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Japan Blossoms 2022

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Join us as we venture 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 8-day cruise on Ponant.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Japan:

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 the colourful Harajuku district and traditional kimonos.

  • 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

Ponant Treasures of Japan with Smithsonian Journeys

  • 7 nights aboard “Le Soleal” – only 260 passenger luxury cruise line
  • All spacious cabins with en-suite private balcony and the finest amenities
  • Excellent on-board facilities including award-winning dining experiences and entertainment & spa
  • Open Bar and Free WIFI
  • Included Shore Excursion at each port of call

Monday 04 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.

 

Tuesday 05 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, Greater Tokyo (which has a population of 35 million people).

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 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.

 

Wednesday 06 April                           Tokyo                                                                                      (B,L,D)

This morning we continue our exploration of Tokyo by visiting Hama Rikyu Gardens, 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.

 

Thursday 07 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, with stunning autumn leaves, cherry blossoms and flower festivals galore. 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.

 

Friday 08 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.

 

Saturday 09 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, the former local government office, Sanmachi-suji street and Kusakabe Folk Museum. This afternoon we drive to Shirakawa-gō where we visit Kanda House and Toyama House. Shirakawa-gō, formally Shirakawa-mura is a historic village in Gifu Prefecture. Together with Gokayama in Toyama, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. We continue on to Kanazawa where we stay for two nights.

 

Sunday 10 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 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.

 

Monday 11 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.

 

Tuesday 12 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.

 

Wednesday 13 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.

 

Thursday 14 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.

 

Friday 15 April                                   Kyoto – Kobe  – Commence Treasures of Japan Cruise         (B,L,D)

This morning we head to Kobe one of the first Japanese ports to open to international trade in the 19th century and home to its famous eponymous marbled beef.  Later in the afternoon we are transferred to the port to embark on our 7-night cruise on the Le Soleal.

 

Saturday 16 April                               Takamatsu                                                                              (B,L,D)

A former fortified city, ruled over by the Matsudaira clan from the Tamamo castle with its seawater moats, the city is home to one of the most beautiful classic gardens in Japan, the Ritsurin. It was created by the barons of the city at the start of the Edo period, during which time gardening became a profession in its own right. Its landscape incorporates Mount Shiun in the background, an example of what is known as the shakkei technique, which uses the surrounding landscapes to increase the beauty of the gardens.

 

Sunday 17 April                                  Hiroshima & Miyajima                                                           (B,L,D)

Visiting Hiroshima is a moving experience. The town spreads along Honshu Island, along the inside coasts of Seto. While firmly focused on the future, Hiroshima doesn’t forget its past, and a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Genbaku Dome is a must. You’ll enjoy the city’s modern, cosmopolitan atmosphere and effervescent nightlife just as much as the peaceful stillness of its natural parkland areas such as splendid Shukkei-en, the town’s historic garden.  At the heart of the Inland Sea, Miyajima, the “island sanctuary” will reveal its treasures. In the background you will see the Shinto Grand Sanctuary, whose entrance is guarded by a magnificent vermillion “Torii“. Considered to be one of the most beautiful sites in the Japanese islands, you will be transported by the unique character and the serenity of this sacred site.

 

Monday 18 April                                Hagi, Honshu Island                                                               (B,L,D)

In the south of Honshu island, surrounded by mountains, Hagi is a city of water. For good reason; it was built on the delta of the Abu-gawa river. Its castle was built in the 12th-century and its outer walls remain in the lovely Shizuki Park. The old town was one of the cradles of the Meiji revolution. You will discover its rich past in streets lined with old houses and samurai manors, or within the walls of the many museums and Hagi-yaki ceramics workshops.

 

Tuesday 19 April                                Busan, South Korea                                                                (B,L,D)

With around four million inhabitants, Busan is the second largest metropolis on South Korea, after Seoul. This dynamic harbour city, located in the south-east, surrounded by the warm waters of the Sea of Japan, benefits from a mild, pleasant climate. You’ll find delightful simply to stroll around the lively streets and explore the city’s outstanding cultural heritage of art galleries, museums, and Buddhist sites, such as the Haedong Yonggungsa temple, which elegantly sits on the waterfront. Rich too in magnificent beaches and superlative natural landscapes, Busan’s peaceful atmosphere will win you over, as will its inhabitants, whom you’ll have the pleasure of meeting.

 

Wednesday 20 April                           Moji, Kitakyushu                                                                   (B,L,D)

At the mouth of the Kanmon Straits lies Mojiko, the northernmost port of Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands. For many years, Mojiko was the gateway to the island. Today, the old boats are gone, but as you stroll around the picturesque streets you will discover a well-preserved architectural heritage that evokes traditional Japan from the first Meiji era of the late 19th century. From the heights of the Mojiko Retro Observation Room, you can enjoy the amazing views that take in the Shinto shrine and coastal landscape like a postcard of the Land of the Rising Sun.

 

Thursday 21 April                               Tamano                                                                                   (B,L,D)

Located on the island of Honshu, hugging the banks of the Sento Inland Sea, Tamano is a popular destination thanks to its sun-drenched climate. Upon arrival, marvel at the way in which the city has been built along the coast at the foot of a deep, dark forest. In the area surrounding Tamano, stroll down the streets of Kurashiki, known as the ‘white-walled city’ in a nod to the pretty façades of the houses that line the streets of this ancient Edo-period trading town. Another major regional attraction is the Seto Ohashi bridge. Its 12.5 kilometres make it the world’s longest double-decker bridge.

 

Friday 22 April                                   Osaka  – Home                                                                                    (B)

Sadly, this morning we disembark Le Soleal after breakfast and transfer to Osaka airport for our flight home.

 

Saturday 23 April                                 Home                                      

Arrive Auckland this morning.

 

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