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Overview

Whether they are self-guided days, optional activities or bargainable stays at hotels enjoy a discovery of Japan’s iconic cities tailored according to guests interests and budget.  Opt to go on a Tokyo street photography tour, walk the ancient Nakasendo trail and explore the ancient temples of Kyoto.

Trip Highlights

Chic Japan on a Bargain

Tokyo city discovery

Discover the popular sites and backstreets of the bustling capital city, Tokyo via river cruise, cycling and walking.

Walk the ancient trail of Nakasendo

Today’s walk will alternate between well preserved old towns, fields of local farmers and peaceful woodlands.

Art Galleries of Naoshima

With a self-guided app in hand, explore the eclectic art sculptures in Naoshima and the unique museums. 

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Tokyo

Narita International Airport (NRT) to Central Tokyo: 1.5 h Haneda International Airport (HND) to Central Tokyo: 50 min

Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport, be greeted by a representative and assisted with transportation into the city (either boarding the right train or finding the appropriate shuttle bus). The remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in Tokyo.

2

Tokyo

Meet up with the guide this morning at the hotel for the trip to Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its wide collection of seasonal flowers makes it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo, however its most attractive aspect is its teahouse called Nakajima-no-Ochaya.

Enjoy a break in the teahouse and a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about sado (tea ceremony).

From the park, take a scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through.

In the afternoon, discover another part of Tokyo cycling through some unknown backstreets. Meet the guide, who is sometimes accompanied by his adorable dog “Jack-san,” at Sasazuka Station, and head together to the cycling studio for a bicycle and helmet fitting. On the way, listen to some fascinating insights and entertaining anecdotes about the local neighbourhood, and get some useful explanations from the guide about Tokyo’s cycling etiquette and today’s itinerary.

When everything is ready, depart for today’s cycling tour. Leave Sasazuka with the guide, and cycle to the first location, enjoying the best of Tokyo’s urban design and natural environment on the way. Depending on the season, enjoy the surrounding foliage, which is especially beautiful in the spring when the plum and cherry blossoms bloom, and in the autumn, when the trees are a blaze of colour. There will be several cultural and architectural design stops along the way, where the guide will share interesting information and allow some time for photos.

Bike through Tokyo’s backstreets, local shotengai (small commercial streets) in hip neighbourhoods such as Shimo-Kitazawa, and some little-known parks, seeing the guide’s favourite areas and shops, and stopping for a break at a charming café.

Finally, enjoy the ride back to Sasazuka where the bicycles will be returned to the guide.

Overnight in Tokyo

Time:

Start (guided tour): 09:00

Duration: 4 h

*including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

Time:

Start (cycling tour): 10:00, 15:00, or 18:00.

Duration: 3 h to 4 h

Journey: 10 km (mostly cycling, a bit of walking and light sightseeing also involved).

3

Tokyo

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Enjoy the rest of the day exploring this amazing city. Make an early start to visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries.

Alternatively, take an excursion in Kamakura. One of Japan’s former capitals, Kamakura is a delightful seaside town home to many ancient shrines, temples, and other structures like the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha that stands at 13-meter tall.

Distance and journey time (approximation):

JR Tokyo Station to JR Kamakura Station: 50 min

Optional Tour: Tokyo Street Photography Tour

Enjoy multi-faceted Tokyo through the lens of a camera with this street photography workshop.

The English-speaking guide is an expert photographer who will lead a small group tour through Tokyo’s lively backstreets and around its iconic destinations. The guide will be waiting at a train station and will provide a brief introduction to photography in Tokyo.

Receive some insider tips on how to catch the best photos and get a glimpse of lesser known but highly photogenic places that few tourists get to discover.

Hands-on advice will be given throughout; the tour is ideal for beginners as well as experienced photographers and photography enthusiasts.

Professional cameras as well as tripods can be rented at an additional charge and guests will receive the memory card at the end of the workshop.

Depending on the day, the tour can take place at different locations; each tour includes hidden gems of the city. Not only is this experience a great photography workshop, it’s also an exciting walking tour around Tokyo’s quaint streets and lively neighborhoods.

Time:

Start: starting time varies depending on the season (usually 15:00 or 17:00).

Duration: 2.5 h

Optional Tour: Tokyo Architecture Tour

Today’s tour begins at 09:30. Tokyo’s eclectic and diverse blend of stunning landmarks and modern architecture ensures the city’s skyline is one of the most distinctive and recognisable in the world. Whether they love it or loathe it, visitors cannot help but notice the futuristic structures and soaring skyscrapers that rise above the traditional buildings, punctuating Tokyo’s cityscape with fresh, ultra-modern designs.

Many of the buildings in the city are featured in architecture textbooks or have been awarded international architecture prizes. Some of them, such as the National Museum of Western Art, even feature on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

On this tour, discover more about Tokyo’s contemporary and traditional architecture by visiting some of its iconic landmarks, from shrines and temples to shopping boutiques and Olympic stadiums, and learn about the superstar architects behind the designs, such as Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Kenzo Tange and SANAA. Along the way, stop to admire Japan’s emerging architectural works and observe the quirky and unusual features of Tokyo’s innovative buildings.

Accompanied by a professional, highly knowledgeable guide, explore the best architectural gems the city has to offer. In addition to this, it is also the perfect chance to explore some of Tokyo’s most iconic neighbourhoods, and discover how these contemporary buildings connect with the capital’s rich history and culture.

Time:

Start: 09:30

Duration: 8 h

Overnight in Tokyo

4

Tokyo – Nakasendo

Tokyo Station to Kiso-Fukushima Station: 3 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Start the journey in the afternoon through Nakasendo in Kiso Valley, one of the five routes that branched off the former capital of Japan.

The short bullet train ride from Kyoto to Nagoya is then followed by the scenic journey on the limited express train Wide View. Upon arrival at Kiso-Fukushima Station, check-in into the hotel.

Overnight in Kiso-Fukushima

5

Nakasendo trail walking

Kiso-Fukushima station to Nakatsugawa station: 0.5 h Nakatsugawa station to Magome: 15 min (bus or taxi)

Today is a self-guided day.

Today start the journey to Tsumago, one of the post towns that flourished in the Edo Period. Tsumago is now a Nationally Designated Architectural Preservation Site, thanks to the collective effort of its locals to preserve most of the remaining historical buildings.

The trail that runs between Magome and Tsumago is perhaps the most popular section of Nakasendo.

Leave the accommodation in the morning after a Japanese-style breakfast, ride a train to Nakatsugawa and later, a bus to Magome, the start of the Nakasendo Trail. Today’s walk will alternate between well preserved old towns, fields of local farmers and peaceful woodlands.

This trail can be completed in about 3 hours, including some quick breaks (i.e. restroom, tea/coffee).

After concluding the trail, ride a bus to Nagiso and a train to the ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima. Upon arrival, enjoy a nice soak in the onsen before a plentiful dinner.

Overnight in Kiso-Fukushima

Optional Service: There is an optional private transfer from the end of the trail to the ryokan (extra charge).

6

Nakasendo – Kyoto

Kiso-Fukushima Station to Kyoto Station: 2.5 h

Take an optional stroll around Kiso-Fukushima after an early breakfast. Afterwards, catch the local train to the next destination.

Optional Self-Guided Itinerary: Yabuhara – Narai-juku trail

Take an optional stroll around Kiso-Fukushima after an early breakfast. Afterwards, catch the local train to Yabuhara, the starting point of the nature and ancient trail between Yabuhara-juku and Narai-juku, which used to be the most dangerous path in Nakasendo.

After about 3 hours, emerge in the old post town of Narai, also referred to as the “Narai of a Thousand Houses” for the many well-restored old buildings that now serve either as souvenir shops or as local restaurants.

Guests can also find many restaurants in Narai that serve local delicacies such as gohei-mochi (sticky-rice cakes) and soba (buckwheat noodles). Traditional inns such as ryokan and minshuku are available to travelers, making it a convenient stopover for trekkers and hikers.

From Narai Station, catch the local train to the next destination.

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Kiso-Fukushima Station to Yabuhara Station: 15 min

Overnight in Kyoto

7

Kyoto

Today’s tour starts with a visit to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle that was originally built to serve as the private villa of a powerful feudal lord. The main building was completed in early 1600s and has since then been known for its Momoyama-style architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale” floors.

Next on the list is the serene Ryoan-ji Temple, which is famous for its well-maintained rock garden and known to be the home of the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai Buddhist sect.

Just a short distance from Ryoan-ji is the stunning golden pavilion collectively known as Kinkaku-ji Temple. The temple grounds are relatively smaller than that of most temples and shrines in Kyoto, but what is undoubtedly impressive is the pavilion that is completely covered in handmade goldleaf.

Overnight in Kyoto

Time:

Start (guided tour): 09:00

Duration: 4 h

*including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

8

Kyoto – Naoshima

Okayama Station to Uno Station: 45 min Uno Station to Uno Port: 5 min (on foot) Uno Port to Miyanoura Port: 15 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

After docking at Miyanoura Port, stop by the tourist information center to get some helpful maps, buy some local snacks or even rent a bicycle.

Stay a bit longer around the area and take some photos of the iconic red pumpkin, one of the outdoor sculptures by the Japanese contemporary artist, Yayoi Kusama.

Stop by I U (‘I Love You’), a combination of art and public bathhouse (sento) showcasing various styles of wall art and design.

On the eastern side of Naoshima is Ando Museum. The world-renowned architect worked on the interior design of the museum using his signature plain-concrete structure that comes in contrast with the façade, which is a traditional Japanese-style house.

From here, take the local bus to Tsutsuji-so and find another iconic work of Yayoi Kusama. Before catching the complimentary shuttle to the Benesse House, take some time to relax on the beach.

Notes:

  • Most of the museums and art galleries on Naoshima are closed on Mondays.
  • Guests staying at the Benesse House can use the free shuttle service from Tsutsuji-so bus stop to Chichu Art Museum Ticket Center bus stop. Benesse House Museum and Lee Ufan Museum are in between these stops. Moreover, clients also have free access to the Benesse House Museum, which is open from 08:00 to 21:00.

Overnight on Naoshima

9

Naoshima

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Start with the Chichu Art Museum, another signature work of Tadao Ando known for its manifestation of the relationship between mankind and Mother Nature. Ando designed the museum in a way that it does not disrupt the natural beauty of Seto region, constructing the entire building almost completely underground. Aside from the impressive architectural design, the works of James Turrell, Claude Monet, and Walter de Maria can also be enjoyed.

Next is the Lee Ufan Museum, the result of the collaboration between Lee Ufan and Tadao Ando. The theme of this museum circles around the tranquility and stillness of life and its harmonious existence with nature.

Overnight in Naoshima

10

Naoshima – Osaka

Today head to Osaka, Japan’s culinary capital. Osaka’s flamboyance, fun-loving people, and amazing food make up for what it lacks in tourist attractions.

Optional Tour: Flavours of Osaka Food Tour

In the evening, Discover Osaka through a local street food tour.

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. 

Time:

Start: 16:45

Duration: approx. 3.5 h

Overnight in Osaka

11

Departure from Osaka

Namba Station to Kansai Airport: 45 min

The rest of the day is at leisure until the scheduled 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)
  • English meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport
  • PASMO Transport Pass for local transportation in Tokyo with 1,500 JPY worth of credits

(Note: Additional credits 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).

  • 7-Day Japan Rail Pass in ordinary class, activated on Day 4
  • English-speaking guides for tours on Days 2 (supplementary charges apply for other languages)
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary on Days 2
  • Japanese cultural experience in Kyoto on Day 6
  • Flavours of Osaka Food Tour on Day 10
  • Self-guide app and customized travel documentation

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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    Please fill in the appropriate information below regarding any travel plans or enquiries. Our team of travel experts will get back to you shortly.

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    We’re experts who take pride in tailor-made itineraries that suit any need. Please fill in the form below and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

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