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IJT eXplorer Hands On Japan

14 Nights: from £2700 (excluding international flights)
Get your hands dirty on a Japanese farm, cheer with the crowds at live Sumo, hone your blade sharpening skills, make noodles for your new tour friends and rouse the locals to your Taiko drum beat on the tour which lets you make your own mark on Japan.

What better way to learn about this fascinating culture than to be part of it? With an incredible number of included experiences, this tour presents Japan through its crafts, sports, industry, music and, perhaps most notably, its food.

Tokyo and Kyoto are two contrasting, must-see cities and we'll be diving-in at the deep-end of both. We will experience the frenetic energy of Tokyo aboard our party boat as we eat, drink and sing along with the Tokyoite revelers down the Sumida River. We can match the beat of the city at our Taiko drumming lesson: allow your senses to be carried away by the hypnotic rhythm. A day at the Sumo tournament is an unforgettable experience: it is impossible not to get captivated by this sport of theatrical build-up and frenzied action. And where else in the world would be better than the famous Tsukiji Fish Market to enjoy what is likely to be the best sushi you've ever had?

The rarefied culture of Kyoto is better absorbed through the graceful art of the tea ceremony and kaiseki ryouri (Japanese fine-dining). We will be enjoying both with expert guidance to better appreciate the subtleties. And a tour of the renowned and richly charming Geisha district will cap the experience.

Of course, we will be paying a visit to one of Kyoto's fabulous shrines, a favourite being Fushimi Inari; an awe-inspiring complex of hill side paths entirely lined with orange torii gates. But it is not all high-culture in Kyoto: we will be spending one night in a space station-esque capsule hotel and Eigamura Movie Land will reproduce scenes from some of those old fashioned samurai epics, you won't be alone if you have the urge to grab a ninja sword and do a little dress-up.

Kyoto really does have limitless opportunities and we still have a couple of chances to get our hands dirty. This will especially be the case when we visit the Housengama pottery studio to experience traditional 'Kiyomizu' pottery. Kyoto is also renowned for its textiles and is the home to traditional Roketsu cloth dying. At a family run studio we'll have a chance to view some of the magnificent examples before producing our own cloth masterpiece to take home.

Between these two great cities we will be using the famous Shinkansen ('Bullet' trains) and local trains to make our way into Japan less travelled to get a glimpse of life not often seen by tourists.

We will aquaint ourselves with a traditional inn, a guest house and a farm lodge. Our hosts will put us to work on the farm, teach us how to make sushi and even dress us up in kimono.

We will discover beautiful mountain vistas, quaint watermills, a lord's striking black "crow" castle, groves with hidden Buddhist statues and even a wasabi farm where everything is horseradish flavoured, including the ice cream!

We will experience immeasurably soothing Japanese baths (onsen), making delicate paper and fragile soba noodles and even sharpening exquisite Japanese blades.

Accommodation on the tour will be mostly Japanese style (including one night in the most famous of Japanese style hotels: the capsule hotel) which gives us ample opportunity to enjoy one of the finest Japanese experiences, the hot spring bath. The elegant and stylish traditional Japanese style rooms with tatami mat flooring and sliding wooden doors combined with the customary yukata (Japanese robe) gives the resident a samurai-esque aura.

Please note that traditional Japanese accommodation will involve sleeping on futon mattress on the floor and occasionally using communal (single sex) bathing.

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Yvonne - Hands On Japan, May 2014   starRating
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Price

Tour Price from £2700
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:
  • Full time services of your expert Tour Leader
  • 14 night’s accommodation
  • All transport between destinations in Japan
  • Meet and Greet upon arrival at Narita Airport
  • Breakfast everyday
  • 9 evening meals, 2 lunches and sushi breakfast
  • Tokyo transport card
  • 14 Day Japan Rail Pass
  • Luggage forwarding Tokyo to Matsumoto and Kyoto to Tokyo
  • Numerous experiences covering Japan’s culture, crafts and food
  • InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
What’s NOT Included:
  • International flights
  • Additional local transport (buses, subways, taxis) at any destination (except if those covered by included transport pass)
  • Any entrance fees including those for shrines, temples and museums
  • Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip except where Luggage Forwarding is included

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 the hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto. However, singles will be asked to share a room at the other accommodations.

Transport: Please note that all transfers on this Japan tour are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network.

Luggage: We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A small case or bag with wheels or a rucksack are most appropriate for this tour as you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators or elevators/lifts. You will also need a small overnight back-pack (for up to two nights) for use when we forward our main bags to the next location.

Accommodation: The hotels in Kyoto and in Tokyo and the ryokan in Takefu are equipped with full en-suite facilities (attached bath, shower and toilet). The rooms in Togarinozawa Onsen are equipped with a toilet and sink, bathing is communal (single sex) and NO private facilities. The capsule hotel in Kyoto offers communal (single sex) bathing facilities and NO private facilities. The ryokan in Matsumoto has its own natural hot-spring baths (single sex communal bathing) and NO private facilities.

Clothes washing machines are available at the hotel in Kyoto.

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

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 ryokan are only available from 2pm. (You can, however, leave your luggage securely at the front desk at any time).

 

Day by Day Itinerary


Day 1 Tokyo

Meals: Dinner

Arrive Tokyo & explore Asakusa

The tour begins today in Tokyo, Japan’s electric capital city. Your Tour Leader will be there to meet you on your arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports. 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 still have someone at the airport to meet you.

The Tour Leader will supply you with a Tokyo Transport "PASMO" Card allowing you to move around the city easily on the subways and train systems like a real Tokyoite! Our 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 an included first night's dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Taiko Drumming, touring Tokyo and river dining!

Our first hands on experience will be Taiko Drumming. Our teacher will guide us through the basics of this exhilarating art. After that we can wind down with a tour of the Sensoji Temple complex, the most popular temple in Tokyo.

The tour leader will be putting together a tour of the city in-between our experiences today. We will be exploring Tokyo using its amazing subway and overland train network.

This evening’s included dinner is taking place on a ‘Yakatabune’ river boat. There will be plenty of food and drink and a chance to impress the locals with your singing voice on the karaoke machine.

Day 3 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast

Tsukiji market and Sumo plus free time in Tokyo

We will delve deep in to Tokyo life today with a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market timed to get there just as the full market opens at around 9am. After exploring the myriad stalls and seeing the market in action we will enjoy a sushi breakfast at a market sushi bar.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon is free time – a chance to further explore Tokyo or even head to the lovely seaside town of Kamakura if you wish. The Tour Leader can advise and give options.

Make sure to be back in time for the Sumo though! We have reserved seat tickets for the action and your Tour Leader will be on hand to explain the protocols of this ancient and stunning sport.

Please note that on occasions where the Sumo Tournament is in western Japan we will attend on Day 9.

Day 4 Togarinozawa Onsen

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Bullet Train, Zenko-ji Temple and Hot Spring Baths

The bright lights of Tokyo rapidly disappear behind us as we race out to the country by Shinkansen (bullet train). Our first stop is Nagano where we will have the chance to visit the city’s most famous attraction: Zenko-ji temple. From here it is the local train to Togarinozawa Onsen, a tiny town situated by the Japan Alps. Our hosts will collect us and take us back to their farmland ryokan (Japanese inn) where we can soak in the hot spring baths before a delicious homemade dinner with ingredients straight from our host’s farm.

Day 5 Togarinozawa Onsen

Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

Working on the Farm, Sushi Making and Canoes

It’s up early to help out at the farm today. Working the land is sure to stimulate your appetite and after we have the chance to make bamboo leaf sushi before heading up to Lake Hokuryuko for fun on the water in our canoes. Make it safely across the lake and you’ll be blessed by the numerous deities who wait for you (in statue form!) in their shaded grove.

Please note that in the case of wet weather that instead of working on the farm and canoeing we will turn our hands to traditional chopstick making. If you would prefer to do this anyway please let the tour leader know.

For the canoe experience you will need a t-shirt and short trousers, a thin jacket, trainers (sneakers) or beach sandals (which you are happy to get wet) and a hat to keep the sun off. The accommodation provide life jackets and they will have an instructor on hand for our group.

Day 6 Matsumoto

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Matsumoto's Black Castle, Kimono Wearing and Tea Ceremony

We continue through the beautiful Japan Alps by train today as we make our way to Matsumoto. After dropping our bags at our ryokan, we will visit Matsumoto's premier attraction, the black castle. This is one of the finest examples of an original castle still surviving in Japan, escaping as it has the ravages of fire and war which have destroyed so many of Japan's other feudal castles. In the evening the cultural experiences continue as we dress in traditional kimono from our host’s fine collection and try a tea making experience. We will enjoy our evening meal at the ryokan and soba noodles are sure to feature as these are a Matsumoto specialty.

Day 7 Matsumoto

Meals: Breakfast

Wasabi Farm and free time in Matsumoto

Today you have free time to explore Matsumoto with its charming old town or you can journey over with your tour leader to Daio Wasabi farm and experience everything Japanese horseradish (wasabi) can offer. Wasabi farmers like to point out that the good radishes only grow in the purest of waters and we have to agree that the wasabi from this farm is quite delicious. Wasabi biscuits, crackers, jelly, croquettes, beer and ice cream all pack the culinary equivalent of a punch to the nose! Matsumoto has quite a range of restaurants you might like to visit for dinner. But those still hungry for the local cuisine may like to try the raw horse meat: some of the best in the country.

Day 8 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Kyoto Geisha Tour and Fine Dining

Today the express train carries us west to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital. This afternoon we will probably head over to Kiyomizu temple to enjoy this expansive World Heritage temple and its wooden veranda before meeting a local guide who will introduce us to the fascinating and endlessly charming world of the geisha. Keep an eye out during this walking tour, you may catch a glimpse of a Geisha as she shuffles from one engagement to the next. Dinner tonight is at a restaurant in the heart of the geisha quarter.

Day 9 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast

Pottery experience, Fushimi Shrine and Kyoto Nightlife

This morning we will head to the Sanjusangendo area of Kyoto where we will visit the famous hall with its thousands of statues of Buddha. Inbetween exploring we will take part in a pottery experience at a local workshop. As there are just 6 potters wheels available here we will take this in shifts with the rest of the group enjoying the local area before their turn. The rest of the day is free for exploring this fascinating city. Your tour leader will be able to give you directions.

Day 10 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast

Kyoto movie land, Fushimi shrine and cloth dyeing experience

First thing today we will make our way to a family run cloth dyeing studio. This form of cloth dyeing, called Roketsu, is unique to this area. Although it is a difficult skill to master the intense colour of the pieces means that we all can produce a fine looking souvenir. Later in the day we take a break from the highbrow and relish in the kitsch-ness of Toei movie land. Here we can enjoy the atmosphere of the samurai drama period movie sets, the truly terrifying hunted house, the army of life-size Power Rangers replicas and the hilarious behind-the-scenes ninja movie studio. This afternoon the Fushimi Inari shrine awaits us: an awe-inspiring complex of shrines and hill side paths entirely lined with orange torii gates.

Day 11 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast

Free day in Kyoto or an excursion day and a stay in a Capsule Hotel

Today is the Excursion day – a free day for you to use your Japan Rail Pass (included in the tour price) to visit a destination of your choice. Popular choices will include Hiroshima, Hikone Castle or Nara. You can of course opt to stay in Kyoto if you wish to explore more in the city. This evening we will be staying in the futuristic 9h Capsule Hotel: a uniquely Japanese experience. Perhaps best imagined as having the chance to stay in a spaceship which has landed in central Kyoto.

Day 12 Takefu

Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

Traditional Japanese Inn, Soba Making and a Home Cooked Dinner

Very few foreign tourists visit Takefu so we will be a rare sight indeed as we arrive on the express train.

Lunch is included but it is not free (no such thing) as you will have to work hard to make your own soba noodles. This task, however, is frustratingly easy for our expert soba chef who will supervise your every move: he’s a bit of a taskmaster.

You get to relax after all that kneading with your well earnt lunch then perhaps a bath back at the ryokan where you can freshen-up before venturing out to join the townsfolk in one of the local taverns for a drink. Dinner is included at our ryokan tonight.

Day 13 Takefu

Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner

Knife Forge and Paper Making

Today your talents will be tested once more at the paper making workshop - another craft that this area is famous for. We will be creating our own postcards today.

We will then visit Takefu Knife Village. The Japanese are truly the world’s master blade makers so this will be a fascinating insight. We will even have the chance to sharpen our own knife, which you can take home to become a delightful reminder of your experience.

Day 14 Tokyo

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Bullet Train and Tokyo's bright lights

It’s our last ride on the bullet train today as we speed back to Tokyo. In contrast to our initial stay in old-world Asakusa, we will be staying in Shinjuku, famous for its bright lights. This is your chance to do all that last-minute shopping and to check out the sights you missed first time round.

In the evening we will have a last meal together at a local restaurant and perhaps head out for a few drinks before we all say our goodbyes after what we hope will have been a real holiday experience to treasure.

Day 15 Depart

Meals: Breakfast

Today we all head our separate ways. Your transfer back to the airport is included by train, allowing you to relax knowing that you will be in good time for checking in. We wish you all the best for a safe journey home and hope that perhaps one day you will return to Japan for some more adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Photos


No photos currently available.

Pricing Information

2014
Tour Price: £2700
Extra Nights  
Pre-Tour: Twin Share pp £50     Single pp £60 
Post-Tour: Twin Share pp £80    Single pp £110
2015
Tour Price: £2700
Extra Nights  
Pre-Tour: Twin Share pp £50     Single pp £60 
Post-Tour: Twin Share pp £80    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.

Shikisai no Yado Kanoe Ryokan

Togarinozawa Onsen

Ryokan (JP)

The Kanoe Ryokan is situated on farmland and offers excellent views of the surrounding mountains. The rooms have Japanese tatami flooring but with western beds. All rooms have a toilet and sink and there are onsen baths for bathing. Meals prepared here include locally grown vegetables and the owner is well aware of western tastes and can adjust the meals accordingly. Paper making, sushi making and kayaking are available nearby and there are also opportunities to help out on the farm. There is a traditional Japanese style common room where you can relax and meet other guests after dinner.

Ryokan Seifu-so

Matsumoto

Ryokan (JP)

The Seifu-so is a simple, but comfortable ryokan in the Asama Onsen area of Matsumoto within walking distance from Matsumoto Castle. The English speaking owners are very friendly and will ensure you have a warm welcome. There are several different mineral hot spring baths at the Seifu-so. There is an Internet PC in the lobby. Bicycles can be borrowed free of charge to explore Matsumoto. The ryokan regularly organises tea ceremony and kimono dress-up classes.

Toyoko Inn Shijo Karasuma

Kyoto

Budget Hotel

This Toyoko Inn Hotel is to be found in one of the best locations in town right on Kyoto's main Shijo shopping street. It is equipped with all the usual facilities including free internet on the PCs in the lobby and a complimentary breakfast. All the main sights can be accessed easily from here and Kyoto mainline station is just a short taxi ride or subway journey away.

First Cabin Karasuma Kyoto

Kyoto

Business Hotel

And now for something completely different! Japan's capsule hotels have found fame in the west, and they certainly are unique. Traditionally capsule hotels served Japan's legions of salarymen who stayed in the office or the izakaya (pub) that little bit too long and missed their last train back to the suburbs. Rather than fork out for an expensive taxi home most choose a relaxing overnight stay in a capsule hotel. Having opened in 2010, the First Cabin has taken this concept in a completely new direction by focusing on cutting edge design and technology and adding a few more luxurious touches. The hotel is centrally located and only a 2 minute walk from the nearest subway station.

Akaboshitei Hotel

Takefu

Japanese Style

The Akaboshitei is a traditional Japanese ryokan hotel complete with onsen bathing and sauna. Akaboshitei is known for its friendly staff and great seafood (vegetarian options also available).

Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

The Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza is conveniently located on the south side of Shinjuku station and opened in late 2007. The building has a sleek and modern design throughout, from the spacious lobby area to the well-appointed guestrooms, which offer flatscreen TV with video-on-demand and spacious bathrooms. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar and also a guest lounge providing internet access and complimentary hot drinks. The hotel is in a fantastic location in the lively Shinjuku district of Tokyo, with an endless choice of shopping, dining and entertainment options within a few minutes' walk. The hotel is also just two minutes on foot from Shinjuku station, offering easy access to other areas of the city.

Tour Dates
Tour Starts Tour Disbands Price Status
2014
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
2015
17 May 2015 31 May 2015 £2700 NOW BOOKING
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:
  • Full time services of your expert Tour Leader
  • 14 night’s accommodation
  • All transport between destinations in Japan
  • Meet and Greet upon arrival at Narita Airport
  • Breakfast everyday
  • 9 evening meals, 2 lunches and sushi breakfast
  • Tokyo transport card
  • 14 Day Japan Rail Pass
  • Luggage forwarding Tokyo to Matsumoto and Kyoto to Tokyo
  • Numerous experiences covering Japan’s culture, crafts and food
  • InsideJapan Tours' complimentary Info-Pack
What’s NOT Included:
  • International flights
  • Additional local transport (buses, subways, taxis) at any destination (except if those covered by included transport pass)
  • Any entrance fees including those for shrines, temples and museums
  • Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip except where Luggage Forwarding is included

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 the hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto. However, singles will be asked to share a room at the other accommodations.

Transport: Please note that all transfers on this Japan tour are by public transport making use of Japan's first-rate transport network.

Luggage: We highly recommend that to make your stay more enjoyable you pack reasonably light. Large suitcases will be an inconvenience to you. A small case or bag with wheels or a rucksack are most appropriate for this tour as you will have to carry your bags for short distances and some stations do not have escalators or elevators/lifts. You will also need a small overnight back-pack (for up to two nights) for use when we forward our main bags to the next location.

Accommodation: The hotels in Kyoto and in Tokyo and the ryokan in Takefu are equipped with full en-suite facilities (attached bath, shower and toilet). The rooms in Togarinozawa Onsen are equipped with a toilet and sink, bathing is communal (single sex) and NO private facilities. The capsule hotel in Kyoto offers communal (single sex) bathing facilities and NO private facilities. The ryokan in Matsumoto has its own natural hot-spring baths (single sex communal bathing) and NO private facilities.

Clothes washing machines are available at the hotel in Kyoto.

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

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 ryokan are only available from 2pm. (You can, however, leave your luggage securely at the front desk at any time).

 
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