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Ancient & Modern Japan

Discover the temples, lively cities and tranquil mountains of Japan
Ancient wooden temples, raked-gravel Zen gardens and chanting Buddhist monks juxtaposed with space-age towers, neon lights and bullet trains; the blend of old and new in Japan is captivating. As we explore the southern and western stretches of Honshu, the largest island in Japan, we discover unique culture among the serene shrines and gardens of Nara and Kyoto and the rarely visited mountainous heartland of castles and spas. Our last stop is the vast and futuristic capital city of Tokyo: sprawling, inimitably busy, welcoming and extraordinary.
Tour details Collapse
Tour Provider Exodus
Number of Days
14
Price From
$9,830
Start Location
Kyoto, Tanzania
End Location
Tokyo, Japan
Age Range
Avg. 45+
Group Size
4 to 16
Tour Style
Standard
Tour Themes
Adventure
Physical Rating
Easy to Moderate
Itinerary Expand all
Days 1 : Start Kyoto
The trip starts in Kyoto, an atmospheric city amid beautiful hills. We gather for the first time at the hotel and enjoy a welcome briefing this evening,  a good chance to ask any questions you may have about the adventure ahead. Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)
Days 2 : Visit Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji temple
With more than 2,000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japanese heritage and undoubtedly one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. Unlike many other Japanese towns, it escaped the ravages of both the Second World War and modern urban development, keeping intact much of the spirit and architecture of traditional Japan. Today, we have an introductory tour of the city. Starting with a visit to the impressive Nijo castle, built in 1603 as a residence for the Tokugawa shoguns, before moving onto the Golden Temple of Kinkaku-ji, built in 1397 as a summer villa for the shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga and immortalised in Mishima Yukio’s novel, The Golden Pavilion. We then visit the Ryoan-ji temple, home to the most famous rock garden in Japan. Afterwards, we head back to central Kyoto. Those who wish may opt to take a leisurely late lunch at one of the local restaurants in the area, relax back at the hotel or discover Kyoto at your own leisure. You may like to take a stroll around Nishiki Market, known as Kyoto's Kitchen, which specialises in all things food related and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)
Days 3 : Day trip to Nara, ancient capital of Japan. Visit impressive Unesco temples including Todai-ji. Return to Kyoto; visit Fushimi Inari Taisha and visit historic Gion
Today we make a day trip to the ancient capital of Japan, Nara (approximately one hour each way). With eight Unesco World Heritage sites, it's second only to Kyoto as a repository of Japan's cultural legacy. Our walking tour includes a visit to the best known temples and shrines, including the Todai-ji Great Buddha temple. Built in 752 by Emperor Shomu, this 49ft (15m) tall bronze Buddha is housed in what is reputed to be the largest wooden building in the world. We also spend time in the Nara Kn Park, home to large numbers of overfed and slightly unruly deer, and visit the attractive Kasuga Shinto shrine. Later in the afternoon, we travel back to Kyoto and stop at the Fushimi Inari Taisha with its thousands of vermilion torii gates. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. As we head towards early evening, we can walk around Gion, the most famous geisha district in Kyoto. Packed with bars, restaurants and traditional teahouses, Gion is most atmospheric in the early evening, when the lanterns are lit. At this time, we may also see an apprentice geisha on the way to an appointment, though it's rare to see one. Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)
Days 4 : Free day in Kyoto; relax in one of the many Zen gardens, walk the popular Philosopher’s Path or experience a traditional tea ceremony
Today is a free day for individual sightseeing. With so much to see and do in Kyoto it can be difficult to know where to begin. A free day could be spent exploring one of the several well-established and easy-to-follow walking tours that take in many interesting sights. The eastern part of Kyoto is particularly rich in temples and gardens, and one can spend the day in this area, perhaps strolling along the tree-lined canal known as the Philosopher’s Path and taking time for contemplation in one of the many Zen gardens that dot the hillsides. Another day trip to consider is Arashiyama, a pleasant tourist district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy the natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and autumn colour seasons. If you are interested in Japanese arts and cultural activities, there is also the option of visiting a cultural show to see ancient traditions, including a tea ceremony and Japanese theatre (these can be arranged locally by your tour leader and are subject to availability). Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)
Days 5 : Day trip to Hiroshima; visit Peace Memorial Park and the pretty island of Miyajima
Today is our first experience of the shinkansen (bullet train) as we speed to Hiroshima for the day (approximately two hours each way). Once in Hiroshima, we spend time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, both monuments to the fateful day in August 1945 when the city was struck by the first wartime use of the atomic bomb. In the park, there’s a symbolic flame that will only be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon on Earth has been destroyed. In the afternoon, we make a short excursion by local tram and ferry to the beautiful island of Miyajima; home to the floating torii (Shinto gate) of the Itsukushima Shrine. At high tide, when set against the backdrop of Mount Misen, this torii makes one of the most beautiful and photogenic sights in Japan. Please note, the floating torii is currently undergoing renovation works, but we still recommend a visit to this enchanting island as part of the day trip to Hiroshima. We depart Hiroshima late afternoon, arriving at our Kyoto hotel in the evening. Accommodation: Onyado Nono Kyoto Shichijo (or similar)
Days 6 : Travel from Kyoto to Takayama, a traditional old town set amid the Japanese Alps; visit the Hida Folk Village
Travelling by train through forested valleys, we make our way this morning to the peaceful and attractive old town of Takayama (approximately four hours) in the centre of the majestic Hida Mountains. We spend two nights here and have plenty of time to appreciate the charm and ambience of this delightful place. In the afternoon, we visit Hida Folk Village, an interesting outdoor museum of traditional rural architecture in pleasant, landscaped gardens, a short walk from our accommodation. We stay in a traditional Japanese accommodation where we can experience the Japanese lifestyle and hospitality (please refer to the accommodation section for more information). Accommodation: We use a variety of ryokans in Takayama
Days 7 : Orientation tour in Takayama and free day to explore the peaceful shrines and temples
With more than a dozen museums and galleries, and several well-kept temples and parks, there are plenty of ways to spend a relaxing day in Takayama. We start with a short orientation tour around the morning market, held daily along the banks of the Miyagawa River in the centre of town. Here, amid friendly farmers with their familiar (and not so familiar) agricultural produce, it is possible to find interesting souvenirs. Not so far away, and of particular interest, is the well-preserved collection of streets known as Sannomachi, where wooden-built shops, restaurants and sake breweries give the area a medieval feel. For an insight into the life of medieval Japanese officials and the way they dealt (often not so compassionately) with those in their charge, visit the old Government House of Takayama-jinya. The remainder of the day is free to explore the town at your own pace: we recommend a stroll along the temple-lined path called the Higashiyama Walkway and visit the several temples and attractions created by the medieval warlord, Kanamori Nagachika (1524-1600), who longed for Kyoto. Accommodation: We use a variety of ryokans in Takayama
Days 8 : On to the medieval village of Tsumago; short leisurely walk on the Nakasendo trail; train to Matsumoto
Today we travel by express and local trains to the historic castle town of Matsumoto (approximately four hours). En route, we visit the medieval village of Tsumago, which has changed little from its heyday as a post town in the Edo period. This is the best preserved of the many staging posts along the old Nakasendo Way, which fulfils the same role it did in centuries past: offering food and refuge to travellers. Those who wish can join the leader for a one-hour walk through peaceful forest trails, starting by the Odaki and Medaki waterfalls and finishing in Tsumago. We reach Matsumoto late afternoon, where we have time to relax and perhaps take a leisurely stroll after dinner to see the impressive castle by night. Accommodation: Dormy Inn Matsumoto (or similar)
Days 9 : Visit Matsumoto Castle and travel by train to the spa town of Yudanaka; soak in a hot spring
This morning we visit the impressive Matsumoto Castle. Founded in 1504, this castle, otherwise known as Crow Castle due to its black colour, is one of the two best preserved in Japan, most others having been destroyed following the Meiji Restoration. Its imposing six-storey tower has been designated a national treasure. Please note, the castle preserves its original interior and structure, with very tall steps and steep staircases, which some might find difficult to ascend and descend. We return to Matsumoto train station for our afternoon journey (approximately three hours) to the spa town of Yudanaka, which has some fantastic natural hot springs, where we spend a night in another Japanese-style accommodation. Accommodation: Biyu no Yado (or similar)
Days 10 : See the much-loved snow monkeys before travelling by train to Tokyo; evening orientation tour
As well as being home to some of the best hot springs in Japan, the small spa-town of Yudanaka is mainly famous for being the gateway to the Jigokudani Onsen or Snow Monkey Park. Here, the indigenous macaque monkeys have discovered the benefits of descending from the hills to soak and play in hot baths. The sight is most spectacular in winter, when snow covers the grounds and the hot steam creates amazing visual effects but (despite the name) the snow monkeys actually inhabit the area year-round. To reach the park, we walk for approximately 25 minutes on an easy forest trail and we have approximately one-hour to admire and photograph these entertaining creatures. No visit to Japan would be complete without a trip to Tokyo. This afternoon, we travel from Yudanaka to the capital by bullet train (approximately four hours), arriving in the early evening. On arrival in Tokyo, we'll transfer to our hotel and start exploring the bright lights of the big city at night. Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)
Days 11 : Optional trip to Hakone or to the lovely seaside town of Kamakura
If you wish to see more of this wonderful country, today is the last day of your Japan Rail Pass, entitling you to free train journeys to many destinations. A popular daytrip from Tokyo is Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 1hr 30min away by train. Home to hot springs, natural beauty and Mount Fuji views, Hakone also encompasses Lake Ashi, which can be toured by boat. Another blissful escape is the coastal town of Kamakura, offering numerous temples, shrines, historical monuments and panoramic hiking trails. If you don’t want to leave Tokyo, soak up the atmosphere of this truly astounding city. While being perhaps the most energetic and futuristic capital in the world, Tokyo remains a remarkably friendly, safe, manageable and delightful place to visit. Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)
Days 12 : A full-day city tour of Tokyo, including the Senso-ji Temple
Today we have a guided tour of Tokyo. Making use of the highly efficient tube system, we can visit some of the main attractions including the lively Senso-ji Temple in the old entertainment district of Asakusa and Ueno (depending on season). We will also visit a park or garden, which become especially spectacular during cherry blossom and autumn season. There is also free time to discover other attractions at your own pace. For those with a head for heights, we recommend an optional visit to the Skytree Tower for views of the city. At 2,080ft (634m), it is the tallest building in Japan and the one of the tallest structures in the world. In the evening, the possibilities for entertainment are almost limitless with the Tokyo nightlife as exciting as anywhere in Asia. Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)
Days 13 : Free day for further exploration; optional karaoke farewell night
Today has been left free for further individual exploration of Tokyo. We recommend visiting the Meiji Shrine; surrounded by tranquil forest, this Shinto shrine is one of the most popular in Japan and combines traditional Japanese architecture with love for nature. For those interested in culture or shopping, there are limitless opportunities with districts such as Ginza, Harajuku and Shinjuku catering for all tastes and needs. Your leader can advise how best to maximise your free day in Tokyo. Accommodation: Shinjuku Washington Hotel (or similar)
Days 14 : End Tokyo
Our Japanese adventure comes to end. Alternatively, if you’d like a bit more time to explore this energetic city, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.
Inclusions Expand
Eight breakfasts and three dinners are included.

Japanese cuisine is usually a highlight of any Japan trip. It is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes usually prepared with seasonal ingredients. Seafood is common, and usually comes grilled or deep fried. Sushi and sashimi aside, other staple dishes include soba or udon noodles, sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and yakiniku (grilled meat).

The included dinners are usually taken at traditional guesthouses, which will serve a kaiseki-style dinner, a multi-course meal including a dozen tiny dishes prepared with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. When food is not included, your leader can always recommend the best local eateries and arrange group meals for a full immersion in the varied and excellent local cuisine.

Please note, in Japan the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets (eg gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan) is minimal or non-existent. The group meals arranged by the tour leader will be in traditional eateries where the choices of vegan dishes may be limited to simple salads or boiled rice. However, several vegan restaurants are available in Kyoto and Tokyo. It may be a good idea to bring some foodstuffs with you that you normally consume, or to supplement meals with snacks purchased in the local convenience stores.

Please advise us at time of booking you have any specific dietary requirements.
— Eight breakfasts and three dinners
— All accommodation
— All transport and listed activities
— Japan Rail Pass
Departure dates Expand
Start End Availability Price AUD
14 Apr 2024 27 Apr 2024 2 $10,240
15 Sep 2024 28 Sep 2024 2 $10,240
22 Sep 2024 05 Oct 2024 8 $9,830
29 Sep 2024 12 Oct 2024 1 $10,650
06 Oct 2024 19 Oct 2024 1 $10,650
27 Oct 2024 09 Nov 2024 1 $10,240
17 Nov 2024 30 Nov 2024 8 $9,830
09 Mar 2025 22 Mar 2025 8 $10,445
10 Mar 2025 23 Mar 2025 8 $10,445
13 Mar 2025 26 Mar 2025 8 $11,265
17 Mar 2025 30 Mar 2025 8 $11,265
23 Mar 2025 05 Apr 2025 8 $11,265
27 Mar 2025 09 Apr 2025 8 $11,265
31 Mar 2025 13 Apr 2025 8 $11,265
06 Apr 2025 19 Apr 2025 8 $11,265
07 Apr 2025 20 Apr 2025 8 $11,265
13 Apr 2025 26 Apr 2025 8 $10,445
04 May 2025 17 May 2025 8 $10,035
11 May 2025 24 May 2025 8 $10,035
07 Jun 2025 20 Jun 2025 8 $10,035
21 Jun 2025 04 Jul 2025 8 $10,035
14 Sep 2025 27 Sep 2025 8 $10,445
21 Sep 2025 04 Oct 2025 8 $10,445
28 Sep 2025 11 Oct 2025 8 $10,445
05 Oct 2025 18 Oct 2025 8 $10,445
12 Oct 2025 25 Oct 2025 8 $10,445
26 Oct 2025 08 Nov 2025 8 $10,445
02 Nov 2025 15 Nov 2025 8 $10,445
09 Nov 2025 22 Nov 2025 8 $10,445