Grand Tour: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Millenia More
A 13-day excursion into some of the best Japan has to offer, starting at 1,250,000 yen (about US$11,540).
For most of our visitors, hearing the word “Tokyo” conjures up a treasure trove of imagery. It rightly should, as Tokyo is full of charms both old and new. Urban adventure, discovery, and just plain fun are sure to come your way as you traverse this notoriously vibrant city with us by your side. For us, however, Tokyo will be just a starting point. The most famous sites – Mt. Fuji, historic Kyoto and Nara – are of course expertly covered, but allow us to take you to some less trodden parts of the country where you’ll discover a different type of Japanese soul.
Days 1-4: Tokyo and Mt. Fuji
Tokyo is the center of a roughly 45 million person metropolis, and it is also considered the safest city in the world. Needless to say, it is an urban paradise able to strike a chord with visitors of every type. We’ll make sure you see the best of both the old and new over these first two days of your journey. Though you could fill weeks keeping busy in Tokyo, we’ve got lots else to see, so by the third day we’ll be heading out of the city and onwards to Mt. Fuji and its nearby hot springs areas.
Your luxurious 13-day Central and Western Honshu tour begins in Tokyo.
Upon arriving at Narita or Haneda International Airport, you will meet one of our friendly and professional personal tour guides and be escorted to a private car.
From there, we’ll drive you about 85 minutes (or 45 minutes if coming from Haneda) to your five-star hotel in the heart of Tokyo.
We hand-pick hotels that are not only superlative in nature, but which are also conveniently located near the Imperial Palace, or in central Tokyo (including ritzy Ginza).
After check-in, and allowing for good weather, you are invited to enjoy a peaceful stroll around the Imperial Palace Garden and the nearby, more modern areas of Tokyo at your leisure.
Upon your request, it would be our pleasure to make dinner arrangements at a nearby fine restaurant.
Your tour guide will be at the ready in your hotel’s lobby at the agreed upon time.
Together, you will explore both historical and modern parts of Tokyo by private car, including but not limited to:
・a visit to the world famous Toyosu Fish Market
・a stroll about the glitzy Ginza district
・an historical cultural immersion at Senso-ji temple
・a spiritual stroll through the forests of and into the Meiji Shrine
・a sensory blast in Harajuku, where you can see the latest in youthful fashion
・and finally to Omotesando, where the streets are lined with luxury shops
It’s a lot to see, but rest assured we won’t overload your day!
We’ll make sure you are only as busy as you want to be.
From Tokyo, you will head to the train station and take the “Romance Car” express train to Hakone.
Whether it is romantic or not is up to you, but its large glass windows will certainly afford you some nice views on the way!
After arriving in Hakone, you’ll transfer to the Hakone Tozan Railway, Japan’s oldest mountain railway — a blast for railway fans and regular folks alike due to its switchback design.
From there, the views (and transportation modes) just get better and better, as we ride the Hakone Tozan Cable Car to the Hakone Ropeway, where we alight on to Lake Ashi, from where we take a cruise across the lake. It may seem like a lot of transportation hopping, but it is actually quite leisurely!
Tonight, you will stay overnight at a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan).
Your room will allow for spacious relaxation and feature a beautiful mountain view and your very own, private onsen (natural hot spring bath).
After having a lovely Japanese breakfast and checking out your ryokan, we will go by private car to Lake Yamanaka-ko, and the eponymous town. This is the closest town to four of the famous five lakes in the area.
From here you can see Mt. Fuji looming large both above you and in the shimmering reflection of the gorgeous lakes.
Upon arriving at Yamanaka-ko, you will head to the Fifth Station of Mt. Fuji by private car.
As the mountain is divided into 10 stations from base (First Station) to summit (Tenth Station), you will be approximately halfway up the mountain.
Count on scenery all around, and a great sense of history and place as you gaze yonder from Japan’s most famous mountain.
Next, you will head to the very appropriately named “Wind Cave,” which runs horizontally for 201 meters (659 ft), and then to the “Ice Cave,” which is vertically concentric and 153 meters (502 ft) long. Even during the middle of summer, you can see real ice!
The next stop on our discovery tour is Oshino Hakkai. Oshino Hakkai is known as the Mysterious Spring, and is a World Cultural Heritage spot owing to it famous clear water and gorgeous views.
You will stay overnight on the shores of Lake Yamanaka-ko.
Days 5-7: Kyoto and Nara
Hard to believe, but until the early 1600s, Tokyo really wasn’t all that much to talk about. From the 8th century, it was (briefly) Nara and then Kyoto that functioned as the political and religious centers of Japan, along with all their intellectualist trappings. Add to this a very fortunate escape from WWII bombings, and what you have today is a living monument to all things traditionally Japanese. Allow us to share our deep understanding of all things Kyoto and Nara with you.
After meeting with your personal tour guide, you will head to Mishima Station (Travel time: 1 hour) before continuing on to Kyoto by Shinkansen, or “bullet train” (Travel time: 2 hours).
Kyoto is well known as one of the world’s most culturally rich cities, boasting 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than 1600 Buddhist temples, and over 400 Shinto shrines.
You will get your first taste of the city by means of an afternoon tour with a local Kyoto guide. You will visit the ancient temples and shrines like Kiyomizu-dera, Sanjusangen-do, Kinkaku-ji (Kyoto’s famed Golden Pavilion), Fushimi-Inari-Taisha (with its picturesque, hill-climbing pathway lined with thousands of red torii), and Saiho-ji with its garden renown for lush, rolling mossy landscapes.
Examples of ryokan selections in Kyoto: Yoshikawa Ryokan, Tawaraya Ryokan, Hiragiya Ryokans, Yoshinoya Ryokan, Sumiya Ryokan, Kikusui, Ioshinoya
On your second day in Kyoto, you will explore the Arashiyama and Sagano districts.
You will head to Arashiyama first and experience “Hozu-gawa-Kudari” (Hozu River rafting through the Hozu Gorge).
For over one thousand years, the Hozu River has been home to a bustling and thriving water transport culture. This boat trip not only paints you a picture of that culture, but also invites you into an awe-inspiring and healing world, a place of tranquility.
Regardless of the time of year you visit, you are always surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Next, you will visit Tenryu-ji temple, where the main attraction is their 14th century Zen garden.
Just outside the north gate of the temple, you will step into a different world as you are enveloped and then entranced by a large thicket of bamboo that rolls out into the distance. This is the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Your next stop will bring you to Okochi-sanso. This villa was the home of Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962), an actor in samurai films. Okochi-sanso is now open to the public, allowing us all to enjoy the garden and the views over Kyoto.
Finally, you’ll return to your hotel or ryokan in downtown Kyoto.
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan, and remains a great asset amongst the nation’s cultural legacies.
The centerpiece is the Daibutsu, or “Great Buddha,” which is said to be Japan’s single most impressive sight, housed right here in Todai-ji Temple.
You’ll then visit Nara Park, a splendid green space home to about 1200 deer.
In pre-Buddhist times, deer were considered messengers of the gods and today enjoy the status of National Treasures. You can feed the deer “shika senbei” (deer biscuits) that are available for purchase from vendors in the park. Some may even bow politely to request their snack (others have fewer manners).
After getting your fill of Nara’s bounty, we will return to your lodging in nearby Kyoto.
Days 8-9: Osaka, Himeji Castle, Kinosaki Onsen
Just as Kyoto and Nara were the capitals of government and religion before Tokyo took center stage, Osaka was the center of commerce. Even today, Osaka is the largest city outside of greater Tokyo. It has a very different vibe, and is known as the foodie capital. Beyond Osaka lies a gorgeous castle and an enchanting onsen (hot spring) town during this part of your grand tour.
You will visit Osaka as a day trip from Kyoto, as the cities are not very far apart in distance—though they are worlds apart in culture!
First, we’ll visit Osaka Castle, built as a display of power by Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi after he achieved his goal of unifying Japan in 1583.
No visit to Osaka would be complete without also visiting vibrant Dotonbori Riverwalk in Osaka’s Minami (“South”) district, the city’s number one sightseeing spot. With a Japanese guide by your side, plan on culturally enriching chats while sampling the country’s best street food.
Just south of Dotonbori is Hozenji, a tiny temple hidden down a narrow street, built around a moss-covered statue of a deity.
Next door is atmospheric Hozenji Yokocho, a cobblestone alley lined with traditional restaurants and bars.
After enjoying this lively and atmospheric walk — and stopping to enjoy some of Osaka’s famed food and hospitality — you’ll return to your hotel or ryokan in Kyoto.
After checking out of your lodging in Kyoto, you’ll get on the bullet train to Hyogo Prefecture, home of the nation’s most beloved castle, Himeji-jo (Travel time: approx. 1.5 hrs).
Today’s highlights will be the newly restored Himeji-jo, the finest castle in all of Japan, followed by a visit to Shoshazan Engyo-ji. This temple complex is often used as a location for shooting films and television programs such as The Last Samurai.
Stay overnight in Kinosaki Onsen, where the star attractions are seven hot spring facilities scattered about the small town.
Guests staying in town usually take part in the traditional stroll along the canal from bath to bath, all the while wearing a yukata (light cotton kimono) and geta (wooden sandals).
Days 10-13: The North Coast and Hiroshima
Get firmly off the beaten track with us as we traverse the north coast of western Honshu island. In these sparsely populated parts of Japan, there is little to get in between us and the immense natural beauty of the land and sea. Once we’ve breathed it all in deeply, we’ll cross over the mountains to Hiroshima, a city famous for tragedy, but known in Japan today as a very nice midsize city.
Your private tour guide will meet you at your ryokan. Together you’ll head to Tottori Prefecture.
We’ll stop along the way and visit Sanin Kaigan, a National Park along the Sea of Japan coastline. Sanin Kaigan is well known for good reason — its numerous inlets, rock formations, islands, and caves make for a splendid landscape.
Explore the Uradome Coast by boat or clear-bottomed sea kayak (Jun-Oct), which allows for views of the marine flora and fauna thriving in this part of the ocean. A local guide will be with you, providing meaningful and experience-enriching explanations along the way.
You’ll stay overnight at Misasa Onsen, which contains one of the highest levels of radium (in a good way!) in the world. Radon is a weak radioactive gas produced by the decay of radium. When absorbed into the body, radon elevates your metabolism and boosts our natural immunity healing power.
Misasa Onsen is famous for its fantastic illuminations of their Japanese-style lodgings, and also, of course, the radon-rich baths.
After departing Tottori Prefecture, we’ll head for Shimane Prefecture, a journey which takes about 2.5 hours by car along the Sea of Japan.
Another exciting day is in store as we visit the modern Adachi Museum of Art, selected as the best Japanese garden by the magazine Sukiya Living. The museum has also been awarded three stars by the Michelin Green Guide.
Our next destination is Iwami-ginzan, a historic silver mine in the mountains. It was discovered in the early 16th century and mined for nearly 400 years.
You will visit the silver mine area and nearby Omori Town, where you’ll go back in time as you tour historical residences, shrines, and temples. The area became a World Heritage Site in 2007.
In the evening, you’ll stay in an old-fashioned onsen town called Yunotsu, which is a part of the Iwami-ginzan World Heritage Site.
It’s time to say goodbye to the Sanin coast and Shimane as we head back over the mountains towards Hiroshima.
In Hiroshima, we’ll head to a local restaurant for Hiroshima’s specialty food, “Hiroshima-yaki” (Hiroshima-style “okonomiyaki”, a savory pancake-like dish).
Next, we’ll visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, where you are sure to gain a new perspective on the atomic bomb disaster. It’s a solemn but well-executed memorial.
Later, we’ll visit one of Japan’s most visited tourist locales, Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima.
Itsukushima Shrine seems to float on the waves during high tide, a sight considered one of the three most beautiful in all of Japan.
Your overnight stay at a luxury ryokan in seaside Miyajima is sure to put a nice cap on your adventure across Honshu.
On your last day in Hiroshima, we will do whatever your heart desires until it is time for you to depart.
We’ll say “sayonara” at the international airport, or head to the next destination should you have another tour planned after this.
Pricing | This thirteen day, twelve night tour starts at 1,250,000 yen per person, based on double occupancy. Hotel choice and seasonality may effect pricing.
Important notes | With thirteen days, a trip like this is especially ripe for customization. Also, first time visitors may be interested in extending their Tokyo time. Please inquire.
Inclusions | Lodging, all transportation, admission fees, guide expenses, field guides, tax, travel insurance. Breakfast each day, and generally between three and six dinners, depending on your lodging choices.
Exclusions | Food and drink except as noted above. Alcohol, even for included meals. Activities not specified above. Optional activities may be available to suit your interests. Please inquire.
Travel with Kids | We offer exciting tours that can be enjoyed along with your children. We can also make arrangements for child care or other needs that may arise.
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