What a big year 2017 turned out to be! At the beginning of the year A&C Tours Japan didn't even exist, and by the end of it we had enjoyed two wonderful tours of Japan.
Our first ever tour was a private tour in late September/early October this year. The tour took in not only some of the most famous and popular sites in the Kanto region, but also some lesser known ones. We began by exploring Tokyo, including the fashion center of Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and the Shinjuku National Gardens. During our time in Tokyo we also enjoyed a wonderful day trip to Mt. Takao, where we were able to see the first signs of autumn with some beautiful Japanese maple trees just starting to change color.
Our next stop was the international city of Yokohama. Here we enjoyed a lovely stroll through Yamashita Park and had a delicious dinner at the largest Chinatown in Japan. We also took a day trip to the ancient capital of Kamakura, where we visited famous sites such as Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and the Giant Buddha, as well as lesser known gems such as Hase-dera Temple. We also traveled to beautiful Enoshima Island where we enjoyed a spectacular Mt. Fuji sunset!
Next we traveled to Nagano where we visited "Jigokudani Monkey Park" to see the amazing snow monkeys frolicking in natural hot springs (onsen). That night we stayed in a traditional hot spring inn in the small town of Shibu Onsen. Here we were able to take a trip back in time by wearing traditional summer kimono (yukata) and traditional Japanese footwear (geta), and walking through the narrow streets stopping at various natural hot springs as we went.
On our way back to Tokyo we stopped by the mountain resort town of Karuizawa. Here we enjoyed several hours of shopping at one of Japan's largest outlet shopping malls, the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza.
Our tour ended back in Tokyo where we experienced all the excitement of a Japanese festival at the 2017 Tokorozawa Matsuri! Although this festival is not one of the largest or most famous festivals in Japan, it has everything you would want to see without the extensive travel and crowds. We were able to eat a variety of delicious street foods, and see traditional Japanese dances, floats, and "mikoshi" (portable Shinto shrines).
Our second tour was the Shades of Autumn Tour 2017. This tour was a 14 day tour which ran from November 21st to December 4th, 2017. Two lovely ladies joined the tour, and we had a wonderful time traveling through Japan taking in beautiful autumn foliage at some of Japan's most famous Buddhist temples, Shinto Shrines, and nature spots.
We began the tour by exploring Tokyo, taking in some amazing autumn scenery at Meiji Jingu Gaien, the Shinjuku National Garden, Meiji Shrine, Mt. Takao, and in the ancient capital city of Kamakura. While at Meiji Jingu Gaien we stumbled across an autumn food festival where we tried a variety of delicious street stall foods including roasted chestnuts and takoyaki (octopus balls). While in Tokyo we also experienced all the hustle and bustle that this huge city has to offer, including the scramble crossing in Shibuya, flashy Ginza, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.
After spending our first three days in Tokyo, we then traveled south by shinkansen to the historic city of Kurashiki. On the shinkansen ride south we were lucky enough to catch some amazing views of Mt. Fuji as we passed by. On the way to Kurashiki we stopped by Himeji to visit the magnificent Himeji Castle. This castle is widely considered to be the best castle in Japan, and it certainly lived up to this reputation. Once in Kurashiki we visited the Kurashiki Historical Quarter both at night and during the day.
Next we traveled to Hiroshima, where we visited the emotional Peace Memorial Museum, the A-bomb Dome, and the hypocenter. While in Hiroshima we also took a day trip to beautiful Miyajima Island where we explored the amazing Ituskushima Shrine, as well as the back streets where we saw traditional old houses and stores.
On our way back to Tokyo we spent three nights in the ancient capital of Kyoto. Here we visited some of the most famous places this wonderful city has to offer, including the Golden Pavilion, Arashiyama (bamboo forest), Nijo-jo Castle, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. While in Kyoto we also enjoyed some delicious sushi at a traditional restaurant where all of the staff dressed in exquisite kimonos.
Our tour ended back in Tokyo where we experienced all the excitement of one of Japan's largest and most famous festivals, the Chichibu Night Festival. Not only did we get to see the magnificent floats and an amazing winter fireworks display, but we were also lucky enough to be taken behind the scenes and enjoy some drinks with one of the festival teams! While back in Tokyo we also visited the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, and did some knife shopping in Kappabashi.
We were blessed with fine sunny weather for most of the tour, with only some light rain on one morning. The timing of this tour means you can enjoy Japan when the weather is stable and when the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold.
Please check out our Gallery Page to see photos and videos from both of our 2017 tours of Japan!
Akemi and I would like to thank everyone who joined one of our tours, all the people who have shown interest in joining one of our future tours, and everyone who has supported and encouraged us along the way. Thank you all VERY much!!
We look forward to seeing you on one of our fully escorted private or small group tours of Japan in 2018!
A&C Tours Japan