Day 1 – USA to Tokyo
Today you will begin your Swain Destinations customized itinerary. Please note, international air has not been included in this package price.
Day 2 – Welcome to Tokyo, Japan
An English-speaking representative will be holding a sign with your last name on it and greet you as you enter the public Airport Arrivals Hall. You will be taken to your vehicle nearby and transferred to your Tokyo hotel.
From its bright billboards and crowded sidewalks, one could confuse Tokyo for New York City, but hiding in the shadows of the skyscrapers, neatly-clipped bonsai trees frame ancient wooden houses and kimono-clad women shuffle down narrow streets. Pass spring days under a pink cloud of fragrant cherry blossoms in Ueno Park, or awake early to witness the madness of a tuna auction at Tsukiji Fish Market. Sail down the Sumida River and make a grand entrance at Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, or feast your eyes on the world’s largest collection of Japanese art at the Tokyo National Museum.Starting Accommodation:
Day 3 – Dynamic Tokyo
Your first stop today is the observation deck of the Tokyo Tower where you can get sweeping 360° views across the city and on a clear morning even Mount Fuji. Tokyo Tower is 1,091 ft / 333 m tall, making it the tallest man-made structure in Japan. Visit Happo-en Garden, embodies Japan's history of celebrating each of the four seasons. At a garden tea room witness a tea ceremony demonstration (or sado 'the way of tea'), a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner.
Following a barbeque-style lunch at Chinzan-so Restaurant, drive by the Diet - Japan's parliamentary seat of power. Heading to the center of the city now you will stop at the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, where you can view the Nijubashi (two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds). The palace buildings and inner gardens are not open to the public.
Then enjoy a forty-minute Sumida River boat ride from Hinode pier to Asakusa. The river was the most important waterway for the development of Tokyo, and sights along the way include the twelve bridges of Sumida, the traditional neighborhoods of old Edo. Back on land the Asaukusa Kannon Temple - or Senso-ji - is a few minutes walk away. It is Tokyo's oldest temple, and one of its most significant. Adjacent to the temple is a Shinto shrine, the Asakusa Jinja and entrance to the temple is through the Nakamise shopping arcade, one of the oldest arcades in Japan dating back to the 17th century, selling toys, sweets, snacks and souvenirs.
Return to the central Tokyo again with a drive through the famous Ginza, Tokyo's Fifth Avenue.Starting Accommodation:
Keio Plaza (B, L)
Day 4 – Hidden Kamakura & Enoshima Bay Tour
Today, travel by motor-coach from Tokyo to Kamakura. Surrounded by mountains on three sides and the open water of Sagami Bay on the fourth, Kamakura is a natural fortress. During the Heian period it was the chief city of the Kanto region, and from the 12th through 14th centuries the Minamoto shoguns ruled Japan from here under what is known as the Kamakura Shogunate. Kamakura is now mainly known for its temples and shrines.
Your first stop is Jomyo-ji Temple, a Zen temple in the hills of eastern Kamakura. Ranked fifth among the five great Zen temples of Kamakura, Jomyoji was founded by the influential Ashikaga family and at its peak was made up of seven buildings and several pagodas. Jomyoji Temple also has a restored tea house where visitors can enjoy some of Japan's famous powdered matcha green tea.
Continue to Hokokuji, a small temple of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism. Originally founded during the early years of the Muromachi Period, Hokokuji was the family temple of the ruling Ashikaga Clan and was later also adopted as the family temple of the Uesugi Clan. Hokokuji Temple, however, is best known for the beautiful, small bamboo grove found behind the temple's main hall, which lies thick with over 2000 dark green bamboo stalks.
After enjoying Buddhist vegetarian lunch, visit Kotoku-in. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 13.35 meters, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara's Todaiji Temple. The statue was cast in 1252 and originally located inside a large temple hall. However, the temple buildings were destroyed multiple times by typhoons and a tidal wave in the 14th and 15th centuries. So, since 1495, the Buddha has been standing in the open air.
Your final stop is Enoshima, a pleasant island just off coast but connected by bridge to the mainland. The island offers a variety of attractions, including a shrine, park, observation tower and caves. Views of Mount Fuji can be enjoyed on days with good visibility.Starting Accommodation:
Keio Plaza (B)
Day 5 – Tokyo to Hakone (Via Mount Fuji)
Depart for Hakone by coach, en route drive halfway up to Mt Fuji and stop at 5th station. You will enjoy a western style lunch at a local restaurant. Upon arrival in Hakone, you will take a mini cruise on Lake Ashi, and take a cable car ride to Mt Komagatake. At the top of the mountain, you will have spectacular views of Mt Fuji and Hakone National Park.
Hakone is a favorite weekend getaway for Tokyoites, offering everything from hot-spring resorts to magnificent views of Mount Fuji. Getting to Hakone is an experience in itself. Depart Tokyo on a high speed train, switch to a small mountain tram, and zigzag through forests and over streams. Enjoy unbelievable views as you ride a cable car and skim across Lake Ashi by boat before entering an alpine wonderland.
After the tour you will be transferred to your accommodation.Starting Accommodation:
Kajikaso Ryokan (B)
Day 6 – Bullet Train to Kyoto
Experience a ride on a ‘Shinkansen’ (Bullet train) as you journey to Kyoto. The distance is 430 miles.
With its Zen rock gardens and air of tradition, Kyoto is a city for lovers. Young couples drift down the Oi River in wooden boats glowing with red lanterns while older sweethearts stroll along the narrow streets of historic Eastern Kyoto. As home to 20% of Japan’s national treasures, Kyoto is a massive museum.
For a trip back in time this is the perfect place to stay at a traditional ryokan. While the experience is not inexpensive when compared with some hotel options, it is certainly a unique way to experience the simplistic beauty of genuine Japan. Gleaming polished wood, tatami floors, rice-paper sliding doors, meticulously groomed gardens, and kimono-clad hostesses will all ensure this cultural insight is an absolute highlight of your visit.Nara Tour
This afternoon you will visit Todaiji Temple with its huge Image of Buddha; Sacred Deer Park; and Kasuga Shinto Shrine famous for its hundreds of stone lanterns.
Buddhism gained a foothold in Japan after monks from the Korean kingdom of Paekche introduced the faith to the Japanese court. It quickly won an influential following, reaching the highest circles of imperial power by the 7th century. In 685 the Emperor Temmu ordered that every family throughout the land should establish a Buddhist Altar. His descendant Prince Shotuku went further, decreeing that a national branch temple be built in every province. Two years later, in 743, he ordered the construction of a grand national temple to oversee them all. Todaiji was the result.
Completed in just four years by 751, Todaiji was truly a wonder of the world. It housed the largest wooden building the world has yet seen. Even the 2/3 scale reconstruction, finished in the 17th century, it remains the largest wooden building on earth today.Starting Accommodation:
Day 7 – Kyoto City Tour
This morning's first stop is Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Residence of the Tokugawa Shogun built in 1603, the castle is noted for the contrast of its solemn exterior and gorgeous interiors. Closed Tuesday's in January, July, August and December and substituted with Ryoanji Temple and Zen garden. Next, visit Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto's most popular temple is the home of perhaps the world's most authentic and exquisite Japanese Garden, as well as the celebrated Golden Pavilion.
Your third stop is to Kyoto Imperial Palace, the residence of the Imperial family until the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays so a visit to Nishi Honganji will be arranged instead. Enjoy a Western-style buffet lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon's first stop is Heian Shrine, brightly colored with its vermilion pillars and green roof, and its enchanting inner gardens and ponds, reflects the elegance of life in the ancient Japanese court. From there visit Sanjusangendo, a renowned long wooden hall housing all of 1,001 statues of Kannon or Bodhisattva (Goddess of Mercy), that date back to the 13th century.
Continue on to Kiyomizu-dera, a grouping of several Buddhist temples in Eastern Kyoto, and one of the best known sights of the city with its main pavilion commanding an exalted spot on a steep hill with a sweeping view over Kyoto. The pathway leading to the shrine is lined with pottery and souvenir shops.Starting Accommodation:
Day 8 – At leisure, Kyoto
The city boasts an impressive catalog of 1,700 well-preserved Buddhist temples and 300 Shinto shrines. Kinkakuji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto’s most famous and elaborate attractions. Featuring a three-story pavilion covered in gold-leaf and crowned by a phoenix, one has to shade their eyes from its brilliance. Rivaling this luster is Nara’s Great Buddha, Daibutsu, one of the largest bronze statues in the world containing 286 pounds of pure gold.Starting Accommodation:
Day 9 – Hiroshima and Miyajima
Easily reached in about 30 minutes from Hiroshima, Miyajima is a treasure of an island only 1 1/4 miles off the mainland in the Seto Inland Sea. No doubt you've seen pictures of its most famous landmark, a huge red torii, or shrine gate, rising out of the water. Erected in 1875 and made of camphor wood, it's one of the largest torii in Japan, measuring more than 16m (53 ft.) tall. It guards Miyajima's main attraction, Itsukushima Shrine.
As you walk around Hiroshima today, you'll find it hard to imagine that the city was the scene of such widespread horror and destruction almost 60 years ago. On the other hand, Hiroshima doesn't have the old buildings, temples, and historical structures that other cities have, yet it draws a steady flow of travelers who come to see Peace Memorial Park, the city's best-known landmark. Dedicated to peace, the city also seems committed to art - in addition to its fine art museums you will find statues, stone lanterns, memorials, and sculptures lining the streets.Starting Accommodation:
Granvia Hotel (B)
Day 10 – Okayama and Kurashiki
The Ohara Art Museum in Kurashiki was the first collection of Western art to be permanently exhibited in Japan. The museum opened in 1930 and originally consisted almost entirely of French painting and sculpture of the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection has now expanded to include paintings of the Italian Renaissance and of the Dutch and Flemish 17th century. Well-known American and Italian artists of the 20th century are also included in the collection.
Okayama's claim to fame is the Korakuen Garden, considered one of Japan's three most beautiful landscaped gardens. Completed in 1700 by the Ikeda ruling clan after 14 years of work, its 11.2 hectares (28 acres) are graced with a pond, running streams, pine trees, plum and cherry trees, flowering bushes like azaleas and hydrangeas, bamboo groves, tea houses, and tea plantations.Starting Accommodation:
New Otani Hotel, Osaka (B)
Day 11 – Osaka to USA
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA. (B)