Ultimate Japan

Trip Code: CJSTC

Why we love it

There’s no better way to get around Japan than the country’s famous railway system. Be impressed by the efficiency and ultra-modernity as you zip from place to place with your included Japan Rail Pass. Here is why you don't want to miss train travel in Japan: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/japan-trains, Explore the unique island of Naoshima, transformed from a sleepy fishing community into a world-class art destination, with sleek and stylish museums and artworks that sit in harmony with the landscape., Feel like Indiana Jones as you cross the kazurabashi (vine bridges) of the hidden Iya Valley, a remote retreat of deep gorges and lush mountains on Shikoku island., Uncover the characters of the cities of Nagasaki and Osaka, from the former’s thought-provoking Peace Park and Museum to the latter’s busy streets where the motto is ‘eat until you drop’., Venture into the thick and mysterious cedar forests on Yakushima, relax at the seaside onsen or see giant turtles lay eggs in the night in the summer months.

Is this trip right for me?

Japan is best to explore on foot. You'll be surprised at how much distance you end up covering! Make sure your shoes are comfy and you are fit enough to spend a good part of each day walking.

In some destinations you may be staying in a ryokan, which is a Japanese-style inn. It’s a great taste of tradition, however not everyone finds futon mattresses on a tatami mat floor, small bathrooms and proximity to other guests as comfortable as more Western-style hotels and beds. Read more about ryokans in the Accommodation section of the Essential Trip Information.

Be prepared to pack light and smart for this trip as you'll be required to carry your own luggage between train stations and to hotels, which can include going up and down multiple flights of stairs in crowded areas.

As there is not much time included in Osaka as part of your trip, we strongly advise you to plan an extended stay at the end of the tour if you wish to see more of the city.

Renovation works on Miyajima's famous floating torii gate started in June 2019. During the renovation works, the torii gate is covered up under a partially transparent scaffolding. Furthermore, a bridge is being built on the left side of the gate (when viewed from the shrine) to aid the renovation works. A date for the completion of the renovation works has not been set yet, but the works are expected to take at least one year.

Important information

IMPORTANT UPDATE ABOUT JAPAN: it's essential that you read 'Passports, visas and entry requirements' section in Essential Trip Information first before booking your trip so that you fully understand the current requirements in place for travelling to Japan.

If you book the trip within 30 days before departure, please ensure that 1) you request a copy of the Agreement Form with your booking agent and return a signed copy within 2 business days 2) check with your local consulate and ensure that you'll have enough time to get the tourist visa for your trip. Normal booking conditions apply for any bookings within 30 days before departure. It may take 7 business days to confirm a booking and issue ERFS certificate when the trip is on request.

1. A Single Supplement is currently not available for this trip due to limited rooms at many of our properties.
2. Please note that individual travel is still not allowed in Japan. All ground arrangements will need to be organized by a certified tour operator and will need to be reflected in your visa application. A guide is compulsory for foreign tourist’s entire stay in Japan but free time is allowed as long as the guide stays in the same overnight accommodation and is able to assist in case of emergency. Therefore, we are not able to organize any pre/post trip extensions. If you experience issues with your flights to arrive and depart as per our trip dates, please contact your booking agent and we’ll try our best to assist.
3. It is essential that you pack light and compact for rail travel in Japan. There are size restrictions for luggage on Shinkansen trains. Luggage from 160cm to 250cm may require an additional JPY1000 oversize luggage fee per train journey. Luggage over 251cm will NOT be permitted on the Shinkansen trains at all. Please notify your tour leader at your Welcome Meeting if your luggage is from 160cm to 250cm so they can make the necessary arrangements.
4. Renovation works on Miyajima's famous floating torii gate started in June 2019. During the renovation works, the torii gate is covered up under a partially transparent scaffolding. Furthermore, a bridge is being built on the left side of the gate (when viewed from the shrine) to aid the renovation works. A date for the completion of the renovation works has not been set yet.

What to bring/pack

MAIN LUGGAGE
On this trip you will need to carry your own luggage for up to 30 minutes at a time. Train stations are quite complex and usually require a lot of stair climbing, especially when doing a quick transfer from train to train. Elevators aren't always available and cannot accommodate many people at a time, so if you are choosing to bring a suitcase, please ensure you are able to lift and carry it up and down stairs yourself without difficulty. A backpack is often preferred by travellers for this reason. Our ryokans allow suitcases but you'll need to carry instead of wheeling it onto the tatami floor in the room. Japanese public transport is often quite small and cramped without large luggage racks for big suitcases (even on the shinkansen trains), so it's best to pack as light and small as possible so that you are not blocking aisles or taking up extra seats on trains. If you have a lot of luggage you may need to use luggage forwarding services. These are economical and efficient - please speak to your leader if you need to get your baggage to another destination in Japan.

DAY PACK
A day pack for carrying essentials when exploring destinations, while on public transport as well as for any shorter overnight stays will be useful., WATER BOTTLE
Cold tap water in Japan is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by bringing your own bottle and refilling from the tap or public water fountains.

OTHER USEFUL THINGS TO TAKE
- reusable shopping bag for buying supplies for long journeys
- travel mug, cutlery, plate/bowl for preparing any self catered meals
- plastic lunch box for storing food & snacks
- slippers or flip flops
- torch/flashlight
- travel wipes
- small towel
- ear plugs & eye mask

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
- check weather in destinations you are travelling to online a few days before you go to make sure you pack appropriate clothing
- laundry facilities may not be available in all destinations, so make sure you have a few cycles of clothes to tide you over until your next chance to wash, WINTER
You will need to take into consideration the below freezing temperatures you are likely to encounter travelling in Japan in the winter months and ensure that you bring appropriate clothing for spending time outside in the elements:
- Hat
- Gloves or mittens
- Scarf
- Windproof, warm jacket or coat suitable for temperatures below zero (just a fleece will not be sufficient!)
- Warm socks
- Waterproof boots suitable for walking on snow and ice
- Thermals or clothing that can be easily layered
- Snow pants may be useful if you are planning to do any outdoor activities

In the northern area especially in Tohoku or Hokkaido where there will be heavy snow, it's important to have sturdy waterproof footwear that's suitable for snowy or icy conditions. You can also bring crampons or buy them in Japan which cost around 2000JPY.

Physical rating

3

You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including while moving about busy public transport hubs to make tight connections, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes, sometimes at a fast pace and in crowds. Good general fitness and mobility will play a big part in making your trip more enjoyable. Japanese cities are best explored by foot and public transport, so be prepared for a lot of walking each day you are in a destination! Many travellers are surprised how much distance they end up covering each day just seeing the sights. Bring comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to spend most of the day on your feet.

Joining your group

Hotel Sunroute Asakusa, 1-8-5 Kaminarimon, Taito-ku, Tokyo 東京都台東区雷門1-8-5, Tokyo, Tokyo, 111-0034, JAPAN, Phone: +81 3 3847 1511

Hotel Sunroute Asakusa is conveniently located in Asakusa, the traditional heart of Tokyo. Asakusa is where you'll find Sensoji Temple (Tokyo's oldest temple) and around the temple complex many stalls and shops selling artisan products and souvenirs. The commercial-shopping and transport hub of Ueno is only a few subway stops away, providing great access to other parts of the capital as well as Tokyo's national museums located in expansive Ueno Park. The Edo-Tokyo Museum, the new Sumida Hokusai Museum, the Sumo Stadium and Sky Tree are also close-by.

Joining instructions

Japan has a very efficient public transport service and there are many ways to get from the two airports in the Tokyo region (Narita Airport or Haneda Airport) to your hotel. We can also book a shared airport shuttle bus service if you prefer. Narita is located approx. 65 km from Tokyo and taxi fares are expensive given the distance (around JPY25,000). Haneda Airport is closer to central Tokyo and a taxi fare will cost around JPY6,000-10,000.

Shared Airport Shuttle Bus Service
Please consult with your booking agent well in advance if you are interested in this option. Note that any late requests or changes may not be able to be accommodated particularly in the peak seasons unfortunately. The shuttle bus service we use for both airports is Green Tomato, and as this is a shared shuttle bus service, your bus will stop at different hotels on the way to drop off other passengers. Please wait at the arrival exit after customs clearance in the airport and Green Tomato's representative will hold a Green Tomato sign with your name on it. They will wait for you from 30 mins after your actual flight arrival time until 90 mins after flight arrival. For further info, please see:
http://www.greentomato-j.com/eng/shuttle/narita.php#
http://www.greentomato-j.com/eng/shuttle/haneda.php
If you're having any trouble locating Green Tomato, please ask at the airport information desk. For any other problems with your airport transfer on arrival, please contact our ground team in our Kyoto office on their emergency phone at +81 70 1771 5588.

Public Transport
If you prefer to make your own way to the hotel from Narita, there are various connections either by express train or limousine bus to Tokyo Station or Ueno Station and then by local train, subway or taxi to the Hotel Sunroute Asakusa which is located in Asakusa near Ueno. The airport information desks can provide helpful advice too. The most direct way is by the Keisei Skyliner express to Keisei Ueno Station (approx. JPY2,500 and 40 mins; note there's also cheaper and slower trains on the same line) and then by subway or taxi. If you take the subway, catch the Ginza Subway Line two stops to Tawaramachi and then it's a 1-minute walk from Exit 3. Alternatively the Narita Express will take you into Tokyo Station (approx. JPY3,000 and 50 mins) and you will then need to change to the local Yamanote line, subway or taxi. If you're travelling from Haneda Airport, the most direct option is the Keikyu Line Airport Limited Express (approx. JPY700 and 45 mins) and then subway or taxi. Please check the transport details on the hotel's website: http://www.sunroute-asakusa.co.jp/access_en/ If you're having any problems finding the hotel, ring the hotel directly (you can use one of Japan's green public phones with coins of JPY10 or JPY100).

Finishing your trip

The Bridge Hotel Shinsaibashi, 1-10-24, Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi 大阪府大阪市中央区西心斎橋1-10-24, Osaka, Osaka, 542-0086, JAPAN, Phone: +81 649636501

The Bridge Hotel Shinsaibashi is centrally located in Osaka, just a 3-minute walk from Shinsaibashi Station subway line and a 10-minute walk from the famous Glico Man advertising sign. It's a convenient location for exploring the sights of Osaka.

Japan has a very efficient public transport service and there are many ways to get from your hotel to the two international airports in the Kansai region (Kansai Airport (KIX) or Itami Airport). Kansai Airport (KIX) is about 50km southwest of Osaka and Itami is about 12km northwest. Please talk with your leader or consult with the hotel's reception desk or check the hotel website for more transport details: http://bridge-h.co.jp/en/access/

Please note that we are currently not able to provide any shared shuttle bus service from the two airports to your hotel in Osaka.

Meals & dietary information

Breakfasts included: 2

Lunches included: 

Dinners included: 3

FOOD IN JAPAN
The Japanese daily diet contains gluten (ie. in flavourings such as soy sauce) and seafood (dashi, or fish stock, is the basis of most dishes, even vegetable ones), so we highly recommend that vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs do their own online research before travelling about some of the options that might be available to them. While our leaders will assist you whenever they can, there may be some included meals that are fixed in advance and not flexible, such as those included at ryokans, and cannot be modified for different diets. For those suffering from particular food allergies, your group leader will endeavor to disclose to their fullest knowledge the main ingredients in dishes being consumed. It is, however, still your personal responsibility to ensure that you do not ingest any foods to which you are allergic.

Food and drink are such a high part of Japanese culture. Here are some links to get your tastebuds tingling:
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/japan-convenience-store-food/
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/traditional-tokyo-alleyways-locals-guide/
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/eat-and-drink-like-a-local-in-japan/
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/vegetarian-vegan-travel-japan/

Climate & seasonal information

PEAK TRAVEL TIMES
Please be aware that while travelling during major national holidays (late Apr to early May) and peak seasons in Japan (Apr-May/Sep–Oct) are fascinating and exciting times to travel, there are also some downsides. There will be huge crowds at most tourist attractions and on all public transport. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train tickets at our usual preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic jams and changes to the itinerary without prior notice can be necessary. If you decide to travel during peak periods come with a sense of adventure and flexibility and we are sure that your experience will still be rewarding and memorable.

In case of emergency

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time.

For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local office on the number below.

Intrepid's local Operator: +81 70 1771 5588

Intrepid’s Local Operator: +81(0)70 17715588

Accommodations

RYOKANS
Japanese-style inns (ryokans) involve sleeping on futons or matresses on tatami mat floors, with bedding often packed away during the day. Attached bathrooms/toilets will usually be very small and many ryokans will only have shared bathing facilities with certain hours, or times available for booking at reception. Your leader will explain etiquette involved in using the shared facilities. As this style of accommodation will often not have furniture (ie. chairs or beds) in the rooms, please consider choosing a different trip style in Japan if you have difficulty getting up from the floor or have knee, hip or back issues. Some ryokans may have a curfew when travellers need to be back in the accommodation - this is usually around midnight. Please also be aware that you would normally be required to change to slippers when entering into your room in a ryokan. Hotels and ryokans will charge extra fees if dirty marks are left on their beddings or towels that require professional cleaning.

Read more about ryokans here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/traditional-japanese-ryokan/

AVAILABILITY
The recent huge increase in tourism to Japan has put a lot of pressure on accommodation. On occasion, we may need to change accommodation from what is listed in the itinerary in order to operate your departure with minimal changes.

ONSENS
We like to encourage travellers to visit traditional Japanese 'onsens' while in the country as it is a quintessential local experience. In public onsens this means bathing naked with others of the same gender. While the experience can feel strange at first for some, most of our groups end up enjoying this activity. There is very specific etiquette for visiting onsens - your leader can give you some tips and instructions. Please be aware that travellers with tattoos may not be permitted to enter public onsens. Private onsens may also be available - talk to your leader for more information. See our guide to onsens here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/japan-onsen-guide/

Transportation


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