Japan: Imperial Discovery

INTENSE CULTURAL CONTRASTS, FROM ANCIENT TO ULTRAMODERN

Code: JPWHW

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Activity types:

  • Culture
  • Food & drink
  • History

Level

  • 1
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Difficulty indicator

Difficulty is measured on many factors such as distance, ascent/descent, terrain, weather and more. There's no magic formula, but from our experience we use yellow for easy, orange for medium and red for hard. Challenger holidays require a high level of fitness and stamina.

More about difficulty levels

From £4,255.00 - 11 to 12 nights

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Holiday overview

Download trip notes

Download trip notes 2018

Journey through the ages as you explore the gardens and geishas of ancient Kyoto, the medieval Nakasendo Path, the iconic Mount Fuji and the vibrant, modern city of Tokyo. With the chance to stay in ryokan – traditional Japanese inns – you’ll be truly immersing yourself in the rich cultural heritage of this fascinating nation.

Holiday highlights

  • Walk on the historic Nakasendo Path through the Japan Alps
  • Explore the gardens and shrines of ancient Kyoto
  • Walk by lakes and mountains in the shadow of Mt Fuji
  • See the modern sides of Japan in Tokyo and Kyoto
  • Stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, for an authentic experience
  • Try delicious and varied Japanese food

In pictures...

Accommodation

Shiba-Park-Hotel in Japan

Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo

In Tokyo we stay at the Shiba Park Hotel, a 3-star hotel with a good range of facilities. It is well located in central Toyko, and even walking a few blocks there are interesting things to see to get a taste of modern Tokyo. Near the hotel is Shiba Park, the Tokyo Tower, and the lovely Hama Rikyu Garden, a pleasant oasis in the city on the edge of the bay, looking over to the impressive Rainbow Bridge.

Ryokan-(Yudanaka) in Japan

Ryokan (Yudanaka)

Minshuku-(Tsumago,-Magome) in Japan

Minshuku (Tsumago, Magome)

Ryokan, Nakasendo Path

During our walk along the Nakasendo Path we stay in ryokan (Yudanaka) or minshuku (Tsumago, Magome), traditional Japanese inns. The rooms in the inns are always traditional with tatami (straw) matting and futons. At the ryokan these are laid out in the evening. At minshuku you may lay these out yourselves. Rooms are not usually en-suite. Bathing facilities may be shared. Meals at your accommodations are set meals, usually served in a common dining room, often showcasing regional produce and specialties. Yukata (simple cotton kimono) are provided at each accommodation, and you can wear this during your stay in the Japanese style accommodation both indoors and outdoors. They may also be worn as pajamas. Yukata and slippers provided by regular hotels are normally only used in the private rooms. This will allow you to pack lightly for the walking sections. Soap and shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a towel are always available at any accommodations. Hairdryers are provided in the regular hotels and in the public bathrooms in Ryokan. They are usually available in some minshuku, too. Bathing at the inns may be in communal bath rooms segregated by gender. Bathing suits may not be worn in the baths or hot springs.

Kyoto-Royal-Hotel-&-Spa in Japan

Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa, Kyoto

A modern 4-star city centre hotel with a range of facilities, in a very convenient location close to restaurants, shops and the train station. The hotel is conveniently located to walk or travel by public transport to Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Ginkakuji Temple and the Imperial Palace. The rooms are modern, comfortable and brightly furnished.

Hakone Hotel in Japan

Hakone Hotel

Prince-Hotel-Lake-Ashinoko-Hotel in Japan

Prince Hotel

Hakone Hotel, Hakone or Prince Hotel, Lake Ashinoko

The Hakone Hotel has an excellent location on the shores of the picturesque Lake Ashi with views towards Mount Fuji from the grounds.

The Prince Hotel is on the shore of Lake Ashinoko, with hot springs, and small shops in the hotel grounds.


Please note that single accommodation is not normally available in Japanese style accommodation - minshuku or ryokan, ie they are not available outside the main cities, so it is normal that single travellers will be expected to share a room with another person of the same sex, this also applies to the extension tour to Nikko.


On occasion we may need to change the accommodation listed above. If this happens, your replacement accommodation will be of the equivalent standard or higher. In the rare instance this is not possible, we will contact you in advance.

2017 Itinerary

Imperial Japan itinerary

Download trip notes

A mixture of part-day walks, moderate trails and city sightseeing. Walking over easy to moderate terrain, ranging from level countryside paths to trails of up to 5 miles (8km) with 1,700 feet (510m) of ascent. Days on the Nakasendo Path are unhurried with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

Modern city buildings in TokyoDays 1-3: To Tokyo - 2 nights

Take an overnight flight to Tokyo. After an afternoon arrival and transfer to our accommodation in central Tokyo there will be free time to explore before a welcome dinner.

The following day we include a guided walking tour of Tokyo and its collection of different districts, each with their own individual character. From the ultra-modern to historic temples and gardens, a guided stroll around the city gives us an insight into Japanese life.  

A pair of Snow MonkeysDay 4: Yudanaka Onsen & the "snow monkeys" - 1 night

Journey through rural Japan to the traditional hot spring village nestled in the mountains of Nagano. A short walk takes us to visit the "snow monkeys", bathing in the hot springs. The monkeys started coming to warm themselves in the outdoor springs here over 40 years ago, and a local lodge owner built them their own bath after feeling sorry for them during the cold winters. Our accommodation in nearby Yudanaka has its own natural hot spings (humans only!), where you can relax this evening.

Walkers on the Nakasendo PathDays 5-6: The Nakasendo Path - 2 nights

Over the next two days we walk in the remote Kiso valley, exploring rural Japan, an area of the country that few overseas visitors reach. We walk by day from village to village, staying by night in small, family‐run country inns (ryokan) and country guesthouses (minshuku). We carry our overnight items in a small daypack, while our luggage is taken ahead to Kyoto. We start near Midono, one of the 11 'post-towns' along the Kiso valley section of the Nakasendo, at Nagiso. Post-towns were resting places, where travellers could find accommodation as they walked between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo). In days past this route was used by traders, feudal lords, and samurai as they made their way to and from the imperial capital. We walk to the charming post town of Tsumago. After some time to explore the town and a short rest, we continue walking an additional 30 minutes to O-Tsumago.

The next day is a lovely walk from Tsumago to Magome. After some free time to explore Tsumago in the morning, we continue our journey over the Magome Pass, to the small village of Magome. Here we stay overnight in a minshuku, where our friendly host may introduce us to ‘minyo’, traditional rural dances and singing.

Golden pavilion in KyotoDays 7-9: Kyoto - 3 nights

Transfer to Kyoto, the western end of the Nakasendo Way and Japan’s ancient capital, now a World Heritage Site, for a 3 night stay.  Evening walk in Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district where there is always the possibility of seeing a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) making their way through the narrow streets.

The next day we take a morning guided walking tour to Kinkaku‐ji, the Golden Pavilion, surrounded by a Japanese garden, and originally built by the Ashikaga Shogun at the end of the 14th century.  From there, walk to the nearby Ryoan‐ji to see its famous Zen rock garden. This afternoon walk along the ‘Philosopher’s Path’, a delightful walk beside a canal lined with cherry trees in eastern Kyoto, followed by some free time to explore the area further or shop for crafts.

We also include a free day to explore Kyoto. Your guide will be happy to help with suggestions of places to visit, such as Nijo Castle, the former residence of the Shogun in Kyoto, or Kiyomizu Temple with its wonderful view of Kyoto.

Bullet trainDay 10: Hakone  National Park - 2 nights

Our tour continues by bullet train to Hakone, a famous hot spring town with wonderful views of Mount Fuji (weather permitting). We stay at a lakeside hotel, with wonderful views of Mount Fuji. The hotel has its own hot spring baths. After checking in, we walk to the Hakone Check-Point Museum before enjoying some free time before dinner. Our luggage will be sent ahead today to Tokyo, so you will need to pack overnight items for the 2 nights in Hakone.

The following day begins with a walk along the 'sugi-namiki', lined with Japanese cedar trees, to Lake Ashi-no-ko where we may be able to see demonstrations of Japanese parquetry in the workshops there. We then continue on the old Tokaido highway, once the alternative to the Nakasendo, stopping for lunch along the way.

Day 12-13 Tokyo & return flight - 1 night

A morning boat ride across Lake Ashi-no-ko, to travel on a series of funicular railways through the Hakone volcanic ranges. We walk to see the volcanic fumaroles bubble up, before enjoying lunch on the other side of the mountain. After lunch we take the bus back to Tokyo for the evening.

The following day we have a morning transfer for our return flight.

Please note: No flight holidays start on day 2.


Extension to Nikko 

Nikko is an historic town set against a stunning backdrop of wooded hills and national parklands, about 2 hours north of Tokyo. Nikko has been sacred to the Japanese for 1200 years, it is now a UNESCO world heritage site and the ornate buildings of the Toshogu Shrine were created in memory of Tokugawa leyasu, the shogun who united feuding lords to create a unified nation of Japan.

Day 13: Travel to Nikko by train from Tokyo, afternoon guided sightseeing in Nikko. Overnight in Nikko - Japanese style inn (dinner)

Day 14: Walking in Oku Nikko, an area of outstanding natural beauty north of Nikko. Overnight in Nikko - Japanese style inn (breakfast and dinner)

Day 15: Return to Tokyo by train, afternoon at leisure in Tokyo. Overnight in Tokyo - western style hotel (breakfast)

Day 16: Transfer to Tokyo airport for your return flight.

Prices include: Nikko transport pass, 2 dinners and 3 breakfasts, 2 nights in Japanese style inn, 1 night in western style hotel, entrance fees for sites in Nikko, guide services on the afternoon of day 13, and all day on day 14.

Your guide on the main tour will advise of the best way to reach Tobu Asakusa station (at own cost), and will provide all necessary documentation. It is advisable to travel with a smaller backpack to Nikko, and leave your main luggage in Tokyo. On arrival in Nikko you will be met by your local expert guide who will introduce you to the magnificent sights of the UNESCO site of Nikko.

2018 Itinerary

Imperial Japan itinerary

Download trip notes 2018

A mixture of part-day walks, moderate trails and city sightseeing. Walking over easy to moderate terrain, ranging from level countryside paths to trails of up to 5 miles (8km) with 1,700 feet (510m) of ascent. Time on the Nakasendo Path is unhurried with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

Modern city buildings in TokyoDays 1-3: To Tokyo - 2 nights

Take an overnight flight to Tokyo. After an afternoon arrival and transfer to our accommodation in central Tokyo there will be free time to explore before a welcome dinner.

The following day we include a guided walking tour of Tokyo and its collection of different districts, each with their own individual character. From the ultra-modern to historic temples and gardens, a guided stroll around the city gives us an insight into Japanese life.  

A pair of Snow MonkeysDay 4: Yudanaka Onsen & the "snow monkeys" - 1 night

Journey through rural Japan to the traditional hot spring village nestled in the mountains of Nagano. A short walk takes us to visit the "snow monkeys", bathing in the hot springs. The monkeys started coming to warm themselves in the outdoor springs here over 40 years ago, and a local lodge owner built them their own bath after feeling sorry for them during the cold winters. Our accommodation in nearby Yudanaka has its own natural hot spings (humans only!), where you can relax this evening.

Walkers on the Nakasendo PathDays 5-6: The Nakasendo Path - 1 night

Over the next two days we walk in the remote Kiso valley, exploring rural Japan, an area of the country that few overseas visitors reach. We walk by day from village to village, staying by night in small, family‐run country inns (ryokan) and country guesthouses (minshuku). We carry our overnight items in a small daypack, while our luggage is taken ahead to Kyoto. We start near Nagiso, one of the 11 'post-towns' along the Kiso valley section of the Nakasendo. Post-towns were resting places, where travellers could find accommodation as they walked between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo). In days past this route was used by traders, feudal lords, and samurai as they made their way to and from the imperial capital. We walk to the charming post town of Tsumago.

The next day is a lovely walk from Tsumago to Magome. After some free time to explore Tsumago in the morning, we continue our journey over the Magome Pass, to the small village of Magome. Here we stay overnight in a minshuku, where our friendly host may introduce us to ‘minyo’, traditional rural dances and singing.

Golden pavilion in KyotoDays 6-9: Kyoto - 4 nights

After our 2nd day on the Nakasendo Path, we transfer to Kyoto, the western end of the Nakasendo Way and Japan’s ancient capital, now a World Heritage Site, for a 4 night stay. 

Our first day in Kyoto, we walk the Philosopher's Path, a delightful walk beside a canal in Eastern Kyoto lined with cherry trees. Evening walk in Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district where there is always the possibility of seeing a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) making their way through the narrow streets.

The next day we take a morning guided walking tour to Kinkaku‐ji, the Golden Pavilion, surrounded by a Japanese garden, and originally built by the Ashikaga Shogun at the end of the 14th century.  From there, walk to the nearby Ryoan‐ji to see its famous Zen rock garden. This afternoon walk along the ‘Philosopher’s Path’, a delightful walk beside a canal lined with cherry trees in eastern Kyoto, followed by some free time to explore the area further or shop for crafts.

We also include a free day to explore Kyoto. Your guide will be happy to help with suggestions of places to visit, such as Nijo Castle, the former residence of the Shogun in Kyoto, or Kiyomizu Temple with its wonderful view of Kyoto.

Bullet trainDay 10: Hakone  National Park - 2 nights

Our tour continues by bullet train to Hakone, a famous hot spring town with wonderful views of Mount Fuji (weather permitting). We stay at a lakeside hotel, with wonderful views of Mount Fuji. The hotel has its own hot spring baths. After checking in, we walk to the Hakone Check-Point Museum before enjoying some free time before dinner. Our luggage will be sent ahead today to Tokyo, so you will need to pack overnight items for the 2 nights in Hakone.

The following day begins with a walk along the 'sugi-namiki', lined with Japanese cedar trees, to Lake Ashi-no-ko where we may be able to see demonstrations of Japanese parquetry in the workshops there. We then continue on the old Tokaido highway, once the alternative to the Nakasendo, stopping for lunch along the way.

Day 12-13 Tokyo & return flight - 1 night

A morning boat ride across Lake Ashi-no-ko, to travel on a series of funicular railways through the Hakone volcanic ranges. We walk to see the volcanic fumaroles bubble up, before enjoying lunch on the other side of the mountain. After lunch we take the bus back to Tokyo for the evening.

The following day we have a morning transfer for our return flight.

Please note: No flight holidays start on day 2.


Extension to Nikko 

Nikko is an historic town set against a stunning backdrop of wooded hills and national parklands, about 2 hours north of Tokyo. Nikko has been sacred to the Japanese for 1200 years, it is now a UNESCO world heritage site and the ornate buildings of the Toshogu Shrine were created in memory of Tokugawa leyasu, the shogun who united feuding lords to create a unified nation of Japan.

Day 13: Travel to Nikko by train from Tokyo, afternoon guided sightseeing in Nikko. Overnight in Nikko - Japanese style inn (dinner)

Day 14: Walking in Oku Nikko, an area of outstanding natural beauty north of Nikko. Overnight in Nikko - Japanese style inn (breakfast and dinner)

Day 15: Return to Tokyo by train, afternoon at leisure in Tokyo. Overnight in Tokyo - western style hotel (breakfast)

Day 16: Transfer to Tokyo airport for your return flight.

Prices include: Nikko transport pass, 2 dinners and 3 breakfasts, 2 nights in Japanese style inn, 1 night in western style hotel, entrance fees for sites in Nikko, guide services on the afternoon of day 13, and all day on day 14.

Your guide on the main tour will advise of the best way to reach Tobu Asakusa station (at own cost), and will provide all necessary documentation. It is advisable to travel with a smaller backpack to Nikko, and leave your main luggage in Tokyo. On arrival in Nikko you will be met by your local expert guide who will introduce you to the magnificent sights of the UNESCO site of Nikko.

General Information

Passport
A full passport is required with at least 6 months validity from date of entry into Japan.

Visas
Visas are not required for UK, Australian, Canadian & USA passport holders. Other nationalities please consult your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.

Health advice
Before booking, you should check with your doctor to see if any health precautions are needed. The following websites provide a wealth of information on travelling and health: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk  www.traveldoctor.co.uk

Vaccines: Tetanus vaccination is recommended.

Climate
Japan lies on a similar latitude to France and Southern Canada, but has a temperate climate due to its maritime influences. Summers tend to be hot, wet and humid, with cold and clear winters. The best times to visit are spring and autumn when temperatures are usually mild with sunny days, although there can be some rain. Temperatures in the mountains are generally cooler than the cities and plains.

Money
The unit of currency in Japan is the yen (¥). Japan is very much a cash-based society and it is quite safe to carry around a lot of cash. It can be difficult to find ATM machines that accept foreign-issued credit cards, although it is becoming easier in Tokyo. The best option is to bring Japanese cash with you, which can easily be changed back if you don’t spend it all. Traveller’s cheques are not advised.

Tipping
Tips are included on this holiday.

For flights information please see the Dates and Prices tab 

Food
Most meals will be Japanese cuisine. Vegetarian options are available, but limited.  Strict vegetarian diets, vegan diets, or gluten free diets may not be accommodated due to the pervasiveness of the fish-based stock dashi and the use of soy sauce and miso in Japanese cuisine.  We will request special diets at all accommodations, however these must be received at the time of booking. Please note it may not be possible to offer any special meals to clients who inform us of this on arrival.  

Clothing

Casual clothing would be suitable throughout for this tour, even for dining in cities. Japanese sized slippers (sometimes small for guests with larger feet) are often supplied at the inns. Guests may wish to bring comfortable socks to use inside Japanese accommodation

Yukata (simple cotton kimonos) are provided at each accommodation, and you can wear this during your stay in the Japanese style accommodation both indoors and outdoors. Yukata and slippers provided by regular hotels are normally only used in the private rooms. This will allow you to pack lightly for the walking sections.

Bathing suits cannot be used in the public bathrooms or onsen. Bathing is done naked.

Spring and autumn tours: Long sleeves are recommended during the Nakasendo walking, but you will not need heavy sweaters. You should have a light windbreaker or rain jacket.

Summer tours (September): We recommend light long sleeves during the Nakasendo walking as the sun can be strong, however short sleeves are better for the cities where it is more humid. You should have a light windbreaker or a rain jacket.

Baggage handling

Luggage will be sent ahead by courier on two occasions (Yudanaka to Kyoto, Kyoto to Tokyo). You will be without your main luggage on 4 nights, so please prepare an overnight daypack to carry your overnight items. You will be carrying them during the day on the walking sections so we do recommend a backpack/rucksack. Please note we only include the baggage delivery for one bag or suitcase per person. Extra bags may be sent subject to a charge payable locally for each transfer. 

Leaders

Satomi Nagai

Satomi was born and grew up in Nagoya, and has lived in Tokyo since she became a professional guide in 1985. She has studied in the US (Tennessee) majoring in Communications. She has guided from Hokkaido, the Northern Island, to Okinawa, the southern-most prefecture, on a wide variety of trips for both tourist and business clients.

Satomi has led all the HF Holidays’ Japan tours since 2009, and will be leading the following Imperial Japan departures in 2017: May, September and October.

Here are just a few examples of what our guests say about her:

“Could not have wished for a better guide to Japan than Satomi. Excellent.”

“The enjoyment of this holiday was almost entirely due to the excellence and character of Satomi.”

“Satomi really made this holiday.”

Kiyoko Se

Kiyoko Se grew up in Osaka, but studied in the US and UK and has had a varied career in business over 40 years, working at the Japan offices of various foreign companies. She has been a guide since 2004 and has guided a wide range of overseas visitors including the Manchester United Football Club. She has a particular interest in the Kumano region around the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Her hobbies include mountaineering, ‘sawanobori’ (a type of waterfall climbing popular in Japan), diving and cooking. She has walked the Inca Trail in Peru and the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Kiyoko will be leading our 7 November 2017 holiday.

Reviews

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Dates & Prices

Here at HF Holidays, we pride ourselves in offering a unique holiday full of experiences that you can’t find with anyone else. Find out what's included in this holiday.

Date Description Nights Brochure price Book
8 May 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 8 May 2018, 3:45 p.m.
  • Arrive: 9 May 2018, 11:25 a.m.
  • Depart from: London Heathrow
  • Arrive at: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.

Flight - Return

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 20 May 2018, 12:55 p.m.
  • Arrive: 20 May 2018, 5:30 p.m.
  • Depart from: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.
  • Arrive at: London Heathrow
12 £4,975.00 Book Now
9 May 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan - Without Flights 11 £4,255.00 Book Now
25 Sep 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 25 Sep 2018, 3:45 p.m.
  • Arrive: 26 Sep 2018, 11:25 a.m.
  • Depart from: London Heathrow
  • Arrive at: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.

Flight - Return

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 7 Oct 2018, 12:55 p.m.
  • Arrive: 7 Oct 2018, 5:30 p.m.
  • Depart from: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.
  • Arrive at: London Heathrow
12 £4,975.00 Book Now
26 Sep 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan - Without Flights 11 £4,255.00 Book Now
16 Oct 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 16 Oct 2018, 3:45 p.m.
  • Arrive: 17 Oct 2018, 11:25 a.m.
  • Depart from: London Heathrow
  • Arrive at: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.

Flight - Return

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 28 Oct 2018, 12:55 p.m.
  • Arrive: 28 Oct 2018, 5:30 p.m.
  • Depart from: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.
  • Arrive at: London Heathrow
12 £4,975.00 Book Now
17 Oct 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan - Without Flights 11 £4,255.00 Book Now
6 Nov 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan
(Travel included)

Flight - Outbound

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 6 Nov 2018, 3:50 p.m.
  • Arrive: 7 Nov 2018, 10:35 a.m.
  • Depart from: London Heathrow
  • Arrive at: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.

Flight - Return

BRITISH AIRWAYS

  • Depart: 18 Nov 2018, 12:35 p.m.
  • Arrive: 18 Nov 2018, 4:10 p.m.
  • Depart from: Tokyo Narita/New Tokyo Apt.
  • Arrive at: London Heathrow
12 £4,975.00 Book Now
7 Nov 2018 JPWHW - Imperial Japan - Without Flights 11 £4,255.00 Book Now

Prices are per person

Price includes:

  • 11 nights’ accommodation in en-suite rooms (except in the ryokans, which usually have shared facilities)
  • Half Board from dinner on arrival to breakfast on departure, except 1 dinner, and including 3 lunches
  • A full programme of guided walks led by an experienced local leader 
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Travel by coach/minivan, train and public transport
  • Tips

Other important information

  • Single room: £570 (2017) £840 (2018) (please note single rooms are only available in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone)
  • Extension to Nikko £899.(2017), £995 (2018)
  • Non-member associate fee: £10 per person

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