Samurai Adventure - Japanspecialist
Samurai Japan - a 500-year journey into Japan's feudal history.
This tour will bring you back to the age of medieval Japan, a time that's inspired countless novels and action movies. The ideal period to make this trip will be spring when the iconic cherry blossoms are in full bloom (end of March – beginning of April).
Later, you'll discover hypermodern Tokyo, enjoy a breathtaking walk on the Nakasendo Trail in the Kiso valley, explore the old merchant town of Takayama, the atmospheric geisha quarter of Gion in Kyoto. Later, it's off to the iconic Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima, with its landmark red gate in the sea.
This 16-day tour is the perfect Japan holiday for nature lovers with a special interest in Japanese history and culture.
You'll depart from Europe to Tokyo with an overnight flight, so try and get ready and well-rested for your great Japanese adventure.
You'll arrive in Tokyo and transfer to your centrally located hotel by shared taxi or airport limousine bus. On this arrival day, head out to the bustling area Shinjuku and visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for some interesting exhibitions about Tokyo and enjoy the awesome city view from the top floor. On clear days, you will have a distant but clear view on Mt. Fuji.
On your first full day of Tokyo stay, start with a visit to Edo-Tokyo Museum in the central area of Ryogoku. The museum illustrates the past of Tokyo (known as Edo until 1869). Next, visit the Ueno area, which lies a bit further northeast. Stroll through Ueno Park and then visit the Tokyo National Museum, which features one of Japan's largest and best art and archaeological artefacts collections.
At the end of the day, continue to Ginza, where you can enjoy some shopping at one of the famous department stores or find a pleasant restaurant for a kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) dinner.
Today, head off on an adventure out of the city to Nikko, home to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed, lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine, a mausoleum for shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the great military leader (and country unifier) of the early 17th century.
You will also find Futarasan Shrine in the same park, dedicated to Nikko's sacred mountains, and Rinnoji, Nikko's most prominent Buddhist temple.
Back in Tokyo, head to Roppongi Hills complex to enjoy dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants (Japanese or Western-style), then soak up a 360 degree panorama night view of Tokyo at the Roppongi Hills observation deck.
Today, it is time to leave Tokyo and journey southwards to explore the splendid nature and onsen (hot springs) of Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park.
For the best access and opportunities, grab a Hakone Free Pass, which covers Tokyo's transport and provides unlimited access to most buses, trains, cable cars, and sailboats throughout the park.
So, relax and take the mountain railway through the beautiful valleys, enjoy a relaxing boat ride on Lake Ashi and gaze up at the surrounding scenery, all with Mt. Fuji towering in the background.
If you have time left, visit Chokoku no Mori open-air museum. Tonight, you will have your first Japanese style inn (ryokan) experience. Try and check-in until late afternoon to enjoy a relaxing onsen bath before dinner.
From Odawara station (40 minutes by bus from Hakone), today, you will have your first ride on the shinkansen (bullet train). You will travel to Nagoya and transfer before arriving at Kiso Valley, home to the famous Nakasendo trail. The Nakasendo used to be a trade route between Kyoto and Edo, and it dates back to the Edo period (from 1600 to 1868).
Explore Tsumago, which functioned as a post town on the Nakasendo route, one of the best-preserved post towns in Japan. The town atmosphere is at its best around 5:00 pm. when the sun sets, and traditional paper lanterns light up the streets and houses.
Take the whole day to walk the Nakasendo trail and make sure to cover at least the part between Tsumago and Magome towns, which is seven kilometres long.
The trail leads through the forest and countryside, and on it, you will discover historical remains of post-signs and post houses. After arriving in Magome, make sure to spend some time in this delightful town. If you have more time left, take the express train to one of the other historic villages in the Kiso valley, like Kiso-Fukushima or Narai.
After breakfast, it is time to take the train back to Nagoya, where you'll transfer to the Wideview mountain express train to Takayama in the Japanese Alps (Gifu prefecture).
In the afternoon, take a few hours to explore the wonderful old town of Takayama on foot, with many buildings and whole streets of houses dating back to the Edo Period (1600-1868), when the city thrived as a wealthy town of merchants. Takayama is known for its local foods - including vegetables, beef, soba (buckwheat noodles), ramen, and sake.
On this full-day in Takayama, take the bus from Takayama to Ogimachi village in Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
Although the area feels like an open-air museum, it is still a lively village community, with many houses still inhabited by the original families.
After a three or four hour visit, take the bus back to Takayama and treat yourself to a delicious Hida beef dinner.
Today you will take the train to Kanazawa. This lovely city offers an interesting combination of history, traditional culture and handicrafts, modern art and delicious cuisine!
Be sure to visit Kenrokuen garden, which is recognized as one of Japan's three best Landscape gardens. Another highlight is the Nagamachi historic quarter, where some of the most impressive 18th - 19th-century Samurai houses are located.
Next on your list should be a visit to the impressive 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which offers one of Japan's best and most varied modern art collections.
Finally, head to Higashi Chaya district, the historical geisha-quarter, with wonderful atmospheric hillside streets aligned with old wooden houses. This is the ideal location for a classical dinner of regional delicacies.
Today, you will leave lovely Kanazawa and continue your journey by train to Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from 794 to 1868. It has over 1600 temples and 400 Shinto shrines, a famous traditional geisha area (Gion), numerous fascinating museums and historic neighbourhoods.
A must no miss is Kinkaku-ji, the famous and powerful Golden Pavillion, which you could visit in combination with the nearby zen Ryoan-ji temple.
Then visit Nijo-jo, the ancient samurai castle with giant moats, scenic paths and incredible interior. The castle also has its own burglar alarm - the so-called wooden nightingale floor, which "chirps" no matter how quiet you sneak upon it.
Start your second full day in Kyoto by visiting the famous Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavillion), home to one of Japan's most fascinating landscape gardens. This is also the starting point of the Philosopher's Path, a trail along a small stream leading to Nanzen-ji temple. On this path, you will experience the essence of Kyoto and its beauty, history, ancient culture, traditions, and neighbourhood tranquillity.
Continuing further south, you will reach Kiyomizu-dera, a temple built against a hillside, partly constructed on wooden poles. The hilly streets leading up to the temple - Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka - are lined with snack stores and gift shops. Once you reach the temple, you'll witness breathtaking panoramic views of Kyoto.
Finally, further to the south, there is also the Fushimi-Inari Shrine which you will instantly recognize due to its countless number of red Shinto-gates all lined up one by one to create never-ending long red tunnels.
On this final full day in Kyoto, dive deep into the history of Japan and take a local train to the city of Nara, which is just 45 minutes from Kyoto. Nara was the original capital of Japan (before Kyoto) and has many impressive historical sights to offer, all of which can be explored easily on foot.
Highlights include the Kasuga Taisha, a marvellous shrine located in the forest, famous for its countless lanterns, and the magnificent UNESCO listed Todai-ji. Take a walk through the extensive and hilly Nara Park and feed the friendly and sacred deer.
You will leave Kyoto to continue southwest (two hours by bullet train) to Hiroshima. After arriving in Hiroshima, taste real Japanese soul food, okonomiyaki.
Then use the afternoon to visit the small island of Miyajima. This island was considered sacred in ancient times and houses the characteristic Itsukushima Shrine with the famous red Torii (temple gate), one of Japan's three most beautiful sights.
Another enjoyable activity on Miyajima could be taking the ropeway up Mt. Misen and enjoying the extensive views of the Japanese Inland Sea and its many islands.
Before returning to Hiroshima, make sure to sample another local delicacy that you can buy from food stalls around the island: charcoal-grilled oysters (kaki).
Hiroshima will always be synonymous with the atomic bombing. Visit the atomic bomb dome and Peace Museum to understand better the destruction that hit the city on that day.
After, take a stroll through the surrounding Peace Park, and look for the children's monument, where children from all over the world donate cranes folded in origami paper as a symbol of peace. Next to the dome, you will find the "Orizuru Tower" with beautiful viewpoints, and nearby is also the colourful pedestrian street Hondori.
You will take the shinkansen eastwards for your final stop on this Samurai Japan tour in the afternoon: Osaka. Visit Osaka Castle and the surrounding park, then continue by subway south to Shinsaibashi or Namba area, the perfect place to enjoy the popular street food takoyaki.
This is the end of our Japan adventure. You'll head to Osaka Kansai airport to catch your return flight. We hope this exploration through Japan has been an inspiring one and a trip you'll never forget.
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