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9d/7n:

Kyoto and Tokyo – Japan’s heart and brain

Highlights of this tour:

Kyoto, the Silver Pavilion, the Philosopher’s Path, the Yasaka Shrine, the geisha district of Gion, the Higashiyama temple district, tea ceremony, Kodaiji Temple, Kiyomizu Temple, Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo, Shibuya, Harajuku, Takeshita Dori, the Meiji Shrine, Omotesando, Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, boating on the Sumida river, and the Hamarikyu Park.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Flight from the UK to Osaka and home from Tokyo
  • Transfer by bus from Osaka Airport to the hotel in Kyoto
  • Guide service on arrival at Osaka Airport
  • Transfer by bus from the hotel in Tokyo to the airport in Tokyo
  • Shinkansen train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo
  • IC train pass with 2500 JPY for Osaka and Kyoto
  • 7 nights at tourist-grade hotels with breakfast
  • Local English-speaking guide on all tours
  • Welcome meeting at the hotel in Kyoto
  • 24-hour manned emergency telephone throughout the tour
  • Departure guarantee – Tour requires minimum 2 participants

The following excursion packages are included:

  • Guided full-day tour of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji), The Philosopher’s Path, the Yasaka Shrine, the geisha district of Gion, the Higashiyama temple district, Ninenzaka, Kodaiji Temple and Kiyomizu Temple
  • Traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto
  • Guided half-day tour in Tokyo of Shibuya and Takeshita Dori
  • Guided full-day tour in Tokyo of the Meiji Shrine, Meiji Shrine, Omotesando, Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, boating on the Sumida river, and the Hamarikyu Park-

Further tours as optional extras:

  • Cooking school in Kyoto
  • Kamakura
  • Mount Fuji

Single room supplement £415
Discounts for large groups

Choose this tour because...

This trip lets you experience the essence of Japan. From the old capital of Kyoto and its history with a deep-rooted culture of respect, neat order and old traditions to the hyper-modern capital of Tokyo with its Imperial Palace, manga culture and the ultra-rich Ginza district. Kyoto’s well-preserved city view with its low, thin-walled wooden houses with sliding doors give you an impression of the Japan of the past, whereas in Tokyo you experience mega-stations, modern architecture and skyscrapers.

In Kyoto, you enjoy a traditional tea ceremony. You pass through a living, active geisha district, where you are sure to see some geisha-in-training, the maiko. The shrines, tea houses and pavilions wreathe Kyoto in a unique historical atmosphere. At the same time, beautiful gardens and waterways can be seen all over the place.

Guided tours of Tokyo take you to modern Japan with cutting-edge youth, neon signs, every electronic device imaginable and a super-efficient transit system. But you will also experience pockets of ancient history and culture, guarded closely and dearly by the city’s inhabitants, such as the beautiful and popular parks, and the Sensoji Temple.

Detailed Itinerary
(Click an image to view at full size)

Day 1: Departure from the UK

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

Day 2: Arrival in Osaka, on to Kyoto, welcome meeting

On arrival you pass through immigration, where a 90-day tourist visa is stamped in your passport. Afterwards, you collect your luggage and pass through customs to the arrivals hall. In the arrivals hall is a guide holding an Asiatours sign. The guide follows you to the bus, which drives you to your hotel in Kyoto. You will stay in Kyoto for the next 3 nights.

Kyoto is an incredible city with rich history, which has been, and continues to be, a major influence on the Japanese self-image. For more than 1000 years, Kyoto was the capital of Japan all the way up until 1868. About 2000 temples, shrines and imperial buildings are preserved here, and the city is home to a wealth of universities as well. 17 buildings designated as UNESCO world heritage sites can be found here. In Kyoto, Japanese cultural heritage is alive and kicking, and the geisha quarters with its schools and tea houses aren’t just there for the tourists. The city has a limited size, and it is easy to travel around. With its 1.5 million inhabitants, Kyoto is also one of Japan’s “smaller cities”!

Upon arrival at the hotel, the day is free at your disposal until that afternoon when 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.

Overnight stay Kyoto Plaza Hotel

Day 3: Guided full-day excursion in Kyoto

Today you are taking a guided tour of some of Kyoto’s greatest sights. Two highlights are the beautiful and iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ginkakuji and Kiyomizu. This a walking tour, so make sure to wear some good footwear.

The guide picks you up at the hotel and you first visit Ginkakuji, also known as the Silver Pavilion. The Zen temple was originally built as a Shogun’s private villa, and it is surrounded by a fantastic garden. The stone garden is particularly iconic. The way up to Ginkakuji is narrow and lovely with its many cafés and small shops. It’s usually possible to buy a rickshaw ride here as well.

From here you walk along the Philosopher’s Path through the northern end of the Higashiyama district. The Philosopher’s Path takes you along a canal adorned with hundreds of Japanese cherry trees. During the cherry blossom, or Sakura, season, it is an extremely popular location.

Next stop is the Yasaka Shrine, where some time is set aside for breakfast (not included). The Yasaka Shrine was founded more than 1300 years ago, and connects the Gion geisha district to the gorgeous Higashiyama temple district. You travel through Higashiyama to a place where you will experience a classic Japanese tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is known as “sao” or “cha-no-yu”, and covers a nearly 400-year-old tradition. You experience the tea ceremony in a traditional wooden Japanese house with thin walls and sliding doors, some of which are made from a type of paper. You sit down on the floor in front of a woman dressed in the finest kimono. The woman performs the tea ceremony with great care.

Afterwards, the guide takes you to the protected and very charming Ninenzaka street, which is an old cobblestone street with wooden buildings that today serve as souvenir shops and small eateries. You will have some time on your own here.

The next stop is the Kodaiji Temple, which is over 400 years old. Kodaiji is on a hill, and perhaps this is how it maintains its serene sense of calm. The temple is surrounded by a gorgeous garden with bonsai sections, a stone garden, and a bamboo grove with 20-metre-high stalks of bamboo. In a Japanese garden, nothing is placed at random, everything has its own specific place and meaning, and as a guest you will notice this very quickly. The temple grounds also have two historical tea houses you can visit.

The last stop on today’s excursion is Kiyomizu. From the Kodaiji temple, you pass through narrow alleys of old wooden houses up to Kiyomizu, which is situated at the top of a hill. The impressive, beautiful temple structure is 3 storeys high, built from wood and joined together. There is a large terrace at the temple, offering you a spectacular view of Kyoto. Behind the temple is the Jishu Shrine, home to the god of love and marriage. For this reason, many young Japanese people come here to pray for luck in love and a good marriage.

Overnight stay Kyoto Plaza Hotel

Day 4: Kyoto on your own

The day is spent at your leisure.

Kyoto has so much to offer that the hard part is to fit it all in!

You can opt to rent a bicycle and go exploring along Kyoto’s countless canals. As with most cities whose roots reach far back into history, access to water has been extremely important. Kyoto is split up by a few rivers, from which hundreds of canals have been built, leading to an endless number of well springs and ponds. There is a lushness to be found in the plant life of the city, which naturally also provides some welcome shade during the hot summer months. When the cherry trees blossom, the water draws out a whole new dimension to their beauty.

You can simply walk the streets and take it all in. You will quickly discover that there are many Japanese tourists in Kyoto, and one of the popular activities here is to dress in a traditional kimono for a day – and this goes for both men and women. They are wonderfully colourful, and young people have a great time with it.

Of course, there are also many sights that were not included in yesterday’s tour. One attraction received international fame due to the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”, namely the Fushimi Inari head shrine. The paths leading up to the shrine are flanked by vermilion gates, as if forming long pergolas. The gates are donated by a variety of people, and the donators’ names are written in black characters on the gate. A completely unique mood rests over the shrine, which holds about 10,000 vermilion gates in all.

Another sight, which also practically is a must-see, is the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji. The Golden Pavilion is Kyoto’s most iconic sight. The 3-story building sits with a façade facing a lake, making it a breath-taking sight when light hits the building and casts a reflection in the water.

Kyoto is known all over Japan for its culinary delights. Therefore, there is a wealth of excellent restaurants and exciting food markets, such as Nishiki. We recommend giving a cooking lesson a try.

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

Overnight stay Kyoto Plaza Hotel

Day 5: Kyoto – Tokyo by Shinkansen, guided tour of Tokyo

Today you put the cultural stronghold, and Japan’s heart, Kyoto behind you, and continue on to Tokyo, which is considered to be the brain of Japan.

You travel by the high-speed Shinkansen bullet train, which has its own platform at each of its stops. Travelling by train in Japan is quite an experience. The bullet trains pull 6, 8, 12 or 18 cars. The information signs at the station show how many cars each train is pulling. When you are down at the platform, the platform itself is marked to show you exactly where your car will arrive. And the train stays within a few centimetres of the marking. After all, icons are painted on the platform for the train length, e.g. “6 cars – car 5” or “12 cars – car 3”. So once you get an eye for the system, it’s very convenient. The Japanese furthermore have a wonderful queuing culture. You neatly get in line at the relevant platform icon, and walk calmly and quietly into the train in the same order you arrived in – no rushing ahead or jumping the queue!

The trains run very punctually throughout Japan, and if there is a delay of more than a few minutes, it becomes a major topic of discussion on the train and will be noted in national news on TV and on the radio.

These are 514 kilometres from Kyoto Station to Tokyo Station. This distance is covered by the Shinkansen in just over 2 hours.

Your guide waits for you at the station in Tokyo and takes you to the hotel. You use the metro from the station to the hotel, and you will receive an IC card, an electronic travel pass that can be used on both trains and buses.

Once you have checked in at the hotel, there will be a guided city tour of the metropolis of Tokyo in the afternoon. You will stay in Tokyo for the next 4 nights.

The guided half-day tour begins in Shibuya. Shibuya is famous for many things: 1) a hot shopping district for fashion and accessories, 2) the home of new, cutting-edge fashion designers and trend-setting entertainment, and not least 3) Tokyo’s most famous and most photogenic street crossing, where busy crowds of thousands cross when the signal flashes green for pedestrians and red for drivers all around the crossing.

Afterwards, the tour continues to Harajuku, another one of Tokyo’s fashion capitals. One of Harajuku’s famous streets is Takeshita Dori, which with its side alleys has become a stronghold of teenage culture. The street is packed with young people dressed in fantastically colourful clothes here, and it seems that although basically anything goes, they are always very well-dressed.

The afternoon concludes with a visit to a department store, where the basement floor sells produce exhibited like small works of art. It is an experience all on its own to see how packaging is a part of the shopping experience.

Overnight stay Citadine Shinjuku ***

Day 6: Guided full-day excursion in Tokyo

Today there is a guided full-day excursion. To make it easy to get around, the tour is based around the public transport system.

The tour begins at the Meiji Shrine, which was built in memory of Emperor Meiji. The Meiji shrine is located at the centre of Tokyo, in a big, forested park. Before you reach the shrine, you pass through 2 very large Shinto gates. Up at the shrine there is a kind of solemn tranquillity, a huge contrast to the hectic city life just outside the park. This is an extremely popular place to hold traditional weddings, and there is a good chance you will see Shinto priests, happy couples and wedding guests.

From Meiji you walk to the Omotesando street, Tokyo’s equivalent to 5th Avenue or Champs-Elysees. This is where international fashion brands keep their boutiques. Here you will experience that the staff follow customers all the way out onto the street and bow deeply when their customers wander on. The deep bow is a traditional Japanese expression of great respect.

The tour continues to Asakusa, Tokyo’s old district. There are still some old buildings here, and no huge high-rises. Aside from the feel of the streets and alleys, another central highlight is Sensoji. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo, and for many Japanese people, coming here to light incense is of profound importance. Nakamise is a long pedestrian street crowded with souvenir shops and food stalls leading up to the Sensoji Temple. This street is never dull, and you will see women, couples, and sometimes entire families dressed in traditional kimono. They are on the way to light incense and waft some sacred smoke to themselves in hopes of curing illnesses, gaining good fortune, having children or something else entirely.

From Sensoji there is a short walk to the Sumida river. Here you are taking a boat ride to see Tokyo from the river. On the way you pass many iconic buildings, such as the Asahi Super Dry headquarters, and the legendary 12 bridges, displaying a fantastic variety of architecture and colour.

You get off the boat at the Hamarikyu garden, a park located at the centre of Tokyo and that faces Tokyo Bay. As an unusual aside, the park contains salt-water lakes, where the mirror-smooth surface rises and falls with the tides. The park is from the early Edo era around the year 1600, and its contrast to the skyline of modern Tokyo with its skyscrapers just behind the park is very suggestive of modern Japan. In one of the tea houses in the park you can buy a piping hot cup of “matcha”, green tea.

You return to the hotel at the end of the afternoon.

Overnight stay Citadine Shinjuku ***

Days 7 - 8: Tokyo on your own, optional excursions to buy

The days are spent at your leisure.

Tokyo has so many different experiences to offer. The Imperial Palace and the Niju-bashi bridge over its moat is one of the iconic highlights of Tokyo. Not far from the palace and the park is the district of Ginza, which is associated with the highest square-metre real estate prices in the world, and the ultra-rich bohemian lifestyle. It features everything in cafés, bars, restaurants and shopping malls. Closer to river in the Tsukiji district – at the heart of Tokyo – is Japan’s world-famous fish auction. There have been plans to move it to a different location for a while, but for now, it remains in Tsukiji. Another one of the big contrasts in the hyper-modern metropolis.

In the Akihabara district you can find everything the heart desires in electronics. Shop after shop is packed with electronics. In more recent years, the district has also become famous as a hotspot for “otaku” culture and manga fans. This is also where you can enjoy the unique experience of visiting a “maid café”, where the staff are dressed as comic book waitresses.

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

Overnight stay Citadine Shinjuku ***

Day 9: Flight from Tokyo to the UK

The day is spent at your leisure until your airport transfer. You are picked up at your hotel and driven to the airport, from which you fly to the UK. There may be connecting flights on the way.

Highlights of this tour:

Kyoto, the Silver Pavilion, the Philosopher’s Path, the Yasaka Shrine, the geisha district of Gion, the Higashiyama temple district, tea ceremony, Kodaiji Temple, Kiyomizu Temple, Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo, Shibuya, Harajuku, Takeshita Dori, the Meiji Shrine, Omotesando, Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, boating on the Sumida river, and the Hamarikyu Park.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Flight from the UK to Osaka and home from Tokyo
  • Transfer by bus from Osaka Airport to the hotel in Kyoto
  • Guide service on arrival at Osaka Airport
  • Transfer by bus from the hotel in Tokyo to the airport in Tokyo
  • Shinkansen train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo
  • IC train pass with 2500 JPY for Osaka and Kyoto
  • 7 nights at tourist-grade hotels with breakfast
  • Local English-speaking guide on all tours
  • Welcome meeting at the hotel in Kyoto
  • 24-hour manned emergency telephone throughout the tour
  • Departure guarantee – Tour requires minimum 2 participants

The following excursion packages are included:

  • Guided full-day tour of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji), The Philosopher’s Path, the Yasaka Shrine, the geisha district of Gion, the Higashiyama temple district, Ninenzaka, Kodaiji Temple and Kiyomizu Temple
  • Traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto
  • Guided half-day tour in Tokyo of Shibuya and Takeshita Dori
  • Guided full-day tour in Tokyo of the Meiji Shrine, Meiji Shrine, Omotesando, Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, boating on the Sumida river, and the Hamarikyu Park-

Further tours as optional extras:

  • Cooking school in Kyoto
  • Kamakura
  • Mount Fuji

Single room supplement £415
Discounts for large groups