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 over-night stays.

We run the 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. 

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 Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate"), Hozomon and pagoda. An array of stalls lines Nakamise Street (the entrance to this shrine) providing a wide range of souvenirs and snacks on the approach to Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo.

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) and Tokyo Zoo (the main attraction of which is a giant panda) and the beautiful Tōshō-gū shine that enshrines the first Shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Day 3 Start with a visit to the Tokyo Metropolitan building for a bird?s eye view of the city from the 45th floor (200 meters up). From there, head to the west side of Shinjuku to the national gardens (58.3 hectares) including an impressive green house and some residual cherry blossom. From the gardens, head to the Golden Gai area of old style bars before seeing Godzilla towering above the night life area of Kabukicho or visiting the small (but interesting) Samurai museum.

Nearby to Shinjuku is the Harajuku area which includes Meiji Shrine. After visiting the shrine explore Takeshita Street which is a trend-setting shopping area for Tokyo youth. For contrast, next to Harajuku is the upmarket shopping district of Omotesando.

Day 4 Nikko day trip: Taking the bullet train north and then the local train to visit the famous shrines at Nikko including the lavishly decorated Toshugu shrine and Iemitsu mausoleum. After the temples and shrines the local bus service takes around an hour to reach lake Chuzenji and the Kegon falls.

Day 5 Tokyo to Kyoto: Leave Tokyo and head south to Kyoto by bullet train.  After depositing luggage at the hotel visit the Fushimi Inari shrine (10,000 torii gates) which is a spectacular location, very easy to get to (right next to the local train station) and is a good option for sightseeing in the late afternoon.  From Fushimi Inari we have several options including Sanjusangendo temple with its 1,000 hand carved statues.

Day 6 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 the beautiful Arashiyama district, enjoy the view across the Oi River from the Togetsukyō Bridge. A visit to the Tenryu-ji temple gardens is very nice, and a ride on one of the punt boats on the river can insert a relaxing interlude to the day. Among the famous sights in the area is the Sagano bamboo grove.

Day 7 Kyoto - day trip 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. We visit several temples and shrines across the day with entry to some and viewing others. There are sacred deer roaming the park and some excellent souvenir shopping options.

Day 8 Kyoto - day trip Hiroshima: We visit Hiroshima as a day trip, achievable using the efficient shinkansen trains and an early start. The highlight is Miyajima Island and Itsukushima Shrine, location of the famous "floating" torii gate. This requires a local train from Hiroshima city and a ferry ride across to the island.  We typically organise the day to allow time to also visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city.

Day 9 Kyoto: Visit Nijo Castle (the palace buildings are one the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era).  Heading back to the centre of the city we have time to explore the 400 year old Nishiki market and 300 year old Teramachi shopping street (and options for lunch).

After lunch head across the main river (Kamo-gawa) towards the Gion district and walk through the historic preservation area of Ishibe Alley to Entoku-in and Kodaiji famous for their hand-painted sliding doors beautifully landscaped grounds.  From here the back streets take us across to Kiyomizudera with its views across the city.

Day 10 Kyoto to Takayama:  Travel by Shinkansen and then local train to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of Takayama. The afternoon provides time to explore the town's historic district and shops on foot. Takayama is famous for its woodworking, but is also home to many sake breweries.  The local specialty is Hida beef, very good quality, and we recommend enjoying it at one of the local bbq restaurants.

Day 11 Takayama: We begin the morning with a visit to riverside market before going to the west side of town  and its preservation district.  Takayama is famous for its biannual floats festival (matsuri) and we visit the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall to appreciate the detail and craftsmanship that goes into the floats.  is a recommended stop on our tours.  For the afternoon we visit the world heritage site at Shirakawa-go.  This small village features a unique collection of steep thatched-roofed houses (gassho style). 

Day 12 Takayama to Kanazawa: Continuing our journey across Japan?s biggest island (Honshu), we take the  Express train to Toyama and a short shinkansen ride to Kanazawa. Here we visit the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens (one of the top three gardens in Japan) and the Kanazawa Castle. Enjoy local cuisine including fresh sushi and sashimi (optional) at the Omi-cho food market. The city also boasts the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art which is a popular attraction.

Day 13 Kanazawa to Nagano: Departing from Kanazawa we head along the west coast of Japan by Shinkansen to Nagano. As the trip is relatively short we arrive around midday in time for lunch. After lunch there is an opportunity to visit the Zenko-ji temple, founded in the 7th century. The temple houses the first Buddhist image in Japan (552CE) and the city grew around the temple. Among the interesting features is the passageway beneath the inner chamber and people search for the ?key to paradise? and numerous important cultural properties.

The temple visit takes us to mid-afternoon and the local train bound for Togura (30 minutes) and then check in at a traditional Japanese Ryokan. Before dinner there is time to have a soak in the ryokan?s onsen (hot spring baths) or explore the neighbourhood (and castle behind the inn). Dinner is traditional keiseki style (course meal) dinner and we normally arrange geisha entertainment (music and dance) as part of the evening meal.

Day 14 Nagano to Tokyo: By shinkansen, we complete the trip across the island and arrive back into Tokyo. The afternoon is available for sightseeing or checking the progress of the cherry blossom back in the capital. (By this stage we will have a better idea of your interests and can target places that you would like to visit.)  

Price Inclusions/exclusions

The price for a fourteen day tour (accommodation for thirteen nights) is from Y595,000 per person share twin/double.  Shorter or longer duration is also available. 

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 priced our tour for a single person at JPY695,000. 

Prices include rail transfers from Narita to Tokyo and 14 day rail pass, entrance fees and tour fees.  Accommodation is selected to average 4-star or higher and will normally include breakfast.  Please let us know if you would like either twin or double beds.

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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