21st 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 15.35hrs, have a short transit in Dubai, and fly to Tokyo arriving at 17.35hrs.
22nd 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 17.35hrs. 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 2 nights. Accommodation: Sotetsu Grand Fresa Tokyo Bay Ariake or similar.
23rd March: Discover Tokyo (B=breakfast)
We will spend our discovering the diverse city of Tokyo; from the modern part of the city, to the old classic neighbourhoods and spiritual areas., including Asakusa Sensoji Kanon Temple, one of the most colourful temples in Japan. 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!
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 which features more than 1000 cherry trees 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. This afternoon will be all about delving deeper into the Japanese culture. We will experience one of the centuries old rituals, an authentic Japanese tea ceremony.
This will give us the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the history, architecture and tastes of Japan.
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!!!
24th March: 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. Then we will move to the hot spring resort town of Lake Kawaguchiko. Here we will take a short cruise on one of the Fuji Five lakes. We will set sail from the pier, and swing by an island. This will give us the opportunity to gaze at Mount Fuji as it looms over the beautiful lake shore. Jump at the chance to snap a photo of the mountain as it reflects in mirrored image across the lake beneath.
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.
25th March: 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 Grand Prince Hotel or similar. *Please note that to travel comfortably by train our luggage will be transported directly to the hotel in Hiroshima and we will receive it in 2 days. Thus, we will carry a small bag and change of clothes with us.
26th March: Miyajima Island and Mt Misen (B)
This morning, 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 allow time to wander the vibrant streets.
Mt Misen is considered a sacred site worshipped since ancient times. It is also home to a primeval forest, a Natural Treasure of Japan, and thus we will spend our time hiking on the mountain. We will first take the cable car up, avoiding the steps, and from here we will take the path leading to the forest whilst admiring inland seas and islands below. Once you reach the top you will witness incredible views, a very rewarding moment indeed, soon realising that this was a perfect combination of nature, activity and tranquility. We will then start heading down to the Daishoin Temple, one of the most important temples of Shingon Buddhism. After a full day in Miyajima, we will head back to Hiroshima to visit 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.
27th March: Hiroshima and Okayama (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 & Museum. 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. Following this we will travel to Okayama, the land of sunshine. We will start by exploring 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. Then, we will make our way to Kurashiki, a town famous for its traditional streets and culture. We will walk along the river through the historical quarter and enjoy our time here.
Tonight we will overnight in Kurashiki. Accommodation Royal Park Hotel or similar.
28th March: Himeji and Fushimi-Inari (B)
After breakfast we will depart to Himeji, and here we will explore two very interesting sites. 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 then walk 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.
Some free time for lunch, and then we will depart to 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. Here you can hear the frequent ringing of brass bells (to wake up the gods), the clink of 5 or 10 yen coins falling into the collection receptacles, and the loud claps as people finish their prayer petitions. Alternatively, you can take a pleasant walk in the grounds of the shrine and feel more like a local, as you meet fortune tellers and different vendors. For the next 2 nights we will overnight in Kyoto. Accommodation: Urban Hotel Kyoto Shijo Premium or similar.
29th March: 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. 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. Thus, next up is the heritage site of Kinkaku-Ji-Golden Pavilion.
We will head to Gion, the geisha district, and spend the rest of our day here. Gion is quite charming and has strong ties to Japanese 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. The old cobblestone streets of Ninenzaka, and Sannenzaka have prospered since ancient times. These sloping streets are lined with traditional Japanese-style shops. We will immerse ourselves in the local atmosphere, probably clicking the camera a lot as you will witness quite a nostalgic and dreamy scenery.
30th March: Nara and Osaka (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…Osaka.
Later, we will reach Osaka, a charming relaxed city where it’s locals are known for their warm hospitality. 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 afternoon relaxing here. Then, get ready for the most vibrant shopping experience ever!! Dotonbori is a bustling downtown area, with colourfully 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.
For the next 2 nights we will overnight in Osaka. Accommodation: Sotetsu Grand Fresa Osaka Namba or similar.
31st March: Universal Studios Japan (optional) (B)
Japan, is where magic comes alive and where adults can relive their childhood dreams! Samurai, anime, manga, costumes, and themed parks are all synonymous with Japan, so whilst here, you have the option to visit one of the most popular theme parks in the world…Universal Studios Japan!!! A combination of adrenaline-packed rides and a recreation of fictional worlds, today you will get a glimpse of the 21st century Japanese. The park is filled with many fun worlds to explore and there is something for everyone. Just outside the park’s gates is Universal Citywalk Osaka, a shopping mall with many restaurants and shops, including stores selling typical Japanese merchandise. Alternatively, you can spend a free day in Osaka, and if you love history, culture or shopping, time will simply fly! Our guide will be happy to suggest places you can visit and exciting things you can do.
1st April: Kobe, Sake Brewery and Sumida River Cruise (B)
Today we will head to Kobe Harborland. The district offers a large selection of shops, restaurants, cafes and other amusements. After an orientation walk, we will enjoy some free time here. You can opt for lunch overlooking the harbour, take a ride on the Ferris wheel, walk along the waterfront, reach China Town, and discover the shopping malls. Kobe is also referred to as the sake capital of the country, boasting a long history spanning over 700 years. We will visit a sake brewery, learn about the unique techniques and flavours, and participate in sake tasting. Another exciting shinkansen bullet train transfer awaits. Once we reach Tokyo, we will experience a totally different view of the city from the river as we enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Sumida River, ending our day exploring Tokyo’s rivers and canals. For the next 2 nights we will overnight in Tokyo. Accommodation: Sunshine City
Prince Hotel or similar.
2nd April: Kamakura (B)
We’ve been to villages, forests, cities, gardens, groves and parks. Next up is the coastal town of Kamakura. Being just an hour away from Tokyo, Kamakura makes a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Full of historic treasures, there is also lots to explore here including the famous Buddha statue and the Kotoku-in Temple. But what mostly attracted us to Kamakura, is that it offers pleasant short hiking trails in its woods, giving us the opportunity to enjoy a mix of nature and cultural sights. You will surely feel your body’s senses expand, and you will feel as if you have traveled back in time to the Kamakura period. Once back in Tokyo, we will refresh and head out again to enjoy the great nightlife! So those who wish, we’ll hop on a local bus and head to the night district, to make the most of our time here!
3rd April: Tokyo (B)
It’s our last day in Japan, but hang on there as we have planned a full day out! Have you seen people walking through water, or becoming one with flowers in the middle of millions of LED lights that recreate the universe, nature, paradise, and so many things in a single space? We will head to TeamLab Planets to witness a unique experience that is unparalleled!!
We will then move on to 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. 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 life.
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!
We thank you for choosing to Experience Japan with us!