Hanami – Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom
. Savour the Japanese Cuisine
. . The small mountain top Buddhist community of Mount Koya, one of Japan’s most magical destinations
. Gaze at the famous floating Torii gate in Miyajima
. . Hakone – Famous for hot springs, natural beauty and the view across Lake Ashinoko of nearby Mount Fuji
. Exploring Tokyo’s culinary scene in the evening with a local foodie. .
Welcome to Hanami, cherry blossom viewing in Japan. Hanami is a long-standing Japanese tradition of welcoming spring. Also known as the “cherry blossom festival”, this annual celebration is about appreciating the temporal beauty of nature. People gather under blooming cherry blossoms for food, drink, songs, companionship and the beauty of sakura (cherry blossoms).
We have carefully chosen the flow of our itinerary to provide us with the best opportunity to view the beautiful cherry blossoms in many of the locations we are visiting.
Arrive today any time (store luggage if before check in time) and feel free to explore this city before our welcome meeting tonight, but make sure you’re back in time to meet your Adventurous Women host Sue Hile and our Local Japanese Tour Guide. We will conduct intro's, provide you with information about the tour and then take a walk to a nearby restaurant for our first group dinner.
*Guest Note: Your Adventurous Women host Sue, is arriving in Osaka a day earlier and will be available to accompany you to some of the sights in Osaka, enjoy Hanami together, or point you in the right direction should you wish to explore more of this lively city.
**An extra day here is Highly Recommended as Osaka is one of the best places for Hanami during this time.
We depart early today and travel to the centre of Buddhism in Japan, Mt Koya San. The train ride up to the mountain is possibly one of the finest rail journeys in Japan … and for the final steep ascent, we switch to a funicular and then hop on a bus to reach the monastery...quite an adventure!
We explore the temples & moss covered Oku-no-in cemetery (the largest in Japan) in the afternoon and then check into our unique accommodation at one of the Mount Koya Temples, where we witness the routines of the monks and dine on typical fare. In the evening, savour the shojin-ryori vegetarian cuisine and relax in a yukata, or kimono. Breath the fresh mountain air and soak in the beautiful surroundings.
Early morning at the temple we have the chance to observe the monks praying, take in the atmosphere of the surrounding mountains, enjoy our traditional vegetarian breakfast, then start the journey back down the mountain. Later we board a bullet train to Hiroshima, we have free time on our arrival in the afternoon to explore the city at our leisure.
Today we take a walk through the Peace Park and Memorial Museum in the centre of Hiroshima, before boarding a ferry to Miyajima Island, famed as one of Japan’s most scenic spots, with a free afternoon to explore. See the famous floating Torii Gate, take a stroll through the laneways full of souvenirs & tasty treats, explore the island at your own pace - the shrines & temples, deer & monkeys who populate the island ... and numerous hiking trails.
For those who want an extra challenge, set out for the summit of Mt Misen, Miyajima’s highest peak at 500m above sea level. Opt to hike one of three trails through the forest, keeping an eye out for wild deer, or catch a ride on the rope way and walk the remaining distance to the top for rewarding views of the Seto Inland Sea.
We travel to Kyoto today and start exploring the temples, shrines and gardens that make Kyoto, Japan’s capital of culture. Founded as the national capital more than 1,200 years ago, Kyoto originally developed as a centre of aristocratic culture and is most famous for its Zen gardens and Geisha traditions.
We start our exploration with a visit to Fushimi Inari shrine, located just outside of Kyoto. We walk under the thousands of iconic Torii Gates (as seen in the film Memoirs of a Geisha) and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
In the evening we either take a stroll along the river or around Gion, enjoy a fabulous meal together and see the locals dress in traditional kimono.
Our day begins with a visit to the Nijo Castle, the residence of the first shogun of the Edo Period, built in 1603… Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then it’s on to explore Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion, named for the temple’s two top floors that are covered in gold leaf. The temple is surrounded by trees and sits on a reflective pond, making this a must-see in Kyoto … a perfect place for photos.
Later in the day we take a walk through the gardens around Daisen-in Temple and practice meditation in the Zen rock garden, before finishing out the day with a walk along The Philosopher's Path. The stone path follows a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees which come to life during this time "Hanami" - The Cherry Blossoms... one of the most famous symbols of Japan and they’re such a beautiful sight to see.
We’ve purposely allowed two days of leisure time in Kyoto enabling you to make use of your time here, as we appreciate while on a group tour, it’s sometimes nice to have the freedom to choose from the options available that appeal to you the most, or you may wish to choose your own adventure.
We have many suggestions on how you can make the most of your time in Kyoto and generally if you are wanting to do something, guaranteed that another from the group will be happy to join you if you’d like company. Your Adventurous Women Host Sue, or your Japanese Group Leader will provide you with all options available, assist you in planning these and give you all the information necessary.
Ladies who would like to go to Nara on a day trip from Kyoto - Sue will accompany you today. With eight World Heritage Sites, Nara is second only to Kyoto as a fountain of Japan’s cultural legacy. Take a walk through lovely Nara Park with the deer roaming freely around you, visit the massive Tojai-Ji Temple and take time out to enjoy lunch at one of the local restaurants. It’s also a fantastic spot to do a little shopping with relative ease, compared to Kyoto or Tokyo. If you’d like to join Sue in Nara for part of the day only and spend some time doing your own thing, it’s very straightforward to return to Kyoto on the train unassisted.
Kyoto Options: Visiting “Ochaya” traditional tea house, Nishiki Food Market, hire a bike to explore the back streets of Kyoto or join a cycling tour…..great way to see this city, explore the Gion district a little more, perhaps it’s time to do a little shopping.
Today is again at your own leisure, however your Adventurous Women Host Sue, will be available to accompany those who wish to head west by train to Arashiyama, the second most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. We’ll head there early in an attempt to beat the crowds and spend the morning sightseeing, returning to Kyoto after lunch. First stop will be a pleasant walk in the Bamboo Grove, then we’ve got a few options ….there are some beautiful gardens and parks to explore, the River Oi, or plenty of amazing temples & shrines to take in if you’re up for more walking. During your time here, you may wish to stick with Sue, however If you are happy to wander off on your own that’s totally fine & we’ll ensure that you’re provided with a map, a time/place for everyone to meet, prior to travelling back to Kyoto Station on the train. The afternoon is free to relax or spend in any way you wish.
Kyoto Options: Visit Himeji Castle, Maiko makeover experience, attend a Theatre in Gion for a presentation of Miyako Odori (the Cherry Blossom Dance), traditional cooking class.
We’re off to Hakone, a town in the hills, renowned as an excellent resort area since the Meiji period. Hakone and its onsens (hot spring baths) make a great place to relax and unwind. Our accommodation here is in a cosy, family-run guesthouse with Japanese baths for us to enjoy.
On our arrival, we board a passenger boat to cruise the waters of Lake Ashinoko and a walk along the Old Tokaido Highway ….if we’re lucky to have a clear day, we’ll capture a view of Mt Fuji. Afterwards we head back to our guest house, feast on a Japanese multi-course kaiseki meal, soak in the natural hot springs and sleep on a futon.
Today is all about giving you the freedom to choose your own adventure ….and slowing the pace down, as this is an easy place to explore. Perhaps visit the boiling sulphur springs, or the Hakone Jinja – the red-gated Shinto shrine. There’s hiking trails in the national park, such as from Togendai to Owakudani, and from there to Mt Komagatake, passing the peaks of Mt Kanmurigatake and Mt Kami.
There’s also the great collection of art at the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Pola Museum of Art, an eclectic mix that includes work by the likes of Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Gallé. Our Japanese Leader will provide us with some suggestions and tips about what to do in this famous onsen region.
It’s time to head off to Tokyo to do some last-minute shopping!! We arrive before noon, so you may opt to visit Ueno Park and the museums, Harajuku for funky fashions, Ginza for the highest of the high end or perhaps visit the Imperial Palace East Garden
We meet in the evening to celebrate our time away together, finishing on a real high as we explore Tokyo’s vibrant food culture on a ‘street food tour’. Highlights of our evening include, eating Yakitori at a Street Yakitori Bar, enjoying Monja-yaki in the neighborhood where it originated - Monja Town (Tsukishima), visiting a confectionery shop in Ginza and learning about wagashi, a traditional Japanese sweet that changes with the season, we’ll check out a local pub and either finish our night at this point, or for those who want more … our guide can recommend other cool local bars in small alleys, or a karaoke place for more fun into the night.
This morning, venture out with our tour leader on the Tokyo metro to the buzzling Shibuya area and explore the well known and secret gems of Tokyo. Stop at Shibuya station where we look down on one of the busiest intersections in the world and visit the statue of Hachikō the famous loyal dog. Next we head into a depachika for a mouth-watering array of tempting Japanese treats. Depachika are dazzling food halls that lurk beneath major department stores, where vendors sell everything from bento boxes for lunch to formal gifts and everyday groceries. Grab a picnic lunch (optional), as we are heading to Yoyogi Park, home to many events from the first Japan Olympics.
Afterwards we visit Meiji Shrine. Enter via a massive Torii (gate) and the sights and sounds of the busy city are replaced by a tranquil forest. Approximately 100,000 trees were planted during the shrine's construction and were donated from regions across the entire country. Meiji is a popular location for weddings and the traditional Shinto service can often be observed there. Then we finish our journey with a visit to Harajuku, the home of quirky youth pop culture.
This evening the tour officially ends and for most, flights home to Australia are late tonight, although some may choose to stay an additional night in Tokyo and explore some more! Your Group Leader & Adventurous Women Host Sue, will leave Tokyo this evening, however will be able to assist you in making your way to the airport with someone else from the group (or provide you with other transport options).