Japan in May - Spring Tours 2024

Tokyo skyline Kyoto Kyoto Gion

Japan in May 2024 Tours

May in Japan is still spring, but we welcome warmer and more settled weather.  The cherry blossom gives way to wisteria and it is a great time for travelling before the hotter summer months arrive.  For previous years we have conducted several tours during the month of May.  These have incorporated many of the famous sights of Japan with an exotic mix of locations including traditional experiences like onsen and ryokan stays through to the modern Japan of today as seen in Tokyo.   

For May 2024 we intend to repeat a version of our garden themed Best of Japan tour with a schedule covering just over two weeks.  As with many of our trips there is flexibility and while we highlight some of the beautiful gardens and landscapes of Japan, there is a lot more to experience across the two weeks.  There are also optional additions at either the start or end of the trip. 

If you are interested in joining, or would like your own custom trip during May, you can use the contact us form or email us at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz.

Schedule - Japan Spring Garden Tour (May 2024)

Due to scheduling of private tours we are unable to offer this spring tour during May.  As at December 2023 we have scheduled a "Best of Japan" tour for June 2024.

Saturday 11th May Tokyo: The start of the tour is Saturday 11th and this is treated as the arrivals day. Some guests may be arriving into Japan in the days before the official start of the tour and will therefore have this as a free day in Tokyo.

Sunday 12th May Tokyo: Start the day with a visit to Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo.  Features of the temple are the Asukusa Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate"), Hozomon and five story pagoda. An array of stalls lines the approach to the temple, known as Nakamise Street.

Departing Sensoji we head to the nearby Ueno and the expansive Ueno Park. The park contains several museums (including Tokyo National Museum that we visit) and the beautiful Tōshō-gū shine that enshrines the first Shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Finishing our visit in Ueno we include a walk through the old style market of Ameya-Yokocho with its many varied stalls and small shops including many located under the railway tracks.

Monday 13th May Tokyo to Okayama: From Tokyo we travel south to Okayama.  Arriving into Okayama midday, the afternoon is reserved for visiting the Korakuen Japanese garden.  Korakuen is ranked as one of Japan's three best landscape gardens. It is located just beside Okayama Castle, the main building of Okayama Castle is the six story castle keep.

Tuesday 14th May Okayama: From Okayama visit the island of Shikoku. The "Marine Liner" train connects directly to Takamatsu. The journey includes the Great Seto Bridge, the world's longest double layer bridge at 13 km.  Time in the city can be used for time viewing the Ritsurin Koen (park). Linking to the Takamatsu castle ruins is its famous covered shopping arcade, and while many cities have covered shopping streets, the one in Takamatsu is especially long.

Wednesday 15th May Okayama: A short trip south of Okayama is the township of Kurashiki and the picturesque Bikan Historical Quarter and canal district. The preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867).  Some of the buildings have been converted into museums (there are more than a dozen in the area) and includes the Japan Rural Toy Museum displays toys from the 1600s to the 1980s. The Archaeological Museum has artefacts from more ancient cultures, and there is also a natural history museum.  As a more relaxed day of sightseeing there is le time for you to explore the area before returning to Okayama in the late afternoon.

Thursday 16th May Okayama to Hiroshima: The journey south to Hiroshima is quite quick allowing a visit to the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city during the morning.  After lunch, we head to the rebuilt Hiroshima Castle and the Shukkei-en garden (landscape in miniture.

Friday 17th May Hiroshima: The day is dedicated to a visit to the famous Miyajima Island.  Highlights include the Daishoin Temple and Itsukushima Shrine. This is the location of the famous "floating" torii gate. Also on the island we make use of the ropeway (cable car) and head to the top of Mount Misen for views across the Seto inland sea.

Saturday 18th May Hiroshima to Kyoto: Leaving Hiroshima we take the shinkansen to Kyoto, which delivers us to the previous, historic capital of Japan. During the afternoon we visit the 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. 

Sunday 19th May Kyoto: Start the day by visiting the "golden pavilion" Kinkaku-ji in the north east of the city before visiting the nearby Ryoan-ji Temple. Ryoan-ji is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden. From Ryoan-ji we then head to Nijo Castle for the elaborately decorated palace buildings (one the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era), and its beautiful palace garden.

From Nijo the central city area is a short subway ride away. The afternoon is available to explore the 300 year old Teramachi shopping covered street and the 400 year old Nishiki Markets (known as Kyoto's kitchen).  The quaint Pontocho district and the Gion quarter are also nearby for those wishing to explore during the afternoon.

Monday 20th May Kyoto: To experience one of the most important cultural and historic places in Japan, we visit Nara, Japan's first capital. Nara boasts many temples and shrines, too many to visit in a single day.  We do visit Todaiji Temple which houses the world's largest bronze Buddha in one of the world's largest wooden buildings, the Kagusa Shinto shrine and its thousands of lanterns, and the Nara Deer Park with many deer roaming the precincts.   

Tuesday 21st May Kyoto to Kanazawa: From Kyoto we take the 'Thunderbird' Express train to Kanazawa.

Arriving midday we can visit the Omicho seafood and produce market for lunch at one of the sushi restaurants.  The market exhibits a wide range of products with one of the local specialities being huge snow crabs. 

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

Wednesday 22nd May Kanazawa to Takayama:  Kanazawa has a number of additional attractions including an old Chaya district and a small samurai district that are available for an early morning visit. Later in the morning we leave Kanazawa for the Japanese Alps to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of Takayama. The journey from takes us through some very scenic valleys and into the mountain interior of central Japan.

After arrival there is time to explore the town's preserved historic district and shops on foot. The local specialty is Hida beef, very good quality - we recommend enjoying it at one of the local bbq restaurants.

Thursday 23rd May Takayama: The morning is available to 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 is the 'Showa' period museum (covering exhibits from  1926 to 1989).  The museum is set up as a set of small shops/buildings that you walk through and is a great place for nostalgia.  After lunch we head to the Hida no Sato open air museum with many examples of "gassho" style buildings (similar to those found at Shirakawa-go but without the hour long bus trip.)

Friday 24th May Takayama to Tokyo: Departing from Takayama there is a scenic route continuing through the mountains to the castle town of Matsumoto.  From Matsumoto there is an express train directly back to Shinjuku and Tokyo.

Saturday 25th May Tokyo: There are many great gardens in and around Tokyo that are worth visiting including the Shinjuku National Gardens or the huge Showa Memorial Gardens in western Tokyo.  As day trips the Kairakuen Garden in Mito is ranked among Japan's three finest landscape gardens, or the Asikaga Flower Garden Park are possible destinations.

Alternatively, the day can be used to visit one of the other famous locations in the city such as the Meiji Shrine, or simply used as free time.

Sunday 26th May Tokyo: Final time in Tokyo before heading to the airport for your flight home.

Price Inclusions/exclusions

The price for the full sixteen day Japan Spring Garden Tour including accommodation for fifteen nights, is from JPY745,000 per person share twin/double.   

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.  

Bookings and Inquiries

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