Japan in May - Spring Tours 2020
Japan in May 2020 Tours
May in Japan is still spring, but we welcome warmer and more settled weather.
The cherry blossom gives way to wisteria and it is a great time for travelling
before the hotter summer months arrive. For previous years we have
conducted several tours during the month of May.
These have incorporated many of the famous sights of Japan with an exotic mix of
locations including traditional experiences like onsen and ryokan stays through to the modern Japan of today
as seen in Tokyo. Our popular 2017 and 2018 editions included visits to the
historic Kumano Koda pilgrimage trails
combined with the coastal Shirahama beach resort.
For May 2020 we intend to repeat a version of our garden themed Best of Japan tour with a schedule covering just over two weeks.
As with many of our trips there is flexibility and while we highlight some of
the beautiful gardens and landscapes of Japan, there is a lot more to experience
across the two weeks. There are also optional additions at either the start or end of the trip.
If you would prefer different dates for this tour, please let us know. If you are interested in joining,
or would like your own custom trip during May,
you can use the contact us form or email us at
Saturday 9th May Tokyo: The start of the tour is Saturday 26th and
this is treated as the arrivals day. Some guests may be arriving into Japan in
the days before the official start of the tour and will therefore have this as a
free day in Tokyo.
As part of our planning we aim to meet everyone at the airport (either Haneda
or Narita) and transfer you to the hotel in central Tokyo.
Sunday 10th May Tokyo: Start the day with a visit to Sensoji Temple,
the oldest temple in Tokyo. Features of the temple are the Asukusa
Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate"), Hozomon and five story pagoda. An array of stalls
lines the approach to the temple, known as Nakamise Street.
Departing Sensoji we head to the nearby Ueno and the expansive Ueno Park. The park contains several museums
(including Tokyo National Museum that we visit) and the beautiful Tōshō-gū shine that
enshrines the first Shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Finishing our visit in Ueno we include a walk through the old style market of Ameya-Yokocho
with its many varied stalls and small shops including many located under the
Monday 11th May Tokyo to Hiroshima: From Tokyo we travel south to
Hiroshima. With an early afternoon arrival time, there is then an opportunity to
visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city. Other options for
afternoon sightseeing include the Shukkei-en miniature garden or the rebuilt Hiroshima Castle.
Tuesday 12th May Hiroshima: The day is dedicated to a visit to the
famous Miyajima Island. Highlights include the Daishoin Temple and
Itsukushima Shrine. This is the location of the famous "floating" torii gate.
Also on the island we can make use of the ropeway (cable car)
and head to the top of Mount Misen for views across the Seto inland sea.
Wednesday 13th May Hiroshima to Okayama: Arriving into Okayama midday the
afternoon is reserved for visiting the Korakuen Japanese garden. Korakuen is a
beautiful landscape garden and is ranked as one of Japan's three best landscape
gardens. It is located just beside Okayama Castle, the main building of Okayama
Castle is the six story castle keep.
Thursday 14th May Okayama: From Okayama there is an option to visit the Adachi Museum of Art near the
city of Matsue. The two hour train journey through the mountains is a
scenic ride before getting the shuttle
to the museum. The museum houses a collection of nearly 1300 twentieth century
paintings and artworks, and is famous for its garden which has been named the
best garden in Japan annually since 2003. Note, the garden is viewed
rather one that people are allowed to walk through.
An alternative that we have offered is a day trip to the "Art Island" of
Naoshima. Accessed by a short train and ferry ride it is possible to visit
the Art House Project and the Benesse Art Museum easily in a day. The
island boasts a number of other art installations and
Friday 15th May Okayama: A short trip south of Okayama is the
township of Kurashiki and the picturesque Bikan Historical Quarter and canal district. The preserved canal
area that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867). Some of the buildings
have been converted into museums (there are more than a dozen in the area) and includes the Japan Rural Toy Museum
displays toys from the 1600s to the 1980s. The Archaeological Museum has
artefacts from more ancient cultures, and there is also a natural history museum.
As a more relaxed day of sightseeing there is ample time for you to explore the
area before returning to Okayama in the late afternoon.
Saturday 16th May Okayama to Kyoto: Leaving Okayama we take the
shinkansen to Kyoto, which delivers us to the previous, historic capital of
Japan. During the afternoon we visit the 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.
From Fushimi Inari we can visit Sanjusangendo temple. This impressive
site holds more than 1,000 hand carved statues that were more than 100 years in
Sunday 17th May Kyoto: Start the day by visiting the "golden pavilion"
Kinkaku-ji in the north east of the city before visiting the nearby Ryoan-ji
Temple. Ryoan-ji is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden. From Ryoan-ji
we then head to Nijo Castle for the elaborately decorated palace buildings (one
the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal
era), and its beautiful palace garden.
From Nijo the central city area is a short subway ride away. The afternoon is
available to explore the 300 year old Teramachi shopping covered street and the
400 year old Nishiki Markets (known as Kyoto's kitchen). The quaint
Pontocho district and the Gion quarter are also nearby for those wishing to
explore during the afternoon.
Monday 18th May Kyoto: To experience one of the most important cultural and
historic places in Japan, we visit Nara, Japan's first capital. Nara boasts many
temples and shrines, too many to visit in a single day. We do visit
Todaiji Temple which houses the world's largest bronze Buddha in one of the
world's largest wooden buildings, the Kagusa Shinto shrine and its thousands of
lanterns, and the Nara Deer Park with many deer roaming the
Tuesday 19th May Kyoto to Kanazawa: From Kyoto we take the
'Thunderbird' Express train to Kanazawa.
Arriving midday we can visit the Omicho seafood and produce market for lunch
at one of the sushi restaurants. The market exhibits a wide range of
products with one of the local specialities being huge snow crabs.
Following lunch we head to the
nearby Kanazawa Castle Park and the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens, one of the top three landscape gardens in Japan. The city also boasts the interesting 21st Century
Museum of Contemporary Art which is also an option to round out the day.
Wednesday 20th May Kanazawa to Takayama: Kanazawa has a number
of additional attractions including an old Chaya district and a small samurai
district that are available for an early morning visit. Later in the morning we
leave Kanazawa for the Japanese Alps to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of
Takayama. The journey from takes us through some very scenic valleys and into
the mountain interior of central Japan.
After arrival there is time to explore the town's preserved historic district
and shops on foot. The local specialty is Hida beef, very good quality - we
recommend enjoying it at one of the local bbq restaurants.
Thursday 21st May Takayama: The morning is available to explore the
town and its easy walking courses; enjoy the local morning markets or visit one
of the several small museums and temples scattered around the town.
Takayama is famous for its woodworking and its biannual floats festival
(matsuri). A visit to the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall is a recommended stop
on our tours. An additional stop is the 'Showa' period museum (covering exhibits
from 1926 to 1989). The museum is set up as a set of small
shops/buildings that you walk through and is a great place for nostalgia.
After lunch we head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go with
its unique steep thatched-roofed houses.
Friday 22nd May Takayama to Tokyo: Departing from Takayama there is a
scenic route continuing through the mountains to the castle town of Matsumoto.
From Matsumoto there is an express train directly back to Shinjuku and Tokyo.
Saturday 23rd May Tokyo: There are many great gardens in and around
Tokyo that are worth visiting including the Shinjuku National Gardens or the
huge Showa Memorial Gardens in western Tokyo. As day trips the Kairakuen Garden
in Mito is ranked among Japan's three finest landscape gardens, or the Asikaga
Flower Garden Park are possible destinations.
Alternatively, the day can be used to visit one of the other famous locations
in the city such as the Meiji Shrine, or simply used as free time.
Sunday 24th May Tokyo: Final time in Tokyo before heading to the
airport for your flight home.
The price for the full sixteen day Japan Spring Garden Tour including accommodation for
fifteen nights, is from
Y695,000 per person share twin/double. Optionally, for those wanting a
two week tour we can offer the tour with accommodation for thirteen nights and
finishing in Tokyo on the Friday 22nd from
Y595,000 per person share twin/double.
The price includes:
- Our tour service, including a dedicated guide for the duration of your
tour. That includes a meet&greet at the airport and transfers to the hotel in
- Accommodation, averaging 4* - 5* properties and usually including
breakfast. We aim to book superior rooms to give additional space
and comfort during your trip.
- Transport, all train travel, subways, and transfers. Taxis are also covered
during the day for our sightseeing as well as the occasional bus connection.
(Not flights to/from Japan.)
- Entrance fees for temples, shrines, castles, parks, gardens, and museums.
These are listed in your agreed tour schedule.
- Evening meals at ryokan (Japanese inn) accommodation are normally
included as well as breakfast. In general, we do not include lunch and
dinner meals because Japan has a huge range of foods and we prefer not to
restrict options, especially when food is a significant part Japan.
Exclusions are generally items such as theatre performances, sporting or
other special events, theme parks, lunch and
evening meals, snacks/drinks and other incidental costs such as hotel room
Bookings and Inquiries
If you are interested in joining this tour, please contact us or email us