Classic Japan with Matsue and Osaka
Ancient capitals, modern cityscapes and feudal castles take centre stage on this in-depth exploration of Japan, including a visit to the City of Water that has inspired countless legends.
Travel Dates: From 25/09/2020 to 26/11/2020
Duration: 14 days
- Dining Highlights
5 lunches (including Be My Guest)
First class travel Highlights
Audio Headsets for flexible sightseeing
Daily breakfast and an average of 50% of evening meals
Luxury air-conditioned coach or alternative transportation (such as rail journeys)
Cherry-picked hotels, all tried and trusted
Optional Experiences and free time
All porterage and restaurant gratuities
Must-see sightseeing and surprise extras
An expert Travel Director and separate Driver
All hotel tips, charges and local taxes
Airport transfers on the first and last day of your guided holiday
ARRIVE TOKYO (4 NIGHTS)
Tokyo's futuristic cityscape launches your journey through Japan's modern centres and ancient capitals. On arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda Airport, you'll be transferred by airport shuttle to your hotel. This evening, meet your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a Welcome Reception drink with appetisers.
Rub shoulders with the locals this morning as you 'Dive Into Culture' and wander through Ameyoko Street Market, once a black market selling American goods after World War II. Continue to the old-time entertainment centre of Asakusa to visit the Sensoji Buddhist Temple, which has been rebuilt countless times since its founding in 628, making it Tokyo's oldest temple site. Take a stroll down Nakamise shopping street with some free time for lunch, then join a 'Local Specialist' and learn the mesmerising rhythmic art of Taiko drumming, one of Japan's most popular cultural icons. Board a cruise along the Sumida River to admire Tokyo's modern skyline, the traditional neighbourhoods of old Edo and beautiful Hamarikyu Garden. Later, return to your hotel for time at leisure and dinner at a Sumo-themed izakaya restaurant.
We journey to Kamakura today. A former political capital, its glory days under the Kamakura shogunate spanned from the 12th to 14th centuries, coinciding with the spread of Buddhism in Japan which is reflected in the city's numerous temples. The most important of these is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine, which we'll have an opportunity to visit this morning, passing multiple torii gates that line the wide approach from Kamakura's waterfront. We head to Komachi-dori street for some free time to admire the old western-style houses lining narrow alleys that branch off this popular market street. Later, we'll travel to Kotokuin Temple to see its Great Buddha which weighs 121 tons. Returning to Tokyo, enjoy an evening at leisure or an opportunity to join one of Trafalgar's Optional Experiences.
MT. FUJI AND OWAKUDANI
The towering slopes of snow-capped Mt. Fuji loom in the distance as we journey from Tokyo to this celebrated UNESCO-listed site. Admire spectacular views of the surrounding countryside from its 5th station, a magnificent vantage point at 2,300 metres (weather permitting). After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll continue to Owakudani to see the volcanic activity. Consider sampling the local black eggs boiled in geysers, then head back to the hotel for an evening at leisure.
TOKYO - KYOTO (3 NIGHTS)
We leave Tokyo, travelling by high-speed bullet train to Kyoto, another former capital of Japan and the centre of Japanese culture for centuries. On arrival, we'll embark on a walking tour of the Gion District, embracing the energy of Kawaramachi street. Enjoy some free time before we head to the UNESCO-listed Kinkakuji Temple, whose glittering golden pavilion is widely regarded as the symbol of Kyoto.
After a late start this morning, we'll visit one of Kyoto's highlights - the historic and scenic district of Arashiyama, renowned for its cherry blossom trees which bloom in the springtime and its beautiful landscapes that change dramatically from season to season. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the towering Bamboo groves and see its iconic Togetsukyo Bridge. Connect with nature in the Zen gardens of Tenryuji Temple, then return to Kyoto for some free time at Nishiki market, a traditional food market known by locals as "Kyoto's Pantry". Return to your hotel or consider joining an optional Japanese tea ceremony experience.
Start the day off with a visit to Sumiyama Village and discover the stunning Kiyomizu Pottery which originated about 500 years ago in central Kyoto. Learn about the work of the craftsmen and about how they had to move out of the city and into a more rural area due to concerns from the local citizens about air pollution. Next 'Connect With Locals' over a 'Be My Guest' lunch with a local farmer at his home. Gain insights into the life of his family while sampling fresh tea and indulging in a delicious home-made meal, then visit his tea plantation. This afternoon delve into the ancient history of Nara, the first permanent capital city of Japan. Here you'll visit the landmark Todaiji Temple, one of the powerful Seven Great Temples and home to one of Japan's largest bronze statues of Buddha. Take a stroll around Nara Park, home to hundreds of freely roaming tame deer before returning to Kyoto for an evening at leisure.
KYOTO - HIROSHIMA (2 NIGHTS)
This morning, we board a high-speed bullet train to Hiroshima, a lively city that celebrates peace in the shadow of the previous century's devastation. Our first stop is to a local restaurant where we'll join our 'Local Specialist' for an Okonomiyaki Making experience. Mix your ingredients to make your own savoury pancake and cook it on a hot plate before enjoying your creation for lunch. This afternoon, we head to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum and see the UNESCO-listed Peace Memorial, the only structure left standing when the first atomic bomb exploded in 1945. Take a moment to contemplate its symbolic expression of hope for world peace, then spend the rest of the evening at leisure.
Take the ferry to Miyajima Island to visit the famous UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine and elaborate torii gate rising majestically out of the sea. Learn how to make Momiji Manjyu, one of the local specialities, shaping your steamed bun in the shape of a maple leaf and filling it with sweet red bean paste. You'll have an opportunity to sample your work before some free time for lunch. Spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure or consider joining an Optional Experience. Later, join your fellow guests and Travel Director for a Farewell Dinner in a local restaurant.
HIROSHIMA - MATSUE (2 NIGHTS)
Depart Hiroshima this morning bound for Matsue, the "City of Water" and home to one of Japan's few remaining original castles, which you'll have an opportunity to explore after lunch at your hotel. Located on the shores of Shinji Lake, the "black castle" remains in its original wooden form and features an extensive collection of Japanese samurai armour and swords. The heritage of the samurai is further explored during a visit to a local residence which once belonged to a middle-ranking samurai family who worked for the Matsue clan. Here you will gain insights into how the samurais lived surrounded by the charm and character of old Japan, before strolling down scenic Shiomi Nawate which lines the castle moat. This evening is at leisure.
Celebrate Japanese art and garden design during this morning's visit to the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi. Famous for its award-winning Japanese garden, ranked first for 15 consecutive years by the US magazine 'Journal of Japanese Gardening', the museum houses a large collection of 20th century paintings and artworks which are rotated seasonally. Return to Matsue and enjoy some free time for lunch before joining a 'Local Specialist' who will teach you how to make waga-shi, traditional Japanese sweets made in a variety of shapes and consistencies. Today, Matsue is one of the three most famous producers of waga-shi. This evening, enjoy a relaxing cruise on Lake Shinjiko, admiring the sun's reflection on the lake's still waters, signalling the end of a busy day of sightseeing.
MATSUE - TSUYAMA - OSAKA (2 NIGHTS)
Take a step back in time during this morning's visit to Tsuyama, a former castle town which enjoyed its heyday as a merchant city between the 17th and 19th centuries. Today, all that remains of this time are the 45-metre-tall stone walls and beautiful cherry blossoms that dot the city's Kakuzan-koen park in the springtime. Join your 'Local Specialist' for a walk around the Joto district, with its many machiya (traditional townhouses) revealing the city's former trading heritage. Afterwards, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing to the pulsating cityscape that is Osaka. On arrival, embark on an orientation drive through the city before checking in to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
Gain a different perspective of Osaka's landmark city sights, starting your day with a cruise on the 'aqua-bus' along Okawa River. Sail past the Japan Mint, City Hall, Nakanoshima and Osaka Castle, one of Japan's most famous landmarks. Visit the downtown district of Shinsekai to see the Tsutenkaku Tower, then continue to the Dotonbori Street area for some time at leisure. Delve into the star-crossed love story of Ohatsu and Tokubei during your visit to the Tusyunoten Shrine in Umeda, associated with the Edo-period play 'The Love Suicides of Sonezaki, which tells of the tragic double suicide that took place at the shrine in 1703. To this day, visitors write their prayers for success in love on special wooden plaques called ema, many of which bear the image of Ohatsu and Tokubei. Admire the panoramic views of Osaka from the Floating Garden Observatory - an open-air viewing platform that straddles the two towers of the Umeda Sky Building. Then, return to your hotel or consider joining an Optional Experience for dinner in Japan's tallest building, Abeno Jarukasu with its stunning city views from the observatory.
Say a fond sayonara to Japan and take a transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami Airport for your onward flight.
CITY TOUR of Matsue, Tsuyama and Osaka
VISIT Matsue Castle, Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Tusyunoten Shrine and Umeda Sky Building in Osaka
SEE Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka
CRUISE on Lake Shinjiko in Matsue and along the Okawa River in Osaka
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