Best of Japan Independent Package

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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, and our most popular itinerary, this well-rounded tour has something for everyone.

Destinations

Tokyo, Kamakura, Hakone Yumoto Onsen, Hakone, Takayama, Koya-san, Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Kyoto

Tour Pricing (All prices are per person.)
$2,394 – Double Occupancy
$2,994 – Single Occupancy

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, the religious center of Koya-san, the ancient shrines and temples of Kyoto, the testament to peace of Hiroshima, and more.

You’ll stay overnight at a mountain-top Buddhist temple where Buddhist monks will serve you meals of Shojin Ryori (the traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine), attend prayer services at the temple early the next morning, and much, much more. You’ll visit Tokyo where the sheer energy will carry you away. From the Hakone area, you will get a view of the iconic Mt. Fuji (weather permitting).

You’ll explore Takayama where the locals have managed to maintain its traditional charm and where time seems to stand still. Finally, you’ll tour Kyoto. Kyoto with its Geishas dressed in their colorful kimonos and its narrow, cobblestone-paved alleys evokes the very image of Japan. A walk through Kyoto is a walk through over 1,000 years of Japanese history.

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 help you with your rail pass exchange, obtain your train ticket into Tokyo and assist with boarding the correct train.

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

DAY 2Tokyo

The licensed, English-speaking guide will meet you in the lobby of your accommodations. You will start the day at 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. Next, we will take the subway to Roppongi Hills, where we will visit the Tokyo City View. From the observation deck on the 53rd floor of the Roppongi Hills Building, you will get a bird’s eye view of Tokyo while also getting oriented to Tokyo, and a glimpse as to just how large Tokyo really is. On a clear day you might even see Mt. Fuji. Afterwards, we travel by subway to the famous Ginza district, the most expensive real estate in the world where we will first stop for a lunch of Kushiage (fried meat and vegetables on bamboo skewers). After lunch, we will travel by taxi to the Hinode Pier to take a relaxing cruise on the Sumida River back to the 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.

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

DAY 3Tokyo

The day is free.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 4Kamakura, Hakone Yumoto Onsen

Before checking out, you will transfer your main luggage to Takayama, and will be traveling to Hakone and Takayama with overnight bags only. You will travel by local trains to the ancient city of Kamakura, the former capital of Japan in the 13th century. You can visit Hase-dera temple, originally established in the 8th century which houses a famous Kannon statue made from wood and gold leaf, and also has a commanding view of the nearby ocean. Next you can 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. Later in the afternoon, you will travel by local trains to Hakone Yumoto onsen. Here you can rest and relax the in thermally-heated mineral waters of the bath at the ryokan.

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

DAY 5Hakone, Takayama

After checking out, you will tour the Hakone area. Hakone is famous for its natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji (weather permitting). Be sure to stop at the Owakudani. 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.). Late in the afternoon, you will leave Tokyo by bullet train and express train 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 in, you can enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants specializing in Hida Beef. Hida Beef is the same thing as the more famous Kobe Beef. You can retrieve your main luggage from your accommodation when you check in.

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: TBD

DAY 6Takayama

Start the morning at the farmer’s market strolling past the vegetable stands and stalls selling herbs, pickles, and souvenirs, sampling the numerous options as you go. Or visit the Takayama Jinya, the governing office of this area since the 17th century. In the afternoon, the choices for what to do are abundant. You can roam and explore Takayama, visit the many temples, shrines and museums, rummage through antique shops, or relax at one of sake breweries. Take the bus to the Hida-no-Sato Open Air Museum with its traditional, thatched-roof homes from the surrounding area. Or visit the Yatai Kaikan, a museum chronicling the famous festival held every April and October in Takayama.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 7Koya-san

You will board an express train and Shinkansen bound for Osaka, and continue on to Koya-san by train and funicular. Koya-san is the world headquarters of the Shingon school of Esoteric Buddhism. Kobo Daishi, considered by many to be the most influential religious person in Japanese history, established a religious community here in the year 816. After checking into your shukubo (Buddhist temple lodging), you are free to roam and visit one of the 110 temples in the area, wander through the nearby ghostly cemetery at the famous Okuno-in temple, or just rest in the garden at the shukubo. Your dinner of shojin-ryori (traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine – no meat, fish, onions or garlic) will be served. Before leaving the hotel in Takayama, you will prepare your main suitcase to be sent ahead to Osaka. You will be traveling to Osaka with an overnight bag only.

Travel: 6 Hours; Walking: TBD

DAY 8Koya-san/Osaka

Very early in the morning, you will attend o-inori (Buddhist prayer services). After the prayer service, a shojin-ryori breakfast is served. Following breakfast you can tour the Garan and Kongobu-ji Temples. Or wander through the huge cemetery leading up to the Okuno-in temple, where Kobo Daishi is buried. Many Japanese still believe that Kobo Daishi is not dead, but merely in a very advanced state of meditation, waiting to awaken at the appropriate time. In the afternoon, you will travel by funicular and train back to the city of Osaka. In the evening, you can enjoy the famous South Osaka entertainment districts of Dotombori, Shin-Sekai and Namba. You can retrieve your main luggage from the accommodation when you check in.

Travel: 2 Hours; Walking: TBD

DAY 9Hiroshima

Before leaving in the morning, you will transfer your main luggage to Kyoto. You will be traveling to Kyoto with an overnight bag only. Before leaving Osaka in the afternoon, you can tour the Osaka Castle, the center of Japan in the late 16th century. In the afternoon, you will travel by Shinkansen to Hiroshima.

Travel: 3 Hours; Walking: TBD

DAY 10Miyajima Island

Today you can visit Miyajima Island using your included rail pass, considered by the Japanese to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan. You can ride the cable car to the top of the mountain on Miyajima Island. Visit the Itsukushima-jinja shrine, which was built in its present form in 1168, or just take in the beauty and ambiance of Miyajima Island while enjoying grilled oysters, the island’s specialty.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 11Hiroshima/Kyoto

Tour the Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park, both sobering testaments to the dropping of the A-bomb on August 6, 1945. In the afternoon, you will travel by Shinkansen (bullet train) to the city of Kyoto. 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.

Travel: 2 Hours; Walking: TBD

DAY 12Kyoto

The day is free.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 13Kyoto

The day is free.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 14Home

It’s time to say “sayonara” (goodbye) to Japan. You will take the express train 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 15:00.)

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: TBD

Inclusions

  • Detailed, easy-to-follow directions on how to travel between cities
  • Bi-lingual maps, addresses and phone numbers for all your lodging
  • 14 Day Ordinary Car JR Rail Pass
  • English-speaking emergency contact number in Japan
  • Meeting service at the airport
  • Airport transfers
  • 8 Hours of Guiding Service from a licensed, English-speaking guide
  • Lodging each night
  • Suggested train schedules including train schedules for 2 hours prior and 2 hours after the suggested time to allow you to choose your own times
  • ICOCA card pre-charged with 2,500 Yen to be used on the subways in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and the streetcars in Hiroshima (2,500 Yen will allow as many as 7 or 8 trips depending on the length of the trips
  • Accommodations in 3 Star hotels including all taxes, fees and breakfast every morning (Click the Upgrades tab to view available Upgrade Options)
  • Nankai Koya-san World Heritage Tickets (includes round-trip reserved seats on the express trains to and from Koya-san, round trip cable car tickets and bus passes on Koya-san
  • Breakfast every day
  • A copy of our “Gaijin on Getas” tour handbook (this is the same popular handbook our escorted tour members receive) which contains 180 pages of Japan travel tips, Japanese language tips, Japanese customs and etiquette and Japanese history to prepare you properly for your trip and allow you to enjoy Japan even more after you arrive.
  • Baggage transfer forms (We will provide the necessary forms in Japanese to transfer your main baggage ahead, allowing you the freedom of traveling light. The service provided will only work overnight, so you will need to travel with an overnight bag. The actual transfer fees are not included and will be paid by you at the time of transfer. These fees normally run between 1,250 Yen and 1,750 Yen.)

What’s Not Included

  • Local transportation (subways, buses, taxis, etc.)
  • All admission fees
  • Lunches and dinners (except where noted)
  • Desserts at any included meals (except where noted)
  • Drinks other than water and tea at any included meals (except where noted)

Tour Map

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Overall Customer Ratings

Individual Customer Reviews

Martha Pine – May 18, 2012

Shirley Delgado – Apr 13, 2013

Rich Roca – May 07, 2013

Marissa Corona

Lynn Learson – Jun 27, 2012

Blake Bankwitz – May 25, 2012

Troy Jolley – Jun 17, 2012

David Fryburg – May 18, 2012

Tom Parker – Apr 25, 2012

Mark G Murray – Jun 15, 2012

Mihail Rugeanu – Mar 30, 2012

Cherie Gillette Sigward – Jun 12, 2012

Tom Fowle – Feb 25, 2012

Kathleen Mensing – Feb 20, 2012

Allison Nishimoto – Jul 04, 2012

Mary Lou Herlihy – Jul 03, 2012

Justine Fletcher – Jul 14, 2012

Janette Aguado – Jul 18, 2012

Martha Gomez – Jun 17, 2012

Jennifer and Scott Isdaner – Jul 29, 2012

Ardath Yamaga – Jul 24, 2012

Patrice Sutton – Aug 22, 2012

Taiko Yamaga – Jul 24, 2012

Theodore K. Hirota – Oct 01, 2012

Tammy Lee – Oct 05, 2012

Wolfgang Kulhanek – Oct 03, 2012

Lynn and Ned Masters – Nov 10, 2012

Ros Watson-Hunter – Dec 09, 2012

Greg Brown – Jun 27, 2013

Jim Hoelzel – Mar 13, 2013

Greg Brown – Jun 27, 2013

Susan and Jim Russell

William Mierse – Jun 19, 2013

Mark Haden – Jul 21, 2013

Greg Brown – Jun 27, 2013

Shirley Delgado – Apr 13, 2013

Martha Pine – May 18, 2013

Stanford Paul

Anonymous

Gail Radzevich – Oct 08, 2013

John Walsh – Oct 19, 2013

Ilona Kwiecien

Jackie Hoy – Oct 27, 2013

C. Davis – Dec 22, 2013

Sarah Kurian – Feb 02, 2014

Anonymous – Mar 22, 2014

Thomas Richard Davis – Mar 28, 2014

Steven Woodward – Apr 01, 2014