Ever-welcoming and always fascinating, Japan is a land of ancient cultures, austere traditions and groundbreaking technology. Join us on this ultimate journey that takes you from futuristic, neon-lit Tokyo to the dense forests of the southern island of Yakushima; from sacred temples in Nikko, Kyoto and Kotohira to feasts at a Takayama market. Be wowed by the creativity of modern art at Naoshima Island, make a sobering visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and try for an Indiana Jones stunt crossing the vine bridge at Iya Valley. Discover ancient castles, lush countryside and fascinating feudal history on this authentic 24-day adventure.
Ages: 15 - 99
Accommodation: Ryokan/Hotel (23 nts)
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan. Bursting with contemporary urban culture, there are many sides of Tokyo to explore, from fascinating museums and world-class shopping, to neighbourhood backstreets lined with hole in the wall eateries and bars. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. Have your insurance and next of kin details on hand as we'll be checking them at this meeting. Afterwards, join your new travel companions for an optional dinner at a local restaurant.
Catch an express train today (approximately 1 hour) and then a local train (approximately 1 hour) to get from Tokyo to Nikko. Japanese trains are a quintessential experience and one of the best insights into culture (and efficiency!) of the country. Enjoy shopping for snacks at the train station or purchase a bento box on board. Once you arrive in Nikko you’ll have free time for the rest of the day. Stay in a small inn tonight, known as a ryokan.
You have a full day to explore Nikko today, an ancient town overflowing with beautiful shrines and temples. You'll visit Toshugu Shrine, a resting place of a Tokugawa shogun who was one of the most powerful rulers of the country. The opulent shrine contrasts with the traditional minimalist style commonly used throughout Japan. Every corner of this monument is covered in intricate gold leaf, lacquer work, paintings and patterns. Here you can also visit the Museum of Art at the back of the temple complex. This 1920s mansion has one of the country’s most beautiful collections of sliding doors and screens decorated by the best Japanese painters of the day. In your free time, you can pay a visit to the red-lacquered Shin-kyō bridge, one of the town’s most famous landmarks, and the Buddhist temple of Rinnō-ji, home to fearsome statues and an elegant garden. Or you may prefer time exploring Nikko’s beautiful natural setting with a visit to Chuzenji Lake and Kegon Falls. Kanmangafuchi Abyss is another highly recommended spot in Nikko to visit where you'll see about 70 Jizo Buddhas looking out to the river. Stay in our ryokan again tonight.
Leaving Nikko, you'll have a long travel day today to our next destination - Hakone. Travel by local train followed by two shikansen bullet trains and finally a bus. Phew! Total travel time can vary depending on the connections, but we will usually arrive by mid afternoon.The journey is certainly worth it as Hakone is a scenic hot-springs resort in the foothills of Mt Fuji. You’ll be staying at a family run ryokan tonight, with tatami-mat rooms, shared bathroom facilities and a lovely outdoor hot-spring onsen.
This morning, hop on a boat across Ashinoko Lake and then take a cable car ride to the top of the surrounding mountains. The area around the lake offers plenty of stunning views, and you may even catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji in the distance if weather conditions are clear. The afternoon is free to further explore Hakone’s spectacular mountain scenery and volcanic sites. Perhaps visit the boiling sulphur springs of Owakudani, or Hakone Jinja Shrine with its red torii gate rising from the shore of Ashinoko Lake. Or go for a walk through the hills of the famed grassland ecosystem of Sengokuhara. There’s also a 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. Not what you would expect to find in a small Japanese town, right?
Travel by a local train first then a shikansen towards Takayama in alpine Gifu Prefecture today. You’ll reach speeds of 270 kilometres per hour and it will take around 4 hours to get there in total. Takayama is a charming Edo period town located in the Japanese alps, famous for its traditional inns, sake breweries and the Hida Folk Village. The latter is your first stop, an outdoor museum where the traditional thatched-roof architecture unique to the area has been relocated in a delightful mountain setting in an effort to preserve traditional Japanese culture. Discover the techniques used to build farmhouses that could withstand fierce winters and long periods of isolation due to snow-closed roads. The thick thatching kept in warmth and the roofs were angled so as to minimise snow build-up. Each house is like its own self-contained museum, with displays of personal items and traditional tools. We stay in another delightful ryokan tonight where you can experience traditional Japanese hospitality, sleeping on futon in tatami-mat rooms. Your included dinner tonight will give you the chance to taste some of Takayama’s famous signature dishes.
Enjoy a typical local breakfast this morning at the ryokan before our visit to the morning market. Gifu prefecture is known to produce many fine high-altitude vegetables, and these markets have been held for over 600 years. Browse the stalls of seasonal vegetables brought in from the surrounding countryside, set up by local farm women from 6am every morning. Look out for the unique local style of pickles, the bags of miso wrapped in leaves, Genkotsu ame (soy bean candy), preserved fish, spices, and the delicious marshmallow treat of owara tamaten. The alpine climate and crystal clear mountain waters are perfect for creating sake, so you'll also visit a local brewery for a taste of the region's prized signature drop later today. The rest of the day is free for you to explore this delightful little town.Takayama is also very famous for Hida beef. Don't miss the opportunity to try some of the country’s best while you're in town for lunch or today.
Time to leave Takayama and travel by express train and shinkansen (approximately 5 hours) to Hiroshima. Depending on arrival times, we will either visit Hiroshima’s Peace Park this afternoon or tomorrow morning. The Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome and Peace Memorial Museum stand testament to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima was chosen as target for the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb. The dome was just metres from where the bomb detonated so it was able to retain its shape and the fact that it looks almost exactly as it did after the bombing has made it an enduring symbol of peace. The memorial park serves the same purpose, and has museums, memorials and monuments dedicated to the memory of victims. This evening, maybe try one of the city’s signature dishes for dinner – okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake of egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat or seafood. Our accommodation tonight will either be a simple ryokan or hotel.
Today you'll make your way to the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous 'floating' torii gate. You might like to further explore the island by climbing to the top of Mt Miyajima (or hopping on the cable car instead) for 360-degree views of the Inland Sea. Keep your eyes out for inquisitive and hungry deer that roam the streets. You have the rest of the day free to enjoy some of the other sites in this very welcoming and pleasant city. You could stop by the magnificent five-storied Hiroshima Castle, which originally dates from the 1590s. It was destroyed by the bomb but reconstructed in all its glory in the 1950s, and now holds an informative museum. The wonderful Shukkeien Garden, with its graceful teahouses and waterfalls, is also a perfect place to decompress on a break from sightseeing. For something a bit louder, there are local baseball and soccer teams (if the day is right), or endless shopping choices. Ask your leader for other tips and suggestions as there is plenty to see and do.
Leave Hiroshima today and head to Japan’s most impressive samurai castle at Himeji by shinkansen (approximately 1 hour). The building, which has survived earthquakes and war since the mid-16th century, was restored to its full glory in 2015. The moats, baileys, towers and walled alleyways were ingeniously designed to trick attackers – perhaps so intimidatingly that they were never in fact tested. Explore the castle that was once home to over 10,000 samurai families and look out over the castle grounds and the city below from the seventh floor. Hop back on the shinkansen for the 1 hour train trip to Kyoto. Originally founded as Heian-kyo (literally “tranquillity and peace capital”) by Emperor Kammu in 794, Kyoto had its golden age during the imperial court's heyday from 794 to 1185. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years (the name means “Capital City”) but the emperor and government are now located in Tokyo. With over 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a great place to get lost in. Your leader will take you on an orientation walk on arrival to get your bearings and you may like to spend some further time getting acquainted with Kyoto by wandering through its historical streets lined with traditional machiya houses. Stay in a ryokan or simple hotel during our time here.
With its many cultural landmarks and historical sites, and the abundance of traditional arts and literature, Kyoto is regarded as the cultural heart of Japan. Your tour leader will take you to visit two of the best temples this morning. Afterwards, it's your free time to explore this charming ancient capital. You will have almost one and half free days here to exploreand there is a lot to see and experience here. Your tour leader will be able to help you with making the most out of your time. Fushimi Inari is definitely one of the most photographed shrines in Japan. For the more active, hiking up the mountain following the red torri gates is a great way to enjoy the expansive forest on the shrine’s grounds and views of the city below. Otherwise, maybe head off to Arashiyama to enjoy a wander through the Sagano bamboo forest, or cycle along the Kamo River. Another great stop is the architecturally impressive Higashi Honganji Temple and the almost surreal Sanjusangendo, home to 1,001 statues of Kannon, or the Nishiki food market. A gentle stroll through Kyoto's eastern hills along the ‘Path of Philosophy’ that links Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, with Nanzen-ji Temple is also recommended. This walk can be extended south through the well-preserved ‘old town’ areas to Kiyamizu-dera (Temple of Clear Water) with its famous viewing platform. Also recommended, for those visiting in spring, is a visit to the theatre for a presentation of Miyako Odori (Cherry Blossom Dance) performed by elaborately dressed maiko (apprentice geisha), or a visit to the extravagantly decorated Kinkakuji Temple, immortalised in Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Golden Pavilion”. On one of the evenings, your leader will take you on a stroll through Gion, Kyoto's famous Geisha district. Even today you can observe the age-old tradition of geisha as they head out to perform dances and song for members of the wealthy elite in small teahouses tucked away in tiny back streets.
Today you will travel to Osaka for the second part of this combination trip. Please note that your tour leader and group composition may change today. Enjoy some free time in this unofficial culinary capital before the briefing at 6pm today.
Depart Osaka this morning and begin the journey west. Take the train across the bridge spanning the stunning Inland Sea and onto Takamatsu (approximately approx 3-4 hours). This may be the largest city on the island of Shikoku (the smallest of Japan’s four main islands), but it's a beautifully unpretentious town full of history, top-notch food and interesting local art. Here you'll visit Ritsurin Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. Dating back to the Edo period, it comprises several ponds and arched bridges designed around strolling paths, tea pavilions and historic trees, with a western garden an addition to the Japanese one. The garden also houses the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum which displays a variety of ceramics and basket-work dating from the time of the Tokugawa shoguns.
Take the ferry (around 1 hour) for a day-trip to the island of Naoshima, located in the Inland Sea between Takamatsu and the mainland, which is famous worldwide for its modern art galleries, museums, avante-garde architecture and lovely natural setting. Explore the island by public bus or bicycle to take you between the different galleries and installations. Wander between artworks, hear the sound of waves lapping at quiet coves, and stumble unexpectedly upon outdoor sculptures. Return to Takayama after a full day on the island.
It's back on the train this morning and off to the small town of Kotohira (around 90 mins), which is famous for Kompira-san, Shikoku's most celebrated shrine. Popular with pilgrims, Kompira-san is dedicated to seafaring, and although the approach to the shrine is not particularly straightforward, it's well worth the effort. Passing some historical landmarks on the way, climb the 785 steps to the main hall and take in views overlooking Kotohira Town and the Inland Sea far below and check out a real submarine on display. For those interested, just to the east of the entrance to Kompira-san you can also find Kanamaru-za, said to be one of the oldest kabuki theatres in Japan. You can go backstage and see how they ingeniously worked the revolving stage and trapdoor hundreds of years ago. Stay overnight in a small guesthouse tonight.
Before heading west by train along the Inland Sea coast to the attractive castle-town of Matsuyama, we make a day trip to the secluded Iya Valley by local train and private coach. Traverse the winding passes and head to the atmospheric Kazura-bashi (which translates as ‘vine bridge’) located in a remote part of Oku-Iya (known as ‘deep Iya’). When the Heike clan fled here some 800 years ago, they built these bridges as the only way to span the gorges and Iya River; if they were attacked then they could cut the vines at a moment’s notice. Only three of these bridges remain, and they look like something out of Indiana Jones. You'll also visit the Nagoro ‘scarecrow village’, where a local artist 'repopulated' the dwindlling village by positioning life size scarecrows through the village, and Buke Yashiki, a restored thatched-roof samurai house which lies at the top of a steep valley slope and towering cedar trees. This was once the home of village leaders, and now offers displays of samurai armour and superb views over the valley.
This morning, visit hill-top Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan's finest surviving castles and located right in the middle of this lovely provincial capital with its old trams and refined feel. Unlike most castles in Japan, this one has an interesting collection of artefacts inside, so take the chance to check them out and learn a little more about Matsuyama's feudal history. With free time in the afternoon, maybe relax and unwind at the beautiful Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest bath houses in Japan, or visit Ishiteji Temple which is the 51st of the 88 temples that make up Shikoku’s ‘88 Sacred Temples’ circuit, Japan’s most famous pilgrimage route.
We have a long day of travel ahead of us today (around 8 hours in total) as we leave Shikoku, cross the beautiful Inland Sea once more and head further west to Kyushu, the third largest of Japan’s four main islands. We arrive in Nagasaki in the afternoon and have an orientation walk with our leader to stretch our legs after our journey. Though its name has strong connotations of bombs and war – and the military history sites are important to visit – Nagasaki is a delight to explore, with its hills and harbour, shrines and temples, churches and other remnants from its long involvement with Asian and European traders.
This morning, visit the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum for a sobering reminder on what happened on that dreadful day of 9 August 1945. If you wish to reflect and explore further, there are other interesting museums nearby worth visiting. With a tram pass at your disposal, take the time to explore other parts of Nagasaki in the afternoon. Consider heading over to Dejima. This fascinating artificial island, once a Dutch trading post in the 17-19th centuries (and the sole foreign presence in the whole country at one point) is well worth exploring. The 26 Martyrs Memorial, Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Dutch Slopes also give you a glimpse into the life of the early Christians and European traders in Japan. Then in the evening, perhaps slurp on some champon noodles – ramen Nagasaki-style!
From Nagasaki we take a limited express and shinkansen bullet train through Kyushu’s attractive hinterland to its southern-most point. Here jump on a hydrofoil to travel a few hours to the island of Yakushima, arriving in the afternoon. A remote island even by Japanese standards, the journey is well worth the effort. Much of Yakushima’s adundant natural resources have been preserved without exploitation, making it particularly picturesque. It was justifiably added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1993. The forests of Yakushima are said to have inspired the forest setting in Hayao Miyazaki's film ‘Princess Mononoke’, and it's easy to see why. Its ancient cedar trees and shady green splendour are a delight to behold, and at times give the feeling of walking through another world. Your stay in Yakushima will most certainly be one full of magic. Tonight we enjoy a dinner of local Yakushima cuisine.
Set off on a hike today through the lush green forests of Yakusugi Land (approximately 2.5 hours). Yakusugi Land is a beautiful national park home to the ‘yakusugi’ – the island’s magnificent ancient cedar trees which are over 1000 years old (some are as old as 3000 years!). If you’re lucky along the way you might encounter a Yakushika deer or Yakuzaru monkey. After your hike, kick back and relax. You may want to spend some free time soaking in the natural onsen baths by Yakushima’s shoreline. In the summer season (May-July), the lovely Nagata Inaka-hama Beach is the place to be. Here, when it's the season, giant turtles lay their eggs in the sand at night.
Say goodbye to the magical forests of Yakushima and jump back on the hydrofoil and head back by shinkansen through Kyushu to Osaka. Tonight you have the option to join your leader and travel companions for a final celebration of your time in Japan.
The trip comes to an end this morning. There are no planned activities today.
- Yakushima - Shiratani Unsuikyo National Park hiking
Agora Place Asakusa
2-2-9 Kotobuki, Taito-ku, Tokyo 台東区寿2丁目2-9
Phone: +81 338428421
The Bridge Hotel Shinsaibashi
1-10-24, Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi 大阪府大阪市中央区西心斎橋1-10-24
Phone: +81 649636501
You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including while moving about busy public transport hubs to make tight connections, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes, sometimes at a fast pace and in crowds. Good general fitness and mobility will play a big part in making your trip more enjoyable. Japanese cities are best explored by foot and public transport, so be prepared for a lot of walking each day you are in a destination! Many travellers are surprised how much distance they end up covering each day just seeing the sights. Bring comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to spend most of the day on your feet.
1. A 21-day Japan Rail Pass is included in the price of your trip.
2. A Single Supplement is currently not available for this trip due to limited rooms at many of our properties.
3. As this trip is a combination of two of our most popular itineraries, please note that your group composition and tour leader may change on Day 13.
4. Due to the rapid increase in tourism in Japan and in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it has been necessary to go outside our traditional tour leader sources. As a result our passionate, professional and trained tour leaders may be local Japanese or long-term foreign residents in Japan.
5. We are currently unable to book pre or post tour accommodation at our start & finish point hotels due to limited room availability. We recommend booking a hotel of your choice through your travel agent or an online booking engine if you are planning to stay longer in Japan.
6. It is essential you pack light and compact for rail travel in Japan. From May 2020 there will be size restrictions for luggage on Shinkansen trains. Luggage over 160-250 cm may require an additional 1000 JPY oversize luggage fee per train journey. Luggage over 251 cm will NOT be permitted on the Shinkansen trains at all. Please notify your tour leader at your Welcome Meeting if your luggage is over 160-250 cm so they can make the necessary arrangements.
7. Renovation works on Miyajima's famous floating torii gate started in June 2019. During the renovation works, the torii gate is covered up under a partially transparent scaffolding. Furthermore, a bridge is being built on the left side of the gate (when viewed from the shrine) to aid the renovation works. A date for the completion of the renovation works has not been set yet, but the works are expected to take at least one year.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Due to the rapid increase in tourism in Japan and in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics it has been necessary to go outside our traditional sources for employing tour leaders. As a result, our passionate, professional and trained tour leaders may either be Japanese or long term foreign residents in Japan.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
JAPAN Crime levels are low. It is generally safe to walk around at night and to travel on public transport, but you should maintain the same level of vigilance as you would at home and take sensible precautions. Reports of inappropriate touching or ‘chikan’ of female passengers on commuter trains are fairly common. The police advise that you shout at the perpetrator to attract attention and ask a fellow passenger to call the train staff. The Roppongi entertainment district of Tokyo is considered a higher risk area for crime.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
Most nationalities, including Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, EU countries and United States, are able to get visitor visas on arrival. The length of the visa will vary depending on your nationality, but most will be for stays of 90 days or more - check with your local consulate for exact details.
Why we love it
There’s no better way to get around Japan than the country’s famous railway system. Be impressed by the efficiency and ultra-modernity as you zip from place to place with your included Japan Rail Pass. Here is why you don't want to miss train travel in Japan: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/japan-trains
Explore the unique island of Naoshima, transformed from a sleepy fishing community into a world-class art destination, with sleek and stylish museums and artworks that sit in harmony with the landscape.
Feel like Indiana Jones as you cross the kazurabashi (vine bridges) of the hidden Iya Valley, a remote retreat of deep gorges and lush mountains on Shikoku island.
Uncover the characters of the cities of Nagasaki and Osaka, from the former’s thought-provoking Peace Park and Museum to the latter’s busy streets where the motto is ‘eat until you drop’.
Venture into the thick and mysterious cedar forests on Yakushima, relax at the seaside onsen or see giant turtles lay eggs in the night in the summer months.
Is this trip right for you
Japan is best to explore on foot. You'll be surprised at how much distance you end up covering! Make sure your shoes are comfy and you are fit enough to spend a good part of each day walking.
In some destinations you may be staying in a ryokan, which is a Japanese-style inn. It’s a great taste of tradition, however not everyone finds futon mattresses on a tatami mat floor, small bathrooms and proximity to other guests as comfortable as more Western-style hotels and beds. Read more about ryokans in the Accommodation section of the Essential Trip Information.
Be prepared to pack light and smart for this trip as you'll be required to carry your own luggage between train stations and to hotels, which can include going up and down multiple flights of stairs in crowded areas.
As there is not much time included in Osaka as part of your trip, we strongly advise you to plan an extended stay at the end of the tour if you wish to see more of the city.
Renovation works on Miyajima's famous floating torii gate started in June 2019. During the renovation works, the torii gate is covered up under a partially transparent scaffolding. Furthermore, a bridge is being built on the left side of the gate (when viewed from the shrine) to aid the renovation works. A date for the completion of the renovation works has not been set yet, but the works are expected to take at least one year.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Food and dietary requirements
FOOD IN JAPAN
The Japanese daily diet contains gluten (ie. in flavourings such as soy sauce) and seafood (dashi, or fish stock, is the basis of most dishes, even vegetable ones), so we highly recommend that vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs do their own online research before travelling about some of the options that might be available to them. While our leaders will assist you whenever they can, there may be some included meals that are fixed in advance and not flexible, such as those included at ryokans, and cannot be modified for different diets. For those suffering from particular food allergies, your group leader will endeavor to disclose to their fullest knowledge the main ingredients in dishes being consumed. It is, however, still your personal responsibility to ensure that you do not ingest any foods to which you are allergic.
Food and drink are such a high part of Japanese culture. Here are some links to get your tastebuds tingling:
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
The official currency of Japan is Yen (JPY). Japan is predominantly a cash society and locals carry large amounts of cash for daily business. International credit cards can usually only be used at major department stores or large restaurants but cash from non-Japanese bank accounts can be withdrawn via the Cirrus and Maestro systems by direct debiting (as well as Mastercard and Visa cash advance). This is now available at all post office ATMs around the country, as well as 7 Eleven convenience store ATMs, making it very easy to get access to cash throughout the trip at each location 24 hours a day.
If you are happy with the services provided by your group leader tipping - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please consider this when budgeting for your extra expenses on this tour.
The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$3-5 per person, per day can be used.
Tipping is not customary in Japan in restaurants and for other service providers.
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.
The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.
What to take
MAIN LUGGAGE On this trip you will need to carry your own luggage for up to 30 minutes at a time. Train stations are quite complex and usually require a lot of stair climbing, especially when doing a quick transfer from train to train. Elevators aren't always available and cannot accommodate many people at a time, so if you are choosing to bring a suitcase, please ensure you are able to lift and carry it up and down stairs yourself without difficulty. A backpack is often preferred by travellers for this reason. Our ryokans allow suitcases but you'll need to carry instead of wheeling it onto the tatami floor in the room. Japanese public transport is often quite small and cramped without large luggage racks for big suitcases (even on the shinkansen trains), so it's best to pack as light and small as possible so that you are not blocking aisles or taking up extra seats on trains. If you have a lot of luggage you may need to use luggage forwarding services. These are economical and efficient - please speak to your leader if you need to get your baggage to another destination in Japan. DAY PACK A day pack for carrying essentials when exploring destinations, while on public transport as well as for any shorter overnight stays will be useful.
WATER BOTTLE Cold tap water in Japan is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by bringing your own bottle and refilling from the tap or public water fountains. OTHER USEFUL THINGS TO TAKE - reusable shopping bag for buying supplies for long journeys - travel mug, cutlery, plate/bowl for preparing any self catered meals - plastic lunch box for storing food & snacks - slippers or flip flops - torch/flashlight - travel wipes - small towel - ear plugs & eye mask OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER - check weather in destinations you are travelling to online a few days before you go to make sure you pack appropriate clothing - laundry facilities may not be available in all destinations, so make sure you have a few cycles of clothes to tide you over until your next chance to wash
WINTER You will need to take into consideration the below freezing temperatures you are likely to encounter travelling in Japan in the winter months and ensure that you bring appropriate clothing for spending time outside in the elements: - Hat - Gloves or mittens - Scarf - Windproof, warm jacket or coat suitable for temperatures below zero (just a fleece will not be sufficient!) - Warm socks - Waterproof boots suitable for walking on snow and ice - Thermals or clothing that can be easily layered - Snow pants may be useful if you are planning to do any outdoor activities
Climate and seasonal
PEAK TRAVEL TIMES
Please be aware that while travelling during major national holidays (late Apr to early May) and peak seasons in Japan (Apr-May/Sep–Oct) are fascinating and exciting times to travel, there are also some downsides. There will be huge crowds at most tourist attractions and on all public transport. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train tickets at our usual preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic jams and changes to the itinerary without prior notice can be necessary. If you decide to travel during peak periods come with a sense of adventure and flexibility and we are sure that your experience will still be rewarding and memorable.
A couple of rules
Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips.
By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund.
If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
GENERAL ISSUES ON YOUR TRIP
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office:
Intrepid's Kyoto Office: +81 70 1771 5588
Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel.
Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting:
It's always a good idea to learn something about local customs before you travel, and visiting Japan is no exception. Your leader will be on hand to guide you through cultural differences during your trip, but here are some tips to get you started: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/etiquette-in-japan/
While Japan is known for its 'out there' fashions overall it is quite a conservative country. Please remember that we spend time at temples, working monasteries, holy shrines, recreated villages and castles, cooking schools and ancient gardens. At these places it is important to be respectful to the staff and other visitors by wearing clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
We are big supporters of the protection of endangered species around the world. It is against our Responsible Travel policy for our leaders to take passengers to places that use cruel practices or supply or serve foods that are on the endangered species list, such as whale, turtle, tiger, bird’s nests, pangolin and shark. Although a global ban on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986, approximately 1,000 whales are still being killed every year. We do not visit places that serve whale meat on any of our trips, nor will your leader guide you to where it is offered.
TATTOOS IN JAPAN:
Please note, decorative tattoos are uncommon in Japanese culture and therefore you may receive curious and sometimes disapproving looks from locals. Generally, nobody will make a comment about your tattoos but please endeavour to wear modest clothing and check rules for public onsens.
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on a different Intrepid trip than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (subject to availability), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Japanese-style inns (ryokans) involve sleeping on futons or matresses on tatami mat floors, with bedding often packed away during the day. Attached bathrooms/toilets will usually be very small and many ryokans will only have shared bathing facilities with certain hours, or times available for booking at reception. Your leader will explain etiquette involved in using the shared facilities. As this style of accommodation will often not have furniture (ie. chairs or beds) in the rooms, please consider choosing a different trip style in Japan if you have difficulty getting up from the floor or have knee, hip or back issues. Some ryokans may have a curfew when travellers need to be back in the accommodation - this is usually around midnight. Please also be aware that you would normally be required to change to slippers when entering into your room in a ryokan. Hotels and ryokans will charge extra fees if dirty marks are left on their beddings or towels that require professional cleaning.
Read more about ryokans here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/traditional-japanese-ryokan/
The recent huge increase in tourism to Japan has put a lot of pressure on accommodation. On occasion, we may need to change accommodation from what is listed in the itinerary in order to operate your departure with minimal changes.
We like to encourage travellers to visit traditional Japanese 'onsens' while in the country as it is a quintessential local experience. In public onsens this means bathing naked with others of the same gender. While the experience can feel strange at first for some, most of our groups end up enjoying this activity. There is very specific etiquette for visiting onsens - your leader can give you some tips and instructions. Please be aware that travellers with tattoos may not be permitted to enter public onsens. Private onsens may also be available - talk to your leader for more information. See our guide to onsens here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/japan-onsen-guide/
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A Single Supplement to have your own room is not available to purchase on this trip due to hotels having limited number of rooms and the high demand on availability.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour.
A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Ryokan/Hotel (23 nts)
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24 Days from$9,590