September Grand Tour 2017
We have designed our September tour to include an interesting mix of locations ranging from traditional experiences through to the modern, industrial Japan of today. This allows guests to enjoy a range of famous, historic and noteworthy sights that showcase the variety and beauty of the country. This extensive tour allows you to experience a wide variety of what Japan has to offer across the month of September.
While we are running this Grand Tour across the whole month of September, it has a natural break at the mid-point allowing people to join for either the first half or second half of the month. If you are interested in joining this tour, you can use the contact us form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss your requirements.
Friday 1st September Tokyo: We will meet you at the airport (either Haneda or Tokyo) and transfer you to your hotel in central Tokyo.
Upon arrival, after clearing Immigration, luggage collection and Customs, they will meet you at the exit of the Arrivals Hall. You will recognise us as we will have a welcome sign displaying your name and our company logo. For Narita arrivals we then take the Narita Express (N'Ex) train into the city.
Saturday 2nd September Tokyo: For the first day in Japan we suggest a fairly low key day with some sightseeing around the city. This allows you some time for familiarisation with Japan and some of the small items that will become second nature by the end of your journey.
Starting the day, visit Asukusa Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate"), Hozomon and pagoda. An array of stalls lines Nakamise Street (the entrance to this shrine) providing a wide range of souvenirs and snacks on the approach to Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo (founded 645).
In the afternoon, visit Shinjuku and enjoy the view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building (200 metres above ground level). There is also time to see the expansive Shinjuku National Gardens with its interesting and large green-house.
Sunday 3rd September Tokyo to Sendai: Taking an early train head to Sendai and Matsushima Bay, one of the 'three views of Japan' and the cruise around the bay with its many beautiful pine-tree covered islands. After viewing the pine covered islands, walk to Zuigan-ji past the caves carved into the approach to the temple. The caves were used for memorial services and as a cinerarium to house the ashes of the deceased. The caves were constructed some 700 years ago and remained in use until a few hundred years ago.
Ogawara, Sendai (left); Matsushima Bay, Sendai (right)
Monday 4th September Sendai to Aomori: Taking the Hayabusa shinkansen at speeds up to 320 km/h travel to Aomori. There will be time during the afternoon to see Wa Rasse, a museum celebrating the summer Nebuta festival, or the floating car ferry museum in the port area.
Tuesday 5th September Aomori: There are several options including a day trip to Mount Osorezan (one of the most sacred sites in Japan) or visit the extreme end of the island at Cape Oma. (Oma is also known for its huge tuna.) Another option is to visit the nearby town of Hirosaki, famous for its castle and park (with 2600 cherry trees that will not be in bloom).
Wednesday 6th September Aomori to Sapporo: Taking the newest shinkansen link under the Tsugaru Strait (via the Seikan tunnel) transfer to the express train for the trip to Sapporo.
Thursday 7th September Sapporo: Sightseeing around the city. Attractions in Sapporo include The Sapporo Beer Museum, Moerenuma Park, Mount Moiwa and Susukino among others.
Friday 8th September Sapporo: A '-day trip across to Otaru, its beautifully preserved canal area and merchant street areas. The afternoon for some relaxing or shopping.
Saturday 9th September Sapporo to Lake Toya to Hakodate: An interesting excursion we have done previously was to Lake Toya site of many ryokan/onsen overlooking the lake. An attraction is the Usuzan ropeway onto a (not very active) volcano. The walk around the volcanic crater is very good - although a good degree of fitness would be required (as there are lots of steps).
Sunday 10th September Hakodate to Aomori: Start your day in Hakodate exploring the morning market as well as Japan's first western style fortress, Fort Goryokaku, and take the ropeway to the top of Mount Hakodate for views of the city. For timing, we suggest taking a late afternoon train back to Aomori ' approximately two hours.)
Monday 11th September Aomori to Akita: From Aomori to Akita is one of the most scenic train trips in Japan. The train, known as the Resort Shirakami takes the Gono line around the north west coastline. (The train departs at 8:10 a.m. so an early start to the day.)
Tuesday 12th September Akita: A relaxation day allowing short trips to Lake Tazawa, a visit to the Senshu-koen park, or go to Kakunodate to explore the old Samurai district and houses.
Wednesday 13th September Akita to Niigata: Continue our journey along the western coast to Niigata.
Thursday 14th September Niigata: Visit Sado Island by jetfoil. The remoteness of the island made it ideal for exiles and retains a distinct "out of the way" atmosphere. Niigata also has an old style market - Hon-cho.
Friday 15th September to Togura/Nagano: Head into the mountains for a stay at a traditional Japanese inn including onsen and local foods prepared on-site. There is a small castle (fort) on the hill behind the ryokan that gives great views across the valley and mountains around the area. There is a local cycling tour around Togura available opposite the ryokan. We will arrange the local geisha to provide dinner entertainment (music and dance).
Saturday 16th September Togura/Nagano: Several options are available. Explore the local town, the city of Nagano and Zenko-ji temple in Nagano, founded in the 7th century, Togakushi Shrine in the forest to the north-west of Nagano, with its impressive tree-lined approach and Ninja Museum, or Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Sunday 17th September Nagano to Tokyo: A short trip back to Tokyo for time sightseeing in the city such as the Meiji Shrine and the nearby neighbourhoods of Harajuku (a trend setting shopping area for the Tokyo youth), and the higher-end stores of Omotesando. Uneo Park is another good option with a selection of museums and zoo.
Monday 18th September Tokyo: Optional day trip to Hakone: Taking the Shinkansen to Odawara make a brief side trip to Odawara castle before visiting the local food hall to collect items for lunch (the range is pretty amazing). Head to Hakone-Yumoto, taking the bus to Lake Ashi (walk along the cedar avenue to the Hakone checkpoint), boat cruise (a pirate ship) across the lake to Togendai, ropeway and the Tozan cable car to Gora. Hakone provides many places to view Mt Fuji (on a clear day) including from the lake and the ropeway. Attractions around the Hakone area the Venetian Glass museum or the Open Air Art Museum.
Fushimi Inari Shrine (left), Kodaiji Temple Gardens (right)
Tuesday 19th September Tokyo to Hiroshima: To manage train travel timing, we travel to Hiroshima. This is one of our longer travel days, covering 900km in five hours by shinkansen (high-speed 'bullet' train). There is a transfer at Shin-Osaka and an opportunity to buy an o-bento (Japanese lunch box) or other food for lunch on the train. With an early afternoon arrival time, there is then an opportunity to visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city.
Wednesday 20th September Hiroshima: A full day in Hiroshima allows us time to visit and explore Miyajima Island: Itsukushima Shrine is the location of the famous "floating" torii gate. The island is accessed by a short local train and ferry ride.
Depending on fitness and inclination, we can use the ropeway (cable car) and head to the top of Mount Misen for views across the Seto inland sea. If feeling energetic, the walk back down the mountain provides some good viewing and vantage points (otherwise we can get the ropeway back down).
The rebuilt Hiroshima Castle (the castle includes a samurai museum)
Hiroshima is the location of one of the Mazda vehicle factories and there is a tour and museum. (Advance reservations are required.)
At Kure there is the Yamoto Battleship museum and the also the JMSDF museum with interesting exhibits relating to mine sweeping and also a submarine
Thursday 21st September Hiroshima to Kyoto: The journey north to Kyoto is a modest 400km (2 hours by shinkansen), which delivers us to the historic old capital of Japan around midday. During the afternoon we usually visit the very accessible Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine with its famous 10,000 torii gates. The walk to the top of Inari Yama (to see all 10,000!) takes a couple of hours and is definitely optional'
Friday 22nd September Kyoto: Visit the "Golden Pavilion" Kinkaku-ji in the north-west of the city and then Nijo Castle (the palace buildings are one the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era), before heading to Heian Shrine and gardens.
The afternoon/evening can be used to visit the old Gion area, Yasaka shrine and Maruyama Park (a famous site for hanami (picnicking under the cherry blossom trees).
Saturday 23rd September Kyoto: Day trip to the World Heritage Site at Nara. At Nara there are both Todai-ji temple (with the world's largest bronze Buddha), and Kagusa Shinto shrine. Sacred deer roam the park and temple/shrine areas.
Todai-ji Temple at Nara (left), Kasuga Shrine, Nara (right)
Sunday 24th September Kyoto: Visit the beautiful Arashiyama district for viewing the gardens and temples of this famous area. Enjoy the view across the Katsura River or from the river with a short and leisurely boat ride before heading to the nearby Sagano bamboo grove. The nearby Ryoanji Temple is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden.
Yamazakai Distillery Tour (advance reservations are required.)
Exploring the 400 year old covered Nishiki food Market and adjacent Teramachi covered shopping street
Ginkaku-ji (the ''Silver Pavilion'') followed by a walk along the cherry tree- lined Philosopher's Path (although there will not be cherry blossom at this time of year).
Monday 25th September Kyoto to Takayama: Travel by Shinkansen and then local train to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of Takayama. Explore the town's historic buildings and shops on foot. The local specialty is Hida beef, very good quality - we recommend enjoying it at one of the local bbq restaurants.
Tuesday 26th September Takayama: A free morning to explore the town, check the local markets or visit one of the different museums or temples scattered around the town. After lunch head to the world heritage site of Shirakaga-go (a half day bus trip) with its unique steep thatched-roofed houses. The Hida Folk village provides a different range of historic buildings and could be included in the morning activities.
Wednesday 27th September Takayama to Kanazawa: Leave Takayama and head to the west coast of Japan and a city renown for its seafood. The afternoon is available to visit the famous Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa castle
Thursday 28th September Kanazawa: Omi-cho market is a smaller, friendlier version of the Tokyo Tsujiki fish market and a great location for a fresh sashimi breakfast.
An option for the day is to visit the craft village near Kaga onsen to the south of Kanazawa http://www.yunokuni.jp/mori/en/. Alternatives include the 21st Museum of Contemporary art or the local temple district or exploring the tea house district.
Friday 29th September Kanazawa to Tokyo: Transfer back to Tokyo for a final day to indulge in souvenir shopping before an evening flight.
Saturday 30th September Tokyo: A place holder day if you choose to have extra time in Tokyo.
Pricing is takes into account the accommodation rates that we expect to be in place at the time of bookings. The tour price reflects the fact that rates are lower when booked in advance, and more expensive when booked shortly before the tour commences.
For bookings within two months of the start of the tour the price for the full tour tour is from Y1,195,000 per person share twin/double. Shorter or longer duration is also available.
For guests wanting to join for half of the tour the prices are from Y595,000 per person share twin/double and the same early booking discounts apply.
For solo travellers (one person, without a shared room), the cost of accommodation is unable to be shared, but we have a policy to limit the extra cost and have priced our tour for a single person at 20% higher than he shared room price. An early confirmed booking discount would also apply.
Prices include rail transfers from Narita to Tokyo, local trains, rail passes for the duration of the trip, entrance fees and tour fees. Accommodation is selected to average 4-star or higher and will normally include breakfast.
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