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Japan | 8d/6n:

A touch of Japan

Highlights of this tour:

The Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle, Heian Shrine, Nishiki Market, Kiyomizu Temple, Daisen-in Zen Garden, Ryogen-in, Koto-in and Zuiho-in; Nara, Todaiji Temple, Japan’s largest Buddha, Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Fushimi Inari Shrine.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Return flights from the UK to Osaka
  • Arrival guide service in Osaka
  • Return transfer from Osaka airport to the hotel in Kyoto
  • Welcome meeting at the hotel in Kyoto
  • 6 nights at tourist class hotel with breakfast
  • Local English-speaking guide on all tours
  • 24-hour manned emergency telephone throughout the tour
  • Departure guarantee – Tour requires minimum 2 participants

The following excursion packages are included:

  • Guided full-day excursion to the Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle, Heian Shrine, Nishiki Market and Kiyomizu Temple
  • Guided half-day excursion to Daisen-in Zen Garden, Ryogen-in, Koto-in and Zuiho-in
  • Guided full-day excursion to Nara, visiting the Todaiji Temple, Japan’s largest Buddha, the Kasuga Taisha Shrine and then the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Further tours as optional extras:

  • Bento box cooking class
  • Izakaya cooking class
  • Bike ride through the alleyways and back streets of Kyoto
Single room supplement £455
Discounts for large groups.
The tour can be booked up to 60 days before departure.
Choose this tour because...

If time is of the essence and you wish to experience Japan without travelling from east to west, this tour to Kyoto is perfect for you. Kyoto is Japan’s ancient cultural centre, where many traditions are still very much in evidence. You will discover a city with a living geisha culture in Gion, 17 UNESCO World Heritage Buildings such as the Golden Pavilion and the Kiyomizu Temple, a “kitchen” offering the best of Japanese and international cuisine, and you will enjoy both guided tours and time on your own. You will also need to have some good walking shoes with you as people walk a lot in Japan – and that applies to Kyoto, too.

Kyoto has four seasons as we know them, and you can travel there all year round. Each season has its own distinctive character, and even in restaurants and tea houses, the menus are seasonal. Spring, with its cherry blossom, and autumn, with the beautiful colours of the maple trees, are popular seasons.

Detailed Itinerary
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Day 1: Departure from the UK
Day 1: Departure from the UK

Departure from the chosen airport in the UK with connecting flights on the way.

Day 2: Arrival in Osaka, transfer to Kyoto
Day 2: Arrival in Osaka, transfer to Kyoto

On your arrival, you go through immigration, where a 90-day residence visa is stamped in your passport. You then pick up your luggage and proceed through the customs and out into the arrivals hall, where a guide holding up an Asiatours sign is waiting for you. The guide accompanies you to the bus which takes you to your hotel in Kyoto. You will be staying in Kyoto for the next six nights.

Kyoto is the place to visit to when time is of the essence and you wish to experience Japanese culture and the national spirit. Kyoto has one leg firmly planted in the past, and the other in the present. The city has extremely well-preserved ancient quarters, where you very much gain a sense of ancient Japan. There are also modern districts and contemporary architecture, such as the new Kyoto Central Station and Kyoto Concert Hall.

Kyoto is home to some 2,000 temples, shrines and imperial buildings. Today, 17 buildings are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Japanese heritage in Kyoto is alive and kicking, and the geisha districts with schools and tea houses are not there for the sake of tourists. You don’t have to walk far before encountering the first women dressed in kimonos for a day, and there are tea houses everywhere. You will soon learn that when the blind is rolled down in front of a traditional shop, it means that it is open for business. The fact that it’s rolled down simply means that you as a customer can shop shielded from the gaze of the street. Kyoto has a manageable size, and it is easy to find your way around. With 1.5 million inhabitants, Kyoto is also one of Japan’s “smaller” cities!

After arriving at the hotel, the day is yours.

Overnight stay Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo 

Day 3: Welcome meeting - Full-day excursion in Kyoto
Day 3: Welcome meeting - Full-day excursion in Kyoto

After breakfast a local English-speaking guide will come to the hotel for the welcome meeting. At the welcome meeting, the guide will go through the programme for the following days, explaining practical topics and answering questions.

Today, you will explore Kyoto with a knowledgeable guide. You will visit some of Kyoto’s major and very famous attractions and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, getting around by public transport.

You start at the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji. The Golden Pavilion is Kyoto’s most symbolic building. Located on the bank of a small lake, the three-storey building is a breathtaking sight when the light falls on the building and it is reflected in the water. The Golden Pavilion was built as a retreat for a shogun, and was converted into a Buddhist temple after his death.

After the Golden Pavilion, you head to Nijo Castle, which is surrounded by a beautiful ornamental garden. The beautiful castle dates back to c. 1600, and is famous for its richly decorated sliding doors and its “Nightingale floor”, which creaks when someone walks on it. That way, the Samurai could defend their shogun against ninjas. Nijo Castle was the residence of the local shogun until 1867, when Emperor Meiji abolished the ancient feudal system.

Next stop, the Heian Shrine, which was built to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the establishment Kyoto as the capital. The orange-red Heian Shrine is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors that ruled the city, Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei. Some years later, an almost 25-metre-high and 34-metre-wide gate was built to mark the entrance to the shrine area, a so-called “torii” (sacred gate).

Food maketh the man! So naturally you will also experience the Nishiki market, which is a narrow shopping street with more than 100 shops and restaurants.  The lively street is also known as “Kyoto’s kitchen” and specialises in all things culinary. It is the place to find special seasonal items, kitchen utensils and Kyoto specialities such as pickled vegetables or small “rice pockets” filled with cherry blossom or black beans. Many places provide small samples, so it’s a good place to taste the specialities.

The last point on today’s programme is the Kiyomizu Temple, located on a hilltop. The impressive and beautiful temple building is three storeys tall, made with mortise and tenon joinery. The temple has a large terrace, which affords a formidable view of Kyoto.

Overnight stay Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo 

Day 4: Half-day excursion to the Zen Gardens in north Kyoto
Day 4: Half-day excursion to the Zen Gardens in north Kyoto

In north Kyoto is the large Daitokuji temple complex, where you will find some of Kyoto’s most beautiful – but less famous – Zen gardens. Each of the beautiful temples, Daiseni-n, Ryogen-in, Koto-in and Zuiho-in has its own distinctive Zen garden. A Zen garden does not contain a lot of plants. It is typically a flat area with stone or sand and sometimes a lawn. In the little Zuiho-in garden, the raked gravel represents the waves in a stormy ocean.

The Ryogen-in garden is a gravel garden with stone islands, and one of the world’s most photographed Zen gardens. The gardens are ideal for meditation as the carefully laid out stones and minimal greenery help create a sense of peace and harmony, so the mind is not disturbed by all manner of plants. The temple complex has several smaller temples, each with its own Zen garden. You have a couple of hours to explore the area at your leisure – a great way to start the day. The guide explains the principles in the various gardens along the way.

The rest of the day is your own to explore Kyoto.

Overnight stay Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo 

Day 5: Kyoto on your own
Day 5: Kyoto on your own

The day is spent at your leisure.

Kyoto has so much to offer that it’s hard to know where to start!

Kyoto is particularly associated with the unique Japanese geisha tradition. Before the Second World War, there were around 80,000 geisha all over Japan. Today, there are a few thousand, spread over a few cities. In Kyoto, the tradition is very much alive and kicking. There are several geisha districts, of which Gion is the most famous. Gion has retained the charm of ancient Kyoto, and is a genuine geisha district with its own school.  The geisha represent fine culture and take a 5-year education programme in poetry, singing, music, conversation, origami, tea ceremony and art. A geisha is a highly paid hostess at dinner parties, and her job is to ensure a good atmosphere and make the party run smoothly by focusing on the dinner guests. In many Western countries, they are perceived as prostitutes – nothing could be further from the truth, and it hurts the Japanese deeply that we think of these highly cultured ladies in this way. When you walk through the streets of Gion during the day, you will often see the Maiko, who are training to become geisha, walking from tea house to tea house on a visit. Their kimonos are very beautiful and their hair is neatly coiffed. Late in the afternoon and early in the evening, you will see them wearing their classic white makeup.

You can choose to rent a bicycle and ride alongside Kyoto’s countless streams. Like almost all other cities with roots going far back in history, access to water was incredibly important. Kyoto is intersected by a couple rivers, as well as hundreds of canals, and there are countless springs and garden ponds. Wherever you go, you will see lush vegetation, which naturally also provides welcomes shade during the hot summer months. When the cherry trees blossom, the water adds an extra dimension to the beauty.

For an extra fee, you can take part in an extra excursion today:

Overnight stay Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo 

Day 6: Guided full-day excursion to Nara
Day 6: Guided full-day excursion to Nara

The guide picks you up at the hotel and you travel by train to Nara. Nara was the capital of Japan for 74 years in the 8th century. Some of the buildings in Nara date back to that time. You visit the Todai-ji Temple, which includes Daibutsuden, which is considered to be the world’s largest wooden building, and houses Japan’s largest Buddha. Hundreds of tame deer wander freely around the Todai-ji Temple. There are other significant temples such as Byodo-in Temple, famous for its Phoenix Hall, which adorns the back of the 10 yen coin. You also visit the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, famous for its hundreds of bronze and stone lanterns donated by believers.

From Nara, you drive back to Kyoto and continue to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which achieved international fame in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”. The paths to the shrine are flanked by orange-red gates, which form a long pergola. The gates have been donated by many different people, and the donor’s name is written in black symbols on the gate. The place exudes a quite unique ambience, with its 10,000 or so orange-red gates.

At the end of the day, you return to your hotel.

Overnight stay Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo 

Day 7: Kyoto on your own
Day 7: Kyoto on your own

The day is spent at your leisure.

Kyoto has many beautiful historical buildings and shrines, and ancient Japan can be felt in much of the cityscape. And there is a lot to choose from. You have seen some of it on the tours included, but here is a suggestion for some other beautiful places to visit.

You can start with Ginkakuji, also known as the Silver Pavilion. The Zen temple was originally built as a shogun’s private villa and is situated in the most beautiful gardens. The road up to Ginkakuji is narrow and pleasant, with numerous cafés and small shops. It is also usually possible to buy a ride in rickshaw.

You can walk along the Philosopher’s Walk through the northern section of the Higashiyama district. The Philosopher’s Walk winds along a canal planted with hundreds of Japanese cherry trees. During the blooming season, it is a very popular place.

In Higashiyama, you can experience a classic Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony is called “sao” or “cha-no-yu” and is a tradition dating back more than 400 years. The tea ceremony is best experienced in a traditional Japanese house built of wood with thin walls and sliding doors. You sit directly on the floor in front of a woman dressed in the most beautiful kimono. The woman performs the ceremony with great care.

Kodaiji Temple, which is around 400 years old, is definitely worth a visit as well. Kodaiji is located on a hill, which perhaps explains the special peace that pervades here. The temple is surrounded by a breathtaking garden, which has a bonsai section, a stone garden and a bamboo grove with 20-metre-high bamboo.

The peaceful and very charming Ninenzaka is an old cobbled street with wooden houses, which today house souvenir shops and small eateries. It’s a lovely place for a gentle stroll to soak in the atmosphere. And it’s definitely also the place to find those last souvenirs.

For an extra fee, you can take part in an extra excursion today:

Overnight stay Vessel Hotel Campana Kyoto Gojo 

Day 8: Journey home from Osaka to the UK
Day 8: Journey home from Osaka to the UK

The day is spent at your leisure until the transfer to the airport. The bus fetches you from the hotel and drives you to Osaka. You fly from Osaka to the UK with possible connecting flights on the way.

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