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Backroads of Japan
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Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is one of the most modern cities in the world. It seems that every person on the streets has the latest version of everything.
Tour the vibrant modern areas of Harajuku and Shibuya at their weekend cultural climax and then spend a day at leisure exploring other areas of this enormous urban land or venture out for a Day trip to Mount Fuji.
Ginza, is full of department stores selling the latest fashions, Akihabara is the place to try the latest new gadgets before they become available in the West, and Shinjuku is the fast-paced nightclub area. However, if you look under the glossy surface, Tokyo is very traditional. Ladies still wear kimonos around town, people go to temples like Senso-ji to say a few prayers on their way to work, and couples get married in their traditional wedding gowns in the beautiful grounds around the Meiji Shrine. In spring, couples, families and friends sit beneath trees sipping sake and admiring the cherry blossoms.
Journey to the Japanese Alps and Nagano, host city of the 1998 winter Olympics, visit the historic 7th century Zenkoji Temple
We will also have the opportunity to head out to the world famous Jigokudani Monkey Park, where wild snow monkeys can be seen bathing in the natural hot springs.
Matsumoto is a quaint castle town featuring one of Japan's most treasured castles maintaining it's original wooden interior and stone exterior. Together we'll explore this castle where 16th century Samurai once roamed before venturing out to wander Matsumoto's ancient streets and or dine in a traditional storehouse.
Travel through a backdrop of mountains, rice fields and traditional homes to Takayama. Nestled in the Japan Alps, Takayama earned the nickname of ‘Little Kyoto’ because of its skilled craftspeople who built houses and temples for the Emperors in Kyoto. Home to many old wooden houses uniquely built for the harsh alpine climate, in Takayama we discover a tradition Japanese way of life staying in a family owned guesthouse, visiting the ‘Praying Hand’ houses, huge thatched homes and well preserved Edo Samurai era dwellings nestled beneath the mountain peaks. From the Hida Folk Village to saki tasting at local traditional brewery Takayama offers a great opportunity for exploration with our itinerary allowing for afternoon free time to walk a forested trail, go for a bike ride, have a nap on the Tatami mats at the Ryokan or relax in a Japanese Onsen (hot spring) before enjoying a traditional dinner together as a group.
A train trip brings us to Kurashiki, our next destination. An important town for trade during the Edo Period (1600–1868), Kurashiki has retained much of its old world charm and canals with beautifully preserved black and white walled merchants’ homes and storehouses, set in a picturesque area along a willow lined canal. Many of the storehouses have been converted into museums, souvenir stores, boutiques and cafes. Most famous among Kurashiki’s museums are perhaps the Ohara Museum of Art, a Western art gallery and the Museum of Folkcraft.
On Day 9 we set out by bicycle through the Kibi Plains. This amazingly scenic 15 km bicycle route takes us through rice fields, ancient burial grounds, shrines and temples.
Today we continue our journey with an early morning transfer to Kyoto, the cultural centre of Japan. Kyoto has some of the most magnificent temples in the country which date back centuries. There are said to be 2,000 temples, shrines, palaces, museums and traditional gardens in Kyoto.
Starting with a hike up Fushimi Inari through 10,000 stunning torii gates (as seen on Memoirs of a Geisha!), your CEO will help you discover Buddhism, Zen and Shinto nuances as we explore some of the most beautiful temples of the season such as Kiyomizu Temple (Love Temple) or the breathtaking Chion-in Temple where The Last Samurai was filmed.
The 2nd day provides more opportunity to explore more zen gardens, palaces and temples in Kyoto, take an independent venture to a nearby attraction or just walk around Gion and perhaps catch a glimpse of a Geisha going from teahouse to teahouse. You may even want to take train excursion to the creative, funky and bustling metropolis of Osaka or the peaceful gardens and ancient temples of Nara, home of Japan's largest Buddha and a number of cute and docile deer, sacred symbol of the Kasuga Taisha shrine.
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