On day 1, arrive in Tokyo at any time. As your fellow travellers will be arriving at different times, there are no planned activities during the day. Please check with reception for a message from your G Adventures leader with the details of your group meeting in the evening. At this meeting, you will be introduced to your tour leader and fellow travellers, and go over the logistics of the days ahead. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is one of the most modern cities in the world. It seems that every person on the streets has the latest version of everything. Ginza, is full of department stores selling the latest fashions, Akihabara is the place to try the latest new gadgets before they become available in the West, and Shinjuku is the fast-paced nightclub area. However, if you look under the glossy surface, Tokyo is very traditional. Ladies still wear kimonos around town, people go to temples like Senso-ji to say a few prayers on their way to work, and couples get married in their traditional wedding gowns in the beautiful grounds around the Meiji Shrine. In spring, couples, families and friends sit beneath trees sipping sake and admiring the cherry blossoms.
We leave Tokyo to begin out journey to Hakone. This small town is famous for its onsens, or natural hot springs. Our traditional ryokan accommodation has its very own onsen where you can soak your bones at the end of the day! After arriving to our ryokan, we will then make our way into the Hakone-Izu National Park. This area offers the best views of Mt Fuji, however please keep in mind that she is a notoriously shy mountain! We will ride various forms of transportation from trains switchbacking up the mountain, to funiculars paralleling steep ascents. You may have the opportunity to eat an egg hard boiled in the sulfuric hot springs which make Hakone famous. If you do, it will add seven years to your life! In the evening we will relax in our yukata, or lightweight kimono, and dine on traditional Japanese cuisine. An onsen after dinner is highly recommended!
Continuing on to Kyoto, the former Imperial Capital and home of the country’s most treasured remnants of Japanese imperial life. As the Imperial capital, Kyoto is an essential part of any visit to Japan. Kyoto has some of the most magnificent temples in Japan which date back centuries. There are said to be 2,000 temples, shrines, palaces, museums and traditional gardens in Kyoto. Use your time to wander past huge wooden structures and multi-storied pagodas, all linked with famous walkways and marvel at the huge temples of the Hongan-ji sect or the beautiful Golden Pavilion. Take time out to enjoy the Zen gardens like Ryoan-ji and the Silver Pavilion, take a leisurely stroll down the lovely Philosopher’s path to Nanzen-ji or just walk around Gion and perhaps catch a glimpse of a Geisha going from teahouse to tea house. Discover, for a full day the second day in Kyoto, the Zen gardens, huge wooden temples, pagodas and shrines.
We continue by train to Hiroshima, a city marked historically in 1945 with the explosion of the first atomic bomb. Since that time, Hiroshima has become a peace-promoting city hoping for the day when all nuclear weapons are abolished. A walk through the Peace Park, visiting the Monument to the Children, remembering Sadoko and her Thousand Paper Cranes, a moment in front of Gembaku Dome, the frame of the building which was nearly directly under the explosion, and a visit to the Peace Museum are forceful reminders of the power humans hold and the direction we can turn it. We will also take a trip together to Miyajima Island, famed as one of Japan's most scenic spots, where you will have a free afternoon to explore. You will see the famous floating Torii Gate, set out in the bay, which glows extraordinarily at sunset. The island is dotted with shrines and temples, populated by deer and monkeys, and traversed with hiking trails for those who want to get the blood flowing. There are also lanes full of souvenirs and tasty treats. You can visit Miyajima at your own pace.
Starting in the morning, we travel by rail to Mt Koya, a religious center founded in 816 by the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. The train ride up the 800m mountain is possibly one of the finest rail journeys in Japan. For the final steep ascent, we switch to a funicular. On the mountain we stay in shukubo (temple lodgings run by monks), eat shojin-ryori (vegetarian meals) and can have the chance to take part in morning prayers, and discover what a monk’s life is really like! The afternoon can be spent walking through the moss-covered tombstones of the Okinoin cemetery or exploring the crisp air of Koya-san. An early, relaxing night is suggested, especially if you'd like to wake up at dawn and observe the monks praying!
Osaka is Japan's culinary capital, so try some tako-yaki, octopus balls, and anything else that tempts your tummy. The Kita (North) area is home to museums and city landmarks, while the Minami (South) area is a great place for people-watching in Amerikamura, electronics shopping in Den-Den, or a night out in Dotomburi. You could also check out the Osaka Aquarium, Japan's biggest and best, check out a Bunraku puppetry play, or head to USJ, Japan's very own Universal Studios theme park.
Day 9 is departure day and you are free to leave at any time.