Jul 28, 2023 - Aug 6, 2023
Join us for this adventure-packed tour where you will have opportunities to hike and explore the Swiss High Alps.
10 spots left
~ Book before January 1, 2023 for Early Bird Price of $4.950 ~
Note this trip is all-inclusive: all meals, all admissions
Please join us as we tour Japan in this 15 day both over & under-the-radar immersion into the culture and customs of this unique country. You’ll visit the lights and food of Tokyo, tour historic and cultural sites in Kyoto and Osaka, and even stay in a 1200 year old ryokan in Kobe where you will taste the delicious marbled beef Kobe Steak. But the most magical part will be the Shimanami Kaido bike ride from Hiroshima over 6 bridges and through some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world.
It will truly be a unique experience. We’ll be traveling between cities on Japan’s famous bullet trains. They are always close by, get us where we’re going fast, and we get to enjoy beautiful scenery along the way. And in case you are wondering about luggage – Don’t! We’ll be using Japan’s timely and efficient luggage transfer service – fast, safe, and secure transfers to the next hotel while we travel unencumbered to our next destination! Every city will offer local food and drink tours, walking excursions to temples, shrines, and other sites, as well as downtime for personal exploration.
Of course, the reason for our springtime dates is that it is Cherry Blossom season. We’ll see the beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere we turn, in cities as well as rural landscapes. At this time of year, society revolves around these blossoms!
You’ll have some amazing experiences on this trip:
Our apologies for the poor photo quality. We’re working on it!
From the top floors of skyscraper hotel in Tokyo to a traditional Japanese Ryokan built in the 12th century and set on the hot springs of the Taki River, we’ll experience a variety of accommodations.
Tokyo: Shinagawa Prince Hotel, 3 nights
In Tokyo, we will stay in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel for three nights, centrally located with fantastic views of the city.
Kyoto: Blossom Kyoto, 2 nights
The lovely Blossom Kyoto will host us during our 2 nights in Kyoto, elegant and simply appointed.
Osaka: Resol Hotel Trinity, 2 nights
Next we will stay in Osaka at the Resol Hotel Trinity, located in the center of Osaka and within walking distance of many of the attractions we will visit.
Kobe: Comfort Hotel Kobe Sannomiya, 2 nights
The luxurious Comfort Hotel Kobe Sannomiya is located in the heart of the historic district, and will be our home for two nights.
Kobe: Arima Onsen Tocen Goshobo, 1 night
Tonight we have a special treat in store for everyone! We will be staying in the Arima Onsen Tocen Goshobo, a ryokan located outside Kobe. This resort spa offers a timeless and traditional Japanese hot springs experience.
Hiroshima: Candeo Hotel, 3 nights
The Candeo Hotel in Hiroshima is in the city center and only a short train ride from Peace Memorial Park and all of our other sites.
Day 1, Saturday: Arrival
Leave LAX for a morning flight, arriving the same day in Tokyo, late afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we’ll walk to a nearby park to enjoy our first sight of the breathtaking cherry blossoms that will be everywhere! From there we’ll walk to a local traditional restaurant for our welcome dinner. For those hardy souls, we’ll cap the evening with visits to some of the many tiny bars in the area. Note: going west, during the day, your jetlag will be minimal.
Day 2, Sunday: Tokyo
After a light traditional Japanese breakfast we’ll put on our walking shoes and take a guided City tour. While we will visit many not-to-be-missed sites, we will discuss tour options ahead of time during our zoom meetings to decide the top choices of the group. Will it be Asakusa, the Imperial Palace, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Hama Rikyu Gardens, or Takeshita Street, among others? We get to decide!
Day 3, Monday: Tokyo
Take a deep dive into Japanese seafood cuisine on a combined guided tour of Tsukiji Outer Fish Market followed by a sushi making class at Japan’s largest cooking school. This is a not-to-be-missed visual and taste sensation like a bazaar – but more! We will then learn to prepare washoku dishes during a private sushi rolling class at a gourmet cooking school. After that we’ll head to the high-energy district of Shibuya for a visit to the busiest crosswalk in the world as well as Golden Gai, a well-known shopping district. That evening we’ll enjoy a unique local Tokyo food tour that begins with Yakitori Alley, the birthplace of a favorite Japanese appetizer, before moving onto “Monja” Street where various foods are battered and fried in the distinctive “Monja-Yaki” style. Following our dinner tour, there will be an optional visit to the Roppongi night-life district to see the tiny bars and more!
Day 4, Tuesday: Mt. Fuji
After an early breakfast we will be picked up by van for a private tour to Mt. Fuji, one of Japan’s most beautiful, iconic destinations. We will stop at 2 lakes, a small village for lunch, and the beautiful Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Jinja Shrine, which is the traditional starting point for climbing Mt. Fuji. Luckily, we will have a ride for most of the way! We will then be driven to the train station where we will catch the bullet train to Kyoto, our next city on the itinerary.
Day 5, Wednesday : Kyoto
After breakfast we will head to the train station for the short ride to Kinkakujimichi, where we will meet our private guide. Remember – no luggage to carry around! Our first stop will be Kinkakuji or The Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple, whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Kinkakuji was built to echo the extravagant culture of the early 15th century. Each floor represents a different style of architecture. Next we visit Ryoanji Zen Garden, the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden. Here you may contemplate the rocks to your heart’s content, and maybe even see monks raking the rock garden or possibly do it yourself! Remember to center!
Next is a 1 hour scenic train ride to see even more cherry blossoms as well as beautiful Japanese hills. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy a traditional Japanese lunch. Next, we get to slow down with a walk through the incredible Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, a one mile walk through towering walls of bamboo. Our tour will end in Gion, the geisha district, where we will attend a guided tour and tea ceremony with a geisha. A late dinner close to our hotel will wind down the evening.
Day 6, Thursday – Kyoto
After breakfast we will meet our private guide for a tour of the eastern side of Kyoto. After exploring Arashiyama and enjoying a buffet beef Shabu Shabu lunch, we’ll pay a visit to the Kiyomizudera Temple, one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. We’ll then head to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, an important Shinto shrine. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion Tiorii Gates, which straddle a network of trails leading into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari.
The Yasaka shrine is a short walk away and dates from the year 670. It is one of the most visited shrines in Japan. Next is Ginkagugi, a Zen temple, and The Philosopher’s Path. The path follows a canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry trees. Usually in early April these trees explode with color, making this one of the city’s most popular hanami cherry blossom viewing.
A highlight of our tour will be the delicious Food and Drink tour in Pontocho, a prominent entertainment district and Kyoto’s center of traditional arts. It is a narrow alley packed with restaurants on both sides offering a wide range of dining options from inexpensive yakitori to traditional and modern Kyoto cuisine, as well as upscale foreign cuisine. We will sit down to a 10 course Kaisiki dinner, prepared using methods local to Arigato, Japan. One of the 10 courses will be an ornate platter mounted with living fish. It will be an unforgettable meal and will delight your culinary senses.
Following our meal, we will take a short train ride to Osaka and settle into our hotel for the night.
Day 7, Friday – Osaka
Today we visit Osaka Castle and Nishinomaru Garden, one of Osaka’s favorite Hanami spots. The castle itself, built in the late 1500’s is of course worth the visit. But the true draw is the acres of cherry trees, all in full bloom for our visit. Afterwards, we’ll join a private guide to visit Kuromon Ichiba Market, known as Osaka’s Kitchen, where we’ll find many food shops, as well as famous Japanese cooking implements (who needs a Yanagiba knife or a self-stirring pot?)
After lunch we’ll head to the observation deck at the Umeda Ski Building, for a panoramic view of the city. Then we will have a few hours for shopping or just relaxing. The evening will bring the Traveler’s Choice Best of the Best tour to visit the backstreets of Osaka – including the red light district, illegal gambling dens, and the neighborhood alleyways. We will tour some of the grittier neighborhoods safely, taste some local specialties at the street stalls, and have a great 5 dish dinner at a family-owned restaurant, while learning about the culture and history of Osaka from our half Japanese, half Australian guide.
Day 8, Saturday: Nara
After breakfast we’ll take the train to Kintetsu-Nara Station to meet our guide for our day trip to Nara, where we will visit both the Kofukuji temple, the second largest wooden pagoda in the world, and Todai-ji Temple, which houses the 15 m tall Great Buddha. After our return, we will take the afternoon to enjoy the Japanese tradition of Hanami by gathering at a park under the cherry blossoms with a picnic that we will share with other visitors. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet and share food with strangers while enjoying the beauty and scent of the cherry blossoms. When we are ready, we’ll take the train to Kobe, transfer to our hotel, and then enjoy a group dinner.
Day 9, Sunday: Kobe
In the morning we will meet a guide for a walking tour of Kobe that will include a stroll along the Maiko Marine Promenade, crossing the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, and even a cable car ride to the top of Mount Rokko. Following lunch, we head to Kitano-Cho, a city district at the foot of the Rokko mountain range where many foreign merchants and diplomats settled after the city was opened to foreigners in the 19th century. More than a dozen of the former mansions, known as Ijinkan, remain in the area and are open to the public as museums. This evening’s dinner brings the option of the famous melt-in-your-mouth Kobe Steak at one of the delicious local restaurants.
Day 10, Monday: Kobe – Arima
After breakfast, we will join a sake tour of Kobe, the largest sake brewing area of Japan. We will even get to meet some of the local sake brewers, learn about the history of sake making, and of course, as well as purchase some samples from the various breweries.
We will then ride to Arima Onsen, a small town outside of Kobe famous for its hot springs. We’ll spend the afternoon and night at Arima’s Onsen Tocen Goshobo, a 12th century 5 star ryokan, enjoying the hot springs and even massages (an extra service) that are available. After a traditional Japanese dinner sitting on the floor and made by the chef on site, we will sleep on Japanese futons all in traditional Japanese rooms with rice paper walls and beautiful lanterns. Please note that, as in many ryokans, single accommodations will not be available here, as the traditional rooms have 3-4 futon beds per room.
Day 11, Tuesday: Kobe – Hiroshima
We will take a short train ride to Hiroshima for a tour of the Peace Museum and even meet with an Atomic Bomb survivor, known as a member of the hibakusha, or “bomb-affected people.” Following this visit, we will meet up with a private guide, who will take us on a tour of Miyajima Island, home to a towering great torii gate, the Itsukushima Shrine that seemingly floats on the water. We will get to enjoy lunch on the island that includes Michelin Star rated Eel (who knew?).
After lunch, it is time for a Kyudo lesson, the martial art based on shooting an arrow from a Japanese bow to a target to reach a complete focus of mind and body. We will be invited to dress in an authentic kyudo uniform and will also pay respects to the equipment, as well as the opponent. For dinner, we will enjoy upscale sushi at the well-known Sushitei Hikarimachi in downtown Hiroshima. For those wanting to explore the Hiroshima nightlife, there will be an optional bar-hopping tour.
Day 12: Wednesday: Hiroshima – Onimichi
Today marks the first of the two-day Shimanami Kaido bicycle tour that follows the scenic 70 km long route. Visually stunning and crossing over six islands, it offers incredible ocean views. We will cross 2 bridges before resting for the night at the Suminoe Ryokan, another ryokan, and a popular overnight stop for bicyclists. We will stay in shared, and comfortably appointed traditional guest rooms, and will be served both dinner and breakfast (in local Japanese style) before our cycling adventure continues on Thursday.
For those not inclined to take the bicycle tour, Wednesday offers the option of a chauffeur-driven tour of Iwakuni to visit the gardens of Mitaki Temple and the landmark Kintaikyo Bridge, the elegant, wooden bridge of five arches spanning massive stone pillars across the Nishiki River. Afterwards,we will drive up into the hills to the thatch-roofed restaurant Irori Sanzoku, an elaborate Japanese themed restaurant for a relaxed, delicious meal before returning to our hotel.
Day 13, Thursday: Onimichi – Hiroshima
Our second day of the bicycle tour takes us across the remaining 4 bridges and past several beautiful shrines and temples, and concluding with the infamous Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge.
The non-cycling option for Thursday is a visit to Rabbit Island which is a fascinating blend of both life and destruction. The contrast of hundreds of adorable rabbits, the Japanese symbol for safe childbirth and fertility, and the Poison Gas Museum, which teaches about the island’s chemical weapons research that ended in 1945.
Our group will come back together for dinner – a choice between YakiNikku Goro for Hiroshima style Japanese food or the award winning Pizza Riva if Italian food sounds better.
Day 14, Friday: Hiroshima – Tokyo
Our last day begins with some free time to explore Hiroshima unless we, as a group, decide differently. After lunch, we will take a fantastic “Best of Hiroshima Food Tour, where we will get to try dishes from 4 different restaurants, including a popular Ramen dish known as Tukemen, while learning about the local history and culture of Hiroshima. There will even be some time for souvenir shopping.
Then it is time to board the train for the last time to head back to Tokyo, where we will stay in a hotel close to the airport.
Day 15, Saturday: Fly Home
Here we say goodbye to this magical collection of islands.
For Japan there are two associated plug types, A and B. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and plug type B is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. Japan operates on a 100V supply voltage and 50/60Hz.
All you need is a passport.
Japan has fully halted all restrictions. You’re free to come and go with just your passport.
Jul 28, 2023 - Aug 6, 2023
Join us for this adventure-packed tour where you will have opportunities to hike and explore the Swiss High Alps.
10 spots left
Jan 21, 2023 - Jan 29, 2023
Join us for this adventure-packed tour where you will have opportunities to visit volcanoes, hike beautiful trails and over & underwater expeditions.
8 spots left
Aug 18, 2023 - Aug 27, 2023
Let’s explore Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands during their festive month of August.
12 spots left
Sign up to receive special discounts and other member benefits.