Private Tour November 2018
Our second fully escorted private tour of 2018 was for two lovely couples from Tel Aviv in Israel. This tour was a 14 day tour which ran from November 3rd to November 16th, 2018. The tour began in the historic city of Hiroshima in southern Japan and finished in the largest metropolis in the world, Tokyo. The timing of this tour meant that we were able to see beautiful autumn scenery at some of Japan's most iconic places, including Miyajima Island, Himeji Castle, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Nara Park, Shirakawago and Gokayama villages, Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Nikko, and Mt. Takao.
After arriving at Kansai International Airport in Osaka we traveled directly to Hiroshima by shinkansen where we then stayed our first two nights. While in Hiroshima we visited the emotional Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Hiroshima Peace Park, the A-Bomb Dome, and the hypocenter. We also enjoyed several of the local delicacies, including Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki and local fresh oysters.
While in Hiroshima we also took a day trip to beautiful Miyajima Island. After enjoying the magnificent floating torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine together the group broke up and took two different routes to the top of Mt. Misen, the highest mountain on the island. Two people decided to enjoy the 2 hour hike up to the summit, while the rest of us enjoyed a relaxing gondola ride to the top. The weather this day was perfect, meaning we had spectacular views of the Seto Island Sea and Hiroshima Bay from the observation deck on top of Mt. Misen.
Our next stop after two special nights in Hiroshima was the ancient capital of Kyoto. On the way to Kyoto we stopped by the majestic Himeji Castle. This castle is one of Japan's original 12 castles, and is widely considered to be the best surviving example of castle architecture in Japan.
Once in Kyoto we visited some of this beautiful city's most iconic places, including Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Yasaka Shrine, and my personal favorite - Shimogamo Shrine. While at Shimogamo Shrine, which we reached by walking along the banks of the Kamogawa River, we were lucky enough to see a traditional Japanese Shinto wedding. The lovely young bride and groom were nice enough to even let us take photos with them in the grounds of the shrine.
From Kyoto we enjoyed a day trip to one of Japan's other ancient capital cities - Nara. Here we enjoyed walking through Nara Park, hiking to the top of Mt. Wakakusa, and visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Kasuga Grand Shrine and Todaiji Temple where one of the largest statues of Buddha in Japan is housed. We also went off the beaten track and visited the absolutely stunning Isuien Japanese Gardens. The beauty of a fully escorted private tour is that you can go off schedule a little if you come across something interesting.
Next we traveled to the Sea of Japan side of the country where we spent a night in Kanazawa and a night in Takayama. The day in between we spent exploring the UNESCO World Heritage listed villages of Shirakawago and Gokayama. The autumn foliage here was absolutely stunning (as you can see in the photo below). These two villages are an extremely popular winter destination, but they are also beautiful in spring and autumn!
From Takayama we traveled to Mt. Fuji and then on to Hakone by private vehicle. Although the hiking trail up Mt. Fuji was already closed at this time of the year, we were able to enjoy a short 45 minute hike to an observation deck that overlooks Lake Kawaguchi below. From the same observation deck you can look back and get spectacular views of Mt. Fuji itself (see photo below). This trail is a must whenever visiting Mt. Fuji!
In Hakone we spent a relaxing two nights in a traditional ryokan. The customers were a little hesitant to use the public baths, so requested rooms with their own private baths. On the second night though they plucked up the courage to enjoy a relaxing soak in the public baths. This is a unique experience and something you should definitely try once while you are in Japan.
Our last stop of the tour was Tokyo. Once again the group split up on several occasions to enjoy this amazing city in their own way. One couple preferred sightseeing and shopping in downtown Tokyo, while the other couple preferred nature and hiking. From Tokyo we enjoyed two day trips to a couple of Kanto's most beautiful places to visit in autumn - Nikko and Mt. Takao - where we enjoyed hiking, natural hot springs, and beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines, including the magnificent Toshugu Shrine where we saw the world famous carving of the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkeys.
This entire tour went like clockwork, something that our happy and satisfied customers wrote about in their very kind testimonial!
We look forward to seeing you on one of our fully escorted private or small group tours of Japan sometime soon!
A&C Tours Japan