Best of Japan - Best Tours of Japan

Meiji Mura Arashiyama Miyajima

Best of Japan Tour

What to see in Japan? It does not matter if you are lacking inspiration or detailed knowledge about the best that Japan has to offer.  We have designed our Best of Japan tour to provide an in-depth and immersive experience across a two week tour.  The schedule includes a range of the famous, historic and noteworthy sights and this tour is designed to showcase the variety and beauty of the country.  From the metropolis of Tokyo, the cultural and historic areas of Kyoto, to the mountain township of Takayama; our "Best of Japan" tours allow you to experience some of the best attractions in Japan.

As we provide custom tours, we can personalise the schedule for you and work around your preferred travel dates.  Alternatively, check out our other scheduled tours, design your own tour of Japan to suit your  interests, or let us suggest what to see in Japan.  We often review our tour schedules to improve the experience we can offer, and this includes tailoring locations for day-trips or overnight stays.  This includes being aware that Japanese tourism has increased dramatically over the last few years, and we often show our guestsampless crowded and quieter sites as well as some of the "must do" destinations.

While we run many of our tours on demand, we have two "Best of" trips scheduled for 2024:

Additional days in Tokyo before or at the end of these trips are available.

To inquire further, you can use the contact us form or email us at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz

 

Schedule Outline

We often make small adjustments to our Best of Japan trips, altering the direction of travel, adjusting for the different days of the week and the time of year.  The general outline of locations is as follows:

Day 1 Tokyo:  We will usually be able to meet you at the airport (Narita or Haneda).  After clearing immigration, luggage collection and customs, meet us at the exit in the arrivals hall.  We then transfer to our Tokyo hotel in the centre of the city.  Options include seeing some of the city, dining out or just sleep if you are jetlagged. 

Day 2 Tokyo: We start the day with a visit to Asukusa and Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo.  Passing through the Kaminarimon ("Thunder gate"), we view the stalls of Nakamise Street established more than 300 years ago, providing a wide range of souvenirs and snacks on the approach to the second main gate, Hozomon.  The temple complex includes a five story pagoda, Sensoji Temple and a number of other sub-temples in the nearby area.

Departing Asakusa we then head to Ueno which provides some good options and variety for lunch adjacent to the expansive Ueno Park. The park also contains several museums (including Tokyo National Museum that we will visit) and Tokyo Zoo (optional, one of the main attractions are the giant pandas) and the beautiful Tōshō-gū shine that enshrines the first Shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Day 3 Tokyo to Nagano: From Tokyo, the city of Nagano is a short shinkansen ride into the central alpine area of Japan.  Aiming for a midday arrival, sample the local soba noodles before visiting Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important and popular temples in Japan founded in the 7th century.  For our stay in Nagano we can choose either western accommodation, or a stay at a traditional Japanese Inn in the onsen town of Togura, complete with keiseki dinner, onsen (hot spring baths) and futons. For more information about the inn we use in Togura, please see our page on Kamesei Ryokan.

Day 4 Nagano: A highlight of many visitors experiences in the Nagano prefecture is a visit to the famous "Snow Monkeys." The trip to the park takes us away from central Nagano and the approach to the park is a pleasant forest walk (slippery in winter due to snow).  With a return to the city mid-afternoon, there is some free time to explore.

Day 5 Nagano to Takayama: Departing Nagano we head to Matsumoto arriving mid-morning to allow time to visit the castle and get lunch before catching the afternoon bus to Takayama.

The Matsumoto Castle is a "flat-land" castle designated a National Historic Site. One of the few remaining original castles in Japan from the Edo Period, it was to be destroyed in 1872 on orders of the Meiji Government but, was saved from destruction by the efforts of the local population.  The six-story main keep includes a display of guns and armour on the second floor.

Departing Matsumoto there is a road connection of approximately 100km to link to the mountain town of Takayama. This scenic route winds though the Japanese Alps, taking approximately 2.5 hours.

Day 6 Takayama: 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 we have recently added is to 'Showa' period museum. The Showa period covered December 1926 to Jan 1989 and the museum is a great place for nostalgia and a look back to a period in history many people remember fondly.

After lunch visit the Hida Folk Village, an open air museum featuring gasho style buildings with their unique steep thatched-roofed houses. This provides a different range of historic buildings to those found at the World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go.

Day 7 Takayama to Kanazawa: Continuing our journey across Japan's biggest island (Honshu), travel along the scenic Miyagawa River to Toyama before a short shinkansen ride to Kanazawa.

The local Omi-cho fresh food market provides a good option for a fresh sushi/sashimi lunch. Time in the city allows for visits to the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens (one of the top three gardens of Japan) and Kanazawa Castle Park. The city also boasts the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art with an interesting rage of exhibits .

Day 8 Kanazawa to Hiroshima: Departing Kanazawa, we travel south along the coast before cutting inland though the alps and to Japan's second largest metropolis Osaka. Transferring at Osaka, we re-join the shinkansen network for the trip south to Hiroshima.

With an afternoon arrival there is time to visit the Peace Park and the Peace Museum. An alternative is the Hiroshima Castle (there is a samurai museum inside the rebuilt castle). The city also boasts extensive covered shopping areas, and is famous for its style of okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese pancake).

Day 9 Hiroshima: Taking advantage of our full day in Hiroshima we have time to explore a couple of different destinations. The main attraction for the day is Miyajima Island and its Itsukushima Shrine. This is the location of the famous 'floating' torii gate. Also on the island 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).

An option for the start of the day is to visit Iwakuni and the famous Kintai-kyo Bridge. Beyond the bridge is an interesting array of attractions including stores selling 164 flavours of ice cream (as featured on TV), a white snake museum, Kikko shrine and a selections of older style buildings and gardens. We find this area provides an opportunity to see a more 'down-to-earth' side of Japan than the more manicured and established temples and shrines in locations like Kyoto or Nara.

Day 10 Hiroshima to Kyoto: Leaving Hiroshima, we head north by shinkansen to Kyoto. On the way we have an opportunity to visit Himeji and its world famous castle, one of the finest examples of Japanese castle architecture.

With the stop at Himeji taking a couple of hours, we arrive in Kyoto - the historic old capital of Japan - late afternoon. This still gives us time to 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.

Day 11 Kyoto: The day begins with a visit to Nijo Castle (the palace buildings are one the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era). From Nijo we then head to the 'Golden Pavilion' Kinkaku-ji in the north-west of the city.

From Kinkaku-ji, we travel across the city to the beautiful Arashiyama district. At Arashiyama we enjoy the view across the Oi River from the Togetsukyō Bridge and a ride on one of the punt boats on the river can be a relaxing interlude into the day. Among the famous sights in the area is the Sagano bamboo grove (although the large number of tourists makes it hard to get 'travel brochure' photos.) From the bamboo grove we enter the beautiful Tenryu-ji temple gardens before making our way back to the train and the conclusion of the day at Kyoto Station.

Day 12 Kyoto - Day trip to Nara:  To experience one of the most important cultural and historic places in Japan, we visit Nara, Japan's first capital. At Nara there is both Todai-ji temple (with the world's largest bronze Buddha), and Kagusa Shinto shrine. There are sacred deer roaming the park and some excellent souvenir shopping options.

Kyoto does have a lot to offer and some people might like to check some of the other sights and sites in the city.  A few suggestions include:

Day 13 Kyoto to Tokyo: After dropping luggage at our hotel, we visit the Meiji Shrine. As the Meiji Restoration was an important period in Japan's history we explain some of the historical elements of the change from feudalism to the modern era before visiting the shrine buildings located in a central Tokyo forest. As the shrine is adjacent to Harajuku, we then walk through Takeshita Street, which is a trend-setting shopping area for Tokyo youth. Leaving Harajuku there is a distinct transition as we move to the nearby upmarket shopping district of Omotesando to access the subway to take us across to Shinjuku.  

In the afternoon, we head to Shinjuku to see the expansive Shinjuku National Garden. From the gardens, we head to the Golden Gai area of old style bars before seeing Godzilla towering above the night life area of Kabukicho. 

Day 14 Tokyo: To allow time for transfers to the airport (either Haneda or Narita), this last day is scheduled as free time for you to complete last minute sightseeing or shopping.

Price Inclusions/exclusions

For groups of four or more, the price for a fourteen day tour (accommodation for thirteen nights) is from JPY695,000 per person share twin/double.  For a private two person tour the price is JPY950,000 per person. 

Shorter or longer duration tours are also available.  We will discuss with you your requirements before and after the tour regarding any additional nights' accommodation as we can make those hotel bookings for you at cost. We can also convert the Japanese yen price into your local currency for you.

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 set the price at JPY795,000. 

Our standard pricing includes:

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 service/laundry.

Flights to/from Japan are also not included in the price or transport arrangements.

Bookings and Inquiries

If you are interested in joining this tour, please contact us or email us directly at admin@japancustomtours.co.nz.


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