SHADES OF AUTUMN TOUR 2019

Shades of Autumn, a colourful journey through modern and traditional Japan

  Colourful autumn leaves are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring.

  Viewing autumn leaves has been a popular pastime in Japan for centuries. Join Craig in a

  colourful journey through modern and traditional Japan. On the Shades of Autumn Tour you

  will view magnificent autumn foliage in some of the most famous gardens, temples, shrines,

  and nature spots in Japan.

  The timing of this tour not only allows you to enjoy beautiful autumn foliage, but also bring in  

  the winter season at the historic "Chichibu Night Festival", one of the biggest and most famous  

  festivals in Japan. This small group tour is perfect for travellers who would like to experience

  the beauty of Japan in a season that is neither too hot nor too cold.

  Autumn in Japan is not only famous for its beautiful autumn foliage, it is also widely considered

  to be the best season to experience Japan's amazing culinary culture.

 Tour Highlights

 Enjoy magnificent autumn leaves throughout Japan

 Visit the ancient capitals of Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura

 Experience the excitement of the "Chichibu Night Festival"

 Visit beautiful Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion) in Kyoto

 Enjoy spectacular autumn scenery on Mt. Takao

 Visit Himeji Castle, one of the best castles in Japan

 Enjoy a leisurely day trip to beautiful Miyajima Island

 Visit the emotional Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Inclusions

Airport-hotel transfers in Japan

Transport and entry to all places described in the itinerary

13 nights accommodation in carefully selected hotels/inns

13 breakfasts

2 dinners (welcome dinner and farewell dinner)

The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/interpreter)

*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan

Autumn leaves in a Japanese park during our Shades of Autumn small group tour of Japan.

Shades of Autumn Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Nov 25th, 2019) Osaka
Travel to Osaka by Monday Nov 25th, 2019.

Arrive at Kansai or Itami Airport by own arrangements.

Craig will meet you at the airport and assist you with the transfer to your hotel in central Osaka. Once you have checked in to your hotel you will have free time to relax,

or enjoy some local sightseeing, shopping, dinner, etc.


Day 2 (Nov 26th, 2019) Himeji

Travel from Osaka to Himeji by shinkansen.

Once we arrive in Himeji we will visit the majestic Himeji Castle and beautiful Koko-en Japanese Garden. Himeji Castle is widely regarded as the finest surviving example

of prototypical Japanese castle architecture. Himeji Castle, also commonly known as White Heron Castle because of

its elegant, white appearance, is one of Japan's original 12 castles, and is undoubtedly the most impressive and imposing castle in all of Japan.

At night we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner together

at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub).


Day 3 (Nov 27th, 2019) Hiroshima

Travel from Himeji to Hiroshima by shinkansen.

Once we arrive in Hiroshima we will visit the emotional Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Peace Memorial

Park, A-bomb Dome, and hypocenter. Here you will see

the aftermath of the atomic bomb that was dropped on

Hiroshima in 1945 with your own eyes.


Day 4 (Nov 28th, 2019) Hiroshima

Enjoy a day trip to Miyajima Island to visit the world heritage listed Itsukushima Shrine, Daisho-in Temple,

and journey to the very top of Mt. Misen.

After arriving on Miyajima Island we will first visit the world famous Itsukushima Shrine. This magnificent shrine

is best known for its famous “floating” torii gate which seems to float on the water at high tide. Itsukushima Shrine and its majestic torii gate is ranked as one of Japan's "three best views".
Next we will visit Daisho-in Temple. This beautiful

Buddhist temple is one of the most important temples of Shingon Buddhism. Located at the base of Mt. Misen, it features a variety of historic buildings, statues, and other religious objects to admire.

We will finish our day on Miyajima Island by going to the very top of its highest mountain, Mt. Misen (500 meters).

On clear days it provides spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea and Hiroshima City.

For those who would like to enjoy some hiking, there are three hiking trails that lead up to the summit. Using any of the three courses takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to

reach the top of Mt. Misen. Alternatively, it is also possible to reach the summit by using a scenic ropeway and then walking the rest of the way to the top (approx. 25 minutes).


Day 5 (Nov 29th, 2019) Kyoto

Travel from Hiroshima to Kyoto by shinkansen.

Once we arrive in Kyoto we will visit Yasaka Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and walk through the streets of

Gion (Geisha District).

We start our half day tour of Kyoto by taking a stroll

through Yasaka Shrine, one of Kyoto's most famous Shinto shrines. This shrine is well known for hosting one of

Japan's most famous festivals, the Gion Matsuri. This festival is held every year in July, and dates back over a thousand years.From Yasaka Shrine we will then walk through the back streets of Kyoto up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. On the way we will pass through the preserved districts of "Ninen-zaka" and "Sannen-zaka", two of

Kyoto's most attractive streets. Kiyomizu-dera Temple (literally Pure Water Temple) was built without the use

of nails in 780 A.D. and is one of the most celebrated

Buddhist temples in all of Japan.

We finish the day by walking through the beautiful streets

of Gion, Kyoto's world famous Geisha District. If we are lucky we might even get to see a real Geisha as we stroll through the streets.


Day 6 (Nov 30th, 2019) Kyoto

Spend the day taking in the sights of this traditional city.

We will visit the beautiful Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion), Ryoanji Zen Garden, and Arashiyama, where

we will walk through the picturesque Bamboo Grove.

We begin our full day tour of Kyoto by visiting beautiful Ginkaku-ji Temple. This beautiful Zen temple was

originally built in 1490 A.D. Today it consists of the

Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden, and a unique dry sand garden.

We will take in amazing autumn foliage as we walk along

a circular route around the temple's spacious grounds.

Our next stop is the Ryoanji Zen Garden, which is located

in northwest Kyoto and is widely considered to be the

most famous rock garden in Japan. This historic site was converted into a Zen temple in 1450 A.D., and consists of

a wonderful rock garden made up of 15 rocks on patches

of moss. One of the most interesting things about the

design of this thought provoking Zen garden is that no matter which angle you view it from, at least one of the

15 rocks is not visible.

We finish the day by traveling out to Arashiyama, widely considered to be the second-most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. The main attraction here is the

picturesque Arashiyama bamboo grove. It is one of

Kyoto’s top sights, and for good reason. Standing amid

the soaring stalks of bamboo is like being in another world.


Day 7 (Dec 1st, 2019) Kyoto

Enjoy a day trip to the ancient capital of Nara.

We will visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed sites of Todaiji Temple and Kasuga Grand Shrine, and enjoy a leisurely stroll through Nara Park.

Todaiji Temple (The Great Eastern Temple) was

constructed in 752 A.D. by order of Emperor Shomu, and

is widely considered to be one of Japan's most historically important Buddhist temples. Todaiji Temple's "Great Buddha Hall" was once the largest wooden structure in the world, and houses a huge 16 meter high bronze statue of Buddha which contains more than 400 tonnes of bronze

and 130 kilograms of gold. Not far from Todaiji Temple

is another of Nara's World Heritage listed sites, Kasuga Grand Shrine. This historic shrine is the most important shrine in the ancient capital city of Nara. It is famous for

its beautiful lanterns, which have been donated by worshipers. Hundreds of bronze lanterns can be found hanging from the buildings, and many stone lanterns covered in moss lining its approaches.

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Day 8 (Dec 2nd, 2019) Tokyo

Travel from Kyoto to Tokyo by shinkansen passing by

Mt. Fuji on the way. Once we arrive in Tokyo you will

have some free time to relax or explore the largest metropolis in the world. Craig will be more than happy to give you advice on places to go and things to do in Tokyo. Alternatively, you can join Craig in exploring Odaiba, an ultramodern area on Tokyo Bay. Here you can enjoy pleasure cruising, shopping, and spectacular views of Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Bay, and Tokyo city.

Day 9 (Dec 3rd, 2019) Tokyo

Experience the excitement of the Chichibu Night Festival, one of the largest and most famous festivals in Japan. We will travel to Chichibu on a limited express train, taking in beautiful countryside views on the way.

The Chichibu Night Festival is one of Japan's three biggest "float festivals". It is held every year on December 2nd and 3rd in the historic city of Chichibu, which is located about 90 minutes by limited express train from the center of Tokyo. The Chichibu Night Festival is the festival of the Chichibu Shrine, which has a history of more than 2000 years. The festival itself  has been held annually for more than 300 years, and is now listed with UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The highlights of the Chichibu Night Festival are the six magnificent floats (important tangible folk-cultural properties) that make their way through the streets of Chichibu. Each float represents a neighbourhood of the city. It takes approximately 150 people to help navigate these 8 to 12 tonne floats, and to create the accompanying Hayashi music. Each float is covered with intricate carvings and gorgeous embroidery with gold threads. The festival culminates when all six floats approach the Dangozaka hill near Chichibu Park.

As the massive floats are pushed and pulled up a 25-degree slope, a spectacular display of winter fireworks explode overhead. Firework displays are usually held during the summer months in Japan, but the crisp, clear winter air makes them look even more spectacular at this time of the year.


Day 10 (Dec 4th, 2019) Tokyo

Enjoy a day trip to beautiful Mt. Takao to enjoy spectacular autumn leaves and wonderful views of Tokyo. Once we return to Tokyo we will then visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku to take in magnificent 360 degree views of Tokyo from its observation deck.

Mt. Takao is the most climbed mountain in the world, with more than 2.6 million people climbing it each year. Its convenient location just 50 minutes from downtown Tokyo by express train, its relatively low altitude of 599 meters above sea level, and the fact that there is a cable car which goes half way up the mountain, makes Mt. Takao easy to climb for people of all ages and fitness levels. On the way

to the summit climbers often visit the historic Takao-san Yakuoin Temple, which was built in 744 A.D. Once you reach the summit spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, as well as Mt. Fuji on a clear day await. Mt. Takao is a beautiful place to visit at anytime of the year,

but in autumn it is especially amazing, with the autumn leaves changing to vibrant shades of red, orange and

yellow. Mt. Takao is widely considered to be one of the

best places in Tokyo to enjoy autumn leaves.


Day 11 (Dec 5th, 2019) Tokyo

Visit the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, fashionable Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and experience all the hustle and bustle of Shibuya.

We start our full day tour of Tokyo by visiting the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, one of Tokyo's largest

and most popular gardens. The park's spacious lawns, meandering walking paths, and tranquil scenery provide

a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy

city around it. In autumn Shinjuku Gyoen becomes one

of the best places in the city to see autumn foliage.

Our next stop is Harajuku, the center for Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. The focal

point of Harajuku is undoubtedly Takeshita Street and its side streets. These streets are lined with trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands, and restaurants.

In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Harajuku is our next destination, Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo's most famous Shinto shrines. It was built to enshrine the spirits of

Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken in 1920.

Unlike many other flashy places of worship throughout

Asia, Meiji Shrine is a quiet, serene place of worship surrounded by a dense forest of over 120,000 trees.

Similar to Central Park in New York City, Meiji Shrine

and its surrounding grounds are like a natural oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle.

To end our full day tour of Tokyo we will walk through the iconic Yoyogi Park, and then continue on to one of Tokyo's main shopping and entertainment districts, Shibuya. Enjoy walking through possibly the most energetic area of Tokyo,  visit the "Hachiko Statue", and cross the world famous "Scramble Crossing".


Day 12 (Dec 6th, 2019) Tokyo

Enjoy a day trip to the ancient capital of Kamakura to visit Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, the Great Buddha of Kamakura, and beautiful Hase-dera Temple. Then travel to Enoshima Island to take in magnificent views of Mt. Fuji from the top of the Enoshima Sea Candle.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is the most important

Shinto shrine in Kamakura. It was first built in 1063 A.D. and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180 A.D.

It is reached via a long, wide approach that leads from Kamakura's waterfront district through the entire city

center, with multiple torii gates along the way.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura was cast in 1252 A.D.,

and is the second largest bronze statue of Buddha in Japan

(11.4 meters). It was originally housed inside a huge temple hall, but has been out in the open air since the hall was destroyed by a typhoon in the 15th century.

Hase-dera Temple is a hidden gem! It is most famous for its eleven-headed statue of Kannon, one of the largest wooden sculptures in Japan (9.18 meters), but its real appeal is its beautiful Japanese gardens and ponds full of colourful carp.

After enjoying the best of Kamakura we will then travel

to Enoshima Island using the iconic Enoshima Electric Railway. Enoshima Island is a small touristy island located just off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. The island is connected to the mainland by bridge, and offers a variety

of attractions, including a shrine, park, observation tower,

and caves. If the weather is nice we will be able to see magnificent views of Mt. Fuji from the top of the

Enoshima Sea Candle observation tower.


Day 13 (Dec 7th, 2019) Tokyo
Enjoy a free day in Tokyo to enjoy some last minute shopping or visit places of interest.

Alternatively, you can join Craig on a day trip to the historic town of Kawagoe. The quaint little town of Kawagoe is an Edo-period castle town, famous for its old clay warehouses, stores, and merchant homes. One of the most important Buddhist temples in the Greater Tokyo area, Kitain Temple, is Kawagoe's other main attraction. It is home to the only remaining structures of the former Edo Castle.
At night we will enjoy a lovely farewell dinner together at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub).


Day 14 (Dec 8th, 2019)

Relax in Tokyo before transferring to Narita or Haneda Airport for your return flight.

Depending on your flight time you may be able to enjoy some last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Tokyo.