The tour departs from South Africa on 25 November on Cathay Pacific Airlines and flies via Hong Kong to Tokyo where three nights will be spent exploring the famous fish market, gardens, shrines and temples.
From Tokyo the tour proceeds to Hakone visiting Mt Fuji, the Owakudani Valley and cruising on Lake Ashi en route. Dominating the skyline, Mt Fuji, with its perfect conical summit, is the quintessential image of Japan. The mountain has always been regarded as a sacred place and is a fabulous sight at any time of the day. The town of Hakone is set against the backdrop of Fuji-san and has long been a popular place for rest and recreation. We will be able to enjoy a hot spring spa at our ryokan (traditional inn) style hotel.
The group will travel from Hakone by express train to the characterful town of Takayama, situated high in the mountains. Originally established in the 1500s as a castle town, Takayama retains an old charm nurtured by it’s merchants’ houses, ryokans, sake breweries, local eateries and craft shops. We will spend two days here to explore the area including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic village of Shirakawago.
The itinerary continues on to Kanazawa, a city with a strong cultural identity. Kanzanawa was historically shielded from outside influence by its location between the mountains and the sea and supported by an ample rice yield. When Japan modernized, Kanzanawa focused on culture; lack of industry meant the city escaped bombing in World War II and retains its heritage today. On arrival we will visit Kenroku-en Garden, established in the 17th century and explore the Higashi Pleasure District. This geisha area is full of atmosphere, the area has old-fashioned street lamps and wooden-lattice windows hiding elegant restaurants and galleries. Art and culture are highly regarded in Kanzanawa.
An express train will take us to Hiroshima. For the worst of reasons, Hiroshima needs no introduction. However, there is more to the reconstructed city than its sorrowful atomic legacy. We will stay two nights in Hiroshima and have time to explore the city and Miyajima Island, a jewel of the Sanyo coast. Miyajima is symbolized by a looming vermilion Shinto gate set in the sea, which denotes that the whole island is sacred. This island is covered in virgin forest and has numerous impressive pagodas, temples and shrines which we will visit.
Last stop on the itinerary is the old imperial capital of Kyoto. Here scores of the country’s famous monuments are preserved within a lively modern city. We will spend three days exploring the cultural riches of this ancient city. Kyoto defines traditional Japan and possesses an ingrained aristocratic bloodline, punctuated by a history unrivaled by any other Japanese city. While in Kyoto we will also visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nara.
The group flies out of Osaka via Hong Kong to return to South Africa on 09 December 2011.
Japan, as it is today, is supremely embracing and fabulous, totally special and unique! Japan offers an experience you’ll find nowhere else in the world. Everybody should visit Japan at least once in their lifetime! Don’t miss this opportunity.
Liz Cotton will be accompanying the group from South Africa and professional local guides will be escorting the group from arrival in Tokyo through to Osaka. This will be a unique and unforgettable experience for every member of the group.