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Japan Express Overview
Take a short and sweet tour through fascinating Japan.
Home to sumo wrestling, sake, geishas, karaoke and traditional onsens, Japan is an extraordinary land. On this tour you can expect a frenetic pace one day and a tranquil experience the next. Take in the neon nightlife of Tokyo, relax in the manicured gardens of Nikko and discover thousands of years of culture and history in Hakone and Kyoto. From world-class sushi to legendary samurai, this enigmatic nation is a traveller’s delight. Get back to basics and see the best of Japan without busting your budget.
What's included in this trip
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Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. As travellers are arriving from all over the world, there are no activities planned for day 1. You are expected to attend a group meeting in the evening, however - your group leader will leave a notice for you at the hotel detailing the exact time and place. Tokyo is 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. As our time in Tokyo is limited, we strongly recommend that you arrive a few days prior to this trip in order to explore the city. Ueno Park, with its many galleries and museums, is a great place to spend a day, the Sensoji Temple is a serene way to pass an afternoon, and the sumo stables are a must-see.
We catch the train to Nikko (approx. 2 hrs). On our train journey to Nikko, we have a chance to appreciate the spectacular countryside that makes Japan such a fabulous destination. Nikko has been a sacred site since the middle of the 8th century and the shrines and temples dotted throughout the area are inspiring evidence of the city's glory. A visit to Toshugu Shrine in particular is highly recommended. The mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the warlord who controlled all of Japan and whose shogunate lasted 250 years, the shrine contrasts with the traditional minimalist style commonly used throughout Japan. Instead, every corner of this monument is covered in intricate gold-leaf and lacquerwork, paintings and patterns. Alternatively, you can go up to Chuzenji Lake and Yumoto for hiking and natural hot springs (and even optional skiing if the weather permits!). Our ryokan in Nikko has shared facilities and is located within walking distance of the world heritage area.
Returning to Tokyo (approx. 2 hrs) on the evening of day 5, we jump on another train to the hot spring region of Hakone arriving late evening(approx. 1 hr). On day 6, we take a boat across Lake Ashino-ko, followed by a picturesque cable car journey over the surrounding mountains (approx. 2-3 hrs). On the way, we may be lucky to get a glimpse of Mt Fuji looming in the distance - it is a shy mountain, so getting a glimpse is not guaranteed! However, the lake and its surroundings offer plenty of stunning panoramas. For those who are adventurous, a bath in an outdoor onsen (hot spring bath) is a real highlight. Although there are separate baths for males and females, remember that no clothes or swimming costumes are allowed in the hot springs - so it's time to shed those inhibitions! Our family run guesthouse in Hakone is located in a quiet part of town and has shared facilities and a lovely outdoor onsen.
On the afternoon of day 7 we travel to Kyoto by bullet train (approx. 3 hrs). In the evening, we head out to Gion, the famous Geisha district. Even today, we can observe the age-old tradition of immaculate geisha girls visiting members of the wealthy elite in small teahouses tucked away down tiny back streets - but only if you know when and where! The Gion Corner is a cultural centre where we can get a taste of Japanese performing arts, anything from flower arranging to a lion dance. Kyoto was once the imperial capital of Japan and as such, is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. With over 2,000 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. Our last night in Japan is spent in Kyoto, so make sure you do some last-minute shopping or, in true Japanese tradition... go out for karaoke! There are no activities planned for day 9 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10.00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
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