On day 1, arrive in Osaka 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 CEO (Chief Experienxe Officer) with the details of your group meeting in the evening (usually 18:00), when you will meet your tour leader, your fellow travellers, and go over the logistics of your journey. If you arrive early, arm yourself with a map, an appetite, and a sense of adventure and explore this vibrant city. 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, catch a Bunraku puppetry play, or head to USJ, Japan's very own Universal Studios theme park. This is your day to explore Osaka.
An early morning journey takes us to Mt Koya, a religious centre founded in 816 by the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. The train ride up the mountain is possibly one of the finest rail journeys in Japan. For the final steep ascent, we switch to a funicular. We will settle into our shukubo, which is a temple lodging run by monks. We'll explore the temples and moss covered Oku-no-in cemetery in the afternoon. In the evening, we dine on shojin-ryori, vegetarian cuisine, and relax in our yukata, or kimono. Early morning offers the chance to observe the monks praying, before we eat a vegetarian breakfast, breathe more fresh mountain air, and journey back down the mountain.
Today we travel 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.
We travel 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. During our stay, we will visit zen gardens, pavillions, and explore the Gion area in the evening. You will have plenty of time to explore whatever fuels your interests; museums, palaces, temples, zen-gardens, restaurants- so much to experience! Travel by bike or by bus. Take long walks along the river or through the Inari Gates or along the Philosopher's path to Nanzen-ji. Stroll around Gion, catch a traditional tea ceremony, get a fantastic meal, see locals dressed in traditional kimono. Possibly see a maiko-san, or geisha-in-training, in full make-up and ensemble. You will have ample opportunity to take in the cultural heart of Kyoto.
Today we travel to Hakone, a town in the hills just 100km from Tokyo, which is famous for its onsens, or natural hot springs. We stay in a traditional ryokan, with its own private onsen. We will travel by several forms of transportation up through the Hakone-Izu National Park which is famous for it's spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, the pride of Japan. However, keep in mind that she is a very shy mountain! We may get to sample eggs, hard-boiled in the sulfer springs which are features of the national park. If you eat one, it will add seven years to your life! In the evening, we enjoy our ryokan, savoring a complex meal of traditional Japanese foods, followed by a recommended soak in the onsen, thinking back on the adventures of the past week, preparing for your arrival in Tokyo tomorrow.
We will arrive before noon in Tokyo, when you will be set loose to explore this energetic metropolis. You could see Uneo park and visit the museums, Akihabara for cutting edge electronics, Harajuku for funky fashions, Ginza for the highest of the high-end, walk the grounds of the Imperial Palace East Garden or just stroll the streets, looking for the traditional life that still lies just under the modern surface. Discuss with your tour leader options on how to structure your day in Tokyo. In the evening we will have a final group dinner.
Day 9 is departure day and you are free to leave at any time.