Japan

Highlights of Japan (14 days)

If you want a comprehensive trip to Japan, one that covers all the main highlights, yet immerses you in local culture, urban and countryside, this Japan itinerary is perfect. You’ll explore Japan’s most famous cities including the capital as well as the cultural centre of Kyoto and Hiroshima, whilst escaping into the mountains to enjoy the more peaceful, spiritual and natural side of Japan. Time your visit right and you can also see the spring cherry blossom or the maples turning ruby red in autumn, too.

Highlights

  Watch wrestling in a Sumo ‘stable’
  Escape the crowds at Meiji Shrine
  Visit the home of Japan’s pop culture
  See the UNESCO Toshogu Shrine
  Snow monkeys bathing in hot springs
  Hike along the Nakasendo trail
  Take a bullet train to Kyoto
  See traditional geishas
  Visit the peace park in Hiroshima

14 days from £2,800 pp

Plus international flights from £700

A two-week holiday to Japan for a family of four usually costs a minimum of around £11,200 plus flights.

View pricing guide

Highlights of Japan day-to-day itinerary

Day 1 Tokyo
When you arrive in Tokyo you will transfer to your hotel. On arrival at the hotel, a Stubborn Mule Travel representative will meet you to provide you with your tour file and will equip you with all the information that you require for the tour. You can ask him / her any questions that you might have about the country, logistics or optional excursions.


Day 2 Tokyo
Today you explore the fast paced and futuristic city of Tokyo with a private guide, using the city’s efficient public transport system.

The morning starts with a visit to the sumo stable where you can see the sumo wrestlers taking part in morning practice before a visit to the sumo museum to learn more about this traditional art form. You will also visit the ‘Sky Tree’, a huge tower in the heart of the city that offers panoramic views, and perhaps one of Tokyo’s vast toy shops, packed with Hello Kitty, Pokémon and just about anything else the children might be interested in.

In the afternoon your guide will take you to the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the Meiji Emperor. It is located in a large leafy park, which makes it a relaxing place to explore and a complete antidote to the more hectic side of the city. If you are visiting at the weekend you may well see a wedding taking place, the bride (in a distinctive white kimono) and the groom (in a black one) walking together under a red umbrella.

End your day with a walk along Harajuku and Omote-Sando, also known as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree lined avenue features a multitude of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects within a short distance. Harajuku is a complete contrast, and is the ‘spiritual home’ for Japan’s unique pop culture, where local teenagers dress up as their favourite manga characters.


Day 3 Tokyo
Today you visit Nikko National Park and the Toshogu Shrine, the mausoleum of the founder of the Toshogu Shogunate. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the buildings here are some of the most beautiful in Japan, set within a large park.


Day 4 Tokyo
You have a full free day today. If you are interested, we can arrange tickets to the weirdly wonderful Studio Ghibli Museum, dedicated to the films of Hayao Miyazaki (including My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki Witch and Princess Mononoke). Another option could be to visit the railway museum at Saitama (much more interesting than it sounds!) which has a big collection of steam and diesel locomotives, retired shinkansen passenger carriages and freight cars which can be entered or viewed from underneath. There are many models and hands-on activities here. Also popular with older children is a cycling tour around the backstreets of Tokyo, following a quiet route past temples, traditional gardens and markets.


Day 5 Tokyo – Nagano
Today you make your own way to the train station in Tokyo and will head north to the city of Nagano. You will be met at the station on arrival by a guide, who will accompany you on local transport to Jijokudani Park, where you can see snow monkeys bathing in hot springs. Returning back from the park, take a short bus ride to Shibu Onsen, a small town that is lovely to explore on foot, and where you can visit one of the hot springs.

Return to Nagano by public transport for the night.

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Day 6 Nagano – Takayama
This morning you travel to Takayama, in the Japanese Alps. This beautifully picturesque town is renowned for its morning market, where old ladies sell piles of fresh fruit and vegetables from the surrounding mountains and the streets are full of stalls selling souvenirs.

The town is extremely well preserved, with traditional wooden houses lining paved streets and many sake breweries trying to tempt you inside. Spend the afternoon exploring.


Day 7 Takayama
A full free day to explore the area around Takayama.

One option is to take a guided cycling adventure through the town of Hidafurukawa. This is a pretty route through rice paddy countryside, meeting some friendly locals along the way, with the chance to taste some local food – a true insight into Japanese mountain life.

Another option is a visit to Shirakawago, a quiet and picturesque village located in a secluded area deep in the Southern Japanese Alps. The traditional mountain farmhouses with their steep pitched and thatched roofs are dotted amongst the paddy fields. This is a lovely place for a wander, with many charming shops.


Day 8 Takayama – Nakasendo Trail
Today you will travel to Magome by train and bus. When you arrive here you will be met by a local guide who will accompany you for a beautiful hike along the old Nakasendo Trail, the road that once connected Kyoto to the ancient capital of Edo. Follow in the footsteps of samurai and dignitaries along a peaceful cobbled path that takes you out into the countryside on a picturesque route.

Spend the night in a traditional ryokan in Tsumago.


Day 9 Tsumago – Kyoto
After a traditional Japanese breakfast in your ryokan you will have time to wander around the beautifully preserved village of Tsumago. Afterwards, travel to Nagiso station for the train to Kyoto. A local representative will meet you at the train station and will accompany you to your hotel by taxi. They will be able to answer any questions you might have about Kyoto and brief you about the next few days.

Kyoto is the cultural epicentre of Japan, the hub of traditional culture and a city that for hundreds of years has been an island of tradition. It has seventeen World Heritage Sites, the most in any one city and each of which is magnificent. This is where you will learn about life in ancient Japan and will encounter many of the traditions that make this such a unique culture.


Day 10 Kyoto
Enjoy a morning guided tour of Kyoto. Your visit will start with the grand Nijo castle, dating back to the early 17th century and the sprawling and impressive Kyoto home of the Tokugawa Shogun. From here head to Ryoanji, famous for its UNESCO protected world heritage Zen gardens. You may recognise certain parts of the gardens as they have been featured in a wide range of films.

Later visit Kinkakaju, an exquisite pavilion in a beautiful lakeside location, completely coated in gold. It was originally built as the summerhouse for a shogun.

The afternoon is free. The children might enjoy a cookery class or perhaps a bike tour around the old streets where you might catch a glimpse of a geisha rushing on her way to work along the streets of Gion. Another option is a visit to the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, the only theme park in Japan where you can observe the filming of period dramas. There is a street built in the design of the Edo period and you can soak up the atmosphere of ancient Japan, perhaps taking in a ninja show or dressing up as a geisha or samurai.


Day 11 Kyoto
Today is a free day in which you can use your rail pass for a visit to Nara, Japan’s first capital. Here you will find a huge wooden building housing the Great Buddha statue and can then stroll around the park in the middle of town where deer roam free.

You could also stop en route to visit one of Kyoto’s most photographed shrines, Fushimi Inari, with its thousands of torii gates that line the temple’s sacred mountain trails.


Day 12 Kyoto – Hiroshima
Take the bullet train from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Later you will have a guided tour of the famous peace park and museum, dedicated to the events of August 6th, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. This is a harrowing place to visit but children are fascinated to learn more about events that they may have read about or heard about in school.


Day 13 Miyajima – Osaka
A free morning in which you can take the ferry to the island of Miyajima. The island is renowned for its large red shrine gate, the Grand Torii, that looks (at high tide) as if it is floating on the waters of the Seto Inland Sea. A ropeway to the top of a mountain on the island provides a stunning view of the surrounding landscape.

In the afternoon, take the train to Osaka for your final night in Japan. Osaka is one of the liveliest cities in Japan, with late opening restaurants and a busy centre, so you can spend you last evening enjoying the hustle and bustle.


Day 14 Osaka
Make your way to the airport for your flight home.

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Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.

01728 752751

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