27th March: Depart Malta
Meet at Malta International Airport for our flight to Japan. According to the current flight schedule we are expected to depart Malta at 15.35hours and transit in Dubai before we take our early morning flight to Tokyo.
28th March: Arrive Tokyo
Tokyo is a thriving colourful city that enchants its visitors with its numerous attractions, historic temples, electronic town, gardens, high rise buildings and markets. The contrast and diversity experienced here is like no other. From a jungle of electric lights and colours at night, which provide a sensory overload for visitors, to the traditional neighbourhoods with their old low-slung wooden buildings and glowing lanterns radiating warmth. Tokyo is also a prime viewing location for sakura, or as we refer to it, cherry blossom, and it will connect us to Mt Fuji and many other interesting parts of Japan.
According to our current flight schedule we are expected to arrive in Tokyo at 22.35 hours. Upon arrival we will transfer to our hotel for our first night in the Land of the Rising Sun. We will overnight in Tokyo for the next 4 nights. Accommodation: Grocery Ginza Hotel or similar.
29th and 31st March: Discover Tokyo (B=breakfast)
We will spend two days discovering the diverse city of Tokyo; from the modern part of the city, to the old classic neighbourhoods and spiritual areas. We will also get a different glimpse of the city as we will rise 350m above the ground at Skytree Tower for a 360-degree panoramic view which will leave you convinced that you are walking in the sky! And to really get the best view of Tokyo, we will hop on to the man made island of Odaiba. The short journey to Odaiba will feel like you’re going into a time machine to the future as Odaiba is also famous for its assortment of
futuristic and quirky attractions.
During these two full days we will explore several temples and shrines including Asakusa Sensoji Kanon Temple, one of the most colourful temples in Japan, and the Meji shrine, which is wonderfully serene and austere. Here you can do as the locals do — toss some yen into the offering box, bow your head twice, clap twice, and bow once more before offering a prayer. A stop at the Imperial Palace will complete the list of the most prominent sites to visit in Tokyo.
This time of the year is also when the cherry blossoms come in full bloom. Large areas of the city turn completely pink and this seasonal spectacle is celebrated with hanami parties (cherry blossom viewing) under the trees. We will walk around Ueno Park and Shunjuku Gyoen Park. Both these parks are special as they feature more than 1000 cherry trees each. This is also a time when locals reflect on the ephemeral nature of life, of things being transitory and existing only briefly. We will enjoy this festivity in its full bloom! One of the things to do in Tokyo is to head to the different shopping areas and get lost in the vibrant streets. One of which is Nakamise street, which is one of the oldest and most famous shopping streets in Asakusa. It runs for 250m, starts and ends with a temple gate, and it has a history of centuries with shops selling traditional souvenirs, kimonos, clothes, snacks and sweets. Harjuku and Omotesando come next. Described as Tokyo’s most trendy and fashionable shopping street, the capital of Japanese pop-culture where everyone hangs around in their most which outfit, and a funky sweets paradise. We will also explore Shinjuku, a buzzing district known for the best entertainment and lavish nightlife.
Perhaps the most iconic symbols of the city in Tokyo is Shibuya crossing. This is one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. Surrounded by large advertising screens, it is best known for the incredible ‘scamble’ that occurs every time the traffic lights turn red, stopping all vehicles in every direction to allow a huge wave of pedestrians to flood into the intersection for a few moments. Get ready to experience this!!!
30th March: Nikko National Park (B)
Nikko is a centre of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship, and this part of the island offers scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs and hiking trails. Today we will leave the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and head to Nikko National Park. We will spend our afternoon hiking around Lake Chuzenji to enjoy a cornucopia of superb views. This lake is located at the foot of Nikko’s sacred volcano and the trail enjoys beautiful unspoiled nature, and undeveloped and forested land. We will then witness Kegon Waterfall, almost 100m tall and ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful falls. Later, we will visit the most renowned shrine of “the Shrines and Temples of Nikko,” today a UNESCO World Heritage site covered in many colourful buildings which are richly decorated with gorgeous carvings.
1st April: Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko (B, D)
Get ready for a spectacular day! The sight of Mount Fuji is already breathtakingly beautiful. Now add the cherry blossoms and the surrounding lake, and you’ll find yourself in paradise! We will first make a stop at Oshino Hakkai, a small village in the Fuji Five Lake region at the northern base of Mount Fuji. Here we will get a great view of the mountain. This area also consists of 8 ponds with crystal clear waters where one can drink the cool water straight from the source. Then we will move to the hot spring resort town of Lake Kawaguchiko, to enjoy even better views of Mt Fuji, and finally…
…Hop on the panoramic ropeway which sits more than 1000m above sea level, and be rewarded with panoramic views of the lake below, and the perfect shot of
Mount Fuji right opposite.
Tonight we will overnight in Hakone. Accommodation Mystays Fuji Onsen Resort or similar.
2nd April: Mount Fuji 5th Station (B)
Following breakfast we will check-out of the hotel and head to a different area of Lake Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji where cherry blossoms bloom and cameras run out of battery!!
We will visit the Mount Fuji 5th station at 2305m above sea level. This offers a commanding view of the Fuji Five Lakes area below, which we would have visited the day before. From here we can also enjoys spectacular views of Fujiyoshida, Lake Yamanaka and the Japanese Alps, making this a popular sightseeing spot. This is also were trekkers start their ascent to reach the summit, usually around July and August as the climate during this time of the year makes it possible to climb. We will then move on to the Gotemba Peace Park an interesting blend of different Buddhist traditions from around Asia, which houses a chalky stupa. The park will provide us with a different view of Mount Fuji. It is also particularly pleasant to visit in early Spring time, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Another exciting afternoon as we take the Shinkansen, known in English as the bullet train, to Hiroshima. The Shinkansen is a network of high-speed railway lines which feature some of the fastest trains in the world, traveling at up to 320kms/h. Riding the Shinkansen is a remarkable experience. With military precision the bullet train rolls out of the station like a horizontal rocket, and before you know it you are sitting comfortably in your seat, ordering refreshments.
We will first take the Hikari bullet train to Nagoya station, and then the Nozomi bullet train to Hiroshima station. The main difference between the two is that the Hikari train stops at only the most important stops such as Mt Fuji, whereas the Nozomi train stops at the least amount of stations making it the fastest train service running on the Shinkansen lines in Japan. Upon arrival we will transfer to our hotel in Hiroshima by coach. We will be spending the next 2 nights here. Accommodation Hotel Mielparque or similar.
3rd April: Hiroshima Bay and Miyajima island (B)
On August 6, 1945, an American bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people. We will spend the first part of our day at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Several details are displayed which serve to remind that we should not take peace for granted. We will also witness one of the few remaining buildings to remain standing to today, the A-Bomb Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Then, we will take a ferry to Miyajima island, also referred to Itsukushima, meaning, the island of worship. This is where the famous iconic ‘floating’ torii ,gate is located. The shrine and torii gate are unique for being built over water. We will take a boat cruise around the bay and enjoy the view. But that’s not all! As we get off the ferry it is likely that we will be welcomed by tame deer, who roam around the area following people. Be careful if you carry a map in your hand, as they love to eat paper!!
Miyajima also has a nice and cosy centre with narrow streets full of cafes. Restaurants ,and small shops. Here you can buy everything from souvenirs, handicraft and cookies. But the main things here are dumplings, oyster and Okonomiyaki (pancakes). We will spend the rest of our time wandering the streets. Tonight we will overnight in Hiroshima. (The tori gate on Miyajima island has been restored and works have just been completed. Thus, we can finally enjoy the gate in its full glory!)
4th April: Hiroshima and Okayama (B)
We will start our morning by visiting Hiroshima castle. What distinguishes this castle from the other castles is the fact that rather than being built on a mountaintop, it is built on a plain in the centre of a city. Built in 1589, and destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945, it was built again 13 years later with an attractive, partially wooden exterior.
Following this we will travel to Okayama, the land of sunshine. We will start by exploring Kurashiki, a town famous for its traditional streets and culture. We will walk along the river through the historical quarter, and then make our way to Korakuen, one of Japan’s three famous gardens. We will take a stroll in the lush green lawns embellished in cherry blossoms and, we will also have time to enjoy a cup of tea. The garden will lead us to the Okayama castle, also known as “crow castle” for its black appearance.
Tonight we will overnight in Okayama.
5th April: Himeji and Kobe (B)
After breakfast we will depart to Osaka, but on our way we will make some very interesting stops. The first is Himeji castle, a national treasure and a world heritage site. During this time of the year the sight becomes more prominent as the castle is surrounded with cherry tree lined lawns. We will around the Himeji Japanese Gardens. Japanese gardens can be found all over the island and their main purpose is to bring serenity and nature into our crowded lives.
Next is Kobe Harborland. The district offers a large selection of shops, restaurants, cafes and other amusements. We will enjoy some free time here. You can opt for lunch overlooking the harbour, walk along the waterfront, go on the Ferris wheel or discover the shopping malls.
Later, we will reach Osaka, a charming relaxed city where it’s locals are known for their warm hospitality. The city is also known for its great nightlife, so those who wish, we’ll hop on a local bus and head to Dotonbori, one of the most colourful areas in Osaka, to make the most of our night!
For the next 4 nights we will overnight in Osaka. Accommodation: Shin Osaka Washington Hotel or similar.
6th April: Mount Koya (B)
Tucked away in Kansai mountains lies Mount Koya. Mt Koya is one of Japans most magical and sacred mountains regarded as a hub of spirituality, peace and refuge. Located in a remote area, it consists of a beautiful complex made up of temples, shrines, and pagodas, and it is the perfect place to feel a sense of relaxation and a deep respect for nature. Kobo Daishi, one of Japan’s most significant religious figures, is resting here and he is said to be in eternal meditation, praying for the welfare and peace of all humanity Today we will spend our day experiencing multiple facets of Japanese culture. We will follow lovely walking paths through the beautiful wooded surroundings. There’s some kind of captivating magic that can be felt while walking through Mt. Koya’s forest, and in Japan, places like these are referred as “power spots.”
7th April: Kyoto Full Day (B)
We have all seen pictures of soaring stalks of bamboo reaching the sky. But nothing can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of it all. Get ready to experience Arashiyama Bamboo Grove as we walk through thousands of tall bamboo plants in the bamboo alley. Following this we will walk the Philosopher’s Path, a pleasant 2km path which follows a beautiful canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees, which usually in April explode with colour. This is where a Japanese philosopher was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to university. We will finish off our day by exploring another two heritage sites: Nijo Castle and Kinkaku-Ji-Golden Pavilion. They say that nothing is as symbolic of Kyoto as
Kinkaku-ji’s golden reflection shimmering across the rippled surface of the pond before it.
8th April: Nara deer park, Fushimi Inari shrine, and Gion (B)
Nara is a must see destination for us interested in traditional Japanese culture. It is also popular for its beautiful parks and thousands of deer, and it is packed with first-rate sights, including the famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Todai-ji Temple, and Nara-koen Park, with its famous semi-wild deer. During the first part of our day we will explore all this, and then we will head to our next destination…Kyoto. One of the most famous shrines in Japan is the Fushimi Inari shrine. We will go on a torii gate-covered hiking trail through a seemingly unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through the hills behind the shrine. The hike to the mountain is quite pleasant and takes around 2 hours to complete. And to finish off with, we will head to Gion, the geisha district, and spend the rest of our evening here. Gion is quite charming and has strong ties to Japanses arts. It features traditional wooden houses with narrow, but tall facades. The side alleys are lined with preserved merchant houses serving Japanese cuisine, and among these are ochaya tea houses entertained by maikos (geiko apprentices) and geikos (a dialent for geisha). They enjoy engaging in light conversation, serving drinks and performing traditional dance.
9th April: Osaka
Osaka castle in Nishinomaru Garden is especially famous for its cherry blossom spot. Here, some 600 cherry tress bloom gloriously in spring time. We will spend the first part of our morning relaxing here. But one cannot leave Japan without experiencing one of the centuries old rituals. We will experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony to get a deeper understanding of the history, architecture and tastes of Japan.
Then, get ready for the most vibrant shopping experience ever!! Dotonbori is a bustling downtown area, with colorfully illuminating neon signs, 3D objects appearing to jump out in front of you, and many more unique, entertaining signs. We will have some free time to shop at Shinsaibashi Arcade. The 600m long arcade is filled with retail chains, department stores and trendy boutiques.
And to finish off with, we will be treated with a Japanese dinner, as we make a toast for the wonderful memories shared, and experiences felt. We will then head to the airport for our flight back home.
We look forward to share this once-in-a-lifetime Experience, unique adventure, and so much More with you!
Thank you for choosing to Experience Japan with us!