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Tours

Japan Blossoms

Tour departs: 08 April 2021
Tour length: 23 Days

Overview

Tour Departs: 08 April 2021

Tour Length: 23 days.

New for 2020 we are venturing to Japan, Land of the Rising Sun, in time to enjoy the Cherry Blossom season. The cherry blossom (sakura) has been celebrated in Japan for many centuries and holds a very particular place in Japanese culture. Although there are many varieties of cherry tree in Japan, most bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate this time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties: friends, family or work colleagues gather and sit on plastic mats under the blossoming trees, to drink, sing, chat or just admire the spectacle. We spend 12 days coach touring, concluding with a magnificent 9-day cruise savouring the sights, and spring flowers, of Northern Japan. A very special tour.

Japan Highlights: Japan is a country of contrasts: tranquil retreats of profound beauty lay just outside cities where skyscrapers soar over stunning temples and shrines. Neon-bright architecture and pink cherry blossoms vie for attention amid Tokyo’s colourful Harajuku district.

  • Tokyo, the nation’s capital
  • Lake Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji
  • Kyoto, the UNESCO World Heritage Site considered one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures and Japan’s former capital – the cultural and historic centre of the country
  • The traditional town of Takayama, and Kanazawa with its historic castle

Northern Japan Spring Flowers Cruise:

  • 9 nights aboard “Diamond Princess” – awarded best international cruise ship in Japan
  • All spacious cabins with ensuite & private balcony and the finest amenities
  • Excellent on-board facilities including award-winning dining experiences and entertainment & spa

 

Itinerary

Wednesday 08 April
Auckland – Tokyo (D)
We depart Auckland this morning for our flight to Tokyo – the capital of Japan – a city of marvellous contrasts, its past and present meshing seamlessly. The major gateway into Japan, Tokyo is the logical start for our exploration of northern Japan. On arrival late afternoon, we are met and transferred to our hotel for a three-night stay. This evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Thursday 09 April
Tokyo (B,L,D)
Tokyo is the capital of Japan. At over 12 million people in the official metropolitan area alone, Tokyo is the core of the most populated urban area in the world. This huge, wealthy and fascinating metropolis brings high-tech visions of the future side by side with glimpses of old Japan and has something for everyone. Today we visit the Imperial Palace, Meiji Jingu Shrine and Omotesando avenue. After lunch at a local restaurant we continue to Asakusa Kannon Temple, Nakamise Street and Tokyo Tower. We return to the hotel with time to freshen up before dinner.

Friday 10 April
Tokyo (B,L,D)
This morning we continue our exploration of Tokyo by visiting Hama Rikyu Gardens and we enjoy a Sumida River Cruise followed by a visit to Ginza – one of the city’s top shopping districts. After lunch the afternoon is free to relax, or you may like to continue exploring on your own. Dinner at a local restaurant.

Saturday 11 April
Tokyo – Kawaguchiko (B,L,D)
There are many places to enjoy stunning views of Mt. Fuji, but few are as picturesque an area as Lake Kawaguchiko. The biggest and most accessible of Fuji’s five lakes, Kawaguchiko has a wealth of natural resources. Our itinerary takes you on a leisurely exploration of some great sights in the Lake Kawaguchiko area – with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji. Overnight in Kawaguchiko.

Sunday 12 April
Kawaguchiko – Takayama (B,L,D)
Today we enjoy sightseeing in the Mt. Fuji area. Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776 m (12,389 ft). The perfect volcanic cone dominates the area of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and the area has recently been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration”. We travel up to the “5th Station”, halfway up the mountain at 2,300m. This spot is a preparation point for those climbing the mountain, and has shops, lodgings and facilities. From here we coach to Mishima station where we board the JR ‘Bullet’ Train to Nagoya and then continue on to Takayama where we stay overnight.

Monday 13 April
Takayama – Kanazawa (B,L,D)
Hida-Takayama – locally known as Takayama – is a city near the northern Japan Alps of Gifu prefecture in the Chubu region, which has retained a traditional atmosphere like few other Japanese towns, especially in its beautifully-preserved old town. The city is famous for its well-preserved quarter with Edo-style streets, only rivalled by those of Kanazawa. It gained importance as a source of high-quality timber and highly skilled carpenters in feudal times. The Takayama Festival, held in spring and autumn, is considered one of Japan’s best festivals. Our sightseeing here includes Takayama Jinya, Sanmachi-suji street and Kusakabe Folk Museum. This afternoon we drive to Shirakawa-go where we visit Kanda House and Toyama House. After experiencing this unique historic site, we then continue on to Kanazawa where we stay for the next two nights.

Tuesday 14 April
Kanazawa (B,L,D)
Kanazawa sits on the Sea of Japan coast, bordered by the Japan Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park. Kanazawa is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Crafts and Folk Art. While here we visit Japan’s most celebrated Kenroku-en Garden and Nagamachi Samurai House before savouring lunch at a local restaurant. During the afternoon we go to the Ohi Pottery Museum, Higashi chayagai and Ochaya Shima – an historical geisha house in the Higashi Chaya-gai district of Kanazawa. The building is now a museum and gives visitors a look at the life of the geisha who once entertained here. Many of the former geisha houses in this area have been converted into guest houses or restaurants. However, this house is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting memories of the past and is now a nationally designated Important Cultural Asset.

Wednesday 15 April
Kanazawa – Kyoto (B,L,D)
This morning we take the train to Kyoto with the afternoon at leisure. We are based here for four nights to make the most of this wonderful part of Japan. We enjoy dinner this evening at a local restaurant.

Thursday 16 April
Kyoto (B,L,D)
A full day sightseeing today as we visit Kinkakuji, the Golden Temple, Kiyomizu Temple, Ninenzaka and Sannen-zaka followed with lunch at local restaurant. This afternoon we enjoy a special Tea Ceremony Experience at Daitokuji Zuiho-in and then on to Fushimi Inari. This intriguing shrine was dedicated to the god of rice and sake by the Hata clan in the 8th century. As the role of agriculture diminished, deities were enrolled to ensure prosperity in business enterprises. The magical, seemingly unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through the hills behind Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine makes it one of the most popular shrines in Japan.

Friday 17 April
Kyoto (B,L,D)
Early this morning we have an opportunity for a Zazen Experience at Tenryuji. “(ZA)” means to seat, to settle down without interruptions. Together, “(ZAZEN)” is the form of meditation and ascetic practices at the very heart of ZEN practice. There are many Buddhist temples in Kyoto, and Zazen provides a unique approach to understand and experience the Buddhist culture here. We then continue on to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and after lunch at a local restaurant we visit Tenryuji Temple and Nijo Casle. Tenryu-ji Temple is an ancient sprawling Zen temple with one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and has wonderful mountain views.

Saturday 18 April
Kyoto (B,L,D)
This morning we visit Heian Jingu and also Ginkakuji, an elegant temple set in beautiful grounds at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. After lunch the afternoon is free for your leisure.

Sunday 19 April
Kyoto – Tokyo (B,D)
This morning we depart by train to Tokyo and transfer to our hotel for the night. This afternoon is at leisure.

Monday 20 April
Commence Northern Japan Spring Flowers Cruise (B,D)
This morning enjoy some free time before we are transferred to the port to embark on our 9-night cruise on the Diamond Princess. Once onboard you can dine on freshly prepared sashimi in Kai Sushi, watch street performers in the dazzling Atrium, or take in a lavish production show in the state-of-the-art theater. For a unique treat visit the Izumi Japanese Bath, the largest of its kind at sea. Depart 5.00pm

Tuesday 21 April
Ishinomaki, Japan (B,L,D)
Ishinomaki is enjoying a period of revitalization after being hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It’s lively and colourful urban core showcases its “manga” culture – the art of Japanese comic books and illustrated novels -thanks to famed writer Shotaro Ishinomori, known for his Kamen Rider series. Throughout the city, you’ll see comic book artwork and statues. The thriving city of Ishinomaki serves as a gateway to a variety of cultural and historical adventures. Explore exquisite temples from the national treasure Zuiganji Temple, the oldest example of Momoyama architecture in northern Japan, and the decorative paintings, gold-leaf ornamentation and manicured gardens of the Entsuin Temple. Stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hiraizumi, said to once rival Kyoto in its grandeur. For unique gastronomic delights you can wander along the stalls of the Shiogama Fish Market, where the catch of the day is only the beginning and you can dine on extraordinarily fresh sushi and rice bowl creations. There may be an option to head into the hills above Ishinomaki, 56m above sea level, to Hiyoriyama Park – which stands on the site of the former Ishinomaki castle. Offering sweeping views over the city, it’s a wonderful spot to relax. The park’s 400 cherry-blossom trees bloom from mid-April. On a more sombre note, it’s also the best vantage point to comprehend the scale of the 2011 tsunami’s destruction. Arrive 10.00am, Depart 8.00pm

Wednesday 22 April
Miyako, Japan (B,L,D)
A pretty prefecture located on the north-eastern coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, Miyako, Iwate, is situated along the Pacific coast surrounded by stunning scenery of Sanriku Fukko National Park and a sandy coastline defined by dramatic rock formations carved by the pounding surf. This iconic landscape invokes images of the ‘Pure Land,’ a Buddhist concept of paradise, and is best appreciated from the deck of a cruise boat on the waters of Jodogahama. The city’s natural wonders are woven within its cultural highlights, and a visit to Kamaishi Daikannon Statue, a towering statue of the Buddhist ‘Goddess of Mercy,’ showcases sparkling Kamaishi Bay, while the historic Rokando Cave, is home to “the waterfall of the heavenly cave,” an underground cascade. Arrive 7.00am, Depart 6.00pm

Thursday 23 April
Aomori, Japan (B,L,D)
The capital of the Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, Aomori derives much of its beauty from the apple orchards and cherry blossoms that encompass its landscape and the snow-covered Hakkoda Mountains that look on from a distance. Throughout its history, the city has been stricken with misfortune time and time again – in 1910, a fire destroyed Aomori, and during World War II, the city was left in ruins following an air raid – yet it always prevails. Aomori is perhaps best known for its renowned Nebuta Festival, an elaborate yearly event in which participants illuminate giant paper representations of samurai warriors, animals, and popular cartoon characters while parading them through the streets. Arrive 6.00am, Depart 7.00pm

Friday 24 April
Akita, Japan (B,L,D)
Akita is a mountainous northern prefecture on Honshu, Japan’s main island. It’s home to hot springs, notably those surrounding Lake Tazawa. Kakunodate town has a historic district of wooden samurai mansions, some of which are museums. Bordering the Sea of Japan is the capital city Akita, famous for Kanto Matsuri, a summer festival in which participants balance long bamboo poles topped with lanterns. Arrive 7.00am, Depart 6.00pm

Saturday 25 April
At Sea (B,L,D)
A full day for you to enjoy the ship’s facilities.

Sunday 26 April
Busan – South Korea (B,L,D)
The second largest city in South Korea, Busan is your gateway to a fascinating land whose culture is a unique mix of old and new. Modern high-rise towers dwarf ancient Buddhist temples. The city’s bustling business district offers a stark contrast to the serene grounds of Yongdusan Park. In short, Busan is a microcosm of South Korea, a nation whose startling economic success often obscures one of Asia’s most sophisticated and venerable cultures. Busan was the scene of bitter fighting during the Korean War. The United Nations Memorial Cemetery marks the final resting place for the troops from 16 nations who gave their lives during the conflict. Arrive 7.00am, Depart 6.00pm

Monday 27 April
Kagoshima, Japan (B,L,D)
From the 12th century to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Kagoshima was the chief stronghold of the mighty Shimazu clan. The city lies at the top of the Satsuma Peninsula, a mountainous, geothermal wonderland of hot springs and geysers. The area is also rich in modern Japanese history: Saigo Takamori and the Satsuma samurai were leaders of the Meiji Restoration that toppled the shogun and restored the Emperor to power in 1868. In 1877, dissatisfied with the direction of the new government, Saigo led the Satsuma Rebellion, which ended in his death and the final defeat of the samurai. The symbol of Kagoshima is Sakura Jima – the volcanic island that sits just offshore. The volcano has erupted over 30 times in recorded history. Arrive 9.00am, Depart 7.00pm

Tuesday 28 April
At Sea (B,L,D)

Wednesday 29 April
Tokyo – Home (B,L)
Sadly, this morning we disembark Diamond Princess. We are met by our guide and will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Kamakura & Enoshima. Visit Hokoku-ji Temple, known as the bamboo temple for its beautiful bamboo grove. We also see Kotoku-in Temple and the Great Buddha and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Lunch is served at a local restaurant before we continue to Enoshima, a getaway island which is popular year-round. Early afternoon we head to the airport for our evening flight home.

Thursday 30 April
Arrive Home
Arrive Auckland mid-morning

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