- Learn the secrets of Japanese confectionary in a cooking lesson
- Visit an open-air museum near Lake Saiko
- Discover Edo-era industrial production methods in Gokayama Village
- Cycle through the bustling streets of Kyoto and past famous temples
- Join a zen meditation class under the guidance of a Buddhist monk
|Day 1||Explore Tokyo||Tokyo|
|Day 2||Cooking lesson - Discover Imperial Palace||Tokyo|
|Day 3||Interactive Art Experience||Tokyo|
|Day 4||Visit Craft Village - Mount Fuji View Point||Fujikawaguchiko|
|Day 5||Karakuri Robot Experience - Nagoya City Science Museum||Nagoya|
|Day 6||Explore Ise Jingu Grand Shrine||Nagoya|
|Day 7||Discover Samurai District Kanazawa||Kanazawa|
|Day 8||Visit Gokayama Countryside||Kanazawa|
|Day 9||Cycle through Kyoto||Kyoto|
|Day 10||Travel to Nara Deer-Filled Temple - Karaoke Evening||Kyoto|
|Day 11||Explore Arashiyama Before Departure|
Day 1: Explore Tokyo
After arriving in Tokyo, you will have the full day to discover the biggest city in the world.
You will delve straight into exploring the buzzing shopping hub Akihabara where you will discover all things tech including anime, manga and electronic mecca. Packed with gaming arcades, comic book and anime stores, virtual reality experiences, electronics stores and dozens of 'otaku' (die-hard anime fans) roaming the streets—this thrilling experience will give you a look into the rather quirky side of Japanese culture.
After leaving Akihabara, prepare to roll up your sleeves and get creative during a traditional woodblock printing class. During this engaging class, you will learn about techniques Japanese artisans have been employing for centuries to print vivid texts and images. You will then get the exciting opportunity to create your very own works of art!
A short walk and an invigorating elevator ride will take you 634 meters up in the air where you will enjoy a panoramic view of the city from Tokyo Skytree. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji in the distance! This is a great opportunity to take in the breadth of Tokyo and watch a sea of city lights appear as the sun goes down.
You can spend your first evening in Tokyo exploring the many buzzing restaurants nearby and treat your tastebuds to an authentic and mouthwatering Japanese meal.
An optional activity in Akihabara, if you bring your international driver's license with, is zooming through the streets on a go-kart, dressed as your favorite Mario character.
Day 2: Cooking lesson - Discover Imperial Palace
Today, you will have the exciting opportunity to learn about Japanese traditional and spiritual culture!
Did you know that sumo wrestling is less of a sport and more of a spiritual ceremony? It began centuries ago as a ritual to entertain the gods and is all about the purification of one's heart and mind. You will learn all this and more as you observe a morning sumo training session and witness the skill and power that these athletes possess. This activity is optional and dependent on whether the wrestlers are practicing,
Afterward, you will go to a cooking class where you will learn how to make one of Japan's most popular pastries using local methods and techniques. These delicacies are perfect for impressing friends at home. An optional wagyu (a beef dish) course-meal class is also available for an even more authentic Japanese cooking experience.
You will spend your afternoon in the expansive and beautiful Imperial Palace gardens. Surrounding the home of the Emperor, these gardens are right at the center of Tokyo which, in a way, makes it the beating heart of the city! Although the Edo Castle no longer stands on these grounds, its foundation is still evident. As you take in the natural beauty found in this historic location, you will also get the chance to learn about the imperial history of the palace.
You will have some free time after exploring the gardens. Afterward, you will meet up with your tour group again before heading to Shibuya. Here, you will discover one of Japan's most famous sites, the Shibuya Crossing. This crossing has been featured in several blockbusters including Fast and Furious and Lost in Translation. You will see as many as 2500 people crossing the intersection at once. The area is also packed with dozens of great restaurants where you can eat your fill of both international and Japanese cuisine. Those who plan on staying after the sun goes down can enjoy the Shibuya's vibrant nightlife and some of the best nightclubs in the country. Dance and socialize your night away in this suburb that never sleeps.
Day 3: Interactive Art Experience
You will start the day with a sake brewery tour just outside of the city. Sake, a Japanese rice beer, holds a vast amount of meaning and spiritual significance. During the tour, you will learn all about the intricate process behind the creation of this rice wine as you tantalize your taste buds with samples from the brewery's store.
Afterward, you will travel to the man-made island of Odaiba. This island is brimming with innovation and futuristic experiences as all Japan’s major corporations have their concept technology housed around the island. Once you get to the island, you will visit an interactive art exhibition with your tour group. This exhibition gives new meaning to the term 'modern art'. Part of the interactive experience includes coloring in and following art along the walls. Overall, you can expect to have your breath taken away and prepare to take lots of photos as you enjoy this digital art experience!
For your final evening in the city, you will have the option to choose between a range of activities that Tokyo has on offer. Your dedicated tour guide can assist in planning a night to remember.
Day 4: Visit Craft Village - Mount Fuji View Point
Today, you will get the chance to come up close to Japan's famous active volcano, Mount Fuji. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from Tokyo. On a cloudy day, it’s hard to see it from just a short distance away. Situated right at the base of this iconic landmark, the town and nearby Lake Kawaguchi offers the most beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Mount Fuji.
After dropping off your bags at the accommodation, you will join the tour group in visiting a nearby picturesque crafts village. This open-air museum sits on the edge of Lake Saiko and used to be a small farming village. All of the thatched-roof houses have now been converted into workshops, restaurants, and small shops. You will get the chance to dress up in traditional kimono or yukata. There are also a variety of fun and creative activities at the village to choose from including ceramic pottery painting, glass kaleidoscope and metalwork, soba noodle making, fabric ornament crafting, and incense making.
After you have had ample time to explore the charming village, you will head to Chureito Pagoda, which has the best viewing point of Mount Fuji. This view is especially stunning in spring as the pink cherry blossom trees add a magical glow to the area.
As the sun goes down, you can relax in an onsen hot spring.
Day 5: Karakuri Robot Experience - Nagoya City Science Museum
Prepare to board an exhilarating bullet train as you and your tour group travel to the vibrant city of Nagoya. Once you have arrived, you will start the day trip by immersing yourself in a Karakuri Robot Experience. Did you know automatons are not just a modern invention? Edo-era inhabitants designed a robot specifically for the purpose of serving tea. In Nagoya, you will learn all about this practice and also get the chance to interact with some more modern androids as you discover the depths of human innovation.
After this, you will make your way to the Nagoya City Science Museum, home to the largest planetarium in the world. Many visitors stop by just to take a picture of its enormous silver globe. This quick visit to the planetarium will also include a captivating and informative show.
After the show, you have the night to yourself where you can discover some of the city's other attractions as well as indulge in local cuisine. Nagoya is famous for its miso, which flavors many dishes, both sweet and savory!
Day 6: Explore Ise Jingu Grand Shrine
Your day will start with an exciting journey to Ise Jingu Grand Shrine. This historically significant complex is made up of 125 smaller shrines dating back to the third century. It is also famous for being home to the spirit of the goddess Amaterasu, the deity who the Imperial family is believed to be descended from.
Ise Jingu receives over six million visitors a year, a testament to its cultural and spiritual importance. After arriving, you will have the chance to explore its expansive grounds while learning about the shrine's history and relation to the Shinto religion. Since this is a fairly relaxed day, you can leisurely enjoy this shrine's beautiful surroundings at your own speed.
Afterward, you have the whole evening to unwind and settle down after a few busy days.
Day 7: Discover Samurai District Kanazawa
Today, you will board another bullet train to the city of Kanazawa which has well-preserved elements of the Edo period. Your first stop is Kenroku-en, a huge park right in the middle of the town and one of the three finest landscape gardens in Japan. This charming park is home to one of Japan's oldest fountains and is a magnificent place to visit in all seasons. Winter boasts beautiful plum flowers and in spring you will enjoy the pink cherry blossoms. October brings the brilliant and fiery colors of autumn following the vibrant green summer.
A walk through the samurai district takes you back in time to the Edo period when this city rivaled Tokyo and Kyoto in its cultural achievements. Be sure to explore the city's historic samurai homes, which give insight into what life was like when the warrior-class ruled the country. From one martial art to another, we then explore the maze-like structures of Kanazawa's ninja temple. This religious structure hides many military secrets and was designed specifically with defense in mind.
Day 8: Visit Gokayama Countryside
The slanted thatch-roof houses of Shirakawa-go have become one of Japan's most famous sites, especially in winter. Not many people know there is a similar town called Gokayama just 45 minutes away. Gokayama is a tiny mountain village with houses that have been standing for more than a hundred years. Surrounded by stone walls and green farmland, this charming village is an unforgettable travel destination.
One of the village's main attractions is the houses. While the gassho-style houses are worth visiting for their lovely architecture, visitors gain valuable insight into the skills locals possessed to build lasting houses that have withstood harsh winter elements. You will also learn about the village's industrial production of natural minerals, silk, and paper during the Edo-era and try your hand at crafting your own traditional Japanese instrument under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
Another highlight of Gokayama is the bountiful fresh food available sourced from local mountain vegetables and homemade tofu and fish caught from its nearby streams. These delicious ingredients will make up a delectable lunch.
Day 9: Cycle through Kyoto
In the morning, you will start making your way with your tour group to the city of Kyoto. This former capital city is positively bursting with history and is a lot more traditional than its Tokyo counterpart. While things move quickly in Tokyo, this city and its people are far more laid-back.
You will explore the city by bicycle with the first stop at the scenic temple of Kiyomizudera. Over 1000 years old, the temple gets its name from three streams of water, which are each believed to bring a different kind of fortune. During the visit, you will get the chance to discover the stream's magical properties. Afterward, you will cycle to Japan's longest wooden structure, Sanjusangendo, and its 1001 statues of the Buddhist Goddess Kannon.
You will also get the chance to put your artistry skills to the test and learn the ancient art of shodo or calligraphy. The teacher will demonstrate how to write certain characters in hiragana, katakana, and kanji, before showing you how to write your name in Japanese, which you can take home on a small souvenir.
In the evening, take a walk through the bustling streets of Pontocho. These streets are right next to the Kamogawa River and packed with restaurants and bars that offer an array of mouthwatering food and beverages.
Day 10: Travel to Nara Deer-Filled Temple - Karaoke Evening
Before departing for Nara, you will visit what is arguably the most famous shrine in Japan, Fushimi Inari. Featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, this shrine has over 10 000 picturesque red 'torii' gates that have been donated by people and various businesses across Japan to honor the god Inari. You will enjoy its beauty early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
Afterward, you will travel to the city of Nara. This was Japan's first-ever permanent capital. The grounds not only house several historical and important temples but they are also teeming with friendly deer. You will get the chance to take in the fascinating history of Todaiji temple while admiring its statue of Buddha, one of the largest in the country.
Those who are interested in trying out another Japanese pastime can head to a karaoke bar to enjoy an entertaining evening of belting out tunes with new friends.
Day 11: Explore Arashiyama Before Departure
On your last day in Japan, you will get the opportunity to learn zen meditation and clear your mind with the guidance of a Buddhist monk. Buddhism is one of the two major religions in Japan and this class will allow you to experience the important practice first-hand.
After a rejuvenating meditation session, you will head to the nearby area of Arashiyama to visit Tenryuji Temple, one of Kyoto's great zen temples and a UNESCO world heritage site. Built in the 14th century, the temple has a rare garden that is preserved with its original layout. A short walk will take you to the beautiful Arashiyama Bamboo Grove that will make you feel like you have been transported to another realm.
Your final location for the trip is Nijo Castle. With its intricate architecture built in the feudal period, this historic castle remains virtually unspoiled. It is also rich with the history of the Shogun and Imperial family who used to reside in the castle.
One last bullet train ride will take you back to where the trip started, the bustling streets of Tokyo. Here you will say final goodbyes before flying back home or staying on for some more self-exploration. Until next time!