Best of Japan Economy

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More than any other country, the Japanese have managed to integrate ancient traditions and bleeding-edge technology harmoniously into their daily lives. With the perfect mix of new and old, this well-rounded tour has something for everyone.

Destinations

Tokyo, Kamakura, Hakone Yumoto Onsen, Hakone, Takayama, Shirakawago, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Kyoto

In the best that Japan has to offer, you’ll enjoy a colorful mix of large cities like Tokyo and Osaka, quaint and traditional Takayama and Shirakawa-go, the ambiance and solitude of Miyajima Island and the ancient shrines and temples of Kyoto, the testament to peace of Hiroshima, the natural beauty of Hakone, the thermally-heated mineral water baths at an onsen and more.

You’ll participate in a tea ceremony, visit the world’s largest fish market, stroll through farmer’s markets, see where the geisha live and work, visit beautiful Miyajima Island, soak in the thermally-heated mineral waters at an onsen, admire sacred Mt. Fuji (weather permitting), the icon of Japan and much, much more.

DAY 1Arrive Tokyo

You lose a day flying to Japan due to crossing the International Dateline, and gain the day back when you fly home. You will be welcomed at Tokyo’s Narita airport by a Samurai Tours representative who will escort you into Tokyo. No meals included.

Travel: 1-1/2 Hours; Walking: TBD

DAY 2Tokyo – Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza District, Tokyo Sky Tree, Senso-ji Temple

After breakfast, you will start the day with a Welcome/Orientation meeting. Next, the licensed, English-speaking guide will escort you by taxi to the Tsukiji Fish Market. This market is the largest in the world, and it is estimated that 20% of all of the fish caught in the world passes through this market. Afterwards, we walk to the famous Ginza district, the most expensive real estate in the world. Here you will have some free time to wander through the numerous boutiques and department stores. Visit the Nissan showroom to see the latest automobile technology. Explore the Sony Building where you will find many of Sony’s products on display, some of which aren’t on the market yet. Before continuing we will first stop for a lunch of Kushiage (fried meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers). After traveling by subway to the Tokyo Sky Tree, we will go to the top observation level of the world’s second tallest building. From here, (weather permitting), you will get an awe-inspiring view of Tokyo. From here, you will get an idea of just how big Tokyo really is. On a clear day, you will even be able to see Mt. Fuji. Next we will take the subway 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. Breakfast at the hotel and lunch at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 1 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 3Tokyo Free Day

The day 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.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 4Kamakura – Kotokuin (Great Buddha), Hase-dera, Hokokuin (Bamboo Temple), Hakone Yumoto Onsen

Before leaving Tokyo, you will prepare your luggage to be transferred to Takayama, and will be traveling to Hakone and Takayama with an overnight bag only. We board a subway and an express train to the ancient city of Kamakura, the former capital of Japan in the 13th century. Hase-dera Temple, originally established in the 8th century houses a famous Kannon statue made from wood and gold leaf, and also has a commanding view of the nearby ocean. Next we will visit Kotokuin, the home of the famous Kamakura Great Buddha. This 40-foot tall bronze statue of Buddha, built in the 13th century is an icon of Japan. After a relaxing noodle lunch, we continue by taxi to Hokokuin Temple, also known as the Bamboo Temple. Here you will be able to relax and enjoy the serene atmosphere of the bamboo garden while savoring tea and sweets. Late in the afternoon, we will travel to Hakone Yumoto Onsen, where we will stay overnight and where you can enjoy the thermally-heated mineral baths at the ryokan. A local, licensed English-speaking, Japanese guide will be joining us for the day. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch at a local Japanese restaurant are included.

Travel: 2-1/2 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 5Hakone – Owakukani Hakone Ropeway, Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise; Travel to Takayama

After checking out of the ryokan, we will tour Hakone. Hakone is famous for its natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji (weather permitting). We will be taking many different forms of transportation (electric train, funicular, gondola and bus) around Hakone including the Hakone Sightseeing Boats on Lake Ashi. In good weather, passengers aboard the sightseeing cruise can get a fine view of Japan’s most famous peak, Mount Fuji, and enjoy Hakone’s rich scenery reflected on the lake’s calm surface. Along the way we will be stopping at Owakudani on the ropeway. The large windows of the gondola allow visitors to observe the panorama of Hakone’s unspoiled natural setting. Owakudani offers magnificent views of Mount Fuji in what is still an active volcanic region. Here at Owakudani, you will have free time to explore the thermally-heated pools and mud pots. You can try one of the `black eggs`, which are eggs hard-boiled in the thermally-heated mineral waters. It is said if you eat one of these eggs, it will add seven years to your life. (It is probably said by the people who sell the eggs.). After returning to Hakone Yumoto and picking up our overnight bags, we will continue on to Takayama. Takayama, in the middle of the Japan Alps, with its traditional inns, shops, and sake breweries, has managed to retain its traditional charm. After checking into the ryokan, the evening is free to enjoy one of the many nearby Hida Beef restaurants. (Hida Beef is the same thing as the more famous Kobe Beef.) Breakfast at a local bakery/coffee shop and lunch at a cafeteria is included.

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 6Takayama – Morning Markets, Takayama Jinya, San-machi-suji

This morning we stroll through the farmer’s markets, sampling the numerous options from vegetable stands and stalls selling herbs, pickles, and souvenirs. After that, we tour the Takayama-jinya, which was the governing office of Takayama and the surrounding area since the early 17th century. The guide will take you to the Sanmachi-suji district, consisting of merchant homes dating back to the 16th century. From here the rest of the day is free to roam and explore Takayama. Visit the many temples, shrines and museums, rummage through antique shops, or relax at one of the sake breweries. Breakfast at the hotel is included.

Travel: TBD; Walking: Medium

DAY 7Shirakawa-go – Shirakawa-go Open Air Museum, Kanazawa

After breakfast, we take a highway bus to the valley of Shirakawa-go. Shirakawa-go is the home of many Gassho-zukuri (Praying Hand) style homes, which have been moved here from the surrounding area. These homes were first used as long ago as the 18th century and are still being used today. We stop for a short time to tour the open-air museum where you can explore some of these traditional farmhouses. Following an enjoyable lunch and some free time to explore in the afternoon, we catch another bus to the city of Kanazawa. Kanazawa, located on the northern coast of Japan, was once controlled by one of the wealthiest families in Japan, the Maeda Clan. They were admirers and sponsors of many traditional arts, and these arts flourished under their sponsorship. Many of these arts are still being practiced today in Kanazawa. Before leaving Takayama, you will need to prepare your main luggage for transfer to Kanazawa. We will be traveling to Kanazawa with an overnight bag only. Breakfast at the hotel and lunch at a local restaurant are included.

Travel: 2 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 8Kanazawa – Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Handicrafts Museum, Naga-machi Samurai District

We begin the day touring the Kenrokuen Garden. This garden is considered to be one of the three best gardens in Japan and was initially constructed in the 17th century. After enjoying the garden, we tour the Kanazawa Handicrafts Museum to learn how the local Kanazawa handicrafts are made. After lunch we will tour the Naga-machi Samurai District. This area of Kanazawa, located at the foot of Kanazawa Castle, was the residential district for the samurai serving the castle. The area preserves a historic atmosphere with its remaining samurai residences, earthen walls, private entrance gates, narrow lanes and water canals. Here, we will also tour the Nomura House. The Nomura family was a high-ranking retainer for the Maeda family. Breakfast at the hotel and lunch at a local restaurant are included.

Travel: 1/2 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 9Travel to Hiroshima, Hiroshima – Peace Park and Museum

After an early breakfast, we will travel to Hiroshima where we will tour the Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park, which are both sobering testaments to the dropping of the A-bomb on August 6, 1945. Breakfast at the hotel is included.

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 10Miyajima Island – Mt. Misen Ropeway, Itsukushima Shrine; Kyoto

We will travel by local train to the harbor where we will board a ferry for Miyajima Island. Miyajima Island is said by the Japanese to be one of the top three scenic sights in Japan. We will visit the Itsukushima-jinja shrine which was built in its present form in 1168. After some free time on the island, we will return to the mainland and travel to Kyoto. Steeped in history and tradition, Kyoto has in many ways been the cradle of Japanese culture. A stroll through Kyoto is a walk through 11 centuries of Japanese history. 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 paving stones, geisha in a flourish of brightly colored silks, and a tea master deliberately warming water and making tea. Breakfast at the hotel is included.

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 11Kyoto – Ryoanji, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Tea Ceremony, Nijo Castle

We will start the morning at Ryoan-ji. To many, the temple’s name is synonymous with the temple’s famous karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, thought to have been built in the late 15th century. Perhaps the most famous garden in Japan, the garden’s designer is unknown and left no explanation of the meaning of the garden. The dry-style garden consists of three groupings of 15 rocks surrounded by raked sand. From the viewing point on the veranda, only 14 rocks can be seen at one time. Move slightly and another rock appears at the same time that one of the original 14 rocks disappears. In Buddhism, the number 15 denotes completeness. You must have a total view of the garden to make a meaningful experience. And yet, as in the conditions of the real world, that’s not possible. Next we will visit Kinkaku-ji. Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto’s, as well as Japan’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. After a noodle lunch we will learn about the tea ceremony. 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 even have an opportunity to make your own tea. After the tea ceremony, we will visit 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. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 2 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 12Kyoto – Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera, Higashiyama District, Gion Geisha District

We start the day at the nearby Fushimi Inari Shrine. This Shinto shrine was established in the 8th century, and is dedicated to Inari, the Goddess of Cereal (Rice). Spread out over the expansive hillside location are more than 10,000 vermillion-colored torii gates, donated by thankful followers and the local sake breweries. These torii gates form kilometers-long tunnels of vermillion winding through the quiet woods and past many smaller shrines. Next, we will visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Kiyomizu-dera literally translates to “Pure Water Temple”. For centuries visitors and pilgrims have climbed the hill to Kiyomizu-dera standing on a steep hillside with fine views of the city. Supported in part by 139 pillars, the temple juts out over the valley. Finding the courage to set out on a daring, new adventure is likened to “taking a leap from the veranda of Kiyomizu”. Below the temple is the Sound of Feathers waterfall, believed to be the name source of the temple. Water from this spring is drunk from long-handled cups, and thought to prevent illness, make the drinker wiser or add years to life expectancy. But you have to choose one. It is considered greedy to drink all three. Next, we will explore the narrow, cobblestone-paved streets and alleys of the Higashiyama District. We will finish the afternoon with a visit to the famous Gion Geisha District. Here, you will see where the Geisha live and work while you learn about this mysterious world. You may even see one on their way to one of their appointments. We will enjoy our “Sayonara” dinner in a nearby restaurant. Breakfast at the hotel and lunch and dinner at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 1 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 13Return Home

It’s time to say “sayonara” (goodbye). You will be escorted from the hotel to the Kyoto train station. From there, you will take the express train on your own to the Kansai International Airport, just outside Osaka, or return to Narita Airport by Shinkansen and Narita express train on your own for your flight back home. (If you are flying out of Narita Airport, be sure to schedule a flight after 3PM.) Breakfast at the hotel is included.

Travel: 1-1/2 Hours; Walking: Light

Inclusions

Airport transfer from Tokyo’s Narita Airport and airport transfer to Osaka’s Kansai Airport or Tokyo’s Narita Airport (Transfers to Osaka’s Itami Airport are not included.)

Meeting service at Tokyo’s Narita Airport and sending service to the Kyoto train station. (The meeting service will meet you at the airport and escort you to the ryokan in Tokyo. The sending service will escort you to the Kyoto train station and make sure you board the correct train. The sending service will not accompany you to the airport. For those requiring meeting or sending services on other than the scheduled arrival/departure dates, there will be a $100 fee for the meeting service from the airport into Tokyo or the sending service to the Kyoto train station.)

Travel Guard Gold Policy from Travel Guard, one of the world’s largest travel insurance providers, will be provided to everyone from the United States and Canada (except for Quebec). All others will receive a $100 per person credit and will be responsible for obtaining their own travel insurance in their own home country. (The insurance provided by Samurai Tours will cover the land portion only. Insurance to cover airfare and other additional expenses is the tour member’s responsibility.)

Download a PDF of the Travel Guard Gold Policy

The provided insurance coverage includes:

  • Trip Cancellation (up to trip cost)
  • Trip Interruption (up to 150% of trip cost)
  • Trip Delay (up to $750)
  • Missed Connection (up to $250)
  • Baggage and Personal Effects Loss (up to $1,000)
  • Baggage Delay (up to $300)
  • Medical Expense (up to $25,000)
  • Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains (up to $500,000)
  • Accidental Death or Dismemberment (up to $10,000)
  • Coverage for financial default of tour operator
  • Cancel for Work Reasons
  • A waiver of any pre-existing medical conditions that could eventually cause you to interrupt your trip

Travel Insurance Surcharge: Depending on your age at the time the travel insurance is purchased, you may be subject to the following surcharge for your travel insurance. Travel insurance surcharges will be due at the same time as your tour deposits.

• Up to 69 – $0
• 70-74 – $75
• 75-79 – $150
• 80-84 – $275
• 85+ – $450

Travel Insurance Opt-Out: If you would prefer to opt out of the travel insurance, please note this at the time of registration. You will receive a $100 credit per person, which will be reflected on your invoice. In the event that you would need to cancel your tour, cancellation penalties may apply. See the Terms and Conditions page for the Cancellation Fees Schedule.

Lodging for 12 nights in Western-style hotels (3 Star) or Japanese-style ryokans including all taxes and fees (all accommodations are subject to change)

Meals

  • Breakfast every morning
  • 7 Western-style or Japanese-style lunches
  • 1 Japanese-style dinner

14-Day Japan Rail Pass

The appropriate amount of free time to allow you to explore and discover your own personal Japan.

All transportation costs when traveling with the group. (Transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility.)

Admission fees to the destinations and activities listed in the Tour Highlights column on the right. (Itinerary specifics subject to change.)

Sayonara dinner at the end of the tour

Baggage transfer from Tokyo to Takayama (one bag only)
Baggage transfer from Takayama to Kanazawa (one bag only)
Baggage transfer from Kanazawa to Kyoto (one bag only)
Baggage transfer from Kyoto to your departure airport (one bag only)

Luggage lockers in Hakone
Luggage lockers in Shirakawa-go

Each tour member receives an electronic copy of our tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan travel experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese-language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts, ryokan customs, etc.

Exclusions

Airfare is NOT included.

Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and desserts are NOT included – except at the Sayonara dinner on the final evening of the tour.

Tour Map

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Overall Customer Ratings

Individual Customer Reviews

Douglas Tateoka

Laurel F. Johnson – Jul 20, 2014 to Aug 01, 2014

Vicki Granucci – Jun 22, 2014 to Jul 04, 2014

Pat and Pinmart – Jun 22, 2014 to Jul 04, 2014

Margo B. Holm, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, ABDA

Angela Bechtel

Marilyn Marie Smith

Valerie Rader – Jun 22, 2014 to Jul 04, 2014

Jo Ann Tower – Mar 27, 2014 to Apr 08, 2014

barbara thomas

Anonymous

sandie knopf – Oct 20, 2013 to Nov 01, 2013

pat mcdonald – Oct 20, 2013 to Nov 01, 2013