JUL 24 - AUG 6 2023
OSAKA IN /SAPPORO OUT
Summer Festivals, a vibrant journey of tradition and fun
Japan comes alive in summer! Summer in Japan is a time for fantastic fireworks displays, exhilarating festivals, and scenery in its most lush and vibrant state. Most of Japan's biggest and most famous festivals and fireworks displays are held during the summer months. Summer is Craig's favourite season in Japan, and this tour is jammed full of his favourite events. Join us on this fully escorted small group tour and experience the summer of a lifetime!
"When in Japan, do as the Japanese do"! In summer this means indulging in delicious street vendor food at festivals, drinking your favourite beverage and eating snacks under the night sky while enjoying a beautiful fireworks display, hitting one of the many beer gardens open during the summer season, and escaping the city heat by travelling to the seaside or to the cooler northern region of Japan. The Summer Festivals Tour ticks all these boxes and more!
・Experience some of the biggest and best summer festivals
and fireworks displays that Japan has to offer
・Enjoy all the excitement of the Tenjin Festival in Osaka
・Explore the backstreets of Kyoto's famous Gion District
・Visit the iconic Golden Pavilion and Fushimi-Inari Shrine
・Travel through luscious northern Honshu and Hokkaido
・Experience the amazing Nebuta Festival in Aomori
・Visit the historic Sannai Maruyama Archaeologic Site
Airport-hotel transfers in Japan
Transport and entry to all places described in the itinerary
13 nights accommodation in carefully selected hotels/inns
2 dinners (welcome and farewell dinner)
The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/driver/interpreter)
*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan
DATE: Jul 24th, 2023 Osaka
Travel to Osaka by Monday July 24th, 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: Jul 25th, 2023 Osaka
Spend the day taking in the sites of Osaka, Japan's second largest city.
We will explore "downtown" Osaka, visit the stunning Osaka Castle, and enjoy all the excitement of the historic Tenjin Festival at night.
We start our day by visiting the majestic Osaka Castle. This castle was first built in 1583, and is one of Japan's most famous landmarks.
Next we will walk along Midosuji Avenue, Osaka's main shopping street. We will start in Namba and walk all the way down this bustling shopping arcade to Shinsaibashi, crossing over the famous Ebisubashi Bridge on the way.
In the evening we will experience all the excitement of the Tenjin Festival.
The Tenjin Festival of Osaka started in the 10th century, and is ranked as one of Japan’s top three festivals. It is held every year on July 24th and 25th, with literally millions of people flocking to see the land procession from Tenmangu Shrine through the streets of Osaka. In addition to this spectacular land procession, there is also an amazing river procession in which festival members and portable shrines are loaded onto boats and paraded up and down the Okawa River in downtown Osaka. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks display along the banks of the river!
DATE: Jul 26th, 2023 Osaka
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.
At night we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner together at a local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Jul 27th, 2023 Kyoto
Travel from Osaka to Kyoto by limited express train.
Once we arrive in Kyoto we will enjoy a leisurely walk along Kamogawa River up to Shimogamo Shrine, explore the streets of Gion (Geisha District), and visit the iconic Fushimi-Inari Shrine.
We start our half day tour of Kyoto by enjoying a leisurely stroll along the banks of beautiful Kamogawa River. Our first destination is the mystical Shimogamo Shrine. This historic Shinto shrine predates Kyoto's establishment as national capital in 794 A.D., and is one of 17 UNESCO World Heritage listed sites in Kyoto. Shimogamo Shrine is surrounded by a beautiful forest which was preserved during the modernization of the city and contains trees that are well over 600 years old.
Next we will enjoy exploring 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 of this historic district.
Our last stop today is Fushimi-Inari Shrine, one of the most iconic places in Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of orange colored torii gates that straddle a network of trails behind the main shrine itself. The trails lead to the top of Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds. Although most tourists are attracted to the shrine by the beautiful scenery, Fushimi-Inari shrine is actually 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 throughout the shrine grounds. Fushimi-Inari Shrine also has ancient origins, predating the capital's move to Kyoto in 794 A.D.
DATE: Jul 28th, 2023 Kyoto
Enjoy a day trip to Amanohashidate by private vehicle stopping by Maizuru on the way.
On the way to our destination of Amanohashidate, we will make a stop in the port city of Maizuru to visit its historic Red Brick Museum. Maizuru is home to the only naval base on the Sea of Japan coast, making it the closest base to North Korea. The Red Brick Museum was originally built in 1903 as a torpedo warehouse for the navy. Its steel-frame brick construction is now extremely rare, and it has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property.
The highlight of the day however is undoubtedly Amanohashidate. This amazing pine covered sandbar is ranked among Japan's three most scenic views along with Miyajima Island near Hiroshima and Matsushima Bay near Sendai. When viewed from above Amanohashidate (roughly translated as heaven's bridge) looks like a pathway between heaven and earth. We will not only view this beautiful natural wonder from the Amanohashidate Observatory, but also have ample time to explore the sandbar itself and maybe even have a swim in the clear waters of Miyazu Bay.
DATE: Jul 29th, 2023 Sendai
Travel from Kyoto to Sendai by shinkansen passing by Mt. Fuji on the way.
Today you will get your first taste at riding on the world famous shinkansen (Japanese bullet train). Enjoy the beautiful Japanese countryside as we travel north from Kyoto to Sendai passing by spectacular Mt. Fuji on the way. Running at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the shinkansen is well known for its punctuality, comfort, safety, and efficiency.
Once we arrive in Sendai you will have free time to relax, or enjoy some local sightseeing or shopping. With a population of almost one million people, Sendai is by the far the largest city in the Tohoku Region of Japan. If you would like to experience nightlife in Sendai, then a visit to "Kokubuncho" is a must. Located in downtown Sendai, Kokubuncho is the largest evening entertainment district in the Tohoku Region, with more than 3000 bars and restaurants crowded into an area of approximately 900m x 250m.
DATE: Jul 30th, 2023 Sendai
Enjoy a relaxing day trip to beautiful Matsushima Bay.
Today we travel to Matsushima Bay to enjoy a relaxing cruise around this breathtaking bay. Matsushima Bay is dotted with hundreds of pine clad islets, and has been ranked as one of Japan’s three most scenic views for centuries. After enjoying the beauty of Matsushima Bay from the water, we will then walk to a couple of islands and explore black and red pine forests and ancient temples and shrines.
DATE: Jul 31st, 2023 Hachinohe
Travel from Sendai to Hachinohe by shinkansen.
After we arrive in Hachinohe we will visit the historic Ne Castle, which was originally built by Lord Moroyuki Nanbu in 1334, and remained a stronghold in the region for approximately 300 years until it was abandoned in 1627. The entire site of Ne Castle was proclaimed a National Historic Site in 1941, and extensive archaeological investigations in 1993/94 uncovered the foundations of original structures and many valuable artifacts. In 2006 Ne Castle was listed as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation. This castle really is a hidden gem!
In the evening we will experience all the excitement of the amazing Sansha Taisai Festival, the largest and most famous festival in the Hachinohe region. This spectacular festival has a history of almost 300 years, and is held over five days every year from July 31st to August 4th. Registered as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, the Hachinohe Sansha Taisai Festival captivates visitors with 27 magnificent ornate floats, a procession of portable shrines (omikoshi), and a beautiful tiger dance (toramai).
DATE: Aug 1st, 2023 Hachinohe
Enjoy a day trip to the historic samurai town of Kakunodate.
Kakunodate is a former castle town and samurai stronghold located in Akita Prefecture. It is famous for its hundreds of beautiful weeping cherry blossom tress and its well-preserved samurai district, which is widely considered to be one of the best examples of samurai architecture and housing in all of Japan. Kakunodate's samurai district was once home to more than 80 samurai families, and today six former samurai houses are open to the public for visitors to see just how wealthy samurai families used to lived in Japan.
After returning to Hachinohe in the afternoon, we will enjoy more of the magnificent Sansha Taisai Festival at night!
DATE: Aug 2nd, 2023 Aomori
Travel from Hachinohe to Aomori by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Aomori we will visit the Sannai Maruyama Archaeologic Site. This special historical site is the largest and one of the most complete and best preserved Jomon Period (13000 B.C. to 300 B.C.) villages in all of Japan. It features the remains of a large, long-term settlement from the early Jomon Period, with a number of reconstructed pit dwellings, long houses, and a large tower. Visitors can enter the reconstructions as well as see a few of the original excavation sites around the grounds.
Next we will head to the center of Aomori city to visit the Nebuta Festival Museum and learn all about the history and charm of the Nebuta Festival. At the museum you can experience every aspect of the festival, including four full-sized floats that participated in the previous year's festival, and Nebuta Faces that show the individuality of their respective creators.
At night we will experience all the excitement of the amazing Nebuta Festival. The Nebuta Festival is the largest Tanabata related festival in Japan. Every year more than three million visitors gather for the festivities. The highlight of the festival is the daily parade of enormous lantern floats flanked by large taiko drums, musicians, and dancers. Local teams build the festival's two dozen or so floats, which are constructed of painted washi paper over a wire frame and take an entire year to design and construct. They can be up to nine meters wide and five meters tall. Every night during the festival these huge floats are wheeled out onto the streets of downtown Aomori for a spectacular parade. Participation in the parade is encouraged, and people come from all around to join in the dancing. The only requirement is that you wear the traditional dancing costume that can be bought at local grocery stores and shops around the prefecture for about ¥7000 or rented from rental shops for about ¥4000.
DATE: Aug 3rd, 2023 Hakodate
Travel from Aomori to Hakodate by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Hakodate we will travel through the streets of this beautiful port city by streetcar until we reach the historic Goryokaku Fort. This massive, star shaped, western style fort was built approximately 150 years ago and was the first of its kind in Japan. It is now designated as a special historic site due to its historical significance.
To top off the day we will join the Hakodate Minato Festival. This festival is the largest summer event in Hakodate, and includes wonderful parades which involve over 20,000 participants. We will see women dressed in beautiful kimono perform traditional Hakodate dances, such as the Hakodate Port Dance, the Yosakoi Dance, and the Squid Dance. The Squid Dance is easy to remember and spectators are eagerly encouraged to join the parade and dance it together.
DATE: Aug 4th, 2023 Lake Toya
Travel from Hakodate to Lake Toya by limited express train.
After arriving at Lake Toya you will have free time to enjoy this picturesque volcanic caldera lake in your own way. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the lakeside, take a cruise out to the middle of the lake to see the volcanic peaks up close, or simply relax in a natural hot spring while taking in the magnificent lake views. At night we will enjoy a spectacular fireworks display, with more than 400 giant fireworks being set off from boats and pontoons on the lake. The reflection of the fireworks on the crystal clear lake is an unforgettable sight!
DATE: Aug 5th, 2023 Sapporo
Travel from Lake Toya to Sapporo by limited express train.
After arriving in Sapporo we will then travel to Otaru on a local train which meanders along the beautiful coastline of western Hokkaido. On this train ride you will see some of the most spectacular ocean views you are ever likely to come across. You may even be lucky enough to spot some of the local wildlife as well. Hokkaido is a wild animal paradise, featuring bears, deer, foxes, cranes, swans, and even orcas.
Once we arrive in Otaru we will visit the city's beautiful canal area and take a leisurely stroll up to the Otaru Suitengu Shrine. The small port city of Otaru is often referred to as the Venice of Japan because of its historic and picturesque canals which are lined with brick warehouses and gas lights.
The Venice connection has also been expanded to include a new focus on glass-blowing in the city. Not only can you enjoy the beauty of the canals,
but you can also enjoy locally brewed beers and ciders at one of the local breweries, or try some of the best sushi in Japan on Sushi Street. Sushi Street is lined on both sides with dozens of delicious sushi restaurants, some of which have been in business for more than 100 years.
At night we will enjoy a lovely farewell dinner together at a local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Aug 6th, 2023
Relax in Sapporo before transferring to New Chitose Airport (CTS) for your return flight. Depending on your flight time you may be able to enjoy some last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Sapporo.