Tuesday 26 March 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.
Wednesday 27 March 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.
Thursday 28 March Tokyo (B,L,D)
This morning we continue our exploration of Tokyo by visiting Hama Rikyu Gardens, we enjoy 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.
Friday 29 March 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.
Saturday 30 March 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.
Sunday 31 March 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.
Monday 01 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.
Tuesday 02 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.
Wednesday 03 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.
Thursday 04 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.
Friday 05 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.
Saturday 06 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.
Sunday 07 April Commence Spring Flowers Cruise (B,D)
This morning enjoy some free time before we are transferred to the port to embark on our 10-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
Monday 08 April At Sea (B,L,D)
A full day at sea for you to enjoy the ship’s facilities.
Tuesday 09 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 10.00am, Depart 5.00pm
Wednesday 10 April Sakata, Japan (B,L,D)
Sakata is a medium-sized city in Yamagata Prefecture. Sakata is located in the fertile Shonai Plain that is known for its high-quality rice. The city grew as an important stop along the coastal shipping route that connected Hokkaido with Osaka via ports along the Sea of Japan and Seto Inland Sea during the Edo Period. A local merchant family, the Honma clan, came to dominate trade in the city and accrued a vast fortune that made them wealthier than some of the country’s feudal lords. Due to their power and influence, the clan developed close ties with the local lords and had a number of lavish buildings built. Some of these buildings still stand today along with museums and other attractions. Arrive 8.00am, Depart 5.00pm
Thursday 11 April Kanazawa, Japan (B,L,D)
Kanazawa, which means “marsh of gold,” draws its name from an old legend in which a Japanese peasant, digging for potatoes, found flakes of gold in the ground. Today, gold leaf is a major art form synonymous with the city, and even has a designated museum. A City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa is also known for its intricate kaga-nui embroidery and delicate kutani porcelain, among other handicrafts, making it a shopper’s paradise! There’s also no shortage of history in this coastal city. Once boasting geisha houses and a labyrinthine samurai village, the city was built around Kanazawa Castle. Fire destroyed all but a few small 16th-century castle structures – namely the elegant Ishikawa Gate and some watchtowers that have become a focus of many a photograph today. Just outside the castle park blooms the enchanting Kenroku-en Garden, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, and the home of the country’s oldest fountain. Arrive 8.00am, Depart 5.00pm
Friday 12 April Sakaiminato, Japan (B,L,D)
Wedged between sea, sky and mountains, this small fishing port has been esteemed for centuries for its superb seafood. Here, the Sea of Japan yields up both crab and hon-maguro, the prized Bluefin tuna esteemed by gourmets around the world. Sakaiminato is also your gateway to a very ancient region of Honshu. West of the city lies Izumo-taisha, one of the oldest and holiest shrines in Shinto. This area is dotted with burial mounds from Japan’s Bronze Age. The town of Matsue boasts the celebrated “Black Castle,” a six-story, black-walled castle that home to a clan of the mighty Tokugawa dynasty that ruled Japan for over 250 years. And to the east rises the great snow-capped summit of Mt. Daisen, considered one of the four most scenic mountains in all Japan. Also a common sight ashore are the Yokai – approximately 100 bronze statues of supernatural characters as imagined by famed manga comic author Shigeru Mizuki, who was born in Sakaiminato. The Yokai have become synonymous with the town and delight visitors at every turn. Arrive 7.00am, Depart 5.00pm
Saturday 13 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 4.00pm
Sunday 14 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 11.00am, Depart 7.00pm
Monday 15 April At Sea (B,L,D)
A full day at sea for you to enjoy the ship’s facilities.
Tuesday 16 April Shimizu (Mt. Fuji), Japan (B,L,D)
A mesmerizing landscape, a revered cultural history, and Japan’s most sacred volcano are just a few of the many delights beckoning you to come and explore this ancient city. While Shimizu may have the reputation as being bustling and modern, its cultural and spiritual side is on display in the form of ancient and enthralling shrines. Of course, it may be the sacred and snow-capped Mount Fuji that garners the most attention. Towering over the region at approximately 12,388 feet above sea level, the active volcano, designated a “place and source of artistic inspiration” by UNESCO is just one of the many unforgettable adventures Shimizu inspires. Arrive 8.00am, Depart 5.00pm.
Wednesday 17 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 18 April Arrive Home
Arrive Auckland mid-morning