Very Best of Japan itinerary
Our leisurely 19-day tour has been carefully crafted to blend this fascinating mix of ancient and modern along with all of the country’s major attractions. Add to this the magnificent beauty of the Japanese Alps, picturesque gardens, ancient castles and unique Japanese experiences, this brand new tour combines the very best this country has to offer.
19-day Very Best of Japan, from £5,295
If you would like more information about a particular hotel or destination, please click on the orange text.
Day 1: Depart UK
Depart with Cathay Pacific from the UK airport most convenient for you. Choose from London Heathrow, London Gatwick or Manchester. No matter which airport you choose, there will be no additional cost.
In-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Alternative airline – ANA
If you prefer, fly direct to Tokyo from London Heathrow with ANA. Supplement from £295 per person.
As part of our Special Offer, if you book your Very Best of Japan tour by 29 February 2020, the flight supplement for flying with ANA will be reduced to £199.
Day 2: Tokyo, 3 nights
All flights with Cathay Pacific to Tokyo travel via Hong Kong. On arrival into Japan’s metropolitan capital, we transfer to the centrally located Keio Plaza hotel. The remainder of the day is left free to relax
In-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Day 3: Tokyo
We start our Japanese adventure in the district of Asakusa, home to Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensoji. Founded in AD645 the temple enshrines a golden image of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The approach to the temple is through the Kaminarimon Gate, which leads to the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries. We make our way to a local restaurant where we will learn the art of Japanese sushi making, before enjoying our own culinary creation for lunch. We finish our day with a visit to the Edo Tokyo Museum. This evening, enjoy a welcome drink with your Tour Manager and fellow travellers, and learn more about our adventure that lies ahead.
Breakfast and lunch included
Day 4: Tokyo
After breakfast, we make our way to Tokyo Tower. Standing at 333m, it’s 13m taller than the Eiffel Tower, which was the inspiration for its design. Although surpassed in height by Tokyo Skytree in 2012, Tokyo Tower remains a beloved symbol of the city. After a brief photo stop at the impressive Imperial Plaza, we make our way to Japan’s most famous Shinto Shrine, Meiji Jingu. Dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the shrine sits in a large forest area that contains more than 100,000 trees, gifted by the people to their beloved emperor. We return to our hotel, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. This evening there is the opportunity to see Tokyo from a different perspective with an optional dinner cruise along the Sumida River.
Day 5: Fuji Five Lakes, 2 nights
This morning we head to Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, famous for its hot springs and views of what is easily Japan’s most iconic image, Mount Fuji. Our first stop is Lake Ashi, a crater lake formed over 200,000 years ago. We board our boat for a short cruise on this beautiful lake before taking a cable car into the Owakudani Valley. The result of a volcanic eruption over 3,000 years ago, the area is still active with many sulphur vents and bubbling hot springs. We continue our journey through picturesque landscapes to the area known as Fuji Five Lakes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our home for the next two nights is the Fuji View Hotel, situated in extensive grounds near the shores of Lake Kawaguchi, affording spectacular views of Mount Fuji. After settling into our accommodation, there is free time to relax prior to dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Breakfast and dinner included
Day 6: Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi
Fuji-san, or Mr. Fuji as it is more affectionately known, can be a little shy, but fingers crossed a clear sky will reward us with some impressive views. Our first stop is the small, but delightful, Kubota Icchiku Art Museum. Kubota revived the lost art of Tsujigahana silk dyeing and the museum exhibits several of the artist’s stunning kimono creations, which depict themes of nature, the cosmos and the seasons. We continue to the Fujisan World Heritage Centre which showcases traditional artwork and videos of this sacred mountain. We learn how to make buckwheat noodles, continuing to the shores of Lake Kawaguchi where there is time for a stroll along this picturesque lake. This evening we dine together in our hotel.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Day 7: Takayama, 2 nights
This morning, we begin our journey towards the majestic Japanese Alps. We stop at Matsumoto castle, the oldest existing castle in Japan, for a fabulous photo opportunity and continue to a miso factory, to discover how this staple of Japanese food is made. Afterwards, enjoy a spectacular journey through the mountains to Takayama. Our hotel for the next two nights is the centrally located Takayama Green Hotel.
Day 8: Takayama
Takayama is best explored on foot and we begin our day with a visit to the morning market. Afterwards we make our way to the Takayama-Jinya, which served as a government headquarters under the Tokugawa shogunate of 1692 to 1871. We finish our morning in the heart of Takayama’s picturesque old town, lined with traditional houses, shops, restaurants, sake breweries and cafes. Our afternoon is at leisure to enjoy this delightful area. Perhaps sample some of the many delicious delicacies, try some locally-brewed sake, or visit one of the many museums, such as the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall. Tonight there is the opportunity to dine on Hida beef, a variety of wagyu beef.
An optional stay in a traditional Ryokan room is available tonight, with prices starting from £95 per person, inclusive of dinner. Subject to availability.
Day 9: Shirakawa-go & Kanazawa, 2 nights
Today we head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go. The villages, mostly cut off until as recently as the 1960s, are today famous for their traditional style of housing, the Gassho-Zukuri, which means “like praying hands”. We continue to Kanazawa and the Omicho Market, a lively food market famous for its abundance of fresh seafood, which has been in operation since 1721. Afterwards, we shall visit Nomura Samurai House, a restored samurai residence. Finally, we check in to the centrally located Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel.
Day 10: Kanazawa
We begin our morning with a visit to a local restaurant for a typical Japanese breakfast. After enjoying the local hospitality, we visit the delightful Kenroku-en garden, considered by the Japanese as one of the top three gardens in the country. The name Kenroku-en means the “garden combining six”, referring to the six attributes all gardens should include: seclusion, antiquity, spaciousness, human ingenuity, water and scenic views. The city is also famed for gold leaf and it is used in abundance. We visit a local establishment to learn about gold leaf production, and decorate our own chopsticks in gold leaf – we even have the opportunity to purchase a gold leaf ice-cream.
We head to the Higashi Chaya area of the city with its lovely neighbourhood of beautifully preserved geisha houses. Many have now been converted into restaurants or teahouses, although some are still open to the public. The afternoon is free to continue exploring Kanazawa at your own pace. There is a plethora of museums and local arts and crafts to explore. Alternatively, you have the option to join an afternoon tour which visits the Kutani Pottery and Kagayuzen Kimono Centre.
Day 11: Kyoto, 3 nights
This morning we make our way to Kanazawa Station for our train journey to Kyoto. The capital of Imperial Japan for over 1,000 years, Kyoto is Japan’s cultural capital. This afternoon we head to Arashiyama and its famous Bamboo Grove, and there will be plenty of time to wander through the impressive towering alley of Bamboo. Our hotel for the next three nights is the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.
The distinctive white face, red lips and elaborately decorated hairstyle of the geisha is an enduring image portrayed throughout the globe. Yet the world in which they live remains a mystery. Tonight, we have arranged a traditional Japanese meal, a kaisei, where we will be joined by a maiko, our apprentice geisha, who will perform traditional song and dance. Breakfast and dinner included
Day 12: Kyoto
We begin our day of sightseeing at the impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinkaku-Ji Temple. Fondly referred to as the Golden Pavilion, this richly decorated golden temple is a truly beautiful sight to behold. Our next stop is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rock garden of Ryoanji Temple. The garden’s fifteen stones are cleverly arranged so that there is always one rock that is hidden from view. Our final and third UNESCO World Heritage Site of the morning is Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. Founded in AD778, the most famous feature of the temple is its wooden veranda, standing some 13 metres above the ground. Later, we head to Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district, before taking part in a traditional tea ceremony. Tonight, there is an opportunity to experience a Japanese barbecue at a local restaurant.
Day 13: Fushimi Inari Shrine
This morning we head out of the city to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its tunnels of more than 10,000 closely-spaced torii gates, each of which has been individually donated. We visit a sake museum to learn about the brewing and production process of this famous Japanese rice wine. Later, we return to the city for an afternoon at leisure. If you prefer, you can join an optional tour of Sanju-Sangendo, with an opportunity to paint and take away your own paper fan. Tonight, there is the option to try Japanese shabushabu at a local restaurant.
Day 14: Bullet Train, Hiroshima, 2 nights
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the station for our ride on Japan’s iconic Bullet Train. Running at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, the train smoothly whisks us across the country to our next port of call, Hiroshima. Hiroshima is perhaps best known for being the place where an atomic bomb was dropped during the Second World War. This afternoon, we talk to a survivor of the attack, visit the Memorial Peace Park and its moving museum, as well as the Atomic Bomb Dome. After a thought-provoking day, we transfer to the Rihga Royal Hotel, ideally located for exploring the city.
Day 15: Miyajima Island
A morning visit takes us to the peaceful and pretty island of Miyajima, famous for its giant torii gate, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Itsukushima Shrine. After viewing the shrine, there is plenty of time to wander around the city’s pretty streets. Our afternoon has been left at leisure, but we highly recommend a stroll to Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien garden and Orizuru Tower, which are all within easy walking distance of our hotel. Tonight we have the opportunity to learn how to make the delicious okonomiyaki pancake, a classic Hiroshima dish.
Day 16: Kurashiki, overnight
Travel to the old merchant settlement of Kurashiki, whose main draw is its beautiful willow-lined canal. Many former storehouses have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes, providing the perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll. This afternoon we visit Korakuen Garden, another of Japan’s top three gardens. It is most aptly described as a “strolling garden”, due to its variety of views from the pathways which wind through the pond, stream, lawns and teahouse. We return to Kurashiki for an overnight stay at the Kurashiki Royal Art Hotel, just three minutes’ walk from the Bikan district.
Day 17: Himeji Castle, Osaka, 2 nights
Today we journey to our final destination, Osaka via the city of Himeji, famous for Japan’s finest surviving feudal castle, Himeji Castle. The first fortifications of this UNESCO World Heritage Site were completed in the 1400s. Gradually enlarged over the centuries, the castle complex, as it survives today, is over 400 years old and is an imposing and majestic site. After exploring the castle and grounds, we make our way to Osaka. Our home for the next two nights is the delightful Nikko Osaka Hotel.
Breakfast and lunch included
Day 18: Nara
Our sightseeing today takes us to Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital. One of the first sights we will experience is the thousands of sacred deer that roam freely through the city, and have learned to bow for treats! We visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Todaiji Temple. Founded in AD745, the vast temple took over 15 years to complete. The main hall houses a colossal bronze Buddha statue and remains the world’s largest wooden building. After a morning of sightseeing, we return to Osaka, where our afternoon has been left free to relax or possibly purchase some last-minute souvenirs.
Day 19: Depart Osaka
This morning we say goodbye to Japan as we depart Osaka for our flight home to the UK. Regardless of the regional UK airport you are flying to, all flights will travel via Hong Kong. Alternatively if choosing ANA, you will fly to the UK via Tokyo. After 19 spectacular days, our Very Best of Japan tour comes to an end.
Breakfast and in-ﬂight meals and drinks included
Please note, if you are flying with Cathay Pacific into London Gatwick or Manchester, or should you choose to fly with ANA, your flight will arrive into the UK on day 20.
SPECIAL LAUNCH OFFERS: If you would like to break the journey home to the UK after your Very Best of Japan tour, then why not add on a stopover in Hong Kong? To celebrate the launch of our new 2020/ 2021 season, we are offering any guests travelling in our new season (departing from September 2020) a two-night homebound stopover for only £49pp (£98 for single occupancy). The homebound stopover includes return airport transfers, two nights accommodation in a four-star hotel and a full daily breakfast.