japan temple

Small group adventure in Japan

From the exotic to the downright quirky, Japan has much to offer. This 15-day escorted Tell Tale small group adventure is a special departure in May 2019 for those who like to travel with others. If you're travelling solo, no single supplement and no sharing with a stranger, you'll have your own room throughout.

Day 1
Fly from London Heathrow with Emirates via Dubai. UK regional airport and Dublin departures are possible (connecting to the same flight from Dubai to Tokyo as people flying from London Heathrow), ask us to check. If live in another country, feel free to ask us for advice.

Day 2/Monday 13 May meal(s) on plane, dinner (meals included)
You'll be met at the airport in Tokyo, shuttle direct to the hotel. You'll arrive at the hotel in the heart of the city and have time to settle into your room. You'll have your own bedroom and bathroom throughout the tour. In Japan, we have to use bigger hotels than usual for us so you'll be staying in a larger hotel than other Tell Tale trips (3 stars or above), we still try and find quirkiness though!

A welcome dinner this evening, meet your tour escort and the rest of the group.

Day 3/Tuesday 14 May breakfast, lunch, dinner
Time to explore Tokyo! A guided tour 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. Your guide will take you around on Japan's efficient public transport.

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 here.

Some free time this afternoon, before the group heads out again, this time for a food safari. You'll sample different dishes from several venues, maybe chicken yakitori or sushi or ramen, you'll also sample sake.

"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"

Day 4/Wednesday 15 May breakfast, lunch
Today, a guided visit 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.

First stop 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. You don't need to be a good cook to make your own at Cup Noodle Factory, or to feast 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.

Evening free, relax at the hotel, or explore on your own (Tokyo is arguably the safest city in the world) looking at streetlife or take in the many shopping opportunities, or one of the many eating places (which genuinely suit all budgets).

Day 5/Thursday 16 May 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. You will most likely catch a train mid or late morning and arrive at Tokyo station early, so you've got plenty of time to get a bento box or similar for lunch/your train journey.

Afternoon at leisure. Relax at the hotel, or join your tour escort for a 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 6/Friday 17 May breakfast, lunch
A guided tour 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? You can visit Morihachi, an artisan sweet shop that has been around for almost four centuries to learn the art of making traditional Japanese sweets, which are usually served at tea ceremonies. You'll round it all off with a cup of fresh green tea in the old Samurai district of Kanazawa, at Nomura House.

Day 7/Saturday 18 May breakfast
Breakfast at your leisure and pack up. Then it's back on the bullet train, to Hiroshima. After the train journey (this is by far the longest of the tour, just over 5 hours), you'll have time to settle into your hotel and relax.

Day 8/Sunday 19 May breakfast, lunch
A day of hope and peace today as you explore Hiroshima with one of our guides. You'll learn 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 9/Monday 20 May breakfast
Guided visit to Miyajima, a small sacred island located in the Seto Inland Sea. It's a short ferry ride away. 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.

Then it's a cable car up Mount Misen through magical virgin forests and a short hike for spectacular views of the surrounding islands (cable car subject to conditions on the day).

Day 10/Tuesday 21 May breakfast
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. Settle into your hotel, we recommend having a walk around the local area.

Day 11/Wednesday 22 May breakfast, lunch
A guided tour of 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 12/Thursday 23 May breakfast, lunch
Line up your lunch boxes and learn the traditional art of Japanese bento boxes. In a traditional wooden house in Kyoto, you'll chop and stir to make some of the varied dishes which appear in bento boxes, such as miso soup, chicken teriyaki and prawn tempura. Vegetarians can be catered for.

Day 13/Friday 24 May breakfast
Day at leisure. You're welcome to join your tour escort for an optional excursion in Kyoto or to Osaka (a train ride away), or use the tips in your Tell Tale pack to explore Kyoto on your own.

Day 14/Saturday 25 May breakfast
Sadly, today it's time to say sayōnara. You will have most of the day free before an early evening shuttle to Kansai airport. Here you will take a night flight with Emirates to Dubai. You'll have to check out of your room by midday (feel free to do it first thing if that's more convenient for you). There will be a room available to the group to shower/change throughout the day, although you are welcome to pay for an extra night's accommodation if you'd like to have your own room available to you until you depart.

Day 15/Sunday 26 May meals on plane
Morning landing in Dubai, where you will change for your flight back to Heathrow (or UK regional airport or Dublin), landing just after midday.

This special small group adventure costs £4,195 per person. This includes accommodation in your own room with private facilities throughout the tour (*no single supplement*), meals as specified, transport including bullet train tickets, guides throughout Japan, activities/excursions. Note all entrance fees are included on this particular tour. Also note, Japan has a no tipping culture.

If you're booking including international flights from the UK, it costs £4,870* from both Heathrow and various regional airports, flights are with Emirates. *Based on flight costs on the day you book. Price checked/valid for London Heathrow and Manchester on 5 February 2019.

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 Kanazawa Castle class= Kyoto class= bento box

Eating streetfood in Tokyo (by Jody Smith); Tempura; Cup Noodle Museum; Kanazawa Castle; Kyoto; Bento box