Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, Tokyo has fascinating museums and world-class shopping plus neighbourhood backstreets stuffed with restaurants and karaoke bars. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned, but make sure you get here in time for this meeting. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Your leader will be collecting your insurance and next of kin details so make sure you have these on hand. Afterwards, you’ll have some free time to explore Tokyo’s exhilarating nightlife. Perhaps take a walk down Shinjuku’s Memory Lane. This crowded alley of busy restaurants and bar stalls started in the 1940s and quickly gained infamy as a black-market quarter. Today it is one of the best spots to try some of Tokyo’s famous fast food.
Dive right into Tokyo today by exploring historic Asakusa, one of the older and more traditional parts of the city. Visit the city’s oldest temple, Senso-ji, founded almost 1400 years ago when Tokyo was nothing more than a fishing village. Browse the many interesting stalls filled with tasty treats, crafts and souvenirs that line the shopping street of Nakamise Dori. Later, enjoy a different side of Tokyo as you relax on a short cruise down the Sumida River. Glide under the bridges that bisect the river and pass significant sights like the Sky Tree Tower, Asahi Beer Hall with its distinctive roof-top sculpture, the Sumo Stadium and the former Tsukiji Fish Market complex, alighting at the delightful urban oasis of the Hama Rikyu gardens. Stroll along paths that were once the sole preserve of the shoguns (various military dictators that effectively ran Japan between 1185 and 1868) who would hunt ducks in the area. Visit the quirky fashion and pop culture centre of Harajuku. It’s home to many of Japan’s iconic youth subcultures and is a magnet for cosplayers and merchants of cool. It’s also the source of Tokyo’s best crepes! Get your fill (of both crepes and cool) then head to Meiji Jingu Shrine. Enter via a massive torii (gate) and find the sights and sounds of city replaced by a tranquil forest.
In the morning, jump on a train and make the one-hour journey from Tokyo to coastal Kamakura. Kamakura once served as the political center for Japan from the 12th to the 14th century. Now it's a great destination offering a variety of experiences - munch street food, take a hike in the mountains,or simply enjoy a walk on the beach. Get acquainted with the area with a ride the Enoden Train Line, which features heavily in Japan’s wildly-popular cultural exports of Manga and Anime and shuttles commuters from Kamakura and Fujisawa. You can catch it every 12 minutes between 5 am and midnight, and the round trip takes about an hour. Even if you’re not into animation, the electric rail line travels along the coast at a gentle pace, making it a great way to see some sights. Then, stretch your legs on the Daibutso Trail (approx. 3 hrs), which takes walkers over a partially paved track through lovely green gardens, past the Zeniarai Benten Shrine and finishes at the famous Buddha statue. In your free time, maybe get your shopping on at Komachi Dori Street, a 360-metre-long stretch of food, souvenirs, clothes and drinks.
Get up whenever you want, because today is all yours! Maybe explore different stops on the Enoden line, finding out the cute cafes by the rail, dine at the hidden Michelin Star restaurant cooking with the most fresh ingredients from the area or soak in an onsen with the view of Mount Fuji. Or head to the beach for a super relaxed soak in the sea. Yuigahama and Zaimokuza are the most popular beaches in town and during July and August you’ll find beach huts and pop-up shops selling food and drink along their shores. Enoshima is also one of the most popular destination for the locals and an epic sunset with Fuji Mountain as the backdrop on the southern coast of the island is not to be missed.
Jump on board a train and make the three-hour journey to Kyoto. One of the city’s original names was Heian-kyo, which literally translates to ‘tranquillity and peace capital’, and the thousands of temples, shrines and gardens make it a great place to unwind. In the afternoon, head to the Noshiki Market and stroll through ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’. It’s the perfect introduction to Kyoto's regional specialties – from pickled vegetables hidden beneath layers of fermented rice to delicious and ornate Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets), and other local produce. As the sun goes down, continue to Gion, the city’s cultural centre and most famous geisha district. You may catch a glimpse of an elegantly-attired geisha or maiko moving between teahouses here, though much of this high-class world of entertainment is still off-limits to outsiders.
Today, you’ll head to one of the most photogenic spots in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Famous for the thousands of scarlet torii (square archways) along the path, this shrine is dedicated to Inari – the god of rice. Because foxes do his bidding, there are also plenty of fox statues along the way, ranging from the cute to the creepy. The rest of the day is free for you to explore at your own pace. If you’re in a contemplative mood, the Path of Philosophy might have what you’re after. Stroll beside a stream under the dappled shade of blossoming trees that takes you past the Zen temple Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion and Nanzen-ji Temple. You can keep walking south to the Old Town and explore the ramshackle wooden houses, or perhaps visit Kinkakuhi Temple, immortalised in Yukio Mishima’s novel ‘The Golden Pavilion’.
Your trip comes to an end today and you can depart at any time after check out, normally at 10 am. If you are departing later and want to spend another day exploring Kyoto (and we don't blame you!), you can discuss luggage storage with the hotel. If you're staying on for a few days, consider taking a Made in Kyoto tour with Urban Adventures and enjoy a behind-the-scenes shopping experience you will never forget! Find out more at urbanadventures. com/Kyoto-tour-made-in-kyoto-tastes-of-tea-and-sake.