- Dinner and a show
Your farewell dinner will be accompanied by a performance by a maiko, an apprentice geisha. This typically includes traditional Japanese dance, music played on a three-stringed shamisen and even some games!
- Kinkakuji Temple
The top two tiers of this temple, set in serene gardens by a lake, are completely covered with gold leaf.
- A proper cuppa
Leave your builders' brew and rich teas behind as you learn the 'way of tea' with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
- Cruise on Lake Ashi
Lake Ashi is set within Hakone National Park, with the snow-crested Mount Fuji as a backdrop and a pretty Shinji shrine on the shore backed by idyllic green banks.
- To Tokyo and beyond
Discover ultra-modern high-rise business centres mingling with quiet parks, historic temples and old wooden houses in a city which truly is alive with energy.
- Small group 23 or less
- Solo Travellers
Discover the unique culture of Japan
Explore high-tech Tokyo and take a train to Kyoto on this tour exclusively for solo travellers. Discover the historic village of Shirakawago, take in a traditional kimono show, uncover serene temples, shrines and castles and more as you learn more about the fascinating Far-Eastern culture of the Land of the Rising Sun…
10 nights in hotels and 2 in flight
13 meals: 10 breakfasts and 3 dinners
- Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK
- Return flights and transfers
- Saga tour manager
- Porterage at all hotels
- Fast track security and airport lounge UK
- Welcome drink and dinner
- Drinks party
- Farewell dinner
- Meet and greet at the airport
- Social activities
Excursions and visits
- Coach tour of Tokyo
- Sightseeing in Kamakura
- Komagatake Ropeway
- Cruise on Lake Ashi
- Matsumoto coach tour
- Takayama walking tour
- Historic village of Shirakawago
- Visit the Kenroku-en Garden
- Sightseeing tour of Kyoto
- Exploring the ancient political centre of Nara
- Authentic teahouse visit and tea ceremony
Day 1 UK-Tokyo
After taking Saga’s UK door-to-door travel service to Heathrow, fly overnight to Tokyo.
Day 2 Tokyo
On arrival at the airport you'll be met and taken to the locally rated 4-star Dai-ichi Hotel Tokyo Seafort, where you stay for two nights. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. The hotel has a restaurant, bar/lounge, coffee shop and free Wi-FI throughout. Each of the 130 air-conditioned rooms has a telephone, minibar, safe, television, and free bottled water.
Day 3 Tokyo
Tokyo, which translates as 'eastern capital', first became a significant town in the early 17th century, and by the end of the 18th century was one of the largest cities in the world. It became the official capital in 1868, when the Emperor moved here from Kyoto. While it may be one of the world’s most modern cities, among the skyscrapers, huge department stores and busy streets you can still find tranquil gardens, historic temples and wooden houses from another era.
An included morning guided coach tour will reveal Tokyo's contrasting sights of old and new, from the temple town of Asakusa with its famed Kannon Temple and shopping arcade, to the bright lights of Akihabara Electric Town. Return to the hotel around lunchtime and enjoy the afternoon at leisure. For a different view of Tokyo, perhaps go for a ride on the Yamanote Line. This urban railway weaves its way around Tokyo in a 35-kilometre loop, providing great views of the city. B
Day 4 Tokyo-Hakone
This morning’s drive heads through Tokyo’s suburbs, across the Rainbow Bridge, past the cities of Kawasaki and Yokohama, and along the coast to Kamakura. This important religious centre was the capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333 and is filled with shrines and temples. Visit one of each during a sightseeing tour – the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto shrine, which is a classic example of Japanese Buddhist architecture, and the Hase Kannon Temple. The temple houses an impressive nine-metre-high statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and all 11 of her heads! The gardens here are worth exploring too, they feature peaceful ponds, pavilions and a peppering of small statues. Depending on when you visit, the trees may be alive with the vibrant pink of cherry and plum blossom, or the striking coppers and reds of Autumn, while in summer the lilies, hydrangeas and irises flower.
Continue to the Hakone region, which is watched over by the iconic Mount Fuji. Here take a cable car to the summit of Mount Kamiyama. Afterwards, continue to Lake Ashi where you board a motor cruiser for a leisurely trip on the water. Keep an eye out for the Hakone Sekisho-ato customs post and the red gateway of the Hakone-jinja shrine.
Travel to Kawaguchiko where you’ll stay overnight at the locally rated 4-star Regina Kawaguchiko Hotel. Amenities at the hotel include a restaurant, hot springs, sauna, and free Wi-Fi throughout. All 68 rooms have a flat screen television, fridge, air conditioning, safe and a hairdryer.
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Day 5 Hakone-Matsumoto-Takayama
Visit Matsumoto on an included sightseeing coach tour which calls at Matsumoto Castle, one of the best preserved in Japan. Visit the castle's keep on an included trip, and admire the contrasting levels of black and white, with ornate gables, that rise over the moat. Ascend the steep staircases inside and you'll be rewarded with excellent views from the higher levels, as long as the weather permits.
Afterwards, see rural life in Japan as you pass farmers at work in the fields and tea plantations on the final stretch of your journey to Takayama and the comfort of the locally rated 4-star Associa Takayama Resort, where you’ll spend the next two nights. The Hotel Associa Takayama Resort has four Japanese restaurants plus a French restaurant, cafe and bar. All 209 rooms have views of the Japanese Alps, a television with satellite channels, tea and coffee-making facilities and complimentary Wi-Fi. B, D
Day 6 Takayama
What sets Takayama apart from most large Japanese cities is that it's retained many of its original wooden houses and there are few modern high-rise buildings. Founded in the late 16th century, its compact old town, known as ‘Little Kyoto’, is home to traditional tea houses and shops. Today's full-day included walking tour of Takayama passes the main highlights of the area, which include the picturesque Asaichi Morning Market that takes place along the banks of the River Miyagawa; Kami Sannomachi Town with its old homes, shops, coffee houses and sake breweries; Takayama Jinya, the last remaining Government House from the 60 original local governor’s offices established during the Edo period; and the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, where you can see some of the elaborately crafted floats or 'yatai' that are paraded through the streets during festivals in spring and autumn. You'll also enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at an authentic tea house. B
Day 7 Takayama-Shirakawago-Kanazawa
A coach tour visits historic Shirakawago – a quiet UNESCO-protected village that is home to unique thatched-roof houses. Later, travel to Kanazawa for an included visit to see the Kenroku-en Garden, a private garden developed between the 17th and 19th centuries by the Maeda Clan. It has a large pond, fountains, plum and cherry trees, azaleas and irises, all set upon a serene landscape linked by footpaths and bridges. Tonight, stay at the locally-rated 4-star Hotel Nikko Kanazawa. This large modern property has restaurants, a pool and fitness centre. All rooms are air conditioned and have a television and hairdryer. B
Day 8 Kanazawa-Kyoto
After free time in Kanazawa, take a short walk to the train station for the rail journey aboard the JR limited express Thunderbird to Kyoto (your luggage will travel separately by truck). On arrival you’re taken to the locally rated 4-star Kyoto Tokyu Hotel where you stay for four nights. Facilities include an international restaurant, where you'll have breakfast, a bar, a Japanese restaurant with sushi bar, a Chinese restaurant, and a tea lounge. There's also an art gallery which is worth a look around if you get the chance. Of the 432 air-conditioned rooms, Saga guests stay in rooms equipped with a satellite television, telephone, hairdryer, internet access and a minibar (both extra charge). This evening enjoy a drinks party on the rooftop bar of your hotel. B
Day 9 Kyoto
Founded in 794, Kyoto is widely considered Japan's cultural heart and is a living museum of the country's artistic and cultural heritage. An included full-day sightseeing tour by coach reveals the Kiyomizu and Kinkakuji Temples, as well as Nijo Castle with its two concentric rings of fortifications. You also visit the Nishijin Textile Centre – silk weaving is deeply important to Kyoto’s history thanks to the kimono, which is still worn by Geisha and Maiko. It's often produced from a single bolt of fabric over 11 metres long! While here you can enjoy a kimono show. Kimono shows often detail the history of the kimono and the culture surrounding it, as well as the intricacies of their creation and the various movements they allow, from pouring tea to dancing. You may also like to take a stroll around the pretty Gion district. Keep an eye out for the many shrines and temples – there are nearly 2,000 scattered throughout the city! B
Day 10 Kyoto
Spend today at leisure exploring the streets of Kyoto which are packed with tea houses and modern shops, gardens and fashionable restaurants. Alternatively, join an optional excursion by bullet train to Hiroshima for a sightseeing tour of the city. B
Day 11 Kyoto
This morning you travel by coach to Nara, second only to Kyoto in terms of its cultural heritage. Established in 710AD as Japan’s first permanent capital city, Nara only served as capital for 84 years, but still remains a major religious centre. On arrival, enjoy a sightseeing tour that begins with a visit to the Todaiji Temple, believed to be the largest wooden building in the world and home to the largest bronze Buddha ever cast. Nara’s sacred deer inhabit the vast park outside – legend has it that a local deity visited this area riding a deer, and hundreds of years ago killing one was punishable by death!
Continue to the Kasuga Shrine, with its vast amount of stone and metal lanterns, donated over the years by pilgrims. You also visit the Gekkeikan Okura Museum, an old sake brewery where you can see how this traditional Japanese drink is made. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant with a performance by a maiko, an apprentice geisha. This typically includes traditional Japanese dance and music. B, D
Day 12 Osaka-UK
Travel to Osaka airport for your return overnight flight to the UK. B
Hiroshima by bullet train
Now a busy and prosperous city, Hiroshima will always be remembered as the target for the world’s first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. When you arrive after taking the bullet train you'll take the ferry to Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Bay. This scenic island is home to the beautiful Itsukushima Shinto shrine which was built over the water and appears to float during high tide. After seeing the shrine you'll catch the ferry back to Hiroshima for a sightseeing tour, which includes a visit to the Peace Memorial Park with its monuments to those who died in the nuclear explosion. (Please note: this excursion is not exclusive.)
Optional on 12 nights itinerary