2019 Japan’s Enchanting Tohoku’s Cherry Blossom Tour 13 Nights with an Optional Kyoto Extension

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16th April – 29th April 2019

Where do we go – and Why?

Currently there are 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan – 15 Cultural sites and 4 Natural sites. On this tour we will visit 4 UNESCO World Heritage Cultural sites, experience cultural activities such as painting a Japanese chess piece, painting a Kokeshi cylindrical wooden doll, sake tasting and making buck-wheat noodles for lunch. Be entertained by musicians playing the Japanese Shamisan (3 stringed banjo), cruise through the Geibi-kei Gorge on flat-bottom boats whilst being serenaded to by the singing boatman. Visit Yamadera (Mountain Temple) which was founded over 1000 years ago in 860 and enjoy the views down into the valley.

Most importantly, view the spectacular cherry blossoms particularly in Hiraizumi, Kakunodate and Hirosaki.

 

Tokyo:

Tokyo the Capital of Japan and home to some 31,000,000 people is one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in Asia. Age old traditions and modern technology meld together in this fast moving metropolis.

 

Nikko & Lake Chuzenji:

Located along Japan’s Romantic Road Nikko has been a centre of both Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries. It is the entrance to Nikko National Park which is most famous for Toshogu, Japan’s most superbly decorated shrine. This area is famous for waterfalls, lakes, landscapes, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails. Lake Chuzenji was formed by the eruption of Mount Nantai some 20,000 years ago.

 

Ouchijuku, Yamadera & Mogami River:

Ouchijuku is a former Post Town from the Edo period (1603-1868) and was on the Aizu-Nishi trade route. It has been restored to look as it did in the Edo Period with electricity and telephone wires buried. The main street is unpaved and lined with thickly thatched roof buildings.

Yamadera (Mountain Temple) was founded in 860 and is reached by ascending 1000 stairs (optional). The view over the valley from the top is quite breath-taking. Yamadera is also known for a visit by the famous poet Basho who composed one of his most famous Haiku there.

Mogami River is known as the “Mother River of Yamagata Prefecture” and the people of Yamagata have a deep affection for it. On this trip the boatman will sing you a traditional song whilst you take in the sights cruising down the meandering river.

Hiraizumi – Kitakami – Geibi-kei Gorge – Morioka:

In Hiraizumi we will visit Chuson-ji which was established in 850. Initially the Temple had a large network of dozens of buildings but today only two from that era remain intact. The most spectacular is Konjikido which is a hall completely covered in gold and dates back to 1124.

The Geibi-kei Gorge is numbered as one of the most picturesque spots in Japan. High fantastically shaped rock formations carved from the strata of limestone by the Satetsu river tower on both sides of the Gorge.

 

Kakunodate – Lake Towada – Hirosaki:

Kakunodate is a former Castle Town and was a Samurai Stronghold in ancient days. It is famous for its Samurai traditions and is virtually unchanged since its founding in 1620. There are hundreds of weeping cherry trees and is one of Tohoku’s most popular cherry blossom spots.

Lake Towada is the largest caldera lake on Honshu (Japan’s main island) and is part of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park.

Hirosaki Castle was built in 1611 and rebuilt in 1810 after being struck by lightning. Over 2500 Cherry Blossom trees are found in Hirosaki Park and combined with cherry blossom tunnels, petal filled moats and illuminations in the evening make for stunning memories.

 

Optional Kyoto Extension:

In 794 Kyoto or as originally known as Heian-kyo “Tranquillity and Peace Capital” became the seat of Japan’s Imperial Court and remained the capital of Japan until 1868 when at the time of the Imperial Restoration the Government was transferred to Edo now known as Tokyo. Whether you are looking for history, art, craft, culture, gardens, Temples, Shrines, excellent restaurants and beautiful walks Kyoto has it all and more on offer.

 

From Tokyo to Lake Towada through the entire Tohoku prefectures, encompassing UNESCO World Heritage Sites, singing boatmen, dining to the entertainment of the Shamisan musicians, climbing to the top of Yamadera, viewing spectacular cherry blossoms en-route, this Tour opens a new and exciting door into Japan each and every day.

 

This is a small group tour of maximum 14 clients plus an Experienced Australian Tour Escort. .

EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST are now being accepted.

 

Land Only Pricing

Twin Share: $6,870.00*

Single Occupancy: $7,890.00*

 

Kyoto Extension

Twin Share: Price available upon request

Single Occupancy: Price available upon request

Prices are per person

 

This tour is being escorted by Jan Hutton. Jan has been specialising in travel to Japan for over 25 years. Her love of Japan started when she joined Jaltour/JAL in Brisbane in 1988. At the time of her early retirement in 2000, she had the most successful Office and turnover in Australia. Since then she has continued her close association and affection for Japan by escorting groups for the Cherry Blossom, Spring and Autumn seasons.Her firsthand invaluable knowledge of the UNESCO World Heritage Kumano Kodo has been gained by escorting groups though this area over the past 9 years.During a recent trip to Japan, Jan was invited to participate in a discussion with the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo

Abe and the Governor of Wakayama Prefecture. Mr. Abe was interested in her comments with regards to the growing interest and success of tourism in the Kumano Kodo, Hongu and the overall Wakayama Prefectural area.All destinations on our “Japan’s Sacred Mountains – UNESCO World Heritage” and  “Ancient Roads and beyond” tours are visited frequently by Jan. These visits are from a working point of view to inspect properties, research local points of interest, tourist sites and to gain in-depth information of all areas.Her passion, professionalism and wealth of knowledge of Japan is unsurpassed and she is held in very high regard within the Japan Tourism Industry.She has a working history in Tourism/Travel/Hospitality spanning many years including flight crew, Qantas First Class Lounge Supervisor and DreamWorld Guest Relations Manager on the Gold Coast.Jan has visited Japan over 60 times both with groups and independently to update her knowledge, renew old acquaintances and plan out new tours.

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Inclusions
  • 13 night’s accommodation including and two nights traditional Japanese accommodation.
  • 9 breakfasts : 2 lunches : 4 dinners
  • All transportation as per itinerary including Shinkansen (bullet train)
  • Shared private shuttle transfer from arrival at Narita Airport to Tokyo Hotel or taxi from Haneda Airport to Tokyo Hotel
  • Luggage transfer Tokyo to Morioka and Morioka to Tokyo (1 piece of luggage per person for each transfer)
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Private coach and Japanese/English speaking guide from Tokyo departure on 19th April until arrival into Hirosaki on 26th April.
  • Cultural activities e.g. painting a Japanese letter to the Shogi ( a Japanese Chess piece), sake tasting, making buckwheat noodles and experience writing on the Kokeshi cylindrical wooden doll.
  • Fully escorted within Japan by an experienced Australian Escort.

 

Optional Kyoto Extension
  • 2,3,4 or 5 day extension available
  • Australian Tour Escort will accompany the Kyoto Extension
  • Accommodation including daily breakfast
  • Day tours are available and recommended to prebook prior to departure from Australia.

 

Not Included
  • Return Airfares
  • Airport and airline taxes
  • Transportation, meals and/or entrance fees on Free/Leisure Days
  • Travel insurance
  • Items of personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, meals not specified in itinerary/inclusions
  • Kyoto to either Itami or Kansai Airport for flight departure at the end of the optional Kyoto extension. This can be prebooked by Experience Japan when it is known what airport you will be departing from
  • Tokyo Hotel to either Narita Airport or Haneda Airport for flight departure at the end of the tour. This would be by either the “Airport Limousine Bus” or “Green Tomato” Shared Shuttle transfer. Please check with Experience Japan for costings
  • Any items not specified in inclusions and itinerary

Terms and Conditions
  • All prices are in Australian dollars inclusive of taxes
  • A non-refundable deposit is required within 7 days of booking
  • Full payment is required 60 days prior to travel
  • Tour cost is based on 10 participants. Experience Japan reserves the right to re-cost or cancel the tour should this number not be attained
  • Airfares are not included in the tour price. For the best available quote, please enquire with Experience Japan team
  • Transportation, entrance fees and meals on free days are not included
  • Cultural activities are subject to change
  • Experience Japan does not in any way discriminate against persons with disabilities and/or very limited mobility. However some of the sites visited during our escorted tours may involve some walking and climbing stairs.  Travellers with disabilities and/or very limited mobility are recommended by Experience Japan to be accompanied by their own assistant who is capable of providing all or any assistance that is required.  No special assistance to participants with disabilities and/or very limited mobility is included on any Experience Japan Escorted Tours.  We at Experience Japan reserve the right to refuse participation in any of our Escorted Tours to any participant who we consider is, within reason , likely to impose unfair hardship on Experience Japan and/or its personnel.  As an alternative we at Experience Japan would be more than happy to arrange Independent tour arrangements for those travellers with special needs.
  • It is a requirement that all participants on this tour has a valid international travel insurance. It is recommended to have full comprehensive travel insurance at the time you pay your deposit for a tour. Claims may be made for cancellation due to unexpected medical and unforeseen circumstances as specified in your Insurance policy.
  • Credit card fees apply
  • Cancellation fees apply. 1. Deposit – non-refundable and non-transferable 2. Cancellations inside 60 days prior to departure or failure to commence the tour – 100% of the cost of the tour
  • Prices correct as of 10 May 18 and may change due to currency exchange rate

Itinerary

16th April : Arrival :

Arrival into Narita Airport and transfer by shared private shuttle to our Tokyo Hotel for our three (3) night stay. If arriving into Haneda Airport transfer by taxi/shared private shuttle to our Tokyo Hotel for our 3 night stay. : Shiba Park Hotel Tokyo.

17th April : Tokyo at Leisure :

There are optional tours available e.g. Dynamic Tokyo Tour, Mt.Fuji-Hakone Day Tour etc which are highly recommended to pre-book prior to your departure from Australia. Alternatively your Tour Escort is readily available for suggestions and assistance and will take you sightseeing around Tokyo.

18th April : Tokyo at Leisure ::

If you do not wish to join an optional tour your Tour Escort is readily available to take you sightseeing in and around Tokyo.

19th April : Tokyo to Nikko :

Depart the Shiba Park Hotel by chartered coach with English/Japanese Speaking Guide and Australian Tour Escort. Visit the famous Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine, Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Waterfall. Lunch at the lakeside restaurant Maple en route. Transfer to Hotel Shikisai Nikko for our overnight accommodation and dinner. ( D)

20th April : Nikko – Ouchi-juku – Tendo:

After breakfast this morning we will transfer to Tendo via the ancient town of Ouchi-juku. Here over 30 thatched roofed inns line the street and this area has been selected as a “Preservation district of Traditional Buildings”. It has an atmosphere of the Edo Period (1603-1868). Our accommodation tonight and tomorrow night is the Hotel Pearl City Tendo. (B)

21st April : Tendo – Yamagata – Tendo :

Breakfast and then commence our full day city tour of Tendo and Yamagata area. Visit Yamadera and the stunning views down the valley. Experience the ancient old art of painting a Japanese letter to the Shogi of a Japanese chess piece. Enjoy a sake tasting and making of buckwheat noodles. (B)

22nd April : Tendo – Mogami River – Naruko :

After breakfast this morning we will visit the unique Ginzan Onsen “Silver Mountain Hot Spring” and known as one of Japan’s prettiest Onsen towns with historic ryokan lined up along the river. We will then transfer to Mogami for our two hour river cruise (with Bento lunch onboard). After lunch we have the opportunity to try our hand at Japanese painting on a traditional Kokeshi cylindrical wooden doll. . Transfer by our chartered coach to Hotel Kameya Japanese Inn Naruko Onsen for our overnight stay. (B/D)

23rd April : Naruko – Hiraizumi – Morioka :

This morning after breakfast we drive through to Morioka. En route we will visit the Geibi-kei Gorge which features sheer 100m high cliffs – our viewing will be from flat-bottomed boats complete with a singing boatman. Visit UNESCO World Heritage Chuson-ji Temple along with Motsu-ji Temple and Hiraizumi for cherry blossom viewing. Transfer through to Morioka and the Hotel Metropolitan Morioka New Wing or similar for our overnight stay. (B,L)

24th April : Morioka – Kakunodate – Lake Towada :

Breakfast and then depart for Kakunodate and Lake Towada. In Kakunodate we will visit the Uchimachi Samurai Districts. These are renowned for their beautiful cherry blossoms and unique Samurai homes. Our accommodation for tonight and tomorrow night is at Towada-ko Lake View Hotel at Lake Towada. (B/D)

25th April :

Free day – maybe take the sightseeing cruise boat and traverse Lake Towada. (B/D)

 

26th April : Lake Towada – Hirosaki :

On our way to Hirosaki today we will visit Oirase Mountain Stream and the Kuroishi Handicraft Centre. Tonight we will meet in the foyer and transfer to the restaurant for dinner. During dinner we will be entertained by a performance of the Tsugaru Shamisen, the three stringed Japanese banjo. Our accommodation for tonight and tomorrow night is the Art Hotel Hirosaki City. (B)

27th April : Hirosaki :

Free day : We would recommend visiting Hirosaki Castle for the cherry blossoms and the Neputa Kaikan which displays some of the beautiful floats used in the Hirosaki Festival. (B)

28th April : Hirosaki – Shin-Aomori – Tokyo :

Make our way to Hirosaki Station this morning and take the train through to Shin-Aomori where we will connect with the Shinkansen (Bullet train) bound for Tokyo. On arrival in Tokyo (for those not taking the Kyoto Extension) you will be met and assisted to move to the Shiba Park Hotel for your overnight stay. ***For those doing the Kyoto Extension we will travel by shinkansen to Kyoto after changing trains in Tokyo. (B)

29th April : Tokyo – Narita Airport :

This morning please check-out of your room. The Hotel will mind your luggage until it is time to depart to Narita Airport for your flight departure.

KYOTO EXTENSION:

28th April : Hirosaki – Shin-Aomori – Tokyo – Kyoto :

Make our way to Hirosaki Station this morning and take the train through to Shin-Aomori where we will connect with the Shinkansen (Bullet train) bound for Tokyo – changing trains here and onto Kyoto. On arrival in Kyoto transfer by taxi to the Palaceside Hotel for our stay. (2, 3, 4 or 5 nights). Accommodation: Palaceside Hotel Kyoto : In 28th April Out 3rd May.

29th April – 2nd May : Kyoto : At Leisure :

Your Tour Escort is available for suggestions, assistance and will take you sightseeing. (Optional : depending upon numbers we can arrange for a private day tour of Kyoto with chartered coach and English/Japanese speaking guide. This tour encompasses Ryoanji Temple with Japan’s most famous rock garden, Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji “Golden Pavilion” and Fushimi Inari with its 7,000+ torii gates – Lunch included) Tours such as “Kyoto Morning Tour”, Kyoto Full Day Tour, Nara Half Day Tour, Walking tour of Arashiyama, and “Tea with Maiko” are available and it is highly recommended to prebook these tours prior to your departure from Australia. (B)

3rd May: Departure for Australia :

Depending upon which Depending upon which Airport your departure flight leaves from we can arrange a shuttle transfer for you from the Hotel to the Airport. This can be done prior to your departure from Australia and this cost is included in your Tour price. (B)

“My wife Ann and I have just completed our Cherry Blossom Tour with Jan Hutton. We have had a marvellous time on our first visit to Japan. We have been most impressed with what we have seen, the cities and country have been neat and tidy with beautiful gardens and scenery. The highlight for us was the beautiful cherry blossom in all of the places we visited together with the fabulous Japanese food. The snow was an extra bonus! We have been most impressed with the way the tour has been organised, full marks to Jan and yourself. Jan was most helpful in introducing us to Japanese culture, particularly in the ryokans we visited as well as shrines, temples and palaces. Jan went out of her way to show us around the towns, helped with transport on trains and subways and generally showed us a good time. Tour guide Yoko Matsumoto was excellent in her commentary of locations of cultural interest. We will certainly pass on your company’s name to our friends.” Regards, Roger and Ann Cammell

“Hi, I returned a week ago from the Cherry Blossom Tour, led by Jan Hutton from Aus with Yoko from Japan (sorry I have her card at home with her full name). The tour exceeded my expectations in every way. Every day was extremely well thought out with a remarkable number of beautiful and/or unexpected things to do. For example, beforehand I would not have sought out doll painting, or listening to 3 string guitar recitals in Hirosaki, but these turned out to be inspirational and showed a real piece of Japan. We really did manage to get a feel for how life was, outside Tokyo, and the information given by Jan and Yoko made it even more interesting. They were both charming, and very solicitous of our welfare. The buses were very clean and comfortable, with excellent drivers, and we were able to see so many things it would have been extremely difficult or impossible to do any other way. Each day was well paced, so that we did plenty, but not too much/to the point of exhaustion. Every hotel, with one minor exception, was very good indeed, with lovely rooms and a very high standard of food. The banquets we had were outstanding, and will live in my culinary memory as a high point. The one minor exception was an emergency hotel, because the other hotel had no hot water. Even this hotel was acceptable, just not as nice as the others, The restaurants we visited outside the hotels were terrific fun, with amazingly good food too! I was highly satisfied with every day, and I really look forward to trip with you in the future, if I can arrange it. I have also told a number of people already what a great experience this tour was. I apologise in advance for not being more helpful in identifying ways you could improve, because other than hotels never breaking hot water systems, there really is nothing I can point to. with my very best wishes. ” Bronwyn

“Dear Jan. Congratulations for creating another unique tour. It’s a winner! Enchanting Tohoku with Cherry Blossoms (and optional ice-creams) has exceeded all expectations. Thank you for making this trip so special.” Irene

“Dear Jan. Thank you for a truly magical experience. It has been just wonderful. I will definitely be back.” Sall

“As this was our third with Jan, obviously we very much like these tours overall. The accommodation and transport were excellent as always and the food most enjoyable. The itinerary was well thought out and the accommodation well positioned for extra shopping in spare time, for example. I brought a wrapper home to try to get our favourite icecream available here in Australia. I mentioned to Jan the idea of a future tour to Hokkaido for the ice festival. I would expect Jan’s regular tour customers would fill the first one without any trouble. Now if only you could specialise in Italy as well! Keep up the good work.”  Lorraine & Barry “The Cherry Blossom tour of Japan so accurately describes our wonderful tour. We had the lovely spectacle of seeing thousands of trees in bloom and we also had the unique experience of being able to walk through long avenues of cherry blossoms with great opportunities for photos. The timing of our tour was perfect so we could engage with local people as they celebrated the much loved cherry blossoms. So the tour allowed us to experience not only the grand landscapes, but also Japanese traditional life, culture and cuisine on multiple occasions. Many of us also loved the ice creams and indulged in them frequently!! I am so happy my friends who had previously travelled with Experience Japan had recommended it to me. Our tour guides Jan Hutton and Yoko worked tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of our comfort and safety were cared for. Truly a wonderful experience and thank you all very much”  Jan

“Jan…Thank you for a wonderful trip and experience in Japan. It was worth coming to and will certainly be remembered for a long time.” Anne & Dennis

“Jan…You have done a wonderful job with this tour and put a lot of thought in to it. Many thanks and Love” Jean

“Dear Jan…Many thanks for making this such a great trip. We have really enjoyed ourselves and have the photos to prove it !! It was wonderful to travel with you again. Love and best wishes” Kathy & Deb