japan temple

Japan
Family adventure holiday in Japan

From the exotic to the downright quirky, Japan has much to offer families looking for fun and adventure. This 14-day family holiday takes you all around Japan, whizzing along in the world-famous bullet train. You'll visit technological Tokyo, a veritable melting pot of modernity mixed with ancient tradition, to pretty Kanazawa, humbling Hiroshima, and traditional Kyoto, with its classic temples and Geishas. With hands-on experiences, like making traditional sweets and bento boxes – and Samurai sword swinging if you're brave enough – you'll have plenty of Tell Tale family memories to cherish for years to come.

Like all Tell Tale Travel's family adventures, this is a private tour just for your family, with a carefully-designed itinerary to suit different ages.


Day 1 Recommended Sunday (arrive back Saturday)
Fly from a choice of airports in the UK, including Heathrow and Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Humberside, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. Our preferred airlines for this itinerary flying to Tokyo and back from the nearest airport to Kyoto (Kansai International) are KLM, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. If you don't live in the UK, ask us for advice.


Day 2 meal(s) on plane
You'll be met at the airport in Tokyo and taken to join a shuttle bus which will take you to your hotel. If you prefer, you can be driven in a private vehicle instead (see supplements section). You'll arrive in the heart of the city with time to relax and settle in – check out your Tell Tale pack for tips on where to visit nearby, including restaurants within walking distance.

Day 3 breakfast, lunch, dinner
Time to explore Tokyo! One of our local guides will take you to the district of Asakusa, one of Tokyo's shitamachi areas (literally "low city") where you can catch a rare glimpse of the city's past in an area awash with temples and shrines.

You'll stop first at Sensō-ji, the most famous temple in Tokyo where you'll learn some basic temple customs, from purifying the hands to praying and paying respect to ancestors. Then you can sample some delicious Japanese snacks from the nearby food stalls.

Kappabashi is the next destination and it's perfect for photo opportunities, being lined with shops selling everything restaurant-related, from razor-sharp Japanese knives to plastic food replicas used by restaurants to showcase their dishes. Imagine doll's house food, but in adult-sized portions! You can craft some plastic replica food yourself in one of the speciality shops, as an interesting souvenir to take home.

Then it's time for lunch at a local restaurant. There's plenty to choose from – we recommend the tempura, which is usually popular with children of all ages.

Then you'll have time to relax before heading out again for an evening gourmet tour to further tempt your taste buds. You'll sample different dishes from several venues, including a hidden dessert café and a fish restaurant where you can catch your own meal! Only in Japan!

"We loved exploring Tokyo's eateries, such wonderful delicacies to try, we thought had tried Japanese food in London, but this was a whole new world! We really got an insider experience...our young son's highlight was fishing for his supper."

Day 4 breakfast, lunch
This morning one of our guides will take you to nearby Yokohama, which is probably the best example of Japan's historic trading ports. Originally a small fishing village, it was the first place to be opened up to foreign trade in the 19th century and is now a mixture of historic and modern buildings.

Your first stop here is the Hara Model Railway Museum, home to the world's largest model train collection. The rest of the morning is all about noodles, starting with the Cup Noodle Museum, dedicated to the world-famous Japanese invention. It's a great experience for kids, really fun and interactive, with activities like creating your own cup noodle in the Cup Noodle Factory, followed by noodle sampling in the Noodles Bazaar.

Once you've had your fill, you'll walk it all off by strolling down to Yamashita Park, Japan's first seaside park, and to nearby Osanbashi Pier, a wide open space with fantastic views of Yokohama. Enjoy a boat ride part of the way while you're here, before you board the train back to Tokyo.

Please note: If you depart the UK on a Sunday, today will fall on Wednesday and the itinerary will be as planned. If you departed on a Saturday, today will fall on a Tuesday when the Cup Noodle Museum (like many others) is closed. In this case, we will swap Days 3 and 4.

Day 5 breakfast
This morning it's time for a manga drawing class where the whole family can learn some of the basics under the guidance of a specialist teacher. You'll receive hands-on training in this centuries-old art, and your masterpieces will become souvenirs with a difference. You also have the option to take a samurai sword lesson where you'll learn how to draw and swing your sword from some of Japan's famous sword choreographers, of Kill Bill fame (see supplements section).

Afternoon at leisure to explore more of this wonderful city (plenty of ideas in your Tell Tale pack). Gadget lovers or anime fans should head to Akihabara, an area famous for high-rise shops full of electronics and animation, as well as the robot-themed Gundam Café.


Day 6 breakfast
Time to pack up before taking your first shinkansen or bullet train. Whizz through Japan's countryside to the pretty castle town of Kanazawa.

Afternoon at leisure. Relax at your hotel, or stroll down to the old town of Higashi Chaya District where the chayas (teahouses) have been preserved. This was where Geishas used to entertain their guests with a song or a dance. Marvel at Hakuza, a specialised shop selling products made out of gold leaf and see their tearoom covered in gold.

Day 7 breakfast, lunch
After breakfast, one of our guides will take you around the highlights of Kanazawa, starting with the Kenroku-en Garden, one of the country's most beautiful Japanese gardens, and the grand Kanazawa Castle next door. For lunch, it's off to Omicho Market known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi. While you're there you are bound to see some of the country's most talented sushi chefs at work. Got a sweet tooth? The whole family is sure to love Morihachi, an artisan sweet shop that has been around for almost four centuries. Learn the art of making traditional Japanese sweets, which are usually served at tea ceremonies. End the day in the old Samurai district of Kanazawa with a visit to Nomura House, where you can relax with a freshly made green tea.


Day 8 breakfast
Breakfast at your leisure and pack up. Then it's back on the bullet train, to Hiroshima. After the long train journey (just over 5 hours), you'll have time to settle into your hotel and relax. This evening, check the Tell Tale tips in your pack for a restaurant recommendation.

Day 9 breakfast, lunch
A day of hope and peace today as you explore Hiroshima with one of our guides. They will explain to the whole family how this small city become known around the world on August 6, 1945, when it became the target of an atomic bomb that instantly destroyed everything within a 2km radius. Happily, Hiroshima has since rebuilt itself as one of Japan's most vibrant cities and is now full of museums, great restaurants, and welcoming people.

You'll visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, stopping along the way at Genbaku Dome-mae, the ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall that has become known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Then you'll cross Motoyasu Bridge to visit the Children's Peace Monument which features booths filled with colourful paper cranes. There will also be time to visit some of the other memorials before visiting the Peace Memorial Museum, which explains the history of Hiroshima before the bombing and houses a moving collection of personal belongings.

You'll stop for lunch and we recommend the local speciality of okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) with cabbage, pork, ginger, nori, and a special sauce.

Then you'll visit the majestic Hiroshima Castle, built in the 1500s, followed by the equally historic gardens of Shukkei-en, which contain wonderful miniature mountains, valleys and forests.

Day 10 breakfast, lunch
Today one of our guides will take you on a short ferry ride to Miyajima, a small sacred island located in the Seto Inland Sea. You will visit a couple of shrines and temples, and sample some local delicacies like oysters, saltwater eel, and maple leaf-shaped cakes. Snap some photos of the island's famous tame deer that wander around the area while you're here. Highlights include the Shinto Itsukushima Shrine with its huge torii gate that appears to be floating on the water at high tide – considered one of Japan's most beautiful views.

You'll also have the option to hike up Mount Misen through magical virgin forests or take a cable car (at a small cost, and there is still a short hike involved) for spectacular views of the surrounding islands. Tell Tale Tip: If all your children are over 10, you could kayak closer to the torii gate instead (see supplements section).


Day 11 breakfast, lunch
Time to get back on the bullet train. We've saved the best till last – Kyoto, famed for its pretty streets and old-world charm.

Now it's time to line up your lunch boxes and learn the traditional art of Japanese bento boxes. In a local private home, this lesson will take the form of an intimate class for just you and your family. Once you've created your artistic meal, you'll tuck into your efforts. Your family's lunchboxes will be the envy of everyone when you return home to work and school!

Day 12 breakfast, lunch
One of our guides will take you to see the best bits of Kyoto. No trip is complete without a visit to Nijo Castle, originally built as the private villa of a powerful lord in early 1600s and known for its magnificent architecture. Next on the list is the serene Ryōan-ji Temple and the stunning golden pavilion, collectively known as the Kinkaku-ji Temple.

You'll experience breathtaking views from the top of the 13-metre high Kiyomizu-dera Temple – the fact that this veranda was built without using any nails or joints is quite unbelievable. Finally, stroll along the busy streets of Higashiyama district, a collection of narrow alleyways lined with local stores, small eateries and pottery centres. You may spot a Geisha heading to work at one of the city's teahouses.

Day 13 breakfast
Day at leisure. Relax or head out to one of Kyoto's family-friendly attractions such as the Kyoto International Manga Museum and Toei Kyoto Studio Park. Take a look in your Tell Tale pack for more details to help you plan your day. One of our favourites is the 'Monkey Park' (although this does require a hike to see the monkeys).


Day 14 breakfast
Sadly, today it's time to say sayōnara. You'll take a shuttle transfer to Kansai International Airport for your flight/s back and arrive back in the UK on the same day If you fly out of the UK on a Sunday, this would be a Saturday . Note if you are flying Emirates, you'll fly back in the evening/overnight and arrive back a day later.


This magical 2-week family adventure in Japan, including flights from the UK, costs from £3,895 per person, £3,817 for 12-15-year-olds and £3,425 for under 12s, based on a minimum of 4 sharing a private tour. This includes accommodation in 2 rooms (for families of up to 5, families of 6 will have 3 rooms), meals as specified, transport including bullet train tickets, activities/excursions, and time with guides and local people.

Currently, all entrance fees are included for all activities in the tour If you book whilst this text is on the website, it will apply to your holiday, regardless of time of travel.

It is also possible to book this tour excluding international flights from £3,195 per person, discounted to £2,795 for under 12s, again based on a minimum of 4 sharing a private tour, with 2 rooms throughout.

Please get in touch for a quote. The "from" price often applies as advertised, but travelling at certain times, particularly during school summer holidays and at Christmas, may involve extra costs. Early booking is advised. It is possible to secure your booking with a deposit.

Supplements/variations:
Day 2: Private vehicle from the airport to your hotel instead of the shuttle from Tokyo Narita is an extra £150 or £60 from Tokyo Haneda, for up to 6 people.
Day 5: Samurai sword lesson instead of the manga drawing class is a difference of £230 per person.
Day 10: Kayaking to the torii gate £65 per person, note this is on join-in basis and has to be booked well in advance.


Please note the map below shows distance/time travelling by car, but you will be taking the faster bullet train.



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Amy in Japan food evening in Tokyo cup noodles samurai swords Kanazawa Castle class= Kyoto class= bento box

Photos:
Eating streetfood in Tokyo (by Jody Smith); Tempura; Cup Noodle Museum; Samurai swords; Kanazawa Castle; Itsukushima Shrine's torii gate; Kyoto; Bento box