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HEART OF ANCIENT JAPAN

  • Overview
  • Accommodation
  • Itinerary
  • Fares

A journey overview

  • Tokyo
  • Hakone
  • Kanazawa
  • Takayama
  • Kyoto
  • Nara
  • Hiroshima
  • Miyajima
  • Kumamoto
  • Tokyo

16 Days Exploration
  • Departing:
  • 20 Mar 2023 New release

Journey deep into Japan’s history, culture and the psyche of its people. Just 24 guests will travel the breadth of the country’s main island, Honshu, and discover a world of Shinto shrines, historic and perfectly preserved laneways, and tantalising cuisine. We travel during the height of cherry blossom season, tread the Philosopher’s Path and admire the exquisite arts of the geisha.

Map
Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go

Culture in All its Forms

Witness firsthand the enchantment of Kyoto’s geisha during a performance. See the traditional thatched-roof farmhouses of the World Heritage-listed village of Shirakawa-go. And dine on the finest regional cuisine, from sushi to okonomiyaki, accompanied by some of the island’s renowned sake. 

 

Tokyo
Tokyo

Tokyo Immersion

Over four days, discover Tokyo your way, with multiple Your World experiences on offer. Visit the city’s oldest temple, brush up on your sword knowledge, unearth some rare finds at the Tsukiji Outer Market or wander the grounds of the Imperial Palace. 

Deer of Nara
Deer of Nara

Meet the Deer of Nara

Once considered messengers of the gods, Nara’s tame deer meander their way through the grounds of Nara’s Deer Park, seemingly without purpose. They figured out long ago, however, that where there are people, there is also food. 

 

Kinkaku-ji
Kinkaku-ji

A Wealth of Choice in Kyoto

Four full days gives us plenty of time to get to know the former capital. Familiarise yourself with the techniques of the city’s chefs. Be struck by the dazzling façade of golden Kinkaku-ji. And learn the traditional Japanese arts of calligraphy and tea ceremonies. 

Kumamoto
Kyushu

Kyushu’s Key Highlights

While on the island of Kyushu, we spend three nights in the city of Kumamoto. Explore its imposing castle, whose grounds are resplendent during cherry blossom season. In nearby Kagoshima, we find a charming coastal city in the shadow of an active volcano. 

Itinerary

Tour Manager - Suzanne Higman

Tour Doctor - Dr Victoria Hayes

As Your Tour Manager, Suzanne Higman Welcomes You On This Journey

Your Accompanying Tour Doctor For This Journey is Dr Victoria Hayes


We set our sights on Shinto shrines and blushing blossoms in a land where religion and nature join one another in a beautiful and reverential dance. We check in to the Palace Hotel Tokyo in anticipation of tomorrow’s adventures.

Gently waking amid Tokyo’s vast city skyline, you may decide to enjoy this morning on your own schedule. 

This afternoon, embark upon your first Your World experience:

— Visit Asakusa, Tokyo’s Old Town, and absorb the atmosphere of a more traditional Tokyo. While here, admire Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, and browse the wares on offer along Nakamise-dori, the district’s famous shopping street. 
— Visit the Japanese Sword Museum, which boasts a collection of around 190 pieces, including swords, mountings and armour. The museum has a particular focus on masterpieces from the clans of the Heian and Kamakura periods.

While indulging in a tantalising Welcome Dinner, we become acquainted with our fellow travellers, as well as this futuristic city.

Rise early this morning for a Your World experience:

— Browse the celebrated Tsukiji Outer Market, where a vast network of food vendors trade in a great range of delicacies. Having earnt a considerable hunger, enjoy breakfast at a nearby sushi restaurant.
— Alternatively, take time to relax at the Palace Hotel Tokyo. You may like to enjoy breakfast al fresco, with views of the hotel’s moat and its tree-lined embankment.

Afterwards, we come together to discover the pleasures of Tokyo during a short boat cruise. Beginning at Hamarikyu Garden, uncover traditional Edo-period design and admire the striking juxtaposition of classic and modern vistas. Afterwards, skirt the river to Asakusa Kannon Temple. 

This afternoon, you may like to join another Your World experience:

— Retreat to the sanctuary of Meiji Shrine. Built to commemorate Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, its verdant grounds stand in stark contrast to the sensory stimulus that abounds on Tokyo’s nearby streets. While here, receive a Shinto blessing by one of the local priests. 
— Stroll the vast grounds of the Imperial Palace East Gardens. Admire the colossal stone walls, moat and gardens that surround the main residence of Japan’s Imperial Family.

First climbed by an anonymous monk in 663, Mt Fuji is a deeply spiritual destination. Along paths strewn with Shinto shrines, over 200,000 locals and foreigners conquer the summit every year. For those who practice the Shinto religion, the mountain is a place of worship for the goddess Sengen-sama and a representation of the divine spirit of nature. 

Of course, we won’t ask you to strain yourself with the climb. Stunning from afar, absorb the true character of the site from a more reserved position. Drive to Hakone, where we will join a boat ride to Togendai. On the clearest of days, viewing the peak can be a sanctified experience. Enjoy the spectacle during a cable car ride to Owakudani. Returning to Tokyo, a choice of fine restaurants rounds out the evening.

Board a bullet train and shoot towards Kanazawa. Enjoy a bento box on board, sampling traditional Japanese lunch foods and watching as thatched rooftops whip past windows.

Meaning ‘Garden of Six Attributes’, Kenroku-en celebrates the theory that there are six essential elements required for the perfect garden. Later, explore the gated Nagamachi Samurai Houses, then discover the fine work of artisans past at a local museum. See the kitchen of Kanazawa at Omicho Market, whose 170 stores run the gamut of in-demand household items, from fresh fruit and vegetables, to seafood, sweets and clothing. Retreating south, we are guided to Takayama, where we make our home at Hotel Associa Takayama Resort. Drink in mountainous views and absorb the steaming waters of the open-air onsen.

We experience the Miyagawa morning markets in full swing, before walking along Sanmachi Street, where rows of ebony houses line the way. Admire the traditional skills of the local craftsmen at work in this town that proudly retains its traditions and charm. Later, we journey to a village preserved in time – World Heritage-listed Shirakawa-go. The distinctive thatched-roof farmhouses here are built to withstand heavy snowfalls, in a style known as ‘gassho-zukuri’, translating as ‘constructed like hands in prayer’. We visit Wada House, one of the village’s nationally designated Important Cultural Property.

Our southbound journey continues as we board a train to Nagoya. On arrival, we disembark, before making ourselves comfortable aboard one of Japan’s famed bullet trains, or Shinkansens. In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves in the former capital, Kyoto. Here, we delve into history and legend at a number of revered temples and other sacred sites, including Kinkaku-ji Temple and Kyoto Imperial Palace. Stroll the streets of the city’s renowned Gion district and keep your eyes peeled for the geisha who are known to frequent the area. At Nijo Castle, we admire the ornate construction of this onetime imperial palace, which was once the residence of the Edo period’s first shogun. 

Afterwards, lose yourself in the sights, sounds and smells pervading Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s legendary open-air market. Here, you can sample a broad range of foods, from fresh fish to noodles and confectionary; appreciate the work of artisans and tailors; and find rarities unavailable elsewhere. This evening, dine at our home for the following four nights, Westin Miyako Hotel, or perhaps choose to call in on one of the countless fine local eateries.

Shinto shrines dot Kyoto’s landscape, while in nearby Nara, devotees stand beneath the watchful gaze of a giant Buddha statue at Todai-ji Temple. We continue to Deer Park, then onwards to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, where lanterns hang from crimson beams and stone pillars. A visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine closes our time in Nara. 

On our return to Kyoto, we are treated to a well-earned drink at Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. The area’s quality water and rice has led to its reputation for superior sake. This evening, we are treated to a geisha performance during dinner. Admire the graceful movements of the geiko (as geisha are known in Kyoto), accompanied by the strains of a shamisen – a Japanese stringed instrument. At the conclusion of the performance, seize the opportunity to ask questions and also have your photo taken with the geiko.

This morning, we make our way to another of the city’s most recognised temples – Kinkaku-ji, also aptly known as Golden Pavilion. Built as a retirement villa for the shogun, the distinguished structure became a Buddhist temple following his death. We then adjourn to one of Japan’s most iconic sights, the bamboo groves of Arashiyama. Enjoy a rickshaw ride through the groves of towering green bamboo stalks as the wind causes them to gently sway. Later, our journey takes us to one of Kyoto’s most revered Zen temples – Tenryu-ji. Wander along paths through beautifully landscaped gardens, then enter the distinctive temple, which has been rebuilt several times over the centuries, owing to fires and wars. 

This afternoon, choose from two equally enthralling Your World experiences:

— Take an authentic cooking class and sample the distinctive flavours of Japan. 
— Visit Ginkaku-ji, a temple sitting splendidly on the edge of a serene pond, surrounded by pine trees and a garden of raked sand. Then follow the Philosopher’s Path, a picturesque route along a narrow canal.

This evening, select from a tantalising range of Japanese cuisine or western options.

The true riches of Kyoto are found within its deeply rooted connection to the country’s culture and history. Today, Your World is alight with artistic experiences:

— Learn the intricacies of blending and brewing at a traditional tea ceremony. 
— Don silk and sashes during a kimono-tying lesson. Learn the art of wrapping, as well as the techniques used to signify different traditional events. 
— Discover the timeless art of calligraphy – it’s not as easy as it may first appear to be.

This afternoon, more Your World experiences present themselves:

— Take part in a sushi-making class.
— Join a guided walk through Gion, Kyoto’s celebrated geisha district.

We travel by bullet train to Hiroshima this morning. A mosaic of miniature paper cranes speckle Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. We pay our respects here, and also at the remains of Hiroshima’s former Industrial Promotion Hall, now known as the A-Bomb dome. Later this evening, we dine like locals. Hiroshima’s unofficial regional dish, okonomiyaki, is otherwise known as Japanese cabbage pancake. Streets and alleyways are sprinkled with hundreds of grills that showcase this unlikely cuisine. While here, we enjoy a two-night stay at the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel.

A quiet sanctuary, where a vermilion torii gate floats just out of reach. Miyajima, just a touch away from the rest of the world, is a gateway to ancient times. We travel to the island’s shores and admire the Itsukushima Shrine. A Shinto monument that dates back to the 12th century, its iconic torii gate is best viewed at high tide – and since we spend a full day on the island, we’re sure to sneak a glimpse of it floating eerily above the surface. Enjoy time to explore the island on your own schedule. Perhaps sample the local speciality, momiji manju (sweet maple leaf-shaped cakes) or take a stroll through the shrine’s fascinating prayer hall. 

Venture to Kumamoto today, pausing en route in Hakata to discover the ceramic district of Arita. Delve into the region’s history of pottery at the Kyushu Ceramic Museum. Delicate porcelain and terracotta decorate aged walls. At our final port of call, The Blossom Kumamoto, the revered Kumamoto Castle and clear mountain ranges can be spied from our windows. We put our feet up this evening, drink in hand, and cherish the view.

Kagoshima rests in the shadow of Sakurajima Volcano. The town turns a blind eye to the mountain’s frequent winks of ash, grey and silver flakes dancing across the bay. Visit the traditional garden of Iso-Teien and continue to Shoko Shuseikan. Return to Kumamoto the same way we arrived – by bullet train of course. 

We explore Kumamoto today, visiting the Kumamoto Castle – dustings of pink and ivory blossoms fluttering into view. Explore the exterior, renowned for its fine hanami (flower viewing) and touch on Suizenji Park and its elaborate garden, which features a miniature replica of Mt Fuji. Later, we are able to view the ranges surrounding Mt Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano. As it’s our last evening together, we celebrate with a Farewell Dinner.

The morning is yours for personal reflection. Enjoy a private moment of peace, or squeeze in some last-minute sightseeing. This afternoon, we fly back to Tokyo, where our journey concludes. 

Keep Exploring

Castles, Cuisine & Customs of Japan

Castles, Cuisine & Customs of Japan

From Mt Fuji to Matsumoto, sake tastings to snow monkeys, bamboo groves to bullet trains. Join us on this exclusive journey reserved for just 24 travellers, where we celebrate the contrast of ancient custom and innovation.

EVERYTHING CONSIDERED & INCLUDED

Curating journeys for over 25 years, we know that sometimes travelling can be a chore. Enjoy each enriching experience, knowing we have considered every last detail.
Margaret River

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