11th May: 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.
12th May: 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 will also 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 17.35 hrs. 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 Hotel Metropolitan Edmont or similar.
13th May: Discover Tokyo (B=breakfast)
We will spend our day 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 150m above the ground at the Tokyo Tower for a 360-degree panoramic view which will leave you convinced that you are walking in the sky! Perhaps the most iconic symbols of the city in Tokyo is Shibuya crossing, 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!!! We will explore several temples and shrines including Asakusa Sensoji Kanon Temple, one of the most colourful temples in Japan. Parks are synonymous with Japan, and Ueno park is situated in the middle of Tokyo. It features many trees and visiting during spring time will surely offer a great sight.
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. We will allow some time here to feel the Japanese buzzing energy and get accustomed to the local’s way of life. 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.
Later in the evening we will transfer back to our hotel to freshen up and prepare for the next day!
14th May: Mt Fuji and the Shibazakura Festival (B, D)
Get ready for a spectacular day! The sight of Mount Fuji is already breathtakingly beautiful. Now add blooming flowers during spring time and the surrounding lake, and you’ll find yourself in paradise! We will make a stop at hot spring resort town of Lake Kawaguchiko, to enjoy even better views of Mt Fuji. Here we will take a short cruise on one of the Fuji Five lakes. We will set sail from the pier, cruise under the Kawaguchiko Bridge, 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. 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.
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 this morning. From here we can also enjoy 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. Tonight we will overnight in Kawaguchiko. Accommodation My Stays Mt Fuji Onsen Resort or similar.
15th May: Shibazakura Festival and Matsumoto (B)
Japan is an anthophile’s dream and besides the famous cherry blossoms in March, Japanese are also proud of the blooming of the Shibazakura. The low growing shrub comes in a dozen shades of pink, and when it is in full bloom it creates vistas of pink blossoms. Japanese celebrate the Fuji Shibazakura Festival and the best time falls into the 1st three weeks in May, which is exactly when we will be visiting. With 800,000 plants, the festival promises only the most spectacular views, set around a small lake, that, according to legend, is home to a tamed dragon, against the backdrop of Japan’s most famous landmark, Mt Fuji. Festival stalls selling pots of pink moss, shibazakura-themed souvenirs, food and local produce will complete our experience.
After a spectacular morning we will depart to Matsumoto by coach (2 hours), and to start off with we will visit another national treasure, the Matsumoto Castle. Matsumoto is one of Japan’s premier historic castles. Its five-storey main tower, built in late 16th century, is the oldest surviving castle tower in the nation. It’s famously photogenic, backdropped by views of the Northern Alps. We will allow time to walk around the gardens as these provide wonderful views of the area. A short walk from the castle is Nakamachi-dori, one of the most beloved of all Matsumoto attractions. This afternoon we will head to Nakamachi Street, known for its kura, or traditional stores, characterised by their black and white criss-cross patterned walls. A walk along this shopping street transports you back in time a few hundred years to when this modern city was but a simple castle town. This beautiful street is also a popular shopping area where you can buy Japanese handicrafts, such as pottery, lacquerware, and wooden crafts. There are many cafes and restaurants, as well, so it is a great place for us to grab the famous Shinsu Soba and Craft beer.
After a full day out we will head to Matsumoto for 1 night. We will overnight at Buenavista Hotel or similar for 1 night.
16th May: The Japanese Alps (B)
Today will probably be one of the biggest highlights you will experience! The stunning Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a must for nature lovers like us. Today we will delve deeper into the country to see the Japanese Alps with breathtaking mountain views, beautiful green and lush valleys, turquoise lakes, and the unique and impressive 18m tall snow wall.
But what is the Alpine Route? This is a scenic 90km route that crosses the northern part of the Japanese Alps from the east to west. It is an incredible journey through sacred mountains, wilderness, forests, impressive tunnels, high peaks, hot springs, and Japan`s highest dam Kurobe Dam. Most exciting is that in spring time, the Alpine Route is literally carved through the snow, making an impressive 18-meter high snow wall which we will be walking and driving through. The whole Alpine Route is divided into nine sections, each with different transport modes and walking distances, and it can be easily covered in 1 day. To experience it all we will be taking the trolley bus, cable car, ropeway, highland bus and finally coach. Starting from 712m above sea level, we will eventually reach Murodo, the highest point of the route at 2450m with Mt Tateyama just opposite, one of Japan’s 3 holy mountains along with Mount Fuji, and Mount Hakusan.
At this point, we will have some time to explore the area surrounded by several tall mountains on foot. We will also enjoy a warm drink whilst admiring the splendid views from up here, before we start our way down, first by bus through a green lush forest with huge cedar trees, and then by cable car. From here, we will take our coach to the hotel. We will overnight in Kanazawa for 2 nights. Accommodation Holiday Inn Ana Sky or similar.
17th May: A Rural Experience (B)
Today will offer us a different experience and yet another highlight. On our trips we like to move away from the hectic cities and travel to villages to get a more authentic experience. Just an hour away by bus, is Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Japanese fairytale hidden away deep in the mountains of Gifu. Here we will explore the historic village of Ogimachi with its immaculately preserved 250- year-old steep-roofed dwellings, taking us back to a different era of Japan. This village is famous for its gasshō-zukuri houses, whose steep-sided thatched roofs
resemble hands clasped in prayer. The houses are still inhabited, and together with their adjacent rice paddies, present an incredibly picturesque landscape that is a joy to behold and to take a stroll through.
In the afternoon we will head to Gokayama to visit the Ainokura Village, the most remote village in this region. It is also the largest of the villages with nearly 20 gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Along with Ogimachi, Ainokura was also declared a UNESCO World Heirateg Site. What distinguishes this from the nearby villages is that being so remote, it has been able to maintain a lot of its traditional culture. We will spend our afternoon wandering its old streets, visiting craft shops, sampling local tea and digging into local treats. And after a day out we will transfer back to Kanazawa for the night.
18th May: Kanazawa and Gion (B)
Kanazawa is one of the best preserved major Edo-period cities in the country. The samurai, the merchants, the geisha, and the lords have all left their mark on Kanazawa. The city boasts many historical attractions such as the Kanazawa castle and one of the most picturesque parts of the city, Higashichaya old town, which we will both visit. The town features rows of tea houses dating back hundreds of years. Untouched by time, it is a living example of Japan’s cultural past and charming setting. Along with the Gion area of Kyoto, which we will visit this evening, it is one of only two geisha quarters nationally recognised for its cultural value. But Kanazawa’s unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, by many considered the most beautiful garden in Japan. Every feature of a traditional Japanese garden is present here: ponds, stone lanterns, waterfalls, stone paths, bridges, streams, and historical tea houses. Moreover, it meets the 6 contrasting features for a truly outstanding garden; extensive space and quiet seclusion, human artistry and old fashioned elegance, flowing water and distant views. According to a Chinese poem it is almost impossible to create a garden that holds all six elements in common. However, if you take a stroll through Kenrokuen, you can actually find them all. We will spend some time absorbing the peaceful surroundings whilst discovering this unique garden.
Later in the afternoon we will depart to Kyoto by express train*. Upon arrival, we will check-in our hotel and off we go for another authentic experience. 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 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. We will reside in Kyoto for the next 2 nights. Accommodation Keihan Kyoto Hachijoguchi or similar. *Please note that to travel comfortably by train our luggage will be transported directly to the hotel in Osaka and we will receive it in 2 days time. Thus, we will carry a small bag and change
of clothes with us.
19th May: Kyoto Full Day (B)
After breakfast we will depart to Kyoto. 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.
We will then explore another two heritage sites,: (i) 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, (ii) Kiyomizudera Temple, one of the most celebrated temples in Japan marking its spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Translating as ‘Pure Waters Temple,’ Kiyomizudera is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside. The stage affords nice views of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of colour in spring time. One of the most famous shrines in Japan is the Fushimi Inari shrine. This afternoon 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.
20th May: 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 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.
Next up is Osaka Castle. This five-story castle is one of the most visually spectacular creations in the country, with a history that dates back almost 450 years! Presenting Japanese architectural and cultural quintessence, the castle tower is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, impressive stone walls and moats. 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. We will overnight in Osaka for the next night. Accommodation Hotel Vischio or similar.
21th May: Okayama (B)
This morning 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. Our final destination is Hiroshima as another interesting day awaits tomorrow. We will overnight in Hiroshima for 2 nights. Accommodation Mitsui Garden Hotel Hiroshima or similar. *Please note that to travel comfortably by train our luggage will be transported directly to the hotel in Tokyo and we will receive it in 2 days time. Thus, we will carry a small bag and change of clothes with us.
22nd May: Miyajima and Hiroshima (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).
After lunch, we will head back to Hiroshima. 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 next 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.
23rd May: Shinkansen Bullet Train and Kamakura (B)
Another exciting morning as we take the Shinkansen, known in English as the bullet train. 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 take the Nozomi bullet train to Yokohama. The Nozomi train stops at the least amount of stations making it the fastest train service running on the Shinkansen lines in Japan. *Please note that to travel comfortably by train our luggage will be transported on the 21st directly to the hotel in Tokyo and we will receive it today. Thus, we will carry a small bag and change of clothes with us.
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. 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! For our last night we will overnight in Tokyo. Accommodation Hotel Metropolitan Edmont or similar.
24th May: Tokyo (B, D)
It’s our last day in the Land of the Rising Sun. After breakfast, we will check out of our hotel. But our adventure is not over yet!! 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. Harajuku comes 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. This buzzing district is 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 are expected to arrive the next day at 14.05hrs. 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!