- Travel back in time to Edo-era Japan at Edo Wonderland
- Enjoy a BBQ on the black-sand beaches of Hachijojima
- Drink in the beauty of Takachiho Gorge
- Visit the smallest island village in Tokyo
- Hike through centuries-old forests in Yakushima
|Day 1||Welcome to Japan!||Tokyo|
|Day 2||Time Travel to Edo-Era Japan||Tokyo|
|Day 3||From Sweet-Making to a Sake Brewery||Tokyo|
|Days 4-5||Sacred Mountain Mystics||Tsuruoka|
|Day 6||The Mummies of Tsuruoka||Tokyo|
|Days 7-8||Tokyo's Hidden Islands||Izu Islands|
|Day 9||Night Out in Osaka||Osaka|
|Day 10||Osaka From All Angles||Osaka|
|Day 11||From Kansai to Kyushu||Kagoshima|
|Day 12||Yakushima, UNESCO World Heritage Island||Yakushima|
|Day 13||Trekking the Mystical Forests of Yakushima||Yakushima|
|Day 14||Magical Town of the Gods||Takachiho|
|Day 15||Taking in Takachiho's Beauty||Kumamoto|
|Day 16||Saying Farewell in the Shadow of Mount Fuji|
Day 1: Welcome to Japan
Your first day starts with orientation and an introduction to the world’s biggest city. Expect to hit the ground running—literally—with a trip to Chiba to take on Japan’s largest obstacle course. Then, hop on a train to visit one of Yokohama’s more eccentric oddities—the Cup Noodle Museum—and create your own custom ramen with all of the trimmings you desire. Take time to peruse the noodle bazaar, which boasts noodle dishes from all over the world. And for those who are feeling especially bold, why not try the ramen-flavored ice-cream?
Day 2: Time Travel to Edo-Era Japan
Today, you'll make your way to the UNESCO-listed Toshogu Shrine, one of the most ornate and beautiful shrines in all of Japan. This historically significant structure also serves as a mausoleum that deifies the man who unified Japan, making it an extremely sacred place for the Shinto religion. Toshogu is set against a backdrop of forested mountains, which is an attraction in and of itself.
From there, slip back into time and experience life as it was in 17th-century Japan with a visit to Edo Wonderland. This cultural theme park and open-air museum is all about light-hearted enjoyment. Bring out the fun in you and dress up in traditional Edo attire. Choose from a variety of activities like hariko-doll painting, makeup artistry, samurai sword fighting, and archery to name but a few. You also highly recommend the fantastic ninja and magic shows, mazes, and ninja trick house.
Day 3: From Sweet-Making to a Sake Brewery
Start your day with a wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) workshop. Witness and emulate your teacher's meticulous attention to detail as you create your own sweets. Fair warning though—you may find them too pretty to eat!
Then hop a train to a sake brewery just outside of the city, where you will enjoy a guided tour. Sake is more than a beverage in Japan—it carries a vast amount of meaning and spiritual significance. Here you will learn all about the intricate process behind the creation of this rice wine as well as tantalize your taste buds with samples from the brewery's store.
On your return to Tokyo, you can look forward to a free evening to explore the city.
Days 4-5: Sacred Mountain Mystics
Leave the 21st century behind as you enter into the world of the Yamabushi (mountain mystics). The Tsuruoka area is inhabited by many followers of the Shugendo faith. Cell phone usage will be limited during this period of your travels, as you enter an area inhabited by mountain ascetics, who have foregone material possession in favor of spiritual growth and harmony with nature.
Throughout this two-day period you will hike the three sacred mountains that represent birth, death, and rebirth. This leg of your trip will help us to reconnect with nature, present us with the opportunity to learn more about Japanese mysticism, and the sacredness that nature holds in the Shinto religion. Historically, the Yamabushi were men who were famous for their astonishing physical strength and seemingly magical abilities. While here, you will train with them and learn about the spiritual attributes that the mountains possess and the principles of Shugendo.
*Hiking Mount Yudono and Mount Gassan is only possible during the summer season. These hikes are somewhat challenging so a high level of physical fitness is required. Please be aware of this when booking.
Day 6: The Mummies of Tsuruoka
Our final morning in the mountains will be spent learning about the Yamabushi's fascinating and slightly disturbing practice of self-mummification. This mummification process took monk's 1,000 days to complete, during which they ate nothing but nuts, seeds, and tea laced with poison. You'll learn about the rest of the process when you arrive!
A couple of bullet trains will then take us to Tokyo, where you will be able to get dinner before boarding the ferry to your first island destination. An upgrade to a private bunk is available on request for an additional fee.
Days 7-8: Tokyo's Hidden Islands
Start your day by visiting one of the islands that also happens to be the smallest village in Japan.* With a population of just over 100 people, the entire island is also a small, lush dormant volcano out in the Pacific Ocean. You'll arrive by ferry. Here you'll have some of the best stargazing in Japan. Allow the ocean waves to soothe you, as you let time slow down and experience the island lifestyle, culture, and a unique Shochu (Japanse distilled drink) that can only be tasted there.
The island experience continues the next day as you move onto Hachijojima. For those wanting to travel in style, why not go by helicopter?** The views on this short trip from Aogashima to Hachijojima are fantastic. Upon arrival, you get to enjoy the hot springs of Miharashi onsen (Japanese hot spring) while taking in the pristine ocean views. The onsen is also equipped with a routenburo (an open air bath). Our day ends with a BBQ on Sokodo beach—famous for its beautiful, black sands. During the summer months, Hachijojima is home to bioluminescent mushrooms, and you may catch a glimpse of them.
Access to Aogashima may be hindered by inclement weather conditions. Should this be the case you will remain on Hachijojima. Therefore, the itinerary items that relate to Aogashima are not guaranteed and are largely dependent upon the weather conditions at the time that you arrive to Hachijojima. More information will be provided during orientation.
Day 9: Night Out in Osaka
A large part of the day will be spent traveling as you exchange island vibes for city life on your journey south to Osaka. Upon arrival in the Kansai Region's largest city, you’ll check-in to your accommodation, freshen up, and then head for a night out.
Day 10: Osaka From All Angles
Say hello to one of Japan’s most vibrant cities as you visit one of the country’s most famous landmarks—Osaka Castle. The castle grounds span 15-acres and provides a panoramic view of the city. You will begin on a boat trip around the moat that encircles the castle. From there, you’ll journey inward to learn about the pivotal role that the Osaka Castle played in unifying the nation of Japan.
The rest of the day will be catered to your interest as you explore the city of Osaka with the assistance of your guide. At night, you’ll meet up again to discover the nightlife of Osaka by starting off with a river cruise through the Tombori area. Next, you’ll hit the streets of the city’s nightclub district, before heading back to rest.
Day 11: From Kansai to Kyushu
The exploration of Osaka continues today as you let you loose to experience more of Osaka’s many attractions, before heading to the southernmost tip of the Kyushu Island, Kagoshima. Osaka is your oyster with the whole day allocated for free time. There are countless things to do in Osaka and your guide will provide you with recommendations. All of your travel expenses and most activities will either be completely covered or discounted.
Once you arrive in Kagoshima, you will treat ourselves to the unique dishes and flavors of this coastal city.
Day 12: Yakushima, UNESCO World Heritage Island
Our day begins with a short ferry ride from Kagoshima Port to the shores of Japan’s largest designated UNESCO World Heritage Reserve, Yakushima. Our third island destination for this tour, Yakushima, has been the inspiration for many stories, anime, and movies, including the multi-award winning animated film Princess Mononoke.
The dense and ancient forests of the island are home to a variety of fauna and flora, including many deer, monkeys, and trees that date back 5,000+ years. Our journey starts with a short tour where you will hear a brief history of the island and its unique characteristics. You then head to a woodworking class where you can craft your own chopsticks out of the Yakusugi cedar wood that is indigenous to the island.
Day 13: Trekking the Mystical Forests of Yakushima
Don your hiking shoes and get ready for a forest adventure unlike any you’ve ever experienced! This all-day hike has multiple sights to enjoy, including the supernatural Jomon Sugi is the largest and oldest yakusugi on the island, and the largest conifer in Japan.
The hike will also include a stop at the Unsuikyo Ravine for a heart-pumping canyoning experience before continuing your trek to Wilson’s Stump, which is big enough to fit a shrine and one person inside. You'll have the opportunity to go inside the stump, if you wish.
Day 14: Magical Town of the Gods
From the ancient magical island of Yakushima to the mythical town of Takachiho, you head to a cultural and spiritual place that is the setting for multiple Shinto legends and holds a lot of significance in the Shinto belief system. It is home to the spot where the goddess Amaterasu is said to have hid inside a cave, and caused the world to fall into darkness. Takachiho is said to be the place where Niniginomikoto, grandson of Amaterasu and great-grandfather of Japan’s first emperor, descended to govern the world.
There is plenty to learn and experience at this mystical spot and you begin your time here with a show at Takachiho’s Kagura Hall, where performers play the role of the gods themselves to tell us their story.
*Due to tsunami damages, the train to Takachiho has been indefinitely suspended. Reaching this remote location will have to be made by bus, which will take time.
Day 15: Taking in Takachiho's Beauty
Today, you'll explore the town by bike. Start the day at the Amanoiwato Shrine, where Amaterasu is said to have hid herself, and her light from the world. When Amaterasu sent her grandson to Earth to govern, one of his missions was to plant rice. You’ll make your way through the picturesque Tochimata terraced rice fields before moving on to the Amaterasu Railway Station where you’ll board an open-air, roofless train to get a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.
After this, you’ll revisit the Takachiho Shrine. The daytime light will provide us with a chance to see the shrine in all its glory as well as the monolithic cedars in front of the shrine.
From there you’ll make your way down to the famous Takachiho Gorge and—if you are interested— you can rent row boats to explore an area of the river. Before saying goodbye to the town of legends, you take a short hike from the Mihashi bridge to the visit both Kihachi’s strength rock and the Sandan-Bashi (series of arch bridges) of the gorge.
Spend your last night in Kumamoto city, eating, and drinking to celebrate your time together and the memories you’ve created.
Day 16: Saying Farewell in the Shadow of Mount Fuji
Finish up your tour with a visit to Hatsushima, which boasts pristine views of Mount Fuji. This island is the fourth and last island on your trip back to Tokyo, and is near Atami. Positioned in the shadow of the iconic Mount Fuji, Hatsushima houses many different activities, including a canopy walk and zip-line facility, which you will have the option to enjoy.
Spend your day here before saying your goodbyes back in Tokyo.