Discovering Japan in Spring
We start in Tokyo, undoubtedly one of Asia's most exciting cities and finish up in Kyoto. Along the way we visit some incredible historical and cultural sites and really gain an appreciation of the history of this country.
On this Outside the Square adventure we will be exploring like the locals do, using the amazing bullet trains and local transport with just a few bus trips when its really the only way to get to a place. Leisa is a real foodie and will introduce us to so many hidden gems as we get to experience the delights of this amazing cuisine. Each region has a specialty dish and we will try them all. We have chosen spring time as this is the wonderful time to visit this country, temperatures are pleasant, and flowers are starting to bloom.
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan
If Arriving at Narita Airport on arrival day (most flights arrive in early evening) we will meet you and escort you to our first hotel. There are no activities planned during the day so feel free to arrive anytime and freshen up and to get your bearings before we all meet up for a light meal at a local Japanese Izakaya.
Izakaya is Japanese style bar/gastropub serving drink and Japanese food or snacks. It’s popular among locals to hop in right after work for a couple of beers. Izakaya alleys are old fashioned, narrow streets and usually seat only a few people at one time.
Overnight Tokyo Hotel
Day 2: Tokyo
We are staying in Shinjuku, a whole city within a city and one of the most popular areas to stay in Tokyo. This morning we will head to Shinjuku Gyoen (park) It was opened to the public in 1949 and is a beautiful park with speciality gardens. This morning we will experience the traditional art of Japanese tea making served with Japanese sweets.
Then we will head to Tokyo Metropolitan building to the observation deck on the 45th floor to see views of Tokyo. Here is the chance to have a bite to eat at the café or purchase some souvenirs.
After this there will be a few hours to explore Shinjuku before we meet for dinner.
Shinjuku Station is one of the worlds busiest railway stations handling 2 million passengers every day. It is also the main hub to connect you anywhere in Japan if you want to explore other areas of Tokyo. Or stay in Shinjuku and visit many of the stores in the area for some souvenir shopping.
Yodobashi Camera has the biggest selection of electronic goods, Uniqlo is casual everyday clothing, or visit the biggest 100 yen store where everything is 100 yen (that’s less than $2.00NZD)
Day 3: Tokyo
This morning we head to Tsukiji markets. Although the wholesale fish markets have moved now to Toyosu. The Tsukiji markets are still filled with street food vendors. Try some chargrilled tuna or fried squid or may other options.
We then head to Shibuya crossing rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world. Upwards of 3000 people cross at any one time. For those that don’t want to experience the crossing we will also view it from above so you can take some photos if you choose.
After lunch you will have free time to explore, there is the Meiji Shrine, or the local art gallery, or chill out at Yoyogi park.
This evening we will meet up for dinner.
Day 4: Tokyo - Nikko (train) Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes
Enjoy a couple of free hours this morning before we head to Nikko. We will catch an express train (approximately 1 hour) and then a local train (approximately 1 hour) out of Tokyo towards Nikko. Enjoy the trip watching the beautiful countryside, most trains have the trolley carts with snacks such as bento boxes green tea and beer.
Nikko has a lot of monuments to visit featuring on UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
This afternoon we will cross Shinkyo (The sacred bridge) which is like the main bridge to the temples. After crossing the bridge we come to Rinnoji Temple complex which includes 15 temples and towers in the mountains. The main building Sanbutsudo houses 3 large Budha statues. We then have time to explore the other temples as you wish.
Day 5: Nikko – Hakone (Local train, bullet train) Approximately 3 hours
Enjoy a couple of free hours this morning before we head to Hakone.
Leaving Nikko we will board a local train followed by 2 shinkansen bullet trains and finally a bus on our way to Hakone a scenic hot springs resort in the foothills of Mount Fuji. We will arrive by mid afternoon. We are staying at a beautiful hotel surrounded by Yuzakayama’s forest.
Settle into your rooms and afterwards enjoy the hot springs (Japanese onsen) on location, there is separate bathing for men and woman.
This evening we will meet for dinner at the hotel.
Day 6: Hakone
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before we head out for the day. This morning we hop on a boat across Ashinoko lake and then head to the Hakone ropeway. Enjoy the greatest views of the gondola as we climb all the way up to Owakudani. When we are at the top we will have lunch and you have the opportunity to try a kuro-tamago (black egg) which is boiled carefully in a hot spring, this is a specialty food that can only be purchased here and is said to increase your life by seven years if you eat one.
Mid Afternoon free time at your leisure, visit the open air museum or museum of art.
Day 7: Hakone – Nagano (train) Approximately 3 hours
This morning we leave Hakone at around 09 am to travel to Nagano.
Nagano is know as the “Roof of Japan” because of its 3000 metre tall mountains. Nagano is a treasure trove of nature, history and culture, and bursting with natural hot springs.
This afternoon we will head to Matsumoto castle. Visually the castle is stunning and is one of the oldest in Japan. From the outside it appears as only 5 stories but when you go inside you realise there is a hidden floor to hide soldiers.
We will then explore the town of Matsumoto, there are also a few unique museums of art.
Nawate Dori (Frog street) is a shopping street that gives the feel of a castle town, lined with 50 stores from bakeries to stylish boutiques. There is also the option to hire bikes and explore the area.
Day 8: Nagano
Today you have a free day to explore, for those interested I will be heading to the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park to see the onsen loving snow monkeys.
The macaque monkeys, soak in their steaming hot onsen bath, this has become a global phenomenon. The snow monkeys, oblivious to the camera-wielding paparazzi, are simply in their own environment. Youngsters splash in and out of the hot spring while moms tend to their babies and the alpha male watches over the troupe. Their fascinating social structure can be observed, not from behind a fence as in a zoo, but right there directly in the monkeys’ midst. It is interesting to watch that there is a hierarchy even amongst the monkeys like there is in Japan society.
For those that don’t want to see the monkeys then enjoy onsen hoping at the local bath houses.
Day 9 Nagano – Takayama (train) Approximately 3 hours 45 minutes
This morning we travel to Takayama that is in Gifu prefecture. Takayama is a charming Edo period town located in the Japanese alps, famous for its traditional inns, and sake breweries.
This afternoon we will visit Hida Folk village 99,000 square metre site of sloped and thatched roof houses. Modelled on a folk village see demonstrations of traditional crafts. This area is known for its Hida-gyu beef given to beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed.
Day 10 Takayama - Hiroshima (train) Approximately 5 hours 30 minutes
This morning we will visit the morning markets that date back over 600 years, treat yourself to the delicious local marshmallow treat of owara tamaten. The local alpine climate and crystal-clear mountain waters are perfect for creating sake, so we will visit a local brewery.
This afternoon we will take the express train to Hiroshima. (approximately 5 hours 30 minutes)
Day 11 Hiroshima
After Breakfast we will head over to the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous floating torri gate.
The ferry from Hiroshima only takes 10 minutes and they depart frequently if you want to come back earlier. Miayjima is a very easy island to explore and you will see many deer on the island be careful as they even eat maps. Our first stop is a 10 minute walk from the ferry terminal to Itsukushima -jinja (shrine) which dates back to the 6th century.
The Shrine and its red Torri gate are unique being built over water. When it is low tide you can walk out underneath the gate.
After this is free time to explore the island Omotesando Street is the busiest place in Mijajima for souvenir shops and restaurants. Try the local delicacy Momji manjyu shaped like maple leaves and made from a sweet dough you can choose your filing inside from chocolate, custard, maccha, cheese and many more options, best served fresh when they are nice and warm.
There are also some nice easy walking tracks, or try the Miyajima ropeway (gondola)
Late afternoon we head back to Hiroshima and visit a local restaurant to try a Hiroshima signature dish Okonomiyaki. A kind of savoury pancake of egg, cabbage, soba noodles and meat or seafood.
Day 12 Hiroshima- Kyoto (train) 2 hours 30 minutes approximately
After breakfast we will venture out to the Hiroshima peace park. The Genbaku Dome and Peace memorial park. These sites are in memory of the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb. The Dome sits just metres from where the bomb detonated. The memorial park is in memory to the victims, the memorial museum is an emotional experience walking through.
In the afternoon we will have some free time before we take the local train 2.3 hours to Kyoto.
Arrive in Kyoto late afternoon and free time to freshen up before dinner.
Day 13 Kyoto
Kyoto is known as the cultural heart of Japan. Kyoto is also a great walking city.
This morning we will head to Fushimi Inari, this shrine sits at the base of a mountain and includes trails up to the mountain. The highlight of the shrine is the rows of torri gates known as Senbon torri one of the most photographed shrines in Japan.
This afternoon more time to explore on your own.
This evening we will stroll through Gion, Kyoto’s most famous Geisha district. Today you can still observe the age-old tradition as they head out to perform dances and songs for members of the wealthy elite.
This evening we will have a special dinner in Kyoto.
Day 14 Kyoto
This morning we take a gentle stroll along the path of Philosophy that links Ginkau-ji (silver pavilion) with Nanzen-ji temple. This walk can be extended to the old town area and to Kiyomizu-dera (Temple of clear water) with its famous viewing platform, also we may get the chance to see some cherry blossom leaves)
After lunch for those that want to join we will head to Kinkau-ji (golden Pavilion) or explore the streets of Tokyo. Tonight we will have our Farewell Group Dinner
Day 15 Departure – Kyoto
This tour officially concludes after breakfast, for those that want to stay longer there is the options of extending your trip in either Kyoto or Osaka (add on hotel packages available)
For those of you leaving us today we will help arrange for you to make it to your airport of choice.
Kyoto is a 40 min train ride to Osaka station and then it’s an easy 1hr bus transfer to the airport, or alternatively you can take the train straight to the airport. Most flights from Kansai (Osaka) leave in the evenings. Alternatively you can depart from Narita airport and take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo.
We can help you plan your transfer to your flight while in Japan
(Please book your flight after 3pm if leaving today)
Your train pass will be valid to use to the airport.
Note: Our trip begins at Narita Airport, and concludes at Kansai Airport, Osaka.
You can extend your trip in either Kyoto or Osaka (addon hotel packages available)
Kyoto is a 40 min train ride to Osaka station and then its an easy 1hr bus transfer to the airport. Most flights from Kansai (Osaka) leave in the evenings. (Please book your flight after 2pm if leaving today)
We will pick a time to escort you to the airport when we have all of your flight details.
Dates are 21st March - 4th April 2020
This year’s trip will be hosted by OTS founder Richard and travel guru, Leisa.
Leisa lived for 3 years in Japan and can converse in Japanese.
Min 6 and Max 10 guests on this adventure where we will explore, travel and eat like the locals. This is an active trip that requires moderate fitness.
Not Included :-
Please express interest ASAP as this is a small group trip and priority will be given to those that register their interest early.
Cost of this 4 star accommodation trip NZD $7800 pp (Approx USD $5340) twin share.
Single room cost plus NZD $890
Due to the nature of Adventure travel and the prices of the resources on which it depends, the published price of any trip is subject to change at any time, up to 60 days before the departure or until paid in full due to currency fluctuations.