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IJT eXplorer A Northern Soul

14 Nights: from £2650 (excluding international flights)
To the North-East of Tokyo the Tohoku region stretches out for some 700 miles, a gentler Japan than that of the western coast; one characterised by its paddy fields, ancient mountaintop monasteries, friendly rural towns and villages. A Northern Soul will connect you to a Japan few tourists visit.

The Northern Soul tour brings you some of Japan's most unique experiences; stunning temples in Nikko; Naruko Onsen, a remote hot spring resort set in a beautiful valley; quiet reflection and contemplation at temple lodgings on Mt. Haguro; the laid back city of Sendai.

The context for all of this is set with two nights in Tokyo to start your Northern Soul adventure. This is modern urban living on an enormous scale. The view from the top of Shinjuku's Government Metropolitan building says it all with concrete as far as the eye can see in every direction: This is the world's largest conurbation and home to 35 million Japanese. The streets are constantly buzzing with activity. As dusk descends, neon lights and the suited salary-men who helped drive Japan's economic revolution pour out of the offices and into the bars, restaurants and hostess clubs that line Tokyo's back streets.

You'll return to Tokyo on the 14th day of the tour. But until then you'll leave life at a hundred miles an hour behind and step into a different world. At Mt. Haguro's temple lodgings you will have all the time in the world to relax. You will awaken to a Buddhist vegetarian breakfast and the chanting of the temple monks at morning prayer and fall asleep breathing cool clean air under star filled mountain skies. We'll also be venturing across the Japan Sea to Sado Island, a place with a unique history being first an island of harsh exile and then the site of Japan's own gold rush. Today the island has a flourishing local arts scene which includes beautiful Okessa Odori dancing, pulsating taiko drumming and traditional Noh drama.

With two nights in Nikko, a town situated within beautiful mountainous country and home of Toshogu shrine and a stay in a hotspring ryokan in the remote Onsen resort of Naruko, a Northern Soul is a chance to get away from it all.

We won't, however, be leaving modern Japan behind completely; in between the rural retreats we will visit Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region and Niigata, a lively port town on the Japan sea coast.

Sumptuous evening meals are included at most destinations as well as three rides on the world renowned high-speed "Bullet" train. With your Tour Leader always on hand to assist, you are sure to get the most out of this fascinating trip.

Ideal for anyone returning to Japan or for first time visitors who are looking for something different, A Northern Soul is your chance to go beyond the regular tourist haunts and experience some of what lies at the heart of Japan. A 15 day adventure to treasure.

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Price

Tour Price from £2650
Full Price Details
The price shown here is for the land arrangements only and does not include international flights. If you would like a quote for your flights, please ask.

 
What’s Included:
  • 14 nights accommodation including a great mix of Western and traditional Japanese style stays
  • All transport between destinations in Japan including airport transfers on arrival and departure and 4 day flexi East Japan Rail Pass
  • Meet and Greet at Narita Airport
  • A mix of Western and traditional Japanese style breakfasts everyday
  • 8 evening meals
  • Selected entrance fees and experiences in Tokyo, Nikko, Sendai and Naruko Onsen
  • Tokyo and Nikko transport passes
  • Local guide in Nikko and Sado Island
  • Luggage forwarding between Naruko Onsen & Niigata and Niigata & Tokyo
  • Full time services of your Tour Leader
  • InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
What’s NOT Included:
  • International flights (ask us if you would like a quote)
  • Extra local transport not covered by the included transport passes
  • Additional entrance fees
  • Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip
  • Lunches, 6 evening meals, drinks

Important Practical Information

Maximum Group Size:
14

Single Supplement: This tour does NOT have a single supplement. Single travellers are guaranteed a single room in western style accommodation. However, singles may still be asked to share a room in Japanese style accommodation with a group member if the same sex. This is a total of 6 nights (Hiraizumi, Naruko Onsen, Mt. Haguro and Sado).

Transport & Luggage: Please note that most transfers are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network with only the occasional use of private vehicles. All the hotels and ryokan have been chosen for their location close to the nearest station. However, you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators. We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A moderately sized suitcase with wheels is most appropriate for this tour. Clothes washing machines are available in Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata for a small fee.

Accommodation: The hotels in Tokyo, Nikko, Sendai and Niigata are equipped with full en-suite facilities (attached bath, shower and toilet) as are the Ryokan is Hiraizumi and Sado Island. In Naruko Onsen and at Mt Haguro bathing and toilet facilities are shared (single sex) only.

International Flights: This tour starts and finishes in Tokyo (for arrivals and departures at Tokyo Narita Airport or Tokyo Haneda Airport).

Meet and Greet: Please note that the included meet-and-greet and airport transfer to the first hotel is ONLY available up to 2 days in advance of the tour and if you are staying extra nights pre-tour it is only available if those nights are booked through InsideJapan Tours.

Check-in: Please note that rooms at the Tokyo hotel are only available from 4pm. (You can however securely leave your luggage at the front desk at any time).

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Day by Day Itinerary


Day 1 Tokyo

Meals: Dinner

The tour begins today in Tokyo, Japan’s electric capital city. You’ll be arriving at Narita Airport and your Tour Leader will be there to meet you and escort you into Tokyo. Many of our customers choose to come in a day or two early to get over jet-lag and get the most out of the tour. Whatever the case, up to two days before the tour starts we will have someone there to meet you. The tour hotel is situated in the Asakusa area, the former downtown and entertainments district of Edo, as Tokyo was formally known. This friendly district still maintains a traditional atmosphere and is home to Senso-ji, the city’s oldest temple. Tonight, we will be indulging in a first night’s dinner of your Tour Leader’s expert choice. Options include okonomiyaki - a kind of savoury pancake, or dinner at an izakaya, a Japanese style pub. Food is on us so this is a great chance to start getting to know the other members of the group.

Day 2 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast

Today will begin with a buffet breakfast at the hotel before we embark on a full day tour of the city. We’ll cruise down the Sumida River, take a relaxing stroll through Hamarikyu tei-en, a tranquil garden that is just a few minutes walk from the lively Ginza shopping district, and explore the precincts of Meiji Shrine in the bustling Harajuku area. Of course, if exploring independently is more your thing then that is no problem at all! Just ask your Tour Leader if you need any recommendations or advice. Tonight’s dinner isn’t included so we recommend heading out to indulge in some of the myriad of culinary delights available in Japan’s number one city. Tonight dinner isn’t included so we recommend heading out to indulge in some of the myriad of culinary delights available.

Day 3 Nikko

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

After breakfast we will be making the two hour journey by direct train to Nikko. Upon arrival we’ll store our bags and head off to explore Nikko’s famous architecture. This afternoon we’ll have plenty of time to lose ourselves in some of the most spectacular shrines, temples and mausoleums anywhere in Japan. While you are exploring be sure not to miss the “see no evil” monkeys hidden in amongst the bright vermillion shrines. Afterwards we will retrieve our luggage and go by bus to our accommodation, located high in the hills above the small town of Nikko there are great views to be had along the way. In the evening we’ll be enjoying a sumptuous dinner at our hotel.

Day 4 Nikko

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

After breakfast we’ll have the chance to explore some of the national park around Nikko. We’ll head by bus to the Chuzenji lake area and visit the 97 metre high Kegon-no-taki waterfalls. Afterwards you could take a relaxing boat cruise, go for some great walks and hikes or have a soak at the hot spring area of Yumoto. We will be back at the hotel in good time for dinner - another mouth-watering buffet.

Day 5 Sendai

Meals: Breakfast

From Nikko we’ll take the local train to Utsunomiya from where we’ll pick up the Tohoku Shinkansen (‘Bullet’ Train) bound for the area’s largest city Sendai. Our comfortable Western style accommodation is centrally located, perfect for exploring Sendai’s many sites. This afternoon maybe visit the ornate mausoleum of Sendai’s founding father Date Masamune or go and see the castle ruins and enjoy views far and wide. Tonight’s dinner is optional but you are always welcome to accompany your Tour Leader for some local specialities. We also have a volunteering option in Sendai - please see the text to the left and ask us for details.

Day 6 Sendai

Meals: Breakfast

Our second day in Sendai will give us the chance to visit the famous island studded bay of Matsushima. Spared the destruction of 2011’s tsunami due in no small part to the hundreds of tiny islands, this is a beautiful area and the boat trip around the bay is a worthwhile activity. Matsushima also has a pleasant temple complex to wander around with a fine collection of Japanese art. In the evening you’ll be free to sample some of the local cuisine in Matsushima or Sendai.

Day 7 Hiraizumi

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Today we’ll travel one hour north by Shinkansen and local train to Hiraizumi. Now a sleepy rural backwater, the town boasts a long samurai history stretching back through the ages. We’ll be arriving in good time to have a full day of sightseeing, exploring some of the many temples of Chuzonji. Highlights include the wonderful gardens of Motsuji and the 900 year old golden temple of Konjikido. A superb dinner is included at our Japanese-style hotel.

Day 8 Hiraizumi

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

A second day in Hiraizumi will give us a chance to head out to the Geibikei gorge for a boat ride with a difference (we won’t be telling you in advance so as to not spoil the surprise!). Another elaborate Japanese dinner will be served at the hotel tonight.

Day 9 Naruko Onsen

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

From Hiraizumi, a 1h40 journey will take us to the hot spring village of Naruko Onsen. Naruko is a stunning mountainous area with spectacular scenery. You’ll have a chance to walk down Naruko Gorge as well as see Naruko’s geyser. You may also be interested to check out the area’s famous Kokeshi dolls at the local museum or revive your tired feet in the train station’s foot onsen! Dinner is included at our ryokan.

Day 10 Mt Haguro

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

From Naruko Onsen station we’ll take a series of scenic local train lines westwards before taking taxis or a public bus to Mt. Haguro, one of the three spiritual mountains known as Dewa-sanzen and home to the colourful Yamabushi mountain priests. Here we will be stayng at an authentic Buddhist temple lodging (shukubo). For those of you with plenty of energy we’ll also be climbing the 2446 steps to the summit of the mountain, for those who would like it, a well earned cup of hot ‘sake’ will be waiting for you at the teahouse halfway up! In the evening a dinner of shoujin ryori, the traditional vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, will be served at our shukubo.

Day 11 Niigata

Meals: Breakfast

Today will begin by taking a taxi or a public bus from our shukubo to Tsuruoka Station. From here we have a scenic journey to Niigata by express train. We will arrive in good time to take a leisurely lunch and then the afternoon is yours to explore. Niigata is a modern port city famed for its good food and drink and in the afternoon you’ll have time to take in some of the down town area with its interesting mix of old streets, modern department stores and the attractive Hakusan park.

Day 12 Sado Island

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

This morning we board the ferry bound for Sado Island. The gentle crossing takes only 2h30 so even for those land-lovers amongst you there shouldn’t be too many problems with sea-sickness! Sado ga Shima (Sado Island) is an incredible place. The sixth biggest of Japan’s islands, Sado was used as the place of harshest exile for opponents of the ruling dynasties. Dangerous political oponents were banished here to live side by side with subversive artists, playwrights and actors; and thus developed Sado’s uniquely rich culture and heritage. In the afternoon we will do some touring of the island. This will include driving on the breathtaking skyline road as well as visiting the fascinating gold mine which in its day was one of the most productive in the world. We will be staying in a Japanese style hotel in the port town of Ryotsu. Tonight’s dinner is a sumptuous meal of Sado delights.

Day 13 Sado Island

Meals: Breakfast

Today we will have a full day to explore this fascinating island. Sado is home to the famous Koto drummers and we will begin today with a Taiko lesson from a drumming master. We can then have a ride on a Taraifune boat rowed by a real Sado maiden! Next is a Bunya puppetry performance - a highlight of any visit to Sado and the perfect opportunity for you to practice your Japanese! The day will end with a visit to a Sake Brewery, and perhaps a few tastings! Dinner is not included but your Tour Leader will be happy to take you out with the locals at a nearby restaurant.

Day 14 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast

We’ll be taking an early ferry across to the mainland before picking up the Shinkansen train to Tokyo. Total journey time will be around 6 hours giving you time in the late afternoon to perhaps go gift shopping or to check out some sights you missed first time round, such as the amazing views of the city to be had from the 45th floor of the nearby Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. We’ll be staying in the heart of the bright lights of Shinjuku, an utter contrast from the Asakusa district where we began our adventures two weeks ago! In the evening we hope that you might join with your Tour Leader for a farewell meal, a chance for one last night of good food and fun before heading home.

Day 15 Depart

Meals: Breakfast

Sadly the tour is over and we all have to say our farewells and go our separate ways. Your Tour Leader will provide you with the necessary tickets and instructions for your transport to the airport and make sure you’re in good time for your flight home.

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Photos


No photos currently available.

Pricing Information

2014
Tour Price: £2650
Extra Nights  
Pre-Tour: Twin Share pp £50     Single pp £80 
Post-Tour: Twin Share pp £70    Single pp £110
 

Accommodation


Asakusa Blue Wave Inn

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

The Blue Wave Inn is located just a stone's throw from Sensoji Temple, the oldest and most venerated in Tokyo. Rooms are modern and bright and fully en-suite. The Ginza and Asakusa subway lines are just a short walk away meaning access to the rest of Tokyo is easy and the nearby Tobu line provides direct trains to Nikko.

Nikko Oedo Onsen Kirifuri

Nikko

Japanese Style

The Oedo Onsen Kirifuri is a Japanese style ryokan hotel designed and operated by Oedo Onsen, a hot springs specialist company from Tokyo. As you would expect, there are some great hot spring baths here to try both indoors and outside. Massage and spa services are also offered and you will also find a swimming pool (summer only), indoor tennis court, table tennis room, karaoke room and gift shops. The Kirifuri is located in the green countryside of Nikko, a 15 minute ride by complimentary shuttle bus from Nikko station. Some great walks as well as the World Heritage sights of Nikko are close at hand.

Richmond Hotel Premier Sendai

Sendai

Business Hotel

Opened in 2008 and located just 6 minutes on foot from Sendai Station, this hotel has a real touch of class about it - modern rooms and sleek, sophisticated public spaces. The hotel has its own restaurant which does a great breakfast buffet.

Hotel Musashibo

Hiraizumi

Superior Ryokan (JP)

This superior grade Japanese-style hotel is a 15 minute walk or a short taxi ride from Hiraizumi train station. The hotel is next to Motsu-ji temple and a 30 minute walk from Chuson-ji temple. Meals are served in the "Benkei" restaurant which prides itself on providing guests with freshly cooked meals featuring regional specialities such as locally farmed beef. One of the most attractive features of the Musashibo are the hot spring baths with silky smooth alkaline water - one of which overlooks a small Japanese garden.

Yusaya Ryokan

Naruko Onsen

Ryokan (JP)

The Yusaya Ryokan an historic inn located in the heart of Naruko town. As well as the baths at the ryokan itself, which include a private use outdoor bath, guests can also use the famous "Taki no Yu" bath-house located right next door for no extra charge.

Katsukane Shukubo

Mt Haguro

Shukubo (JP)

The Katsukane Shukubo is a traditional inn with thatched roof and wooden construction located at the foot of Mt. Haguro just a few steps from the pilgrims trail leading to the top of this sacred mountain. Rooms are traditional Japanese style with bathing at the shared but private use bath house. Vegetarian pilgrim's meals are served and the Shukubo gives a very warm welcome indeed.

Toyoko Inn Niigata Eki-mae

Niigata

Business Hotel

The Toyoko Inn Niigata Eki-mae is a clean and comfortable business hotel located just a stone's throw from JR Niigata station. Rooms are compact but comfortable and the hotel has its own coin laundry and free of charge internet computers.

Yoshidaya Ryokan

Sado Island

Ryokan (JP)

This Japanese-style hotel has a wonderful view of the Lake Kamo, the salt water lake which is fed from the Sea of Japan. There are 70 Japanese-style rooms, and each guest room has its own private bath and toilet. The hotel has hot spring baths for both women and men and on the roof there are outdoor hot spring baths with a commanding views of the lake. Fresh locally caught seafood will be the dish of the day here.

Ibis Tokyo Shinjuku

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

The Ibis Tokyo Shinjuku is in an unbeatable location in the heart of Shinjuku, just minutes on foot from the station and with numerous restaurants and shops on its doorstep. The hotel has its own bar, cafe and restaurant and offers compact but clean and comfortable rooms. A handy coin laundry is available and there is an internet computer in the lobby. A great base from which to do some last minute sightseeing, shopping and eating before heading home.

Tour Dates
Tour Starts Tour Disbands Price Status
2014
10 Nov 2014 24 Nov 2014 £2650 NOW BOOKING
2015
Currently there are no departures available for this year. Please contact us using the enquiry form or call us - UK (0)117 370 9740 / USA 303 952 0379 / AUS 028 011 3229
2016
Currently there are no departures available for this year. Please contact us using the enquiry form or call us - UK (0)117 370 9740 / USA 303 952 0379 / AUS 028 011 3229

What’s Included:
  • 14 nights accommodation including a great mix of Western and traditional Japanese style stays
  • All transport between destinations in Japan including airport transfers on arrival and departure and 4 day flexi East Japan Rail Pass
  • Meet and Greet at Narita Airport
  • A mix of Western and traditional Japanese style breakfasts everyday
  • 8 evening meals
  • Selected entrance fees and experiences in Tokyo, Nikko, Sendai and Naruko Onsen
  • Tokyo and Nikko transport passes
  • Local guide in Nikko and Sado Island
  • Luggage forwarding between Naruko Onsen & Niigata and Niigata & Tokyo
  • Full time services of your Tour Leader
  • InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
What’s NOT Included:
  • International flights (ask us if you would like a quote)
  • Extra local transport not covered by the included transport passes
  • Additional entrance fees
  • Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip
  • Lunches, 6 evening meals, drinks

Important Practical Information

Maximum Group Size:
14

Single Supplement: This tour does NOT have a single supplement. Single travellers are guaranteed a single room in western style accommodation. However, singles may still be asked to share a room in Japanese style accommodation with a group member if the same sex. This is a total of 6 nights (Hiraizumi, Naruko Onsen, Mt. Haguro and Sado).

Transport & Luggage: Please note that most transfers are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network with only the occasional use of private vehicles. All the hotels and ryokan have been chosen for their location close to the nearest station. However, you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators. We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A moderately sized suitcase with wheels is most appropriate for this tour. Clothes washing machines are available in Tokyo, Sendai and Niigata for a small fee.

Accommodation: The hotels in Tokyo, Nikko, Sendai and Niigata are equipped with full en-suite facilities (attached bath, shower and toilet) as are the Ryokan is Hiraizumi and Sado Island. In Naruko Onsen and at Mt Haguro bathing and toilet facilities are shared (single sex) only.

International Flights: This tour starts and finishes in Tokyo (for arrivals and departures at Tokyo Narita Airport or Tokyo Haneda Airport).

Meet and Greet: Please note that the included meet-and-greet and airport transfer to the first hotel is ONLY available up to 2 days in advance of the tour and if you are staying extra nights pre-tour it is only available if those nights are booked through InsideJapan Tours.

Check-in: Please note that rooms at the Tokyo hotel are only available from 4pm. (You can however securely leave your luggage at the front desk at any time).

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Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009