ANCIENT CITIES, IMPERIAL PALACES AND NATIONAL PARK; KYOTO, NARA, MOUNT FUJI AND TOKYO, JAPAN
Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo, Bullet Train to Kyoto
There are direct flights to/from Tokyo from USA cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Newark, Boston and Houston. Narita International Airport complex offers excellent transfer services. The underground train station offers regularly scheduled transfer routes to central Tokyo and major Japanese cities. The Tokaido Shinkansen line, superior quality high-speed train (Bullet Train), offers an efficient 2 hour and 40 minutes’ direct route from Tokyo to Kyoto. We arrive at the Kyoto Train Station and proceed to the hotel situated within a walking distance.
Day 2 – Kyoto
A walk through Kyoto uncovers a combination of traditional Japanese districts, stylish modern architecture, and historic and religious symbols. The Kiyomizu Temple, a Buddhist Temple, represents a historic and cultural gem. The Main Hall (Hondo) contains Kiyomizu Stage (large veranda) offering wonderful views of Kyoto and the surrounding cherry and maple trees. The autumn leaves beautify the walking pathways of Kiyomizu Temple complex as we explore Otowa Waterfall, Three Storied Pagoda, Deva and West Gates. Near the temple, an ancient style Japanese neighborhood charms visitors with the narrow alleys, wooden houses, quaint boutiques and restaurants. The time pleasantly passes as we browse the traditional shops, sample snacks, enjoy Japanese cuisine, and observe local traditions and culture.
Day 3 – Nara
The tree lined pathways of Nara Park shelter the cultural treasures, ancient shrines, spiritual temples and peaceful Japanese garden in the historic city of Nara. Nara, situated within 40-minute JR Train ride from Kyoto, offers convenient access to its wealth of cultural and historic treasures. Strolling through the Nara Park we discover the Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden temple in the world that displays a bronze statue of the Great Buddha Vairocana sitting on the lotus flower. The historic shrine of Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) was founded in 8th century by powerful Fujiwara family clan. The celebrated Kofukuji Temple serves as a symbol of Nara with five-story Pagoda, Eastern Golden Hall and various ancient structures. The picturesque Isui-en Garden dates back to Meiji era and reveals a Wakasuka Hill in the background, peaceful pond and colorful autumn leaves during our visit. We take an evening train back to Kyoto.
Day 4 – Kyoto
The ancient capital city of Kyoto takes visitors on historic journey with imperial palaces, temples, shrines and traditional Japanese gardens. The Kyoto Imperial Palace, Imperial family's former residence, encompasses Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) built with dark wood; spiritual temples, traditional Japanese gardens and captivating scenery. Along Kyoto’s walking pathways visitors encounter charming streets, traditional pottery shops, ancient shrines and symbols. The northern part of Kyoto hosts Zen Buddhist Temple and Kinkakuji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) encircled by the classic Japanese Muromachi Period style garden. The nearby Bamboo Forest stands out through its symmetry of white and grey bamboo trees.
Day 5 – Arrive Tokyo, Tokyo Imperial Palace
Japan’s capital city Tokyo exults esthetic luxury, intoxicating energy, sophisticated style, culinary art and imperial history. A morning Bullet Train from Kyoto arrives in Tokyo around noon. We transfer to our hotel and enjoy a relaxing lunch. An afternoon exploration leads to the Imperial Palace (Kokyo), a residence of Japanese emperor and his family. The palace is surrounded by the Imperial Palace East Garden displaying an array of colorful trees and flowers. A stroll along Nijubashi Bridge offers picture perfect views of the Imperial Palace. A walk through Tokyo’s quaint district of Ginza presents narrow alleys, galleries, ancient architecture, shops and abundant traditional Japanese restaurants.
Day 6 – Tokyo
A striking contrast of preserved traditions, reserved Japanese culture and extensive modernization epitomizes the mystery of Tokyo. Today’s excursion leads to the Shibuya area to visit Tokyo’s religious symbol of Meiji Jingu shrine, a Shinto Shrine representing Japan’s original Shinto religion. Traversing through Tokyo, we continue to the Asakusa district that hosts 7th century Senso-ji (Asakusa Kannon Temple) entered through large Kaminarimon Gate. The pathway to the second gate follows along historic Nakamise shopping area offering traditional souvenirs and snacks. The visit to Shinjuku district reveals wild energy with bright lights, shopping centers and crowds. The Shinjuku district symbolizes Tokyo’s prosperity and modern life.
Day 7 – Mount Fuji, Hakone
The landscape of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park reflects Japan’s regional natural treasures, such as Fuji Mountain, Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, portion of Izu Peninsula and Izu Islands. An organized one day excursion follows a scenic drive to Mount Fuji visitor observation center, followed by a relaxing mountain hike and visit to Hakone and Owakudani, a volcanic valley with active sulphur hot springs. At Owakudani Station we take Komagatake Ropeway Line to Togendai Station offering views of Mount Komagatake. At Togendai Port we begin a few hour pirate boat cruise on the Lake Ashi enjoying surrounding valley and mountain views. A two hour train ride on the luxurious Bullet Train to Tokyo concludes our tour.
Day 8 – Tokyo Departure
We enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast and depart our hotel. At the front door of the office building complex that hosts our hotel, a direct bus leaves to Narita International Airport and offers efficient, cost-effective and comfortable transportation.
Kyoto – The ancient shrines, imperial palaces, traditional Japanese neighborhoods, quaint boutiques, wonderful restaurants and stylish districts define the walkable city of Kyoto. This ancient capital city exults culture, tradition and magical feeling. Kiyomizu Temple, Buddhist Temple, is part of Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The Main Hall (Hondo) contains Kiyomizu Stage (large veranda) with amazing views of the city, cherry trees and maple trees. During our visit to Kyoto, colorful autumn leaves beautify the walking pathways leading to Kiyomizu Temple complex that encompasses Otowa Waterfall, Three Storied Pagoda, Deva and West Gates. In the heart of Kyoto, the Imperial Palace resides and represents a former residence of the Imperial family. The Imperial Palace complex consists of Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) built with dark wood, Buddhist temples, Japanese gardens and captivating scenery. In the northern Kyoto, visitors uncover the spiritual Kinkakuji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Zen Buddhist Temple. The Japanese garden encircles the temple complex and displays a design from Muromachi Period. The Golden Pavilion extends over the pond reflecting its beautiful image in the water. The nearby walking pathway leads to the Bamboo Forest displaying a perfect alignment of white and grey colored bamboo trees.
Nara– The ancient temples, spiritual shrines and tree lined pathways in the Nara Park take visitors back in time to Nara's rich ancient history. Nara, situated within 40-minute JR Train ride from Kyoto, hosts historic treasures, enchanting scenery and resident wildlife. Japan's historic and cultural symbol of Todai-ji Temple is the largest wooden temple in the world. Inside the temple, there is a bronze statue of the Great Buddha Vairocana sitting on the lotus flower. The feeling of history accompanies our walk to Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) that was founded in 8th century by the powerful Fujiwara family clan. The celebrated Kofukuji Temple serves as the symbol of Nara and includes five-story Pagoda, Eastern Golden Hall and various ancient structures. The traditional Japanese garden of Isui-en Garden offers visitors serenity. Garden's design dates back to Meiji era and incorporates the natural setting of Wakasuka Hill in the background and picturesque pond.
Tokyo – A perfect mix of history, culture, tradition, modern life defines Tokyo. Tokyo, the capital of Japan is a vibrant city, culinary hub, fashion center and history base. The high quality metro system, impeccable taxi services and aesthetic walking pathways ensure that visitors are satisfied. Tokyo is a city of neighborhoods offering its own unique qualities and traditions. The Shinjuku district symbolizes Tokyo’s modern life defined by bright lights, shopping centers and large crowds. The sophisticated Ginza district offers wonderful galleries, shops and amazing restaurants. A walk through the narrow alleys reveals ancient architecture and traditional Japanese restaurants. This is a place to sample both the richness and simplicity of Japanese cuisine. A glimpse into Japan’s culture and history leads to the Imperial Palace (Kokyo), a residence of Japanese emperor and his family. This stunning cultural treasure is surrounded by the Imperial Palace East Garden filled with colorful flowers and trees. A walk along the Nijubashi Bridge presents a picture perfect views of the Imperial Palace. The exploration of Tokyo’s important religious symbols guides to the Meiji Jingu shrine, a Shinto Shrine representing Japan’s original Shinto religion. Asakusa district hosts the 7th century Senso-ji (Asakusa Kannon Temple) that is entered through the large Kaminarimon Gate. The pathway to the second gate follows along historic Nakamise shopping area selling traditional souvenirs and snacks.
Mount Fuji and Hakone – The majestic mountain, sulphur hot springs and picturesque lake describe the natural topography at Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The natural treasures found in the national park include Japan’s highest Fuji Mountain, Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, portion of Izu Peninsula and Izu Islands. Situated within driving proximity to Tokyo, a day excursion provides sufficient time to discover a scenic drive to Mount Fuji visitor observation center and relaxing mountain hike. The next discovery leads to Owakudani, a volcanic valley with active sulphur hot springs in Hakone, where we sample Kuro-tamago (black egg) hard-boiled in sulphur hot springs. We enjoy a picturesque cableway ride on the Komagatake Ropeway Line from Owakudani Station to Togendai Station with splendid view of Mount Komagatake. At Togendai Port, a pirate cruise follows along Lake Ashi overlooking surrounding mountains and hot springs valley. We return to Tokyo by the luxurious Bullet Train (approximately 2 hours).
Japanese Art in Nature – The philosophy of aesthetics, symmetry, natural beauty and simplicity can be found everywhere throughout Japan. The Bamboo Forest, situated in Kyoto’s Kinkakuji Temple Complex exemplifies the attention to detail, precision and simplicity of the forest planning. The Isui-en Garden situated in the ancient city of Nara, expresses a peaceful harmony with forested mountains, manicured trees, picturesque pond and colorful autumn foliage during our visit. A changing weather accompanies us on our visit to Mount Fuji and rewards us with surreal views of the mountain top and the infinite clouds. The traditional architecture of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo fits perfectly with the surrounding artistic garden displaying vibrant seasonal colors of maple trees in autumn and cherry blossoms in the spring.
Sashimi and Sushi – Japanese cuisine delivers a burst of colors, flavors and textures. Japan’s culinary artistry and ancient traditions are reflected in its refined and creative dishes. The classic menu items include fresh sashimi and sushi prepared from the freshest raw fish and high-quality ingredients. The Sushi chefs require years of training to master their skills in the culinary arts. The sliced raw fish (sashimi) and raw fish slices covering rice pieces (sushi) are served with soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese horseradish). All over the world, Japanese cuisine and particularly sushi is appreciated, yet a visit to Japan can offer an unforgettable and the most authentic dining experience.
Matsutake Dobin Mushi – Beyond the celebrated sushi and sashimi, the Japanese cuisine awakens the senses with subtle yet rich flavors, perfectly balanced ingredients and artistic presentations. Matsutake Dobin Mushi appears as seemingly simple soup but delivers delicate flavors, light aroma and inventive presentation. In a small clay teapot, all ingredients are infused together creating a flavorful broth served with few pieces of Matsutake mushroom, shrimp, chicken, julienned ginger and seaweed. A fresh lime pieces squeezed just before serving, perfectly complement this unique dish.
Hotel Granvia Kyoto – A Japanese art and modern décor describe Hotel Granvia Kyoto. The modern JR Kyoto Station Building serves as Kyoto’s central train station and encompasses shopping mall, museum as well as Hotel Granvia Kyoto. The selected hotel presents an impressive architectural design, deluxe accommodations, quality customer service and an excellent location to explore Kyoto and Nara. The breakfast buffet offers wide variety of Japanese and western selections. The concierge department deserves a mention for providing comprehensive sightseeing information, unique restaurant suggestions and overall attentiveness.
Hotel Century Southern Tower, Tokyo – Encircled by bustling city life and bright lights of Tokyo, the Hotel Century Southern Tower offers feeling of privacy, simplicity and comfort. Centrally situated within few minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station (south or Southern Tower exit), the hotel offers the Japanese style simplicity, excellent customer service, spacious 20th floor lobby, city view rooms, and convenient access to Narita Express Train and Tokyo subway system. The hotel’s upscale Japanese and Chinese restaurants offer wonderful city views enhancing the dining experience. The Shinjuku Southern Terrace serves as a commercial center with department stores, restaurants, cafes, entertainment venues and walking pathways.