Your in-depth exploration of Japan begins in Tokyo. Take a shuttle bus transfer to your centrally located hotel, where you'll join your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Welcome Reception drink and local appetisers.
Hotel: New Otani Garden Tower
We launch our City Tour in the old-time entertainment centre of Asakusa, where we'll encounter the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. One of Tokyo's most colourful and popular temples, Sensoji has been rebuilt countless times since it was founded in 628, making it Tokyo's oldest temple site. Strolling down Nakamise next, we immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds of shitamachi (downtown Tokyo), admiring the wooden dolls, colourful chiyogami (origami paper) and traditional Japanese sweets. We'll ascend Tokyo Skytree, the world's highest free-standing broadcasting tower for panoramic views of the city, then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure or on an Optional Experience.
Our first stop today is the Imperial Palace Plaza from where the two bridges that form the entrance to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace can be viewed. We'll have the opportunity to explore the leafy Imperial Palace East Gardens before continuing our City Tour. At the Edo-Tokyo Museum, we delve into the history and culture of Tokyo's Edo era, then continue to the Ginza district where we'll learn how to make sushi with a 'Local Specialist'. We venture to the Five Lakes District next, keeping a keen eye out for the UNESCO listed Mt. Fuji which dominates the landscape.
Hotel: Fuji Marriott Yamanakako
This morning ascend Mt. Fuji by road to 2,300 metres at the 5th station before taking a ride up Mt. Tenjo on the Kachikachiyama Ropeway (both weather permitting), for jaw dropping views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko. Continue your journey through the Japanese Alps to the hillside town of Takayama, before enjoying an early dinner at the hotel. Later 'Dive into Culture' as the warm glow of lanterns beckon and with them, an opportunity to delve into centuries of tradition at the Yomatsuri Night-time Festival. Watch in wonder as ornate floats lit up by hundreds of lanterns parade through the streets to sounds of cheery bystanders, drums and jangling bells.
Hotel: Associa Takayama Resort
Immerse yourself in tradition as you walk through the Edo-style streets of Takayama's Old Town. Indulge in a lunch of Japanese Hida-gyu - beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed, renowned as one of the finest quality varieties of beef. After lunch, immerse yourself in the town's festive atmosphere. Admire the intricately carved yatai (floats) that date back to the 17th century and feature karakuri ningyo, (marionettes) which move and dance as their strings are managed by the tsunakata (puppeteers). Later, return to the hotel by coach.
Journey back in time this morning during a visit to the peaceful UNESCO-listed Gokayama, a mountain village set amidst five valleys. Admire the unique construction of the local Gassho-zukuri wooden houses that have been built without the use of nails with steeply sloped thatched roofs to prevent snow from building up on them. Later 'Dive into Culture' observing local artisans making washi paper and trying your hand at making your own. 'Make a Difference' to the sustainability of this small business during your visit. Then, continue to Kanazawa and take a short walk through the Omicho market and enjoy an insider's view of everyday life in a busy coastal town. Next, visit the gardens of Kenroku-en, shaped over a hundred years before continuing with a visit to a 'Local Specialist' to learn the secrets of painting gold leaf. Stay overnight in Kanazawa.
We board an Express train this morning to Kyoto, where we'll 'Connect with Locals' at a traditional ryokan, built in 1932 to serve as the second residence of Emperor Akihito's uncle. We'll enjoy a Be My Guest lunch and learn about local Japanese customs as our hosts welcome us into their beautiful home. After lunch, we visit the UNESCO-listed Kinkakuji Temple with its famous Kinkaku (Golden Pavilion), the proud symbol of Kyoto and a Zen temple, which has its origins as a 14th century villa.
Hotel: Nikko Princess Kyoto
The blazing orange torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine guide our path through the forest, up into the mountains and to a sacred site that has heard prayers for prosperity and happiness since the 8th century. We continue to Sanjusangen-do Hall and admire the minute detail of each of its 1,001 "thousand-handed" goddesses of mercy, then enjoy a walking tour of the Gion area. This evening, we indulge in a festive Farewell Dinner with your Travel Director and fellow guests.
We leave Honshu behind, crossing the world's largest suspension bridge over the Seto Inland Sea to Awaji Island. Enjoy free time for lunch, then walk around Yumebutai, with its '100 Stepped Garden' - a group of 100 square gardens with flowers that bloom during each of the four seasons. Visit the Water Temple and admire the reflection of the surrounding mountains, rice paddies and bamboo groves as you descend the steps to the Buddhist temple beneath its still waters. Journey to the small mountain hot springs village of Kotohira where we'll stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan. We'll have some time this evening to climb the steps adjacent to the hotel to visit Kotohira-gu Shrine or take a relaxing soak in the onsen (hot spring) bath at our hotel.
Hotel: Kotohira Grand Sakuranosho (ryokan)
Our morning begins with a visit the Zentsuji Temple, birthplace of the high priest Kobo Daishi who was said to have founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. We'll continue to Omishima Island and make a stop at a local restaurant for lunch. Driving to Hiroshima via the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway, we'll cross the individual bridges that link the islands of the Seto Inland Sea.
Hotel: Rihga Royal
We travel by ferry to the sacred Miyajima Island, where we'll see the famous UNESCO-listed Itsukushima Shrine and elaborate torii gate that stand majestically in the sea. After some free time for lunch and to explore the island's spiritual sanctuaries, we return to Hiroshima for a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Imagine the devastation and horror that followed the world's first atomic explosion in 1945 as you see the UNESCO-listed Peace Memorial, the only structure left standing in the area and an expression of hope for world peace. This evening, we'll indulge in Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat, seafood or cheese, grilled in layers on a hot plate.
Board the high-speed bullet train to Osaka this morning and enjoy some free time for lunch and shopping in the Dotonbori Street area. Visit Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. This evening, join your Travel Director and fellow guests for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
Hotel: Sheraton Miyako Osaka
Our encounter with Japan's centuries-old traditions and modern cityscapes at its end, we take a transfer by airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport, or Osaka Itami Airport for your onward flight.
One of our AAA Travel Vacation Specialists will be contacting you shortly. We are here Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00am to 7:30pm and Saturday 9:00am to 1:00pm.
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