My Favourite Small Group Tour — Spring Elegance

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A nation that thrives in the springtime, visiting Japan in the early months of the year means seeing it at its most verdant. It’s where the cherry blossom and milder weather ushers people out of their homes and into the open air, ready to stroll amiably towards the sunshine of summer.

In our blog series, My Favourite Small Group Tour, we catch up with our tour leaders, the experts who run our excursions, and chat to them about what makes a tour their favourite. Today, Fergal reveals all about what makes our springtime trip, Spring Elegance so great to be on.

With several garden visits in Tokyo and Kanazawa, and a trip to an open-air art museum in Hakone, this tour gives you ample opportunity to relish the beauty Japan has to offer as the flora and fauna of the land of the rising sun begin to wake up.

What’s great about Spring Elegance?

Japan is magical in springtime. Cherry blossom makes the trees sing with colour. Time it right and you’ll take some of your favourite photos. The climate is also more temperate than the sweltering heat of the summer, making more activities accessible to people of all ages and levels of mobility.

Spring Elegance combines some of the finest things Japan has to offer into one complete package. It’s got stunning gardens, ancient castles, relaxing hot springs, the affable charm of the traditional ryokan and a taste of city and rural living. It’s a great trip for anyone who loves Japan!

What’s your highlight of the tour?

This tour includes my favourite place in all of Japan — Takayama. It’s full of ancient history, with a wonderful old town, full of narrow streets and wooden merchants’ houses from the Edo period. These buildings were crafted by the same people responsible for some Kyoto’s best shrines and temples, and it shows in the little details that warrant your close attention at every turn.

The people are fantastically friendly, and the food is delicious — look out for the multi-course kaiseki dinner served Japanese-style at a low table sitting on tatami mats at your ryokan stay — and there’s always time for a glass of sake (or two) on the side.

What are some of your favourite restaurants on the trip?

After a day of strolling around Matsumoto, a vibrant city surrounded by mountains, with its impressive “Black Crow” castle, you’ll get a chance to try some tasty noodles at Kobayashi Soba. There’s a warm charm to this place that provides the perfect tonic to a day of being on your feet.

In Takayama, you can’t go wrong for the aptly named Center 4 burgers. Here you can try Hida beef, a meat not as known as Kobe or Wagyu, but that still carries a distinct high-grade quality and flavour.

Where are the best places to stay?

With its near-perfect location within a strolling distance of Kenrokuen gardens, the Mitsui Garden Hotel, Kanazawa is always a hit with our clients. The restaurant, Noukabanzai, is pretty good too, offering the Obanzai Breakfast Buffet that uses locally sourced ingredients with traditional cooking methods from Kaga and Noto.

Tanabe ryokan in Takayama is a beautiful ryokan in a great, central location that offers a safe haven for our travelers, where you’ll be as comfortable as you are looked after in such a traditionally Japanese setting.

Are there any good night spots?

Tokyo is truly a 24/7 city. That means you’re never far from a great night spot. In the Asakusa district, there are a variety of small bars that often speak English, and aren’t too busy. One such establishment is Not Suspicious Bar. With its uniquely decorated interior (hundreds of slips of paper with messages from previous punters) the motto here is No Charge, No Tax, Not Suspicious. Make of that what you will!

Want to see Japan in spring? — book onto Spring Elegance now.

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