Best of Japan - Best Tours of Japan

Meiji Mura Arashiyama Miyajima

Best of Japan Tour

What to see in Japan? It does not matter if you are lacking inspiration or detailed knowledge about the best that Japan has to offer.  We have designed our Best of Japan tour to provide an in-depth and immersive experience across a two week tour around Japan.  This tour includes a range of the famous, historic and noteworthy sights and this schedule is designed to showcase the variety and beauty of the country.  From the metropolis of Tokyo, the cultural and historic areas of Kyoto, to the mountain township of Takayama; our "Best of Japan" tours allow you to experience some of the best attractions in Japan.

As we provide custom tours, we can personalise the schedule for you and work around your preferred travel dates.  Alternatively, check out our other scheduled tours, design your own tour of Japan to suit your own interests, or let us suggest what to see in Japan.  We often review our tour schedules to improve the experience we can offer, and this includes tailoring locations for day-trips or overnight stays.

We usually run our Best of Japan tours based on the dates that suit you.  You can use the contact us form or email us at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz to request specific dates or join one of the scheduled tours that we are running.

We do have a "Best of Japan" trip scheduled for the beginning of the cherry blossom season in March providing an opportunity to combine the best the country has to offer at one of the most beautiful times of the year.  Dates are 16th to 29th March 2019.

"Was our holiday excellent? No, it wasn't, it was INSANELY excellent. The tour met all our expectations and much more. It was tailored to meet all demands. Our guides, Wendy, Koji and Patrick could not be more kind, friendly, patient, helpful and knowledgeable. Hotel accommodation was luxurious." Customer review October 2017. 

Schedule

Day 1 Tokyo:  We will meet you at the airport (Narita or Haneda).  After clearing immigration, luggage collection and customs, meet us at the exit in the arrivals hall.  We then transfer to our Tokyo hotel in the centre of the city.  Options include seeing some of the city, dining out or just sleep if you are jetlagged. 

Day 2 Tokyo: We start the day with a visit to Asukusa and Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo.  Passing through the Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate"), we view the stalls of Nakamise Street established more than 300 years ago, providing a wide range of souvenirs and snacks on the approach to the second main gate, Hozomon.  The temple complex includes a five story pagoda, Sensoji Temple and a number of other sub-temples in the nearby area.

Departing Asakusa we then head to Ueno which provides some good options and variety for lunch adjacent to the expansive Ueno Park. The park also contains several museums (including Tokyo National Museum that we will visit) and Tokyo Zoo (optional, one of the main attractions are the giant pandas) and the beautiful Tōshō-gū shine that enshrines the first Shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Day 3 Tokyo: We start the day with a visit to the Meiji Shrine. As an important period of change in Japan's history we explain some of the historical elements of the Meiji Restoration before visiting the shrine buildings located in a central Tokyo forest. As the shrine is adjacent to Harajuku, we then walk through Takeshita Street, which is a trend-setting shopping area for Tokyo youth. Leaving Harajuku there is a distinct transition as we move to the nearby upmarket shopping district of Omotesando to access the subway to take us across to Shinjuku.  

In the afternoon, we head to Shinjuku to see the expansive Shinjuku National Gardens with its large number of cherry trees (Note: the gardens are normally closed Mondays, but are open every day during cherry blossom season). From the gardens, we head to the Golden Gai area of old style bars before seeing Godzilla towering above the night life area of Kabukicho.  We end the day with a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan building for a bird's eye view of the city from the 45th floor (200 meters up).

Day 4 Nikko day trip: Taking the bullet train north and then a local train we visit the famous shrines at Nikko including the lavishly decorated Toshugu shrine and Iemitsu mausoleum. After lunch we take a local bus to scenic Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon falls.  The bus service takes approximately one hour from the shrine area, climbing through the mountain scenery to the lake.

Day 5 Tokyo to Hiroshima: From Tokyo we travel to Hiroshima. This is one of our longer travel days, covering 900km in less than four hours by shinkansen (the high-speed 'bullet' train). As the travel crosses the middle of the day we recommend getting a bento (Japanese lunch box) or other food for lunch, before we board in Tokyo.  With an early afternoon arrival time, there is time to visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city.

Day 6 Hiroshima: Taking advantage of our full day in Hiroshima we have time to explore a couple of different destinations. The main attraction for the day is Miyajima Island and its Itsukushima Shrine. This is the location of the famous 'floating' torii gate. Also on the island we can use the ropeway (cable car) and head to the top of Mount Misen for views across the Seto inland sea. If feeling energetic, the walk back down the mountain provides some good viewing and vantage points (otherwise we can get the ropeway back down).

An option for the start of the day is to visit Iwakuni and the famous Kintai-kyo Bridge. Beyond the bridge is an interesting array of attractions including stores selling 164 flavours of ice cream (as featured on TV), a white snake museum, Kikko shrine and a selections of older style buildings and gardens. We find this area provides an opportunity to see a more 'down-to-earth' side of Japan than the more manicured and established temples and shrines in locations like Kyoto or Nara.

Day 7 Hiroshima to Kyoto: Leaving Hiroshima, we head north by shinkansen to Kyoto. On the way we have an opportunity to visit Himeji and its world famous castle, one of the finest examples of Japanese castle architecture.

With the stop at Himeji taking a couple of hours, we arrive in Kyoto - the historic old capital of Japan - late afternoon. This still gives us time to visit the very accessible Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine with its famous 10,000 torii gates. The walk to the top of Inari Yama (to see all 10,000!) takes a couple of hours and is definitely optional.

Day 8 Kyoto: The day begins with a visit to Nijo Castle (the palace buildings are one the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era). From Nijo we then head to the 'Golden Pavilion' Kinkaku-ji in the north-west of the city.

From Kinkaku-ji, we travel across the city to the beautiful Arashiyama district. At Arashiyama we enjoy the view across the Oi River from the Togetsukyō Bridge and a ride on one of the punt boats on the river can be a relaxing interlude into the day. Among the famous sights in the area is the Sagano bamboo grove (although the large number of tourists makes it hard to get 'travel brochure' photos.) From the bamboo grove we enter the beautiful Tenryu-ji temple gardens before making our way back to the train and the conclusion of the day at Kyoto Station.

Day 9 Kyoto - Day trip to Nara:  To experience one of the most important cultural and historic places in Japan, we visit Nara, Japan's first capital. At Nara there is both Todai-ji temple (with the world's largest bronze Buddha), and Kagusa Shinto shrine. There are sacred deer roaming the park and some excellent souvenir shopping options.

Kyoto does have a lot to offer and some people might like to check some of the other sights and sites in the city.  A few suggestions include:

Day 10 Kyoto to Kanazawa: Continuing our journey across Japan's biggest island (Honshu), we take the 'Thunderbird' Express train to Kanazawa. Arriving around mid-day we visit the Omi-cho food market where we can sample local cuisine including fresh sushi and sashimi for lunch.

After lunch, we head to the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens (one of the top three landscape gardens in Japan) and the Kanazawa Castle. The city also boasts the interesting 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art which is also an option to round out the day.

Day 11 Kanazawa to Takayama: The city has a number of additional attractions including an old Chaya tea house district and a small samurai district, which are available for an early morning visit. 

Later in the morning we leave Kanazawa and travel by shinkansen to Toyama and then by local train into the Japanese Alps, to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of Takayama. The journey from Toyama is through some very scenic valleys and into the mountain regions of central Japan. After arrival there is time to explore the town's historic buildings and shops on foot. The local specialty is Hida beef, very good quality - we recommend enjoying it at one of the local bbq restaurants.

Day 12 Takayama: Explore the town and its easy walking courses; enjoy the local morning markets or visit one of the several small museums and temples scattered around the town. Takayama is famous for its woodworking and its biannual floats festival (matsuri). A visit to the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall is a recommended stop on our tours. An additional stop we have recently added is to 'Showa' period museum. The Showa period covered December 1926 to Jan 1989 and the museum is a great place for nostalgia and a look back to a period in history many people remember fondly.

After lunch visit the world heritage site of Shirakawa-go (a half day bus trip) with its unique steep thatched-roofed houses. The Hida Folk Village provides a different range of historic buildings and could be included in the morning activities.

Day 13 Takayama to Tokyo: Departing from Takayama we travel back through the mountains towards Nagoya, to rejoin the shinkansen network for the bullet train trip back to Tokyo.  With an afternoon arrival time and check-in at your hotel there is some time for exploring the local Tokyo neighbourhood before dinner.

Day 14 Tokyo: To allow time for transfers to the airport (either Haneda or Narita), this last day is scheduled as free time for you to complete last minute sightseeing or shopping.

Price Inclusions/exclusions

For groups of four or more, the price for a fourteen day tour (accommodation for thirteen nights) is from JPY595,000 per person share twin/double.  For a group of two the price is JPY695,000 per person.  Shorter or longer duration tours are also available.  We will discuss with you your requirements before and after the tour regarding any additional nights' accommodation as we can make those hotel bookings for you at cost. We can also convert the Japanese yen price into your local currency for you.

For solo travellers (one person, without a shared room), the cost of accommodation is unable to be shared, but we have a policy to limit the extra cost and have set the price at JPY695,000. 

The price includes:

Exclusions are generally items such as theatre performances, sporting or other special events, theme parks, lunch and evening meals, snacks/drinks and other incidental costs such as hotel room service/laundry.

Flights to/from Japan are also not included in the price or transport arrangements.

Bookings and Inquiries

If you are interested in joining this tour, please contact us or email us directly at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz.


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