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Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo – On arrival into Tokyo you will be welcomed by our airport representative who will assist you with transferring by either train or shuttle bus to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 2 – Tokyo – Begin the morning early with your local guide and enjoy a visit to Tokyo’s iconic Tsukiji, the world-famous fish market filled with traditional shops and top-quality sushi restaurants. After exploring the market, but before leaving, enjoy a super-fresh sushi breakfast in a local restaurant – the best way to start a trip in Japan! From Tsukiji you walk to Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its wide collection of seasonal flowers make it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo however, it’s best known for its attractive teahouse, Nakajima-no-Ochaya. Enjoy a break in the teahouse and a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about Chado (tea ceremony). From the park embark on a scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-Ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-Ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through. At noon stop by one of the local restaurants for lunch. Although there’s a variety of food to choose from, Asakusa is more known for its best-tasting tempura. From Asakusa, continue a short walk to Kappabashi, the so-called Kitchenware Town lined with dozens of specialized stores for knives, Japanese tableware, and even food replicas. The last stop today is in Ueno’s Ameyoko-Cho, a former black market that sprang up after WWII. It is now a bustling shopping alley filled with food stalls that make it a great place to try some local snacks. (B, L)
Day 3 – Tokyo – Begin the day with a hands-on culinary adventure and head towards the cooking studio in Tokyo’s Tsukiji area to begin the morning’s soba-making workshop. The class will be held by either Akila Inouye, founder and Master Chef of the Tsukiji Soba Academy, or one of the academy’s graduates. The activity will begin with a short demonstration by a sobatician, followed by a lesson on how to prepare the wheat mixture, the proper way to work on the dough and, last but not the least, the precise way of cutting it into 1.6 mm thick noodles. At the end of the lesson, you will cook the soba and dine with the teacher in addition to the rest of the class in tachigui style, which means eating while standing. Enjoy the afternoon relaxing in the hotel or independently discover the busy streets of Shibuya (scramble crossing), as you visit the fashion mecca of Harajuku or to explore another shitamachi in Yanaka.
Optional Evening Tour: Tokyo Street Food Tour
This tour heads inside the lively street food scene of Tokyo, an exciting trip across some of the hidden pearls that can only be found with the help of a local guide, wandering around the city’s narrow streets. A local English-speaking food expert will provide an escort through tiny izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and small traditional restaurants and bars, each boasting distinctive atmospheres in heart of the traditional Japanese entertainment districts. None of these local taverns normally accept reservations, but the expert guide can pick, depending on the evening, the right areas (always in central Tokyo) and venues to find available seats. This tour is always unique and different for each guest. You will meet your food expert at the train station and enjoy 4 to 5 different venues during the tour. Although the menu is set, the guide will ensure stomachs are full and tastebuds are entirely satiated with a range of different options. (B&L)
Duration: 3.5 h
Day 4 – Tokyo to Takayama –Today is a self-guided day. Today marks the journey to Takayama, a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture. The first leg of the trip will be on a bullet train that can reach speeds of up to 260 kph, before you journey on the limited express train Wide View, which offers one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan.
Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:
We recommend strolling in Takayama’s shitamachi, where the streets are lined with century-old merchants’ homes and sake breweries. Stop by one of the breweries for a taste of the local drop or queue for the famous Hida beef sushi in one of the special food stalls. In Takayama, experience a stay in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring. (B&D)
Day 5 – Takayama – Today is a self guided day. After breakfast head up to the Miyagawa morning market, a good opportunity totry some local fruit and vegetables. A short bus ride will take you to Hida No Sato Folk Village, an open air museum exhibiting over 30 typical farmhouses and other traditional buildings from the Hida region. In the afternoon visit the Takayama Festival FLoats museum, displaying floats from the Takayama festival or wander through the preserved old town. Dinner will be served in your Ryokan. (B&D)
Day 6 – Takayama to Kyoto – Today is a self guided day.Back on the Shinkansen today as you make the 4 hour journey to the city of Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital. The afternoon is yours to explore Kyoto. (B)
Day 7 – Kyoto – Today explore the former imperial capital with a learned local guide, utilizing Kyoto’s comprehensive bus system to visit some of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites. Start your day with a visit to Nijo Castle. This ornamental castle was built by the founder of the Edo Shogunate as his Kyoto residence and is surrounded by stunning surrounding gardens. Continue to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple, and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. The final stop of the morning is Daitoku-ji Zen temple complex, which consists of a main temple and 22 sub-temples. After lunch, visit Kiyomizu (Pure Water) Temple then finish off the day with a stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama district. (B)
Day 8 – Kyoto – You have the morning free on Kyoto at your leisure and after lunch, we have arranged a very special cooking experience for you. Together with a local guide you will walk the mile-long Nishiki covered food markets as you help your guide buy the ingredients for your Japanese cooking class. After visiting the markets, you’ll travel through the back streets and lanes of Kyoto, visit to former sake brewery and then finally to a traditional wooden townhouse for your Japanese cooking class. Cooking your own Japanese evening meal, you will learn how to make rolled sushi, miso soup and cooked salad. After the meal the evening is free for you to explore Kyoto. (B&D)
Day 9 – Kyoto to Koya-San – Today is a self guided day.This morning make your way to holy Mt Koya (Koya-San). The 3 hour train journey is one of the best in Japan, as the local train winds its way up into the mountains whilst the final ascent to the top of Koya is made by cable car. Your learned local guide will be waiting for your arrival to show you Koya-San’s sites and explain about Japanese Buddhism. Tonight you will be staying at a shukubo, Japanese temple lodging. Dinner will be shojin ryori, traditional Buddhist cuisine. (B&D)
Day 10 – Koya-San to Osaka – An early start as you will be able to witness monks chanting their morning prayers, followed by a shojin rvori breakfast. The rest of the day is free to explore Koya-San before your train ride to Osaka. (B)
Day 11 – Osaka – Start the day with a visit to Sumiyoshi Taisha, one of Japan’s oldest shinto-shrines from the shrine, head back north and visit Osaka Castle, arguably Osaka’s most famous landmark. While the castle is a concrete rebuilt from 1931, the views from the top floor of the surrounding gardens and city are not to be missed. After lunch in a local restaurant, head to the Doguyasuji shopping arcade, a unique market where you can find anything related to the food industry After all this food display, it is time to enjoy your included dinner in Dotonbori, a former pleasure district turned restaurant mecca. (B&D)
Day 12 – Depart Osaka – Departure day is at your leisure until your included transfer by train to Kansai Airport. (B)
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