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Essential Japan


Say Konnichiwa to Japan – a diverse land of culture, innovation and cuisine. You’ll get your fix of sushi and shopping in Tokyo before soaking up Kanazawa’s crazy Samurai culture (this is a great place to knock back a couple of glasses of sake, too). Wander gorgeous gardens and temples and then brush up on your world history at Hiroshima at the sobering Peace Park and Museum. Spy geishas in Kyoto’s Gion district and get your Beyonce on at an Osaka karaoke bar – this trip has it all! Perfect for the independent traveller, you’ll also have loads of free time to customise your trip with activities and extras you want to do, so you won’t miss anything on your bucket list.

10 days, from

$1,830

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: CJYO
Style: Basix
Theme: 18 to 35s

Details

Countries Visited:  Japan
Accommodation: Multishare Hostel (5 nights), Hotel/Ryokan (2 nights), Family Owned Guesthouse (2 nights)
Transportation: Public Bus , Metro , Train , Bullet Train
Included Meals:

  • 1 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 16

  • Japan has so many great destinations and this trip has so much free time to see them your way. Think all the benefits of group travel with a leader and new buddies to explore with, without having to do (or pay for) any sightseeing experiences you don’t want to.

  • Immerse yourself in the varied neighbourhoods of Tokyo. From the technological subculture of Akihabara, historical Asakusa and Ueno, to the wild side of fashion in Harajuku and the nightlife of Roppongi – each suburb is almost like a city of its own and you’ll have time to explore them all.

  • Discover Hiroshima Peace Park & Museum – a sobering, but vital, destination for all travellers to Japan to gain insight into tragic events of the nation’s past.

  • Explore Kyoto with your locally-based guide on a walking tour around the Gion district, the heart of the city’s Geisha culture. Later, take the opportunity to check out some of Kyoto’s nightlife and perhaps, hit one of the karaoke bars with your crew.

  • Live your samurai fantasies in feudal-era Kanazawa. We’ve heard there is also excellent sake to be sampled here and plenty else: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/why-kanazawa-is-japans-best-ke...

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Tokyo

Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. Your adventure begins in Tokyo – a dynamic, modern hub; the thriving capital of an ancient land. Contradictions are everywhere, as hi-tech gadgetry and neon lights play an integral part in the lives of a population steeped in tradition. You’ll meet your fellow travellers and group leader during your welcome meeting at 6pm this evening. Afterwards, your leader will take you for a walk around one of Tokyo’s most popular hubs. Then, you might like to join your leader and new travel buddies for an optional first dinner together.

Day 2: Tokyo

In the morning, head out exploring with your group leader in the Shibuya area. Look down on one of the busiest intersections in the world at Shibuya station and visit the statue of Hachikō the famous loyal dog. Next indulge your eyes, and your belly, visiting a depachika food hall where vendors sell everything from bento boxes for lunch to formal gifts and everyday groceries. Grab a picnic lunch (optional) as we are heading to Yoyogi Park, home to many events from the first Japan Olympics. Afterwards, visit Meiji Jingu Shrine. Enter via a massive Torii (gate) and let the sights and sounds of the busy city be replaced by a tranquil forest. Then we continue our journey with a visit to Harajuku, the home of quirky youth pop culture. The rest of the day is free for you to explore.
If you are a lover of cats visit the Gotokuji Cat Temple. Maneki Neko (the beckoning cat) are known for good luck and prosperity not only in Japan but all across Asia. Perhaps re-visit your childhood with a magical day spent at Tokyo Disney or Disney Sea theme parks (tickets can be bought at JR ticket counters, convenience stores, online). Or perhaps get the group together for the final night in Tokyo and experience the Robot Cafe in Shinjuku. You can catch a 3 hour show full of neon lights, lasers, robotics, video screens and dancers.

Day 3: Kanazawa

This morning we speed through central Japan on a bullet train bound for Kanazawa. This city is best known for Kenroku-en, 17th-century gardens. Kanazawa is also known for being the home of samurai - it boasts beautifully preserved samurai and geisha districts, historic temples and awesome markets to shop and eat your way around. After checking into our hotel perhaps go and explore Kenroku-en Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park. The castle is free to enter however the gardens have an entry fee of 310JPY. A bus pass for the day in Kanazawa will cost you approximately 500JPY. Tonight is a free evening for you to explore the streets and indulge in Kanazawa's izakaya and famous seafood.

Day 4: Kanazawa

Explore Kanazawa by foot on a walking tour of the Higashi Chaya district. Get lost among the Geisha in the alleyways and admire the traditional Chaya houses, known locally as places of tradition, feasts and entertainment. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at one of the local tea houses, if tea's your thing, and then the afternoon is free for you to explore on your own. Everything is super accessible in Japan so you'll do a fair bit of walking, so be sure to pack a comfy pair of shoes to get around in.

Day 5: Kyoto

Today catch a train through the Japan alps to Kyoto - once the imperial capital of Japan and one of the most beautiful cities in the country. With over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in - so get out, walk the streets and soak up the wonderful atmosphere in your free time. Kyoto has a great bus network linking all its key sites, so hop on the bus to also get around.

Perhaps visit the magnificent, gold-plated Kinkaku-ji Temple with its expansive grounds in Kyoto’s northwest, or maybe Nijo Castle, the feudal-era castle famous for its squeaking ‘nightingale floors’ designed to alert inhabitants to approaching ninja. In the early evening, hook up with your leader for a walk through Kyoto’s famous Gion district, the heart of the city’s geisha culture. This is where Kyoto’s immaculately made-up geiko (the Kyoto name for geisha) perform and entertain private clients in small teahouses tucked away down tiny back streets.

Day 6: Kyoto

Join your leader this morning for a walk in the wooded hills of Inari Mountain, famous for its Shinto 'fox temple' and atmospheric red torii gates, a quintessential Japan sight and must-see for keen photographers. The afternoon is free for you to explore and your leader can give you recommendations on what to see and how to get there. It's your last night in Kyoto, so make sure you try some of Kyoto’s famed Kyo-ryori (‘Kyoto cuisine’), or wander the food market of Nishiki in the city’s heart to see the ingredients that make up Kyo-ryori or, in true Japanese tradition, hit the karaoke bar and show off your impressive pipes. Cycling is another great way to explore Kyoto. You can hire bikes and helmets from one of the many bike shops in town with costs usually from 1000JPY/day.

Day 7: Hiroshima

Hiroshima is a bustling metropolis with a tragic history, approximately two hours on the bullet train from Kyoto. Once here, your leader will take you to visit Peace Park and the ruins of the A-Bomb Dome building, one of 11 structures left partially standing as a reminder of the destruction of nuclear war following the nuclear bomb blast on 6 August 1945. The Peace Park contains monuments and a sobering and very informative museum dedicated to Hiroshima and international peace. In the evening, try its most famous dish – okonomiyaki (savoury pancake of cabbage, meat or seafood) – grilled in front of you on a sizzling hotplate.

Day 8: Hiroshima

Today jump on a local train and ferry to spend the day at the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous 'floating' Torii Gate and the grand Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. Hike through the woods to the peak of Mt Misen for some stunning views of the Inland Sea stretching far out below you. Be sure to watch out for inquisitive and eternally hungry deer that roam the island. Back in Hiroshima you can enjoy a free evening tonight.

Day 9: Osaka

Travel by bullet train to Osaka, and what better way to finish our trip than in a city with the motto 'kuidaore' (translation: 'eat until you drop'!). Osaka is Japan's unofficial culinary capital, with sprawling shopping hubs and tiny backstreets overflowing with restaurants and bars serving up local delicacies as well as Japan's answer to fast food. Notably, Osaka is credited with the first kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants, after its inventor - the owner of a sushi restaurant with staffing issues - watched beer bottles on a conveyor belt at the nearby Asahi brewery and thought it might be a good way to solve this problem! We recommend you try Osaka’s takoyaki (a delicious grilled octopus dish) which Osaka is renowned for!

With your leader, enjoy a walking tour around the popular Dotombori district which is the city's most famous shopping, food and entertainment district. At night it’s lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanical signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign.

Thrill seekers are sure to find adventure at Universal Studios theme park and for those of you wanting to try your hand at a local skill, try a taiko drum lesson or, if you’re feeling like a little relaxation, indulge yourself at Spa World, and try a traditional Japanese Onsen.

If shopping is your cup of tea, take in some of the city's landmarks, including the wonderful Kuromon covered market and pick up some final kitchen gadgets (or plastic food!) at the quirky Dogusuji Arcade.

Day 10: Osaka

There are no activities planned for Day 10 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10 am and if you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.