Day 1 (Tokyo)
Welcome to Tokyo, the biggest city in the world! We will arrange for someone to collect you from the airport and take you to your accommodations. You will also meet one of our representatives who will orientate you to your trip and organize all of your passes and train tickets for the duration of your trip. Your first activity will take you 634m up in the air for an aerial view of Tokyo from Skytree! In the evening you’ll board a yakatabune. The yakatabune are ships which cruise through Tokyo Bay and allow guests to enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine while taking in the city lights of Tokyo. Enjoy a delicious Japanese dinner with drinks on one of these traditional boats before ending your first day.
Day 2 (Tokyo)
Your second day will begin with a guided tour of Tsukiji fish market – previously the largest wholesale fish markets in Japan. After getting your fill of uni and maguro, you’ll make your way to a nearby kitchen to make your own sushi under the guidance of a master sushi chef! This can also be paired with a sake tasting for the adults. You'll then head to the man-made island of Odaiba that houses the digital artspace that is TeamLab Borderless. Be prepared to spend a few hours here as you see art come to life! While in Odaiba a stop at the Miraikan museum of emerging science, which has numerous interesting and interactive exhibits, is great for the kids and anyone else in the family into anything future-tech; while car enthusiast will love the Toyota City Showcase which displays some of Toyota’s latest innovations as well as ‘throwbacks’ in their history garage. They also have tracks where both adults and kids can enjoy whistling by spectators during test-drives or go-kart rides.
Day 3 (Tokyo)
On this day we will arrange two different activities for each family. The first, something the boys might enjoy, is a graffiti lesson and street art tour with one of Japan’s most famous graffiti artists, who’s also designed glasses for Yamazaki. Learn how to create your own tags while experiencing this highly interesting subculture first-hand. The second option is slightly more tame, but just as creative – a wagashi sweet making lesson. Witness and emulate your teacher's meticulous attention to detail as you create your own very own sweets. We give you fair warning though, you may find them too pretty to eat! In the afternoon meet back up to explore the manga, anime and electronic mecca of Akihabara. Packed with gaming arcades, comic book and anime stores, virtual reality experiences and dozens of 'otaku' (die-hard anime fans) roaming the streets - it's a definite eye-opening experience into a rather quirky side of Japanese culture. Akihabara is also a great place to stock up on any electronics you may need with every corner boasting some kind of new or used electronics store.
Day 4 (Aizuwakamatsu)
Your first activity of the day will be a leisurely bullet train ride north to the castle town of Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima. A visit here is like stepping into the past. Its streets are rich with the history of samurai battles fought hundreds of years ago, and it is the perfect place to get a glimpse of what life was like in Edo-era Japan. Tsuruga castle is one of these rich historical spots. During the last few years of the Edo period, a fierce battle raged at the castle for an entire month, and 20 of the Byakkotai (a group of teenage samurai) famously committed seppuku. The battle absolutely decimated the castle, but this was rebuilt in the Showa period which restored it to the beautiful structure it was before. The castle grounds also house a teahouse, small garden, and expansive park which is a sight to behold in any season. After visiting Tsuruga, you will head to your ryokan where part of your evening will be spent relaxing in a traditional Japanese onsen hotspring.
Day 5 (Aizuwakamatsu)
Today will be all about taking in the samurai and martial history of Aizu. Accompanied by a guide, you will visit the Bukeyashiki samurai residences where you will learn about the lifestyle of these famous warriors before heading to the Byakkatoi memorial which commemorates one of their battles. In the afternoon prepare to roll up your sleeves and try your hand at one of Japan’s most ancient martial arts forms – kendo. Your instructor will take you through the basics of this sword-fighting sport and its customs which will also teach you a lot about the importance of honor and respect in the Japanese culture!
Day 6 (Nagoya)
This capital of Aichi is another one of Japan's biggest cities, but very different to its Tokyo and Kyoto counterparts. Originally a fort town and base of power for the Tokugawa shogunate, its castle is one of its most popular sites. Your time here, however, will start with a visit to the Nagoya City Science Museum, home to the largest planetarium in the world. Many visitors stop by just to take a picture of its enormous silver globe. Your visit will also coincide with the July sumo tournament in Nagoya where you'll witness first-hand the skill and power that these traditional athletes possess. Nagoya is famous for its miso which flavors many dishes, both sweet and savory. A food tour in the evening through the city’s streets will reveal some of its most distinctive dishes and is a great opportunity to experience the nuances evident in cuisine form different cities.
Day 7 (Ise)
Today you will travel to Ise Jingu Grand Shrine. This historically significant complex is made up of 125 smaller shrines dating back to the third century. It is also famous for being home to the spirit of the goddess Amaterasu, the deity who the Imperial family is believed to be descended from. After arriving, you will have the chance to explore its expansive grounds while learning about the shrine's history and relation to the Shinto religion with a guide. You’ll then make your way to the place where the Ama pearl divers have a long history. Here you’ll visit an Ama hut where you can eat lunch with these amazing women, ask them questions about their lifestyle, and listen as they regale you with their life stories.
Day 8 + 9 (Koyasan)
The next 2 days will be an immersive experience into the Japan's Buddhist culture, as you actually stay in a buddhist temple lodging. Here you will eat their vegetarian cuisine (shojin ryouri), attend their meditation classes, and simply take some time to slow down and relax. Witness the morning offering at Okunoin Cemetery before wandering through the Torodo Hall of Lamps, and spend some time in nature as you choose from a variety of stunning hiking trails during your stay, that include waterfalls, and ancient temples that are still being used to this day.
Day 10 (Kyoto)
The former capital of Kyoto is positively bursting with history and a lot more traditional than its Tokyo counterpart. Things here move at a much slower pace and the people tend to be a lot more laid-back. While here a visit to what is arguably the most famous shrine in Japan, Fushimi Inari. Featured in the movie 'Memoirs of a Geisha', this shrine has over 10 000 picturesque red 'torii' and it has a beautiful hike at the end of which you’ll find a stunning view of Kyoto. You’ll also enjoy Gion Matsuri. This festival is arguably the most famous celebration in all of Japan and spans the entire month of July. What began as a religious ceremony to pray for salvation from the plague, has become of the country’s biggest events. Witness the procession of floats parade through the city streets and let loose as you enjoy seeing a slightly wilder side of Japanese culture.
Day 11 (Osaka)
After getting your fill of culture at the Gion Matsuri festival, jump back into city life with a visit to Universal Studios, one of the country's most popular theme parks. Fulfill childhood dreams to escape the world of muggles as you enter into the wizarding universe of Harry Potter; meet some of your favorite cartoon characters from Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Sesame street; avoid the T-rex's teeth in a thrilling Jurassic Park adventure or experience what it feels like to be everyone's favorite neighborhood Spiderman. The whole day will be for you to spend enjoying thrilling park rides, spectacular shows and fantastic restaurants all based on your favorite films!
Day 12 + 13 (Beppu)
The onsen town of Beppu produces more hostpring water than any other location in Japan and is famous for its ‘7 Hells’ which describe some of its brilliantly-colored hotsprings – more meant for viewing than bathing! After marvelling at these natural attractions, you will cook your own food in the steam from the onsen water, an activity which locals have done for centuries. A ride on Beppu’s ropeway will take you to the top of Mt Tsurumi where you will find a panoramic view of Beppu, Oita and the surrounding mountains. After getting your fill of nature, head to the city’s beach and bury yourself neck deep as you enjoy a relaxing sand bath! There are also onsen which offer mud baths along with more conventional hostpring experiences.
Day 14 (Hiroshima)
Hiroshima is a special place in Japan for many reasons. Not only does it offer an important and sobering learning opportunity for each and every generation, but it is also a place of magnificent inspiration as visitors are able to witness just how marvelosly the city has built itself back up again after the events of WW2. While visiting Hiroshima today you will learn all about this at the Atomic Dome Museum and Hiroshima Peace Park. The park gardens are also an attraction in and of themselves with several sculptures and works of art scattered about the grounds. Hiroshima has other attractions besides those related to the war. Hiroshima Castle used to be an important seat of power in this part of Japan. Like much of the city, it was destroyed during war, however visitors can see a rebuilt version based on the architecture of the original design. In the evening we'll head out for a meal of okonomiyaki. Something like a cross between and omelette and savory pancake, this most popular dish and is a must-try!
Day 15 (Kanazawa)
Today, you will board another bullet train to the city of Kanazawa which has well-preserved elements of the Edo period. Your first stop is Kenroku-en, a huge park right in the middle of the town and one of the three finest landscape gardens in Japan. This charming park is home to one of Japan's oldest fountains and is a magnificent place to visit in all seasons. A walk through the samurai district takes you back in time to the Edo period when this city rivaled Tokyo and Kyoto in its cultural achievements. You’ll then explore the maze-like structures of Kanazawa's ninja temple. This religious structure hides many military secrets and was designed specifically with defense in mind. In the evening why not head to the Chaya district to perhaps catch a glimpse of the city’s elusive geisha?
Day 16 (Tokyo)
Bid farewell to Japan today as make your way back to Tokyo to your board your flight and reflect on all the amazing memories you’ve made during your trip