JUL 23 - AUG 5 2020
OSAKA IN/HAKODATE 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 Craig 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
・Spend 4 nights in Tokyo, the largest metropolis on earth
・Enjoy all the excitement of the "Tenjin Festival" in Osaka
・Visit the historic Nijo Castle and Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto
・Go to the iconic Golden Pavilion and Fushimi-Inari Shrine
・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
3 dinners (including a welcome and farewell dinner)
The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/interpreter)
*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan
DATE: Jul 23rd, 2020 Osaka
Travel to Osaka by Thursday July 23rd, 2020.
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.
DATE: Jul 24th, 2020 Osaka
Spend the day taking in the sites of Osaka, Japan's second largest city. We will explore "downtown" Osaka, visit the historic Osaka Castle, and enjoy festive rituals at Osaka Temmangu Shrine.
We start our day by walking 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. Midosuji Avenue links the three major entertainment centers of Osaka - Namba, Shinsaibashi, and Umeda.
After exploring Umeda we will make our way to the majestic Osaka Castle. This castle was first built in 1583, and is one of Japan's most famous landmarks. During World War 2 the castle miraculously survived the city
wide air raids. Major repair works gave the castle new glamor in 1997. The castle tower is now modern on the inside and even features an elevator for easier accessibility.
At night we will enjoy a lovely welcome dinner together at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub).
DATE: Jul 25th, 2020 Osaka
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. The long procession features costumed characters, including Sarutahiko, a long-nosed goblin riding a horse, a ceremonial float accompanied by festival music, lion dancers, umbrella dancers, and many other fantastic attractions. 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 seemingly endless rows of festival food stalls along the river add to the festive atmosphere.
DATE: Jul 26th, 2020 Kyoto
Travel from Osaka to Kyoto by shinkansen.
After we arrive in Kyoto we will take 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.
DATE: Jul 27th, 2020 Kyoto
Spend the day taking in some of the most famous sights of this traditional city. We will visit the historic Nijo Castle, the majestic Golden Pavilion, and the iconic Fushimi-Inari Shrine.
Our first stop on our full day tour of Kyoto is Nijo Castle. This historic castle was first constructed in 1603, and was the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). The castle's buildings are widely considered to be the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture from Japan's feudal era.
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.
Just like the Golden Pavilion, Fushimi-Inari Shrine is 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, 2020 Tokyo
Travel from Kyoto to Tokyo by shinkansen.
Visit some of Tokyo's most famous and iconic places, including Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, and Shinjuku.
Our first 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. Meiji Shrine and its surrounding grounds are like a natural oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle.
To end our tour of Tokyo we will visit two of its most popular shopping and entertainment districts, Shibuya and Shinjuku. In Shibuya we will visit the "Hachiko Statue" and cross the world famous "Scramble Crossing".
In Shinjuku we will walk through the streets of Kabuki-cho, perhaps Tokyo's most full on district, and explore the narrow streets of "Omoide Yokocho" and "Golden Gai".
At night we will enjoy lovely dinner together at a Tokyo beer garden.
DATE: Jul 29th, 2020 Tokyo
Enjoy a full day tour of Tokyo, taking in both the old and the new of one of the largest cities in the world.
First we will visit the old downtown area of Tokyo (Ueno and Asakusa). In Ueno we will stroll through the Ameya Yokocho Markets, one of Japan's best street markets, and then enjoy a relaxing walk through Ueno Park, one of the largest and most famous parks in Tokyo. We will then travel to Asakusa, where we will walk down the famous Nakamise Shopping Street to the Asakusa Kannon Temple (otherwise known as Sensoji Temple), the oldest and most visited Buddhist temple in Tokyo.
Next we will visit two of the most modern places in Tokyo, the Tokyo Sky Tree and Odaiba. The Tokyo Sky Tree was completed in 2012, and is the tallest building in Japan. We will go to the very top observation deck (450 m) to enjoy spectacular views of the Tokyo metropolis and Mt. Fuji. We will finish the day by going to Odaiba, an ultramodern area on Tokyo Bay. Here you can enjoy pleasure cruising, shopping, and spectacular views of Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Bay, and the Tokyo skyline.
DATE: Jul 30th, 2020 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 colorful 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.
DATE: Jul 31st, 2020 Tokyo
Enjoy a free day in Tokyo to enjoy some shopping or visit places of interest. 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 on a leisurely day trip to the historic city of Chichibu.
Chichibu is located in the mountainous area of western Saitama Prefecture and can be easily reached from central Tokyo in approximately 90 minutes by limited express train. Its impressive Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, natural hot springs, and beautiful nature, including rivers and mountains that provide for wonderful hiking opportunities, attract many Tokyoites who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
DATE: Aug 1st, 2020 Sendai
Travel from Tokyo to Sendai by shinkansen.
After we arrive in Sendai we will then make the short trip
to Matsushima Bay to enjoy a relaxing cruise. 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: Aug 2nd, 2020 Aomori
Travel from Sendai 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.
DATE: Aug 3rd, 2020 Aomori
Experience 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 4th, 2020 Hakodate
Travel from Aomori to Hakodate by shinkansen.
To top off the tour 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.
At night we will enjoy a lovely farewell dinner together at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub).
DATE: Aug 5th, 2020
Relax in Hakodate before transferring to Hakodate
Airport for your return flight. Alternatively, you can travel to New Chitose Airport by limited express train (included
in the price of the tour) and fly out from there if it is more convenient.
Depending on your flight time you may be able to explore the famous Hakodate Morning Market, or enjoy some last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Hakodate.