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Discover the wonders of Japan in cherry blossom season
Japan is a place like no other: a unique blend of ancient and
modern. It boasts countless natural wonders and cultural highlights
but perhaps no single experience as beautiful or memorable as that
of Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing. Each spring, millions of
Japanese wait in anticipation for the first buds of the pink cherry
blossom - known as Sakura - to appear. Next year, you will have the
chance to experience it for yourself.
On this 14-day escorted tour, designed exclusively for Country Living readers, you will journey far and wide through this fascinating land. Your trip starts in the city of Osaka, where you'll visit imposing Osaka Castle, tour the Dotonbori restaurant district and enjoy a short cruise along the Yodogawa River, before exploring the lively Kuromon Market. Next you will be immersed in the rich history of sacred Mount Koya, a centre of Shingon Buddhism, and explore the breathtaking Japanese Alps. In the former capital Kyoto, you will visit the famous Bamboo Forest, see the Moon Bridge, Maruyama Park and more. You'll also have time to visit Kenroku-en, one of the 'Three Great Gardens of Japan', relax in a hot spring in Takayama and experience life in rural Japan in the UNESCO-listed Shirakwago. No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to its most iconic landmark, the 2,400m Mount Fuji, which you will see before unwinding on a cruise on tranquil Lake Ashi. In Tokyo, you will witness more cherry blossom in a location synonymous with Hanami - stunning Ueno Park.
See Japan in cherry blossom season
Six amazing cultural experiences
The best of Japan
- Return flights from London (upgrade to business class for £199pp**)
- 12 nights' hotel accommodation
- All meals
- Internal transport as well as transfers and taxes
- Touring with guides and all entrance fees
- Small group size - between ten and 30
- Six Japanese experiences: traditional tea ceremony; zen meditation; washi paper-making; gold-leaf chopsticks class; making soba noodles; sake brewery visit and tasting
- Financial protection - Abta, Atol, Iata
Day1Fly to OsakaOsaka, Japan
Fly overnight to Osaka, one of Japan's greatest cities. Depending on your time of arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel and met by your local guide. The rest of the day is yours to soak up the local culture before a welcome dinner.
Day2Explore OsakaOsaka, Japan
You guided tour of Osaka will begin with a visit to the imposing Osaka Castle and learning about its turbulent history. Continue to Dotonbori, the restaurant district, where you can sample the local delicacy Okonomiyaki for lunch. You will also enjoy a short cruise along the Yodogawa River before visiting Kuromon Market, a lively covered market.
Day3Mount KoyaKoya-San, Japan
Transfer around two hours to Koya-San, the centre of Shingon Buddhism. See Okunoin, Japan's largest cemetery and home to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism. Enjoy a Buddhist vegetarian meal at a monastery inn for lunch before visiting Kongobuji Temple and the Garan temple complex. Continue to Kyoto, a journey of approximately 2.5 hours to check in to your hotel.
Day4Explore KyotoKyoto, Japan
Start your tour of wonderful Kyoto by visiting the Arashiyama district where you can explore the famous Bamboo Forest and see the Moon Bridge. Discover Kyoto's rich heritage with visits to Ryoanji Temple, home to Japan's most famous zen garden, and Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion due to its gold-like exterior. After lunch, stroll around Gion, Kyoto's Geisha district, and Maruyama Park, a great spot for viewing Cherry Blossoms.
This morning, you will visit the magnificent Fushimi Inari Shrine, which stretches from the bottom to the top of Mount Inari. You will walk up part of the mountain through the vermillion torii gates. Continue to Gekkeian Okura Sake Museum where you can learn about sake's history and enjoy a tasting. Next, visit Kiyomizu Temple, a clifftop complex overlooking the city, and stroll down Philosopher's path which is lined by hundreds of cherry trees.
Transfer to Kyoto Station and take the take the train to Kanazawa. Wander through the beautiful Kenroku-en, one of the 'Three Great Gardens of Japan'. Stroll down the traditional Higashi Chaya district, visiting Ochaya Shima - a historical geisha house, before learning how gold-leaf chopsticks are made. In the evening, check in to your hotel and enjoy a Japanese pub dining experience.
Enjoy a fascinating visit to Nomura Samurai House before trying your hand at making washi paper. You will then get a glimpse of rural Japanese life with a visit to UNESCO World Heritage listed Shirakawago, with its traditional Gassho-Zukuri farmhouses. Later transfer to Takayama, where this evening you can relax in the hotel's own hot spring.
Takayama has an air of old-world Japan, particularly around its wonderfully preserved old town. Head to the Miyagawa Morning Market, where you can sample some of the delicious local fruits and vegetables. Wander down Kamisannomachi Street, past some of the lovely traditional houses and visit Takayama Jinya and the excellent Festival Floats Museum. In the afternoon, enjoy the rituals of a traditional tea ceremony.
Depart Takayama and travel around two hours to Matsumoto. Visit a wasabi farm to learn about its cultivation and, after lunch, explore the formidable 16th Century Matsumoto Castle and the surrounding gardens. Visit a Miso House to learn about the process of making this Japanese seasoning. Continue around two hours to the Fuji Five Lakes area and check in to your hotel.
Day10Mount Fuji and Lake AshiMount Fuji, Japan
Today, travel around one hour to Japan's most iconic landmark - Mount Fuji. Ascend 2,400 metres to the 5th Station for breathtaking views of Fuji. Try your hand at making traditional Japanese soba noodles before tucking in to your creations for lunch.
Later, embark on a cruise on tranquil Lake Ashi before flying high above the lake on the Komagatake Ropeway to the summit of Mt Komagatake for spectacular views of Mount Fuji and the lake below.
Head to Kamakura, a coastal city south of Tokyo, known for its unique temples. Visit Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, stroll down Komachi Street and enjoy a Zen Meditation experience at Tokeiji Temple. After lunch, see Japan's second tallest bronze Buddha statue at Kotoku-in Temple and visit Hase Temple. Continue around one hour to Tokyo, Japan's bustling metropolis
Tokyo is the ultimate 24-hour city, but look behind its frantic, high-tech frontage and you'll find plenty of tranquil backstreets and old temples to explore. Embark on a tour of the city, starting with ascending the Tokyo Skytree and wandering through the old district of Asakusa. Stop to soak up the atmosphere at Senso-ji, Tokyo's most famous and beloved temple, and browse the stalls of Nakamise Shopping Street while wearing a Kimono. After lunch at a local restaurant, stroll through Ueno Park, a great spot for Cherry Blossom, and visit the busy market street Ameyoko. Tonight, enjoy your evening meal whilst leisurely cruising along Tokyo Bay - a great way to finish your Japanese adventure.
Day13Fly home from TokyoTokyo, Japan
Transfer to Tokyo's airport and fly back to the UK, arriving home the same or following day.