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Overview

Be enthralled by Kansai region, Japan’s cultural and historical centre. Explore UNESCO-heritage sites in and around Kyoto then travel to cosmopolitan Kobe where ancient monuments stand as testament to the city’s colourful past. Wrap up the trip with a bike ride in flamboyant Osaka to discover the city’s softer side.

Trip Highlights

Complete Kansai

Explore Kyoto’s outskirts

Visit Uji to sip tea and admire its famous Byodo-in Temple then continue to Nara, Japan’s ancient capital.

Tour Osaka by bike

Pedal through the city’s back lanes to see expansive parks, Osaka Castle, the country’s mint and urban neighbourhoods.

Visit UNESCO-heritage Himeji Castle

Travel to Kobe’s outskirts to visit one of Japan’s last remaining castles, admiring the incredible architecture of this 17th-century monument.

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Kyoto

Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Central Kyoto: 2 h

Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport, our representatives will be waiting to provide assistance with transport (via shared shuttle) to the hotel in Kyoto.

The rest of the day is free at leisure.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

In the evening, we suggest going to Gion for an evening walk in the so-called “geisha district.” This area is one of Kyoto’s hanamachi (flower town), the place where Geisha’s live and work. It is also home to shops, restaurants, and ochaya (teahouses) inside well-preserved machiya (old houses). Don’t miss Hanami-koji, known to be the most popular street in Gion because of its lavish ochaya lining up the old street. Stop by one of the restaurants to sample kyo-ryori (traditional Kyoto multi-course cuisine). While in Gion, there may even be a chance to spot a maiko (apprentice geisha) as she tries to catch her next appointment.

Overnight in Kyoto

2

Kyoto, Day Trip to Uji and Nara

JR Kyoto Station to JR Uji Station: 28 min JR Uji Station to JR Horyuji Station: 52 min JR Horyuji Station to JR Kyoto Station: 64 min Time: Start (guided tour): 09:00 Duration: 8 h *including pick-up/drop-off and transfer times

This morning, meet the local guide at the hotel and make the trip to Uji and to Ikaruga in Nara.

The first stop is Uji, the tea capital of Japan. Visit the World Heritage-listed Byodo-in Temple, which is one of the most impressive Jodo sect temples in the country. The temple used to have many sub-temples and halls, but during the war many of these buildings were destroyed. What is left now is the Phoenix Hall, which is pictured on the back of the 10-yen coin.

Continue to Taiho-an, an ochaya (teahouse) located near the temple. Witness a Japanese tea ceremony and enjoy the authentic taste of Uji’s matcha (green tea). (Note: There might be long queues in the teahouse, especially during peak seasons).

At noon, take the train to Ikaruga in Nara. During the 8th century, Nara was Japan’s capital for 74 years, and most of the temples and shrines back then still exist today.

Visit Horyu-ji Temple, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Nara’s Seven Great Temples. What’s incredible about this temple is that it houses some of the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures – the main hall and the five-story pagoda, which are both located in the western wing of the temple.

After the tour, the guide will provide an escort back to the hotel.

Overnight in Kyoto

3

Kyoto – Kobe

JR Kyoto Station to JR Sannomiya Station: 50 min JR Kyoto Station to JR Shin-Kobe Station: 28mins *via Shinkansen Nozomi

Today is a self-guided day.

As today is the final day in Kyoto, leave the city later in the afternoon in order to explore more of the wonders of Kyoto. As Kyoto has some beautiful walks, we recommend wearing comfortable shoes and exploring the city by foot.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Visit Nanzen-ji, one of the largest and the most important Zen temples in Japan. Its vast temple grounds are open free to the public and can be really beautiful especially during the “color seasons” of spring and autumn.

Just a short walk from Nanzen-ji is Zenrin-ji, the temple more commonly known as “Eikando.” It was named after the popular head priest, Eikan, who discovered the unique statue of Amida Buddha, the main object of worship in the temple. Zenrin-ji is also famous for its foliage scenery during autumn season. The vibrant colors of the leaves in the temple are indeed one of the most popular in Kyoto.

Located north of Zenrin-ji is the famous Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-michi), which is lined with sakura (cherry) trees on both sides and follows a tranquil canal. A couple of cafés and local shops can be found along this 2-kilometer path, and some of Kyoto’s popular shrines and temples are also located nearby.

After a short stroll, head west to Yoshidayama, a hill that is home to two of Kyoto’s loveliest and least visited temples – Kurodani Temple and Shinnyodo Temple. Continue forward and climb Mt. Yoshida and wander through the greenery and admire the views from Yoshida Park. Descend from the hill to Yoshida Shrine, a fascinating complex of shrines surrounded by a lovely forest.

Note: The total distance covered in this itinerary is approx. 5km (4hrs).

Just an hour by train from Kyoto is the harbor city of Kobe. During the Meiji period, Kobe was established as one of the two major trading ports for foreign commerce in Japan, serving as the import and export base for wool, cotton, and other raw materials. Because of this, foreign culture has flourished in Kobe, making the city the home to one of the first foreign settlements in the country.

The rest of the day is free at leisure.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Head to Kobe Chinatown (Nankin-machi), the center of the Chinese community in Kansai region and one of the only three Chinatowns in Japan. Explore the wide array of Chinese dishes, sweets, and other merchandise spread across its one hundred or so restaurants and shops. It has been said that the atmosphere and the streets in Nankin-machi give a more authentic feel than those in Yokohama and Nagasaki.

Less than a kilometer from Nankin-machi is Meriken Park, a waterfront park that houses two famous landmarks that manifest modern architecture – the Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum. The bay also features a couple of restaurants that serve some local produce.

Overnight in Kobe

4

Himeji and Kobe

JR Sannomiya Station to JR Himeji Station: 41 min JR Shin-Kobe to JR Himeji Station: 16 min JR Sannomiya Station to JR Maiko Station: 19 min Start (guided tour): 09:00 Duration: 8hrs *including pick-up/drop-off and transfer times

This morning, meet the local guide at the hotel and go on a full day of sightseeing in Himeji and around Kobe.

First, travel by train to Himeji, one of the most frequented cities in Hyogo Prefecture. Visit Himeji Castle, the famous white castle in the city of Himeji. It is one of the top 3 castles in Japan because of its architectural design and history. Also called as “Shirasagi-jo” (the White Heron Castle) or “Hakuro-jo” (the White Egret Castle) by some of the locals, Himeji Castle resembles a white bird in flight due to its white exterior and distinctive roof design.

Next will be Koko Garden, which was built in 1992 as a commemoration for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Himeji municipality.

Travel back to Kobe and visit Ikuta Shrine, a quiet Shinto shrine in the heart of Kobe City. Believed to be built around 3rd century AD and probably one of the oldest shrines in the world, this shrine has indeed witnessed a number of unforgettable events in the history of Japan such as the Genpei War, WWII air raids on Kobe, and the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

 

Just a short walk from the shrine is Kitano-cho, where the architecture of some of the so-called ijinkan houses can be found (the houses of Kobe’s first foreign residents).

Afterwards, take the train to Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Japan. Fifty meters above sea level is the Maiko Marine Promenade, a set of observatory hallways beneath the bridge’s platform.

Overnight in Kobe

5

Kobe – Osaka

JR Sannomiya Station to JR Shin-Osaka Station: 25 min JR Shin-Kobe Station to JR Shin-Osaka Station: 15 min Shin-Osaka Station to Namba Station: 15 min Time Start: 16:45 Duration: approx. 3.5 h

This morning, leave Kobe and dive into the colorful world of Osaka. Take the whole day to discover Japan’s 3rd largest city and its flamboyant inhabitants. Osaka is also famous for its amazing street food and unsurprisingly the city’s motto is kuidaore, which literally means “eat-till-you-drop”.

Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

In Osaka, the following places are recommended:

Dotonbori

Dotonbori is a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district. It is well-known for its bright neon lights, energetic shop owners and food stalls that are filled with some local Osakan delights such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and fugu (poisonous puffer fish).

Umeda

Umeda is where most of the city’s most modern buildings are found. Some of the notable buildings are HEP (Hankyu Entertainment Park), which features a big Ferris wheel and is perfect for some last-minute shopping; Kitashinchi District, housing some of the city’s culinary specialties; and the Umeda Sky Building, a pair of skyscrapers connected in “mid-air”, built in an unusual architectural form rarely seen anywhere in the world. Feel the fresh air and enjoy 360-degree panoramic views at the ‘Floating Garden Observatory’.

Today’s tour begins at 16:45. Osaka is an epicurean’s delight. Indeed, the motto that the city’s exuberant inhabitants live by is kuiadore– “to eat oneself bankrupt.” 

The first stop will be at a street food stall to get a taste of some traditional Japanese snack food, menchi katsu. Menchi katsu is a breaded and deep-fried patty made of ground meat. Golden and crisp, this is a local favourite.

Next, head to a standing bar to enjoy the ambience and taste a selection of sake and Japanese wine, along with delicious house specialties. Then, head to a restaurant specialising in wagyu beef dishes. Often referred to as the most expensive beef in the world, wagyu beef is of a superb quality, and is on many a gourmet’s wish list. Enjoy the melt-in-the-mouth textures with a refreshing cocktail.

The final stop will be to try a new style of tempura in an eatery tucked away in a small alleyway. Old favourites such as shrimp tempura, and more experimental combinations such as asparagus tempura and cheese can be found on the menu.

Bid farewell to the affable guide, and either return to the hotel or go for a stroll around the neighbourhood to take in the sights.  

Overnight in Osaka

6

Departure from Osaka

Namba Station to Kansai International Airport: 45 min

The rest of the day is free at leisure until the included transfer by train to Kansai International Airport.

Important Information

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • Meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport

PASMO Transport Card at a value of 6,500 JPY from Days 1 to 5

(Note: Additional credit will be charged by our guides to cover transportation during guided days. Clients are free to further charge their card should they wish to make use of it during self-guided days).

  • English-speaking guide on Day 2 (Kyoto) and Day 4 (Kobe)
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary on Days 2 and 4
  • Osaka Soul Food Tour on Day 5
  • Information Pack

Our Services Do Not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately).
  • Some local transport.
  • Meals other than mentioned above.
  • Personal expenses (e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone, and other expenditures of a personal nature).
  • Travel insurance (please see below).
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.

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