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This unique tour takes you to all of the major cities and sites in Japan, but also exposes you to places few tourists and tour companies have even heard of. Our route includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Izumo, Nagasaki, Sasebo, and the rarely visited Goto Archipelago, all within 14 days. The itinerary also includes a homestay, an experience that allows you to go beyond just visiting the country, and gives you a more intimate understanding of Japanese life as you actually live with a local family. This tour delivers Japan from all angles. From Tokyo’s futuristic neon lights, to the rice fields of Izumo. From Kyoto’s traditional setting and its ancient temples, to the pristine beaches of the Goto Islands. We have chosen the best locations so that you can make the absolute best of your time in Japan. We’ll also see the city of Nagasaki decked in thousands of lanterns during the Nagasaki Lantern Festival.
24 January 2020
31 January 2021
Bullet train, local trains, ferries.
Expect to see and visit places many have never heard of before. You can also look forward to making new friends, both local and foreign, while traveling through some of Japan’s most beautiful destinations. While many tours advertise that they are taking you off of the beaten path, we actually deliver on that promise.
This 14 day tour isn’t too physically demanding. There will be short hikes in Nagasaki, Kyoto, and a bike ride in Goto on Day 10. We’ll also travel on both an overnight train, and an overnight ferry during the trip. We try our best to minimize day time traveling, and maximize activity time by using these modes of transport. Below you will find a list of things that you should bring with you for this trip.
Our first day starts with creating our own Japanese fruit liqueurs. We visit a Japanese sake taste testing superstore which boasts over 100 different types of sake from all across Japan. After choosing the ones we want, we head to the grocery store to grab the fruit you want to incorporate into your own unique blend. In Japan plums are a popular choice (to make umeshu), but feel free to get creative. We use a traditional Japanese method to prepare the wines, while going over the tour orientation and introductions. Once our wines have been completed, we bottle them up to let them marinate, enjoying them at the end of the tour. Our first day ends with a sunset visit to Sensouji.
On our second day, we gain a perspective of how large Tokyo is by looking at it from three famous views on three different levels. First, we descend 20+ meters below the surface to the “Underground Temple”. We then take to the skies with a panoramic view of Tokyo from Shinjuku’s Metropolitan government building, which places us 230 meters in the air. We’ll conclude with a ground-level view at the world-famous Shibuya intersection, which also offers visitors the opportunity to try out a number of fantastic restaurants for an evening meal!
Here we shift our focus to learn a little bit about Tokyo’s past. We start early in the morning by watching how the sumo wrestlers train to compete*. We then head to the Imperial Palace gardens right at the heart of the city before making our way to Tsukiji to take a peek inside one of the world’s busiest fish markets.
After we’ve had our fill of uni and maguro, we transport ourselves back in time to the Edo era for an authentic kabuki theater show. We continue our experience of how people lived in the Edo era with a visit to the Edo-Tokyo museum. We also visit a small sumo wrestling exhibit on our way to a sumo pot restaurant. At night we zig zag our way through the 200+ bars in the Showa-era Golden Gai district.
*Please note that this is an optional activity and may not take place should the wrestlers not be practicing that morning. This can only be confirmed the day before.
After having delved into Tokyo’s past, we explore the more modern and futuristic areas of the largest city on earth. We start at the otaku culture mecca of Akihabara to satisfy one’s anime and manga fix. Not an anime fan? Never fear. There are a multitude of arcades, book stores, cafes, and other exciting spots for those with different interests.
Next, we’re off to Odaiba. You can’t experience the future of Tokyo, or even Japan, without having visited at least one of the many exhibits on the man-made island of Odaiba. Here we talk to androids, learn about the current global shifts in technology, and see all things future-tech. Once we’ve had our fill of the futuristic, we take in the sites of the city at night with a boat ride on Tokyo Bay. We also ride a roller coaster among the skyscrapers at Tokyo Dome City. For those not partial to roller coasters, there is a ferris wheel with a built-in karaoke booth and fantastic views.
We end our time in Tokyo by boarding the last existing overnight sleeper train in Japan to the town where the Shinto gods are said to congregate.
We wake up in Izumo city on Day 5 and meet with our Japanese host families for two days of experiencing authentic, small-town life in Japan. Even though Izumo is a small town, and vastly different from the fast-paced lifestyle of Tokyo, it is a very important and culturally significant location. Some of the last surviving katana makers call Izumo home. It is also home to Izumo Taisha, which boasts one of Japan’s most important shrines, beautiful beaches, and relaxing natural hot spring bathhouses.
This step of the trip is also important because it gives us a chance to actually spend time with a Japanese family. There are many things that are integral to Japanese culture that are easily missed without having the opportunity to build a relationship with a Japanese person. This experience gives you the chance to build new relationships with the people here, personally learn more about the culture, learn to cook real Japanese homestyle food, and gain a better understanding of the Japanese lifestyle and etiquette.
Please note that the itinerary for this portion of the trip is not pre-determined and depends on what your host family would like to show you during this time, informed by your interests. It is always a nice gesture when our guests prepare gifts for their host families, perhaps something special from your country, as a way of saying thank you for opening up their homes.
We say goodbye to our host families early in the morning and head to Kyoto for the next stage of our trip. We start our time in Kyoto in the Higashiyama district of the old capital with a meet and greet with a geisha in training (a Maiko, or as they are known in Kyoto, a Geiko). We’ll exchange pleasantries over matcha tea and get the opportunity to ask some questions later on in the afternoon. We then head to Yasaka Shrine to view one of the only shrines that remains open at night. Lastly, we make our way to the Pontocho area, which is packed with world-class restaurants for dinner, and walk along the Kamogawa River while enjoying the ambiance of Kyoto’s mellow evenings.
We start the day early as we make our way to Amanohashidate, a hidden gem in the Kyoto region and one of Japan’s top three sites. Literally meaning the bridge to heaven, this sandbar is an amazing site, and is a place where wishes are said to come true. While here, we also make a visit to Chionji Temple, Motoise Shrine and Amanohashidate View Land. A ropeway ride to the top of the hill reveals an even better view. This sandbar with its beautiful beaches as fantastic in summer, yet equally stunning in the colder months when a light covering of snow gives the area a winter wonderland feel. After that we head to Fushimi Inari shrine (the shrine with a thousand red gates), around sunset when the crowds have died down to enjoy it at a more relaxed pace.
From old capital to ancient capital, we spend the first part of our day in Nara at Todaiji temple where monks share their space with the deer in that area. You’ll get a chance to feed the deer, explore the temple grounds, and also witness the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world, inside of the temple’s Great Buddha Hall.
The rest of the day is dedicated to free time for people wanting to explore Kyoto on their own and pursue individual interests for a few hours. There are so many things to discover in Kyoto. The Pokemon Center, the Imperial Palace, Nishiki Market, the thousands of temples shrines and countless world heritage sites to name but a few. No matter what your interest is, our guide will help you plan an afternoon of activities to make the most of your free time. We conclude the day with an optional evening trip to a karaoke bar which is a must-do when in Japan.
The morning starts with a trip to Kameoka via an *open-air steam train that weaves its way in and out of the Hozugawa river, while taking in the spectacular colourful mountain landscape. We then enjoy a traditional boat ride down the river, to make our way to the Arashiyama district where we visit Nonomiya Shrine, Tenryuji (and the famous bamboo grove behind it), and enjoy a beautiful view of Kyoto from the Arashiyama monkey park where macaques roam freely around the mountain.
After that we leave the old capital behind and head to our first island destination on the tour. We stop in the city of Fukuoka to hop into a natural hot springs onsen before catching an overnight ferry to the Goto Archipelago.
*unavailable in winter
We wake up in the middle of an island-speckled sea before docking on Fukue Island. You’re in for a treat if you’re able to wake up early enough to catch the sunrise from the front deck of the boat. The Goto Islands are steeped in mystery. The history and stories that the islands have to tell are very deep and interesting. Kichi Japan are the only tours that take you there. There are many places to explore and discover in the archipelago. For example, Kuroshima, which is an abandoned island on which a 96-year-old woman and her daughter have decided to resettle together. Or the multitude of islands that early Christian worshipers fled to in order to worship without being persecuted.
Our journey there starts on the main island of Fukuejima – a place that was settled by fleeing Christians. We learn about their story and also enjoy a bike ride around the island to visit Dozaki church where you will see a number of relics which held much significance to hidden Christians. We’ll also stop by one of the island’s pristine beaches to take in the scenery and perhaps take a dip if it’s warm! We then finish the night off at a one-of-a-kind ramen karaoke bar that serves quality food and drinks from the comfort of your own private karaoke booth.
On day 2 of our adventure in Goto, we make our way to Oushima (literally, Yellow Island). The history of this island is also fascinating. Once an island that was heavily populated during the whaling boom in this region, the population of the island has shot down from 1500 to a mere 40+ people who now call the island home. The cat population of the island is actually higher than the human. Abandoned schools, homes, and boats are a common sight here, but this small fisherman’s island still has life in it. We explore the island, and make our way to a cave on the opposite end to discover a secret hidden within. Oushima differs from the surrounding islands in that it is mainly flat and is much easier to navigate.
After the island and cave exploration is over, we then make our way back to Fukue Island where you will have some free time to explore the main island. Our last night in Goto is spent having dinner at the island’s best homemade style restaurant, where everything is freshly prepared on a daily basis and the menu is dependent upon the daily catch.
Please note than during our January tour, this day will be replaced by the Hetomato where visitors will get the rare opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese festival!
Today we enjoy the Nagasaki Lantern festival! This event originated as a celebration for the Chinese New Year and has come to be one of the city’s most vibrant winter attractions. Lasting 2 weeks, it has everything from acrobatics, fireworks and dragon dances, to parades, beauty contests and one of the main features – over 15000 lanterns decorating the city. This is not a festival to be missed!
Our final day of the tour consists of a few visits to some of the historical sites around Nagasaki, where we learn a bit about the history of the city. We start at the reclaimed island of Dejima to learn about the influence that the Dutch had on Japan, and the relationship that was formed between the two nations. After that we make our way to the Peace Park to hear about the unfortunate events that took place in the city during the Second World War.
We then head back to Tokyo (arriving around 9 PM), enjoying the drinks that we made on Day 1, and say our goodbyes. For Toki tours that are part of our full 1-month tours, we have a short break before embarking on another 2-week journey around the lesser known, yet astoundingly beautiful areas that Japan has to offer.
Note: Your JR pass, which covers all travel on JR train and bus routes, will be valid for the next two days should you want to engage in some solo exploration. Your guide can provide you with recommendations and assistance with creating a personal itinerary.
All of our tour prices are per person, so solo travelers will not need to pay a supplement. If you would like a private room instead of hostel accommodation for the duration of the trip, we can arrange this at an extra cost.
In order to maximize experience as much as possible, we use shared hostel accommodations in most of our locations. Sleeping arrangements will be in dormitory-style rooms usually separated by gender if possible. We will also travel on both an overnight ferry and sleeper train during this tour.
We arrange accommodation from the night of the 1st day, to the night before the last day. Should you require accommodation before or after the tour, we can assist in arranging this for an additional fee. You can also book this on your side.
The 25% deposit is non-refundable. The cancellation fee depends on how long before the tour the trip is cancelled, and is calculated according to the following:
Cancelling between 46 and 60 days before departure: 60% of the holiday cost
Between 31 and 45 days before departure: 80% of the holiday cost
30 days before departure: 100% of the holiday cost.
We do offer customization services and can plan additional locations and activities both before and after your tour, which can be tailored to your preferences. Contact us for further information on our customization rates.