Experience more of Tokyo and Kyoto on the Tokaido Highway Self Guided tour. The Tokaido Highway, built by the Tokugawa Shoguns in the early 17th century, connected the new military capital of Tokyo with the imperial, cultural capital of Kyoto. Follow in the steps of Daimyo (feudal lords) and Samurai as you visit the two greatest cities of Japan.
To the foreigner, Tokyo may seem like a whirlwind of people and traffic, yet behind the ordered chaos lies remnants of a very different past. You could easily spend a lifetime exploring Tokyo and never run out of places and things to discover. From Ueno’s old museums and traditional houses to Ginza’s ultra-modern department stores and shops, the sheer energy level of Tokyo will sweep you away. Business men and excited school children flood the streets by day, and mazes of blazing neon and lively pedestrians fill the streets by night. Tokyo is not just a destination- it’s an experience.
Steeped in history and tradition, Kyoto has in many ways been the cradle of Japanese culture. A stroll through Kyoto today is a walk through 11 centuries of Japanese history. Kyoto is endowed with an almost overwhelming legacy of ancient Buddhist temples, majestic palaces, and gardens of every shape and size. For many, just the name of Kyoto conjures up the classic images of Japan: streets of traditional wooden houses, the click-clack of geta (wooden sandals) on the stone-paved roads, geisha in a flourish of brightly colored silks, and a tea master warming water and making tea.
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You will be welcomed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport by a Samurai Tours representative who will help you with your rail pass exchange, obtain your limousine bus ticket into Tokyo, and assist with boarding the bus to your hotel in Tokyo. No meals included.
Travel: 1 1/2 Hours
After breakfast the licensed, English-speaking guide will meet you in the lobby of your accommodations. The guided tour will start with traveling to Tokyo Tower. The Tokyo Tower is a communications and observation tower in the center of Tokyo. At 332.9 meters (1,092 ft) it is the second tallest structure in Japan. The structure is an Eiffel Tower-inspired lattice tower, with a main observatory at 150 meters that is reached via elevator or a 600-step staircase. Thanks to the tower’s central location, the observatory offers an interesting view of the city despite being only at a relatively moderate height. We will then travel to the famous Ginza district, the most expensive real estate in the world. Ginza is recognized by many as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world, attracting visitors and regulars alike from across the globe. Before continuing we will stop for a delicious lunch of Kushiage (fried meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers). Next, we will travel to the nearby Asakusa area. Here we will tour the Nakamise-dori, Senso-ji Buddhist Temple, and the Asakusa Shrine where you will learn about Buddhist and Shinto Japanese religious practices. The guide will either escort you back to your hotel, or give you directions for how to travel back on your own if you would like to stay in Asakusa longer. Breakfast at the hotel and lunch at a local restaurant included.
Travel: 1 Hour
Today is free to explore Tokyo on your own. Go shopping for that perfect souvenir, visit the Meiji Shrine dedicated to the Japanese emperor of the 19th century, or wander through the trendy Shibuya or Harajuku districts where you will more than likely see interesting and far-out fashions. Breakfast is included.
Before checking out you will transfer your main luggage Kyoto, and will be traveling to Hakone and Kyoto with an overnight bag only. You will make a stop in Hakone Yumoto today on your way to Kyoto. The Tokaido Highway ran through the Hakone area during the Edo period giving travelers a beautiful view of nearby Mt. Fuji (weather permitting). You can stop at Owakudani which offers magnificent views of Mount Fuji in what is still an active volcanic region. We also recommend exploring the thermally-heated pools and mud pots while enjoying the famous “black eggs” which have been hard-boiled in the thermally-heated mineral waters (it is said that eating one of these eggs will add seven years to your life). After enjoying all that Hakone has to offer, you will travel by local train and Shinkansen to Kyoto. Breakfast at the hotel included.
Travel: 3 Hours
After breakfast, we recommend starting the day at the Nijo Castle. Built in 1603, it was the Kyoto home of Tokugawa Ieayasu, the first Tokugawa Shogun. The ostentatious style of construction was intended as a demonstration of Ieyasu’s prestige, and to signal the demise of the emperor’s power. The finest artists of the day filled the castle with delicate transom woodcarvings and paintings by the Kano School on sliding doors. One of the castle’s most intriguing features is the so-called “nightingale” floors. To protect the Shogun from real or imagined enemies, these floorboards creak when stepped on. Next, you can visit Kinkaku-ji. Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto’s most recognizable attractions. The gleaming building covered in gold leaf seems to float on the aptly named Mirror Pond, especially on a sunny day. We suggest spending some time in Nishiki Koji. Nishiki Koji is a narrow, five block long shopping street lined with more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, this lively retail market specializes in all things food related such as fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties. You will also have the opportunity to participate in an authentic tea ceremony, as there is a tea house on almost every street in Kyoto. The regimented discipline of the tea ceremony has been practiced for more than 400 years, and at one time was considered mandatory for Samurai as an aid to train the mind. You will retrieve your main luggage from the hotel in the afternoon. Breakfast at the hotel included.
Today is free to explore areas that you missed yesterday. We recommend taking a train to the nearby city of Fushimi, one of the largest sake producing regions of Japan. Here you can visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine which was established in the 8th century. It is famous for the long tunnels of vermilion torii gates straddling a network of trails leading to the top of the heavily forested Mt. Inari. You can then travel to the Higashiyama District filled with narrow, cobblestone alleys, or visit the Yasaka Shrine, also known as the Gion Shrine. This shrine, built over 1350 years ago, is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. The shrine’s main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building. From here you can walk to the famous Gion Geisha District where you can see where the Geiko (in Kyoto they call themselves Geiko, not Geisha) and Maiko live and work. You may even see one on their way to one of their appointments. Breakfast at the hotel included.
It’s time to say “sayonara” (goodbye) to Japan. You will take the express train to the Kansai International Airport, just outside Osaka where you will catch your flight home. Breakfast at the hotel included.
Travel: 1 Hour
$1,844.00 (per person, based on double occupancy)
January 6 – February 28
June 16 – August 5
August 18 – August 31
November 16 – December 24
$1,998.00 (per person, based on double occupancy)
March 1 – March 14
May 7 – June 15
September 1 – October 14
$2,151.00 (per person, based on double occupancy)
March 15 – May 6 (Cherry Blossom & Golden Week)
August 6 – August 17 (Obon Holiday)
October 15 – November 15 (Fall Foliage)
December 25 – January 5 (New Years)
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Thank you so much for coordinator our Japan adventure. Your service and information packet were outstanding. We loved our time in Japan, and I would not hesitate to recommend your company. You may use my name as a reference anytime!
We loved our visit to Japan and all the things that your organization organized for us. The Japanese people are wonderful hosts and we were constantly surprised by the kindness of strangers. The Taxi driver who went out of his way to return my cell phone left in his cab. A lady in a railway station who helped us find our way and buy the correct tickets for where we wanted to go, when all we saw were machines with everything written in Japanese. The man in the fish market area of Tokyo who offered us a map of the area written in English. The owner’s wife of the ryokan, Yuki, who went out of her way to get me some boots to go up the mountain to see the Snow Monkeys in Yudanaka. Many other little things that made our visit so incredible, especially including our wonderful guides.
Despite some of the issues I mentioned, I am glad I chose Samurai and was able to become acquainted with parts of Japan from the perspective your tour offered.
My friend, Linda, and I are settling back in the States and I wanted to take a moment to thank you and Michelle for all your patience, help and support in coordinating our independent travel to Japan. We had a fantastic time and I have to say the advance coordination that Samurai Tours provided was a major factor in assuring a smooth, safe and fun trip. Tanaka-san, who met us at Narita, was very helpful. I am afraid that without him we would have been lost, exhausted and frustrated right off the bat. Locating the JR office at Narita and exchanging our rail pass vouchers for our passes would have been our first and immediate challenge. He got us through this easily, provided explicit information on our future travel and tickets and got us on the limousine bus into the city quickly and easily. Charlie-san, our tour guide in Tokyo on Day 1, was phenomenal. He was very patient and kind. He took the time to explain things to us so the entire remainder of our trip we were well equipped to operate on our own. He really set us up for success. We quickly acclimated to the public transportation system, exchanging tickets for earlier trains with ease when we wanted to throughout our stay. In Kyoto, I feel I became a “certifiable expert” on the entire public transportation system in a matter of hours. We got around easily by bus, subway and train and I thank Charlie-san for the initial “training” he provided for this success (in addition to his wealth of knowledge about everything we saw and experienced in Tokyo). Linda and I are incredibly grateful to him and I hope you can let him know how much we appreciate him. I consider Samurai Tours instrumental in making our independent travel to Japan so much easier than I imagined it would be. Thank you so much for your patience and assistance throughout our planning time and our trip. I will always recommend Samurai Tours to anyone I know who travels to Japan.
The independent tour was EXACTLY what we were looking for. It was the perfect marriage between being guided and planned and being independent and flexible. Thank you for creating that great balance for us. Our trip was flawless. My husband and I kept saying throughout the trip how well Samarai Tours did in planning and executing the tour. Thank you so much. It was a trip of a lifetime for us 🙂