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Mount Fuji, Japan

Japan

A typical 12 night independent trip to Japan

Here is an example trip if you'd like to travel around Japan independently. Almost everything can be tweaked so that the final itinerary is perfect for your budget and interests.

Tokyo and Kyoto are pretty much must-sees on any trip to Japan, but other areas are equally fascinating. The Mount Fuji area is a great place to relax for a couple of days, while the snow monkeys are a unique attraction although best seen in winter. The Japanese Alps area has some incredible scenery and lovely towns to stay in or visit.

For guided tours of Japan and cruises that include stops in Japan please contact us on 01462 677 111.

When I was researching my own trip to Japan a number of years ago, it quickly became clear that in the limited time we had, we would have to book a tailor made itinerary to experience all the things at the top of our wishlist. 

Essentially that was seeing a bit of modern Tokyo, riding on a bullet train, walking round at most atmospheric part of Kyoto, and visiting the snow monkeys.

While we got to see all we wanted, Japan can be a tricky country to find your way around on your own, for example working out which train to catch. The guidebook that comes with our tailor made itineraries is a huge help, however if you like everything to be made easy then an escorted tour makes a huge amount of sense.

However if you prefer to be independent, here's a fantastic multi centre trip which you can tweak to your budget and interests.

Tokyo
 
3 nights

Fly from the UK to Tokyo - if flying directly, the journey is around 14 hours.

Three nights gives you two whole days to explore, and below are just some of the places in Tokyo you can experience. In the evening, you could take a dinner cruise on the Sumida River.

Tokyo, Japan
What to do:
  • A good place to start is the Asakusa district, it's a bit more traditional with quaint streets lined with food stalls and craft shops, and closer to the river you'll find waterside restaurants. Nearby is the Senso-ji Temple which is the oldest in Tokyo.
  • Heading towards central Tokyo, you'll pass by Ueno Park with it's temples and lotus pond, and also houses a nature and science museum. In the Spring large numbers of visitors come to see the cherry blossom.
  • The next area as you head towards the centre is Akihabara Electric Town which has all things electric and shops small and huge.
  • In central Tokyo is the Imperial Palace which is the castle home of the Emperor of Japan.
  • Then to the west is the buzzing Shinjuko area which is where you'll find plenty of skyscrapers and lots of neon lights, as well as many excellent cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • Veering south now, you'll come to the Meiji Shrine, before Harajuku - the fashion district! Finally you'll reach the world famous Shibuya Crossing.
The Japanese Alps
 
3 nights

This part of the trip is in complete contrast to Tokyo, and you could spend just a few days to a week here depending on how much time you have. Please let us know what you'd most like to see - it may be better to stay in one accommodation, or perhaps move around to 2 or 3 places.

One particularly stunning part is Kamikochi with beautiful walks and endless photo opportunities. Due to snow it is closed off in the winter months but at its very best in Autumn.

Takayama is famous for the narrow old town streets lined with little shops, cafes and merchant houses, some of which have stood since the 1600s. Just outside is the Hida Folk Village where old farm houses have been re-built on the hillside and are open to visitors.

Visit the historic Matsumoto Castle in a picturesque setting.

Further south is the medieval village of Tsumago, and there is a lovely walk through the forest starting at the Odaki and Medaki waterfalls and finishing in Tsumago.

At the World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, you'll find an idyllic village of steep roofed farmhouses designed to cope with heavy snow, and it's also possible to stay in one for the night.

The region also has gardens, a famous castle, and markets, while cycle rides in the countryside are available.

Kyoto
 
3 nights

Amazingly, Kyoto has 17 World Heritage Sites, so you could easily spend weeks here exploring its gardens, temples and shrines. It's the former capital of Japan, but now the cultural heart.

One of the most enjoyable parts of our trip was walking at dusk through the narrow lanes of the atmospheric Gion district, where we were lucky enough to spot a geisha.

To add to the whole experience, we also stayed in a traditional Japanese inn called a ryokan, where we were served tea and dinner in our room dressed in traditional robes. 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan
What to do:
  • Visit a Buddhist temples eg, Ryoan-ji or Kiyomizu-dera (the pure water temple), usually with wonderful Japanese gardens close by
  • Japanese gardens - for example the Zen Garden at Ryoan-Ji Temple
  • Look out for a geisha`in the Gion district as night falls
  • Wander the narrow lanes passing traditional tea houses in the Higashiyama district
  • The Imperial Palace, the former residence of the Emporer of Japan
  • Golden Pavilion - a Buddhist temple with the top floors covered in gold leaf
  • See one of the numerous shrines e.g. the photogenic Fushimi Inari Taisha at Mount Inari which is made up of thousands of deep orange torii gates. You can choose between a hike to the top which takes around 3 hours or a much shorter trail.
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Forest - a bamboo trail by the Tenryu-ji Temple, again very photogenic
  • Nara day trip - thousands of deer and the Giant Buddha
Hakone - Mt. Fuji area
 
3 nights

On my own trip there just wasn't enough time to stay around Mt. Fuji, but we did get a tantalising glimpse of it through the windows of the bullet train. The summit was submerged in cloud, but on a 3 night stop there is a much better chance of some spectacular views.

 

What to do:
  • Photograph Mt. Fuji (if the weather is kind!)
  • Take a boat trip across beautiful Lake Ashi - and hopefully a great view of Mt. Fuji
  • Visit the Outdoor Sculpture Garden and open air museum
  • Relax in one of the many hot spring baths
  • Visit Owakudani known for it's black eggs boiled in the sulphurous waters - there is a cable car that takes you over the volcanic crater
Yudanaka - for the snow monkeys
 
2 nights

A group of Japanese macaques have discovered how lovely it is to bath in hot spring pools, to keep warm during the cold winter months.

It's not an easy place to get to but definitely worth it. We got there early before any tour groups arrived so there were very few others around.

One thing we learned is that there is a monkey hierarchy, and not all monkeys are allowed in the hot pool! I'd hate to be one of the ones sat freezing on the sidelines watching the others.

The other thing I learned is that they are quite tame and used to humans. You are not allowed in with them, but can get very close. Sometimes they may come out and climb over you, which happened once or twice.

This is a fascinating thing to watch, and is well worth the trip to get here. We've seen them quite a few times on TV since our visit. However please note that the best time to go is the cold winter months. They are there to some extent all year round, but in greater numbers and with snow on the ground during winter.

Snow monkeys, Japan

Guide Prices

Prices will of course vary depending on standard of hotels, flight prices, time of year, etc, but if you have in mind somewhere between £4,000 per person and £4,500 per person for the above trip based on medium class hotels, then that's a good place to start.

What's Included?
  • Flights from the UK
  • Train travel
  • Accommodation
  • Info pack
  • Transfers (if applicable)
  • Sightseeing (if applicable)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How difficult is it to find your way around?

A. Although there are many signs in English, for example at railway stations and major tourist sites, we found it a little challenging at times, although the info pack that we got, and all clients get, definitely helps a lot.

Q. When's the best time to go?

A. Spring has cherry blossom, Autumn has the fall colours of vibrant yellows, reds and golds, but bear in mind that everything will be busier in these peak periods especially Spring. For the snow monkeys, winter is best. July and August are hot and humid, while the winter months of December to February are chilly. (For my own trip we travelled in December - the snow monkeys were the priority and they are more likely to be in the hot pool when it's cold!)

 

A wishlist of experiences

  • To visit a typical Japanese Garden - note that the Cherry Blossom season is March / April, although it can get very crowded. Alternatively the Autumn colours are magnificent.
  • Visit a Japanese temple - note Buddhism is one of the main religions
  • Modern Tokyo - including the famous pedestrian crossing in the centre of Tokyo where up to 3,000 people can cross at one time, in a perfectly orderly fashion
  • See a Geisha - best seen in the Gion area of Kyoto
  • Visit the snow monkeys - the best chance to see them is in the winter months when it colder and the hot springs are even more appealing to them!
  • Stay in a ryokan - these are traditional Japanese inns, and you may have dinner served in your room while wearing traditional robes
  • See Mount Fuji - you will pass Mount Fuji on the bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto, but if you have time then the whole area is worth a 2-3 day stop
  • Ride the bullet train - the best way to get between Tokyo and Kyoto

 

More information

Call  01462 677111

Local to Letchworth, Baldock, Hitchin or Stevenage?

On selected holidays, we now offer face to face appointments so that we can have an initial discussion about your requirements. These can be in your own home, a local cafe, or another place that's convenient to you, and would typically last around 30 minutes.
Available in Letchworth Garden City, Baldock, Hitchin, Stevenage and surrounding towns and villages - just click on the link below or give us a call on 01462 677 111 to arrange a suitable time.