Japan Enlightenment

Summary

This itinerary takes you on a spiritual journey through this enchanting country. Soak in therapeutic natural hot springs, visit the UNESCO-heritage Koyasan to watch Shingon Buddhism being practised by monks. Travel to a Zen monastery, and learn the practice of Zazen meditation from a local instructor, helping you relax your spirit and mind. Head to Kyoto where you can join a tea master as they go through a traditional tea ceremony, and learn how deep-rooted & important it is in Japanese culture.

Engage, learn and immerse yourself on this trip which will connect you to Japan's rich culture. Stay in traditional Japanese inns, & enjoy authentic healthy meals true to Japanese philosophies to truly experience the country. 

Tour Includes:

  • Economy flights from LHR
  • Hotel accommodation in twin room with daily breakfast
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport
  • PASMO Card for transport in Tokyo and to/from Koyasan with 5,500 JPY worth of credits
  • 7-Day Japan Rail Pass in ordinary class activated on Day 4
  • Roundtrip limited express train tickets from Nagano to Yudanaka
  • English-speaking guides for tours in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Koyasan
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary

  Duration

10 Days

Price

From £4,549 per person based on 2 people sharing [Guide Price*]

Best time to go

March - April is the perfect time to go for this tour.

Tour Highlights

  • See the historic shrines of Tokyo
  • Soak in the therapeutic 100% natural hot springs 
  • Learn the art of Zazen meditation with an instructor
  • Be a part of the ancient tea ceremony in Japan
  • Visit the Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building
  • Visit Koyasan’s Buddhist centre
  • Sample takoyaki (octopus balls) and fugu (poisonous puffer fish)

Day 1: Depart the UK

Depart London Heathrow on an overnight flight to Tokyo, Haneda International Airport

Day 2: Arrival in Tokyo

Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport, you will be met & given assistance in either boarding the appropriate train or the hotel shuttle bus. After checking in to the hotel, the remainder of the day is free for you to either relax or browse the city.

Overnight: Palace Hotel [Breakfast]

Day 3: Tokyo

After breakfast, depart for a full day of Tokyo city sightseeing utilising the city’s efficient train system with your guide. Begin the day with a stroll through Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo period Lord. Take a break in the tea house known as ‘Nakajima No Chaya’ which stands elegantly amidst the park’s lake. Enjoy the chance here to sample the renowned matcha, or Japanese green tea.  Next, comes an opportunity to see Tokyo from a different angle, on a boat cruise along the Sumida River.

After the cruise, head to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi, or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also houses Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-Ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs; a delight to wander through. In the afternoon, head across Tokyo to Omotesando commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées. This broad, tree-lined avenue boasts a multitude of flagship fashion stores designed by internationally renowned architects. Before the tour ends, spend some time exploring the Meiji Shrine - Tokyo’s most famous shrine.

Overnight: Palace Hotel [Breakfast]

Day 4: Tokyo - Yamanouchi

Today is a self-guided day. You will take the Hokuriku bullet train to Nagano, and transfer to an express train to Yudanaka your final destination. A shuttle bus will take you to Kokuya Ryokan where you will stay the night. Kokuya is a traditional Japanese-style hotel (ryokan) with a 400-year history, run by its 16th generation owner. Here you will find six different 100% natural hot springs, which are rich in health-giving minerals that benefit the muscles, joints, and skin. This is an onsen (spa) town with about nine public onsens on the same street, for you to try. Feel free to walk around in the yukata (light robes), as you move from one to the other. Dinner will be served in your room and will be a kaiseki, or Japanese traditional meal, comprised of nine or more dishes. The meal is made up of seasonal dishes using only the freshest of local Nagano ingredients.

Overnight: Kokuya Ryokan [Half Board]

Stay at the Kokuya Ryokan in Japan

Day 5: Yamanouchi

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Pay a visit to the Jigokudani Park, home to the famous Snow Monkeys. Jigokudani literally means “hell’s valley” due to the steam and boiling water that bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground. It is in these hot spring baths where the resident Japanese Macaques like to soak. Going to the park from the nearest bus stop can only be done on foot, requiring around half an hour of trekking. Comfortable shoes are advised! Accustomed to humans, they can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests. 

In the afternoon, visit the charming town of Obuse, featuring a number of traditional houses and stores. More than 100 houses in the town participate in an ‘Open Garden’ event. If this sign is displayed in front of the house, it means guests can enter the property and enjoy the gardens. Obuse is also the home of Hokusai, the famous ukiyo-e (woodblock) painter during the Edo period, and Masuichi-Ichimura, the local sake brewery that produces high-quality sake from locally produced rice.

Overnight: Kokuya Ryokan [Half Board]

visit the Snow monkeys in Jigokudani park japan

Day 6: Yamanouchi – Kyoto

Today you can start your day with a final soak in the onsen, before heading off to the cultural capital Kyoto. Founded in 794 AD Kyoto’s culture, comes from an amalgamation of several influences – the imperial court, the samurai, the patrons of Zen Buddhism, and the tea ceremony. Kyoto is also the home to an astonishing 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The rest of the day is at your leisure.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency [Breakfast]

Day 7: Kyoto

Rise early in the morning to experience a quintessential Japanese enlightenment experience – Zazen (Zen seated meditation). With a guide, visit the Zen Temple to learn the basics of sitting meditation: folded legs, erect posture, half-closed eyes, and a focus on measured breathing, ultimately leading to awareness of the way the mind works. After the class, the guide will lead a brief tour of the nearby temples and will teach the difference between praying in a Shinto shrine and in a Buddhist temple. The spiritual day finishes with a Tea Ceremony in one of the teahouses in Gion district. A Tea Master will provide a full explanation of Japanese tea as well as the tea ceremony itself, its long history, and its relationship with Zen Buddhism.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency [Breakfast]

attend a tea ceremony in Japan

Day 8: Kyoto, Day Trip to Nara

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

In the afternoon, head to Nara, Japan’s capital in the 8th century for over 74 years, and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. Nara is just a small town, with most of its main tourist spots located around Nara Park, which is also home to a large number of tame deer. Visit the Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha, or Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency [Breakfast]

Day 9: Kyoto – Koyasan

Home to more than 100 temples, Koyasan has been the centre of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect, for over 1,200 years. Koyasan and its vicinity are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The journey to Koyasan is one of the highlights of the trip. After riding several local trains, the final ascent will be on a cable car, offering one of the most scenic journeys in Japan. Visit popular nearby sites offering some unique insight into Japanese Buddhism with your guide. The first stop will be at Kongobu-Ji Temple, the main temple of Shingon Buddhism and home to Japan’s largest rock garden. 

Another unmissable attraction is Okuno-in, Japan’s largest cemetery which holds the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. The classic approach starts from Ichinohashi Bridge and stretches up to 2km. The cemetery is filled with more than 200,000 tombstones that belong to feudal lords, prominent monks, and owners of well-known Japanese companies. At the end of the cemetery is the Gokusho Offering Hall, Torodo Hall of Lanterns, and Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum. 

Tonight’s accommodation will be a Shukubo, or Japanese temple lodging; dinner will be Shojin Ryori, a traditional Buddhist cuisine.

Overnight:  Soji-In [Half Board]

Soji-In koyasan japan hotel

Day 10: Koyasan – Osaka

Today is a self-guided day.

To complete the Koyasan experience, it is highly recommended to join the morning prayer, which usually starts at 06:00. This offers the chance to witness the monks praying and gives a glimpse inside the worship room. Afterwards, enjoy another shojin ryori meal for breakfast. The rest of the morning is free to further explore Koyasan before continuing the journey to Osaka, Japan’s culinary capital.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Dotonbori: Dotonbori is a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district. It is well-known for its bright neon lights, energetic shop owners and food stalls that are filled with some local Osakan delights such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and fugu (poisonous puffer fish).

Umeda: Umeda is where most of the city’s most modern buildings are found. Some of the notable buildings are HEP (Hankyu Entertainment Park), which features a big Ferris wheel and is perfect for some last-minute shopping. The Kitashinchi District, houses some of the city’s culinary specialities; and the Umeda Sky Building, a pair of skyscrapers connected in “mid-air”, built in an unusual architectural form. Feel the fresh air and enjoy 360-degree panoramic views at the ‘Floating Garden Observatory’.

Overnight: St. Regis [Breakfast]

Day 11: Departure

The rest of the day is free at leisure. Transfer via train or airport shuttle bus to Kansai International Airport. Depart on a daylight flight via Tokyo to London.

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These itineraries are just samples of what we have already done for our guests. Speak to one of our travel experts to create your perfect holiday based on your travel requirements.

* This is a guide price, based on travel in low season


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