your hotel.
Palace Hotel (Deluxe Room)

Day 2: Tokyo.

Start your journey with a stroll in the beautiful Edo period garden, Hamarikyu, one of the most visited in the city thanks to its year-round botanical attractions. Pause to admire the surrounds over green tea at the Nakajima-no-Ochaya tea house on an island in the gardens. Next, visit Asakusa Kannon Temple, one of the city’s most venerated temple sites dedicated to the Bodhisattva, Guan Yin, the Chinese deity of mercy and benevolence that has its origins in Hindu belief from India. The restaurants around Asakusa are some of the best for traditional Japanese cuisine, including the ever-popular tempura. Or perhaps learn to make sushi with an expert followed by lunch (additional cost). Afterwards, visit Meiji Shrine, a sanctuary for Shinto followers and a popular venue for traditional Japanese weddings. You may choose to take part in a solemn Shinto ceremony, full of ritual and offerings.
Palace Hotel (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 3: Tokyo.

An up-close ‘behind the ring’ encounter this morning when you visit one of Tokyo’s sumo stables for an appreciation of Japan’s national sport. Housing anywhere between two and forty young men a time, these living and training quarters demand absolute loyalty and discipline from the wrestlers, with daily training commencing at dawn for beginners and 8am for seniors.

Next visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum which depicts Tokyo’s 400-year-old history - from the Edo Period to the present-day - through vivid exhibitions, imagery, scaled models and life-size replicas. Conclude your sightseeing with a taiko drum experience. Taiko is a more recent tradition of Japanese drum playing that has roots in ancient Japanese religious ceremonies and folk music. Take part in a class to learn about its history and the drumming technique before putting it to the test behind your own drum.

Enjoy this afternoon at leisure or explore the city at your own pace.
Palace Hotel (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 4: Tokyo – Hakone.

Leave the bustle of Tokyo behind and head for Mount Fuji – Japan's highest and most prominent mountain. If you’re feeling energetic hike up to admire the views (weather permitting). Alternatively, visit the Fujisan World Heritage Centre for an introduction to the area and its famous peak.

Then travel to Hakone, among Japan’s most popular hot-spring destinations, and view the forested slopes of Hakone National Park, an area encompassing coastlines, mountains, lakes and more than 1,000 volcanic islands.

Stroll the grassy hillsides of Hakone’s Open Air Museum. Admire the impressive contemporary sculptures and artwork on display, including masterpieces by Henry Moore and Rodin. The museum also features one of the world’s finest Picasso exhibits, presenting some 300 works by the cubist master.
Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 5: Hakone.

Head into the great outdoors today admiring stunning views of Mt Fuji and choosing from a number of activities: a ropeway ride at Mt. Komagatake; cruising on Lake Achi; visits to the Owakudani crater and volcanic hot water springs and the Okada Museum of Art.

Hyatt Regency Hakone (Standard Room) | Meals: B

Day 6: Hakone – Kyoto.

Step aboard the bullet train for the high-speed trip to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital, and enjoy the afternoon at leisure.

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 7: Kyoto.

This morning visit the ornamental Nijo Castle. Built in 1603 by the first shogun of the Edo Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu, as his Kyoto residence, Nijo Castle is one of the finest examples of feudal era Momoyama architecture. Beyond its massive stone walls and sprawling palace grounds, thick with cherry trees, stands the castle’s centrepiece: the ornately embellished Ninomaru Palace. Next stop, the Golden Pavilion, one of Kyoto’s most famous temples with its gold leaf adornment. The temple was originally the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and upon his death in 1408 it became a Zen temple. Burned numerous times in its history, most recently in 1950, the temple was rebuilt in 1955 and continues to function as a storehouse of sacred relics.

This afternoon, travel to Arashiyama and stroll through the impressive bamboo grove, one of Kyoto’s top sights. Wandering along the path between the soaring stands of bamboo is an ethereal experience. The bamboo is still used in local workshops to produce baskets, cups, boxes, mats and pieces of art.

Later today, ride like a local on a rickshaw admiring the surrounding scenery from a different perspective (additional cost). Finally, stop by Tenryuji Temple, one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the head temple of the Tenryu sect of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. It is the largest and most frequented temple in Arashiyama.
Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 8: Kyoto.

This morning take a leisurely walk along the cherry-lined Philosopher’s Path admiring the ever-changing vistas, the temples and shrines along the way and pausing for a refreshment at one of the cafés along the two-kilometre trail. Then a chance to experience the ancient Japanese ritual of the tea ceremony. Take part in a traditional ceremony in a nearby temple or be welcomed into the home of an apprentice geisha (maiko) who will lead the tea ceremony and explain the importance of this age-old custom.

Finish the morning at Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko entertain.

The afternoon is at leisure before taking your seat for an unforgettable meal in the company of a maiko, or geisha. Treat your tastebuds to a kaiseki ryori (multi-course) dinner and sip sake as you learn more about your host’s world. Then, enjoy traditional dance and musical entertainment performed by your maiko (additional cost).
Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 10: Kyoto – Nara – Osaka.

Today you are driven to Osaka via Fushimi Inari and Nara. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. On your arrival at the main hall, you may wish to present a small offering to the resident deity then make your way to the rear of the shrine to find the first of over 5,000 vermilion torii gates.

Fushimi is Kyoto' s sake district. Stroll around the delightful tree-lined canals, past historic sites and amongst beautiful wooden brewery buildings. During a sake tasting learn about the process and how brewers balance the main ingredients of water, rice, malt and yeast and how the taste of the sake changes according to the ingredients.

Your next stop is Nara Park, to explore this expansive estate which is home to over 1,000 free roaming deer, considered in Shintoism as messengers of the gods. After lunch (additional cost), head to Todaiji, a temple founded in 752 and home to Daibutsu, or Great Buddha, the world's largest bronze casting. Marvel at the size of the Buddha's open hand, which alone is the height of a person, and Daibutsuden, which houses the statue. It is believed to be the largest wooden structure on earth.

Return to Shintoism at Kasuga Taisha, a shrine built in 768 and reconstructed every 20 years thereafter. Try to envisage the 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns when they are lit for festivals in February and August each year.

Finish the day in Osaka, arriving early evening.
Conrad Osaka (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 10: Hiroshima

This morning, you are transferred to the train station to board the bullet train to Hiroshima. Better known for its tragic past, a visit to Hiroshima is a reminder of the catastrophic moment in 1945 when the city was hit by the world’s first atomic bomb. A poignant visit to Peace Memorial Park is a chance to pay respects and discover more about the event. Wander around the Atom Bomb Dome, the only structure left standing after the blast, retained as a tragic reminder and explore the old wing of the Peace Memorial Museum.

Afterwards travel to the southwest edge of the city and board a ferry to the island of Miyajima where you visit the Itsukushima Shrine. The red torii gate, one of the most photographed sites in Japan, is located 150 metres from the shore at the entrance to the cove in which the Itsukushima Shrine stands. An optional sea kayaking excursion gets you close up to the shrine and its famous torii gate.

Return by ferry to the mainland and then continue to the railway station for the bullet train ride to Osaka.
Conrad Osaka (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 11: Osaka.

Enjoy a morning at leisure before joining your specialist foodie guide to discover the gastronomic highlights of the city. Wander through the colourful Shinsekai district packed with inexpensive, and tasty, snack shops. Nibble on kushikatsu, deep fried morsels of meat and vegetables, and wash it down with a cold beer. Venture into the covered Kuromon Ichiba Market, also known as “Osaka’s Kitchen”, where more than 150 shops sell fresh fish, meat and produce, traditional sweets and low-priced clothes and homewares. Sample some grilled sea food or yakitori, sea urchin or takoyaki – a street food staple.

Finish up in Dotonbori, the city’s official entertainment district, where food is the main attraction and hundreds of eateries line the main thoroughfare and streets. Be sure to try local titbits like okonomiyaki (tasty savoury pancakes), kitsune udon, ramen and teppanyaki treats before returning to the hotel to sleep it off.
Conrad Osaka (Deluxe Room) | Meals: BD

Day 12: Depart Osaka.

Transfer to Osaka Airport where your journey ends.
Meals: B

Show Full Itinerary
Preferred Accommodation

Preferred Accommodation

This journey features the following Preferred Accommodations:

Palace Hotel Tokyo

Essential Japan
A&K Favourite

A member of The Leading Hotels of the World the spectacular Palace Hotel in Tokyo with its excellent location is the perfect base to expl... Read more

Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa

Essential Japan

In many ways the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa offers the best of both worlds - a fusion of ryokan and hotel which refuses to compr... Read more

Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Essential Japan

Built on a site favoured by Japanese nobility since the 17th century, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto continues a legacy of quiet luxury, overloo... Read more

Conrad Osaka

Essential Japan

The luxurious Conrad Osaka is housed in one of the city’s newest, shiniest skyscrapers – Festival Tower West – in the Nakanoshima area, a... Read more

Journey Dates & Prices

As this suggested itinerary can be personalised to your specific requirements, it is not available for online booking.

Depending on your preferred dates and arrangements, final pricing will vary from low season to peak season travel.

Please call A&K on 1300 851 800 or send us a booking enquiry to book this journey.


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