NOV 22 - DEC 5 2023
OSAKA IN / TOKYO OUT
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 us 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.
・Enjoy magnificent autumn leaves throughout Japan
・Visit the ancient capital cities of Kyoto and Nara
・Experience the excitement of the Chichibu Night Festival
・Visit beautiful Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto
・Spend an unforgettable night in a traditional ryokan
・Visit Himeji Castle, undoubtedly the best castle in Japan
・Enjoy a leisurely day trip to beautiful Miyajima Island
・Visit the emotional Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Airport-hotel transfers in Japan
Transport and entry to all places described in the itinerary
13 nights accommodation in carefully selected hotels/inns
3 dinners (welcome, farewell, and ryokan dinner)
The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/driver/interpreter)
*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan
DATE: Nov 22nd, 2023 Osaka
Travel to Osaka by Wednesday Nov 22nd, 2023.
Arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX) 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.
DATE: Nov 23rd, 2023 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.
Right next to Himeji Castle is our next destination, the beautiful Koko-en Japanese Garden. This amazing Japanese garden consists of nine separate gardens designed in various styles from the Edo Period and is at its absolute best at this time of the year!
At night we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner together at a local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Nov 24th, 2023 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.
In the afternoon you will have some free time to enjoy this beautiful city in your own way.
DATE: Nov 25th, 2023 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).
DATE: Nov 26th, 2023 Hiroshima
Enjoy a day trip to Iwakuni in neighbouring Yamaguchi Prefecture to visit the iconic Kintai-kyo Bridge, and view beautiful autumn foliage at Kikko Park and Iwakuni Castle.
Once we arrive in Iwakuni we will go directly to Kintai-kyo Bridge, Japan's most elegant wooden bridge. This distinguished landmark has been the subject of admiration for centuries, and at this time of the year is simply breathtaking.
After walking across Kintai-kyo Bridge we will enjoy a leisurely stroll through beautiful Kikko Park, the former residence of the local lord. This spacious park features colourful autumn foliage, ponds, fountains, former samurai residences and historic museums.
To finish the day we will travel to the summit of nearby Mt. Shiroyama by a scenic ropeway to visit Iwakuni Castle. Enjoy majestic views of Iwakuni, as well as displays inside the castle showcasing samurai swords, amour and other historic items related to the castle's long history.
DATE: Nov 27th, 2023 Takamatsu
Travel from Hiroshima to Takamatsu by shinkansen and limited express train.
On the way to Takamatsu, which is located on the beautiful Shikoku Island, we will cross the Seto Ohashi Bridge, an outstanding bridge with spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea. Takamatsu City is famous for its tradition of producing a beautiful display of pine trees. We will enjoy a leisurely stroll through Ritsurin Koen Garden, one of the best gardens in Japan, and see a variety of beautiful Japanese pine trees, some of which are centuries old. Taking 150 years to complete, this magnificent garden has since been well maintained by highly skilled gardeners for more than 250 years.
DATE: Nov 28th, 2023 Kyoto
Travel from Takamatsu to Kyoto by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Kyoto we will enjoy a walk through the streets of Gion (Geisha District), and visit Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
We start our half day tour of Kyoto by taking a stroll 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 explore the streets of this historic district. Not far from Gion is 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.
DATE: Nov 29th, 2023 Kyoto
Enjoy a day trip to the ancient capital of Nara.
Today 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.
DATE: Nov 30th, 2023 Kyoto
Spend the day taking in the sights of this traditional city.
We will visit the beautiful Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Ryoanji Zen Garden, and Arashiyama, where we will walk through the picturesque Bamboo Grove.
The Golden Pavilion, otherwise known as "Kinkaku-ji", is one of the most famous and most recognizable buildings in all of Japan. Formally the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, it is now a magnificent Zen Temple completely covered in gold leaf.
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 famous 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.
DATE: Dec 1st, 2023 Hakone
Travel from Kyoto to Hakone by shinkansen and private vehicle.
Once we arrive in the famous hot spring town of Hakone, we will make our way to beautiful Lake Ashi. Weather permitting you will be able to take in spectacular views of Mt. Fuji with Hakone Shrine's iconic floating torii gate in the foreground. A visit to Lake Ashi is not complete without a cruise on its famous pirate ship. Enjoy a leisurely 25-minute cruise from the southern end to the northern end of beautiful Lake Ashi taking in spectacular views of Mt. Fuji on the way.
At night we will enjoy a relaxing stay at a traditional hot spring inn (ryokan).
Hakone is a small hot spring town located approximately 90 minutes from Tokyo. It has been a popular hot spring destination for centuries, and has also been recognized as one of Japan's three most famous hot spring towns. At night you will have the unique experience of staying at a traditional ryokan (Japanese style inn).
Ryokan are not just places to sleep, they are also a great opportunity to experience traditional Japanese culture, lifestyle, and hospitality. Ryokan are popular with both Japanese and foreign guests because they incorporate elements such as tatami floors, sliding paper doors, futon beds, Japanese style baths, and local cuisine. Ryokan have been part of Japanese culture for more than a thousand years. One of the oldest recorded ryokan, Hoshi Ryokan, was founded in 718 A.D.
At night we will enjoy a delicious Japanese dinner at our ryokan. You can even try wearing a traditional yukata (summer kimono) to dinner like the locals do!
DATE: Dec 2nd, 2023 Tokyo
Travel from Hakone to Tokyo by private vehicle and limited express train.
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 Shinjuku, arguably Tokyo's largest entertainment, business and shopping district. Here we will visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to enjoy spectacular views of the Tokyo metropolis and Mt. Fuji from a 202 meter high observation deck.
DATE: Dec 3rd, 2023 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.
DATE: Dec 4th, 2023 Tokyo
Visit the beautiful Rikugien Japanese 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 breathtaking Rikugien Japanese Garden, one of Tokyo's largest and most popular gardens. This spacious garden's meandering walking paths and tranquil scenery provide a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy city around it. In autumn Rikugien Garden becomes one of the best places in Tokyo 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.
At night we will enjoy a lovely farewell dinner together at a local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Dec 5th, 2023
Relax in Tokyo before transferring to Narita International Airport (NRT) or Haneda International Airport (HND) for your return flight. Depending on your flight time you may be able to enjoy some last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Tokyo.