Arrive in Tokyo at any time today. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. At time of check in on Day 1 you will receive a note from your G Adventures CEO (Chief Experience Officer) advising you of exact details of group meeting which will be held in early evening. (Meeting normally starts between 6-7pm, and will last about one hour.) 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 nightlife area. However, if you look under the glossy surface, Tokyo is still 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. Catch a performance of the traditional Kabuki plays in the park or, if you are fortunate enough, see the Sumo wrestlers throw each other out of the ring during one of the few ‘Bashos’ held each year. The trip itinerary does not include much time in Tokyo, so if your aim is to explore Tokyo in depth, please factor that into your personal travel time allotment.
Tokyo is full of a variety of fascinating sights and adventures. Over the next two days we will see the Imperial Palace and the Nijubashi Bridge, once the seat of the Togugawa shogun. The Meiji Shrine covers over 700,000 square metres, filled with shrines and brightly coloured torii gates. In direct contrast, the districts of Shibuya and Harajuku dislpay the latest in Japanese fashion trends, while the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa gives a glimpse into the Shinto religion.
A short train ride to takes us to Hakone, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. This mountain playground is full of a variety of activities, accessible by the funicular railway that circles the area. THere is an open air art gallery, a variety of hot springs and a pirate galleon to transport you over Lake Ashinoko. The sulpherous crater of Owakudani is a must see, and you can even try eggs that have been boiled black in the water here.
Continuing along the route through Japan we visit the town of Tsumago, one of the best preserved towns in Japan. It retains its style from the Edo period, and we wander the streets imagining we are back in the time of the Emperor. We continue our journey by bus to the city of Nagoya. With a rich history stretching back to the Tokugawa period Nagoya has grown over the centuries to become one of Japan's largest cities. We stop here for the night, and on a short tour visit the Atsuta Shrine and Nagoya Castle.
This morning we visit the town of Iga Ueno, home to a unique museum. Housed in ta former ninja school, this museum is a fascinating insight into the life and history of a ninja. The ninja used stealth to learn about their enemy and conduct acts of espionage and sabotage. There are displays of weapons and a show that includes some of the original techniques. From here we continue to Kyoto for the night.
We spend the day in 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. Marvel at the huge temples of the Hongan-ji sect or the beautiful Golden Pavilion. Take time out to enjoy the Zen gardens of 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 teahouse. Discover, for a full day, the Zen gardens, huge wooden temples, pagodas and shrines.
A short ride away from Kyoto is the town of Nara, once Japan's first capital. Among the many remnants of a proud history are the Todaji Temple, housing a large Buddhist statue, the Isuien Garden and Nara Park, which is full of wild deer. After a day here, we return to Kyoto for the evening.
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.
Leaving Hiroshima this morning, we join a shinkansen or bullet train on the way back to Kyoto. These trains are incredibly fast, and as they lean into the corners, you can feel the speed. Once we are back in Kyoto, there is an afternoon free to see the city, before we join our group for one last dinner.
Transfer to Kansai airport, Osaka. Depart at any time.