Day: 1 – Osaka, Japan
Tour begins: The St. Regis Osaka at 6:30 PM. A transfer is included from Osaka’s Kansai Airport to The St. Regis Osaka, located in the heart of the Champs Elyseés of Osaka. Spend two nights enjoying one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of this ancient port city, surrounded by natural beauty and cultural grace. Join us for a welcome reception and dinner tonight.
Day: 2 – Hiroshima, Japan
It’s all aboard the Nozomi Super Express (traveling at speeds up to 186 mph) for a visit to Hiroshima. A ferry takes you to Miyajima Island for a walk to view the oft-photographed Itsukushima Shrine and its “floating” torii gate. Have lunch on the island and then return by ferry to Hiroshima for a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where the first atomic bomb fell on August 6, 1945; today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your visit is poignant, the story described in words, pictures and artifacts – and the optimism of the eternal flame that burns outside the museum. Dine tonight at your hotel.
Day: 3 – Kyoto, Japan
City sightseeing this morning includes two of Osaka’s most popular landmarks. Once the largest castle in Japan, when first built in the 1580s, magnificent Osaka Castle has been destroyed – and restored – several times, with its most extensive refurbishment completed in 1997. A guided tour reveals massive stone walls, gold-leaf trim, a copper roof and panoramic views, as well as a museum that chronicles its tumultuous history. Next up is a stroll down Dotonbori Street, a popular Osaka destination where restaurants, bars and shopping arcades are ablaze by night with huge neon and mechanical signs. Depart Osaka this afternoon and head to Kyoto for a four-night stay.
Day: 4 – Kyoto, Japan
A full day of delights awaits in historic Kyoto, founded in the 7th century and an early capital of Japan. Visit Kinkaku-ji Temple this morning; this Golden Pavilion was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and astounds with gold-leaf gilding on its top two stories. Continue on to Nijo Castle for an inside visit – shoes off. Best known for its ornate interiors and nightingale floors, it was built of Japanese cypress by the first Tokugawa shogun in 1603 and is a wonderful example of Momoyama architecture. Following time to explore as you wish, have dinner on your own tonight; Kyoto offers many fine restaurants to choose from.
Day: 5 – Origami, Tea & a Maiko Performance
Kyoto abounds with a rich legacy of ancient treasures, cultural gems and natural beauty that spans the centuries. “Take the plunge,” Kyoto-style, today on a visit to Kiyomizu Temple; the expression comes from the views you will see from the cliff-top verandah off the main hall. Try your hand at Origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, when you visit a private home for a tea ceremony (shoes off again!). Have lunch on the your own today; the afternoon is free to enjoy as you wish. Dinner tonight features a Maiko performance by a Geisha-in-training, a young woman studying the fine arts of Japanese dance, music and singing.
Day: 6 – Temples of Tranquil Nara
Tour Kyoto’s Sanjusangendo Temple this morning, home to 1,001 wooden cypress statues of Kannon-Bosatsu dating back to the 13th century. Then embark on an excursion to Nara, where you’ll savor an unforgettable glimpse of old Japan on visits to ancient temples, shrines and gardens and during lunch at a Japanese restaurant. See the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at the Todai-ji Temple in Nara Park; at more than 50 feet high, the huge statue is the largest bronze Buddha in all of Japan. Stroll the wooded grounds of the vermilion-colored Kasuga Grand Shrine, adorned with some 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns, before returning to Kyoto, where you’ll have dinner on your own tonight.
Day: 7 – Garden Charm on the Noto Peninsula
It’s all aboard the Thunderbird train for a rail journey to Kanazawa on the Noto Peninsula, home to winding cobblestone streets, Samurai residences, Geisha houses, museums, gardens, and a flower-filled open-air market. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, then stroll through Kenroku-en Garden, among the country’s top three gardens; translated, its name means “a refined garden incorporating six attributes: spaciousness, careful arrangement, seclusion, antiquity, elaborate use of water and scenic charm.” Continue on to Wakura Onsen, a hot spring resort on Nanao Bay, and spend tonight at a ryokan (inn), where the dress code is a traditional kimono, mats double as chairs, and dinner features regional specialties.
Day: 8 – Shirakawa-go & a Mountain Resort
Travel to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is well-known for its villages of thatched gassho-zukuri (praying hands) farmhouses. Visit a private 400-year-old family home (shoes off!) and explore the historic village of Ogimachi, the largest village with 59 intact gassho houses. See the Miboro Dam en route to your mountain resort in the 16th-century town of Takayama.
Day: 9 – Takayama, Japan
Takayama is renowned for its artisans and woodworkers (whose traditions go back to the 9th century), its remarkably preserved Edo-period merchants’ shops and houses, its sake, and its quaint village streets best explored on foot. A walking tour with a local guide visits the farmers morning market, the Festival Float Museum and the historic Takayama Jinya, a government building dating from 1692. There are more than 2,000 different brands of sake produced throughout Japan – taste a representative sampling today when you visit a local sake brewery. The remainder of the day is free. Dine as you please for lunch and dinner.
Day: 10 – Drive Through the Japanese Alps
Today, take a remarkable drive across Honshu from Takayama through the breathtaking Japanese Alps – which divide the island in two – to Fuji-Hakone National Park and on to Hakone on the Pacific coast. Rice farms dominate the valleys, while lush forests blanket the mountains. En route, visit a wasabi farm and the Itchiku Kubota Museum, showcasing Japanese textiles and kimonos. Arrive for an overnight in the hilly hot springs town of Hakone; enjoy dinner at your resort.
Day: 11 – Tokyo, Japan
Take in views of Hakone’s scenic panorama including Lake Ashi below – and sometimes, weather permitting, glimpses of Mt. Fuji in the distance – as you travel over the mountains by gondola on the Hakone Ropeway. Take a short cruise on scenic Lake Ashi prior to lunch. A fascinating setting for art follows on a visit to the Hakone Open-Air Museum, where sculptures – many by world famous artists such as Picasso, Renoir and Miro – have been thoughtfully juxtaposed against stunning views for intriguing emphasis. Continue on to Tokyo for a three-night stay at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo – named the 2012 “Top Hotel in Japan” by the readers of Travel + Leisure.
Day: 12 – Discover Tokyo Sights, Past and Present
Today is a day to discover the heart and soul of Tokyo – a complex blend of ancient traditions and dynamic modern city, you’ll discover its many contrasts and learn a little about Tokyo’s past and present. Guided city sightseeing includes the Edo Tokyo Museum, which reveals more about the historical heritage of Edo (Tokyo); Asakusa Kannon Temple and the Nakamise Shopping Arcade, one of the oldest shopping centers in Tokyo. Lunch at a local restaurant is followed by an exhilarating Taiko performance. Taiko means “drum,” and it’s an art form all to itself – rhythm, melody, and movement are woven together into a musical experience that will be long remembered. The rest of the day in Tokyo is free to spend as you please; enjoy dinner on your own tonight.
Day: 13 – Tokyo, Japan
Visit the Imperial Palace Plaza and Meiji Shrine – shoes off! See a live performance of traditional Shinto music and Kagura dance, accompanied by chanting, drums and flutes. Sushi making is an art here; see how it’s done at a culinary demonstration, followed by lunch, then spend the afternoon as you wish. Your journey ends with a flourish at our farewell reception and dinner at the hotel tonight.
Day: 14 – Journey Home
Tour ends: Tokyo’s Narita Airport. Fly home anytime. An airport transfer is included from Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo to Tokyo’s Narita Airport. Allow a minimum of 3 hours for flight check-in.
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