1 Welcome to Osaka, Japan!
Your complimentary, private transfer takes you to your local departure airport. On arrival at Kansai or Itami airport, you will be welcomed and taken to your five-star hotel situated in the heart of the city, where there is time to relax. At 20:00, meet your Travelling Concierge and travel companions at the hotel's Rainbow Lounge for your Welcome Dinner. Enjoy stunning views over Osaka while you enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine including tempura and sushi. (DW) Stay Two Nights: Imperial Hotel Osaka.
2 Highlights of Osaka.
Situated in the heart of Japan where rivers and sea routes converge, Osaka is a hub of cutting-edge architecture, exotic flavours and laid-back locals. Today you will discover the city's highlights, starting with a visit to Osaka castle, beautiful during cherry blossom season. Then, together with your Travelling Concierge and fellow traveller, discover why Osaka is known as the kitchen of Japan as you embark on a food-tasting exploration along Dotonbori Street with a passionate local foodie. Try local specialities such as Takoyaki, rounds of ground octopus wrapped in batter, before sitting down to a tasty two-course lunch. In the afternoon, venture to the top of the Floating Garden Observatory in the Umeda Sky Building for incredible city views. With the evening at leisure, ask your Travelling Concierge for local recommendations to explore this exotic city further. (B/L)
3 A Local Perspective on Hiroshima.
Experience Japanese technology at its best as you journey to Hiroshima station on the Shinkansen bullet train. On arrival, explore the UNESCO World heritage Site of Peace Memorial Park and Museum, the only structure left standing after the first atomic bomb was dropped during World War II. The bomb was the single-most destructive force ever created by humankind and changed the course of history forever. During your visit, meet a survivor who will share insights into this dark chapter of world history. For lunch you will be treated to traditional Japanese savour pancakes known as Okonomiyaki, a dish typical of the region. Enjoy free time in the afternoon to explore Hiroshima and delve further into the city's history. You may wish to finish your visit with a special prayer for peace. Your journey continues by bullet train to Kyoto known for thousands of years as the Imperial capital of Japan. After you check in to your centrally located hotel the rest of the evening is yours. (B/L) Stay Two Nights: Hotel Granvia Kyoto.
4 The Temples and Geisha of Kyoto.
Kyoto is Japan's geisha capital, and during your city tour with your Travelling Concierge you will discover why this is the hub of ancient tradition and culture. Marvel at the Zen Buddhist temple of Kinkakuji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and see its famed Golden Pavilion to appreciate its classic architecture, intricate history and expansive gardens. Visit the famous Giouji Temple, situated on a majestic grove of bamboos and maple trees, where you'll learn about local folklore and explore the temple's thatched hut and walk through the indigenous bamboo forest. Savour a Highlight Lunch of traditional Kyo-Kaiseki cuisine made of seasonal ingredients, whilst you enjoy a performance by a Maiko, an apprentice geisha. Central to Kyoto culture, geisha are highly-skilled entertainers, specializing in classical music, dance, conversation and games. This fine art has evolved over many centuries and today attracts visitors from around the world. Embark on a walking exploration of the vibrant Gion neighbourhood, known as Kyoto's primary geisha district. With free time to explore for the rest of the evening, perhaps enjoy the local teahouses, lantern-lit restaurants and bars or simply absorb the electric atmosphere, as you shop for souvenirs. (B/L)
5 Mt Fuji and Onto Tokyo.
Board the bullet train to Mishima to stop at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mount Fuji. Admire spectacular views from the observatory at the 5th Station, before venturing down to Lake Kawaguchi where you will be captivated by the flawless reflections of the mountain. Continue to enjoy spectacular views of this UNESCO World Heritage Site as you enjoy lunch made of fresh, seasonal ingredients at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, explore Mt Fuji Your Way with a choice between a visit to the Icchiku Kubota Art Museum with its unique works of art, traditional architecture and seasonal gardens or climb aboard the Kachi-Kachi yama ropeway for amazing views of the mountain. Travel to Tokyo and check in to your hotel for the evening at leisure. (B/LW) Stay Two Nights: Imperial Hotel Tokyo.
6 Explore Traditional Tokyo.
Tokyo is an economic powerhouse and home to national museums, festivals, theatres and sacred temples. Seasonal tea ceremonies date back a thousand years and play an important part in Japanese culture, they are central to good hospitality. Experience this for yourself when you visit a traditional teahouse and learn how to prepare the perfect cup of Matcha Green Tea. Try your hand at making sushi with the highest quality fish and discover why it takes ten years to become a Master Sushi Chef, before sitting down to a delightful Highlight Lunch. With time at leisure, why not enjoy time exploring Ginza, known as the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo. During a Your Choice Evening you're in for a true local experience with the choice of two hand-picked restaurants, each specialising in local delicacies. You may try either Shabu-shabu which are hotpots of meat and vegetables or Teppan-yaki where rice, meats and vegetables are freshly cooked on a grill. (B/L/DW)
7 Journey to Sendai.
Journey north by bullet train, your destination is the Sendai, known as the City of Trees. This is a true locals region, off-the-beaten path and away from the tourist crowds. Enjoy a private cruise along the dazzling Matsushima Bay, taking in views of countless pine-covered islands. The bay has often featured in Japanese poetry since ancient times. Disembark at Katsurashima Island and meet the owner of a local inn. Dine as the locals do with a seafood lunch as the owner shares insights into life on the island. Return by ferry to Matsushima, where you explore the site where Aoba Castle once stood before witnessing samurai performance by local artists. Continue to your five-star hotel where the evening is at your leisure. Perhaps sign up for a massage at the in-house spa or discover how Kokubuncho comes to life at night time? (B/L) Stay: The Westin Sendai (Superior Rooms).
8 Tsugaru and Hirosaki Castle.
Journey to Shin-Aomori Station via bullet train. Visit Hirosaki Castle, famous for its bright cherry blossom trees that bloom between April and May. Meet a cherry blossom doctor who will explain how his team nurture these beautiful trees from sapling to maturity and ensure all the cherry blossoms of the region are strong, healthy and able to thrive during the cherry blossom season. As you explore the Tsugaru han Neputa Village you will see the colourful decorations used during the summer Neputa Festival and watch skilled craftsman at work, they spend month lacquering to create the perfect chopsticks. You then enjoy a special Experience, a private musical performance of Tsugaru Shamisen and Taiko, traditional Japanese guitar and drumming. Your journey continues to Oirase Gorge, one of Japan's most-revered nature havens. (B/DW) Stay Two Nights: Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel, Oirase Gorge.
9 Relaxing Oraise.
Explore the spectacular Oirase Gorge, a place of special scenic beauty. Wander along the crystal-clear Oirase Keiryu stream, admire the cascading waterfalls and marvel at the seasonal colours of the indigenous forest. Continue to a local restaurant for lunch. Once back at the hotel, guests will have time at leisure. After a day of exploring, perhaps experience a soul-soothing Onsen, a traditional Japanese hot bath, in the nearby forest. For those wanting something more flavoursome, journey to a local brewery to taste Japan's national drink, sake, an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting rice. (B/L/DW)
10 Exploring Oirase Gorge.
Return to Tokyo via bullet train for your last night in this intriguing city. Visit the Sensō-ji Buddhist Temple, the oldest and most-visited temple of Japan, and wander along the famous Nakamise Street and explore Kappabashi, a local back-street known as Tokyo's foodie hub. In the evening, get ready for a dazzling Celebration Dinner as you venture to the heart of the city. Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai is a famous restaurant with old-world charm and surrounded by a Zen garden. It specialises in tofu cuisine, but you will savour a range of intricately prepared dishes including simmered eggplant and fried shrimp, fresh sashimi and deep-fried tofu coated with miso, all accompanied with beer or wine. (B/DW) Stay: Imperial Hotel Tokyo.
11 Farewell Japan.
Bid farewell to your travel companions and head to Narita or Haneda International Airport for your onward journey. On arrival at your home airport, your driver will greet and escort you to your waiting car for your private transfer home. (B)