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Grand Tour of Japan

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16 days From £6,395 per person
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Absorb history and tradition with the experts, experiencing the Land of the Rising Sun’s authentic ceremonies and dazzling cities by iconic bullet train

Mobility Rating 3

2025 Tour code: JTG25

About the tour

A fascinating blend of spirituality and modernity, explore Japan from the northern island of Hokkaido to Kyushu in the south on this epic overland expedition aboard ultramodern bullet trains.

Surrounded by wonderful scenery, relaxed Sapporo provides a great introduction to Japan as we explore Otaru and Hakodate before travelling to the sprawling capital, Tokyo.

Beautiful views of iconic Mount Fuji guide us into the charming mountains, before we delve into the history of authentic Kyoto and poignant Hiroshima, with this amazing tour concluding in friendly Fukuoka.

Unforgettable experiences

Travel on the world-famous Shinkansen bullet trains
Travel on the world-famous Shinkansen bullet trains
Riding at speeds of up to 186mph, experience the nation’s efficient and ultra-modern railways on high-speed journeys from Hakodate to Tokyo and Nagoya to Fukuoka via Hiroshima and Kyoto.
Soak up the majesty of Japan’s sacred mountain
Soak up the majesty of Japan’s sacred mountain
Iconic Mount Fuji is the country’s national emblem. We view the active volcano on a cable car journey and lake cruise, before exploring the mountain from a popular sightseeing spot on its slopes.
Explore enchanting Kyoto and its historic temples
Explore enchanting Kyoto and its historic temples
The nation’s historic capital showcases ‘old Japan’ in fantastic fashion. Explore the otherworldly bamboo paths of Arashiyama, before strolling around the grounds of the shimmering Golden Pavilion.
Discover Tokyo’s blend of old and modern
Discover Tokyo’s blend of old and modern
The world’s largest city showcases how tradition can live in harmony with modernity. On a tour of Tokyo, visit tranquil temples, serene shrines, beautiful gardens and the famed crossing in neon-lit Shibuya.
Uncover the charms of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island
Uncover the charms of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island
Exploring the dynamic city of Sapporo, the historic port of Otaru and the old merchant town of Hakodate provides a great insight into the history and culture of this charming island bedecked with verdant mountains.
View Hiroshima’s poignant memorial park
View Hiroshima’s poignant memorial park
An expansive memorial park and museum detail the destruction wrought by the atomic bomb in 1945. Explore this emotive sight and uncover a thriving city that now stands as a symbol for peace.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - Overnight flight to Hokkaido

Our grand tour of Japan begins as we meet our Tour Manager and fellow travellers at London Heathrow for our flight to the magical 'Land of the Rising Sun'.

Enchanting Japan brims with fascinating culture, spirituality and modernity. This archipelago of more than 14,000 islands has an incredibly mountainous interior carpeted by pristine forests and fairytale villages. Amid the neon-lit futuristic cities are beautifully ornate Shinto and Buddhist temples, sitting side-by-side with shimmering glass skyscrapers. This fusion of the traditional and modern creates a captivating country of contrasts that has entranced visitors ever since Japan came out of a 200-year period of self-imposed isolation, during which it closed itself off from the outside world.

This spectacular overland journey takes us by iconic bullet train from the northern island of Hokkaido to Kyushu in the south. During our flight, we can begin to look forward to the wonderful sights that await us as we explore many stunning destinations including dazzling Tokyo and historic Kyoto.

Day 2 - Arrival in lovely Sapporo

Landing in Tokyo this morning, we take a 90-minute connecting flight north to Sapporo. On arrival in the mountainous capital of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's main islands, we transfer to our hotel for the next two nights.

Making up more than a fifth of Japan's landmass, this nature-lover's paradise accounts for just 5% of its population. More than a third of those people live in Sapporo, a dynamic city surrounded by beautiful nature that has a thriving food scene, verdant gardens and lively streets illuminated by neon signs. Sapporo is a modern city - in 1857, it was home to just seven people - and became well known in the west after holding the winter Olympics in 1972. Today, tourists head to Sapporo for its food, beer and gorgeous mountainous surroundings.

Our 4-Star hotel is near the university's Botanic Gardens and the Japan Railways Tower Observatory. After checking in, there is free time to relax and acclimatise before gathering for dinner together this evening.

Day 3 - Historic port city of Otaru

After breakfast at our hotel this morning, we're introduced to Hokkaido's history as we head to nearby Otaru. This small port city has a wonderfully preserved canal area lined with warehouses dating from the late-19th century when Otaru was the island's financial centre. As an important port for trade with Russia and China, the architecture blends Japanese style with western building techniques, leading to views that seem familiar to the western eye yet charmingly off-kilter.

At the Otaru Music Box Museum, we view thousands of intricately designed music boxes of all shapes and sizes. Made from glass, wood and ceramic, these delightful automata can be found in jewelled cases and even stuffed toys. Outside the museum is the world's largest steam clock, measuring 18-foot in height and made by the same person who constructed the first-ever steam clock which can still be found in Vancouver.

Returning to Sapporo, there is a free evening to explore and dine independently. Hokkaido is famed for its seafood as well as ramen, while the local beer is popular all over the world.

Day 4 - By rail around Uchiura Bay to Hakodate

We leave Sapporo after breakfast this morning as we head to the station to travel aboard the Hokuto limited express train to Hakodate. As the route heads to Hokkaido's eastern shores, we skirt around Uchiura Bay and can admire the coastal scenes before arriving in Hakodate.

One of Hokkaido's main cities, Hakodate was the first Japanese port open to foreign trade and is watched over by the imposing Mount Hakodate. This afternoon, we take a sightseeing tour of the city's main sights by coach, including Goryokaku. This vast, star-shaped fortress was completed in 1866 based on a design by a French architect.

We explore foreign influence in the Motomachi district, a former residential area for traders. Here, we can see a Russian Orthodox church, the old British Consulate and a Chinese memorial hall. This evening, we ascend Mount Hakodate by a ropeway cable car to admire fabulous views stretching out across the city and coast.

Dinner tonight is an enjoyable experience in a local beer hall dining on local specialities in a convivial setting.

Day 5 - Bullet train to Tokyo

An early morning visit to the Hakodate market follows breakfast at our hotel. Specialising in seafood, stallholders display wonderfully fresh crab, squid and oysters, with many delicacies available to buy and eat on the spot.

Later, we head to Hakodate train station to enjoy our first experience of Japan's world-famous bullet trains. In a little over four hours, we travel the 513 miles to the nation's capital, Tokyo. Travelling beneath the Tsugaru Strait, we emerge on Honshu, Japan's main island, and dash towards Tokyo, arriving in mid-afternoon.

With a population similar to that of Canada in an area roughly the same size as North Yorkshire, urban Tokyo is the world's most populus city. Yet, it regularly finds itself in the top ranks for liveability due to its well-organised dynamism and cleanliness.

Our 4-Star hotel is in lively Shinjuku, where you have a free evening to explore at leisure. Japan's most well-known dishes are available in this vibrant district so you could find yourself eating fresh sushi or embracing local culture at a yakiniku barbeque.

Day 6 - Uncovering the charm of Tokyo on a guided tour

An English-speaking guide meets us after breakfast as we embark on a coach tour of Tokyo. In stark contrast with gleaming skyscrapers in the background, the vast landscaped Hama Rikyu Gardens is an oasis of calm. Maple, ginkgo and peonies gather round sea-fed lakes on the site of a former 17th-century shogun villa.

In the centre of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace. Here, we view the iron Nijubashi Bridge, connecting the palace to its vast public plaza. Next, we visit the enchanting Senso-Ji temple in Asakusa. A symbol of Tokyo dating from the 7th century, it was built to honour the Buddhist goddess of mercy. With its sweeping, tiled roof, intricate carvings and giant red lanterns, Senso-Ji is the epitome of Japanese Buddhist architecture.

As if to demonstrate the incredible intertwining of the tranquil and bustling, we travel to the famed Shibuya crossing, where up to 3,000 people at a time inundate the crossing from all directions, and the charming memorial honouring Hachiko, renowned as Japan's most loyal dog. This evening is free to enjoy fantastic Japanese cuisine at leisure.

Day 7 - Spellbinding journey to lakeside Hakone in Mount Fuji’s shadow

A relaxed morning with breakfast at our hotel is followed by our first trip on the famous Japanese railways. Walking the short distance to Shinjuku station - the world's busiest - we board the Shonan Express to Odawara. Transferring into the mountains, we enjoy an incredible ride on the Hakone Ropeway - a 20-minute cable car journey providing amazing views of iconic Mount Fuji in the distance. As we travel above this area of outstanding natural wonders, we witness the rising plumes of steam from the sulphurous hot springs that dot Mount Hakone - a volcano that last erupted in 1170.

Arriving on the glistening shores of Lake Ashi, our fantastic trip continues as we board an enchanting pirate boat for a charming cruise across the crater lake to our hotel. Enroute, look for the striking red of Shinto torii gates dotting the shoreline and keep an eye out for more beautiful views of Mount Fuji.

Our hotel overlooks this spellbinding lake, framed by overlapping mountains dipping towards the tranquil waters. There is time to relax before dinner at the hotel's restaurant this evening.

Day 8 – Spectacular Mount Fuji views and on to mountainous Matsumoto

Today is all about Japan's most revered peak, Mount Fuji - the UNESCO-listed active volcano. Instantly recognisable from artworks including woodcut prints by Hokusai, the country's sacred symbol is astonishing due to its symmetry and prominence.

After breakfast at our lakeside hotel, we set out by coach to explore the area surrounding Mount Fuji, visiting the World Heritage Centre to learn more about Japan's national emblem and absorb the incredible vistas from its observation deck. Mount Fuji is one of nature's greatest masterpieces and seeing it in real life is truly astonishing, with its almost perfectly symmetrical, snow-capped peak rising from a landscape of forests and glistening lakes.

From here, we travel across the mountains to the alpine city of Matsumoto, visiting the nearby Chihiro Art Museum in Azumino. Set amid acres of picturesque countryside, this museum honours renowned artist Chihiro Iwasaki who was known for her delightful water-colours of flowers and children. After checking in to our hotel, there is a free evening in Matsumoto.

Day 9 - Matsumoto miso factory visit and the scenic drive to Takayama

An English-speaking guide joins us at our hotel after breakfast today as we explore this charming city. First up, we enjoy a guided tour of a miso factory to discover why this paste - a mixture of fermented soya beans with salt and other umami-based ingredients - is so important in Japanese cooking.

Continuing to Matsumoto Castle, we encounter a five-storey pagoda-style fortress known as 'Crow Castle' due to its unusual black exterior. Built in the 1500s, this is the oldest remaining castle of its kind in Japan.

After time to look around, we continue to Takayama on the renowned Mitsuboshi Kaidou road. This scenic route presents Japan in all its verdant glory, with steep-sided mountains carpeted with forests. In Takayama, we visit the Hida Folk Village, an open-air museum which depicts more than 30 rustic farm dwellings from the Edo Period, with their dark-wood exteriors and deep thatched roofs.

Our 4-Star hotel is on the edge of Takayama, a fascinating town of narrow streets and wooden houses.

Day 10 - Beautiful Takayama and on to enchanting Kyoto

We explore Takayama with an English-speaking guide after breakfast this morning, taking in the Miyagawa open-air market along the bank of the babbling river, replete with neat stalls selling local farm products and handicrafts. Walking down historic Sannomachi Street, we view dark-wood houses and sake breweries in this beautifully preserved example of traditional Edo architecture, before admiring the 17th-century wood-framed government building with tranquil tatami-walled rooms.

Leaving Takayama, we travel by train along the Hida River valley to Nagoya before boarding the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto for two nights. Travelling at speeds up to 186 miles per hour, we dash to Hiroshima for two nights.

Japan's former capital is a living museum of the country's artistic heritage, with an impressive 17 UNESCO-listed sites. After checking in to our hotel, there is a free evening to dine independently. Japan is famed for its delicious food, and you might like to find a restaurant serving fresh sushi, ramen noodles, yakiniku barbeque or revered wagyu beef.

Day 11 - Uncovering the traditions of captivating Kyoto

A historic city overflowing with the authentic beauty of old Japan, we explore Kyoto today with an English-speaking guide after breakfast, beginning with a visit to Kyoto Railway Museum, to learn about the history of Japanese railways and its iconic locomotives.

We then savour time in the otherworldly environment of Arashiyama's spectacular bamboo forest as we stroll down the Sagano path, marvelling at the jade-hued sunlight piercing through the towering bamboo stalks that creak and knock together.

This afternoon, we uncover the history and traditions of Kyoto, first by visiting Kinkakuji temple. The 'Golden Pavilion' temple dates from 1397 and shimmers in brilliant gold leaf on the edge of a reflecting pond, surrounded by lush forest. Afterwards, we partake in a zen tea ceremony. Learning how to brew, serve and drink this celebrated drink, we also gain a glimpse into the spirituality and culture of Japan. Our tour concludes in the Gion neighbourhood, where backstreets reveal traditional dark-wood homes.

The evening is free to dine independently, and Kyoto has many excellent restaurants serving refined and traditional cuisine.

Day 12 – The serenity and wildlife of ancient Nara

Predating Kyoto as the nation's premier city, Nara is our destination after breakfast. As the capital from 710 to 794AD, this beautiful and compact city oozes history and grace, backdropped by wooded hills.

Accompanied by an expert, English-speaking guide, a walking tour takes us to Todaji Temple where we view one of the world's largest bronze statues. The Great Buddha or 'Daibutsu' was installed in 752AD and is set within an ornate temple recorded as the largest wooden building in the world.

Nearby, the landscaped grounds of Nara's serene deer park are full of delightful ponds and tame deer. These beautiful animals were once revered as messengers of the gods and now roam freely. They are so used to human visitors that they often bow in greeting. Leaving charming Nara, we travel from Osaka to Hiroshima by bullet train.

This emotive city is renowned for the unprecedented devastation it suffered during World War Two, but Hiroshima's parks and museums now stand as embodiments of peace. After checking in to our hotel, there is a free evening to dine independently.

Day 13 – Exploring poignant Hiroshima and sacred Miyajima

This morning we are joined after breakfast by an English-speaking guide as we embark on a morning tour of Hiroshima's most moving locations.

This friendly city became a byword for the horrors of war after an atomic bomb was dropped by the US Air Force at 8.15am on Monday 6th August 1945. The Peace Memorial Park that commemorates the victims while the Atomic Bomb Dome emotively showcases the remains of the scorched shell of a building destroyed on that fateful day. In the Peace Memorial Museum, we view items salvaged from the rubble.

In the afternoon, we travel by train and boat to Miyajima, leaving modern life behind to soak up the tranquillity of this secluded destination. Also known as Itsukushima (Island of the Gods), we enjoy a walking tour which includes a visit to Itsukushima Shrine and the iconic Great Torii Gate that guards its entrance. Partially submerged at high tide, this stunning red structure was built in the 12th century and is an enduring image of traditional Japan. Returning to Hiroshima, we dine on our own this evening.

Day 14 - Bullet train to the mountains of Kyushu

Leaving Japan's main island today, we travel by bullet train from Hiroshima to Hakata on the southern island of Kyushu. Covering the distance of 150 miles in a little over an hour, we cross the Hayatomonoseto Strait, reaching Hakate in the city of Fukuoka by late morning.

Once here, we enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine, dedicated to the Shinto god of learning. Said to have been built over the grave of a 9th-century poet, there has been a shrine here since 905AD, although the pavilion we see today dates from 1591. In the charming grounds of pretty bridges and serene pools stand 6,000 plum trees.

The modern exterior of the nearby Kyushu National Museum contrasts brilliantly with the serenity of the shrine, with a glass façade reflecting the surrounding forests and sky. Here, we uncover the history of Japanese culture through an impressive collection of artefacts and exhibitions.

Checking in to our 5-Star hotel in Fukuoka, there is time to relax before we visit a local restaurant for a western-style dinner.

Day 15 - Homeward bound

There is free time after breakfast today to explore Fukuoka on your own. In 1889, the fortress city of Fukuoka absorbed the merchant town of Hakata to create the Fukuoka we see today.

On the Hakata side of the Naka River, you can find the stunning 8th-century Kushida Shrine as well as many museums including the Asian Art Museum showcasing contemporary and historic works from various countries.

Ohori Park sits beside the ruins of Fukuoka's ancient castle and is a great location for a gentle stroll across the bridges linking small islands in the middle of a large boating lake. On the southern shore is an ornamental Japanese Garden featuring a traditional teahouse and beautiful landscaped gardens.

This afternoon, our amazing overland tour of Japan concludes as we leave our Fukuoka hotel and travel to the airport, ready for our flight back to the UK, via Tokyo.

Day 16 - Arrival in London

Landing back in the United Kingdom this morning, we can look back on the incredible sights we have experienced in Japan, and how this fascinating and friendly island nation has captivated and enchanted us.

From the verdant surroundings of Hokkaido's welcoming cities of Sapporo and Hakodate to friendly Fukuoka, we have been charmed by Japan's blend of peaceful spirituality and frenetic cities. Along the way, we have explored Tokyo's tranquil gardens and neon-draped streets, viewed iconic Mount Fuji and savoured the tranquility of quaint mountain towns. We have travelled by world-famous bullet train, exploring the historic former capitals of Kyoto and Nara, before arriving in emotive Hiroshima. Our tour concluded with an exploration of the history and temples of the southern island of Kyushu.

On arrival in London, we bid farewell to our Tour Manager and fellow travellers with whom we have shared these unforgettable experiences, knowing that the memories will last a lifetime.

Additional information

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hotel New Otani Hakata

Hotel New Otani Hakata, Fukuoka

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La Vista Hakodate Bay

La Vista Hakodate Bay, Hakodate

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The Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko, Hakone

The Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko, Hakone

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Hotel Granvia Hiroshima

Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, Hiroshima

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Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel

Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel, Hiroshima

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Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto

Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto

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Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto

Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto

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Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

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Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo

Keio Plaza Hotel Sapporo, Sapporo

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Hotel Associa Takayama

Hotel Associa Takayama, Takayama

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Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo

Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo

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