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Traditional versus modern, nature versus urban – Japan is a land of contrasts. This exhilarating tour encompasses it all, delving deeper into Japan's rich past, present and future, covering robot restaurants to tranquil temples to potent saké and all that's in-between
Ireland - Tokyo (3N) - Mt Fuji (1N) - Nagano (1N) - Takayama (1N) - Kyoto (2N) - Koya (1N) - Himeji - Osaka (2N) - Ireland
Fly overnight to the dazzling metropolis of Tokyo, Japan’s capital city. Depending on your time of arrival the rest of the day is yours to start soaking up the local culture.
Today you will explore the two sides of Tokyo, the modern and the traditional. The city tour begins at the Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower at 634 metres. From the top, on a clear day, you may catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji. Close by is Asakusa, at the heart of which is Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, and the vibrant Nakamise shopping street. This afternoon includes a stop at the famous Shibuya road crossing, the tranquil Meiji Shrine and the vibrant district of Harajuku. Finally, it’s time for a uniquely Tokyo experience – the Robot Restaurant. Here you’ll experience what can only be described as a sci-fi cabaret – utterly surreal and only in Japan! Dinner is at leisure. (B)
This morning, try your hand at traditional Japanese drumming with a Taiko class, where you will learn the fundamental techniques of beating the ‘wadaiko’ with ‘bachi’. Next, head to the district of Akihabara, Tokyo’s electronics district. Wander the neon-billboarded streets and visit a Maid Café, one of Tokyo’s most popular types of themed establishments. This afternoon, explore Tokyo’s past at the Edo-Tokyo Museum or Tokyo National Museum. (B)
The perfectly symmetrical cone of mighty Mount Fuji is the iconic image of Japan – this morning you will journey out of Tokyo into some of Japan’s beautiful rurality at the foot of the mountain. Pick up a hiking trail and tramp through alpine forest, across meadows and around lakes at the Fuji’s base, pausing often to gaze on the peak towering above you. (B,D)
Travel to Matsumoto and explore the magnificent Matsumoto Castle, also known as ‘Crow Castle’ due to its black exterior. Continue to Naganao, stopping in Yudanaka to visit the Japanese Macaques, or Snow Monkeys, at the Jigokudani Yaen-Koen (Monkey Park). These creatures are unique in the fact that they make use of the area’s natural hot springs, bathing and playing in and around the water. (B)
Travel to Hotaka and ride up into the Japanese Alps on the Shin-Hotaka Ropeway, reaching an observation platform at 2,156 metres, which gives breathtaking views over the surrounding mountains (weather permitting). Drive to Takayama where you will be staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn with onsen facilities. Here you can relax and bathe in the natural hot spring pools and experience this most traditional pastime. This afternoon you will have time to explore Kamisannomachi Street and sample the street foodon offer. This evening, enjoy a Hida beef dinner. (B,D)
Take a Limited Express train to Nagoya, where you’ll change onto a Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. This afternoon, start discovering Kyoto’s rich heritage with a visit to the enchanting Fushimi Inari Shrine with its pathway of vermillion torii gates before admiring the views over the city from Kiyomizu Temple. Stroll around the old neighbourhoods of Higashiyama and Gion, the geisha district, with a stop at Gion Corner, that showcases the seven professional performing arts. (B)
This morning, take a half day tour of Kyoto by bicycle, starting at Kinkaku-ji, the ‘Golden Pavilion’, before contemplating Zen at Ryoanji, Japan’s most famous classical garden. Continue to the Arashiyama district where you will have some free time to explore the Bamboo Forest. Later in the afternoon, witness the rituals involved in the preparation and pouring of matcha tea in a traditional tea ceremony. (B)
Spend the morning exploring the craft of kimono creation and the complicated process of dressing in a traditional kimono at Nishijin Textile Centre, before a cultural experience that will see you learning the paperfolding art of origami. This afternoon, travel by road to Koya-san, where you will spend the night in a 13th-century temple sleeping on a traditional tatami mat floor. (B,D)
Rise early to join the monks for their daily morning service – hearing the recitation and chanting is a magical experience. After breakfast, take a walking tour of Koya-san. One of Japan’s holiest sights, this mountain top sanctuary is full of temples and pagodas to explore. Pay a visit to Kongobuji temple and Okunoin cemetery before travelling to Osaka. (B)
Take a day tour to Himeji, visiting the 17th-century Himeji Castle which is considered a prime example of Japanese feudal period architecture. Continue on to a sake brewery, where you can learn about the brewing process of this potent rice wine and enjoy some tasters. Return to Osaka and experience the bright and brash Dotonbori district. (B)
Transfer to the airport and fly to Ireland, arriving home the same or following day. (B)